Select Page

Preparing for the Bicentenaries

 

In its message dated 29 December 2015 to the Counsellors’ Conference, the Universal House of Justice drew attention to the two bicentenaries that are approaching, marking the elapse of two hundred years respectively since the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh and the Birth of the Báb.

In a subsequent letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies, dated 18 May 2016, they gave further guidance to help us prepare for these two highly significant Festivals.  Let’s look at how we might do that.  All of the quotes are taken from this letter, unless otherwise indicated.

When will they happen?

During the Five Year Plan about to commence, there will occur two momentous occasions of this kind:  the two-hundred-year anniversaries of the Birth of Baha’u’llah and of the Birth of the Bab in 2017 and 2019 respectively.  (Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 to the Counsellor’s Conference)

  • Birth of Baha’u’llah in 2017
  • Birth of the Bab in 2019

When should we start thinking about and preparing for them?

The House of Justice feels it would now be timely to explore further the manner in which these highly significant Festivals are to be celebrated so that preparations can begin to be made.

  • Preparations should begin to be made now

How should they be regarded?

As indicated in the 29 December message, these Holy Days should be viewed as special opportunities for the friends to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection.

  • special opportunities to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection

Who should be invited?

. . . whether through a family tie or common interest, an occupation or field of study, neighbourly relations or merely chance acquaintance—so that all may rejoice in the appearance, exactly two hundred years before, of One Who was to be the Bearer of a new Message for humankind.

  • family ties
  • common interests
  • occupations
  • fields of study
  • neighbourly relations
  • chance acquaintances

Where do we focus our attention?

The locus of activity for the bicentenaries is to be at the local level.

The House of Justice anticipates that in countless places across the world, both rural settings and urban centres, the friends will find creative ways to honour the Twin Manifestations Whose lives and sacred missions will be recalled on Their anniversaries.

  • In local communities, both rural and urban

How should we structure the events?

It should be noted that, although each anniversary is associated primarily with just one of the Manifestations, in each case the celebrations ought to encompass both of the Twin Birthdays, and events may be spread out across the full length of the two days.

At the heart of these festivities must be a concerted effort to convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world.

Of course, this will take different forms in different contexts, extending to a myriad artistic and cultural expressions, including songs, audio-visual presentations, publications and books.

However, the real transformative power of the Faith is likely to be perceived more readily still if people experience how worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere.

Such initiatives, coupled with widespread celebrations that are both uplifting and reverent . . .

  • encompass both of the Twin Birthdays
  • events spread out across the full length of the two days
  • convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world
  • a myriad of artistic and cultural expressions, including songs, audio-visual presentations, publications and books
  • help people experience how worship and meaningful service are woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere
  • widespread celebrations that are both uplifting and reverent

What will be the results?

. . . the most distinguishing feature of these bicentenaries will be a tremendous flourishing of activity by Bahá’ís and their friends in local communities.

An important aspect of what must occur is the sense of shared experience and global solidarity arising from so many gatherings being held in a concentrated span of time, and in an enormous variety of places, bringing together souls who have glimpsed the timeless splendour of those divine Figures Who set in motion an irresistible process of individual and social change.

Such initiatives . . . are also sure to spark the curiosity and wonder of many who may as yet be unfamiliar with the names of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

Indeed, from the community-building activities of the Five Year Plan emerges a pattern of collective life within which anyone can discern the vivifying influence of the divine teachings brought by God’s Manifestations. Each bicentenary will doubtless kindle a spirit of faithful endeavour that will permeate all the noble undertakings of the friends.

The spiritual forces that are sure to be released on that most auspicious occasion will do much to spur the friends into action as they commence the eight cycles that lie between the two bicentenaries, during which the greatest share of the effort needed to fulfil the goal of the Plan will be required.

Similarly, events surrounding the two-hundredth anniversary of the Birth of the Báb will lend an infusion of energy to the global spiritual enterprise as it enters its final six cycles leading up to Riḍván 2021.

There is, therefore, every reason to expect that the emphasis given to commemorating these Holy Days will have a considerable and cumulative impact on the work of raising vibrant communities—not least on the enrichment of devotional life.

These glorious Festivals will be opportunities for Baha’is in every land to attract the largest possible number of believers, their families, friends, and collaborators, as well as others from the wider society, to commemorate moments when a Being peerless in creation, a Manifestation of God, was born to the world. (Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 to the Counsellor’s Conference)

Celebrating these bicentenaries is sure to increase appreciation for how the observance of Holy Days, now according to a calendar that unites the friends of God everywhere, strengthens Baha’i identity.  (Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 to the Counsellor’s Conference)

  • it will release spiritual forces
  • it will result in a tremendous flourishing of activity in local communities
  • it will kindle a spirit of faithful endeavour
  • we will have a shared experience and global solidarity
  • it will bring together those who have glimpsed the timeless splendour
  • it will spark the curiosity and wonder of those who may not be familiar with the names of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh
  • it will help everyone discern the vivifying influence of the divine teachings brought by God’s Manifestations
  • it will spur us into action during the cycles that lie between the two bicentenaries
  • it will lend an infusion of energy to the global spiritual enterprise as it enters its final six cycles leading up to Ridván 2021
  • it will have a considerable and cumulative impact on the work of raising vibrant communities
  • it will enrich our devotional life
  • it will provide opportunities to attract the largest possible number of people to commemorate
  • it will increase our appreciation for the observances of Holy Days
  • it will strengthen our Baha’i identity

How Do We Prepare Now?

