16

Kitáb-i-Aqdas. 4. Worship and Daily Life

The Mashriqu'l-Adhkár

One of the commandments of Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is the establishment of the institution of the House of Worship, designated by Him 'Mashriqu'l-Adhkár' (Dawning-place of the mention of God). He has ordained that in every locality an edifice be built with the utmost perfection for the exclusive purpose of worshipping God. In it only the word of God may be read or chanted in a way that will exhilarate the ears and uplift the souls. He also counsels parents to teach their children the words of God revealed by Him, so that they may chant them in the Houses of Worship.

These are the words of Bahá'u'lláh revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:

Blessed is he who directeth his steps towards the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár at the hour of dawn, communing with Him, attuned to His remembrance, imploring His forgiveness. And having entered therein, let him sit in silence to hearken unto the verses of God, the Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-praised. Say, the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár is in truth any House raised in towns or villages, for mention of Me. Thus hath it been named before His Throne; would that ye know it. And those who chant the verses of the Merciful in most melodious tones will attain thereby unto that with which the kingdoms of earth and heaven can never compare. And they will inhale therefrom the fragrance of My realms which none discerneth in this day save those who

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The Kitáb-i-Aqdas

["Blessed is he..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶115

have been granted vision by this sublime Beauty. Say, verily, the verses of the Merciful uplift the stainless hearts unto those realms of the spirit which cannot be described in words or expressed in symbols. Blessed are they that hearken! 1
And again:

Teach your children that which hath been sent down from the heaven of majesty and power that they may recite the Tablets of the Merciful in the halls of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkárs in most melodious tones. Verily, he who hath been drawn by the magnet of the love of My Name, the Merciful, will recite the verses of God in such wise as to enrapture the hearts of those who are fast asleep. Well is it with him who hath quaffed the choice wine of immortal life from the utterances of his Lord, the Lord of Mercy, through the power of this exalted Name whereby every high and lofty mountain hath been reduced to dust.2
We note that Bahá'u'lláh urges His followers to conduct prayer services in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár at the hour of dawn, a time which is specially conducive to spiritual upliftment. In the earlier days of the Faith when social circumstances were favourable in Persia and people worked very flexible hours, the believers often gathered in the home of a Bahá'í before dawn to pray and to read the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. No doubt, in the future, when the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh is fully established and in every city a sufficient number of Bahá'í Houses of Worship erected, a new social pattern will emerge which will regulate man's way of life in such spheres as work, rest, leisure and service to the Cause, enabling him to arise before dawn and engage in praise and glorification of God. And this will result in a balance being created between his spiritual and physical needs.

The spiritual activities of future society will mainly circle around the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár itself, while its humanitarian and administrative activities will be focused

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1. Bahá'í Writings on Music, p. 3.

2. ibid.


["Teach your children..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶150
upon a cluster of institutions built around it as its dependencies. These, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words, include hospitals, orphanages, schools, universities, hostels and similar institutions. The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh always combine the spiritual and human values together. Like the balance that exists between the soul and the body, the Bahá'í Faith advocates the observance of spiritual and physical laws which can alone guarantee the well-being of man. The Mashriqu'l-Adhkár and its dependencies provide this balance in the community. One is the centre of spiritual forces generated through prayer and thanksgiving to God, the other, the institutions of social service, the focal point of all human endeavour, of love and compassion.

Shoghi Effendi, as far back as 1929, explained some of the salient features of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in a letter to the American Bahá'ís who were then engaged in building the first Bahá'í House of Worship in the Western world.

It should be borne in mind that the central Edifice of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, round which in the fullness of time shall cluster such institutions of social service as shall afford relief to the suffering, sustenance to the poor, shelter to the wayfarer, solace to the bereaved, and education to the ignorant, should be regarded apart from these Dependencies, as a House solely designed and entirely dedicated to the worship of God in accordance with the few yet definitely prescribed principles established by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitábu'l-Aqdas. It should not be inferred, however, from this general statement that the interior of the central Edifice itself will be converted into a conglomeration of religious services conducted along lines associated with the traditional procedure obtaining in churches, mosques, synagogues, and other temples of worship. Its various avenues of approach, all converging towards the central Hall beneath its dome, will not serve as admittance to those sectarian adherents of rigid formulae and man-made creeds, each bent, according to his way, to observe his rites, recite his prayers, perform his ablutions, and display the
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particular symbols of his faith, within separately defined sections of Bahá'u'lláh's Universal House of Worship. Far from the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár offering such a spectacle of incoherent and confused sectarian observances and rites, a condition wholly incompatible with the provisions of the Aqdas and irreconcilable with the spirit it inculcates, the central House of Bahá'í worship, enshrined within the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, will gather within its chastened walls, in a serenely spiritual atmosphere, only those who, discarding forever the trapping of elaborate and ostentatious ceremony, are willing worshippers of the one true God, as manifested in this age in the Person of Bahá'u'lláh. To them will the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár symbolize the fundamental verity underlying the Bahá'í Faith, that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is not final but progressive. Theirs will be the conviction that an all-loving and ever-watchful Father Who, in the past, and at various stages in the evolution of mankind, has sent forth His Prophets as the Bearers of His Light to mankind, cannot at this critical period of their civilization withhold from His children the Guidance which they sorely need amid the darkness which has beset them, and which neither the light of science nor that of human intellect and wisdom can succeed in dissipating. And thus having recognized in Bahá'u'lláh the source whence this celestial light proceeds, they will irresistibly feel attracted to seek the shelter of His House and congregate therein, unhampered by ceremonials and unfettered by creed, to render homage to the one true God, the Essence and Orb of eternal Truth, and to exalt and magnify the name of His Messengers and Prophets Who, from time immemorial even unto our day, have, under divers circumstances and in varying measure, mirrored forth to a dark and wayward world the light of heavenly Guidance.

