Quotations from the Holy Qur’an

Most westerners and most Christians, and probably most followers of all other religions don’t read the Qur’an.  I remember clearly over thirty years ago during a very short stay in a youth hostel in northern Israel meeting a young American visitor who was reading the Qur’an and eager to finish the Book.  I remember him saying that he found nothing very special about the contents.  It is as if there was nothing new in that Holy Book that he didn’t already know.  That was one man’s opinion.

In general though those who are not Moslems are not familiar with the Qur’an.  Baha’is on the other hand have been exposed to quotations from the Holy Qur’an found within their own Holy Writings.  As an exemple, let us glimpse through The Tablets of the Divine Plan, by ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

In those letters or Tablets written to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada one finds references to the Bible on the one hand, and to the Qur’an on the other.  Those quotations from the Holy Bible are references to the call to “preach” to every creature, to plant the “seed” into the “good ground”, and references to the “kingdom” of God.

Similar images appear in the quotations from the Qur’an in the above-mentioned Tablets: “The soil was black and dried.  Then we caused the rain to descend upon it and immediately it became green, verdant, and every kind of plant sprouted up luxuriantly” (Qur’an 22:5) and “O ‘Ali! If God guide, through thee, one soul, it is better for thee than all the riches!” (Qur’an 1:6).

The similarity and closeness of all Holy Books is evident when one compares Mathew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven” with the Qur’an 28:5: “And we desire to show favor to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make of them our heirs.”  Both quotations are found in the Tablets of the Divine Plan.

The imagery in all Holy Books connects the world of nature with the world of the spirit.  When addressing the believers of the northeastern States ‘Abdu’l-Baha wishing to underscore the bounty given to all in order to diffuse the teachings (“divine fragrances”) quotes the following text from the Qur’an “God is the light of heaven and earth: the similitude of His light is a niche in a wall, wherein a lamp is placed, and the lamp enclosed in a case of glass; the glass appears as if it were a shining star.  It is lighted with the oil of a Blessed Tree, an olive neither of the East, nor of the Weste; it wanteth little but that the oil therof would give light, although no fire touched it.  This is the light added unto light.  God will unto His light whom He pleaseth” (Qur’an  24:35).

And finally as we enter a new era in world undertakings, and as the unity of mankind under one order and one “common faith” becomes a pre-requisite for world peace and stability, ‘Abdu’l-Baha quotes this verse at the beginning of His letter to the believers of both the United States and Canada: “Take ye hold of the Cord of God, all of you, and become yet not disunited.” (Qur’an: 3:103)

 

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The Sermon on the Mount

In my impressive Rembrandt edition of the Holy Bible, a gift from my close friend in the United States given to me over thirty years ago, the “Sermon on the Mount” (Saint Mathew: 5,6, 7) is reproduced twice, the second time as a special insert written in calligraphic style with beautiful flowery borders, certainly to emphasize the fact that those words of Jesus Christ offer the essentials of Christian belief.

I am writing on the this marvelous Sermon to point out that one does not hear that Sermon as much as one hears of “human” sermons that expound on important themes but that do not emphasize that the key of Christian Faith are the words found in the Sermon on the Mount, Holy words that in general are either forgotten, set aside or not duly emphasized. And yet it is because of the lack of efforts worldwide to apply those moral teachings that have brought the world to a relative state of spiritual chaos and unbelief.

We are all invited to read the Sermon.  I will quote passages of beauty that this Sunday should be brought to light for meditation:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”

 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”

 “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men”

 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”

 “And every one that heareth these saying of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it”

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The Hidden Words

Not long ago, this short volume from Baha’u’llah’s Writings, written in 1858, was the subject of a one-year study on Sunday mornings by a group of friends.  The participants read and commented on each of the short “paragraphs”, identified by number in the Arabic section (71), and in the Persian section (82).

These verses read like poems, they are for the most part very short, to the point, and contain truths, principles and counsels, and they announce the coming of the Most Holy Book, the Book of laws.

The first and only observation we are tempted to make here is that the contrast between the two sections is striking, insofar as the names God uses to refer to his creatures.  After all the whole point of religion and divine revelation is for God to “speak” to mankind, to educate him, to guide him, and to show either pleasure or displeasure at certain behaviors.

In the Arabic section Baha’u’llah address the reader in three distinct but connected ways, one is tempted to say “neutral”: “O son of spirit”, “O Son of man” and “O Son of being” appear in most of the paragraphs.  Here and there one finds just single instances where man is addressed as “O son of the throne”, or “O son of the supreme” or even “o son of the wondrous vision” etc.  And here again God appears to a reader as not being Unhappy with his creation.

