The annual Nineteen-Day Fast: a time of spiritual purification

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From March 2-20, Baha’is worldwide observe the annual 19-Day Fast by refraining from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. As in many world religions, the fast is a time for reflecting on one’s spiritual progress and making an effort to detach from material desires.

During the fast, Baha’is age 15 and older typically rise before dawn to eat breakfast and pray. At sunset they break the fast, often gathering with Baha’i friends to enjoy a meal together. The following are exempt from fasting, as it could be harmful to their health: those younger than 15 and older than 70, the ill or infirm, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, travelers and those engaged in heavy physical labor.

The 19-Day Fast is “essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character.” (Baha’i Reference Library)

Baha’is celebrate the start of a new year with the arrival of spring
After sundown on March 20 – the eve of the vernal equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) – Baha’is throughout the world will celebrate Naw-Ruz, the start of the Baha’i New Year. For Baha’is this is a religious holiday that marks the end of the Nineteen Day Fast. It is one of the nine Baha’i holy days on which work and school is to be suspended.

The Baha’i Faith originated in Persia (present-day Iran), and the Baha’i calendar adopted the Persian new year holiday, Naw-Ruz, which has been celebrated for thousands of years at the vernal equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Baha’is observe Naw-Ruz through prayer, meditation, readings from Baha’i scripture and festive gatherings.

A unique calendar: 19 months of 19 days each
The Baha’i calendar dates back to the ministry of the Bab (1844-1853), who heralded the imminent appearance of Baha’u'llah (1817-1892), the founder of the Baha’i Faith.

Also known as the Badi Calendar, the Baha’i calendar is divided into 19 months of 19 days each. The Baha’i year begins on March 21, the first day of spring. Days begin and end at sunset, and the week begins on Saturday.

On the first day of every Baha’i month, Baha’i communities gather for Feast, which includes prayer, fellowship, and discussion of the spiritual and social affairs of the Baha’i community.

Baha’i months and days of the week are named after attributes of God. The following is a list of the 19 months in the Baha’i year: Splendour, Glory, Beauty, Grandeur, Light, Mercy, Words, Perfection, Names, Might, Will, Knowledge, Power, Speech, Questions, Honour, Sovereignty, Dominion and Loftiness.

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22 Responses

  1. MartinTSI

    The practise with Baha’i and Muslim fasting is to have a substantial breakfast before dawn and then have supper after sunset. The total amount of food isn’t redused that much, but none of it is in daylight hours.

  2. Joplin

    I would be interested in the astronomical implications of using a calendar with 19 months of 19 days each, in Baha’i teaching. I wish I knew more regarding these areas, they should be subject to better promotion.

  3. Anonymous

    How does one go so long on a fast? I can’t even go 3 days with out eating. I applaud you all.

  4. Andy

    Is there any holy day calendar available online for this religion? The christian calendars are very easy to find, I cannot say the same about some other religions. I think it would be an interesting idea for somebody to come up with the idea of centralizing all religious calendars into one single big calendar. Have you guys ever thought about that?

  5. Josh

    I am not a member of the Bahai faith but I do know that fasting can be good for purifying the soul. It can be difficult to undertake but the end result is quite rewarding.

  6. ryno

    I stumbled across this acticle and have been hooked on learning about Baha’i faith and fasting ever since. Thank you so much for this well written article!

  7. Morgan

    Alvin,
    We do not refrain entirely. We eat before sunrise and break the fast at sunset. Many equate it to Ramadan in Muslim religion. Abstaining during daylight hours encourages us to focus ourselves on the connections and love we have with God.

  8. prabash

    This is a very useful article. thanx

  9. amy

    oh the discipline….!
    I”m a new Baha’i and am finding this oh.so.difficult – especially the no drinking part.
    The prayers help and my community base is very helpful too.
    So to answer your question, correct no eating or drinking after sun up and before sun down. we must wake at special early morning time to beat the clock and not eat or drink until the sun sets. The excluded ones are people under 15 or over 70, menstrating women, pregnant women or those who are ill or do hard physical labor.
    we are to meditate and prayer during these days so off to prayer I go!
    much love and peace to you!

