Sunday, February 23, 2014


Last night, Marielle and I attended a gathering on marriage. We were one of the panelists asked to give a five minute talk on what we felt was an important aspect of marriage. It was quite the diverse group. It went from one woman had recently gotten engaged all the way up to a man who had been married nearly sixty years, who was widowed a couple of years ago. We were, of course, somewhere in the middle.

It was quite interesting to hear all these different perspectives about what was considered important, and those things that others felt were foundational to a good relationship. And we felt like we learned something, which is always a bonus.

So, what did we learn? Well, as you may know, one of the conditions for getting married in the Baha'i community is parental consent. While I had known of this law, having had to apply it in my own marriage, I never really considered the reasons for it.

We all know that it comes from the Kitab-i-Aqdas, but what exactly is said? "Parental consent", for example, is not actually there. So what does Baha'u'llah really say?
"It hath been laid down in the Bayan that marriage is dependent upon the consent of both parties. Desiring to establish love, unity and harmony amidst Our servants, We have conditioned it, once the couple's wish is known, upon the permission of their parents, lest enmity and rancour should arise amongst them. And in this We have yet other purposes. Thus hath Our commandment been ordained."

To start, He says that it is up to the two people involved, first and foremost. This is such an easy way to sidestep the whole "arranged marriage" issue. It is the couple's wish that is given precedence. Once they have made their intentions known, then it is up to the parents to give consent. And He gives a very good reason for it; "lest enmity and rancour should arise amongst them". How often have children married someone that their parents didn't like, only to have it cause division in the family?

But then He makes an interesting statement that I, for one, had never quite noticed. "And in this", He says, "We have yet other purposes."

Other purposes? I'm intrigued. What, I wondered, could some of those be?

And that is something that I learned last night, without ever being aware that there was even a question there. I just love it when that happens.

The first thing is that it ensures that the parents get to know the fiancee, and make sure that they are compatible. Aside from those very rare times when there are mental issues involved, or weird personal dynamics, the response is almost always in the positive. "Yes, we'd love for you two to get married." But I have also heard of a few, very rare times when the relationships in the family were healthy and the answer was still "no". It is especially at those times that the wisdom of the law has been made most manifest.


Simple, really. There is probably nobody on the planet that knows someone better than their parents. They have watched their child with a close eye ever since their infancy. They have seen them grow, change and develop. And really, people are like arrows. If you see where they have come from, and where they are now, you can get a fairly good idea of where they are going. Now, if you combine that with the getting to know the affianced, good parents can probably make a wise decision.

And as a parent, let me tell you, if I had to say "no" to my son's request for permission, this would really weigh on me. It is not something that I would take lightly. Also, I would not neglect this law, either. I would really try to get to know his fiancee so that I could make the best decision I could.

To help in this regard, we have already begun talking about it. Maybe not so directly, but we have. He is already asking me questions about how to look at someone else's character. And yes, he is only 8 (to be 9 in a couple of days). (Let's all wish him a happy birthday now.) (1. 2. 3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHOGHI!) (Thanks.)

Something that was suggested last night was the idea of asking for a "business plan". (I'm not sure what else to call it.) This entails asking questions about future plans, such as children, household finances, career paths, and so forth. In other words, have they considered these issues? Of course, plans change, and they may never actually do what is written down, but so what? At least you know they've considered it, and talked about these things.

Now this may all seem a bit bizarre in this day and age, but really, don't you think it will go a long way to curbing the divorce rate and ensuring happier marriages? As long as the parents are reasonable, and responsible, I think so.

Another thing that this laws ensures is a greater awareness of the importance of community. It helps the friends realize that they can call upon members of the community, or their family, to help them in a time of crisis. I think this is the case because getting to know someone's character is a bit of a community thing. And when you rely on the community for getting to know a prospective partner, you also rely on them for other things, too. (That's just my own experience, for what it's worth.) It also ensures the support of the family, who have gotten to know you both as a couple, which means you can more easily call on them in times of crisis, too. There are many cases of a newly married couple having a financial crisis and moving in with the parents until they can get on their own feet.

