Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #62 (English)

Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto Italy

July 8–12, 2005.

American Indian Spirituality and the Baha'i Faith

by Nadema Agard


Bahá'í Faith in the Arabic Speaking Middle East, Part I (1753-1863)

by Ramsey Zeine

Even with this limitation, the paper would be more of a survey rather than an in-depth study. In future, at least two more papers might be prepared covering the periods 1868 -1892, and 1892 -1921.

Beyond the academic aspect, the underlying purpose of such a paper is to provide a historical backbone as a reference for spreading the divine fragrances in Arab lands. The paper will endeavor to see the Faith from a balanced Persian-Arab perspective for the purpose of mitigating the prevailing concept that it is a purely Persian import.

This is a very preliminary synopsis of the framework of the paper:

While the nationality of the Central Figures was Persian, the fact
  • that the first predecessor (Shaykh Ahmad El-Ahsá'í) of the Báb was from an Arab tribe and set out on his mission from Arab land;
  • that the first formal announcement of the Báb was made in Mecca, the heart of Arab land;
  • that one of the first Letters of the Living (Mullá 'Alí Bastámí) directed his first steps to an Arab land
  • that the major declaration of Bahá'u'lláh was in an Arab land;
  • that most of the period of the Ministry of Bahá'u'lláh was in Arab Land;
  • that the sacred remains of all three Central Figures of the Faith were interred in Arab land;
  • that Bahá'u'lláh not only wrote so lovingly to His Arab followers in Baghdad, but pointedly identified Himself with them by calling himself an "Arab Youth";
  • that the bulk of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh are in Arabic;
  • that Bahá'u'lláh stated a clear preference of the Arabic language;
  • that most of the lifetime of `Abdu'l-Bahá was in Arab lands, with considerable interaction with its dignitaries;
These, and many other considerations, all combine to show that from a historical, cultural and Sacred-Text point of view, the identity of the Faith is a fusion of Persian and Arab origins. Bahá'ís of both cultures, indeed of all cultures, need to be appreciative of this reality.
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Baha'u'llah's teachings from the letter of negation (there is no God but God) to the letter of affirmation (He is God)

by John Wiegley

How the letter of negation has affected the emphasis of Baha'i mysticism, resulting in a spiritual culture of interaction with the world rather than seclusion.

Concept of "Process" in the Baha'i Writings

by Vargha Taefi

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Concept of Life in the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá

by Mahshid Yousefian


Contemplating the beauty: Nature and the manifestation of God

by Iscander Micael Tinto

The purpose of this paper is to show how contemplation of Nature, and Beauty is a way of being in touch with the Manifestation of God.

Our society seems to have neglected the idea of beauty as it was originally intended in the past: of course during the time things have evolved and changed. Yet to consider nature and beauty together means to learn to contemplate the signs of God and creation around us.

Of course to contemplate the signs of God means to be in touch with the Manifestation of God, who is the source of all learning.

Meditation and contemplation can help men to get closer to his Creator: the development of the faculty of meditation is indeed a duty of every individual who is searching for the signs of God.

Developing interreligious dialogue in the Bahai community: Further considerations

by S Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir

In this paper, we suggest that the Bahá'í concept of continuity of revelation could form the basis of a deeper interreligious dialogue with other world religions. We attempt to apply it to central differences in the dialogue between Muslims and Christians, and investigate to what extent this is consistent with current academic scholarship. We conclude that an agenda for interreligious dialogue for this century will be a theophanological one-in particular, we focus on the challenge that the prophetic career of the founder of Islam represents for Christians.

