'The Cause of God will Flourish through Persecution'

The rejection by man of the Manifestation of God is the most grievous event in human society and one which brings great sorrow and suffering to Him. It was through man's perversity and blindness that Bahá'u'lláh suffered unbearable hardship and tribulation in 'Akká. But all the forces of opposition which were leagued against Him proved ineffective in destroying Him or His Cause. In many Tablets1 revealed soon after His arrival in the prison of 'Akká, Bahá'u'lláh stated that the Cause of God would flourish through persecutions. He often counselled the believers not to be disturbed or feel sad when they heard the sufferings of their Lord in the Most Great Prison. He urged them not to dwell on the hardships and sufferings of His imprisonment, but rather to rejoice, because the Blessed Beauty, although severely oppressed, was in the utmost joy and contentment. In another Tablet He states:

Know thou, moreover, that We have been cast into an afflictive Prison, and are encompassed with the hosts of tyranny, as a result of what the hands of the infidels have wrought. Such is the gladness, however, which the Youth hath tasted that no earthly joy can compare unto it. By God! The harm He suffereth at the hands of the oppressor can never grieve His heart, nor can He be saddened by the ascendancy of such as have repudiated His truth.

Say: Tribulation is a horizon unto My Revelation. The day star of grace shineth above it, and sheddeth a light which neither the clouds of men's idle fancy nor the vain imaginations of the aggressor can obscure.2


1. Unpublished.

2. Gleanings, XVII, 5.

Another theme repeatedly announced in the Tablets revealed in the early days of 'Akká is the invincibility of the Cause of God and the impotence of its enemies to destroy it. In one of these Tablets3 Bahá'u'lláh assures the believers that tribulations inflicted upon Him in the path of God will never render Him powerless, nor will the winds of trials succeed in extinguishing the lamp of His Cause, a lamp whose radiance, He states, has illumined the whole world. He affirms that no measure of persecution and suffering which the enemy may heap upon Him is capable of depriving Him of His sovereignty and power, and He declares in majestic language the ascendancy of His Cause, an ascendancy such that if all the peoples of the world were to rise up against Him and attack Him with drawn swords from every direction they would be impotent to destroy His Cause. In the midst of the most harrowing afflictions He would proclaim that He was the Glory of God revealed for all who are in the heavens and all who are on earth.

In another Tablet4 revealed in the same period, Bahá'u'lláh describes how His enemies had placed barriers between Him and His companions in the prison of 'Akká, barriers as feeble as their own vain imaginings. For they thought that they could hide the glory of the Sun behind the clouds of their self and passion, unaware that all created things derided their ignorance and blindness.

And finally, there are Bahá'u'lláh's assuring words in most of these Tablets prophesying that ere long, through the power of God, the doors of the prison would be flung open, and He would come out of it with majesty and glory.

As we shall see later, these prophecies--the invincibility of His Cause, the ascendancy of His Revelation and the release of His own person and His companions from the prison of 'Akká--were all fulfilled.


In the early stages of His imprisonment in the barracks and


3. Unpublished Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh.

4. Unpublished Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh.

[Lawh-i-Ra'ís] God Passes By, p. 180, p. 187, p. 231
soon after the death of three of His followers, Bahá'u'lláh revealed the momentous Tablet of Ra'ís in Persian, addressed to 'Álí Páshá, the Grand Vizír of Turkey, who was His great adversary and the one who had brought about His exile to 'Akká.*

Already, a few months earlier, on His way to Gallipoli, Bahá'u'lláh had addressed to 'Álí Páshá a Tablet in Arabic known as the Súriy-i-Ra'ís.† In it He had forcefully condemned the actions of the Grand Vizír as the main instigator of His exile to the prison city. Of the significance of this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh declares:

From the moment the Súriy-i-Ra'ís was revealed until the present day, neither hath the world been tranquillized, nor have the hearts of its peoples been at rest.5
Now, in the Lawh-i-Ra'ís, the second Tablet to 'Álí Páshá, written from within the walls of the Most Great Prison, Bahá'u'lláh rebukes him further for his acts of cruelty and inhuman treatment.

