meaning of the names of 19 months

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HuangRan
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meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby HuangRan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:32 am

It's said:" The names of the months in the Bahá'í ( Badí) calendar were given by the Báb, who drew them from the nineteen names of God invoked in a prayer said during the month of fasting in Shí'ih Islam."

If this be true, how to understand the meaning of the name of "Questions"? What atribute of God it implies?

BritishBahai
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby BritishBahai » Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:09 am

http://bahai-invitation.com/feast/fm15.html
It doesnt really answer your question about the attributes of God, but these quotes expand on the idea of "Questions"

Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 101 wrote:It is not permissible to ask questions from Him Whom God will make manifest, except that which well beseemeth Him. For His station is that of the Essence of divine Revelation... Whatever evidence of bounty is witnessed in the world, is but an image of His bounty; and every thing owes its existence to His Being... The Bayán is, from beginning to end, the repository of all of His attributes, and the treasury of both His fire and His light. Should anyone desire to ask questions, he is allowed to do so only in writing, that he may derive ample understanding from His written reply and that it may serve as a sign from his Beloved. However, let no one ask aught that may prove unworthy of His lofty station. -- The Báb


The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 64 wrote:In the Bayán it had been forbidden you to ask Us questions. The Lord hath now relieved you of this prohibition, that ye may be free to ask what you need to ask, but not such idle questions as those on which the men of former times were wont to dwell. Fear God, and be ye of the righteous! Ask ye that which shall be of profit to you in the Cause of God and His dominion, for the portals of His tender compassion have been opened before all who dwell in heaven and on earth. -- Bahá'u'lláh


The Kitab-i-Aqdas, pp. 21-22
wrote:
Everything that is hath come to be through His irresistible decree. Whenever My laws appear like the sun in the heaven of Mine utterance, they must be faithfully obeyed by all, though My decree be such as to cause the heaven of every religion to be cleft asunder. He doeth what He pleaseth. He chooseth, and none may question His choice. Whatsoever He, the Well-Beloved, ordaineth, the same is, verily, beloved. To this He Who is the Lord of all creation beareth Me witness. Whoso hath inhaled the sweet fragrance of the All-Merciful, and recognized the Source of this utterance, will welcome with his own eyes the shafts of the enemy, that he may establish the truth of the laws of God amongst men. Well is it with him that hath turned thereunto, and apprehended the meaning of His decisive decree. -- Bahá'u'lláh


The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 149
wrote:
As the wayward of every age have failed to fathom the deeper import of these weighty and pregnant utterances, and imagined the answer of the Prophets of God to be irrelevant to the questions they asked them, they therefore have attributed ignorance and folly to those Essences of knowledge and understanding. -- Bahá'u'lláh


Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 183
wrote:
Know thou moreover that thy letter reached Our presence and We perceived and perused its contents. We noted the questions thou hast asked and will readily answer thee. It behoveth everyone in this Day to ask God that which he desireth, and thy Lord will heed his petition with wondrous and undeniable verses. -- Bahá'u'lláh


Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 267 wrote:This Wronged One hath perused thy letter in the Most Great Prison and is apprised of thine enquiry concerning the commandments of God on the subjects of resurrection and the means of livelihood. Thou hast done well to ask these questions, for the benefit thereof will be gained by thyself as well as other servants of God, both outwardly and inwardly. Verily thy Lord knoweth all things and readily answereth the call. -- Bahá'u'lláh


Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, pp. 78-79 wrote:The songs which the bird of thine heart had uttered in its great love for its friends have reached their ears, and moved Me to answer thy questions, and reveal to thee such secrets as I am allowed to unfold. In thine esteemed letter thou hadst inquired which of the Prophets of God should be regarded as superior to others. Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every true Prophet hath regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of every other Prophet gone before Him. If any man, therefore, should fail to comprehend this truth, and should consequently indulge in vain and unseemly language, no one whose sight is keen and whose understanding is enlightened would ever allow such idle talk to cause him to waver in his belief. -- Bahá'u'lláh


