COMPILATIONS FROM THE BAHÁ'Í WRITINGS
COMPILATION ON WATER
This compilation gathers a short selection of references to water in the Bahá'í Writings,
including the ways water is referred to both symbolically and literally.
When man refuseth to use material means, he is like a thirsty one who seeketh to quench his thirst through means other than water or other liquids. The Almighty Lord is the provider of water, and its maker, and hath decreed that it be used to quench man's thirst, but its use is dependent upon His Will. If it should not be in conformity with His Will, man is afflicted with a thirst which the oceans cannot quench.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, from a Tablet, translated from the Persian, in: Prayer, Meditation, and the Devotional Attitude, Compilation of Compilations, pages 231-232)
Wash ye every soiled thing with water that hath undergone no alteration in any one of the three respects; take heed not to use water that hath been altered through exposure to the air or to some other agent. Be ye the very essence of cleanliness amongst mankind.
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pages 46-47)
It hath been enjoined upon you to pare your nails, to bathe yourselves each week in water that covereth your bodies, and to clean yourselves with whatsoever ye have formerly employed. Take heed lest through negligence ye fail to observe that which hath been prescribed unto you by Him Who is the Incomparable, the Gracious. Immerse yourselves in clean water; it is not permissible to bathe yourselves in water that hath already been used. See that ye approach not the public pools of Persian baths; whoso maketh his way toward such baths will smell their fetid odour ere he entereth therein. Shun them, O people, and be not of those who ignominiously accept such vileness. In truth, they are as sinks of foulness and contamination, if ye be of them that apprehend. Avoid ye likewise the malodorous pools in the courtyards of Persian homes, and be ye of the pure and sanctified. Truly, We desire to behold you as manifestations of paradise on earth, that there may be diffused from you such fragrance as shall rejoice the hearts of the favoured of God. If the bather, instead of entering the water, wash himself by pouring it upon his body, it shall be better for him and shall absolve him of the need for bodily immersion. The Lord, verily, hath willed, as a bounty from His presence, to make life easier for you that ye may be of those who are truly thankful.
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pages 57-58)
QUESTION: Concerning pure water, and the point at which it is considered used.
ANSWER: Small quantities of water, such as one cupful, or even two or three, must be considered used after a single washing of the face and hands.
But a kurr(1) or more of water remaineth unchanged after one or two washings of the face, and there is no objection to its use unless it is altered in one of the three ways,(2) for example its colour is changed, in which case it should be looked upon as used.
(Bahá'u'lláh: Aqdas: Questions and Answers 91, page 133)
Wash ye every soiled thing with water that hath undergone no alteration in any one of the three respects # 74
The "three respects" referred to in this verse are changes in the colour, taste or smell of the water. Baha'u'llah provides additional guidance concerning pure water and the point at which it is considered unsuitable for use (Q and A 91).
(Bahá'u'lláh: Aqdas: Notes 105, page 212)
approach not the public pools of Persian baths # 106
Baha'u'llah prohibits the use of the pools found in the traditional public bath-houses of Persia. In these baths it was the custom for many people to wash themselves in the same pool and for the water to be changed at infrequent intervals. Consequently, the water was discoloured, befouled and unhygienic, and had a highly offensive stench.
(Bahá'u'lláh: Aqdas: Notes 131, page 222)
Avoid ye likewise the malodorous pools in the courtyards of Persian homes # 106
Most houses in Persia used to have a pool in their courtyard which served as a reservoir for water used for cleaning, washing and other domestic purposes. Since the water in the pool was stagnant and was not usually changed for weeks at a time, it tended to develop a very unpleasant odour.
(Bahá'u'lláh: Aqdas: Notes 132, page 222)
Whensoever thou dost examine, through a microscope, the water man drinketh, the air he doth breathe, thou wilt see that with every breath of air, man taketh in an abundance of animal life, and with every draught of water, he also swalloweth down a great variety of animals. How could it ever be possible to put a stop to this process? For all creatures are eaters and eaten, and the very fabric of life is reared upon this fact. Were it not so, the ties that interlace all created things within the universe would be unravelled.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, page 157)
First in a human being's way of life must be purity, then freshness, cleanliness, and independence of spirit. First must the stream bed be cleansed, then may the sweet river waters be led into it. Chaste eyes enjoy the beatific vision of the Lord and know what this encounter meaneth; a pure sense inhaleth the fragrances that blow from the rose gardens of His grace; a burnished heart will mirror forth the comely face of truth.
