By Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khánúm

Not the least of the treasures which Bahá’u’lláh has given to the world is the wealth of His prayers and meditations. He not only revealed them for specific purposes, such as the Daily Prayers, the prayers for Healing, for the Fast, for the Dead, and so on, but in them He revealed a great deal of Himself to us. At moments it is as if, in some verse or line, we are admitted into His Own heart, with all its turbulent emotions, or catch a glimpse of the workings of a mind as great and deep as an ocean, which we can never fathom, but which never ceases to enrapture and astonish us.

If one could be so presumptuous as to try and comment on a subject so vast and which, ultimately, is far beyond the capacity of any merely mortal mind to analyse or classify, one might say that one of His masterpieces is the long prayer for the Nineteen Day Fast. I do not know if He revealed it at dawn, but He had, evidently, a deep association with that hour of the day when the life of the world is repoured into it. How could He not have? Was He not the Hermit of Sar-Galú, where He spent many months in a lonely stone hut perched on a hilltop; the sunrise must have often found Him waiting and watching for its coming, His voice rising and falling in the melodious chants of His supplications and compositions. At how many dawns He must have heard the birds of the wilderness wake and cry out when the first rays of the sun flowed over the horizon and witnessed in all its splendor the coming alive of creation after the night.

In this prayer it is as if the worshipper approaches the sun while the sun is approaching its daybreak. When one remembers that the sun, the lifegiver of the earth, has ever been associated with the God Power, and that Bahá’u’lláh has always used it in His metaphors to symbolize the Prophet, the prayer takes on a mystical significance that delights and inspires the soul. Turning to the budding day He opens His supplication:

“I beseech Thee, O my God, by Thy mighty Sign (the Prophet), and by the revelation of Thy grace amongst men, to cast me not away from the gate of the city of Thy presence, and to disappoint not the hopes I have set on the manifestations of Thy grace amidst Thy creatures.” Who has not, in order to better visualize himself in relation to the Kingdom of God, seen his own soul as a wanderer, weary and hopeful, standing at the Gates of the Heavenly City and longing for admittance? The worshipper gazes at the brightening sky in the east and waits, expectant of the mercy of God. He hears the “most sweet Voice” and supplicates that by the “most exalted Word” he may draw ever nearer the threshold of God’s door and enter under the shadow of the canopy of His bounty—a canopy which is already spreading itself, in mighty symbolic form, over the world in crimson, gold, and gray clouds.

The day waxes; the oncoming sun, in the prayer of Bahá’u’lláh, becomes the face of God Himself to which He turns, addressing words of infinite sweetness and yearning: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by the splendor of Thy luminous brow and the brightness of the light of Thy countenance, which shineth from the all-highest horizon, to attract me, by the fragrance of Thy raiment, and make me drink of the choice wine of Thine utterance.”

The soft winds of dawn, which must have often played over His face and stirred His black locks against His cheek, may have given rise to this beautiful phrase in His prayer: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by Thy hair which moveth across Thy face, even as Thy most exalted pen moveth across the pages of Thy tablets, shedding the musk of hidden meanings over the kingdom of Thy creation, so to raise me up to serve Thy Cause that I shall not fall back, nor be hindered by the suggestions of them who have cavilled at Thy signs and turned away from Thy face.” How deep, how poetical, how sincere are His words! The playing of the strands of hair recall to Him the fine tracing of the Persian script, revealing words from God that shed a divine fragrance in the lives of men. But that is not all. In His communion all the love and loyalty of His heart is roused, He supplicates to be made of the faithful, whom naught shall turn aside from the Path that leads them to their Lord.

The sun has risen, as if in answer to the cry of the worshipper to “enable me to gaze on the Day-Star of Thy Beauty. …” And as he continues his prayer it seems as if all nature were moving in harmony with it: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by the Tabernacle of Thy majesty on the loftiest summits, and the Canopy of Thy Revelations on the highest hills, to graciously aid me to do what Thy will hath desired and Thy purpose hath manifested.” North and south the glory spreads, a faint echo of that celestial beauty visible to the eye of Baha’u’llah and which He says: “shineth forth above the horizon of eternity.” So deeply does it penetrate the heart that it evokes the desire to “die to all that I possess and live to whatsoever belongeth unto Thee,” The soul is moved; all earthly things pale before the vision which, as symbolized in the sunrise, it beholds in the inner world; God, the “Well-beloved” seems to have drawn very near.

