Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Baha'i New Year - NAW-RÚZ

The Naw-Ruz means new day in Persian and it is one of nine holy days on which Baha’is suspend work. They typically celebrate the holy day at sunset on March 20 by gathering for prayer, as the sunset on which the holiday begins comes at the end of the Fast.

The Baha’i year begins on the Spring Equinox (March 21) with the celebration of Náw-Rúz. The Baha’i Era began in 1844. March 21, 2008 marks the beginning of the year 166 B.E. (Baha'i Era).

The Baha’i calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days each (361 days), and four or five “intercalary days” between the 18th and 19th months - which the celebration of Ayyám-Al- takes place - to adjust the calendar to the solar year. Baha'i months are named for the attributes of God, which are:

Bahá (Splendour), Jalál (Glory), Jamál (Beauty), 'Azamat (Grandeur), Núr (Light), Rahmat (Mercy), Kalimát (Words), Kamál (Perfection), Asmá' (Names), 'Izzat (Might), Mashíyyat (Will), 'Ilm (Knowledge), Qudrat (Power), Qawl (Speech), Masá'il (Questions), Sharaf (Honour), Sultán (Sovereignty), Mulk (Dominion), and 'Alá (Loftiness).

Naw-Rúz is the first day of the first Baha'i month (Bahá ). Bahá’u’lláh said in The Kitáb-AL-Aqdas,p111 about this Feast:

"Happy the one who entereth upon the first day of the month of Bahá, the day which God hath consecrated to this Great Name. And blessed be he who evidenceth on this day the bounties that God hath bestowed upon him; he, verily, is of those who show forth thanks to God through actions betokening the Lord’s munificence which hath encompassed all the worlds. Say: This day, verily, is the crown of all the months and the source thereof, the day on which the breath of life is wafted over all created things. Great is the blessedness of him who greeteth it with radiance and joy. We testify that he is, in truth, among those who are blissful. "

Náw-Rúz festival is usually observed with meetings for prayer and celebration. Visiting friends and relatives, and exchanging gifts.

"All should rejoice together, hold general meetings, become as one assembly, so that the national oneness, unity and harmony may be demonstrated in the eyes of all."

"As it is a blessed day it should not be neglected, nor deprived of results by making it a day devoted to the pursuit of mere pleasure."

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a talk on the Feast of Naw-Rúz, in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1912

Prayer for NAW-RÚZ

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 263 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 264 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.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Bahá'í Fasting

Today, March 2, all the members of the Bahá'í Faith will start a sunrise-to-sunset fast.

Bahá’u’lláh designated a nineteen-day period each year when adult Bahá'ís fast from sunrise to sunset each day. This period coincides with the Bahá'í month of Ala (meaning Loftiness), from March 2 to 20, inclusive. This is the month immediately preceding the Bahá'í new year.

“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 Day-Star of Utterance shone forth above the horizon of the Book as decreed by Him Who is the Lord of the beginning and the end.”
Baha'u'llah , the Kitáb Al Aqdas-p16

Spiritual nature:

Along with obligatory prayer, it is one of the greatest obligations of a Bahá'í, and its chief purpose is spiritual; to reinvigorate the soul and bring the person closer to God.

"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... 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 God! As I am fasting from the appetites of the body and not occupied with eating and drinking, even so purify and make holy my heart and my life from aught else save Thy Love, and protect and preserve my soul from self-passions... Thus may the spirit associate with the Fragrances of Holiness and fast from everything else save Thy mention."

Laws concerning fasting:

Bahá’u’lláh n the Kitáb-i-Aqdas -the Baha'i book of laws - established a certain amount of laws and practices associated with the Nineteen Day Fast .
  • The period of fasting begins with the termination of the Intercalary Days and ends with the festival of Naw-Ruz.

  • Abstinence from food, drink and smoking from sunrise to sunset.

  • Fasting is obligatory for men and women once they attain the age of 15.

  • If one eats unconsciously during the fasting hours, this is not breaking the Fast as it is an accident.

  • In regions of extremely high latitude where the duration of days and nights vary considerably, the times of the fast are fixed by the clock.

Exemptions from fasting:

There are various exemptions provided in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to the obligation of fasting. One meeting the exemptions may, however, still choose to fast if they so wish. Those not fasting are asked to be discreet, and eat frugally and in private.

"The traveller, 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.”

Bahá’u’lláh , the Kitáb Al Aqdas-p16

  • Those who are ill.

  • Those who are younger than 15 or older than 70.

  • Those who are engaged in heavy labour.

  • Women who are pregnant.

  • Women who are nursing.

  • Women who are menstruating (instead they must perform an ablution and recite the verse Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty 95 times a day).

  • Exemptions are also given to those travelling during the fast. Exemptions are given when the travel is longer than 9 hours (or 2 hours if travelling by foot). If the traveller breaks their journey for more than nineteen days, they are only exempt from fasting for the first three days. Also if they return home, they must begin fasting right away.

The importance of obeying God’s commandments and laws:

“O ye peoples of the world! Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures. Thus hath it been sent down from the heaven of the Will of your Lord, the Lord of Revelation. Were any man to taste the sweetness of the words which the lips of the All-Merciful have willed to utter, he would, though the treasures of the earth be in his possession, renounce them one and all, that he might vindicate the truth of even one of His commandments, shining above the Dayspring of His bountiful care and loving-kindness.”

Bahá’u’lláh , the Kitáb Al Aqdas-p3

"O SON OF BEING! Walk in My statutes for love of Me and deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest My pleasure."

Bahá’u’lláh , The Arabic Hidden Words – No.38