One of the first thoughts we want to share at the outset of this Web site and blog also happens to be one of the first objectives we had in creating the book and one of the first characteristics of the design layout that readers might notice. Coincidentally, the commemoration of the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb is also a wonderful occasion for this reflection.
Bahjí, we are pleased to tell you, is first and foremost in the pages of Hasten Forth. We aimed to honor and celebrate the ascendancy of this most sacred place by treating the lead chapter, which visits the gardens and holy sites in Bahjí, with special attention. We hope this care is detected in the prominence of the photos, the space given to the quotations and the depth of the narration in the captions.
Choosing to model the book after the structure of Shoghi Effendi’s message “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh” was a happy coincidence in terms of fulfilling our desire to feature Bahjí and underscore its significance. The message is organized by sections on, first, Bahá’u’lláh, followed by the Báb, then `Abdu’l-Bahá and, last, the Administrative Order. The four chapters of Hasten Forth mirror the same subjects, use the corresponding extracts that Shoghi Effendi selected to elucidate each portion of the message, and present a sequence of photos of the places in the Holy Land associated with these central Figures and Institutions of the Bahá’í Faith.
Chronologically, the chapter titled “The Báb” would lead off the book, but we feel the Guardian, in “Dispensation,” was instructing Bahá’ís to understand that the second of the Twin Manifestations to reveal Himself was actually the first because of His supremacy.
Many photo montages of the Bahá’í sites in the Holy Land feature, prominently – and sometimes exclusively – the Shrine of the Báb, with its adorning terraced gardens stretching from the foot of Mount Carmel to the summit. With the Shrine’s structural majesty, expansive visibility and breathtaking beauty, not to mention the exalted station of each Messenger of God, there is obviously nothing wrong with this. This trend left a space, however, for a book of photos that is devoted, above all, to the glory and significance of Bahjí and to the Personage to whom the sacred grounds are dedicated in worship.
In the foreword to Hasten Forth, Kiser Barnes touches on the fascination with and attraction to the place where the latest Manifestation of God lived for nearly a quarter of a century. Mr. Barnes points to the words of Bahá’u’lláh: “In the eyes of God … all the places of the earth are one and the same, excepting that place which, in the days of His Manifestation, He doth appoint for a particular purpose.” (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.151)
While the Concourse on High circumambulates the Shrine of the Báb, this focal point, then, revolves around the resting-place of Bahá’u’lláh in Bahjí. Bahá’ís turn towards the direction of this sacred spot, known as the Qiblih, or Point of Adoration, when saying their daily obligatory prayers. Someday, a superstructure will be erected at the site of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh to further exalt its glory on this earthly plane. Although there is yet more to come in development of the expansion and structures, there is no mistaking its paramount importance to the Bahá’ís. It is the first visit in the Bahá’í pilgrimage program.
In this book, we wanted to praise the primacy of Bahjí and the station of Bahá’u’lláh. Shoghi Effendi, in “Dispensation” writes, “To strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of the significance of Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous Revelation must, it is my unalterable conviction, remain the first obligation and the object of the constant endeavor of each one of its loyal adherents. An exact and thorough comprehension of so vast a system, so sublime a revelation, so sacred a trust, is for obvious reasons beyond the reach and ken of our finite minds. We can, however, and it is our bounden duty to seek to derive fresh inspiration and added sustenance as we labor for the propagation of His Faith through a clearer apprehension of the truths it enshrines and the principles on which it is based.” (World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 100) We hope Hasten Forth captures this process.