The winds flit over the land; some tree calls to the Prophet’s mind, as it shivers and stirs, the Tree of Himself that over-shadows all mankind: “I beseech Thee, O my God, by the rustling of the Divine Lote-Tree and the murmur of the breezes of Thine utterance in the kingdom of Thy names, to remove me far from whatsoever Thy will abhorreth, and draw me nigh unto the station wherein He who is the Day-Spring of Thy signs hath shone forth.” Bahá’u’lláh puts the words into our mouths whereby we may draw nigher to God and receive from Him the heavenly gifts: “I beseech Thee … to make known unto me what lay hid in the treasuries of Thy knowledge and concealed within the repositories of Thy wisdom.” “I beseech Thee … to number me with such as have attained unto that which Thou hast sent down in Thy Book and manifested through Thy will.” “I beseech Thee … to write down for me what Thou hast written down for Thy trusted ones. …”

And finally, in words designed for those countless worshippers for whom He wrote this glorious Fasting Prayer, He asks God to “ write down for every one who hath turned unto Thee, and observed the fast prescribed by Thee, the recompense decreed for such as speak not except by Thy leave, and who forsook all chat they possessed in Thy path and for love of Thee.” He asks that the silence of the good may descend upon them-both the silence and the speech of chose who are wholly dedicated to that Divine Will which alone can lead men to their highest destiny. The last thought of all is that those who have obeyed the decrees of God may be forgiven their trespasses.

This majestic prayer is composed of fourteen verses, each opening with the words “I beseech Thee …” and closing with the same refrain: “Thou seest me, O my God, holding to Thy Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous, the Most Mighty, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorious, and clinging to the hem of the robe to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come.” The rhythmical emphasis on the thoughts contained in these words is not only very powerful but very artistic—if one may borrow the term for lack of a better one–and the sense that all creatures living, and chose gone before into the invisible realms of God, are clinging to the skirt of His mercy, dependent on Him and Him alone, exerts a profound influence on one’s mind, particularly so when taken in conjunction with what one beholds at this hour of the day: The sky kindling with light, the brush of the wind gently over the face of nature; the whole world waking to the casks of living on all sides; all things dependent on God; they always have and they always will be. This is a little of what this long prayer conveys to the those who partake of it.

Another unique prayer of Bahá’u’lláh is His congregation prayer for the Dead.  His Revelation throughout has aimed at doing away with every form of ritual; He has abolished priesthood; forbidden ceremonials, in the sense of church services with a set form; reduced the conduct of marriages to a naked simplicity, with a minimum uniform rite required of those concerned. The one exception to this general policy is the Prayer for the Dead, portions of which are repeated while all present are standing. Prayers such as this and the one for the Fast, can never be properly appreciated by merely reading them. They are living experiences. The difference is as great as looking at a brook while you are not thirsty, and drinking from it when you are. If you lose some one you love and then read aloud the glorious words, you come to know what “living waters” are:

“This is Thy servant … deal with him, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace. Grant him admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven. …” Simple words, words which follow our loved one out into the spaces where we may not follow. But the profound experience of this prayer is in the refrain, each sentence of which is repeated 19 times. “We all, verily, worship God. We all, verily, bow down before God. We all, verily, are devoted unto God. We all, verily, give praise unto God. We all, verily, yield thanks unto God. We all, verily, are patient in God.”

The very strength of the prayer is in the repetition. It is so easy to say just once, “We … bow down before God” or “We yield thanks unto God” or “We are patient in God”; the words slip off our minds swiftly and leave them much as before. But when we say these things over and over, they sink very deep, they go down into the puzzled, the rebellious, the grief stricken or numbly resigned heart and stir it with healing powers; reveal to it the wisdom of God’s decrees, seal it with patience in His ways,—ways which run the stars in their courses smoothly and carry us on to our highest good.

No form of literature in the whole world is less objective than prayers. They are things of motion, not of repose. They are speeches addressed to a Hearer; they are medicine applied to a wound; they stir the worshipper and set something in his heart at work. That is their whole purpose. Teachings, discourses, even meditations, can be read purely objectively and critically, but the man who can read a real prayer in the cold light of reason alone, has indeed strayed far from his own innate human nature, for all men, everywhere, at every period in their evolution, have possessed the instinct of supplication, the necessity of calling out to something, some One, greater than themselves, whether in their abasement it was a stone image, thunder or fire, or, in their glory, the invisible God of all men that they called upon, the instinct was there just as deeply.

Many wonderful prayers exist in all languages and all religions; but the prayers of Bahá’u’lláh possess a peculiar power and richness all their own. He calls upon God in terms of the greatest majesty, of the deepest feeling; sometimes with awe; sometimes with pathos; sometimes in a voice of such exultation that we can only wonder what transpired within his soul at such moments. He uses figures of speech that strike the imagination, stir up new concepts of the Divinity and expand infinitely our spiritual horizons. Much, no doubt, of their perfection is lost in translation as He often employed the possibilities and peculiarities of the Arabic and Persian languages to their fullest. Some of His prayers, following the style of the Súrihs of the Qur’án, end every sentence in rhyme—though they are not poems—and the custom of alliterating words, thus imparting a flowing sense of rhythm to the sentences, is very often resorted to in all His writings, including His prayers. Nevertheless the original charm and beauty pervades the translations and none of the lyric quality of the following prayer seems to have been lost. It rises like a beautiful hymn which lifts the soul on wings of song:

