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Abdu'l-Bahá'í "Treatise on Leadership": Translation

Mirrored from See also the original text (offsite) and the translator's commentary.

`Abdu'l-Bahá'í "Treatise on Leadership"
(Risalih-'i Siyasiyyih):
Trans. Juan R. I. Cole
He is God.

Praise and benediction are owed to the pure Lord, who

made the appearance of the sacred perfections of the

human realm the foundation for his creation. Thus

might the invisible Essence become visible in the court

of perception by means of modalities, effects, laws,

deeds, essences and mysteries. And thus might the

lights of the reality of the saying, “I was a hidden

treasure and loved to be known” become apparent from

the dawning-place of the morn of vision.

Praise and glorification are also due to the complete

individual reality of the great one, who is the sun

of the reality of the divine world, the most great

luminary of the human realm, the center of the divine

self-disclosure, and the dawning-place of the attributes

of the one true Lord. By means of his appearance,

the secret of “thus I created the creation, so that

I might be known” became a reality. “And thou beholdest

the earth blackened, then, when We send down water

upon it, it quivers, and swells, and puts forth herbs

of every joyous kind.”(1)

In these days and times, events contrary to all religious

laws and destructive of both human society and of the

divine foundation have occurred as a result of the

actions of some ignorant, unwise insurgents and fomenters

of turmoil. They made the perspicuous divine religion

a pretext, and by their sedition and clamor they

have brought shame upon the people of Iran before the

nations of the world, whether they be friends or strangers.

Praise be to God! They claim to be shepherds, but

they bear the characteristics of wolves. They read

the Qur’an, but they desire to behave like rapacious

beasts. They have a human form, but they approve of

bestial conduct. “When it is said to them, ‘Do not

corruption in the land,’ they say, ‘We are only ones

that put things right.’ Truly, they are the workers

of corruption but they are not aware.”(2) It has therefore

become imperative that a brief discourse be delivered

concerning the foundation stone of the divine religion,

and to alert the friends to be wise and awake.

It is clear and apparent that in the fabric and nature

of all beings, a faculty and a potentiality exist for

the manifestation of two sorts of perfections. One

is inborn perfections, which are unmediated and are

purely the creation of God. The other sort is acquired

perfections, which are under the shadow of the training

provided by a true educator. Contemplate the external essences. For a

natural freshness and delicacy exist in trees, flowers

and fruit, which are purely a divine bestowal.

The other is a verdure and sweetness that are added

to what has been described above, which become visible as a grace

bestowed by the gardener’s cultivation. For, if left

to itself, this plant-life would become bramble and

jungle. Neither rose nor blossom would open, and no

fruit would be given. It would be fit to be set afire

and cleared. But when it comes under the shadow of

the care and cultivation of a gardener, it becomes a garden

and a rose-bower, an orchard and

a flower bed. It brings forth blossoms and fruit, and

covers the earth with roses and fragrant herbs. Human

society is the same way. It, likewise, if left to

its own devices, will become like a horde of vermin,

and come under the rubric of beasts and predators.

It learns rapacity, sharpness of claw, and bloodthirstiness,

and is consumed in the flames of deprivation and tyranny.

The human race learns its lessons as children in the

school of the world, and falls ill and is enfeebled

because of chronic diseases. The sacred temples of

the prophets and holy ones are the tutors in the assembly

of the All-Merciful. They are the physicians in the

hospital of the Lord. They are harbingers of grace,

and are the sun in the ethereal sphere of guidance.

When the radiant flame of spiritual and physical perfection

that lies, in reality, beneath the glass of the human

lamp is laid low and extinguished, it is reignited

by the divine fire. Chronic diseases vanish by the

grace of the effulgence of the All-Merciful and the

Christ spirit. This glorious proof clearly establishes

that human society requires the education and nurturing

of a true educator, and that human souls need a master,

a disciplinarian, a restrainer, an encourager, a guide

and an attractor. For the garden of his creation can

never find embellishment, delicacy, grace and blessing

save by means of the cultivation carried out by the

gardener of loving-kindness, of the effulgences of

the One true God, and of the just leadership provided

by the government.

This figure who restrains and prohibits, who impels

and disciplines, this leader and guide, is of two sorts.

The first protector and restrainer is the faculty

of leadership that is related to the corporeal world,

and which bestows external happiness on the human realm.

It safeguards human life, property and honor, as well

as the glory and distinguished qualities of society.

This is a magnificent category. The center that builds

up or tears down these agencies of leadership, and

the pivot around which this divine gift circles, is

the just monarch, along with accomplished plenipotentiaries,

wise ministers, and intrepid military leaders.

