THE WORD MADE FLESH
God is unknowable. He is infinite; we are finite, and the finite cannot encompass the infinite. But God created man in His own image, in the image of His qualities and attributes. He created man because He loved his creation.
'O Son of Man!' writes Bahá'u'lláh, 'Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.'
The Manifestation of God
So that man should know Him and love Him, and do His will, God has from age to age manifested Himself to men, in a human temple.
Again Bahá'u'lláh writes,
'The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace ... hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that They may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence. These sanctified Mirrors, these Daysprings of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived Their sovereignty. The beauty of Their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and Their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through Them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by Them is revealed the light that can never fade.'
The Manifestations of God are the 'Word (of God) made flesh.' They reveal God to man. Through Them and by Them man comes to know God, and learns the purpose of God, It is only through His Manifestations that God can be known. In Them nothing can be seen but the glory and the power, the majesty and the will of the Godhead. Jesus said that whoever had seen Him had seen the Father, he who had known Him had known God. Every road to the Creator of the universe is barred, save that through His Manifestations, through those divine Figures, those exalted Beings Whom we know as the Founders of the religions of mankind. Therefore Jesus said: 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.'
The Manifestation of God links the world of God with the world of man. He is a human being, completely and totally possessed of humanity, sharing in full the life of man, having the same sorrows, the same pains, the same joys. But His reality is the reality of the Holy Spirit. He is the chosen vehicle of God's revelation. His being is like a perfect, stainless mirror reflecting to mankind the reality of the Godhead. Hold a mirror, `Abdu'l-Bahá tells us, to the sun, and in it you will find reflected the shining orb of the firmament with augmented heat and augmented light. By this smile, He illustrates the reflection of the reality of the Godhead in a human temple. God and man meet in the being of the Manifestation of God, who thus becomes the link between the world of the Creator and the world of the created.
The Second Birth
The first divine hypothesis, `Abdu'l-Bahá has said, is the appearance of the Manifestations of God. History attests this fact, and history should be read in terms of Their appearance, Their appearance, Their teaching, Their influence, Their achievement. They are
the makers of history. Without reference to Them, history shows no conscious purpose, no direction, no intrinsic meaning, no ultimate goal. The Manifestation of God not only directs man to the path of God, not only tells him what God has meant for him and what God intends him to do, but He energises and revitalises his life, uplifts his spirit, confers upon him a 'new birth'.
In the dead of night, the fourth gospel tells us, Nicodemus, a prominent man and leader of his people, went to see Jesus. What questions he put to Jesus St.John does not tell us. But it is not hard to guess. Nicodemus was a ruler amongst the Jews, and the problem of his people was the problem of Rome. Here were the people chosen and exalted by God, custodians of monotheism in a world of idol-worshippers, subjected and scorned by followers of pagan beliefs, practisers of pagan rites. How could they throw off this hatred, unbearable yoke? This was the problem of Nicodemus and his people, but all that Jesus would tell him was that he should be born again. And this Nicodemus could not understand.
But Peter understood it – Peter, the simple fisherman, so simple, `Abdu'l-Bahá tells us, that he could not keep count of the days of the week. He was not a man of substance. He was a stranger to fame and position. One day Jesus told this simple, obscure fisherman to leave his nets and follow Him. Unhesitatingly Peter did this, and yet he knew nothing of what Jesus had come to teach. The Sermon on the Mount had yet to be preached. The mysteries and the glories of the Kingdom had yet to be spoken of. Miracles had yet to be witnessed. But the soul of Peter responded to the call of Jesus. He followed Jesus, and his Master made him a new creation. On him He conferred a 'new birth'. By submitting to the power and the command of the Manifestation of God, Peter partook of His glory, was given insight and knowledge and understanding. In that world from which Peter had come, there were scores and
Hundreds of men outstanding in various fields of human achievement. In their eyes and in their estimation, Peter and his like had no significance. But they and their accomplishments have been long forgotten, whilst Peter lives in countless hearts. His name is blessed and has gone round the whole globe. This how a Manifestation of God performs the greatest of all His miracles.
'O Lord! Should the breaths of the Holy Spirit confirm the weakest of creatures,' says `Abdu'l-Bahá in a prayer, 'he shall attain to the highest station of greatness and shall possess anything he desireth. Indeed Thou has assisted Thy servants in the past, and they were the weakest of lived upon the earth; but through Thy sanction and potency they took precedence over the most glorious of Thy people and the most noble of mankind. Whereas formerly they were as moths, they became as royal falcons.'
Elsewhere he speaks of gnats turned into eagles.
The Manifestation of God is God's Vicar on earth, and it is by the grace and guidance which He brings to mankind that turns gnats into eagles. Wielding the authority and possessing the power that They do, the Manifestations of God achieve prodigies that are spoken of as miracles. Nothing can be impossible to Them. Indeed They can heal the sick and raise the dead. But these miracles cannot be convincing proofs of Their claim that They have come to man with a message and a mandate from God. How many were those who saw such miracles with their own eyes? But having seen the outward appearance they failed to see the inner purport. Some shrugged their shoulders and went their way; some accused the Manifestation of God of sorcery; some denied the reality of what they had witnessed; some tried to explain it away, and in future ages they relegated it to the realm of myths.
Furthermore the followers of one Manifestation, whilst attributing such miracles to the Founder of their own Faith, maintain that miracles said to have been performed by a Manifestation appearing in a later age, are pure fabrication. A Muslim accepts as true report the story of a miracle ascribed to Jesus. But a Christian is not prepared to admit the validity of any account that puts Muhammad on the same plane with Jesus. A Zoroastrian rejects miracles both of Jesus and Muhammad. Such deeds can be easily denied. But the person of Peter, the fisherman of Galilee, cannot be denied. Raising him to the heights which he attained is the hallmark of the power and the achievement of a Manifestation of God.
A youth of seventeen became the bearer of the Tablet which Bahá'u'lláh addressed the Sháh of Persia. 'Badí'' – the wonderful – was the designation which Bahá'u'lláh later conferred upon him. This heroic soul, although so young in years, had led a life which was not commendable, and had brought great disappointment to his family. Then he towards to 'Akká' where Bahá'u'lláh was confined in its grim barracks, and he started walking. All his hopes were centred on 'Akká. He reached it, he entered the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he was entrusted with the Tablet addressed to the Sháh. And he started walking back. Outside the capital city of Persia he awaited the despotic ruler of his country, and when he came face to face with Násiri'd-Dín Sháh, this boy, calm and composed, barely seventeen years of age, hailed the monarch with these words: 'O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message.' He was arrested, branded and tortured. He never flinched. A photograph exists of him with his torturers. It vividly portrays the dignity and the faith of a martyr. And this was the same youth whose life had lacked so much that was desirable. In him, said Bahá'u'lláh, 'the spirit of might and power was breathed'
Muhammad had an uncle named Hamzih, a fierce warrior, proud and arrogant. He had not accepted the mission of the Prophet, but Muhammad was his nephew, and the Arab's sense of clan loyalty was intense. For years Muhammad was subjected to pitiless, unceasing persecution, and Hamzih would, whenever feasible, come forward to defend and protect his nephew. Once, while away on a hunting trip, the people of Mecca inflicted severe injuries on the person of the Prophet. The hunter returned home dishevelled and fatigued, to find his wife in great distress. She was a follower of her husband's nephew, and now she took her husband to task. How could he remain silent when his nephew was so grossly insulted and so brutally maltreated! Hamzih sallied forth immediately in search of Muhammad and brusquely demanded to be told the names of the persecutors. Hamzih was impatient and Muhammad was unyielding. Then the Prophet suggested to His uncle that prior to learning the names of the persecutors and setting out to wreak vengeance upon them, he should repeat the words which every Muslim utters in declaration of his faith – 'I testify that there is no God but God. I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.' Hamzih did so in haste, and then Muhammad told him that no one who had uttered those weighty words could nurture any thought of revenge. The arrogant, ferocious man was subdued, and in an instant he recognised the truth of his Nephew's claims. Thereafter Hamzih bore slights and insults with faith and fortitude.
Such is the mysterious power of the Manifestation of God. Thus does He change the hearts of men. Thus does He call forth a new creation.
God's Chosen One
The Manifestation of God does not willingly, knowingly and consciously seek the station which is His; He does not undergo
a rigorous spiritual discipline with that intent. The Revelation which comes to Him from God is unsought. The choice belongs to God. When the Manifestation of God becomes conscious of His true identity, of his Mission, of the mandate given to Him by His Creator, He is puzzled. Why did God choose Him to be His Vicar on this earth, the vehicle of His Revelation? The Báb, Martyr-Prophet and the Herald of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, states that the appearance of a Manifestation of God is preordained. The emergence of the Infinite into the finite, for such is the nature of Revelation, the advent of the Unchangeable and the Everlasting into the ephemeral, the appearance of the dazzling splendour of God in a human temple, is not a matter of chance, a haphazard occurrence. Neither is it whimsical. There is a pattern ever unfolding from age to age. There is a definite purpose at work. The World of God is timeless, but its linking with the world of man through the World of Revelation is subject to the dictates of time. The Báb, referring to his own declaration, His own assumption of prophethood, which took place at two hours and eleven minutes after the sunset of May 22nd, 1844, asserts that this hour was determined from the beginning that hath no beginning. Since Revelation is progressive, and the Manifestation of God – His Messengers to mankind – come from age to age, Their advent is determined in relation to time.
