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Bahāʿī

By:
B. Todd Lawson
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Bahāʿī

The word bahāʿī is the adjectival form of the Arabic word bahāʿ, which means “glory” or “splendor.” From early times this was recognized as one of the extra-Qurʿānic attributes of God, as is evident, for example, in a tafsīr (Qurʿānic exegesis) attributed to the sixth Shīʿī Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (d. 765) in which the bāʿ of the basmalah is glossed as standing for the glory of God (bahāʿ Allāh), or in a ḥadīth of the prophet Muḥammad: “The red rose is of the glory of God (al-ward min bahāʿ! Allāh).” At present the word is most usually associated with a religion that arose out of the rubble of the collapsed Bābī movement of mid-nineteenth-century Iran. As such, Bahāʿī refers to a follower of Bahāʿ Allāh (Bahāʿuʿllāh; Mīrzā Ḥusayn ʿAlī Nūrī, 1817–1892) a title he assumed during an important meeting of Bābīs convened by him near the hamlet of Badasht, not far from Alamut in northwestern Iran, in 1848. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the affairs of the movement associated with the name of the Bāb, who was at the time, as a result of his messianic activities, imprisoned by order of the Qājār state in the mountains of Azerbaijan. Present also was Ṭāhirah, the famed Bābī heroine whose daring behavior scandalized many of the ardent religionists gathered there.

Origins.

To speak of the origin of the Bahāʿī faith which is the designation for the movement preferred by its present leadership and adherents (although one sometimes encounters “the Bahāʿī religion”—but never “Bahaism”) is not an altogether easy task, even if we were to concentrate only on the historical origins. We must also address the problem of essential origins, for in the Bahāʿī answer to this question much of the true nature of the religion is revealed. In a sense it is easier to deal with this second question, whose answer, like all good religious dogma, is completely innocent of irony and ambiguity.

We do not know the occasion of the first usage of the term “Bahāʿī” to describe a follower or the teaching of Bahāʿ Allāh, but we can be reasonably sure in setting the date at around the years 1866–1868. These years found the exiled Bābī community, resident in Edirne since December 1863, divided in its loyalty between the two half-brothers Bahāʿ Allāh and Mīrzā Yaḥyā Ṣubḥ-i Azal (“Morn of Eternity,” a title with deep roots in Shīʿī Islam). The title was bestowed upon the latter by the Bāb, who had also designated him as the head of the Bābā religion. He seems to have been universally regarded as such for a few years after the execution of the Bāb in 1850. The split was the result of differing interpretations of the Bābʾs prophecy of the coming of one who would have the authority to alter the Bābʾs laws. Ṣubḥ-i Azal and his followers put the event far into the future, but in 1866 an event known in Bahāʿī sources as “the Most Great Separation” was instigated by Bahāʿ Allāh; as a result, those who were loyal to Azal were separated from those who were loyal to Bahāʿ. It was at this time that Bahāʿ Allāh publicly and unambiguously (in contrast to his first announcement to a small group of intimate friends prior to his departure from Baghdad for Constantinople in 1863) claimed to be “man yuẓhiruhu Allāh” or “he whom God shall manifest,” the figure mentioned in numerous places in the Bābʾs writings, especially his Persian Bayān, and interpreted by Bābīs to be the focus of the Bābʾs eschatology. There is no question that Bahāʿ Allāh was the more able leader and the more popular and charismatic of the two, as is evidenced by the undisputed fact that most of the Bābīs chose to be designated as “the people of Bahāʿ” (ahl-i Bahāʿ). It was now that the Bahāʿ Allāh proclaimed the obsolescence of Bābism and promulgated a new and distinct religion. The exact nature of this break may be seen by comparing the basic teachings of the Bahāʿī faith with those of Bābism. The fact that both latter-day religions are variations on a basic revealed ethical monotheism—Islam—and that monotheismʾs distinctive articulation by the Twelver Shīʿī community, will also be evident.

