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Tell the Rich of the Midnight Sighing of the Poor

 

 

One of my readers posted the following story as a comment on my blog posting about Disaster Planning  but it was so poignant I wanted it to stand on its own.  This is printed with her permission, and she has asked to be anonymous.

There is another type of disaster that is in a different category than those caused by natural disasters. That is financial ruination and difficult for people with serious health handicaps.

I can speak from personal experience. Our story is similar to the stories of most working middle class Americans whose lives have drastically change due to medical catastrophe or a serious illness in oneself or the family.

We are Baha’is, and find that the Baha’is who are understandably not equipped to handle serious social/financial problems among the friends, but who also lack the knowledge to be resourceful in finding unconventional ways to be of assistance.  So, I share my story with you, just to give one person’s narrative and efforts for solution.

My husband and I do work and research from the home which means we have a huge library. We also inherited lovely furniture and china.  Work involves his professional consulting, my returning student’s school work and stuff, our Baha’i Books, spiritual literature, inspiring and help yourself types of books, books about illness, mental health and addiction (all related to my schoolwork).

We have made some mistakes along the way concerning our economic plight.  When my husband underwent a major life changing surgery (the type that is physical to the point where everything changes: ambulation and how to do activities of daily life, etc.).   I have major disabilities myself, physical and neurobiological which precludes us from working at most jobs.

Our Social Security income is not enough to live on and spouse’s business has taken a drastic downturn.  Especially with his illness, like many Americans, our advice is, “Don’t get sick in America; you will lose your shirt.”  Good bye house, good bye savings, good bye capabilities that non-handicapped people take for granted, good bye financial stability.  Hello, depression, some bad decisions along the way, not wanting to downsize and give up comfortable lifestyle, debt.  Bills dog us all the time.

We have drastically “downsized” our lifestyle, especially compared to most people, although still have some luxuries.  We refuse to give up our dirt cheap wonderful health insurance, with no co-pays, not given our complex problems.  Even if we applied for government poor peoples’ medical coverage which we may not even qualify for we would receive crappy care and have to pay co-pays for everything with fewer services and medications.

I have told my husband on more than one occasion that we are no longer economically sustainable.  Sometimes he gets it and sometimes he doesn’t. He has profound grief and many losses due to his illness, which I believe are more devastating than mine.  He is used to being boss of the house, stubborn, and understandably in a lot of fear.  The resources of the Faith and 12-step programs don’t seem to be “in his vocabulary.”  I have those resources but still slip into fear and worry.  I also have a lousy short term memory.

I have been resourceful in getting as many free services as I can outside normal social services channels and being a part-time older student for dirt cheap opens a lot of possibilities for assistance and, believe it or not paying work!  Work I can actually do, despite my many disabilities and not having worked at a paying job for several years.  However, my work can be sporadic but it has helped a lot.  It actually earns us money for me to be a student.

When we moved to our new town,  our LSA saw our predicament.  They helped us move things to a storage unit, and then to a new house when our landlord wanted to move back into the home we were renting.

Here is our part:  we never adequately went through our possessions and there were a lot of things we should have thrown away and didn’t.  Truthfully, we were too ill and depressed to do it, and I think I did not make certain decisions wisely.  I opted for finding ways to be happy and find a new purpose in life, but that led to certain critical  practical considerations being overlooked.

Now we are faced with another move, are both disabled, and are a few hundred dollars per month above the “poverty line” so we don’t qualify for most social services. My husband has dragged his feet, and obtained help from a professional disability counselor.  On his suggestion, he put my husband in charge of house hunting since I was doing everything else and needed help. So we are now faced with moving again and, like before, at the last minute.

After my cancer last year, I spent hours looking for help with things like housecleaning.  Several friends have been generous and have helped financially and with their free labor.  Our friends, for some strange reason, have not given up on us and are still there (is God watching out after us?)  For months we have had trouble paying our rent and often paying it late.  We have had trouble financing mowing the lawn which our lease said we were supposed to do.  We get the lawn moved by neighbors and a friend who loans us his lawnmower, a God send (He seems to be watching out after us); but that is not enough lawn care to please the landlord.  He refused to renew the lease.

At one point I requested assistance from the National Assembly and they gave us a one-time grant to pay rent for a month.  They had also talked to our Assembly about us and don’t know what was said in that conversation.  In their letter with the grant, they advised me to focus on getting out of the financial mess and set school aside.  Apparently, they did not know that school was a mental necessity for me that actually made us money and gives me a future, for the first time of better things to come.  I consulted 5 of my medical professional care givers, and they all agreed that it was important for me to stay in school and that it would be bad if I quit.  I have stopped most of my volunteer activities except for hosting a Ruhi class at one point and doing Baha’i teaching on my campus, with no college club!  The teaching actually makes me happy and energizes me and I think it would be bad to give that up.

One member of the Assembly scolded me for not following advice of NSA.  Eventually I got up the courage to write NSA with copy of letter to LSA, explaining my position.

In fairness to the LSA, I can see why they might not know how to help us.  Most of them are either disabled themselves or to tapped out with family, work, and service commitments to do much of anything.

I don’t drive, so two members always make sure I get to Feast.  That is a good thing.

One member accepted government poor peoples’ insurance and did lots of things to uplift herself from poverty and after several years got a part-time and then full-time job.  Unfortunately, her way is not workable for us, and especially not for my husband.  She has gotten good care with poor peoples’ insurance, with a very complex and difficult medical history.  She has downsized and from what I can tell has more common sense and planning skills than we do.

I even went to the LSA on two occasions, asking for help.  One idea was to sell things on the internet (I just don’t have the time or energy to do that; I would give away most of things first!  A professional organizer was recommended to us, who would have helped us and when I talked to her seemed caring and good at her job, however, we couldn’t afford the down payment to get started.  Our Disability counselor is now helping us with that stuff, and the services they can provide only go so far.

One Social Service agency that is highly recommended is purported to help people with housekeeping and other services.  I have called or seen them on more than one occasion.  They offered nothing too people who weren’t below the poverty line.  We are in the same class as the “working poor,” who don’t get as many services as the poor people get.

I make no bones about the fact that I go to some food banks and am grateful to them.  Most have great people, especially the one at the University.  I see nothing wrong in talking about this as a very normal thing for people to do, as there is a lot of shame and stigma about this sort of thing.

My offers to help be of service in some way are generally turned down; I should be sensible and pay my debts first.  However, per twelve step guidelines, a sensible amount of service activities is good for ones survival and especially one’s soul.  One LSA member, and probably his wife, support my idea to start a College Club.  The first activity is very simple; a monthly prayer meeting and making friends.  I am happy with a meeting over the phone while I pray on campus.  After months, I finally found another Baha’i on campus who is too busy to attend most things.

