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 11- Baha’u’llah’s Covenant: Unique in the Annals of History -by Dana Paxson

Baha’u’llah’s Covenant: Unique in the Annals of History.pdf

The claim to uniqueness in the title of this essay can be seen to rest on firm foundations, of which we examine these three: first and foremost its [Baha’u’llah’s Covenant] written, explicit, indisputable statement in the Hand of its Author for all to see; second, its evident and most-prominent place in a series of Covenants that have brought the Revelations of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh unmarred, whole, and vital, into the hands of the world’s peoples; and third, the utterly-diverging fates of those who either embraced or rejected it.

Regarding the first of these identified foundations, Shoghi Effendi writes:

‘… this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by Bahá’u’lláh as His “Most Great Tablet,” and alluded to by Him as the “Crimson Book” in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” can find no parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding that of the Báb Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining to any of the world’s religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of the Bábí Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which Bahá’u’lláh had Himself instituted.

‘“So firm and mighty is this Covenant,” He Who is its appointed Center [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] has affirmed, “that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.” “It is indubitably clear,” He, furthermore, has stated, “that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant.”’[1]

Also from Shoghi Effendi:

“This Primitive Age of the Bahá’í Era, unapproached in spiritual fecundity by any period associated with the mission of the Founder of any previous Dispensation, was impregnated, from its inception to its termination, with the creative energies generated through the advent of two independent Manifestations and the establishment of a Covenant unique in the spiritual annals of mankind.”[2]

The unique character of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, as expressed in His Kitáb-i-‘Ahd (Book of the Covenant) and Hid Kitáb-i-Áqdas (The Most Holy Book, the book of the laws of His Dispensation), emerges first in His explicit, written assertions in these two revealed works, assertions in a form unprecedented in all of recorded human history. In the words of the distinguished historian and scholar Adib Taherzadeh:

“Through these writings Bahá’u’lláh established a mighty and irrefutable covenant unprecedented in the annals of past religions. Never before has a Manifestation of God left behind an authoritative statement in which He has explicitly directed His people to turn to someone as His successor, or follow a defined system of administration for governing the religious affairs of the community.”[3]

Regarding the second of the foundations of the claim to this Covenant’s uniqueness, one need only contemplate its place in the series of clear transfers of authority that began with the Báb and led onward through Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, all in their ushering in of the great Bahá’í cycle of future Dispensations. This series can be viewed as the living realization of “the cord to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come”, as one reads in Bahá’u’lláh’s prayer to be recited during the Bahá’í Fast. The essays comprising the series of which the present essay is but one part, provide a broad survey of this theme, one which requires entire volumes for the beginnings of an adequate treatment. It should be sufficient here to note that in no other faith has such a cord of connection ever been explicitly furnished to the followers of God.

Regarding the third of the foundations of the claim, one is reminded of the challenge appearing in Bahá’u’lláh’s great Tablet of Ahmad, “Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel, and whosoever desireth, let him choose the path to his Lord.”

The uniqueness of this Covenant, termed the “Lesser Covenant” to distinguish it from the overarching Covenant of God with all of humanity for all of His Dispensations, is demonstrated most clearly through its continuing shielding of the Bahá’í Community from schism, deformity, and confusion. The choice of devotion or infidelity stands always before each of us. In His Tablet of Visitation, Bahá’u’lláh testifies to this divergence:

“I bear witness… that through a word from Thee Thou hast decided between all created things, causing them who are devoted to Thee to ascend unto the summit of glory, and the infidels to fall into the lowest abyss.”

In a Tablet to Howard MacNutt, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote:

“Today, every wise, vigilant and foresighted person is awakened, and to him are unveiled the mysteries of the future which show that nothing save the power of the Covenant is able to stir and move the heart of humanity, just as the New and Old Testaments propounded throughout all regions the Cause of Christ and were the pulsating power in the body of the human world. A tree that hath a root shall bear fruit, while the tree that hath none, no matter how high and hardy it may be, will eventually wither, perish and become but a log fit for the fire.

“The Covenant of God is like unto a vast and fathomless ocean. A billow shall rise and surge therefrom and shall cast ashore all accumulated foam.”[4]

And so it was when the Bahá’í community was assailed by those who disputed the authority conferred on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant. No proof of the Covenant’s power is clearer than the sobering fates that befell those who attacked it, in stark contrast to the steadily-emerging splendor of the globe-girdling development of the Bahá’í community continuing today – the very community the attackers sought to seize for their very own.

