This is the 13th in a series of blog entries that subject the Baha’i Writings to a skeptical, non-Baha’i analysis. A list of the previous blog entries is here.
The Book of the Covenant is the will and testament of Baha’u’llah, which he had made public after his death. Baha’u’llah himself had commanded his followers to make their own wills in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
Unto everyone hath been enjoined the writing of a will. The testator should head this document with the adornment of the Most Great Name, bear witness therein unto the oneness of God in the Dayspring of His Revelation, and make mention, as he may wish, of that which is praiseworthy, so that it may be a testimony for him in the kingdoms of Revelation and Creation and a treasure with his Lord, the Supreme Protector, the Faithful.
Baha’u’llah is said to have written this will with his own hand, thus allowing anyone familiar with his writing style to authenticate it. I will include quotes from the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd in orange and bold. My source for this document is:
Although the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless Heritage. Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail. By God! In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. Consider ye and call to mind that which the All-Merciful hath revealed in the Qur’án: “Woe betide every slanderer and defamer, him that layeth up riches and counteth them.”1 Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except to a recognized measure.
So right from the start, Baha’u’llah deviates radically from the usual purpose of a will and testament, which is to distribute property owned by the deceased among his heirs. Like the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus before him, Baha’u’llah condemns excessively materialistic people.
The aim of this Wronged One in sustaining woes and tribulations, in revealing the Holy Verses and in demonstrating proofs hath been naught but to quench the flame of hate and enmity, that the horizon of the hearts of men may be illumined with the light of concord and attain real peace and tranquility. From the dawning-place of the divine Tablet the daystar of this utterance shineth resplendent, and it behooveth everyone to fix his gaze upon it: We exhort you, O peoples of the world, to observe that which will elevate your station. Hold fast to the fear of God and firmly adhere to what is right. Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man! Not long ago this exalted Word streamed forth from the treasury of Our Pen of Glory: Great and blessed is this Day—the Day in which all that lay latent in man hath been and will be made manifest. Lofty is the station of man, were he to hold fast to righteousness and truth and to remain firm and steadfast in the Cause. In the eyes of the All-Merciful a true man appeareth even as a firmament; its sun and moon are his sight and hearing, and his shining and resplendent character its stars. His is the loftiest station, and his influence educateth the world of being.
Well…..it seems that Baha’u’llah completely failed in his mission, if what happened to most of his own descendants is any indication.
From Abdu’l-Baha we get:
O ye that stand fast and firm in the Covenant! The Center of Sedition, the Prime Mover of mischief, Mírzá Muḥammad ‘Alí, hath passed out from under the shadow of the Cause, hath broken the Covenant, hath falsified the Holy Text, hath inflicted a grievous loss upon the true Faith of God, hath scattered His people, hath with bitter rancor endeavored to hurt ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and hath assailed with the utmost enmity this servant of the Sacred Threshold. Every dart he seized and hurled to pierce the breast of this wronged servant, no wound did he neglect to grievously inflict upon me, no venom did he spare but he poisoned therewith the life of this hapless one.
And finally, he who, from the moment the Divine Covenant was born until the end of his life, showed a hatred more unrelenting than that which animated the afore-mentioned adversaries of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who plotted more energetically than any one of them against Him, and afflicted his Father’s Faith with a shame more grievous than any which its external enemies had inflicted upon it—such a man, together with the infamous crew of Covenant-breakers whom he had misled and instigated, was condemned to witness, in a growing measure, as had been the case with Mírzá Yaḥyá and his henchmen, the frustration of his evil designs, the evaporation of all his hopes, the exposition of his true motives and the complete extinction of his erstwhile honor and glory. His brother, Mírzá Ḍíya’u’lláh, died prematurely; Mírzá Áqá Ján, his dupe, followed that same brother, three years later, to the grave; and Mírzá Badí’u’lláh, his chief accomplice, betrayed his cause, published a signed denunciation of his evil acts, but rejoined him again, only to be alienated from him in consequence of the scandalous behavior of his own daughter. Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s half-sister, Furúghíyyih, died of cancer, whilst her husband, Siyyid ‘Alí, passed away from a heart attack before his sons could reach him, the eldest being subsequently stricken in the prime of life, by the same malady.
Quite simply, if Baha’u’llah’s own descendants could not follow his commandments properly, how could anyone expect the rest of the world to do so?
Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Bahá in the Crimson Book. Grasp ye, in My Name, the chalice of My loving-kindness, drink then your fill in My glorious and wondrous remembrance.
O ye that dwell on earth! The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension. In the eyes of men of insight and the beholders of the Most Sublime Vision, whatsoever are the effective means for safeguarding and promoting the happiness and welfare of the children of men have already been revealed by the Pen of Glory. But the foolish ones of the earth, being nurtured in evil passions and desires, have remained heedless of the consummate wisdom of Him Who is, in truth, the All-Wise, while their words and deeds are prompted by idle fancies and vain imaginings.
Again, if we believe Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, many of Baha’u’llah’s own descendants were among “the foolish ones of the earth, being nurtured in evil passions and desires, have remained heedless of the consummate wisdom of Him Who is, in truth, the All-Wise, while their words and deeds are prompted by idle fancies and vain imaginings.” What an incredible case of Earth’s core irony!
