Sen McGlinn's blog

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“Bahais marry their sisters” — the prohibited degrees of affinity for marriage

Posted by Sen on May 16, 2015

Itchingfield Church - geograph.org.uk This posting will explore the principles and procedures that determine the ‘prohibited degrees of marriage’ in Bahai law. How closely does someone have to be related to you, to be too close for you to marry? The term “affinity” is used to include blood relationships and marriage relationships.

Bahai readers will no doubt ask, why do we need a systematic explanation of this now? It is not as if there is a problem: we do not have a prevalence of first cousin marriages in Bahai communities, our assemblies are not overburdened by requests from fathers wanting to marry their daughters. Our lack of interest in the issue is indicated by the fact that the Bahaikipedia section on marriage laws does not mention the prohibited degrees of marriage. Apparently, we are quite satisfied to obey the civil laws and use our common sense.

However the lack of a systematic presentation in terms that are understandable for people from an Islamic background has given room for numerous Islamic scholars and anti-Bahai web sites to tell the people they can influence that Bahais “marry their sisters.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Defence of the Faith, Ethics and Morality, Polemics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Changes in the Bahai calendar: what, how and especially, why?

Posted by Sen on September 22, 2014

Haab calendar from wikimedia commons

Relax – not the new Bahai calendar. But it does have 19 months

[December 26: the dates of feast days and holy days for the coming years have been added to the bottom of the blog. [Skip to the table]]

On July 10, 2014, the Universal House of Justice announced three decisions regarding the Badi` (Bahai) calendar that has been used, in two slightly different forms, by Bahais in Islamic lands and in the rest of the world. The changes take effect from the next Bahai New Year, from sunset on March 20, 2015. The full text of the letter from the Universal House of Justice is available in the documents archive of this blog. The changes modify the pattern of the Bahai year somewhat, harmonise practices for Bahais in the East and West and – in my view most significantly – they underline that the Bahai Faith is an independent religion and an independent religious community with its own identity. What are the changes about, how will they effect us in our local communities, and why are they introduced now? And the otherwise unspoken question, “Is this more than an unnecessary and irritating inconvenience, haven’t we (and haven’t they), got better things to do?”

The answers to these questions in brief are, that there are reasons in scripture and in what I will call cultural ‘politics’ why these changes should be made now, and that the new dates for feasts and holy days will not be difficult to use in practice, or very different from those we are used to. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Undercover Bahais: Abdu’l-Baha tells the Manchester Bahais to lay low

Posted by Sen on August 31, 2014

Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi
When the young Shoghi Effendi was in England for his university studies, he went to Manchester, arriving there on October 1, 1921, and staying for six days. On the evening of October 2 he was at a meeting of the Bahais in home of Mr. and Mrs. Heald. Riaz Khadem (Shoghi Effendi in Oxford, p. 118) describes that meeting as largely musical. Shoghi Effendi shared some Persian poems by Abdu’l-Baha that could be used as hymns. There is more in Riaz Khadem’s account of Shoghi Effendi’s visit, but it is the mention of Samuel and Mrs. Heald that interests me here.

With a few days of his visit to Manchester, Shoghi Effendi sent a letter to Abdu’l-Baha in which he reported on the activities of the Manchester Bahais. He received the following tablet, dated October 1921, in response: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Copper to Gold?

Posted by Sen on February 3, 2014

coppernuggetAn enquirer asked: Do Baha’is really believe that copper turns into gold after 70 years if protected from becoming dry (or solidified)?

The most important skill for understanding scriptures, including the Bahai scriptures, is not mastery of the original languages, or other arcane knowledge, but familiarity with literary language: the ability to read poetry and similar writing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

The Guardian and the Governor

Posted by Sen on July 30, 2013

Someone asked a question in the comments to this blog, which is so important I have decided to answer in a new posting. He asks whether a government leader [in Israel] who enrolled in the Bahai community would have had temporal authority over the Guardian, had the line of guardians continued, or would the governor have had to defer to the authority of the Guardian, as the head of the Bahai community? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Political science, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

“Without reference to particular individuals”

Posted by Sen on March 23, 2013

Pope-Benedict-XVI From the moment Pope Benedict announced his retirement, the names of possible successors were being discussed, along with ideas about the right kind of Pope to lead the Church in the years to come. A South American? An African? … It all makes for good press. Bahai elections, even the forthcoming election of the Universal House of Justice, are not so newsworthy.

The Bahai community has no clergy, in the sense of qualified religious experts who lead a religious community. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community | Tagged: , , , , | 23 Comments »

A question answered: Chapter 1 of Some Answered Questions

Posted by Sen on July 14, 2012

One of the participants on the Facebook group Bahais United in Diversity wrote:

I’m afraid I have to point out that Abdu’l-Baha contradicts himself [in the proof of the existence of God, in the first chapter of Some Answered Questions]… First he suggests that “Nature has neither intelligence nor perception.” So God must exist. Then he says that “man is the branch; nature is the root,” and asks “can the will and the intelligence, and the perfections which exist in the branch, be absent in the root?”
So the will and the intelligence and the perception are in nature after all… and God becomes unnecessary to explain order in nature and the emergence of human life.

It’s a sharp observation, but the problem lies in the translation rather than in Abdu’l-Baha’s reasoning. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Theology, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

“Matters of State” or “administrative matters”: the scope of the House of Justice

Posted by Sen on November 5, 2011


[Updated May 2012]
In 2008, I posted an entry about the translation of the Eighth Ishraq, which is the eighth section of one of Baha’u’llah’s shorter works, the Ishraqat or Splendours. The posting explained why I thought that the 1978 translation was incorrect where it says “All matters of State (‘umuur-e siyaasiyyah) should be referred to the House of Justice.” The earlier translation by Ali Kuli Khan, “Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice, and devotional acts must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book” was, I thought, more accurate, and more consistent with other works by Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Community, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Age of consent

Posted by Sen on May 18, 2011

On the Talisman discussion list, a participant noted:

> We appear to have three somewhat contradictory choices for the age of consent, according to Sen: 14 years old; 15 years old,; or “unknown” / not yet decided

The reason the question comes up, is that there’s a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that says “There is no specific minimum age mentioned in the Baha’i teachings at which girls may marry,” yet there is a specific minimum age for marriage given in the Kitab-e Aqdas. They can’t both be right. Or can they?