One other thing that this law does is prevent the "I told you so" syndrome. If the marriage does not work out, for some reason, then the parents cannot get on some sort of high horse and say "Well, I told you so." Because if they tried that, then the child would honestly say, "Yeah. You did. You said yes."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Marriage and Death

Isn't this just a happy topic right after Valentine's Day?

You know, when I first realized that this blog would be an on-going project, I had in mind a certain number of topics to regularly address, such as an analysis of various Writings of the Faith, the administration, and so forth. Well, all good intentions aside, I soon realized that I would be distracted from that by a number of topics that just suddenly came up, such as today's.

And no, this article is not a sad comment on my wife and I. It is, instead, a reply to a very good question that came up from the previous article. The question was, in a nutshell, what happens if one partner in a marriage passes away and the other gets re-married later. Aside from the obvious sadness followed by joy in that other's life, what happens in the next world? The partners in marriage are to be together for all eternity, so which one takes precedence? Or all three together? What happens?

Great question. And, as I'm sure you know, there doesn't appear to be anything clear-cut about it in the Writings. So what do we do? Well, I don't know about you, but I like to use a bit of logic. Of course, what passes for logic in my brain is only my own opinion and nothing official.

Where to begin?

Well, the first step for me is to look at the relationship between two people who are married when they get to the next world. We are told by 'Abdu'l-Baha that a married couple will "attain eternal union throughout all the worlds of God, and improve the spiritual life of each other". He says, "when the people of Baha desire to enter the sacred union of marriage, eternal connection and ideal relationship, spiritual and physical association of thoughts and conceptions of life must exist between them, so that in all the grades of existence and all the worlds of God this union may continue forever and ever for this real union is a splendor of the light of the love of God." It seems fairly obvious, then, from just these two quotes among many, that two souls who are married have the joy and bounty of being together in all the various worlds of God.

But what about two people who are not married? Perhaps they're just very good friends. How do they interact in the next world? For myself, there are many of my friends here whom I truly hope to see and associate with in the next world. I think we'd have a great time. (At the very least, they could sure laugh at me and all the silly things they've seen me do back in this world.) So what about them?

First, we must acknowledge that "spiritual progress in the other world is limitless, and is not confined to those who have attained unto the knowledge and recognition of the Cause while still in this world." So it doesn't matter if my friends are Baha'i, or not, atheist or theist. Everyone can progress in the next world. God's bounty is not limited.

As to those that we know in this world, we are told that in the world to come a soul will "recognize or discover persons with whom he hath been associated." "And know thou for a certainty," says 'Abdu'l-Baha elsewhere, "that in the divine worlds, the spiritual beloved ones will recognize each other, and will seek union, but a spiritual union. Likewise a love that one may have entertained for another will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget the life that thou hast had in the material world."

Every love that we have known will be remembered in the next world. How cool is that? Imagine how much more that love will be for the one whom we married.

So, everyone progresses. We recognize our friends and loved ones. We recall every love we ever felt. Pretty good so far.

The next thing that comes to mind is that the soul in the next world is truly spiritual. It has no association with the body anymore. There is no gender, nor anything pertaining to the physical world, although we still retain our individual identity. "According to Bahá'u'lláh", writes Shoghi Effendi, "the soul retains its individuality and consciousness after death, and is able to commune with other souls. This communion, however, is purely spiritual in character, and is conditioned upon the disinterested and selfless love of the individuals for each other." So it doesn't matter if the person was male or female back here in this realm. That no longer applies.

