Nineteen Day Fast: Baha’is observe ‘Ala’ with prayer, introspection

“Fasting is the cause of awakening in man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases.”
Abdu’l-Baha, son and successor of Baha’u’llah

Large beige house with green shutters, earth-toned stucco and large overhangs in L-shape

Baha’u’llah’s Edirne house in Adrianople, where he wrote extensively about the Baha’i faith, its beliefs and practices. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDOWN SATURDAY, MARCH 1: The month of Ala has begun, and for faithful Baha’is, that means one thing: fasting. For precisely 19 days, able Baha’is will conduct a sunrise-to-sunset fast, refraining from food and water for the sake of spiritual growth. During this period of intense prayer and self-reflection, Baha’is work to establish a closer relationship with God. Instituted by the Bab, the fast was later accepted by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. Baha’u’llah established the rules of the Nineteen-Day Fast in his book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

BEGINNING OF THE BAHA’I FAITH
AND THE NUMBER ‘19’

Before the Baha’i faith, there was the Babi faith, which was founded by the Bab. As part of the Babi faith, the Bab created the Badi calendar, made of 19 months of 19 days each; the last month, he declared, would be a month of fasting. (Wikipedia has details.) The continuation of this fasting month was, however, dependent upon the forthcoming Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest.

Did you know? Baha’i months and days of the week are named after the attributes of God. Ala translates into “Loftiness.”

In time, the Messianic figure of the Baha’i faith was realized in a man named Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah accepted both the calendar and the fasting month established by the Bab, with the exception of altered fasting rules and regulations. Today, the Baha’i Nineteen-Day Fast is obligatory for men and women between the ages of 15 and 70, who are in good health and who are not traveling (other restrictions apply, too. Learn more from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.)

The Nineteen-Day Fast concludes with the New Year, Naw-Ruz: the first day of spring.

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