As for how the `Adliyya define `isma, their definition is the most appropriate. The gist of the correct part of their definition is that (`isma) is a divine disposition that prevents the act of disobeying and intending to do so while retaining the capability to do it.
The ma`sum abstains from all the things that God has prohibited.
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i, Kitab al-`isma (Book of Infallibility), introduction. In the Baha’i writings, `isma is translated as “infallibility,” “sinlessness,” and “protection.” Ma`sum is a person characterized by `isma. The `Adliyya (“followers of justice”) are the Shia and the Mu`tazilites, who believe that God’s justice requires that humans act of their own volition and thus merit the resulting reward or punishment.
In Shaykh Ahmad’s book, the synonyms of disobeying (ma`siyya) are sin (dhanb), negligence (ghafla), venial sin (saghira), mortal sin (kabira), shortcoming (taqsir), and evil deed (sayyi’a). His synonyms for negligence (ghafla) are forgetfulness (nisyan), inattention (sahw), and error (khata’). All these words have to do with the morality of an action.
The final word, khata’, is found in `Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament in reference to the Universal House of Justice as “the source of all good and freed from all error (khata’).”
While facing the sun on Friday, say this verse so that you will attain the presence of the sun of reality on the day of resurrection:
“Verily, the glory (al-baha’) of God be upon your rising, O rising sun! Testify to that which God hath testified of His Own Self: Verily, there is no God but Him, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved.”
The Bab, Arabic Bayan, 7:17.
Someone wants to know the secret of what was revealed to him that came before me regarding the sun and his standing while facing it. Blessed is the one who asked this question and wanted to know what was concealed from the hearts of the worlds. Say: I swear by God that what he meant by the sun is my beauty that has shown forth from behind the clouds with great lights. Because we made the sun to be the greatest of our signs between heaven and earth, he stood facing it, submissive to my Self, the Inaccessible, the Powerful, the Most High. When he rose facing it during the first part of his day, he spoke a word for which there is no loftier or greater in God’s knowledge, if you be of those who know. When he gazed upon it, he said, and his word is the truth, “Verily, The glory (al-baha’) of God be upon your rising, O rising sun! Testify to that which God hath testified of His Own Self: Verily, there is no God but Him, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved.” This was so that all would attain certain knowledge of the inmost secret through the appearance of the sun and testify to that which God has testified, that there is no God but Him, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved.
…He disclosed the Greatest Name so that everyone would bear witness on the day of revelation to what he had seen. This word is mentioned as one of the fundamentals of the divine commands revealed in the Bayan and each soul in this day must turn toward God on Friday and utter these words, calling to mind the beloved of the world.
Baha’u'llah, excerpted in Ma’idih-yi Asmani, 8:104-5.
He is the Most Glorious!
O Lord my God! Thou knowest that this servant is aflame with the fire of Thy love, dazed in the wilderness of longing for Thee, drawn onwards by the wondrous lights of Thy beauty, and making mention of Thee. Make him soar with the wings of holiness to the kingdom of Thy verses, aid him with the confirmations of Thine invisible spirit, give him to drink of the cup of eternity from Thy sanctified hands, and let him attain the radiance of the rays shining forth from Thy beauty. Verily, Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.
Baha’u'llah, Ad`iyya Mubaraka, 60. For my friend, Gavin Welch, who died yesterday.
You have asked why these people have died, despite reciting supplications and reading prayers of healing for them. Know that these prayers and supplications for healing affect a contingent fate, not a fixed, irrevocable fate. Fate is of two kinds: contingent and irrevocable. An irrevocable fate cannot change or alter. If every sick person someone prays for were healed, no one would leave the elemental form and ascend from this world to the next to progress there because each time someone became sick, supplications would be made and he would be healed. This contradicts the divine and consummate wisdom. Rather, the purpose of asking for healing is to be protected from a contingent fate and to be guarded from a destiny that is not irrevocable. For example, notice that this lamp has a known amount of oil and when it is completely consumed, it will certainly go out. There will be no change or alteration. However, benevolent prayers and asking for healing is the glass that protects the lamp from contrary winds so it is not extinguished by a contingent fate.
`Abdu’l-Baha, excerpted in Muntakhabati az athar hazrat `Abdu’l-Baha, 3:20.
When Husayn b. Sayyab al-Basha was the governor of al-Ahsa’, the Arabs plotted against him. Muhammad Al `Uzayr came and (his men) surrounded the Basha, fighting the Ottomans. They seized al-Ahsa’ and Muhammad Al `Uzayr ruled it.
After he died, his son `Ali Al Muhammad ruled al-Ahsa’. His brother Dujayn Abu `Ar`ar killed him. The place where `Ali was killed is near `Ayn al-Hawar and he is buried there.
