A Resource Guide for Baha'i Studies--bibliography

41. Persecution and Martyrdom

The history of the persecution of the Bahá'í Faith is as long as the history of the religion itself. Persecution has especially occurred in Islamic cultures and societies, but there has also been severe persecution of the Bahá'í Faith (and other religions) in Marxist and Fascist societies, and some persecution has even occurred in Christian societies.

Esslemont, 15-7, 24-9, 169-71, 198-9,      Momen, 118-9, 127  Smith 1987, 79, 89,   
252 Ferraby, 288-90                        98, 172-4, 177-80                        
Hatcher and Martin, 195-8                 Smith 1996, 63, 90, 134-7, 145-7, 150     
Huddleston, 225-30                                                                  

PERSECUTIONS IN IRAN--historical and overviews

A starting point for studying the history of persecutions in Iran is Moojan Momen's detailed work, "A Chronology of Some of the Persecutions of the Bábís and Bahá'ís in Iran, 1844-1978," in The Bahá'í World vol. 18, pages 380-392. The studies of the current persecution in Iran are the most detailed. Douglas Martin's "The Persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran, 1844-1984" (Bahá'í Studies, 12/13) provides an excellent historical overview, and Juan Cole's "The Bahá'ís of Iran," in History Today, 40 (1990) also discusses the topic. Roger Cooper's The Bahá'ís of Iran, published by Minority Rights Group, Ltd., a British Human Rights organization, is balanced and objective, though it is now a bit out of date (having been updated only through 1985). Muhammad Labib's Seven Martyrs of Hurmuzak describes a martyrdom that occurred in 1955; its relevance to the modern situation has been described in a review of the book by Howard Garey, published in World Order, 20.1 (Fall 1985). One of the worst outbreaks of persecution in Iran, that of Yazd and surrounding areas in 1903, has been reported on by both Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í writers. Michael Fischer, in his doctoral dissertation Zoroastrian Iran Between Myth and Praxis, has extensively discussed the massacre of Bahá'ís at Yazd. Parts of this have been published in Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Postmodernity and Tradition and reprinted in Bahá'í Faith and Islam, "Social Change and the Mirrors of Tradition: The Bahá'ís of Yazd." The book Debating Muslims also includes an autobiographical story of a member of the Anti-Bahá'í Society who relates how he and his friends would taunt and harass Bahá'ís as youths and who later studied and practiced to best Bahá'ís in formal debate. Gary K. Waite seeks to understand some of the broader dynamics underlying the persections of the Bábís by comparing them with another persecuted religous group, the 16-century German Anabaptists, in "The Religious State: A Comparative Study of Sixteenth- and Nineteenth-century Opposition," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 7:1 (March-June 1995).

PERSECUTIONS IN IRAN--official and government statements

The persecution of Iran's Bahá'ís has generated many congressional and other governmental hearings. Some of these include the testimony given at the congressional hearings reprinted in World Order magazine, 16.3 (Spring 1982); 18.2 (Winter 1983-84); 18.3 (Spring 1984); 22.3 (Spring/Summer 1988); and 24.2/3 (Spring/Summer 1990). Testimonies have also been published in the U.S. government's Committee on Foreign Affairs' Religious Persecution as a Violation of Human Rights, pages 149-250. Official statements of the Bahá'í community include two recent and comprehensive works--which provide a history and an overview of the situation through 1993--The Bahá'í Question: Iran's Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community and Douglas Martin's "The Case of the Bahá'í Minority in Iran," in The Bahá'í World: An International Record, 1992-93. These replace an earlier Bahá'í International Community white paper titled The Bahá'ís in Iran: A Report on the Persecution of a Religious Minority, which details the persecution through 1982 and provides many statistics and copies of original Iranian government documents.

