Free Religious Study Essay Example
Iran and the Baha'is
Iran and the Baha'is
Bahai’ faith, having its origin in Persian culture, has grown in in leaps and bounds over the course of the last century. As pointed out by the Bahai International Community in its publication on “Cultural Cleansing in Iran” the faith was founded by Baha’u’llah, who was a nobleman of Persian origin belonging from the region of Terhan. (Page 7) For the purpose of this research paper, we will focus on the influence of Persian culture and Persian thought process of Iran on Bahai faith the history of the development of the Baha’i faith Iran particularly with respect to literature and architecture. Prior to commencing this analysis, it is imperative to understand the background of the founders of the Bahai faith. Baha’u’llah, lay the founding stone of this faith as he was moved by the onslaught and persecution prevalent in the human race since time immemorial. In order to spread the message of peace, Baha’u’llah denounced the comforts offered by his royal background and commenced work to spread message of God. The essential message being that of unity of human race and god, the faith aims to spread the message of unity.
Let us now analyse the influence of Persian literature over various aspect of Baha’i faith. Prior to analysing the influence of Persian language and literature on Baha’i faith, it is essential to understand the nuances of Persian language in the context of Iran and its consequence influence on Baha’i literature.
Influence of Persian Language and Literature over Baha’I Literature
Lewis explains that Persian language is structurally related to many European languages and it can be considered as Indo European in nature. However, there is a strong Arabic influence on Persian language and many Arabic words are found in Persian vocabulary. The influence of Persian language over Iran and consequently on the Baha’i literature can be inferred from the historical fact that Arabic language was not adopted by Iran except as one of the language to be learnt. Around 10th century, the influence of Persian language became strong and it re-emerged as a language of literature with several independent states of Iran having Persian as a court language. The Persian language in its current form that has Islamic influence as well is always characterised by its poetic style poetry forms a bench mark of modern Persian language. Mystical poetries are traditionally well known in Persian literature. The Persian literature is enriched by mystical poetries that are highly impressive.
Mystical poems form a part of secular Persian literature as well. It is therefore difficult to differentiate between religious Persian literature and secular literature. Well known mystical poets including Rumi played a pivotal role in developing and refining Persian language and making it as a subtle medium of expression. Lewis further points out that there were various scholarly literatures in Persian. To this end, as Persian was considered as secondary to Arabic, many literary works in Persian were often an adaption of the scholarly Arabic works on science and literature. There were various genres of Persian work, including, manuals of state-craft, letter writing and historical writing. It is important to have an understanding of this background as the Persian literally genre is amply reflected in the Baha’i literature. To this end, Lewis points out that the well-known work, namely the Dawn Breakers by Bahaullah’s and the Secret of Divine Civilization Abd al-Baha are reflective of the literally Persian genre.
Lewis further points out that the fact that Baha’u’llah was highly influenced by Persian and Arabic style of writing is amply clear pursuant to a keen and detailed examination of his writing styles and patterns. This is indicative from the fact that Baha’u’llah heavily relies on Persian prose and poets and makes frequent references to Persian poets works in his writings. Further, Baha’u’llah makes a very heavy reference verses from Persian poetries and makes liberal use of various symbols of the literally works of Persia. Lewis further points out that even though Baha’u’llah did not receive formal education in madrese, he received education at home and was consequently at ease with his culture and historical literary works. He was therefore under the great influence of the rich Persian poetic heritage. It is for this very reason that even though Baha’u’llah may claim that despite of the fact that he claimed that he did not pursue the current theological literature already into existence, yet he relies on the Lawh-i-hikmat which is a very well-known Iranian work.
