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COLLECTIONLetters from the Universal House of Justice
TITLESin-covering Gaze
AUTHOR 1 Universal House of Justice
ABSTRACTBrief explanation of a possible source for a story of Christ told by Abdu'l-Bahá about encountering a dead dog and commenting on the beauty of its teeth; i.e., having a "sin-covering gaze."
NOTES Transmitted by email. Name retained with permission of recipient.
TAGS* Virtues; - Christianity; - Islam; - Metaphors and allegories; Dogs; Ethics; Hadith; Jesus Christ; Research Department, Questions and answers; Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá (book); Shaykh Bahá'í; Stories

1. Question to the Universal House of Justice

From: Eugene Smith
To: Bahá'í World Center
Sent: Sunday, December 17, 2000
Subject: Question about the "sin-covering gaze"

Dear friends in the Research Dep't,

...I wonder if you might have some idea where I might find more information on the following. There is a story that Abdu'l-Bahá tells of Christ (quoted below from Selections of the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá)... this story was brought up by one of the Bahá'ís in our Ruhi study circle. One of the people there, who is a not-yet-Bahá'í and presently Roman Catholic, said that they weren't familiar with that story. I found out myself later that that story isn't in the Bible (at least, I can't locate it).

My question is where would 'Abdu'l-Bahá have learned of this? I seem to dimly remember something of this from years ago (a letter from the Shoghi Effendi or the Universal House of Justice?) but do not trust my 'dim' memory. I would like to be able to follow this up and have a definitive answer. I did search the Quran (electronically as well) but came up blank... is it 'Abdu'l-Bahá's knowledge from the Blessed Beauty, or is it from the Gnostic Gospels or some traditional commentary? If the answer is that it's 'Abdu'l-Bahá's innate knowledge that's of course not a problem but I just wonder if there has been any comment to that effect by the Guardian or the House of Justice that I can read.

Quotation in question:
"It happened one day in the time of Christ--may the life of the world be a sacrifice unto Him--that He passed by the dead body of a dog, a carcass reeking, hideous, the limbs rotting away. One of those present said: `How foul its stench!' And another said: `How sickening! How loathsome!' To be brief, each one of them had something to add to the list.
But then Christ Himself spoke, and He told them: `Look at that dog's teeth! How gleaming white!'
The Messiah's sin-covering gaze did not for a moment dwell upon the repulsiveness of that carrion. The one element of that dead dog's carcass which was not abomination was the teeth: and Jesus looked upon their brightness.
Thus is it incumbent upon us, when we direct our gaze toward other people, to see where they excel, not where they fail."
      — `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 169
Thank you for your time....
    Warmest Bahá'í love
    Eugene Smith

2. Response from the Universal House of Justice:

21 January 2001

Mr. Eugene Smith
Dear Bahá'í Friend,

The Universal House of Justice received your email of 18 December 2001 in which you enquire about the source of a story concerning Christ that was told by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Your message was subsequently referred to the Research Department, which has indicated that the narrative which describes Christ's "sin-covering gaze" when He encountered "the dead body of a dog", is published in "Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá".

Although the story is not part of Christian tradition, nor does it appear in the Qur'an, the Research Department advises that its source can be traced to Islamic traditions as it occurs frequently in Muslim literature. One such reference is in Baha'ud-Din Muhammad al-'Amili's "al-Mikhlat" (Beirut, 1985), p. 579. Prepared several centuries ago, this reference work is an anthology consisting of information on divers subjects, including Islamic traditions, stories, poetry, and ethics.

We hope that this information provides the clarification you seek.
    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    Department of the Secretariat
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