As suggested in this year’s Riḍván message, the six cycles leading up to the first of the special anniversaries can be viewed as an initial period over which progress toward the overall goal of the Five Year Plan can be measured. The steps taken during these months, and the achievements that come as a result, will constitute an offering of ardent love, yielded collectively to Him Who is the Unifier of the world on the bicentenary of His Birth.

This letter is being sent now so that there is ample time for you to impress upon your respective communities the significance of the coming Festivals and encourage preparations to begin.

  • use the six cycles leading to the first anniversary to prepare
  • impress upon your community the significance of the coming Festivals
  • encourage preparations to begin

How do we report our activities?

Arrangements will be put in place to enable communities to submit reports on their activities so that these can rapidly be made available to the widest possible audience. More information about these arrangements will be provided at a later date.

  • more information about these arrangements will be provided at a later date

What’s being done at the National level?

There might also be an opportunity for initiatives at the national level, which could include a gathering to which dignitaries and prominent individuals who have a relationship with the Faith could be invited.

  • gatherings for dignitaries and prominent individuals

How will it be celebrated at the World Centre?

Naturally, these Holy Days will also be marked at the Bahá’í World Centre by those pilgrims, visitors, and staff who are in the Holy Land at the time.

  • Events for pilgrims, visitors, and staff

Ascension of Baha’u’llah – A Program for the Holy Day

 

 

 

Story by David Merrick  

Since time immemorial, every age has witnessed a great soul arise into the world clothed in the unconquerable power of the Spirit, and standing against all the customs and collective corruption of the day, has wholly transformed mankind’s heart and mind, and steered humanity onto a new path of truth. Though these great souls are invested with the supreme sovereignty of the Spirit, they accept the mortal frailties of life, and submit themselves to the suffering of the human world. Some endure spectacular martyrdom, demonstrating in their death, their mastery of the day; whilst others, demonstrating a long life of living martyrdom and perfection of the spirit, stand unconquerable, and surrender their body to the natural dissolution of the elements, so that their spirit may, unbound from the chains of this world, soar up beyond the limitless heights of the eternal. Such was the case with Bahá’u’lláh Who, on 29 May 1892, after a lifetime of outpouring spiritual energy and transformation into this earthly world, ascended into the uncountable worlds of the spirit.

Few detailed accounts have come down to us of these final days, and these have been used to tell the story which now follows…

O Thou the King of creation and the Ruler of this world and the world to come! Both in Thy presence and in Thy absence Thou hast been the cause of the tranquillity of the hearts of men and the advancement of the nations. From the moment Thou didst mount Thy throne until Thy ascension to the Realms of Eternity, Thou wert at all times, at day and at night, each month and each year, the cause of the exaltation of mankind. No needy suppliant who had set his heart toward Thee was turned back from the door of Thy generosity without vouchsafing unto him supreme felicity and goodly gifts, and no sorrowful destitute was sent out of Thy All-glorious presence except that Thou didst bestow upon him blissful joy and ample hope. [Nabil, edited.]

At the time of Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension from this world, He was living at Bahji. His relatives were living very close by in ‘Akka, and the entire city held both Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l-Bahá in their hearts with incomparable honour.

Inevitably, the time arrived when Bahá’u’lláh began to express His desire to ascend from this world of care. For nine months, without speaking plainly of this matter, He hinted to the friends who attained His presence, that His earthly life was approaching its end. During these nine months, Bahá’u’lláh began very clearly to arrange affairs with urgency.

On one day, Abdu’l-Bahá was engaging Himself with collecting together Bahá’u’lláh’s papers that were spread over the sofa in His writing chamber; Bahá’u’lláh turned to Abdu’l-Bahá, and said it was of no use gathering them – for He must leave them, and flee away.

On Saturday, 7 May 1892, the government began rounding up the farmers and poor people of the region, keeping them as conscripts against their will. They put a thousand of them into uniform and gave them military training, intending after a few days to dispatch them out to faraway lands. The tents of these oppressed people were near to the grounds of Bahji, and the weeping and lamenting, and the cries of their families, were heard day and night.

On the evening of that great day of oppression, a fever came upon Bahá’u’lláh; it was slight, and He did not call any attention to it. In the morning, a number of the friends reached His presence. The afternoon drew on, and the fever began to intensify, until in the evening, only one companion, with an urgent matter, was admitted to His presence.

Bahá’u’lláh sent out a servant to Abdu’l-Bahá in Akka, who took horses, and a Tablet carrying news of the fever. Following Bahá’u’lláh’s wishes, Abdu’l-Bahá and his sister Bahiyyih Khanum rode off immediately for Bahji. Abdu’l-Bahá stayed in a room across and to the west of Bahá’u’lláh’s room, whilst the children remained at home in Akka with their mother, full of anxiety. Two doctors were sent out to Bahá’u’lláh, and each day news of Bahá’u’lláh’s continuing fever, which had a similar quality to malaria, was brought to the household and the children.

On the next day, just one of the friends had the honour of an audience with Bahá’u’lláh, and on the third day at noon, He summoned Nabil to His presence alone. Bahá’u’lláh spoke to him for about half an hour. Sometimes He was seated, and sometimes He strode up and down the room, imparting wisdom through His beautiful words of the Spirit.

In the afternoon of that same day, a well-known believer arrived from Egypt. Bahá’u’lláh welcomed him into His presence along with some others, and until sunset, a number of friends came in groups into His presence.

