Segment 15: Mastery: The Unfolding (Abdu’l-Baha “The Master”) – by Dana Paxson

Mastery: The Unfolding (Abdu’l-Baha “The Master”).pdf

In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh Himself directed humanity to turn, on His passing, to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for understanding:

“O people of the world! When the Mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock.”[1]

In a letter to some Bahá’ís in America, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made clear His unique station and spelled out its purpose:

“You have written that there is a difference among the believers concerning the ‘Second Coming of Christ.’ Gracious God! Time and again this question hath arisen, and its answer hath emanated in a clear and irrefutable statement from the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that what is meant in the prophecies by the ‘Lord of Hosts’ and the ‘Promised Christ’ is the Blessed Perfection (Bahá’u’lláh) and His holiness the Exalted One (the Báb). My name is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My qualification is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My reality is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My praise is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion… No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.”[2]

One superior testimony to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s station and purpose is the staggering outpouring of His works, both before and throughout His service as the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant from 1892 until His passing in 1921. This outpouring set forth the banquet of the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh for the entire human world at all levels and in all capacities. One all-too-brief summary is that of Moojan Momen:

“`Abdu’l-Bahá’s principal writings are his correspondence with numerous Bahá’ís, well-wishers, government officials, and others. He wrote primarily in Persian and Arabic but there is also a small amount of material in Ottoman Turkish. The Bahá’í World Center currently holds over 27,000 letters of `Abdu’l-Bahá and he must have written many more… Although most of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s correspondence is with individual Bahá’ís, some of it is addressed to Bahá’í groups and communities. The most important of the latter category are The Tablets of the Divine Plan… , written in 1916-17 and addressed to the Bahá’ís of North America, which Shoghi Effendi calls the “Charter” for the propagation of the Bahá’í Faith[3] … `Abdu’l-Bahá also wrote to organizations, such as the Central Organization for a Durable Peace at the Hague, and occasionally to newspapers, such as the Christian Commonwealth.

“`Abdu’l-Bahá wrote three books: The Secret of Divine Civilization (1875), A Traveler’s Narrative(q.v., 1886), and Risáliy-i-Siyásiyyih (Treatise on Politics, 1892-3). Two of these were written during the lifetime of his father; in later years he had little time for such work. Many talks of `Abdu’l-Bahá have been published. Some of these, such as Memorials of the Faithful … and Some Answered Questions, were read and corrected by him prior to publication. `Abdu’l-Bahá also wrote a large number of prayers, some Tablets of Visitation for prominent Bahá’ís, and some poetry. Lastly, there is `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament…, which is referred to by Shoghi Effendi as the “Charter of Bahá’u’lláh’s New World Order”[4] … There is also a large body of literature consisting of pilgrims’ notes about their visit to `Abdu’l-Bahá.”[5]

‘Abdu’l-Bahá was born on May 23, 1844, just as the Báb was first declaring His mission to Mullá Husayn. In 1911, as He began His journeys in the West, He was suffering from appalling afflictions both physical and mental that had assailed Him during His 67-year life.

He had survived childhood tuberculosis; the traumas of His Father’s imprisonments; the desperate hardships of repeated exile; the repugnant, destructive, repeated betrayals by nearly all of His own family members of His Father, Himself, and the Covenant; and the vicious, heartless persecutions of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet despite all this, and as evidenced by His vast, lavish, and glorious output of wisdom in all His works, He held perfectly true to His own testimony as quoted earlier: “Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion…”.

No matter what topic came into His attention, He filled it with light and insight in His commentaries, often settling and resolving differences that had formerly caused contention among even the wisest. Two such commentaries, one written in His young years and one in the late stage of His adult life, deserve mention here, even as contemporary scholars work to render them for modern readers. They stand as examples of the treasures bestowed on us by the Master.

