December 30, 2014

Baha’u’llah clarifies the distorted allegations concerning the “modification”, “alteration”, “perverting”, and “corruption” of passages of Holy Text in previous Dispensations

Were they to be questioned concerning those signs that must needs herald the revelation and rise of the sun of the Muhammadan Dispensation, to which We have already referred, none of which have been literally fulfilled, and were it to be said to them: Wherefore have ye rejected the claims advanced by Christians and the peoples of other faiths and regard them as infidels,” knowing not what answer to give, they will reply: “These Books have been corrupted and are not, and never have been, of God.” Reflect: the words of the verses themselves eloquently testify to the truth that they are of God. A similar verse hath been also revealed in the Qur’án, were ye of them that comprehend. Verily I say, throughout all this period they have utterly failed to comprehend what is meant by corrupting the text.

Yea, in the writings and utterances of the Mirrors reflecting the sun of the Muhammadan Dispensation mention hath been made of Modification by the exalted beings and alteration by the disdainful. Such passages, however, refer only to particular cases. Among them is the story of Ibn-i-Suríyá. When the people of Khaybar asked the focal center of the Muhammadan Revelation concerning the penalty of adultery committed between a married man and a married woman, Muhammad answered and said: “The law of God is death by stoning.” Whereupon they protested saying: “No such law hath been revealed in the Pentateuch.” Muhammad answered and said: Whom do ye regard among your rabbis as being a recognized authority and having a sure knowledge of the truth?” They agreed upon Ibn-i-Suríyá. Thereupon Muhammad summoned him and said: I adjure thee by God Who clove the sea for you, caused manna to descend upon you, and the cloud to overshadow you, Who delivered you from Pharaoh and his people, and exalted you above all human beings, to tell us what Moses hath decreed concerning adultery between a married man and a married woman.” He made reply: “O Muhammad! death by stoning is the law. Muhammad observed: Why is it then that this law is annulled and hath ceased to operate among the Jews?” He answered and said: “When Nebuchadnezzar delivered Jerusalem to the flames, and put the Jews to death, only a few survived. The divines of that age, considering the extremely limited number of the Jews, and the multitude of the Amalekites, took counsel together, and came to the conclusion that were they to enforce the law of the Pentateuch, every survivor who hath been delivered from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar would have to be put to death according to the verdict of the Book. Owing to such considerations, they totally repealed the penalty of death.” Meanwhile Gabriel inspired Muhammads illumined heart with these words: They pervert the text of the Word of God. [Qur’án 4:45]

December 28, 2014

Mashriqu’l-Adhkár (the dawning place of God’s remembrance) -- a “unique concept in the annals of religion”

…these dawning places of His remembrance [Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs] represent the rising influence of the Faith of God in society.… From the earliest days following the revelation of this law, the friends in the Cradle of the Faith became aware of its significance and committed to its realization within the limited means that their circumstances allowed them. In time, not only did they become the principal force for the construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád, but within Iran too the practice of regular dawn prayers took root and inspired service to humankind, with the vision that the seed they were planting would in time flower into tangible reality, yielding its fruit not only in the construction of these centres of worship, but in the creation of dependencies for humanitarian service which that worship would inspire. 

And so it was that, under the guiding hand of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a pattern of communal  worship — the unity it engenders and the desire to be of service that it inspires — became an integral part of many a local Bahá’í community in Iran. In this regard, the Master’s vision provided for a variety of settings and circumstances in which the concept of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár could, in its embryonic form, be expressed. Consider His words in this regard: 

December 26, 2014

What is "prayer"? – an explanation by the Universal House of Justice

The Twin Luminaries of this resplendent age have taught us this: Prayer is the essential spiritual conversation of the soul with its Maker, direct and without intermediation. It is the spiritual food that sustains the life of the spirit. Like the morning’s dew, it brings freshness to the heart and cleanses it, purifying it from attachments of the insistent self. It is a fire that burns away the veils and a light that leads to the ocean of reunion with the Almighty. On its wings does the soul soar in the heavens of God and draw closer to the divine reality. Upon its quality depends the development of the limitless capacities of the soul and the attraction of the bounties of God, but the prolongation of prayer is not desirable. The powers latent in prayer are manifested when it is motivated by the love of God, beyond any fear or favour, and free from ostentation and superstition. It is to be expressed with a sincere and pure heart conducive to contemplation and meditation so that the rational faculty can be illumined by its effects. Such prayer will transcend the limitation of words and go well beyond mere sounds. The sweetness of its melodies must gladden and uplift the heart and reinforce the penetrating power of the Word, transmuting earthly inclinations into heavenly attributes and inspiring selfless service to humankind.  
(The Universal House of Justice, from a message dated 18 December 2014 to the Baha’is in Iran)

December 20, 2014

The "most outstanding obligations of the members of every Spiritual Assembly” -- the Guardian explains

The matter of Teaching, its direction, its ways and means, its extension, its consolidation, essential as they are to the interests of the Cause, constitute by no means the only issue which should receive the full attention of these Assemblies. A careful study of Bahá’u’lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Tablets will reveal that other duties, no less vital to the interests of the Cause, devolve upon the elected representatives of the friends in every locality.

It is incumbent upon them to be vigilant and cautious, discreet and watchful, and protect at all times the Temple of the Cause from the dart of the mischief-maker and the onslaught of the enemy.

They must endeavor to promote amity and concord amongst the friends, efface every lingering trace of distrust, coolness and estrangement from every heart, and secure in its stead an active and whole-hearted cooperation for the service of the Cause.

They must do their utmost to extend at all times the helping hand to the poor, the sick, the disabled, the orphan, the widow, irrespective of color, caste and creed.

December 17, 2014

The beginning of creation and the appearance of “Man”

The quote below from Baha’u’llah provides fascinating insight into the beginning of creation – of both this world and the world beyond – and the appearance of an Entity referred to as “Man” Who has progressively appeared as a Manifestation of God in various ages by different names and attributes. In a passage from the Báb, this Entity is also referred to as the “Primal Will of God”.

“Lauded be Thy name, O Lord my God! I testify that Thou wast a hidden Treasure wrapped within Thine immemorial Being and an impenetrable Mystery enshrined in Thine own Essence. Wishing to reveal Thyself, Thou didst call into being the Greater and the Lesser Worlds, and didst choose Man above all Thy creatures, and didst make Him a sign of both of these worlds, O Thou Who art our Lord, the Most Compassionate!

