Wednesday 9 June 2010

Bahá’í Scholarship

The Origins of Bahá’í Scholarship:

Bahá’í scholarship has a long history, with its roots in the early Bábí community. The Letters of the Living were Shaykhí mullás, trained by the renowned Sayyid Kázim, who was the disciple of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá’í. The Shaykhí tradition itself had its roots in the long shí‘í tradition of scholarship that claimed to derive its authority and wisdom from the holy Imáms themselves. While Shaykh Ahmad did couch his writings in the language of past traditions and philosophies, especially that of the ‘Ishráqí (illuminationist’) philosophy, his scholarship was also a renewal of scholarship itself. Although he was a recognised mujtahid, he derived his authority from a source that was invisible, unseen. He claimed to be in direct contact with the holy Imáms who appeared to him in dreams and visions. The shí‘í scholars of the day had lost touch with the spirit of Islam, that was well on its way to complete extinction. Shaykh Ahmad revealed the inner meanings of the scriptures and the prophecies concerning the resurrection and Day of Judgement.

For centuries, shí‘í Scholars existed as the custodians of Islamic knowledge. Religious scholars educated their disciples through lectures and dialogue. Devout students memorised the rules of Arabic grammar (sarf and nahw), rhetoric (balághah), logic and traditions and learned to recite the Qur’án from memory (tajwíd). While this system succeeded in its purpose of passing knowledge from one generation to the next, much of this knowledge was superficial. The Qur’án was learned as a literal text, devoid of inner spiritual meaning. The laws and traditions were endlessly debated by idle students who imposed their faulty understanding on the texts. The Shaykhís themselves, though educated by the enlightened Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim, were nevertheless prone to the same faults as their predecessors. Exalting their acquired knowledge above spiritual intuition, many Shaykhís failed to recognise the Báb when He declared His mission in 1844. Those that did recognise the Báb often struggled with their scholarly education, which taught them to prefer man-made interpretations to the raw spiritual power of the scriptures.

The Danger of the Scholarly Class:

The point that must be emphasised is not that reliance on the scriptures blind scholars—rather, it is  reliance upon man-made knowledge that blinds the soul. Literal interpretations of the Qur’án based on man-made misinterpretations, hair-splitting ‘logic’ and philosophy, and a high regard for miracles and literal fulfilment served as barriers between the scholar and God. Desire for power, arrogant assertion of power and jealousy always corrupt clerical systems.  Bahá’u’lláh writes:

“Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people. By their sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk from the chalice of sacrifice, and winged His flight unto the heights of glory. What unspeakable cruelties they that have occupied the seats of authority and learning have inflicted upon the true Monarchs of the world, those Gems of divine virtue! Content with a transitory dominion, they have deprived themselves of an everlasting sovereignty. Thus, their eyes beheld not the light of the countenance of the Well-Beloved, nor did their ears hearken unto the sweet melodies of the Bird of Desire.”
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan Book of Certitude, pp. 15-16)

The scriptures become a veil, in the sense that they are misinterpreted and enveloped in layers of man-made dogma and theologies. The biggest danger to a religion has always been its clergy, which drain the religion’s spiritual force and mislead the masses with hatred and prejudice. Bahá’u’lláh writes:

“We, verily, see amongst you him who taketh hold of the Book of God and citeth from it proofs and arguments wherewith to repudiate his Lord, even as the followers of every other Faith sought reasons in their Holy Books for refuting Him Who is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Say: God, the True One, is My witness that neither the Scriptures of the world, nor all the books and writings in existence, shall, in this Day, avail you aught without this, the Living Book, Who proclaimeth in the midmost heart of creation: "Verily, there is none other God but Me, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise."” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, v. 168, pp. 80-81)

When the Letters of the Living and other mullás accepted the Báb, they became illumined with the light of faith. Bahá’u’lláh  writes:

