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Bahá’í in Iran

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Bahii In Iran:

Bahaii Faith is a religion founded by Bahuala in 19th century Persia. Bahaii  number around 6 million in more than 200 countries around the world.

Bahai Iran


Haifa, Bahai Center

According to Bahii teachings, religious history is seen as an evolving educational process for mankind, through God’s messengers, which are termed Manifestations of God. Bahuala is seen as the most recent, pivotal, but not final of these individuals. He claimed to be the expected redeemer and teacher prophesied in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions, and that his mission was to establish a firm basis for unity throughout the world, and inaugurate an age of peace and justice, which Bahaii  expect will inevitably arise.

Bahaii”  can be an adjective referring to the Bahaii Faith, or the term for a follower of Bahuala (Bahaii is not a noun meaning the religion as a whole). The term comes from the Arabic word Bahaii > (بهاء), meaning “glory” or “splendor”.

Beliefs

Three core principles of Bahaii  teachings are often referred to simply as: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of mankind. Many Bahaii beliefs and practices are rooted in these priorities; but taken alone these would be an over-simplification of Bahaii  teachings.

 God

Main article: Bahaii concept of God

Bahaii  believe in a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. The existence of God is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end, and is described as “a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty.”  Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of his creation, with a will and purpose. Bahaii  believe that God expresses this will in many ways, including through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes divine educators. In expressing God’s intent, these manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world.

Bahaii teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accurate image. In the Bahaii religion God is often referred to by titles (e.g. the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving), and there is a substantial emphasis on monotheism, rejecting such doctrines as the Trinity.

 Religion

Bahai

Symbols of many religions on the pillar of the Bahaii House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois

Main article: Bahaii Faith and the unity of religion

Bahaii notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of most of the worlds’ religions, whose founders and central figures are seen as Manifestations of God. These include, but are not limited to Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, and Buddha. Bahaii  also believe that other religious figures, such as Adam, Noah, and H? historically existed and were prophets of God. Religious history is interpreted as a series of dispensations, where eachmanifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed. Specific religious social teachings (e.g. the direction of prayer, or dietary restrictions) may be revoked by a subsequent manifestation so that a more appropriate requirement for the time and place may be established. Conversely, certain general principles (e.g. neighbourliness, or charity) are seen to be universal and consistent. Bahaii  do not believe that this process of progressive revelation will end. They do, however, believe that it is cyclical. Bahaii  do not expect a new manifestation of god to appear prior to 1000 years after Bahuala’s revelation.

Bahaii beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic combinations of earlier religions’ beliefs. Bahaii , however, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history. Its cultural and religious debt to the Shi’a Islamic matrix in which it was founded is seen as analogous to the Jewish socio-religious context in which Christianity was established. Bahaii  describe their faith as an independent world religion, differing from the other traditions only in its relative newness and in the appropriateness of Bahuala’s teachings to the modern context. Bahuala is believed to fulfill the messianic expectations of these precursor faiths.

 Human beings

The Ringstone symbol represents humanity's connection to God

The Ringstone symbol represents humanity’s connection to God

Main article: Bahaii Faith and the unity of humanity

Bahaii  believe that human beings have a “rational soul”, and that this provides the species with a unique capacity to recognize God’s station and humanity’s relationship with its creator. Every human is seen to have a duty to recognize God through his messengers, and to conform to their teachings. Through recognition and obedience, service to fellow humans and regular prayer and spiritual practice, Bahaii  believe that the soul becomes closer to God, the spiritual ideal in Bahaii belief. When a human dies, the soul passes into the next world, where its spiritual development in the physical world becomes a basis for judgment and advancement in the spiritual world.Heaven and Hell are taught to be spiritual states of nearness or distance from God that describe relationships in this world and the next, and not physical places of reward and punishment achieved after death.

The Bahaii writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and tolerance. Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, and social class are seen as artificial impediments to unity. The Bahaii teachings state that the unification of mankind is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.

