Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More on the Tablet of Ahmad

In the paragraph immediately preceding the penultimate paragraph of the Tablet of Ahmad, we read: 'Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days... God hath ordained for the one who chants it...' and in the penultimate paragraph, we read: 'Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet...'. In the paragraph before the penultimate one, Bahá'u'lláh twice exhorts Ahmad to 'chant' the Tablet, whereas in the penultimate paragraph, the exhortation is to 'read' the Tablet. For the average Persian or Arabic reader, the two 'chants' and the final 'read' are all derivatives of the root 'to read'. However, Shoghi Effendi as Interpreter chose to translate the first occurrences of this derivative as an act of chanting. It is interesting that the two 'chants' occur in the paragraph where reference is made to the 'reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds', whereas the word 'read' is in connection with someone who is in affliction or grief. Could it be that chanting calls for a form of ecstatic transport and an inner sense of rapture, which would be closer to the state of surrendering our will to the Will of God?

    ('Ali Nakhjavani, Shoghi Effendi - The Range and Power of His Pen, p. 72)

Q. Could you please elaborate on the significance of the word 'chant' used in the Tablet of Ahmad? Does this mean that we should always try to chant the Tablet, even if we are reading it in a language other than Arabic or Persian?

A. The word 'chant' that Shoghi Effendi has used here is, in my opinion, an expression of ecstasy, of rapture, of spiritual upliftment and exhilaration. This is my understanding. It does not necessarily mean that if you are reading it in a language other than Arabic you should burst into singing it. Far from it! I think there is an inner meaning. When we read this Tablet, it should be with a sense of spiritual excitement, ecstasy, rapture, happiness and joy. All the martyrs, when they went to their field of martyrdom, did so with great joy. They did it for the sake of Bahá'u'lláh, as an act of love. This is the point, not that you should suddenly burst into singing that particular paragraph or that you should chant the entire Tablet. Basically, when we read it we should be in that condition of spiritual attunement to the music of the Kingdom. This is when you surrender your will to the Will of God. When you read the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh about the meaning of martyrdom, He says that there are two types of martyrdom, physical martyrdom and spiritual martyrdom. Physical martyrdom is very clear. Spiritual martyrdom, He says, is when you submit, surrender, and you subordinate your will to the Will of God. This attitude of detachment -- from your own wishes, from your own will, from your own preferences, in favour of the Will of God, whatever may be His good-pleasure, is what represents true spiritual martyrdom. If you are able to surrender your will to the Will of God, you have attained the condition of supreme martyrdom. You are then detached and you are happy about your detachment. You are freeing your soul from the attachments of this world and you are happy.

    ('Ali Nakhjavani, Shoghi Effendi - The Range and Power of His Pen, p. 82)

The Meaning of Angels

There may always remain mysteries for us mortals in attempting to understand the numerous references to angels found in the various scriptures of the world's religions. This includes of course the many, many such references to angels found in the Baha'i sacred Writings.

However, the passages here from a few primary Baha'i sources provide us with food for thought on this subject as we advance through this worldly life.

Emphasis added below for this compilation.

My God, the Object of my adoration, the Goal of my desire, the All-Bountiful, the Most Compassionate! All life is of Thee and all power lieth within the grasp of Thine omnipotence. Whosoever Thou exaltest is raised above the angels, and attaineth the station: "Verily, We uplifted him to a place on high!"; and whosoever Thou dost abase is made lower than dust, nay, less than nothing.

(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 252)


And now, concerning His words [in the Qur'an]: "And He shall send His angels...." By "angels" is meant those who, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings and of the Cherubim... And now, inasmuch as these holy beings have sanctified themselves from every human limitation, have become endowed with the attributes of the spiritual, and have been adorned with the noble traits of the blessed, they therefore have been designated as "angels."

    (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 78)

Look ye not upon the fewness of thy numbers, rather, seek ye out hearts that are pure. One consecrated soul is preferable to a thousand other souls. If a small number of people gather lovingly together, with absolute purity and sanctity, with their hearts free of the world, experiencing the emotions of the Kingdom and the powerful magnetic forces of the Divine, and being at one in their happy fellowship, that gathering will exert its influence over all the earth. The nature of that band of people, the words they speak, the deeds they do, will unleash the bestowals of Heaven, and provide a foretaste of eternal bliss. The hosts of the Company on high will defend them, and the angels of the Abha Paradise, in continuous succession, will come down to their aid.

