Kings and Ecclesiastics
The proclamation of the message of Bahá'u'lláh to the kings and rulers of the world had been initiated in Constantinople when He issued His first Tablet to Sultán 'Abdu'l-Azíz of Turkey. It reached its climax in Adrianople with the revelation of the Súriy-i-Mulúk (Súrih of the Kings), a lengthy Epistle addressed to the kings collectively. It continued with the Tablets which form part of the Súriy-i-Haykal, and it was completed by the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in the course of the first few years of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in 'Akká.
Kings Addressed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, designated by Bahá'u'lláh as the 'unerring Balance', is the Mother Book of His Dispensation. It is more fully discussed in Chapters 13-17 of this volume. But it is significant that in this Book also Bahá'u'lláh addressed the kings, rulers and ecclesiastical leaders collectively, and some individually.
These are some passages gleaned from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in which Bahá'u'lláh's majestic utterances are directed to the rulers of the world, summoning them to His Cause.
O kings of the earth! He Who is the sovereign Lord of all is come. The Kingdom is God's, the omnipotent Protector, the Self-Subsisting. Worship none but God, and, with radiant hearts, lift up your faces unto your Lord, the Lord of all names. This is a Revelation to which whatever ye possess can never be compared, could ye but know it.
["O kings of the earth..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶78; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, CV; Prayers and Meditations, p. 36; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2 p. 304-305
others and shutting out yourselves from the worlds which naught except My guarded Tablet can reckon. The treasures ye have laid up have drawn you far away from your ultimate objective. This ill beseemeth you, could ye but understand it. Wash from your hearts all earthly defilements, and hasten to enter the Kingdom of your Lord, the Creator of earth and heaven, Who caused the world to tremble and all its peoples to wail, except them that have renounced all things and clung to that which the Hidden Tablet hath ordained...O kings of the earth! The Most Great Law hath been revealed in this Spot, this scene of transcendent splendour. Every hidden thing hath been brought to light, by virtue of the Will of the Supreme Ordainer, He Who hath ushered in the Last Hour, through Whom the Moon hath been cleft, and every irrevocable decree expounded.To Kaiser William I, Emperor of Germany, Bahá'u'lláh addressed these words in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
1. Synopsis, pp. 17-19.
["O kings of the earth! The Most Great Law..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶81; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, CV
Say: O King of Berlin! Give ear unto the Voice calling from this manifest Temple: Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Everlasting, the Peerless, the Ancient of Days. Take heed lest pride debar thee from recognizing the Dayspring of Divine Revelation, lest earthly desires shut thee out, as by a veil, from the Lord of the Throne above and of the earth below. Thus counselleth thee the Pen of the Most High. He, verily, is the Most Gracious, the All-Bountiful. Do thou remember the one whose power transcended thy power, and whose station excelled thy station. Where is he? Whither are gone the things he possessed? Take warning, and be not of them that are fast asleep. He it was who cast the Tablet of God behind him, when We made known unto him what the hosts of tyranny had caused Us to suffer. Wherefore, disgrace assailed him from all sides, and he went down to dust in great loss. Think deeply, O King, concerning him, and concerning them who, like unto thee, have conquered cities and ruled over men. The All-Merciful brought them down from their palaces to their graves. Be warned, be of them who reflect.In the above passages, Bahá'u'lláh refers to Napoleon III as the 'one whose power transcended thy power', and summons the Emperor to heed His call. But it was a call which remained unheeded.
The decline in the fortunes of William I and of his grandson William II was then set in motion, culminating in the dissolution of his Empire and the establishment of the Republic. In another passage in the same Book, Bahá'u'lláh reveals this remarkable prophecy which now after two World Wars is clearly seen to be fulfilled:
O banks of the Rhine! We have seen you covered with gore, inasmuch as the swords of retribution were drawn against
