A Baha’i’s Heart to Heart
Not long ago, I talked with a friend of mine (Ali) in Iran; he is very dear to me because he is one of my two remaining classmates from high school. The rest were lost, imprisoned, or killed as mujahids, socialist guerillas, or in the Iran-Iraq war. He told me that his wife has many Bahá’í friends. He continued that they are friendly and decent people, but why did you build your world center in Israel? This connection is critical and makes all Iranians who know the Bahá’ís suspicious.
I haven’t talked to my friend for over a year now. His question, not literally but rather because of the significance of Bahá’ís’ connection to Israel in his mind, made me think for a while. Ali and I grew up together since we were 14–15 years old and knew each other’s situation well. He grew up in a wealthy Muslim family, and I grew up in a middle-class Bahá’í working family. He knew that right after the revolution, my father lost his pension after 36 years of government work because he was a Bahá’í, and our agricultural land was confiscated.
I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist nor a philosopher, and I have no claims in reading people. But why, after all these years, should his first question be about the location of the Bahá’í World Center? He never asked me a single question about the beliefs of the Bahá’í faith! So this question is the only dilemma he has been waiting to ask me for years after we have been apart for thirty years? So, where is the root of this question?
I am a social media strategist, and I use software to search and find content for clients. I have a copy of this software on my computer at home. A few years ago, I decided to set up the software to collect news and articles about the Bahá’í Faith, whether in Persian, Arabic, or English. I soon realized that the Farsi section finds at least three to four articles or news daily, and the English area finds the same amount per week. The Arabic filter finds maybe three or four pieces of information per month. An in-depth review of these articles showed the source and origin of my friend Ali’s question. These various news and articles from news and research sites from inside Iran claim to be think tanks, study centers, or scientific publishing supported by the “Theological Seminaries Management Center” (in Qom). This information, with all kinds of storytelling portraying Bahá’í faith and Bahá’ís negative, mocking its’ doctrines or accusing them of spying. They introduce the Bahá’ís as the long-standing enemies of Shiite Islam, who foreign enemies raised for this reason. More interesting were the baseless claims about the origin of Bahá’í Faith and Bahá’ís. One group of articles, Bahá’í Faith, was created by the Imperial Britania, another by America, and a group that could not decide claimed the colonialist. These stories have even reached the television programs and news of Iran’s national networks run by the government. But, of course, it goes without saying that amid this gibberish, I also saw some very readable material. Most importantly, I read a reference to the Bahá’ís from the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei, who had considered us unclean and association with the Bahá’ís as abhorrent.
This is not new to me. I heard much such tittle-tattle in elementary and high school, among others. How many cheap invalidating booklets about Bahá’í Faith was given to me by friends, and how many rude comments and insults have I experienced, both to the Bahá’í sacred and personally? As a Bahá’í, it was typical to endure these abuses and more significant discriminations before the Islamic Revolution. But I have not been in Iran for a long time, and I have only experienced five years of the revolution and the Islamic Republic. I only attended funerals (when permitted) or heard about the execution of 200 Bahá’ís, half of whom I knew as family friends or friends of my parents. So what kind of discrimination, mistreatment, and adversity do Bahá’í children, teenagers, youths, and adults face against their faith and beliefs in Iran today?
To justify why my friend Ali asked me about the Bahá’í World Center headquarters in Israel, I don’t even need to scrutinize this matter. Anyone living in Iran for more than a year in a vacuum surrounded by the government-controlled media, editorials, or seldom interviews with enlightened (?) Bahá’í apostates on TV, no matter how fair, one thinks that Bahá’ís are genuinely in Iran for espionage. But how many spies do Israel, America, or Great Britain need? How do 300,000 Bahá’í spies and their children, who are all known in their neighborhoods, spend their days?
What is the real reason for the Shiite scholars and their followers’ belligerence and attack on Bahá’ís? Where does this hatred and enmity that caused them to kill two hundred Bahá’ís and throw thousands more into prison since the revolution rooted? And why is it so important to eliminate and reject the Bahá’ís and their beliefs for Shiite scholars, writers, and those involved in the Islamic Republic to spend such a budget and carry out negative propaganda about them?
