Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Muhammad Ali revived? (2)

Posted by Sen on April 17, 2010

In a comment on my earlier posting on the latest attempt to revive the ‘Unitarian’ variant of the Bahai Faith, as expounded by Abdu’l-Baha’s younger brother Muhammad Ali, one reader wrote:

> I dont feel I have anything to fear from Muhammed Ali or most members
> of the UBA. They simply have a different narrative based upon certain
> historical facts, progressive ideas ..

My reply:

Do not be deceived: the latest attempt to rehabilitate Muhammad Ali is not due to some universal love and progressive ideas, or any great knowledge about Muhammad Ali: it springs from a desire to avoid the straight line that leads from authenticated texts by Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, through inescapable reasoning, to the conclusion that the Universal House of Justice is the head of the Bahai community today. To avoid that conclusion, some people will bring forward anything, however implausible, that seems to offer an alternative.

I think my previous posting is clear enough: I do not accept any equivalence between the teller of lies and the one he tells lies about. The victim of false accusation in this case is Abdu’l-Baha. These are not just two ‘different narratives.’ The one Muhammad Ali created about Abdu’l-Baha’s wicked deeds is built of lies. The lies start with the name “unitarians” itself, a name Muhammad Ali chose to point to his allegation that Abdu’l-Baha claimed divinity for himself, while he and his followers, in contrast, were true believers in the oneness of God. One of the partisans of Muhammad Ali made these claims in his ‘Historical Epitome’ which Browne published in his Materials (from page 75 / *page 57); you can read them there for yourself. I have read Abdu’l-Baha’s own writings and studied his speeches for myself: I’ve seen what he writes and says about God, about the station of the Manifestation, and about himself. I’ve quoted an example of his words about himself on my previous posting on this topic. So I know that this allegation is untrue, and I’m pretty confident that Muhammad Ali knew very well that it was untrue.

In the case he pursued against Abdu’l-Baha in the court in Akka, Muhammad Ali claims:

1) That Baha’u’llah was only a holy man who did not claim to be a prophet, whereas Abdu’l-Baha for political ends exalted the state of his father to that of a Supreme Manifestation of God and of the Essence of Divinity.

2) That Abdu’l-Baha did not deal with Muhammad Ali and his followers according to the provisions of Baha’u’llah’s Will and Testimony.

3) That they had been deprived of their right to inherit a vast estate left behind by Baha’u’llah,

4) That none of the gifts or funds sent in the name of Baha’u’llah was given to them,

5) That Abdu’l-Baha caused thousands of their friends in Persia and India to turn against them. (Taherzadeh, Child of the Covenant, 185-6).

Anyone with a cursory acquaintance with the writings of Baha’u’llah can see that the first is untrue, and Muhammad Ali must have known that it was untrue when he said it. Baha’u’llah claimed and was much more than a Sufi Shaykh or spiritual guide. On the second, I’ve quoted from Baha’u’llah’s Will and Testament (the Kitab-e ‘Ahd) on my blog (“It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch …). The question is not whether Abdu’l-Baha dealt with his brothers according to the Will, but vice versa: why did Muhammad Ali and Badi’ullah not accept what their father had written. On the inheritance question, and the sharing of funds and gifts, Baha’u’llah is equally clear, in his Will and Testament:

Bahá’u’lláh's room in the house of ‘Údí Khammár: copyright Bahá'í International Community

“the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless heritage. Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail.
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 219)

and

“It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsan, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 222)

So the unitarians had no ‘rights’ to property: what Abdu’l-Baha gave them was out of his generosity. What is true, out of all that he claims against Abdu’l-baha, is that Bahais the world over turned against Muhammad Ali, even though he was a son of Baha’u’llah. And not just Bahais: the court in Akka rejected Muhammad Ali’s claims, and Mirza Badi’u’llah, who had initially thrown in his lot with Muhammad Ali, turned against him in 1903 and wrote an ‘Epistle to the Bahai World’ which was printed and published in Persian and English. Kavian Milani tells me he has seen the Persian edition of this, bearing Mirza Badi’u’llah’s seal. The English version is online as text at the Bahai Library and in a facsimile on scribd (the scribd text is ‘heavy,’ suitable for modern computers and fast connections only). I’ve put the Persian text of the first part in a separate note on this blog. In this document Badi’u’llah reveals some of Mirza Muhammad-’Ali’s trickery, including the interpolation of one of the tablets of Baha’u’llah. (Epistle, 14-15)

Shrine of the Báb during the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


One of the things mentioned in the Epistle of Badi’u’llah (page 17) is that Muhammad Ali sent Majdu’d-Din to Nazim Pasha, the governor of Syria (which included Palestine) bearing ‘gifts’ for the Pasha and telling tales “concerning the building on Mt. Carmel, the coming and going of the American friends and the gatherings and meetings in Acca.” The equivalent in today’s terms would be a senior executive spreading rumours about his own company’s financial situation, in the hope of being able to supplant the CEO in the resulting upheaval. Merely sending an emissary to the governor, without the approval of the head of the community, would have been an act of disloyalty, even had there been nothing underhand about what he told the Pasha.
 
