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Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 83.
Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 176-177.
There are no solitaries and no hermits among the Baha’is. Man must work with his fellows. Everyone should have some trade, or art or profession, be he rich or poor, and with this he must serve humanity. This service is acceptable as the highest form of worship. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 93.
Does your job or your profession help others?
You might not think so, but almost every kind of work has some benefit for someone else. It may help support and educate your family; it may feed people; it may benefit your community; it may train children; it may create art that beautifies the world; it may even save lives. The Baha’i teachings dramatically expand the traditional definition of worship to include art and science, all forms of craftsmanship and every kind of selfless service to humanity:
In the Baha’i Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are (counted as) worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God… A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 176-177.
This emphasis within the Baha’i teachings—coupling work with worship—is unique in all religion:
In this universal dispensation man’s wondrous craftsmanship is reckoned as worship… Consider what a bounty and blessing it is that craftsmanship is regarded as worship. In former times, it was believed that such skills were tantamount to ignorance, if not a misfortune, hindering man from drawing nigh unto God. Now consider how His infinite bestowals and abundant favours have changed hell-fire into blissful paradise, and a heap of dark dust into a luminous garden.
It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 144.
Many people, when they think about the word worship, view it as an old-fashioned or even an obsolete term. It brings up a vision of a passive figure sitting idly, silently hoping that things will improve, rather than engaging with the world to bring about change. But for the Baha’is, worship has taken on a completely new meaning, a new power and a new spirit:
That Spirit is the Oneness of the world of humanity, the establishing of Universal Peace, right and justice, the fact that religion must be conducive to harmony among mankind, reconcile reason and science, equality of men and women, the freedom and independence of all men; the founding of heavenly morale and love for all mankind, even for animals; the universalizing of Common knowledge, and the fact that a profession and trade and agriculture are the worship of God, that a farmer who engages in tilling and cultivating his farm with the utmost effort is like unto a worshipper who devotes himself to the worship of God with the utmost humility and supplication in a temple of worship and that a laborer who works with justice and sincerity is as though engaged in prayer. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, October 1919, p. 226.
This Baha’i ethic of work-as-worship applies to everyone who works, elevating the service to others that many take for granted to the noblest heights:
O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 139.
The Baha’i teachings urge everyone to reflect, meditate, pray and worship—but then to put that worship into action:
If a man engageth with all his power in the acquisition of a science or in the perfection of an art, it is as if he has been worshipping God in churches and temples. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 144.