Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paragraph 10

And after Him there appeared from the Ridvan of the Eternal, the Invisible, the holy person of Salih, Who again summoned the people to the river of everlasting life. For over a hundred years He admonished them to hold fast unto the commandments of God and eschew that which is forbidden. His admonitions, however, yielded no fruit, and His pleading proved of no avail. Several times He retired and lived in seclusion. All this, although that eternal Beauty was summoning the people to no other than the city of God. Even as it is revealed: "And unto the tribe of Thamud We sent their brother Salih. 'O my people,' said He, 'Worship God, ye have none other God beside Him....' They made reply: 'O Salih, our hopes were fixed on thee until now; forbiddest thou us to worship that which our fathers worshipped? Truly we misdoubt that whereunto thou callest us as suspicious.'" [Qur'án 11:61, 62] All this proved fruitless, until at last there went up a great cry, and all fell into utter perdition.

First Noah, then Hud, now Salih. He is another of the Messengers we knew nothing about before reading this Book (oh, we heard of Noah, but not Hud).

At this point in our study, we found it (our study, not the Iqan) fairly dry, and had to wonder why. It's because this is all about rote history, which we generally find dry (except for the Dawn Breakers, which is just so cool). We had read this Book many times before, so we were well of aware of the amazing stuff coming up, but when we began to really pull it apart and look at it, we found ourselves beginning to get stuck at this point.

And we fear that may be the same for you, dear Reader, when reading our blog. All we can say is, "Take heart. We're with you, there." It was only on this latest reading (and in fact, even after the latest reading and during our consultation on writing this blog) that we began to see a greater pattern at play here. We would have mentioned it earlier, but two steps is a bit difficult to show a pattern. Here on the third, it's a bit more obvious. We're working our way patiently towards paragraph 24, as that seems to be when everything really starts moving.

But we get ahead of ourselves. Let's go back to the Text and take this in order.

The first thing that caught our attention was the references to rivers in the first sentence. He speaks of Him coming from "the Ridvan of the Eternal". From later in Baha'i history, we can see the loose connection to the Garden of Ridvan, which was on an island in the middle of the river. Right after that, Baha'u'llah speaks of "the river of everlasting life".

These two references to rivers reminded us that rivers, like the ocean, are made up of water. One is fresh, the other salty, but both are water and they are teeming with life. The river, also, flows down into the ocean and lends it its strength. Could this be another allusion to attaining "the shores of the ocean of true understanding"? Perhaps we can get to the ocean by sailing down the river, so to speak, instead of walking to the beach.

Following this, we noticed that what Salih did was basically the same as both Noah and Hud: He tried to get the people to live good and noble lives.

But, similar to Hud, His work "yielded no fruit".

And it was here that we began to notice this pattern we spoke of earlier. The fruit of Noah was, in a sense, the flood. Aside from His followers, not a single dweller was left upon the land (to paraphrase what Baha'u'llah wrote, only because it was too difficult for us to figure out how to quote that and still have it make sense gramatically).

The fruit of Hud was "increased rebelliousness" and "the willful blindness of His people". Not good, but at least they were still alive (except for those who died during the storm).

Salih's teachings "yielded no fruit", which, in a way, is an improvement over the fruit of rebelliousness and blindness.

Can you see how this is beginning to show some sort of a progressive pattern? An improvement? If not, don't worry. This pattern will only become more obvious in the next few paragraphs (oh, the joy of knowing what comes next).

Now that this pattern is briefly (or barely) hinted at, Baha'u'llah immediately mentions Salih's retirement and seclusion. No matter which Messenger we follow, we know They did this, too. Whether it is Moses' or Jesus' retirement in the desert, or Muhammad on the mountain, or even Baha'u'llah in Sulaymaniyyih, we recognize that going away for a little while to commune with God privately is something that the Manifestations just seem to do. And so we see another thing that They all have in common, which can help us recognize a Messenger of God.

Finally, Baha'u'llah tells us the reason why they denied Salih. First, they acknowledged His greatness, by saying that their hopes were being set upon Him. But then the unbelievers cried out, "...forbiddest thou us to worship that which our fathers worshipped?" This is where they denied Him. He asked them to turn away from the idols they had been worshipping for generations, and instead turn towards God. Even though they really held Him in high esteem, they were not willing listen to Him and turn away from tradition.

This is the first hint of Baha'u'llah's condemnation of blind followers. Much later, in paragraph 81 (how's this for foreshadowing), Baha'u'llah says that it is these people who blindly imitate their fathers who "become so veiled that without the least question, they pronounce the Manifestation of God an infidel, and sentence Him to death."

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