In another sense, by these terms is intended the divines of the former Dispensation, who live in the days of the subsequent Revelations, and who hold the reins of religion in their grasp. If these divines be illumined by the light of the latter Revelation, they will be acceptable unto God, and will shine with a light everlasting. Otherwise, they will be declared as darkened, even though to outward seeming they be leaders of men, inasmuch as belief and unbelief, guidance and error, felicity and misery, light and darkness, are all dependent upon the sanction of Him Who is the Daystar of Truth. Whosoever among the divines of every age receiveth, in the Day of Reckoning, the testimony of faith from the Source of true knowledge, he verily becometh the recipient of learning, of divine favor, and of the light of true understanding. Otherwise, he is branded as guilty of folly, denial, blasphemy, and oppression.
It is evident and manifest unto every discerning observer that even as the light of the star fadeth before the effulgent splendor of the sun, so doth the luminary of earthly knowledge, of wisdom, and understanding vanish into nothingness when brought face to face with the resplendent glories of the Sun of Truth, the Daystar of divine enlightenment.
That the term “sun” hath been applied to the leaders of religion is due to their lofty position, their fame, and renown. Such are the universally recognized divines of every age, who speak with authority, and whose fame is securely established. If they be in the likeness of the Sun of Truth, they will surely be accounted as the most exalted of all luminaries; otherwise, they are to be recognized as the focal centers of hellish fire. Even as He saith: “Verily, the sun and the moon are both condemned to the torment of infernal fire.”24 You are no doubt familiar with the interpretation of the term “sun” and “moon” mentioned in this verse; no need therefore to refer unto it. And whosoever is of the element of this “sun” and “moon,” that is, followeth the example of these leaders in setting his face towards falsehood and in turning away from the truth, he undoubtedly cometh out of infernal gloom and returneth thereunto.
And now, O seeker, it behooveth us firmly to cling unto the ‘Urvatu’l-Vuthqá, that perchance we may leave behind the darksome night of error, and embrace the dawning light of divine guidance. Shall we not flee from the face of denial, and seek the sheltering shadow of certitude? Shall we not free ourselves from the horror of satanic gloom, and hasten towards the rising light of the heavenly Beauty? In such wise, we bestow upon you the fruit of the Tree of divine knowledge, that ye may gladly and joyously abide in the Riḍván of divine wisdom.
In another sense, by the terms “sun,” “moon,” and “stars” are meant such laws and teachings as have been established and proclaimed in every Dispensation, such as the laws of prayer and fasting. These have, according to the law of the Qur’án, been regarded, when the beauty of the Prophet Muḥammad had passed beyond the veil, as the most fundamental and binding laws of His dispensation. To this testify the texts of the traditions and chronicles, which, on account of their being widely known, need not be referred to here. Nay rather, in every Dispensation the law concerning prayer hath been emphasized and universally enforced. To this testify the recorded traditions ascribed to the lights that have emanated from the Daystar of Truth, the essence of the Prophet Muḥammad.
The traditions established the fact that in all Dispensations the law of prayer hath constituted a fundamental element of the Revelation of all the Prophets of God—a law the form and the manner of which hath been adapted to the varying requirements of every age. Inasmuch as every subsequent Revelation hath abolished the manners, habits, and teachings that have been clearly, specifically, and firmly established by the former Dispensation, these have accordingly been symbolically expressed in terms of “sun” and “moon.” “That He might prove you, which of you excel in deeds.”25
Moreover, in the traditions the terms “sun” and “moon” have been applied to prayer and fasting, even as it is said: “Fasting is illumination, prayer is light.” One day, a well-known divine came to visit Us. While We were conversing with him, he referred to the above-quoted tradition. He said: “Inasmuch as fasting causeth the heat of the body to increase, it hath therefore been likened unto the light of the sun; and as the prayer of the night-season refresheth man, it hath been compared unto the radiance of the moon.” Thereupon We realized that that poor man had not been favored with a single drop of the ocean of true understanding, and had strayed far from the Burning Bush of divine wisdom. We then politely observed to him saying: “The interpretation your honor hath given to this tradition is the one current amongst the people. Could it not be interpreted differently?” He asked Us: “What could it be?” We made reply: “Muḥammad, the Seal of the Prophets, and the most distinguished of God’s chosen Ones, hath likened the Dispensation of the Qur’án unto heaven, by reason of its loftiness, its paramount influence, its majesty, and the fact that it comprehendeth all religions. And as the sun and moon constitute the brightest and most prominent luminaries in the heavens, similarly in the heaven of the religion of God two shining orbs have been ordained—fasting and prayer. ‘Islám is heaven; fasting is its sun, prayer, its moon.’”