PERSECUTIONS IN IRAN--memoirs and general

Olya Roohizadegan's Olya's Story: A Survivor's Dramatic Account of the Persecution of Bahá'ís in Revolutionary Iran is a personal memoir of an Iranian Bahá'í who was imprisoned, interrogated, and survived to tell the story. Christine Hakim-Samandari's "Victory Over Violence," in World Order, 20.1 (Fall 1985), consists of selections from her longer and more general Les Bahá'ís: ou victoire sur la violence. Poignant letters from martyrs containing their reflections about life and sacrifice are published in English translations in Amin Banani's "Three Accounts of Love Sacrificed," in World Order, 17.1 (Fall 1982). Fereshteh Taheri Bethel included many similar letters as an appendix to her dissertation A Psychological Theory of Martyrdom: A content analysis of personal documents of Bahá'í martyrs of Iran written between 1979 and 1982. The moral implications of the Iranian persecutions are considered in Will van den Hoonaard's "The Persecution of the Iranian Bahá'í Community and the Emergence of a Universal Moral Order," in World Order, 19.1/2 (Fall 1984/Winter 1984-85). Geoffrey Nash's Iran's Secret Pogrom is useful and well-written, and William Sears' Cry from the Heart describes the persecution in a popular and passionate way. The so-called "Golpaygani Memorandum," a secret Iranian government memorandum to destroy the Iranian Bahá'í community and weaken the Faith worldwide, has been published in the original Persian, with English translation and commentary under the title "Iran's Blueprint to Destroy the Bahá'í Community," in World Order, 25.1 (Fall, 1993), 44-50.


Scholarship on persecution of Bahá'ís outside of Iran includes a study of the persecution of Bahá'ís in Morocco in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Freedom of Religion on Trial in Morocco: The Nador Case (1963). The occasional persecution of the Bahá'ís in the Russian Empire dates back to the 1880s and is described in Anthony Lee's "The Rise of the Bahá'í Community of 'Ishqábád." Systematic persecution of the Bahá'ís in the Soviet Union under Stalin is described in "Persecutions under the Soviet Régime," The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record, vol. 3, 1928-1930, 34-43; "Turkestan," The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record, vol. 5, 1832-1934, 33-43; "Difficulties in Turkistán and Caucasus," in The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record, vol. 7, 1936-1938, 100-102; "Persecution and Deportation of the Bahá'ís of Caucasus and Turkistan," in The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record, vol. 8, 1938-1940, 87-90. Persecution of German Bahá'ís by the Nazis is described in The Bahá'í World: A Biennial International Record, vol. 10, 1944-1946, 20-25. There are also scattered references in Lidia: The Life of Lidia Zamenhof, Daughter of Esperanto (Lidia Zamenhof was a Bahá'í and lived in Warsaw during much of World War Two, until she was sent to the Treblinka concentration camp). While the opposition to the Bahá'í Faith in the United States can hardly be called "persecution," it has been studied; the best article is Douglas Martin's "The Missionary as Historian: William Miller and the Bahá'í Faith," in World Order, 10.3 (Spring 1976).


The spiritual significance of martyrdom is another facet of persecution, one which gives an insight into why Bábís and Bahá'ís have tended to accept and in cases even seek persecution. Suffering and dying in the path of one's religion has long been given theological significance; "sacrifice" in Latin means "to make sacred," and the words for martyr and for witness, i.e. one who testifies to God's existence, are identical in Greek and closely related in Arabic. The Christian atonement--i.e. Jesus' death on the cross as a channel for reconciliation between the sinful humanity and the forgiving God--is perhaps the most systematized of religious notions of martyrdom, but the broad theme is found in all religions. In Shí'í Islam it takes the form of the sacrifice of Muhammad's grandson and the third Imám, Husayn, in the fields of Karbilá, which has led to a pervading ethos of redemptive suffering in Shí'ism. Much of the writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh reflect this ethos (e.g. Hidden Words, Arabic 45-51, and Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 72-7), but the actual practice of martyrdom in the Bábí versus the Bahá'í Faiths is quite different. Whereas the Bábís were at times almost eager to be martyred, Bahá'u'lláh often declared that his followers were not to take statements praising martyrdom so literally that they would seek it; instead, Bahá'ís came to think of service as being a form of martyrdom--devoting one's life completely to the religion and to serving humanity is a form of living sacrifice (e.g. Advent of Divine Justice 7, and Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, volume 4, 302-3, and Smith 1996, 157).

'Abdu'l-Bahá explains types of sacrifices and their significances in Promulgation of Universal Peace, 449-52.

