Do you think that the Bahai faith has lots of Persian culture embedded in it? The biggest one will be that the New year for Bahai is the same as the Persian new year.
Will joining the Bahai faith rid one of their own culture?
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If I do not fully answer your question to your satisfaction, let me know, and I will try to get back to you within 24 hours. In addition, if you do not find my answer to your question satisfactory, then you can: (i) try one of the other experts at this site, (ii) go to one of the many Bahá'í forums and internet locations now in existence on the internet, and/or (iii) go to the official international Baha’i site at: bahai.org.
Another approach you might like to take before reading my response to your question is to take action in one of the following ways. Insert the following sets of words into your search engine: (1) Ron Price blogs, (2) Ron Price Forums,(3) my website url: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/
where there are lengthy threads on many topics of which the Baha’i Faith is but one, (4) the Bahá'í Faith followed by whatever topic is of interest to you; for example: the trinity, reincarnation, miracles, healing, inter alia. You will then yet another base of information to provide an immediate response to your area of interest or some of my general literary writings and thus get some idea about me as the author of the answer.
The function of an expert at this “About Site” is to act within the terms of reference as outlined by the About moderators and administrators. These terms of reference specifically define the general objectives and methods of an expert. I see my role as serving the specific need of any individual who writes to this site with a question, and who is obviously seeking an answer to their question. I am not here to dictate arbitrarily to anyone, but rather to serve as one of the multitude of unifying factors at work in the Baha’i Faith, unifying factors that in this case function to answer the questions of seekers, those who simply want answers to the questions that are of immediate concern to them.
I attempt to be courteous and tactful on the one hand and to respond in a frank and honest way on the other in dealing with questions and comments that come in. Courtesy and frankness are difficult qualities to combine. Being frank often means being critical and, if a reader finds my response critical, he or she should also keep in mind that I aim to be kind.
I also aim to foster a spirit of independence rather than a spirit which excessively relies on others to carry out their research and their study of the Baha’i Faith. In some ways, the concept of an expert on the Baha’i Faith goes against some of the essential grain of the Baha’i ethos and spirit. The Baha’i community does not have experts, theologians, and individuals with any authority. That is, the Baha’i Faith has no: priests or ministers, gurus or swamis, rabbis, imams or mujtahid. The only institution with full, legitimate and global authority in the Baha’i community is an elected body. This body is elected every five years, has nine members, and is known as The Universal House of Justice.
Whether the questioner is a Bahá’í, an interested observer or, indeed, someone without any special interest in this new world Faith, often the answer to their question can easily be found on the internet at one or more of the 400 million sites(circa on 1 September 2012), sites organized by Baha’is and sites organized by others that are now in existence.
Often in answering a question, I direct the questioner to one or more of those sites for a more complete answer than the one I am providing. Often, too, I provide an article, an essay and several relevant quotations, at least relevant as I see them, if not always seen as relevant by the recipient. The reader can go to one or more of these sites to access the information he or she requires to answer his or her question.
In the process of my trying to answer a question, I have found over the eight years I have been involved in answering questions that: I sometimes provide too much information. Sometimes I provide too little; sometimes questioners feel I have not even answered their question; sometimes they simply do not like my answer. The evaluation of my answers by questioners reflects my success from the point of view of questioners. As in life, so on the internet, with the question and answering process one does not keep everyone happy all of the time. Although my customer satisfaction, so to speak, is high on all indices, I also get very low scores occasionally indicating the truth of the above maxim.
It is important for Baha’is, and also for others who write in to this site and its claimed expertise, to utilize the many sources of assistance within both Baha’i administration and the burgeoning number of locations for expertise now available in our diverse society, locations both on and off the internet. Government organizations, non-government organizations and special interest groups, inter alia and inter alter, are now available at the press of a button, the dialling of a number and a few clicks of one’s mouse. So, too, are books, journals, pamphlets and a vast cornucopia of other print and electronic media. Evolution is forcing humanity to engage in a cooperative enterprize that is global--interplanetary--intergalactic now--in its reach.
This site at About and my contribution to the discourse is but a small part of this vast cooperative enterprize. My approach and my words here are in many ways tentative ideas put forward as the limited and fallible views of one individual. They should not be unthinkingly adopted as truth. I hope, too, that my answers do not pose a threat to the heartfelt strivings of any believer or the concerns and interests of individuals in other interest groups.
There are generally two kinds of Baha’i literature or writings about this Faith that readers will come across in their searches. One presents the/an official view and has the voice of authority behind it. Such words are not the personal opinions of individual Baha’is. There is a second category which includes all other writing. The writing that I place here exists in this latter category, although from time to time I insert quotations that belong to the first category to explain my answer to a particular question.
