The Universal House of Justice has today released the highly-anticipated design concept for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha to all National Spiritual Assemblies.
For Baha’is, ‘Abdu’l-Baha occupies a station without parallel in the religious annals of humankind. In a letter today, the House of Justice states that the structure envisaged in the design seeks “to honor ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s unique position” and “to reflect at once His lofty station and His humility”.
“This should be unlike any other building,” explains Hossein Amanat, who has been selected as the architect for this historic initiative. “It seeks to manifest ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s selflessness, wisdom, openness, acceptance, and kindness towards all people, to embody His love for gardens and nature, and to reflect His progressive and forward-looking approach.”
As well as a selection of images illustrating the design concept, a video has been released that allows the viewer to see both the central structure and its surroundings.
“‘Abdu’l-Baha had expressed His wish regarding where He should be buried,” explains Mr. Amanat, a distinguished Iranian-Canadian architect. “He had said to an early believer that if something should happen to Him and He should pass away, ‘Abdu’l-Baha wanted to be buried under the sands between Haifa and Akka, which He described as the pathway trodden by the loved ones and the pilgrims.”
In a prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, recited by visitors to His resting place, He expresses this supplication to God: “Make me as dust in the pathway of Thy loved ones.” This idea in the prayer is one of the organizing principles of the design.
“Considering the essence of these words and referring to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s attributes, one is hesitant to design an imposing structure for His resting place. His wishes must be taken into consideration,” Mr. Amanat says, “but not to such a literal extent that His station is not revered and recognized. His resting place must be new and unique, and not like any other building.”
Visitors will walk on a path designed to facilitate stages on a meditative journey toward the Shrine at the central point of the garden.
“The interior of the Shrine is envisioned to be a place of diffused light and quiet contemplation. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s resting spot is placed at the center of this serene space, and a sunburst pattern emanating from His resting place will embrace the whole garden, symbolizing the radiance that ‘Abdu’l-Baha brought to the people of the world,” says Mr. Amanat.
“Abdu’l-Baha was a modern Man,” he continues. “He was a harbinger of the new—His words were new, the Teachings of His Father that He promulgated were new, and He called humanity to a new set of relationships. This building seeks to reflect that.”
The video is also available on YouTube.
This story originally appeared on the Baha'i World News Service.