Bahá'í in Sign Language:
A Proposal

by Stephen Bedingfield

Disclaimer: There are no prescribed sign language words for Bahá'í and related terms, such as Bahá'í Faith and Bahá'í (as a person).  The development of these words will likely occur naturally within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community itself as its vocabulary continues to extend through use.  What follows is a proposal for an universal, unique sign for Bahá'í, which is offered as a gift to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Bahá'í in Sign Language

Shown to the right is the sign for Bahá'í developed in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada in the late 1980's. With the utmost respect for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, this sign is freely shared with the hope that it may prove of value.

This sign for Bahá'í:

  • is based on an uniquely Bahá'í symbol known as the Bahá'í Ringstone Symbol (see below), which was designed by Abdu'l-Bahá, Head of the Bahá'í Faith from 1892 to His passing in 1921;

  • is not composed of letters from English or other alphabets (although it may be said to resemble the Arabic letters of which the Ringstone Symbol is composed);

  • the left hand is a signed "one" turned towards the signer and suggests unity, a fundamental Bahá'í principle;

Usage of the Sign for Bahá'í

The sign used as shown represents the proper noun Bahá (glory, splendor), the name given to the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, and known as Bahá'u'lláh (Glory of God).

The sign also represents the adjectival form, Bahá'í, and it combines with other signs, for example:

     Bahá'í sign + book sign = Bahá'í book
     Bahá'í sign + person marker = Bahá'í (person)
     Bahá'í sign + religion sign = Bahá'í Faith

However, the sign for Bahá may be used by itself to refer to a member of the Bahá'í Faith or to the faith itself.

When the sign for Bahá from chest height is moved smoothly upwards, it refers to the superlative Abhá (Most Glorious), which may be combined with other signs to give Bahá'í terms (e.g. Abhá Kingdom, the afterlife), and invocations like Alláh'u'Abhá (God is Most Glorious) and Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá (O Glory of the All-Glorious).

When the sign for Bahá is placed in a position superior to the eyes, it signifies Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith.


The Ringstone Symbol

     Pictured to the right is the Bahá'í ringstone symbol.  This unique symbol was designed by Abdu'l-Bahá and used on Bahá'í rings.  Bahá'ís are not obliged to wear a ring carrying this emblem, as there is no specific law of Bahá'u'lláh's requiring it.  However, Abdu'l-Bahá told the friends in the West that the ring should be placed on the right hand, which is a perpetuation of an Islamic law.

     The symbol has two elements: the design itself and the letters it contains. As to the design, the three horizontal strokes represent, from the top, the world of God, the Creator; the world of the Manifestation, the Cause or Command; and the world of man, the creation. The vertical line is a repeat of the second horizontal line, the world of the Manifestation, thus joining the world of the Creator to that of His creation. The two stars represent the human body, as well as the two Manifestations, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, for this day.

     As to the letters of the symbol, these are 'b' and 'h'.  'B' stands for the name Bahá and 'h' for the name Báb.(1)


Bahá'í Ringstone Symbol
upon which the sign for Bahá'í is based.

1.  Momen, Wendi. A Basic Bahá'í Dictionary. Oxford: George Ronald, 1989.

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