This is the purpose underlying the symbolic words of the Manifestations of God. Consequently, the application of the terms “sun” and “moon” to the things already mentioned hath been demonstrated and justified by the text of the sacred verses and the recorded traditions. Hence, it is clear and manifest that by the words “the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven” is intended the waywardness of the divines, and the annulment of laws firmly established by divine Revelation, all of which, in symbolic language, have been foreshadowed by the Manifestation of God. None except the righteous shall partake of this cup, none but the godly can share therein. “The righteous shall drink of a cup tempered at the camphor fountain.”26
It is unquestionable that in every succeeding Revelation the “sun” and “moon” of the teachings, laws, commandments, and prohibitions which have been established in the preceding Dispensation, and which have overshadowed the people of that age, become darkened, that is, are exhausted, and cease to exert their influence. Consider now, had the people of the Gospel recognized the meaning of the symbolic terms “sun” and “moon,” had they sought, unlike the froward and perverse, enlightenment from Him Who is the Revealer of divine knowledge, they would have surely comprehended the purpose of these terms, and would not have become afflicted and oppressed by the darkness of their selfish desires. Yea, but since they have failed to acquire true knowledge from its very Source, they have perished in the perilous vale of waywardness and misbelief. They still have not awakened to perceive that all the signs foretold have been made manifest, that the promised Sun hath risen above the horizon of divine Revelation, and that the “sun” and “moon” of the teachings, the laws, and learning of a former Dispensation have darkened and set.
And now, with fixed gaze and steady wings enter thou the way of certitude and truth. “Say: It is God; then leave them to entertain themselves with their cavilings.”27 Thus, wilt thou be accounted of those companions of whom He saith: “They that say ‘Our Lord is God,’ and continue steadfast in His way, upon them, verily, shall the angels descend.”28 Then shalt thou witness all these mysteries with thine own eyes.
O my brother! Take thou the step of the spirit, so that, swift as the twinkling of an eye, thou mayest flash through the wilds of remoteness and bereavement, attain the Riḍván of everlasting reunion, and in one breath commune with the heavenly Spirits. For with human feet thou canst never hope to traverse these immeasurable distances, nor attain thy goal. Peace be upon him whom the light of truth guideth unto all truth, and who, in the name of God, standeth in the path of His Cause, upon the shore of true understanding.
This is the meaning of the sacred verse: “But nay! I swear by the Lord of the Easts and the Wests,”29 inasmuch as the “Suns” referred to have each their own particular rising and setting place. And as the commentators of the Qur’án have failed to grasp the symbolic meaning of these “Suns,” they therefore were at pains to interpret the above-quoted verse. Some of them maintained that owing to the fact that the sun each day rises from a different point, the terms “easts” and “wests” have been mentioned in the plural. Others have written that by this verse the four seasons of the year are intended, inasmuch as the dawning and setting points of the sun vary with the change of the seasons. Such is the depth of their understanding! Nonetheless, they persist in imputing error and folly to those Gems of knowledge, those irreproachable and purest Symbols of wisdom.
In like manner, strive thou to comprehend from these lucid, these powerful, conclusive, and unequivocal statements the meaning of the “cleaving of the heaven”—one of the signs that must needs herald the coming of the last Hour, the Day of Resurrection. As He hath said: “When the heaven shall be cloven asunder.”30 By “heaven” is meant the heaven of divine Revelation, which is elevated with every Manifestation, and rent asunder with every subsequent one. By “cloven asunder” is meant that the former Dispensation is superseded and annulled. I swear by God! That this heaven being cloven asunder is, to the discerning, an act mightier than the cleaving of the skies! Ponder a while. That a divine Revelation which for years hath been securely established; beneath whose shadow all who have embraced it have been reared and nurtured; by the light of whose law generations of men have been disciplined; the excellency of whose word men have heard recounted by their fathers; in such wise that human eye hath beheld naught but the pervading influence of its grace, and mortal ear hath heard naught but the resounding majesty of its command—what act is mightier than that such a Revelation should, by the power of God, be “cloven asunder” and be abolished at the appearance of one soul? Reflect, is this a mightier act than that which these abject and foolish men have imagined the “cleaving of the heaven” to mean?
