The Wisdom of Fasting3
1 Question: What is the divine wisdom of fasting?
2 Answer: There is many a divine wisdom in fasting. Among them is this: that, in the days when He Who is the Dayspring of the Sun of Truth engages, through divine inspiration, in revealing the verses of God, in establishing His religion, and in setting forth His teachings, He is so enraptured and enkindled as to find no time for food or drink. For example, when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to establish the religion of God, He fasted for forty days; and fasting was therefore enjoined upon the Israelites to awaken and admonish them. Likewise Christ, at the beginning of the foundation of His divine religion, the establishment of His teachings, and the formulation of His admonitions, disregarded for forty days all physical necessities and refrained from food and drink. The Apostles and early Christian believers also fasted, but this fast was changed by the Church Councils to abstinence from certain foods. Similarly, the Qur’án was revealed during the month of Ramaḍán4 and therefore the fast was enjoined during that period. In the same way, in the beginning of His manifestation, the Báb would be so overcome with emotion at the revelation of the divine verses that for days He would confine himself to drinking tea. Likewise, in the days when He was instituting the divine teachings, and when the divine verses would be sent down continuously, Bahá’u’lláh would be so overwhelmed with the intensity of their influence and the emotions surging within His heart that He would take but little food.
3 Our meaning is that it has been enjoined upon the generality of the people to fast likewise for a few days, that they might follow the example of the divine Manifestations and call to mind Their state and condition. As history records, the Christians would in the early days observe a complete fast. For every sincere soul who has a beloved aspires to whatever condition his beloved is experiencing: If the beloved were sad he would wish for sorrow, and if joyous he would aspire to joy; if the beloved were at ease he would seek comfort, and if troubled he would desire the same. Now, since in those days the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh would abstain from food and drink, or would partake of only the least amount, it became incumbent upon Their loved ones to follow Their example. Even as it is said in the Tablet of Visitation: “... who, for love of Thee, have observed all whereunto they were bidden”.5 This is but one of the wisdoms of fasting.
4 The second wisdom is that fasting is conducive to spiritual awareness. One’s heart grows more tender, one’s spirituality is increased, and as a result one’s thoughts become purely focused on the remembrance of God. Such awareness and awakening leads inexorably to spiritual progress.
5 The third wisdom is this. There are two kinds of fast: material and spiritual. The material fast consists in abstaining from food and drink, that is, refraining from satisfying the physical appetites. But the true and spiritual fast is for man to forsake covetous desires, heedlessness, and evil and animalistic attributes. The material fast is therefore a symbol of that spiritual fast. It is like saying: “O Divine Providence! As I am abstaining from bodily desires and from all occupation with food and drink, even so purify and sanctify my heart from the love of anyone save Thyself, and shield and protect my soul from corrupt inclinations and satanic qualities, that my spirit may commune with the breaths of holiness and fast from the mention of all else besides Thee.”
The Rejection of the Manifestations of God in Every Age6
1 When Abraham was sent forth, however much He expounded the truth, established the religion of God, disseminated new teachings, and explained the divine mysteries, the Assyrians and the Chaldeans would say, “This is but an idle fancy and an empty tale, a mere figment of the imagination. It will never come to pass.” Even more, they called it sheer ignorance and counted themselves among the exponents of reason and understanding. But before long it became clear that what Abraham had proclaimed was indeed the truth, and that it was their own thoughts that were the idle fancies. For after a short time the teachings of Abraham were realized in the world: The Holy Land was given to His descendants; the foundations of the religion of God were established; Isaac and Jacob came into the world; Joseph became ruler in Egypt; Ishmael was blessed and illumined Mount Paran; Moses the Interlocutor appeared, beheld in the desert of Sinai the blazing fire of God in the Burning Bush, rescued the Israelites from their oppression and captivity at the hands of the Egyptians, led them to the Holy Land, and, through His teachings and His religion, which were consonant with the needs of the age, founded a mighty nation. Thus did the deniers fully experience their error, yet they were not chastened or admonished.
2 On the contrary, when Moses appeared they erred anew, for Pharaoh’s people regarded the teachings and the law of Moses as mere fancy and accorded them no importance, considering their own ideas to represent the truth. But after a short time it became clear and evident that what Moses had proclaimed was indeed the truth and had come to pass, that the religion of God had been put into full effect and had secured the honour and advancement of all Israel, and that it was the thoughts and imaginations of the Egyptians that were the idle fancies. This was the second experience and yet the people were still not admonished and awakened, but rather persisted in their ignorance until Jesus appeared with a beauteous countenance and an eloquent tongue, and spread abroad the sweet savours of the rose-garden of divine mysteries and imparted the grace of the Holy Spirit.
3 The people, notwithstanding their two previous experiences wherein their error had been established, claimed again that the teachings of the glorious Gospel were idle fancies—that they were mere thoughts and imaginations, that they were devoid of all reality, and that they lacked in philosophical substance. “These are but vain and idle thoughts,” they would say, “whereas we possess true knowledge and lofty ideas, we have wisdom and discernment, and we know the ways of sound governance.” But before long their error was exposed, for what Jesus had said was sound and true: It was heavenly thoughts and divine teachings, whereas the prevailing thoughts of the tribes and nations of the earth were the vain and idle fancies. This was the third error and yet another experience which was later also repeated upon the appearance of Muḥammad and the Báb.