“Thou didst raise Him up to occupy Thy throne before all the people of Thy creation. Thou didst enable Him to unravel Thy mysteries, and to shine with the lights of Thine inspiration and Thy Revelation, and to manifest Thy names and Thine attributes. Through Him Thou didst adorn the preamble of the book of Thy creation, O Thou Who art the Ruler of the universe Thou hast fashioned!

“I bear witness that in His person solidity and fluidity have been joined and combined. Through His immovable constancy in Thy Cause, and His unwavering adherence to whatsoever Thou, in the plentitude of the light of Thy glory, didst unveil to His eyes, throughout the domains of Thy Revelation and creation, the souls of Thy servants were stirred up in their longing for Thy Kingdom, and the dwellers of Thy realms rushed forth to enter into Thy heavenly dominion. Through the restlessness He evinced in Thy path, the feet of all them that are devoted to Thee were steeled and confirmed to manifest Thy Cause amidst Thy creatures, and to demonstrate Thy sovereignty throughout Thy realm.

December 14, 2014

A characteristic of the “people of God”

They who are the people of God have no ambition except to revive the world, to ennoble its life, and regenerate its peoples. 
(Baha’u’llah, ‘Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Ruhi Book 5)

December 11, 2014

Design for the Completion of the Sepulcher of the Báb on Mt. Carmel, Palestine

Design for the Completion of the Sepulcher of the Báb on Mt. Carmel, Palestine (The Baha'i World 1940-1944)

December 5, 2014

A prayer to recite: “to be freed from affliction”

If thou desirest to be freed from affliction, recite thou this prayer which hath been revealed by the Pen of the All-Merciful:

“O God, my God! I testify to Thy unity and to Thy oneness. I beseech Thee, O Thou Possessor of names and Fashioner of the heavens, by the pervasive influence of Thine exalted Word and the potency of Thy supreme Pen, to aid me with the ensigns of Thy power and might, and to protect me from the mischief of Thine enemies who have violated Thy Covenant and Thy Testament. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.”

This invocation is an impregnable stronghold and an indomitable army. It conferreth protection and ensureth deliverance. 
(Baha’u’llah, ‘The Tabernacle of Unity, Bahá’u’lláh’s Responses to Mánikchí Sáhib and Other Writings’)

December 4, 2014

Verses of God to recite on the “appearance of fearful natural events”

We have absolved you from the requirement of performing the Prayer of the Signs. On the appearance of fearful natural events call ye to mind the might and majesty of your Lord, He Who heareth and seeth all, and say "Dominion is God's, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation"(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas)

The Prayer of the Signs is a special form of Muslim obligatory prayer that was ordained to be said in times of natural events, like earthquakes, eclipses, and other such phenomena, which may cause fear and are taken to be signs or acts of God. The requirement of performing this prayer has been annulled. In its place a Bahá'í may say, "Dominion is God's, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation," but this is not obligatory (Q and A 52). 
(The Universal House of Justice, ‘Notes’ section of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)

November 30, 2014

The “heart and nerve center” of each community

Each Local Spiritual Assembly should become the heart and nerve center of its community. The Assemblies should be so educated and equipped with guidance from you that they become pillars of strength for the believers, and sources of knowledge and guidance. The Local Assemblies should neither be like private agents prying into the lives of the believers and seeking out their personal problems, nor should they condone glaring disregard of the Holy Laws. Whenever it becomes known that one of the believers is flagrantly disobeying the Teachings of the Faith, whether spiritual, ethical, moral or administrative, the Assemblies should not allow such a situation to become a source of backbiting among the friends or deteriorate into either the loss of the dignity of the Teachings in the eyes of the Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís, or the eventual inactivity of the believers, as you have observed. The Assemblies, with the encouragement and under the continuous guidance of your National Assembly, should, in the name of protecting the interests of the Faith, themselves initiate action for the solution of the problem, and handle it with love, wisdom and firmness.
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated November 12, 1965, to a National Spiritual Assembly; Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies by US NSA, 2014)

November 27, 2014

House of the Báb - views of the courtyard

Entrance from an adjoining dwelling which gives access to the courtyard of the House of the Báb in Shiraz. 
Courtyard of the House of the Báb in Shiraz, showing the orange tree and reflecting pool and, on the left, a well.
View of the garden in the courtyard of the House of the Báb in Shiraz. On the right, towards the center, is seen the entrance from an adjoining dwelling.(The Baha'i World 1976-1979)

November 26, 2014

Two necessary things for our growing understanding of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh

Do not forget that Shoghi Effendi said two things were necessary for a growing understanding of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: the passage of time and the guidance of the Universal House of Justice. 
(The Universal House of Justice, from a message dated 27 May 1966 to an individual believer; Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963 to 1986)

November 22, 2014

To see things through the eyes of Baha’u’llah

Verily I say! No one hath apprehended the root of this Cause. It is incumbent upon everyone, in this day, to perceive with the eye of God, and to hearken with His ear. Whoso beholdeth Me with an eye besides Mine own will never be able to know Me. 
(Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in ‘The Advent of Divine Justice’)

November 19, 2014

"spiritual baptism"

When it is wished to celebrate the naming of a child, a special gathering may be held at which prayers and verses from the Holy Writings should be read out, and all should fervently entreat, in lowliness and devotion before the Divine Threshold, that the new-born infant may attain to righteousness, and beseech that it may be granted heavenly confirmation, steadfastness and constancy. The chosen name should then be conferred on the child, and afterwards sweetmeats and refreshments may be served--this is spiritual baptism. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet translated from the Persian, included in a compilation prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice on ‘The Naming of Babies’)

November 16, 2014

Adelaide Sharp – the first woman to be elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran

Born in Texas in 1896, Adelaide Sharp spent her childhood in Mexico, moved in company of her mother to California to pursue her studies, and after graduation from college took up teaching work in the Italian quarter of San Francisco. Her father, Horace M. Sharp who died during Adelaide's infancy, was a Christian but Adelaide, when still young, received the Message of Baha'u'llah from her mother, Clara Sharp - a devoted Baha'i - and accepted it.

In 1929, when the distinguished Baha'i, Dr. Susan I. Moody, who was then seventy-seven years of age, undertook to emigrate to Persia a second time at the Guardian's request, she received his permission and hearty approval to take Adelaide along with her to serve at the Tarbiyat School in the capital. The two pioneers covered the first stretch of their journey by ship to the Holy Land where the glory of pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines for twelve precious days was heightened by the guidance and spiritual strength received from the beloved Guardian, a bounty that would be their mainstay during the long and difficult years ahead.

