¶9. Bahá'í Faith, Introduction to
See "The Bahá'í Faith: A Short Introduction," in section one, above, for a sample summary of the Bahá'í Faith.
Esslemont, 1-10 Smith 1987, 1-2 Ferraby, 15-30 Smith 1996, 151-8 Hatcher and Martin, viii xvii, 187-88
The articles on the Bahá'í Faith in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Iranica, Encyclopedia of Islam, and in Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion are all useful, accurate, and complete sources of basic information. Shoghi Effendi, one of the heads of the Bahá'í Faith, has summarized the Faith; his précis may be found in Call to the Nations, xi-xviii. An excellent summary of the Bahá'í religion by a non-Bahá'í is Jacques Chouleur's "The Bahá'í Faith: World Religion of the Future?" in World Order, 12.1 (Fall 1977). Book-length introductions to the Faith are described in "books to start with," in the section "The Bahá'í Faith: A Short Introduction," above.
World religion textbooks do not yet provide coverage of the Bahá'í Faith that is adequate, either in length or accuracy. Solomon Nigosian's World Faiths, 2d ed., is the only introductory religions textbook with a decent, though still short, treatment of the Faith. For a discussion of their treatment of the Bahá'í religion, see Paul D. Numrich, "The Bahá'í Faith in World Religions Textbooks," World Order, 25.2. See "The Bahá'í Faith in Religion Textbooks and Encyclopedias," below, for further information.
¶10. Bahá'í History
The volumes of The Bahá'í World, published from 1925 to the present, are the single best source for overviews of and statistics on Bahá'í history for any year of the above. The only exception is volume XIX, for the years of 1983 to 1992, which has not yet been released. One of the only broad-scope treatments of Bahá'í history is Arthur Hampson's lengthy and detailed dissertation, The Growth and Spread of the Bahá'í Faith, which examines themes of sociology, religious authority, and conversion patterns behind the growth and spread of the Faith from its beginnings through to 1973.
¶10.1. Bahá'í History, 1863-92
During the years 1863-92, the vast majority of the world's Bahá'ís were confined to Iran and the Ottoman Empire, and virtually all were Iranians of Shí'í background. Starting in the 1870s and 80s, Jews and Zoroastrians began to join the new religion, as well as a few Christians. In the 1880s the religion began to grow in Central Asia, mostly by emigration from Iran to escape persecution; the Faith also spread to Burma, where Buddhists and Muslims converted.
Ferraby, 213-20 Momen, 120-7 Hatcher and Martin, 37-49 Smith 1987, 86-99 Huddleston, 196-204 Smith 1996, 51-60
Considerable quantities of historical data and contemporary first-hand histories are available. 'Abdu'l-Bahá himself wrote a history from the declaration of the Báb through the life of Bahá'u'lláh titled A Traveller's Narrative Written to Illustrate the Episode of the Báb. Edward G. Browne's original publication of his translation of A Traveller's Narrative includes hundreds of pages of useful addenda in the form of biographies, notes, translations, and observations, all of which were removed in the later printing by the Bahá'í Publishing Trust. A contemporary description of the Iranian Bahá'í community may also be found in Browne's introduction to A Traveller's Narrative (where his famous pen-portrait of Bahá'u'lláh was first published), and more are scattered throughout the pages of his A Year Amongst the Persians. Browne's comments on the Bahá'ís have been collected and published by Moojan Momen in Selections from the Writings of E. G. Browne on the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions. A critique of the European scholarship done on the early Iranian Bahá'í community may be found in Denis MacEoin's "Oriental Scholarship and the Bahá'í Faith," in World Order, 8.4 (Summer 1974).