But, however inspiring the conception of Bahá'í worship, as witnessed in the central Edifice of this exalted Temple, it cannot be regarded as the sole, nor even the essential, actor in the part which the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, as designed by Bahá'u'lláh, is destined to play in the organic life of the

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Bahá'í community. Divorced from the social, humanitarian, educational and scientific pursuits centring around the Dependencies of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, Bahá'í worship, however exalted in its conception, however passionate in fervour, can never hope to achieve beyond the meagre and often transitory results produced by the contemplations of the ascetic or the communion of the passive worshipper. It cannot afford lasting satisfaction and benefit to the worshipper himself, much less to humanity in general, unless and until translated and transfused into that dynamic and disinterested service to the cause of humanity which it is the supreme privilege of the Dependencies of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár to facilitate and promote. Nor will the exertions, no matter how disinterested and strenuous, of those who within the precincts of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár will be engaged in administering the affairs of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth, fructify and prosper unless they are brought into close and daily communion with those spiritual agencies centring in and radiating from the central Shrine of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár. Nothing short of direct and constant interaction between the spiritual forces emanating from this House of Worship centring in the heart of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, and the energies consciously displayed by those who administer its affairs in their service to humanity can possibly provide the necessary agency capable of removing the ills that have so long and so grievously afflicted humanity. For it is assuredly upon the consciousness of the efficacy of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, reinforced on one hand by spiritual communion with His Spirit, and on the other by the intelligent application and the faithful execution of the principles and laws He revealed, that the salvation of a world in travail must ultimately depend. And of all the institutions that stand associated with His Holy Name, surely none save the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár can most adequately provide the essentials of Bahá'í worship and service, both so vital to the regeneration of the world. Therein lies the secret of the loftiness, of the potency, of the unique position of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár
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as one of the outstanding institutions conceived by Bahá'u'lláh.3
The Bahá'í House of Worship is a nine-sided building, symbolic of the number of Bahá.* Bahá'u'lláh has forbidden the display of pictures or statues within its walls and since there are no clergy in the Faith, there are to be no sermons. Another prohibition is the use of musical instruments. Only the human voice may be used in chanting or reading the word of God and glorifying his Name.

The Obligatory Prayer

Bahá'í worship is not limited to a service at the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár. One of the ordinances of Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is the daily obligatory prayer. It is enjoined upon every believer from the age of fifteen to observe this commandment in the privacy of his own chamber. This is one of the rituals of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. But no individual or institution of the Faith has the right to enforce this law. The believer alone is responsible before his God for this act of devotion to Him. In saying the daily obligatory prayer, one must perform all its rites including the turning towards the Qiblih† of the Bahá'í world.

Bahá'u'lláh has revealed three obligatory prayers for the individual and has enjoined on him to recite one of these prayers every day. These are known as the long, the medium and the short obligatory prayers. In the first two Bahá'u'lláh has ordained certain genuflectory actions which are designed to heighten man's devotion and servitude to his Creator.

In order to appreciate the significance of these actions let us recall that the human personality of the Manifestation of God influences the form of the religion He founds. We have

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* see p. 316n.

† literally: point of adoration. The Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh is the Qiblih to which Bahá'ís the world over turn when saying their obligatory prayers.


3. Quoted in The Bahá'í World, vol. III, pp. 159-63.


[three obligatory prayers] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, 92-101
discussed this theme in a previous volume.* To cite one example: we know that the Word of God in its innermost reality is exalted above and independent of any language. It emanates from the Kingdom of Revelation,† and as such it is limitless in its potency and far removed from the material world. However, this spiritual entity is clothed within the mantle of the 'spoken word' which is limited and belongs to the world of man. This is one way in which the personality of the Manifestation of God affects the form of religion. Since Bahá'u'lláh was a native of Persia, the Word of God has been revealed in the Persian and Arabic languages. Had the person of the Manifestation of God been a native of another land, the revealed Word would have assumed a different form altogether.

The effect of the personality of the Manifestation on His religion is not limited to influencing the Word of God. It affects almost every feature of that religion. The genuflectory actions ordained in the obligatory prayers provide an example, for this important religious rite has been formulated and to some extent influenced by the personality of Bahá'u'lláh. These genuflections are intended to convey symbolically man's attitude towards his Lord. The combination of the words uttered with the actions that accompany them will bring about a greater consciousness of the sovereignty of God and of man's impotence and poverty in this life.

The form that these actions take, however, is based in Bahá'u'lláh's own personal background. In the society in which He was brought up, the language was Persian and there were certain expressions which were conveyed by the movements of one's hands or body. Similar to the use of the Persian language in the revelation of the Word of God, Bahá'u'lláh has incorporated these movements, which were known to Him, to express symbolically various feelings such as humility, supplication and servitude to God.

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* see vol. 1, pp. 21-2.

† see vol. 2, pp. 184-5.

Every culture has its own language and customs. The person of the Manifestation of God from the human point of view abides within His own environment. He expresses himself like the rest of His countrymen. In the Persian culture it was customary to raise one's hands towards heaven when supplicating the Lord, or to bend one's body when showing humility or to prostrate oneself before one's God when expressing one's utter nothingness before Him. These actions Bahá'u'lláh has incorporated in the obligatory prayers in order to increase the ardour and devotion of the servant when praying to his Lord and to demonstrate both by words and by action, the loftiness, the grandeur and the glory of God, while recognizing his own station of servitude at His threshold.

Bahá'u'lláh has attached utmost importance to the obligatory prayer. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His Tablets4 describes it as 'the very foundation of the Cause of God' and the 'cause of spiritual life' for the individual. In another Tablet5 He states that the observance of the ordinance of obligatory prayer is binding on all and no excuse is acceptable, except when a person is mentally deranged or is confronted by extraordinary circumstances.

Apart from the obligatory prayers, which are enjoined on all believers, there are many prayers revealed by the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá which are of a different nature and the recital of which do not constitute a religious rite. Their recital is voluntary and can be said whenever the individual is moved to do so, either in private or public.

In Islám it is customary to say the obligatory prayer in congregations. Bahá'u'lláh has forbidden congregational prayers except for the dead. Unlike the obligatory prayer which must be said in private, the special obligatory prayer for the dead is to be recited in congregation. Here we notice the difference between ordinary prayers revealed by the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which may be recited in public, and the obligatory prayer for the dead which is one of the rites of the Bahá'í Faith and Bahá'u'lláh has permitted its recital in

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4. Quoted by Fádil-i-Mázindarání, Amr Va Khalq, vol. 4, p. 92.

5. ibid. p. 93.

public. The word 'congregational' may cause a misunderstanding in that one may assume that the whole congregation must join in unison to recite the prayer. But this is not so. The prayer for the dead is to be recited by one person in the presence of the congregation. On the other hand, there are Tablets or prayers revealed by Bahá'u'lláh or 'Abdu'l-Bahá which in the original language lend themselves to be chanted in unison. But since these are not part of any rite their recital in this manner is not termed congregational.

Work as Worship

Another form of worship which Bahá'u'lláh has ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is one's work, when carried out in the spirit of service to mankind. This teaching is unique in religious history, and is a source of spiritual and material progress.

It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others. Thus hath it been decreed in this Tablet from whose horizon the day-star of wisdom and utterance shineth resplendent.

The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.6

Although the worship of God is the paramount duty of man and the purpose of his life, yet Bahá'u'lláh states in one of His Tablets7 that should a person be occupied with the worship of
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6. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 26.

7. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 4, p. 33.


["It is incumbent..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶33; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4 p. 163
God throughout his life, but devoid of pure deeds and deprived of those spiritual qualities which help promote the Cause of God, his act of worship is of no benefit to him and will produce no result.

The Nineteen Day Feast

Another institution of vital importance which originated from the Báb and was confirmed and established by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is that of the Nineteen Day Feast. Each Bahá'í month,* the members of the Bahá'í community take part in a feast which combines three important features of devotional readings and prayers, of consultation and of fellowship. Bahá'u'lláh states that the main purpose of the Nineteen Day Feast is to create love and unity in the hearts of people.

Abolition of Monasticism and Confession of Sins

In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh categorically condemns mendicancy and asceticism. He strongly disapproves the practice of retiring in solitude, of self-mortification and inflicting hardships upon the body. He affirms that such deeds are not conducive to spiritual gain and have no merit in the sight of God. We have referred to this subject in a previous volume.† In several Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has reiterated this important teaching. In the Kalimát-i-Firdawsíyyih (Words of Paradise) revealed in honour of Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bahá'u'lláh reveals these words:

O people of the earth! Living in seclusion or practising asceticism is not acceptable in the presence of God. It behoveth them that are endued with insight and
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* In the Bahá'í calendar there are 19 months of 19 days. For more information see vol. 1.

† see vol. 2, pp. 25-7.


[Nineteen Day Feast] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶57

[abolition of monasticism] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶36

[Kalimát-i-Firdawsíyyih] The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4, Ch. 15

[confession of sins] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶34

understanding to observe that which will cause joy and radiance. Such practices as are sprung from the loins of idle fancy or are begotten of the womb of superstition ill beseem men of knowledge. In former times and more recently some people have been taking up their abodes in the caves of the mountains while others have repaired to graveyards at night. Say, give ear unto the counsels of this Wronged One. Abandon the things current amongst you and adopt that which the faithful Counsellor biddeth you. Deprive not yourselves of the bounties which have been created for your sake.8
In the Bishárát (Glad-Tidings) Bahá'u'lláh directs the Christian monks to come out of their cloisters and live a life of service to mankind. These are His words:

The pious deeds of the monks and priests among the followers of the Spirit*--upon Him be the peace of God--are remembered in His presence. In this Day, however, let them give up the life of seclusion and direct their steps towards the open world and busy themselves with that which will profit themselves and others. We have granted them leave to enter into wedlock that they may bring forth one who will make mention of God, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of the Exalted Throne.9
Bahá'u'lláh in many of His Writings describes the exalted station of man. He has exhorted him to loftiness of character and whatever will enhance his honour and dignity. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He has forbidden the practice of the confession of sins which is conducive to humiliation for the individual. Instead He has ordained that the sinner should repent to God and seek forgiveness from Him. In one of His Tablets He states:

When the sinner findeth himself wholly detached and freed from all save God, he should beg forgiveness and pardon
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* Jesus.


