Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Baha'i View of the Fear of God

In His Book "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," Baha'u'llah writes:
In the treasuries of the knowledge of God there lieth concealed a knowledge which, when applied, will largely, though not wholly, eliminate fear. This knowledge, however, should be taught from childhood, as it will greatly aid in its elimination. Whatever decreaseth fear increaseth courage. Should the Will of God assist Us, there would flow out from the Pen of the Divine Expounder a lengthy exposition of that which hath been mentioned, and there would be revealed, in the field of arts and sciences, what would renew the world and the nations. A word hath, likewise, been written down and recorded by the Pen of the Most High in the Crimson Book which is capable of fully disclosing that force which is hid in men, nay of redoubling its potency. We implore God—exalted and glorified be He—to graciously assist His servants to do that which is pleasing and acceptable unto Him.
So important is this trait, the fear of God, that in His Will and Testament, when Abdu'l-Baha sets forth the requirements for the Guardian of the Faith, for the members of the Universal House of Justice, and for the Hands of the Cause of God - among these requirements is that they must possess the fear of God. (Pages 12, 13 and 14)

Abdu'l-Baha also writes that mothers must teach their children the fear of God:

"Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved . . . "
Perhaps teaching the fear of God from childhood, is what Baha'u'llah says will remove fear. Shoghi Effendi clarified:

"In explaining the fear of God to children, there is no objection to teaching it as 'Abdu'l-Bahá so often taught everything, in the form of parables. Also the child should be made to understand that we don't fear God because He is cruel, but we fear Him because He is just, and, if we do wrong and deserve to be punished, then in His justice He may see fit to punish us. We must both love God and fear Him." (From a letter dated 15 February 1957 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi; from the Compilation on Child Education)
Now, as to that specific verse from the Supreme Pen quoted at the top of this posting, Shoghi Effendi wrote two letters through his secretary stating that we do not know for sure what Baha'u'llah was referring to: "Unfortunately it would seem that the knowledge 'which could largely eliminate fear' has not been disclosed or identified by Bahá'u'lláh; so we do not know what it is'. (From a letter dated 5 January 1948, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 249) "You have asked the exact meaning of the term 'Fear of God' mentioned in Bahá'í Sacred Writings; it often means awe, but has also other connotations such as reverence, terror and fear. "We have no way of knowing what science Bahá'u'lláh meant when He said it would largely eliminate fear; as no further mention of it was ever made in the teachings, the Guardian cannot identify anything with this statement. To do so would depart from his function as interpreter of the teachings; he cannot reveal anything apart from the given teachings." (Lights of Guidance, p. 236 # 789)

So the first letter from him says that this knowledge was either not disclosed, or was disclosed but not identified - so he could not tell us what the Manifestation was referring to. So we do not know if this knowledge is among His Writings, but unidentified; or if it remains hidden in His knowledge for a future Manifestation to reveal. It is interesting to me that the Master says to teach the fear of God to the children; maybe that means that this is the knowledge Baha'u'llah says should be "taught from childhood." But we cannot know for sure; and maybe Baha'u'llah is referring to something entirely new and unknown to us.

Looking at Badi's face, in both of the pictures of him with his executioners, 1, 2, he shows no fear whatsoever. In the first of those pictures he almost looks careless of the fact that the men surrounding him are about to inflict upon him unbelievable tortures. And Baha'u'llah spoke of the time he spent with Badi, preparing him, "We took a handful of dust; mixed it with the waters of might and power, and breathed into it the spirit of assurance." I have always wondered if Baha'u'llah gave Badi certain knowledge that freed him from this world, freed him from concern over pain - and if this might be that hidden knowledge He refers to in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf - knowledge still unknown and unrevealed to the rest of us.

On the other hand, the Writings do say that if a person fears God, He will fear nothing else. Baha'u'llah wrote to the kings of the earth in the Suriy-i-Muluk:

Know ye that I am afraid of none except God. In none but Him have I placed My trust; to none will I cleave but Him, and wish for naught except the thing He hath wished for Me. This, indeed, is My heart's desire, did ye but know it. I have offered up My soul and My body as a sacrifice for God, the Lord of all worlds. Whoso hath known God shall know none but Him, and he that feareth God shall be afraid of no one except Him, though the powers of the whole earth rise up and be arrayed against him.
So, maybe, on the other hand, He did reveal this knowledge to all of us, and it is the fear of God which eliminates fear. He wrote, in the Tablet of Four Valleys, quoting an Arabic saying:

"Verily, the wayfarer who journeyeth unto God, unto the Crimson Pillar in the snow-white path, will never reach unto his heavenly goal unless he abandoneth all that men possess: 'And if he feareth not God, God will make him to fear all things; whereas all things fear him who feareth God.'"
In one of my favorite of Baha'u'llah's prayers, He refers to God as the One Who "changeth fear into calm:"

I give praise to Thee, O my God, that Thou hast awakened me out of my sleep, and brought me forth after my disappearance, and raised me up from my slumber. I have wakened this morning with my face set toward the splendors of the Day-Star of Thy Revelation, through Which the heavens of Thy power and Thy majesty have been illumined, acknowledging Thy signs, believing in Thy Book, and holding fast unto Thy Cord.

