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

By Ramsey Zeine

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #62
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 8–12, 2005
(see list of papers from #62)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 7, pages 261-284
© 2006, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    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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