On the fourth day, no one was able to come to Bahá’u’lláh’s presence, and gloom and sorrow descended upon all the hearts of His forlorn lovers. This way, the situation remained for a few days.

It was about the sixth day, when the family and children living in Akka travelled over to Bahji. Seeing the illness was serious, they were extremely distressed.

On the ninth day, Abdu’l-Bahá left the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. He went to the Pilgrim House, and shared Bahá’u’lláh’s greetings with everyone there, and Bahá’u’lláh’s desire that the friends remain patient and steadfast; and that they should arise, unperturbed, and spread the Call of God, knowing He shall be present with them, and will remember and care for them always. Abdu’l-Bahá’s tone made it clear that Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension from this world was fast approaching. These words pierced their hearts with such grief that they cried out and were thrown into such turmoil and dismay that they were close to passing away.

At dawn on the tenth day, Abdu’l-Bahá came again to the Pilgrim House. He was happy and smiling, and awaking the friends one by one, he called them to rise and drink their morning tea with joy, for Bahá’u’lláh was presently in perfect health, and the signs of great favour were apparent in His face. The friends were overwhelmed with joy to hear this news.

That very same morning, wholly unexpected, a royal telegram arrived, ordering the release of all the conscripts. This news was rapturously received by all the people in the land, and lifted their hearts with delight. Abdu’l-Bahá distributed food amongst the conscripts, the poor, the prisoners and the orphans. The people of ‘Akka and further afield in Syria, low and high alike, were wholeheartedly offering their thanks to Bahá’u’lláh for such a loving favour and grace. No one in Syria could remember experiencing a day of such heavenly release as upon that day, and they rejoiced with each other in a day of festival.

Abdu’l-Bahá journeyed into Akka and visited every Bahá’í household, conveying to every man and woman, the loving greetings from Bahá’u’lláh.

On the fifteenth afternoon, at the hour of sunset, just as the day broke when the Báb many years before had opened His Call to the world, a servant came down from upstairs and suddenly summoned to Bahá’u’lláh’s room everyone present – the friends from Akka, several Persian pilgrims, and resident Bahá’ís – numbering about nine people. Weeping and grief-stricken, they seized the opportunity and hastened to Bahá’u’lláh’s presence.

Bahá’u’lláh’s bed was in the middle of the room, His mattress and quilt covered with white sheets. He lay in His bed propped up on two or three pillows, whilst two of His sons were seated, fanning Him from each side. His body was extremely frail, and He leaned against Abdu’l-Bahá. His voice was weak, yet He spoke clearly.

He spoke of His health, revealing gentle and loving words of separation and departure. Some were circling around and around His bed, weeping and praying, and beseeching Bahá’u’lláh to permit them to sacrifice their lives in His place, even if it would extend His life only a little while.

Bahá’u’lláh spoke loving words of peace and calm to everyone; He addressed them all, saying how well pleased He was with them, coming every morning and evening, and their many services and tireless labours.

In the solar calendar of the Báb; the Holy Day was in this period celebrated in the lunar calendar of the times. He prayed that their actions would be examples worthy of the name Bahá’í, letting their characters speak out to the world; and that they would ever be true and steadfast followers of the Light of God’s Law. He prayed that God would assist them to remain united and aid them to raise up the Cause of the Lord.

Bahá’u’lláh spoke as a reminder to those around Him, these words from the Kitab-i-Aqdas:

Say: Let not your hearts be perturbed, O people, when the glory of My Presence is withdrawn, and the ocean of My utterance is stilled. In My presence amongst you there is a wisdom, and in My absence there is yet another, inscrutable to all but God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. Verily, We behold you from Our realm of glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favoured angels. Be not dismayed, O peoples of the world, when the day-star of My beauty is set, and the heaven of My tabernacle is concealed from your eyes. Arise to further My Cause, and to exalt My Word amongst men. We are with you at all times, and shall strengthen you through the power of truth. We are truly almighty. Whoso hath recognized Me will arise and serve Me with such determination that the powers of earth and heaven shall be unable to defeat his purpose.

As Bahá’u’lláh recited these verses to everyone, it became clear that He was soon to ascend from the world. Bahá’u’lláh then spoke of the importance of unity, love, and friendship, and urged everyone to avoid disunity, discord and schism. He vehemently counselled the friends to abstain from dissension and strife. Although His body was feeble, He voiced this with immense power, distinctly measuring out the words emphatically as He commanded them: to shun disharmony; to strive that no discord should arise amongst the friends; and to avoid contention.

The effect of these words and clear verses from His mouth on the friends was intense. Tears flowed from one as He was overcome with feelings of grief and sorrow. Bahá’u’lláh bade him come close to Him, and using a handkerchief which was in His hand, Bahá’u’lláh wiped the tears from his cheeks. As He did so, the words of Isaiah, ‘and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces,’ involuntarily came to mind.

Another was utterly distraught, and could endure no more; his heart broke. With tears in his eyes, he cried out: ‘Yá Bahá! Yá Bahá!’ expressing his grief. He broke down.

The time came for everyone to depart. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was standing. He directed everyone to circumambulate the bed. The friends prostrated at Bahá’u’lláh’s feet and walked simply around His bed. He said to them, “Fi amanu’llah – go in God’s care,” and they left the room in utmost sorrow, burning with separation.

No words can describe the sadness and grief that encompassed their souls that day, some becoming quite ill with their grief. This was their last audience with Him.

