Opposition and its beneficial effects

A talk given on November 19, 1911, in Paris

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Mubarakeh (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha) p. 186, using the Word text in Persian available from the Bahai Reference Library and a partial German translation by Soroush Shahidinejad in his commentary Zu ‘Abdu’l-Bahas Risaliy-i-Siyasiyyih, published in Zeitschrift für Baha’i-Studien (2013, p. 69). This provisional translation replaces the version published in Paris Talks from page 101. An earlier English version (based on the French notes of the talk) was published in Talks by Abdu’l-Baha given in Paris (1912), pp 93-97, and is republished in Jan Teofil Jasion’s book Abdu’l-Baha in France, 1922 & 1913, pp 213-216. This book is invaluable for contextualizing Abdu’l-Baha’s talks in Paris.

Jan Jasion suggests (p. 213) that this talk was a response to an attack on the Bahai Faith by Antoine Baumann at the meeting of the French Anti-Masonry League (La Ligue antimaçonnique) on Friday, November 17, 1911, but this supposes that Baumann’s words were published at the time or reached Abdu’l-Baha by report. They were later published in La Revue Antimaçonnique for December 1911 – February 1912.

He is God

From the beginning of the world to the present day, whenever the call of God has been raised, the call of Satan is also raised. Because darkness always seeks to resist light, as tyranny seeks to resist justice, and ignorance resists knowledge. This is the unvarying custom of the peoples of this world. Consider the time of Moses: there was a Pharaoh who rose in opposition, seeking to prevent the spread of the Mosaic light. In the days of his holiness Christ, Caiaphas and Annas were the religious leaders of the Jewish community. They opposed Christ with all their strength and wrote diverse calumnies about him, and distributed them. The Assembly of the Pharisees even condemned Christ to death, saying (May God preserve us!) “This person is degenerate,” [note 1] or “He is lost in error” or “he has no legitimate father.” And they said some other things that I do not wish to repeat. They spread these slanders among the Jews of the East, with the intention of dimming the light of Christ. Similarly in the days of Muhammad, the Qurayshi divines sought to prevent the spread of the Muhammadan light. They pronounced religious rulings, sentencing him to death, and inflicted the most severe sufferings upon him. They sought to destroy that mighty edifice by the power of the sword.

Was any one of them able to resist? In the end, they were brought low, and the light of the Cause of God embraced the whole world. All fled the field like a defeated army. The word of God prevailed, the Law of God was promulgated, the teachings of the Lord compassed the whole world. Those souls who had gathered under the shadow of the Lord shone like stars from the horizon of supreme happiness.

The same thing is happening today. A gaggle of ignorant people who take religion as their pretext seek to keep back the light of Baha’u’llah. They oppose the cause of God with the aim of depriving the world of this light. Since they have no good arguments, they resort to slander. This is the custom of ignorant people: if they have no proof, their weapon is slander. If they could offer evidence, they would not attack in that way. They would have a discussion rather than reviling others, they would not write or speak vile things. They would champion their case with evidence. We do not enter into any form of conflict and contention with them. We do not revile them, and we do not reveal their true nature and their bad character. We advance arguments and say: “These are our argument. If you can bring any argument contrary to ours, please do so!” However, such people never come to us. They speak slander, and write things in newspapers, saying “the Bahais are this or the Bahais are that,” just as the Pharisees spoke of the disciples of Christ. They write whatever comes into their minds. Never be downcast when you see that such things are being circulated. Put all your energies into implementing the commandments of Baha’u’llah. Do not be distracted. These very people are causing the word of God to be disseminated among God’s servants, for naturally, fair-minded people will investigate and study the matter critically. This investigation and critical study will lead to them being guided. Suppose, for example, that someone said that a candle in a certain room has been extinguished. Later, a hearer investigates, and may find that it is burning. Or one may be told, “There is a tree in that garden that has yellow leaves, broken branches and bitter fruit, its flowers have a bad odor. Be sure to avoid it.” It may be that fair-minded people, not being satisfied with this report, will say, “We will go and see, and investigate the facts for ourselves.” When they investigate and search the matter out, they see that the trees in the garden are perfectly formed, their trunks perfectly straight, their leaves fresh and green, their blossoms giving the most pleasant perfume, their fruit full of sweetness, and that the flowers are blooming abundantly. They will say, “God be praised: those lies have guided us to this garden!”

In the days of Christ, how many books were written about the Christians! How many slanders were directed at Christ! How many lies were told about his followers! Does any trace of these remain? Has any lasting damage been done by the books the philosophers of that time wrote in refutation of Christianity? No! All those books promoted Christianity, because people heard ‘Christ’ being mentioned, they became curious and investigated it, and so they were guided.

We do not want to say a word against these people, we do not wish to criticize, but we do say that these falsehoods will never prevail. They are like a cloud that veils the sun: however thick the clouds may be, the rays of the sun will eventually disperse them, and they will be no more. No cloud can veil the light of the sun of truth, no barrier can restrain the sweet breezes blowing from the garden of God, nothing can prevent the fall rain falling from heaven. My purpose, with these words, is that when libelous books are published, and malicious attacks appear in the press, you should not be upset. Rather, be confident that these things occur because of the potency of the divine Cause. After all, no-one throws stones at a tree with no fruit, no-one tries to blow out a lamp that is not lit.

The things that have occurred are all due to the potency of the divine Cause, as was the case in the past. Consider the days of Moses: the vanity of the Pharaoh was an aid and bounty to the children of Israel, for although the tyrant announced that Moses was a murderer and must be punished, this had no significant results. [The priests] cried, “Moses and Aaron are both trouble-makers. They seek to destroy your undeniable religion. They encourage disputes and discord in the kingdom. They must be executed, nay, eradicated!” The Quran says that they said, “Indeed, these are two magicians who want to drive you out of your land with their magic and do away with your exemplary way of life.” (Quran 20:63) This had no impact whatever. Rather the light of Moses shone out, his Law was promulgated, and the brilliance of its light encompassed Sinai.

Similarly, when the Pharisees raised a cry, saying (God preserve us!), “Christ is degenerate, for he has broken the Sabbath, annulled the Law of God, and forbidden divorce and polygamy. He intends to demolish the Holy of Holies and reduce the Temple to ruins. Woe for us, woe for the Law, woe for the rites of our faith!” They shouted “Crucify him, crucify him!” But all their opposition had no effect. The morning of Christ dawned, the breaths of the Holy Spirit were felt throughout the world, and diverse peoples were united. The moral is, that the malicious things people say, and their lies and idle disputes do not in any way weaken the Cause of God. On the contrary, they are due to the exalted nature of the Cause, for if it was some ordinary matter, noone would oppose it. It is because the Cause is so great that its enemies are so numerous. So we need only do our work with complete assurance and steadfastness, in accordance with the teachings of Baha’u’llah. God bless you all.

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One thought on “Opposition and its beneficial effects

  1. Note 1:
    The Assembly of the Pharisees even condemned Christ to death, saying … “this person is degenerate.”

    There is a word-play here that cannot be translated. ‘Degenerate’ translates masikh, while the word for Christ is masih. Moreover, in some compounds, masikh can mean Christian.

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