September 16, 2019

Some Islamic traditions concerning the year of the Declaration of the Báb

As the year sixty, [1260 AH, 1844 AD] the year that witnessed the birth of the promised Revelation, had just dawned upon the world, it would not seem inappropriate, at this juncture, to digress from our theme, and to mention certain traditions of Muhammad and of the imáms of the Faith which bear specific reference to that year. Imám Ja’far, son of Muhammad, when questioned concerning the year in which the Qá’im was to be made manifest, replied as follows: “Verily, in the year sixty His Cause shall be revealed, and His name shall be noised abroad.” In the works of the learned and far-famed Muhyi’d-Dín-i-‘Arabí, many references are to be found regarding both the year of the advent and the name of the promised Manifestation. Among them are the following: “The ministers and upholders of His Faith shall be of the people of Persia.” “In His name, the name of the Guardian [‘Alí] precedeth that of the Prophet [Muhammad].” “The year of His Revelation is identical with half of that number which is divisible by nine [2520].” Mírzá Muhammad-i-Akhbarí, in his poems relating to the year of the Manifestation, makes the following prediction: “In the year Ghars [the numerical value of the letters of which is 1260] the earth shall be illumined by His light, and in Gharásih [1265] the world shall be suffused with its glory. If thou livest until the year Gharasí [1270], thou shalt witness how the nations, the rulers, the peoples, and the Faith of God shall all have been renewed.” In a tradition ascribed to the Imám ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, it is likewise recorded: “In Ghars the Tree of Divine guidance shall be planted.” 
- Nabil  (‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

August 26, 2019

The effects of a “shining” Spiritual Assembly

O ye shining Assembly![1] The meeting that you organized hath attracted the divine gaze and the subject of your conversation was the divine commemoration. A ray from the Kingdom of Abha fell upon that assemblage and that meeting was adorned, and a number of souls, supplicants to God, were gathered in that meeting. If this assembly continues as it is befitting and behooving, great results will thereby appear and conduce to the illumination of those parts, spiritual progress will ensue, the lights of the Sun of Truth will shine, hearts will be illumined, eyes will become seeing, ears become hearing, the lukewarm (or withdrawn ones) become aflame, the inanimate (or numbed ones) will be enkindled in soul and an ecstasy will come to all by which those present will be astonished. 
('Abdu'l-Baha, 'Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha Abbas, vol, 2')
[1] Cleveland, Ohio

August 17, 2019

A scribe of the Báb describes Baha’u’llah’s striking appearance

[On October 5, 1851 A.D.] …while I was passing by the gate of the inner courtyard of the shrine of the Imám Husayn, [in Karbilá] my eyes, for the first time, fell upon Bahá’u’lláh. What shall I recount regarding the countenance which I beheld! The beauty of that face, those exquisite features which no pen or brush dare describe, His penetrating glance, His kindly face, the majesty of His bearing, the sweetness of His smile, the luxuriance of His jet-black flowing locks, left an indelible impression upon my soul. 
- Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí  (Quoted by Nabil in Chapter 2 of ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

August 12, 2019

The Guardian highlights contributions made by some very distinguished Canadian believers: Louis Bourgeois, Marion Jack, Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum Rabbani (Mary Maxwell), May Ellis Maxwell, and William Sutherland Maxwell

It was a Canadian, [1] of French extraction, who through his vision and skill was instrumental in conceiving the design, and delineating the features, of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the West, marking the first attempt, however rudimentary, to express the beauty which Bahá’í art will, in its plenitude, unfold to the eyes of the world. It was a Canadian woman, [2] one of the noblest in the ranks of Bahá’í pioneers, who alone and single-handed, forsook her home, settled among an alien people, braved with a leonine spirit the risks and dangers of the world conflict that raged around her, and who now, at an advanced age and suffering from infirmities, is still holding the Fort and is setting an example, worthy of emulation by all her fellow pioneers of both the East and the West. It was a member [3] of that same community who won the immortal distinction of being called upon to be my helpmate, my shield in warding off the darts of Covenant-breakers and my tireless collaborator in the arduous tasks I shoulder. It was a Canadian subject, [4] the spiritual mother of that same community, who, though fully aware of the risks of the voyage she was undertaking, journeyed as far as the capital of Argentina to serve a Cause that had honoured her so uniquely, and there laid down her life and won the everlasting crown of martyrdom. It was, moreover, a Canadian [5] who more recently achieved the immortal renown of designing the exquisite shell destined to envelop, preserve and embellish the holy and priceless structure enshrining the dust of the Beloved Founder of our Faith. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 1 March 1951 to the Canadian National Spiritual; ‘Messages to Canada’)