It is in the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh that for the first time in the religious experience of mankind, the reality, the station, the function and the mission of the Manifestation of God, are made unequivocally clear. All the arguments and counter-arguments of human invention pale into insignificance in the light of Bahá'u'lláh's exposition. In this light one can see the majestic rhythm of the march of history. Purpose – conscious, rational purpose becomes evident. The logic of circumstances is laid bare. History is seen as a stupendous drama, unfolded from one act to another – each act and each chapter defined and
determined by the magnetic and vivifying powers of a Manifestation of God, Who brings that measure of guidance required for the age in which He appears. The Manifestation of God guides, leads and directs, but His message and His teachings are qualified by the degree of growth reached by Man at that particular epoch. The wholeness and oneness of religion is established as incontrovertible fact. One refuses to accept the existence of fundamental conflict amongst the religions of mankind. The law of evolution is found to be applicable to religion, which ceases to be divorced from life, and in fact causes the evolution of society. The interdependence of the diverse Faiths of mankind is well understood. No longer will man concede a cleavage between the spiritual and the temporal.
Therefore it follows that the rise of every civilization is due to the spiritual dynamic released by a Manifestation of God and the fall of every civilization is caused by the stagnation of the same dynamic in the course of time. `Abdu'l-Bahá traces, in the world of nature. There is a spiritual springtide – the days of re-awakening and seed-sowing – followed by the period corresponding to summer in the physical world, when growth is well evident and the seeds erstwhile, having taken root and sprouted in human hearts and minds, flourish in full verdure; next arrives the time of autumn, when the harvest is reaped and the civilization thus reared yields its fairest fruits; at last winter sets in, everything is by then formalised, the spirit of search and adventure is dead, minds and hearts are frigid and cold, chained and bound; gone is ease and freedom of movement, all is cumbersome, all is deadening. Once the cycle is complete, springtide returns in its full glory.
Religious truth is not absolute, but relative – relative to the age and the time in which it is revealed. Every principle and every law which a Manifestation of God gives to mankind, is the translation into terms relevant to the age and applicable to
The conditions of that age, of truths and qualities which in their absolute reside with the Godhead. As man progresses, as man's horizons, be they physical, intellectual or spiritual are widened , more and more of the truths and qualities which in their infinite and absolute essence exist in God, are revealed to man
`Abdu'l-Bahá places the teachings and the precepts of the Manifestations of God in two categories: those that are eternal and ever-abiding, not subject to change and annulment, and those that are temporary and ephemeral, entirely related to the exigencies and requirements of a particular age and era. The first category comprises eternal verities such as love, justice, charity and mercy. The second category embraces such laws as those that govern marriage and divorce, penalties and punishment, inheritance and commerce. Although these laws and prescriptions are subject to change, they form an integral part of any Revelation, inasmuch as they represent the application of eternal truths to the life of man both individually and collectively.
Again `Abdu'l-Bahá, speaking of the laws and precepts revealed by a Manifestation of God, says 'The laws of God are impositions of will, or of power or pleasure, but the resolutions of truth, reason and justice.'
No Manifestation of God has ever come to man to say that the Message which He is imparting to the world is of His own invention. No Manifestation of God has set out to seek a panacea. In the early life of no Manifestation of God, wherever the evidence is available, can we find any preoccupation with a prophetic mission. Indeed the story of His first intimation of His divine call, indicates considerable surprise and soul-searching. Moses encountered a burning bush from which the Voice of God reached him. And He was puzzled. He was told to go to Egypt, a country He had fled. He hesitated. He argued.
'And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.'
When Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John, He saw the skies open, a dove descend, and He heard the voice of God calling Him His Son, His best beloved. And He left John and the crowds and went straight away into the wilderness. There a mighty battle raged in His soul.
'And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.'
There in the wilderness the Being of Jesus became one with the Christ. The human ego was subdued: that was the purport of being tempted by the devil. Had Jesus been preparing Himself for Messiahship, why should He, after undergoing baptism and hearing the call of God, have betaken Himself to the wilderness to engage in an awesome struggle, in which His victory was to yield himself completely and totally to the Will of God? Indeed the evidence is clear that Jesus, until the time of His baptism, had not contemplated nor designed His own Messiahship.
Muhammad was noted for his piety and His integrity. He was given the title Al-Amín – the trusted One. It was His wont to spend a month in the course of the year at Mount Hira, close to Mecca, in prayer and meditation. But He was neither a hermit nor a recluse. On the contrary He was well involved in the affairs of this world. By all accounts He was a successful merchant. One day in the solitude of the hillside the angel Gabriel appeared to Him. A tablet was held out to Him and He was bidden to read. Muhammad was illiterate. He could not read nor write, and He was bewildered. Then He was told to read in the Name of his Lord, and He found Himself able to read. Even more bewildered He ran home to His wife and told her what He had experienced and asked to covered by His mantle. But now he knew that God had chosen Him to be His Mesenger. His wife Khadíjih, was the first to believe in Him.
Muhammad, the illiterate, was speaking words and unsurpassed beauty of eloquence, vibrant with life and power. He never claimed that those words and verses were His. They came to Him from God, He told his people. Muhammad had not sought prophethood. His mandate came to him from God.
To the Sháh of Persia, Bahá'u'lláh wrote:
'O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. 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? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and Attributes! They move it as they list.'
Addressing the concourse of men, Bahá'u'lláh says,
'God is My witness, O people! I was asleep on My couch, when lo, the Breeze of God wafting over Me roused Me from My slumber. His quickening Spirit revived Me, and My tongue was unloosed to voice His Call. Accuse Me not of having transgressed against God. Behold Me, not with your eyes but with Mine. Thus admonisheth you He Who is the Gracious, the All-Knowing. Think ye, O people, that I hold within My grasp the control of God's ultimate Will and Purpose? Far be it from Me to advance such claim. To this I testify before God, the Almighty, the Exalted, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Had the ultimate destiny of God's Faith been in Mine hands, I would have never consented, even though for one moment, to manifest Myself unto you, nor would I have allowed one word to fall from My lips. Of this God Himself is, verily, a witness.
It was when He was chained and fettered in the darksome, pestilential dungeon of Tihrán that Bahá'u'lláh became conscious of His Mission.
'While engulfed in tribulations,' He wrote, 'I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head. Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden-- the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord--suspended in the air before Me. So rejoiced was she in her very soul that her countenance shone with the ornament of the good-pleasure of God, and her cheeks glowed with the brightness of the All-Merciful. Betwixt earth and heaven she was raising a call which captivated the hearts and minds of men. She was imparting to both My inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of God's honored servants. Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying: `By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand. This is the Mystery of God and His Treasure, the Cause of God and His glory unto all who are in the kingdoms of Revelation and of creation, if ye be of them that perceive.Ó'
And this is His further testimony to that experience, which is far above our ken and understanding:
'During the days I lay in the prison of Tihrán, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.'
What is the nature of this experience which Bahá'u'lláh has so succinctly and so vividly related? How does Revelation come
from god to His Messenger? By what token does the Manifestation of God recognise the validity of His experience? These are questions to which we can never give answers. We would have to be of the same stature and of the same exalted rank as the Manifestation to comprehend these mighty events. That stature and that rank remain exclusively the domain of Those Whom God chooses to make the Vehicles of his Revelation, the Dawning – Places of his Qualities and Attributes, His Manifestations unto men. Just as no Prophet has purposely and knowingly sought that station, likewise no man, however advanced in perception, however high in spiritual attainments, however pious and virtuous, can ever hope to attain to it by his own exertions. The greatest mystics amongst men have never been able to attain the station of Christ. It is rank effrontery and the peak of self-delusion for man even to imagine that he can will himself to be a Manifestation of God. There are three well-defined, well-demarcated worlds of spheres, separate and distinct, yet linked and indissolubly bound: the world of God (the world of the Creator); the world of logos (the world of Manifestation); and the world of man (the world of the created).The world of Manifestation links the world of God with the world of man, and it is God, not man, Who determines Who that link shall be.
The Evolution of Religion
From time immemorial, God has sent His Messengers to mankind, and as long as man lives on this planet and has physical existence here, God will manifest Himself in a human temple. By asserting this fact, the Bahá'í Faith disclaims finality for itself. Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh states in no uncertain terms that other dispensations will succeed His. That no revealed religion can be a false religion is another emphatic statement of the
Bahá'í Faith. It is maintained that although there have been false prophets, and although for a period of time a false claim to prophethood may endure, a false teaching will not last. In the course of time a religion may suffer corruption, its pristine purity may be lost, its light may be dimmed, but its original truth will forever remain. No religion practised and followed by any grouping of mankind, no matter how overtaken it may be by alien creeds and alien rites, no matter how superimposed it may be by man-made interpretations and man-made doctrines, can be labelled a false religion. The most primitive forms of religion still extant in the world must have had their divine Founders, Who came in remote antiquity. No records are left of Them, and Their names are forgotten. But vague memories persist.
We have to differentiate between religions and ecclesiastical organizations with their divisions and sub-divisions. No religion is false, although ensuing fissions may be misguided. Revelation comes from God, religion is founded by a Manifestation of God; but tearing the heart out of religion, polluting the life-giving waters of faith, promoting division and strife and conflict, are all the work of man.
The clear, logical exposition of the process of religious evolution given to the world by Bahá'u'lláh, calls for a reorientation of human thinking. Mankind is now coming of age, and the mature man needs to know, and can comprehend, this scintillating truth now revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. The Manifestation of God, Who partakes of divine knowledge, comes to the world from age to age. He sets the pace of growth and progress. For Him neither time nor space exist. To Him the whole process of human evolution is an open book, continuous and unchaptered. But we human beings are the materials of the evolutionary process. We move and grow within defined chapters. The content and the tempo of each chapter is determined by the Manifestation of God. He is the spiritual Architect,
and designs the 'shape o things to come'. The Manifestation of God is not just an idealist, an utopian dreamer, a wishful thinker, a visionary, merely an illumined seer. Neither is He a political scientist, an economist, a sociologist. The Manifestation of God is, in the words of St. John, 'the Word made flesh'. He is the logos incarnate, the 'skilled Physician' of human relationships.