Demographics

Main article: Bahaii statistics

The Bah??House of Worship in India attracts an average of 4 million visitors a year.

The Bahaii House of Worship in India attracts an average of 4 million visitors a year.

Bahaii sources usually estimate the worldwide Bahaii population to be above 5 million.Encyclopedias and similar sources estimate from 2 to 8 million Bahaii  in the world in the early twenty-first century, with most estimates between 5 and 6 million.

From its origins in the Persian and Ottoman Empires, the Bahaii  Faith acquired a number of Western converts by World War I. Fifty years later its population was distributed much more towards the Third World as a result of Bahaii pioneering efforts.

According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004:

?

The majority of Bahaii  live in Asia (3.6 million), Africa (1.8 million), and Latin America (900,000). According to some estimates, the largest Bahaii community in the world is in India, with 2.2 million Bahaii , next is Iran, with 350,000, and the USA, with 150,000. Aside from these countries, numbers vary greatly. Currently, no country has a Bahaii majority. Guyana is the country with the largest percentage of Bahaii  (7%).

?

The Bahaii religion was listed in The Britannica Book of the Year (1992?present) as the second most widespread of the world’s independent religions in terms of the number of countries represented. Britannica claims that it is established in 247 countries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has seven million adherents worldwide [2005].

 

 

Teachings

Texts & Scriptures
of the
Bahaii  Faith

Bahaii literature

From The Bahuala
Persian Bay? ? Arabic Bay?
Writings of the Bahuala
From Bahuala
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
Gems of Divine Mysteries
Gleanings ? Kit?-i-Aqdas
Kit?-i-?? ? Hidden Words
Seven Valleys
Summons of the Lord of Hosts
Tabernacle of Unity
Tablets of Bahuala
From `Abdu’l-Bah?/b>
Paris Talks
Secret of Divine Civilization
Some Answered Questions
Tablets of the Divine Plan
Will and Testament
From Shoghi Effendi
Bahaii Administration
Advent of Divine Justice
God Passes By
World Order of Bahuala

 Summary

Shoghi Effendi, the appointed head of the religion from 1921 to 1957, wrote the following summary of what he considered to be the distinguishing principles of Bahuala’s teachings, which, he said, together with the laws and ordinances of the Kit?-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of the Bahaii Faith:

? The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind? these stand out as the essential elements [which Bahuala proclaimed].[19] ?

 Social principles

The following 12 principles are frequently listed as a quick summary of the Bahaii teachings. They are derived from transcripts of speeches given by `Abdu’l-Bahaii > during his tour of Europe and North America in 1912. The list is not authoritative and a variety of such lists circulate.

  • Unity of God
  • Unity of religion
  • Unity of mankind
  • Gender Equality
  • Elimination of all forms of prejudice
  • World peace
  • Harmony of religion and science
  • Independent investigation of truth
  • Universal compulsory education
  • Universal auxiliary language
  • Obedience to government and non-involvement in partisan politics
  • Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty

 Mystical teachings

Although it concentrates on social and ethical issues as well, some of the Bahaii  Faith’s foundational texts might be described as mystical. Shoghi Effendi has called the Seven ValleysBahuala’s “greatest mystical composition.” It was written to a follower of Sufism, a mystic and esoterical tradition of Islam. It was first translated into English in 1906, becoming one of the earliest available books of Bahuala to the West. The Hidden Words is another book written by Bahuala during the same period, containing 153 short passages described by `Abdu’l-Bah? as “a treasury of divine mysteries”.

 The Covenant

Bahaii  have high regard for what is termed the “Greater Covenant”, which they see as universal in nature, and from “time immemorial” has been carried through by the Manifestations of God of all ages.[ They also regard highly the “Lesser Covenant”, which is viewed as an agreement between a Messenger of God and his followers, unique to each revelation, and includes social practices and the continuation of authority in the religion. At this time Bahaii  view Bahuala’s revelation as a binding lesser covenant for his followers; in the Bahaii writings being firm in the covenant is considered as one of the main religious virtues a person can work toward.

