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Monthly Reflection: Qawl (Speech) – On Silence, Questions & Words

November 22, 2023, in Articles > Baha'i Blog, by

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Before sitting down to write this newsletter I took a walk beneath the giant eucalyptus trees studding the riverbed that meanders through the heart of my city, and listened to their leaves whispering in the wind. Fuchsia bougainvillea tumbled over fences, and the contour of the mountains in the distance was clear against a crisp blue sky. As I walked I asked myself what the month of Speech means to me. Interestingly, what came to me first was an awareness of how important periods of silence are; a sense of curiosity about the purity of intention with which I ask questions; and a desire to become a more attentive listener. Only then did I begin to think about the quality and impact of the words I use, and the true purpose of speech in my daily life.

The words we use hold power. Baha’u’llah tells us that we can open the city of the human heart with the key of our utterance, 1 and the Universal House of Justice writes that “[s]peech is a powerful phenomenon. Its freedom is both to be extolled and feared. It calls for an acute exercise of judgment, since both the limitation of speech and the excess of it can lead to dire consequences.” 2

Baha’i Blog now hosts a wonderful collection of articles and resources that we can draw from to explore the mysteries of the month of Speech. Peter Gyulay’s articles “The Value of Silence and Fewness of Words” and “Ways to Use Words” have deepened my understanding of Baha’u’llah’s statement that “[t]he essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds.” 3

Baha’u’llah writes, “Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible.” 4 “The Power of the Spoken Word” by Erfan Daliri and “Meaningful and Distinctive Conversations” by Matt Giani highlight how essential it is to reflect deeply upon the intention behind the words that we use, and to exercise wisdom and moderation in our speech.

Thinking about the power of utterance is also a reflection on the power of words themselves—whether they are the words we speak, we write, or the words of others that we highlight and promote online. This is at the heart of Maia James’ article “Reflections on Molding our Information Environments”. In this recent video that shares Duane’s story, we learn how a single sentence can impact a life:

Words, particularly those that are divine in nature, lead to epiphanies; they undo the tangles of our limited understanding and give our souls and our minds clarity.

Baha’i Blog also features a number of articles that highlight how speech can be used to serve humanity and promote justice and equality. “The Race Unity Speech Awards: A Platform for Students to Express Ideas on Improving Race Relations” by Naysan Naraqi; “Martha Root’s Speeches and Social Discourse: Cosmic Education for a Universal Age” by Layli Miron, and “One Little Word that Will Help Solve Your Problems—and the World’s Too!” also by Naysan, are three that caught my eye.

Thinking about the wisdom required when speaking, brings me to the beloved example of Abdu’l-Baha. You can find some sweet stories about how He communicated in “The Language of Abdu’l-Baha”. As this month includes celebrating the Day of the Covenant and commemorating His Ascension, here are a few resources about Abdu’l-Baha that I’ll be turning to:

For me each Baha’i month is an invitation to step through the next gate on my spiritual growth journey. I hope that some of the quotes and resources above encourage you to join me! Wishing you a curiosity-filled month of Speech, friends!      

Footnotes & Citations

  1. Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, page 304[]
  2. The Universal House of Justice, letter dated 29 December 1988 to the Followers of Baha’u’llah in the United States of America[]
  3. Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p.156[]
  4. Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 172-173[]
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Ariana Salvo

Ariana Salvo was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore, teaching English to international students and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.
Ariana Salvo

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