Rituals and Worship

Just as the Baha'i Faith does not have a creation story, so it does not have a notion of the end of the world. Many of the eschatological concepts in the Abrahamic religions are interpreted as symbols in the Baha'i Faith. The end of the world is the end of a spiritual world, which is what occurs each time a major prophet appears; this is the end of the previous religious dispensation and the start of a new one. Similarly, concepts such as heaven and hell are regarded as symbols. Hell is not an actual place, either physical or spiritual. It is a metaphor for the condition of being far from God; heaven is the opposite condition of being near to God. Thus, heaven and hell exist just as much in this world as in the afterlife.

The Baha'i Houses of Worship have a great deal of symbolism surrounding them. The number nine that pervades their design (nine sides, nine doors, etc.) signifies the word Baha' (glory, see above). There is also local symbolism in the design of some of them. The general shape of the Indian House of Worship in New Delhi is that of a blooming lotus flower (which has spiritual symbolism for that culture) floating on the pools of water that surround it. On the other hand, the House of Worship in Wilmette near Chicago expresses a universal theme with symbols from the world's religions incorporated into the design of its walls. Baha'is do not use depictions of Baha'u'llah or the Bab as this is considered disrespectful. Many Baha'is do however have pictures of 'Abdu'l-Baha hanging on the walls of their homes, since he is regarded as the perfect example for a Baha'i to follow.

Study Questions:
     1.     What are the specific Baha'i symbols?
     2.     Why are there many symbols and metaphors in the writings of Baha’u’llah?
     3.     Give some examples of the metaphors and imagery used in the writings of Baha’u’llah.
     4.     In what way does Baha’u’llah explain that the prophecies in other religions refer to him?
     5.     What symbolism can be found in the Baha'i Houses of Worship (Mashriqu’l-Adhkars)?

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