Sen McGlinn's blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Bahai Faith’

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 »

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Posted in Devotions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 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.

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: , , , , , , , , | 12 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 »

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: , , , , , , , , | 16 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, 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 »

Posted in Community | Tagged: , , , , , | 22 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Age of consent

Posted by Sen on May 18, 2011

On the Talisman discussion list, a participant noted:

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

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

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

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

Abdu’l-Baha’s British knighthood

Posted by Sen on April 22, 2011

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

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

Secret Foreign Office documents show …

Posted by Sen on April 21, 2011

The Foreign and India Office, 1866

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

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

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

UHJ elucidations

Posted by Sen on March 7, 2011

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

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

This great American democracy?

Posted by Sen on February 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

Shoghi Effendi’s diary

Posted by Sen on February 18, 2011

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

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

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

Abdu’l-Baha’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 »

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

Posted by Sen on November 22, 2010

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

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

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

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 »

Posted in Aqdas and Law, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Abdu’l-Baha on theosophy

Posted by Sen on May 9, 2010

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

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

All the forces of the Universe . . .

Posted by Sen on May 4, 2010

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

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

Abdu’l-Baha: ‘The Celestial Fire’

Posted by Sen on April 25, 2010

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

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

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

Posted by Sen on April 23, 2010

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

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

Muhammad Ali revived? (2)

Posted by Sen on April 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

Posted by Sen on April 12, 2010

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

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

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

A Muhammad Ali revival?

Posted by Sen on March 27, 2010

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

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

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

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Roumie’s account

Posted by Sen on March 13, 2010

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

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

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

I

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

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

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

Posted by Sen on March 6, 2010

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

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

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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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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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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 »

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The mystery of sacrifice

Posted by Sen on October 16, 2009

sealscrofts3One of the friends said:

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

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Instant, exact and complete?

Posted by Sen on October 12, 2009

blueangelsIn a discussion group, one of the participants recalled that Shoghi Effendi had said that the requirement for appointment as a Hand of the Cause was “instant, exact and complete obedience.” It’s a familiar phrase in Bahai discourse, but is it from the words of Shoghi Effendi? Is it about the Hands of the Cause?
 
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Abdu’l-Baha by Lake Geneva

Posted by Sen on September 25, 2009

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

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Words of Grace

Posted by Sen on September 1, 2009

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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The world’s a stage

Posted by Sen on April 26, 2009

One of the friends said:

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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Foundations for inter-faith sharing

Posted by Sen on April 18, 2009

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

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

It’s Friday: thank God

Posted by Sen on April 11, 2009

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

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

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

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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Conversation with God

Posted by Sen on February 28, 2009

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

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

Posted by Sen on February 24, 2009

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

O MY SERVANT!

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

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

Posted by Sen on February 17, 2009

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

Posted by Sen on February 6, 2009

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

Posted by Sen on December 25, 2008

[Revised March 2016, May 2017]
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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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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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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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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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 »

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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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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