The Baha’i teachings endorse a high degree of refinement in morals, intellectual pursuits, and physical cleanliness—and the same is true of artistic pursuits.

Baha’is believe that music and the arts give expression to the human spirit and are thus very important to the individual and society, provided they reflect spiritual refinement.

Baha’u’llah refers to music as a “ladder” for human souls, “a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high.” But he warns that it should not be used “as wings to self and passion,” nor should it “overstep the bounds of propriety and dignity.”The Most Holy Book, p. 38.

The Baha’i teachings encourage music, drama, visual arts, architecture, poetry, and other art forms, when born of a love for God and a spirit of service to humanity, as essential elements of civilized life and stimulants to spiritual and social progress. Abdu’l-Baha is reported to have said:

All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in Lady Blomfield’s The Chosen Highway, p. 167.

In a talk given at a children’s reception in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha also encouraged musical education for children:

The art of music is divine and effective. It is the food of the soul and spirit. Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted. It has wonderful sway and effect in the hearts of children, for their hearts are pure, and melodies have great influence in them. The latent talents with which the hearts of these children are endowed will find expression through the medium of music. Therefore, you must exert yourselves to make them proficient; teach them to sing with excellence and effect. It is incumbent upon each child to know something of music, for without knowledge of this art the melodies of instrument and voice cannot be rightly enjoyed. Likewise, it is necessary that the schools teach it in order that the souls and hearts of the pupils may become vivified and exhilarated and their lives be brightened with enjoyment. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 52.

Music and the arts are prominent features of Baha’i life, yet at this time there is nothing that can be considered “Baha’i art.” However, Baha’is look forward to a time in the future when a new world civilization based upon Baha’i principles will inspire new artistic expressions wholly in keeping with Baha’u’llah’s world-embracing vision:

Wherefore, O loved ones of God! Make ye a mighty effort till you yourselves betoken this advancement and all these confirmations, and become focal centres of God’s blessings, daysprings of the light of His unity, promoters of the gifts and graces of civilized life. Be ye in that land vanguards of the perfections of humankind; carry forward the various branches of knowledge, be active and progressive in the field of inventions and the arts. Endeavour to rectify the conduct of men, and seek to excel the whole world in moral character. While the children are yet in their infancy feed them from the breast of heavenly grace, foster them in the cradle of all excellence, rear them in the embrace of bounty. Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 129.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

3 Comments

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  • Mark David Vinzens
    Aug 24, 2017
    I am very much in resonance with Joseph Beuys theoretical hypothesis of “social sculpture” (meaning “to build a social organism as a work of art”) “This most modern art discipline – Social Sculpture/ Social Architecture,” proclaimed Beuys, “will only reach fruition when every living person becomes a creator, a sculptor, or architect of the social organism. [...]EVERY HUMAN BEING IS AN ARTIST who – from his state of freedom – the position of freedom that he experience at firsthand – learns to determine the other positions in the TOTAL ARTWORK OF THE FUTURE SOCIAL ORDER.”
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Aug 24, 2017
    Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline: to dismantle in order to build A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART.
    ~Joseph Beuys