In this series of nine essays on Abdu’l-Baha’s seminal 1913 Paris speech, hopefully you’ve gotten a sense of why the Baha’i revelation not only renews but revolutionizes religion.
When that American clergyman introduced Abdu’l-Baha a hundred years ago, and said “Baha’u’llah revises the old beliefs, but he has brought us nothing new,” Abdu’l-Baha’s resulting address to his large congregation challenged that presumption and delineated the distinct differences between the Baha’i teachings and the religions of old.
When he summarized his points and concluded his address, Abdu’l-Baha said this to the congregation:
The purpose of these new laws is to destroy antagonism by finding a point of agreement. We cannot induce men to lay down their arms by fighting with them. If two individuals dispute about religion both are wrong. The Protestants and Catholics, the Mohammedans and Christians war over religion. The Nestorians claim that Christ was merely a slave, a man like the rest, but God put his spirit upon him. The Catholics say that he was one of the persons of the trinity. Both are wrong.
These precepts were proclaimed by Baha’u’llah many years ago. He was the first to create them in the hearts as moral laws. Alone and unaided he spread them. Writing to the sovereigns of the world he summoned that the hour for unity had struck — unity between countries, unity between religions.
In this period of its evolution the world of humanity is in danger. Every war is against the good pleasure of the Lord of mankind, for man is the edifice of God and war destroys the divine edifice. If an active, actual peace is brought about, the human world will attain to the utmost serenity and composure; wolves will be transformed into lambs, devils into angels, and terrors into divine splendors in less than the twinkling of an eye.
Baha’u’llah is the divine physician who diagnoses the world’s malady; for the whole planet is ill and needs the power of a great specialist.
Baha’u’llah’s teachings are the health of the world. They represent the spirit of this age, the light of this age, the well-being of this age, the soul of this cycle. The world will be at rest when they are put into practice, for they are reality.
Praise be to God, the doors of divine knowledge are flung wide, the infinite light is shining, and to such as believe and obey the divine mysteries are revealed. – Divine Philosophy, pp. 84-86.
Baha’is view these novel, unprecedented new teachings as humanity’s route to a peaceful, prosperous and unified world. Let’s recap and look again at what Baha’u’llah asks each of us, and all of humanity, to do:
- Seek independently for truth;
- Banish religious, patriotic and racial prejudice;
- Religion must bring joy;
- True religion agrees with science;
- The absolute equality of the sexes;
- Universal compulsory education;
- Everyone must work, and work in the spirit of service is worship;
- The elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty;
- A spiritual solution to the world’s economic problems and injustices;
- A universal auxiliary language;
- The creation of a world government;
- Universal peace.
In that 1913 speech, Abdu’l-Baha outlined and summarized the world’s newest and most innovative set of religious teachings, completely demolishing the mistaken idea that the Baha’i teachings offer nothing new. In fact, these teachings, so revolutionary that they still engender persecution of the Baha’is in some fundamentalist countries like Iran, have placed the Baha’i Faith in the forefront of progressive belief systems.