On the Meaning of Civilization
In the Name of God.
My brother, exalted in essence:
I read the letter bearing your seal. The beauty of its hand and grace of its language gave me hope that, by God's pure will, you will not only perfect your style and become a peerless correspondent, but that you will also pay attention to the substance of what is written. Do not pass beyond a certain limit, for eloquence is a highly subtle branch of knowledge to the brilliance of which most writers' eyes remain blind. Today the sun of eloquence has risen from the West, and the thunderbolt of knowledge and arts has flashed from the West. Turn your face toward it, and give your heart to that holy one. Perhaps the splendor of that radiant star will illuminate your pure heart, and unite the stream of your consciousness to the ocean of the Source of awareness.
My dearest friend: the good qualities in figures of speech are like lovers' adornments: "God-given beauty has not need of cosmetics." Metaphor, rhyming prose, simile, and alliteration are like salt in food: too much destroys it, diminishing the original charm of the words. In this regard, do not transgress the bounds of moderation or borrow overmuch from the speech of others. For in your borrowed cloak, the adornment appears shameful. Render your words concise and
harddriven, making use of their basic eloquence, that your letters may gain fame throughout the world and your name be linked with stylistic and rhetorical excellence.
You asked the meaning of "civilization" and "the educator of the human world." The former signifies, "being of the city," and the philosophers employed this broad term to denote a code of behavior capable of organizing the world and giving repose to its peoples. The fixed rules of civilization are the holy and divinely ordained Laws, and the source of peace for the masses is following the traditions laid down by God. If you look at the history of religions and of previous generations, you will see that no community became great without obeying divine envoys and putting into practice noble, heavenly ordinances. And no people were abased except that they forsook the commands of the revealed Book and committed what the Lord of Lords had forbidden.
Today, the differences between communities and religions and the multiplication of confessions and schools of thought have reached the point that this brief essay allows no space to explain them. The True Educator and the Mediator of the divine effulgence can be recognized by the effectiveness of his word and by his ability to perfect imperfect mortal souls. These two qualities are the signs whereby the Manifestations of His Cause, the Recipients of revelation, the Masters of religion are distinguished from all others, and these are the gifts for which the Lord of all worlds has singled them out.
In this day, the power of attraction, effective speech, and universal knowledge all belong to the friends of God. With the sturdy rope of certitude they capture learned and pious persons in the noose of submission,
mission, and with the sword of utterance they sever the cord of vain imaginings to which all religions have clung. With the gentle medicine of holy words they cure the spiritual illnesses of humankind. Even though the powerful show them hostility and despots and tyrants harshly forbid the promulgation of the Cause and the exaltation of their religion, they do not desist. "To Him is the call of truth; and those upon whom they call, apart from Him, answer them nothing, but it is as a man who stretches out his hands to water that it may reach his mouth, and it reaches it not. The prayer of the unbelievers goes only astray."
[1. Qur'an 13:14.]
My brother, more dear to me than life itself: The Manifestation of the All-Merciful and the living symbol of the Most Great Godhead, who is the educator of the contingent world and the real sun of the universe, ever shines forth with a human countenance and appearance. An understanding of the highest levels of erudition and of the complete unity of divers types of knowledge depends on him. The root principle of redemption and salvation is obedience to his commands. He is the treasury of wisdom, he is near to the eye of perception. He is the Most Great Portal and his command is the straightest path. Knowledge of him is the highest aspiration of the peoples. For the greatest scholars, the most accomplished philosophers, the sublime mystics, his commands and recognizing and meeting him constitute the highest teaching, the ultimate proof, and the most splendid hope. All have their origins in him, and all shall return to him. The cause and the sovereignty are his. All affairs depend on him.
My star and source of joy: Today my opportunity for writing and peace of mind for thoughts of religion
are as fleeting as the imagined lips of a lover or the nonexistent phoenix of the West. If the All-Bounteous, the All-Powerful should grant me the vigor, and the aid of His all-embracing compassion, then: "this expression will be translated broadly in another place." May the fortune of the tree of your youth be laden, even as I write, with the fruits of arts and sciences.
Completed by the pen of Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani on the evening of 13 Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1302 [24 August 1885] corresponding to the day of Shahrivar of the Parsi month of Farvardin, 1255.
On The Resurrection DayHe is God, Possessor of Greatness and Power.
May my spirit be your sacrifice.
The noble letter you had sent in remembrance of this forsaken one arrived, spreading joy and delight. I began to hope, by virtue of the signs of love and faithfulness displayed by that epitome of purity and sincerity that, God willing, you will not forget me in this remote place, and that you will ever gladden the heart of this exile by sending your letters and accounts of events.
Inasmuch as you would want to know of my own situation: I arrived in Kashan on the fourteenth of the present month, ill and feeble. I stayed at the caravanserai of `Abbas Bey, which lies in a quarter behind the shrine. But I sent my trunk of books and writings to the house of Aqa Muhammad Hashim, the brother of the late champion Rida. His brother insisted that I stay with them, but considering that my original aim was more to interest people and to spread the Faith, had I acquiesced, what would have happened? Nevertheless, I am honored to meet daily with the friends of God and to attract the interest of people, using wisdom. God willing, I will report to you all that takes place henceforward.
Now let us discuss the question of the Resurrection and the Return, which is the most perfect cause of the guidance and mission of the prophets, an obscure matter about which you inquired and sought to know my belief.
My brother, joy of my soul: Today, the desire and concern of God — may His mention be glorified and His name exalted — is that the hearts of the friends be united and their affairs harmonized. In view of this, I have rolled up the carpet of doctrinal dispute and closed the book of solving and clarifying philosophical issues. Just as you noted, after being released from prison on the last occasion I refrained from broaching such matters in meetings and gatherings, and sealed my lips against the mention of such problems. I went along with whatever anyone said, silent and assenting, counting agreeing with the friends as more important than anything else.