4 Now Bahá’u’lláh has appeared, the divine teachings and admonitions have been unveiled, the call of the oneness of humanity has been sounded, the banner of the kingdom of peace is flying, and the tabernacle of love and harmony amongst all mankind has been raised in the very heart of the world and is summoning all people. And yet again some ignorant souls imagine that these divine teachings are without foundation and regard their own imaginations as lofty thoughts. But before long it will become manifest that what He has proclaimed is sound, proven, and compelling, and that all other thoughts are vain and idle.
The Meaning of “Mysteries”7
1 Question: What is meant by “mysteries” in the blessed Tablets?
2 Answer: By “mysteries” is meant such matters and questions as are remote and hidden from the minds and understandings of the people, but which can later be grasped by fair-minded souls if a perfect Individual unravels and explains them. Thus, the reality of the advent of Christ was one of God’s mysteries in the Mosaic Dispensation, which was later disclosed and witnessed through the manifestation of Christ.
1 Throughout this endless universe, the greatest means for the progress and renewal of existence is that all things are eaters and eaten. This is a condition that applies to all the particles of the universe, and it is through this means that created things are renewed, transformed into one another, and endowed with a new reality unlike the previous one. And this indeed is the means of renewal.
For instance, in the mineral kingdom the soil absorbs the air and the water and decomposes the creatures within it, and thus enables the existence of plants. The more microscopic animals exist in the soil, the better the plants will grow. And when the plant has grown, it is consumed by the animal, is incorporated in its body, and is endowed with a new existence. Thus it progresses further and assumes a higher reality than that which it initially possessed. This indeed is the means of progress and renewal from the mineral to the vegetable, from the vegetable to the animal, and from the animal to the human world. For as plants grow they are eaten by the animal and replace those elements which have been depleted in the latter’s body. In this manner the plants enter the animal kingdom. The microscopic organisms in the air, water, and food enter in turn the body of man and replace that which has been assimilated therein.
Thus there is progress in these passages and renewals: The mineral passed from the mineral to the vegetable, then to the animal, and finally to the human realm. And were it not for the cycle of the eater and the eaten, no renewal would take place. Such a renewal, however, is one of the inherent requirements of existence, and all contingent things are bound to pass from one condition to another.
The pain and sting of death consists in the dissolution of what was composed and its passage from one condition to another. When one is accustomed to composition, then decomposition is a painful torment; when one is used to a certain degree and station, it is difficult to take leave of it. It is therefore clear that death is merely the passage from one condition to another. Thus if a predatory animal devours another animal, the latter has in reality not been abased but has been decomposed and recomposed, found a renewed existence, and passed from one body to another. This motion and renewal of beings gives rise to the orderly arrangement and interconnectedness of all things, and were it not for these passages across the vegetable, animal, and human realms, the chain of being would be broken and the innate order of nature would be disrupted.
1 Question: Can you provide an account of Ṭáhirih’s deliverance from Qazvín, her arrival in Ṭihrán, her departure for Badasht, and the events that transpired there?
2 Answer: In brief, what happened is the following. Those were the early days of the Cause and no one was informed of the divine teachings. All followed the law of the Qur’án and regarded warfare, retribution, and retaliation as permissible. In Qazvín, Ḥájí Mullá Taqí8 launched an attack from the pulpit and condemned those two resplendent stars, Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í and Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí. He cursed and reviled them vehemently, saying: “This affair of the Báb, which is unmitigated error, is a hellish fire that has blazed forth from the grave of Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim.” In sum, he uttered the most brazen words and repeatedly hurled insults and invective at them.
3 A believer from Shíráz9 was present at his sermon and heard it with his own ears. As he was unaware of the divine teachings that were yet to be promulgated and the principles upon which the religion of God was to be established, he concluded that it behoved him to act according to the law of the Qur’án, and thus he set out to settle the score. He went before dawn to the mosque of the said Ḥájí Mullá Taqí and concealed himself in an alcove. When at dawn Ḥájí Mullá Taqí came to the mosque, that individual stabbed him in the back and in the mouth with a spear-tipped cane. Ḥájí Mullá Taqí fell to the ground and his assailant fled. When the people arrived, they saw the cleric lying dead.
4 A great tumult erupted and throughout the city a hue and cry was raised. The dignitaries of the town decided in concert that the assassins were Shaykh Rasúl-i-‘Arab and two other individuals, whom they viewed as being among the associates of Ṭáhirih. They immediately arrested these three individuals, and Ṭáhirih herself was subjected to severe restrictions. When that man from Shíráz saw that others had been apprehended in his place, he felt it unfit to remain silent and came of his own accord to the seat of the government to declare that Shaykh Rasúl and his friends were entirely innocent of the wrongful accusations levelled against them, and that he himself was the murderer. He described in full detail what had transpired, and confessed, saying: “These people are innocent: Set them free, for I am the guilty one and it is I who must be punished.” They arrested him but kept the others captive.
