Intercalary Days and the Nineteen-Day Fast: Baha’is celebrate unity, fast

White walkway, open-air, with poles and blue shutters overlooking gardens below

A walkway and gardens at the Mansion of Bahji, now a shrine in the Baha’i faith and located in Israel. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

  • SUNSET MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25: Baha’is begin a period of special, “outside of time” days to correct their annual calendar.
  • SUNSET FRIDAY, MARCH 1: Baha’is begin the 19-day month of Ala, which is a fasting month in preparation for the Baha’i New year.

AYYAM-I-HA (DAYS OF HA)

Sacred days “outside of time” begin for members of the Baha’i faith as the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days, commences. Until sunset on March 1, Baha’is mark a break in their 19-month calendar: the “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.

Ayyam-i-Ha—literally, the Days of Ha—plays on a double meaning of “Ha”: Ha, the first letter of an Arabic pronoun commonly used to refer to God, is used as a symbol of the essence of God in Baha’i writings; the Arabic abjad system designates the letter Ha as having a numerical value of five, which has always been the maximum number of days allowed for the period of Ayyam-i-Ha.

Baha’u’llah designated that Ayyam-i-Ha should be filled with “good cheer” and “joy and exultation”—for Baha’is, their kindred and for recipients of the Baha’is’ charity.

Important update! As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i calendar has reflected changes made by the Universal House of Justice: Naw-Ruz (New Year) now falls on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.

When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation (which is not practiced in Islam) was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-Day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.

THE NINETEEN-DAY FAST

 With the festive days of Ayyim-i-Ha behind, Baha’is enter the final month of the calendar year with the Nineteen-Day Fast. For the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar year—Ala, which lasts 19 days—Baha’is observe a sunrise-to-sunset fast. Many Baha’is regard the Nineteen-Day Fast as one of the greatest obligations of their faith.

Instituted by the Bab and revised by Baha’u’llah, the Nineteen-Day Fast is intended to bring a person closer to God. According to the Bab, the true purpose of the fast is to abstain from everything except divine love. Fasting guidelines, exemptions and more are in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws.

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Nineteen-day Fast: Bahai’s prepare for the new year during holy month of Ala

White intricate designs in temple

A portion of the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Ill. Photo courtesy of pxhere

SUNSET THURSDAY, MARCH 1: Followers of the Baha’i faith have just celebrated the joyous Ayyam-i-Ha, a special period that aligns their annual calendar, and today begins the Nineteen-day Fast: a fast in preparation for the Baha’i New Year. As each month in the Baha’i calendar contains 19 days, today begins the month of Ala, which immediately precedes the start of spring and the start of the Baha’i calendar year.

AYYAM-I-HA: Sacred days “outside of time” were observed by members of the Baha’i faith as the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days. These “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.

For the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar year—Ala, which lasts 19 days—Baha’is observe a sunrise-sunset fast. Many Baha’is regard the Nineteen-day Fast as one of the greatest obligations of their faith. Instituted by the Bab and revised by Baha’u’llah, the Nineteen-day Fast is intended to bring a person closer to God. According to the Bab, the true purpose of the fast is to abstain from everything except divine love. Fasting guidelines, exemptions and more are in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws.

Note: As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i Universal House of Justice declared that Naw-Ruz (New Year) falls on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.

INTERCALATION AND THE MONTH OF ALA

When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation—which is not practiced in Islam—was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.

 

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Intercalary Days & Nineteen-Day Fast: Baha’is mark holy period before New Year

Shades of purple, pink and blue in calm water and rocks at sunset with sky

Beginning at sunset, and for three days, Baha’is will observe the joyous Ayyam-i-Ha; following will be the Nineteen-Day Fast, which ends the day before New Year. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  • SUNSET WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25: Baha’is begin a period of three special days to correct their annual calendar.
  • SUNSET SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28: Baha’is begin the 19-day month of Ala, which is a special fasting month in preparation for the Baha’i New year.

AYYAM-I-HA or DAYS OF HA

Sacred days “outside of time” begin for members of the Baha’i faith, as the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days, commences. Until sunset on February 28, Baha’is mark a break in their 19-month calendar: the “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.