The quotations that are used by me, of course, are used in a certain way and form a part of an interpretive schema that becomes part of the second category of writings on the Baha’i Faith--that is, opinion. For readers who would like an excellent commentary on the whole question of interpretation I encourage them to read an article published in Bahá'í Studies Review, Volume 5.1, 1995. It is entitled: Interpretation in the Bahá'í Faith.
Truth, the correct and only answer to a question, often cannot be found. This is mainly because there are often many truths, many answers, depending on the circumstances and situations—and many perspectives depending on the person answering the question and the person to whom one is writing. To put this complexity or conundrum, this enigma, this apparent contradiction and paradox briefly, I could simply say that truth is relative, especially religious truth which is the main variety of truth I deal with here and with which the various questions that come in are concerned. We are all struggling in our own way to come to terms with problems of understanding and knowledge and this has been true of my life, my 60 years of association with the Baha’i Faith: 1952/3 to 2011/12.
As much as possible I try to draw on relevant quotations from the voluminous Baha’i Scriptures and readers can google the term ‘Baha’i scriptures’ to get an historical and theological perspectives on this term. Sometimes I simply do not have access to the relevant literature on a specific question since Baha’i literature in its many forms has become burgeoning, especially in the last quarter-century since, say, 1987 to 2012.
The Baha’i Faith had some 200,000 adherents in 1952/3 when I first came in contact with this new Faith which claims to be the emerging world religion on the planet, the latest, the newest of the Abrahamic religions. It now has some 5 to 7 million depending on what source one draws on for statistical information. In those six decades much of its literature, originally in Persian and Arabic, has been translated into English. Still, there is much, indeed, most of the Baha’i literature that remains untranslated. What the Baha’i community has, though, is voluminous and certainly sufficient for the millions of Baha’is and billions of those who are not formal adherents.
Each Baha’i seeks to acquire, in his or her own way, a deeper understanding of the Revelation that Baha’u’llah experienced in the four decades from 1852 to 1892. Readers can google the word ‘revelation’ should they wish. What is written here represents some of the fruits of my own efforts, limited as they are. As I have said above, my words are not authoritative. This part of the About site for Baha’i expertise, this individual among the several available, offers but one source of opinion and this opinion is written in accordance with his capacity and understanding, and hopefully in accordance with the capacity of the reader. Readers might like to try drawing on other Baha’i volunteer-experts at this site, as I have suggested above, if they find my answers not to their satisfaction.
The Universal House of Justice, the internationally elected body of the Baha’i Faith since 1963, pointed out recently that “the exercise of wisdom calls for a measure of love and the development of a sensitive conscience.”(1) I am only too well aware of my incapacities on these fronts. I feel somewhat presumptuous in taking on this role of expert especially, as I say above, since this new world Faith does not have any acknowledged experts, any theologians or individuals who can claim any authority. I have been stirred into action intellectually: (i) after reading the answers to questions by other so-called experts, and (ii) after spending 32 years in classrooms as a teacher, lecturer and adult educator as well as another 18 as a student. I am only too well-aware that the question and answer process at the basis of this website is laden with complexities and enigmas both for the so-called expert like myself and the many readers I am writing to.
I took on the role since I felt I could be a source of some social good, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a Baha’i leader from 1892 to 1921, expresses one of the main roles of knowledge. I do not seek any preference or distinction; I do not regard my ideas or myself as superior in anyway. I do not regard my answers as ‘the last word’ on the subject just ‘a word.’ All of one’s talents in life are a gift from God, a gift as one writer put it, of some combination of merit and unmerited grace.
After more than 60 years of association with this global Force that makes such a significant claim to be the emerging world religion on this planet, I offer these introductory words. Any answers I might give to questions are simply a service to others. If questioners would like a more personal, direct and continued communication with me just write to the email address that I have provided below. -Ron Price, http://www.allexperts.com
. This is an updated statement written on 31 January 2015. The original statement was placed at this site in response to a question in September 2004.
(1) “Extracts from Letters of the Universal House of Justice on issues Related to the Study of the Baha’i Faith,” in Baha’i Canada, May 1998, p.18.
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Your question went as follows: Do you think that the Bahai faith has lots of Persian culture embedded in it? The biggest one will be that the New Year for the Bahai New Year is the same as the Persian New Year. Will joining the Bahai faith rid one of their own culture?
For starters I am going to draw on an answer to a similar question at the popular site Baha'i Blog. The link to that answer is: http://bahaiblog.net/site/2012/05/the-bahai-faith-and-persian-culture/
I will simply quote that answer below, as I say, for starters.
