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One may ask why it is important to study the Hidden Words. One obvious reason is that it is the revealed Word of God. Let us study Bahá'u'lláh's own introduction to the Hidden Words. I think it will become clear why it is so important for us to study them.
"HE IS THE GLORY OF GLORIES
This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue."
'Abdu'l-Bahá also tells us plainly why the study of the Hidden Words is so important in the following two passages taken from His discourses and writings. In the first passage presented below, He also graces us with an interpretation of the above-quoted Introduction to the Hidden Words.
"Bahá'u'lláh has revoiced and reestablished the quintessence of the teachings of all the Prophets, setting aside the accessories and purifying religion from human interpretation. He has written a book entitled the Hidden Words. The preface announces that it contains the essences of the words of the Prophets of the past, clothed in the garment of brevity, for the teaching and spiritual guidance of the people of the world. Read it that you may understand the true foundations of religion and reflect upon the inspiration of the Messengers of God. It is light upon light." ['Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, Vol. 1, p. 86.]
"From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance and your ears attuned to the music of the Company above; and blessed by abounding grace, your hearts and souls have been born into new life. Thank ye and praise ye God that the hand of infinite bestowals hath set upon your heads this gem-studded crown, this crown whose lustrous jewels will forever flash and sparkle down all the reaches of time.
To thank Him for this, make ye a mighty effort, and choose for yourselves a noble goal. Through the power of faith, obey ye the teachings of God, and let all your actions conform to His laws. Read ye The Hidden Words, ponder the inner meanings thereof, act in accord therewith. ... and rise up as ye are bidden in the heavenly teachings. Thus may each one of you be even as a candle casting its light, the centre of attraction wherever people come together ..." ['Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 35.]
This particular course on the Hidden Words is designed so as to be able to be used in several ways: 1) as a course to be taught and led by a teacher (preferably someone who is him/herself very familiar with the Hidden Words; (2) for individual study; and (3) as deepenings on the various subjects presented, using the Hidden Words as the primary source of quotations from the Writings. The only other thing needed is a copy of The Hidden Words themselves. At the end of each topic, some suggestions for discussion on the topic are presented. The topics for discussion are, by no means, exhaustive. They are presented as possible topics or questions in order to encourage discussion in the group. A prayer which is relevant to the topic is also presented.
Before beginning this course on the Hidden Words I think it is important to provide some historical background on their revelation by Bahá'u'lláh. The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi has the following to say about the Hidden Words:
'Next to this unique repository of inestimable treasures must rank that
marvelous collection of gem-like utterances, the "Hidden Words" with which
Bahá'u'lláh was inspired, as He paced, wrapped in His
meditations, the banks of the Tigris. Revealed in the year 1274 A.H., partly in
Persian, partly in Arabic, it was originally designated the "Hidden Book of
Fátimih," and was identified by its Author with the Book of that same
name, believed by Shí'ah Islám to be in the possession of the
promised Qá'im, and to consist of words of consolation addressed by the
angel Gabriel, at God's command, to Fátimih, and dictated to the
Imám 'Alí, for the sole purpose of comforting her in her hour of
bitter anguish after the death of her illustrious Father. ...' [Shoghi
Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 139-140.]
One of the most important and expounded upon principles in the Bahá'í Faith is that of Justice. Bahá'u'lláh shows the primacy of this principle very clearly in The Hidden Words. Bahá'u'lláh wastes no time in bringing out the principle of Justice. Indeed, He first mentions this all-important principle in the Hidden Words with the second one revealed in the Arabic language, stressing its importance and the advantages to anyone who adheres to it. He says:
"O SON OF SPIRIT!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away
therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee.
By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of
others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of
thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily
justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then
before thine eyes."
The previous Hidden Word points out the advantages to observing justice. The following one warns of the penalty for neglecting justice. As Bahá'ís, we learn to appreciate and promote justice in the world. However, words are not enough. Bahá'u'lláh warns us of the importance of having our deeds live up to our words. In Arabic Hidden Word No.28, He says:
"O SON OF SPIRIT!
Know thou of a truth: He that biddeth men be just and himself committeth
iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name."
To have Bahá'u'lláh, nay God Himself, say that one "is not of Me, even though he bear My name" (Bahá'í) would be intolerable to a Bahá'í. If you have any doubts that Bahá'u'lláh is referring to those who bear His name, or that to bear His name is indeed to bear God's name, study the following quote from the Báb as He addresses His disciples during His own Dispensation:
"O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this
Day." [The Báb, quoted in The Dawn-Breakers, Nabíl, p.
Bahá'u'lláh reveals an even sterner warning in the Persian Hidden Word No. 64. Here He states that even forgiveness imay be withheld for injustices committed. Justice is indeed a supreme quality that must be assiduously worked for and guarded. He says:
"O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH!
Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive
any man's injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in
the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal."
