The Captain of Titanic has given a signal of distress to the Baha’is of the world in the form of organizing 95 youth conferences across the globe. The UHJ will pump dollars to make these conferences a success. As usual, the youth will come to make merry and play music, as at the last moments of Titanic people aboard were singing and dancing.
So threatened is the faith with danger of extinction due to Baha’i Faith’s administration being infiltrated with pretenders and gangsters who ‘claim’ to be Baha’is, but lack faithfulness in their hearts. Their aim is to keep the ark ‘motionless’ and focus on ‘fancies’ such as over-administration, a social-club-like mentality, backbiting, passing time over trivial issues, more importantly, ridiculing those who lack it, instead of effectively teaching, sharing & reaching the highest realms of the spirit.
The Baha’i Faith is suffering from Ideological and Administrative and social turmoil.
While the matter of Guardianship sprang-up many other issues surfaced like:
a. authenticity of Will and Testament of Abdul Baha,
b. who was the real successor of Bab – Subh-e Azal or Bahaullah?
c. Bahaullah’s sister Aziziya Khanum disclosing viceful personal life of Bahaullah.
d. The Unitarian Baha’is bringing all sorts of Holy writings against Abdul Baha.
e. number of ideological questions were raised by the Knowledgeable Ex Baha’is, who were shown the gate, over the internet. They launched a full attack on the History of Baha’i Faith. The Ex Baha’is proved that the Pen is mightier than sword (Excommunication).
The UHJ found itself incapable to give any logical answer to these questions and went on damage control mode asking NSA to take back all the Baha’is whose voting rights were taken. They absolutely erased the concept of Sanctions of Administrative Rights. And now, finally, 95 conferences are being arranged as a part of damage control strategy.
On the other hand there were many Administrative questions surrounding UHJ regarding its legality, its infallibility and the extra ordinary higher percentage of Iranian Baha’is on it. The Baha’i scholars have been openly objecting to the high level of intolerance shown by UHJ, use of derogatory languages for respected Baha’is, threat of excommunication, election process of UHJ and its interference in election of the other countries.
Even the various methods of propagation are so frequently being changed that it gives a sign of uncertainty. Earlier it was fireside and then Mass teaching. The Social Economic Development has failed to give any serious acceptability to the Baha’i Faith.
The worst failure was Ruhi curriculum which divided the Baha’i Faith diagonally into the Persian and Non Persian Baha’is – finally resulting in outburst of a former UHJ Member against not just the Ruhi curriculum but the UHJ itself. Certain reactions are indeed eye openers, e.g. after a deepening session by a so called Baha’i scholar, a Persian Baha’i remarked that let us congratulate UHJ for successfully confusing the Baha’is.
The Volunteers who served on the world centers in the prime of the youth age, when asked to return as they had lost their youth, started openly criticizing the UHJ members
The attack of former UHJ member on Ruhi curriculum and a humiliating court case defeat has instilled shame in every Baha’i. Baha’i now care a damn about the claims of UHJ asking Baha’is to be patient that it is doing everything to reverse the case.
Since the advent of Ruhi system, the deepened Baha’is who were always ahead in activities felt betrayed by the UHJ for side tracking them in every field. Capable Baha’is having knowledge of Baha’i Faith and Holy writings were left for job of travel teachers and useless and incompetent Baha’i who did not know the difference between Bahaullah and Allahoabha were made counselors.
Baha’i culture can hardly be called as a Religious culture. The ultra modern culture resembles MTV pop culture and not at all a sober religion.
The rate of divorce, rate of elopement, infighting amongst the Baha’i officials and an emerging trend of resignation of Baha’i officials from Administration and their refusal to take up any responsibility whether it is paid or voluntary, are all signs of steep downfall.
Preoccupation with Iran
The UHJ’s preoccupation with Iran is not proving to be a good omen for the Baha’is. The Baha’i sites of every country contain more anti Iranian material than Holy writings. It seems that it is made for the purpose of instilling Anti Iranian feelings.
