Why do Baha’i Houses of Worship (Temples) have 9 sides?
Baha’i House of Worship in Vanuatu
One number that keeps coming up in the Baha’i Faith is clearly the number 9. The preference of Bahá’ís for the number “9” is primarily due to its representation of the name of Bahá’u’lláh. Their use of the number nine is not driven by any superstitious beliefs related to numerology. Regarding such ideas, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
“Such suppositions regarding lucky or unlucky numbers are purely imaginary.”
The number nine holds significance in the Baha’i Faith due to its association with the Arabic word ‘Baha,’ which means ‘glory’ or ‘splendor.’ In the Abjad numerical system, where each letter of the Arabic alphabet has a numerical value, the word ‘Baha’ has a value of nine.
During the 1800s, it was a prevalent practice among the educated groups in the Middle East to use Arabic letters and words as numerical representations or to signify dates or times. Conversely, numbers were also used to imply or represent words. In the scriptures of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, one can find numerous examples of such substitutions.
The number nine is considered the highest single-digit number, symbolizing completeness and fulfillment. In the Baha’i Faith, it represents unity, perfection, and the ultimate achievement of a spiritual journey. This is because nine is seen as the culmination of a cycle of single digits, which begins with one (symbolizing the beginning or the ‘first’) and ends with nine (symbolizing the ‘last’ or ‘completion’).
It is for these reasons that the number 9 is repeated within many aspects of Baha’i life. The significance of the number nine is reflected in the Baha’i administrative structure. The Baha’i community is governed by a system of elected councils at the local, national, and international levels. Each of these councils, known as Spiritual Assemblies, is composed of nine members.
The Baha’i Faith also recognizes nine holy days throughout the year, on which work is suspended. These days commemorate significant events in the lives of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, including the Birth of the Bab, the Birth of Baha’u’llah, and the Declaration of the Bab, among others.
The Baha’i House of Worship, also known as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (Dawning Place of the Mention of God), is another place where the number nine holds significance. Each House of Worship has nine sides and nine entrances, symbolizing the unity of all people and religions, a central tenet of the Baha’i Faith. The nine entrances are a physical representation of the Baha’i belief in the unity of humanity, welcoming people from all directions, all walks of life, and all religious backgrounds.
In conclusion, when Bahá’ís are required to select a number for an arbitrary purpose, they often lean towards nine for two main reasons. Firstly, the numerical value of Bahá’, the title of the founder of their faith, is nine. Secondly, as the highest single-digit number, “9” symbolizes the inclusiveness and culmination represented by Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation in this significant Day of Fulfillment. However, apart from these reasons, Bahá’ís do not believe that the number “9” holds any inherent mystical or special significance.