This is why, in Holy Scriptures, the counsels of heaven are likened to water, even as the Qur'an saith: `And pure water send We down from Heaven,' and the Gospel: `Except a man be baptized of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.' Thus is it clear that the Teachings which come from God are heavenly outpourings of grace; they are rain-showers of divine mercy, and they cleanse the human heart.
My meaning is this, that in every aspect of life, purity and holiness, cleanliness and refinement, exalt the human condition and further the development of man's inner reality. Even in the physical realm, cleanliness will conduce to spirituality, as the Holy Writings clearly state. And although bodily cleanliness is a physical thing, it hath, nevertheless, a powerful influence on the life of the spirit. It is even as a voice wondrously sweet, or a melody played: although sounds are but vibrations in the air which affect the ear's auditory nerve, and these vibrations are but chance phenomena carried along through the air, even so, see how they move the heart. A wondrous melody is wings for the spirit, and maketh the soul to tremble for joy. The purport is that physical cleanliness doth also exert its effect upon the human soul.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, pages 146-147)
O YE SEEMING FAIR YET INWARDLY FOUL! Ye are like clear but bitter water, which to outward seeming is crystal pure but of which, when tested by the divine Assayer, not a drop is accepted. Yea, the sun beam falls alike upon the dust and the mirror, yet differ they in reflection even as doth the star from the earth: nay, immeasurable is the difference!
(Bahá'u'lláh: Persian Hidden Words, page 25)
Man is like unto a tree. If he be adorned with fruit, he hath been and will ever be worthy of praise and commendation. Otherwise a fruitless tree is but fit for fire. The fruits of the human tree are exquisite, highly desired and dearly cherished. Among them are upright character, virtuous deeds and a goodly utterance. The springtime for earthly trees occurreth once every year, while the one for human trees appeareth in the Days of God - exalted be His glory. Were the trees of men's lives to be adorned in this divine Springtime with the fruits that have been mentioned, the effulgence of the light of Justice would, of a certainty, illumine all the dwellers of the earth and everyone would abide in tranquillity and contentment beneath the sheltering shadow of Him Who is the Object of all mankind. The Water for these trees is the living water of the sacred Words uttered by the Beloved of the world. In one instant are such trees planted and in the next their branches shall, through the outpourings of the showers of divine mercy, have reached the skies. A dried-up tree, however, hath never been nor will be worthy of any mention.
(Bahá'u'lláh: Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, page 257)
Divine nearness is dependent upon attainment to the knowledge of God, upon severance from all else save God. It is contingent upon self-sacrifice and to be found only through forfeiting wealth and worldly possessions. It is made possible through the baptism of water and fire revealed in the Gospels. Water symbolizes the water of life, which is knowledge, and fire is the fire of the love of God; therefore, man must be baptized with the water of life, the Holy Spirit and the fire of the love of the Kingdom.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 147)
Music is like this glass, which is perfectly pure and polished. It is precisely like this pure chalice before us, and the Teachings of God, the utterances of God, are like the water. When the glass or chalice is absolutely pure and clear, and the water is perfectly fresh and limpid, then it will confer Life; wherefore, the Teachings of God, whether they be in the form of anthems or communes or prayers, when they are melodiously sung, are most impressive.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, in Compilation of Compilations: Music, page 77)
Melodies are like water. The voice is like a goblet. The pure water in a pure glass is pleasing. Therefore, it is acceptable. But even though the water be pure, if it be in a goblet which is not so, this receptacle will make it unacceptable. Therefore, a faulty voice even though the music be good, is unpleasing.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, in Compilation of Compilations: Music, page 79)
Water is the cause of life, and when Christ speaks of water, He is symbolizing that which is the cause of Everlasting Life.
This life-giving water of which He speaks is like unto fire, for it is none other than the Love of God, and this love means life to our souls.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá: Paris Talks, page 82)
My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee? I was heedless, Thou didst awaken me. I had turned back from Thee, Thou didst graciously aid me to turn towards Thee. I was as one dead, Thou didst quicken me with the water of life. I was withered, Thou didst revive me with the heavenly stream of Thine utterance which hath flowed forth from the Pen of the All-Merciful.
O Divine Providence! All existence is begotten by Thy bounty; deprive it not of the waters of Thy generosity, neither do Thou withhold it from the ocean of Thy mercy. I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of the kingdom of eternity.
(Bahá'u'lláh: Prayers and Meditations, CLXXIII, pages 264-265)
International Environment Forum - Updated 24 November 2004