There’s a way of having your cake and eating it to, squaring the circle, even perhaps escaping the iron law of the exuding middle (see my profile). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha’s British knighthood

Posted by Sen on April 22, 2011

Abdu’l-Baha’s knighthood has never been a matter of importance to Bahais themselves, who have many much weightier reasons to admire and follow Abdu’l-Baha as the successor to his father, Baha’u’llah, as the authorised interpreter of the Bahai scripture and teachings, as the Centre of the Covenant that unites Bahais across the world, and as the best exemplar of the Bahai life. However the photograph of Abdu’l-Baha, seated at the ceremony to confer on him the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, is one of the stock images on Iranian and Islamic anti-Bahai sites that seek to present the Bahai Faith as a Western invention, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Defence of the Faith, History, Polemics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments »

Secret Foreign Office documents show …

Posted by Sen on April 21, 2011

The Foreign and India Office, 1866

The punch line is, they show nothing. At least this time. A site called Bahaism and the British Government is presenting “Documentation pertaining to historical connections of the leadership of Bahaism with the British government.” It has just two documents so far. The site has been greeted with relief by the anti-bahai ideologues, who have been claiming for generations that the British established the Bahai Faith to weaken Islam, without finding any evidence. (For a brief treatment of the “British did it” scam, see the Wikipedia article. For a thorough treatment see Adib Masumian’s short book on anti-Bahaism in Iran (PDF))

The funny thing is, the documents are evidence that the British were not involved with the Bahais. You can click on the images to get a larger view, but I’ve typed them over so that search engines can find them – and the owners of “Bahaism and the British Government” cannot remove the evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Defence of the Faith, History, Polemics | Tagged: , , , , | 16 Comments »

UHJ elucidations

Posted by Sen on March 7, 2011

In a discussion on Talisman9, one friend said that he felt obliged to incorporate any statement made by the Universal House of Justice under the infallible protection of God into his corpus of beliefs, and another said that if the Universal House of Justice makes a certain understanding of doctrine an inherent part of its legislation, he felt obligated to understand and believe that. Does the *UHJ’s power of elucidation imply this? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 103 Comments »

This great American democracy?

Posted by Sen on February 27, 2011

A Bahai friend asked about Abdu’l-Baha’s reference to America as a “democracy,” in the talk he gave to the Orient-Occident-Unity Conference in Washington on 20 April 1912. In the course of researching it, I found a short prayer by Abdu’l-Baha for East-West unity, which I have translated, and also discovered that a much loved and quoted reference to the future of America, known as the “prayer for America,” is not authentic.

The context of this query was a discussion of whether the United States is a republic, or a democracy. The question appears to depend largely on definitions: if a republic is a state with an elected head of state and a government answerable to the people, and a democracy is a state with a government chosen in free and fair elections, with freedom of speech and protection of individual and minority rights under the rule of law, the United States would appear to aspire to be a democratic republic, at the intersection of these two terms.

Be that as it may, I was asked about the term “American democracy” in the talk Abdu’l-Baha gave at the Orient-Occident-Unity Conference. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Shoghi Effendi’s diary

Posted by Sen on February 18, 2011

There are numerous ‘pilgrim’s notes’ recording people’s memories of the words of Abdu’l-Baha or of Shoghi Effendi, some more reliable than others. But the diary entries below are Shoghi Effendi’s reports of the words of Abdu’l-Baha, dated in 1919, as the First World War was ending. They include Shoghi Effendi’s translations of sections of Abdu’l-Baha’s tablets.

The first letter contains a citation from a Tablet of Abdu’l-Baha that, so far as I know, is not published elsewhere. The third letter, dated February 10, 1919, gives some insight into the motives of the British authorities in awarding a knighthood to Abdu’l-Baha on 27 April 1920, based on a recommendation submitted by the British Administrator, Major-General Money, on 18 July, 1919. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in History | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha speaks to the NAACP

Posted by Sen on February 10, 2011

from Remey, 'Observations' 1908

This talk by Abdu’l-Baha, given in Chicago, was published in Star of the West volume 3, No. 3, page 30, dated April 28, 1912. This is puzzling, since the talk was not given until two days later! That issue of Star of the West reports talks dated up to May 5 1912, so presumably the “April 28″ number was actually printed sometime in May. The talk has been republished in Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 69, but the editor of Promulgation has nipped and tucked here and there, taking out some of the wrinkles, adding some explanations, and removing Abdu’l-Baha’s humourous references to green and blue people. A friend has asked for the unvarnished text, so I am posting it here. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha’s correspondence with Andrew Carnegie

Posted by Sen on January 19, 2011

[Revised Feb. 24]
Abdu’l-Baha wrote at least two letters to the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. What appears to be the earlier of these must have been written in 1912 or the first weeks of 1913, although it was not until 1915 that a translation by Ahmad Sohrab, dated 1 May 1915, was published in The New York Times (September 5, 1915) and Star of the West vol. 6 no 11, September 27 1915. I am posting the full text here to make it available to search engines. The original of the letter also exists, in the Baha’i archives in Haifa, having turned up in England in the late 1940s. I haven’t found it published in Persian Bahai sources. The original may have the date of composition on it, the translation does not. I think it must have been written in 1912, because the other letter to Carnegie is dated January 10, 1913. The letter below begins with a reference to its being sent via HH Topakyan, the Persian Consul-General in New York, as if this was new, while the January 1913 letter and its cover letter suppose that this route was known to both Carnegie and Topakyan.

I find it interesting that Abdu’l-Baha refers not only to the danger of militarism in Europe but also to the possibility – which could still be averted by effort – that racial antipathy might be added to the mix. It’s not hard to see in this, Abdu’l-Baha’s awareness that early fascism (in the sense it existed before World War I, as a nationalist and populist middle way between communism and capitalism) could evolve in a racist direction, as it later did in forms such as Aryan superiority and antisemitism. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, History | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

A 1912 Announcement of the Covenant?

Posted by Sen on January 13, 2011

This posting is about a story, according to which New York is the city of the Covenant because that is where Abdu’l-Baha announced the Bahai Covenant in the West, on June 19, 1912. The words of the important talk by Abdu’l-Baha, which has been called the ‘announcement,’ have been preserved in a surprisingly reliable form. As it is not published in sources such as Promulgation, I have reproduced it below. Reliable as it is, the text and the stories around this announcement, raise some questions: what exactly was newly announced, or revealed? Who named New York the city of the Covenant, when, and why? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A gay Bahai couple in the Hague, 1956

Posted by Sen on January 9, 2011

This story is interesting in that it is one example of how a homosexual partnership was addressed in the time of Shoghi Effendi, and because it gives the context and full text of a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which is otherwise published only in part.

This is not my research: it is published by Jelle de Vries in The Babi Question you mentioned (2002), a history that covers reports about the Babi and Bahai religions written by Dutch expatriates in 19th century Iran, and also the early history of the Bahai Faith in the Netherlands up to 1962. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Ethics and Morality, History | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

‘You can never organize the Bahai Cause’

Posted by Sen on December 16, 2010

I’m not a historian: I’m interested mainly in the timeless task of understanding the Bahai teachings, leaving history to those able, and crystal-ball gazing to those interested. But those who don’t know their history, will repeat mistakes in understanding quite needlessly, so sometimes we need to look back at the history of an idea in the Bahai community, especially where it is a mistaken idea that keeps resurfacing. In this case I am looking at some words attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Abdu’l Baha to Martha Root

Posted by Sen on November 29, 2010

This tablet from Abdu’l-Baha, translated by Shoghi Effendi, was published in Star of the West in October, 1919, and has not been republished in full since then. It is interesting both as the source of a well-known appeal for peace (re-published in the Bahai World Centre’s Compilation on Peace, but in a different translation) and for Abdu’l-Baha’s comparison between the Testament of Baha’u’llah, which appointed Abdu’l-Baha as head of the Bahai community, in writing, and the oral traditions on which the appointment of Peter rested. Read the rest of this entry »

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A tablet of Baha’u’llah to Abdu’l-Baha

Posted by Sen on November 28, 2010

In The World Order of Baha’u’llah (p. 135) , Shoghi Effendi quotes some words of Baha’u’llah:

“O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye!” Baha’u’llah, in His own handwriting, thus addresses ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “My glory, the ocean of My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world through Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine eyes.”