“If these divines be illumined by the light of the latter Revelation they will be acceptable unto God, and will shine with a light everlasting. Otherwise, they will be declared as darkened, even though to outward seeming they be leaders of men, inasmuch as belief and unbelief, guidance and error, felicity and misery, light and darkness, are all dependent upon the sanction of Him Who is the Day-star of Truth. Whosoever among the divines of every age receiveth, in the Day of Reckoning, the testimony of faith from the Source of true knowledge, he verily becometh the recipient of learning, of divine favour, and of the light of true understanding. Otherwise, he is branded as guilty of folly, denial, blasphemy, and oppression.” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan Book of Certitude, p. 36)

The Emergence of Modern Bahá’í Scholarship:

These early scholars used their knowledge and education to defend the Bábí Faith and uphold its principles. Later on, as the Bahá’í Faith was established, new scholars emerged. Notable among these was Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl Gulpáygání, who wrote numerous apologetic works defending the Faith from outside attacks.  It wasn’t until the mid-1970s, however, that a new Bahá’í scholarship began to emerge, in which the Faith was studied by Bahá’ís in an academic manner. Associations for Bahá’í Studies were established and the Universal House of Justice encouraged its development. In 1979, they wrote: “The Universal House of Justice regards Bahá'í scholarship as of great potential importance for the development and consolidation of the Bahá'í community as it emerges from obscurity.” (From a letter dared 3 January 1979 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

Trained in Western academia, Bahá’í scholars now began the process of viewing the Faith objectively, through the lens of the modern academic. Some scholars, prejudiced with the world-view they inherited from a defective, secular educational system, left the Faith when their conclusions disagreed with the Bahá’í teachings. Denis MacEoin and Juan Cole are notable among these individuals. Shoghi Effendi writes: “"It has often happened in the history of the Cause that those who were once among the leaders and in the forefront of Bahá'í activity grew in their old age lukewarm and inactive not to say sceptical."  (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Indian Subcontinent, p. 63) Others continued to view the Faith positively and remained within the fold. Scholarship was bound to be different for Bahá’ís as we do not have a system of clergy. The role of the scholar in the Bahá’í Faith is fundamentally different from the role of Islamic scholars. Throughout their writings, the House of Justice has focused on the role of the Bahá’í scholar as the defender of the Faith and discouraged the modern secular tendency to distort religious truth “to make it conform to understandings and perceptions current in the scientific world”:

“. . . the House of Justice understands that you desire to find ways of conveying spiritual truths in logical ways and demonstrating their validity through scientific proofs. There can be no objection to such an attitude. 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself used such a method. The danger Bahá'í scholars must avoid is the distortion of religious truth, almost forcibly at times, to make it conform to understandings and perceptions current in the scientific world. True Bahá'í scholars should guard against this.”
(From a letter dated 7 June 1983 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

Many achievements have been made by Bahá’í scholars and its roots are strong, but the influence of Western academia is strong.

Why Modern Scholarship is Often Misdirected:

The problem with modern scholarship is that is holds all truth to be relative. There is no good or bad—no Absolute Truth or error. There is no authority higher than can be discerned objectively, through experiment and evidence. It is strongly influenced by the anti-religious ideas that began to emerge in the 18th and 19th centuries, fueling the development of academic materialism, especially the counterfeit ideology known as Marxism. As mankind began to shed off the husks of blind religious dogma formed from the man-made interpretations of a hierarchical religious caste, it threw out the baby with the bath-water and religion became absolutely separated from science. True science (‘ilm) is knowledge, not just natural science. It embraces all aspects of human knowledge. A fundamental principle established by Bahá’u’lláh is the harmony of science (acquired knowledge) and religion (revealed knowledge). Modern scholarship rejects this notion and holds that only acquired knowledge has value, which must be independent and separate from religion, which is valueless. In reality, science and religion must go hand in hand. Religion must inform and inspire scientific research. This has, unfortunately, been ignored by many who are indoctrinated in the world of academia. The House writes:

“The House of Justice feels that Bahá'í scholars must beware of the temptations of intellectual pride. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has warned the friends in the West that they would be subjected to intellectual tests, and the Guardian reminded them of this warning. There are many aspects of western thinking which have been exalted to a status of unassailable principle in the general mind, that time may well show to have been erroneous or, at least, only partially true. Any Bahá'í who rises to eminence in academic circles will be exposed to the powerful influence of such thinking.” (From a letter dated 27 March 1983 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