Bahāʿ Allāh died in May 1892 near the prison city of ʿAkkā (Acre) in Ottoman Syria, where he and his followers had been sent by the Ottoman authorities in 1868 in response to the conflicts brought about in the community between the two half-brothers. (Ṣubḥ-i Azal and his comparatively few followers had been sent to Famagusta.) Although the first two years of this exile were passed in intense hardship in wretched prison conditions, eventually Bahāʿ Allāh and his family were permitted to take up residence outside the city, although technically remaining prisoners. We do not know the exact number of Bahāʿīs surrounding Bahāʿ Allāh at this time; certainly the majority of the community remained in Iran. Most of the affairs of the community and the religion (usually referred to as the Cause of God, amr Allāh) were entrusted to the care of Bahāʿ Allāhʾs eldest son, ʿAbbās, known as ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ (“Servant of Bahāʿ,” 1844–1921), leaving his father free to attend to a huge correspondence and the composition of religious works, all of which is considered by Bahāʿīs to be divine revelation. ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ was appointed by his father in his will to be the “center of the Covenant.” (On the basic Bahāʿī teaching of the Covenant, see below.) ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ had already distinguished himself as a tireless disciple of his father and commanded enormous respect both within and outside the Bahāʿī community. At his death in Haifa, it is estimated that his funeral was attended by over “ten thousand people including dignitaries of the Muslim, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, and Druze communities as well as the British High Commissioner and the Governors of Jerusalem and Phoenicia” (Hatcher and Martin, 1984, p. 61). In 1892, however, a conflict arose in which another son of Bahāʿ Allāh, Muḥammad ʿAlī, disputed his fatherʾs will. As a result, most of Bahāʿ Allāhʾs relatives were effectively excommunicated, and for a while the fledgling religious movement was divided. Those who recognized ʿAbd al-Bahāʿʾs authority were in the majority, while those who followed his brother eventually dwindled to insignificance (see Eric Cohen, “The Baha’i Community of Acre,” Folklore Research Centre Studies (Jerusalem) 3 [1972]: 119–141)—despite the fact that it was one of the latter who was responsible for bringing Bahāʿī teachings to the United States in 1894. ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ came to be the focus of devotion for the community, and his rank is that of perfect exemplar of the Bahāʿī life. His authority was absolute in all matters of belief and interpretation of his fatherʾs writings. He himself wrote several works, such as The Secret of Divine Civilization, a critique of modern (especially Persian) society, and A Travelerʾs Narrative, a history of the Bābī movement. In addition, a number of transcriptions of his talks have been published, including The Promulgation of Universal Peace and Some Answered Questions. It is as a result of his stewardship that the Bahāʿī faith came to be firmly established in the West through his correspondence with the small Bahāʿī community that had been established in Chicago in 1894, and through an eighteen-month visit to North America in 1912. This was to have a dramatic effect on the fortunes of the new religion:

"The emergence of small communities of Bahaʿis in North America and Europe during the 1890s marked a profoundly significant advance in the development of the Bahaʿi religion. Although comprising no more than a few thousand individuals, these early Western communities represented a major expansion beyond the existing cultural boundaries of the Bahaʿi community, demonstrating the cultural adaptability of the religion and securing a fresh base for further expansion (Smith, 1987, p. 100)."

With this foundation the Bahāʿī faith began consolidating in earnest its identity as a world religion distinct and separate from the parent Twelver Shīʿī Islam and its heresy, Bābism. The writings of Bahāʿ Allāh had laid the groundwork for a kind of cosmopolitanism/universalism, distinguished by a lack of ambiguity and concern with recondite Islamic Shīʿī theosophical arcana, which prepared his followers for the ever-expanding vision represented first by the religious liberalism of ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ and later by the consolidation and systematization of this liberal vision by the latterʾs grandson Shoghi Effendi Rabbānī (1897–1956), known as the “Guardian of the Cause of God” (valī-yi amr Allāh), terminology still fresh from the Shīʿī matrix. With the expansion of the vision also came an expansion of numbers. It is difficult to know exactly, but current statistics place the worldwide Bahāʿī population at around 5 million (see Smith and Momen, 1989, p. 72). The vast majority of Bahāʿīs are found in the so-called “Third World,” the largest national community being in India, where one of seven existing Bahāʿī temples (mashriq al-adhkār, “dawning place of the remembrances [or praises, of God]”) was recently dedicated on the outskirts of Delhi.

