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.

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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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Persian-English friendship and a brief history

September 13, 1911: a meeting of the friends at the home of Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper in 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), Vol. 1 page 23, with reference to an earlier publication on page 13 of the Persian section of Star of the West vol. 2 No. 18, Mulk (February 7), 1911, where the talk is dated Thursday, 20 Ramadan 1329, which is September 14.

Some notes have been included in the first comment to this post. The translation is personal and provisional, and comments are welcome.

Welcome! Welcome!

The people of Iran are very pleased that I have come here. My coming here will foster friendship between Britain and Iran, so that ideal bonds are established. The effects will be such that soon some Iranians will be willing to sacrifice their lives for Britain, just as the British sacrifice their lives for Iran. [see Note 1] So they are very happy. That is, I cannot express my satisfaction with the results. I ask God to make these two communities like two brothers. May the bonds between them be so close that they will last forever. Originally the people of Iran and Britain were one. In ancient times they were Aryans, living on the shores of the River … [see note]. They entered Iran and populated it and became very numerous. From there they went to the Caucasus, and they multiplied. They migrated to Europe. These two peoples, the Aryan and the British, are brothers. That is why the English language contains many Persian words, which shows that the two peoples were once one, and now God has provided the means for them to come together, so that the two will return to their original condition. This will certainly happen.

The Bab appeared seventy years ago in Shiraz and announced the good news of the Kingdom of God. He sacrificed his own life in the path of God. He prepared the people for the love of God. Nine years later, the Blessed Beauty (Baha’u’llah) appeared. He proclaimed that God is one, and called the people of all religions to cling to that which is the foundation of the heavenly religions. The foundation of the heavenly religions is one, and the Law of God is one. All the prophets have been raised up to proclaim this. Therefore every religious community that implements God’s counsels attains to the truth. The teachings of God are one and the edifice of the love of God is one. This is the cause of oneness and unity for humanity. The Blessed Beauty suffered many hardships in the path of God. He was in chains in prison, he suffered under the bastinado and the lash, and then he was exiled to Baghdad. However Naser al-Din Shah was not satisfied. The Shah, who ruled as an absolute monarch, did not rest until the Blessed Beauty was sent to Akka where, with the consent of Sultan Abdulhamid II, he was imprisoned. The fortress of Akka is a prison that can hardly be imagined. No prisoner there could survive a year.

The Blessed Beauty devoted his whole life to promoting unity between the hearts of all people, so that they are kind to one another: no more contention and conflict, no more killing and wars. Humanity is one family and every individual is a sign of the decree of unity. Consider what a great bounty the Blessed Beauty has granted; what a bright lamp he has lit! What illumination he has shed on East and West! By the power of the Holy Spirit, he has unfurled the banner of unity. It was for this that he endured such hardships.

Now, thanks be to God, the effects are evident: we are from the East and we are sitting with you, in love, with one spirit and one will. I will pray that he may grant these bounties: that all of you may become loving friends to one another, that he may glorify the honoured nation of Britain and assist this just government.

Some notes have been included in the first comment to this post.