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Commonwealth and government : a translation crux

Posted by Sen on January 3, 2020

An anti-Bahai site sponsored by the Iranian government has alerted me to a significant mistake in a Persian translation of a letter from Shoghi Effendi. Shoghi Effendi writes (in English):

… in the course of the Golden Age … the World Baha’i Commonwealth will have emerged in the plenitude of its power and splendor, … (Citadel of Faith, 6)

One Persian translation — available on the old Bahai Reference Library (title: حصن حصين شريعت الله) –- says :

در طيّ عصر ذهبی … حکومت جهانی بهائی بکمال قدرت و جلال چهره بگشايد
Which is to say:

[…in the course of the Golden Age…the Bahai World Government (hokumat) will have achieved power and glory ]

A correct translation would be, for example:
Jaame`eh-Mosharek-almanaafe` Bahaa’i / جامعه مشترک ‌المنافع بهائی
– which is literally “the Bahai common-interest society,” or more idiomatically, “the Bahai world commonwealth.” The Perso-Arabic term Mosharek-almanaafe` is not even difficult for a translator to find in a dictionary: it is already used for the former British Commonwealth, for the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States, and sometimes for the European Union. The 1997 Persian translation of this letter by Mr. Fo’aad Ashraf (فوأد اشرف), reviewed by “a number of Friends” and published on the Reference Library website, is incorrect, and the anti-Bahai site is using our own mistake against us. One can see why a web site devoted to anti-Bahai propaganda would pick out that translation to warn its readers of the danger or folly of the “deviant Bahai sect” seeking a “Bahai World Government.”

In another letter in that collection, Shoghi Effendi writes of the “Baha’i World Commonwealth in the Golden Age of the Baha’i Dispensation (Citadel of Faith, 32, June 5, 1947). In Fo’aad Ashraf’s Persian translation, this becomes :
سلطنت جهانی بهائی در عصر ذهبی [ the world-wide Bahai reign (sultanat) in the Golden Age …]

Oh dear!

The translations are incorrect, simply because the translator has not understood the various meanings of the term commonwealth in English generally, and does not know the specific ways in which Shoghi Effendi uses it. A commonwealth is not a government, nor is it exactly a form of government in the sense that democracy, autocracy, theocracy, military rule and oligarchy are forms of government. It can refer to an altruistic ethic of temporal sovereignty, as we will see in ‘a bit of history,’ but that is not how Shoghi Effendi uses the term ‘Bahai Commonwealth.’ For him, it is an ordered religious community providing mutual benefits for its members.

A bit of history (optional reading)

Commonwealth is a Middle English compound from common + weal (well-being), and usually refers to a political community founded for the common good. That’s very broad: it would encompass a Leviathan state in which people – for the common good – vest all power in one person. When Hobbes uses it, it means something like ‘public affairs,’ which must be kept functioning for the sake of bare existence. Hobbes does not give it the altruistic connotation of shared well-being. When applied to individual political communities, it often means a republic or representative democracy: a state founded for the common good in which the people vest power in laws and institutions and individuals, and retain the right to change all of these by means of elections. In this sense, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland were called the English Commonwealth under Cromwell, from 1649 to 1660. Today, Australia, the Bahamas and Dominica are Commonwealths in name, and so are Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts (dating from 1776, 1777 and 1780 respectively), and Kentucky, which only adopted this name in 1792. When these four chose not to call themselves American states, they were deferring to historical precedent (Virginia was first called a commonwealth in Cromwell’s time), underlining their rejection of monarchy, but above all pointing to an altruistic ethic of government. They would be not just states, they would be states constituted and governed for the public weal.

In Cromwell’s day and the 18th century, a commonwealth was understood as contrary to a monarchy, but that is no longer the case. The Commonwealth of Australia and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas both have Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. They are constitutional monarchies with the executive power vested in a cabinet government, thus avoiding the dangerous necessity of an elected President. The Commonwealth of Dominica, however, is a republic, with a President as head of state but executive power in a cabinet government.

