How Baha’is View And Experience Fasting

Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow.[1]

Throughout history, fasting has been an important practice in all the World Religions. Baha’is observe the Fast from March 1-19th and then celebrate the Baha’i New Year on March 20th, the first day of the Spring Equinox. Fasting has recently come into vogue in complimentary health practice as “intermittent” fasting where food and drink are confined to a specific period of hours during the day. However in the Baha’i Fast, believers rise before sunrise to say prayers and have breakfast, then they do not have any food or water (or any other type of drinks) until sunset, normally about 12 hours per day for 19 days in a row. Baha’is start fasting during the month of the Fast at the age of 15 and continue through their adult lives every year at the same time unless they have health constraints, are menstruating, pregnant, nursing, ill, travelling or over the age of 70. More than a physical hardship, the Fast is a symbolic gesture of sacrifice, purification and orientation to the life of the spirit. When it is complete, during the celebration of Naw Ruz, Baha’is are encouraged to plan for some helpful initiative, gesture or project they contribute to the benefit of the community and greater society around them. 

According to the Baha’i teachings, fasting is conducive to mindfulness, increasing empathy towards others, and acts as a spiritual, physical and psychological reset to correct our tendency to indulge the body and forget about nourishing the spirit. The Fast brings spiritual insights and blessings that can be hard to describe, but in the interests of making it real for our readers, here are the reflections of three community members who provided their thoughts on the experience of Fasting. We hope their reflections help you to feel more connected to the idea and experience of the Baha’i Fast. 

I’m thinking of the Fast as a way to trim down our responsibilities and to just focus on what is essential. During the Fast we don’t have to be eating all the time, we eat what is essential. So allowing myself to say “I don’t have to be doing all the time. I am going to rest and allow myself the time to get the sleep I need. I can let the house be a bit more messy and can do what I need to do for work that is essential”. Then I wonder what am I doing with my life and with my goals? Suddenly when I”m not thinking about the next meal all the time, I have all this extra time. I wonder what I was doing to add all this filler and busy work before. So I ask myself what am I trying to accomplish actually? The Fast gives me a chance to focus on the purpose of life, even if it is difficult to do with a young family and a heavy work schedule. 

– Tara Rout, Lawyer, Author and mother of three

This has been the first year I’ve been fasting as a father, and my baby daughter has given me new perspective. When she’s hungry she makes that fact known to all within earshot. At three months old, she is incapable of controlling her physical urges. 

As an adult, fasting is well within the range of suffering I am capable of enduring, while also being enough of a struggle that it takes strength of will to get through it. On reflection, it seems the will needed for the fast is the same will that wanes as the year nears its end. So observing the fast is both evidence of the maturity to overcome material urges, while also propelling one forward with new strength into the new year.

Once the fast is over, what remains is a sense of gratitude coupled with the motivation to improve my life and the lives of those around me.

– Evan Goodwin, Business Specialist and father of a new baby

For me during the Fast I make intentional time to have periods of prayer morning, noon and evening because I have the added gift of time and the sense that we are all fasting together around the world, joined in prayer. I always ask myself why I don’t just do this all year around because it is so beautiful! This year I was able to spend time with my family during the Fast and we had many days to say prayers together and start the Fast together. This was always a special time for me as a child and now as an adult I enjoy it even more knowing how it brings us together as a family unit. 

– Roya Yazdanmehr, Edmonton Musician, Patron Advisor with the Winspear Centre


[1] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cited in Star of the West, vol. 3, p. 305