The context is an exposition, by Shoghi Effendi, of the Bahai teachings regarding the unique station of Abdu’l-Baha. Shoghi Effendi also translated this tablet in full. Read the rest of this entry »

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Abdu’l-Baha on religious law and the House of Justice

Posted by Sen on November 22, 2010

This tablet by Abdu’l-Baha, dated around 1899, responds to detailed questions, “concerning the wisdom of referring some important laws to the House of Justice.” Abdu’l-Baha replies that, in principle, the Baha’i Faith is similar to Christianity, whose scriptures also specify only a few laws.

The Bahai Faith, he says, has little connection to worldly concerns. Religion’s primary function is to refine characters and bring light in darkness. However the Bahai scriptures do specify some foundations of our religious law, leaving subsidiary matters to the divinely-inspired House of Justice, which can make ‘cultural laws,’ (ahkaam madaniyyih) in accordance with time and circumstance. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Ethics and Morality, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Eleven essentials: the Bahai principles as taught by Abdu’l-Baha in London

Posted by Sen on October 27, 2010

Towards the end of his life, Baha’u’llah wrote a number of works that included numbered lists of his teachings. Abdu’l-Baha also wrote several letters that include such numbered lists of essential teachings. Not surprisingly, Abdu’l-Baha sometimes adopted the same format when speaking to gatherings, however the records of these in English are often unreliable. One of these talks – one for which there are authenticated Persian notes (here), not just notes taken in English, caught my attention because it includes “the separation of religion and politics” as a key principle and also refers to this as “not entering into politics” — a formulation that will be more familiar to Bahais. An earlier report of this talk is published in Abdu’l-Baha in London (which incidentally shows that not all talks in that book cannot be authenticated). Naturally that report, based on an interpreter’s words, is more compact than the Persian version which I have translated. Its list of principles differs, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Political science, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 56 Comments »

Religious law as a symbolic language, in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on September 14, 2010

Continuing with the readings from Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart, I’ve turned to the first of six principles of moral and spiritual action that Saiedi finds in the Persian Bayan. He calls it ‘the mystic character of action.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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Perfection and conservation in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on August 12, 2010

Continuing with the readings from Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart. I’ve selected a section beginning on page 315, where it is headed ‘Perfection and refinement’ — a title that doesn’t do justice to the implications of these concepts for a theology of positive stewardship for the natural world.
~~~~~
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Ethics and Morality, Theology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Worship as Paradise, in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on July 20, 2010

Continuing a series of postings to give readers a taste of Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart , I’ve chosen a section on pages 248-251 entitled “Worship as Paradise.” Naturally, in the book, Saiedi cites his sources, but if you want those, you will have to buy the book.

~~~~
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Devotions, Theology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Destiny and Freedom in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on July 13, 2010

I’ve been reading Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart and I’m boundlessly enthusiastic. It’s more than a milestone of Bahai Studies: it contains much understanding that will help many of us trying to live the life of Faith – which the Bab, I think, would call the life of the heart. With the author’s permission, I’m going to make paraphrases of some sections, starting with a section on the Bab’s teaching on Destiny on pages 210-216. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Theology | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Shapur’s poem

Posted by Sen on June 17, 2010

Contributed by Ahang Rabbani

Shapur (Hushang) Markazi was a Baha’i from Gilan. For a number of years he served with great distinction on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran and later as an Auxiliary Board member. In the early years of the Islamic Revolution (1979), he was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. After much torture, he was executed on September 23, 1984, because of his religious convictions. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Too tender for the House?

Posted by Sen on May 23, 2010

The Universal House of Justice is an elected body that serves as the head of the world-wide Bahai community. It is empowered to decide when Bahai laws are applicable for Bahais, to provide the necessary framework so that they can be applied, and to make laws and rulings for situations that are not covered in Bahai scripture. So it has a very important role in Bahai community life. Unlike all the other Bahai institutions and roles and positions in community life, membership of the Universal House of Justice is, at least for now, reserved for men. I will return to that ‘for now’ briefly, at the end of this posting. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Community | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

Shoghi Effendi’s prayers

Posted by Sen on May 18, 2010

One of the friends asked:


I recently found out the Bab, Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi all revealed prayers. Only prayers of the first three have been translated into English. Why aren’t Shoghi Effendi’s prayers translated yet?

The short answer is, it has been done, but seldom, Read the rest of this entry »

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O God, refresh and gladden my spirit

Posted by Sen on May 13, 2010

One of the friends asked for the Persian text of the well-known prayer that begins, “O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand….

I had to disappoint him: there is no Persian original for this. It comes from the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab for May 9, 1914. He would write his diary in Persian, and later translate parts of it into English and distribute the translations. In this case, his handwritten English translation has survived in manuscript (a friend has a copy), and contains this prayer, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Devotions | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha on theosophy

Posted by Sen on May 9, 2010

This letter from Abdu’l-Baha to Thornton Chase was published in Star of the West, and has been picked up in the Bahai-library project that is republishing these tablets. After answering a question about Baha’u’llah’s Arabic Hidden Word 13, Abdu’l-Baha discusses pantheism, incarnation, gnosticism, and reincarnation. Direct references to theosophy in Abdu’l-Baha’s writings are rare, but there are a considerable number of talks by Abdu’l-Baha addressed to theosophists, five of which have the status of Bahai scripture since they are backed by Persian notes: those given on 29 May (or 30 May), 24 July, and 4 December 1912 and on 9 January and 14 February 1913. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

All the forces of the Universe . . .

