“On every side the flame of oppression and tyranny can be discerned …
… tidings have reached Us that Our loved ones have been arrested in the land of Tá (Ṭihrán)
and this notwithstanding that the sun, and the moon, and the land, and the sea all testify that this people are adorned with the adornment of fidelity,
and have clung and will cling to naught except that which can ensure the exaltation of the government, and the maintenance of order within the nation, and the tranquillity of the people.”
“‘Exultest thou over the treasures thou dost possess, knowing they shall perish? Rejoicest thou in that thou rulest a span of earth, when the whole world, in the estimation of the people of Bahá, is worth as much as the black in the eye of a dead ant?
Abandon it unto such as have set their affections upon it, and turn thou unto Him Who is the Desire of the world.’”
“By God! This people have never been, nor are they now, inclined to mischief. Their hearts are illumined with the light of the fear of God, and adorned with the adornment of His love.
Their concern hath ever been and now is for the betterment of the world.
Their purpose is to obliterate differences, and quench the flame of hatred and enmity, so that the whole earth may come to be viewed as one country.”
“‘Rejoice with great joy, O Land of Tá (Ṭihrán),
for God hath made thee ‘the Day Spring of His light’, inasmuch as within thee was born the Manifestation of His Glory.
Be thou glad for this name that hath been conferred upon thee—a name through which the Daystar of grace hath shed its splendor, through which both earth and heaven have been illumined.
Erelong will the state of affairs within thee be changed, and the reins of power fall into the hands of the people.
Verily, thy Lord is the All-Knowing. His authority embraceth all things.
Rest thou assured in the gracious favor of thy Lord.
The eye of His loving-kindness shall everlastingly be directed towards thee.
The day is approaching when thy agitation will have been transmuted into peace and quiet calm.
Thus hath it been decreed in the Wondrous Book.’”
“O son of being! Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants.”
“The infidels have arisen in tyranny on every hand:
Where is the compelling power of Thine ordaining pen, O Conqueror of the worlds?
The barking of dogs is loud on every side:
Where is the lion of the forest of Thy might, O Chastiser of the worlds?
Coldness hath gripped all mankind:
Where is the warmth of Thy love, O Fire of the worlds?
Calamity hath reached its height:
Where are the signs of Thy succor, O Salvation of the worlds?
Darkness hath enveloped most of the peoples:
Where is the brightness of Thy splendor, O Radiance of the worlds?
The necks of men are stretched out in malice:
Where are the swords of Thy vengeance, O Destroyer of the worlds?
Abasement hath reached its lowest depth:
Where are the emblems of Thy glory, O Glory of the worlds?”
amy youssefian sahba/left (medford, u.s.a.): Some days we wake up, confident in our ability to face our tests and fail in spectacularly beautiful ways. God willing, there is always tomorrow.
leila g.t./right (colorado, u.s.a.): All is full of light. All is full of light. All is full of light. It just really is. (Colorado takes this maxim of mine literally.)
“Through each and every one of the verses which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed, the doors of love and unity have been unlocked and flung open to the face of men … From the heaven of God’s Will, and for the purpose of ennobling the world of being and of elevating the minds and souls of men, hath been sent down that which is the most effective instrument for the education of the whole human race. The highest essence and most perfect expression of whatsoever the peoples of old have either said or written hath, through this most potent Revelation, been sent down from the heaven of the Will of the All-Possessing, the Ever-Abiding God.”
“Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.”
edit kálmán/left (budapest, hungary): These are the days of giving and receiving; receiving unexpected. When the eyes open to new brightness and we meet realities unknown before. Our soul speaks to Him day and night, and we rediscover the underlying purpose within.
anjali pala/right (venice, italy): I arrive in this strange, watery city shortly after dawn and spend the day wandering through its narrow corridors, thinking about all the places we call home. It is peaceful here in car-less, horn-less, hustle-and-bustle-less Venice, and I am grateful to be back.
