Thursday, December 26, 2019


I have been thinking about the Conference of Badasht for some time now.

It's interesting. I mean, this seems like a strange connection, but 'Abdu'l-Baha, in The Secret of Divine Civilization, says that "The primary purpose, the basic objective, in laying down powerful laws and setting up great principles and institutions dealing with every aspect of civilization, is human happiness..." And the Conference of Badasht, although ostensibly organized to discuss how to rescue the Bab from His imprisonment, was actually there to make a complete break from Islam. Every day, as you probably know, discussed some new law of the Bab's and put it into effect.

Present at the conference were 81 Babis, including Baha'u'llah, Quddus, and Tahirih. In a sense, this conference also allowed the friends to explore the apparent dichotomy that was occurring within the community, namely the one between those who wanted to remain Muslim in character, and those who wanted to break from Islam. Quddus, in effect, represented those Babis who wanted to continue to follow the laws of Islam and maintain a definitely conservative attitude within the Babi faith, while Tahirih represented those who seemed to want to separate completely. In many ways, it was similar to those early Christians who wanted to keep the laws of Judaism, and those who wanted a complete break.

Baha'u'llah, of course, was the moderator of it all, and at the end of each day showed how the two sides could be reconciled.

Ok. Now what about "happiness"?

It has occurred to me that while these two philosophical sides were represented, there was more representation going on that just that.

Tahirih, the only woman present, in effect represented fully 51% of the human race: the women. Out of 81 people, she was the only female there, thus representing all the women on this planet.

As you probably know, the station of women at that time, and still today in some areas, was considered far below that of men. The ostensible reason for this was the interpretation of religious ideas. Here, at this conference, they were discussing these various ideas and moving them from a staid and dusty past into a vibrant future. And the "primary purpose, the basic objective" of all this was, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha, "human happiness."

Tahirih, that heroine of Qazvin, was the only one there who was representing the happiness of women.

Today, a century and a half removed from that historic event, we generally only think of one thing when we consider that conference. We don't know anything about the discussions of the various laws. We don't know any of the arguments. We don't know any of the resolutions that occurred at the end of each day.

All we really know revolves around a singular act.

We know that Baha'u'llah was ill, and was in His tent talking with Quddus, while others gathered around them. We know that Tahirih summoned Quddus, who refused to go to her. She summoned him again, and again he refused. The messenger said that he was determined to have Quddus join him, and if he didn't, Quddus would need to take his life, for he was not leaving without Quddus. To the surprise of some, Quddus drew his sword and looked ready to comply.

It was at that moment, when Quddus was holding his sword, looking angry enough to kill this man, with many stunned witnesses looking on, that Tahirih entered the tent. Without her veil.

We can all picture this scene. We have heard it told numerous times, and probably seen many renderings of it, as imagined by various artists over the years. We know of the confusion, the anger, the panic. We know of the man who cut his throat, because he had seen her face unveiled. We can imagine the frantic scene of turbulent rage, as this one man's blood sprayed around. It is a scene of horrified, spiritual panic.

Amidst this all, though, we envision the serene countenance of Tahirih, announcing the arrival of gender equality at this point in human history.

Imagine this. Out of weeks of intense theological discussion, with such incredible perspectives by Baha'u'llah, Quddus, and Tahirih, all we remember is this one moment.

The reaction to it is also quintessential. The masculine response was classic. Historic. It was what we would expect. It was, in essence, the epitome of what we consider masculinity.

But, again, as 'Abdu'l-Baha has said, "The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced."

It is only natural that this defining moment would exemplify this observant quote so well. In an age when men so dominated the scene, a singular woman, who was representing more than half the human race, who was helping shift the entire direction of all of civilization, would define the only moment we would remember.