8. Tablets, p. 71.

9. ibid. p. 24.

from Him. Confession of sins and transgressions before human beings is not permissible, as it hath never been nor will ever be conducive to divine forgiveness. Moreover such confession before people results in one's humiliation and abasement, and God--exalted be His glory--wisheth not the humiliation of His servants. Verily He is the Compassionate, the Merciful. The sinner should, between himself and God, implore mercy from the Ocean of mercy, beg forgiveness from the Heaven of generosity and say:

O God, my God! I implore Thee by the blood of Thy true lovers who were so enraptured by Thy sweet utterance that they hastened unto the Pinnacle of Glory, the site of the most glorious martyrdom, and I beseech Thee by the mysteries which lie enshrined in Thy knowledge and by the pearls that are treasured in the ocean of Thy bounty to grant forgiveness unto me and unto my father and my mother. Of those who show forth mercy, Thou art in truth the Most Merciful. No God is there but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.

O Lord! Thou seest this essence of sinfulness turning unto the ocean of Thy favour and this feeble one seeking the kingdom of Thy divine power and this poor creature inclining himself towards the day-star of Thy wealth. By Thy mercy and Thy grace, disappoint him not, O Lord, nor debar him from the revelations of Thy bounty in Thy days, nor cast him away from Thy door which Thou has opened wide to all that dwell in Thy heaven and on Thine earth.

Alas! Alas! My sins have prevented me from approaching the Court of Thy holiness and my trespasses have caused me to stray far from the Tabernacle of Thy majesty. I have committed that which Thou didst forbid me to do and have put away what Thou didst ordain me to observe.

I pray Thee by Him Who is the sovereign Lord of Names to write down for me with the Pen of Thy bounty that which will enable me to draw nigh unto thee and will purge me from my trespasses which have intervened between me and Thy forgiveness and Thy pardon.

Verily, Thou art the Potent, the Bountiful. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Gracious.10

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10. Tablets, pp. 24-5.
Another practice denounced by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and one that is repugnant to Him is that of using religion and the worship of God for one's own self-advancement. In the past, countless men have used the cloak of religion in order to gain leadership. Some ambitious people posed as holy men in order to win the respect of the community. In this day too there are many who are doing the same. Today the real meanings of piety and holiness have been lost, and instead these words have often become the trademark for the hypocrite disguised in the garb of religion, pretending to be a holy man, while his deeds and private life vastly differ from his words.

For instance, in Persia, the cradle of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, many people have been led to believe that one of the signs of spirituality and holiness is for a religious leader to be muttering the words of the Qur'án as he walks among the public. Often the clergy are seen in the streets to be moving their lips, pretending to be reciting prayers. Bahá'u'lláh has forbidden this practice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Another form of hypocrisy current among many people in Persia in the early days of the Faith was to force a permanent impression of a small prayer tile* on their foreheads in order to advertise their piety to the public. When the ignorant and the fanatic gazed upon one's swollen forehead, they were carried away in adoration of a so-called holy man who had spent so much of his time in prayer prostrating himself so frequently upon the hard prayer tile that a callous had formed on his forehead! Although there must be many religious people who with pure motive live a goodly life, yet the hypocrisy associated with those who pose as pious and holy is widespread.

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* The faithful Muslim praying in the mosque performs certain genuflections. One of these is prostration, when the worshipper lies with face to the ground as a token of submission and humility. There is a custom among Shí'ah Muslims when they lie prostrate, to place their foreheads upon a small tile supposed to be made of holy dust gathered from the vicinity of one of their shrines.

In His teachings, Bahá'u'lláh places paramount importance upon purity of motive and sincerity in one's thoughts and actions. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He enumerates some of the virtues that must adorn a human soul:

Adorn your heads with the garlands of trustworthiness and fidelity, your hearts with the attire of the Fear of God, your tongues with absolute truthfulness, your bodies with the vesture of courtesy. These are in truth seemly adornings unto the temple of man, if ye be of them that reflect. Cling, O ye people of Bahá, to the cord of servitude unto God, the True One, for thereby your stations shall be made manifest, your names written and preserved, your ranks raised and your memory exalted in the Preserved Tablet. Beware lest the dwellers on earth hinder you from this glorious and exalted station. Thus have We exhorted you in most of our Epistles and now in this, Our Holy Tablet, above which hath beamed the Day-star of the Laws of the Lord, your God, the Powerful, the All-Wise.11
In the Hidden Words, He rebukes the 'ulamá in these words:

O ye that are foolish, yet have a name to be wise! Wherefore do ye wear the guise of shepherds, when inwardly ye have become wolves, intent upon My flock? Ye are even as the star, which riseth ere the dawn, and which, though it seem radiant and luminous, leadeth the wayfarers of My city astray into the paths of perdition.12

O ye seeming fair yet inwardly foul! Ye are like clear but bitter water, which to outward seeming is crystal pure but of which, when tested by the divine Assayer, not a drop is accepted. Yea, the sun beam falls alike upon the dust and the mirror, yet differ they in reflection even as doth the star from the earth: nay, immeasurable is the difference!13

In another passage He indicates that in this Dispensation nothing but pure deeds will be acceptable to God:

O my friends! Quench ye the lamp of error, and kindle within your hearts the everlasting torch of divine guidance.
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11. Synopsis, p. 24.