Dimensions of Imam Ali's Khutba al-Tutunjiyya (Sermon of the Gulf) and its Shaykhí, Bábí, and Bahá'í Interpretations

by Stephen Lambden

Note: please see Lambden's website for a version of this abstract with proper diacritics and Arabic lettering

The literary form of the Khutba, an Arabic word meaning `Sermon', `Oration', `Homily' or `Discourse', is important within Shi`i Islam. A number of important discourses with titles commencing this word are ascribed to the son-in-law and successor of the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE) named Imam `Alí ibn Abí Tálib (d. 40/661). Among them the complex and highly theological Khutba al-Tutunjiyya (Sermon of the Gulf) which contains many fascinating statements allegedly uttered by first Shi`i Imam between Mecca (Saudi Arabia) and Kufa (in Iraq). They include an adaptation of the Gospel "I am logion" previously uttered by Jesus, "I am the Truth". The roughly ten page `Sermon of the Gulf' opens with the following cosmological statement closely related to various verses of the Qur'án:
Praised be to God Who hath cleft the firmaments asunder (cf. Q 21:30), split up the atmosphere, suspended the margins of the heavens (Q. 69:17), caused the solar luminary [sun] (ziyá') to shine forth, quickened the dead and made the living to die...
It is be demonstrated in this paper that the early Qajar era architects of Shaykhism (al-Shaykhiyya), Shaykh Ahmad ibn Zayn al-Dín al-Ahsá'í (d. 1826) and Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (d. 1843) had a very high opinion of this Sermon. The Báb likewise was much influenced from the earliest period by the Sermon of the Gulf. This is clear from his early Qayyúm al-asmá' (mid. 1844) where certain of his foundational claims are expressed in line with its high imamology. Bahá'u'lláh also regarded this Khutba as divinely revealed and gave tremendous weight to its almost biblical prophetic line, `Anticipate ye the manifestation of he who conversed with Moses (mukallim al-Túr) from the [Sinaitic] Tree on the Mount (Sinai)."

In this paper, these and other prophetological and less known aspects of this weighty discourse will be discussed and commented upon.

Jails and Torture in Qajar Period in Tehran

by Noushin Mohajerin


Justification of the Binding Nature of Bahá'í Ethics, The

by Fiona Missaghian-Moghaddam

Since human beings make conscious decisions, there have been questions such as "What is right and what is wrong thing to do?" or "How should I be?" Ethics are of no use, however, if people do not feel bound to adhere to them. So a different set of questions goes like this: "Why should I do the right thing?" Philosophers and religious thinkers have been trying to answer these questions for thousands of years-in many different ways. In this presentation we will look at the Bahá'í justification of the binding nature of ethics. Based on Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Aqdas we will define reasons that make a Bahá'í "do the right thing".

Letters of Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi 'the Báb' to Muhammad Shah Qajar (Part I)

by Sholeh Quinn

The purpose of this paper is to examine Tablets of the Báb to Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-1848), whose reign covered the earlier years of the Báb's ministry (1844-1850). The Báb addressed at least four epistles to Muhammad Shah, most of which are in Arabic and one of which is largely in Persian and partly translated in Selections from the Writings of the Báb. No fully critical editions of these writings have yet been published, though the texts of most of them are available in manuscript collections.

In his first major composition, the Qayyúm al-asmá' (written mid-1844), there is an address in the opening Surat al-Mulk to this ruler. Here, the Báb invites the monarch to assist him in his cause, and makes comments about kingship in light of the forthcoming appearance of the Qá'im:
"O king of Islam! (Muhammad Shah r.1834-1848) (lit. "King of the Muslims", malik al-muslimun) Aid thou, with the truth, after having aided the Book, Him Who is Our Most Great remembrance, (dhikrina al-akbar) for God hath, in very truth, destined for thee, and for such as circle round thee, on the Day of Judgment [Resurrection], a responsible position in His Path." (SWB: 41)
The letters that the Báb wrote to the king throughout his ministry reflect the changing political situation in which the Báb found himself, as well as his evolving relationship with the Qajar government. This paper will attempt to place the Báb's writings to this monarch in historical context, paying attention to how notions of kingship and its legitimacy in an eschatological age and day of resurrection are articulated. Comparisons with earlier notions of kingship under the Safavids will also be made. The paper will include examples and analyses of the entire range of correspondence that the Báb had with Muhammad Shah in an attempt to understand better the nature of the Báb's correspondence in general, and his correspondence and relationship with the monarchy in particular.