Majdu’d-Din secured the governor’s promise of aid, but when the governor reported the matter to Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Hamid in Istanbul, the Sultan ordered that not only ‘Abdu’l-Baha, but also his brothers and followers should be held in close confinement. (see Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, 201) This confinement in Akka continued for some seven years.
 
Muhammad Ali then tried to deal directly with the Sultan, sending a list of similar accusations against Abdu’l-Baha to Istanbul. As a result, a Commission of Enquiry arrived in Akka and Abdu’l-Baha was summoned: he was heard several times and refuted the charges (The Child of the Covenant, 214). A few years later Muhammad Ali tried the same thing again. Once again a commission of enquiry arrived; this time Abdu’l-Baha refused to meet it, but wrote to the Sultan directly:

The members of the Commission have come to ‘Akka, but I have not met with them. I understand that they have made a report in which they have levelled several accusations against me and for this I am grateful. Their main complaints are as follows:

1. That I have rebelled against the government and established my own.

2. That I have built fortifications on Mount Carmel.

3. That with the help of Mirza Dhikru’llah I have hoisted a banner with the inscription of ‘Ya Baha’u’l-Abha’ among the inhabitants including the Bedouins.

4. That two-thirds of the land in ‘Akka is owned by me.

The reason that I am grateful to the members of the Commission for the above accusations is that by their first complaint, they have, in reality, praised me and attributed great powers to me. How can a prisoner and an exile establish a new government? Anyone who could do that deserves to be congratulated.

Similarly, by their second complaint they have also commended me by ascribing to me extraordinary capabilities. It would be a miracle for one who is a captive in the hands of the authorities to build fortifications strong enough to be capable of withstanding bombardment by powerful naval ships.

But one is surprised by their third complaint, for how is it that the many government agents posted all over the country have failed to see the banner which has allegedly been hoisted among the inhabitants of these lands? Perhaps during the last two years these officials have been asleep or some angels have blinded their eyes.

Concerning the fourth complaint, that I own most of the land in ‘Akka and neighbouring villages, I am willing to sell them all for the small sum of one thousand liras.’

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, 217; translated from Fadil-i-Mazandarani, Asraru’l-Athar, 361-3)

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get a firm grasp of this. There are people in the world who quite simply lie, and lie, and lie again to achieve their purposes. I’ve encountered one of these charming deceivers once in my own life: it makes you wary. It is true that no narrative is ever complete, nor is our understanding of it ever perfect. But that does not mean that every narrative has some truth in it, or that every teller is basically well-intentioned but limited. There are wicked people whose purpose is to deceive you, just as there are people out there trying to get your bank details and misuse them. Keep a tight control on your credence and your credit!

Muhammad Ali’s lies about Abdu’l-Baha to the Ottoman authorities, and the commissions sent to investigate, naturally left a documentary trail: you can read about it in Necati Alkan, Dissent and Heterodoxy from page 154. The World Centre archives has copies of the Commission’s documents (XAC1-12). The arrival of the ‘roving committee’ and the charges against Abdu’l-Baha are also mentioned in Echo de Paris, August 17 1905 page 3, from which it appears that allegations had also been made against the officials in Akka and Haifa who had not given credence to Muhammad Ali’s earlier attempt to present Abdu’l-Baha as a political threat to the Ottomans. There’s a similar report in Eugene Jung, Les Puissances devant la révolte arabe, la crise mondiale de demain, page 21.

In a letter written to the Bahais of Iran when the Commission had departed, but the outcome was not known, Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

Among the many slanderous charges was this, that this hapless one had raised up a standard of revolt, a flag bearing the words Ya Baha’u’l-Abha; that I had paraded this throughout the countryside, … and had summoned all the inhabitants to unite under this flag.

O my Lord, verily I seek refuge with Thee from the very thought of such an act, which is contrary to all the commandments of Baha’u’llah, … for Thou hast made it incumbent upon us to obey the rulers and kings.

Another of his slanders was that the Shrine on Mount Carmel was a fortress that I had built strong and impregnable—this when the building under construction comprises six rooms… that I had established an independent sovereignty, and … summoned all the believers to join me in this massive wrongdoing. How dire, O my Lord, is his slander!

In addition to this grand betrayal, Muhammad Ali also engaged in petty deceits to gain sympathy and in some cases money. One example that you can see for yourself is recorded in a letter by Rosamund Templeton, published in ‘Facts for Behaists’ by Ibrahim Kheirella in 1901. She writes from Haifa in January 1900, and quotes her own letter to Abdu’l-Baha in November 1899. Apparently she had recently met Muhammad Ali and Badi’ullah, who had given her the impression that they were in great poverty (of which more later), because she begins her letter to Abdu’l-Baha:

“I came to see you to discuss money matters, without consulting your brothers… When I said to them that I had asked for this money they were very much pained. I therefore have the honor to inform you that it is not necessary to trouble you further concerning my financial affairs.”

