“They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consorting with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations.”
“Through association and meeting we find happiness and development, individual and collective.”
“That which is conducive to association and attraction and unity among the sons of men is the means of the life of the world of humanity …
… and whatever causeth division, repulsion and remoteness leadeth to the death of humankind.”
“The religion or guidance of God must be the means of love and fellowship in the world. If religion proves to be the source of hatred, enmity and contention, if it becomes the cause of warfare and strife and influences men to kill each other, its absence is preferable.”
“Shut your eyes to estrangement, then fix your gaze upon unity.”
“That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”
“Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
“The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity.”
“The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men …
… the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity.”
“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
“…cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.“
“These days are swiftly passing and this mortal life will remain fruitless and without result. Therefore, while there is yet time and the arrow is in the bow, enter ye the chase and strike ye the game.”
amy sahba/left (santa ana, costa rica): Absence is such tangible presence. A Fast dedicated to all those who have paved the way for us.
leila/right (sydney, australia): Sour fruit is still fruit. And there is always sugar.
“Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings. Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation.“
“Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye.”
victor jason/left (tempere, finland): What a spectacular fast it has been! Even if every year I forget how hard fasting is… although I don’t seem to miss having coffee. I am really happy to have been involved with this project and had a chance to see how different photographers and creatives experience the fast. Hope the coming year will be as awesome as the fast has been.
negeen sobhani/right (oklahoma city, ok, usa): Sometimes when my world weighs heavy on me, I remember the words of Abdu’l-Baha quoted above. This life is but a shadow of the real world, with as much existence of the mere photographs we take to capture it.
“O servant of God! We revealed Ourself to thee once in thy sleep, but thou didst remain unaware. Remember now, that thou mayest perceive and hasten with heart and soul to the placeless Friend.”
“Make Thy beauty to be my food, and Thy presence my drink...”
kyan bayani/left (berlin, germany):
“The Flash” by Italo Calvino
It happened one day, at a crossroads, in the middle of a crowd, people coming and going.
I stopped, blinked: suddently I understood nothing. Nothing, nothing about anything: I did not understand the reasons for things or for people, it was all senseless, absurd. I laughed.
What I found strange at the time was that I had never realized before; that up until then I had accepted everything: traffic lights, cars, posters, uniforms, monuments, things completely detached from any sense of the world, accepted them as if there were some necessity, some chain of cause and effect that bound them together.
Then my laugh died. I blushed, ashamed. I waved to get people’s attention. “Stop a moment!” I shouted, “there is something wrong! Everything is wrong! We are doing the absurdest things. This cannot be the right way. Where can it end?”
People stopped around me, sized me up, curious. I stood there in the middle of them, waving my arms, desparate to explain myself, to have them share the flash of insight that had suddenly enlightened me: and I said nothing. I said nothing because the moment I had raised my arms and opened my mouth, my great revelation had been as it were swallowed up again and the words had come out any old how, on impulse.
“So?” people asked, “what do you mean? Everything is in its place. All is as it should be. Everything is a result of something else. Everything fits in with everything else. We cannot see anything wrong or absurd.”
I stood there, lost, because as I saw it now everything had fallen into place again and everything seemed normal, traffic lights, monuments, uniforms, towerblocks, tramlines, begggards, processions; yet this did not calm me, it tormented me.
“I am sorry,” I said. “Perhaps it was I who was wrong. It seemd that way then. But everything is fine now. I am sorry.” And I made off amid their angry glares.
Yet, even now, every time (and it is often) that I find I do not understand something, then, instincitively, I am filled with the hope that perhaps this will be my moment again, perhaps once again I shall understand nothing, I shall grasp the other knowledge, found and lost in an instant.
na’im samimi-moore /right (beijing, china): i’m an ember. the Fast is a gale.
“Thou seest, O Thou Who art my All-Glorious Beloved, the restless waves that surge within the ocean of my heart, in my love and yearning towards Thee.”
“Glory to Thee, O my God! The first stirrings of the spring of Thy grace have appeared and clothed Thine earth with verdure. The clouds of the heaven of Thy bounty have rained their rain on this City within whose walls is imprisoned Him Whose desire is the salvation of Thy creatures. Through it the soil of this City hath been decked forth, and its trees clothed with foliage, and its inhabitants gladdened.”