The tone of this Tablet is at once moving and tender. In it Bahá'u'lláh refers to 'Alí Páshá as one who considers himself to be the most exalted among men and Bahá'u'lláh, the supreme Manifestation of God, as the lowest of all servants. He identifies 'Álí Páshá with those who had opposed the Manifestations of the past and had wrongly regarded them to be the cause of discord and dissension in older dispensations. He admonishes him for his ignorance and immaturity, and reveals for him his true status as a person ruled by the most abject of all created things--namely self and passion.


* see vol. 2.

† see vol. 2, pp. 411-17. The two Tablets, commonly designated as the Súriy-i-Ra'ís (in Arabic) and the Lawh-i-Ra'ís (in Persian) are addressed to the same person. In His writings Shoghi Effendi generally referred to these Tablets in this order, although occasionally he used the designation Súrih for Lawh and vice versa.

5. Gleanings, XVI, 3.
This thought-provoking statement of Bahá'u'lláh denouncing self and passion as the worst of all human characteristics merits some explanation: we find similar statements in other Tablets also.

There are two contrasting forces working within man, the animal nature and the spiritual one. Self and passion may be described as the expression of the animal nature in the life of man, that nature which tends to drag him down into the abyss of material existence. On the other hand, the soul, which emanates from the spiritual worlds of God, becomes, if illumined with the light of faith, the motive power for the elevation of man into the realms of the spirit. One brings about his perishing on this earth, the other confers eternal life in the realms of God.

These two opposing forces within man are similar to the force of gravity pulling down a bird and the force of its wings lifting it upwards. As long as man turns away from the Manifestation of God--in this day Bahá'u'lláh--his soul is in darkness and devoid of the necessary power to lift itself up from the fetters of this mortal world. The animal nature becomes victor and the soul a bond-slave of self and passion.

In one of His Tablets6 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that the word 'courageous' can apply to a person who conquers his own self and passion. For it is easier to conquer whole countries than to defeat one's own self. The purpose of the coming of the Manifestations of God is to endow the soul of man with spiritual qualities and enable him to defeat his greatest enemy--his own self.

Another enemy as dangerous as one's own self and passion is association with the ungodly which will dampen or destroy one's faith. This is Bahá'u'lláh's ominous warning:

O Son of Dust! Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire.7
The word 'ungodly' should not be misunderstood. An

6. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 5, p. 156.

7. The Hidden Words, Persian no. 57.

ungodly person may profess belief in God, while many who regard themselves as agnostics or atheists may not be ungodly in reality. An ungodly person is one who through his friendship, knowingly or unknowingly, prevents a believer from following the dictates of his faith and becomes a barrier between him and his God.

Returning to the Lawh-i-Ra'ís, Bahá'u'lláh in that Tablet rebukes 'Álí Páshá for his cruelties in committing a number of innocent people including women and young children to the harsh life of a grim prison, expatiates on His own sufferings and those of His companions in that fortress, recounts the inhuman treatment meted out to everyone on the first night of their arrival in the barracks when the guards had refused to give them food or water, thereby causing unbearable hardship especially to mothers and their suckling babes, relates the tragic story of those two of His disciples who as a result of the prison's loathsome conditions were found dead locked in each other's arms, extols the spirit of love and devotion which two of His followers had manifested when they were prevented by the authorities from accompanying Bahá'u'lláh,* describes other cruelties and deprivations to which the prisoners were subjected without any justification, and asserts that no measure of persecution will ever affect the believers, for they long to offer up their lives in the path of their Lord.