That leads us to a second meaning of commonwealth. If Australia were to become a republic with an elected president (which God forbid), it would still be a commonwealth. Unlike the Bahamas, Dominica and the four American commonwealths, the Commonwealth of Australia only adopted its name in the early 20th century and meant by it both that it was about the common weal and that it was a federation of states. But they did not mean ‘we are not a monarchy.’ In 1901, when the six colonies of Australia joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia, the states were forming a commonwealth for the common well-being of the individual states.

Australia has been followed by two other commonwealths of states: the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth) and the Commonwealth of Independent States. In both cases, “commonwealth” is a way of underlying that they are NOT federal states, but rather partnerships of independent states working together for their common weal.

There is a third sense of commonwealth, in reference not to a state or association of states, but rather to a religious community that is internally ordered and administered. Edward Gibbons writes, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire :

The primitive Christians were dead to the business and pleasures of the world; but their love of action, which could never be entirely extinguished, soon revived, and found a new occupation in the government of the church. A separate society, which attacked the established religion of the empire, was obliged to adopt some form of internal policy, and to appoint a sufficient number of ministers, intrusted not only with the spiritual functions, but even with the temporal direction of the Christian commonwealth.(Book 1, 15.6)

Shoghi Effendi

Shoghi Effendi refers to a commonwealth of nations in the sense of an association of “state members,” but not in the sense of retaining full autonomy :

The unity of the human race … implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth.
(The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 203)

However Shoghi Effendi often follows Gibbons in using ‘commonwealth’ to refer to an ordered religious community, with reference to the Bahai Commonwealth. This is the Bahai community functioning with the framework of the Administrative Order :

The Declaration of Trust … stands in its final form as a worthy and faithful exposition of the constitutional basis of Baha’i communities in every land, foreshadowing the final emergence of the world Baha’i Commonwealth of the future.
(Baha’i Administration, 135, May 27, 1927)

Nor will the exertions … of those who within the precincts of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar will be engaged in administering the affairs of the future Baha’i Commonwealth, fructify and prosper unless they are brought into close and daily communion with those spiritual agencies centering in and radiating from the central Shrine of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar.
(Baha’i Administration, 186, October 25, 1929)

May the assembled believers — now but a tiny nucleus of the Baha’i Commonwealth of the future — so exemplify that spirit of universal love and fellowship as to evoke in the minds of their associates the vision of that future City of God which the almighty arm of Baha’u’llah can alone establish.
(Baha’i Administration, 131, April 12, 1927)

The two references to the World Baha’i Commonwealth and the Baha’i World Commonwealth, quoted at the beginning of this posting, are further examples of this usage.

Two commonwealths

ungenassyOn the one hand, Baha’u’llah and Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi in particular have outlined a vision of a new world order, based on democratic and independent governments, united in a “Commonwealth of all the nations of the world,” also called a “world super-state.” (WOB 40), This will be the “climax” of the historical evolution of humanity through the unities of “the tribe, the city-state, and the nation.” (PDC 118). This commonwealth of nations is to be based on an international pact, stipulating borders, armaments and international obligations, which is to be drawn up by the governments and sovereigns (WOB 192; TB 165; SDC 64), endorsed by “all the human race” and backed by military force (SDC 64; WOB 192). This commonwealth – a system of government – will permanently unite all nations and creeds (WOB 203) – not just the Bahais! Its members are states (WOB 203) who, after passing through the “chastening fires” of a “titanic struggle” (MA 27), out of “carnage, agony and havoc” (PDC 123; both references apparently to World War 2), following a “world catastrophe”, WOB 46) decide to weld humanity’s “antagonistic elements of race, class, religion and nation into one coherent system, one world commonwealth” (MA 27); a single, organically-united, unshatterable world commonwealth. (MA 80) and to cede to it their right to wage war (WOB 40), “certain rights to impose taxation, and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions.” (WOB 40). The nerve centre of this commonwealth of nations is a “world metropolis” (WOB 203) whose location is unspecified, its supreme organs are a “world legislature, whose members will … ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations,” (WOB 203) and are “elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments” (WOB 40) … “a world executive, backed by an international Force,” which is able “to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth,” and “a world tribunal” to be established by “the peoples and nations of the earth” (GPB 305) to adjudicate disputes between nations (WOB 203; GPB 281), whose members are legal experts, elected by a world convention, the delegates to which are elected by the members of national parliaments, in proportion to the population of each country (SWAB 306).

