Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah. When Abdu’l-Baha passed away on 28 November 1921, He was eulogized as One who led humanity to the “Way of Truth,” as a “pillar of peace” and the embodiment of “glory and greatness.”
In His Will, Baha’u’llah instructed all to turn to His eldest Son, Abdu’l-Baha, not only as the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i Writings but also as the perfect exemplar of the Baha’i Faith’s spirit and teachings. Every year Baha’is celebrate Abdu’l-Baha as the Centre of Baha’u’llah Covenant.
Dr. Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian’s latest book, Steadfastness in the Covenant: Responding to Tests and Tribulations, is a weighty tome. Steadfastness to the Covenant is a combination of our recognition of Baha’u’llah and our obedience to His teachings. Dr. Ghadirian says “in this context the Covenant is like a mighty tree and steadfastness is the fruit of that tree”.
There have been several books published about the unique and sacred nature of the Covenant. “Instead,” Dr. Ghadirian writes, “I have chosen to concentrate on the nature of steadfastness and the capacity to acquire it for the defense of the Cause and as our response to tests and tribulations in the path of God.” Although this is the lens with which he compiled the book, he nevertheless provides a context for the Covenant and explains its details and implications – for example, he describes the differences between the Greater and Lesser Covenants and the “twin Covenants” or the respective Covenants of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha in terms of Their wills and testaments and appointed successors. He also provides metaphors for understanding the Covenant — such as the ocean or a pulsating artery.
Why take this particular perspective of firmness in the Covenant in the face of difficulties? Dr. Ghadirian explains:
With the awakening of humanity to the emergence of the World Order of Baha’u’llah and its implications for the progress of civilization, there will be positive responses of large numbers of receptive souls around the world as well as negative reactions and intensified hostility and attacks from leaders of religions and enemies of the Cause.
He then refers to the power of the Covenant and quotes Abdu’l-Baha:
Know that no soul is quickened except through the spirit of the Covenant, no eye is illumined except by the light of the Covenant, no ear is thrilled except by the melody of the Covenant, and no heart shows forth the divine sentiments except by the bounty of the Covenant.
Dr. Ghadirian very broadly explores firmness in the Covenant through extracts from the Baha’i Writings and through stories – some of which you may be familiar with and some of which may be new to you. He begins by offering an overview “of the nature and scope of the twin Covenants of the Baha’i Faith described by Shoghi Effendi, followed by reflections on the significance of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah and the suffering of the Central Figures of the Cause.” He explores the nature of oppression and shares accounts of the reliance and heroism of countless Baha’is and sets out to answer what the requirements to faithfulness to the Covenant are. Dr. Ghadirian dedicates a portion of his book to the struggles of the Baha’is in Iran, and he also discusses what the Covenant means to this current generation of young Baha’is around the world and the tests they face as individuals and as a part of the community. He examines scholarship and the Covenant and he turns to the life of Abdu’l-Baha, Centre of the Covenant and the Perfect Exemplar of One who was steadfast. In the book’s final pages, he offers a compilation called Be Thou Assured, which was put together by the Continental Board of Counsellors in the Americas and published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada and White Mountain Publications.
The stories this book offers of tests and difficulties and of crisis and victory are also varied, from martyrs during the time of Baha’u’llah to Baha’is who are currently being persecuted in Iran. For example, Dr. Ghadirian includes part of a letter he received from a friend who was about to leave his home for Evin prison. This friend writes:
Evin again. Like many other Baha’is the long process of going back and forth to the courts and prisons has started for me […]. Now it is action time. In the past two days I’ve had flashbacks of my solitary confinement cell. I remembered how I decided to forget about everything of the outside world when I stepped into my lonely cell… I remembered when, sad and lonely, I entered my cell, I quickly noticed a few lines of one of Baha’u’llah’s Tablets written on the wall. I couldn’t stop my tears of joy! There had been another Baha’i in that cell! Many Baha’is who have been arrested have been slaughtered in those cells. It made me feels at home – even if it was 209 Evin.
The decision to be detached from everything echoes the words of an older heroine of the Faith, Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf. She is quoted:
All the virtues of humankind are summed up in the one word ‘steadfastness’, if we but act according to its laws. It draws to us as by a magnet the blessings and bestowals of Heaven, if we but rise up according to the obligations it implies… Steadfastness is a treasure that makes a man so rich as to have no need of the world or any person or any thing that is therein. Constancy is a special joy, that leads us mortals on to lofty heights, great progress, and the winning of the perfections of Heaven.
Dr. Ghadirian’s book is a source of inspiration and meditation and I am grateful to him for his hard work in writing, compiling and editing the book. Steadfastness in the Covenant was published by George Ronald and can be purchased from their website or from the US Baha’i Distribution Services here.
Dr. Ghadirian is the author of many other George Ronald publications such as Materialism: Moral and Social Perspectives, Ageing: Challenges and Opportunities, and Alcohol and Drug Abuse: A Psycosocial and Spiritual Approach to Prevention.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.