5 Briefly, they brought these four people from Qazvín to Ṭihrán. No matter how much that man from Shíráz protested that it was he who was guilty and that the others were entirely innocent—explaining that he had committed the crime because the victim had openly cursed and reviled his master from the pulpit and that, outraged and unable to contain himself, he had therefore stabbed him in the mouth with a spearhead—no one listened. To the contrary, Ḥájí Mullá Taqí’s son clamoured before the ministers of the government for the death of all four. Ṣadru’l-‘Ulamá, who was the head of the clergy, sought an audience with the Sháh and said: “Ḥájí Mullá Taqí was an illustrious man, highly renowned in the eyes of all and deeply revered by the people of Qazvín. In avenging the murder of such a man, a single individual is of no consequence. All four men must be turned over to the heirs of Mullá Taqí and delivered to Qazvín, that they may be executed in that city and that its inhabitants may thus be placated.” Out of regard for Ṣadru’l-‘Ulamá and the people of Qazvín, the Sháh gave word that all four could be executed.
6 The man from Shíráz, seeing that the others had not been released in spite of his own arrest, escaped on a snowy night and went to the house of Riḍá Khán. Together they made a pact and departed for Shaykh Ṭabarsí, where they both met with martyrdom. As to Shaykh Rasúl and his friends, they were taken to Qazvín, where the populace fell upon them and killed them in the most horrendous manner.
7 As a result, Ṭáhirih met with the greatest hardship. No one would associate with her, and all her relatives—even her husband and two sons—showed the greatest enmity and would oppress and revile her. Bahá’u’lláh dispatched Áqá Hádíy-i-Qazvíní from Ṭihrán and, by an elaborate stratagem, arranged for Ṭáhirih to be rescued from Qazvín and brought directly to the private quarters of His house. At first no one knew of this, but when some within the inner circle of the believers were informed, they came to see her. I was a child, sitting on her lap and being held in her arms. The curtain was drawn, and those believers were seated in an adjoining room while she was speaking. The purport of her discourse, which was supported by a range of arguments, as well as by the Qur’án and the traditions of the Prophet, was that in every age an illustrious and distinguished Individual must be the focal Centre of the circle of guidance, the Pole Star of the firmament of the most excellent Law of God, and a perspicuous Leader; that all may defer to Him; and that in this day that illustrious and distinguished Individual is the Báb, Who has manifested Himself. Although her speech was eloquent, yet when she perceived that Bahá’u’lláh was to raise another call and shine forth with another radiance, she became even more enkindled and reached a state that can hardly be described. She forsook all patience and composure and well-nigh rent asunder the veil of concealment. Night and day she would at turns speak forth and cry out, laugh aloud, and weep bitterly.
8 Later Bahá’u’lláh sent her with a number of believers towards Badasht. Their first stop was a beautiful and verdant garden. Ṭáhirih and the friends arrived there and were later joined by Bahá’u’lláh, Who rested the night there. In the morning He sent Ṭáhirih and the friends with ample provisions to Badasht. After a few days, Bahá’u’lláh Himself went there. When He reached Badasht, Quddús had returned from Khurásán and he, too, came to Badasht, but he remained concealed.
9 In Badasht there was a field with a stream running through it and gardens to either side. Quddús remained concealed in one of the gardens, and Ṭáhirih resided in the other. A tent had been pitched for Bahá’u’lláh on that field, and the other believers were also housed in tents erected on the same field. In the evenings Bahá’u’lláh, Quddús, and Ṭáhirih would meet. Bahá’u’lláh made a solemn agreement with them that the truth of the Cause would be proclaimed at Badasht, but no specific day was designated.
10 Then, by chance, Bahá’u’lláh fell ill. As soon as he was informed, Quddús emerged from his concealment and entered Bahá’u’lláh’s tent. Ṭáhirih sent a message saying: “Either bring Bahá’u’lláh to the garden where I reside or I will come myself.” Quddús said: “Bahá’u’lláh is unwell and cannot come”, which was a signal. Ṭáhirih, seizing upon the opportunity, arose and, unveiled, came forth from the garden. She proceeded towards the tent of Bahá’u’lláh crying out and proclaiming: “I am the Trumpet-blast; I am the Bugle-call!”—which are two of the signs of the Day of Resurrection mentioned in the Qur’án. Calling out in this fashion, she entered the tent of Bahá’u’lláh. No sooner had she entered than Bahá’u’lláh instructed the believers to recite the Súrih of the Event from the Qur’án, a Súrih that describes the upheaval of the Day of Resurrection.
11 In such wise was the Day of Resurrection proclaimed. The believers were seized with such fear and terror that some fled, others remained bewildered and dumbfounded, and still others wept and lamented. Some were so dismayed that they fell ill, and Ḥájí Mullá Ismá‘íl was so overcome with fear and terror that he cut his own throat. But after a few days, peace and composure were regained and the confusion and anxiety were dispelled. Most of those who had fled became steadfast again, and the episode of Badasht drew to a close.