The Baha’i Faith is a global religion. It is acknowledged today as one of the most wide-spread religions on earth, present in over 200 countries and territories, with its central texts translated into over 800 languages and its adherents hailing from diverse traditions and cultures. This is something that many Baha’is are proud of and see as a testament to this faith's diversity and universal worldview.
However, wherever you may encounter the Baha’i Faith, sooner or later you’re bound to encounter Baha’is from a Persian background. They will vary in their relative “Persian-ness”. Some will be second or third generation immigrants with a strong cultural foundation in their new country, such as, say, a husband who is more Australian than he is Persian. Others will be much more culturally Persian and might tarof with you every chance they get. You’ll also find people who are a good old mix of a lot of different things. They might be, for example, one quarter Persian, although most people wouldn’t know it, and often assume that a last name for a wife is simply taken from the husband. There are also those who have no ethnic links to Persia or Iran, but may have Persian names after early heroes of the Faith’s history, like Vahid or Tahirih.
So what is the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and Persian culture?
The Baha’i Faith has its historical roots in 19th century Persia, but it’s outlook has always been “world-embracing”.Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, and His forerunner, the Bab, were both born in 19th century Persia. They spoke and wrote in Persian and Arabic, incorporated references to events of that time period in their Writings, and quoted from poetry and art relevant to that cultural context. Naturally, their early disciples also came from this same cultural background.
Consider the rise of many of today’s other global religions, such as Christianity, which arose from a Roman-Judaean context—though today most wouldn’t think of it as a Middle-Eastern religion. Christ was born into a Jewish community in the Galilean region and his early followers also came from this same ethnic and cultural background. However, His teachings were relevant far beyond His own historical and cultural context and became widespread throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
The Baha’i Faith, though still a very young faith, is also significantly broader than its historical roots. This has been largely driven by the Faith’s “world embracing” outlook—which has been core to its teachings from the very beginning. In the words of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, some of the essential elements from Baha’u’llah’s Writings include: The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of humankind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind—these stand out as the essential elements which Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed.
Shoghi Effendi personally emphasised that the Baha’i Faith has a destiny beyond its origins. While both Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha observed many Islamic and Persian cultural customs throughout their lifetimes, Shoghi Effendi made a clear break with tradition in a number of ways. At the behest of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi was both Eastern and Western educated. He attended Oxford University for his studies, where he mastered and became fluent in the English language. He adopted western-style clothing, shaved daily, and did not visit the local mosque on Fridays. He translated and made available many important texts and historical writings of the Faith into English and also French, which set the standard for all other translations of Baha’i literature. He also prepared the Baha’i community for the world’s first, truly global democratic election in the founding of the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Baha’i Faith, in 1963.
Given the ongoing and intensifying persecution of members of the Iranian Baha’i community, Persian Baha’is have a relatively high profile in relation to other developments and populations within the global Baha’i community. The wide-spread news of their hardship often serves to reinforce a Persian image for those with minimal exposure to the Baha’i community.
Today, there are approximately 230,000 – 300,000 Baha’is in Iran. While they may be the largest religious minority in Iran, the Iranian Baha’i community is not the largest Baha’i community. In fact, the largest concentration of Baha’is are actually in India, the United States and Kenya. At present, there are over 5 million Baha’is worldwide. Regardless of where Baha’is reside and what their cultural backgrounds may be, Baha’is will always have respect for the culture from which their Faith emerged.
The Baha'i Faith now has a distinctive Baha’i culture. Far from promoting Persian culture, a new distinct Baha’i culture is in development – even if its has yet to fully distinguish itself from the diverse ethnic backgrounds of its members. As Baha’is, we look to the principles of the Baha’i Faith and its vision for humanity, which celebrates all the wonderfully diverse and rich ethnic and cultural backgrounds of its adherents (just check-out these photos from the opening of the Baha’i terrace gardens in 2001). It is impressive that with such diversity, Baha’is constitute one, unified global community.
In fact, the Baha’i Faith explicitly provides space for people to celebrate their traditions and cultures by minimalising rituals and not adopting a “sacred language”. For example, in a Baha’i marriage you would likely observe a markedly different ceremony in Samoa to one in Paris, even though both events would share the same spiritual centre.
So, is the Baha’i Faith a Persian religion? The Baha’i Faith may be Persian in its origins – but not in its teachings, practices, and constituency. It is a global Faith which at its core embraces and promotes the principle of the unity and diversity of humankind.
It’s going to take a long time to create that new Baha’i culture that both celebrates and distinguishes itself from the respective cultural heritages of its adherents. In the meantime, we can all certainly enjoy a nice serving of Ghormeh Sabzi or some other Persian meal from time to time.
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