“The hearts that yearn after Thee, O my God, are burnt up with the fire of their longing for Thee, and the eyes of them that love Thee weep sore by reason of their crushing separation from Thy court, and the voice of the lamentation of such as have set their hopes on Thee hath gone forth throughout Thy dominions.
Thou hast Thyself, O my God, protected them, by Thy sovereign might, from both extremities. But for the burning of their souls and the sighing of their hearts, they would be drowned in the midst of their tears, and but for the flood of their tears they would be burnt up by the fire of their hearts and the heat of their souls. Methinks, they are like the angels which Thou hast created of snow and of fire. Wilt Thou, despite such vehement longing, O my God, debar them from Thy presence, or drive them away, notwithstanding such fervor, from the door of Thy mercy? All hope is ready to be extinguished in the hearts of Thy chosen ones, O my God! Where are the breezes of Thy grace? They are hemmed in on all sides by their enemies; where are the ensigns of Thy triumph which Thou didst promise in Thy Tablets?
Thy glory is my witness! At each daybreak they who love Thee wake to find the cup of woe set before their faces, because they have believed in Thee and acknowledged Thy signs. Though I firmly believe that Thou hast a greater compassion on them than they have on their own selves, though I recognize that Thou hast afflicted them for no other purpose except to proclaim Thy Cause, and to enable them to ascend into the heaven of Thine eternity and the precincts of Thy court, yet Thou knowest full well the frailty of some of them, and art aware of their impatience in their sufferings.
Help them through Thy strengthening grace, I beseech Thee, O my God, to suffer patiently in their love for Thee, and unveil to their eyes what Thou hast decreed for them behind the Tabernacle of Thine unfailing protection, so that they may rush forward to meet what is preordained for them in Thy path, and may vie in hasting after tribulation in their love towards Thee. And if not, do Thou, then, reveal the standards of Thine ascendancy, and make them to be victorious over Thine adversaries, that Thy sovereignty may be manifested unto all the dwellers of Thy realm, and the power of Thy might demonstrated amidst Thy creatures. Powerful art Thou to do what Thou willest. No God is there but Thee, the Omniscient, the All-Wise.
Make steadfast Thou, O my God, Thy servant who hath believed in Thee to help Thy Cause, and keep him safe from all dangers in the stronghold of Thy care and Thy protection, both in this life and in the life which is to come. Thou, verily, rulest as Thou pleasest. No God is there save Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.”
“If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed by Thee.”
alison bird/left (maputo, mozambique): This year, at the request of the Universal House of Justice, I have dedicated the Fast and offered prayers for the protection of our dear brothers and sisters in the Cradle of the Faith.
razi wilson/right (los angeles, u.s.a.): At this time in my life I am so grateful for any moment to be reminded of the truth of this existence….of the temporariness of this moment and how important each choice we make is. How fitting is it then to photograph my sons; because a photograph holds this very moment and it will never change, making it precious. Some say a photograph captures the soul or I think the soul of the one making it…. I find my spiritual life is no longer just about me, now I have the great task of guiding and training* these beautiful souls (am I worthy?). And I’m finding out the only way to do that is by walking the walk, they are a witness, a mirror in my daily life to my spiritual connection. This makes me grateful for this day…..
*the quote I chose is on my son’s ceiling, he loves this way of memorizing the writings.
“Remember not your own limitations; the help of God will come to you. Forget yourself. God’s help will surely come! When you call on the Mercy of God waiting to reinforce you, your strength will be tenfold.”
“You have demonstrated in the example of your lives that the proper response to oppression is neither to succumb in resignation nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor. The victim of oppression can transcend it through an inner strength that shields the soul from bitterness and hatred and which sustains consistent, principled action.”
mauricio dumet/right (atlanta, u.s.a.): Oh … this year has been intense!
