I wish to acknowledge my debt to my dear son and daughter, Brian and
Una, for their devotion, high enthusiasm and their manifold helpfulness in the
writing of this book.
Since the last edition of this work, the Bahá'í Faith has
further extended its influence and is now represented in 135 independent
nations and approximately 180 significant territories and islands, while its
literature has been published in 434 languages. These figures correct those on
Presently, (1995) the Bahá'í Faith has been extended to
233 countries and dependent territories with over five and one-half million
members worldwide. There are national spiritual governing councils in 174
countries. "Bahá'ís reside in more than 120,000 localities around the
world, an expansion that reflects their dedication to the ideal of world
citizenship." The Bahá'ís, The Bahá'í International Community,
1994, p. 5.
but clearly, and with all possible emphasis, facts are given in this little
book to prove that the Kingdom of God, as foretold in the Bible with a thousand
details, has at last come with those details all fulfilled.
In all the revealed world religions the coming of the
Kingdom is identified with the appearance of the Supreme world Redeemer, the
Lord of Hosts, the returned Christ, the Qá’im, the new Buddha. "One fold and one shepherd" is to
replace the many conflicting and separated groups of men.
This outstanding pledge, originally given thousands of
years ago, has never been taken up by any of the Great Prophets until the
nineteenth century, when Bahá'u'lláh, Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, announced to
the rulers and religious leaders of the world that He was this Redeemer and the
Bearer of God's message to modern man. He proclaimed that He spoke with the
Voice of God Himself, that He was the Lord of Hosts, Christ come in the glory
of the Father, and that this was indeed the Last Day, the Day of Judgment. The
Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and His martyred Forerunner, the Báb, had for twenty years
suffered persecution of every form; yet without investigation the kings and
ecclesiastical rulers whom He addressed ignored His message. He died in 1892 in
the Holy Land, an exile and captive of the Turks. Yet to-day a world-wide
community exists bearing His name and following His teachings.
Twentieth century thought and aspiration are deeply
committed to the social and humanitarian principles which Bahá'u'lláh
announced, though His spiritual message is, as yet, ignored and certainty no
relationship is conceived between the idea of world order and the Kingdom of
This book is directed especially to the Christians whose
age-long prayer, given by Christ Himself, is "Thy kingdom come". Unfortunately the Christian Churches are in
disagreement as to what this means and they are, therefore, powerless to meet
the crisis of our times.
The message of Bahá'u'lláh opens to Christians the one
door leading to the certain prospect of fulfillment of all that is best in
their great tradition, the fairest hope of service and of redemption in the
GOD'S CALL TO THE CHRISTIANS
ordained that the Christians of the West shall be foremost among all the
peoples of the world in recognizing and acknowledging the second coming of
Christ in the glory of the Father and in carrying the glad tidings through the
The Kingdom of God has come! The Lord of Hosts has
appeared with all the prophesied tokens! His teachings have gone through the
earth and He has proclaimed His message to the kings and religious leaders. But
the Christians hesitate, the churches will not acknowledge not even
investigate. They do not heed nor understand the prophetic outline which Christ
in Palestine gave to the disciples on the nature of the first Christian era
— the period between the first and second coming — and of the
special dangers and difficulties which would beset the Church during the whole
of that time. He declared that there would be no certain knowledge of Christian
truth in those centuries, no agreement, but endless doubt and dispute and
difficulty. The enemies of the Church would not be open and notorious foes but
would be within its own ranks. The Christian community, He warned them, would
be like a ripening cornfield, infested with masses
1. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet to Napoleon III. Shoghi Effendi, America & The Most Great Peace
of weeds growing so close and strong they could not be dug out but would have
to be left to do their evil work right through to the harvest time. Then they would reach their highest point.
The typical enemy of the Church would be the false prophet who would pervert
the true meaning of the Gospel and would mystify people's minds so cunningly
that he might even deceive the very elect, at the last, at harvest, when the
reapers would gather the weeds, bind them in bundles and burn them. The teaching position would become so bad
that men would fear the gates of hell might prevail against the true doctrine.
Christ reassured His little flock, bade them not fear because it was their
Father's good pleasure to give them the Kingdom.
The Christians of to-day and yesterday have not noticed
the accuracy of Christ's forecast, nor do they see that the very things of
which Christ warned them are happening to-day.
Now the promised change has come. This is the time which
Christ foresaw when He affirmed that He had many more things to tell the
disciples but He must withhold them because they were not mature enough to bear
them. At last the age of maturity has been reached. The time of
uncertainty and doubt, of self-delusion and idle fancy and vain imaginings has
gone by. The "Spirit of Truth" has come. A new heaven and a new earth
are spread before mankind and every man is required to "prove all
things" and "hold fast that which is good".
This book is written lest Christian men and women,
confused by past errors and falsities, should neglect to observe the newness of
the age, to heed the warnings of
1. Matt. xiii 24-30.
2. Mark xiii 22. Matt. xxiv 24.
Christ and should fall into the snare of which He told them so often and so
emphatically. Let them not, through lack of discernment or courage, play into
the hands of those who are bringing destruction.
This book is written to prove, from the undoubted facts of
history, what is the true interpretation of Jesus' prophecies about the
character of His era, to show the justice of His warning, especially at this
time when the events He foretold have reached the crisis of their fulfilment.
May the Father, in His mercy, grant that the Christians of
the West may be shaken out of their composure, may be moved before it is too
late to investigate the truth and may at last arise to meet the tremendous,
unprecedented emergency which opens before them.
THE KINGDOM IN THE BIBLE
of the coming of the Kingdom runs through the whole Bible. It is the climax and
consummation of God's grand redemptive scheme. The attainment of the Kingdom at
the end is promised in the beginning, and gives to the Bible its note of
confident expectation, of success and triumph.
Jesus made mention of Noah and Abraham as Divine Prophets
and Revelators in the succession of those Who had guided mankind towards the
Kingdom; but their teachings apparently have been lost and are not given in the
It is, therefore, not until the wonderful and famous
prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 30
that the real story of the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth begins in the
Bible. A prophecy in the full sense of the word means much more than any mere
prediction. It refers to-a foreview of the future seen by an inspired Prophet
by the light of eternity and is a vision of the future purpose of God laid up
beyond mortal ken.
Abraham had already been told of the coming of one of His
descendants in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed and Jacob
similarly had foretold (Gen. 49) the
coming of Shiloh. Moses' prophecy was more full and more exact. He foretold
that, in the distant future, the
Israelites whom He was now leading from Egypt towards the Promised Land would,
for a dreadful crime, be plucked out of that land, and be utterly dispersed
among the nations. They would live in misery and humiliation until, in the
fullness of time, the Lord God, moved with compassion, would “return and gather" the Israelites
and restore them as His converted subjects, to the ancient land of their
fathers, there to live in lasting peace.
"And it shall
come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the
curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all
the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee,
return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice, according to all that I
command this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy
"That then the
Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will
return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath
scattered thee." (Deut. 30)
Moses' prediction provided the Jewish Prophets with one of
their favourite and most famous themes. It was the chief subject of the
greatest of them all, Isaiah, of which he wrote in his most exalted and
powerful manner. Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk,
Zephaniah shared his enthusiasm and filled out the enraptured picture which he
gave of the future restoration. Moses' prophecy of the return
became synchronized with the final coming of the Kingdom of God through the
appearance of the Supreme World Redeemer, the Lord God, the Lord of Hosts. The
world was to be unified and the Jews in the Holy Land were to hold a central
place which would give them a position of honour and make them the envy of
mankind. The world in that day would be, as the Prophets saw it, transformed
inwardly and outwardly; human character would be changed and uplifted.
"I will give them one heart, and I
will put a new spirit within you . . . that they may walk in my statutes . . .
and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." (Ezekiel xi 19-20)
"I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh . . ."
(Joel ii 28)
"I will put my law in their inward parts, and write
it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jeremiah xxxi 33)
" . . . the earth shall be full of the knowledge of
the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah xi 9 and Hab. ii
"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in
that day shall there be one Lord, and His Name one." (Zech. xiv 9)
Peace will reign everywhere through the earth. Men shall
learn war no more. Security, tranquillity of mind and
plenty will follow peace. (Isaiah ii
4; Micah iv 4-5; Isaiah xxxv 1-2; Joel iii
"He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong
nations afar off, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their
spears into pruning-hooks; . . ." (Micah
"Righteousness and peace have kissed each other"
adds the psalmist. (Psalm lxxxv 10)
The character of men shall be
recognised for what it truly is:
"The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor
the churl said to be bountiful." (Isaiah
In the midst of this community of peaceful and friendly nations
the Prophets placed the Holy Land in a position of privilege pre-eminent. In
legislation, in religious instruction and in the execution of government and of
justice she stands unique.
". . . out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the
word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Isaiah
". . . Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of
the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways,
and we will walk in his paths . . . and he shall judge among the nations and
shall rebuke many people . . ." (Isaiah
". . . and the government shall be upon his shoulder;
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
"Of the increase of his government and peace there
shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it,
and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for
ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah ix 6-7)
Little wonder indeed that the Jewish people from the time
of Isaiah till the present hour should find solace and pride in the thought of
the restoration of their people at the time of the coming of the Kingdom, and
should read and re-read with happiness the prophecies of the coming of the Lord
Another great picture of the glory of the Kingdom is given
in the Bible in the Revelation of St. John the Divine, bringing the Bible to
its climax and its end. Belonging to the Revelation of Christ this naturally is
of a highly spiritual order. It promises the presence of God as actually
present in the Kingdom and dwelling among men.
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he
will dwell with them, and they shall be his people and God himself shall be
with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall
there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away . . . And they
shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall
be no night there; and they need no
1. see pages 27-8.
candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they
shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation
xxi 3-4, xxii 4-5)
Since it is written (Rev.
"And the nations of them which are saved shall walk
in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour
one must infer that the reference to God's presence alludes to the earthly
Kingdom and the Holy Land.
JESUS CHRIST, HERALD OF THE KINGDOM
announced, and great Prophets had described in inspired language, the
establishment of the Kingdom and the restoration of the Jews. Jesus' function
was more intimate, more constructive, more creative. He was actually the Herald
of the Kingdom, which, He said, was "at hand". But He did not reveal
it fully; "I have yet many things to
say unto you, ye cannot bear them now." The Kingdom, in His
Revelation, becomes a living, glowing reality, both within the believer's heart
and shortly to be fulfilled in the world. Jesus reveals its King as none had
done before Him, testifies of Him as "he
shall testify of me".
Jesus created a power of perceiving God which was new, and
in order that it might operate clearly, had to cleanse the spirit of man from
all worldly encumbrances. Virtue become detachment from the world, sin
attachment to it. Jesus demanded this sacrifice — losing the life of the
world for the life of the spirit, but He made God so attractive, so joyous,
loving, powerful, that the Christian was ready to abandon all for Him, and for
Christ Who revealed Him.
Thus the tremendous and fearsome Deity of the Old
Testament wins men's hearts in the New. We read of the poor sparrow whose fall
was watched by a loving Father, of the flower of the field and the bird of the
air, and the
tenderest stories that ever have won men's hearts — the prodigal son and
the good Samaritan.
A new quality of love now characterizes the Kingdom, a
love which united the believers not only with God, but with each other, and
even extended to enemies and "them
that hate you." "That ye
love one another" became the test of Christian discipleship.
The supreme ideal of this love was, as shown in John, the relationship between Christ
and the Father, and though revealed in the most simple language and the
plainest words, stands as the highest expression of Divine love in scripture.
The result was that Jesus' teachings let loose upon the
soul and heart of man a spiritual power such as never had been known in the
world before. Historians have said that Jesus' teaching has done more to elevate
human nature and civilization than all the laws of legislators and the
disquisitions of philosophers combined. By releasing religious energies
measured to the needs of the hour and the people, He opened the way to the
Kingdom of God in men's hearts. New affections and aspirations, hopes and
loyalties were brought into being and the whole moral world was carried into a
state of flux.
The early Christians taught the sacredness of human life
and the dignity of human nature. As soon as they could they stopped the
exposure of infants at birth and the practice of gladiatorial shows. Later they
promoted education, built hospitals and introduced a juster system of
legislation than had been in use in the Roman State before. Such changes as
these they made because the seat of Christ's government was fixed in their
souls and His throne was in their hearts. They lay open to the impress
of every breath the Spirit breathed on them and had consecrated their wills to
His service. A new and Christian civilization arose, centered on Byzantium,
which reached its height in the fourth century.
In Jesus' time there was a great company of brilliant
philosophers, historians and orators, poets and scholars in Rome, all of them
deeply conscious of the debasement and the disintegration of Roman life,
particularly anxious to find a way of improving it and all truly unable to do
so. The thought that the new teaching of Christ would prove equal to the task
and would rebuild a new and better social order never occurred to one of them.
They seldom mentioned Christianity and when they did, referred to it in terms
of complete contempt. Men have marvelled at their blindness, but after all the
cause is not far to seek:[colon] Jesus regards this human world as antagonistic
to the divine world. "Ye cannot
serve God and mammon" is the cornerstone of His ethics. Unless a man
hates his father and his mother, his wife and his home for His sake and the
Gospel's he cannot be His disciple. He demands, therefore, that a man shall
exercise a high degree of self-control and self-discipline. Jesus taught that
this earth life is intended to be a bridge to pass over and not a home in which
to take up one's abode. The wise man, therefore, who passes this way will not
attach himself to too many ties but will keep himself free so that he will be
able, if some higher call of duty comes to him from the divine world, to follow
it at once. He will seek to achieve a high standard of self-control and
self-discipline, happily conscious that the demands of the Gospel and of Christ
take precedence over any earthly imperative.
1. see Chap. 9.
The Roman philosophers on the other hand, immersed
completely in the affairs, interests and calls of the human world, had no
conception whatever of any obligation to sacrifice its need to those of a
Purity, therefore, is the cleansing of the human heart
from the obscuring influence of the mists and shadows of earth which do not
enable man to see any vision of God or of Christ but keep him in comparative
darkness, knowing nothing of the vision or the power which comes to the heart
that has disengaged itself from all love of Mammon. The wonders of Christ could
never have come to pass, nor could the spiritual energies, shed so bountifully,
have been released had He not been ready to sacrifice every human tie and
attachment for the sake of God and God's beloved. The mysterious power which
comes of sacrifice like Christ's, and in no other way, is similar to that of a
seed which falls into the ground and is buried in the dark. The seed gives up
its outer life and the shell perishes; instead the inner being of the seed
takes on a new life of its own which spreads and expands into a very big tree,
assuming a new form in the boughs and branches and leaves. Analogously, Christ
abandoned all that held Him to home and all the ties of earth, and this
sacrifice created the Christian community into which His own life passed. He
was the first to make the sacrifice His teachings demanded and God-intoxicated
apostles, following Him, went forth to transform the world and die as martyrs.
Bahá'u'lláh testifies: —
". . . that when
the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a
great weeping. By
however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences,
as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The
deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any
mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the
influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the
quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and
that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all
created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity
and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His
power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of
the sinner sanctified.
"Leprosy may be
interpreted as any veil that interveneth between man and the recognition of the
Lord, his God. Who so alloweth himself to be shut out from Him is indeed a
leper, who shall not be remembered in the Kingdom of God, the Mighty, the
All-Praised. We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God every
leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was
banished. He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face
beaming with light, hath turned towards Him."
Wonderful is the story of Christ indeed! Yet where is the
Gospel in the world to-day?
1. Gleanings from the
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section xxxvi.