“From the sweet-scented streams of Thine eternity give me to drink, O my God, and of the fruits of the tree of Thy being enable me to taste, O my Hope! From the crystal springs of Thy love suffer me to quaff, O my Glory, and beneath the shadow of Thine everlasting providence let me abide, O my Light! Within the meadows of Thy nearness, before Thy presence, make me able to roam, O my Beloved, and at the right hand of the throne of Thy mercy, seat me, O my Desire! From the fragrant breezes of Thy joy let a breath pass over me, O my Goal, and into the heights of the paradise of Thy reality let me gain admission, O my Adored One! To the melodies of the dove of Thy oneness suffer me to hearken, O Resplendent One, and through the spirit of Thy power and Thy might quicken me, O my Provider! In the spirit of Thy love keep me steadfast, O my Succorer, and in the path of Thy good pleasure set firm my steps, O my Maker! Within the garden of Thine immortality, before Thy countenance, let me abide for ever, O Thou Who art merciful unto me, and upon the seat of Thy glory stablish me, O Thou Who art my Possessor! To the heaven of Thy loving-kindness lift me up, O my Quickener, and unto the Daystar of Thy guidance lead me, O Thou my Attractor! Before the revelations of Thine invisible spirit summon me to be present, O Thou Who art my Origin and my Highest Wish, and unto the essence of the fragrance of Thy beauty, which Thou wilt manifest, cause me to return, O Thou Who art my God!

“Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. Thou art, verily, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the All-Highest.”

At times Bahá’u’lláh put words into the mouth of the worshipper according to his need: He writes a supplication for a child, for one who is ill, one who is sad, one who is pregnant, one who is a sinner, one who pours forth his heart to God—capturing the whole gamut of human emotions in His various communions. But at times it is obvious the prayer is His own. We read it, but we cannot be the speaker, or mortal feet cannot tread the path that lay between His soul—the soul of the Prophet Himself—and the God Who sent Him here among men to labor and suffer for them. “I know not,” He declares, “what the water is with which Thou hast created me, or what the fire Thou hast kindled within me, or the clay wherewith Thou hast kneaded me. The restlessness of every ocean hath been stilled, but not the restlessness of this Ocean which moveth at the bidding of the words of Thy will. The flame of every fire hath been extinguished, except the Flame which the hands of Thine omnipotence have kindled, and whose radiance Thou hast, by the power of Thy name, shed abroad before all that are in Thy heaven and that are on Thy earth. As the tribulations deepen, it waxeth hotter and hotter.” The Holy fire that burned within His being is not for us, frail creatures that we are, to comprehend. We can only gaze into its heart and marvel at its shifting hues and beauty, much as we marvel at the flames that leap and dance on our own hearth fires, though we may not approach or touch them.

Bahá’u’lláh exalts the being and nature of God, in His addresses to Him, as no other Prophet ever has. He defines His relation to Him; He gives us glimpses of the forces surging within His soul; He lay bare the emotions that stir within His turbulent breast. In words of honey He cries out: “Thou beholdest, O my God, how every bone in my body soundeth like a pipe with the music of Thine inspiration. …” A love far beyond our ken burns in His heart for the One God who sent Him down amongst men: “Thou seest, O Thou Who art my All-Glorious Beloved, the restless waves that surge within the ocean of my heart in my love for Thee. …” “Thou art, verily, the Lord of Bahá and the Beloved of his heart, and the Object of his desire, and the Inspirer of his tongue, and the Source of his Soul.” “Lauded be Thy name, O Thou Who art my God and throbbest within my heart!” “O would that they who serve Thee could taste what I have tasted of the sweetness of Thy love!” How keenly His soul thrilled with appreciation for the aid that poured into His inmost being from the Invisible Source: “Were I to render thanks unto Thee for the whole continuance of Thy kingdom and the duration of the heaven of Thine omnipotence, I would still have failed to repay Thy manifold bestowals.” How ardent is His gratitude to His Lord for raising Him up to serve His fellowmen: “How can I thank Thee for having singled me out and chosen me above all Thy servants to reveal Thee, at a time when all have turned away from Thy beauty!”

Ever and again He confesses His readiness, nay, His eagerness, to bear every trial and hardship for the sake of shedding the light of God upon this darkened world, and in order to demonstrate the greatness of the love He feels for His Creator: “I yield Thee thanks for that Thou hast made me the target of diverse tribulations and manifold trials in order that Thy servants may be endued with new life and all Thy creatures may be quickened.” “I yield Thee thanks, O my God, for that Thou hast offered me up as a sacrifice in Thy path … and singled me out for all manner of tribulation for the regeneration of Thy people.” “I swear by Thy glory! I have accepted to be tried by manifold adversities for no purpose except to regenerate all that are in Thy heaven and on Thy earth.” “How sweet is the thought of Thee in times of adversity and trial, and how delightful to glorify Thee when compassed about by the fierce winds of Thy decree.” “Every hair of my head proclaimeth: ‘But for the adversities that befall me in Thy path how could I ever taste the divine sweetness of Thy tenderness and love?’”