Bahá'u'lláh informs 'Alí Páshá that if he were to become vivified by the breezes of holiness which were being wafted from the glorious court of His presence, he would become so transformed as to renounce the world and long to dwell in one of the ruined quarters of the Most Great Prison. He narrates for him a story of His childhood, portraying in a dramatic way the instability and futility of this earthly life, counsels him not to rely on his pomp and glory as they will soon be coming to an


* Hájí Ja'far-i-Tabrízí, who cut his own throat (see vol. 2, pp. 406-7) and 'Abdu'l-Ghaffár, who threw himself into the sea in desperation (see vol. 2, p. 411).

end, reveals to him the greatness of His Revelation, points out the Páshá's impotence to quench the fire of the Cause of God, denounces him for the iniquities he has perpetrated, states that because of his cruelties, the Spirit of God has lamented, the pillars of His Throne have trembled and the hearts of His loved ones been shaken. He emphatically warns him that God's chastisement will assail him from every direction and confusion overtake his peoples and government, and affirms that the wrath of God has so surrounded him that he will never be able to repent for his wrongdoings or make amends.

On this last point, Mírzá Áqá Ján, Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, asked Him what would happen if, after all, 'Alí Páshá changed his attitude and truly repented. Bahá'u'lláh's emphatic response was that whatever had been stated in the Lawh-i-Ra'ís would inevitably be fulfilled, and if all the peoples of the world were to join together in order to change one word of that Tablet, they would be impotent to do so.

On Miracles

Bahá'u'lláh in the Lawh-i-Ra'ís also states that at Gallipoli He sent a verbal message to the Sultán of Turkey through the Turkish officer in charge, who had promised to convey the message. He asked the Sultán to meet Him face to face for a few minutes in order that He might demonstrate to him the authenticity of His Mission. Bahá'u'lláh affirmed His readiness to produce anything that the Sultán considered to be a criterion for the truth of His Revelation. Should he fulfil this criterion through the power of God, then the Sultán should free all the innocent prisoners.

Bahá'u'lláh explains that the only reason for this proposition was that a number of women and children were among the prisoners and had become the victims of tyranny and were afflicted with great hardship and suffering. He reiterates the basic principle that it is not befitting God to justify Himself to any man. For all the peoples of the world


have been created to worship and obey Him. However, Bahá'u'lláh had consented in this case to allow the Sultán to seek from Him the truth of His Cause, so that the innocent might not suffer. But neither did the Sultán respond to this challenge nor did the above-mentioned officer send a report to Bahá'u'lláh.

This was not the only time Bahá'u'lláh offered to establish the validity of His Cause for those who held the reins of power in their hands. A similar challenging proposition was made to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh of Persia in the Lawh-i-Sultán,* a proposition which was ignored by him and the divines.

On another occasion, in Baghdád, the divines of Shí'ah Islám requested Bahá'u'lláh to perform a miracle for them. He accepted their demand provided they pledged their allegiance to His Cause should the miracle that they ask for be performed by Him. The divines became fearful and did not pursue the matter any more. We have already described the circumstances of this challenging episode in a former volume.†

On occasions such as this Bahá'u'lláh always stated that it was for God to test His servants and not the other way round. Indeed man will find himself in a sorry plight should he contemplate testing the Manifestation of God.

The question of miracles is one of the most misunderstood subjects concerning the prophets and messengers of God. The followers of most religions attribute miracles to their prophets. The belief in miracles comes from the study of the Holy Books of old religions and through traditions handed down from generation to generation. Religious leaders have endeavoured to emphasize miracles as one of the most important proofs of the authenticity of their faiths. Consequently the followers of a religion regard their own Prophet as one who had a halo of light around his head and carried out supernatural acts to convince people of His station. The study of the life and teachings of the Prophets and their


* see vol. 2, p. 349.

† see vol. 1, p. 145.

Holy Books shows that the opposite is true. The Manifestations of God have not established miracles as a testimony to their truth. They are the bearers of the Message of God and their mission is to educate the souls of men. Their word is creative and may be regarded as the greatest instrument for the vivification and regeneration of humanity.

