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What if the Creator sent humanity a series of divine physicians to heal our collective ills and minister to the needs of an ailing world? Baha’is believe those physicians are the founders of the world’s Faiths.
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Alluding to that progressive sequence of divine physicians in his writings, Baha’u’llah described the concept of qadar (“degree” or “portion” or “fate” in Arabic) in demonstrating how God’s love for us is portioned out gradually over time according to our capacity in a given stage of our development.
He states this axiom throughout his writings, perhaps most memorably in his comparison of the messenger or manifestation of God to a divine physician:
The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.
Compared to the process of wise parental guidance and love, this analogy would translate into the wisdom with which parents must constantly change or upgrade their response to the needs and capacities of the growing child. Those rules and exhortations that might have been propitious expressions of love and protection a year or two ago, or even a few months ago, may need to be updated and altered as the child gains awareness, knowledge, skills, powers, and exposure to society.
Another feature of this concept of portioning out love and guidance according to the constantly changing condition of humankind is explained with the analogy of intensity. In a sublimely simple but wonderfully effective analogy, Baha’u’llah explained this concept of qadar with the cycle of a day:
Consider the sun. How feeble its rays the moment it appeareth above the horizon. How gradually its warmth and potency increase as it approacheth its zenith, enabling meanwhile all created things to adapt themselves to the growing intensity of its light. How steadily it declineth until it reacheth its setting point. Were it, all of a sudden, to manifest the energies latent within it, it would, no doubt, cause injury to all created things.
… In like manner, if the Sun of Truth [Manifestations] were suddenly to reveal, at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty hath bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste away and be consumed; for men’s hearts would neither sustain the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they would cease to exist.
The Gradual Nature of Human Development
A third and related expression of qadar as demonstrated in the method of gradualness by which human beings are best assisted in development, whether by parents or by the prophets, relates to the concept of “timeliness.” Here again, wisdom and discernment on the part of the educator is absolutely essential to produce enlightenment and advancement rather than injury and retardation in the education of humanity. As the Baha’i teachings point out, some important truth or insight about reality could prove detrimental to humanity if it is not revealed in accordance with the principle of qadar:
Were all the things that lie enshrined within the heart of Baha, and which the Lord, His God, the Lord of all names, hath taught Him, to be unveiled to mankind, every man on earth would be dumbfounded.
How great the multitude of truths which the garment of words can never contain! How vast the number of such verities as no expression can adequately describe, whose significance can never be unfolded, and to which not even the remotest allusions can be made! How manifold are the truths which must remain unuttered until the appointed time is come! Even as it hath been said: “Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.” Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed unto men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity.