Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #113 (English)

Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan USA

October 5–8, 2012.

Theme: "Discovering Pearls in the Ocean of His Words"


Child Education and Development: Comparing guidance given by `Abdu'l-Bahá during his North American visit with some academic theories of the time

by Saba Ayman-Nolley

This presentation will systematically examine the guidance and advice that `Abdu’l-Bahá gave to various audiences throughout his talks during His North America travels in 1912. The structure and content of these passages will be analyzed and consolidated to clarify the cohesive approach that `Abdu’l-Bahá offered parents and those working with children. The roles and tasks of the various components of human society in this approach will be examined as well as variations He may have suggested across child developmental lines such as varying approaches to infants, children, or adolescents. In addition there will be a preliminary comparison of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s ideas on education and child development with early 20th century theories of human development and educational psychology.

Collective Security in the Talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá

by Sovaida Ma'ani

The principle of collective security as adumbrated by Bahá'u'lláh and elaborated upon by `Abdu'l-Bahá is a prerequisite for a lasting peace of the kind that has hitherto eluded humanity. Its application requires that the international community take a range of steps, including the gradual creation of an international standing force, agreement on the amount of arms that each nation may hold coupled with a binding agreement that breach of the peace by any one nation will result in collective action by all the others in accordance with pre-determined rules and procedures. In addition there must be a firm agreement on what to do about the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Last, but not least, an effective international court with compulsory jurisdiction and binding judgment must be firmly established. This presentation offers concrete recommendations for the application of these broad principles in a manner that is actionable and politically palatable in today's world.
Click here to read this paper online.

Concept of Self-Knowledge in Bahá'í Writings: An exploration to discover self in light of current psychological findings

by Habib Riazati

The main objectives of this presentation are the discussions of the significance, meaning, application and the implications of the concept of gaining a true knowledge/insight about one's own self and how it impacts intra/inter personal relationships between an individual and his/her own self, with his/her God and with other human beings.

In particular the following themes shall be explored:

  1. The various meanings of the tradition "One who knows himself shall become able to recognize his/her Lord", in light of the Writings of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith.
  2. The differential meaning of the terms NAFS ( Soul, Self), RAB( God), and IRFAN ( Recognition)
  3. The Relationships between Self Knowledge/ recognition and the doctrine/concept of Worship and Service
  4. The application and implication of self-knowledge as it relates to one's differentiation/ individuation and creating/maintaining a holistic sense of self characterized by a healthy and positive self-concept (self-respect and self-confidence)
  5. the impacts of true self-knowledge on creating or having a healthy, meaningful, humanistic and spiritual interpersonal relationships.

Correlation of Concept of Spirit with Mathematics, Psycholinguistics, and Science

by Kamran Sedig

David Bohm, one of the most influential scientists and philosophers of the 20th century, believed that the widespread crisis that humanity is experiencing, be it in the scientific, social, psychological, or political spheres of life, is due to how humans view the world — through a fragmented lens. In his view, existence is an `undivided whole.' In this presentation, we will explore the fundamental patterns that can be abstracted from the material world. We will then borrow some ideas from mathematics and psycholinguistics to examine if the concept of spirit is a defragmenting lens that allows us to view the world in a holistic, unified fashion.

Eyewitness Account of the Massacre of Bahá'ís in Nayriz on Naw-Ruz 1909

by Baharieh Rouhani Ma'ani

At the turn of the twentieth century the people of Iran, tired of despotic regimes and the inordinate influence of the clergy, demanded changes in the way the country was governed. Their struggles for democratic reform bore fruit when Muzaffiri'd-Din Shah Qajar signed the decree in 1906 for the establishment of parliament and for constitutional monarchy to replace absolute rule by the sovereign. He died shortly after signing the decree. His successor, Muhammad-`Ali Shah dissolved the parliament and tried to reestablish dictatorship. Iranians arose again, dethroned him, and brought to power his underage son, Ahmad Shah. The incessant fighting between the proponents of democracy and their opponents, the entanglement of the government in disputes that ensued, and the rule of self-seeking and inexperienced kings weakened the central government and gave rise to lawlessness. The situation was particularly dire in places further away from the capital, where rebels exploited existing tribal rivalries, unfurled the banner of rebellion against the government, plundered properties, established themselves in the name of Islam, and used their triumph as license to declare holy war on defenseless Bahá'ís. The worst affected area was Nayriz and its surroundings.

Mirza Muhammad-Shafi Rouhani, author of the history of the Bábí-Bah'a'í Faith in Nayriz, titled Lama`atu'l-Anvar, Depicting the Soul-Stirring Episodes of Nayriz, was twelve years old when the Bahá'ís of Nayriz were engulfed in a raging battle between the supporters of Shaykh Dhakariyya and forces of the local government, which suffered defeat and left the Bahá'ís of Nayriz at the mercy of the rebels. Many Bahá'ís left their homes and took refuge in hiding places outside the town. The victors offered monetary reward to anyone who killed a Bahá'í male ten years and older and produced his head as evidence. The reward was three times higher when a male Bahá'í was arrested and delivered alive. Women and children, including boys under ten, were granted amnesty. Mirza Muhammad-Shafi's father was then in the Holy Land on pilgrimage. As he was unable to keep pace with the men who were fleeing on foot for a place of safety many miles away, his mother dressed him as a girl and together with the women of the family left their hiding place and returned to town. He has left a vivid description of what transpired before, during and immediately after Shaykh Dhkariyya's rebellion, which culminated in the martyrdom of nineteen Bahá'ís on Naw-Ruz 1909, the day that witnessed one of `Abdu'l-Bahá's most remarkable achievements of His ministry, the interment of the remains of the Báb in the Mausoleum He had built on Mount Carmel in Haifa for the purpose. That description and some related matters form the contents of this paper.

Click here to read this paper online.

Historical Background of Bahá'u'lláh's Súratu'n-Nush (Exhortation)

by Husein Ahdieh

In 1850, Nayriz was a sleepy farm town in the Fars province of Iran. Most people tended their farms by day and mingled with family and friends at night under the dim light of kerosene lamps. Life for the inhabitants of Nayriz was peaceful—but it was a stifling peace without any hope, where the future was merely a continuation of the past. On May 27, 1850, Vahíd, a scholarly representative of the Báb, proclaimed the new Prophet's stirring message from the pulpit of a mosque. And Nayriz would never be the same. The sleepy town had been jolted into the painful throes of awakening.

The presentation covers the tumultuous birth of the Bábí movement in Nayriz and its later evolution into that city's Bahá'í community. In details it will recount the heroic struggles of the Bábís in 1850 and 1853 against the overwhelming forces of Iran's despotic monarchy and the horrific treatment of the survivors, including elderly, women and children. We will cover in depth the story of Vahíd as a spiritual as well as practical leader and as the harbinger of a new way of life to the people of Nayriz. I will also provide a detailed account of the less-known but dramatic upheaval of 1909.

If Vahíd was to the Nayriz night sky of the middle of the 19th century the brightest star, then Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdi must have been the next brightest star in terms of his intelligence, devotion to the Báb and his suffering in the path of God. Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdi embraced the claim of the Báb soon after Vahíd arrived in Nayriz and, according to Dawn-Breakers, became the most trusted companion of Vahíd. He was venerated by everybody, including the Governor of Nayriz and his mother. He taught the Bábí Faith throughout Nayriz. His devotion to the Báb, his unprecedented popularity and his influence angered the Governor who was resolved to punish him as an example for others. When Vahíd decided to move to Fort Khajih, he requested Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdi to stay behind to continue his teaching and counseling efforts. After the first Upheaval, which began on May 27,1850 ,Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdi, Hají Muhammad Taqí another prominent Bábí, and some others were arrested and sent to a dim dungeon in chains. For a period of 9 months the prisoners were tormented and tortured. During the ensuing famine, the Governor's agents would have Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdi to stand in the front of food distribution line and had people spit on his face before being served. He was whipped by guards in front of the houses of affluent people while his family was witnessing the torture until somebody in the house would give the guards a few coins. Finally the sympathetic wife of the Governor succeeded in a secret plot to make the prisoners escape Nayriz. Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdi then travelled to Baghdad where he met Bahá'u'lláh, lived in Harat and then Yazd where he died.

He was honored to have received a lengthy Tablet, "Súriy-i-NúSh" as a series of answers to his questions from Bahá'u'lláh. Mr. Afaf Stevens will examine the style, the content and the context of the Súratul-NúSh. He also will study the intent of its Author, Báha'u'lláh, as He addresses one of His prominent believers and survivor of the Nayriz Massacare, Seyyed Ja'far Yazdi

The presentation is in the audio-visual form which includes numerous tablets, historical pictures, maps etc. to enhance the appreciation of the history of the town.

(One of Seyyed Ja'far's children, Fatimih Begum, is the great grandmother of my wife Tahirih Misaghi. Adib Taherzadeh, former member of UHJ is another descendant of him.)


Kitáb-i-Iqán, From Bábí to Bahá'í Dispensation

by Faris Badii

Even though the "Persian Bayán" is the mother-book of the Bábí Dispensation, the Báb left it incomplete. The Báb prophesied that "Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest" will complete it. The revelation of the Kitáb-i-Iqán fulfilled this prophecy. In this presentation various features of the style of the revelation of the Persian Bayán and the style of the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Iqán are considered. We will show how this "priceless treasure" acted as a bridge arcing the gap between these two Dispensations. Further, the significance of the Kitáb-i-Iqán within the ranks of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as some if its intrinsic features, will be discussed. The statement of the Guardian that this magnificent book "occupies a position unequalled by any work in the entire range of Bahá'í literature, except the Kitáb-i-Aqdas" will be discussed.

Review of the style, the content and the context of Bahá'u'lláh's Súratu'n-Nush (Exhortation), A

by Afaf A. Stevens

In this session we will examine the style, the content and the context of the Súratul-Nus'h. We will study the intent of its Author, Bahá'u'lláh, as He addresses one of His prominent believers and survivor of the Nayriz Massacare Seyyed Jaa'far Yazdi.

In contemplating the style, one cannot help but marvel at the subtleties of the Arabic language and its symbolism and mystical aspects, which Bahá'u'lláh utilized throughout this powerful Tablet. In this Súrah, we shall see that Bahá'u'lláh relies heavily on the use of allusion and implication.

The primal theme underlying this Surah according to its title is admonishment or guidance to mankind to adhere to the counsel of God's Manifestations, and to bow down in adoration to His majesty and grandeur rather than our own vain imaginings or the idols of our own construction. In addition, we shall find several other important themes interwoven within the tapestry of the Súrah in majestic Arabic literal style. On the one hand, these admonitions and other themes pour down like thunder in a powerful warning as to quicken one's innermost being, while on the other, they are expressed as a kind gentle reminder and counsel of a compassionate father lovingly guiding His children perchance they will be guided aright!

Among other themes, Bahá'u'lláh emphasizes the central point of the Divine Unity and how humanity has strayed and transgressed against God Himself in turning away from His Manifestations, and has thus disobeyed the Will of God. Additionally, further emphasis is placed on the theme of attaining the Presence of God, which was confirmed and promised in each religion. Bahá'u'lláh exhorts humanity to eagerly await and anticipate this bounty.

In this Súrah, Bahá'u'lláh gives a brief chronicle of the Prophets of Old, and how those Prophets have suffered unspoken atrocities at the hands of their people. Hence, He sternly warns mankind not to repeat these most abhorrent deeds lest they will end up utterly lost and miserable. Here, Bahá'u'lláh blames the religious leaders as He discusses the role they played in every Dispensation. He declares that it was only through their sanction that the people persecuted the Prophets of God and their followers.

Providing these chronicles of the Prophets of Old, Bahá'u'lláh expounds on the mysteries and allusions of their scriptures, which were the cause of confusion for centuries and had become barriers hindering humanity from recognizing each new Manifestation. Doing this, Bahá'u'lláh has unsealed the Choice Wine of these scriptures and explained the true meanings of their mysteries and metaphors. Although Bahá'u'lláh uses a deeply mystical and exalted writing style, we remain able to reach a true understanding of His work once we contemplate His words with an utterly pure intent.


Shared Leadership and Bahá'ís Community Life

by Roya Ayman

Bahá'í Faith presents a new approach to social structure of the community. Today, God has ordained a major paradigm shift in society where no longer an individual may exercise authority and power over others. Bahá'u'lláh has abrogated the position of professional clergy in the Bahá'í community. Furthermore, for the first time, He has separated the function of assuming individual responsibility from exercising individual authority over others. In essence, with the inception of the Bahá'í dispensation, the divine plan revealed a new concept of shared leadership. In this presentation we will review the phenomenon of shared or distributive leadership in contrast to vertical, hierarchical, or heroic leadership. The conditions that allow for shared leadership to function will be explored. Also we will examine the vision of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdul-Bahá regarding leadership in the Bahá'í community. We will also discuss how the Bahá'í community in its infancy is preparing for this new structure and how the recent messages from the Universal House of Justice guide the Bahá'í community to be poised to implement shared leadership.

This presentation is a preliminary exploration of a new concept in the field of leadership. Additionally, it is a brief overview of the recent developments in the Bahá'í community in preparation for entry by troops through exercising a new concept of community leadership in the form of shared leadership.


Shoghi Effendi's "Diary Letters": An introduction and overview

by Mehrdad Bashiri

The purpose of this presentation is to provide an introduction and overview of a unique collection of 143 diary letters written by Shoghi Effendi from February to November 1919. This collection of diary letters is written in a critical stage of Shoghi Effendi's life when he was serving as 'Abdu'l-Bahá's secretary and interpreter. The contents of these diary letters vividly reflect various aspects of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life in the Holy Land after the end of the first World War (Nov. 1918). The diary letters include numerous translations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's letters along with His talks at the pilgrims gatherings.

Shoghi Effendi by describing the details of his Grandfather's life so masterfully invites the readers to join him in a spiritual journey to the Holy Land. His emotional descriptions of the events in the daily life of the Master confer upon every reader a vivid joyous spiritual pilgrimage.

He intended for his diary letters to be distributed in the West amongst the believers. A copy of this collection is stored at the National Bahá'í Archives of the United States. Except a few that were printed in the Star of the West Magazine in 1919 and 1920, the rest have remained unpublished.


Unity and Universality of Education Recommended in the Talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá

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 play 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 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 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 causes 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 of 1912, emphasize that all the people of the world should receive proper education in order to eliminate misunderstandings and create unity among them. In another talk in Philadelphia on 9 June 1012 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, at 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."


`Abdu'l-Bahá in Chicago

by Arash Zare

This presentation will be a historical account on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to Chicago based on documents, notes and materials published in newspapers and arranged chronologically and thematically. It will focus on the purpose of His visit in various houses of worship, social groups, and private homes. 'Abdu'l-Bahá 's attention to Chicago was unique for several reasons. Chicago, "the heart of America," was the city where the call of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh was first raised. It was in Chicago that the very first Western Bahá'í House of Worship would be built. His message of peace and equality, though not unique to Chicago, resonated with hundreds of Chicagoans who were involved in various civil right movements. The message of the equality of sexes, the cry of oneness of human race, and fundamental unity of all religions, were among subjects that on many occasions 'Abdu'l-Bahá reiterated. During His visit He met with several prominent Americans who were known for their humanitarian and equal rights efforts. This includes Jane Addams, DeBois who have contributed immensely to the American nation. His focus was not limited to racial or social issues; in addition it centered on moral and ecumenical matters which He announced in churches and theosophical organizations. We shall particularly focus on His visit to the site of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, placing its corner stone, and His call to the friends to unite around the common goal of building that "silent teacher."

`Abdu'l-Bahá's First Public Talk in America: Church of Ascension, New York

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 to explore the historical background and circumstances leading to this talk and some of 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.