uhjbuilding
On the other hand, Shoghi Effendi refers to the Bahai Commonwealth – a Commonwealth whose present nucleus and “valiant forerunners” are the Bahai believers (MA 41, BA 131), whose “independent members” are the national Bahai communities (High Endeavours 37), whose fundamental constitutional basis is provided in the Aqdas and the Will of Abdu’l-Baha (WOB 19) and set out in detail in the ‘Declaration of Trust,’ drawn up by Horace Holley and approved by Shoghi Effendi (BA 134), whose local affairs are to be administered from the precincts of the Bahai House of Worship, known as a Mashriqúl- Adhkar (BA 186), whose foundation, rudiments and sole framework is the Baha’I “Administrative Order” (GPB 325, WOB 146, 152), whose structure is to be erected by the instruments of the Administrative Order (WOB 98), out of which it is “destined to evolve” (Summary Statement – 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine), whose “Chief Stewards” are the Hands of the Cause (MBW 127), which operates “solely in direct conformity with the laws and principles of Baha’u’llah,” (ADJ 14), whose “World Administrative Center,” including both its spiritual and administrative seats, is in Haifa in Israel (GPB 277, 315, 348) and specifically on the Arc in the Bahai gardens in Haifa (MBW 79), and whose Supreme Organ and supreme legislative body is the Universal House of Justice (WOB 7; MBW 149), growing out of the Bahai International Court which grows out of the International Bahai Council. This supreme legislative body of the Bahai Commonwealth is headed by the Guardian or his representative (Will and Testament, 14), which is elected by the Bahai believers alone (Will and Testament, 14), acting through the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies (BA 84), and which exercises legislative, executive and judicial control of the Bahai community. Its growth will be marked by fierce challenges that “will be thrown at the verities it enshrines” (WOB 18), but the “final establishment” of the seat of this Commonwealth, on the arc “will signalize at once the proclamation of the sovereignty of the Founder of our Faith and the advent of the Kingdom of the Father repeatedly lauded and promised by Jesus Christ.” (MBW 74, 155). That ‘seat’ – the offices of the Universal House of Justice, and the institution of the House, have now been established. The process that Shoghi Effendi envisioned, may now be regarded as “established,” although its trajectory of growth continues.

This world Bahai Commonwealth is expected to emerge and reach the plenitude of its power and splendour in the Golden Age in which the banner of the Most Great Peace is unfurled. (CF 6 and 32; GPB 25); it is “at once the instrument and the guardian” of that Most Great Peace (WOB 196).

It’s not difficult to see that these are two different commonwealths : different in the process and agents of their creation, different in purpose, in membership, and in internal structure. The first is a political commonwealth of nations united in a superstate, and is in a sense a government, or better, an inter-governmental super-structure. The second is a Commonwealth of believers united in a religious community. Where Shoghi Effendi wrote that “the World Baha’i Commonwealth will have emerged in the plenitude of its power and splendor, ….(Citadel of Faith, p. 6), the Persian translator has misunderstood him as saying “the Bahai government …”

The Bahai Commonwealth in Persian

In his English letters, Shoghi Effendi often refers to the World Baha’i Commonwealth, or similar terms. He also wrote many many letters in Persian, writing extensively in his own hand. An multi-volume selection of these letters has been published in searchable form, under the series title Tawqi`aat (توقيعات).

One would expect Shoghi Effendi to have described the Bahai World Commonwealth just as extensively in Persian, for the Iranian Bahais. To find the correct translation of Bahai World Commonwealth, I only had to go to these letters, I thought, and I hoped that the Persian term would also illuminate what Shoghi Effendi meant by “Bahai World Commonwealth.”

Alas, I have not found any example in Shoghi Effendi’s Persian letters. I have approached the search in two ways: by thinking of likely equivalents such as ummah or ahl-e Bahaa and searching for them, and by looking at those English letters of Shoghi Effendi that refer to the Bahai World Commonwealth, and trying to locate a Persian parallel text. For example, in October 1957 Shoghi Effendi appointed eight Hands of the Cause, and referred to them as “Chief Stewards of Baha’u’llah’s embryonic World Commonwealth.” (Messages to the Baha’i World – 1950-1957, 127)
Naturally he would have announced this appointment also to the Persian-speaking Bahais, and with the help of a search engine, the date, and the unusual name “Muhaajer” (مُهاجر) it was not hard to find that announcement. However the Persian text does not refer to the Hands as “Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth.” The Persian letter follows the English one closely, but not at this point.

