The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran

all people of the world, and therefore, move from the culture of imperialism to the culture of global peace, consultation and equal rights. One of the striking characteristics of the text is that it goes back to history to contrast those oppressive warriors who were preoccupied with invading, conquering, destroying and plundering other parts of the world, with the peaceful leaders who were engaged in development their countries. ‘Abdu’l-Baha rejects the former group as barbarians and praises the latter as rational and just. For example, in discussing the futility and irrationality of colonialists, ‘Abdu’l-Baha writes: It is clear from what has already been said that man's glory and greatness do not consist in his being avid for blood and sharp of claw, in tearing down cities and spreading havoc, in butchering armed forces and civilians. What would mean a bright future for him would be his reputation for justice, his kindness to the entire population whether high or low, his building up countries and cities, villages and districts, his making life easy, peaceful and happy for his fellow beings, his laying down fundamental principles for progress, his raising the standards and increasing the wealth of the entire population. Consider how throughout history many a king has sat on his throne as a conqueror. Among them were Hulagü Khán and Tamerlane, who took over the vast continent of Asia, and Alexander of Macedon and Napoleon I, who stretched their arrogant fists over three of the earth's five continents. And what was gained by all their mighty victories? Was any country made to flourish, did any happiness result, did any throne stand? Or was it rather that those reigning houses lost their power? Except that Asia went up in the flame of many battles and fell away to ashes, Changíz's's Hulagü, the warlord, gathered no fruit from all his conquests. And Tamerlane, out of all his triumphs, reaped only the peoples blown to the winds, and universal ruin. And Alexander had nothing to show for his vast victories, except that his son toppled from the throne and Philip and Ptolemy took over the dominions he once had ruled. And what did the first Napoleon gain from subjugating the kings of Europe, except the destruction of flourishing countries, the downfall of their inhabitants, the spreading of terror and anguish across Europe and, at the end of his days, his own captivity? So much for the conquerors and the monuments they leave behind them. 28 The Secret’s call for peace and collective security is a true rejection of the culture and politics of colonialism, for it questions the underlying foundation of war and imperialism. This foundation is the culture of prejudice and the anarchic structure of international relations, namely the supremacy of the rule of jungle in such culture and structure. The Secret invites the world to move away from the logic of jungle to the logic of collective security, which renders colonialism impossible. In order to understand the unique discourse of ‘Abdu’l-Baha on the intimate relation between prejudice and war/colonialism, we should note the subtle and categorical distinction between prejudice and endeavor/aspiration in The Secret. The Secret is filled with criticism of prejudice including religious prejudice. And yet the entire text tries to awaken a sense of national endeavor and zeal. The Secret sees enthusiasm, high aspiration and devoted endeavor as a positive trait which leads to development and civilization, whereas it sees prejudice as a destructive, irrational and repressive force which is the main cause of the backwardness of Iran. The word used by ‘Abdu’l-Baha that is translated as prejudice is a

28 Ibid, pp. 67-8.

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