Going out of that comfort zone and starting over somewhere completely different than what one is used to have proven to be a tough experience. I’ve been so focused on what’s going to happen with my career that sometime along the way I’ve allowed myself to fall in this material and hectic swirl. The Fast has freed me from all of this! It has allowed me time to reflect and disconnect from the things that don’t matter. While everyone is worrying about what and where to eat during the scheduled lunch time, I’ve been able to take walks and enjoy nature, regain some peace of mind and slow down to enjoy and be content. The Fast has brought clarity and reminded me of the things that matter the most…the things that connect me to my family and the Faith.
kat eghdamian/left (geneva, switzerland): I was moved by the call of the Universal House of Justice to bring consolation to the hearts of the Bahá’ís in Iran by offering prayers for them during this month of fasting. The world is in turmoil and the tribulations inflicted upon humanity are intensifying. The time when “love will ultimately conquer hate and enmity” often seems far from reality. But little by little, day by day, through concerted efforts and consistent, principled action, oppression can and will be transcended. I hope these two photographs depict the inner strength displayed by the “steadfast followers of Bahá’u’lláh in that land” and we continue to be inspired by their example and perform acts worthy of their sacrifices.
“Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form, when within thee the universe is folded?”
“O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive to become the manifestations of the love of God, the lamps of divine guidance shining amongst the kindreds of the earth with the light of love and concord.”
elizabeth sabet/left (santa ana, costa rica): The Fast is always a challenging time, altering patterns and processes of thought–not just for its nineteen day duration, but leaving behind lasting change (or so I always hope). This Fast arrived like a welcome friend, bringing with it the comfort and relief of knowing that for this short time quotidian cares must take a back seat. With the everyday noise figuratively relegated to the background, as I enter this new year my mind is occupied by equal measures of uncertainty and gratitude.
mona reyhani/right (mannheim, germany): While the first ten days have been a whirlwind of events and travels I am now beginning to appreciate the calmness and serenity that every morning brings with it. The sense of a new beginning with every new morning is refreshing and the manner in which each evening ties together all loose ends is reassuring. This season of awareness and consciousness already left its marks and I will give my all to absorb and enjoy these few remaining days.
“A twofold obligation resteth upon him who hath recognized the Day Spring of the Unity of God, and acknowledged the truth of Him Who is the Manifestation of His oneness. The first is steadfastness in His love, such steadfastness that neither the clamor of the enemy nor the claims of the idle pretender can deter him from cleaving unto Him Who is the Eternal Truth, a steadfastness that taketh no account of them whatever. The second is strict observance of the laws He hath prescribed—laws which He hath always ordained, and will continue to ordain, unto men, and through which the truth may be distinguished and separated from falsehood.”
“”Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue…”
tamila zeinalova/left (bishkek, kyrgyzstan): This year’s Fast has been blessed by the unique call of the Universal Houseof Justice to “offer prayers during this month for the protection of the friends in the Cradle of the Faith and to beseech Baha’u’llah for their well-being”. This has helped me so much to keep my thoughts focused throughout these days. I always thought that centring our thoughts on some specific theme or virtue enriches our experience during the Fast, but could never find one worthy enough to dedicate most of the prayers and thoughts to, during all 19 days. But it’s different this year. The object of our prayers is so significant that even all 19 days of praying may not seem to do justice to sufficiently answer this call.
kadria simons/right (toronto, canada): As warm light poured through the windows this morning, I thought of the joys that are found in each hour of these special days. Watching the sunrise each morning, finding renewed order and beauty in daily tasks, connecting with friends and neighbours, praying each night with my husband, and participating in nineteen days. My day ended with some quiet moments in a favourite park. The grass is brown, the trees are bare, the sky is grey. Yet what a comfort to know that beneath the mulch and decay, the signs of Spring are just a few short weeks away.
“Even as the clouds let us shed down tears, and as the lightning flashes let us laugh at our coursings through east and west. By day, by night, let us think but of spreading the sweet savours of God. Let us not keep on forever with our fancies and illusions, with our analysing and interpreting and circulating of complex dubieties. Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs. Rather let us become oblivious of our own selves, and drinking down the wine of heavenly grace, let us cry out our joy, and lose ourselves in the beauty of the All-Glorious.”
