Baha’u’llah’s Tablet on Fornication, Sodomy, and Adultery

This is a letter written by Baha’u’llah’s secretary, Mirza Aqa Jan (“Khadim”), on his behalf. It is dated 17 Jumada Thani 1291 (Aug 1, 1874), roughly a year after Baha’u’llah completed his book of laws, al-Kitab al-Aqdas. The translation is based on the only two publicly-available manuscripts of the letter, INBA22:155-163 (أ in the transcription) and KB#834:088-095 (ب in the transcription); see Phelps Inventory BH00721. Text in brackets [ ] indicates the page number in that manuscript; text in angle brackets < > indicates an alternate text in one of the manuscripts. I have not noted minor orthographic differences that do not affect meaning, like آنجناب in one manuscript and آن جناب in another. The letter has not been previously translated in full for the public that I know of, although a paragraph has been translated by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice (more below). I have translated the letter more literally than I usually would, including the phrases that indicate a quote from Baha’u’llah, so those who do not read Persian or Arabic can appreciate the flow of the text and more easily spot its ambiguities.

Text

[أ: ١٥٥، ب: ٨٨] 

هو الله تعالى شأنه العظمة والاقتدار 

He is God, exalted is He, the Lord of Majesty and Power!

رقيمهٌ انجناب رسيده <ب: رسيد> از نفحات آن كمال بهجت و سرور دست داد [ب: ٨٩]

Your letter has arrived, the breezes of which elicited the utmost joy and happiness.

انشاء الله در كلّ احيان از قلم احبّای رحمن جاری شود آنچه سبب روح <ب: روح جان> و ريحان امكان گردد 

God willing, that which flows from the pen of the loved-ones of the Merciful will bring gladness and joy to creation at all times. 

و چون از مطلبی سئوال شده بود اينعبد لازم دانسته كه جواب آن به تعجيل نوشته و ارسال گردد تا حقيقت امر برانجناب و ساير احباب واضح وهويدا آيد

Since a certain subject was inquired about, this servant considered it necessary to answer you and send a response quickly so that the truth of the matter would become clear and obvious to you and the other loved-ones.

اگر چه تقديس و تنزيه امر مثل شمس در قطب زوال ظاهر و مشرق است و لكن نظر بطلب انجناب عرض ميشود اينكه مرقوم داشتيد از بعضی رفتارهای اناسيّه <ب: اناثيّه> متحيّر شده ايد 

Although the sanctity and holiness of the Cause is manifest and shining forth like the noonday sun, the question you have asked (indicates) you have become perplexed by some human [alt ms: female] behaviors. 

مثل انجناب بايد [أ: ١٥٦] در اين امورات ابداً تحيّر ننمايند چه كه مدّتها در ساحت اقدس بوده اند و اكثر از بيانات رحمانيّه كه سبب وعلّت تربيت عباد و ترقّی من فی البلاد بوده از لسان مبارك جهرة استماع نموده اند 

People like you should never be perplexed about these matters since they have spent a long time at the Most Holy Threshold and have heard aloud from the Blessed tongue most of the merciful elucidations, which are the cause of the education and advancement of the people of the world.  

هر نفسی بغير آن عمل نمايند خائب و خاسر بوده چنانچه فرموده اند ولو يكون من ذوی القربی

Everyone who behaves otherwise is hopeless and lost, inasmuch as he has stated, “even if they are kindred.”

بعض امورات از عادات اوّليّهٌ اهل بيان است كه ما بين ايشان متداول بوده و من غير حق بان عامل بوده اند چنانچه انجناب و ساير احباب ميدانند كه قبل از اين ظهور اعظم اكثر <اكثرى از> اهل بيان عامل بوده اند انچه را كه بهيچ ملّتی و شریعتی موافق نبوده <ب: نبود> و هيچ ذی عقلی و ذی بصری انرا قبول نمينمود تا انكه شمس ظهور اشراق فرمود [ب: ٩٠] از سنين توقّف در عراق تا حين كه يوم سابع عشر شهر جمادی الثّانی سنه ۱۲۹۱ متتابعا مترادفا <ب: شهر جمادی سنه ۱۲۹۱ است متتابعا مترادفا> از سماء مشيّت [أ: ١٥٧] الهيّه الواح بديعهٌ نازل 

Some behaviors are among the early customs of the people of the Bayan that were current among them and were done wrongfully. You and the other loved-ones know that before this Most Great Theophany, most of the people of the Bayan did that which accords with no (religious) community or law and is unacceptable to anyone possessing intellect and insight. (Such was the case) until the sun of the theophany dawned. From the years sojourning in Iraq until the present, which is the seventeenth day of the month second Jumada of the year 1291 [Aug 1, 1874], wondrous tablets have descended continuously and uninterruptedly from the heaven of the divine Will. 

وكلّ را از امورات مردودهٌ نا مرضيّه منع فرموده اند و باوامر الله كه سبب نجات كلّ بوده امر نموده اند چنانچه از افق هر لوحی شمس بيان در اين مقام مشرق و لائح است 

He forbade everyone from (engaging in) repulsive and displeasing behaviors and enjoined on them the commandments of God, which are the cause of the salvation of all, for the sun of the Bayan is shining in this station from the horizon of every tablet. 