Basic Teachings.

A starting point for a discussion of Bahāʿī belief is the doctrine or principle (the preferred term) known as “progressive revelation.” In its basic structure, the idea is not substantially different from similar “theologies of progress” advanced during the latter half of the nineteenth century from certain Christian quarters (cf. George W. Stocking, Victorian Anthropology, New York and London, 1987, p. 189ff.). It is as follows: God, the eternal and unchangeable utterly transcendent, has from the beginning that has no beginning made “his” will known to his creation through chosen beings, in human form, who are known to history as prophets and messengers. Indeed, these figures, inasmuch as they have revealed divine laws and verities and inasmuch as their lives and persons are qualitatively different from others, that is to say holy, may be considered personifications of the divine will (a specific teaching that owes much to the theosophical synthesis known as ḥikmat-i ilāhī, dating from the Ṣafavid period). It is, in short, a further elaboration of a distinctively Islamic logos doctrine. The main difference is that the series of prophets that began with Adam and ended with Muḥammad represents, in the Bahāʿī view, a completed cycle of prophecy. With the proclamation of the Bāb in 1844 a new cycle was inaugurated, known as the “cycle of fulfillment.” Students of Islamic religious movements may see here a variation on the basic Shīʿī view, which sees revelatory prophecy (nubūwah) as having ended with Muḥammad but nonetheless maintains the continuance of absolute religious authority in the institution of the imamate through the spiritual prerogatives and dignities represented by the word walāyah (guardianship), which was passed on to each of the twelve imams in succession and which rendered them infallible (maʿṣūm) in all matters. The distinctive Ismāʿīlī teaching of cycles (adwār) is also of interest here; it may have left its influence indirectly through the metaphysical synthesis of the Shaykhīyah, a Twelver Shīʿī movement intimately connected with the rise of the Bābī religion. It is important to observe that in the Bahāʿī teaching the finality of Muḥammadʾs prophethood (khītam al-nabāyīn, Qurʿān 33.40) is maintained, while room is made for the appearance of a new revelator of Godʾs will. The terminology changes accordingly. Rather than referring to themselves by the Qurʿānic words “prophet” (nabī) or “messenger” (rasūl), the two recent figures are most commonly called divine manifestations (maẓhar ilīhī), a term that derives from the waḥdat al-wujūd (oneness of being) school associated with Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 1240). It may be laboriously, though accurately, translated as “place where divinity is caused to appear.” In the Bahāʿī view, all previous prophets and messengers were divine manifestations; those whom we know about include all those recognized by the Qurʿān, together with Zoroaster, Gautama Buddha, and presumably others such as Krishna. The continuance of this divine contact with humanity represents Godʾs fulfillment of a great covenant or promise never to leave his creation alone and without divine guidance. Many of these ideas are unobjectionable to Islam or Shiism as such; however, it was the Bābʾs propagation of a new sharīʿah and the eventual supplanting of this by an even newer code of holy laws, together with the claim that both the Bāb and Bahāʿ Allāh were, despite the different terminology, functionally of the same status as the prophet Muḥammad, which has caused the movement to be seen as heretical and ultimately non-Islamic.

The primary purpose of life is to know and love God. This can be done most perfectly by knowing and loving his most recent manifestation. It is most perfectly expressed through obedience to the laws and principles revealed by the same. Thus the Bahāʿī teaching that God has created humanity in order to carry on an ever-advancing civilization is directly and inextricably related to prophetic history. While it is certainly possible to read the Qurʿān as propounding such a view (indeed, both the Bāb and Bahāʿ Allāh were Muslims), the revelatory authority acknowledged by Bahāʿīs for this interpretation makes it binding and not open to debate. Bahāʿīs expect other divine manifestations to appear. There also seems to be no special hierarchy among the manifestations: they are essentially or ontologically equal. Bahāʿ Allāh uses the example of the sun and its rising at different places on the horizon: in reality, it is always the same sun, but nonetheless it makes sense to refer to the sun of yesterday, the sun of today, and so on (Bahāʿ Allāh, 1931, pp. 21, 43–44, 161). The Bahāʿī faith is the ancient religion of God whose exact historical origin none knows. History makes sense only when seen as the gradual unfolding of the divine plan, or the revelation of the mind of God.

