This chapter contains most of the last chapter of Shua Ullah Behai’s book manuscript. It is a summary of the basic principles of the Baha’i faith as understood by Mr. Behai.
Many of the quotations from Baha’u’llah’s writings in this chapter are translations by Ali Kuli Khan published in the early 1900s, with mi¬nor changes. Some other quotations appear to be original translations by Shua Ullah Behai, or are from sources this editor was not able to determine.
For the most part, the author’s presentation of Baha’i principles is similar to what would be found in any introduction to the Baha’i religion, but on two points, some significant differences can be observed. Firstly, he includes “Religion Without Clergy” as one of the most important teachings. Although this is a principle held by all Baha’is, it is not usually given such emphasis, perhaps because the Baha’i community has developed organizational hierarchies which approximate some of the roles traditionally played by clergy in other religions. 74
74.The Continental Boards of Counsellors and their subordinate bodies, the Auxiliary Boards for Propagation and Protection of the faith, are Baha’i institutions whose officials throughout the world are appointed to evangelize for the religion and to investigate and discipline adherents who dissent from standard Baha’i doctrine and practice. This system and its positions were established by the Universal House of Justice, the head of the Baha’i community, in 1968.
Mr. Behai cites historical examples of clerical leaders acquiring too much power,and places the blame for religious dissension and conflict on “the orthodoxy of religious organizations”—a stance that reflects his more liberal perspective compared to the mainstream Baha’i tradition which has, conversely, blamed those who resisted orthodoxy for disputes within the faith.
In the section prescribing a “Universal Tribunal,” the author quotes one of Baha’u’llah’s writings about the House of Justice, an institution which has usually been interpreted as a specifically Baha’i administrative body, but which Mr. Behai seems to have believed should also be a model for a world court as part of a secular international government. Some prominent Baha’is in the mainstream tradition have suggested that the supreme governing body of their own religious organization, the Universal House of Justice, should someday rule a global theocracy; 75 but Shua Ullah Behai, in contrast, presents Baha’u’llah’s vision of the House of Justice as an inspiration for non-religious international political institutions such as the League of Nations (later revived as the United Nations), which he favors. Various statements by Mr. Behai throughout this book confirm his strong belief in the separation of religion and state.
75. In fact, the proponents of this view have even included members of the UHJ itself, as discussed in Juan Cole’s article entitled “Fundamentalism in the Con-temporary U.S. Baha’i Community.” Originally published in Review of Religious Research, Vol. 43, No. 3 (March 2002): 195-217. Available online at http://www- pers0nal.umich.edu/~jrc0le/bahai/2002/fundbhft1.htm. As Dr. Cole explains, the modern Baha’i belief in theocracy has little support in Baha’i scripture, which for the most part, actually contradicts it.
This is the century of progress. The human mind is greatly ad¬vanced, education is universal, freedom of speech and the press is granted, and above all the freedom of thought and belief. But with all this progress we observe that Baha’ism, the most progressive move¬ment of this age, has been shrouded by vagueness and generalities
without due regard to the authentic teachings of the founder Baha’u’l- lah. Therefore some explanation is essential.
By delving carefully into the teachings of Baha’u’llah we discover numerous principles which, if practiced, will cause the betterment of humanity and the progress of mankind.
We, the Baha’is, should practice the same before preaching to others to do so.
For the enlightenment of the reader and a reminiscence to the Baha’is throughout the world, I hereby explain some of the major principles and precepts of Baha’u’llah.
The Oneness and Singleness of God
Before acknowledging the Oneness and Singleness of God, we must know what is the meaning of this word “God.” In the dictionary it is explained thus: “God, god: The Supreme Being; a being possessing divine power; a divinity, a deity.” From these definitions it appears that God is a name the English-speaking nations have given for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
From antiquity to this age, that great power which is behind every-thing movable and immovable has been called Supreme Being. The wise men, and the great Teachers that appeared on this earth from the beginning which had no beginning to this twentieth century, have called Him by different names and attributes. The Hindus, [“Brahma” or] “Buddha”; the Parsees, “Mah-Abad”; the Jews, “Jehovah”; the Christians, “Spirit of Truth”; and the Arabs, “Allah.” That Great Power is a reality which is beyond the comprehension of man. We know Him not but by His traces, and His traces are His Messengers and their teachings which have been given to us from time to time.