The second sort of educator and master of the human

race is represented by the spiritual, holy authority,

heavenly, revealed books, divine prophets, celestial

souls, and the learned in the All-Merciful. For these

sites of revelation and dawning-places of inspiration

are educators of hearts and spirits, rectifiers of

morals, improvers of character, and encouragers of

the virtuous. That is, these holy beings are like

spiritual faculties that save human souls from the

disgrace of moral vices, the darkness of wicked characteristics,

and the filth of the worlds of being. They illumine

human realities with the light of the traits of the

plane of true humanity, with divine attributes and

with virtues and characteristics from the kingdom of

God. Thus might the radiant reality of the verses,

“So blessed be God, the fairest of creators,” (3)

and of “We indeed created man in the fairest stature”

(4) be realized in the sacred human essence. Thus,

by means of the glorious effulgences of these dawning-places

of the divine verses, the pure and subtle human realities

become a center for holy, divine attributes. The foundation

of these sacred functions stands upon spiritual and

godly affairs and conscious realities. They have no

relationship to corporeal concerns, affairs of political

leadership, or worldly matters. Rather, the holy faculties

of these good and pure souls are in reality the life,

consciousness, and identity of the obedient heart and

spirit, not of water and clay. The standards of the

signs of these pure realities are raised up in the

spiritual, life-giving heavens, not in the dusty earth.

There is no way for the affairs of the government

and the subjects, of ruler and ruled, to enter in here.

They are specially favored with the holy and divine

breezes and with spiritual and everlasting effulgences.

They do not interfere in any other sphere, nor do

they steer the steed of their resolve into the arena

of governmental leadership. For the affairs of leadership

and government, of kingdom and subjects, already have

a respected object of authority, an appointed source,

whereas a different holy center and distinct wellspring

exists with regard to guidance, religion, knowledge,

education, and the promulgation of good morals and

of the virtues of true humanity. These latter souls

have nothing to do with affairs of civil leadership,

nor do they seek to interfere in them. Thus, in this

most great cycle of the maturity and adulthood of the

world, this matter has been put into the text of the

divine Book as one might put lead into the structure

of a building. By virtue of this incontrovertible

text, and this brilliant proof, all must comply with

and submit to the commands of the government, and all

must follow and obey the throne of sovereignty. That

is, they must be sincere subjects and willing servants

in obeying and serving the monarchs. Thus is it written

in the Book of the Covenant and of faith and the last

will and testament of Baha’u’llah, whose decree is

decisive, whose dawn is luminous, and whose morn is

true and shining with the explicit text. The command

that is recorded is as follows:

“O ye the loved ones and the trustees of God! Kings

are the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings

of the might and riches, of God. Pray ye on their

behalf. He hath invested them with the rulership of

the earth, and hath singled out the hearts of men as

His Own domain. Conflict and contention are categorically

forbidden in His Book. This is a decree of God in

this Most Great Revelation. It is divinely preserved

from annulment and is invested by Him with the splendour

of His confirmation. Verily He is the All-Knowing,

the All-Wise. It is incumbent upon everyone to aid

those daysprings of authority and sources of command

who are adorned with the ornament of equity and justice.”(5)

Also, in a frank epistle that he wrote addressing one

of the Muslim clerics, he says in one blessed passage:

“It is now incumbent upon His Majesty the Shah—may God,

exalted be He, protect him—to deal with this people

with loving-kindness and mercy. This Wronged One pledgeth

Himself, before the Divine Kaaba, that, apart from

truthfulness and trustworthiness, this people will

show forth nothing that can in any way conflict with

the world-adorning views of His Majesty. Every nation

must have a high regard for the position of its sovereign,

must be submissive unto him, must carry out his behests,

and hold fast his authority. The sovereigns of the

earth have been and are the manifestations of the power,

the grandeur and the majesty of God. This Wronged One

hath at no time dealt deceitfully with anyone. Every

one is well aware of this, and beareth witness unto

it. Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained,

as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets

of God and His chosen ones. He Who is the Spirit (Jesus)--may

peace be upon Him--was asked: "O Spirit of God!

Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" And

He made reply: "Yea, render to Caesar the things that

are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."

He forbade it not. These two sayings are, in the estimation

of men of insight, one and the same, for if that which

belonged to Caesar had not come from God, He would

have forbidden it. And likewise in the sacred verse:

"Obey God and obey the Apostle, and those among you

invested with authority." By "those invested with authority"

is meant primarily and more especially the Imáms----

the blessings of God rest upon them! They, verily,

are the manifestations of the power of God, and the

sources of His authority, and the repositories of His

knowledge, and the daysprings of His commandments.

