Oct 19, 2016

The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – by Amin Banani

The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha are the fruit of more than half a century of prolific labour from His early twenties to the seventy-eighth and final year of His life. Their full volume is as yet unknown; and much remains to be done in gathering, analyzing, and collating His literary legacy.

His Writings consist of personal correspondence, general tablets, tablets on specific themes, books, prayers, poems, public talks, and recorded conversations. Approximately four-fifths of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings are in Persian; the rest -- with the exception of a very small number of prayers and letters in Turkish -- are in Arabic. ‘Abdu’l-Baha was both fluent and eloquent in these three languages. Transcriptions of His extemporaneous speeches are often indistinguishable from His Writings. In a culture that placed a high premium on rhetoric ‘Abdu’l-Baha was recognized by friend and foe, Arab and Persian, as a paragon of distinctive style and eloquence.

It is the intent of this article to touch upon the character of that style and to present an overview of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings in various genres and categories. Discussion of the language and style is inherently limited, as it must be attempted across twin barriers of culture and tongue; the attempt at categorization is necessarily arbitrary and is meant to serve only as a catalogue. Obviously any number of criteria, such as chronological, thematic and linguistic, can provide different sets of categories. Furthermore, some works cited as examples of certain categories could easily be put under others.

‘Abdu’l-Baha was, of course, not a prophet and at no time claimed to have received direct revelation from God. But the Centre of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, and the appointed Interpreter of His Revelation, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’is believe, was divinely inspired and guided. His Writings, therefore, constitute for the Baha’is at once a part and an interpretation of their Scriptures.

Sep 8, 2016

Education of Children -- an interview with Hand of the Cause Mr. Furutan, April 1953

Question: How can we teach values to children?

Mr. Furutan considered this a very important subject. He clarified the question by saying that this implied how to bring eternal values, not found outside of religion, to children.

"Only teach through parables and stories," he said, "like Jesus Christ." "Those that will reach the mind of the child."

In ‘Some Answered Questions’, ‘Abdu’l-Baha said, ''Wisdom must be limited to the mentality of the hearer." Mr. Furutan also reminded us of the stories in the Bible where Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God as being like a mustard seed, and the enemies of God like dead bodies. With these two He compared the right from the wrong. Mr. Furutan reiterated how Jesus used the language of the farmer and the home. He told us that Jesus used the familiar language.

In teaching these eternal values we must make use of similes that can be comprehended, such as the one of the sun and the manifestation, and the one that the faith of God is like a fountain that cleanses and purifies.

Mr. Furutan told us to recall the story in the Tablet to the Son of the Wolf when Baha'u'llah refers to His own intimations of prophethood and a maiden. How, as He was falling asleep, a feeling rushed over Him like a flood from head to foot similar to a waterfall.

"We must create a new terminology", said the Hand of the Cause." “Anyone with the talent and the time should glean stories for this use from the Holy Books." He has done this in Persia and will send us the books in order that we may translate them. Some of the methods he uses with his classes are: In teaching Bounty and Grace. He asks, "What makes us see?" They answer, "Light." "If you turn off this light can you see? You have your eyes, why then can you not see?" He then tells the students, that in this same manner if God removes His bounty from us, our souls cannot see even though we have physical bodies.

Aug 14, 2016

The Seed Sowing of the Ages - by May Maxwell

Address at the Fifth Session of the Baha’i Congress
Hotel Mealpin, New York City
April 28th, 1919
(Stenographically reported)

Beloved friends: As we have gathered here day by day and night by night in this room in the heart of this great city, we must have all realized that we are in the presence of an extraordinary event, that as the torrents of living water have poured from these great creative Tablets over our souls, we have been submerged in a realm of light and beauty and love which leaves us in great amazement. It may be that the most difficult thing for the soul is to become conscious of the greatness of events with which we are contemporaneous. We look back over the history of the human race and we see how many thousand years ago God made covenant with mankind through Abraham, and in that covenant He promised that the day would come upon this dark world when the seed of Abraham should be as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea.

When Moses gave the great Tablets to the Israelitish people and they gathered on either side of the mountain and took an oath of allegiance and devotion and love and loyalty to that great covenant of steadfastness and servitude to the people, another great epoch in the seed sowing was unfolded.  When we look back upon such periods in the world we realize their greatness. We understand their sublime significance, and yet we here gathered are living in a period so infinitely greater and more wonderful that we are dazzled by the brightness of the light so that we cannot see. Those Israelitish people fulfilled their covenant and were led away and found the Promised Land of God.

Jun 4, 2016

The White Silk Dress – reflecting on the life of Táhirih (The Pure One) - by Marzieh Gail

The body lies crushed into a well, with rocks over it, somewhere near the center of Tihran. Buildings have gone up around it, and traffic passes along the road near where the garden was. Buses push donkeys to one side, automobiles from across the world graze the camels' packs, carriages rock by. Toward sunset men scoop up water from a stream and fling it into the road to lay the dust. And the body is there, crushed into the ground, and men come and go, and think it is hidden and forgotten.

