Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #100 (English)

Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan USA

October 7–10, 2010.

Attributes of Abdu'l-Baha seen through the eyes of two westerners: Lady Blomfield and Howard Colby Ives

by Mona Khademi

One way of looking at `Abdu'l-Bahá's legacy is by retelling of anecdotes about His encounters with the diverse array of those whom he met, taught and counseled in the course of his journeys. Such accounts have significance as inspirational literature. Accounts of `Abdu'l-Bahá's activities tell us what His words and actions meant to those who witnessed them.

In this paper the author will retell some of the stories through the eyes of two westerners who saw `Abdu'l-Bahá during His visit to the west. The emphasis will be on stories that talk about His attributes.

These two people are Howard Colby Ives and Lady Blomfield. Howard Colby Ives from the United States of America met `Abdu'l-Bahá in New York in April 1912 at the age of 46. His autobiography Portals of Freedom will be reviewed and specific stories selected. Lady Blomfield met `Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land and then received Him when he visited London. Stories that His attributes and divine characteristics will be selected from her memoir The Chosen Highway. A brief biography of each of these two people will be also given.

Authoritative Interpretations in the Baha'i Faith: `Abdu'l-Bahá's Initiative

by Iraj Ayman

There are two categories of interpretations of the Writings and Teachings in the Bahá'í Faith, authoritative and individual. The former is confined to the interpretations by the Founders and then Centers of the Covenant of the Bahá'í Faith, while the latter is the interpretation and understanding that each individual arrives at through personal study of and contemplation about the Writings and teachings of the Faith. A closely related area is the translation of the Writings from the original texts into other languages. This due to the fact that translating a text is actually a kind of understanding and interpreting that text. Thus, again we have two categories, authoritative or formal translations issued by the Center of the Faith and informal or individual translations by various institutions or individuals.

Throughout the history of religions interpretation of the texts has been, and even nowadays is, the cause of dissension, division, sectarianism, conflicts, persecution, and a host of harmful actions. Bahá'u'lláh has revealed basic principles which save the community from sectarianism and protects and preserves its unity. However, it was the initiative taken by `Abdu'l-Bahá that changed the direction of interpretation of the texts and teachings and opened a new path that makes interpretation a source of unity and accord in the community. This fundamental reorientation of the direction of interpretation (and translation) has been further elucidated and consolidated by the guidance given by Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. In this respect what needs to be clarified are the attempts of certain individuals who have tried to use their own interpretation for forming their own versions of Bahá'í religion and have tried to form various splintered groups.

Brief review of `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to North America, A

by Robert Stockman

`Abdu'l-Bahá Abbás visited North America from April 11 to December 5, 1912. His eight-month sojourn took Him to some 38 localities in 15 states and the province of Quebec, Canada. Because His North American trip followed on an earlier European visit, when `Abdu'l-Bahá arrived in New York He had a developed daily routine.

It appears that He gave approximately 351 talks during His trip (of which 139 were published in The Promulgation of Universal Peace), an average of 1.5 per day. Extrapolation from known attendance figures and some statistical assumptions allow one to arrive at a rough figure of 86,000 people who attended them. Particularly noteworthy are the talks He gave in thirty-one liberal and moderate white Protestant churches, fourteen Theosophical and other metaphysical gatherings, five universities, three synagogues, one African American church, the Lake Mohonk Peace Conference, Hull House, and the fourth annual NAACP conference.

`Abdu'l-Bahá's talks can be divided roughly into two types: those to the public and those primarily to Bahá'í audiences. A "generic" public talk gradually developed throughout His journey that emphasized up to ten principles of the Bahá'í Faith. Talks to Bahá'ís, on the other hand—especially the last talk to them in each locality—usually emphasized two things: the Covenant and obedience to `Abdu'l-Bahá as the Center of the Covenant on the one hand, and teaching the Faith on the other. The former emphasis presaged some provisions of the Will and Testament, while the latter anticipated aspects of the Tablets of the Divine Plan.

No one has yet assembled all the newspaper articles that resulted from His visit. Well over 100 articles are currently available. Coverage was almost uniformly positive, much to the surprise of the Bahá'ís, who feared `Abdu'l-Bahá "would simply be placed on a level with many traveling `Swamis.'"