Posted by Sen on May 4, 2010

This letter from Abdu’l-Baha to Mr. and Mrs. MacNutt, written in July 1919, is interesting for its mention of an incident during Abdu’l-Baha’s time in America, when one of his entourage used his position to beg for money, for its characterisation of the fruitlessness activities of the followers of Kheiralla and Mirza Muhammad Ali as foam on the ocean waves, for the loving mention of Lua Getsinger, who had died three years earlier, and not least because it is one of the few works of Abdu’l-Baha translated by Shoghi Effendi. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha: ‘The Celestial Fire’

Posted by Sen on April 25, 2010

This is a tablet of Abdu’l-Baha, one of several selected and translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in Star of the West volume 14, no 1, April 1923. This translation does not appear to be available elsewhere, although another translation can be found in Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha page 405. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha speaks of the cycle of the Ancient Beauty

Posted by Sen on April 23, 2010

This is a tablet of Abdu’l-Baha, one of several selected and translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in Star of the West volume 14, no 1, April 1923. It does not appear to be available elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 ..
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of the sacred night I

Posted by Sen on April 12, 2010

This tablet from the pen of Baha’u’llah was translated by Zia Baghdadi and published in Star of the West Volume 10 no. 1 (March 21, 1919). I am posting it here so that it is accessible to search engines, and for the benefit of those who have not (yet) purchased the Star of the West CD. A section is translated by Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, section CXLVII and I have inserted this into Baghdadi’s translation.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Pluralist society

Posted by Sen on April 4, 2010


This is in response to ‘Pluralist Society is an Unethical Rabble’ on another Bahai blog on WordPress, Owen’s Meanderings. Owen says he is

“increasingly reminded of that famous biblical story about Sodom and Gommorroh,” … the men and women who sit in government seats must take their share of the blame for the inequities within a nation. However increasingly I have realized that the person living in my street is likely to be twice a corrupt as a politician. … There seems to be very few people who have self-regulating ethical decision-making process. .. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Community, Ethics and Morality, Individualism, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

A petition to Reza Shah

Posted by Sen on March 30, 2010

Reza Shah's Mausoleum


 
The following petition was sent to Reza Shah (1878 – 1944; father of Mohammed Reza Shah) by the NSA of the Bahais of North America back in 1926. I’m posting it here to make it accessible to search engines, and because its impressive argumentation is relevant to the current persecutions in Iran, and refutes recent claims that the Bahais of Iran were privileged ( ! ) under the Pahlavi kings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Muhammad Ali revival?

Posted by Sen on March 27, 2010

Mirza Muhammad Ali was a younger brother of Abdu’l-Baha who rebelled against his brother’s authority as head of the Bahai community, was able to secure possession of some Bahai properties and for some time to cause other difficulties, particularly by misrepresenting Abdu’l-Baha to the government as a threat to the Ottoman state. By the end of his life, Muhammad Ali was left without friends or followers, and had been forced to abandon the properties that he had seized, but did not have the means to maintain in a liveable condition. He died in 1937. There has been no “Muhammad Ali” sect of the Bahai Faith for seventy years past. So why mention this old history here?

In recent weeks we have seen the curious phenomenon of an attempt to revive the claims of Muhammad Ali, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments »

A story about Baha’u’llah?

Posted by Sen on March 26, 2010

A google search on “killed one hundred and thirty people in one night” will turn up several repetitions of the claim that Baha’u’llah killed one hundred and thirty people in one night. The story appears to originate in June 1997, in an article by Imran Shaykh on the BahaiAwareness site. It was picked up in an article posted on ‘The Religion of Islam,’ a Muslim missionary site, in 2006. More recently it has appeared on facebook and on the candidly titled “Anti Bahai Website” and various other places.

There is a brief account of the night in question in the Tarikh-e Jadid, page 59, which is available on google books: Read the rest of this entry »

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Abdu’l-Baha on individuality

Posted by Sen on March 23, 2010

Portrait of Abdu'l-Baha in Badayi'u'l-athar

The following talk given by Abdu’l-Baha, on individuality and personality, is of interest both for understanding how he thought about the human person, and for its relevance to individualism in Bahai belief. It is authentic Bahai scripture, albeit in an early translation, because it is translated from Persian notes taken at the time. Abdu’l-Baha’s practice was to check and correct the Persian notes of his talks, so — assuming that was done in this case, which is a safe bet — the text below has the same status as Some Answered Questions and Memorials of the Faithful, which were produced in the same way. The talk was published in Star of the West vol 4, no2, April 9 1913 from page 38. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roumie’s account

Posted by Sen on March 13, 2010

This is posted at the request of a friend, and to make the text accessible to search engines.

A Short Historical Survey of the Baha’i Movement in India, Burma, Java Islands, Siam, and Malay Peninsula.

by Siyyid Mustafa Roumie
Published in Star of the West 1931, Vol. 22, in 7 installments

I

Volume 22. No.3 pages 76-79, June 1931
The Author, one of the leading Baha’is of Mandalay, was in his youth an ardent associate and companion of the great Mirza Jamal Effendi who first brought the Baha’i Message to the countries of southern Asia. These chronicles are both fascinating themselves in the spiritual adventure they narrate, and also invaluable as a history written by one who was an eye witness.

When through the mighty Will of God, His Holiness Baha’u’llah, came out of the terrible prison walls in the fortress of ‘Akka Read the rest of this entry »

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Baha’u’llah’s “Tablet of the Banu Qurayza”

Posted by Sen on March 6, 2010

The Banu Qurayza were a Jewish tribe in Medina in the time of Muhammad. In 627, when the Meccans brought a great army against Muhammad in Medina, he resolved to meet them in the city itself, which meant that the treaty of Medina would oblige all of the clans in the city – including the Jewish ones – to join in its defence. During their brief and unsuccessful siege (known as the Battle of the Trench), the Meccans apparently negotiated with the Jewish clan of Qurayza within the city, hoping that they would switch sides, and did persuade them to renounce their alliance under the treaty of Medina. Once the Meccans had withdrawn, Muhammad attacked the Qurayza. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, History, Islam, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha’s last tablet to America

Posted by Sen on February 21, 2010


Abdu’l-Baha’s “last tablet to America” was published in Star of the West and Bahai World Faith. It is a long tablet, and of some historical and doctrinal importance. It deals primarily with the importance of the Bahais shunning “any person in whom they perceive the emanation of hatred for the glorious Beauty of Abha” or “violators” — Read the rest of this entry »

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An account of the burial of the Bab

Posted by Sen on February 9, 2010

The following description by Mirza Munir Zayn, of the final burial of the Bab’s remains in the Shrine dedicated to him, on Mount Carmel in Israel was published in Star of the West volume 11 page 316 (March 2 1921). In addition to its inherent interest, Zayn’s account is clearly the source of a description of the same event by Shoghi Effendi, Read the rest of this entry »

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The Pilgrims’ Hostel & the Mashriq

Posted by Sen on February 7, 2010

In the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar at Burnlaw

One of the friends asked about the “Pilgrim’s Hostel” which is mentioned by Shoghi Effendi as one of the “component parts” at the center of a Bahai community. (God Passes By, 339) Has this become redundant, now that we fly to Israel overnight rather than walking for months to perform our pilgrimmage?
 