Immortality of Man
The reality of man is spiritual reality, and the Manifestation of God is the creator of the spiritual atmosphere from which man, draws his substance. 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' It is this spiritual food, the 'bread of life', the divine teachings, which the Manifestation of God provides for man whenever He appears.
All the Faiths of mankind have pronounced man to be indestructible, immortal. His life is not confined to the short span allotted to him on this earth. There are worlds upon worlds beyond the grave. This is how Bahá'u'lláh describes the state and the condition of the soul of man:
'Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every
refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness.'
'And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty ... The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the
straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest ... All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being ... When the soul attaineth the Presence of God, it will assume the form that best befitteth its immortality and is worthy of its celestial habitation.'
'Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among al created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to
recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him.'
Rejected by Man
No Manifestation of God has ever found ready and immediate acceptance amongst the peoples of the world. He is invariably denied and opposed and rejected. He usually comes from lowly and humble origins. True it is that Guatama, the Buddha, was the son of a king, and in our age the Manifestation of God was the son of a king's minister. But Moses was a member of an enslaved and oppressed race, also a fugitive from justice. Yet the Ten Commandments, which this fugitive from justice gave to his people, stand today at the basis of the codes of law of every civilized nation on earth. Jesus was a member of a subject and oppressed race. He was an obscure Galilean, presumably a carpenter by trade, and had no connection with either the Saducees or the Pharisees, the leaders of His people. Muhammad is usually referred to as a camel-driver. His family was prominent and highly esteemed, but he was orphaned, and the uncle whose charge he was, was exceedingly poor. The Qur'án clearly states that Muhammad was illiterate. The Báb was the son of a mercer of Shíráz, orphaned like His Forebear, the Arabian Prophet, and brought up by a maternal uncle. Bahá'u'lláh was the son of a minister of the court of Persia, and enjoyed great riches. But ranging Himself on the side of the Prophet ofShíráz. He forfeited both His wealth and His social status.
Those who first respond to the call of manifestation of God are also of humble origin. It is generally so, although there are notable exceptions. It is by the sacrifice of souls whom the world usually holds to be of no account that a Faith nourishes its roots and flourishes. How did their contemporaries regard the disciples of Christ? Amongst them were fishermen, even
a tax-collector. The first to believe in the Mission of Muhammad were Khadíjih, His wife; His cousin, 'Alí, a boy hardly thirteen years of age; and Zayd, a slave. And those who sought the Báb were mostly students of theology, though in their ranks were giants, and later a few of the most outstanding amongst the divines of the land became followers of the Báb. Even more, they joyously gave their lives in His path and suffered glorious martyrdom.
The very fact that ordinary people came to believe with their whole beings in the Manifestation of God, rouses the ire of those who consider themselves the custodians of religious truth. Indeed, they are the first to denounce the Manifestation of God. They do so because they are afraid. What did the people of Jerusalem do on the day Jesus entered their city, the day which is called Palm Sunday? They went out with palm leaves to welcome Him. They gave Him a royal welcome. They had seen the miracles of healing performed, or they had heard of them. They had no conception of the station of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus had not told them who He was. More than that, He had forbidden His disciples to make public what they knew to be the truth. From the day that Peter had recognized Him and told Him that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, that injunction had been laid upon them. The people of Jerusalem who went out with such zeal and such joy to escort Jesus into their city were welcoming, in their own estimation, a good Rabbi, a holy man, a worker of miracles, a healer and a comforter. But those who wielded spiritual power, those who were the custodians of the law, those to whom the maintenance of their position meant not only the preservation of their high rank, but the ensurance of law and order, saw the implications of the career which Jesus had pursued, realized that only the Messiah could knowingly embark on that course, and took fright. Had they not seen that Jesus was indeed not only the light of Israel, but the light of the world, they would
not have concerned themselves with plotting and planning His extinction.
Jesus has already spoken of them and their like. He who in ignorance sins against the Son of Man is forgiven, but He who sins against the Holy Ghost is eternally condemned. 'Eternally,' the Báb tells us, signifies the duration of the Dispensation. He who sins against the Holy Ghost is the man who knows that the Manifestation of God is indeed from God and sent by God, yet rejects Him. He sees the light and calls upon darkness to be his guide. He purposely sets out to extinguish the light. Such a man was Cain. Such were those men who took counsel to destroy Jesus. Such men were those who for thirteen years constituted the spearhead of opposition to Muhammad, and finally gathered to devise His death. Such a man was Judas Iscariot. Such a man was Azal, Bahá'u'lláh's half-brother, and the Judas of His days. Those who flocked to the courtyard of Pontius Pilate in the early morning of Good Friday and asked for the release of a convicted criminal whilst demanding the death of Jesus, were not in the category of those who sin against the Holy Ghost. But their religious mentors were.
Leaders of religion oppose and persecute the Manifestation of God. So do the leaders of the state. They also take fright. They fear sedition: whereas no Manifestation of God has ever contemplated or designed violent upheaval of the social and the political order. Moses defied the might of Egypt not to overthrow the kingdom of the Phaorohs, but to take His own people, as bidden by God, out of captivity. Christ did not scheme rebellion against Rome. He knew that way did not lie the salvation of His people. The Jews, in their intense yearning to break the hated yoke of Rome, had thought of their Messiah as a scion of the House of David, arising with kingly might, smiting down with the power of God, sitting in full splendour upon the Throne of David. But the prophecies which had led them to this expectation had a symbolic import.
Had Jesus made Himself the leader of revolt against Rome, instead of twelve disciples, He would have had an army of zealous adherents behind Him. But He persistently refused to take that course. His opponents went out of their way to trick Him into making a pronouncement which could be construed as incitement to rebellion. He emphatically refused to comply, and gave them an answer which has to this kept the Christian world arguing and differing over its implications. 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's,' He said.
Christ did not envisage uprising and revolt against Rome as the means to His end, which was the salvation of his people. His words to Nicodemus, quoted before, indicate that His way was a different one. Yet His opponents brought about His crucifixion by playing upon the fears of the Roman governor. Pontius Pilate was thoroughly alarmed. A squabble amongst the Jews over messianic claims and attitudes to law and doctrine, He would tolerate. But any hint of possible civil disorder and defiance of the Roman overlordship, He would not let go unheeded. His own position was at stake. How would Caesar treat him were he to set free a man accused of harbouring and fostering designs against Rome? So he decreed the death of Jesus.
The Arabia to which Muhammad spoke was not a political unit. But Mecca, His home-town, had a special place. People came there from near and far to worship the idols that Mecca housed. Those who ruled over Mecca were greatly concerned for the prestige of their city. Muhammad, they told themselves, was bent on destroying the idols that gave them status, and brought them both wealth and honour. Muhammad, they said, must be prevented at all costs. They intended to put Him to death. Their resolve was strengthened by the knowledge that He had entered into a covenant with a deputation from Yathrib, later named Medina – the city of the Prophet. It was then that Muhammad had to flee His home-town.
The Báb had no design on the state and its security. He did not envisage establishing His own temporal rule, although such was the expectation of the people. He came as the Twelfth Imám, the Mihdí (Mahdí), whose advent the Shí'ihs yearned and prayed for. When Manúchihr Khán, the governor of Isfahán, a rich, influential official of the state, offered to put his entire fortune and his not considerable army at the disposal of the Báb, to march to Tihrán and persuade the Sháh to embrace the new Faith, He Who was the Mihdí, the Qá'im, to Whom in the estimation of the Shí'his dominion and sovereignty rightly belonged, kindly but firmly refused the offer. Yet Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, the corrupt grand vizier, took fright and prevailed upon his weak and vacillating royal master to decline a meeting with the Báb. It was the State that kept the Báb a prisoner, and finally had Him shot.
Bahá'u'lláh suffered four banishments and two terms of incarceration at the hands of tyrannical kings. He it was Who stilled the passions of the followers of the Báb, and forbade His people all strife and contention, telling them it was better for them to be killed than to kill; and yet rulers and potentates considered Him an inciter of sedition and lawlessness. He told Edward Granville Browne, the English orientalist who visited Him outside 'Akká in the Holy Land, in April, 1890: 'We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer-up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment.'
In every age the leaders of religion and the leaders of the state have combined forces to destroy the Manifestation of God and His Work. Thus Bahá'u'lláh speaks of them and their nefarious deeds:
'Among these "veils of glory" are the divines and doctors living in the days of the Manifestation of God, who, because of their want of discernment and their love and eagerness for leadership, have failed to submit to the Cause of God, nay, have even refused to incline their ears unto the divine Melody. "They have thrust their fingers
into their ears." And the people also, utterly ignoring God and taking them for their masters, have placed themselves unreservedly under the authority of these pompous and hypocritical leaders, for they have no sight, no hearing, no heart, of their own to distinguish truth from falsehood.
'Notwithstanding the divinely-inspired admonitions of all the Prophets, the Saints, and Chosen ones of God, enjoining the people to see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears, they have disdainfully rejected their counsels and have blindly followed, and will continue to follow, the leaders of their Faith. Should a poor and obscure person, destitute of the attire of men of learning, address them saying: "Follow ye, O people! the Messengers of God," they would, greatly surprised at such a statement, reply: "What! Meanest thou that all these divines, all these exponents of learning, with all their authority, their pomp and pageantry, have erred, and failed to distinguish truth from falsehood? Dost thou, and people like thyself, pretend to have comprehended that which they have not understood?"'
