Weighhouse Chapel in London

Sunday, December 29, 1912: an evening meeting at the King’s Weighhouse Congregational Church at the corner of Weighhouse Street and Duke Street, London

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Hazrat-e `Abdu’l-Baha dar safr-e-Europa (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his European travels), page 86.

I thank God for the presence here of so many esteemed persons, whose hearts are united, whose very faces announce the glad tidings of God. The signs of love are evident in your faces. For when we examine the world of existence, there is nothing greater than love.

Love is the cause of life. Love is the means of salvation. Love forges a connection between human hearts. Love grants glory and progress to the human race. Love is the means of entering the Kingdom of God. Love confers eternal life. His holiness Christ declares: “God is Love:” what then is greater than love?” According to Christ’s words, there is nothing greater than love in the world of existence.

There are many communities in the world, each with a particular purpose, and for every gathering, some particular thing is fitting. Love is what is fitting for religious communities. Religious communities must be the cause of love between people. No-one is excluded, because His Holiness Christ declares “The Sun of God shines upon all.” This means that God is loving to all. All creation is submerged in the seas of divine mercy. The divine religions should be the cause of friendship and love among people, because love is the foundation of the divine religions. The holy scriptures announce that the foundation of the heavenly religion is love.

Although another dynamic may become the cause of friendship, none can compare to religion as the cause of love. For example, consider how the foundation of heavenly religion in the time of Christ and afterwards was the cause of fellowship. When his holiness Christ appeared the peoples of Rome and Greece, the Chaldeans, Assyrians and Egyptians were all hostile enemies, one for the other. Nevertheless, in a short time they were merged in a united community and exhibited the greatest friendship and love to one another. Contending peoples became a single religious community. From this example we understand that the religion of God is the cause of love and fellowship and not the cause of hostility and enmity.

Likewise, when his holiness Moses was manifest, the highest degree of unity was established among the Israelites. This too is proof that religion is not only the cause of love, it should be regarded as the mightiest power imaginable in this world for fostering fellowship and love. The power of diplomacy and policy cannot be relied on to establish this unity. They cannot give us a heartfelt love for one another. Learning and the arts cannot sow this love in our hearts. That power is the power of religion, for it is born of love. It bestows honour and glory.

It is the power of religion that illumines the world. It is the power of religion that bestows eternal life. It is the power of religion that eradicates the roots of enmity and contention among the people. Study history and you will see the extent to which religion has been the cause of fellowship and love. That is, the foundation of all the religions is love, however blind imitation in religion is the cause of enmity and contention.

When we examine the foundation of the heavenly religions, it is purely good, but when we look at the unthinking imitations of today we see that it is evil.

Since the foundation of the religions of God is one, it is the cause of fellowship. But blind imitations differ, so they are the cause of hostility and enmity. Take the belligerent peoples of the Balkans today: were they to discover the foundation of the religion of God they would immediately be reconciled to one another, because all the heavenly religions are guides to unity and love. Alas, a thousand times alas! people have forgotten the foundation of God’s religion and have held fast to this or that blind imitation, imitations that are contrary to the foundation of the religion of God. Therefore they have shed one another’s blood, destroying one another’s households.

How great has been the suffering of the prophets of God! How many afflictions they endured! Some were imprisoned, some banished, and some were martyred, offering even their lives as a sacrifice. Consider what afflictions his holiness Christ endured. In the end he accepted the cross so that love and fellowship might be established and the hearts might be bound to hearts.

How unfortunate, that the followers of the religions became forgetful, neglecting the foundation of the heavenly religions, holding fast to these rusty imitations, and because these imitations differ, they go to war, one against the other.

A thousand times alas: that which God established as the cause of life, they have made the cause of death. Something that God gave as the instrument of salvation, they have made a cause of destruction! Religion, which is the means for the illumination of the world of humanity, they have made to be the cause of darkness!

A thousand times alas, weep for the religions! How widely these foundations have been forgotten, while vain imaginings have taken their place! Because the imaginings are diverse, there is warfare and conflict.

This era is the era of illumination, the era of sciences and technologies, the era of discoveries. This is the era when the realities of things are unveiled. This is the era of justice and freedom. Yet observe: there is warfare between the religions, war between peoples, war between governments and between the regions of the world. How regrettable this is!