Ayyam-i-Ha—literally, the Days of Ha—plays on a double meaning of “Ha”: Ha, the first letter of an Arabic pronoun commonly used to refer to God, is used as a symbol of the essence of God in Baha’i writings; the Arabic abjad system designates the letter Ha as having a numerical value of five, which has always been the maximum number of days allowed for the period of Ayyam-i-Ha. (Wikipedia has details.)

Baha’u’llah designated that Ayyam-i-Ha should be filled with “good cheer” and “joy and exultation”—for Baha’is, their kindred and recipients of the Baha’is’ charity.

Important update! As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i calendar will reflect changes made by the Universal House of Justice. Starting in 2015, Naw-Ruz (New Year) will fall on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.

The Nineteen-Day Fast takes place during the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar, known as the month of Ala. Intercalary Days account for the days “in between” the 18th month and Ala. This year, because Vernal Equinox falls on March 20, Intercalary Days will last an unprecedented three days.

When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation—which is not practiced in Islam—was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. (Learn more from BahaiTeachings.org.) Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-Day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.

NINETEEN-DAY FAST

SUNSET SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28: With the festive days of Ayyim-i-Ha behind, Baha’is enter the final month of the calendar year with the Nineteen-Day Fast. For the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar year—Ala, which lasts 19 days—Baha’is observe a sunrise-sunset fast. Many Baha’is regard the Nineteen-Day Fast as one of the greatest obligations of their faith. (Learn more from Planet Baha’i.) Instituted by the Bab and revised by Baha’u’llah, the Nineteen-Day Fast is intended to bring a person closer to God. According to the Bab, the true purpose of the fast is to abstain from everything except divine love. Fasting guidelines, exemptions and more are in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws.

IN THE NEWS: AUSTRALIAN SINGER RELEASES BAHA’I SOUL BALLADS

A young singer whose online demos nabbed the interest of a Grammy-winning producer has created an album of “Neo-soul” beats, as she joins an emerging wave of Baha’i artists on the international music scene. (Read more at ABC.net.) Shameem, a native of Australia, recently released The Second City, so named for one of Baha’u’llah’s works, The Seven Valleys. Shameem’s songs use vivid imagery of concepts such as the Valley of Love, and her 2015 Australian tour will feature songs from the new album.

Interested in Shameem’s music? Check out a YouTube video of one of her songs, Under One Sun.

 

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Nineteen Day Fast: Baha’is observe ‘Ala’ with prayer, introspection

“Fasting is the cause of awakening in man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases.”
Abdu’l-Baha, son and successor of Baha’u’llah

Large beige house with green shutters, earth-toned stucco and large overhangs in L-shape

Baha’u’llah’s Edirne house in Adrianople, where he wrote extensively about the Baha’i faith, its beliefs and practices. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDOWN SATURDAY, MARCH 1: The month of Ala has begun, and for faithful Baha’is, that means one thing: fasting. For precisely 19 days, able Baha’is will conduct a sunrise-to-sunset fast, refraining from food and water for the sake of spiritual growth. During this period of intense prayer and self-reflection, Baha’is work to establish a closer relationship with God. Instituted by the Bab, the fast was later accepted by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. Baha’u’llah established the rules of the Nineteen-Day Fast in his book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

BEGINNING OF THE BAHA’I FAITH
AND THE NUMBER ‘19’

Before the Baha’i faith, there was the Babi faith, which was founded by the Bab. As part of the Babi faith, the Bab created the Badi calendar, made of 19 months of 19 days each; the last month, he declared, would be a month of fasting. (Wikipedia has details.) The continuation of this fasting month was, however, dependent upon the forthcoming Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest.

Did you know? Baha’i months and days of the week are named after the attributes of God. Ala translates into “Loftiness.”

In time, the Messianic figure of the Baha’i faith was realized in a man named Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah accepted both the calendar and the fasting month established by the Bab, with the exception of altered fasting rules and regulations. Today, the Baha’i Nineteen-Day Fast is obligatory for men and women between the ages of 15 and 70, who are in good health and who are not traveling (other restrictions apply, too. Learn more from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.)

The Nineteen-Day Fast concludes with the New Year, Naw-Ruz: the first day of spring.

Want more on this observance?

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Categories: Baha'i