Ayyám-i-Há: Days Outside of Time – By Karla Jamir

Graphics by Joe Paczkowski

The Ayyám-i-Há holiday begins each year on the evening of February 25 and ends at sunset on March 1st. Of this period Bahá’u’lláh writes: “It behoveth the people of Bahá, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name.” 

A closer look at the history and background of Ayyám-i-Há can help us to value it even more for its unique spirit, resist any temptation to turn it into a “Christmas equivalent,” and discover some of its beautiful and mystical symbolic meanings. The Bahá’í calendar of 19 months of 19 days needs 4 days (5 in leap years) to equal a solar year. By definition such added days are “intercalary” days. In revealing this “Bábí” calendar, the Báb did not say exactly where to place the extra days. Some of the early Bábís included them as part of the Fast, others stopped fasting 4 or 5 days before Naw-Rúz (the new calendar year). Bahá’u’lláh named these days in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and specified their place in the year:

“Let the days in excess of the months be placed before the month of fasting. We have ordained that these, amid all nights and days, shall be the manifestations of the letter Há, and thus they have not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months…and when they end–these days of giving that precede the season of restraint–let them enter upon the Fast. Thus hath it been ordained by Him Who is the Lord of all mankind.”

As in His prayer for Ayyám-i-Há, Bahá’u’lláh juxtaposes these “days of giving” with the Fast’s “season of restraint.” Ayyám-i-Há is intended partly as spiritual preparation for the Fast, a reminder of its approach, and a way of fostering the detachment from material things so necessary for the Fast.

Ayyám-i-Há means the “Days of Há.” “Há” is the Arabic letter corresponding to the English “H”, and one of the three Arabic letters which make up the word “Bahá.” Both Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb followed the Arabic tradition of assigning numerical values to letters, and of giving spiritual meanings to both. The numerical value of “Há” is 5, the sum of the numerical values of the letters in the “Báb,” and the maximum number of intercalary days.

“Há” is also the first letter of an Arabic pronoun commonly used in Arabic religious writings to refer to God, or “the Divine Essence.” “Há” by itself is used as a symbol of “the Essence of God,” and was the subject of many an Arabic essay on its mysteries. In Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of All Food the realm “beyond which there is no passing,” or the realm of the Divine Essence is designated as “Háhut.” In the Báb’s interpretation of the letter “Há” (quoted by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Iqán), the Báb speaks of martyrdom in the path of God and warns “even if all the kings of the earth were to be leagued together they would be powerless to take from me a single letter…”

Bahá’u’lláh has designated the intercalary days “amid all the nights and days” as manifestations of the letter Há”–that is, as Days of the Divine Essence. These extra days stand apart from the ordinary cycle of weeks and months and the human measure of time. They are not “bounded by the limits of the year and its months”–just as the infinite reality of the divine Essence of God is unbounded and cannot be captured or comprehended within the cycle of time or any other human measurement.

Thus Ayyám-i-Há can be thought of as days outside of time, days that symbolize eternity, infinity, and the mystery and unknowable Essence of God Himself. Contemplation during these days of the timeless mystery of the Essence of God provides us the “joy and exultation” with which to “sing His praise and magnify His Name.”

*This article was (taken from an e-mail posting
from 1995)

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“Material favors sometimes deprive us of spiritual favors and material rest of spiritual rest. A rich man said to Christ, “I would fain be thy disciple.” “Go and put into practice the ten commandments,” replied the Christ. “But I know them by heart and have always practiced them.” “Then sell what thou hast and take up thy cross and follow me.” The man returned to his home. But the rich who are attracted through their hearts have the spark and are like unto brilliant torches. BAHA’O’LLAH has spoken of the importance of their station. Certain rich ones have sacrificed their possessions and even their lives for this cause. Riches did not prove an obstacle for them and they are like unto stars in the heaven of both worlds – flames of reality.

