Obedience to Divine Law:
Evolution of the Individual's Perception
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #5
Bahá'í National Center: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
March 31 – April 2, 1995
(see list of papers from #5)
Religion is the outer expression of divine reality and is progressive. The divine utterance is revealed to humankind by each Manifestation according to humanity's capacity at the time. In Islam Muhammad said "Say. If ye love God, then follow me: God will love you, and forgive your sins, for God is Forgiving, Merciful" (al-Imran, verse 29). Bahá'u'lláh has disclosed that the reason humanity was created was love: "I knew My love for thee, therefore I created thee" (Arabic Hidden Words, no. 3). 'Abdu'l-Bahá has explained this love as the first kind of love, which flows from God to humans. As human beings soar toward a higher level of spiritual maturity, Bahá'u'lláh's statement "observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty" (Aqdas, p. 20) becomes ever clearer.
'Abdu'l-Bahá explains that the love of His beauty is the second kind of love. which flows from humans to God. He notes that it involves such characteristics as: faith; attraction to the Divine; enkindlement; progress; entrance into the Kingdom of God; receiving the bounties of God; and illumination by the lights of the Kingdom (Paris Talks, p. 180).
The concept of obedience purely for the sake of God is unique in the Bahá'! Faith. It requires an evolutionary change in one's understanding and perception, because the reasons for obeying the divine laws and ordinances are no longer fear of hell. and hope for heaven, as they are described in the Quríán. In Islam the concept of obedience as revealed by Muhammad includes a fear of bell. for wrong doings and disobedience, and an ambition for a certain place called heaven in exchange for good deeds and obedience. This is shown in al-Eaqarah 22-23, "then fear the fire prepared for the infidels, whose fuel is men and stones."
The contrast this paper is depicting between the revelation of Muhammad and that of Bahá'u'lláh is not intended to position one revelation as superior to the other. The contrast is an indication of the maturity of human beings and their capacity to grasp the meaning of their own inner reality. Bahá'u'lláh through His munificent writings has offered human beings the tools to make an inner and evolutionary change toward obedience to divine laws. Through His early writings Bahá'u'lláh gradually planted the seeds of obedience and allowed them to grow steadily through the prodigious flow of His writings over a period of forty years.
The Blessings of Obedience. It is through obedience to divine laws and ordinances that one can raise an infrastructure that can shelter one's spiritual life. Bahá'u'lláh identifies obedience as the highest means for the maintenance of world order; He notes that it provides security to the people; and that it is the means for attaining perfect liberty. The presentation will focus on obligatory prayer [salát] as a means for defining the individual's relation to his Creator in Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.
Some modem intellectuals consider the word "obedience" to be a synonym for passive submission, blind acceptance, and religious fanaticism We will cover some of the reasons for this stated in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh: petty-mindedness; arrogance and pride; remoteness from God; idle fancies; failure to sanctify their eyes, ears, and hearts from the standards of humankind; turning to the exponents of rebellion and error; and depending solely on one's own intellect, comprehension, and learning.
In conclusion, we shall, recapture the responsibility and capacity of humanity to respond to divine love by obedience to God's laws and ordinances, as stated as one of the twin duties mentioned in the first paragraph of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
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