Some New Laws and Features in the Baha'i Faith
O ye that dwell on earth! The distinguishing feature that marketh the preeminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have, on the one hand, blotted out from the pages of God's holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men, and have, on the other, laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statutes.
Time and again have We admonished Our beloved ones to avoid, nay to flee from, anything whatsoever from which the odor of mischief can be detected. The world is in great turmoil, and the minds of its people are in a state of utter confusion. We entreat the Almighty that He may graciously illuminate them with the glory of His Justice, and enable them to discover that which will be profitable unto them at all times and under all conditions. He, verily is the All-Possessing, the Most High.
While all religions brought principles that can be seen as universally applicable, they varied in their degree of emphasis on different themes. For example Judaism placed much emphasis on the importance of the family and adherence to the law, while Christianity placed a greater emphasis on the theme of love (without diminishing the importance of the law). Love went beyond the family to reach one's neighbor. Through Islam, the warring tribes were united and the concept of nationhood came about. Unity among the believers was encouraged and emphasized.
The emphasis in the Baha'i Faith has even been greater on the unity and the coming together of all people and all nations as members of one family and citizens of one country.
"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
All principles of the Baha'i Faith revolve around, and work towards this principle of the "oneness of Mankind".
While this theme in its essence in neither new, nor unique to the Baha'i Faith, there remained many barriers which stood in the way of its implementation and successful realization. Concepts like the "religious uncleanness" of certain peoples and casts for example, stood in the way of this unity. Marriage restrictions among people of different religions was another barrier. Lack of agreement on successorship to the Founders of religion, resulted in factions and sects which often resulted in bloody wars.
Among the new ordinances and teachings in the Baha'i Faith intended to facilitate the realization of the unity of all people, we find : " . . .
(from the book: Brilliant Proof -by Abul Fadhl)
In this section we look at a few examples of what might have contributed throughout the ages to what may now be perceived as an atmosphere of separation or division between "believers", and "non believers" (or the "us" and "them" attitude). We also see examples of the Baha'i teachings related to these topics.
"O ye who believe! truly the pagans are unclean; so let them not after this year of theirs approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty soon will Allah enrich you if He wills out of his bounty for Allah is All-Knowing All-Wise."
"They will swear by Allah unto you, when ye return unto them, that ye may let them be. Let them be, for lo! they are unclean, and their abode is hell as the reward for what they used to earn."
"It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no sense."
"Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended."
"God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of "uncleanness", whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridvan, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand."
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.
"It is permitted that the peoples and kindreds of the world associate with one another with joy and radiance. O people! Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. Thus hath the day-star of His sanction and authority shone forth above the horizon of the decree of God, the Lord of the Worlds."
"This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."
"Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters) until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever even though he allure you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the fire. But Allah beckons by His grace to the Garden (of Bliss) and forgiveness and makes His Signs clear to mankind: that they may celebrate His praise."
"O ye who believe! when there come to you believing women refugees examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower). And there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah: He judges (with justice) between you: and Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom."
"...ye are at liberty to enter into wedlock as ye wish, that haply by this means ye may exalt the Cause of God." Thus hath the Nightingale sung with sweet melody upon the celestial bough, in praise of its Lord, the All-Merciful. Well is it with them that hearken."
"They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consorting with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations."
"In every dispensation, there hath been the commandment of fellowship and love, but it was a commandment limited to the community of those in mutual agreement, not to the dissident foe. In this wondrous age, however, praised be to God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth loving-kindness to every community on earth."
"In all religious teachings of the past, the human world has been represented as divided into two parts, one known as the people of the Book of God or the pure tree and the other the people of infidelity and error or the evil tree. The former were considered as belonging to the faithful and the others to the hosts of the irreligious and infidel; one part of humanity the recipients of divine mercy and the other the object of the wrath of their Creator... Baha'u'llah removed this by proclaiming the oneness of the world of humanity."