161. payment of Zakát ¶146
Zakát is referred to in the Qur’án as a regular charity binding upon Muslims. In due course the concept evolved into a form of alms tax which imposed the obligation to give a fixed portion of certain categories of income, beyond specified limits, for the relief of the poor, for various charitable purposes, and to aid the Faith of God. The limit of exemption varied for different commodities, as did the percentage payable on the portion assessable.
Bahá’u’lláh states that the Bahá’í law of Zakát follows “what hath been revealed in the Qur’án” (Q&A 107). Since such issues as the limits for exemption, the categories of income concerned, the frequency of payments, and the scale of rates for the various categories of Zakát are not mentioned in the Qur’án, these matters will have to be set forth in the future by the Universal House of Justice. Shoghi Effendi has indicated that pending such legislation the believers should, according to their means and possibilities, make regular contributions to the Bahá’í Fund.
162. It is unlawful to beg, and it is forbidden to give to him who beggeth. ¶147
In a Tablet ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá expounds the meaning of this verse. He states that “mendicancy is forbidden and that giving charity to people who take up begging as their profession is also prohibited.” He further points out in that same Tablet: “The object is to uproot mendicancy altogether. However, if a person is incapable of earning a living, is stricken by dire poverty or becometh helpless, then it is incumbent on the wealthy or the Deputies to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence … By ‘Deputies’ is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.”
The prohibition against giving charity to people who beg does not preclude individuals and Spiritual Assemblies from extending financial assistance to the poor and needy or from providing them with opportunities to acquire such skills as would enable them to earn a livelihood (see note 56).
163. A fine … had formerly been prescribed … for anyone who was the cause of sadness to another ¶148
164. the sacred Lote-Tree ¶148
The “sacred Lote-Tree” is a reference to the Sadratu’l-Muntahá, the “Tree beyond which there is no passing” (see note 128). It is used here symbolically to designate Bahá’u’lláh.
165. Recite ye the verses of God every morn and eventide. ¶149
Bahá’u’lláh states that the essential “requisite” for reciting “the verses of God” is the “eagerness and love” of the believers to “read the Word of God” (Q&A 68).
With regard to the definition of “verses of God,” Bahá’u’lláh states that it refers to “all that hath been sent down from the Heaven of Divine Utterance.” Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written to one of the believers in the East, has clarified that the term “verses of God” does not include the writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá; he has likewise indicated that this term does not apply to his own writings.
166. Ye have been enjoined to renew the furnishings of your homes after the passing of each nineteen years ¶151
Bahá’u’lláh confirms the injunction in the Arabic Bayán regarding the renewal, every nineteen years, of the furnishings of one’s home, provided one is able to do so. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá relates this ordinance to the promotion of refinement and cleanliness. He explains that the purpose of the law is that one should change those furnishings that become old, lose their luster and provoke repugnance. It does not apply to such things as rare or treasured articles, antiques or jewelry.
167. Wash your feet ¶152
The believers are exhorted in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to bathe regularly, to wear clean clothes and generally to be the essence of cleanliness and refinement. The Synopsis and Codification, section IV.D.3.y.i.–vii., summarizes the relevant provisions. In relation to the washing of the feet, Bahá’u’lláh states that it is preferable to use warm water; however, washing in cold water is also permissible (Q&A 97).
168. Ye have been prohibited from making use of pulpits. Whoso wisheth to recite unto you the verses of his Lord, let him sit on a chair placed upon a dais ¶154
These provisions have their antecedent in the Persian Bayán. The Báb forbade the use of pulpits for the delivery of sermons and the reading of the Text. He specified, instead, that to enable all to hear the Word of God clearly, a chair for the speaker should be placed upon a platform.
In comments on this law, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and Shoghi Effendi have made it clear that in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár (where sermons are prohibited and only the words of Holy Scripture may be read) the reader may stand or sit, and if necessary to be better heard, may use a low movable platform, but that no pulpit is permitted. In the case of meetings in places other than the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, it is also permissible for the reader or speaker to sit or stand, and to use a platform. In one of His Tablets, when reiterating the prohibition of the use of pulpits in any location, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá has stressed that when Bahá’ís deliver their speeches in gatherings, they are to do so in an attitude of utmost humility and self-abnegation.
