Everyone experiences situations where people who identify as believers act in ways that are inconsistent with Baha’u’llah’s teachings. Baha’u’llah’s writings are packed with exhortations to be a good person and to have a sin-covering eye as regards the failings of others. However, endeavouring to do this can be difficult when another person’s actions are seriously harmful, especially when the person in question is in a position of authority. If these situations are not sorted out, they lead to people giving up their faith in Baha’u’llah.
A tablet has come to light in which Baha’u’llah discusses these kinds of situations and how to respond to them. It is called Tablet on Avoiding the Disingenous, and it was translated by Joshua Hall. It is a reasonably short tablet. I will go through it and look at the guidance it contains.
In the first paragraph, Baha’u’llah restates the principle that “conflict, contention and unrest” should be “scrupulously avoided”. This suggests to me that, if at all possible, one should avoid contending with a person who is acting badly. I have throught long and hard about this principle and have concluded that it is a general principle that does have exceptions when there are serious justice issues at stake, because justice is another fundamental principle too. One example of that would be when when one country invades another and all must rise up to stop the invader. But, in any case, that is not the context we are dealing with here.
“Conflict, contention, and unrest, now as in the past, are to be scrupulously avoided. The friends of God must regard others with loving-kindness, and lead everyone to the horizon of guidance through compassionate counsels and virtuous deeds.”Tablet on Avoiding the Disingenous, paragraph 1
After stating the general principle against conflict, Baha’u’llah openly acknowledges that there are people who align themselves with his revelation but act in a way that causes it harm. His guidance is to avoid these disingenuous people.
“How many have associated themselves with God and have yet become the means of the degradation of His Cause! It is necessary to avoid the company of such people.”Tablet on Avoiding the Disingenous, paragraph 1
In paragraph 2, Baha’u’llah looks at the effect the disingenous can have on believers. He acknowledges that the behaviour of the disingenous causes some believers to become disillusioned in their faith. He sounds a little annoyed at this. He characterises those who become disillusioned as having “remained veiled from the all-glorious horizon”. That does not sound super sympathetic to someone struggling to come to terms with the harm caused by another. He pulls the relevant spiritual principle from a Sufi poem, “Though all should disbelieve in Him on Earth, His robe of grandeur would not be besmirched.” In other words, whatever the actions of any person claiming to be aligned with Baha’u’llah, those actions can never compromise Baha’u’llah’s divine reality.
Baha’u’llah is annoyed because he does not like being blamed for the wrongful actions of the disingenous. He is exalted above what people do; it is not his fault if people choose to act badly.
“Some persons ascribe to God what they witness from those who have laid false claim to love Him. Miserable, indeed, is that which they do.”Tablet on Avoiding the Disingenous, paragraph 2
In fact, Arabic hidden word no 28 contains a clear warning that not everyone who claims to align with Baha’u’llah really is on his side. If a person acts shamefully, then they do not represent him: “Spirit child, know for certain that those who instruct the people to be just and yet act shamefully themselves are not of me even if they identify with my name.”
The harsh reality is that disingenuous people will always be around. It is therefore a hiding to nothing to allow oneself to be influenced by them. “The righteous and the wicked have existed, and shall continue to exist, in every age. Take heed, O people of insight!” There will always be good and bad people – we have to learn to deal with it, and not blame Baha’u’llah. Instead, the way to proceed, he says, is to always focus on journeying towards him, and ignore the actions of the disingenuous. We are to pray and ask God to guide everyone to God’s good pleasure. God answers prayers and is all bountiful and forgiving.
In a concluding statement, Baha’u’llah says to shun those who are wicked and corrupt and not to “suppose that all who speak are truthful, nor to account every claimant to belief as among the people of the Crimson Ark.”