It is a Persian custom to sacrifice a lamb to lengthen the life of a loved one. Two lambs were brought into Bahá’u’lláh’s room, and as Abdu’l-Bahá went into ‘Akka to arrange various matters, to visit the friends, and convey the news of Bahá’u’lláh’s better health, He superintended the distribution of the two lambs amongst the poor prisoners of ‘Akka. In the evening, He returned again to Bahji.

Bahá’u’lláh called all the ladies and children to Him. He described how He had left directions for their future guidance in His Will, and that Abdu’l-Bahá would arrange everything for the family, the friends, and for the Cause of God. He said how the loving devotion of ‘Andalib had touched Him very much, and the love of them all. He wished for everyone that they might always be true and faithful in service.

Amidst these days of ill health, Bahá’u’lláh one day summoned one of his sons to His Presence and gave him the keys for the cases in His room. According to Bahá’u’lláh’s command, His son arranged for the locks to be renewed and affixed in their places. Bahá’u’lláh summoned Abdul-Bahá to gather together all His writings. Tears descended from Abdul-Bahá like rain, his body trembling and his heart aching as he obeyed the command. He gathered together the important manuscripts, and placed them all in the two large cases given him by Bahá’u’lláh for safeguarding the writings in His absence.

Before His ascension, Bahá’u’lláh directed Abdu’l-Bahá to go forward, and sound the solemn call of renewal throughout every land of the world; and that he must observe all his sons and grandsons, whatever their age, for whomsoever God would show to follow him.

A few days before His ascension, Bahá’u’lláh called one of His companions to His room, for an audience. Bahá’u’lláh kept pacing, back and forth. The companion could see how angry He was, but Bahá’u’lláh was too upset to speak, and finally gestured for him to depart again. Although Bahá’u’lláh did not indicate why He was so upset, such an outrage arose immediately after His ascension, that it became entirely clear what He foresaw.

On the night of the twenty-first day of the fever, 29 May 1892, eight hours after sunset, aged 75, whilst there was no sign of any fever, Bahá’u’lláh ascended to the celestial worlds of the Spirit.

After the Ascension, a horseman galloped into ‘Akka, carrying the news to the legal advisor. Following the custom for the passing of an exceptionally honoured and learned holy man, there rang out across the land, from the seven minarets of the mosque:- “God is great. He giveth life! He taketh it again! He dies not, but lives for evermore!” The word quickly spread throughout the land, and was proclaimed from the minarets of every mosque.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá telegraphed news of Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension to a jubilant Sultan. The telegram began with the words, “The Sun of Baha has set.” It advised the monarch that they intended to lay Bahá’u’lláh’s sacred remains to rest within the precincts of Bahji, and this was permitted.

An ocean of grief and sorrow swept across Bahá’u’lláh’s countless friends and companions. The Persians lamented fate’s unchangeable decree, whilst the native Arabs cried out, “O God, O God!” Confusion spread everywhere. A large crowd descended from ‘Akka and the neighbouring villages, and gathered at Bahji to show their respect and unite in mourning, thronging the surrounding fields, weeping, beating upon their heads, and crying aloud with grief.

Abdu’l-Bahá spoke compassionately to the friends, and lovingly urged their hearts onwards in the Cause of God. Following the custom, water was brought in to wash the sacred remains. As Abdu’l-Bahá and the companions were just preparing to do so, Abdu’l-Bahá’s half-brother indicated that much water would be spilled in the room, making the cases of Writings damp, so he had them carried away to his brother’s room, and then shortly after they were carried out the window, along the gallery, and set down in his own place.

Bahá’u’lláh was laid to rest in His son-in-law’s residence, in the northernmost room adjacent to the mansion. His interment took place shortly after sunset, on the very day of His ascension. The entire population of ‘Akká, Muslim and Christian of every social class and position, secular and religious, poor and rich, orphans and oppressed, gathered there in a heartfelt expression of faithfulness, to honour the One beloved of all. Songs were sung in His praise, and poems chanted; laments and prayers were chanted by the Shaykhs, who brought in lambs, rice, sugar and sale to distribute to the poor, that they should pray for the departed soul. Many deeply-moving funeral orations were spoken, describing Bahá’u’lláh’s wonderful life of self-sacrifice.

For at least a week after that incomparable calamity, great numbers of mourners remained to grieve with the bereaved family. Many camped under the surrounding trees, and the family generously and at great effort provided the food and hospitality for about five hundred people. Abdu’l-Bahá made all the arrangements and superintended every detail, and He provided money for the poor. At every dawn, the Call to Prayer and some of the prayers of Bahá’u’lláh were chanted from the balcony of Bahji, in the beautiful voice of one of the Arabian Bahá’ís. As this call sounded summoning all the hearts, Abdu’l-Bahá would arise, and everyone would follow Him to the Shrine, where He chanted the funeral prayer and the Tablet of Visitation, which He had asked to be arranged from Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings.

Telegrams of condolence, passionate poetry, and glowing expressions of devotion began pouring in from afar in Arabic and Turkish to Abdu’l-Bahá, as Muslim and Christian poets, men of learning, clergy and officials sent Him words and verses praising Bahá’u’lláh’s virtues and lamenting their immense loss, mingling their homage with praises of Abdu’l-Bahá Himself.

An ocean of grief and unbounded devotion poured out from the hearts of Bahá’u’lláh’s followers, and they determined to carry high the banner of the Cause into all the lands.

Abdu’l-Bahá’s sister Bahiyyih Khanum grew over a considerable period so thin and feeble from the anguish of her mourning, she was close to disintegration, her only and dearest wish, to drain her cup, and wing her way to the realms of glory.

