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In his writings, Baha’u’llah proclaimed that the Baha’i principles – the oneness of humanity, the equality of the sexes, the establishment of a universal language, a lasting universal peace and the eradication of prejudice, among several others – would be fulfilled and fully realized in the future:
It is incumbent upon the Sovereigns of the world – may God assist them – unitedly to … arise to achieve what will be conducive to the well-being of man. … They must put away the weapons of war, and turn to the instruments of universal reconstruction.
Those Baha’i prophecies are both general and specific. So let’s start with Baha’u’llah’s general prophecies, before looking at a few of his specific prophecies and their fulfillment in the essays to follow.
First, we should try to understand how Baha’u’llah’s revelation developed over time. Before Baha’u’llah talked about the future — partly by way of giving prophecies — he first focused on proclaiming his mission as a divine messenger, what Baha’is refer to as a “manifestation of God.” The purpose of those prophets is primarily to proclaim and prophesy – to tell, and then to foretell.
Baha’u’llah’s proclamation of his mission to the world’s religious and political leaders (and, to a lesser extent, to statesman and scholars as well), set historic and momentous precedents. That proclamation took place in three successive stages, as Baha’u’llah himself states in this provisional translation from Nader Saiedi:
Behold and observe! This is the finger of might by which the heaven of vain imaginings was indeed cleft asunder. Incline thine ear and hear! This is the voice of My pen which was raised among mystics, then divines, and then kings and rulers.
According to Saiedi in his book Logos and Civilization, Baha’u’llah’s three stages of proclamation took place as follows: (1) first stage, 1852–1860; second stage, 1860–1867; and (3) third stage, 1867–1892. As I wrote in my book Baha’i Faith: The Basics, my own understanding of those stages differs slightly: “So, generally speaking, Baha’u’llah outwardly wrote as a mystic (1852–1863), prophet (1863–1867), and lawgiver (1867–1892).”
We find prophecies regarding the future state of humanity – both of general and specific events – primarily in the final third stage of Baha’u’llah’s proclamation. In his last major work, the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Baha’u’llah revealed some general prophecies that we can cite as examples:
O concourse of the fair-minded! Observe and reflect upon the billows of the ocean of the utterance and knowledge of God, so that ye may testify with your inner and outer tongues that with Him is the knowledge of all that is in the Book. Nothing escapeth His knowledge. He, verily, hath manifested that which was hidden … All that hath been sent down hath and will come to pass, word for word, upon earth.
Here, “All that hath been sent down hath and will come to pass, word for word, upon earth” apparently refers to not only to specific prophecies that “hath … come to pass,” but also to other prophecies, both specific and general, that “will come to pass” sometime in the future.
Now let’s consider the title of this essay, “Baha’u’llah’s Principles As Prophecies.” (Disclaimer: this idea has not yet been advanced until now, as far as I’m aware – which means that among Baha’is, it is not a generally accepted idea yet.) Here, I’d like to propose that the word, translated into English as “can,” also means “shall” or “will” eventually happen in the future. Let me offer a couple of examples, again from Epistle to the Son of the Wolf:
The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The One true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words.
Exert yourselves that ye may attain this transcendent and most sublime station, the station that can insure the protection and security of all mankind. This goal excelleth every other goal, and this aspiration is the monarch of all aspirations. So long, however, as the thick clouds of oppression, which obscure the daystar of justice, remain undispelled, it would be difficult for the glory of this station to be unveiled to men’s eyes. These thick clouds are the exponents of idle fancies and vain imaginings, who are none other but the divines of Persia. At one time We spoke in the language of the lawgiver; at another in that of the truth-seeker and the mystic, and yet Our supreme purpose and highest wish hath always been to disclose the glory and sublimity of this station. God, verily, is a sufficient witness! (italicized emphasis added)
By simply converting the word “can” to “shall,” this general principle is then transformed into a prophecy, which can be understood as follows: “So powerful is the light of unity that it can [shall, or will] illuminate the whole earth.”
Baha’u’llah’s principles become prophecies in the sense that the purpose of those principles involves transforming the world into an ideal society. Such social mandates have predictive qualities insofar as their fulfillment is predestined because they are necessary. A perfect example of a Baha’i principle doubling as a general prophecy is the equality of women and men. On May 7, 1912, Abdu’l-Baha, in a speech given at the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, proclaimed this principle, culminating in a prophecy:
The sixth principle or teaching of Baha’u’llah concerns the equality of man and woman. He has declared that in the estimation of God there is no distinction of sex. … Why should man, who is endowed with the sense of justice and sensibilities of conscience, be willing that one of the members of the human family should be rated and considered as subordinate? Such differentiation is neither intelligent nor conscientious; therefore, the principle of religion has been revealed by Bahá’u’lláh that woman must be given the privilege of equal education with man and full right to his prerogatives. That is to say, there must be no difference in the education of male and female in order that womankind may develop equal capacity and importance with man in the social and economic equation. Then the world will attain unity and harmony.
So world unity constitutes one prophecy forthcoming from Baha’u’llah’s principle of the equality of women and men. Yet another Baha’i prophecy, also from Abdu’l-Baha’s Pittsburgh speech, connects with this equality principle as well:
In past ages humanity has been defective and inefficient because it has been incomplete. War and its ravages have blighted the world; the education of woman will be a mighty step toward its abolition and ending, for she will use her whole influence against war. Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity. She will refuse to give her sons for sacrifice upon the field of battle. In truth, she will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration. Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind. Inasmuch as human society consists of two parts, the male and female, each the complement of the other, the happiness and stability of humanity cannot be assured unless both are perfected. Therefore, the standard and status of man and woman must become equalized. (italicized emphasis added)
So there you have it! Baha’u’llah’s principles are also prophecies. This is because Baha’u’llah’s principles are necessary and progressive, which means that their influence will ultimately assure their inevitable outcome. It’s just a matter of time — and effort.
In a future article in this “Figuring Out Prophecy” series, we will explore the principle of “hastening” the fulfillment of prophecies, which can only come to pass when the circumstances are ripe and right. That’s where you and I come in, when we consciously and conscientiously fulfill our destiny.