I have just completed the translation of a number of selections1 from the Master’s soul-stirring Words to His loved ones in Persia, revealed some twenty-five years ago, and during the darkest days of His incarceration in the prison city of Akká.
You will realize, as you read them, the unshakable confidence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the inevitable growth of the Cause, even in the most perilous days of His life. Their perusal will enable you all to grasp more fully the significance of this Movement and its dynamic power, the urgent need for sustained unity and harmony amongst the friends, and the glory of the station that awaits in the world to come every faithful servant of Bahá’u’lláh.
May they contribute their share to the unfolding of the Spirit of the Cause in that land, and may they infuse in all the friends that ardent spirit of service and fellowship that will enable them to fulfill their glorious destiny in this world!
Over a year has elapsed since that calamitous Hour, when the glorious Person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was veiled from mortal eyes and His Spirit ascended to the Kingdom of Glory; and I feel that the time is now ripe to take those fresh and momentous decisions which will enable us to fulfill, speedily and faithfully, the last wishes of our departed Master.
The year has been to the outside world a year of fear and suffering, of disillusion and turmoil. To us, however, the bereaved followers of a gracious and loving Master, it has been, despite the passing cares which His sudden departure must necessarily entail, a period of hope, of wholesome activity, marked throughout with a spirit of undiminished confidence in His power and of fidelity to His Cause.
From the East and from the West, from the North and from the South, the unnumbered servants of Bahá’u’lláh, disdainful of the evil machinations of the enemies of His Cause, the breakers of His behests, have rallied to His Standard, and risen with one accord to carry on the great Work He has entrusted to their charge. All-hail to that undying spirit of fidelity which burns and shall burn unceasingly, in the breasts of His loved ones! Great shall be their reward, and blissful the hour, when after a toilsome life of service, they are gathered to the glory of Bahá, and partake in their Beloved’s Presence, of the joy of eternal Reunion.
But great achievements still await us in this world, and we feel confident that, by His grace and never-failing guidance, we shall now and ever prove ourselves worthy to fulfill His great Purpose for mankind. And who can fail to realize the sore need of bleeding humanity, in its present state of uncertainty and peril, for the regenerating Spirit of God, manifested this Day so powerfully in this Divine Dispensation? Four years of unprecedented warfare and world cataclysms, followed by another four years of bitter disappointment and suffering, have stirred deeply the conscience of mankind, and opened the eyes of an unbelieving world to the Power of the Spirit that alone can cure its sicknesses, heal its wounds, and establish the long-promised reign of undisturbed prosperity and peace.
Now surely, if ever, is the time for us, the chosen ones of Bahá’u’lláh and the bearers of His Message to the world, to endeavor by day and by night, to deepen, first and foremost, the Spirit of His Cause in our own individual lives, and then labor, and labor incessantly to exemplify in all our dealings with our fellow-men that noble Spirit of which His beloved Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has been all the days of His life a true and unique exponent. The sayings of our beloved Master have been noised abroad, His name has filled all regions, and the eyes of mankind are now turned expectant towards His disciples who bear His name and profess His teachings. Shall we not by our daily life vindicate the high claims of His teachings, and prove by our services the influence of His undying Spirit? This surely is our highest privilege, and our most sacred duty.
Let us, with a pure heart, with humility and earnestness, turn afresh to His counsels and exhortations, and seek from that Source of Celestial Potency all the guidance, the spirit, the power which we shall need for the fulfillment of our mission in this life.
“It behooveth the loved ones of God to be enamored of one another and to sacrifice themselves for their fellow-workers in the Cause. They should yearn towards one another even as the sore athirst yearneth for the Water of Life, and the lover burneth to meet his heart’s desire.”
Such is the sublime, the glorious position He wishes us, and all the peoples and kindreds on earth, to attain in this world; how much more to achieve unity and common understanding among ourselves, and then arise to herald with one voice the coming of the Kingdom and the salvation of mankind.
With unity of purpose firmly established in our minds, with every trace of personal animosity banished from our hearts, and with the spirit of whole-hearted and sustained fellowship kindled in our souls, can we hope to deliver effectively the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, and execute faithfully the various provisions of our Beloved’s Will and Testament.