With what passion and majesty He testifies to the unquenchable power and purpose of His Lord—the Lord Whom He called His “Fire” and His “Light”—which burned within His breast: “Were all that are in the heavens and all that are on the earth to unite and seek to hinder me from remembering Thee and from celebrating Thy praise, they would assuredly … fail … And were all the infidels to slay me, my blood would … lift up its voice and proclaim: ‘There is no God but Thee, O Thou Who Art all my heart’s desire!’ And were my flesh to be boiled in the cauldron of hate, the smell which it would send forth would rise towards Thee and cry out: ‘Where art Thou, O Lord of the Worlds, the One Desire of them that have known Thee!’ And were I to be cast into fire, my ashes would—I swear by Thy glory—declare: ‘The Youth hath, verily, attained that for which he had besought His Lord the All-Glorious, the Omniscient.’”

Reading such testimonials that sprang in moments of who knows what exaltation?—from the heart of the prophet, we cannot but marvel at the mighty and strange bond that binds such a Being to the Source of all power. It is as if an invisible umbilical cord tied Him to His Creator; all His life, His motivations, His inspiration, His very words, flowed down this divine channel, as all the life, blood, and food of the babe flows in through that one bond it has with its mother. He throbbed in this mortal world with the vibrations of a celestial world; He set all things pulsating with Him, whether they knew it or not, and drew them up and closer to the throne of God. One of His most moving and sublime rhapsodies is included in a meditation in which He testifies to the power of the praise which He pours out to God, to transform and influence the hearts of others: “I yield Thee such thanks,” He declares, “as can direct the steps of the wayward towards the splendors of the morning light of Thy guidance. … I yield Thee such thanks as can cause the sick to draw nigh unto the waters of Thy healing, and can help those who are far from Thee to approach the living fountain of Thy presence …. I yield Thee such thanks as can stir up all things to extol Thee . . . and can unloose the tongues of all beings to … magnify Thy beauty … I yield Thee such thanks as can make the corrupt tree to bring forth good fruit … and revive the bodies of all beings with the gentle winds of Thy transcendent grace. … I yield Thee such thanks as can cause Thee to forgive all sins and trespasses, and to fulfill the needs of the peoples of all religions, and to waft the fragrances of pardon over the entire creation. … I yield Thee such thanks as can satisfy the wants of all such as seek Thee, and realize the aims of them that have recognized Thee. I yield thee such thanks as can blot out from the hearts of men all suggestions of limitation. …”

Poetic and stirring as these words are, we need not assume them to be merely the effusions of an exalted and over-filled heart. Bahá’u’lláh was never idle in His words. If He tells us that enshrined in the thanks He poured forth to His God is a power that can blot out every limitation from the hearts of men, it is so. The trouble is with us. How many Seers and Prophets, how many scientists and pioneers, have brought men tidings of truths and powers they knew not of and offered them to their generation, only to be spat upon, laughed to scorn, killed or ignored? And in the end a more enlightened people would take the key and open the door and find the wonders that the incredulous disbelieved, to be all true, ready at hand, waiting to be used for their good. The Prophets of God are intent on giving us both the good of this world and the one awaiting us after death, but most of the time we will not have it. We, blind and perverse, prefer our own ways! Did not Christ say: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered Thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” It is not a new story. Every Divine Manifestation has placed jewels in the hands of man, only to see them flung aside for some foolish toy of his choosing.

Yet each Prophet has assured us that God’s pity knows no bounds. “Thou art, in truth,” states Bahá’u’lláh in one of His prayers, “He Who mercy hath encompassed all the worlds, and Whose grace hath embraced all who dwell on earth and in heaven. Who is there who hath cried after Thee, and whose prayers hath remained unanswered? Where is he to be found who hath reached forth towards Thee, and whom Thou hast failed to approach? Who is he who can claim to have fixed his gaze upon Thee, and towards whom the eye of Thy loving-kindness hath not been directed? I bear witness that Thou hadst turned toward Thy servants ere they had turned toward Thee, and hadst remembered them ere they had remembered Thee.”

It is an education in divinity to read Bahá’u’lláh’s prayers. He maintained the unique nature of God, the utter impossibility of any creature approaching or comprehending Him, in a clear and graphic manner. The unseen God of Moses; the “Father” of Christ, unto Whom none cometh to but through the Son; the One of Whom Muhammad so beautifully said: “Eyes see Him not but He sees the eyes,” is exalted, one might say, to unimaginable heights by Him. “Thou art He Whom all things worship and Who worshipeth no one, Who is the Lord of all things and the vassal of none, Who knoweth all things and is known of none.” “From everlasting Thou hast existed alone with no one beside Thee, and wilt, to everlasting, continue to remain the same, in the sublimity of Thine essence and the inaccessible heights of Thy glory,” He declares. In a short and wonderful prayer He solemnly sets forth the fundamental doctrine of the nature of God with a lucidity and power that would, in any past dispensation, have gained it first place in the dogmas of the church:

“God testifieth to the unity of His Godhood and to the singleness of His Own Being. On the throne of eternity, from the inaccessible heights of His station, His tongue proclaimeth that there is none other God but Him. He Himself, independently of all else, hath ever been a witness unto His own oneness, the revealer of His own nature, the glorifier of His own essence. He, verily, is the All-Powerful, the Almighty, the Beauteous.