“Detachment does not consist in setting fire to one’s house, or becoming bankrupt or throwing one’s fortune out of the window, or even giving away all of one’s possessions. Detachment consists in refraining from letting our possessions possess us. A prosperous merchant who is not absorbed in his business knows severance. A banker whose occupation does not prevent him from serving humanity is severed. A poor man can be attached to a small thing.”

— ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 135-136

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Image by Glenn Franco Simmons

Here is a historical account of how Baha’u’llah and some of the early believers celebrated Ayyam-i-Ha:

On the first day of the Ayyam-i-Ha [Intercalary days] one of the pilgrims had invited Baha’u’llah and all the believers in Akka to lunch. I too went to Mazra‘ih. Early in the morning a large tent was pitched in front of the entrance to the garden on a delightful open space. That morning all the believers, numbering almost two hundred, consisting of those who were living in the Holy Land and the pilgrims, came to Mazra‘ih.

Around the time of noon, the Blessed Beauty came down from the Mansion and majestically entered the tent. All the believers were standing in front of the tent. Then Mirza Aqa Jan, standing in the presence of Baha’u’llah chanted a dawn prayer for fasting which had been revealed on that day. When the prayer was finished the Blessed Beauty instructed all to be seated. Every person sat down in the place where he was standing. His blessed Person spoke to us and after His utterances were ended He asked, ‘What happened to the Feast, is it really going to happen?’ Thereupon a few friends hurried away and soon lunch was brought in. They placed a low table in the middle of the tent. His blessed person and all the Aghsan [The male descendants of Baha’u’llah] sat around the table and since there was more room, He called some by name to join Him. Among these my name was called; He said, Aqa Tahir, come and sit.’ So I went in and sat at the table in His presence.

At some point Baha’u’llah said, ‘We have become tired of eating. Those who have had enough may leave.’ I immediately arose and His blessed Person left. At first the food which was left over on His plate was divided among the friends, and then group after group entered the tent and had their meal. Everyone at this feast partook of both physical and spiritual food.

–(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, vol. 4, p.8)

 

 

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Joe Paczkowski

et the days in excess of the months be placed before the month of fasting. We have ordained that these, amid all nights and days, shall be the manifestations of the letter Ha, and thus they have not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months. It behooveth the people of Baha, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name; and when they end—these days of giving that precede the season of restraint—let them enter upon the Fast.

— (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 25)

1 Ayyám-i-Há (1st day of Ayyám-i-Há)

y God, my Fire and my Light!  The days which Thou hast named the Ayyám-i-Há¹ in Thy Book have begun, O Thou Who art the King of names, and the Fast which Thy most exalted Pen hath enjoined unto all who are in the kingdom of Thy creation to observe is approaching.  I entreat Thee, O my Lord, by these days and by all such as have during that period clung to the cord of Thy commandments, and laid hold on the handle of Thy precepts, to grant that unto every soul may be assigned a place within the precincts of Thy court, and a seat at the revelation of the splendors of the light of Thy countenance.

These, O my Lord, are Thy servants whom no corrupt inclination hath kept back from what Thou didst send down in Thy Book.  They have bowed themselves before Thy Cause, and received Thy Book with such resolve as is born of Thee, and observed what Thou hadst prescribed unto them, and chosen to follow that which had been sent down by Thee.

Thou seest, O my Lord, how they have recognized and confessed whatsoever Thou hast revealed in Thy Scriptures.  Give them to drink, O my Lord, from the hands of Thy graciousness the waters of Thine eternity.  Write down, then, for them the recompense ordained for him that hath immersed himself in the ocean of Thy presence, and attained unto the choice wine of Thy meeting.

I implore Thee, O Thou the King of kings and the Pitier of the downtrodden, to ordain for them the good of this world and of the world to come.  Write down for them, moreover, what none of Thy creatures hath discovered, and number them with those who have circled round Thee, and who move about Thy throne in every world of Thy worlds.

Thou, truly, art the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.

~Bahá’u’lláh

¹The Days of Há, Intercalary Days.

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