The first of these He wrote in His teens, in answer to a query in Baghdad by ‘Ali Shawkat Pashá. It is a commentary on the well-known Islamic tradition “I was a Hidden Treasure and loved to be known. Therefore I created the Creation that I might be known.”[6]This tradition evokes two of the Hidden Words, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad:

“O Son of Man!  Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.”[7]

“O Son of Man!  I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.”[8]

In ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s commentary on this single tradition, He selects just four terms for His comments: “Hidden Treasure”, “Love”, “Creation”, and “Knowledge”. The rich profusion of the knowledge He pours out in His commentary runs to over 35 pages in one provisional translation. In it He cites the Sufi mystics and poets, the traditions of Islam, and the Qur’an itself, concluding magnificently with His own poem introduced by these words (here translated provisionally) which are themselves evocative of Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words:   

“Close the eye to all but the Friend and gaze upon the Beauty; purify the hearing from all utterance so that you may hear a wondrous tune from the flute of the family of David.”[9]

In the Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh wrote:

“… Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.”[10]

The parallels of the words of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá here are striking evidence of their coherence in the Covenant even before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was named its Center. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself can perhaps be seen now as a “Hidden Treasure” at the time he wrote this commentary.

The second of the commentaries of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentioned here as an example was likely written in ‘Akká after the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh. Written in Ottoman Turkish, it is a commentary on the Islamic tradition “God doth give victory to this religion by means of a wicked man”[11] The translator, Necati Alkan, notes:

“In his commentary on this ḥadīth, ‘Abdu’l-Baha seems to ignore its negative context – the fact that the Prophet Muhammad referred to this person, though fighting alongside the Muslims, as one of the people of hell-fire (i.e. a person destined for hell) – and puts forth a more positive interpretation of the words ‘Inna’llāha yu’ayyidu hādhā’d-dīn bi-rajulin fājirin’ – ‘God doth give victory to this religion by means of a wicked man’. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s tafsīr [commentary] here is in the Islamic tradition of giving the inner meaning (bāṭin) of the words.”[12]

In His commentary, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has reached into what appears to be the darkness of condemnation and from it has drawn divine illumination. From reading a provisional translation of His Tablet, one sees the Master penetrating the meanings to reveal praise and redemption for those who show heroism in advancing the Cause of God, irrespective of their outward allegiances. An excerpt from the translation, concerning the person identified in the hadith as “a wicked man”:

 “…he is the manifestation of the holy verse ‘He is fearing not the blame of any blamer[13]…’

“It is an illustrious person who with divine power distinguisheth pious deeds from evil acts, goodness from unseemliness, knowledge from ignorance, faith from unbelief, trustworthiness from treachery, the accepted from the rejected, guidance from the state of being astray, light from darkness, reality from metaphor, truthfulness from lie, loyalty from cruelty, and the upright from the hypocrite.”[14]

In this way the unique Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, on the opening threshold of a mighty Dispensation destined to last a half-million years, wafts away the clouds of past superstitions in a blaze of light, redemption, and fulfillment.

In this all-too-brief and inadequate segment, one hopes that some sense of the majestic, unprecedented, and unique station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emerges for readers. As He took a few words and phrases to unfold entire seas of wisdom flooding from His Father’s Dispensation, so we might consider immersing ourselves increasingly in these life-giving waters to elevate our beings, our lives, and the human world in general.

Our next segment focuses on the great journeys of the Master across the familiar seas of this world to open to all of humankind the far-greater seas of meaning of the infinitely-greater world.

 

NOTES

[1] Bahá’u’lláh, “The Most Holy Book” (Kitáb-i-Aqdas), para. 174.

[2] Quoted by Shoghi Effendi in “The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 139.

[3] Shoghi Effendi, “Messages to the Bahá’í World”, 84.

[4] Shoghi Effendi, “God Passes By”, xv.

[5] From Moojan Momen, “’Abdu’l-Bahá”, VI. “Teachings and Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá”, 2., at http://bahai-library.com/momen_encyclopedia_abdulbaha .

[6] One of the most-famous and beloved of traditions in Islam, this is considered a hadíth-i-qudsí, meaning a rendering of God’s words through Muhammad presented as a tradition.

[7] Bahá’u’lláh, “The Hidden Words”, Arabic No. 3.