My dear friend: Today the scale of rejection and acceptance, the touchstone that divides the fraudulent from the true, is the blessed Cause. Whoever adheres to and obeys it is accounted among those nigh unto God, at His right hand; while all souls who deny and rebel against His blessed Cause are castigated as unbelievers, the people of the left. Now, understanding matters relating to the origin of the world and the Judgment Day, the Resurrection, and the Return, is wholly unrelated to acceptance or rejection of the faith.
Praise be to God! Insofar as the obscure sayings of the prophets and messengers, and the abstruse phrases uttered by the envoys of the Lord of the worlds, have been elucidated and clarified with the greatest eloquence and loftiest style in the Book of Certitude, the Kitab-i-Iqan, how can anyone henceforward remain confused or require further solutions and explanations? This august volume is the key to understanding
the holy scriptures, the interpreter of all the divine epistles. Thereby has the seal on the words of the messengers been broken, and thus have the enigmatic allusions of past prophets been resolved.
Bahá'u'lláh Kitab-i-Iqan (Cairo: al-Mawsu'at Press, 1900); English trans. by Shoghi Effendi [Shawqi Rabbani], The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Book of Certitude (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 3rd ed., 1974).]
Even so, only because of your desire that I give my views on this subject, I shall set them forth, revealing the essentials of my own beliefs. Perhaps God will grant His friends success in exalting the teaching of unity and concord, and in guiding His servants to the right and moral path. He, verily, is their Guardian in the beginning and the end.
The inner essences of spiritual faculties inevitably require the outward forms of elemental bodies, and the sparks of shining souls cannot avoid a relationship with mortal clay. Even so, it is clear to possessors of intellect that the original intent of the prophets and messengers when they mentioned Return and Resurrection was to deliver to God's servants the glad tidings of a future Advent — when all that had transpired would be played out once more, retracing each footstep. In this way, the people would be deterred from believing that the Sun of Reality would never again rise, or that the spring of divine, mystical knowledge would never return. The prepared souls would be awaiting the appearance of Manifestations of God and watching for the reappearance of a primal reality. Then when the spiritual breeze wafted and the lordly, radiant luminary arose, exalted souls would be raised from the tombs of their bodies, a wondrous life would be bestowed on the world through a new spirit, and the earth would be adorned with the flowers of knowledge and science. Thus might the fruits hidden in the trees of existence be brought into the realm of appearance, just as they were at the time of the last Advent, and all that is concealed in the recesses of souls be made apparent and manifest. This is the meaning of Return.
Otherwise, in regard to relative characteristics, spirits never return to this world once they have been separated from it. The birds of the soul, once they have ascended to the Most High, never again descend to the nethermost depths.
If the aim of creating the world and its inhabitants were merely the experience of fleeting bodily pleasures, and creation were limited to the corporeal world, then — I take refuge in God! — the act of the All-Wise would become a whimsy and the promise of the prophets and messengers would remain unfulfilled. It is this that the Eternal Truth — may his mention be glorified and his name magnified — elucidated from the prophetic traditions in the Tablet to Sayyid Yusuf Isfahani concerning the existence of spiritual universes, explaining that the worlds of God are in no wise limited to the physical one. Thus he lifted the veil from the face of this obscure question with the utmost grace.
In short, you should have complete confidence that human beings under no circumstance return to this world after death. The bird of the spirit, after taking flight to the realms of eternal life and perfection, shall never again swoop low, to be ensnared in the net of deficiency and impermanence. I swear by the brilliant sun of the Godhead and by the blessed divine Symbol! If the worlds were confined to this corporeal universe, then the Manifestations of the Cause, the recipients of divine revelation, who are the dawning points of grandeur and self-sufficiency and the mines of knowledge, vision, and guidance, would never have borne the tribulations that befell them. They would never, for the sake of bodily pleasures, have opposed the peoples of the world. It is well known that their goal is a world surpassing mortal imagination, and the
perception of a plane inconceivable to the denizens of this earth. "We have taught you the first creation — will you not take admonishment?"
My dear brother: Today I have no further leisure. If the will of God be with me, after arriving in Isfahan I will write a lengthy explanation of this issue. I will mention proofs for the fallacy of limiting the worlds to the physical universe, drawing on arguments of the great philosophers against reincarnation, so that the question might not remain confused and no one be entranced by foolish doctrines.
Hastily, if you want to know something of the recent events in this down [Kashan]: At this time, by means of the return of Haji Muhammad Husayn and Haji Luft `Ali from Mecca, and the arrival of some of the friends from the Holy Land, some of the obdurate opposers have created a tumult. Among them is Mulla Habibu'llah Darvah-Isfahani, who is in reality the brother of the Wolf of Isfahan. Before Haji Muhammad Husayn arrived, Mulla Habibu'llah openly forbade the people to associate with him.
[1. Shaykh Muhammad Baqir, the Shi'i cleric who in 1880 ordered the death of the Beloved of Martyrs and the King of Martyrs in Isfahan.]
But then a telegram arrived from I'tidadu'd-Dawlih to the governor instructing the local government to give every mark of respect to Haji Muhammad Husayn, and calling on officials to greet him. Further, I'tidadu'd-Dawlih had bestowed a robe of honor upon the Haji. Briefly, when this news was heard, the tumult and clamor of the enemies increased, and the town is full of talk. But, by the grace of God, they were unable to do anything. The Haji arrived, honorably and with wisdom, near sunset the day before yesterday,
which was Thursday the seventeenth. The clergy and the notables went out to visit him. As for what will happen, all is in the hands of God. He does whatever He wills and ordains whatever He desires.
Please give my greetings to each and every one of the pure ones, especially Haji Khan, Hasan Khan, Aqa Mirza Mustafa, Aqa Mirsa Sadiq, Yahya Khan, my dear friend Aqa Mirza Hasan Rawdih-Khwan, and to the brethren of purity, Ustad Ghulam `Ali, Ustad Ghulam Husayn, and Aqa Abu'l-Qasim. May the grace and loving-kindness of God encompass them. Though I am imposing on you, I ask you to deliver my warm regards to each of them personally. God willing, in the next two days, if I can write a supplication [to the Holy Land] I will mention each of their names in it. I have hardly any time. Otherwise, up to now I have fulfilled every promise in this regard.
