“Lyrics used in songs being performed in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár need not be confined to the Writings; rather, what is required is that they be based upon Bahá'í or other sacred writings and contain Bahá'í themes. It should be noted that the standard for lyrics used in songs performed is somewhat different from the standard for Writings and prayers to be read or chanted in devotional programmes in Houses of Worship. There is therefore no objection to the use of songs based on the Writings and talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” [From a letter dated 2 November 2015 letter from the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia]
In addition to the above guidance about lyrics, there is also the provision that only the human voice may be used in the House of Worship. No instruments may be used, nor is recorded music used. Songs may be performed by soloists or by groups, i.e. choirs.
There is some great Bahá’í choral music that can’t be performed in a House of Worship, such as songs that are not based on scripture, and songs set for choir and instruments, whether orchestra, piano, guitar, or something else.
But Temple songs hold a special place in my heart, and I don’t think that obsession is entirely misplaced, because I think it will become increasingly important. Just two years ago, there were only seven Bahá’í Houses of Worship in the world. Currently, there are ten and there will be at least three more in the near future. There is no doubt that this is only the start of a growing movement to have Temples at every level – continental, national, and local – all around the globe.
All of these Temples will need music! 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed His hope that “… the melodies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár may rise at dawntide to the Concourse on high, and the songs of the nightingales of God may bring joy and ecstasy to the denizens of the All-Glorious Realm”. He remarked on, “… how abundant shall be the freshness, tenderness, spirituality, and radiance that are attained when ye assemble in that gathering place of the spirit, occupy yourselves at dawn with the remembrance of God, and, after reciting prayers, make mention together of the Most Bountiful Lord in sweet melodies.”
In its 2012 Ridván message, the Universal House of Justice talked about “two essential, inseparable aspects of Bahá’í life: worship and service” and they went on to say that it was in localities where the correlation of these two is “especially pronounced” that “the emergence of a local Mashriqu’l-Adhkár can be contemplated”. Any community wanting to have a local Mashriqu’l-Adhkár should concentrate on creating a culture where worship and service are interwoven through all of their activities, which is basically to work on progressing the frontiers of the framework of the Plans.
When we get there, we’ll want to have lots of songs to sing. So, we’re already in the process of collecting songs that would be suitable. And we also encourage composers to add more and more songs to this collection. Every locality will have the exciting prospect of creating their own music that can be sung in their local Temple. But the songs that we can create and collect now will give them some songs to start with and hopefully some good models to build on as they create their own repertoire.