The implication of “my financial affairs” seems to be that she had promised Badi’ullah money, and had gone to Abdu’l-Baha in the expectation that he would pay it to his brother, but now accepts that she has no right to expect that. She then presses on to the main issue:

“The principal accusation which you made against your brothers is that they have refused to obey you as the chief of the religion of “Bab” at d’Acre.
You state that your authority is based on a Testament given by your venerable father, and you say that this Testament is in your possession and that it has been read by Colonel Bedrey-bey. On leaving your house I went directly to the house of your brothers in order to present to them your objection. Their answer is that they are absolutely ready to obey the Testament, which has been given by their father on condition that they can see this Testament written by the hand of Beha’U’llah. ..”

She then proposes a meeting in which the Testament would be read and photographed. In the reply written by Muhammad Ali and Badi’ullah, they speak again of the Will (or Wills, for to confuse the issue they speak as if there were several) being ‘hidden away.” (Page 23)

The idea that Abdu’l-Baha would have kept from his brothers the very Will that clearly establishes his own authority by explaining who is meant by the words “… turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root” in the Kitab-e Aqdas (para 121), a Will which also explicitly requires Abdu’l-Baha’s brothers, the Aghsan, to turn to him (in matters of religion, implicitly) is inherently preposterous.

We don’t have to look far to confirm that Mrs. Templeton was being deceived. Muhammad Javad-i-Qazvini – one of Muhammad Ali’s supporters – says in his “historical epitome” that the Will was shown to the companions and then read aloud at a larger gathering just 9 days after the death of Baha’u’llah (Browne, Materials *p 57/ page 75), that is, in June 1892.

Copies were made and circulated; one of them got as far as St Petersburg where, by 1899, AG Tumanski had translated it and had it typeset and printed. Obviously, Mrs Templeton was being played for a sucker.

 

 
 
 
The pretence of poverty that Muhammad Ali used to elicit sympathy and funds is referred to incidentally in Mrs. Templeton’s letter. There are other stories along similar lines, in which Muhammad Ali and his supporters pretend to be in poverty or even hungry. I’ve put one of them in a separate note. I don’t wish to argue that every detail is accurate, but to point out the unspoken assumption in both the Unitarians’ complaints of being hard done by, and the hostile accounts of how Muhammad Ali lost respect in Akka and Haifa because of his begging behaviour. Both sides seem to assume that Muhammad Ali and his friends are incapable of making a living for themselves, that they depend on Abdu’l-Baha’s generosity. Why should this be? Palestine was prospering, Haifa was growing into a city, why would literate and reasonably well-educated men – who had the benefit of free accommodation as well – be unable to provide for themselves?

I haven’t even begun on Muhammad Ali’s actions after Abdu’l-Baha’s death. Let’s turn rather to Abdu’l-Baha. The tributes delivered at his funeral by people and dignitaries of Akka show that those in Akka and Haifa who had the best chance to know him, over many years, generally admired him greatly. You can read some of these funeral tributes in ‘debunking the myths’, available as a free pdf online, from page 42. Of these the most eloquent and instantly understandable to all is the testimony of Kahlil Gibran, ‘written’ with his pencil in a portrait.

Finally, in answer to your last question: no, you have nothing whatever to fear from the Bahais or the Universal House of Justice. At the very worst, they might ‘brush the dust of their shoes’ in a metaphorical sense, and have nothing to do with you, unless you make the overture yourself. It may be hard to discern under all the anti-Bahai propaganda, but that’s actually the worst thing the Bahai teachings allow the Bahais to do – and in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with it at all. It is simply giving up on direct dialogue, and letting time tell. Fruitful trees will bear fruit, and rotten trees will fall. By standing back and letting it happen, we ensure it is clear that they fell of their own accord.

~~ Sen ~~

Share this page
Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to MySpaceAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter
Short link: http://wp.me/pcgF5-1hn

About these ads

26 Responses to “Muhammad Ali revived? (2)”

  1. Reza said

    As Mark (the person you are replying to) is a gay man, he indeed does have a great deal to fear from the Haifan Bahais. In Uganda, Bahai religious leaders have actively campaigned for homosexuals to be rounded up and locked away. (This was reported by the respected human rights activist Peter Tatchell on The Guardian newspaper website in 2007, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/sep/17/ugandangaysdemandfreedom .)

    In addition, in the late 1990s, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the UK campaigned in favour of the notorious anti-gay law called “Section 28″, which prohibited state schools from teaching that homosexuality was anything other than abnormal (see http://bahai-library.com/nsa/homosexuality.uk.html).

  2. Sen said

    The UK NSA’s support for section 28 was wrong-headed, and also an involvement in partisan politics. I was among those who protested at the time. One can only hope that the lesson has been learned. As the tide has swung in the UK, the NSA there is left with egg on its face. They could remove it, by apologising to the gay and lesbian community.