Again He writes on the same theme:
'Not one Prophet of God was made manifest Who did not fall a victim to the relentless hate, to the denunciation, denial, and execration of the clerics of His day! Woe unto them for the iniquities their hands have formerly wrought! Woe unto them for that which they are now doing! What veils of glory more grievous than these embodiments of error'
Furthermore He states:
'The source and origin of tyranny have been the divines. Through the sentences pronounced by these haughty and wayward souls the rulers of the earth have wrought that which ye have heard.... The reins of the heedless masses have been, and are, in the hands of the exponents of idle fancies and vain imaginings. These decree what they please. God, verily, is clear of them, and We, too, are clear of them, as are such as have testified unto that which the Pen of the Most High hath spoken in this glorious Station.'
'The leaders of men,' He has likewise asserted, 'have, from time immemorial, prevented the people from turning unto the Most Great Ocean. The Friend of God [Abraham] was cast into fire through the sentence pronounced by the divines of the age, and lies and calumnies were imputed to Him Who discoursed with God [Moses]. Reflect upon the One Who was the Spirit of God [Jesus]. Though He showed forth the utmost compassion and tenderness, yet they rose up against that Essence of Being and Lord of the seen and unseen, in such a manner that He could find no refuge wherein to rest. Each day He wandered unto a new place, and sought a new shelter. Consider the Seal of the Prophets [Muhammad]--may the souls of all else except Him be His sacrifice! How grievous the things which befell that Lord of all being at the hands of the priests of idolatry, and of the Jewish doctors, after He had uttered the blessed words proclaiming the unity of God! By My life! My pen groaneth, and all created things cry out by reason of the things that have touched Him, at the hands of such as have broken the Covenant of God and His Testament, and denied His Testimony, and gainsaid His signs.'
Addressing the leaders of religion He wrote:
'How long will ye, O concourse of divines, level the spears of hatred at the face of Bahá? Rein in your pens. Lo, the Most Sublime Pen speaketh betwixt earth and heaven. Fear God, and follow not your desires which have altered the face of creation. Purify your ears that they may hearken unto the Voice of God. By God! It is even as fire that consumeth the veils, and as water that washeth the souls of all who are in the universe.'
It should not be thought that Bahá'u'lláh has included the entire concourse of the world's religions leaders in His stern admonition and reproof. Here are some of His words that refer to those divines whose lives and deeds justify their calling:
'Those divines ... who are truly adorned with the ornament of knowledge and of a goodly character are, verily, as a head to the body of the world, and as eyes to
the nations. The guidance of men hath, at all times, been and is dependent upon these blessed souls." And again: "The divine whose conduct is upright, and the sage who is just, are as the spirit unto the body of the world. Well is it with that divine whose head is attired with the crown of justice, and whose temple is adorned with the ornament of equity.'
'Respect ye the divines amongst you," is His exhortation, "They whose acts conform to the knowledge they possess, who observe the statutes of God, and decree the things God hath decreed in the Book. Know ye that they are the lamps of guidance betwixt earth and heaven. They that have no consideration for the position and merit of the divines amongst them have, verily, altered the bounty of God vouchsafed unto them.'
Leaders of religion, custodians of earlier Dispensations, oppose the Manifestation of God, and their opposition and denunciation rouse the leaders of the state, wielders of temporal power, to do likewise. But they are not alone in decrying the Light of God. Men of learning, possessors of worldly knowledge, are no less vociferous in deriding the message of the Manifestation of God. They are savants and philosophers whose immense knowledge becomes the greatest of all veils. Some of them are consumed by jealousy as well. These men have devoted themselves for years to profound and painstaking studies. Precious years of their lives have been spent on garnering, sifting and verifying knowledge. Many of them have written voluminous and weighty tomes, have opened new vistas and new territories in fascinating realm of learning. They are erudite and prod of their erudition. Then comes a man, unlearned, even illiterate, and states calmly that his knowledge is greater, higher and fuller than theirs. He tells them that the secret of the universe is contained in His breast. They have given years to its search, and He tells them that supreme knowledge has been given to Him. And His words work wonders. Beneath their simplicity are hidden depths of
meaning, depths that contain be fathomed. They contain a power which recreates the lives of men. Hence these proud, erudite men, these men of great and immense achievements, look down with scorn upon the Manifestation of God. In all ages they too have ranged themselves alongside His opponents and detractors. But they too, in spite of their undoubted advantages and overwhelming intellectual equipment, have been unable to extinguish the supernal light of God's guidance. They too have had to concede defeat.
There is yet another class or type of people who rise in opposition to the Manifestation of God, the people who do not want to use their minds. They are either intellectually slothful, or intellectually atrophied. Their whole beings have become parasitic. They constitute the mob. Of such a type were many of those who went with fronds of palm to give a joyous regal welcome to Jesus of Nazareth when He entered Jerusalem on a Sunday, but five days later when told to make a choice, they said that a convicted criminal should be set free, and Jesus should be put to death. Also in the same category were those who had received nothing from the hands of Bahá'u'lláh but utmost generosity, who had seen nothing in Him but uprightness and fidelity and benevolence, and yet on the day He was arrested and made to walk a long distance to the dungeon of Tihrán, turned out in their hundreds, lined the route and crowded the thoroughfare to revile Him and mock Him. They were there in their scores in the public square of Tabríz, on that fateful summer day of 1850 when the Báb was shot. Whilst their mental processes numbed and lethargic, they are incited to acts of mad frenzy. At all times they have existed, and have been ready tools in the hands of hypocrites and demagogues. The excesses and the debased standards of a materialistic civilization serve to multiply their numbers.
There are those who hate to be disturbed in their ruts. They are the smug, well – satisfied. Whatever they have is always
the best, they reckon. Whatever way they tread is always right, they believe. They are sleep-walking in the arena of life, and cannot bear to be shaken out of their somnambulance. When the Manifestation of God tells them that they are living in a fool's paradise, they become enraged. They have always managed well in the world, they mutter. Nothing can be wrong with them and their ways and their mean hopes and petty aspirations. What right has this upstart, they say, who calls Himself a Messenger sent by God, to warn them and admonish them and counsel them and present them with an alternative. Therefore they oppose the Manifestation of God. Their world of make-believe crumbles over their heads, and they see it not.
There are those who think that man is self-sufficient. They believe that by pulling at their own shoe-strings they can touch the ceiling. Man can work out his own salvation, they maintain, and stands in no need of supernatural aid. History shouts aloud the falsity of their claim, but they prefer to read history in their own fashion. In times of spiritual decadence and intellectual confusion these champions and standard-bearers of arrogance come to the fore. It is exactly when the power of faith is on the wane, and the vitality of religious belief is at a low ebb that God sends His Messenger once again into the world, and it is also at such times that denial of God is most emphatic.
Thus the Manifestation of God finds legions upon legions arrayed against Him. In order to achieve their ends men take use of the power which their position, their status, their wealth and their learning give them. The Manifestation of God has none of these. He has no church to do His bidding. He has no government to make His instrument, He has no army to command, He has no riches to employ, He has no learning which the world will recognize. Yet He achieves what no one else can. To man He restores faith, and by giving him faith,
He makes of him a new being. We should remember what Jesus said, that by faith men can move mountains. Faith begets all means. And faith is not blind acceptance. `Abdu'l-Bahá describes faith as conscious knowledge.
The world to which Jesus came, although outwardly calm, was a cauldron seething with conflicts. His own people were deeply unhappy and discontented, seeking release, looking for deliverance. Some prepared for armed revolt. There were the Zealots. Some had, in their disgust with the waywardness of the conqueror and conquered alike, chosen seclusion, and had found comfort in mystic thought and practice. They were the Essenes. Some, while holding severely aloof from the hated Romans, were diligently and indeed fanatically observing the law, concerned with the form and not with the spirit. They were the Pharisees. Only one section of the Jewish nation had reconciled itself to the fact of defeat and subjection. These were the Sadducees. The world of the of the conquerors which boasted of its might, its inherent strength, its superior wisdom, its peace, was slowly and imperceptibly disintegrating. Pax Romanawas of no avail. Sound administration was of no avail. Philosophy was of no avail. There were many men of insight and vision who were conscious of an insidious malady, who were alarmed by the trend of events, who wished to save Rome and her empire. Panaceas abounded. Mystery religions flourished. There was the cult of Mithra with its weird but satisfying rites, and its high and strict code of ethics. There was the cult of Adonis, the cult of Attis, the cult of Osiris. There were many schools of thought. But Rome was adrift.
The Jews finally rose in revolt and were crushed. The Temple was razed to the ground. The Holy of Holies was desecrated.
'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
'Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.'
Jesus foresaw the catastrophe that was to come. And He also pointed to the day of deliverance.
Rome went on disintegrating. Every remedy was sought except the right remedy. And those who had the right remedy were scorned and rejected, were hunted and hounded, were put to death. The redeeming message of Christ went unheeded. Even a wise emperor like Marcus Aurelius scoffed at the Christians and attempted to propagate the cult of Mithra. It was at last distressingly apparent that Rome was sick unto death. And still the true remedy was spurned. Finally a day came when proud Rome was laid at the feet of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, Who had no wealth nor power nor social status nor learning, had triumphed. But Rome had to be purged, and Rome tottered to its downfall. Then it was that the Church of Christ could save what was worth saving in Rome. That very Faith which was erstwhile nurtured in secret in the catacombs of Rome gave the Western World a new society and provided that society with a new basis. Rome with all its attainments knew nothing of the worth and value of each human soul. Now western man became freed in Christ and for a time the innate worth and dignity of every human soul was conceded.