 
I think the meaning is wider than simply “pilgrim’s hostel.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary, and Mary, and Mary

Posted by Sen on January 25, 2010

James Tissot, View from the Cross

One of the friends asked about the two, or three, women called Mary in this letter from Abdu’l-Baha:

There is no harm in any affliction which befalleth thee in the love of El-Baha, … Remember the hardships of the disciples, and what Mary, the Virgin; Mary, the Magdalene; and Mary, the mother of Jesus Read the rest of this entry »

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Evolving to individualism

Posted by Sen on January 10, 2010

This posting briefly explains two different ways in which the Enlightenment and its fruits in Western societies can be viewed, in relation to the goal of building a Bahai society. It argues that our attitude to the political philosophy of individualism will influence the Bahai communities we build, and suggests that it is possible to see the individualisation of society, individualism and other aspects of the Enlightenment as positive elements of the new order, rather than as signs of the breakdown of the old order. Read the rest of this entry »

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World Order, Administrative Order

Posted by Sen on January 1, 2010


A Pilgrim’s note

On Planet Bahai (a very good Bahai discussion forum), I had been arguing that Baha’u’llah’s World Order and the Bahai Administrative Order are two different things, to which the moderator Dale replied,

There is a pilgrim’s note, I forget the origin of it, in which Shoghi Effendi one day asked where authority resides after Baha’u’llah’s ascension….

“‘Abdu’l-Baha,” replied the person to whom he was talking.

“And where,” he then asked, “does authority reside after the Master’s passing?”

“The Guardian,” the other person replied.

“No,” he said. “It resides with the World Order of Baha’u’llah.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Days of marriage

Posted by Sen on December 20, 2009

A friend asked about the ‘days of marriage’ which Abdu’l-Baha referred to in a letter to Alwyn Baker in late 1920. That led me to two letters from Abdu’l-Baha, one of them translated by Shoghi Effendi and available only in an edited form, the other not available in English in Ocean and the other search engines, and containing some remarks on philosophy, evolution and the eternity of creation. And, in the end, I also found out about the ‘days of marriage.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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Heroes of modernity: Rushdiyh

Posted by Sen on December 10, 2009


Mirza Hasan Rushdiyh – the father of modern Persian education

(contributed by Ahang Rabbani)

Mirza Hasan was born on 5 July 1851 in Tabriz, which one year earlier had seen the tumult associated with the execution of the Bab and which had emerged as a stronghold of Shaykhi faction of the Twelver Shiites. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anna presents the New World Order

Posted by Sen on November 25, 2009


wob66

An awkward question

Anna’s come a long way – to national television, in fact. She’s being interviewed on her favourite subject: the Bahai Faith. Read the rest of this entry »

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Defending Shoghi Effendi

Posted by Sen on November 22, 2009

Shoghi_Effendi_stands This posting begins by discussing a letter written on behalf of the Guardian, which refers to “the Bahai theocracy” as a divinely ordained system, and goes on from there to address the claims that there is ‘a theocratic undercurrent’ in Shoghi Effendi’s writings, or that he contradicted himself, changed his mind or concealed his real views for reasons of prudence. In addition to the few places where Shoghi Effendi speaks directly on the topic, we can look at the Bahai writings he translated, to see what teachings he thought were central and important for the English-speaking Bahais to understand.

The posting continues by looking at the future renaming of the Assemblies as Houses of Justice, and what Shoghi Effendi says about the role of the Universal House of Justice in the Bahai Commonwealth and in a future superstate, which leads to some considerations regarding the role of an established religion, or state religion, in a society. Another section looks at a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which says that, one day, “the Bahais will be called upon to assume the reins of government,” and at another letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that speaks of the International Tribunal and Court of Arbitration being merged in the Universal House of Justice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Executive and legislative

Posted by Sen on October 29, 2009

Two columns hirschTrilith_Stonehenge [Updated, July 2012: added A Traveller’s Narrative]
 
One of the friends asked:

What do you make of ‘Abdu’l-Baha having written:

“This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.” (Will and Testament, 14)

Read the rest of this entry »

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The mystery of sacrifice

Posted by Sen on October 16, 2009

sealscrofts3One of the friends said:

Long ago I picked up a supposed quote from the Bab, “The mystery of sacrifice is there is no sacrifice.” Now I can’t find a source. Read the rest of this entry »

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Instant, exact and complete?

Posted by Sen on October 12, 2009

blueangelsIn a discussion group, one of the participants recalled that Shoghi Effendi had said that the requirement for appointment as a Hand of the Cause was “instant, exact and complete obedience.” It’s a familiar phrase in Bahai discourse, but is it from the words of Shoghi Effendi? Is it about the Hands of the Cause?
 
Read the rest of this entry »

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Church and State in Scripture

Posted by Sen on October 6, 2009

cimabue_detailIn a conversation with a friend about the translation of the 8th Ishraq (discussed here), I realised that he thought the whole question of the Bahai teachings on church and state hinged in some way on doubtful matters: on the translation of the Ishraqat, on whether the words “the consummate union and blending of church and state” had been interpolated into a report of Abdu’l-Baha’s words, (See the entry ‘A consummate union’), and such like.

Nothing could be further from the truth: Read the rest of this entry »

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Abdu’l-Baha by Lake Geneva

Posted by Sen on September 25, 2009

As-saha-al-arabiyIn an Arabic language chat room I came across a claim that Abdu’l-Baha addressed the Zionist Congress in 1911, and a little searching showed that this claim is repeated in many places. I’ve listed a handful in the first comment to this page. In researching the claim, I came across a charming account of a few days Abdu’l-Baha spent beside Lake Geneva, which is not available in electronic form. Since the story is worth sharing in itself, and because this claim about Abdu’l-Baha and the Zionists will eventually be picked up by anti-Bahai writers in English and Persian, I’m sharing them both in a searchable form here. Read the rest of this entry »

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Abdu’l-Baha and the African tribe

Posted by Sen on September 15, 2009

Abdu’l-Baha and his critics

Abdulbaha

You can ‘prove’ just about anything, by pulling words out of context. A few years ago there was an example of this tactic on a web site opposing the Bahai teachings, called ‘Answering Bahaullah.’ One page there purported to show examples of racism in Bahai scripture. That site is no longer functioning, although the web archive has a copy, but the material from that page is being recycled by various bloggers and has been reproduced in the ‘Bahai Combat Kit’ at page 73 (image later in this entry).

So let’s look at these “proofs” of racism in the Bahai scriptures. But first let’s look at Abdu’l-Baha. Read the rest of this entry »

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Words of Grace

Posted by Sen on September 1, 2009

Aztec_feast_2One of the Bahais asked what wording is meant by the following verse in Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of Medicine (Lawh-e Tibb):

و اذا شرعت فی الأکل فَابْتَدِئْ باسمی الأبهی
 
ثمّ اختم باسم ربّک مالک العرش و الثّری

 
When you would commence eating, begin by mentioning My Most Glorious Name (al-abha) and finish it with the Name of Thy Lord, the Possessor of the Throne above and of the earth below. (Translation by Stephen Lambden)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Muhammad at Medina

Posted by Sen on June 28, 2009

While Ayatollah Khomeini was in exile in Najaf in 1970, he said:

khomeiniThis slogan of the separation of religion and politics and the demand that Islamic scholars not intervene in social and political affairs has been formulated and propagated by the imperialists; it is only the irreligious who repeat them. Were religion and politics separate in the time of the Prophet? Did there exist on one side a group of clerics, and opposite it, a group of politicians and leaders? (As cited by Nader Hashemi)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha’s ‘socialism’

