Using ‘The Greatest Name’

Image by Lorenia (Flickr)

A few days ago we published a post here on Baha’i Blog featuring 6 Baha’i iPhone Wallpapers, however I noticed a few Facebook and email comments pointing out that perhaps it’s not appropriate to have The Greatest Name or a photo of the door to the shrine of the Bab used in this manner. This seems sensible, so I first wanted to let our readers know that we’ve now updated the post with two fresh wallpapers featuring Baha’i quotes replacing the other two wallpapers. And second of all I thought I’d share some quotes that my fellow Baha’i Blogger Naysan found on the subject of The Greatest Name and its usage.

What is The Greatest Name?

For those of you who don’t know what ‘The Greatest Name’ is, in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, he explains that

The Greatest Name is an invocation which means ‘O Thou Glory of Glories!’ The word ‘Bahá’, or ‘Glory’, is a reference to Bahá’u’lláh. The Greatest Name is a distinctive mark of the Cause and a symbol of our Faith. The term of ‘Alláh-u-Abhá,’ on the other hand, is a form of Bahá’í greeting, and means ‘God the All-Glorious.’ ” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 8, 1941)

The Greatest Name is the Name of Comfort, Protection, etc.

“The Greatest Name should be found upon the lips in the first awakening moment of early dawn. It should be fed upon by constant use in daily invocation, in trouble, under opposition, and should be the last word breathed when the head rests upon the pillow at night. It is the name of comfort, protection, happiness, illumination, love and unity.

“I hope that thou mayest become informed of the concealed mystery and recondite symbol of the stone of the Most Great Name … The use of the Greatest Name and dependence upon it, cause the soul to strip itself of the husks of mortality and to step forth freed, reborn, a new creature….”(‘Abdu’l-Bahá: United States Supplement to Bahá’í News, No. 80, p. 2, October 1964)

Use of Greatest Name Symbol—Not Appropriate on Articles Put to Common Use

“The overriding consideration must always be the proper dignity with which the Greatest Name should be used. Thus it would not be befitting to use it on drinking vessels or ash trays, plates for eating, and the like. There would, however, be no objection to its use on plaques or ornaments, jewellery or similar items which are not normally put to common use. The House of Justice instructs us to say that great care should be given to the accurate representation of the Persian calligraphy, since any deviation from an accepted representation can be distressing to Iranian believers.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Belgium, March 12, 1980)

Guidelines on the Use of the Symbols of the Greatest Name on Stationery and in Paintings

“… We are requested by the Universal House of Justice to share with you the following guidelines on the use of the symbols of the Greatest Name.

“The Guardian, in a letter written on his behalf to an individual on 5 August 1949, stated:

‘It is better not to encourage the use of this symbol on stationery and in paintings.’

“Likewise, the Universal House of Justice, in its letter to a National Assembly stated:

‘We wish to call to your attention the impressions of the Greatest Name on the back of the envelope in which your letter was enclosed. The use of the Greatest Name is not befitting and we ask you to discontinue it.’ (16 May 1971)

“In another communication regarding this subject, the following was written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Assembly:

‘…we are instructed to say that it would not be appropriate to use the symbol of the Greatest Name on the official stationery of a Local Spiritual Assembly.’ (6 November 1984)

“While the House of Justice is reluctant to issue a list of the specific uses of the Greatest Name which should be avoided, the principal thing is for the friends to realize the great sacredness of this symbol, and to use it in ways which are dignified and appropriate….” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Hawaiian Islands, June 3, 1987)

So lesson learned for me, and a good thing too as I’m planning on making a whole suite of backgrounds for not just the iPhone, but the iPad and desktops too! Thank you to our commenters for pointing out the usage!!

And don’t forget to go check out the 2 new Baha’i iPhone Wallpapers.

About the Author

Collis is a designer, entrepreneur, writer and Baha’i. He is the CEO of Australian tech company Envato, and cofounder of Baha’i Blog / Half Light Media.

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Discussion 9 Comments

  1. Wonderful article! Thanks for clarifying this further. It’s a shame that some Holy symbols have become so common on attire & clothing etc. God Willing this will never happen to any Holy symbols in the future.

  2. We have had a lot of bad luck with the house we bought. Would putting the Greatest Name above our doorway help or does anyone have any other ideas? The problem with the Persian letters of the Greatest Name, non Baha’is think it spells EVIL, so we want to avoid such jumping to conclusions.

    1. Dr. Johnson,

      My daughter, a non-Baha’i, just pointed out to me that is exactly what she sees. I was floored. I never saw it. I’m trying to figure out how to address this, too.

      1. To Christopher Johnson and Deborah Henderson,

        I just found this thread today, very late. I have had this reaction from time to time and when I was a very young new Bahá’í I came up with a somewhat sassy response that works pretty well. I just say, on, that’s Arabic. They write backwards from English from right to left. It says “live”.

        If someone shows actual interest, I explain the same, but instead of saying it says live, I share it’s translation to English. Either way, I have found the key element is the reversal of direction. Our friends and beloved ones often worry that beliefs different then their own will lead us to some sort of “hell” or another, so for some, the vague similarity to the word evil is a confirmation of their fears.

        I have often pondered over how evil in reverse is live and how that is so beneficial to some of us English-speaking Bahá’ís.

        1. Also, I do not mean to say that I believe English writing direction to be the standard, I was just considering my audience. It is presumptuous to consider one way or writing “backwards” if it is different from our own, but it helps people remember that we don’t have the only way of writing or perceiving language.

  3. I was told that when hanging the greatest name on the wall it should be on an east wall and the highest item hanging on the wall. I would like to find out if this is true and where it is written or if this is a Persian cultural thing.

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