Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tablet of Ahmad, Section 2, Part 2

Well, I didn't quite get as far as I wanted to yesterday. I thought I could go through most of that second part, and kind of got stuck looking at the the first sentence. What can I say? It's a good text I'm looking at.

Aside: Have you ever been getting ready to say a prayer in a group setting when someone turns to you and says, "Can you say a prayer please? Oh, and say a good one." Hmm. Are there any bad ones? I mean, sure, there are some that are inappropriate at times, but bad? (Oh, c'mon, would you really say a prayer for the departed at a wedding?)

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, the Tablet of Ahmad. Second paragraph of the second section.

Say: O people be obedient to the ordinances of God, which have been enjoined in the Bayan by the Glorious, the Wise One. Verily He is the King of the Messengers and His book is the Mother Book did ye but know.
Now that we have the tools with which we are working, those virtues mentioned yesterday, Baha'u'llah goes and tells us what to say. Ok, He actually tells Ahmad what to say, but let's look at how it applies to us.

Ahmad is, presumably, talking to Babis. And not just any Babis, but specifically Babis who have just survived the whirlwind of death that overtook their community in the 1850s. What we read and admire in the Dawn-Breakers was their daily life. Now most of the pillars of that community had already been slaughtered and, from I have read, there was a number of others who had become disillusioned. They were questioning the validity of their faith, especially given the trouble that Mirza Yahya was making. Now here comes Ahmad with this specific message from Baha'u'llah, one of the most respected and prominent Babis still left: "Be obedient to the ordinances... in the Bayan". Don't forget, he says, the Bab was a Messenger from God. And more than that, "His book is the Mother Book".

These Babis are spiritual giants, even if their faith may have been shaken. They intimately understood the Qur'an and were fluent in many of the traditions surrounding Islam. One of those traditions was the idea of a Mother Book, of which the Qur'an was almost like a shadow. If you loved the Qur'an, well the Mother Book was just so much greater. And here, Baha'u'llah is telling Ahmad to remind these friends of the relation between the Bab and Muhammad, the Bayan and the Qur'an. The Qur'an is the Book of God, but the Bab's Book, the Bayan, is what gave birth to the Qur'an.

To me, this is a reminder to continually remind people of the majesty and glory of the faith in which they were raised. 'Abdu'l-Baha once said that we in the West should know the Bible better than the Christians and help deepen them in its truths. I have found that when I do that, or at least try, there is an openess that is unexpected. When I sincerely praise the faith that they love, the tradition that is dear to their heart, they respond with a sense of joy. In some cases, they also respond with a sense of relief.

Once that stage has occurred, I also begin to talk about Baha'u'llah as another Messenger of God. When I do this, I try not to do so in a manner that derides Whomever they follow, or in a way that places Baha'u'llah above Them. No. I try to show that They are both Messengers of God, and that I see no difference between Them.

Here I try to keep in mind that marvelous passage from Gleanings: "Whoso maketh the slightest possible difference between their persons, their words, their messages, their acts and manners, hath indeed disbelieved in God, hath repudiated His signs, and betrayed the Cause of His Messengers."

By showing a love for the Messenger they follow, and showing an identical love for Baha'u'llah, I have often found their heart to be warmed and opened.

Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord.
Here could go on about the metaphor of a nightingale, but let's just say that it is a bird whose song is loud and beautiful, and is is also noted for singing just before the dawn. While it sings throughout the night, and can even be heard during the day, it is conspicuous around dawn, as that is when it is defending its territory. Here, Baha'u'llah is obviously referring to Himself as this bird.

Now that He has done so, He states His purpose: "to deliver this clear message".

And isn't that what we are being trained to do? To deliver Baha'u'llah's message? And not only to deliver it, but to do so clearly.

Then comes the reminder that this is the end of our responsibility. Our job is to deliver it, not to make sure it is received. God has given us all free will, and none can take that away. And every time that we try to impose our beliefs upon another, either through the negative form of prosyletizing, or the postive form of "Oh, you're a Baha'i, but you just don't know it", we are inadvertantly trying to take away this God-given gift. And generally, people don't react too kindly to that.

Once the message has been given, it is up to the individual what they do with it. They can either turn aside, or "choose the path to (their) Lord". This is also an interesting turn of phrase, for it does not, to me, imply that those who turn aside will never get there. I can choose the direct path from A to B, or I can turn aside and go from A to C, and then from C to B. Which way is better? Both end up at B, but the first one is shorter. Does that make it better? I know I prefer it, and I understand that there is far less chance of getting lost, but I can't, in my own view, say that it is inherently better.

It seems to me, and this is, of course, only my own opinion, that Baha'u'llah is giving the people the freedom to choose as they will. He, like us, is probably just hoping that they choose the path with the least trouble.
O people, if ye deny these verses, by what proof have ye believed in God? Produce it, O assemblage of false ones.
Nay, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, they are not, and never shall be able to do this, even should they combine to assist one another.

And here is the crux of the argument, to me. In the beginning of this paragraph, I feel like I am reminded to ask people what their own Faith path is. Here, I feel like I am to ask them "Why?" I have done this many times, and it is always a joy, and what's more, people don't seem to get offended by it. They may have trouble answering the question, but they seem to feel that it is a good one. "You believe in this particular faith? Why? What is it about it that tells you that it is true?"

No matter what they answer, I have found that it is either silly, and they agree, or that Baha'u'llah also lives up to that proof.

If they say that they follow a faith, and know it's true, because their parents follow it, then by that argument all Christians should be Jewish and all Buddhists should be Hindu. By that logic, Abraham should never have rebelled against His forefathers. No. The inheritance argument just doesn't hold any water, except to say that it is worth examing the faith of your parents because they may, after all, be right. But really, it isn't a proof.

When it comes down to it, the most solid proof of a faith is the Writings upon which it is based, and the stories of the life of the Founder.

And so, if someone says that the Writings of Baha'u'llah do not come from God, then we can ask them to show us writings that they believe do. But this should never be done in an insulting manner, nor in the manner of "our God is better than yours" or "our Messenger can beat up your Messenger". No. It should be done with love, tact and respect. After all, when discussing matters of faith, you are walking upon holy ground, the earth of men's hearts, and you should tread carefully.

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