Very little research has been done on the early Middle Eastern and South Asian Bahá'í communities. Of particular use is Peter Smith's collection of essays by various Bahá'í historians titled In Iran: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 3. Susan Stiles' essay, "Early Zoroastrian Conversions to the Bahá'í Faith in Yazd, Iran," published in Juan Cole and Moojan Momen, From Iran East and West: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 2, is of great importance, as it examines the connection between conversion to the Bahá'í Faith, indigenization of the Bahá'í Faith in Iranian culture, and the affect of Westernization on Zoroastrianism. The conclusions have been further developed in Susan Stiles Maneck, "The Conversion of Religious Minorities to the Bahá'í Faith in Iran: Some Preliminary Observations," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.3 (1990-1991): 35-48. Some additional information on Iranian Bahá'í contact with Zoroastrianism is contained in Gol Aidun, "Manekji Limji Hataria and the Bahá'í Faith," published in Bahá'í Studies Notebook, 1.1 (December 1980). Manekji was the agent sent to Iran by India's Parsees to emancipate their coreligionists from persecution. Moojan Momen's "Early Relations Between Christian Missionaries and the Bábí and Bahá'í Communities," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 1, provides some information on the Western reactions to the growing Bábí-Bahá'í movement. This work has been expanded in Moojan Momen, The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts. Biographies of individual Bahá'ís, prominent and less prominent, are scattered throughout Adib Taherzadeh's four-volume work, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Hasan Balyuzi's Eminent Bahá'ís In the Time of Bahá'u'lláh also is a source of biographies and local community histories; other brief biographies are found in Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh: The King of Glory. Two studies examine the Cyprus exiles: Bahíyyih Nakhjavání's Four on an Island is a rather poetic biography of the four Bahá'í exiles to Cyprus, and Moojan Momen's "The Cyprus Exiles," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 5.3-6.1 (1991) provides significant and extensive biographic data on Mírzá Yahyá and the other Cyprus covenant-breakers.
¶10.2. Bahá'í History, 1921-1953: Growth, Persecution, and The First and Second Seven-Year Plans
The years 1921 to 1953 can be divided into two phases. From 1921 to 1937 Shoghi Effendi built the administrative institutions that organize the Bahá'í religion (see Administrative Order). These were largely established by 1937. From 1937 to 1953 Shoghi Effendi directed the American Bahá'ís to carry out two plans, the First Seven-Year Plan (1937-1944) and the Second Seven-Year Plan (1946-1953). The first plan had as its goals the completion of the exterior of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois; the election of at least one local spiritual assembly in every state in the United States and every province of Canada; and the establishment of the Bahá'í Faith in every country in Latin America. All the goals were achieved. The second plan had as goals the completion of the interior of the House of Worship and its gardens, thereby allowing the building to be dedicated; the election of National Spiritual Assemblies for Canada, for Central America, and for South America; and expansion of the Bahá'í Faith in post-war Europe. The period has still been very little studied.
A major source of original documents from the era of the Guardianship are the collections of letters by Shoghi Effendi, such as Bahá'í Administration; Citadel of Faith; Dawn of a New Day; High Endeavors: Messages to Alaska; Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, 1923-1957; The Light of Divine Guidance: The Messages from the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith to the Bahá'ís of Germany and Austria; Messages to America; Messages to the Bahá'í World; Unfolding Destiny: Messages from the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith to the Bahá'í Community of the British Isles; and World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. A compilation detailing the period, Significance of the Formative Age, can be found in Compilation of Compilations, volume II.
Ferraby, 224-38 Momen, 127-8 Hatcher and Martin, 64-69 Smith 1987, 115-26, 157-61 Huddleston, 215-20 Smith 1996, 101-12
One of the few analyses of the beginning of the institution of the Guardianship is Loni Bramson-Lerche's "Some Aspects of the Establishment of the Guardianship," in Moojan Momen, ed., Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 5, 253-93. Her "Some Aspects of the Development of the Bahá'í Administrative Order in America, 1922-1936," in Moojan Momen, Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 1, also offers useful information. Eunice Braun summarizes the salient events of the period in From Strength to Strength, 5-43.
