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Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:20 pm
by HuangRan
Dear friends,

In Kitabi-Aqdas, Note 57, it is said, "He (Baha'u'llah) also condemns such practices as prostrating oneself before another person and other forms of behaviour that abase one individual in relation to another."

Do the "other forms of behaviour that abase one individual in relation to another" here include acts like bowing (such as Japanese people always do)?

In Gems of Divine Mysteries, par.109, Baha'u'llah saith, "Indeed, they that seek and yearn after Him in these journeys are known by this sign, that they humbly defer to those who have believed in God and in His verses, that they are lowly before those who have drawn nigh unto Him and unto the Manifestations of His Beauty, and that they bow in submission to them that are firmly established upon the lofty heights of the Cause of God and before its majesty."
Does it mean a spiritual attitude only or physical gesture or both, to "bow in submission to them" here?


Re: Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:54 am
by brettz9
Interesting question... The question came up for me with prostration being a tradition in some Chinese families at Chinese new year, but that was more clearly addressed as per the quotation you cited.

As far as usage in the Writings, my personal opinion is that the many references there are most likely figurative. If I recall correctly, Baha'u'llah may have dissuaded people from too showy a deference even to Him with His station as a Manifestation of God. That wouldn't eliminate the possibility to do so literally in the case of a Manifestation, perhaps though.

As far as permissibility of bowing, my impression is that it would depend whether it was in the spirit of showing respectful deference (especially to those of achievement or authority rather than to social class or such) or it was lowering oneself.

In other contexts such as in discussions of reverence, the House of Justice has indicated that certain practices are going to be to some degree culturally relative.

I might point out that "deference"--as bowing might represent when not done obsequiously--is seen in the Baha'i Writings (including in one quote you cited) as a virtue:

1. "Defer ye humbly to the faithful" (GWB 128, also similar quote at 231)
2. "treat craftsmen with deference" (TB 38)
3. "It is essential to treat them [Righteous men of learning who dedicate themselves to the guidance of others and are freed and well guarded from the promptings of a base and covetous nature] with deference." (TB 97)

Re: Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:22 am
by BruceDLimber
I'm reminded of how (at conferences) we all tended to stand for the entrance of a Hand of the Cause or a House member (standing tended to be optional for a Counsellor), and how much those individuals often disliked everyone's standing then. . . .

Re: Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:08 am
by iranpour
HuangRan wrote:
Does it mean a spiritual attitude only or physical gesture or both, to "bow in submission to them" here?

Of course it is metaphorical and figurative and is the spiritual attitude in one’s journey for searching after the Truth, because those who after their long endeavours, found the Truth and attained His presence were warned against such behaviour and found that they were absolutely forbidden to prostrate themselves before Him.

In one of HisTablets, inscribed in the Second Volume of His Writings which is in Arabic and has not translated into English, Bahau’u’llah addressing those Baha’i pilgrims who had come from different religious backgrounds and had it in their minds that when they would attained His presence, they would kiss His hands or feet, and fall at His feet and bow in prostration before His countenance. They were prevented, told and warned by Him, that such actions and attitudes are only fitting and worthy towards God:

" لا تقبلوا الايادي و لا تنحنوا حين الورود انه يامركم بالمعروف و هو الامر المجيب * ليس لاحد ان يتذلل عند نفس هذا حكم الله اذ استوي علي العرش بسلطان مبين * قد حرم عليكم ما ذكرناه خذوا سنن الله و امره و لا تتبعوا سنن الجاهلين * من حضر لدي الوجه انه من الزائرين لدي الله مالك هذا المقام الكريم * من حضر زار انه ممن فاز بما كان مسطورا في كتب الله رب العالمین. قد حرم عليكم التقبيل و السجود و الانطراح و الانحناء. كذلك صرفنا الايات و انزلناها فضلا من عندنا و انا الفضال القدیم. ان السجود ینبغی لمن لا یعرف و لا یری و الذی یری انه ممن شهد له الکتاب المبین.لیس لاحد ان یسجده و الذی سجد له ان یرجع و یتوب الی الله انه لهو التواب الرحیم. قد ثبت بالبرهان بان السجدة لم تکن الا لحضرة الغیب اعرفوا یا اهل الارض و لا تکونوا من المعرضین".
اثار قلم اعلي - جلد ٢: صفحه ۷۸(

“DO NOT KISS THE HANDS AND DO NOT BOW DOWN AS HOMAGE WHEN YOU ENTER HIS PRESENCE (the presence of Baha’u’llah). He in truth guides you to do what is laid down by religious laws and He is the Commander, the One Who grants requests.
IT IS NOT FOR ONE TO HUMILIATE HIMSELF BEFORE ANOTHER. This is what God has ordered when He was established upon the Throne with clear majesty. It has been forbidden you what has been mentioned. Obey the ordinances of God and what He has ordained and do not follow THE CUSTOMS OF THE IGNORANT.
He who attains His presence, is as a pilgrim in the sight of God, the possessor of the noble station.
He who has done pilgrimage, is he who hast attained to that which is written in the scriptures of God, the Lord of the Worlds.
It is forbidden for you to kiss hands, to prostrate and throw oneself at the feet of another, and bow down before them.
Thus do We elucidate the verses and reveal them, as a favour from Us, I am the Merciful, the Ancient of Days.
Verily, prostration is worthy to the Unknown and Unseen (God) and He Who is seen is He Who is, witnessed by the Unerring Book.
Nobody has to prostrate before Him (Baha’u’llah), and he who prostrated before Him has to revoke his action and repent unto God, He is He Who accepts repentance, the Merciful.
It is now shown that prostration is only fitting for His Holiness, the Unseen (God). Know this, O people of the world and be not of those who turned back from the truth.
(N.B. The above translation is not an authenticated one and this servant has done it just for the post).