The Bahá'í view concerning miracles is that the Manifestations of God derive their power and authority from Almighty God. They are the embodiments of His attributes and the manifestations of His glory in this world. They are therefore able to do what they will, even to change the laws of nature and perform miracles. For it is obvious that God, having established the laws of nature, is Himself able to change them if He so wishes. To entertain doubt that He can do this is tantamount to attributing impotence to Him. The followers of Bahá'u'lláh therefore do not deny the possibility of the performance of miracles by the Prophets and Messengers of God. However, such miracles, even when they have been performed, are valid as proof only for the few who have witnessed them. They cannot be regarded as a conclusive testimony to the authenticity of the message of the Prophet. For no one can prove that a certain miracle attributed to a Prophet has actually been performed. On the other hand; some of the miracles mentioned in the Holy Books such as the raising of the dead, the curing of lepers, or the ascending to heaven have spiritual significance. Bahá'u'lláh has revealed these meanings in many of His Writings and especially in the Kitáb-i-Íqán.

There is a great difference between fact and belief. There are things in this life whose existence is proved and no one has ever denied them. For example, the existence of the sea on this planet is a proven fact and no person, including those who have never seen the sea, has ever denied its existence. But having a belief in something with which a number of people may disagree is a different matter. Such a belief may not be used as factual evidence for the simple reason that its authenticity is


challenged, even though the belief in itself may be true. Miracles are examples of this. For instance, the followers of Christ believe that He performed many miracles. But since many people have denied the claim, one cannot consider these miracles as a factual reality, although they may well have been performed.

In the earlier days of the Bahá'í Faith when religion was still a vital force in society and exerted a far deeper influence upon the hearts of men than it does nowadays, people asked for religious proofs when they took part in discussion with Bahá'ís. One of the major questions was that of miracles. Many people believed blindly in them and the task of the Bahá'í teacher was to explain the reality and true significance of miracles in religion. But when beliefs are held fanatically a mere explanation is not always successful. This is why some of the old teachers of the Faith, when conversing with a dogmatic person whose religious beliefs bordered on vain imaginings, conducted their discussions in such a way as to enable him to first see the hollowness of his ideas, and then to present him with the Message of Bahá'u'lláh. This often helped those who were sincere and pure-hearted to see the light of truth.

To cite an example, here is the gist of a dialogue between Hájí Muhammad Táhir-i-Málmírí,* one of the early believers, and a Christian missionary in Yazd. The former has recorded his recollections of this dialogue in his memoirs. The following is a translation of a part of this interesting discussion:

Some years ago a Christian clergyman...was touring Persia doing missionary work. While staying in Yazd he used to give public lectures and interview such people as he regarded as prospective converts. He knew the Persian language well and had a fairly good knowledge of Persian life, habits and trends of thought. One morning I, together with a couple of friends, went to see him at the missionary house. He received us very kindly. We exchanged greetings and after indulging in a few minutes of ordinary talk the

* the father of the author; for more information see vol. 1, Appendix 11.

subject of religion was broached. So far as I can remember the following is the gist of the conversation that passed between us:

I: What do you know about the Bahá'í Faith?

He: I am afraid I do not know anything about it.

I: What do you know about the Christian Faith?

He: Well, I know almost everything about Christianity.

I: Could you please explain to me some of the things you know about the Christian religion?

He: Oh yes, by all means and with pleasure. But is there anything particular you want me to describe?

I: I would like you to prove for me the authenticity of Christ's message; in other words, how can I be sure that the Christian religion is true and divine?

He: But you already believe that Christ was the Son of God and that Christianity is divine in origin, don't you?

I: Yes, in fact I do; but this belief came to me through the word of Muhammad, and since you regard him as an impostor, then in that case his word loses its authority altogether and none of his utterances can be trusted to contain truth.