Mysteries within Mysteries: Some Notes on the Teachings of the Báb's Kitáb-i-Panj Sha'n

by Stephen Lambden

Note: please see Lambden's website for a version of this abstract with proper diacritics and Arabic lettering
In the Name of God,the Deity Most Divine (al-a'ilah), the Supreme Deity (al-a'ilah).
I, verily am God, no God is there except Me, [representative of]the Deity Most Divine (al-a'ilah), the Supreme Deity (al-a'ilah).
In the Name of God, the Deity Most Divine (al-a`ilah), the Supreme Deity (al-a`ilah).
For through God is God (bi-Allah Allah), the Deity Most Divine (al-a`ilah), the Supreme Deity (al-a`ilah).
These opening few lines of the Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n ( I-1) of the Báb commence with a very bold "Day of God" basmala ("In the Name of God") formula in which the qur'ánic personal Name of God Alláh seems to occur in the (non-qur'ánic - non-grammatical !) Arabic superlative form a'ilah (loosely) "Deity Most Divine" (cf. a`zam = "Most Great"). It cannot be taken literally as being indicative of a Deity superior to the ultimate Godhead but probably expresses the fact that the Godhead has become transcendentalized in His ultimate Essence beyond any divine claim made by the Báb. Hence the Báb is actually highlighting God's absolute transcendence not claiming anything but distinctly subordinate divinity. This superlative of God is a fitting way for the Báb to refer to God since he is representing the Godhead as being utterly transcendent.

As a Messenger of God representative of the eschatological Presence of God Himself , the liqá'-Alláh or Encounter with God on the Day of God (yawm Alláh), it is fitting that the both associate himself and disassociate himself from the Ultimate Deity. He represents himself only as "God" in a secondary sense and as the Deity through whom the Deity can be known. For both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh all the great Messengers or Manifestations of God can claim "divinity" but can never claim ontological identity with the absolute Essence of the Godhead. The Manifestation of God never becomes God on the level of Essences but only represents Him-It on the level of manifestation.

God's transcendence is thus safeguarded in view of the Báb's claim to (secondary) Divinity in the opening of the Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n. These kinds of deep theological issues inform many parts of the highly theologically meaningful Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n. I have only loosely translated this superlative of Alláh (which actually is a contraction of the femine al-iláh meaning the God) as "Deity Most Divine" and "Supreme Deity" though other renderings might also be equally accurate.

The Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n (= KPS) (The Book of the Five Modes [or Grades]) is a fairly lengthy major work of the Báb largely written largely in Arabic but with some (heavily Arabized) Persian sections making up 1/5th of the work. It is a very rich work existing in a large number of mss. copies dating from the 1850s. Its subject matter is representative of the last phrase of the thought and meditative devotional style of the Báb.

As is well-known, the Báb divided his writings into categories, modes, grades or types (sha`n, pl. shu'án). He often spoke of a five-fold division which, though it sometimes varies a little, often includes:
  1. Áyát = Qur'anic style verses;
  2. Munáját = Devotional pieces, prayers, supplications;
  3. Khu?bah = Sermons, Orations, Homilies or alternatively, Suwar-i `ilmiyya or "surahs expressive of divine knowledge";
  4. Tafásír [sing. Tafsír] "Commentaries") and
  5. Fársí (Persian language revelations).
This pentadic (five-fold) configuration is clear from the Persian Bayán and other writings, especially Persian Bayán III:17; VI:1 and IX:2. It is on account of this five-fold division of the Báb's writings that the Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n gets its name. Panj means "five" and sha`n (pl. shu`ún) means "mode", "category", "grade", etc. The KPS and related works and compilations are sometimes also referred to by the slightly abbreviated Persian equivalent Shu'ún-i khamsa ( = "Five Modes").

The Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n is a work that the Báb began writing at a very auspicious time, at the beginning of the Bábí year seven, which falls in the spring of the year 1850 CE. More precisely he commenced this work on the 1st of Bahá' of the Badí` or Bábí (-Bahá'í) year 7 (= 1850 ) which (in the Christian Gregorian calendar ) corresponds to the 19th of March 1850 CE (= in the Islamic calendar to the 5th of Jumáda I in the year 1266 AH). From this date onwards the Báb wrote five Arabic-Persian grades daily in the name of specific leading Bábí disciples (to whom specific groups were sent out) until 21st Jumada I (1266), about 4 months before the martyrdom of the Báb in Tabriz (NW Iran) on July 9th 1850. In communicating these daily revelations for 17 days the result was 17x5 or 85 grades constituting a lengthy book of over 500 pages. The Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n was thus fairly speedily completed on the 4th of April 1850 or 21 Jumádá 1st 1266 AH, about 4 months before the martyrdom of the Báb in Tabriz (NW Iran) on July 9th 1850.

