Friday, March 15, 2019

The Quiet Hermit

Last week I wrote a little bit about how Baha'u'llah left Baghdad and headed to the mountain, Sar Galu, where He began His two year retreat. While He was there, He would occasionally visit the small town of Sulaymaniyyih.

Now, to be clear, this was not just a visit to town, like you or I would make. It was not merely heading out the door, going for a pleasant walk to get some groceries, and coming back home again. This was a three-day walk, pretty much through the rugged mountains.

Three days. Three days of walking through the mountains and foothills to get to the town, doing whatever was needed, such as getting some necessities like milk and rice, going to the public bath, and then heading back again for another three-day hike.

This was a full-fledged trek. A camping-out-under-the-stars-hoping-it-wasn't-going-to-rain sort of hike, with no tent or shelter, and no North Face jacket to keep you warm.

As you can probably imagine, He didn't just stroll into town, do what He needed to do, and head out again later that afternoon. No. He likely stayed there for a few days. And actually, we know that He did, for when He was there, He would stay at the local religious school.

Now, here, dear Reader, I have to clarify something. Baha'u'llah did not actually stay at Sar Galu for two years. He only spent about a year there. The rest of the time He was in Sulaymaniyyih, at this seminary. More on that later.

But back to Sar Galu for a moment. While we don't know what He did while He was there, alone on the mountain, we do know what He wrote about it. "From Our eyes", He reminisced in the Kitab-i-Iqan, "there rained tears of anguish, and in Our bleeding heart there surged an ocean of agonizing pain. Many a night We had no food for sustenance, and many a day Our body found no rest. Alone, We communed with Our spirit, oblivious of the world and all that is therein..." This was not an easy time for Him, no doubt. He was likely in great anguish, considering what was happening to the Babi community.

It is also worth noting that while He was there, on the mountain, He likely came in contact with the migrant farmers who worked the fields during the sowing and harvest times. There were also, possibly, some travelers that met Him, although even today roads are few and far between. And again, while we're not sure, we do know that reports and rumours started circulating about Someone Who had chosen to live an ascetic life there in the wilderness, away from human society.

Again, He would occasionally come into town, and stay at that seminary. While there, He was reserved and usually silent. It was known that He had not taken a vow of silence, but He rarely spoke. Even then, all who were there wished to know more of this silent hermit, Who, by His very bearing, impressed them.

And that, dear Reader, is the point I wish to focus on this week: His silence.

While people are naturally curious about a stranger who comes into their midst, this was a bit more than that. Something caught their attention. These people were studying all about religion and spirituality, striving to become closer to their Lord. They knew all about asceticism and various religious practices, and here, among them, was One Who was living it. And not just living it, but living it in an exemplary way.

Of course His very presence raised their curiosity.

And yet, still, He was silent.

Shortly after His return to Baghdad, in the passages in the Kitab-i-Iqan in which He describes the True Seeker, He would write, "He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk."

He, Himself, at this time in Sulaymaniyyih, demonstrated the attributes of that True Seeker, even though there was nothing He needed to seek. "In truth," He said, "matters have come to such a pass that silence hath taken precedence over utterance and hath come to be regarded as preferable." "My silence", He later wrote, "is by reason of the veils that have blinded Thy creatures' eyes to Thee, and my muteness is because of the impediments that have hindered Thy people from recognizing Thy truth."

But there, in that seminary, amongst those who wished to know more, He found some pure hearts who were, later, the recipients of some of the most treasured writings from his mighty Pen. We know they must have been sincere, for as He said, "It behoveth every one in this Day of God to dedicate himself to the teaching of the Cause with utmost prudence and steadfastness. Should he discover a pure soil, let him sow the seed of the Word of God, otherwise it would be preferable to observe silence."

And so, for one year, He was quiet. Choosing to leave Baghdad due to those who would seek leadership for themselves, who would cause such discord as to almost wipe out the infant Faith of God, He retreated in silence until He found a hearing ear.

He lived such a remarkable, yet simple, life, that it attracted those around Him.

Today, we, too, are constantly in the spotlight, even though we do not often realize it. People watch us. They know we are Baha'i, and they look at our actions to see if we stand out above the crowd. For myself, I know that most often I don't.

But occasionally, every once in a while, I will do something that you or I just take for granted, as we are influenced by these great teachings, and the effect that it has on those around me will often astonish me. Sometimes it can be something as simple as picking up a piece of garbage on a trail in the woods, or lending a helping hand to someone who is having a bit of difficulty.

No matter what it is, we should always strive to remember His great example in Sulaymaniyyih, and the truth to those words of wisdom:

The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life.

The essence of true safety is to observe silence, to look at the end of things and to renounce the world.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

"The First Call of the Beloved" - part 2

O YE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MINDS TO KNOW AND EARS TO HEAR!

The first call of the Beloved is this: O mystic nightingale! Abide not but in the rose-garden of the spirit. O messenger of the Solomon of love! Seek thou no shelter except in the Sheba of the well-beloved, and O immortal phoenix! dwell not save on the mount of faithfulness. Therein is thy habitation, if on the wings of thy soul thou soarest to the realm of the infinite and seekest to attain thy goal.


Well it looks like the fast got the better of me yesterday, and I never got around to writing this article. Sorry about that. I hope your fast is going well, dear Reader. Oh, and I guess the fact that I have to reassemble our kitchen after the military redid our floor and cupboards might have had something to do with it, too. By the way, if you ever have to have kitchen renovations, or have them done to you, I would suggest not doing them during the Fast.

Now, where were we? Oh, yeah.

In the main body of this Hidden Word, we seem to be referred to as a bird. Before I go into that, though, I should point out that the middle section, "O messenger of the Solomon of love" was in the original a reference to the Hoopoe bird. Shoghi Effendi understood that the English readers would likely not know the story of Solomon and the Hoopoe bird, who carried his messages to the Queen of Sheba, so he translated it to "messenger" for our benefit.

Either way, there are three birds that Baha'u'llah references as a metaphor for us, or our spirit: the "mystic nightingale", the "messenger of the Solomon of love", and the "immortal phoenix".

Each of them has their own home, or destination. The first is "in the rose-garden of the spirit". The second is "in the Sheba of the well-beloved". And the third is "on the mount of faithfulness".