With unity as an essential teaching of the religion, Bahaii  follow an administration that they believe is divinely ordained, and therefore see attempts to create schisms and divisions as insignificant, doomed efforts which are contrary to the teachings of Bahuala. Throughout Bahaii history schisms have occurred over the succession of authority. The followers of the various Bahaii divisions, who in total, number in the low thousands, are regarded as Covenant-breakers and shunned, essentially excommunicated.

 History

Shrine of the B? in Haifa, Israel.

Shrine of the Bahuala  in Haifa, Israel.

Bahaii history is often traced through a sequence of leaders, beginning with the Bahuala ‘s May 23, 1844 declaration in Shiraz, and ultimately resting on an administrative order established by the central figures of the religion. The tradition was mostly isolated to the Persian and Ottoman empires until after the death of Bahuala in 1892, at which time he had followers in thirteen countries of Asia and Africa. Under the leadership of his son, `Abdu’l-Bah? the religion gained a footing in Europe and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it still suffered intense persecution. After the death of `Abdu’l-Bah?in 1921, the leadership of the Bahaii community entered a new phase, evolving from that of a single individual to an administrative order with a system of both elected bodies and appointed individuals.

 The Bahuala

In 1844 Siyyid `Al Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was “the Bahuala ” (Arabic: الباب‎ “the Gate”), after a Shi`a religious concept.[26] His followers were therefore known as Bahuala ?. As the Bahuala ‘s teachings spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as a threat, Bahuala ? came under increased persecution, at times being forced to choose between renouncing their beliefs or being killed. Several military confrontations took place between government and Bahuala ?forces. The Bahuala  himself was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850.

Bahaii  see the Bahuala  as the forerunner of the Bahaii Faith, because the Bahuala ‘s writings introduced the concept of “He whom God shall make manifest”, a Messianic figure whose coming, according to Bahaii , was announced in the scriptures of all of the world’s great religions, and whom Bahuala, the founder of the Bahaii  Faith, claimed to be in 1863. The Bahuala ‘s tomb is located in Haifa, Israel, and is an important place of pilgrimage for Bahaii . The remains of the Bahuala  were brought secretly from Persia to the Holy Land and were eventually interred in the Shrine built for them in a spot specifically designated by Bahuala.

 Bahuala

M?z?Husayn `Al?of N? was one of the early followers of the Bahuala , who later took the title of Bahuala. He was arrested and imprisoned for this involvement in 1852. He claimed that while incarcerated in the dungeon of the S??-Ch? in Tehran, he received the first intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Bahuala . He announced this in 1863.

Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Persia to Baghdad, in the Ottoman Empire; then to Constantinople; then to Adrianople. During this time tensions grew between Bahuala and Subh-i-Azal, the appointed leader of the Bahuala ?, culminating in Bahuala’s 1866 declaration. While in Adrianople, he wrote letters to several rulers of the world, including Sultan Abd??iz, declaring his mission as a Messenger of God. As a result Bahuala was banished a final time, to the penal colony of `Akka, in present-day Israel.

Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh confinement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near `Akk? while still officially a prisoner of that city. He died there in 1892. Bahaii  regard his resting place at Bahj?/a> as the Qiblih to which they turn in prayer each day. During his lifetime, Bahuala left a large volume of writings; the Kit?-i-Aqdas, and the Book of Certitude are recognized as primary Bahaii theological works, and the Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys as primary mystical treatises.

 

 `Abdu’l-Bah?/span>

Main article: `Abdu’l-Bahaii >

`AbBahuala  Effendi was Bahuala’s eldest son, known by the title of `Abdu’l-Bah? (Servant of Bah?. His father left a Will that appointed `Abdu’l-Bah?as the leader of the Bahaii community, and designated him as the “Centre of the Covenant”, “Head of the Faith”, and the sole authoritative interpreter of Bahuala’s writings.