What can the LSA or even the NSA do for someone like me? 

For one thing, they or community members could keep me company while I work.

They are praying for me, and one community member offered to help.

They could help me make phone calls.  They wouldn’t have to do all my calls, just take some of the load off my back.

They can let everyone know that the Regional Council might have some resources (I didn’t know that until I read your post).  I will be contacting them.

I am doing everything I can to help my profoundly depressed husband who is actually going to a Psychiatrist and staying on his medication.  LSA members have tried to reach out to my husband, but he has not reciprocated.  They have not given up on him.  That is a wonderful thing.  These good people need help too!

Another great thing they did: they moved a person who had cancer and no close family to a new apartment.  They found an apartment for him too.  They drove him to doctor’s appointments and found good medical help for him.  These are all things he could not have done on his own.  They invite them to see rented movies at their house.  They found a beautiful apartment for him and he has even hosted a feast.  So obviously these good people are doing something right.

There has to be a way, we can be helped by the same LSA but I don’t know what it is. Is it because my husband and I don’t appear to be making good decisions or have a different and incomprehensible sense of needs?  Do we appear to be not letting go of our old life style or still making decisions that they don’t consider to be good ones?

If there is even an answer to dilemmas like ours, I say “bring it on.”

Perhaps the Regional Council could have a Ruhi class on how to help poor people with physical and mental limitations!  Especially on helping poor people who are making what they consider to be bad choices.  Also, do they know the whole story?

God, Please Put it on My Tab

By Badi Shams

Sometimes we’re very hard on ourselves, and can’t forgive our mistakes in certain areas of life. Many of us lack self-esteem and consequently lose sight of life’s big picture.

When that happens to me, I often forget that life represents a collection of my good and bad actions—sort of a balance sheet that keeps track of my deeds, both good and bad. The negative side or the bad deeds are like an open account I have at a store or with a credit card company that keeps track of my purchases and payments. The expectation? Payments must be made by the end of the week or month at the most.

Our life’s open account is no different—because we are spiritually brought to account by the end of our physical existence. So when we know this tab is open, and understand that we are going to make many mistakes till we die, then why do we suddenly pick one mistake and become obsessed with it to the extent that we cannot forgive ourselves? Why one, when many could be singled out and made to be the stumbling block on the way of our human journey?

Forgiving others for what they have done is much easier for me than forgiving myself. The Bahá’í Teachings have a wealth of insight and knowledge on this subject to help us to forgive others—and ourselves. But my problem has always been being unable to forgive myself. For whatever reasons, my self-esteem has rarely been high enough to take me to the happier side of self-forgiveness. Even after finding out some great people too felt like me, not feeling worthy did not help me with my struggles. But when I read the holy scripture of many different Faiths, they take away some of the pain.

Even the great apostle Paul looked at his past with great regret:

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  (1 Corinthians 15:9)

Shoghi Effendi considered himself a failure to “Rise to the situation the Master’s passing had placed him in” – and this distressed him for many years. (Rúhíyyih Rabbání, The Priceless Pearl, p. 72)

Maybe we need to be reminded that our account with the Creator remains open, and not let one mistake stop us from moving on with our lives. He has not given up on us, so why are we writing ourselves off? We will eventually balance our account.

As the result of doing so many wrong things in my life, I sometimes feel unbearable and paralyzed, filled with deep regret. This negativity reaches so high that I have to find ways not to deal with it, postponing that intense and difficult reckoning to some future time so that hopefully by then I am better equipped to face it and deal with it. So when those intense guilt attack moments occur, I repeat this to myself: “Please God, put it on my tab.”

That way I buy myself some time to deal with it later—to pray, to silently ask God for forgiveness, to find the inner strength to resolve to be a better and more spiritual soul.

By using this method I have survived many moments of utter despair. It also proved to me that God’s account with us is very flexible. He is kind because he sees our weaknesses and gives us opportunities to try again. Were it not for His flexibility, we would have had to give up trying.

The Baha’i teachings say that the coming of Bahá’u’lláh can wash our consciences clean, if we let it:

Now hath the Truth appeared, and falsehood fled away; now hath the day dawned and jubilation taken over, wherefore men’s souls are sanctified, their spirits purged, their hearts rejoiced, their minds purified, their secret thoughts made wholesome, their consciences washed clean, their inmost selves made holy: for the Day of Resurrection hath come to pass, and the bestowals of thy Lord, the Forgiving, have encompassed all things.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 38).

I finally resolved this inner problem later in life, when I made a pilgrimage trip to the Baha’i World Centre in the Holy Land. There I met a very wise Bahá’í who noticed my troubles, when I could not find myself worthy enough to go to the Baha’i Shrines. This wise person asked me if I believed God is forgiving, and I said yes. He said do you think he has forgiven you for the bad things you have done? I said I am sure He has. Then he looked at me with a look of disappointment and said “then who the hell do you think you are? Are you higher than God? Forgive yourself! He has!”

In that moment, my spiritual eye opened for the first time and I could see my life clearly.

When we occupy our minds and souls obsessively with negative thoughts, we lose sight of the big picture and forget who runs the show. If God has forgiven all your shortcomings, please do yourself a favor and accept it with gratefulness. After all, our lives are God’s gift to us, and He wants us to live wisely, cheerfully and free from guilt and regrets.

For more on this topic:

God’s Love for Sinners

Learning How to Forgive Myself

How to Start Selflessly Serving Others

By Badi Shams

In our community we had a soul-searching discussion about the role that service to humanity can play in teaching the Faith. That heart-felt consultation and realization that some friends wanted to do something but did not know where to start, encouraged me to write these few lines and make a list of possibilities of service open to us.

As Baha’is, we are often struggling to balance our time among our own efforts at spiritual growth, our family life, our work, our commitments in the Baha’i community, and our core activities and teaching. And no thanks to technological advancement with so many gadgets that enable us to multi-task more and more, we have been transformed from human beings to human doings. Added to that is also the rampant spread of materialism that is consuming our spiritual growth and draining our energy. How can we have time for one more thing- one more social action, one more commitment? Though providing a service may sound like one more thing to fit into our already busy lives, in reality it does not necessarily need to become a big project. Any look, gesture, word or action that helps others is an act of service.

The concept of service is nothing new to people of all religions and as Baha’is we have the wealth of Writings on this subject and we have read how Abdu’l-Baha exemplified service throughout His life.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

And do not forget to do good to one another.  (Quran 2:238)

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250)

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Service to humanity is service to God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8)

How else can our world become united if, as citizens, we don’t try to help each other? How else can the sufferings of the world be reduced? The ordinary people of the world like you and me will ultimately make a difference, and make this earth a better and more peaceful place—if we take one more extra step to help our fellow human beings.

