|Abdu’l-Bahá's Visit to North America: An Illustrated Story |
Presented by Hussain Ahdieh
Unity and Universality of Education: Guidelines Given in the Talks of `Abdu’l-Bahá
Presented by Iraj Ayman
Talks delivered by `Abdu’l-Bahá during his travels in Europe and America include a number of guidelines on various educational subjects. In view of the fact that those talks were essentially aimed at promoting peace and unity and preventing conflict and war in human society, `Abdu’l-Bahá’s utterances concerning education were also related to the ways and means of establishment of permanent peace and universal exercise of justice. He recommended a new and comprehensive vision of education that in many ways were unprecedented and in some instances contrary to the prevailing systems and practices. Both formal and informal education plays major roles in the formation of our thoughts and behavior regarding social and political activities. Therefore, achieving permanent peace and unity in human society requires unity in educational curriculum and universality of access to quality education. At the time that access to education was not available to the majority of people and was dominated by nationalistic tendencies and prejudices, `Abdu’l-Bahá recommended the necessity of observing unity in education provided by the schools around the world and the need for compulsory universal education. He emphasized the priority of moral and spiritual education. Such measures will bring people of the world closer to each other and remove prejudices and self-centered policies that are the root cause of war and conflict.
Research and studies have shown that divisive behavior is acquired and not innate. `Abdu’l-Bahá, in a talk delivered in Montreal on 12 September 1912, emphasizes that all the people of the world should receive proper education in order to eliminate misunderstandings so that they can be united. In another talk in Philadelphia on 9 June 1912 he said: “education is essential, and all standards of training and teaching throughout the world of mankind should be brought into conformity and agreement; a universal curriculum should be established, and the basis of ethics be the same.” On yet another occasion, in His public talk on 7 May 1912 in Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, He said:
“Bahá’u’lláh counsels the education of all members of society. No individual should be denied or deprived of intellectual training, although each should receive according to capacity. None must be left in the grades of ignorance, for ignorance is a defect in the human world... All cannot be scientists and philosophers, but each should be educated according to his needs and deserve training...”
He then continues,
“There must be no difference in the education of male and female in order that womankind may develop equal capacity and importance with man in the social and economic equation. Then the world will attain unity and harmony. In past ages humanity has been defective and inefficient because it has been incomplete. War and its ravages have blighted the world; the education of woman will be a mighty step toward its abolition and ending, for she will use her whole influence against war. Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity. She will refuse to give her sons for sacrifice upon the field of battle. In truth, she will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration. Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind. Inasmuch as human society consists of two parts, the male and female, each the complement of the other, the happiness and stability of humanity cannot be assured unless both are perfected. Therefore, the standard and status of man and woman must become equalized.”
Life Lessons from `Abdu'l-Bahá: Vision of a Bahá'í Community
Presented by Faris Badii
This presentation is based on a compilation of short "one liners" extracted by the presenter from the talks and Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá on how He wanted us and our youth and children to conduct our personal and social lives. These one liners are like isolated letters of alphabet that when they are put together in proper order, make words and sentences and present a prescription for Bahá’í way of life. It is both entertaining and educational.
`Abdu'l-Bahá's First Public Talk in America: Church of Ascension, New York
Presented by Faris Badii
This is one of the first talks delivered by `Abdu’l-Bahá during the first few days after His arrival in New York and the beginning of his travels in North America. This talk is also the first talk that he delivered in a church and to a congregation of Christian audience. This presentation is an attempt for exploring the historical background and circumstances leading to this talk and some the interactions that followed. This talk contains most of the elements of the main message that `Abdu’l-Bahá brought to the West. It starts with describing the message of Jesus Christ and gradually evolves into a presentation of the message of Bahá’u’lláh for present day society and its creative influence.
