Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Remarkable Purposes for the Laws Revealed by the Bab


Why does the Báb say He revealed laws? The answer is surprising and helps us to understand the content of some of these laws. To begin, let us contrast His purpose with that of Bahá’u’lláh. The laws revealed by Bahá’u’lláh "... serve the manifold purposes of bringing tranquillity to human society, raising the standard of human behaviour, increasing the range of human understanding, and spiritualizing the life of each and all." (The Universal House of Justice, The Most Holy Book, Introduction, p. 2) http://www.bahai.org/r/291384452 

We see these purposes in His moral laws, His laws of prayer and fasting, and the institutions He created. And of course the Báb was concerned about holiness and social unity as secondary matters, but His laws had another primary purpose.Shoghi Effendi wrote that the laws in the Báb's book the Persian Bayan did not have the same purpose as the laws of earlier dispensations:
"...this Book, of about eight thousand verses, occupying a pivotal position in Bábí literature, should be regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations."
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 25) 

http://www.bahai.org/r/994044123

The Báb wrote the same thing - that the purpose of His revelation was to awaken the people to assist the Promised One to come after Him, rather than to carry out the observances in the Bayan:


"...the sum total of the religion of God is but to help Him, rather than to observe, in the time of His appearance, such deeds as are prescribed in the Bayan...."
(The Báb, The Persian Bayan, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 85) http://www.bahai.org/r/488755766


 Bahá'i literature identifies several purposes for the laws revealed by the Báb, among them:
- Preparing the people to recognize Bahá’u’lláh
- Abrogating the laws of Islam
- Demonstrating that He had the divine authority to abrogate the laws of earlier dispensations and reveal new laws
- Directing His followers to show marked deference to Bahá'u'lláh's person and to ensure that the believers, who were unaware of who He was, would treat Him with the utmost respect and comfort
- To create a tumult, to generate opposition in order to create public interest in His Faith, and attract new believers in a short period of time
- To write laws so that Bahá'u'lláh would not need to tire Himself revealing laws; He could adopt them or amend them as He saw fit


So when we read about a law of the Báb it is often the case that it fits into one of these categories, rather than the purposes of the laws of the earlier Holy Books.



The Shrine of the Bab
Photograph by Michael Bernhard


THE BRIEF DURATION OF THE PERIOD OF APPLICABILITY OF THE LAWS OF THE BAB

The Dispensation of the Báb http://www.bahai.org/the-bab/ was unlike that of any other religious Dispensation. One of its most striking features was its brevity - nineteen years from His Declaration until the Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh.

"That so brief a span ... should have separated this most mighty and wondrous Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation, is a secret that no man can unravel and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had been foreordained, and no man shall ever discover its reason unless and until he be informed of the contents of My Hidden Book."
(Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 123) http://www.bahai.org/r/307646511

This brevity was foretold in the Book of Revelation:


"And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth ... One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter....The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly." (Revelation 8:13, 9:12, 11:14)


Abdu'l-Baha explained that the Second Woe was the Báb, and the Third Woe, Bahá’u’lláh:


"This third woe is the day of the manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh, the Day of God, and it is near to the day of the appearance of the Báb."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, Chapter 11) http://www.bahai.org/r/759985721 


PREPARATION FOR BAHA'U'LLAH
The Writings of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh explain that the reason for the revelation of the Báb was to prepare the way for Bahá’u’lláh, identified by the Báb as "Him Whom God will make manifest":


"And know thou of a certainty that every letter revealed in the Bayan is solely intended to evoke submission unto Him Whom God shall make manifest, for it is He Who hath revealed the Bayan prior to His Own manifestation."
(The Báb, The Persian Bayan, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 104) http://www.bahai.org/r/763525577 


"The purpose underlying this Revelation, as well as those that preceded it, has, in like manner, been to announce the advent of the Faith of Him Whom God will make manifest."
(The Báb, The Persian Bayan, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 105) http://www.bahai.org/r/993614894


Bahá’u’lláh confirms this in the Surih of the Temple:


"Say: O people! Turn your faces unto your Lord, the All-Merciful. Beware lest ye be veiled by aught that hath been revealed in the Bayán: It was, in truth, revealed for no other purpose than to make mention of Me, the All-Powerful, the Most High, and had no other object than My Beauty. The whole world hath been filled with My testimony, if ye be of them that judge with fairness."
Bahá’u’lláh, Summons of the Lord of Hosts. http://www.bahai.org/r/772298430

And again, in the Most Holy Book:

Beware lest aught that hath been revealed in the Bayan should keep you from your Lord, the Most Compassionate. God is My witness that the Bayan was sent down for no other purpose than to celebrate My praise, did ye but know! In it the pure in heart will find only the fragrance of My love, only My Name that overshadoweth all that seeth and is seen. Say: Turn ye, O people, unto that which hath proceeded from My Most Exalted Pen. Should ye inhale therefrom the fragrance of God, set not yourselves against Him, nor deny yourselves a portion of His gracious favour and His manifold bestowals. Thus doth your Lord admonish you; He, verily, is the Counsellor, the Omniscient.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Most Holy Book, paragraph 179, p. 84)

http://www.bahai.org/r/760100202  

THE INSEPARABILITY OF THE DISPENSATIONS OF THE BAB AND BAHA'U'LLAH

If a person strives to understand the Dispensation of the Báb as a Dispensation designed to promulgate laws and teachings for humanity for a long period, he or she will miss the point and will not be able to grasp the purpose of the laws of the Báb. Shoghi Effendi addressed this subject in his Introduction to God Passes By, his history of the first Baha'i century. He presents this century as comprising four periods, the successive ministries of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, Abdu'l-Baha, and the institutions of the Baha'i Administrative Order. This enables us to see that we cannot properly grasp the purpose of the first period - the Dispensation of the Báb - in isolation from the later periods. The beloved Guardian writes:

"The century under our review may therefore be considered as falling into four distinct periods, of unequal duration, each of specific import and of tremendous and indeed unappraisable significance. These four periods are closely interrelated, and constitute successive acts of one, indivisible, stupendous and sublime drama, whose mystery no intellect can fathom, whose climax no eye can even dimly perceive, whose conclusion no mind can adequately foreshadow. Each of these acts revolves around its own theme, boasts of its own heroes, registers its own tragedies, records its own triumphs, and contributes its own share to the execution of one common, immutable Purpose. To isolate any one of them from the others, to dissociate the later manifestations of one universal, all-embracing Revelation from the pristine purpose that animated it in its earliest days, would be tantamount to a mutilation of the structure on which it rests, and to a lamentable perversion of its truth and of its history."
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Foreword, p. xiv) http://www.bahai.org/r/085224896 


Earlier, he had written through his secretary that we cannot properly see the Revelation of the Báb as a stand-alone Dispensation:

"Shoghi Effendi feels that the Unity of the Bahá'í revelation as one complete whole embracing the Faith of the Báb should be emphasised... The Faith of the Báb should not be divorced from that of Bahá'u'lláh. Though the teachings of the Bayan have been abrogated and superseded by the laws of Aqdas, yet due to the fact that the Báb considered Himself as the forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh we should regard His dispensation together with that of Bahá'u'lláh as forming one entity, the former being an introductory to the advent of the latter. Just as the advent of John the Baptist -- who according to various authorities was Himself the originator of laws which abrogated the teachings current among the Jews -- forms part of the Christian revelation, the advent of the Báb likewise forms an integral part of the Bahá'í Faith. That is why Shoghi Effendi feels justified to call Nabil's narrative a narrative of the early days of the Bahá'í revelation."
(Extract from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated 30 November 1930, "The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community," p. 426)
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/UD/ud-563.html


UNDERSTANDING THE SEVERE LAWS REVEALED BY THE BAB


"...The severe laws and injunctions revealed by the Báb can be properly appreciated and understood only when interpreted in the light of His own statements regarding the nature, purpose and character of His own Dispensation. As these statements clearly reveal, the Bábí Dispensation was essentially in the nature of a religious and indeed social revolution, and its duration had therefore to be short, but full of tragic events, of sweeping and drastic reforms. These drastic measures enforced by the Báb and His followers were taken with the view of undermining the very foundations of Shí'ah orthodoxy, and thus paving the way for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh. To assert the independence of the new Dispensation, and to prepare also the ground for the approaching Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh the Báb had therefore to reveal very severe laws, even though most of them, were never enforced. But the mere fact that He revealed them was in itself a proof of the independent character of His Dispensation and was sufficient to create such widespread agitation, and excite such opposition on the part of the clergy that led them to cause His eventual martyrdom."
(From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated Feb 17, 1939, Dawn of a New Day, p. 77; cited in the Notes to the Most Holy Book: http://www.bahai.org/r/506805283