12. Persian no. 24.

13. Persian no. 25.


["Adorn your heads..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶120

For ere long the assayers of mankind shall, in the holy presence of the Adored, accept naught but purest virtue and deeds of stainless holiness.14
Health and Medicine: Lawh-i-Tibb (Tablet of Medicine)

In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh states that God has created the means for the achievement of everything in this life. He urges the people to use them. For instance, He directs His followers to consult a skilled physician when ill. In this example medicine is the means by which an ill person may recover from his illness. Similarly, there are means through which man may overcome his poverty, ignorance, or any other problem.

Of course, prayer plays an important part in the life of man, but prayer without action has little or no effect at all. The two must go hand-in-hand. By adhering to the means for achieving a goal, and by drawing on the power of God through prayer, one's efforts will become crowned with success. The sick person should follow the advice of a skilled physician by taking the remedy, and at the same time praying for healing.

Bahá'u'lláh has clearly stated that through prayer the sick person may recover from his illness, and has revealed several healing prayers; but He has not made the spiritual approach to healing an alternative to a doctor's prescription. In order to emphasize this point Bahá'u'lláh, in most cases, ordered His companions to seek the advice of a doctor when they were ill, rather than healing them through His divine powers. He also told them to pray for the sick person and when the members of His own family were taken ill, He asked for a doctor to come.

It must also be pointed out that while Bahá'u'lláh emphasizes the importance of prayers for the sick, He does not advocate any other method of spiritual healing such as those practised by faith healers or similar practitioners. In answer to a question by an individual, Shoghi Effendi writes through his secretary:

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14. Persian no. 35.
There is no such thing as Bahá'í healers or a Bahá'í type of healing. In His Most Holy Book (the Aqdas) Bahá'u'lláh says to consult the best physicians, in other words, doctors who have studied a scientific system of medicine; he never gave us to believe that He himself would heal us through 'healers', but rather through prayer and the assistance of medicine and approved treatments.15
Bahá'u'lláh teaches that the science of medicine and the art of healing must be developed. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that the science of medicine will be so perfected in the future that most diseases will be treated with foods, herbs and natural remedies. Although it is not the main mission of Bahá'u'lláh to give guidance on matters dealing with food and health--a role which must be played by science in this age--He has nevertheless given some basic advice about diet and hygiene.

In the Tablet known as the Lawh-i-Tibb (Tablet of Medicine) revealed in honour of Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridáy-i-Tabíb, a physician from Yazd, Bahá'u'lláh advocates medical treatment when it is necessary, recommends treating the patient first through diet and resorting to medicine if the former proves ineffective. In this Tablet He enumerates some of the basic prescriptions for good health and gives some dietary advice.* He also stresses the importance of contentment under all circumstances for good health, asserts that grief and sorrow will cause man the greatest misery and warns that jealousy will consume the body while anger will burn the liver. In this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh exhorts the physician to heal the patient by first turning to God and seeking His assistance, and then prescribing the remedy. He affirms that a physician who has recognized Him and has become filled with His love will exert such an influence that his mere visit will restore health to the patient.

Indeed Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá, for whom this Tablet

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* These counsels are not discussed here because they would open up some important medical subjects which are beyond the scope and purpose of this book.


15. Letter of 8 June 1948.
was revealed, lived up to these high ideals. Of him, Hájí Muhammad Táhir-i-Málmírí writes:

One of the early believers who embraced the Faith when Siyyid Yahyáy-i-Dárábí, known as Vahíd,* came to Yazd, was Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridáy-i-Tabíb. He was a skilled and distinguished physician, and an embodiment of grace and steadfastness. The Pen of the Most High revealed the Lawh-i-Tibb in his honour. In that exalted Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh states that the mere visit of a physician who has drunk deep of the wine of His love will cure the patient. Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá was truly the fulfilment of these words of Bahá'u'lláh. He used to cure the patient by administering very simple remedies. Truly, he possessed wonderful qualities which made him a very special person in the community of the Most Great Name. Owing to his intense piety he became highly disturbed when Mírzá Yahyá broke the Covenant. As a result he was bewildered and stunned; he even became hesitant in the Cause for a short time. Then it was as though Divine Providence sent Mullá Zaynu'l-'Ábidín, a native of Najafábád (he was entitled by Bahá'u'lláh as Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín†) to Yazd in order to calm his agitation and dispel his doubts. Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín at first stayed in the house of this servant in the district of Málamír, but when he learned of the intense anguish and distress that Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá was subjected to, he changed his residence and stayed in his home instead. Consequently, Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá became fully aware of the circumstances of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.‡ He later received many Tablets from the Pen of the Most High, and served the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh with devotion and love till the end of his life. He was about eighty years old when he passed away.16
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* see vol. 1, Appendix III.

