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Justice, Unity, Consultation: The Power to Transform the World

Christopher Buck | Mar 11, 2021

PART 44 IN SERIES Transforming Time: Turning Godly Perfections Into Goodly Actions

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

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Christopher Buck | Mar 11, 2021

PART 44 IN SERIES Transforming Time: Turning Godly Perfections Into Goodly Actions

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

You can often tell an author’s favorite passages by what he or she quotes. The same holds true for me since I recently quoted the following very striking and powerful passage from Baha’u’llah in my new book. 

That book, “Baha’i Faith: The Basics,” begins on page 1 this way:

The Baha’i Faith is an independent world religion, which began in 19th-century Persia (present-day Iran) and is now established in virtually every country and territory around the world (except for North Korea and the Vatican City State). The Baha’i Faith therefore is a global community. Although relatively small in numbers, the rapid “diffusion” (or spread) is quite remarkable, given the relatively recent appearance of the Baha’i religion on the historical horizon. The purpose of the Baha’i Faith is to “unify the world.” This vision and mandate has inspired many to join the Baha’i religion, in which peace is made sacred, and powerful social principles are promoted and put into practice in order to build and/or strengthen those institutional foundations upon which world peace and prosperity may be based. 

RELATED: How Baha’is Believe We Can Achieve World Unity

Say: no man can attain his true station except through his justice,” wrote Baha’u’llah (1817–1892), prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith: “No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.” 

So let’s take a closer look at this remarkable quote from Baha’u’llah cited in the opening:

Say: no man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation. 

I became curious as to the source of this remarkable statement — concise, powerful, and inspiring. 

After some research, I found that the passage comes from a tablet of Baha’u’llah addressed to Mirza Ali-Muhammad-i-Khurasani, better known as Ibn-i-Aṣdaq (1850–1928), an eminent follower of Baha’u’llah, and identified by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, as the nineteenth of the nineteen apostles of Baha’u’llah. The date found at the end of the Tablet is 29 Jamádíyu’l-Avval 1299, which was 18 April 1882.

So this tablet has a precise date and therefore was written around ten years before Baha’u’llah’s passing in 1892. The structure of the tablet is primarily in the language of Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha’u’llah’s amanuensis (or secretary), who presented the letters of Ibn-i-Asdaq to Baha’u’llah. Not only did he write in response, but he also quoted the direct response by Baha’u’llah. This is a typical pattern in many tablets of the time, as the Baha’i World Centre explains in its introduction to the book “Tablets of Baha’u’llah”:

Out of respect, the Baha’is, rather than addressing Baha’u’llah directly, would write to His amanuensis, Mírza Aqa Jan, surnamed “Servant of God” and “Servant-in-Attendance.” The reply would be in the form of a letter from Mirza Aqa Jan quoting words of Baha’u’llah, but would, in fact, be dictated in its entirety by Baha’u’llah. Thus all parts of the Tablet, even those which ostensibly are the words of Mirza Aqa Jan himself, are Sacred Scripture revealed by Baha’u’llah.

The central message in the tablet is Baha’u’llah’s exhortation and imperative to teach the Baha’i Faith to others throughout Persia and beyond. 

A literal (provisional) translation by a native Arabic speaker, Taleen Jameel, is as follows: “Say: No humanity without justice. No power without unity. No welfare and no well-being without consultation.”

RELATED: What is Baha’i Consultation?

Here, the primary emphasis of the Arabic word for “justice” (al-inṣáf) is actually “fairness.” This primarily refers to the actions by individuals that are “just” in the sense of equitable. Other dimensions of justice — such as punishment and deterrence — come through the province and responsibility of institutions of justice, not of individuals.

As to the relationship between “power” and “unity,” the power being referred to here apparently is the power to influence and further advance social progress through collective initiatives and endeavors. This is not power to control, but rather power to effect individual and social change. To do so requires concerted efforts — hence the prerequisite and imperative of “unity.”

That’s where consultation comes into play. Consultation, as understood by Baha’is, is essentially a process of decision-making involving consensus and unanimity, or if not, then by majority decision. This group dynamic, in which individuals participate and contribute, is reflected in many Baha’i teachings, principles and precepts regarding the art of consultation. Baha’is practice consultation institutionally in local, regional, national, and international Baha’i councils, as well as informally, throughout the Baha’i world.

In the remarkable passage cited above, being human means being humane. Baha’u’llah defines justice — and its individual expression of fairness and equity — as a quintessential requirement of true humanity. 

RELATED: Are We Born With a Desire for Justice?

No significant social progress, according to Baha’u’llah, can be achieved except through the power of unity, guided by the wisdom generated by consultation. In other writings included in “Tablets of Baha’u’llah”, he summarized these powerful themes:

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.

Such exhortations to union and concord as are inscribed in the Books of the Prophets by the Pen of the Most High bear reference unto specific matters; not a union that would lead to disunity or a concord which would create discord. This is the station where measures are set unto everything, a station where every deserving soul shall be given his due.

Here he addressed the imperative of human unity:

The Great Being saith: O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity. This is the straight Path, the fixed and immovable foundation. Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure. Our hope is that the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely afflicted world the remedy it requireth.

Here he ordained consultation as a great benefit for everyone and for the world:

The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.

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