The Baha’i Teachings encourage all people to extend themselves into the arena of service to others:

A Baha’i who serves others is like unto a candle which burns and sheds light upon all those who circle around it. The highest attainable station of the candle is to burn and brighten the dark room, and the loftiest pinnacle of our progress and perfection is to be confirmed in service… (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 61)

Serving others has the added benefit of healing and can give peace and contentment to our souls. It helps us to deal with our problems and tests which can destroy or undermine our happiness.

Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you — and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.  ([The Research] Department has found that these words were attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in an unpublished English translation of notes in German by Dr. Josephine Fallscheer taken on 5 August 1910. As the statement is a pilgrim note, it cannot be authenticated)

So perhaps it is a good idea to revisit this concept and with the help of the list below look at the possibilities of service open to us. Maybe we can get involved with some kind of service that fulfils our commitment and connects us to the larger community. This may also create more opportunities for enhancing the conversation and introducing Baha’u’llah’s message in the best light possible, through our actions. The list below may help you to find a service matching your talent or your passion:

  1. Doing one’s job the best way possible is not only a great service but an act of worship
  1. A kind gesture, a kind word, a kind act
  1. Random acts of kindness e.g. paying for someone’s coffee, paying for someone in front of you in line, giving your place in line for someone in a rush, presenting a stranger with a bouquet of flowers, mowing the neighbour’s lawn. Your imagination is the limit.
  1. Paying for the education of children who are poor
  1. Paying or contributing towards hospital bills
  1. Visiting in senior facilities
  1. Visiting in hospitals
  1. Volunteering to serve residents in group homes
  1. Driving people to appointments
  1. Shopping for your neighbours in need
  1. Cleaning homes
  1. Volunteering in women’s centres
  1. Volunteering for the Red Cross/ Red Crescent
  1. Volunteering in treatment facilities and organizations
  1. Cleaning roads and highways or cleaning garbage in your neighbourhood or on trails
  1. Teaching: Dance / Music / Painting / any other forms of the arts
  1. Coaching sports
  1. Picking fruits
  1. Calling or visiting those in need
  1. Offering companionship to lonely people
  1. Connecting with Baha’is outside of Baha’i meetings
  1. Offering services to literacy agencies
  1. Volunteering at homeless shelters and halfway houses
  1. Manning school crossings
  1. Teaching yoga / Tai Chi / martial arts/ any other exercise classes
  1. Self-help classes
  1. Teaching product-making classes like soap-making
  1. Teaching gardening classes
  1. Teaching farming classes
  1. Teaching woodwork classes
  1. Providing jewellery making classes
  1. Teaching bead work
  1. Teaching home decoration
  1. Providing food preserving classes
  1. Providing driving lessons
  1. Providing foreign language lessons
  1. Teaching house repairs
  1. Teaching appliance repair
  1. Teaching basic car repairs
  1. Teaching computer classes
  1. Helping refugees and newcomers
  1. Teaching adult education
  1. Volunteering with the Welcome Wagon for newcomers
  1. Picking up medicine or food
  1. Translating written materials or interpreting
  1. Cutting grass or doing landscaping
  1. Baby sitting
  1. Doing taxes
  1. House cleaning
  1. Giving financial advice
  1. Offering counseling
  1. Providing medical services
  1. Providing legal services
  1. Doing the makeup or costumes for plays
  1. Teaching others to apply makeup
  1. Volunteering in community gardens
  1. Connecting with volunteer organizations for possibilities
  1. Volunteering with food programs in schools
  1. Providing accommodation for the sick and needy
  1. Cooking for the sick
  1. Remembering in your prayers and supporting those who are going through a difficult time

As you embark on your quest to serve humanity, a few words of caution: Please make sure, while offering your services, that you respect the boundaries of agencies, individuals and families. Also, focus on why you’re there serving rather than the motives of others. Some people volunteer in organizations for self-recognition or out of boredom, and don’t really capture the essence of serving others with selfless intention. Be aware of this in any voluntary situation, so that it doesn’t discourage you or influence you in a negative manner.

If you approach the opportunity to serve others with a radiant countenance and the pure motivation of kindness and love, you’ll find that the gifts you give will come back to you a thousand fold.

 

Our Beloved Bahá’u’lláh

Our Beloved Bahá’u’lláh

Remembrances of the Leaves of the Holy Family

Part I – The Early Years (1817–1853)

Monologues for Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of His Birthday

on 22 October 2017

Marlene Macke

August 2017

Cast

 

Khadíjih Khánum

The mother of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)

 

Ásíyih Khánum

The Most Exalted Leaf, entitled Navváb, the wife of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)

 

Narrator

 

Khadíjih Khánum

I am Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of the One whom you call Bahá’u’lláh but whom I would always think of as my beloved son, Husayn-‘Alí. Let me tell you some stories of Him as a child and young man.

My husband, Mírzá Buzurg, and I were both born in the region of Núr in Mázindarán. I was most fortunate to be wedded to Mírzá Buzurg because he was renowned for his character, charm and artistic and intellectual attainments. My husband came from an ancient and noble family and he held high positions in service to the Sháh.

We were blessed with five children. Husayn-‘Alí, our third child, was born in Tihrán at the hour of dawn of October 22nd, 1817. In later years, the great chronicler, Nabíl, wrote that the world, while unaware of its significance, had nonetheless witnessed the birth of One who was destined to confer upon it incalculable blessings.

Simply as a mother, however, I counted myself lucky to have such a Child. Naturally, I loved all my children, but I could not bear for a moment to be separated from this One. His demeanour never failed to amaze me. Even as an infant, He had none of the behaviours expected of a baby: He never cried or screamed nor did He ever show any impatience or restlessness.

One day, when Husayn-‘Alí was seven years old, my husband and I were watching Him walking in the garden. I admired His gracefulness but remarked to Mírzá Buzurg that our Son was slightly short for His age. My husband replied that I was overlooking His capacity and aptitude and intelligence. He said that our Son was like a flame of fire and that even at His tender age, He was more mature than those who had reached adulthood. I readily conceded that whether He was tall or not mattered not in the slightest.

We knew, of course, that He had a special destiny. Some two years earlier, Husayn-‘Alí had a strange dream. After He described it to his father, my husband realized the dream had great significance and he summoned a man who could interpret dreams. Our Son related that He had been in a garden where huge birds flew down to assail Him, but the birds failed to hurt Him. Then He went to bathe in the sea and there He was assaulted by fishes, but they too were unable to injure Him. The dream interpreter explained that the birds and fishes represented peoples of the world attacking Him. They would, however, be powerless to harm Husayn-‘Alí and He would triumph over them to achieve a momentous matter.