August 7, 2019

The “last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet”

The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, whose supreme mission is none other but the achievement of this organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations, should, if we be faithful to its implications, be regarded as signalizing through its advent the coming of age of the entire human race. It should be viewed not merely as yet another spiritual revival in the ever-changing fortunes of mankind, not only as a further stage in a chain of progressive Revelations, nor even as the culmination of one of a series of recurrent prophetic cycles, but rather as marking the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet. The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture – all of which must synchronize with the initial stages in the unfoldment of the Golden Age of the Bahá'í Era – should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual, will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 11 March 1936, in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: Selected Letters’; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. III, Cultural Diversity in the Age of Maturity)

August 1, 2019

The amazing outcome of the sacrifices and imprisonments endured by Baha’u’llah

Praised be Thou, O Lord my God! I implore Thee by Thine Ancient Beauty and Most Great Name, Whom Thou hast sacrificed that all the dwellers of Thine earth and heaven may be born anew, and Whom Thou hast cast into prison that mankind may, as a token of Thy bounty and of Thy sovereign might, be released from the bondage of evil passions and corrupt desires… 
- Baha’u’llah  (‘Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah’)

July 17, 2019

An example of how one’s faith and beliefs are tested when a new Manifestation of God appears

One of his disciples, one day, questioned Shaykh Ahmad [a forerunner to the Báb] concerning the Word which the promised One is expected to utter in the fulness of time, a Word so appallingly tremendous that the three hundred and thirteen chiefs and nobles of the earth would each and all flee in consternation as if overwhelmed by its stupendous weight. To him Shaykh Ahmad replied: “How can you presume to sustain the weight of the Word which the chieftains of the earth are incapable of bearing? Seek not to gratify an impossible desire. Cease asking me this question, and beseech forgiveness from God.” That presumptuous questioner again pressed him to disclose the nature of that Word. At last Shaykh Ahmad replied: “Were you to attain that Day, were you to be told to repudiate the guardianship of ‘Alí and to denounce its validity, what would you say?” “God forbid!” he exclaimed. “Such things can never be. That such words should proceed out of the mouth of the promised One is to me inconceivable.” How grievous the mistake he made, and how pitiful his plight! His faith was weighed in the balance, and was found wanting, inasmuch as he failed to recognise that He who must needs be made manifest is endowed with that sovereign power which no man dare question. His is the right “to command whatsoever He willeth, and to decree that which He pleaseth.” Whoever hesitates, whoever, though it be for the twinkling of an eye or less, questions His authority, is deprived of His grace and is accounted of the fallen. And yet few, if any, among those who listened to Shaykh Ahmad in that city, and heard him unfold the mysteries of the allusions in the sacred Scriptures, were able to appreciate the significance of his utterances or to apprehend their purpose. Siyyid Kázim, his able and distinguished lieutenant, alone, could claim to have understood his meaning. 
- Nabil  ('The Dawn-Breakers, chapter 1; translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

July 12, 2019

The Cause of God is like a house

The Cause of God is like a house. As long as man has not entered therein he does not know what it contains. In the house there are many precious jewels, many rare objects the like of which cannot be found anywhere in this world. But the men in the street may pass by the house a 1000 times and know nothing about it. Only the one who has the key can enter. That key is the love of God. 
- 'Abdu'l-Baha  (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Ahmad Sohrab, ‘Abdu'l-Baha in Britain, 1913’)
To see more such pilgrim notes please visit: Baha’i Pilgrim Notes

June 27, 2019

To “be born again”

Jesus Christ said ‘Ye must be born again’ so that divine Life may spring anew within you. Be kind to all around and serve one another; love to be just and true in all your dealings; pray always and so live your life that sorrow cannot touch you. Look upon the people of your own race and those of other races as members of one organism; sons of the same Father; let it be known by your behaviour that you are indeed the people of God. Then wars and disputes shall cease and over the world will spread the Most Great Peace. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk, September 24th, Clifton, Bristol; ‘London Talks’)

June 24, 2019

Some guiding spiritual principles for Spiritual Assembly members – also helpful for LSA’s own periodic reflections