Women's poetry in early Qajar Iran: Some context to Táhirih's poetry
Presented by Dominic Parviz Brookshaw
In this paper I seek to answer the following questions:
Although the primary texts studied here (anthologies, divans and court-sponsored histories) emphasise the role played by individual women poets, I seek to detect patterns within royal and urban elite women’s circles, as well as echoes of dominant literary movements and the broader, contemporary, male-dominated literary context of early nineteenth-century Iran. Close reading of literary and historical source material from the early nineteenth century helps us to challenge the widely-held assumption that women did not contribute to the literary reforms of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Iran. Work on the earliest women poets of Qajar Iran enables us to imagine a literary background and context for the Babi orator and poet, Tahira Qurrat al-‘Ayn (d.1852).
- What contribution did women make circa 1800-1830 to the production of poetry in Iran?
- To what extent did women act as patrons for female and male poets in this period?
- What training did women receive in the poetic arts?
- How was their poetry disseminated?
- To what extent was nineteenth-century women’s poetry in Iran viewed as part of a longer history of women’s writing?
- To what extent did the most accomplished women poets of the period stand on a par with the leading male poets of the day?
The Dao of Bahá: Laozi and the Bahá'í Faith
Presented by Roland Faber
Not only advises Baha’u’llah the people of Baha to converse with adherents of all religions in the spirit of understanding and love, but he invokes the oneness of God, humanity, and creation as inherent reasons: all religions emanate from one source as all human beings are created from the same dust and reflect, as all of nature, the infinity of divine attributes. Such a universal revelation not only motivates to an interreligious dialogue within the confines of mutual otherness, but virtually necessitates a deeper conversation on a mutually inherent recognition of the hidden and in manifold ways manifest Reality in the mirror of these different religions.
While Baha'i Scripture recognizes many of the great religious traditions, the Chinese religions, although the basis of one of the most ancient and powerful human efforts to built a peaceful and universal civilization, is barely mentioned. This is especially true for Daoism which, although it is an important contemporary world religion, remains virtually outside the articulated horizon of Baha'i awareness. Since the twofold symbol of the Daoist Scripture, the Dao De Jing, and its divine harbinger, Laozi, seem not fit into the Baha'i understanding of revelation and the succession of divine manifestations, the question arises, how to approach this great religious tradition in conversation with, and within the self-understanding of, the Baha'i Faith. The following thoughts are the preliminary attempt to gain a sensibility for the importance of such a quest from the perspective of the mission of the Baha'i Faith to facilitate the universal mutual understanding of religions and to reflect their unique contributions to oneness within its own arc.
Understanding Reality: Bahá'u'lláh’s “Four States” of Man, Seen as Tetrarchic Structure - A New Concept of Philosophy and Theology
Presented by Wolfgang Klebel
This presentation tries to follow ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement that we have to follow Bahá’u’lláh’s new principles and forget the old patterns of thought in order to find the peace of the heavenly kingdom, not only in the world, but primarily and foremost in our hearts:
“Now the new age is here and creation is reborn. Humanity hath taken on new life. ... The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age.
Bahá'u'lláh's Writings have frequent references to four-fold relationships such as "Firstness and Lastness – Inwardness and outwardness" (SVFV 27); "Motion and Stillness – Will and Purpose" (GWB 164) and several others in the Writings. This presentation will show how these fourfold principles, we call "tetrarchies," are a new way of thinking about humankind and the entire universe. It is significant that all these statements originated during the Baghdad and Edirne period of Bahá'u'lláh’s translated Writings, which means that they are to be understood in a mystical context.
Unless these Teachings are effectively spread among the people, until the old ways, the old concepts, are gone and forgotten, this world of being will find no peace, nor will it reflect the perfections of the Heavenly Kingdom.” (SWA 253).
The word “Tetrarchy” is not mentioned, as such, in any enumeration of Bahá'u'lláh’s principles, yet, it is this writer’s opinion that this idea presents a new way of thinking. This concept describes a new pattern of thought, a new basic hermeneutical and ontological principle permeating the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.
