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Letters and Essays, 1886-1913

by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani

translated by Juan Cole.
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Chapter 3

Part III

Palestine, 1894

[page 86]

[Photograph of `Abdu'l-Bahá]

[page 87]

On Meeting `Abdu'l-Bahá

In the name of our Lord, the Most Holy, the Most Glorious

May my life be your sacrifice:

It was a blessed night and an auspicious moment, better than the Night of Power, indeed, more luminous than the dawn of peace, until the rising of dawn.[1] The sea breeze wafted from the west, the light of the moon glistened and shimmered, and the lord of all men rose from the heavens of the will of our Lord, the Most Glorious. He is the most noble Mystery of God, the Most Great Branch from God, and the Proof standing forth to all the nations. May God render all breasts and hearts treasuries of fidelity to him and cause all souls and spirits to be attracted by his call.

[1. The Night of Power was held to be the night Muhammad received revelation from God. See Qur'an 97: "Behold, We sent it down on the Night of Power; and what shall teach thee what is the Night of Power? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months; in it the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, upon every command. Peace it is, till the rising of dawn."]

He called this servant into his radiant, shining presence in the blessed house, and addressed me with spirit-bestowing utterances. I know not with what sweetness he spoke and cannot describe the effect of his words. Grace of expression is according to the holiness of the heart and the eloquence of the tongue. A

[page 88]

wise observer knows what effect spring rains have on the trees and what the gales of dawn whisper to the flowers.

Among the things he said was that I should write to Adib that according to the text of the Most Holy Book [the Kitab-i Aqdas], all the Iranian friends must count obedience to the commands of the ruler as one of their religious duties and must reckon love of their government as one of their most important goals. They must ever and with the utmost sincerity entreat the threshold of the one true God to bestow greater honor, power, and health on the holy person of the ruler.

For it is clear to anyone of wisdom and insight that the power of the state, the authority of the government, and the wealth and peace of their subjects all depend on precisely this factor: that all the individuals living in a country consider it incumbent to obey their ruler. Thus can the state to whom such allegiance is owed rise to the apogee of grandeur, the affluence of its subjects increase, the land be built up, and the country find tranquillity.

Consider that in the former times when the people of Iran believed it necessary to obey their sovereigns, the Iranian empire was reckoned the greatest state in the world. To what high levels did the might of the government and the prosperity of the subjects rise! The splendor of the old Iranian empire is renowned throughout the world down to our own day, and the glorious exploits of that age are recorded in all works of history. In these latter times the opposite holds true, for the Shi'i community did not believe it obligatory to obey secular rulers, regarding secular states as unjust and branding all government officials tyrants. The foundations of government were shaken, the power of the

[page 89]

state correspondingly declined into weakness, the wealth of the subjects diminished, and poverty and anxiety gripped the inhabitants. The debasement and abjectness of Iran's people is recognized by everyone in the world.

Therefore, all the friends must realize the universal and magnificent benefits inhering in the ordinance of the Book concerning obedience to the government, and accept that the unchallengeable command of the Most Holy Book that no one should oppose those who rule over the servants constitutes the basis of their own prosperity and good fortune. They must know that the tranquillity of the country, the benefit of the people, the authority of the state, the wealth of the subjects, and the approval of the One True God are all encompassed in this single factor. Perhaps, by the aid and confirmations of God, the damage done by ignoramuses in other groups will be recognized by virtue of the sincerity of this community, and this holy intent may bring about the triumph of the people of Iran.

It is the same way with local governments. When they oppose the friends their actions are, naturally, founded on some wisdom and yield some benefit. Indeed, sometimes the opposition of the government can help protect and safeguard the righteous from the attacks and oppression of the evildoers. This was witnessed in the events at Sabzavar and Ardabil. If the government had not taken those hapless ones into custody from the clergy, to what degree of persecution and torment would they have been subject in the end!

Perhaps at times, owing to the lies and slanders told to the local government by troublemakers, officials undertake on their own authority to conduct searches and investigations, oppressing the friends. The friends should refrain from growing perturbed at

[page 90]

such times and avoid despairing of the justice of the rulers, in accordance with the saying, "Belittle not the station of those among the rulers who show you justice." They should consider respect for those officials identical to respect for the state. No doubt the protection, vigilance, kindness, and compassion of the ruler will prevent any act of tyranny from occurring such as would cause financial or bodily injury to innocent souls — as you saw in the incident involving Aqa Mirza Mahmud Furughi. You witnessed the solicitude of the esteemed monarch [Nasiru'd-Din Shah] in defending the oppressed.

Therefore, the friends must appreciate well this bounty and kindness, and with sincere hearts and pure intentions subject themselves to the commands of the state. They should raise their hands in supplication to the threshold of the All-Bounteous, the Sovereign of all who are on earth and in the heavens, imploring with all earnestness:

O Pure One, O Lord, the Merciful, the Almighty, the Preexistent. Hearts have turned to the realm of Thy loving-kindness, eyes are gazing toward thine illumined countenance, and hands are raised in supplication to the heaven of Thy generosity. May the breeze of Thy care bestow joy and happiness on the sorrowful. May the raindrops of Thy infinite compassion refresh and revive the grief stricken. By Thy conquering might and invisible favors preserve the holy being of our ruler and increase him in justice — which is the strongest foundation for the happiness of the country, the longevity of the state, and the power and authority of the government. Unite and give tranquillity to the scattered sheep of Iran under the shadow of the

[page 91]

just shepherd, the ruler, and fix firmly the throne of that great sovereign Nasiru'd-Din Shah upon the solid foundation of justice. Verily, Thou art the Bestower, and givest the land into the hands of whomever Thou willest. Thou holdest the reins of all things in this world and the next.

What more can I say? God willing, you will — as it has been ordained — remind the friends of these moral principles, which are characteristic of the spiritual and the mark of the pure and the detached, and will lead them toward that which is the cause of progress, success, and prosperity for all the citizens of the nation. May the gales of loving-kindness ever waft upon you from the source of honor and glory. Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1311 [May 1894] Abu'l-Fadl

[page 92]

Photograph on this page]

[page 93]

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