I will also impose on you to send twenty photographs, as follows: four of the Master, four of the two honored Branches Aqa Mirza Diya'u'llah and Aqa Mirza Badi'u'llah, four of the Prince of Martyrs and the rest pictures of the other friends. The friends in this are have repeatedly requested these; please send me some if you can get any. I shall send you the cost, whatever it may be. But please note that they should be copies, not of a sort where the originals have to be returned. Give my love to my dear friend Ibrahim and his noble brother Isma'il. I do not know if the rest of the money they had kindly given was delivered to the wife of the late Mirza Abu Talib or not. Please let me know.
[1. Diya'y'llah and Badi'u'llah were sons of Bahá'u'lláh, and half brothers of `Abdu'l-Bahá.]
My friend, when I was in Tehran I was troubled by
acquaintances who had newly come to hold me in affection, who always caused me to become renowned and who exceeded the bounds of wisdom. In reality, the reason there were dealings with that person, and the public disturbances occurred, was limited to those very individuals. After these observations, it was not necessary that Aqa Mirza Asadu'llah Ashtiyani, through the actions of this group, should have been summoned. I repeatedly said, and say again now, that I take refuge with God from such statements. I never felt that anyone failed to welcome me. God is my witness and He suffices as a witness. Each of the accepting souls showed respect to this undeserving one with helpfulness, even service. But after three or four rounds of imprisonment and incarceration in the delicate situations, it is necessary for me to take care that notables and officials are not angered or made anxious. The less well-known the promulgator or teacher of the Faith is, the better it is for its progress.
In short, these observations necessitate the writing of some petitions. Otherwise, I myself have traversed beyond these stations and, by reason of my feebleness and weakness, any hope of living much longer has suddenly been cut off.
In Qum, I had the honor of meeting the above-mentioned person. I wished to remain incognito, but since they had informed him of the details of my clothing and person, that proved impossible. Wise travelers through Qum must practice extreme caution, that much is clear — and this was especially so in my case, as I wished to meet with some persons. In any case, I convinced him that he should proceed alone to Kashan. After our arrival in Kashan, however, the events described above provoked by the arrival of the hajis had
thrown the town into turmoil, and the friends were most anxious. Therefore, it once more proved impossible to travel with him. Whatever the case, he set out for Isfahan with apologies, and had no difficulties. God knows, I myself had no cause to be concerned. Rather, the cause was that he did not have enough loyalty to accompany me to Isfahan. A partial reason was given, and he set out. What will now happen?
Please write every day of your own affairs, and those of the friends there, including an account of every important event related to the great and powerful, including generalities and specifics. May the rest of your days be lengthened. 21 Rajab 1301 [25 April 1886] Abu'l-Fadl
Why Moses Could Not See GodIn the Name of God, the Possessor of Grandeur and Power.
After praising God, Who illuminated the world with the lights of His countenance, strengthening the canopy of His Cause with the Dawning-Places of His greatness, the Treasuries of His knowledge, and the Manifestations of His splendor:
I wish to say that after a long separation, in the town of Hamadan I received a beautiful letter from you. However, since I was in the midst of traveling, I found no opportunity to reply — until now, in Kermanshah, where I have been able to begin a response. God knows that I can never think of Isfahan, that heavenly spot, without remembering my peerless friend's high moral qualities rising like the sun above the horizon of my ruminations, or without my heart trembling at the power of your friendship. For it is obvious that the hearts of the friends of the Beloved are still in His presence, encompassed by the ranks of the righteous, advancing toward the words of the pious. They are bound by so firm a bond that the swords of those in power could not sever it, and the oppression of tyrants have failed to break it. How amazing that lost ones from the various religions have gathered together in the sweet creed of love for Him, that divers separated hearts have agreed in worshipping Him, and that the ancient feuds and hatreds of former nations have been replaced with true brotherly love.
On the eve of my departure from Hamadan for Kermanshah, a gathering for the purpose of fellowship and meeting the beloved of God was held in the home of one of the friends. At first friends of Muslim background, their faces shining with the light of Muhammad, arrived. After our good fortune in meeting, they bade me farewell and returned home.
Then, gathered the progeny of Abraham, the children of Israel, in whose countenances the splendor of blessedness and the perfection of Moses could be discerned. They passed an hour or two discussing theological matters. I perceived them to have the capacity, by the permission of God, to understand things that the most accomplished philosophers failed to comprehend, witnessed them plunge into oceans, the shores of which the greatest of scholars never reached, and discovered them to have attained stations denied to the greatest mystics. The hand of power had kneeded their clay with the waters of wisdom, the fingers of loving-kindness had etched on their faces the signs of grandeur, and the sun of grace had shone on their breasts with rays of love. It was as if the All-Wise had fashioned their natures so as to exalt His Cause, adorning them with lofty and praiseworthy characters so as to fulfill His promise.
Praise be to God! In each one I could discern a manifest kindness, gentleness, and purity. Day and night, they busied themselves with delivering the Message to the masses of humanity, devoting themselves passionately to attaining a mystical knowledge of God, the Self-Sufficient, the Exalted. This is the power of the Almighty God. He replaced hereditary enmities with this sort of brotherhood, making the wolf and the lamb to lie down at the same watering place. Exalted be God, the All-Powerful!
As for the question of Resurrection and Return: Know that it is as the axis about which the grinding-stone of prophethood and divine revelation turns, the trunk from which the religions branch out endlessly. In spite of its clarity, the understanding of religious scholars has lost its path here, and the keen insight of the righteous has proved unable to resolve its difficulties. Its heavenly maidens have remained chaste in their palaces of holy verses, even after the most penetrating scholars sought their hands. Its reality is yet hidden beneath veils of words, even after the most brilliant philosophers uncovered it. Away with you, then, from it! For it is a stumbling block, a provoker of enmity in the world.