“In reality thou art spiritually hungry and athirst for the Water of Life. Therefore I send thee spiritual food and bestow upon thee the Water of Life Eternal. That food is the divine advices and exhortations revealed in the Tablets and the spiritual outpourings of the Breath of the Holy Spirit. I hope ere long it will reach thee and thou wilt behold what an exhilaration and beatitude it produceth and what cheerfulness and serenity and what heavenly emotions it createth!”
sjona bro/left (michigan, u.s.a.): The Fast has never been an easy time for me. Every night of the year we are to bring ourselves to account, and then strive to have a better tomorrow. The Fast then becomes the time of the year where I bring myself to account for the past 300-and-some days that have gone by, and make a decision to strive for a better year ahead … and that is never easy.
christian naenny/right (haifa, israel): The time of the fast this year has been quite challenging, as the fast coincides with the last phase of a very important project at work. I had hoped for more time to contemplate. But now the time between sunrise and midnight is filled with work. At least I have found a bit of time to contribute to the Nineteen Days project as well!
“The flame of every fire hath been extinguished except the Flame which the hands of Thine omnipotence have kindled, and whose radiance Thou hast, by the power of Thy name, shed abroad before all that are in Thy heaven and all that are on Thy earth. As the tribulations deepen, it waxeth hotter and hotter. ”
“O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this Day…. You are the lowly, of whom God has thus spoken in His Book: “And We desire to show favour to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make them Our heirs.”You have been called to this station; you will attain to it, only if you arise to trample beneath your feet every earthly desire, and endeavour to become those “honoured servants of His who speak not till He hath spoken, and who do His bidding”.… Heed not your weaknesses and frailty; fix your gaze upon the invincible power of the Lord, your God, the Almighty…. Arise in His name, put your trust wholly in Him, and be assured of ultimate victory.”
alisa mappes/left (taipei, taiwan): In the morning, heating soup and evening drops on a small potted plant outdoors in Taipei, Taiwan. Fasting has never been more surprising. In the clutches of a mad flu that caused me to stop fasting for two days, I what a blessing good health is for giving one the ability to obtain the bounties of the fast. All’s well now. Onward, onward! The next day approaches!
chad mauger/right (haifa, israel): Looking back on the events of the past year, the overarching theme has been travel and change. Reflecting on this has made me grateful for the things that are constant in my life, like my relationship with God and my family. The Fast is also a constant; a constant reminder of our spiritual duties and a recurring source of revival and renewal. The Fasting period this year for me is split between two countries, further highlighting the changes that occur in my life while the Fast stays the same. Although the Fast began for me in Australia, I am blessed to be spending the latter half of the Fast this year with my wife in Haifa, Israel. In the course of my work yesterday, I came across the Báb’s address to the Letters of the Living, which I felt compelled to share, at least in part, as cited in the Century of Light by the Universal House of Justice. For those not familiar with the Bahá’í Faith, the Báb was the forerunner to Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet founder of the Bahá’í Faith. What makes this so moving for me is the fact that this address was made to those who were the first to believe in the Báb and His message. The full address can be found in The Dawn-Breakersby Nabíl-i-A‘ẓam.
“O God, my God! Stay not from me the gentle gales of Thy pardon and grace, and deprive me not of the wellsprings of Thine aid and favor. ‘Neath the shade of Thy protecting wings let me nestle, and cast upon me the glance of Thine all-protecting eye.”
“Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases.”
negeen sobhani/left (oklahoma, u.s.a.): Fasting always puts under a microscope what has been moving around in my mind for the past several months. I’ve pulled the brakes on so many things in my life only to devote more of myself to what really matters. And yet, at some point, we just have to let go of what we try so hard to protect and realize that we are all in the best of Hands, and everything will be just fine. Just fine.
jaclyn leaver/right (austin, u.s.a): This Fast has chipped away at my hardened shell. It has wiggled its way under my skin, into my body, passing through my veins, and has left my heart exposed, raw and pounding. It has allowed me to stare myself in the mirror and accept who I am. Not who I appear to be.