When I was around age five, if I passed his grave I would say to myself, “Where is your sovereignty? Where is your power? Where is your courage?”
When he was alive, according to what they say, he was the most courageous person of his time and the strongest physically. When I recalled his circumstances, I wept intensely for the changing circumstances of the world and for their shifts and reversals.
Such was my state. When I was with children, I played as they did. When I was alone, I contemplated and reflected.
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i, Sira Dhatiyya (Autobiography). Excerpted in Shams Hajar, 39-40.
As for the story of Lot and his daughters and the apostasy of some of the prophets recorded in the Torah and the Psalms, these confused dreams are the words of historians among the People of the Book for which God has revealed no authority. Know, then, that the Torah is only what was revealed in the tablets to Moses (peace be upon him) and what he was commanded to observe. As for the stories, this is a historical matter. They were written after Moses (peace be upon him) and the proof is that the final book records and reports on events that happened after Moses. This is clear, unassailable evidence that the stories were written after Moses (peace be upon him). Those words, which are stories and tales, are not dependable. God revealed no authority for them because that noble Book and grand oration consists of the tablets that Moses came down the mountain with and the words he addressed to the tribe of Israel in a conclusive text of laws. Therefore, do not be scandalized by the stories that issued from the pens of the historians who came after Moses because they are not the verses clearly set down in the scriptures and tablets.
`Abdu’l-Baha to Yusuf Bek Khusafi, excerpted by Ishraq Khavari, Muhadarat, 1:342.
I was often contemplative during my childhood. If I was with other children, I played with them just as they played. But everything was an occasion for contemplation, in which I excelled them. If none of the children were with me, I would begin to contemplate and reflect. I would gaze on ruins and crumbled walls and meditate on them, saying to myself, “This used to be a building, then it was destroyed.” I wept when I recalled its inhabitants and how they had prospered. I wept a great deal.
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i, Sira Dhatiyya (Autobiography). Excerpted in Shams Hajar, 39.
If you want to know the truth, contemplate what I have said to you. Do not turn to your rules or to the sciences of the people with which you are familiar; rather, contemplate my words with the gaze of the people of truth–your imams (upon them be peace) and God’s proofs to you and to all creation. As for Sufis, philosophers, and theologians, they are neither God’s proofs to you nor to His creation, and they are not your imams.
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i, Jawami` al-Kalam, 1:329. Excerpted in Shams Hajar, 185-6.
I have frequently restated phrases and made repeated hints and allusions so that what I am trying to teach you will become clear. It is possible that you have no familiarity with my intentions because your mind is familiar with the terminology of the people. Most of their terminology differs in meaning from the path of the people of infallibility (upon them be peace) and the keys to understanding my intentions is their path (upon them be peace).
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i, Sharh al-Masha`ir, 3. Excerpted in Shams Hajar, 186.
In some of the revealed prayers and supplications it is written, “and make him.” Is it considered interpolation if one recites, in a passage of entreaty, “and make me,” which is an addition by the speaker? He replies that this does not constitute interpolation and both are permitted. Likewise regarding the blessed words, “Say: O Lord my God!” and “Say: Praise be God!” It is correct to both drop “Say” and to pronounce it: pronouncing it on account of the sacredness of the blessed word, which issues forth from the mouth of the King of Oneness; and dropping it is permissible inasmuch as the appearance servitude and specificity is most evident in that mode.
Baha’u'llah, through his amanuensis Khadim Allah. Excerpted in Amr va Khalq, 4:28.
No soul has or will ever comprehend the essence of divine wisdom. In reality, the rational mind is a most great sign in humans and blessed are those who realize (its potential). But despite its high station and lofty rank, it is evident that the rational mind is unable to comprehend most things because its awareness depends on the testimony of sight. If the eye sees a palm tree, the rational mind does not comprehend the world of fruits, leaves, trees, branches, and twigs (hidden) in its seed. How, then, could the rational mind, before seeing it, comprehend that a thing will be found in the world, a particle (dharra) of which can consume the whole planet and turn it to ashes, obliterating it entirely?
Baha’u'llah, quoted in Ma’idih-yi Asmani, 8:100-1. This is similar to his statement in the Words of Paradise: “Strange and astonishing things exist in the earth but they are hidden from the minds and understanding of men. these things are capable of changing the whole atmosphere of the earth and their contamination would prove lethal.” It is also echoed by `Abdu’l-Baha, speaking to a Japanese ambassador in 1911: ”There is in existence a stupendous force, as yet, happily, undiscovered by man. Let us supplicate God, the Beloved, that this force be not discovered by science until spiritual civilization shall dominate the human mind. In the hands of men of lower material nature, this power would be able to destroy the whole earth.”