I know that my friendship with Marielle, my wife, which will continue through all the worlds of God, is the highest friendship that I have. As 'Abdu'l-Baha said, our marriage is helping us develop that "profound friendship of spirit, which will endure in the next world". But does that mean that I can't have other friends to that same degree? I'm not sure, but I don't think so. I mean, I think I can have other friends that are friends to a profound degree. After all, in this world I have many other friends, even though I have a friendship with my wife. (Sometimes even because I have a friendship with my wife.)

So, that's all the background for my train of thought here. Let's go on.

If I should chance to pass away before her, and she should fall in love with another man, then I would hope that they would marry. As such, I can only imagine myself waiting there in that next realm, which is "sanctified from time and place" (which makes the very concept of waiting kind of obsolete to begin with), anxiously awaiting that opportunity to meet not only my best friend, but her great friend, too. After all, once I am freed from the oddities of this world, and all the jealousies and weird emotional stuff that gets in the way of friendship for too many people, how could I not eagerly look forward to meeting someone who is so dear to my wife? I would truly look forward to traversing the many worlds of God with them, just as I do with her, and all those other souls who are so near and dear to my heart.

And finally, to answer the original question as clearly as I can: I think they will all be together, in joy and love, through all those myriad worlds of God.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Primary Purpose of Marriage

Here we are again: Valentine's Day. Not that Marielle and I celebrate it, but you can't help noticing it in this culture. We never really got into celebrating all those "Hallmark holidays", so it's no big deal to watch this one slide on by. But all the radio shows are talking about love and romance. All the web-sites have something about it. The stores are all decked out for Christmas, minus the green and the tinsel. And here we are, wondering when to use our Groupon for some meal we paid for a couple of weeks ago.

Anyways, all that aside, this is actually something I've been meaning to write about for a while, because the question hasn't so much as come up as been as been merely raised by implication. Are we required, as Baha'is, to have children? It seems like a fairly strange question, but it is actually one that seems to out there. And while the real question is "What is the purpose of marriage", as opposed to the more-often asked "What's the point of marriage", I think I will begin with the first, and then tackle the other two in order.

I'm not sure, but I think this first question comes from the various phrases found in the Writings, such as when the Guardian, in The World Order of Baha'u'llah, refers to "the procreation of children as the sacred and primary purpose of marriage". Or perhaps in one of the prayers for marriage in which it says "Marry, O people, that from you may appear he who will remember Me amongst My servants".

Wherever it comes from, it is easy to read into the Writings that this is the case, but is it really? I wonder. After all, I remember one time when someone tried to tell me that Marielle and I had to have a child as soon as possible for that was the purpose of marriage. They said that if we didn't have children we would be failing in our duty. (Yes, they really did.) I must have had a puzzled expression on my face as I replied, "Does that mean the Guardian did not fulfill the purpose of his marriage?"

So if I presume that the Guardian did not fail in his duty, then how else am I supposed to read these statements about marriage and children?

First of all, I must remind you, dear Reader, that this is only my own personal opinion and nothing official. I may be way off base here, but hey, that's alright.

So, to start, looking back at the first quote, the one from the Guardian, he says that the procreation of children is the sacred and primary purpose of a marriage. Sacred I can understand. The spiritual stuff that is involved in the creation of a child surely warrants calling it sacred. But "primary"? That implies that there is a secondary purpose. And while it is easy to read these statements as saying that the only point to marriage is kids, it's not really what they say.

Oh, and it should be pointed out that we, not only Baha'is but I think people in general, like soundbytes. We like to take something that is a bit complex and simplify it into a simple statement, such as "the purpose of marriage is kids". This is what they have done in books like "A Fortress for Well-Being". If you look at the table of contents in that wonderful book (I do like it despite this one little quirk), it says "The Purpose of Marriage", and then goes on in that chapter to talk only about kids. procreation and education of them.