We did not engage the usual tutors nobly-born male children would normally have. But Husayn-‘Alí showed remarkable aptitudes for horseback riding and calligraphy and He amazed everyone with His innate knowledge of our Holy Book, the Qur’án.  Indeed, as He grew older, none could help but see His keen intelligence, alert mind, upright character, his compassionate and benevolent nature. This is not just a fond mother speaking. By the time Husayn-‘Alí was 14 years old, even learnèd adults noted His complete mastery of argument and unparalleled powers of exposition, always expressed with kindness and patience. I was so proud of Him.

Now, every mother wants little more than to have her children make advantageous marriages. In 1832, my daughter, Sárih Husayn-‘Alí’s older sister, made such a marriage into a noble family in our region. Sárih’s new sister-in-law was a vivacious and exceedingly beautiful young girl named Ásíyih. I was so happy when Ásíyih Khánum came of age and she and my beloved Son were united in marriage. The wedding took place in October 1835, just before Husayn-‘Alí turned 18 years old.

My dear husband, Mírzá Buzurg, passed away in 1839. After than, virtually nothing more is known of me. Even the date of my death is lost in the shadows of history;  our culture simply paid no attention to the role of women. However, I always knew, in my heart of hearts, how blessed and privileged I was to have given birth to Husayn-‘Alí. While I may not have known that future generations would come to know Him as Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised One and the Glory of God, every sign indicated that He had a divine mission that only Allah could have destined.

Ásíyih Khánum

I am Ásíyih Khánum and Husayn-‘Alí, later known as Bahá’u’lláh, was my beloved Husband. Let me tell you something of our life together.

We both came from wealthy families that lived in the same region of Núr. My father adored me. He indulged me by allowing me to learn how to read and write, skills almost unheard of among women in our society. When I was still a child, my older brother married a wonderful young woman named Sárih Khánum and we became fast friends. She had a younger brother named Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí and almost immediately, she conceived of the plan for Husayn-‘Alí and I to be married. Sárih Khánum said it was because I had “rare physical beauty and wonderful spiritual qualities” but I think it was because she loved her brother so much and wanted this extra tie between our families.

Pre-wedding negotiations for an elaborate wedding were soon completed to everyone’s satisfaction. For six months prior to the ceremony, a jeweller moved into our home and created beautiful and costly pieces for my dowry. Even the buttons of my garments were made of gold, set with precious jewels. My dowry also included two maidservants, one male servant, a considerable sum of money and a large piece of property. Forty mules were loaded with my clothing and other possessions when I moved to my husband’s home. And as soon as I was of age in October 1835, the marriage ceremony took place

We lived a quiet life. Neither of us were interested in an ostentatious life style or the lavish State functions attended by noble families of our rank. Such worldly pleasures held no meaning for us. Rather, we cared for the poor and those in distress. By extending such comfort and assistance, my Lord came to be called “The Father of the Poor” and some even referred to me as “The Mother of Consolation”.

Husayn-‘Alí’s father, who had by this time lost a great deal of the family wealth through the machinations of jealous government officials, died in 1839 and my Lord Husband subsequently took on the added responsibility of looking after the large extended family of His mother, step-mothers and siblings. Although younger than many of these dependants, I shouldered the burden along with Him of caring for the family and managing the household.

Sadly, I lost my first two babies, but our son ‘Abbás, named after his paternal grandfather but whom later generations would call ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was born in May of 1844, and survived to adulthood. Praise God, because even as a young child, He was my most stalwart helper whenever my Husband was away on His travels and later when He was imprisoned. I was blessed with two additional surviving children, my pure-hearted daughter, Bahíyyih, who was born in 1846, and my sweet little son, Mírzá, born in 1849.

For the first nine years of our marriage, my beloved Husband and I enjoyed peace and tranquility in what I think now was a time for building our strength and capacity for the turbulent years to come. I was utterly devoted to Him.

When ‘Abbás was a new-born infant, a courier named Mullá Husayn travelled from Shíráz to give Husayn-‘Alí the “Hidden Secret”. Soon we all came to know that the One entitled the Báb had revealed Himself as the promised Qá’im of Islam. My Husband accepted this Revelation instantly.

Rapid changes engulfed us. Our home became the focal point of the followers of the Báb, who were known as Bábís. Of course, social norms were such that I could not mingle with male guests or participate in their gatherings in our home, but from behind the curtain of my adjacent private parlour, I followed the developments. In other changes, my Husband began guide and inspire the Bábís and to travel extensively in aid of the Cause of the Báb.

Then Husayn-‘Alí invited Táhirih, the noted Persian poetess and ardent supporter of the Báb, to live in our house for a time. I heard her speak fearlessly of the advent of the Herald. One day the two of us sat in my parlour, with my little son ‘Abbás sitting on her lap. We were listening to the men’s discussion in the next room. Suddenly, Táhirih exclaimed from behind the curtain. “O Siyyid, this is not the time for arguments, for discussions, for idle repetitions of prophecies or traditions! It is the time for deeds! The day for words has passed! The Promised Herald has come! He has come, the Qá’im, the Imám, the Awaited One has come!”

How could I remain untouched by the spiritual ferment surrounding me? Of course, it was impossible for me to travel forth as Táhirih did or drink the cup of martyrdom as she was called to do. But I gladly accepted my role to be the helpmeet of my Husband and did everything in my power to provide a stable, loving home for our family and a welcoming atmosphere for His guests.

Turmoil and persecution increasingly afflicted the Bábís and then the Báb Himself was unjustly executed in 1850. My Husband left for Iraq to keep the Báb’s followers from despair. He was gone for over a year and even when He returned to Persia, He continued to travel to outlying areas, despite the unrelenting persecutions against the Bábís.

Then the unthinkable happened. My Husband was arrested, beaten, suffered the agonies of the bastinado, forced into heavy chains and thrown into the foulest prison in Tihrán, the infamous Síyáh Chál. You may have heard it called the Black Pit.

And then, it got worse. Every friend abandoned us and everybody in our household – every relation and every servant except one manservant, Isfandíyár, and one maidservant – fled from our house in terror. Then hearing of Husayn-‘Alí’s imprisonment as a Bábí, the mobs plundered our mansion and other properties and stripped them of every piece of furniture and all our goods, our kitchenware, our clothing.

We were destitute in an instant. Here I was a young noblewoman with three young children. ‘Abbás was 9, Bahíyyih 6, and little Mihdí barely 3 years old. I managed to rent a small house with two mean little rooms in an obscure quarter of the city. We lacked even the barest necessities of life. One of my aunts and one of my Husband’s sisters provided us with a few cents on some days. One day, we were in such dire straits that I had only a tiny amount of flour left in the house. I put it in the hand of ‘Abbás and He ate it like that.

