The Hidden Words of Bahá?u?lláh
The Hidden Words of Baháʾuʾlláh
Excerpt from Part I of The Hidden Words of Baháʾuʾlláh
Available online from the Baháʾí Reference Library at http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/HW/
Written around 1857
Published in 1985 by Baháʾí Publishing Trust
The Baháʾí faith is one of the world's youngest religions, dating only to about the mid-nineteenth century. Its founder was Baháʾuʾlláh (1817–1892), Arabic for "the glory of God." Baháʾuʾlláh wrote a number of texts that are important to members of the faith. One of these texts is called Kalimat-i-Maknunih, or The Hidden Words. The text consists of seventy-one Arabic and eighty-two Persian sayings. The stated purpose of The Hidden Words is to take the most important elements from the teachings of all religions to find their inner essence, or true meaning. Members of the faith are urged to read the sayings every day and to apply their wisdom in their daily lives.
Baháʾuʾlláh wrote The Hidden Words in the mid-to late 1800s. The word "hidden" in the title refers to the Baháʾí belief that people could not have a true understanding of the knowledge within the book before Baháʾuʾlláh revealed it. It details the spiritual path a person can follow and provides moral guidelines for living. Following this path and behavior, a person can become closer to God.
"There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me."
The Baháʾaí understanding of God
In all his writings, Baháʾuʾlláh explained and discussed three connected "unities." The first is the oneness of God, making the Baháʾí faith a monotheistic religion, in the tradition of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This means that the religion recognized only one god instead of many gods. The second unity is the oneness of God's many prophets and messengers. These are the people who deliver God's words and intentions to others. This means that Baháʾí teaches that religion is not fixed forever by a single prophet but grows and develops over time with the revelations of each of God's historical messengers. A revelation is an enlightening or astonishing discovery or disclosure of something. The third unity is the oneness of humanity, with emphasis on globalism (worldwide concerns), equality, and social justice. Social justice is the idea that all people should have the same rights, securities, opportunities, and benefits. To work towards social justice, such as in educational programs or economic development programs, is to engage in activity that will help bring about this goal.
This excerpt from The Hidden Words places emphasis on the oneness of God. The words are written as commands from God to His people. The picture of God that emerges from these verses is that of a divinity who is interested in justice. He urges people to remain humble, to develop their abilities and talents, and not to vaunt themselves over the poor. This means that they should not brag about their wealth. God emphasizes his love for his creation, a love that humans should share. Based on this love, humans should pursue such goals as eliminating prejudice (preconceived judgment), promoting world peace, and ridding the world of poverty. Because God is one with all of His creation, bringing about these ends is a way of worshipping God. In fact, members of the faith place little emphasis on outward forms of worship, such as rituals. They believe that serving others is the best way to show devotion to God.
Baháʾuʾlláh led an exciting and eventful life. He was born as Mirza Husayn-Ali (1817–1892) in Tehran, Persia (present-day Iran). In his early years, he was a follower of the Bab, which was a sect, or branch, of Shiʾa Islam that believed that a messiah would soon appear. A messiah is an inspiring leader who claims to have a message from God and can show people the way to salvation, or deliverance from sin or evil. The Bab expressed this belief with references to "He whom God shall make manifest" (visible).
The Bab's leader, Siyyid ʿAli-Muhammad, had declared himself the leader of the movement only in 1844. Baháʾuʾlláh saw himself as this expected messiah. He believed that he would lay the spiritual foundations for a worldwide religion based on harmony and peace. He announced this publicly in 1866, which can be regarded as the year that the religion was founded.
The Islamic government in Persia regarded both the Bab and Baháʾuʾlláh as threats to its authority, so Baháʾuʾlláh was exiled, or sent away, first to Baghdad in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Iraq), then to Constantinople in Turkey, and finally to Adrianople (modern Edirne, Turkey). Later he was arrested and held at the prison colony in Akka, in present-day Israel. In his final years, Baháʾuʾlláh was allowed to live at home, although officially he remained a prisoner of the city. He died in 1892, and members of the Baháʾí faith turn in the direction of his gravesite, the Mansion of Bahji at Akka, in prayer each day.
The sources of Baháʾí wisdom
Throughout his life, Baháʾuʾlláh produced a large number of writings. His primary works on religion include the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book, containing the laws and rules of the faith) and the Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude). Baháʾuʾlláh believed that God can only be understood through direct knowledge. Thinking or reasoning will not give one an understanding of God. He wrote about these and other spiritual matters in the Haft-Vádí, or "Seven Valleys," and The Hidden Words, excerpted here.
Perhaps the best summary of Baháʾuʾlláh's teachings comes from Shoghi Effendi (1897–1957), who was the successor to Baháʾuʾlláh's son, Abduʾl-Baha. Shoghi Effendi was the first Guardian of the Baháʾí Faith. In this role, he translated Baháʾuʾlláh's works and greatly expanded the size of the Baháʾí community. In his book God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi writes about some of the essential elements that stand out from what Baháʾuʾlláh proclaimed, including world peace, education for everyone, and the oneness of humanity. He also called for such things as the creation of a world body to resolve disputes between nations. He said that the most important goal for the faith was "justice as the ruling principle in human society."