169. Gambling ¶155
The activities that are included in this prohibition have not been outlined in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. As both ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and Shoghi Effendi have indicated, it is left to the Universal House of Justice to specify the details of this prohibition. In response to questions about whether lotteries, betting on such things as horse races and football games, bingo, and the like, are included under the prohibition of gambling, the Universal House of Justice has indicated that this is a matter that will be considered in detail in the future. In the meantime, the Assemblies and individuals are counseled not to make an issue of these matters and to leave it to the conscience of the individual believers.
170. the use of opium … any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor ¶155
This prohibition of the use of opium is reiterated by Bahá’u’lláh in the final paragraph of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In this connection, Shoghi Effendi stated that one of the requirements for “a chaste and holy life” is “total abstinence … from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs.” Heroin, hashish and other derivatives of cannabis such as marijuana, as well as hallucinogenic agents such as LSD, peyote and similar substances, are regarded as falling under this prohibition.
As to opium, it is foul and accursed. God protect us from the punishment He inflicteth on the user. According to the explicit Text of the Most Holy Book, it is forbidden, and its use is utterly condemned. Reason showeth that smoking opium is a kind of insanity, and experience attesteth that the user is completely cut off from the human kingdom. May God protect all against the perpetration of an act so hideous as this, an act which layeth in ruins the very foundation of what it is to be human, and which causeth the user to be dispossessed for ever and ever. For opium fasteneth on the soul so that the user’s conscience dieth, his mind is blotted away, his perceptions are eroded. It turneth the living into the dead. It quencheth the natural heat. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth. Fortunate are they who never even speak the name of it; then think how wretched is the user.
O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned. It is, however, mandatory that the use of opium be prevented by any means whatsoever, that perchance the human race may be delivered from this most powerful of plagues. And otherwise, woe and misery to whoso falleth short of his duty to his Lord.
Regarding hashish you have pointed out that some Persians have become habituated to its use. Gracious God! This is the worst of all intoxicants, and its prohibition is explicitly revealed. Its use causeth the disintegration of thought and the complete torpor of the soul. How could anyone seek the fruit of the infernal tree, and by partaking of it, be led to exemplify the qualities of a monster? How could one use this forbidden drug, and thus deprive himself of the blessings of the All-Merciful?
Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but this opium, this foul fruit of the infernal tree, and this wicked hashish extinguish the mind, freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost.
171. the “mystery of the Great Reversal in the Sign of the Sovereign” ¶157
Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í (1753–1831), who was the founder of the Shaykhí School and the first of the “twin luminaries that heralded the advent of the Faith of the Báb,” prophesied that at the appearance of the Promised One all things would be reversed, the last would be first, the first last. Bahá’u’lláh in one of His Tablets refers to the “symbol and allusion” of the “mystery of the Great Reversal in the Sign of the Sovereign.” He states: “Through this reversal He hath caused the exalted to be abased and the abased to be exalted,” and He recalls that “in the days of Jesus, it was those who were distinguished for their learning, the men of letters and religion, who denied Him, whilst humble fisherman made haste to gain admittance into the Kingdom” (see also note 172). For additional information about Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í see The Dawn-Breakers, chapters 1 and 10.
172. the “Six” raised up by virtue of this “Upright Alif” ¶157
In his writings, Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í placed great emphasis on the Arabic letter “Váv.” In The Dawn-Breakers, Nabíl states that this letter “symbolized for the Báb the advent of a new cycle of Divine Revelation, and has since been alluded to by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in such passages as ‘the mystery of the Great Reversal’ and ‘the Sign of the Sovereign.’”
The name for the letter “Váv” consists of three letters: Váv, Alif, Váv. According to the abjad reckoning, the numerical value of each of these letters is 6, 1 and 6 respectively. Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf to one of the believers in the East provides an interpretation of this verse of the Aqdas. He states that the “Upright Alif” refers to the advent of the Báb. The first letter with its value of six, which comes before the Alif, is a symbol of earlier Dispensations and Manifestations which predate the Báb, while the third letter, which also has a numerical value of six, stands for Bahá’u’lláh’s supreme Revelation which was made manifest after the Alif.
173. It hath been forbidden you to carry arms unless essential ¶159
Bahá’u’lláh confirms an injunction contained in the Bayán which makes it unlawful to carry arms, unless it is necessary to do so. With regard to circumstances under which the bearing of arms might be “essential” for an individual, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá gives permission to a believer for self-protection in a dangerous environment. Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf has also indicated that, in an emergency, when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to, a Bahá’í is justified in defending his life. There are a number of other situations in which weapons are needed and can be legitimately used; for instance, in countries where people hunt for their food and clothing, and in such sports as archery, marksmanship, and fencing.