بر كلّ اليوم لازم كه بحبل تقديس متمسّك شوند و بذيل تنزيه متشبّث گردند

Today, all must cling to the cord of holiness and cleave to the hem of sanctity.

ای برادر لؤلؤ امر از اعمال نا شايسته مستور مانده و اين است علّت كلّيه كه سبب توقّف بريّه گشته والّا از كلّ اطراف و بلاد ندای قد توجّهت اليك و سرعت اليك يا مقصود العالمين می شنیدی 

O brother! The pearl of the Cause is hidden by unseemly deeds, and this is the general reason that has caused people to hesitate (embracing the Cause). Otherwise, you would hear from all sides and every land the cry of “I have turned to you and hastened to you, O desire of the worlds!” 

در عراق بعد از اشراق نيّر آفاق نهی فرمودند كلّ را از بعض امور بعضی حسب الامر ترك نمودند بعضی مع انكه در ظلّ حق بودند عامل بودند انچه را عامل بودند ولكن ستر ميشد

In Iraq, after the light of the world dawned, he forbade everyone from (engaging in) some behaviors. Some abandoned (those behaviors) as bidden, and some, even though they were in the shadow of God, continued to do what they were doing but it would be concealed.

و همچنين در اين ارض حكومت ظاهره نيست تا [أ: ١٥٨] انكه اجرای حدود الله شود حق مظلوم بوده وخواهد بود لا يسمع منه الّا رجال مقرّبون 

Likewise, in this land there is no outward authority to implement the limits of God. It has been and always will be the right of the Wronged One. None hear from him except men who draw nigh. 

اينست كه [ب: ۹۱] معادله نمي نمايد بعمليكه خالصا لوجه الله ظاهر شود عمل عاملين چه كه نفسی از قصاص ظاهره خوفی نداشته اينست كه اگر از نفسی عمل خيری ظاهر شود للّه بوده لذا آن از <ب: لذا از> افضل اعمال محسوب است

Thus, their behavior is not equivalent to an act that appears purely for the sake of God, for (such) a person has no fear of outward punishments. Therefore, if a good act appears from someone for (the sake of) God, it is considered the best of actions. 

فوالله الذي لا إله الّا هو نفوسيكه وارد اين ارض شده اند چه اناثاً و چه ذكوراً هر وقت تلقاء عرش <أ: تلقاء شمس> حاضر گشتند جميع را باخلاق طيّبه <ب: باعمال طيّبه> و اعمال روحانيّه <ب: باخلاق روحانيّه> و صفات مرضيّه و اجتناب از مشتهيات نفسيّه امر فرموده اند 

By God, besides whom there is no other god but Him! Every time a person, whether male or female, comes to this land and attains the presence of the throne, he enjoins upon all of them good morals, spiritual acts, pleasing qualities, and the avoidance of selfish desires.  

طوبی لمن فاز وويل لمن غفل قوله عزّ كبريائه قال قد حرّم عليكم الزّنا <ب: الزّناء> واللواط والخيانة ان اجتنبوا يا معشر المقبلين تالله قد خلقتم لتطهير العالم عن رجس [أ: ١٥٩] الهوی هذا ما يأمركم به مولی الوری ان انتم من العارفين ومن <ب: العارفين من> ينسب نفسه إلى الرّحمن ويرتكب ما عمل به الشيطان انّه ليس منّي يشهد بذلك كلّ النّواة والحصاة وكلّ الاشجار والاثمار وعن ورائها هذا اللسان الناطق الصادق الامين انتهی 

Blessed are those who have attained and woe unto those who were heedless of his statement, exalted be his grandeur: “Zina, liwat, and khiyana have been forbidden unto you. Avoid (them) O concourse of the faithful. By God! You were created to purify the world from the filth of desire. This is what the master of humanity commands you, if you are of those who recognize. One who associates himself with the Merciful and commits what Satan does is not of me, to which every atom, pebble, tree, and fruit bear witness and beyond them this ever-proclaiming, truthful and trustworthy tongue.” The end.  

اين كلمات عاليات از فم منزل آيات مشرق گشته و اين عبد بحروفها معروض داشته من عمل فلنفسه ومن اعرض فعليها انّ ربّنا العليم [ب: ٩٢] لهو الغنيّ الحميد 

These exalted words have dawned from the mouth of the revealer of verses and this servant expresses their content exactly: “ًWhoever acts (righteously), it is for his own benefit. And whoever opposes, it is to their detriment. Verily, our ِAll-Knowing Lord is the All-Possessing, the All-Praised.” [c.f. Q41:46, 45:15]  

اگر بدانند ناس از اين امور چه قدر ضرّ و حزن وهمّ بر جمال قدم وارد شده هرآينه كل بنوحه وندبه مشغول شوند 

If the people knew how much harm, sadness, and sorrow befell the Ancient Beauty from these behaviors, they would all verily engage in wailing and weeping.

در اوّل ايّام از رؤسای بيان بعضی امور ظاهر كه سبب احتجاب و توقّف خلق گشت 

In the early days, some behaviors appeared from the leaders of the Bayan that veiled people and caused their hesitation (to embrace the Cause).

اگر اينعبد از اعمال بعضی كه خود ادراك نموده ذكر نمايد سبب حيرت كل ميشود 

If this servant were to mention the deeds of some that he has witnessed himself, all would be astonished.