When we look at something like the compilation put together at the World Centre on "Preserving Baha'i Marriages", they are a bit more thorough. They point out that the Master "describes marriage as 'a true relationship', a spiritual and physical 'coming together', a 'union' that 'will endure' 'in all the worlds of God'." The Guardian describes marriage as a 'divine institution" that "should lead to a profound friendship of spirit, which will endure in the next world". The Universal House of Justice points out that "marriage and family life have a vitally important 'social function' - the perpetuation of the human race and the preservation of social order."

This is a bit more than just "having kids".

So, are we required to have kids? Well, I see nothing in the Writings that insists on it. They surely suggest that it's a good idea, and personally I think kids are great (especially mine), but mandatory? Nope. I don't see it.

So, what, then, is the purpose of marriage? I think there are many purposes. Kids, for sure. But also everything that was mentioned in the paragraph above (you know, the one that had all those quote marks). It's to develop that friendship that endures in the next world, as well as the preservation of social order. It is, also, I believe, to create that "fortress for well-being and salvation" (not just well-being), in which many people can find that refuge from the trials and torments of the world.

Aside - I remember one talk given by a rabbi, in which he said that his wife was more important to him than his kids. The audience began booing him, but he asked them to allow him to explain. He pointed out that if his relationship with his wife fell apart, then neither of them would be strong enough to raise their children in a healthy way. And you know what? I totally agree with him.

Marriage, it should be pointed out, is not just about two people. It is an institution unto itself. In so many letters from the World Centre we read about the three protagonists in the "Plan": the individual, the institutions and the community. As I've said many times, in a family you have the individual members, such as the father, mother, son and daughter. You have the community of the family as a whole. But you also have the institution of the husband and the wife. And when you examine the various roles of these three in the letters regarding the various plans, you can see how these functions overlay into a family, too.

To me, asking the purpose of a marriage is similar to asking the purpose of an Assembly. It is too big an answer to try and give.

Finally, what's the point? Well, if you can't see the point by now, and believe all the stuff in the media about how it is some anachronistic institution designed to keep women in subjugation, I'm not sure I can say anything to convince you otherwise. Let me just say that the friendship that has developed between my wife and I since our marriage has made me very glad that we took that step. Taking that vow before both God and our community, as well as our families and friends, changed something in our relationship, and I'm not sure I can put it into words.

I have a lot of friends out there. People who are very near and dear to my heart. But no one, and I mean no one, is as well embedded in there as my wife. I wish there was another word than "friend", for that applies to too many other people, but if there is, I don't know it. So I will have to be satisfied at knowing that this friendship with my wife is special, and far deeper than any other friendship I have.

And you know what? That's a good enough purpose for me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Long Obligatory Prayer, Part 5

Let him then stand and say:
Make my prayer, O my Lord, a fountain of living waters whereby I may live as long as Thy sovereignty endureth, and may make mention of Thee in every world of Thy worlds.

When I was a kid, it was something of a joke that a good morning's workout could be had by going to church, especially if you were Catholic. Stand up. Sit down. Kneel. Stand up. Kneel. It could actually be quite cardio if you did it right. Perhaps Baha'u'llah was trying to help us keep in shape, not only spiritually, but physically, too, with this prayer.

Anyways, where were we? Ah yes. on our knees, basically reminding ourselves of just how far above us God is, and that it is really God's will that should concern us, for our own will is really just so small and fallible. And although we know that God is really far above us, in a sense, by getting on our knees we further emphasize that point.

But now we stand. It is almost as if by kneeling and remembering our station, that of a servant, we are now being lovingly reminded that we are also noble creations of a divine Creator. By reaffirming this distance between us, we are now ready to humbly ask a bounty, a boon. Remember, so far we have only asked that our prayer be made a fire that will burn away the veils keeping us out from His beauty. Now we are asking our second request, and again it is for our prayer. (I don't really count the request to ignore my hopes. That just seems obvious.)

Previously, we asked our prayer to be made like a fire, burning away the veils. This time we are asking that our prayer be like water, continually replenishing and giving forth its sweet refreshment like the water of a fountain. And the reason for this request is so that we may live in all the worlds of creation and continue to make mention of God in each and every one of them.

