"I was walking in the Land of Tá (Tihrán)—the dayspring of the signs of thy Lord—when lo, I heard the lamentation of the pulpits and the voice of their supplication unto God, blessed and glorified be He. They cried out and said: 'O God of the world and Lord of the nations! Thou beholdest our state and the things which have befallen us....'" (Baha’u’llah, ‘Epistle to the Son of Wolf’)
We, the two billion people currently on the planet, are living at a time when not only the pulpits of all the religions, but all things must be condemning us, each in that voice which, according to the Qur'án, God has given to all things: "God, Who giveth a voice to all things, hath given us a voice...." (41:20). We who have killed some forty-five million human beings in the past thirty-five years, strangers whom we did not even know by name. We who have denied our qualitative difference from the animals and have tried to live in their world, an attempt which has proved as successful as would be the animal's to turn into a tree or the tree's to be a stone. We who spend our time devising elaborate excuses to justify our ways; who always blame someone else, who always want someone else to save us.
It is not surprising that Bahá’u’lláh, the Persian nobleman Who declared His spiritual mission in 1863, should also say: "... ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you."
Meanwhile we long for happiness, and then reject it when it is brought to us. Because happiness for human beings means being raised out of the blind physical world into the conscious life of the spirit, and this can only be done by the Prophet of God. At His advent we fight Him and resist Him, whether He is Moses or Buddha, Jesus or Muhammad, or Bahá’u’lláh.
Man is showing by his acts that he has lost God and in consequence has also lost himself. "And be ye not like those," the Qur'án warns, "who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves." (59:19). Man is bewildered—straying in a wilderness. He must find the meaning in the universe again, and this meaning is God as expressed by the Prophet; then he will rediscover his own self, the reflection of the meaning; then he will have a way of life in keeping with the facts and will consciously follow it.
Badi: Baha'u'llah's messenger
A seventeen year old boy is referred to in this book. He was a troublesome youth and his father was worried about him. Then Bahá’u’lláh, imprisoned in the barracks of `Akká, summoned him. Following their interview, the boy, alone and on foot, carried to Persia Bahá’u’lláh's Tablet to the Sháh. He reached the capital after a four months' journey; he fasted, prayed, and waited on a rock until he saw the Sháh and his suite going hunting in the direction of the hill villages north of Tihrán. He approached them and called out in Arabic: "O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message." (This is what the lapwing said to Solomon when it returned from seeing Balkis on her golden throne: Qur'án 27:22) The Tablet was taken from the boy and delivered to the priests. They read it, and recommended that the boy be put to death. The executioners branded him with hot irons for three days; a photograph, taken of him under torture, is extant. Then they beat his head to a pulp with a rifle butt and threw his body down a hole.
Bahá’u’lláh wrote, in a Tablet to the boy's father—Hájí `Abdu'l-Majíd, who himself was to suffer martyrdom later on in Khurásán: "Dost thou think that he is dead? No, by the Revealer of Signs! Through him the spirit of life joyfully moveth in the hearts of the universe." In the same Tablet, Bahá’u’lláh says that in Badí` "the spirit of might and power was breathed"; that he was created anew; that he smiled, and "should We have commanded him, he would have subdued all in heaven and upon the earth." That "Joy overtook him," and that he went to his death "with power and authority, advancing with such strength as to overturn the Supreme Concourse and the denizens of the Cities of Names."
The point is that Badí` was recreated. He was in Bible terminology born again. He saw the truth and died as a sacrifice to it. Those who believe in Bahá’u’lláh today are seldom called to join the ranks of the more than 20,000 who gave up their lives in the Heroic Age of His Cause—who, as the present text states, "threw down the precious crown of life for the sake of Him Who is the Incomparable Friend." But they are repeatedly obliged to disregard their own likes and dislikes, to discipline their conduct, to win a victory over their own selves—a process longer, less spectacular, and perhaps more painful than martyrdom.