However in the Persian section one notes a different tone, judging by the manner in which man is addressed.  In this section God alternates between pleasure and displeasure: on the one hand man is addressed as “O my friend”, “O comrades”, “O dwellers of my paradise” and “O companion of my throne”, but for the most part it is as if man was lost in a world of desire and passion, and was in a state of negligence and rebellion.  In that latter vein one reads: “O rebellious ones”, “O children of vainglory”, “O son of fancy”, “O heedless ones”, “O oppressors on earth”, “O children of desire”, “O moving form of dust” etc.

This is of course scratching the surface of this masterpiece of concision.  This is not supposed to be a work of literature (although it is pure beauty, whether in Arabic, Persian or even in English translation).  It is a compendium of basic truths and counsels.  And yet it sets the path of virtue and salvation, and whether God in His Love, Mercy or Wrath speaks what matters in the end is for man to know where he stands and where he wishes to end.

Posted in Baha'i, Divine Authority, God, Holy Writings, Laws, Revelation of Baha'u'llah, Truth, Wisdom | 2 Comments

Wealth

Years ago I came across a quotation in the Writings, found in an older edition not available today, that implied, I thought, that we should all strive for riches.  The actual word was “wealth”.  Now that I have found the quotation in a new edition “wealth” is beginning to look as just a fair income that one acquires through work:

man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty. Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable…”

The Baha’i Writings refer to two kinds of wealth, and both appear necessary.  The one is material: “The beginning of magnanimity is when man expendeth his wealth on himself, on his family and on the poor among his brethren in his Faith”, and this wealth is to be used for the well-being of those close to us.  And when that wealth is probably adequate, although I am not sure if that needs be the case,  then we are encouraged to be “generous”: “Be generous in your days of plenty, and be patient in the hour of loss”, and also, in a different Tablet, another quote that I repeat to myself  very often:  “Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity”.

And yet one reads elsewhere about a second kind of wealth, the spiritual wealth.   We are told, if I am reading the Writings correctly, that the spiritual wealth should be our primary concern: “The essence of wealth is love for Me; whoso loveth Me is the possessor of all things, and he that loveth Me not is indeed of the poor and needy”,  “Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches” “Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.”

The two need not contradict each other.  It would be great to have wealth, and why not riches, but then again could one remain wealthy spiritually? We therefore should strive on the one hand for balance, on the other for focus, and that is the beauty of the Writings of Baha’u’llah.

Posted in Baha'i, Detachment, Faith, God, Holy Writings, Individuals, Revelation of Baha'u'llah, Spiritual Qualities, Wisdom | 1 Comment

Desires and expectations

In trying to further understand the nature of “imaginings”, and why they tend to be perceived as negative constructs and referred to in the Writings as either “idle”, “vain”, “false” and “corrupt”, one comes up with the thought that those “imaginings” are the lot of many if not most people over the ages who are basically waiting, within the context of their respective religions, for something to happen but in conformity with personal views, understandings, interpretations, preferences, likes and interests.  “Desires” and “expectations” then are the stuff that contributes to one’s “imaginings”.

One can better understand this state of mind if it is compared with those as they wait for their soul mate have formed in their mind a definite portrait of them, and will probably pay no attention to anyone who does not come close to fitting that ingrained image.  Many will be rejected as a consequence.  Summary judgments arise when appearances become the key issue and criterion for acceptance.

In religious history, people have expected the arrival of the Promised One prior to the Dispensation of Jesus Christ.  They were looking for certain characteristics, certain signs, certain promises, and had Jesus appeared in accordance with that imagined “look” they would have accepted His Message.  There may have been a devoted eagerness in the wait, but when the time came and the Spirit of God appeared and walked the land they simply denied Him and “pronounced the sentence of His death”.

These expectations appear to recur throughout history.  In the time of Muhammad, Baha’u’llah explains “the learned men of Mecca and Medina arose…against Him and rejected His Message, while they who were destitute of all learning recognized and embraced His Faith”.

One wonders if these desires and expectations which are the ingredients of man’s “imaginings” (or ignorance?) and which seem to drive large segments of society (and are in contradiction with religious teachings in their pure state) are not being carried on within the minds and hearts of ordinary rank and file believers once they have recognized the truth of the teachings to which they claim to be connected and attached to.  In other words after one says: “I believe”, does one still holds on to “imaginings” (and calls it Truth)?

And if that were the case, since the idea of the religious experience is to empty oneself of human constructs, desires and expectations and instead let the divine take hold, what would therefore be the point of belief?