¶10.3. Bahá'í History, 1953-1963: The Ten Year Crusade and the Death of the Guardian
The decade from 1953 to 1963 saw greater expansion of the Bahá'í Faith than it had ever seen previously. Shoghi Effendi drew up ten plans, one for each national spiritual assembly, with coordinated goals to take the Bahá'í Faith to most of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and other places outside the communist bloc where it had not yet penetrated. At the end of the plan the number of national spiritual assemblies increased to fifty-six. In the middle of the plan Shoghi Effendi died, but the Hands of the Cause of God continued to administer it, scrupulously adhering to its every detail.
Shoghi Effendi's passing is described in The Bahá'í World, Volume XIII, 207-25. The Hands' principal messages to the Bahá'í world are published in The Bahá'í World, Volume XIII, 339-78. Over 400 pages of official and private communications of the Hands have been published in The Ministry of the Custodians, 1957-1963; this work is essential to any understanding of the period. The decision that no additional Guardians can be appointed is given by the Universal House of Justice in Wellspring of Guidance, 11, 81-91.
Esslemont, 283-84 Momen, 128 Hatcher and Martin, 69-71 Smith 1987, 126-28 Huddleston, 220-22 Smith 1996, 112-15
Eunice Braun discusses the period in From Strength to Strength, 43-52. One of the only analyses is Graham Hassell's "Bahá'í History in the Formative Age: The World Crusade, 1953-1963," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.4 (Dec. 1994-Mar. 1995).
¶10.4. Bahá'í History, 1963-79: Rapid Expansion and Diversification
The period from 1963 to 1979 saw some remarkable developments in the Bahá'í world community. Membership greatly increased everywhere, and Third-World Bahá'í communities began to come of age. The Universal House of Justice came into existence in 1963, established a nine-year plan and then a five-year plan for spreading the Bahá'í Faith, organized new compilations and translations of Bahá'í scripture, and wrote several significant messages that answered questions and resolved issues raised by the death of Shoghi Effendi. Bahá'í scholarship underwent an important acceleration.
The selections of letters by the Universal House of Justice for this period are Wellspring of Guidance: Messages 1963-1968, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, and Third Epoch of the Formative Age: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-86. Also of importance is The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice, which the House of Justice drew up and ratified in 1972.
Esslemont, 285-86 Momen, 130-4 Hatcher and Martin, 72-3, 171 Smith 1987, 132-35, 157-72, 90-95 Huddleston, 222-25, 242-99 Smith 1996, 116-28
Eunice Braun's From Strength to Strength, 53-64, covers the events of this time. A more complete summary can be found in Peter Smith and Moojan Momen's "The Bahá'í Faith 1957-1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments," in Religion, 19 (Jan. 1989).
¶10.5. Bahá'í History, 1979-Present: Iranian Persecution, Globalization
Since 1979 the Bahá'í world has been shaken by a fierce persecution of the Bahá'í Faith in Iran and the movement of tens of thousands of Iranian Bahá'í refugees to countries all around the globe. The Universal House of Justice has continued to grow in strength, issuing a series of extremely important messages on Bahá'í involvement in social and economic development projects, the Bahá'í view on the prerequisites for world peace (The Promise of World Peace), and a definition of individual rights and responsibilities in the Bahá'í Faith (Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh). The Bahá'í World Centre began undergoing significant expansion, and the construction of the remaining buildings planned for the World Centre commenced.
A compilation of letters of the Universal House of Justice has been published under the title A Wider Horizon: Selected Messages of the Universal House of Justice, 1983-1992. The collection includes all Ridván messages, messages regarding Bahá'í teaching plans and the Holy Year, and other significant messages.
Hatcher and Martin, 168-69, 171, 187-206 Smith 1987, 136-95 Smith 1996, 135-7 Huddleston, 225-33
Peter Smith and Moojan Momen's "The Bahá'í Faith 1957-1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments," in Religion, 19 (Jan. 1989), provides an overview of the period up to 1988, as well as a discussion of prospects.