Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Iqan Thought

As always, it seems that many things in my life just sort of come together all at once. This time it is my wife going out of town a lot (she's a musician in the navy band) and teaching the Faith, my own teaching of the Faith when I'm around town, and my study with Sam on the Kitab-i-Iqan.

Every time Marielle comes back and we share our experiences, she tells me that the wisdom in the Iqan has proven more and more important in her teaching work. And let's not forget that the Guardian said "those who wish to become competent and useful teachers, should indeed consider it their first duty to acquaint themselves, as thoroughly as they can, with each and every detail contained in this Holy Book".

That's a pretty bold statement.

And it seems to me that there is no word that the Guardian ever used without careful consideration. Just try and imagine the importance of that statement without the use of the word "indeed". That simple word further emphasizes the importance of this. And it's not just our duty, but our "first duty". Of course, he also qualifies the word "teachers" there. We're not just hoping to be teachers of the Cause, but "competent and useful teachers".

Then there is the last bit: we should acquaint ourselves. And how should we do this? As thoroughly as we can. With what? Each and every detail.

While the word "acquaint" has come to mean to introduce or bring into contact with, the origin of the word implies with great intensity. It's sort of like the word "peruse". Even though the word has lost a bit of its implied intensity, we do need to remember it when we read the Guardian.

And so, Samuel and I have begun an "intensive" study of this Book, and Marielle and I are both finding it indispensable in our teaching work.

Of course, this isn't to say that we don't rely on the Core Activities. We do. They are the very core of community life. But in our daily interactions with people who are possibly hearing about the Faith for the first time, or only just beginning to enquire about it, our work with this "most important book written on the spiritual significance of the Cause" has become invaluable.

Why? Well, it's simple, really. But to answer that, I need to summarize what we've already begun to learn.

We're only at paragraph 23, so we're not very far into it, but already there are many important attributes or attitudes that Baha'u'llah has already demonstrated. Let me also point out that paragraph 24 (on page 24, quoting Matthew 24, so how can I forget it) is what I see as a pivotal moment in the Book. And so paragraph 23, being the last before that pivot, is a good place to pause for a bit and reflect.

As you know, one of the first things He does is remind the reader of the conditions that the soul must demonstrate in order to seek truth. We have to be detached from all things. We must not look at the standards of other people, but really see what the standards are that are set forth in our own Holy Book.

And we must consider the past.

Baha'u'llah presumes that we already have a faith of which we are convinced, and, in the case of the Uncle of the Bab, to whom this Book was written, that faith was Islam. For Marielle and I, that starting point is based on the faith of the person to whom we are speaking.

Baha'u'llah spends many paragraphs reminding the reader of what we already know, and agree with. He talks about the reasons that many in the past have denied the Messengers, and we, familiar with our own religious history, already agree. There is nothing new. He is only reminding us of what we already know.

Of course, He does so by removing any historical context, or excess baggage. He states these things simply and we are able to fill in the rest.

Then He talks about the Messengers we already know. And when He does so, He does not talk about what makes Them unique. He talks about what They have in common. And this surprised me when I first realized it.

When He speaks about Noah, He never mentions the Ark or the flood. This is what I think about when I think of Noah. But Baha'u'llah is more concerned with helping us recognize not what makes Him unique, but what signs He gave that He was a Messenger of God.

Once He has done this for a number of Messengers, a pattern begins to become clear. Not only did Their Messages become more and more encompassing, but Their trials, and the tests of Their followers, became more severe.

Throughout these opening paragraphs, as I view those first 23, Baha'u'llah continually allows the reader to fill in the gaps, test his own knowledge, and verify what He is saying. There is little new, but the manner in which it is presented is revolutionary.

And throughout it all, He is so patient. He carefully examines each Messenger in a simple way, and without any extraneous words, or unnecessary diversions, allows us to recognize what He is trying to show. Oh, and He also lovingly nurtures our own love for these Messengers we already recognize.

This is what Marielle and I are striving to do. We are trying more and more to help people recognize the beauty of their own faith.

Then Baha'u'llah reminds us of one other thing They all have in common: a promise to return. From there, the rest of Part 1 of the Iqan is dedicated to looking at a single prophecy Jesus gave of His own return, and removing our misunderstandings of it.

By asking questions, and listening to the responses, people are so much more willing to share. And they are much more willing to engage in dialogue, and perhaps even look into attending core activities.

This response is so encouraging to us.

It is so much nicer than when people argue with us because we looked at our differences. Yeah. I can see more and more why this Book is important in our teaching work.

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