The Universal House of Justice is discussing how to contact the political leaders to defame Iran (in the matter of Yaran) and at the same time utilizing the meeting for Baha’i propaganda by gifting some Baha’i Books. The UHJ members are openly talking with the Baha’is that Persecution of Baha’is in Iran is a blessing for them as it gave them the opportunity to meet different political leaders. In fact one of the UHJ members remarked that ‘if the Iran problem is solved, then what?’
Further, it has antagonized many Persian Baha’is as nationalism is more important for them than faith.
This obsession with the Anti Iran Govt propaganda leaves little time for other activities. A typical Baha’i LSA member apart from anti Iran propaganda has local politics, defaming other Baha’is, gossiping and merry making in the agenda. No wonder the faith has lost whatever spirituality it had.
It is clear that turmoil in the faith is deep. Relating the situation to the Titanic is not uncalled for. Most Baha’is can now see through the deception. Only hindrance is that they can’t find a better social club to give allegiance. The current UHJ message is understood by many Baha’is
Message Of UHJ
Within communities of every size and strength, we are glad to see the processes of the Five Year Plan kindling the spirit of service and stimulating purposeful action. Examples appear every day of how the act of reaching out to touch individual hearts, acquainting souls with the Word of God, and inviting them to contribute to the betterment of society can, in time, tend to the advancement of a people. This collective movement becomes discernible when the Plan’s elements are combined into a well-coordinated cluster-wide effort, the dynamics of which are becoming increasingly familiar. Such a cluster becomes the setting for experienced believers as much as those newly introduced to the Faith, whatever their age or background, to work side by side, accompanying one another in their service, enabling everyone to participate in the unfoldment of the Plan.
From the panorama of the Baha’i world engaged in earnest activity, one phenomenon strikes us especially: the decisive contribution made by youth on every continent. In this phenomenon we see the vindication of the hopes the beloved Guardian invested in them “forthe future progress and expansion of the Cause” and of the confidence with which he laid upon their shoulders “all the responsibility for the upkeep of the spirit of selfless service among their fellow-believers”. We are struck, too, by the number of youth who, after only a brief association with the Baha’i community, commit themselves to meaningful acts of service and quickly discover their affinity with the Faith’s community-building Endeavour. Indeed, in contemplating both the Baha’i youth and their like-minded peers, we cannot but rejoice at their eagerness to take on a measure of responsibility to aid the spiritual and social development of those around them, especially ones younger than themselves. In an age consumed by selfinterest,in which even spiritual affiliation is weighed in the scales of reward and personal satisfaction, it is heartening to encounter individuals from their mid-teens to their twenties—those upon whom the sights of an aggressive materialism are decidedly trained—who are galvanized by the vision of Baha’u’llah and are ready to put the needs of others before their Own. That such high-minded youth, by dint of their own exertions as well as the momentum they lend to the whole community, should be contributing so effectively to efforts everywhere under way bodes well for the anticipated acceleration of these efforts.
What has been accomplished in the past two years will, surely, be far surpassed, not just in the concluding years of this present Plan but in the remaining years of the first century of The Formative Age. To spur on this mighty enterprise and to summon today’s youth to fully assume the responsibilities they must discharge in this fast-contracting interval, we announce the convocation of 95 youth conferences, between July and October, planned for locations that span the globe :
• There is no community of Baha’is. Baha’i Faith is an NGO, which pays its officers to work
• The Baha’i contribution for betterment of society is NIL.
• There are no believers in Baha’i Faith only officers and workers. And they are paid for it.
• “Guardian”, please explain which Guardian? there are multitudes of Guardians in Baha’i Faith
• If it is selfless service, stop the remuneration given to counselors, ABMs, NSA members and to the Baha’is for attending the conference. Ask them to pay for their lodging and boarding then see the attendance
• It is a great lie.
• You have accomplished some statistics which are falsely written by Persians
• When the officers and workers get together, in language of NGO is called as PARTY, and in Baha’i Faith it is called as Conferences.
In Muslim eschatology, the Mahdi is a Messianic figure who, it is believed, will appear on Earth before the Day of Judgment and, will rid the world of wrongdoing, injustice and tyranny. People claiming to be the Mahdi have appeared across the Muslim world – in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East – and throughout history since the birth of Islam (610 CE).