Posted by Sen on June 11, 2009

wheatfieldI was led to this subject by one of the friends, who commented that the House of Justice’s revenues include mines, and its expenditures the care of the poor, both governmental matters, so it is not unreasonable for Habib Taherzadeh to say, in his translation of Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of Ishraqat, that “matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 27)
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Political science, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments »

Mitchell’s mistake

Posted by Sen on May 27, 2009

from Remey, 'Observations' 1908


I’ve been looking again at an old claim that Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament was not written by Abdu’l-Baha, that it was ‘fraudulent.’ This claim is the foundation for two small Bahai splinter groups that reject the institution of the Guardianship (established by Abdu’l-Baha in his Will and Testament), and it has also been propagated in Germany in anti-Bahai polemics published by the Lutheran ‘Central Office for Questions of Ideology’ (EZW). In looking through the documents, I’ve noticed something that doesn’t seem to have been commented on in the past.
Read the rest of this entry »

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A consummate union

Posted by Sen on May 22, 2009

I recently came across Bahai blog (whose owner prefers not to be named) that, as an example of the Bahai teachings, presented this passage from the old compilation Bahai World Faith:

He has ordained and established the House of Justice which is endowed with a political as well as a religious function, the consummate union and blending of church and state. This institution is under the protecting power of Baha’u’llah Himself.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, 247)

The issue of what is, and what is not, Bahai scripture is of general importance, so I am responding here.
Read the rest of this entry »

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No counterfeits

Posted by Sen on May 11, 2009

willtestamentThis posting points out that there is a clear procedure for the appointment of a legitimate Guardian of the Bahai Faith, and none of the claimants satisfy it. Therefore, all the past claimants and present hopefuls are counterfeit.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Knowledge: project or process?

Posted by Sen on May 4, 2009

encyclopaediaprojectThe Bahai Encyclopaedia Project has begun to put up a selection of online articles. As of today, there are 21 articles online, so it is just a small beginning. Two are classified under “teachings and laws,” but one of these is misfiled: it is on the Letters of the Living and belongs in the history category. That leaves one article on the Bahai teachings, the one entitled ‘children.’

Looking down this article, I was surprised to see that even where better sources are easily available, it draws extensively on The Promulgation of Universal Peace, which is not an authentic source. In a footnote to the footnotes the Encyclopaedia editors even list Promulgation of Universal Peace among ‘scripture and other authoritative texts.’ The author and editor are clearly not aware of source-critical issues, which is not a promising start for such a project.
Read the rest of this entry »

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The world’s a stage

Posted by Sen on April 26, 2009

One of the friends said:

polarshift1… an elderly lady once told me that Shoghi Effendi had said that the earth would “fall off its axis and spin wildly for three days”… well, I’ve searched and searched for anything even close…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Foundations for inter-faith sharing

Posted by Sen on April 18, 2009

symbols39-starBahais have been frequent participants in inter-faith fora, and like all the participants we need to work out what our basic stance is: are we there to protect our interests and have our say; are we counting the other participants as anonymous Bahais and including them into our project; are we there to show what we have to offer that other religions do not have, and so win converts?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Islam, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

It’s Friday: thank God

Posted by Sen on April 11, 2009

calendaraddonI happened recently to be reading the wikipedia page for the Bahai Calendar and noted that it said “Like Islam, Friday is also the day of rest in the Baha’i Faith.”

That’s not true for Islam: Friday is the day on which attendance at the congregational prayers at noon in the mosque is obligatory for those Muslims who are able, but it is not a ‘day of rest’ in Islam. But what about the Bahai Faith? We do not say our obligatory prayers in congregation (although we may say them, each for himself, during the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar service, but that is another story). Do we have a day of rest, as the wikipedia article says?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Bahai Writings, Community, Devotions, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Civilization

Posted by Sen on March 21, 2009

Is civilization to be ‘ever-advancing,’ or is it limited to moderation?
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Stark choices

Posted by Sen on March 8, 2009

In a discussion on this blog, I referred briefly to Rodney Stark’s work on the dynamics of religious growth. Stark is primarily a sociologist, whose contribution to church history is to employ the statistical and analytic methods used in sociology. His book, The Rise of Christianity (1996, Princeton University Press) deals roughly speaking with the first three centuries of Christianity, and the first century of Mormonism, and offers a lot of food for thought for the Bahais.

saintsStark begins by estimating that there were 1000 Christians in the Roman Empire in the year 40. He notes that in the middle of the third century, Christians were by their own account few in number (p.5), but by the year 300 there were about 5 to 7.5 million Christians: so numerous that a few years later Constantine found it expedient to embrace the church. This has led the church in its own histories, and some scholars, to suppose that there was a mass conversion event in the late third century. But constant growth of 40% per decade, or 3.42% per year, is enough to explain these results: no mass conversion event is required. This is the same growth picture that Stark had found in his previous work on the Mormon church, which has grown hugely in 100 years without mass conversions, and it is supported by the archaeological evidence of church sizes.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Conversation with God

Posted by Sen on February 28, 2009

We had a potluck for yummy-ha, with pecan pie. It was followed by imaginative and effective musical devotions: first all learning to sing a simple prayer with variants, and then all humming that tune while some short readings were read slooowly, the spoken phrases matching the musical phrases.

mantisheadSince the potluck took place at the day and home which regularly hosts a Ruhi circle, the devotions flowed straight on to a Ruhi session, Book 1 Chapter 2, on Prayer. The first words of the chapter are “Abdu’l-Baha says that prayer is conversation with God.” No source was given. This part of the Ruhi book raises a lot of questions, and questions are always good.
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Persian Hidden Word 72

Posted by Sen on February 24, 2009

The Hidden Words is a collection of spiritual aphorisms written by Baha’u’llah, in Persian and Arabic, while he was in Baghdad. One of his most popular works, it has been published in many different editions and translations. Persian Hidden Word 72 is a call to act in the world. In a street movie, it might be translated “come on, show me what you’re made of.”

O MY SERVANT!

Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.

phw72dreyfusA metaphor asks us to form a picture of the image presented in our mind’s eye, and then find the similarities between that and the subject of the metaphor. But there’s something odd when you think about this image of the sword in its sheath, “its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge.” Surely the person who made the sword knows what it is worth?
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Entry by troops (time to be announced)

Posted by Sen on February 17, 2009

It has been my experience that Bahais often become discouraged as a result of having unrealistic expectations of what is called entry by troops (EBT) and large scale conversion. I would like to look again at what the Bahai scriptures say about this, and at how Shoghi Effendi conceived the historical process of growth. The little that the scriptures say suggests to me that its importance has been over-rated, and that the time-frame of entry by troops, its nature, and how the Bahais can bring it about have all been misunderstood. From my reading of the world and of the scriptures, I suggest that we should not now be greatly preoccupied with entry by troops or large scale conversion: a concern with the needs of the age we live in, and the needs of our Bahai communities today, will indicate healthier, locally-specific priorities which – ironically – will be more conducive to actual ‘growth’ in every sense. We will start by briefly looking back over the last two generations.
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1917 and all that

Posted by Sen on February 6, 2009

paperstorm Amended April 3, 2011
The Bahai community has a tendency to get carried away with its enthusiasms for prophecies that supposedly give an insight into the immediate future. I’ve discussed one of these in Century’s end, about the expectation that “unity of nations” would be achieved by the year 2000. The story this time goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the Bahais were waiting for cataclysms to strike in 1917, followed by a world at peace in which “all nations shall be as one faith.”
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Elections in Baha’u’llah’s World Order

Posted by Sen on January 30, 2009

One of the friends asked three questions:

1. After the World Order of Baha’u’llah is established and the World’s legislative & executive branches of government are arms or derivatory institutions of the Universal House of Justice (which appears to be the case from my readings) will non-Baha’is have the opportunity to vote for the National Assemblies that elect the House of Justice? Alternatively, can/will the Universal House of Justice be elected in some other way?

