¶29. Health, Healing, and Medicine
Bahá'u'lláh specified that one should seek out the advice of a competent physician; 'Abdu'l-Bahá added that both spiritual and physical healing exist and should both be used. 'Abdu'l-Bahá also spoke about the future role of diet in preventive medicine and emphasized the future importance of vegetarian diets.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 146-58; Some Answered Questions, 254-59. A compilation of Bahá'í scriptures on health and healing was published by Elias Zohoori under the title The Throne of the Inner Temple; a compilation by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Selections from the Bahá'í Writings on Some Aspects of Health, Healing, Nutrition, and Related Matters is in both Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 3.1 (June 1984) and Compilation of Compilations, volume I. Lights of Guidance has a section on health, 275-98.
Esslemont, 101-15 Huddleston, 60-68 Ferraby, 153-55 Momen, 23-4
Stephen Lambden and Khazeh Fananapazir have translated Bahá'u'lláh's compendium of medical advice "Tablet to the Physician," including detailed notes and possible influences, in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 6:4-7:2 (October 1992). Useful collections of essays on health appeared in the Special Issue on Health of Bahá'í Studies Notebook, 2.1 (April 1981) and Selected Proceedings from Bahá'í International Health Agency Conferences, in Bahá'í Studies Notebook, 4.1 (August 1985). An excellent summary of the Bahá'í approach to health is Hossain Danesh's "Health and Healing," in World Order, 13.3 (Spring 1979).
¶30. Hermeneutics and Interpretation
Hermeneutics is the science and methodology of interpretation of scripture (as compared with "exegesis," which is the systematic interpretation itself). Different religious traditions offer different approaches to hermeneutics. The Bahá'í writings offer a system of interpretation also, one that has not yet been studied in detail.
Bahá'u'lláh devotes a considerable amount of the Kitáb-I-Íqán to explicating the nature of religious symbolism and ways to interpret metaphors. 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses interpretations of Christian symbolism in many places in Some Answered Questions, especially pages 122-126.The classic Bahá'í text on hermeneutics is Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl's Miracles and Metaphors, in which he examines the literal and figurative interpretations of scripture. Dann May's "A Preliminary Survey of Hermeneutical Principles Found within the Bahá'í Writings," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 1.3 (1989) and Juan Cole's "Interpretation in the Bahá'í Faith," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 5:1 (1995) are the two best articles on hermeneutics. Each describes various hermeneutical and exegetical approaches to Bahá'í scripture and their practice in the Bahá'í community. Michael Sours explores some Bahá'í approaches to interpretation in "Seeing with the Eye of God: Relationships Between Theology and Interpretation," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 1.1 (1991). Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir also address this, though in less depth, in "Some Interpretive Principles in the Bahá'í Writings," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 2.1 (1992). Steven Scholl discusses some aspects of the relationship between scholarly objectivity and hermeneutical methodologies in "More Problems...Scientific Method or a Total Hermeneutics?" in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.2 (Sept. 1983). Robert Stockman includes a chapter on early American Bahá'í hermeneutics of the Bible in his doctoral dissertation, The Bahá'í Faith and American Protestantism. Chris Buck's Symbol and Secret: Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume 7 presents a detailed examination of exegetical and hermeneutical techniques Bahá'u'lláh used in his Kitáb-i-Íqán and demonstrates the ways in which the Íqán can be seen as an example of tafsír, or Qur'án commentary. Similarly, Juan Cole provides a somewhat postmodernist reading of Bahá'í texts to examine the hermeneutical techniques Bahá'u'lláh used in forwarding his claims to world messiahship and demonstrate the truth of unity of religions in "'`I am All the Prophets': The Poetics of Pluralism in Baha'i Texts," in Poetics Today 14:3 (Fall 1993). John Hatcher's lengthy and detailed The Ocean of His Words: A Reader's Guide to the Art of Bahá'u'lláh discusses ways of arriving at meanings in Bahá'u'lláh's writings using techniques of formal literary analysis.
¶31. History and Historiography
No comprehensive history of the Bahá'í Faith from the beginning to the present has been composed. Peter Smith's The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions: From Messianic Shí'ism to a World Religion, an introductory work on the Bahá'í Faith from a sociological perspective, comes closest to offering such a treatment. His A Short History of the Bahá'í Faith is a condensed but also good version of this book. Shoghi Effendi's God Passes By offers a narrative history of the first century of the Faith (1844-1944) and is characterized by careful use of the sources available at the time, and a theological perspective on Bahá'í history that only Shoghi Effendi, as head and official interpreter of the Bahá'í Faith, could provide. One of the firsthistories of the Babi and bahai religons was provided by Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Golpáygání in his A Short Sketch of the History and Lives of the Leaders of this Religion, published with another essay under the title Bahá'í Proofs.