Secondarily these words refer unto the kings and rulers--those

through the brightness of whose justice the horizons

of the world are resplendent and luminous. We fain

would hope that His Majesty the Sháh will shine forth

with a light of justice whose radiance will envelop

all the kindreds of the earth. It is incumbent upon

every one to beseech the one true God on his behalf

for that which is meet and seemly in this day.

O God, my God, and my Master, and my Mainstay, and my

Desire, and my Beloved! I ask Thee by the mysteries

which were hid in Thy knowledge, and by the signs which

have diffused the fragrance of Thy loving-kindness,

and by the billows of the ocean of Thy bounty, and

by the heaven of Thy grace and generosity, and by the

blood spilt in Thy path, and by the hearts consumed

in their love for Thee, to assist His Majesty the Sháh

with Thy power and Thy sovereignty, that from him may

be manifested that which will everlastingly endure in

Thy Books, and Thy Scriptures, and Thy Tablets. Hold

Thou his hand, O my Lord, with the hand of Thine omnipotence,

and illuminate him

with the light of Thy knowledge, and adorn him with

the adornment of Thy virtues. Potent art Thou to do

what pleaseth Thee, and in Thy grasp are the reins

of all created things. No God is there but Thee, the

Ever-Forgiving, the All-Bounteous.

In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.

For there is no power but of God; the powers that be

are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth

the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." And further:

"For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute

wrath upon him that doeth evil." He saith that the

appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power

are of God.

Moreover, in the traditions of old, references have

been made which the divines have seen and heard. We

beseech God--blessed and glorified be He--to aid thee,

O Shaykh, to lay fast hold on

that which hath been sent down from the heaven of the

bounty of God, the Lord of the worlds.(6)

Therefore, divine friends, endeavor with heart and soul,

and show forth with pure and true intentions the miracle

of wishing the government well and obeying the state.

This matter is more important than the obligations of

the manifest religion or the decisive texts of the

exalted Book. It is well known that the state naturally

desires the ease and repose of subjects, and seeks

the bounty and happiness of the people. It wants to

safeguard the just rights of dependents and the lowly,

and attempts by every means to curb the evil deeds

of transgressors. For the honor and prosperity of

the subjects depends upon the power, grandeur and might

of the glorious governmental authority and the triumphant

state, and the success and affluence of the populace

is the object of the gaze of the honored ruler. This

matter is self-evident. If there has been a lessening

in the repose of the people or a decrease in the well-being

of high and low, this was the fault of the incompetence

of subordinates, and of the tyranny and ignorance of

some malicious persons, who appear in the clothing

of learned clerics but are actually versed in the arts

of ignorance, and who instigate public turmoil in the

beginning and the end. “Turmoil was asleep; cursed

be the one who awakens it.”

For fifty years, in by-ways, from pulpits, and in councils

and gatherings in the presence of government officials,

this gaggle of imbeciles--that is, the clerical leaders--has

launched charges against this oppressed community of

fomenting discord. They accused them of opposition,

saying that this community wreaks destruction in the

world and corrupts the morals of human beings, that

they are instigators of sedition everywhere, are absolutely

pernicious, are the sign of rebellion and the standard

of insurgency, the foe of religion and state, and the

enemy of the very life of the subjects. It is an exigency

of divine justice that the reality of every community

become clear and apparent, so that in world councils

it might become obvious and evident who is the reformer

and who the worker of corruption, and which people

are the instigators of sedition and which the malefactors.

And God knows the worker of corruption from the reformer.

How good it would be if a touchstone could be found

that would cover the face of every dissembler with

soot. Now, divine friends, fall to giving thanks for

the evidences of divine grace, insofar as true justice

has torn away the veil from the deeds of every religious

group, and the hidden secrets of souls have become

apparent. Praise be to God, then thanks be to God!

The function of the religious leaders and the duties

of the clerical jurisprudents are to attend to spiritual

affairs and to promulgate divine attributes. Whenever

the leaders of the manifest religion and the pillars

of the mighty divine law have intervened in the world

of political leadership, put forward their rulings

and attempted to manage affairs, it has ever caused

the unity of the believers in the one true God to be

destroyed, and resulted in the dispersal of the faithful

into factions. The flames of turmoil flared up, and

the blaze of rebelliousness scorched the world. The

country was plundered and pillaged, and the people

became the prisoners and hostages of oppressors.