Baha'i World Faith, p. 240
wrote:
The fourth teaching of Bahá'u'lláh is the agreement of religion and science. God has endowed man with intelligence and reason whereby he is required to determine the verity of questions and propositions. If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance, and the child of ignorance is superstition. Unquestionably there must be agreement between true religion and science. If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation. -- `Abdu'l-Bahá


Baha'i World Faith, pp. 347-348
wrote:
Now concerning our social principles, namely the teachings of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh spread far and wide fifty years ago, they verily comprehend all other teachings. It is clear and evident that without these teachings progress and advancement for mankind are in no wise possible. Every community in the world findeth in these Divine Teachings the realization of its highest aspirations. These teachings are even as the tree that beareth the best fruits of all trees. Philosophers, for instance, find in these heavenly teachings the most perfect solution of their social problems, and similarly a true and noble exposition of matters that pertain to philosophical questions. In like manner men of faith behold the reality of religion manifestly revealed in these heavenly teachings, and clearly and conclusively prove them to be the real and true remedy for the ills and infirmities of all mankind. Should these sublime teachings be diffused, mankind shall be freed from all perils, from all chronic ills and sicknesses. In like manner are the Bahá'í economic principles the embodiment of the highest aspirations of all wage-earning classes and of economists of various schools. -- `Abdu'l-Bahá


Baha'i World Faith, p. 407 wrote:Thou hast written concerning the meetings and the gathering places of the believers of God. Such assemblies and congregations will greatly aid the promotion of the Word--and all the audience, whether friends or not friends, become affected. But when the friends have the intention of entering in these meetings and assemblies, they must first make the purpose pure, disengage the heart from all other reflections, ask the inexhaustible divine confirmation and with the utmost devotion and humility set their feet in the gathering-place. Let them not introduce any topic in the meeting except the mentioning of the True One, neither must they confuse that merciful assembly with perplexed outside questions. They must either teach or open their tongues in propounding argument, either commune or supplicate and pray to God, either read Tablets or give out advices or exhortations. -- `Abdu'l-Bahá


Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 592 wrote:O thou maid-servant of God! Whenever thou art desiring to talk and answer questions, turn thy face toward the Kingdom of Abhá and beseech for assistance; then loosen thy tongue. Thou wilt behold at that time how thou art able to answer all the questions! -- `Abdu'l-Bahá


Foundations of World Unity, p. 39 wrote:His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh has given instructions regarding every one of the questions confronting humanity. He has given teachings and instructions with regard to every one of the problems with which man struggles. -- `Abdu'l-Bahá
"I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love"

MontanaDon
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby MontanaDon » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:01 pm

This is a topic that has been the subject of some controversy. There appear to be a couple issues. First off, there is no authoritative statement that the names of the months are in fact names or attributes of God, as least as westerners are likely to think of the subject. Secondly, the actual name of the month is Masail, not Questions, and while Questions is an acceptable translation and even makes sense in terms of early 19th century English and Persian, there might be a better translation. One suggestion has been "The Questioned One", to make it fit the idea of attributes of God.

It has also been suggested that the questions referred to here are those of the primordial Covenant of Alast, in which God at the moment of creation says, "Am I not your God?" To which all creation responds, "Thou art, thou art!" [For a discussion of this covenant, see http://bahai-islam.blogspot.com/2009/02 ... enant.html] From this perspective, it is not God as the Questioned One, the source of all answers, but as the Questioner confronting His creation.

There is a third possibility, that Shoghi Effendi saw the names of the months not as defining characteristics of God, but of the relationship btwn man and God.

Don C
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brettz9
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:23 pm

Thank you for the helpful insights and information, Don.