Meanwhile, I lived in a state of constant terror over the prospects of my Husband. Thank God for Mírzá Majíd, the husband of one of my Father’s aunts. Mírzá Majíd was a Russian citizen and a secretary in the Russian consulate. He helped us get food to my Husband and brought us news as to which Bábí was to be executed next. You cannot imagine the crushing anxiety I felt in those days, from fearful expectation each dawn that it would be the last day of my beloved Husband’s life to sheer relief on learning that He would live one more day.

After four months of this torture, representations from the Russian Minister resulted in the release of my Husband, on the condition of His exile to ‘Iráq within a month. He had no time to properly heal and recuperate, but we did our best to nurse Him. I had managed to secure a few jewels and embroidered garments when we fled from our mansion. I sold them now for the sum of some four hundred túmáns so we had a little money to prepare for the journey to ‘Iráq.

The four months in that unspeakable hellhole had an odd effect on my Husband. While He was broken in body, His spirit had soared to a new plane. Even my children noticed a new radiance enfolding Him like a shining cloak. Of course, at that time we were so worried about restoring His health, and so harassed with getting ready for the exile, we did not comprehend the significance of this new plane of His spiritual essence. It was another decade before we learned the actual details.

We departed our homeland in the early days of January 1853, the midmost days of a brutal winter, and faced an arduous journey through snow-clogged mountain passes to an uncertain future.

Narrator

Thus we have accounts of Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum, His wife, upon whom He bestowed the titles of the Most Exalted Leaf, and Navváb, a title of honour meaning ‘noble’. Their recollections have described the early years of the life of Bahá’u’lláh.

In an undated prayer revealed for His mother, Khadíjih Khánum, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The most honoured, esteemed and respected mother. He is God! Praised be Thou O Lord, My God! This is My mother who hath acknowledged Thy oneness, [and] confessed Thy unity…. I beseech Thee, therefore, O My God, to grant her the honour of beholding Thy Beauty, and vouchsafe unto her the gift of Thy Presence. Give her to drink then from the ocean of Thy mercy and the chalice of Thy forgiveness. Make her to dwell, O My God, in the precincts of Thy mercy in the Heaven of eternity. Grant her to hear Thy holy melodies that she may cast the veil from her head in her eagerness to meet Thee and speed through the domains of Thy nearness and union. Thou art verily powerful over all that Thou desirest, and Thou art verily the Mighty, the Most Luminous.”

In one of several Tablets revealed by Bahá’u’lláh to honour Ásíyih Khánum, He wrote, “O Navváb! O Leaf that hath sprung from My Tree, and been My companion! My glory be upon thee, and My loving-kindness, and My mercy that hath surpassed all beings. We announce unto thee that which will gladden thine eye, and assure thy soul, and rejoice thine heart. Verily, thy Lord is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful. God hath been and will be pleased with thee, and hath singled thee out for His own Self, and chosen thee from among His handmaidens to serve Him, and hath made thee the companion of His Person in the daytime and in the night-season.”

In a Tablet of visitation revealed after her death, Bahá’u’lláh testified that Ásíyih Khánum had gazed upon His Countenance, circled round His throne, gave ear to His Call, resided in His House and clung to the Cord of His Covenant. He bore witness that she endured patiently in the path of her Lord and that God had elevated her to a glorious station.

We esteem the legacy of Ásíyih Khánum to this day. Bahá’u’lláh informed His followers that, were they to visit her tomb, they are to say, “Salutation and blessing  and glory upon thee, O Holy Leaf that hath sprung from the Divine Lote Tree! …” Her enduring fidelity to Bahá’u’lláh at every stage of their lives must have been one of the few private joys and comforts during His Life.

And we honour the legacy of Khadíjih Khánum who gave birth to, lovingly raised and then released her Son to the world, a Son Who was destined to be the Manifestation of God whose advent all past religions had promised, the Light of the World, the Sun of Truth, the Prince of Peace, the Glory of God.

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Script taken primarily from Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, An In-Depth Study of the Lives of Women Closely Related to the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh by Baharieh Rouhani Ma‘ani, and Bahá’u’lláh The King of Glory by H.M. Balyuzi.

Economics: A Brief History, Its Problems and Practical Suggestions

By Badi Shams

The economic field can be very confusing for the common man and the expert alike. There are many approaches to examining economics and its workings. As Baha’is we believe that a lack of spirituality has led to rampant greed and selfishness, creating poverty and misery for millions of people. Spirituality is the key to healing the root cause of the problems rather than attempting to manage the symptoms. Based on the Baha’i Teachings, this material aims to provide some insight and suggestions for taking steps to lay the foundation for a better economic future.

Our economic system is failing. It cannot meet the needs of humanity. The evidence is that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider and that has led to the suffering of masses of humanity. The solutions that can change this situation have been denied. It is time to re-examine the fundamental assumptions that this system was built on and replace them with spiritual ones. We need to build an economic system to help mankind to achieve its goal of an ever-advancing civilization, a world where there is no economic injustice and people have all the necessities of life so that they can live peaceful and fulfilling lives. A shift in thinking is needed. We have the solutions to build a new system; all we need is the will. Everyone has the power to contribute.

HISTORY AND PROBLEMS

Before presenting some suggestions for its remedy, it is useful to understand the history of the present economic system and its basic assumptions that are responsible for the present problems. This is a brief overview purposely stated in simple language that does not require the knowledge of economics to be understood.

Economic activities have been part of man’s life and the barter economy has been with him since the Stone Age. To survive he had to barter goods for goods. After the period of hunting and gathering came centuries of an agriculture economy in which the means of exchange included coins, pieces of gold or silver, bones, feathers and other items until the use of paper currency was introduced. The agriculture economy was very simple and limited in its activity. Nothing of significance changed until the invention of the steam engine in 1712. This led to the revolution of industries and mass production, which brought the need for imports and exports to feed the ever-expanding economy. Roads and railways had to be constructed. At the same time, a banking system was needed to handle all these new economic activities. Thus began our modern economic system.

Adam Smith (1723-1790), who is considered the father of modern economics, made assumptions and, based on his observations, built his economic system. One of the assumptions he made was that man always acts in his own interests and wants to maximize his satisfaction, so he believed that self-interest in free-market economies leads to economic prosperity.

The other assumptions which he mentioned in his famous book, “Wealth of Nations”, included the use of the term “invisible hand” a metaphor to describe the self-regulation of the market. He also advocated “laissez-faire”. This meant that government should not interfere and markets should be left alone to take care of any problems. He expounded upon how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity.

These two fundamental principles of the economic system introduced by Adam Smith were adopted by other economists. The principle of maximizing satisfaction created a sense of individualism which was praised and was the source of inspiration for many. But this trend of thought created a breeding ground for greed and exploitation. This resulted in society ignoring the plight of the poor and needy. The spirit of giving and sharing became obsolete. And gradually the gap between the rich and poor grew greater. To this day when people give their wealth to charity, many question why. Accumulating wealth was and still is considered the highest achievement in a person’s life. Becoming rich became the goal of every man and the cost of achieving this goal was not questioned.