Bahāʿ Allāh wrote numerous works in Arabic and Persian, all of which are considered divine revelation and as abrogating the Bābʾs revelation, which had already, according to Bahāʿī belief, abrogated the Qurʿān and the Islamic sharīʿah. Among the most important of these are the Kitāb-i īqān and Al-kitāb al-aqdas, the Most Holy Book. In addition, Bahāʿ Allāh revealed numerous prayers. Not all of his approximately one hundred works have been translated.

From the early twentieth century a number of principles have been put forth as an answer to the question “What do Bahāʿīs believe?” They include the oneness of God; the oneness of humanity; the oneness of religion; independent investigation of truth; abandonment of prejudice and superstition; harmony of science and religion; equality of men and women; universal education; social/economic justice; the spiritual basis of society; and an auxiliary international language.

These principles were articulated in this form in the West and as a result of ʿAbd al-Bahāʿʾs stewardship of the new community. The question of how much this formulation was influenced through dialogue with Christian leaders is an important but as yet little-studied one. But the purpose of these principles and others, such as the abolition of holy war and any notions of exclusivity—such as the “chosen people” or “people of the Book” (ahl al-kitāb)—is the establishment of world unity, the achievement of which represents “the coming of age of the entire human race … marking the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of manʾs collective life on this planet” (Shoghi Effendi, 1938, p. 163). Bahāʿ Allāh is reported to have said, during one of the four interviews conducted with him in 1890 by E. G. Browne:

"That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled—what harm is there in this? … Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the “Most Great Peace” shall come. … Do not you in Europe need this also? Is not this that which Christ foretold? … Yet do we see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of man-kind. … These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family. … Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this that he loves his kind. (Quoted in Smith, 1987, p. 76.)"

Taking a lesson perhaps from Islamic religious history, Bahāʿ Allāh sought to ensure the doctrinal and administrative unity of his religion by explicitly appointing his successor and outlining the basic components of Bahāʿī institutions. The doctrine or principle of the Covenant is central to this and consists of two major parts. The first is the great covenant, mentioned above, representing Godʾs promise never to leave humanity alone and without guidance to carry forward an “ever-advancing civilization.” That this promise has been honored is seen in the succession of prophets and messengers who have been responsible for particular stages in this mighty development. The most recent proof of this covenant is Bahāʿ Allāh, whose life and message have the special purpose of establishing a universal theology of history and giving humanity the necessary moral, ethical, and spiritual guidance to realize the unit of the human race. The second is a series of “lesser” covenants that have functioned within this framework and pertain directly to the laws and teachings of each of the divine messengers and the obligation of their audience to recognize their divine authority and to follow their laws. In the case of the Bahāʿī faith, the covenant has become a distinctive religious institution because it is through this that the unity of the religion has been safeguarded: fulfillment of the covenant entails recognition of the transmission of authority first to ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ, then to Shoghi Effendi, and finally to the Universal House of Justice.

Bahāʿī Administration and the Covenant.

