Category Archives: Actualités

Displaying the Baha’i Faith: the pen is mightier than the sword

 

 

There’s a famous saying that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. In other words, ideas have a greater impact, when written down and read, than when they’re spread by force.

Those words were coined by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. He was an exact contemporary of the Persian nobleman Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, the bicentenary of whose birth is currently being celebrated around the world.

The importance of the written word for Bahá’u’lláh was established in the earliest moments of his religion. During his first spiritual revelation, he heard these words, ‘Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen.’ This was to be a message of peace offered, as a gift to people, only through words and the positive acts of those who believed them.

Here is one of the original pens used by Bahá’u’lláh.

It’s hard to imagine today, when we have the ability literally at our fingertips to share ideas in an instant across the planet, that it was through pens such as this that Bahá’u’lláh set out his vision for one, united human race, in more than 100 volumes of writings. Despite the limitations of the technology, Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings spread, giving rise to a community that now numbers in the millions, established in virtually every country on the planet.

The power of the ‘Word’ has been central to all the world’s great faiths. It has inspired human beings to discover their noblest qualities and create new patterns of life, giving rise to great civilisations. In the case of older religions, it was the spoken sayings of their founders that were heard and passed down by others, captured in texts that have become sacred scripture. For Muslims, the Qur’an was verbally revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The revelation that Bahá’u’lláh received, for some 40 years, was immediately written down, authenticated by him, and shared far and wide. For all of that time, because of his teachings, Bahá’u’lláh endured torture, imprisonment and a series of exiles from his homeland.

Revelation writing

Eyewitnesses left accounts of the extraordinary manner by which Bahá’u’lláh’s writings came into being. Firstly, his secretary, Mírzá Áqá Ján, would have ready a number of reed pens – also on display in the bicentenary display – and stacks of large sheets of paper.

The verses would then seem to flow from Bahá’u’lláh, who spoke rapidly or chanted them aloud. Such was the speed with which his verses had to be captured on the paper that they were only readable by the scribe himself. Seeing this page of ‘revelation writing’ by Mírzá Áqá Ján, it looks almost like a sketch by a 20th-century Abstract Expressionist artist. But these are Bahá’u’lláh’s words, hurriedly captured by his scribe.

Later, Mírzá Áqá Ján would copy out his marks in legible handwriting. Sometimes he could not even read his own writing and he had to ask Bahá’u’lláh to help him decipher what was dictated. Then Bahá’u’lláh would give his seal of approval to the clean copy.

Other followers would then take this version, and write it out again, sometimes bind the verses into books like this one, so they could be transported and shared with people throughout the Middle East, and even as far afield as India, Burma (Myanmar) or China.

The Hidden Words

Bahá’u’lláh himself was also a skilled calligrapher, often transcribing his writings in his own beautiful handwriting that was later illuminated on the page.

Two beautiful examples are also on display of Bahá’u’lláh’s best-known and well-loved collection of writings, The Hidden Words, verses that present the ethical heart of his message and distil the spiritual guidance of all religions of the past. Among the principles conveyed in this example is the teaching of the oneness and the equality of the human race: ‘O Children of Men!’ he writes, ‘Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other.’

Imagine if the handwriting of Jesus Christ were to be discovered, how extraordinary it would be for a Christian today to be able to actually see it! For members of the Baha’i Faith like myself, it’s a very special privilege to be able to experience alongside others, the original handwriting of Bahá’u’lláh. Usually such items are only on display for pilgrims who have made a special visit to see them in the Holy Land. Most of the pieces in the display have been lent specifically from the International Baha’i Archives in Haifa, part of modern-day Israel, close to where Bahá’u’lláh passed away in 1892. The house where he lived for the final years of his life, outside the former Ottoman prison city of Akka, is where a professor from the University of Cambridge, Edward G Browne (1862–1926), went to visit him in 1890.

An English professor meets Bahá’u’lláh

Browne was fascinated by the evolution and rise of the Baha’i religion in his own time. In a unique pen-portrait, he left this description of Bahá’u’lláh:

The face of Him on Whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow… No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain.

During those meetings, Bahá’u’lláh expressed to Browne the hope that:

all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled… Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.

A year later, Bahá’u’lláh sent Browne a pair of reading glasses, originally a gift from a follower in Hong Kong. With them Bahá’u’lláh enclosed a message:

We should like to send them to our true friend. Though by God’s grace, he is endowed with outward and inward vision and has no need of them yet the object in view is a mention of us with him.

These glasses are also a rare and fascinating item in the display.

Today several million Baha’is around the world are working with their friends and neighbours for the spiritual and material prosperity of their communities. But, as this display reminds us, it all started with the markings of a pen on paper.

You can see the display The birth of Bahá’u’lláh: a bicentenary celebration of the Bahá’í Faith’s founder in Room 34 from 7 November 2017 until 22 January 2018

 

Exhibition of Baha’u’llah’s writings opens at British Museum

9 November 2017

The British Museum is showing rarely seen original handwriting, as well as other archival items associated with the life of Baha’u’llah. The exhibition opened on Monday 6 November during a reception that brought together representatives from academia, the arts, education, and the media.