2. Synopsis, p. 20.
["Say: O King..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶86
["We have asked nothing..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶87
you; and you shall have another turn. And We hear the lamentations of Berlin, though she be today in conspicuous glory.3Another King addressed in a tone of rebuke in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was the Hapsburg monarch, Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. He visited Jerusalem when Bahá'u'lláh was in 'Akká. With these words Bahá'u'lláh admonishes the Emperor:
O Emperor of Austria! He Who is the Dayspring of God's Light dwelt in the prison of 'Akká, at the time when thou didst set forth to visit the Aqsá Mosque.* Thou passed Him by, and inquired not about Him, by Whom every house is exalted, and every lofty gate unlocked. We, verily, made it* a place whereunto the world should turn, that they might remember Me, and yet thou hast rejected Him Who is the Object of this remembrance, when He appeared with the Kingdom of God, thy Lord and the Lord of the worlds. We have been with thee at all times, and found thee clinging unto the Branch and heedless of the Root. Thy Lord, verily, is a witness unto what I say. We grieved to see thee circle round Our Name, whilst unaware of Us, though We were before thy face. Open thine eyes, that thou mayest behold this glorious Vision, and recognize Him Whom thou invokest in the daytime and in the night season, and gaze on the Light that shineth above this luminous Horizon.4Soon after the revelation of these words, repeated tragedies and disasters involving the members of the royal family brought much gloom to the Emperor's reign. These were only precursors to the final dissolution of a dynasty which had lasted for almost five hundred years, and the dismemberment of a mighty empire.
Another Kingdom which Bahá'u'lláh repeatedly condemned was that of Turkey. As has already been stated† He had warned
† vol. 2, p. 58.
3. Synopsis, p. 21.
4. ibid. p. 19.
["O banks of the Rhine..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶90
["O Emperor of Austria..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶85
and severely condemned its rulers since His days in Constantinople.
These are some of the prophetic words of Bahá'u'lláh revealed in the Súriy-i-Ra'ís:
Hearken, O Chief...to the Voice of God, the Sovereign, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting...Thou hast, O Chief, committed that which hath made Muhammad, the Apostle of God, groan in the Most Exalted Paradise. The world hath made thee proud so much so that thou hast turned away from the Face through Whose brightness the Concourse on high hath been illumined. Soon thou shalt find thyself in evident loss...The day is approaching when the Land of Mystery (Adrianople) and what is beside it shall be changed, and shall pass out of the hands of the King, and commotions shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised, and the evidences of mischief shall be revealed on all sides, and confusion shall spread by reason of that which hath befallen these captives at the hands of the hosts of oppression. The course of things shall be altered, and conditions shall wax so grievous, that the very sands on the desolate hills will moan, and the trees on the mountain will weep, and blood will flow out of all things. Then wilt thou behold the people in sore distress.5Now, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, after the revelation of the Lawh-i-Fu'ád in which He clearly prophesied the Sultán's extinction,* Bahá'u'lláh reveals these prophetic words:
O Spot† that are situate on the shores of the two seas! The throne of tyranny hath, verily, been established upon thee, and the flame of hatred hath been kindled within thy bosom, in such wise that the Concourse on high and they who circle around the Exalted Throne have wailed and lamented. We behold in thee the foolish ruling over the wise, and darkness vaunting itself against the light. Thou art indeed filled with manifest pride. Hath thine outward splendour made thee
* see above, p. 87.
5. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'Unfoldment', The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 178.
["O Spot that art..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶89
vainglorious? By Him Who is the Lord of mankind! It shall soon perish, and thy daughters and thy widows and all the kindreds that dwell within thee shall lament. Thus informeth thee the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.6The downfall of Sultán 'Abdu'l-Azíz, the end of his shameful reign and that of his successors, the extinction of a dynasty which had lasted for six and a half centuries, the dismemberment of an empire which had once stretched as far as Hungary in Europe to the Caspian Sea in Asia and to Oran in Africa, and above all the collapse of the Caliphate, the most powerful institution in Islám--all these took place in that short period of time after the 'Prisoner of 'Akká' had issued His clear warnings of the dire retributive calamities which were to descend upon the despotic rulers of the Land of Turkey.