I beseech Thee, by the potency of Thy will and the compelling power of Thy purpose, to make of what Thou didst reveal unto me in my sleep the surest foundation for the mansions of Thy love that are within the hearts of Thy loved ones, and the best instrument for the revelation of the tokens of Thy grace and Thy loving-kindness.
Do Thou ordain for me through Thy most exalted Pen, O my Lord, the good of this world and of the next. I testify that within Thy grasp are held the reins of all things. Thou changest them as Thou pleasest. No God is there save Thee, the Strong, the Faithful.

Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent.

Thou disappointest no one who hath sought Thee, nor dost Thou keep back from Thee any one who hath desired Thee. Ordain Thou for me what becometh the heaven of Thy generosity, and the ocean of Thy bounty. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rejoicing in Gods Will

Recently I received permission from Mr. Ali Nakhjavani to post this statement he made:

"Although what you expected did not materialize, we are assured in our Writings that we do not know what 'profiteth' us and what 'harmeth' us. It seems to me that God is interested to see what our reaction will be to setbacks and reverses.
    "He loves us and would not like us to complain and groan. The rock bottom minimum of winning some of His good-pleasure is for us to submit and surrender.  A higher degree would be for us to be contented and radiantly acquiescent, and yet a still higher state is for us to offer him our praise and gratitude.
      "Do we stop there?  No!  Our Teachings tell us that there is yet another higher state.  We have to compose ourselves, look into our lives, discover and count our blessings, and realize that we have been already granted gifts far beyond our deserts.  We then wholeheartedly, in the words of the Long Obligatory Prayer, and as we stand shame-facedly in His presence, we cry out: 'I blush to lift up my face to Thee, and my longing hands are ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven of Thy bounty.'” 

I think Mr. Nakhjavani's observations on the ways of life are profound.  

Following are some Baha'i prayers containing the phrases Mr. Nakhjavani mentions.

O God, my God! My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me. Whenever I ponder my evil doings and Thy benevolence, my heart melteth within me, and my blood boileth in my veins. By Thy Beauty, O Thou the Desire of the world! I blush to lift up my face to Thee, and my longing hands are ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven of Thy bounty. Thou seest, O my God, how my tears prevent me from remembering Thee and from extolling Thy virtues, O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen!
(Baha'u'llah, The Long Obligatory Prayer, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 322)

I bear witness at this moment, O my God, to my helplessness and Thy sovereignty, my feebleness and Thy power. I know not that which profiteth me or harmeth me; Thou art, verily, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
(From a prayer by Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, p. 143)

I am but a wretched creature, O my Lord, and Thou art the All-Possessing, the Most High; and I am all weakness, and Thou art the Almighty, and the Supreme Ordainer in both the beginning and the end. Withhold not from me the fragrances of Thy Revelation, and shatter not my hopes in the outpourings which have been sent down out of the heaven of Thy gifts. Ordain Thou for me, O my God, the good of this world and the world to come, and grant me what will profit me in every world of Thy worlds, for I know not what will help or harm me. Thou, in truth, art the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 256)

This also reminds me of Baha'u'llah's verse,

O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 329)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Homosexuality, The Baha'i Faith, and Science

This posting is in response to a friend's question.
You have pointed out that the Baha’i Faith teaches that science and religion agree, and that science today has said that homosexuality is normal – how can the Faith forbid it?
Let’s look at what the Master actually said.  Abdu’l-Baha said that if science and religion are not in agreement, either science is not yet “true science,” or the religious teaching is “superstition”:

“The third principle or teaching of Bahá'u'lláh is the oneness of religion and science. Any religious belief which is not conformable with scientific proof and investigation is superstition, for true science is reason and reality, and religion is essentially reality and pure reason; therefore, the two must correspond. Religious teaching which is at variance with science and reason is human invention and imagination unworthy of acceptance, for the antithesis and opposite of knowledge is superstition born of the ignorance of man. If we say religion is opposed to science, we lack knowledge of either true science or true religion, for both are founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason, and both must bear its test.” (Abdu'l-Baha, 7 May 1912, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 107)

And yet one of the laws of our Faith – the prohibition, in the Most Holy Book, of homosexual acts and same-sex marriage - appears to be in conflict with the science of today.  But Abdu’l-Baha never says that the words revealed by the Manifestations of God must be superstition if they don’t agree with science. He says that “religious beliefs”which are outcomes of people’s “imagination” and conflict with science are superstitious. For example:

“Among other principles of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings was the harmony of science and religion. Religion must stand the analysis of reason. It must agree with scientific fact and proof so that science will sanction religion and religion fortify science. Both are indissolubly welded and joined in reality. If statements and teachings of religion are found to be unreasonable and contrary to science, they are outcomes of superstition and imagination. Innumerable  doctrines and beliefs of this character have arisen in the past ages. Consider the superstitions and mythology of the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians; all were contrary to religion and science. It is now evident that the beliefs of these nations were superstitions, but in those times they held to them most tenaciously. For example, one of the many Egyptian idols was to those people an authenticated miracle, whereas in reality it was a piece of stone. As science could not sanction the miraculous origin and nature of a piece of rock, the belief in it must have been superstition. It is now evident that it was superstition.” (Abdu'l-Baha, 9 June 1912, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 175)

So the first point is that it is my view that Abdu’l-Baha never intended that any teaching of Baha’u’llah would ever, ever, be declared to be superstition.  The whole ministry of the Master and the Guardian upholds every verse from Baha’u’llah.  Can you ever imagine the Master or the Guardian or the House saying “This divine verse in such-and-such a tablet is imagination, and we are declaring these words of Baha’u’llah to be false.”  Of course, such a thing never has, and never will happen.
When there is a conflict between Baha’u’llah and a scientific authority, here is how the Guardian resolves it. The subject is transmutation of elements. Baha’u’llah states that every element can be transmuted into Gold – a physical symbol in the outer world, of the spiritual transformation of humanity:

"Considering that a century ago, nobody knew the nature of matter, and couldn't split any kind of atom, it should not surprise the scientist that 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that copper can be transmuted into gold. There may come a time, for all we know, when the mass of many atoms can be changed by scientists. We have no way of proving, or disproving at present the statement of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Just because we cannot demonstrate a contention in the Bahá'í Teachings, does not mean the contention is not true. The same holds true of the statement of Bahá'u'lláh in the Íqán, regarding transmutation of copper into gold after seventy years, under certain conditions. We as Bahá'ís must assume that, as He had access to all knowledge, He was referring to a definite physical condition which theoretically might exist. Because we don't know what this condition is in scientific terms, does not refute Bahá'u'lláh's statement at all. . . The principle of Faith is to accept anything the Manifestation of God says, once you have accepted Him as being the Manifestation. That is really the crux of the whole matter. It is a question of confidence." (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 14, 1955, Lights of Guidance, p. 478, #1580)

When people’s beliefs are in conflict with science, their beliefs must give way to science.
When the Manifestation of God’s statements conflict with science, science must give way to the Revelation.
Here is another example.  Abdu’l-Baha gives the example of a statement in the Revelation which took a thousand years for science to recognize:

“…Muhammad appeared in the desert of Hijaz in the Arabian Peninsula, which was a desolate, sterile wilderness, sandy and uninhabited. Some parts, like Mecca and Medina, are extremely hot; the people are nomads with the manners and customs of the dwellers in the desert, and are entirely destitute of education and science.  .  .  In such a country, and amidst such barbarous tribes, an illiterate Man produced a book in which, in a perfect and eloquent style, He explained the divine attributes and  perfections, the prophethood of the Messengers of God, the divine laws, and some scientific facts.
         “Thus, you know that before the observations of modern times -- that is to say, during the first centuries and down to the fifteenth century of the Christian era -- all the mathematicians of the world agreed that the earth was the center of the universe, and that the sun moved. The famous astronomer who was the protagonist of the new theory discovered the movement of the earth and the immobility of the sun.[Copernicus] Until his time all the astronomers and philosophers of the world followed the Ptolemaic system, and whoever said anything against it was considered ignorant. Though Pythagoras, and Plato during the latter part of his life, adopted the theory that the annual movement of the sun around the zodiac does not proceed from the sun, but rather from the movement of the earth around the sun, this theory had been entirely forgotten, and the Ptolemaic system was accepted by all mathematicians. But there are some verses revealed in the Qur'án contrary to the theory of the Ptolemaic system. One of them is "The sun moves in a fixed place," which shows the fixity of the sun, and its movement around an axis.[ Cf. Qur'án 36:37] Again, in another verse, "And each star moves in its own heaven."[ Cf. Qur'án 36:38.] Thus is explained the movement of the sun, of the moon, of the earth, and of other bodies. When the Qur'án appeared, all the mathematicians ridiculed these statements and attributed the theory to ignorance. Even the doctors of Islam, when they saw that these verses were contrary to the accepted Ptolemaic system, were obliged to explain them away.
        “It was not until after the fifteenth century of the Christian era, nearly nine hundred years after Muhammad, that a famous astronomer made new observations and important discoveries by the aid of the telescope, which he had invented. [Galileo] The rotation of the earth, the fixity of the sun, and also its movement around an axis, were discovered. It became evident that the verses of the Qur'án agreed with existing facts, and that the Ptolemaic system was imaginary.
      “In short, many Oriental peoples have been reared for thirteen centuries under the shadow of the religion of Muhammad. During the Middle Ages, while Europe was in the lowest depths of barbarism, the Arab peoples were superior to the other nations of the earth in learning, in the arts, mathematics, civilization, government and other sciences. The Enlightener and Educator of these Arab tribes, and the Founder of the civilization and perfections of humanity among these different races, was an illiterate Man, Muhammad.” (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, Chapter 7, pp. 22-24)

And this, it is my personal understanding, is the situation with the law prohibition same-sex sexual relations and marriage.  Science has yet to catch up with Baha’u’llah.  It will, eventually.  Shoghi Effendi told a pilgrim, after recounting this same point about astronomy, that if, as was the case with astronomers catching  up with what Muhammad had revealed about astronomy in the Text, it takes a thousand years for science to uphold Baha'u'llah's laws, we will cling to them for that thousand years. I don’t know where that pilgrim note is now; and it’s just a pilgrim note.  But the point is that the Baha’i Writings do not say that if science has a different understanding of reality than religion does, then the revelation must give way. In fact, if the revelation is directly in conflict with science, it is science which must grow up and change.

I hope this is useful to you.

Loving greetings

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pleasing God And Being Well-Pleased With God

One of the wonderful challenges God gives us in this life is to learn to submit to His Will, and to do so joyfully -- to learn to be content with His Will.

There is a lovely incident recorded by the great Baha'i author and translator, Marzieh Gail, about pleasing God, and being pleased with God. In her book Arches of the Years she writes about the time during her childhood when she wrote a letter to Abdu'l-Baha: 

Before He came to Washington, Marzieh had written Him, in block letters, penciled, undoubtedly an adult holding her fist. Her message went, 'Dear Abdul-Baha, I love you. I hope you will come to see us.' And He had written a line in Persian on it, turning it into a Tablet, and signed it, and sent it back:
'O God, make her who is pleasing to God (Marzieh), well-pleased with God (Razieh). Insha'llah I shall see her.' (The words pleased with and pleasing to God are from the Qur'án, 89:28.) With Him, there was room for every one, no matter how heavy His own work load, or how weary His body, no matter how small the person was, or how unnoticed by the world.

The lovely verse from the Qur'an is from the Surih of the Daybreak:

Return to thy Lord, pleased, and pleasing him:
Enter thou among my servants,
And enter thou my Paradise.

“Pleased” is razieh, and “pleasing Him” is marzieh.

There are various ways in the Writings of Baha'u'llah in which Shoghi Effendi has translated marzieh – pleasing to God, and razieh – pleased with God. It is very revealing. The first passage will have been memorized by anyone who has embarked on the Ruhi study classes. Baha'u'llah is here quoted on page 25 of The Advent of Divine Justice:

The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly [marzieh] conduct.

Shoghi Effendi's translation of this beautiful word is not bound by dictionary translations. His lyrical pen translates marzieh in these beautiful ways:

The fruits of the tree of man have ever been and are goodly deeds and a praiseworthy [marzieh] character.
(Baha'u'llah, p. 26, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf)

This people need no weapons of destruction, inasmuch as they have girded themselves to reconstruct the world. Their hosts are the hosts of goodly deeds, and their arms the arms of upright [marzieh] conduct.
(Baha'u'llah, p. 74, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf)

...those souls who are well assured, pleased [razieh], and pleasing unto God [marzieh]...
(Baha'u'llah, p. 121, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf)

This can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly [marzieh] behavior.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah XLII, p. 94)

O friends! Help ye the one true God, exalted be His glory, by your goodly deeds, by such conduct and character as shall be acceptable in His sight [marzieh].
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXVI, p. 272)

His object is to array every man with the mantle of a saintly [marzieh] character, and to adorn him with the ornament of holy and goodly deeds.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXVIII, p. 299)

Say: O people of God! That which can ensure the victory of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, His hosts and helpers on earth, have been set down in the sacred Books and Scriptures, and are as clear and manifest as the sun. These hosts are such righteous deeds, such conduct and character, as are acceptable in His sight [marzieh].
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CXXXI, p. 287)

It is challenging to attain, not only to God being pleased with us; but to razieh—being pleased with that which God chooses to bestow on us. These beautiful passages from Baha'u'llah's Writings express razieh:

I render thanks unto Thee, and My Spirit is grateful for whatsoever hath befallen me in the path of Thy good-pleasure. I am well pleased [razieh] with that which Thou didst ordain for Me, and welcome, however calamitous, the pains and sorrows I am made to suffer.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah XXXIX, p. 89)

Ask not of Me that which We desire not for thee, then be content [razieh] with what We have ordained for thy sake, for this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself. (Arabic Hidden Words 18)

Seek a martyr's death in My path, content [razieh] with My pleasure and thankful for that which I ordain, that thou mayest repose with Me beneath the canopy of majesty behind the tabernacle of glory.