This, to me, is the request of a lover. It reminds me of that longing of the Master's, found in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, "O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of "Ya Baha'u'l-Abha" in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings!" It is as He also says, in another Tablet, "...He gave thee taste to find the sweetness of the love of God; He gave thee a tongue to mention Him."

And then, as if to further emphasize this connection, the prayer goes on.

Let him again raise his hands in supplication, and say:
O Thou in separation from Whom hearts and souls have melted, and by the fire of Whose love the whole world hath been set aflame! I implore Thee by Thy Name through which Thou hast subdued the whole creation, not to withhold from me that which is with Thee, O Thou Who rulest over all men! Thou seest, O my Lord, this stranger hastening to his most exalted home beneath the canopy of Thy majesty and within the precincts of Thy mercy; and this transgressor seeking the ocean of Thy forgiveness; and this lowly one the court of Thy glory; and this poor creature the orient of Thy wealth. Thine is the authority to command whatsoever Thou willest. I bear witness that Thou art to be praised in Thy doings, and to be obeyed in Thy behests, and to remain unconstrained in Thy bidding.

Once more we raise our hands in supplication. Now we ask that we be near to God, or more specifically, not to be denied that which is with God.

Starting at the beginning of this paragraph, though, we see this reminder of love. When my wife goes off on tour I often feel as if my heart has melted. How much more so when I contemplate my distance from God? When she returns, I feel as if I am set aflame, ready to go out and conquer the world with our love. And that love is but a pale comparison to that divine love of God.

With this intimate reminder of that love, we beg for that which is with God. And what exactly is that? I'm not sure. I mean, as I always say, I'm not an authority on this stuff. I'm just one guy sitting here at home writing down a few thoughts that go through my head when I read these writings. So with that in mind, and a piece of chocolate in my mouth (always helps, you know), I tend to think of it is the various virtues, those attributes of God in which image we are created.

Then there is the list of attributes which I seem to be seeking. I am a stranger, and I want to be closer. I have broken His laws and I long to be forgiven. I am lowly, and I want to become more noble. I am poor and I seek to become enriched. And yet, in all of this, I am still cognizant of my low station, and the importance of relying on God's will.

This prayer really is a beautiful reminder of so many things.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Long Obligatory Prayer, Part 4

O Thou the Desire of the world and the Beloved of the nations! Thou seest me turning toward Thee, and rid of all attachment to anyone save Thyself, and clinging to Thy cord, through whose movement the whole creation hath been stirred up. I am Thy servant, O my Lord, and the son of Thy servant. Behold me standing ready to do Thy will and Thy desire, and wishing naught else except Thy good pleasure. I implore Thee by the Ocean of Thy mercy and the Daystar of Thy grace to do with Thy servant as Thou willest and pleasest. By Thy might which is far above all mention and praise! Whatsoever is revealed by Thee is the desire of my heart and the beloved of my soul. O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and my doings, nay rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. By Thy Most Great Name, O Thou Lord of all nations! I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love.

Before I look at this paragraph, I feel like I should explain something: There are so many ways to study the Writings. What I am doing here is only one method.

We could, if we wished, look at some of the phrases in the prayer and see how they resonate throughout history. For example, looking at that phrase "the Desire of the world", how is it used in the Qur'an? Or in the Babi writings? Is there some historical feeling associated with it, besides the negative version of not feeling attached to any desire of the world?

But to be honest, I am not interested in doing this kind of study, nor am I particularly good at researching the history involved. So I don't write about it. I do, however, love to read about it in books such as "Learn Well This Tablet", that marvelous book about the Tablet of Ahmad.

Instead, I will play to my strength. What I like to do is look at each paragraph one at a time, and see if we can make any sense of the flow of the entire piece, from one concept to another.