With careful study of the life and teachings of the past Messengers we will observe that each one had an object in his appearance and a message for us. Adam spoke of the creation of the Universe and its beauties. Enoch taught eternal life. Noah saved humanity from the deluge of ignorance, restoring them to the Ark of knowledge. Moses saved the Israelites from Pharaoh. Buddha taught the brotherhood of man.
Zaradusht 76 guided the Iranians to the light of Truth. Jesus sacrificed his life for the sake of unity amongst humanity, and Muhammad saved the Arabs from idolatry. All of them bowed in reverence to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, “God,” and the essence of their teachings is the same: the elevation of the thoughts and morals of mankind.
76. The Farsi name for Zoroaster, the great prophet of ancient Persia.
According to archaeological research, man has progressed considerably from the stone age to this age of steel and electricity. With unbiased study we will observe that the great teachers, messengers, philosophers, and scientists have been immensely responsible for our progress of today. But from time immemorial, from antiquity, the cause of development of the minds of humanity has been the inspired teachings and belief in the Supreme Being—even when the sun was considered the example of that Great Power, and the idols representatives of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
If our progress of today seems useless in some way, we are to blame for misapplication. Everything in existence is good but can become evil through our actions. The power of speech is one of the faculties of man, through which we know his innermost. Truth and lies both are considered speech, and its creation was good, but when misused becomes evil. Fire produces heat, and it is very beneficial in our daily life, but dangerous when improperly used. Poison’s nature is destruction, but also beneficial when used properly. It is true that mankind has progressed greatly scientifically, but has decreased considerably spiritually, through the misguidance of the leaders and the superstition driven into their minds by theologians: the belief that God is a certain personality sitting somewhere above, directing the affairs of the universe. This and other similar dogmas have kept people away from all creeds and finally caused the revolt against theology and religion.
Doubtless the progressive students will agree with me that the Great Power, the Cause of All Causes which is governing this universe, is worthy of our reverence, respect, adoration and love.
Baha’u’llah, the Great Sage of this age said, [speaking in the divine voice]:
My outward speaketh to My innermost and My innermost to My outward, that there is no one else in the Kingdom beside Me… Verily the Branches (sons) who branched from the Tree [Baha’u’l- lah] are My fingerposts amidst My creatures, and My fragrances between heaven and earth. Do ye see that there is a partner or an equal to God, your Lord? By the Lord of the world, No! Therefore say not that which God doth not permit, fear the Merciful, and be of those who reason. 77
77. Shua Ullah Behai identifies the source of these verses as the Book of Haykal, a book compiled by Baha’u’llah which contained his Suriy-i-Haykal (“Surah of the Temple”) and various other writings. However, these verses do not appear in the English translation of that work which has been published by the Baha’i community under the title The Summons of the Lord of Hosts. Mr. Behai’s fa-ther, Mohammed Ali, quoted the same passage but referred to its source as simply “a tablet” by Baha’u’llah, without identifying which one (see the section entitled “Sons and Successors of Baha’u’llah Are Not His Equal” in Chapter 17). Therefore, it seems likely that Shua Ullah Behai was mistaken about the source of the text. However, it is also possible that the published translation of the Book of the Temple is incomplete, and that these verses do appear in the orig-inal version of that document. According to Mr. Behai, the original was 520 pages in length (see Appendix A: List ofWritings of Baha’u’llah); but the trans-lation in The Summons of the Lord of Hosts contains only 276 paragraphs, along with some other writings of Baha’u’llah which have been added. Multiple sources confirm that some of the verses included in the first printed edition of the Book of the Temple—which do not appear in the published translation— were recognized as authentic writings of Baha’u’llah only by the Unitarian Baha’is, but not in the mainstream Baha’i tradition (e.g., see the account of this controversy in Chapter 23, in the section entitled “Abbas Effendi Favors Those Who Most Exaggerate His Position”).