A claimant Mahdi can wield great temporal, as well as spiritual, power: claimant Mahdis have founded states (e.g. the late 19th-century Mahdiyah in Sudan), as well as religions and sects (e.g. Bábism, or the Ahmadiyya movement). The continued relevance of the Mahdi doctrine in the Muslim world was most recently emphasised during the 1979 seizing of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by at least 200 militants led by Juhayman al-Otaibi, who had declared his brother-in-law, Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, the Mahdi.
Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf
Ṣāliḥ ibn Tarīf, the second king of the Berghouata, proclaimed himself prophet of a new religion in the 8th century. He appeared during the caliphate of the Umayyad Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. According to Ibn Khaldun‘s sources, he claimed receiving a new revelation from God called a Qur’an, written in the Berber language with 80 chapters. He established laws for his people, which called him Salih al-Mu’minin (‘Restorer of the Believers’), and the final Mahdi.
Islamic literature considers his belief heretical, as several tenets of his teaching contrast with orthodox Islam, such as capital punishment for theft, unlimited wives, unlimited divorces, fasting of the month of Rajab instead of Ramadan, and ten obligatory daily prayers instead of five. Politically, its motivation was presumably to establish their independence from the Umayyads, establishing an independent ideology lending legitimacy to the state. Some modern Berber activists regard him as a hero for his resistance to Arab conquest and his foundation of the Berghouata state.
Abdallah ibn Muawiya
Abdallah ibn Muawiya was descendant of Jafar ibn Abi Talib. At the end of 127 AH/ 744 CE Shia’s of Kufa set up him as Imam. he revolted against Yazid III, the Umayyad Caliph, with the support of Shia’s of Kufa and Ctesiphon. He moved to west of Iran and Isfahan and Istakhr. He managed to control the west of Iran for two years. Finally, he was defeated by the caliph armies in 746-7 CE and fled to Harat in Khorasan. He died in Abumuslim prison, his rival. His followers did not believe his death and said that he went to occultation and he would return as Mahdi.
Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī
Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali (29 July CE 869/15 Sha‘bān 255 AH – ?), more commonly called Muhammad al-Mahdi, is the twelfth imam of Twelver Shia Islam. He is believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Mahdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams. Twelver Shī‘a believe that al-Mahdī was born in 869 and did not die but rather was hidden by God (this is referred to as the Occultation) and will later emerge with Isa (Jesus) in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. He assumed the Imamate at 5 years of age. Some Shi‘īte schools do not consider ibn-al-Hasan to be the Mahdī, although the mainstream sect Twelvers do.
Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah
His preacher/Da’i Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi’i helped secure for him parts of north Africa using the support of the Berber locals. The Fatimids later built Cairo as capital in Egypt and their descendants continued to rule as Caliphs (the sixth, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, is believed by the Druze to be in occultation and due to return as Mahdi on Judgment Day) until Salah-ud-Din Ayubi (also called Saladin) took over Egypt and ended the Fatimid state. He imprisoned the last Fatimid Caliph and his family in the Fatimid Palace until death.
The Moroccan Ibn Tumart (c. 1080 – c. 1130), sought to reform Almoravid decadence in the early 12th century. Rejected in Marrakech and other cities, he turned to his Masmuda tribe in the Atlas Mountains for support. Because of their emphasis on the unity of God, his followers were known as Al Muwahhidun (‘unitarians’, in western language: Almohads).
Although declaring himself mahdi, imam and masum (literally in Arabic: innocent or free of sin), Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart consulted with a council of ten of his oldest disciples, and conform traditional Berber representative government, later added an assembly of fifty tribal leaders. The Almohad rebellion began in 1125 with attacks on Moroccan cities, including Sus and Marrakech. But as Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart died in 1130, his successor Abd al Mumin took the title of Caliph – claiming universal leadership in Islam – and placed members of his own family in power, converting the system into a traditional sultanate.
He claimed to be the Mahdi on three occasions, first in Mecca, and later twice in India, attracting a large following, and opposition from the ulema.
His five deputies were Sani Mahdi, Shah Khundmir, Shah Neymath, Shah Nizam and Shah Dilawar.