For study purposes economics can be divided into many categories. Most economists regarded economics as a branch of social sciences and formulated many mathematical formulas to create a more efficient economic system. Man’s role was reduced to being one of the factors of production: labor. Economic systems concerned themselves with providing man with more material goods. Economists devoted their time to keeping up with the changes in society and helping us to make sense of the material side of life. They made an impact and contributed to the improvement of the economic system.

But there was no room for the moral and spiritual aspects of man’s life in the system. Money cannot and should not be the only means of measuring our life’s achievements. Unfortunately, the system does not recognize that man’s spiritual aspirations need to be the goal for an economic system, a system that provides him with tools so that he can work towards his spiritual destiny and spiritual goals. Since the true purpose of economics was not considered, it is no surprise that it has led to so many crises.

There were however a few economists who did see the cracks in economic assumptions and they raised the alarm. They suggested a Moral Economics. They believed that economic theory does not address areas such as family, health, love, culture, spirituality and environment that make life meaningful and rich. They felt that economic policy should include not only goods that can be exchanged for money but also values that have no price tag on them. One of these economists, Eugen Loeb, in his book “Humanomics: How We Can Make the Economy Serve Us-Not Destroy Us” declared:

In my view . . . economics is responsible for our deepening crisis. I am convinced that we will not be able to solve our basic problems unless we build a science of economy which enables us to navigate our ‘spaceship earth’ toward humane ends; a ‘humanomics.’

Conventional economics has become, despite its remarkable degree of sophistication, not only a useless tool, but a dangerous one. Its deceptive application has created a crisis which threatens the very foundations of our civilization.  (Eugen Loebl, Humanomics, 1)

We live in a very confusing time, particularly after the economic market crash of 2008, which almost destroyed the whole economic system and forced governments to take desperate measures to save the system and avoid universal chaos. The crash was caused by unchecked greed, which led to a destructiveness that only a lack of morality can create. Many think that terrorism, conflicts and other forms of violence are due to differences in religion or ideologies. But if we dig deeper we may find that the underlying factor in many cases is a deep sense of resentment from the “have nots” toward the “haves”. Poverty and powerlessness create resentment since every human being feels entitled to a bare minimum means of existence. With their deep resentment, terrorists find a cause in religion and various ideologies to justify their actions. But the Baha’i Writings explain that the whole question of economics is divine or spiritual in nature and that is a better foundation than selfishness or greediness. With this approach, man has a divine destiny and is not ruled just by man-made laws and regulations. It is fundamentally different because the Baha’i economic system is based on man’s heart; it is founded solidly on the human spirit.

Abdu’l-Bahá explains the nature of economics, and the remedy for its problems:

The secrets of the whole economic question are Divine in nature, and are concerned with the world of the heart and spirit. In the Baha’i Teachings this is most completely explained, and without the consideration of the Baha’i Teachings, it is impossible to bring about a better state.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Baha’i World, Volume 1V, 448)

Shoghi Effendi shed more light on this:

…By the statement ‘the economic solution is Divine in nature’ is meant that religion alone can, in the last resort, bring in man’s nature such a fundamental change as to enable him to adjust the economic relationships of society. It is only in this way that man can control the economic forces that threaten to disrupt the foundations of his existence, and thus assert his mastery over the forces of nature.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, 551)

The Baha’i Economic System will occur when the transformation of man and society has been accomplished and with it man’s awareness of his spiritual station and his destiny. He will have subordinated his animal nature and will therefore behave less selfishly. At this time it is almost impossible to imagine a society which has spiritually grown to that extent. But by introducing more of the spiritual qualities into our lives we are laying the foundation for such a society and such an economic system. Some of our goals may seem idealistic but that is exactly what we are, idealists. We are dreaming of a better world and are ready to take steps toward establishing Bahá’u’lláh’s World Commonwealth. No great achievement can take place without a goal or dream. Without such dreams the ever-advancing civilization would not have progressed from the Stone Age to where we are now.

Since we do not have the Bahá’i economic system in place as yet, we may think that we cannot do anything to bring it about and we must wait for its arrival. But that is not really true. There is so much we can do as individuals in our communities that is economic in nature and we can do it with the realization that we are participating in a new form of economic activity. Our participation will set the example for the role of spirituality in solving the economic problems of the world and at the same time prepare the ground for the time when the World Commonwealth will come into being.

The Universal House of Justice reminds us that the time has come to pay greater attention to the economic side of our lives and take steps to improve the economic prosperity of the world:

Although Baha’u’llah does not set out in His Revelation a detailed economic system, a constant theme throughout the entire corpus of His teachings is the reorganization of human society. Consideration of this theme inevitably gives rise to questions of economics. Of course, the future order conceived by Baha’u’llah is far beyond anything that can be imagined by the present generation. Nevertheless, its eventual emergence will depend on strenuous effort by His followers to put His teachings into effect today. With this in mind, we hope that the comments below will stimulate thoughtful, ongoing reflection by the friends. The aim is to learn about how to participate in the material affairs of society in a way that is consistent with the divine precepts and how, in practical terms, collective prosperity can be advanced through justice and generosity, collaboration and mutual assistance.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1 March, 2017)

To complete this task it is helpful to imagine yourself in the future using the power of your imagination. When you are able to do that, to grasp the beauty of peace, love and harmony and to see how the sufferings and misery have been removed and man no longer has to fight to survive in his economic life, then you will bring yourself back to the present and hopefully you will start making small changes in your economic activities that will lead to the fundamental changes in society and that will lay the foundation for a new and wonderful economic behavior based on spirituality and not greed.

Abdu’l-Bahá often talked about very complex subjects but He made them simple and easy to understand and my personal belief is that economics doesn’t have to be daunting or confusing, especially when it comes to action. The following suggestions are intended to be clear and straightforward in order to encourage you to participate in economic actions with increased awareness. They are meant for everyone, whether or not you are knowledgeable about economics. Hopefully, these suggestions, based on the Baha’i Writings, will empower you to act and make a fundamental change in your character and your everyday economic actions. You may then realize what an amazing power we have as individuals to transform society in every way, including economic ways:

  1.  Focus on the important questions of life. After answering the questions “Who am I” and “What is the purpose of my life”, the equally important question of “How much is enough?” should be answered. One of the biggest problems everyone faces is that we do not get a chance to understand who we are and what constitutes the purpose of our lives. Also we are so busy that we do not ask how much money is enough. How much do we need to live a fruitful life? Practice contentment. Life distracts us from asking ourselves these fundamental questions. Answering these questions can guide us to meet the tests and difficulties in life.

