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Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:58 am
by Truth
Hey Guys,

Throughout the writings, there are many quotes on befriending all, including your enemies. But there are also quotes on steering clear of the ungodly. i.e.

O Son of Dust!

Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire.

Can someone explain how this is not a contradiction.

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:23 am
by Fadl

Befriend can also have the meaning of "being kind to", or "acting as a friend to" someone. When you take "walk" together with "fellowship", it seems to me that the meaning is to have similar activites and pursuits, or walking the same path.

I don't think it is a difficulty to befriend someone while also walking a different path and avoiding close association or similar activities with them if they are unGodly.

These are just my thoughts about it.

I hope it helps!

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:42 pm
by brettz9
I think Loren hit the nail on the head.

This has nothing to do with any kind of prejudice, but some people may indeed drain us, and at least, it may be incumbent on us to better prioritize our time.

I started a wiki page at (and also one about the with some of the other relevant quotations out there that I think give a fuller picture, and feel free to add any there if you find other quotations.

best wishes,

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:10 am
by pilgrimbrent
I think this is one of the most important of the Baha'i teachings -- learning to distinguish between fellowship with all, and avoidance of those who are spiritually harmful. On the one hand we have passages such as this:

"We have erewhile declared - and Our Word is the truth - 'Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.' Whatsoever hath led the children of men to shun one another, and hath caused dissensions and divisions amongst them, hath, through the revelation of these words, been nullified and abolished." (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 87)

Likewise, in an address in Washington D.C. the Master said that it was "most regrettable" that "in the name of religion" people imagine that it is a "paramount duty" to "shun each other and consider each other contaminated with error and infidelity." (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 403) Shoghi Effendi wrote: "Let them call to mind, fearlessly and determinedly, the example and conduct of 'Abdu'l-Baha while in their midst. Let them remember His courage, His genuine love, His informal and indiscriminating fellowship. . . " (The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 34)

So that "indiscriminating fellowship" is what should, in general, characterize Baha'is. But if that is universally followed, the Baha'is become corrupted, and I have seen this far too often. For example, we have lost many Baha'i youth during their college years because they have made terrible choices -- or no choice, just flowed downhill with the stream -- as far as their closest friends and associates. And I feel this is a grievous mistake, and not in keeping with the Baha'i teachings which urge us to avoid people for our own spiritual protection.

Here are a few examples of Baha'i Writings urging the Baha'is to avoid various types of people:

"...indeed, such occult practices as certain Hindus have introduced in the States, and which some superficial and superstitious individuals have adopted and are trying, by all sorts of devices, to popularize are absolutely foreign, nay positively opposed to the very spirit and letter of the Teachings, and the believers, therefore, should strictly and at all times avoid the company of such people, lest they may unconsciously and inevitably fall under their baneful influence and become gradually alienated from the Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to two believers, August 5, 1939; Lights of Guidance, p. 522 #1773)

“Therefore, you must read the Tablets of Baha'u'llah. You must read the Tablet of the Branch and regard that which He has so clearly stated. Beware! Beware! lest anyone should speak from the authority of his own thoughts or create a new thing out of himself. Beware! Beware! According to the explicit Covenant of Baha'u'llah you should care nothing at all for such a person. Baha'u'llah shuns such souls. I have expounded these things for you, for the conservation and protection of the teachings of Baha'u'llah, in order that you may be informed, lest any souls shall deceive you and lest any souls shall cause suspicion among you. You must love all people, and yet if any souls put you in doubt, you must know that Baha'u'llah is severed from them.”
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 323)

"He has heard nothing against the character of Mrs. [...] and does not doubt in may ways she may be a very commendable woman. However, this does not change the fact that in view of her inherent convictions about Baha'u'llah it is best for the Baha'is, including yourself, not to associate with her. That which is in the heart of those who have actively opposed the Manifestation of God is spiritually unhealthy, and although we in our limited human understanding cannot always see the wisdom of shunning them, the Master has instructed us to do so, and for our
good, and the good of the Cause, we must obey this instruction.
(From a letter dated 5 June 1949 on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, "The Light of Divine Guidance," Vol. 2, p. 87)

"We must associate with all humanity in gentleness and kindliness. We must love all with love of the heart. Some are ignorant; they must be trained and educated. One is sick; he must be healed. Another is as a child; we must assist him to attain maturity. We must not detest him who is ailing, neither shun him, scorn nor curse him, but care for him with the utmost kindness and tenderness. An infant must not be treated with disdain simply because it is an infant. Our responsibility is to train, educate and develop it in order that it may advance toward maturity."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 63)

