The purpose of this paper is to examine a particular technical meaning of
the term wisdom or hikmat, as that term appears both in Bahá'í Writings
and historical accounts. In many cases hikmat calls for the apparent
suspension of a Bahá'í principle in order to ensure the protection of the
Faith. This by no means exhausts the ways in which the term hikmat
appears in these there. When Greek philosophical texts were translated
into Arabic, sophia or metaphysical truth and phronesis or prudence were
both translated using the same term hikmat for what were two distinct
Aristotelian concepts. For Aristotle sophia was the knowledge of eternal
and principles while phronesis referred to the realm of moral and political
action. Bahá'u'lláh's usage of the term hikmat often reflects both these
meaning. This paper however, will largely confine itself to those
instances where the term seem to have reflected the meaning of
Bahá'u'lláh regarded the
application of any of his laws as contained in the Kitab-i-Aqdas as
conditional upon the exercise of wisdom.
Likewise the dissemination of Bahá'í writings was limited for the same
Shoghi Effendi, while affirming
"that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right
of the individual to self-expression," found it necessary to insist that
Bahá'ís temporarily submit their work to censors before publication as a
provisional measure "designed to guard and protect the Cause in its
present state of infancy and growth until the day when this tender and
precious plant shall have sufficiently grown to be able to withstand the
unwisdom of its friends and the attacks of its enemies."
Adib Taherzadeh, who has written most
extensively on Bahá'u'lláh's writings, defines the Bahá'í use of wisdom in
these terms: By wisdom is meant taking any praiseworthy action through
which the Cause of God may be promoted. Lack of wisdom is to take
actions which owing to circumstances result in harming the Faith, even
though they may be carried out with the best possible motive.
This definition, though by no means inaccurate, too vaguely conveys the
pragmatic usage to which this term was applied and why and how the term
"wisdom" or hikmat came to acquire such a meaning. Observing wisdom' in
practice often involved acts which would not ordinarily be regarded as
praiseworthy.' These included: denying or misleading people regarding
one's Bahá'í identity, concealing inconvenient aspects of the Bahá'í
teachings, and compromising certain Bahá'í principles. It is my thesis that
the term "wisdom," where it refers to behavior enjoined for protection of
the Faith, has its roots deep within Iranian theology, culture and history.
Its usage is not dissimilar from the inscrutable Wisdom of God as
depicted in Persian religion as far back as Zoroastrianism. It ties in as
well to Iranian conventions of etiquette (ta'aruf). Further, hikmat serves a
function not dissimilar to the role played by taqiyyih or dissimulation in
Wisdom and Persian Cultural Norms
Persian etiquette, or ta'aruf, involves the concealment and control of
one's personal feelings or opinions in service of smooth public
interactions. At times this may amount to no more than refusing
refreshments when initially offered no matter how hungry the person may
be; at other times it involves much more complex social interactions
where relative status is determined. Iranians often tend to reserve access
to their inner self to a small circle of intimates. Among these persons,
interactions ought to be pure and constant, maintaining a spiritual
integrity. With those outside that circle one behaves with reserve and
formality, concealing one's true intentions. Westerners often interpret
this behavior as hypocritical. When ta'aruf is combined with a market
place shrewdness, zerangi, which is often marked by a lack of social
responsibility, this negative impression is further reinforced. Iranians deem such behavior as courteous,
prudent, and necessary when dealing with an uncertain and treacherous
world. Far from being cynical and insincere, they see themselves as
simply conducting themselves with wisdom. As was mentioned earlier,
hikmat served a function within the early Iranian Bahá'í community very
similar to the role of taqiyyih or dissimulation in Shi'ite Islam. Taqiyyih
refers to the practice concealing one's belief in order to avoid
persecution. Such behavior is condoned, and even required of Shi'ites who
frequently lived among a hostile Sunni majority. The Qur'anic verse
condemning apostasy but which adds the words "except for those who are
compelled while their hearts are firm in faith" is used to justify this
practice. As in ta'aruf, a distinction is made
between outward behavior and inner conviction. Taqiyyih might involve
nothing more than assuming prayer positions of Sunni Muslims while
performing obligatory prayers publicly or it might entail an actual denial
of one's faith.