The issue of historiography has as of yet been little studied. Moojan Momen's "Learning from History," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 2.2 (1989-1990), offers some preliminary thoughts about the lessons of Bahá'í history. Sen McGlinn briefly addresses Bahá'í versus Marxist and Liberation theology interpretations of Western history in "Towards the Enlightened Society," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 4.1 (1994). Geoffrey Nash discusses a variety of historiographical topics in The Phoenix and the Ashes: The Bahá'í Faith and the Modern Apocalypse, esp. pages 66-103.
¶32. Holy Places, Bahá'í (World Centre and the Arc)
The Bahá'í World Centre is located in Haifa and 'Akká in northern Israel. Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to the latter, and the former was the largest city nearby, as well as the location of Mount Carmel, a mountain that figures prominently in biblical prophecy. Among the holy places in those cities are The Shrine of the Báb, a mausoleum where the Báb is buried, and where 'Abdu'l-Bahá is temporarily buried as well; The Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh outside 'Akká, where Bahá'u'lláh is buried; various houses where Bahá'u'lláh lived, and various gardens where he often went to escape the bustle of town life; the graves of Bahá'u'lláh's wife, daughter, and son; the grave of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's wife; and the Arc, a series of five buildings on the side of Mount Carmel which are now in their finishing stages of construction. The Arc is so named because its major buildings are laid out in a semi-circle. In English the Arc is sometimes confused with "the Ark," a symbol for the covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that, in the Tablet of Carmel, Bahá'u'lláh wrote that God will sail his "ark" upon the mountain, which now features the "arc" of the world center.
In addition to these sites, Bahá'ís recognize as holy the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, (which is currently closed to the Bahá'ís by the government authorities); the House of the Báb in Shíráz, which was demolished shortly after the Iranian revolution; and various other houses of Bahá'u'lláh in Iran and Turkey.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 173-74 (Tablet of Carmel, in Tablets pp. 3-5); 435-37 (Gleanings, LVII-LVIII); 679-81 (Tablet of Visitation, in Prayers and Meditations 310-313).
Esslemont, 250-1 Momen, 72-3, 127 Ferraby, 228-31, 272-3 Smith 1987, 162, 198-9 Hatcher and Martin, 64, 180 Smith 1996, 112, 119-20, 124, 137
The best summaries of the sites at the Bahá'í World Centre are Eunice Braun and Hugh Chance, A Crown of Beauty: The Bahá'í Faith and the Holy Land and David S. Ruhe, Door of Hope: A Century of the Bahá'í Faith in the Holy Land. Both were written to assist Bahá'í pilgrims: both have extensive quotations from the Bahá'í writings are amply illustrated with color pictures. One of the most extensive descriptions of the building of the Bahá'í World Center can be found in Ugo Giachery's Shoghi Effendi: Recollections, where Giachery describes much of the history of the designing and the building of the center's buildings and gardens. The non-Bahá'í French journalists Colette Gouvion and Philippe Jouvion wrote a short but interesting account of their impressions of the Bahá'í World Center in the opening of The Gardeners of God: An Encounter with Five Million Bahá'ís.
¶33. Houses of Worship (Mashriqu'l-Adhkár)
Every local Bahá'í community, in the future, is to have a Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, a "Dawning Place of the Mention (lit. "Remembrance") of God." This institution will have, at its center, a house of worship, a nine-sided building with nine doors, topped with a dome, and surrounded by gardens, where people can pray; in addition, it is to have a series of dependencies such as a hospital, senior citizen's home, library, dispensary, orphanage, school, and other charitable institutions. So far only seven houses of worship have been built in the world, and they are national, not local, institutions; two have dependencies, in both cases a home for the aged.
'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses the institution of the house of worship in Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 94-100. Shoghi Effendi lists the various dependencies of the house of worship, as well as those of the Hazíratu'l-Quds, or Bahá'í administrative building, in God Passes By, 339. See also Lights of Guidance. 605-11.
Esslemont, 186-88 Momen, 74-5 Ferraby, 269 Smith 1987, 91, 161-2 Hatcher and Martin, 169-71 Smith 1996, 73, 111-4, 120-2, 150 Huddleston, 164-66
A few articles have been written describing the institution of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár; a history of the construction of the American house of worship, Bruce Whitmore's The Dawning Place, is available; and R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram includes a large section on this house of worship in his book Music, Devotions, and Mashriqu'l-Adhkár: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, volume 4. The architectural dimensions of the house of worship are explored in Tom Kubala's "Architectural Implications of the Bahá'í Community," in World Order, 9.1 (Fall 1974). Other relevant citations are in section ¶5. Art, Literature, Music, Architecture.