“He is supreme over His servants, and standeth over His creatures. In His hand is the source of authority and truth. He maketh men alive by His signs, and causeth them to die through His wrath. He shall not be asked of His doings and His might is equal unto all things. He is the Potent, the All-Subduing. He holdeth within His grasp the empire of all things, and on His right hand is fixed the Kingdom of His Revelation. His power, verily, embraceth the whole of creation. Victory and over-lordship are His; all might and dominion are His; all glory and greatness are His. He, of a truth, is the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful, the Unconditioned.”

The “Unconditioned.” That one word provides ample food for thought. Some of the adjectives Bahá’u’lláh uses for the Godhead are most striking and seem to plow up our minds and prepare them for an infinitely deeper and richer concept of the One on Whom we depend for everything we have, be it physical or spiritual. For instance: “O God Who art the Author of all Manifestations . . . the Fountain-Head of all Revelations, and the Well-Spring of all Lights.” As words are the tools of men’s thoughts, they are tremendously important. The “Well-Spring of all Lights,” though but another way of saying, that all the Prophets are generated by God, presents a tremendous mental picture to a man who has studied something of modern astronomy, of a universe which is light upon light, of matter which itself is the stuff of which light is made. Compare the mental picture this phase conjures up with that of an anthropomorphic God, bearded, stern and much like a human grandfather, who created the world in six days and took a rest on the seventh! Though no doubt when that metaphor was propounded it opened up men’s minds to a new and wider concept of the Divinity. A being Who could do all that in six days was worthy of worship and to be strictly obeyed!

Bahá’u’lláh calls God “the Pitier of thralls,” “the Pitier of the downtrodden,” “the Help in peril,” “the Great Giver,” “the Restorer”—words which sink into our hearts these dark days with an added comfort as we see so many of our fellow-men downtrodden, in deadly danger, despoiled and broken. He tells us that this “King of Kings,” this “Quickener of every mouldering bone,” this “Enlightener of all creation” Who is the “Lord of all mankind” and the “Lord of the Judgment Day” is the One “Whom nothing whatsoever can frustrate.” Such a God will right all wrongs and rule the world for the good of man! Grievous, on the other hand, as are our sins, as testified by these words: “Wert Thou to regard Thy servants according to their deserts … they would assuredly merit naught except Thy chastisement …” He yet assures us, in the words He addresses to God, that: “All the atoms of the earth testify that Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, the Benevolent, the Great Giver …” and that “the whole universe testifieth to Thy generosity.” Even though He be the Lord “Whose strength is immense, Whose decree is terrible,” yet we can confidently turn to Him, and, in Bahá’u’lláh’s words declare: “A drop out of the ocean of Thy mercy sufficeth to quench the flames of hell, and a spark of the fire of Thy love is enough to set ablaze a whole world.”

Our world is steadily sinking into ruin. We have waxed proud and forgotten our God—as many a people has before us to its soul’s undoing—and turned away from Him, disbelieved in Him, followed proudly our own fancies and desires. No Being that was not such a Being as Bahá’u’lláh depicts would still hold open His door to us! And yet in how many passages such as these the way back, the way we once trod but have now, for the most part, forgotten, is pointed out to us and words placed in our mouths that are food for our sick hearts and souls: “Cleanse me with the waters of Thy Mercy, O my Lord, and make me wholly Thine. …” “I am all wretchedness, O my Lord, and Thou art the Most Powerful, the Almighty!” “Thy Might, in truth, is equal to all things!” “Whosoever has recognized Thee will turn to none save Thee, and will seek for naught else except Thyself.” “Help me to guard the pearls of Thy love, which by Thy decree, Thou hast enshrined in my heart.” “‘Many a chilled heart, O my God, hath been set ablaze with the fire of Thy Cause, and many a slumberer hath been awakened by the sweetness of Thy voice.”

Of such stuff as these is the treasury of prayers which Bahá’u’lláh has left us. They are suited to the child before he goes to sleep at night, to the mystic, to the busy man of practical outlook, to the devout. An instance of the comprehension and tolerance with which He viewed human nature is the fact that He revealed a choice of three daily, and obligatory, prayers. While imposing on men the obligation of turning to their Creator once, at least, during every day, He provided a means of doing so suited to widely different natures. One takes about thirty seconds to recite and is to be said at the hour of noon; one is longer and is to be used three times during the day; and the third is very long and profound, accompanied by many genuflexions, and may be used any time during the twenty-four hours of the day. The Divine Physician provided us with what we might call a spiritual polish with which to brighten our hearts. We need this renewal which comes through turning to the Sun of Eternal Truth—as every bird and beast, be it ever so humble, responds to the light of the physical sun at dawn—but he gave latitude to the individual state of development and temperament.