Jesus died what was thought to be a very shameful death on the cross. Those who brought about His death were certain that they utterly destroyed Him and His work. One of His twelve disciples had betrayed Him and handed Him to the enemy. The disciple who had been accorded primacy over all, who was indeed the first human being to recognize the divinity of his Master, who told Him that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, this very disciple had denied Him thrice on the night of His arrest. Yet triumph was His at the end.
Again He had none of the means which men use to achieve victory. Everlasting shame and ignominy became the lot of those who disputed with Him and sent Him to His cross.
The only true standard is the standard set by the Manifestation of God. His word and His teaching are the touchstones by which truth is distinguished from falsehood. Anything which conforms to His pronouncement is good and true and beneficial. Anything which deviates from it is baneful and false and deleterious.
Bahá'u'lláh states that in the sight of God the 'best beloved of all things' is justice – 'turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.' The standard of justice is not what men have surmised, but the teaching of the Manifestation of God. All standards should be judged against His. And He should not be judged by man-made standards. But man has always taken the opposite course. He has judged the Manifestation of God according to what he has sought to be the measure of truth.
In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Bahá'u'lláh, calling upon the divines, says:
'Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance established amongst men. In this most perfect Balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it. The eye of My loving-kindness weepeth sore over you, inasmuch as ye have failed to recognize the One upon Whom ye have been calling in the daytime and in the night season, at even and at morn.'
Thus we read in the Gospel according to At. Luke:
'And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
'And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
'And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;
'How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.'
God doeth whatsoever He willeth, and it is not of man to question the will and the command of God.
'Know verily,' Bahá'u'lláh writes, 'that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth, that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation which the revelation of this law provokes in men's hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother's milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God's Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness.'
'Blessed is the man,' Bahá'u'lláh further states, 'that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that "He shall not be asked of His doings". Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. Fasten your
eyes upon it, that haply the whisperings of the rebellious may not cause you to slip. Were He to decree as lawful the thing which from time immemorial had been forbidden, and forbid that which had, at all times, been regarded as lawful, to none is given the right to question His authority. Whoso will hesitate, though it be for less than a moment, should be regarded as a transgressor. Whoso hath not recognized this sublime and fundamental verity, and hath failed to attain this most exalted station, the winds of doubt will agitate him, and the sayings of the infidels will distract his soul. He that hath acknowledged this principle will be endowed with the most perfect constancy. All honour to this all-glorious station, the remembrance of which adorneth every exalted Tablet.'
Man judges the Manifestation of God in accordance with his own standards, his own whims and surmises, and condemns Him because of his own vain imaginings. The standard of the Manifestation of God cannot but be at variance with the standard of the age in which H comes, and with the standards of the people amongst whom He appears. The very fact of His advent proves that man is sorely in need of fresh guidance. There are some men who have misunderstood the true purport of their Scriptures, have clung to a purely literal interpretation, and on that misreading have built the edifice of their own fancy. Their expectations are truly fantastic. Others there are whose standards only reflect the decadence of the age and the degradation of man. He Who is the true balance in the world is adjudged in the lurid light of these aberrations. Consequently He suffers and those who follow Him suffer, but terrible is the penalty exacted at the end from those who condemn and oppose and persecute the Manifestation of God. What happened to Pharaoh and his hosts? What fate overtook the adversaries of Christ? What befell the tormentors of Muhammad? In our own times we have witnessed the cataclysmic end of the principal opponents and arch-enemies of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.
The able and industrious Grand Vizier of Persia, who ordered the death of the Báb, fell resoundingly from the heights which he had scaled, and his life was not spared. Násiri'd-Dín Sháh, under whose rule the Báb was shot, Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned and exiled, and hundreds and thousands of Their followers were savagely murdered, fell before an assassin's bullets, on the eve of what was to be the greatest event of his reign, his golden jubilee. The ministers of the Ottoman Empire who gave credence to accusations levelled against Bahá'u'lláh and maliciously schemed His incarceration in 'Akká, met with disgrace and died in misery. Sultán `Abdu'l-`Azíz, the Ottoman ruler, lost his throne and perished wretchedly. No less humiliating was the end of Sultán `Abdu'l-Hamíd, who was given the epithet of '`Abdu'l the Damned'. Indeed both the Qájár dynasty of Persia, and the House of Ottoman in Turkey were ousted from their thrones. These are but a few instances. Disaster befell all the persecutors of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
Proof of the Manifestation of God
Christ warned His followers not to be beguiled by false prophets. He also said that by their fruits ye shall know them. How can one make certain that the Man Who claims to be the Messenger of God, does in fact speak the truth? We have already mentioned that a teaching which is false, no matter how successful and pervading it mat initially be, cannot in the long run last its course. Its lie will be exposed and it will die and be forgotten. It has also been pointed out that a religion, and subdivisions within a religion, are not of the same order. But one cannot merely await the verdict of time to set the seal of doom upon a false claim and false teaching. The first test to apply whether the claimant to the section of prophethood is steadfast and firm and unyielding. Does He withstand all
opposition, does He refuse to bow to adversity, does He accept every suffering with radiant acquiescence, does He wax stronger and stronger under incredible strain and pressure, does He remain calm and serene and unperturbed when jeers and jibes and calumnies assail Him on all sides?
In the Kitáb-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), Bahá'u'lláh writes thus, while adducing proofs to substantiate the claim of the Báb:
'Another proof and evidence of the truth of this Revelation, which amongst all other proofs shineth as the sun, is the constancy of the eternal Beauty in proclaiming the Faith of God. Though young and tender of age, and though the Cause He revealed was contrary to the desire of all the peoples of earth, both high and low, rich and poor, exalted and abased, king and subject, yet He arose and steadfastly proclaimed it. All have known and heard this. He was afraid of no one; He was regardless of consequences. Could such a thing be made manifest except through the power of a divine Revelation, and the potency of God's invincible Will? By the righteousness of God! Were any one to entertain so great a Revelation in his heart, the thought of such a declaration would alone confound him! Were the hearts of all men to be crowded into his heart, he would still hesitate to venture upon so awful an enterprise. He could achieve it only by the permission of God, only if the channel of his heart were to be linked with the Source of divine grace, and his soul be assured of the unfailing sustenance of the Almighty. To what, We wonder, do they ascribe so great a daring? Do they accuse Him of folly as they accused the Prophets of old? Or do they maintain that His motive was none other than leadership and the acquisition of earthly riches?'No Manifestation of God has ever turned back. From the moment He becomes conscious of His mandate and His task, He knows that He must go forward, no matter what awaits Him ahead. For Him there can be no retreat, indeed even no halting. Jesus knew what there was at the end of the road. He told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to certain death, but
He did not draw back. Of course there are moments when the Manifestation of God despairs of the world, yearns for release. And so it should be so, because He fully partakes of human qualities. Jesus said, during His hours of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, 'Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me,' but added to His prayer, 'nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.' And once He lamented that the beasts of the field had nests and lairs, but the Son of Man had nowhere to rest His head. Yet He sought no relief and went forward to the bitter end.
In a meditation which, in its English rendering, has become known as The Fire Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh, addressing Him Whose Vicar on earth He was, bewails His plight in words such as these:
'Calamity have reached its height; where is the coming of Thy succour, O Saviour of the worlds!
'Darkness hath settled on creation; where is the shining of Thy brightness, O Radiance of the worlds!
'Sorrows have caught the dayspring of Thy tenderest Name; where is the joy of the Manifestor of Thy Presence, O Gladness of the Worlds!...
'Thou hast forsaken Me in a strange land; where are the emblems of Thy faithfulness, O Trust of all the worlds!...
'Thou seest this Wronged One in tyranny amongst the Syrians; where is the dawning of the radiance of Thy morning, O Lamp of all the worlds!...
'Bahá is drowning in sea of pain; where is Thy rescue ship, O Saviour of the worlds!'
Then comes to Him the Voice of God:
'O Thou Supreme Pen, We have heard Thy sweetest cry from the eternal Realm; and We have heard what the Tongue of Grandeur spoke, O Wronged One of the worlds!...
'...We have made abasement the garment of Thy glory, and sorrow the beauty of Thy temple, O Thou Treasure of the worlds!
'Thou seest the hearts are filled with hate and shalt absolve them, Thou Who dost hide the sins of all the worlds!
'When the swords flash, go forward; when the shafts fly, press onward, O Thou Victim of the worlds.'And Bahá'u'lláh responds:
'Surely I have heard Thy call, O All-Glorious Beloved; and now is the face of Bahá flaming with the heat of tribulation and with the fire of Thy shining words.
'Bahá hath risen up in faithfulness at the place of sacrifice, looking toward Thy pleasure, O Desire of the worlds.'
The tenderness, the overwhelming power, the poignancy of this meditation of Bahá'u'lláh cannot be adequately conveyed in a translation, however eloquent it may be.
The Manifestation of God accepts and withstands every tribulation for the sake of the Mission given to Him. Engulfed by seas of adversity He remains a rock of constancy. He is the rock of salvation. Therefore He is never submerged. By that test one knows that He is indeed 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'
Can He change human hearts?