In Iran, no one ever asked me about the doctrines of the Bahá’í faith. They all believe they have been told the facts by the clerics, and there is no need to research them further. The uniformity in this kind of chatter with Muslim friends or foes was always the same. Even when arrested and blindfolded on the street with a Bahá’í friend by the Islamic Guards with drawn arms, the interrogator at their station repeated the same questions. The only things I always heard were tattle-tales or other ridiculous stories, such as illicit relations between Bahá’í women and men in Bahá’í meetings. So what is the problem of Shiite scholars with the Bahá’í Faith and the principles of their beliefs?
I believe the cause of this hostility and hatred of Shiite scholars has two folds. First, the Bahá’í faith identifies the spiritual relationship between man and God without the need for clergy because humanity has reached a degree of intellectual maturity to understand the sacred text. Therefore, one does not need religious interpretation, justification, or instructions to imitate a cleric. Second, Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be the Promised One of all religions. He ends the expectation for the appearance of the Shiite 12th Imam and the philosophy of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (Wilayat-e-Faqih) established by the Shiite scholars in the Safavid era.
The hostility and hatred of Shiite scholars have been answered many times by authors, scholars, and historians, delving into the religious roots of Shiite Islam. Still, I wanted to answer Ali in my language and what I know. So I wrote him an email:
Greetings Dear Ali,
I hope you are all healthy and well. I haven’t heard from you for a while, and I thought I’d write you a few lines and ask how you are. As far as I remember, you said you were trying to cure your depression. God willing, you have found a cure; otherwise, as I said, one of my old friends has a practice in Tehran and will see you out of order. In our last conversation, you asked why the Bahá’í World Center is located in Israel. Before I explain this matter, I would like to write you a summary of the history of the Bahá’í faith.
As you know, the Bahá’í Faith started in Iran. Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet of the Bahá’í Faith, was from Nur in Mazandaran. With the insistence of the clerics, the Naser al-Din Shah exiled him and his family to Baghdad in Iraq in winter. The Ayatullahs’ assertion to expel him without investigating the truth was only the fear of losing their position in Iran. These are the same scholars who turned their backs on the same monarchy during the reign of Ahmad Shah and cooperated with the constitutionalists to protect their status. And during the reign of Reza Shah, they took refuge in the British consulate out of fear. But unfortunately, there was not enough distance to Iraq, and many Shiite Clerics were in Iraq. So, once again, with Clergy persistence Shah, who was friendly with the Ottoman government, exiled Bahá’u’lláh and his family to Turkey.
We will talk about history in detail later. But the fear of the Shiite scholars was so great that they persuaded the Shah to exile him and his family to a place far from Iran in the port city of Acre in Palestine. Of course, this exile lasted forty years. Finally, it ended in Palestine (Israel), where Bahá’u’lláh passed away, and it became the Bahá’í Sacred Place. I wanted to know why the location of Bahá’í World Center attracted your attention so much and nothing about the Bahá’í beliefs, which is undoubtedly more important. I have explained the reasons for the opposition of Shiite scholars during the Qajar and Pahlavi era or after the revolution. Next time, if someone states foreign powers made the Bahá’í Faith, ask them for proof. In 1983, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran sent a twenty-page report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission about the Bahá’í Faith being forged by the British government in Iran. This commission did not accept the statement of the Islamic Republic due to the lack of evidence and reason. Unfortunately, suppose the Imam of the Time, whom all Shiites are waiting for to bring peace and justice, comes out of the well this time. Rest assured, he will be charged with the crimes of “Enemy of God,” “confounding public opinion,” “corruption on earth,” or “disrespecting the Sacred” in the Revolutionary Courts, behind closed doors, and without a defense lawyer and then executed.
Clerics and their followers in many religions are usually regressive. The regressive usually see two dimensions in life, themselves and what they need for survival. The second dimension is the others. In regressive culture, there is no dimension called studying, deepening, and thinking. Suppose they allow others to develop socially and get better education and understanding. In that case, they will lose their status and respect, and life will become more complex. Therefore, they should keep the rest uneducated with stories and superstitions so that there is no threat to their survival.
Anyway, I hope that some facts have become more straightforward for you. If you want, contact me through Telegram so we can talk more easily. Kiss the children and say hi to your wife for me. Take Care