The Bahāʿī view is that all religions have been promulgated to establish and affirm unity but have only partially achieved their goal because these religions have themselves fallen prey to disunity. Through the Covenant, for which ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ is the recognized Center, the unity of the Bahāʿī faith has with few exceptions been impressively maintained. Despite localized activities by “covenant breakers” (nāqidīn, another term from Shiism), the vast majority of Bahāʿīs recognize the infallible authority of the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Bahāʿī world community established in 1963 with headquarters in Haifa, Israel. This institution is provided for in Bahāʿ Allāhʾs al-Kitāb al-Aqdas and more specifically in ʿAbd al-Bahāʿʾs Will and Testament. It was originally to have functioned as the supreme body in conjunction with another institution, the Guardianship, after his death. Although ʿAbd al-Bahāʿ died in 1921, Shoghi Effendi postponed calling an election for a Universal House of Justice in order first to establish a broader basis of local and national communities. Between 1921 and 1963 two international bodies were established under the direct guidance of Shoghi Effendi: an International Bahāʿī Bureau, based in Geneva from 1925 to 1957, and the International Bahāʿī Council, with eight members appointed in 1950 by Shoghi Effendi; this Council is seen as the precursor for the eventual establishment of the Universal House of Justice. Between December 1951 and October 1957 twenty-seven Hands of the Cause of God were appointed, as further discussed below.

The Bahāʿī faith puts much emphasis on what it calls “the administrative order.” The institutional features of this order include, at the top, the Universal House of Justice, which is infallible and divinely inspired in its rulings and legislative activity. Beneath this supreme body are two distinct but interrelated hierarchies of administrative authority known respectively as “the rulers” and “the learned.” The institutions of the rulers consist of National Spiritual Assemblies and their respective committees and conventions and Local Spiritual Assemblies. In the future these Assemblies will come to be called Houses of Justice as well. Since the 1920s it has been the practice that wherever nine or more adult Bahāʿīs reside, a Local Spiritual Assembly should be formed, either by a vote of the entire community or through acclamation. In countries and other broader jurisdictions where a sufficient number of Local Assemblies exist, a National Assembly should be formed by means of election through delegates to a National Convention held every year in April. By 1983 there were 135 National Spiritual Assemblies and 24,714 Local Spiritual Assemblies. In addition, there were 112,776 localities where Bahāʿīs resided but where there were not yet sufficient numbers to form Assemblies (Smith, 1987, pp. 168–169). The institutions of the “learned” also proceed from the Universal House of Justice (in the absence of a Guardian); the first rank here is the Hands of the Cause. As only the Guardian can appoint these, this institution will end when the last of these die. Continental Boards of Counselors at present assist the Hands of the Cause (in 1993 only three of the original twenty-seven appointees were living). These boards are in turn assisted by Auxiliary Boards and their assistants. The Universal House of Justice and all national and local Spiritual Assemblies are elected, the first body every five years, the remaining two yearly. All elections take place on the first day of the festival Riẓvān. For a clear discussion of the relationship between the “rulers” and the “learned,” including the existence of these institutions notwithstanding the Bahāʿī ban of the clerical class, see Smith and Momen (1989).

Bahāʿī Calendar: Feasts and Holy Days.

An integral factor in the establishment of a Bahāʿī identity has been the adoption of a new calendar that had been put forth by the Bāb in his Persian Bayān. This is a solar calendar of nineteen nineteen-day months. On the first day of each of these months Bahāʿīs observe their feasts, a time when the community gathers to read or listen to the sacred word, to consult on local activities and plans, and to associate with each other in fellowship. The names of these months are taken from a well-known Ramaḍā prayer, the Duʿāʿ al-Bahāʿ, ascribed to the fifth Shīʿī imam, Muḥammad al-Bāqir.

In addition there are several Holy Days observed throughout the year, usually through commemorative meetings or community-minded events. Both non-Bahāʿīs and Bahāʿīs participate together at Holy Day functions (non-Bahāʿīs are prohibited from attending the nineteen-day feast). New Yearʾs Day is the ancient Iranian Nawrūz, which becomes the first day of the first Bahāʿī month. The Bahāʿī Era began with the Bābʾs declaration, which has been precisely fixed as having occurred at 2 hours and 11 minutes after sunset on May 23, 1844. The nine Holy Days on which work is suspended are the Feast of Nawrūz (Bahāʿī New Year), March 21; the Feast of Riẓvān (Declaration of Bahāʿ Allāh), April 21–May 2; the Declaration of the Bāb, May 23; the Ascension of Bahāʿ Allāh, May 29; the Martyrdom of the Bāb, July 9; the Birth of the Bāb, October 20; the Birth of Bahāʿ Allāh, November 12; the Day of the Covenant, November 26; and the Ascension of ʿAbduʿl-Bahāʿ, November 28. Although Bahāʿīs have no dietary restrictions, they do observe a yearly fast which takes place for the entire month of ʿAlāʿ. During these nineteen days Bahāʿīs who have attained the age of majority (fifteen) are required to abstain from food and drink between dawn and sunset. Other laws and requirements for Bahāʿīs include obligatory prayer, abstention from the nonmedical use of drugs and alcohol, and the refraining from backbiting. These and other laws are established in the Kitāb al-aqdas, an authorized English translation of which was published for the first time in 1993.

