The Ayyam-i-Ha -- What are these "Days of the Letter Ha"?
The letter Ha, or H, is one of the first two letters of Bahá'u'lláh's Name, a name promised in the Holy Books - for example, in the 35th chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and in the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelation. This letter is one of the characters in the Baha'i ringstone symbol. The central portion of the ringstone symbol is a series of four interlocking lines linked to four somewhat oval shapes. These four ovals are the Arabic letter H, or "Ha", and the four lines are each the Arabic letter B.
Bahá'u'lláh identifies His name with these two letters in the closing words of the Book of Certitude: "Revealed by the 'Bá' and the 'Há'." (1)
In one of His tablets Bahá'u'lláh states that the Arabic letter "Ba" looks like a lock of hair
and that the letter "Ha" looks like a rosebud
and He mentions the beauty of these two letters when they are linked together, stating that a spirit flows through these letters of His Name like the vibration of a flute. (2)
Some of the Baha'i holy days are joyful days - such as celebrating the birth or the declaration of the Manifestations of God; some are somber, such as commemorating Their ascension from this world.
The nine holy days commemorate the Manifestations of God; the Ayyam-i-Ha celebrate the Essence of God.
The Hand of the Cause Zikrullah Khadem explains in one of his essays the significance of the letter B. He points out that the Book of Genesis begins with the Hebrew letter B, and that every one of the 114 Surahs of the Qur'an begins with the letter B. (3)
In some of His Writings Bahá'u'lláh comments on the letter "B", for example, in the second paragraph of the Tablet of Ishraqat (4)
In like manner, the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh also comment on the significance of the letter "H" or "Ha". In the Surih of the Temple, Bahá'u'lláh writes of this Arabic letter "Ha" that it symbolizes the Essence of God:
"O First Letter of this Temple, betokening the Essence of Divinity! We have made thee the treasury of My Will and the repository of My Purpose unto all who are in the kingdoms of revelation and creation. This is but a token of the grace of Him Who is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting." (5)
We see here that Bahá'u'lláh Himself explains that the letter "Ha" signifies "the Essence of Divinity."
Bahá'u'lláh designated the days preceding the Fast as "the manifestations of the letter 'Ha'." (6) As further explained in the Notes to the Most Holy Book:
"Known as the Ayyam-i-Ha, (the Days of Ha), the Intercalary Days have the distinction of being associated with "the letter Ha". . . The letter "Ha" has been given several spiritual meanings in the Holy Writings, among which is as a symbol of the Essence of God. (7)
Likewise, the Bab revealed a tablet interpreting the significance of the letter "Ha", and Bahá'u'lláh quotes a verse from this tablet in the Book of Certitude:
"Likewise, in His interpretation of the letter 'Ha,' He craved martyrdom, saying: 'Methinks I heard a Voice calling in my inmost being: "Do thou sacrifice the thing which Thou lovest most in the path of God, even as Husayn, peace be upon him, hath offered up his life for My sake."'" (8)
The "Ayyam-i-Ha" are days to be spent in praise of God, in rejoicing, the giving of gifts, and acts of charity. Bahá'u'lláh directs His loved ones "with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name" during them:
“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 Ha, and thus they have not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months. It behoveth 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.” (9)
As one of the Baha'i friends has written:
"Bahá’u'lláh has designated the intercalary days 'amid all the nights and days' as manifestations of the letter 'Ha'–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.'" (10)
How can we best commemorate these days?
(1) (The Book of Certitude, p. 257, paragraph 288)
(3) Zikrullah Khadem, the Itinerant Hand of the Cause of God, p. 303
(4)(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 101)
(5)(Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, paragraph 1.37, p. 20; see also p. 237, footnote 3)
(6)(The Most Holy Book, p. 25, paragraph 16)
(7) (The Most Holy Book, p. 178, Note 28)
(8)(Baha'u'llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 231, paragraph 259)
(9) (The Most Holy Book, p. 25, paragraph 16)