A Resource Guide for Baha'i Studies--bibliography

8. Bahá'í Communities of the World

The Bahá'í Faith has spread to every country of the world. While much could be written on the development of the Faith in these different areas and especially on the unique characteristics of the communities in diverse cultures, most attention has been focused solely on growth. In North America the rate of conversion to the Faith reached a peak in the nineteen-sixties and -seventies and since has stabilized at a slow but steady rate of expansion. In many of the Eastern European countries and those of the former Soviet Union the dissolution of prohibitions on religion has allowed the Bahá'í Faith only recently to begin its teaching and conversion programs, and the Bahá'í communities there have increased rapidly. Some countries still have no significant Bahá'í communities, such as most Islamic countries where the Faith has been sporadically persecuted. The most significant growth has been in Third World countries, some of which, like India, boast quite sizeable Bahá'í communities.

    8.1. The Bahá'í Faith in Africa, Latin America, and Oceania

Compilations from the Bahá'í writings on the Pacific include "The Islands of the North Sea" and "The Islands of the Pacific," both in Bahá'í Studies Review, 6 (1996).

Hatcher and Martin, Africa: 193, 203;     Smith 1987, Africa: 167, 169, 171,        
Latin America: 68-9, 71; Oceania: 175,    190-1; Latin America: 158, 167-9, 171,    
193                                       190-2; Oceania: 67, 169, 171, 190-5       
Momen, 133                                Smith 1996, Africa: 104, 133, 146-8;      
                                          Latin America: 110-1, 124-5, 132-3,       
                                          139, 143, 148-50; Oceania: 142, 150       

The Bahá'ís of Africa, Latin America, and the ocean islands have been less studied that those of any region, and yet their history is potentially very significant, because the indigenization of the Bahá'í religion in cultures that are neither Islamic nor Western offers a unique opportunity to explore its flexibility and capacity to innovate. Gregory C. Dahl wrote a very descriptive essay titled "Indian Bahá'ís of Bolivia" in World Order, 4.1 (Fall 1969). The only known scholarly study of the African Bahá'ís is Loni Bramson-Lerche's "The Bahá'í Faith in Nigeria," in Dialogue and Alliance. Graham Hassall has written three excellent studies on the spread of the Bahá'í Faith in the South Pacific: "The Bahá'í Faith in Australia, 1920-34: Some Notes on John and Clara Hyde-Dunn," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.1 (June 1983), "Pacific Bahá'í Communities, 1950-1964," in Donald H. Rubinstein, ed., Pacific History: Papers from the 8th Pacific History Association Conference, and "The Bahá'í Faith in the Asia Pacific: issues and prospects," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 6 (1996).

    8.2. The Bahá'í Faith in Europe

'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks in Europe have been published in various collections, such as Paris Talks and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London. A memoir by Mahmúd-i-Zarghání, who accompanied 'Abdu'l-Bahá on his European travels, is published in Persian, and an English translation is forthcoming. The Universal House of Justice has compiled references on Europe in A Compilation of Bahá'í Writings on Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland, in Bahá'í Studies Review, 4.1 (1994); "Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: A Compilation of Bahá'í Writings," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 3.1 (1993); and "Europe: A Compilation from the Bahá'í Writings," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 1.1 (1991).

Hatcher and Martin, 69, 71, 193           Smith 1987, 100, 106-7, 166, 168, 171,    
Momen, 133                                Smith 1996, 88, 97, 120, 140-1            