How many nations were dispersed because they failed to understand the meaning of Resurrection, and how many siblings separated for this reason! I know not what to say, or to whom to say it, or how to say it. Is it possible for anyone to reveal the true face of such matters better than the Lord of Grandeur Himself, or to explain these hidden secrets more eloquently than the Sovereign of all creation? I have for some time kept the steed of composition away from this field, reining in any desire to compose commentaries on it or to solve the problems related to it. This was so that the same fate might not befall us as befell the ancients, and we might not witness among ourselves what occurred among our forebears.
For it is the will of God that the ends of the earth are yet radiant with the lights of his Countenance, and the gardens of the world still emblazoned with the flowers of his Cause. He has devoted himself to creating unanimity among his friends, and his irrevocable decree was implemented through the union of the hearts of his lovers. It is therefore incumbent upon you
to cup your hand and drink from the spring of certitude [the Kitab-i-Iqan] that has flowed from the pen of the All-Merciful throughout these times. It is, for all its conciseness, the key to the psalms and tablets and the interpreter of the books of God, Who dispels the darkness at each dawn. Thereby have the seals of the prophets been broken and the abstrusities of the allusions of past scriptures been resolved. Exert yourself to the utmost and reflect on this holy book, that you might be inspired to the correct understanding of every chapter. Preserve the hearts of the friends from doubts, suspicions, and misgivings. Verily, our Lord is waiting, and He is our Guardian in the beginning and the end.
You asked about the interpretation of the holy verse, "And when Moses came to Our appointed time and his Lord spoke with him, he said, `Oh my Lord, show me, that I may behold Thee!' Said He, `Thou shalt not see Me, but behold the mountain — if it stays fast in its place, then thou shalt see me.' And when his Lord revealed Him to the mountain He made it crumble to dust; and Moses fell down swooning."
[1. Qur'an 7:143.]
My own humble understanding of the verse is as follows. It is clear and manifest to persons of insight that the invisible divine Essence and the holy, lordly Spirit can in no wise be perceived, and that between Him and the creation no link or connection can be imagined. Therefore, the Source from which commands and prohibitions issue, and the Dawning-Place from which psychological and spiritual perfections shine forth, and all that has been mentioned, near and far, is the Primal Word, and the universal divine Will. This eternal Word was the first person in the contingent world, and perfections grew from it. Its teachings brought into being the highest levels of humanity
and civilization, and every Envoy attained the rank of prophethood and messengerhood by virtue of its word. I can promulgate a new revelation in the world, abrogating past systems of religious law. It is the referent of all the most beautiful names of God, having come to be characterized by all the exalted attributes. Rather, it is the Lord of Names. It names anyone it wishes with any attribute it desires, and withdraws the name whenever it wills.
The speech of the Word is the speech of God, and its teachings are the divine verses. Had it not existed, no one would have attained to the knowledge of God or been liberated from the nadir of bestiality that is termed the lowest of the low. Know that from the earliest centuries until our own day, no king or emperor, no philosopher or teacher in any of the five continents of the world has succeeded in ordaining a religion. Only those who laid claim to the station of Messengers, all of whom spoke with one voice on behalf of the One that sent them, spread a system of revealed law through the world. Had the prophets not delivered the tidings of the Peerless One God, no one would have ever heard of Him, much less of His Essence.
Had these holy souls not ordained revealed laws and religions by His command, no one would have traversed the higher stages of humanity and civilized society, much less attained spiritual perfections and the rewards of the hereafter. Most of the world's population would have resembled the most primitive tribes of America and Africa, mired in savagery and mischievousness, covetous and lacking in education, dwelling in caves, sheltered valleys and holes in the earth, practicing cannibalism.
Exalted by God, Lord of all in the past and present! In view of what has been said, three conclusions may be drawn which are prerequisites for understanding the
holy verse. The first is that the Primal Word, known as the greatest of the divine Names, continues to manifest itself in human form and to shine forth upon the remotest horizons. The verses of the holy scriptures attesting to this matter are highly subtle, but no doubt you have perused them. For instance, in the Hebrew Bible it is written that God created Adam in His own image, and in the oral reports surviving from the Imams — the mines of knowledge and wisdom — it is also said that "God created Adam in His own image." The statements of the great founders and leaders of every religious community referring to the attainment of God's presence, the beatific vision, are innumerable.
This year during the summer, when I happened to be passing through Tehran, someone mentioned at a gathering that a debate had occurred between some of the friends and others who denied the truth of the prophets. These in ancient times were referred to as
atheists, but nowadays are called materialists. Those present asked the writer of this letter how it would be possible to prove the reality of the Necessarily Existent with rational evidence. I replied that it is impossible to vindicate the necessarily existent Essence with rational proofs, because the Essence cannot be perceived by the intellect. A universal that encompasses all things cannot be itself encompassed by a limited particular. The statements of the wisest among the ancients and moderns on this subject should suffice.
Rather, establishing the reality of the essence of the Necessarily Existent depends on vindicating the divine Manifestations, who are referred to as Primal Wills. Peruse the blessed text of the Complete Pilgrimage. He said [addressing the prophets], "Whoso set out for God began with you." And added, "By you they knew God." For they are the manifestations of the Essence and the locus for the effulgence of the names and attributes of God. These clear crystals reflected the radiance of the Unseen and the brilliance of the Unknowable Essence to the world.
[1. Az-Ziyarah al-jami'ah al-kabirah, attributed to the tenth Imam, `Ali al-Hadi.]
O, my dear brothers: You must reply to them that we have nothing to say about the Essence and such of its effects as the generation and decomposition of things. For these effects will not be changed by anyone's knowledge or ignorance, affirmation or denial. Nor is human progress dependent on knowledge of, belief in, or rejection of such phenomena.
Rather, our argument is as follows: In past centuries and in our own day, in every age, we have discovered a human being who forcefully called out, saying: "O people! I have been sent forth for the sake
of your salvation by the one true God, whose Essence remains forever impossible to perceive and about Whom certainty can be attained only through worship. He has graciously bestowed upon me a Book wherein two great things appear that cannot be found in the book of any mortal, whether of the East or of the West.