The meaning of 'angels' is the confirmations of God and His celestial powers. Likewise angels are blessed beings who have severed all ties with this nether world, have been released from the chains of self and the desires of the flesh, and anchored their hearts to the heavenly realms of the Lord. These are of the Kingdom, heavenly; these are of God, spiritual; these are revealers of God's abounding grace; these are dawning-points of His spiritual bestowals.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 80)

O Divine Providence! This assemblage is composed of Thy friends who are attracted to Thy beauty and are set ablaze by the fire of Thy love. Turn these souls into heavenly angels, resuscitate them through the breath of Thy Holy Spirit, grant them eloquent tongues and resolute hearts, bestow upon them heavenly power and merciful susceptibilities, cause them to become the promulgators of the oneness of mankind and the cause of love and concord in the world of humanity, so that the perilous darkness of ignorant prejudice may vanish through the light of the Sun of Truth, this dreary world may become illumined, this material realm may absorb the rays of the world of spirit, these different colours may merge into one colour and the melody of praise may rise to the kingdom of Thy sanctity.

Verily, Thou art the Omnipotent and the Almighty!

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 105)

O my Lord! Lift Thou the veil from before his sight. Rain down Thy plenteous bounties upon him, intoxicate him with the wine of love for Thee, make him one of Thy angels whose feet walk upon this earth even as their souls are soaring through the high heavens. Cause him to become a brilliant lamp, shining out with the light of Thy wisdom in the midst of Thy people.

Verily Thou art the Precious, the Ever-Bestowing, the Open of Hand.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 121)

If, in this momentous task ["the education and training of children"], a mighty effort be exerted, the world of humanity will shine out with other adornings, and shed the fairest light. Then will this darksome place grow luminous, and this abode of earth turn into Heaven. The very demons will change to angels then, and wolves to shepherds of the flock, and the wild-dog pack to gazelles that pasture on the plains of oneness, and ravening beasts to peaceful herds, and birds of prey, with talons sharp as knives, to songsters warbling their sweet native notes.

For the inner reality of man is a demarcation line between the shadow and the light, a place where the two seas meet; it is the lowest point on the arc of descent, and therefore is it capable of gaining all the grades above. With education it can achieve all excellence; devoid of education it will stay on, at the lowest point of imperfection.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 129)

The meaning of the passage [verses of the twenty-first chapter of Saint John the Divine's Revelation] is that this heavenly Jerusalem hath twelve gates, through which the blessed enter into the City of God. These gates are souls who are as guiding stars, as portals of knowledge and grace; and within these gates there stand twelve angels. By 'angel' is meant the power of the confirmations of God -- that the candle of God's confirming power shineth out from the lamp-niche of those souls -- meaning that every one of those beings will be granted the most vehement confirming support.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 165)

In brief, my hope is that from the bounties of Bahá'u'lláh, thou mayest daily advance in the Kingdom, that thou mayest become a heavenly angel, confirmed by the breaths of the Holy Spirit, and mayest erect a structure that shall eternally remain firm and unshakeable....

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 198)

Never is it the wish of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to see any being hurt, nor will He make anyone to grieve; for man can receive no greater gift than this, that he rejoice another's heart. I beg of God that ye will be bringers of joy, even as are the angels in Heaven.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 203)

...consider how the cause of the welfare, happiness, joy and comfort of humankind are amity and union, whereas dissension and discord are most conducive to hardship, humiliation, agitation and failure.

But a thousand times alas, that man is negligent and unaware of these facts, and daily doth he strut abroad with the characteristics of a wild beast. Lo! At one moment he turneth into a ferocious tiger; at the next he becometh a creeping, venomous viper! But the sublime achievements of man reside in those qualities and attributes that exclusively pertain to the angels of the Supreme Concourse. Therefore, when praiseworthy qualities and high morals emanate from man, he becometh a heavenly being, an angel of the Kingdom, a divine reality and a celestial effulgence. On the other hand, when he engageth in warfare, quarrelling and bloodshed, he becometh viler than the most fierce of savage creatures, for if a bloodthirsty wolf devoureth a lamb in a single night, man slaughtereth a hundred thousand in the field of battle, strewing the ground with their corpses and kneading the earth with their blood.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 286)

Can any power withstand the penetrative influence of the Word of God? Nay, by God! The proof is clear and the evidence is complete! If anyone looketh with the eyes of justice he shall be struck with wonder and amazement and will testify that all the peoples, sects and races of the world should be glad, content and grateful for the teachings and admonitions of Bahá'u'lláh. For these divine injunctions tame every ferocious beast, transform the creeping insect into a soaring bird, cause human souls to become angels of the Kingdom, and make the human world a focus for the qualities of mercy.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 292)