It is only through such a process that the planet can be made habitable again: that human beings, motivated by love, will voluntarily begin to act in ways that are worthy of the nature of man. Bahá’u’lláh writes in the Hidden Words, "I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?"
The thinking world has caught up with Baha’u’llah’s basic teachings
The thinking world has caught up, by now, with the basic teachings which Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) enunciated more than seventy years ago. Today no enlightened mind can disagree with such Bahá’í fundamentals as these: "The oneness and wholeness of the human race." (This is the most vital of them all, the establishment of this principle being the central purpose of the Bahá’í Faith. The unification of mankind is, Bahá’u’lláh says, inevitable, and marks the last stage in the evolution of man toward maturity.) Service to humanity the worthiest of all endeavors. Religion, "the chief instrument of the establishment of order in the world," to be taught to children in all schools in such a way as not to produce fanaticism or prejudice. All religions are essentially one, differing in their outer aspects only because they appeared at different periods in history and thus addressed themselves to varying situations. The reconciliation of religion and science, which are the two most powerful forces in human life. Education available to all. Equal opportunities for both sexes, equality for women being directly linked to world peace. A world federal system, reduction in national armaments, collective security. The adoption of an international auxiliary language and script. Work for all.
Bahá’u’lláh states that justice is "the best beloved of all things," and its advent inevitable. That consultation, frank and unfettered, is "the bestower of understanding," and the bedrock of His Order. That the acquisition of knowledge is incumbent on everyone, "acts, crafts and sciences" being extolled. That wealth gained through crafts and professions is praiseworthy. That poverty will disappear, as will exorbitant wealth. That the trustees of the "House of Justice" are to legislate on all matters not expressly set forth in Bahá’í writings (this international Bahá’í body is empowered to rescind its previous legislation and to incorporate into its machinery whatever is considered necessary to keep the Faith "in the forefront of all progressive movements."). Constitutional government, combining "the ideals of republicanism and the majesty of kingship" is recommended. Agriculture is to be given special regard. The press is specifically extolled, newspapers being described as "the mirror of the world" and those responsible for their production directed to free themselves from "malice, passion, and prejudice, to be just and fair-minded, to be painstaking in their inquiries and ascertain all the facts in every situation." Bahá’u’lláh further reemphasizes the ban on the waging of holy war and the destruction of books; requires of His followers that they obey the Government of the country in which they live; and singles out for special praise individuals of learning and wisdom whom He describes as "eyes" to the body of mankind.
Baha’u’llah’s projected world order
What the world does not yet guess at is the capacity of Bahá’u’lláh's projected world order, functioning in the universal recognition of one God, to "re-create society." The world community is His primary concern. Religion has often, in the past, produced the good individual. The primary object of Bahá’u’lláh's religion is to produce the good society. His administrative system offers, Bahá’ís believe, the only satisfactory arrangement between individual and community, between free will and authority, equilibrating the prerogatives of each.
This balance will have to be created if humanity is to develop an age of peace. We have seen the dictator state crushing out the individual, and we have seen lynch law flouting the group. The point has been debated down the ages. Rúmí the mystic begs God to deliver him from his free will, a burden which he says even heaven and the angels refused, and only man accepted; he compares himself to a camel with pack sores, whose panniers sag first on one side and then on the other, and asks that the ill-balanced load be taken from him, and that instead he be made to roll here and there like a polo ball. In contrast with such a view was the way of life in Calvin's Geneva, where according to laws regulating inns, no one was permitted "to sit up after nine o'clock at night, except spies."
When the balance between the person and society finally obtains we shall know that man has begun his maturity. Obviously, both individual and group will have to give up something of what they now have, just as the nations will have to yield some of their present sovereignty in favor of the world commonwealth, but this will prove no more of a hardship than the sacrifice of bait to catch fish.