The Oneness of Mankind
The students of science and religion both agree on this principle. Science’s theory is that we are the evolved and developed issue of the first Atom. Religious belief is that we are the offspring of the first Adam. Therefore it is a fact that the origin was one but with diverse explanations. Our difference in color is due to the climatic conditions of various parts of the globe, and the superiority of a race or nation over another is the consequence of its advance in education. Extreme orthodoxy in religious belief and lack of learning often have kept a race or nation backward. To this, history bears witness.
O children of man! Do ye know why We have created you from one clay, that no one should glorify himself over the other? Be ye ever mindful of how ye were created. Since We created you all from the same substance, ye must be as one soul, walking with the same feet, eating with one mouth, and living in one land, that ye may manifest with your being, and by your deeds and actions, the signs of unity and the spirit of oneness. This is My counsel to you, O people of light. Therefore follow it, that ye may attain the fruits of holiness from the Tree of Might and Power.78
78. The Hidden Words, Arabic #68.
The most splendid fruit of Tree of Knowledge is this exalted word:
Ye are all the fruits of one tree and leaves of one branch. Glory is not his who loveth his own country, but glory is his who loveth his kind. In this connection We have formerly revealed that which is the means for the prosperity of the world and the unification of nations. Blessed are those who attain! Blessed are those who practice! 79
79.Lawh-i-Ishraqat (“Tablet of Splendors”), Sixth Ishraq. Translated by Ali Kuli Khan in Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed at Acca, Syria (Chicago: Bahai Publishing Society, 1917), p. 128.
Equality of Races
Although we differ in our color, creed, habits, morals, mentality and belief, yet in humanity we are one and we should be on terms of equality. If some of us happen to be more fortunate in knowledge than others, it is the result of education; and we should share the same with the less fortunate, and with the language of love and kindness direct them to the fountainhead of truth, instead of avoiding them and glorifying ourselves over them.
The word of God in the Sixth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise:
The light of men is justice; quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among people. In this exalted word, the sea of God’s wisdom is moving; all the books of the world are not sufficient to contain its interpretation.If the world is adorned with this mantle, the sun of the saying “On that day God will satisfy them with His abundance” will appear and shine from the horizon of the heaven of the world. Know ye the station of this utterance, for it is from the loftiest of the Tree of the Supreme Pen. Happy is he who heareth and attaineth!
Truly I say, all that hath descended from the heaven of the Di¬vine Will is conducive to the order of the world, and to the furtherance of unity and harmony among its people. Thus hath the tongue of this Wronged One spoken in His great prison (Acre).
The word of God in the Seventh Leaf of the Exalted Paradise:
O ye wise men among nations! Turn your eyes away from foreignness and gaze unto oneness, and hold fast to means conducive to the tranquility and security of the people of the whole world. This span-wide world is but one native land and one locality. Abandon that glory which is the cause of discord, and turn unto that which promoteth harmony. To the people of Baha, glory is in knowledge, good deeds, good morals and wisdom—not in one’s native land or station. O people of the earth: Appreciate the worth of this heavenly word, for it is like unto a ship for the sea of knowledge, and is as the sun to the universe of perception. 80
80.Kalimat-i-Firdawsiyyih (“Words of Paradise”). Ibid., pp. 52-53.
Equality of Men and Women
Readers of the world news are aware of the hardship that women have experienced in the most progressive republic, the United States of America, for the passage of the law of women’s suffrage. They labored with great energy for years until they succeeded after the First World War, in 1920. 81
81. The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits any U.S. citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex,was ratified on August 18,1920, after several decades of activism by advocates for women’s equality.
