The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran
loving-kindness, and have been prevented from attaining to the inner significances of the Holy Books. Not only do they scrupulously shun the adherents of religions other than their own, they do not even permit themselves to show them common courtesy. If one is not allowed to associate with another, how can one guide him out of the dark and empty night of denial… If a true believer when meeting an individual from a foreign country should express revulsion, and should speak the horrible words forbidding association with foreigners and referring to them as "unclean," the stranger would be grieved and offended to such a point that he would never accept the Faith, even if he should see, taking place before his very eyes, the miracle of the splitting of the moon. 19 A few, who are unaware of the reality below the surface of events… believe that the Faith can only be spread by the sword, and bolster their opinion with the Tradition, "I am a Prophet by the sword." If, however, they would carefully examine this question, they would see that in this day and age the sword is not a suitable means for promulgating the Faith, for it would only fill peoples' hearts with revulsion and terror… A faith born of sword thrusts could hardly be relied upon, and would for any trifling cause revert to error and unbelief. After the ascension of Muhammad, and His passing to "the seat of truth, in the presence of the potent King," the tribes around Medina apostatized from their Faith, turning back to the idolatry of pagan times. 20 Discussing the same issue, The Secret recounts the story of Nu’man, an Arab king, who converted to Christianity simply by witnessing the moral integrity of a simple Christian man. ‘Abdu’l-Baha concludes from this story that true promotion of religion requires good deeds and moral purity, and not violence, hatred and beastly character. Third Attribute: Opposing Passion The Secret turns the discussion of “passion”, or selfish desire, into a discourse on ethics, rationalism, gentleness and peace. In his discussion, ‘Abdu’l-Baha distinguishes between two types of civilization, a formal civilization (translated as a superficial culture) and an ethical civilization (translated as a cultivated morality). The Secret defines following of passions and selfish desires as a type of behavior that is oriented towards immediate and short term interests, contradicts both reason and morality, sacrifices the universal interests of the people for pursuit of immediate interest of one’s self or one’s particularistic group, and is willing to commit violence, war and aggression against other peoples and countries. For this reason, The Secret identifies an action that is derived from passion with a prejudiced behavior that brings about war and destruction, while opposing it to a type of action that leads to development of the world, rationality, peace and service to humankind. Consequently, ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s discussion of the concept of opposing passion turns primarily into a discourse against war and violence. ‘Abdu’l-Baha not only rejects the culture of clerical supremacy which is the embodiment of violence, intolerance, discrimination and aggression against other religious groups, he also extensively criticizes the aggressive character of Western civilization with its arms race, militarism and frequent wars. According to ‘Abdu’l-Baha: All the peoples of Europe, notwithstanding their vaunted civilization, sink and drown in this terrifying sea of passion and desire, and this is why all the phenomena of their culture come to
19 Ibid, pp. 53-5. 20 Ibid, pp. 43-4.
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