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Abstract:
Procedures on contacting the Universal House of Justice; memorandum on obligatory prayer, reciting the Greatest Name, and exemptions from prayer.

Contacting the Universal House of Justice; Obligatory Prayer, Greatest Name, Exemptions

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice

1998-01-02
Contents:
  1. Obligatory Prayer
        a. Short Obligatory Prayer
        b. Long Obligatory Prayer
  2. Recitation of the Greatest Name
  3. Exemptions Due to Illness

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.
    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    For Department of the Secretariat
Enclosure

cc: National Assembly of the United States (with enclosure)


M E M O R A N D U M

The Universal House of Justice
Date: 2 January 1998
From: Research Department

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

Mr. ___ seeks guidance concerning the action that should be taken when an individual who is in the habit of reciting the Short Obligatory Prayer either forgets or is unable to recite it during the prescribed period, from noon until sunset. Specifically, he wishes to know:

Is the individual "expected" to say the Long Obligatory Prayer even if not "in the state of humble adoration one is to be in to recite the long prayer"?

Has the opportunity to fulfil this spiritual responsibility been missed for that day?

Should the individual use the "substitution to be recited when one has been engaged in travel or insecure circumstances"?

The Universal House of Justice in a letter dated 26 April 1987, written on its behalf, provides the following general guidance concerning what is to be done when an individual forgets to say the Obligatory Prayer:

The action of a believer who forgets to recite his obligatory prayer is a matter of personal conscience.

With regard to whether it is necessary to perform the prostrations and repeat the verse prescribed in paragraph 14 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas if the Obligatory Prayers are missed for reasons other than "a condition of insecurity", a letter dated 15 April 1987, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, relates to this issue.1 Addressed to an individual who asked if this requirement also applied to Obligatory Prayers that were missed on

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1  The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust 1993), ¶14 and note 21.



[Page 2]

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

Mr. ___ is aware that the Universal House of Justice has not, to date, defined the beginning of the 24-hour period for the recitation of the Long Obligatory Prayer. He asks what should be done "in the meantime". When a similar question concerning the 24-hour period was posed to the Universal House of Justice, it provided the following response in a letter dated 17 December 1990, written on its behalf:
The beginning of the 24-hour period for the recitation of the Long Obligatory Prayer has not been specifically stated in the Sacred Texts, and the Universal House of Justice has not made any ruling on this point.

Mr. ___ may come to his own understanding on this matter.


2. Recitation of the Greatest Name

Mr. ___ wishes to know whether, as in the case of Obligatory Prayer, the daily recitation of the Greatest Name 95 times and the reading of the Writings in the morning and evening are "to be suspended during illness". The Universal House of Justice, in a letter dated 31 March 1983 written on its behalf to an individual believer, distinguishes between the "law of Obligatory Prayers" and "the recitation of the Greatest Name 95 times a day":

The House of Justice agrees that the recitation of the Greatest Name 95 times a day, as prescribed in the Laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, can exert a powerful influence on the souls of the believers, and it asks us to say that there is no reason why those who wish to obey this law should not do so. It does not feel that the time has yet come to make it binding on the friends in Europe....

The law of the Obligatory Prayers is, of course, binding on the friends in Europe, and regular, wholehearted, obedience to this law will in itself nourish the growth of spirituality.


[Page 3]

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.

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2. Ibid., Questions and Answers, 93.



[Page 4]

Insofar as the exemption from the saying of obligatory prayers is concerned, this is left to the conscience of the individual.
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