Teaching the Cause of God
13-1 O ye that stand fast in the Covenant! When the hour
cometh that this wronged and broken-winged bird will have taken
its flight unto the celestial Concourse, when it will have hastened
to the Realm of the Unseen and its mortal frame will have been
either lost or hidden neath the dust, it is incumbent upon the
Afnan, that are steadfast in the Covenant of God, and have
branched from the Tree of Holiness; the Hands, (pillars) of the
Cause of God (the glory of the Lord rest upon them), and all
the friends and loved ones, one and all to bestir themselves and
arise with heart and soul and in one accord, to diffuse the sweet
savours of God, to teach His Cause and to promote His Faith. It
behoveth them not to rest for a moment, neither to seek repose.
They must disperse themselves in every land, pass by every
clime and travel throughout all regions. Bestirred, without rest
and steadfast to the end they must raise in every land the triumphal
cry 'O Thou the Glory of Glories!' (Ya Baha'u'l-Abha), must
achieve renown in the world wherever they go, must burn
brightly even as a candle in every meeting and must kindle the
flame of Divine love in every assembly; that the light of truth
may rise resplendent in the midmost heart of the world, that
throughout the East and throughout the West a vast concourse
may gather under the shadow of the Word of God, that the sweet
savours of holiness may be diffused, that faces may shine radiantly,
hearts be filled with the Divine spirit and souls be made
In these days, the most important of all things is the guidance
of the nations and peoples of the world. Teaching the Cause is
of utmost importance for it is the head comer-stone of the
Thus a loving Master, in language at once tender, moving and forceful, exhorts His steadfast lovers of all ranks within the community to arise after His passing to teach the Cause — an act regarded as the most important and meritorious of all deeds in this Holy Dispensation.
Teaching, or 'diffusing the Divine Fragrances', was the first commandment enjoined by the Bab upon the Letters of the Living. Since then it has remained, and will continue to remain throughout the Bahá'í era, the foremost obligation of every follower of the Blessed Beauty, who addressed the believers on the duty of teaching His Cause in the following words:
Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Baha, for God hath
prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message,
and regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds. Such a deed
is acceptable only when he that teacheth the Cause is already a firm
believer in God, the Supreme Protector, the Gracious, the Almighty.
He hath, moreover, ordained that His Cause be taught
through the power of men's utterance, and not through resort to
violence. Thus hath His ordinance been sent down from the
Kingdom of Him Who is the Most Exalted, the All-Wise.
[211 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 278.]
Bahá'u'lláh stressed the paramount importance of teaching His Cause in a Tablet to Jamal-i-Burujirdi, telling him that if he were residing in the West of the world and learned that a person in the East was anxious to attain the knowledge of God and the recognition of His Manifestation, then it would be incumbent upon him, if he had the means, to travel to distant lands in order to bestow the water of life upon that enquirer.
[212 Ma'idiy-i-Asmani, vol. 4, p. 47.]
To appreciate the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's utterance that teaching the Cause is 'the most meritorious of all deeds', let us turn to one of the basic laws of creation, namely, the love relationship between the Creator and the created. We observe in nature that the earth produces the mineral, vegetable and animal forms of life and therefore it may be regarded as the creator of all matter it produces. In this relationship, the love between the Creator and the created is manifested by a force of attraction between the earth and every object that comes within its orbit. Thus the earth attracts everything to itself. One might say that the goal of every object is to teach and rest upon the surface of the earth. But if a barrier is placed between the object and the earth, this union cannot take place unless the barrier is removed.
The same law of attraction binds the Manifestation of God and the soul of man. There is a love relationship between Bahá'u'lláh and every human being but in most cases there are many manmade barriers between them — the veils mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitab-i-Iqan. They include pride in one's knowledge and background, attachment to the world and imitation of others in matters of religion and culture, to name but a few. The act of teaching is the removal of these barriers, one by one and with wisdom, so that the soul will be attracted to Bahá'u'lláh. The only person who can do this is a Bahá'í.
In the world of nature, when two opposite entities are attracted to each other, they unite and bring each other pleasure. This also happens between the Manifestation of God and the believer, one occupying the summit of glory and lordship and the other the depths of lowliness and servitude. When the soul recognizes Bahá'u'lláh and is drawn to Him, the attraction of the opposites brings pleasure to God as well as to the individual and there can be no reward more 'meritorious' for the Bahá'í teacher than being a source of pleasure to God.
Teaching the Cause is an act of devotion to God, as it brings pleasure to Him. In many of their Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have stated that divine blessings will descend upon those who endeavour to teach the Cause and that the act of teaching itself becomes a magnet attracting the bounties of God to the soul. It is therefore important to appreciate that the primary purpose of teaching the Cause is not to increase the membership of the Bahá'í community, although this happens as a result. Rather, it is to enable a soul to draw near to Bahá'u'lláh and become enamoured of Him.
In a Tablet Bahá'u'lláh discloses the pre-eminent position occupied in the sight of God by the act of teaching. He states that there are two things pleasing to God: the tears shed in fear of Him and the blood of the martyr spilled in His path. But since Bahá'u'lláh has advised His followers not to volunteer to give their lives, He has in this Tablet replaced the reward of martyrdom with teaching His Faith. Indeed, in another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh explicitly states that in this Dispensation it is preferable to teach with wisdom than to give one's life.
[213 ibid. pp. 123-4. (Ma'idiy-i-Asmani, vol. 4.)]
[214 ibid. vol. 1, p. 69. (Ma'idiy-i-Asmani.)]
In past Dispensations only a few privileged leaders of religion were engaged in teaching work but one of the greatest gifts that Bahá'u'lláh has bestowed upon His followers is to provide all believers, regardless of their abilities and accomplishments, the opportunity to become the recipients of God's bestowals as they teach His Cause — a duty He has enjoined on them all. He has written:
God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of teaching His
Cause. Whoever ariseth to discharge this duty, must needs, ere he
proclaimeth His Message, adorn himself with the ornament of an
upright and praiseworthy character, so that his words may attract
the hearts of such as are receptive to his call. Without it, he can
never hope to influence his hearers.
[215 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 335.]
This statement leaves no room for doubt that success in teaching depends upon the teacher having 'an upright and praiseworthy character', for Bahá'u'lláh says, 'Without it, he can never hope to influence his hearers.' The word 'never' is emphatic and rules out any
other possibility. Similar statements are found in numerous other Tablets. 'Abdu'l-Bahá also writes:
The aim is this: The intention of the teacher must be pure, his heart
independent, his spirit attracted, his thought at peace, his resolution
firm, his magnanimity exalted and in the love of God a shining
torch. Should he become as such, his sanctified breath will even
affect the rock; otherwise there will be no result whatsoever.
[216 'Abdu'l-Bahá Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 51.]
The emphasis of the last sentence is repeated in other Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Shoghi Effendi, too, has drawn our attention to this truth in many of his letters. To cite one celebrated passage:
Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set
of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of
teaching — no matter how worldwide and elaborate in its character
— not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our
enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a
critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abha Revelation.
One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone
secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the
extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror
forth in their manifold aspects the splendour of those eternal
principles proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh.
[217 Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, p. 66.]
Here Shoghi Effendi leaves no alternative to this vital prerequisite for teaching, for he says (and let us note his double emphasis): 'One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause...'
Having discussed one of the most important prerequisites for teaching, let us now examine the work of teaching itself. There are no set methods or procedures, although we have been given certain principles and guidelines by the Author of the Faith and by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. These principles and guidelines are at variance with standards and methods current outside the Faith, where, generally, every expedient measure is used to influence people and convert them to various ideologies. The Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is founded on the truth of God's Revelation and truth cannot be clothed in false standards. It cannot employ the techniques of salesmanship, propaganda, expediency and compromise. The methods used in the commercial world to attract people to new ideas, such as extravagant and sensational publicity based on slogans, extreme statements and similar gimmicks, are all alien to the Cause of God.
In his teaching work a Bahá'í presents the message of Bahá'u'lláh as one would offer a gift to a king. Since his primary object in teaching
is not to increase numbers but rather to bring a soul to its God, a Bahá'í ought to approach his fellow men with feelings of love and humility and, above all, take to them the transforming power of Bahá'u'lláh and nothing of himself. Indeed, if he tries to project himself by impressing upon the listener his knowledge and accomplishments and if he aims to establish the ascendancy of his arguments while teaching the Faith, then the power of Bahá'u'lláh cannot reach him.
Success in teaching depends on one's ability and readiness to draw on the power of Bahá'u'lláh, as was discussed in chapter 14. There is no alternative. If the believer does not open the way for Bahá'u'lláh through his love for Him, through living his life in accordance with His teachings and through teaching His Cause with devotion, Bahá'u'lláh's confirmations and assistance cannot reach the believer and he will fail in his service to Him. Those who rank foremost among Bahá'í teachers have always been conscious of the presence of Bahá'u'lláh at every stage of their teaching activities. Because of this consciousness they have been enabled to approach with genuine love and humility those who have been seeking the truth and have attracted them with the warmth of their faith and the creative power of the Word of God. It is this consciousness that has enabled them to radiate the glory of the new-born Faith of God, to demonstrate its truth, to promote its interests, to withstand the onslaught of its enemies and to win imperishable victories for their Lord.
In the third part of His Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá elaborates further on the subject of teaching the Cause:
5?-WT Whosoever and whatsoever meeting becometh a hindrance
to the diffusion of the Light of Faith, let the loved ones
give them counsel and say: 'Of all the gifts of God the greatest
is the gift of Teaching. It draweth unto us the Grace of God and
is our first obligation. Of such a gift how can we deprive ourselves?
Nay, our lives, our goods, our comforts, our rest, we offer
them all as a sacrifice for the Abha Beauty and teach the Cause
of God.' Caution and prudence, however, must be observed even
as recorded in the Book. The veil must in no wise be suddenly
rent asunder. The Glory of Glories rest upon you.
Throughout His ministry Bahá'u'lláh exhorted His followers to teach the Cause of God with great wisdom. He did not approve of teaching the public indiscriminately. He repeatedly advised the believers in
Persia, especially after the martyrdom of Badi',[*] that for their own safety and the protection of the Cause they should exercise care and prudence in their approach to people and not excite or antagonize them. In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh counsels His followers:
[* An illustrious youthful martyr of the Faith, whose exemplary sacrifice is described in Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3.]
In this Day, We can neither approve the conduct of the fearful that
seeketh to dissemble his faith, nor sanction the behaviour of the
avowed believer that clamorously asserteth his allegiance to this
Cause. Both should observe the dictates of wisdom, and strive
diligently to serve the best interests of the Faith.
[218 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 343.]
To cite an example of wisdom in teaching, there is a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh in which Faris (the Christian Syrian who embraced the Faith in Alexandria)[**] is exhorted to teach with wisdom. Bahá'u'lláh counsels him not to disclose to people everything about the Cause at first but rather to teach them little by little until they are ready to absorb more. He likens this process to feeding infants who need to be given a little milk at a time until they grow in strength and are able to digest other food. This exhortation of Bahá'u'lláh is the basis of teaching the Cause of God. The principles involved are very similar to those employed by a schoolteacher in teaching his pupils. Before teaching the Cause to any person, it is important to know his background and capacity. The most successful teachers are those who, after familiarizing themselves with the beliefs and ideas of an individual, reveal the truths of the Faith gradually to him. What little they impart is the correct remedy and is so potent as to influence and stimulate the soul and enable it to take a step forward and become ready to absorb more.
[219 Bahá'u'lláh, Amr va Khalq, vol. 3, p. 121.]
[** See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3, pp. 5-11.]