The new idea presented in this paper is the tetrarchic understanding of reality, which this writer has developed and presented in all of his previous Irfan and ABS presentations beginning with the paper on “True of Thyself”, (Lights of Irfan, Book Six, 2005) mentioning the four states of man from the Seven Valleys (page 27). To describe these four states with the word tetrarchy has been introduced two years ago and used in the paper “The Essence of Man”, which is now in print, in the last copy of Lights of Irfan. Since then, the study of the Writings has resulted in new insights and new philosophic sources have been found to further develop the concept of tetrarchy. Besides Wilber’s (born 1949) Quadrants, Romano Guardini’s (1885 – 1968) “Gegensatz” (translated as Polarity or Oppositeness) and its development in the Integral Philosophy of Augustinus Wucherer (born 1929) has given a newer and deeper understanding of the tetrarchic structure of reality; promoting a new understanding of concrete reality, in contrast to the understanding of reality in abstract concepts.
These two ways of understanding, abstract and personal, are similar to Ferdinand Ebner’s (1882 – 1931) distinction between Personal and Substantial Understanding, as presented in the paper “The Word is the Master Key of the Whole World” (Lights of Irfan Book Eight, 2007).
Another rather new aspect of this understanding is the epistemological question of how we understand, which was presented by Romano Guardini in three different ways of understanding: the rational (Logical, Abstract), the trans-rational (Personal, called Intuition) and the super-rational understanding (called Vision or “Anschauung”). These three ways of understanding surprisingly correspond with Bahá'u'lláh’s three differing planes of understanding the wayfarer moves in the Seven Valleys (page 20):
“Thus, for that they move on these three differing planes, the understanding and the words of the wayfarers have differed; and hence the sign of conflict doth continually appear on earth. For some there are who dwell upon the plane of oneness and speak of that world, and some inhabit the realms of limitation, and some the grades of self, while others are completely veiled.” (SVFV 20)
Here the rational abstract understanding is referred to under the term limitation, the intuitive way of understanding is referred to under the terms of grades of self and the vision is described as the plane of oneness, while Bahá'u'lláh adds the ones who are completely veiled, calling them ignorant. Bahá'u'lláh further indicates that this differences of understanding create the conflicts of this world; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has interpreted this idea, stating that accepting Bahá'u'lláh’s principles will bring peace to the world.
It is postulated by this writer, that these developments of philosophy and new thinking are based on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, in spite of the fact that all the thinkers, quoted here, had no knowledge of the Bahá’í Faith. As presented before (Lawh-i-Hikmat, Lights of Irfan Book Seven, 2006), Bahá’í theology is understood as being progressive, always starting with the Writings, but finding in the Writings new patterns of thought and ways of thinking, which often enough have been found as well by other thinkers, who do not necessarily know of the Bahá’í Faith.
This idea was recently expressed by the Universal House of Justice (in One Common Faith 2005, p. iii):
“Bahá’ís will come to increasingly appreciate that the Cause they serve represents the arrowhead of an awakening taking place among people everywhere, regardless of religious background and indeed among many with no religious leaning.”
Concluding, it has to be indicated that this presentation is the outline of the forthcoming book of this writer, to appear hopefully in the year 2013 under the same title: “Understanding Reality.”
Ethics Based on Science Alone?
Presented by Ian Kluge
In 2010, Sam Harris published The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values in order to demonstrate that values, ethics, morality do not require more than an empirical basis. There is no need for any appeal to a transcendental God, prophets or holy books in order to establish a viable system of personal and social ethics. Moreover, by using the sciences – particularly physiology and neurosciences – as a basis for ethics, we would be able to develop a universal morality true for all humans by virtue of our common nature, and certain by virtue of its empirical foundations.
My paper examines the tenability of basing ethics on science alone. We shall give a short introduction to the history of such efforts staring with Kant’s “Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone” then proceed to analyze some of Harris’s specific claims. For example, he tries – unsuccessfully – to bridge the gap between facts and values, i.e. the famous ‘is/ought’ problem. I show how this problem does not exist in theistic systems. I also show how the use of brain scans cannot be a guide for ethics nor for the measurement of ‘well-being.’ For Harris, ‘well-being’ is the basis of ethics. Finally, this paper shows that Harris does not solve the twin questions of legitimacy and authority in ethics.
Reason and the Bahá’í Writings
Presented by Ian Kluge [click here to read this paper online]
Unlike the scriptures of other religions, the Baha’i Writings have a great deal to say about the importance of reason. Indeed, they tell us that “in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 7) and that “If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 143). Furthermore, the Writings also exemplify the use of reason in explaining the teachings. The Writings are not, however, an example of strict rationalism but of moderate rationalism in which reason is necessary but not sufficient to attain transrational knowledge and certainty.
