December 25, 2011

Huququ’llah (The Right of God) – a talk by the Hand of the Cause Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqa at the Sixth International Convention, Haifa, May 1, 1988

Dearly loved friends,

At the inception of the Six Year Plan of the Universal House of Justice, which coincided with dramatic changes in many aspects of society, a new arena for rapid development of the Faith of God has been attained and the purpose and aim of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation have been unveiled before the very eyes of Government Authorities, Heads of States and Scholars who were not even aware of its existence.

At this rightful time the Universal House of Justice has emphasized the importance of acquiring knowledge of the laws and ordinances revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, and adopted the translation of the most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, into English as one of the sublime goals of this new plan.

Among the commandments and decrees revealed in this sacred Book is the law of Huququ'lláh, previously applicable only to the friends in the East. The Western friends became aware of this law with the dissemination of the compilation of the Holy text and the Sacred writings prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.

Huququ'lláh is an Arabic word composed of two words, "Huquq" meaning "Rights" and "Allah" meaning "God". Therefore, Huququ'lláh means "The Rights of God", a part of the individual's possessions and income offered at the Threshold of the Lord.

In a Tablet addressed to Jinab-i-Zayn referring to Huququ'lláh, Bahá'u'lláh states that the progress and the promulgation of the Faith of God, depend on material means, therefore, the expansion and the advancement of God's Revelation and the establishment of a new order and a new world civilization cannot be achieved without material means.

December 10, 2011

The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice – a talk by Ian Semple, former member of the Universal House of Justice, London, 28 January, 2006 [1]

When, earlier today, I was recalling these past years, it occurred to me how much the British Bahá’í Community has grown in that short time. When I left in 1961 I recollect there were about eight hundred Bahá’ís in the whole British Isles, and they were already not only operating twenty five Local Spiritual Assemblies, but directing the work in east and west Africa, and starting to think about the Pacific, and all sorts of things. At that time they were in fact about the size of a normal local congregation of a Non-Conformist Church, but the Faith obviously had much greater strength – as you see by the range of activities that they were undertaking. Now just see the size of the meeting here and think of all the other friends in the British Isles. It is a tremendous advance.

What I have been asked to talk about tonight is the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, which, in a sense, is a brief outline of part of the history of the Faith. I think history is vital for us to know and to understand but we should also see ourselves as part of it. We cannot divide life rigidly into the past, present and future. Academically, perhaps, one has to. I remember when I was at university one of my friends wanted to study the history of the First World War, but he was told by his professor of history that he could not do that, it just wasn’t history; it was current affairs.

Of course, really, current affairs is just a continuation of history. This was brought home to me in 1962, when we were at Bahjí commemorating the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh. In those days we would go out there in the evening and have a meal together, and then we would spend the evening either dozing or walking around or sitting, talking, and then we would probably go to sleep for a while and, finally, in the morning hours gather for the commemoration of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh. Well, that particular night, while we were sitting around the table where we had been eating, the Hand of the Cause Mr Samandarí, who was there with us, told us how moved he was to be there on that evening because it was the first time he had been in Bahjí on the night of the Ascension since it took place. And we realised he had been a pilgrim when Bahá’u’lláh ascended and had been in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. And here he was sitting with us. That’s how short Bahá’í history is. This is just the year 162 – we are in the middle of the second century. We are not, in Bahá’í terms, at the beginning of the 21st century; we are in the second century. We are in the springtime of the world.

November 24, 2011

'Abdu’l-Baha and the Rabbi – by Willard P. Hatch

The dynamic address of ‘Abdu'l-Baha at the Temple Emmanu-El referred to by the author in the following article, was published in full in "The Palo Altan" of Palo Alto, Calif., together with His vitally important addresses at Stanford University and the Unitarian Church in Palo Alto. They were later published in the book of His addresses in America, "The Promulgation of Universal Peace." 'Abdu'l-Baha said that the Baha'i Teachings are the "principles of action," and that "When practical activity has been manifested, the teachings of God have borne fruit." The story as printed below shows how Abdu'l Baha's Word was His sword, and "the power of God His victory."

It was in the Fall of the year 1912.

Temple Emmanu-El, the synagogue of the reformed Jews, at 450 Sutter Street, in downtown San Francisco, was packed to overflowing. By sitting on the floor in the balcony, the writer was enabled to both see and hear.

On the rostrum was a scene such as reminded one of a painting of ancient times. In turban and flowing, camel's hair robe the sage of divine wisdom, His Holiness 'Abdu'l- Baha was speaking; the Spirit that accompanied His luminous Persian periods was so powerful that attention was intensely centered upon Him; to such an extent that the fact that His words were interpreted became inconspicuous and was completely lost to consciousness.