The greatest enemies of the Bahá'í Faith are not external enemies. Those members of other religions or other beliefs and philosophies who attack the Faith only serve to strengthen the Faith and increase its expansion. Government oppression leads to greater victories. The greatest enemies of the Faith are those that claim to uphold the teachings but attack the spiritual authority underlying those teachings. The Guardian writes:

"...the believers need to be deepened in their knowledge and appreciation of the Covenants of both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This is the stronghold of the Faith of every Bahá'í, and that which enables him to withstand every test and the attacks of the enemies outside the Faith, and the far more dangerous, insidious, lukewarm people inside the Faith who have no real attachment to the Covenant, and consequently uphold the intellectual aspect of the teachings while at the same time undermining the spiritual foundation upon which the whole Cause of God rests."  (Shoghi Effendi - The Light of Divine Guidance (Volume 2), p. 82)

There are many sincere Bahá’í scholars who are defending the Faith and upholding its teachings. There are others also who are more interested in promoting the idea that homosexuality is somehow a legitimate tendency, that women may one day serve on the Universal House of Justice or that the House itself isn’t quite as infallible as it’s cracked up to be. Some e-mail lists and Planet Bahá’í sometimes become forums for unrest, where scholars and others debate Bahá’í teachings in a futile endeavour to force it to conform to modern ideas or ideologies. Instead of uniting to defend the Faith, some individuals (not the majority) are interested in undermining its authority. This is what the House of Justice has condemned and Shoghi Effendi warned about.

I recently wrote to the ------ list saying: “We probably all have our own feelings about this, but in this ------ list, there are too many arguments which tend to question Baha'i teachings, rather than uphold them. What we should all be agreed on is that the Universal House of Justice members must be male and we should defend that, not question it. Most of mankind is looking for certainty in belief, not doubt and confusion. Baha'is should not be arguing with each other over points of belief, we should accept the Writings and the guidance of the House, share our personal opinions (such as mine above) without arguing about them, and defend the Faith from its critics and enemies. We should be defending the Faith from outside forces, NOT questioning the idea of an all-male House of Justice or questioning the authority of the House of Justice.”

I knew it was futile but, nevertheless, it needed to be said. The response from some was negative, as my remarks were characterised as self-righteous, preachy, unacceptable and problematic. Such a response is only to be expected. I don't blame the individual in question for his response, though I do not believe I have been preachy, etc. Most Bahá’ís are defenders of truth and uphold the teachings sincerely. The Bahá’í community is united its obedience to the Universal House of Justice and the spiritual authority of the Scriptures.

Real scholarship is not the possession of the educated, the elite, the trained academic. Real Bahá’í scholarship belongs to all Bahá’ís. Any Bahá’í can become a Bahá’í scholar simply by engaging with the teachings, studying them, defending them and applying them to life. On one e-mail group years ago I was criticised for not speaking Arabic and Persian, not having a degree, etc. Now I have studied Arabic and Persian, have an undergraduate degree and am currently completing another degree. Yet I am the same, and my views on the Faith are not changed as a result. I have not adopted the faulty system of academia or its materialistic goals and ideologies. Rather, I have seen its flaws and realise its weakness.

Grassroots Scholarship:

The Universal House of Justice seeks to engage all Bahá’ís in grassroots scholarship, a new scholarship that transcends the fortress of academia. They write: “The House of Justice is fully committed to fostering the development of Bahá’í scholarly activity in all parts of the Bahá’í world. Through their scholarly endeavours believers are able to enrich the intellectual life of the Bahá’í community, to explore new insights into the Bahá’í teachings and their relevance to the needs of society, and to attract the investigation of the Faith by thoughtful people from all backgrounds. Far from being a diversion from the worldwide effort to advance the process of entry by troops, Bahá’í scholarship can be a powerful reinforcement to that endeavour and a valuable source of new enquirers.” (Department of the Secretariat, 24 April 2008)

Real knowledge should be generated by the world as a whole, not by a select few. The House writes:

“To read the writings of the Faith and to strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's stupendous Revelation are obligations laid on every one of His followers.  All are enjoined to delve into the ocean of His Revelation and to partake, in keeping with their capacities and inclinations, of the pearls of wisdom that lie therein.