The Manifestation of God always appears in the darkest place on earth, amongst people the most degraded. Where did Muhammad raise His call? Amongst people whose law was the law of the sword, who fought and pillaged and plundered for eight months, and then observed a four months' truce, who treated women as their chattels, who buried their newly-born daughters alive, who worshipped images of stone. Their religion had been the religion of Abraham, the breaker of idols, but they had debased it to idolatry. Muhammad raised them out of the abyss. He told them that they should have believed in Moses and Jesus. Had they done that they would not have sunk to the level of polytheism. He gave them faith in One God, Almighty, All-Sufficing, Merciful and Generous. He
provided them with an elevating and purifying moral code. He supplied them with the vision and the trust that enabled them to feel and act as brothers. He stilled primitive passions within them. Not only did He transform fierce, individual idolaters into benevolent, God-fearing monotheists; He made of the tribes and clans of Arabia a nation. He became the first nation-builder in the history of the world. He inculcated true patriotism in their hearts whilst giving them at the same time the consciousness of the brotherhood of the believers. In a miraculously short period of time these people who had indeed been half-savages, tearing one another to pieces, became capable of united, concerted action. They challenged the power and the dominion of the Byzantine and the Sassanid Empires. Both collapsed before them. The Islamic civilization, one of the most brilliant and most productive episodes in the life of Man, owed its impulse, its animating force, its sustaining power, its guarantee of continuity and stability to the teaching and the regenerating mission of the Prophet of Arabia.
It is the glory of the Islamic civilization that its edifice was raised not by people of the same creed or the same race, but through the sustained cooperation of diverse religious disciplines and diverse ethnic groups: Jews, Christians, and Muslims; Arabs, Persians, Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, Spaniards, Berbers of North Africa. Baghdád, Cairo and Cordova , thousands of miles apart, rose to great heights. Their colleges became the most outstanding centres of learning throughout the civilized world. The universities of Christendom were later modelled on them. To them cam scholars from Christian Europe. One of these eventually became the Supreme Pontiff of the Church of Rome. He was Gerbert of Aurillac, a Frenchman. The most learned man of his time, Gerbert was in turn a Benedictine abbot, the Archbishop of Rheims, the Archbishop of Ravenna, and finally in 999, under the title of Sylvester II, he occupied the papal throne.
The Islamic civilization achieved a remarkable task which both the Jewish and the Christian media had failed to accomplish. It brought together the two diametrically opposed systems of the East and West. The monotheism of the East and the philosophy of Greece and Rome met within its pale. Classical culture came back to life with the copious translations that were made into Arabic. The greatest of the Arab translators was Hunayn-Ibn-i-Isháq (Joannitius 809-873), a Nestorian Christian. Hunayn translated the seven books of Galen's anatomy, the original Greek of which cannot be traced. The works of Plato and Aristotle, long neglected in Europe, once again engaged the attention of savants and scholars. They could be read in Arabic, Professor Phillip Hitti writes, 'Arab scholars were studying Aristotle when Charlemagne and his lords were learning to write their names. Scientists in Cordova, with their seventeen great libraries, one alone of which included more than 400,000 volumes, enjoyed luxurious baths at a time when washing was considered a dangerous custom at the University of Oxford.' (The Arabs – Princeton 1943).
In the eleventh century Christendom waged war on Muslim rulers to capture the Holy Land. The Crusades, which were to last for nearly two hundred years, began. Christians sallying forth from Europe thought that they were going to fight savages. What they saw in the East astounded them. They clashed with a superior civilization. Returned to Europe they recounted the stories of the wonders they had seen. Many of them retraced their steps to the Muslim East and settled along the Levantine coast. The channel of cultural intercourse, opened by the Crusades, was a great tributary to the main stream of Renaissance in the western world. All this is the testimony of history to the work of Muhammad. His message changed human beings, changed the social milieu, recreated and remoulded the life of man. By this test, too, one knows that the Manifestationof God is indeed what He claims to be.
Can the Man who claims to be a Manifestation of God resolve the complexities of the age? This is yet another test by which we can know Him. The knowledge which the Manifestation of God has, is innate and not acquired. No Prophet has been known to have served a term of discipleship to someone else prior to the declaration of His mission and purpose. None has attended an academy, a forum of learning. Moses could not have done so. Jesus could not; Muhammad, we know, did not. Neither did the Báb nor Bahá'u'lláh. Yet They have shown complete mastery of human problems. What They prescribe is the remedy which Their age requires. The proof is that what They decree is not only workable, but is found the long run to be the only solution. It leads man out of the maze of his own complexities to the highroads of clear vision. Furthermore, the teaching of the Manifestation of God is universal. People, no matter where they are, what their backgrounds have been, under what conditions they live, to what lengths they have materially progressed, however backward they may have remained in the march of humanity – irrespective of any of these considerations, all find that the teachings of the Manifestations of God apply to them and fit their circumstances, either as individuals or as a society.
The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has today encircled the globe. There are Bahá'ís in two hundred and fifty-eight territories of the world: sovereign states, dependencies, islands scattered over the seven seas. They represent all the religions and races of mankind. Some of them live in materially advanced and highly sophisticated cities; others live under primitive conditions. Their religious backgrounds have been exceedingly diversified. Yet they all find that the law of Bahá'u'lláh is workable in their particular milieu. The problems that rack the rest of mankind have ceased to be problems for them. Prejudices do not exist in their midst. Of course there is no human being who can say, I am totally and completely rid of every kind and every manner
of prejudice. These are the heritage of centuries of waywardness, and lurk in the corners of the mind of man. A long period of obedience to the law and command of God for this age of fulfilment is needed, before mankind can be completely purged of prejudice. But notwithstanding this qualification, the followers of Bahá'u'lláh have left behind them all those barriers and divisions which are the bane and curse of the life of mankind in this mid-twentieth century. Of them Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote nearly three decades ago:
'This universal, this transcending love which the followers of the Bahá'í Faith feel for their fellow-men, of whatever race, creed, class or nation, is neither mysterious nor can it be said to have been artificially stimulated. It is both spontaneous and genuine. They whose hearts are warmed by the energizing influence of God's creative love cherish His creatures for His sake, and recognize in every human face a sign of His reflected glory. Of such men and women it may be truly said that to them "every foreign land is a fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign landÓ.'The ÒFruitsÓ of Bahá'u'lláh
While the world in its crazy careering towards the abyss, the nadir of its fortunes, is every day engendering fresh hatreds and enmities, the followers of Bahá'u'lláh quietly, patiently, steadfastly lead the way to redemption. For nothing can or will save the world from the perils besetting it on all sides except an invincible faith in the oneness of mankind, and the will to give practical effect to that unswerving belief. And this is one of the cardinal principles of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, which, together with two other cardinal principles – the oneness of God and the oneness of religion or revelation – constitute the trinity of Bahá'í belief. Every other principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh
stems directly or indirectly from these three facts. The Bahá'ís wherever they be on this planet, believe with the intensity of their whole beings in one God, one common Revelation, and one human race. And for them faith is not blind acceptance and superstitious belief. It is conscious knowledge. For this reason, while fully aware of the tensions around them, they are not subdued or divided by them, but resolve them on the plane of spiritual unity.
A Bahá'í refuses to admit the validity of any dividing line, any divisive force that keeps human beings apart. He considers all of the Faiths that mankind believes in and practises as having had a divine origin. He will not concede superiority to any continent, any race, any nation, any class of people. A Bahá'í lives and acts and moves in the light of this supreme counsel of his Lord:
'He Who is the Eternal Truth hath, from the Day Spring of Glory, directed His eyes towards the people of Bahá, and is addressing them in these words: "Address yourselves to the promotion of the well-being and tranquillity of the children of men. Bend your minds and wills to the education of the peoples and kindreds of the earth, that haply the dissensions that divide it may, through the power of the Most Great Name, be blotted out from its face, and all mankind become the upholders of one Order, and the inhabitants of one City. Illumine and hallow your hearts; let them not be profaned by the thorns of hate or the thistles of malice. Ye dwell in one world, and have been created through the operation of one Will. Blessed is he who mingleth with all men in a spirit of utmost kindliness and love.Ó
Here is the test by which the truth of the claim of Bahá'u'lláh becomes manifest. These people, so varied and diversified, scattered over the whole face of the earth, who today go forward with this fervent faith, this high vision, this clear understanding, this total and complete conviction, freely reached;
who constantly strive to raise themselves above the plane of conflict and dissension; who build assiduously while the generality avidly destroys; who know the meaning of true liberty, freed as they are from superstitions, prejudices, falsehoods and recriminations of a world adrift and rudderless; who act and forge ahead with one intent, one aim, one destination; who fear nothing and no one but their God, the God of all mankind, assured as they are of the high destiny of man both here and hereafter; these very people would have been submerged in the maelstrom of the world'' waywardness were it not for the power bestowed upon them by the creative word of Bahá'u'lláh. He the Manifestation of God for this age, said that He had called forth a new creation. An unbiased look at the world community which bears His Name, shows how truly He had spoken.
By such proofs one can recognize the Manifestation of God.
From time immemorial God has sent His Manifestations to promote the spiritual life and development of mankind. The appearance of Bahá'u'lláh, in our day signalises the 'coming of age' in this long organic process. The Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh and an independent Manifestation of God, brought the Adamic cycle – cycle of prophecy – to a close. He was truly the Gate between the growing up and the maturity of mankind, for Bahá'u'lláh inaugurates the cycle of fulfilment. All that has been promised to mankind in the Dispensations of the past will be realised under his ?gis, for He has to come to the world in the station of the Father. His Dispensation will assuredly be followed by another, but the next Manifesatation of God will not come because the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh will have suffered corruption, not because His Faith will have become riddled with contending sects, but because His laws will need revision, and because mankind must needs have a
fresh measure of the spiritual impulse and the dynamic power which radiates from the appearance of a Manifestation of God, from the emergence of the eternal into the realm of the evanescent.
