Break the idols

Today marks 200 years since the birth of the Báb in 1819, an occasion that Bahá’ís are celebrating around the world.

A video was commissioned for the occasion, which I had a chance to watch last weekend (you can watch it here). The most striking part of that video for me? The words below, from a poem by Tahirih, the great heroine of the Báb’s faith and one of the titanic women of Middle Eastern history. The full poem, entitled “Look up!” is as follows:

No ranting shaykh rules from his pulpit throne 

No mosque hawks holiness it does not know

No sham, no pious fraud, no priest commands! 

The turban’s knot cut to its root below!

No more conjurations! No spells! No ghosts! 

Good riddance! We are done with folly’s show!

The search for Truth shall drive out ignorance 

Equality shall strike the despots low

Let warring ways be banished from the world 

Let Justice everywhere its carpet throw

May Friendship ancient hatreds reconcile

May love grow from the seed of love we sow

Tahirih, known around the world also as Qurrat’ul’ayn and Zarrin-Taj, was the perfect embodiment of the spirit of the Bab’s life and mission. She was an unapologetic iconoclast, and in discovering the Báb’s message I can only imagine the exhilaration she felt, like finding a long-lost home where you finally felt like you belonged, and which in your heart you always knew existed.

In times gone by, iconoclasts broke physical idols, the meaningless distractions and symbols of arbitrary power. Today we are tasked with breaking other idols, though this time instead of physical totems they are rigid dogmas, destructive prejudices, and stale institutions.

Which idols are we to break in our own lives? I hope you let the spirit of the Báb and the poetic words of Tahirih be your guide.