Steadfast in our faith, firm in our union, abounding in our hope, fervent in our spirit, and selfless in our labors, let us arise and with prayerful hearts make another and supreme effort to fulfill these last words of our Beloved, His most cherished desire:
“O ye that stand fast in the Covenant! When the hour cometh that this wronged and broken winged bird will have taken its flight unto the Celestial Concourse, when it will have hastened to the Realm of the Unseen, and its mortal frame will have either been lost or hidden neath the dust, it is incumbent upon the Afnán that are steadfast in the Covenant of God and have branched from the Tree of Holiness, the Hands of the Cause of God (the glory of the Lord rest upon them), and all the friends and loved ones, one and all, to bestir themselves and arise with heart and soul and in one accord to diffuse the sweet savors of God, to teach His Cause and to promote His Faith. It behooveth them not to rest for a moment, neither to seek repose. They must disperse themselves in every land, pass by every clime, and travel throughout all regions. Bestirred, without rest, and steadfast to the end, they must raise in every land the triumphal cry of Yá-Bahá’u’l-Abhá, must achieve renown in the world wherever they go, must burn brightly even as a candle in every meeting, and must kindle the flame of Divine Love in every assembly; that the Light of Truth may rise resplendent in the midmost heart of the world, that throughout the East and throughout the West a vast concourse may gather under the shadow of the Word of God, that the sweet savors of Holiness may be diffused, that faces may shine radiantly, hearts be filled with the Divine Spirit and souls be made heavenly. In these days the most important of all things is the guidance of the nations and the peoples of the world. Teaching the Cause is of utmost importance, for it is the head corner-stone of the foundation itself. This wronged servant has spent his days and nights in promoting the Cause, and urging the peoples to service. He rested not a moment, till the fame of the Cause of God was noised abroad in the world, and the Celestial Strains from the Abhá Kingdom roused the East and the West. The beloved of God must also follow the same example. This is the secret of faithfulness, this is the requirement of servitude to the Threshold of Bahá.”
We need but glance at the Words of Bahá’u’lláh and the Epistles of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to realize the great privilege of teaching the Cause, its vital necessity, its supreme urgency, and its wide-reaching effects. These are the very words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:—
“In these days, the Holy Ones of the Realm of Glory, dwelling in the all-highest Paradise, yearn to return unto this world, and be of some service to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh and prove their servitude to the Threshold of Abhá beauty.”
What a wondrous vision these words unfold to our eyes! How great our privilege to labor in this Day in the Divine Vineyard! Is it not incumbent upon us to arise and teach His Cause with such an ardor which no worldly adversity can quell, nor any measure of success can satiate?
And, now that this all-important Work may suffer no neglect, but rather function vigorously and continuously in every part of the Bahá’í world; that the unity of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh may remain secure and inviolate, it is of the utmost importance that in accordance with the explicit text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, in every locality, be it city or hamlet, where the number of adult (21 years and above) declared believers exceeds nine, a local “Spiritual Assembly” be forthwith established. To it all local matters pertaining to the Cause must be directly and immediately referred for full consultation and decision. The importance, nay the absolute necessity of these local Assemblies is manifest when we realize that in the days to come they will evolve into the local Houses of Justice, and at present provide the firm foundation on which the structure of the Master’s Will is to be reared in future.
The matter of Teaching, its direction, its ways and means, its extension, its consolidation, essential as they are to the interests of the Cause, constitute by no means the only issue which should receive the full attention of these Assemblies. A careful study of Bahá’u’lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Tablets will reveal that other duties, no less vital to the interests of the Cause, devolve upon the elected representatives of the friends in every locality.
They must endeavor to promote amity and concord amongst the friends, efface every lingering trace of distrust, coolness and estrangement from every heart, and secure in its stead an active and whole-hearted cooperation for the service of the Cause.
They must promote by every means in their power the material as well as the spiritual enlightenment of youth, the means for the education of children, institute, whenever possible, Bahá’í educational institutions, organize and supervise their work and provide the best means for their progress and development.
