10

Glad-Tidings to All Peoples

Bishárát

It has not been possible so far to identify the person for whom the Tablet of Bishárát (Glad-Tidings) was revealed.* On the other hand, Bahá'u'lláh after the preamble, addresses the peoples of the world. The tone of His utterances throughout the Tablet indicate that possibly it was addressed to mankind as a whole and not to a particular individual.

In this Tablet there are fifteen headings, each one designated as a Bishárát. Many of the subjects addressed relate to existing beliefs, to practices carried out by the followers of past religions. The first of these Glad-tidings is the abolition of the law of holy war practised by the Muslims. The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, all revolving around the principle of love and unity among the peoples of the world, are utterly incompatible with war of any kind. In most of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has clearly stated that any action which could bring about coolness between people or cause unhappiness among them is unacceptable in the sight of God today.

In a Tablet1 He describes the qualification of a true believer by saying: he is to be counted among the 'People of Bahá', who when retiring at night can say that his heart is completely devoid of any trace of hate or enmity towards his fellowman, and who in his prayers he is a well-wisher of all that dwell on earth. Among the

161

* This Tablet has been translated in full into English and published in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 21-9.


1. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 27, p. 491.
followers of former religions there are many who shun members of other Faiths; Bahá'u'lláh has ordained the opposite. He declares in the Tablet of Bishárát:

O people! Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.2
In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh advocates the adoption of a universal language, advises the sovereigns of the world or their ministers* to choose a new or an existing language for the purpose, confirms the establishment of the Lesser Peace,† exhorts His followers to honesty and truthfulness towards the governments of the world, recommends constitutional monarchy in preference to a presidential system‡ and permits the study of arts and sciences which 'would redound to the progress and advancement of the people'. That Bahá'u'lláh uses the word 'permission' for the study of sciences is due to the fact that the Muslim clergy in their fanaticism had forbidden the study of modern science. They claimed that such sciences were satanic as they had originated from those who did not believe in Islám.

One of the Glad-tidings concerning some of the duties of the Universal House of Justice is cited also in the Lawh-i-Ishráqát. Occasionally in some of His writings, Bahá'u'lláh includes passages from Tablets previously revealed, often with slight changes.§

One of the great bounties of this Dispensation is that Bahá'u'lláh has abolished the practice of idleness in the name of religion. There are many who think that a godly and spiritual person is one who renounces the world, leads an ascetic life and goes into seclusion. These practices are against the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. In many of His Tablets He has stated that leading a cloistered life is not conducive to spirituality; it has the opposite effect. There are also a group of people, among them religious

162

* see above, p. 159.

† see above, p. 159.

‡ for further discussion of this subject see vol. 3, pp. 156-61.

§ see below, pp. 372-4.


2. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 22.
leaders, who spend many hours a day reciting the Holy Books or indulging in various acts of worship. Bahá'u'lláh states in one of His Tablets:3 should a person spend all his life worshipping God, but be deprived of those virtues and qualities which help to exalt His Cause, all his acts of worship are void in the sight of God. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that every person must take an interest in this life, work for the betterment of human affairs and continuously strive to serve his fellow men. He has indeed exalted work carried out in the spirit of service to the rank of worship. These are His exalted words in the Tablet of Bishárát:

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.4
And again:

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

163

* Jesus Christ.


3. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 4, p. 33.

4. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 24.


["It is incumbent..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶33; Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3 p. 351;
of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.5
Another practice abrogated by Bahá'u'lláh is that of the confession of sins which is practised in some Christian churches. These are His own words revealed in the Tablet of Bishárát:

When the sinner findeth himself wholly detached and freed from all save God, he should beg forgiveness and pardon 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...6
Another custom of which Bahá'u'lláh disapproves is that of undertaking long journeys to the resting-places of the dead. The majority of Muslims consider this practice to be conducive to the forgiveness of sins and regard it as a means of winning the good-pleasure of God. They call upon the dead to act as an intermediary for them and fulfil their wishes in this life. In olden days there was considerable traffic to the various cities in which the tombs of saints were located. A number of travellers were poor and often had to walk long distances covering hundreds of miles. Bahá'u'lláh states that 'if the people of substance and affluence offer the cost of such journeys to the House of Justice, it will be pleasing and acceptable in the presence of God'.

Bahá'u'lláh's disapproval of special journeys to visit the graves of the dead does not mean that there is no spiritual value in praying at the resting-place of the departed. On the contrary, the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh emphasize the great blessings which may descend upon the individual through the influence of the departed holy souls. In one of His Tablets7 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that a person may become the recipient of the confirmations of

164


5. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 26.

6. ibid. p. 24.