Nabil could not endure the world without Bahá’u’lláh. For three months, he was inconsolable. At last he wrote a beautiful poem, telling all that was in his heart, and gave it to a companion to give to Abdu’l-Bahá. The companion forgot to give it straight away, and all that night the family heard someone walking about the Holy Tomb and chanting prayers. The next morning, he went to the sea, and leaving his clothes on shore, drowned himself. No one knew of it, and they searched for him all over the mountains and around. Then his clothing was found, and in four days his body was washed up and it was identified. When the poem was read by Abdu’l-Bahá, it was learned how he had decided he could stay on earth no longer, he so loved and yearned for Bahá’u’lláh.

Two years before His ascension, Bahá’u’lláh had written a Will, bequething all His spiritual treasures, summoning mankind to love and unity, and to the Cause. He wrote and signed the Will in His own hand; it remained locked in a box, and during Bahá’u’lláh’s final days, He entrusted it to Abdu’l-Bahá. Abdu’l-Bahá sent to ‘Akka for this box, and on the morning of the ninth day, nine witnesses were chosen from amongst His family and friends. In their presence, Bahá’u’lláh’s Will was unsealed, and read aloud by one of the companions, and in the afternoon, another read the Will in the Shrine, in the presence of Abdu’l-Bahá and a large number of friends, His sons, some of the Bab’s kinsmen, pilgrims and resident Bahá’ís.

Abdu’l-Bahá then went to see the ladies of the household. They called together the servants, and when everyone was assembled, at Abdu’l-Bahá’s request the Will was read to them.

The guidance and protection of the Spirit had now fallen upon Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son, and the Will proclaimed plainly that all should turn to Him. The friends rejoiced; such a sublime station could have come as no surprise with His lifelong sacrifice of body and soul, and the soul-transforming signs of spirituality evident within him.

But jealousy arose like a fire in some of the family members, seeking to seize for themselves an influence, inheritance and leadership in the Faith. This had been building up over some time, as they witnessed Abdu’l-Bahá’s natural gifts and ever-growing prestige, and it now burst into the light. In their pursuit of personal gain, no means was too low or shameful for them to carry out, and for many years they caused severe crises and hardships to bruise and buffet the Faith.

Abdu’l-Bahá, with patient and loving endurance, strength of mind, and divine assistance, brought every strategy to nothing, and set forth in establishing and nurturing the Faith far and wide.

 

Tablet of Visitation

The praise which hath dawned from Thy most august Self, and the glory which hath shone forth from Thy most effulgent Beauty, rest upon Thee, O Thou Who art the Manifestation of Grandeur, and the King of Eternity, and the Lord of all who are in heaven and on earth! I testify that through Thee the sovereignty of God and His dominion, and the majesty of God and His grandeur, were revealed, and the Daystars of ancient splendor have shed their radiance in the heaven of Thine irrevocable decree, and the Beauty of the Unseen hath shone forth above the horizon of creation. I testify, moreover, that with but a movement of Thy Pen Thine injunction “Be Thou” hath been enforced, and God’s hidden Secret hath been divulged, and all created things have been called into being, and all the Revelations have been sent down.

I bear witness, moreover, that through Thy beauty the beauty of the Adored One hath been unveiled, and through Thy face the face of the Desired One hath shone forth, and that through a word from Thee Thou hast decided between all created things, caused them who are devoted to Thee to ascend unto the summit of glory, and the infidels to fall into the lowest abyss.

I bear witness that he who hath known Thee hath known God, and he who hath attained unto Thy presence hath attained unto the presence of God. Great, therefore, is the blessedness of him who hath believed in Thee, and in Thy signs, and hath humbled himself before Thy sovereignty, and hath been honored with meeting Thee, and hath attained the good pleasure of Thy will, and circled around Thee, and stood before Thy throne. Woe betide him that hath transgressed against Thee, and hath denied Thee, and repudiated Thy signs, and gainsaid Thy sovereignty, and risen up against Thee, and waxed proud before Thy face, and hath disputed Thy testimonies, and fled from Thy rule and Thy dominion, and been numbered with the infidels whose names have been inscribed by the fingers of Thy behest upon Thy holy Tablets.

Waft, then, unto me, O my God and my Beloved, from the right hand of Thy mercy and Thy loving-kindness, the holy breaths of Thy favors, that they may draw me away from myself and from the world unto the courts of Thy nearness and Thy presence. Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. Thou, truly, hast been supreme over all things.

The remembrance of God and His praise, and the glory of God and His splendor, rest upon Thee, O Thou Who art His Beauty! I bear witness that the eye of creation hath never gazed upon one wronged like Thee. Thou wast immersed all the days of Thy life beneath an ocean of tribulations. At one time Thou wast in chains and fetters; at another Thou wast threatened by the sword of Thine enemies. Yet, despite all this, Thou didst enjoin upon all men to observe what had been prescribed unto Thee by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

May my spirit be a sacrifice to the wrongs Thou didst suffer, and my soul be a ransom for the adversities Thou didst sustain. I beseech God, by Thee and by them whose faces have been illumined with the splendors of the light of Thy countenance, and who, for love of Thee, have observed all whereunto they were bidden, to remove the veils that have come in between Thee and Thy creatures, and to supply me with the good of this world and the world to come. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate.