Current Status.

According to the most recent statistics, the worldwide Bahāʿī community includes approximately 6 million people. There are 165 National Spiritual Assemblies, while the total number of countries, significant territories, and island where Bahāʿīs reside is 233. Worldwide there are approximately 20,000 local Spiritual Assemblies. Bahāʿī literature has been translated into 802 different languages, and there are 2,112 different minority and ethnic groups represented. Throughout the world there are seven Houses of Worship, and sites are owned by Bahāʿīs for another 125. There are approximately 950 schools or other educational projects, seven radio stations, and 670 social and economic development projects. In the United States there are roughly seven thousand localities where Bahāʿīs reside, 1,700 local Spiritual Assemblies, and five schools and institutes serving an approximate population of 120,000 (figures from the Canadian Bahāʿī Office of Public Information, March 1994). The largest Bahāʿī community is in India.

See also BāB; BāBISM; and BAHāʿ ALLāH.

Bibliography

  • ʿAbduʿl Bahāʿ [ʿAbbās Effendi]. A Travellerʾs Narrative Written to Illustrate the Episode of the Bāb. Translated by Edward G. Browne. Cambridge, 1892. Find it in your Library
  • ʿAbduʿl Bahāʿ [ʿAbbās Effendi]. The Secret of Divine Civilization. Translated by Marzieh Gail. Wilmette, Ill., 1970. Find it in your Library
  • ʿAbduʿl Bahāʿ [ʿAbbās Effendi]. The Promulgation of Universal Peace (1922). 2 vols. in 1. Wilmette, Ill., 1982. Find it in your Library
  • The Bāb [ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī]. Le Bèyán persan. 4 vols.Translated by A. L. M. Nicolas. Paris, 1911–1914. French translation of the Bābʾs book of laws. Find it in your Library
  • The Bāb [ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī]. Selections from the Writings of the Bāb. Translated by Habib Taherzadeh, et al.Haifa, 1982. Find it in your Library
  • Bahāʿ Allāh [Mīrzā Ḥusayn ʿAlī Nūrī]. The Kitāb-i-Iqān: The Book of Certitude, Revealed by Bahāʿuʿllāh. Translated by Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette, Ill., 1931. Bahāʿ Allāhʾs most influential work, clarifying the Bahāʿī principle of “progressive revelation” and the deep influence of Shīʿī Islam (especially its theosophic dimension) on the formation of Bahāʿī belief. For other important works, such as The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, and others available in English, see Collins, below. Find it in your Library
  • Bahāʿ Allāh [Mīrzā Ḥusayn ʿAlī Nūrī]. The Kitāb-i-Aqdas; The Most Holy Book. Haifa, 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Balyuzi, H. M.ʿAbduʿl-Bahā: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahāʿuʿllāh. Oxford, 1971; Find it in your Library
  • The Bāb: The Herald of the Day of Days. Oxford, 1973; Find it in your Library
  • Bahāʿuʿllāh: The King of Glory. Oxford, 1980. Find it in your Library
  • Bowers, Kenneth E.God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Bahaʿi Faith. Baha’i Publishing, 2004. Find it in your Library
  • Cole, Juan R. I.Modernity and the Millenium: The Genesis of the Bahaīi Faith in the Nineteenth-Century Middle East. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Find it in your Library
  • Collins, William P.Bibliography of English-Language Works on the Bābī and Bahāʿī Faiths, 1844–1985. Oxford, 1990. Meticulous bibliographic guide with many annotated entries, containing virtually everything of any importance to do with the subject in English, including a lengthy section on anti-Bahāʿī polemic. Replaces all earlier attempts. Find it in your Library
  • Effendi, Shoghi. The World Order of Bahāʿuʿllāh: Selected Letters (1938). 2d rev. ed. Wilmette, Ill., 1974. Perhaps the best statement on the current religious vision held by the worldwide Bahāʿī community, written in a distinctively elevated and luxurious English. Find it in your Library
