I’m not exactly sure how to define The Hidden Words. They aren’t prayers (though you could use them as such), nor are they stories, or rules (per se — some feel like they come close). I suppose they could be considered meditations or explorations, and that would come closest to defining where they fit as a collection of writing.
I’m going to have to do some digging to see if this is the complete “Hidden Words,” or if it’s a selection from them: the title is a little ambiguous, in my opinion. The book is fairly small, with a small but readable typeface, and really trims away anything extraneous: the introduction/preface is one page, most of which is taken up by explaining how the book is arranged, and it doesn’t bother with an actual table of contents. The first half is a collection of Hidden Words translated from Arabic. The second half is a collection of Hidden Words translated from Persian. A few pages at the end discuss the basic principles of the Baha’i Faith and the rules we live by, and a brief biography of who Baha’u’llah was.
Of the two collections, I far prefer the Persian translations. The Arabic seems more terse, and almost accusatory compared to the Persian Words. I am not sure if this is because they were written at different times, or if it is just part of the nature of the differences between the two languages. Despite the Persian Writings being longer and more complex, I found them easier to read and understand by a significant margin. While I suppose part of this is perhaps the quality of translation, I think there is something more to it as well. I felt less like I was getting admonished and more like I was getting informed, which is a pretty significant difference, in my opinion.
Allusions to the past seem to interest me in particular, so it should be no surprise that the selection that most caught my eye was one Baha’u’llah wrote reflecting in the covenant made on Mount Paran when Muhammad gathered his army of 10,000 men to take back Mecca. It reads:
O MY FRIENDS!
Call ye to mind that covenant ye have entered into with Me upon Mount Paran, situate within the hallowed precincts of Zaman. I have taken to witness the concourse on high and the dwellers in the city of eternity, yet now none do I find faithful unto the covenant. Of a certainty pride and rebellion have effaced it from the hearts, in such wise that no trace thereof remaineth. Yet knowing this, I waited and disclosed it not. (Baha’u’llah, 71)
After reading this passage, I became curious as to what exactly he was talking about, finally managing to track down that Mount Paran is a mountain in Pakistan, and is a key holy place in Islamic scripture (though they are not necessarily the same mountains… it is a source of great debate, according to http://www.google.com). The gist of the quoted passage, as far as I can tell, is a rather directed indictment of the Imams and other religious leaders of Islam, stating that the true intent and nature of Islam has become corrupted and changed. I am definitely intrigued by the concept of searching through other comments such as these and discovering more and more back story as to what exactly Baha’u’llah was referencing.
I may be jumping the gun in saying this, but I do expect that I’ll be returning to the Hidden Words on more than one occasion, as my depth of understanding grows, reassessing what I’ve already read. I do strongly suspect that there is a lot more buried under the surface of these writings that is worth examining.
Baha’u’llah. The Hidden Words: Selected Writings of Baha’u’llah. Baha’i Publishing Trust.