Some Westerners have found the long Daily Prayer very strange; no doubt this is because the present generation has ceased to feel intimate with its God. For a man to stand alone in his room and stretch his arms out to nothingness, or kneel down before a blank wall, in the midst of familiar objects, seems to him unnatural and even foolish. This is because he has lost the sense of the “living God.” God, far from being to him, as the Qur’án says, “nearer than his life’s vein,” has become more of an X in some vast equation. And yet men that we honor and men that we long to emulate have not felt shy before their God. Many a burly crusader knelt on the stones of Jerusalem where he felt His Lord’s feet might have trod, and the Pilgrim Fathers did not feel self-conscious on their knees when turning to God who had led them to a new and freer homeland. The prayers of Bahá’u’lláh will help lead us back to that warm sense of the reality and nearness of God, through use. He makes no compulsion, He takes our hand and guides us into the safe road trodden by our forefathers.

No survey, however cursory and inadequate, of His Prayers would be complete without quoting one of the most passionate and moving of them all, one associated with probably the saddest hours of His whole life. After His banishment from Persia to ‘Iráq the initial signs of envy and hatred began to be apparent from His younger brother, Mírzá Yaḥyá. In order to avoid open rupture and the consequent humiliation of the Faith in the eyes of the non-believers, Bahá’u’lláh retired for two years to the wilderness of Kurdistan and lived, unknown, as a dervish among its people.

During His absence the situation, far from improving, now that the field was left open and uncontested to Mírzá Yaḥyá, steadily deteriorated. Shameful acts took place and conditions became so acute that the believers sent a messenger in search of Baha’u’llah to report to Him and beseech His return. Reluctantly He turned His face towards Baghdad. He was going back to mount the helm; storms lay ahead of Him of a severity and bitterness no other Prophet had ever known; behind Him, once and for all, He left a measure of peace and seclusion. For two years He had communed with His own soul. He had written wonderful poems and revealed beautiful prayers and treatises. Now He headed back into the inky blackness of an implacable hatred and jealousy, where attempts against His very life were to be plotted and even prove partially successful. As He tramped along through the wilderness, beautiful in its dress of spring, the messenger that had gone to fetch Him back testified that He chanted over and over again this prayer. It rolled forth like thunder from His agonized heart:

“O God, my God! Be Thou not far from me, for tribulation upon tribulation hath gathered about me. O God, my God! Leave me not to myself, for the extreme of adversity hath come upon me. Out of the pure milk, drawn from the breasts of Thy loving-kindness, give me to drink, for my thirst hath utterly consumed me. Beneath the shadow of the wings of Thy mercy shelter me, for all mine adversaries with one consent have fallen upon me. Keep me near to the throne of Thy majesty, face to face with the revelations of the signs of Thy glory, for wretchedness hath grievously touched me. With the fruits of the tree of Thine Eternity nourish me, for uttermost weakness hath overtaken me. From the cups of joy, proffered by the hands of Thy tender mercies, feed me, for manifold sorrows have laid mighty hold upon me. With the broidered robe of Thine omnipotent sovereignty attire me, for poverty hath altogether despoiled me. Lulled by the cooing of the Dove of Thine Eternity, suffer me to sleep, for woes at their blackest have befallen me. Before the throne of Thy oneness, amid the blaze of the beauty of Thy countenance, cause me to abide, for fear and trembling have violently crushed me. Beneath the ocean of Thy forgiveness, faced with the restlessness of the leviathan of glory, immerse me, for my sins have utterly doomed me.”

By Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khánúm

One of the most inspiring things about Nabíl’s Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, is that it creates, not alone a background of knowledge and authenticity in which to set the Bahá’í Cause in its present world-wide expression, nor just a key to a way of living and being that we in the West had almost forgotten was possible to the human race, (latent indeed within their seed of humanness), but opens before us a stage which was a nation and an epoch in history, on which a pageant of romance, of adventure and heroism unequaled by any crusade plays itself before us. And slowly as we become more en rapport with the thought and mode of expression of Nabíl, that pageant and its figures begin to take hold on us, to live for us as realisms; or perhaps something deeper still, we take hold of them and, inspired by their deeds and the lofty atmosphere of their lives, try to carry out into our own far Western World that same banner of shining belief and inner conviction that they raised aloft in Persia not eighty years ago.

The mere sound of their names is music to us; their faces, in which the light of their actions shone so brightly, become stars in the new world dawn, casting forever their radiance upon the path of men. The dusty roads of Persia, winding amidst its rocky hills and wind and heat-swept plains, become familiar highways in our minds down which we follow, with love and tender adoration, the green-turbaned, slight figure of the Báb led by his cavalcade of guards who loved Him so devotedly they begged Him to escape from their custody. Or we accompany Qurratu’l-‘Ayn in her howdah, travelling from city to city and raising a call no woman had ever dared to proclaim before in the lands of her bondage. Or it is after the hoofs of Mullá Husayn’s horse that we speed, hearing him cry, Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán! shaking the very walls of our hearts.

