June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
A study circle is a small group that meets to study the course materials from the Ruhi Institute. This collection contains resources related to study circles, as well as resources to assist anyone with deepening their understanding of the Baha’i Writings.
By reading the Tablets of the Divine Planalongside recent messages of the Universal House of Justice, we can learn about what aspects of our current work trace their origin to these tablets revealed by Abdu’l-Baha 100 years ago. I encourage everyone to dive into these texts themselves and see what parallels they are able to make. Following are four points I was able to find:
1. Processes of Integration & Disintegration
In the Tablets of the Divine Plan, Abdu’l-Baha said:
This phenomenal world will not remain in an unchanging condition even for a short while. Second after second it undergoes change and transformation. Every foundation will finally become collapsed; every glory and splendor will at last vanish and disappear, but the Kingdom of God is eternal and the heavenly sovereignty and majesty will stand firm… 1
I understand this to be an explanation of a concept referred to by the House of Justice in the recent Ridvan 2016 message where we read that it felt “compelled to offer for [our] reflection a few comments on the global context in which [our] individual and collective efforts will be pursued”. It goes on to say in the same message that Shoghi Effendi “described two great processes that have been set in motion by Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, one destructive and the other integrative both of which are propelling humanity towards the World Order He conceived”. At the heart of this perspective are Baha’u’llah’s words:
Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. 2
Therefore, when we see the rampage of war, prejudice, violence, or dishonesty we are seeing manifestations of the present-day order falling apart and a need for something new. And when see youth working with junior youth for the betterment of the community, people from different backgrounds sharing prayers together, and children learning about spiritual qualities we see a new pattern of collective life which humanity can aspire to. This is perhaps why the Universal House of Justice said:
… it is systematic, determined, and selfless action undertaken within the wide embrace of the Plan’s framework that is the most constructive response of every concerned believer to the multiplying ills of a disordered society. 3
The House also explained, “the urgency to act is impelled by the world’s desperate condition” 4 and in the Tablets of the Divine Plan we can read Abdu’l-Baha’s encouragement for immediate action:
At this time and at this period we must avail ourselves of this most great opportunity. We must not sit inactive for one moment. 5
2. One Soul Can Make a Difference
We can read in several occasions in the Tablets of the Divine Plan that “it has often happened that one blessed soul has become the cause of the guidance of a nation”. 6 If we think of the example of Martha Root, the Dunns, or Leonora Armstrong we realise how true this statement is.
The House reminded us of this when it asked us to reflect on these words:
How many times have the deeds of a few believers—young or old—or of a single family, or even of a lone soul, when confirmed by the power of divine assistance, succeeded in cultivating vibrant communities in seemingly inhospitable climes? 3
The paragraph continues to reassure us:
Do not imagine that your own case is inherently any different. 3
The Guardian explained that the divine confirmation required for an individual to succeed is only attracted through effort:
The unseen legions […] from the Kingdom […] are powerless unless and until each potential crusader decides for himself, and perseveres in his determination, to rush into the arena of service ready to sacrifice his all for the Cause… 7
Many are the calls in the Tablets of the Divine Plan for exertion: “rest ye not, seek ye no composure, attach not yourselves to the luxuries of this ephemeral world, free yourselves from every attachment…”, “strive ye with heart and soul”, and “the believers of God must display the utmost effort”. 8 The Universal House of Justice made the same call as it articulated that to achieve the objectives of the current Five Year Plan “…a herculean labour will be required; that many sacrifices will have to be made”. 4
3. Closeness with Our Sources of Guidance
As we endeavour to fulfil the Plan set out to us we can be assured of support. In the Tablets of the Divine Plan Abdu’l-Baha shared:
Day and night I have no other occupation than the remembrance of the friends, praying from the depth of my heart in their behalf. 9
The Universal House of Justice mirrored this sentiment when we read:
To your own ardent supplications for heavenly assistance we add ours, offered in the Holy Shrines, on behalf of all who labour for this all-encompassing Cause. 10
I believe that obeying the guidance as to the work that needs to be done is an expression of the Hidden Word
Love Me that I may love thee, if thou lovest Me not My love can in no wise reach thee. 11
By dedicating ourselves to the Divine Plan we attract divine love. The story of Anis, Badi, Thomas Breakwell and Marion Jack can help us reflect on this dynamic.
4. Organic Phenomenon
Language associated with farming is widely used in the Tablets of the Divine Plan as exemplified in this passage:
Now you must become heavenly farmers and scatter pure seeds in the prepared soil. The … blessing of the seed of the divine teachings is unlimited. Throughout the coming centuries and cycles many harvests will be gathered. Consider the work of former generations. 6
In my opinion, this is connected to the Universal House of Justice’s explanation that the “the work of the Cause proceeds at different speeds in different places and for good reason—it is, after all, an organic phenomenon.” 12
This vision of the work of the Cause implies we are detached from the immediate results of our actions as we know we are a small part of a larger process, the same way the farmer works daily, confident the results will eventually appear born out of the sun, the soil, the rain and his work. We should also be flexible in our teaching work as the farmer is in nurturing each plant with its specific requirements and needs. And finally we have to be conscious that at each stage of the process different tools and approaches are needed and we can derive joy from the gradual growth and maturity of the seeds that were planted.
These four elements help me see that my current work in the unfolding of the Divine Plan has roots in the Tablets of the Divine Plan and I feel more connected to these precious texts.
Born and raised in the Azores (small Portuguese islands in the Atlantic), Iko had the opportunity to serve at the Baha'i World Centre for 20 months and is now studying Business Management in the UK, where he is also learning about the dynamics of community building. He cannot say 'no' to challenges and new opportunities. He is a staunch supporter of Sport Lisboa e Benfica's football team and a sunny beach is his only acceptable standard for a vacation.
Iko Congo…. wonderful timely article. Wonderful to see how you synthesized the older writings with the modern thoughts of the the House and current circumstances. May your efforts be blessed as the “farmers” may go forth and scatter seeds for the future harvest! 99% of humanity must be taught! Thank you !
Steve McLean (October 10, 2016 at 7:54 AM)
Well written. This poses a challenge for every Bahai. This also inspires.
Criselda R. Figuerres (October 10, 2016 at 10:42 AM)
Well analysed and put forth. Thank you for sharing. With your permission I will use this as a deepening tool.
Yvette Galea (October 10, 2016 at 6:17 AM)
Thank you for your comment. We’re glad you enjoyed this article. Please feel free to use this article, or anything else you find on Baha’i Blog, as a deepening tool!
Sonjel Vreeland (October 10, 2016 at 3:57 PM)
Thank you! Doing so just at this moment!
Yvette Galea (October 10, 2016 at 6:43 PM)
What an informative, educational and wonderful analysis of the Tablets of Divine Plan and the Universal House of Justice messages. Loved it, well done, and many thanks for the great effort in writing this. Regards and Bahai greetings to you.
nasser kaviani (March 3, 2021 at 4:29 AM)