Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Vision

For over six months now I have been writing these short summaries of the stories of the early Babis and how they are relevant to us today. You see, dear Reader, back in June of 2018 the Universal House of Justice wrote to the Baha'is of the world the following:
In keeping with the overall approach to this bicentenary, it will be important to reflect on the purpose of calling to mind these remarkable narratives, which possess a merit far beyond an exploration of history.

And as I read these words, and in fact this whole message, it occurred to me that many of us see these stories as mere history. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we relate them as mere history. Inspiring, to be sure, but still historical.

The question for me, as a story-teller, is how do I relate these stories so that they are obviously relevant to the reader or listener? How do I help them draw the parallels to their own life?

That, dear Reader, was the motivation for this exercise which has consumed so much of my blog for these past months.

As I was thinking about this, and what to write this week, I realized that I have not yet talked about Tahirih. Now, I'm not going to talk a lot about her right now. I'll save that for the next few weeks.

One thing I want to mention right now, though, is how she came to recognize the Bab: through a dream. She was already a follower, and ardent admirer, of Siyyid Kazim, and knew many of his disciples, including Mulla Husayn. In fact, she was in Karbila when Mulla Husayn set off on his historic journey to search for the Bab. She was there when all the other future Letters of the Living also left Karbila on their quest. In fact, it was during this time, when all the others had gone on a retreat to a mosque in Kufa to pray and meditate, following Mulla Husayn's example, that she, too, fasted by day, and held vigil by night.

One night, during this period of holy preparation, she was given a dream, or a vision. A "youth, a Siyyid, wearing a black cloak and a green turban, appeared to her in the heavens; he was standing in the air, reciting verses and praying with his hands upraised." When she woke from this vision, she wrote down one of the verses He had said, and later discovered that it was a line from the Qayyumu'l-Asma, that very book the Bab was to later reveal on the night of His declaration.

It was at this time that she gave a sealed letter to her brother-in-law, who was one of those disciples of Siyyid Kazim who retreated to the mosque in Kufa, and told him to give it to the Promised One. And in that letter, she declared her faith to Him. The rest, as they say, is history.

But, as I say, it's also relevant to today.

There are many times in our life when we will have a brief encounter with the mystic, the sacred. And this should be honoured. We should respect this, both in our own lives, and in others.

Of course, this does not mean that we should impose our own visions on others, nor insist that others act according to them. Not at all.

But I remember a few times when friends had dreams or visions of Baha'u'llah, or the Bab or even 'Abdu'l-Baha, and they wanted to become Baha'i. In one instance, this woman I knew prayed to be guided. She had previously prayed to be led to the "correct" church, and was surprised when no answer was forthcoming. Finally she changed her prayer to being guided to the truth, and we met the next morning.

She had never heard of the Faith before that, but knew immediately it was the answer to her prayer when she overheard me mention it to someone else. Of course we warmly welcomed her into the Faith. But to tell you the truth, there were a few Baha'is who wanted to delay her enrolment until she "knew more about it".


Why not let her enrol, and continue learning after she is a member of the community? We all continue learning after our enrolment, so why should she be any different?

This is one of the great lessons I have learned from the story of Tahirih.

When someone recognizes the Truth, don't stand in their way. Even though I came to the Faith through my head, through years of study, I have no expectation that others have to arrive at this door in the same way.

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