“…Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great  enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization--each individual according to his or her talents and abilities.  Justice demands universal participation.” (Ridván 2010 Message)

Real understanding of the Bahá’í Faith requires only love and sincerity, not university education. Bahá'u'lláh writes:

“Heed not the idle contention of those who maintain that the Book and verses thereof can never be a testimony unto the common people, inasmuch as they neither grasp their meaning nor appreciate their value… Such contention is utterly fallacious and inadmissible. It is actuated solely by arrogance and pride. Its motive is to lead the people astray from the Ridván of divine good-pleasure and to tighten the reins of their authority over the people. And yet, in the sight of God, these common people are infinitely superior and exalted above their religious leaders who have turned away from the one true God. The understanding of His words and the comprehension of the utterances of the Birds of Heaven are in no wise dependent upon human learning. They depend solely upon purity of heart, chastity of soul, and freedom of spirit. This is evidenced by those who, today, though without a single letter of the accepted standards of learning, are occupying the loftiest seats of knowledge; and the garden of their hearts is adorned, through the showers of divine grace, with the roses of wisdom and the tulips of understanding. Well is it with the sincere in heart for their share of the light of a mighty Day!” (Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan Book of Certitude, pp. 210-2011)

Thus scholarship ultimately depends only upon “purity of heart, chastity of soul, and freedom of spirit”. None of us are perfect, and we all strive to attain this exalted goal. But let us reflect on the fact that scholarship is not the domain of the few, but the many. Real Bahá’í scholarship does not accept the superiority of material knowledge. Rather, it acknowledges divine revelation and is informed by spiritual teachings. It does not question the teachings, but applies them to reality, upholds and defends them. While tolerating differences of opinion, Bahá’í scholars are quick to uphold Bahá’í teachings. I believe we must join together in unity, not endless arguments and disputes over points of belief. I will end with this quote:

“O people of God! Righteous men of learning who dedicate themselves to the guidance of others and are freed and well guarded from the promptings of a base and covetous nature are, in the sight of Him Who is the Desire of the world, stars of the heaven of true knowledge. It is essential to treat them with deference. They are indeed fountains of soft-flowing water, stars that shine resplendent, fruits of the blessed Tree, exponents of celestial power, and oceans of heavenly wisdom. Happy is he that followeth them. Verily such a soul is numbered in the Book of God, the Lord of the mighty Throne, among those with whom it shall be well. (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, pp. 96-97)


I take my blog posts very seriously. There are not enough positive blogs about the Bahá’í Faith out there, and this is one more attempt to give a positive, accurate explanation of Bahá’í principles. Comments such as those of P---s below are unwelcome on my blog. While I have defended myself from two very negative posts by P---s (not much really needs to be said about such misconceptions), I do not welcome comments from individuals who criticise me personally or attack Bahá’í principles. There are some individuals who welcome criticism of all kinds, and that is there business. I do not welcome personal criticism at all. None of us are perfect, but personal criticism is unhelpful and pointless.


  1. It is legitimate to ask questions and so those who ask about membership of the Universal House of Justice, the Baha'i teachings on homosexual acts, or about the infallibility of the supreme intitution are not, in themselves, undermining the authority of the teachings. The issue is that, having received an explanation from the Universal House of Justice or the Writings, they continue to argue with the teachings themselves.

    For me, the biggest signal is the attitude of a member of the community toward the framework for action that has been put in place during the past decade and a half. If I hear antipathy toward the institute process and particularly the sequence of courses developed by the Ruhi Institute, I know the person does not get three things: how the intitute process raises up resources; how the framework creates a laboratory for learning; and that the framework has been set in place by the Universal House of Justice itself and is therefore an expression of the best set of tools for this time. It is difficult to "get" what it's about if one already considers oneself to possess some special knowledge or expertise of which all others stand in need. This is the trap of academia.