During the medieval period of Islamic history taqiyyih came
to be practiced by philosophers and mystics as well as Shi'ites in order to
protect themselves against persecution on the part of the more bigoted
ulama. Such an approach was encouraged by even the great Sunni
theologian al-Ghazali, who argued for what the renowned historian of
Islam, Marshall Hodgson, has described as a "pattern of gradation and
concealment of knowledge." Ordinary
believers were not to be given access to certain types of religious
knowledge lest they misunderstand it and stumble as a result. Likewise
Avicenna, the greatest of Islamic Aristotileans, would in his capacity as a
qadi, or Islamic judge, condemn those who too freely popularized the
teachings of Aristotle. Sufis likewise critized al-Hallaj, the famous
mystic who was crucified for asserting "I am the truth," not because the
sentiment was heretical in itself but because al-Hallaj was revealing
secrets' which might incline the common people towards blasphemy.
Knowledge in the Islamic world came to be divided into exoteric and
esoteric categories. The exoteric knowledge was accessible to all Muslims
and tended to be conceived in unambiguous black and white terms. Esoteric
knowledge required initiation and works containing such knowledge tended
to be worded in such a way as to be unintelligible to those not already
familiar with its mysteries. As Marshall Hodgson points out: When all
dissenting statements were cast in esoteric form, explicitly
acknowledging the correctness of the received exoteric doctrines . . . it
became easy to find excuses for doubt about a dissenter. No one denied the
official positions; the question was simply whether what else a person
said did in fact contradict those positions. But if writing was done with
sufficient obscurity, guilt could never be proved beyond a reasonable
While this approach allowed for much more intellectual diversity to exist
within the Islamic World than was possible in Christendom at the time,
there was a price to be paid for dissimulation. The Muslim intelligentsia,
in making themselves incomprehensible to the common people, sacrificed
any hope of changing the direction of the community as a whole.
Wisdom in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
While dissimulation was condemned in Bahá'u'lláh's writings, many
aspects of the practice persisted under the name of hikmat. Bahá'u'lláh
wrote: In this Day, We can neither approve the conduct of the fearful that
seeketh to dissemble his faith, nor sanction the behaviour of the avowed
believer that clamourously asserteth his allegiance to this Cause. Both
should observe the dictates of wisdom, and strive diligently to serve the
best interests of the Faith.
In the Tablet of Medicine as well as the Tablet of the Proof Bahá'u'lláh
pairs wisdom with eloquence or explication (hikmat va bayan), implying
that one should proclaim the Cause discretely. In the case of the Tablet of
the Proof Bahá'u'lláh insisted that the believers exercise wisdom by not
protesting their mistreatment at the hands of the authorities: To none is
given the right to protest against anyone concerning that which hath
befallen the Cause of God. It behoveth whosoever hath set his face
towards the Most Sublime Horizon to cleave tenaciously unto the cord of
patience, to put his reliance in God, the Help in Peril, the Unconstrained. O
ye loved ones of God! Drink your fill from the wellspring of wisdom, and
walk ye in the garden of wisdom, and speak forth with wisdom and
eloquence. Thus biddeth you your Lord, the Almighty, the All-knowing.
The injunction to observe wisdom' was due to the dangerous situation in
which Bahá'ís in Iran found themselves. In the Tablet of Medicine,
Bahá'u'lláh states that the purpose of hikmat is the protection of the
friends in order that they may remain within the world to make mention of
the Lord of all worlds. Most commonly
hikmat involved presenting the Faith to non-believers in ways which
avoided controversy and insured a positive reception. In Bahá'u'lláh's
words, Fix your gaze upon wisdom in all things, for it is an unfailing
antidote. How often hath it turned a disbeliever into a believer or a foe
into a friend? It observance is highly essential, inasmuch as this hath
been set forth in numerous Tablets revealed from the empyrean of the Will
of Him Who is the Manifestation of the light of divine unity. Well is it
with them that act accordingly.
At times even the Lawh-i-Hikmat, in which text hikmat usually refers to
Greek philosophy, Bahá'u'lláh has this meaning in mind, Say: Human
utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth
moderation. . . . As to its moderation, this has to be combined with tact
and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.
An instance where Bahá'u'lláh Himself exercises this kind of wisdom can
be seen in a Tablet addressed to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl in answer to some
questions raised by by Manakji, a Parsi for whom Abu'l-Fadl worked.