We should sit in the dust and weep, that Iran has been the scene of warfare and contention: war between religions and between the schools of religious thought. The religions have been enemies of one another, they have shunned one another. They have considered one another unclean. There was war between the ethnic groups and between governments and regions.

At such a time of darkness, his holiness Baha’u’llah appeared and dispelling that darkness. He proclaimed an all-embracing oneness. He proclaimed the oneness of all the religions. He proclaimed the oneness of the diverse peoples. All who have accepted the counsels of that holy soul are today living in perfect fellowship with one another. Conceptions of that kind, between the religions, have been dispelled. Today in Iran and in other places in the East, communities have been established where people from all religions live with one another in perfect fellowship and love. For example, you can see the greatest friendship between the Christian, Muslim, Jew, Zoroastrian and Buddhist, joined of one association: all are united and agreed. There are no quarrels or contention, no war or killing. Rather, they live in complete fellowship with one another, because they have forgotten the blind imitations and set aside those imagined things. They hold fast to the foundation of the heavenly religions, and because the foundation of the heavenly religions is real and reality knows no multiplicity, they are closely bonded to one another, to the extent that they would sacrifice their lives. But other groups, who have not accepted the counsels of his holiness Baha’u’llah, are fighting and contending even today.

His holiness, Baha’u’llah promulgated certain principles, the first being the oneness of the world of humanity. Addressing all humanity, he says “You are all the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf), that is, each of you is as it were a single leaf or fruit and you all belong to the tree of Adam. You are all one family, and the servants of God, you are all the sheep of one shepherd. The true shepherd is God and he is kind to all. Given that the true shepherd is kind and is caring for all the flock, why do we quarrel with one another and take religion as a pretext for killing and conflict? We take ethnicity as a pretext and wage war. Why do we make differences between our homelands a pretext and express hatred and enmity for one another, although these are all imaginings?

Thus the first [principle] is that religion must be the cause of fellowship and love. The second is that all people are one race and the surface of the earth is one homeland. These differences are imaginings. God did not make these religions contend. He laid one foundation. God did not divide up the ground, he created it all as one planet. God did not distinguish between the ethnicities, they are created as one people. Why should we establish these hypothetical distinctions? Why do we differentiate, saying “this is Germany” and “this is France,” when all is one? God has created all as one and is kind to all. We should not reinforce these imaginings that cause contention and conflict, and especially not in the case of religion, which is the cause of love, the cause of illumination, which is spirituality in the heart, which is the effulgence of the Kingdom. If we were to make such a beloved object the cause of contention and conflict, what an error this would be, what thoughtlessness, what a failure!

Another teaching of his holiness Baha’u’llah is this: that religion should be the cause of fellowship and love. If it is the cause of hatred and enmity then irreligion is better, for religion is the remedy for human infirmities. If the remedy causes illness then undoubtedly the first thing to do is to discontinue the treatment. If religion becomes the cause of enmity it is absolutely evil and its non-existence is better than its existence.

Another of the teachings of his holiness Baha’u’llah is that religious prejudice, ethnic prejudice, national prejudice and political prejudice destroy the edifice of humanity. As long as these prejudices persist, there will be no repose for the world of humanity. Therefore these prejudices must be forgotten so that humanity may find repose.

Praise be to God that we are all his servants and are submerged in the ocean of God’s mercy. Given that we have such a kind Lord, why should we contend with one another, why should we be unkind? Why should we be darkness upon darkness?

In brief, there are many teachings of Baha’u’llah. If you wish to learn more, turn to the books and current reports. Then you will learn that this religion has been the cause of fellowship and love among people and preaches universal peace.

Now, as the English people are noble-minded and the English government is a just government, I hope that through them the banner of peace may be raised throughout the world, the oneness of the world of humanity may be witnessed, and this dark world may be illumined, these wars may be transformed into peace and this contention may give way to unity and concord.


The Festival of Naw Ruz

March 20, 1912:
On the Festival of Naw Ruz

This is an authorized translation, provided in 2016 by the Research Department at the Bahai World Centre, of a talk Abdu’l-Baha gave in the Victoria Hotel in Alexandria (Egypt). The talk is recorded in Persian and published in Khetabat-e Abdu’l-Baha vol. 3 p. 101. It has also been published in full in the Persian compilations Ganjineh-ye Hudud wa Ahkam p. 407-411 and Resaleh-ye Ayam-e Tes`eh p. 349-353. I have not compared the texts.

