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Recently one of my readers asked this question and wanting to know the answer myself, I turned to the Baha’i Writings to find out.

She was referring to this Hidden Word of Baha’u’llah:

Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 3)

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

He said, “Verily, shun those who are shaken in the Covenant.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 382)

And Shoghi Effendi tells us:

. . . if we see an evil person is not influenceable by us, then we should shun his company for it is unhealthy.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 403)

I came across this quote which seemed to answer the question about who are the ungodly:

In the passage ‘eschew all fellowship with the ungodly, ‘Bahá’u’lláh means that we should shun the company of those who disbelieve in God and are wayward. The word ‘ungodly’ is a reference to such perverse people. The words ‘Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones’, should flee from the enemies of God and instead seek the fellowship of His lovers.  (Shoghi Effendi: Dawn of a New Day, p. 200)

But what about the atheists?

Who are they?

For they who turn away from their Lord in this day are in truth accounted amongst the dead, though to outward seeming they may walk upon the earth, amongst the deaf, though they may hear, and amongst the blind, though they may see, as hath been clearly stated by Him Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning: “Hearts have they with which they understand not, and eyes have they with which they see not….” They walk the edge of a treacherous bank and tread the brink of a fiery abyss. They partake not of the billows of this surging and treasure-laden Ocean, but disport themselves with their own idle words.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 48-49)

They abandon God, the Most Exalted—He before Whose revelation of a single verse, all the Scriptures of the past and of more recent times pale into lowliness and insignificance—and set their hearts on lying tales and follow empty words.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 240)

They that have disbelieved in God and rebelled against His sovereignty are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires. These shall return to their abode in the fire of hell: wretched is the abode of the deniers!  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 284)

What happens to them?

By their own statements they are captives of nature, unconscious of the spiritual world, uninformed of the divine Kingdom and unaware of heavenly bestowals. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 235)

He said, “Whosoever believes in Him is acceptable in the estimation of God, and whosoever shuns Him or any of the prophets is rejected of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 409)

If thou remainest, at the moment of death, a disbeliever in the signs of thy Lord thou shalt surely enter the gates of hell, and none of the deeds thy hands have wrought will profit thee, nor shalt thou find a patron nor anyone to plead for thee.  (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 19)

As for those who believe not in the signs of God, or that they shall ever attain His Presence, these of My mercy shall despair, and these doth a grievous chastisement await. (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 115)

The gates of Hell have opened wide to receive thee, O thou who hast turned away from thy Lord, the Unconstrained! Repair unto its fire, for it yearneth after thee.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 178)

They that have disbelieved in God and rebelled against His sovereignty are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires. These shall return to their abode in the fire of hell: wretched is the abode of the deniers!  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 284-285)

Question.—It is said in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas “…whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed.” What is the meaning of this verse?
Answer.—This blessed verse means that the foundation of success and salvation is the knowledge of God, and that the results of the knowledge of God are the good actions which are the fruits of faith. If man has not this knowledge, he will be separated from God, and when this separation exists, good actions have not complete effect. This verse does not mean that the souls separated from God are equal, whether they perform good or bad actions. It signifies only that the foundation is to know God, and the good actions result from this knowledge. Nevertheless, it is certain that between the good, the sinners and the wicked who are veiled from God there is a difference. For the veiled one who has good principles and character deserves the pardon of God, while he who is a sinner, and has bad qualities and character, is deprived of the bounties and blessings of God. Herein lies the difference. Therefore, the blessed verse means that good actions alone, without the knowledge of God, cannot be the cause of eternal salvation, everlasting success, and prosperity, and entrance into the Kingdom of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 237)

And whatsoever people turneth its heart away from this Divine Love—the revelation of the Merciful—shall err grievously, shall fall into despair, and be utterly destroyed. That people shall be denied all refuge, shall become even as the vilest creatures of the earth, victims of degradation and shame.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 27)

As they gradually strayed from the path of their Ideal Leader and Master, as they turned away from the Light of God and corrupted the principle of His Divine unity, and as they increasingly centered their attention upon them who were only the revealers of the potency of His Word, their power was turned into weakness, their glory into shame, their courage into fear.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 69)

Why shouldn’t we associate with them?

Shun them whose hearts are turned away from thee, and place not thy confidence in them, and entrust them not with thine affairs and the affairs of such as profess thy faith. Beware that thou allow not the wolf to become the shepherd of God’s flock, and surrender not the fate of His loved ones to the mercy of the malicious. Expect not that they who violate the ordinances of God will be trustworthy or sincere in the faith they profess. Avoid them, and preserve strict guard over thyself, lest their devices and mischief hurt thee. Turn away from them, and fix thy gaze upon God, thy Lord, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 233)

Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth … Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 232-233)

Many people whoso believe in God may be truthful and honest in a normal situation. But the real criterion of a man’s truthfulness and honesty is his attitude at the time of temptation. When severe tests and trials descend upon man, the only thing which keeps him truthful is his faith in God. If he does not believe in God, there is no motivation within him to resist temptation.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 314)

Many utterances are directed against the violators of the Covenant, the purpose being that no dissension should arise in the blessed Cause; that no one should say, “My opinion is this”; and that all may know Who is the authoritative expounder and whatsoever He says is correct. Bahá’u’lláh has not left any possible room for dissension. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 382)