Beauty in women is a relative thing. Take Layli, for instance, whose lover Majnun had to go away into the desert when she left him, because he could no longer bear the faces of others; whereupon the animals came, and sat around him in a circle, and mourned with him, as any number of poets and painters will tell you - even Layli was not beautiful. Sa'di describes how one of the kings of Arabia reasoned with Majnun in vain, and how finally "It came into the king's heart to look upon the beauty of Layli, that he might see the face that had wrought such ruin. He bade them seek through the tribes of Arabia and they found her and brought her to stand in the courtyard before him. The king looked at her; he saw a woman dark of skin and slight of body, and he thought little of her, for the meanest servant in his harem was fairer than she. Majnun read the king's mind, and he said, 'O king, you must look upon Layli through the eyes of Majnun, till the inner beauty of her may be manifest.’” Beauty depends on the eyes that see it. At all events we know that Tahirih was beautiful according to the thought of her time.

Perhaps she opened her mirror-case one day – the eight-sided case with a lacquer nightingale singing on it to a lacquer rose - and looked inside, and thought how no record of her features had been made to send into the future. She probably knew that age would never scrawl over the face, to cancel the beauty of it, because she was one of those who die young. But perhaps, kneeling on the floor by the long window, her book laid aside, the mirror before her - she thought how her face would vanish, just as Layi's had, and Shirin's, and all the others. So that she slid open her pen-case, and took out the reed pen, and holding the paper in her palm, wrote the brief self-portrait that we have of her: "Small black mole at the edge of the lip - A black lock of hair by either cheek -" she wrote; and the wooden pen creaked as she drove it over the paper.

Apr 20, 2016

The signs in the heavens during the appearance of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh - by Hand of the Cause William Sears

It is said in Scripture and Tradition that at the time of the birth or announcement of every Messenger of God, a star or a sign appears in the heavens.

Nimrod was warned of the star that told of the coming of Abraham. The soothsayers warned Pharaoh of the star in the heavens that foretold the coming of Moses. The Magi informed Herod of the new star that guided them to the throne of the "spiritual king," Jesus. The same legend is told of Buddha, Zoroaster, Muhammad and Krishna.

What were the signs in the heavens during the appearance of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh? The holy Scriptures of all faiths had spoken of Twin-Revelations that would appear at the "time of the end." Now that the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh had appeared, fulfilling these prophecies, what were the signs in the heavens?  Signs, not for one, but for two Messengers of God, Who would appear almost simultaneously?

Some of us know the story of the great comet of 1843 which foreshadowed the coming of the Báb.

Sir James Jeans, late British astronomer and mathematician, stated in his book ‘Through Space and Time’, "oddly enough, many of the most conspicuous appearances of comets seem to have coincided with, or perhaps just anticipated, important events in history." [1]

One of the most unique stories of a comet is that told of the period during which the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh were engaging correspondence, and during which the Báb was preparing His followers for the appearance of Bahá'u'lláh. This story was told in the stars as well as on the earth.

Jan 16, 2016

The Greatest Holy Leaf’s unparalleled role in religious history and the significance of the Arc, the site of her resting place – by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani

The year 2013 marks the hundredth anniversary of ‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s return to the Holy Land from His historic trip to Egypt and the West. He left Haifa for Egypt in September 1910 and returned there three years later. The person “invested … with the responsibility” to attend “to the multitudinous details arising out of His protracted absence from the Holy Land” (‘BAHÍYYIH KHÁNUM’, A compilation from Bahá'í sacred texts and writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum's own letters, made by the Research department at the Bahá'í World Centre [henceforth “BK”] p. 39) was His honoured sister, Bahíyyih Khánum, [1] the Greatest Holy Leaf. In the words of Shoghi Effendi: “At the time of His [‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s] absence in the western world, she was His competent deputy, His representative and vicegerent, with none to equal her” (BK 28).

The centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s return to the Holy Land after His protracted absence coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. As we gather to celebrate these landmarks, we take time to ponder upon the life of a most remarkable woman in the history of religion, focus attention on the outstanding services she rendered and on the significance of the site Shoghi Effendi chose for her burial place. It was his choice of a specific spot on Mount Carmel that determined the location of the Arc, around which are built the institutions of the world administrative centre of the Faith, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice occupying its centre top.

The Greatest Holy Leaf

Born in Tihran to Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum in 1846, she was named Fatimih at birth. She was later called Bahíyyih. In a Tablet revealed in her honour, Bahá’u’lláh confirms that she appeared in His name. “Verily she is a leaf that hath sprung from this preexistent Root. She hath revealed herself in My name and tasted of the sweet savours of My holy, My wondrous pleasure” (BK p. v). The full text of Bahá’u’lláh’s original Arabic of the above is inscribed around the circular dome of the Greatest Holy Leaf’s monument on Mount Carmel (Ibid).