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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Infallibility and Adam’s Sin

Thou hast asked about the infallibility of the ancient prophets. The Holy Manifestations uttered that which was revealed unto them and not that which they desired. They are the manifestation of “God warns you to beware of His Self” (Q 3:28), or rather, the Self of God that hath established the divine precepts. They are exalted above the recognition of others and sanctified from the vain imaginings of the people of doubts and idle fancies. Refer to the divine texts, which explicitly mention the Most Great Infallibility that is their right, whether in the verses of the Most Exalted One (the Bab), or in the clarifying verses of the Abha Beauty, such as the tablet of visitation for the Prince of Martyrs (Imam Husayn), upon him be salutations and praise.

As for the meaning of “Adam disobeyed” (Q 20:121) and the verse “what is past of thy sin and what is to come” (Q 48:2), this is a station in which the good works of the righteous are the misdeeds of the near ones, and “Thine existence is a sin to which no sin compareth.” A soft breath revealeth the mirror’s surface, and imaginary dust cloudeth the eye.

The Most Exalted One (the Bab) hath said, “In mine eyes, seeking the love of Thy nearness is like idolatry in the eyes of others.” If, God forbid, it can be said that seeking divine nearness is sinful and idolatrous, then the Holy Manifestations are not the manifestation of the Most Great Infallibility. We ask forgiveness of God for such a thought! They are infallible, protected, sanctified, and safe-guarded.

Abdu’l-Baha, Muntakhabati 6: 366-7. The line “Thine existence is a sin to which no sin compareth” is often quoted by Sufis without attribution. My thanks to Iskandar Hai for his help rendering the sentence beginning “A soft breath….”

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Tablet of Tribulations

Baha’u’llah rarely compares his sufferings to those of Muhammad, preferring instead to parallel his mistreatment to that of Muhammad’s martyred grandson Husayn. But the comparison with Muhammad is apt if for no other reason than both men lived long lives as self-proclaimed prophets and died peacefully in their beds.

One of the few places Baha’u’llah makes the comparison is in the “Tablet of Tribulations,” written between 1863 and Baha’u’llah’s death in 1892. Here is my translation of the tablet (revised as of Sept. 28, 2016), along with the original Arabic and Persian text. Suggestions for improvement are very welcome.

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Fasting and God’s Throne

The All-Glorious, the Most Great

Praise be to Him Who sent down the commandment as He willed.  Verily, He ordains whatsoever He desires.  O My loved ones!  Observe that which you have been commanded in the Book.  Fasting has been decreed for you in the month of loftiness.  Fast for the sake of your Lord, the All-Powerful, the Most High, and abstain from sunrise to sundown.  Thus hath the Beloved commanded you on behalf of God, the Almighty, the Unrestrained.  None may overstep the bounds and precepts of God and none may follow their own idle fancies.

Blessed are those who observe My commandments for love for My beauty and woe to them who are ignorant of the dawning-place of the divine command in the days of their Lord, the All-Powerful, the All-Compelling.  Those who have circled ’round the throne for a number of years have fasted.  Thus hath your Ancient Lord informed you that you may perform that which you have been commanded to observe, unless you are travelling or sick.  This is My grace to My servants.

O people!  Cling to that which shall profit you in this world and the next and follow not those who wander in the wilderness of error.  Thank your Lord that you have been mentioned before the throne and that the gaze of thy Lord, the All-Powerful, Beneficent, has turned toward you.

Baha’u’llah, in La’ali’ al-hikma 1:28.  (My thanks to Omid Ghaemmaghami for the reference.)  The portion from “Praise be to Him…” to “…the days of their Lord, the All-Powerful, the All-Compelling” is translated (differently) in a compilation on obligatory prayer and fasting (xiii).

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Prayer for Pregnancy

I beseech Thee, O Lord of all being and Possessor of things visible and invisible, to bestow on me a righteous child so it may remember Thee on Thine earth and glorify Thee throughout Thy realm.  If Thou makest me by this tablet independent of every trace, fruit, and mention, my prayer at that time would be that which Thy chosen ones have uttered: “Lord, leave me not alone, for Thou art the best of Heirs.”

Baha’u’llah, quoted in Amr wa Khalq, 4:69.  The quote is from Qur’an 21:89 in which Zechariah asks God to cure his wife’s infertility.

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