A new version of the Bahá’í Reference Library is now available. This ‘old version’ of the Bahá’í Reference Library will be replaced at a later date.

The new version of the Bahá’i Reference Library can be accessed here »

Foundations of World Unity

  • Author:
  • ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979 sixth printing
  • Pages:
  • 112
Go to printed page GO
Pages 79-82


The world of existence is an emanation of the merciful attribute of God. God has shone forth upon the phenomena of being through His effulgence of mercy and He is clement and kind to all His creation. Therefore the world of humanity must ever be the recipient of bounties from the eternal Lord; even as His Holiness Christ has declared, “Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven.” For His bounties like the light and heat of the sun in the material heavens descend alike upon all mankind. Consequently man must learn the lesson of kindness and beneficence from God Himself. Just as God is kind to all humanity, man also must be kind to his fellow creatures. If his attitude is just and loving toward his fellow men, toward all creation, then indeed is he worthy of being pronounced the image and likeness of God.
Brotherhood or fraternity is of different kinds. It may be family association, the intimate relationship of the household. This is limited and subject to change and disruption. How often it happens that in a family, love and agreement are changed into enmity and antagonism. Another form of fraternity is manifest in patriotism. Man loves his fellow-men because they belong to the same nativity. This is also limited and subject to change and disintegration, as for instance when sons of the same fatherland are opposed to each other in war, bloodshed and battle. Still another brotherhood or fraternity is that which arises from racial unity, the oneness of racial origin, producing ties of affinity and association. This likewise has its limitation and liability to change, for often war and deadly strife have been witnessed between people and nations of the same racial lineage. There is a fourth kind of brotherhood, the attitude of man toward humanity itself, the altruistic love of humankind and recognition of the fundamental human bond. Although this is unlimited it is nevertheless susceptible to change and destruction. Even from this universal fraternal bond the looked-for result does not appear. What is the looked-for result? Loving-kindness among all human creatures and a firm, indestructible brotherhood which includes all the divine possibilities and significances in humanity. Therefore it is evident that fraternity, love and kindness based upon family, nativity, race or an attitude of altruism are neither sufficient nor permanent since all of 80 them are limited, restricted and liable to change and disruption. For in the family there is discord and alienation; among sons of the same fatherland strife and internecine warfare are witnessed; between those of a given race, hostility and hatred are frequent; and even among the altruists varying aspects of opinion and lack of unselfish devotion give little promise of permanent and indestructible unity among mankind.
Therefore the Lord of mankind has caused His holy divine Manifestations to come into the world. He has revealed His heavenly books in order to establish spiritual brotherhood, and through the power of the Holy Spirit has made it practicable for perfect fraternity to be realized among mankind. And when through the breaths of the Holy Spirit this perfect fraternity and agreement are established amongst men, this brotherhood and love being spiritual in character, this loving-kindness being heavenly, these constraining bonds being divine, a unity appears which is indissoluble, unchanging and never subject to transformation. It is ever the same and will forever remain the same. For example consider the foundation of the brotherhood laid by His Holiness Christ. Observe how that fraternity was conducive to unity and accord and how it brought various souls to a plane of uniform attainment where they were willing to sacrifice their lives for each other. They were content to renounce possessions and ready to joyously forfeit life itself. They lived together in such love and fellowship that even Galen, the famous Greek philosopher, who was not a Christian, in his work entitled “The Progress of the Nations” says that religious beliefs are greatly conducive to the foundation of real civilization. As a proof thereof he says, “A certain number of people contemporaneous with us are known as Christians. These enjoy the superlative degree of moral civilization. Each one of them is a great philosopher because they live together in the utmost love and good-fellowship. They sacrifice life for each other. They offer worldly possessions for each other. You can say of the Christian people that they are as one person. There is a bond amongst them that is indissoluble in character.”
It is evident therefore that the foundation of real brotherhood, the cause of loving co-operation and reciprocity and the source of real kindness and unselfish devotion is none other than the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without this influence and animus it is impossible. We may be able to realize some degrees of fraternity through other motives but these are limited associations and subject to change. When human brotherhood is founded upon the Holy Spirit, it is eternal, changeless, unlimited.
In various parts of the Orient there was a time when brotherhood, 81 loving-kindness and all the praiseworthy qualities of mankind seemed to have disappeared. There was no evidence of patriotic, religious or racial fraternity but conditions of bigotry, hatred and prejudice prevailed instead. The adherents of each religion were violent enemies of the others, filled with the spirit of hostility and eager for shedding of blood. The present war in the Balkans furnishes a parallel of these conditions. Consider the bloodshed, ferocity and oppression manifested there even in this enlightened century; all of it based fundamentally upon religious prejudice and disagreement. For the nations involved belong to the same races and nativities, nevertheless they are savage and merciless toward each other. Similar deplorable conditions prevailed in Persia in the nineteenth century. Darkness and ignorant fanaticism were widespread; no trace of fellowship or brotherhood existed amongst the races. On the contrary, human hearts were filled with rage and hatred; darkness and gloom were manifest in human lives and conditions everywhere. At such a time as this His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh appeared upon the divine horizon, even as the glory of the sun, and in that gross darkness and hopelessness of the human world there shone a great light. He founded the oneness of the world of humanity, declaring that all mankind are as sheep and that God is the real and true shepherd. The shepherd is one and all people are of his flock.
The world of humanity is one and God is equally kind to all. What then is the source of unkindness and hatred in the human world? This real shepherd loves all his sheep. He leads them in green pastures. He rears and protects them. What then is the source of enmity and alienation among humankind? Whence this conflict and strife? The real underlying cause is lack of religious unity and association for in each of the great religions we find superstition, blind imitation of creeds, and theological formulae adhered to instead of the divine fundamentals, causing difference and divergence among mankind instead of agreement and fellowship. Consequently strife, hatred and warfare have arisen, based upon this divergence and separation. If we investigate the foundations of the divine religions, we find them to be one, absolutely changeless and never subject to transformation. For example each of the divine religions contains two kinds of laws or ordinances. One division concerns the world of morality and ethical institutions. These are the essential ordinances. They instill and awaken the knowledge and love of God, love for humanity, the virtues of the world of mankind, the attributes of the divine kingdom, rebirth and resurrection from the kingdom of nature. These constitute one kind of divine law which is common to all and never subject to change. From the dawn of the Adamic cycle to the present day this 82 fundamental law of God has continued changeless. This is the foundation of divine religion.
The second division comprises laws and institutions which provide for human needs and conditions according to exigencies of time and place. These are accidental, of no essential importance and should never have been made the cause and source of human contention. For example during the time of His Holiness Moses—Upon him be peace! —according to the exigencies of that period, divorce was permissible. During the cycle of His Holiness Christ inasmuch as divorce was not in conformity with the time and conditions His Holiness Jesus Christ abrogated it. In the cycle of Moses plurality of wives was permissible but during the time of His Holiness Christ the exigency which had sanctioned it did not exist, therefore it was forbidden. His Holiness Moses lived in the wilderness and desert of Sinai; therefore his ordinances and commandments were in conformity with those conditions. The penalty for theft was to cut off a man’s hand. An ordinance of this kind was in keeping with desert life but not compatible with conditions of the present day. Such ordinances therefore constitute the second or non-essential division of the divine religions and are not of importance for they deal with human transactions which are ever changing according to the requirements of time and place. Therefore the intrinsic foundations of the divine religions are one. As this is true, why should hostility and strife exist among them? Why should this hatred and warfare, ferocity and bloodshed continue? Is this allowable and justified? God forbid!