The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran

laziness and extreme economic inequality are replaced by economic freedom, creative occupation, elimination of poverty and affirmation of economic justice. The Secret praises the establishment of a consultative parliament which was supported by Mirza Husayn Khan. However, ‘Abdu’l-Baha emphasizes that the parliament should be a democratic institution and that the members of the parliament should be both temporary (term-specific) and elected by the people. The Secret is well aware of the prevalence of corruption and selfishness in the realm of politics, and abhors the situation where the members of the parliament reduce their position to an immoral instrument for acquisition of wealth. 7 For this reason, in addition to emphasizing the moral prerequisites of the members, and the necessity of people’s awareness and participation in social and political affairs, 8 the Secret affirms the popular election and term limit for the members of the parliament. According to the Secret, both these conditions encourage the members of the parliament to try to observe justice and reason to some extent in order to be elected or re-elected: In the present writer’s view it would be preferable if the election of nonpermanent members of consultative assemblies in sovereign states should be dependent on the will and choice of the people. For elected representatives will on this account be somewhat inclined to exercise justice, lest their reputation suffer and they fall into disfavor with the public. 9 What has caused the development of the West is the movement in the direction of these principles, and what has been an occasion for shameful and oppressive policies and a deficiency of real progress in the West has been the deviation of these principles. For example, the prevalence of arms race, war, genocide, slavery, racism and colonialism in the history of the modern West are all reflections of the violation of these principles of true modernity. They were never a product of the enforcement of the universal principles of civilization and rationality. These sort of anti-human policies contradict the principles of freedom, democracy and equality of rights of all people. Consequently, the message of the Secret is neither blind following of the West, nor hostility to the positive aspects of Western modernity. The Secret’s message is an affirmation of the advent of reason, independent thinking, equal rights of the people, and a rejection of religious despotism, political tyranny, culture of the blind emulation of the clerics and prejudice. The Secret is an invitation for a national culture of high endeavors, creative work and industrial orientation that would revive the greatness, dignity and exaltation of Iran. In its refutation of the objections of the reactionary clerics who denounced reform and modernity as contrary to the requirements of Iran, The Secret frequently emphasizes the universality and rationality of the principles of development and true modernity. The following statement is just one example: Let us consider this justly and without bias: let us ask ourselves which one of these basic principles and sound, well-established procedures would fail to satisfy our present needs, or would be incompatible with Persia’s best political interests or injurious to the general welfare of her people. Would the extension of education, the development of useful arts and sciences, the promotion of industry and technology, be harmful things? For such endeavor lifts the individual within the mass and raises him out of the depths of ignorance to the highest reaches of knowledge and human excellence. Would the setting up of just legislation, in accord with the divine laws which guarantee the happiness of society and protect the rights of all mankind and

7 Ibid, pp. 18-19. 8 Ibid, pp. 17-18. 9 Ibid, p. 24.

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