November 8, 2014

The Teachings we proclaim should become part of our consciousness -- the importance of

It is not sufficient to number the souls that embrace the Cause to know the progress that it is making. The more important consequences of your activities are the spirit that is diffused into the life of the community, and the extent to which the teachings we proclaim become part of the consciousness and belief of the people that hear them. For it is only when the spirit has thoroughly permeated the world that the people will begin to enter the Faith in large numbers. 
(From a letter dated 18 February 1932, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. III, Promoting Entry by Troops)

November 4, 2014

Topics that spiritual assembly members should consult on – ‘Abdu’l-Baha identifies

Discussions must all be confined to spiritual matters that pertain to the training of souls, the instruction of children, the relief of the poor, the help of the feeble throughout all classes in the world, kindness to all peoples, the diffusion of the fragrances of God and the exaltation of His Holy Word. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated March 5, 1922; ‘Baha’i Administration’)

November 1, 2014

The Citadel of 'Akka

Erected during the Turkish region at the end of the 18th century on Crusader foundation, this citadel acted as the central prison of Palestine during the British mandate after World War I.

October 26, 2014

Man is unable to comprehend the essence of God – ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains

All the people have formed a god in the world of thought and they worship that form of their own imagination, while the act is that the imagined concept is comprehended by the mind Which is comprehensive. Surely that which comprehends is greater than the comprehended, for imagination is accidental (non-essential) while the mind is essential. Surely the essential is greater than the accidental. 

Therefore consider: all the sects and peoples worship their own thought. They create a god in their own minds and acknowledge him to be the creator of all things, while that form is a superstition. Thus people adore and worship imagination (or illusion). 

That Essence of the Divine Reality and Unseen of the Unseen is holy above the imagination, and is beyond thought. Consciousness does not reach it. In the capacity of every produced (created) reality that Ancient Reality can not be contained. That is a different world; from it there is no information; arrival thereat is impossible; attainment thereto is prohibited and inaccessible.  This much is known--that it exists, and its existence is certain and proved, but the condition is unknown. 

All the philosophers and doctors knew that It is, but they were perplexed as to the comprehension of Its existence, and at last despaired, and in great despair they left this world. For the comprehension of the condition and mysteries of that Reality of realities and Mystery of mysteries there is need for another power and another sense. That power and sense are not possessed by men; therefore they have not found any information. For example--if a man possess the power of hearing, the power of tasting, the power of smelling, and the power of feeling, but not the power of seeing he cannot see. Hence, through the powers and senses present in man, the realization of that Unseen Reality, which is pure and holy above the reach of doubts, is impossible. Other powers are needed, and other senses are required. If these powers and senses be obtained, then information can be had, otherwise not. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘Baha’i World Faith’)

October 24, 2014

‘The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah’: a letter by Shoghi Effendi, dated February 8, 1934 -- comments by David Hofman

…‘The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah’, a letter which the Guardian himself described as a statement of “certain fundamental verities”, “certain truths which lie at the basis of our Faith”. It has been referred to as Shoghi Effendi's own confession of faith. It is the appointed Expounder's presentation of the stations of Baha'u'llah, the Bab and 'Abdu'l‑Baha, of the transition from 'the Heroic and Apostolic Age' of the Faith to its Formative Age through the 'indissoluble link' of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l‑Baha, a summation of the spirit and chief provisions of that historic document and a marvellous presentation of the unique and distinguishing features of this Supreme Revelation, which make it 'unlike the dispensations of the past'. He emphasizes the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice 'permanently and fundamentally united in their aims'. Without deep study of this basic document, no Baha'i can claim to be truly knowledgeable of his Faith. 
(David Hofman, the late member of the Universal House of Justice, from an essay: ‘Shoghi Effendi, Expounder of the Word of God’; published in ‘Studying the Writings of Shoghi Effendi’, by George Ronald)

October 20, 2014

How one can change oneself

He wishes again to assure you he will pray for your spiritual advancement in the Holy Shrines. The power of God can entirely transmute our characters and make of us beings entirely unlike our previous selves. Through prayer and supplication, obedience to the divine laws Bahá'u'lláh has revealed, and ever-increasing service to His Faith, we can change ourselves.  
(From a letter dated 22 November 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude)

October 17, 2014

Assignment to Spiritual Assemblies – by Baha’u’llah

Spiritual Assembly members are called upon by Baha’u’llah to:
  • “regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth”,
  • “take counsel together”,
  • “have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests”, and
  • “choose that which is meet and seemly.”
"The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá, and should it exceed this number it does not matter. It behooveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive.” 
(Baha’u’llah, ‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

October 14, 2014

Meaning of invocation: “Yá Iláha’l-Mustagháth” or “Yá Alláhu’l- Mustagháth” – explanation by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice

The Research Department has studied the questions about the invocation “Yá Alláhu’l- Mustagháth” presented by Mr. …in his email message dated 2 October 2001 to Mr. ‘Alí Nakhjavání. Mr. … states that a Bahá’í friend of his has asked him to “transcribe” the phrase in question, and Mr. … would like to know its original source, the correct transliteration, and whether there is an English translation of it. The following is our response.

As Mr. … is no doubt well aware, the phrase in question was revealed by the Báb and has been associated with a variety of instructions for its recitation. It seems to us that his questions are answered in a letter dated 25 November 1999 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, as follows:

Concerning the phrase “Yá Alláhu’l-Mustagháth”, this is an invocation revealed by the Báb. He prescribed it for recitation by His followers in times of trouble and difficulty. Shoghi Effendi has translated the word “Mustagháth” as “He Who is invoked for help”. This phrase can be correctly transliterated in two ways, as set out below:

“Yá Iláha’l-Mustagháth”, which has been translated as “O Lord of the time of ‘Mustagháth’”

“Yá Alláhu’l-Mustagháth”, which has been translated as “O Thou God Who art invoked”

October 13, 2014

Need for a “deepening of comprehension” to take place among Baha’is when discussing the Teachings

It is not surprising that individual Bahá'ís hold and express different and sometimes defective understandings of the Teachings; this is but an evidence of the magnitude of the change that this Revelation is to effect in human consciousness. As believers with various insights into the Teachings converse -- with patience, tolerance and open and unbiased minds -- a deepening of comprehension should take place. The strident insistence on individual views, however, can lead to contention, which is detrimental not only to the spirit of Bahá'í association and collaboration but to the search for truth itself. 
(From a letter dated 8 February 1998 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

October 8, 2014

The “basic and distinguishing principles” of the Baha’i Faith – the Guardian summarizes

  • “The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition;
  •  the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith;
  • the basic unity of all religions;
  • the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national;
  • the harmony which must exist between religion and science;
  • the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar;
  • the introduction of compulsory education;
  • the adoption of a universal auxiliary language;
  • the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty;
  • the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations;
  • the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship;
  • the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and
  • the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind.”

