Thanks to the Friends who were able to get down to the River the evening of May 22 to commemorate the “Declaration of the Bab” at the Bares’ home. I know it was difficult being so late at night, and being right before the holiday weekend. So, I thought I’d share what we did, and learned, for those who weren’t able to come.
First, Steve made Persian tea, (taught to him by Mahnaz Wilson, during her visit in March), and Manooch Hakimi gave it his approval, saying it was “very good!”
Tea glasses and dark rock sugar from sugar beets.
After ice cream sundaes and conversation, we went upstairs to a prepared room for prayers and storytelling. After listening to a recorded chanting of “The Remover of Difficulties,” we took turns, remembering in our own words, bits of the story of how Mulla Husayn came to embrace the Báb’s bold claim of being the Promised Qa’im.
Imagine the room at night, with the lantern lit.
Given that Mulla Husayn’s questions for the Báb were based on correctly interpreting the Qur’an, I (Madge) shared some brief research I did to understand this Holy Day more deeply. First, I read the following passages from Shoghi Effendi, cited in an online article, “Islam and the Baha’i Faith” (http://bahai-library.com/bic_islam_bahai_faith2004).
There is so [much] misunderstanding about Islam in the West in general that you have to dispel. Your task is rather difficult and requires a good deal of erudition. Your chief task is to acquaint the friends with the pure teaching of the Prophet [Muhammad] as recorded in the Qur’an, and then to point out how these teachings have, throughout succeeding ages, influenced, nay, guided the course of human development. In other words you have to show the position and significance of Islam in the history of civilization.”Lights of Guidance, #1664
The mission of the American Bahá’ís is, no doubt, to eventually establish the truth of Islam in the West.Lights of Guidance #1665
On the importance of the study of Islam to Bahá’ís , the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, said that for “a proper and sound understanding of the Cause,” its study was “absolutely indispensable.”
I also shared that the Memphis Central Library has a collection of 25 new books on Islam called “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf” recently donated by area Muslims, through a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, in hopes that Memphis residents will gain a clearer understanding of their Faith. We briefly reviewed a couple books from the collection I had checked out. (For a copy of the booklist, email your “snail mail” address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Centered is a Muslim children’s book I recently bought.
As we focused back on the Báb, we all knew that His commentary on the Qur’an had been on the “Surah of Joseph.” But, here’s what we also learned: The Báb titled his commentary the Qayyumu’l-Asma’. The “Surah of Joseph” is actually the entire 12th chapter of the Qur’an, and consists of 111 verses. The Báb’s commentary on this surah consists of 111 chapters – one chapter for each verse of the story, as told in the Qur’an. He revealed only the first chapter, titled “The Surah of Mulk” on the night of May 22nd. We read the first 6 verses from chapter 12 in the actual Qur’an, then asked ourselves, “So who was Joseph?” Very few knew. We Bahá’ís rarely study this famous story for some reason.
Elaina Smith remembered the story of Joseph from Sunday School classes, and his “coat of many colors.” I told a brief version of the story that’s most familiar to Jews and Christians from the Old Testament in Genesis: Chapters 37 & 39-46. The story in the Qur’an has just a few differences. Then we studied an article written by a friend of the Bares, Brent Poirier, who is a faculty member of the Wilmette Institute, titled, “Further Reflections on the Story of Joseph.” (http://bahai-insights.blogspot.com/2010/07/story-of-joseph-further-reflections.html).
The article lists many examples of the Báb’s interpretations, which are not at all obvious when you read the Báb’s actual commentary. For example, we read about one of Joseph’s dreams in verse 4 of the Qur’an: “O my father, I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon bowing before me in homage.” Brent cites the Baha’i scholar, Nader Saeidi, who said: “The Báb explains that the dream of the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing before Joseph signifies the recognition of the Báb by Muhammad and His successors, the Imams.” Isn’t that cool?
Hopefully you’ll log onto Brent’s article, with imbedded links to the original story of Joseph. Brent states: “This Story is not only about Joseph. It really shows Joseph as the archetype of all the Prophets of God.” (I think it would be fun and interesting sometime to have a “movie night” to show the 1995 film Joseph in Egypt with Ben Kingsley (anyone have Netflix?) You can also find several versions of the story on YouTube).
I found a different article from Brent where he points out that portions of the Báb’s commentary are available in English in the book Selections from the Writings of the Báb. The article instructs us to look up Qayyumu’l-Asma,’ and tells us the first selections under that heading were revealed on that first night, when the Báb began the process of “unsealing” the Holy Books.
We concluded our evening by reading Mulla Husayn’s own words from The Dawnbreakers, p 65, describing his transformation that night in 1844. Then Elaina read the “Tablet of Visitation” at two hours and eleven minutes after sunset.
It was a pleasure to host this very important Holy Day. I’ve missed you all, and am happy to be “back.”
by Madge Bares