of their youth; the conversion of a number of broad-minded Russian citizens, imbued with ideas closely related to the tenets of the Faith; the growing realization of the implications of its principles, with their emphasis on religion, on the sanctity of family life, on the institution of private property, and their repudiation of all discrimination between classes and of the doctrine of the absolute equality of men--these combined to excite the suspicion, and later to arouse the fierce antagonism, of the ruling authorities, and to precipitate one of the gravest crises in the history of the first Bahá'í century.
As the crisis developed and spread to even the outlying centers of both Turkistán and the Caucasus it resulted gradually in the imposition of restrictions limiting the freedom of these communities, in the interrogation and arrest of their elected representatives, in the dissolution of their local Assemblies and their respective committees in Moscow, in Ishqábád, in Bákú and in other localities in the above-mentioned provinces and in the suspension of all Bahá'í youth activities. It even led to the closing of Bahá'í schools, kindergartens, libraries and public reading-rooms, to the interception of all communication with foreign Bahá'í centers, to the confiscation of Bahá'í printing presses, books and documents, to the prohibition of all teaching activities, to the abrogation of the Bahá'í constitution, to the abolition of all national and local funds and to the ban placed on the attendance of non-believers at Bahá'í meetings.
In the middle of 1928 the law expropriating religious edifices was applied to the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of Ishqábád. The use of this edifice as a house of worship, however, was continued, under a five-year lease, which was renewed by the local authorities in 1933, for a similar period. In 1938 the situation in both Turkistán and the Caucasus rapidly deteriorated, leading to the imprisonment of over five hundred believers--many of whom died--as well as a number of women, and the confiscation of their property, followed by the exile of several prominent members of these communities to Siberia, the polar forests and other places in the vicinity of the Arctic Ocean, the subsequent deportation of most of the remnants of these communities to Persia, on account of their Persian nationality, and lastly, the complete expropriation of the Temple itself and its conversion into an art gallery.
In Germany, likewise, the rise and establishment of the Administrative Order of the Faith, to whose expansion and consolidation the German believers were distinctively and increasingly contributing, was soon followed by repressive measures, which, though less grievous
than the afflictions suffered by the Bahá'ís of Turkistán and the Caucasus, amounted to the virtual cessation, in the years immediately preceding the present conflict, of all organized Bahá'í activity throughout the length and breadth of that land. The public teaching of the Faith, with its unconcealed emphasis on peace and universality, and its repudiation of racialism, was officially forbidden; Bahá'í Assemblies and their committees were dissolved; the holding of Bahá'í conventions was interdicted; the Archives of the National Spiritual Assembly were seized; the summer school was abolished and the publication of all Bahá'í literature was suspended.
In Persia, moreover, apart from sporadic outbreaks of persecution in such places as Shíráz, Ábádih, Ardibíl, Isfahán, and in certain districts of Ádhirbayján and Khurásán--outbreaks greatly reduced in number and violence, owing to the marked decline in the fortunes of the erstwhile powerful Shí'ah ecclesiastics--the institutions of a newly-established and as yet unconsolidated Administrative Order were subjected by the civil authorities, in both the capital and the provinces, to restrictions designed to circumscribe their scope, to fetter their freedom and undermine their foundations.
The gradual and wholly unexpected emergence from obscurity of a firmly-welded national community, schooled in adversity and unbroken in spirit, with centers established in every province of that country, in spite of the successive waves of inhuman persecution which had, for three quarters of a century, swept over and had all but engulfed it; the determination of its members to diffuse the spirit and principles of their Faith, broadcast its literature, enforce its laws and ordinances, penalize those who would transgress them, maintain a steady intercourse with their fellow-believers in foreign lands, and erect the edifices and institutions of its Administrative Order, could not but arouse the apprehensions and the hostility of those placed in authority, who either misunderstood the aims of that community, or were bent upon stifling its life. The insistence of its members, while obedient in all matters of a purely administrative character to the civil statutes of their country, on adhering to the fundamental spiritual principles, precepts and laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, requiring them, among other things, to hold fast to truthfulness, not to dissimulate their faith, observe the ordinances prescribed for marriage and divorce, and suspend all manner of work on the Holy Days ordained by Him, brought them, sooner or later, into conflict with a regime which, owing to its formal recognition of Islám as the state religion of Persia, refused to extend any recognition to those whom
the official exponents of that religion had already condemned as heretics.