October 4, 2014

Among the factors that contribute to the “peace and tranquility” of each individual is: -- not to take “…undue pleasure in one’s own words and deeds…” – advice from Baha’u’llah

Say: O children of dust! He Who is the Spirit of Purity saith: In this glorious Day whatsoever can purge you from defilement and ensure your peace and tranquillity, that indeed is the straight Path, the Path that leadeth unto Me. To be purged from defilement is to be cleansed of that which is injurious to man and detracteth from his high station—among which is to take undue pleasure in one’s own words and deeds, notwithstanding their unworthiness. True peace and tranquillity will only be realized when every soul will have become the well-wisher of all mankind. He Who is the All-Knowing beareth Me witness: were the peoples of the world to grasp the true significance of the words of God, they would never be deprived of their portion of the ocean of His bounty. In the firmament of truth there hath never been, nor will there ever be, a brighter star than this. 
(Baha’u’llah, ‘The Tabernacle of Unity, Bahá’u’lláh’s Responses to Mánikchí Sáhib and Other Writings’)

September 27, 2014

We are called upon to teach the Cause of God with humility...

You must teach the Cause of God with great humility. Just as I feel myself humble before all, even before children, so must you be. 
(Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha quoted in Mahmud’s Diary, June 16, 1912)

Hand of the Cause Bill Sears with some children

September 10, 2014

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s hope for the city of Isfahan, Iran

I trust that you [members of the Spiritual Assembly of Isfahan] may make the land of Isfahan a salubrious fountain, so that the cool water of knowledge and the flowing river of assurance may make that region the envy of the green garden of Paradise. That city was illumined with the presence of His Highness, the Bab, after He left Shiraz; the Word of God was promulgated; many blessed souls became believers; a number of them hastened toward the arena of martyrdom; his highness, the leader of the righteous ones, the "King of the Martyrs," and the master of the friends, the "Beloved of Martyrs," gave up their lives at the altar of love. His Highness, Ashraf, and many other martyrs drank the cup of trials and sacrificed their lives with the utmost severance. Therefore, it is the hope of ‘Abdu’l-Baha that that region may become the Green Garden and that city the delectable Paradise. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet; Star of the West vol. 1, no. 14, November 23, 1910) 

September 7, 2014

Baha’i House of Worship in Chicago “marks the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth.”

“A most wonderful and thrilling motion will appear in the world of existence,” are ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own words, predicting the release of spiritual forces that must accompany the completion of this most hallowed House of Worship [Baha’i House of Worship in Chicago]. “From that point of light,” He, further glorifying that edifice, has written, “the spirit of teaching ... will permeate to all parts of the world.” And again: “Out of this Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, without doubt, thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs will be born.” “It marks the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth.” 
(Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated April 11, 1949; ‘Citadel of Faith’)

August 30, 2014

Traces of prejudice that every human being should blot out from his/her life

Let us strive to blot out from our lives every last trace of prejudice -- racial, religious, political, economic, national, tribal, class, cultural, and that which is based on differences of education or age. 
(The Universal House of Justice, from a message dated 13 July 1972, addressed to all National Spiritual Assemblies; Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973)

August 24, 2014

The Book of Certitude - “the cynosure of all books”

…the Book of Certitude, which is indeed the cynosure of all books, and which streamed from the Pen of Glory in the early years of this Most Great Revelation. Blessed is he that hath beheld it and pondered its contents for the love of God, the Lord of creation. 
(Baha’u’llah, ‘The Tabernacle of Unity, Bahá’u’lláh’s Responses to Mánikchí Sáhib and Other Writings’) 

August 19, 2014

The “administrative portion of the Feast should not be laborious”

Second, the administrative portion of the Feast should not be laborious or burdensome. It can become so because too many reports by too many local Bahá'í committees are presented at one Feast. Such reports could perhaps be conveyed in bulletins. Also, there can be too many messages from agencies of the national administration. While it lies within the discretion of the National Spiritual Assembly to send a message or items of information to be shared at the Feast, care must be taken not to overburden these events with a multiplicity of items from the National Assembly and its auxiliary agencies. Some National Assemblies have developed the practice of sending a message to every Feast; this is, of course, not wrong in principle, but they may need to examine their methods of communicating with the believers and see whether occasional messages might not be sufficient. The idea is that the local Bahá'í communities should exercise control over the Feast and not be made to feel that they are being overrun by messages, instructions and assignments from the national administration of the Faith. This whole matter needs to be studied by the National Spiritual Assembly with a balanced perspective, so that while important national issues are not ignored, the potentialities of the Feast for development of the local community are fully realized. 
(The Universal House of Justice, 1989 Aug 28, Issues Related to the Nineteen Day Feast)

August 15, 2014

“To sum up, let all the lessons be entirely devoted to the acquisition of human perfections.” -- 'Abdu'l-Baha describes a curriculum for children’s school

The subjects to be taught in children's school are many, and for lack of time We can touch on only a few: First and most important is training in behaviour and good character; the rectification of qualities; arousing the desire to become accomplished and acquire perfections, and to cleave unto the religion of God and stand firm in His Laws, to accord total obedience to every just government, to show forth loyalty and trustworthiness to the ruler of the time, to be well-wishers of mankind, to be kind to all.

And further, as well as in the ideals of character, instruction in such arts and sciences as are of benefit, and in foreign tongues. Also, the repeating of prayers for the well-being of ruler and ruled; and the avoidance of materialistic works that are current among those who see only natural causation, and tales of love, and books that arouse the passions.

To sum up, let all the lessons be entirely devoted to the acquisition of human perfections.

Here, then, in brief are directions for the curriculum of these schools.