The purpose is to ward off dissension and differences among His followers . . . Whenever they sense the least violation from anyone, they should say, “Begone! You shall not associate with us.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 382-383)

Thou hast asked some questions; that why the blessed and spiritual souls, who are firm and steadfast, shun the company of degenerate persons. This is because, that just as the bodily diseases like consumption and cancer are contagious, likewise the spiritual diseases are also infectious. If a consumptive should associate with a thousand safe and healthy persons, the safety and health of these thousand persons would not affect the consumptive and would not cure him of his consumptions. But when this consumptive associates with those thousand souls, in a short time the disease of consumption will infect a number of those healthy persons. This is a clear and self-evident question.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance, p. 183)

Regarding Mr. … question about the Covenant-breakers, Bahá’u’lláh and the Master in many places and very emphatically have told us to shun entirely all Covenant-breakers as they are afflicted with what we might try and define as a contagious spiritual disease; they have also told us, however, to pray for them. These souls are not lost forever. In the Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh says that God will forgive Mirza Yahya if he repents. It follows, therefore, that God will forgive any soul if he repents. Most of them don’t want to repent, unfortunately. If the leaders can be forgiven it goes without saying that their followers can also be forgiven. “Also, it has nothing to do with unity in the Cause; if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism. On the contrary, what was once a part of him has so radically changed as to have become a poison.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 184)

We know absence of light is darkness, but no one would assert darkness was not a fact. It exists even though it is only the absence of something else. So evil exists too, and we cannot close our eyes to it, even though it is a negative existence. We must seek to supplant it by good, and if we see an evil person is not influenceable by us, then we should shun his company for it is unhealthy.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 403)

Why we don’t feel sorry for them:

Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God, the Most Great. By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 207)

To be the enemy of the enemies of God is a good characteristic. We are not against them personally, just as any intelligent man is not personally against a man who has a dangerous contagious disease. But he carefully isolates the sick individual so that the contagion will not spread. So we shun the spiritually sick, wishing for their cure, but keeping clear of them.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 187)

Conclusion:

So if I was to summarize what I’ve learned through these quotes, I would say:

The ungodly are

  • those who disbelieve in God
  • those whose hearts are turned away from God

They have the following characteristics:

  • they are captives of nature
  • they are unconscious of the spiritual world
  • they are uninformed of the divine Kingdom
  • they are unaware of heavenly bestowals
  • they set their hearts on lying tales
  • they follow empty words
  • they don’t partake of the billows of God’s surging and treasure-laden Ocean
  • they are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires
  • they are wayward and perverse
  • they disport themselves with their own idle words
  • they are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires
  • they are neither trustworthy nor truthful
  • nothing can deter them from evil
  • nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor
  • nothing can induce him to walk uprightly
  • there is no motivation within them to resist temptation
  • most of them don’t want to repent

Why is this dangerous?

  • They walk the edge of a treacherous bank and tread the brink of a fiery abyss

How does God see them?

  • they are the enemies of God
  • they are accounted among the dead
  • they are rejected of God

What happens to them?

  • they are separated from God
  • they shall surely enter the gates of hell
  • none of the deeds they have done will profit them
  • they shall not find a patron or anyone to plead for them
  • they shall never attain God’s Presence
  • a grievous chastisement awaits them
  • their good actions will not have complete effect
  • they are deprived of the bounties and blessings of God
  • they err grievously
  • they will fall into despair
  • they will be utterly destroyed
  • they will be denied all refuge
  • they will become the most vile creatures of the earth
  • they will become the victims of degradation and shame
  • their power will be turned into weakness
  • their glory will be turned into shame
  • their courage will be turned into fear
  • the wrathful anger of the Almighty will take hold of them

Why shouldn’t we associate with them?

  • to ward off dissension and differences among the followers
  • just as bodily diseases like consumption and cancer are contagious, spiritual diseases are also infectious
  • if a consumptive should associate with a thousand safe and healthy persons, the safety and health of these thousand persons would not affect the consumptive and would not cure him of his consumptions. But when this consumptive associates with those thousand souls, in a short time the disease of consumption will infect a number of those healthy persons
  • if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism
  • we carefully isolate the sick individual so that the contagion will not spread

What should we do instead?

  • don’t place any confidence in them
  • don’t trust your affairs to them
  • don’t expect them to be trustworthy
  • don’t expect them to be sincere in the faith they profess
  • avoid them
  • we shun the spiritually sick, wishing for their cure, but keeping clear of them
  • guard yourself so their devices and mischief can’t hurt you
  • turn away from them
  • say, “Begone! You shall not associate with us”
  • pray for them.
  • fix your gaze upon God, thy Lord, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful
  • seek the fellowship of God’s lovers instead

In terms of how we are to treat them though, these might be helpful:

Showing Kindness to the Liar, Traitor or Thief

Honoring an Abusive Spouse or Parent

It’s not for us to judge others, though.  Have you seen this book on Letting Go of Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation?  It helps us to understand how we’re not to criticize others.  You can download it here.

How does this answer the question?  What are your thoughts?  Post your comments below.