Friday, March 2, 2012

Some Ahd Thoughts

Well, it's March again, and the Fast began last night at sunset. As usual, this is a time that I look forward to with both excitement and trepidation.

Seriously. I do.

There is always something of a sense of joy and wonder at this time. Dreams are far more potent. Coincidences abound. There is something remarkably spiritual in the air that just doesn't seem to be there to the same degree any other time. It is a month of wonder, if we only open ourselves up to it.

But then there is the trepidation. I know. As a "good Baha'i", I'm not supposed to feel anything but joy at the thought of the Fast. But where is that written? I think this is just a myth that may help perpetuate ideas of guilt. I do feel nervous every year getting ready for the Fast, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I know that there will be some degree of sacrifice, some unpleasantness, a lot of temptation. But I still fast. Remember, you can only show the strength of your virtues when challenged on them.

I suspect that this year will be easier than most for I am already in the habit of getting up before sunrise to help get Shoghi ready for school each day. And Marielle and I have already found a pattern of eating that works real well for the Fast. (You can read a bit about this diet here.) So both waking up early and the food aspect are taken care of.

But then there is studying. As you may know, I took a page out of my friend Lucki's book and I choose a major work to study every year during the lunch hours of the Fast. This year, due to a comment from my wife, I'll be looking at the Kitab-i-Ahd and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha. She feels drawn to studying them this year, and I will be very happy to go along with that.

As you may know, the Kitab-i-Ahd, Book of the Covenant, is Baha'u'llah's will and testament. Or perhaps it is better phrased, "His testament and will". Why? Because it begins with His testimony.

The very first paragraph of it reads:

ALTHOUGH the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless heritage. Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail. By God! In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. Consider ye and call to mind that which the All-Merciful hath revealed in the Qur'án: 'Woe betide every slanderer and defamer, him that layeth up riches and counteth them.'[1] Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except to a recognized measure.

It would be very easy at this point to go into a history of this work, and talk about how 'Abdu'l-Baha's half-brothers tried to lay claim to some of the funds of the Faith for their own use, and how they never imagined that He would show up in court with this document to show that Baha'u'llah never bequeathed to them any earthly treasures. I could go into all of that, but I won't. You can find this, and many other incredible stories around this document in other places, such as Taherzadeh's fine work, The Covenant of Baha'u'llah. I don't need to do that here.

Instead, I will just look at the Tablet and share a few thoughts about it. (In other words, I'll do my usual sort of study.)

So here in the very beginning, Baha'u'llah is reminding us of the spiritual nature of His faith, and at the same time warning us of the perils that lie hidden in material possessions. And while this is a "excellent and priceless heritage", it is not to be confused with those earthly treasures.

Interestingly enough, he isn't saying that the riches of the world are worthless, just that they are worth far less of our attention than we usually think. And it was this very mention that allowed 'Abdu'l-Baha to show the court that His brothers had no claim on any material goods from this.

The aim of this Wronged One in sustaining woes and tribulations, in revealing the Holy Verses and in demonstrating proofs hath been naught but to quench the flame of hate and enmity, that the horizon of the hearts of men may be illumined with the light of concord and attain real peace and tranquillity. From the dawning-place of the divine Tablet the day-star of this utterance shineth resplendent, and it behoveth everyone to fix his gaze upon it: We exhort you, O peoples of the world, to observe that which will elevate your station. Hold fast to the fear of God and firmly adhere to what is right. Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone  220  should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man! Not long ago this exalted Word streamed forth from the treasury of Our Pen of Glory: Great and blessed is this Day -- the Day in which all that lay latent in man hath been and will be made manifest. Lofty is the station of man, were he to hold fast to righteousness and truth and to remain firm and steadfast in the Cause. In the eyes of the All-Merciful a true man appeareth even as a firmament; its sun and moon are his sight and hearing, and his shining and resplendent character its stars. His is the loftiest station, and his influence educateth the world of being.

Oops. The Fast just caught up with me. I don't think I can write any more this afternoon. I'll just leave you with this excerpt and look at it again tomorrow morning.

Enjoy the Fast, everyone.

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