November 6, 2011

Christianity in the Baha’i Message – by Lady Sitarih Blomfield

"No one has ever loved Christ as I do." – ‘Abdu'l-Baha

"Should a servant desire to make the words, deeds and actions of other servants, learned or ignorant, the standard for knowing God and His chosen ones, he shall never enter the Ridvan of the knowledge of the Lord of Might." - Baha'u'llah

Hundreds of thousands of our Eastern brothers, both Jews and Muslims, have learned, through the teaching of 'Abdu'l-Baha that His Holiness Christ is the Spirit, the divine Son of God.

Some young Jewish men came from Persia on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; after saluting 'Abdu'l-Baha, and being blessed by Him, they said: "Now we go to Jerusalem, to pray for pardon, and to weep for the blindness of our forefathers in that they rejected and crucified our Messiah. Our parents also laid this charge upon us: 'that we should convey their lamentation, and for them implore forgiveness’”.

Again a young Jewish soldier came to 'Abdu'l-Baha saying: "I cannot acknowledge their supposed Messiah, whom they call Jesus Christ, but I can understand and accept Baha'u'llah as our Messiah."

'Abdu'l-Baha said to him: "You cannot become a disciple of Baha'u'llah until you believe that His Holiness Christ is the Spirit, the divine Son of God."

A doctor, who had been in Alexandria, where he saw 'Abdu'l Baha and witnessed His Christ like life, told me that for the first time he was able to understand what the Lord Christ must have been like. "Now I am able to believe," he said.

September 30, 2011

Arising to serve -- a letter from the Hand of the Cause Bill Sears

[The following is a slightly abbreviated version of a letter sent to the Counsellors, the National Spiritual Assemblies in Africa, and through them to every individual Baha’i in that continent.]

January 19, 1982
To: Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies

Beloved Friends, Colleagues and fellow Baha'is:

We have written in some detail about our Supreme Universal House of Justice, the Continental Boards of Counsellors, the National Spiritual Assemblies, and their attendant Institutions, and the tremendous power they can release into the world for the benefit of all mankind when functioning harmoniously in love and unity. It is a Power and a Force that staggers and overwhelms the imagination.

This letter will review the importance and significance of the instrument by which that Force and Power of love and justice can be released into the world. You and me! "It is upon the individual believer", our beloved Guardian assures us, that "the revitalization, the expansion, and the enrichment" of every homefront "must ultimately depend." Upon us, the individual Baha'is.

There has never been in all religious history a story more thrilling than our story.

August 4, 2011

The Greatest Holy Leaf: A Reminiscence – by ‘Ali Nakhjavani

(Excerpts from an address presented during the World Centre seminar commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf, held in the reception concourse, permanent Seat of the Universal House of Justice, 17 July 1982.)

As we sit together in this gathering I am reminded of the fact that our beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, speaks about the mystic bond that exists between the Greatest Holy Leaf and Baha'u'llah. Obviously this is so, for she was not only His daughter but was referred to by Him as the woman who has the highest rank among all women believers in the Baha'i dispensation, a station that none surpasses. Shoghi Effendi, basing himself on this statement, has named her the outstanding heroine of the Baha'i dispensation.

The Greatest Holy Leaf also had a mystic bond, as Shoghi Effendi describes the relationship, with her brother, 'Abdu'l-Baha, the Centre of the Covenant -- One Who not only knew her station and appointed her to be in total charge of His household, but Who entrusted her with the sacred remains of the Bab which were housed in her room for some ten years in the house of 'Abdu'llah Pasha, Who entrusted her with His last will and testament and Who realized that after His passing she would play a central role in the community, as He knew that Shoghi Effendi was not present at the time of His passing. We can be sure that 'Abdu'l-Baha passed away with His mind at rest, because He knew that Shoghi Effendi would soon be there, and that the Greatest Holy Leaf was there.

After the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha the mystic bond between Shoghi Effendi and the Greatest Holy Leaf assumed far-reaching proportions. I am sure that future historians and other writers will write about the eleven years that passed from the night of the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha to the night of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf.