THE FALSE PROPHETS
had prophesied, the false prophets contrived to change the essential meaning of
the Gospel so that it became quite different from that which the Bible recorded
or Jesus taught.
It has long been generally believed that Jesus Christ was
a unique incarnation of God such as had never before appeared in religious
history and would never appear again. This tenet made the acceptance of any
later Prophet impossible to a Christian. Yet there is nothing in Christ's own
statements, as recorded in the Gospel, to support this view, and it was not
generally held during His lifetime.
Jesus emphatically claimed to reveal God, Whom He called
Father, but continually differentiated Himself from the Father. In many such
references as "Him that sent me,"
"my Father is greater than I," "I
go to the Father," "I will pray the Father," "I
do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me," He made this abundantly clear, and even
stated specifically that the Father had knowledge which was not possessed by
the Son. "But of that day and that
hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven,
1. Matt. vii 15-23 and see pp. 11, 12.
2. John xiv 28.
3. John xvi 16.
4. John xiv 16.
5. John viii 28.
neither the Son, but the Father." He referred to Himself as the Son, and as a
Prophet, and was so regarded, and related His Mission to those of Moses
and Abraham before Him, and to others to come after Him, specifically "he, the Spirit of truth," who would
reveal the things which Jesus did not.
The followers of every world religion have invented for
themselves a similar belief in the uniqueness and finality of their own
Prophet. The result has been that no religion has acknowledged a Prophet of a
later religion. The Hindus do not acknowledge Buddha, the Buddhists do not
acknowledge Christ, nor yet do the Zoroastrians. The result of this delusive
belief has been that the world religions have not tended to the unifying of
mankind but rather to its further division.
Another opinion which Christians universally hold about
Christ is that His teaching was absolute and final. They believe that if the
Truth were party withheld from them for a time because they could not bear it,
it was divulged at Pentecost in its fullness and that now nothing remains to be
revealed. But there is nothing in the account of Pentecost to suggest such an
interpretation and there is no one who will believe that Jesus would have named
the false prophets as characteristic of His age if this warning was to be
followed by an immediate release of all Truth to the Church. What the Bible
shows is rather a succession of teachers — Abraham, Moses and Christ,
each measuring His Revelation to the needs and maturity of His auditors: Jesus,
for example, changes the divorce law
1. Mark xiii 32.
2. Matt. xiii 57. Luke xiii 33.
3. Matt. xxi 11, Luke vii 16.
4. John xvi 12, 13.
and says, "Moses gave you this
because of the hardness of your hearts but from the beginning it was not so."
Many times He says, "Ye have heard
it said by them of old time . . . but I say unto you . . ."
Another universal opinion among the Christians is that
Christ was the Lord of Hosts of the old Testament. Yet the Jewish Prophets had
foretold that when the Lord of Hosts came He would not find the Jews in the
Holy Land, all would have been scattered among the nations and would have been
living in misery and degradation for centuries; but when Jesus came Palestine
was full of Jews and their expulsion did not begin until the year 70 A.D.; it
may be said to have continued till the year 1844.
To confirm orthodox Christian opinion it is customary in
all churches to read on Christmas morning, as if it referred to Jesus, the
passage which Isaiah wrote about the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah ix 6-7):
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government
shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The, mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase
of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David,
and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with
justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts
will perform this."
Yet the descriptive titles given do not belong exclusively
to Christ, while some of them He specifically repudiated
as if to make such a mistaken reference to Himself impossible. He disclaimed
being the Mighty God when He called Himself "the Son of God;"
disclaimed being the Father when He said, "my Father is greater than I;"
and being the Prince of Peace when He said, "I came not to send peace, but a sword." He disclaimed bearing the government upon His shoulder or
that it would be His judgment and justice forever when He said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
Many of these false interpretations involve repudiation of
the Word of God in favor of the word of man. This impious act is so craftily
performed, with such an air of humility, that it might escape the notice of the
most sincere and devout of worshipers. Probably few churchgoers realize to-day
that the Gospel of Christ as known to the few in the pulpit is wholly different
from the Gospel which Christ preached in Galilee as recorded in the Bible.
In spite of Christ's promise of further revelation of
Truth, through the Comforter, through His own return, through the Spirit of
Truth, the Christian Church regards His revelation as final, and itself as the
sole trustee of true religion. There is no room for the Supreme Redeemer of the
Bible to bring in great changes for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. In
fact this Kingdom is often described as a world-wide Church.
Having thus closed God's Covenant with the Bible, sacred
history — God-directed — came to an end, and secular history,
having no sense of divine destiny nor unity, began.
1. John v 18-47 where Jesus repudiates the charge that He claimed
equality with God.
2. John xiv 28.
3. Matt. x 34.
4. John xviii 36.
Jesus' revelation was purely spiritual. He taught that
"My kingdom is not of this world"
and that the "kingdom of heaven is
within you." His great gift to man was the knowledge of eternal life.
He told men that they might be physically in perfect health and yet spiritually
sick or even dead. But this was a difficult truth to communicate and Jesus had
to help men to realize it. He would say that He was a spiritual physician and
that men whom He cured of a spiritual disability were cured of blindness,
deafness, lameness, leprosy and so on. This was the real meaning of His remark
at the end of a discourse, "He that
hath ears to hear, let him hear." For a hearer might hear the physical
word of Jesus and yet fail to comprehend the spiritual meaning. Jesus, in other
words, was forever trying to heal spiritual infirmities. He thus would be
understood by His disciples as a healer of spiritual ailments but by others He
might be taken as relieving physical ills only.
Doubtless Jesus could, and often did, heal bodily ills by
spiritual means, but this was nothing to do with His real work as a Redeemer.
On the other hand these spiritual cures which He effected might be
misinterpreted as physical miracles, and so were little stressed by Him.
("See that no man know it.")
Christ's spiritual mission was, at an early date,
materialized, specifically in regard to such things as the miracles, curing the
blind and deaf, raising the dead. Even His own resurrection was made physical,
missing the point entirely. Moreover, none of the complex order, of the
ceremonies, rituals and litanies of the Church can be attributed to Christ. All
are man-made, by inference or invention.
1. Matt. ix 30.
Well might Christ warn His followers that false prophets
would arise and misinterpret His teachings so as to delude even the most
earnest and intelligent of His believers: from early times Christians have
disputed about Christian truth in councils, in sects, in wars.
To sum up, if Christians say "our acts may be
wrong," they say truly. If they say "however our Gospel is
right" they are quite wrong. The false prophets have corrupted the Gospel
as successfully as they have the deeds and lives of Christian people.
MUḤAMMAD, BUILDER OF NATIONS
seem natural to expect that the Dispensation of the Herald of the Kingdom would
be followed in sequence by that of the King whose Herald He was. But this was
not to be. It had been already so announced in the Book of Genesis.
God foretold to Abraham that the Prophetic succession was
to run through Him and be fulfilled not only in Isaac but in Ishmael. In Genesis xii 1-2 it is written "Now
the Lord had said unto Abram, . . . I will make of thee a great nation, and I
will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:"
And again in Genesis xvii 20
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold I have blessed him, . . .
and will multiple him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will
make him a great nation." The narrative continues (Gen. xxi 20-21) "God was with the lad; and he grew, . . . and
he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and . . . took him a wife out of the land
He became the progenitor of the people of Arabia and the
twelve Princes which he begot are interpreted as the twelve Imams who followed
Moses confirmed this promise when He Prophesied (Deut. xviii 15) to the Israelites that
"the Lord thy God will raise up unto
thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me."
This refers not only to the
coming of Jesus Christ, as is usually thought, but more especially to
Muḥammad. Moses would have used the word "seed" if He had
meant to refer to an Israelite, whereas the word "brethren" indicates
that He alludes to Isaac's brother Ishmael. He connects Mount Paran explicitly
with the Prophetic line when, in His final blessing before His death, He
describes the Prophets who will follow Him: "The Lord came from Sinai (meaning Himself), and rose up from Seir . . . (meaning Jesus Christ); he shined forth from mount Paran
(meaning Muḥammad), and he came
with ten thousands of saints (meaning Bahá'u'lláh)." (Deut. xxxiii 2.)
On the other hand Muḥammad mentions in the Qur'án
the prophecies of His coming made in the Bible (Sura 26 verses 192-199) and
states that Abraham prayed for His coming (Sura 2 verses 118-144) and that He
was foretold by Moses and described in the Law and the Evangel.
Mankind had now had the experience of organizing the
family, the tribe and the city state. Before humanity could proceed to the task
of organizing the far superior government of the Commonwealth of Bahá'u'lláh a
preliminary lesson in the art of building a nation had to be given. This
constituted, as the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith shows on pages 124-5 of The Promised Day is Come, the special
mission of the Arabian Prophet whose advent Moses had foretold. "Of old it hath been revealed: 'Love of one's
country is an element of the Faith of God"' said Bahá'u'lláh with
reference to this appointed task.
The conditions of Muhammad's life were not such as
to make this mission easy. Born in Mecca, the capital city of Arabia,
about 570, He found Himself in the midst of a
people consisting of a hundred warlike tribes, inheriting a tradition of
polytheism, who had resisted all efforts at evangelization and who regarded
battle as the only occupation fit for men. Such was the race whom Muḥammad
was to convert to monotheism and to unify into an unbreakable band of brothers,
their unity being based on their religious faith.
Muḥammad was already about forty years old when He
began to teach ethical principles similar to those of the Old Testament and to
proclaim the succession of the Prophets, including His own succession to Jesus
Christ, Whose divinity and Whose Gospel he called His believers to accept. But
after a few years He found Himself forced by severe and continuous persecution
to leave His native town for Medina where He at once began the execution of
the real mission of His life, the
building of a spiritual nation.
Western scholars seem to be at one in regarding
nationalism as Muḥammad's real and creative contribution to human
development. They all have recognized the extraordinary ability displayed by
Him in organizing and consolidating the wild tribes of Arabia. Sir William Muir
for instance wrote that ". . . he, with consummate skill, devised a
machinery, by the adaptive energy of which he gradually shaped the broken and
disconnected masses of the Arab race into an harmonious whole, a body politic
endowed with life and vigor . . . by unparalleled art and a rare supremacy of mind,
he persuaded the whole of Arabia, Pagan, Jew, and Christian, to follow his
steps with docile submission." (The Life of Mahomet p. lxxxvi).
T. W. Arnold in The Preaching of Islám writes in the
1. Smith, Elder & Co.,
London, 3rd ed. 1894.
2. Constable. London. 2nd ed. 1913.
same vein. "The Arab tribes were thus impelled to give in their submission
to the Prophet, not merely as the head of the strongest military force in
Arabia, but as the exponent of a theory of social life that was making all
others weak and ineffective. Muḥammad had succeeded in introducing into
the anarchical society of his time a sentiment of national unity, a
consciousness of rights and duties towards one another such as the Arabs had
not felt before” (pp. 40-41).
The outstanding features which distinguish
Muḥammad's system may be summarized under nine points:
- Patriotism was a part of
- Only Muslims were full
citizens; minorities, such as Christians and Jews, enjoyed freedom and
protection, but not the full brotherhood of Islám.
- There was one compulsory
language for all, the adoption of which was made a basic condition for
citizenship in the Muhammadan empire.
- There was no class
distinction, and an equality of rights among all Muslims was established.
- There was unity in ritual
and religious tradition.
- There was freedom of
thought and reconciliation of science and religion.
- There was a judicial system
with its laws and courts of justice independent of the will of the
- True and real membership in
the nation was assured to every citizen as in a modern democracy.
- It was a theocratic state.
original combination of the two contrasted but complementary theories of
theocracy and democracy
seems to be the strong base of Muhammad's system and Professor de
Santillana in his essay in The Legacy of Islám explains clearly how this
combination was effected. He shows that Muhammad swept away the former
limited loyalties of tribe and family. A believer who adopted Islám must
forget and forego his own kith and kin unless they were his companions in the
Faith. All connections depended on religion alone. The community of Islám was
different from any other. It was the chosen of God to whom was entrusted the
furtherance of good and the repression of evil. It was the sole witness for God
among the nations, the sole seat of justice and faith in the world. Instead of
the impersonal life of the tribe there emerged the personal life of the
individual which took its claims and its duties not from membership of the
community but from adherence to the Faith. Patriotism was thus the element of
"Islám is the direct government of Alláh, the rule of
God ... upon his people.... Alláh is the name of the supreme power, acting in the
common interest... between Alláh and the believer there is no mediator: Islám
has no church, no priests, no sacraments . . . Man is alone in the presence of
God, in life and in death . . . to Whom is present every action, every word . .
.; alone he will answer for his deeds, and alone will he face the judgment of
God . . . The most rigid protestantism is almost a sacerdotal religion,
compared with this personal monotheism, unbending, and intolerant of any
interference between man and his Creator" (pp. 286-287).
Quoting the Islámic principle that the object of
1. Law and Society; The
Legacy of Islám, ed. Sir Thomas Arnold and A. Guillaume. O.U.P. 1931.
Government is to lead men to prosperity in this-world and to salvation in the next,"
the Professor writes that "'the
white man is not above the black nor the black above the yellow; all men are
equal before their Maker', said the Prophet. Equal before God, members of a
great family in which there is neither noble nor villein, but only believers,
Muslims are equal before the civil law; and this equality was proclaimed at a
time when it was practically unknown throughout Christian society. This law,
equal for all rests essentially on good
faith. Muslims must keep their pledges . . . This conception of good faith
is essentially an ethical one, and is elevated to an abstract and universal
notion. It strikes us as being more akin to our mind than the feudal and
Germanic conception of good faith springing from personal fealty.” (p. 304).
It was evidently the intention of Muḥammad to make
Islám not only a model organization but a model in its international relations.
The Prophet insisted that the Muslim state was to observe its treaties as
sacred. "Ye who believe" He
writes in the Qur'án, "be not false
in your engagements, with your own knowledge . . . . Or if thou fear treachery
from any people, throw back their treaty to them as thou fairly mayest, for God
loveth not the treacherous . . . . And if they lean to peace, lean thou also to it." (Sura 8
verses 27, 60, 63). He warns his followers that if they make a treaty with
infidels and the infidels remain true to it they too must keep their
engagements "with them through the
whole time of their treaty; for God loveth those who fear Him. . . . But if
after alliance made, they break their oaths and revile your religion, then do
battle with the ring-leaders of infidelity — for no oaths are binding
with them — that they may desist." (Sura 9 verses 4 and 12).
Muḥammad Himself strictly
observed the principles of justice in His public as in His private dealings.
The wars which He waged were not like those of earthly conquerors undertaken
for spoliation or aggrandizement, but were called for by the lawless conditions
of the time. They were intended to protect the Faith and its followers and were
not pursued further than was necessary for this protective purpose.
The originality of such practical regulations and the need
for introducing and enforcing them in the anarchical international life of
those days may be judged from the following excerpt from The Spirit of
Islám, page 209:
"The Romans . . . could never realise the duties of international morality
or of humanity. They waged war for the sole purpose of subjugating the
surrounding nations. . . . The sacredness of treaties was unknown. . . . The
liberty of other nations was never of the slightest importance in their
estimation. The introduction of Christianity made little or no change in the
views entertained by its professors concerning international obligations. War
was as inhuman and as exterminating as before . . . Christianity did not profess to deal with international
morality, and so left its followers groping in the dark."
According to a tradition which is probably true and which
in the case of the Persian king is endorsed by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, Muḥammad
sent from Medina letters of friendship, proclaiming His Prophethood, to six
neighboring rulers: to the Emperor of Byzantium, the Emperor of Persia, the
King of Abyssinia, the Governor of Egypt, the King of Hira, the Duke of Yemen
in Central Arabia — and also to the Emperor of China (in 628 A.D.) which
was then under the T’ang dynasty and
1. Syed Ameer 'Alí, The
Spirit of Islám, Christophers, London, Rev. 1922.
entering a golden age. Thus did He seek kindly relationships between Himself
and the rulers of other peoples and took a bold initiative in setting
internationalism on a sound basis of law and justice.
"Let there be
in you a nation summoning unto the good" is a divine order in the
Qur'án. And in spite of dissensions and civil wars, some length of time elapsed
before the Muslim conscience countenanced any such division of nationalities as
we have seen to be characteristic of the Islám of our time; and the spread of
one language over the whole of the conquered territory was carried with far
greater success and determination than the Romans ever achieved or displayed.
For at one time the Arabic language dominated the whole Islámic area from Spain
and North Africa to Central Asia; it tolerated no rival language as Latin
Syed Ameer 'Alí sums up the contribution of Islám to
political science in the following remarkable comment:
“Islám gave to the people a code which, however archaic in its simplicity, was
capable of the greatest development in accordance with the progress of material
civilization. It conferred on the State a flexible constitution, based on a
just appreciation of human rights and human duty. It limited taxation, it made
men equal in the eye of the law, it consecrated the principles of self-government.
It established a control over the sovereign power by rendering the executive
authority subordinate to the law — a law based upon religious sanction
and moral obligations. 'The excellence and effectiveness of each of these
principles’, says Urquhart, ‘(each capable of immortalizing its founder), gave
value to the rest; and all combined, endowed the system which they formed with
force and energy exceeding those of any other political system. Within the
lifetime of a man, though in the hands of a population wild, ignorant, and
insignificant, it spread over a greater extent than the dominions of Rome.
While it retained its primitive character, it was irresistible.'"
1. Urquhart, The Spirit of
the East, vol. i, intro. xxviii; Syed Ameer 'Alí, The Spirit of Islám, p. 277.
MUḤAMMAD AND THE CHRISTIANS
Christians Muḥammad showed the greatest kindness. Insisting that all
Muslims should fully accept both Jesus Christ and His Gospel and assuring them
in the Qur'án (Sura 5 verse 85) that they would find the Christians nearest of
all men to them in affection, He took the Christians under his express
A remarkable illustration of this is afforded by the
charter which Muḥammad granted to the Christians in general and to the
monks of the monastery of St. Catherine, near Mount Sinai, in particular, the
actual document itself having been faithfully preserved down the centuries by
the analysts of Islám.
Quoting this charter in The Spirit of Islám (p. 84) Syed Ameer 'Alí remarks that it
"has been justly designated as one of the noblest monuments of enlightened
tolerance that the history of the world can produce," and he calls
attention to its marvelous breadth of view and liberality of conception. "By it," he writes, "the
Prophet secured to the Christians privileges and immunities which they did not
possess even under sovereigns of their own creed; and declared that any Moslem
violating and abusing what
1. That this charter
represented the firm attitude of tolerance and goodwill which the Prophet was
accustomed to show towards Christians may be judged from the terms of a
parallel charter to the Christians of Najrán is quoted by the author in the
same work on page 273.
was therein ordered, should be regarded as a violator of God's testament, a
transgressor of His commandments, and a slighter of His Faith. He undertook
himself, and enjoined on his followers, to protect the Christians, to defend
their churches, the residences of their priests, and to guard them from all
injuries. They were not to be unfairly taxed; no bishop was to be driven out of
his bishopric; no Christian was to be forced to reject his religion; no monk
was to be expelled from his monastery; no pilgrim was to be detained from his
pilgrimage. Nor were the Christian churches to be pulled down for the sake of
building mosques or houses for the Moslems. Christian women married to Moslems
were to enjoy their own religion, and not to be subjected to compulsion or
annoyance of any kind on that account. If Christians should stand in need of
assistance for the repair of their churches or monasteries, or any other matter
pertaining to their religion, the Moslems were to assist them. This was not to
be considered as taking part in their religion, but as merely rendering them
assistance in their need, and complying with the ordinances of the Prophet
which were made in their favor by the authority of God and of His Apostle.
Should the Moslems be engaged in hostilities with outside Christians, no
Christian resident among the Moslems should be treated with contempt on account
of his creed. Any Moslem so treating a Christian should be accounted
recalcitrant to the Prophet."
No Christian student reading Muhammad's teachings can miss
the fact that His ethical system corrected many of those corruptions which had
crept into the Christian Faith of the seventh century. For instance
Muḥammad preached an emphatic monotheism in place of a trinitarian
Godhead. He left no room for that sacerdotalism which had so enervated and
distorted the spirit of the Gospel. He encouraged and promoted in the strongest
way the pursuit of science and learning which had become anathema to Christian orthodoxy; He is
believed to have said that the ink of the scholar was more holy than the blood
of the martyr and to have bidden believers to go as far as China for knowledge
if necessary. Instead of endorsing celibacy He honored marriage, home life and
home duties and by the stress He laid on the oneness of all believers and the
paramount duty of brotherly loyalty He showed His horror of schism.
So kindly were the relations between the two Faiths and so
strong the spiritual influence of Muḥammad that the Christian masses
were disposed to accept the Faith of the Arabian Prophet. The Báb indeed says
that they were only prevented from doing so by the failure of the clergy "for if these had believed, they would have
been followed by the mass of their countrymen." Had it not been for
the unfortunate divisive counsel of these Christian priests, history would have
been different indeed.
THE VIOLATION OF MUḤAMMAD'S COVENANT
MUHAMMAD completed His mission. Out of the unpromising material
presented to Him He had created a spiritual nation such as the world had never
seen and one which would prove itself possessed of a solidarity and
effectiveness which have always been the wonder of mankind. The future would
depend on the loyalty, the understanding and sympathy of His followers and on
the guidance given them by their leaders.
Moses had appointed Joshua as His immediate successor and
as long as Joshua led the Israelites the sun of Moses shone high in the
heavens. Jesus appointed Peter to succeed Him, without notifying him as to the
limit of his authority or who was to succeed him in his office, if anyone. Muḥammad,
without naming him, designated 'Alí, His son-in-law, by signs so many and so
striking that no one could mistake their meaning and, what is more,
Muḥammad had with him a number of conversations dealing with the future
of the Cause and the nature of its development. Muḥammad also stated in
plain terms that His family and His book were to succeed Him, thus in effect
giving to 'Alí, as His son-in-law, the right of succession to the place of the
But sectional loyalties, tribal jealousies and personal
ambition all conspired to defeat Muḥammad's purpose. 'Alí,
whose character and outstanding ability made him conspicuously suited for the
position to which Muḥammad had appointed him, was set aside, and Islám was thus deprived, until too late,
of the inspired guidance which he could have given it. Because of this
violation of the Covenant, the spirit and meaning of the Islámic Faith were
degraded, weakened and poisoned. Factions grew, the Prophet's family was
dispossessed, and before long the powerful Umayyad clan, which had opposed Muḥammad
more bitterly than any other, gained the ascendancy, to rule Islám as an Arab
empire with little regard for
religion or the precepts of the Prophet.
'Abdu'l-Bahá describes this clan as the beast from the
bottomless pit that warred against the spiritual life of Islám and killed it,
leaving nothing of the religion of Muḥammad but the prayers and the
fast; all the justice, the righteousness, the mercy and indeed all the virtues
which the Prophet had enshrined in Islám were irretrievably lost.
Deprived of the guidance of Muḥammad's family and
ruled by descendants of Muḥammad's enemies, Islám was transformed into a
secular state whose rulers used religion for secular ends. Muḥammad's
plans remained unknown and so remain to this day, though it is easy to surmise
their general character.
This heinous violation swept away all possibility of
Muḥammad's love for Christendom, so conspicuously displayed in His
lifetime, from developing, and thereafter the relationship of these two chief
civilizations followed its tragic course, continuing right down to our own day
to disturb the order of the world and to prevent the establishment of that
unity in brotherhood which was the desire of both Christ and Muḥammad.
1. They said he was too young.
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLÁM
having lost a great part of its spiritual power and having to divert its
manifold energies chiefly to secular ends, went forward on its conquering
career, driving the Christians out of Palestine, out of North Africa, out of
most of Spain, but being stopped in France by the battle of Tours. Western
Christendom on the other hand sank back into the Dark Ages and languished in
semi-barbarism for Centuries.
‘Umar and the Caliphs who followed him rapidly extended
the Muslim empire from the Pillars of Hercules to Calicut. In the midst of a
dark and stagnant world there sprang up as if by magic a brilliant
civilization. In 760 A.D. its rulers moved their capital from Damascus to Baghdád
and founded on the site of an ancient Christian village a city which became at
once a world centre of culture and commerce, and so remained for five
centuries. All phases of civilization as then known were there found gathered
together and renewed, and in many cases carried to heights never reached
before: letters and language, the arts, the sciences, both practical and
abstract, trade, transport and seamanship, invention and industry,
jurisprudence and the arts of government. Because of the central position of the
Qur'án, revered as a literary miracle, and because of Arabian pride in their
language, which they held to be the one perfect tongue spoken by man and which
regarded by scholars to-day as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of
the race, literature in all its uses and forms was given a place of eminence.
Schools and universities were founded and thronged by students of many nations.
Great works were produced on all manner of subjects; great libraries were
collected containing hundreds of thousands of volumes. The Caliphs ransacked
the earth for knowledge, sending out expeditions of inquiry and making foreign
lands and distant ages give up their lore. An army of translators was employed,
rendering Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Jewish works into Arabic. Grammar and its
laws were studied with great elaboration. Dictionaries, lexicons and
encyclopedias on a vast scale were prepared. Paper was introduced from China; a
new system of numerals (usually known as Arabic) from India. Arabic became the
universal language. Caliphs would invite literary men of international repute
to the court. Scholars, philosophers, poets, grammarians from diverse lands
would find a meeting place in the great bookshops of the capital.
The pursuit of science, practical as well as abstract,
kept pace with that of letters. In experimental science, in medicine and
surgery, in chemistry and physics, in geography as well as in mathematics and
astronomy, the Arabs led the world of that day. They invented a new and
exquisite form of architecture, distinguished by its combination of airy grace
with solid strength, and by its use of light. The influence of this style can
be traced through India as far as Java, to China, to the Sudan and to the whole
of Russia. They developed many branches of industry and improved methods of
agriculture and horticulture. Introducing the use of the mariner's compass
their ships traversed the seas while caravans maintained a trade between all
provinces of the empire, carrying produce from India and China, Turkistan and
Russia, from Africa and the Malayan Archipelago.
The glory of Baghdád with its mosques and palaces,
its temples of learning, its fragrant gardens, was reproduced in the lesser
centres of the world of Islám: in Basra, in Bokhara, in Granada and Cordoba. It
is written of the last-named city that at the height of its prosperity it
contained more than 20,000 houses and more than a million inhabitants and that
a man after sunset might walk in a straight line for ten miles along paved and
illuminated streets — yet in Europe centuries later there was not a paved
street in Paris nor a public lamp in London.
Cordoba was the first University founded in Europe, and in
its halls multitudes of Christian scholars received instruction, among them
being Gerbert who afterwards became Sylvester II, the brilliant Pope of Rome.
Inevitably, and in spite of the antagonism between
Christendom and Islám, this advanced civilization influenced the course of life
and thought in Europe. Through the Muslim outpost in Sicily and the
scintillating brilliance of Muslim Spain, through the intelligence of scholars
and the resources of the Muslim universities, through traders, through
diplomats and travelers, through soldiers, sailors and reconquered peasants,
new ideas, techniques and attitudes passed from Islám to Western Europe.
Then came the day in 1094 when the Pope called on the
chivalry and the faithful of Christendom to arouse themselves and go forth and
drive the Saracen hosts out of the sacred Christian shrine, which they had
and reestablish the Christian Faith in its ancient home. Europe leapt up at his
word and for well-nigh two hundred years the vicissitudes of this colossal war
between Europe and Asia, the West and the East, Christian and unbeliever
continued to cause the loss of millions of lives, to spread infinite misery and
to squander immense treasure. The Christians ultimately withdrew in ignominious
and complete defeat and Islám remained in possession of all the Holy Places she
had owned before.
It was Europe, however, and not Arabia which gained from
the struggle, for the Crusades provided yet another channel through which
knowledge of the Muslim civilization flowed into Europe. For two hundred years
the leading men of Europe were constantly going to and fro between the two
continents gaining not only a first-hand knowledge of the great culture in
Syria but gaining too an immense emancipation of the human spirit.
Gradually, under, this many-pronged impulse from the East,
the obscurantism of the mediaeval Church in Western Europe gave way and
finally, at the Renaissance, went down to defeat. The Renaissance was truly an
expression of the joie de vivre which
Europe learned from the Arabs, and from the Renaissance flowed those features
of the Islámic culture with which the awakened Europeans began to build a
richer, happier, more eager civilization than they had ever before dreamed of.
Christendom has been slow to realize and to admit the debt
which our Western civilization owes to the East. But the facts of our borrowing
large in history and nothing but prejudice can lead us to minimize our
"Let us examine the two civilizations" wrote
Seignobos in his Histoire de la Civilisation au Moyen Age, "which
in the eleventh century divided the ancient world. In the west —
miserable little cities, peasants' huts and great fortresses — a country
always troubled by a war, where one could not travel ten leagues without
running the risk of being robbed; and in the Orient — Constantinople,
Cairo, Damascus, Baghdád — with their marble palaces, their
workshops, their schools, their bazaars, their villages, and the incessant movement
of merchants who travelled in peace from Spain to Persia. There is no doubt
that the musselman and Byzantine worlds were richer, better policed, better
lighted than the western world. In the eleventh century these two worlds began
to become acquainted; the barbarous Christians came into contact with the
civilized musselmans in two ways — by war and by commerce. And by contact
with the orientals, the occidentals became civilized."
1. See The Secret of
Divine Civilization by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 92-94 (Bahá'í Publishing Trust,
Wilmette, Illinois, 1957). For statement of specific gains from Islám see History
of Mediaeval Civilization by Charles Seignobos, pp. 117-118 (Unwin, London,
THE RISE OF MODERN EUROPE
customary to call the civilization of modern Europe par excellence Christian and to think of it as the special trustee
of Christian truth among the less enlightened peoples of the East. Yet in the
twentieth century when the time of spiritual harvesting had come we find
'Abdu'l-Bahá saying that the West as well as the East had "imagined themselves as having attained a
glorious pinnacle of achievement and prosperity, when in reality they have
touched the innermost depths of heedlessness and deprived themselves wholly of
God's bounteous gifts." Nor can they have imagined the awfulness of
the crisis which western civilization would be called upon to face, nor the
challenge and the strain to which it would be subjected.
The true Christian civilization is in fact not that of
modern Europe but that of the age of Constantine, which far more perfectly
mirrored the teachings of Christ and was inspired by the religious spirit of
the early Church. Brief as that civilization was it is described by
'Abdu'l-Bahá as having been the best and most enlightened in the world at that
time. Among its good deeds and pious acts it established infirmaries, hospitals
and charitable institutions. Most of the believers reached a degree of moral
perfection, had no fear of death, longed for wisdom and justice; were ready to
forsake their personal profit, seeking instead to please God and spending their
educating and instructing the people. The Emperor Constantine himself was the
first in the Roman Empire to found a public hospital for the treatment of poor
people who had no one to care for them. He was the first Roman Emperor to throw
himself heart and soul into the Cause of Christ. He resolutely promulgated the
principles of the Gospel and brought justice and moderation into the methods of
the Roman government which previously had been noted for injustice and
But in, and after, the Dark Ages, Christianity showed more
interest in rites and doctrines than in moral conduct. Indeed it is said that since
the time of St. Francis of Assisi no Christian reform movement has been
concerned with reform of Christian conduct but rather with doctrines and rites.