  10. Thonosn

    Just wanna let you know that Baha’i calendar can be easily accessed via your Firefox browser. I just bookmark the Bahai Calendar plugin, and here is the link https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/8526

  11. Brenda

    Hi Everyone, This is my 4th year as a Bahai and the Fast gets easier each year. Going from Sunrise to Sunset without eating and drinking is not that hard. It makes you realize how our physical bodies are so demanding. It also makes you realize what hunger and thirst feels like and that millions of people on this planet live with this pain everyday. I do believe we are spiritual beings living in material bodies. The fast makes us connect to that spiritial side when we spend more time in prayer and meditation. Finding the Bahai Faith has changed my life to one of celebration and joy. One humanity, One God, One Religion. I wish all people would at least investigate this Faith. It makes so much sense and could be a chance for all mankind to bring about peace.

  12. Michael

    Interesting article about the bahai faith but, I don’t really think I can do it. Fast for nineteen days. I think the longest I’ve ever gone was like 3 days. I respect all those who do it.

  13. ellen

    Thank you for your positive comments about this site. We’re glad to know that you are finding it useful.
    We appreciate your questions about the 19-Day Baha’i Fast. Baha’is who are able to fast, do not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset from March 2nd through March 20th. Baha’is do eat and drink once the sun sets and often wake up before sunrise to eat and drink. More information about the Baha’i fasting period can be found here: http://www.bahai.us/fasting.
     

  14. Bill

    Today was my first time and first day of fasting. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The real benfit is spiritual. After breakfast I did my obligatory prayers and an additional prayer for fasting. Went about my day. At noon, my noon obligatory prayer and an aditional prayer for fasting. Went about my day. I meditated with the help of a prayer tape by the renowned Singer/Songwriter Farideh Motlagh. It was most enlightening. Soon I will end my day with a nice meal and my last prayer before retireing. By skipping the noon meal and having no drink all day it really lets me know that God is there. And this is my way of showing God that I care. As I feel right now religious fasting will forever be a part of my life.

  15. alvin

    I just became aware of the doctrines of the Bahai faith and I could say that they are the guiding light for the spiritual self of an individual. But going for nineteen days of fasting will involve sheer determination though. 

  16. Royal

    There is lots of practice for fasting around the globe. Fasting is spiritual and many have the belief this works out well purifying the soul. I have never heard about the Baha’is people and their calendar have the different days. Well nice to hear about this topic, it is really interesting. Thank you Thonosn for providing the link for Baha’is calendar. Cheers :) regards, Royal

  17. Andria

    It is so nice to hear of the interest so many people have in the Baha’i faith!!! :) I have been Baha’i for just over a year and this will be my first time fasting! I wonder how I’ll go! One of my friends who has been Baha’i for a long time said that he finds this the most powerful part of the year – what he learns during this time keeps him going for the rest of the year! It sounds like a very good way to build up determination, perseverence, detachment and obedience. Hope all the non-Baha’i readers keep reading more about the Baha’i faith – follow your heart and investigate the truth for yourself! And don’t worry if, if you do start to become more interested, that you seem to find some obstacles coming up…these are tests and are part of the journey of search. Love to you all

  18. ellen

    A list of Baha’i holy days can be found on the following page of this site: http://www.bahai.us/bahai-calendar. You may also be interested in the Interfaith calendar on the following website, which includes Baha’i holy days:http://www.interfaithcalendar.org/index.htm.

  19. If you are interested in learning more about the Bádi or Bahá’i Calendar there is a wonderful website that was created for that purpose. To learn more about the Bahá’í Calendar please visit

    http://www.bahaicalendardaily.com

    “The purpose of this web site is to highlight the daily focal points of the Bahá’í Calendar as the primary spiritual timeframe relevant to this current day & age to achieve greater spiritual alignment with the daily expression of the Will of The Creator.

    This website highlights the guidance of the Calendar by using Bahá’í quotations and using daily focal points of the Bahá’í Calendar to prepare each day for life’s opportunities & challenges
    by aligning with the specific divine attributes of The Creator as highlighted daily by the Bahá’í Calendar.”
    ~ http://www.bahaicalendardaily.com