The Baha’i Fast: Learning to Realise How Much You Have, by ‘Not Having’

Those who know me, know that the period of the Baha’i Fast is my favourite time of year. I find that it is a time to exfoliate myself, to get rid of the husks of nonsense that seem to wrap themselves around me throughout the year. It gives me a chance to remind myself that I have willpower, and that I can strengthen it. Fasting gives us the chance to remind ourselves of our true nature, to reconnect with the world, and with ourselves. You train yourself to be content and come to realise how much you have, by ‘not having’.

This year is going to be a little different for me. Scratch that. Might be a little different from me. Scratch that. A lot different for me. Scratch that. I don’t know what it’s going to be like because I have never been in this position before. At the most basic, during the period of the fast, one does without food and water between sunrise and sunset. This year, during the fast I have to learn to do without my mother – she passed away in June last year.

The period of the fast revolves around family for me, but is inextricably linked to my mother: waking us up in the morning, telling us amazing stories about the history of the Faith while we were sitting eating breakfast, preparing food for hundreds of people when we used to have huge infamous Naw-Ruz parties, saying prayers for and with us, setting up haft seen, buying presents, and my utmost favourite thing – baking hundreds of special Persian rice cookies, which she would only make at Naw-Ruz time, filling the house with the smell of rosewater. Whilst thirst and hunger can be satisfied at the end of a day, this is not the type of “without’ness” which can be ameliorated by sunset.

A little after my mom passed away, a sweet friend of mine told me that this was going to be a new experience and opportunity to develop and practice compassion and empathy for people who were in pain and suffering. I think of this now because I recall that this is also one of the purposes of fasting; for us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who have less than us.

Whilst doing some more reading on fasting I found that Shoghi Effendi says:

Fasting 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.1

I am particularly grateful for this time because being quiet, prayerful and meditative have been difficult things to do, but I’m hoping that this period will make it possible. In addition to this, the period of the fast also provides me with an additional opportunity to dedicate this period to my mother.

In Some Answered Questions, Abdu’l-Baha says that:

The progress of man’s spirit in the divine world, after the severance of its connection with the body of dust, is through the bounty and grace of the Lord alone, or through the intercession and the sincere prayers of other human souls, or through the charities and important good works which are performed in its name.2

I realise that this piece seems quite ominous in light of the joyous time which the period of the fast leads us to – please forgive me for this. I hope you’ll walk away after reading this, remembering that it is through not having that we learn how much we truly have, that we learn contentment, detachment, and reliance on God; that ultimately, everything comes from Him. I hope this time floods you with a sense of gratitude and serenity. I hope that you realise how little you need, how little it can take to make you happy, and that you take every opportunity to filter out things that are unimportant. I hope that you spend time with your family, that you pray with and for them; and that this time brings you the ataraxy to reconnect with yourself and those whom are not with you, whether in this life, or the next. And call your mom.


  1. From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 10, 1936; Lights of Guidance []
  2. Some Answered Questions, Abdu’l-Baha, p240 []

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Amy

Joburg Lover. Sushi Muncher. Art Appreciator. Legal Practitioner. Blogger. Big Sister. Amateur Etymologist. Foodie. Junior Youth Animator. Fashionista. Sunshine Aficionado. Big Sister. 'Stick' Driver. Baha'i. Well, trying anyways.

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Discussion 14 Comments

    1. To me, the quote from ‘Abdu’l-Baha brings joy, because it means I can help the progress of my beloved ones in the next world by doing good works in their name, as well as praying. May that part bring joy to you. Message sent with love, from Camilla

  1. Thank you so much for your insightful post – exactly what I needed on entering the period of Fasting.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! It brought tears to my eyes and my own personal memories of loved ones who have passed on who were significant in my spiritual journey. Your sharing is helping me focus my inner lens of my spiritual eyes for the beautiful journey of the Fast. And I have decided to make those cookies for Naw-Rúz!

  3. Beautifully stated. The Fast period is also my favorite time of year. Surprising, since I am pretty self-indulgent by nature. I anticipate it and when it comes it feels like “home”. Whew! What a relief. Your mother sounds wonderful. What I miss the most about my mother is praying together. There are certain prayers that when I read them I still hear her voice reading them. It’s such a comfort.

  4. I’m reading this as I’m waiting for sunset and preparing dinner. My mum is staying with me and although not a Baha’i (yet) she insists on waiting until sunset with me to share our dinner. What a blessing!

  5. Thank you, Amy joon! I have tears of sadness but also of joy as I can imagine how close Shohreh joon is with you, especially during these special days of fasting. I love you dearly!

  6. Thank you Amy jon. I enjoyed reading this – Inspiring!
    Enjoy the rest of the fast and hope Naw Ruz brings you a lot of joy, and new memorable experiences.

  7. Reading this post on Baha’i Blog warms my heart. At this very moment me and my husband are at the bedside of my husbands uncle, when this dear soul is about to abandon his physical frame. The man is not a Baha’i, but stil, being so close to someone just about to enter the eternal realm at this precious time of year makes me think that it could be a special blessing to take one’s flight then. If not, at least there is so much more focus on prayers and what is important in life then compared to any other time of the year.

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