About the mashriq

A Leap of Faith - Why I Believe in the Baha'i Faith

When I was a child my father would make it a point every so often (usually on Sunday) to get out his very well used King James bible and do a bit of Scripture reading. As a man of science himself he was very interested in and intrigued by the book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation - two very dynamic, epic and often considered impossible to understand books of the Old and New Testament. His interest in these prophetic and in places extremely frightening books no doubt was influenced by the things he had seen in his life: the nuclear bombings of Japan, the Chinese Communist revolution wherein a good friend of his from Manchuria disappeared and was never heard from again, the Koren War which he fought in and saw the full scale of human horror, and then the real beginnings of our technological revolution wherein the famous passage of Revelation stating that without the number or mark of the beast or devil, no one can buy or sell anything - social security numbers, credit card numbers, credit scores anyone?

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A Strong Home

I find myself sitting at my sister-in-law's desk this morning, looking over the rolling hills of Wisconsin. My family and I are visiting my brother and his family, and this has, of course, gotten me thinking.

On the multiple-hour drive here, I read the line "Be a home for the stranger", from the longer piece found in Gleanings (number CXXX), that begins "Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity."

{josquote}And, of course, it all begins with our own heart.{/josquote}

In this piece, Baha'u'llah exhorts us to "be a home", not just to provide one. As a guest here, for a few days, the difference caught my attention. Oh, this is not to imply that my brother isn't either, for he and his family are exemplary hosts, but just that there is a distinction between the two, and I had never noticed it before now.

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Tiny religious community finally has its own meeting place in Oak Park

HOME, AT LAST: Amy Gandomi Lewis is an Oak Parker who has been a Baha’i her whole life. She now has a local place of worship at 126 N. Oak Park Ave.
Jennifer Wolfe/Contributor

Twenty miles from the grand Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette is basement space on Oak Park Avenue, just below the Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy store. And for members of the local Baha'i community, this just-opened center is even more a blessing than the northern temple of many gardens that's been called one of the seven wonders of Illinois.

"Great joy and a feeling of accomplishment are what we are feeling right now," said Carol Yetkin, a Baha'i since 1979. "We've been systematically planning and working for this for a long time."

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House of Justice, House of Worship


Now concerning nature, it is but the essential properties and the necessary relations inherent in the realities of things. And though these infinite realities are diverse in their character yet they are in the utmost harmony and closely connected together. As one’s vision is broadened and the matter observed carefully, it will be made certain that every reality is but an essential requisite of other realities. Thus to connect and harmonize these diverse and infinite realities an all-unifying Power is necessary, that every part of existent being may in perfect order discharge its own function.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to August Forel, pages 20-21)

In a letter dated 7 April 1999 the Universal House of Justice warns among other things of an “attempt to suggest that the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar should evolve into a seat of quasidoctrinal authority, parallel to and essentially independent of the Local House of Justice.” Although I am not aware that this idea has ever been put forward in the English-speaking Bahai world, the letter may be taken as evidence that it has or may emerge somewhere. So it seems a good idea to consider the relationship between the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar or House of Worship and the Houses of Justice (i.e., the Bahai administrative institutions, which at the local and national level are now known as Spiritual Assemblies). To understand the institutional relations at the core of the organic Bahai community, we will also have to include the guardianship.

The term Mashriqu’l-Adhkar refers not only to a building for worship. The Arabic words mean “the rising-place of the remembrance of God,” and it is evident that the first place where God is remembered is the human heart, and that meetings for worship are also places where God is remembered. This is not a flight of interpretive license on my part: the term Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is actually used in the Bahai Writings to refer to the heart, meetings, the central institution of the Bahai community and to buildings for worship of all sorts, ranging from humble homes and even underground spaces to a building “especially raised up” and those that satisfy - or seek to satisify — the command of the Aqdas:

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Unenrolled Baha'is and World Order

Question: Do you see yourself as a part of building the World Order of Baha'u'llah?

{josquote}There is a tendency among Baha'is (not excepting myself) to identify the World Order of Baha'u'llah with the Administrative Order, but that's not really the case.{/josquote}

This is a very good question -- one which required me to do some thinking about the answer, which is "Yes". There is a tendency among Baha'is (not excepting myself) to identify the World Order of Baha'u'llah with the Administrative Order, but that's not really the case. There is more to the Baha'i religion than its administration, and more to the World Order of Baha'u'llah than just Baha'is. I see the World Order as having both the institutions of the Baha'i Faith, and non-Baha'i institutions -- in which Baha'is might participate, but they don't administer.

Then, looking at simply the Baha'i Faith, there are the administrative institutions, where membership and voting rights decide who participates, and the mashriq'u'l-adhkar and its auxiliary institutions, where being an enrolled Baha'i with voting rights doesn't matter. For the last couple of generations, the building of the administrative institutions has been the main focus -- to the point that the institutions for worship and service have sometimes been overlooked. (The recent creation of devotional meetings has been a wonderful reversal to this trend.)

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