About forty years earlier, Baha’u’llah said:
The blessing of God be upon you, O members of the Exalted Household.( Baha’u’llah’s family) Khanumi (Khanumi means “my lady” Baha’u’llah is referring to his daughter with a respectful title rather than using her given name) (Samadiyya Khanum, second daughter of Baha’u’llah) should hold fast to the rope of the Oneness (of God) and be happy in the Divine Providence.
Woman and man, before God, occupy one (equal) station.
The most beloved people, before God, are those who are steadfast and upright. Peace and glory be upon you, O members of the Household….
All should know and in this matter be enlightened by the lights of the sun of certainty. Females and males are one (equal) before God. The Dawning-place of the Light of God diffuseth its effulgence equally on all. He created them for one another. (From an unidentified tablet.)
Harmony of Science and Religion
With careful analytical study of this little planet we call the world, its conditions and changes, we will observe that everything in existence had an origin and a maker.
There is no product without a producer, no building without a builder, and no invention without an inventor. Likewise the earth and its contents testify to the mighty power of a Creator whom the theologians call God, and the scientists Nature.
To the intellectual observer, both are pointing to the Supreme Architect of the Universe, the Mighty Power, the Great Governor of this cradle earth, who causes the mineral to mature through the processes of natural chemistry, vegetation to grow through the power of the sun, air and water, producing livelihood for the birds and animals, and blessing human beings with life and dominion over all.
Saadi, the great Persian philosopher-poet said: “The clouds, the air, the moon and the sun are laboring so you may earn a loaf of bread and enjoy with gratefulness. All are humble under your command, there¬fore it is unjust of you to be disobedient.”
Religion and science are two channels through which mankind has been endeavoring to reach the truth. Religion is based upon faith and its principles have been the same throughout the ages, only renewed in each cycle by the inspired teachers. Science works upon theory and has contradicted its discoveries from time to time.
Doubtless there is nothing in existence without an origin; there¬fore, a creator. If we take it for granted that all in existence originated itself, it must be thus: either it was in existence and became existent, or it was not in existence and still became existent. The first is unreasonable, and the latter is impossible, as from nothing comes nothing. If we consider that one of the substances in existence originated the others, it is also unreliable as each atom of matter individually testifies to its weakness.
If we claim the strongest atom among all types of matter produced the others, and all in existence depend on this, it is also unreliable, for the human being, though small in stature, possesses the highest station of all the creatures in existence, and should be called a creator, an originator, yet we observe his weakness also, for he cannot depend on his earthly existence a second hence. If we consider that one group of at¬oms originated the others, this also is impossible, for the four kingdoms—mineral, vegetable, animal and human—though equal in the line of progress, vary in function. If we claim a group of the strongest atoms originated the others individually or in units, this is also impossible, for if the said group possessed such a power, they should be able to prevent self-destruction.
It is an actual fact that we cannot produce something from nothing. We need a seed to produce a plant, an egg to produce a bird, etc. Science could not produce the numerous modern discoveries and achievements without some substance to work with, such as chemistry. Even the past sages did not produce the so-called miracles without an origin. The great Master Jesus produced wine from the water; the great personage Moses produced water from the earth.
Regardless of the arguments of our friends, the theologians, and the scientists, for whom I have the greatest admiration, we must con¬fess that the Mighty Power which is governing this universe is worthy of our honor, devotion, adoration and love. To that great invisible power, which today is visible to the intellectual mind, we must be grateful for our progress and the knowledge that we have attained through His sages from time to time.
Religion and science both guide humanity to one great object, the Originator, the Beginner, the Creator; and both agree to the oneness and singleness of that object, The Mighty Architect of the Universe, Jehovah, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
If the students of theology and science could see the truth through each other’s spectacles, without prejudice, they would reach perfect harmony and understanding, revering both disciplines, and with united effort labor on the greatest work before them: the progress of mankind.