¶34. Humanity: Its Nature and Purpose
The Bahá'í concept of the nature of humanity must be set in the context of the nature of creation. Bahá'í scriptures, on the one hand, see every created thing as capable of reflecting a quality of God; humanity, on the other hand, has the capacity to reflect all the divine attributes. Humanity is seen as the highest creation on earth, a creation invested with special responsibilities toward nature. It also has special capabilities to know and worship God, and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 456-59 (Gleanings, LXXXII-LXXXIII); 481 (Gleanings, CIX); 532-34 (Gleanings, CLV); 501 (Gleanings, CXXII). 'Abdu'l-Bahá deals with many aspects of human nature in Some Answered Questions, part four (177-259). A compilation of Bahá'í writings that contains many illuminating quotations about the nature of human beings is Bahá'í Education: A Compilation. Extracts from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi.
Esslemont, 118-9, 153-5 Huddleston, 35-37, 54-60 Ferraby, 142-44, 155-60 Momen, 12-3 Hatcher and Martin, 99-114
One article describing the Bahá'í teachings about the nature of human beings is Raymond Jeffords' "The Human Soul: A Bahá'í Perspective," in World Order, 17.1 (Fall 1982). An excellent work that sets the Bahá'í concept of the nature of humanity in the context of the Bahá'í concepts of God, Manifestation, and physical creation, is Julio Savi's The Eternal Quest for God.
¶35. Justice / Divine Justice
Justice is the fundamental virtue in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. By justice, however, the Bahá'í teachings mean something far greater than simply the treatment of criminals or even the broader scope of fair interpersonal relations. Bahá'u'lláh opens the Arabic Hidden Words by telling the reader that by the aid of justice "thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor." (Hidden Words, Arabic No. 2) Bahá'u'lláh writes about two aspects of justice: the importance of human effort to establish justice in this world, and the sometimes inscrutable nature of God's justice. The former is required for a world community to act in unity, and the latter is a critical aspect of the Greater Covenant, God's promise never to leave humanity without prophetic guidance and humanity's agreement to heed the teachings of God's Manifestations.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 51 (Arabic Hidden Words, 2); 424 (Gleanings, XXXVII); 576 (Prayers and Meditations, LV); 580 (Prayers and Meditations, LVII); 584 (Prayers and Meditations, LX).
Esslemont, 134-5 Momen, 14, 46-7, 50-1, 65 Ferraby, 114-7
John Hatcher's The Purpose of Physical Reality, chapter 1, "The Search for Divine Justice in the Physical World," is a good work on the operation of God's justice. The most complete academic work on Bahá'í notions of justice is a collection of essays on morality, ethics, gender equality, and social and economic justice edited by Charles O. Lerche, Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order.
¶36. Law and Personal Conduct
Bahá'ís are enjoined to be scrupulously obedient to the civil law of the country in which they abide. As well, the Faith is a religion with many laws of personal conduct, laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh and interpreted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Bahá'u'lláh also explains the purpose of laws of personal conduct and why one should obey them.
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 159-60 (Synopsis and Codification extracts 1 and 2 / Aqdas paragraphs 1 and 7). The rest of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, published separately, is also relevant, since it contains not only many of the laws but also "Questions and Answers," questions believers put to Bahá'u'lláh concerning the laws of the Aqdas and his responses; Shoghi Effendi's "A Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas"; and numerous endnotes commenting on all the above. Lights of Guidance has notes on Bahá'í community law, 57-64.
Esslemont, 71-87, 102-5, 175-8 Momen, 83-90 Ferraby, 276-86 Smith 1987, 33-5, 80-82, 139-40 Hatcher and Martin, 152-55 Smith 1996, 35-6, 71-3, 156
Martha L. Schweitz examines some issues of Bahá'í law and social principles in "The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Bahá'í Law, Legitimacy, and World Order," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.1 (Mar.-June 1994). A few studies have examined the nature of Bahá'í law as it relates to inheritance, for Bahá'u'lláh included detailed instructions on inheritance law in cases of intestacy in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. These include Seena Fazel's "Inheritance," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 4.1 (1994), and John and Linda Walbridge's "Bahá'í Laws on the Status of Men," in World Order, 19.1/2 (Fall 1984/Winter 1984-85). Six authors commented on and responded to the latter in dialogue's forum, "A Question of Gender: A Forum on the Status of Men in Bahá'í Laws," in dialogue 2:1 (Summer/Fall 1987). Udo Schaefer's "'The Balance hath been Appointed': Some Thoughts on the Publication of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 3.1 (1993), offers considerations on aspects of Bahá'í law. John Hatcher considers aspects of punishments for violating Bahá'í laws in "The Model of Penology in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas," in The Law of Love Enshrined. Few items of secondary scholarship have been published on the legal nature of specific Bahá'í codes of conduct, save Udo Schaefer's In a Blue Haze: On the Ethics of Smoking, in which uses the ethicality of smoking to examine wider implications of Bahá'í laws of personal conduct.