2.  Live a simple life, a life like Abdu’l-Bahá. Living a simple life brings peace of mind and removes some of the distractions of our life journey. There are many studies that indicate that simplicity reduces stress in life and creates a sense of freedom from the burden of material possessions. It is a decision made by many who have become tired of our consumer world.

3.  Change your mind set. You need to believe that you are essentially a spiritual being and that you have a spiritual purpose in your life. You need to realize your spiritual destiny and act accordingly. This mind set will help you to have a healthy approach to your material life. Every change begins first in your mind.

4.  Pay a fair price. If you feel that the price is too low, pay more than the asking price. The Báb practiced this when He worked as a merchant. One of the nicest things related to economic activities is the commitment of fair-minded people to disregard existing prices and pay more because they believe their estimate of the price to be fair.

5.  Share the profits with employees. Abdu’l-Bahá taught us how important it is for the workers to have a share of the profits. Besides profit-sharing, there are many ways to help. Get medical coverage for employees. Support the emotional and physical wellbeing of employees. Taking care of workers is a privilege and an opportunity to be of service to people. Looking for such opportunities is a rewarding act.

6.  Pay fair wages, not based on what society dictates. The Baha’i Writings provide guidance in terms of fairness of wages rather than following the minimum wage guidelines. We can pay more if we think that is fair.

7.  Be honest in your dealings. Present an item for sale with all the facts. In our society, we tend to misrepresent a product or share only enough information to present it in the best possible light. Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues. When selling your car, house or other possessions, clearly describe the real condition, mentioning the negative points as well as the positive points.

8.  Provide the best quality of service or the best product possible and do so in a spirit of service. We are privileged to have the assurance that by doing our job well we have actually demonstrated an act of worship. Make customer satisfaction a goal. There is more to our jobs than just earning money. How satisfying it is to know that the customer is happy and we have played a part in it. Being proud of our work is a blessing millions do not have. They make money but are not happy and satisfied inside.

9.  Look for opportunities to extend to co-workers and co-operate in the workplace. Most workplaces are very isolating and individuals work by themselves. To reach out and extend help and to treat each other fairly creates a wonderful spirit and working environment. Extend help to others, even your competitors. Be a cause of unity by seeing them as you would see your own employees or colleagues and doing as much as you can to help them.

10.  Be content with a reasonable margin of profit. There is no end to greed in our society so being satisfied with earning a certain profit will create a sense of contentment and provide an example to others. This is an extension of how much is enough. There is nothing wrong with being satisfied and content with a set amount of profit.

11.  Update yourself with the latest information to provide a better service and to be a leader in your field and be punctual. Being on time at work increases the efficiency of the system and demonstrates respect for others. If time is money, then one should not waste it.

12.  Remember that your actions are the best manifestation of your beliefs and be conscious of them. The cliché is true that actions speak louder than words. We should be an example for others since we are the ones to lead society towards an ever-advancing civilization.

13.  If you are lending money, ask for a reasonable interest rate and not the maximum rate. Baha’u’llah has advised us that the rate of interest needs to be fair and reasonable. Banks should not be the only ones setting interest rates.

14.  Resist the consumer mentality which exists in our society. Fighting this tendency is very important for our economic life and our spiritual development. Consumerism has become a disease that is spreading fast and its forces are paralyzing the progress of our souls.

15.  Be knowledgeable about advertising. Advertisements conceal the information we need to buy a product and they make false claims, using psychological methods, in order to make a sale. Advertising is present in all areas of our economic life. Selling has become very sophisticated and one has to be very savvy to navigate through all the false claims of advertising and read between the lines.

16.  Spiritually justify every expense. With so much poverty in the world today, we have to answer to our conscience for any unnecessary spending. We have been advised to be frugal in our spending. It is very useful to have that “policeman” inside us to check our spending.

17.  Avoid wastage in the workplace and suggest ways to cut down on waste. This also counteracts the depletion of our resources.

18.  Protect the environment in your business and personal life. We owe it to future generations to protect the environment. What a sad situation it would be if mankind grows spiritually in the future but the damage is done and our environment is destroyed.

19.  Increase your economic and business knowledge. The more we know about how economics works, the better we will be able to forecast the future.

20.  Volunteer in your community whenever possible with the spirit of service, following Abdu’l-Bahá’s example. He served mankind all of His life.

21.  Give to the Bahá’i Fund and also support worthy charitable organizations. Every act of giving is a small step toward reducing the gap between rich and poor.

22.  Have or adopt a financial goal in life. As we have teaching plans in the Faith and other goals and plans in our life, it is important to have an individual financial plan. Goals encourage discipline. This is very important. It is almost impossible to have a comfortable financial life without planning.

23.  Avoid debt as much as possible since too many financial burdens damage the quality of our spiritual and human life. Investigate the rate of interest on mortgages, loans and credit to reduce cost. Volumes can be written about this subject. Debts are one of the most destructive factors to quality of life that should be avoided.

24.  Create a habit of saving. Life is full of uncertainty and change and having some money for a rainy day creates peace of mind. Saving should be part of our financial goals. It is a wonderful habit to have. It is not easy to save with the pressure of our consumer mentality today but nevertheless it is very important.

25.  Spread the word about honest and fair businesses and professionals. It is like giving them free advertising. They need all the help they can get. It is very empowering for them and for us when we can help them.

26.  Don’t buy the latest models if the old ones are in working order and provide the same service. Having the latest of everything creates an unnecessary economic burden for an individual which in turn decreases the quality of life. Be practical about material possessions and avoid buying the new and improved version even though everyone is doing it.

27.  Avoid keeping up with the Joneses. That is the worst kind of spending. It is also a sign of spiritual and emotional immaturity. And we see it happen every day. It is really sad that people want the approval of others, while their spiritual destiny is in jeopardy.

28.  Support the concept of one world currency. If we have fewer currencies to exchange, life becomes much easier and this is a good step in the right direction towards world unity.

29.  Don’t follow society’s shortcuts with regards to taxation. There are claims made which can perhaps be legally justified but are morally wrong.

30.  Make honest insurance claims. We have all faced the dilemma of what to claim when an accident happens, what is legal and what is moral. Not every legal claim is necessarily moral.

31.  Make fair expense claims at work. It has become a common practice to claim the maximum amount even if it is not used but we have the duty to be honest about them.

32.  Do not abuse sick leave. It is not necessary to use the maximum number of days of sick leave allotted to you if you are not sick.

33.  Return to the store when you realize you have been undercharged or receive too much change for your purchase. This is practicing the virtue of honesty. Watch the face of the cashier when you do this. He or she is probably wondering, “Who are these people?” The answer is that we are the people from the future, where honesty is the norm.

34.  Resist society’s corrupt practices of bribery and cheating. In some places in the world, giving bribes is a way of life and that is a test and an opportunity to avoid this illegal and immoral practice.