Shoghi Effendi makes some significant remarks about the extinction of the Ottoman dynasty and the Caliphate:
Though Bahá'u'lláh had been banished from His Native land, the tide of calamity which had swept with such fury over Him and over the followers of the Báb, was by no means receding. Under the jurisdiction of the Sultán of Turkey, the arch-enemy of His Cause, a new chapter in the history of His ever-recurring trials had opened. The overthrow of the Sultanate and the Caliphate, the twin pillars of Sunní Islám, can be regarded in no other light except as the inevitable consequence of the fierce, the sustained and deliberate persecution which the monarchs of the tottering House of 'Uthmán, the recognized successors of the Prophet Muhammad, had launched against it. From the city of Constantinople, the traditional seat of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate, the rulers of Turkey had, for a period covering almost three quarters of a century, striven, with unabated zeal, to stem the tide of a Faith they feared and abhorred. From the time Bahá'u'lláh set foot on Turkish soil and was made a virtual prisoner of the most powerful potentate of Islám to the year of the Holy Land's liberation from Turkish yoke, successive Caliphs, and in particular the
6. Synopsis, p. 21.
Sultáns 'Abdu'l-'Azíz and 'Abdu'l-Hamíd, had, in the full exercise of the spiritual and temporal authority which their exalted office had conferred upon them, afflicted both the Founder of our Faith and the Centre of His Covenant with such pain and tribulation as no mind can fathom nor pen or tongue describe. They alone could have measured or borne them...
that the insidious forces of decay, which for many a long year were eating into the vitals of a diseased nation, were now moving towards a climax. A series of internal convulsions, each more devastating than the previous one, had already been unchained, destined to bring in their wake one of the most catastrophic occurrences of modern times. The murder of that arrogant despot in the year 1876; the Russo-Turkish conflict that soon followed in its wake; the wars of liberation which succeeded it; the rise of the Young Turk movement; the Turkish Revolution of 1909 that precipitated the downfall of 'Abdu'l-Hamíd; the Balkan wars with their calamitous consequences; the liberation of Palestine enshrining within its bosom the cities of 'Akká and Haifa, the world centre of an emancipated Faith; the further dismemberment decreed by the Treaty of Versailles; the abolition of the Sultanate and the downfall of the House of 'Uthmán; the extinction of the Caliphate; the disestablishment of the State Religion; the annulment of the Sharí'ah Law and the promulgation of a universal Civil Code; the suppression of various orders, beliefs, traditions and ceremonials believed to be inextricably interwoven with the fabric of the Muslim Faith--these followed with an ease and swiftness that no man had dared envisage. In these devastating blows, administered by friend and foe alike, by Christian nations and professing Muslims, every follower of the persecuted Faith of Bahá'u'lláh recognized evidences of the directing Hand of the departed Founder of his religion, Who, from the invisible Realm, was unloosing a flood of well-deserved calamities upon a rebellious religion and nation.
reared a pagan colony on the mount of Zion, massacred the Jews, and exiled and dispersed the survivors?To the Presidents of the Republics of America, Bahá'u'lláh has addressed these words recorded in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein, unto that which the Dove is warbling on the Branch of Eternity: There is none other God but Me, the Ever-Abiding, the Forgiving, the All-Bountiful. Adorn ye the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of the remembrance of your Lord, the Creator of the heavens. Thus counselleth you He Who is the Dayspring of Names, as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. The Promised One hath appeared in this glorified Station, whereat all beings, both seen and unseen, have rejoiced. Take ye advantage of the Day of God. Verily, to meet Him is better for you than all that whereon the sun shineth, could ye but know it. O concourse of rulers! Give ear unto that which hath been raised from the Dayspring of Grandeur:
7. 'Unfoldment', idem, pp. 173-6.