Shoghi Effendi also wrote that the "designedly severe," the "drastic" laws revealed by the Báb were designed to awaken the people: 

"In God Passes By Shoghi Effendi points out that the Bayan 'should be regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations'. 'Designedly severe in the rules and regulations it imposed,' he continues, 'revolutionizing in the principles it instilled, calculated to awaken from their age-long torpor the clergy and the people, and to administer a sudden and fatal blow to obsolete and corrupt institutions, it proclaimed, through its drastic provisions, the advent of the anticipated Day, the Day when "the Summoner shall summon to a stern business", when He will "demolish whatever hath been before Him, even as the Apostle of God demolished the ways of those that preceded Him"'". (The Most Holy Book, p. 232, Note 159) http://www.bahai.org/r/005390350

Professor Nader Saiedi has made a careful study of the laws of the Báb. Dr. Saiedi writes about Bahá’u’lláh's modification of the laws revealed by the Báb:

"This part of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas [paragraphs 139-142] unveils the secret of the apparently harsh laws of the Bayan. Although many of the Bayan's laws are embodiments of love and mercy, others, such as the marriage law just mentioned [prohibiting the Báb's followers from marrying non-believers], seem to be reflections of the principle of the sword, making distinctions between believers and nonbelievers and according them differential rights. However, it becomes evident that those laws were never intended by the Báb to be ordinances carried out in society. As He reiterates in the Persian Bayan, the purpose of those laws was to emphasize that all must recognize and believe in the Promised One and that nonrecognition of Him is equal to nonexistence. Here, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh confirms this fact. Those laws were revealed only to emphasize the supreme authority of Baha'u'11ah, to ensure that the Bábís would all recognize His sovereignty, and, as is easily seen in the case of such laws as the prohibition on asking Him questions, to create conditions that would protect the Promised One from being subjected to the vexation and indignity of impudent and idle questions, challenges, and objections. The Báb wished Him to be free to reveal His verses in a way befitting His unconditional authority and majesty and as He desired." (Nader Saiedi, "Logos and Civilization," p. 289 http://tinyurl.com/logos-and-civilization 

So, for example, the Báb prescribed the destruction of books http://www.bahai.org/r/598429711 and Bahá’u’lláh rescinded this law http://www.bahai.org/r/341827570  http://www.bahai.org/r/519542862
The purpose of such laws revealed by the Báb was to enhance the likelihood of the people turning to Bahá’u’lláh.

"And know thou of a certainty that every letter revealed in the Bayan is solely intended to evoke submission unto Him Whom God shall make manifest, for it is He Who hath revealed the Bayan prior to His Own manifestation." (The Báb, The Persian Bayan, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 104) http://www.bahai.org/r/763525577 


This is commented on by Professor Saiedi: "A careful reading of the Persian Bayan leaves no doubt that the Báb fashions the severe laws only as a symbolic measure to remind the people of the necessity of recognizing the Promised One."
(Nader Saiedi, "Gate of the Heart" p. 362  https://www.bahaibookstore.com/Gate-of-the-Heart-P8678.aspx


TO GENERATE OPPOSITION AND ATTRACT ATTENTION TO THE NEW REVELATION

To revisit the letter written on Shoghi Effendi's behalf, the laws of the Báb generated opposition, which attracted the pure in heart to His new revelation. 

"... the Bábí Dispensation was essentially in the nature of a religious and indeed social revolution ... These drastic measures enforced by the Báb and His followers were taken with the view of undermining the very foundations of Shí'ah orthodoxy, and thus paving the way for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh ... [and] to create such widespread agitation, and excite such opposition on the part of the clergy that led them to cause His eventual martyrdom."
(From a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated Feb 17, 1939, Dawn of a New Day, p. 77; cited in the Notes to the Most Holy Book: http://www.bahai.org/r/506805283


So we see that many of the laws revealed by the Báb were designed to bring about opposition from the corrupt Shi'ih clergy and awaken the people to the new revelation from God. An example of this was when the Báb changed the Muslim call to prayer, a specific formula that had been recited by Muslim imams without the slightest change for more than a thousand years. When His followers used the new formula it shocked the people - but it made them aware of the new Dispensation: http://tinyurl.com/changed-call-to-prayer
 

The Shrine of the Bab
Photograph by Denny Allen


ABROGATION OF THE LAWS OF EARLIER DISPENSATIONS

As Shoghi Effendi wrote of the Persian Bayan: 