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the celebrated Bahá'í teacher, has left to posterity the following account of one of his memorable interviews with Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akka, in the course of which He spoke these words about teaching the Cause of God:[***]
[*** These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh but convey the purport of His talk.]
'The way to teach is to have a pleasing disposition and to deal with
people in a spirit of loving-kindness. One must acknowledge
whatever the other person says, even if it is vain imaginings, beliefs
which are the result of blind imitation or absurd talk. One should
avoid engaging in arguments or adducing proofs which bring out
stubbornness and contention in the other person. This is because
he finds himself defeated, and this will lead to his becoming more
veiled from the truth and will add to his waywardness.
'The right way is to acknowledge the other person's statements
and then present him with the alternative point of view and invite
him to examine it to see whether it is true or false. Of course, when
it is presented to him with courtesy, affection and loving-kindness,
he will hear and will not be thinking in terms of defence, to find
answers and look for proofs. He will acknowledge and admit the
points. When the person realizes that the purpose behind discussions
is not wrangling or the winning of arguments but rather to
convey the truth and to reveal human qualities and divine
perfections, he will of course show fairness. His inner eyes and ears
and heart will open and, through the grace of God, he will become
a new creation and will possess new eyes and new ears.'
Bahá'u'lláh spoke a great deal about the evils of controversial
argument and aiming to become a winner in discussion. He then
said, 'The Most Great Branch ['Abdu'l-Bahá] will listen to any
absurd talk with such attentiveness that the person concerned
believes that He is deriving enlightenment from him. However,
little by little, and in a way that the person cannot realize, He
bestows upon him a new vision and a new understanding.'
[220 Haydar-'Ali, Bihjatu's-Sudur, p. 257.]
The talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the West provide the best example of wisdom in teaching. He addressed audiences who were almost alien to the history and genesis of the Faith and unfamiliar with the claims and the station of its founder. Yet He disclosed to them with simplicity and brevity only those essential truths which they were capable of understanding and which constituted the first stepping-stones for their eventual recognition of the stupendous message of Bahá'u'lláh. He clearly avoided at that early stage any elaboration on the many implications of the station of Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation as well as the unfoldment of His laws and His World Order in the future. Instead, He bestowed upon everyone who had the capacity a measure of His all-embracing love, which animated and sustained those few who embraced the Faith in the West.
It is perhaps a temptation for a Bahá'í teacher, especially if he is a knowledgeable one, to pour out upon a seeker all his knowledge and bombard him with a series of profound utterances and lengthy discussions with the aim of proving the truth of his own arguments. When this happens, however, it blocks the way for the power of Bahá'u'lláh to reach the heart of the seeker and enlighten him with the light of faith.
As previously noted, a passage from the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá earnestly urges the believers to 'disperse themselves in every land, pass by every clime and travel throughout all regions'.
These words are reminiscent of a passage in the Tablet of Carmel in which Bahá'u'lláh makes this moving announcement:
Oh, how I long to announce unto every spot on the surface of the
earth, and to carry to each one of its cities, the glad-tidings of this
Revelation — a Revelation to which the heart of Sinai hath been
attracted, and in whose name the Burning Bush is calling: 'Unto
God, the Lord of Lords, belong the kingdoms of earth and
[221 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 16.]
From among all the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, including His Tablets of the Divine Plan, which urge the believers to leave their homes and travel throughout the world for the purpose of diffusing the divine fragrances, the exhortations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the above passage of the Will and Testament penetrate the soul and are the most appealing to the heart. There can be no doubt that when 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote these passages, He knew full well that souls would arise to fulfil His appeal. Years before, soon after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, He had also addressed this theme in very moving language in the following Tablet, which was revealed for one of the Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh, Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar:[*]
[* For further information about him, see Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3, p. 88.]
O phoenix of that immortal flame kindled in the sacred Tree!