["Hearken ye, O Rulers of America..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶88
Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Lord of Utterance, the All-Knowing. Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of your Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise.8In all these Writings, one message in particular was conveyed in an unequivocal language, expressed with vigour, eloquence and majesty, and that was that God had manifested Himself and that His Vicegerent on earth was summoning the Kings to Himself. The warnings in all these messages were unmistakably clear and explicit and might be summed up by the following passage revealed in the Súriy-i-Mulúk (Súrih of the Kings):
If ye pay no heed unto the counsels which, in peerless and unequivocal language, We have revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction, and the sentence of His justice shall be pronounced against you. On that day ye shall have no power to resist Him, and shall recognize your own impotence. Have mercy on yourselves and on those beneath you.9The forces of 'Divine chastisement' released by the creative power of the Words of Bahá'u'lláh have been exerting pressure upon the kings and the institution of kingship since those historic summons were issued and not heeded. How remarkable has been the fulfilment of the prophecy of Bahá'u'lláh foreshadowing the decline in the fortunes of royalty who had wielded absolute power throughout the ages! 'From two ranks amongst men', is Bahá'u'lláh's clear pronouncement, 'power has been seized: kings and ecclesiastics.' 10 So swift was the downfall of the kings that within the span of a few decades after Bahá'u'lláh's warnings, many powerful monarchies toppled to the ground, and most remaining ones lost their influence altogether. Revolutions, often combined with violence, took place in different parts of the world and
8. Synopsis, pp. 20-21.
9. Gleanings, CXVIII, 6.
10. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 72.
dramatically changed the whole system of political and governmental institutions.
In the Tablet of Salmán already referred to in Chapter 1, Bahá'u'lláh makes this significant remark concerning the institution of kingship. He writes:
One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind. Only in order to proclaim the Cause of God and spread abroad His Faith will anyone be willing to bear this grievous weight. Well is it with him who, for love of God and His Cause, and for the sake of God and for the purpose of proclaiming His Faith, will expose himself unto this great danger, and will accept this toil and trouble.11In His Writings, Bahá'u'lláh has given three signs for the maturity of mankind. One is the above statement concerning the decline in the fortunes of kings. Another, to which we have made a reference in the previous volume,* is the transmuting of elements, the achievement of alchemy. The third, mentioned in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, is the adoption of an international auxiliary language.
From all that has been said it must not be inferred, however, that the Bahá'í teachings condemn the institution of kingship. On the contrary, in one of His Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh has declared:
Although a republican form of government profiteth all the peoples of the world, yet the majesty of kingship is one of the signs of God. We do not wish that the countries of the world should remain deprived thereof...12
* vol. 2, p. 268.
11. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 72.
12. Tablets, p. 28.
[signs of maturity] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶189
The Bahá'í teachings envisage the re-establishment in the future of properly functioning constitutional monarchies in various countries of the world.
In another Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh prophesies the future of this institution in these words:
Ere long will God make manifest on earth kings who will recline on the couches of justice, and will rule amongst men even as they rule their own selves. They, indeed, are among the choicest of My creatures in the entire creation.13Shoghi Effendi has written the following explanation of the Bahá'í teachings on the institution of monarchy:
Let none, however, mistake or unwittingly misrepresent the purpose of Bahá'u'lláh. Severe as has been His condemnation pronounced against those sovereigns who persecuted Him, and however strict the censure expressed collectively against those who failed signally in their clear duty to investigate the truth of His Faith and to restrain the hand of the wrongdoer, His teachings embody no principle that can, in any way, be construed as a repudiation, or even a disparagement, however veiled, of the institution of kingship. The catastrophic fall, and the extinction of the dynasties and empires of those monarchs whose disastrous end He particularly prophesied, and the declining fortunes of the sovereigns of His Own generation, whom He generally reproved--both constituting a passing phase of the evolution of the Faith, should, in no wise, be confounded with the future position of that institution. Indeed, if we delve into the writings of the Author of the Bahá'í Faith, we cannot fail to discover unnumbered passages in which, in terms that none can misrepresent, the principle of kingship is eulogized, the rank and conduct of just and fair-minded kings is extolled, the rise of monarchs, ruling with justice and even professing His Faith, is envisaged, and the solemn duty to arise and insure the triumph of Bahá'í sovereigns is inculcated. To conclude from the above quoted words, addressed by Bahá'u'lláh to the monarchs of the earth, to infer from the recital of the
13. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 76.