`Abdu’l-Bah?had shared his father’s long exile and imprisonment, which continued until `Abdu’l-Bah?s own release as a result of the Young Turk Revolution in 1908. Following his release he led a life of travelling, speaking, teaching, and maintaining correspondence with communities of believers and individuals, expounding the principles of the Bahaii Faith.

 Bahaii  administration

Bahuala’s Kit?-i-Aqdas and The Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahaii > are foundation documents of the Bahaii  administrative order. Bahuala established the elected Universal House of Justice, and `Abdu’l-Bah? established the appointed hereditary Guardianship and clarified the relationship between the two institutions. In his Will, `Abdu’l-Bah?appointed his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the first Guardian of the Bahaii Faith.[3]

Shoghi Effendi throughout his lifetime translated Bahaii literature; developed global plans for the expansion of the Bahaii  community; developed the Bahaii World Centre; carried on a voluminous correspondence with communities and individuals around the world; and built the administrative structure of the religion, preparing the community for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He died in 1957 under conditions that didn’t allow for a successor to be appointed.

At local, regional, and national levels, Bahaii  elect members to nine-person Spiritual Assemblies, which run the affairs of the religion. There are also appointed individuals working at various levels, including locally and internationally which perform the function of propagating the faith and protecting the community.The latter do not serve as clergy, which the Bahaii Faith does not have.

The Universal House of Justice, first elected in 1963, remains the supreme governing body of the Bahaii Faith, and its 9 members are elected every five years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies. Any male Bahaii  21 years or older, is eligible to be elected to the Universal House of Justice; all other positions are open to male and female Bahaii .

 
 

Laws

The laws of the Bahaii Faith primarily come from the Kit?-i-Aqdas, written by Bahuala. The following are a few examples of basic laws and religious observances,

  • Bahaii  over the age of 15 recite an obligatory prayer each day. There are three such prayers among which one can be chosen each day.
  • Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and denounced.
  • Adult Bahaii  in good health observe a nineteen-day sunrise-to-sunset fast each year from March 2 through March 20.
  • Bahaii  are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless prescribed by doctors.
  • Sexual relationships are permitted only between a husband and wife, and thus homosexual acts are not permitted. See Homosexuality and Bahaii Faith.
  • Gambling is strictly forbidden.

While some of the laws from the Kit?-i-Aqdas are applicable at the present time and may be enforced to a degree by the administrative institutions, Bahuala has provided for the progressive application of other laws that are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahaii  society. The laws, when not in direct conflict with the civil laws of the country of residence, are binding on every Bahaii  and the observance of personal laws, such as prayer or fasting, is the sole responsibility of the individual.

 Places of worship

The night view of a model of the new Bah??House of Worship under construction in Chile, showing its translucent alabaster dome.

The night view of a model of the new Bahaii House of Worship under construction in Chile, showing its translucent alabaster dome.

Most Bahaii meetings occur in individuals’ homes, local Bahaii  centers, or rented facilities. Worldwide, there are currently seven Bahaii Houses of Worship, basically one per continent, with an eighth under construction in Chile. Bahaii writings refer to an institution called a “Mashriqu’l-Adhk?” (Dawning-place of the Mention of God), which is to form the center of a complex of institutions including a hospital, university, and so on. Only the first ever Mashriqu’l-Adhk? in `Ishq??, Turkmenistan, was built to such a degree.

 Marriage

Bahaii  marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Its purpose is mainly to foster spiritual harmony, fellowship and unity between the two partners and the rearing of children. The Bahaii teachings on marriage call it a fortress for well-being and salvation and place marriage and the family as the foundation of the structure of human society. Bahuala highly praised marriage, declaring it an eternal command of God, also discouraging divorce, and requiring chastity outside of marriage; Bahuala taught that a husband and wife should strive to improve the spiritual life of each other.