He turned round and reached for a copy of the New Testament which lay on his desk. He then started reading passages concerning miracles performed by Christ--raising the dead, curing the leper, healing the sick, etc. Then after a pause conversation was resumed as follows:

I: I regret to say that your readings did not help to enlighten me on the subject. I shall appreciate it if you will kindly demonstrate for me the truth of Christ's revelation by means of rational proofs.

He: I am sorry we don't have anything other than what is given in the Book.

I: Muslims attribute lots of miracles to their prophet, Muhammad.

He: There is not a grain of truth in all that they say.

I: The Jews categorically deny all these miracles you ascribe to the person of Christ, as you deny those miracles which Muslims attribute to Muhammad.

He: You know Jews are our antagonists, and as such you


should not expect them to utter words in praise of our Lord.

I: Muslims also argue the same way. They say since Christians reject Islám as a false religion, therefore the view they hold regarding our Prophet is highly biased and distorted.

He: You ought to be sure that the charges they bring against us are all baseless.

I: Now let us see, if an earnest seeker sincerely wishes to comprehend the reality of Christ's mission, do you think these miracles will lead to the truth?

He: Oh yes, I think these miracles are the greatest proof of His mission.

I: But can anyone regard miracles as conclusive proof without witnessing them?

He: Yes, you ought to be sure that it all came to pass.

I: Can we accept the miracles attributed to Muhammad as true without any visual evidence?

He: Certainly not.

I: How is it then that in the case of miracles which you attribute to Christ there is no need for evidence, whereas in the case of Muhammad's it should be substantiated by visual evidence?

He: Because we regard Muhammad as one of the false prophets and the so-called supernatural acts of his are mere fabrications.

I: The Zoroastrians attribute some miracles to Zoroaster. Can we accept their assertions without any evidence?

He: No. For the simple reason that we do not recognize Zoroaster as a divine messenger.

I: Bahá'ís attribute certain supernatural acts to the Báb, the Forerunner of the Bahá'í Faith, who appeared in Shíráz, Persia. Can we believe what they say?

He: I think Bahá'ís can be trusted, but even so they must furnish evidence in support of their claim.

I: Now let us see, how is it that all the creeds other than Christianity will have to substantiate their assertions by evidence while you maintain that the words written in the Bible ought to be accepted arbitrarily as conclusive proof?


He: As I said, we don't have any proofs greater than miracles, however, if you can produce anything from Bahá'u'lláh superior to those acts of Christ I shall be much delighted.

I: So long as you fail to appreciate the reality of Christ in its true perspective and persist in regarding miracles as the decisive test for a prophet--miracles which you have never seen nor could prove to have occurred in their outward sense--I am sorry to say that you won't be able to know Bahá'u'lláh.

He: Then what is the conclusive evidence other than miracles?

I: We Bahá'ís believe that the proof of Prophethood must be something so convincing, so overwhelming, that no one in the whole world could deny or be able to question its validity.

He: Can you tell me what that proof is.

I: I did not mean to say what that proof is. I simply wanted to point out the essential quality of such a proof. You already know that the Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians deny those miracles you attribute to Christ, the same as you reject those which Muslims, Buddhists and Zoroastrians ascribe to their respective prophets. Therefore miracles ought to be dismissed altogether as a conclusive proof, because they fall short of the essential quality such proofs must possess.

He: That sounds right and I agree with you, but is there any proof you could call conclusive?

I: Now, I will tell you something, please see if it stands the test.

He: Very well.

I: I think no one in the whole world would deny the fact that over 1900 years ago there lived a man named Jesus who rose up and declared Himself as one who embodied the Spirit of God.

He: Yes.

I: Well, do you think there is anyone who could deny this fact? Even those who disbelieve in Him admit that He did claim to have been invested with such a mission, though they might say His declaration was a false one.


Is there anyone who could say there is no Christian in the world, that those many millions who bear allegiance to Christianity do not owe their faith primarily to the Word of Christ or that Christ influenced his adherents through acquired knowledge or through material wealth or power?

He: Certainly not.