While Baha'u'llah is encouraging us to the highest ideal, for example "the rose-garden of the spirit" as opposed to just any old rose-garden, I believe that there is value in exploring what I call the "lower case" version of each of these. By doing so, we see a path that is so beautifully laid out in front of us. Same thing with the three birds referenced. We can look at any old nightingale, no particular hoopoe bird, and pretty much any phoenix out there, and again, we will see a path of progression.

As Baha'u'llah begins with the birds, let us do the same.

A nightingale, a hoopoe, and a phoenix.

To be honest, I didn't really know much about these birds before beginning this article, so I had to do a bit of research.


The nightingale, as I'm sure you know, dear Reader, is a songbird. It has a stunningly beautiful song, and has been revered through the ages. From Homer and Sophocles, to Chaucer and Shakespeare, the nightingale has long been used as a symbol for lament and love. Due to its spontaneity of song, it is also used as a symbol for inspiration and creativity. It is, however, a fairly plain looking bird.





The second bird Baha'u'llah uses here is the hoopoe. This bird has a much more varied symbolic history. In Leviticus, it is considered non-Kosher, and the Jewish peoples were forbidden to eat it, but in 2008 it was voted the national bird of Israel. In the Qur'an, it is the hoopoe who brings news to Solomon of the Queen of Sheba, and proceeds to carry letters back and forth between them. In Persia, they were seen as an emblem of virtue, having guided the other birds through the seven valleys to the King of Birds, the phoenix, which, it turns out, is actually the group of 30 birds that were successful in their journey. By stressing the importance of their unity, the hoopoe bird shows them that they themselves are actually that "King of Birds", as long as they remain united.

Does this begin to sound familiar?

Oh, and the hoopoe is quite a beautiful bird, especially when its crown of feathers is fully displayed.




Finally, there is the phoenix, that mythical bird symbolizing the sun, time, the Empire, resurrection, life in Paradise, and the highest state of man. Any picture I put here would likely pale in comparison to the image you have in your own mind.



As you can see, we go from the drab to the beautiful to the mythical, ever increasing in splendour. We go from creative inspiration, to the teacher or messenger, to the magical. We also go from the simple lover of the flower that grows on this plane to the bird that guides all the others to their heavenly state, to that bird that only exists in the highest paradise.

No matter how I look at it, this path is filled with wonder and meaning, from the bare basics to the most splendid of all, it is a path that Baha'u'llah is encouraging us to walk, or perhaps fly.

But where is this path leading? The rose-garden, the Sheba of the well-beloved, and the mount of faithfulness.

A rose-garden is so beautiful, with so much to delight the senses. Whether considered with the visual and all the myriad colours, or the olfactory with the beautiful scent wafting through the air, a rose-garden is a true delight to the senses.

Sheba, however, is shrouded in mystery. It has long been thought to be Saba, one of the oldest and most important kingdoms in southern Arabia. The wealth of this kingdom was, and still is, legendary. But perhaps most important was the willingness of their Queen to go to Solomon and learn from his wisdom.

Finally, the mount of faithfulness, a mountain so difficult to attain that only the truly faithful are able to scale its heights. It is, in the Qur'an, the Mother of all mountains, extending all around the world. But in mystic symbolism of the middle East, it is often used as a symbol for the human heart.

From a small garden to an entire country, and eventually to the entire planet, this path also leads us onwards and upwards.

And we can even look at the attributes of these different places: the rose-garden of the spirit, the Sheba of the well-beloved, and the mount of faithfulness. The spirit, the well-beloved, and faithfulness. It is our spirit that is first attracted to the well-beloved, to which we must remain faithful.

Or perhaps we wish to look at the attributes of the birds? The mystic nightingale, the messenger of the Solomon of love, and the immortal phoenix. It is the mystic, in this case, who walks this path, finding the love of God and sharing it with others, and thus earning their immortality.

No matter how we look at it, this Hidden Word is just the beginning of our journey to our Beloved.

And that, dear Reader, is a journey we all should take, "if on the wings of thy soul thou soarest to the realm of the infinite and seekest to attain thy goal."

Friday, March 8, 2019

"The First Call of the Beloved" - part 1

O Ye People That Have Minds To Know And Ears To Hear!
The first call of the Beloved is this: O mystic nightingale! Abide not but in the rose-garden of the spirit. O messenger of the Solomon of love! Seek thou no shelter except in the Sheba of the well-beloved, and O immortal phoenix! dwell not save on the mount of faithfulness. Therein is thy habitation, if on the wings of thy soul thou soarest to the realm of the infinite and seekest to attain thy goal.


You know, dear Reader, it's been a long time since I've really explored a small piece of the Writings here. I don't know about you, but I miss it. And besides, it's the Fast, so I tend to look at a single book during the Fast and kind of dive into it.

This year I was hoping to explore The Call of the Divine Beloved, but my kitchen is being renovated right now. Oh, we live in military housing and they decided that they needed to redo our kitchen, and chose this week to do it. And while I appreciate it, it means that there is a large cabinet in front of the book shelf that happens to have my copy of The Call. For some reason I put it on that bookshelf instead of the one that has the rest of Baha'u'llah's writings, so I guess I'll look at something else instead. After all, I can take a hint.

Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the quote that I put above, and I'm glad you asked, dear Reader. That is the quote I've decided to look at today. Why? Why not?

Ok. Here's my thinking.

I've been posting a lot of stories of the early Babis, as you may have noticed, as well as reading quite a bit of Baha'u'llah's earlier, mystical works. I've also been reading A Treasure House of Mysteries, by Dariush Maani, which is a study of the Hidden Words. And through that volume, which seems to focus on the Persian Hidden Words, I realized that I've always been more drawn to the Arabic, and know those a lot better. So why not go beyond my comfort zone, as they say, out on a limb, and look at the Persian Hidden Words, instead? Right? Right.

Before I do, though, I just want to share a quote from the Hand of the Cause of God, George Townshend. "...(F)rom the Arabic Hidden Words", he writes, "we get the impression that a loving teacher speaks to us, whereas in the Persian part we feel that a lover teaches us." I just love that perspective.

Anyways, on to the quote itself.

Let's look at that invocation: O ye people that have minds to know and ears to hear.