Esslemont 15-8, 22, 24-5, 169-71, 198-9,     Momen, 108-10 Smith 1987, 3, 27,       
252 Hatcher and Martin, 16-21, 195-7         44-5, 79, 180                          
Huddleston, 188-9                            Smith 1996, 16, 43-4, 66, 157          

The incidents of Bábí and Bahá'í martyrdom have been well recorded and frequently cited, as for example in the textbook citations given immediately above. Numerous first-hand accounts of martyrdoms, usually extolling the heroism of the martyrs, have been written, many of which were published in volumes of World Order magazine, Star of the West, and The Bahá'í World. A collection of documents of the martyrdom of the Báb, both Bahá'í scriptural accounts and a few eyewitness accounts, has been published as Martyrdom of the Báb: A Compilation.

However, little academic work has examined this issue. The citations given above for Smith 1987 mention some of the Shí'í influence on the patterns of martyrdom. Fereshteh Taheri Bethel conducted a somewhat useful study of the psychology of martyrdom, i.e. the internal states of martyrs, in her dissertation A Psychological Theory of Martyrdom: A content analysis of personal documents of Bahá'í martyrs of Iran written between 1979 and 1982, aspects of which she published as "A Psychological Theory of Martyrdom," in World Order, 20.2/3 (Spring/Summer 1986). Abdu'l-Missagh Ghadirian has examined a similar topic in "Psychological and Spiritual Dimensions of Persecution and Suffering," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 6.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1994). Jonah Winters' master's thesis Dying For God: Conceptions of Martyrdom in the Shi'i, Babi, and Bahai Religions traces continuities and discontinuities of the theologies of martyrdom.


One topic, though a minor one, that has occasioned a fair amount of academic debate is the number of believers who were martyred since the beginning of the Bábí movement. Denis MacEoin has consistently maintained that the number of martyrs was not 20,000, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi mentioned numerous times, but between 2,000 to 3,000 (e.g. "A Note on the Numbers of Babi and Bahá'í Martyrs in Iran," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 2.2 (Sept. 1983), and "From Babism to Baha'ism: Problems of Militancy, Conflation, and Quietism in the Construction of a Religion," in Religion, 13 (July 83), 235-8). However, the Universal House of Justice, in a letter to an individual dated 22 January 1984, reiterated that the figure of 20,000 is "clearly recorded" in "the official government historical record of events in Iran." (Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 3.4 (Dec. 1995), page 99).

42. Philosophy

The Bahá'í writings regard the study of philosophy as being very important; 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that all people must be educated in science and philosophy (Promulgation of Universal Peace, 108). While Bahá'u'lláh does condemn philosophers whose studies begin and end with words (e.g. Tablets, 169), Shoghi Effendi clarifies that by this Bahá'u'lláh was not dismissing the study of philosophy, which Shoghi Effendi terms "a sound branch of learning," but rather the endless "metaphysical hair-splittings" which many among the Islamic clergy engaged in (Scholarship: A Compilation, #54).

Two texts that stand out as chief among the Bahá'í philosophical works are Bahá'u'lláh's "Tablet of Wisdom," in Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 239-47 (Tablets, 135-52), and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's "Tablet to Auguste Forel." 'Abdu'l-Bahá briefly defines philosophy in Memoirs of the Faithful, 92, and distinguishes between natural and divine philosophy in Promulgation of Universal Peace, 326-7 (quoted in H. M. Balyuzi's 'Abdu'l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, where the page numbers from an earlier edition of Promulgation are given). The Research Department of the Universal House of Justice has compiled a thorough list of references to philosophy from the Bahá'í writings and divided them by topic and has as well provided extracts on philosophy from previously unpublished works, in "References on Philosophy," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 5.1-2 (Jan. 1991): 76-87.


William S. Hatcher's Logic and Logos: Essays on Science, Religion, and Philosophy includes many discussions of philosophy, including for example Platonic thought, metaphysics, logic, and subjectivity. His five essays reprinted in The Law of Love Enshrined deal with scientific approaches to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. John S. Hatcher's The Purpose of Physical Reality: The Kingdom of Names ruminates on classical philosophy, the physical world, justice, and the afterlife, and his The Arc of Ascent: The Purpose of Physical Reality II contains a wealth of philosophical reflections on gender complementarity, salvation, historiography, Manifestation theology, peace, and the new world order. B. Hoff Conow has contributed a long and broad examination of Bahá'í theological philosophy with her The Bahá'í Teachings: A Resurgent Model of the Universe.