Oh, and it also bears mentioning that there are multiple meanings and layers for each paragraph, each phrase, each word. As Baha'u'llah says in the Kitab-i-Iqan, "Thus it is recorded: 'Every knowledge hath seventy meanings, of which one only is known amongst the people. And when the Qá'im shall arise, He shall reveal unto men all that which remaineth.' He also saith: 'We speak one word, and by it we intend one and seventy meanings; each one of these meanings we can explain.'" I'll feel pretty good if I can just come up with one of those meanings.

We began this prayer by turning to God, awaiting His mercy. Then we called upon Him through the Bab and Baha'u'llah,. His Messengers for this day, asking Him to burn away the veils that have prevented us from beholding His beauty. Following this, we raised our hands in supplication. Supplication, by the way, means to humbly ask for something. But what is it that we are asking for from God?

Here, in this paragraph, we are asking to be a better servant, but let's start at the beginning.

I find it interesting that we call on "the Desire of the world". This is not a phrase I am familiar with, although I can presume it is a reference to Baha'u'llah. In the Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi says, "This is the King of Days, the Day that hath seen the coming of the Best Beloved, He Who through all eternity hath been acclaimed the Desire of the World." So it sure sounds like Baha'u'llah to me. Same thing with "Beloved of the nations". Baha'u'llah uses this phrase a couple of times, and it always seems to be in the context of telling others what they should say, such as in The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Or even here, where He says, "and say" just before this phrase.

And then, after this, it seems like we are describing the beginning of our prayer, having just turned towards God, and focusing only on the prayer to the exclusion of all else (well, at least trying to). We introduce ourselves, which is only courteous. ("Hi God. I'm one of your servants, and the son of one of your servants. Nice to meet you.") We let Him know that we are ready for our daily task, while reminding ourselves that we should only look to God's will, not our own.

Let him then kneel, and bowing his forehead to the ground, let him say:
Exalted art Thou above the description of anyone save Thyself, and the comprehension of aught else except Thee.

So what about this kneeling thing, then? That's a sign of submission, isn't it? And the bowing our forehead to the ground? Even greater submission. It reminds me that submitting to God's will is so difficult that I need this constant reminder. It also reminds me that I am virtually nothing in comparison to God. I am lower than the dust beneath my feet. And yet I am still a noble creation. Hmm. The wonderful complexities of religion.

I am also reminded of Hand of the Cause of God, Enoch Olinga, and how threw himself to the ground like this, full body on the ground, when he was informed of his elevation to the rank of Hand. His submission to the will of God was so incredible, so inspiring.

And all of this physical positioning just further emphasizes what we say. God really is exalted above any possible description we can give. This really is an example of where the physical movement obviously enhances what we say. I just love it.

Maybe I'll leave it here for now, for that's what I'm feeling: insignificant. And you know what? That's a good feeling to have.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Long Obligatory Prayer, Part 3

A few weeks ago I began a little study of the Long Obligatory Prayer. It started because the parents of some of the children at our regular children's class needed something to do while the kids were in their classes, so I decided to offer this. Actually, I began by offering a look at the quotes in Ruhi Book 1 because some of the parents struggle with English, but it soon turned into a study of this prayer at their request.

For those of you who are unaware of it, Baha'u'llah gave us three obligatory prayers, one of which we are... well... obliged to say every day. Our choice as to which one we wish to use. the three of them are the Short Obligatory Prayer, the Medium Obligatory Prayer, and the Long Obligatory Prayer. The short one is short in length, three whole sentences. The medium one is medium in length, two and a half pages in the prayer book. The long one is, you guessed it, long. It's about nine pages in the book.

Now, you may notice that this article is listed as "Part 3". What about parts 1 and 2? I'm so glad I asked. It seems that way back in December of 2011 I began to look at this prayer, yet never finished. And now seems like a good time to continue. I won't say finish because you are never really "finished" looking at the Sacred Writings. And for those of you who are interested, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2. If you're not interested, that's ok. I'm kind of going to begin again here, and see what happens, but I won't be repeating the stuff in those other articles, just for your information.

