with Sagacious Afternoons
Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight! (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, paragraph #5)
We have commanded you to pray and fast from the beginning of maturity; this is ordained by God, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers. He hath exempted from this those who are weak from illness or age, as a bounty from His Presence, and He is the Forgiving, the Generous. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, paragraph #10)
Bahá’u’lláh defines the “age of maturity with respect to religious duties” as “fifteen for both men and women”. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #13)
Fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. Bahá’u’lláh in one of His Tablets affirms that He has revealed the laws of obligatory prayer and fasting so that through them the believers may draw nigh unto God.
Shoghi Effendi indicates that the fasting period, which involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset, is
“…essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.”
Fasting is enjoined on all the believers once they attain the age of 15 and until they reach the age of 70 years.
A summary of the detailed provisions concerning the law of fasting and of the exemptions granted to certain categories of people is contained in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.1.–6. For a discussion of the exemptions from fasting see notes 14, 20, 30 and 31.
The nineteen-day period of fasting coincides with the Bahá’í month of ‘Alá’, usually 2–20 March, immediately after the termination of the Intercalary Days (see notes 27 and 147), and is followed by the feast of Naw-Rúz (see note 26). (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #25)
The exemption of those who are weak due to illness or advanced age from offering the Obligatory Prayers and from fasting is explained in Questions and Answers. Bahá’u’lláh indicates that in “time of ill health it is not permissible to observe these obligations” (Q&A 93). He defines old age, in this context, as being from seventy (Q&A 74). In answer to a question, Shoghi Effendi has clarified that people who attain the age of seventy are exempt, whether or not they are weak. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #14)
Exemption from obligatory prayer and fasting is granted to women who are menstruating; they should, instead, perform their ablutions (see note 34) and repeat 95 times a day between one noon and the next, the verse “Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendor and Beauty.” This provision has its antecedent in the Arabic Bayán, where a similar dispensation was granted.
In some earlier religious Dispensations, women in their courses were considered ritually unclean and were forbidden to observe the duties of prayer and fasting. The concept of ritual uncleanness has been abolished by Bahá’u’lláh (see note 106).
The Universal House of Justice has clarified that the provisions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas granting exemptions from certain duties and responsibilities are, as the word indicates, exemptions and not prohibitions. Any believer is, therefore, free to avail himself or herself of an applicable exemption if he or she so wishes. However, the House of Justice counsels that, in deciding whether to do so or not, the believer should use wisdom and realize that Bahá’u’lláh has granted these exemptions for good reason.
The prescribed exemption from obligatory prayer, originally related to the Obligatory Prayer consisting of nine rak‘ahs, is now applicable to the three Obligatory Prayers which superseded it. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #20)
The concept of ritual “uncleanness,” as understood and practiced in some tribal societies and in the religious communities of certain earlier Dispensations, has been abolished by Bahá’u’lláh. He states that through His Revelation “all created things were immersed in the sea of purification.” (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #106)
The minimum duration of a journey which exempts the believer from fasting is defined by Bahá’u’lláh (Q&A 22 and 75). The details of this provision are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.5.a.i.–v.
Shoghi Effendi has clarified that while travelers are exempt from fasting, they are free to fast if they so wish. He also indicated that the exemption applies during the whole period of one’s travel, not just the hours one is in a train or car, etc. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #30)
… The definition of a journey is nine hours by the clock. Should the traveler stop in a place, anticipating that he will stay there for no less than one month by the Bayán reckoning, it is incumbent on him to keep the Fast; but if for less than one month, he is exempt from fasting. If he arriveth during the Fast at a place where he is to stay one month according to the Bayán, he should not observe the Fast till three days have elapsed, thereafter keeping it throughout the remainder of its course; but if he come to his home, where he hath heretofore been permanently resident, he must commence his fast upon the first day after his arrival. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, Questions & Answers #22)
Question: Concerning the limit of fasting for someone traveling on foot.