There is also no place where Shoghi Effendi translates a Persian/Arabic term used by Baha’u’llah or Abdu’l-Baha as “commonwealth,” so far as I can discover.

Postscript 1, January 4, 2020.

Qarn-e Badi`, and a suggested solution

I am not the first to face the question of the Persian equivalent of “Bahai Commonwealth.” Every Persian translator of Shoghi Effendi must have grappled with it too. In Qarn-e Badi`, which is the Persian translation of Shoghi Effendi’s God Passes By, the translator Nasru’llah Mavvidat has rendered “the world-embracing Baha’i Commonwealth” (page xvii of the Foreword) as جامعهء جهانی بهائی, the world-wide Bahai community. When Shoghi Effendi refers to Baha’u’llah’s “Order, attaining its full stature through the emergence of the Baha’i World Commonwealth – the Kingdom of God on earth” (page 26), Mavvidat translates this in the same way, as the world-wide Bahai community.

On page 273, when Shoghi Effendi refers to the institutions revolving around “the World Administrative Center of the future Baha’i Commonwealth,” Mavvidat renders this “the world administrative centre of the people of Baha (مرکز اداری جهانی اهل بهاء), omitting the “future” in the original.

On page 312, where Shoghi Effendi is looking forwards to “a single grand metropolis” in the Haifa and Akka area that will be home to the spiritual and administrative seats of “the future Baha’i Commonwealth,” Mavvidat renders this “the people of Baha” (اهل بهاء ), again omitting “future.”

On page 320, Shoghi Effendi again refers to “the future Bahai World Commonwealth” and Mavvidat translates it as “the world-wide Bahai community” (جامعهء جهانی بهائی). In this sentence, “future” is implied by the context.

On page 343, “of that permanent world Administrative Center of the future Baha’i Commonwealth” becomes “the administrative centre of the world-wide Bahai community” (مرکز اداری جامعهء جهانی بهائی), omitting “permanent.”

On page 359, Shoghi Effendi looks forward to “the establishment of the Bahai state and … [then] the emergence of the Bahai World Commonwealth.” This is translated :
تأسيس سلطنت الهی و استقرار حکومت جهانی بهائی
“the establishment of divine dominion and the foundation of the Bahai world government.” (page 729 in the translation).

The objections to this last translation have been discussed above: it is quite clear that the Bahai Commonwealth is not a government. And as for the earlier translations cited above: if Shoghi Effendi had meant to say “the Bahai community” or “the people of Baha” he could have said just that. What is the additional connotation Shoghi Effendi intends when he says “Bahai Commonwealth.”

Very tentatively, I suggest that it is that Shoghi Effendi envisages a Bahai Commonwealth as a society – eventually embracing the world – in which the people of Baha and the organized Bahai community take responsibility for the common weal of all. Indeed, where Gibbon uses the term “Christian Commonwealth,” it is followed a few lines later by a reference to the “public benefit” that church office-holders thought themselves able to bestow.

That clarifies the concept of “Bahai Commonwealth” for me, but I still do now know what Persian term Shoghi Effendi preferred to refer to the Bahai World Commonwealth. I have already studied “people of Baha” in Shoghi Effendi’s Persian letters, and found no proof that he felt it was equivalent to “Bahai Commonwealth.” I still do not know why his Persian letters are not – apparently – full of explanations about the Bahai Commonwealth. Readers’ suggestions will be most welcome. The review of Mavvidat’s translations suggests that I should check “world-wide Bahai community” (جامعهء جهانی بهائی), and another possibility is “party of God” (حزب الهی و حزب الله).