The duties of those whom the friends have freely and conscientiously elected as their representatives are no less vital and binding than the obligations of those who have chosen them.
  • Their function is not to dictate, but to consult, and consult not only among themselves, but as much as possible with the friends whom they represent.
  • They must regard themselves in no other light but that of chosen instruments for a more efficient and dignified presentation of the Cause of God.
  • They should never be led to suppose that they are the central ornaments of the body of the Cause, intrinsically superior to others in capacity or merit, and sole promoters of its teachings and principles.
  • They should approach their task
    • with extreme humility, and
    • endeavour, by their open-mindedness,
    • their high sense of justice and duty,
    • their candour,
    • their modesty,
    • their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity,
    • to win,
      • not only the confidence and the genuine support and respect of those whom they serve, but
      • also their esteem and real affection.
  • They must, at all times,
    • avoid the spirit of exclusiveness,
    • the atmosphere of secrecy,
    • free themselves from a domineering attitude, and
    • banish all forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations.
  • They should, within the limits of wise discretion,
    • take the friends into their confidence,
    • acquaint them with their plans,
    • share with them their problems and anxieties, and
    • seek their advice and counsel.
  • And, when they are called upon to arrive at a certain decision,
    • they should, after dispassionate, anxious and cordial consultation,
    • turn to God in prayer, and
    • with earnestness and conviction and courage record their vote
    • and abide by the voice of the majority, which we are told by our Master to be the voice of truth, never to be challenged, and always to be whole-heartedly enforced. To this voice the friends must heartily respond, and regard it as the only means that can ensure the protection and advancement of the Cause.
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 18 July 2000, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

June 19, 2019

New Site: Questions & Answers - - daily exploration of knowledge

Enhancing one’s overall knowledge --> spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional
To “discern with the eye of oneness His [God’s] glorious handiwork, and look into all things with a searching eye.” (Baha'u'llah, ‘Tablets of Baha'u'llah revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

June 14, 2019

Salient objectives of the Local Spiritual Assembly

Among the more salient objectives to be attained by the Local Spiritual Assembly in its process of development to full maturity are
  • to act as a loving shepherd to the Baha'i flock,
  • promote unity and concord among the friends,
  • direct the teaching work,
  • protect the Cause of God,
  • arrange for
    • Feasts,
    • anniversaries and
    • regular meetings of the community,
  • familiarize the Baha'is with its plans,
  • invite the community to offer its recommendations,
  • promote the welfare of youth and children, and
  • participate, as circumstances permit, in humanitarian activities. 
  • In its relationship to the individual believer, the Assembly should
    • continuously invite and encourage him to study the Faith,
    • to deliver its glorious message,
    • to live in accordance with its teachings,
    • to contribute freely and regularly to the Fund,
    • to participate in community activities, and
    • to seek refuge in the Assembly for advice and help, when needed.
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 30 July 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Bolivia; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986’)

June 12, 2019

1957: Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land

Bahji 1957: The nine Hands of the Cause who resided in the Holy Land after the passing of Shoghi Effendi

June 7, 2019

The “two great processes...at work in the world”

We are told by Shoghi Effendi that two great processes are at work in the world: the great Plan of God, tumultuous in its progress, working through mankind as a whole, tearing down barriers to world unity and forging humankind into a unified body in the fires of suffering and experience. This process will produce, in God's due time, the Lesser Peace, the political unification of the world. Mankind at that time can be likened to a body that is unified but without life. The second process, the task of breathing life into this unified body of creating true unity and spirituality culminating in the Most Great Peace is that of the Bahá'ís, who are labouring consciously, with detailed instructions and continuing divine guidance, to erect the fabric of the Kingdom of God on earth, into which they call their fellow-men, thus conferring upon them eternal life.

The working out of God's Major Plan proceeds mysteriously in ways directed by Him alone, but the Minor Plan that He has given us to execute, as our part in His grand design for the redemption of mankind, is clearly delineated. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 8 December 1967 to an individual believer; compilation ’Holocaust, the Greater Plan of God, and the Destiny of the Jewish People’, prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice; also in ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986)

June 2, 2019

The Báb “revealed no less than nine commentaries on the whole of the Qur’án”

It was during His incarceration in the fortress of Máh-Kú that He, according to the testimony of Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí, who transcribed during those nine months the verses dictated by the Báb to His amanuensis, revealed no less than nine commentaries on the whole of the Qur’án—commentaries whose fate, alas, is unknown, and one of which, at least the Author Himself affirmed, surpassed in some respects a book as deservedly famous as the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (‘God Passes By’)