On the societal level, the principle of collective security enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh (see Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CXVII) and elaborated by Shoghi Effendi (see the Guardian’s letters in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh) does not presuppose the abolition of the use of force, but prescribes “a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice,” and which provides for the existence of an international peacekeeping force that “will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth.” In the Tablet of Bishárát, Bahá’u’lláh expresses the hope that “weapons of war throughout the world may be converted into instruments of reconstruction and that strife and conflict may be removed from the midst of men.”
174. and permitted you to attire yourselves in silk ¶159
According to Islamic practice, the wearing of silk by men was generally forbidden, except in times of holy war. This prohibition, which was not based on the verses of the Qur’án, was abrogated by the Báb.
175. The Lord hath relieved you … of the restrictions that formerly applied to clothing and to the trim of the beard. ¶159
Many rules about dress had their origins in the laws and traditional practices of the world’s religions. For example, the Shí‘ih clergy adopted for themselves a distinctive headdress and robes and, at one time, forbade the people to adopt European attire. Muslim practice, in its desire to emulate the custom of the Prophet, also introduced a number of restrictions with regard to the trim of the moustache and the length of the beard.
Bahá’u’lláh removed such limitations on one’s apparel and beard. He leaves such matters to the “discretion” of the individual, and at the same time calls upon the believers not to transgress the bounds of propriety and to exercise moderation in all that pertains to dress.
176. O Land of Káf and Rá! ¶164
177. We perceive that which secretly and stealthily diffuseth from thee. ¶164
This passage is a reference to the intrigues of a group of Azalís, followers of Mírzá Yaḥyá (see note 190), associated with the city of Kirmán. They include Mullá Ja‘far, his son Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Rúḥí and Mírzá Áqá Khán-i-Kirmání (both sons-in-law of Mírzá Yaḥyá), as well as Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Kirmání. They not only sought to undermine the Faith, but involved themselves in political intrigues which culminated in the assassination of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh.
178. Call ye to mind the shaykh whose name was Muḥammad-Ḥasan ¶166
Nabíl, in The Dawn-Breakers, describes the encounter that took place in Najaf between Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Basámí, one of the Letters of the Living, and Shaykh Muḥammad-Ḥasan. During the meeting, Mullá ‘Alí announced the manifestation of the Báb and extolled the potency of His Revelation. At the instigation of the shaykh, Mullá ‘Alí was forthwith pronounced a heretic and expelled from the assembly. He was put on trial, transported to Istanbul, and condemned to hard labor.
179. a sifter of wheat and barley ¶166
This is an allusion to Mullá Muḥammad Ja‘far Gandum-Pák-Kun, the first person in Iṣfahán to accept the Faith of the Báb. He is mentioned in the Persian Bayán and praised as one who “donned the robe of discipleship.” In The Dawn-Breakers, Nabíl describes the unreserved acceptance of the Message by the “sifter of wheat” and his zealous advocacy of the new Revelation. He joined the company of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Ṭabarsí and perished during that siege.
180. Take heed lest the word “Prophet” withhold you from this Most Great Announcement ¶167
Bahá’u’lláh cautions people “of insight” not to allow their interpretations of the Holy Scriptures to prevent them from recognizing the Manifestation of God. Followers of each religion have tended to allow their devotion to its Founder to cause them to perceive His Revelation as the final Word of God and to deny the possibility of the appearance of any subsequent Prophet. This has been the case of Judaism, Christianity and Islám. Bahá’u’lláh denies the validity of this concept of finality both in relation to past Dispensations and to His own. With regard to Muslims, He wrote in the Kitáb-i-Íqán that the “people of the Qur’án … have allowed the words ‘Seal of the Prophets’ to veil their eyes,” “to obscure their understanding, and deprive them of the grace of all His manifold bounties!” He affirms that “this theme hath … been a sore test unto all mankind,” and laments the fate of “those who, clinging unto these words, have disbelieved in Him Who is their true Revealer.” The Báb refers to this same theme when He warns: “Let not names shut you out as by a veil from Him Who is their Lord, even the name of Prophet, for such a name is but a creation of His utterance.”