The Third Tajalli [“Effulgence”] is concerning sciences, crafts and arts. Knowledge is like unto wings for the being (of man), and is as a ladder for ascending. To acquire knowledge is incumbent on all, but [only] of those [types of knowledge] which may profit the people of the earth, and not such sciences as begin in mere words and end in mere words. The possessors of sciences and arts have a great right among the people of the world, where unto testifieth the Mother of Divine Utterance in the Day of Return. Joy unto those who hear! Indeed, the real treasury of man is his knowledge. Knowledge is the means of honor, prosperity, joy, gladness, happiness, and exaltation. Thus hath the Tongue of Grandeur spoken in this great prison. 82
The Eleventh Glad-Tidings: To study sciences and arts of all descriptions is allowable; but such sciences as are profitable, which lead and are conducive to the elevation of mankind. Thus hath the
matter been decreed on the part of God, the Commander, the Wise.83
82. Lawh-i-Tajalliyat (“Tablet of Effulgences”). Translated by Ali Kuli Khan in Tablets of Baha’o’llah Revealed at Acca, Syria (Chicago: Bahai Publishing Soci¬ety, 1917), pp. 76-77.
83. Lawh-i-Bisharat (“Tablet of Glad-Tidings”). Ibid., p. 88.
And We permitted you to study of the sciences that which benefiteth you, and not that which endeth in dispute. This is more advantageous to you, were ye of those who know. 84
84. Kitab-i-Aqdas (“Most Holy Book”), paragraph 77.
Religion Without Clergy
To the multitude such a venture seems impracticable—nay! unachievable—as we are accustomed by heritage to listen to the clergy¬men reading and explaining the Gospel rather than to study the Bible ourselves. In the dark ages, on account of the limitation of education, readers and instructors were essential. Today we are living in the age of progress. Education is compulsory and universal. We are able to read and study with reason, therefore we have no need for an explanator or interpreter of the words of God. We should study them carefully, analyze them cautiously and acquire the knowledge contained therein.
To appreciate the greatness of this principle, “Religion Without Clergy, ” we should study the past events of history. Thus we will observe that through the orthodoxy of religious organizations, dissension and strife has arisen amongst the followers after the departure of every Manifestation, usually ending with religious wars and the bloodshed of innocent individuals. The inspired teachings, which were revealed for the uplifting of humanity, became the whips of religious leaders, to fulfill their selfish desires and to rule over the oppressed masses.
Christianity made great progress during its early days. The monies collected the offerings from those who willingly gave and delivered them to those who were in need, even to the extent of carrying the offerings on their backs to the needy. Thus they performed the principles which Jesus commanded. As such, a period of time elapsed, until they began to build palaces called monasteries and lived the life of luxury and ease at the expense of the faithful followers, compelling them to accept their commands as supreme, equivalent to the words of the Master Jesus.
Not content with the spiritual rule which they possessed, the Christian clergy began to interfere with the affairs of state until they became the Supreme Ruler over the rulers. Then came the revolt of the state against the Church. King Henry VIII violated the law of the Vatican and proclaimed himself the head of the Church of England. Napoleon Bonaparte acted likewise, which eventually caused the division of state and church throughout the world. Martin Luther protested against the supremacy of the Holy See and founded the Protestantism of today, which in number of followers almost equals the Mother Church.
Islam also experienced the same phenomenon and its consequences, even to the extent of taking the life of the two grandsons of Muhammad. Hasan was poisoned and Hussein was beheaded. Caliph after caliph took control and in the name of religion ruled nearly fourteen hundred years, until the First World War, when the title of Caliph was abolished for the head of state, thus ending the Ottoman Dynasty.
All the past religions met the same fate after the departure of the Manifestation, through the selfishness of religious leaders, who corrupted the inspired teachings by misinterpretation and misguided the innocent masses. Grant us a survey of several churches on a Sunday morning. We will observe that each preacher is selecting a verse from the Gospel and interpreting it to harmonize with his sermon. The result is that many contradictory explanations of the same verse from the pulpit are causing confusion in the minds of the listeners.
