Alison Marshall's Column

Alison is an unenrolled Baha'i, a business writer and a mystic. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

H-Baha'i message from Juan

Below is a message that Juan Cole has posted to the discussion list H-Baha'i.

It is about the recent disenrollment of Sen. Juan talks about how the Baha'i community is becoming a faith community that is based around doctrine. The two doctrines that Juan cites as now being requirements for Baha'i membership are:

  • the absolute infallibility of the House of Justice. I was disenrolled for arguing against this.
  • that the Baha'i institutions will one day take over the civil ones (a theocracy). Sen was disenrolled for arguing against this.

I would also add the doctrine that women will never serve on the House. Michael McKenny was disenrolled for arguing against this.


Read more: H-Baha'i message from Juan

Beautiful letters

At the back of the book Tablets of Baha'u'llah is a section in which the World Centre has included some letters to individual believers. I find these letters take me away to paradise. Baha'u'llah is so beautifully kind to his correspondents. He often says how lucky his correspondents are for receiving a letter from him. And I can readily agree that they were lucky indeed.

"Seize ye, O loved ones of the All-Merciful, the chalice of eternal life proffered by the hand of the bountiful favours of your Lord, the Possessor of the entire creation, then drink ye deep therefrom. I swear by God, it will so enrapture you that ye shall arise to magnify His Name and proclaim His utterances amidst the peoples of the earth and shall conquer the cities of the hearts of men in the name of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised." (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, pp 266-267)

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Disenrollment of Sen McGlinn (part one)

There's a few things I want to say about what's happened to Sen. I'll begin by stating the facts of the situation for those who are not aware of them.

On 14 November 2005, the Secretariat released a letter to all NSAs about Baha'i scholarship. You can read that letter on Baquia's blog Fahrenheit 145. In the letter, the Secretariat quotes a Baha'i scholar and states emphatically how this scholar has acted outside boundaries acceptable to the World Centre. Here's the relevant passage:

A different type of challenge arises when an individual or group, using the privilege of Bahá'í membership, adopts various means to impose personal views or an ideological agenda on the Bahá'í community. In one recent instance, for example, an individual has declared himself a "Bahá'í theologian, writing from and for a religious community," whose aim is "to criticize, clarify, purify and strengthen the ideas of the Bahá'í community, to enable Bahá'ís to understand their relatively new Faith and to see what it can offer the world". Assertions of this kind go far beyond expressions of personal opinion, which any Bahá'í is free to voice. As illustrated, here is a claim that lies well outside the framework of Bahá'í belief and practice.

The quote in this passage is from the foreword to Sen's newly released book Church and State. In the foreword, Sen says:

Read more: Disenrollment of Sen McGlinn (part one)

The reason for abolishing jihad

Hi Baquia,

I have never read anything that backs up the statement you cite—that Baha'u'llah abolished jihad "so that the 'impure' blood of the infidels wouldn't defile the ground on which He walked." Baha'u'llah just didn't think that way. He says that all things were submerged in a sea of purification with the dawn of his revelation and he abolished the concepts of 'pure' and 'impure'. "God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of 'uncleanness' whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure." Aqdas para 75

Abolishing holy war was the first thing Baha'u'llah did upon his declaration at Ridvan. I haven't read a concise explanation for it, but as I understand it, it is consistent with Baha'u'llah recreating the world of existence so that we are all one. His aim was to bring peace:

"The aim of this Wronged One ... hath been naught but to quench the flame of hate and enmity, that the horizon of the hearts of men may be illumined with the light of concord and attain real peace." Kitab-i 'Ahd

"'Say: all things are of God.' This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smouldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity." Kitab-i 'Ahd

If this mystical oneness is at the heart of the revelation, then it stands to reason that holy war is gone. Along with this are the exhortations to teach using the word and not the sword and the idea that it is better to be killed than to kill. We are not supposed to contend with people, much less kill them!

So, my take on it is that Baha'u'llah has rewritten the principles on which religion is based. Many of the principles of the past religions have been superseded and made redundant.


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How Baha'u'llah was poisoned

Many people have searched my site looking for stories about Baha'u'llah. I am keen on stories about Baha'u'llah too and avidly devour books that give me insight into how he was in his day-to-day dealings with people. I learn much from hearing about how he dealt with various situations. Another question someone asked was about Baha'u'llah's food. I'm not sure what that question was driving at, but I have a story about Baha'u'llah that tells us a little about his food. It is also the story about how Baha'u'llah was poisoned, as told by the Greatest Holy Leaf. It's chilling stuff. Like the story I told the other day about Abdu'l-Baha, it comes from the book The Master in Akka. Much of this book is devoted to recording the recollections of the Greatest Holy Leaf. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it. The Greatest Holy Leaf gives insights into her family life that you'll not hear anywhere else.


"Sometime afterwards, to celebrate a family festival day, Subh-i Azal invited us all to his house. At this time, also, my father was warned not to take food there, but replied that he must treat Subh-i Azal with kindness and could not refuse it.

This entertainment was looked upon as cementing the family reconciliation, and it is usual on such occasions among Persians for the heads of the two family factions which have been alienated to eat from the same plate. So, now, rice for my father and Subh-i Azal was served to them on one plate. This rice, as well as all the other food used for the meal, had been prepared in Subh-i Azal's house, contrary to the usual custom. Now my father and Subh-i Azal had these well-known peculiarities of taste - that the former was very fond of onions, while the latter could not endure them. The portion of rice intended for my father was accordingly flavoured with onions, while that intended for Subh-i Azal was differently prepared. The servant bringing in the plate placed it, at the direction of Subh-i Azal, with the side upon which was the rice flavoured with onions toward the Blessed Perfection. While he did so Subh-i Azal smilingly remarked, 'Here is rice cooked as you like it!' My father ate some of the rice prepared for him, but fortunately not very much, as for some reason it did not please him. He preferred the rice prepared for Subh-i Azal, and ate of it, and also of the dishes which the others at the table were eating.

Soon after eating the rice my father became ill and went home. About midnight he was seized with severe vomiting and passing blood from the bowels. A physician was summoned, and declared that he had been poisoned."

Quoted in Myron H. Phelps, The Master in Akka (LA: Kalimat Press, 1985) pp 57-58

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