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TAGS: Arthur Arberry; Christianity; Interfaith Dialogue; Judaism; Mentions
LOCATIONS: Iran (documents); Israel
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Three mentions of the Babis and Bahá'ís.

Religion in the Middle East:
Three Religions in Concord and Conflict: Volume 1, Judaism and Christianity

by Arthur J. Arberry

pages 115-116, 173, 196
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969

1. Text

[page 115]

... Another peculiar religious minority with a secret creed and with a community in Israel is the Druze population, whose main centre is in Syria. The Israeli section is in the northern district and consists mainly of peasants. They are sturdy and warlike, and in the War of Independence they fought on the side of Israel; and they have thrown in their lot with Israel. Though Arabic speaking, they were not on happy terms with the Muslim Arabs and lived apart. In the Ottoman and mandate periods they were not recognized as a community having jurisdiction in matters of personal status. The Israel government has conferred this right on them, and the elders form a tribunal. The Ministry issues or them yet another bulletin in three languages about their affairs in Israel, including reports of the judgments of the tribunal and most of the articles are written by heads of the community.

A smaller sect of Persian origin, but having its religious and spiritual centre in Palestine since the beginning of this century, is the community of the Bahá'ís, or Babis. They were formed during the nineteenth century in Persia where a religious reformer claimed to be the forerunner of the Muslim Messiah, and assumed the title of Bab,

[page 116]

i.e. the gate, because he was the gate to the new era. He was executed, and one of his Persian disciples who preached his universal religious teaching was exiled from the country and took refuge in Turkey. The Sultan, alarmed at the spread of the new creed, imprisoned him in the fortress of 'Akka (Acre) in Palestine, but after some years he was released and made his home first in that town and later in Haifa. Bahá' Allah continued to preach the brotherhood of men, and his son 'Abbas, who succeeded him, spread the doctrine to America. Father and son are buried in the beautiful garden above Haifa on Mt Carmel, which has become a place of pilgrimage for all Bahá'ís in the world. The head of the community, at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, was the grandson of 'Abbas. He died in 1956, and no member of the Persian family has taken his place. The Bahá'ís have their tribunal for matters of personal status recognized by the Government. The direction of the community, which is spread over the world, and particularly in North America, is now exercised by an international spiritual board with its seat in Haifa. ...

[page 173]

... Another effect of Sabbatianism may have been the success of the Bahá'í movement with part of Persian Jewry who perhaps sought to escape persecution by pretending to be members of the new Muslim sect. ...

[pages 195-196]

... The link with the spiritual treasures of Judaism was preserved through a translation of the Bible into the Persian-Jewish dialect, liturgical poetry (piyyátím), popular literature, and ritual observances. Conditions thus created were favourable to the influence of various religious trends, such as the Bahá'í Movement which won adherents among the Jews, and to Jews joining Sufi orders. The author of this chapter met in Tehran in I942 a Jew who was the murshid (leader) of a local Sufi sect. ...

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