On the point about an authoritative statement, the notes to the Aqdas, do state: "The Báb named the months after certain attributes of God." (note 147). Page 11 of the Aqdas refers to "members of ... Committees whom we commissioned ... to compose the annotations". Not sure whether this would make the notes fall under the category of "on behalf of" the Universal House of Justice (which would make it authoritative) or more like memoranda prepared by the Research Department (which would merely mean it was meant to help us, but not necessarily authoritative - see http://bahai-library.com/uhj_research_d ... tymologies ).

As far as the difference between defining characteristics of God and man's relationship with God, I don't think we can categorically differentiate these. 'Abdu'l-Baha indicates that we affirm perfections of God simply to indicate that God is incapable of imperfection (see SAQ p. 148), and that all praise of God of which we can gain some understanding reverts to the Manifestation (ibid. 149). However, His attributes are reflected in all things, including ourselves, and we are urged to purify ourselves to ensure we more adequately embody these qualities (e.g., from the Four Valleys, "The Self of God standing within Him with laws." and "On this plane, the self is not rejected but beloved; it is well-pleasing and not to be shunned." - p. 50).

God even (through His Manifestations) includes such virtues as nobility within this pale and indicates that because of one of His attributes being the "Fashioner", He is eager to see His servants manifest the attribute through engaging in craftsmanship (see http://bahai-library.com/compilation_arts_crafts#I2 ).

Granted, there are situations in which it may typically be more appropriate to refer to some attributes as referring primarily to ourselves (e.g., "humility") and others primarily to the Almighty ("Sovereignty"), but as with "Fashioner", I think we may sometimes be called to have a share of all the attributes.

This is no less true with asking questions (perhaps describing, as per the post you reference (also online here), seeing God as the "Questioner"), as Baha'u'llah, embraces believers also asking questions in His Most Holy Book, even to Himself ("Ask ye that which shall be of profit to you in the Cause of God and His dominion, for the portals of His tender compassion have been opened before all who dwell in heaven and on earth." - par. 126) even though He does qualify this by asking believers to avoid asking "idle" questions (and as the Bab also did earlier).

Beyond questions of the Manifestations, the act of meditation is described as being a process of asking ourselves questions ("It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers" Paris Talks p. 174). Of course, consultation often calls for questions, they are to be employed in deepening, they are mentioned as a technique within language learning or learning in general, etc.

HuangRan
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby HuangRan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:05 pm

from a friend:

In one of the forums for the course on The Writings of the Báb, a student asked this question: “If Nineteen Day Feasts are named after attributes of God how can “Questions” be an attribute?” Faculty member Dr. Moojan Momen answered with a lesson about historical Iran and Shí’í Islam:

The key to answering the question, Dr. Momen said, lies in the first part of the question: “If Nineteen Day Feasts are named after attributes of God.”

The names of the months of the Badí` calendar (the Bábí/Bahá’í calendar) were taken from a Shí’í dawn prayer (Du`á Sahar) for the month of the Islamic Fast (Ramadán) revealed by the Fifth Shí’í Imám, Muhammad al-Báqir, who urged his followers to recite the prayer.

If you scan the prayer’s twenty-two verses, you will find that the names of the months in the Badí` calendar appear in the prayer in the same order except that the twelfth and thirteenth months, ‘Ilm and Qudrat, are reversed. In the fifteenth stanza of the prayer you will find the following:

O my God! I beseech Thee by Thy Masā’il (Questions) which are most
Agreeable (ahabb) of Thee
for all of Thy Concerns (masā’il) are truly beloved (habīb).
I, verily, O my God! beseech Thee by the whole of Thine affairs (masā’il).

As you can see from this translation, masā’il can be translated in a number of ways: questions, concerns, affairs, as well as problems, propositions, precepts. None of these words, however, are names of God.

The point, Dr. Moojan concludes, is that the idea that all of the Bahá’í months are attributes of God is one that Bahá’ís have imposed upon the names of the months, instead the Bahá'í month names were chosen by the Bab from the prayer mentioned above.