Short link: https://wp.me/pcgF5-39I

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Signed by Five

Posted by Sen on October 6, 2019

As I have often pointed out, it’s important to distinguish between the letters written by the Guardian and those written on his behalf. It is also important to distinguish between letters from the Universal House of Justice and those from the Secretariat or another body at the Bahai World Centre. Knowing which is which requires some checking and perhaps a direct enquiry, because many publications and databases quote from letters issued by the Secretariat, saying that they are quoting the House of Justice. Moreover letters from the Secretariat quite often cite memoranda from the Research Department, so that these too come to be cited as ‘from The House of Justice’ or on behalf of the House of Justice. This is a muddle: some clarity is needed.
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The Guardian and the protection of the Faith

Posted by Sen on July 15, 2019

[This post no longer represents my views: as a result of the discussion in the “comments” section I have come to the view that “protection” and “protecting” are essential attributes of infallibility, and that one must begin with the definitions of infallibility given by Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, and only then — from that perspective — look at the scope of the infallibilities recognized in Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament and in Shoghi Effendi’s writings regarding the spheres of the Guardian and the House of Justice. ]

… as he [the Guardian] is infallible in the protection of the Faith” (1956)

… he is guided in his decisions to do that which protects it and fosters its good and highest interest ” (1945)

I will not attempt here to define what ‘inerrancy’ and ‘infallibility’ mean in the Bahai teachings, focusing instead on an interesting question about the scope of the infallibility of the Guardian.
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The blood libel : Qom variant

Posted by Sen on October 28, 2018

This is a repost of a 2010 story on my “Sen’s Daily” blog. It is, alas, still relevant. Some outdated links to Iranian sources have been retained for historical purposes. ~ Sen
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[From Sen’s Daily, May 25, 2010]

An Iranian version of the ‘blood libel’ story has been doing the rounds in Iranian media this week [i.e., in May 2010]. I repeat it here [original posting] so that those propagating such libels may know that their deeds are seen, and also because it illustrates the way in which anti-Bahaism is a substitute form of anti-semitism in Iran.

According to this story, the Bahais in the holy city of Qom, on the holy evening of Ashura when Shiah Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, held a loud festivity where alcohol was served, killed a Muslim boy they had kidnapped, and laid his body on the table with the food and drink.
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In search of spiritual democracy

Posted by Sen on September 14, 2018

In the 30’s and 40’s, Shoghi Effendi was encouraging the Bahais to establish the various organs of the Bahai Administrative Order, while some Bahais, notably in the Bahai community in North America, were resisting. They put forward an alternative vision, in which Baha’u’llah’s “Houses of Justice” were thought to refer to democratic governments, and the Bahai community was inclusive and had no permanent organization at all. Three ‘quotes’ from Abdu’l-Baha were central to this vision of what a Bahai community could be: “you cannot organize the Bahai Movement, the Bahai Movement is the spirit of the age” “There are no officers in this Cause” and “The foundation of this Cause is pure spiritual democracy.”
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Houses of Worship in all the lands

Posted by Sen on September 1, 2018

[Revised July 2019]

I have put up a revised revised draft on the first chapter of my thesis on the Bahai Commonwealth. The topic is not crystal-ball gazing about the future, but rather an examination of the intentions of the community’s founders, by looking at their writings and actions. Chapter 1 is on the House of Worship. I am hoping for feedback please: what is wrong, what is missing, what is redundant? It is a Word (doc) document for downloading here

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Blessed is the spot …

Posted by Sen on August 23, 2018

“Blessed is the spot” is one of the most widely used devotional works from Baha’u’llah, in both the original Arabic and in translation. It is used as a prayer and as a hymn. It has often been set to music and recorded. It reads, in English:

Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.

This extract was translated by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice, as part of a compilation of scriptural verses from diverse sources, encouraging teaching activities. He quoted the Arabic text in his Naw Ruz message in Persian, in BE 100 / 1943.
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Bahai courts – a short guide

Posted by Sen on August 10, 2018


This posting will look at the institutions of Bahai courts, the House of Justice, the International Bahai Council and the International Tribunal as they are described primarily in the writings of Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. I will assume that readers know what the Universal House of Justice is, and how the National Houses of Justice, known as National Spiritual Assemblies, are elected and function. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Tablet of Emanuel, retranslated

Posted by Sen on July 31, 2018


In a previous posting, I discussed the background of Abdu’l-Baha’s tablet to an American Bahai, Mr. E. E. Wrestling Brewster, concerning the 18th century polymath and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

Wrestling Brewster, who was attached to the New Jerusalem Church in New York, wrote to Abdu’l-Baha regarding Swedenborg. He later described the contents of his letter as:

… a query as to what is the relation between the Revelation of Emanuel Swedenborg and that of Baha ‘o ‘llah? The statement was given that the writer [Wrestling Brewster] was a deep student and disciple of the Swedish Seer and a communicant in the New-Church founded upon His doctrines; and further, that a resolve had been made to assist in spreading this spiritual philosophy before the masses.

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Instrumental music in the House of Worship

Posted by Sen on June 21, 2018


Hymns, music and singing in worship are mentioned often in the Bahai writings. Many examples are brought together in the Compilation on Music. Abdu’l-Baha writes to one Bahai:

Music is regarded as a praiseworthy branch of learning … Chant (or sing) the verses of God in the great congregations and grand oratories, in the most wondrous accents, and raise such a melody in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar that the Concourse on High will resonate.

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A Book similar to the Quran

Posted by Sen on June 3, 2018


In the “Bihár” it is recorded:

“In our Qá’im there shall be four signs from four Prophets, Moses, Jesus, Joseph, and Muḥammad. The sign from Moses, is fear and expectation; from Jesus, that which was spoken of Him; from Joseph, imprisonment and dissimulation; from Muhammad, the revelation of a Book similar to the Qur’án.”

In his Ketab-e Iqan, Baha’u’llah cites a prophetic tradition about four characteristics of four different prophets, that will also be characteristic of the Qa’im, the promised messiah of the Shiah tradition. The last of these characteristics, the one the Qa’im shares with Muhammad, is “the revelation of a Book similar to the Qur’an.” Baha’u’llah gives his source as the Behar al-Anwar, a huge compilation of mainly Shiah traditions, the life work of Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, who died around 1700. The Behar became a standard work of Shiah scholarship, especially in the 19th century.

Contemporary Shiah apologists have made the citation in the Iqan a point of critique, because the form Baha’u’llah cites differs from its form in the most widely used modern edition of the Behar al-Anwar.
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To teach is to learn, is to work, is to serve, etcetera

Posted by Sen on June 2, 2018

A number of Bahai writers and musicians have used a quote attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, which goes “O Lord of the worlds! To teach is to learn, to learn is to work, to work is to serve, to serve is to love, to love is to sacrifice, to sacrifice is to die, to die is to live, to live is to strive, to strive is to rise above all earthly limitations and enter the eternal realms.” Often these words are tacked on the end of a prayer of Abdu’l-Baha contained in a letter to Lua Getsinger. That prayer begins “Thou knowest, O God, and art my witness that I have no desire in my heart save to attain Thy good pleasure, …” or in an older translation “Thou testifiest and Thou knowest in my heart and soul there is no desire except to attain Thy pleasure..”
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Abdu’l-Baha speaks – in bilingual format

Posted by Sen on June 1, 2018


My latest book is out, from Leiden University Press (click to order (please)).

The title is Principles for Progress. Essays on Religion and Modernity by `Abdu’l-Baha. It is 400 pages, most of them in bilingual Persian/English format. This is the third bilingual book in modern Iranian Studies that I have done, and the second for the Iranian Studies Series. The works in this volume are three of Abdu’l-Baha’s socio-political essays: The Secret of Divine Civilization, Selections from A Traveller´s Narrative and The Art of Governance. There is about 80 pages of introduction outlining the historical setting and the authors and actors that Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha knew. There are also translator’s notes on various textual issues, where a short footnote would not suffice, and an index.
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Why were the saints [called] saints?

Posted by Sen on September 10, 2017

There’s a quote doing the rounds, attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, that starts:

“Someone asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Why were the saints called saints?” He replied: “Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient, and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, …”

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Sermons in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (revised)

Posted by Sen on August 20, 2017

This posting, dedicated to Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, presents a short section for my next book: the chapter is on the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which is both the Bahai House of Worship and a Bahai devotional meeting, wherever it may be held. The topic here is sermons. Because I’m writing for an academic book, there are [footnotes] at the end of the posting.