Here is a world religion to match the new world. It has no priesthood; it accepts no funds except from registered adherents. It has solved the problems of successorship, administration and schism, factors which virtually destroyed, almost at their inception, the unity of all previous faiths. In this case Bahá’u’lláh the Founder Himself designated in His written Covenant that His eldest son `Abdu'l-Bahá was His authorized Successor and Interpreter. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in His own Will and Testament appointed as Guardian and Interpreter His grandson Shoghi Effendi, who in turn is to appoint the next Guardian, the written appointment to be ratified by vote of a council of "Hands of the Cause." The democratically-elected institutions which in conjunction with the Guardian administer the Faith were likewise stipulated in the writings of the Founder. The present task of Bahá’ís the world over is two-fold, involving both consolidation in studying the Teachings and practicing the Bahá’í way of life—and expansion: presenting this Faith to the public for free investigation. Bahá’í communities are now to be found in more than hundred countries around the globe.
Study of the Baha’i Writings
Study of the writings is a lifetime occupation. Although the tenets of the Faith are readily grasped, the Teachings are vast, disclosing new horizons as the individual's experience develops. It is far from true that all Bahá’ís are intellectuals—there are communities of Persian villagers—but it is certain that the Teachings themselves and the effort to bring them before the public act as a strong incentive to acquire diversified knowledge. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes, "The dominion of kings has an ending ... but the sovereignty of science is everlasting...." and again, "All blessings are divine in origin but none can be compared with this power of intellectual investigation and research which is an eternal gift producing fruits of unending delight ... All other blessings are temporary; this is an everlasting possession."
Bahá’u’lláh wrote a hundred books. They consist of laws, principles, and exhortations; of warnings and prophecies; of prayers and meditations; of commentaries, interpretations, discourses, and homilies; of the proclamation of His mission to kings, ministers, and ecclesiastics of both East and West; of writings addressed specifically to leaders in intellectual, political, literary, mystical, commercial and humanitarian fields. His last major Tablet is this present book. It was revealed about one year before His death in 1892.
Bahá’u’lláh expressed His wish to leave the world
Some three months after this text was finished, Bahá’u’lláh expressed His wish to leave the world. He was now living, still an exile and prisoner as He had been, here and there throughout the Middle East, for the previous forty years, in the Mansion of Bahjí outside `Akká. From this time on it became clear from the tone of His remarks, although He made no open reference to it, that the end of His life on earth was approaching. Years before, He had described in His Tablet of the Vision—revealed on the anniversary of His Forerunner and Prophet-Herald, the martyred Báb—how the white-clad "Luminous Maid" had appeared before Him and urged Him to hasten to His "other dominions," dominions "whereon the eyes of the people of names have never fallen." Now a few more months passed, until after a brief illness He died at dawn, on May 29, 1892, in the seventy-fifth year of His age.
Then the famous telegram was sent to Sultán ‘Abdu'l-Hamíd, whose prisoner He had been. It began with the words: "The Sun of Bahá has set." Then mourners from `Akká and the neighboring villages crowded the fields around the Mansion, and notables of the Shí’ih and Sunní, Christian, Jewish and Druse communities, poets, divines and officials, from cities as far away ad Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut and Cairo, sent their written tributes to Him, and Nabíl the historian could not be consoled and drowned himself in the Mediterranean Sea.
This book has therefore a special place in the hierarchy of all Bahá’u’lláh's books. It is the last one. It is besides, a kind of anthology, and one particularly valuable, the material having been selected by the Author Himself. It includes some of the best-known and most characteristic of His writings, as well as proofs establishing the validity of His Cause.
The two martyred brothers in Isfahan
There were two brothers in Isfáhán, men of wealth, widely known for their philanthropies and the excellence of their character. The head priest, Mír Muhammad-Husayn, the cleric whose function it was to recite the prayers in the Friday mosque, owed them a large sum of money. To evade the debt, he denounced them as followers of the Báb. He knew exactly what this would mean. Their beautiful houses were at once given over to the mob and stripped, and even the trees and flowers in their gardens were torn away. Whatever they had was taken. Then Shaykh Muhammad-Báqir, whom Bahá’u’lláh names "The Wolf," pronounced their death sentence. The Prince-Governor, Zillu's-Sultán, eldest son of the Sháh, ratified it. The brothers were chained. Their heads were severed. Their bodies were dragged to the great open square of the city, and there they were exposed to every indignity the mob could inflict. "In such wise,", ‘Abdu'l-Bahá has written, "was the blood of these two brothers shed that the Christian priest of Julfa cried out, lamented and wept on that day."