layli samimi-aazami/left (los angeles, ca, usa): The Fast is a true bounty, while being humbling, centering, exhausting & exhilarating. I have felt suspended between two worlds this Fast, as if I’m neither here nor There, the spirit world feeling ever so close and surrounding me, but still not something I can fully submerge myself in … I am a spiritual being in a human body, resounding throughout. My longing to be close to God & Baha’u'llah during this Fast has been overwhelming and ever-present; I believe this Fast is helping me to realize just how we should constantly be searching for God in all the ways in our daily lives, and to continually be considering how to draw ever-closer. When I sleep at night, I feel as though I sleep so deep, as if I’m a child that needs good rest in order to face the next day; fitting i think, and this makes me feel good because soon, we are facing the New Year. This Fast has been teaching me that I need to surrender more often and realize [and honor] how truly great & awesome [in the true sense] Baha’u'llah’s love is and how deeply He cares for us, and how He always is here to love us up – we just have to TRUST.
ryan lash/right (brooklyn, ny, usa): I’ve never been much of a morning person, always having to struggle to tear myself away from the warmth of my blankets. The fast was the one time of the year that I found it slightly easier to rouse myself from my bed and think of prayer and nourishment. But over the past year, something very surprising has happened; I’ve become a morning person. And now never more so than during the fast. I awake, the kettle goes on for tea, breakfast is made, and eaten, and enjoyed; prayers are recited, a moment is taken to reflect on the start of the day. I cherish these moments in the morning so much now, and I feel bad that I missed so many of them.
“Lauded be Thy name, O my God! I am so carried away by the breezes blowing from Thy presence that I have forgotten my self and all that I possess. This is but a sign of the wonders of Thy grace and bountiful favors vouchsafed unto me. I give praise to Thee, O my God, that Thou hast chosen me out of all Thy creatures, and made me to be the Day-Spring of Thy strength and the Manifestation of Thy might, and empowered me to reveal such of Thy signs and such tokens of Thy majesty and power as none, whether in Thy heaven or on Thy earth, can produce. I beseech Thee, O my Lord, by Thy most effulgent Name, to acquaint my people with the things Thou didst destine for them. Do Thou, then, preserve them within the stronghold of Thy guardianship and the tabernacle of Thine unerring protection, lest through them may appear what will divide Thy servants. Assemble them, O my Lord, on the shores of this Ocean, every drop of which proclaimeth Thee to be God, besides Whom there is none other God, the All-Glorious, the All-Wise. Uncover before them, O my Lord, the majesty of Thy Cause, lest they be led to doubt Thy sovereignty and the power of Thy might. I swear by Thy glory, O Thou Who art the Beloved of the worlds! Had they been aware of Thy power they would of a certainty have refused to utter what Thou didst not ordain for them in the heaven of Thy will. Inspire them, O my Lord, with a sense of their own powerlessness before Him Who is the Manifestation of Thy Self, and teach them to recognize the poverty of their own nature in the face of the manifold tokens of Thy self-sufficiency and riches, that they may gather together round Thy Cause, and cling to the hem of Thy mercy, and cleave to the cord of the good-pleasure of Thy will. Thou art the Lord of the worlds, and of all those who show mercy, art the Most Merciful.”
“It behoves each one of you to manifest the attributes of God, and to exemplify by your deeds and words the signs of His righteousness, His power and glory. The very members of your body must bear witness to the loftiness of your purpose, the integrity of your life, the reality of your faith, and the exalted character of your devotion.”
mauricio dumet/left (atlanta, ga, usa): This year the Fast has been so difficult for me! Catching up with this fast paced -always on the run- lifestyle with extremely busy day to day activities and projects that can’t be put on hold, I find myself not being able to slow down nor get in the correct mind set. I can actually feel it has taken away from my focus on this special time and instead of using my usual lunchtime to go for a walk or take a break and reflect, I find myself trying to catch up on work or maybe fitting a short nap to recover from pulling all-nighters too often. When I do find the time, I dream about Haifa, reflect on what has happened this past year and I feel lucky and I am grateful for my family and try to open my heart to what’s to come.
leili egea/right (haifa, israel): As the end of this special period approaches, I feel a mixture of uncertainty and anticipation for the year ahead. Perhaps the rest of the year will not be so intense, so focused and so inspiring; but thanks to the Fast it will be a little better, a little easier to move toward the standard that we have been called to reach.
“Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things. Thou hast, also, assigned unto every soul a portion of this virtue in accordance with the Tablet of Thy decree and the Scriptures of Thine irrevocable judgment.”
“Say: O my Lord, my Best-Beloved, the Mover of my actions, the Lode Star of my soul, the Voice that crieth in mine inmost being, the Object of mine heart’s adoration! Praise be to Thee for having enabled me to turn my face towards Thee, for having set my soul ablaze through remembrance of Thee, for having aided Me to proclaim Thy Name and to sing Thy praises.”
glenn loe risage/left (japan): This life is the training ground for our soul. So for every tests and trials we encounter we should persevere to endure them. For each test brings with it a special virtue.
elliott vreeland/right (mt. helen, vic, australia): Today I reflected on how the Fast is much like the physical actions we carry out during certain prayers. The first time I said the Long Obligatory Prayer, as I prostrated, stood with my arms raised, and so on, it all felt a bit strange. Despite my privacy I felt self-conscious. Now I understand that as we carry out these actions, we are called to ask ourselves if we feel the same love and humility that we are outwardly expressing. I feel that the nineteen day Fast continually causes us to ask this same question, but in a more in-depth, long term sort of way. This is a blessing.