They must make an effort to maintain official, regular, and frequent correspondence with the various Bahá’í centers throughout the world, report to them their activities, and share the glad-tidings they receive with all their fellow-workers in the Cause.
They must encourage and stimulate by every means at their command, through subscription, reports and articles, the development of the various Bahá’í magazines, such as the “Star of the West” and the “Magazine of the Children of the Kingdom” in the United States of America, the “Bahá’í News” of India, the “Sun of the East” (Khurshid-i Khavar) in Turkestan, the “Star of the East” in Japan, the “Sun of Truth” in Germany.
They must undertake the arrangement of the regular meetings of the friends, the feasts and the anniversaries, as well as the special gatherings designed to serve and promote the social, intellectual and spiritual interests of their fellow-men.
They must supervise in these days when the Cause is still in its infancy all Bahá’í publications and translations, and provide in general for a dignified and accurate presentation of all Bahá’í literature and its distribution to the general public.
These rank among the most outstanding obligations of the members of every Spiritual Assembly. In whatsoever locality the Cause has sufficiently expanded, and in order to insure efficiency and avoid confusion, each of these manifold functions will have to be referred to a special Committee, responsible to that Assembly, elected by it from among the friends in that locality, and upon whose work the Assembly will have to exercise constant and general supervision.
These local Spiritual Assemblies will have to be elected directly by the friends, and every declared believer of 21 years and above, far from standing aloof and assuming an indifferent or independent attitude, should regard it his sacred duty to take part conscientiously and diligently, in the election, the consolidation and the efficient working of his own local Assembly.
Regarding the establishment of “National Assemblies,” it is of vital importance that in every country, where the conditions are favorable and the number of the friends has grown and reached a considerable size, such as America, Great Britain and Germany, that a “National Spiritual Assembly” be immediately established, representative of the friends throughout that country.
Its immediate purpose is to stimulate, unify and coordinate by frequent personal consultations, the manifold activities of the friends as well as the local Assemblies; and by keeping in close and constant touch with the Holy Land, initiate measures, and direct in general the affairs of the Cause in that country.
It serves also another purpose, no less essential than the first, as in the course of time it shall evolve into the National House of Justice (referred to in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will as the “secondary House of Justice”), which according to the explicit text of the Testament will have, in conjunction with the other National Assemblies throughout the Bahá’í world, to elect directly the members of the International House of Justice, that Supreme Council that will guide, organize and unify the affairs of the Movement throughout the world.
It is expressly recorded in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Writings that these National Assemblies must be indirectly elected by the friends; that is, the friends in every country must elect a certain number of delegates, who in their turn will elect from among all the friends in that country the members of the National Spiritual Assembly. In such countries, therefore, as America, Great Britain and Germany, a fixed number of secondary electors must first be decided upon (95 for America, including the Pacific Islands; 95 for Germany; and 19 for Great Britain). The friends then in every locality where the number of adult declared believers exceeds nine must directly elect its quota of secondary electors assigned to it in direct proportion to its numerical strength. These secondary electors will then, either through correspondence, or preferably by gathering together, and first deliberating upon the affairs of the Cause throughout their country (as the delegates to the Convention), elect from among all the friends in that country nine who will be the members of the National Spiritual Assembly.
This National Spiritual Assembly, which, pending the establishment of the Universal House of Justice, will have to be re-elected once a year, obviously assumes grave responsibilities, for it has to exercise full authority over all the local Assemblies in its province, and will have to direct the activities of the friends, guard vigilantly the Cause of God, and control and supervise the affairs of the Movement in general.
Vital issues, affecting the interests of the Cause in that country such as the matter of translation and publication, the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the Teaching Work, and other similar matters that stand distinct from strictly local affairs, must be under the full jurisdiction of the National Assembly.
It will have to refer each of these questions, even as the local Assemblies, to a special Committee, to be elected by the members of the National Spiritual Assembly, from among all the friends in that country, which will bear to it the same relation as the local committees bear to their respective local Assemblies.
With it, too, rests the decision whether a certain point at issue is strictly local in its nature, and should be reserved for the consideration and decision of the local Assembly, or whether it should fall under its own province and be regarded as a matter which ought to receive its special attention. The National Spiritual Assembly will also decide upon such matters which in its opinion should be referred to the Holy Land for consultation and decision.