The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh is indeed that 'Day which shall not be followed by night'. In this Dispensation God's holy truth will not be obscured; His teachings, which are the pure water of life, will not be polluted; His purpose will not be subverted. The power which ensures the incorruptibility and the integrity of this Faith is the Covenant which Bahá'u'lláh has established with His followers. In the Dispensations of the past this same Covenant was made by the Manifestations of God, but man had not reached his stage of maturity, and therefore the Covenant was successfully violated. It is only the mature man who can and will abide the Covenant. Moreover, in previous Dispensations, for the very reason that man was still traversing his stages of infancy and childhood, the Covenant made by the Manifestation with His followers was not explicitly and unequivocally proclaimed. Human history is the record of the constant and successful violating of these Covenants. In the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh that which has overcome every treachery and has held sway in spite of titanic efforts made to subvert and submerge it, has been the Covenant established and affirmed by Bahá'u'lláh. It is only by firmness in the Covenant and obedience to it that the integrity of the Faith itself has remained, and remains inviolate, and its teachings retain their pristine purity. It is the triumph and the dominion of the Covenant made by the Manifestation of God that contemplates the circle of creation, and makes the Will of God operative on this earth. That was the purpose of Jesus when He told His disciples to pray: 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven', a prayer which has in the Christian world for well nigh two thousand years.
THE COVENANTThere is a covenant implicit in the act of creation. God loved the creation of man, therefore He created him. But he did more than merely create man. God was a 'Hidden Treasure' and wished to be known. Therefore He created man in the image of His own qualities and attributes. He gave man everything that man needed for the sustaining of his physical life. And He sent His Manifestations from age to age to reveal to him His purpose. God did all that for man, and man in return had to fulfil his part, to abide by his side of the covenant. For every covenant is at least bilateral. 'Love Me, that I may love thee,' says Bahá'u'lláh in The Hidden Words; 'if thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.' God's love surrounds us at all times, but unless we open our hearts to that love, it will only be constantly knocking at the door. We must know God and love God, and know Him and love Him we must through His Manifestations. This is the first Covenant.
The second is the Covenant which God makes with his Manifestations. He chooses Them to be the Revealers of His image of the Godhead, names Them His Best Beloved, makes Them His Vicars on earth, upholds Them in the face of vicious, satanic opposition by the generality of mankind, exalts Them as co-sharers of His power, His might, His dominion, His glory. They in turn have to go forward and accomplish the ministry conferred upon Them, without wavering or abandoning Their trust. They have never turned back, no matter how steep, how tortuous the path has been. It is to Them and to those who follow Them and accept blissfully every affliction for Their sakes the God gives ultimate victory. To Abraham God promised that He would bless His seed. And how blessed that seed has been. From that glorious lineage came Redeemers
of mankind: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. This Covenant between God and His Manifestations is the second Covenant.
The third Covenant, which is the crowning glory of the other two Covenants, and their full fruition, is the Covenant which the Manifestation of God makes with the peoples of the world and more particularly with those who bear His Name. As long as this Covenant could be subverted and eclipsed the whole purpose of creation remained but partially fulfilled. How could it be otherwise when it was possible for man to corrupt the teaching of the Manifestations of God, and to superimpose his own complex dogmas and doctrines upon the simple principles of faith enunciated by Them. The will of God could be successfully defied, the purpose of God could be successfully subverted. Divisions and sub-divisions arising within one Faith were the direct results of the victory of rebellion. Many indeed have been the ills and cankerous maladies ensuing therefrom: ecclesiasticism at war with secularism, a standard of public morality asserting itself in contradistinction to private morality, departmentalising of life subsequent to the banishment of religion from the mart and the council chamber and its relegation to a subordinate r™le in the life of society, the fierce challenge and unconcealed contempt, hurled at religion and its upholders by the champions of science and rationalism, are but some of the dire consequences of man's successful violation of the Covenant established by the Manifestation of God in former times. But those times are past, and the cycle of fulfilment is now with mankind.
Jesus conferred primacy upon Simon Bar-Jona, whom He name Peter. 'Thou art Peter,' He told the fisherman from Galilee, 'and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Thus Jesus raised Peter above the rest of His disciples. It has been said that what Jesus meant was not setting up a station particular to Peter , but that He
would build His Church upon Peter's faith and confession. For just then this disciple had told his Master: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' However, Jesus made His purpose unequivocally clear when He went on to say: 'And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'
Peter was given the sole and the exclusive right to pronounce between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood, between verity and error. But the primacy of Peter was observed and asserted only in name and not in fact, and even that not until some centuries had elapsed. In Jerusalem it was James, the brother of Jesus, who was acknowledged as the head of the nascent church. And across the world of the Gentiles strode the colossal figure of Saul of Tarsus. At the Council of Jerusalem about the year 46 A.D. the position of the 'Apostle of the Gentiles' was well established. It was indeed St. Paul who laid the foundations of the Church. During the first three centuries the Fathers of the Church had to fight battle after battle with the Gnostics, such as men Marcion and Basilides and Valentinus and those who accepted their heresies. There were also the Montanists who succeeded in winning over to their side no less a person than Tertullian, the great saintly figure and apologist of North Africa. When at last persecutions receded into history and recognition and acceptance came on the part of the state, the Church found itself caught in fundamental controversies. There ensued a series of Ecumenical Councils spread over several centuries, beginning with the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Prior to the first Ecumenical Council, which for the first time in the history of the Church laid down an exact and definite creed in words specifically meant and assiduously chosen, another Council had met in the year 314 at Arles, also at the instance of Constantine, the same Emperor who made the Christian Faith the religion of the Roman State. The Council of
Arles was to held deal with Donatist schism which, however, continued to plague the Church for several centuries. Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophysite belief were all condemned by the Ecumenical Councils, but they all persisted. The Church of the East, as the Nestorian Church has been called, the Coptic Church of Egypt and Ethopia, the Church of Armenia have their roots in these very beliefs pronounced heretical and rejected by the Ecumenical Councils. Next came the division between Greek and the Catholic Churches in the eleventh century, to be followed eventually by the rise of Protestant movements. The unity of Christendom was never restored. Secular rulers and secular movements took full advantage on this fact.
Muhammad named 'Alí, His cousin and son-in-law, to succeed Him. A few months before His passing in June, 632, whilst on the road to Medina from His last pilgrimage to Mecca, He halted at an oasis and had a pulpit raised with saddles. This He ascended and had 'Alí up so that he could be seen by the multitudes. To them He said in plain terms that whosoever had recognized and accepted Him as their Master, should recognize and accept 'Alí likewise. But no sooner had he left this world than controversy broke out as to who should succeed Him. 'Alí and the immediate members of the Prophet's family were left to attend to His funeral, while the people gathered at the Prophet's mosque to wrangle over the succession. Those who were from Mecca, who first gave their allegiance to Muhammad, had suffered greatly for their faith and had migrated from their city, becoming known as the Muhájirún (the Emigrants). In a country of tribal divisions and intense loyalty to the clan, the Muhájirún felt that they were entitled to distinction, because they were chiefly of the Quraysh, Muhammad's own people, and the traditional custodians of the holy sanctuary of the Ka'bih, venerated in the days of idolatry, and sanctified as well in Islám. On the other hand there were the
Ansár (the Helpers), inhabitants of Medina who had accepted Islám when its fortunes were at a very low ebb, had given refuge to the Prophet and His Meccan followers, thus endagering their own security and that of their wives and children and property by inviting the enmity of the ferocious, irate and revenge-seeking idolaters of Mecca, as well as that of the hostile tribes and clans around them. They now claimed the chieftainship of Islám.
The veterans amongst the Muhájirún, of whom the most outstanding was the aged Abú-Bakr – the third person to believe in Muhammad, His father-in-law, and His companion in the flight from Mecca to Medina – were greatly perturbed, because they thought should a man of Medina be put at the head of Islám the proud Meccans would refuse to submit, and the unity forged by the Prophet would be irreparably impaired. They all ignored the fact that Muhammad had already named His successor. But 'Alí was young. These men were rich in years, renowned and honoured. The body of the Prophet lay unburied whilst they argued and argued in His mosque about his successor. Finally 'Umar presented the venerable Abú-Bakr to the multitude as viceregent of the Prophet, and he himself was the first to pay homage and declare his allegiance to Abú-Bakr. Others followed suit. Only a handful refrained. But they eventually submitted when 'Alí bowed to the inevitable and swore fealty to the Caliph.
Arabia was once again ablaze. Tribe after tribe was reverting to idolatry. 'Alí would not countenance and contention at the very heart of Islám at such a perilous time. Abú-Bakr was a man of piety and integrity, but the seat which he occupied truly belonged to 'Alí by the prophet's prescription. But 'Alí would not assert his rightful claim when Islám was compelled to fight desperately for its very life, assailed as it was on all sides by dark forces of reaction, as well as by the rise of false prophets (amongst whom incidentally was a woman) Islám triumphed
over the faithless hordes who would have reverted back to barbarism, and soon Arabia was once more united under the banner of Islám, ready and posed to challenge the might of the Byzantine and Persian Sassanid empires.
But the expressed wish and command of the Prophet had been discarded, His Covenant lay in the dust. By the time that 'Alí, the true successor, was acclaimed Caliph, after Abú-Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthmán, the unity of Islám had been irretrievably shattered and the way paved for the disastrous and irreligious rule of the Umayyids, Muhammad's traditional enemies. 'Alí the righteous, of incorruptible nature, high virtue, sound governance, soaring eloquence, profound learning, the Prophet's Own appointee, was compelled to spend the three short years of his rule containing rebellion and the vaulting ambitions of powerful men who cared nothing for the divine commonwealth founded by Muhammad, but only for their own assumption of power.