Greetings be unto you, and praise.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet to an individual believer, published in "The Baha'i World", vol. 16, p. 37; included in a memorandum by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, dated July 1980)

August 10, 2014

The “balance wheel of all behavior”

The third element of the utterance under discussion is, “opposes his passions.” How wonderful are the implications of this deceptively easy, all-inclusive phrase. This is the very foundation of every laudable human quality; indeed, these few words embody the light of the world, the impregnable basis of all the spiritual attributes of human beings. This is the balance wheel of all behavior, the means of keeping all man’s good qualities in equilibrium. 
('Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization)

August 3, 2014

Destiny of America – the Guardian highlights

… a nation that has achieved undisputed ascendancy in the entire Western Hemisphere, whose rulers have been uniquely honored by being collectively addressed by the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas; which has been acclaimed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the “home of the righteous and the gathering-place of the free,” where the “splendors of His light shall be revealed, where the mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled” and belonging to a continent which, as recorded by that same pen, “giveth signs and evidences of very great advancement,” whose “future is even more promising,” whose “influence and illumination are far-reaching,” and which “will lead all nations spiritually.” Moreover, it is to this great republic of the West that the Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh has referred as the nation that has “developed powers and capacities greater and more wonderful than other nations,” and which “is equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West for the triumph of its people.” It is for this same American democracy that He expressed His fervent hope that it might be “the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement,” “to proclaim the unity of mankind,” and “to unfurl the Standard of the Most Great Peace,” that it might become “the distributing center of spiritual enlightenment, and all the world receive this heavenly blessing,” and that its inhabitants might “rise from their present material attainments to such a height that heavenly illumination may stream from this center to all the peoples of the world.” It is in connection with its people that He has affirmed that they are “indeed worthy of being the first to build the Tabernacle of the Great Peace and proclaim the oneness of mankind.” 
(Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated June 5, 1947; ‘Citadel of Faith’)

July 27, 2014

The emerging culture in the Baha’i world community -- identified by the Universal House of Justice

The culture now emerging is one in which groups of Bahá’u’lláh’s followers explore together the truths in His Teachings, freely open their study circles, devotional gatherings and children’s classes to their friends and neighbours, and invest their efforts confidently in plans of action designed at the level of the cluster, that makes growth a manageable goal… Where Bahá’í communities are unable to free themselves from an orientation to Bahá’í life that has long outlived whatever value it once possessed, the teaching work will lack both the systematic character it requires, and the spirit that must animate all effective service to the Cause. To mistakenly identify Bahá’í community life with the mode of religious activity that characterizes the general society—in which the believer is a member of a congregation, leadership comes from an individual or individuals presumed to be qualified for the purpose, and personal participation is fitted into a schedule dominated by concerns of a very different nature—can only have the effect of marginalizing the Faith and robbing the community of the spiritual vitality available to it.
(From a letter dated 22 August 2002 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer) 

July 20, 2014

Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (Baha’i Temple) is “the spiritual centre of every Baha'i community”

From the beginning of His stupendous Mission, Baha'u'llah urged upon the attention of nations the necessity of ordering human affairs in such a way as to bring into being a world unified in all the essential aspects of its life. In unnumbered verses and Tablets He repeatedly and variously declared the 'progress of the world' and the 'development of nations' as being among the ordinances of God for this day. The oneness of mankind, which is at once the operating principle and ultimate goal of His Revelation, implies the achievement of a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and practical requirements of life on earth. The indispensability of this coherence is unmistakably illustrated in His ordination of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, the spiritual centre of every Baha'i community round which must flourish dependencies dedicated to the social, humanitarian, educational and scientific advancement of mankind. 
(The Universal House of Justice, from a letter to the Bahá'ís of the World dated October 20, 1983; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

July 6, 2014

House of ‘Abdu’llah Pasha

April 1984, House of 'Abdu'llah Pasha, main hall, south wing

Some of the most poignant, dramatic and historically significant events of the Heroic Age of our Faith are associated with this house, which derives its name from the Governor of 'Akká who built it and used it as his official residence during his term of Office, from 1820 to 1832. It stands just inside the north-western corner of the sea wall of 'Akká in the close neighbourhood of the citadel where Bahá'u'lláh was confined. The main building is L-shaped, facing south and cast on its outer prospects. The structure, though chiefly on two stories, is irregular and on the inside angle has balconies, uncovered stairways, a bathhouse and a well. The entire property comprises large courtyards and is bounded on the west, or seaward, side by a wall, which turns due east at its southern angle and continues towards the heart of 'Akká, forming after a few yards, the wall of a narrow street; at the eastern terminus of this wall, and within the property, is an imposing house which was occupied by that Governor of 'Akká whose incumbency coincided with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's residence in the main building, and whose northern windows permitted him to maintain a constant surveillance of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's activities. Beyond this house is a small mosque. The eastern boundary of the property is a row of houses giving directly, on its western aspect, to the courtyard and offering many additional vantage points for observing the Master. A similar row of houses extends from the north-eastern corner along the northern boundary until they terminate at the longitudinal wing of the main building which, at this point, projects northwards into several conjoined buildings, making a large irregular outcrop on the northern boundary. The western end of the northern boundary is a short stretch of wall completing the enclosure at the north-western corner of the west wall. Large stables, coach houses and storerooms line the southern boundary.

In this house, fifty lunar years after the Báb's martyrdom, in January, 1899, the casket containing His sacred and precious remains was received by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who successfully concealed it until it was possible to inter it, with all honours, in its permanent resting-place in the bosom of Carmel. 
(From an article prepared at the World Center and sent to all National Spiritual Assemblies on 4 March 1975 by the Department of the Secretariat of the Universal House of Justice)

July 2, 2014

Harmonizing “faith and reason” when trying to “attain a true understanding of historical events” associated with the Faith

The training of some scholars in fields such as religion and history seems to have restricted their vision and blinded them to the culturally determined basis of elements of the approach they have learned. It causes them to exclude from consideration factors which, from a Baha'i point of view, are of fundamental importance. Truth in such fields cannot be found if the evidence of Revelation is systematically excluded and if discourse is limited by a basically deterministic view of the world. 

Some … have implied that the only way to attain a true understanding of historical events and of the purport of the sacred and historical records of the Cause of God is through the rigid application of methods narrowly defined in a materialistic framework. They have even gone so far as to stigmatize whoever proposes a variation of these methods as wishing to obscure the truth rather than unveil it.

