Friday, March 28, 2014

The Hour of Death and the Last Breath, Part 2

Photo © Baha’i International Community
[Emphasis added in all the passages below.]

“The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High.”
    (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, LXXI, pp. 156-157)

Say: Rejoice not in the things ye possess; tonight they are yours, tomorrow others will possess them. Thus warneth you He Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. Say: Can ye claim that what ye own is lasting or secure? Nay! By Myself, the All-Merciful, ye cannot, if ye be of them who judge fairly. The days of your life flee away as a breath of wind, and all your pomp and glory shall be folded up as were the pomp and glory of those gone before you. Reflect, O people! What hath become of your bygone days, your lost centuries? Happy the days that have been consecrated to the remembrance of God, and blessed the hours which have been spent in praise of Him Who is the All-Wise.

By My life! Neither the pomp of the mighty, nor the wealth of the rich, nor even the ascendancy of the ungodly will endure. All will perish, at a word from Him. He, verily, is the All-Powerful, the All-Compelling, the Almighty. What advantage is there in the earthly things which men possess? That which shall profit them, they have utterly neglected. Erelong, they will awake from their slumber, and find themselves unable to obtain that which hath escaped them in the days of their Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised. Did they but know it, they would renounce their all, that their names may be mentioned before His throne. They, verily, are accounted among the dead.     
    (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, pp. 33-34)

“Enable us, then, O my God, to live in remembrance of Thee and to die in love of Thee, and supply us with the gift of Thy presence in Thy worlds hereafter – worlds which are inscrutable to all except Thee.”
    (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, LXXXV, p. 145)

Photo © Baha’i International Community

“Blessed is the soul which, at the hour of its separation from the body, is sanctified from the vain imaginings of the peoples of the world. Such a soul liveth and moveth in accordance with the Will of its Creator, and entereth the all-highest Paradise. The Maids of Heaven, inmates of the loftiest mansions, will circle around it, and the Prophets of God and His chosen ones will seek its companionship. With them that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds.”
    (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, LXXXI, p. 156)

"How often hath a sinner, at the hour of death, attained to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the celestial Concourse. And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul's ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire. Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient, and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.”
    (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 194-195)

"With splendid fortitude he grappled, until the last hour of his life, with the adversities that weighed so heavily upon him."    (Baha'u'llah, speaking about His father, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 111)

"We were awakened one night, [in the prison known as the Black Pit] ere break of day, by Mirza Abdu'l-Vahhab-i-Shirazi, who was bound with Us to the same chains. He had left Kazimayn and followed Us to Tihran, where he was arrested and thrown into prison. He asked Us whether We were awake, and proceeded to relate to Us his dream. 'I have this night,' he said, 'been soaring into a space of infinite vastness and beauty. I seemed to be uplifted on wings that carried me wherever I desired to go. A feeling of rapturous delight filled my soul. I flew in the midst of that immensity with a swiftness and ease that I cannot describe.' 'To-day,' We replied, 'it will be your turn to sacrifice yourself for this Cause. May you remain firm and steadfast to the end. You will then find yourself soaring in that same limitless space of which you dreamed, traversing with the same ease and swiftness the realm of immortal sovereignty, and gazing with that same rapture upon the Infinite Horizon.'

"That morning saw the gaoler again enter Our cell and call out the name of Abdu'l-Vahhab. Throwing off his chains, he sprang to his feet, embraced each of his fellow-prisoners, and, taking Us into his arms, pressed Us lovingly to his heart. That moment We discovered that he had no shoes to wear. We gave him Our own, and, speaking a last word of encouragement and cheer, sent him forth to the scene of his martyrdom. Later on, his executioner came to Us, praising in glowing language the spirit which that youth had shown. How thankful We were to God for this testimony which the executioner himself had given!"
     (Baha'u'llah, quoted in The Dawn-Breakers, p. 633)

It is better for a man to guide a soul than to possess all that lies between East and West. Likewise better is guidance for him who is guided than all the things that exist on earth, for by reason of this guidance he will, after his death, gain admittance into Paradise, whereas by reason of the things of the world below, he will, after his death, receive his deserts. Hence God desireth that all men should be guided aright through the potency of the Words of Him Whom God shall make manifest. However, such as are conceited will not suffer themselves to be guided. They will be debarred from the Truth, some by reason of their learning, others on account of their glory and power, and still others due to reasons of their own, none of which shall be of any avail at the hour of death.
    (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 95-96)