What happened to Wolf
Afterward "The Wolf," whom Bahá’u’lláh condemned in His Lawh-i-Burhán ("Tablet of the Proof") and called "the last trace of sunlight upon the mountain-top," saw the steady decline of his prestige and died miserably, in acute remorse. As for his accomplice Mír Muhammad-Husayn, Bahá’u’lláh stigmatized him as the "She-Serpent," and declared him to be "infinitely more wicked than the oppressor of Karbilá." This man was expelled from Isfáhán, wandered from one village to another, and finally sickened and died of a disease so foul-smelling that his own wife and daughter could not bear to attend him.
Zillu's-Sultán meets ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Paris
Years later the Governor, Zillu's-Sultán, was exiled to Geneva. In 1911 when `Abdu'l-Bahá was at Thonon, staying at the Hôtel du Parc, Zillu's-Sultán came there. Hippolyte Dreyfus, distinguished scholar and traveler, the first French Bahá’í, had met him in Persia, visiting him in his tent when the prince was on a hunting trip. Now he saw him again, on the terrace of the hotel. M. Dreyfus described the meeting to Juliet Thompson, who arrived the following day, and she has recorded it in her diary:
"The Master too was on the terrace, pacing up and down at a little distance. Hippolyte was standing in the doorway when he saw Zillu's-Sultán coming up the steps. The prince approached and greeted him, then turned a startled look toward the Master. `Who is that Persian nobleman?' he asked. `That,' answered Hippolyte, `is `Abdu'l-Bahá.' And now Zillu's-Sultán spoke very humbly. `Take me to Him,' he begged. Hippolyte told me all about it. `If you could have seen the brute, Juliet, mumbling out his miserable excuses! But the Master took him in His arms and said, `All those things are in the past. Never think of them again.'"
King and Beloved of Martyrs
The two brothers who were put to death by "The Wolf" and his accomplice are known to Bahá’ís as the King of Martyrs and the Beloved of Martyrs. They are also referred to as the Twin Shining Lights. Their names were Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan and Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn, and they were siyyids—descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. In after years a special link associated them with the West, because in 1933 the American Keith Ransom-Kehler, representing her country's National Bahá’í Assembly, visited their graves and placed flowers there. Not many days afterwards she fell ill of smallpox and died, and her body was brought back and laid in the neighborhood of theirs.
Shaykh Muhammad Taqíy-i-Najafí – Son of the Wolf
This present book is addressed to the son of the man who murdered the Twin Shining Lights, the Son of the Wolf. He was called Shaykh Muhammad Taqíy-i-Najafí. A Muslim cleric of Isfáhán, he and his pupils kicked and trampled the corpse of Mírzá Ashraf, still another Bahá’í who, in 1888, was killed by order of the mullás of that city. He is often addressed in this text as "O Shaykh!."—this being a title denoting a chief, prelate or man of learning. Other persons are also called upon in the course of the work; the people of the Bayán—those followers of the Báb who failed to recognize Bahá’u’lláh, reminiscent of those followers or John the Baptist who failed to acknowledge Jesus Christ, are addressed. And Hádí, a religious leader terrified of losing his rank when he was called a disciple of the Báb, and who tried to destroy every copy of the Bayán, the Báb's great book. And the Wolf himself, in passages quoted from the "Tablet of the Proof," and Queen Victoria and Napoleon III and others, in quoted passages. Although the Tablet is primarily directed to the Son of the Wolf he seems almost incidental; Bahá’u’lláh is, rather, speaking beyond him to all humanity.