Baha’u’llah has also written:
Fall prostrate on your faces before God, and celebrate His praise in the daytime and in the night season. (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 38).

Transgress not thy limits, nor claim that which beseemeth thee not. Prostrate thyself before the countenance of thy God, the Lord of might and power.
(Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words).

The Bab has mentioned that prostration beseemed our worship of God:

Fire and paradise both bow down and prostrate themselves before God. That which is worthy of His Essence is to worship Him for His sake, without fear of fire, or hope of paradise. (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 77).

Regarding ‘Abdu’l-Baha:
اما ايشان به احترامات فائقه قانع نبودندبلكه توقع تعظيم و تكريم فوق العاده داشته حتي طمع دست بوسي و اما ايشان به احترامات فائقه قانع نبودندبلكه توقع تعظيم و تكريم فوق العاده داشته حتي طمع دست بوسي و پا بوسي در دل ميپرورانيدند و اين طمع باعث انزجار خاطر بسياري از ثابتيدن بود. و ا ما حضرت مولي الوري در ان ايام ميفرمودند: احبا كه پيش من ميايند بمن تعظيم نكنند و به تكبير الله قناعت كنند كه باعث سرور خاطر من است ..."
) خاطرات نه ساله: صفحه ۲۲۳ (

Dr. Yunis Khan Afrukhtih in his book, “The Reminiscences of Nine Years in Akka” wrote that ‘Abdul-Baha did not like the friends to bow down before Him:

“…. But ‘Abdu’l-Baha on those days telling that, “THE FRIENDS WHO COME TO ME, DO NOT PROSTRATE AND BOW DOWN TO ME AND BE CONTENT BY SAYING ALLAH’U’ABHA, WHICH IS THE CAUSE OF MY JOY”. (It is not an authenticated translation too).

'Abdu'l-Baha states that the resting-places of the holy souls deserve to be honoured and respected. But the honour is not given to the earth, rather it is intended for the soul which is sanctified from all material things. However, since the soul was once associated with the body, it is only natural that we respect the earthly remains of holy ones. But it is not proper to seek assistance and confirmations from any source except from the Blessed Beauty. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 4, p. 164)

The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi asks the friends not to bow down before him too:

My recent hope is that the friends of God in their letters and their conversations ADDRESS ME NOTHING EXCEPT SHOGHI EFFENDI. The glory and honour of this servant is just by this name and nothing else, because it was issued from the most pure mouth and so in my view point it is dearer, sweeter, and nobler than any name or title. ALSO HIGH EXALTATION (RESPECT), BOWING DOWN AND HONOUR OF ANY KIND ARE OPPOSITE TO AND CONTRADICT WITH THE STATE AND REQUEST OF THIS SERVANT. Consider me as brothers and express and manifest this view in their speech and their deeds. (Shoghi effendi, Messages to the Baha’is of Iran, 1922-1926, P.11). (It is not an authenticated translation too). (توقيعات مباركه ١٩٢٢-١٩٢٦: صفحه۱۱)

Re: Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:57 pm
by brettz9
Thank you for those illuminating quotations, Iranpour!

In case you were not aware, one can make one's posts more readable by enclosing quotations therein within code blocks like this:

[quote]Put a quote inside of these tags...[/quote]

This will then set off quotations into their own styling which is helpful when scanning through a longer post.

As far as the topic, I did want to mention that there are certain occasions for preference to the Manifestations mentioned in the Scriptures: ... ons_of_God although these might be for the sake of Their sanity.

Best wishes,

Re: Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:06 pm
by brettz9
Also, in response to Bruce, although there is no requirement for such standing, the Writings do encourage a respect for rank (see , e.g., "respect for the rank ... of others are virtues which contribute to the harmony and well-being of every community").

On a related subject, while the House of Justice indicated that

"Nothing has been found in the Baha'i Writings requiring the friends to stand and face the Qiblih whenever the Tablets of Visitation are recited. No issue should be made of this matter when a Holy Day observance is being held.

...they went on to say:

However, when one is actually in, or within the precincts of one of the Holy Shrines, it is an act of simple reverence to stand and face that Shrine when the Tablet of Visitation is recited."

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 19 August 1992, at )

So although reverence differs from culture to culture (see ), as per the above, some actions of reverence (such as standing on occasion) are not only permitted but enjoined.

Best wishes,

Re: Is it appropriate for Baha'is to bow to others?

Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:41 am
by iranpour
Thank you very much brettz9 for your kind words. Regarding your recommendation, I had quoted the first sentence of my post, the question of our friend HuanRan and I will put it into practice when hopefully sending long posts later. Regards