Manakji had asked how it could be, if all religions came from God, that
they all had different laws and ordinances such that one forbade pork,
while another prohibited beef. Bahá'u'lláh tells him that since the answer
to this question goes against Islamic teachings, it would be contrary to
wisdom to give him a direct answer, especially since Manakji had in his
employ people of various religions who might chance upon this letter. Instead Bahá'u'lláh alludes to the Tablet of
the Divine Physician where He has said that every age has different needs
and that one should examine the Bahá'í teachings as to whether they are
the remedy for today's ills. This
perspective would have offended Muslims since they believed that each
religion began with the same teachings which only subsequently became
corrupted to be finally restored with Islam. In order to avoid charges of
heresy, Bahá'u'lláh tries to be as discreet as possible in suggesting that
the various religions have had different laws and ordinances from the
start. He alludes to the necessity of feeding infants milk and not meat
lest they perish. To do otherwise would be wrong and and far from
wisdom. Only the Manifestation of God can determine such matters. While at times hikmat involved concealing
one's genuine views in situations of insecurity and possible persecution,
Bahá'u'lláh at other times spoke of it in broader terms as that sagacity of
spirit which ought to typify all of our human interactions at all times.
This seems to be the sense in which He uses it in the following Hidden
O SON OF DUST! The wise are they that speak not unless they obtain
a hearing, even as the cup-bearer, who proffereth not his cup till he
findeth a seeker, and the lover who crieth not from the depths of his heart
until he gazeth upon the beauty of his beloved. Wherefore sow the seeds of
wisdom and knowledge in the pure soil of the heart, and keep them hidden,
till the hyacinths of divine wisdom spring from the heart and not from
mire and clay.
Wisdom within the Bahá'í Community
While Bahá'u'lláh made a clear distinction between hikmat and taqiyyih
for many of the early believers, the difference appears to have been slight.
Muhammad Tahir Malmari, in his account of Bahá'í martyrdoms in Yazd,
frequently describes instances where believers accused of being Bahá'ís
explicitly denied that this was so. Yet when told to prove their disbelief
by cursing or condemning the religion they silently went to their deaths,
"firm and steadfast," according to Malmari. Cursing for a nineteenth century Iranian
was conceived of as having very real and concrete effects. This no doubt
partly accounts for the Bahá'ís' insistence at drawing a line at this point.
But it seems also that early Bahá'ís made a distinction between denying
their own identity as Bahá'ís, an act which under duress they were willing
to commit, and denying the validity of the Faith itself, for which they
were prepared to die before doing. Responses to interrogation varied from
individual. Malmari's accounts include the case of a Bahá'í who when asked
if he was a Babi courageously responded, No, he was a Bahá'í and proceeded
to describe the difference. This behavior
was more the exception than the rule, though. The distinction Bahá'ís made
between denying their identity as Bahá'ís and denying the validity of the
Bahá'í revelation is borne out by the behavior of Jewish Bahá'ís in
Hamadan during this period. Ruhu'u'llah Mihrabkhani reports that the
Jewish Bahá'ís of Hamadan in the nineteenth century, "in order to observe
hikmat" went to the Presbyterian missionaries and feigned conversion to
Christianity. They continued to associate themselves with the
missionaries until Mirza Abu'l-Fadl visited Hamadan and, in the course of
his discussions with the missionaries, made it clear that the Jews had
come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah only by virtue of having accepted
the message of Bahá'u'lláh. Following this
and similar incidents one missionary urged others to insist that any
candidate for church membership be required to specifically deny that
Bahá'u'lláh was the "return" of the preceding prophet in a manner
analogous to the way in which Christians understood John the Baptist to
be the "return" of Elijah. The "confession" of faith recommended for
baptismal candidates went as follows, I believe that Jesus Christ is the
Son of God; that He really died on the cross for our salvation; that He
really and truly rose from the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb; that He
alone is the Savior of the World. I deny the doctrine of rij'at (return), by
which I am to believe that Jesus was Moses returned, and that Mohammad,
the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh were returns' of Jesus, and I declare it to be false
teaching. Accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior I declare Mohammad, the
Bab and Bahá'u'lláh to have been false prophets and false guides, leading
men away from the truth.