Interesting. The first thing I notice is the reference to Jesus, Who said "Let those who have ears to hear, hear" numerous times in the Bible. Seven times, if I'm not mistaken. And He also said "He who has eyes to see, let him see", thus adding in a second sense into it. But it's interesting to see the mind and knowledge thrown into that mix, seeming to take it a step further.

But there is something else that crosses my mind. In Bible studies, it is often pointed out that you can close your eyes, but you cannot really close your ears. Well, you can stuff cotton in them, or put your hands over them, but you can't really close your ears as you do your eyes.

The mind, though, is something different, entirely. The mind needs to be trained. You go through a process of taking in sensory perceptions, analyzing them, studying them, and then formulating your thoughts. The senses, such as hearing, are more direct.

Here, in the first of the Persian Hidden Words, Baha'u'llah is helping lead us towards God. So we can presume that these are not the ordinary senses about which He is talking. He is probably referring more to the mystical aspects of these terms, especially since this beautiful little book comes in the midst of His most mystical writings.

Perhaps He is alluding to the idea of our having minds to know God, to contemplate reality and come to a better understanding of Him, and eventually moving on to that state of being in which we can know God a bit more directly, hearing His divine melodies with our own ears, as the case may be. Of course, we can't know God directly, or hear Him physically, but we can know Baha'u'llah. We can hear those divine melodies that He has revealed with our own ears. We don't need an intermediary, such as a priest or a member of the clergy, to hear it for us. We can use our own minds to know, and our own ears to hear.

This invocation, especially as it is the first of them, really speaks to me of moving beyond the mere mind, and into the realm of the spirit. It is, if you will, the goal of the journey upon which we embark as we begin our adventure into the Hidden Words.

And whereas I could continue writing about the main body of this Hidden Word, I think I'll leave it for tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Enough is Enough"

On 10 April 1854, Baha'u'llah had disappeared.

His family awoke to discover that He was gone. Although we do not know what the daily life of the family looked like at the time, we can presume that they thought He had gone for a walk on a pleasant spring morning, perhaps for a cup of coffee, or something. They probably did not dream that it would be around two years before they would see Him again.

Baha'u'llah, for His part, was walking with His friend, Abu'l-Qasim-Hamadani, who, interestingly enough, was not a Babi. He was a devout Muslim. Together they walked 200 miles north of Baghdad to the small town of Sulaymaniyyih, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, where He gave Abu'l-Qasim a small sum of money to help him set up as a trader.

The question, though, is why did He leave?

For that, dear Reader, we must look back at the history of the Babi Faith of that time.

Just a few years earlier, the Babis were renowned for their uprightness, trustworthiness, integrity, and high moral conduct. Then the persecutions began in earnest. There was the misguided attempt on the life of the Shah, and the massacres, resulting in over 20,000 martyrs for the Faith. It is no exaggeration to say that every leader of the community, with the singular exception of Baha'u'llah, was killed at that time.

By the time Baha'u'llah was settled in Baghdad, the community was essentially leaderless. There were those who found comfort and inspiration in Baha'u'llah's presence, but Mirza Yahya, His half-brother, was ostensibly the one that the Babis were to turn to. And he was in hiding. He refused to meet with anyone, or go out on the street. He was so afraid for his life that he hid away in his home. And there were others, notably Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani, who were becoming jealous of Baha'u'llah's growing prestige. They began to spread rumours about Him, casting Him in a dim light and sowing the seeds of discord within the community.

The Babis, for their part, were also afraid. If they got together in small groups, there was the very real possibility that they would be killed. Many of the Bab's writings had been destroyed, so there was little guidance to which they could turn. And all their leaders had been killed. The very people to whom they could turn for help were no longer there.

And Baha'u'llah, the only One to Whom they could turn with any real hope, was in exile, and vicious rumours were coming back about Him.

In the end, Baha'u'llah seems to have said, "Enough is enough." If He continued to stay in Baghdad the flames of jealousy would only be further aroused, and so He left.

He left the Babis to their own devices, as if to say, "All right, you work it out for yourselves."

He went to the lonely mountains of the Zagros range, to Sar Galu, a three day walk to the nearest human habitation. Living in a cave, or occasionally in a small stone hut built by local farmers when the weather was especially bad, He communed with His own spirit, "oblivious of the world and all that is therein".

For One Who was so sensitive to the spiritual nature of those around Him, Who was witnessing the downward spiral of those who had professed belief in the Bab, it must have been absolutely heartbreaking to see what was happening in the community. And so, finding refuge in a cave in the distant mountains, spending all the time He desired in prayer and meditation, away from the spiritual turmoil that must have constantly wore on Him, was most likely a blessing, despite the physical deprivation such an isolation entailed.

It was during this time that He revealed such prayers as the one that begins, "Create in me a pure heart, O My God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O My Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire!"

When I read this prayer, and contemplate the situation in which the Blessed Beauty found Himself at that time, it reads like a completely different prayer than when I just say it for myself.

Knowing of this time, reading the history of what was going on, I realize that it is ok to walk away from a bad situation. There are many times in which the very best thing you can do is just leave those involved to themselves.

There are a few times in Baha'i history, this being the most notable, when Baha'u'llah closed the door of His presence so that the friends could just take the time they needed to decide for themselves what they wanted, without the overpowering influence of His personality.

And there are times in our life, too, that we just need to walk away and look after our own needs, our own spiritual well-being.

I will write more about this tumultuous time in His life over the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with this, the background. Although we often talk about His retreat as if it is a bit of a blank, it was actually a time of great ferment. Many things happened, and there was a lot learned, too much for just one short story, as this.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Not Quite the Lap of Luxury

When 'Abdu'l-Baha was a child of four years old, a very special meeting occurred in His Father's home. He was sitting there, on the lap of a woman, behind a curtain, as the men talked in the next room over.

The woman's name was Tahirih, and there, in the other room, were Baha'u'llah, Who was hosting this gathering, Vahid, the former envoy of the Shah, and a number of other men, most of whom were likely Babis. Vahid was speaking, and he was quite eloquent, as he was a very gifted and insightful speaker.

As she held the young 'Abdu'l-Baha in her lap, listening to the powerful oration, she began to grow tired of the continual talk in which the men were engaged. Did they not realize that this was a new Day? This was the promised Day of the Qa'im. Speeches and proofs were no longer needed. What was required was action.

"Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past", she said from her place behind the curtain, "for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path. Let deeds, not words, be our adorning." And with that short speech, interrupting some long forgotten discourse, she galvanized the men of that room, helping transform them from those who would sit and comfortably talk about their great knowledge into those who would arise and act upon their understandings, sacrificing their all for what they knew was right.

Today, especially with the rise of instant communication, we see more and more people getting involved in social discourse, but only a small percentage arising to take meaningful action on those very points they argue. Tahirih's example of speaking from behind the curtain, and challenging the men of that day to cease their discussions of the issues of the day and do something about them, rings ever louder than it has in the past, calling us to put our own words into effective action.

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Pure Quest

In 1844, Mulla Husayn was returning from a successful journey in which he performed an important and delicate task for his master, Siyyid Kazim. When he returned to Karbila, instead of the joy of a successful completion to his mission, he discovered the sorrow of the passing of his teacher.

After everything settled down, with the visitors expressing their sorrow to him, the time with his teacher's family, and so forth, Mulla Husayn gathered the other students together to hear from them his master's last wishes. They all, each in their own way, told him that Siyyid Kazim had said that the Promised One was here, ready to reveal Himself. They should all, they were told, leave their homes and scatter to the winds, search far and wide in their quest for Him. They would need to, they were advised, purge themselves of all earthly desires and dedicate themselves completely to this pursuit. "Nothing", Siyyid Kazim had told them, "short of prayerful endeavour, of purity of motive, of singleness of mind" would succeed in removing the veils between them and Him.

So then why, Mulla Husayn wondered, have you all remained here in Karbila?

And again, one by one, they each and all, in their own individual ways, gave their excuses. "We must remain in this city", one replied, "and guard the vacant seat of our departed chief." "I have to", said another, "take care of the Siyyid's family." On and on the various reasons came, each pretext seeming reasonable, but failing to recognize the importance of this grand mission before them.

Finally, Mulla Husayn had had enough. He left them to their own devices and idle pursuits, and went off to fulfill the dearest wish of his late master.

How often have we seen something similar in our own lives? There is something great that we hope to accomplish, but it is the innumerable little things that get in our way. If only we can keep firmly in our sight the importance of our own mission, perhaps not as great as finding the Bab, but great nonetheless, then we will discover that everything we hope to do will eventually get done. But if we let those small things distract us, we will still find ourselves right back where we started, never having left the Karbila of our starting point.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

An Interesting Question

Last weekend I had the wonderful bounty of attending the Alberta Winter School. Not only was it a good reminder that -20 isn't all that bad when it's dry outside, but I learned a lot, too. And even better, my son was there with me. That was just light upon light, as they say.

During one of the sessions, about being relevant, the idea of an elevated conversation was brought up, and how it wasn't just mentioning a virtue, or saying the words "Baha'i" or "Baha'u'llah", wonderful as that is. No. It was pointed out that a far more relevant example would be if you were talking to two people, one of whom was adamantly pro-guns, and the other extremely anti-guns, and recognized that they were both concerned about security. One is more aware of personal security, while the other is more concerned about communal security. When you raise the discussion to this level, then you help bring them together on a real topic where they can discuss the issue at hand, and not just talk past each other based merely on a sound-bite.

Anyways, it was a very interesting discussion, and a few different points were brought up.

But what really interested me was the gentleman who asked how you would bring together two people arguing over both sides of the abortion issue. First, it was pointed out that it's not "pro-choice" and "pro-life", for the division there is actually artificial. Also, those who are generally "pro-life" are actually "pro-birth", as their interest in the life of the child generally seems to end with their birth, if their stance on other issues is at all accurate.

The discussion on that particular issue didn't really come to any conclusion, other than to dive into it and ask them why they each have their particular stance. Asking questions to learn more about why they believe what they do seemed to be the prevalent conclusion.

But this is not what I really wanted to talk about today. No. This was just an intro to my real story.

You see, dear Reader, the day after the Winter School my son and I went to the mall to meet up with a friend and her son. I hadn't seen my friend in over twenty years, and we were both real excited to get together again. Meeting occurred, lunch was eaten, and a good time was had by all, especially since ice cream and bubble tea were involved. But as always happens, our getting together had to come to an end. It was time for her hubby to pick them up.

So we headed over the pick-up point, and discovered we still had about 10 minutes.

What did we do? We walked into an electronics store. Both our sons are sort of geeks. (Don't tell.)

While the two kinder were looking at various thingies, my friend and I were standing around. One of the employees, Jay, came over and asked if we had any questions.

Now, dear Reader, I must tell you, the friend I met is not a Baha'i, but she sure is conversant with the Faith. And she knows me really well. So when I said that yes I did in fact have a question, she was just waiting to see what I would bring up.

"How would you", I asked Jay, "help bring together in conversation two people who are arguing both sides of the abortion question?"

Jay looked at me a bit curiously, wondering if I was serious or not.

My friend piped in, "You never said the question had to be about electronics."

"Fair enough," he replied, and proceeded to answer the question cogently, coherently, and with a fairly good spiritual insight into the concept of unity. The resultant conversation was pretty awesome. And we learned that the reason he was so good at bringing about unity to differing viewpoints was that he is Hindu and his girlfriend is Muslim. He's had lots of practice.

I often hear people say that it takes time to talk about spiritual ideas, and honestly, I don't know why that would be. When you're given an opening, grab it. Talk about the big issues. Ask the difficult questions. Don't lead with what you believe, because most people don't really care. But when you ask what they believe, or what they would do, then you're off and running. Once they explain their perspective, many will also ask for yours. And you know what? When you ask their opinion first, you often learn a lot.

So I just wanted to share that today. It was a great weekend, and it got me thinking about a difficult issue. The next day when I was innocently asked if I had a question, well, I did. I was still thinking about it.

Now I think I'll make sure that I always have a question on the go.

Oh, and when my son and I walked past the same store the next day, Jay recognized me and remembered the conversation. It had gotten him thinking, too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ten Years Ahead

Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that the Universal House of Justice tends to release compilations and documents and all sorts of wonderful things about ten years before we actually need them.

No. Seriously. Hear me out.

I mean, I realize that my learning curve tends towards the horizontal, but look at it. The compilation on Entry By Troops came out 1994, and when I read it a few weeks later, it was incredible. It was educative, inspiring, visionary, and a whole whack of other awesome adjectives.