    Nevertheless, it is important to be gentle in speech, to state one's views at a moderate pitch. Rather than say "What we should all be agreed on is that the Universal House of Justice members must be male and we should defend that, not question it," it might be better to say that what we know is that the question of the membership of the Universal House of Justice has been asked and answered many times. Baha'is should endeavor to understand, accept and explain it as the House of Justice explained it. It stated that the equality of women and men is a core foundational social principle of the Faith. Because that is the case, the specialization of membership on the Supreme Institution to men cannot be considered a statement on the superiority of men over women. One might then consider that continued argumentation over this point to try to find a way around it is analogous to the ways in which certain believers after 1957 insisted that there had to be another Guardian, no matter what damage might be done to the meaning of 'Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament itself in the process. Baha'u'llah's statement about the House of Justice's membership, its later authoritative interpretation by 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, and elucidations by the House of Justice itself, should be the foundation for Baha'i responses to those outside who question this element of the constitution of the Universal House of Justice. There is no foundation upon which Baha'is can qestion it without running aground on the clear authoritative statements by authorized interpreters.

    This is the difference between asking questions to understand (a legitimate pursuit) and questioning the basis on which some significant aspect of the Faith's constitution rests.

  2. Hi Bill.

    Thanks for your response. What I mean by questioning the teachings is not asking questions, but questioning their validity. So I agree with what you're saying. None of us is perfect, so we always have more to learn. We all ask legitimate questions, within our own minds or of others. There are a few definitions of "to question":

    "v. ques·tioned, ques·tion·ing, ques·tions
    1. To put a question to. See Synonyms at ask.
    2. To examine (a witness, for example) by questioning; interrogate.
    3. To express doubt about; dispute.
    4. To analyze; examine."

    In this blog post, I am referring particularly to definition 3 "to express doubt about; dispute".

    With regards to the Ruhi Institute, I also agree. Even if one is not directly involved with the institute process, we must all support it as it is the engine for growth in the community at the present time. It is a necessary vehicle that will lead to an acceleration in the process of entry by troops, leading eventually to mass conversion.

  3. Nicholas,

    While I don't know you, I'm willing to believe that you're capable of speaking sensibly. I'm sure that on many issues, we'd find ourselves in full agreement. That being said, I don't see how anyone can take this post seriously. I don't see why you, an otherwise sensible person, can present this nonsense as reasoned argument.

    And when I say this, I'm not talking about the side issues here. I'm not talking about your boast that years of education have failed to change a single one of your opinions and only confirmed what you already believe. If you think that's something to be proud of, you're welcome to do so. What interests me is the central premise of your post.

    Again and again, you accuse "Baha'i scholars" of disagreeing with the teachings or undermining the teachings. You accuse them of "questioning" the teachings, which you then define as challenging them or refusing to accept them. I cannot not see, as I said, how anyone can take this argument seriously. I cannot believe that you take it seriously yourself. This whole line of argument depends upon an assumption so indefensible, even so ridiculous, that it's no wonder you never state it out loud.

    Whether you say it or not, your whole post depends on the notion that you, Nicholas, can stand in judgment upon the Baha'i teachings. Your repeated statements that this person or that undermines, opposes, challenges, or questions the teachings only make sense if you can say precisely what the teachings ARE and what they ARE NOT. To know for certain that someone opposes the teachings -- and I hope you don't make these charges on a hunch -- you must have a certain grasp of the teachings. If you weren't 100% sure of the teachings, I hope that you'd hesitate to accuse your fellow Baha'is in this manner.

    This raises two possibilities. The first, which I strongly doubt, is that you think you have a special understanding of the teachings, an understanding denied to other Baha'is. I doubt that you're really doing this. I doubt that you're trying to present yourself as the infallible interpreter of Baha'i orthodoxy, with the authority to decide who resists the teachings and who upholds them. I don't know you, but I still find it hard to imagine you claiming a power that not even the House, which may only elucidate, has dared to assume. The people who claim interpretive authority are called Covenant Breakers, and you don't seem like the type.

