Contacting the Universal House of Justice; Obligatory Prayer, Greatest Name, Exemptions
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice1998-01-02
Department of the Secretariat
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
Your email of 28 October 1997 inquiring about the recitation of obligatory prayers was forwarded by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States to the Universal House of Justice. It in turn referred your query to the Research Department for further study, and we are enclosing a copy of the memorandum that was produced in reply.
You also inquire as to the circumstances under which an individual believer may submit questions to the National Assembly or the House of Justice, directly. As you know, Bahá'ís turn to Bahá'í literature, their fellow-believers (particularly those well-versed in the Writings) and the local and national institutions of the Faith for answers to any question they may have. If these avenues are explored to the utmost and further clarification is still needed, the friends are free to refer to the House of Justice for such guidance. It is hoped that this information will be of assistance to you in your endeavours.
For Department of the Secretariat
cc: National Assembly of the United States (with enclosure)
M E M O R A N D U M
Obligatory Prayer, Greatest Name, Exemptions
The Research Department has studied the questions raised by Mr. ___, forwarded on his behalf by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States in its email message of 29 October 1997 to the Universal House of Justice. We provide the following comments.
1. Obligatory Prayer
Short Obligatory Prayer
account of such factors as forgetfulness, ailment, and inability to say the prayer while being in the company of others, the letter of the House of Justice points out that
the law regarding actions to be taken in place of an Obligatory Prayer missed on account of insecure conditions is not binding upon the believers in the West. This is a matter on which the Universal House of Justice will legislate at the appropriate time.
Long Obligatory Prayer
Further, in response to a query about the application of the laws of the Faith, the Universal House of Justice, in a letter of 7 October 1993 written on its behalf to an individual believer, characterized the recitation of the Greatest Name 95 times as one of the "laws of conscience":
There is ... divine wisdom in a gradual, rather than immediate, application of all the laws. The fact that a number of these laws are not yet binding has to do with the state of society and of the Bahá'í community. While certain laws of conscience, such as the repetition of the Greatest Name 95 times daily, may not yet have been specified by the House of Justice as applicable in the West, individual are free to practice them if they wish; however, no issue should be made of such matters.
The Research Department has not been able to locate any Bahá'í texts which relate to whether or not a believer is relieved of the duty of reciting the Greatest Name or of reading the Writings in the morning and evening on account of ill health. In the absence of such guidance, Mr. ___ is free to make his own decisions in these matters.
3. Exemptions Due to Illness
Reference is made to the following statement concerning the observance of the laws of fasting and obligatory prayer by the sick:
In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times.2
Mr. ___ wishes to know if it is left to the discretion of the believer to decide whether he or she is "sufficiently ill not to recite the prayer" or whether the Obligatory Prayer should not be recited if the individual "feel[s] ill at all". We provide, below, an extract from a letter dated 9 January 1994 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual with a chronic health problem who had requested a definition of "ill health" as it relates to the exemption from Obligatory Prayer and fasting. The letter states:
The following excerpt from a letter dated 14 April 1947 written on behalf of the Guardian provides instruction for determining whether one should participate in the Fast.
As to your question regarding the Fast: if there is any doubt in the mind of a person as to whether it will really be bad for that person's health to keep it, the best doctor's advice should be obtained.
2. Ibid., Questions and Answers, 93.
Insofar as the exemption from the saying of obligatory prayers is concerned, this is left to the conscience of the individual.