O ye the loved ones and the trustees of God! Kings are the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God. Pray ye on their behalf. He hath invested them with the rulership of the earth and hath singled out the hearts of men as His Own domain.
Baha’u’llah’s favoring monarchies may have been acceptable in the late 19th Century when most of Europe and most other parts of the world were indeed ruled directly or indirectly by kings and emperors. But in the early 21st Century, long after the dismantling of most of the European colonial empires of the world, his position is laughable.
Conflict and contention are categorically forbidden in His Book. This is a decree of God in this Most Great Revelation. It is divinely preserved from annulment and is invested by Him with the splendor of His confirmation. Verily He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
Repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating, and repeating what he said before…..again, in different words.
It is incumbent upon everyone to aid those daysprings of authority and sources of command who are adorned with the ornament of equity and justice. Blessed are the rulers and the learned among the people of Bahá. They are My trustees among My servants and the manifestations of My commandments amidst My people. Upon them rest My glory, My blessings and My grace which have pervaded the world of being. In this connection the utterances revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are such that from the horizon of their words the light of divine grace shineth luminous and resplendent.
Sigh…..why do I even bother?
O ye My Branches! A mighty force, a consummate power lieth concealed in the world of being. Fix your gaze upon it and upon its unifying influence, and not upon the differences which appear from it.
The term Branches is used here to mean the sons and male descendants of Baha’u’llah. His daughters and female descendants were called Leaves.
The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsán, the Afnán and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: “When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.” The object of this sacred verse is none except the Most Mighty Branch [‘Abdu’l‑Bahá]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Bountiful. Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muḥammad ‘Alí] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [‘Abdu’l‑Bahá]. He is in truth the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen “the Greater” after “the Most Great,” as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.
FINALLY, we get to the necessary point of this will and testament, which is the naming of Baha’u’llah’s successor as the leader of the Baha’i community. First, I will explain a couple of terms.
Aghsán: Male descendants of Baha’u’llah
Afnán: Relatives of the Bab (the Bab himself had no surviving children, but many of his relatives became Babis and some of those went on to become Baha’is as well). Shoghi Effendi himself was both an Aghsan (he was a descendant of Baha’u’llah thru his mother) and an Afnan (he was related to the Bab thru his father).
Baha’u’llah here makes explicit what he merely implied in the Kitab-i-Aqdas: that one of his sons will be leader after him. This leader would be Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest living son of Baha’u’llah. But look what else he did: he named his second surviving son as Abdu’l-Baha’s lieutenant (“beneath that of the Most Great Branch”, much like the First Officer of a ship would be beneath his Captain but still have authority in his own right) and also that he would eventually be Abdu’l-Baha’s successor. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Both Baha’u’llah and GOD HIMSELF called for this.
The reason I make a big deal out of this is because of what a pathological liar on Amazon told me when I pointed out this truth:
Everything that the Manifestation of God says about an individual is provisional; it stays in effect only so long as that individual’s future conduct retains the qualities which prompted Him to so characterize that person.
That is NOT what Baha’u’llah taught at all! If this was so, then he would have made that point explicit in his writings and he NEVER did, not even in the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd itself!
Rather, by naming Mirza Muḥammad ‘Alí as Abdu’l-Baha’s successor instead of only mentioning Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah showed that he wanted his two eldest sons to work together and was putting his own credibility as a Prophet to the test by doing so. If Baha’u’llah had been a genuine Prophet with the ability to foresee the future, he would have avoided mentioning Mirza Muḥammad ‘Alí at all. Either that, or Abdu’l-Baha violated the Covenant when he wrote his own Will and Testament naming Shoghi Effendi his successor instead. There is simply NO credible third option here.
It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsán, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others.
In other words, don’t use my religion to get yourselves rich, my descendants! An excellent point!
O ye My Aghsán, My Afnán and My Kindred! We exhort you to fear God, to perform praiseworthy deeds and to do that which is meet and seemly and serveth to exalt your station. Verily I say, fear of God is the greatest commander that can render the Cause of God victorious, and the hosts which best befit this commander have ever been and are an upright character and pure and goodly deeds.
Say: O servants! Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord. We fain would hope that the people of Bahá may be guided by the blessed words: “Say: all things are of God.” This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smoldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity. Verily He speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He is the All-Powerful, the Exalted, the Gracious.
It is incumbent upon everyone to show courtesy to, and have regard for the Aghsán, that thereby the Cause of God may be glorified and His Word exalted. This injunction hath time and again been mentioned and recorded in the Holy Writ. Well is it with him who is enabled to achieve that which the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days hath prescribed for him. Ye are bidden moreover to respect the members of the Holy Household, the Afnán and the kindred. We further admonish you to serve all nations and to strive for the betterment of the world.
That which is conducive to the regeneration of the world and the salvation of the peoples and kindreds of the earth hath been sent down from the heaven of the utterance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. Give ye a hearing ear to the counsels of the Pen of Glory. Better is this for you than all that is on the earth. Unto this beareth witness My glorious and wondrous Book.
And once again, Baha’u’llah’s writings are found to be filled with BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, and more BLAH!