† see vol. 1, pp. 25-6.

‡ In the early days of the Faith, in the absence of proper communication, the Bábís were easily misled by rumours and false propaganda. There was nothing more assuring than meeting those who were truly learned and had first-hand knowledge of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.


16. Unpublished memoirs.
In the Lawh-i-Tibb Bahá'u'lláh praises the science of medicine as being the most meritorious of all sciences, and states that it is the means which God has created for the wellbeing of mankind. And it is at the end of this Tablet that He reveals one of His most celebrated healing prayers:

Thy Name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succour in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
Also in this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh states the importance of courage and steadfastness in His Cause as well as wisdom in teaching it. He categorically affirms that if the believers had faithfully carried out His commandments, the majority of the peoples of the world would have embraced His Faith in His days.

No reference to medicine and its role in healing would be complete without mentioning the power of the Holy Spirit which is exclusive to the Manifestations of God, a power that can heal without any physical means. This is the power that Christ possessed and that Bahá'u'lláh manifested fully in this day. There were many occasions when Bahá'u'lláh or 'Abdu'l-Bahá, upon whom the same powers were conferred, brought miraculous healing to a person when doctors had failed.

Although Bahá'u'lláh has forbidden His followers to attribute miracles to Him, nevertheless there are many accounts left to posterity by His disciples, describing the circumstances in which He either healed incurables or raised the dead. We have described one such case in the previous volume.* But none of these supernatural acts were considered by His followers to be a proof of the truth of His Cause, as otherwise this would amount to the degradation of His exalted station.

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* see vol. 1, pp. 290-91.

'Abdu'l-Bahá also possessed this power. Dr Yúnis Khán,* a distinguished and trusted secretary of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and one of the Heralds of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, writes an interesting account in his memoirs. The following is a summary of his reminiscences:

I heard 'Abdu'l-Bahá many times speaking about the subject of medicine: He used to say that Jináb-i-Kalím (Bahá'u'lláh's faithful brother) was very knowledgeable in herbal medicine and used to practise it. In the early days 'Abdu'l-Bahá also used to prescribe medicine to those who came to him for healing. But later Bahá'u'lláh directed Him not to prescribe for patients, so that the believers might turn to the medical profession and not form the habit of seeking medical advice from unqualified people. This advice was given by Bahá'u'lláh so that His injunction in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to consult a skilled physician might be realized.

Although we all knew that because of this particular commandment in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the healer of spiritual ills, would not consent to prescribe for a physical sickness, yet whenever the doctor's treatment failed to cure, the patient used to turn to the Master and beg for healing from the One who was the Healer of all ills. And since the compassionate nature of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was such that He could not withhold help from an individual who turned to Him, in such cases He would, as a matter of principle, employ some means to cure the patient. This He did by offering some remedy and thus conferring healing on the individual. More surprising is the fact that whereas the believers acted with some restraint, the non-Bahá'í public who were not aware of the real situation used to come to Him for healing more often, and none of them left feeling disappointed.

One of the remedial means which was at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's disposal and which He offered to many a sick person, was a

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* For a brief account of his life and service to the Cause see The Bahá'í World, vol. XII, pp. 679-81. The title 'Herald of the Covenant' was sometimes given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi to outstanding promoters of the Covenant.

delicious sauce made from pomegranates. The fruit had been grown in the Garden of Ridván in 'Akká. To whomsoever 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave this sauce, whether a believer or a non-Bahá'í, He would say that the pomegranates had grown on trees in the Garden of Ridván, trees which had been blessed by Bahá'u'lláh's eyes. But what were the circumstances which produced healing? Was it an inherent nature of the patient to be cured, was the cure the result of taking the sauce, or was it purely through the will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá? I do not know the answer, but one thing I know that it was proved time and time again that this delicious fruit sauce was the remedy for many an illness! This was one of the topics often discussed among the believers in the Pilgrim House.

Another prescription which 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave to some was that of fasting or cutting down on certain foods. But there was another method which 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the healer of man's spiritual ills, would use. And that was healing without any means...Once I was cured by Him without any material means. This is the story:

During the time that Dr. Arastú Khán was in 'Akká and staying in the Pilgrim House, I became ill...Although this illness lasted for a long time and the pain was intolerable, I did not ask 'Abdu'l-Bahá for a cure. Instead Dr. Arastú Khán treated me and used all the tricks he knew. But I was no better...One night I experienced an excruciating pain which was beyond endurance. All the pilgrims who heard my groaning became so weary that although it was two hours after midnight, we all agreed to despatch Áqá Muhammad-Hasan, the caretaker of the Pilgrim House, to the house of the Master, and beg for healing. This was done. I do not know whether His blessed Person was asleep or awake at the time. The only thing I know is that when Áqá Muhammad-Hasan had returned, I was in a deep sleep. When I woke up in the afternoon, there was no pain, and in the evening I felt able to walk. For about twenty-five days I had been ill and the last few days confined to bed. During this period I had been deprived of attaining the presence of the Master. So I walked slowly towards His house. I met

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Him on the road where I attained His presence. He asked about my health and showered His bounties and grace upon me. I felt it was an opportune moment to beg Him to grant me complete recovery. This I did. He said, 'Very well, but you ought to have a blood-letting operation, either by using a cupping-glass or by phlebotomy.'*

The word cupping-glass frightened me, and like a spoiled child, I pulled up my shoulders and screwed up my face, meaning that I could not bear a knife or a cupping glass! Seeing me in this mode, He said in an amused voice, 'Good gracious, man, I want to send you to face the swords of the enemies and you are afraid of a cupping-glass!'