"First, my Book enshrines a knowledge and a law, upon acceptance and comprehension of which depend the organization of the world's affairs, the peace of the entire human race, the attainment of high stations, and the acquisition of the most noble human qualities. Second, there is a power in my Book that shall conquer the world in the face of the stubborn opposition of all its rulers and emperors, all the clergy and secular leaders, and all the subjects and laborers."
In reality, since we write with justice and fair-mindedness, this claim is the pure truth. For throughout the five continents of the earth societies have been profoundly influenced by the Books of these pure essences, and the people have adopted noble manners from them. Had the human race not been morally trained by their Books, it would have continued to be a collection of primitive savages and untutored beasts. We also notice that in every age wherein these wonderful souls step forward to make manifest the Cause, all the people, including the rulers, clergy, and ordinary individuals, even relatives and intimates, arise with the utmost earnestness to prevent them. Yet, in the face of all who dwell on the earth, their Cause nevertheless is vindicated, and their word becomes law. All who follow them are redeemed from their former abasement, and make progress, while all that haughtily turn away remain vile and degraded.
How can we deny this clear knowledge or arrogantly close our eyes to this manifest power? This
knowledge transcends that of all the world's scholars, and this might exceeds all the power of the human race. Therefore, we can be certain that this is the knowledge and the power of the peerless invisible Essence, unlike that apparent in ordinary mortals. And we can believe that the saying "Whoso seeks God begins with you" is the unadulterated truth.
We have shown that the Necessarily Existent can only be demonstrated through the prophets and messengers, and that certainty can only be achieved through the saying of the Lord of the worlds: "Worship thy Lord, until certitude comes to thee." Whoever strays from this straight path can hope to manifest nothing but impotence and ignorance, and to utter nothing but fanciful analogies that today foreign nations find laughable.
[1. Qur'an 15:99.]
The second conclusion is that all the prophets and messengers were dispatched and given their cause and mission by the word of the Primal Will, which, as we have demonstrated, always appears in the universal form of a human being. It gathers together in itself all the divine names, and it alone manifests the Most Great Name of God. At its command the Holy Spirit descends upon the hearts of the prophets so that they may guide the nations. "Exalter of ranks is He, Possessor of the Throne, casting the Spirit of His bidding upon whomever He will of His servants, that He may warn them of the Day of Encounter."
[2. Qur'an 40:15.]
The proof for this assertion is that each of the prophets and messengers has himself stated that he was sent forth and dispatched by Someone Else. Each bore witness to this in his Book and in his prayers,
stressing that he was a servant, messenger, a son, Christ said in this regard, behind the veil of a subtle parable:
A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and when into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed, and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, "They will respect my son." But those tenants said to one another, "This is the heir; come let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others.
That is, the Sovereign of the universe and Creator of the peoples brought the world into existence, adorning it with the most perfect form, and set the human race over it as a tenant. In every age He appointed on of His servants as a messenger to inquire into the welfare of the creation. But the people, ignorant wrongdoers, refused to recognize or accept him, greeting him with derision and haughtiness. Finally, He sent the
perfect, divine Word in the name of Sonship, and they slew him as well. Naturally, the Lord of all horizons on the Day of Encounter will manifest Himself, and deliver the world, the divine vineyard, over to the just and trustworthy. "So God strikes similitudes for men; haply they will remember." And the Primal Point [the Bab] said in the eighth chapter of the second Unity of the Bayan concerning this difficult point, "He whom God shall make manifest is the sender of all the messengers. The throne of his manifestation and hiddenness is ever in the midst of the people."
[1. Qur'an 14:30.]
Although to lengthen this discourse risks boring you, I would like to tell a story concerning this point, that my goal might be reached by the aid of the Sovereign, the Object of adoration. This year around the beginning of spring, I stopped in the town of Tabriz in Azerbaijan. Mr. Preuss, an erudite Christian gentleman who had for many years lived in India and Iran and was lately an important clergyman in Isfahan, came through Tabriz en route to his native London. Since we had previously met and become friends, I set out with Varqa and Aqa Khalil Tabrizi to meet him. After we entered and were seated, being made welcome, a young guest who was an American clergyman also came in. Then Mustasharu'd-Dawlih Mirza Yusuf Khan, a government official of the Iranian state and a man of purity, knowledge, and many accomplishments, also arrived. A gathering of fellowship among those just mentioned got underway. Mr. Preuss said, "Last year in Isfahan we had the opportunity of meeting. I was most anxious to see you again and discuss three issues with you. For only on three points do I differ with you."
I replied, "Aqa Muhammad Tajir Majafabadi, one of our brethren and a friend of your, had relayed to me your wish in Isfahan. But as I was just about to leave for Azerbaijan, I found no opportunity to meet with you again. Now we are in a gathering where there are men of erudition and knowledge, so please feel free to ask your three questions, and I shall respond with my point of view on each."
He complied, saying, "The first matter: you hold that the heavenly Father manifests Himself in human form, while we believe that He is an invisible Essence, beyond the perception of mind and sight, purified above human bodies and attributes.
"Second, you state that the holy books of the Pentateuch, the New Testament, and even the Qur'an, are the Book of God. We hold that the Pentateuch and the Gospel are the Book of God and divine revelation protected against textual corruption and change. But since in the Qur'an obvious differences exist with these, we inevitably must account the Qur'an to be an artificial fabrication.
"Third, we consider Christ to be one person, identical to Jesus. But you believe the Christ to be numerous persons appearing in various forms."
I said: "In each of these three cases, I accept the witness of the Old and New Testaments and acquiesce to their judgment. By the will of the one true God I openly proclaim my belief in this gathering and in the presence of these erudite persons."
He responded: "You have spoken well, for in religious questions we accept nothing but the witness of the holy books, nor do we resort to rational proofs in establishing our knowledge and doctrines."