[أ: ١٦٠] اگر اين ظهور اعظم ظاهر نمي شد بر اکثری از ناس امر مشتبه بود 

If this Most Great Theophany did not appear, the matter would have been misunderstood by most of the people.

از الطاف الهيّه والواح منيعه انقدر شد <ب: شد كه> اكثری از احبّا كه در اطراف در مدن وقری ساكنند بقميص تقديس فائز شدند 

There were so many divine favors and holy tablets that most of the loved-ones that lived throughout the lands in the cities and villages attained the garment of holiness. 

و در بعضی از بلاد بكمال جد <ب: جهد> واجتهاد باوامر الهيّه كه سبب نفع بريّه بود <ب: بوده> عامل گشتند و از اعمالات مردوده مقدّس شدند 

In some of the lands, they carried out, with the utmost endeavor and effort, the divine commandments that benefit humanity, and they were sanctified from unseemly actions.

ولكن بعضی بهمان عادات قديمه باقی مانده اند 

However, some persisted with the same old customs. 

نسئل الله بان يوفّق الكلّ على ما يليق لايّامه وينبغي لجماله ويرفع به امره المبرم المتين

We beseech God to grant everyone success in (doing) what befits his days and beseems his beauty and elevates his resistless and immovable Cause.

ای اقای من اكثری از نفوس سست عنصرند بمجرّد مشاهده برقی مثل ثلج از [ب: ٩٣] نار ذوب ميشوند 

O my Lord! Most people are faint of heart. At the mere sight of lightning, they melt like ice from fire.

كجايند آن نفوس مستقرّهُ ثابتهُ ساكنه كه ميفرمايد اگر جميع نساء عالم بتمام جمال و زينت ظاهر شوند و جميع خزائن دنيا برايشان [أ: ١٦١] جلوه نمايد ابدا التفات بآن نكنند چه كه اين نفوس از رحيق جمال ذوالجلال سرمستند 

Where are the calm, firm, and steadfast people who, it is said, will pay no mind whatsoever if all the women of the world were to appear in all their beauty and adornment and all the treasures of the world were are available to them since these people are intoxicated by the wine of the majestic beauty? 

سكرشان سلطان صحو <أ: محو> بوده و صحوشان مبدء محو

Their intoxication is the sultan of sobriety and their sobriety is the source of self-effacement. 

باری موسی از بيت فرعون ظاهر شد و ابو لهب از دودمان رسالت 

Briefly, Moses appeared from the household of pharaoh and Abu Lahab from the lineage of messengership [i.e the family of Muhammad]. 

انشاء الله در كلّ اوان بافق اعلی ناظر باشيد و بكمال جهد و اجتهاد در كسر اصنام نفسيّه مشغول كه شايد بهمّت انجناب و دوستان حق اعمال غير مرضيّه كه سبب احتجاب بريّه شده از ما بين خلق مرتفع شود 

God grant that you may gaze upon the Most Exalted Horizon at every moment and with utmost effort and striving shatter the idols of self that perchance through your efforts and those of the friends of God, the unseemly deeds that are the cause of veiling humanity may be removed from the midst of humanity.

واين ايّام اين آيهٌ منيعه از قلم اعلی نازل قوله عزّ كبريائه ينبغي لكلّ من آمن بالله ان يسرع يصدع <ب: ان يسرع يصدع> بالحق ويسعى في إزالة الباطل عن بين الخلق انتهى 

These days, this holy verse has descended from the Most Exalted Pen, exalted be his grandeur: “It is incumbent upon all who believe in God to quickly show forth the truth and strive to remove falsehood from among creation.” The end.

بايد كلّ باين خدمت كه سبب وعلّت تقديس ارواح و ترقّی من في البلاد است [أ: ١٦٢] قيام نمايند 

All should undertake this service, which is the cause for sanctifying the spirits and advancing the dwellers of every land.

در احيان رسول الله ص مشاهده نمائيد يوم عروج <ب: عروج الحال؟> [ب: ٩٤] آن جمال محمود قريب صد هزار نفر او ازيد از اطراف مدينه در حول <ب: اطراف در مدينه و حول> آن حاضر شدند 

In the time of the Messenger, observe that on the day of the ascent of that lauded beauty close to a hundred thousand people or more from the environs of Medina gathered around him.

واكثر آن نفوس در عُرف از صحابه بودند چه كه مصاحبت نموده بودند 

Most of those people were known as Companions since they had accompanied (Muhammad). 

معذلك عاملين و متّقين معدود مشاهده شدند انّ الفضل بيد الله يختصّ من يشاء بامر من عنده انّه لهو المقتدر القدير 

Nevertheless, few doers and god-fearers were seen. Verily, grace is in the hand of God. He singles out whomever He wills by His command. Verily, He is the Powerful, the Omnipotent.

فی الحقيقة اين سئوال انجناب بسيار محبوب واقع شد چه كه <ب: چه> اكثری از خلق ضعيفند و از رضای حق و ما هو المحبوب عنده محجوب اينقدر شد كه <أ: كه شده> از عريضهٌ اين عبد الله مخلصين ادراك مينمايند آنچه را كه لدی الله محبوب و مقبول است و از <ب: از او> نفحات قميص رحمن <ب: رحمان> ما بين اكوان متضوّع

In truth, your question is well loved since most people are weak and veiled from the good-pleasure of God and that which is beloved in His sight, so much so that the sincere ones recognize from the petition of this servant of God that which is beloved and acceptable to God and diffuse the fragrances of the garment of the Merciful among creation.

