Read: Scholarship and the Covenant


This is a vital topic; the Counsellors have suggested it as the theme for next year's ABS Conference and the next Journal of Bahá'í Studies.

The Old World Order influences our perceptions of the world around us. There is a hierarchy all over the world: economic, etc. Artificial hierarchies give people a misleading perception of themselves. Although scholarship is important, the perception of scholars is far from reality. This is a by-product of the Old World Order.

The religion of Bahá'u'lláh is not a religion of scholars ...it is for all mankind. However Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian praised scholars and scholarly activities. Note that a person could be a scholar in his spiritual perception and understanding and yet not write one paper, while on the other hand, not all authors are scholars. Intelligence does not automatically bring wisdom; one cannot equate intelligence with wisdom. Many intelligent people were not able to make wise decisions. Many illiterates made fantastic contributions.

A story from the early days of the Faith: a prisoner one day was asked to come out and go before the Ulama, who of course knew the Qur'an and Hadith thoroughly. They asked him: "We have been waiting for the Promised One, and couldn't find him. Do you know that we are the mujtahids, and know so much? How can an illiterate farmer know more than us?" He replied: "Imagine this: when we have a gift like a diamond, they wrap it in silk, put it in a box, and lock the box. We might get suspicious later about its safety, and put it in another box, and then hide that in a house." They agreed. He continued: "When the sun comes up, will the rays touch the unworthy sands of the desert, or hit the diamond hidden within the boxes in the house?" They agreed it would hit the desert, not the diamond. He said: "I am the desert, with open soul: you are imprisoned with your own ideas in your boxes and veils."

In the Seven Valleys, there is the Valley of Knowledge. The "knowledge" here is the knowledge of God; this word can be misleading...in Persian it is "ma'arifat": understanding, recognition, knowledge. This Valley is so penetrating; with this knowledge the traveler sees "the end in the beginning", and finds in everything a wisdom. He "seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting life. With inward and outward eyes he witnesseth the mysteries of resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men, and with a pure heart apprehendeth the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God. In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea." This is quite different from conventional knowledge.

A metaphor: a scholar is like a gardener. The gardener studies gardening & plants, works on the garden, etc. When the flowers grow, there are two types of gardeners: one attuned to nature, who feels the pleasure, and thanks God for the ability to raise it. The other type ignores the energy from the sun and soil, the capacity given to the seed, and feels that it all comes from his own productivity. One of the gardeners is selfish, the other selfless. In a Universal House of Justice letter on scholarship, we read that the emergence of the Bahá'í cause from obscurity and increasing attention of the public demands that we put an emphasis on Bahá'í scholarship, so we can deliver the Message clearly. ("The Universal House of Justice ... regards Bahá'í scholarship as of great potential importance for the development and consolidation of the Bahá'í community as it emerges from obscurity....", from a letter dated 3 January 1979 to participants in an academic seminar.) Teaching is linked to community development and plays an important role in consolidation.

We need to deepen on the Covenant, as it gives insight and inspiration as well as protection. The Tablets of the Divine Plan challenge the North American Bahá'ís to become apostles of Bahá'u'lláh, which requires not only determination, but also knowledge, patience, and humility. Don't discount covenant in examining scholarship.

A word of caution: The Bahá'í Faith is not against scholarship or scholars. The writings shower them with praise. What is scholarship? We don't want enemies of the faith to say we are anti-intellectual.

Definition of Materialistic scholarship: knowledge becomes a way, a liability. The individual seeks entitlement: a means for a name and fame. When that is challenged, the person becomes frustrated. The personality profile becomes self-satisfaction, and the ego very active; it dominates the person and humility, submission etc. are lost. `Abdu'l-Bahá speaks of the dual nature of human beings. The higher nature effects high-quality behavior + characteristics. The lower nature is jealousy + selfishness. Some individuals may let the lower nature take over; materialistic scholars are power-oriented and have a dislike of authority, with liberty of thought. They think that they are indispensable, and merit special status, class, deserve special privileges. They emphasize personal freedom and don't believe in collective consciousness.

What should be our approach?

  1. First is the knowledge of God, putting emphasis on the Bahá'í Faith and Bahá'u'lláh. Everything else comes next.
  2. A deep knowledge of the Faith, and a strong desire to share it.<
  3. Willingness to relate teachings to present-day concerns; make it relevant to today's ailments.
  4. Should be quite aware of the Covenant. The International Teaching Centre warned the community that a scholar should not be in a special class with special privileges.
  5. The purpose of education is to help the scholar to become a better servant, which is the highest expression of personality.

Universal House of Justice states there is no objection to expressing spiritual truth or logical ways or using the scientific method. We must avoid distortion of religious truth to conform to perceptions of society.

The impact of intuition and inspiration vs. intellectual knowledge. Mulla Husayn and Quddus had entirely different approaches. Mulla Husayn invited to the Bab's home, and started to question Bab's station. He took hours to be convinced. Do you see the signs of Islam in me? Mulla Husayn had nothing to say. Quddus came to Shiraz...didn't know where Qa'im was, but walking in the street saw Mulla Husayn, and said you are different. Mulla Husayn told him he was tired and should go and wash up. But Quddus responded: "No, you didn't answer! What has happened to you?" Once again Mulla Husayn told him he was tired. Quddus then saw a majestic figure, and asked Mulla Husayn "Who is that?" Mulla Husayn said, "I can't tell you about people in the street." Quddus knew it was the Qa'im. Mulla Husayn went to the Bab and told him what happened, and asked him what to do. The Bab said he called Quddus in the world of dreams, and when Quddus came to the presence of the Bab he was joyous. Mulla Husayn later said if the mosques taught me to recognize the Bab that way, I should burn them down, because my friend recognized him with no argument.

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