This paper explores what the Writings say about reason, its proper uses and limitations. It also strives to resolve an apparent contradiction in what the Writings assert about reason. The investigation begins by considering Shoghi Effendi’s reference to a “rational God” (The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 112) and the teachings on the “rational soul.” It shows that the Writings are consistent with standard or classical logic and its extensions, including a form of dialectics as well as the principle of sufficient reason. In addition, this paper discusses some controversies surrounding the topic of reason in the Writings, among them cultural differences and logic and the resulting ‘cultural politics.’
Ridwan Renewed: The Semitic-Abrahamic religions and Babi-Baha’i concepts of Ridvan
Presented by Stephen Lambden
“And a Ridwan from God is supremely great” (Qur’an 9:72b)
Meaning, among other things, contentment, pleasure, goodwill, delight, beatitude or (loosely) “Paradise”, the ancient Semitic lexeme (word) from which the Arabic-Persian word Ridwan (or Ridvan) is derived is very old. It has several millennia of linguistic development. It is a word which has a complex and rich history of definitions and meanings going back several thousand years BCE. The term Ridwan or equivalent words go back well before the times of Muhammad, Jesus and Moses. A cognate or equivalent word can be found, for example, in the following Semitic languages: Ugaritic, Akkadian, Hebrew, and Aramaic or Syriac. In the Hebrew Bible the word רָצוֹן raṣon ( = Arabic Ridwan) occurs no less than fifty-six times.
“O people of the earth! … God promised both the male and female believers among the people of the covenant (ahl al-`ahd) what pertains to the [messianic] Dhikr (Remembrance) the most transcendent Paradises (al-jannat al-`aliyya) and blessed dwelling places (masakin tayyibat) in the Greatest Ridwan of God for such is indeed the Greatest Attainment (al-fawz al-akbar) in the Book of God (the Bab, from Surat al-Qist (I), `The Surah of the Balance’, Qayyum al-asma’ LXX ; cf. Q. 9:72).
In the first biblical book of Genesis, in the blessing of Moses upon Joseph it is written, for example, “And the רָצוֹן (= “favor” = reson) of Him [the Deity] who dwelt in the bush (shokeni seneh)… [cf. Sinai] Let it come to the head of Joseph” (Gen. 33:15f). It will be seen that this text could be given some well-grounded theological senses meaningful to Baha’is living in the “latter days” and following the religion of the new Joseph (see further Isaiah 49:8; 61:2 cf. Luke 4:19).
The Arabic Ridwan is derived from the trilateral root r-d-w/y. Eleven Arabic forms of this root occur seventy-three times in the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book communicated by the Prophet Muhammad just over two decades prior to his passing in 632 CE. The masculine noun Ridwan itself is found thirteen times in seven Surahs of the Qur’an (Q. 3:15 ,162, 174 ; 5:2, 16; 9:21, 73 109 ; 47:28 ; 48:29; 57: 20, 27; 59:8). In the Qur’an the phrase ridwan min Allah (Ridwan from God”; see the image above) is closely associated with images of Paradise; gardens, running streams and unchanging immortal life with celestial houri (maiden) type companions. The Islamic ridwan from God is linked with the glories of the life to come and the attendant blessings of the eschatological age. It is accorded the righteous who “follow the straight Path”.
In this presentation a few examples of the interpretation of Ridwan in the Qur’an commentaries or Tafsir and related literatures will be noted. It will be seen, for example, that Ridwan was thought in many Islamic sources to be the name of an exalted Archangel who is the Guardian of the Gateway to the Paradise of the next world. See the image above picturing Muhammad with Gabriel encountering Ridwan in the course of the Night Journey or Mi`raj (Ascent to heaven) as found in a 14th cent. CE illustrated manuscript of the Miraj-Nama (“Narrative of Heavenly Ascent”) kept in the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul. Ridwan and other angelic figures have key roles in certain of the evolving complex of the Islamic Mi`raj (heavenly “Ascent”) traditions.