[8] Ibid., Arabic No. 4.

[9] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Commentary on the Islamic Tradition “I Was a Hidden Treasure…”’, Moojan Momen, translator, p. 34 just before the concluding verses, at http://bahai-library.com/abdulbaha_kuntu_kanzan_makhfiyyan .

[10] Bahá’u’lláh, “The Hidden Words”, from Persian No. 11.

[11] Taken from a lengthier narrative. In an article in Baha’i Studies Review 11 (2003) 53–57 offering the provisional translation, Necati Alkan notes, “The hadith (tradition) in question is from Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, which is regarded by Sunni Muslims as the most reliable of the compilations of Islamic traditions.”

[12] Necati Alkan, “‘Abdu’l-Baha’s commentary on the Islamic tradition: ‘God doth give victory to this religion by means of a wicked man’ – a provisional translation and notes”, Baha’i Studies Review 11 (2003) 53–57, at http://www.academia.edu/1496185 .

[13] The Qurán, Chapter 5 (“The Table Spread”), from Verse 54. One is put in mind here of the marvelous passage from the Persian Bayán of the Báb, found in “Selections from the Writings of the Báb”, beginning: “Worship thou God in such wise that if thy worship lead thee to the fire, no alteration in thine adoration would be produced, and so likewise if thy recompense should be paradise. Thus and thus alone should be the worship which befitteth the one True God.”

[14] Alkan, op. cit.

Segment 14: Crisis: The Emergence (‘Abdu’l-Baha assumes His station) -by Dana Paxson

Crisis: The Emergence (‘Abdu’l-Baha assumes His station).pdf

On May 29th, 1892, Bahá’u’lláh the Manifestation of God passed from earthly limitation and existence. In the face of powerful and bitter opposition, first from within His family and then from the Ottoman Empire, His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, assumed His station.

The crisis of this transition was profound and far-reaching:

“The immediate effect of the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh had been… to spread grief and bewilderment among His followers and companions, and to inspire its vigilant and redoubtable adversaries with fresh hope and renewed determination. At a time when a grievously traduced Faith had triumphantly emerged from the two severest crises it had ever known, one the work of enemies without, the other the work of enemies within, when its prestige had risen to a height unequalled in any period during its fifty-year existence, the unerring Hand which had shaped its destiny ever since its inception was suddenly removed, leaving a gap which friend and foe alike believed could never again be filled.

“Yet, as the appointed Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and the authorized Interpreter of His teaching had Himself later explained, the dissolution of the tabernacle wherein the soul of the Manifestation of God had chosen temporarily to abide signalized its release from the restrictions which an earthly life had, of necessity, imposed upon it. Its influence no longer circumscribed by any physical limitations, its radiance no longer beclouded by its human temple, that soul could henceforth energize the whole world to a degree unapproached at any stage in the course of its existence on this planet.”[1]

Shoghi Effendi makes clear the forces at work in the family:

“The true ground of this crisis was the burning, the uncontrollable, the soul-festering jealousy which the admitted preeminence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in rank, power, ability, knowledge and virtue, above all the other members of His Father’s family, had aroused not only in Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, the archbreaker of the Covenant, but in some of his closest relatives as well.”[2]

 It seemed to these wayward souls that the opportunity for seizing control of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh was ripe. A child who loses a beloved, revered, and respected father in the everyday world suffers a deep wound of loss, confusion, and despair. For a steadily-growing world community of believers and sympathizers who saw Bahá’u’lláh as a Father far greater than any worldly parent, the wound of His permanent departure from their midst was overwhelming.

