His books contain mystical prose and poetry, illuminating commentaries and interpretations, impassioned discourses, soul-stirring prayers and meditations, ordinances, laws and injunctions for achieving unity and peace, addresses to governmental and religious rulers and to intellectual, scientific, literary, commercial, political and humanitarian leaders throughout the world. Ultimately, the Baha’i Writings present the architecture and charter of a future global civilization.
This has never happened before.
No Founder of a World Faith has ever generated such a prolific, prodigious and powerful body of written revelation.
Because of the unprecedented volume of Baha’u’llah’s work, studying and understanding the Baha’i writings presents an enormous challenge. Scholars spend their entire lifetimes attempting to comprehend a single one of Baha’u’llah’s books. Prestigious university libraries – Stanford and UCLA among them – have begun to acquire, compile, catalog and curate large Baha’i collections devoted to the study of Baha’u’llah’s teachings. And institutions of higher learning in many different nations around the world continue to establish Baha’i Studies programs, to encourage future generations in their exploration of the vast sea of Baha’u’llah’s great gift to humanity.
So for those interested in exploring Baha’u’llah’s abundant Faith, where does a seeker start? Did Baha’u’llah write a brief, inspirational introductory book?
Baha’u’llah’s book The Hidden Words speaks directly to us about how to live a spiritual life. A treasury of divine mysteries, The Hidden Words came directly from Baha’u’llah as he walked the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad in 1858. Historians have said that “The chief aim of Baha’u’llah in The Hidden Words is to detach man from this mortal world and to protect his soul from its greatest enemy, himself” and “The Hidden Words show in their crystal clarity the very structure of faith and religion.” Another called The Hidden Words “… a mighty charter for the salvation of the human soul”.
Short, deceptively simple and filled with eternal, timeless wisdom, The Hidden Words spans only 52 pages. Made up of inspiring and mystical metaphors, allusions and aphorisms, and written originally in both Persian and Arabic, Baha’u’llah opens The Hidden Words with a lyrical description of its purpose:
This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof, and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of the spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue. – The Hidden Words, p. 3.
Why are the words hidden? The mysterious title refers to a Muslim mythical tradition:
Fatimih was the daughter of Muhammad, the holiest and the most outstanding woman of the Islamic Dispensation. At a young age she was married to Ali, the successor to Muhammad, and bore him several children, two of whom, Hasan and Husayn, succeeded their father to become the second and third Imams, respectively, of the Shí’ah sect of Islam. Fatimih was a true and faithful believer and was much devoted to her Father. His death plunged her into a state of bitter anguish and grief.
According to the traditions of Shí’ah Islam, the Holy Spirit personified as the Angel Gabriel descended upon her and addressed certain words to her. These were dictated to Ali, her husband, and were revealed to bring consolation to her soul in her bereavement. – Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 70.
Another historian and commentator, Marzieh Gail, defines her view of the historical origin of Baha’u’llah’s mystical work:
The Hidden Words is the Hidden Book of Fatimih — the words which Gabriel brought to mitigate her anguish: for she had seen her Father’s death, and, forty days after the Prophet had ascended, the schism in Islam beginning before her eyes. Those unknown words addressed to Fatimih were believed by Shí’ah Islam to be in the possession of the Promised One Who would come from the line of her descendants; and they were called “Hidden” because all down the centuries their content was unknown. – Six Lessons on Islam, p. 29.
This new BahaiTeachings series will explore The Hidden Words in depth, one by one, attempting to understand the book’s inner meanings and explain some of its mystical truths. No individual writer can begin to grasp all the aims and implications of this profound book and do them justice, but hopefully we can investigate together and unearth a few of the priceless treasures Baha’u’llah gave us in The Hidden Words.
Download the free The Hidden Words eBook.