Though a few works have addressed certain issues of philosophy and the Bahá'í Faith, none yet have been written in the strongly scholastic vein often associated with Western philosophy. William Hatcher examines a variety of philosophical considerations useful to an understanding of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in "The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Causality Principle in the World of Being," in The Bahá'í World: An International Record, 1993-94, reprinted in The Law of Love Enshrined. Bret Breneman examines the moral intent of classical rhetoric and its relation to Bahá'í teachings on speech in "Socrates'/Plato's Use of Rhetoric: A Bahá'í Perspective," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 4.1 (Mar.-June 1991). Ross Woodman contrasts aspects of the eschatological thought of Hegel and Nietzsche with that of Bahá'u'lláh in "The End of the World: Whatever Happened? Or Leftover Time to Kill," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 3.3 (1990-1991). Robert Parry examines the nature of a possible Bahá'í theology through a comparison with Christian theology in "Philosophical Theology in Bahá'í Scholarship," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, 6.4-7.2 (Oct. [Dec.] 1992). Ruhi Afnan has written a series of philosophical works, two of which--The Revelation of Baha'u'llah and the Báb: Book I: Descartes' Theory of Knowledge and Baha'u'llah and the Bab Confront Modern Thinkers: Book II: Spinoza: Concerning God--show a relatively high degree of philosophical sophistication.*

43. Pilgrimage

Bahá'ís who have the financial means are expected to go on pilgrimage to the Bahá'í World Centre in Israel at least once in their life. Pilgrimage to the House of the Báb in Shíráz, Iran, and to the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, Iraq, is also enjoined, but is currently impossible because of political conditions. For a description of the Bahá'í World Centre and its history, see 32, Holy Places, Bahá'í.

Hatcher and Martin, 180-81                Momen, 73                                 

John Walbridge presents many elements of Bahá'í pilgrimage, including discussions of Tablets of Visitation, shrines, cemeteries, the "Most Great House" of Bahá'u'lláh, and Mount Carmel, in Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time, 103-149. For non-scholarly accounts of pilgrimage, one can consult the many pilgrim's notes and personal recollections of Westerners who visited the Holy Land, such as Thornton Chase's In Galilee, Myron Phelps' The Master in 'Akká, Marzieh Gail's Arches of the Years, Julie M. Grundy's Ten Days in the Light of 'Akká, the compilation of pilgrim's notes In His Presence: Visits to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the biography of Lua Getsinger, Lua Getsinger: Herald of the Covenant, Helen S. Goodall's Daily Lessons Received at 'Akká, and the memoirs of Persian believers such as Tarázu'lláh Samandarí's Moments with Bahá'u'lláh and Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí's Stories from the Delight of Hearts.

* Ruhi Afnan, cousin of Shoghi Effendi and one of his secretaries, was excommunicated in 1941 for disobedience to the Guardian. However, as William Collins writes, "Afnan's works are largely philosophical in nature and are generally not in conflict with Bahá'í concepts." (A Bibliography of English-Language Works, 295).

44. Pioneering

Pioneering is the act of moving to another locality, be it a nearby town (homefront pioneering) or a foreign country, to teach the Bahá'í Faith. It is distinct from "teaching" in that the latter does not necessarily involve relocation.

Pioneering is a topic frequently mentioned in the primary texts. Indeed, a significant portion of the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are devoted to encouraging Bahá'ís to pioneer or offering guidance to those who have. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan is entirely devoted to exhortations to teach and pioneer. One succinct compilation can be found in Lights of Guidance, 570-581.

Ferraby, 294-5                            Momen, 130                                
Hatcher and Martin, 176-7                 Smith 1987, 156-7                         
Huddleston, 154                           Smith 1996, 110-1, 122, 148               

Little scholarship has been produced on pioneering, but discussions of pioneering constitute a large portion of Bahá'í literature. Biographies of many famous Bahá'í figures include discussions on the topic. As well, discussions of teaching and the Plans, the systematic teaching endeavors first started by Shoghi Effendi, often include discussions of pioneering. One such is Roger M. Dahl's discussion of homefront pioneering in "Three Teaching Methods Used During North America's First Seven-Year Plan," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 5.3 (Sept.-Dec. 1993). Two works that can be mentioned here are Rúhíyyih Rabbáni's A Manual for Pioneers, a book of practical advice for pioneers, and And the Trees Clapped their Hands, a collection of stories and anecdotes about pioneers compiled by Claire Vreeland.