While this declaration involved no actual cursing of the Bab or Bahá'u'lláh,
missionaries felt confident that no Bahá'í would make such a confession
and they were quite correct. Denying one's identity as a Bahá'í was the
most extreme form of hikmat practiced within the community and such
behavior ceased to be sanctioned during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi. Given the extreme dangers and persecutions
which Bahá'ís have faced throughout their history, that compromise and
concealment would be condoned is quite understandable. The issue
remains, though, as to why such acts were termed "wisdom?"
Divine Wisdom and Foresight
Wisdom in the Iranian context is often identified with foresight. In
Shoghi Effendi's writings in English, the word wisdom can often be
replaced with foresight without any loss of meaning. Unwisdom is
sometimes directly paired with shortsightedness. In a letter dated
November 28, 1931, for instance, he in large part blames the Depression
on the "unwisdom and shortsightedness" of the framers of the Versailles
Peace Treaty. The notion of wisdom as
foresight goes back as far as Zoroastrianism, Iran's oldest prophetic
religion, where it is regarded as the chief attribute which distinguishes
God from the Evil One and insures His ultimate victory. In Zoroastrianism,
God is addressed as Ahura Mazda, meaning Wise Lord. During the Sassanian
period when Zoroastrian thought became crystallized, Ahura Mazda was
not considered omnipotent, for His power was limited by the independent
existence of Ahriman, the Evil One. His sole advantage over Ahriman rests
in His possession of wisdom as foresight, which Ahriman utterly lacks.
When, in the Pre-existence Ahriman insisted on making war on Ahura
Mazda and rejected Ahura Mazda's overtures of peace, Ahura Mazda tricked
Ahriman into setting a time limit on the battle, thus inventing lineal time.
Ahura Mazda with His wisdom could foresee that once a limit was set on
time, evil itself would be limited and contained, and the victory of the
forces of good would be assured. Ahriman, unable to foresee this outcome,
agreed to the terms. Ahura Mazda then revealed to Ahriman the eventual
outcome of his folly, and Ahriman fell unconscious and remained so for the
next three thousand years, during which period Ahura Mazda created the
material world which would aid in Ahriman's eventual destruction.
Frequently Bahá'í writings refer to divine wisdom as an act of selective
concealment in order to obtain long-range benefits. Such wisdom is
embedded in the very notion of Progressive Revelation, wherein God has
revealed Himself not in accordance with His own Being but in accordance
with the capacity of humanity to receive knowledge of Him. In The Seven
Valleys Bahá'u'lláh asserts that one who has obtained true knowledge will
apprehend "the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God" and
will not be mislead by the seemingly contradictory nature of God's
activity in the world. An instance of such
seemingly contradictory events was the discontinuance of the institution
of a living Guardian at the death of Shoghi Effendi. According to the Will
and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Guardian of the Cause of God had the
responsibility "to appoint in his own life-time him that shall become his
successor, that differences may not arise after his passing . . ." Yet Shoghi Effendi passed away without
providing for a successor or writing a will. But as the Universal House of
Justice pointed out, at Shoghi Effendi's death there were no potential
candidates for this position, the Guardian having been childless and his
family members having died or been expelled from the community.
Consequently the House of Justice insisted: The fact that Shoghi Effendi
did not leave a will cannot be adduced as evidence of his failure to obey
Bahá'u'lláh--rather should we acknowledge that in his very silence there
is a wisdom and a sign of his infallible guidance.
On the issue of women's rights, divine wisdom, in the sense we have just
discussed it, and the injunction upon Bahá'ís to observe "wisdom" in their
action directly converge. While Bahá'u'lláh unequivocally proclaimed the
equality of men and women, 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
in answer to a question regarding the exclusion of women from the
Chicago House of Justice, replied that the House of Justice, "according to
the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men, this for a wisdom
of the Lord God's, which will ere long be made manifest as clearly as the
sun at high noon." Seven years later
'Abdu'l-Bahá ruled that this exclusion applied only to the as yet unformed
Universal House of Justice and allowed women in America to serve on
local bodies. When women in Iran,
however, attempted to imitate the American Bahá'í women by discarding
the veil and demanding a greater role in Bahá'í administration, 'Abdu'l-
Bahá insisted that "nothing should be done contrary to wisdom." He further
admonished them, Ye need to be calm and composed, so that the work will
proceed with wisdom, otherwise there will be such chaos that ye will
leave everything and run away. "This newly born babe is traversing in one
night the path that needeth a hundred years to tread." [A Persian proverb].