May 28, 2019

The divines of every city in Persia received Epistles from the Báb

The great bulk of the writings emanating from the Báb’s prolific mind was, however, reserved for the period of His confinement in Máh-Kú and Chihríq. To this period must probably belong the unnumbered Epistles which, as attested by no less an authority than Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb specifically addressed to the divines of every city in Persia, as well as to those residing in Najaf and Karbilá, wherein He set forth in detail the errors committed by each one of them. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (‘God Passes By’)

May 22, 2019

References to Baha’u’llah by Jewish Prophets

Of Him David had sung in his Psalms, acclaiming Him as the “Lord of Hosts” and the “King of Glory.” To Him Haggai had referred as the “Desire of all nations,” and Zachariah as the “Branch” Who “shall grow up out of His place,” and “shall build the Temple of the Lord.” Ezekiel had extolled Him as the “Lord” Who “shall be king over all the earth,” while to His day Joel and Zephaniah had both referred as the “day of Jehovah,” the latter describing it as “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.” His Day Ezekiel and Daniel had, moreover, both acclaimed as the “day of the Lord,” and Malachi described as “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” when “the Sun of Righteousness” will “arise, with healing in His wings,” whilst Daniel had pronounced His advent as signalizing the end of the “abomination that maketh desolate.” 
- Shoghi Effendi  (‘God Passes By’)

May 17, 2019

Who is a “Baha’i”?

…a Bahá'í is one who embodieth all the perfections, that he must shine out like a lighted taper — not be darkness upon darkness and yet bear the name "Bahá'í". 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (‘Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá’; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, Excellence in All Things)

May 13, 2019

Our physical world is a “shadow” of the world of the Kingdom

Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye.
- ‘Abdu'l-Baha  (‘Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha’)

May 9, 2019

Ancient Persia – ‘Abdu’l-Baha describes her glorious past…

Persia was verily the heart of the world and shone among the nations like a lighted taper. Her glory and prosperity broke from the horizon of humanity like the true dawn disseminating the light of knowledge and illumining the nations of the East and West. The fame of her victorious kings reached the ears of the dwellers at the poles of the earth. The majesty of her king of kings humbled the monarchs of Greece and Rome Her governing wisdom filled the sages with awe, and the rulers of the continents fashioned their laws upon her polity. The Persians being distinguished among the nations of the earth as a people of conquerors, and justly admired for their civilisation and learning, their country became the glorious centre of all the sciences and arts, the mine of culture and a fount of virtues. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (Quoted by Shoghi Effendin in the ‘Introduction’ section of ‘The Dawn-Breakers’)

May 6, 2019

A “twofold Manifestation” expected by both Shi’ah and Sunni sects of Islam

Important as these differences are, both sects agree, however, in expecting a twofold Manifestation. The shí’ahs look for the Qá’im, who is to come in the fulness of time, and also for the return of the Imám Husayn. The sunnís await the appearance of the Mihdí and also “the return of Jesus Christ.” When, at the beginning of his Mission, the Báb, continuing the tradition of the shí’ahs, proclaimed His function under the double title of, first, the Qá’im and, second, the Gate, or Báb, some of the Muhammadans misunderstood the latter reference. They imagined His meaning to be that He was a fifth Gate In succession to Abu’l Hasan-‘Alí. His true meaning, however, as He himself clearly announced, was very different. He was the Qá’im; but the Qá’im, though a High Prophet, stood in relation to a succeeding and greater Manifestation as did John the Baptist to the Christ. He was the Forerunner of One yet more mighty than Himself. He was to decrease; that Mighty One was to increase. And as John the Baptist had been the Herald or Gate of the Christ, so was the Báb the Herald or Gate of Bahá’u’lláh. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (‘Introduction to ‘The Dawn-Breakers’)

May 3, 2019

Wisdom of receiving parental consent in Baha’i marraige

This great law He has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator. We Bahá'ís must realize that in present-day society the exact opposite process is taking place: young people care less and less for their parents' wishes, divorce is considered a natural right, and obtained on the flimsiest and most unwarrantable and shabby pretexts. People separated from each other, especially if one of them has had full custody of the children, are only too willing to belittle the importance of the partner in marriage also responsible as a parent for bringing those children into this world. The Bahá'ís must, through rigid adherence to the Bahá'í laws and teachings, combat these corrosive forces which are so rapidly destroying home life and the beauty of family relationships, and tearing down the moral structure of society. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter dated 25 October 1947, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States; compilation: ‘Consent of Parents to Marriage’, prepared by the Research Department)

April 30, 2019

A “new stirring throughout all created things” – as a result of Baha’u’llah’s Declaration in the Garden of Ridvan

Thou didst wish to celebrate the Day of Ridvan with a feast, and to have those present on that day engage in reciting Tablets with delight and joy, and thou didst request me to send thee a letter to be read on that day. My letter is this:

O ye beloved, and ye handmaids of the Merciful! This is the day when the Day-Star of Truth rose over the horizon of life, and its glory spread, and its brightness shone out with such power that it clove the dense and high-piled clouds and mounted the skies of the world in all its splendour. Hence do ye witness a new stirring throughout all created things.