Another point to consider:

There is more than one tablet of Baha’u'llah in which God is called “al-Mas’úl” – “the One who is Questioned.” In one tablet for example the recipient of the tablet Ibrahim is addressed at the start of the tablet thus: “Ibrahim the questioner, who questioned his Lord in the past and God answered him out of His Bounty and verily He is the One Questioned and the Answerer (or perhaps: the Who is Questioned and the One who gives Answers).” (Ma’idih Asimani, vol. 8, p. 171). So, one of the attributes of the God is “The One Questioned” .

brettz9
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:32 pm

Thank you, HuangRan, that was also informative.

Despite Dr. Momen's response, I don't see how the source of the prayer being from one of the Imams would negate the possibility that these are attributes of God.

Every good quality is no doubt an attribute of God (since again, 'Abdu'l-Baha tells us that we ascribe these qualities to deny God is incapable of imperfections)--unless it is a quality we would not ascribe to God because it is only a good quality due to our own weakness (e.g., humility). Questioning may fall under this category since it tends to presume a lack of knowledge. On the other hand, God does inquire as to our deeds, etc.

I do not believe it is possible to definitively list all of God's attributes, even if the Writings may posit certain taxonomies for the sake of instruction.

MontanaDon
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby MontanaDon » Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:57 pm

"Every good quality is no doubt an attribute of God (since again, 'Abdu'l-Baha tells us that we ascribe these qualities to deny God is incapable of imperfections)--unless it is a quality we would not ascribe to God because it is only a good quality due to our own weakness (e.g., humility)."

God is not humble? Humble means to lack pride, arrogance, vanity, etc. Of course God is humble.

Don C
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brettz9
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:14 am

Yes, I think you are correct, but I think there are at least two ways of looking at this.

Given the limits in precision of human language, humility is not only definable as the absence of pride, but also potentially connoting deference or lack of authority.

Adib Taherzadeh seems to argue from this point of view as follows:

"In His Teachings Bahá'u'lláh has made it clear that there are only three stations in this world of existence. First, the station of God which is beyond our comprehension, then the station of the Manifestation of God which is exalted above the world of humanity, and lastly, the station of man which is that of servitude. In the service of the Cause of God the greatest protection for the individual is meekness and humility. It is the most acceptable gift that man can offer to God. For, by virtue of His sovereignty and dominion, humility is not one of God's attributes."

(The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, Volume 1, Chapter 9, p. 134)


With this connotation of a lack of authority, one might accept that the Manifestation embodies this station of servitude (in failing to impede God in being manifested within Himself), but not regarding God in His Essence.

Susan Maneck points out, perhaps along the lines of your reasoning, that "meekness" is used in reference to God (GWB, p. 242). However, I haven't seen it translated as humility. Have you seen any reference in the Writings to God "The Humble"? (Off topic, I might add that I am surprised her paper did not mention the Baha'i Writings mentioning that God's Mercy exceeds His Justice: LOG, no. 615, BE, no. 133.)

brettz9
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:38 am

I might also add some Hidden Words along these lines where, if spoken by a normal human being, might be seen in terms of "pride", while in God's case, the connotation of a lack of merit, or a lack of manners, of course does not apply:

"O SON OF SPIRIT! There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is."

(from the Arabic, no. 8)


"O SON OF UTTERANCE! Turn thy face unto Mine and renounce all save Me; for My sovereignty endureth and My dominion perisheth not. If thou seekest another than Me, yea, if thou searchest the universe for evermore, thy quest will be in vain."

(from the Arabic, no. 15)

HuangRan
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby HuangRan » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:43 am

Great! Thanks a lot for all your ideas, I think I'm satisfied now.
With loving regards.

MontanaDon
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby MontanaDon » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:56 pm

Given the limits in precision of human language, humility is not only definable as the absence of pride, but also potentially connoting deference or lack of authority.


