|Virtually all of
the world's religions emphasize fasting as a means of spiritual purification. Each year,
for example, Muslims abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for
twenty-eight days in a row. Christ's reference to the importance of fasting is recorded in
Chapters six and nine of the Gospel of Matthew.
Bahá'u'lláh called on Bahá'ís to refrain from eating or
drinking from sunrise to sunset for nineteen consecutive days each year from 2 March to 20
March. This period, known simply as "the Fast," is considered a time for deep
reflection on one's own spiritual progress. Efforts are made to detach oneself from
material desires. Bahá'ís rise before dawn to eat breakfast and to pray. Those who are
ill are exempt from fasting, as are pregnant and nursing women, people under 15 or over 70
years old, travelers, and those engaged in arduous physical labor.
"Whatever duty Thou hast prescribed unto Thy servants... is but
a token of Thy grace unto them, that they may be enabled to ascend unto the station
conferred upon their own inmost being, the station of the knowledge of their own
selves." -- Bahá'u'lláh