Seventeenth Reflection

Another novel aspect of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s novel theory of freedom is his historic discovery that at the level of social existence of human beings, the law of struggle for existence appears as the law of prejudice. According to ‘Abdu’l-Baha emancipation from internal nature is the same as emancipation form all kinds of prejudice. It is various kinds of prejudice that cause violence and destruction among human beings. All wars are products of various forms of prejudice. Elimination of all kinds of prejudice, therefore, is the essential precondition of the realization of peace and true liberty in the world. In the same Tablet to Organization for Durable Peace in Hague, he writes: And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that religious, racial, political, economic and patriotic prejudices destroy the edifice of humanity. As long as these prejudices prevail, the world of humanity will not have rest… It has therefore been ascertained and proved that all prejudices are destructive of the human edifice. As long as these prejudices persist, the struggle for existence must remain dominant, and bloodthirstiness and rapacity continue. Therefore, even as was the case in the past, the world of humanity cannot be saved from the darkness of nature and cannot attain illumination except through the abandonment of prejudices and the acquisition of the morals of the Kingdom. It is important to note that the word used by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, translated as prejudice, is a much more complex term than prejudice. The term used by ‘Abdu’l-Baha is “Ta’assub”. This word has complex meanings. It not only means prejudice; it also means the cause of prejudice. The word ta’assub is derived from the root ‘usbah which means group. Ta’assub, therefore, is reduction of one’s identity to a particularistic group. When one’s identity is defined by solidarity with one group, other groups become enemies or strangers. It is this particularistic identity that causes prejudice namely partial judgment, double standards, and hatred of others. The realization of true freedom, therefore, is emancipation form the bondage of nature and the exigency of the struggle for existence. But such bondage is the same as ta’assub, namely defining virtue and honor as loving one’s own group and hating others. That is precisely the way Baha’u’llah defined the concept of liberty and freedom.

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