Bahaii  intending to marry “should study each other’s character and spend time getting to know each other before they decide to marry, and when they do marry it should be with the intention of establishing an eternal bond.” Although parents should not choose partners for their children, once two individuals decide to marry, they must receive the consent of all living parents, even if one partner is not a Bahaii  Interracial marriage is highly praised in the Bahaii teachings. The Bahaii  marriage ceremony is simple; the only compulsory part of the wedding is the reading of the wedding vows prescribed by Bahuala which both the groom and the bride read, in the presence of two witnesses. The vows are:

“We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”

 Symbols

A stylized nine pointed star, with the calligraphy of the Greatest Name in the centre.

A stylized nine pointed star, with the calligraphy of the Greatest Name in the centre.

The official symbol of the Bahaii  Faith is the five-pointed star, but a nine-pointed star is more frequently used. The ringstone symbol and calligraphy of the Greatest Name are also often encountered. The former consists of two stars interspersed with a stylized Bah?(Arabic: بهاء‎ “splendor” or “glory”) whose shape is meant to recall the three onenesses. The Greatest Name is Y? Bah?u’l-‘Abh?(Arabic: يا بهاء الأبهى‎ “O Glory of the Most Glorious!”)

 Calendar

The Bahaii calendar is based upon the calendar established by the Bahuala . The year consists of 19 months of 19 day, with four or five intercalary day, to make a full solar year. The Bahaii New Year corresponds to the traditional Persian New Year, called Naw R?, and occurs on the vernal equinox, March 21, at the end of the month of fasting. Bahaii communities gather at the beginning of each month at a meeting called a Feast for worship, consultation and socializing.

Each of the 19 months is given a name which is an attribute of God; some examples include Bah?(Splendour), ?Ilm (Knowledge), and Jam? (Beauty).The Bahaii week is familiar in that it consists of seven day, with each day of the week also named after an attribute of God; some examples include Istiql? (Independence), Kam? (Perfection) and ?Id? (Justice). Bahaii  observe 11 Holy day throughout the year, with work suspended on 9 of these. These day commemorate important anniversaries in the history of the religion.

 

Persecution

Bahaii  continue to be persecuted in Islamic countries, especially Iran, where over 200 believers were executed between 1978 and 1998. On December 16, 2006, the Supreme Administrative Council of Egypt made a ruling against the Bahaii  stating that the government may not recognize the Bahaii Faith in official identification numbers. The ruling leaves Bahaii  unable to obtain the necessary government documents to have rights in their country; they cannot obtain ID cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, passports; they also cannot be employed, educated, treated in hospitals or vote among other things. The EIPR stated that the press release issued by the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court did not respond to any of the evidence and legal argumented presented by the EIPR in the case, and that instead the press release only discussed the tenets and beliefs of the Bahaii  Faith, which should have had no effect on the decision of the court.[49]

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Bahaii  have regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs, most recently for participating in study circles. Bahaii cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of M?z? Buzurg, Bahuala’s father. The House of the Bahuala  in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahaii  perform pilgrimage.

Even more recently the situation of Bahaii  has worsened; the United Nations Commission on Human Rights revealed an October 2005 confidential letter from Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to identify Bahaii  and to monitor their activities  and in November 2005 the state-run and influential Kayhan  newspaper, whose managing editor is appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, ran nearly three dozen articles defaming the Bahaii Faith.

Due to these actions, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated on March 20, 2006 that she “also expresses concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahaii faith, in violation of international standards. … The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this latest development indicates that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran is, in fact, deteriorating.

 Reactions

Bernard Lewis states that the Muslim laity and Islamic authorities have always had great difficulty in accommodating post-Islamic monotheistic religions such as the Bahaii Faith, since on one hand the followers of such religions cannot be dismissed either as benighted heathens, like the polytheists of Asia and the animists of Africa, nor as outdated precursors, like the Jews and Christians. Moreover, their very existence presents a challenge to the Islamic doctrine of the perfection and finality of Muhammad’s revelation.

 
 


 

 
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