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An integral part of the Baha’i life is the spiritual underpinning provided by two individual devotional practices: the annual Baha’i Fast and the daily Baha’i Obligatory Prayers. The focus of this site is the latter, the daily obligatory prayers from which every Baha’i chooses. For a Baha'i, the recital of one of them every day is a requisite ritual element in the rhythm of being.

As it has repeatedly in the past, the Universal House of Justice recently emphasized the devotional life of the individual Baha’i. On December 31,1999, at an early stage in the current series of worldwide teaching plans, the Universal House of Justice pronounced that all Baha’i laws regarding fasting and obligatory prayer were binding on all Baha’is. To reinforce the understanding of all Baha’is, a few months later, in May 2000, the Baha'i World Centre published a compilation of Baha’i holy Writings, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting.

This understanding has been emphasized in other ways, including in Ruhi workbooks 1, 2 and 6 where the importance of obligatory prayer is presented in our study circles. In Ruhi Book 1, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit, the first excerpt from a prayer that is studied is from the Long Obligatory Prayer; recital of the Short Obligatory Prayer is one of the exercises in Book 1.

Hearts Become Mirrors
“Become as true brethren in the one and indivisible religion of God, free from distinction, for verily God desireth that your hearts should become mirrors unto your brethren in the Faith, so that ye find yourselves reflected in them, and they in you. This is the true Path of God, the Almighty, and He is indeed watchful over your actions.”
(The Bab, excerpt from The Qayyumu'l-Asma, Chapter XLVI, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 56)

This instruction from the Bab, Co-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, could be regarded as pertaining to the essence of the learning process in which the international Baha’i community is currently engaged. In our study circles, open to all, we each relate as equals to the teachings and sacred Writings of the Faith and our hearts are bound together.

It is in this egalitarian spirit that this site is offered for Baha’is—and also their friends who are a part of what the Universal House of Justice termed the “community of interest” in the Faith—to share their insights and experiences with the daily Baha'i obligatory prayers. Sincere commentary is welcomed from those who wish to engage in "earnest conversation on themes of spiritual import" pertaining to the daily Baha'i obligatory prayers.

There has been some scholarly study of the daily Baha'i obligatory prayers in English presented in Baha'i colloquiums in recent years that, unfortunately, does not seem to be readily available to the general Baha'i population. However, this site will include some links to a few online studies, as well as some books.

Pitfalls To Avoid

Perhaps a reason why there hasn't been more widespread study and commentary on the obligatory prayers is because of the delicate course that must be steered. One danger is that the understanding of an individual Baha'i or group of Baha'is--his or her or their interpretation of some portion of an obligatory prayer--could gain currency at the expense of other perspectives that might be of equal or greater validity. Others could be led to labor under a misconception in their devotional life. While there is often risk when expressing one's opinion on any subject, perhaps there is added responsibility upon both writer and reader when studying so fundamental a motive force as a believer's daily connection with God.

Another pitfall to avoid is making any of the daily Baha'i obligatory prayers seem so complex that someone would be discouraged from using it. Yes, these prayers are deep, deep, deep, but: they are also clear like the purest waters, available for studying or praying. Anyone can partake of their live-giving qualities.

Conversely, one can make the prayers seem overly simple and limited in scope through one's own reductionist interpretations and lack of attention. Ian Semple gave a talk, a brief portion of which referred to this point:

'I think this is one of the things that we have to learn in the Faith, to understand that the same word has many different meanings. Language is a poor thing when compared with what God wants to tell us.

'Try to put yourself in the place of a Manifestation of God, coming to this world with knowledge that's needed--to take mankind forward a whole thousand years in its evolution and then having to explain that--to people in their own language. It wouldn't help to use another language, because they wouldn't understand a thing. So He has to use the tools that we can benefit from to convey these incredible truths to us. And He does it with the greatest divinely-guided skill one could imagine. So we must beware of wishing that He be more simple.

'There is a story from many years ago of the great dancer Pavlova. She had just danced some magnificent dance, and someone asked her to explain in a few words, what she had meant to convey. And she said, "If I could have explained it in a few words, I would not have gone to the trouble of dancing it."

'This I think is what we must bear in mind when we’re reading the Writings. Baha’u’llah is not being purposely obscure or purposely complicated. He is doing the best He possibly can to get incredible truths through our thick skulls. And He has to use the words at His disposal.' 
(Ian Semple, speaking in Foundation Hall at the Baha'i House of Worship, Wilmette, Ilinois, September 6th, 2001)

Yet another hazard is the tendency to indicate that any of the the three prayers is superior to the others. In this regard the insight of the Hands of the Cause of God elected to serve as Custodians of the Faith in the Holy Land during the Interregnum, 1957-1963, is instructive. Here is a letter they wrote to the other Hands around the world:

'To the Hands of the Cause of God

September 13, 1962

Dear Fellow-Hands,

We have noticed in the minutes of several National Assemblies that they are urging the members of their community to use the Long Obligatory Prayer. We consider this is neither part of the function of a National Assembly nor in accordance with the spirit of the teachings of the Faith, for the reasons given in the following letter sent to the New Zealand National Assembly:

We have noticed in your minutes of 26-27 May that you decided to encourage the friends to use the Long Obligatory Prayer.

In taking this action, we feel that your National Assembly has exceeded the powers given to it in the Administrative Order, insofar as Baha'u'llah left the believers entirely free to choose between the three obligatory prayers. Further He said: "To chant but one verse with joy and gladness is better for you than reading all the Revelations of the Omnipotent God with carelessness."

No pressure should be put upon the believers to say one of the three prayers rather than another. If a believer feels inclined to say the long prayer he should say it, and if for some reason he prefers one of the others he is quite free to say this instead.

We feel the Hands should use their influence to prevent such pressures, that are not in accordance with the law of Baha'u'llah, being put upon the believers.

With Baha'i love,

In the service of the beloved Guardian,


(The Ministry of the Custodians 1957-1963, pp. 372-73) 


In the course of preparing this blog site I'm certain that I have fallen into all four of the errors mentioned above. Nonetheless, I hope that the positives of this endeavor will outweigh the negatives.

This blog is being launched without much commentary on the Medium Obligatory Prayer as of yet; the reader is invited to offer content. This entire site should be regarded as preliminary, and your assistance is cordially invited for its development.

Next: "Introduction"