House of Justice, House of Worship

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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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