Fasting in the Baha’i Faith

March 2 was the first day of Lent. This year the beginning of Lent coincided with the first day of the annual fast for members of the Baha’i Faith. All over the world Baha’is aged 15 up to 70 will be abstaining from food and drink between sunrise and sunset each day for 19 days (usually March 2-20 each year, occasionally March 1-19). There are various exemptions, eg for those who are ill, pregnant, or have an occupation involving hard physical work. Why 19 days? The reason is that the Baha’i year is divided into 19 months, each consisting of 19 days, with 4 or 5 special days added in just before the month of fasting, immediately after which Baha’is celebrate their New Year (Naw-Ruz) on the first day of Spring.

Fasting may be viewed as a physical law; indeed there are are proven health benefits accruing from the practice if undertaken carefully and with moderation. Mostly, however, fasting is recognized
as a spiritual discipline, and this is certainly true amongst Baha’is, who are encouraged to spend more time in prayer and meditation during the fast and to reflect on their spiritual health with the general aim of becoming better human beings.

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