نحمده ونشكره علی ذلك انّه ولیّ الشّاكرين 

We praise Him and thank Him for that. Verily, He is the friend of the thankful.

خدمت جناب اسم الله الاصدق [أ: ١٦٣] عليه بهاءالله الابهاء تكبير ابدع امنع اقدس از جانب اين فانی معروض داريد ساير احبّا عليهم نفحات الله ذاكر بوده وهستم واز كلّ التماس دعا متوقّع كه اينعبد را فراموش نفر مايند انّما البهاء [ب: ٩٥] عليك وعليهم خ ا د م مورخه ۱۲۹۱ ١٧ ج ٢

Offer the most wondrous, most holy, most sanctified praise on behalf of this lowly one to Ism Allah al-Asdaq, upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious. I have and will continue to mention the other loved-ones, upon them be the breezes of God, and this servant cherishes the expectation that all may not forget him in their prayers. The glory of God be upon you and upon them. Khadim dated 1291 17 J[umada] 2

Context

In the letter, Baha’u’llah responds to the questions of someone who knows Ism Allah al-Asdaq, a Hand of the Cause and one of the earliest believers in the Bab. The questioner seems to have inquired about the religious lawfulness of some behaviors current among the Baha’is. We can surmise that some of these behaviors were sexual given the nature of Baha’u’llah’s response, in which he blames the early Babis and some of their leaders for condoning such acts (we’re not given specifics) and then provides guidance on which behaviors God forbids: zina, liwat, and khiyana.  

The Universal House of Justice’s Research Department has translated these words as “adultery, sodomy, and lechery” in its rendering of the paragraph. I have left the words untranslated as “zina, liwat, and khiyana” and modified the remaining paragraph to give readers a better sense of the original. 

In the Islamic world, zina means heterosexual sex outside of marriage; it can include fornication between two unmarried people as well as adultery. In the Baha’i religion, Abdu’l-Baha held that zina means fornication between two unmarried people [“The issue of zina is connected with someone unmarried, not married.” Ganjinih 301]. Adultery is likely covered by khiyana, betrayal, which Baha’u’llah mentions in this text separately from zina. If this analysis is correct, the Research Department’s translation of zina as “adultery” here and in the Aqdas may need to be reconsidered. At the very least, it will have to revisit its translation of khiyana here as “lechery,” which is not one of the meanings of the word. 

The Research Department’s translation of liwat as “sodomy” is certainly defensible, although it has many connotations that are not captured by the English word. In Baha’u’llah’s day, liwat was a synonym for male pederasty, as Khaled El-Rouayheb documents in meticulous detail in Before Homosexuality: Although “in Islamic law, the luti is a man who commits liwat (i.e., anal intercourse with another man), regardless of whether he commits its as an active or passive partner,” El-Rouayheb demonstrates that in Baha’u’llah’s time and place “liwat was normally understood to be equivalent to sodomizing boys” (p.17). Boys here is ghilman, the word Baha’u’llah uses in the Aqdas when he says “We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys (al-ghilman). Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet…” So when Baha’u’llah says in this letter that liwat has already been forbidden, he is presumably referring to the passage he wrote in the Aqdas a year earlier forbidding sex with male youth. As Mirza Aqa Jan writes in the surrounding text, there is no authority (hukumat) to implement the “the limits of God,” i.e. the laws of Baha’u’llah, which assumes that they had already been written. It’s also worth considering that Zayn al-Muqarrabin, Baha’u’llah’s chief scribe, used the same word, liwat, to refer to male pederasty in his questions about the laws of the Aqdas when he asked Baha’u’llah about the punishment for it in the Risalih-yi su’al o javab (Questions and Answers): 

Question: Concerning the penalties for zina, liwat, and sariqa [theft], and the degrees thereof.

Answer: The determination of the degrees of these penalties rests with the House of Justice.

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Education as Prerequisite for Women Serving on Universal House of Justice

He is God!

O thou handmaiden of God who art drawing nigh! The letter thou hast written should take at least one day to read. Although I did not have the opportunity to read even one line, I was compelled to read it in the middle of the night. Regarding your appointment as supervisor of education for girls’ schools, this is very agreeable. God willing, thou mayest become the cause of organizing schools for girls.

The establishment of a women’s assemblage for the promotion of knowledge is entirely acceptable, but discussions must be confined to educational matters. It should be done in such a way that differences will, day by day, be entirely wiped out, not that, God forbid, it will end in argumentation between men and women. As in the question of the veil, nothing should be done contrary to wisdom. The individual women should, today, follow a course of action which will be the cause of eternal glory to all womankind, so that all women will be illumined. And that lieth in gathering to learn how to teach, in holding meetings to recite the verses, to offer supplications to the kingdom of the Lord of evident signs, and to institute education for the girls. Ponder the manner in which Jináb-i-Ṭáhirih used to teach. She was free from every concern, and for this reason she was resplendent.