See how, in this day, the scope of sciences and arts hath widened out, and what wondrous technical advances have been made, and to what a high degree the mind's powers have increased, and what stupendous inventions have appeared.

April 23, 2019

The "'Dawn-Breakers' of Nabil'": one of the three books every “Bahá'í should master…and be able to explain their contents to others”

... Shoghi Effendi hopes that you will exert all your effort to deepen your knowledge of the literature of the movement, until you become fully acquainted with its spirit and tenets. Unless you do obtain such a firm hold you will never be able to teach others and render real service to the promulgation of the Faith. Of special importance is the Book of the Íqán which explains the attitude of the Cause towards the prophets of God and their mission in the history of society. Besides this there is Some Answered Questions of the Master and the 'Dawn-Breakers' of Nabil. Every Bahá'í should master these books and be able to explain their contents to others. Besides their importance, they are interesting and most absorbing.
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 9, 1932; compilations: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

April 18, 2019

“All calamities and afflictions have been created for man so that he may spurn this mortal world…”

O thou servant of God! Do not grieve at the afflictions and calamities that have befallen thee. All calamities and afflictions have been created for man so that he may spurn this mortal world—a world to which he is much attached. When he experienceth severe trials and hardships, then his nature will recoil and he will desire the eternal realm—a realm which is sanctified from all afflictions and calamities. Such is the case with the man who is wise. He shall never drink from a cup which is at the end distasteful, but, on the contrary, he will seek the cup of pure and limpid water. He will not taste of the honey that is mixed with poison.

Praise thou God, that thou hast been tried and hast experienced such a test. Be patient and grateful. Turn thy face to the divine Kingdom and strive that thou mayest acquire merciful characteristics, mayest become illumined and acquire the attributes of the Kingdom and of the Lord. Endeavour to become indifferent to the pleasures of this world and to its comfort, to remain firm and steadfast in the Covenant and to promulgate the Cause of God.

This is the cause of the exaltation of man, the cause of his glory and of his salvation. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (‘Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha)

April 15, 2019

Ways in which a Baha’i can help improving the conditions of humanity - The Universal House of Justice explains

It is understandable that Bahá'ís who witness the miserable conditions under which so many human beings have to live, or who hear of a sudden disaster that has struck a certain area of the world, are moved to do something practical to ameliorate those conditions and to help their suffering fellow-mortals.

There are many ways in which help can be rendered. Every Bahá'í has the duty to acquire a trade or profession through which he will earn that wherewith he can support himself and his family; in the choice of such work he can seek those activities which are of benefit to his fellow-men and not merely those which promote his personal interests, still less those whose effects are actually harmful.

There are also the situations in which an individual Bahá'í or a Spiritual Assembly is confronted with an urgent need which neither justice nor compassion could allow to go unheeded and unhelped. How many are the stories told of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in such situations, when He would even take off a garment He was wearing and give it to a shivering man in rags.

April 5, 2019

Bahá'u'lláh’s “influence permeates all living beings”

Bahá'u'lláh found the world in a "strange sleep". But what a disturbance His coming has unloosed! The peoples of the earth had been separated, many parts of the human race socially and spiritually isolated. But the world of humanity today bears little resemblance to that which Bahá'u'lláh left a century ago. Unbeknownst to the great majority, His influence permeates all living beings. Indeed, no domain of life remains unaffected. In the burgeoning energy, the magnified perspectives, the heightened global consciousness; in the social and political turbulence, the fall of kingdoms, the emancipation of nations, the intermixture of cultures, the clamour for development; in the agitation over the extremes of wealth and poverty, the acute concern over the abuse of the environment, the leap of consciousness regarding the rights of women; in the growing tendency towards ecumenism, the increasing call for a new world order; in the astounding advances in the realms of science, technology, literature and the arts -- in all this tumult, with its paradoxical manifestations of chaos and order, integration and disintegration, are the signs of His power as World Reformer, the proof of His claim as Divine Physician, the truth of His Word as the All-Knowing Counsellor. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a Tribute to Bahá’u’lláh on the Centenary of His Passing, May 1992; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1986-2001)