When at my request they brought a Bible, I answered: "As for the first issue, it is clear that the phrase
`heavenly Father' is used only by the children of Israel and the Christians. The rest of the religious communities, including Zoroastrians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists absolutely never employ this term. Indeed, most have never heard it. The phrase originates in the Hebrew Bible and from there entered into the New Testament, which is the offspring of the Pentateuch. This being the case, only the attributes, physical or spiritual, of the heavenly Father to which the Hebrew Bible bears witness are worthy of consideration, rather than the imaginings of theologians."
"Yes," he agreed.
I proceeded, "Read Isaiah 9:6."
When the blessed verse was found, it read, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called `Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this."
[1. Isaiah 9:6-7.
After the holy verse had been recited I said, "This passage bears witness that for the redemption of the children of Israel from the vexation of abasement and abjectness, a child would be born who would be known by these names: First, `Counselor,' or giver of advice to the people; second, `Mighty God,' meaning the greatest of the divine Manifestations and the Primal Letters; third, `Everlasting Father,' whose power and sovereignty created and trained up the people from beginning to end; and fourth, `Prince of Peace,' at
whose appearance the rites of unity and concord would arise in the world, and the misery of war and hypocrisy, destroyers of the world and abasers of humankind, would be effaced from the earth.
"From the clear text of these verses it is apparent that the heavenly Father will appear in the universal form of a human being, born of a mother and christened with the Most Great Name. My belief is that no mention of the heavenly Father characterized by this sort of clear statement has been made in any other place."
Mr. Preuss was lost in thought for a while. At length he said, "I have never before heard this explanation from anyone." Then he talked in English with the American guest who was at the gathering.
Aqa Khalil, who knew English, asked Varqa, "Do you know what Mr. Preuss is saying?"
He replied, "No."
He translated, "He says that we give the Bible to the Muslims and none of them understands it. But this community well comprehends the meaning of the holy scripture. The truth is, in the interpretation of this verse and this issue, they are in the right."
I addressed Mr. Preuss: "Praise be to God! The first issue is resolved, and the dispute has been settled.
"Concerning the second question, regarding the alleged differences between the holy scriptures and the Qur'an: Yes, by reason of the variants the past religions imagined they saw in these three books, they inevitably tried to refute one or the other of them.
"The Jews, absolutely certain of the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible, and the Christians, convinced of the genuineness of both the Old and New Testaments, attempted to refute the Qur'an. The Muslims, having no doubts about the soundness of the holy Qur'an,
said that the Bible was forged and textually corrupt. But the Bahá'ís — praise be to God! — consider all three radiant books to be divine scripture and heavenly revelation, finding them to be in complete agreement. For it has been written, `No man can change the words of God,' and `It is We who have sent down the Remembrance, and We watch over it.' We believe that divine protection prevented any alteration of the eternal Proof, that the Word of God was preserved from the darts of the wicked and the assaults of defacers. We hold that to accept that the words of God can become textually corrupt is an interpretation contrary to the divine will.
[1. Qur'an 6:34.]
[2. Qur'an 15:9.]
`Hark, that I may prove it well And the hidden truth unveil.'"
Mr. Preuss said, with an earnestness composed of mirth and mixed with anxiety, breaking into his unaffected smile, "I once told someone truthfully and sincerely that we already know what we should about Muhammad and the Qur'an. Truly, I say that we cannot accept what he says and will not proceed. Discussion of this matter with us will have no good result."
In response I said, "We have come to visit you because of our former acquaintance. We had no intention to engage in arguments. Bahá'ís consider disputes and contention to be forbidden, counting love and friendship the highest stages of humanity. The subject to which our discussion led us came up at your request and was first broached by you."
Varqa added, "You said concerning the first question that his answer pleased you. What harm would
there be if you also discussed this issue? Perhaps in this regard also he might arrive at the desired response."
Mr. Preuss replied, "I stand by what I have said."
At this point the discussion ended and the conversation turned to another subject. He demonstrated great eagerness that I should accompany him to London in order to serve the Most Great Cause, but I declined.
O my spiritual brother! Such digressions concerning debates — in which the friends are today engaged in accordance with the blessed verse, "Every nation will be summoned unto its Book" — yield many benefits. But my original aim was for you to recognize that the Primal Word — which from the beginning has been given the Most Great Name — is, was, and always shall be present among the people in human form, according to the explicit testimony of all the holy scriptures. Referring to this abstruse truth, the Revealer of the Bayan — may the peace of God, the Sovereign, the All-Merciful, be upon him — ordained such laws as the following: "Seat not yourselves at the head of gatherings, subject not children in institutions of learning to excessive corporal punishment, and be not a cause of sorrow to anyone." Owing to their lack of comprehension of his meaning, the Babis fell prey to the evils that Holy One had feared they would, remaining veiled from the subtleties of the above-mentioned ordinances. They opened their mouths to utter objections. The counsel of the All-Wise profited them nothing, and He passed the same judgment upon them as He had passed upon their like formerly, as a command from God, the Omnipotent, the All-Conquering, the Subduer, the Exalted, the Mighty, the All-Great.
[1. Qur'an 45:28.]
The third conclusion is that all the messengers have stated that the peerless Essence and Compendium of divine names that sends forth the envoys shall at the end of time itself appear, illuminating the horizons of the world with its radiance. The day of its manifestation has been referred to by various terms in the holy scriptures, such as the Day of God, the Day of Affliction, the Hour, the Resurrection Day, the Day of Gathering, and the Day of Recompense.
Signs shall accompany that magnificent Day when the gracious Manifestation will appear such as have characterized the advent of no past prophet. The peoples of the world will become united in one universal faith, one religious belief. Branches of knowledge and science, even industries and technologies, will make great advances, and every region of the globe will put on a new garment. Warfare and strife shall, by the command of the All-Glorious, become extinct, and moreover the instruments of war shall be transformed into the means of production. All wrongdoers and evils shall be overcome; the oppressed and the just shall become honored and triumphant. The worship of idols shall be purified from the face of the earth.