2. Will the World Legislature and/or Executive be elected or appointed by the Universal House of Justice? Alternatively, is the Universal House of Justice to become the World Executive? If elected, will only Baha’is have the right to vote?

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One morning in Shiraz

Posted by Sen on January 25, 2009

075isfahan_komeni_mosque-stripI was in the bazaar of Shiraz one morning early, just after sunrise in April. The sound of a sermon drew me off the main route through the bazaar: the mullah’s voice rising and falling in beautiful rhythmical Persian.

I followed the sound and came into a courtyard with shops on two floors around, and in the middle a garden with some orange trees. It appeared to be a former madrasah converted into shops. In one corner sat the mullah on a chair, rocking back and forth and gesturing left and right in time with the rhythms of the language, all built up of pairs of synonym phrases. Either he had it entirely memorised, or this was highly polished extempore art like rapping.

In front of him a cloth of perhaps 10 metres square was spread out on the ground, and about 25 merchants were sitting around the edges of the cloth, eating cucumber and flat white bread and white cheese, and drinking tea. Several of them gestured me to come and sit at an empty place, and one who made it his business to serve the others brought me some food and tea. I noticed, a little bit further away, under one of the orange trees, that there were two women also sitting on a cloth. The sermon was interrupted with some munajat, responses from the merchants, then more rhythmic Persian by way of conclusion. Then the mullah looks at his watch, jumps up, bows left and right and hurries off. I suppose it lasted 30 minutes, but I was hardly aware of time passing.

The shopkeepers fell to gossiping, and then went off one by one to raise the shutters on their shops.
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House of Justice, House of Worship

Posted by Sen on January 21, 2009

wilmette1hoj-pillarsNow concerning nature, it is but the essential properties and the necessary relations inherent in the realities of things. And though these infinite realities are diverse in their character yet they are in the utmost harmony and closely connected together. As one’s vision is broadened and the matter observed carefully, it will be made certain that every reality is but an essential requisite of other realities. Thus to connect and harmonize these diverse and infinite realities an all-unifying Power is necessary, that every part of existent being may in perfect order discharge its own function.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to August Forel, pages 20-21)

In a letter dated 7 April 1999 the Universal House of Justice warns among other things of an “attempt to suggest that the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar should evolve into a seat of quasidoctrinal authority, parallel to and essentially independent of the Local House of Justice.” Although I am not aware that this idea has ever been put forward in the English-speaking Bahai world, the letter may be taken as evidence that it has or may emerge somewhere. So it seems a good idea to consider the relationship between the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar or House of Worship and the Houses of Justice (i.e., the Bahai administrative institutions, which at the local and national level are now known as Spiritual Assemblies). To understand the institutional relations at the core of the organic Bahai community, we will also have to include the guardianship.
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Century of light

Posted by Sen on January 15, 2009

In Century’s end, I showed that Bahais of my generation widely expected universal peace to arrive in the twentieth century. Some of the texts on which this belief was based did not refer to the twentieth century; others did refer to the twentieth century or dates in the 20th century, but were pilgrims’ notes. There may be more, but I have found five such unauthentic sources:

onecandle– The Maxwell’s pilgrim’s notes, anticipating the Lesser Peace by 1953.
– Esselmont’s pilgrim’s notes, in the first edition of Baha’u’llah and the New Era, anticipating universal peace by 1957. As Dan Jensen has pointed out, the 1950 edition changed the date to 1963, but it is still just a pilgrim’s note, and universal peace was also not achieved in 1963.
Sarah Kenny’s Haifa notes anticipating the Lesser Peace in the 20th century.
– A report in the Montreal Star on September 11, 1912, printed in Abdu’l-Baha in Canada p. 35, saying that peace would be universal in the 20th century.
– A talk reported in The Promulgation of Universal Peace page 126, and in Star of the West 3.8.14, calling the twentieth century the century of international peace.
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Posted in Bahai Writings, Community, Theology, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Century’s end – my two cents

Posted by Sen on January 12, 2009

spinningtopWhen I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

The word ‘century’ appears unproblematic: a period of a hundred years, which in common usage begins with the year 00 (although sticklers will insist that the century begins in the year 01, so that the 21st century began on 1 January 2001). But in reading the Bahai texts, things are not so simple. In this post I want to look at the peculiar significance Bahais have mistakenly attached to the 20th century and what can be learned from the whole affair; in the next posting I will look at what the Bahai writings really say about the ‘century’ (not the 20th century).
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Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

The future of religions

Posted by Sen on January 5, 2009

One of the friends asked:

What is the ideal future envisioned in Baha’i religion? Is it a global order in which the world is composed of many diverse religions, each tolerant of one another, and the Baha’i just one amongst many? Or would the Baha’i be the organizing principle?

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He cannot override …

Posted by Sen on December 30, 2008

wobIn Shoghi Effendi’s 1934 letter ‘The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah,’ there’s a well-known paragraph in which he says that “the Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating …”. I want to look at the paragraph after that, which deals with the fact that the Guardian is a member of the House of Justice; so that while the spheres of the two institutions are distinct, their memberships overlap. How would that work, with the Guardian or his representative in the room, while the House of Justice was making its decisions?
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750 muskets

Posted by Sen on December 25, 2008

[Revised April 19, 2011]
It’s the season of family movies, and Christmas miracle stories. If you don’t have cable, it’s hard to find anything else. But who would want to? I love them. I don’t believe them, of course, but I believe in them. I think the world’s a better place with them, and I go soppy-eyed every time the director pulls a tear-jerker. They work for me.

