- Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
Meditation and all things meditative are really close to my heart so I wanted to learn more about the invocation “Allah-u-Abha” which Baha’is say 95 times a day. In this article, I’d like to share some of my thoughts based on what I’ve read in the Baha’i Writings on what “Allah-u-Abha” means, why this meditative practice is carried out every day, why it involves repetition, when it’s said, and why it’s repeated 95 times as opposed to any other number.
1. What does “Allah-u-Abha” mean?
There’s an excellent explanation in the notes and codifications of the The Kitab-i-Aqdas where it explains that,
‘Allah-u-Abha’ is an Arabic phrase meaning ‘God the All-Glorious.’ It is a form of the Greatest Name of God. In Islam there is a tradition that among the many names of God, one was the greatest; however, the identity of this Greatest Name was hidden. Baha’u’llah has confirmed that the Greatest Name is ‘Baha.’
The various derivatives of the word ‘Baha’ are also regarded as the Greatest Name. Shoghi Effendi’s secretary writing on his behalf explains that
The Greatest Name is the Name of Baha’u’llah. ‘Ya Baha’u’l-Abha’ is an invocation meaning: ‘O Thou Glory of Glories!’ ‘Allah-u-Abha’ is a greeting which means: ‘God the All-Glorious.’ Both refer to Baha’u’llah. By Greatest Name is meant that Baha’u’llah has appeared in God’s Greatest Name, in other words, that He is the supreme Manifestation of God.Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas
According to The Kitab-i-Aqdas, the phrase “Allah-u-Abha” is to be repeated 95 times every day. Baha’u’llah writes:
It hath been ordained that every believer in God, the Lord of Judgment, shall, each day, having washed his hands and then his face, seat himself and, turning unto God, repeat ‘Allah-u-Abha’ ninety-five times.Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas
In the notes that I quoted above, it mentions how “Allah-u-Abha” can be a greeting but what I’d love to explore is how it is used as a repeated invocation.
2. Why is “Allah-u-Abha” repeated each day?
In a letter dated 19 October 1925 Shoghi Effendi explains,
When we turn to God with our whole heart and invoke His Name, a spiritual connection is established through which we become a channel of divine influence.Shoghi Effendi, letter dated 19 October 1925
The Universal House of Justice, in a letter to an individual, also states:
As a devoted believer in Baha’u’llah, you have the privilege of using the Greatest Name and the revealed prayers to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit, which is your shield and your protection through any difficulties and which will bring reassurance and serenity to your heart.The Universal House of Justice
In addition to these answers, I’d like to share a few personal thoughts, even though they are only my own. I think that any daily action or merciful Divine Law is given to us to protect and ensure our increase as individual vessels or receptacles capable of receiving the grace of God, day by day, and partaking of our share of His Mercies. I really love these quotations by Abdu’l-Baha related to this theme:
Although the reality of Divinity is sanctified and boundless, the aims and needs of the creatures are restricted. God’s grace is like the rain that cometh down from heaven: the water is not bounded by the limitations of form, yet on whatever place it poureth down, it taketh on limitations—dimensions, appearance, shape—according to the characteristics of that place. In a square pool, the water, previously unconfined, becometh a square; in a six-sided pool it becometh a hexagon, in an eight-sided pool an octagon, and so forth. The rain itself hath no geometry, no limits, no form, but it taketh on one form or another, according to the restrictions of its vessel. In the same way, the Holy Essence of the Lord God is boundless, immeasurable, but His graces and splendors become finite in the creatures.Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace
The bounties of the Blessed Perfection are infinite. We must endeavor to increase our capacity daily, to strengthen and enlarge our capabilities for receiving them, to become as perfect mirrors. The more polished and clean the mirror, the more effulgent is its reflection of the lights of the Sun of Truth….Day by day become more closely attracted in order that the love of God may illumine all those with whom you come in contact.Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace
3. Why is the invocation repeated and when should it be said?
In Wisdom of the Master: The Spiritual Teachings of Abdu’l-Baha, Steven Scholl writes:
Abdu’l-Baha teaches how the practice of invocation or repetition of ‘The Greatest Name’ (Allah-u-Abha, God is Most Glorious) leads to union with God, illumination and spiritual rebirth. The use of invocation is well developed among the mystics of Islam, the Sufis. The repetition of sacred phrases is called dhikr (pronounced zikr, meaning remembrance). This spiritual practice of invocation is praised by Abdu’l-Baha. He encourages spiritual seekers to ‘recite the Greatest Name at every morn, and (to) turn…unto the kingdom of Abha, until though [sic] mayest apprehend the mysteries.’
Through the invocation of the Greatest Name, Abdu’l-Baha maintains that ‘the doors of the kingdom of God open, illumination is vouchsafed and divine union results…The use of the Greatest Name, and dependence upon it, causes the soul to strip itself of the husks of mortality and to step forth freed, reborn, a new creature.’Wisdom of the Master: The Spiritual Teachings of Abdu’l-Baha, ed Steven Schol
Repeating “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times can increase our capacity to focus. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
One cannot obtain the full force of the sunlight when it is cast on a flat mirror, but once the sun shineth upon a concave mirror, or on a lens that is convex, all its heat will be concentrated on a single point, and that one point will burn the hottest. Thus is it necessary to focus one’s thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force.Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
He also says:
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.Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance
Based on the Baha’i Writings mentioned above, I believe that “Allah-u-Abha” can be said at any time, whether repeated 95 times, or as a spontaneous single invocation, or as a greeting, for protection, in praise of God, or for comfort. I prefer to say “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times before anything that requires focus, such as saying general prayers, before entering meditation or saying the Long Obligatory Prayer in particular, as they all require clarity of mind, purity of heart and a certain degree of uninterrupted and attentive focus that saying “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times beforehand can help facilitate and lay the foundation for.
4. Why is “Allah-u-Abha” repeated 95 times?
Nader Saiedi explains in his book Gate of the Heart, that the significance of the number 95 originates from the Persian Bayan, the Holy book of the Bab. The Bab, Himself states that 95 stands for the numerical value of “for God” (lillāh), which symbolizes the recognition of the Manifestation of God and obedience to His laws, which are inseparable from each other, as confirmed by Baha’u’llah in the opening paragraph of The Kitab-i-Aqdas:
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behooveth everyone who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable.Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas
Saying “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times only became a law applicable to Baha’is all over the world in 1999. Prior to that, I found an instance where the Universal House of Justice encouraged the repetition of “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times a day as a possible form of meditation. 1 I shared some thoughts on meditation in this blog post but I believe that saying “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times is not only conductive to gathering focus in order to meditate, but that it can also be a form of meditation itself.
These are just a few things I have learned about repeating “Allah-u-Abha” 95 times each day. I have also been exploring my connection to this meditative practice as part of the Bicentenary Meditation project, a contribution to the world-wide celebrations of the bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, and you’re welcome to explore them in more detail here.
- The Universal House of Justice letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Norway dated 1 September 1983
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