Though many unpublished, often incomplete, mss. of the Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n are known to exist, no compete critical edition has to date been produced. Important mss. have not yet been collected together and compared with one another in order to obtain a reliable or critical edition. The Azalí Bábí semi-critical printed edition dating to the 1960s is not complete according to the Báb's own mss. description of his planned 'Book of the Five Grades'. It contains twelve five-fold sections constituting (5 x12 = ) sixty divisions and thus lacks twenty-five grades or modes (5X5). Between a quarter and a third of the KPS is thus absent from the printed edition.

The Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n fast became a much beloved compendium of deep devotional, Dhikr-type revelations. It is full of richly meditative and rhythmic paragraphs as well as highly evocate theological materials. It is meant to be chanted and heard as well as intellectually experienced, being both meditative and rhapsodic as well as intellectually challenging for the Muslim reader and other reader. The KPS includes many theologically challenging paragraphs as well as bewilderingly complex mystical details. It is also messianic containing a large number of references to the Bábí messiah man yu?hir-uhu Alláh (Him whom God shall make manifest").

Each of the seventeen major five-fold sections of the KPS appears to be most centrally related to a particular disciple of the Báb who had a leading position in his religion in the period immediately prior to his martyrdom. The Names of God focused upon in the five-fold sections most closely relate to a given Bábí leader usually in the light of the abjad numerical value of the given name. It is not currently known with any certainty which specific Bábí disciples are alluded or addressed in each of the 17 divisions of the KPS. The identity of only a proportion of these leading Bábís as alluded to in the KPS (often with some uncertainty) is known: exactly who certain of them are is not as yet known or disputed. The following are among the individuals addressed in the KPS: Mírzá ?usayn `Alí Núrí Bahá'u'lláh (or Fá?ima Baraghání = ?áhirah) through the Name of God Bahá' (= "Glory-Beauty"); Sayyid Assad (=65) Alláh Khí'í through the Name of God Dayyán (= "Judge" = abjad 65) and Shaykh `Alí Turshízí (=`A?ím).

The Kitab-i Panj Sha`n very strongly underlines in several paragraphs the fact that religion will ever be renewed. It is today a central Bábí Bahá'í teaching that future divine messengers (rusul) or mazhar-i iláhí (divine manifestations) will, for many thousands of years, found and progressively renew the eternal religion of God (= `Islam'). The Báb's claim to be the Shí` í messiah did not prevent or inhibit his also predicting numerous future messianic advents using the terminology derived from Sufísm by referring to man yuzhiruhu Alláh = `Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The endless advent of this figure seems to be indicated in the following passage from the Kitáb-i Panj Sha'n :
.. And after the Bayán it is [the manifestation of] man yuzhiru hu Alláh (He whom God will make manifest) [1]. And after man yu?hiru hu Allah [1] man yuzhiruhu Alláh [2]. And after man yuzhiru hu Alláh [2] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [3]. And after man yuzhiru huAlláh, [3] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [4]. And after man yuzhiru hu Alláh [4] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [5]. And after man yuzhiru hu Alláh [ 5] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [6]. And after man yuzhiru hu Alláh [6] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [ 7]. And after man yuzhiru hu Alláh [7] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [8]. And after man yuzhiru hu Alláh [8] man yuzhiru hu Alláh [9]. (K. Panj: 314 5, cf. 397).
The position of the Báb indicated here is thus the exact opposite of the Islamic proponents of the doctrine of the finality of prophethood that divine revelation will terminate in human history. The mention of nine successive theophanies in the passage translated above most likely indicates the endless future appearance of elevated Prophets.

