Now, the world of existence, indeed every created thing, proclaims but one of the names of God, but the reality of man is an all-encompassing and universal reality which is the seat of the revelation of all the divine perfections. That is, a sign of each one of the names, attributes, and perfections that we ascribe to God exists in man. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 226.
Strain every nerve to acquire both inner and outer perfections, for the fruit of the human tree hath ever been and will ever be perfections both within and without. It is not desirable that a man be left without knowledge or skills, for he is then but a barren tree. Then, so much as capacity and capability allow, ye needs must deck the tree of being with fruits such as knowledge, wisdom, spiritual perception and eloquent speech. – Baha’u’llah, A Compilation on Baha’i Education, p. 3.
Think about this: we describe God using human attributes. We “project” them onto God. Is this pure anthropomorphism—imagining God as human? No, not from a Baha’i perspective. Rather, this simply reveals our limitations. We can only know what we know based on human knowledge and experience.
Take the attribute of “speech,” for instance. Does God talk? Not that I know of! Do humans talk? Yes, obviously. Then what does it mean when we say that “speech” is an attribute of God? God “speaks” by way of revelation, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the disclosure or communication of knowledge, instructions, etc., by divine or supernatural means.” In the Baha’i teachings, several recurring expressions metaphorically convey the idea of God “speaking” by way of revelation, such as the “Call of God” and the “Voice of God.” Here’s one example, in a public proclamation by Baha’u’llah to the kings and rulers of the earth:
O kings of the earth! Give ear unto the Voice of God, calling from this sublime, this fruit-laden Tree, that hath sprung out of the Crimson Hill, upon the holy Plain, intoning the words: “There is none other God but He, the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise.” This is a Spot which hath been sanctified by God for those who approach it, a Spot wherein His Voice may be heard from the celestial Tree of Holiness. Fear God, O concourse of kings, and suffer not yourselves to be deprived of this most sublime grace. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 185.
Speech (Qawl, in Persian) is the name of the fourteenth Baha’i month in the 19-month Baha’i Calendar. The month of Speech lasts from late November to mid-December each year.
In the Baha’i teachings, several major themes resonate with the idea of “speech.” Among these are: speaking truthfully, tactfully, and in a timely way; matching speech with actions; infusing speech with a spiritual character; guarding one’s speech; speaking wisely and to the level of the listener; speaking kindly (read Kind Words Mean More); teaching children eloquent speech; attracting the hearts and souls of men through speech; being careful not to belittle others in one’s speech; showing respect to others in one’s speech; adopting an international auxiliary language (to be taught alongside the native language in every country) to enhance understanding; and promoting the equality of women, whose “voice” will be equal to that of men in all arenas of human endeavor and influence.
Let’s focus on the eloquence. Caution: Don’t confound “eloquence” with “grandiloquence” (called “purple prose” to characterize an overwrought writing style). Baha’u’llah encourages eloquence, modulated by tact and wisdom:
O ye loved ones of God! Drink your fill from the wellspring of wisdom, and soar ye in the atmosphere of wisdom, and speak forth with wisdom and eloquence. Thus biddeth you your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Knowing. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 99.
Similarly, Abdul-Baha advises and exhorts all Baha’is to arise for the betterment of the world and, as agents of change in social transformation, to become effective promoters of the universal principles of the Baha’i revelation:
O ye spiritual friends of Abdul-Baha! … Now is the time of firmness and resolution and the moment of steadfastness and constancy and the period of showing forth divine power by the strength of proof, the solidity of argument, the eloquence of utterance and the grandeur of spirit! – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, pp. 634–635.
“Speech” not only encompasses the spoken word, but also the written word. For those of you who write, here’s a Baha’i prayer for writers:
Say: Praise be to Thee, O Lord my God, for Thou hast guided me to the horizon of Thy Revelation and hast honoured me to be remembered though Thy Name. I beseech Thee by the effulgences of the sun of Thy bestowal and by the billows of the sea of Thy mercy to grant that my utterance may be inspired by Thine exalted Words, so as to attract the realities of all created things. Thou art verily powerful, through Thy glorious and wondrous Words, over what Thou willest. – Baha’u’llah, authorized translation, December 31, 1995.
What else can I say about the power of speech, after reading so moving an exhortation? It practically renders me speechless. But that is momentary. Because the intent of the above passage is to inspire and empower people in all walks of life to make this world a better place. That’s what Baha’i teachings do.
Eloquence of speech and writing is simply a tool, whereby the “Speech” or “Voice of God” may be eloquently expressed in human discourse, whereby godly speech may be translated into goodly actions.