Make Like A Messiah
Bahá'u'lláh is said by Bahá'ís
to have cast curses on various rulers of the world. Shoghi Effendi's recollections
of how these curses fell upon various rulers and other powerful figures raise
several important questions about the impartiality of his analysis.
- Bahá'u'lláh's curse on the powerful is usually depicted as
unique to this "New Era", and it certainly sounds new to any Non-Muslim, but
the fact is that Bahá'u'lláh, for placing a claim on Prophethood,
was required by Islamic tradition to address the kings. This, after all, was
what Muhammad did. Muhammad and his heirs, of course, conquered much of the
known world in the following years. Bahá'u'lláh would have to
do something similar to pass for a Islamic Prophet.
- Bahá'u'lláh gives himself credit for the general downfall
of kings and ecclesiastics, but this downfall began long before Bahá'u'lláh's
time: the English Civil War, the Protestant Reformation, the American Revolution,
and the French Revolution, among other such movements, had concluded before
Bahá'u'lláh was born. There were kings remaining throughout
the world, but the trend toward constitutional government was clear and strong.
A simple observation of history would depict Bahá'u'lláh as
an Iranian religious leader who was influenced by events throughout the world
that had transpired before he was born.
- It should not surprise anyone that many rulers fell in the time that Bahá'u'lláh
lived. Power is historically fragile, no matter what the era. Power is usually
corrupt, no matter what the era. The Industrial Revolution, a natural outcome
of the Enlightenment, had made warfare more vicious and far-reaching. Power
was going to change hands, and that doesn't happen bloodlessly when the power
- Shoghi Effendi in some cases found fulmillment in Bahá'u'lláh's
curses in the demise of indivduals, and in other cases found fulmillment in
the demise of dynasties. In the case of Násir'ud-Dín Sháh,
who outlived Bahá'u'lláh, a ruler who was eventually assaninated
after 50 lunar years of rule, a ruler who modernized Írán and
encouraged education, and a ruler who certainly had his faults (far from unique
in this respect), was painted by Shoghi Effendi has a horrible tyrant who
died miserably. How did Násir'ud-Dín Sháh differ from
- How are we to distinguish the rulers whom Bahá'u'lláh threatened
from those he merely warned about answering to God? How are we to distinguish
the good from the evil? How are we to distinguish those the enemies from the
friends and the disinterested?
- If Bahá'u'lláh was addressing the rulers of the world, why
was he so Eurocentric in his appeals? China, though in decline, was still
a great nation in Bahá'u'lláh's time, and Japan was expanding.
Bahá'u'lláh only gave passing mention of the Americas, which
were almost entirely independent nations. The United States had just ended
slavery and would soon put and end to the Spanish empire.
- What is the divine sense in the downfall of rulers who are succeeded by
rulers even more ruthless? What does the death of Kaiser Wilhelm mean if Adolf
Hitler is around the bend? What does the death of Czar Alexander II mean if
he is followed by a less enlightened Czar, and then Joseph Stalin? There was
no extended pattern of divine retribution; only the ancient cycle of the rise
and fall of powers. True, democritization was a force in the years following
Bahá'u'lláh's death, but Communism and Fascism were stronger
forces that outlasted Shoghi Effendi's history of the downfall of rulers,
which preceded World War II.
- Queen Victoria
was given a high place in Shoghi's history because she was rumored to have
given a polite response to Bahá'u'lláh's letter (how typically
English of her). Nevermind, though, for it was the Prime Minister and Parliament
of the United Kingdom who held the reins of power. The British monarchy had
been constitutionally powerless since 1832. After the death of Prince Albert
in 1861, Victoria went into seclusion for 25 years. That is the less-than-influential
condition that Bahá'u'lláh's correspondence would have found
her -- if it ever did reach her.