While deference might be an expression of humility, it is not part of the definition. Only the lack of pride or arrogance. One can be non-deferential and still be humble. Such can be the case of God and His Manifestation.

Don C
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brettz9
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:02 pm

Definitions, as provided by dictionaries, typically include connotations beyond a main meaning, including this one which also doesn't fit: e.g., "modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." 1).

As it is not the central meaning (or at least not the only meaning), one can pick-and-choose a definition which does not include the undesired connotation, but that doesn't mean our brain doesn't process it as such.

Linguistic texts have used the example of "bird". There is the central concept which we might most strongly associate with the likes of say robins, and then less perfectly "ideal" birds (i.e., less "birdy"): tiny hummingbirds, and going to an extreme where we have to stretch ourselves to see them as birds anymore (ostriches, penguins).

A very good text which indirectly covers the futility of pinning down a single "correct" definition in (prescriptive) rules of language: http://ling.kgw.tu-berlin.de/lexicograp ... AVENS.html

MontanaDon
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby MontanaDon » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:17 pm

Shoghi Effendi used Edwardian English for his translations. The standard reference work for it remains the one he used - Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. He used the 2nd edition, 1934 printing, but the current 3rd edition is little changed. As Ruhiyyih Khanum noted in her response, "Reference to this specific edition of this dictionary is obviously, very important when gauging the exact meaning intended by Shoghi Effendi in the use of certain words.”

Language, certainly popular English language, has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. Certain words used by Shoghi Effendi are now archaic, obsolete or have changed in meaning to the point of being incomprehensible, prob the most notorious being "savage".
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brettz9
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:52 pm

Now we just need a modern dictionary explaining the explanatory words used within his dictionary! :)

And an example of him using "humble". :)

And certainty that he never used words in a manner not formulaicly spelled out in his dictionary.

"Savage" is a very good example word. I also get the sense (based on the fairness of the rest of his translation) that the word "victim" in George Sale's translation of the verse of the Koran mentioning "slay the victims" might similarly not have had the strong connotation at the time of being an innocent.

I recall Shoghi Effendi writing that his own translations were not even final, but it seems the House of Justice is (for the time being at least) treating them as such (though perhaps his statement may be merely due to the fact that his English mastery required some time to develop first within his ministry).

iranpour
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby iranpour » Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:20 am

HuangRan wrote:
If this be true, how to understand the meaning of the name of "Questions"? What atribute of God it implies?

Hello HuangRan,

Regarding your question whether QUESTIONS is one of the attributes of God, I searched in the most creditable Persian Dictionary, M.Moin, and found the following definitions:

QUESTIONS in Persian and Arabic is MASAIL the singular is MAS’LIH whose definitions are as “HAJAT”, “MURAD” and “MATLAB” whose meanings are as follows:

HAJAT means one who obtains someone’s want.

MATLAB means the subject of quest, intended, one who aimed at, one who is searched for, the object of request.

MURAD means one who is intended, the one who is aimed, the one who is looked for following (opposite is MURID which means the one who follows).

So the word which is one of the nineteen attributes of God recorded in the PRAYER OF NUDBIH, or PRAYER OF SAHAR, one of the most important prayers of Shi’ah Islam, could be one of the attributes of God.

BruceDLimber
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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby BruceDLimber » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:41 am

>Linguistic texts have used the example of "bird."

As an interesting aside, Shoghi Effendi was careful to select ideal working for his translations of the Baha'i scriptures.

For example, most Baha'is are quite familiar with the beginning of The Tablet of Ahmad: "Lo, the nightingale of paradise . . ."

But "nightingale" is in fact a word Shoghi Effendi intentionally substituted for the original term because the one in the original Arabic didn't resonate properly in English:

The original in fact speaks of "The pigeon of paradise . . ."

Regards, :-)

Bruce

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Re: meaning of the names of 19 months

Postby brettz9 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:04 am

Yes. :) And there is also the old joke about why the nightingale is named "Lo" :)


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