“Have Mercy on Yourselves and on Those Beneath You” 1
“LAY NOT ASIDE THE fear of God, O Kings of the Earth,” Bahá’u’lláh wrote in 1868, “and beware that ye transgress not the bounds which the Almighty hath fixed. Be vigilant, that ye may not do injustice to anyone, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed. Tread ye the path of justice, for this, verily, is the straight path.”
During ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time in America, he spoke frequently of his father’s incarceration, and how this prisoner had addressed the rulers and kings of the earth. “If we study the historical record,” Abdu’l-Bahá noted, “we will find that none of the Prophets of the past ever spread His teachings or promulgated His Cause from a prison.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was only eight years old when Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál, Tehran’s notorious underground dungeon. The family would endure a lifetime of imprisonment and exile, first in Baghdad, then in Constantinople and Adrianople, and finally in the Ottoman prison city of ‘Akká in Palestine.
New York City 2
The friends from the West Coast who could not travel to the East to meet Abdu’l-Bahá sent telegrams beseeching Him to come. In July some of the Californians came in person asking Him to visit them.
On July 17, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá chanted a prayer at the marriage of Harlan Ober and Grace Robarts, at which Howard Colby Ives officiated.
Wednesday, July 17, 2022
In the morning, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
“The holding of last night’s meeting was done with wisdom and it produced great love. The marriage of the Bahá’ís was also performed according to Christian rites, so that the world may know that the people of Bahá are not confined by trivial customs, that they respect all nations and their peoples, that they are free from all prejudices and associate with all religions with utmost peace and happiness.”
He then said:
“My discourses in various gatherings have been founded on principles that are in conformity with reality as well as with the utmost wisdom. For instance, I say that the foundation of all divine religions is the same and that the Prophets are the dawning places of truth. No one can take exception or say that the principles of the Prophets and the truth of their teachings are different. Then I state that the basic teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are universal peace; the oneness of humanity; prohibition of execration and calumny; association with the followers of all religions in harmony and unity of nations, of races and of governments; and such like. I ask, did any of these principles exist in former books and religions? At the end of the talk I say that the laws of the divine religions are of two kinds: the first deals with spiritual verities which are one and the same in all religions; the other with laws which change according to the exigency of the time. For example, it is written in the Torah that if one breaks the teeth of another, his teeth must also be broken; and if one blinds the eyes of another, his eyes must also be blinded. For the sake of one dollar the thief’s hand was to be cut off. Now, can such laws be permitted and enforced in this age? Surely, no one can say it is permissible. In this way, all answers to important questions have been elucidated perfectly and none can deny them or protest against them.” 3
Talk at All Souls Unitarian Church, Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York, 14 July 1912 4
First, He has proclaimed the oneness of mankind and specialized religious teachings for existing human conditions. The first form of dissension arises from religious differences. Bahá’u’lláh has given full teachings to the world which are conducive to fellowship and unity in religion. Throughout past centuries each system of religious belief has boasted of its own superiority and excellence, abasing and scorning the validity of all others. Each has proclaimed its own belief as the light and all others as darkness. Religionists have considered the world of humanity as two trees: one divine and merciful, the other satanic; they themselves the branches, leaves and fruit of the divine tree and all others who differ from them in belief the product of the tree which is satanic. Therefore, sedition and warfare, bloodshed and strife have been continuous among them. The greatest cause of human alienation has been religion because each party has considered the belief of the other as anathema and deprived of the mercy of God.
The teachings specialized in Bahá’u’lláh are addressed to humanity. He says, “Ye are all the leaves of one tree.” He does not say, “Ye are the leaves of two trees: one divine, the other satanic.” He has declared that each individual member of the human family is a leaf or branch upon the Adamic tree; that all are sheltered beneath the protecting mercy and providence of God; that all are the children of God, fruit upon the one tree of His love. God is equally compassionate and kind to all the leaves, branches and fruit of this tree. Therefore, there is no satanic tree whatever—Satan being a product of human minds and of instinctive human tendencies toward error. God alone is Creator, and all are creatures of His might. Therefore, we must love mankind as His creatures, realizing that all are growing upon the tree of His mercy, servants of His omnipotent will and manifestations of His good pleasure.
Even though we find a defective branch or leaf upon this tree of humanity or an imperfect blossom, it, nevertheless, belongs to this tree and not to another. Therefore, it is our duty to protect and cultivate this tree until it reaches perfection. If we examine its fruit and find it imperfect, we must strive to make it perfect. There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity. We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them and not Satan. They are not manifestations of the wrath of God but evidences of His divine favor. God, the Creator, has endowed them with physical, mental and spiritual qualities that they may seek to know and do His will; therefore, they are not objects of His wrath and condemnation. In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God; therefore, how shall we be justified in debasing and belittling them, uttering anathema and preventing them from drawing near unto His mercy? This is ignorance and injustice, displeasing to God; for in His sight all are His servants.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Sockett, Robert. “‘Have Mercy on Yourselves and on Those Beneath You.’” 239 Days in America, 17 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/17/to-the-rulers-and-kings-of-the-earth/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 111. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=5#section115 ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 230-231. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#468345676 ↩