Toward the end of the dynasty of the Safavid kings [1501-1722],

may they rest in peace, the religious leaders sought

influence over the political affairs of Iran. Raising

their standard, they contrived and sought a way until

they opened the door to an ill-omened movement that

proved harmful and wrought enormous destruction. Iran

became pasturage for wandering Türkmen tribes and the

arena for Afghan raiding and conquest. The blessed

earth of Iran was subdued by neighboring peoples, and

the glorious clime fell into the hands of strangers.

The formerly triumphant state was effaced and the

brilliant dynasty was ended. Tyrants began their encroachments,

and the ill-intentioned set their sights on the property,

honor and life of others. Persons were killed, wealth

was pillaged, the grandees were targeted, and their

possessions were expropriated. Civilized Iran became

wilderness. The bejeweled crown of the glorious kings

became the seat of demons. The reins of government

fell into the hands of predators. The royal family

was made prisoner, enchained beneath the sword of the

bloodthirsty; their wives were taken captive, and their

children made hostages. This was the fruit of the

interference in political affairs of religious leaders

and of those accomplished in the unassailable revealed


On another occasion, at the beginning of the reign of

Aqa Muhammad Khan [Qajar, r. 1785-1797], the religious

leaders of the people once again interjected themselves

into political affairs, and thereby covered Iran’s

peoples with the dust of abasement. They put forward

their judgment with regard to the appointment of the

monarch, singing a siren song that confused the minds

of the people. They thus provoked turmoil and commotion,

and raised the standard of contention. The tempest

of rebellion arose, and the path of sedition and discord

became ascendant. Anarchy and chaos showed their faces,

and the wave of rebellion reached the apex of the heavens.

The tribal chieftains put forward claims to sovereignty

and planted the seeds of enmity in the country’s fields

They fell upon one another, and security and safety

vanished, and the covenant and testament were abrogated.

Neither life nor property remained, and public order

was no more. Finally, the decisive events at Kirman

took place, and pernicious trouble-makers were defeated.

A third such incident occurred during the reign of the

late [Fath-`Ali] Shah [r. 1797-1834]. The leaders

of religion hurled themselves into it with quaking

and howling, and raised the standard of misfortune.

They began a campaign for holy war against Russia,

faring upon the highways to the accompaniment of drumbeats

and tambourines, until they reached the border. When

they began the attack, throwing stones, they were met

with a fusillade of gunfire on the battlefield. Casting

aside considerations of shame and good name, they chose

to flee in disgrace.

The greatest object lesson lay in the sad events associated

with the late Sultan Abdülaziz [r. 1861-1876], the

wronged. At the end of his life the religious leaders

mounted a rebellion and raised aloft the banner of

enmity. In a frenzy, they launched a movement, seeking

an entrée into and participation in decision-making.

They instigated riots and contended with officials

of the state. They made the manifest religion and

the mighty revealed law a pretext and spoke of the

welfare of the nation, seeking to depose the cabinet

ministers. They undermined the structures of equity

and chivalry. They exiled persons of good will and

delighted the malicious. They caused the nation’s

true ones to be considered odious, and elevated traitors

to beloved figures among the people. When they succeeded

in achieving their purposes, they adopted a different

tactic. Now they demonstrated opposition to the throne

itself, and insolently raised their own hands against

the ruler and the government. They issued a religious

ruling deposing him, then turned to subversion and

lashing out. They cast away the oar of manliness and

stirred up the dust of tyranny. They committed the

injustice of disgracing the perspicuous faith and the

law of the lord of messengers. The flame of regret

and sorrow burst forth in the hearts of the people

of the world as a result of this movement, and the

breasts of the world’s inhabitants were seared at the

wrong done that glorious monarch. In the end, they

insisted on combat. They practiced with talon and

claw, strapped on weapons and announced the war. They

spread rumors that Russia’s was a miserable government,

that its armies and troops wore a spiritless mien,

that its officers were cowards, its men incompetent,

its state incapable of launching an onslaught, and

its regime impotent.

“We,” they said, “are a victorious people and a resplendent

nation. Let us wage holy war, and demolish the foundations

of opposition. We shall attain celebrity throughout

the world, and shall altogether delight the nations

and communities thereof.”