I feel the same way about other miracle stories. I believe in them, even if I can’t believe them. Take the 750 muskets at the martyrdom of the Bab, for example.
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Posted in Community, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Red Tulips

Posted by Sen on December 20, 2008

I have a lovely story to share, told to me by Brent Poirier and shared with his permission. He heard it around 1980 from Inez Greeven, whose sister was India Haggarty, the subject of our story. India Haggarty was a Bahai living in Paris in 1931. I will let Brent tell the story:
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The Supreme Institution

Posted by Sen on December 16, 2008

bubble3Older Bahais, like me, will have noticed a new way of referring to the Universal House of Justice, as “the supreme institution.” I think I first noticed people saying this about 1985. In Anna’s Presentation we find “We have already spoken about the supreme institution, which is the Universal House of Justice…”. Paul Lample, in his Preface to A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters [of the Universal House of Justice] refers to “a continuous flow of guidance that comes from the Supreme Body.”
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Two commonwealths

Posted by Sen on December 10, 2008

wobIn thinking about the future of the world, and of the Bahai community, and in speaking about them, we need to distinguish between the two uses of ‘commonwealth’ : the commonwealth of nations and the Bahai Commonwealth. If we do not, governments are likely to be misled and alarmed, thinking that there is something political or governmental about this ‘Bahai Commonwealth’ Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Reward and Punishment

Posted by Sen on December 5, 2008

scalesBaha’u’llah writes:

Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, so that the Promise and the Threat recorded in the Books of God may prevent them from the things forbidden and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry.
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 68)

Promise and Threat, or reward and punishment, is one of those basic dynamics that acts out at several levels. Read the rest of this entry »

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How theocracy happened

Posted by Sen on December 2, 2008

A person investigating the Bahai Faith had encountered theocratic ideas among the Bahais she met, and asked if these were correct, and where they came from. But in fact, she seemed to know already that these ideas must be wrong. She wrote:

> I have to say that the idea of a one-world government run by a
> religious institution of any sort whatsoever, is what I can only
> call a total nightmare. I cannot believe for one second that this
> is what Bahaullah envisaged,

She was quite right. This is certainly not what Baha’u’llah envisioned!
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Posted in Church and State, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet

Posted by Sen on November 30, 2008

… i like this girl and she likes me.. my faith is bahai … she is a very strong christian. and she takes the bible very seriously, and i respect that of her, but in the bible there is a verse that says jesus is the only way to heaven, and in another it says a christian shouldn’t get involved with someone non- christian…
there in lies my problem. and she won’t go out with me until i’ve changed my mind about christ and the bible.. now we did go on a date and it went good, but in her and my art class together i got in an argument over my beliefs with her and half of the class today. let alone this wasn’t bad enough she decided not to date me until i’ve changed…
i will not change my beliefs for her. but is there any way one of you could give me some very convincing verses from the bible, or better yet some strong proof to why bahaism is better..
i need a lot of help with this one, i like her a lot and she likes me, but our strengths in our religious beliefs are getting in the way and we both tend to be stubborn, and i don’t want to see someone as amazing as her just leave me…

Dear Romeo,
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The practicalities of monarchy

Posted by Sen on November 28, 2008

In the fifteenth Glad-Tidings, Baha’u’llah writes:

Although a republican form of government profiteth all the peoples of the world, yet the majesty of kingship is one of the signs of God. We do not wish that the countries of the world should remain deprived thereof. If the sagacious combine the two forms into one, great will be their reward in the presence of God.

I don’t think we have to suppose that Baha’u’llah was thinking about some future form of constitutional monarchy, requiring us to figure out what he meant and how it could be put into practice. There were good models of constitutional monarchy already working in his day, and most of them are still working today. In contrast, most of the republics from the time of Baha’u’llah have gone through at least one revolution, or at least a major upset, in the past century, and the absolute monarchies have fared even worse. Constitutional monarchy is the ‘leading technology’ in the field of government.

So why do constitutional monarchies work so well?
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Posted in Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Church and State in Islam

Posted by Sen on November 21, 2008

openquranIn a discussion, I was asked: “You state that separation of church and state is principle in Islam. Could you explain that a bit more?
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Posted in Church and State, Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Bahais and military service

Posted by Sen on November 18, 2008

A poster announcing a thanksgiving mass

A poster used to advertise a thanksgiving mass

In a discussion forum, a Baha’i participant said,

Baha’is do not join the military, except as non-combatants
To which the response was:
That really limits how many Bahais a Nation can have!

Good point!

But is it really a Bahai teaching that we should not serve as combatants, or is this just current practice? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Ethics and Morality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Two by two

Posted by Sen on November 14, 2008

ocean and riverThere is a delightful story – which I have reason to think is true, in broad lines at least — about the martyr and Hand of the Cause Mirza `Ali-Muhammad Varqa (Grandfather of the Hand of the Cause of the same name who died in 2007). Mr. Varqa made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the lifetime of Baha’u’llah. He found himself with fellow pilgrims in the presence of the Manifestation. He watched as Baha’u’llah spoke to the gathering, and thought to himself, “How fortunate I am! To have recognized the Manifestation of God for this Day, and to be in His very presence!”

Then he thought to himself, “I believe that He is the Manifestation of God. But I want to really believe. What could Baha’u’llah do, that would make me know beyond all doubt that He is the Manifestation of God?”

He thought for a time, and then thought, “I have always wondered about the verse in the Holy Qur’an, where it says that Noah brought the animals into the Ark in pairs. This can’t mean a pair of giraffes and a pair of gnats. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pray for good government

Posted by Sen on November 7, 2008

caesarcoinIn many Christian churches, and in Sunni Islam in particular, prayers for the ruler or government are a routine part of collective worship. Bahais too are told to pray for their rulers. But we do not seem to be comfortable with it: how often is a prayer for the government part of a Baha’i meeting? Perhaps some background will help.
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Posted in Church and State, Community, Devotions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The knower as servant (response to Paul Lample)

Posted by Sen on October 20, 2008

I’ve been reading Paul Lample’s “Learning and the Evolution of the Bahá’í Community.” From page 15, he presents various possible roles for the “learned Bahai” in the Bahai community, saying among other things that learned Baha’i is not an “artist”, and concluding “Perhaps the learned Baha’i is more like the ‘scout’ who helps to guide an expedition on a journey into unexplored territory.” I found it striking that he did not mention the possibility that the learned Bahai could be a servant, someone who uses knowledge to minister to the faithful.
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Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What is theology, and what’s it good for ?

Posted by Sen on October 1, 2008

On my web site, I’ve put up my part of two discussion threads about theology, and how the Bahai community can face the fact that some people know more than others, on particular topics, but without replicating the structures of past religions in which greater knowledge often translates into greater authority. Read the rest of this entry »

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Polemics revisited

Posted by Sen on September 7, 2008

Moojan Momen has posted on his web site a new version of his response-to-responses, occasioned by his Religion article on “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community.” In this, he states :

‘My statement that Sen McGlinn’s disenrollment was due to “persistent challenges” to the Universal House of Justice is an inference that I have drawn from letters of the Universal House of Justice going back to 1995.’

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Do assemblies learn?

Posted by Sen on April 3, 2008

The Spiritual Assemblies that administer affairs in Bahai communities suffer from growing pains: and the members themselves are the nerve that feels it the most. If the problem is disunity, is there a point at which it is better for some members to resign? Or should the assembly be maintained, and meet, come what may – even if the problems in the meeting seep out and undermine the good work and good feeling in the community? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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