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Notes:

Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Book):
Wilmette Institute faculty notes

by Brent Poirier

1998
1. Some comments on the Guardianship:

Many times in His Writings, Bahá'u'lláh's laws are marked by extreme brevity. Sometimes He shows the way with a single word, leaving it to one of His Successors, or to the passage of time, to reveal the purport of a passage.

An example of this is the manner in which He foreshadowed the Institution of the Guardianship. One can read with human eyes the Text of the Aqdas and not find any reference to it. The appointed Interpreter, however, wrote "in the verses of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the implications of which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship; in the explanation which `Abdu'l-Bahá, in one of His Tablets, has given to, and the emphasis He has placed upon, the hereditary principle and the law of primogeniture as having been upheld by the Prophets of the past — in these we can discern the faint glimmerings and discover the earliest intimation of the nature and working of the Administrative Order which the Will of `Abdu'l-Bahá was at a later time destined to proclaim and formally establish."

That Tablet of the Master which can be found on Jonah's website at bahai-library.com/uhj_wills_inheritance concerns the Bahá'í law of inheritance, and makes no direct reference to the administration of the Cause of God. And yet, Shoghi Effendi saw implicit in this Tablet a principle of the greatest significance, going far beyond the distribution of possessions; it dealt with hereditary matters after the Prophet of God.

In a similar manner, it seems that in the implications of Bahá'u'lláh's law concerning administration of the endowments of the Cause, one can see the institution of the Guardianship foreshadowed.

As the House of Justice has explained in Note 66 of the Aqdas, the term "Aghsan" refers to the male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh. During His lifetime, Bahá'u'lláh sometimes used the word "Aghsan" to refer to His Sons (e.g. Gleanings p. 244, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 94). Of course, at that time there was no awareness on the part of anyone that from the Aghsan would be chosen a branch to be the Guardian of the Cause; this was not made manifest until the promulgation of the Master's Will and Testament in 1922. The Master's Will showed that the generality of the Aghsan held no office, and exercised no authority. In the Kitáb-i-Ahd Bahá'u'lláh stated that the Aghsan would not be supported by the funds of the Faith (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 222); in contrast, in Islam the male descendants of Muhammad (Siyyids) are all the recipients of one of the Funds provided for in the Qur'an. Only the chosen branch, as the Head of the Faith, receives the funds of the Faith (see p. 15 of the Will, where the Master provides that the "fixed money offering" is to be offered "through the guardian of the Cause). The authority to receive the funds of the Faith is a sign that one possesses authority in the Cause; it is not shared with all of the Family.

We can therefore see in paragraph 42 of the Aqdas that when Bahá'u'lláh provides that after the ascension of the Manifestation the authority to dispose of the endowments passes to "the Aghsan" he is referring, not to His sons, who possessed no authority, nor to His entire male lineage. Rather, it is a reference to the "succession of chosen Aghsan" (Note 66), i.e., the line of Guardians.

Bahá'u'lláh then provides for disposition of these endowments "after the Aghsan." Taking into account the Master's formal institution of the Guardianship in His Will, and seeing this as intimately related to Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Aqdas (explained on p. 144 of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh), Bahá'u'lláh is actually here setting forth a power of the chosen Aghsan, and thus clearly anticipating not only the institution of the Guardianship, but the ending of the line of Guardians.

In like manner, by His words "after them," i.e. after the line of chosen Aghsan ends, "this authority shall pass" to the Universal House of Justice. (Paragraph 42) In the event that the House of Justice has not been "established in the world by then" (paragraph 42) Bahá'u'lláh provides that this authority — and implicitly, the authority to head the Faith which is part and parcel of the authority to dispose of its treasuries — belongs "to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His leave. . . " Although the Hands of the Cause did not rely on this passage (for it had not been translated from Arabic into any other languages during their ministry) it is a foreshadowing of the passing of Shoghi Effendi with no successor chosen branch, and the wielding of authority to the Hands of the Cause until the institution of the Universal House of Justice was "established in the world."

Just as the Master had foreshadowed the authority of the hereditary institution of Guardianship in a Tablet concerning inheritance, Bahá'u'lláh had done so in a provision of the Aqdas concerning administration of the charitable endowments of the Cause.


2. On the symbol of "water gushing from rocks":

In paragraph 54, Bahá'u'lláh writes:
"O peoples of the earth! God, the Eternal Truth, is My witness that streams of fresh and soft-flowing waters have gushed from the rocks through the sweetness of the words uttered by your Lord..."
In the 17th chapter of the Book of Exodus it states that the people were thirsty, and came to Moses and chided him, asking whether he was a good leader. He went to a rock and struck it and water flowed from it, and they were satisfied. Later, in the Book of Numbers Chapter 20 it recites the same incident and states that the people were thirsty, and Moses went to God and asked for water for the people, and God said to Moses to speak to the rock and water would flow from it. Moses went to the rock and struck it twice, and water flowed from it and the people were filled. (Qur'an 7:160 has this narrative and states that twelve springs flowed from the rock, and the people each knew where to drink.) God said that since Moses disobeyed Him, He would not see the Promised Land.

The Master has commented on this story in the chapter on "The Rebukes God Addresses to the Prophets," p. 167 the Master explains that the rebukes apparently addressed to the Prophets are intended for the people, who are too weak to bear the direct chastisement of God. The punishment was not for Moses; the people were kept out of the Promised Land for forty years, until the time of Joshua.

Bahá'u'lláh has unsealed the meanings of the words "water" and "thirst" and "earth" and "rod" in the Íqán. (I have written a fuller set of deepening materials on this which is on my website www.bci.org/pilgrim/ under Site Features, the paper on the Bible and the Book of Certitude).

Applying Bahá'u'lláh's interpretations of the symbols, it may be that the rock represents the hearts of the people, and the water, the water of life that flows from the hearts of the people when they are believers who follow the Teachings. As the Master explains in Some Answered Questions, the narrative is actually about the rebelliousness of the people. God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would flow from it. Instead He struck the rock, twice. My personal interpretation of this is that the people were not responsive to His words alone, and that He needed to repeatedly chastise them with His rod of command, and then the water of life flowed from their breasts.

It seems, based on the Master's explanation, that the incident of Moses in the wilderness may refer to doubt or backsliding among the believers. In Exodus 17 the people ask, "Is the Lord among us, or not?" Similarly, in the Parable of the Sower and the seed the people whose hearts are like stone are compared to those who believe, and then doubt (see Luke 8:13). Likewise, at the time of the resurrection of Christ, which has symbolic meaning, the "stone" was rolled away from the "tomb" and the "angels" of divine confirmations appeared in the tomb; and the Master has explained that this incident refers to the doubts of the believers.

In this Day, Bahá'u'lláh has said that the water has gushed from the rocks through the sweetness of His words alone.
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