Muhammad Jaunpuri died in 1505, aged 63, at Farah, Afghanistan. His followers, known as Mahdavis, continue to exist and are centred around the Indian city of Hyderabad, although there Mahdavi communities in Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as well as in Pakistan and overseas in America, Australia, Canada, Africa and United Kingdom.
Ahmed ibn Abi Mahalli
Mahamati Prannath (1618–1694), from Gujarat,India, was a religious leader who proclaimed himself Imam Mahdi.
The 19th century provided several Mahdi claimants, some of whose followers and teachings survive to the present day.
Prince Diponegoro (11 November 1785 – 8 January 1855), prince of Yogyakarta, Java. He saw himself as a Javanese Mahdi, or Ratu Adil (prophesised by King Joyoboyo), against Dutch colonialism. Now a National Hero of Indonesia.
Alí Muḥammad Shírází (Báb)
Alí Muḥammad Shírází (20 October 1819 – 9 July 1850), claimed to be the Mahdi on 24 May 1844, taking the name Báb (Arabic: باب / English: Gate) and thereby founding the religion of Bábism. He was later executed by firing squad in the town of Tabriz. His remains are currently kept in a tomb at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
The Báb is considered the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh (pronounced ba-haa-ol-laa / Arabic: بهاء الله / English: Glory of God), and both are considered prophets of the Bahá’í Faith. The declaration by the Báb to be the Mahdi is considered by Baha’is to be the beginning of the Bahá’í calendar. Read the rest of this entry »
I hope you don’t mind me telling you a little bit about myself, and asking some questions.
I have read some of your articles about mysticism, and comments about the Baha’i Faith and some of it is hard to deny. Here is a little background about myself. I converted to Islam when I was nineteen years old, and within a year I discovered the Baha’i Faith. I didn’t do much research at first because I was still getting used to practicing Islam and grasping the idea of being part of a worldwide Muslim community. I didn’t care for all of the rules and regulations that the ‘ulama declared were the only true means of practicing the faith. It seemed like they made Islam excessively hard to practice for most people. When I finally began to research the Baha’i Faith, my attraction was really towards the Bab’, Ali-Muhammad Shirazi. I read Mirza Husayn Ali’s “Book of Certitude” in one night, and the parts that kept me reading even though my mind was tired, were the prophecies about the Bab’ as the Mahdi. I was not interested in prophecies at that time, because I didn’t come from a particular background that required them. The same was true for Islam. I didn’t “need” to know that Muhammad was prophesized in the Bible, as I was an agnostic. Even so, when I read the Shi’a hadith that was quoted in the book, I fell in love with this man called “The Bab’.” Even when I started to hang out with the Baha’is, I would jokingly refer to myself as a “Muslim Babi” because of how attracted I was to him.
But jokes aside, I didn’t see a contradiction with that phrase because I viewed the Bab’ as a man who created a community that was “outside” of Islam but still “inside” at the same time, like a paradox. After a month of spending time with Baha’is, I saw my first red flag. I was talking to one of my Baha’i friends and mentioned that I wanted to learn Farsi or French so I could read the Persian Bayan in full. For some reason, still unknown to me to this day, she became instantly suspicious and implied that my “intentions” to read it were impure somehow. “Wait a minute”, I thought. Why would she give me a guilt trip because I wanted to read a part of her own faith’s scripture? If I were talking to a Muslim and stated that I wanted to learn Arabic so I could read the Qur’an in its original language, they would be ecstatic and probably even help me learn the language if they knew it.
I took the matter to some other Baha’is because I thought maybe she just had her own issues or something, but they also became silent when I said it was because I wanted to read the Persian Bayan.
One of them kindly suggested that it would be easier for me to just read the writings of Baha’u’llah because he is the “most recent” Manifestation of God, they are more easily available, and they are translated into English so I don’t need to learn a foreign language. I understood the logic, but I didn’t understand why they were all trying to dissuade me from reading a piece of their own scripture. I got the impression that they had something to hide. That wasn’t my initial perception at all, but when they kept trying to steer me in a certain direction and even question my “intentions” (whatever that means), what else was I to think? The only reason why I wanted to read the Persian Bayan was because of my attraction to the Bab, not despite of it. I eventually caved to their wishes and read the writings of Mirza Husayn ‘Ali instead, which were inspiring to a certain degree. But I would get this intuitional feeling that somehow the Baha’i Faith wasn’t telling the whole story about its origins, like it was hiding something.