Elsewhere, Shoghi Effendi comments on the inclusiveness, or all-embracing nature, of Baháʾí and its tolerance and acceptance of other faiths. Baháʾí followers believe that all religions come from the same sacred source. They believe that the basic principles of all faiths are in harmony with one another and that their goals and purposes are the same. In this respect, the Baháʾí faith differs from some other religions, which historically have held that theirs is the only true faith. While many religions in modern life have become more accepting of other religious views, Baháʾí is unique in making this acceptance a central element of its beliefs.
One characteristic of Baháʾí is its emphasis on social action, which many members regard as a form of worship. For example, the last lines of the following excerpt encourage Baháʾís to help others as an expression of their faith in God: "Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me." Members actively promote social and economic development projects in their communities and around the world. It is not uncommon to see road signs indicating that the local Baháʾí community has "adopted" a stretch of highway to keep it free of litter. Because they encourage the idea of world government, they support the United Nations (U.N.) and have engaged in many development projects through UN. agencies. The United Nations is an international organization where countries can go to negotiate an end to conflicts and work together on issues that affect them. This concern for social justice is clear in The Hidden Words, a text that repeatedly emphasizes the divine nature of justice, love, peace, kindness to others, and humbleness before God.
Things to remember while reading the excerpt from The Hidden Words of Baháʾuʾlláh:
- As with many other religious texts, the verses in the Hidden Words are numbered. This is so that readers can easily locate and identify particular passages. The number of the verses can be distinguished between those written in Arabic and those in Persian with a reference such as Arabic no. 7.
- The excerpt repeats phrases such as "O SON OF MAN" and "O SON OF BEING." "Son" here refers to mankind. The Hidden Words repeatedly calls on mankind to express love and to provide guidance.
- Baháʾí believes in the oneness of God and the oneness of religion, meaning that although religions may seem to differ, they all worship the same God and are, in fact, unified through that worship. Verse 13 says, "Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee." This is similar to a statement made in the Christian Bible's book of John, 14:20, which says, "The Father is the Son, and the Son is in you." Both mean that God's spirit is reflected in each person.
Excerpt from The Hidden Words of Baháʾuʾlláh
Part I.—From the Arabic
Preamble HE IS THE GLORY OF GLORIES
This is that which hath descended from therealm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inneressence thereof and clothed it in the garment ofbrevity, as atoken of grace unto therighteous, that they may stand faithful unto theCovenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue.
1: O SON OF SPIRIT! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.
2: O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.
3: O SON OF MAN! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.
4: O SON OF MAN! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.
5: O SON OF BEING! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.
6: O SON OF BEING! Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home, reunion with Me. Enter therein and tarry not. This is that which hath been destined for thee in Our kingdom above and Our exalted dominion.
7: O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.
8: O SON OF SPIRIT! There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is.
9: O SON OF BEING! My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish.
10: O SON OF UTTERANCE! Thou art My stronghold; enter therein that thou mayest abide in safety. My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee.
11: O SON OF BEING! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee.
12: O SON OF BEING! With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof.
13: O SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.
14: O SON OF MAN! Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory.
15: O SON OF UTTERANCE! Turn thy face unto Mine and renounce all save Me; for My sovereignty endureth and My dominion perisheth not. If thou seekest another than Me, yea, if thou searchest the universe for evermore, thy quest will be in vain.
16: O SON OF LIGHT! Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.
17: O SON OF MAN! Be thou content with Me and seek no other helper. For none but Me can ever suffice thee.
18: O SON OF SPIRIT! Ask not of Me that which We desire not for thee, then be content with what We have ordained for thy sake, for this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself.
19: O SON OF THE WONDROUS VISION! I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover. Why hast thou forsaken Me and sought a beloved other than Me?
20: O SON OF SPIRIT! My claim on thee is great, it cannot be forgotten. My grace to thee is plenteous, it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. My light is manifest to thee, it cannot be obscured.
21: O SON OF MAN! Upon the tree of effulgent glory I have hung for thee the choicest fruits, wherefore hast thou turned away and contented thyself with that which is less good? Return then unto that which is better for thee in the realm on high.
22: O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.
23: O SON OF THE SUPREME! To the eternal I call thee, yet thou dost seek that which perisheth. What hath made thee turn away from Our desire and seek thine own?
24: O SON OF MAN! Transgress not thy limits, nor claim that which beseemeth thee not. Prostrate thyself before the countenance of thy God, the Lord of might and power.
25: O SON OF SPIRIT! Vaunt not thyself over the poor, for I lead him on his way and behold thee in thy evil plight and confound thee for evermore.
26: O SON OF BEING! How couldest thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.
27: O SON OF MAN! Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.