“The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most.”
“O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou has decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty, all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.”
saia tu’itahi/left (auckland, new zealand): It is the third year in a row I am Fasting alone on behalf of my little family. Some mornings are filled with the joyous laughter and chattering of my two young children while others, like today, are a rare moment of silence and tranquility. Growing up, Fasting has always been associated with the physical struggles of hunger and tiredness, but at the beginning of this Fast I was reminded by the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the quote above of the necessity of hardship in order for growth to occur. As a time of cleansing and renewal, it should be hard, right? Ironically the last week and bit haven’t been as hard as I remember it to be, which feels somewhat bittersweet.
bre vader/right (boston, ma, usa): Something that brings me so much joy during the fast is caring for the people in my life and putting extra thought and attention into the food and time we share together during these nineteen days. I feel sincerely grateful for my table so often being full of friends and family who are part of this Faith and who are reaping the spiritual benefits of this time. It’s so remarkable that over the course of only two generations, my parents went from fasting alone, to breaking the fast with their children and grandchildren. I imagine my own children in the future, praying and breaking the fast with their grandparents, parents, cousins, aunties and uncles, even their own children–and I look forward to the ever-growing table. … speaking of family, my sofa has played host to many end-of-fasting-day naps … my gorgeous sister graced it with her presence just before sunset this evening. Love you, Jaleh
“I beseech Thee, O my God, by that Letter which, as soon as it proceeded out of the mouth of Thy will, hath caused the oceans to surge, and the winds to blow, and the fruits to be revealed, and the trees to spring forth, and all past traces to vanish, and all veils to be rent asunder, and them who are devoted to Thee to hasten unto the light of the countenance of their Lord, the Unconstrained, to make known unto me what lay hid in the treasuries of Thy knowledge and concealed within the repositories of Thy wisdom.”
“Far be it from us to despair at any time of the incalculable favours of God, for if it were His wish He could cause a mere atom to be transformed into a sun and a single drop into an ocean. He unlocketh thousands of doors, while man is incapable of conceiving even a single one.”
leili towfigh/left (boston, ma, usa): At dawn, the sun glimmered into my studio. At sunset, there was that cosmic, slate-gray, big-sky feeling. Recently, I heard an astronomer talking about how the iron that is to be found in our blood was once, billions of years ago, a star that exploded. Now, I’ve heard the expression “We are all stardust” before and, admittedly, it sounds like a concept straight out of 1970s glam rock, but it did capture my imagination, and I have been thinking about it throughout the Fast. I’m reflecting about chance and creation and tininess and power and creativity and perfection and knowledge and service and how we can improve, how we can influence and change ourselves and our environment, and why are we here and what is our relation to each other. Even some other things, too. It has been a very challenging Fast, physically. Also full of art, connection, gratitude.
kadria simons/right (toronto, on, canada): The bridge in my dawn photo is near our home and is one of our favourite places to walk in the mornings. It reminds me of a bridge in North Vancouver near the house where my mother grew up. My grandmother used to take my older brother and me for walks on that bridge. I am thinking of her today and wondering what life would be like if she were still alive. The dusk photo was taken at Bluffers Park near Toronto. My husband and I set out with a delicious picnic and some prayer books. After taking some shots, we ended up breaking the fast in the car as the temperature dropped as quickly as the sun!
“O God, my God, my Beloved, my heart’s Desire.”
“I entreat Thee by Thy footsteps in this wilderness, and by the words “Here am I. Here am I” which Thy chosen Ones have uttered in this immensity, and by the breaths of Thy Revelation, and the gentle winds of the Dawn of Thy Manifestation, to ordain that I may gaze on Thy beauty and observe whatsoever is in Thy Book.”
alison bird/left (kampala, uganda): This year’s Fast has abounded with blessings. From the bounty of breaking the Fast almost every day with dear friends to the honor of visiting and praying at the Bahá’í House of Worship for the African continent to the many unexpected opportunities that have arisen to share this beloved Faith with colleagues and new friends in an almost seamless manner—I am filled with a sense of immense gratitude and love.
zach miloff/right (halifax, nova scotia, canada): Pursuing detachment, acceptance and surrender. And trusting that there is in fact good reason in the mysteries of the unknown. This is what I’m fasting for.