Bless Thou, O Lord my God, the Divine Lote-Tree and its leaves, and its boughs, and its branches, and its stems, and its offshoots, as long as Thy most excellent titles will endure and Thy most august attributes will last. Protect it, then, from the mischief of the aggressor and the hosts of tyranny. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the Most Powerful. Bless Thou, also, O Lord my God, Thy servants and Thy handmaidens who have attained unto Thee. Thou, truly, art the All-Bountiful, Whose grace is infinite. No God is there save Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.

Study Guide for the Ridvan 2016 Message

Study Guide for the Ridvan 2016 Message

With Assistance from Barbara Ann

__________________________________________________________

The Universal House of Justice

Riḍván 2016

 

To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

Paragraph One

With the advent of the King of Festivals, the period of preparation for the next global Plan is over: we now summon the friends of God to a new five-year commitment of courage, resolve, and resources.

What is now over?

  • the period of preparation for the next global Plan is over

To what is the House of Justice summoning us?

  • to a new five-year commitment of courage, resolve, and resources

What will this five year commitment require of us?

  • courage, resolve, and resources

Paragraph Two

The company of Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful stands poised. Institutional gatherings convened across the world in recent months have sent out successive signals of eagerness to begin this mighty enterprise. The imperatives contained in the message addressed to the Counsellors’ Conference are already being translated into decisive plans of action. Decades of heroic endeavour have shaped the community and earned it a measure of proven ability in fostering growth, steeling it for this moment. The last two decades, in particular, have markedly accelerated this longed-for rise in proficiency.

Who stands poised?

  • the company of Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful

What sent out successive signals of eagerness to begin this mighty enterprise?

  • institutional gatherings convened across the world in recent months

What is already being translated into decisive plans of action?

  • the imperatives contained in the message addressed to the Counsellors’ Conference

What has shaped the community and earned it a measure of proven ability in fostering growth, steeling it for this moment?

  • decades of heroic endeavour

What has markedly accelerated this longed-for rise in proficiency?

  • the last two decades, in particular

DISCUSS

  • How are “the Company of Baha’u’llah’s faithful” standing poised?
  • How have the “institutional gatherings convened across the world in recent months sent out successive signals of eagerness to begin this mighty enterprise”?
  • How are “the imperatives contained in the message addressed to the Counsellors’ Conference already being translated into decisive plans of action”?
  • How have “decades of heroic endeavour shaped the community and earned it a measure of proven ability in fostering growth, steeling it for this moment”?
  • How has “the last two decades, in particular, markedly accelerated this longed-for rise in proficiency”?

Paragraph Three

During this period, the adoption of an evolving framework for action has enabled the friends to progressively nurture and refine essential capacities, giving rise to simple acts of service at first, leading to more elaborate patterns of action, which in turn demanded the development of capacities still more complex. In this way, a systematic process of human resource development and community building has been started in thousands of clusters—and, in many of them, become far advanced. The focus has not been solely on the individual believer, or the community, or the institutions of the Faith; all three inseparable participants in the evolution of the new World Order are being stimulated by the spiritual forces released through the unfoldment of the Divine Plan. The signs of their progress are more and more apparent: in the confidence that countless believers have acquired to share accounts of Bahá’u’lláh’s life and discuss the implications of His Revelation and peerless Covenant; in the growing contingents of souls who, as a result, have been attracted to His Cause and are contributing to the achievement of His unifying vision; in the ability of Bahá’ís and their friends, at the very grassroots of the community, to describe in eloquent terms their experience of a process capable of transforming character and shaping social existence; in the significantly larger numbers of those indigenous to a country who, as members of Bahá’í institutions and agencies, are now guiding the affairs of their communities; in the reliable, generous, and sacrificial giving to the Fund, so vital for sustaining the advancement of the Faith; in the unprecedented efflorescence of individual initiative and collective action in support of community building activities; in the enthusiasm of so many selfless souls in the prime of youth who are bringing immense vigour to this work, notably by tending to the spiritual education of younger generations; in the enhancement of the devotional character of the community through regular gatherings for worship; in the rise in capacity at all levels of Bahá’í administration; in the readiness of institutions, agencies, and individuals to think in terms of process, to read their immediate reality and assess their resources in the places where they live, and to make plans on that basis; in the now familiar dynamic of study, consultation, action, and reflection that has cultivated an instinctive posture of learning; in the mounting appreciation for what it means to give effect to the Teachings through social action; in the multiplying opportunities being sought and seized to offer a Bahá’í perspective on discourses prevalent in society; in the awareness of a global community that, in all its endeavours, it is hastening the emergence of divine civilization by manifesting the society building power inherent in the Cause; indeed, in the friends’ growing consciousness that their efforts to foster inner transformation, to widen the circle of unity, to collaborate with others in the field of service, to help populations take charge of their own spiritual, social, and economic development—and, through all such efforts, to bring about the betterment of the world—express the very purpose of religion itself.

What has enabled the friends to progressively nurture and refine essential capacities?

  • the adoption of an evolving framework for action

What happens first, and to what does it lead?

  • simple acts of service at first, leading to more elaborate patterns of action

What does this demand of us?

  • the development of capacities still more complex

What has been started in thousands of clusters—and, in many of them, become far advanced?

  • a systematic process of human resource development and community building

Which three inseparable participants in the evolution of the new World Order are being stimulated by the spiritual forces released through the unfoldment of the Divine Plan?

  • the individual believer
  • the community
  • the institutions of the Faith

Where are the signs of their progress more and more apparent?