181. any reference to “Vicegerency” debar you from the sovereignty of Him Who is the Vicegerent of God ¶167
The word here translated “Vicegerency” is, in the original Arabic, “viláyat,” which has a range of meanings including “vicegerency,” “guardianship,” “protectorship” and “successorship.” It is used in relation to God Himself, to His Manifestation, or to those who are the appointed Successors of a Manifestation.
182. Call ye to mind Karím ¶170
Ḥájí Mírzá Muḥammad Karím Khán-i-Kirmání (1810–circa 1873) was the self-appointed leader of the Shaykhí community after the death of Siyyid Káẓim, who was the appointed successor to Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í (see notes 171 and 172). He dedicated himself to the promotion of the teachings of Shaykh Aḥmad. The opinions he expressed became the subject of controversy among his supporters and opponents alike.
Regarded as one of the leading savants and prolific authors of his age, he composed numerous books and epistles in the various fields of learning that were cultivated in those times. He actively opposed both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, and used his treatises to attack the Báb and His Teachings. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá’u’lláh condemns the tone and content of his writings and singles out for criticism one of his works which contains negative allusions to the Báb. Shoghi Effendi describes him as “inordinately ambitious and hypocritical” and describes how he “at the special request of the Sháh had in a treatise viciously attacked the new Faith and its doctrines.”
183. O ye the learned ones in Bahá ¶173
Bahá’u’lláh eulogizes the learned among His followers. In the Book of His Covenant, He wrote: “Blessed are the rulers and learned among the people of Bahá.” Referring to this statement, Shoghi Effendi has written:
In this holy cycle the “learned” are, on the one hand, the Hands of the Cause of God, and, on the other, the teachers and diffusers of His Teachings who do not rank as Hands, but who have attained an eminent position in the teaching work. As to the “rulers” they refer to the members of the Local, National and International Houses of Justice. The duties of each of these souls will be determined in the future.
The Hands of the Cause of God were individuals appointed by Bahá’u’lláh and charged with various duties, especially those of protecting and propagating His Faith. In Memorials of the Faithful ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá referred to other outstanding believers as Hands of the Cause, and in His Will and Testament He included a provision calling upon the Guardian of the Faith to appoint Hands of the Cause at his discretion. Shoghi Effendi first raised posthumously a number of the believers to the rank of Hands of the Cause, and during the latter years of his life appointed a total of 32 believers from all continents to this position. In the period between the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 and the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963, the Hands of the Cause directed the affairs of the Faith in their capacity as Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth (see note 67). In November 1964, the Universal House of Justice determined that it could not legislate to make it possible to appoint Hands of the Cause. Instead, by a decision of the House of Justice in 1968, the functions of the Hands of the Cause in relation to protecting and propagating the Faith were extended into the future by the creation of the Continental Boards of Counselors, and in 1973 through the establishment of the International Teaching Center, which has its seat in the Holy Land.
The Universal House of Justice appoints the Counselor members of the International Teaching Center and the Continental Counselors. Members of Auxiliary Boards are appointed by the Continental Counselors. All these individuals fall within the definition of the “learned” given by Shoghi Effendi in the statement quoted above.
184. refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock ¶174
Bahá’u’lláh invests ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá with the right of interpreting His holy Writ (see also note 145).
185. the School of Transcendent Oneness ¶175
In this verse and the ones which immediately follow it, Bahá’u’lláh confronts one of the reasons some of the Bábís rejected His claim to be the Promised One of the Bayán. Their rejection was based on a Tablet addressed by the Báb to “Him Who will be made manifest” on the reverse side of which the Báb had written: “May the glances of Him Whom God shall make manifest illumine this letter at the primary school.” This Tablet is published in Selections from the Writings of the Báb.
186. We accepted the verses of God … which He presented unto Us ¶175
187. O people of the Bayán! ¶176
188. the letters B and E were joined and knit together ¶177
Shoghi Effendi, in letters written on his behalf, has explained the significance of the “letters B and E.” They constitute the word “Be,” which, he states, “means the creative Power of God Who through His command causes all things to come into being” and “the power of the Manifestation of God, His great spiritual creative force.”
The imperative “Be” in the original Arabic is the word “kun,” consisting of the two letters “káf” and “nún.” They have been translated by Shoghi Effendi in the above manner. This word has been used in the Qur’án as God’s bidding calling creation into being.