    But if you don't claim to have a better grasp of the teachings than other Baha'is, there's only one possibility. You must believe that all Baha'is have a perfect grasp of the teachings. You must believe that the Baha'i teachings are as clear to everyone as they are to you. If you don't claim a special interpretive authority you must believe that like you, every Baha'i is in a position to know precisely what the teachings are and what they aren't. You must believe that no one can ever mistake, misinterpret, or misread the authoritative texts of the Faith. You must believe that no one can ever get the teachings wrong.

    And this brings me to my original point. Can anyone take you seriously? Are we really supposed to believe that there is never room for doubt, for legitimate debate about what a text means or how it should be applied?


  4. And if you're correct, what does this say about the people who "oppose" the Baha'i teachings? If everything is clear, if everyone grasps the teachings as perfectly as you do, Nicholas, what are you saying about the people who still oppose the them? If you're correct, these people cannot be simply misguided. They cannot be sincere believers working to apply the teachings to the challenging circumstances of modern life. They must know that they are opposing the doctrines of the Baha'i Faith as surely as you know it. And what sort of person does this? What sort of person claims to be a Baha'i while attempting to destroy the Baha'i Faith from within? You need to ask yourself these questions, because this is the accusation you're making. You're accusing men and women, most of whom you have never met, of acting in deliberate bad faith. You are saying that they understand the teachings as clearly as you do, and yet still work to undermine and oppose them. You should be ashamed to make these sweeping claims. You should be ashamed to condemn so many people when you have never seen them face to face, let alone seen into their hearts.

    But more than anything else, you need to consider what it means when you make this accusation of Baha'is in good standing -- as many of these scholars are. When you accuse someone who has left the Faith of knowing the teachings and still opposing them, that's one thing. You're accusing them of the deepest dishonesty and the blackest malice, but you're still presenting a personal opinion, however ignorant and unfounded. But when you accuse a Baha'i scholar in good standing, you're coming dangerously close to the claims of special authority I mentioned before. Who are you to stand in judgment on another Baha'i? Who are you to set YOUR understanding of the teachings above theirs? If you took this to it's logical conclusion -- for once I'm glad that you ignore logic -- then you'd be the one facing disenrollment. I'm interested to see that you friend Bill thinks support for Ruhi should be the test of one's sincerity as a Baha'i. I wonder if he thinks his fellow Baha'is have an equal right to devise their own test and declare that he doesn't measure up. Because I'm sure that like you, he doesn't actually claim any special authority.

    I said at the beginning that I doubt anyone will take this seriously, and for your sake I hope that's true. The kindest interpretation of most of this is that you said it without thinking it through. I'm sure that you're a sensible person. And I hope to see more sensible postings in the future.


  5. Dear Polychrisos,

    Your post is highly offensive and ridiculous. I take what I say very seriously. I do not appreciate your comments at all. Baha'i scholars must accept the authority of the Universal House of Justice. That does not require any special knowledge for me to say. There are many Baha'i scholars who do. There are others who would question their authority. It is a fairly simple matter. If you have a problem with what I have written, I suggest you go elsewhere and leave my blog alone.

    People who say the House should consist of women, KNOW very well they are opposing the House's own position. So yes, it is pretty clear. Now, I hope you'll stop wasting space with your baseless attack.

  6. Nicholas,

    Since this is your blog, it's always in your power to remove my comments. And I thank you for responding to me rather than simply deleting them. As I said, I'm sure you're a decent, normally thoughtful person, and that your posts here are simply an aberration.

    But while I expect better, you continue to disappoint. Even in the brief reply above you continue to smear other Baha'is. Only one sentence before complaining of my "baseless attack," you demonstrate exactly what I mean. You say that Baha'is who argue for the mere possibility of women serving on the House are deliberately and knowingly defying the teachings of the Faith. You've never met the vast majority of these people, many are Baha'is in good standing as surely as you. But you have no problem declaring, by the authority vested in you by, that they are deliberately opposing the teachings they claim to uphold. In comparison, my assertion that your post is uninterrupted nonsense seems positively gentle. I'm accusing you of saying something ridiculous without thinking about what it really means. But you're accusing all these people of deliberate dishonesty and calculated malice. I'm condemning what I see written here. You're presuming to condemn the contents of their hearts. I'm saying that you don't know what you're doing. You're saying they know exactly what they're doing. Which is worse?