"To be the enemy of the enemies of God is a good characteristic. We are not against them personally, just as any intelligent man is not personally against a man who has a dangerous contagious disease. But he carefully isolates the sick individual so that the contagion will not spread. So we shun the spiritually sick, wishing for their cure, but keeping clear of them. You are right to take a firm stand regarding Orientals. One would think that world events would be opening the eyes of the Americans to certain unreliable and mischievous characteristics of nationals of the Middle East?"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 22, 1951, Lights of Guidance, 2nd edition,p. 187)

“These people, however, have turned aside from all this and placed instead their affections upon that which accordeth with their own corrupt inclinations. Thus do they roam in the wilderness of arrogance and pride. I bear witness at this moment that God is wholly quit of them, and likewise are We. We beseech God to suffer Us not to associate with them either in this life or in the life to come.” (Gems paragraph 82, p. 58)

“Expect not that they who violate the ordinances of God will be trustworthy or sincere in the faith they profess. Avoid them, and preserve strict guard over thyself, lest their devices and mischief hurt thee. Turn away from them, and fix thy gaze upon God, thy Lord, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful. He that giveth up himself wholly to God, God shall, assuredly, be with him; and he that placeth his complete trust in God, God shall, verily, protect him from whatsoever may harm him, and shield him from the wickedness of every evil plotter.”
(Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 210)

Here is some of Baha'u'llah's guidance to the true seeker after the knowledge of God:
"With all his heart he should avoid fellowship with evil-doers"...."He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit." (The Book of Certitude, p. 194).

Regard the people of the world as dead, and seek the fellowship of the living
Baha'u'llah, The Tabernacle of Unity, paragaph 5.7, Page 74)

In the Hidden Words He repeatedly gives the same counsel to the friends, to avoid the evil-doer and seek the company of the righteous:

"The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart. He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones." (Persian Hidden Words #56).

"O SON OF DUST! Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire." (Persian Hidden Words #57).

"O SON OF MY HANDMAID! Wouldst thou seek the grace of the Holy Spirit, enter into fellowship with the righteous, for he hath drunk the cup of eternal life at the hands of the immortal Cup-bearer and even as the true morn doth quicken and illumine the hearts of the dead." (Persian Hidden Words #58).

"O YE SONS OF SPIRIT! Ye are My treasury, for in you I have treasured the pearls of My mysteries and the gems of My knowledge. Guard them from the strangers amidst My servants and from the ungodly amongst My people.(Arabic Hidden Words #69).

"Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly." (Persian Hidden Words #3).

Shoghi Effendi clarifies the meaning of this passage, and compares it to a verse from the Tablet of Ahmad where Baha'u'llah calls on us to become a “flame of fire”:

"In the passage 'eschew all fellowship with the ungodly,' Baha'u'llah means that we should shun the company of those who disbelieve in God and are wayward. The word 'ungodly' is a reference to such perverse people. The words 'Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones', should not be taken in their literal sense. Baha'u'llah's advice is that again we should flee from the enemies of God and instead seek the fellowship of His lovers." (From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p. 200)

“With all his heart he should avoid fellowship with evil-doers, and pray for the remission of their sins. He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be.” (Gleanings, p. 265)

We are also to “shun the spiritually sick”.

We are to “flee from” the “enemies of God”.

We are to “strictly and at all times avoid the company” of superstitious individuals who are promoting “practices” which are “absolutely foreign” or “positively opposed” to the Teachings.

We are to “avoid” fellowship with “evil-doers", as well as “ungodly,” “boastful” and “worldly” people.

We are counseled to “leave to their own devices” those “certain former Baha'is” who are “impervious to explanations or exhortations from the Baha'i institutions” because “continued association with them can be burdensome and can exert a spiritually corrosive effect on the faith of believers.”

When we come across “minds that are closed and hearts that are darkened by evident malice” we are urged to “leave such persons to God” because “continued exposure to such insincerity” is “spiritually corrosive.” We are to just “leave these people alone” because their influence can be “negative and destructive."

I believe that this principle of avoidance of certain people is a major spiritual principle that is essential to our spiritual development, and is not sufficiently emphasized by the friends.

It is no less important to seek out the company of those who are healthy for us spiritually. We are counseled to “seek fellowship” with the “righteous” and with God's “loved ones” and with the “lovers” of Baha'u'llah, and lovingly urged to “treasure” their “companionship.”