Being outspoken and known for my blabbing habits, I ventured to say jokingly, 'When that happens, God will show his benevolence to me! But if I wanted to use the cupping-glass as a means of recovery, why would I come to your presence and beg for healing from you?' He smiled...and that was the final remedy for me. I was healed without any material means.17

One of Bahá'u'lláh's injunctions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is immaculate cleanliness. He calls on His followers to become the embodiment of purity among the peoples of the world. Although this commandment of Bahá'u'lláh relates to physical cleanliness, and therefore is conducive to man's dignity and distinction, it exerts an appreciable influence on his spiritual state. For outward cleanliness is a sign of spiritual purity and liveliness. In every stage of His life, whether in prison or in freedom, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Exemplar of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, lived up to this important teaching. One of His striking features to which friends and foes have paid glowing tribute, was His spotless cleanliness and His outward appearance.

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* The cupping-glass is an old method of blood-letting. A cut is made in some part of the body, usually in the back, then bleeding takes place by applying a glass vessel with open mouth to the skin and forming a partial vacuum which helps to suck the blood out. Phlebotomy is another old method of blood-letting by cutting the vein.


17. Khátirát-i-Nuh-Sáliy-i-'Akká, p. 336.
In His Writings Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined upon His followers spotless chastity for both men and women. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He reiterates this important moral issue. At a time when the forces of irreligion are sweeping across the world and standards of morality are declining, the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh on chastity shine as a light in darkness. The exhortations in the following passages gleaned from one of His Tablets demonstrate the highest standard of morality which He inculcates in His followers:

Say, he is not to be numbered with the people of Bahá who followeth his mundane desires, or fixeth his heart on things of the earth. He is my true follower who, if he come to a valley of pure gold will pass straight through it aloof as a cloud, and will neither turn back, nor pause. Such a man is assuredly of Me. From his garment the Concourse on high can inhale the fragrance of sanctity...And if he met the fairest and most comely of women, he would not feel his heart seduced by the least shadow of desire for her beauty. Such an one indeed is the creation of spotless chastity. Thus instructeth you the Pen of the Ancient of Days, as bidden by your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful.18
Having surveyed the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, has summarized some of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on this subject. These are his conclusions:

A chaste and holy life must be made the controlling principle in the behaviour and conduct of all Bahá'ís, both in their social relations with the members of their own community, and in their contact with the world at large. It must adorn and reinforce the ceaseless labours and meritorious exertions of those whose enviable position is to propagate the Message, and to administer the affairs, of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. It must be upheld, in all its integrity and implications, in every phase of the life of those who fill the ranks of that Faith, whether in their homes, their travels, their clubs, their societies, their entertainments, their
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18. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 26-7.
schools, and their universities. It must be accorded special consideration in the conduct of the social activities of every Bahá'í summer school and any other occasions on which Bahá'í community life is organized and fostered. It must be closely and continually identified with the mission of the Bahá'í Youth, both as an element in the life of the Bahá'í community, and as a factor in the future progress and orientation of the youth of their own country.

Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one's carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. It requires total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs. It condemns the prostitution of art and of literature, the practices of nudism and of companionate marriage, infidelity in marital relationships, and all manner of promiscuity, of easy familiarity, and of sexual vices. It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age. Nay rather it seeks to demonstrate, through the dynamic force of its example, the pernicious character of such theories, the falsity of such standards, the hollowness of such claims, the perversity of such habits, and the sacrilegious character of such excesses.19

Marriage

Bahá'u'lláh has encouraged the people to enter into matrimony and has affirmed it to be a cause of well-being and unity among the children of men. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He states:

Enter into wedlock, O people, that ye may bring forth one who will make mention of Me...20
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19. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 25.

20. Synopsis. p. 17.


["Enter into wedlock..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶63

As indicated in this passage, the main purpose of marriage according to Bahá'í teachings is procreation.

To promote unity and avoid disagreement between families, Bahá'u'lláh has ordained that after the consent of both parties which is an essential element in marriage, the couple must obtain the consent of their natural parents as well. Without the latter a Bahá'í marriage cannot take place. The Bahá'í marriage ceremony is a very simple and moving experience. At present it is conducted under the auspices of Spiritual Assemblies.

Bahá'í teachings emphasize that a true marriage is one that creates a union between man and wife on both the physical and the spiritual levels. Such a marriage becomes an eternal partnership and brings happiness and joy to the hearts. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His Tablets writes:

Marriage, among the mass of the people, is a physical bond, and this union can only be temporary, since it is foredoomed to a physical separation at the close.