In brief, ye should now engage in matters of pure spirituality and not
contend with men. 'Abdu'l-Bahá will tactfully take appropriate steps. Be
assured. In the end thou wilt thyself exclaim, "This was indeed supreme
'Abdu'l-Bahá's anxiety over the agitation of Iranian Bahá'í women was
quite understandable. Nothing would have aroused greater antipathy from
Muslims than to see Bahá'í women uncovered and moving freely and equally
among men. A women could not consult privately on a council with men and
expect to maintain her reputation. Bahá'u'lláh Himself provided for the
progressive application of Bahá'í law for reasons of wisdom. He stated,
Indeed, the laws of God are like unto the ocean and the children of men as
fish, did they but know it. However, in observing them one must exercise
tact and wisdom... Since most people are feeble and far removed from the
purpose of God, therefore one must observe tact and prudence under all
conditions, so that nothing might happen that could cause disturbance and
dissension or raise clamor among the headless.
This principle has been applied by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi in the
case of Bahá'í teachings on monogamy. The Kitab-i Aqdas appears to allow
bigamy when it states: "Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more
wives than two." In an untranslated
letter 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave a believer permission to take a second wife. He
also indicated that the law concerning taking no more than two wives
cannot be abrogated. He also noted that this law was conditional upon
justice which was a condition virtually impossible to fulfill, but that
'Abdu'l-Bahá would not prevent believers from marrying a second wife if
they were certain they would act with justice. Both during the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh and
'Abdu'l-Bahá bigamy was practiced in Bahá'í communities within the
Middle East. Yet in another Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá stated:
Know thou that
polygamy is not permitted under the law of God, for contentment with one
wife hath been clearly stipulated. Taking a second wife is made dependent
upon equity and justice being upheld between the two wives, under all
conditions. However, observance of justice and equity towards two wives
is utterly impossible. The fact that bigamy has been made dependent upon
an impossible condition is clear proof of its absolute prohibition.
Therefore it is not permissible for a man to have more than one wife.
Shoghi Effendi later determined that this statement of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's
would be considered normative within the Bahá'í community. A letter from the Research Department of
the World Centre on this topic suggests that 'Abdu'l-Bahá "introduced the
question of monogamy gradually in accordance with the principles of
wisdom and the progressive unfoldment of His purpose." As we have seen, the term wisdom in Bahá'í
writings whether it refers to inscrutable divine wisdom or the caution
and tact with which Bahá'ís are urged to conduct themselves for the
protection of the Faith usually carries with it the connotation of
foresight. In practice, the word could be used within the community to
refer to acts which seemingly contradicted some of the basic principles
of the Faith but which in the long term were seen as serving its best
interest. Especially included among such acts have been the willingness on
the part of believers to deny their Bahá'í identity under persecution, the
temporary exercise of censorship, and compromises made in regards to
Wisdom and Scholarship
The concept of hikmat as we have just discussed it sometimes finds
itself on a collision course with another principle held dear to Bahá'ís, the
independent investigation of truth. If, in the name of hikmat it is possible
to obscure, conceal, or compromise the Bahá'í teachings in any way, how
can anyone, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í conduct an adequate investigation of its
validity. How can anyone be expected "to see with their own eyes and not
through the eyes of others" if others determine what they will be allowed
to examine? In recent years this issue has acquired a certain urgency
especially among Western believers, most of whom are converts who
would never have left the religion of their fathers to become Bahá'ís had
they not already been committed in their hearts to this principle. This
issue looms especially large for Bahá'í academicians and scholars. While
the Bahá'í community in general, and the Persian believers in particular,
might wish for the Bahá'í academic scholar to confine himself to topics
which edify the community and further the expansion of the Cause, the
individual scholar often feels that his research should only be guided by
the principle "He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love
or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or
that hate repel him away from the truth."
In this connection the scholar, often much to the dismay of some Bahá'ís,
sometimes finds it most productive to shine his light in the darkened
corners. In connection with this issue, it should be recognized that
Bahá'u'lláh laid a special burden upon the learned in connection with the
exercise of wisdom.