(Arabic Hidden Words 45)

At one time I found Myself on the heights of mountains; at another in the depths of the prison of Ta (Tihran), in chains and fetters. By the righteousness of God! I was at all times thankful unto Him, uttering His praise, engaged in remembering Him, directed towards Him, satisfied with His pleasure [razieh], and lowly and submissive before Him.
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 79)

Perish that lover who discerneth between the pleasant and the poisonous in his love for his beloved! Be thou satisfied [razieh] with what God hath destined for thee. He, verily, ruleth over thee as He willeth and pleaseth.
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah VIII, p. 11)

I beg of Thee, O my God, by Thy most exalted Word which Thou hast ordained as the Divine Elixir unto all who are in Thy realm, the Elixir through whose potency the crude metal of human life hath been transmuted into purest gold, O Thou in Whose hands are both the visible and invisible kingdoms, to ordain that my choice be conformed to Thy choice and my wish to Thy wish, that I may be entirely content [razieh] with that which Thou didst desire, and be wholly satisfied with what Thou didst destine for me by Thy bounteousness and favor. (Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah XXXVIII, p. 54)

I implore Thee, O Thou Who art inscrutable to all except Thee, and can be comprehended through naught else save Thyself, by the wrongs which He Who is the Day-Spring of Thy Cause hath suffered at the hands of the ignoble among Thy creatures, and by what hath befallen Him in Thy path, to grant that I may, at all times, be wholly dissolved in Thee [razieh], and fix my gaze upon the horizon of Thy will and be steadfast in Thy love.
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah CXXXV, p. 223)

I implore Thee, O my Lord, by Thy name the splendors of which have encompassed the earth and the heavens, to enable me so to surrender my will [razieh] to what Thou hast decreed in Thy Tablets, that I may cease to discover within me any desire except what Thou didst desire through the power of Thy sovereignty, and any will save what Thou didst destine for me by Thy will.
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah CL, p. 241)

~ ~ ~

Razieh is also transliterated as Ráḍíyih, as shown in this authorized translation of a tablet by Baha'u'llah prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice after Marzieh Gail wrote the above section:

He is God, Glorified be He, Grandeur and Might are His!
    On the morning of the blessed Friday we proceeded from the Mansion and entered the Garden. Every tree uttered a word, and every leaf sang a melody. The trees proclaimed: 'Behold the evidences of God's Mercy' and the twin streams recited in the eloquent tongue the sacred verse 'From us all things were made alive'. Glorified be God! Mysteries were voiced by them, which provoked wonderment. Methought: in which school were they educated, and from whose presence had they acquired their learning? Yea! This Wronged One knoweth and He saith: 'From God, the All-Encompassing, the Self-Subsistent.'
Upon Our being seated, Ráḍíyih, upon her be My glory, attained Our presence on thy behalf, laid the table of God's bounty and in thy name extended hospitality to all present. In truth, all that which stimulateth the appetite and pleaseth the eye was offered, and indeed that which delighteth the ear could also be heard as the leaves were stirred by the Will of God, and from this movement a refreshing voice was raised, as if uttering a blissful call inviting the absent to this Feast. God's power and the perfection of His handiwork could enjoyably be seen in the blossoms, the fruits, the trees, the leaves and the streams. Praised be God who hath thus confirmed thee and her.
In brief, all in the Garden were recipients of the choicest bountiesand in the end expressed their thanksgiving unto their Lord. O that allGod's beloved would have been present on this day!
We beseech God, exalted be He, to cause to descend upon thee at every moment, a blessing and a mercy and a measure of divine grace from His presence. He is the Forgiving, the All-Glorious.
We send greetings to His loved ones, and supplicate for each one of them that which is worthy of mention and is acceptable in His presence. Peace be upon thee, and upon God's sincere servants. Praise be to Him, the Lord of all mankind.

Ráḍíyih, who is mentioned in this Tablet, was a sister of Munirih Khanum, the wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The dinner was given on behalf of her husband who was not present at the time. He was her cousin Siyyid 'Ali...

(Cited in Adib Taherzadeh, "The Revelation of Baha'u'llah" Volume IV, p. 14)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Significance of the name "Ayyam-i-Ha"

The Ayyam-i-Ha -- What are these "Days of the Letter Ha"?

The letter Ha, or H, is one of the first two letters of Baha'u'llah's Name, promised in the Holy Books.  It is one of the characters in the Baha'i ringstone symbol.  The central portion of the ringstone symbol is a series of four interlocking lines linked to four somewhat oval shapes.  These four ovals are the Arabic letter H, or "Ha", and the four lines are each the Arabic letter B.

