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Everything you know is put to the test when you have children. Recently, after singing the prayer that begins “O God! Educate these children…” for what must have been the 1,000th time, my five year old asked me: “What is the Sun of Reality?” She stopped me in my tracks. I really had to think about it, and think about how to explain my thoughts. She also frequently asks about what is referred to as “the ringstone symbol”, a work of calligraphy often found on Baha’i-inspired jewelry, and used by many of our family members. My answers to all these questions need some work, so this prompted me to read up on this significant symbol and, in preparation for the next time she asks about it, I’ve written up seven questions and answers about the ringstone symbol:
What is the ringstone symbol?
The ringstone symbol is a calligraphic symbol designed by Abdu’l-Baha. It incorporates the Arabic letters in “Baha” into a visual representation of the relationships between the worlds of God, of Revelation and of humanity. Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qasim Faizi wrote “No less a person than Abdu’l-Baha could have designed this emblem, for who else could have condensed so much of the divine mystery into so little space and into so few letters!” 1
What does “Baha” mean?
Baha is the Arabic root word and it means splendor, glory or light and Baha is the Greatest Name of God. The Baha’i concept of the Greatest Name of God can be traced back to an Islamic tradition that considers that most sacred Name to be hidden. With the advent of Baha’u’llah, whose title means “Glory of God,” that hidden Name is now manifest.
With its calligraphic rendering of the word “Baha”, the ringstone symbol is therefore also connected to the Greatest Name.
Isn’t the Greatest Name another Baha’i symbol?
What Baha’is often refer to as the Greatest Name is a calligraphy of “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha” (which means “O Glory of the All-Glorious” in Arabic) exquisitely designed by Mishkin-Qalam, an early Baha’i calligrapher. It can be found in Baha’i temples and in Baha’i homes. (We shared an article about the decorative use of the Greatest Name here on Baha’i Blog if you’re curious to know more.)
Another form of the Greatest Name is “Allah-u-Abha” or “God the Most Glorious,” which some Baha’is use as a greeting, depending on their culture. Baha’is are also encouraged to say “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times daily in private and it is also included as part of the Long Obligatory Prayer.
How is the ringstone symbol a visual representation?
The official website for the Baha’is of the United States offers a succinct and well-worded explanation:
The top and bottom horizontal lines—each a stylized doubling of the Arabic letter “h”—represent respectively the world of God and the world of creation. In between, a stylized letter “b” represents the world of the Manifestations of God. That letter is repeated vertically to represent the role and station of the Manifestations in “joining the world of the Creator to that of His creation,” Mr. Faizi wrote.
The five-pointed stars at the right and left, Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “represent the divine origin and also the human personality of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.” 2
Where can the ringstone symbol be found?
The ringstone symbol is most often exactly that: a Baha’i symbol often found on rings. But it is also frequently seen on necklaces, art and architecture — you will find it, for example, on the exterior of the Shrine of the Bab.
How should this symbol be used?
The same principles apply when recreating Miskin-Qalam’s design of the Greatest Name as when recreating Abdu’l-Baha’s calligraphy of the ringstone symbol: dignity and reverence. Putting either symbol on objects used in everyday life (such as dinner plates) is discouraged and when recreating them, we are encouraged to copy the designs as faithfully as possible. If you’d like to know more, we compiled guidance on this subject in our article “Using the Greatest Name”.
When a ring bears the ringstone symbol, how should it be worn?
Mr. Faizi writes:
One finds in the Islamic laws governing worship and reverence that whoever possesses a ring bearing the symbol of the Greatest Name must wear the ring on their right hand.
The friends are not obliged by Baha’u’llah to wear a ring carrying this emblem since there is no specific law by Baha’u’llah in the Aqdas or in His Tablets regarding this. The beloved Master told the friends in the West that the ring should be placed on the right hand, which is a perpetuation of the Islamic law referred to above. 1
Armed with this knowledge, I’m now better prepared to field my daughter’s questions and am much more in awe of this marvellous and mysterious symbol. I hope this article has answered any questions you may have had about this calligraphic symbol.
- “Explanation of the Symbol of the Greatest Name”, Abu’l-Qasim Faizi, Conqueror of Hearts, https://bahai-library.com/faizi_symbol_greatest_name
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