May 27, 2011

The Beloved of All Hearts - Shoghi Effendi -- a talk by Hand of the Cause Dhikru’llah Khadem

November, 1984
Ninth Annual Conference of the Association for Baha'i Studies
Ottawa, Canada 

I have been asked to speak of the beloved of all hearts, Shoghi Effendi. I will say a Persian poem: Tá'key bi-tammannáy-i-visál-i-Tu, Yigáneh Ashgam shavad az bar muzheh chun seyl raváneh. This is the English translation:

How long will this torrent of tears flood from each lash in my longing to meet thee?
O, the unique one, my beloved, Will the night of thy separation ever end?
O, thou, whose agony and tribulations have, as an arrow, pierced the hearts of thy lovers.
Multitudes are occupied in thy praise whilst thou art hidden from them.( Sheikh-i-Baha'i, Baha'i News, March, 1976; Ash’ar-i-parákandeh, Sheikh-i-Baha'i, 76)

Now we are all, as individuals in this multitude, occupied with the praise of the beloved Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of this glorious Manifestation. According to Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha such a dispensation as the Revelation of Baha'u'llah comes to the world only once in every 500,000 years. Only then will there be another Guardian of the Cause.

I remember the time I was in the presence of Shoghi Effendi when he spoke about the significance of twin [1] things in the Cause. In fact, he sent a cable about this to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the British Isles. In this cable, he told us about the significance of twin occurrences in this Cause. He told the Assembly that we have twin cities – holy cities -'Akka and Haifa; twin houses - the House of Shiraz and the House of Baghdad; twin Manifestations - the Manifestation of the Bab and that of Baha'u'llah. He continued, telling us everything is twin: twin festivals- the birthday of the Bab and that of Baha'u'llah; twin monuments - of the brother and mother of 'Abdu'l-Baha. During this time I was in his presence, the beloved Guardian was so exhilarated and happy. It gave me the courage to mention to him that we have two gardens: the garden of Ridvan and the garden of Firdaws. Then, the beloved Shoghi Effendi smiled and said, "You've noted that, but you have forgotten to say twin vistas: the view of the sea and the view of the mountain." After explaining these things, he paused and looked at me deeply and said, "In the Cause of God everything is twin." I have no doubt that he meant two Manifestations and two Interpreters: The Bab and Baha'u'llah, the two Manifestations of God; and 'Abdu'l-Baha and the beloved Shoghi Effendi, the two Interpreters.

May 10, 2011

Count Leo Tolstoy and the Baha’i Movement – by Martha L. Root

When I was in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1927, I met the secretary of Count Leo Tolstoy, Mr. Valentin Bulgakov; we had a long talk about Count Tolstoy and his contact with the Baha'i Movement. Later, in December, 1930, I met Miss Alexandra Tolstoy, the youngest daughter of this great Russian writer and humanitarian. She said to me then, "What Mr. Bulgaliov has told you about my father's interest in the Baha'i Movement is true. He was with him during the last four years of my father's life; he was his secretary and arranged his library." Then, too, I corresponded with Mrs. Isabel Grinevsky of Leningrad in 1927 and she wrote me about Count Tolstoy.

It is through these kind friends that I have the facts for this article. An added interest was given to the subject for me when only a few days ago, May 3 1, 1932, I interviewed the president of a Roman Catholic university in Poland who had met 'Abdu'l-Baha in 1914, in Haifa, Palestine. 'Abdu'l-Baha said to him that there was no greater writer in Europe than Count Leo Tolstoy. "What a pity that Tolstoy, who so admired the Teachings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, never had the privilege of meeting Him."

"Count Tolstoy knew the Baha'i Teachings through literature. I think he did not know any Baha'is personally," said Mr. Bulgakov in his talk with me. "He first heard of the Baha'i Movement in May, 1903, when Mrs. Isabel Grinevsky brought out in Leningrad (the former capital of Russia that then was called St. Petersburg) a great drama called Báb; it was in verse and gave the illumined history of the Forerunner of the Baha'i Movement, a young man called Báb and His disciples called Letters of the Living; the scenes were laid in Persia. This drama was played in one of the principal theatres of St. Petersburg, in January, 1904, and given a remarkable reception. Some of the critics went far in its praise. For example, the poet Fiedler (who afterward translated the drama into German) said: 'We receive from the five acts of the poetical drama Báb more information about the Baha'i Movement than from the deep, scientific researches of Professor Edward G. Browne, Gobineau and Russian scientists and historians. As the Herold has already published two full feuilletons about the poem, we shall speak only of the performance of the play. Rarely has the renown of any play preceded the performance as has this of Mrs. Grinevsky.' "

The Herold of January, 1904, printed the following:

April 8, 2011

A Message of Love from Hand of the Cause of God Enoch Olinga

(After his triumphant tour through the Western Hemisphere, Hand of the Cause of Cod Enoch Olinga sent the following letter to all the National Spiritual Assemblies. It is an example of the love and understanding of our problems, which characterized his entire visit.)

