Recent Articles
  • The Equality of Men and Women

    When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talked about the problems and challenges humanity must deal with during His travels in Europe and the United States and Canada from 1910 to 1913, He brought up the equality of men and women—a question that, where it has been unaddressed, is causing a crisis in society (and families) and consequently a threat to the social structure.

  • Traditions Differ From Truth

    Knowledge of the truth is the goal of religions. Its progressive revelation in pro- portions corresponding to human spiritual capacity should not be a cause for discord and strife between people.

  • Movement and Life

    In December 1911, ‘Abdu’l- Bahá returned from His tour in London and Paris to spend the winter months in the city of Alexandria and prepare for His journey to America and Canada the following year. The flow of visitors to His residence continued all through the months of the winter…

  • The Springtime of the Soul Returns

    ‘A bdu’l-Bahá’s stay in Paris for the months of October and November 1911 afforded His hearers the pleasure of daily talks in which He discussed various topics related to the principles of Bahá’u’lláh. At the beginning of His visit, on 15 October, He gave a talk about the regularity of the renewal of the divine […]

  • Universal Love

    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, while on visit to the city of Paris in 1911, more than once addressed the subject of the soul in His public talks. He pointed out in particular its spiritual nature and its essential effect on material life, with emphasis too on its role in establishing a unity of mankind for whose realization in this enlightened age all past religions participated in preparing the way.

More articles on The Centenary >
Bringing Oneself to Account in the Scale of Divine Requirements (continued)

Baha’u’llah’s reiteration of these past commands is significant inasmuch as it proves that God’s religion is one—one path that transcends time, and binds God’s messages to each other in an everlasting divine plan in which each message marks one of the stages crossed by the human species in its long journey towards maturity.

The evaluation of one’s conduct and one’s thoughts and feelings depends on one’s acquaintance with the divine requirements laid down as human obligations. They are characterized by different levels. In most cases, the obligation stipulated in the law is the minimum requirement, which should not prevent the individual from seeking more elevated standards. For example, Baha’u’llah refers in one of His Tablets to the distinction between justice and mercy: “O son of man! If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.” 8

Justice is based on equal measures, which is good, but better yet is mercy, which puts the general interests of mankind above the particular interests of individuals. In this manner, a new social environment is being created, filled with the spirit of sacrifice and with individuals who are mindful of the interests of the others. They are bound to regard the interests of others as their own interests, which constitutes the minimum—any less would be mere injustice.

To observe such an elevated standard in bringing oneself to account one needs to be independent in the process of evaluation, which is a big responsibility.

          Algarve Orange Tree (in tiles) by Kate Swift
        (With the kind permission of the Swift family)

The individual must free himself of opinions formulated by others, whe- ther religious leaders or those with tra- ditionally held views. Following either of these set standards would empty the process of self-evaluation of its deep meaning and noble purpose.

Accounting to oneself is not limited to one’s actions. Rather it should include one’s omissions as well as one’s set of values and beliefs. Basing one’s eval- uation on the outdated values of past ages will put the accounting into ques- tion. Standards change with the change of conditions and time, espec- ially in a century illumined by such a multitude of scientific discoveries and new human knowledge of which the generations of the past were deprived.

The same principle applies to many words and deeds that once were leg- itimate but which have been rendered inacceptable with the passage of time. Indeed, values and standards of con- duct are ramifications of religious tea- chings that of necessity change as the world progresses.

In conclusion, bringing oneself to account needs realistic but honest review of one’s action and thinking and high standards of criteria, bearing in mind that values, including religious values, are all relative, and change with human progress and conditions of life. The deeper the individual goes into the motives of his behaviour the better he will get to know his true self. Often acceptable behaviour hides a questionable if not selfish motivation.

We can imagine the kind of world we are calling into being by such high standards in accounting to oneself, if they are well observed. Despite the many barriers separating cultures and dividing humankind, humanity has managed to bring the world to its present civilization. Imagine the forthcoming world once it is freed from the conflicts of religious sectarianism, the wars, rivalries, racism, prejudice, slavery, colonialism, injustice and all the obstacles and barriers of the past. Imagine how far a world-embracing vision and universal love can take us.


The picture of the plum tree was kindly shared by Fir0002 in accord with GNU Free Documentation License version 1.2 or later.

The “Algarve Orange Tree” by Kate Swift in tiles from Estudio Destra in Silves (Portugal) was kindly shared by the J. Swift family (2005) in accord with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

1. The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh (Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publish Trust, 1985), no. 31.

2. Lawh-i-Hikmát, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh (Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988), p. 138.

3. Preamble, The Hidden Words, p. 3.

4. Matthew 26:41.

5. II. Corinthians 13:5.

6. The Qur’án 59:18.

7. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Importance of Deepening Our Knowledge and Understanding of the Faith: Extracts from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, comp. The Bahá’í World Centre (Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1983), no. 37, p. 11.

8. Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 64.