I: Can you or I or any other human being on this planet, guided by his own impulse, stand up to-day, say the same thing that Christ said and succeed in establishing a new religion without any material means?

He: That is splendid. How about Muhammad? 8*

The greatest miracle of the Manifestation of God is that He changes the hearts of people and creates a new civilization merely through the influence of His word. Every word that He utters is creative† and endowed with such potency that all the powers of the world will not be able to resist the world-vivifying forces that are released through it. Like the animating energies of the spring season which are let loose in abundance and penetrate to the core of all living things, the creative Word of the Manifestation of God revolutionizes human society and by its resistless force breaks down man-made barriers of opposition, creating a new race of men and a new civilization.

There can be no miracle greater than this, a miracle that every unbiased observer can witness and the glory of which can never be dimmed by the passage of time. But those who have no spiritual insight and follow their own vain imaginings have opposed the Manifestations of God and one form of this opposition is to demand the performance of miracles.

When Bahá'u'lláh was in 'Akká, four Muslim divines from the village of Manshád in the province of Yazd sent a letter to Bahá'u'lláh introducing themselves as followers of Azal in order to test Him. They posed two riddles and promised to


* see vol. 2, pp. 21-2, for the rest of the dialogue.

† see more explanation about the Word of God in vols. 1 and 2.

8. Unpublished memoirs, translated by Habíb Taherzadeh.
accept His Cause if He revealed the correct answers. This is a translation of a part of their letter:

The first question is to inform us of the death of a certain man or woman of Manshád, by predicting the exact hour, and the date of death, the cause of death together with the name of the person, the name of his mother, his address, the description of his relatives and family and altogether every detail of his personal status.

The second question is to inform us of the birth of a certain child, by predicting its sex, the name of the mother, and of the father, and the exact time and date of birth in this year...9

Man, with his petty mind and narrow vision and in an egotistical mood, stands before his Lord, challenges Him to comply with his trivial and idle fancies and warns the Manifestation of God that unless He produces what is demanded of Him, He will be rejected. How dreadful this seems to anyone endowed with a measure of spiritual insight! The questions put to Bahá'u'lláh on this occasion are as comical as they are pitiful. In answer to this a lengthy Tablet10 was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, partly in the words of His amanuensis and partly His own words,* admonishing the writers for their perversity and blindness in testing God. In it He announces the advent of the Day of God, and states that the outpouring of His Revelation has encompassed the world. How grievous then is the plight of those who are seeking proof when the signs of His power and majesty are evident on all sides. This is not the day for asking questions but for hearkening to the call of God and embracing His Cause. He reminds them, by quoting various passages from the Qur'án,

* Some Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh are composed in such a way that a part of the Tablet is in the words of His amanuensis, but in fact was dictated by Bahá'u'lláh to appear as if composed by the amanuensis. Every word of the Tablet therefore is from Bahá'u'lláh Himself. For more information see vol. 1, pp. 40-42.

9. Unpublished.

10. Unpublished, except for the last part, a prayer translated by Shoghi Effendi, Prayers and Meditations of Bahá'u'lláh, no. 153.

that the unbelievers of a previous dispensation had demanded the performance of miracles from the Prophet of Islám. They asked Him to send down angels from heaven, to make water gush forth out of the earth, to cause the sky to lie shattered in pieces, to produce a house made of gold, to ascend to the heavens and bring back a book and many similar demands. The study of the Qur'án makes it clear that Muhammad's response to these preposterous requests was that the main proof of His Mission was the revelation of the Word of God.

Bahá'u'lláh warns the four clergymen of Manshád that by testing God their plight was as grievous as those who denied Him in former dispensations. An interesting aspect of this episode is that since these men introduced themselves as followers of Azal, Bahá'u'lláh addressed them in this Tablet as if they were Azalís. He quoted profusely from the Writings of the Báb in support of His argument. This He did notwithstanding the fact that He knew well who the four were. Apart from His divine knowledge which encompassed all created things, it was well known to Him and even, to His disciples that there were no such followers of Azal in Manshád. Some of the believers living at that time* in 'Akká were actually from the village of Manshád and knew the identity of these men very well!

