When Shoghi Effendi was a young man at Oxford University, he didn’t imagine that he would become the leader of the faith which his great grandfather – Bahá’u’lláh – had founded. What Shoghi Effendi wanted to do was translate the Baha’i writings into English. Accordingly, he was focussed on acquiring a mastery of English sufficient to adequately translate Bahá’u’lláh’s writings.
Despite the many duties of his office as Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, an office he held from 1921 until his passing in 1957, Shoghi Effendi found time to realise the dream of his youth. One of his gifts to the Baha’i community, was an anthology of selections from Bahá’u’lláh’s writings known as Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah. Published in 1935, the translations made available a significant body of work previously unavailable in English.
As described in the introduction to the 1952 US Edition of Gleanings, Shoghi Effendi organised the anthology into five major themes. The themes offer broad vistas into Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. The first theme explores the concept of the uniqueness of the present day – a day of human emancipation and fulfilment like nothing the world’s historical record: the age of human maturity. (Passages 1 – 18) The second theme explores the nature of the successive messengers and teachers who have carried forward humanity’s religious understanding: the Manifestations of God. (Passages 19 – 49) The third theme is concerned with the soul, its nature and immortality. (Passages 70 – 99) The fourth theme is concerned with the fostering of world order – the life of society as a whole. (Passages 100 – 121) The final theme concerns the spiritual life of the individual.
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh gave the Baha’i Community a vantage point from which to see the entirety of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings.
The anthology is only one of a number of translations that Shoghi Effendi undertook. Translations which are in turn a subset of Shoghi Effendi’s published writings. Writings which are in turn a small portion of Shoghi Effendi life’s work. That life’s work achieved the planning and beautification of the world centre of the Baha’i Faith, established the elected institutions of the Baha’i Faith at local and national level and carried the Baha’i Faith from a handful of countries to 219 states, dependencies and islands around the world. It is a remarkable life of service and achievement.
Below, are five extracts from Gleanings – drawn from each of the major themes mentioned above.
The Day in Which We Live
THIS is the Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness. It behooveth them to cleave to whatsoever will, in this Day, be conducive to the exaltation of their stations, and to the promotion of their best interests. … Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen.
The Manifestation of God
And since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation, and no resemblance whatever can exist between the transient and the Eternal, the contingent and the Absolute, He hath ordained that in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven. Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself. … These Essences of Detachment, these resplendent Realities are the channels of God’s all-pervasive grace. … They are commissioned to use the inspiration of Their words, the effusions of Their infallible grace and the sanctifying breeze of Their Revelation for the cleansing of every longing heart and receptive spirit from the dross and dust of earthly cares and limitations. Then, and only then, will the Trust of God, latent in the reality of man, emerge, as resplendent as the rising Orb of Divine Revelation, from behind the veil of concealment, and implant the ensign of its revealed glory upon the summits of men’s hearts.
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. The movement of My Pen is stilled when it attempteth to befittingly describe the loftiness and glory of so exalted a station.
The Life of World
O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity. This is the straight Path, the fixed and immovable foundation. Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure. Our hope is that the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth.…
The Life of the Individual
IT is Our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of all goodness unto men, and an example of uprightness to mankind. Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbors. Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men. He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world. … If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. We love to see you at all times consorting in amity and concord within the paradise of My good-pleasure, and to inhale from your acts the fragrance of friendliness and unity, of loving-kindness and fellowship. Thus counseleth you the All-Knowing, the Faithful. We shall always be with you; if We inhale the perfume of your fellowship, Our heart will assuredly rejoice, for naught else can satisfy Us. To this beareth witness every man of true understanding.
Image: Cover of 2005 US edition of Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
(This article is the 62nd in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)