35.  Regard service first and profit second. This seems idealistic in society but for Bahá’is it is considered a way of life. And in the long run, it is the best advertisement one can buy for free.

36.  Participate in social and economic projects. We can help to change the world for the better by getting involved in these projects. And they are a valuable way of learning and contributing. With more experience in social activities we will be able to make a greater contribution in the future.

37.  Do not support the idea of the end justifying the means when it comes to promotion at work or getting a contract or applying for a job. Our goal is to grow spiritually and these practices do not help us to grow. That is the worst kind of numbing our conscience.

38.  Be honest in a job interview. Society has adopted the practice of magnifying the positive and minimizing or omitting the negative but in reality it is a form of lying. It will feel strange to us and to the interviewer but we have to start being totally honest.

39.  Be truthful in filling out forms or tenders. Exaggerating the numbers has become a way of life but it is not the Bahá’i way of life. It is a very hard thing to do when competing but we can have the satisfaction that Baha’u’llah is happy with us.

40.  Do not sacrifice your values in order to get a promotion or contract even though there is nothing wrong with being ambitious and wanting to progress through the ranks. Some would do anything to get a promotion but we cannot follow that practice. We have to think about promoting our soul to a higher level of spirituality.

41.  Use good quality material in production. Do not use harmful ingredients. Educate yourself about the ingredients so no harm comes as a result.

42.  Protect the poor and underprivileged section of our society in any way you can. It is our spiritual duty and privilege. They have been entrusted to our care by Baha’u’llah.

43.  Give your Huqúqu’lláh (the Right of God), understanding fully that this gift is a privilege and is not a tax. Give with a sense of sharing rather than a sense of loss. This is your opportunity to practice generosity. Giving is the best practical step for bridging the gap between the rich and poor.

44.  Create a consciousness that your welfare, wellbeing and happiness depend on the welfare, wellbeing and happiness of every poor, needy and underprivileged person in the world; that the real meaning of the oneness of mankind will come into being when we see others as members of our family:

Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, 288)

45.  Remind yourself that money is a tool and not the goal of your life. The biggest mistake that most people make is that they forget that we have not been created to make money. That should not be our life’s goal. Money should be seen as an effective tool to serve mankind and to improve the spiritual and economic life of ourselves and others. This is the key that can make a person happy or sad at the end of our physical lives. Since we cannot take it with us, why not spend it for the good of mankind.

46.  Spend an equal amount of energy in becoming detached from material possessions as you spend getting them, recognizing that they are a test and remembering what Baha’u’llah said:

Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My Knowledge, and that that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine?  (Baha’u’llah,The Hidden Words, Arabic no.56)

It is like a spiritual detoxification. But there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich as long as we are fully aware of its benefits and dangers. Baha’u’llah has allowed us to have all the luxuries we desire, as long as we are detached from them.

47.  Remind yourself of your spiritual destination while pursuing financial goals, since materialism can slowly erode your spiritual life. Without constant reminders of our spiritual destiny, materialism can destroy our spiritual well-being. We need to have the “big picture” in our view all times so that we are not lost.

48.  Live the Bahá’i Life. In a sense it is a simple statement to live the Bahá’i life but it requires an understanding of ourselves and our purpose in life. It is easier said than done. But that is the goal of our life and the most important part of our human existence.

49.  Be considerate to those who rent from you. Be sensitive to their situation. If they are in trouble, be flexible with their rent payments. Let them miss a payment or part of a payment. Besides the spiritual satisfaction that you feel, you also gain a tenant who cares for you and your property and will use it as if it’s theirs. It even makes economic sense since you will probably reduce the cost of maintenance.

50.  Develop virtues that are common to all religions and are the foundation for any system’s success. At the present time, acquiring the virtues seems idealistic but we have to remember that as we move closer to an ever-advancing civilization, acquiring these virtues will be commonplace and a fundamental part of the goals we want to achieve. They may not seem to be related to economics but they help us to gain spiritual and human qualities and, in turn, create a better society. Here is the list of virtues identified by The Virtues Project:

assertiveness
caring
cleanliness
compassion
confidence
consideration
courage
courtesy
creativity
detachment
determination
enthusiasm
excellence
faithfulness
flexibility
forgiveness
friendliness generosity
gentleness
helpfulness
honesty
honor
humility
idealism
joyfulness
justice
kindness
love
loyalty
mercy
moderation
modesty
obedience
orderliness
patience
peacefulness
prayerfulness
purposefulness
reliability
respect
responsibility
reverence
self-discipline
service
steadfastness
tact
thankfulness
tolerance
trust
trustworthiness
truthfulness
unity

51.  Deal with your insistent self or ego, otherwise it can undo any success or progress if it is not recognized as a serious threat to your good efforts. History is full of examples of how the ego created destruction throughout the ages. As a human being, our life in this world and our progress in the next world depend on the decisions we make. We make our own heaven and hell here on earth as a result of the choices we make. It is sad if we do not make the right decision and give our higher nature the upper hand. Because we are bombarded by advertisements and consumerism, nurturing our higher nature is very difficult and that is why we need to tune ourselves spiritually in order to make the right choice so that we get the rewards and benefits of that choice. We know that reading the Writings has been encouraged in our Faith and when we read the Holy Writings and meditate on them, our souls are uplifted and that affects our decision making. Bringing ourselves to account each day is also important. It is like a spiritual balance sheet so that we can perceive the good and the bad and make changes. This is such an important factor in our lives and we need to take spiritual nourishment every day so that our higher nature dominates our lower nature.

52.  Recognize and nurture the four aspects of your being:

a) Spiritual
b) Physical
c) Emotional
d) Intellectual

Most people ignore one aspect for the sake of others but we need all aspects to have balance in our lives. This sounds like a self-help mantra but awareness of all aspects of our being is essential to a realistic self-knowledge, the first step toward knowing God.

53.  Be more vocal in a loving way about the changes that are needed for the improvement of the economic life of individuals and the society in which we live; in short, without being militant or aggressive, express your ideas and vision. We have a say in all matters and we can be the catalysts of positive change. We do not want to be political or militant, but we cannot forget that our job is providing vision and direction to a wayward humanity. It is like having the healing medicine and not giving it to the sick.

The history of economics has shown us that a system without spiritual guidance can lose its effectiveness and eventually becomes the problem. The Baha’i Writings are the guidance the world needs to remedy the injustice done to the poor and underprivileged part of society. It is a long road and progress will be slow but definitely it is the right direction to follow. The suggestions presented here may seem overwhelming and you may not be able to practice all those that apply to your situation. But it is not about the results; it is about sincere efforts. It is the pure intention that counts. These actions will become the basis of a foundation upon which Baha’u’llah’s World Commonwealth will be established for the new race of man. We have been given the privilege of starting the spiritual process.