When 'Alí was assassinated, the military might of the new civilization was at the command of Mu'awíyih, the crafty, venomous, unprincipled but exceedingly able Governor of Syria, an Umayyid. 'Alí's descendents, the rightful rulers of Islám, were rejected and done to death, and the religious society of the prophet became military machine of unmatched power. As Gibbon says: 'The persecutors of Muhammad usurped the inheritance of the children; and the champions of idolatry became the supreme heads of his religion and empire.'
By the time that discontent with the misrule of the Umayyids resulted in their overthrow, the division of Islám was too far advanced to be halted. The supporters of the Prophet's House became known as the Shí'his, while those who upheld the man-made institution of the Caliphate became known as Sunnís. Both divisions became decimated by sects and more sects, until to-day Islám presents as many divisions as Christianity.
In both Christendom and Islám the Covenant of the Manifestation of God was disregarded and cast aside. Neither Peter nor 'Alí was allowed to exercise the primacy which was undoubtedly his. The result was the formulation of creeds and doctrines, the prescription of rites and rituals and practices, the raising of institutions which became subjects of controversy and contention, no matter how near to or how coincident they were to the original teachings and sayings of the Founder of the Faith. Controversy and contention became the basis of sectarianism; divisive forces held the field. The unity of each Faith was irretrievably shattered.
But now the cycle of fulfilment is with us. The time has come when the Kingdom of God shall be established on this earth.
From the day the Báb was shot in the public square of Tabríz in Northwest Persia, the same divisive forces which had played havoc in the past assailed, at first, the Faith which He established, and next the Faith which He heralded. The Báb had foretold the advent of 'Him Whom God will make manifest'. He had made the acceptance of all that was revealed by His own Pen dependent on the assent and the good-pleasure of the One Whose coming was His constant theme.
'Of all the tributes,' He wrote, 'I have paid to Him Who is to come after Me, the greatest is this, My written confession, that no words of Mine can adequately describe Him, nor can any reference to Him in My Book, the Bayán, do justice to His Cause.'To Siyyid Yahyáy-i-Darábí who won the designation of 'Vahíd' (the unique one), 'the most learned, the most eloquent and influential among His followers', the Báb uttered this warning:
'By the righteousness of Him Whose power causeth the seed to germinate and Who breatheth the spirit of life into all things,
were I to be assured that in the day of His Manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee and repudiate thy faith.... If, on the other hand, I be told that a Christian, who beareth no allegiance to My Faith, will believe in Him, the same will I regard as the apple of Mine eye.'
'O Thou Remnant of God,' the Báb had said in his communion with the One Who was to come, 'I have sacrificed myself wholly for Thee; I have accepted curses for Thy sake; and have yearned for naught but martyrdom in the path of Thy love. Sufficient Witness unto me is God, the Exalted, the Protector, the Ancient of Days.'Yet, when the Promised One of the Bayán, indeed the One promised in all ages and in all the Scriptures of mankind, appeared in the Person of Bahá'u'lláh, no less a man than Mírzá Yahyá, Bahá'u'lláh's own brother and the nominee of the Báb, repudiated Him and rose in rebellion against Him. Others prominent in the Bábí community did likewise. And in the years between the martyrdom of the Báb and the advent of Bahá'u'lláh, many stepped forth with a false claim, many were the pretenders to the station of 'Him Whom God Will make manifest'. Although turbulent were the days, and turbulent the careers of some of these pretenders, their defection was but a momentary disturbance. Far more serious was the wickedness and the waywardness of Mírzá Yahyá, he who had been called Subh-i-Azal - 'Morning of Eternity' – by the Báb Himself. Many were the wounds that he and his supporters inflicted on Bahá'u'lláh and upon those who were loyal and true; but their hopes dwindled away, their schemes came to nought, and as the renown of Bahá'u'lláh grew, the shame of Azal deepened. Even Azal's eldest son, who was to be his successor, abandoned him and found his spiritual home amongst the Bahá'ís.
The Covenant which Bahá'u'lláh established with His people and with the generality of mankind is unique and peerless.
Never had a Manifestation of God left a written Testament to specify by name the one who was to succeed Him; never had a Manifestation of God made indisputably clear in His Book the station of His successor. Bahá'u'lláh did just this. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His Book of Laws, He stated,
'When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root." And furthermore, 'When the Mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock.'And in the Kitáb-i-`Ahd, His Will and Testament, Bahá'u'lláh left it in no doubt as to whom the verses of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas referred:
'It is incumbent upon the Aghsán,* the Afnán and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch.à Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: `When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.' The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful.'Bahá'u'lláh had extolled His Eldest Son in Tablets (letters) addressed to Him on many occasions. Thus,
'O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye! My glory, the ocean of My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world through
* Descendents of Bahá'u'lláh
Relatives of the Báb
à A title invariably applied to `Abdu'l-Bahá, during Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime.
Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine eyes.' And also, 'We have made Thee a shelter for all mankind," He, in yet another Tablet, affirms, "a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth, a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. God grant that through Thee He may protect them, may enrich and sustain them, that He may inspire Thee with that which shall be a wellspring of wealth unto all created things, an ocean of bounty unto all men, and the dayspring of mercy unto all peoples.'
In the Revelation of St. John, the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh is referred to as 'the Ark of His Testament' – God's Testament. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Most Mighty Branch, the Centre of that same Covenant, thus affirms: 'It is indubitably clear that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant'. 'The power of the Covenant is as the heat of the sun which quickeneth and promoteth the development of all created things on earth. The light of the Covenant, in like manner, is the educator of the minds, the spirits, the hearts and souls of men.'
Despite the fact that Bahá'u'lláh's command was evident and totally free from all ambiguity, once again the faithless, the self-seeking, the ambitious joined hands to subvert the Covenant. At the head of these traitors stood members of Bahá'u'lláh's family, His own sons. There was a time when the Centre of the Covenant remained almost alone in the seclusion of 'Akká. Many of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, although impervious to the satanic insinuations of the Covenant-breakers, felt sad and disheartened. Not content with fomenting dissension and spreading their venom inside the community, the traitors tried by every means possible to poison the mind of the government against `Abdu'l-Bahá. And thus oppression from outside was added to strains from within. But the Covenant was not subverted. Those who would have wrecked the edifice of God came to grief. The unity of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh
remained unimpaired. Man had passed the supreme test. Man had shown that he had indeed come of age.
The passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá brought forth another trial of strength between Light and Darkness. But `Abdu'l-Bahá also left a Will and Testament. In that momentous Document, which has been called the 'Charter of the New World Order,' `Abdu'l-Bahá named His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who was a descendant of Bahá'u'lláh as well as a scion of the House of the Báb:
'Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin surging seas; upon the offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, the twigs of the Celestial Tree, they that in the Day of the Great Dividing have stood fast and firm in the Covenant; upon the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God that have diffused widely the Divine Fragrances, declared His Proofs, proclaimed His Faith, published abroad His Law, detached themselves from all things but Him, stood for righteousness in this world, and kindled the Fire of the Love of God in the very hearts and souls of His servants; upon them that have believed, rested assured, stood steadfast in His Covenant and followed the Light that after my passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance--for behold! he is the blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees. Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind.'Once again rebellion raised its ugly head. Both in the East and in the West the authority of the Guardian of the Faith was contested. But no one, no matter how prominent his position, how brilliant the record of his services, could make any deep or permanent breach in the impregnable stronghold of the Faith.
The triumph of the Covenant in this age and in this Dispensation is a fact, incontrovertible, historical. This triumph has been achieved because of the overwhelming power with which this Covenant has been invested. This is the age of fulfilment. All that has happened in the past, all that the Manifestations of God have given to man from age to age, has been but the prelude to the coming of the 'Day of Days'. 'Thy Kingdom come' was the prayer which Christ taught His disciples. Not until the Covenant established by the Manifestation of God was laid upon an unassailable foundation, not until that Covenant remained inviolate in the face of fierce and unrelenting attacks, not until the teachings of the Manifestation of God could be safe and secure from sedition, corruption and interpolation because of the triumph of His Covenant, could God come into His own. Not till then could His Kingdom come.
The Day of God
Down the ages appeared the Manifestations of God. They came to revitalize the life of man, to reveal more of God's truth, to tell man what God's purpose is, to guide his faltering steps along the path of his destiny. They all spoke of a great Day which lay in the distant future – a Day that Isaiah, the greatest of the minor Prophets of Israel, thus portrayed:
'And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord...But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be
the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together...They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'Of that great and mighty Day, Jesus said;
'And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.'The Spirit of Truth Jesus named the Redeemer that was to come. And St. John and this wonderful and supernal vision of that glorious Day:
'And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.'On that Day, Muhammad said, men shall see the Countenance of their God, and thus seeing shall come to believe –
'The day on which mankind shall arise for the meeting of the Lord of the Worlds.' 'And the earth shall be illumined
with the light of its Lord,' Muhammad announced, 'and the Book shall be laid open, and the prophets and he witnesses shall be brought up, and judgement shall be given between them, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.''I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever:' said the Psalmist, 'with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.'
'As for our Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is His Name, the Holy one of Israel,' Isaiah had also proclaimed.
Every prophecy is now fulfilled. The Day of God, the Day of Days is here. The prayer which Christ taught His people is answered. The countenance of God is revealed. For the Lord of Hosts, the Spirit of Truth, the Lord of the Day of Judgement is come.
Bahá'u'lláh is the Lord of Hosts, the Spirit of Truth, the Lord of the Day of Judgement.