Every time I would feel that way, I would crush it and punish myself for thinking such “unholy” thoughts. I also started to wonder if the Baha’i Faith actually despised Islam at its inner core. While I could never categorically prove this, I came across many passages and writings that seemed to speak ill of Islam through cleverly constructed phrases that appear to exalt the faith of Muhammad at face value, but in actuality are tearing it apart. I would notice that out of all of the interpretations given to particular Quranic verses and hadiths that exist in the tradition of Islamic scholarship, the Baha’i Faith would almost always pick the “bad” one that would make Islam appear “backward” to the “enlightened” west, and would then say “this is why Baha’u’llah came, to reform religion…etc.” Perhaps that is too conspiratorial, but it was a very strong feeling I had that would inevitably creep up no matter how much I censored my thoughts. One of my most vivid memories of this kind of thing, was a “conversation” I had with a sweet elderly Persian woman. She initiated it by stating that according to a Zoroastrian scholar on satalite t.v., Muhammad (pbuh) commanded his followers to bury their new born children alive during the early years of his prophethood; but he later abrogated that law by commanding them to only bury their female new born children alive and sparing the males. I told her that that was really confusing since the Qur’an specifically mentions the practice of burying female new borns and condemns it. She just brushed that off and kept saying more things that would make Islam look bad, and ended our conversation
with a hug and an “apology” for “offending” me, and stating a final after thought, “the Qur’an tells men to beat their wives…you know this?”
This leads into my questions. What is it that I could have done to make these Baha’is treat me this way? I was nothing but respectful towards them and their faith. I never said a bad word about their religion. And yet it seems like just because of the sheer fact that I was a Muslim, that somehow meant that I was less than them. Even after I became a Baha’i, while still retaining my love and appreciation for Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, some of the Baha’is would still pick at me for my association with Islam. The elderly Persian woman would sometimes ask me if I was “still a Baha’i”, which is a meaningless question because the LSA would know if I had resigned from the Baha’i Faith (which I did a number of years later.)
In the research you have done, is there any evidence that the Baha’i Faith has an agenda to make Islam look barbaric and evil, while appearing to praise the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an? In connection with that question, does the Baha’i Faith have an agenda to make the Babi Faith and Islam appear to be enemies of each other? Did Tahirih really claim that Muhammad’s teachings were “nonsense”? Is there a full translation of the Persian and Arabic Bayans in English? Or for that matter, are full copies of the originals still in existence for anyone to read?
Thanks for getting back to me, I really appreciate it…About Western imperialism and the Baha’i Faith, I am also starting to think there is a connection. I still have a few Baha’i friends, and almost on a daily basis I hear about the “oppression of Baha’is in Iran”, which saddens me. But what makes me question things is this: Out of all of the oppressed peoples of the world, from South America to Chechnya, from Iran to the First Nation peoples of North America, why is is that so much attention is given to seven people in Iran? I am not saying that persecution requires a high number of people for it to be persecution, but they act as if Baha’is are the only people being persecuted in that country. In the past twenty years, about two-hundred Baha’is have been executed by the State. That is a serious human rights crime, but does it really warrant a war, sanctions, and massive death for the entire Iranian population, while other countries that are allies of the United States kill groups of people in the thousands? And when non-
Baha’is question Baha’is why they don’t speak out against the oppression of other groups of people, they basically say that it’s not their job. Which would be a “fair”, albeit selfish answer if it were not for the sheer fact that the Baha’i institutions call on non- Baha’is to speak out on behalf of Baha’is. But when the tables are turned, the Baha’i institutions don’t want to hear it.
