[Note: This article is continually being updated. Please advise if any errors are found in it or if significant omissions have been made. The BCCA has also prepared a similar article with less description and more links, Baha'i Resources on the Internet. -J.W.]
The internet is often equated with the World Wide Web, largely because of the relatively recent advent of graphical web browsers like Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. These allow the user to interface with many different types of internet resource through one program, masking what is in reality a variety of distinct internet functions. The primary types of basic functions, or "protocols," are the World Wide Web, which allows one to view pages of text and graphics from distant computers; email, which allows one to send data, usually letters, from one person's private "account" to another's; the Usenet, which allows one to read from or add to a public message database, much as one would tack notes on to an office bulletin-board; FTP, which transfers files from one computer to another; and Internet Relay Chat, with which computer users who are logged-on at the same time can type messages to each other, much like a large telephone conference-call conducted through computers. There are other basic protocols but they tend to be out- dated (like gopher), little-used (like hytelnet), for somewhat advanced application (like telnet), or not yet functional (like virtual reality).
The internet rapidly changes in many ways. Web sites and listservs (defined below) come into and go out of existence with great rapidity, and their addresses change even more regularly (many are operated by students on their university's computers and so have to change addresses every time they change or leave schools). The information contained in this section is all current as of August, 1997, but will gradually decrease in accuracy. Should an address be invalid, the best option is to do an internet search for it (using a source such as Yahoo or Altavista) to see if the site has relocated.
This guide to internet resources will first describe the main Baha'i source for organizing and assisting with the internet, the Baha'i Computer and Communications Association-the BCCA-and then list the major resources for the primary features in relative order of common availability: email, the web, the usenet, and ftp. Quotations included are from the relevant webpages or listservs discussed and so their sources are not cited.
The Baha'i Computer and Communications Association can be contacted at: BCCA Phone: (206) 453-8766 203 Bellevue Way N.E. Suite 314 FAX:(206) 453-7083 Bellevue, WA 98004 Webpage: www.bcca.org USA Email: email@example.comThe BCCA maintains a few basic files describing matters of interest to Baha'i on the internet, an index for which can be obtained by sending a blank email to get- firstname.lastname@example.org. One of these, a good if dated summary of Baha'i online activities, can be obtained by sending a blank email to email@example.com.
There are numerous listservs, from private ones for small Baha'i clubs at individual universities or for Baha'is employed at individual corporations to public ones such as fora for Baha'i announcements, Baha'is in Japan, Baha'i singles, Baha'i literature, Baha'i women, or Baha'i academics. Since many of these are regional and/or private, far more exist than any one database could know of and list. The best ways to seek specific listservs are either to write to the BCCA at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a question to an appropriate public one or to soc.religion.bahai (see below).
Two of the major general Baha'i listervs are bahai-announce and bahai-faith. Bahai-faith is the email version of the usenet newsgroup soc.religion.bahai (see below), designed for those without usenet access. Subscription requests can be sent to bahai-faith- email@example.com. Both the subject line and the body of the message are left blank. To post messages to the newsgroup (which will be first screened by the moderators), emails are sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Other available services include the Noble Creation list, which discusses social and economic development issues, and can be subscribed to by sending a blank email to email@example.com. Postings to Noble Creation are sent to Noble-Creation@bcca.org, and more information can be obtained at http://www.bcca.org/services/ lists/noble-creation/. There is a variety of listservs for Baha'is only, including bahai-announce, which focuses on news and other announcements of interest to the Baha'i community; Baha'i International News Service- BINS-which is a regular listing of news relating to Baha'i communities and projects around the world; Bahai-discuss, which is a somewhat random discussion of Baha'i-related issues; Bahai-women-converse, of issues for and about women; and others. Listservs for both Baha'is and non-Baha'is available here include Race Unity, for discussions of racial equality and elimination of prejudice, and Bahai-Readings, a daily posting of excerpts from Baha'i sacred texts.
To subscribe to one of these, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the following in the email: (1) Email address of person subscribing, in lowercase letters only (it usually comes with the mail, but it may have an interim host included or it may have to be extracted from other extraneous header information); (2) name of the person subscribing, last name first; (3) The NAME(s) of the LIST(s) you wish to subscribe to (there is more than one list managers); if a Baha'i-only listserv, then include either one's Baha'i ID number or, if not available, then the name of a Baha'i that can verify your status; and (5) place of residence (city, state/province (for US or Canada), and country). You may include your full home address and phone numbers (home, work including area code and country code, where applicable) for inclusion in the BCCA database, but if you do, then you must indicate if this information can be given out to other Baha'is on e-mail database queries. For a description of all other BCCA mailing lists send a blank email to get- email@example.com.