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Sleep and dreams

I just woke up from a very short afternoon nap on a Sunday when under African skies electricity tends to leave us for hours, and when one feels like living in a village.

In my dream I was headed somewhere, going down two or three steps, in what looked like a lobby of a 5-star hotel.  Coming towards me was my father, but this time (within the dream I remembered I had seen him not long before in “another” dream(?)) he looked much taller.  Handsome, smiling, and handsomely dressed (greenish suit, and I never knew him to wear that color), I held his hand,  and I spoke in Arabic to him (never with anyone else since his death 36 years ago have I spoken in my broken childhood Arabic for more than a couple of minutes) wondering if he had found work, and I even mentioned that my mom was somewhere around.

The next thing that happened is that he sat him behind two gentlemen and started speaking to someone on an invisible phone.  And he was smoking.  And my father never lit a cigarette in his life.   The two gentlemen seemed annoyed, and for some reason I was puzzled about this phone conversation and decided to leave him and kept walking until I reached another end of the spacious lobby and looked back on purpose thinking that perhaps I had been “dreaming” all along, and that I had imagined my father’s presence.  And strange as it seemed to me, he was still there, speaking, and I woke up.

On the topic of the next world and how do we communicate with our parents long gone, no one knows for sure how this and that life connect, and how easy or impossible it is to be in touch.  Everyone can point out to personal experiences, and or to beliefs and theories from a number of authorities on the subject.

I know very little about these grayish zones of life, but I felt at peace and happy after I woke up.  I never know whether a dream reflects a reality (even if it is invisible) or is simply a pure figment of the imagination (“imaginings”).

On the other hand the other day I chanced upon a text of ‘Abdu’l-Baha on life after death (Star of the West, Vo. IV, no. 19 dated March 2, 1914).  It speaks clearly on this question of communication.   What I discovered in those words is that we should pray for “them”, and further that they can help us in this life especially when we are “in difficulty”.

Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own.  It is not removed from ours…there is no real separation.

In prayer there is a mingling of station, a mingling of condition.  Pray for them, as they pray for you!  When you do not know it, and are in receptive attitude, they are able to make suggestions to you, if you are in difficulty.  This sometimes happens in sleep.”-‘Abdu’l-Baha

Posted in Baha'i, Death, Holy Writings, Life After Death, Prayers, Revelation of Baha'u'llah, Spiritual Qualities | Leave a comment

Share if you can

The few readers that follow entries under the banner of gracewisdomjustice have realized that there is a double objective to these lines: the first is to explore over time the interconnections between the grace from on high, the wisdom that is given, and the justice that has to rule in order for peace, unity and prosperity to take hold in the spiritual and social chaos that is this world at this time.  I was careful to refer to the “spiritual” and “social” dimension of life, and very specifically spared the “scientific” and “technological” spheres which by contrast are pure and holy and can do no harm under wise hands.

Nothing beats knowledge, order and beauty, and their efficient and resplendent use.

The second objective of these lines is for friends and readers to “invite” interested friends to read these lines, as “teaching” is my and my friends’ privilege and this has been a duty since the days of Jesus Christ.  Teaching means pointing a way, guiding, allowing for discovery, but you can point only when there is a water source that can nourish.  That source is the Writings, going all the way back to the “Sermon on the Mount”, up  to the “Most Holy Book” and all the revealed Words in between.

So please share so that we may all have a well-deserved party in heaven.  Any alternative get-together is rather risky and probably not enjoyable.

Posted in Baha'i, Christianity, God, Grace, Joy, Justice, Life After Death, Peace, Teaching, Wisdom | 3 Comments

Imaginings

Idle, corrupt, false and vain imaginings are expressions present in the Writings of Baha’u’llah and referred to as “veils” that have always blocked man’s understanding and acceptance of the divine Revelations, and as a consequence prevented him from acknowledging and following the “straight path”.  Imaginings are definitely the opposite of truth, so imaginings is a mental construct or an ideology more or less elaborate that contradicts and rejects the counsels and laws given throughout history by the Prophets or Manifestations of God.

One of the consequences of these “veils” is that people, learned and less learned, have killed or persecuted the Messengers of God, and paid no attention to their counsels which objectively speaking could have improved the lot of humanity, much like a medication is empowered to heal a particular disease.

“Imaginings” in the Writings are always pitted against “Truth”, and holders of “imaginings” are deprived of the “grace” that surrounds mankind.  And Baha’u’llah asks the seeker and the believer, first to “fear God” and to diligently “ponder” and “medidate” on the reasons advanced by the masses over the centuries which have prevented them from recognizing the “Face of God”.  One often hears that man should “search” at a personal level fort the “truth” and not be swayed by his neighbor.

