The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah
Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Why did Baha'u'llah reveal this mystical collection of works?
The Hidden Words was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh about A.D. 1858 on the banks of the Tigris. In one of His Tablets, He states that certain of its passages were revealed on a single occasion and recorded in one Tablet. The rest, revealed at different times, were later added to these. In the early days of the Faith this compilation was known as the 'Hidden Book of Fatimih'.
Fatimih was the daughter of Muhammad, the holiest and the most outstanding woman of the Islamic Dispensation. Fatimih was a true and faithful believer and was much devoted to her Father. His death plunged her into a state of bitter anguish and grief.
According to the traditions of Shí'ah Islam, the Holy Spirit personified as the Angel Gabriel descended upon her and addressed certain words to her. These were dictated to Ali, her husband, and were revealed to bring consolation to her soul in her bereavement. She died soon after the passing of her illustrious Father, the Prophet of Islam.
Bahá'u'lláh has identified The Hidden Words with the verses which were revealed to Fatimih. He characterizes it as the essence of '...that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old...'
This marvelous collection of heavenly counsels and admonitions can be described as a perfect guide-book for man on his journey to the spiritual worlds of God. The soul of man is not subject to the laws of nature as they operate in this physical world. Rather, it is animated, sustained and governed by the operation of the great, the eternal Covenant of God with man. The Hidden Words not only sets out the provisions of this universal and everlasting Covenant which binds man to his Creator, but also demonstrates the way in which he can be faithful to it.
“This marvelous collection of heavenly counsels and admonitions can be described as a perfect guide-book for man on his journey to the spiritual worlds of God.”
The chief aim of Bahá'u'lláh in The Hidden Words is to detach man from this mortal world and to protect his soul from its greatest enemy, himself.
So what's in the book?
In this book, within the compass of a few pages, Bahá'u'lláh has given to humanity a prescription which safeguards its well-being and happiness. Speaking with the voice of God, He addresses man and exhorts him to 'possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart'; He stresses the importance of cleansing his heart, which is the dawning-place of the Revelation of God, from the influences of the ungodly; calls on him to 'cast out ... the stranger, that the Friend may enter His home'; advises him not to seek fellowship with the ungodly as this would turn 'the radiance of the heart into infernal fire'; and assures him of the immortality of the soul. He also affirms that God has placed within him 'the essence' of His 'light' which 'shall never be extinguished'; He confidently asserts that God has 'made death a messenger of joy' to man; establishes a Covenant with him to love God; enjoins on him to cling to justice, forbearance and love; reminds him that the 'healer' of all his ills is 'remembrance' of God; and describes the merits of turning to God in prayer at the hour of dawn. He counsels man to detach himself from this world, and not to abandon God's 'imperishable dominion' for a 'fleeting sovereignty'; rebukes him for his heedlessness, his indulgence of self and passion; directs him to avoid covetousness, envy, pride and vainglory; declares that the tongue is designed for the mention of God, that it should not be defiled with detraction and backbiting; mentions that the 'best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God'; denounces the 'idle and worthless souls' who 'yield no fruit on earth' as the 'basest of men'; speaks of the greatness of His Revelation; grieves that only a few souls have been found receptive to His Call and that of 'these few' only a 'handful hath been found with a pure heart and sanctified spirit'. He warns man to 'withdraw' his hand from 'tyranny'; pledges 'not to forgive any man's injustice' in this day; foreshadows 'an unforeseen calamity' and a 'grievous retribution' following man by reason of the deeds that he has committed; admonishes the rich to bestow their wealth upon the poor; states that 'wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved'; exalts the station of a rich man who is detached from his wealth to such a position that his 'splendour ... shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth'; urges everyone to 'show forth deeds that are pure and holy'; and describes the powers latent within man in these words:
O Son of Spirit! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I moulded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.
There are a few passages in The Hidden Words which refer implicitly to the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh -- a Covenant which later became explicit with the revelation of the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh, designated by Him the Kitáb-i-'Ahdi (The Book of My Covenant).
There is another passage in The Hidden Words which is of great significance inasmuch as it reveals the nature and intensity of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and His exalted station. It is the following:
O Son of Justice! In the night-season the beauty of the immortal Being hath repaired from the emerald height of fidelity unto the Sadratu'l-Muntaha, and wept with such a weeping that the concourse on high and the dwellers of the realms above wailed at His lamenting. Whereupon there was asked, Why the wailing and weeping? He made reply: As bidden I waited expectant upon the hill of faithfulness, yet inhaled not from them that dwell on earth the fragrance of fidelity. Then summoned to return I beheld, and lo! certain doves of holiness were sore tried within the claws of the dogs of earth. Thereupon the Maid of heaven hastened forth unveiled and resplendent from Her mystic mansion, and asked of their names, and all were told but one. And when urged, the first letter thereof was uttered, whereupon the dwellers of the celestial chambers rushed forth out of their habitation of glory. And whilst the second letter was pronounced they fell down, one and all, upon the dust. At that moment a voice was heard from the inmost shrine: 'Thus far and no farther.' Verily we bear witness to that which they have done and now are doing.
'Sadratu'l-Muntaha' in this passage literally means the tree beyond which there is no passing. The Arabs used to plant trees along certain roads and the last tree indicating the end of the road was known as 'Sadratu'l-Muntaha'. This term which has been used by Bahá'u'lláh in many of His Writings is, in one sense, the symbol of the station of the Manifestation of God, a station which is beyond the reach and understanding of men. The 'Maid of Heaven' in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh is a symbolic term and assumes different meanings.
The two letters mentioned in the above passage, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's interpretation, are B and H of the word 'Baha'. This means that only two letters out of three (B, H and A) have been revealed in this Dispensation, that the full significance and potency of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh which have been symbolically contained within the three letters of His name, have not been disclosed to mankind and that only a limited measure of His light and glory has been shed upon humanity in this age.
To this Bahá'u'lláh has testified in one of His Tablets:
Know verily that the veil hiding Our countenance hath not been completely lifted. We have revealed Our Self to a degree corresponding to the capacity of the people of Our age. Should the Ancient Beauty be unveiled in the fullness of His glory mortal eyes would be blinded by the dazzling intensity of His revelation.