Answer: The limit is set at two hours. If this is exceeded, it is permissible to break the Fast. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, Questions & Answers #75)
O Pen of the Most High! Say: O people of the world! We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you Naw-Rúz as a feast. Thus hath the Daystar of Utterance shone forth above the horizon of the Book as decreed by Him Who is the Lord of the beginning and the end. Let the days in excess of the months be placed before the month of fasting. We have ordained that these, amid all nights and days, shall be the manifestations of the letter Há, and thus they have not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months. It behooveth the people of Bahá, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name; and when they end—these days of giving that precede the season of restraint—let them enter upon the Fast. Thus hath it been ordained by Him Who is the Lord of all mankind. The traveler, the ailing, those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the Fast; they have been exempted by God as a token of His grace. He, verily, is the Almighty, the Most Generous.
These are the ordinances of God that have been set down in the Books and Tablets by His Most Exalted Pen. Hold ye fast unto His statutes and commandments, and be not of those who, following their idle fancies and vain imaginings, have clung to the standards fixed by their own selves, and cast behind their backs the standards laid down by God. Abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sundown, and beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, paragraph 16)
Exemption from fasting is granted to those who are ill or of advanced age (see note 14), women in their courses (see note 20), travelers (see note 30) and to women who are pregnant and those who are nursing. This exemption is also extended to people who are engaged in heavy labor, who, at the same time, are advised “to show respect to the law of God and for the exalted station of the Fast” by eating “with frugality and in private” (Q&A 76). Shoghi Effendi has indicated that the types of work which would exempt people from the Fast will be defined by the Universal House of Justice. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, notes #31)
Question: Concerning observance of the Fast by people engaged in hard labor during the month of fasting.
Answer: Such people are excused from fasting; however, in order to show respect to the law of God and for the exalted station of the Fast, it is most commendable and fitting to eat with frugality and in private. (. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas – The Most Holy Book, Questions & Answers #76)
Consider thou and call to mind the time when Muḥammad appeared. He said, and His word is the truth: “Pilgrimage to the House  is a service due to God.”  And likewise are the daily prayer, fasting, and the laws which shone forth above the horizon of the Book of God, the Lord of the World and the true Educator of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. It is incumbent upon everyone to obey Him in whatsoever God hath ordained; and whosoever denieth Him hath disbelieved in God, in His verses, in His Messengers and in His Books. Were He to pronounce right to be wrong or denial to be belief, He speaketh the truth as bidden by God. This is a station wherein sins or trespasses neither exist nor are mentioned. Consider thou the blessed, the divinely revealed verse in which pilgrimage to the House is enjoined upon everyone. It devolved upon those invested with authority after Him  to observe whatever had been prescribed unto them in the Book. Unto no one is given the right to deviate from the laws and ordinances of God. Whoso deviateth therefrom is reckoned with the trespassers in the Book of God, the Lord of the Mighty Throne. (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh , Ishráqát (Splendors))
- Qur’án 3:91.
In another sense, by the terms “sun,” “moon,” and “stars” are meant such laws and teachings as have been established and proclaimed in every Dispensation, such as the laws of prayer and fasting. These have, according to the law of the Qur’án, been regarded, when the beauty of the Prophet Muḥammad had passed beyond the veil, as the most fundamental and binding laws of His dispensation. To this testify the texts of the traditions and chronicles, which, on account of their being widely known, need not be referred to here. Nay rather, in every Dispensation the law concerning prayer hath been emphasized and universally enforced. To this testify the recorded traditions ascribed to the lights that have emanated from the Daystar of Truth, the essence of the Prophet Muḥammad.
The traditions established the fact that in all Dispensations the law of prayer hath constituted a fundamental element of the Revelation of all the Prophets of God—a law the form and the manner of which hath been adapted to the varying requirements of every age. Inasmuch as every subsequent Revelation hath abolished the manners, habits, and teachings that have been clearly, specifically, and firmly established by the former Dispensation, these have accordingly been symbolically expressed in terms of “sun” and “moon.” “That He might prove you, which of you excel in deeds.” 