    As for the recent position of the House on the service of women and the role of the House in elucidating the Baha'i teachings, these are topics I'd love to discuss. But why discuss it with you when you've already decided that the matter is perfectly clear? Years of education did not modify a single one of your beliefs, so what's the use of talking to you? Why should you talk to anyone when you're already in possession of the truth?


  7. I am not at all interested in discussing these issues with you. The issue of women on the House is something the House itself is very clear about. Despite your deliberate attempt to paint me as someone claiming personal authority, I have consistently claimed nothing of the kind. The House of Justice has the authority and infallibility, and it is their position on women serving on the House that I defend. It is 'Abdu'l-Baha, not I, who has strong words regarding those who deliberately oppose the House of Justice. The idea of claiming women could or should serve on the House in this Dispensation is directly opposed to Baha'i teachings.

    I reject utterly your attempts to portray me in a negative way. Years of education have certainly not changed my position that the Word of God is the supreme authority and scholarship must be based on that notion, not on secularist materialism. My blog defends the Faith. If you are interested in the Faith, I hope you will take a more positive attitude.

    I for one, am NOT condemning my fellow Baha'is. I am urging scholars who do question the House's position on women on the House or other issues to defend the Faith in unity. That is the role of a Baha'i scholar. If you are or were once a Baha'i, I hope you will sincerely read the quotes I have given in this blog post and defend the Faith.


  8. Nicholas,

    I suppose you could make the case that you're not condemning your fellow Baha'is. Words are flexible things, after all. So it depends on what you mean by 'condemnation'.

    Here's how I see it. Consider what you're saying about the Baha'is in good standing who argue that the service of women on the House is at least a possibility. You don't just say that they're wrong. You say that they're consciously wrong. You say that they know that they're opposing the Baha'i teachings. Now think for just a moment about how you would feel if that were said of you. If I told you that you didn't understand the Baha'i teachings, I presume that would be enough to upset you. But what if I told you that you understood the Baha'i teachings and opposed them anyway? Wouldn't you feel that I was attacking and condemning you? I merely wrote that you had no idea what you were saying, and you called that an 'attack'. Imagine what you'd do if I said you were an enemy of the Baha'i teachings!

    And I'm not saying that you claim any special authority. I never did, and that's my point. If there's nothing special about your grasp of the teachings, there must be something special about your attitude towards the teachings. If everyone else knows the teachings as well as you, those who still oppose the teachings most be very wicked indeed. And they must be lying. They must be lying when they say that they're upholding and defending the teachings, or at least trying to understand them better. Because according to you, Nicholas, they know the teachings every bit as well as you do.

    And that's why I say that you're condemning Baha'is in good standing when you say they challenge the teachings. You're condemning them not only as liars, but as deliberate enemies of a truth which they recognize as clearly as you. By saying that you defend the teachings while others oppose them, you're not claiming special authority, but you ARE claiming a sort of moral superiority. You're arguing that when others undermine the truth of God in this day, you choose to defend it. You set yourself up not as someone who knows the teachings better, but as someone who loves them more. And I find that very offensive, which is why I hope for your sake that you haven't given this much thought. I hope for your sake that this post was the product of a distracted fifteen minutes when you typed out the first thoughts to spring into your head. I hope that you didn't think this through.


  9. You're making this about me when this has nothing to do with me.

    Baha'is are quite capable of understanding that they have to accept the House of Justice's positions. The House of Justice does not accept that women could one day be on the House. It is a simple matter of accepting the authority of the Will and Testament.

    Believe it or not, there are Baha'i scholars who believe we do not have to accept the House's position because that position can change (in their opinion). In other words, the House has got it wrong. That is a dangerous and incorrect position. Baha'is have a duty to defend the Faith both from internal and external attacks. The internal attacks (as Shoghi Effendi pointed out) are more dangerous. You believe I have slandered Baha'is. That is your opinion. What I have done is oppose an attempt to undermine the House's position on those matters.

    There isn't much need for us to continue this conversation.


  10. Nicholas,

    I had resolved to say nothing more about this. But then I read the note you added to your original post, where you say that you do not welcome messages like mine. I understand why you wouldn't appreciate receiving these messages. But then you need to consider whether you're choosing topics that attract them. You've charged people with knowingly defying the truth of God for this day. And you think they'll take this lying down?

    "The greatest enemies of the Bahá'í Faith are not external enemies... The greatest enemies of the Faith are those that claim to uphold the teachings but attack the spiritual authority underlying those teachings."

    I'd never deny that you have the right to say this. You're welcome to do so. But those you brand "the greatest enemies of the Faith" may want to respond. You can't start a fight an then complain when people want to fight. If you do, you come off like this (watch the baby on the right during the first 43 seconds of the trailer and you'll know exactly what I mean):


  11. Brendan,

    It is Shoghi Effendi's quote you should refer to above. If you believe it is ok to disagree with the House, feel free to do so, but one cannot do that as a Baha'i.

    While I have not deleted your comments, I do not consider them to be welcome. I would hope you would realise why they are inappropriate. I am not interested in the insults you are making.

    What I am doing with this blog is defending the Faith, not starting a debate. I am not interested in debating matters with individuals who have entrenched views to the contrary. Nothing can be achieved thereby. I am certainly not interested in personal insults such as the ones you are making.


  12. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 87)

    If differing opinions are not allowed to be expressed the truth will not come forth. If religious scholars are not allowed to express differing opinions they are not being allowed to independently search for the truth. If scholars are forced to be parrots of the beliefs of the leaders of their religion, mummers of the opinions of those who wield authority in their religion, the truth will not come forth and the spirit of that religion will wither and die.


    Larry Rowe

  13. Hi Larry, that quote of 'Abdu'l-Baha is most true. However, Baha'i scholars do not question the authority of the Universal House of Justice. If they do that, they have overstepped the line.

    Baha'is believe the Universal House of Justice's decisions are infallible, and 'Abdu'l-Baha also states that we have to accept their every decision and never go against them in any way. So while I understand your sentiment, and freedom of expression exists in the Baha'i Faith, a Baha'i scholar can never question the decisions of the Universal House of Justice.

    It may be difficult for some to understand that, as it requires a belief in infallibility and divine authority. However, for Baha'is, it is a basic idea. Baha'is accept this principle as a matter of belief. In many cases, people have left the Faith because they don't quite believe in this. Believe in the House's infallibility, however, is a basic requirement to be a Baha'i.


  14. Our Faith is blessed with a Covenant, which ensures the infallibility of the House of Justice. You believe that my position is like that of the ulama of Iran, a very mistaken idea indeed. It is offensive, in itself, but it also contrary to fact.

    Furthermore, your statements challenge the authority of the Covenant itself. As an example, you say the "the Universal House of Justice is quite obviously not only fallible but a ship without a rudder". This statement violates the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. This quote alone will remain as a testament to the nature of your post. I will have to delete your post entirely as I will not allow my blog to become a forum for Covenant-breaking and anti-Baha'i rhetoric and arguments. You are no longer welcome to post on my blog and your comments will be deleted if you choose to.

    May God help you to overcome this condition.


  15. "In the final analysis, all the forces of the universe support the Covenant" - Abdu'l Baha.

  16. You state "Some scholars, prejudiced with the world-view they inherited from a defective, secular educational system, left the Faith when their conclusions disagreed with the Bahá’í teachings. Denis MacEoin and Juan Cole are notable among these individuals"

    For the record, Juan Cole didn't "leave" the Baha'i Faith, he was expelled.

  17. As far as I'm aware, English European, he resigned from the Faith in 1996 but that is, in any case, quite irrelevent in the context of my blog post. I am not concerned with whether he was expelled or resigned. He left the Faith and does not uphold Bahá'í teachings. Whether or not he claims to accept Bahá'u'lláh, real acceptance of the Manifestation requires submission to His Covenant and the Administrative Order which He has established. It requires acceptance of the Most Great Infallibility of the Manifestation and the infallibility of the Universal House of Justice.