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Posts Tagged ‘Shoghi Effendi’

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

Posted in Church and State, Defence of the Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Theology | Tagged: , , , | 35 Comments »

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 »

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

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Devotions, Mashriqu'l-Adhkar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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“… 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 »

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

Posted by Sen on May 16, 2015

Itchingfield Church - geograph.org.uk [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 »

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 »

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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 »

“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 »

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 »

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 »

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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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 »

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 »

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 »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Community, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Civilization

Posted by Sen on March 21, 2009

Is civilization to be ‘ever-advancing,’ or is it limited to moderation?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bahai Writings, Ethics and Morality, Translations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Ethics and Morality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

1917 and all that

Posted by Sen on February 6, 2009

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

Posted in Community, Defence of the Faith, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

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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.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Devotions, Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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

Century’s end – my two cents

Posted by Sen on January 12, 2009

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

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

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments »

The future of religions

Posted by Sen on January 5, 2009

One of the friends asked:

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Community, Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

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

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.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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

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 »

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!
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church and State, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Bahais and military service

Posted by Sen on November 18, 2008

A poster announcing a thanksgiving mass

A poster used to advertise a thanksgiving mass

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

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

Good point!

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

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

Two by two

Posted by Sen on November 14, 2008

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

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

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

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

Do assemblies learn?

Posted by Sen on April 3, 2008

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

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

 
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