Among the people of Bahá, however, marriage must be a union of the body and of the spirit as well, for here both husband and wife are aglow with the same wine, both are enamoured of the same matchless Face, both live and move through the same spirit, both are illumined by the same glory. This connection between them is a spiritual one, hence it is a bond that will abide forever. Likewise do they enjoy strong and lasting ties in the physical world as well, for if the marriage is based both on the spirit and the body, that union is a true one, hence it will endure. If, however, the bond is physical and nothing more, it is sure to be only temporary, and must inexorably end in separation.

When, therefore, the people of Bahá undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God.21

And again:

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21. Selections, p. 117.
Bahá'í marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity...

The true marriage of Bahá'ís is this, that the husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God. This is Bahá'í marriage.22

Music: 'Spiritual Food of the Hearts and Souls'

In Islámic communities music had been condemned by the clergy because they considered it to be conducive to pleasure and leading man to lust. In Persia, during the early days of the Faith, musicians were denounced by religious leaders as agents of Satan. The stigma attached to music was so distasteful that musicians had to hide their instruments in public. At weddings, for instance, people had to observe some religious rites in the presence of the clergy. But it was a well-known secret that the musicians were waiting in another room and when the Mullá's performance was finished and he had left, they came out to play their instruments and make merry.

The following story serves to illustrate the severity with which the clergy dealt with anyone who indulged in this art. In the bazaars in Persia there are shops selling kebab. The meat was placed on a wooden board and had to be chopped and then minced with a very large and heavy chopping knife which usually had to be held by its two ends. When the chopping knife hit the meat on the board, it made a loud noise. In a busy shop at least one man would be engaged from morning till night doing this work.

There was a man in the city of Yazd who was working in this

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22. Selections, p. 118.
capacity in such a shop, but he was a merry man at heart and loved music, so as he hit the board he cleverly used to produce a rhythm. Though not more than a mere thumping sound, it was attractive to the ear. This, combined with the rhythmic movement of his body, made an interesting spectacle for the passer-by. For some time there was controversy over this man and his way of mincing the meat! Eventually, one of the mujtahids* of Yazd decided to put an end to this sacrilegious act! The poor man was summoned and warned that he would be severely punished if he continued this practice.

Within such a society, Bahá'u'lláh declares in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas that music is a means by which the spirit of man may experience upliftment and joy. These are His words in that Book:

We have permitted you to listen to music and singing. Beware lest such listening cause you to transgress the bounds of decency and dignity. Rejoice in the joy of My Most Great Name through which the hearts are enchanted and the minds of the well-favoured are attracted.

We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high. Change it not into wings for self and passion. I seek refuge in God that you be not of the ignorant.23

'Abdu'l-Bahá too has praised music and singing, in several Tablets. In one of these He writes:

This wonderful age has rent asunder the veils of superstition and has condemned the prejudice of the people of the East.

Among some of the nations of the Orient, music and harmony was not approved of, but the Manifested Light, Bahá'u'lláh, in this glorious period has revealed in Holy Tablets that singing and music are the spiritual food of the hearts and souls. In this dispensation, music is one of the arts that is highly approved and is considered to be the cause of the exaltation of sad and desponding hearts.

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* Doctor of Islámic law.


23. Bahá'í Writings on Music, p. 3.


["We have made it lawful..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶51

Therefore...set to music the verses and the divine words so that they may be sung with soul-stirring melody in the Assemblies and gatherings, and that the hearts of the listeners may become tumultuous and rise towards the Kingdom of Abhá in supplication and prayer.24
'That No One Should Exalt Himself over the Other'

In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh censures in very strong terms all acts of strife, contention and violence. He absolutely forbids His followers to engage in anything from which the odour of mischief and sedition can be detected. He counsels them never to sow the seeds of dissension or to foment discord among men. Bahá'u'lláh's commandments in this respect are uncompromising. He categorically states that any mischief-maker or stirrer-up of sedition is not of Him and cannot claim allegiance to His Cause.

Bahá'u'lláh enjoins love and unity towards the peoples of the world regardless of their background. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, He reveals these words:

Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended.25
And in the same book Bahá'u'lláh warns His followers not to show pride or haughtiness to anyone, and reminds them that all humanity has come into being from the same substance, and that all shall return to dust. He urges them therefore not to prefer themselves to their neighbours, nor to wish for others what they do not wish for themselves.

One of Bahá'u'lláh's prohibitions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is slave trading. For thousands of years people took slaves. With the

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24. Bahá'í World Faith, p. 378.

25. Synopsis, p. 25.


["Consort with all religions..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶144

[trading in slaves] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶72

coming of Bahá'u'lláh, however, God released in the world the forces of unity, and proclaimed the equality of human rights. These have now become the spirit of the age and humanity has come a long way during the last hundred years, abandoning the age-long practice of slavery. In forbidding slavery, Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas simply states that it is not proper for a man to buy another man. For all are the servants of the one true God and are equal in His sight.

In the Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh thus admonishes the peoples of the world:

O Children of Men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you. O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.26
And again:

O Brethren! Be forbearing one with another and set not your affection on things below. Pride not yourselves in your glory, and be not ashamed of abasement. By My beauty! I have created all things from dust, and to dust will I return them again.27
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26. Arabic no. 68.

27. Persian no. 48.