“Now associate with good people. You must try to associate with those who will do you good and who will be the cause of your being more awakened, and not with those who will make you negligent of God. For example, if one goes into a garden and associates with flowers, one will surely inhale the beautiful fragrance, but if one goes to a place where there are bad-scented plants, it is sure he will inhale an unpleasant odour. In short, I mean that you will try to be with those who are purified and sanctified souls. Man must always associate with those from whom he can get light, or be with those to whom he can give light. He must either receive or give instructions. Otherwise, being with people without these two intentions, he is spending his time for nothing, and, by so doing, he is neither gaining nor causing others to gain.”
(Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Stay in the company of lovers.
Those other kinds of people, they each
want to show you something.
A crow will lead you to an empty barn,
A parrot to sugar.

We have to exercise some common sense. We also have to recognize and come to terms with these emphatic admonitions about who to avoid. Even those who we avoid, deserve to hear of the divine message. Once they have heard of it, if they do not respond, I will exercise care to not associate with them.


Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:37 am
by brettz9
Hello and welcome back Brent!

Thank you for the helpful sampling of quotations. Before I look at them more carefully, can I ask you to consider adding some to the wiki page that I mentioned earlier in the thread? It would be great if we could better collaborate and work together in order to be able to more easily organize and obtain such information ourselves (or so others could get it directly) the next time this or any other topic comes up again. As 'Abdu'l-Baha was to have said (in the context of group prayer), there is no comparison between a soldier working independently and those working in unison....

Separate soldier fighting alone and individually have not the force of a united army. If all the soldier in this spiritual war gather together, then their united spiritual feelings help each other, and their prayers become acceptable.
(from notes taken by Miss Ethel J. Rosenberg, in Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 94 at )

For other "wiki-like" quotes, seeá'í_wiki_quotes

best wishes,

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2010 8:52 am
by pilgrimbrent
A sensible thing to do but I'm swamped right now. I would want to comment on them and strive to reconcile them; but then, that is best done through experience than from the armchair. I really can't do it right now due to the press of work for clients (feast or famine) and also Baha'i work. Good to hear from you

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2010 10:33 am
by brettz9
Ok, that's fair enough.

But doesn't allow comments in general though, if you meant making them there. It's aimed as a closely Writings-focused compendium, like Lights of Guidance (or Research Department-style bulleted summaries linking to quotations), though it does link to other resources which might not be authoritative, and does allow "See also", cross-references/linked outlines, and in a few cases, if the quotation really needs clarification (e.g., as I recently did with the biochemical homeopathy page since "homeopathy" has an apparently different connotation in most usages, and I didn't want people to be misled in thinking that Baha'is believe in giving diluted concoctions, etc.). But I don't want to go too far in allowing making points with notations not directly supported by quotations. Most interesting points can be expressed with a good heading placed on a quotation--which itself might include ellipses to remove the parts of the quotation that are not relevant to the heading. Basically, I don't want to wade through a lot of people's opinions, and think others also just want to get straight to the guidance on a topic, referring to other articles off-site in more depth if they wish. However, there is which does allow paragraph form (with citations), so that might appeal to some people, especially those just wishing to get an introduction to the topic, and no doubt there could be a role for wikis which did let people go loose with their interpretations (actually I do allow that in a way at if people want to make user pages and user subpages and link to those, as long as any main pages linking to them are clear that the page is is just opinion, and assuming they are respectful).

And with wikis, you can feel free to post up the quotations in fairly raw form and get back to them when the chance arises.

But obviously, if you're busy, we all know how that can be... I do like it as a way to do my regular deepening, though it can be a little tempting to spend too much time on it when one has other pressing things... :)


Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:57 am
by Truth
Hey guys, just wanted to say thanks. Makes sense.

Would that mean we should avoid literature such as Christopher Hitchens "God is not great"?

I've found it hard to discuss religion with open minded athiests, as i don't have an understanding of their arguement. Much like learning other religions as part of ones independent investigation of truth, would learning about athiesm be acceptable?

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:33 am
by pilgrimbrent
As far as Christoper Hitchens, my own personal test for who to avoid is this: If my contact with the person leads me to doubt.

If on the other hand, when I read a person like Hitchens, who opposes belief in the Deity -- if I observe the errors in his thinking, then I'm on solid ground and I keep reading. In that instance, this is a poison that becomes a medicine, like Baha'u'llah mentions in the Seven Valleys:

"Now is the traveler unaware of himself, and of aught besides himself. He seeth neither ignorance nor knowledge, neither doubt nor certitude; he knoweth not the morn of guidance from the night of error. He fleeth both from unbelief and faith, and deadly poison is a balm to him." (The Valley of Love)

Some years ago, a benighted man wrote "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." The intent of the title is that reality is flimsy -- unbearably light, meaningless. The narrative is about a man who gives himself up to his senses. I read part of it and the man thinks he has conquered belief in God, when he talks about the problem of ... human waste. He says that if man is made in God's image, then God must poop. To him, this is just a terrific refutation of the whole notion of God. But Abdu'l-Baha explains the true meaning of being in God's image, and it has to do with the soul, not the body. I still didn't read the rest of the book, as I felt it wasn't worth my time. The man had discovered nothing about life that I wanted to know.

