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Obligatory prayer and reciting the Greatest Name

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Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 295

Q: What are the obligatory prayers?

A: There are three daily obligatory prayers: a short, a medium and a long one. They can be found in the Bahá’í prayer book. Believers are free to choose one of the three prayers, but they must be recited in accordance with the directions that accompany them.

Q: How are the obligatory prayers different from other prayers?

A: In one of His tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes, “Know thou that in every word and movement of the obligatory prayer there are allusions, mysteries and a wisdom that man is unable to comprehend, and letters and scrolls cannot contain.” And Shoghi Effendi states in a letter written on his behalf, “… [T]he obligatory prayers are by their very nature of greater effectiveness and are endowed with a greater power than the non-obligatory ones. …”

Q: In regard to the instructions for reciting the obligatory prayers, what is meant by “morning,” “noon” and “evening”?

A: In connection with the obligatory prayers, “morning” is the interval between sunrise and noon, “noon” is between noon and sunset, and “evening” from sunset until two hours after sunset.

Q: What if a believer is ill or physically unable to perform the genuflexions required by the long obligatory prayer?

A: Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, explains, “If a believer is physically incapable of performing the genuflexions accompanying one of the prayers, and yet he longs to say it as an obligatory prayer, then he may do so. By physically incapable is meant a real physical incapacity which a physician would attest as genuine.”

Q: What if one wishes to say an obligatory prayer but no water is available for the ablution?

A: In The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Blessed Beauty reveals, “Let him that findeth no water for ablution repeat five times the words, ‘In the Name of God, the Most Pure, the Most Pure’, and then proceed to his devotions. Such is the command of the Lord of all worlds. …

Q: Can the obligatory prayers be set to music?

A: The Universal House of Justice has written in a 1966 letter, “We have not come across any instructions which would prohibit the setting of the obligatory prayers to music.  However, because of their special nature, we do not consider it appropriate to do so.”

Q: What should happen if one has a memory lapse and forgets to say an obligatory prayer?

A: In a letter written on its behalf in 2000, the Universal House of Justice states:

“The Universal House of Justice has … noted your dilemma concerning unsaid obligatory prayers due to memory lapses which you experience. You enquire whether the compensatory verse specified in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas can be used in such circumstances.

“As you have undoubtedly read in note 21 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the compensatory verse to be performed in place of each unsaid Obligatory Prayer is to be used in conditions of insecurity, whether one is travelling or at home. With reference to your forgetting to say obligatory prayers, the House of Justice does not wish at this time to provide directions on such details, and therefore the matter is left to the conscience of the friends.”

Q: Should the Greatest Name (Alláh-u-Abhá) be recited each day?

A: In a letter to the Bahá’ís of the world in 1999, the Universal House of Justice wrote, “We have also decided that it is timely for Bahá’ís in every land to take to their hearts the words of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: ‘It hath been ordained that every believer in God, the Lord of Judgement, shall, each day, having washed his hands and then his face, seat himself and, turning unto God, repeat “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times. Such was the decree of the Maker of the Heavens when with majesty and power, He established Himself upon the thrones of His Names.’ Let all experience the spiritual enrichment brought to their souls by this simple act of worshipful meditaton.”