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How to Solve the World’s Problems: The Word or the Sword?

David Langness | Apr 29, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Apr 29, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

The religions of the past, for the most part, did not recommend but did allow the use of the sword to solve the world’s problems — but the Baha’i Faith forbids the sword, asking humanity to use only words.

Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

In the nights and in the days the shriek of the Pen ariseth and the Tongue speaketh, that against the sword the Word may arise, and against fierceness patience, and in place of oppression submission, and at the time of martyrdom resignation.

… Strife and contest were and are seemly in the beasts of prey of the earth, [but] laudable actions are seemly in man.

Of course, from a Baha’i perspective, the sword and the word symbolize and stand for much larger concepts.

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The “sword” means all deadly weapons, everything that brings harm to humanity. It can even mean, in a Baha’i context, the verbal weapons of insults, slander, or backbiting, as Baha’u’llah wrote: “A harsh word is even as a sword thrust; a gentle word as milk. The latter leadeth the children of men unto knowledge and conferreth upon them true distinction.

The “word” means the healing words of peace and compassion and the actions that go with them, which originate in the teachings of the world’s great Faiths. Those Faiths are all based on the Word of God, the counsels of the holy messengers — including Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Muhammad, and most recently Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith. The “word” can also allude to human words — negotiation, consultation, and rational discourse, as Baha’u’llah wrote:

Indeed through the power of good words, the righteous have always succeeded in winning command over the meads of the hearts of men. Say, O ye loved ones! Do not forsake prudence. Incline your hearts to the counsels given by the Most Exalted Pen and beware lest your hands or tongues cause harm unto anyone among mankind.

This Baha’i command — “that against the sword the Word may arise” — comes directly from the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, not just the body of its believers. Because of those original, organic origins, the principles of peace, consultation, and de-militarization constitute the bedrock teachings of the Baha’i revelation, as Baha’u’llah wrote:

Beware lest ye shed the blood of anyone. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men’s hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other. God’s mercy, hath, verily, encompassed all created things, if ye do but understand. Aid ye your Lord, the God of Mercy, with the sword of understanding. Keener indeed is it, and more finely tempered, than the sword of utterance, were ye but to reflect upon the words of your Lord. Thus have the hosts of Divine Revelation been sent down by God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, and thus have the armies of divine inspiration been made manifest from the Source of command, as bidden by God, the All-Glorious, the Best-Beloved.

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These new principles, beautifully illustrated by this story, which took place in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1911, pervade the Baha’i teachings and encourage every Baha’i to use words rather than swords to pursue peace:

While Abdu’l-Baha was one day looking out of his hotel window, he observed a regiment of soldiers passing by in great array, and he said:

They are ready to fight for their fatherland. How barbarous it seems to send men, who do not even know each other, to the battlefield in order to shoot each other down.

The Baha’i Grand Army consists of the invisible angels of the Supreme Concourse. Our swords are the Words of Light. Our armament is the armament of heaven. We are fighting against the forces of darkness.

O, my soldiers! My beloved soldiers! Forward! Forward! Have no fear of defeat-do not have failing hearts. Our Supreme Commander is Baha’u’llah. From the heights of Glory He is directing this dramatic engagement. He commands us! Rush forward! Rush forward! Show the strength of your arms. Ye shall scatter the forces of ignorance!

Your war confers Life; their war brings death. Your war is the cause of the illumination of all mankind; their war means the breaking and darkness of hearts. Your war means victory upon victory; their war is defeat upon defeat. Your war is the means of construction; their war is the origin of destruction.

That spiritual concept — waging a weapons-free war of construction rather than destruction, of peace rather than armed conflict — energizes Baha’is everywhere.

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Comments

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  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Apr 30, 2024
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    How do we get the US president and his cronies to listen to these words. They seem hellbent on wars and more wars and it is so distressing to see. We also have Governments saying freedom of speech is a dangerous thing ?
  • Zachary L. Zavid
    Apr 30, 2024
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    I love the inversion of the concept of Holy War; a War to build peace, love & understanding..
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