Persian Hidden Word 72

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The Hidden Words is a collection of spiritual aphorisms written by Baha’u'llah, in Persian and Arabic, while he was in Baghdad. One of his most popular works, it has been published in many different editions and translations. Persian Hidden Word 72 is a call to act in the world. In a street movie, it might be translated “come on, show me what you’re made of.”


Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.

A metaphor in literature asks us to form a picture of the image presented in our mind’s eye, and then find the similarities between that and the subject of the metaphor. But there’s something odd when you think about this image of the sword in its sheath, “its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge.” Surely the person who made the sword knows what it is worth? The 1961 Dutch translation says the value of the sword “verborgen blijft voor de maker” - it remains hidden from the maker. Dreyfus’ 1928 French translation (In L’Œuvre de Baha-ou’llah) says ” l’artisan ne connaît pas la valeur” - the craftsman does not know its value. This looks as if it has been translated from the English, and is the same in the current French edition (search on [72]).

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Mysterious Forces of Civilization (Secret of Divine Civilization)

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Bruce Barick, who suddenly passed to the next world a couple of weeks ago (January 2009), accomplished the bulk of the labor of arranging the texts, and so I release this collaborative effort in his name and honor.

Nasrin Khadem did all the work of segmenting the Persian text so it matched with the paragraphing in the Gail translation. Enormous thanks go out to her!

The document includes a very rare copy of Johanna Dawud's 1918 translation into English of this important work of the beloved Master.

The Marzieh Gail translation into English and the Persian version both came from (August 2008).

- Roger Coe

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Islam, the Baha'i Faith and the Eternal Covenant of Alast

Susan Maneck

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith,  once stated that for Baha'is the study of Islam was “absolutely indispensable” for “a proper and sound understanding” of the Baha'i Cause. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to understanding the Baha'i concept of the Covenant. 

When Baha’is discuss the concept of covenant as it applies to their teachings, they usually describe the chain of authority designed to maintain their unity.  They typically focus on what is commonly called the Lesser Covenant as embodied in such documents such as the Kitab‑i Ahd, Baha’u’llah’s Will appointing Abdu’l‑Baha as His successor and the Will and Testament of Abdu’l‑Baha which appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Baha’i Faith after Him, and called for the election of the Universal House of Justice. Hence, the Covenant is seen as that which obliges individual Bahá'ís to accept the leadership of Bahá'u'lláh's appointed successors and the administrative institutions of the Faith.

{josquote}Baha'is share with Islam an emphasis on the Covenant which calls us to remembrance and responsiveness.{/josquote}

But there is another covenant upon which this Lesser Covenant is predicated. Frequently this is called the “Greater Covenant,” namely the Covenant which God has made with all humanity, wherein He promises us continuing guidance through His Messengers, “Manifestations” as Baha’is call them, while we are obligated to recognize and obey them. This idea of the Covenant was first articulated in Islam where it is often known as the Covenant of Alast. I would contend that unless our understanding of the Lesser Covenant is grounded in this Covenant of Alast, [the] depth of its significance will largely be missed.

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1917 and all that

Esslemont's Version

The Bahai community has a tendency to get carried away with its enthusiasms for prophecies that supposedly give an insight into the immediate future. I’ve discussed one of these in Century’s end, about the expectation that “unity of nations” would be achieved by the year 2000. The story this time goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the Bahais were waiting for cataclysms to strike in 1917, followed by a world at peace in which “all nations shall be as one faith.” The story is still relevant today because the ‘1917 prophecy’ I am looking at is printed in Baha’u'llah and the New Era, which means that it has been translated into many languages and become part of the Bahai lore around the world. Baha’u’llah and the New Era is also included in the search engine Ocean, so it appears ‘official’ and is widely used. As of today (6 February), this prophecy is on the wikipedia page for “Bahai prophecies.” As such it is used by skeptics as an example of failed prophecy on the part of Abdu’l-Baha. One could of course argue that 1917 was an important year in world history, and rather cataclysmic, but we should first see if Abdu’l-Baha did say something like this, and what exactly it was.

This story is also another useful illustration of the way texts change as they are transmitted (and therefore, the importance of going back to first sources), and of the unhealthiness of living in the future, and these are lessons that bear repeating.

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Introduction to Surah of Sorrows (Suriy-i Ahzan)

Surah of Sorrows was written between mid-1867 and mid-1868, which was the turbulent year prior to Baha'u'llah's exile from Edirne to Akka. The subject of the surah is the opposition Baha'u'llah faced from those who rejected his claim to be the Promised One of the Bab and the spiritual effect this had on him and the Cause. The introductory statement establishes this theme, stating that the tablet is an address from God to one who has turned toward God at a time when everyone else has turned to Satan. The addressee was Mirza Ali Sayyah, from the Iranian city of Maragheh, who was exiled to Cyprus at the time that Baha'u'llah was sent to Akka.

The surah opens in the first two paragraphs with Baha'u'llah telling Ali to enter the ocean of grandeur, an image found throughout Baha'u'llah's writings. The ocean of grandeur is like an infinite spiritual reality that came into existence through the revelation of Baha'u'llah's name 'the All-Glorious'. The best metaphorical depiction of the ocean of grandeur that I know of is found in paragraphs 25-27 of the tablet. In these three paragraphs, Baha'u'llah's imagery brings to life a realm that, even on a cosmic level, is staggering in its size and magnificence. Baha'u'llah tells us that the sea of pre-existence, including what runs out of it and into it – for example, the rivers of meaning and pearls of wisdom – constitute only a wave on the ocean of grandeur. On the shore of the sea of pre-existence is a wilderness that stretches to infinity in all directions, and in this "valley" the call of God is raised. The prophets and messengers roaming in the wilderness hear the call and congregate at the "Dome of the Most Glorious". They fall before "that Beauty" and submit to his authority. The call in that wilderness never ceases, and when we hear it on earth and follow it, we take up an existence in that cosmic place.

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