“Methinks, the spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust had caused all the worlds of God to tremble.… My inner and outer tongue are powerless to portray the condition we were in.… In the midst of the prevailing confusion a multitude of the inhabitants of ‘Akká and of the neighboring villages, that had thronged the fields surrounding the Mansion, could be seen weeping, beating upon their heads, and crying aloud their grief.”[3]

Nabíl himself, the esteemed author of “The Dawn-Breakers” and utterly devoted to Bahá’u’lláh, found himself beyond the reach of any comfort or consolation. Soon after writing these words he drowned himself in the sea near ‘Akká. Of him ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote:

“Throughout all his life, from earliest youth till he was feeble and old, he spent his time serving and worshiping the Lord. He bore hardships, he lived through misfortunes, he suffered afflictions. From the lips of the Manifestation he heard marvelous things. He was shown the lights of Paradise; he won his dearest wish.  And at the end, when the Daystar of the world had set, he could endure no more, and flung himself into the sea. The waters of sacrifice closed over him; he was drowned, and he came, at last, to the Most High.”[4]

Into the sorrow, confusion, and lethargy of all those in shock paraded the opportunists led by Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí. They wasted no time and overlooked no chance or weapon in their machinations. The list of their maneuverings and manipulations is too long for this brief segment, but mentioning three of these wrongs will give a general idea. Shoghi Effendi states, “these repudiators of a divinely-established Covenant arose, as one man, to launch a campaign of abuse and vilification which compared in virulence with the infamous accusations which Mírzá Yaḥyá and Siyyid Muḥammad had jointly levelled at Bahá’u’lláh.”[5] Later in the same passage, regarding Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí, is this: “He it was who… had, while Bahá’u’lláh’s body was still awaiting interment, carried off, by a ruse, the two satchels containing his Father’s most precious documents, entrusted by Him, prior to His ascension, to ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá.”[6] And this: “He it was who, by an exceedingly adroit and simple forgery of a word recurring in some of the denunciatory passages addressed by the Supreme Pen to Mírzá Yaḥyá, and by other devices such as mutilation and interpolation, had succeeded in making them directly applicable to a Brother Whom he hated with such consuming passion.”[7]

The schemes gathered force and appeared to have major effects, generating considerable confusion, alarm, and schism among Bahá’ís and others alike. But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, facing the pitiless onslaught against the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, against the community of steadfast Bahá’ís, and against Himself, withstood all the attacks and subversions, writing His first message to Bahá’ís all over the Ottoman Empire and beyond. In it we find this:

“The world’s great Light, once resplendent upon all mankind has set, to shine everlastingly from the Abhá Horizon, His Kingdom of fadeless glory, shedding splendor upon His loved ones from on high, and breathing into their hearts and souls the breath of eternal life.

“O ye beloved of the Lord! Beware, beware, lest ye hesitate and waver. Let not fear fall upon you, neither be troubled nor dismayed. Take ye good heed lest this calamitous day slacken the flames of your ardour, and quench your tender hopes. To-day is the day for steadfastness and constancy. Blessed are they that stand firm and immovable as the rock, and brave the storm and stress of this tempestuous hour.”[8]

In our taking-in of these lessons of history, we remember the costs to the Master, who spread His wings over us all. In His Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá draws back the curtain concealing the pain and anguish that afflicted Him throughout His life:

“Sore trials have compassed me round and perils have from all sides beset me. Thou seest me immersed in a sea of unsurpassed tribulation, sunk into a fathomless abyss, afflicted by mine enemies and consumed with the flame of their hate, enkindled by my kinsmen with whom Thou didst make Thy strong Covenant and Thy firm Testament, wherein Thou biddest them turn their hearts to this wronged one, to keep away from me the foolish, the unjust, and refer unto this lonely one all that about which they differ in Thy Holy Book, so that the Truth may be revealed unto them, their doubts may be dispelled and Thy manifest Signs be spread abroad.”[9]

We see today the results and effects of this crisis: the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, its energies incomparably multiplied by the Ascension of its Founder, stands in lasting splendor, and the workings of its enemies lie in shards and ruins. Once ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took His place as the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, the world began to receive an unprecedented flood of divine knowledge testifying both to the uniqueness of His station and to the vast potency of His Father’s Revelation.

NOTES

[1] Shoghi Effendi, “God Passes By”, Chapter XV, p. 244. This entire chapter offers us a definitive account of the drama in the family of Bahá’u’lláh that was occasioned by His passing.

[2] ibid., p. 246.