More importantly, let's see what 'Abdu'l-Bahá has to say on the subject of Justice as it relates to the Hidden Words:
'In the Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh says, "Justice is to be
loved above all." Praise be to God, in this country the standard of justice has
been raised; a great effort is being made to give all souls an equal and a true
place. This is the desire of all noble natures; this is today the teaching for
the East and for the West; therefore the East and the West will understand each
other and reverence each other, and embrace like long-parted lovers who have
found each other.' ['Abdu'l-Bahá, 'Abdu'l-Bahá In
London, p. 20.]
Suggested Topics for Discussion:
-- Discuss the importance which Bahá'u'lláh
attaches to Justice
-- Discuss what the world would be like if there were no justice anywhere
-- Discuss what the world would be like if perfect justice prevailed and where we, as a Bahá'í community, now stand in bringing about that perfect justice
-- Discuss how we, as individuals, can help to bring justice into the world
O God, my God! Thou hast lighted the lamp of Thy Cause with the oil of wisdom; protect it from contrary winds. The lamp is Thine, and the glass is Thine, and all things in the heavens and on earth are in the grasp of Thy power. Bestow justice upon the rulers, and fairness upon the ivines. Thou art the All-Powerful, Who, through the motion of Thy Pen, hast aided Thine irrestible Cause, and guided aright Thy loved ones. Thou art the Possessor of power, and the King of might. No God is there but Thee, the Strong, the Unconstrained. --Bahá'u'lláh [Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 104-105.]
One of the strongest prohibitions in the Bahá'í Faith is that against backbiting and faultfinding. Bahá'u'lláh especially stresses this principle in the Hidden Words. In the following two Hidden Words, Arabic No. 26 & 27 respectively, He strongly emphasizes how backbiting and faultfinding are abhorrent to Him, saying that such a one as is guilty of this transgression is "accursed." Bahá'u'lláh says:
"O SON OF BEING!
How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the
faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me."
"O SON OF MAN!
Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.
Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I
This is not a new prohibition. Indeed, other Holy Books also mention this. To illustrate this, observe how similar the above Hidden Word, No. 27, is to this passage from the Gospel of John:
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto
them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at
Bahá'u'lláh continues this theme with Arabic Hidden Word #29. Here He takes the prohibition a little farther than in the previously quoted Hidden Words, saying not only to avoid talking about the sins of others "so long as thou art thyself a sinner" but, in addition, we should not "ascribe" to anyone what we ourselves would not like to have ascribed to us. Indeed, He makes it a "command."
"O SON OF BEING!
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to
thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do
thou observe it."
In Persian Hidden Word #44, Bahá'u'lláh again puts backbiting in terms of our own selves.
"O COMPANION OF MY THRONE! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore."
Notice how Bahá'u'lláh in the above quoted Hidden Word also cites some of the rewards of refraining from backbiting. He says: "Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed." Isn't it a relief to know that our own faults can remain hidden. In the above Hidden Word Bahá'u'lláh also reminds us that our days here are "less than a fleeting moment". Do we really want to waste this limited time focusing our attention on the faults of others instead of correcting our own faults and serving our Lord to the best of our ability? In the next Hidden Word, from the Persian #66, Bahá'u'lláh states unequivocally what He intends us to do with the tongues with which we have been blessed. He says:
The tongue I have designed for the mention of Me, defile it not with
detraction. If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not
the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self
better than he knoweth others."
Suggested Topics for Discussion:
-- Discuss the harm backbiting
causes to the teller, the hearer, and the object of the backbiting
-- Discuss different ways you can handle the situation where someone is backbiting or faultfinding or gossiping--either to you or in front of you
-- Discuss the benefits to everyone involved when you refuse to participate in backbiting
-- Go over Persian Hidden Word #44 line by line and discuss each line of it thoroughly as to how it applies to the individual.
O God our Lord! Protect us through Thy grace from whatsoever my be repugnant unto Thee, and vouchsafe unto us that which well beseemeth Thee. Give us more out of Thy bounty, and bless us. Pardon us for the things we have done, and wash away our sins, and forgive us with Thy gracious forgiveness. Verily, Thou art the Most Exalted, the Self-Subsisting.
Thy loving providence hath encompassed all created things in the heavens and on the earth, and Thy forgiveness hath surpassed the whole creation. Thine is sovereignty; in Thy hand are the Kingdoms of Creation and Revelation; in Thy right hand Thou holdest all created things, and within Thy grasp are the assigned measures of forgiveness. Thou forgivest whomsoever among Thy servants Thou pleasest. Verily, Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Loving. Nothing whatsoever escapeth Thy knowledge, and naught is there which is hidden from Thee. O God our Lord! Protect us through the potency of Thy might, enable us to enter Thy wondrous surging ocean, and grant us that which well befitteth Thee. Thou art the Sovereign Ruler, the Mighty Doer, the Exalted, the All-Loving. --The Báb [ The Báb, Bahá'í Prayers, 1991 ed., pp. 79-80.
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