woeful disasters that have overtaken so many of them, that His followers either advocate or anticipate the definite extinction of the institution of kingship, would indeed be tantamount to a distortion of His teaching.14In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh prophesies a time when the kings and rulers of the world will embrace His Cause, and He showers His blessings upon such a ruler. These are His words:
How great the blessedness that awaiteth the king who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me! Such a king is numbered with the companions of the Crimson Ark--the Ark which God hath prepared for the people of Bahá. All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountain-head of blessings unto the whole world. Offer up, O people of Bahá, your substance, nay your very lives, for his assistance.15Speaking of future monarchs who will embrace the Cause, it is appropriate at this juncture to recount the story of Hájí Sháh Khalílu'lláh-i-Fárání, a believer of wide repute who, in company with his illustrious father, Áqá Mír Muhammad Big, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká in the year AH 1306 (AD 1889). He was a native of Fárán* in the Province of Khurásán. In his memoirs he describes their arrival in 'Akká and how they attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh:
At last we arrived in the City of 'Akká and were taken to the Bahá'í Pilgrim House situated in the Khán† where pilgrims and some resident Bahá'ís were staying. We enjoyed the company of these devoted and sincere believers immensely. In the afternoon of our arrival, 'Abdu'l-Bahá came to visit
* see p. 62.
† Khán-i-'Avámíd. (A.T.)
14. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 73.
15. Synopsis, p. 19.
["How great the blessedness..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶84; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, CV
us. He illumined our eyes by the effulgent rays of His countenance. He showered upon us His loving kindness, asked about our journey and the state of the friends in various towns, and breathed into our hearts the spirit of joy and gladness.In a spoken chronicle to some friends, Hájí Sháh Khalíl'u'lláh has recounted a story of Bahá'u'lláh who one day visited them in their residence:
* Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)
† These are not to be taken as the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)
‡ On the revelation of the Word of God see vol. 1, pp. 18-44.
§ Bahá'u'lláh had moved to the Mansion a long time before this but at times He visited 'Akká and stayed there for some time. (A.T.)
16. Unpublished memoirs.
One day Bahá'u'lláh informed my father that He would be visiting us in the afternoon. That day He arrived with a few of his disciples. We were both highly honoured by His presence and immersed in the ocean of His grace and bounties. After some time He arose to depart. We accompanied Him to the door and as He went out, He signalled to us not to accompany Him further. I watched from behind His graceful stature and the majesty of His walk, until He disappeared from my sight. I was so carried away, and in that state I said to myself: What a pity! If only the kings of the world could recognize Him and arise to serve Him, both the Cause and the believers would be exalted in this day.Hájí Sháh Khalíl'u'lláh grew up in a Bahá'í atmosphere. His father was an outstanding believer, very influential among the people and endowed with a deep understanding and knowledge of God. His home was a centre of Bahá'í activities in Fárán. Hájí Sháh Khalíl'u'lláh followed in the footsteps of his father. He became an eminent Bahá'í whose devotion to and enthusiasm for the Faith endeared him to the believers throughout Persia. In his native town, he was a well-trusted citizen like his father before him, and although he was known
* These are not to be taken as the exact words which Bahá'u'lláh spoke on that occasion. (A.T.)
17. Unpublished memoirs.
to be a Bahá'í he was respected by a great many non-Bahá'ís who often turned to him for help and advice.
Some years after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh he attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and basked in the sunshine of His love for some time in 'Akká. During Shoghi Effendi's ministry too he was twice given the privilege of visiting the Holy Land, where he had the honour of going into the presence of Shoghi Effendi almost every day during his pilgrimage.
Hájí Sháh Khalíl'u'lláh was a great teacher of the Faith. Through his loving disposition he attracted many people to the Cause of God. His spiritual qualities, coupled with the burning love he cherished for Bahá'u'lláh and His Faith, made him an outstanding Bahá'í who warmed the hearts of the believers wherever he went.
