Chapter Three:
Idol Worship

One of the important teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is the essential harmony of science and religion. The Beloved Master of the Bahá’í Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, states: "Religion must stand the analysis of reason. It must agree with scientific fact and proof so that science will sanction religion and religion fortify science. Both are indissolubly welded and joined in reality. If statements and teachings of religion are found to be unreasonable and contrary to science, they are outcomes of superstition and imagination. Innumerable doctrines and beliefs of this character have arisen in the past ages." 1

‘Abdu’l-Bahá illustrates His thoughts by referring to mythology. He says, "Consider the superstitions and mythology of the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians; all were contrary to religion and science. It is now evident that the beliefs of these nations were superstitions, but in those times they held to them most tenaciously. For example, one of the many Egyptian idols was to those people an authenticated miracle, whereas in reality it was a piece of stone. As science could not sanction the miraculous origin and nature of a piece of rock, the belief in it must have been superstition. It is now evident that it was superstition. Therefore, we must cast aside such beliefs and investigate reality." 2

The Holy Scriptures teach us that "practices such as the eating of food that has been offered in sacrifice unto idols must be stopped. We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one." 3
In the Bahá’í Writings, the word ‘idol’ is used to describe one’s false imaginings. People expect the idol of their handiwork will appear with such signs as they themselves have conceived!4 Bahá’u’lláh praises those who have "utterly abolished the idol of self and of vain imagination." 5 He blesses them "for having rent asunder the veil of idle fancy, through the power of the might of ... (their) Lord, the Supreme Protector, the Almighty, the one Beloved." 6 On the other hand, those who "…are the worshipers of the idol which their imaginations have carved, and who call it Inner Reality…are…accounted among the heathen." 7

It is a historical fact that idol worshippers have always imposed severe afflictions on the Prophets of God. What befell Lord Krishna or Jesus Christ is common knowledge. How severe were the afflictions that the leaders of the Jewish people, the idol-worshipers, had caused to rain upon Muhammad "…in consequence of His proclamation of the unity of God and of the truth of His Message!" 8 Though in doing so, they "…deprived themselves of the light of heavenly grace and of the showers of divine mercy" 9

Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us, "For how long will ye worship the idols of your evil passions? Forsake your vain imaginings, and turn yourselves unto God, your Everlasting Lord." 10 He tells us that only those persons believe in the Manifestation of God, who through the power of the Lord of Names, are able to shatter the idols of their vain imaginings and corrupt desires.11 The reason is that "a gentile or an idolater follows the religious footsteps of his father and ancestry". This "is absolute imitation." 12

According to the Bahá’í writings, "The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose alters governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshipping…" 13
In many countries, idol worship in this sense has led to a great commotion amongst peoples and communities and added to their misery. In India, different states have fallen a victim to narrow nationalism or separatism based on language or religion leading to militancy and violence. Many people lost their lives at the time of Babri Mosque demolition. This incident made world wide headlines. It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court of India, in its judgement on 24 October 199414, quoted from the Bahá’í statement on communal harmony.15 It stated that the Bahá’í Writings contain a neutral perception of the problem of communal harmony and offer solutions for its resolution. The leaders of the conflicting parties were told to resolve their dispute by consulting together.

Not only in India, but in all countries of the world where governments and peoples have been worshipping the idols of the triple gods of communism, nationalism and racism, the inhabitants are facing insurmountable difficulties.
Bahá’u’lláh gives a mighty call to the people of the world to become free from their vain imaginations and idle fancies. He says: "Arise, O people, and, by the power of God’s might, resolve to gain the victory over your own selves, that haply the whole earth may be freed and sanctified from its servitude to the gods of its idle fancies—gods that have inflicted such loss upon, and are responsible for the misery of, their wretched worshipers. These idols form the obstacle that impedeth man in his efforts to advance in the path of perfection." 16 And further: "Tear asunder, in My Name, the veils that have grievously blinded your vision, and, through the power born of your belief in the unity of God, scatter the idols of vain imitation." 17

In the context of idol worship, it is natural to think of temples. In the Bahá’í Holy Writings, the word temple is frequently used to denote the meaning of an outer shell that enshrines some sacred reality. The most striking is the use of this term to denote the human body. Bahá’u’lláh writes in Hidden Words, "O Son Of Man! The temple of being is My throne; cleanse it of all things, that there I may be established and there I may abide." 18 He advises, "Attire thy temple with the ornament of My Name, and thy tongue with remembrance of Me, and thine heart with love for Me, the Almighty, the Most High." 19 He further instructs his followers to adorn this temple with the ornaments of all divine virtues like justice, equity, righteousness, piety, God’s name, forgiveness, chastity, fidelity, truthfulness, sincerity, godliness, purity, etc.