Moreover, consider the hardships and the bitterness of the lives of those Revealers of the divine Beauty. Reflect, how single-handed and alone they faced the world and all its peoples, and promulgated the Law of God! No matter how severe the persecutions inflicted upon those holy, those precious, and tender Souls, they still remained, in the plenitude of their power, patient, and, despite their ascendancy, they suffered and endured.
In like manner, endeavor to comprehend the meaning of the “changing of the earth.” Know thou, that upon whatever hearts the bountiful showers of mercy, raining from the “heaven” of divine Revelation, have fallen, the earth of those hearts hath verily been changed into the earth of divine knowledge and wisdom. What myrtles of unity hath the soil of their hearts produced! What blossoms of true knowledge and wisdom hath their illumined bosoms yielded! Were the earth of their hearts to remain unchanged, how could such souls who have not been taught one letter, have seen no teacher, and entered no school, utter such words and display such knowledge as none can apprehend? Methinks they have been molded from the clay of infinite knowledge, and kneaded with the water of divine wisdom. Therefore, hath it been said: “Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.” It is this kind of knowledge which is and hath ever been praiseworthy, and not the limited knowledge that hath sprung forth from veiled and obscured minds. This limited knowledge they even stealthily borrow one from the other, and vainly pride themselves therein!
Would that the hearts of men could be cleansed from these manmade limitations and obscure thoughts imposed upon them! haply they may be illumined by the light of the Sun of true knowledge, and comprehend the mysteries of divine wisdom. Consider now, were the parched and barren soil of these hearts to remain unchanged, how could they ever become the recipients of the revelation of the mysteries of God, and the revealers of the divine Essence? Thus hath He said: “On the day when the earth shall be changed into another earth.”31
And now, comprehend the meaning of this verse: “The whole earth shall on the Resurrection Day be but His handful, and in His right hand shall the heavens be folded together. Praise be to Him! and high be He uplifted above the partners they join with him!”32 And now, be fair in thy judgment. Were this verse to have the meaning which men suppose it to have, of what profit, one may ask, could it be to man? Moreover, it is evident and manifest that no such hand as could be seen by human eye could accomplish such deeds, or could possibly be ascribed to the exalted Essence of the one true God. Nay, to acknowledge such a thing is naught but sheer blasphemy, an utter perversion of the truth. And should it be supposed that by this verse are meant the Manifestations of God, Who will be called upon, on the Day of Judgment, to perform such deeds, this too seemeth far from the truth, and is surely of no profit. On the contrary, by the term “earth” is meant the earth of understanding and knowledge, and by “heavens” the heavens of divine Revelation. Reflect thou, how, in one hand, He hath, by His mighty grasp, turned the earth of knowledge and understanding, previously unfolded, into a mere handful, and, on the other, spread out a new and highly exalted earth in the hearts of men, thus causing the freshest and loveliest blossoms, and the mightiest and loftiest trees to spring forth from the illumined bosom of man.
In like manner, reflect how the elevated heavens of the Dispensations of the past have, in the right hand of power, been folded together, how the heavens of divine Revelation have been raised by the command of God, and been adorned by the sun, the moon, and stars of His wondrous commandments. Such are the mysteries of the Word of God, which have been unveiled and made manifest, that haply thou mayest apprehend the morning light of divine guidance, mayest quench, by the power of reliance and renunciation, the lamp of idle fancy, of vain imaginings, of hesitation, and doubt, and mayest kindle, in the inmost chamber of thine heart, the newborn light of divine knowledge and certitude.
Know verily that the purpose underlying all these symbolic terms and abstruse allusions, which emanate from the Revealers of God’s holy Cause, hath been to test and prove the peoples of the world; that thereby the earth of the pure and illuminated hearts may be known from the perishable and barren soil. From time immemorial such hath been the way of God amidst His creatures, and to this testify the records of the sacred books.
