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The use of "We" in Baha'u'llah's writings

Posted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:38 pm
by Keyvan
traditionally when "We" is being used in religious text it has been thought to mean God and The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was thought to be a being of its own, personified, with emotions. Abdul Baha defined clearly what the Holy Sprit is, and it is not that, but rather something with more figurative meaning.
Thus, is "We" meaning something else? God and His Prophets?


translating persian is a tough cookie (for me)

Posted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 10:35 pm
by majnun
Dear Keyvan

Smart deduction here. I felt it, you would be movin' a-forward.

Some times fancy translators attributes a celestial "we" while
in the persian text prophet Baha'u'llah adresses to some as
"I tell you this and I ... Also, some typical expressions firsly
translated as : By my life ! were later recited by the terms
"In reality" of Verily by Abdul Baha while He read parts of
Baha'ullah's writing in public in 1912 (USA).

Some ways of speaking in Persia may sound stange to outsiders, even today, if a persian ask another one, how are you? He will answer :
Al-hamdu lillah ! to say he feels fine. To me, what counts outside those local familiarities, is the way i can put the spiritual method
active into my brain, in my daily life.

Translators do this sometimes to embellish the texts, and its is
not done with the intention to distort the original meaning. On the other hand, you have other fingers. The Seven Valleys, translated in English by mister Ali Khan, and in French by Hypolyte Dreyfuss, are almost mirror like.

However, in the Khan version corrected by his daughter Marzie Gail (in 1945), we count 45 word "God". In the Dreyfuss version there is 51.
In the real text (arabic-persian) I counted only 19 words "Allah".
Slowly learning persian, i see no reason why the original texts should
be "godified" and "holyfied" while words like the terms aqdas and maqdas have many other significations than holy and sanctified.

I regret to say that this artificial "divinisation" of the texts which describe a simple psychological ladder, constitute a barrier that keep people from enjoying a betterment of their inner (spiritual) live. If we can read in persian and arabic, we could see and live the deep effect of these powerful therapeutic texts, without wearing holied pink glasses.

I hope not to many will be offended by this post, it may be a sensible issue for some people. What drives many people away from the Baha'i formation, is that amplified and exagerated image of sainthood and holyness witch blocks all ears.

I left a small post on the tread of the "spiritual wine".


Posted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:10 pm
by brettz9
This is not meant to end the discussion, but I thought you would be interested:

"When Baha'u'llah uses the plural--'We', 'Our' etc.--He is merely using a form which is regal and has greater power than the singular 'I'. We have this same usage in English, when the King says 'we'. The Pope does the same thing."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 18, 1951; quoted in Lights of Guidance, no. 1554)

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:50 am
by Keyvan
hmm i see. very interesting. i agree with you Majnun. im nearly 20, after almost 20 years of being raised in a persian family, i can speak conversational persian yet reading and writing is ehhh, let alone to the vocabulary of the Bahai writings. "Al-hamdu lillah" ive never heard anyone say that hmm sure thats not arabic? lol
but i agree. ive done some research on this, and i find many older persians, even if having lived here for 30 years and being totally fluent in english, will go back to the persian writings for clarifications and they say it makes so much more sense, with such a clearer meaning. this is not to say that there are errors in the translations, its just that its much more difficult to interperet the figurative. i would love to master arabic and persian, in fact i think we should get to the point where we can teach it universally in the Bahai world like a Jewish Hebrew school
I agree its a delicate issue to talk about. we would all like it to be able to read the writings as clearly as possible, luckily we have so many commentaries as guides, and as Bahai scholordom increases we will surely have more.

on the issue of "we" i see there are a few explainations. in the british system "we" can be used for I, and "we" clarifying "God" speaking makes it clearer it IS in fact the word of grand word of God. hmm interesting. personally when Bahaullah says "I" or "Me" I think of His title, "Glory of God" to say "I" is to say God anyway for Him.

does this apply to the Gospel and Quran too though?


Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 4:23 am
by Guest
Al hamdu'lillah & al shukru'lillah are Arabic Islamic terminologies meaning I am grateful to God or I thank God.
Insha-Allah means God willing!
Others express themselves by substituting the term Allah with God's other names that express His Holy qualities & attributes,
Insha al Rahman - The Merciful willing!
Insha al Mawla - The Lord willing!

Again, the Arabic term Abd means servant; therefore,
Abdul Rahman means the servant of the most Merciful
Abdullah means the servant of God
Abdul Satar means the servant of the One (God) who conceals peoples' hideous vices, etc.

The feminin of Abdul is Amat; therefore,
Amat'u'llah means the servant of God
Amat'u' Rahman means the servant of the most Merciful, etc.


Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 10:16 am
by majnun
The quotation of Shogi Effendi by Brett make things quite
clear on that topic. The Persian language is like arabic,
very rich and precise, almost surgical.

There are a few good electronic dictionaries online
to help us to catch the many significations of a term.
Most will work with copy and paste, and one works
with a sort of keyboad.

If a dedicated person like Keyvan could type
the babi texts, it would be then easy to translate,
because it is written in such a fancy manner, that
i dont catch anything from this lovely Bayan in Persian.
Typed text is then a must, because we wont see any
babi text translated before centuries.

does anybody knows how to translate the arabic word
al-zy (ال ّذی).


Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 2:17 am
by Guest
When God's representative utters any fragrant holy word, he just cannot use the Arabic singular form 'Ana' or 'I' rather the majestic plural 'Nahnu' or 'we.'
In this context, it is worth mentioning that the only language that has done justice in precisely conveying God's divine & holy attributes and veering from stern reprimand to most compassionate counsel is Arabic, the majestic language.

As Baha'u'llah emphasized,
Indeed, relative to Arabic, all languages have been, and will remain, circumscribed. ... nguage.htm

Loving Baha'i regards,

why just arabic ?

Posted: Sat Jun 11, 2005 10:38 pm
by majnun
Dear Zain;
May i express my gratitude and thanks
for those precisions on the arabic langage,
because you explained them so well.

However, I think that gloryfying and praising
Arabic (your mother tongue isn’t ?)
is not appropriate for a Baha’i.

It is just a mere ballooning of your personal prideship.
It’s like if a china man would tell me, ah ain’t we the
best in the whole world, at ping pong ?

Making allusions that Arabic is the
preferred way of the top authority, is simply a projection
of your mind. Many Arabic friends also say: the langage spoken
in paradise is Arabic. How can they know ?
This is so childish.
Languages are just codes that convey information.


Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2005 12:09 am
by Guest
Dear Sir,

For your information, I am an Indonesian who is extremely glad to be fluent in Arabic.
Had I known that extolling & admiring the holy language of all three major dispensations, Islam, Babism & Bahaism would have unruffled your feathers to this extent and caused you to be so perturbed & agitated, I would have most certainly refrained.
Nevertheless, I just quoted the Blessed Beauty and I wish to quote Him again,
"Indeed, relative to it (Arabic), all languages have been, and will remain, circumscribed." ... nguage.htm

We all ought to shed any discrimination to ascend to the realm of godliness.

Loving Baha'i regards,

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:57 am
by brettz9
Making allusions that Arabic is the
preferred way of the top authority, is simply a projection
of your mind.

The following passage does indicate that the language of Revelation has changed over time, and thus indirectly would seem to indicate that there is nothing permanently fixed about one language:

Subsequently Syriac became prominent among the existing languages. The Sacred Scriptures of former times were revealed in that tongue. Later, Abraham, the Friend of God, appeared and shed upon the world the light of Divine Revelation. The language He spoke while He crossed the Jordan became known as Hebrew (Ibrání), which meaneth "the language of the crossing." The Books of God and the Sacred Scriptures were then revealed in that tongue, and not until after a considerable lapse of time did Arabic become the language of Revelation....

