SUNSET THURSDAY, MARCH 1: Followers of the Baha’i faith have just celebrated the joyous Ayyam-i-Ha, a special period that aligns their annual calendar, and today begins the Nineteen-day Fast: a fast in preparation for the Baha’i New Year. As each month in the Baha’i calendar contains 19 days, today begins the month of Ala, which immediately precedes the start of spring and the start of the Baha’i calendar year.
AYYAM-I-HA: Sacred days “outside of time” were observed by members of the Baha’i faith as the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days. These “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.
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. 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.
Note: As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i Universal House of Justice declared that Naw-Ruz (New Year) falls on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.
INTERCALATION AND THE MONTH OF ALA
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. Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.