Lesson 6

Contemplation

O ye loved ones of the Lord! This is the hour when ye must associate with all the earth’s peoples in extreme kindliness and love.

                     -`Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

 The Bab

There are many other stories that show how extraordinary the Báb was even as a child. It is said that one day his mother scolded a servant just after she had performed her ablution (washing her hands and feet) in preparation for her daily prayer. The Báb, who was only six years old at the time, told his mother,

“My beloved mother, wouldn’t it have been better if you had done the purifying ablution right before the prayer so that the rebuke (criticize) would not have tarnished (to stain) your prayer?

”The Báb was only 25 when he announced that he was the Promised One of Islam. He also said that he had come to prepare the way for an even greater Prophet of God who was going to appear soon and would end wars and bring peace to the world. The Báb called himself the Gate (in Arabic, the Báb) to that great Prophet. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of Jesus, the Báb was also getting his followers ready for the coming of the next prophet.  At first 18 people listened to the Message of the Báb. His first follower was a pious and knowledgeable young man by the name of Mullah Husayn. Through his research of the Muslim Holy Writings, he had come to the conclusion that the Promised One of Islam was going to appear in the year 1844. The year 1844 is also very important in the Christian calendar. There are many prophecies in the Bible that point to this year for the Second Coming of Christ.

Mullah Husayn spent many days in prayer and fasting and his meditation led him to the city of Shiraz where the Báb was living. Mullah Husayn was welcomed by the Báb into his house and became convinced that the Báb was the Promised One of Islam. That meeting took place on May 23 1844. Later, 17 other people came to recognize the station of the Báb as the Promised One of Islam and the founder of a new religion called the Bábí Faith. Soon the Báb became very popular in Iran. Thousands of people became his followers, and these people were called the Bábís.

The Báb wrote many books. In his Writings, he set a new system of laws and religious principles. He also said that the main purpose of his mission was to announce the coming of the Promised One of all ages. In his book, the Persian Bayán, the Báb described this new prophet as “He Whom God Shall Make Manifest.” He told his followers that when this New Prophet appeared, they would have to put aside everything else and follow him as soon as they heard His Message. He even made reference to his name, “Bahá’u’lláh”, in some of his books. The Báb said that the mission of this new prophet was to help humanity live like one large family and to establish peace on earth (From the Story of the Prophets, pp. 33-34).

Questions:

  1. What did the Bab tell His mother?
  2. How old was the Bab when He announced that He was the Promised One of Islam?
  3. What does the word Bab mean in Arabic? Why did He call Himself the Bab?
  4. What is the name of the Bab’s first follower? Who was he? How did he find the Bab?
  5. Where and when did the meeting between the Bab and his first follower take place?
  6. Did the Bab begin a new religion? If so, what was the name of that religion?
  7. Did the Bab write any books? If so, what did he write in His books?
  8. According to the Bab, what was the main purpose of His mission?
  9. What did the Bab say about the New Prophet to His followers?

Spiritual Teachings of Baha’u’llah

 Prayer and Meditation

 Because we love God, we want to reach out and talk with Him. All the Messengers of God have taught the people to pray and meditate. Baha’u’llah has taught that in this Day we are free to pray and meditate any way we would like. We can sit, kneel or stand. What is most important is that we pray from our hearts. Baha’u’llah has given us a choice of daily obligatory prayers to read or recite. The Short Obligatory (required) Prayer is said between noon and sunset. The Medium Obligatory Prayer is said when you wash your hands and face. The Long Obligatory Prayer can be said any time day or night. Baha’u’llah has also taught that we should pray and meditate every morning and every evening. We may also pray at any other time we choose (The Garden of Baha’u’llah, p. 72).

From the Baha’i Writings

 “There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan, as such, for inner development. The friends are urged—nay enjoined—to pray, and they should also meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual….”—Shoghi Effendi

Questions:

  1. What does it mean “to pray from the heart”?
  2. Why is it important for us to pray?
  3. What are some examples of the obligatory prayers in the Baha’i Faith?

One Cloak is Enough-A Story about ‘Abdu’l-Baha  

‘ABDU’L-BAHA WAS ONE of the greatest teachers of all time. Both with His words and with His actions.  He taught us how to live and serve. One day in 1912, while He was in the United States, He stayed in a town called Dublin. That morning He went out for some fresh air with His secretary. As they walked along the street, a poor old man wandered by. He did not look at anyone and his grimy (dirty) face was full of sadness. This old man was not only wearing old clothes; he was also filthy. Abdul-Baha’ stopped, and asked His secretary to call the man back. The old man turned around and came toward them. Abdul-Baha’ reached out, held the poor old man’s dirty hand and smiled at him. They talked together for a little while. Then Abdul-Baha’ stood back taking a good look at the poor old man from head to toe. They were both about the same height. It was quite easy to see that the old man’s trousers were so torn and worn away, that they were really just rags. Abdul-Baha’ laughed gently. He knew that He had another pair of pants at the inn nearby, but this poor old man had nothing but his rags. So He arranged to give the man a pair of His own trousers. When the old man received them, ‘Abdu’l-Baha said to him in English, “May God go with you!”.