A variety of scholarly listservs has been born and died in the past three years. The four main ones in existence as of this writing are Bahai-studies, H-Bahai, Irfan, and Talisman (this is actually Talisman two: after a brief hiatus, the group Talisman one changed mandates and owners in June, 1996). These four groups have slightly different atmospheres, levels and types of discussion, and often different memberships. However, their overall focus and academic level tend to be relatively similar.
Bahai-studies is an unmoderated group maintained by Mark A. Foster. Its mandate is "the consultative investigation of truth/reality, using the Baha'i Teachings as its spiritual foundation. In light of the list's purposes and objectives, it is not a discussion/announcement list in the usual sense." It is available both in a regular version (mailings are received in one's mail inbox as and when posted) and as a digest (mailings are collated and received as one compilation of postings in one's inbox once per day). To subscribe, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line is to be left blank, and in the body of the text one writes "subscribe bahai-st" (without quotation marks). All other information, such as tag lines and signature files, should be removed. To subscribe to the digest version, do the same but write "subscribe bahai-st-digest" in the body instead. To post a message to the Baha'i Studies list, send it to email@example.com. For this the subject line and the body of the message can be whatever the writer wishes to post; this message will go to every member of the group, not to the automated subscription program.
H-Bahai is "an academic forum for the discussion of technical issues in the study of the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i movements. Not only university teachers and graduate students, but exceptionally qualified high school teachers, librarians, and other intellectuals are potential candidates for membership. A degree in the humanities or social sciences is usually required." Membership is restricted "to individuals who have demonstrated a serious interest in the academic study of the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Faiths, as evidenced in professional training, publications, teaching or service to these or closely related fields, or by other relevant significant achievements or signs of ability to contribute to academic discourse on the subject." H-Bahai is sponsored by H-Net, the Humanities and Social Sciences On-line of Michigan State University. Its level of discussion tends to be fairly scholarly, and its membership is almost exclusively academic. To join H-BAHAI, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, with no subject line, and only this in the body: "sub H-BAHAI firstname lastname, institution," where personal information is substituted for "firstname lastname, institution." Capitalization does not matter, but spelling, spaces and commas do. When you include your own information, the message will look something like this: "sub H-BAHAI Jonah Winters, University of Toronto." If you have any questions or experience any difficulties in attempting to subscribe, send a message to Juan Cole, email@example.com. H-Bahai also has a website homepage: see below.
Irfan and Talisman have very similar types of discussion, similar mandates, and indeed a great deal of membership overlap. Each is unmoderated, meaning that any posting automatically is sent to all group members, and unlike H-Bahai neither has an expectation that its members will hold a higher or post-secondary degree. The mission statement of Irfan applies equally well to both: "The purpose of the Irfan list is to disseminate information and ideas emerging from the academic study of the Baha'i Faith beyond the academic community and to facilitate discussions of issues relating to the Baha'i Faith that are informed by academic scholarship." The original distinguishing feature was that events which led to the closing of Talisman one inspired Talisman two to have a certain "no- rules" mandate, meaning that there would be no expectation that its members would need to adhere to any guidelines beyond politeness and dignity. Irfan, however, was begun with an expectation of greater privacy, and it retains a strict "no-forwarding" policy. Irfan can be subscribed to by sending a normal email message (i.e. not automated) to Juan Cole, firstname.lastname@example.org, and messages intended for group dissemination can be sent to Irfan1@umich.edu. Talisman can be subscribed to by sending a normal email message to Joshua Greenbaum, email@example.com, and posted to by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
World Wide Web
Standard Baha'i Sites
The sacred writings have been available by ftp (see below) from the Baha'i
World Center for some time. They are now mirrored to many other sites
around the world and available through web browsers. An index to some of
these sites is available at
http://www.bcca.org/info/texts/topiclist.html. The BCCA
homepage, http://www.bcca.org, is a good starting point for other internet
Baha'i resources. From here one can find links to online compilations, The
Baha'is magazine online
International Community statements, relatively complete lists of
individuals' and groups' homepages, Baha'i-related photographs and
clip-art, and explanations of other resources such as chat groups and
listservs. Indices to all of these resources, organized differently and
perhaps more clearly, can also by found at http://www.bcca.org/~glittle.
The Baha'i International Community's homepage also opens with a good
introductory online magazine on the Faith, at
Finally, Baha'is who have a valid United States Baha'i identity card can access the United States Baha'i National Center's website, http://www.usbnc.org/. This site contains among other things feast messages, news, annual reports, descriptions of the major departments at the Baha'i National Center, their functions, and answers to common question about them.
Academic Baha'i Sites are harder to find than the standard ones-while there are well over a hundred sites providing information of a personal or regional interest, and linking to the same few providers of sacred texts, images, and other common information, there is only a handful of sites providing new and original academic information, or information presented in a scholarly fashion.