The closing of all schools belonging to the Bahá'í community in that country, as a direct consequence of the refusal of the representatives of that community to permit official Bahá'í institutions, owned and entirely controlled by them, to transgress the clearly revealed law requiring the suspension of work on Bahá'í Holy Days; the rejection of all Bahá'í marriage certificates and the refusal to register them at government License Bureaus; the ban placed on the printing and circulation of all Bahá'í literature, as well as on its entry into the country; the seizure in various centers of Bahá'í documents, books and relics; the closing, in some of the provinces of the Hazíratu'l-Quds, and the confiscation in some localities of their furniture; the prohibition of all Bahá'í demonstrations, conferences and conventions; the strict censorship imposed on, and often the non-delivery of, communications between Bahá'í centers in Persia and between these centers and Bahá'í communities in foreign lands; the withholding of good-record certificates from loyal and law-abiding citizens on the ground of their avowed adherence to the Bahá'í Faith; the dismissal of Government employees, the demotion or discharge of army officers, the arrest, the interrogation, the imprisonment of, and the imposition of fines and other punishments upon, a number of believers who refused either to cast aside the moral obligation of adhering to the spiritual principles of their Faith, or to act in any manner that would conflict with its universal and non-political character--all these may be regarded as the initial attempts made in the country whose soil had already been imbued with the blood of countless Bahá'í martyrs, to resist the rise, and frustrate the struggle for the emancipation, of a nascent Administrative Order, whose very roots have sucked their strength from such heroic sacrifice.
Emancipation and Recognition of the Faith
and Its Institutions
While the initial steps aiming at the erection of the framework of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh were being simultaneously undertaken by His followers in the East and in the West, a fierce attack was launched in an obscure village in Egypt on a handful of believers, who were trying to establish there one of the primary institutions of that Order--an attack which, viewed in the perspective of history, will be acclaimed by future generations as a landmark not only in the Formative Period of the Faith but in the history of the first Bahá'í century. Indeed, the sequel to this assault may be said to have opened a new chapter in the evolution of the Faith itself, an evolution which, carrying it through the successive stages of repression, of emancipation, of recognition as an independent Revelation, and as a state religion, must lead to the establishment of the Bahá'í state and culminate in the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth.
Originating in a country which can rightly boast of being the acknowledged center of both the Arab and Muslim worlds; precipitated by the action, taken on their own initiative, by the ecclesiastical representatives of the largest communion in Islám; the direct outcome of a series of disturbances instigated by some of the members of that communion designed to suppress the activities of certain followers of the Faith who had held a clerical rank among them, this momentous development in the fortunes of a struggling community has directly contributed, to a considerable degree, to the consolidation and the enhancement of the prestige of the Administrative Order which that community had begun to erect. It will, moreover, as its repercussions are more widely spread to other Islámic countries, and its vast significance is more clearly apprehended by the adherents of both Christianity and Islám, hasten the termination of the period of transition through which the Faith, now in the formative stage of its growth, is passing.
It was in the village of Kawmu's-Sa`áyidih, in the district of Beba, of the province of Beni Suef in Upper Egypt, that, as a result of the religious fanaticism which the formation of a Bahá'í assembly had
kindled in the breast of the headman of that village, and of the grave accusations made by him to both the District Police Officer and the Governor of the province--accusations which aroused the Muhammadans to such a pitch of excitement as to cause them to perpetrate shameful acts against their victims--that action was initiated by the notary of the village, in his capacity as a religious plaintiff authorized by the Ministry of Justice, against three Bahá'í residents of that village, demanding that their Muslim wives be divorced from them on the grounds that their husbands had abandoned Islám after their legal marriage as Muslims.
The Opinion and Judgment of the Appellate religious court of Beba, delivered on May 10, 1925, subsequently sanctioned by the highest ecclesiastical authorities in Cairo and upheld by them as final, printed and circulated by the Muslim authorities themselves, annulled the marriages contracted by the three Bahá'í defendants and condemned the mass heretics for having violated the laws and ordinances of Islám. It even went so far as to make the positive, the startling and indeed the historic assertion that the Faith embraced by these heretics is to be regarded as a distinct religion, wholly independent of the religious systems that have preceded it--an assertion which hitherto the enemies of the Faith, whether in the East or in the West, had either disputed or deliberately ignored.
Having expounded the fundamental tenets and ordinances of Islám, and given a detailed exposition of the Bahá'í teachings, supported by various quotations from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, from the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá and of Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, with special reference to certain Bahá'í laws, and demonstrated that the defendants had, in the light of these statements, actually abjured the Faith of Muhammad, his formal verdict declares in the most unequivocal terms: "The Bahá'í Faith is a new religion, entirely independent, with beliefs, principles and laws of its own, which differ from, and are utterly in conflict with, the beliefs, principles and laws of Islám. No Bahá'í, therefore, can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa, even as no Buddhist, Brahmin, or Christian can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa." Ordering the dissolution of the contracts of marriage of the parties on trial, and the "separation" of the husbands from their wives, this official and memorable pronouncement concludes with the following words: "If any one of them (husbands) repents, believes in, and acknowledges whatsoever ... Muhammad, the Apostle of God ... has brought from God ... and returns to the august Faith of Islám ... and testifies that ... Muhammad ... is the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers,
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