In the Lawh-i-Maqsud, Bahá'u'lláh discusses the way
in which the learned should "impart guidance unto the people." "No man of wisdom," He asserts, "can
demonstrate his knowledge save by means of words." "Moreover," He
continues, "words and utterances should be both impressive and
penetrating. However, no word will be infused with these two qualities
unless it be uttered wholly for the sake of God and with due regard unto
the exigencies of the occasion and the people." Bahá'u'lláh goes on to say,
Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder
should deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the
impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. . .
.One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence of
both is manifest in the world. Therefore, an enlightened man of wisdom
should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of
men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal
of human existence . . . It behoveth the prudent man of wisdom to speak
with utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words
may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man's station.
Elsewhere in the same Tablet Bahá'u'lláh reiterates the connection of
wisdom with tolerance. He says, "The heaven of divine wisdom is
illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion" and elsewhere, "The heaven of true
understanding shineth resplendent with the light of two luminaries:
tolerance and righteousness." This Tablet
suggests that a number of factors should be considered when judging the
"wisdom" of our work. First and foremost is our purpose; is our work done
for the sake of God or are other motives in operation? Secondly, we must
consider our audience. To whom do we address our work and under what
circumstances? Finally we must consider our tone, is it reflective of the
forbearance, tolerance, and compassion which Bahá'u'lláh urges us to
exhibit? Is it conveyed in such a spirit as to be conducive of further
discourse and consultation? I propose no easy answers to the dilemma
imposed upon the scholar who strives to adhere both to the standards of
wisdom and truth. Observing wisdom' and the independent investigation of
truth' are both principles enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh. But two things must be
kept in mind in connection with this issue. First wisdom, when it involves
a temporary suspension of a Bahá'í principle, must be always regarded as
an emergency measure which should cease once the circumstances which
created it no longer operate. Secondly, wisdom, as I have established,
carries with it the connotation of farsightedness. Acts accord with
wisdom, not to the extent to which they make the friends feel
comfortable, but to the extent to which they further the Cause of God in
the long term.
In this respect, it must be recognized that many actions
Bahá'ís have taken in the name of hikmat proved to be short-sighted
indeed. Consider again the case of the Jewish Bahá'ís of Hamadan who in
the name of hikmat pretended to become Presbyterians. This action
aroused the antagonism of Dr. Sa'id Khan, a Kurdish convert to
Christianity. Convinced by the duplicity of those Bahá'ís that the Bahá'í
Faith was a religion based on deception, he went on to collect as much
dirt' on the Cause as he could. The material he collected was eventually
turned over to Rev. William McElwee Miller and became the basis of his
two books attacking the Faith. Even those
missionaries who, unlike Miller, had no investment in converting others
came to see the Bahá'ís as a people without integrity. Some of these, such
as T. Cuyler Young, when on to become eminent scholars in America and
their attitudes have spread to academicians throughout the country. I
could name several other cases, much more recent than the one cited,
where prominent persons have rejected the Cause as a result of actions
taken and policies made in the name of hikmat. Bahá'ís must exercise
constant vigilance to insure that hikmat not be used to obtain short-term
gains or avoid immediate conflicts without considering its long-term
consequences. Such actions are, in fact, contrary to wisdom.
My thanks to Dr. Nader Saiedi for bringing this
distinction between sophia and phronesis to my attention. For Aristotle's
treatment see The Nicomachean Ethics
2. Unpublished compilation, National Archives
Committee, no. 28, p.179. Cited in Taherzadeh, The Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4, p. 321.
3. Unpublished compilation, National Archives
Committee, no. 15, pp. 423-24.
4. Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration,
(Wilmette: 1974), p. 63. That censorship is contrary to Bahá'í principles is
underscored by Bahá'u'lláh's prohibition against the destruction or burning
of books in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, (Haifa: Universal House of Justice,
1992), p. 48.
5. Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh,
Vol. 4, p. 320.
6. Early studies on the Iranian "character" have been
reviewed and critiqued in Ali Banuazizi, "Iranian 'National Character': A
Critique of Some Western Perspectives," in Psychological Dimensions
of Near Eastern Studies, eds. L. Carl Brown and Norman Itzkowitz
(Princeton: Darwin Press, 1977), pp, 210-39. Later studies stress the
flexibility of Iranian social interactions. See William O. Beeman, "Status,
Style and Strategy in Iranian interactions," Anthropological
Linguistics, 18 (1976), 305-22.