This prayer begins with the ablutions, the washing of the hands and face. (This is already covered in Part 1, so I'll skip it here.) Then it goes on with the instructions before the prayer itself, "Whoso wisheth to recite this prayer, let him stand up and turn unto God, and, as he standeth in his place, let him gaze to the right and to the left, as if awaiting the mercy of his Lord, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate." As this is covered in Part 1, so I'll just go on.

The first paragraph of the spoken prayer is,
O Thou Who art the Lord of all names and the Maker of the heavens! I beseech Thee by them Who are the Daysprings of Thine invisible Essence, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, to make of my prayer a fire that will burn away the veils which have shut me out from Thy beauty, and a light that will lead me unto the ocean of Thy Presence.

Again, I already wrote quite a bit about this paragraph in Part 2, so I won't repeat what I said there. But, as usual, upon re-reading this, new thoughts have come to mind. (And old thoughts, too, such as remembering why my prayer book is stained and warped, as if someone had spilled tea all over it.)

One of the new thoughts was prompted by reading a comment (thanks Borna). In this paragraph, Baha'u'llah refers to "them Who are the Daysprings of Thine invisible Essence, the most Exalted, the All-Glorious". Before reading this comment, I never clued in to the fact that the Bab was often referred to as the Most Exalted, and Baha'u'llah referred to as the All-Glorious. So now, instead of reading "merely" as attributes of God, I also see them as references to the Twin Manifestations. I feel as if I am beseeching God through the Bab and Baha'u'llah in this very opening paragraph, admitting recognition of Them as intermediaries for my own prayer. Of course, this is only my own opinion and nothing official, but I like it.

I am also reminded that God is the "Lord of all names". To me, this is a reminder that God is not the names themselves, but the Lord over them. For example, Arthur, King of the Britons, was not all the Britons themselves. He was their king. And God, the Lord of all names, is not all the names themselves, but the lord over them. It is like Baha'u'llah says in Prayers and Meditations, "If I call upon Thee by Thy Name, the All-Possessing, I am compelled to recognize that He Who holdeth in His hand the immediate destinies of all created things is but a vassal dependent upon Thee, and is the creation of but a word proceeding from Thy mouth." This seemingly simple opening statement further elevates the station of God beyond what is commonly accepted in Islam, identifying God with the various attributes.

So now we are caught up to where we were way back a few years ago. let's move on.

Let him then raise his hands in supplication toward God - blessed and exalted be He - and say:

What does this look like? Are the hands raised to chest level? Above the head? Palms up? Palms forward?

No clue.

Well, that's not quite true. I feel that all positions in which the hands are raised are good, as long as it is with the attitude of supplication.

Aside - I'm sure I've shared this before, but I still like the story, so I'll share it again. When I was on pilgrimage, I was very curious about the way we should sit when praying. Should our hands be palm up in our lap? At our side? How? And so, when the pilgrim group had the bounty of meeting with the Universal House of Justice, I thought I might finally get my answer. The members sat in the chairs at the landing of the stairs, and we pilgrims were sitting in our chairs on the main floor. Then, in the middle of the prayers, I remembered my question and opened my eyes to peek. (Don't tell anyone, please. I know I should've been wrapt in my prayers, but I was really curious.) And there, up on the landing, were the members of that august Institution all sitting prayerfully. One had his hands in his lap, palms up. Another was sitting with his hands in his lap, palm down. One had them crossed on his chest. Another was sitting with his legs crossed, arms folded across his chest. And so on. They were all sitting pretty much as they wished, each comfortable in their own prayers. So yeah, I am fairly comfortable saying that there is no "correct" way to sit and pray.

From here, I could go on to the next paragraph, but I feel as if this is long enough. I'll just make a "part 4" to continue.