(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, sec. 87)

However, there is, as Zaid cited, praise in the Bahá'í Writings for Arabic's eloquence (Persian is praised for its luminosity but not its eloquence--my father, who is Iranian and obtained a Ph.D. in Linguistics, states that Persian is not very exact, and I think Bahá'u'lláh's preference for Arabic in certain areas as legal matters (such as the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in Arabic) would support this).

With regard to Arabic, in several Tablets Baha'u'llah praises the vastness and eloquence of the Arabic language...

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, an email dated 10 February 1998 to an individual)

The Qur'án, whose divine authority we also recognize, also speaks of Arabic as perspicuous (though it also refers to a reason for it being revealed in Arabic so that those receiving the Book could understand it (that it was immediately revealed for the Arabian peoples).

Many Arabic friends also say: the langage spoken
in paradise is Arabic. How can they know ?

While I for one would agree that it is silly to think that the next world will be constrained by our human conventions, I think there is probably a basis for this statement in the Hadith if not the Qur'án itself. If there is such a tradition, it is still possible of being authentic, I would think, in the sense that such a reference to "Paradise" would not need to be to the world after physical death, but could refer, for example, to the Paradise on earth brought by the next Manifestation of God (e.g., that fulfilled by the Paradise of the Báb's coming, who used Arabic in His writings and with His followers). One could also refer to the Paradise of being (directly) immersed in the words of Revelation.

This is so childish.
Languages are just codes that convey information.

Though linguists do insist that the speakers of all languages are capable of shaping language to express all forms of abstract thought, this does not mean that there are not great differences (some distinctions being relative of course to the type of discourse) in expressiveness. One aboriginal language, according to a linguist, Steven Pincker, has only 250 words, which are used in various combinations to adequately convey their (or anyone's) thought. But this does not mean that this language would be very succinct when one wished to discuss some very techincal matters, such as the inside of a computer! On the other hand, it might be very refreshing to see how such languages can assist in boiling down complex ideas to their essentials (without obfuscating things in complex language).

And though there is a recognition of the basic equality of all languages for being adaptable (rather than being unduly confining of thought), this need not mean that languages cannot be superior to others (for specific uses) in other ways besides expressiveness:

Persian, Arabic and Hebrew are all very beautiful when chanted.

(From an article based on instructions of the Guardian, Compilation on Service in Bahá'í Temples, no. 455, 10th question)

I think the following passage is insightful into reconciling both sides of this issue:
“...the Bahá’í parents from an Iranian background should endeavor to teach their children the Persian language, for Persian is one of the two languages of revelation in this glorious Dispensation. Bahá’u’lláh says: “In this Day when the sun of knowledge hath appeared and is resplendent from the firmament of Iran, whatever is said in praise of this language is meet and seemly.” He also says: “The Beloved of the world speaks in the Persian language. It would be praiseworthy in His eyes if His loved ones also converse and write in this language.”

(Universal House of Justice, to the Iránian believers throughout the world, 154 B.E. at ... _iran.html )

This selection indicates to me that:
1) It is beneficial to have greater access to a language of Revelation for the sake of its content (regardless of any absolute superiority the language may have)
2) One may or even should praise certain languages.
3) There is a kind of love in things associated with the Manifestation of God, regardless even of their intrinsic merits. There is a passage which indicates that although a relic of the Faith (as people keep a lock of hair of a loved one), has no intrinsic power or significance, it is only natural to love it for its association.

None of this is to say, however, that there is anything superior about the speakers of a given language. As a very generous-hearted instructor of Arabic at a local mosque told me that I would have double the reward for any efforts I made to learn the Qur'án in Arabic, because of the extra effort required.