Baha'u'llah identifies His name with these two letters in the closing words of the Book of Certitude: "Revealed by the 'Ba' and the 'Ha'." (1)

In one of His tablets Baha'u'llah states that the Arabic letter "Ba" looks like a lock of hair

and that the letter "Ha" looks like a rosebud

and He mentions the beauty of these two letters when they are linked together, stating that a spirit flows through these letters of His Name like the vibration of a flute.  (2)

The Hand of the Cause Zikrullah Khadem explains in one of his essays the significance of the letter B.  He points out that the Book of Genesis begins with the Hebrew letter B, and that every one of the 114 Surahs of the Qur'an begins with the letter B. (3)

In some of His Writings Baha'u'llah comments on the letter "B", for example, in the second paragraph of the Tablet of Ishraqat (4)

In like manner, the Bab and Baha'u'llah also comment on the significance of the letter "H" or "Ha".  In the Surih of the Temple, Baha'u'llah writes of this Arabic letter "Ha":
"O First Letter of this Temple, betokening the Essence of Divinity! We have made thee the treasury of My Will and the repository of My Purpose unto all who are in the kingdoms of revelation and creation. This is but a token of the grace of Him Who is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting." (5)  

We see here that Baha'u'llah Himself explains that the letter "Ha" signifies "the Essence of Divinity."

Baha'u'llah designated the days preceding the Fast as "the manifestations of the letter 'Ha'." (6) As further explained in the Notes to the Most Holy Book:

"Known as the Ayyam-i-Ha, (the Days of Ha), the Intercalary Days have the distinction of being associated with "the letter Ha". . . The letter "Ha" has been given several spiritual meanings in the Holy Writings, among which is as a symbol of the Essence of God. (7)

Likewise, the Bab interpreted the significance of the letter "Ha", and Baha'u'llah quotes a verse from it in the Book of Certitude:
"Likewise, in His interpretation of the letter 'Ha,' He craved martyrdom, saying: 'Methinks I heard a Voice calling in my inmost being: "Do thou sacrifice the thing which Thou lovest most in the path of God, even as Husayn, peace be upon him, hath offered up his life for My sake."'" (8)

The "Ayyam-i-Ha" are days to be spent in praise of God.  Baha'u'llah directs His loved ones "with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name" during them.(9)

As one of the Baha'i friends has written:

"Bahá’u'lláh has designated the intercalary days 'amid all the nights and days' as manifestations of the letter 'Ha'–that is, as Days of the Divine Essence. These extra days stand apart from the ordinary cycle of weeks and months and the human measure of time. They are not 'bounded by the limits of the year and its months' – just as the infinite reality of the divine Essence of God is unbounded and cannot be captured or comprehended within the cycle of time or any other human measurement.

"Thus Ayyám-i-Há can be thought of as days outside of time, days that symbolize eternity, infinity, and the mystery and unknowable Essence of God Himself. Contemplation during these days of the timeless mystery of the Essence of God provides us the 'joy and exultation' with which to 'sing His praise and magnify His Name.'" (10)

(1) (The Book of Certitude, p. 257, paragraph 288)
(3) Zikrullah Khadem, the Itinerant Hand of the Cause of God, p. 303
(4)(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 101)
(5)(Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, paragraph 1.37, p. 20; see also p. 237, footnote 3)
(6)(The Most Holy Book, p. 25, paragraph 16)
(7) (The Most Holy Book, p. 178, Note 28)
(8)(Baha'u'llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 231, paragraph 259)
(9) (The Most Holy Book, p. 25, paragraph 16)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The House of 'Abdu'llah Pasha


The house in 'Akká that 'Abdu'l-Bahá rented in 1896 and
that served as His residence until He moved to Haifa in 1910.
Historical photograph from

"Some of the most poignant, dramatic and historically significant events of the Heroic Age of our Faith are associated with this house, which derives its name from the Governor of 'Akká who built it and used it as his official residence during his term of Office, from 1820 to 1832.... It was in this house that ['Abdu'l-Baha's] celebrated table talks were given and compiled, to be published later under the title "Some Answered Questions." In this house and in the darkest hours of a period which the beloved Guardian describes as 'the most dramatic period of His ministry,' 'in the heyday of His life and in the full tide of His power' He penned the first part of His Will and Testament.... In this house was born the child ordained to hold the destiny of the Faith in his hands for thirty-six years and to become its 'beloved Guardian,' the child named 'Shoghi' by his Grandfather, who grew up under His loving and solicitous care ...."

[As Thornton Chase, the First American Baha'i, wrote of his Pilgrimage, when he visited Abdu'l-Baha in this house:] 

'We did not know we had reached our destination until we saw a Persian gentleman, and then another and another, step out at the entrance and smile at us. We alighted and they conducted us through the arched, red brick entrance to an open court, across it to a long flight of stone steps, broken and ancient, leading to the highest story and into a small walled court open to the sky, where was the upper chamber assigned to us, which adjoined the room of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The buildings are all of stone, whitewashed and plastered, and it bears the aspect of a prison.'

