- Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 19 days. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
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One of the gifts of passing through any given Baha’i month every year is the awareness that I have stood here before. I have approached the gate of the month of Questions 45 times, and while the terrain is familiar, I never am—my perception is ever-changing, so the experience is always sprinkled with unexpected realizations that the person I was last year would never have had.
Back in 2020 I wrote an article entitled Four Questions on the Month of Questions which explores my questions about questions. There are a number of resources that explore questions, from the basic: Who Am I?, 6 Questions About the Independent Investigation of Truth and My 3 Questions to Frame a Study of the Baha’i Writings to the more global, which seem so pertinent in light of what is happening in the world right now: 3 Questions I’m Asking Myself about Helping Those in Need and this talk called Asking Questions about Income Inequality and the Aspirations of Ordinary People.
When I began thinking about the month of Questions this year what came to me was, “What questions does God ask us?” The Baha’i Writings are rich with questions that urge us to bring our personal will into line with the Will of God. The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah are filled with questions:
O SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.
With so many people suffering in the world right now, this passage from The Hidden Words, sung so beautifully by Ali Youssefi, brought tears to my eyes:
As I think about the state of humanity, these powerful questions penned by Baha’u’llah in the Fire Tablet come to me:
Coldness hath gripped all mankind: Where is the warmth of Thy love, O Fire of the worlds?
Calamity hath reached its height: Where are the signs of Thy succor, O Salvation of the worlds? Darkness hath enveloped most of the peoples: Where is the brightness of Thy splendor, O Radiance of the worlds? The necks of men are stretched out in malice: Where are the swords of Thy vengeance, O Destroyer of the worlds? Abasement hath reached its lowest depth: Where are the emblems of Thy glory, O Glory of the worlds? Sorrows have afflicted the Revealer of Thy Name, the All-Merciful: Where is the joy of the Dayspring of Thy Revelation, O Delight of the worlds? Anguish hath befallen all the peoples of the earth: Where are the ensigns of Thy gladness, O Joy of the worlds? Thou seest the Dawning Place of Thy signs veiled by evil suggestions: Where are the fingers of Thy might, O Power of the worlds? Sore thirst hath overcome all men: Where is the river of Thy bounty, O Mercy of the worlds? Greed hath made captive all mankind: Where are the embodiments of detachment, O Lord of the worlds?
Fortunately, these questions are followed by questions that give me hope:
Were it not for the cold, how would the heat of Thy words prevail, O Expounder of the worlds? Were it not for calamity, how would the sun of Thy patience shine, O Light of the worlds? Lament not because of the wicked. Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.
I think many of us have questions about the dire state of our planet and the unnecessary violence that people are inflicting upon each other right now. While the recent 28th November letter from the Universal House of Justice doesn’t ask a lot of questions, it does outline in great detail the progress that has been made by the worldwide Baha’i community over the last 100 years, highlighting what is possible when we draw our strength from God. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
When a drop draws help from the ocean, it is an ocean in itself, and a little seed, through the outpouring of rain, the favour of the sun and soul-refreshing breeze, will become a tree with the utmost freshness, full of leaves, blossoms and fruits. Therefore do not consider thy capacity and merit, but rely upon the infinite Bounty and trust to His Highness the Almighty. 1
What questions are you asking yourself this month? How can we ask questions that empower and give us the hope and courage we need to continue advancing toward the lofty destiny that the Universal House of Justice assures us is ours? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below. To wrap up this month’s newsletter here is a passage from the Baha’i Writings put to music and recently shared in our Studio Sessions. It is a reminder of God’s unwavering love as we continue to work toward our goals!
Footnotes & Citations
- Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 3, p. 565
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