…these dawning places of His remembrance [Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs] represent the rising influence of the Faith of God in society.… From the earliest days following the revelation of this law, the friends in the Cradle of the Faith became aware of its significance and committed to its realization within the limited means that their circumstances allowed them. In time, not only did they become the principal force for the construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád, but within Iran too the practice of regular dawn prayers took root and inspired service to humankind, with the vision that the seed they were planting would in time flower into tangible reality, yielding its fruit not only in the construction of these centres of worship, but in the creation of dependencies for humanitarian service which that worship would inspire.
And so it was that, under the guiding hand of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a pattern of communal worship — the unity it engenders and the desire to be of service that it inspires — became an integral part of many a local Bahá’í community in Iran. In this regard, the Master’s vision provided for a variety of settings and circumstances in which the concept of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár could, in its embryonic form, be expressed. Consider His words in this regard:
As to the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, it is of the utmost importance.… It may assume any form, for even if it be an underground pit, that pit shall become a sheltering paradise, an exalted bower, and a garden of delight. It shall become a centre wherein the spirits are gladdened and the hearts attracted to the Abhá Kingdom.
Indeed, as your own experience demonstrates, a broad range of possibilities for the expression of this law and its organic unfoldment in a particular locality can be imagined.
In the Bahá’í writings, the term “Mashriqu’l-Adhkár” has variously been used to designate the gathering of the believers for prayers at dawn; a structure where the divine verses are recited; the entire institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and its dependencies; and the central edifice itself, often also referred to as a “Temple” or a “House of Worship”. All these can be regarded as aspects of the gradual implementation of the law set out for humankind by Bahá’u’lláh in His Most Holy Book.
The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is a unique concept in the annals of religion and symbolizes the teachings of the new Day of God. A collective centre of society to promote cordial affection, the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár stands as a universal place of worship open to all the inhabitants of a locality irrespective of their religious affiliation, background, ethnicity, or gender and a haven for the deepest contemplation on spiritual reality and foundational questions of life, including individual and collective responsibility for the betterment of society. Men and women, children and youth, are held in its embrace as equals. This singular and integral universality is captured in the very structure of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, whose design as a nine-sided edifice conveys a sense of completeness and perfection symbolized by that number.
As the place from which spiritual forces are to radiate, the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is the focal point for dependencies to be raised up for the well-being of humanity and is the expression of a common will and eagerness to serve. These dependencies — centres of education and scientific learning as well as cultural and humanitarian endeavor -- embody the ideals of social and spiritual progress to be achieved through the application of knowledge, and demonstrate how, when religion and science are in harmony, they elevate the station of the human being and lead to the flourishing of civilization. As your lives amply demonstrate, worship, though essential to the inner life of the human being and vital to spiritual development, must also lead to deeds that give outward expression to that inner transformation. This concept of worship — inseparable from service — is promulgated by the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár.
(The Universal House of Justice, from a message dated 18 December 2014 to the Baha’is in Iran)