Pioneering, Language, Arts, Example of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice1998-02-10
10 February 1998
Transmitted by email: [email address omitted]
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
Your email letter of 5 July 1997 posing a number of questions about the Bahá'í teachings and practices has been received by the Universal House of Justice, as was your follow-up email of 28 October 1997. We are to respond as follows. Kindly accept our apologies for the delay in responding, occasioned by pressures of work at the Bahá'í World Centre. Our answers appear in the same order as your questions were originally posed.
Whether to remain in North America or to pioneer internationally is a question, as explained in our letter to you of 4 September 1994, that ultimately only you can decide, in light of the current needs of the Faith and your own capacities, possibilities and responsibilities. If it is not timely for you yourself to travel abroad, then you may wish to consider deputizing someone to do so on your behalf. Another alternative could be to contribute funds towards the deputization of a teacher at a permanent training institute, as suggested by the House of Justice in its 1996 Ridvan message and also in its 6 August 1996 letter addressed to the Bahá'ís of the world.
SERVING ONE'S PARENTS VS. SERVING THE FAITH
Regarding the precedence to be assigned to serving the Faith as a pioneer versus one's responsibilities to one's parents, it is for the individual to judge, assisted if necessary through consultation with his Local Spiritual Assembly or with friends whose maturity and judgement he trusts. A key point would be the extent to which his parents actually have substantial need of his immediate presence and support. As you know, Bahá'u'lláh assigned great importance to serving one's parents. It would of course be highly meritorious if both could be harmonized.
SERVING WHERE THE NEED IS GREATEST
With regard to identifying areas of greatest need, as you are no doubt aware, there are innumerable pressing needs both in the United States and abroad. Your National Spiritual Assembly, for example, recently issued a call to establish Local Spiritual Assemblies in all cities with a population of 100,000 or more. The depth of one's commitment and willingness to serve are vitally important and these qualities can find application and expression almost anywhere where the workers are few.
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INDIVIDUAL GARDEN PLOTS
Concerning what you report having heard while on pilgrimage about each individual's having a garden plot in the future, for nutritional needs, so far as we are aware, there are no Texts which would substantiate such a requirement.
INTERNATIONAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE
With regard to Arabic, in several Tablets Bahá'u'lláh praises the vastness and eloquence of the Arabic language, but in none of His Writings does He state that His followers are required to learn that language. In a number of instances `Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian have both encouraged the believers in the West to learn Persian. Similarly, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi on occasion encouraged believers in Europe and Asia to study English. And, as you are no doubt aware, the involvement of the friends in the study of Esperanto has also been deemed praiseworthy. However, the choice as to which language will ultimately be selected as the international auxiliary language has been left by Bahá'u'lláh, in His Book of Laws, to the leaders of the nations or possibly to the House of Justice to decide.
PRONUNCIATION OF ARABIC
As to the proper pronunciation of Arabic, this question has been addressed previously in a memorandum prepared by the Research Department. A relevant extract is enclosed for your ease of reference.
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE PERSIAN LANGUAGE
Although, as you have noted, the House of Justice refers in its letter of 21 March 1997 to the Persian believers to materials which have been developed for the study of Persian, no particular ones are explicitly endorsed. However, you may wish to correspond with the Persian Institute for Bahá'í Studies, whose address appears at the foot of this letter.
MEANING OF CERTAIN REFERENCES APPEARING IN THE WRITINGS OF BAHA'U'LLAH
We are not able to provide any authoritative comment regarding the exact referents of "Tablets of the All-Merciful" or "odes of the Blessed Beauty" as these variously appear in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. It is likely, however, that their signification is a general one. Where He refers to "this Holy Tablet" in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, it is likely that, in this case, He is referring to the Aqdas itself.
USE OF ART AND FOLK ART
As you may know, Shoghi Effendi explicitly advised the friends that, at this early stage of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, there is no art which may be properly regarded as "Bahá'í art". In like manner, where the House of Justice has encouraged the friends to make use of the arts, it was referring broadly to the various performative and visual arts. A new compilation entitled "The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith" will soon be released from the Bahá'í World Centre. You may wish to keep alert to the
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publication of such a document and refer to it as an assistance to your thinking in this area. Certainly, the Guardian cannot have intended, when he commended Nabil's Narrative to the friends as a source of inspiration, that there were not other sources by which their imagination could be stimulated.
Your questions concerning external affairs and the prospect of contacting leaders of thought without necessarily mentioning the Faith would have to be weighed in light of the particular circumstances of each such case. If you have in mind a definite line of action in this regard, you should not hesitate to seek the advice of the Bahá'í institutions nearer the scene, such as your Local Spiritual Assembly.
PATTERN OF DAILY LIVING
The general exhortations of Bahá'u'lláh on the question of dress and the like are mainly to be found in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Shoghi Effendi summarizes the general attitude of the Faith in this regard on page 30 of "The Advent of Divine Justice" (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1990).
THE MEANING OF `ABDU'L-BAHA'S FUNCTION AS THE DIVINE EXEMPLAR
With regard to your query as to which aspects of `Abdu'l-Bahá's life are meant to guide us in our daily lives, it is true that in certain respects, in a practical sense, He lived on this plane as a man of His time and place, as indicated, for example, in His mode of dress, style of lodging and dietary consumption. It is to the essence of His example we must look, the informing principles that governed His actions and reactions to situations and people. These of course will have varying application according to the particular circumstances in which we may find ourselves. As this is a subject of some complexity, the House of Justice is reluctant at present to say more than this on the subject. It is a matter about which you yourself must meditate. You may also find it helpful to consult with others, as you strive to deepen your understanding.
Perhaps, with regard to the foregoing concern, it will be useful to recall that the Teachings are designed to guide humanity for not less than 1,000 years. Moreover, the Cause is destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole panoply of human cultures. Thus, concerning the practical aspects of daily life, there must necessarily be a corresponding flexibility. The principles which govern the Bahá'í life are fundamental and unchanging; however, their specific application permits a certain healthy, adaptive latitude.
We trust that these brief comments will suffice to assist you in devel- oping your further understanding of the questions which have been occupying you.
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Rest assured of the prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines that you may be surrounded by the grace of the Blessed Beauty.
With loving Bahá'í greetings,
Department of the SecretariatEnclosure (sent by separate email) Persian Institute for Bahá'í Studies
P.O. Box 65600
Dundas, ON L9H 6Y6