    I’ve not seen anything to support the claim that any Bahai in Uganda actively campaigned for the imprisonment of homosexuals. The Bahais are members of an inter-religious group which organised a rally, but the question is, did they argue against that rally when it was being planned? Did they participate?

  3. Badi Villar said

    Reza tries to evade the issue.

    Reza, you can continue with this topic here: http://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/email-archive/same-sex-marriages/
    Or do you have any scriptural evidence that Mirza Muhammad Ali or Mirza Badi’u’llah favored gay marriage?

  4. Badi Villar said

    Rúhíyyih Khánum in her ‘Priceless Pearl’ quotes the recollections of a German woman physician, Dr J. Fallscheer, who lived in Haifa and attended the ladies of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s household. In these recollections, which were published first in German, Dr. J. Fallscheer quotes this statement of the Master:

    He went on: “Bahá’u’lláh, the Great Perfection
    - blessed be His words – in the past, the present and forever – chose
    this insignificant one to be His successor, not because I was the first
    born, but because His inner eye had already discerned on my brow
    the seal of God.

    “Before His ascension into eternal Light the blessed Manifestation
    reminded me that I too – irrespective of primogeniture or age -
    must observe among my sons and grandsons whom God would indicate
    for His office. My sons passed to eternity in their tenderest years,
    in my line, among my relatives, only little Shoghi has the shadow of a
    great calling in the depths of his eyes.”

    (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 12)

  5. Reza said

    Bahais did take part in this rally.

    See this article: http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070822/hundreds-in-uganda-denounce-homosexuality-in-wide-protest/index.html

    Hundreds in Uganda Denounce Homosexuality in Wide Protest

    Hundreds of people in Uganda joined rallies on Tuesday to denounce homosexuality, a practice they fear is growing in the largely conservative African state.

    Wed, Aug. 22, 2007 Posted: 12:22 PM EDT

    Hundreds of people in Uganda joined rallies on Tuesday to denounce homosexuality, a practice they fear is growing in the largely conservative African state.

    “Homosexuality breaks the laws of God, the laws of nature and the laws of Uganda,” said Pastor Martin Ssempa, spokesman for the Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexuality, which organized the anti-gay rally in Uganda’s capital, according to The Associated Press.

    Homosexuality carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in Uganda, like in most African states.

    Protestors from various religious groups, including Christians, Muslims and Bahai, held signs that read “Homosexuality is crime. That’s the law. Keep it.” and “God loves homos, he hates homosexuality.” They were in Kampala trying to urge the government to uphold the country’s ban against what conservatives have called a “repugnant practice” ahead of November’s Commonwealth Summit.

    Ssempa, a Pentecostal pastor, believes homosexuals are using the summit to intimidate Uganda into changing the country’s laws, he told BBC’s Focus on Africa. Homosexuals from the Sexual Minorities Uganda group launched a media campaign last week to demand respect and their rights.

    In protest, ethics and integrity minister Nsaba Buturo said the government would not change its law.

    “They should not be allowed to pursue an agenda of indoctrinating our children to homosexuality,” said Buturo, according to Uganda’s The New Vision.

    Uganda’s government rejected the homosexuals’ call for recognition and equal rights.

    Ssempa and his coalition urged the government not to bow to external pressure to relax its laws.

    “Government should learn from the Church of Uganda, which has withstood international pressure and had to do without donor funds in order to uphold morality,” said a statement by the Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexuality.

    The gay community is estimated by activists to number 500,000 in Uganda, according to BBC.

    “We want everyone to know that we are disappointed. Homosexuality is a terrible thing. It’s illegal under our laws,” Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Uganda told Ecumenical News International from Kampala. “They (the government) must make a clear policy over the issue, as they have done with HIV and AIDS.”

    Mwesigye spoke at a churches’ rally held on Tuesday to mobilize action against homosexuality.

    “God’s design and intention is for humanity to express itself only in male and female relationship and for procreation. We condemn homosexuality,” he said at last week’s press conference.

    Nathan Black
    Christian Post Reporter

    ——————-

    In any case, Baha’u’llah envisages a society in which “sodomy” is a punishable offence. The Aqdas Questions and Answers states the following:

    49. Question: Concerning the penalties for adultery, sodomy, and theft, and the degrees thereof.

    Answer: The determination of the degrees of these penalties rests with the House of Justice.

    Although in the main text of the Aqdas Baha’u’llah refers to pederasty only, the word used for sodomy in the Questions and Answers includes – in Islamic law – both pederasty and male homosexual sexual intercourse between consenting adults. The person to whom Baha’u’llah was responding was a trained Islamic mujtahid and would have understood the term “sodomy” as not just referring to pederasty.

    Baha’u’llah rejects the idea that sexual relations between adults are not a matter for the state or religious judicial bodies. Instead, Baha’u’llah upholds the Islamic viewpoint that adultery and homosexual activity should be punishable offences. Baha’u’llah keeps exactly the same range of sexual offences as Islamic law, but just prescribes a different punishment (or says that the punishment should be determined by the House of Justice in the future).