And likewise, reflect upon the revealed verse concerning the “Qiblih.”33 When Muḥammad, the Sun of Prophethood, had fled from the dayspring of Baṭḥá34 unto Yathrib,35 He continued to turn His face, while praying, unto Jerusalem, the holy city, until the time when the Jews began to utter unseemly words against Him—words which if mentioned would ill befit these pages and would weary the reader. Muḥammad strongly resented these words. Whilst, wrapt in meditation and wonder, He was gazing toward heaven, He heard the kindly Voice of Gabriel, saying: “We behold Thee from above, turning Thy face to heaven; but We will have Thee turn to a Qiblih which shall please Thee.”36 On a subsequent day, when the Prophet, together with His companions, was offering the noontide prayer, and had already performed two of the prescribed Rak‘ats,37 the Voice of Gabriel was heard again: “Turn Thou Thy face towards the sacred Mosque.”38 39 In the midst of that same prayer, Muḥammad suddenly turned His face away from Jerusalem and faced the Ka‘bih. Whereupon, a profound dismay seized suddenly the companions of the Prophet. Their faith was shaken severely. So great was their alarm, that many of them, discontinuing their prayer, apostatized their faith. Verily, God caused not this turmoil but to test and prove His servants. Otherwise, He, the ideal King, could easily have left the Qiblih unchanged, and could have caused Jerusalem to remain the Point of Adoration unto His Dispensation, thereby withholding not from that holy city the distinction of acceptance which had been conferred upon it.
None of the many Prophets sent down, since Moses was made manifest, as Messengers of the Word of God, such as David, Jesus, and others among the more exalted Manifestations who have appeared during the intervening period between the Revelations of Moses and Muḥammad, ever altered the law of the Qiblih. These Messengers of the Lord of creation have, one and all, directed their peoples to turn unto the same direction. In the eyes of God, the ideal King, all the places of the earth are one and the same, excepting that place which, in the days of His Manifestations, He doth appoint for a particular purpose. Even as He hath revealed: “The East and West are God’s: therefore whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God.”40 Notwithstanding the truth of these facts, why should the Qiblih have been changed, thus casting such dismay amongst the people, causing the companions of the Prophet to waver, and throwing so great a confusion into their midst? Yea, such things as throw consternation into the hearts of all men come to pass only that each soul may be tested by the touchstone of God, that the true may be known and distinguished from the false. Thus hath He revealed after the breach amongst the people: “We did not appoint that which Thou wouldst have to be the Qiblih, but that We might know him who followeth the Apostle from him who turneth on his heels.”41 “Affrighted asses fleeing from a lion.”42
Were you to ponder, but for a while, these utterances in your heart, you would surely find the portals of understanding unlocked before your face, and would behold all knowledge and the mysteries thereof unveiled before your eyes. Such things take place only that the souls of men may develop and be delivered from the prison-cage of self and desire. Otherwise, that ideal King hath, throughout eternity, been in His Essence independent of the comprehension of all beings, and will continue, forever, in His own Being to be exalted above the adoration of every soul. A single breeze of His affluence doth suffice to adorn all mankind with the robe of wealth; and one drop out of the ocean of His bountiful grace is enough to confer upon all beings the glory of everlasting life. But inasmuch as the divine Purpose hath decreed that the true should be known from the false, and the sun from the shadow, He hath, therefore, in every season sent down upon mankind the showers of tests from His realm of glory.