LONDON — The British Museum is showing rarely-seen original handwriting of Baha’u’llah, as well as other archival items associated with His life, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of His birth, which was celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October.

The exhibition opened on Monday 6 November during a reception, attracting over 100 people and bringing together representatives from academia, the arts, and the media.

One of the central themes of the exhibition is the power of the Word, which refers to divine revelation, a concept fundamental to the origins of all the world’s great faiths.

Reflected in His many writings, Baha’u’llah’s revelation addresses a vast array of subjects, ranging from the ethical and moral dimensions of the life of the individual to the societal principles and practices that can enable humanity to transition to the next stage of its collective development—the emergence of world civilization.

The exhibition’s introductory panel reads, “Baha’u’llah (‘Glory of God’) wrote over 100 volumes of text setting out his vision for humanity: to build a world of peace and justice. Baha’u’llah taught that the ‘Word,’ as revealed to the founders of all the great faiths, could inspire humans to transform society and establish great civilisations.”

In His lifetime, Baha’u’llah’s writings were recorded as they were revealed. In some instances, Baha’u’llah, in masterful calligraphy, wrote with His own hand some of the sacred verses that constitute His vast body of writings.

“It is quite remarkable to think that such a simple instrument as the reed pen of Baha’u’llah…was the means through which He set out His vision for a united humanity.”

– Representative of the UK Baha’i community

Often, Baha’u’llah would recite verses aloud, and these would be transcribed by secretaries. Eyewitness accounts of individuals who observed the manner by which Baha’u’llah’s writings were revealed shed light on the extraordinary nature of these works. To keep up with the large volume of verses, secretaries would rapidly transcribe His words in an often illegible handwriting that only they could read, referred to as “Revelation Writing.” The exhibition includes an example of these original texts.

SLIDESHOW
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The British Museum is showing rarely-seen original handwriting of Baha’u’llah, as well as other archival items associated with His life, to mark the 200th anniversary of His birth. Here, an example “Revelation Writing” is on display.

Later, these texts would be rewritten, at times requiring Baha’u’llah to decipher them, before a final copy was ready to be shared. Baha’u’llah’s writings spread far and wide across the Ottoman and Persian lands and further afield, reaching to the Far East.

The display in the British Museum’s John Addis Gallery will be open to the public until 22 January 2018. During a period of worldwide celebrations honoring the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the British Museum exhibition opens another window into His extraordinary life and works and the immeasurable influence that His Word has had on the world.

The Bahá’í Faith

A True Bahá’í

A student of the modern methods of the higher criticism asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if he would do well to continue in the church with which he had been associated all his life, and whose language was full of meaning to him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered: “You must not dissociate yourself from it. Know this; 98 the Kingdom of God is not in any Society; some seekers go through many Societies as a traveller goes through many cities till he reach his destination. If you belong to a Society already do not forsake your brothers.

You can be a Bahá’í-Christian, a Bahá’í-Freemason, a Bahá’í-Jew, a Bahá’í-Muḥammadán. The number nine contains eight, and seven, and all the other numbers, and does not deny any of them. Do not distress or deny anyone by saying ‘He is not a Bahá’í!’ He will be known by his deeds. There are no secrets among Bahá’ís; a Bahá’í does not hide anything.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London

LE VRAI BAHA’I

‘Je n’ai jamais entendu parler de Baha’u’llah’, dit un jeune homme. ‘Je n’ai que récemment lu sur ce mouvement, mais je reconnais la mission de ‘Abdu’l-Baha et je désire être un disciple. J’ai toujours cru que la fraternité humaine était l’ultime solution de toutes nos difficultés nationales et internationales’.

“Cela ne fait aucune différence que vous ayez ou non entendu parler de Baha’u’llah”, répondit ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “l’homme qui vit la vie en accord avec les enseignements de Baha’u’llah est déjà un baha’i. D’un autre côté un homme peut se dire baha’i pendant cinquante ans, s’il ne vit pas la vie baha’ie il n’est pas un baha’i. Un homme laid peut se dire beau, mais il ne trompe personne, et un homme noir peut se dire blanc, là encore il ne trompe personne: même pas lui-même!”

Abdu’l-Baha à Londres

Le Coeur Pur

Quand on Lui demanda une définition d’un coeur pur, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá dit: “Le coeur pur est celui qui est entièrement coupé du moi. Etre altruiste c’est être pur”.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá à Londres, Chapitre 2.46)

 

Il est facile de lire les saintes Ecritures, mais c’est uniquement avec un coeur pur et un esprit clair qu’on peut comprendre leur véritable signification. Demandons l’aide de Dieu afin d’être capables de comprendre les livres saints.

Prions pour que les yeux voient, pour que les oreilles entendent, et pour les coeurs qui désirent ardemment la paix.

La grâce éternelle de Dieu est incommensurable. De tout temps, Il a choisi certaines âmes sur lesquelles Il a répandu la divine bonté de son coeur, illuminant leur esprit de lumière céleste, leur révélant les mystères sacrés, et présentant à leurs yeux, dans toute sa pureté, le miroir de Vérité. Ce sont les disciples de Dieu, et sa bonté n’a pas de limites.

Vous qui êtes les serviteurs du Très-Haut, vous pouvez aussi être des disciples. Les trésors de Dieu sont infinis. L’esprit qui souffle à travers les saintes Ecritures est une nourriture pour tous ceux qui ont faim.

Dieu, qui s’est révélé aux prophètes, donnera sûrement le pain quotidien ainsi qu’une part de ses richesses à tous ceux qui le lui demanderont avec constance.

Abdu’l-Bahá, Les Causeries d’’Abdu’l-Bahá à Paris, Chapitre: I

Attachez-vous plutôt à rechercher des coeurs qui soient purs

Ne vous arrêtez pas à considérer votre petit nombre, mais attachez-vous plutôt à rechercher des coeurs qui soient purs. Une seule âme consacrée es: préférable à des milliers d’autres.
Si un petit nombre de personnes se rassemblent avec amour, dans un esprit de pureté et de sainteté absolues, le coeur détaché du monde, éprouvant les émotions du royaume ainsi que les puissantes forces magnétiques du Divin, et unies dans leur heureuse fraternité, un tel rassemblement exercera son influence sur toute la terre.
La nature de ce groupe de personnes, les mots qu’elles prononcent, les actes qu’elles exécutent, contribueront à libérer les célestes bienfaits, à faire sentir les prémisses de la béatitude éternelle. Les armées de l’assemblée divine les défendront et les anges du paradis d’Abha, tour à tour, se porteront à leur secours.
Les confirmations de Dieu et de ses célestes pouvoirs, voilà le sens du mot “anges”. De même les anges sont des êtres bénis qui ont rompu leurs liens avec ce monde inférieur, se sont dégagés de la chaîne du moi et des désirs charnels, et ont ancré leurs coeurs dans les célestes royaumes du Seigneur.
Ils appartiennent au Royaume, ils sont célestes; ils appartiennent à Dieu, ils sont spirituels; ils sont les révélateurs de la munificente grâce divine, les aurores de ses bienfaits spirituels.
Ö servante de Dieu! Loué soit Dieu, ton époux affectionné a perçu le doux parfum des brises odorantes qui émanent des jardins célestes. Tu dois maintenant, jour après jour, par l’amour de Dieu et par tes bonnes actions, l’attirer toujours plus près de la Foi.

‘’Abdu’l-Bahá, Selection des Écrits d’’Abdu’l-Bahá, Chapitre: #8

The Duty of Kindness and Sympathy towards Strangers and Foreigners

When a man turns his face to God he finds sunshine everywhere. All men are his brothers. Let not conventionality cause you to seem cold and unsympathetic when you meet strange people from other countries. Do not look at them as though you suspected them of being evildoers, thieves and boors. You think it necessary to be very careful, not to expose yourselves to the risk of making acquaintance with such, possibly, undesirable people.

I ask you not to think only of yourselves. Be kind to the strangers, whether come they from Turkey, Japan, Persia, Russia, China or any other country in the world.

Help to make them feel at home; find out where they are staying, ask if you may render them any service; try to make their lives a little happier.

In this way, even if, sometimes, what you at first suspected should be true, still go out of your way to be kind to them—this kindness will help them to become better.

After all, why should any foreign people be treated as strangers?
Let those who meet you know, without your proclaiming the fact, that you are indeed a Bahá’í. Put into practice the Teaching of Bahá’u’lláh, that of kindness to all nations. Do not be content

with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.

Oh, you of the Western nations, be kind to those who come from the Eastern world to sojourn among you. Forget your conventionality when you speak with them; they are not accustomed to it. To Eastern peoples this demeanor seems cold, unfriendly. Rather let your manner be sympathetic. Let it be seen that you are filled with universal love. When you meet a Persian or any other stranger, speak to him as to a friend; if he seems to be lonely try to help him, give him of your

willing service; if he be sad console him, if poor succor him, if oppressed rescue him, if in misery comfort him. In so doing you will manifest that not in words only, but in deed and in truth, you think of all men as your brothers.

What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless.

The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world’s misery would very soon be changed into comfort.

A man who does great good, and talks not of it, is on the way to perfection.
The man who has accomplished a small good and magnifies it in his speech is worth very little.
If I love you, I need not continually speak of my love—you will know without any words. On the

other hand if I love you not, that also will you know—and you would not believe me, were I to tell you in a thousand words, that I loved you.

People make much profession of goodness, multiplying fine words because they wish to be thought greater and better than their fellows, seeking fame in the eyes of the world. Those who do most good use fewest words concerning their actions.

The children of God do the works without boasting, obeying His laws.

My hope for you is that you will ever avoid tyranny and oppression; that you will work without ceasing till justice reigns in every land, that you will keep your hearts pure and your hands free from unrighteousness.

This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you.

 

Paris Talks
Addresses Given by ‘Abdu’l‐Bahá in 1911