For one mighty example of what befell the breakers of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, we turn to Shoghi Effendi once more, as he writes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s half-brother, Mirzá Muhammad-‘Alí and those who took his side against the Master:

“And finally, he who, from the moment the Divine Covenant was born until the end of his life, showed a hatred more unrelenting than that which animated the afore-mentioned adversaries of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, who plotted more energetically than any one of them against Him, and afflicted his Father’s Faith with a shame more grievous than any which its external enemies had inflicted upon it—such a man, together with the infamous crew of Covenant-breakers whom he had misled and instigated, was condemned to witness, in a growing measure, as had been the case with Mírzá Yaḥyá and his henchmen, the frustration of his evil designs, the evaporation of all his hopes, the exposition of his true motives and the complete extinction of his erstwhile honor and glory. His brother, Mírzá Ḍíyá’u’lláh, died prematurely; Mírzá Áqá Ján, his dupe, followed that same brother, three years later, to the grave; and Mírzá Badí‘u’lláh, his chief accomplice, betrayed his cause, published a signed denunciation of his evil acts, but rejoined him again, only to be alienated from him in consequence of the scandalous behavior of his own daughter. Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s half-sister, Furúghíyyih, died of cancer, whilst her husband, Siyyid ‘Alí, passed away from a heart attack before his sons could reach him, the eldest being subsequently stricken in the prime of life, by the same malady. Muḥammad-Javád-i-Qazvíní, a notorious Covenant-breaker, perished miserably. Shu‘á‘u’lláh who, as witnessed by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in His Will, had counted on the murder of the Center of the Covenant, and who had been despatched to the United States by his father to join forces with Ibráhím Khayru’lláh, returned crestfallen and empty-handed from his inglorious mission. Jamál-i-Burújirdí, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s ablest lieutenant in Persia, fell a prey to a fatal and loathsome disease…”[5]

Contrast these sordid outcomes and others in the remainder of this sobering passage with the steadily-unfolding advancement of the Cause of God, alive, thriving, and animating human advancement in the world today, and we see an irrefutable, visible proof of the uniqueness of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. This “vast and fathomless ocean” firmly casts ashore all its “accumulated foam”.

The clear, explicit, written character of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant; its pivotal, enduring, and essential place in the stream of a cycle destined to span half a million years of continuing Revelations in the future; and the irresistible potency of its protection of those who enter unshakably into its embrace: all these testify to its utter uniqueness among the Revelations lavished by God on humanity. Thanks to the bestowal of this Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, we stand near the very beginnings of a golden era of astonishment, wonder, and splendor.

Notes:

[1] God Passes By
Author: Shoghi Effendi Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979 second printing Pages: 412

[2] Citadel of Faith pp. 4-6

[3] Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 99

[4] Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Author: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Source: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 lightweight edition Pages: 320

[5] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 316-320

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

Segment 9: He Whom God Shall Make Manifest: (Bahá’u’lláh fulfills the Báb’s Covenant) – by Dana Paxson

He Whom God Shall Make Manifest.pdf

The Báb in His Writings made certain that His Covenant concerning Bahá’u’lláh is plainly and clearly asserted for all. In just the single compilation of His works translated authoritatively into English, “Selections from the Writings of the Báb”, the reader finds no fewer than 76 occurrences of the phrase “Whom God shall make manifest”; how many more such mentions must have permeated the Báb’s overall Revelation! Other forms of the phrase also appear in the compilation, most notably the very first Tablet in the book, which begins:

“A TABLET ADDRESSED TO ‘HIM WHO WILL BE MADE MANIFEST’

“This is an epistle from this lowly servant to the All-Glorious Lord — He Who hath been aforetime and will be hereafter made manifest. Verily He is the Most Manifest, the Almighty. In the name of the Sovereign Lord, the Lord of Power.”[1]

It is followed by this Tablet of the Báb, quoted in full here.

“A SECOND TABLET ADDRESSED TO ‘HIM WHO WILL BE MADE MANIFEST’

“May the glances of Him Whom God shall make manifest illumine this letter at the primary school.
HE IS THE MOST GLORIOUS.
HE is God, no God is there but Him, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved. All that are in the heavens and on the earth and whatever lieth between them are His. Verily He is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

