According to the teaching of the Prophets, disease and all other forms of calamity are due to disobedience to the Divine Commands. Even disasters due to floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are attributed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indirectly to this cause. The suffering that follows error is not vindictive, however, but educative and remedial. It is God’s Voice proclaiming to man that he has strayed from the right path. If the suffering is terrible, it is only because the danger of wrongdoing is more terrible, for “the wages of sin is death."
Just as calamity is due to disobedience, so deliverance from calamity can be obtained only by obedience. There is no chance or uncertainty about the matter. Turning from God inevitably brings disaster, and turning to God as inevitably brings blessing.
(Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 95)
Although outwardly cataclysms are hard to understand and to endure, yet there lies a great wisdom behind them which appears later. All the visible material events are inter-related with invisible spiritual forces. The infinite phenomena of creation are as interdependent as the links of a chain. When certain links become rusty, they are broken by unseen forces, to be replaced by newer and better ones. There are certain colossal events which transpire in the world of humanity which are required by the nature of the times. For example, the requirements of winter are cold, snow, hail and rain - but the birds and animals who live for six months, enjoying a short span of life, not realizing the wisdom of winter, chide and make lament and are discontent, saying, “Why this awful frost? Why this hail and storm? Why not the balmy weather? Why not the eternal springtime? Why this injustice on the part of the creator? Why this suffering? What have we done to be meted out with this catastrophe?” However, those souls who have lived many years and have acquired much experience and have weathered many severe winters realize that in order to enjoy the coming spring they must pass through the cold of winter.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 115)
Although there is every reason to expect that the world will experience travails and testing as never before, we do not know what form these upheavals will take, when exactly they will come, how severe they will be, nor how long they will last.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 19 March 1981)
As to the calamities and afflictions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: These are not calamities, but bounties; they are not afflictions, but gifts; not hardships, but tranquillity; not trouble, but mercy—and we thank God for this great favor.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 128)
Behold the disturbances which, for many a long year, have afflicted the earth, and the perturbation that hath seized its peoples. It hath either been ravaged by war, or tormented by sudden and unforeseen calamities.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p.163)
He has been told that some of the friends are disturbed over reports brought back by the pilgrims concerning the dangers facing America in the future whenever another world conflagration breaks out. He does not feel that the Bahá’ís should waste time dwelling on the dark side of things. Any intelligent person can understand from the experiences of the last world war, and keeping abreast of what modern science has developed in the way of weapons for any future war, that big cities all over the world are going to be in tremendous danger. This is what the Guardian has said to the pilgrims. Entirely aside from this, he has urged the Bahá’ís, for the sake of serving the Faith, to go out from these centers of intense materialism, where life nowadays is so hurried and grinding and, dispersing to towns and villages, carry the Message far and wide throughout the cities of the American Union. He strongly believes that the field outside the big Cities is more fertile, that the Bahá’ís in the end will be happier for having made this move, and that, in case of an outbreak of war, it stands to reason they will be safer, just the way any other person living in the country, or away from the big industrial areas, is safer. It is remarks such as these that the pilgrims have carried back in their notes. He sees no cause for alarm, but he certainly believes that the Bahá’ís should weigh these thoughts, and take action for the sake of spreading the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and for their own ultimate happiness as well. Indeed the two things go together.
(Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 20 June 1954)
In Akká, January 1908, this question was asked of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Are great calamities like this flood, the San Francisco earthquake, etc., caused by the wickedness of the people?” To this He responded: “Events like these happen because of the connection between the parts of the universe, for every small part has connection with every great part, and what affects one affects the other or all others. On account of this connection, the actions of man have effect. Whenever a promise is broken, it causes a commotion. For instance, suppose two nations have a disagreement. It is a difference in ideas only, and not a physical thing, not anything we can touch or see; yet this disagreement has a physical effect. It causes war, and thousands of men are cut in pieces. So, when man breaks his promise to God, in other words when he “violates the Covenant,” the effect is physical, and calamities appear.”
(Daily Lessons Received at Akká’ by Helen Goodall & Ella Cooper. Bahá’í Publishing Trust 1979, p. 21-22)
O Ye Peoples of the World! Know verily that an unforeseen calamity is following you and that grievous retribution awaiteth you.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 63).
On the appearance of fearful natural events call ye to mind the might and majesty of your Lord, He Who heareth and seeth all, and say “Dominion is God’s, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation.”
(Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p 23)
The House of Justice points out that Bahá’u’lláh in no uncertain terms has said ‘O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight. ‘Therefore it considers that it would be fruitless to attempt to foresee the time or the nature of a calamity which Bahá’u’lláh Himself said was ‘unforeseen’. No doubt the remarkable progress being made in scientific endeavor holds true in the study by experts of geologic upheavals. But we cannot be certain that predictions of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tidal waves caused by such phenomena can be identified as the cataclysmic events to which Bahá’u’lláh refers.
(International Teaching Centre, 1984 Jul 01, Concerns about Retributive Calamity)
The House of Justice points out that calamities have been and are occurring and will continue to happen until mankind has been chastened sufficiently to accept the Manifestation for this day. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá anticipated that the Lesser Peace could be established before the end of the twentieth century. However, Bahá’ís should not be diverted from the work of the Cause by the fear of catastrophes but should try to understand why they occur. The beloved Guardian, in innumerable places, has explained the reasons for these occurrences, and since they happen from time to time as explained above we should not be concerned as to when they occur.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 15 April 1976)
The violent derangement of the world’s equilibrium; the trembling that will seize the limbs of mankind; the radical transformation of human society; the rolling up of the present-day Order; the fundamental changes affecting the structure of government; the weakening of the pillars of religion; the rise of dictatorships; the spread of tyranny; the fall of monarchies; the decline of ecclesiastical institutions; the increase of anarchy and chaos; the extension and consolidation of the Movement of the Left; the fanning into flame of the smouldering fire of racial strife; the development of infernal engines of war; the burning of cities; the contamination of the atmosphere of the earth—these stand out as the signs and portents that must either herald or accompany the retributive calamity which, as decreed by Him Who is the judge and Redeemer of mankind, must, sooner or later, afflict a society which, for the most part, and for over a century, has turned a deaf ear to the Voice of God’s Messenger in this day—a calamity which must purge the human race of the dross of its age-long corruptions, and weld its component parts into a firmly knit world-embracing Fellowship.
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 332-333)
The world with the various calamities that have befallen it, will be completely ravaged and its civilization demolished, if the Bahá’ís do not come to its help and embue it with the spirit that Bahá’u’lláh has brought to the world. The economic factions, political parties, national hatreds, racial prejudices, and religious antagonisms, will continue to bring about devastating wars until the spirit of the Cause permeates the heart of man, and its universal teachings pull down the existing barriers. Let us be reminded of our duty by the misery we see around us, and arise for the prosecution of our noble duty.” (From a letter dated 24 November 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the American National Spiritual Assembly)
There is nothing in the teachings to tell us exactly how much longer the present turbulent state of the world is going to endure; but we do know that humanity must suffer until it becomes spiritually awakened, and that the Most Great Peace will come, as promised by Bahá’u’lláh.” (From a letter dated 26 February 1946, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
They should persevere in their task, undaunted by the rising tide of calamity and despair which afflicts the world, and which is mysteriously paving the way for its unification and ultimate redemption.
(Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p. 87-88)
Vicious criticism is indeed a calamity. But its root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá’u’lláh, i.e., the Administrative Order—and lack of obedience to Him—for He has forbidden it! If the Bahá’ís would follow the Bahá’í laws in voting, in electing, in serving and in abiding by Assembly decision, all this waste of strength through criticizing others could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)
When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)
While the Guardian envisaged the likelihood of further warfare in the world, he did not categorically identify such war with the “unforeseen calamity” foretold by Bahá’u’lláh. In fact, he wrote, on another occasion: “We have no indication of exactly what nature the apocalyptic upheaval will be: it might be another war ... but as students of our Bahá’í writings it is clear that the longer the ‘Divine Physician’ (i.e. Bahá’u’lláh) is withheld from healing the ills of the world, the more severe will be the crises, and the more terrible the sufferings of the patient.
(From a letter dated 21 November 1949, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
You seem to complain about the calamities, that have befallen humanity. In the spiritual development of man a stage of purgation is indispensable, for it is while passing through it that the over-rated material needs are made to appear in their proper light. Unless society learns to attribute more importance to spiritual matters, it would never be fit to enter the golden era foretold by Bahá’u’lláh. The present calamities are parts of this process of purgation, through them alone will man learn his lesson. They are to teach the nations, that they have to view things internationally, they are to make the individual attribute more importance to his moral, than his material welfare. In such a process of purgation, when all humanity is in the throes of dire suffering, the Bahá’ís should not hope to remain unaffected. Should we consider the beam that is in our own eye, we would immediately fine that these sufferings are also meant for ourselves, who claimed to have attained. Such world crisis is necessary to awaken us to the importance of our duty and the carrying on of our task. Suffering will increase our energy in setting before humanity the road to salvation, it will move us from our repose for we are far from doing our best in teaching the Cause and conveying the Message with which we have been entrusted.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 133)