Missed Opportunity - Baha'i Connection to the Shi'a Mahdi

August 31, 2007

Its been weeks since I've updated this site, thanks to an over-abundance of work. At some point this month, the repeat visitor will have noticed, I finally finished my yearly overhaul of the site. I'm quite pleased with the new look; hope you enjoy it too.

Yesterday I was reading about For Iran’s Shiites, a Celebration of Faith and Waiting, thinking sadly that the author had missed a real opportunity to educate the world about the status of the Bahá'ís of Iran. He mentions the Faith, but goes no further.

In describing a sort of Shí'á convention, the author writes, "There was also a movie concerning 'perverted cults,' which focused on the Bahai faith." By itself that doesn't really call out for more explanation of what the Bahá'í Faith is. But in the context of the whole article, he really misses out.

You see, the overall context is one of millennialism — of expectation for the return of the Imam Mahdi. Bahá'ís believe that the Báb represents this Mahdi (or "Mihdi" as it is sometimes written). That belief, combined with the notion that both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are both independent messengers of God ("Manifestations"), just as Muhammad and Christ were before Them, that makes the Bahá'ís "blasephemous", a "perverted cult."

Obviously we Bahá'ís have a different interpretation on things. We believe that "seal of the prophets" did not mean that Muhammad was the last of the Manifestations, but rather more of a closing off of prophecy itself, or the "seal" as a kind of stamp of approval — or more accurately, of validation — of the previous prophetic messages. And we believe that while not all of the literal "signs of the return" may have accompanied the lives of the Báb's and Bahá'u'lláh, these various apocalyptic predictions are built up and exaggerated over the years.

What little truth they hold is symbolic. And in the symbolic ways, which perhaps I'll touch on in a future post, we believe that these two individuals fulfilled all the expectations. In the Kitáb-i-Íqan (Book of Certitude) Bahá'u'lláh masterfully explains this. 'Abdu'l-Bahá adds marvelous elucidation of specific "signs and symbols" in Some Answered Questions. I commend these works to your study; even if you have no spiritual interest in the Bahá'í Faith, they represent seminal works in the development of a modern theology.