In this paper some of the theological, messianic and mystical-esoteric dimensions of the Kitáb-i Panj Sha`n will be tentatively presented including the nature of references to the Bábí messiah 'Him who God shall make manifest' (man yu?hiru-hu Alláh) and some aspects of such Islamic rooted "sciences" as jafr (gematric prognostication), talismans and the Names and Attributes of God.

[For additional information go to: http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/03-THE%20BAB/post%201844/K-PANJ-SHA`N.htm
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New circusí as metaphorical embodiment of the mystical and the aesthetic with special reference to La Cirque du Soleil

by Roger Prentice

Self-indulgent, bourgeois kitsch or a new multi-media art form to rank with grand opera: is the 'new circus' an art form worthy of serious consideration? In recently discovering this new art form I have been deeply affected by its potential for the theory and practice of Bahá'í-inspired education. It serves, so I will argue, both as an inspiring extended metaphor for holistic educational process, and as a potential for innovatory structuring of education. Here I want particularly to examine its relationship to spirituality and spiritualization.

Continuing the theme of a previous presentation that asked how cinematic experience might be deemed 'mystical', this paper asks whether the 'new circus' is capable of high-order aesthetic experience that 'echoes' mystical experience. Is the 'new' circus' part of a paradigmatic shift artistically and spiritually--a shift in line with positive aspects of the transformation that has been going on since the manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation? Or ought we simply dismiss it as gaudy trash, a kind of postmodernist fool's gold?

Newly-Born Babe of That Day, The: Mysticism in the age of the maturity of humankind

by Julio Savi

The author analyzes three dynamics conducive from the mysticism of nascent religions, involving the whole community of believers, to the mysticism of periods of spiritual decline, involving only elites of believers, estranged from organized religion. These dynamics are related to the cyclicity of the historical processes of religions, to the limitations of human imperfection, and to the relativity of revelation. The mystics of the past perceived the widespread estrangement from the spiritual reality of religion caused by these dynamics and drew away from organized religion, seeking solace in their inner experiences of the Divine. Today humankind is mature. We cannot fully understand the implications of its maturity for the development of the Bahá'í religious world. We can only venture some hypothesis. It seems unlikely that the Bahá'í religious world will not have its winter. But the infallibility of the Universal House of Justice, granted for the whole course of the Dispensation, should imply a different kind of winter. A mysticism of religious decline may develop, and yet those future mystics could find solace and reassurance in an infallible Head of the Cause. Also human imperfection will remain, even in the presence of people who may arise to the station of the lesser prophets of the "House of Israel."

However, the Bahá'í Revelation, the revelation of the maturity of humankind, is free from certain flaws that in the past implied an early development of spiritually unacceptable behaviors, such as dogmatism, ritualism, externalism, exclusivism. The power of the Bahá'í Covenant, the proscriptions of ancient "ordinances as holy war, destruction of books, the ban on association and companionship with other peoples or on reading certain books," the authoritative exposition of a divine philosophy by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and of an institutional and societal policy by Shoghi Effendi, are new features in the history of religion. These features seemingly discourage any dichotomy between the mystical and the institutional aspects of religion, responsible of dogmatism, ritualism, and externalism, and rule out any exclusivist attitude. Moreover, the early spiritual education prescribed by the Bahá'í teachings should enable human beings to start their mystical journey at higher and higher spiritual levels and to ascribe a greater importance to the mystical stage of the return journey to the world, at the service of humankind. The mystics of the new era may thus more easily avoid a number of past mistakes: the refusal of any mediator between God and them; the advancement of heretical doctrines; a leaning towards an unduly speculative mentality and aristocratic and initiatory attitudes; an over-evaluation of mystical experience and of the so called charismatic gifts; the refusal of living in this world. They may thus concentrate on the core of mysticism, that is, to realize a state of communion between themselves and the Soul of the Manifestation of God that conveys the Spirit of God unto them bringing "such ecstasy of joy that life becomes nothing."
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Religion and Exclusivism: A Baha'i Perspective

