The Word of God is Independent of Acquired Knowledge
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
In Persia in the nineteenth century most people were illiterate, under the domination of the clergy whom they blindly obeyed. There were two educated classes, divines and government officials, plus a small number of others. Only the religious leaders and divines, however, could be called learned. They used to spend decades of their lives applying themselves to theology, Islámic law, jurisprudence, philosophy, medicine, astronomy and, above all, the Arabic language and its literature. Since Arabic was the language of the Qur'án, the divines attached great importance to its study. Many would spend a lifetime mastering the language because of its vast scope and wealth of expression. They considered no treatise worthy of perusal unless it was composed and written in Arabic, and no sermon from the pulpit as moving or eloquent unless the Mullá preaching it had used an abundance of difficult and often incomprehensible Arabic words. By this means they excited the imagination of their often illiterate audiences who were fascinated by the apparently learned discourse of their clergy, despite the fact that they might not understand a single word. The normal yardstick for determining the depth of a man's learning was his knowledge of the Arabic language and the size of his turban!
The second class included government officials, clerks and some merchants, who received a certain elementary education in their childhood. This consisted of reading, writing, calligraphy, the study of the Qur'án and the works of some famous Persian poets. All this was usually accomplished within the span of a few years, after which many of them would marry, as was customary, in their late teens.
It was to this class that Bahá'u'lláh belonged. His father was a senior dignitary at the court of the Sháh and famous as a calligrapher--an art which carried with it great prestige in royal circles. Bahá'u'lláh as a child received a simple education for a brief period of time. Like His father, He excelled in calligraphy. Some specimens of His exquisite handwriting are kept in the International Bahá'í Archives on Mount Carmel.
When Bahá'u'lláh was about nineteen years old He married a lady of noble birth, Ásíyih Khánum. She bore Him seven children of whom only three survived--'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Greatest Holy Leaf, and Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch.
In those days government officials enjoyed all the benefits of a totalitarian regime, and were aggressive and arrogant. These men could, by their very presence, terrify innocent people. It was for this reason that many who met Bahá'u'lláh in His youth were surprised to see One Whose father had held a high position in the court of the Sháh, Who Himself stood high in the esteem of all the courtiers, especially the Prime Minister, but Who, although He was expected to lead an overbearing and tyrannical life was, on the contrary, the embodiment of love and compassion. To the orphan He was a kind father, to the downtrodden a helper, and to the poor and needy a haven and a refuge. These heavenly qualities manifested by Him from childhood made Him the object of adoration and love among people who heard His name and came in touch with His vibrant personality.
Although in this society it was the government officials who wielded authority, nevertheless, the all-powerful clergy looked down upon such men as inferior beings, unworthy to enter with them into the realms of knowledge and learning. Yet Bahá'u'lláh, on several occasions, expounded with simplicity and eloquence abstruse and mysterious traditions of Islám in the presence of divines, who were astonished at the depth of His knowledge and the profundity of His utterance.
The revelation of the Word of God has never been dependent on acquired knowledge. The Bearers of the Message of God in most cases were devoid of learning. Moses and Christ were not learned men. Muhammad was not educated, but when Divine Revelation came to Him, He uttered the words of God. Sometimes His utterances would be recorded on the spot by one of His disciples and sometimes the words would be memorized and recorded later. The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh had an elementary education, yet their knowledge, which was derived from God, was innate and encompassed the whole of mankind.
In one of His Tablets known as the Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom), which contains some of His noblest counsels and exhortations concerning individual conduct, Bahá'u'lláh, in the course of expounding some of the basic beliefs of certain philosophers of ancient Greece, stated that He had entered no school and acquired no knowledge from men. Yet the knowledge of all that is, He asserted, was bestowed upon Him by the Almighty and recorded in the tablet of His heart, while His tongue was the one instrument capable of translating it into words.
In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh revealed the source of His knowledge and the divine origin of His Mission in these words:
O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. . . . This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred.
Excerpt from The Revelation of Baha'u'llah by Adib Taherzadeh