The Greatest of All Things
O ye beloved of the Lord! The greatest of all things is the
protection of the True Faith of God, the preservation of His Law,
the safeguarding of His Cause and service unto His Word. Ten
thousand souls have shed streams of their sacred blood in this
path, their precious lives they offered in sacrifice unto Him,
hastened wrapt in holy ecstasy unto the glorious field of martyrdom,
upraised the Standard of God's Faith and writ with their
life-blood upon the Tablet of the world the verses of His Divine
'Abdu'l-Bahá links the protection of the Cause to the heroism and self-sacrifice of countless souls who offered up their lives for the promotion of the Faith. The history of the Cause indicates that the martyrs of the Faith, when faced with the choice of either recanting their faith or holding on steadfastly to the Cause of God, chose the latter. They proclaimed the divine origin of the Faith, defended the integrity of its teachings, stood firm in the face of unbearable suffering and torture, and in the end sacrificed their lives in the path of their Beloved.
But protection of the Cause is not accomplished only through physical martyrdom. By living his life in a spirit of faithfulness to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, a believer brings victory to the Cause. Conversely, great damage is done to the reputation and good name of the Faith when a believer conducts himself in a way contrary to the commandments of God in this day. Bahá'u'lláh has testified to this in many of His Tablets. In one, He states:
He, Who is the Eternal Truth, beareth Me witness! Nothing
whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause
than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy,
among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of
God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts
of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
[58 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 9.]
'Abdu'l-Bahá, in one of His Tablets, says that if someone mentioned in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh that there was somewhere a slight disunity among the believers, He would become so overwhelmed with. grief that His face would display signs of intense pain and displeasure. While human beings generally experience agony when afflicted by calamities pertaining to the material world and the Manifestations of God also feel the pain of physical afflictions, the greatest suffering they endure is when the Cause they manifest becomes tarnished by the reprehensible conduct of those who embrace it. In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh affirms this fact:
[59 Ma'idiy-i-Asma'ni, vol. 9, p. 128.]
I sorrow not for the burden of My imprisonment. Neither do I
grieve over My abasement, or the tribulation I suffer at the hands
of Mine enemies. By My life! They are My glory, a glory wherewith
God hath adorned His own Self. Would that ye know it!...
My sorrows are for those who have involved themselves in their
corrupt passions, and claim to be associated with the Faith of God,
the Gracious, the All-Praised...
They that have tarnished the fair name of the Cause of God,
by following the things of the flesh — these are in palpable error!
[60 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, pp. 100-l.]
In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh states:
My captivity cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the
conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and
yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan.
[61 Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 190.]
My captivity can bring on Me no shame. Nay, by My life, it
conferreth on Me glory. That which can make Me ashamed is the
conduct of such of My followers as profess to love Me, yet in fact
follow the Evil One.
[62 ibid. (Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 190.)]
In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh mentions that when a believer commits a reprehensible misdeed, the ignorant people will ascribe it to the Founder of the Faith.
[63 From an unpublished compilation, Iranian National Bahá'í Archives, no. 18, p. 41.)]
Thus each and every believer bears the responsibility of protecting the Cause of God. He can either harm the Cause through unseemly conduct or exalt and protect it through goodly deeds and a saintly character. Innumerable passages in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá urge the believers to protect the Cause through righteous deeds. They do not call on the believers to die for the Cause as the early martyrs did but to live and serve the Cause. Bahá'u'lláh exhorts His followers:
Be pure, O people of God, be pure; be righteous, be righteous...
Say: O people of God! That which can ensure the victory of Him
Who is the Eternal Truth, His hosts and helpers on earth, have
been set down in the sacred Books and Scriptures, and are as clear
and manifest as the sun. These hosts are such righteous deeds,
such conduct and character, as are acceptable in His sight. Whoso
ariseth, in this Day, to aid Our Cause, and summoneth to his
assistance the hosts of a praiseworthy character and upright
conduct, the influence flowing from such an action will, most
certainly, be diffused, throughout the whole world.
[64 Gleanings, p. 287.]
Again He affirms:
O friends! Help ye the one true God, exalted be His glory, by your
goodly deeds, by such conduct and character as shall be acceptable
in His sight. He that seeketh to be a helper of God in this Day, let
him close his eyes to whatever he may possess, and open them to
the things of God. Let him cease to occupy himself with that which
profiteth him, and concern himself with that which shall exalt the
all-compelling name of the Almighty. He should cleanse his heart
from all evil passions and corrupt desires, for the fear of God is
the weapon that can render him victorious, the primary instrument
whereby he can achieve his purpose. The fear of God is the shield
that defendeth His Cause, the buckler that enableth His people
to attain to victory. It is a standard that no man can abase, a force
that no power can rival.
[65 ibid. p. 272. (Gleanings)]
A believer cannot adequately discharge his responsibility to protect the Cause unless he is firm in the Covenant. It is not sufficient for a Bahá'í only to believe in Bahá'u'lláh and to carry out His teachings while remaining aloof from the Covenant or unresponsive to the guidance proceeding from the Head of the Faith upon whom Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have placed the mantle of authority. Someone with such an unhealthy attitude will not be able to assist the Cause of God; indeed he will hamper its progress. While firmness in the Covenant is a relative term and differs from person to person, to the extent that a believer turns to the Centre of the Cause and readily observes the obligations binding on him through the institution, of the Covenant, to the same extent will he be able to play his part in the protection of the Faith, which 'Abdu'l-Bahá described as 'the greatest of all things'.
One aspect of the protection of the Cause is its defence against the onslaught of internal and external enemies. Today, this function is mainly carried out by the institutions of the Faith, although there is also great scope for the individual believer to play a significant part. For example, refuting accusations or misrepresentations of those who oppose the Faith is an activity which certain learned believers can undertake. Bahá'u'lláh confers upon such people great blessings, as affirmed in the following Tablet:
[66 As an example, see the message of Shoghi Effendi dated 4 June 1957, 'Call to Hands of the Cause and National Assemblies', in Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, pp. 122-3.]
Warn, O Salman, the beloved of the one true God, not to view with
too critical an eye the sayings and writings of men. Let them rather
approach such sayings and writings in a spirit of open-mindedness
and loving sympathy. Those men, however, who, in this Day, have
been led to assail, in their inflammatory writings, the tenets of the
Cause of God, are to be treated differently. It is incumbent upon
all men, each according to his ability, to refute the arguments of
those that have attacked the Faith of God. Thus hath it been
decreed by Him Who is the All-Powerful, the Almighty. He that
wisheth to promote the Cause of the one true God, let him promote
it through his pen and tongue, rather than have recourse to
sword or violence. We have, on a previous occasion, revealed this
injunction, and We now confirm it, if ye be of them that comprehend.
By the righteousness of Him Who, in this Day, crieth within
the inmost heart of all created things: 'God, there is none other
God besides Me!' If any man were to arise to defend, in his writings,
the Cause of God against its assailants, such a man, however
inconsiderable his share, shall be so honoured in the world to come
that the Concourse on high would envy his glory. No pen can
depict the loftiness of his station, neither can any tongue describe
its splendour. For whosoever standeth firm and steadfast in this
holy, this glorious, and exalted Revelation, such power shall be
given him as to enable him to face and withstand all that is in
heaven and on earth. Of this God is Himself a witness.
[67 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, pp. 329-30.]
Finally, an important feature of the protection of the Faith is to safeguard it from intrusion by Covenant-breakers. This subject will be dealt with in greater detail in chapter 24.