Recently I came across this quote which made me sit up and take notice:
Take heed that your . . . deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 138)
It made me wonder – what deeds of mine are stained with suspicion. I’m sure I have some, but I couldn’t think of any in the moment, so I did what I love to do best – took the question to the Writings, to see if I could learn more about how suspicion is used in the Bahá’í teachings.
How is Suspicion Described?
As a characteristic of a decadent society:
. . . the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism . . . of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce . . . these appear as the outstanding characteristics of a decadent society, a society that must either be reborn or perish. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 237)
What are the Effects?
Suffering for millions of human beings:
But in our concern for such immediate obvious calls upon our succour we must not allow ourselves to forget the continuing, appalling burden of suffering under which millions of human beings are always groaning — a burden which they have bourne for century upon century and which it is the Mission of Bahá’u’lláh to lift at last. The principal cause of this suffering, which one can witness wherever one turns, is the corruption of human morals and the prevalence of prejudice, suspicion, hatred, untrustworthiness, selfishness and tyranny among men. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 122)
How Does it Manifest?
Creating the suspicion of secrecy on behalf of the Assemblies:
Theirs is the duty to purge once for all their deliberations and the general conduct of their affairs from . . . the suspicion of secrecy . . . between them on one hand and all local Assemblies and individual believers on the other. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahai Administration, p. 81)
Is Suspicion Ever Warranted?
At the same time, we are also cautioned to be on guard when dealing with people from the East:
… the Guardian wishes the Bahá’í to bear in mind the repeated counsels of the Master that the friends should be on their guard when dealing with Easterners. Not only should they trust no one unless he bears some letter of introduction from his Assembly but also after he is permitted in the Bahá’í group they should be very careful in their dealings with him. This does not mean that they should be unkind to him or have a constant suspicion that would gradually alienate him from the Cause, but to be on their guard lest he misuses their trust. The case of Ahmad Sohrab is a very good example of what an Easterner can do. He thinks to be doing shrewd business when a Westerner would consider the act to be deceitful. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 428)
But, as the people of the West are still children in the Cause and have not perfect knowledge of its reality and validity, the nakazeen thought it to be an easy prey and availed themselves of this opportunity for laying doubts and suspicions, speaking false words, divulging seditious calumnies among the people. Ye shall see all this as scattered dust, and all these thick, dark clouds which were gathered in those far regions, will disappear and the Sun of Certainty and Reality shall shine with the Most Dazzling Light; the darkness will vanish, the firm believers will be in great joy, and the nakazeen shall be in evident loss. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 439-440)
I have expounded these things for you, for the conservation and protection of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, in order that you may be informed, lest any souls shall deceive you and lest any souls shall cause suspicion among you. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 323-324)
Where Does Suspicion Do the Most Harm?
A reversal of this tendency is not easily achievable, but the Bahá’í friends must be freed of suspicion towards their institutions if the wheels of progress are to turn with. (NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)
How to Overcome Suspicion
Dispel and annihilate the darkness of suspicions:
Now know you these things], that in its time you may dispel and annihilate the darkness of those suspicions, like unto a manifest light. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 252)
Cleanse the heart of suspicion and fill it with hope, faith and love:
With hearts cleansed from the least trace of suspicion and filled with hope and faith in what the spirit of love can achieve, we must one and all endeavor at this moment to forget past impressions, and with absolute good-will and genuine cooperation unite in deepening and diffusing the spirit of love and service that the Cause has thus far so remarkably shown to the world. (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 17)
Develop love and harmony within our own characters:
Aside from teaching the Cause, the greatest service the Bahá’í Youth can render is to exemplify in their lives the teachings and especially to be promoters — within the Bahá’í communities and in the world at large — of love and harmony, qualities so sadly lacking in these days of hatred, suspicion, vindictiveness and prejudice. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 432)
Look upon Bahá’ís with trust and affection:
Let Bahá’í scholars look upon their fellow Bahá’ís with trust and affection, not with disdain as to their qualifications and suspicion as to their motives. Let them regard them as devoted Bahá’ís striving to perform a service which the policies of the Faith require of them. And let them not hesitate to discuss openly with such reviewers the points which they raise. If it appears that a National Spiritual Assembly does not permit such open discussion, let them appeal to the Universal House of Justice for clarification of the situation. It is well understood by the Universal House of Justice that in some cases the process of review works inefficiently and with problems. These deficiencies could be overcome if the scholars themselves would collaborate with the process and openly raise questions about its functioning, rather than fostering an atmosphere of antagonism and mutual mistrust.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)
Have a tranquil heart:
If the heart becometh absolutely tranquil, suspicion and imagination will entirely pass away. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 104)
Make sure your deeds are cleansed of suspicion:
Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 138)
Develop the capacity of detecting good vs. evil people:
As Bahá’u’lláh says often in His Tablets the friends should develop a flair wherewith they can detect the good from the evil person. Mere name of Bahá’í does not constitute a Bahá’í. His character also has to be Bahá’í. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 428)
Establish the reality of the Faith of God:
. . . they will rather be moved by it to pursue their investigations and inquiries with greater meticulousness and enthusiasm . . . to put to rout the hosts of suspicion, doubt and misconception; to raze to its foundations the edifice of calumny and falsehood; and to demonstrate and establish, before the eyes of all the world, the sacred, exalted and indomitable reality of the resistless Faith of God. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 174)
How Do We Deal with Other People’s Suspicions?
Be assured, turn to God and seek confirmations:
Clothe thyself with the cuirass of assurance, so that thou mayest endure the arrows of suspicion which are successively pouring from the tongues of the heedless ones. Be a lamp, the light of which may dispel the darkness, and a real standard which may remove the doubts of the veiled people. Turn thou unto the Kingdom of thy Lord, the Ancient, and seek for confirmation at every moment and time, so that lights may shine forth unto thee from the kingdom of mysteries, and the angels of the Kingdom may come unto thee in succession, with a power from the Realm of Might. Verily, thy Lord shall assist thee and strengthen thee in that whereby thy breast will be dilated among the maid-servants of the Merciful One! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 599-600)
I loves this story told by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which sums up what we’ve been learning:
I had a servant who was black; his name was Isfandiyar. If a perfect man could be found in the world, that man was Isfandiyar. He was the essence of love, radiant with sanctity and perfection, luminous with light.
Whenever I think of Isfandiyar, I am moved to tears, although he passed away fifty years ago. He was the faithful servant of Bahá’u’lláh and was entrusted with His secrets. For this reason the Shah of Persia wanted him and inquired continually as to his whereabouts.
Bahá’u’lláh was in prison, but the Shah had commanded many persons to find Isfandiyar. Perhaps more than one hundred officers were appointed to search for him. If they had succeeded in catching him, they would not have killed him at once. They would have cut his flesh into pieces to force him to tell them the secrets of Bahá’u’lláh.
But Isfandiyar with the utmost dignity used to walk in the streets and bazaars. One day he came to us.
My mother, my sister and myself lived in a house near a corner. Because our enemies frequently injured us, we were intending to go to a place where they did not know us. I was a child at that time.
At midnight Isfandiyar came in. My mother said, “O Isfandiyar, there are a hundred policemen seeking for you. If they catch you, they will not kill you at once but will torture you with fire. They will cut off your fingers. They will cut off your ears. They will put out your eyes to force you to tell them the secrets of Bahá’u’lláh. Go away! Do not stay here.”
He said, “I cannot go because I owe money in the street and in the stores. How can I go? They will say that the servant of Bahá’u’lláh has bought and consumed the goods and supplies of the storekeepers without paying for them. Unless I pay all these obligations, I cannot go.
But if they take me, never mind. If they punish me, there is no harm in that. If they kill me, do not be grieved. But to go away is impossible. I must remain until I pay all I owe. Then I will go.”
For one month Isfandiyar went about in the streets and bazaars. He had things to sell, and from his earnings he gradually paid his creditors. In fact, they were not his debts but the debts of the court, for all our properties had been confiscated. Everything we had was taken away from us. The only things that remained were our debts. Isfandiyar paid them in full; not a single penny remained unpaid. Then he came to us, said good-bye and went away. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 426-427)
What’s been your experience with suspicion? Post your comments below.