The House of Justice recognizes that, at the other extreme, there are Baha'is who, imbued by what they conceive to be loyalty to Baha'u'llah, cling to blind acceptance of what they understand to be a statement of the Sacred Text. This shortcoming demonstrates an equally serious failure to grasp the profundity of the Baha'i principle of the harmony of faith and reason. The danger of such an attitude is that it exalts personal understanding of some part of the Revelation over the whole, leads to illogical and internally inconsistent applications of the Sacred Text, and provides fuel to those who would mistakenly characterize loyalty to the Covenant as "fundamentalism". 
(From a letter date 8 February 1998 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer) 

June 25, 2014

Attitude to maintain during consultation…

… consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth. He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion… 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a talk; ‘The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912’; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, Consultation)

June 22, 2014

The meaning of terms such as "devil" or Satan" used in sacred books

Every human being has a spiritual nature and also a material nature; his purpose is to subdue the material nature, which inclines him to evil, and, with the aid of Divine Teachings, to develop his spiritual nature so that he can manifest praiseworthy attributes. An individual who chooses to surrender to the promptings of his material nature can sink to levels of depravity and bestiality which are abhorrent to the discerning eye, and which are totally unworthy of the human station. The Baha'i Teachings inform us that there is no independent force of evil in creation, but terms such as "devil" or Satan" are used in sacred books as symbols of the promptings of the lower nature of man. 
(From a letter dated 9 September 1992 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

June 15, 2014

Baha’i attitude towards celebration of Christmas – clarification by the Universal House of Justice

The Universal House of Justice has received your email of 23 November 2002, and referred it to our Department for reply. You have explained that as a result of an email discussion group there is a differing of opinions whether Baha’is are permitted to celebrate Christmas, and you have expressed your understanding that while there is no harm in sharing the festivities with friends, the " Baha’is themselves should not be putting up Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, etc."

As one member of your discussion group pointed out, a letter written on behalf of the House of Justice has indeed indicated in the past that although most of the cultural or religious festivals of other religions or communities have no doubt stemmed from religious rituals in bygone ages, the believers should not be deterred from participating in those in which, over the course of time, the religious meaning has given way to purely culturally oriented practices.

In deciding whether or not to participate in such traditional activities, Baha’is must guard against two extremes. The one is to disassociate themselves needlessly from harmless cultural observances and thus alienate themselves from their non-Baha'i families and friends; the other is to continue the practice of abrogated observances of previous dispensations and thus undermine the independence of the Baha'i Faith and create undesirable distinctions between themselves and their fellow Bahai'is. In this connection there is a difference between what  Baha’is do among themselves and what they do in companionship with their non-Baha'i friends and relations. We provide below a question posed to Shoghi Effendi by a believer, followed by the response written on his behalf taken from a letter dated 19 March 1938, with which you are familiar. It is important to note, in the response to the question, the phrase "in their relation to each other".

June 10, 2014

The “trail-breakers of the New Day”

The heroes whose deeds shine upon the record of this fierce spiritual contest, involving at once people, clergy, monarch and government, were the Báb’s chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, and their companions, the trail-breakers of the New Day, who to so much intrigue, ignorance, depravity, cruelty, superstition and cowardice opposed a spirit exalted, unquenchable and awe-inspiring, a knowledge surprisingly profound, an eloquence sweeping in its force, a piety unexcelled in fervor, a courage leonine in its fierceness, a self-abnegation saintly in its purity, a resolve granite-like in its firmness, a vision stupendous in its range, a veneration for the Prophet and His Imáms disconcerting to their adversaries, a power of persuasion alarming to their antagonists, a standard of faith and a code of conduct that challenged and revolutionized the lives of their countrymen. 
(Shoghi Effendi, ‘God Passes By’)

June 4, 2014

A new model of operation: “action, reflection, consultation and study”

A sample of chronological excerpts from the messages of the Universal House of Justice and a message of the International Teaching center:

Throughout the endeavour, periodic meetings of consultation in the area need to reflect on issues, consider adjustments, and maintain enthusiasm and unity of thought. (UHJ, Jan. 9, 2001)

Meetings of consultation held at the cluster level serve to raise awareness of possibilities and generate enthusiasm. Here, free from the demands of formal decision-making, participants reflect on experience gained, share insights, explore approaches and acquire a better understanding of how each can contribute to achieving the aim of the Plan. (UHJ, Jan. 17, 2003)

As the National Teaching Committee strengthens in this way its capacity to systematize the lessons being learned through the action and reflection of the friends in communities scattered across the country, it will be able to offer the knowledge gained to the institutions at all levels and lend further impetus to the movement of clusters nationwide. (UHJ, 19 Oct. 2005)

As they strive to apply through a process of action, reflection and consultation the insights thus gained, they see their capacity to serve the Cause rise to new levels. (UHJ, Ridvan 2008)

And let them rejoice at having learned through consistent, systematic action how
to establish a rhythm of growth that pays due attention to the essential elements of expansion, consolidation, reflection and planning. (UHJ, 20 October 2008)

May 28, 2014

Hand of the Cause Dr. Varqa shortly before his passing in 2007

Hand of the Cause Dr. Varqa (sitting at the center) with members of the Universal House of Justice, 2007

May 27, 2014

Some of the principles that Baha’is “espouse and live by” – principles “which are the means for the rehabilitation of every society”

…the sanctity of human dignity; the oneness of humankind irrespective of tribe, race, or belief; the equality of men and women; freedom from prejudice; commitment to knowledge and learning; the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty; the containment of greed; the harmony of faith and reason… 
(The Universal House of Justice, from a message to the Baha’is of Iran, 13 May 2014)

May 25, 2014

Calligraphic arrangement of part of the opening sentence of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha

Calligraphic arrangement of part of the opening sentence of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha: 'All Praise to Him Who, by the Shield of His Covenant, hath guarded the Temple of His Cause.' (The Baha'i World 1976-1979)

May 18, 2014

The “bonds of love and of service’ between the wife and husband “can be truly and strongly maintained” through children

The new child which will soon be given to you by God is, indeed, a divine blessing, of which you should feel proud, and of the manifold responsibilities and obligations which it necessarily entails you should become fully aware. It is now that you can truly say that you have a family life. Without a child there can be no family, and through him the bonds of love and of service can be truly and strongly maintained between the wife and husband. 
(From a letter dated 4 November 1933 written on behalf of the Guardian; Compilation on “The Naming of Babies”, prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice)

May 14, 2014

Socrates and Hippocrates: both had journeyed to Palestine and Syria – ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains

O thou handmaid of God! It is recorded in eastern histories that Socrates journeyed to Palestine and Syria and there, from men learned in the things of God, acquired certain spiritual truths; that when he returned to Greece, he promulgated two beliefs: one, the unity of God, and the other, the immortality of the soul after its separation from the body; that these concepts, so foreign to their thought, raised a great commotion among the Greeks, until in the end they gave him poison and killed him.