When the results of this movement became apparent, the

fruits of these notions became manifest. Vengeance

incarnated itself, the poison of repeated chastisement

took physical form, and calamity befell both government

and subjects. The earth was dyed red with the blood

of innocents, and the cadavers lent the battlefield

a horrifying aspect. The generality of subjects quaffed

from the cup of affliction, and three hundred thousand

young men—the cynosures of the women of the empire—downed

the hemlock of annihilation. What great edifices were

leveled into the dust, and how many ancient families

faced extinction or dire poverty! Thousands of well-ordered

villages were ground into the earth, and populated

regions were rendered wasteland. Treasuries were cast

to the wind, and the wealth of the state and the people

was wiped out. A million subjects were forced to emigrate,

and a huge number of the empire’s notables and the

great had to leave their homesteads upon losing their

property. Small children and the elderly wandered

in the desert, bereft of leadership and of personal

effects. The quarrelsome religious leaders who had

raised the cry of “War, to war!” and “Let us wage a

holy war!” whimpered, at the first assault, “Where

is our refuge?” and “To where can we flee?” By making

war but a little they forewent rich compensation and

glorious rewards, rather turning their faces and fleeing.

They had brought this greatest of catastrophes to

pass. Praise be to God! Shall persons who are unable

to manage or train up their own households, who are

wholly uninformed both with regard to domestic and

foreign affairs, interfere in the proceedings of the

kingdom and its subjects, or intervene in the intricacies

of political matters?

Were you to refer to history, you would find innumerable,

and, indeed, infinite numbers of such occurrences,

the cause of which in every instance was the interference

of religious leaders in political affairs. These souls

are the authorities in establishing the purport of

divine laws, not with regard to their implementation.

That is, whenever the government questions them about

the exigencies of the revealed law and the reality

of the divine ordinances affecting both general and

specific issues, they must communicate the conclusions

to which their jurisprudential reasoning has led them

about the commands of God, and that which is in accord

with the revealed law. Otherwise, what expertise do

they have in political matters, the protection of the

subjects, the managing of serious affairs, the welfare

and prosperity of the country, the implementation of

the civil regulations and secular laws of a realm,

or foreign affairs and domestic policy?

Likewise, in all previous ages and eras, there were

persons who became centers of opposition to the friends

of God and to the believers in the divine verses, who

outwardly were adorned with the ornament of religious

learning but in whose hearts piety and the fear of

God had dwindled. They appeared learned but in reality

were ignorant. They spoke of self-denial but their

souls were irreligious. Their bodies carried out ritual

worship, but their hearts were asleep. For instance,

in the time when the spirit-giving soul of Christ bestowed

life on the body of the world, and the holy breaths

of Jesus revivified contingent beings, the rabbis of

the children of Israel such as Anas and Caiaphas voiced

opposition to and rejected that gem of existence, that

beauty of the seen world, that praised spirit. They

went so far as to declare him an infidel, desiring

his ruin, persecuting him, and inflicting harm on him.

They punished his disciples and applied the severest

sanctions to them. They issued rulings of imprisonment,

exile and death, even resorting to torture, and by

means of the severest torment they martyred him and

caused his most pure blood to flow. This opposition,

harshness and punishment all derived from the religious

leaders of the community.

Consider, in addition, the days of that mystery of existence,

the promised beauty, who was confirmed in the station

of the praised one—Muhammad, the Messenger of God.

There were opponents, obstinate and haughty, among

the Jewish rabbis and there were intransigent Christian

monks, and ignorant and envious pagan soothsayers.

These opponents included Abu `Amir Rahib, Ka`b b.

Ashraf, Nadr b. Harith, `As b. Wa’il, Yahya b. Akhtab,

and Umayyah b. Hilal. These leaders of the people

arose to curse, kill and beat that dawning sun of prophethood.

They were so perverse in their persecution of that

lamp unto the world of humanity that he said and spoke

forth with majesty, “No prophet was persecuted as I

was persecuted.” Thus, note that in every age and

era some irreligious leaders of religion were responsible

for oppression, hindrances, sieges, violence, torment,

and renewed tyranny. Whenever opposition to the state

has arisen, it has all been as a result of the hints,

innuendoes, allusions, and gestures of these rebellious

individuals. Likewise, in these days, if you look

carefully, what was promulgated and what occurred was

as a result of the iniquity of the unjust religious

leaders, who lack all piety, are devoid of the law

of God, and who boil with the heat of envy and jealousy.

As for the learned who are pure of heart and soul, each

of them is a divine mercy and gift, a candle of guidance,

a lamp of providence, a lightning bolt of reality,

a guardian of the revealed law, a balance of justice,

a sovereign of trustworthiness, a true morn, a towering

palm tree, a shining dawn, a shimmering star, a spring

of mystical insight, a fountain of the sweet water

of life, a nurturer of souls, a bearer of glad tidings

to hearts, a guide to the peoples, a crier of truth

among humankind, and a most great sign. Each is the

highest banner, the essence of being, the grace of

existence, the manifestation of purity, and the dawning

sun of sanctity. They abhor the being of ephemeral

dust and the self and passion of the human world.

