The Concept of Holy and Sacred

By anonymous

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #83
Center for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 3–6, 2008
(see list of papers from #83)

    The concept that an object belonging to a Holy Person is also holy and sacred is a fascinating one. In this paper the concept or belief that a house, a piece of land, water and the like could be holy will be examined. The questions that must be answered in this regard can be listed as follows:
    1. Is there such a thing as a holy object or place?
    2. What does it mean for an object to be holy?
    3. How does an object or a house become holy? How does it change from an ordinary thing to a holy object?
    4. Is the holy object different physically from other objects? What are the properties of a holy object or place?
    5. Would a holy object or place bring blessings to a believer's life and cure physical ailments and protect the believer?
    Each of us have our own views based on what we have read or what makes sense to us; but we need to examine what the Bahá'í Faith teaches us on this subject. In this paper we are going to examine the Bahá'í Writings in search for answers to all these questions. Before starting on these questions we need to understand the meaning of the word "holy". It is defined in the dictionary as "exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness" and "having a divine quality"; but can dust, earth, ground or soil have divine qualities? Does it mean that a holy object is "worthy of complete devotion"?

    Another word that often appears in the Bahá'í Writing is "sacred". Sacred has been defined in the dictionary as something "worthy of religious veneration" or "highly valued and important". In the Kitáb-i-Iqán Bahá'u'lláh uses the word "sacred" to explain this concept. He says:

    "For instance, consider the pervading power of those drops of the blood of Husayn which besprinkled the earth. What ascendancy and influence hath the dust itself, through the sacredness and potency of that blood, exercised over the bodies and souls of men! So much so, that he who sought deliverance from his ills, was healed by touching the dust of that holy ground, and whosoever, wishing to protect his property, treasured with absolute faith and understanding, a little of that holy earth within his house, safeguarded all his possessions. These are the outward manifestations of its potency. And were We to recount its hidden virtues they would assuredly say: `He verily hath considered the dust to be the Lord of Lords, and hath utterly forsaken the Faith of God.'" (1)

    The following words of Shoghi Effendi regarding the construction of the mausoleum of the Báb also address this issue.

    "I cannot at this juncture overemphasize the sacredness of that holy dust embosomed in the heart of the Vineyard of God, or overrate the unimaginable potencies of this mighty institution founded sixty years ago, through the operation of the Will of, and the definite selection made by, the Founder of our Faith, on the occasion of His historic visit to that holy mountain, ..." (2)

    These quotations and many more will be reviewed in search of answers.

    1. Kitáb-i-Iqán, pp. 127 and 128, US Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1989, pocket-size edition.
    2. Citadel of Faith, pp. 94 and 95, Shoghi Effendi, US Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1980, third print.

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