  • in the confidence that countless believers have acquired to share accounts of Bahá’u’lláh’s life and discuss the implications of His Revelation and peerless Covenant
  • in the growing contingents of souls who, as a result, have been attracted to His Cause and are contributing to the achievement of His unifying vision
  • in the ability of Bahá’ís and their friends, at the very grassroots of the community, to describe in eloquent terms their experience of a process capable of transforming character and shaping social existence
  • in the significantly larger numbers of those indigenous to a country who, as members of Bahá’í institutions and agencies, are now guiding the affairs of their communities
  • in the reliable, generous, and sacrificial giving to the Fund, so vital for sustaining the advancement of the Faith
  • in the unprecedented efflorescence of individual initiative and collective action in support of community building activities
  • in the enthusiasm of so many selfless souls in the prime of youth who are bringing immense vigour to this work, notably by tending to the spiritual education of younger generations
  • in the enhancement of the devotional character of the community through regular gatherings for worship
  • in the rise in capacity at all levels of Bahá’í administration
  • in the readiness of institutions, agencies, and individuals to think in terms of process, to read their immediate reality and assess their resources in the places where they live, and to make plans on that basis
  • in the now familiar dynamic of study, consultation, action, and reflection that has cultivated an instinctive posture of learning
  • in the mounting appreciation for what it means to give effect to the Teachings through social action
  • in the multiplying opportunities being sought and seized to offer a Bahá’í perspective on discourses prevalent in society
  • in the awareness of a global community that, in all its endeavours, it is hastening the emergence of divine civilization by manifesting the society building power inherent in the Cause

Through what efforts have we been able to express the very purpose of religion itself?

  • growing consciousness
  • efforts to foster inner transformation
  • widen the circle of unity
  • collaborate with others in the field of service
  • help populations take charge of their own spiritual, social, and economic development

What has these efforts brought about?

  • the betterment of the world

DISCUSS

  • How is “the evolution of the new World Order” “being stimulated”?

Paragraph Four

While no single measure can capture the totality of the Bahá’í community’s progress, much can be inferred from the number of clusters worldwide where a programme of growth has been established, which, with gratitude for the bounties bestowed by the Abhá Beauty, we confirm has surpassed 5,000. So broad a foundation as this was a prerequisite for taking on the task that now confronts the Bahá’í world—strengthening the process of growth in every cluster where it has begun and extending further an enriching pattern of community life. The sustained effort required will be arduous. But the outcome has the potential to be profoundly significant, even epoch making. Small steps, if they are regular and rapid, add up to a great distance travelled. By concentrating on the advance that must be made in a cluster in an initial period—for instance, in the six cycles occurring before the first of the bicentennial anniversaries—the friends will do much to bring their goal for the full five years within reach. In each cycle are vested fleeting opportunities for a stride forward, precious possibilities that will not return.

How can we measure progress?

  • While no single measure can capture the totality of the Bahá’í community’s progress, much can be inferred from the number of clusters worldwide where a programme of growth has been established

How many programmes of growth have been established?

  • we confirm has surpassed 5,000

How has this been achieved and what can we be grateful for?

  • with gratitude for the bounties bestowed by the Abhá Beauty

What is the task that now confronts the Bahá’í world?

  • strengthening the process of growth in every cluster where it has begun
  • extending further an enriching pattern of community life

What will be arduous?

  • the sustained effort required

How has the potential outcome been described?

  • profoundly significant, even epoch making

What adds up to a great distance travelled?

  • Small steps, if they are regular and rapid

How can we do much to bring our goals for the full five years within reach?

  • by concentrating on the advance that must be made in a cluster in the six cycles occurring before the first of the bicentennial anniversaries

Bonus Question:  What is the first of the bicentennial anniversaries and when is it?

With what is each cycle vested?

  • fleeting opportunities for a stride forward
  • precious possibilities that will not return

Paragraph Five

In society at large, alas, the symptoms of an ever-deepening malaise of the soul multiply and worsen. How striking that, as the peoples of the world suffer for want of the true remedy and turn fitfully from one false hope to another, you are collectedly refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal. How striking that, amid the cacophony of fixed opinions and opposing interests that grows everywhere more fierce, you are focused on drawing people together to build communities that are havens of unity. Far from disheartening you, let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them.

What is happening in society at large?

  • the symptoms of an ever-deepening malaise of the soul multiply and worsen

What is the striking contrast?

  • as the peoples of the world suffer for want of the true remedy and turn fitfully from one false hope to another, we are collectedly refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal
  • amid the cacophony of fixed opinions and opposing interests that grows everywhere more fierce, we are focused on drawing people together to build communities that are havens of unity

Instead of becoming disheartened, of what should we remind ourselves?

  • let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them

DISCUSS

  • How are we collectively “refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal”?
  • How are we building communities that are havens of unity?
  • What does the Universal House of Justice tell us to do with “the world’s prejudices and hostilities”?

Paragraph Six

This is the last in a series of consecutive Five Year Plans. At its close, a new phase in the evolution of the Divine Plan will open, set to propel the community of Bahá’u’lláh towards the third century of the Bahá’í Era. May the friends of God in every country appreciate the promise of these few years ahead, which will be rigorous preparation for the even mightier tasks yet to come. The present Plan’s broad scope enables every individual to support this work, however humble one’s share. We ask you, cherished co-workers, adorers of Him Who is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, to spare no effort in applying all you have learned and every God-given ability and skill you possess to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage. To your own ardent supplications for heavenly assistance we add ours, offered in the Holy Shrines, on behalf of all who labour for this all encompassing Cause.