And this is authentic; for the Greeks believed in many gods, and Socrates established the fact that God is one, which obviously was in conflict with Greek beliefs.

The Founder of monotheism was Abraham; it is to Him that this concept can be traced, and the belief was current among the Children of Israel, even in the days of Socrates.

The above, however, cannot be found in the Jewish histories; there are many facts which are not included in Jewish history. Not all the events of the life of Christ are set forth in the history of Josephus, a Jew, although it was he who wrote the history of the times of Christ. One may not, therefore, refuse to believe in events of Christ’s day on the grounds that they are not to be found in the history of Josephus.

Eastern histories also state that Hippocrates sojourned for a long time in the town of Tyre, and this is a city in Syria. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’)

May 11, 2014

Sources of “guidance and inspiration”

Surely, the believers, no matter how qualified they may be, whether as teachers or administrators, and however high their intellectual and spiritual merits, should never be looked upon as the standard whereby to evaluate and measure the divine authority and mission of the Faith. It is to the Teachings themselves, and to the lives of the Founders of the Cause that the believers should look for their guidance and inspiration, and only by keeping strictly to such a true attitude can they hope to establish their loyalty to Bahá'u'lláh upon an enduring and unassailable basis. 
(From a letter dated 23 August 1939 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer; included in a compilation on ‘Issues Concerning Community Functioning’, prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice’, February 1993; also in Compilation of Compilations, vol. 3)

May 9, 2014

Most Great Spirit and Holy Spirit and their relations to Baha’u’llah – an explanation by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice

Mr. ... makes reference to Mr. Taherzadeh's "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh", vol. IV, (Oxford: George Ronald, 1987), pp. 133-134, where mention is made of the fact that the Most Great Spirit "animated and sustained" Bahá'u'lláh. In light of this section, he enquires about the difference between the Holy Spirit and the Most Great Spirit.

The Research Department has, to date, not been able to locate a comprehensive definition of the term "Most Great Spirit" in the Writings or the letters of Shoghi Effendi. The discussion in Mr. Taherzadeh's book appears to be based, on part, on an extract from the Súriy-i-Haykal which states:

The Holy Spirit Itself hath been generated through the agency of a single letter revealed by this Most Great Spirit, if ye be of them that comprehend. (As translated and cited by Shoghi Effendi in "The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: Selected Letters", p. 109)

Shoghi Effendi has provided an interpretation of this extract in a letter dated 23 July 1936 written on his behalf to an individual believer in response to a series of questions about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Bahá'u'lláh and His relationship to the other Manifestations of God. The letter states:

May 8, 2014

“The progressive clarification of the details of the laws concerning membership of the Houses of Justice”

The progressive clarification of the details of the laws concerning membership of the Houses of Justice has been accompanied by a gradual implementation of their provisions. For example, based on the texts available to the believers at the time, membership of local Houses of Justice was initially confined to men. When the Master began to elaborate on the difference between the levels of this Institution, He clarified that the exclusion of women applied only to the Universal House of Justice. Thereafter, women became eligible for service as members of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies. Women in the West, who already enjoyed the benefits of education and opportunities for social involvement, participated in this form of service much sooner than, for instance, their Bahá'í sisters in Iran who were accorded this right only in 1954, "removing thereby the last remaining obstacle to the enjoyment of complete equality of rights in the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Persian Bahá'í Community". It is important to note that the timing of the introduction of the provisions called for by the interpretations of 'Abdu'l Baha and the Guardian in relation to the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies, rather than constituting a response to some external condition or pressure, was dictated by the principle of progressive implementation of the laws, as enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh Himself. 
(The Universal House of Justice, from a letter dated 31 May 1988)

May 5, 2014

Prayer for Guidance (provisional translation)

O my God!

Thou seest me detached from everything save Thee and clinging to Thee. Guide me then in my doings in a manner which profiteth me for the glory of Thy Cause and the loftiness of the state of Thy servants.

A memorandum dated 6 August 1997 from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice indicates that:

“No authorized translation of this prayer has been issued. A provisional translation of this prayer was provided a few years ago for a member of the Bahá'í World Centre staff, who was told that he could share it with friends and that it could be used pending the publication of an authorized translation…

This prayer was revealed by the Blessed Beauty for Jináb-i-Samandar [Shaykh Kázim Samandar], the father of the Hand of the Cause of God Tarázu'lláh Samandarí, to assist him in making a difficult decision. The prayer was to be recited nineteen times, followed by meditation on the problem, the formulation of a solution, and the implementation of the conceived solution.”

May 2, 2014

Serving the Cause “no matter what our occupation is”

We can all serve in the Cause of God no matter what our occupation is. No occupation can prevent the soul coming to God. Peter was a fisherman, yet he accomplished most wonderful things; but the heart must be turned always toward God, no matter what the work is; this is the important thing; and then the power of God will work in us. We are like a piece of iron in the midst of the fire which becomes heated to such a degree that it partakes of the nature of the fire and gives out the same effect to all it touches -- so is the soul that is always turned towards God, and filled with the spirit. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha’s remarks to a group of pilgrims, 1899; ‘An Early Pilgrimage’, by May Maxwell)

April 27, 2014

Estimated extent of Baha’u’llah’s Writings

Although the documents identified as Baha'u'llah's primary works have been the focus of translation work so far, they represent only a small portion of His writings during His 40-year ministry. All totaled, He revealed thousands of tablets, which altogether would constitute a volume more than 70 times the size of the Qur'an and more than 15 times the size of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. 
(Baha’i World News Service, 22 September 2002)

April 6, 2014

Some spiritual principles to consider when participating in Baha’i elections

  • …to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of
    • unquestioned loyalty,
    • of selfless devotion,
    • of a well trained mind,
    • of recognized ability and
    • mature experience.
(Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated 3 June 1925 to the delegates and visitors at the convention of the United States and Canada, published in "Bahá'í Administration: Selected Messages 1922-1932")
  • From among the pool of those whom the elector believes to be qualified to serve, selection should be made with due consideration given to such other factors as
    • age distribution,
    • diversity, and
    • gender.  
(The Universal House of Justice, from a message dated March 25, 2007, addressed to the Baha’is of the World)
  • …reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences.
(Shoghi Effendi, from a letter to a Spiritual Assembly, dated May 14, 1927; published in Principles of Bahá'í Administration; compilation: Lights of Guidance)
  • ... the elector... is called upon to vote for none but those whom prayer and reflection have inspired him to uphold.
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, May 27,1927; published in Bahá'í Administration; compilation: Lights of Guidance)
  • ... in the time of election, the friends should be in the mood of prayer, disinterestedness and detachment from worldly motives.
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, dated June 7, 1924; compilation: Lights of Guidance)

April 4, 2014

How to be detached and severed from all things and at the same time learn a trade or profession

Another friend asked, "In the Tablets it is stated that we must be severed and detached. In another place it is stated that we must learn a trade or profession. Do not these two statements contradict each other?"