Now the world of women should be a spiritual world, not a political one, so that it will be radiant. The women of other nations are all immersed in political matters. Of what benefit is this, and what fruit doth it yield? To the extent that ye can, ye should busy yourselves with spiritual matters which will be conducive to the exaltation of the Word of God and of the diffusion of His fragrances. Your demeanour should lead to harmony amongst all and to coalescence and the good-pleasure of all.

A brief summary hath now been written which will be expanded later. Women of the sort thou knowest are so aided through the power of the covenant that thou hast become famous and well-known and publicly and officially appointed by the government as supervisor of schools and education for all girls. Appreciate this bounty and be thankful so that the blessing shall increase day by day. The glory of the All-Glorious be upon thee. 24 Rabi al-Awwal 1338 [Dec 17, 1919] Haifa.

I am endeavouring, with Bahá’u’lláh’s confirmations and assistance, so to improve the world of the handmaidens that all will be astonished. This progress is intended to be in spirituality, in virtues, in human perfections and in divine knowledge. In America, the cradle of women’s liberation, women are still debarred from political institutions because they squabble. They are yet to have a member in the House of Representatives. Also Bahá’u’lláh hath proclaimed: “O ye men of the House of Justice.” Ye need to be calm and composed, so that the work will proceed with wisdom, otherwise there will be such chaos that ye will leave everything and run away. “This newly born babe is traversing in one night the path that needeth a hundred years to tread.” In brief, ye should now engage in matters of pure spirituality and not contend with men. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will tactfully take appropriate steps. Be assured. In the end thou wilt thyself exclaim, “This was indeed supreme wisdom!” I appeal to you to obliterate this contention between men and women.

Consider how to organize the eighth grade of school.

I am waiting to hear good news from you soon. I have written to Haji Ghulam-Rida about the redolent graves of Ibn Abhar and Adib. `Abdu’l-Baha `Abbas

No one can on his own achieve anything. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá must be well pleased and assist. `Abdu’l-Baha `Abbas 

[Abdu’l-Baha, letter ( MKT7.034c, Phelps AB00677) written in several parts, the first of which is dated December 17, 1919, possibly to Lillian Kappes. Italicized portions previously translated in Compilation on Women #11.]


“Question. I see that in his tablet to Ex-Governor Sulzer the Master says that the Universal Arbitration Tribunal will consist of the best men and women of the different countries. Will women in the future sit in the Beit-ul-Adl also?

Abdul Baha: Men and women are equal in this respect, with the condition that women should reach to the degree of men. As yet they have not reached this state. They will become members of the Beit-ul-Adl in the future. The time will come when women will reach the degree of men (as regards education). Then they will be equal.”

[Abdu’l-Baha, oral statement recorded by Fujita, 7 December 1919 (Phelps ABU1350) – credit to Steven Phelps for the find]

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Death Is a Portal of God’s Grace

During this great affliction, the friends must be the cause of joy, patience, and consolation. God hath made death a portal for His grace, but most people know it not.

Baha’u’llah, AQA 5:231 (BH06844)

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Baha’u’llah in the Rose Garden of Ridvan

There are many flowers but this rose is another story. Truly, it is the sultan of flowers. It has a different fragrance.

Outside of Baghdad, there was a garden called the Garden of Khalafabad. It had been built recently and had many roses, which had just opened. The Blessed Beauty was overjoyed on that day. There was a very broad path between these flowers. Most of the time, he would walk that path until evening, making pronouncements.

What a blessed day it was! What a happy day! That day will never be forgotten and will always be remembered. Even the physical sensations of the Blessed Beauty were heightened. When the blessed heart was happy, indescribable joy was visible on the blessed face. Likewise, if the blessed heart was saddened, the traces of sadness would flow from the blessed countenance.

`Abdu’l-Baha, speaking at the Shrine of the Bab. Ma’idih-yi Asmani, 5:200.

 

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Abdu’l-Baha’s Arabic

I did not study Arabic. When I was a child, I had a book of prayers by His Holiness the Bab in the handwriting of the Blessed Beauty. I really yearned to read it. At night, I would wake up and gaze with longing and intense desire until I saw that I understood Arabic well. Old friends know well that I did not study, but I know how to speak and write Arabic better than eloquent Arabs.”

Abdu’l-Baha, Mahmud’s Diary, Europe, 308; quoted in Muhammad Ali Faizi, Hayat Hazrat Abdu’l-Baha, 4.

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On Darwin and Iranian Naturalists

He is God!

O one who is firm in the Covenant! Your letter has arrived. Its contents are very strange, for these doubts are not newly widespread. Successive eras and centuries have passed since this murmur crescendoed in Europe. Likewise, it spread in the early centuries in Asia. But in every age, the penetrating power of the Word of God destroys the foundation of these doubts and clear light shines like the sun. For the evidences and proofs of these foolish people are weaker than a spider’s web and of the utmost flimsiness and obvious weakness.

Although the ignorant of Iran want to follow the foreign materialists and hope to blindly imitate the naturalists of Europe, they do not understand their principles and fundamentals. They do not comprehend their evidences and proofs, their subject and predicate. The Europeans of the naturalist school conducted research in accordance with their own ideas and opinions, but the naturalists of Iran imitate. Thus, debate and discourse with the foreigners is easy for they converse according to principle and evidence, and one responds to the principle. But its is difficult to converse with these Iranian imitators, for what they say is a mere claim, not evidence or proof.