According to the teachings of Baha’u’llah, the principles he commanded and the foundation he laid, the Baha’i organization should be composed of not less than nine members in each community, 85 elected by the vote of the members and subject to recall by popular vote. This duly-elected body shall appoint one of its members to be in charge of distribution of educational literature, free lectures, and promulgation of the teachings which are easy to understand and useful in our daily life, thus eliminating the need for clergy.
85.See the Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 30, in which Baha’u’llah writes: “The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Baha [i.e. nine], and should it exceed this number it doth not matter.”
If ye differ in a matter, bring it to God, so long as the Sun is shining from the Horizon of this Heaven [i.e. while Baha’u’llah is alive on earth], but when He setteth, bring it to what was uttered by Him [i.e. his scriptures]. Verily it sufficeth the worlds.
Whosoever explaineth what hath descended from the Heaven of Revelation contrary to its obvious meaning, is of those who alter- eth the Supreme Word of God, and becometh of the losers in the manifest Book (the record of truth). 86 87
Blessed is he who cometh to the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (rising- place of commemoration) in the early morning to glorify and praise God and ask forgiveness, and as he entereth in, he should sit down in silence and listen to the chanting of the scripture of God, the King, the Mighty, the Glorified. Verily the Mashriqu’l- Adhkar is every house built for My commemoration in cities and villages. Thus it was named on the part of the Throne, were ye of those who know.
Those who chant the scriptures of the Merciful in beautiful melodies shall attain therefrom that which could not be equaled by the kingdoms of heavens and earths. By this they shall inhale the fragrance of My words which none knoweth today save those who are given the keen sight from this Beautiful Watchtower. Lo, verily they (the scriptures) attract the pure hearts into the spiritual realm, which could not be expressed, neither by writing nor by symbolizing. Blessed are those who hear.
O people, help My chosen ones who rise up to commemorate Me amidst My creatures and elevate My Word in My Kingdom. They are the stars of the heaven of My Providence and the lamps of My guidance to all the people of creation. Whosoever teacheth contrary to what was revealed in My tablets is not of Me. Beware, lest ye follow every wicked claimant. The tablets are adorned by the beautiful ornament of the Seal of the Breaker of Dawns, who speaketh amidst heavens and earths. Hold fast to My safe girdle and to the rope of My straight and firm command. 88
86. Kitab-i-Aqdas (“Most Holy Book”), paragraph 53.
87.Ibid., paragraph 105.
88. Ibid., paragraphs 115-117
Ye are forbidden from ascending upon pulpits. Whosoever wisheth to read to you from the scriptures of his God, let him sit down on a chair upon the platform and commemorate God, his Lord and the Lord of the worlds. 89
89. Ibid., paragraph 154.
It is decreed unto you to pray singly, whereas the congregational prayer 90 is abolished, save the prayer for the burial of the dead. Verily, He is the Commander, the Wise.91
The establishment of a World Court is recommended here. The formation of the League of Nations was the fulfillment of this principle but unfortunately did not succeed, as it was without military power to enforce the laws agreed upon.
We hope that the present political leaders of the world will realize the importance of this principle and reestablish the Society of Nations for the sake of safeguarding the interest of the smaller nations. 92
The Eighth Ishraq [“Splendor”]:
This passage is written, at this time, by the Supreme Pen and is accounted [as part] of the Book of Aqdas.
The affairs of the people are in the charge of the men of the House of Justice of God. They are the trustees of God among His servants and the sources of command in His countries.93
O people of God! The trainer of the world is Justice, for it consisted! of two pillars, Reward and Retribution. These two pillars are two fountains for the life of the people of the world.
Inasmuch as for each day and time a particular decree or order is expedient, affairs are therefore entrusted to the House of Justice, so that it may execute that which it deemeth advisable at the time. Those souls who arise to serve the cause sincerely to please God shall be inspired by the invisible inspiration of God. It is incumbent upon all to obey (them, i.e. the House of Justice).
