A Resource Guide for Baha'i Studies--preface


A Resource Guide for the Scholarly Study of the Bahá'í Faith is edition seven of what was previously titled A Curriculum Guide for the Bahá'í Faith. Editions one through five consisted primarily of the Curriculum Guides section (section one in current edition) with a limited annotated bibliography and only one appendix. In editions six and seven the scholarly bibliography and its annotations grew in size and the appendices in number, such that the Guide became far more than simply one for curricula. Its new title reflects its broader content.

The purpose of the Resource Guide is to provide information about how to include the Bahá'í Faith in college and university courses, to give an annotated bibliography of reliable scholarship for the student or researcher, and to provide him or her with a selection of helpful resources. It was written with four audiences in mind: (1) university instructors in Religious Studies, Sociology, Middle East Studies, and other disciplines, who usually do not know much about the Bahá'í religion and may want to include it in their existing courses; (2) instructors at colleges and universities who are Bahá'ís and would like to offer courses on the Bahá'í religion, but who do not have training in Religious Studies, and thus do not know what educational standards exist in that field; (3) Bahá'í students at colleges and universities who would like to propose a course to the university administration or its Religious Studies department; (4) those who wish to do research on the Bahá'í Faith and need an annotated bibliography and resource manual to guide them.

In order to fill the needs of these four very different audiences, the Resource Guide has four main parts: the Curriculum Guides, the Annotated Bibliography, Assorted Resource Tools, and Indices.

1) Curriculum Guides for Teaching the Bahá'í Faith

The curriculum guide segment provides some possible outlines for academic presentations of the Bahá'í Faith. Course outlines include: (1) an introductory article about the Bahá'í Faith, entitled "The Bahá'í Faith: A Short Introduction"; (2), a three-hour section on the Bahá'í Faith designed for inclusion in a course on Comparative Religion, which lists relevant paragraphs from Section Two, "Annotated Bibliography of Scholarship on the Bahá'í Faith"; (3) outlines of four complete one-semester courses on the Bahá'í Faith, with numerous references to the annotated topical bibliography, including "A Comparative Religion Approach," "A Sociological Study of the Bahá'í Community," "The Bahá'í Faith in Historical and Comparative Perspectives," and "A Traditional Bahá'í Approach to the Bahá'í Faith."

These outlines are designed to offer assistance for many of the different ways of approaching the Bahá'í Faith. First, there is the "comparative religion" approach. Here we intentionally favor the term "comparative religion" over "history of religions" because we do not choose to emphasize history as much as an examination of the Bahá'í religion from the point of view of the major themes found in most religions: prophecy, doctrine, scripture, community life, ethics, ritual, pilgrimage, mysticism, and others. Second, there is the "sociological" approach, which emphasizes the members of the religion themselves: what they believe and why, how they have come to believe it, how they organized themselves into a community, and what that community means to them. Third, there is what might be called a traditional Bahá'í approach, which emphasizes the founders of the Bahá'í Faith, their writings and teachings, and the Bahá'í organizational system.

In a sense, the three approaches can be epitomized by considering three terms: Bahá'í religion, Bahá'í community, and Bahá'í Faith. "Bahá'í religion" is a neutral term and carries the overtones of impartial scholarly study. "Bahá'í community" focuses on the members, individually or collectively, and de-emphasizes the doctrinal and leadership aspects of the tradition. "Bahá'í Faith" is the traditional term that Bahá'ís use for their religion and therefore conveys overtones of piety or sympathetic appreciation for the tradition.[1] In the appropriate sphere for each--the comparative-religious, the sociological, and the traditionally Bahá'í--each term claims primacy for expressing the essence of the Bahá'í phenomenon.

1. "Baha'ism" is considered inappropriate by Bahá'ís, for reasons that are not easy to determine; it is best avoided by scholars, just as "Mohammedanism" is now avoided in favor of the term "Islam" and "Musselman" or "Moslem" are avoided in favor of "Muslim."

2) Annotated Bibliography of Scholarship on the Bahá'í Faith

The annotated topical bibliography, comprising the bulk of the Resource Guide, consists of definitions of most major aspects of Bahá'í history and belief and corresponding references.

The contents of this bibliography are not intended to be exhaustive. Indeed, we have only listed a fraction of the available scholarship. In choosing what to list, we considered: (1) whether the source is too dated; (2) whether the source is academic enough to be useful in a university setting; and (3) whether the source presents enough information to be useful. For the most part, then, we have left out: (1) old scholarship, of which there is very little, anyway; (2) apologetic and "popular" works; and (3) sources with less than a few pages of applicable information. Exceptions to the above include: (1) dated works that are still useful or that have not yet been replaced by newer scholarship on the same topic; (2) popular works that yet provide useful information or, indeed, the only published information on a topic; and (3) sources that, though being short, represent the only available information on a subject.

3) Assorted Resource Tools

The Resource Guide includes a variety of appendices and indices of possible value to the researcher. First are bibliographies: writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the "Leiden List" of the major tablets of Bahá'u'lláh--which manuscripts contain them in their original language, their place of revelation, and their translation history--followed by lists of the major published works of the Báb, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi, respectively; the citations of the Bábí and Bahá'í religions found in some of the more common humanities indices, such as the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and a table presenting the treatment of the Bahá'í Faith in religion textbooks, dictionaries, and Encyclopedias. Second are two essays: a brief article which clarifies the common misunderstanding that the Bahá'í Faith is a syncretism, and an explanation of the many Bahá'í resources available on the internet. Third are various listings: Bahá'í videos suitable for classroom use; a glossary of common Bahá'í terms, including pronunciation notes; and names and addresses of the major Bahá'í publishers and journals, both independent and official.

4) Indices

Finally, a comprehensive bibliography and two indices complete the Guide. The bibliography lists every work cited in the Resource Guide. The two indices are one listing all journals and encyclopedias cited, and then one of all authors, titles, and subjects mentioned.

The Resource Guide is not a completed product, but will undergo expansion, modification, and updating as new materials are published and as feedback leads to improvements. We encourage comments and criticisms. As well, we would like to know of any useful and scholarly books or articles that we have not cited.

Please send any general comments to Robert Stockman, rstockman@usbnc.org, or Research Office, Bahá'í National Center, Wilmette, IL, 60091; phone number (847) 733-3425 and fax number (847) 733-3563. Please send any specific corrections or additions to Jonah Winters. Email correspondence is preferred. Robert Stockman and the Research Office will also be glad to answer additional questions that the Resource Guide does not cover.


Many people have assisted with the development of the Resource Guide, both in writing and editing it and in offering suggestions and corrections. The following individuals (in alphabetical order) have been instrumental in its production.

Christopher Buck donated his New World Transliterator font system for use in the Guide, and offered bibliographic suggestions. Seena Fazel provided detailed editorial commentary and suggestions for additions, and his articles on citation analyses and other bibliographic studies helped organize our sections on these topics. Sen McGlinn also provided much editorial assistance and, in collaboration with others, compiled the in-depth "Leiden List" of the tablets of Bahá'u'lláh. Will C. van den Hoonard assembled the curriculum guide for "A Sociological Study of the Bahá'í Community."

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