One precedes the recitation of a daily obligatory prayer with ablutions:
“It hath been ordained that every believer in God, the Lord of Judgement, shall, each day, having washed his hands and then his face, seat himself and, turning unto God, repeat "Allah-u-Abha" ninety-five times. Such was the decree of the Maker of the Heavens when, with majesty and power, He established Himself upon the thrones of His Names. Perform ye, likewise, ablutions for the Obligatory Prayer; this is the command of God, the Incomparable, the Unrestrained.”

(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 25) [Emphasis added.]

“The prescribed ablutions consist of washing the hands and the face for prayer… That ablutions have a significance beyond washing may be seen from the fact that even should one have bathed oneself immediately before reciting the Obligatory Prayer, it would still be necessary to perform ablutions.”

(The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes pp. 180-81)

The Medium Obligatory Prayer has ablutions incorporated into the body of its text:
"Whoso wisheth to pray, let him wash his hands, and while he washeth, let him say:
"Strengthen my hand, O my God, that it may take hold of Thy Book with such steadfastness that the hosts of the world shall have no power over it. Guard it, then, from meddling with whatsoever doth not belong unto it. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.

"And while washing his face, let him say:

"I have turned my face unto Thee, O my Lord! Illumine it with the light of Thy
countenance. Protect it, then, from turning to anyone but Thee.”

(Baha’u’llah, from 'The Medium Obligatory Prayer')

It seems significant that while washing one's hands, plural, one states "Strengthen my hand," singular. This, with the accompanying text, may imply that the idea is to help us focus on purity in all our actions.

For instance, the sentence "Guard it, then, from meddling with whatsoever doth not belong unto it," can be taken as an entreaty against burglary, snooping and plagiarism. However, this quote from Baha'u'llah helps add another level of meaning to consider:
"Thine heart is My treasury, allow not the treacherous hand of self to rob thee of the pearls which I have treasured therein. Thine hand is a symbol of My loving-kindness, hinder it not from holding fast unto My guarded and hidden Tablets..."

Gleanings, CLII, p. 322) [Emphasis added.]
Likewise, while washing one's face one speaks [again, specifically as part of the Medium Obligatory Prayer] of turning it symbolically only to the light of God. This seems to be an aid--a reminder--for purity of intention.

Just as it is easier to wash one's face after washing one's hands, so it may be easier to purify intentions and motives after cleaning up actions and behavior. There has to be some commitment of the heart in order to begin either however; the power of the Holy Spirit enters into the process.

It is manifestly appropriate that one performs ablutions, a symbolic, elemental, ritual act of purity, each day before one's prayer. After all, Baha'u'llah taught us, "My first counsel is this: possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart..." (Arabic Hidden Words, No.1) and elsewhere lists "purity of heart while communing with God" as ranking "according to the estimate of God, among the highest and most laudable of all acts." Moreover, He has directed: "Be pure, O people of God, be pure; be righteous, be righteous..." and "Cleanse yourselves thoroughly, O people of Baha, from the defilement of the world, and of all that pertaineth unto it."
(See Gleanings, CXXXIV, CXXXI and CXXXIX, pp. 290, 287 and 304.)


The reciting of the verses required for ablutions during the Medium Obligatory Prayer is not a requirement during ablutions performed before the Short or Long Obligatory Prayers or the repetition of "Allah’u’Abha” ninety-five times. Baha’u’llah states in the Kitab-i-Aqdas simply “having washed his hands and then his face.”

The necessity of ablutions is seen in the provision made for instances where water is unavailable or its use harmful to the hands or face:
'Let him that findeth no water for ablution repeat five times the words "In the Name of God, the Most Pure, the Most Pure", and then proceed to his devotions.’

The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 23)

Prayer and Cleanliness

The purpose of ablutions certainly goes beyond physical cleanliness. However, wearing clean clothes, which some may regard as a secondary detail, appears to be highly recommended when saying one’s obligatory prayer (or other prayers):
“Should the garb of anyone be visibly sullied, his prayers shall not ascend to God, and the celestial Concourse will turn away from him.”

The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 47)

"Cleave ye unto the cord of refinement with such tenacity as to allow no trace of dirt to be seen upon your garments. Such is the injunction of One Who is sanctified above all refinement. Whoso falleth short of this standard with good reason shall incur no blame. God, verily, is the Forgiving, the Merciful...Be ye the very essence of cleanliness amongst mankind. This, truly, is what your Lord, the Incomparable, the All-Wise, desireth for you."

(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 46)

"God loveth those who are pure. Naught in the Bayan and in the sight of God is more loved than purity and immaculate cleanliness..."

(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 79)

"My meaning is this, that in every aspect of life, purity and holiness, cleanliness and refinement, exalt the human condition and further the development of man's inner reality. Even in the physical realm, cleanliness will conduce to spirituality, as the Holy Writings clearly state. And although bodily cleanliness is a physical thing, it hath, nevertheless, a powerful influence on the life of the spirit."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 146-47)

Next: "Facing the Qiblih"


  1. "Strengthen my hand" means to help us from acting dishonestly.


  2. I have what will sound like 2 stupid questions, but I need some help. I love the medium obligatory prayer for what it says, and because it is done three times a day.
    Q1: because it starts with hand & face washing, do we perform this prayer in the bathroom? :- (
    Q2: as a woman who works, am I expected to wash off my makeup during the second time I perform this prayer?
    It would seem a shame to not be able to do this beautiful prayer throughout my day to come closer to God just because I can't wash my face the second time. Any ideas? (and don't tell me not to wear makeup; I do.)