Administrative affairs are all in the charge of the House of Justice, but devotional acts must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book.
O people of Baha! Ye are dawning-places of the love and day- springs of the favor of God. Defile not the tongues with cursing and execrating anyone and guard your eyes from that which is not
worthy. Show forth that which ye possess (truth, etc.). If it is accepted, the aim is attained; if not, interference (with or rebuke of those who reject it) is not allowable. Leave him to himself, and advance toward God, the Protector, the Self-Subsistent. Be not the cause of sorrow (to anyone), how much less of sedition and strife!
It is hoped ye may be trained under the shadow of the tree of divine favor and act in [accordance with] that which God desireth.
Ye are all leaves of one tree and drops of one sea. 94
90. Muslims traditionally have been encouraged to recite their daily prayers to¬gether in unison, led by an imam, at the mosque. Baha’u’llah abrogated this practice and directed Baha’is to pray individually. This, along with his ban of preaching from pulpits, indicates that Baha’u’llah envisioned the Baha’i faith as more of a personal spiritual practice rather than a religion with hierarchical forms.
91.Kitab-i-Aqdas (“Most Holy Book”), paragraph 12.
92.This part of the manuscript can thus be dated prior to 1945, when the United Nations was formed. The International Criminal Court has also been created since then. It is worth noting that the Baha’i vision of global governance is broader than any current or historical political institution, and has been interpreted in various ways.
93. It is not clear whether Baha’u’llah envisioned the House of Justice to be a quasi-governmental or judicial body for only the Baha’is, or for all people regardless of religion. At the time when Baha’u’llah was writing, the Ottoman Empire had what was called the Millet system (from the Arabic word milla, “nation”), in which each religious group was viewed as a distinct national community which could manage its own affairs and exercise authority over its members in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. Religious courts were therefore a commonly accepted feature of life in the 19th century Middle East, and Baha’u’llah’s conception of the Bayt al-Adl (House of Justice) may have been simply the Baha’i analogue of this institution. However, some passages in his writings also indicate that he envisioned a global assembly that would be interfaith or secular in nature, perhaps as a House of Justice for all humanity. For example, in the Lawh-i-Maqsud he wrote: “The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men.” (Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 1990 pocket- size edition, section CXVII, p. 249).
94.Lawh-i-Ishraqat (“Tablet of Splendors”). Translated by Ali Kuli Khan in Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed at Acca, Syria (Chicago: Bahai Publishing Society, 1917), pp. 129-130.
Indeed this is the first cornerstone for the erection of the great temple of unity amongst humanity. The following are the commands of Baha’u’llah to the leaders of the world for the fulfillment of this principle:
O people of the courts [of state, i.e. political officials] throughout the countries! Select one of the languages whereby all those who are on the earth should speak, and likewise one [script for] writing. Verily God elucidate unto you that which benefiteth you and maketh you independent of others. Verily He is the Bounteous, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. This is the cause of union, were ye of those who know, and the greatest means of concord and civilization, were ye of those who conceive. 95
95. Kitab-i-Aqdas (“Most Holy Book”), paragraph 189.
The Sixth Ishraq is concerning union and harmony among servants [of God] (i.e. mankind). Through union the regions of the world have ever been illuminated with the light of the (divine) cause. The greatest means (for this end) is that the peoples should be familiar with each other’s writing and language.
We have formerly commanded, in the tablets, that the trustees of the House of Justice must select one tongue out of the present languages, or a new language, and likewise select one among
the various scripts and teach them to children in the schools of the world, so that the whole world may thereby be considered as one native land and one place. 96
96.Lawh-i-Ishraqat (“Tablet of Splendors”). Translated by Ali Kuli Khan in Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed at Acca, Syria (Chicago: Bahai Publishing Society, 1917), pp. 127-128.