Even the Reformation itself, great, deep and enduing as its effects have been,
was less concerned with the correction of morals than with the remedying of
The whole process of building a new civilization in the
West, found itself vigorously opposed by the Christian Church, which for
centuries past had adopted a policy of immobility and objected to both the idea
and practice of progress. As European culture advanced continuously this
stagnant immobility became definite reaction and the whole spirit of the Church
became hostile to all forward movement. Before the time of Muḥammad the
Church had objected to the scientific spirit as well as to investigation and
logic. Muḥammad had taught and encouraged science, learning and reason,
and as the Church would not weaken its opposition it found itself more and more
estranged from human progress.
The civilization of the West, resulting from the impact of
Islám on Christendom proved to be one of enormous
and ever-extending material power. Its dominion spread to an unexampled degree
over the rest of the world in economic, political and military matters. But it
proved quite unequal to spreading its spiritual influence. Even when, during
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it spent large sums of money and sent
out hundreds and even thousands of missionaries, its failure to Christianize
the world was as conspicuous as its success in establishing its economic
suzerainty. Viewing the whole period from the twelfth to the twentieth century
one sees the reason for this contrast. The initiative in producing this wonderful
culture was not taken by the Church nor by religious enthusiasm as in the case
of the first and real Christian civilization in the time of Constantine. It was
a secular movement sprinting from the sudden and thorough emancipation of the
human spirit, and originated with the laity. The Church at the beginning of
this period was still the Church of the Dark Ages. Worldly-xcminded men had got
control of it and were determined to hold that control. Uninfluenced by the
changing spirit of the age they found themselves in opposition to the whole
progressive movement that was forging a new, eager, active Europe. They would
not tolerate the spirit of enquiry or the free use of reason. These they
represented as being definitely heretical. Though Peter wrote (I Peter) . . . "be ready always to
give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you
. . . ;" though Paul likewise wrote "Prove all things: hold fast that
which is good" (I Thessalonians
v 2I) and acted accordingly himself when "he reasoned in the synagogue
every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks" (Acts xviii 4) and again when he
"three sabbath days
reasoned with them out of the scriptures" (Acts xvii 2); and though Jesus Christ Himself definitely taught men
to use their reason to support their faith saying “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is,
and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of
little faith ?" (Matt. vi
30) yet the religious authorities of those days (and many too of these days)
regarded logic and investigation as wrong. They laid it down that the deposit
of faith was static. It was once and for all delivered to the saints, and was
not to be changed or challenged.
Under the reign of such views no Divine science, which
might have balanced physical science and been to it a counterpart and
equipoise, was ever able to arise. Verbalisms, sterile dogmas, riddles that
might evoke controversy but could not illuminate the mind, took the place of a
real search for spiritual truth, a real scrutiny of the deep mysteries of human
and Divine nature. So inveterate was the hostility of the religious authorities
of Christendom to the spirit of Truth and to the pursuit of knowledge that a
careful historian wrote of it:
"Until the seventeenth century, every mental
disposition which philosophy pronounces to be essential to a legitimate
research was almost uniformly branded as a sin, and a large proportion of the
most deadly intellectual vices were deliberately inculcated as virtues. . . .
In a word, there is . . . .
scarcely a rule which reason teaches as essential for its attainment, that
theologians did not for centuries stigmatize as offensive to the
1. Lecky, History of the
Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe, chap. 4, part ii, pp. 87, 88.
Longmans, London 1872.
The authorities supported their views by the use of
persecution, the justification for which was based on the theory of the moral
guilt of error.
'Abdu'l-Bahá once said that Reason was the throne of
faith; in another place he likened Reason to a great mirror looking into the
heavens but reflecting no image because it was in darkness. Faith, he said, was
like sunlight which enabled the mirror to see and to reflect all the heavenly
truths that lie before it. These symbols express exactly the Christian and the
Bahá'í view of Reason and Faith, but not the view of traditional orthodoxy
which is a purely human concept.
The whole position as regards heresy, dogma, enquiry,
reason and the like was supported by the authority of a great institution, but
Jesus had revealed no specific institution and all institutions, great and
small, old or new, have been deduced by men's reason from this or that phrase
or text of Gospel. No church to-day, or in any other day, can point to any
statement in the Gospel which indicates its pattern, its rule of succession by
which it can silence its critics. The whole system rests on sheer speculation.
Not one of the institutions of Christendom can say it is designed and built in
direct conformity with an express command of Christ in the Gospel. All are
Orthodoxy rather than detachment or moral righteousness
has been the shibboleth of religious authorities. Their enthusiasm has been
confined largely to insistence on teachings, doctrines, speculations which,
like their own structure were
devised by themselves, and around which controversies were raised which none
could finally settle. About the main ethical injunctions of Christ and actual
obedience to them there was no such insistence.
No church, for example, has ever adopted the challenging test for membership
used by Jesus Himself for His disciples: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love
for one to another." (John
Europe in consequence has never been tranquil, full of
good will, united, but rather full of oppression, misery, strife and
turbulence. The cause of Religion has been supported by the most flagrant
breaches of Gospel ethics.
So far did the traditional religion of Europe, in its
character and effects, differ from that of the Gospel, that it became the chief
cause of unchristian feeling and behavior. It promoted hatred and schism,
discontent, strife, cruelty and injustice, suppression of truth and reason. It
has conducted persecutions, burnings at the stake, extermination of heretics,
suppression of truth by force. 'Abdu'l-Bahá comments on this subject in a talk
given at Green Acre, Maine on August 17th, 1912: “Nine hundred thousand martyrs to the protestant cause was the record of
conflict and difference between that sect of Christians and the catholics.
Consult history and confirm this."
But now another divergence between the attitude of the
Church and that of all progressives took shape and grew steadily more wide. The
Church objected to that nation-building which had been the main contribution of
Muḥammad to human history and which was to be as important to the
building of Western civilization as it had been to Islám.
The interests of Church and State never were harmoniously
combined in Christian history as they had been by Muḥammad. Four types
of relationship have been essayed. First, that of Rome in which the Church
1. Promulgation of
Universal Peace, Bahá'í Temple Unity, Chicago, 1922 (p. 259).
is above the State; second, that of Prussia in which the State is above the
Church; third, that of England in which Church and State exist side by side as
different aspects of one community; and lastly, that adopted in the United
States of America where Church is regarded simply as a voluntary association of
individuals and has no official relation to the nation at all.
Not one of these has been satisfactory. It has remained
for the Bahá'í Faith alone to develop a structure of national life in which the
two can be perfectly united and harmonized.
The development of the nation state has been in Europe a
great modern feat, and its achievement has brought immense advantages to the
advancement of science, the promotion of industry, the outlook of the ordinary
man, and has given to the national life a freedom and a power not equalled by any earlier form of social
structure. But these advantages have been won in spite of the Church and in our
time the final result of the struggle is the humiliation of the Church and very
often the secularization of the national life.
Not only has the prestige and influence of the Church been
thus abased but the prestige and influence of religion with it; and at the same
time materialism has been strengthened and exalted. The whole progress of our
Western civilization has been, therefore, not the intensifying of Christianity
but the opposite.
THE DAWN-SONG OF THE KINGDOM
beginning of the eighteenth century a new influence swept across Europe affecting the minds of all men. It
showed itself in a spirit of confidence and enterprise, the sense of a new
power. Hitherto men had tended to look back to the past and to old
civilizations for the Golden Age, for their ideals and their models. Scholars,
historians, religionists had looked back at Greece and Rome and Palestine, but
now they looked rather at the present and at the future, seeking to make the
world better, richer, fuller and to do this on their own initiative.
This was the age when the industrial Revolution arose,
changing the face of the world and the lives of men. Idealists dreamed of
reform, seeking it not only in national terms but in universal. In all phases
of life new hopes were born and sought fulfillment. As the century wore on
indications of the origin and the meaning of this general impulse began to
The Jews had, since the first and second centuries,
territorially and politically ceased to be a nation, yet no people held more
grimly to the sense of nationhood than they. Expelled from the Holy Land after
the capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, under Titus, and again with more rigour about sixty years later under Hadrian,
they were dispersed among nearly all the nations of the earth and
they suffered every form of humiliation and misery for well-nigh sixteen
centuries. But now in the eighteenht century for the first time a national life
began to assert itself among them. It was the time for the Jewish Renaissance.
In Europe and America nation after nation began to restore to them by slow
degrees rights which for long centuries had been denied them. In 1723 Louis XV gave
the Jews permission to hold real estate in France. In the same year England
acknowledged them as English subjects. In 1738 Charles VI of Denmark opened all
trades to the Jews. In 1750 Frederick II granted toleration to the Jews in his
dominion. Joseph II of Austria in 1780 opened the schools and Universities of
the Empire to the Jews, allowing them to follow any trade or establish
manufacturing. In the year 1788 Louis XVI of France appointed a royal
commission "to remodel on principles of justice all laws concerning the
Jews." And so the tale goes on.
The United States of America was the first nation to
embody in its laws the principle that Gentiles and Jews were equal in rights
and privileges before the law (A.D. 1776). The same process of gradual
concession was continued through the nineteenth century, the year 1844 being a
time of special importance, since in it the Turkish Government pledged to the
Jews protection from persecution throughout the Ottoman Dominion, including of
course the Holy Land, though it was not until 1867 that the Sublime Porte gave
them the right to own real estate in the land of their fathers.
What could all this mean but the approach of the second
coming of Christ?
Contemporary with this eighteenth century emancipation of
the Jews there swept quietly into the minds of European men the impulsion of a
new spiritual force, an impulsion the beginnings of which can hardly be traced
but which gradually brought into men's minds a new spirit of hope and enterprise
and happiness and creative vigor and which by steady gradations at the turn of
the century and during the early years of the nineteenth century took the
definite shape of the dawning on earth of a New Age, of the divinely-aided
appearance of a new and better world, and in Christian circles of the return of
Christ and the descent of the Kingdom of God from heaven.
The poet Wordsworth gives an excellent contemporary
account of the new creative joy that mysteriously was wafted upon the world at
that time, and of the confidence that possessed the hearts of men.
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven! — Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights,
When most intent on making of herself
A prime enchantress — to assist the work
Which then was going forward in her name!
Not favoured spots alone, but the whole Earth,
The beauty wore of promise, — that which sets
(As at some moment might not be unfelt
Among the bowers of Paradise itself)
The budding rose above the rose full blown.
What temper at the prospect did not wake
To happiness unthought of? The inert
Were roused, and lively natures rapt away! . . .
Did now find, helpers to their heart's desire,
And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish; —
Were called upon to exercise their skill,
Not in Utopia, — subterranean fields, —
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us, — the place where in the end,
We find our happiness, or not at all!
Book XI and X
But at the end of the eighteenth century and during the
first decades of the nineteenth the intuitions of spiritual men spoke in
clearer language. A burst of lyrical greetings welcomed the approaching coming
of the Kingdom.
"The Night is ended and the Morning nears:
Awake, look up! I hear the gathering sound
Of coming cycles, like an ocean round;
I see the glory of a thousand years
Lightening from bound to bound."
Frederick Tennyson (1807-98)
"These things shall be: a loftier race
Than e’er the world hath known, shall rise,
With flame of freedom in their souls
And light of knowledge in their eyes . . .
"New arts shall bloom of loftier mound,
And mightier music thrill the skies,
And every life shall be a song
When all the earth is paradise."
J. A. Symonds (1840-93)
1. See also Wordsworth's
"The Day of the Lord is at hand, at hand:
Its storms roll up the sky:
The nations sleep starving on heaps of gold;
All dreamers toss and sigh;
The night is darkest before the morn;
When the pain is sorest the child is born,
And the Day of the Lord is at hand...."
"Who would sit down and sigh for a lost age of gold,
While the Lord of all ages is here?
True hearts will leap up at the trumpet of God,
And those who can suffer, can dare.
Each old age of gold was an iron age too,
And the meekest of saints may find stern work to do,
In the Day of the Lord at hand."
From Charles Kingsley's
The Day of the Lord
The poets' enthusiasm crossed the Atlantic. It touched
Whittier. It moved Julia Ward Howe to write, in 1861, the Battle Hymn of the
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath
He hath loos’d the fateful lightning of His terrible swift
His truth is marching on."
Apart from such verses stand apocalyptic works of Shelley;
Lyrics like the Ode to the West Wind, narratives
such as The Revolt of Islam and especially his great poetical drama Prometheus Unbound, which many critics
regard as the sublimest poem in the English language. Here in the poem the form
of apocalypse does not appear, nor is any Christian imagery employed. The theme
of the drama is verily and indeed that of the actual coming of the Kingdom. The
hero is a godman who, moved by
love and pity for mankind, in their ignorance and error and misery, through
deliberate self- sacrifice and acute suffering for their sake, challenges and
finally destroys the principle of evil, hurling into the abyss the Tyrant from
his throne, thus redeeming permanently the human race. The very universe itself
rejoices to share the universal regeneration of all living things.
Not poets alone but the generality of the people in town
and in country, high and low, learned and unlearned, felt this new transcendent
power stirring creation. The time was one of religious revival, of church
building, of missionary expansion, the central motive being always the belief
in the imminent coming of Christ. For a
full generation and more men and women everywhere dreamed, thought, talked and
discussed this Advent. They met in church and chapel, in street and roadside,
held assemblies and camp meetings that lasted far into the night. In many parts
of England, in Southern Wales, in many parts of the United States from the East
to the Middle West the fervor of the expectation spread. Adventist sects were
started, a few of which remain to the present day, such as the Latter Day
Saints and the Seventh Day Adventists. So strong was the feeling in one shape
or another that the Messianic expectation lasted through the
1. See the author's The
Promise of All Ages, chap v.
whole of the nineteenth century and, reappearing in the apocalyptic sense of
mission which has characterized communism and fascism, has tempted more
dictators than one to regard themselves as Messianic beings.
For two centuries, it may perhaps be said, this new wave
of power affected all the Western world except one section only, the
institutions which claimed to be custodians of religious truth, which claimed
to have a monopoly of keeping watch for Christ according to His command. The
old established, historic churches of Christendom showed themselves
irresponsive and uninterested. The false prophets had done their deadly work
with full success. So misleading had been their interpretations of religious
history that Christ had indeed come and no men had been so utterly ignorant of
His presence as those who had appointed themselves to be His special guardians.
throughout has for its constant theme mankind’s toilsome journey towards the
Kingdom of God and paints its promised attainment with fervor and vividness and
illimitable joy. These exquisite, pictures have been for a hundred generations
and more a source of undying comfort and happiness to a struggling race. But
the Bible nowhere describes the inwardness of that Kingdom nor develops the
psychology of it, nor explains why the Kingdom should come at that particular
stage of man's journey. Jesus admits expressly that He had other things to say
and gives as His reason for withholding the knowledge that mankind in His day
was not advanced and mature enough to understand its future
But now the Herald of the Kingdom had come and gone. The
Seal of the Prophets had likewise come and gone. The next great spiritual event
was the actual coming of the Kingdom which both these Revelators had announced.