[3] Nabíl-i-Azám, quoted in “God Passes By”, Chapter XIII, p. 222. Also found in H. M. Balyuzi, “’Abdu’l-Bahá: The Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 48.

[4] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “Memorials of the Faithful”, pp. 35-36.

[5] “God Passes By”, p. 248.

[6] ibid., p. 249.

[7] ibid., p. 249.

[8] From ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in “’Abdu’l-Bahá: The Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 48, taken in turn from Lady Bloomfield, “The Chosen Highway”, pp. 110-111.

[9] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “The Will And Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”, from the first paragraph.

Segment 13: Service: the Early Signs (‘Abdu’l-Bahá attending Bahá’u’lláh) – by Dana Paxson

Service: the Early Signs (‘Abdu’l-Bahá attending Bahá’u’lláh).pdf

Bahá’u’lláh increasingly relies upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, setting the stage for His Son’s unique role as the Center of His Covenant.

In this series of four presentations, our view is toward the human interplay that characterizes the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from His early life onward, and testifies to His fulfillment of His role as the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant. An intimate glimpse of His childhood, offered to us in His own words and taking place not long before the Conference of Badasht in 1848, sets the stage:

“One day the great Siyyid Yaḥyá, surnamed Vaḥíd, was present there. As he sat without, Ṭáhirih listened to him from behind the veil. I was then a child, and was sitting on her lap. With eloquence and fervor, Vaḥíd was discoursing on the signs and verses that bore witness to the advent of the new Manifestation. She suddenly interrupted him and, raising her voice, vehemently declared:

‘O Yaḥyá! Let deeds, not words, testify to thy faith, if thou art a man of true learning. Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past, for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path. Let deeds, not words, be our adorning!”’[1]

‘Abdu’l-Bahá was at the time three years old, sitting on the lap of Táhirih, the woman who was to become an emblem of emancipation for women, and who was martyred shortly afterwards in Tihrán.

This child, destined to become the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, endured hardships that would crush ordinary souls under their burdens.

“He was only eight years old when – in the wake of a desperate and futile attempt on the life of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh by two half-crazed men – Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned, and the Bábís were ferociously persecuted. Bahá’u’lláh’s house was pillaged, His lands and goods were confiscated, and His family reduced from opulence to penury. One day, while in Europe, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recalled the sufferings of those bleak times:

‘Detachment does not imply lack of means; it is marked by the freedom of the heart. In Tihrán, we possessed everything at a nightfall, and on the morrow we were shorn of it all, to the extent that we had no food to eat. I was hungry, but there was no bread to be had. My mother poured some flour into the palm of my hand, and I ate that instead of bread. Yet, we were contented.’

“And again:

‘At that time of dire calamities and attacks mounted by the enemies I was a child of nine [reckoned by lunar years]. They threw so many stones into our house that the courtyard was crammed with them… Mother took us for safety to another quarter, and rented a house in a back alley where she kept us indoors and looked after us. But one day our means of subsistence were barely adequate, and mother told me to go to my aunt’s house, and ask her to find us a few qíráns [silver coins]… I went and my aunt did what she could for us. She tied a five-qírán piece in a handkerchief and gave it to me. On my way home someone recognize me and shouted: ‘Here is a Bábí’; whereupon the children in the street chased me. I found refuge in the entrance to a house… There I stayed until nightfall, and when I came out, I was once again pursued by the children who kept yelling at me and pelted me with stones… When I reached home I was exhausted. Mother wanted to know what had happened to me. I could not utter a word and collapsed.’”[2]

The horror, filth, and danger of Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál during that time is well-documented and vividly described. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself witnessed it:

“One day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, anxious to see His Father, was taken to the dungeon. This is His account of that awesome visit:

‘They sent me with a black servant to His blessed presence in the prison. The warders indicated the cell, and the servant carried me in on his shoulders. I saw a dark, steep place. We entered a small, narrow doorway, and went down two steps, but beyond those one could see nothing. In the middle of the stairway, all of a sudden we heard His blessed voice:

‘Do not bring him in here’, and so they took me back. We sat outside, waiting for the prisoners to be led out. Suddenly they brought the Blessed Perfection out of the dungeon. He was chained to several others. What a chain! It was very heavy. The prisoners could only move it along with great difficulty. Sad and heart-rending it was.’” [3]

Even for us, as adults in this long remove from history, the story of Bahá’u’lláh’s bitter confinement in this terrible place evokes great sorrow. For His own Son, a sensitive child of eight, to witness it personally is for us unimaginable. Such events forge themselves in a youthful witness forever.