Moreover, in the traditions the terms “sun” and “moon” have been applied to prayer and fasting, even as it is said: “Fasting is illumination, prayer is light.” One day, a well-known divine came to visit Us. While We were conversing with him, he referred to the above-quoted tradition. He said: “Inasmuch as fasting causeth the heat of the body to increase, it hath therefore been likened unto the light of the sun; and as the prayer of the night-season refresheth man, it hath been compared unto the radiance of the moon.” Thereupon We realized that that poor man had not been favored with a single drop of the ocean of true understanding, and had strayed far from the Burning Bush of divine wisdom. We then politely observed to him saying: “The interpretation your honor hath given to this tradition is the one current amongst the people. Could it not be interpreted differently?” He asked Us: “What could it be?” We made reply: “Muḥammad, the Seal of the Prophets, and the most distinguished of God’s chosen Ones, hath likened the Dispensation of the Qur’án unto heaven, by reason of its loftiness, its paramount influence, its majesty, and the fact that it comprehendeth all religions. And as the sun and moon constitute the brightest and most prominent luminaries in the heavens, similarly in the heaven of the religion of God two shining orbs have been ordained—fasting and prayer. ‘Islám is heaven; fasting is its sun, prayer, its moon.’” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán – The Book of Certitude)
1: Qur’án 67:2.
O Shaykh, O thou who hast surrendered thy will to God! By self-surrender and perpetual union with God is meant that men should merge their will wholly in the Will of God, and regard their desires as utter nothingness beside His Purpose. Whatsoever the Creator commandeth His creatures to observe, the same must they diligently, and with the utmost joy and eagerness, arise and fulfill. They should in no wise allow their fancy to obscure their judgment, neither should they regard their own imaginings as the voice of the Eternal. In the Prayer of Fasting We have revealed: “Should Thy Will decree that out of Thy mouth these words proceed and be addressed unto them, ‘Observe, for My Beauty’s sake, the fast, O people, and set no limit to its duration,’ I swear by the majesty of Thy glory, that every one of them will faithfully observe it, will abstain from whatsoever will violate Thy law, and will continue to do so until they yield up their souls unto Thee.” In this consisteth the complete surrender of one’s will to the Will of God. Meditate on this, that thou mayest drink in the waters of everlasting life which flow through the words of the Lord of all mankind, and mayest testify that the one true God hath ever been immeasurably exalted above His creatures. He, verily, is the Incomparable, the Ever-Abiding, the Omniscient, the All-Wise. The station of absolute self-surrender transcendeth, and will ever remain exalted above, every other station.
It behooveth thee to consecrate thyself to the Will of God. Whatsoever hath been revealed in His Tablets is but a reflection of His Will. So complete must be thy consecration, that every trace of worldly desire will be washed from thine heart. This is the meaning of true unity.
Do thou beseech God to enable thee to remain steadfast in this path, and to aid thee to guide the peoples of the world to Him Who is the manifest and sovereign Ruler, Who hath revealed Himself in a distinct attire, Who giveth utterance to a Divine and specific Message. This is the essence of faith and certitude. They that are the worshipers of the idol which their imaginations have carved, and who call it Inner Reality, such men are in truth accounted among the heathen. To this hath the All-Merciful borne witness in His Tablets. He, verily, is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CLX)
O ARMY of God! A letter signed jointly by all of you hath been received. It was most eloquent and full of flavor, and reading it was a delight.
Ye had written of the fasting month. Fortunate are ye to have obeyed the commandment of God, and kept this fast during the holy season. For this material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God. (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá #35)
O thou spiritual friend! Thou hast asked the wisdom of prayer. Know thou that prayer is indispensable and obligatory, and man under no pretext whatsoever is excused from performing the prayer unless he be mentally unsound, or an insurmountable obstacle prevent him. The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state (i.e., prayer) man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. The greatest happiness for a lover is to converse with his beloved, and the greatest 684 gift for a seeker is to become familiar with the object of his longing; that is why with every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God, his greatest hope is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate before his Beloved, appeal for His mercy and grace and be immersed in the ocean of His utterance, goodness and generosity.