With the Báb the Kingdom actually begins. He stands both
as a Revealer Prophet bringing His own Dispensation and Laws and also as a
Forerunner of One, Bahá'u'lláh, bearing a Revelation immeasurably greater than
1. Siyyid 'Alí-Muḥammad
of Shíráz, a descendant of Muḥammad, known to history as the Báb.
1819-50. He was the Qá'im of Islám and Fore-runner of Bahá'u'lláh, “He Whom God Should manifest."
Standing at the close of the whole Prophetic Cycle His
Revelation is described as including twenty-five out of the twenty-seven
letters of all knowledge; and with Him each and every past Prophet has a
separate Covenant, concerning the One whom He heralded, the Supreme World
Redeemer. Thus He stands at the confluence of the Prophetic Cycle which is
closed and of the Age of Fulfillment which now opens. The Bahá'í Era begins
with His Declaration on the evening of May 22nd, 1844, and ushers in the
universal Age of Truth. The creative energies which He imparts endow mankind
with the capacity to attain its maturity which will enable it in course of time
and in conjunction with the still greater power generated by Bahá'u'lláh to
achieve the organic unification of the human race.
To any spiritually expectant soul, the Báb’s declaration
would have indicated that the Kingdom of God had indeed come. No earlier
Manifestation, not even Jesus Christ Himself had issued a challenge to the
rulers of the world proclaiming the Self-Sufficiency of His Cause, denouncing
the vanity of their ephemeral power and calling upon them to lay aside, one and
all, their dominion, and deliver His Message to lands in both the East and the
West. But to such men as the Persian authorities, such claims merely proved the
Author was an undoubted mountebank and probably not in his right mind and that
His Cause would quickly collapse of its own weight.
The progress of the Báb’s teaching never kept pace with
the ardour of His own desire. His pilgrimage to Mecca bore no visible fruit,
and upon His return He, Himself,
1. Muḥammad, the
"Seal of the Prophets" was the last Prophet in the Age of Promise;
the Báb closed that Age and opened the Age of Fulfillment.
was arrested and brought under escort to Shíráz where He was violently
buffeted in open court and released only on parole. His disciples carrying His
Message through the country were everywhere opposed and often manhandled and
persecuted. Some were tortured and some killed.
But at the same time the fire of the Bábís kindled
interest and enthusiasm through the countryside and the bazaars. The Báb’s own
eloquence and radiant charm warmed the hearts of many. And when the upper
officials of Church and State, at the end of two years and more, took stock of
the situation they found that the Báb had captivated the hearts of high and low
in the important Shí’ih city of Iṣfáhán and that His Cause was now
spreading among the merchant class, through the Army and the landed gentry.
Thoroughly alarmed at the result of their slackness, they formed a carefully
designed plan which they would pursue remorselessly till this monstrous heresy
(as they thought it) had been stamped out.
In 1847 the Báb was carried to the lonely mountain fastness of Ádhírbáyján and
there imprisoned first in the castle of Máh-Kú and then in that of Chihríq,
where He spent the short remainder of His life. Shí’ih Mullás denounced
His teachings and from their pulpits incited their congregations against all
Bábís, appealing to their fanaticasm. Bábís were assaulted, their houses
entered and spoiled, their women maltreated. The courts gave no protection, no
redress. The Bábís were practically outlawed.
In three neighborhoods, those of Ṭabarsí, of Nayríz
and of Zanján, the Bábís stood at bay and were only overcome by the King's
troops using perjury and treachery as well as overwhelming numbers.
Deeply angered by the cruel imprisonment of their
beloved Lord, the Bábís fought back in His name with such success that the new
Prime Minister resolved to end this conflict at once by putting the Báb to
death, with or without legal warrant. The Báb was brought from Chihríq
to Ṭabríz where He was shot to death.
The occasion of His martyrdom provides the spiritual
history of martyrdom with an undoubted miracle, attested by witnesses on both
sides. The Báb was suspended by a rope
to a beam let into the prison wall, a favored disciple being suspended across
His breast. A Christian regiment was chosen to be the firing force and its
colonel, horrified at the thought of raising his hand against so holy a Man,
implored Him to excuse him from committing so great a sacrilege. "Follow your instructions," said the
Báb, "and if your intention be
sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity."
Just before the execution the Báb drew aside His
amanuensis, Siyyid Ḥusayn , for a confidential conversation in one of the
rooms of the prison. The gaoler interrupted and ordered the Báb to go at once.
"Not until I have said to him all
those things that I wish to say," the Báb warned the gaoler, "can any earthly power silence Me. Though all
the world be armed against Me, yet shall they be powerless to deter Me from
fulfilling, to the last word, My intention." He then went with the
The Christian regiment opened fire at the Báb and His
disciple, tied to the beam of wood, and when the smoke from seven hundred and
fifty rifles had cleared away, it was seen by ten thousand onlookers that the
Báb had disappeared and the disciple was standing unharmed, on
1. A. L. M. Nicolas Siyyid
'Alí-Muḥammad dit le Báb, p. 375-9; The Dawnbreakers, Nabíl’s
Narrative, ch xxiii.
the ground. A frantic search ensued and the Báb was discovered completing His
talk with His amanuensis. "I have
finished my conversation with Siyyid Ḥusayn ," He said, "Now you may proceed to fulfil your intention."
The Christian regiment refused to continue the execution.
Their place was taken by Muslims and the Báb and His disciple were instantly
Their bodies were thrown out in a moat but rescued by the
disciples and now they rest in the Holy Land in a beautiful mausoleum built by
thousands of believers from all parts of the world.
The Bábís refused to be discouraged, even by the execution
of their Lord, and continued to make converts to His Cause.
Two years later an effort to assassinate the Sháh was made by two obscure and
irresponsible youths and this gave the priests the excuse they were looking
for. Throughout the whole of Persia the Bábís were hunted out and hounded down,
and the ordeal of torture and massacre did not cease till the soil of Persia
was incarnadined with the blood of martyrs and the authorities felt absolutely
assured that the Faith of the Báb was dead and could never rise again.
BAHÁ’U’LLÁH was descended from Abraham
by His wife Katurah, thus fulfilling the prophecy to Abraham that in Him would
all the families of the earth be blessed.
It is difficult for an English reader to learn much about
Bahá'u'lláh's early days. We know, however, that He was born on 12th November,
1817, two years before the Báb . From His early days He showed signs of wonder
and power. His father dreamed a dream of Him while He was yet a child, which is
recounted by Nabíl.
"Bahá'u'lláh appeared to him swimming in a vast,
limitless ocean. His body shone upon the waters with a radiance that illumined
the sea. Around His head, which could distinctly be seen above the waters,
there radiated, in all directions, His long, jet-black locks, floating in great
profusion above the waves. As he dreamed, a multitude of fishes gathered round
Him, each holding fast to the extremity of one hair. Fascinated by the
effulgence of His face, they followed Him in whatever direction He swam. Great
as was their number, and however firmly they clung to His locks, not one single
hair seemed to have been detached from His head, nor did the least injury
affect His person. Free and unrestrained, He moved above the waters and they
all followed Him.
"The Vazír, greatly impressed by this dream, summoned a soothsayer, who had achieved fame
in that region, and asked him to interpret it for him. This man, as if inspired
by a premonition of the future glory of Bahá'u'lláh, declared: "The
limitless ocean that you have seen in your dream, O Vazír, is none other than
the world of being. Singlehanded and alone, your son will achieve supreme
ascendancy over it. Wherever He may please, He will proceed unhindered. No one
will resist His march, no one will hinder His progress. The multitude of fishes
signifies the turmoil which He will arouse amidst the peoples and kindreds of
the earth. Around Him will they gather, and to Him will they cling. Assured of
the unfailing protection of the Almighty, this tumult will never harm His
person, nor will His loneliness upon the sea of life endanger His
Bahá'u'lláh loved people, especially children. He loved to
be surrounded by them and they loved Him. From childhood He delighted in
country life, in trees, in flowers and horseback riding.
He came of a noble and wealthy family which had long been
prominent in the political sphere and He Himself was endowed with a gift of
eloquence like a rushing torrent. As the years passed on He showed no inclination
for political affairs but spent His time in looking after the needy, the poor
and the sick. When His father died He succeeded to the management of a large
estate and married the daughter of a well-known vazír. Her tastes resembled His
and they became known as the Father of the Poor and the Mother of Consolation.
1. Bahá'u'lláh's father.
2. The Dawnbreakers, Nabíl’s Narrative, chap v.
One day, when He was twenty-seven years old, a messenger
brought Him a package containing a manuscript which had been written by the Báb
and sent by the hand of His first disciple, Mullá Ḥusayn . From this
document He learned that the Kingdom of God, so long expected by the devout,
had indeed at last come, that the Báb had declared Himself its Prophet and was
sending out through Persia His messengers to announce the breaking of the new
Day. The document was none other than some pages of the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, the
"first, greatest and mightiest"
of the Báb’s works, the first chapter of which He had revealed on the night of
His declaration. In it He called on the Sháh and the kings and princes of the earth to acknowledge His
station and He called even the people of the West to come forth and welcome
On reading a portion of this manuscript Bahá'u'lláh at
once discerned that the spiritual note of the writing was the same as that of
the Qur'án and He accepted its message. Casting aside at once all thought of
His personal interest, regardless of His wealth, of His social eminence, of His
youth, of His talents and of the brilliant future open before Him, He espoused
the Cause of an obscure merchant and began to serve it with the utmost ardour.
Though He must long before have realized the divinity of the station which
really belonged to Himself, Bahá'u'lláh promptly joined the Báb’s followers and
never disclosed His own true rank to anyone.
During the years of the Báb’s Ministry He showed Himself a
loyal and devoted coadjutor, not only by His outstanding character and His
extraordinary ability but also by His heart-whole enthusiasm and personal
devotion to the Báb .
1. The Báb was a
wool-merchant, with His uncle in Shíráz.
The two Prophets never met on this earth but kept in the
closest touch by letter and otherwise. Both were to suffer for the Cause and
vied with one another in doing so. Three times Bahá'u'lláh was scourged as a
Bábí, three times imprisoned, and the Báb in His turn three times suffered the
same punishments. After the Conference at Badasht Muḥammad Sháh determined to put Bahá'u'lláh to death,
but died too soon to carry out his threat. It was to Bahá'u'lláh that the Báb
sent His most precious personal possessions (His pen and His ring) when He felt
His martyrdom was drawing near, and it was Bahá'u'lláh Who, on the night of the
Báb’s execution, arranged for some of the disciples to carry away the body from
the moat into which it had been thrown and to conceal it in a safe place of
At the time of the attempt on the Sháh's life
Bahá'u'lláh was staying at Lavásán as the guest of the Grand Vizír. Rejecting
the protection and the good offices tendered Him, Bahá'u'lláh went to the
headquarters of the Imperial Army at Níyávarán and was conducted thence under
escort and in chains, bareheaded and with bare feet to Ṭihrán. There He was taken at once to the
Síyáh-Chál, the most terrible of all the dungeons in the capital.
Bahá'u'lláh in His Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
gives the following description of the place in which He found Himself: "The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness,
and Our fellow-prisoners numbered nearly a hundred and fifty souls: thieves,
assassins and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the
passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe
its loathsome smell. Most of these men had neither clothes nor bedding
to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell
Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!" (pp. 10-21).
Such was the place and such the occasion which God chose for
the Call of Bahá'u'lláh to the office of Prophethood, and to the assumption of
An independent Prophet has two stations: one a divine and
the other a human station. His essential being is divine. As such He is the
Word of God. The Kitáb-i-Íqán states of these Beings that:
"These sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs
of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the
central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed
their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of
their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign
of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the
Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is
infinite, and by them is revealed the light that can never fade." (pp.
And again in the same book it is written,
"These ancient beings, though delivered from
the womb of their mother, have in reality descended from the heaven of the will
of God. Though they be dwelling on this earth, yet their true habitations are
the retreats of glory in the realms above. Whilst walking amongst mortals, they
soar in the heaven of the divine presence. Without feet they tread the path of
the spirit, and without wings they rise unto the exalted heights of divine
unity. With every fleeting breath they cover the immensity of space, and at
every moment traverse the kingdoms of the visible and the invisible. . . . They
are sent forth through the transcendent power of the Ancient of Days, and are
raised up by the exalted will of God, the most mighty King. This is what is
meant by the words: "coming in the clouds of heaven." (p. 67,
But they undergo a very definite, moving and tremendous
experience when God wills that their Mission should open and the full power of
the sovereignty which belongs to them shall be disclosed. Every Prophet goes
through this experience and often finds it altogether overwhelming. We read of
Moses falling into a swoon, and of Muḥammad running to His home and
imploring His wife, Khadíjih, to envelop Him in His mantle. The
experience alters altogether the relation between Almighty God and the Prophet,
but does not necessarily make any difference between the Prophet and the people
until the Prophet Himself so elects. Jesus Himself, for instance, is thought to
have been called to His Ministry at the time of His baptism by John in Jordan,
but He did not openly declare Himself till His pronouncement to the Jewish
Sanhedrin on the last night of His life.
Bahá'u'lláh describes this Call in the following words in
His letter to the Sháh : "O
King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes
of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all
that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and
All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for
this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding
to flow. . . This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of Thy Lord, the
Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred."
Many years later, in His Epistle to the Son of the Wolf He tells how, "One night, in a dream, these exalted words
were heard on every side: ’Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself
and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be
Thou afraid, for Thou art in
safety. Ere long will God raise up the
treasures of the earth-men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy
Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him’"
'Abdu'l-Bahá pointed out that the Prophet's experience
when this call comes to Him is purely physical. There is no change of the
Prophet's individuality. He remains precisely the same.
Thus it was that Bahá'u'lláh's Ministry began in the year
9 (1853 A.D., 1269 A.H.) as the Báb had already indicated, a time which imbued
the whole world with unimaginable potentialities. The attempt on the life of
the Sháh had taken place on
15th August, 1852; Bahá'u'lláh had been thrown into the Síyáh-Chál
almost immediately afterwards and about the middle of October this Divine Call
had come, endowing Him with the fullness of the power of the sovereignty which
went with His Divine Mission. Two months later He was proved innocent of any
connection with the crime, having been strongly defended by His friends and by
the Russian Ambassador.
Delivered from the Síyáh-Chál Bahá'u'lláh found
Himself still the prisoner of the Sháh , reduced almost to destitution
by the confiscation of all His property and under sentence of banishment from
His native land to Baghdád in 'Iráq whither He was to start within one
During the ten years He spent in Baghdád His fame
and personal influence reached their highest point. So great was His influence
that by degrees He spread among the Bábís cheer and hope and confidence in
their Faith, not only in His neighbourhood but even among the lonely
1. Some Answered
Questions, chap. xxxix.
hamlets of Persia. Still acting as a Bábí and without going beyond the Báb’s
teachings, He made the Faith more universal than it had been before, and bringing
into prominence higher teachings of the Báb, long disused, lifted the religion
to a higher level. His intuitive understanding of scripture astonished and
attracted Bábí pilgrims from all directions and also drew eager Muslim students
from Karbilá and Najaf. His modest home became the constant resort of enquirers
on spiritual matters. That same unique Spirit of Divine Love which suffused so
much of His writings was felt by His companions in its original intensity and
won Him their love and devotion to a degree which chroniclers of the time
record. Joyous feasts celebrating their love for Him were held, in spite of
poverty, and many writings still testify to His little parlour being felt as an
avenue to Paradise such as men's hearts had never known before. The ethical
level of the Bábí community was exalted beyond recognition and the good name of
the Faith began to extend itself in all directions. His great religious
revelation, the Book of Certitude, written in Baghdád, summarizes in two
hundred pages the grand universal scheme of Redemption and explains not only
the great central truths of God's revealing method but those difficulties of
interpretation which have always caused discord among the great religious
systems of the world.
So rapid was Bahá'u'lláh's ascent to heights of brilliance
and spiritual power that the ecclesiastical authorities of such neighbouring
cities as Karbilá were moved to bitter jealousy and took counsel together how
to get rid of Him. They represented that He was still too near Persia to be a
1. Persian Kitáb-i-Íqán
harmless neighbour and persuaded the Sháh that He should be removed further away, and by degrees
brought pressure on Turkish officials to keep Him under stricter surveillance.
Bahá'u'lláh's undoubted influence among the people and many leaders of opinion
in Baghdád made Him open to suspicion of personal designs. By 1863 His
enemies had secured His sentence of exile to Constantinople.
Ten years had now elapsed since the time of His Call and
the time was ripe for an open declaration of the power and sovereignty which
for so long had been flooding His soul. On the 21st April, for a period of
twelve days, Bahá'u'lláh, in the beautiful Najíbíjjih garden on the river banks
outside Baghdád, instituted the great Feast of Riḍván which is
held as the most joyous and triumphant of all Bahá'í Feasts. He assumed before
His followers and the wide world the supreme authority which He had received
from the Most High at the time of His Call. Now it was that Jesus Christ ascended
His throne in the power of God the Father. Now it was that He took upon Himself
the sceptre of the fullness of God's might and thus set Himself as Supreme
Overlord of all that is in heaven and on earth.
The significance of that Feast for Himself and for the
world is expressed by His calling it "the
King of Festivals," "the
Day of God." In His own greatest work, the Aqdas, He characterizes it
as the Day whereon "all created
things were immersed in the sea of purification." In another Tablet He
refers to it as the day whereon "the
breezes of forgiveness were wafted over the entire creation." And
again He writes, "Rejoice with
exceeding gladness, O people of Bahá, as ye call
to remembrance the Day of supreme
felicity, the Day whereon the Tongue of the Ancient of Days hath spoken, as He
departed from His House, proceeding to the Spot from which He shed upon the
whole of creation the splendours of His Name, the All-Merciful."
Surely this Day must be the greatest day in the history of
THE PROCLAMATION TO THE KINGS
IMMEDIATELY after His Declaration at Riḍván, Bahá'u'lláh and His party
set out on the long journey to Constantinople. Here they remained only four
months, the Sulṭán sending
them in mid-winter and in the most severe conditions on a third journey into
exile. In Adrianople Bahá'u'lláh remained about four years and in 1868 was sent
on His fourth and last exile, this time to 'Akká, the dungeon city of which it
was said the very birds fell dead as they passed over it.
It was during this period and chiefly during His residence
in Adrianople that Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed in great Tablets His station and His
mission to the rulers of the world. Some of these are of especial moment to
Western and Christian readers; first His Tablet to the Kings of the earth
collectively, issued in 1864, and secondly His individual Tablets to the four
chief monarchs of Europe. The first of these is described by the Guardian as
the most momentous of all His Tablets,
and in it He summons all the kings and the ecclesiastical rulers of the world
to turn to Him and follow his dictates. What sublimer exordium could there be
to such a document than this:
1. The Guardian of the Bahá'í
Faith, Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'u'lláh's great-grandson. See chap. 15.
"O Kings of the
earth! Give ear unto the Voice of God . . . intoning the words: ’There is none
other God but He, the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise.’ . . . Fear God,
O concourse of kings, and suffer not yourselves to be deprived of this most
sublime grace. Fling away, then, the things ye possess, and take fast hold on
the Handle of God, the Exalted, the Great. Set your hearts towards the Face of
God, and abandon that which your desires have bidden you to follow, and be not
of those who perish."
Bahá'u'lláh then tells them of the martyrdom of the Báb by
the unjust and cruel divines of Persia. He holds them one and all responsible
for this crime and requires that they make amends for it. He demands that they
follow that which He speaks unto them, with their hearts, and calls on them to
arise and set themselves towards the Holy Court of God.
Bahá'u'lláh made it clear He was going to establish the
Kingdom of God throughout the world; but He did not ask the kings to give Him
any aid whatsoever in the task. What He did ask was that they should consider
that their glory consisted in obedience to God, not in the width or wealth of
their dominions; that they should rule their subjects with the utmost nicety of
justice, should regard the poor among them as a particular trust from God; that
they should reduce taxation and heal their dissensions till they were able to
do without armies and their expensive upkeep except for police purposes.
Unless they obeyed the directions of this kind which He
gave, He warned them that assuredly calamities, heavy and many, would descend
upon them from every direction; they would not be able to escape but would be caught
For Himself, He demanded that the kings should scrutinize
the wrongs which He and His had had to endure through twenty years and judge
justly between Him and His enemies.
He assured the kings that God had promised to exalt His
Cause even if no king on earth helped Him.
This call, however, (which as He expressly stated was that
of the Most Great Peace) was immediately and with disdain rejected by the
kings, one and all.
By an act of forgiveness Bahá'u'lláh made to the Christian
kings of Europe a further offer. He addressed to the Emperor Napoleon III of
France, to Pope Pius IX, to Queen Victoria and to Czar Alexander, individual
letters in which He asked of them their aid in establishing God's Kingdom among
the nations. Napoleon was at the moment the most powerful and brilliant of the
European sovereigns and to him Bahá'u'lláh offered the leadership in this great
undertaking. He called on Napoleon to introduce the new Revelation and told him
that the clergy who held to the old worship and refused the new would be as
fallen stars and lose their status and authority. He revealed to Napoleon
several of the great new principles of the new Faith; explained the succession
of religions, Islám succeeding Christianity, Christianity succeeding Judaism,
Moses succeeding Abraham. He stated that His own Mission was to regenerate and
to unify the whole human race, which was to be regarded as one great family, in
fact as one individual, as one soul in many bodies. He asserted that force,
which had so long been used in teaching, must be abandoned, and methods of
persuasion and wisdom only should be used; and that effective teaching would
depend on the single-hearted
sincerity of the teacher. He said that the monks were to leave their
monasteries, to marry and mingle with the life of the people; and celibacy was
not and never had been approved by the Almighty as a better way of life than
He called on Napoleon to give up his crown, or if he
retained it, to use it only for the service of God, and promised to assure the
success of Napoleon in carrying out His, Bahá'u'lláh's programme. He would be
regarded as king of the world.
At the same time He told Napoleon that he had shown
insincerity and insolence; retribution was pursuing him and if he delayed in
obeying Bahá'u'lláh, he would be utterly humiliated and overthrown and would
Napoleon's rejoinder was a contemptuous refusal. Within a
year he was defeated at Sedan and lost his empire and his throne.
Bahá'u'lláh announced to Pope Pius IX "He Who is the Lord of Lords is come,"
and he who is the Rock (meaning Peter), crieth out "Lo, the Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom
is fulfilled." He bade him "Arise
in the name of thy Lord, the God of Mercy, amidst the peoples of the earth, and
seize thou the Cup of Life with the hands of confidence, and first drink thou
therefrom, and proffer it then to such as turn towards it amongst the peoples
of all faiths. . . . sell all the embellished ornaments thou dost possess and
expend them in the path of God. . . . Abandon thy kingdom unto the kings, and
emerge from thy habitation . . . speak forth the praises of thy Lord betwixt
earth and heaven."
Bahá'u'lláh added an appeal couched in language of the
warmest love and longing to the followers of Christ,
urging them to recognize and flock into the Kingdom of God which others were
already entering though they had not the first right to it.
The Pope ignored the letter altogether, and the following
year by a stroke less spectacular than that which befell Napoleon, but equally
significant, was by force deprived of the temporal rule which he had refused to
surrender voluntarily, and became the prisoner of the Vatican.
Thus the year 1870 may be regarded as marking the
disruption and decline of Western civilization.
To Queen Victoria Bahá'u'lláh revealed that the Gospel
prophecies were fulfilled in His advent and He offered her a prayer exquisitely
tender in its feeling which she might use in turning to Him as He admonished
her to do. He commended her for two measures which had been recently adopted in
the spirit of the new age, one the stoppage of the slave-trade, the other the
extension of the franchise. He wrote at some length to her on the divine art of
government, tracing historically the causes of its failure and indicating that
it was now in a dangerous condition.
Through her He sent a reprimand to the kings for refusing
the Most Great Peace and urgently advised them to adopt the Lesser Peace which
would in some degree better their condition.
His fourth letter, addressed to Czar Alexander II was
couched in warm language and He advised the Czar to arise and make known this
Cause to the nations of the world.
It is reported that Queen Victoria, on reading His letter,
remarked, "If this is of God, it will stand. Otherwise it
can do no harm." But neither she nor any of the other Christian rulers
turned to Him, nor paid any heed whatever to His counsels.
He remarked of them that they were intoxicated with pride,
unable to see what was best for their own material interest, much less to
recognize so stupendous a Revelation.
Bahá'u'lláh had now been rejected by all the rulers of the
world and His removal to 'Akká cut Him off completely from active touch with
world affairs. It should be noted, however, that in exiling Him to 'Akká, the
Holy Land, the Sulṭán had
fulfilled the ancient prophecy to the effect that the Lord of Hosts would give
His Revelation there and thus made it impossible for anyone to say that
Bahá'u'lláh had fulfilled the prophecy of His own free will.
Bahá'u'lláh's trust in the Christians and in their support
of His teachings never weakened. Towards the end of His life He wrote the Holy
Tablet,[l] an important work addressed to them in which He rebukes them for
their slowness in recognizing Him, promises He will be faithful and pours forth
a succession of enthusiastic beatitudes on the Christians, who will turn to Him
with loving hearts and serve His Faith.
About the same time Professor Edward Granville Browne, of
Cambridge University, came in touch with the light of the Báb, became His
lifelong admirer and pursued a vigorous research of the Báb’s history which led
him in the end to 'Akká where he was received by Bahá'u'lláh and was thus
enabled to write, in that famous introduction to A Traveller's Narrative:
"The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget,
though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very
soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the
forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing
down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No
need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the
object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in
And that other quotation from the lips of Bahá'u'lláh
Himself which, when quoted at the world parliament of religions in Chicago in
1893, proved to be the instrument of bringing Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation to the
knowledge of the Western world. The words were spoken to Browne during the
interview with Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká.
"Thou hast come
to see a prisoner and an exile . . . We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet
they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and
banishment. . . That all nations
should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection
and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of
religion should cease, and difference of race be annulled — what harm is
there in this . . . Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous
wars shall pass away, and the ’Most Great Peace’ shall come . . . Do not you in Europe need this also . .
. Is not this that which Christ foretold . . . Yet do we see your kings and
rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of
the human race
1. E.G. Browne, A
Traveller's Narrative, Introduction. Cambridge.
than on that which would conduce to the
happiness of mankind . . . These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must
cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family.. . . Let not a man glory
in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves
his kind . . . "
Bahá'u'lláh passed away in 1892. Communication between
America and 'Akká began soon after 1893 and before the end of the century
American pilgrims began to arrive after a difficult and uncertain journey, by
way of the sea, at the prison city where 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Son of Bahá'u'lláh, was
BAHÁ’U’LLÁH appointed in His written Will His son 'Abdu'l-Bahá as His successor
and with this successorship joined powers to which no successor of any earlier
Prophet had attained and which give 'Abdu'l-Bahá a position altogether unique
in religious history. Bahá'u'lláh designated Him as the Centre and pivot of His
peerless Covenant; as the perfect mirror of His life, to exemplify His
teachings; as the unerring interpreter of His Word; as the embodiment of every
Bahá'í ideal and virtue.
Bahá'u'lláh called Him the Mystery of God and wrote
further of Him, "a Word hath, as a
token of Our grace, gone forth from the Most Great Tablet — a Word which
God hath adorned with the ornament of His own Self; and made it sovereign over
the earth and all that is therein, and a sign of His greatness and power among
its people . . . Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance; for
verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you;
and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened."
Such was He who was now to give a large part of His time
and effort to the service of the Christian West.
'Abdu'l-Bahá was the age-fellow of the Bahá'í Faith; He
had been born on the same evening as the Declaration of the Báb; had been the
first to recognize, at the age of nine, the exalted transformation of
Bahá'u'lláh after His
Call, and had gone at the same time into exile with His Father. In 1868 He
entered with His Father the Most Great Prison of 'Akká, remaining in captivity
for forty years till the Young Turk Revolution in the year 1908 gave Him His
liberty. In 1910, although in poor health owing to His prison suffering, He set
out to visit the West, and made two tours occupying three years. His chief
addresses given at this time are recorded in The Promulgation of Universal
Peace (Talks in America), Paris Talks and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London.
As He knew well, the position of the West at this time was
already one of great danger, although the Christians of the West had no idea
whatever of the retribution that was confronting them. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has briefly
explained what had happened in one of His Tablets which begins with the
"O Army of
Life! East and West have joined to worship stars of faded splendour, and have
turned in prayer unto darkened horizons. Both have utterly neglected the broad
foundation of God's sacred laws, and have grown unmindful of the merits and
virtues of His religion. They have regarded certain customs and conventions as
the basis of the Divine faith, and have firmly established themselves therein.
They have imagined themselves as having attained a glorious pinnacle of
achievement and prosperity, when in reality they have touched the innermost
depths of heedlessness and deprived themselves wholly of God's bounteous gifts."
The people of Europe and America whom He addressed were
not only completely oblivious of their real condition as seen by Him, but held
the very opposite opinion. They were assured that the great and mighty
civilization of the Christian West was due to their own effort, and that it
was the final product of all civilizations of the past, of the Greek and Roman
and that of Persia and India and China and Egypt, which had been preparatory
only. They had no doubt that they at this time were the most enlightened
generation of the most enlightened age the world had ever known. Physical
science had, they thought, reached the limit of reality and probed all the
problems and in fact knew all that was to be known. White man in the plenitude
of his power was now established in material control of the weaker nations of
the world and would hold the economic, military and political domination of the
Some such views as these were probably held by every
educated person in audiences to whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke in the West; more
particularly by those in England; and that such views of the achievements of
the Western mind prevailed twenty years or more after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit will
be suggested by the following quotation from a famous historical work by a
brilliant and illustrious Oxford scholar:
"Our civilization, then, is distinct: it is also
all-pervading and preponderant. In superficial area Europe is surpassed by
Asia, Africa, and America, in population by the vast stable peasantry of Asia,
which outnumbers not Europe only, but the rest of the world put together. Yet
if a comprehensive survey of the globe were to be made, it would be found that
in almost every quarter of it there were settlements of European men, or traces
of the operation of the European mind. The surviving aboriginal peoples in the
western hemisphere are a small, unimportant, and dwindling element in the
population. The African negroes have been introduced by
white men as an economic convenience. Northern and southern America are largely
populated by colonists from Europe. Australasia is British. The political
direction of Africa has fallen, with the ambiguous exception of the lower
reaches of the Nile into European hands. In Asia the case is not
dissimilar. The political influences of Europe are apparent, even where
they are not, as in India or Palestine, embodied in direct European control.
The ideas of nationality and responsible government, of freedom and progress, of democracy and
democratic education, have passed from the west to the east with revolutionary
and far-reaching consequences.
"It is, moreover, to European man that the world owes
the incomparable gifts of modern science. To the conquest of nature through
knowledge the contributions made by Asiatics have been negligible and by
Africans (Egyptians excluded) non-existent. The printing press and the
telescope, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the aeroplane,
the telegraph and telephone, wireless broadcasting and the cinematograph, the
gramophone and television, together with all the leading discoveries in
physiology, the circulation of the blood, the laws of respiration and the
like, are the result of researches carried out by white men of Europe stock. It
is hardly excessive to say that the material fabric of modern civilized life is
the result of the intellectual daring and tenacity of the European
1. H.A.L. Fisher, A
History of Europe, Introduction pp. 1, 2. Edward Arnold & Co., London,
'Abdu'l-Bahá, of course, knew that such opinions of the
importance of Western civilization were utterly and cruelly illusive. He knew
that the Báb had called on the peoples of the West to come forth from their
cities and aid the Cause of God, warning all humanity of the "most terrible, the most grievous vengeance
of God"; that Bahá'u'lláh had said that the time for the destruction
of the world and its people had arrived. "The days are approaching their end, and yet the peoples of the earth
are seen sunk in grievous heedlessness, and lost in manifest error."
"Great, great is the Cause! The hour
is approaching when the most great convulsion will have appeared. I swear by
Him Who is the Truth! It shall cause separation to afflict every one, even
those who circle around Me." "Say,
O concourse of the heedless! I swear by God! The promised day is come, the day
when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your
feet, saying: ’Taste ye what your hands have wrought!'" "The day is approaching when its (civilization's)
flame will devour the cities, when the
Tongue of Grandeur will proclaim: ’The Kingdom is God's, the Almighty, the All
He knew that Bahá'u'lláh had declared that divine
chastisement would assail the kings of the earth. He knew from the sudden doom
of the Emperor Napoleon and of the Pope, a year after the warnings given them,
how sudden and terrible this retribution might be. And the Christian Bible was
the accepted authority as to-the coming of the Kingdom of God and of the great
events that should be associated with it, and He was not likely to forget the
pronouncements of horror and doom and the abasement of man's pride that
according to prophets like Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah and many another were to be
among the signs of the Day of the Lord. Nor would He forget how, by prophets
like Ezekiel, terrible warfare and
vast carnage were foretold as preceding the final victory of God on earth. He would not forget the prediction of Jesus that affliction
such as the world had never known would precede that victory and that no flesh
would be saved unless the time were shortened. In the book of Revelation the hosts of righteousness
are shown as being led by Christ against the hosts of evil and the awfulness of
the bloodshed that would ensue is dramatically portrayed by pictures of the
wine vats flowing blood-red with the blood of the grapes.
All these Bible prophecies agreed in large and in little
with the events that were now taking shape through the Word of Bahá'u'lláh, and
were in utter contrast with the character and the outlook of history as the
people of the West saw them. God's Will was the ruling force in the Bible as
man's will dominates the direction of events in the Western mind.
It would have been easy and natural for 'Abdu'l-Bahá in
the circumstances to have challenged the Western fallacy, exposed its error,
developed an argument brilliant and overpowering to emphasize the agreement of
His teaching with that of the Bible, and the hollowness of the Western
expectation of a man-made kingdom and of materialistic hegemony of one race
over others. But 'Abdu'l-Bahá did nothing of the kind. The great ideal which He
held before His audiences was at all times and places one and the same: Unity
Through Love. His Paris Talks are full throughout of a spiritual wisdom,
a spontaneous warmth of heart and sweetness and winning tenderness that would
be hard to match in the world's
revealed religious literature. His first public address was delivered in a
Christian Church in London. He said,
"This is a new
cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world
will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. . . The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of
the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. Wars shall
cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come .
This truth of a new dawning of power in the world became
the master thought of all His speeches throughout His work in the West. In
America, however, He addressed the Americans particularly as Christians and
made an appeal to them not to be listeners only but to become the reapers whom
Christ had prophesied would arise in His harvest day. He sought not only to
instruct and illumine the minds of His audience but to awaken in them the power
of spirituality and enthusiasm which would overcome the materialism that
infected mankind and would develop in them a new loving spirituality which
would enable His message to get home to their hearts.
He presented a new picture of Christ in contrast to the
Christ of orthodoxy, of sect and schism and dogma; one which showed that
Christ's real purpose was to unite human hearts with the power of Divine love;
such a Christ as none had really conceived, eager, vigorous, bringing together
people of all sorts and kinds and races arid nations and overwhelming the
1. City Temple, Sept. 15th,
traditions which separated them. The natural force of His own warm, buoyant,
loving nature gave power and reality to His presentation so that He was able to
reveal a new Christ such as the people had never realized.
His American addresses open on a note of joy, of
spontaneous abounding happiness and gratification at His meeting so many
radiant hearts ready to listen to the Message which, in spite of His old age
and imperfect health, He had come so far to give them. Only love from God and
them would have brought Him. Heart and soul 'Abdu'l-Bahá radiated
a triumphant confidence, clear and strong as can be, as He extolled the glory
of Christ and Bahá'u'lláh, showing their closeness, the unity of the effort and
His appeal was not to authority as was that of Bahá'u'lláh
addressing the kings. He did not command. His appeal rather was to reason, to
logic, to faith and to facts. He exposed the false hopes of the arrogant white
race, not by disproof but by drawing in a quite natural manner a picture of the
true antecedents of the Kingdom, showing it to be involved in the original
creation of man.
He drew, in many aspects, a picture of the whole universe
as governed by one unchanging law, as being created, ruled over and directed by one universal,
independent, living Will. This great, out-working Spirit actuated the affairs
and movements of all creatures in the world; it was the one Power which
animated and dominated all existence. 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on this subject in an
attitude of soul as logical as it was religious, as much in the mood of science
as of faith. He treated the subject not only in a broad and general manner but
in close detail. He traced, for example, the coursing of the atom
through the kingdoms of nature — mineral, vegetable and animal—
showing the changes that it assumes in its progress, through an activity not
originating by itself. He showed that the one, living, independent Will
of God which directed the transition of the atom directed likewise the
movements which led mankind from one stage to another on its journey to the
Kingdom. Thus He brought all nature into the same plane as man and showed, not
only the oneness of mankind but of the whole universe— everything
contributing, each in its own way — even if it be a preparatory way
— towards the one great spirit goal shown at its highest in the Kingdom
He taught His auditors to meet the materialism of the day
with reason and hard facts and He gave them Himself examples of how it could be
'Abdu'l-Bahá's first aim in His Western teaching was, as
He says Himself, to create in the minds of His hearers capacity to understand
and appreciate this great new Revelation. He did not wish them to be as the
kings had shown themselves to be, so infected by the pride of man and the
haughty skepticism of the age that they could not see the truth when it was put
plainly and clearly before them. Christ, He reminded His auditors, had had the
same difficulty and had spoken the parable of the sower to show it. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
sought, as Christ in His day had done, to transform and spiritualize the very
hearts and outlook of those to whom He spoke. Unless He could do this
the exposure of one error in the minds of the people would only be followed on
the next occasion by another error. No remedy was adequate except that of
creating a real capacity in the human heart to see and love the truth. This and
nothing less was the first and last aim of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
His own personality was His greatest argument: He was so
utterly sincere, so full Himself of truth and love that He had the power to
convince (it would seem) even the most faithless.
In the second place His happy joyous way of present the
argument appealed to those He spoke to and has its own penetrating power.
Those who knew 'Abdu'l-Bahá would say they could feel His
overflowing love for mankind pouring from Him in great waves, and some have
told how to sit beside Him in a motor-car was to feel oneself being charged by
spiritual energy. What strikes many in reading His writings is that they
possess a quality different from that which belongs to any human being. There
is a cadence, a power in them
which definitely comes from a higher world than that in which we live. It is
natural, therefore, that His writings should be spoken of as Revelation. Yet He
was human, not a Manifestation, and His scripture, though valid, has not the
rank of the Revelation of a full Prophet. What explanation can there be of this
except that the Holy Spirit is now in this Age of Truth touching men's souls
with a higher degree of power than ever in the past. Our age has risen from the
levels of the Kingdom of Man to the heights unapproached before of the Kingdom
of God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the embodiment of every Bahá'í ideal, the incarnation of
every Bahá'í virtue, presents man (revealed as made in the image of God) at a
level higher than any we associate with man before.
Completing His Western tours, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, after nine
months' ceaseless lecturing in the United States and Canada, reluctantly
announced the imminent outbreak of the First World War and then went by Europe
back to His home in
Haifa. He had, however, published translations of a number of Bahá'í Scriptures
in America; organized Bahá'í communities in that country on a firm foundation;
laid the foundation stone of a Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette on a site purchased at
His direction. His efforts, however, to spread the Glad Tidings of the new Day
far and wide found all too little response. After the outbreak of the First
World War He tried to take the fullest advantage of the horror of war which the
carnage had aroused by writing in
and after 1916, a stirring summons to all Bahá'ís to arouse themselves and go
forth through the length and breadth of the world to call all nations to the
Kingdom of God. Once more He quoted the wonderful examples of the Apostles of
Christ as a challenge to self-sacrifice. Fourteen of these letters constitute
'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan in which He detailed a vigorous and forthright
programme for the carrying of the
message of the New Day throughout the continents and the islands of the sea,
— a plan fully worked out and likely to be in use for many generations to
come. No great response was aroused among the Bahá'ís by this appeal, a fact
which caused 'Abdu'l-Bahá poignant sorrow, compelling Him to realize how deep
the suffering of the world would be which all His efforts had not been able to
mitigate. Broken in heart He passed to His end three years after the War,
foretelling that another war, fiercer than the last, would follow before long.
On His death the most deeply conceived and constructive of
His works was published, known as The
Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. It completed the great masterpiece of
Bahá'u'lláh — His book of laws — the two works together
composing one complete and harmonious whole.
THE WILL AND TESTAMENT OF 'ABDU'L-BAHÁ
JESUS CHRIST said, "My kingdom is not of this world.” and
Christian people have been inclined to think that pure religion is subjective
and mystical only and has little or no connection with the organization of
institutions or the making of laws
or ordinances. This idea is quite alien to the New and the Old Testaments. The
Kingdom of God is indeed a Kingdom, the ruler of which is not a philosopher nor
a teacher, but a King with laws and subjects. The New Jerusalem which comes
down from heaven and becomes the centre of the Kingdom represents the Law of God,
while the distinctive function of the Lord of Hosts on earth is that "the
government shall be upon his shoulder" and that He will administer
"judgment and justice from henceforth, even forever."
The Will and
Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá sets forth the administrative order by which this
is to be accomplished, and, fathered by Bahá'u'lláh, provides the Bahá'í Faith
with its historically unique feature — an administrative system based on
the inviolable written Scripture, establishing and clearly defining the
institutions, conferring authority, preventing schism, guarding the Revealed
Word from adulteration, providing for its authoritative interpretation, and
perpetuating the Divine guidance of the Lord of Hosts Himself.
"The creative energies released by the Law of
Bahá'u'lláh, permeating and evolving within the mind of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, have, by
their very impact and close interaction, given birth to an Instrument which may
be viewed as the Charter of the New World Order which is at once the glory and
the promise of this most great Dispensation."
The administrative institutions of the Kingdom, revealed
by Bahá'u'lláh and defined and supplemented by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, include Houses of
Justice at local, national and International levels. These bodies apply the
Laws and Principles of Bahá'u'lláh to daily life, but the International House
of Justice is specifically empowered to legislate on matters not provided for
in the "Book," and is clearly stated by Abdu'l-Bahá to be "under the care and protection of the Abhá
Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of . . . the Exalted One . . ."
Bahá'u'lláh Himself says of this institution, "God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth . . ."
This is the legislative channel through which the rule of God will be
Nothing in the Will and Testament is more striking or more
important than the immensity of the power conferred by 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the
Guardian, and the note of personal admiration and affection with which the
appointment of Shoghi Effendi, to be the Guardian, is characterized.
Bahá'u'lláh had already foreshadowed this institution, but it was left to
'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of the Covenant, to define it and establish it.
'Abdu'l-Bahá invokes “salutation
and praise, blessing and glory" upon Shoghi Effendi, in whom is
preserved the precious life blood of the two Prophets, the Báb and
1. Shoghi Effendi, The
Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.
Bahá'u'lláh, and describes him as "the
most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the twin
surging seas," for he is "after
my passing "the Dayspring of
Divine guidance." "He is
the expounder of the Words of God and after him will succeed the first-born of
his lineal descendants." All must "turn unto Shoghi Effendi," "For he is, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the guardian of the Cause of God. . ..”
"He that obeyeth him not, hath not
obeyed God; he that turneth away from him, hath turned away from God and he
that denieth him hath denied the True One." "All must seek guidance and turn unto the Centre of the Cause and the
House of Justice."
Interpretation of the Word, which has always been the
fertile source of schism in the past, is thus taken once and for all time, into
His own hands by Bahá'u'lláh, and none other but His appointed Guardian, whom
He guides, can fulfil this function. This is the secret of the unbreakable
unity of the Bahá'í Faith and its entire and blessed lack of sects. "The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the guardian of the Cause of
The erect of this appointment is to make the Guardian the
source of continuing Divine guidance, and in such a way as to make it clear
that although he would be the object of challenge, enmity and opposition, even
of repudiation and denial, he would yet remain on the unassailable height of
sure authority. The Guardian, in company with the Universal House of Justice,
is under the express care and protection of Bahá'u'lláh and the unfailing
guidance of the Báb . He thus must be taken as representing, while distinctly a
human being, the nearest approach on earth to the Divine exaltation. When it is
written that "the government shall be upon his shoulder" the
reference can only be to the devolution by Bahá'u'lláh of supreme authority
upon His divinely guided institutions, which thus embody His Covenant. This is
the means — the Covenant — which the Lord of Hosts has designed to
discharge His supreme mission, and the way in which God himself shall rule His
Commenting on the station of the Guardian and of Divine
guidance which is so prominent a feature of the administrative order of
Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi writes:
"Exalted as is the position and vital as is the
function of the institution of the Guardianship in the Administrative Order of
Bahá'u'lláh, and staggering as must be the weight of responsibility which it
carries, its importance must, whatever be the language of the Will, be in no
wise over-emphasized. The Guardian of the Faith must not under any
circumstances, and whatever his merits or his achievements, be exalted to the
rank that will make him a co-sharer with 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the unique position
which the Centre of the Covenant occupies — much less to the station
exclusively ordained for the Manifestation of God. So grave a departure from
the established tenets of our Faith is nothing short of open blasphemy. . .
"No Guardian of the Faith, I feel it my solemn duty
to place on record, can ever claim to be the perfect exemplar of the teachings
of Bahá'u'lláh or the stainless mirror that reflects His light. Though
overshadowed by the unfailing, the unerring protection of Bahá'u'lláh and of
the Báb, and however much he may share with 'Abdu'l-Bahá the right and
obligation to interpret the Bahá'í teachings, he
1. The Dispensation of
remains essentially human and cannot, if he wishes to remain
faithful to his trust, arrogate to himself, under any pretense whatsoever, the
rights, the privileges and prerogatives which Bahá'u'lláh has chosen to confer
upon His Son. In the light of this truth to pray to the Guardian of the Faith,
to address him as lord and master, to designate him as his holiness, to seek
his benediction, to cerebrate his birthday, or to commemorate any event
associated with his life would be tantamount to a departure from those
established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith. The fact that
the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he may need to
reveal the purport and dispose the implications of the utterances of
Bahá'u'lláh and of 'Abdu'l-Bahá does not necessarily confer upon him a station
co-equal with those Whose words he is called upon to interpret."