There are some famous people I entirely avoid watching on TV -- one is Adam Carolla. There's a perpetual sneer on his face; nothing is real or substantial to him; and every word from his mouth is a put-down or a materialistic statement. To me, he's poison, so I avoid him. The fact that he's a humorist is beside the point. "He knoweth the inner secrets of the hearts and the meaning hidden in a mocker's wink." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 157, p. 76)

Another person I avoid is Bill Maher. Bill is sometimes funny, but is committed to a materialistic lifestyle. He mocks the divine laws and the revelations.

I watch Jon Stewart's show every night. In general he is uplifting, smart, and I love political humor. But then he gets into homosexual issues, and I part from him on some of that. I don't avoid him; I just think he's misguided on the point. I mention him because he's a good example of when something opposed to the law of God can be cloaked in humor. And he's also an example of the fact that someone is an integral part of our society, does not necessarily mean that everything he says is good for us. Mockery is a powerful tool, and at times he mocks the law of God. He doesn't say it in that way, and I am not at all trying to put him in the category of the others above. I'm saying, that the fact that everybody else loves someone, and the fact that he is an incisive humorist, and the fact that he does a lot of good -- can all be beside the point. I need to first establish my relationship to the laws of God -- and everything else held at naught.

Again, my standard is -- after I have contact with a person -- a person on TV, a friend-- is my faith strengthened or weakened? Is my commitment to the laws of God strengthened or weakened? I act accordingly. I see if I can strengthen myself so that spiritual antibodies develop; or if I am not yet spiritually mature enough to handle that situation. I do not assume that I am invulnerable. I take seriously Baha'u'llah's admonitions to seek the company of the righteous, and the Master's counsel among the quotes above, to avoid those who lead me to doubt.


Re: Friendship with the "ungodly"

Posted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 10:53 pm
by brettz9
While I did agree with Brent on a number of his general points, I'd really like to suggest, particularly with his/your mention of Adam Carolla, I do not think that celebrity status means that we as Baha'is should put down other people, even if we strongly disagree with their views or actions. Even among enemies who are opposed to us, we are to recognize "any merits that enemy may possess" (Advent of Divine Justice, p. 27)

Consider this:

One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.

('Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, section 144)

Critique of entertainment and media--which indeed is sorely lacking in certain areas and explicitly called out in our writings, even while they still are admirably capable of bringing out truth in many cases, I think may be similar to how we are to criticize political defects--only in general systemic terms, and not critical of any specific personalities or institutions.

As far as using the criterion of "doubt", I'd be hesitant to accept that as a criterion--otherwise, how could any of us become Baha'is in the first place? That doesn't mean that we should expose ourselves perpetually to all kinds of polemics, especially the polemics of Covenant-breakers (where doubt may indeed be a valid criterion here) as it is their purpose to instill such doubt with false statements, insinuations, etc. And others even those not deliberately distorting truth, like some public entertainment can indeed drain us spiritually, but I don't think the problem is doubt, as that is something that can lead one to a higher degree of truth--including for Baha'is who have mistaken conceptions of certain topics and are not familiar with how our Writings may actually agree more with these comedians on certain points than is the present understanding in our community.

While I disagree with Bill Maher about certain issues including the lifestyle ones--mostly due I think to having an opportunity to appreciate the Baha'i teachings, I actually find him to be quite sincere in seeking out the truth. While he, as with other entertainers, may use the medium to make some quips which, while humorous, may sometimes over-simplify an issue or gloss over things a bit unfairly, I find him often to be a refreshing and highly intelligent truth seeker, both in the sense of not being exceedingly attached to many of his opinions, often conceding points or even changing his mind in the course of a show, as well as in offering very incisive insights into many inconsistencies and hypocrisies in society.

I find other entertainers stand in contrast to this, being hard to endure as they descend into a kind of draining frivolity (see ), graphic and inane in their materialism, and assert their views as though they are a given, with unquestioning confident smugness, not to mention those who descend into mean-spirited, albeit outwardly smiling, jabs at innocent people. Yet even among those that do, they have their own strong points, personal qualities, and insights.

