Reciting the Greatest Name
This was on Beliefnet, 3 April 2010, in answer to the question “What is the relevance for Bahai’s of saying allah’u’abha 95 times each day?”
The 95 x Allah’u’abha is a devotional practice; its purpose is to show obedience, and for your own spiritual development.
The Sufi equivalent is called dhikr, remembrance. Each Sufi tradition has its own formula(s) for recitation (a few are almost universal, such as “there is no god but God”) and its own advice about the breathing, the posture, the visualisation that accompanies the saying.
In Islam, there is the mosque with its prayers in rows behind a prayer leader, especially Friday prayers, on the one hand, and the Sufi lodge with its sheikh or pir, and sama’ (the listening), the service where they say dhikr (remembrance of God), on the other hand. There has at best been a certain tension between the two.
Baha’u’llah made both obligatory prayers (without a prayer leader) and dhikr (without a sheikh) obligatory, and he placed at the centre of his community the institution of the Mashriqu’l-adhkar, the rising place of dhikr. Adhkar [pron. azkar with a thick-tounged ‘z’] is the plural of dhikr. In other words, he combined the mystic and orthodox approaches to religion, the sufi lodge and the mosque. And by providing one dhikr for all Bahais (and anyone else who wants to use it), he is doing away with the different sufi organisations making themselves distinctive that way.
‘The Remembrance of God’ is also one of the titles of the Bab, so maybe the practice and the name of the Mashriqu’l-adhkar alludes to the nature of this Faith: two religions that are nevertheless one.
Recite the Greatest Name at every morn, and turn thou unto the Kingdom of ABHA, until thou mayest apprehend my mysteries.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 674)
Obligatory prayers and supplications are the very water of life. They are the cause of existence, of the refinement of souls, and of their attainment to the utmost joy. Exercise the greatest care in this regard, and encourage others to recite the Obligatory Prayers and supplications.
(Abdu’l-Baha, published in The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)
Mashhadi Fattah … passed his days, perfectly content, in the Most Great Prison. He was utter selflessness; from him, no one ever heard a syllable to indicate that he existed. He was always in a certain corner of the prison, silently meditating, occupied with the remembrance of God; at all times spiritually alert and mindful, in a state of supplication.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 48)
and my favourite:
All is to be yielded up, save only the remembrance of God; all is to be dispraised, except His praise. Today, to this melody of the Company on high, the world will leap and dance: ‘Glory be to my Lord, the All-Glorious!’ But know ye this: save for this song of God, no song will stir the world, and save for this nightingale-cry of truth from the Garden of God, no melody will lure away the heart.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 93)
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