These are some of the universal signs of that great and fearful Day which have been mentioned aforetime in psalms and tablets inscribed by the pen of the Giver of dawn. These glad-tidings have reached all the nations of the earth, along with other tokens. These include the arising of the Gog and Magog mentioned in the holy Qur'an, the spread of the Christian message throughout the world, and others so numerous that this writer cannot now enumerate them. No doubt, you are already aware of them. Peruse the holy books, that you may know. Verily, God has made a covenant
concerning His Day and Advent with all the nations through the words of His messengers, perfecting His grace for and completing His proof to all who are in the heavens and on the earth.
[1. Qur'an 18:93, 21:96.]
O friend who has been illumined by the flaming torch of the Manifestation and who has quaffed the pure wine: Now that we have arrived at the three conclusions that were prerequisites for the attainment of my goal, I can continue. All the prophets and messengers, through the descent of the Holy Spirit, were sent by the command of the Lord of the worlds. They all were summoned by the wafting of this spiritual breeze over their hearts from the loftiest heaven — which is the most splendid, sacred Beauty of the All-Glorious — and by this very spirit, called in the holy books Gabriel, the Trustworthy Spirit, the Holy Spirit; and in the Heavenly Book of the Zoroastrians, Bahman. These all refer to one Essence which has conquered all the inhabitants of the earth.
But everyone has not been honored to attain the presence of that unique Essence. Yes, all who perceived in their souls the fragrance of that celestial Source were made intoxicated, and all who smelled the perfume of that Epitome of paradise exerted their souls to the utmost to catch a glimpse of his springlike beauty. Read through the prayers of past holy ones that are still recorded. How they supplicated and humbled themselves to attain his presence, pleading and begging! For this abstruse truth is the original goal, and this is the gift that causes the whole creation to progress. I supplicate God by His grace not to deprive me during this wondrous Dawn, this great Day, of the tokens of His gracious presence, that these mouldering bones may be revivified. He, verily, is the Righteous, the Kind, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful.
From the words of each of the messengers that have been preserved from the vicissitudes of time it is possible to discern which of them attained to this gift and which remained deprived. The Lord of Lords has made a promise which, in accordance with the holy verse, "the day when God shall gather the Messengers: and "the Prophets witnesses shall be brought," is certain and inevitable. He pledged that all the prophets, holy ones, and witnesses would be gathered and resurrected under the shade of the branch of His compassion and beneath the wings of His loving-kindness, and would be exalted by attaining to His presence, which souls preferred for His sake. This is the judgment, both of the past and present. And who is more truthful than God in His statements?
[1. Qur'an 5:112, 39:69.]
The Seal of the Prophets and the Prince of the Messengers [Muhammad], who was the greatest sign for the approaching Day of Resurrection, like the red glow of dawn heralding the imminent appearance of the Sun of Reality, attained the presence of God on the night of his Ascent into heaven. How beautifully the most eloquent of modern poets put it:
Everyone has been promised a glimpse on the Judgment Day.
The interpretation of the holy verse is therefore as follows: Moses — may the Glory of God, the Sovereign, the Wise, be upon Him — through the mediation of the Holy Spirit sent by the Spirit of Spirits attained the rank of a Messenger. He then alerted the children of
Israel to the existence of God and His concern to deliver then from the tyranny of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, rendering them glad and joyous by demonstrating to them the divine bounties. Because of his own heartfelt yearning, and the demand of the people who said "Show us God openly," he stood at the threshold of Grandeur and supplicated that he might enter in God's presence. He pleaded, "Oh my Lord, show me, that I may behold Thee!"
[1. Qur'an 4:153, 7:143.]
But mortal hearts, the fruit of the trees of existence, had not yet achieved the stage of maturity and had not ascended from the nadir of idle imaginings. Contingent beings, like firm mountains, would have crumbled to dust at the unveiling of the most holy Beauty. Therefore, the Lord uttered the blessed words in reply, "Thou shalt not see Me," refusing to shine on them the rays of the sun of His presence unto God comes with His cause. (The antonym of "eternal," according to lexicologists, is that which is related to this first life. The attainment of the Divine Presence depends on the Day of Judgment and the second birth. In this are signs for the perceptive.)
In sum: The interpretation of the holy verse is that Moses said, "My Lord, reveal Yourself that I might see you." He replied, "You will never see Me. But gaze at the individual existences of men, like mountains. Whenever they attain the station of constancy through the effulgence of the All-Glorious, then you will see Me and be illuminated by the radiance of My presence."
For since in the first stage the mountains of individuals would have crumbled to dust before the appearance of the Possessor of all names and attributes, the
gate leading to the divine Presence remained barred. In the second stage, when, in the realms of mystical knowledge, the hearts of the faithful like towering mountain peaks had attained the heights of maturity and constancy, then the lights of the sun of the Presence of God bathed the earth. We ask God the Exalted, out of the vastness of His mercy, to make you one of the immovable mountains aiding Him and one of the suns dawning in the heaven of His Cause. He is worthy of complying and powerful to do as He wills.
My friend, today the hearts of the righteous have been invested with power and authority by aid of the dawning of the Light of Lights and the angel of the Advent of the King of Kings. Let us recognize the value of this time. With all our might and with great joy let us arise to aid the Cause of the Sovereign of the Advent. This servant is stricken with weakness and feebleness, and is encompassed from every direction by obstacles to serving it. You, who are now in the flower of youth, enjoying the days of your full power and vigor, must devote your precious life to helping the Most Great Cause. Liberate the world from the idolatry of abasement and the gloom of error. The joy of a wise person lies in acquiring knowledge and perfection, and the delight of human beings lies in aiding the Cause of the Self-Sufficient, the Exalted.
Today, when the Sun of knowledge and wisdom has dawned, devote yourself to uprooting ignorance from the world. Today is the springtime of the Advent of the All-Powerful, the Ordainer, a time to busy yourself in planting the trees of insight in the hearts of the righteous.
A flower's beauty lasts for no more than a day. Then seize this season to be joyful and gay.