This is where the Manifestation of God tests man by appearing to be ignorant of the truth. This is where he hides His glory and knowledge from the eyes of men so that the bad may not gain admittance into His Court of holiness and become equal with the good. And this is where man's free will to follow whichever path he may choose is not interfered with, and he is not turned into a puppet manipulated from on high.† By addressing them as if they were the followers of Azal, Bahá'u'lláh put these four men to the test. Actually one of the four was known to have claimed privately to a few Bahá'ís that he was inclined towards the Faith in his heart. This Tablet,


* This was in 1885.

† see also pp. 2-4 above.

however, was a test for him. He failed in it and lost his faith altogether.

Tests and Trials

Test is an integral part of creation. Even in this physical world there are tests. We note that as long as an object is stationary there are no tests, but as soon as there is movement there will be resistance, which is nature's form of test. The faster one moves, the greater the resistance. For instance, a modern aircraft flying faster than sound meets such resistance by its sheer speed that its body becomes red hot.

This is true in a spiritual sense also. God tests His servants. It is stated in the Qur'án:

We will surely prove you by afflicting you in some measure with fear, and hunger, and decrease of wealth, and loss of lives and scarcity of fruits...* 11
In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh speaks of tests, especially in this Day when God, by revealing Himself, has tested even the realities of the Prophets and chosen ones. These are the words of Bahá'u'lláh:

By the righteousness of God! These are the days in which God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets, and beyond them those that stand guard over His sacred and inviolable Sanctuary, the inmates of the celestial Pavilion and dwellers of the Tabernacle of Glory.12
When the individual embraces the Cause of God he will be tested in many ways, often without realizing it. Each time he is successful in passing a test, he will acquire greater spiritual insight and will grow stronger in faith. He will come closer to

* The Arabic word for 'fruits' is thamarát, which also means descendants, or one's children. One could translate this phrase as 'loss of lives and descendants'.

11. Qur'án, ii. 154-5.

12. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, Advent, p. 67.

God, will be elevated to a higher level of Service and his tests will be more difficult next time. But if through ego, which is the most harmful form of attachment to this world, he fails in this, his faith will be weakened and he could lose it altogether. There were many believers among the outstanding teachers of the Cause who served it with great distinction and ability and defended it against its adversaries; yet when the winds of tests blew, their insincerity and selfish ambitions became apparent and robbed them of the mantle of faith so that they perished spiritually.

But the nature of the tests which confront the believer may vary from age to age. In the days of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, tests were mainly in the form of persecution and martyrdom. The believers were often faced with situations in which they had either to recant their faith in public or give their lives. But the hand of divine power had so sustained and strengthened them that the great majority stood steadfast till the end and heroically quaffed the cup of martyrdom.

Today in the Formative Age the tests of the Bahá'ís come mainly from two sources. The first lies outside the Bahá'í community; it is the challenge to live in a Bahá'í way in a world which is corrupt, spiritually bankrupt, and characterized by all the evil influences of a decadent civilization. Within such a world heading swiftly towards destruction, Bahá'ís must learn to be happy and confident, to hold to Bahá'u'lláh's vision of future society, and to adorn themselves with the characteristics of a Bahá'í life. To live in accordance with the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh in a world so weighed down with evil is a severe test in this day, a test which every believer must undergo.

The other source of tests is from within the Bahá'í community. Those who lived and laboured in the Heroic Age did not often suffer these tests as must do the present and future generations, for they had come into direct contact with the Supreme Manifestation of God and the Centre of His Covenant. Intoxicated by the wine of Their utterances, these souls forgot themselves and through their love and attraction


became the spiritual giants of this Dispensation. There were less grounds for ill feeling or misunderstanding among the believers, since there were then no community activities as we know them now.

