A Holy Deed


The three daily Baha'i Obligatory Prayers are complementary and mutually illuminating. Of the three, the Short Obligatory Prayer, for example, contains in its opening sentence possibly the most conspicuous and direct statement of the reason for our creation.

The Medium Obligatory Prayer, on the other hand, is the only one of the three that incorporates directions for ablutions; includes in its text an explicit instruction to face the Qiblih; and describes exactly how to hold one's hands up in supplication.

Moreover, the Medium Obligatory Prayer, alone of the three, links to a past Revelation by place name, (Sinai); employs perhaps the most graphic image for the station of the Manifestation and His Revelation, ("the Lote-Tree beyond which there is no passing hath spoken"); reminds us in a point-blank statement of the triumph of the Covenant; and celebrates with a blessing the nature and meaning of sacrifice.

Furthermore, unlike the Short and Long Obligatory Prayers which are to be recited once daily, the Medium Obligatory Prayer is to be performed three times a day ("in the morning, at noon, and in the evening"). It offers an especially strong experiential illustration of the efficacy of recurrent focus, the value of repetition.

All three of the daily obligatory prayers have an association with light--the Medium and Long prayers contain overt references to light and to the sun; the Short prayer is to be said at noon. (Baha'u'llah has given a liberal definition of noon as: "noon till sunset.")

All three of the daily prayers provide a foundation in time--and can take us outside of time. They present a fresh opportunity daily to connect with the Creator in resonance with the underlying cyclical nature of the physical world.The Short Obligatory Prayer by its brevity, and the Medium Obligatory Prayer by its provision for substituting short statements of faith for its two longest passages, serve notice that lengthy devotional sessions are not always required to maintain a course of spirituality in life.

Nonetheless, the Long Obligatory Prayer is distinguished by its extended evocation and expression of humility and servitude. It is the only one of the three to utilize prostration and multiple varied laments and confessions; is unique in that it poses a question; and it alone incorporates repetition of the Greatest Name ("Allah'u'Abha" nine times). It is meditative, while at the same time the most physically challenging of the three daily Baha'i obligatory prayers. Its length also makes it initially the most mentally challenging for most people to memorize. Its extensive range, however, makes it a consummate vehicle for immersion in emotional communion with God.

Like a starry midsummer night sky, the Long Obligatory Prayer invites one to ponder and experience awe.

"The stars bear witness to My truth; bear ye likewise witness thereto."

(Baha'u'llah, The Tabernacle of Unity, p. 67)

The First

"Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him."

Gleanings, LXXXII, pp. 158-59)
The actions of the soul in the second sentence above capture the essential purposes of the three daily Baha'i obligatory prayers; the bowing down is literally performed in the Medium and Long Obligatory Prayers. Through these prayers one's soul is led to:

1) "declare the excellence of its Creator," 2) "recognize His glory," 3) "cleave to His truth," and 4) "bow down in adoration before Him."

Photo by Marco Abrar - Baha'iPictures.com

A Holy Deed

Obligatory prayer is more than words. Baha'u'llah stated, "One of the deeds in obedience to the law is obligatory prayer." (IOPF, 1, X)

Baha'u'llah also tells us "Let deeds not words be your adorning," and "Every one must show forth deeds that are pure and holy, for words are the property of all alike, whereas such deeds as these belong only to Our loved ones." (See
The Persian Hidden Words, No. 5 and No. 76)

"Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul. Thus have the mysteries of the Revelation of God been decreed by virtue of the Will of Him Who is the Source of power and wisdom."

(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, CXXXVI, p. 295)
Reciting an Obligatory Prayer can indeed be a holy deed in that, like other prayers recited in the privacy of one's chamber, its mystic influence can:

1) "kindle thine own soul," and

2) "attract the hearts of all men," and through it

3) "the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb."

These points 1, 2 and 3 above all seem in essence to be related to
"...is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?"

The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 240)
For another example of how the obligatory prayer functions as a deed, the reader is referred to a prayer of Baha'u'llah that He revealed for the Fast, which has been newly translated into English. There one begs that, along with fasting, the obligatory prayers will "keep Thy religion safe from the mischief of the ungodly and the plotting of every wicked doer." See The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting, 3, V.


"With regard to the Obligatory Prayer, this should be said individually, but it is not dependent on a private spot."


"As regards obligatory prayer, this should be recited by each believer individually, albeit its performance is not dependent upon the availability of a private place. In other words, obligatory prayer may be performed alike at home or in the Temple, which latter is a public place, but on condition that each believer recite it individually."

Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha II, p. 464) [As per 'Baha'i Canada,' Azamat, BE 157 Correction: "The Lights of Guidance entry #1527 should be replaced with the following revised translation..." (Text of the quote just above.)]
While privacy is not mandatory, and lack of privacy should not keep one from the recital of one's daily obligatory prayer, it appears to be desirable:
"The reason why privacy hath been enjoined in moments of devotion is this, that thou mayest give thy best attention to the remembrance of God, that thy heart may at all times be animated with His Spirit, and not be shut out as by a veil from thy Best Beloved."

(The Bab,
Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 93-94)

"It is striking how private and personal the most fundamental spiritual exercises of prayer and meditation are in the Faith. Bahá'ís do, of course, have meetings for devotions, as in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar or at Nineteen Day Feasts, but the daily obligatory prayers are ordained to be said in the privacy of one's chamber..."

(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 589)

Next: "Conversing With God"

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