An earlier translation was published in Star of the West volume 9, no. 1, pp 8-9 (March 21, 1918). The translator is not named. Extracts from that are published in Lights of Guidance Vol.2 pp 303-304, and in various editions of Baha’u’llah and the New Era, in the chapter on various ordinances and teachings.

Some notes on the dating and the contents of the talk can be found in the first comment to this posting.


According to ancient custom, every nation has general holidays when all the people rejoice and are glad. That is, they choose the day of the year whereon a great or glorious event had occurred. On that day they manifest great joy and happiness. They visit one another; if they have any feelings of bitterness towards one another, they become reconciled on that day; hard feelings pass away and they unite in love for each other. As great events occurred on the day of Naw-Ruz for the Persians, that nation therefore made it a national feast and considered it a national holiday.

This is, indeed, a blessed day because it is the beginning of the temperate season and the commencement of springtime in the northern hemisphere. All earthly things, whether trees, animals or humans, become refreshed; they receive power from the life-giving breeze and obtain new life; a resurrection takes place and, because it is the season of springtime, there is a general marvelous activity in all contingent beings.

There was a time when the Persian dynasty died out and no trace remained thereof. On such a day [Naw-Ruz] a new one was founded. Jamshid ascended the throne. Persia became happy and at peace. Its power, which had been dissipated, once more returned. Hearts and souls became possessed of wonderful susceptibilities, to such a degree that Persia became more advanced than it had been in former days under the sovereignty of Kayumars and Hushang. The glory and greatness of the government and the nation of Persia rose higher. Likewise, a great many events occurred upon the day of Naw-Ruz that brought honour and glory to Persia and to the Persians. Therefore, the Persian nation, for the last five or six thousand years, has always considered the Feast of Naw-Ruz as a day of national happiness, and until now it is sanctified and recognized as a blessed day.

In brief, every nation has a day to mark as a holiday which they celebrate with joy. In the sacred laws of God in every cycle and dispensation, there are blessed feasts, holidays and workless days. On such days no kind of occupation, commerce, industry, agriculture, or the like, is allowed. All work is unlawful. All must enjoy themselves, gather together, hold general meetings, become as one assembly, so that the oneness, unity and harmony of the people may be demonstrated in the eyes of all. As it is a blessed day it should not be neglected or left without results by making it a day limited to the fruits of mere pleasure. During such blessed days institutions should be founded that may be of permanent benefit and value to the people so that in their conversations and in history it may become widely known that such a good work was inaugurated on such a feast day. Therefore, the intelligent must look searchingly into conditions to find out what important affair, what philanthropic institutions are most needed, and what foundations should be laid for the community on that particular day, so that they may be established. For example, if they find that the community needs morality, then they may lay down the foundation of good morals on that day. If the community be in need of spreading sciences and widening the circle of knowledge, on that day they should proceed in that direction, that is to say, direct the thoughts of all the people to that philanthropic cause. If, however, the community is in need of widening the circle of commerce or industry or agriculture, they should inaugurate the means of attaining the desired aim. If the community needs protection, proper support and care of orphans, they should act upon the welfare of the orphans, and so forth. Such undertakings as are beneficial to the poor, the weak and the helpless should be pursued in order that, on that day, through the unity of all and through great meetings, results may be obtained, the glory and blessings of that day may be declared and manifest.

Likewise in this wonderful Dispensation this day [Naw-Ruz] is a blessed day. The friends of God should be confirmed in service and servitude. With one another they must be in the utmost harmony, love and oneness, clasping hands, engaged in the commemoration of the Blessed Beauty and thinking of the great results that may be obtained on such a blessed day.

Today, there is no result or fruit greater than guiding the people, because these helpless creatures, especially the Persians, have remained without a share in the bestowals of God. Undoubtedly, the friends of God, upon such a day, must leave tangible, philanthropic or ideal traces that should reach all mankind and not only pertain to the Baha’is.

In all the prophetic Dispensations, philanthropic affairs were confined to their respective peoples only—with the exception of small matters, such as charity, which it was permissible to extend to others. But in this wonderful Dispensation, philanthropic undertakings are for all humanity, without any exception, because this is the manifestation of the mercifulness of God. Therefore, every universal matter—that is, one that belongs to all the world of humanity—is divine; and every matter that is sectarian and private is not universal in character—that is, it is limited. Therefore, my hope is that the friends of God, every one of them, may become as the mercy of God to all mankind.