O God, my God! Thou seest this wronged servant of Thine, held fast in the talons of ferocious lions, of ravening wolves, of bloodthirsty beasts. Graciously assist me, through my love for Thee, that I may drink deep of the chalice that brimmeth over with faithfulness to Thee and is filled with Thy bountiful Grace; so that, fallen upon the dust, I may sink prostrate and senseless whilst my vesture is dyed crimson with my blood. This is my wish, my heart's desire, my hope, my pride, my glory. Grant, O Lord my God, and my Refuge, that in my last hour, my end may even as musk shed its fragrance of glory! Is there a bounty greater than this? Nay, by Thy Glory!     
    (Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 9)

The disciples of Christ forgot themselves and all earthly things, forsook all their cares and belongings, purged themselves of self and passion, and with absolute detachment scattered far and wide and engaged in calling the peoples of the world to the divine guidance; till at last they made the world another world, illumined the surface of the earth, and even to their last hour proved self-sacrificing in the pathway of that beloved One of God. Finally in various lands they suffered glorious martyrdom. Let them that are men of action follow in their footsteps!     
    (Abdu'l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 10)

The Blessed Perfection gave up a hundred lives at every breath.     (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 73)

Among the Hands of the Cause of God who have departed this life and ascended to the Supreme Horizon was Jinab-i-Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq...[He] was truly a servant of the Lord from the beginning of life till his last breath...He spent every waking breath in calling the people to the Kingdom of God...Fortunate is the one who circumambulates that tomb, who blesses himself with the dust of that grave.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 5-8)

Then came that hour when, not far from his Lord, he [Darvish Sidq-'Ali] stripped off the cloak of life, and to physical eyes passed into the shadows, but to the mind's eye betook himself to what is plain as day; and he was seated there on a throne of lasting glory. He escaped from the prison of this world, and pitched his tent in a wide and spacious land.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 38)

  When news of his martyrdom reached the Prison, all the captives grieved, and they shed tears for him, resigned to God and undefended as he [Shah-Muhammad, who had the title of Amin, the Trusted One] was in his last hour. Even on the countenance of Bahá'u'lláh, there were visible tokens of grief. A Tablet, infinitely tender, was revealed by the Supreme Pen, commemorating the man who died on that calamitous plain, and many other Tablets were sent down concerning him.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 47)

He [Haji Abdu'llah Najaf-Abadi] was completely detached from all but God, happy in God's grace. He would keep a vigil most of the night, remaining in a state of prayer. Then death came at the appointed hour, and in the shadowing care of Bahá'u'lláh he ascended, hurried away from this world of dust to the high Firmament, soared upward to the secret land.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 67)

Among those souls that are righteous, that are luminous entities and Divine reflections, was Jinab-i-Muhammad-Taqi, the Afnan...He was truly a blessed soul, a man worthy to be revered. He never failed in his duty, from the beginning of life till his last breath...He gave up his comfort, his business, his properties, estates, lands, hastened away to Ishqabad and set about building the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar; this was a service of very great magnitude, for he thus became the first individual to erect a Bahá'í House of Worship...
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 126 & 128)

He [Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Ardikani] served with a loyal heart...He moved to Haifa and lived, a firm believer, near the Haziratu'l-Quds by the Holy Shrine on Mount Carmel till his final breath, when death came and the carpet of his earthly life was rolled up and put away.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 141)

This man, [Qulam-'Aliy-i-Najjar,] a carpenter and a master craftsman, came from Kashan...[He] took on the carpentry work of the Holy Tomb, exerting all his sure powers. To this day, the glass roof which is over the inner courtyard of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh remains as the product of his skill. He was a man crystal clear of heart. His face shone; his inner condition was constant; at no time was he changeable or unstable. He was staunch, loving, and true till his last breath.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 143-44)

 This distinguished man [Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin] was one of the greatest of all the Báb's companions and all the loved ones of Bahá'u'lláh...He never rested for a moment, and received new grace and bounty every day, meanwhile taking down the Bahá'í Scriptures with faultless care...From his early years till his last breath, this eminent man never failed in service to the Manifestation.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 153)

Pahlavan Rida...was a man to outward seeming untutored, devoid of learning. He was a tradesman, and like the others who came in at the start, he cast everything away out of love for God, attaining in one leap the highest reaches of knowledge...Whenever that lionhearted champion of knowledge began to speak, his listeners marveled; and he remained, till his last breath, the protector and helper of all seekers after truth.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 167-69)

As to the soul of man after death, it remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body, and after it is freed from the body it remains plunged in the ocean of God's Mercy.