  6. Sen said

    On the Uganda question – the reporter might simply have been picking up on the fact that Bahais were part of the interreligious body concerned. Is there any evidence the reporter actually asked people at the demonstration what their religion was? To me, it’s still hearsay.

    The question and answers section 49 does not tell us what the UHJ will say about sexual relations within a same-sex marriage. “Sodomy” could hardly have had that connotation in those days, because there was no recognition of same-sex marriage. That’s exactly the point of having such things decided by the UHJ or the National Spiritual Assembly: new questions come up, social conditions change, so it’s not very practical for a religious community to continue for generation after generation deriving its religious laws from the exegesis of scripture. I agree that the question was framed in terms of Islamic law, but Baha’u’llah’s answer is radical and un-Islamic: Islamic law like the Halakhah supposes that the answers to all such questions are found in scripture, or by extrapolation for scripture. Baha’u’llah puts his faith in reason, consultation, and the ability of the common people to find their own path, in both religion and politics, through consultation.

  7. Badi Villar said

    This thing in Uganda happened two years ago, not recently Reza. The Baha’i community in Uganda did not supporting the imprisoning of gays, it was just one Baha’i who happened to belong to an interfaith group that did this, unfortunately.
    The House of Justice is now insisting on more oversight of Baha’i participation in interfaith groups.

    You have nothing to say about Mirza Muhammad Ali’s position on homosexuality, no?.

  8. Badi Villar said

    A passage from an Epistle of Bahiyyih Khanum:

    “O faithful loved ones of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá! The centre of sedition, the focus of rebellion -whose evil character and passions, even in the days of the Ancient Beauty, made him known for his stubborn perversity and his ambition to lead- began to put forward certain claims, gathered about him a pitiful band, raised up the ensign of self-glorification and self-love, and considered himself to be a partner in authority with none other than Him Who was the True One, until in the end the hand of the Lord’s omnipotence struck down his plans and hopes.

    For a period of thirty years, he opposed the Centre of the Covenant and, to bring down His structure in ruins, did everything that lay in his power. This in spite of the fact that the divine Beauty had made His Covenant so strong, and appointed its Centre so explicitly, in writing, unmistakably, that He had left no room for any questions or doubts. In the Most Holy Book of Aqdas, which in this most excellent of all ages is the Mother Book, and embraces all, and again in the Kitáb-i-Ahdi,[1] the last revealed Tablet by the Tongue of knowledge and wisdom, which contains the final wishes of God — the people of Baha are directed with perfect clarity to turn their faces toward Him Whom God has purposed, and He is designated as the Interpreter of the Book,  the Resolver of all complex and difficult questions, and the Centre of the Faith. Therein as well are the other Branches, the Afnan and the rest of the believers bidden to direct themselves unto that One so that all might face one and the same Centre, and all be bound thereto. Thus would the basic foundation of God’s Cause, which is unity, remain unassailable. Thus the root of heresy and rebellion would wither away, and just as in the days when He Who is the Truth was made manifest, so too in the day of His Covenant the light of unity would pervade all things, and put to flight the murk of disbelief and dualism and rebellion and opposition, and thus the tree of His holy Cause would grow and flourish, and the rich fruits borne by the holy Teachings would satisfy all needs and be sweet in the mouth of all mankind.
    [1 The Book of My Covenant.]

    This fact of there being only one Centre and of turning unto a single holy Being is, in the Kingdom of His Cause, as the shaft or spindle of a millstone, and all the other laws and ordinances must needs revolve around this one. In the temple of God’s religion the Centre of the Cause can be likened to the heart, for upon it depends the life of the human body as one entity, as well as the relationships of its organs and their essential growth and vitality. In human society the Centre of the Cause can be compared to the sun, whose magnetic force controls the movements and orbits of the planets. The Centre of the Cause is also like the spine of a book, for by it the pages are all banded together into one book, and  134  without the spine the papers would become loose and scattered.

    Now each separate member of the community who is within the shelter of that blessed unity is, according to his rank and station, the recipient of grace; and that rank is respected and protected, in conformity with the verse: ‘Not one of us but hath his clearly designated station.’[1] Thus, in the body of man, the eye has a preordained station, one not belonging to some lesser members; and yet, should it once depart from the whole, and its connection with the centre be broken, then its membership in the body, and its very life, are ended, let alone its previous station and degree. Or should the eye be plucked from its place, torn out of the body, it would be deprived of life itself, how much less would it continue to enjoy the station that rightly belongs to the eye.
    [1 Qur'án 37:164.]

    How strange! With reference to one who smokes opium, the Ancient Beauty, the Most Great Name, has said: ‘He is not of Me’, making no distinction here between one enjoying God’s special favour, and some other. If the smoking of opium, which is one of the secondary and lesser prohibitions, completely severs the smoker from membership in the community and from relationship to the Person of the Manifestation, then what must be the condition of him who refuses to acknowledge the Centre of the holy Covenant? In the words of Christ, ‘If thine eye  135  cause thee to stumble, pluck it out … if thy hand offend thee, cut it off.[1]
    [1 cf.Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-7.]”