"This Book at once abrogated the laws and ceremonials enjoined by the Qur'án regarding prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce and inheritance, and upheld, in its integrity, the belief in the prophetic mission of Muhammad, even as the Prophet of Islam before Him had annulled the ordinances of the Gospel and yet recognized the Divine origin of the Faith of Jesus Christ."
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 25) http://www.bahai.org/r/994044123


THE BAB REVEALED LAWS SO THAT BAHA’U’LLAH WOULD NOT NEED TO DO SO 

“Our Exalted Herald -- may the life of all else besides Him be offered up for His sake -- hath revealed certain laws. However, in the realm of His Revelation these laws were made subject to Our sanction, hence this Wronged One hath put some of them into effect by embodying them in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in different words. Others We set aside. He holdeth in His hand the authority.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Ishraqat, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 131)  http://www.bahai.org/r/111200644



“Verily, He [the Báb] revealed certain laws so that, in this Dispensation, the Pen of the Most High might have no need to move in aught but the glorification of His own transcendent Station and His most effulgent Beauty. Since, however, We have wished to evidence Our bounty unto you, We have, through the power of truth, set forth these laws with clarity and mitigated what We desire you to observe. He, verily, is the Munificent, the Generous.” (Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 70)  http://www.bahai.org/r/575868705 


Many of Bahá’u’lláh’s laws in the Most Holy Book have their antecedents in the laws revealed by the Báb.

THE BAB REVEALED LAWS TO ENSURE THE COMFORT AND HAPPINESS OF BAHA'U'LLAH

Imagine that a famous and important person was coming to someone's home - the king or queen of their country, or some other person held in the highest esteem. The homeowners would wear their best clothing - in fact, would go out and buy new clothes. They would do more than clean their home, they would buy new furnishings, repaint the house and provide the finest food and drink to their noted guest. In like manner the Báb directed His followers to conduct themselves with the highest refinement, because the next Manifestation of God, "Him Whom God will make manifest," would be among them in their gatherings, unrecognized by them. In this way, He would be treated with appropriate respect.
The Báb states this: 


"But for the sole reason of His being present amongst this people, We would have neither prescribed any law nor laid down any prohibition. It is only for the glorification of His Name and the exaltation of His Cause that We have enunciated certain laws at Our behest, or forbidden the acts to which We are averse, so that at the hour of His manifestation ye may attain through Him the good-pleasure of God and abstain from the things that are abhorrent unto Him." (The Kitáb-i-Asma, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 149) http://www.bahai.org/r/198012018 


Referring to the contents of Bahá’u’lláh's book The Kitáb-i-Badi, Professor Nader Saiedi writes:

"Similarly, He [Bahá’u’lláh] refers to the laws of the Bayan which encourage refinement in all things, living in the best houses with the best furniture, wearing the best clothes, using the best perfumes, eating the best foods, and which allow more than two thousand types of food in feasts organized to honor the Promised One. As Baha'u'11ah says, the explicit purpose of the Báb in revealing all these laws was to ensure that the eyes of the Promised One would never gaze upon unpleasant things and that He would never become subject to hardship and suffering."
Nader Saiedi, "Logos and Civilization," p. 208


This solicitude was an expression of the incomparable love between these two Manifestations of God. As the Baha'i historian Nabil wrote:

"The Báb, whose trials and sufferings had preceded, in almost every case, those of Bahá'u'lláh, had offered Himself to ransom His Beloved from the perils that beset that precious Life; whilst Bahá'u'lláh, on His part, unwilling that He who so greatly loved Him should be the sole Sufferer, shared at every turn the cup that had touched His lips. Such love no eye has ever beheld, nor has mortal heart conceived such mutual devotion. If the branches of every tree were turned into pens, and all the seas into ink, and earth and heaven rolled into one parchment, the immensity of that love would still remain unexplored, and the depths of that devotion unfathomed."
(Nabil-i-Azam, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 372) http://tinyurl.com/y8brq5mx 


And this great love, and these remarkable laws revealed by the Báb, all help us to more fully appreciate the greatness of the incomparable Gift which God has given to us in the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. 

"This is a Revelation, under which, if a man shed for its sake one drop of blood, myriads of oceans will be his recompense." "A fleeting moment, in this Day, excelleth centuries of a bygone age.... Neither sun nor moon hath witnessed a day such as this Day."
(Bahá’u’lláh, quoted in The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 78) http://www.bahai.org/r/185678279




No comments:

Post a Comment