The Bab encouraged his followers to listen to sermons on Fridays. Denis MacEoin summarizes:

The formal sermon (khutba) is to be followed by impassioned preaching (maw`iza) and by mention of him whom God shall manifest. These Friday gatherings are to be held in the mosques which the Bab ordered constructed. The use of a pulpit is prohibited, this being replaced by a chair or, in a large gathering, a chair placed on a platform to enable all present to hear. [n. 1] By Wmpearl (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Devotions, Mashriqu'l-Adhkar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Scam version of ‘Church and State’ advertised

Posted by Sen on August 12, 2017

I have a google alert for references to my book Church and State, which is self-published as my Master’s dissertation. This morning the alert tells me that “Virgin Virtual Group” is offering a download version.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet of Meetings as Mashriqu’l-Adhkars

Posted by Sen on August 7, 2017

The Tablet below has been available in English only in a partial translation. It makes some interesting points about the centrality of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Abdu’l-Baha’s thinking, and is historically interesting for its restriction of meetings, presumably those in Iran, to nine persons, so as to avoid inciting opposition.

The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar or Bahai House of Worship, has a prominent place in Baha’u’llah’s ‘Most Great Book’, the Kitab-e Aqdas, which commands the people of the world to build houses of worship “throughout the lands.” It has a central place in Abdu’l-Baha’s writings, particularly his correspondence, where it is called “the greatest divine institute,” and it is named by Shoghi Effendi as one of the “two primary agencies” of the Bahai Faith and “the crowning institution in every Bahai community.” Baha’u’llah has given a rather direct indication of the kind of community he envisioned by naming his house of worship the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar,
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Community, Devotions, Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha’s tablet of civil obedience

Posted by Sen on August 2, 2017

Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet of Civil Obedience was translated by Shoghi Effendi, and is posted here because it is not otherwise available online. It refers to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 13:1-2:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment.

There’s a similar verse in Paul’s letter to Titus (3:1):

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,…

There is no verse like this in the two Epistles of Peter. It appears that Abdu’l-Baha misspoke in this tablet, where he attributes the verse to the Apostle “Petrus”, i.e., Peter.

The letter appears to have been written to a Persian Bahai, and was translated by Shoghi Effendi for publication in Star of the West, Vol. 14, no. 8, (November 1923) p. 245. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

To be a Bahai: the recollections of Wendell Phillips Dodge

Posted by Sen on April 28, 2017

Abdu’l-Baha and a child in Haifa, Israel, courtesy of http://media.bahai.org/.

When asked on one occasion: “What is a Bahai?” Abdu’l-Baha replied: “To be a Bahai simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.”

These words, often quoted in Bahai literature, are not authentic Bahai scripture, although the source is somewhat reliable. The words are among those supposedly spoken by Abdu’l-Baha on the Cedric as the ship arrived in America on April 11 1912. Read the rest of this entry »

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

The consensus of the faithful in Bahai theology

Posted by Sen on March 28, 2017

“…the apparently democratic idea of the consensus of the faithful always ends by according authority to a category of scholars …”

In 1992, a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice stated that:

Some people [in the Bahai community] have put forward the thesis that in place of the Guardian’s function of authoritative interpretation, a check on the Universal House of Justice should be set up, either in the form of the general opinion of the mass of the believers, or in the form of a body of learned Baha’is – preferably those with academic qualifications. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

All Palestine their home: a prophecy of Abdu’l-Baha?

Posted by Sen on September 4, 2016

palestinemap1913
In the older editions of Some Answered Questions (pp 65-66 in the 1985 edition), Abdu’l-Baha says,

In the same way, Israel, scattered all over the world, was not reassembled in the Holy Land in the Christian cycle; but in the beginning of the cycle of Baha’u’llah this divine promise, as is clearly stated in all the Books of the Prophets, has begun to be manifest.

You can see that from all the parts of the world tribes of Jews are coming to the Holy Land; they live in villages and lands which they make their own, and day by day they are increasing to such an extent that all Palestine will become their home.