This might sound really off-the-mark, but do you think it is possible that the “higher-ups” of the Baha’i Faith are practicing some form of “black” magick in an attempt to influence world affairs towards their goals? Also, are you aware of any Baha’i-Freemason connections? I came across some interesting things a Baha’i wrote on a Baha’i forum, but haven’t done enough researching yet to know if it is true. Basically, he said that the name “Baha’u’llah” is a “special name” at the Baltimore Masonic Temple, like a “code word.” They have a hallway of nine doors, with the ninth door being the highest as the hall moves upwards. He also said that Gleanings from the writings of Baha’u’llah is in their top ten books of scripture to read from. He said that Baha’is are not permitted to join Secret Societies, but he knows at least two Baha’is in “good standing” who are 33rd degree Masons.
Thanks to Mr. Wahid Azal for putting this on TRB
Date: Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:15 pm
Subject: RE: [talisman9] Re: Juan Cole on Iran’s ‘nuclear defiance’
Invite to Yahoo! 360º
wherever they may be hidden and by whatever means are needed to destroy them. If the Iranians deny us their oil, destroy their oil facilities – if we can’t have their oil, neither will they.
From author Dermod Ryder (Asparagus)
The Beloved Guardian assured us that those diseased people who attacked the Cause of God would deservedly suffer and be destroyed and behold, this vicious one was struck down exactly as you will be destroyed for your wanton and outrageous lies and calumnies.
Advocating a nuclear preemptive strike against Iran:
A better reason for a pre-emptive nuclear attack we have yet to see. The removal of 78 million plus 2 mental defectives from the planet would be a mighty blessing and nuclear is obviously the most economic method.
By Wahid Azal
By Adrian Worsfold
When I was confirmed into the Church of England in 1984 I asked some Baha’is I met at their firesides to come along. None did. In the end I fell out with the Baha’is as I discovered academic material that presented their history differently from their own. They are very committed to the preservation of their history as monitored by the Universal House of Justice, the nine seater male-only assembly meant to be a combined secular and religious decision making body for the world, elected without campaigns by the National Spiritual Assemblies below them, these elected by delegates from the Local Spiritual Assemblies below them. It is a very conserving system, a sort of democratic centralism: what the top level says goes.
Very quickly summarizing: the origins of the Baha’i Faith are in the Babi faith that developed out of Shia Islam in Iran and Iraq. They were waiting for the return of the Hidden Twelfth Imam and a Holy War for the victory of Islam. In 1844 Sayyid Ali Muhammed Shrirazi claimed to be the Bab, the Gateway to the returning Imam. When he didn’t appear at Karbala, Sayyid Ali Muhammed escalated his status in stages to the Imam, then the Prophet and then superseding to a new Manifestation of God. The movement was surrounded by violence, and started much of it themselves. The Bab appointed Mirza Yahya (or Sub-i-Azal) to be his successor, but after the Bab was killed by the authorities the violence continued and the movement was in severe decline. Sub-i-Azal’s half brother, Mirza Husayn Ali, an elite Persian convert, built up his own faction and in 1863 he, Baha’u’llah (Glory of God) announced himself as the Bab’s next Manifestation of God. The authorities never left either faction alone, and the Azalis ended up in Cyprus and the Baha’is at Palestine. However, Baha’u’llah, in the course of the compulsory travels and his declaration to the few and then the world of his status, read Sufi and New Testament material, and completely remodelled the faith as it came into the Western orbit, making itself syncretistic in character, peaceful and expecting the unification of the world.
Baha’u’llah died in 1892, and Abbas Effendi, his eldest son, or Abdul-Baha, became the leader and only interpreter or “Centre of the Covenant”. Here there was factionalism, as a group known as the Unitarians (people of the Book, not Abdul-Baha’s interpretations) broke out and were excommunicated. The Young Turks’ victory meant an end to imprisonment, and Abdul Baha became a traveller around the West even more spiritualising and Westernising the movement, and was a charismatic figure as he attended mosques, Christian and Unitarian (the other sort) churches and synagogues.
