Monday, March 19, 2012

Son of Ahd thoughts

As you may have noticed, I haven't been on the computer much these past few days. My family and I all went for a short holiday to a town further north on Vancouver Island. It was incredible. We rented a small house in Union Bay, walking distance from both an old growth forest and the ocean, from a co-worker of my wife's. When we got there, we found a local oyster farm that sold to the public, so that was what we had for dinner that night. We also walked to the ocean and found some incredibly beautiful moon snail shells.

The next day we went up to Mount Washington and went tubing with our son. We all had a blast. We made snowmen, snow forts, went tubing for hours (and hours), and a good time was had by all. I also spent some time talking to Shoghi about how mountains are a symbol of God's majesty, and was in wonder about how much fun we can have with just a tiny little sliver of a single mountain. "Now imagine the vastness of the entire range."

We met with some of the Baha'is in Comox and Courtenay to break the fast and have a delightful meeting. Our last day there we drove to Seal Bay.

Seal Bay. What can I say about Seal Bay? We spent about 20 minutes walking through the woods before we got to the stairs to go down to the beach. Oh, what stairs. Lots of them. Lots and lots. Down, down through the trees, beside a gurgling, singing ravine. When we finally got to the bottom and emerged from the woods onto the beach, the first thing we saw was about two dozen bald eagles and golden eagles. Then we saw the hundreds of seals in the water. (There's a reason it's called Seal Bay.) Then, amidst all that wonder, we saw two, yes two, pods of killer whales.

You can see why I left my computer at home. I had no desire to be distracted from the wonders around me, and that includes my family.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. Nah. It's still the Fast and I haven't finished writing a bit about the Kitab-i-Ahd, Baha'u'llah's Will and Testament.

As you know, if you've been following this blog for at least a few weeks, I've looked at the first part, which I call the Testament. Now for the rest of it:
The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: 'When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.' The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu'l-Bahá]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful. Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu'l-Bahá]. He is in truth the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen 'the Greater' after 'the Most Great', as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.
It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsan, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others.
O ye My Aghsan, My Afnan and My Kindred! We exhort you to fear God, to perform praiseworthy deeds and to do that which is meet and seemly and serveth to exalt your station. Verily I say, fear of God is the greatest commander that can render the Cause of God victorious, and the hosts which best befit this commander have ever been and are an upright character and pure and goodly deeds.

Say: O servants! Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord. We fain would hope that the people of Baha may be guided by the blessed words: 'Say: all things are of God.' This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smouldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity. Verily He speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He is the All-Powerful, the Exalted, the Gracious.

It is incumbent upon everyone to show courtesy to, and have regard for the Aghsan, that thereby the Cause of God may be glorified and His Word exalted. This injunction hath time and again been mentioned and recorded in the Holy Writ. Well is it with him who is enabled to achieve that which the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days hath prescribed for him. Ye are bidden moreover to respect the members of the Holy Household, the Afnan and the kindred. We further admonish you to serve all nations and to strive for the betterment of the world.
That which is conducive to the regeneration of the world and the salvation of the peoples and kindreds of the earth hath been sent down from the heaven of the utterance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. Give ye a hearing ear to the counsels of the Pen of Glory. Better is this for you than all that is on the earth. Unto this beareth witness My glorious and wondrous Book.

As you know, I'm not doing a history here, but just giving my own personal thoughts on it. Again, this is nothing official, but just my own feeble opinion.

In this first paragraph, what really catches my eye is just how many times Baha'u'llah repeats that we should turn to 'Abdu'l-Baha.

I mean, He begins by addressing all of His family, as well as that of the Bab, and presumably all of us at the same time. Then He tells us to turn our "faces towards the Most Mighty Branch". This is pretty straightforward. Anyone at the time knew that this referred to 'Abdu'l-Baha, and only 'Abdu'l-Baha. There was no question about that, even though we may wonder about it in the English. For the friends reading it at the time, in the original, there was no ambiguity.

But He doesn't stop there. He reiterates this point four more times:

  • turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root
  • this is none other except the Most Mighty Branch
  • the station of the Greater Branch (is) beneath that of the Most Great Branch
  • We have chosen 'the Greater' after 'the Most Great'

Five times He makes this point. Why? I think it is just that important. Remember, in Persian and Arabic, if you want to stress a point, you have to repeat it. You can't underline it, after all, for that just makes it a new word. If you were to underline "Beware, beware, lest thou offend any heart", you might just end up with "the sofa, the sofa..."

You can't italicize it for the whole written language is italicized. I mean, who would notice?

You can try bolding the text with a larger pen, but even then it might not stand out, for calligraphy is naturally filled with different sized lines.

No. To really stress a point in those languages, you have to repeat yourself.

And check it out for yourself. Try and notice when 'Abdu'l-Baha or Baha'u'llah repeat something. It's always very, very important. There are quite a few things repeated twice, as in the "Beware, beware" example above. There are a few (very few) things repeated three times. But this is the only example I have ever found of something repeated 5 times in a single paragraph.


Then, just in case it wasn't clear to us in the beginning of this document, He explicitly tells us that the Aghsan, those male descendants of Baha'u'llah, have no right to anyone else's property. Even then, and here's a bit of history for you, some of 'Abdu'l-Baha's unfaithful half-brothers tried to use their position as sons of Baha'u'llah to get money and stuff from others. Fortunately, it didn't work all that well.

Then, right after reminding them that they should not do such unworthy deeds, in the very next paragraph He tells us to fear God, do praiseworthy deeds, and generally be good folk. In other words, do those things that exalt our station, as He says. Oh, and you may recall that I mentioned earlier that this idea of elevating our station comes up again. Well, here it is.

He also uses a military metaphor in a very interesting way. Fear of God is the commander, and the hosts are an upright character and good deeds. It's like the fear of God keeps us in line, but without a good character and good deeds, what's the point? Why bother having a commander when there is no army to command? And an army of soldiers without guidance cannot do anything worthwhile. But together? Together they can conquer the world.

This paragraph also hearkens to the earlier bits where it seems that if we don't do these good deeds and don't have the fear of God (proper fear, not terror, in case you are wondering) in your heart, then our station will not be exalted. I mean, why would it be?

Now, I'm going to take a break here, for it's still the Fast, and my brain is turning to mush. There is so much more that I want to say about the next paragraph, but that would make this article a bit too long. So enjoy the Fast and I'll type at you later.

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