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The Italian attack on Tripoli, and human heartlessness

November 23, 1911: a talk given at Abdu’l-Baha’s lodgings in Paris during the war between Italy and Tripoli

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Hazrat-e `Abdu’l-Baha dar safr-e-Europa (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his European travels), Vol. 1 p. 204. I have not found the text in the Persian sections of Star of the West — pointers would be welcome! I have used the translation by Zia Bagdadi, printed in Star of the West Vol. 7 p. 106.

THEY say that a train fell in the Seine river and twenty five persons were drowned. Today on account of this tragedy there will be a detailed discussion in parliament. They have summoned the Minister of Railways for questioning.

There will be a huge dispute. It is a great upheaval. I was very much astonished that for twenty five persons who fell into the channel of a river and drowned, there has been such a strange upheaval in Parliament; but as regards Tripoli, where thousands are being killed in a day, they never say a word. Undoubtedly, thus far, five thousand persons have been killed. It never occurs to the parliament that these persons are human. It is as if they were stones. Why is Parliament so disturbed over twenty five persons and never says a word about the five thousand? The twenty five are human and the five thousand are human. All are children of Adam.

The reason is that the five thousand are not of the French race. Although they are cut in pieces, they are not interested. Behold, what bias, what imperviousness, what ignorance!
Although these helpless ones in Tripoli have father, mother, son, daughter and wife, they are cutting them into shreds. What harm have they done?

I read in the paper that even in Italy the cry and the wailing of the people is rising. Not only the Arabs but also the women of Italy are complaining and lamenting. The eyes of the mothers are filled with tears; the hearts of the fathers are drowning in blood; the weeping and crying of the children reach to the highest heaven.
See how bloodthirsty humans are! See, how perfidious man is, how heedless of God! Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of the blade and sword, and the bullet and gun, and the cannon, they were to devote themselves to fellowship and loving kindness, to feasting and other delightful things, to conviviality and enjoying themselves? If they got drunk on the wine of happiness in a riot of prosperity, if they linked their arms and sang together like angels, would it not be better? Which is better: to be like thankful birds and fly together, or to be like bloodthirsty wolves that circle one another, and fight and shed each other’s blood?
Why is man so heedless? It is because he does not know God. If men knew God they would certainly caress one another like brothers. If they had spiritual susceptibilities, they would have raised the banner of the great peace. If they had heard the exhortations of the prophets they would certainly be fair-minded. Therefore you should pray, weeping and beseeching God to guide them, that he may show them mercy, give them reasoning minds and give them spiritual susceptibilities. May these helpless human beings live in peace. The wise man weeps day and night over the condition of the human race. He cries and sighs that the sleepers may be awakened, the blind may see, the dead may be brought to life and the oppressors may learn to be fair. I pray, and you also should pray.

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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Involvement of the faithful in political life, and showing justice in all walks of life

Evening of Saturday, November 18, 1911, in the home of Monsieur Dreyfus, Paris

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Mubarakeh (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha) vol. 1, 174-79 (and from page 180 in the 1-volume edition). There are English notes of this talk, published in Star of the West 3:2 page 7, April 9 1912, and a less reliable version of these published in The Wisdom of Abdul Baha in 1924 and in almost identical form in Paris Talks. For the date of the talk, see the second comment below.

He is God.

In the world of existence, a human being should have the hope of reward and the fear of punishment, particularly those who serve in the government, and have the affairs of the state and the people in their grasp. If government officials do not have such a hope of reward and fear of retribution, they will certainly not behave with justice.

Rewards and punishments are the two poles on which the tent of the world is raised. Thus government officials are held back from committing injustice by the fear of punishment and eager hope for reward.

Consider despotic governments in which there is neither fear of punishment nor hope for rewards. As a result, the affairs of such governments do not pivot upon justice and fairness.

Rewards and punishments are of two sorts. One is political rewards and punishments, and the other is divine rewards and punishments. It is certain that, if some souls are firmly persuaded of divine rewards and punishments, and they are under the constraints of political rewards and punishments as well, those persons are more perfect, for they will constrained and deterred from practicing oppression. If both the fear of God and the fear of retribution are present, that is, if there is both spiritual and political deterrence, of course this is more perfect.

Some government officials, who both fear the chastisement of the state and dread divine torment, naturally observe justice to a greater extent. In particular, those who fear eternal punishment and have hope of everlasting reward: such souls make the greatest possible efforts in thinking how to implement justice, and they are averse to oppression.