"As we contemplate the extraordinary focusing of powerful forces and events upon this house, we eagerly anticipate the day when it will be restored and made ready for pilgrims, who may inhale from its atmosphere, its grounds and sacred walls, the fragrances of a glorious past."
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, Message 157)

"Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. I was thankful for the prison, and the lack of liberty was very pleasing to me, for those days were passed in the path of service, under the utmost difficulties and trials, bearing fruits and results. Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, he will not attain. To me prison is freedom, troubles rest me, death is life, and to be despised is honour. Therefore, I was happy all that time in prison."
(`Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 120)

~ ~ ~

O House! Who climbed your stairway? When the Master was a prisoner our spiritual forbears came to you in the night, hearts pounding, souls reaching and hoping: Lua and Sarah, and Phoebe and Robert, and Louis, and Laura, and Thornton -- the first in the West to hear the voice of their Shepherd, Christ, in His "New Name."

We hear their footsteps now, the dust crackling beneath their feet. We hear their spirits, crushing doubt, opening the doors of their hearts to the Light of the New Jerusalem.

A child was born here, too --one promised by Isaiah. He ran up and down your stairs, his praises of God filling the courtyard.

- The courtyard? His voice filled the earth, and fills it still, and will for ages to come!

O Palm Tree, witness of servitude and grandeur, bearer of beauty and joy! How sweet your form, how dear your shadow, caressing the room of the Beloved! We, too, would press our cheek against that wall, feel its coolness against our face, inhale its fragrance, and seek to hear the soul-uplifting Voice within, charting destinies, answering questions, granting certitude.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

These Perspicuous Verses

- Baha'u'llah's announcement that the prophecies in the Holy Books are fulfilled.

(work in progress)

In many of His Writings, Baha'u'llah announces that He has fulfilled the prophecies of all religions:  

"Verily, He Who was hidden in the knowledge of God and is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures hath appeared."

"He Whose advent hath been foretold in the heavenly Scriptures is come"

"He, in truth, hath come unto the world in His most great glory, and all that hath been mentioned in the Gospel hath been fulfilled.

"The Comforter Whose advent all the scriptures have promised is now come that He may reveal unto you all knowledge and wisdom.

"He that was hidden in the Treasury of Knowledge, and inscribed by the Pen of the Most High in His Books, and His Scriptures, and His Scrolls, and His Tablets, is come!
One of the most well-known of  Baha'u'llah's Tablets on this theme is found in both the Tablet of Ishraqat ("Splendors") and in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, addressed to one of the great oppressors of His faith. 

This Tablet begins with these words:

Among others, these perspicuous verses have, in answer to certain individuals, been sent down from the Kingdom of Divine knowledge: "O thou who hast set thy face towards the splendors of My Countenance! Vague fancies have encompassed the dwellers of the earth and debarred them from turning towards the Horizon of Certitude, and its brightness, and its manifestations and its lights. Vain imaginings have withheld them from Him Who is the Self-Subsisting. They speak as prompted by their own caprices, and understand not. Among them are those who have said: 'Have the verses been sent down?' Say: 'Yea, by Him Who is the Lord of the heavens!' 'Hath the Hour come?' 'Nay, more; it hath passed,  by Him Who is the Revealer of clear tokens! Verily, the Inevitable is come, and He, the True One, hath appeared with proof and testimony. The Plain is disclosed, and mankind is sore vexed and fearful. Earthquakes have broken loose, and the tribes have lamented, for fear of God, the Lord of Strength, the All-Compelling.' Say: 'The stunning trumpet blast hath been loudly raised, and the Day is God's, the One, the Unconstrained.' 'Hath the Catastrophe come to pass?' Say: 'Yea, by the Lord of Lords!' 'Is the Resurrection come?' 'Nay, more; He Who is the Self-Subsisting hath appeared with the Kingdom of His signs.' 'Seest thou men laid low?' 'Yea, by my Lord, the Exalted, the Most High!' 'Have the tree-stumps been uprooted?' 'Yea, more; the mountains have been scattered in dust; by Him the Lord of attributes!'
I have not included the entire tablet, because the Universal House of Justice has asked that Baha'i writers not publish the entire text of Baha'i Scriptures they are commenting on.  In this Day we have only the Text itself, without full annotations, so the people can read for themselves without the imposition of the views of others.  You can read the entire Tablet, at the links above to the Ishraqat and Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, and I'll have the link again at the end of this post.

It should be noted that the word "perspicuous," which rhymes with the word "conspicuous," means something that is clearly expressed and easily understood. The original words Shoghi Effendi here translates as "perspicuous verses," he has also translated as "words of consummate power and wisdom" and as "firm and conclusive verses".

