Sunday, 20 March 2011


Sunset this evening is the end of the fasting period for Bahá'ís, who are obliged to abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset 2-20 March, inclusive. This fast is an annual occasion, leading up to Bahá'í New Year. For Bahá'ís in or from Iran, where the Bahá'í Faith originated in the middle of the nineteenth century, this is combined with the traditional celebration of Naw-Rúz ("New Day"), observed at the time of the Spring Equinox.

Leicester Bahá'ís are gathered together this evening to mark the end of the Fast and start of the New Year - the year 168 BE ("Bahá'í Era"). Below is one of the prayers of Bahá'u'lláh (1817-92) for this special occasion. This would typically be read at this time, either in community gatherings, in families are by individual Bahá'ís on their own, in quiet meditation.
Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Rúz as a festival unto those who have observed the fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto Thee. Grant, O my Lord, that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the fast enjoined by Thee may inflame them in Thy Cause, and make them to be occupied with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.
Since Thou hast adorned them, O my Lord, with the ornament of the fast prescribed by Thee, do Thou adorn them also with the ornament of Thine acceptance, through Thy grace and bountiful favor. For the doings of men are all dependent upon Thy good-pleasure, and are conditioned by Thy behest. Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the fast. And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.
Thou art He through Whom the ensign “Praiseworthy art Thou in Thy works” hath been lifted up, and the standard “Obeyed art Thou in Thy behest” hath been unfurled. Make known this Thy station, O my God, unto Thy servants, that they may be made aware that the excellence of all things is dependent upon Thy bidding and Thy word, and the virtue of every act is conditioned by Thy leave and the good-pleasure of Thy will, and may recognize that the reins of men’s doings are within the grasp of Thine acceptance and Thy commandment. Make this known unto them, that nothing whatsoever may shut them out from Thy Beauty, in these days whereon the Christ exclaimeth: “All dominion is Thine, O Thou the Begetter of the Spirit (Jesus)”; and Thy Friend (Muḥammad) crieth out: “Glory be to Thee, O Thou the Best-Beloved, for that Thou hast uncovered Thy Beauty, and written down for Thy chosen ones what will cause them to attain unto the seat of the revelation of Thy Most Great Name, through which all the peoples have lamented except such as have detached themselves from all else except Thee, and set themselves towards Him Who is the Revealer of Thyself and the Manifestation of Thine attributes.”
He Who is Thy Branch and all Thy company, O my Lord, have broken this day their fast, after having observed it within the precincts of Thy court, and in their eagerness to please Thee. Do Thou ordain for him, and for them, and for all such as have entered Thy presence in those days all the good Thou didst destine in Thy Book. Supply them, then, with that which will profit them, in both this life and in the life beyond.
Thou, in truth, art the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

That line at the start of the prayer, "Thou hast ordained Naw-Rúz as a festival unto those who have observed the fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto Thee" always gives me pause for reflection. Having been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1996 and being dependent on insulin since then, I'm unable to fast. I did it religiously (if you'll pardon the pun) from 1979 until 1996 and felt the benefit. I miss fasting. Thankfully, there's much in the Bahá'í writings about the symbolic, metaphorical nature of fasting and - thankfully - I appreciate symbolism and metaphor.

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