For example, on the issue of the elements, it is not as the Iranians say. The naturalist scientists treat this question as follows, and on this basis establish all the issues of nature, for this is the root of their school and all of the other questions are the branches. In the world of existence, each of the simple elements is a single, united particle that cannot be divided or differentiated. All beings are a combination of these individual elements, meaning composed of various components. The simple elements resemble letters, and letters are indivisible. For example, a single alif also cannot be divided. As for other beings, they are like words that are composed of various letters. The word has components and can be divided.

In short, they say that when you look at all existent things, it is clear and evident that these simple elements are eternally decomposing and combining. Each existent combination is one of the existent beings. When this combination decomposes, it is relative annihilation, for pure annihilation is impossible.

For example, they say parts combine and from this combination a human comes into being. When this combination dissolves, this human being disappears, but these fundamental components and individual elements remain and endure. Therefore, beings come into existence through combination and cease to exist from the decomposition of this compound. Decomposition is successive and continuous according to the need of the Living, the Omnipotent.

This is a summary of their proof and their evidence according to their clear and evident claim. Through research, they established this matter, and since it is based on principles and fundamentals, it is easy and straightforward to demonstrate its falsity.   This issue repeatedly came up with the philosophers of Europe and America, and they [the Iranians] acquiesced and submitted with few words of answer.

In answer, it can be said that this combination, which is the ultimate basis of existence and the cause of the life of beings, has three categories. Each is a combination, for a combination is accidental, essentially necessary, or willed, meaning subject to the divine Will. If they say the combination of beings is accidental, an effect must have a cause and this is impossible, for every effect must have a cause. The falsity of this assertion is clear. If this arrangement is essentially necessary, decomposition is impossible for eternality is one of the essential necessities. This also cannot be. So what remains is the willed combination, meaning by the Will of the Living, the Ancient. This is the truth and there is nothing after the truth except clear falsehood. On this subject, a detailed discussion of this issue has been given in the “Question and Answer” [Some Answered Questions] of Miss Barney.

The naturalists are of two types. One type says this is better and superior, and the differences between humans are in the origin of creation—in their terminology, one of the requirements of the world of nature. They say that differentiation in a species is obvious, which is natural. For example, differentiation and distinction in the species of trees is natural, and animals are also naturally differentiated. Even in minerals there is natural differentiation. One mineral is stone, and another may be filled with water and color. One is sea shell, and another is clay.

The other type of naturalists is the ancient philosophers who say that differences between humans and differences of intelligence and accomplishment are from education. For the crooked branch is straightened by training, and the barren desert tree is tended, grafted, and bears fruit. Perhaps it is bitter; it becomes sweet. Its fruit is small; it grows large, delightful, and delicious. Their greatest proof is that the black tribes of Africa are wild and ignorant, and the civilized Americans are learned and intelligent. It is obvious that the difference between the two groups is based on experience and training. Such is the belief of the philosophers and the wise.

But the prophets say that differentiation in original nature [asl-I fitrat] is evident and manifest. “And We preferred some of you over others” {cf. Qur’an 2:253, 17:21]. This decree is irrevocable and well known. Human souls obviously differ in the original nature. If several children from the same mother and father are in the same school, receive the same education, and are fed the same food, some will have the utmost knowledge, some will be in the middle, and some will learn nothing. Thus, it is known that differences between humans arise from differences of degrees and creation.

Likewise, it is well established that education and training have a great effect. For example, if a child is deprived of primary school, he will obviously be ignorant and his learning will be limited to his own discoveries. As for the literate man who obtains knowledge and learning, he will know the discoveries of thousands of human souls. Therefore, education provides guidance to the people of error, gives sight to the blind, grants knowledge to the ignorant, bestows charity on the deprived, gives speech to the mute, illumines the dark dawn of lying with the morning of sincerity, turns the small seed into the towering palm, and transforms the runaway slave into a mighty king. Therefore, training obviously has an effect.

By virtue of this wisdom, the Manifestations of the divine unseen world and the Dawning Places of mercy in the world of humanity are sent so that the human species may be trained by the breezes of holiness, and the suckling child may become a mature man. Thus, those who are deprived in the world of creation become confidants in the world of divinity, and the portionless receive their share. [A similar passage appears in Tablets of Divine Plan.]

O one who is firm in the covenant! Seek in Tehran the treatise written by Barney that was published in Europe. It discusses in detail this issue and the doubts of Darwin, the English philosopher who follows the naturalists of Europe.

As for the phrase you have mentioned, they [the Iranian naturalists] know the sensible elements are the creator and the progenitor of all existent things. Elements that create and progenate are thus each from a deity, since creation is an attribute of God. In this way, the naturalists of Iran believe not in one god but in various eternal gods. Notice how the discourse is confused. But the original naturalists of Europe do not say such things. They say that the simple, eternal elements are arranged and each formation is a being, and when it is disaggregated, that being is relatively annihilated.

As for the other issues that you have researched and related from the naturalists regarding the most perfect individual in the human species who has infinite perfections and who, through utmost intelligence and perceptiveness, discovers the secrets of beings, and discloses them a thousand years later: This assertion is like a seed sown to hunt innocent birds. Through these means, they aim to initially converse with and befriend those who are faithful to God until little by little they stray from the straight path.