Take care,

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 12:43 am
by majnun
To be glad to have been born in an Arabic environment is a strange thing to say.
As an example: I am not glad to have been born in a bilingual environment. It is just a fact of life.
In this post, above, again there is a flattering of Arabic and labelling it as “Holy”. This is egocentrism. Being proud of your language, or your nationality, is just like shining your belly button in front of the world. Abdul Baha talked a lot about all those local "proudships". If you are a baha’i you are not an Indonesian, you are a human, endo the line.
Being proud of our “roots” is contrary to the teachings. This is what
keeps the "berberes" of Algeria prisonners of their own mind, totally
frozen. We could write volumes on that topic.

About (I quote the letter of Zain)
unruffled your feathers to this extent and caused you to be so perturbed & agitated -- this line is a projection of your imagination, actually I quite calm, I study Arabic and Persian, and I appreciate the richness of both.
What seems burlesque is that you add egoflatering adjectives to
the arabic language: majestic, holy. The Greeks too they think
they language is top notch, and so do all nations.

My argument is simply, why are you so proud of
being fluent in a language, like some nations are proud
of their football (soccer) team ? Do you think you are
a-chosen one, because of that fact ?

Al-hamdu lillah rab al alamîn.


Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 3:08 am
by Guest
To be conversant and hold a prodigious command over any language is highly commendable.
To be a multilingual person is highly commendable since this particular person will use these languages at his disposal to spread the faith all over.
Similarly, to be conversant in the language of three major divine revelations is all the more commendable simply because you will truly savor the precise original scriptures.
For instance, the precise translation of the Arabic word ‘Zulm’ and its derivatives Zalim, Mazloom do not exit in English or for that matter any other tongue (Urdu, Pushtu, Persian have included it in their vocabularies)
I am sorry that Bahasa Indonesia, Malay or Javanese is not as grand, majestic and imposing as Arabic. However, the fact remains that this language of exquisite beauty has been vouchsafed so much adulation and commendation by His Highness Muhammad, the Bab, the Holy Imams, the Blessed Beauty, Abdul-Baha and Shogui Effendi.
Furthermore, to prove my point, I hope not in vain, please access the following amazing links to verify for yourself(ves) how Arabic is intricately involved with the whole creation,

‘The world of creation overlaps with Command save for the divine Will and as we have seen has twenty-eight levels. This one Name that sums up being in its entirety is the Most Great Name, which is hidden and unpronounced. Each of the levels of the world of Command, as with the world of Creation, is associated with a letter of the Arabic alphabet.’

‘This cosmology includes twenty-eight degrees, each of which is symbolized by one of the letters of the Arabic alphabet.’ ... tatanj.htm

"All that is in the Torah and the Evangels and the Psalms is in the Qur'an; and all that is in the Qur'an is in the Fatiha [the first sura of the Qur'an]; and all that is in the Fatiha is in the Bismi'llah [the opening phrase of the Fatiha]; and all that is in the Bismi'llah is in the Ba [the first letter of Bismi'llah]; and all that is in the Ba is in the Point [the dot beneath the Ba]; and I am the Point." ... ns1/35.htm

Baha’u’llah says that the alif has a "similitude" in all the worlds of God. "Everything" in creation and everything that will be created is a "[direct] result of its uprightness or its [power of] uprising or a result of its [diverse modes of being solidly] established or its power or might." It will be recalled that in the creation story the Pen stood up between the hands of God. When Bahá'u'lláh refers to the uprightness of the alif, I think of the Pen between God's hands writing the script of being. ... _letters#2

Guardianship, Waláya, The Covenant

(Commentary on first wáw, letter no. 1; abjad value 6; ff. 12b-19a)

In this section the Báb's main objective (after some words of formalistic introduction in which the recipient of the commentary is praised) is to demonstrate that the reality of the covenant, represented by the word waláya, permeates all creation and is in fact the essence of creation. It is the basis for the reciprocity and mutuality of the various 'components' of the cosmos.
I will now comment on the first letter of this súra, that it may be a path (sabíl) to the understanding ('irfán) of all the holy verses and words of the People of Vision.[29] It is this: the first letter is the wáw, and it has levels [of meaning] without end[30] . . . (ff. 12b-13a)

