A Resource Guide for Baha'i Studies--glossary


This glossary aims to define terms unique to the Bahá'í Faith, but it is not exhaustive. The phonetization of Bahá'í terms is according to the Persian, not the Arabic, pronunciation. American Bahá'ís pronounce some words in a slightly different fashion. Consonants, for the sake of simplicity, are rendered as in English; -q should be pronounced like a hard -g. Vowel sounds are rendered as follows: -aw as in law; -a as in bad; -ay as in bay (or better, as in the final -e of resumé); -e as in bed; -ee as in reed; -oo as in moon; -o as in note.

'Abdu'l-Bahá (AB-dol ba-HAW) (1844-1921): Son of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith and head of the Faith from 1892 to 1921. Author of some 27,000 writings (mostly letters) which Bahá'ís consider scripture; he is considered the infallible interpreter of his father's writings and a perfect example of how to live a Bahá'í life.

'Alá (a-LAW): The Arabic word for "loftiness" and the name of the Bahá'í month of fasting (2-20 March).

Aqdas, Kitáb-i- (ke-TAWB-e-AQ-das): The "Most Holy Book" of Bahá'u'lláh, it was composed about 1873 and contains the main laws, ordinances, and principles of the Bahá'í Faith.

Auxiliary Board members: Individuals appointed by the Universal House of Justice, on the advice of the Counselors, to advise, assist, and instruct Bahá'ís, Bahá'í communities, and Bahá'í institutions. They are appointed to five-year terms and serve in specific regions under the guidance of the Counselors. They in turn can appoint assistants.

Báb (bawb), The (1819-50): Born 'Alí-Muhammad, he declared himself the Qá'im, the Promised One of Islam in 1844 and was executed as a heretic. He wrote extensively, especially about "Him Whom God would make Manifest," a messenger of God he said would succeed him.

Bábís (baw-bees): Followers of the Báb.

Bahá'í (ba-haw-ee; American pronunciation, ba-HIGH): Literally "follower of bahá." Also used as an adjective. (Usage thus is the same as the word "Christian.")

Bahaism: A term sometimes used for the Bahá'í Faith, it is avoided by English-speaking Bahá'ís, for it has come to be seen as disrespectful.

Bahá'u'lláh (ba-haw-oo-LAW) (1817-92): Prophet Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He declared himself the Promised One of the world's religions in 1863 and, in spite of imprisonment and persecution, wrote thousands of letters and other documents, about 15,000 of which are extant.

Bishárát, (be-shaw-RAWT) (Glad-Tidings) Tablet of: One of Bahá'u'lláh's chief works of social ethics, composed in the 1870s or 1880s.

Counselor: An individual appointed by the Universal House of Justice to advise, assist, and instruct Bahá'ís, Bahá'í communities, and Bahá'í institutions. Counselors have no formal authority but are highly respected. They are appointed to five-year terms. They oversee the activities of the Auxiliary Board members, who have similar responsibilities, but for smaller regions.

Dawn-Breakers, The: An account of the life of the Báb and the development of the Bábí religion by Nabíl-i-Zarandí, a companion of Bahá'u'lláh; it was edited and translated into English by Shoghi Effendi in 1932.

Deepening: A meeting held to discuss a Bahá'í book or teaching at an advanced level.

Fast, The: A crucial element in Bahá'í devotional life, it involves abstaining from all eating, drinking, and smoking from sunrise to sunset from 2 March to 20 March inclusive. Exempt from the fast are children under the age of 15; senior citizens over the age of 70; persons who are sick, traveling, or performing heavy labor; and women who are pregnant, menstruating, or nursing.

Feast: A meeting of all the Bahá'ís in a local community, held once every Bahá'í month (nineteen days) for the purpose of worship, consultation about community business, and fellowship.

Fireside: A meeting, usually held in a person's home, for the purpose of discussing the Bahá'í Faith at an introductory level. It is attended by Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís and usually includes hospitality.

Guardianship: The institution 'Abdu'l-Bahá created to succeed him as "Head of the Faith." Shoghi Effendi was the first and only Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.

