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The spiritually learned are lamps of guidance among the nations, and stars of good fortune shining from the horizons of humankind. They are fountains of life for such as lie in the death of ignorance and unawareness, and clear springs of perfections for those who thirst and wander in the wasteland of their defects and errors. They are the dawning places of the emblems of divine Unity and initiates in the mysteries of the glorious Qur’án. They are skilled physicians for the ailing body of the world, they are the sure antidote to the poison that has corrupted human society. It is they who are the strong citadel guarding humanity, and the impregnable sanctuary for the sorely distressed, the anxious and tormented, victims of ignorance. “Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.
— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 44-45.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote The Secret of Divine Civilization specifically for the people of Iran, in order to help them understand the true meaning of modernity. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s treatise is a discourse on power, true power — spiritual power — which alone can effect real transformation in society. Of course, the treatise has relevance for the renovation of the social order in other countries as well, since in it ‘Abdu’l-Bahá describes the qualities of the spiritually learned and explains how they can exert their influence to shape society.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes: “The spiritually learned are lamps of guidance among the nations, and stars of good fortune shining from the horizons of humankind.” As this metaphor makes clear, it is only the wisdom of the spiritually learned that has the power to transform the life of nations, and, in fact, all of humanity. Those who live in the darkness of ignorance need a light to guide them to the path to awareness and perfection; the spiritually learned are that light and they alone can guide people to true happiness.
The spiritually learned are also, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains, “fountains of life for such as lie in the death of ignorance and unawareness.” This powerful metaphor suggests that those who live in ignorance of God’s purpose are, in fact, dead. But by means of the guidance of the spiritually learned, they can come to know the Word of God and be brought to life. Only the spiritually learned can offer the revivifying draught of the fountain of wisdom and perform the miracle of raising to life those who are spiritually dead.
The final line is my favorite: “Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.” Surely, this assertion is true not only for Islam. It is sometimes thought that knowledge lives only in the mind; but I believe that the kind of knowledge, the kind of awareness to which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is referring, grows in the heart. Knowing Bahá’lláh and recognizing the authority of His Word requires, at first, openness: one must allow one’s heart to be touched by the light of God’s words and one’s mind to be so infused with new understanding that, with time, it becomes faith.
As I read this passage, I thought about how critical the spiritually learned are to the life of every society. How I wished to become one of them and to serve as a lamp to guide the nation of Iran! Our world is filled with people who find no meaning or purpose in life. Truly, they are living in darkness and need help to find their way to true happiness. I would like to become one of these guides, because each human soul deserves to know Bahá’lláh’s Word and to find the path to perfection.