by Julio Savi

The author presents a survey of the Bahá'í teachings on exclusivism on the ground of his understanding of the open letter addressed by the Universal House of Justice to the world's religious leaders in 2002 and the recent commentary prepared under its supervision. After a brief survey of the concept of exlusivism and its dangers, a possible definition of religion in the light of the Bahá'í teachings is suggested. Nine essential features of the Bahá'í concept of the oneness of religion expounded by Shoghi Effendi are then analyzed:
  1. Religious truth is not absolute but relative;
  2. Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process;
  3. All the great religions of the world are divine in origin;
  4. Their basic principles are in complete harmony;
  5. Their aims and purposes are one and the same;
  6. Their teachings are but facets of one truth;
  7. Their functions are complementary;
  8. They differ only in the non-essential aspects of their doctrines;
  9. Their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.
Two corollaries of these concepts are also examined:
  1. The God-given authority and correlative character of Scriptures;
  2. All the great religions are continuous in their purpose and indispensable in their value to mankind.
Despite the fundamental oneness of the messages of all religions, misinterpretations of the complex language of Scriptures, in particular of the implicit concept of progressive revelation, and an undue importance given by organized religion to tradition have contributed to distract the attention of religionists from the essential teachings of religion and to focus it towards its formal and secondary aspects. Dangerous claims to exclusivity or finality have been thus developed. The present conditions of the world are such as to encourage and assist all religions to correct these dangerous attitudes in the name of a peaceful coexistence of all the peoples of the world.
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Return of Apologetics, The: Apologetics parallels in the early Christianity, Islam and Bahá'í Faith

by Babak Farrokhzad

The parallels between Christian, Baháíi and Muslim apologetics in the early phases of these religions based on their Holy Writ as well as the works of Abul-Fadl, Justin Martyr, Origen, at-Tabarí etc.

Sabaeanism and African Traditional Religion and Some Christian Islamic and Bahá'í References

by Enoch N. Tanyi

According to the Bahá'í teachings, Sabaeanism is the oldest among the nine existing, major religions of the world.

Two religious groups are referred to as Sabaeans - one group traces its origin to Seth and Enoch, and the other group is made up of the followers of John the Baptist who did not recognize Jesus as a Manifestation of God. The former group is that which is the focus of this paper. African Traditional Religion is the remnant of this type of Sabaeanism.

The name of the original founder of Sabaeanism is unknown, but this paper shows that at least fifteen Prophets or Messengers of God appeared within Sabaeanism! These fifteen do not include any native Messengers of God who might have appeared in the Americas or elsewhere in the world. Fourteen of these Messengers appeared in a period of about 2,827years, which is the approximate minimum duration of the Sabaean dispensation that extends far into antiquity.

The languages of revelation in Sabaeanism were, at least, four-the original language (name now unknown), Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew. Of these four languages, the names of three are known.

Many of the teachings of Sabaeanism are now unknown. Some, however, can be gleaned from various Sacred Writings. Notable among the essential teachings were monotheism, the oneness of mankind, love and mutual assistance, and peace. The Messengers of Sabaeanism taught the oneness of the Messengers of God and the future appearance of a Messenger at the end of time. Sabaeanism also taught the harmony between science and religion. Multifarious social teachings, most of which have been forgotten, descended from these Messengers up to the time of Shu'eyb (Jethro). However, some of the teachings extant are embodied in those of present-day African Traditional or pagan cultures.

God entrusted non-Messenger or non-Prophet Sabaeans with missions. They are, Nebuchadnezzar II and the Roman General, Titus. Through a dream that Nebuchadnezzar dreamt, God revealed to humankind the coming of the Zoroastrian, the Christian, the Islamic and the Bábí-Bahá'í dispensations, prophesied the schism in Islam, and the global encompassment and inviolability of the covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. The Greek and Roman kings in the period spanning these two kings were the other persons who discharged divine missions. Alexander the Great was one of the Sabaean kings whose name is expressly mentioned in the Qur'án as having been divinely sent.

Some Aspects of the Tafsir al-Bismillah from Abdu'l-Baha

by Sasha Dehghani

During His lifetime `Abdu'l-Bahá penned several illuminating and demanding commentaries on the meaning of specific Qur'ánic verses as well as Islamic traditions. His amazing exposition on the holy Islamic tradition "Kuntu Kanzan Makhfían", His psychological interpretation of the first verses of the Súra ar-Rúm "Ghulibat ar-Rúm ..." or His tablet written on the meaning of the opening verse of the first Qur'ánic Súra, the so called "Bismilláh", these all may be regarded as a proof for His extraordinary capacity to shed light on highly sophisticated Islamic philosophical, theological and in particular mystical subjects.

In this presentation efforts will be made to outline the essential topics mentioned by `Abdu'l-Bahá in His commentary on the meaning of the 'Bismilláh' (published in Min Makátíb `Adbu'l-Bahá, Vol. 1, p. 32-48). `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote this Arabic commentary as part of a letter. The introductory part of this letter discloses a male person as the recipient, who inter alia seems to have asked `Abdu'l-Bahá on the meaning of the opening Súra of the Qur'án. This part includes a prayer for protection, in which `Abdu'l-Bahá alludes to the machinations of covenant-breakers. This might indicate, that the letter was written after the time of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh.

In the following commentary `Abdu'l-Bahá expounds hidden meanings of single letters of the 'Bismilláh', foremost and in detail the letter 'Bá' as an allusion to the 'Most Great Name'. Furthermore, He elucidates diverse aspects of the nouns and divine names following the first letter of this verse, such as 'ismi'lláh', 'rahmán' and 'rahím'. Whereas the first letter is interpreted in terms of an esoteric and mystical understanding, the remaining sentence is explained from a philosophical and theological perspective focussing on the subject of divine monotheism ('tawhíd'). In order to clarify and underline His position He recites and gives verbatim accounts of several Islamic thinkers, who have written interpretations on the same subject. `Abdu'l-Bahá mentions traditions attributed to the first and sixth shí`ih Imáms, and refers to quotes of Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí and the medieval al-Andalus Súfí Ibn al-`Arabí.

The latter is also mentioned in another section of this commentary, wherein `Abdu'l-Bahá explains the importance of the holy land Israel, particularly of `Akká, as the place of appearance of God's 'Most Great Manifestation'. Thus the unfoldment of the divine salvation history ('Heilsgeschichte') is strongly connected to the 'axis mundi'. Almost all the prophets of the Adamic cycle were honoured with an encounter of this land, a holy land divinely preordained for the fulfilment of messianic expectations ('Endzeiterwartung') and predestined for the eschatological event of the greater resurrection.

Surat al-Dhikr of the Qayyúm al-Asmá' (chapter 108): A provisional translation and commentary

by Moojan Momen

In this paper a preliminary and highly provisional attempt is made to understand and translate a Surah of the Qayyum al-Asma, the first book that the Báb revealed after His declaration in 1844. The 108th Surah, which is called the Surah of Mulk (Sovereignty), is typical of the rest of the Qayyum al-Asma in its structure; it uses the same rhymes and alliterative patterns; it uses the same imagery; and its use of the Qur'an is similar. It has however a number of particular features that are of special interest. From the historical point of view, there is evidence in this Surah that it at least was written after the pilgrimage of the Báb to Mecca, thus opening up the interesting question of how much of this book was written before and how much after the Báb's pilgrimage. There is also a verse at the end which the present author would like to tentatively suggest should be understood to be onomatopoeic; in other words that it should be experienced rather than understood.

Translation of the Baha'i Writings: Challenges and Opportunities

by Vahid Rafati


Voicing Authority: A Baha'i Perspective

by Marion Prentice

What significance does authenticity have for an artist and how might this understanding enhance an artist's practice? Drawing upon the work of three contemporary thinkers, Ken Wilber, Charles Taylor and John Miller, this presentation examines how authenticity can be important for a visual artist. The paper and presentation in particular examines the dynamics of Wilber's 'I', 'We' and 'It' model of the human spirit and explores how this can be optimised within Taylor's view of modern culture. In a context of Bahá'í teachings the presentation goes on to explore the relationship between creative and spiritual experience and examines how, by raising levels of consciousness authentic communication can be achieved via artistic expression.