In the massive corpus of Arabic and Persian writings of the Bab (= “the Gate”; 1819-1850 CE), Ridwan terminology and concepts are quite common. Within his first major work, the Tafsir Surat Yusuf or Qayyum al-asma’ (mid. 1844), we find thirteen phrases, sentences, or paragraphs containing the word ridwan, often in deep esoteric contexts. Here is another example (see also above) from the last chapter in the book, the Surat al-Mu’minin (The Surah of the Believers) (= Surah, CXI or 111)
O thou believers! … We established among you and among the blessed villages pure companions nigh this Bab that they should summon the people unto the Greatest Religion of God (din Allah al-akbar). They did not fear anything aside from God. These indeed were the companions of Ridwan as is recorded [written] in the Mother Book (umm al-kitab).”
Among the little known and unstudied writings of the Bab is his fairly brief Arabic Surat al-Ridwan (The Surah of Ridwan) which is a kind of meditation on a few Qur’anic verses about the promise of Ridwan including, Q. 48:29 “The devout who seek the Grace from God (fadlan min Allah) and ridwanan . In this work the refrain, “So Blessed be the Name of thy Lord! No God is there except Him. Never indeed have eyes ever visioned their like!” is found about fifteen times. Aspects of this fascinating work will be presented.
To date the ridwan concept has not been analyzed in any detail as it occurs in Babi-Baha’i sacred literatures. The numerous alwah or Tablets of Baha’u’llah which have for various reasons come to be entitled Lawh-i Ridvan or something similar, have not been collected together, dated, compared and analyzed. This paper will attempt to survey a few aspects of these matters within Baha’i sacred literatures.
Shi`i and Babi-Baha’i Imamology: Some introductory Notes on the Twelver Imams and traditions attributed to them in Shi`i and Babi-Baha’i scriptural sources
Presented by Stephen Lambden
The names Muhammad, Imam `Ali, and Fatima
More or less from its origins in the decades after the passing of the Arabian Prophet Muhammad (c. 570-11/632) in 632 CE., the Muslim world came to be divided into Imami Shi`i and related factions and what became the mainstream Sunni (loosely, “traditionalist”), community, now the majority Muslim world. The label Shi`i means `partisan’ implying persons giving allegiance to `the party’ (al-Shi`a) looking to the person of Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib who was assassinated at al-Kūfa roughly thirty years after the death of the Prophet in 40/661 by a certain Ibn Muljam. Imam `Ali was the first successor to the Prophet who founded the Islamic religion. Muhammad is widely believed to have indicated this on the 18th of Dhū’l-Hijja (= 16th March 632 CE) after his `Farewell Pilgrimage’ at an oasis named Ghadir Khumm ("Pond [Creek] of Khumm”) which lies between Mecca and Medina.
`Ali was married to Fatima, entitled al-Zahra, `the Radiant One’ (b. 20th Jamadi al-Thani 615 CE – d. 3rd Jamadi al-Thani 11/632), the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Imam `Ali was thus Muhammad’s son-in-law and one reckoned by some authorities as the first Muslim believer. Other subsequent Imams were descended from him are reckoned to be twelve in number by the Ithna’ `Ashari (Twelver) Shi`i Muslims of Iran, the Middle East and elsewhere. They were all descended from the offspring or progeny of this first couple `Ali and Fatima, the new Adam and Eve of the Islamic community.
The Imami Shi`i world of Islam thus recognizes as successors to the Prophet Muhammad, a succession of authority figures or religio-politcal leaders called Imams (lit. `leaders’ `authorities’). These all male individuals are viewed extremely highly by the Shi`a (= Shi`ites) or adherents of Shi`ism (tashayyu`). They see them as the true fountainheads of Islamic religious guidance and as immaculate and infallible sources of knowledge.