    Shavval 1340 A.H. (28 May-25 June 1922 A.D.), to the Bahá’ís in Khusif.
    (Compilations, Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 131-4)

  9. Badi Villar said

    Congratulations Sen! this is an impressive and significant contribution to Bahai apologetics.

  10. Reza said

    Dear Badi Villar

    I was not “evading” the issue, just commenting on one aspect of Sen’s post.

    I am not a member of the Unitarian Baha’i Association. I am an ex-Bahai from a Muslim background.

  11. Badi Villar said

    Dear Reza,

    Please stop long enough to read this:

    http://www.gaytoday.com/people/011303pe.asp
    http://bahaisonline.net/index.php?Itemid=2&id=1378&option=com_content&task=view

    Regards,
    Badí’

  12. This prejudice (and make no mistake it is exactly that) against homosexuals is not unique to Baha’is of any stripe or denomination. However, it is also a wrongness. As for Muhammad Ali, his actions are long past and what ever the truth of the matter is or was from his POV, God alone knows. None of us were there, like all dealing with historical fact we view past actions through lenses made up of our own prejudices and world-views. I would simply add that none of these kinds of fractions within families are ever one-sided. Human nature alone tells me that there are two sieds to this story.

  13. Sen said

    To say “there’s always two sides” is cheap; what it means in effect is that if enough mud is thrown, you’ll suppose that some of it must be true. I have not found any evidence to back a single one of Muhammad Ali’s various allegations against Abdu’l-Baha. I’ve shown evidence that Muhammad Ali was a liar, who sought sympathy and money by posing as the victim. It’s not true, in this case or in life in general, that blame is always shared. Sometimes there’s a victim and a wrong-doer, and in that case, to attribute some of the blame to the victim is unjust.

  14. Well certainly you & I can disagree on this point Sen. But the fact is that family disputes are among the most fraught with anger. Having been a pastoral counsellor I have yet to see a family dispute without two sides to it.

  15. Sen said

    Lucky you then – I’ve dealt with paedophilia and wife-beating in my time. I don’t believe that the blame is always shared. I have my own internet stalker, who gathers information on me and has been spreading lies about me for years now. Bad people exist, and good people get odd obsessions that pervert their sense of right and wrong, and they have victims. Your approach does no justice to the victims.

  16. In your opinion Sen/ Please note though that you have effectively shifted the goal posts, I spoke of family disputes, you mention paedophilia and wife-beating, that’s similar to me mentioning that some fat is good in a diet and you mentioning obesity. More to the point Sen, the assertion that this ‘revival’ of a Muhammad-Ali style view of the Baha’i faith means that it is the SAME as the 1920s-30s organisation is wrong (and yes, that is I realise, IMO).

  17. Sen said

    I never assert that the revival of Muhammad-Ali means a continuity between their views: on the contrary, I doubt that it’s based on a real knowledge of Muhammad-Ali. The revival of Muhammad-Ali is not for its own sake, but rather in order to justify not following the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, which also entails, not following Baha’u’llah’s wishes. That kind of betrayal requires a big justification, and Muhammad-Ali long list of accusations against Abdu’l-Baha – not one of which is backed by fact – is all the justification the UBA have. Among those accusations is that Abdu’l-Baha “tried by all means in his power” to prevent Baha’u’llah’s words being spread … His believers are prohibited from reading the important tablets and works of Beha’u’llah (Facts for Behaists page 26, see also 44 and 54). Note first that there’s no evidence provided in support of this attack on Abdu’l-Baha’s faithfulness to the task Baha’u’llah had set him, then note that the Behaist Quarterly itself published tablets of Baha’u’llah translated and published at Abdu’l-Baha’s behest! This claim is so silly, it beggars belief. Abdu’l-Baha was intensely active in distributing the writings of Baha’u’llah: he sent Johanna Dawud for example to present copies of important tablets to libraries in Europe, he encouraged Dawud and Ali Kuli Khan to translate and publish in English, he sent copies of tablets to Bahai teachers around the world – Jamal Effendi for example was sent a donkey-load, which unfortunately was lost when the donkey fell in fording a river. In his recorded talks in the West he is constantly telling the audience to read the works of Baha’u’llah.

    The accusations that Muhammad Ali launched against Abdu’l-Baha are not factual, not even remotely credible. The character behind them is clear enough.

  18. Eric Pierce said

    what if they were all wrong (including bahaullah)? in various/different ways?

    a an ex-bahai, UBA has worth because it is looking, from “outside”, at the history of why the haifan bahai faith is so deeply dysfunctional. if there is some peripheral evidence that abdul-baha was obsessive about autheority and centralization, that is what is important, not a bunch of obscure scripture minutea.

    old disputes based on microscopic examination of family arguments aren’t particularly relevant (IMO).

    haifan bahais can not be relied on to be “detached” from their “attachment” to particular scriptural biases.