Very brief aside: A whole whack? Yeah. Like it whacked me upside the head with all that it pointed out.

Anyways, I read it, studied it, consulted with others about it, and really tried my best to get my head wrapped around a lot of the ideas that were in it. But it wasn't until about 10 years later that it began to be relevant in anything other than a theoretical way.

Tabernacle of Unity? That was released in 2006, and look what happened in 2016. The disparate elements in society became even more schismed, if that's a possible phraseology, than they had been in a very long time. The very desperate need for unity became even more evident than ever.

Over and over again, as I look through recent Baha'i history, this trend of giving us what we need ten years ahead of time just seems to be a real thing and not just my imagination. Whether it's the compilation on the Counsellors, or Women, or Trustworthiness, they all seemed to be there about a decade before it became obvious that we desperately needed to know this stuff. It's like they give us a decade to study before we have to pass the exam.

And so, with each new release, I begin to consult with others, and seriously study what comes out, with an eye to that ten year mark.

So why am I mentioning this? Well, we just received the compilation on the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar back in September of 2017. And while some people call it the compilation on the Temple, I'm not sure that's quite accurate. It's really a lot more than that. It seems to be more about the intimate connection between the Temple and the Baha'i community's service to humanity, this link that joins the concept of both worship and service. And while we all know that it's important, I am wondering what's coming down the line in, oh, about 8 years to which this concept will be pivotal in our communal life. I don't know. I'm really wondering.

And now, just a very short time ago we were given a new compilation of Baha'u'llah's Writings: The Call of the Divine Beloved, a selection of the mystical works of Baha'u'llah.

Interesting.

While we had the eleven valleys, both the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, in previous translation, it seems that those translations weren't good enough for our upcoming needs. And the emphasis on the mystical? Well, that just fascinates me.

When I look back at a lot of the teaching materials from, say, the 1950s, there was a great emphasis on the social principals, and not a lot on the mystical side of it. In fact, there seemed to be a bit of a prejudice in much of the literature of the time from the generic Baha'i population that sort of pooh poohed anything that wasn't scientific, sort of saying it smacked of superstition. Oh, and this was not a universal. There were definitely some pretty radical things out there in the Baha'i publication world, but this is more of a general overall feeling. And this whole phase of really pushing away anything that might be superstition lasted for quite some time, prayer being a very notable exception to this rule.

But today, with the extreme rise in those who are not interested in religion at all, over 25% of the population here in Canada, according to recent surveys, and the greater divide between those who support science versus those who are seemingly against science, I am wondering why this recent book. I mean, it seems fairly obvious, in a sort of theoretical way, that we need to embrace the overlap between the scientific and the mystical, but I suspect there is far more than that.

I have to wonder what it is.

So this year, from now to the end of the Fast, I will be reading, studying, consulting with friends, and otherwise exploring this new volume, trying to wrap both my head and my heart around these incredibly beautiful teachings.

Already this morning, while reading it through for the first time over coffee, I found myself drifting off in meditative contemplation, thoroughly enchanted by the beauty of the poetry and the sublimity of the ideas. Even a few people around me asked about what I was reading, which doesn't happen all that often.

So, dear Reader, I would really appreciate any thoughts you have on specific sections, passages you feel particularly attracted to, any aspect of this slender volume that you care to share. I feel that we are all at the very beginning of a thrilling new direction for this wonderful Faith of ours, carefully directed by the Universal House of Justice.

And I, for one, am very curious just why it is that they are giving us, at this particular time, so much more stuff about both the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar and the mystical side of the teachings.

Oh, and if you can show how Gems of Divine Mysteries fits into this concept, I'd love to hear it. I mean, that brilliant work was first published in English in 2002, and as you know, it is kind of the Missing Link between the Book of Certitude and the Seven Valleys, so it seems as if they were easing us into this mystical stuff, but I'm sure there's more.

Maybe if I actually finished my coffee this morning, it would make more sense to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Third Time's the Charm

Oh no. It's Thursday already, and I'm leaving for Edmonton tomorrow morning for the weekend, and I haven't come up with a story for this week. What to do?

I know. I'll grab the nearest book about the Bab, Hour of Dawn, flip to a random page and see what comes up.

Ok.

Ready?

Siyyid Yahya, and his first meetings with the Bab.

Hmmm.

Well, Siyyid Yahya was a very famous and influential Mulla in Iran in the 1840s. The Shah had such faith and trust in him that when the news of the Bab began to spread, it was Siyyid Yahya that the Shah sent to investigate the claims. Three interviews were arranged.

At the first one, after courteous greetings, he spoke for two hours asking the Bab about the most difficult and obscure teachings in Islam he could think of. The Bab listened to this entire discourse very calmly, and then, when the Siyyid had finished, replied. Siyyid Yahya was astonished at the simple and clear answers the Bab gave. He was overcome by a sense of shame, feeling his own lowliness before the Bab. He, who had been the centre of attention for so long, now only felt his own mis-placed sense of pride and presumption.

During the second interview, he had prepared a list of further questions he wished to ask, but upon attaining the presence of the Bab, he discovered that his mind was a complete blank. Bewildered, he found that all he could do was ask some trivial and minor questions. But then he was even more astonished to discover that the Bab was answering, with the same clarity and simplicity, those same questions he had actually wanted to ask.

Vowing to approach the Bab with a more appropriate attitude for the third interview, he decided to ask only a single question. He wanted to know if the Bab would reveal a commentary on the Surih of Kawthar, but he decided to ask this only in his heart. He would not voice the question aloud.

As soon as he entered the room for that third interview, he found himself seized with a great sense of fear. He who had faced the Shah many times without the least trace of concern was now so shaken at the presence of this young Siyyidi merchant, the Bab, that he found himself swaying on his feet.

The Bab rose and took him gently by the hand, saying, "Seek from Me whatever is your heart's desire. I will readily reveal it to you."

Siyyid Yahya could not reply.

The Bab smiled and said, "Were I to reveal for you the commentary on the Surih of Kawthar, would you acknowledge that My words are born of the Spirit of God? Would you recognize that My utterance can in no wise be associated with sorcery or magic?"

At this, Siyyid Yahya began to weep. "O our Lord," he quoted from the Qur'an, "with ourselves have we dealt unjustly; if Thou forgive us not, and have not pity on us, we shall surely be of those who perish."

It was then that the Bab called for His pen-case and began to reveal that commentary.

Siyyid Yahya has left us a beautiful description of that time, describing the majesty of the Bab's presence, and the power of His words. But I'm not going to quote it here.

No. What interests me is what we can learn from this.

So often we find ourselves with some knowledge, and feeling a sense of pride on our little bit of learning. I see this over and over again when people are discussing various issues of which they may have a little bit of knowledge, but refusing to admit that someone with years, or even decades, of experience may know more. We often see this when people are discussing hot topics like vaccines or gun control, or even climate change. Someone may read a headline, or research an issue for a few minutes on Google, and suddenly be filled with the ego to claim themselves some sort of expert on the subject.

But really, if we want to learn, we need to accept a recognized authority on the subject. And we need to be humble enough to approach those without that recognized authority in such a manner that we are willing to listen to them, and judge whether or not their argument makes sense.

Siyyid Yahya was a recognized authority. The Bab was not. And Siyyid Yahya's true character emerged not when he questioned the Bab on obscure and minor details, but when he was willing to actually listen to what the Bab really had to say.

Today, we need to be willing to offer that same courtesy, for that's really what it is, to those with whom we disagree, for who knows? They may be right.

But that also doesn't mean just blindly accepting what they say. Siyyid Yahya questioned the Bab first. He tested to see if the Bab really knew what He was talking about. And then, with great humility, he accepted the Bab's superior knowledge and wisdom.

Why, though, was he filled with fear during that third interview? Possibly because he felt that he had not been humble enough during the first two interviews.

And that, dear Reader, is what really stands out to me. I pray that I do not approach any conversation with such haughtiness that I feel that reason for fear later on.

Whew. I'm so glad that book was nearby.

See you next week, dear Friends.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

What are You Doing?

It is very interesting to me that when I think of the stories of the early believers, the Babis, I often forget to include Baha'u'llah in that category. He was, however, a Babi. And many of the stories about Him from that time are, as we would expect, just filled with incredible spiritual lessons for today.

One story that struck me when I first heard it was of a time shortly after He received the message of the Bab. He was traveling through Nur, His home province, when He came upon a young dervish by the side of the road, preparing his meal.

Baha'u'llah approached and asked him what he was doing.

"I am engaged in eating God," he replied. "I am cooking God and am burning Him."

This simple and straightforward reply delighted Baha'u'llah, Who began to speak with the youth. In a short time and with great tender affection, Baha'u'llah helped him understand a higher vision of God. The young dervish left behind his cooking utensils and followed Baha'u''llah, chanting prayers and songs of praise to the One who had brought him a new understanding.

"Thou art the Day-Star of guidance," he sang. "Thou are the Light of Truth. Unveil Thyself to men, O Revealer of the Truth."

There is something about that story that always amuses me. Perhaps it is the dervish's original understanding of God being in everything, and therefore he was eating God. I mean, sure, it's not a very good understanding of the nature of God, and Baha'u'llah gives him a better understanding of the true nature of God, but still. He was, in a sense, correct, from his point of view, and wasn't afraid to share this.

I was thinking of this story one day, on my way to a coffee shop. I was heading there to make some of my jewelry, knowing that when I do my work in public, I often meet people who come up and ask me what I'm doing. When you make chainmail fashion designs and jewelry for a living, you get into all sorts of amazing conversations.

So there I was, walking, thinking of this story, when I decided to change my usual answer to the question of what I'm doing.

I got my coffee, and took a seat by a large window. Well, actually I got a mocha, with lots of whipped cream. Mmmmm.

I took out my work board, and began to work, linking my rings together, one at a time. And this man comes up to me, looks at my board, and says, "What are you doing?"

"I'm worshiping God."

"Nice What are you making?"

And this led to me explaining my work, and him joining me for coffee (mocha), and having a very nice conversation. He asked me all sorts of questions about my work, and eventually asked me about my original response. I talked with him about the idea of work done in the spirit of service to humanity being worship, how I use my work to engage people in spiritual conversations.

It was a very interesting conversation that went into many unusual directions.

Finally, after a way too long, I realized that I had no idea what he did for a living.

"Oh, I'm a priest."

And that, dear Reader, led to a very good friendship, quite a bit of interfaith service, and even a few talks in his church.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Testing, Testing...

We love to test people.

There seems to be something in the human makeup that just loves to put things and people to the test, to see whether or not they will satisfy our own criteria, whatever that may be. One of my favorite passages in the book Illusions is when the author is told to see if there is a God, or if the universe is somehow responding to him. He decides to test it by asking for a blue feather. "If there is a God", he seems to say, "then let Him put a blue feather in my path." Shortly after that a truck drives by with a blue feather for its logo. He argues "That doesn't count", but the main character, who told him to try this, says, "But it's a blue feather. You didn't specify that it had to be an actual feather from a real bird."

For some reason, this stuck with me, and I see that sort of "argument" all the time. "Well sure, but that answer doesn't really count." And instead of accepting the answer, recognizing that not all answers come as we may expect, they go on, in this unending loop, to continue to test and try God, or whatever.

A similar thing happened to the Bab. Many people wanted to test or try Him. One example is the man who said that he thought that if the Bab was a true Manifestation, He would look at him. And as soon as he thought that, the Bab did. Then there were those who decided to keep a question hidden to see if the Bab would answer it. Time and again the Bab "passed" these tests, and many became Babis just because of that. Others, however, tested Him but not declare their faith.

One example is the prince who was the governor of Urumiyyih. Now, to be fair, he wasn't really testing to see if the Bab was a Manifestation, he was only testing His courage. But still.

This Prince knew that the Bab was going to go to the public baths while He was staying in that city. And so, being "generous", he offered to let the Bab ride one of his horses to the bath. Now this particular horse was wild and dangerous. Nobody had yet been able to tame it or ride it. In fact, even trying to get on this horse could be a dangerous thing.

The Prince's groom was concerned, and warned the Bab not to ride it. The Bab, however, merely told him, "Fear not. Do as you have been bidden and commit Us to the care of the Almighty." This, of course, was His standard reply. Don't worry about Me, He would always say. I'm in God's hands.