Give my warm greetings and regards to your honored father and brother — may God grant them long lives and me the opportunity to meet them again. Joyfully utter a prayer for this outcast in the gatherings of fellowship among the brethren. My relatives have journeyed to that city for the purpose of religious studies, whereby they can at most attain a mere considered opinion about the Law. Approach them to the extent that wisdom allows, saying "O dear brothers! I swear by the Sovereign of the universe and the Fashioner of the nations that the light of grandeur has set on the realms where you abide, and the star of abasement is risen. The signs of imminent extinction are evident. While there is yet time, hasten to rescue yourselves from the ravaging deluge. How long will you immerse yourselves in the ways of deriving legal opinions? Until what time will you squander the wealth of a new and wondrous life on the stale repetitions of the ancients?"
What else can I say? May you and all the friends be continually showered with loving-kindness by the One True God. 22 Rabi' I 1305 [8 December 1887] Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani
Against Blind ObedienceMay my spirit be your sacrifice:
I received in Hamadan your letter dated the Holy Day in the month of fasting, which you sent in remembrance of this forgotten one. It honored and favored me. I was deeply saddened to learn that you are beset by illnesses. I ask from the magnificent generosity of the Sovereign of the universe and the Reviver of nations that your illness be transformed into health, and your weakness into joy and freshness. Verily, He is gentle and compassionate with His servants.
Indeed, this world is the realm of pain, the storehouse of disease. The Prince of the world [Muhammad] said, "The world is encompassed by adversities." This is especially true for the people of knowledge, on whom the clouds of fate rain nothing but afflictions, and from the seed of whose world naught but the thorns of suffering and calamities will grow. The only pleasant place for the people of knowledge and wisdom is the spiritual worlds, for their goals transcend the pleasures of the body.
Although this servant has only heard the name of knowledge, and has yet to make his way into the holy gatherings of fellowship held by the erudite, he nevertheless is a lover of scholars, by the aid of God, the All-Praised. It matters not to what religion they belong, for my desire is the faith of the people of wisdom, whatever it be called. Nay, by God, the unattainable station and the exalted rank of the people of knowledge is lofty beyond the love or hate of this humble servant.
God knows that I gloried in befriending people of knowledge and counted signs of hatred and bigotry to be outside the law governing the upright. I saw that all the people of the world were as letters on a single page and all human beings as branches of but one tree. By the Master of the world and the Adored One of the nations, the station of the erudite is too exalted to be reduced to vain display and hypocrisy, and the glorious robe of knowledge is too sacred to soil with rancor and loathing. Precious life is too exalted to spend in strife and contention. All hearts are in God's hands, and He rejects or accepts whomever He will. "Did not the believers know that, if God had willed, He would have guided men altogether?"
[1. Qur'an 13:31.]
In sum, I have always served the possessors of insight and have ever been so bold as to fulfill the requirements of love and friendship. Those who have escaped the depths of blind obedience and opened the eyes of independent investigation and internal struggle must never brand themselves with the name of a sect or narrow group. Nor must they, by joining with anyone in separation and dispute, disturb the basis of the religion of God — which consists in the knowledge of the Point of the divine Will and obedience to him, a principle on which the unity of God pivots. Those trapped in mere letters, those following mirrors, those known by the names of various rites and schools that derived from the fundamental basis of religion and branched out from the most great ocean are, in the view of the people of insight, far below the rank of independent investigation, having in fact fallen into a state bordering on idolatry. The same observation has been made by those who transcend all others in attaining a high spiritual state, those in the vanguard with sharp vision, who wrote:
In the wars of seventy-two nations, all have a basis for excuse.
In this example, according to the worshipers of the One True God, all are on the verge of going astray. The error and loss of none is greater than that of the Shi'is. No one can, in the Cause of God, be a partner to the Dawning-Places of the Cause, and no soul has, save by excelling in knowledge and obedience to the Primal Word, attained to the most exalted of stations. [As the Prophet Muhammad said,] "Verily, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most pious."
Praise be to God that the friends in this splendid century and this glorious day have seen that the counterfeit doctrines of the Shi'is have caused the most pure blood of the Promised One [the Bab] to be spilled. Classifying the legatees of the Prophet and discussing the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam became a basis for martyring the Point of Divinity. Nevertheless, they were not alerted and did not avoid this deadly, poisonous leaf. Rather, they went on to complete the idle imaginings of their forebears and have made the path of error and destruction straight and unimpeded for their descendants.
The possessors of such weak minds must be pities. One must supplicate the threshold of the All-Glorious that they may be saved. Perhaps the lights of the most great loving-kindness will shine on them and these wanderers in the arid desert of perdition will be guided to the road of redemption. He is, verily, gentle to His servants and Master of His Cause.
In sum, I have been extremely rash and have no doubt disturbed you. But God, the All-Great, is my witness that these words have been written only out of
devotion to the friends and these statements are wholly devoid of hidden purposes. Otherwise, it is clear and decisively established for the people of knowledge that the Cause of God needs no help from anyone. God is the Master of His own Cause and has subdued all His servants. Soon He will roll up the tapestries of the various religions and cause all the peoples of the world to agree upon a single Word. No one can resist His decree or intervene against His command.
Your praiseworthy deeds give me hope that, should you think it appropriate, you will read my letter to the friends and draw their attention to any good counsel therein. Perhaps they will enjoy the blessings of the verse, "This is the day the truthful shall be profited by their truthfulness" and will avoid the road that leads to destruction. The only duty of the messenger is to deliver his message.
[1. Qur'an 5:122.]
Please convey my greetings and friendship to Mirza `Abdu'l-Husayn khan. I still remember his praiseworthy acts and the blessings of his friendship. I will also impose on you to give my courteous greetings to his honored children — may God prolong their lives. Not forgetting to pray for the good we await, what more is there to say? May droplets from the ocean of loving-kindness and the clouds of honor rain down on you. 10 Shawwal 1305 [20 June 1888] Abu'l-Fadl