Compilation of Extracts from the Bahá’í Writings on Music


From Letters Written on Behalf of Shoghi Effendi

With regard to singing some of the hymns written by Mrs. ..., he thinks that it would be a splendid idea and when Mrs. Lua Getsinger was living with the Master’s family, she often sang them and tried to teach them to the small children in the family.

(22 March 1928 to an individual believer) [16]

He thinks that it would especially be beautiful to see little children singing them in groups....

(22 March 1928 to an individual believer) [17]

The Guardian values the hymns that you are so beautifully composing. They certainly contain the realities of the Faith, and will indeed help you to give the Message to the young ones. It is the music which assists us to affect the human spirit; it is an important means which helps us to communicate with the soul. The Guardian hopes that through this assistance you will give the Message to the people, and will attract their hearts.

(15 November 1932 to an individual believer, cited in Bahá’í News, no. 71, February 1933), p. 2) [18]

In regard to the main question you have raised in connection with the singing of hymns at Bahá’í meetings: He wishes me to assure you that he sees no objection to it whatsoever. The element of music is, no doubt, an important feature of all Bahá’í gatherings. The Master Himself has emphasized its importance. But the friends should in this, as well as in all other things, not pass beyond the limits of moderation, and should take great care to maintain the strict spiritual character of all their gatherings. Music should lead to spirituality, and provided it creates such an atmosphere there can be no objection against it.

A distinction of vital importance should, however, be clearly established between the singing of hymns composed by the believers and the chanting of the Holy Utterances.

(17 March 1935 to an individual believer) [19]

With regard to your question concerning the use of music in the Nineteen Day Feasts, he wishes you to assure all the friends that he not only approves of such a practice, but thinks it even advisable that the believers should make use, in their meetings, of hymns composed by Bahá’ís themselves, and also of such hymns, poems and chants as are based on the Holy Words.

(7 April 1935 to an individual believer) [20]

Although now is only the very beginning of Bahá’í art, yet the friends who feel they are gifted in such matters should endeavour to develop and cultivate their gifts and through their works to reflect, however inadequately, the Divine Spirit which Bahá’u’lláh has breathed into the world.

(4 November 1937 to an individual believer) [21]

Music, as one of the arts, is a natural cultural development, and the Guardian does not feel that there should be any cultivation of “Bahá’í Music” any more than we are trying to develop a Bahá’í school of painting or writing. The believers are free to paint, write and compose as their talents guide them. If music is written, incorporating the sacred writings, the friends are free to make use of it, but it should never be considered a requirement at Bahá’í meetings to have such music. The further away the friends keep from any set forms, the better, for they must realize that the Cause is absolutely universal, and what might seem a beautiful addition to their mode of celebrating a Feast, etc., would perhaps fall on the ears of people of another country as unpleasant sounds—and vice versa. As long as they have music for its own sake it is all right, but they should not consider it Bahá’í music.

(20 July 1946 to a National Spiritual Assembly) [22]

Instrumental music may be used at the Bahá’í Feasts.

(20 August 1956 to an individual believer) [23]

As regards producing a book of Bahá’í songs, your understanding that there is no cultural expression which could be called Bahá’í at this time (distinctive music, literature, art, architecture, etc., being the flower of the civilization and not coming at the beginning of a new Revelation), is correct. However, that does not mean that we haven’t Bahá’í songs, in other words, songs written by Bahá’ís on Bahá’í subjects....

(21 September 1957 to a National Spiritual Assembly) [24]

You should try and work out the questions about songs with the Reviewing Committee or the National Spiritual Assembly. A Bahá’í can write songs, mentioning the Faith. This is not “Bahá’í Music”, but music in which the Faith is mentioned. This is probably what the National Spiritual Assembly meant.

(24 October 1957 to an individual believer) [25]

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