This Tablet contains a number of the signs of the end times:


Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth (John 5:28)

And that "the Hour" will indeed come - there is no doubt of it - and that God will wake up to life those who are in the tombs (Quran 22:7)

And they will ask thee of the mountains: Say: my Lord will scatter them in dust; and he will leave them a level plain (Quran 20:106)

the day when We cause the mountains to pass away, and thou seest the earth a levelled plain (Qur'an 18:47)

And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:9)

The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
(Psalms 104:31)

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed (Isaiah 40:4)

Now have we sent down to you manifest signs [verses] Qur'an 24:34

The 56th Surih of the Qur'an is The Inevitable, and begins, "When the inevitable event comes to pass"

there shall be earthquakes in diverse places (Mark 13:8)

Verily, the earthquake of the last Hour will be a tremendous thing! (Qur'an 22:1)

Hence, bethink yourselves of the Last Hour, when the trumpet of judgment shall be sounded with a single blast, and the earth and the mountains shall be lifted up and crushed with a single stroke! And so, that which must come to pass will on that day have come to pass; and the sky will be rent asunder (Qur'an 69:13)

But when the stunning trumpet-blast shall arrive,
On that day shall a man fly from his brother,
And his mother and his father,
And his wife and his children (Qur'an 80:34)

22:1 Catastrophe

22:7-10 Resurrection

20:110 The Self-Subsisting (i.e. God) will appear

69:7 Men will be laid low

54:20 and 69:7 Tree stumps will be uprooted

55:6-9 Balance is set (also see Isaiah 40:12-15). (I understand this to mean when a scale is calibrated; the Prophet and His Book are that by which all else is measured.)

81:2 Stars will fall

3:11 and 45:4 Those endued with discernment

7:105 and 20:23 Drew forth His hand

50:40 The Crier will cry out

21:103 The promised time will come

52:45 The day when men will swoon away

20:102 There will be a blast on the Trumpet

81:18 Darkness chased by light of the dawn

36:51 Trumpet will blast, dead will speed from their graves

25:27 and 55:37 and 77:9 Heavens will be cleft asunder

11:105 Men will be gathered together

20:102 The day when the wicked will be gathered together, blind

25:11 Gardens in Paradise / mystic roses
39:71-72 Unbelievers/ impious burn in hell (also see Matthew 13:50)

These are all signs of the Judgment Day, the Last Day, the Promised Day, the Day when God will come to the earth. As Baha’u’llah says on p. 132, “all the signs appeared.” And I understand that to be His message in this Tablet.

Also, on p. 212 of God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi quotes a Tablet from Baha’u’llah in which He states that He designated His Tablets to the Kings by these names – Trumpet, Bugle, Catastrophe, Plain, etc., and that he wrote these in the shape of the human temple (GPB p. 213), which He identifies with the Temple in Zechariah (6:12-13) that is built by the “Man whose name is the Branch” which in this instance, as in Isaiah 4:2, refers to Baha’u’llah. Also, Isaiah 11:1-10 says the “resting-place” of the Branch will be glorious.

A number of these terms refer to Baha'u'llah's Tablets to the Kings and Rulers of the earth:

 Baha'u'llah refers to a number of prophecies, from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Qur'an.  Among them are these:
"Never since the beginning of the world," Bahá'u'lláh Himself affirms, "hath the Message been so openly proclaimed." "Each one of them," He, specifically referring to the Tablets addressed by Him to the sovereigns of the earth -- Tablets acclaimed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá as a "miracle" -- has written, "hath been designated by a special name. The first hath been named 'The Rumbling,' the second 'The Blow,' the third 'The Inevitable,' the fourth 'The Plain,' the fifth 'The Catastrophe,' and the others 'The Stunning Trumpet-Blast,' 'The Near Event,' 'The Great Terror,' 'The Trumpet,' 'The Bugle,' and the like, so that all the peoples of the earth may know, of a certainty, and may witness, with outward and inner eyes, that He Who is the Lord of Names hath prevailed, and will continue to prevail, under all conditions, over all men." The most important of these Tablets, together with the celebrated Suriy-i-Haykal (the Surih of the Temple), He, moreover, ordered to be written in the shape of a pentacle, symbolizing the temple of man, and which He identified, when addressing the followers of the Gospel in one of His Tablets, with the "Temple" mentioned by the Prophet Zechariah, and designated as "the resplendent dawning-place of the All-Merciful," and which "the hands of the power of Him Who is the Causer of Causes" had built.  (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 212)
The original Arabic word here translated as splendors is anwar, sometimes written anvar (this is a difference between Persian and Arabic pronunciation).

Afaq al-yaqeen. “Afaq” here translated as “horizon” is elsewhere translated by Shoghi Effendi as firmament, Dayspring, heaven, orient, fountain, realm, apex, dawning-place, daystar, meridian splendor, heights, high summit, sanctuary, kingdom.  Yaqeen, which is related to the word “iqan,” here translated as “certitude,” is elsewhere translated by Shoghi Effendi as absolute certitude, positive knowledge, assurance.

In the original, these words rhyme: Ishraqat, zuhurat, anvarat.

One of the titles of God, Qayyum. As Siyyid Kazim admonished his disciples before the Advent of the Bab, “Verily I say, after the Qá'im the Qayyum will be made manifest.” (The Dawn-Breakers, p. 41) The Short Obligatory Prayer ends with the word Qayyum.

Shoghi Effendi also translates this word, prompted by their own desires, prompted by their vain imaginings.