45. Politics

Shoghi Effendi clearly instructed that Bahá'ís must not become involved in partisan politics. The primary reason for this is that the goal of the Bahá'í Faith is a new world order radically different from the world order as it now exists; the Bahá'í world order will have a radically different political, social, and economic organization, based primarily on the Bahá'í principle of unity. Modern political systems are based on the idea that political competition--political disunity--will control excessive concentration of power in any one group; in short, disunity is used to control greed. Such a system emphasizes loyalty to one's party, regardless of whether its position on a particular issue is right. For Bahá'ís to join such a political party would be tantamount to renouncing their high ideals about unity; hence Bahá'ís do not join political parties, as they are currently constituted. Bahá'ís can vote, however; they can accept government appointments, such as judgeships; and they can present their principles to parties, politicians, and governmental agencies. When the Bahá'ís approach the United States Congress about particular legislation, such as resolutions condemning the persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran, the resolutions always have bipartisan support.

Some of the Bahá'í writings that address this topic are Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 182 (Fifth Glad Tidings in Tablets 22-23); 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 293-94; Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 64-66, 198, and the Universal House of Justice, "Noninterference in Political Affairs," in Messages of the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, 44-50. See also Lights of Guidance, 441-54.

Esslemont, 137-9                          Huddleston, 144-49                        
Ferraby, 88-92, 286-87                    Momen, 45-8, 134                          
Hatcher and Martin, 160-1, 164            Smith 1987, 146-7                         

R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram describes some of the historical reasons that Baháí's have shunned political involvement and explores some implications of this in "Politics, Text, and Context," in dialogue, 1:3 (Summer/Fall 1986). The Bahá'í International Community released a statement on the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, Turning Point for All Nations, which addresses old versus new politics and issues of the approaching time of the lesser peace. This has been reprinted in World Order, 27.2 (Winter 1995-96). The Bahá'í Faith holds views on many issues that are closely related to politics, such as individual rights and freedoms. However, as Arash Abizadeh has demonstrated in his brief "Liberal Democracy and the Bahá'í Administrative Order," in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 2.3 (1990), Western and Bahá'í systems of governance have many differences. The best summary of the Bahá'í position is the statement by the Universal House of Justice titled Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. A comparison of principles of authority and freedom in the Bahá'í writings and those of John Locke and others may be found in Paul Glist's "Principles of Freedom and Philosophy in American and Bahá'í Philosophy," in World Order, 16.2 (Winter 1982). A well-organized attempt to examine the Bahá'í administrative order as a political order is made in A. L. Lincoln's "The Politics of Faith: A New Political Culture," in World Order, 5.2 (Winter 1970-71). Brian Aull's "The Process of Social Change," in World Order, 23.3 (Spring/Summer 1989), 9-18, is the best article yet written on the subject of why Bahá'ís avoid partisan politics and advocate a unific approach to social change. John Huddleston offers a lengthy and erudite account of modern political quests for justice and social improvement in The Search for a Just Society and concludes with Bahá'í solutions in chapters 28-30. Juan Cole explores aspects of the Bahá'í system of governance and its influences in "Iranian Millenarianism and Democratic Thought in the 19th Century," in The International Journal of Middle East Studies, 24.1 (1992).

Two collections of articles, Toward the Most Great Justice: Elements of Justice in the New World Order, and Emergence: Dimensions of a New World Order, both edited by Charles O. Lerche, contain some pieces on politics.


A few publications have addressed the relation between Marxism and the Bahá'í Faith. The Association for Bahá'í Studies volume The Bahá'í Faith and Marxism: Proceedings of a Conference, January 1986 contains Laurie E. Adkin's "Marxism, Human Nature, and Society," Colin Leys' "Marxism Today and Yesterday," and other related essays. As well, some articles in Circle of Unity: Bahá'í Approaches to Current Social Issues address the topic. Sen McGlinn's "Towards the Enlightened Society," in Bahá'í Studies Review, 4.1 (1994), includes discussions of Marxist interpretations of Western history.

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