I received a call yesterday from a beloved friend who do to health reasons is unable to fast. It was her first time not being able to participate. She was so upset and felt she had fallen short. I will share with you what I shared with her.
“In clear cases of weakness, illness, or injury the law of the Fast is not binding. This injunction is in conformity with the precepts of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Well is it with them who act accordingly.”
“The law of the Fast is ordained for those who are sound and healthy; as to those who are ill or debilitated, this law hath never been nor is now applicable.”-Baha’u’llah
There are several other reasons laid out in the writings why and under which circumstances the fast should not be practiced…travelers, women who are pregnant, nursing or during their menses. It is personal and individualized. Be gentle and patient with oneself. It isn’t so rigid. Participate in the reading of the prayers if you can not do the physical part. It is no ones business but your own. Just drink fluids or cut back. You are in charge. My friend and I read a couple of the fasting prayers together over the phone and began to sob. We had reached a spiritual understanding of the fast…we were both uplifted and filled with His love. She understood that it was an inward journey…although the physical body couldn’t participate, the inward spirit could.
“Regarding your question concerning the Fast: Travellers are exempt from fasting, but if they want to fast while they are travelling, they are free to do so. You are exempt the whole period of your travel, not just the hours you are in a train or car, etc. If one eats unconsciously during the fasting hours, this is not breaking the Fast as it is an accident. The age limit is seventy years, but if one desires to fast after the age limit is passed, and is strong enough to, one is free to do so. If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the Fast period is over, he can start to Fast again and continue until the end. Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose.”
(Shoghi Effendi: Principles of Bahá’í Administration, pp. 9-10)
“In the ‘Aqdas’ Bahá’u’lláh permits certain exceptions to this general obligation of fasting, among them are included those who do hard work, such as workers in heavy industries.
“But while a universal obligation, the observance of the nineteen day fast has been made by Bahá’u’lláh the sole responsibility of the individual believer. No Assembly has the right to enforce it on the friends, or to hold anybody responsible for not observing it. The believer is free, however, to ask the advice of his Assembly as to the circumstances that would justify him to conscientiously break such a fast. But he is by no means required to do so.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 9, 1937)