They sit in the corner in the councils of existence,

drunk with the praise and magnification of the Lord

of love. They are unmoveable pillars bowing and genuflecting

toward the house of God in the gathering of effulgence,

encompassed by the beatific vision. They are as an

impregnable fortress for the manifest religion and

as the sweet waters of the Euphrates for the thirsty.

They are the path of salvation to the lost, the birds

of thanksgiving in the gardens of divine unity, the

radiant candles of the divinely learned in the councils

devoted to God’s uniqueness. They are the heirs of

the prophets, privy to mysteries. They are the cloisters

of the heaven of asylum for the leader of the hosts

of the righteous at the convent dedicated to the mention

of God. They consider seclusion from others attainment

to the threshold of divinity. All others are as a

lifeless body or a static mosaic on a wall. It is

written in the Qur’an, “And God has led him astray

out of a knowledge.” (7)

By its nature, human society needs rules and relationships.

For without these ties, security and protection cannot

be had, nor can security or prosperity. In their absence,

the sacred honor of human beings is nowhere in evidence,

and the beloved of hopes remains invisible. The country

and the clime would never be populated, nor would cities

and villages be arranged and embellished. The world

would not be well-ordered. Human beings would not

have been able to develop and grow. Repose for the

soul and tranquillity for the conscience would not

have been easy to attain. The splendors of human beings

would never have become manifest, nor would the candle

of divine bestowal have been lighted. The essence

of human beings would not have been to discover the

reality of the contingent world nor to become aware

of the universal wisdom of God. The fine arts would

not have become widespread, nor would the great inventions

have been discovered. The earth would not have become

the observatory of the heavens, and the astonishing

technologies and wonders of the mind and thought would

not have come to pass. The east and west of the world

could not associate with one another, nor would steam

power be able to unite scattered regions.

These rules and relationships, which form the foundation

for the edifice of well-being and are as a shield of

grace, are none other than the revealed law and a social

order that can serve as a guarantor of prosperity,

a force for purity, and a protector of human society.

For society in general is like a single human being,

insofar as both specific essences as well as different,

contradictory and opposed elements coexist therein.

Necessarily, it is susceptible to accidents and given

to illnesses. When debilitating diseases befall it,

a skillful physician is required to diagnose the malady,

to examine its symptoms minutely, and to meditate upon

the causes for it and the exigencies of nature. He

will investigate principles, results, means and desiderata,

and distinguish between particulars and universals.

Therefore, he will think upon what the precipitating

circumstances of this disease might be, and the etiology

of the malady. He will treat and cure it. From all

this it is known that the healing cure and the sufficient

medicine arises from the same reality of nature, from

constitution and illness. In the same way, society

and the edifice of the world are susceptible to essential

infirmities and are under the sway of a variety of

illnesses. Order, laws, and divine ordinances are

like a salvational remedy, and a cure for the people.

Can a knowledgeable person imagine that he can, all

by himself, identify the chronic illnesses of the world

and come to know the variety of diseases that afflict

contingent existence; that he can diagnose the maladies

of the people of the earth or the painful condition

of human society; or that he can uncover the hidden

mysteries of ages and centuries? Could he discover

the necessary relationships that derive from the realities

of things, or legislate an order and laws that would

constitute a quick cure or a complete remedy? There

is not the slightest doubt that it is impossible.

Thus, it is evident and has been established that the

one who legislates ordinances, order, canon law and

civil laws among humankind is God, the Mighty, the

All-Knowing. For no one but the incomparable Lord

is aware and informed of the realities of existence,

the abstrusities of every being, the hidden mystery,

and the recondite enigmas of eras and ages. For this

reason, European law is still imperfect and incomplete,

still in the realm of change and alteration or repeal

and amendment even though it is in reality the result

of several thousand years of thinking by constitutional

scholars and political philosophers. For the learned

of the past had not discovered the harmfulness of some

laws, whereas later scholars became aware of it. Therefore,

some laws are amended, some are reaffirmed, and some

are altered.

Indeed, let us go to the heart of the matter. The revealed

law is like the spirit of life, and civil government

is like the power of salvation. The revealed law is

like the shining sun, and the civil government is like

April clouds. These two radiant stars are like two

points in a constellation above the horizon of the

contingent world that shine down on the people of the

world. The one illuminates the realm of spirit, and

the other renders the arena of the world a rose garden.

One causes the sea of conscience to throw up pearls,

the other makes the earth into a heavenly paradise.

