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Elections in Baha’u’llah’s World Order

Posted by Sen on January 30, 2009

One of the friends asked three questions:

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

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

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One morning in Shiraz

Posted by Sen on January 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

Posted by Sen on January 21, 2009

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

In a letter dated 7 April 1999 the Universal House of Justice warns among other things of an “attempt to suggest that the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar should evolve into a seat of quasidoctrinal authority, parallel to and essentially independent of the Local House of Justice.” Although I am not aware that this idea has ever been put forward in the English-speaking Bahai world, the letter may be taken as evidence that it has or may emerge somewhere. So it seems a good idea to consider the relationship between the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar or House of Worship and the Houses of Justice (i.e., the Bahai administrative institutions, which at the local and national level are now known as Spiritual Assemblies). To understand the institutional relations at the core of the organic Bahai community, we will also have to include the guardianship.
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Posted in Community, Devotions, Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Century of light

Posted by Sen on January 15, 2009

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

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

Posted by Sen on January 12, 2009

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

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

Posted by Sen on January 5, 2009

One of the friends asked:

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

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Posted in Islam, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

He cannot override …

Posted by Sen on December 30, 2008

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

Posted by Sen on December 25, 2008

[Last revised, April 2019]
Did a regiment of 750 musketmen line up to execute the Bab, in a barracks square in Tabriz, and all miss their target? Early accounts, and those closest to Tabriz, do not say that a whole regiment, or 750 men specifically, constituted the firing squad. Later reports, in the Bahai Writings, do say this. Here’s how Abdu’l-Baha tells the story, in E.G. Browne’s translation):

By one rope the Báb was suspended and by the other rope Aqa Muhammad-‘Ali, both being firmly bound in such wise that the head of that young man was on the Báb’s breast. The surrounding housetops billowed with teeming crowds. A regiment of soldiers ranged itself in three files. The first file fired; then the second file, and then the third file discharged volleys. From the fire of these volleys a mighty smoke was produced. When the smoke cleared away they saw that young man standing and the Báb seated by the side of His amanuensis Aqa Siyyid Husayn in the very cell from the staircase of which they had suspended them. To neither one of them had the slightest injury resulted.
(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 26-7)

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Posted in Community, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Red Tulips

Posted by Sen on December 20, 2008

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

Posted by Sen on December 16, 2008

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

Posted by Sen on December 10, 2008

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

Posted in Church and State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Reward and Punishment

Posted by Sen on December 5, 2008

scalesBaha’u’llah writes:

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

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

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How theocracy happened

Posted by Sen on December 2, 2008

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

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

She was quite right. This is certainly not what Baha’u’llah envisioned!
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Posted in Church and State, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet

Posted by Sen on November 30, 2008

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

Dear Romeo,
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The practicalities of monarchy

Posted by Sen on November 28, 2008

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

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

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

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

Church and State in Islam

Posted by Sen on November 21, 2008

openquranIn a discussion, I was asked: “You state that separation of church and state is principle in Islam. Could you explain that a bit more?
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Bahais and military service

Posted by Sen on November 18, 2008

A poster announcing a thanksgiving mass

A poster used to advertise a thanksgiving mass

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

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

Good point!

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

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

Two by two

Posted by Sen on November 14, 2008

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

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

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

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

Pray for good government

Posted by Sen on November 7, 2008

caesarcoinIn many Christian churches, and in Sunni Islam in particular, prayers for the ruler or government are a routine part of collective worship. Bahais too are told to pray for their rulers. But we do not seem to be comfortable with it: how often is a prayer for the government part of a Baha’i meeting? Perhaps some background will help.
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The knower as servant (response to Paul Lample)

Posted by Sen on October 20, 2008

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

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

Posted by Sen on October 1, 2008

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

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Polemics revisited

Posted by Sen on September 7, 2008

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

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

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Do assemblies learn?

Posted by Sen on April 3, 2008

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

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The puzzle of the Aqdas: joining a few pieces

Posted by Sen on March 29, 2008

I first wrote this as an email posting on 1 Jan 2008. I’ve reworked it as a blog entry. It concerns one of the things that puzzles Bahais from a Christian or non-religious background: what is ‘religious law’ and how do we treat the Kitab-e Aqdas?

Usually this comes up not as a broad theoretical question, but in terms of particulars. Why do women seem to be disadvantaged in the inheritance law, why are they treated differently in regard to some religious duties, and what is that verse about having no more than two wives?
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Posted in Aqdas and Law, Bahai Writings, Community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments »

Youth: every age its own problem

Posted by Sen on February 20, 2008

As a first experiment in blogging, here’s a letter I wrote to the Bahai Youth Council in 1996. The Council had written a jeremiad about the terrible state of youth, and invited comments. They got them.

To the European Bahá’í Youth Council
I have recently received a copy of your paper “The State of the Bahá’í Youth in Europe,” dated May 1995. That is a long time ago – particularly in the life of a youth – and perhaps this paper no longer reflects the thinking of the Youth Council. I hope so, at any rate, because the approach adopted in the paper does not suggest a way forward for either the Council or the youth themselves.
In addition to the general observation that one cannot expect positive output from negative input, two areas in particular struck me as needing re-vision: the approach to morality and to individualism.
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Posted in Community, Ethics and Morality, Individualism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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