It is difficult to assess the impact `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit had on North America and its Bahá'ís. A comparative approach is particularly illuminating. The first "Oriental" teacher to come to the United States was Protap Chunder Majumdar (1840-1905), a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, who visited over sixty Unitarian churches in the Northeastern United States in 1883. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) spoke at the Parliament and then went on a three-month tour of the United States, to which he returned in 1896-97 and at least once subsequently. He helped establish Buddhism in the United States. Better known is Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) of the Rama Krishna Mission, who spoke repeatedly at the Parliament and then crisscrossed the United States for two and a half years, lecturing on Hinduism and criticizing Christian missionaries. Vivekananda's aggressive speaking style, his eloquent English, and his considerable western education made him a formidable and controversial speaker, which may explain why his travels in the United States are remembered by scholars of religion better than anyone else's. Unlike Majumdar, Vivekananda created a community of American Hindus, the Vedanta Society, though the group had only a hundred or so members when Vivekananda left America and it still had one hundred members in 1912. [Carl T. Jackson, Vedanta for the West: The Ramakrishna Movement in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 108.]

Majumdar, Dharmapala, Vivekanada, and other eastern teachers such as D. T. Suzuki (the principal founder of Zen Buddhism in the United States) had a significant impact on American culture because they were the harbingers of ancient and vast religious-cultural traditions; they were the tip of an iceberg, the rest of which was increasingly accessible because of colonialism, growing commercial ties with Asia, military involvement in the region, tourism, and extensive wealth that could be lavished on the endowing of university chairs and the subvention of extensive translation efforts. In contrast, in 1912 (and even today) the Bahá'í Faith is a small religious community, a minority in every land where it is found, with a relatively undeveloped secondary literature and cultural expressions. If `Abdu'l-Bahá were thought of as the tip of an iceberg, the iceberg is yet to congeal completely, and its vast submarine stretches will be easier to contour a few centuries from now.

`Abdu'l-Bahá did have one advantage that the other Asian teachers lacked: a significant number of American followers located in dozens of cities across the United States. One notable result was the ability to organize numerous local public and private meetings and attract the rank and file of the local population. But Bahá'í communities of 1912 were poorly organized and uncertain whether they were a separate religious community or a leaven destined to spread Bahá'í teachings within the existing churches. As a result, `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit did not immediately produce a large number of new, active members. Ironically, His sojourn also sharpened ideological divisions within the American Bahá'í community.

`Abdu'l-Bahá was very pleased by the way Americans received Him. He frequently ordered His Persian secretaries to send bundles of newspaper clippings to Haifa or Iran so that others could share in His happiness. The Persian pages of The Star of the West spread positive reports of His trip throughout the Persian-speaking Bahá'í world. The confidence and increased self esteem that such reports gave to the local Bahá'ís cannot be underestimated.

According to Shoghi Effendi, `Abdu'l-Bahá's trip to the western world was the "culmination" of His ministry and its "greatest exploit." [Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 295.] Certainly, the impact of `Abdu'l-Bahá's journey is still being felt; the seeds He planted are still germinating, and an ample harvest awaits its gathering by every generation. Historians face much work ahead of them to discover the myriad facets of His American tour.
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Comparative Review of Zakat and Huquq'u'lláh, A

by Nabil Fares

The four pillars of the Islamic Religion are the Obligatory Prayer, which includes ablution and washing, Zakat, Fasting, Pilgrimage to the Sacred House (Ka`bba) in Mecca.

Zakat is of two kinds, compulsory, and voluntary. The compulsory is an obligation as it is mandated in the sacred text. Muslims are commanded to do it, and the Islamic tradition states the ratio and conditions of payment of Zakat. As for the Charity or the fifth (as some Muslims call it), it is left to the man of the house to contribute whatever amount he feels that he can afford, whether little or a lot. Some of the Clergy call the compulsory payment Zakat and, the voluntary payment Sadakah.

In this discussion I shall confine my comments to an overview of the Muslim law of the Zakat, charity or the fifth and from there I will focus on Huqúq'u'llah the mighty law, a source of inestimable blessings for all humanity.

Concept of Progressive Revelation in the Writings of the Báb, The

by Habib Riazati

The two aspects of divine unity and the progressive and non-linear continuity of all revelations are among the foremost fundamental verities of all the religions of God.

The purpose of this research is to underscore the significance of the concept the continuity and the progressive unfolding of truth, in the major works of the Primal Point. In particular, the multidimensional contexts in the Persian Bayán, in which this fundamental concept has been discussed and emphasized, will be examined.

Ethical Economics for Today and Tomorrow

by Bruce Koerber

Our starting point is the quote of Bahá'u'lláh: "The source of all learning is the knowledge of God." This is also the call for the harmony of science and religion. After completing a formal training in economics and then numerous years of deep thought, combined with meditative processing of the economic literature and the Bahá'í Writings I was prepared for the discovery of the importance and significance of a dream that I had in 2004. In the dream I saw an economic model and was so thrilled by it that I shook off my slumber, enough to get up and sketch it out. That was the beginning of what is now referred to as the divine economy theory.

Since my economic training and subsequent study was in classical liberalism it is no surprise to find similarity with that long line of practitioners of Aristotelian logic. The key to understanding this school of thought is recognition of the subjective nature of human beings and then the recognition that the appropriate scientific methodology for studying human action is subjectivism.