While I am not deeply familiar with Christopher Hitchens, mostly just knowing him from some television appearances, while he might be (from what I have seen) a bit dogmatic in lumping religions together and failing to acknowledge their benefits, he also appears to me to be someone who is not arguing merely for the sake of self-importance, but is genuinely sincere in setting forth his opinions and looking at facts to come to a conclusion, even if it is not always a conclusion we would come to.

Related to perhaps a similar work, even the Baha'i International Community put out a review of "The God Delusion": ... Review.htm pointing out its legitimate complaints about religion as practiced by some. Our Writings also admit it is easy to understand how religion has fallen into disrepute due to the failings of its adherents, their disastrous involvement in politics, and so on, even while asserting it is not a fair conclusion to make.

In the education of children, given that "independent investigation" doesn't mean exposure to every idea, and it does not at all contradict giving children an explicit Baha'i education, there are statements like this on what their curriculum should include:

"...the avoidance of materialistic works that are current among those who see only natural causation"
(Abdu'l-Bahá: from a Tablet published in The Bahá'í World, Vol. XVI, p. 37, in Lights of Guidance, no. 494)

But this by no means implies the same is true for adults, except perhaps to the degree that perpetually dwelling on certain views can be wearying:

The conception of annihilation is a factor in human degradation, a cause of human debasement and lowliness, a source of human fear and abjection. It has been conducive to the dispersion and weakening of human thought, whereas the realization of existence and continuity has upraised man to sublimity of ideals, established the foundations of human progress and stimulated the development of heavenly virtues; therefore, it behooves man to abandon thoughts of nonexistence and death, which are absolutely imaginary, and see himself ever-living, everlasting in the divine purpose of his creation. He must turn away from ideas which degrade the human soul so that day by day and hour by hour he may advance upward and higher to spiritual perception of the continuity of the human reality. If he dwells upon the thought of nonexistence, he will become utterly incompetent; with weakened willpower his ambition for progress will be lessened and the acquisition of human virtues will cease.

(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 89 at ... up.html#89 )

I'd personally really only read such works which come to fairly one-sided conclusions in order to learn from its facts, and possibly respond in some manner to its points. I think we can learn a lot from our Scriptures, and need to delve more deeply into them, so we have a suitable framework for addressing these concerns in wider society. But I don't think there is any harm in studying them, and on the contrary, I think some study of them may enhance our understanding of the subject, and also better appreciate what questions or reservations are burning in the minds of intellectuals. Baha'is are advised to study history, economics, and sociology for these reasons:

“Shoghi Effendi has for years urged the Bahá’ís (who asked his advice, and in general also), to study history, economics, sociology, etc., in order to be au courant with all the progressive movements and thoughts being put forth today, and so that they could correlate these to the Bahá’í teachings. What he wants the Bahá’ís to do is to study more, not to study less. The more general knowledge they possess, the better. Likewise he is constantly urging them to really study the Bahá’í teachings more deeply. One might liken Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to a sphere; there are points poles apart, and in between the thoughts and doctrines that unite them.” (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Pearls of Wisdom, p. 108)

See also for more on this topic if anyone is interested.

But honestly, with the very challenging claim Baha'u'llah has made, and His proofs to back it up, I find it much more interesting to focus foremost on a more thorough study the teachings of the Faith in order to first, investigate their challenging claims, and if, after coming to believe in them, more deeply study their applicability to the complex issues of our day. My hope is to see in particular dig out and highlight many of these interesting teachings on a variety of concepts so that Baha'is are more adequately prepared to present the actual Baha'i position on a topic and agree with these incisive thinkers where they can, rather than make trite statements not based on what our Faith actually teaches or mix in limited philosophies and political movements.

best wishes,

Re: Friendship with the "ungodly" - practical

Posted: Fri Oct 18, 2019 11:27 am
by JamilDybwad
As an educator of nurses, I have had to tackle the question of relating to bad people practically. Anders Behring Breivik walked about, looked people in the eyes and killed 77 youths. My students asked about how to treat him, how to care for him one day. They all agreed the caring would not be differing from that given to any other patient, including empathy. The man had not changed his ways, had further developed his evil philosophy. Desk clerks and educated people have a choice. Those with the lowest pay and least education do not. As it says in the Seven Valleys: "To merit the madness of love, man must abound in sanity; to merit the bonds of the Friend, he must be full of spirit." These great people at the bottom of society might do well in heaven, for many abound in sanity, they are full of spirit - and they are strong. The Faith is full of sentences about estrangement, I think they too belong in this context. All in all it might really be a matter of judging correctly ones own sanity and spiritual strength - for the weaker ones many encounters are unbearable tests. I do not believe this to be a philosophical matter only.