7. Quoted by A. Sulaymání, Masábih-i-Hidáyat, vol. 1, p. 488.

Bahá'u'lláh when he prays at the graveside of a holy soul because that soul is endowed with divine bounties. In another Tablet8 He states that the resting-places of the holy souls deserve to be honoured and respected. But the honour is not given to the earth, rather it is intended for the soul which is sanctified from all material things. However, since the soul was once associated with the body, it is only natural that we respect the earthly remains of holy ones. But it is not proper to seek assistance and confirmations from any source except from the Blessed Beauty.

In a Tablet9 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains the difference between travelling from country to country with the specific intention of visiting graves of the departed (which is the act disapproved by Bahá'u'lláh) and that of visiting those which are accessible to the individual either in his own country or if he comes across them elsewhere, a practice which is encouraged by the teachings of the Faith. Visits, for instance, to the graves of the martyrs or great teachers of the Faith are conducive to attracting divine bounties. Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have both revealed several Tablets of visitation for specific individuals after their death, which are intended to be recited at their graveside. And in some cases 'Abdu'l-Bahá has asked certain individual Bahá'ís to visit the grave of a devoted believer and chant a special Tablet of visitation on His behalf.

The prohibition by Bahá'u'lláh of making special long journeys to the resting-places of the dead does not in any way refer to pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines of the Faith which normally requires the pilgrim to travel long distances. On the contrary, Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined formal pilgrimages* to the House of the Báb in Shíráz and that of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, and has ordained the performance of certain rituals in connection with these pilgrimages. The pilgrimage to the Shrines of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb is free from these rites and is considered as one of the greatest bounties which the soul may receive on this earth.

Another law which Bahá'u'lláh has abolished in the Tablet of

165

* see vol. 2, p. 240.


8. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 2, p. 105.

9. ibid. p. 88.

Bishárát is the destruction of Books. This is a reference to the Báb's advice in the Bayán to destroy the Books of the past, on the basis that a new Revelation includes everything from the past and that Books of past Dispensations become abrogated by the advent of the new. Some of the laws ordained by the Báb are harsh and severe. This is because of the nature of His Mission, which was to release enormous spiritual energies within an unusually short Dispensation. It was similar to applying a mighty force to an object in one short stroke. The effect of the Báb's Revelation in Persia proved to be so dynamic, and His influence so revolutionary, that within a very short period of time the whole country was stirred to its depths. The laws of the Qur'án were abrogated at a stroke. The prophetic cycle within which several Manifestations of God had appeared was now closed and new laws, some of them severe, were enjoined, but at the same time the promise of the imminent advent of the Day of God was given unequivocally, and consequently great excitement and a deep sense of awe and wonder filled the hearts of His faithful followers. Actually many of the laws were not carried out, partly because circumstances did not permit it, and partly because the Dispensation came to an end within a very short period of time. The abrogation of the old laws and the severity of the new ones made a deep impression on the Bábís, galvanized them into action and prepared the way for the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.

Shoghi Effendi has made the following comment on the severity of some of the laws of the Báb.

...The severe laws and injunctions revealed by the Báb can be properly appreciated and understood only when interpreted in the light of His own statements regarding the nature, purpose and character of His own Dispensation. As these statements clearly reveal, the Bábí Dispensation was essentially in the nature of a religious and indeed social revolution, and its duration had therefore to be short, but full of tragic events, of sweeping and drastic reforms. These drastic measures enforced by the Báb and His followers were taken with the view of undermining the very foundations of Shí'ah orthodoxy, and
166

thus paving the way for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh. To assert the independence of the new Dispensation, and to prepare also the ground for the approaching Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh the Báb had therefore to reveal very severe laws, even though most of them were never enforced. But the mere fact that He revealed them was in itself a proof of the independent character of His Dispensation and was sufficient to create such widespread agitation, and excite such opposition on the part of the clergy that led them to cause His eventual martyrdom.10
Bahá'u'lláh's closing remarks in the Lawh-i-Bishárát are indicative of the importance of this and similar Tablets revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Tablets which set out basic teachings and principles of His Faith.

In former religions such ordinances as holy war, destruction of books, the ban on association and companionship with other peoples or on reading certain books had been laid down and affirmed according to the exigencies of the time; however, in this mighty Revelation, in this momentous Announcement, the manifold bestowals and favours of God have overshadowed all men, and from the horizon of the Will of the Ever-Abiding Lord, His infallible decree hath prescribed that which We have set forth above.

We yield praise unto God--hallowed and glorified be He--for whatsoever He hath graciously revealed in this blessed, this glorious and incomparable Day. Indeed if everyone on earth were endowed with a myriad tongues and were to continually praise God and magnify His Name to the end that knoweth no end, their thanksgiving would not prove adequate for even one of the gracious favours We have mentioned in this Tablet. Unto this beareth witness every man of wisdom and discernment, of understanding and knowledge.11

167


10. Dawn of a New Day, pp. 77-8.

11. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 28.