    1. As you know, observing the law of Obligatory Prayer is a matter of individual conscience.

      That being stated, I will share a few personal observations, although I am far from being an authority on the subject.

      Q1: In our present-day Western culture, the choices for ablutions usually are considered to be the bathroom or the kitchen. I perform mine in the bathroom. I speculate that in the future – though probably not in my lifetime - many homes even in our culture will be designed to better accommodate devotional ablutions; even now some homes have a separate washroom, or an alcove for the sink. Will they someday be purposely oriented toward the east? (I’m not saying that this is a requirement or even necessarily desirable.)

      An appealing option for ablutions might be the use of a pitcher and washbowl on a chest of drawers, nightstand, or low dresser in one’s bedroom. You still see ceramic versions of these around, especially in bed & breakfast lodges, although I think many people consider them merely decorative.

      Q2: Reiterating that observing the law of Obligatory Prayer is a matter of individual conscience, it seems wonderful to me that Baha’u’llah has given us so much flexibility. We can say any or all three—the Short, the Medium, and/or the Long Obligatory Prayer—each day if we want! You’re right that reciting the Medium Obligatory can seem somewhat complicated within the context of modern life. When I began saying the Medium one, it was only after several weeks that I realized I had been doing the morning recitation most weekdays when it was still dark outside, before sunrise, (due to my hospital job starting at 5:30 am). However, the Kitab-i-Aqdas clearly defines ‘morning’ as ‘sunrise’ to noon. (And ‘dawn’ is not to be mistaken for ‘sunrise’ – they are two different things.) Then there’s the potential issue of calculating 'noon' during Daylight Savings Time in the United States. Moreover, unlike the longer time slots for the morning and noon iterations, the evening session of the Medium Obligatory Prayer is in a narrower window of time between sunset and two hours after sunset. It tends to ‘keep you on your toes.’ But also perhaps, it keeps one more in relation to the sun and in touch with the seasons.

    2. I had the same question about the makeup. :-) I tend to just do a partial or symbolic face washing when I am work. I looked this up because I've been wondering if it's alright. Better than not at all, is my opinion, but not necessarily fulfilling the requirements.

    3. I want to correct one incorrect statement I made earlier above: a couple of weeks ago I rediscovered that Abdu'l-Baha has explained that the morning Obligatory Prayer--of the three-part Medium one--may be said as early as dawn. (In other words, one does not have to wait until sunrise.) See #5 in the Notes section in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

    4. In my opinion, you'll need to remove your makeup and a symbolic face washing is incorrect.

  3. Thank you, Paul, for your perspective. I love the Medium Prayer because, like Muslims, being called to prayer several times a day is a wonderful connection to God throughout the day. Like you, I work in a medical setting and have to be at work often before the sun rises. Add to that my "makeup problem" and it may be that the Medium Prayer will not work for me on work days; I will need to make use of one or both of the other Obligatory Prayers. In addition, I may want to select one of Bahá'u'lláh's other beautiful prayers to recite three times a day.

    Thanks again.

    1. Why not just say instead, "In the Name of God, the Most Pure, the Most Pure" 5 times and pray, I would have to believe it is better to pray with devotion then to skip pray for a trivial reason.

    2. Ok , but do you pray orally , so others can see you. Their are hostile people, who by association will seek out to kell . Now where when and how do you pray ,when you are at work??? I want to know, I am curiious.

    3. Although Abdu'l-Baha explained that the obligatory prayers are not DEPENDENT on a private place, the Universal House of Justice mentions that they are meant to be said in private. Everyone's living situation and work environment is different, so we each have to sort out how to handle it. The Short Obligatory Prayer, for instance, is only 3 sentences long and can be performed anytime between noon and sunset. Regarding "do you pray orally," Shoghi Effendi stated that silently or aloud makes no difference. These answers I've shared are all sourced properly elsewhere on this site. Best wishes!

  4. When I first started posting this online site in 2008, I thought about including the passage below. Now I've finally decided to include it, because this brief descriptive account below has had such an enduring effect on me: whenever I say my obligatory prayer(s) I try and make sure my clothes are "presentable," with the thought that I am in the presence of Baha'u'llah.

    "Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi was an embodiment of detachment, humility and servitude. His only aim in life was to serve the Cause he loved so much. He often communed with Bahá'u'lláh in spirit and through prayer. Of him it is reported that every day at home he would put on his best clothes, sit for a few hours in a room by himself and with the utmost devotion and sincerity turn his heart and soul to Bahá'u'lláh, regarding himself as being in the very presence of the Blessed Beauty."

    (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah - vol. 1 - Baghdad 1853-63, p. 200)

  5. "Guard it then from meddling with whatsoever doth not belong unto it." Regarding this sentence said during the washing of the hands as part of the ablutions incorporated into the Medium obligatory Prayer, in a recorded talk given at the Baha’i World Centre in 1987, Ali Nakhjavani, referring to the above sentence, stated: “Honesty, trustworthiness, chastity—in my view—are all enshrined here.”

  6. Dear Paul,
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful quotes and stories. May the Blessed Beauty bless you in your continual services.
    Bahai love,

    Hong Shuen