Religious Leaders Addressed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
Another category of people who wielded enormous power was the clergy. Throughout the whole period of recorded history these men held the reins of power in their hands, and guided the masses in their ways. This was perhaps necessary as in former days most people were illiterate and needed to be led by someone. The authority with which religious leaders acted within the community, both in the East and the West, was so deeply rooted in the hearts of people that even kings were bound to obey them. To cite one example: the kings of the Qájár dynasty in Persia ruled as powerful dictators of a totalitarian regime. At one stage, one of the leading divines of Persia had forbidden people to smoke. Although this order did not last very long, everyone had to obey it until it was rescinded. Even the Qájár King in his palace did not dare to smoke. Such was the sway of the word of the clergy when Bahá'u'lláh appeared! With a stroke of His mighty Pen, He abolished the institution of priesthood and announced that He had seized their power, a power they had wielded from time immemorial.
An eminent Bahá'í who attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká
A Bahá'í of Jewish origin who was directed by Bahá'u'lláh to proclaim the Faith to Baron Rothschild
To Shaykh Báqir, a Muslim Persian Mujtahid whom Bahá'u'lláh stigmatized as 'Wolf' because of his orders to execute two illustrious Bahá'ís, Bahá'u'lláh has addressed these words:
O heedless one! Rely not on thy glory and thy power. Thou art even as the last trace of sunlight upon the mountain-top. Soon will it fade away, as decreed by God, the All-Possessing, the Most High. Thy glory, and the glory of such as are like thee, have been taken away, and this, verily, is what hath been ordained by the One with Whom is the Mother Tablet...18In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh addresses the divines of all religions collectively; these are some extracts from His words:
Say: O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring balance established amongst men. In this most perfect balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it.
18. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 91.
["O heedless one!..."] Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 99.
of all knowledge; and yet, behold how ye have allowed your learning to shut you out, as by a veil, from Him Who is the Dayspring of this Light, through Whom every hidden thing hath been revealed. Could ye but discover the source whence the splendour of this utterance is diffused, ye would cast away the peoples of the world and all that they possess, and would draw nigh unto this most blessed Seat of glory.And again:
O concourse of divines! When My verses were sent down, and My clear tokens were revealed, We found you behind the veils. This, verily, is a strange thing...We have rent the veils asunder. Beware lest ye shut out the people by yet another veil. Pluck asunder the chains of vain imaginings, in the name of the Lord of all men, and be not of the deceitful. Should ye turn unto God, and embrace His Cause, spread not disorder within it, and measure not the Book of God with your selfish desires. This, verily, is the counsel of God aforetime and hereafter...Had ye believed in God, when He revealed Himself, the people would not have turned aside from Him, nor would the things ye witness today have befallen Us. Fear God, and be not the heedless...This is the Cause that hath caused all your superstitions and idols to tremble...
19. Synopsis, pp. 22-3.
["We have decreed..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶102; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh XCVIII;
["O concourse of divines! When..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶165
["O concourse of divines! Beware..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶169
Word that hath made the pebbles to cry out: 'The Kingdom is God's, the Dawning-Place of all signs!'...Tear the veils asunder in such wise that the inmates of the Kingdom will hear them being rent. This is the command of God, in days gone by, and for those to come. Blessed the man that observeth that whereunto he was bidden, and woe betide the negligent.20In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has made references to the divines. The following are just a few:
When We observed carefully, We discovered that Our enemies are, for the most part, the divines.
20. Synopsis, pp. 26-7.
21. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 85-6.
Shoghi Effendi has written in some detail on this topic in his The Promised Day Is Come. These are some of his remarks:
...The decline in the fortunes of the crowned wielders of temporal power has been paralleled by a no less startling deterioration in the influence exercised by the world's spiritual leaders. The colossal events that have heralded the dissolution of so many kingdoms and empires have almost synchronized with the crumbling of the seemingly inviolable strongholds of religious orthodoxy. That same process which, swiftly and tragically, sealed the doom of kings and emperors, and extinguished their dynasties, has operated in the case of the ecclesiastical leaders of both Christianity and Islám, damaging their prestige, and, in some cases, overthrowing their highest institutions. 'Power hath been seized' indeed, from both 'kings and ecclesiastics.' The glory of the former has been eclipsed, the power of the latter irretrievably lost.