Enroute to the Pacific and Asia

October 28, 1970

National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'is of South America, Central America, North America, and the islands of the Caribbean.

Beloved Baha'i friends,

Before leaving the Western Hemisphere, it is my wish to try to express the love and gratitude flowing from my heart to all the believers who have welcomed, assisted and sustained me in these travels. For the past six months, in South, Central and North America, and the Antilles, rare experiences in the company of the soldiers of the Blessed Perfection have been granted me. Indeed, when I recall how the beloved Guardian expressed the hope to me that some day I would travel in the Western Hemisphere, to meet the friends and teach His Cause, it is now one more sign to me of the kindness of the Loving Creator to His servants that this experience should have come my way and these months be spent in a manner so pleasing to my soul.

For what can bring more happiness than seeing, from the tip of South America to the far reaches of Alaska, the triumphs of self-sacrificing soldiers in the army of the Blessed Beauty? The promises of the Master, 'Abdu'l-Baha, are everywhere evidenced in their fruition, for now that the healing Word of God is being carried to the masses, they are entering our beloved Faith in troops and we are seeing the rapid expansion and simultaneous consolidation predicted for these days.

February 25, 2011

The value of prayer – A talk by Hand of the Cause John Robarts

House of Worship in Wilmette
March 20, 1974

From my earliest days in the Faith [Mr. Robarts and his wife Audrey have been Baha'is since 1937] it has seemed that we have had too few speakers. Anybody who was willing to give a talk would receive many invitations. In that long-ago period when I was first a believer, I went to many places in Canada and the United States to speak. I must tell you about one place because it often comes to my mind when I consider the subject of prayer. It was on April 17. I had been invited to address a community where there were eight believers and they needed a ninth to form their Local Spiritual Assembly a few days hence. My plane was delayed and I arrived late while prayers were being said. I was ushered to a seat beside the chairman. When the prayers were finished, he whispered to me (there were about 45 people in the room), "John, do you see that tall man in the third row, center? He is the only non-Baha’i in the room. We need him for our Assembly on Thursday!"

I stood up and looked at my opponent. He was a nice person. I noticed he had very large eyes. I began to speak but soon felt that I wasn't doing very well. I didn't seem to be inspired and suddenly I realized that my friend's eyes were opening and closing very slowly, and then to my horror, they closed and clicked shut. I had lost my man. He was sound asleep! In my despair I turned to Baha’u'llah and said, "Dear Baha’u'llah, please come to my aid. We need that man for our Assembly on Thursday." I went on with my talk and what seemed like a bright idea struck me, which I felt must have been the answer to my cry for help. In quite a loud voice, I said, "Baha’u'llah said, 'The people are wrapped in a strange sleep!'" And I banged the table with my fist. The man woke up as though he had been shot and he stayed awake. He became a Baha'i that evening, and helped to form the Assembly on Thursday!

I think this is a good illustration of renewal of faith through prayer. It certainly renewed my faith when I saw those beautiful eyes open again and it renewed his when he really turned his heart to Baha'u'llah. We were all very happy.

February 14, 2011

Reflecting on what it means to be a Baha’i – A talk given by Hand of the Cause, Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum in India, in 1964

Transcript of a talk given in 1964 at an all-India Teaching Conference, arranged by the National Spiritual Assembly at Gwalior Teaching Institute in India. About 500 believers had come from all corners of India to this conference.

It is a great joy to be here. When I look at your faces it makes me feel that I am seeing the faces of all the Baha'is in India. As I have been ill -- in the last two weeks I have had two attacks of influenza and been in bed for eight days -- I have to be a little careful that I don't get it back again.

I would like to say that the preciousness of this occasion that we have here is far beyond our powers to describe. We must appreciate it. You see it is very seldom that so many devoted Baha’is, many of them active in the teaching work, have an opportunity to come together in one place, even for a few hours. I have noticed that mass teaching is the subject that I have been asked to speak on, but I must be excused and speak from my heart what I feel is most important, because mass teaching is the subject of this entire Conference. It is your subject as well as my subject, but now I must at first speak just from my heart.