From the moment the soul leaves the body and arrives in the Heavenly World, its evolution is spiritual, and that evolution is: The approaching unto God.
        (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 66)

Absolute repose does not exist in nature. All things either make progress or lose ground. Everything moves forward or backward, nothing is without motion. From his birth, a man progresses physically until he reaches maturity, then, having arrived at the prime of his life, he begins to decline, the strength and powers of his body decrease, and he gradually arrives at the hour of death. Likewise a plant progresses from the seed to maturity, then its life begins to lessen until it fades and dies. A bird soars to a certain height and having reached the highest possible point in its flight, begins its descent to earth.
Thus it is evident that movement is essential to all existence. All material things progress to a certain point, then begin to decline. This is the law which governs the whole physical creation.
Now let us consider the soul. We have seen that movement is essential to existence; nothing that has life is without motion. All creation, whether of the mineral, vegetable or animal kingdom, is compelled to obey the law of motion; it must either ascend or descend. But with the human soul, there is no decline. Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul.
Divine perfection is infinite, therefore the progress of the soul is also infinite. From the very birth of a human being the soul progresses, the intellect grows and knowledge increases. When the body dies the soul lives on. All the differing degrees of created physical beings are limited, but the soul is limitless!
        (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 88-89)

You will find many of the wealthy exposed to dangers and troubled by difficulties, and in their last moments upon the bed of death there remains the regret that they must be separated from that to which their hearts are so attached. They come into this world naked, and they must go from it naked. All they possess they must leave behind and pass away solitary, alone. Often at the time of death their souls are filled with remorse; and worst of all, their hope in the mercy of God is less than ours. Praise be to God! Our hope is in the mercy of God…”
(Abdu'l-Baha, addressing the poor at the Bowery Mission in New York, April 19, 1912, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.33)

A person who is endowed with perception has spirituality and heavenly attributes; he can recognize that the human soul has never been subject to annihilation and will never become so. He sees that all created beings are in harmony with the spirit and are under its influence. He knows himself to be eternal, everlasting, constant, imperishable and encompassed by the lights of God, the Lord of glory. For he has spiritual susceptibilities and is affected by conscience and spiritual impulses. He is not limited by rational constraints or human emotions and sentiments. However, the man who has no perception or inner sight finds himself always dejected and lifeless; every time he thinks of death, he is afraid, because he considers himself to be mortal.

Blessed souls are not of this category. They sense that they are eternal, luminous and imperishable like the disciples of Christ. It is for this reason that at the time of death or martyrdom Baha'is rejoice, because they know there is no death or annihilation for them. At most, the body disintegrates but the soul exists in the divine world and has everlasting life.
     (Attributed to Abdu'l-Baha, Mahmud's Diary, pp. 197-198)

In the morning the Master explained and illustrated some of the verses from Bahá'u'lláh for the friends who had come from the surrounding area to see Him. The explanations ended with the statement that contentment in poverty is better than happiness in wealth but happiness in poverty is more praiseworthy than mere contentment. Above all is the rich man who, having sacrificed, emerges pure from tests and trials and becomes the cause of tranquillity to mankind. Gratitude is the cause of multiple blessings but the apex of gratitude is sacrifice. The station of sacrifice is the highest of all. For this reason it is said, 'You will never attain unto righteousness until ye sacrifice that which ye love.' The Master then narrated a story:

At the time of his death a king longed for the station of a poor man, saying, 'Would that I were a poor man so that I would neither have practiced oppression nor have had any regrets at the time of death.' A poor man heard this, and said, 'Praise be to God that at the hour of death kings desire to be poor. We poor people at the hour of death have no desire to be kings.'
    (Mahmud, Mahmud's Diary, p. 201)

Photo © Baha’i International Community
During her whole life span, that heavenly being [Bahiyyih Khanum] was subjected to ordeals and tribulations. She confronted the attacks of the hostile, and she suffered afflictions any one of which could well have shattered a mountain of iron. And yet the sweet and comely face of that spirit-like dove of holiness, was wreathed till her very last hour in life-giving smiles, nor did that patience and endurance, that greatness, that majesty and dignity, ever desert her delicate and fragile person.
    (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 9 September 1932, translated from the Persian, Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 77)
There is no age limit whatsoever for serving the Cause in administrative capacities after one has reached twenty-one years. Indeed we are supposed to serve the Cause to our last breath.
     (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, June 21, 1953, Messages to the Indian Subcontinent, p. 346)

"When he [Mirza Qurban-'Ali] was brought to the foot of the execution-pole, the headman raised his sword and smote him on the neck from behind. The blow only bowed his head, and caused the dervish's turban which he wore to roll some paces from him on the ground. Immediately as it were with his last breath, he sent a fresh pang through the heart of everyone capable of emotion by reciting these verses: 

    'Happy he whom love's intoxication 
So hath overcome that scarce he knows 
Whether at the feet of the Beloved
It be head or turban which he throws!'"