And so the Bab walked through the crowded square, in full view of the throngs who knew of the Prince's plans and wanted to see what would happen. As He approached the horse, He took hold of the bridle and gently caressed it. The horse, to everyone's surprise, stood perfectly still as the Bab mounted him. He then took the Bab calmly to the baths, while the Prince walked beside them.

The crowd of people ran towards Him in order to kiss both the horse and the stirrups, and had to be held back. Later, they also charged the baths to carry away the precious bathwater that this Holy Man had used. And on the way back, the Prince, himself, again walked on foot beside the Bab's horse. Clearly, the Bab had passed this test.

Today, I read this story and think about it, and realize how superficial our meager "tests" can be. It is as the Bab said to Mulla Husayn on the night of His declaration. "It is for God to test His servants, and not for His servants to judge Him in accordance with their deficient standards." The real test, to me, is not about whether or not the Bab, or Baha'u'llah, or God, or Whoever, can satisfy our perplexities, but rather how we respond when They do.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Light in the Night

One evening, Khadijih Baghum, the wife of the Bab, joined the Bab and His mother for tea. This was not unusual, for He often had tea with His mother in the evening. That evening though, He said that He was not hungry, and so although He sat with the others while they ate, He Himself did not have much. Shortly thereafter, He went off to bed.

Around midnight, though, she noticed that He was was no longer asleep in their room. Concerned, she went to look for Him.

She searched the courtyard. She looked in His mother's room. She looked around the bottom floor of the house, but couldn't find Him anywhere.

Then, to her surprise, she found herself climbing the staircase to the second floor of the house, and saw a light coming from the upper room. As this was the guest room, and there were no guests that evening, she was greatly puzzled. Where was the light coming from?

Then, to her astonishment, she saw her Husband. He, Himself, was the source of the light. There He was, in the middle of the room, arms upraised. Praying. Radiating light.

A feeling of both awe and fright began to overtake her when He motioned for her to leave the room. She went back downstairs to her bed, and tried to sleep, but as you can imagine, was unable. All the rest of the night she lie awake wondering about her Husband, and what was happening. She prayed to God for understanding until she heard the mu-adhdhin call the morning prayer at the neighbouring mosque.

It was then that the Bab came downstairs and joined her.

As her eyes fell on His beautiful countenance, she found herself trembling.

Later, when breakfast was served, she was still trembling. Tried as she might, she was unable to hide it.

The Bab, her loving Husband, asked her what was the matter.

"What was the condition in which I saw you?"

"Know that the Almighty God", He replied, "is manifested in Me. I am the One whose advent the people of Islam have expected for over a thousand years. God has created Me for a great Cause, and you witnessed the divine revelation. Although I had not wished that you see Me in that state, yet God had so willed that there may not be any place in your heart for doubt and hesitation."

This story, or one similar, is recorded in a few different places, by a few different people. It speaks, to me at least, of the close bond between the Manifestation and His wife.

It is a beautiful story of the tender love He must have felt for her, and the mercy of God, helping her come to understand the station of the Bab.

It also speaks to me of the love I should feel for my own wife, the love I do feel for her, and the love I know she feels for me. And although it also speaks of accepting my wife for who she is, neither of us have to deal with the trials associated with being married to a Manifestation. That, I can't even begin to imagine.

I am also reminded of the importance of getting to know one's spouse before getting married. And sure, you won't know everything about them when the wedding takes place, but at least you won't be in for as much of a shock as Khadijih Baghum was. I mean, she already knew that He was kind and loving, patient and compassionate, but a Manifestation? Ok. She has me beat by a longshot.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Uninvited Guests

Every morning, over breakfast, I read to my son. It is one of our delightful morning rituals. Lately I have been reading to him stories of the Bab, as I continue to search for stories to write about every week.

This morning we were reading Hour of Dawn, by Mary Perkins, and we are at the point where the Bab has just arrived in Tabriz for the first time. He is staying in a house with two guards stationed outside to keep everybody away. Nevertheless, despite being told that they would forfeit all their possessions, as well as be imprisoned for the rest of their lives, there are still some Babis who chose to try and meet Him. One of them was Haji Ali-Askar.

He and another Babi went to the house where the Bab was staying, and the guards promptly moved forward to arrest them. At that moment, though, Siyyid Hasan, one of the Bab's companions, came out and said that the Bab had the following message: "Suffer these visitors to enter, inasmuch as I Myself have invited them to meet Me."

When they went inside the Bab told them, "These miserable wretches who watch at the gate of My house have been destined by Me as a protection against the inrush of the multitude who throng around the house. They are powerless to prevent those whom I desire to meet from attaining My presence."

When I asked my son what stood out to him from the story this morning, it was this small part. We had read about 10 pages, but it was this part, in particular, that caught his attention.

"Why?" I wondered.

"I am just amazed," he said, "that despite the warnings and threats, so many people wanted to see Him."

And so, while we awaited his school bus, we talked about this.

Why did the people want to see the Bab? And why was He so eager to keep them away?

We were only able to come up with three reasons why people wanted to see Him. First, there were the Babis who recognized Him as the Promised One and would do or risk anything to be in His presence. Second, there were the sight-seers. These are the ones who merely wanted to see what the big deal was. The third group would be those who were investigating His claims.

When we divided the people into these three categories, the need for guards suddenly made more sense.

The first group, He would be happy to see, but possibly only if they made the effort. Otherwise, they had already recognized. They could be satisfied with His writings and go out and teach.

The second group He would probably have no desire to see. After all, they would likely be just as interested in seeing a two-headed chicken. And given the probable numbers in that group, it is no wonder that He had guards to keep them away.

As for the third group, if they truly wanted to investigate His claims, they would do better to start by asking His followers or read His writings. They should do the research instead of bothering Him.

And it is because of this third group that we saw relevance to our lives today.

When we have questions, we should do the groundwork first.

As Baha'is, we have the right to ask whatever we want of the Universal House of Justice. But does that mean we should? Of course not. We should begin by researching the question ourselves. Part of that research could include asking other Baha'is, or perhaps even asking for guidance from our local Assembly or an auxiliary Board member. If we do not find satisfaction, perhaps we may go to either the regional level, or even ask our National Assembly. Only when we have exhausted all other avenues of research, and if we feel that the question is important enough, should we even begin to think about taking the time of the Universal House of Justice. Now, of course, this is only my own personal opinion, but when I think of all that they have to do, I would not want to waste a single moment of their precious time.