The twelver Shi`ites believe that there have been eleven Imams after `Ali ibn Abi Talib (c. 13th of Rajab 600 - d. 40/661), totaling the `perfect number’ twelve. `Ali and Fatima had two sons and two daughters. The two daughters were named Umm Kulthum and Zaynab, their two sons being the second Imam Hasan ibn `Ali (3/624-5 - d. Medina, 49/669-70) and the third, the martyred Imam Husayn ibn Ali (4/626-d. Karbala, 61/680). Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, is viewed by many as the most important martyr in Shi`ite and world history. His shine in Karbala is frequently visited each year especially around the time of the annual commemoration of his martyrdom on the 10th of `Ashūra during the first Islamic month of Muharram. His severed head came to be buried in the mosque of Sayyidna al-Husayn in Cairo.
The fourth Imam was Abū Muhammad `Ali ibn al-Husayn or `Ali Zayn al-Abidin (36/658- d. Medina, c. 95/713) to whom (among other things) is attributed a devotional work entitled al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya (The Treatise accompanying Prostration). His successor and the grandson of the third Imam was the fifth Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (57/676- d. c.126/743) to whom are attributed important doctrial traditions.
The sixth Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (80-669-70- c. 148/765) was born and died in Medina and transmitted a great wealth of knowledge relating to Qur’an Commentary (tafsir), the heritage of Islamic legalistic and other traditions (pl. akhabar / ahadith), as well as aspects of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and various of the sciences and esoteric branches of learning including jafr, (gematric divination) kimiya (alchemy) and `ilm al-hurūf (`the science of letters’). The origins or roots of the emergent Shi`ite Islamic religious phenomenon have been closely linked to his polymathic erudition and guidance. Shi`ism is thus sometimes referred to as the `Ja`fari religion or faction’.
Ja`far al-Sadiq’s younger son Imam Mūsa al-Kaẓim (c.128/745-183/799) succeeded him as the seventh Imam according to the Twelver Shi`a. His eldest son Muhammad ibn Isma’il (d. 145/762) was instead viewed as the legitimate Imam and successor according to those Shi`i Muslims who came to be known as the Isma’ilis (`followers of Isma’il) or `Seveners’. Today a mainstream branch of this Shi`ite group look to their leader and head the Aqa Khan (“Chief Commander”), today Prince Karim Aqa Khan IV, the 49th Isma’ili Imam, the supreme Isma’ili leader offering spiritual and temporal guidance.
According to the orthodox `Twelvers’, the eighth Imam was Abū’l-Hasan `Ali ibn Mūsa, known as Imam `Ali al-Rida’ (“the Content”, “Satisfying”) (b. Medina c. 148/765- d. near Tūs, 203/818). He is buried in Mashhad, Iran. His successor the ninth Imam, is named Muhammad al-Taqi (“the Pious”) (b. Medina, 195/810- d. Baghdad 220/835) who succeeded his father when seven years old. He married a daughter of the seventh Abbasid Caliph al-Ma`mūn (d. 218/833), the founder of the Bayt al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”) in Baghdad.
The tenth Imam was named Abū’l-Hasan `Ali ibn Muhammad (b. Medina c. 212/827-d.254/868) and known as `Ali al-Hadi or al-Naqi (“The Pure One”). For a twenty-year period he was placed under house arrest in Samarra (Iraq) where he died. In Shi`i-Shaykhi and Babi-Baha’i circles he is especially famous for transmitting a visitation text known as al-Ziyara al-jami`a al-kabira (`The Greater Comprehensive Visitation Supplication’) on which Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i (d. 1241/1826) - for Baha’is an important precursor of the Bab - wrote a very detailed 1,500 or so page commentary.
His son the eleventh Imam was named Hasan al-Askari (b. Medina, 130/844-d. Samarra 260/874) because he was confined to an army camp (`Askar) again in Samarra where he died aged about thirty. An important Tafsir work or Arabic Qur’an Commentary is ascribed to him which has been printed several times since the 19th century. Legend has it that this eleventh Imam married a Greek princess descended from Simon Peter named Narqis (Gk. Narcissus) or Saqil from whom their alleged son the twelfth, messianic, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, was born on the 15th of Sha`ban 255 or 869 CE. Still held by the Shi`a to be living in ghaybat (occultation) he is believed to have disappeared when about five year old down well in Samarra around 260/874, one thousand years or so before the declaration of the Bab in 1260/1844.
There exist many thousands of traditions from these eleven or twelve Imams. Hundreds of them are cited and commented upon by the Bāb and Baha’u’llah who also wrote several visitation or Ziyāra devotional texts for key figures among the Imams. In this paper the important status of the Imams in Bābī and Bahā’ī sacred writings will be considered as will select doctrinal amnd other writings attributed to these descendants of Imam `Alī and his wife Fatima.
Role of Principles in the Bahá'í Faith: Principles and Fashion
Presented by Farjam Majd
Are moral laws and values relative or absolute? Is living according to long-established moral values old-fashioned? How did past religions fall into ritualistic imitations? Should we be more conservative or progressive? And more generally, what do we believe in? Why do we believe in it? Should our beliefs change over time?
To explore these questions systematically, a hierarchical or tree-like model of the world is presented including two tree structures each having nodes and links defining multiple levels of organization: a system tree (specific to general) and a type tree (general to specific). Any entity at all, an object, a principle, a process, and the like may be represented as a node at some level in these two tree structures. This hierarchical model holds within itself and clearly manifests many important and inherent relationships between the entities it represents by virtue of the position of those entities on the trees. One of the relationships is simultaneity, which holds that properties at each level of a tree, both system and type, are simultaneously true; a round wall may be made of square bricks without contradiction. Another important relationship is relativity which provides that the more general entities (root in a type tree and leaves in a system tree) are more absolute with fewer alternatives, while the more specific entities are more relative with more alternatives.
With the aid of this model, relativity and simultaneity relationships may be viewed as a formulation of the principle of Unity in Diversity in the Baha'i Faith. Additionally, the age old dichotomy of conservative-progressive is shown not to present a conflict in this model. On the contrary, they are shown to be necessary and gradual paradigm shifts when traversing the hierarchical model from root to leaves. It is also shown that the essence of an idea or root principle may be identified by pruning away the practical or non-essential artifacts of the idea, and that true moral laws and values are not relative, but their applications are. Another important facet of the relativity relationship is prejudices and blind imitations about "how things should be done," which often develop because people misidentify the levels to which those "things" belong in the type tree.
The principles revealed by Baha'u'llah are shown to be general principles at the root of the type tree and while in their application variations exist, in their essence they are unchangeable truths. Thus, it is argued that being principled has nothing to do with being old-fashioned or new-fashioned; or conservative or progressive because principles are timeless. The main conclusion drawn is that Baha'is must be open to alternative implementations of various principles, while at the same time being unshakably steadfast in regards to the foundational principles laid down by Baha'u'llah, and be assured that they are not making any wrong fashion statements by being steadfast.
The Bab’s Sahifah-yi ‘adliyyah in Historical Context
Presented by Sholeh A. Quinn
In 1844, Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi, “the Bab” (1819-1850), put forth the first of several messianic claims that expanded considerably over time: that he was the representative of the Hidden Imam, and later explicitly claiming to be a manifestation of God. One year later, probably in Shiraz during the summer of 1845, he wrote his Sahifah-yi ‘adliyyah, a straightforward Persian text and the first major work that he composed in that language. The Sahifah-yi ‘adliyyah consists of five chapters. In chapter four, the Bab writes emphatically about the need to believe that the Prophet Muhammad’s “night journey” (mi‘raj) was a literal event. The purpose of this paper is to place the Sahifah-yi ‘adliyyah in the context of (1) earlier Shaykhi writings on the subject, such as Sayyid Kazim Rashti’s Dalil al-mutahayyirin, and (2) a later writing of the Bab himself, in order to reach a better understanding of the Bab’s evolving perspectives on the mi‘raj.
Concept of Unity in Bahá’í Writings
Presented by Habib Riazati
The Synopsis of the Shared Concepts and Themes in the Persian Bayán and the Kitáb-i-Iqán
Presented by Habib Riazati
The Persian Bayan is identified as the “mother book” of the dispensation of Bayan by Baha’u’llah, and the Kitab-i-Iqan has been referred to by Shoghi Effendi as “the most important work of Baha’u’llah after the Kitab-i-Aqdas” and the completion of Persian Bayan. One of the main purposes of this paper is to outline some of shared themes and the common concepts in these two major works of the twin Manifestations of Baha'i cycle. While the main concentration will be on the common fundamental verities found in these two books, we shall also refer to the other works of the Bab and Baha’u’llah that these same themes have been discussed in a lesser extent.
Another major objective of this research is to show the mystical unity of the Bab and Baha’u’llah through the study of their doctrinal works. These Books upheld, the belief in the sanctity of the personal but unknowable God, the unity of all of Manifestations and their twin stations, the progressive revelations, the importance of individual investigation of Truth, the causes of denial of the new Manifestation by those who continuously await His Coming, the role of clergies in becoming veils between people and the Truth, The misunderstanding of the concept of Finality of the Manifestations of God, the importance of critical , dialectical thinking and insightful attitude in discovering the truth of every matter, and the interpretation and the meaning of certain terms frequently occurring in the previous Dispensations such as Paradise, Hell, Death, Resurrection, the Return, the Balance, the Hour, the Last Judgment, the Angles, the Grave, and the like.
Exploring and Comparing the Concept of Value: Economic, Social and Spiritual Viewpoints
Presented by Farhad Sabetan
This presentation explores the relationship between economic, social, and spiritual values. The term “value” is freely used in all three domains to connote a concept. Upon reflection, however, “value” appears to imply drastically divergent notions in each context. If so, why is a single word associated with such dramatically incongruent concepts? If not, could there be a common framework that would justify using the terminology to coherently unify a concept within these domains. Various aspects of values are discussed within each discipline as a first step in answering the above questions.
The Organic Function of Prophecy in Baha'i Context: An essay in memoriam of the hundredth anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey to America with excerpts from Some Answered Questions and other religious scriptures
Presented by James B. Thomas
In this, the twelfth year of the twenty first century, the world scene is dauntingly confusing and one may wonder why this is so when we have such abundance of material bounty at our disposal. The Middle East is in turmoil with issues of extreme wealth versus abject poverty, oppression and sectarian violence. Some European countries are on the edge of bankruptcy with the potential to bring the continent to its economic knees that many experts fear would drag the whole world down in a depression of unprecedented proportions. Concurrently, the United States is deadlocked in political polarity that threatens to paralyze governance while global warming continues its inexorable rise. Could man have foreseen the current chaos in the world after fighting so many deadly wars for freedom? Something is evidently out of sync with common expectations.
Yet, in spite of these outward appearing forebodings there are, mysteriously, undercurrents of positive change in the world of humankind. What motivates them? What is needed for them to achieve fruition?
In an effort to address such issues, this paper will emphasize in 4 steps, the validity of prophetic utterance throughout the evolution of civilization as perceived in Bahá’í writings: (1) Examples will be shown of just how vital prophecy is to the growth of faith in successive periods with respect to its impact on society; (2) The functionality and the organic nature of prophecy will be defined; (3) A way will be suggested as to how one may recognize the true meaning of prophecy; (4) How the power, resulting from the interrelationship of prophecy to covenants, provides mankind with options that, if wisely chosen, are capable of assuring a just and fruitful global civilization.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ and the Iranian Constitutional Revolution
Presented by Mina Yazdani
Addressing Ṭihrán in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh predicts that “[e]relong will the state of affairs within thee be changed, and the reins of power fall into the hands of the people.” Elsewhere in His Writings, Queen Victoria is praised for having “entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people,” assuring her that “thereby the foundations of the edifice” of her affairs would be strengthened and “the hearts of all” that are beneath her shadow “whether high or low” would be “tranquillized.” In the same vein, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ openly advocates the formation of a representative parliament in His The Secret of Divine Civilization, becoming perhaps the first Iranian to do so. Yet, once the Iranian constitutional movement began, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ did not sanction the participation of Bahá’ís in the uprising. This presentation will investigate the Tablets and talks of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ that pertain to this period and demonstrate that far from betraying what the enemies of the Faith have called “indifference” or lack of patriotism on the part of Bahá’ís, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ in fact endorsed a different mode of participation based on unity and consultation, rather than conflict and contention, between the state and the people.