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Have you ever visited a Baha’i House of Worship? Baha’i temples have given the world a whole new way to worship—together, without regard to religion or belief.
The Baha’i teachings say that Baha’i Houses of Worship are open to anyone and everyone:
… the original purpose of temples and houses of worship is simply that of unity—places of meeting where various peoples, different races and souls of every capacity may come together in order that love and agreement should be manifest between them. That is why Baha’u’llah has commanded that a place of worship be built for all the religionists of the world; that all religions, races and sects may come together within its universal shelter; that the proclamation of the oneness of mankind shall go forth from its open courts of holiness … – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 65.
Baha’u’llah came to lay the foundation of a universal temple in the hearts of humanity, and because this universal temple is in need of an outward symbol, has instituted this great law of having a physical temple … where all humanity may worship God in accord with their conscience, an exterior, outward temple, the ideals and the aims of which may tally and correspond with that inner, interior temple of the heart. The inner temple universal is a temple where God resides, the outer temple, which is also universal, is a place where there are no priests, where there are no rites, where there are no ceremonies but purely God who is the universal Father of all humanity and is worshipped with the utmost simplicity.
For the tranquillity and repose of the hearts there is no other means save the commemoration of Almighty God. … that is why His Holiness Baha’u’llah has commanded that a place be built for all the religionists of the world. …
In every city a great [House of Worship] must be founded … services will be held every morning. … Open ye the gates of the Temple to all mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 1, pp. 60-61.
Eight continental Baha’i Houses of Worship now exist, one on each of the Earth’s major land masses—Africa (in Kampala, Uganda); Asia (in New Delhi, India); Australia (in Sydney); Europe (in Frankfurt, Germany); Central America (in Panama City, Panama), North America (in Wilmette, Illinois) and South America (in Santiago, Chile); and in the Pacific Islands (Apia, Western Samoa).
Now, Baha’is have begun to build local Houses of Worship—the first ones have risen in places like Battambang, Cambodia and Norte del Cauca, Colombia, and many more are planned.
Each of these beautiful buildings, although they’re all very different in design, has nine sides and a central dome, symbolizing the unity of all Faiths, the openness of the Baha’i teachings to everyone, and the oneness of God.
The Baha’i writings call the Baha’i Houses of Worship “dawning-places of the praise of God” (or Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Farsi), which perfectly summarizes their function. Baha’i Houses of Worship aren’t just for Baha’is—and they’re not just intended for worship in the traditional sense of the word, either.
The Baha’i teachings strongly assert that science and religion essentially agree, and in the same way, worship and action also go hand in hand. That’s why every Baha’i House of Worship welcomes everyone no matter what they believe; and exists not only for the worship of God, but for service to humanity. Each Baha’i House of Worship’s long-term plan includes the building and running of a number of charitable institutions designed to provide care, comfort, healing and education to all humanity:
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, a school for orphans, and a university for advanced studies. Every Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is connected with these five things … The Temple is not only a place for worship; rather, in every respect is it complete and whole. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 99-100.
This is new. When we think of places of worship, we normally think of buildings whose sole purpose involves reflection, meditation and prayer. But the Baha’i teachings expand that definition of worship to a much broader and more inclusive scope:
Every country has a hundred thousand gigantic temples, but what results have they yielded? The important point is this—from a temple of worship must go forth not only the spiritual but the material needs …
The doors will be open to all sects—no differentiation; and by God’s help this temple will prove to be to the body of human society what the soul is to the body of man. For when these colleges for the study of higher sciences, the hospital, the orphanage and the hospice are built, its doors will be opened to all nations, races and religions, with no line of demarcation and its charities will be dispensed without regard to race or color. Its gates will be flung wide to mankind; prejudice toward none, love for all. The central building will be dedicated to prayer and worship and thus for the first time religion will become harmonized with science and science will be the handmaid of religion—both showering their spiritual gifts on all humanity. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 13.
In his Most Holy Book, Baha’u’llah asked the Baha’is to “Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands …” – p. 29. In the future, Baha’is envision a House of Worship and its ancillary charitable institutions at the center of every village, town and city, dedicated to the radiant and joyful worship of God and the altruistic provision of sustenance, shelter and solace to all humanity.