The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran
First Attribute: Guarding one’s self ‘Abdu’l-Baha argues that the meaning of preserving/guarding oneself is not selfishness, hedonism or physical wellbeing. It is rather, guarding oneself from various spiritual imperfections like ignorance, injustice, violation of the rights of others and other immoral characteristics. Therefore, a true cleric or learned man, strives towards spiritual and moral perfection of himself and society. Since the word for cleric is literally the scholar or the learned (‘ulama’) ‘Abdu’l-Baha affirms that such a true learned one should transcend the traditional meaning of knowledge and commits himself to the learning, promotion and expansion of all kinds of knowledge that are beneficial to Iran’s advancement and civilization. Furthermore, for the sake of promoting justice, this type of cleric must support legal reform and equal rights of the people. ‘Abdu’l-Baha points out that contrary to the message of the culture of prejudice and clerical supremacy, true devotion to religion, spiritual detachment and moral perfection are opposed to the culture of idleness, lethargy and dependence on others. They are rather realized through institutionalization of the culture of high aspiration, noble endeavors, creative economic and industrial activity, and creation of jobs and wealth for the people: For today the people out of the depths of their superstition, imagine that any individual who believes in God and His signs, and in the Prophets and Divine Revelations and laws, and is a devout and God-fearing person, must of necessity remain idle and spend his days in sloth, so as to be considered in the sight of God as one who has forsaken the world and its vanities, set his heart on the life to come, and isolated himself from human beings in order to draw nearer to God. 18 Second Attributes: Defending one’s religion ‘Abdu’l-Baha argues that defending Islam means attracting the hearts of the people of the world to Islam. But this attribute turns into the greatest proof for the negation of the culture of clerical supremacy. Although ‘Abdu’l-Baha does not even mention the Baha’i Faith or its categorical abolishing of holy war in the writings of Baha’u’llah, he emphasizes the fact that in the present condition of the world, promoting a religion cannot take place through violence, seeing the non-believers as polluted and polluting, constant insults against the infidels and avoiding communication and friendship with them. Instead, ‘Abdu’l-Baha affirms, the only effective means of attracting people of the world to Islam is that they find Islam a religion that promotes tolerance, friendship, love, communication and fellowship with all, and defends freedom of conscience, scientific advancement and social progress and civilization. Consequently, a cleric who day and night curses and denounces the followers of other religions as infidels, defines them as polluted and polluting, forbids interaction and friendship with them, and is obsessed with violence and discrimination, such a cleric is the ultimate embodiment of ignorance rather than learning. It is evident that the discourse of The Secret is based on a living and dynamic definition of religion and morality. In other words, the message of the Secret is that the culture of Akhundism does not defend Islam, it rather destroys it. Because of the importance of this aspect of the Secret, two statements of the text are quoted below: One of the principal reasons why people of other religions have shunned and failed to become converted to the Faith of God is fanaticism and unreasoning religious zeal… nevertheless some have remained neglectful of and separated from these qualities of extraordinary sympathy and
18 Ibid, pp. 39-40.
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