Beside all this, prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and conducive to protection and preservation from tests. (Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, pp. 683-684)
Question: What Divine wisdom is there in fasting?
Answer: The Divine wisdom in fasting is manifold. Among them is this: As during those days [i.e. the period of fasting which the followers afterward observe] the Manifestation of the Sun of Reality, through Divine inspiration, is engaged in the Descent [revealing] of Verses, the instituting of Divine Law and the arrangement of Teachings, through excessive occupation and intense attraction there remains no condition or time for eating and drinking. For example, when His Holiness Moses went to Mount Tur (Sinai) and there engaged in instituting the Law of God, he fasted forty days. For the purpose of awakening and admonishing the people of Israel, fasting was enjoined upon them.
Likewise His Holiness Christ in the beginning of instituting the Spiritual Law, the systematizing of the Teachings and the arrangement of counsels, for forty days abstained from eating and drinking. In the beginning the disciples and Christians fasted. Later the assemblages of the chief Christians changed fasting into Lenten observances.
Likewise the Qur’án having descended in the month Ramaḍán, fasting during that month became a duty.
In like manner His Holiness the Supreme [the Báb], in the beginning of the Manifestation, through the excessive effect of descending Verses, passed days in which his nourishment was reduced to tea only.
Likewise, the Blessed Beauty [Bahá’u’lláh], when busy with instituting the Divine Teachings and during the days when the Verses [the Word of God] descended continuously through the great effect of the Verses and the throbbing of the heart, took no food except the least amount.
The purpose is this: In order to follow the Divine Manifestations and for the purpose of admonition and the commemoration of their state, it became incumbent upon the people to fast during those days. For every sincere soul who has a beloved longs to experience that state in which his beloved is. If his beloved is in a state of sorrow, he desires sorrow; if in a state of joy he desires joy; if in a state of rest, he desires rest; if in a state of trouble, he desires trouble.
Now, since in this Millennial Day, His Holiness the Supreme fasted many days, and the Blessed Beauty took but little food or drink, it becomes necessary that the friends should follow that example. For thus saith He in the Tablet of Visitation: They, the believers, ‘who, for love of Thee, have observed all whereunto they were bidden’.
This is one wisdom of the wisdoms of fasting.
The second wisdom is this: 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.
Third wisdom: Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual. The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting. That is:
"O Divine Providence! As I am abstaining from bodily desires and not occupied with eating and drinking, even so purify and sanctify my heart from the love of anyone save Thyself and shield and protect my soul from the corrupt desires and the satanic qualities so that my spirit may commune with the breathes of holiness and fast from the mention of all else besides thee.” (From Corinne True, Table Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Chicago, 1907) Published in the Star of the West, vol IV, no 18, p.305. The closing prayer has been retranslated at the Bahá'í World Centre. the quotation from the Tablet of Visitation is in Shoghi Effendi's translation; and transliteration updated to conform to the system in use at present in Bahá'í community.)
Fasting is a symbol. Fasting signifies abstinence from lust. Physical fasting is a symbol of that abstinence, and is a reminder; that is, just as a person abstains from physical appetites, he is to abstain from self-appetites and self-desires. But mere abstention from food has no effect on the spirit. It is only a symbol, a reminder. Otherwise it is of no importance. Fasting for this purpose does not mean entire abstinence from food. The golden rule as to food is, do not take too much or too little. Moderation is necessary. There is a sect in India who practice extreme abstinence, and gradually reduce their food until they exist on almost nothing. But their intelligence suffers. A man is not fit to do service for God with brain or body if he is weakened by lack of food. He cannot see clearly. (Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, quoted by Miss E. S. Stevens in Fortnightly Review, June 1911).