For, for those who are firm believers, to commit tyranny is to be visited by divine punishment in the eternal world. Naturally, they will shun oppression and wrong-doing, especially since firm believers, if they dispense justice, will draw near to the threshold of grandeur, gain eternal life, enter into the Kingdom of God, and their faces will be illumined by the lights of divine grace and loving-kindness.

Thus, if government officials are religious, naturally that is better, for they are the manifestations of the fear of God.

My intent with these words is not that religion should have any business in politics. Religion has absolutely no jurisdiction or involvement in politics. For religion is related to spirits and the conscience while politics is related to the body.

Therefore the leaders of religions should not be involved in political matters, but should devote themselves to rectifying the morals of the people. They admonish and excite the desire and appetite for piety. They sustain the morals of the community, they impart spiritual understandings to the souls, and teach the [religious] sciences, but never get involved in political matters.

Baha’u’llah commands this. In the Gospels, it is written that you should give Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s.

The essence of the matter is this: in Iran the righteous Bahai government officials observe the utmost justice, because they fear the wrath of God and hope for the mercy of God. However there are others who do have no scruples at all. However capable they may be, they never cease their oppressive and negligent acts. This is why Iran is in such difficulties.

I hope that all the friends will be the exponents of justice in all matters. Justice is not something that concerns only senior government officials: the merchant should show justice in transactions, the industrialist should show justice in his industry. [note 1] All people, great and small, must be committed to justice and equity. Justice can be defined as not exceeding one’s own rights, and dealing with all others as one would wish to be dealt with oneself. This is divine justice.

“God be praised! The sun of justice has risen above the horizon of Baha’u’llah. For in his tablets the foundations of such a justice have been laid as no mind hath, from the beginning of creation, conceived. [note 2] A station has been ordained for every human rank, which must not be exceeded. For example, it is said that industrialists of every kind must show justice in their industry. That is, they should not claim more than their due. If they are oppressive in their own business, they are no different to a tyrannous king. Every person who does not exhibit justice in his own dealings with others, is like a tyrannous ruler. Thus every human being is able to be just or tyrannous.

Therefore I hope that you will all be just in your dealings, and that you should have no thought but to associate with all peoples and exhibit the purest justice and equity in all your dealings. You should even put the rights of others before your own rights, and the interests of others before your own interests, so that you may be the manifestations of divine justice and live according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah. In his own life, Baha’u’llah experienced the greatest hardships and afflictions, so that all humanity might be well nurtured, just, and show all the human virtues. Turn your faces to eternal edification. Seek divine justice. Become the manifestations of the bounties and mercy of God that surround all peoples. This is my sincere prayer for you.

[The talk concludes with a prayer in Arabic that does not appear to have been translated elsewhere.]

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Eleven essentials: the Bahai principles as taught by Abdu’l-Baha in London

[This provisional translation was published previously on my Bahai Studies blog ~Sen]

Towards the end of his life, Baha’u’llah wrote a number of works that included numbered lists of his teachings. The Bisharat (Glad Tidings) and Tarazat (Ornaments) are examples. Abdu’l-Baha also wrote several letters that include such numbered lists of essential Bahai teachings, and he sometimes adopted the same format when speaking to gatherings. The records of these in English are often unreliable, but one of these “principles” talks does have authenticated Persian notes (here). It caught my attention because it includes “the separation of religion and politics” as a key principle and also refers to this as “not entering into politics” — a formulation that will be more familiar to Bahais.
The talk was probably addressed to a gathering of Bahais in London on the day of his departure, 3 October 1911, but the Islamic date is given as 11 Shawwal 1329 = 5 October 1911. According to the footnote shown in the inset, “some Persian texts say it was a Theosophical Society meeting in London on December 30, 1911.” This should presumably refer to a Theosophical Society meeting on September 30, 1911. A correspondent has pointed out that this date is confirmed by “the published accounts and records of the London Theosophical Society.” An earlier report of this talk is published in Abdu’l-Baha in London (which incidentally shows that — contrary to earlier understandings — some talks in that book can be authenticated as Bahai scripture). Naturally that report, based on an interpreter’s words, is more compact than the Persian version which I have translated. Its list of principles differs, having the equality of men and women added as an implication of the oneness of humanity, and missing the ninth and tenth principles in the Persian text: that religion is separated from politics and on the education and training of women. A correspondent tells me there is another report in Contemporary Review 1912 which has the same structure as the one in Abdu’l-Baha in London. My translation below is based entirely on the Persian notes referenced above.