I will now take up the pen in commenting on the hidden meaning of this letter. And I will mention in this writing[31] one of the teachings of the divine philosophers (hukumá al-haqq), by which the learned may discern the principle of the hidden meaning of the verses and traditions from the superficial meaning. It is this, that God has established creation according to [the following four levels]:

Then peace and blessings be upon the Dawning-Place of the Most Beautiful Names and the Most Exalted Attributes, in every letter of Whose appellation the Divine Names are treasured up, and whereby existence itself, whether visible or invisible, hath been adorned. He was called Muhammad in the realm of names, and Ahmad in the Kingdom of eternity. And peace be upon His House and His Companions, from this day until that upon which the Tongue of Grandeur shall speak forth. Sovereignty belongs to God, the One, the All-Conquering.

The Arabic letter B in turn is made up of a horizontal line curved up at each end (and therefore replicating the alif), with a point underneath it. The letter B is therefore a symbol of the further emanation of the world from the Universal Intellect, since it is made up of a basic shape that is lent meaning only by being differentiated. Unlike the divine, which is essentially One, the world, like the Arabic letter B, is essentially dual in character. By analogy, the "Primal Point" is the manifestation of God in this world that gives differentiation to human society. The word Baha therefore encodes the entire Neoplatonic process of emanation, containing the H of the primal huwiyyah or divine identity, the alif of the Universal Intellect, the B of the emanated cosmos, and the Primal Point or manifestation in the world of the Universal Intellect, which gives it meaning or rationality (Arabic `aql, Gr. nous). For hahut in the Tablet of All Food, see "Lawh Kull at-Ta'am" in lshraq-Khavari, Ma'idih-'i Asmani, IV, pp. 260-70 and Stephen Lambden, "A Tablet of Mirza Husayn `Ali Baha'u'llah of the Early Iraq Period: The Tablet of All Food," Baha'i Studies Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 1 (June 1984):4-67.

"Now as regards the fourth letter [of sura 103] which is the letter 'ayn. It signifieth the sublimity of the Divine Unicity (uluw al-ahadiyya) in the realms of Lahut (maqamat al- lahut); the sublimity of the Divine Uniqueness ('uluw al-wahidiyya) in the grades of jabarut (shu'unat al-Jabarut); the sublimity of the Divine Mercy ('uluw al-rahmaniyya) in the realms of the dominion (al-mulk) and Malakut; the sublimity of the Divine Perpetuity ('uluw al-samadaniyya) in that Allah revealed [manifest] Himself unto all in the realities of the selves (fi haqa'iq al-anfus) and the horizons (al-afaq); seen in the land of Nasut." (Shirazi [Lambden tr.], KT, pg. N/a ) ... ogy_sufism

I am nigh exhausted and can say no more about this holy & blessed language of grandeur, majesty and exquisite beauty, Arabic.

With most loving Baha’i regards,

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 4:51 am
by majnun
Hmm, it seems i’m gonna be a
baha’i therapist. A hit on the right spot,
and pshhhh, the balloon deflates.

Let’s try another spike:

Arabic is a language like all the others.


Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 5:12 am
by Guest
Dear Sir,

Arabic is unlike any other language and it is high time you mature and wisen up and refrain from contradicting the Blessed Beauty for your own ulterior prejudiced motives since He affirms that,
"Indeed, relative to it (Arabic), all languages have been, and will remain, circumscribed." ... nguage.htm

We all ought to shed any discrimination to ascend to the realm of godliness.

Loving Baha'i regards,

Au revoir

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 4:25 pm
by majnun
Making a god of his langage is shirk.
I consider the present exchange of concepts, as terminated.

Sayonara my friend.

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 5:57 pm
by Jonah
OK, that's the red flag! When blasphemy is raised (<i>shirk</i>), it's time for me to close the thread. :wink:

Thanks for your understanding. You can continue this discussion in a new thread...

-Jonah, moderator