  19. Sen said

    You say “if there was some peripheral evidence” that Abdu’l-Baha was obsessive …” but then show disinterest in minutae and examining family arguments. In other words, you need to think there was something wrong with Abdu’l-Baha, so never mind the facts.

    My approach to my faith, on all issues, is to get the evidence, check the texts, use reason and take nothing as given.

    Suppose there was not “some peripheral evidence” to back the various absurd claims that have been made about Abdu’l-Baha, from building fortresses and planning revolt to suppressing the Writings of Baha’u’llah? Suppose that – and you are left with the facts: that Baha’u’llah appointed Abdu’l-Baha as Head of the Faith, he appointed Shoghi Effendi as first (and alas last) Guardian with authority to interpret the Writings and lead the community, and Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi all endorsed the institution of elected houses of justice, and an international house of justice to make final rulings and preserve unity. If you’ve followed the logic that far, the various sects that base their claims on Abdu’l-Baha’s Will being fraudulent, or Abdu’l-baha being a bad bad man, or Shoghi Effendi supposedly appointing Remey without telling the Hands … are all just schismatic sects, trying to break the unity of the community. That’s where you get using reason and evidence.

    The only way off the straight highway, is to claim an authority direct from God that would make all the past a moot point. Eric Stetson has already tried that: his own account of it says “Before leaving the faith, I wrote and published on the internet a book calling for reform of the Baha’i Faith and claiming prophetic authority to do so, but soon decided I no longer believed in Baha’u’llah’s claim of prophethood nor my own.”

  20. Badi Villar said

    Well, we can assume that Cain and Judas Iscariot also had their own version of facts. The Cainites (a small antinomian sect) tried to vindicate Judas as a theological symbol for their own purposes.

  21. Mark said

    Dear Sen,
    Thank you for responding in more detail to my thoughts and queries.
    Your astute veracity as an apologist for the Haifen sect is spot on. Though your sources were not new or revelatory for myself(I have studied the Babi and Bahai faiths since I was 15 years old, I am now 51), I am sure some of your readers will find it to be so. Thank you for your hard work in putting forth this information. There is one big difference, I feel, between you(Haifen sect) and the UBA. They(UBA) seem to have no need,use or desire for any ardent apologeticism. Their “house” appears to me to be built on solid ground(open and objectifiable historical facts) with very good ventilation(no hot air). They dont seem to have any need to demonize or deify any of the central figures in Bahai history. Just as with independent Bahai scholars, the UBA seems to believe that there are two sides to every coin(your reference to pedophilia in this regard does not surprise me in the least,it saddens me but it is no surprise). Muhammad Ali was Bahaullah’s well beloved second son, he was second in line of succession and he fell out of grace with his elder brother who had the upper hand. All that followed was what we have all seen played out a millon times over where vast wealth, power and status are involed. Independent Bahai scholars look at the divergent narratives and suspect that the truth lies, more than likely, somewhere in between. The UBA appears to be saying the same and siding with independent scholars. This is how progressives are supposed to act. I know as a Christian, I am thankful for pioneering Christian progressives. As a person of goodwill, I am thankful for the UBA wanting and working to bring forth a more open and progressive Bahai faith. Bravo for their insight and bravery. I have also not heard anyone in the UBA deny any verifiable facts about any historical Bahai figures. They only seem to differ with you and your sect in regards to their portent and meaning once all the many variables have been accounted for and put into their proper place and context. As I stated previously, the standing of their(UBA) “house” does not appear in IMO to rest on the deification of MA or anyone else(including Bahaullah); nor does it include the demonizaton of any one person over and against another. They are simply beyond that. The rehabilitation of MA or any other banished member of Bahaullah’s beloved family, does not seem to be in any way, shape or form, the cornerstone of the UBA. They seem to merely want to stress an objective historical narrative in regards to their faith while at the same time putting forth the progressive teachings of Bahaullah to share with the world in an open and inclusive manner.
    I am a simple being, common as dirt and a nobodies nobody, but I have been blessed with just a smidgen of common sense when it comes to the disernment of right verses wrong and knowing friend from foe. The UBA is IMO on the right track as far as independent scholars would attest and is very much a friend of progressives and any person of goodwill. Your efforts to demonize them and their members says alot about your own “house of cards.”
    Should you ever find yourself declared null and void I dont think the UBA would ever shun you. I see their arms opened wide and a loving embrace to welcome you and all lovers of Bahaullah with but one main rule: to think for yourselves. I wonder where that came from!? Thank you again for your valuable time and imput.

    May the peace of the Lord be with you.

    Your humble servent in seeking after truth in an ever so complicated and convoluted world.

    And lastly but most importantly,a simple child of God forever in Christ Jesus.

