While the majority of mystics abandoned the world to retreat to a life of contemplation, Ostad Elahi did the exact opposite: he renounced a predetermined life of seclusion marked by ascetic practice and meditation to experiment with a new approach to spirituality, one whose goal was constant attention to the Source while leading a normal life in the midst of society. Thus, when he assumed a governmental position in 1930, not only did he part from a reclusive lifestyle, but he also transcended all of the notions of traditional mysticism. This new environment would provide him with an opportunity to expand his system of thought and test its ethical principles.
The whole of the twelve years of asceticism that I endured prior to joining government service had less spiritual value than just one year spent in the office. (Words of Truth)
At the time of Ostad Elahi's birth in 1895, Persia had been ruled by the Qadjar dynasty for almost a century. With the fall of the Qadjars some thirty years later, Reza Khan assumed the throne. Determined to rapidly modernize the country, he reorganized the government according to a western model and instituted new civil and criminal codes. Naturally, it would take some time before these sweeping reforms had any impact on the customs and rites of a society that was still under the influence of the Qadjar rulers. Thus, when Ostad Elahi began his government service the country still retained a more or less feudal system in which powerful families continued to play the role of lords. Small towns were under the sway of wealthy merchants and large landowners, who actively wielded their considerable influence to exert control over the government and judiciary.
I made a grave error in joining the judiciary; my intention was to reclaim the rights of the oppressed from the oppressors. Unfortunately, the laws are drafted such that by manipulating the evidence it is possible to condemn an innocent person to the gallows and exonerate the guilty. This state of affairs devastated me. (Words of Truth)
It was within such an environment that Ostad Elahi commenced his judicial duties in 1933, and remained under these difficult conditions until his retirement in 1957. Throughout his professional career, he was forced to confront pressure from these influential families or from the recommendations of a Ministry of Justice that was directly under their influence. Because his integrity and determination to render justice prevented him from being complicit in illegal acts or unethical verdicts, he was repeatedly transferred at the request of these families. These recurring transfers and relocations were naturally quite difficult and forced Ostad Elahi to either part with his family on many occasions or to take them with him to remote and inhospitable regions.
In spite of these difficulties, Ostad Elahi persevered in government service for almost thirty years. He gradually rose through the ranks, from an Examining Magistrate in the District Courts to Head of the Public Prosecutor's office to Chief Judge of the Criminal Court of Appeals, the highest rank in the judiciary. Later, in reflecting on this period of his life and the influence that his profession had on his spiritual path, he stated that a single year spent in the judiciary striving to accomplish his duty and render justice for the sake of God's satisfaction had provided him with more spiritual experience than the twelve years of consecutive asceticism he had engaged in during his adolescence and youth.
In both volumes of Words of Truth there are numerous anecdotes about the events that transpired during Ostad Elahi's judicial career. In these sayings, Ostad relays how he came to enter the judiciary, the manner in which he carried out his duties as a judge, the basis for his decision to retire prematurely, and why during the course of his career he occasionally opposed certain posts that were recommended by the Ministry of Justice, even opting at one point to temporarily decline an assignment. A careful examination of the detailed explanations that appear in the various chapters of Words of Truth will then reveal the tests that he arranged for himself in the midst of society to challenge his system of thought.