The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran

Prophethood (Muhammad), encouraging mankind to acquire sciences and arts and similar advantages has commanded them to seek these even in the furthermost reaches of China; yet the incompetent and caviling doctors forbid this, offering as their justification the saying, "He who imitates a people is one of them." 25 ‘Abdu’l-Baha ends this discussion with a humorous negation of the clerical culture of superstition and traditionalism: Glory be to God! What an extraordinary situation now obtains, when no one, hearing a claim advanced, asks himself what the speaker's real motive might be, and what selfish purpose he might not have hidden behind the mask of words. You find, for example, that an individual seeking to further his own petty and personal concerns, will block the advancement of an entire people. To turn his own water mill, he will let the farms and fields of all the others parch and wither. To maintain his own leadership, he will everlastingly direct the masses toward that prejudice and fanaticism which subvert the very base of civilization. Such a man, at the same moment that he is perpetrating actions which are anathema in the sight of God and detested by all the Prophets and Holy Ones, if he sees a person who has just finished eating wash his hands with soap--an article the inventor of which was `Abdu'lláh Buní, a Muslim--will, because this unfortunate does not instead wipe his hands up and down the front of his robe and on his beard, set up a hue and cry to the effect that the religious law has been overthrown, and the manners and customs of heathen nations are being introduced into ours. Utterly disregarding the evil of his own ways, he considers the very cause of cleanliness and refinement as wicked and foolish. 26 We can see that ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s reinterpretation of the four attributes of the true clerics concludes in negation of the clerical culture of supremacy. At the same time, the discussion of those attributes turns into a critique of Western materialist civilization where both its materialist form of secularization and its obsessive militarism are identified as its chief problems. Therefore, The Secret is calling for transformation of both Iran and the West. Although institutional separation of church and state is necessary for development and freedom, the West has moved towards systematic banishment of spiritual values from people’s consciousness and institutions of society. In fact, rejection of a spiritual approach to human definition, in the long run, destroys the foundation of both reason and values in society, where by reducing humans to the level of jungle, there remains no objective possibility for human dignity and rights. Fourth Layer: Critique of Prejudice, War and Colonialism As we noted, ‘Abdu’l-Baha criticized both the promotion of religion through the sword and discrimination, and the Western preoccupation with militarism, war, and conquest of other countries. This point is the center of the fourth layer of the Secret where ‘Abdu’l-Baha argues that humanity has arrived at a new stage of its historical development which requires abandoning the old culture of war, imperialism, violence and beastly orientation. Furthermore, realization of true prosperity, modernity and development in any part of the world requires world peace. Wars including colonial wars, contradict the imperative of universal human rights, rationalism, and long term interests of humanity. Therefore,

25 Ibid, p. 99. 26 Ibid, p. 103-4.

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