    (The "Tarikh-i-Jadid", pp. 254-5: footnote in Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 453)
He [Mirza Muhammad Baqir-i-Qa'ini] continued to labour indefatigably for his beloved Cause until the last hour of his life, when he fell a martyr at the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi. In his last days he was bidden by Quddus, after the tragic death of Mulla Husayn, to assume the leadership of the heroic defenders of that fort. He acquitted himself gloriously of his task...
    (Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 126)

'May the Lord your God requite you for your magnanimity and noble intention. No one knows the mystery of My Cause; no one can fathom its secrets. Never will I turn My face away from the decree of God. He alone is My sure Stronghold, My Stay and My Refuge. Until My last hour is at hand, none dare assail Me, none can frustrate the plan of the Almighty. And when My hour is come, how great will be My joy to quaff the cup of martyrdom in His name! Here am I; deliver Me into the hands of your master. Be not afraid, for no one will blame you.'
    (Words of the Bab, quoted in The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 149-50)

Haji Siyyid Javad spent the last days of his life in Kirman and remained until his last hour a staunch supporter of the Faith. He never wavered in his convictions nor relaxed in his unsparing endeavours for the diffusion of the Cause.
    (Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 189)

We found on our arrival that Mulla Husayn had expired. A faint smile still lingered upon his face. Such was the peacefulness of his countenance that he seemed to have fallen asleep. Quddus attended to his burial, clothed him in his own shirt, and gave instructions to lay him to rest to the south of, and adjoining, the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi. 'Well is it with you to have remained to your last hour faithful to the Covenant of God,' he said, as he laid a parting kiss upon his eyes and forehead.
    (Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 381-82)

Soon after their arrival, Quddus emerged from his tent and, gathering together his companions, addressed them in these words: "You should show forth exemplary renunciation, for such behaviour on your part will exalt our Cause and redound to its glory. Anything short of complete detachment will but serve to tarnish the purity of its name and to obscure its splendour. Pray the Almighty to grant that even to your last hour He may graciously assist you to contribute your share to the exaltation of His Faith."
    (Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 401)

Though his friends appealed to him [Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali, surnamed Khal-i-A'zam, [1] the Báb's maternal uncle] to escape the turmoil that was fast approaching, he refused to heed their counsel and faced, until his last hour, with complete resignation, the persecution to which he was subjected.
[1 Literally, "The Greatest Uncle."]
    (Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 447)

O apostles of Bahá'u'lláh! How pitiful if we, who are recognized as the bearers of His glorious Name, and related to such an omnipotent Lord, should, in moments of adversity, fail to scrupulously follow the noble example set by Him Who stands peerless in His long-suffering. Happy the one who until his last breath has tasted the venom of woe at the hand of the faithless, and blessed the heart that for the sake of promoting and proclaiming His Cause does not allow himself a moment's rest. Such is the disposition of the pure in heart, such is the method of them that enjoy near access to God, such is the way of the true strivers after God. Such befits the hosts that are under the guidance of God, such is the means whereby undoubted triumph and victory will be achieved for the Cause of God.

O people of Baha! Lift up your voices, and hail men of wisdom with glad-tidings. Call aloud between earth and heaven, exclaiming: O people of the world and workers of injustice and iniquity! Rest assured that we, the followers of the Abha Beauty, have paid for our Faith with our life-blood, and have tasted the sweetness of sacrifice in the path of His love. Our trust in Him sustains our lives, enabling us to be detached from aught else but Him. We shall promote His Cause to the last breath and offer praise and gratitude at all times for the tribulations He ordains.

    (Shoghi Effendi, Fire and Light, 4., IV. Reprinted from Baha'i World Volume XVIII (1979-83))

Haste thou to life before death cometh; haste thou to the spring season before autumn draweth in; and before illness striketh, haste thou to healing -- that thou mayest become a physician of the spirit who, with the breaths of the Holy Spirit, healeth all manner of sickness in this famed and glorious age.
    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 56-57)

Blessing and peace, salutation and glory, rest upon Thy loved ones, whom the changes and chances of the world have not deterred from turning unto Thee, and who have given their all, in the hope of obtaining that which is with Thee. Thou art, in truth, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.
    (Baha'u'llah, from the 'Medium Obligatory Prayer,' Prayers and Meditations, p. 316)