One of the few articles on the Bahá'í Faith in Europe is Phillip R. Smith, "What Was a Bahá'í? Concerns of British Bahá'ís, 1900-1920," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 5. Short but very analytical histories of the Danish Bahá'í community have been published by Margit Warburg, including "The Circle, the Brotherhood, and the Ecclesiastical Body: Bahá'í [sic] in Denmark, 1925-1987," her demographic study "Growth Patterns of New Religions: The Case of Bahá'í," in Robert Towler, ed, New Religions and the New Europe, and various other unpublished papers on the Danish and northern European Bahá'í communities. Some biographical work has been done such as Wendy Heller's Lidia: The Life of Lidia Zamenhof, Daughter of Esperanto; John Paul Vader's For the Good of Mankind: August Forel and the Bahá'í Faith; and Luigi Stendardo's Leo Tolstoy and the Bahá'í Faith. Work is needed on the traveling teaching work of Louise Gregory; the pioneering work of Marion Jack in Bulgaria; the interest in the Bahá'í religion shown by Queen Marie of Romania; the role of the International Bahá'í Bureau in Geneva; and many national and local Bahá'í community histories. A new priority is study of the extremely rapid growth of the Bahá'í community in the formerly communist countries of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Robert Stockman's "The Bahá'í Faith in England and Germany, 1900-1913," in World Order 27.3 (Spring 1996) covers the introduction of the Bahá'í Faith and early growth in these countries.

    8.3. The Bahá'í Faith in Iran

Ferraby, 62                               Smith 1987, 86-99, 172-80                 
Hatcher and Martin, 195-8                 Smith 1996, 88-92, 132-6                  
Huddleston, 225-30                                                                  

A monograph treating the history of the Bahá'í Faith in Iran is badly needed and overdue. Moreover, because tens of thousands of Iranian Bahá'ís have fled Iran there are now persons in the West who speak Persian and Arabic and who can acquire the training to produce scholarly histories. A surprisingly large amount of archival material is available as well. A very good article giving a summary of Iranian Bahá'í history, by Vahid Rafati, may be found in the Encyclopedia Iranica. Peter Smith's collection of historical essays, titled In Iran, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 3, is the most useful source of any length. Susan Stiles' "Early Zoroastrian Conversions to the Bahá'í Faith in Yazd, Iran," in Juan R. Cole and Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2, is also significant, for it studies the impact of Westernization and modernization on conversion. Moojan Momen's "Early Relations Between Christian Missionaries and the Bábí and Bahá'í Communities," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 1, provides some information on the Western reactions to the growing Bábí-Bahá'í movement. This work has been expanded in Moojan Momen, The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts. The development of Iranian Bahá'í women and the impact of Western women on their consciousness of their status has been explored in Baharieh Rouhani Ma'ani's "The Interdependence of Bahá'í Communities: Services of North American Bahá'í Women to Iran," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 4.1 (Mar.-June 1991): 19-46.

A considerable quantity of original source material on the Iranian Bahá'í community also is available, often in English translation. Edward Granville Browne visited Iran, met Bahá'ís, and obtained manuscripts from them that he subsequently translated; published in various works, these have been compiled by Moojan Momen into one collection titled Selections from the Writings of E. G. Browne on the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions. Some information not included in this volume may be found in Browne's Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion and the original editions of A Traveller's Narrative. Roy Mottahedeh's The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran, a historical portrayal of life in twentieth-century Iran written as an autobiography of a semi-fictional character, depicts and brings to life many of Iran's political, social, and religious tensions. Though this book is not about the Faith and only contains a few references to it (though Mottahedeh is a Bahá'í), the book allows the reader to gain a good understanding of the Faith's cultural background.

    8.4. The Bahá'í Faith in North America

The United States emerged immediately as the largest Bahá'í community in the West, and the center of publishing in Western languages. The early American Bahá'í community developed out of two groups: disaffected evangelical Protestants, attracted to the Bahá'í emphasis on fulfillment of biblical prophecy; and those who had abandoned Christianity for "metaphysical" groups, and who then became Bahá'ís for a variety of reasons. The creation of a body of translations of Bahá'í scriptures, the writing of accurate introductory explanations of the Bahá'í teachings, and consolidation of the new converts into a single, unified community took several decades and was not essentially completed until about the mid-1930s. The North American Bahá'í community has been extremely important in worldwide Bahá'í history, and promises to play an important role in the future as well.

'Abdu'l-Bahá gave many talks when he visited the United States and Canada; these were collected and published as The Promulgation of Universal Peace. His visit is the subject of Allan L. Ward's Two Hundred Thirty-Nine Days: 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Journey in America. A memoir of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit by Mahmúd-i-Zarghání, who accompanied him on his North American tour, has been published in Persian and soon will be published in English. The definitive theological statement about the community's destiny is Shoghi Effendi's "America and the Most Great Peace," published in World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 71-94.

