About the ‘Irfán Colloquium session #12 (English)

Newcastle, England

December 6–8, 1996.

The Twelfth Irfan Colloquium was held December 6-8, 1996, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom. The colloquium was sponsored by the Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund, an institution established in the memory of a Persian Bahá'i whose knowledge of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptures was legendary. The colloquium was also sponsored by the Religious Studies Seminar of the Association for Bahá'i Studies for English-Speaking Europe.

The participants enjoyed nine presentations during the weekend. Friday evening Dr. Iraj Ayman spoke on "The Mission of Religion: A Bahá'i Perspective," a study of some sixty passages in the Bahá'i scriptures that state different purposes of religion. Saturday morning Nuha Sabour-Willington presented and commented on her provisional translation of Bahá'u'llah's Surat al-ism (Sura of the Name), a tablet revealed in 1867. Her presentation was followed by Moojan Momen's "The God of Bahá'u'llah," which described Bahá'u'llah's concept of God and its ability to reconcile Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and some Buddhist notions of the Ultimate.

Saturday afternoon began with Robert Stockman's "Millennialism in the Bahá'i Faith: Progressive and Catastrophic Themes," which reviewed the different aspects of the Bahá'i vision of the future and noted that most were optimistic and progressive. Fariba Hedayati then spoke about "Immortality and the Afterlife: Some Christian, Bahá'i, and Modern Western Secular Perspectives." One part of her paper discussed cryonics (freezing people at the point of death in the hope that in the future they can be thawed and revived) and its possible implications for Bahá'i theology. The afternoon closed with Stephen Lambden's presentation on "Christianity and the Bahá'i Faith: An Historical and Doctrinal Overview."

Saturday evening was devoted to informal conversations. Sunday morning Stephen Lambden offered a second talk, on Bahá'u'llah's tablet to Pope Pius IX. The paper offered an excellent overview of the tablet's context as one of a series of messages penned by Manifestations to religious and political leaders and surveyed the tablet's contents, including possible allusions to the First Vatican Council (1869). Seena Fazel then spoke on "Understanding Exclusivist Bahá'i Texts," noting that there was a series of approaches to apparently exclusivist passages in Bahá'u'llah's writings that minimize their tendency to exclude non-Bahá'is.

The colloquium ended Sunday afternoon with Ismael Velasco's "In Quest of the Ocean of True Understanding: The Mystical Paradigm of Bahá'u'llah's Book of Certitude." It noted the importance of earlier tablets by Bahá'u'llah in understanding the Kitab-i-Iqan, that the Iqan's literary paradigm is that of a mystic journey of the seeker, and that the paradigm shaped Bahá'u'llah's replies to the questions that prompted the revelation of the Iqan.

The Haj Mehdi Arjmand Memorial Fund is in the process of collecting the papers delivered at the colloquium for eventual publication. Meanwhile, a book of the abstracts is available for $3 from the Research Office, Bahá'i National Center, Wilmette, IL 60091. Checks should be made out to the "Bahá'i Services Fund."