The workings of fate or destiny, the patterns of events, whatever term one uses for the interwoven streams of life, had brought ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to this point, and as He looked back much later on that moment, its antecedents, and its sequels, the grandeur and beauty of its awful weight emerged from His words as He spoke in Paris of His early life:

“Were it not for this illness I would not have stayed in Paris more than a month. There is a reason for this… It has been so from the early years of my life. The wisdom of what has happened to me has become apparent later. While I was a child in Tihrán, seven years of age, I contracted tuberculosis. There was no hope of recovery. Afterwards the wisdom of and the reason for this became apparent. Were it not for that illness I would have been in Mázindarán [the province of Bahá’u’lláh’s ancestral home]. But because of it I remained in Tihrán and was there when the Blessed Perfection was imprisoned. Thus I travelled to ‘Iráq in His company. And when the time came, although physicians had despaired of my recovery, I was suddenly cured…”[4]

The signs of the unique, ascendant station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to accumulate in His youth. After Bahá’u’lláh withdrew into seclusion in the mountains during the turmoils raised by the Covenant-Breakers of the time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, by then in His teens in Baghdad, wrote at the request of ‘Alí Shawkat Pashá an astonishing treatise: ‘Commentary on the Islamic Tradition “I was a Hidden Treasure…” (Tafsír-i-Hadith-i-Kuntu Kanzan Makhfíyyan)’. The translator notes:

“It takes the form of a commentary on a number of key expressions out of the famous Islamic Tradition: “I was a Hidden Treasure and loved to be known. Therefore I created the Creation that I might be known.” This Tradition is one of that class of Traditions, called Hadíth-i Qudsí, wherein, although the Tradition itself is traced back; to Muhammad, it appears to be God Himself who is speaking in the words of the Tradition. The four words or phrases chosen by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are: “Hidden Treasure”, “Love”, “Creation”, and “Knowledge”. We can surmise that ‘Alí Shawkat Pashá was a Sufi and an admirer of the writings of Ibn ‘Arabí, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s commentary is replete with allusions to themes in the works of that famous Muslim mystic and philosopher.”[5]

This amazing commentary, with its insights, its power, and its eloquence, sets firmly in place a profound element of evidence for us as to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s station, wherein He was identified by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, upon Bahá’u’lláh’s return from seclusion, as the “Mystery of God”. In Shoghi Effendi’s words, referring to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

“He alone had been accorded the privilege of being called “the Master,” an honor from which His Father had strictly excluded all His other sons. Upon Him that loving and unerring Father had chosen to confer the unique title of “Sirru’lláh” (the Mystery of God), a designation so appropriate to One Who, though essentially human and holding a station radically and fundamentally different from that occupied by Bahá’u’lláh and His Forerunner, could still claim to be the perfect Exemplar of His Faith, to be endowed with super-human knowledge, and to be regarded as the stainless mirror reflecting His light. To Him…”[6]

Finally, to frame ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s utterly-selfless service to Bahá’u’lláh during the lifetime of the Blessed Beauty, we see this touching observation by Bahá’u’lláh Himself:

“In Adrianople We met many people, but in the Most Great Prison, We seldom receive visitors who are not believers. The burden of all these affairs has fallen upon the shoulders of the Master. To provide Us with some peace and comfort, He has made Himself Our shield, and thus He sees to Our affairs both with the government and the people. He first prepared for Us the house at Mazra’ih, and then He procured this Mansion in Bahjí. He is so devoted to His services and so intensely occupied that sometimes weeks pass by and He cannot come here to visit Us. While We consort with the friends and reveal Tablets, He is immersed in the toils and troubles of the world.”[7]

Here one sees the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant hard at work, deep in the vital and everyday affairs of the Cause on behalf of the living Manifestation of God. Next we will encounter the great crisis of transition: the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh and the flow of events released by it.

