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Even in exile in Baghdad, his nascent Faith not yet publicly proclaimed, Baha’u’llah knew the harmful, even murderous intentions of certain government officials and religious clergy.
But Baha’u’llah remained serene despite the looming threats, and during that time he began to reveal some of the earliest and most important Baha’i works – mystical books like The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, and The Four Valleys.
This fact alone would later distinguish the Baha’i Faith as a unique phenomenon in the world – a new global religion based on the original writings of its Founder. In previous revelations, holy scripture had always been written down by others, by disciples and followers of the new prophet, but in the Baha’i Faith, the prophet and founder himself – Baha’u’llah – directly penned and dictated his revelation. As a result, anyone can read Baha’u’llah’s profound, beautiful writings today, and be inspired by them.
An accomplished poet and calligrapher already, in the late 1850’s Baha’u’llah composed The Hidden Words, a powerful book composed of short aphorisms presented as if from the voice of God Himself speaking to the human heart and mind. Composed mainly while Baha’u’llah walked along the banks of the Tigris River, this work speaks to us about the love of God as humanity’s creative force:
O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.
O Son of Spirit! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou was created.
O Son of Man! Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty.
O Son of Being! Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants.
The mystical treatises and books Baha’u’llah wrote during this period, and the talks he gave to the increasingly larger and larger crowds of people who thronged to hear him, began to bring about a spiritual renewal among the Babis. He taught them to avoid divisive politics, to obey just governments, be trustworthy and honest, to love their fellow human beings and be charitable, and to surrender their wills to the Will of God.
The writings of Baha’u’llah had a great impact on the spirituality of the Babis, and also began to spread his teachings to others. In the early 1860’s, Baha’u’llah wrote The Book of Certitude, which upholds the unity of God and His messengers. This book, often thought of as Baha’u’llah’s most important early work, portrays the great religions as a single, progressive revelation from the same God; part of one continual process of spiritual guidance destined to lead humanity toward maturation.
The Book of Certitude explores and highlights the connections between the religions in Abraham’s tradition – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Dictated over the course of two days, this remarkable work models a unique foundation for the establishment of unity between all religions, including all of the Faiths that trace their heritage back to Abraham. Arabs and Jews descended from Abraham through his sons Ishmael and Isaac, respectively. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all claim Abraham as their forefather.
In The Book of Certitude, Baha’u’llah created a new vision of these founders of the world’s largest religions, whose followers today often see them as competing prophets. Wars have been fought for centuries in attempts to prove the superiority of one Faith over another. But Baha’u’llah did not see them as competitors. He saw them all as divine educators in the same school of religion.
Baha’u’llah taught that the prophets of God bring the same basic ethical and spiritual teachings in every age. Their specific prescriptions for living, the social laws of their Faiths, vary from age to age, however — because the needs of each time are different. In the words of Baha’u’llah, God sends all of these successive Prophets:
… down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they therefore are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness.
He explained that the same God sent them to different peoples at different times to help them progress both spiritually and materially – and that all peoples and cultures had been the recipients of these holy messages over time.
This central Baha’i teaching, known as progressive revelation, links all the founders of the world’s great Faiths in one chain of being, one single system of belief.