"Nor can the Bahá'í Administrative Order be dismissed
as a hard and rigid system of unmitigated autocracy or as an idle imitation of
any form of absolutistic ecclesiastical government, whether it be the Papacy,
the Imamate or any other similar institution, for the obvious reason that upon
the international elected representatives of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh has
been conferred the exclusive right of legislation on matters not expressly
revealed in the Bahá'í writings. Neither the Guardian of the Faith nor any
institution apart from the International House of Justice can ever usurp this
vital and essential power or encroach upon that sacred right. The abolition of
professional priesthood with its accompanying sacraments of baptism, of
communion and of confession of sins, the laws requiring the election by
universal suffrage of all local, national, and international Houses
of Justice, the total absence of
episcopal authority with its attendant privileges, corruptions and bureaucratic
tendencies, are further evidences of the non-autocratic character of the Bahá'í
Administrative Order and of its inclination to democratic methods in the
administration of its affairs."
These "twin pillars" of the Kingdom, unique in
the religious history of the world, provide mankind with the fullest
opportunity of ordering its own affairs through its elected representatives,
whilst conferring upon it the supreme benefit, through the Divine guidance of
the Guardian, of an inviolable constitution, the house built upon the rock of
the unimpeachable, incorruptible Word of God Himself.
The close relationship between these two Divinely-guided
institutions — the Guardianship and the International House of Justice
— and the consultative method of Bahá'í administration are fully dealt
with by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and
Testament and elsewhere, though they form no part of this book. Suffice it
to say that the guidance bestowed upon the House of Justice does not descend to
the personal members, while the guidance bestowed upon the Guardian is personal
to the holder of the office, the "Sign
of God," the "Dayspring of Divine guidance," the
"Interpreter of the Word of God."
Thus does the Prophetic cycle come to its end with the
appearance of the Kingdom, conceived, established and governed by God. The age
of fulfillment now opens when countess generations, never bereft of Divine
guidance, upraised and loved by those Prophets Whom the Most High will, in His
mercy, eternally send down, will pursue an ever-advancing civilization to the
full development of man and the greater glory of God.
THE KINGDOM ON EARTH
the conception of the Kingdom of God at the end of the nineteenth century, it
certainly did not hold before Christians the same supreme objective of prayer
or aspiration which Christ had commanded in the Lord's Prayer. It was, rather
the Kingdom of Man than that of God — not of all men but of one race only
and of certain members of that race who had achieved for themselves supremacy
over the others. It would mean a world-wide Church, the domination of the white
man, of white man's civilization and it contemplated the perpetuation of an
'Abdu'l-Bahá's picture, painted in full length and glowing
colour in His Western addresses, was different indeed. He saw the coming of the
Kingdom as the opening of the treasuries of heaven — as the throwing wide
of God gates on splendors and glories hitherto beyond the reach of human
imagination. So far were they from being a divine after-thought that they were,
in fact, the originating motive of all creation, prepared before the foundation
of the world. All the experiences of the whole human race, all the guidance and
the education which the great Prophets had brought, all had been designed for
and had led up to the human preparation for the Kingdom. Now, when the Prophets
had completed their preliminary
lessons and mankind was ready to attain maturity, God put forth His hand of
power and sent the Lord of Hosts to release yet further spiritual energies and
to establish at last the Kingdom of God on earth.
It was inevitable that the Kingdom of God, so foreseen and
so established, should be built into a vast system in which the spiritual and
material should be closely conjoined. Such a system has been provided by the
Manifestation Himself and made more perfect in all respects than any previous
form of government or administration. Of it Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "Mankind's ordered life hath been
revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System —
the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed."
Probably there is no description which so tersely and
clearly gives the distinctive character of the oneness of mankind and the
pattern of the Kingdom of God as the following paragraphs from Shoghi Effendi's The Unfoldment of World Civilization.
"Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark
of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe,
of city state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully
established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is
striving. . .
"The unity of the human race, as envisaged by
Bahá'u'lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all
nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in
which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative
of the individuals that compose them are definitely. and completely
safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as
far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature
whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control
the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as
shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the
relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an
international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the
laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity
of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its
compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the
various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world
inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from
national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvelous swiftness
and perfect regularity. A world metropolis will act as the nerve centre of a
world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life
will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate. A world
language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages
and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary
to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature, a uniform and
universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify and
facilitate intercourse and
understanding among the nations and races of mankind. In such a world society,
science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be
reconciled, will co-operate and will harmoniously develop. The press will,
under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the
diversified views and convictions of
mankind, cease to be mischievously
manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be
liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The
economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials
will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and
developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
"National rivalries, hatreds, and intrigues will
cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity,
understanding and co-operation. The causes of religious strife will be
permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely
abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated.
Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other,
will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether
economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the
range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the
productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific
research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening
and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and
unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to
the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the
moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
"A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and
exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources,
blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from
the curse of
war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available
resources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which
Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its
universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation
— such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying
forces of life, is moving."
The establishment of this Divine, yet earthly Kingdom had
always been associated, both in the Bible narrative and in its prophecies, with
the Holy Land, which has become the home of the Bahá'í Faith. This has not been
through its own act, so that none can say it deliberately caused fulfillment of
the prophecies, but by the act of its enemies, the Sháh and the Sulṭán , who, in 1868,
brought Bahá'u'lláh, a Persian born in Ṭihrán, as a prisoner and an exile
to 'Akká. That city and its neighborhood, especially Mount Carmel, has since
become the most sacred spot in the Bahá'í world.
Bahá'u'lláh was endowed with the creative power to
regenerate the whole of humanity and unify it in a single spiritual organism
— a spiritual unity which was envisaged by God from the beginning and had
never till now been made a reality — and it is a remarkable fact that
through the agency of this Order, as yet but embryonic, the Faith of
Bahá'u'lláh has succeeded in preserving its unity and integrity, both in
thought and in action during the most critical periods of its Heroic and
Formative ages. That such a test suddenly facing, as it did on the death of
'Abdu'l-Bahá, a community of hundreds of thousands of believers of all classes,
nations, races and traditions should be so successfully met, is an achievement
almost incredible. Yet it is early evidence of the indubitable truth
human being has an equal right with every other to a place in the Kingdom,
which will need the participation of all to make a perfect mirror reflecting
the full splendors of the Holy Spirit.
Hitherto mankind has been divided into two sections
— the good and the bad, the faithful and the unfaithful, the elect and
the lost, — but now with the coming of the Kingdom all are to be treated
and counted as one, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá insisted that all men from now on should
treat each other so. What now appears plain to one who approaches this divine
Order is that Bahá'u'lláh has provided all the means for mankind's preservation
in the fortress of unity, and leads and guides man along the path to the
good-pleasure of God Who "cherisheth
in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one
Thus, the vast concourse of God's citizens at the
inception of His Kingdom have before them the prospect of building a universal
World Commonwealth which will develop in the fullness of time into a world
spiritual civilization. Of this great day 'Abdu'l-Bahá has written, gathering
up all the threads of the past, "One
of the great events which is to occur in the Day of the manifestation of that
incomparable Branch is the hoisting of the Standard of God among all nations.
By this is meant that all nations and kindreds will be gathered together under the shadow of this Divine
Banner, which is no other than the Lordly Branch itself; and will become a
single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and
peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere
to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race and
become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the
It is the ancient vision coming true at last, the glorious
Kingdom of hope and faith descending from heaven to encompass all the earth.
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the
first heaven and the first earth were passed away;[semicolon] and there was no
more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out
of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a
great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with
men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself
shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears
from their eyes;[semicolon] and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow,
nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are
passed sway." (Rev. xxi)
heed was given to Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration that His prophethood was the return
of Christ, when His appeal for the examination of His Cause and the redress of
cruel wrongs inflicted on Him was ignored; when no one regarded His forecast,
so forcefully and so fully presented, that a new Dawn had broken, a New Age had
come (new in a spiritual sense, in a moral sense, in an intellectual sense), an
Age which would bring a new outlook and new concepts, an Age of Divine
Judgment, in which tyranny would be thrown down, the rights of the people
asserted, and in which the social structure of the human race would be changed;
when no attention was paid to the vision He opened, to the opportunities He
offered, to the bold challenge which He had from prison flung before the mighty
ones of the world; then alas! the Churches as the years went by found
themselves caught into a current which bore them irresistibly downward at an
ever increasing speed and which at the end of eight decades was still to be
bearing them down to lower and yet lower levels in their political standing, in
their moral influence, in their intellectual prestige, in their social
authority, in their numbers and their financial resources, in the popular
estimate of the relevancy and the reality of the religion which they taught and
even in the vigor and unanimity of their own witness to the basic truth upon
which the Church itself had been founded.
No comparable period of deterioration is to be found in
the long records of the Christian Faith. In all the
vicissitudes of fifteen eventful centuries (and they were many); in all the
misfortunes, the mistakes, the failures and the humiliations in which from time
to time the Church was involved, no such catastrophic decline is to be traced.
The sovereignty which the Church had wielded in the Middle Ages had indeed by
the nineteenth century become in Western Europe a thing of the past; but the
diminution had been gradual and moderate. The loss suffered during the previous
eight hundred years can hardly be compared with the vital damage inflicted
during the last eighty.
In past crises the foundations of faith and of western
society were not shaken; hope remained dominant, and from tradition and memory
men drew inspiration. Society remained Christian and to that extent unified.
But now the very foundations have gone. Reverence and restraint are no more.
The heights of human nature are closed: its depths opened. Substitute systems
of ethics, man-made and man-regarding, are invented, dethroning conscience. The
dignity of reason and of knowledge is denied: truth itself is impugned.
The story of this calamitous decline is well known to all,
and its outstanding features can be briefly summarized.
In the year 1870, not long after the dispatch of
Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to his Holiness, the Pope was through King Victor
Emmanuel's seizure of Rome deprived by force of virtually the whole of that
temporal power which Bahá'u'lláh had advised him to renounce voluntarily. His
formal acknowledgment of the Kingdom of Italy by the recent Lateran Treaty
sealed this resignation of sovereignty.
The fall of the Napoleonic Empire was followed in
France by a wave of anti-clericalism which led to a complete separation of the
Roman Catholic Church from the State, the secularization of education, and the
suppression and dispersal of the religious orders.
In Spain, the monarchy which for so long had been in
Christendom the great champion of the Roman Church was overthrown and the State
The dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy caused
the disappearance both of the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire and of the
most powerful political unit that gave to the Roman Church its spiritual and
In Soviet Russia an organized assault directed against the
Greek Orthodox Church, against Christianity, and against religion,
disestablished that church, massacred vast numbers of its hundred million members,
stripped it of its six and a half million acres of property, pulled down,
closed or perverted to secular uses countless thousands of places of worship
and by "a five-year plan of godlessness" sought to eradicate all
religion from the hearts of the people.
In every land and in all branches of the Christian Church,
even where there was no system of Establishment, the rising power of
nationalism continually made churches more and more subservient to the
interests and the opinions of the State — a tendency brought into strong
relief and notoriety in the first world war.
The gradual decay of the intellectual prestige of religion
in Europe had extended over many generations, but it was brought prominently
before the public mind in the seventies of the last century, largely through
the controversies which followed Tyndall's Belfast address in 1874. The
character of this decay has been epitomized
by Professor Whitehead, writing in 1926, thus:
"Religion is tending to degenerate into a decent
formula wherewith to embellish a comfortable life. . . . For over two
centuries, religion has been on the defensive, and on a weak defensive. The
period has been one of unprecedented intellectual progress. In this way a
series of novel situations has been produced for thought. Each such occasion
has found the religious thinkers unprepared. Something which has been proclaimed to be vital has,
finally, after struggle, distress and anthema been modified and otherwise
interpreted. The next generation of religious apologists then congratulates the
religious world on the deeper insight which has been gained. The result of the
continued repetition of this undignified retreat during many generations has at
last almost entirely destroyed the intellectual authority of
religious thinkers. Consider this contrast; when Darwin or Einstein proclaims
theories which modify our ideas, it is a triumph for science. We do not go
about saying there is another defeat for science, because its old ideas have
been abandoned. We know that another step of scientific insight has been
The loss in the moral and spiritual field has been even
more vital and conspicuous, especially of recent years. There is no need to
enlarge upon the matter. The sickness at the heart of Christian life and
thought which made these humiliations possible has been the decay of
spirituality. Love for God, fear of God, trust in God's overruling providence
and ceaseless care have been no longer active forces in the world. The
religious thinkers find themselves baffled by the portents of the time: when
men in disillusionment, in anguish and despair come to them for counsel, seek
from them comfort, hope, some intelligible
idea as to what this cataclysm means and whence it came and how it should be
met, they are completely at a loss. Though the Church for nineteen centuries
has proclaimed, and has enshrined in its creeds, the emphatic and repeated
promise of Christ that He would come again in power and great glory to judge
the earth, would exalt the righteous and inaugurate the Kingdom of God among
mankind, yet they believe and teach that through all these years of deepening
tribulation no Hand has been outstretched from heaven, no light of Guidance has
been shed upon the earth; that God has withheld from His children in their
deepest need His succor, His comfort and His love; that Christ has utterly
forgotten His promise or is impotent to redeem it and has permitted His
universal Church to sink in ruin without evincing the least small sign of His
interest or His concern.
Meantime the Bahá'í Message has kindled once more on earth
the ancient fire of faith that Jesus kindled long ago, the fire of spontaneous
love for God and man, a love that changes all life and longs to show itself in
deeds of devotion and of self- sacrifice even to death and martyrdom. To them
who have recognized Christ's voice again in this Age has been given in renewed
freshness and beauty the vision of the Kingdom of God as Jesus and the Book of
Revelation gave it — the same vision, but clearer now and on a larger
scale and in more detail. A new enthusiasm is theirs, a power that nothing can
gainsay or resist. Their words reach the hearts of men. With a courage, a
determination that only divine love could quicken or support they have arisen
in the face of ruthless persecution to bear witness to their faith. Fearless,
though comparatively few, weak in themselves but invincible in God's Cause,
they have now at the close of little over a hundred
years carried that Faith far and wide. through the globe, entered well over two
hundred and fifty countries, translated their literature into three hundred and
fifty languages, gathered adherents from East and West, from many races, many
nations, many creeds, many traditions, and have established themselves as a
world-community, worshipping one God under one Name.
The Bahá'í Faith to-day presents the Christian Churches
with the most tremendous challenge ever offered them in their long history: a
challenge, and an opportunity. It is the plain duty of every earnest Christian
in this illumined Age to investigate for himself with an open and
fearless mind the purpose and the teachings of this Faith and to determine
whether the collective centre for all the constructive forces of this time be
not the Messenger from God, Bahá'u'lláh, He and no other; and whether the way
to a better, kinder, happier world will not lie open as soon as we accept the
Announcement our rulers rejected.
"O kings of the
earth! He Who is the sovereign Lord of all is come. The Kingdom is God's, the
omnipotent Protector, the Self-Subsisting. Worship none but God, and, with
radiant hearts, lift up your faces unto your Lord, the Lord of all names. This
is a Revelation to which whatever ye possess can never be compared, could ye
but know it."
O Christian believers! for your own sakes and for the sake of the
Churches, for the sake of all mankind, for the sake of the Kingdom, cast away
your conflicting dogmas and interpretations which have caused such disunity and
led us to the verge of wholesale self-destruction. Recognize the age of Truth.
Recognize Christ in the glory and power of the Father and, heart and soul,
throw yourselves into His Cause.