Esslemont, 59-60                          Smith 1987, 100-14, 180-90                
Ferraby, 231-32                           Smith 1996, 95-7, 110-1, 138-9            
Hatcher and Martin, 53-60, 66-9, 193                                                


Aside from Arthur Hampson's valuable dissertation The Growth and Spread of the Bahá'í Faith, which devotes over 200 pages to examining growth and diffusion patterns of the Faith across North America from 1893 to 1973, no general history of the American Bahá'í community has yet been written; one must still piece together American Bahá'í history by reading various books that cover the different periods of its history. Much work has been done on the establishment and early spread of the Bahá'í Faith in America. The Bahá'í Faith spread to North America in the full light of history, and there were non-Bahá'í observers who wrote about the process. Most useful is Edward G. Browne, who collected a considerable amount of letters and newspaper clippings and published them in his Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion. Robert Stockman's "The Bahá'í Faith in America: One Hundred Years," in World Order, 25.3 (Spring 1994), is a useful overview of the religion's history in North America, and his "The American Bahá'í Community in the Nineties," in America's Alternative Religons, ed. Timothy Miller, discusses the issues and concerns currently facing the community.

The existing literature contains two approaches to early American Bahá'í history. Peter Smith argues that the American Bahá'ís were heavily influenced by the cultic or metaphysical milieu in the United States; Robert Stockman favors an interpretation emphasizing evangelical Protestantism instead. Peter Smith's "The American Bahá'í Community, 1894-1917: A Preliminary Survey," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 1, represents the first survey of early American Bahá'í history attempted; it relies heavily and usefully on sociological theory. Robert H. Stockman's series The Bahá'í Faith in America, Origins, 1892-1900, volume 1, and Early Expansion, 1900-1912, volume 2, is the most comprehensive history of the origins of the American Bahá'í community, though it is gradually becoming out of date. Stockman has also written an unpublished biography of Thornton Chase, one of the first American Bahá'ís.


Richard Hollinger's "Ibrahim George Kheiralla and the Bahá'í Faith in America," in Juan Cole and Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2, and "Some New Notes on Ibrahim Kheiralla," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.3 (Dec. 1983), describe the life of the man who brought the Bahá'í Faith to the Occident from the Middle East and later, seeking to establish his own authority in the West, rebelled against 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Peter Smith, "Reality Magazine: Editorship and Ownership of an American Bahá'í Periodical," in Juan Cole and Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2 explores the development of heterodoxy and orthodoxy in the American Bahá'í community from the late teens through the early 1930s.


William Collins' "Kenosha, 1893-1912: History of an Early American Bahá'í Community in the United States," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 1 describes the third-oldest Bahá'í community in the United States, one which grew until its membership reached several percent of the town's population, at which point it experienced attempts to repress it. Bruce Whitmore's The Dawning Place: The Building of a Temple, the Forging of the North American Bahá'í Community tells the story of the construction of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, the center of the American Bahá'í community today, and its influence on Bahá'í organizational growth all over the continent. Since much of the development of a national governing structure is tied to the construction of the House of Worship, this work is a useful longitudinal study of the American Bahá'í community. R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram's Music, Devotions, and Mashriqu'l-Adhkár: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 4 tells the story of the development of hymn writing and singing among the American Bahá'ís and offers more details about the construction of the House of Worship. Robert Stockman offers differing perspectives of many topics in this book in his "Review of Music, Devotions, and Mashriqu'l-Adhkár," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 1.2 (1988-1989). O. Z. Whitehead has produced three collections of biographical essays on important early Bahá'ís called Portraits of Some Bahá'í Women, Some Bahá'ís to Remember, and Some Early Bahá'ís of the West. Richard Hollinger's Community Histories: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 6 provides histories of six North American Bahá'í communities, and a very useful introduction that offers analysis of the common trends in local Bahá'í community development.