O divine loved ones! Each one should have such a grasp of these issues that you may decisively refute the ignorant and the unbelievers with the power of the proof of the prophets and messengers. For the divine prophets are holy human souls. As for others, they are captives of nature and the satanic self. The manifestations of mercy assuredly triumph over animalistic likenesses.

The warnings of the Blessed Beauty, which were addressed to the kings of the earth straightforwardly without need of interpretation, are sufficient, irrefutable proof for establishing the holy power beyond nature. Study the Suras of the Kings, closely examine the severe sermons, look at the dire warnings, and carefully consider the apostrophe, “O spot that art situate on the shore of two seas!” [Aqdas] Likewise, glance at the apostrophe to Tehran and the apostrophe to the banks of the Rhine River. [Aqdas] Compare them with the events that transpired, in which all of the warnings came to pass in a short time. Is it possible to discover these momentous events in a short period of time through natural intelligence? Could the realization of these events in a few days be imagined? No, by God, unless realized through the power of the Omnipotent King and the operation of His potent Word!

Previously, it was stated there was no opportunity for more detail but now this has been written. Upon you be the glory of the Most Glorious!

A.A.

Abdu’l-Baha, Makatib 1:374-382, Min Makatib 1:265-269

 

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The Original Gospel and Torah

The second question concerneth the blessed verse of the Furqan [Qur’an], in which He, exalted be His station and transcendent be His sovereignty, saith: ‘And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is Most Praised [Ahmad]. Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic.’ [Qur’an 61:6]

You imply by the question that this passage hath never existed in the Gospel, even though the Messenger of God (blessings be upon him) mentioned it in the Furqan. Yea, we acknowledge this truth. However, his holiness did not say it was revealed in the Gospel. Verily, we bear witness that he said Jesus son of Mary spoke in accordance with what the All-Merciful revealed in the Furqan, and of course what he said and what the All-Merciful revealed in the Furqan hath been and shall ever be the pure truth, for none but God knoweth the hidden knowledge and comprehendeth what hath happened and what will happen in creation. God, exalted be He, revealeth and teacheth what He wisheth to His chosen ones and His prophets. Verily, He is the Knowing, the Wise.

This blessed revealed verse is one of the matters which God, exalted be He, disclosed to His Messenger. Although it is not in the Gospel, this is not proof that his holiness Christ did not say the verse, inasmuch as the four gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–were written after that holy personage. After Christ, these four individuals wrote statements from his holiness that they saw so that his followers would busy themselves with reading and contemplating them. There are many of his statements which they did not see and many words he spoke which they did not hear. None knoweth what he said save the One who sent him, educated him, and aided him. God alone, exalted be His knowledge, knoweth all things, and He is the Omniscient, the All-Encompassing, the ِAll-Knowing, the All-Powerful. Every atom testifieth that His knowledge encompasseth all things and surroundeth all creation. He, verily, is the Peerless, the Incomparable, the Omnipotent, the Resplendent, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.

The Most Exalted Pen saith: In every dispensation, God, magnified be His glory, confirmeth His books that He revealed previously. The Messenger, may the spirits of all others be his sacrifice, confirmed the Torah and the Gospel. Likewise, in this dispensation is confirmation of the Furqan and other holy books. However, the Torah that God hath accepted is the same words that issued from Him through the tongue of the Speaker (Moses). This matter hath been mentioned briefly. If God, magnified be His glory, desireth, a more detailed explanation will flow from the Most Exalted Pen.

Baha’u’llah through his secretary Khadim Allah, quoted in Khavari, Muhadarat 1:365. Christian missionaries in Baha’u’llah’s day criticized the Qur’an for asserting that Jesus alluded to Muhammad, whose name derives from the same root as “Ahmad” mentioned in the verse. As for the nature of the true Torah, Abdu’l-Baha similarly says that the Torah is the words God spoke to Moses, which he identifies as the ten commandments.

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Resurrection and the World to Come

As for what thou hast asked regarding “the origin” and “the return,” “resurrection” and “assembling for judgment,” “the bridge,” “paradise,” and “hell”: all of them are real, the truth of which none can doubt. Verily, a person of certitude and insight perceiveth all these ranks and stations with the inner and outer eye at every moment, for he is not limited by time nor deprived of grace. If thou soarest in the heavens of divine grace, thou shalt witness creation happening at every moment and in all things, regardless of whether in the past or in the future, and shall behold all that appeareth and transpireth in everything, for His grace hath never been reserved for one thing over another and never shall be.

However, the divine meaning of “assembling for judgment,” “resurrection,” “paradise,” “hell,” and similar expressions mentioned in the divine tablets is limited to the time of the Manifestation. Notice, for example, that at the time of the Manifestation the tongue of God speaketh a Word, and from this Word that cometh from his mouth paradise, hell, the bridge, and everything thou hast asked and not asked are revealed and disclosed. Every soul who hath attained certitude hath crossed the bridge and attained the paradise of good-pleasure. In like manner, it joineth the assemblage of the near ones and the elect and is mentioned before God among the people of paradise, the exalted ones, and those who are steadfast. Every soul that hath opposed the Word of God is in hell and is among the people of negation and wickedness who assemble in the shade of those who join partners with God. These stations appear when the Word appeareth.

