The Pilgrim’s hostel and the Mashriq
One of the friends asked about the “Pilgrim’s Hostel” which is mentioned by Shoghi Effendi as one of the “component parts” at the center of a Bahai community. (God Passes By, 339)
I think the meaning is wider than simply ‘pilgrim’s hostel.’ This is borne out by the Persian term used:
The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is one of the most vital institutions in the world, and it hath many subsidiary branches. Although it is a House of Worship, it is also connected with a hospital, a drug dispensary, a traveller’s hospice [musaafer-khaneh], a school for orphans, and a university for advanced studies. (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, 99; Persian text here)
and by Shoghi Effendi’s alternative description here:
[the House of Worship] is to be supplemented by accessory institutions of social service to be established in its vicinity, such as an orphanage, a hospital, a dispensary for the poor, a home for the incapacitated, a hostel for travelers and a college for the study of arts and sciences (God Passes By, p. 350)
One reason for travel might be to visit the House of Worship, depending on its importance outside of the region, another would be to attend the classes of a particular teacher. The practice of travelling, as part of one’s education, was culturally imbedded in Islamic societies and in the Sufi tradition. It is also a very effective way of binding a community: I’ve witnessed it recently in relation to the Maramatanga movement in New Zealand, where various holy days during the year are each hosted at a different meeting-place, and there is an annual trip down the Wanganui river, stopping at various places of habitation along the way.
[Added October 2013]
In Eight Years near ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Diary of Dr. Habíb Mú’ayyad (translated and annotated by Ahang Rabbani) the author recalls:
My father, the late Hájí Khudábakhsh Mú’ayyad, had built a hostel in the village of Sahnih for the comfort of travelers and, to the extent of his abilities, showed hospitality to both Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í wayfarers. When his name was mentioned in ‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s sacred presence, He remarked:
This is very wonderful! The friends of God must do the same in every town and hamlet and provide a befitting place for the comfort of the itinerant believers so that when they go from town to town, they know that in a fixed location such hospitality is provided for them. It would be as if they had a personal residence in that spot and thereby would enjoy its comfort and be surrounded by tranquility. However, the friends must first build a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, and only then a hostel. ‘Ishqábád’s Mashriqu’l-Adhkár was built in the midst of tumult and turmoil, and yet it is a mother that will constantly give birth. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is a magnet that attracts divine confirmations and draws divine assistance.
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