There have been many times in my life where I have had questions about the Faith. I have looked in the writings. I have asked people. And when I post a question on-line, I am often astonished at how quickly and readily people suggest writing the House of Justice.

As my son and I talked about this today, I could see his puzzlement as to why this would be so quick a response. He, too, seems to have an inkling as to the amount of work they do.

And after we talked about it, he said he could now understand why the Bab had allowed the guards to be outside His door. And why some few were still allowed to see Him anyways.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Honour Guard

There are many interesting stories about the Bab, some of them are epic in their scope. Some others, though, were seemingly trivial. All of them have their lessons.

One such story, a seemingly trivial one, occurred fairly early in His ministry.

It was June, 1845. The Bab had returned to Bushihr from His Pilgrimage, and was contemplating visiting Karbilah, as He told His companions He would. He had sent Quddus to Shiraz to inform His uncle of His Mission, as well as to teach some of the locals there. One of those locals was a Mulla who immediately began obeying the new laws of the Bab. As He had added a line to the traditional Call to Prayer, people got upset, and the governor was moved to stop the spread of unrest, which resulted in guards being sent to arrest the Bab. It is likely that for these reasons the Bab decided to change His plans.

The Bab headed northeast of Bushihr some 65 kilometers to meet these guards. Normally it would take about 2 solid days of riding to cover that distance, and so when the Bab talked to them, His conversation had a significance we don't often consider.

The Bab asked them where they were going, which was odd enough, as they were guards, and were probably used to being avoided whenever possible. But the guard commander thought it best to conceal his mission and told the Bab that they were just sent to the area to look into some matter for the governor.

"The governor has sent you to arrest Me", came the startling reply from the Bab. "Here am I; do with Me as you please."

After a bit of back and forth, the Bab finally said, "I know that you are seeking Me. I prefer to deliver Myself into your hands, rather than subject you and your companions to unnecessary annoyance for My sake."

You can well imagine how this shocked the guards, a wanted man willingly giving himself up to the capricious whims of the governor, who was known to commit great violence in order to keep the peace in his province. To not flee was one thing, but for Him to go out of His way to save them two extra days of travel each way? It is no wonder they treated Him with such deference.

You can also imagine the surprise when these tough and hardened guards came back to Shiraz with the Bab leading them, as though they were His honour guard.

It seems like such a simple story, on the surface, and yet when we pause to think about it a bit more, we can see that there are depths to it.

But how is this relevant to us today?

For me, to see the relevance I have to go back a couple thousand years to the ministry of Jesus.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."

I have written on the cheek striking part before, so I won't repeat it here. But it is this line about compelling someone to go a mile that interests me here. And while I've written about that, too, I'll repeat it here as it bears on this theme.

At the time of Jesus, it was fairly common for the Roman legions to "compel" people to do certain tasks, like carrying their packs for a mile. This was evidently a big issue for the Jewish rebels of the time, as I'm sure it would be for me today. It was, in fact, one of their main complaints about the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, and something they desperately wanted to get overturned. And just as they expected the Messiah to come as a warrior and physically boot the Romans out, they also expected that He would demand the cessation of this law.

Not only did Jesus not stop this practice, He encouraged His followers to go over and above it. If they ask you to walk a mile, walk two for them.

And here, the Bab effectively acts it out. He not only goes out to meet the guards, He goes so far as to save them a few days journeying by meeting them partway on the road back to Shiraz.

And the reaction? They go from merely carrying out the orders of the governor to becoming ardent admirers of the Bab.

When we know that someone is unjustly coming after us, metaphorically speaking, we can go out of our way to meet them on that road. Through this simple effort, we may end up, after all, turning our possible enemies into our greatest well-wishers.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Teacher

Shaykh 'Abid was a very interesting man. He was a disciple of both Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim. He was well known for both his piety and his learning. He was also, as stories about him show, quite humble, and this, I think, is one of his most important qualities.

He was a teacher in Shiraz, and his students referred to him as Shaykhuna. Personally, aside from the linguistic tie to the word Shaykh, I have no clue what that means, but I presume it is something good.

What he is most known for, though, in history, is being the teacher of the Bab when He was a young child.

One day, he said, he asked the Bab to recite the opening words of the Qur'an, Bismi'llahi'r-Rahmani'r-Rahim. The Bab, oddly enough, hesitated. He said that He would not attempt to pronounce the words unless He was told what they signified. And to think, He was only 7 years old, or so.

Shaykh Abid, of course, could have translated the Arabic words for Him, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate". He could have described the meaning to his young student. He could have insisted that the Bab just do as He was told. But he did none of those things. Instead he pretended not to know their meaning and asked the Bab what He thought.

"I know what these words signify", said the Bab, "by your leave I will explain them."

Shaykh Abid later recalled, "He spoke with such knowledge and fluency that I was struck with amazement. He expounded the meaning of 'Allah', of 'Rahman', and 'Rahim', in terms such as I had neither read nor heard. The sweetness of His utterance still lingers in my memory."

Years later, this humble but knowledgeable teacher became a devoted Babi.

It's such a simple story, and really, can be told in just a few sentences. But like all stories of the Bab, like any story from religious history, it is filled with many layers of meaning.

One important learning that we get from it is to allow the students we are teaching to offer what they know. When the Bab asked Shaykh Abid what the words meant, he responded by asking the student what He thought. Of course, even if your student is not a Manifestation of God, it is still good to ask. Students, whether children or adult, already have a knowledge within them. And by asking what they think, you are giving them a chance to share, which is very encouraging. You also are taking the opportunity to learn, either from their new perspective, or learn what they are missing.

This, of course, is also the very basis of tutoring, too. As teachers or tutors, our job is to guide, not to try and fill "empty vessels".

To me, Shaykh Abid demonstrated the most important qualities of a teacher, and perhaps that may be why he was rewarded with the opportunity to both hear the Bab on this wonderful occasion, and recognize His Station later in life.

A second learning that we get from this story is from the actions of the Bab, Himself.

We note that He refused to utter the words unless He knew what they meant. Doesn't that just speak to the importance of understanding what we are doing? Knowing that of which we speak?

This is a lesson that I think we all need to consider far more these days.

Even as a young child, the Bab was demonstrating His station as a Manifestation of God, for His every action teaches us many lessons.