Trustworthiness occupies a very special place in the list of divine virtues. It is equated with loyalty, faithfulness, uprightness, honesty and so forth. Bahá’u’lláh reveals poetically, "Be thou of the people of hell-fire, but be not a hypocrite. Be thou an unbeliever, but be not a plotter. Make thy home in taverns, but tread not the path of the mischief-maker. Fear thou God, but not the priest. Give to the executioner thy head, but not thy heart. Let thine abode be under the stone, but seek not the shelter of the cleric." 20 The purpose of Bahá’u’lláh in revealing these verses in His own words is to "…infuse life eternal into the mortal frames of men, (to) impart to the temples of dust the essence of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly Light, and (to) draw the transient world, through the potency of a single word, unto the Everlasting Kingdom." 21

Clearly the human body is the real temple of God. The Divine Being resides in the human heart. It is the seat of the All-Merciful Lord and the throne wherein abides the splendour of His revelation. It needs to be sanctified for His descent lest it should forget its Creator, stray from His path, shut out itself from His glory, and be stained with the defilement of earthly desires.

The importance of keeping the human heart pure and clean for the descent of God cannot be over-emphasized. God has Himself revealed in the Scriptures: "Earth and heaven cannot contain Me; what can alone contain Me is the heart of him that believeth in Me, and is faithful to My Cause." 22 However, very often the human heart, which is the recipient of the light of God and the seat of the revelation of the All-Merciful, does move away from Him Who is the Source of that light and the Well-Spring of that revelation. This waywardness of the human heart removes it far from God, and condemns it to remoteness from Him.

Bahá’u’lláh states that man may become forgetful of his own self, but God remains, through His all-encompassing knowledge, aware of His creature, and continues to shed upon him the manifest radiance of His glory. "It is evident, therefore, that, in such circumstances, He is closer to him than his own self. He will, indeed, so remain for ever, for, whereas the one true God knoweth all things, perceiveth all things, and comprehendeth all things, mortal man is prone to err, and is ignorant of the mysteries that lie enfolded within him…." 23

God is indeed nearer to us than our life vein. His love for His creatures is immense. It is we who need to make efforts to realize His love. The first counsel that God gives to man is to "possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting." 24 Clearly, the human heart and his spirit are God’s place of revelation; these should be cleansed for His manifestation.25 This is the essence of all true worship. There is no need to worship any idols.



          1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, Wilmette, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, pp. 175-6.

2. ibid., p. 176.

3. Based on: Bible, King James version (KJB), 1 Corinthians 8:4. "As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one."

4. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 20.

5. ibid., p. 291.

6. ibid.

7. ibid., p. 338.

8. ibid., p. 57

9. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), translated by Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1950, p. 117.

10. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa, 1992, p. 34.

11. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 12.

12. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 327.

13. Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1980, p. 113.

14. Supreme Court of India, Civil Original Jurisdiction Transferred Case (C) Numbers 41, 43 and 45 of 1993, Writ Petition (Civil) Number 20B of 1993, Transferred Case (C) Number 42 of 1993, Writ Petition (C) Number 186 of 1994. "A neutral perception of the requirement for communal harmony is to be found in the Bahá’í Faith in the booklet, ‘Communal Harmony—India’s Greatest Challenge’…."

15. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India, Communal Harmony—India’s Greatest Challenge, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi. Some excerpts included in the judgement of the Supreme Court are: "The spirit of tolerance and assimilation are the hallmarks of this civilization. Never has the question of communal harmony and social integration raised such a wide range of emotions as today…. Lasting harmony between heterogeneous communities can only come through recognition of the oneness of mankind, a realization that differences that divide us along ethnic and religious lines have no foundation. Just as there are no boundaries drawn on the earth to separate nations, distinctions of social, economic, ethnic and religious identity imposed by peoples are artificial; they have only benefited those with vested interests."

16. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 93.

17. ibid., p. 143.

18. Bahá’u’lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, (translated by Shoghi Effendi), No. 58, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1973, p. 58-62.

19. Bahá’u’lláh, Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 18-19.

20. Trustworthiness (A Cardinal Baha’i Virtue), compiled by The Research Department of The Universal House of Justice, Baha’i Publishing Trust, P.O.Box 19, New Delhi-110001, 1987, pp. 21-22.

21. ibid.

22. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 186.

23. ibid., p. 186.

24. Bahá’u’lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, p. 1.

25. ibid., pp. 58-62. No. 59. ["O SON OF BEING! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation." Bahá’u’lláh.]