The largest online resource for Baha'i studies is Jonah Winters' Baha'i Academics Resource Area, http://www.interlog.com/~winters . This site features approximately five hundred documents broken down into headings such as Primary Source Material, which includes provisional translations, letters from the Universal House of Justice, historical documents, and pilgrims' notes; Secondary Source Material, which includes articles, journalistic pieces, book reviews, court documents, and personal essays; Resource Tools, which includes a database of Baha'i scholars, bibliographies, journal indices, and philological tools; and a listing of all of the useful academic sites. This Resource Guide is also available at this site in an online format. Those without web access who need an etext version of it can also request one by emailing email@example.com.
The other sites of academic utility will all be listed here, because it could take some time for the researcher to find them on his or her own. The H-Bahai listserv, run by H-Net, the "Humanities and Social Sciences On-Line" initiative sponsored Michigan State University and supported by National Endowment for the Humanities and the Michigan Council for the Humanities, also has a webpage at http://h-net.msu.edu/~bahai. Here is included a variety of articles, provisional translations, historical materials in the original Arabic and Persian (available as graphic files), book reviews, and other documents such as the "Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies" series. The H-Bahai homepage is emerging as a very useful site for original online publishing, and is the most scholarly and selective collection of academic materials available.
Juan R.I. Cole's Home Page, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bahai.htm, was the first academic webpage on the Faith. It includes numerous original Baha'i material as well as other Islamic studies and related links. Some of these documents, and others similar, are included at the website for the H-Bahai listserv, http://h-net.msu.edu/~bahai. Both of these websites also feature documents related to Babi and Baha'i history in their original Arabic and Persian-these have been scanned and entered as photo images, which can then be viewed online page-by-page. Moojan Momen's Religious Studies page, http://www.northill.demon.co.uk/relstud/, includes a few original and not otherwise- available articles authored by him, and his Arjmand Colloquia page, http://www.northill.demon.co.uk/irfan/, includes abstracts from and reports on the Haj Mehdi Arjmand seminars for the study of sacred texts. Stephen Fuqua's Baha'i Studies page, http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~saf/lowres/bahai/study.htm, also offers a wide variety of materials, some not available elsewhere. Finally, worthy of note is Sifter: An Institute for the Study of Baha'i Writings, http://www.shodjai.org/new.html. Among other things Sifter features one thousand letters of Shoghi Effendi which are available only in books elsewhere online but here are indexed chronologically, complete with publishing information. The North American Association for Baha'i Studies also has a webpage, www.bahai-studies.ca/~absnam.
Thus far two newsgroups are dedicated to discussing the Baha'i Faith: alt.religion.bahai and soc.religion.bahai. The former is new and hence not carried by all internet service providers. It is unmoderated, and tends to contain many postings, sometimes critical, by non-Baha'is. In contrast, soc.religion.bahai (often abbreviated "srb") has been in existence for a few years and is stable and reliable. It is moderated, meaning that editors read all submissions to the group before posting them publicly to screen out junk mail and the occasional hate mail.
Soc.religion.bahai's mission statement defines it thus: "The newsgroup will act as a non- threatening forum for discussing and sharing information about the tenets, history, and texts of the Baha'i Faith. Prior to its formation there was a good amount of traffic on this topic in other newsgroups; this group provides a 'single point of contact' for such discussion. Examples of posts that fall within the group's scope are: (1) The Baha'i Faith's relation to other religions; (2) Relevance of Baha'i principles to current world events/problems; (3) Analysis of particular scriptural passages or themes; and (4) General Q & A."
One can subscribe to soc.religion.bahai within one's newsreader application. If it does not appear to be available, contact the customer service representative of your internet service provider to get it added to your newsfeed. More information can be obtained by visiting its website, the Soc.Religion.Bahai home page, at http://www.bcca.org/services/srb/. At this site one can access the srb archives, as well as read introductory articles about srb, the Baha'i Faith, a bibliography for the Faith, and a document on Baha'i Resources on the Internet. As well, if one does not wish to or cannot use a newsreader, all srb postings can be obtained via email-see above.
"Immerse: The Electronic Baha'i Library," by Bernal Schooley, available from http://www.tranquillity.com/immerse/, is a free set of all the sacred Baha'i writings complete with a full text proximity search feature (including boolean, wildcard, and phrase support searching) which allows the user to find passages in nearly four hundred books, messages by the Baha'i Central Figures, the Universal House of Justice, and holy books from the major world religions. It is currently available for Windows 95 and Windows 3.1, with a Java- based version for Macintosh and other platforms expected soon. For information write to Bernal Schooley, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A final software resource to list is True Seeker, which is an online search engine for the Baha'i sacred writings. The True Seeker home page allows you to do key word searches of the Baha'i Writings, either by searching all texts or a specific subset. This can be found at http://sunsite. unc.edu/Bahai/TrueSeeker.