THE BAHA'I FAITH: The Emerging Global Religion by William S. & J. Douglas Martin Hatcher

THE BAHA'I FAITH: The Emerging Global Religion

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A serviceable if uncritical introduction. Hatcher (a mathematician by trade, at Laval U. in Quebec) and Martin (Gen. Sec. of the Baha'i Community of Canada) trace the origins of Baha'ism back to the heretical Shiite prophet, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad of Shiraz (d. 1850), ""the Bab."" His teachings, which stirred up widespread enthusiasm and brutal persecution, were carried on by Baha'u'llah (181792), who officially founded Baha'ism and wrote its most important sacred text, The Book of Certitude; his eldest son 'Abdu'l-Baha (d. 1921); and his elder grandson Shoghi Effendi Rabbani (d. 1957). Baha'ism, which currently has about 3,000,000 followers worldwide, is a kind of eclectic, utopian, mystical monotheism with a strong internationalist flavor. It tries to effect an ironic fusion of Judaism (minus any claim to uniqueness), Christianity (minus the divinity of Jesus, etc.), and especially Islam (assigning a Mahdi-like role to the Bah and Baha'u'llah). Though ostensibly non-political (which hasn't stopped Khomeini from outlawing and murdering Bahs'is), Baha'ism preaches world government and the use of an international language. It is ethically conservative (stressing monogamy and banning alcohol), philanthropic, democratic (Shoghi Effendi left no authoritative successor), and, perhaps surprisingly, interested in sexual equality. The Hatcher-Martin exposition is clear but bland. It ignores Baha'ism's pronounced lack of theological originality (evil is the absence of good, etc.), its feeble liturgical life, and Baha'u'llah's bloated glorification of the Manifestations of God (the most recent being himself). Likewise, certain obvious down-to-earth connections (Baha'ism's 19-day fast/Ramadan, its Meccas in Haifa and Acre, its beleaguered prohibition of proselytism) are piously passed over in silence. A handy, dullish compendium.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row