Were men to meditate upon the lives of the Prophets of old, so easily would they come to know and understand the ways of these Prophets that they would cease to be veiled by such deeds and words as are contrary to their own worldly desires, and thus consume every intervening veil with the fire burning in the Bush of divine knowledge, and abide secure upon the throne of peace and certitude. For instance, consider Moses, son of ‘Imrán, one of the exalted Prophets and Author of a divinely revealed Book. Whilst passing, one day, through the market, in His early days, ere His ministry was proclaimed, He saw two men engaged in fighting. One of them asked the help of Moses against his opponent. Whereupon, Moses intervened and slew him. To this testifieth the record of the sacred Book. Should the details be cited, they will lengthen and interrupt the course of the argument. The report of this incident spread throughout the city, and Moses was full of fear, as is witnessed by the text of the Book. And when the warning: “O Moses! of a truth, the chiefs take counsel to slay Thee”43 reached His ears, He went forth from the city, and sojourned in Midian in the service of Shoeb. While returning, Moses entered the holy vale, situate in the wilderness of Sinai, and there beheld the vision of the King of glory from the “Tree that belongeth neither to the East nor to the West.”44 There He heard the soul-stirring Voice of the Spirit speaking from out of the kindled Fire, bidding Him to shed upon Pharaonic souls the light of divine guidance; so that, liberating them from the shadows of the valley of self and desire, He might enable them to attain the meads of heavenly delight, and delivering them, through the Salsabíl of renunciation, from the bewilderment of remoteness, cause them to enter the peaceful city of the divine presence. When Moses came unto Pharaoh and delivered unto him, as bidden by God, the divine Message, Pharaoh spoke insultingly saying: “Art thou not he that committed murder, and became an infidel?” Thus recounted the Lord of majesty as having been said by Pharaoh unto Moses: “What a deed is that which Thou hast done! Thou art one of the ungrateful. He said: ‘I did it indeed, and I was one of those who erred. And I fled from you when I feared you, but My Lord hath given Me wisdom, and hath made Me one of His Apostles.’”45
And now ponder in thy heart the commotion which God stirreth up. Reflect upon the strange and manifold trials with which He doth test His servants. Consider how He hath suddenly chosen from among His servants, and entrusted with the exalted mission of divine guidance Him Who was known as guilty of homicide, Who, Himself, had acknowledged His cruelty, and Who for well-nigh thirty years had, in the eyes of the world, been reared in the home of Pharaoh and been nourished at his table. Was not God, the omnipotent King, able to withhold the hand of Moses from murder, so that manslaughter should not be attributed unto Him, causing bewilderment and aversion among the people?
Likewise, reflect upon the state and condition of Mary. So deep was the perplexity of that most beauteous countenance, so grievous her case, that she bitterly regretted she had ever been born. To this beareth witness the text of the sacred verse wherein it is mentioned that after Mary had given birth to Jesus, she bemoaned her plight and cried out: “O would that I had died ere this, and been a thing forgotten, forgotten quite!”46 I swear by God! Such lamenting consumeth the heart and shaketh the being. Such consternation of soul, such despondency, could have been caused by no other than the censure of the enemy and the cavilings of the infidel and perverse. Reflect, what answer could Mary have given to the people around her? How could she claim that a Babe Whose father was unknown had been conceived of the Holy Ghost? Therefore did Mary, that veiled and immortal Countenance, take up her Child and return unto her home. No sooner had the eyes of the people fallen upon her than they raised their voice saying: “O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of wickedness, nor unchaste thy mother.”47
And now, meditate upon this most great convulsion, this grievous test. Notwithstanding all these things, God conferred upon that essence of the Spirit, Who was known amongst the people as fatherless, the glory of Prophethood, and made Him His testimony unto all that are in heaven and on earth.
Behold how contrary are the ways of the Manifestations of God, as ordained by the King of creation, to the ways and desires of men! As thou comest to comprehend the essence of these divine mysteries, thou wilt grasp the purpose of God, the divine Charmer, the Best-Beloved. Thou wilt regard the words and the deeds of that almighty Sovereign as one and the same; in such wise that whatsoever thou dost behold in His deeds, the same wilt thou find in His sayings, and whatsoever thou dost read in His sayings, that wilt thou recognize in His deeds. Thus it is that outwardly such deeds and words are the fire of vengeance unto the wicked, and inwardly the waters of mercy unto the righteous. Were the eye of the heart to open, it would surely perceive that the words revealed from the heaven of the will of God are at one with, and the same as, the deeds that have emanated from the Kingdom of divine power.
And now, take heed, O brother! If such things be revealed in this Dispensation, and such incidents come to pass, at the present time, what would the people do? I swear by Him Who is the true Educator of mankind and the Revealer of the Word of God that the people would instantly and unquestionably pronounce Him an infidel and would sentence Him to death. How far are they from hearkening unto the voice that declareth: Lo! a Jesus hath appeared out of the breath of the Holy Ghost, and a Moses summoned to a divinely appointed task! Were a myriad voices to be raised, no ear would listen if We said that upon a fatherless Child hath been conferred the mission of Prophethood, or that a murderer hath brought from the flame of the Burning Bush the message of “Verily, verily, I am God!”