When reviewing the source of these “imaginings”, to which men appear “enslaved” to,  we discover that they stem from specific self-appointed learned and authorities who construct ideologies and dogma, and offer them to the world as a substitute for the truth. The power to distinguish from falsehood (“imaginings”) and truth (“certitude”) appears to come from extensive purification, meditation, and search in which man’s intellectual and spiritual powers assisted by invisible and divine forces lift “veils” and allow a soul to see the Truth unaided and under no human influence.

And the strangest thing happens: once a veil is lifted, and things fall in place, one barely remembers the state of mind that enveloped one’s being the minute before.  Freed from the worship of “idols” one has no choice but to “abandon vain imaginings to the begetters thereof and leave superstitions to the devisers thereof and misgivings to the breeders thereof”.

 

 

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The value of memorization

One of the many facets of the Baha’i teachings, which cover the entire spectrum of the organized life of mankind, is the area dealing with “teaching”.  It is a sort of spiritual communication activity, which is a privilege and a duty for all members.  And one of the aspects of teaching has to do with offering to the receptive person who has shown an interest in hearing about these teachings the original Words.  It is the technique of memorization.  It is very much like what Christians who are knowledgeable and active teachers of their Faith do when teaching: they quote with precision chapter and verse of the Holy Bible.  Baha’u’llah says:

The sanctified souls should ponder and meditate in their hearts regarding the methods of teaching. From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman. So potent is their influence that the hearer will have no cause for vacillation.

Over the years I for one have tried to find those short sentences or passages that by repeating daily morning and evenings have become “memorized”.  I have even tried to repeat them one after the other, like a string of pearls, and timed them.  The idea being that if at one point I was deprived of access to any book, computer or internet, I could for let’s say 5, 10 or 15 minutes repeat Verses I knew for certain came from on-high.  And of course I could use in any “spiritual communication” occasion.  Everyone will have his or her favorite quotations.  I offer mine if anyone cares to glance at them:

O ye beloved of God! Repose not yourselves on your couches, nay bestir yourselves as soon as ye recognize your Lord, the Creator, and hear of the things which have befallen Him, and hasten to His assistance. Unloose your tongues, and proclaim unceasingly His Cause. This shall be better for you than all the treasures of the past and of the future, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth. 

He hath chosen out of the whole world the hearts of His servants, and made them each a seat for the revelation of His glory. Wherefore, sanctify them from every defilement, that the things for which they were created may be engraven upon them. 

So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.

The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity

All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. 

The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee

O SON OF SPIRIT! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.

In no logical order but then again I can’t think of many such literary gems anywhere.  And truths.  And don’t they appear to be part of the great family of the Revealed Word found in all Scriptures?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Baha'i, Christianity, God, Holy Writings, Islam, Judaism, Justice, Revelation of Baha'u'llah, Teaching | 1 Comment

“In the night-season”

As a long footnote to the posting entitled “Symbols and Images”, one of my commentators felt it was necessary to quote in full the Hidden Word alluded to.  Although I felt it was up to readers/commentators to seek that text in the referenced book, I will give the entire text for ease of reference, stressing the beauty of the verses.

O SON OF JUSTICE! In the night-season the beauty of the immortal Being hath repaired from the emerald height of fidelity unto the Sadratu’l-Muntahá, and wept with such a weeping that the concourse on high and the dwellers of the realms above wailed at His lamenting. Whereupon there was asked, Why the wailing and weeping? He made reply: As bidden I waited expectant upon the hill of faithfulness, yet inhaled not from them that dwell on earth the fragrance of fidelity. Then summoned to return I beheld, and lo! certain doves of holiness were sore tried within the claws of the dogs of earth. Thereupon the Maid of heaven hastened forth unveiled and resplendent from Her mystic mansion, and asked of their names, and all were told but one. And when urged, the first letter thereof was uttered, whereupon the dwellers of the celestial chambers rushed forth out of their habitation of glory. And whilst the second letter was pronounced they fell down, one and all, upon the dust. At that moment a voice was heard from the inmost shrine: “Thus far and no farther.” Verily We bear witness to that which they have done and now are doing.

This text is from the Pen of Baha’u’llah.

As a final note I strongly suggest that any student of the Baha’i Faith will do well to consult the 4-volume masterpiece by M. Adib Taherzadeh entitled The Revelation of Baha’u’llah .  In his first volume, subtitled Baghdad 1853-1865, the author includes a section on The Hidden Words (pp-71-83) which discusses in its final page this particular text and says that it is “of great significance inasmuch as it reveals the nature and intensity of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah and His exalted station.”

 

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