Apôtres,' characterized that day as 'perhaps unparalleled in the history of the world.'Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed His Message to the leaders of the world collectively and to a few monarchs individually. But this proclamation was not meant only for the kings or religious leaders alone. The peoples of the world had to hear it also through their leaders as there was no other form of communication. The mass media of today was non-existent in the days of Bahá'u'lláh. It was God's purpose that leaders of the world hear the advent of His Manifestation, respond positively to His summons, embrace His Cause and communicate His Message to their peoples. But no one responded. Yet God had fulfilled His role in His Covenant with man by vouchsafing His Revelation to mankind and proclaiming it to him. It now rested with man to respond of his own volition to the call of His Creator.
Proclamation to the Jewish Leadership
A survey of Bahá'u'lláh's letters to the leaders of the world
22. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 76-7.
indicates that all the nations and major religions of the world were given the opportunity to hear of His coming. Probably one exception was the Jewish people as they did not belong to a particular state at the time. One year before His passing, Bahá'u'lláh had made a remark concerning His proclamation to the rulers of the world. He is reported to have said that by then He had fully proclaimed His Mission to the crowned heads of the world, but He desired to convey the Message of God to Baron Rothschild* who could be considered as the leader of the Jewish people at the time. This remark was addressed to a believer of Jewish descent, Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-i-Jadhdháb who had gone to 'Akká to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh for the third time in the year AH 1308 (AD 1891). Bahá'u'lláh directed him to write to Baron Rothschild and proclaim the Faith to him and if possible pay him a visit.
The story of the life of Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh and his services to the Cause of God are interesting and inspiring indeed. He was of Jewish descent. His father, living in the city of Mashhad, was a learned man and well versed in the Old Testament and other religious books. He used to teach the Old Testament to the Jewish youth. Pure-hearted and with great insight into religious matters, he recognized the truth of the Faith of Islám and secretly declared his conversion to the Muslim authorities. With the exception of his wife, no other members of the Jewish community, not even his own children, were aware of his conversion to Islám. This was about sixteen years before the birth of the Bábí Faith. In particular, he advised his family to watch for the coming of the Lord of Hosts, as he had discovered according to the Holy Books that His advent was at hand.
A few years later, in 1838, some tragic incident resulted in the massacre of about thirty-five Jews in the city of Mashhad by
* Probably Baron Nathaniel Mayer, Lord Rothschild of London (1840-1915), then considered the lay head of world Jewry; or else Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris (1845-1934) the great benefactor of thousands of Jews then settling in Palestine.
the Muslims. All the surviving Jews took refuge in the homes of Muslim clergy and in order to save their lives, agreed to accept the Faith of Islám. They were officially converted by the clergy, but, of course, in secret they practised the Jewish Faith. Although their lives had been saved, the Jews newly converted to Islám continued to live in a separate quarter of the city and were not fully integrated with the Muslim community. They were referred to as the 'newcomers' and were still persecuted by the Muslims.
Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh lived in this community. He went to a Muslim school as a child, but soon left it. Instead, he learnt the Old Testament, became fully acquainted with the Jewish Faith, and practised it in secret. Although his education was elementary, he became a successful merchant and emerged as a man of ability and enterprise.
The first time he heard the word 'Bahá'u'lláh' was when one of his brothers, who had become a Bahá'í, mentioned the story of the martyrdom of Badí' to him. But Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh, being very staunch in the Jewish Faith, did not show any interest, and the brother did not pursue the matter any further.
Some time passed and the two brothers had to undertake a series of journeys together on business. In the course of these journeys Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh decided to polish up his elementary knowledge of reading and writing Persian. Being a talented man, it did not take him very long to become proficient as a reader.
One day when his brother was out he took a Bahá'í book and began to read it. He was moved by what he read, but discounted the whole idea of a new Faith. Then one night he had a dream, of which he has written this account in his memoirs:
In my dream, I heard the announcement that the Lord of Hosts, the Promised One of all ages, had appeared, and that He was inspecting the company of the Prophets and all their followers. I went along immediately to the appointed place.