If the eye of justice be opened, it will readily recognize, in the light of that which hath been mentioned, that He, Who is the Cause and ultimate Purpose of all these things, is made manifest in this day. Though similar events have not occurred in this Dispensation, yet the people still cling to such vain imaginings as are cherished by the reprobate. How grievous the charges brought against Him! How severe the persecutions inflicted upon Him—charges and persecutions the like of which men have neither seen nor heard!
Great God! When the stream of utterance reached this stage, We beheld, and lo! the sweet savors of God were being wafted from the dayspring of Revelation, and the morning breeze was blowing out of the Sheba of the Eternal. Its tidings rejoiced anew the heart, and imparted immeasurable gladness to the soul. It made all things new, and brought unnumbered and inestimable gifts from the unknowable Friend. The robe of human praise can never hope to match Its noble stature, and Its shining figure the mantle of utterance can never fit. Without word It unfoldeth the inner mysteries, and without speech It revealeth the secrets of the divine sayings. It teacheth lamentation and moaning to the nightingales warbling upon the bough of remoteness and bereavement, instructeth them in the art of love’s ways, and showeth them the secret of heart-surrender. To the flowers of the Riḍván of heavenly reunion It revealeth the endearments of the impassioned lover, and unveileth the charm of the fair. Upon the anemones of the garden of love It bestoweth the mysteries of truth, and within the breasts of lovers It entrusteth the symbols of the innermost subtleties. At this hour, so liberal is the outpouring of Its grace that the holy Spirit itself is envious! It hath imparted to the drop the waves of the sea, and endowed the mote with the splendor of the sun. So great are the overflowings of Its bounty that the foulest beetle hath sought the perfume of the musk, and the bat the light of the sun. It hath quickened the dead with the breath of life, and caused them to speed out of the sepulchers of their mortal bodies. It hath established the ignorant upon the seats of learning, and elevated the oppressor to the throne of justice.
The universe is pregnant with these manifold bounties, awaiting the hour when the effects of Its unseen gifts will be made manifest in this world, when the languishing and sore athirst will attain the living Kawthar of their Well-Beloved, and the erring wanderer, lost in the wilds of remoteness and nothingness, will enter the tabernacle of life, and attain reunion with his heart’s desire. In the soil of whose heart will these holy seeds germinate? From the garden of whose soul will the blossoms of the invisible realities spring forth? Verily, I say, so fierce is the blaze of the Bush of love, burning in the Sinai of the heart, that the streaming waters of holy utterance can never quench its flame. Oceans can never allay this Leviathan’s burning thirst, and this Phoenix of the undying fire can abide nowhere save in the glow of the countenance of the Well-Beloved. Therefore, O brother! kindle with the oil of wisdom the lamp of the spirit within the innermost chamber of thy heart, and guard it with the globe of understanding, that the breath of the infidel may extinguish not its flame nor dim its brightness. Thus have We illuminated the heavens of utterance with the splendors of the Sun of divine wisdom and understanding, that thy heart may find peace, that thou mayest be of those who, on the wings of certitude, have soared unto the heaven of the love of their Lord, the All-Merciful.
And now, concerning His words: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.” By these words it is meant that when the sun of the heavenly teachings hath been eclipsed, the stars of the divinely established laws have fallen, and the moon of true knowledge—the educator of mankind—hath been obscured; when the standards of guidance and felicity have been reversed, and the morn of truth and righteousness hath sunk in night, then shall the sign of the Son of man appear in heaven. By “heaven” is meant the visible heaven, inasmuch as when the hour draweth nigh on which the Daystar of the heaven of justice shall be made manifest, and the Ark of divine guidance shall sail upon the sea of glory, a star will appear in the heaven, heralding unto its people the advent of that most great light. In like manner, in the invisible heaven a star shall be made manifest who, unto the peoples of the earth, shall act as a harbinger of the break of that true and exalted Morn. These twofold signs, in the visible and the invisible heaven, have announced the Revelation of each of the Prophets of God, as is commonly believed.