With these Assemblies, local as well as national, harmoniously, vigorously, and efficiently functioning throughout the Bahá’í world, the only means for the establishment of the Supreme House of Justice will have been secured. And when this Supreme Body will have been properly established, it will have to consider afresh the whole situation, and lay down the principle which shall direct, so long as it deems advisable, the affairs of the Cause.
Pending its establishment, and to insure uniformity throughout the East and throughout the West, all local Assemblies will have to be re-elected once a year, during the first day of Riḍván, and the result of polling, if possible, be declared on that day.
In order to avoid division and disruption, that the Cause may not fall a prey to conflicting interpretations, and lose thereby its purity and pristine vigor, that its affairs may be conducted with efficiency and promptness, it is necessary that every one should conscientiously take an active part in the election of these Assemblies, abide by their decisions, enforce their decree, and cooperate with them wholeheartedly in their task of stimulating the growth of the Movement throughout all regions. The members of these Assemblies, on their part, must disregard utterly their own likes and dislikes, their personal interests and inclinations, and concentrate their minds upon those measures that will conduce to the welfare and happiness of the Bahá’í Community and promote the common weal.
And as the progress and execution of spiritual activities is dependent and conditioned upon material means, it is of absolute necessity that immediately after the establishment of local as well as national Spiritual Assemblies, a Bahá’í Fund be established, to be placed under the exclusive control of the Spiritual Assembly. All donations and contributions should be offered to the Treasurer of the Assembly, for the express purpose of promoting the interests of the Cause, throughout that locality or country. It is the sacred obligation of every conscientious and faithful servant of Bahá’u’lláh who desires to see His Cause advance, to contribute freely and generously for the increase of that Fund. The members of the Spiritual Assembly will at their own discretion expend it to promote the Teaching Campaign, to help the needy, to establish educational Bahá’í institutions, to extend in every way possible their sphere of service. I cherish the hope that all the friends, realizing the necessity of this measure, will bestir themselves and contribute, however modestly at first, towards the speedy establishment and the increase of that Fund.
The need for the centralization of authority in the National Spiritual Assembly, and the concentration of power in the various local Assemblies, is made manifest when we reflect that the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh is still in its age of tender growth and in a stage of transition; when we remember that the full implications and the exact significance of the Master’s world-wide instructions, as laid down in His Will, are as yet not fully grasped, and the whole Movement has not sufficiently crystallized in the eyes of the world.
It is our primary task to keep the most vigilant eye on the manner and character of its growth, to combat effectively the forces of separation and of sectarian tendencies, lest the Spirit of the Cause be obscured, its unity be threatened, its Teachings suffer corruption; lest extreme orthodoxy on one hand, and irresponsible freedom on the other, cause it to deviate from that Straight Path which alone can lead it to success.
But let us be on our guard—so the Master continually reminds us from His Station on high—lest too much concern in that which is secondary in importance, and too long a preoccupation with the details of our affairs and activities, make us neglectful of the most essential, the most urgent of all our obligations, namely, to bury our cares and teach the Cause, delivering far and wide this Message of Salvation to a sorely-stricken world.
“O ye servants of the Sacred Threshold! The triumphant Hosts of the Celestial Concourse, arrayed and marshalled in the Realms above, stand ready and expectant to assist and assure victory to that valiant horseman who with confidence spurs on his charger into the arena of service. Well is it with that fearless warrior, who armed with the power of true Knowledge, hastens unto the field, disperses the armies of ignorance, and scatters the hosts of error, who holds aloft the Standard of Divine Guidance, and sounds the Clarion of Victory. By the righteousness of the Lord! He hath achieved a glorious triumph and obtained the true victory.…”
With such inspiring words as these, are we to remain any longer unmoved and inactive? His trumpet-call resounds on every side, and summons us to service; are we to tarry and hesitate? His voice is calling aloud from every land; let us march on, unfettered and unafraid, and fulfill our glorious Destiny.