In Nabíl we partake of the food of Beauty, a rare thing in a world grown clouded with strife, terror and sadness. We see the days rise under the light of a heavy golden sun, in a land where the weight of its heat falls on the world like a tangible cloak; we await the nights under an Eastern sky where when the moon is absent a million stars hang low to light your way, and when the moon is present she eclipses in white light all but her own deep and mysterious shadows. Against these settings rise the nineteen Letters of the Living.

The first, the Báb. No one person could attempt an adequate description of that blessed Youth, but through the book run testimonies of Him, as though He were a wind in the tree of humanity and the voices of the leaves each gave their separate praise to Him. … His countenance revealed an expression of humility and kindliness which I can never describe. Every time I met Him, I found Him in such a state of humility and lowliness as words fail me to describe; His downcast eyes, His extreme courtesy, and the serene expression of His face made an indelible impression upon my soul. The sweetness of His utterance still lingers in my memory. The melody of His chanting, the rhythmic flow of the verses which streamed from His lips caught our ears and penetrated into our very souls …. Our hearts vibrated in their depths to the appeal of His utterance. Not alone did every bearing of that One give forth testimony of His station, but His walk was sufficient for Quddús to distinguish Him. Why seek you to hide Him from me? he exclaimed. I can recognize Him by His gait. I confidently testify that none besides Him, whether in the East or in the West, can claim to be the Truth. None other can manifest the power and majesty that radiate from His holy person.

After passing from one persecution to another, and prison to prison, always with that surpassing meekness of mien, the glory of the light within Him was turned like a beacon upon the world when He declared His station to the ‘ulamás of Tabríz at His trial. He entered that room where all were arrayed against Him, and they were but the symbols of the nation which would at length kill Him and seek to hound from the earth His teachings and His followers, and that nation in turn was only the voice of a darkened world which perished from His light. And yet, the majesty of His gait, the expression of overpowering coherence which sat upon His brow—above all, the spirit of power which shone from His whole being, appeared to have for a moment crushed the soul out of the body of those whom He had greeted. A deep, a mysterious silence, suddenly fell upon them. Not one soul in that distinguished assembly dared breathe a single word. At last the stillness which brooded over them was broken by the Nizámu’l-Ulamá’. Who do you claim to be, he asked the Báb, and what is the message which you have brought?I am, thrice exclaimed the Báb, I am, I am, the promised One! I am the One whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at whose mention you have risen, whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten. Verily I say, it is incumbent upon the peoples of both the East and the West to obey My word and to pledge allegiance to My person.

Thus did God’s paean rise in this greatest dawn of history, summoning a world to the shores of His Communion. In Bahá’u’lláh’s own Words: Nigh unto the celestial paradise a new garden hath been made manifest, round which circle the denizens of the realm on high and the immortal dwellers of the exalted paradise. Strive, then, that ye may attain that station, that ye may unravel from its wind-flowers the mysteries of love and know from its eternal fruit the secret of divine and consummate wisdom.

What was the fragrance of those windflowers? No faint perfume of abstinence, no celibate fragrance that retired from the world, but a deep and abiding passion of being. A love that burned like a fire in the hearts of the souls and they became as stubble in its flame. Their lives were romance, sacrifice, love, and a deep and mysterious joy. Were they not—those who bared their breasts to the seen and unseen shafts of the enemy—like that whale of love that swallows up the seven seas and says, Is there yet any more? and like that lover—thou wilt see him cool in fire and find him dry even in the sea. When the heroes of Shaykh Tabarsí had been reduced to starving to death on the bone dust of their horses, grass, and their saddle and shoe leather, did not Quddús say, while rolling a cannon-ball scornfully with his foot: How utterly unaware are these boastful aggressors of the power of God’s avenging wrath! … Fear not the threats of the wicked, neither be dismayed by the clamour of the ungodly. Then he continued saying that no power on earth could hasten or postpone the hour of their death, but should they allow themselves for one moment to become afraid they would have cast themselves out of the stronghold of Divine protection. Bahá’u’lláh said: My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish. When we have followed Nabíl’s Narrative to the last of its multiple truths, histories and wisdoms, we find that the key to it, to the lives of those early Bábí martyrs, nay to the Cause of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, is summed up in the mystery of love. Their love was their indomitable and miraculous strength, their shining armour of protection, the diadem of their faith, the blood in which they pledged their eternal Beloved—that One for whom the heart of the world has ever languished and sought.

Nabíl becomes a lyric poet in those lines in which he describes the love of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. The Báb, whose trials and sufferings had preceded, in almost every case, those of Bahá’u’lláh, had offered Himself to ransom His Beloved from the perils that beset that precious Life; whilst Bahá’u’lláh, on His part, unwilling that He who so greatly loved Him should be the sole Sufferer, shared at every turn the cup that had touched His lips. Such love no eye has ever beheld, nor has mortal heart conceived such mutual devotion. If the branches of every tree were turned into pens, and all the seas into ink, and earth and heaven rolled into one parchment, the immensity of that love would still remain unexplored, and the depths of that devotion unfathomed.