“This is a letter from God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, unto God, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved, to affirm that the Bayán and such as bear allegiance to it are but a present from me unto Thee and to express my undoubting faith that there is no God but Thee, that the kingdoms of Creation and Revelation are Thine, that no one can attain anything save by Thy power and that He Whom Thou hast raised up is but Thy servant and Thy Testimony. I, indeed, beg to address Him Whom God shall make manifest, by Thy leave in these words: ‘Shouldst Thou dismiss the entire company of the followers of the Bayán in the Day of the Latter Resurrection by a mere sign of Thy finger even while still a suckling babe, Thou wouldst indeed be praised in Thy indication. And though no doubt is there about it, do Thou grant a respite of nineteen years as a token of Thy favor so that those who have embraced this Cause may be graciously rewarded by Thee. Thou art verily the Lord of grace abounding. Thou dost indeed suffice every created thing and causest it to be independent of all things, while nothing in the heavens or on the earth or that which lieth between them can ever suffice Thee.’ Verily Thou art the Self-Sufficient, the All-Knowing; Thou art indeed potent over all things.”[2]

These two Tablets of the Báb are replete with measures with which the truth of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation can be affirmed. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh refers back clearly to this second Tablet’s mention of the “primary school”, bestowing its full, true meaning for the reader:

“O Pen of the Most High! Move Thou upon the Tablet at the bidding of Thy Lord, the Creator of the Heavens, and tell of the time when He Who is the Dayspring of Divine Unity purposed to direct His steps towards the School of Transcendent Oneness; haply the pure in heart may gain thereby a glimpse, be it as small as a needle’s eye, of the mysteries of Thy Lord, the Almighty, the Omniscient, that lie concealed behind the veils. Say: We, indeed, set foot within the School of inner meaning and explanation when all created things were unaware. We saw the words sent down by Him Who is the All-Merciful, and We accepted the verses of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, which He [the Báb] presented unto Us, and hearkened unto that which He had solemnly affirmed in the Tablet. This We assuredly did behold. And We assented to His wish through Our behest, for truly We are potent to command.”
[3]

Thus the Twin Manifestations bind their Dispensations together inseparably. Often we readers find challenging the ways in which the Manifestations of God refer to one another and to God, so that when the Báb writes “This is a letter from God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, unto God, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved…”, and Bahá’u’lláh writes in response over the arch of time and place “We accepted the verses of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, which He [the Báb] presented unto Us”, we are pressed to realize that our distinctions of station and revelation all fail to embrace the incomparably-rich and unifying truths of the divine realms beyond our human comprehension.

Many passages from the Writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh reinforce and demonstrate the deep, unbreakable bond that characterizes and energizes this glorious Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh. Perhaps one of the simplest and clearest statements comes to us from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

“… Bahá’u’lláh declared the Báb’s mission to be true and promulgated His teachings. The Báb announced that the greater Manifestation would take place after Him and called the Promised One ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest,’ saying that nine years later the reality of His own mission would become apparent. In His writings He stated that in the ninth year this expected One would be known; in the ninth year they would attain to all glory and felicity; in the ninth year they would advance rapidly. Between Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb there was communication privately. The Báb wrote a letter containing three hundred and sixty derivatives of the root Baha. The Báb was martyred in Tabriz; and Bahá’u’lláh, exiled into Iraq in 1852, announced Himself in Baghdad. For the Persian government had decided that as long as He remained in Persia the peace of the country would be disturbed; therefore, He was exiled in the expectation that Persia would become quiet. His banishment, however, produced the opposite effect. New tumult arose, and the mention of His greatness and influence spread everywhere throughout the country. The proclamation of His manifestation and mission was made in Baghdad. He called His friends together there and spoke to them of God.”[4]

A simple pattern emerges. From 1844 to 1853 – nine years passed from the Declaration of the Báb to the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh as He experienced it in the Síyáh-Chál (from the Báb, as cited by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “He stated that in the ninth year this expected One would be known”). From 1844 to 1863 – nineteen years passed from the Declaration of the Báb to the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh as He announced it in the Garden of Ridvan: “a respite of nineteen years” (from the Báb). No reinterpretation of years is necessary here. The Twin Manifestations of God stand together at the entrance to a world made new, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:

“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. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. You are loosed from ancient superstitions which have kept men ignorant, destroying the foundation of true humanity.

“The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.”[5]

[1] Selections from the Writings of the Báb
Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice and translated by Habib Taherzadeh with the assistance of a Committee at the Bahá’í World Centre
http://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-bab/selections-writings-bab/selections-writings-bab.pdf?40a466b1

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas K175
Author: Bahá’u’lláh Source: Bahá’í World Centre, 1992 edition

[4] Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Section Only)
Author: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1976 edition Pages: 449

[5] Abdu’l-Bahá in London
Author: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Source: UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982 reprint Pages: 127

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