As for souls who attain the good pleasure of God and His Cause, they shall obtain recompense for their works in the world to come after their spirits leave their bodies. For in this world they do not have the capacity for more, even if all the divine worlds have ever, and will ever, circumambulate this world. In each world, however, there is an ordained and prescribed mission for each soul. Think not that what hath been mentioned in the book of God is a sham. Exalted is He above that! I swear by the sun of the horizon of inner meanings that, in truth, none of the paradises are alike. Paradise in the first life is His good-pleasure and entering His Cause.

After the ascent of the believers from this world, they attain the peerless paradises and are blessed with innumerable bounties. Those paradises are the fruits of the actions that were undertaken in this world. Hast thou noticed that if one of His servants serveth another soul and beareth a hardship for its sake, he receiveth a recompense and compensation for what he did? How can the Bountiful One be free to issue commands for His servants to obey and later withhold the wonders of His mercy from them? Far, far be it from His glory and exalted, exalted is He above what His servants fancy about Him.

In short, today all of these stations are manifest. Therefore, happy is the soul that attaineth the Abha paradise, which is the most exalted paradise. If there be ears that are cleansed and souls who have attained, then make mention of the wonders of the divine bounties at every moment so all may be freed and purified from everything they have perceived, known, and seen and turn toward the Most Pure, the Most Sublime Vision.

But of what avail! Despite the teachings of the Point of the Bayan (may the souls of all else but Him be His sacrifice), these servants did not advance from the station of the clot to the station of the lump of flesh, much less to the station of acquiring a body and further stations that have never been mentioned (cf. Qur’an 23:14).

Alas for those who change God’s grace unto them and by their own existence prevent the heaven of inner meanings from disclosing their manifestations and qualities. Behold the state of these creatures and be of those who bear witness.

Briefly, paradise and hell in this earthly life have been, and will ever be, recognition and opposition. After the ascent of the spirit, it shall reach the peerless paradises or arrive at the fire that hath no likeness, which are the fruits of the actions of those who have recognized or opposed. However, none but God can ever perceive these stations.

For the believer He hath created stations far beyond what hath been heard of the wonders of the immeasurable divine bounties ordained in the paradises of eternal glory. Likewise, He hath ordained for the opponent eternal torments of which none hath heard their like.

Verily, we bear witness that the bridge hath been upraised in truth, and the criterion established with justice! The manifestations have assembled, the evidences have appeared, the trumpet hath sounded, the horn hath blown, the hell-fire hath blazed, and paradise hath drawn close! The herald hath cried out, the heavens have folded up, the earth hath spread out, the breeze of God hath wafted, and the Spirit of God hath gone forth! The heavenly maidens have been adorned, the heavenly youth have been beautified, the palaces have been erected, and the chambers have been festooned! The buried have risen, the lofty have been brought low, and the lowly have been raised aloft! The sun hath darkened, the moon hath split, the stars have fallen, the waters have flooded, the grapes have been plucked, and the fruits have been gathered! The verses have descended, the deeds of those who oppose have been erased, and the actions of those who recognize have been affirmed! The preserved tablet hath appeared in truth, the written tablet hath spoken with bounty, and the Object of wonders, the Beloved of creation, He who is worshiped on earth and in heaven, hath appeared in the form of the Youth, whereupon the tongues of all things say: praise be God, the most wondrous of Creators!

Baha’u’llah, from a tablet to Sayyid Yusuf Isfahani, INBA 38:140-143

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Other Prophets

As regards the other religions in the texts of Baha’u’llah and in the books of the loved ones like the book of Mirza Abu al-Fadl, as well as my writings, they have explicitly mentioned his holiness Zoroaster, his holiness Buddha, Brahma, and Confucius. In the beginning, the foundation of his holiness Zoroaster and his holiness Buddha very much agreed, but afterwards there was distortion and change.

Methinks thou hast not seen the tablets and books that have been written about this. If thou art able to obtain the book published by Mirza Abu al-Fadl, it is sufficient. Be thou satisfied that the teachings of Baha’u’llah are universal teachings and that thou art aided by the potency of the Word of God, the breaths of the Holy Spirit, and a heavenly power.

At most, thou hast seen the published writings of his holiness Baha’u’llah. Published tablets relative to unpublished tablets are very partial. The foundations of the divine religions are one. That foundation shall become universal through the power of his holiness Baha’u’llah.

Abdu’l-Baha, Makatib Abdu’l-Baha 3:378-9; Amr va Khalq 2:71.

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Respect Scriptures by Publishing Fewer of Them

Briefly, the greatest matter today is teaching the Cause of God and diffusing the divine fragrances. This is accomplished by elucidation and sparkling exposition, not by the publication of books and the dissemination of tablets; nay rather, publishing and making more tablets available dishonor God’s scriptures. Observe that once the Qur’an was printed, it was used to wrap medicine in perfume stores. Likewise, notice to what extent it hath been published and disseminated, becoming available to other religious communities and recited by them. Thou hast heard of no one who hath become a believer in His Holiness the Messenger (may my life be his sacrifice) by reciting the Qur’an, whether he be a Christian, a Jew, or from some other sect. People are guided by elucidation and exposition, not by the promulgation of a book, the dissemination of tablets, and the publication of scriptures. The divine scriptures should be respected and honored accordingly.

`Abdu’l-Baha, Muntakhabati 6:1.

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