‘Abdu’l-Baha was also well known for giving away His own cloak many times. ‘Abdu’l-Baha did not believe that He should have two of anything if others had none. One day in His home in Haifa, He found an expensive new coat laid out on the bed for Him by His wife, Munirih. Going to Munirih, He asked, ‘Where is my coat?” She explained to Him that she had bought this second coat, because she wanted him to have a good coat for important occasions. He knew that His wife Munirih loved Him and wanted Him to be warm and look good, but He explained to her that this cloak was so expensive that the same money could buy five coats like the one he used every day. How could He wear this, when five people had no coats? In Akka and Haifa where they lived, it was easy to find many very poor people who could not afford to eat each day. These people could certainly never afford to buy a coat for the cold weather. . ‘Abdu’l-Baha would never keep anything that He did not need if these people needed it.

In 1918, a British official named Major Tudor Pole, who greatly loved and admired ‘Abdu’l-Baha, wrote these words in his diary after visiting Him: “I gave him the Persian camel-hair cloak, and it greatly pleased him, for winter is here, and he had given away the only cloak he possessed. I made him promise to keep this one through the winter anyway, and I trust he does.” We are not sure exactly what ‘Abdu’l-Baha did with that Persian camel-hair cloak. But we do know that in November 1921, on the night that He died, His daughter searched the family home looking for a cloak to keep her ailing father warm. But all she could find was His one ordinary cloak.

Questions 

  1. What did ‘Abdu’l-Baha give the poor old man in the story?
  2. What did Major Pole give ‘Abdu’l-Baha?
  3. What do you think ‘Abdu’l-Baha did with Major Pole’s gift?
  1. What do we learn from ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the above stories?

Behind a Curtain- The Story of Tahirih

 TWO CENTURIES AGO, in Persia which is now called Iran the men treated women almost like slaves. A woman could not go to school, nor work outside her home. She had to be covered everywhere she went. Even in her own home, if a woman wanted to speak to a man, she would have to sit behind a curtain. In this dark land, a beautiful and intelligent girl was born to a noble family. She became known as Tahirih. Her father was a famous teacher. Young Tahirih read her father’s books and listened to men, discussing ideas about religion. The men soon learned this young woman, speaking from behind the curtain, often understood more than they did. Still, they would not recognize her. Even when she married, her husband, who was also a clergyman, was mean and harsh towards her.

Tahirih had also learned that those days were the time for a new Messenger of God. One night in a dream, she saw a young man in golden robes, suspended in the air. Raising His hands, He chanted some verses in Arabic. In the morning, Tahirih wrote down the verses she remembered from her dream. Soon afterward, a visitor showed her writings by the Bab. There, she found exactly the same words! She became a follower of the Bab, Who announced that a wonderful new age was now coming. In all her life, Tahirih never met the Bab.

She became a fearless teacher of this new Message. She also wrote beautiful poems. Tahirih was brave, intelligent and pure-hearted, and many people listened to her. Soon, the King of Persia himself wanted to meet her. He ordered her to appear at his palace. After meeting and speaking with Tahirih, the King thought she was greater than any of his other wives! He even offered to marry her, if she would just forget about the Bab. Tahirih refused, and answered the king in a poem:

Kingdom, wealth and ruling for thee

Poverty, wandering and trouble for me

If that be thy desire good for thee

If mine be bad, I long for it, let it be for me.

Although He was now far away in prison, the Bab sent a message, asking eighty-one of his followers, including Tahirih, to go to a special meeting in a village called Badasht. There, they ended the old ways of life and announced the new. One new teaching was that women and men must now be equal. Here one day, as the men sat together, Tahirih walked into room with her face uncovered. The men were struck dumb. They had never seen a woman’s face! In those days, to see even the shadow of a woman’s uncovered face was thought to be a sin. In shock, the men hid their own faces. Some sobbed, while others were panicked and nervous. But Tahirih raised her hands and cried out, “Rejoice! For on this day, the chains of the past are broken!”

She continued to teach that the new age was here. But soon, in those cruel days, Tahirih was arrested, and sadly the King ordered her to be put to death. She died very bravely.

Today, there are many reasons to remember Tahirih. She was wise, brave, true-hearted and pure. Her poetry is now printed around the world, so anyone can read it. But most of all, she is remembered as the heroine she truly was, the one who stood up and announced that from now on, women would be free and equal to men.

Questions:                                         

  1. How was the situation of women before the advent of the Baha’i Faith in Iran?
  2. Who was Tahirih?
  3. What was Tahirih’s dream?
  4. Why did Tahirih join the Babi religion?
  5. Did Tahirih ever meet the Bab?
  6. What were some of the characteristics of Tahirih?
  7. What did Tahirih do in Badasht that shocked men?
  8. How did Tahirih die?
  9. Why is Tahirih so loved and respected in Babi/Baha’i history?

Virtue of the week:

 Forgiveness

  • The best deed of a great man is to forgive and forget. – Islam. Nahjul Balagha
  • The man who has a good will for all, …and who is forgiving…this man loves me, and he is dear to me.  – The Bhagavad Gita
  • Hate is not conquered by hate. Hate is conquered by love.    The Dhammapada of Buddha
  • For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. –The Bible
  • [Man must] not only forgive, but also, if possible be of service to his oppressor.  -‘Abdu’l-Baha

Questions: 

  1. Why should we forgive those who have wronged us?
  2. What is the best deed of a great man according to the quote from Islam?
  3. What does Abdu’l-Baha’s teach us about forgiveness?
  4. According to the Bhagavad Gita, who is dear to God?
  5. What does the Dhammapada teach us about overcoming hatred? How can we do that?

 

 

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