‘Abdu'l-Bahá replied,

"In the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, it is incumbent upon every soul to acquire a trade and an occupation. For example, I know how to weave or make a mat, and you know some other trade. This, in itself is an act of worship, provided that it is conducted on the basis of utmost honesty and faithfulness.

“And this is the cause of prosperity. Yet, in spite of being so occupied, if the heart is not chained and tied to this world, and is not troubled by current events, neither hindered by wealth from rendering service to mankind, nor grieved because of poverty, - then this is human perfection. Otherwise in a state of poverty, to manifest generosity and in a state of weakness to claim justice - this can easily be said, but it is not a proof of man's attainments and alertness." 
('Abdu'l-Bahá from an article written by Dr. Z. Baghdadi entitled "`Abdu'l-Bahá in America", published in "Star of the West", Vol. 19, No. 7, p. 219; The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. I, The Arts and Crafts)  

March 29, 2014

Calligraphic representation of an Arabic verse: 'Praise be God, the Exalted, the Beloved!'

Calligraphic arrangement by Mishkin-Qalam of the invocation: 'Praise be God, the Exalted, the Beloved!" (The Baha'i World 1976-1979)

March 27, 2014

How to regard the laws and ordinances of the Baha’i Faith

…the laws and ordinances of this Dispensation Bahá'u'lláh has specifically characterized as "the breath of life unto all created things", as "the mightiest stronghold", as the "fruits" of His "Tree", as "the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples", as "the lamps of His wisdom and loving providence", as "the sweet-smelling savour of his garment", as the "keys" of His "mercy" to His creatures. "This book" (The Kitab-i-Aqdas), He Himself testifies, "is a heaven which we have adorned with the stars of Our commandments and prohibitions." 
(Shoghi Effendi, extracted from God Passes By and published in ‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book’; Memorandum from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice dated 3 May, 1994)

March 20, 2014

“The appearances of the Manifestations of God are the divine springtime.”

The spiritual world is like unto the phenomenal world. They are the exact counterpart of each other. Whatever objects appear in this world of existence are the outer pictures of the world of heaven. When we look upon the phenomenal world, we perceive that it is divided into four seasons; one is the season of spring, another the season of summer, another autumn and then these three seasons are followed by winter. When the season of spring appears in the arena of existence, the whole world is rejuvenated and finds new life. The soul-refreshing breeze is wafted from every direction; the soul-quickening bounty is everywhere; the cloud of mercy showers down its rain, and the sun shines upon everything. Day by day we perceive that the signs of vegetation are all about us. Wonderful flowers, hyacinths and roses perfume the nostrils. The trees are full of leaves and blossoms, and the blossoms are followed by fruit. The spring and summer are followed by autumn and winter. The flowers wither and are no more; the leaves turn gray and life has gone. Then comes another springtime; the former springtime is renewed; again a new life stirs within everything.

The appearances of the Manifestations of God are the divine springtime. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, from a talk, 13 April 1912, New York; ‘The Promulgation of Universal Peace’)

March 16, 2014

Hand of the Cause John Robarts with three youth at Association for Baha'i Studies, Ottawa, Canada, 1982

The Hand of the Cause John Robarts with youth who received awards during the seventh annual conference of the Association for Baha'i Studies for scholarship and research on aspects of the Baha'i Faith. (The Baha'i World 1979-1983)

March 14, 2014

Explanation of Baha'i Calendar - from The Baha’i World 1930-1932

Among different peoples and at different times many different methods have been adopted for the measurement of time and fixing of dates, and several different calendars are still in daily use, e. g., the Gregorian in Western Europe, the Julian in many countries of Eastern Europe, the Hebrew among the Jews, and the Muhammadan in Muslim countries.

The Báb signalized the importance of the dispensation which He came to herald, by inaugurating a new calendar. In this, as in the Gregorian calendar, the lunar month is abandoned and the solar year is adopted.

The Bahá'i year consists of 19 months of 19 days each (i.e., 361 days), with the addition of certain "intercalary days" (four in ordinary and five in leap years) between the eighteenth and nineteenth months in order to adjust the calendar to the solar year. The Báb named the months after the attributes of God. The Bahá'i New Year, like the ancient Persian New Year, is astronomically fixed, commencing at the March equinox (March 21st), and the Bahá'i era commences with the year of the Báb's declaration (i.e., 1844 A. D., 1260 A. H.).

March 11, 2014

Three types of freedom – ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains

There are three types of freedom. The first is divine freedom, which is one of the inherent attributes of the Creator for He is unconstrained in His will, and no one can force Him to change His decree in any matter whatsoever....

The second is the political freedom of Europeans, which leaves the individual free to do whatsoever he desires as long as his action does not harm his neighbour. This is natural freedom, and its greatest expression is seen in the animal world. Observe these birds and notice with what freedom they live. However much man may try, he can never be as free as an animal, because the existence of order acts as an impediment to freedom.

The third freedom is that which is born of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Almighty. This is the freedom of the human world, where man severs his affections from all things. When he does so, he becomes immune to all hardship and sorrow. Wealth or material power will not deflect him from moderation and fairness, neither will poverty or need inhibit him from showing forth happiness and tranquillity. The more the conscience of man develops, the more will his heart be free and his soul attain unto happiness. In the religion of God, there is freedom of thought because God, alone, controls the human conscience, but this freedom should not go beyond courtesy. In the religion of God, there is no freedom of action outside the law of God. Man may not transgress this law, even though no harm is inflicted on one's neighbour. This is because the purpose of Divine law is the education of all -- others as well as oneself -- and, in the sight of God, the harm done to one individual or to his neighbour is the same and is reprehensible in both cases. Hearts must possess the fear of God. Man should endeavour to avoid that which is abhorrent unto God. Therefore, the freedom that the laws of Europe offer to the individual does not exist in the law of God. Freedom of thought should not transgress the bounds of courtesy, and actions, likewise, should be governed by the fear of God and the desire to seek His good pleasure. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, excerpt from a Tablet quoted by the Universal House of Justice in a letter dated 8 February 1998 written on its behalf to an individual believer)