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One of the pillars of the Baha’i Faith is the equality of men and women. As Abdu’l-Baha explained:
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by J. E. Esselmont in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 149.
In a striking affirmation of this principle, in his mystical Tablet of the Holy Mariner Baha’u’llah recounts how a feminine celestial being—not a masculine one—becomes a symbolic judge of holiness.
This process starts when a maid of heaven, perhaps in a position of authority, powerfully summons another handmaiden:
Whereupon the maid of heaven looked out from her exalted chamber,
And with her brow signed to the Celestial Concourse,
Flooding with the light of her countenance the heaven and the earth,
And as the radiance of her beauty shone upon the people of dust,
All beings were shaken in their mortal graves.
She then raised the call which no ear through all eternity hath ever heard,
And thus proclaimed: “By the Lord! He whose heart hath not the fragrance of the love of the exalted and glorious Arabian Youth,
“Can in no wise ascend unto the glory of the highest heaven.” – Baha’u’llah, The Tablet of the Holy Mariner, Baha’i Prayers, p. 323.
This divine emissary receives a special mission to discover true holiness among the believers:
And [the first handmaiden] commanded her:
“Descend into space from the mansions of eternity,
“And turn thou unto that which they have concealed in the inmost of their hearts.
“Shouldst thou inhale the perfume of the robe from the Youth that hath been hidden within the tabernacle of light by reason of that which the hands of the wicked have wrought,
“Raise a cry within thyself, that all the inmates of the chambers of Paradise, that are the embodiments of the eternal wealth, may understand and hearken;
“That they may all come down from their everlasting chambers and tremble,
“And kiss their hands and feet for having soared to the heights of faithfulness;
“Perchance they may find from their robes the fragrance of the Beloved One.” – Ibid., p. 323-324.
This maiden then embarks on her mission:
Thereupon the countenance of the favored damsel beamed above the celestial chambers even as the light that shineth from the face of the Youth above His mortal temple;
She then descended with such an adorning as to illumine the heavens and all that is therein.
She bestirred herself and perfumed all things in the lands of holiness and grandeur.
When she reached that place she rose to her full height in the midmost heart of creation,
And sought to inhale their fragrance at a time that knoweth neither beginning nor end.
She then witnesses the faithlessness of some of the believers and the oppression Baha’u’llah (the Youth) faces, informs the divine concourse, and perishes from heartbreak:
She found not in them that which she did desire, and this, verily, is but one of His wondrous tales.
She then cried aloud, wailed and repaired to her own station within her most lofty mansion,
And then gave utterance to one mystic word, whispered privily by her honeyed tongue,
And raised the call amidst the Celestial Concourse and the immortal maids of heaven:
“By the Lord! I found not from these idle claimants the breeze of Faithfulness!
“By the Lord! The Youth hath remained lone and forlorn in the land of exile in the hands of the ungodly.”
She then uttered within herself such a cry that the Celestial Concourse did shriek and tremble,
And she fell upon the dust and gave up the spirit. It seemeth she was called and hearkened unto Him that summoned her unto the Realm on High … – Ibid., p. 324-326.
To underscore the power and perception of such femininity, Baha’u’llah mentions numerous damsels and handmaidens within the celestial concourse who mourn this tragedy:
Thereupon the maids of heaven hastened forth from their chambers, upon whose countenances the eye of no dweller in the highest paradise had ever gazed.
They all gathered around her, and lo! they found her body fallen upon the dust; And as they beheld her state and comprehended a word of the tale told by the Youth, they bared their heads, rent their garments asunder, beat upon their faces, forgot their joy, shed tears and smote with their hands upon their cheeks, and this is verily one of the mysterious grievous afflictions … – Ibid., p. 326-327.
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