After he died Shoghi Effendi became the first Guardian. Some Germans did not accept the validity of Abdul Baha’s will appointing him and so the Free Baha’is emerged for a time. Shoghi Effendi should have had a serving Universal House of Justice under him, but he did not set it up. He should have left a will, but either he didn’t or it never appeared. So when he died in 1957 there was a crisis of leadership, after which in 1963 the Universal House of Justice was formed and took to itself powers of the Guardian, most importantly the sole power to interpret and the power to excommunicate.
The chief of Hands of the Cause, a forerunner to the UHJ, Mason Remey, thought he should be the new Guardian. Factions have arisen ever since from that branch, including one that now thinks the second Guardian was presumptive, but so was the Universal House of Justice taking power to itself.
The UHJ produces plans for growth. The millennial nature of the Bahai Faith is that it expects the Most Great Peace to arrive (instead we had George Bush) and a tipping point where “troops” of people convert to the Bahai Faith. Unfortunately, the Bahai Faith has been born in a rather irreligious age in Europe, and other than some growth in developing countries, Europe has been slow and with a high turnover of members. Plus, the UHJ in Haifa has a habit of turning members who don’t submit to censorship panels into covenant breakers. There are also quite a few people who find themselves mysteriously removed from the rolls of membership, but in the age of the Internet they continue the faith themselves with new freedom, the name Baha’i being in the public realm. A problem for the Haifa Baha’is is that only they can raise money for themselves, and members who can participate in Feasts as well as Firesides find themselves locked into administration details: the Baha’i Faith is an “Administrative Order” after all.
So at each stage of leadership transition elite groups have competed and been excluded, and it is reasonable to say that the quest for unity has been a failure because of its high cost in factions and breakaways, and now there is a more relaxed Bahaism emerging of excluded or drifter individuals. It matters not that the Universal House of Justice only recognises itself as legitimate, because anyone can read the Kitab-i-Iqan and Kitabi-i-Aqdas and the published materials that Shoghi Effendi translated into his strained olde-worlde English. Even infallibility is being questioned by individuals let loose.
The Bahai Faith is useful for Christians and Christian theology in a number of ways.
First of all we see something of a parallel in the Bab as a kind of announcer of a new manifestation, although he became what he expected. He gets positioned like a John the Baptist, and probably John the Baptist was his own man too. Then we have the central manifestation (Incarnation) figure, Baha’u’llah. Then we have the very important St. Paul figure, who becomes such an important interpreter and spreader into new cultures and giving a further twist to the faith.
Then we have the issue of authority. There is something of the Pope in the Guardian, of course, but the UHJ is like Orthodoxy or Roman Catholic centralism – with knobs on. In fact it is very Weberian-bureaucratic, and very pyramidal. Weber regarded such with great pessimism: it was anti the life-giving enchantment that he thought religion supplied.
The other lesson is that of allowing theology to grow organically and in diversity. There is a distinct double identity problem of Baha’i member scholarship in secular institutions including that of religious studies departments. It does the Baha’i Faith no favours. We see similar with some Roman Catholics. If Christians become more subject to such pressures of membership conformity, then there is a distortion to both the academic sphere and to the representational sphere.
I also suggest that Christians should express the truth as they find it even when it conflicts with doctrines or interpretations of the Bible. If there is some compelling finding about, say, the Jesus of history as an endtime Jewish rabbi, then this should come first, or at least people should be honest about the layer-cake nature of doctrines or how people interpret the Bible.
Older faiths have developed more maturity with time. They can sit light and worry less about how their faiths are represented. Or at least this is what we thought, as the Christian world gave rise to a secular and plural world.
There are pressures to go along a road of such as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. There is a narrowing of what is legitimate expression of a faith, and there are calls for excluding those who are not biblical enough. An Anglican Communion, properly understood, would become a World Wide Anglican Church with authoritative statements handed down, with again distant high-up forms of selection of those with centralised power.
Who knows how these developments will work out. The Baha’is could not predict their own future, despite the claimed infallibility of the words of both their Manifestation of God and Centre of the Covenant. So Anglicans cannot predict theirs! Nevertheless, if secularisation and plurality lead down the road to authoritarianism and centralisation, there are going to be quite a few Anglican Communion Covenant Breakers who will continue to define the faith in a broad way, however they organise, meet and link up together.
Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.