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Religion Library: Baha'i

Symbolism

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A number of specifically Baha'i symbols exist. The nine-pointed star signifies the word Baha' (glory), which is considered the Greatest Name of God and has become the usual symbol of the Baha'i Faith. According to equivalences of the Arabic alphabet, the word Baha' has a numerical equivalent of nine. The five-pointed star signifies the Bab and also signifies the form of the human temple. There are also calligraphic forms of the word Baha' that are often used as emblems. One particular design of the letters that form the word Baha' is used on ring stones often worn by Baha'is.

In addition, symbols, allusions, and metaphors abound in Baha'u'llah's writings. This is partly because human language is largely created to communicate about the physical and about human society. It does not describe the spiritual world well. Baha'u'llah therefore used the symbols of his existing cultural world, which were already deeply imbued with spiritual meaning. When he alluded to Job in reference to patience in the face of trials or to the Cross as a symbol of sacrificial love, he was connecting with spiritual concepts that were already in the minds of his audience.

Metaphors are similarly used to go beyond the plain meanings of words and into the realm of the spiritual imagination. For example, the Baha'i Faith teaches that when Baha'u'llah called upon his followers to immerse themselves in the "ocean of My words," he meant much more than just the fact that he wrote a great deal. He was alluding to vast depths of spiritual knowledge concealed within his writings, to the pearls of wisdom that lie in its depths, and to the idea that the true believer should give themselves over totally to the guidance to be found there.

Some of the imagery in the writings of Baha'u'llah takes concepts that exist in older scriptures and give them a new emphasis or meaning. For example the concept of the Sadratu'l-Muntaha exists in Islam as the tree that was at the farthest point in Muhammad's Night Ascent (Mi`raj) to Heaven, but in the Baha'i scriptures it has been transformed into a symbol of the Manifestation of God, the prophet-founders of the world religion. Other images are understandable once one is familiar with the range of symbols used. For example, the word "fire" in the writings of Baha'u'llah sometimes refers to the fire in the burning bush on Mount Sinai, sometimes to the fire mentioned in the Light Verse of the Quran (24:35), sometimes to hell-fire, and sometimes it just refers simply to a fire.

From the Writings of Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-Iqan
 

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