The question was asked, is this a fulfilled prophecy of the Master, or is it yet to be fulfilled? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet of Emanuel

Posted by Sen on July 25, 2016

emamnuel_persian_header
There’s a Tablet translated in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, selection 29, that begins “O thou who art captivated by the truth …” and in which the eighth paragraph says:

Emmanuel was indeed the Herald of the Second Coming of Christ, and a Summoner to the pathway of the Kingdom. It is evident that the Letter is a member of the Word, and this membership in the Word signifieth that the Letter is dependent for its value on the Word, that is, it deriveth its grace from the Word; it has a spiritual kinship with the Word, and is accounted an integral part of the Word. The Apostles were even as Letters, and Christ was the essence of the Word Itself; and the meaning of the Word, which is grace everlasting, cast a splendour on those Letters. …

It is our hope that thou wilt in this day arise to promote that which Emmanuel foretold. …

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments »

Let’s talk ….

Posted by Sen on August 6, 2015

… about Mehrangiz Kar and the service of women, about open and courteous discussions, and more

This posting begins with the following letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States, dated July 31, 2015, in response to Bahai involvement in an embarrassing internet fracas. The letter itself explains the situation further: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

Two letters of Abdu’l-Baha in praise of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar

Posted by Sen on July 21, 2015

Battambang-1

The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is a House of Worship or Temple, built not just for Bahais but for all the people in a community to use. The name means ‘the place where God is remembered,’ and remembrance in this context has the combined senses of awareness and praise. ‘Where God is remembered’ is not just in a building: it is also in the heart, and in a devotional meeting, and in a community. For more information on the Mashriqu’l-Ahkar, see ‘The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar Handbook,’ in the ‘compilations’ section of this blog. (Opens as a PDF file) further compilation this blog. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Devotions, Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“… a body of learned Bahais”

Posted by Sen on July 15, 2015

Ivan Sakhnenko, The Anatomy Lesson
On a facebook group, one Bahai wrote:
Obviously the House of Justice needs someone w/ an appropriate background to explain the Writings to them.” This was in the context of letters that showed the Universal House of Justice’s understanding of Bahai teachings evolving over time. I will give more details below.

I am sure the suggestion was well meant, but I think it is heading in the wrong direction entirely. However first I will have to explain why the suggestion could be made. The ‘problem’ for the Bahais, is that it is clear from doctrine and practical observation that the Universal House of Justice, the head of the Bahai community, does not always understand the Bahai scriptures correctly. If there was a guarantee that it would always be correct, the Guardianship would have been unnecessary. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

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

Posted by Sen on May 16, 2015

Itchingfield Church - geograph.org.uk [Upate, October 26, 2015, see postscript.]
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 (and relationships by adoption ~ see the postscript).

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 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 »

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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: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Copper to Gold?

Posted by Sen on February 3, 2014

coppernugget Amended July 2015

Revised October 2019
An 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: , , , , , , , , , | 58 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, December 2016]
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 authorized by the Universal House of Justice 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 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

Updated August 13, 2019.
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: , , , , , , , | 9 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: , , , , , , , , , | 8 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: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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: , , , , , , , , | 5 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 »

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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: , , , , , , | 8 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 »

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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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 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 »

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

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 »

Posted in History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 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 »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Bahai Writings, Community, Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Posted in History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Pilgrims’ Hostel and the Mashriq’l-Adhkar

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 »

Posted in Community, History, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Church and State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Church and State, Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Church and State, Political science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

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

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 »

Posted in Church and State, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Defence of the Faith, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Defence of the Faith, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

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 »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Community, Devotions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 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 »

Posted in Bahai Writings, History, Polemics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments »

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 »

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

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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 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.
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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…

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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?
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It’s Friday: thank God

Posted by Sen on April 11, 2009

calendaraddon [Revised October 2019]
The wikipedia page for the Bahai Calendar state: “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?
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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 building sizes.
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Metamorphoses

Posted by Sen on March 3, 2009

mathom1 [a 2009 posting, temporarily revived for Hilary Chapman]

It’s my birthday, and I was looking in the mathom room for something given to me, that I could give to you, and thinking about what Baha’u’llah says, that copper can turn to gold if left in its mine for seventy years, and how that doesn’t seem to be working for me
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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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