  • Esslemont, J. E.Bahaʿuʿllah and the New Era: An Introduction to the Bahaʿi Faith. Bahaʿi Publishing, 2006. Find it in your Library
  • Gleave, Robert, ed.Religion and Society in Qajar Iran. London: Routledge Curzon, 2005. Find it in your Library
  • Hatcher, William S., and J. Douglas Martin. The Bahāʿī Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. New York, 1984. Concise and reliable introductory description of current Bahāʿī belief and practice, written by proponents. Find it in your Library
  • Kenneth, E.E. God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Bahai Faith. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i Publishing, 2004. Find it in your Library
  • Momen, Moojan. Bahaʿi Faith: A Short Introduction. Oxford: OneWorld Publications, 1999. Find it in your Library
  • Nabīl-i-Aʿẓam Muḥammad Nabīl Zarandī. The Dawn-Breakers: Nabilʾs Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahāʿī Revelation (1932). Translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette, Ill., 1974. Standard history of the Bābī religion written by an early convert to the religion of the Bāb who would become one of the more illustrious disciples of Bahāʿuʿllāh. Edited, translated, and annotated with introductory material, appendices, bibliographies, and photographs by the first and only Guardian of the Bahāʿī faith. Invaluable resource for scholars of the movement, as well as a kind of sacred history for the Bahāʿīs. Find it in your Library
  • Rabbānī, Rūhiyyih. The Priceless Pearl. London, 1969. Biography of Shoghi Effendi by his widow, lovingly told with consummate grace and humanity, providing a wealth of detail not found elsewhere. Find it in your Library
  • Smith, Peter. The Babi and Bahaʿi Religions: From Messianic Shiʿism to a World Religion. Cambridge, 1987. The first detailed examination of the subject, from a sociology of religion perspective. Smith announces his commitment to the Bahāʿī faith and at the same time raises questions that might disturb unreflected belief in the religion. Find it in your Library
  • Smith, Peter. Bahaʿ Is in the West. Kalimat Press, 2003. Find it in your Library
  • Smith, Peter. A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahaʿi Faith. Oxford: OneWorld Publications, 1999. Find it in your Library
  • Smith, Peter, and Moojan Momen. “The Bahaʿi Faith, 1957–1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments.” Religion 19 (1989): 63–91.
  • Stockman, Robert. The Bahāʿī Faith in America. Wilmette, Ill., 1985. The first scholarly discussion of the subject, illuminating the profound relationship between American Protestantism and the development of Bahāʿī thought. Find it in your Library
  • Universal House of Justice. Wellspring of Guidance: Messages, 1963–1968. Wilmette, Ill., 1969. Important collection of documents from the first term of the supreme authority of the Bahāʿī faith, resolving several potentially controversial issues. Find it in your Library
  • Universal House of Justice, comp. A Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitāb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book of Bahāʿuʿllāh. Haifa, 1973. Apart from those who read Arabic, the Bahāʿīs have been without a canonical edition of their most holy book until 1993. This book was the only indication of its contents until that time. Find it in your Library
  • Universal House of Justice. The Promise of World Peace. Haifa, 1985. The most recent articulation of the Bahāʿī approach to world peace by the supreme religious authority, addressed to the non-Bahāʿī world and marking the beginning of the United Nations International Year of Peace in 1985. Find it in your Library

These three biographies by Balyuzi are written in the finest tradition of scholarly hagiography and essential reading for the early history of the Bahāʿī faith and its central figures as perceived by followers.

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