I saw a vast place on which multitudes of people were assembled in lines. Each prophet along with his followers was seated facing the Qiblih.* I was surprised by the extraordinary light and vision which was given to my eyes, as I could easily see all the people lined up in that vast area.Although this dream made a great impression on Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh, he still remained steadfast in his Jewish faith until some time later when he was converted to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh by Hájí 'Abdu'l-Majíd, the father of Badí'. Soon after embracing the Faith, Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh and his brother journeyed to 'Akká to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. This was in the year 1876, his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When the appointed time arrived, Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh was ushered into the room of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká. As soon as his eyes saw the person of Bahá'u'lláh he was awestruck to find
* literally: point of adoration. A point to which the faithful turn at the time of prayer.
† head-dress similar to the one that Bahá'u'lláh used to wear.
23. Qur'án, xxiii. 14.
himself in the presence of the One whom he had seen some years before in that memorable dream, wearing the same clothes and the same green head-dress. With all the devotion and love in his heart Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh promptly prostrated himself at the feet of his Lord. Bahá'u'lláh bent down, helped him up to his feet and recited the verse of the Qur'án: 'Blessed be God, the most excellent Creator!'
During his stay in 'Akká, Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá many times. As a result, he became endowed with a new spirit of faith and assurance. The first time that he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he witnessed the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets and heard His voice as He revealed them. This experience left an abiding impression upon him. The only regret he had was that he could not read Arabic and hence was unable to fully appreciate the Holy Writings. This was because he had left school so young and had missed the opportunity to learn Arabic. He felt remorseful over this. Someone in 'Akká volunteered to teach him Arabic, but he declined the offer as he had no time or patience to learn a language so vast in vocabulary and so complex in grammar.
The next day when he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he approached Him by way of the heart and begged that through His bountiful favours, He might enable him to understand Arabic without going through the usual method of learning the language. His wish was granted, and Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh one day became very excited when he found himself reading and understanding the Qur'án and the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh in Arabic.
Many early believers were uneducated but they were endowed by Bahá'u'lláh with a knowledge which men of learning but devoid of faith did not possess. Earlier on* we have described this form of knowledge, a knowledge which wells out of the heart and is not dependent on learning. Concerning the special mission given him during his last
* pp. 94-5.
pilgrimage to 'Akká, to proclaim the Faith to Baron Rothschild, Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh has recorded the following in his memoirs:
After leaving the Holy Land,* I arrived in Istanbul. There I knew a certain broker who had the knowledge of the French language. I asked him if he would teach me a little French every day, so that on my journey to meet Rothschild I would be able to converse a little in that language. In the meantime, I composed a letter to Rothschild which was rendered into French. In this communication I informed him of the coming of Bahá'u'lláh and of the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the advent of the Lord of Hosts who had revealed Himself on Mount Carmel at this time. I explained that the followers of Bahá'u'lláh were inviting us to embrace His Cause, adducing proofs and demonstrating that prophecies have been fulfilled. I reminded him that he was considered as the head of the Jewish People. Therefore, I asked him to refer this matter to the Jewish divines in Jerusalem so that they might respond to this question. I explained further that either one had to nullify the proofs and the prophecies of the Old Testament or to accept this blessed Cause. After sending this communication I began to learn French. In those days, Áqá Siyyid Ahmad-i-Afnán† was in Istanbul. He was very curious to find out the reason for my learning French at this time in my life, and for what purpose I was thinking of going to Paris and London. But since the visit to Rothschild was a confidential matter I did not disclose it...24Unfortunately the memoirs of Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh are not conclusive in that there is no mention of whether he succeeded in meeting the Baron or not.
Another interesting mission which Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh undertook during 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry was to visit Leo
* This was in 1891. (A.T.)
† A member of the Afnán family who ran a business in Istanbul.
24. From the memoirs of Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-Jadhdháb, quoted by Sulaymání, Masábih-i-Hidáyat, vol. 7.
|Tolstoy, the famous Russian philosopher and writer. Tolstoy was already informed of the Revelations of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, and had praised Their teachings. Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh succeeded in meeting him in September 1902 and in the course of an interview spoke to him at length on the history and the teachings of the Faith and explained the station of Bahá'u'lláh as the Promised One of all ages. The detailed discussions, questions and answers in this interview and the favourable response of Tolstoy, who believed that the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh would spread throughout the world are all recorded in his memoirs.