 

[1] Memorials of the Faithful
[2] Unrestrained as the Wind: A Life Dedicated to Bahá’u’lláh. Also, Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 9—12
[3] Ibid
[4] ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Centre of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah by H. M. Balyuzi
[5] Commentary on the Islamic Tradition “I Was a Hidden Treasure…” by Abdu’l-Bahá
translated by Moojan Momen.
published in Bahá’í Studies Bulletin, 3:4, pages 4-35. 1995-12
originally written as “Tafsír-i-Hadith-i-Kuntu Kanzan Makhfíyyan”.
[6] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 241-245
[7] Stories from The Delight of Hearts: The Memoirs of Hájí Mírzá Haydar-’Alí, By Abyʼl-Qásim Faizí p. 106

Segment 10 – Bahá’u’lláh: The Supreme Manifestation – by Dana Paxson

Bahá’u’lláh: The Supreme Manifestation.pdf

One is astonished at contemplating Baha’u’llah’s station as the Supreme Manifestation of God, for an overarching cycle of divine revelation due to last no less than half a million years. The human mind struggles to comprehend the scale of such a distinction, such a vast reach of time, such deeply-penetrating implications. This essay offers a mere glimpse at some relevant passages and observations concerning the significance of this Revelation to us, in this present time, in our lives and the human world we inhabit.

To do no more than to unravel some of the meanings of Shoghi Effendi’s assertion of the duration of this divine cycle would itself require far more than a few pages of discussion. The Guardian himself made clear that the full duration of the Bahá’í cycle, in contrast to that of the cycles preceding it, “should not be reckoned numerically, but should be considered as symbolizing the incomparable greatness of the Bahá’í Revelation which, though not final is none-the-less thus far the fullest revelation of God to man.”[1]

There is no reason, however, to think that this bold assertion lacks the force of connection with the cycles and principles that govern the physical world. Reckonings of such human matters have their roots in the material world via the calendars, astronomical cycles, and historical events that mark the passages of time, but they also reflect the far-more-significant blooming and fruiting of human matters in the greater worlds of God.

Until the coming of the Báb, no Manifestation of God appearing in history produced in His own hand any record of His Revelation. Until the coming of Bahá’u’lláh, no Manifestation of God in history produced in His own hand any explicit document creating His Covenant, thereby conferring supreme authority upon an individual or institution upon His passing. This distinction alone is sufficient to set apart the Bahá’í Revelation from all of its predecessors.

Far more evidence demonstrates the truth of the term “The Supreme Manifestation” as it applies to Bahá’u’lláh. The Revelations of the past, dating from earliest recorded history to the 19th century, appear to us as cyclic processes, punctuated by brief transitions at their beginnings leading to their rapid ascendancy and stable continuation. Their cycles were of the order of 1,000 years, and the transitions from their predecessors shared similar patterns: revelation, obscurity, persecution, promulgation, acceptance, advancement, decay, and eventual replacement. This pattern has now undergone a transition of far greater power than ever before, one that has replaced not only the most-recent cycle of that pattern but the entire pattern itself. The energies required for such a transition are staggeringly greater than those of the past transitions in the cyclic process of the past.

Given this demand for energy of change, the outpouring of information from the Revelation driving that change is commensurate. More detail on the third observation made above clarifies the situation. The Holy Qur’an was one single volume of 6300 verses. Then in one lightning stroke came the Báb, of whose revealed flood of divine knowledge Bahá’u’lláh Himself writes:

“… the verses which have rained from this Cloud of divine mercy have been so abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number. A score of volumes are now available. How many still remain beyond our reach! How many have been plundered and have fallen into the hands of the enemy, the fate of which none knoweth.”[2]

The Báb Himself clarified the scale of His own work, referring to Himself in the third person:

“Now, following His manifestation, although He hath, up to the present, revealed no less than five hundred thousand verses on different subjects, behold what calumnies are uttered, so unseemly that the pen is stricken with shame at the mention of them. But if all men were to observe the ordinances of God no sadness would befall that heavenly Tree.”[3]

The rampant destruction of the works of the Báb by the forces of opposition spent its force before the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh entered our world. A paramount consequence of this process was that even from its earliest gleams in the darkness of the Síyáh-Chál, the vast outpouring of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation found its way from its Author into the entire planetary human world, in written form, within the span of little more than a century. In reviewing the content of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, Shoghi Effendi writes:

“With this book [Epistle to the Son of the Wolf], revealed about one year prior to His ascension, the prodigious achievement as author of a hundred volumes, repositories of the priceless pearls of His Revelation, may be said to have practically terminated—volumes replete with unnumbered exhortations, revolutionizing principles, world-shaping laws and ordinances, dire warnings and portentous prophecies, with soul-uplifting prayers and meditations, illuminating commentaries and interpretations, impassioned discourses and homilies, all interspersed with either addresses or references to kings, to emperors and to ministers, of both the East and the West, to ecclesiastics of divers denominations, and to leaders in the intellectual, political, literary, mystical, commercial and humanitarian spheres of human activity.”[4]

The unleashing of the forces of this supreme Revelation has already revolutionized our existence many times over, accelerating our world into a period of transformation so rapid and profound that none of us can embrace the span of its meaning at such an early stage. Stabilizing, enforcing, and facilitating this transformation is the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh.

At the direct, immediate level we have the Lesser Covenant, addressing the conferring of authority upon Bahá’u’lláh’s passing. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Bahá’u’lláh writes:

“When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.”[5]

More specifically, Bahá’u’lláh wrote His Will and Testament, the Kitáb-i-Ahd (Book of the Covenant), which vests authority in the Most Great Branch, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

“The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsán, the Afnán and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: ‘When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.’ The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [‘Abdu’l‑Bahá].”[6]

These key documents and their clear provisions are unprecedented in religious history. A rich historical, academic, and descriptive account of the Lesser Covenant is to be recommended: 
“The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh”, by Adib Taherzadeh, which includes copies of both the Kitáb-i-Ahd and the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and addresses the entire progression of the Covenant from the coming of the Báb through the establishment of today’s Bahá’í Institutions.

At the broadest level is the Greater Covenant between God and humanity, of which the Báb writes:

“The Lord of the universe hath never raised up a prophet nor hath He sent down a Book unless He hath established His covenant with all men, calling for their acceptance of the next Revelation and of the next Book; inasmuch as the outpourings of His bounty are ceaseless and without limit.”[7]

To conclude this inadequate glimpse of the splendor of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, the reader is invited to explore the sources listed here, many of which lead to others of equal or greater value. One inspiring, illuminating, and insightful starting-point is the opening series of passages in “Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh”, translated by Shoghi Effendi.

Notes:
[1] No. 1558 Lights of Guidance: A Bahá’í Reference File -Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby
[2] The “Kitab-i-Iqan,” pp. 182-3
[3] “Selections From the Writings of the Báb,” pp. 96-97
[4] Shoghi Effendi, “God Passes By,” pp. 216-220″
[5] “The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,” Bahá’u’lláh
[6] “KITÁB-I-‘AHD (Book of the Covenant),” Bahá’u’lláh
[7] “Selections from the Writings of the Báb,” p. 87

From Concealment: Twin Revelations and a Biological Metaphor

Images used with permission from the BIC Copyright © Bahá’í International Community

 

The nascent world civilization set forth in the vision and writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Author of the Bahá’í Faith, may be seen as a unitary living organism, unprecedented, unparalleled, and incomparable, of global scope, of evolving perfection, and of transcendent and enduring power. Until the coming of the Báb in 1844, ushering in the appearance of Bahá’u’lláh to the world’s eyes in 1863, this inconceivable organism lay concealed, encoded, encrypted in the divine realm from which its generating pattern was at last unfolded.   Read more

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