What is unique about this plan?

  • this is the last in a series of consecutive Five Year Plans

What will happen at its close?

  • a new phase in the evolution of the Divine Plan will open

To what will it propel us?

  • towards the third century of the Bahá’í Era

What are we asked to appreciate?

  • the promise of these few years ahead which will be rigorous preparation for the even mightier tasks yet to come

What does this plan’s broad scope enable every individual?

  • to support this work, however humble one’s share

What is the House of Justice asking us?

  • to spare no effort in applying all we have learned and every God-given ability and skill we possess to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage

What prayers are being offered in the Holy Shrines, on behalf of all who labour for this all encompassing Cause?

  • ardent supplications for heavenly assistance

DISCUSS

  • How do we “spare no effort in applying all” we “have learned”  “to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage”?
  • How do we apply “every God-given ability”  “to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage”?
  • How do you apply “the skills you possess to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage”?

 [signed: The Universal House of Justice]

Exemptions from Fasting

One of my readers wrote:

I have been fasting for about five years now. The middle three were very easy, however, this fast there have been heat-waves and the common cold making it more difficult. And then came that time of the month. What suggestions you have for dealing with a broken up fast? I feel like I need to start the fast all over again with four days to go.

I replied:

You’re exempt from fasting in both those situations (b and f)!

Exemption from fasting is granted to:
(a) Travellers

  • Provided the journey exceeds 9 hours.
  • Those travelling on foot, provided the journey exceeds 2 hours.
  • Those who break their journey for less than 19 days.
  • Those who break their journey during the Fast at a place where they are to stay 19 days are exempt from fasting only for the first three days from their arrival.
  • Those who reach home during the Fast must commence fasting from the day of their arrival.

(b) Those who are ill.

(c) Those who are over 70.

(d) Women who are with child.

(e) Women who are nursing.

(f) Women in their courses, provided they perform their ablutions and repeat a specifically revealed verse 95 times a day.

(g) Those who are engaged in heavy labour, who are advised to show respect for the law by using discretion and restraint when availing themselves of the exemption.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

The prayer you can say during your period is described in the Aqdas:

God hath exempted women who are in their courses from obligatory prayer and fasting. Let them, instead, after performance of their ablutions, give praise unto God, repeating ninety-five times between the noon of one day and the next ‘Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty‘. Thus hath it been decreed in the Book, if ye be of them that comprehend.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 23)

If claiming the exemptions isn’t clear enough, try these!

The law of the Fast is ordained for those who are sound and healthy; as to those who are ill or debilitated, this law hath never been nor is now applicable.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God. It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 134)

God doesn’t want you to push yourself beyond your limitations:

Some people lay stress on fasting. They affirm that in augmenting the weakness of the body they develop a spiritual sensibility and thus they think to approach God. Weakening one’s self physically does not necessarily contribute to spiritual progress. Humility, kindness, resignation, and all these spiritual attributes emanating from great physical strength are acceptable to God. That an enfeebled man cannot fight is not accounted a virtue. Were physical weakness a virtue the dead would be perfect, for they can do nothing. If a man be just, kind, humble and merciful and his qualities are acquired through the will-power—this is Godlike. A child cannot kill a man; but a Bonaparte can abstain from war, from shedding blood, from devastating countries. A dumb person will not speak ill of any one, a paralyzed hand cannot strike; but a strong arm can refrain from striking. Justice, love and kindness must be the instruments of strength, not of weakness. Exaggerated fasting destroys the divine forces.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 98-99)

You don’t need to extend the Fast because of the days you missed.  You’re exempt!

If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the Fast period is over, he can start to Fast again and continue until the end. Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose.  (Shoghi Effendi: Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 9-10)

Vowing to fast (in a month other than the one prescribed for fasting) is permissible. Vows which profit mankind are however preferable in the sight of God.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

God has the power to count you among those who have kept the Fast:

Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the Fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the Fast.  And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the Fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.  (Baha’u’llah, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 261)

You can ask for this, and also to receive the benefit of the virtues for each hour of the Fast:

These are, O my God, the days whereon Thou didst enjoin Thy servants to observe the fast . . . Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things. Thou hast, also, assigned unto every soul a portion of this virtue in accordance with the Tablet of Thy decree and the Scriptures of Thine irrevocable judgment.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 143)

For more ideas on what you can do when you’re exempt:

9 Ways you Can Fast When you Can Eat

What’s the Baha’i Fast Like—When You’re Exempt?  

Prayer Requests and Virtues Acquired During the Baha’i Fast

Meditations on the Long Fast Prayer

 What would you add to this question of exemptions?  Post your comments below.

Why Do We Overeat During the Fast?

Nabil Moghaddam is in his final year of a three-year program in Homeopathy, Health Sciences and Nutrition through the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine who are regulating the homeopathic profession in Ontario, and his thorough training matches the competencies required by the College of Homeopaths of Ontario.  He’s combining his knowledge of the Writings, with the learning he is getting in his program.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone attempt to balance science and religion on this topic.

Here is what the Writings have to say about homeopathy as a scientific discipline:

One of the friends of Persia wrote to Shoghi Effendi and asked this question: “Is it true that ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that biochemical homeopathy, which is a form of food medicine, is in conformity with the Bahá’í medical concept?” The beloved Guardian’s reply to this question in a letter dated 25th November, 1944 was as follows: “This statement is true, and the truth thereof will be revealed in the future.”   (Shoghi Effendi and Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 485).