- SUNSET WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25: Baha’is begin a period of three special days to correct their annual calendar.
- SUNSET SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28: Baha’is begin the 19-day month of Ala, which is a special fasting month in preparation for the Baha’i New year.
AYYAM-I-HA or DAYS OF HA
Sacred days “outside of time” begin for members of the Baha’i faith, as the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days, commences. Until sunset on February 28, Baha’is mark a break in their 19-month calendar: the “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.
Ayyam-i-Ha—literally, the Days of Ha—plays on a double meaning of “Ha”: Ha, the first letter of an Arabic pronoun commonly used to refer to God, is used as a symbol of the essence of God in Baha’i writings; the Arabic abjad system designates the letter Ha as having a numerical value of five, which has always been the maximum number of days allowed for the period of Ayyam-i-Ha. (Wikipedia has details.)
Baha’u’llah designated that Ayyam-i-Ha should be filled with “good cheer” and “joy and exultation”—for Baha’is, their kindred and recipients of the Baha’is’ charity.
Important update! As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i calendar will reflect changes made by the Universal House of Justice. Starting in 2015, Naw-Ruz (New Year) will fall on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.
The Nineteen-Day Fast takes place during the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar, known as the month of Ala. Intercalary Days account for the days “in between” the 18th month and Ala. This year, because Vernal Equinox falls on March 20, Intercalary Days will last an unprecedented three days.
When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation—which is not practiced in Islam—was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. (Learn more from BahaiTeachings.org.) Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-Day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.
SUNSET SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28: With the festive days of Ayyim-i-Ha behind, Baha’is enter the final month of the calendar year with the Nineteen-Day Fast. For the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar year—Ala, which lasts 19 days—Baha’is observe a sunrise-sunset fast. Many Baha’is regard the Nineteen-Day Fast as one of the greatest obligations of their faith. (Learn more from Planet Baha’i.) Instituted by the Bab and revised by Baha’u’llah, the Nineteen-Day Fast is intended to bring a person closer to God. According to the Bab, the true purpose of the fast is to abstain from everything except divine love. Fasting guidelines, exemptions and more are in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws.
IN THE NEWS: AUSTRALIAN SINGER RELEASES BAHA’I SOUL BALLADS
A young singer whose online demos nabbed the interest of a Grammy-winning producer has created an album of “Neo-soul” beats, as she joins an emerging wave of Baha’i artists on the international music scene. (Read more at ABC.net.) Shameem, a native of Australia, recently released The Second City, so named for one of Baha’u’llah’s works, The Seven Valleys. Shameem’s songs use vivid imagery of concepts such as the Valley of Love, and her 2015 Australian tour will feature songs from the new album.