But in this Formative Age, the Bahá'ís work together within communities. Their Administrative Order, now maturing in its embryonic form, throws up many tests, embracing as it does people from every stratum of human society, rich and poor, young and old, learned and uneducated, veteran and newly enrolled, who must work in unity for the progress of the Faith. To work within such a community, the very nucleus and pattern of future world society, is not always free of tests.

Today, then, the greatest tests come to the individual from his inability to work with the right spirit either within the institutions of the Administrative Order, or in relation to them. The basic problem may stem from an inadequate understanding of the nature of the institutions of the Faith. From old religious traditions come the idea that religious institutions are man-made additions to the teachings of the Prophet. Such an idea may act subconsciously as a bias in the mind of the individual when he studies the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Consequently he may not appreciate fully that, unlike other religions, the Author of the Faith Himself has brought into being, as part of the religion of God, its administrative institutions, and that the administrative principles of the Faith are on a par with its spiritual principles.

Another contributory factor to this misconception originates from the outside world where man-made institutions have become the focal points of contention and strife within society. Such thoughts, whether originating from old religions or from present-day political and social institutions, are so stamped upon the minds of men that they become as subconscious obstacles to the proper understanding of the Bahá'í Administrative Order. There is need for real deepening in the verities of the Faith before the effect of these ill-judged notions can be completely eradicated.


The institutions of the Administrative Order are inseparable organs of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. The main features of this divine order were delineated by Bahá'u'lláh Himself* and by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. It was Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, who erected its foundations and explained its functions. In his masterly description of the birth of the Administrative Order, Shoghi Effendi has summarized its genesis in these words:

The moment had now arrived for that undying, that world-vitalizing Spirit that was born in Shíráz, that had been rekindled in Tihrán, that had been fanned into flame in Baghdád and Adrianople, that had been carried to the West, and was now illuminating the fringes of five continents, to incarnate itself in institutions designed to canalize its outspreading energies and stimulate its growth.13
This great and penetrating vision of Shoghi Effendi, the unerring Interpreter of the Word of God, has disclosed in simple terms the relationship between the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and the Administrative Order of His Faith. It clearly emphasizes that the institutions of the Cause are not man-made additions, but rather divine channels through which the energies released by the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh can flow to mankind.

The crowning edifice of the Administrative Order is the Universal House of Justice, its supreme institution. It is essential for a Bahá'í to accept the authority of this august body and to believe that, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, it is 'the source of all good and freed from all error...' 14 This is one of the verities of the Faith which a believer accepts wholeheartedly when he embraces the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. No faithful Bahá'í will question the authority or infallibility of this supreme body which is under the guidance of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

But tests are often brought about when serving on local or


* see ch. 14.

13. God Passes By, p. 324.

14. Will and Testament.

national institutions. To cite one example: during the consultation period members are often tested, probably without realizing it. The standards of conduct which must govern the motives and actions of the members of assemblies during consultation are noble and very high indeed. The following words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá set out some of these lofty standards:

The prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attraction to His Divine Fragrances, humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and longsuffering in difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold...The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly free from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the Unity of God, for they are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one garden...15
The standards established by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the aforementioned Tablet are essential requisites for Bahá'í consultation and are not subject to compromise or change.* Failure to apply them may turn the meeting of a Spiritual Assembly into a battle arena for its members, whose faith and steadfastness in the Covenant may be severely tested during consultation. The spiritual battles within the heart begin when the ego comes on to the scene. A believer will bring suffering and test upon himself to the extent that he ignores 'Abdu'l-Bahá's exhortations and allows his selfish interests or un-Bahá'í practices to influence his participation in assembly consultation.

The practice of the spiritual principles of consultation must be genuine and true. The feelings of love, unity, patience, humility, servitude, devotion, courtesy and other virtues called for by 'Abdu'l-Bahá must come from the heart. If not, one has failed to meet the tests, and the spiritual battle has not been won.


* see also below, pp. 317-18.

15. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, pp. 21-2.