P.S. On another page1 is given the list of the best known and most current Bahá’í terms, and other Oriental names and expressions, all properly and accurately transliterated, the faithful spelling of which by all the Western friends will avoid confusion in future, and insure in this matter a uniformity which is greatly needed at present in all Bahá’í literature. The full code will be duly communicated to the various National Assemblies, and the transliteration of the Oriental terms mentioned in the English letters sent out by the Haifa Spiritual Assembly will provide a correct and reliable supplement to the above-mentioned list. I feel confident that all the friends will from now on follow this system and adhere scrupulously and at all times to this code in all their writings.
On this auspicious occasion, when the elected representatives of the Bahá’í Community throughout the continent of America, gathered for the first time within the Foundation Hall of the stately edifice of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, are assembled to take counsel together regarding those vital issues that confront the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in that land, may I, as one of your humble fellow-workers in the field of service, offer you from the very depths of my heart my brotherly love and sincere greetings, and assure you of my fervent prayers for the success of your deliberations and the attainments of your hearts’ desire.
You stand at this challenging hour in the history of the Cause at the threshold of a new era; the functions you are called upon to discharge are fraught with immense possibilities; the responsibilities you shoulder are grave and momentous; and the eyes of many peoples are turned, at this hour, towards you, expectant to behold the dawning of a Day that shall witness the fulfilment of His divine Promise.
Forgetful of the past and its vicissitudes, conscious of the need for renewed and combined effort, freed from all earthly limitations and motives, with every lingering trace of ill-feeling forever banished from our hearts, freshly united and determined, let us join in deep and silent communion with the ever-watchful Spirit of our beloved ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and with humility and earnestness supplicate for the guidance that will enable us to fulfil the task which is now committed to our charge. May this year’s Convention, by the range of its activities, by the character of its proceedings, by its faithful adherence to the divine Instructions of our loving Master, and above all by its radiant spirit of enthusiasm and true fellowship, prove itself one of the greatest landmarks in the history of the Cause in America.
I have lately received your long-awaited reports on the present situation of the Movement in that land, and have read them all, together with their enclosures, with the utmost care and deepest interest.
I am much impressed and feel deeply gratified to learn of your devoted and unremitting labors, individually and collectively in the field of service to the Cause; of your constant vigilance and watchful care in upholding its fundamental principles and guarding its essential interests; of the efficiency, faithfulness and vigor with which you are conducting the administration of its affairs throughout that land.
Many and grave may be the obstacles, whether from within or from without, which we shall have to encounter in the days to come, but we feel sure that if we but maintain consistently before our eyes a broad and noble vision of its significance and vital necessity in these days, and above all of its universality and all-conquering power, we shall be enabled to surmount them, one and all, and by the Power of Faith, carry the Ark of the Covenant to its Haven of Safety and Triumph.
It is, I firmly believe, of the utmost urgent importance that, with unity of purpose and action firmly established in our midst, and with every trace of the animosity and mistrust of the past banished from our hearts, we should form one united front and combat, wisely and tactfully, every force that might darken the spirit of the Movement, cause division in its ranks, and narrow it by dogmatic and sectarian belief.
It is primarily upon the elected members of the National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the Bahá’í world that this highly important duty devolves, as in their hands the direction and management of all spiritual Bahá’í activities have been placed and centralized, and as they constitute in the eyes of the people of their country the supreme body in that land that officially represents, promotes and safeguards the various interests of the Cause, it is my fervent prayer and my most cherished desire, that the unfailing guidance of Bahá’u’lláh and the blessings of our beloved Master will enable them to set a high and true example to all other Bahá’í institutions and local Assemblies, and will show them what absolute harmony, mature deliberation and whole-hearted cooperation can achieve.
Should such a representative and responsible body fail to realize this fundamental requisite for all successful achievement, the whole structure is sure to crumble, and the Great Plan of the Future, as unfolded by the Master’s Will and Testament, will be rudely disturbed and grievously delayed.