7. Qur'an 16:106.
8. Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam,
Vol. 2, p. 194.
9. Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam,
Vol. 2, pp. 199-200.
10. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of
Bahá'u'lláh, p. 343.
11. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 212-3.
12. Majmu'a-yi Alwah-I Mubaraka (Wilmette: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1981) p. 226.
13. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 256.
14. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 143.
15. Ma'idih-I Asmani vol. 7, p. 171. My thanks to Dr. Juan
Cole and Dr. Ahang Rabbani for bringing this Tablet to my attention and
assisting me in gaining access to it.
16. Ma'idih-I Asmani vol. 7, p. 171
17. Ma'idih-I Asmani vol. 7, p. 172.
18. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, pp. 34-35.
19. Muhammad Tahir Malmari, Tarikh-i-Shuhaday-i-
Yazd, p. 30-34.
20. Muhammad Tahir Malmari, Tarikh-i-Shuhaday-i-
Yazd, p. 59.
21. Ruhu'u'llah Mihrabkhani, Sharhi Ahval-I Jinab-I
Abu'l-Fadl-I Gulpaygani (Teheran, 1976), pp. 129-30.
22. J. R. Richards, The Religion of the Bahá'ís,
(New York: Macmillian, 1932) pp. 235-6.
23. In Iran today persons wishing to leave the country
by plane must sign a form stating that they are not Bahá'ís. Bahá'í
institutions, therefore, have regarded Bahá'ís who left Iran by the Tehran
airport as apostates.
24. Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of
Bahá'u'lláh, p.35. This is one of the few instances where Shoghi Effendi
applies the term "unwisdom" to non-Bahá'ís. He also applies it to Kaiser
Wilhelm II for his dismissal of Bismarck. The Promised Day is
Come, pp. 57-58.
25. Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four
Valleys, p. 12.
26. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament of
'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 11.
27. The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of
Guidance, Messages, 1963-1968, p. 82.
28. "Exalted, immensely exalted is He Who hath removed
differences and established harmony. Glorified, infinitely glorified is He
who hath caused discord to cease, and decreed solidarity and unity.
Praised be God, the Pen of the Most High hath lifted distinctions from
between His servants and handmaidens and, through His consummate
favours and all-encompassing mercy, hath conferred upon all a station and
rank on the same plane. He hath broken the back of vain imaginings with
the sword of utterance and hath obliterated the perils of idle fancies
through the pervasive power of His might." Bahá'u'lláh from Women,
29. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of
'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 80.
30. Cited in the May 31, 1988 letter of the Universal
House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of New
31. Women, p. 5. Iranian women finally received
the right to hold office in 1954.
32. Cited in Introduction to The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The
Most Holy Book, p. 6.
33. Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy
34. Mazandarani, Fadil, Amr va Khalq, vol. 4, (Tihran:
1974/5-131 B.E.), pp. 175-76.
35. Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy
Book, p. 206.
36. The Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:
"Regarding Bahá'í marriage: in the light of the Master's Tablet interpreting
the provision in the "Aqdas" on the subject of the plurality of wives, it
becomes evident that monogamy alone is permissible, and monogamy alone
should be practiced." Cited in The Synopsis and Codification of the
Kitab-i-Aqdas, Note 17, p. 59.
37. Memorandum from the Research Department to the
Universal House of Justice 27 June 1996. My thanks to Milissa Boyer for
providing me with a copy of this document. Most of my discussion of the
issue of bigamy is based on it.
38. Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 192.
39. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 172.
40. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.172-72.
41. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 168.
42. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 169-
43. William McElwee Miller, Bahá'ísm. Its Origin,
History, and Teachings (Fleming H. Revell Co. , 1931). William McElwee
Miller, The Bahá'í Faith: Its History and Teachings (South Pasadena:
William Carey Library, 1974). For biographical information on Dr. Sa'id
Khan see Isaac Malek Yonan, The Beloved Physician of Teheran
(Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1934) and William McElwee Miller, Ten
Muslims Meet Christ, pp. 33-48.