Devotional Laws Apply

The Three Prayers Are Released
“When Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Kitab-i-Aqdas [around 1873] He withheld the publication of certain laws. These included the text of the Obligatory Prayers. In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah orders His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan, to send a copy of the Obligatory Prayers to Persia as a favour to Mulla Ali-Akbar who had asked for them. He [Baha’u’llah] confirms that the Obligatory Prayers had been revealed a few years earlier. Mirza Aqa Jan gives the date of this release as one and a half hours after sunset on 27 October 1887.”

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, Volume 4, pp. 299-300)

In information available online: Kitab-i-Aqdas: Faculty notes,” Ismael Velasco states that the text of the obligatory prayers “was shared with Hand of the Cause Ali Akbar ShahMirzadeh Hajji Akhund [also referred to as Mulla Ali-Akbar, as in the quote just above] in the Lawh-i-Bisharat-i-Uzma (Tablet of the Most Great Glad-tidings), and thus diffused among the community.”

Thus, it appears that the length of time from when the law was revealed, to the release and initial distribution of the three Obligatory Prayers, was about fifteen years. In 1937, about fifty years after the release of the prayers in the original Arabic, Shoghi Effendi’s English translation was published.

English Translation
“The standard for the work of translation into English was established by Shoghi Effendi, who headed the Baha'i Faith from 1921 to 1957. Educated at Oxford, he was able to provide translations that reflect not only a brilliant command of the English language, but also an authoritative exposition of the Texts' meaning.

In undertaking the challenge of finding an English style which would faithfully convey the exalted and emotive character of Baha'u'llah's use of Persian and Arabic, Shoghi Effendi chose a slightly archaic form of English which echoes the King James version of the Bible...

The result is a style that acts as bridge between modern English and the Persian and Arabic style in which Baha'u'llah wrote. Accordingly, Shoghi Effendi's English translations, and not the Arabic or Persian originals, are used for the work of translation into other Western languages.”

(Baha’i International Community, 1992, Magazine – “The Baha’is”)

“The supreme importance of Shoghi Effendi's English translations and communications can never be sufficiently stressed because of his function as sole and authoritative interpreter of the Sacred Writings, appointed as such by Abdu'l-Baha in His Will. There are many instances when...there could be an ambiguity in the mind of the reader regarding the meaning...Often by referring to Shoghi Effendi's translation into English the original meaning of the Bab, Baha'u'llah, or Abdu'l-Baha becomes clear and is thus safeguarded against misinterpretation in the future. He was meticulous in translating and made absolutely sure that the words he was using in English conveyed and did not depart from the original thought or the original words. One would have to have a mastery of Persian and Arabic to correctly understand what he did. For instance in reading the original one finds that one word in Arabic was susceptible of being translated into two or more words in English; thus Shoghi Effendi, in the construction of his English sentences, might use "power", "strength" and "might" alternatively to replace this one word, choosing the exact nuance of meaning that would fit best, do away with reiteration and lend most colour to his translation without sacrificing the true meaning, indeed, thereby enhancing the true meaning. He used to say that Arabic synonyms usually meant the same thing but that English ones always had a slight shade of difference which made it possible to be more exact in rendering the thought.”

(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, pp. 202-03)

Devotional Laws Apply

The Universal House of Justice announced in a 28 December 1999 letter, "Further Application of Devotional Laws," addressed ‘To the Bahá'ís of the World,’ that “…all elements of the laws dealing with obligatory prayer and fasting are, without any exception, now applicable.” Abdu'l-Baha, and also Shoghi Effendi, had made clear the context for this decision:
“Ordinances which are obligatory and decrees that are binding are those that have issued forth from the Supreme Pen or are issued by a decision of the Universal House of Justice. For we are the commanded, not the commander. We are the ones upon whom duties are imposed, not the ones who impose duties. This is the reality of the law of God and the foundation of the religion of God.”

(Abdu'l-Baha, 'Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting,' 2, XXIV)

As an aside, note the degree of Abdu’l-Baha’s deference, in the quotation just above, to the decisions of the Universal House of Justice. He includes Himself saying, “we are the commanded” and “we are the ones upon whom duties are imposed.”
‘First, with regard to your questions concerning the obligatory prayers, the "Aqdas" does not give detailed instructions about them. The Universal House of Justice, however, will have to define the exact time for their recital, and lay down, if required, other detailed instructions concerning their use.

(10 October 1936 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)

Communal Aspects of the Godly Life

In its announcement regarding devotional laws, the Universal House elucidated the following key point for understanding the balanced approach to spiritual development advocated by the Faith:
“The spiritual growth generated by individual devotions is reinforced by loving association among the friends in every locality, by worship as a community and by service to the Faith and to one's fellow human beings. These communal aspects of the godly life relate to the law of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar which appears in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.”

(The Universal House of Justice, 28 December 1999, "Further Application of Devotional Laws")

Next: "Crucial Compilation"

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