Regarding the management of the Star of the West, as I have already intimated, this Bahá’í organ as well as other similar publications, far from being regarded as the special organ of a certain group or particular locality, should fall under the exclusive control of the National Spiritual Assembly, which, aided by a special committee, shall minutely guide and judiciously scrutinize all the information it gives, the character of the articles and translations it publishes, and the tone and language it assumes in all its issues.…
I shall always await from the members of the National Spiritual Assembly, collective, official and comprehensive reports on their manifold activities, sent to me at frequent intervals, and bearing upon the inner and outward currents of the Movement, the relations of Assemblies to one another, and the general standing and the various aspects of the progress of the Cause throughout the land. I would welcome more specific reports sent to me by the various committees of the National Spiritual Assembly, enclosed in the National Assembly’s letter, and approved by all its members.
I have read with keen interest all the enclosures regarding the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, have shared the up-to-date news they contained with the friends throughout the East, and note with particular pleasure the completion of the Basement Section, with its spacious Foundation Hall ready for the holding of meetings and the gatherings of friends. Though the prospect of the immediate resumption of building activity does not seem bright at present, yet I hope and pray that these difficulties will soon disappear, and the work of this unique Edifice, stimulated and advanced in time by the zeal and self-sacrifice of the friends the world over, will soon attain its glorious consummation. I beg to enclose my humble contribution of 19 pounds, as my share of the numerous donations that have reached the Temple Treasury in the past year.
Pray convey to the members of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár Committee the highest sense of my appreciation for their devoted and strenuous labors, and my constant prayers for the success of the task which they have set themselves to accomplish.
With regard to the situation in Persia, and the condition of the friends in that land, I have requested the Ṭihrán Spiritual Assembly to send me immediately an authoritative and full report of the exact situation, whereupon I shall duly inform you of the exact steps to be taken to insure the well-being and safety of the tried believers in Persia.…
The holding of State Congresses, Amity Conventions, and other universal associations of the friends in America, will naturally fall within the province of the National Spiritual Assembly, which will direct and supervise the work of them all by the aid of special committees, each constituted for a specific purpose. The matter of receiving Orientals is left entirely in the hands of the National Spiritual Assembly, whose special committee for this purpose will have to investigate all the questions arising in this connection in future. Please convey to the members of the newly constituted Library Committee my deep appreciation of their labors in this important field of service, and assure them of my prayers for their success.
Touching the point raised in the Secretary’s letter regarding the nature and scope of the Universal Court of Arbitration, this and other similar matters will have to be explained and elucidated by the Universal House of Justice, to which, according to the Master’s explicit instructions, all important and fundamental questions must be referred. At present the exact implication and full significance of the provisions of the Master’s Will are as yet imperfectly understood, and time will serve to reveal the wisdom and the far-reaching effects of His words.
I am enclosing on a separate sheet the full authoritative code, widely adopted by contemporary Orientalists throughout the world, which will serve as a basis for the transliteration of Bahá’í terms and Oriental names.1
I am not sure whether I have sent you before a copy of this glorious Tablet revealed by Bahá’u’lláh for His beloved ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, written in His own blessed handwriting, and which we found among his papers and documents soon after the Master’s Ascension. It reveals in terms of touching tenderness the unique station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and constitutes an unchallengeable evidence of His supreme authority.
I am certain that, as the newly elected representatives of the Bahá’í Community throughout America, you are, one and all, well aware of your mighty responsibilities, and fully realize the tremendous need for a full understanding amongst the friends, and their active and sustained cooperation in spreading far and wide the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh throughout that vast continent.
I fervently hope that in collaboration with our wise, able and devoted brother, Jináb-i-Fádil, you will inaugurate a brilliant and vigorous campaign of Teaching, that shall by its very splendor banish the darkness of differences and contention that so impede the majestic and onward march of the Cause in every land.
That you may reinforce this Teaching Campaign—so vitally needed in these days—and conduct, properly and efficiently, the rest of your manifold activities, spiritual as well as humanitarian, it is urgently necessary to establish that Central Fund, which if generously supported and upheld by individual friends and local Assemblies, will soon enable you to execute your plans with promptness and vigor.
It is my earnest prayer, in the day-time and in the night season, that the ever-guiding Hand of our loved and departed Master may graciously aid you to surmount every obstacle, and will lead, through you,—His chosen ones in that land,—the Ark of His Cause, to its promised haven of glory and triumph.