One renders a heap of dirt the envy of the heavens,

the other makes the mansion of darkness into the delight

of the world of lights. The cloud of mercy arises

and rains down the droplets of bounty, and the breaths

of grace diffuse perfume and musk. The dawn breeze

wafts and delivers a fragrance that nourishes the soul.

On the earth the law of the highest heaven takes hold

and the pleasing season of spring arrives. The divine

spring-time bestows a wondrous freshness on the garden

of the world, and the pre-existent sun of grandeur

bestows a new radiance throughout the horizon of contingent

being. Soiled dust becomes sandalwood and ambergris,

and the blackened furnace becomes the rose bower of

the All-Merciful and the garden of illumination. The

point is this, that these two most great signs are

like milk and honey, like two helping spirits in the

ether, which aid one another. Thus, disregard for

the one is a betrayal of the other, and slighting obedience

to one is rebellion against the other.

The divine revealed law, which is the life of existence,

the light of the visible world, and is consonant with

the ultimate goal, requires an agency that will implement

it, decisive means, a manifest protector, and a firm

promulgator. There is no doubt that the wellspring

of this mighty institution is the edifice of the state

and the sword of rulership. When the one becomes strong

and triumphant, the other becomes manifest and refulgent.

Whenever the one achieves paramountcy and radiance,

the other is rendered perspicuous and luminous. Thus,

a just government is ipso facto a government in accordance

with the divine law, and a well-ordered realm is an

all-encompassing mercy. The glorious crown is wrapped

in divine confirmations, and the regal diadem is adorned

with the gems of heavenly bounty. In the manifest

book, it is clearly said, “Say:

O God, king of kings, you bestow rule on whomever you

please, and take it away from whomever you please.”

Therefore, it is evident and obvious that this bestowal

is a divine gift and a grant from the Lord. In the

same way, the authentic saying of Muhammad has it that

“The ruler is the shadow of God on earth.” Given these

texts, which are like a mighty edifice, how clear is

the falsehood of the words of any vexatious usurper,

which are mere imagination unsupported by proof or


Note that in the blessed verse quoted above as well

as in the clear saying of the Prophet, the statement

is absolute rather than conditional, with generalized

purport rather than being limited to a specific case.

As for the station of the Imams and of the near ones

at the threshold of grandeur, it is that of spiritual

honor and glory. Their right is to the authority of

the All-Merciful, and their crown of glory is the dust

of the divine path. Their gleaming scepter is the

lights of the bounty of God. Their royal throne is

the seat of hearts, and their exalted and great crown

is in the kingdom of God. They are the monarchs of

the world of spirit and heart, not that of water and

clay. They are sovereigns of the realm of the placeless,

not of the graveyards of the contingent world. No

one can usurp or plunder this glorious station or this

pre-existent grandeur.

With regard to the human world, on the contrary, their

throne is a mat on the floor, and their place of honor

is at the lowly row of shoes by the door. The apex

of their honor lies in the lowest depths of servitude,

and the palace of their sovereignty is a secluded corner.

They see grand chateaux as dusty graves, and consider

the world’s pomp to be an unbearable hardship, looking

upon wealth and riches as pain and torment. For them,

unparalleled pageantry is but a hardship for the conscience

and the soul. Like grateful birds in this realm of

vainglory, they content themselves with a few kernels

of grain. In the garden of divine unity, upon the

branches of detachment, they eloquently sing the praises

and glorification of the Living and pre-existent God.

Indeed, this was the principle referred to in the

sound tradition, “Rulership is the gift of the Lord

of grandeur, and government is a mercy of the Lord

of divinity.” The ultimate conclusion is this, that

complete rulers and just kings must, out of gratitude

for this divine grace and these glorious marks of favor,

be justice incarnate. They must be the personification

of reason as a grace from the Unknowable, the very

image of the sun of loving kindness, the cloud of compassion,

the banner of God, and the sign of the All-Merciful.

A government that causes its people to flourish must

be obeyed, and obedience to it is a cause of nearness

to God. Divine justice requires the observation of

mutual rights, and the divine precept commands the

safeguarding of mutual justice. The subject has the

right to expect from the ruler security and kind treatment.

The one led has the right to expect that the leader

will look on him with the eye of protection. The protection

afforded by kings eventuates in the ruled being cared

for, and the people take refuge in the safekeeping

of the monarch. Justice is the path of every ruler

who acts responsibly toward his subjects. For the

subject, government is a secure fortress. The trustworthy

shelter of rulership should be an impregnable sanctuary

and an exalted asylum for the rights of the subjects.

It must expend every effort in protecting and safeguarding

the innocent, and must give all its attention to securing

the honor and happiness of its dependents and subjects.

For the subject is a divine repository, and the poor

are the trust of the Lord of Oneness.