28: O SON OF SPIRIT! Know thou of a truth: He that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name.
29: O SON OF BEING! Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.
30: O SON OF MAN! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
What happened next …
When Baháʾuʾlláh died in 1892, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Abduʾl-Baha. In his will, Baháʾuʾlláh named his son the Center of the Covenant, Head of the Faith, and the sole interpreter of his writings. Like his father, Abduʾl-Baha spent a great deal of time in prison for his beliefs, though he was released in 1908. Afterward, he spent the rest of his life traveling, speaking, and corresponding with Baháʾí communities throughout the world, until his death in 1921. In his will, Abduʾl-Baha included an outline of the Baháʾí organization. He established the post of guardianship of the faith and of the Universal House of Justice. He appointed his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the first Guardian. After Effendi's death in 1957, no clear candidate for the guardianship emerged. In the early twenty-first century, the faith is led by the nine-member board of the Universal House of Justice, headquartered in Haifa, Israel.
Did you know …
- The Hidden Words is based on a Shiʾa Muslim tradition that comes from the Book of Fatima. Fatima was the daughter of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. According to tradition, when Muhammad died, the archangel Gabriel appeared to Fatima to comfort her and reveal to her prophecies (predictions of the future) that she recorded in a book. The book did not survive, but Baháʾí followers believe that the prophecies will be revealed again at a later date. Baháʾís believe that The Hidden Words may be a fulfillment of this tradition.
- Baháʾís continue to face persecution (discrimination or mistreatment) in the Muslim world, particularly in Iran. From 1978 to 1998, at least two hundred Baháʾís were put to death in Iran, and many more were imprisoned. Baháʾís are not allowed to hold government jobs or attend universities, and their sacred sites have been repeatedly desecrated (violated or damaged) or destroyed.
- Some scholars see strong similarities between The Hidden Words and scriptural passages, or passages from sacred writings, in other religious traditions, including the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible, the Beatitudes in the Christian New Testament, and the hadiths in Islam, or the sayings and teachings of Islam's founder, Muhammad.
Consider the following …
- Explain the image of God that comes out of the excerpts from The Hidden Words.
- Explain why the word hidden is used in the title. In what sense are the words of this text hidden?
- The Baháʾí faith continues to grow in popularity, not just in the Middle East but around the world among people of widely different heritages, or traditions. Explain why the Baháʾí view of God might make the religion popular in the modern world.
For More Information
Bowers, Kenneth E. God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Baháʾí Faith. Wilmette, IL: Baháʾí Publishing, 2004.
Matthews, Gary I. The Challenge of Baháʾuʾlláh. Wilmette, IL: Baháʾí Publishing Trust, 2005.
Smith, Peter. A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahˡʾí Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications, 1999.
"Religion and Ethics: Baháʾí." bbc.co.ukhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/bahai/ (accessed on June 5, 2006).
Universal House of Justice. http://www.uhj.net (accessed on June 5, 2006).
Essence: Spirit or heart.
Thereof: Of it.
Brevity: The quality of being brief or short.
Token: A sign or hint.
Righteous: Moral, good, honest.
Covenant: A promise or contract.
Counsel: Advice, guidance.
Radiant: Happy, joyful.
Sovereignty: Rulership, seat of power or government.
Therefrom: From that.
Confide: Tell a secret to or give something into someone's care.
Ponder: Think over.
Behooveth: Is right or necessary.
Verily: In truth, indeed.
Veiled: Hidden, disguised.
Immemorial: Very old, going back in time beyond memory.
Engraved: Carved or imprinted, left a lasting impression.
Hence: For this reason.
In no wise: In no way.
Therein: Into that place or condition.
Tarry: Delay, linger, hang back.
Dominion: Territory over which someone rules.
Renouncing: Giving up.
Stronghold: Fortress, a place that can be defended.
Utterance: A statement, something spoken.
Radiance: Bright light; joy.
Bountifully: Richly, generously.
Favor: Goodwill, kindness.
Binding: Required, necessary.
Wherewith: By what means.
Abase: Lower oneself in rank or status, shame, dishonor.
Enlightenment: Spiritual understanding.
Self-subsisting: Living by one's own means, without others' help.
Outworn: Worn out.
Renounce: Give up, reject.
Commune: Communicate with, feel connected to
Suffice: Be enough.
Ordained: Commanded, established by law or decree.
Therewith: With that.
Forsaken: Deserted, abandoned.
Plenteous: Plentiful, present in great quantity.
Obscured: Made dark or dim or difficult to understand.
Effulgent: Radiating or spreading out brightly.
Abased: Lowered, humiliated.
Transgress: Go beyond.
Beseemeth: Suits or is proper.
Prostrate: Bow or lie face down.
Vaunt: Boast, brag.
Plight: Trouble, difficulty.
Confound: Confuse or make matters worse.
Bear witness: Testify to.
Just: Honest, moral.
Iniquity: Evil, wickedness.