Will van den Hoonaard has published two studies on the Canadian Bahá'í Community: "Canada's Earliest Bahá'í History," in World Order, 22.1/2 (Fall 1987 Winter 1987-88), 39-49, followed by his exhaustively-researched The Origins of the Bahá'í Faith in Canada, 1898-1948. Part of the latter has been distilled as "The Bahá'í Community of Canada: A Case Study in the Transplantation of Non-Western Religious Movements to Western Societies," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 7:3 (March-June 1997). The little volume Abdu'l-Bahá in Canada includes primary source material such as newspaper reports and photographs as well as transcriptions of his talks in Montreal.

    8.5. The Bahá'í Faith in the Former Soviet Union.

Bahá'ís first moved from Iran to formerly Soviet Central Asia in the 1870s, building the world's first House of Worship in 'Ishqábád.

The Research Department of the Universal House of Justice has collected relevant texts in "Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: A Compilation from the Bahá'í Writings," in The Bahá'í Studies Review, 3.1 (1993).

Hatcher and Martin, 199-200               Smith 1996, 62, 88, 93-4, 120, 138, 141   
Smith 1987, 90-1, 121, 161, 165-71, 173                                              

Anthony Lee's "The Rise of the Bahá'í Community of 'Ishqábád," in The Bahá'í Faith in Russia: Two Early Instances (Bahá'í Studies, vol. 5) describes the history of the largest Bahá'í community ever to have existed in the former Soviet Union, and the construction of its Bahá'í House of Worship, the first in the world. The other paper published in the same monograph is A. M. Ghadirian's "Count Leo Tolstoy and his Appreciation of the Bahá'í Faith." A more thorough treatment of Tolstoy's views about the Bahá'í Faith, and how those views have been variously interpreted, may be found in William Collins and Jan Jasion, "Lev Tolstoy and the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions: A Bibliography." "Persecutions under the Soviet Régime," in The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record, vol. 3, 1928-1930, 34-43, covers the destruction of the Soviet Bahá'í community under Stalin. Graham Hassall has collected a good variety of material in "Notes on the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions in Russia and its Territories," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1993).

    8.6. The Bahá'í Faith in South and East Asia

Esslemont, 252-53                         Smith 1987, 86-99, 190-95                 
Hatcher and Martin, 193-203               Smith 1996, 111, 133, 145-6               
Momen, 131, 133-4                                                                   

Virtually nothing has been written about the spread of the Bahá'í Faith to India and then to Burma in the 1870s and 1880s, and the Faith's subsequent indigenization in both countries. This is particularly unfortunate, since India and Burma represent the first two countries of what later came to be called the Third World to have Bahá'í communities. Two works by early American travelers to these countries exist and are illuminating, however. The longest has recently been reprinted: Sidney Sprague's A Year With the Bahá'ís of India and Burma.

The Indian Bahá'í community--currently the largest in the world--has been the most studied. William Garlington's "Bahá'í Conversions in Malwa, Central India," in Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2, is an abridgement of the author's doctoral dissertation The Bahá'í Faith in Malwa: A Study of a Contemporary Religious Movement. Garlington has also written a piece about Bahá'í hymns to Bahá'u'lláh composed in the traditional genre of hymns to the Lord Krishna, called "Bahá'í Bhajans" in World Order, 16.2 (Winter 1982). Margit Warburg has examined some of the sociological factors for conversion to the Bahá'í Faith in "Conversion: Considerations before a Field-Work in a Bahá'í Village in Kerala." For discussion of some of the issues of conversions of Hindus to the Bahá'í Faith, see Moojan Momen's little book, The Bahá'í Faith and Hinduism.

A bit more has been written recently on the development of Bahá'í communities in East Asia. Barbara R. Sims' book, Traces that Remain, chronicles major events in the growth of the Bahá'í Faith in Japan, and provides numerous photographs of that community. Her The Taiwan Bahá'í Chronicle: A Historical Record of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Faith in Taiwan, also complete with photographs, briefly covers the period 1954 to 1973. Jimmy Ewe Huat Seow has written The Pure in Heart, a history of the spread of the Bahá'í Faith among Chinese people in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, and other East Asian countries.

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