In the same way, subjects are obliged to obey and show

forth truthfulness. They must perform the duties of

servanthood and be sincere in their service. Good

intentions and gratitude are requisite, such that they

pay their taxes with entire thankfulness and bear annual

imposts with complete approbation. In order to further

exalt the station of the monarchs, augment the power

of the government, and increase the glory of the throne

of rulership, they must sacrifice their property and

their lives. For the benefit of these transactions,

and the fruit of this obedience, accrues to the subjects

in their entirety, such that all share and participate

in this great good fortune and this noble station.

Rights are mutual, and affairs require justice from

all parties involved, and all are under the protection

of the just Lord.

The state and the government are like the head and the

brain, while the people and the subjects are like limbs

and members. When the parts of the head and brain,

which are the center of the senses and the faculties,

and which manage the entire body and all the limbs,

gain overwhelming power and complete influence, they

then raise the standard of preservation and deploy

means for defense. They attend to requisite needs,

they prepare for desirable outcomes, and they arrange

for the limbs and members to be completely at rest

and relaxed. If their influence or power should wane,

the body would become a wasteland and the corporeal

realm would lack peace and security. A thousand kinds

of affliction would beset the body, and the prosperity

and repose of all its organs would disintegrate. Likewise,

when the agencies of the government are influential

and its commands prevail, the country is embellished

and the subjects find repose. But if its power is

shaken, then the edifice of prosperity and comfort

for the subjects is shaken and razed. For the government

is the requisite protector, guard, strengthener, governor,

defender and prohibiter. When the government serves

as the shepherd of its subjects and the subjects arise

to fulfill the functions allotted to followers, the

ties of conciliation are made strong and the means

of binding them together are established. When the

power of the country and the potency of the entire

population are established and gathered together at

a single point as one individual, there is no doubt

that it attains the greatest influence. When the rays

of the sun fall on the surface of a round, concave

glass, all the heat is concentrated in its center.

In this way it becomes penetrating, concentrated,

and capable of setting a fire, such that a hard, refractory

body, even on that might ordinarily by nonflammable,

will be finished if it is placed before this point.

Note that wherever a government is resplendent or

an empire is triumphant, it subjects subsist in the

utmost honor and happiness. The dependents and ordinary

folk in every great country are extremely well cared

for, are advancing through all stages with the greatest

rapidity, and are continuously exalted in their knowledge,

wealth, commerce and industry. This principle is renowned

and accepted among all the wise and learned, nor does

any doubt attach thereto.

Divine friends! Listen with the ear of wisdom, and

avoid the instigators of sedition. If you perceive

in anyone the odor of turmoil, even though he might

outwardly appear to be a person of some gravity or

a peerless religious leader, know that he is rather

an antichrist, and any opponent of the glorious law

is an enemy of God. One who undermines the edifice

is a breaker of the covenant and is barred from the

threshold of the All-Merciful. A person who is well

informed and insightful is like a radiant lamp, and

is a cause of the prosperity and well-being of the

macrocosm and the microcosm. Compelled by faith and

the social compact, such a one strives for the good

and for the repose of the people of the world.

Divine friends, the divine law has an era of youth,

and the wondrous Cause has a springtime. The new age

is the beginning of a first development. This age

is the chosen age of the one God. The horizons of

the contingent world are illumined by the attributes

of the luminary of the apex of mystical insight. The

east and the west of the globe are perfumed by the

breaths of holiness. The face of the new creation

is fair and comely, and the temple of the wondrous

Cause is vigorous and fresh in the highest degree.

Hearken with the ears of wisdom to the divine counsel

and advice, and show forth a miracle with true intentions,

sincerity of character, good disposition, and good

fortune. Thus might it be established in world society

and the council of nations, that they are the shining

candle of the world of humanity and the rose in the

garden of the divine realm. Mere speech bears no fruit,

and the sapling of vain hopes remains barren. Action

is required. Potentially, all things have talent.

All things are exquisite. Some are easy to acquire,

others are difficult to attain. But what good is mere

potentiality? Human beings must be in actuality the

sign of the All-Merciful and the standard of the Lord.

Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.
(1) Qur’an 22:5.
(2) Qur’an 2:10.
(3) Qur’an 23:14
(4) Qur’an 95:4

(5) Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah revealed

after the Kitáb-i -Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre,

1988), pp. 220-221. This passage is from Baha’u’llah’s

“Kitáb-i `Ahd” or Book of the Covenant.

(6) Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, trans. Shoghi Effendi Rabbani (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1971), pp. 89-91.

(7) Qur'an 45:22.
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