He is God
O respected gathering, burning is the essential property of fire, and gleaming is the essential property of the power of lightening, shining is the essential property of the sun, and the essential property of soil is to promote growth. No dislocation is possible in the essential qualities of things. Therefore change and transformation, and transposition and alteration from one condition to another, come from the essential necessities of the contingent world. For example, the succession of seasons, of spring and summer, autumn and winter, and of day and night, flow from the essential qualities of the terrestrial world. Thus every spring is followed by autumn and every summer is followed by a winter, every day by a night, every dawn by an evening.

At a time when the divine religions had entirely decayed and the conduct of the people of the world had altered, when there were no glimmerings of the heavenly light to be seen, and benevolence was a thing of the past, when the darkness of bigotry and contention and slaughter reigned, and the winter with its gloom and cold prevailed, and shadows enveloped the world, Baha’u’llah arose on the horizon of Iran like a star. The lights of resplendent guidance shone out and the heavenly illumination dawned. He promulgated new teachings, reinvigorated the human virtues, revealed heavenly bounties and disclosed the power of spirituality. He brought the following fundamental principles into the world of existence, and promulgated them:

First, the investigation of reality. All religious communities are clinging to blind imitation and therefore are in complete disagreement with one another, and in bitter strife and conflict. However the appearance of reality uncovers this darkness and leads to unity in opinion. For reality admits no multiplicity.

Second, the unity of humanity. That is, all people are recipients of great and glorious favours, they are the servants of one God, they worship one Godhead. Mercy is extended to all, and every head is adorned with the crown of humanity. Therefore all the races and religious communities should consider themselves as brothers and sisters, they should regard themselves as the branches and leaves, the blossoms and fruit, of a single tree. For all of them are the descendants of Adam, all the pearls in one shell. At most, they are in need of education. They are ignorant, they are heedless, so they are should be guided. They are ill, they should be healed; they are children, they should be nurtured in the bosom of love so that they attain to maturity and reason; polishing is required until they are gleaming and luminous.

Third, religion is the foundation of harmony and love, of solidarity and unity. If religion is made the cause of enmity it yields not solidarity but rather troubles, and the absence of religion is better than its existence. The abandonment of religion is preferable to this.

Fourth, religion and learning are twins that cannot be separated, or they are two wings on which you fly. A single wing will not suffice. Any religion that is bereft of learning is to be considered as blind imitation. It is superficial, not spiritual. Therefore the promotion of learning is one of the limbs of religion.

Fifth, religious bigotry, racial prejudice, political partisanship and national bias bring down the edifice of humanity. The reality of the divine religions is one, for reality is one and admits not plurality, and all the prophets are in the utmost unity. The prophets are the mediators of the sun: in every season they rise from a certain point. Therefore each has spoken of his successor, and that successor has confirmed the truth of his predecessor. “No distinction do we make between any of them.” [Quran 2:285]

Sixth, equality between individuals, and perfect fellowship. Justice should be so perfect that the rights of the human race are protected and assured and the rights of the public are equal. This is one of the essential requirements of life in society.

Seventh, the equalisation of the means of livelihood for all humanity, to the extent that all are freed from poverty. Every person should have enough necessities and opportunities to live at ease in a certain honour and position. Although the Emir may be glorious and be surrounded with prosperity, the poor man also should have some daily sustenance. He should not be left in a state of degradation, nor should he be denied the enjoyment of life due to extreme hunger.

Eighth, the universal peace. A supreme tribunal should be formed by all the governments and religious communities, in general elections, and any differences and disputes arising among the governments and peoples should be settled in that tribunal, so that they do not lead to war.

Ninth, religion is separated from politics. Religion does not enter into political matters. In fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.

Tenth, the education and training of women, their progress, and consideration and respect for them, since they are partners and co-equals of men in life and, with respect to their humanity, are on an equal footing.

