Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Paragraph 86

And now, concerning His words: “And He shall send His angels….” By “angels” is meant those who, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings and of the Cherubim. That holy man, Ṣádiq, in his eulogy of the Cherubim, saith: “There stand a company of our fellow-Shí’ihs behind the Throne.” Divers and manifold are the interpretations of the words “behind the Throne.” In one sense, they indicate that no true Shí’ihs exist. Even as he hath said in another passage: “A true believer is likened unto the philosopher’s stone.” Addressing subsequently his listener, he saith: “Hast thou ever seen the philosopher’s stone?” Reflect, how this symbolic language, more eloquent than any speech, however direct, testifieth to the non-existence of a true believer. Such is the testimony of Ṣádiq. And now consider, how unfair and numerous are those who, although they themselves have failed to inhale the fragrance of belief, have condemned as infidels those by whose word belief itself is recognized and established.

Wow. It's hard to believe that we're on to another section of that quote from Jesus. And it's the last one, at that. Baha'u'llah only spends a couple of paragraphs on it, but by this point, He has really set the tone. We know full well that there are many layers of interpretation and meaning of these words.

After reading what Baha'u'llah says here, it reminds us that in our teaching work we need to show forth humility, as well as detachment. After all, if there are no "true believers", that includes us, too. We may be striving to become better and better followers, firmer in our faith and stronger in our understanding, but will we ever truly consume those "human traits and limitations"?

By establishing the truth of this by citing such an authority as Sadiq, the sixth Imam, Baha'u'llah effectively reminds the uncle of the Bab of what he already knows, and does so without raising the possibility of any question. It is from his own tradition. He asks us to reflect on how this tradition establishes the fact that true believers don't really exist. Remember way back in the beginning of the book, how often Baha'ullah asked us to consider and reflect? Why would He ask us to reflect at this point? Perhaps because what He has just point out to us is a difficult concept to accept. With infinite mercy, He is allowing us the opportunity to step back, allow the implications to sink in, and move forward with the truth of it when we are ready.

After this reflection, He asks the uncle, and by extension us, to consider the following point: there are many, "numerous" as He says, who condemn others as infidel, and this is unfair. If they are not true believers, according to Sadiq, then they have no right to call others infidel. And not only do they condemn others, they condemn "those by whose word belief itself is recognized and established." While it would be very easy for this uncle to recognize the Imam Husayn in this statement, as well as other heroes of his own faith, Baha'u'llah also seems to be raising our vision of the martyrs of our faith. This uncle would surely have been aware of the stories of the Babis who were martyred, as well the stories of the Bab, Himself. He would know that all the Babis at that time, including Baha'u'llah, would have been condemned as infidel. And yet He says that it is by these people, who have stood firm in the face of such condemnation and trials, that help us understand the very word "belief". This brings us right back to paragraph 6, in which He says if we acquaint ourselves with the "indignities heaped upon the Prophets of God" we will appreciate the significance of the position of those oppressors. And "the more closely you observe the denials... the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God." By considering these attacks again, here, our faith can become firmer. In other words, it is by reflecting upon the stories of the martyrs and those who suffered for their faith, we become more firm in our own faith. "...(B)elief itself is recognized and established."

We used to read this last phrase as something abstract. We saw it as somehow the word "belief" was defined by the actions of those believers. But now, by linking it to that quote from paragraph 6, we think it is far deeper than that. We think that it is by studying the denials thrown at the Babis, and the actions of those believers, our own belief is recognized, our own belief is established. This raises it to a far higher degree again, for us. Those martyrs, by their steadfastness, by their blood, really did water the tree of the Faith. The more we observe those denials, the more we study the stories of those who gave their life, the greater our own faith will be.

When we began writing about this paragraph, we didn't really see it as all that profound, in terms of the scope of this book. But now, with this realization of the importance of their sacrifice, importance that we had truly underestimated, we have tears in our eyes.

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