Greatest Name: Some Islamic popular traditions hold that God has one hundred names or attributes of God; ninety-nine are known; and that the hundredth or Greatest Name would be revealed on the Day of Judgment. Bahá'u'lláh maintained that the Greatest Name was bahá (ba-HAW), "glory," and its superlative abhá (ab-HAW), "most glorious." Bahá'ís use various forms of the two as a prayer and a greeting.

Hands of the Cause of God: Individuals appointed by Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, or Shoghi Effendi to a high spiritual rank in the Bahá'í community. They have no legislative power, but their advice is highly prized. They also are responsible for overseeing the protection of the Faith and its growth.

Hidden Words: A work composed by Bahá'u'lláh in 1858. It consists of Arabic and Persian halves with seventy-one and eighty-two paragraph-sized sections respectively. Each section consists of an aphorism on an ethical or spiritual topic.

Holy Day: A day on which Bahá'ís commemorate an event in the Bahá'í religion. There are nine holy days throughout the year on which work should be suspended, most of which commemorate events in the life of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh; there are two more holy days, on which work does not need to be suspended, which are connected with the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

House of Justice: The governing council of a local or national Bahá'í community in the future, and of the Bahá'í world today. Local and national houses of justice are temporarily styled spiritual assemblies.

Íqán, Kitáb-i- (ke-TAWB-e ee-GAWN): A work composed by Bahá'u'lláh in 1862 in response to a list of questions prepared by an uncle of the Báb. It consists of interpretation of biblical and quranic terms, images, and prophecies, as well as containing many ethical and spiritual exhortations. The title means "Book of Certitude."

Ishráqát (esh-raw-GAWT) (Splendors), Tablet of: One of Bahá'u'lláh's works on social ethics, composed in response to questions by a prominent Persian Bahá'í in the 1870s or 1880s.

Local Spiritual Assembly: The nine-member governing body of the Bahá'ís in a locality, elected annually by secret ballot by all the local adult Bahá'ís.

Manifestation of God: A Bahá'í term for the founders of the major world religions, who are seen as mouthpieces of divine revelation and examples of a divine life. Bahá'í scripture clearly identifies ten historic individuals as Manifestations: the founder of the Sabaean religion, mentioned in the Qur'án; Abraham; Moses; Jesus Christ; Muhammad; Krishna; Zoroaster; Buddha; the Báb; and Bahá'u'lláh.

Master: Popular title of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, used to translate the Arabic word áqá (aw-GAW).

National Spiritual Assembly: The nine-member governing body of the Bahá'ís of a particular country, elected annually by regionally elected delegates.

Progressive Revelation: The Bahá'í belief that the major religions have been founded by Manifestations of God and that the Manifestations succeed one another, each bringing a greater measure of divine truth to humanity.

Secret of Divine Civilization: A work composed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1875 detailing the social reforms that Iran should undergo in order to become a modern nation. It serves as one of the Bahá'í Faith's major treatises on social reform.

Seven Valleys: A mystical work composed by Bahá'u'lláh between 1856 and 1862, in response to questions asked him by a Sufi leader. It is Bahá'u'lláh's major mystical work.

Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957): Grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and his successor as head of the Faith on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's death in 1921.

Spiritual Assembly: Temporary title 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave houses of justice in 1902, because the latter title could be misunderstood to refer to a political body or an official court.

Tablet: The translation of the Arabic word súrih (pronounced soo-RAY) or, more commonly, the word lawh (pronounced loh), used in many of the titles of some of the writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Tajallíyát (ta-ja-lee-YAWT) (Effulgences), Tablet of: One of Bahá'u'lláh's most important social and ethical works, composed about 1885.

Tarázát (ta-raw-ZAWT) (Ornaments), Tablet of: One of Bahá'u'lláh's major ethical and social works, composed in the 1870s or 1880s.

Universal House of Justice: Supreme governing body of the Bahá'í religion worldwide. It is elected every five years when the members of the national spiritual assemblies convene in Haifa, Israel, and vote for its nine members. It was first elected in 1963.

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