The book of Madaníyyah, "The Secret of Divine Civilization",
was written by the Master in Akka in 1875 at the instruction of Bahá'u'lláh.
In a Tablet, written in the voice of Bahá'u'lláh's secretary, it
is stated that one day the Blessed Beauty asked The Most Great Branch to write
an epistle on the causes of the rise and decline of civilization. When Bahá'u'lláh
saw the book of Madaníyyah He expressed His exceeding gladness for what
`Abdu'l-Bahá had written.
To the casual reader it may appear that this book is addressed to the King
and the people of Iran in the 19th century. However, the true audiences
are political leaders and people of the world. Hence, this is a treatise on the
causes of rise and decline of civilization. The significance of this book becomes
more apparent when we consider the reform movements taking place in Iran, as well
as the oppositions to reform, in the latter decades of that century. Using the
particular context of Iran in the 19th century 'Abdu'l-Bahá
addresses the objections levied against reform. However, in addressing each particular
objection He explains the factors causing decline of civilization in general,
and the conditions necessary for its progress.
Roles and responsibilities of political leaders, duties and responsibilities
of citizens, the role of religion in civilization, religion vs. state, and qualifications
necessary for true leaders are among the topics addressed extensively in this
magnificent book. Aside from these topics, this book could be studied from linguistic
point of view. To cite one example, throughout this work 'Abdu'l-Bahá has
quoted from Persian and Arabic sayings and poetry, many of which had become forgotten
or archaic by then.
The book of Síyyásíyyah, "The Political Treatise,"
was written about the year 1893, a year after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension.
This book has not been translated, however, its content is very much similar to
"The Secret of Divine Civilization," and it is much shorter. In this
book the Master in a very clear language talks about the ruinous results of interference
of the clergy in politics, and gives historical examples. The significance of this book becomes more evident when one
considers the following sets of events in the last decade of the 19th
1. The sociopolitical environment of Iran (and the Middle East) leading to
significant changes in the next few decades.
2. The activities of Azali Covenant breakers (followers of Mírzá
Yahyá Azal) who were active in politics.
The large growth of the Bahá'í community of Iran in this period
and the need for its protection.