Explanation of certain words and phrases
Some of the terminology will be familiar only to students of Islámics, for the Bahá’í Faith comes out of Islám as Christianity comes out of Judaism. For example the Arabic verse on p. 17 contrasts the Sanctuary (Haram), the sacred place where no blood may be shed, with the place outside the Sanctuary (Hill) where the shedding of blood is not unlawful, and refers to Bahá’u’lláh's willingness to sacrifice His life anywhere and under any conditions. Or there is reference to the Sadratu'l-Muntahá. This is the "Divine Lote-Tree," the "Sidrah Tee, which marks the boundary," the "Lote-Tree of the extremity," the "Tree beyond which neither men nor angels can pass," and which stands in the Seventh Heaven, the highest Paradise, at the right hand of the Throne of God. Reference to it occurs obliquely in Qur'án 53:9 and directly in 53:14, and the two visions there described are traditionally related to Muhammad's Vision of the Ascension or Mi`ráj (cf. Súrih 17:1). In Bahá’í writings the Tree symbolizes the Prophet or Manifestation of God.
The Mother-Book is referred to in Qur'án 43:3; Rodwell translates this as "the archetypal Book" and comments, "the Mother of the Book, i.e. the original of the Koran, preserved before God." Sale says, "the preserved table; which is the original of all the scriptures in general." To Bahá’ís the Mother Book, or Preserved Tablet, or Guarded Tablet, means the Word of God, the Manifestation of God in every age, or His Book.
The Súrih of Tawhíd, called "The Unity," is Súrih 112 of the Qur'án.
"Name" sometimes means the Prophet or Manifestation of God. On p. 58 we read, "Be thou not of them who called upon God by one of His names, but who, when He Who is the object of all names appeared, denied Him and turned aside from Him ..."
The Aqsá Mosque is the Temple that is "most remote." It is built on the site of Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem.'
On p. 73 there is a play upon words. The martyr cries out that he has kept both Bahá’u’lláh and the blood money; Bahá in Arabic means glory, in Persian value.
Balál, great, early believer in Muhammad, was an Ethiopian slave. Cruelly tortured by the idolatrous Meccans, he refused to recant his faith in Islám. Later he was freed, and although he stammered Muhammad appointed him the first muezzin. The reference on p. 76 is to the fact that because of his affliction he pronounced the letters "sh" as "s."
"Remnant of the Prophet" on p. 80 refers to the fact that the martyred brothers were descendants of Muhammad.
To "rend the Veil of Divinity," p. 83, means to perpetrate an act of sacrilege, symbolized by tearing the veil of the tabernacle in which was the Shekinah,—the Dwelling, the Glory of God—emblem of the Divine Presence.
The hamstringing of the She-Camel goes back to Qur'án 7:71; 11:67; 54:27, etc. The She-Camel was a sign of God, the proof of the Prophet Sálih's mission. The reference again is to an act of blasphemy.
Ishmael, p. 101, refers to Qur'án 37:100. It is the Muslim teaching that the "son" who was sacrificed was Ishmael, not Isaac, the former being Abraham's only son at that time. (Cf. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 75).
"Verses concerning the Divine Presence," referred to on p. 115 and elsewhere, are numerous in the Qur'án. Among them are these: Súrih 39:69: "And the earth shall shine with the light [núr] of her Lord, and the Book shall be set, and the prophets shall be brought up, and the witnesses ... and none shall be wronged." 89:22-23: "... when the earth shall be crushed with crushing, crushing, And thy Lord shall come and the angels rank on rank ..." 83:6: "The day when mankind shall stand before the Lord of the worlds." 20:107, 110: "On that day shall men follow their summoner ... and low shall be their voices before the God of Mercy, nor shalt thou hear aught but the light footfall ... And humble shall be their faces before Him that Liveth ...
Rawdíh-khání, p. 121, is ritualistic lamentation for the martyred Imám Husayn. With the new Advent, the time of mourning was over; as a symbol of this, Táhirih, the great poetess who became a convert to the Faith of the Báb, refused to wear the traditional mourning for Husayn on the anniversary of his martyrdom, thus openly defying the people of Karbilá.
Adrianople, p. 132, is in Arabic Adirnih. Every letter of the Arabic alphabet has a numerical value, and according to this (abjad) reckoning the words Adirnih and Mystery (sirr) are equivalent, the Arabic letters composing each totalling 260.
The language and script referred to on p. 138 were never communicated to anyone by Bahá’u’lláh.
The Qayyúm-i'Asmá, p. 139, is the Báb's Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, whose first chapter was revealed in the presence of Mullá Husayn, on the night when the Báb declared His mission in Shíráz, May 22, 1844. Bahá’u’lláh speaks of it in the Íqán as "the first, the greatest and mightiest of all books" of the Bábí Dispensation.
The Great Announcement, p. 143, refers to Qur'án 78:1-2 and 38:67: an-Nabáu'l-`Azím.
"He maketh the morning darkness," (Amos 4:12-13) on p. 146, refers to the fact that Mírzá Yahyá, known as Subh-i-Azal—the Morning of Eternity—denied the Manifestation and betrayed Him.
The statement "None knoweth the time ..." on p. 157 refutes the believers who claimed that the advent proclaimed by the Báb to be imminent, would take place only in 2,001, a date arrived at by totaling the numerical value of the letters composing the word Mustagháth, assigned by the Báb as the limit of time fixed for the coming of the promised Manifestation. Mustagháth, means "He Who is Invoked."
The martyrdom of the Imám Husayn at Karbilá is described by Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Modern Library Edition, III, 125, 127. Dhi'l-Jawshan is Shimr, who killed Husayn, son of `Alí and grandson of Muhammad. (p. 158).
On p. 159, "Súrih of the Qur'án" refers to Súrih 109, "Unbelievers," in which Muhammad refuses to compromise with the idolatrous Meccans.
Siyyid Muhammad, the Siyyid of Isfáhán, is the Antichrist of the Bahá’í Revelation. It was he who misled Mírzá Yahyá, half-brother of Bahá’u’lláh. (Cf. God Passes By, p. 164, 189, etc.) This reference occurs on pages 164 and 168 of the present text.
The Mawlavís are an order of whirling dervishes, founded by Jalál-i-Dín Rúmí, 1207-1273 A.D. For Khidr, a name which means green, see traditions concerning Qur'án, 18:64. In Islám he is the discoverer and custodian of the water of life, and symbol of the True Guide. Rukn is the Black Stone set in the wall of the Ka`bih, the cube-shaped building at Mecca which is the chief object of pilgrimage of the Muslim world. The Maqám or Station of Abraham is near the Ka`bih. Cf. Qur'án 2:119: "Take ye the station of Abraham for a place of prayer"; and again 3:90-91: "The first Temple that was founded for mankind, was that in Becca (i.e., Mecca) ... In it are evident signs, even the standing-place of Abraham: and he who entereth it is safe." These last four references will be found on pages 164, 179, and 181 of this text.
The foregoing is admittedly minimal in the way of a gloss, since the book is allusively very rich and offers abundant material for study.
The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf is still another proof, if more proof were needed, that the Prophet Figure has risen again, as He did in the past. That the mystery which surrounds us has spoken again, through the mouth of a human being. That the old pattern—of Herald, Prophet, martyrs, and establishment of the Faith—has been repeated in our times. That the promises of previous Faiths as to the advent of the Day of God have at last been redeemed. In that Tablet to the Sháh of Persia, whose bearer was put to death, Bahá’u’lláh, the Glory of God, sums up His case:
"This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow. The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not. Ask of the city wherein I dwelt, that thou mayest be well assured that I am not of them who speak falsely. This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? (Marzieh Gail, Introduction to 1953 edition of ‘Epistle to the Son of Wolf’, by Baha’u’llah)