    Yours sincerely,
    Mark

  22. QueenTiye said

    Let us say for now that Baha’is in Uganda were part of these protests. Such action, and the reproach upon the Faith that it engendered, is proof both that they were wrong, and that we Baha’is should be cautious at all times. It is so easy to get swept up in the politics of our times and places, and to leave behind the guidance of the Faith. It is not the first time Baha’is have brought reproach upon the Faith, and it is likely not the last. The same can be said of all religions, but let us see what standard the Ugandan Baha’is OUGHT to have adhered to:

    The Universal House of Justice lists “the loving support of the Bahá’í community as one of the elements through which “individuals are able to effect a change in their behaviour” (Extract 14), and calls upon “all those concerned” to “have understanding and sympathy for the individual so afflicted. . . This law is no reason for Bahá’ís to consider homosexuals as outcasts” (Extract 17). In this regard, it may be well to note that the extracts indicate that it is not the condition of being attracted to someone of the same sex which Bahá’u’lláh condemns, but the action of engaging in sexual relations with someone of the same sex. This distinction places homosexuality in the category of one of many problems, from which an individual may suffer, both physical and psychological. Some are the result of the individual’s own behaviour, some are caused by the circumstances in which he grew up, some are congenital. Some human beings are born blind, some suffer from incapacitating accidents or diseases. Such conditions present the individual affected, and those around him, with serious problems, and it is one of the challenges of the human condition that all those concerned should strive to overcome such problems and have understanding and sympathy for the individual so afflicted (Extract 17).
     

    Fear the “Haifan Baha’is” indeed! Our guidance is pretty clear. Disagree if you will about the standard of morality, but do not take the wrongheaded actions of some few Baha’is, in a country where extreme prejudice is prevailing, as proof of cruelty sanctioned by the Faith. It is slander.

    QT

  23. Good point. And again it should be noted that in this painful episode involved only an individual who acted irresponsibly without consultation with the Bahá’í institutions in that area.

  24. Sen said

    Losing your voting rights can be a big trial: I’m glad you’ve worked it through and got them back.

    Being expelled from the community is something quite different. It’s not a “sanction” (punishment) for something you’ve done, and it’s not explained before hand or after. It’s more like a no-fault divorce: the UHJ just decided I didn’t meet their requirements, and told the NSA to remove me from the membership roll. They did not say I had to do anything, or stop doing anything, to get re-enrolled. A couple of weeks before they sent a letter to all the NSAs of the world, which misrepresented something I had written by selective quotation. I suppose that someone had sent the out-of-context quote to them and that it had something to do with them disenrolling me, but I don’t know that for sure. There are links to what I had written, and the UHJ’s letter quoting it, here

    So far as I know, nobody who has been expelled in this way has ever been accepted back. I’ve asked several times, but always get a turn-down without any additional information, which suggests to me that the UHJ expects this to be life-long. If they thought there was any chance that the present or future UHJ might reconsider, they would surely keep communications open: name a Counsellor I could talk to, or suggest something I might do. So though I ask now and then to be re-enrolled, I’m presuming that I and the other Bahais who have been disenrolled will be in that situation for life. Which means that I and people like me will be part of the Bahai experience. The UHJ seems (to me) to be fostering the eventual presence of “unenrolled Bahais” as a normal part of the wider Bahai community. I’ve speculated about the reasons for this here

  25. Mark Townsend said

    When I hear that people want to exonerate the Lesser Branch, I remember a passage from the Báb, quoted by Bahá’u’lláh:
    “He supplicateth God that if there should appear from this Tree — which is His blessed Self — any fruit, or leaf, or branch that would fail to believe in Him, God should cut it off forthwith.”
    (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 165)

    So, how could there be any use for such a Branch, when he devoted his whole life to opposing the Most Great Branch?

  26. Sen said

    I don’t think these people know much about the historical events and what they show about the character of Muhammad Ali: it’s more the product of lazy thinking. ‘Let’s suppose there was blame on both sides, then we don’t have to do any investigating.’ If there is in fact a wrong-doer and a victim in the case, this kind of thinking amounts to “blame the victim, don’t upset the applecart.” In the first years when Muhammad Ali began spreading accusations against Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha worked hard to prevent Muhammad Ali’s reputation being damaged in the Bahai community outside of Palestine. Abdu’l-Baha limited the flow of people coming to the Bahai communities in Palestine, and censored the mail going out to ensure no bad word was said about Muhammad Ali. This worked so well that when the word of Muhammad Ali’s rebellion finally reached Abu’l-Fadl Gulpaygani in Egypt, he flatly refused to believe it, treated an Egyptian Bahai who had told him of it quite roughly, and wrote an indignant letter to Abdu’l-Baha. In reply, he received from Abdu’l-Baha one of the long tablets known as the tablet of the 1000 verses. By keeping the word of Muhammad Ali’s lies in a small circle, Abdu’l-Baha was protecting his brother, and making it easy for him to turn around and accept the terms of the Will of Baha’u’llah. Meanwhile, Muhammad Ali is telling all and sundry what a bad man Abdu’l-Baha is. There is no equivalence here, no similarity at all in character, no way that Abdu’l-Baha shares the blame for the split between them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 147 other followers

%d bloggers like this: