¶16. Creation: Its Origin and Purpose
The Bahá'í scriptures, while stressing that creation and God are different in their essence, also describe nature as an agent for manifesting God's qualities. Every created thing is seen as reflecting an attribute of God. In this way the Bahá'í scriptures acknowledge a theological basis for nature mysticism. Nature is seen as a source of nurture for humanity and its civilization, as well as a source for spiritual education.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 452-53 (Gleanings, LXXVIII-LXIX); 459 (Gleanings, LXXXIV); 464 (Gleanings, XC).
Esslemont, 204-7 Hatcher and Martin, 74, 99-100 Ferraby, 157-61 Huddleston, 29-35, 54-5
Keven Brown's insightful "A Bahá'í Perspective on the Origin of Matter," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 2.3 (1989-1990) is the only study published thus far devoted to the topic of divine creation. A brief description of the relationship between the Bahá'í concept of God and the Bahá'í concept of physical creation may be found in Juan Cole's "The Concept of the Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings," Bahá'í Studies, no. 9, 6-10. A thorough discussion of the subject may be found in John Hatcher, "The Metaphorical Nature of Physical Reality," Bahá'í Studies, no. 3, and in John Hatcher, The Purpose of Physical Reality, chapter 2, "The Bahá'í Paradigm of Physical Reality" and chapter 3 "A Guide to the Physical Classroom." Julio Savi's The Eternal Quest for God has an excellent chapter summarizing the Bahá'í concept of physical creation.
In addition to discussing physical creation, the Bahá'í writings describe all of existence as having various levels, which are arranged in a spiritual hierarchy: first God; then the Holy Spirit; then the Manifestations; then the individual imbued with the spirit of faith; then the human kingdom; then the animal kingdom; then the vegetable (plant) kingdom; and finally the mineral kingdom. The best description of this hierarchy is in 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 46-51, 61-62; and in Some Answered Questions, 208-9.
Because the Bahá'í Faith offers teachings on all aspects of life and society it has many teachings that are relevant to economics. Among these are: its emphasis on work as a form of worship; its view of money as a substance one holds in trust and which one must expend on oneself, one's family, and on charity; its views on the relationship between labor and management, and its forbidding of strikes; its teachings on the need for an international currency, the establishment of international free trade, and the need for international economic regulatory agencies.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 237-38 (end of the Ishráqát, in Tablets 133-134). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, 273-78. Lights of Guidance lists topics of social and economic development, 544-54. Badi Shams has compiled numerous Bahá'í texts on economics, arranged by topic, in A Bahá'í Perspective on Economics of the Future. The most complete compilation, arranged neatly by topic and subtopic, is The True Foundation of all Economics, compiled by Hooshmand Badi'i.
Esslemont, 140-6 Momen, 48-53, 63-6 Ferraby, 99-104 Smith 1987, 149 Hatcher and Martin, 90-93 Smith 1996, 87, 124 Huddleston, 161-63, 169-72
Probably the best short summary of the Bahá'í approach to economics is Gregory C. Dahl's "Economics and the Bahá'í Teachings: An Overview," in World Order, 10.1 (Fall 1975). Dahl has presented some of the same ideas in "Evolving toward a Bahá'í Economic System," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 4.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1991), which is a revision of his earlier article in Bahá'í Studies Notebook 3.3/4 (1984) called "Towards an Ever-Advancing Civilization." A shorter, but also excellent, summary may be found in John Huddleston's "The Economy of a World Commonwealth," in World Order, 9.4 (Summer 1975). John Huddleston has also published a history of world economics from a Bahá'í perspective called "Towards a World Economy," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.3 (1990-1991): 21-34. William S. Hatcher's essay "Economics and Moral Values" explores the connection between economics and morality; it was published in World Order, 9.2 (Winter 1974-75): 14-27. Giuseppe Robiati's "Faith and World Economy": A Joint Venture Bahá'í Perspective is the longest and one of the best examinations of economics and the Bahá'í teachings. Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order, ed. Charles O. Lerche, contains two pieces on economic justice, and some articles contained in the Association for Bahá'í Studies' The Bahá'í Faith and Marxism: Proceedings of a Conference, January 1986 also relate to the topic.
The Bahá'í writings view education as of paramount importance. Just as a garden will become a jungle if not maintained and an animal remains bestial if not trained, likewise people do not attain their maximum potential without education. Education in Bahá'í thought is not merely a system of learning academic facts: the material, the human, and the spiritual aspects of humanity all require their respective spheres of education. Because of its importance in furthering human civilization, education must be universal and cumpolsory.
Bahá'í Education: A Compilation. Extracts from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi, which is reprinted in Compilation of Compilations, volume I, discusses aspects of child rearing. Six sections of Lights of Guidance--pages 141-58, 210-14, 293-4, 358-64, 555-64, and 628-40--are devoted to quotations on raising and educating children and youth. The longest compilation on education, organized by topic, is Foundations for a Spiritual Education. Another compilation of Bahá'í writings on education is Bahá'í Education: A Compilation.
Esslemont, 150-3 Momen, 29-33, 43 Ferraby, 95-98 Smith 1987, 90, 152-3 Hatcher and Martin, 85, 90, 181-3 Smith 1996, 87, 143 Huddleston, 105-9
H. T. D. Rost's The Brilliant Stars: The Bahá'í Faith and the Education of Children provides a summary of the Bahá'í approach to education; a more personal and practical approach to educational reform may be found in Nathan Rutstein's Education on Trial. There are dozens of articles on aspects of education published in World Order magazine; among them are S. Pattabi Raman's "World Education: In Quest of a Paradigm" (19.3/4, Spring/Summer 1985); Daniel C. Jordan and Raymond Shepard, "The Philosophy of the Anisa Model," in World Order, 7.1 (Fall 1972); Donald T. Streets and Daniel C. Jordan, "Guiding the Process of Becoming: The Anisa Theories of Curriculum and Teaching," in World Order, 7.4 (Summer 1973); Michael F. Kalinowski and Daniel C. Jordan, "Being and Becoming: The Anisa Theory of Development," in World Order, 7.4 (Summer 1973). The entire Fall 1970 issue of World Order (5.1) is devoted to education. Susan Clay Stoddard discusses the need for spiritual and moral educational emphases in "Education and Moral Development in Children" in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 1.1 (1988-1989). Barbara Hacker's "Montessori and the Bahá'í Faith," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 1.2 (1988-1989), offers comparisons between the two educational theories.
The papers given at one conference devoted to the development of Bahá'í education have been included in Hooshang Nikjoo, ed., Trends in Bahá'í Education: Proceedings of the Second Symposium on Bahá'í Education, 1989, which includes articles on education and morality, music, parenting, conflict resolution, revelation, spirituality. Iraj Ayman, ed., A New Framework for Moral Education (Wienacht, Switzerland: Landegg Academy, 1993) consists of a collection of seven talks given at a conference on moral education held in Albania in 1991.
The Bahá'í Faith regards concern with the health of the planet and ecology and agriculture to be fundamental principles, the roots of humanity's survival. Bahá'ís have been at the forefront of environmental education, most noticeably with their conspicuous involvement with the "Earth Summit," the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Unlike many prevailing attitudes amongst environmentalists, however, the Faith sees only spiritual values, not simply political treaties and ecological legislation, as being capable of teaching humankind properly to respect and heal the environment.
The Universal House of Justice has prepared one collection of sacred texts on the environment, Conservation of the Earth's Resources, reprinted in Compilation of Compilations, volume I.
Huddleston, 5 Smith 1996, 125-7 Momen, 40-2, 55
The Bahá'í Faith has recently formulated a position on the preservation of the environment, based on statements in the Bahá'í scriptures. The best short discussion of the Bahá'í position on environmental issues is Robert White's "Spiritual Foundations for an Ecologically Sustainable Society," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 2.1 (1989), reprinted in The Bahá'í World: An International Record, 1992-93. A longer discussion of the environmental crisis from a Bahá'í perspective may be found in Arthur Lyon Dahl's Unless and Until: A Bahá'í Focus on the Environment. Dahl summarizes many of his ideas in "The World Order of Nature," published in Charles Lerche, ed., Emergence, 161-74. There is also a compilation of Bahá'í scripture on the environment; a position paper; and pamphlets published on the Bahá'í approach to the environment. Roxanne Lalonde discusses environmental ethics in "Unity in Diversity: A Conceptual Framework for a Global Ethic of Environmental Sustainability," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1994), topics John J. Coleman also presents in "Protecting Humanity and Its Environment: A Bahá'í Perspective," in World Order, 26.2 (Winter 1994-95). Craig Loehle comments on spiritual aspects of ecology in On the Shoulders of Giants, 40-67. Cooperative Peace Strategies, a collection of papers related to the subject of world peace edited by John Davidson and Marjorie Tidman for the Association for Bahá'í Studies of Australia, includes articles on agriculture and the environment. Michael Sours finds some of the modern attitudes to the environment reflective of underlying religious conceptions in "Bah'a'í Cosmological Symbolism and the Ecofeminist Critique," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 7:1 (March-June 1995).
¶20. Epistemology: The Bahá'í Theory and Sources of Knowledge
The Bahá'í Faith emphasizes independent investigation of truth, that each individual must explore reality by him/herself, drawing judgments about what to believe independently of tradition and ancestral beliefs. Investigation is described spiritually in terms of the attitudes one should have to investigate impartially and successfully (freedom from bias, patience, open-mindedness, honesty, etc.). The Bahá'í Faith also says that investigation via nature and the scientific method, or via religion and the truths of revelation, are equally valid and must be balanced. For a discussion of the subject of science and religion, see that entry.
Bahá'u'lláh discusses investigation of truth particularly in two places in his writings; in his "Tablet of Wisdom" (Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 239-47 and Tablets 135-152) and in the "Tablet of the True Seeker," from the Kitáb-i-Íqán 192-194 (also found in Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 131-33, Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 503-5, and Gleanings, CXXV). 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses the "four methods acquiring of knowledge" in Some Answered Questions, 297-99.
Esslemont, 201-3 Huddleston, 49-54 Faizi, 38-42, 63-4 Momen, 96 Ferraby, 124-26 Smith 1987, 84, 155 Hatcher and Martin, 86-87
The best short treatment of Bahá'í epistemology is Nader Saiedi's "Faith, Reason, and Society in Bahá'í Perspective," in World Order, 21.3/4 (Spring/Summer 1987), 9-22. Jack McLean's "The Knowledge of God: An Essay in Bahá'í Epistemology," in World Order, 12.3 (Spring 1978) discusses the various ways of knowing listed in the Bahá'í scriptures, with reference to Auguste Comte and William James. Jalil Mahmoudi's "'Irfán, Gnosis, or Mystical Knowledge," in World Order, 7.4 (Summer 1973), considers the intuitive sources of knowledge. William Hatcher's Logic and Logos explores the relationship between revelation and reason. Moojan Momen's "Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics," in Moojan Momen, ed., Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 5, 185-218, explores the role of relativism in reconciling Bahá'í teachings--formed in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic environment--with Hindu and Buddhist ideas. Though not strictly on epistemology, Bahíyyih Nakhjavání's Asking Questions: A Challenge to Fundamentalism discusses many relevant aspects of scholarship and independent investigation of truth.
Bahá'u'lláh taught that, since leading a proper life while on the earth is requisite for one's spiritual development, purely metaphysical pursuits as sometimes practiced by the religious must be abandoned in favor of practical, worldly morality. Mundane ethical qualities such as proper interpersonal conduct thus receive as high an emphasis in the Bahá'í writings as do transcendent spiritual ones.
The Hidden Words (Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 33-59), though containing numerous and varied themes, is often considered to be primarily an "ethical" work.
Ferraby, 110-1 Smith 1996, 65 Smith 1987, 64
Udo Schaefer addresses the disintegration of much of modern society and the need for revitalized morality in his "Ethics for a Global Society," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 4.1 (1994). His follow-up article "The New Morality," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 5:1 (1995), outlines some basic categories and types in Bahá'u'lláh's system of ethics. He goes into greater depth in In a Blue Haze: On the Ethics of Smoking, in which he uses the discourgaed but not forbidden activity of smoking as a test case to examine the wider contexts and meanings of Bahá'í ethics. H. T. D. Rost examines the ethic of the "Golden Rule" as it is found in all of the world's major religions, concluding with a Bahá'í summation, in The Golden Rule: A Universal Ethic. Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order, edited by Charles Lerche, includes a few articles that are either directly or indirectly on subjects of ethics. Arash Abizadeh's short but incisive "Because Bahá'u'lláh Said So: dealing with a non-starter in moral reasoning," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 5:1 (1995), examines and criticizes some of the ways Bahá'ís might tend to justify ethical injunctions.
¶22. Family Life: Marriage, Divorce, and Sexuality
Bahá'ís see the family as being the core unit of society, and teach that only strong and healthy families can allow for a functioning society. In light of this, the Bahá'í scriptures strongly emphasize the importance of marriage, having children, and rearing children to worship God.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 162-63 (Synopsis and Codification extracts 8 and 12 / Aqdas paragraphs 48 and 63); 47 (Persian Hidden Words, 80-82); 234-35 (seventh Ishráq, in Tablets 128); 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses these and related matters in Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 117-45. Prayers for marriage, children, and family can be found in Bahá'í Prayers. Six compilations of Bahá'í writings on family life, marriage and divorce are Bahá'í Marriage and Family Life: Selections from the Writings of the Bahá'í Faith; Marriage: A Fortress for Well-Being (complete with useful commentary); A Chaste and Holy Life; Family Life; Extracts from the Bahá'í Teachings Discouraging Divorce, and Preserving Bahá'í Marriages, the latter four of which are reprinted in Compilation of Compilations, volumes I and II. Scriptural passages on family life, marriage, and divorce are included in Lights of Guidance, 218-32, 358-64, and 368-402. Unrestrained as the Wind is a full compilation of passages relating to youth concerns, such as education, sexuality, drug use, social relationships, and spirituality.
Esslemont, 150-53, 175-78 Huddleston, 90-109 Faizi, 65-6 Momen, 25-9, 88-9 Ferraby, 278-80 Smith 1987, 34-5, 46-7, 92-3, 198 Hatcher and Martin, 158-60 Smith 1996, 35, 73, 76
Bahá'ís have written many popular works on family life, marriage, and divorce, including Khalil and Susan Khavari's Creating a Successful Family and Together Forever: A Handbook for Creating a Successful Marriage; Madeline Hellaby's Education in the Bahá'í Family, which also includes sections on the differing roles of different family members; a chapter in Rúhíyyih Rabbani's Prescription for Living; and Patricia Wilcox's Bahá'í Families: Perspectives, Principles, Practice, a good and insightful addition to the genre. A work of scholarship relating to family life is Hossain Danesh's "The Violence-Free Society: A Gift for Our Children" (Bahá'í Studies, 6). An entire volume of papers on marriage has been published by the Association for Bahá'í Studies titled The Divine Institution of Marriage in Bahá'í Studies Notebook, 3.1/2 (March 1983). A short summary of the reciprocal relations among family members may be found in Hoda Mahmoudi and Richard Dabell, "Rights and Responsibilities in the Bahá'í Family System" (Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.2 (June-Sept. 1992) 1-12); a longer and more specific study is John Hatcher's "The Equality of Women: The Bahá'í Principle of Complementarity," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 2.3 (1989-1990), reprinted as "Some Thoughts on Gender Distinction in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Bahá'í Principle of Complementarity," in The Law of Love Enshrined: Selected Essays. Linda O'Neil has offered useful comments on this article in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 2.4 (1989-1990).
Publications regarding chastity and sexuality include one of the only studies of family planning issues, Mehri Samandari Jensen's detailed sociological and demographic analysis "Religion and Family Planning in Contemporary Iran," in Peter Smith, In Iran: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 3. Another good article on an insufficiently-studied topic, Sharon Hatcher Kennedy and Andrew Kennedy's "Bahá'í Youth and Sexuality: A Personal/Professional View," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 1.1 (1988-1989), relates current attitudes about sexuality and chastity in the Bahá'í versus the non-Bahá'í world and offers counsel for Bahá'í youth. Agnes Ghaznavi's Sexuality, Relationships, and Spiritual Growth discusses sexuality and chastity as they relate to the spiritual and physical sides of marriage. Susan Lamb's review of this book, in Bahá'í Studies Review, 5:1 (1995), argues that this and most other Bahá'í presentations of and attitudes about sexuality are "downright squeamish" and "depressing." Geoffrey Parrinder's Sexual Morality in the World's Religions includes a few brief discussions of Bahá'í teachings.
Muslims frequently describe prayer and fasting as twin pillars of religion, a description that Bahá'u'lláh apparently endorses (see Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 76 and Kitáb-i-Íqán 39-40). The Bahá'í Fast involves abstinence from all eating, drinking, and smoking from sunrise to sunset from 2 March through 20 March. Exempt from the fast are children; the elderly; the ill; women who are pregnant, menstruating, or nursing; travelers; and those performing heavy work. Its purpose is to reemphasize the import of things spiritual over things material, or, as Shoghi Effendi says, to "refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in the soul" (Lights of Guidance 233).
Duane Herrmann's Fasting: The Sun and its Moons: A Bahá'í Handbook, which includes fasting prayers, is a very useful compilation of Bahá'í scriptures on the fast. Bahá'u'lláh revealed some prayers related to fasting. Though principally intended for devotion, they also provide insight into the place of fasting in Bahá'í theology and its significance to Bahá'ís. These prayers are in Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 576-80 (Prayers and Meditations, 79-86) and Bahá'í Prayers 238-261. Details on fasting are provided in Lights of Guidance 233-235. Most of the laws and directives concerning it are found in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, especially paragraphs 10, 16, and 17; Questions and Answers nos. 22 36, 71, 75-6, and 93; Synopsis and Codification section IV.B; and Notes, pages 170-179 passim.
Esslemont, 182-4 Huddleston, 61-2 Ferraby, 283-4 Momen, 87-8 Hatcher and Martin, 157
While a few popular items on fasting have been written, the only scholarly presentation of it is John Walbridge's comparison of the Muslim and the Bahá'í fasts in Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time, 67-71.