Advanced humanity is eagerly seeking universal peace and good will amongst mankind. The hearts are filled with the spirit of brotherly love, longing for lasting peace. The leaders of the world should realize the importance of this universal desire and use their efforts to bring it into being. Behold what became of the Egyptian, Persian, Roman, Macedonian, Babylonian and other great empires: The earth absorbed them all. Their empires were doomed, and their palaces ruined. A Persian philosopher-poet said, “Gaze with the eyes of recollection upon the palace of King Kesra; the cobwebs replaced the golden draperies and the owl is the lone musician.” 97
This land was given to us to live on it in peace and happiness, to produce from it our livelihood, to enjoy what nature has provided for us, and not to exploit or seek to possess it. The duration of our lives on this earth is limited, and sooner or later we will be absorbed by it, whether we are seated on the throne of gold and glory or on a ragged carpet.
Blessed is he who departs from this earth with a clear conscience and unstained hands. Blessed is he who leaves behind a monument of good acts and deeds. Blessed is he who shepherds the human flock to the pasture of knowledge and the pond of truth. Blessed is he who has sheltered the unfortunate under the dome of glory and served them with spiritual food. Blessed is he who crowned his head with the crown of justice, and adorned his temple with the garment of kindness.
Blessed is he who occupied the throne of love and devoted his life to the service of his kind. Blessed is he who performed his duties to man¬kind and helped the needy generously. The glory of the Most Splendorous shall be with him forever and ever.
The Second Ishraq:
We have commanded [the advent of] the Most Great Peace, 98 which is the greatest means for the protection of mankind. The rulers of the world must, in one accord, adhere to this command which is the main cause for the security and tranquility of the world. They (i.e. rulers) are day-springs of the power and dawning places of the authority of God. We beg of God to assist them in that which is conducive to the peace of the servants (i.e. people).
The account of this subject hath been previously revealed from the Supreme Pen. Blessed are those who act accordingly. 99
The word of God in the Ninth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise:
Truly I say: Moderation is desirable in every affair, and when it is exceeded it leadeth to detriment. Consider the civilization of the people of the Occident, how it hath occasioned commotion and agitation to the people of the world. There hath appeared an infernal instrument, and such atrocity is displayed in the destruction of life, the like of which was not [before] seen by the eyes of the world, nor heard by the ears of nations. It is not possible to reform (or remove) these violent, overwhelming evils, except if the peoples of the world become united in affairs, or in one religion. Hearken ye unto the voice of this Oppressed One, and adhere to the Most Great Peace!
A strange and wonderful instrument existeth in the earth; but it is concealed from minds and souls. It is an instrument which hath the power to change the atmosphere of the whole earth, and its infection causeth destruction. 100
With careful study of the aforesaid principles, we the Baha’is should realize that we possess an ocean full of pearls of wisdom from which to gain knowledge, and a universe full of shining stars with which to be enlightened. Therefore we should meditate on the teachings and earnestly follow them.
97. According to legend, Kesra (also spelled Kisra or Kasra) was a great king of Persia who had an immense, lavish tomb like a palace. Today, the ruins of the Taq-i Kisra still stand near the town of Salman Pak, Iraq, as the only remains of Ctesiphon, the ancient capital of the Parthian and Sasanian Empires.
98. The Baha’i concept of the “Most Great Peace” is a condition of the world in which all nations have united in a permanent accord, abandoning war and regarding all countries as one home for all. This alludes to the Biblical eschatological vision of a final, ultimate peace on earth brought about through the potent inspiration or presence of God.
99.Lawh-i-Ishraqat (“Tablet of Splendors”). Translated by Ali Kuli Khan in Tab¬lets of Baha’u’llah Revealed at Acca, Syria (Chicago: Baha’i Publishing Society, 1917), p. 126.
100.Kalimat-i-Firdawsiyyih (“Words of Paradise”). Ibid., p. 54. The “infernal,” “strange and wonderful” instrument spoken of by Baha’u’llah is generally regarded by Baha’is as a prophecy of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.