Bahá'u'lláh — may my life, my soul, my spirit be offered up as a
sacrifice unto His lowly servants — hath, during His last days on
earth, given the most emphatic promise that, through the outpourings
of the grace of God and the aid and assistance vouchsafed
from His Kingdom on high, souls will arise and holy beings appear
who, as stars, would adorn the firmament of divine guidance;
illumine the dayspring of loving-kindness and bounty; manifest
the signs of the unity of God; shine with the light of sanctity and
purity; receive their full measure of divine inspiration; raise high
the sacred torch of faith; stand firm as the rock and immoveable
as the mountain; and grow to become luminaries in the heavens
of His Revelation, mighty channels of His grace, means for the
bestowal of God's bountiful care, heralds calling forth the name
of the One true God, and establishers of the world's supreme
These shall labour ceaselessly, by day and by night, shall heed
neither trials nor woe, shall suffer no respite in their efforts, shall
seek no repose, shall disregard all ease and comfort, and, detached
and unsullied, shall consecrate every fleeting moment of their lives
to the diffusion of the divine fragrance and the exaltation of God's
holy Word. Their faces will radiate heavenly gladness, and their
hearts be filled with joy. Their souls will be inspired, and their
foundation stand secure. They shall scatter in the world, and travel
throughout all regions. They shall raise their voices in every
assembly, and adorn and revive every gathering. They shall speak
in every tongue, and interpret every hidden meaning. They shall
reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom, and manifest unto everyone
the signs of God. They shall burn brightly even as a candle in the
heart of every assembly, and beam forth as a star upon every
horizon. The gentle breezes wafted from the garden of their hearts
shall perfume and revive the souls of men, and the revelations of
their minds, even as showers, will reinvigorate the peoples and
nations of the world.
I am waiting, eagerly waiting for these holy ones to appear; and
yet, how long will they delay their coming? My prayer and ardent
supplication, at eventide and at dawn, is that these shining stars
may soon shed their radiance upon the world, that their sacred
countenances may be unveiled to mortal eyes, that the hosts of
divine assistance may achieve their victory, and the billows of
grace, rising horn His oceans above, may flow upon all mankind.
Pray ye also and supplicate unto Him that through the bountiful
aid of the Ancient Beauty these souls may be unveiled to the eyes
of the world.
The glory of God rest upon thee, and upon him whose face is
illumined with that everlasting light that shineth from His Kingdom
[222 'Abdu'l-Bahá Selections, pp. 251-2.]
Having encouraged the believers to arise after Him for the promotion of the Faith, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in the following passage of the Will and Testament, invites them to follow His example of service to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh:
1 This wronged servant has spent his days and nights in
promoting the Cause and urging the peoples to service. He
rested not a moment, till the fame of the Cause of God was noised
abroad in the world and the celestial strains from the Abha
Kingdom roused the East and the West. The beloved of God must
also follow the same example. This is the secret of faithfulness,
this is the requirement of servitude to the Threshold of Baha!
Finally, in the following passage of the Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá urges the believers to follow the example of the disciples of Christ. This passage also serves to immortalize the memory of those who in an earlier Dispensation achieved memorable victories for the Cause of God.
15-WT The disciples of Christ forgot themselves and all earthly
things, forsook all their cares and belongings, purged themselves
of self and passion and with absolute detachment scattered far
and wide and engaged in calling the peoples of the world to the
Divine Guidance, till at last they made the world another world,
illumined the surface of the earth and even to their last hour
proved self-sacrificing in the pathway of that Beloved One of
God. Finally in various lands they suffered glorious martyrdom.
Let them that are men of action follow in their footsteps!
Today a vast number of dedicated believers from all over the world, and of every conceivable background, have arisen with vigour and devotion to promote the Cause of God as Bahá'í pioneers and teachers. Indeed, with the rising of these detached and holy souls, the initial stage of the promise of Bahá'u'lláh has already been realized. The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has now reached all parts of the world; through their self-sacrifice, their detachment and their faith, these men and women, drawing on the power of Bahá'u'lláh, have succeeded in erecting the framework of the divinely-ordained institutions of the Faith everywhere. The embryo of a new world order is now growing within the old and for this reason the world will never be the same again.