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COLLECTIONEssays and short articles
TITLEDawn Fasting Prayer
AUTHOR 1Ruhiyyih (Mary Maxwell) Khanum
ABSTRACTEssay from ‘Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum's book The Desire of the World.
NOTES See the text of the prayer at See also an essay by Mead Simon about this prayer at
CROSSREFThe Prayers of Bahá'u'lláh (Ruhiyyih Khanum)
TAGS* Prayer texts; - Metaphors and allegories; Amatul-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum; Fasting; Fasting prayers; Prayer; Spirituality; Words and phrases
CONTENT Bahá’u’lláh attaches extraordinary importance to the fasting period and the virtues wherewith fasting has been endowed by God from time immemorial — and is re-endowed, so to speak, by Bahá’u’lláh Himself. In one of His Tablets He states that “the fast . . . enjoined on all” is a particular period during which the servants of God cling to the cord of His commandments and seize upon the handle of His precepts. Addressing God in one of His prayers He writes:

“These are the days whereon Thou hast bidden all men to observe the fast, that through it they may purify their souls and rid themselves of all attachment to any one but Thee . . . Grant, O my Lord, that this fast may become a river of life-giving waters and may yield the virtue wherewith Thou hast endowed it. Cleanse Thou by its means the hearts of Thy servants whom the evils of the world have failed to hinder from turning towards Thine all glorious Name ...”

The fast is amongst Bahá’u’lláh’s “wondrous laws and precepts”; one should fast, He says, for love of God and in pursuance of His injunction, and states: “Blessed is he that observeth the fast wholly for Thy sake”, and prays God to assist His servants to “obey Thee and to keep Thy precepts”and puts this supplication into the mouths of His servants, that this observance of the fast may “cleanse us from the noisome savours of our transgressions, O Thou Who hast called Thyself the God of mercy!”So great, Bahá’u’lláh affirms, is the fast that it adorns the “preamble of the Book of Thy Laws”, and goes on to say that God has “endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue...”

The long prayer for the fast grows on one all the adult years of one’s life until in the end the blessing of keeping the fast and the blessing of saying this prayer with it become one great annual bounty, one special privilege of life. If one begins at about five minutes before sunrise one discovers that it seems deliberately to be synchronized with the rising of the sun: one finds oneself standing at “the gate of the city of Thy presence”, awaiting God’s grace; then come “the shadow of Thy mercy and the canopy of Thy bounty”—the differentiation of light from dark is taking place, the birds are singing; there follows “the splendour of Thy luminous brow and the brightness of the light of Thy countenance”—the sky is beginning to kindle with colour; the worshipper asks to be allowed “to gaze on the Day-Star of Thy Beauty”—the sun is rising! Next comes the full panoply of dawn, symbol of the Divine Springtime of God, “by the Tabernacle of Thy majesty upon the loftiest summits, and the Canopy of Thy Revelation on the highest hills”; as one gazes upon the sun beginning to mount the skies one reaches the words “by Thy Beauty that shineth forth above the horizon of eternity, a Beauty before which as soon as it revealeth itself the kingdom of beauty boweth down in worship...”

All this takes place in the first half of the prayer. But what the worshipper is supplicating for is: to receive God’s grace, to draw nearer to Him, to become attracted to Him and imbibe His words, to serve His Cause in such wise that he may not be held back by those who have turned away from God, to enable him to recognize God’s Manifestation, to accomplish what God desires, to grant that “I may die to all that I possess and live to whatsoever belongeth unto Thee”, to remember and praise God, to remove him far from whatever displeases God and enable him to draw near to the One Who manifests God’s signs, to make known to this worshipper what was hidden in God’s knowledge and wisdom, to number him with those who have attained to what God has revealed, to record for him what has been written down by God for His trusted and chosen ones, to write down for everyone who has turned unto God and observed the fast prescribed by Him “the recompense decreed for such as speak not except by Thy leave, and who forsook all that they possessed in Thy path and for love of Thee”, and, last of all, to “cancel the trespasses of those who have held fast to Thy laws, and have observed what Thou hast prescribed unto them in Thy Book.”

Almost like a leitmotiv in a sumptuous musical composition, there occurs the same refrain over and over: “Thou seest me, O my God, holding to Thy Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous, the Most Mighty, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorious, and clinging to the hem of the robe to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come.” When I repeat this I always visualize myself and my parents and loved ones who are dead, clinging all together to this symbolic celestial robe, and I feel very close to them.

Truly a majestic prayer, containing metaphors of deep mysticism, a prayer that is a never-ending experience.

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