189. this new World Order ¶181
In the Persian Bayán, the Báb stated: “Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá’u’lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán.” Shoghi Effendi identifies this “Order” with the System Bahá’u’lláh envisages in the Aqdas, in which He testifies to its revolutionizing effect on the life of humanity and reveals the laws and principles which govern its operation.
The features of the “new World Order” are delineated in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and in the letters of Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. The institutions of the present-day Bahá’í Administrative Order, which constitute the “structural basis” of Bahá’u’lláh’s World Order, will mature and evolve into the Bahá’í World Commonwealth. In this regard, Shoghi Effendi affirms that the Administrative Order “will, as its component parts, its organic institutions, begin to function with efficiency and vigor, assert its claim and demonstrate its capacity to be regarded not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind.”
190. O source of perversion! ¶184
This is a reference to Mírzá Yaḥyá, known as Ṣubḥ-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity), a younger half-brother of Bahá’u’lláh, who arose against Him and opposed His Cause. Mírzá Yaḥyá was nominated by the Báb to serve as a figurehead for the Bábí community pending the imminent manifestation of the Promised One. At the instigation of Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání (see note 192), Mírzá Yaḥyá betrayed the trust of the Báb, claimed to be His successor, and intrigued against Bahá’u’lláh, even attempting to have Him murdered. When Bahá’u’lláh formally declared His Mission to him in Adrianople, Mírzá Yaḥyá responded by going to the length of putting forward his own claim to be the recipient of an independent Revelation. His pretensions were eventually rejected by all but a few, who became known as Azalís (see note 177). He is described by Shoghi Effendi as the “Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Báb” (see God Passes By, chapter X).
191. remember how We nurtured thee by day and by night for service to the Cause ¶184
192. God hath laid hold on him who led thee astray. ¶184
A reference to Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání, who is described by Shoghi Effendi as the “Antichrist of the Bahá’í Revelation.” He was a man of corrupt character and great personal ambition who induced Mírzá Yaḥyá to oppose Bahá’u’lláh and to claim prophethood for himself (see note 190). Although he was an adherent of Mírzá Yaḥyá, Siyyid Muḥammad was exiled with Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Akká. He continued to agitate and plot against Bahá’u’lláh. In describing the circumstances of his death, Shoghi Effendi has written in God Passes By:
A fresh danger now clearly threatened the life of Bahá’u’lláh. Though He Himself had stringently forbidden His followers, on several occasions, both verbally and in writing, any retaliatory acts against their tormentors, and had even sent back to Beirut an irresponsible Arab convert, who had meditated avenging the wrongs suffered by his beloved Leader, seven of the companions clandestinely sought out and slew three of their persecutors, among whom were Siyyid Muḥammad and Áqá Ján.
The consternation that seized an already oppressed community was indescribable. Bahá’u’lláh’s indignation knew no bounds. “Were We,” He thus voices His emotions, in a Tablet revealed shortly after this act had been committed, “to make mention of what befell Us, the heavens would be rent asunder and the mountains would crumble.” “My captivity,” He wrote on another occasion, “cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan.”
193. Select ye a single language … adopt ye … a common script. ¶189
Bahá’u’lláh enjoins the adoption of a universal language and script. His Writings envisage two stages in this process. The first stage is to consist of the selection of an existing language or an invented one which would then be taught in all the schools of the world as an auxiliary to the mother tongues. The governments of the world through their parliaments are called upon to effect this momentous enactment. The second stage, in the distant future, would be the eventual adoption of one single language and common script for all on earth.
194. We have appointed two signs for the coming of age of the human race ¶189
The first sign of the coming of age of humanity referred to in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh is the emergence of a science which is described as that “divine philosophy” which will include the discovery of a radical approach to the transmutation of elements. This is an indication of the splendors of the future stupendous expansion of knowledge.
Concerning the “second” sign which Bahá’u’lláh indicates to have been revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that Bahá’u’lláh, “…in His Most Holy Book, has enjoined the selection of a single language and the adoption of a common script for all on earth to use, an injunction which, when carried out, would, as He Himself affirms in that Book, be one of the signs of the ‘coming of age of the human race.’”
One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind.
The coming of age of the human race has been associated by Shoghi Effendi with the unification of the whole of mankind, the establishment of a world commonwealth, and an unprecedented stimulus to “the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.”