Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Set Free Every Slave

Photos of the Shrine of the Bab, December 2006 after my trip to Ghana.

O Lord! Thou art the Remover of every anguish and the Dispeller of every affliction. Thou art He Who banisheth every sorrow and setteth free every slave, the Redeemer of every soul. O Lord! Grant deliverance through Thy mercy, and reckon me among such servants of Thine as have gained salvation.
- The Báb

The Baha'i World is drawing near to one of it's great Holy Days, the birth of that Gate of God (In 'Arabic The Bab). In Boston, on Friday evening we will commemorate the birth of the Prophet-Martyr and Herald of the Promised Day, the Primal Point who referred to Himself in this way:

"I am," thrice exclaimed the Báb, "I am, I am, the promised One! I am the One whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at whose mention you have risen, whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten. Verily I say, it is incumbent upon the peoples of both the East and the West to obey My word and to pledge allegiance to My person."
(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 315)

And even more eloquently proclaimed:
"I AM the Mystic Fane which the Hand of Omnipotence hath reared. I am the Lamp which the Finger of God hath lit within its niche and caused to shine with deathless splendour. I am the Flame of that supernal Light that glowed upon Sinai in the gladsome Spot, and lay concealed in the midst of the Burning Bush."
(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 74)

So many things could be said about this noble youth of Shiraz and His magnificence, but tonight as the streets of Boston literally run with the blood of black and brown men, women and children, I remember the Bab as the one who prayed to God for the freeing of every slave. I remember the Bab as one who honored an Ethiopian as one of only two who journeyed with Him on His pilgrimage to Mecca, who witnessed Him publicly and boldly proclaim His mission in the spiritual heart of the Islamic World. I think of the mass incarceration of black men in America and of stories of the Blessed Bab imprisoned in Mah-Ku where He was denied even a lamp. I think of the testimony of Mulla Husayn, the first person on the planet to recognize the bearer of a new Revelation from God and how the Words of the Bab and the heroism of those who followed Him make this young black man feel sometimes:

"'This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanised my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: "Awake, for lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!"
(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 63)

I'm also reminded of a remarkable comment made in a letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual regarding the relative suffering of the Baha'is in Iran as compared to that of blacks in America:

"Concerning the comparison you have drawn in your letter between the situation of the Bahá'í community in Iran and the African-American people generally, it is noteworthy that, while the plight of the Iranian friends is grievous, it is in some essential aspects more tractable. Furthermore, since the community is organized around the Divine Teachings and empowered by the Word of God, the effects of victimization on the Iranian believers is likely to prove, in the long view, less devastating than the effects of that which has been inflicted upon the African-Americans."
(The Universal House of Justice, 1996 Apr 01, Baha'i Public Role in Plight of African-American Males)

When I think about the Bab, I think about His prayer and what it means for "slavery's children" who are not yet free, in Boston, in America and throughout the world.