The month of Sovereignty (Sultan) is the 17th month in the Baha’i calendar. As an attribute of God, sovereignty implies unquestioned authority. I see this month as an invitation to reflect upon the power, wisdom and infallibility of God, and on what it means to be subjects of a Creator so merciful and just that we want to confidently serve Him with unquestioned and humble devotion.
In researching sovereignty in the Baha’i Writings, the first idea that I came across was that divine sovereignty necessitates a creation over which the sovereign’s dominion is exercised, and likewise, a kingdom of subjects would not exist without a sovereign. In The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Abdu’l-Baha says “…the sovereignty of God is not accidental but everlasting and eternal…Kingship necessitates a kingdom, an army, a treasury, subjects, a court and ministers. How could there be a king without subjects, dominion and wealth?”1
While this may seem like a fairly simple idea, the implications of it are far from simple. Abdu’l-Baha continues:
…divine sovereignty necessitates a creation over which its dominion is exercised. There must be evidences of sovereignty. If we try to conceive of a time when creation was nonexistent, when there were no subjects or creatures under divine dominion and control, Divinity itself would disappear; there would be a cessation of the bounty of God, just as the kingship and favor of an earthly monarch would disappear if his kingdom did not exist. The sovereignty of God is eternal. There has been no beginning; there will be no end. This is as evident as the sun at midday, even to one endowed with limited reason.2
I believe this then asks us to reflect upon the idea that there was no time before God and that there will be no time after God. God is timeless and eternal. It would seem that the very existence of a month with this name answers a fundamental question: was there a time before God? From my reading of the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, the answer appears to be that no, there wasn’t.
God is eternal and ancient — He is not a new God. His sovereignty is of old, not recent — not merely existent these five or six thousand years. This infinite universe is from everlasting. The sovereignty, power, names and attributes of God presuppose creation and predicate His existence and will. We say God is Creator. This name Creator appears when we connote creation.3
So perhaps part of what the month of Sovereignty tells us is that God existed before all things and will exist after all things. And since this is the case, creation, by extension, has also always existed in some form or another.
Another idea that the Writings share about sovereignty is that the Divine Sovereign is independent of His subjects. In Gleanings, Baha’u’llah explains:
God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures. Say: This is the infallible Balance which the Hand of God is holding, in which all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth are weighed, and their fate determined.4
The Creator has no need for His creation, but the same cannot be said of creation, whose every power is a reflection of the power of its Creator. As part of creation, this month gives us the opportunity to contemplate the fact that whether we choose to believe in God or not is of no great consequence to the Creator. His vision and purpose is so much more powerful than our ability to even begin to comprehend it that our choices as individuals cannot prevent the inevitable realization of God’s Will for creation, which, we are told in the Baha’i Writings, is the oneness of the world of humanity.
The power of the Divine Sovereign is so tremendous, Baha’u’llah tells us, that even the Manifestations of God are but reflections of His might:
These sanctified Mirrors, these Day Springs of ancient glory, are, one and all, the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory.5
If the Manifestations of God (Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Baha’u’llah and other Divine Educators) – the Beings to which we turn in prayer and supplication and who are all-powerful and all-knowing — are themselves only reflections of the names and qualities of God, how much more powerful must be the power of the Divine Sovereign? I find it impossible to adequately imagine or describe. I notice that whereas the other Baha’i months generate a multitude of thoughts and images, the month of Sovereignty leaves me instead with a profound feeling of humility that no human words can do justice. The words that best reflect how I feel when I reflect on the sovereignty of God are these, taken from a prayer written by Abdu’l-Baha:
O God, my God! Lowly and tearful, I raise my suppliant hands to Thee and cover my face in the dust of that Threshold of Thine, exalted above the knowledge of the learned, and the praise of all that glorify Thee. Graciously look upon Thy servant, humble and lowly at Thy door, with the glances of the eye of Thy mercy, and immerse him in the Ocean of Thine eternal grace.6
To me, the month of Sovereignty signifies the beginning of a time of deep personal reflection about my relationship with God that deepens and expands as I move through the last two months of the Baha’i year: Dominion and Loftiness. It is a time of bringing myself to account for how I have lived and served over the previous year, and a reminder of the grandeur of God and where I, as a servant of God, stand in the grand unfoldment of His vision for humanity. As the weather darkens outside, this month draws me inward to prepare my soul for the transformative journey it will begin in March when I begin the Baha’i 19-day Fast—a time for letting go of old patterns and opening myself to new possibilities.
- Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.271 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 272 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp.158-159 [↩]
- Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, nr. LXX [↩]
- Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, nr. XIX [↩]
- from The Tablet of Visitation for Abdu’l-Baha [↩]