When our beloved Shoghi Effendi died in 1957, I said that the only Baha'i we had in the world had died. This Cause of Baha'u'llah is so great. It is for at least 1,000 years. Who understands it? Some of us who are here were born Baha'is, some have ancestors who were Baha’is, some of you became Baha'is maybe yesterday or this morning. This is not the point. We are all Baha'is. I feel very strongly that if we Baha'is want to teach the Message of Baha'u'llah to the people of India, the better we have in our minds the concept of how great this Message is, the easier it will be to teach it. I want you to make a little trip with me. Come with me on a little trip and follow my thought. It is night time and we are looking up at the sky -- and in India the sky is very clear -- and we see this great white river across the sky, which in English we call the Milky Way. City people and village people are familiar with this great river of light, but do all of us know that this river of light is composed of millions and billions of stars just like our sun? How many of us know that we little human beings looking up at the sky, that we on this earth belong to the stars in that river? So great is this river. Now our sun is our centre, and around the centre of this sun which belongs to us are grouped all the planets, and we on this earth are just one of the planets that go around our sun. So, now we get down to this earth. We know where we are out there in space, we know where we are in relation to this sun which is setting, and now let us begin to talk about this planet on which we human beings live.

February 5, 2011

Explanation of the Emblem of the Greatest Name – by Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qasim Faizi

“From eternity Thou hast been removed far above the reach and the ken of the comprehension of Thy servants, and immeasurably exalted above the strivings of Thy bond-slaves to express Thy mystery.” – Baha’u’llah

The identity of the Greatest Name, a mystery concealed from time immemorial "behind the mystic veil" and preserved in the treasure house of the knowledge of God, was to be revealed and manifested to men's eyes at its appointed time in accordance with the Divine Plan, like the other manifold and basic truths of the New Age. Allusions had been made to it by the Messengers of old, under the impact of Whose Revelations, man-made spiritual progress and gradually attained a clearer understanding of its hidden meanings. Like a brilliant sun wrapt in clouds, the Greatest Name remained hidden and unknown. Those who longed to catch a glimpse of its splendor drew close, but enjoyed only a dim vision of its radiance. Throughout past centuries, in accordance with the inscrutable wisdom of God's progressive revelation of truth, the veils remained until gradually, one by one, they were removed from this precious and all-embracing Name.

Anticipated in Past Religions

The eager followers of past religions, in their deep desire to witness a flickering of the approaching majestic dawn, found that the new Name of the Great One to come meant "light", "splendor" and "glory". The followers of Krishna, for instance, expected His return under the name of "Vishnu Yasha", which in Sanskrit means "Glory of God". The last chapter of the Shrimad Bhagwad of the Hindu Scripture states: "Vishnu Yasha will possess great energy, intelligence and prowess . . . He will restore order and peace in this world . . . Man in general will begin to honor and practice truth." (1)

One of the Bahá'i scholars in the Middle East, whose father had formerly superintended a Buddhist Temple, and who was himself well-versed in the writings of that Faith, told me that many times he had read the entire Gospel of Buddha in Sanskrit, every word of which he had understood with the exception of the meaning of a word composed of "B", "H" and "A", which occasionally appears in Buddhist Scripture. When he learned of the Bahá'i Faith, the mystery was solved. The letters, joined together, formed the name of "Bahá".

January 11, 2011

“Before Abraham was, I am”! – by Thornton Chase, “The First Baha’i in America”

(A letter written by Thornton Chase, of Chicago, Ill., on September 27th, 1902, to a Christian studying the Baha’i Revelation)

Your letter to me was duly received. I am not inclined to feel discouragement or disappointment, when a true soul is seeking the Light and yet does not grasp its wonderful presence rapidly. We have seen too many, who have "accepted" all with little or no hesitation, and then when the first winds of testing blew, "faith" proved to be of shallow depth, and passivity proved more attractive than endurance.

"Hasten slowly" is a good motto. Some seemed to be truly prepared and waiting for this Truth, and it comes to them as satisfactorily as water to a thirsty traveler, but even in those cases, there is required a process of growth through trials and tests of the most severe kind. The seed may fall into rich and deep soil, and begin to grow immediately and perhaps rapidly, but the full tree is not sown, only the seed. It must be nourished, cared for, cultivated and yet not overfed, and tried by difficulties, that it may become strongly rooted, and thus fitted to stand all winds of opposition.

This Truth offers the wonderful opportunities of a fresh Dawn, in which all things are become new, and are presented in newly charming dress, but the truths themselves are as old as Eternity, and have been told to God's creatures throughout their existence, in such guise as their varying conditions could, from time to time, permit them to comprehend. But no more now, than then, is any "royal road" to Paradise offered. The path is strewn and hedged with thorns, although sweet roses bloom above them. The way is one of testing, trials and fire, that "searches the reins" and tears away from us one beloved stronghold after another, until the very essence of the creature realizes its utter helplessness, its nakedness, its need of the presence of its Maker. It must come to realize that every birth is only through death, and that the spiritual birth can only be through the natural death.