Scholarship in The Baha'i Faith

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Posted by Loren ( on September 29, 2002 at 15:08:28:

I thought it might be useful and informative for us to discuss scholarship on the Board as it pertains to the Baha'i Faith.

Baha'i Scholarship is something unique carrying with it certain characteristics and requirements, making it somewhat of a hybrid, and different than, scholarship as it may be identified in the non-Baha'i world. It is not something reserved for a selected few in the Faith, nor is it the exclusive domain of the educated, or the recognized, or self appointed scholars. In general, pursuit of Baha'i Scholarship is open to everyone.

One of the most important, and frequently forgotten distinctions, is the conduct of a Baha'i Scholar. In The Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha'u'llah reveals concerning the "learned ones in Baha", "Ye are the billows of the Most Mighty Ocean, the stars of the firmament of Glory, the standards of triumph waving betwixt earth and heaven. Ye are the manifestations of steadfastness amidst men and the daysprings of Divine Utterance to all that dwell on earth." (Kitab-i-Aqdas, K 173) It is clear from this passage that Baha'u'llah has expectations greater than education, logic, and argumentation alone, for those who would be scholars in His fold.

This theme is further explained and expanded by the Universal House of Justice:
" scholarly endeavour should be characterized by the welcome it offers to all who wish to be involved in it, each in his or her own way, by mutual encouragement and cooperation among its participants, and by the respect accorded to distinguished accomplishment and outstanding achievement. The spirit and approach should be far removed from the arrogance, contention, and exclusiveness which have too often sullied the name of scholarship in the wider society, and which have created barriers to the sound development of this worthy pursuit." (Letter from The Universal House of Justice To selected National Spiritual Assemblies 10 February 1995)

In an even earlier letter The House of Justice specifically rebukes the use harsh language and criticism amongst the Baha'i Scholars: "It was also the hope of the House of Justice that Baha'i scholars would realize the significance of the manner in which they express themselves, and that they would guard against use of the proud and scornful language with which some had been publicly referring to their fellow believers who, nevertheless, were devotedly trying to serve the Faith of God." (Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer 8 October 1980)

If anyone would like to read more about the qualifications and qualities of a Baha'i Scholar There is a very comprehensive compilation on Scholarship which is available on line at this site:

Baha'i Scholarship

My hope in bringing up the subject of Scholarship is to foster an understanding of Baha'i Scholarship as it is defined by its Central Figures, and Institutions. This represents our ideal, and our goal for scholarship in our Faith as it is defined for itself. There have been many self proclaimed scholars, who while being Baha'is, are not willing to participate in scholarship in the way defined by the Faith, who are often harsh and severe in their tone and manner, as if they were completely unaware of the code of conduct Baha'u'llah has defined for us.

Perhaps it is they He refers to in the following passage:
"Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 63(

It is my belief that we should pray for those who attack us for engaging in the pursuit of scholarship, and leave them to themselves. The primary goal of any Baha'i engaged in scholarship should be the promotion and protection of the Faith. Anything else, while it may still be "scholarship", if it comes into conflict, or contradicts with these two things, then it is not the kind scholarship that we should concern ourselves with.

I hope that no matter what your qualifications, that you will not be intimidated by anyone, and feel safe and welcome to fully participate with the activities here. Every Baha'i is human and subject to mistakes, and to occasionally slip. But if somebody is the source of constant discord and harassment, perhaps the following words of Baha'u'llah may serve as a sufficient warning:

" Follow not the promptings of the self, for it summoneth insistently to wickedness and lust; follow, rather, Him Who is the Possessor of all created things, Who biddeth you to show forth piety, and manifest the fear of God. He, verily, is independentof all His creatures. Take heed not to stir up mischief in the land after it hath been set in order. Whoso acteth in this way is not of Us, and We are quit of him."[emphasis added](The Kitab-i-Aqdas, K64)

Best Regards to All,


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