Our minds turn to Mullá Husayn, who, mounted at the head of two hundred companions, bearing the prophesied Black Standard of Muhammad, and wearing the Báb’s green turban, held at Bay the combined armies of the Sháh for eleven months. Riding out in the teeth of twelve thousand men and crying, O Lord of the Age, he and the invincible host of God’s followers dispersed the terrified enemy. At length he shed his blood at Quddús’ feet whilst speaking of the depths of the Sea of Revelation and their beloved Báb, ere his life ebbed away.

Or we remember Qurratu’l-‘Ayn, beautiful and famous, who escaped clandestinely from her own home in which her husband had imprisoned her in his opposition to her Bábí Faith, leaving her children motherless and making their father her bitterest enemy, to arise and proclaim throughout Persia and ‘Iráq the glory of the New Day. She created such a furor throughout the East that E. G. Browne was compelled to pay her one of the most glowing tributes woman has ever received. The appearance of such a woman as Qurratu’l-‘Ayn is in any country and any age a rare phenomenon, but in such a country as Persia it is a prodigy—nay, almost a miracle. Alike in virtue of her marvellous beauty, her rare intellectual gifts, her fervid eloquence, her fearless devotion, and her glorious martyrdom, she stands forth incomparable and immortal, amongst her countrywomen. Had the Bábí Religion no other claim to greatness this were sufficient—that it produced a heroine like Qurratu’l-‘Ayn. The queenly names of history fade before the unveiled beauty of her whom the tongue of power hath named Tahirih—the pure one. That moment, when, with one gesture of freeing herself and all women from the veils of weakness, inferiority, and submission, Qurratu’l-‘Ayn and the Bábí men unveiled, is unrivaled and has no precedent. Some turned from her bared face and doubted the Messenger of God because of tradition; one old man, unable to bear the age in which he found himself, attempted suicide; Quddús was spellbound with indignation; but Qurratu’l-‘Ayn cast her glance towards Bahá’u’lláh, who had named her Tahirih, and said: Verily, amid gardens and rivers shall the pious dwell in the seat of truth, in the presence of the potent King. … This day is the day of festivity and universal rejoicing, the day on which the fetters of the past are burst asunder. Let those who have shared in this great achievement arise and embrace each other. And they feasted together in the tent of Bahá’u’lláh, surrounded by the beautiful gardens of Badasht.

The same quality of beauty and majesty pervades all the events chronicled by Nabíl; sincerity is all that is required to become deeply and permanently inspired by the record contained in The Dawn-Breakers, for no heart who loved truth could read its history unmoved and remain unchanged. Here one tastes again those living waters that alone can revivify mankind and nurture in him the seed of immortality.

Even the humblest of souls won undying glory, like that man who, seated in the bazaars of Isfáhán, heard the proclamation of the Báb’s message while sifting his wheat, and instantly and unhesitatingly accepted it. Later he hastened, sieve in hand, to join the heroes of Tabarsí, saying, With this sieve which I carry with me I intend to sift the people in every city through which I pass. Whomsoever I find ready to espouse the Cause I have embraced, I will ask to join me and hasten forthwith to the field of martyrdom. Of all the wise and devout of that city he alone received the crown of a martyr’s fame.

And there was that heart-shattered boy who, when in Tabríz, heard of the Blessed Báb, longed to speed to Him and offer his life in the lists of His followers, and was imprisoned by his family who thought that if not already bewitched, one glimpse of the Báb would enchant him permanently as it did thousands. Inconsolable, he languished and pined for the only expression that could ever satisfy his pure young soul. The agony of his longing was rewarded when in a vision he saw the Báb, who addressed to him these words: Rejoice, the hour is approaching when, in this very city, I shall be suspended before the eyes of the multitude and shall fall a victim to the fire of the enemy, I shall choose no one but you to share with me the cup of martyrdom. Rest assured that this promise I give you shall be fulfilled. A few years later it was this youth’s head that rested on the heart of the Báb as they hung bound from the walls of the barrack square of Tabríz, and it was his flesh that was inextricably interwoven with the Báb’s remains after their joint execution.

To some Nabíl will be a fascinating historical document. To others, great literature. Some will feel crushed by the tragedy of the brutally sacrificed lives of thousands. Others will be exalted by the knowledge that again the human soul has risen to its greatest heights and men have died immortal deaths. But to all of these its more subtile fragrance will be lost. Only those who have through some experience in life touched to their lips the cup of divine love, will fully grasp the purport of this mighty pageant. They will know why the martyrs sometimes sang when being led to execution: So hath overcome that scarce he knows Whether at the feet of the Beloved It be head or turban which he throws!

And they, becoming fired with that same zeal that pervaded those Dawn-Breakers, will carry on and establish that vision of hope for the world, for which they died.