Eleventh, seeking the bounties of the Holy Spirit, so that spiritual civilization can be established. Material civilization alone is not enough, and does not lead to human happiness. Material civilization is like the body, and spiritual civilization is like the spirit. The body does not live without the spirit. The Quran says, “Truly, We have created the human being in the best of moulds.” [95:4]

These are a selection from the teachings of Baha’u’llah. He demonstrated perseverance and bore trials and afflictions to establish and promulgate them. He was always a prisoner, enduring punishment, heavily burdened, but in the prison he laid the foundations for this sublime mansion. From the darkness of the prison he illumined the horizons with this radiant light. The supreme desire of the Bahais is that these teachings should be put in practice. They strive with heart and soul, willing to sacrifice themselves for this goal, so that heavenly light may illumine the human race.

I am exceedingly pleased to have been able to speak with you in this respected gathering. I hope very much that you will accept my sincere reflections, and breathe a prayer in your hearts that you may be aided to attain to the highest distinction of the human world.

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Sermon at St. John’s Church, Westminister

September 17, 1911: after the evening service at St. John’s Church, Westminster, September 17, 1911.

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Hazrat-e `Abdu’l-Baha dar safr-e-Europa (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his European travels), page 26. Some notes are included in the first comment below this post.

He is God!

The Manifestations of God inform us of the bounties of the unseen world; they are reflections of the sun of reality. The divine reality is sanctified above human understanding. Whatever enters our understanding is a form in the world of imagination: it has a mental rather than a real existence. It is circumscribed. But a human person has a true reality, which encompasses other realities.

The concept of divinity, which is one of our intellectual constructs, is nothing more than an insubstantial concept: it is not the divine reality. The divine reality is encompassing, it is not encompassed; it has a true existence, not an intellectual one. One can understand this question through an analogy. Although the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and the human are all realities of this world, the mineral has no knowledge of the animal kingdom: it cannot picture it, or comprehend it. Similarly, however much a plant may advance, reaching the highest degree of perfection, it knows nothing of the animal world and cannot comprehend it. It knows nothing, having no vision or hearing, and being incapable of understanding and reflection. Again, the animal that has progressed within its own plane, whose senses and susceptibilities have reached their fullest power, still knows nothing about the rational faculty in humans, and cannot imagine it. It is a captive of the senses. It cannot imagine that the sun stands in its place and the earth moves, or that the earth is a sphere. It cannot conceive of the power of electricity, and the ethereal substance does not enter its mind. Although the mineral, vegetable, animal and human are all realities of this world, the difference between their stations prevents the lower from comprehending the higher. In view of this, how could a contingent being comprehend the reality of the Absolute? How could the dust encompass the Lord of Lords? It is clear that this is completely impossible!

The Essence of Divinity, the Sun of Truth, shines forth upon all horizons and is spreading its rays upon all things. Each thing has some portion of that bounty, but the human reality, which combines the perfections of the mineral, the vegetable and animal, and as an additional token of grace, possesses the human perfections, is the noblest of created beings. It encompasses all contingent beings. It uncovers the realities, enigmas and inherent properties of all created things, which had been hidden mysteries and well-guarded secrets. It brings them from the plane of the invisible world into the visible world. Consider the sciences, inventions and discoveries that exist today: each of them was at one time hidden, but the human reality has uncovered them and brought them from the plane of the invisible world into the visible world. For example, magnetic attraction and other hidden forces were once unknown things, concealed in the plane of the invisible, but the human reality uncovered those hidden mysteries and revealed them in the visible world. Thus it is established beyond any doubt that the human reality encompasses all created things and is the noblest created thing.

This is especially true of the perfect exemplar of the human reality. That perfect individual is like a mirror that reflects the sun of reality with the greatest purity, clarity and immediacy. The perfections and light of God are manifest and apparent, in their full splendour, in this stainless mirror. If we say, “the sun is in this mirror,” we do not mean that the sun has come down from its lofty sanctity and alighted in the mirror! It is impossible. The essential nature of any thing cannot be transmuted into something else. The eternal cannot become transient, and the transient is not eternal. Rather, the Immortal Being casts its splendour in this mirror and its heat and light radiate and are revealed and manifest to the greatest degree. “God is Truth: nothing exists beside the Truth except for manifest error.” (From letter 65 of the Nahj al-Balagha, cf Quran 10:32)

O God! Thou giver, and forgiver of sins. This assembly is honoured by Your remembrance and is turning to Your Kingdom. Therefore, our hearts are full of joy and glad tidings. O Thou kind Lord! Cheer us, confirm us in your Kingdom, forgive our sins, and be a refuge for us. Make us aware and call us to Thy Court in the Kingdom. Thou art the Giver, the Generous, the Benevolent. Amen.

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