Starting with the germ of the divine economy model that I captured from my dream, I began to unravel its mysteries. The initial model is a macroeconomic model. Its potential rested there until it was deductively released. This is the process that illuminated the core of the model and its dynamic nature and connected it to the overarching process of an ever-advancing civilization.

Deduction took us to the center of the model and we found God there! The equilibrating force operating in the economy is the power of God's Will. Humans, being created in His Image, are the reason for creation and the reason there is an economy. So in essence it is the hearts of His servants that is the tablet where the virtues of God are written and it is these virtues which constitute the true wealth of humanity. That is why it can summarily be stated that there is a spiritual solution to the economic problems. Of course transformation is an essential feature at this microeconomic level and as you will see there is no real separation between the micro and the macro level of the economy except as different ways and means to gain a better understanding and to bring about transformation.

At this point, then, nothing could be more obvious than the inseparability of ethics and economics! Part of my responsibility is to demonstrate the harmony of science and religion. Without this harmony there is a careless abandonment of appreciation for the loving guidance given to us, all through the ages, by God. It has been the Manifestations of God Who have come to us as our True Educators, and Who have taught us the ethics needed to acquire true wealth and prosperity. This, Their appearance and reappearance from age to age, is what is the impetus carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization.

Fundamental Concepts in the Writings of the Báb

by Habib Riazati


Gender Equality and its influence on the coming together of the world of humanity

by Gloria Yazdani

Bahá'u'lláh in His Arabic Hidden Words has proclaimed:
Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words)
Bahá'u'lláh brought this Counsel to a world tormented for ages and centuries by the dark forces of superstition and prejudice. The world of humanity, He announced, needed to open its eyes to the beauty of its oneness, of love and of unity. From the beginning of time, brother has fought with brother, tribes have gone to battle with other tribes, and nations have waged war with other nations not fully understanding in their hearts that -- although outwardly possessed of differences -- they are one in essence.

Referring to numerous excerpts from the Bahá'í Writings, this paper attempts to demonstrate that the basis for attaining a full acceptance of this concept of oneness and the foremost catalyst for creating true harmony is a true understanding of gender equality.

Abdu'l-Bahá stated:
... the world of humanity consists of two parts or members: one is woman; the other is man. Until these two members are equal in strength, the oneness of humanity cannot be established, and the happiness and felicity of mankind will not be a reality. God willing, this is to be so.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 74)
In this age of enlightenment it is not difficult to understand therefore that it will be impossible to resolve the differences between various races or nations while the concept of equality between men and women in any given society has not been fully understood, accepted and implemented. Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed this equality a century and a half ago not merely as an ideal or a utopian dream, but as a basic factor deeply rooted in the fundamentals of His teachings and firmly woven into His new World Order.

This paper hopes to demonstrate this fact by drawing upon Bahá'u'lláh's own counsels and other statements made by the Centre of His Covenant.

Homeland Earth

by Keyvan Nazerian

An attempt will be made to review and discuss some of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh on His grand vision for the unification of mankind and achievement of world unity as crystallized in His statement: "The earth is but one country and Mankind its Citizens." A remarkable progress toward the goal of world unity as foreseen by Bahá'u'lláh has been reached in two different fronts. The first being a systematic development of a growing and expanding unified Bahá'í community scattered around the world directly influenced by His message and led by His administration. The second series of progress in this direction has been reached in the society at large and indirectly influenced by His revelation. A brief review will be made of the progress made toward the achievement of unities mentioned in `Abdul-Bahá's tablet of Seven Candles with reference to the analysis of the Universal House of Justice in the "Century of Light".

Preparing Baha'i Communities in the East and the West to Embrace Gender Equality

by Baharieh Rouhani Ma'ani

The oneness of humankind is the pivotal principle of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.

Its realization is impossible without restoring to women their rights. Gender equality is an essential prerequisite of the unity of humankind and one of the most difficult to achieve worldwide. Inequality goes back many centuries. Its practice is rooted in time-honored traditions and condoned in almost all past religions. Eradicating a practice so long upheld and accepted by both men and women as the way God had intended it to be requires patience, painstaking effort and supreme wisdom. Although the principle of gender equality was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, the ground for its meaningful achievement was laid by `Abdu'l-Bahá during His ministry. This paper deals with the intricacies involved and the remarkable way He dealt with the matter. It examines some of His writings revealed in honor of the Bahá'í women in Iran and North America, and the methods He used to utilize their energy and capabilities for the furtherance of the Cause of God. It also looks at the practical ways He educated the Bahá'í men to accept women as their equals. Finally, it discusses the glowing results He achieved in a relatively short time.

Also published in Persian.

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