Lewis further points out that many of Baha’u’llah’s writing which are not yet published are humungous and might approximate around 15000 pages of documents. Lewis further points out that these work includes tablets, letters, books, prayers in Persian and Arabic. These work are looked upon as divine in nature are believed to be revealed work. Lewis further points out that the literary works of
Bahá'u'lláh's writings, much of which have yet to be published, are believed to number about 15,000 documents, including prayers, letters, epistles, tablets and books in Persian and Arabic, all of which are regarded as divinely revealed scripture. The writings of Baha’u’llah can be classified into two distinct categories. The first period commences from the time he was imprisoned in the year 1852 until the end of his tenure in Bagdad. Further, the second period commences after he made a public announcement proclaiming his claim concerning himself to be God’s Manifestation until his death in the year 1892. The second category of literally work reflects deep Persian and Iranian influences as it deals with the tablet that conveyed to the rules of Islamic and European world, the fact of Revelation. It is known as the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. This book sets out laws of Baha’i faith a book which establishes new laws for the Bahá'í community. Another book, namely, lawh, sûra, risâla, sets out principles for international security. (Baha’i Library Online Web)
Lewis points out that the hidden words in Persian language are very intriguing in comparison to the Arabic literary work. This is because the Persian literary work is esoteric in nature and is less proverbial. They find its root in the tradition of rhyme. Further, Persian language and literary work are highly influenced by motifs and Persian poetries. Lewis points out that even though a considerable part of Baha’u’llah’s writings may be in Arabic, the primary source of influence as is reflected in Baha’u’llah’s writing is from Persian literary works and not the Arabic works, especially in the area of motifs and various models. Further, the Sufi tradition of Iran greatly influenced the earlier literary works of Baha’u’llah. To this end, classical poets of Iran like Rumi, Attar, Hafez and Sa’di greatly influenced the literary works of Baha’u’llah and the reflection of their lines and quotes can be seen in Babi texts to a very great extent. A very great amount of terminology and mystical doctrines in the babi texts are influenced from Persian mystics. Aside to this, the pros and literature that combines the philosophical, mystical and theological work of Iran/Persian, especially the Illuminationist school seems to heavily influence the Baha’I literature. The pros and language of Bah’u’llah reflects Persian hidden language and the influence of Sa'di's Golestân as well as Ansâri's Monâjât; shows yet another example of the Persian influence.
Thus, it can be seen that Persian literature greatly influenced the Baha’i literature, especially within the area of theological, mystical and metaphysical expressions of the Baha’i sect.
Baha’i Architecture: Iranian Influence:
It can be seen that the driving force behind the Iranian architecture, namely beauty, aesthetic appeal variety, colour scheme and coherence is reflective in the Baha’i architecture as well. In order to understand eh influence of Iranian architectural patterns on Baha’i architecture, it is essential to understand the principles and influences of Iranian architecture. To this end, t is a well-known fact that the Iranian architecture displays immense variety and diversities in terms of structure, aesthetics and beauty. The Iranian architecture has developed over the course of several thousand years architecture displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, developing gradually and coherently out of prior traditions and experience. Even though Iran was subjected to repeated invasions, it developed a very unique and individual architectural style over the course of centuries. The characteristic feature of Iranian architecture is the degree of form, vast domes, decoration, structural uniqueness and inventiveness that cannot be found in any other architecture.
The spiritual guiding force behind the Iranian architecture is a worldly symbolism aimed at establishing communication between heaven and earth. The architectures have a very strong emotive appeal as it is a source of communion with god.
The basic principle of the Baha’i architecture, as is in the case of Baha’i philosophy is to reflect unity that is prevalent in the world. In order to lend architectural expression to the idea of unity, Baha’i architecture aims at unifying the various architectural styles prevalent in various cultures, yet, it is influenced by a distinct Iranian style on account of its origin. To this end, even though Baha’i architecture is fundamentally different from the architectural style reflected by architecture of different, on account of its goal to establish unity amongst people of different religions, race, culture with the intention of spreading harmony, it seems to be influenced by local architectural style with traces of Iranian architectural styles as well. The primary intention of expressing unity among people of diverse background is reflected in the designs of architecture that tries to assimilate the architectural styles from different cultures.
The idea is to ensure that the feeling of love and unity grows in all the visitors. Leiker points out that the influence of 12th century Iran architecture is apparent in the Baha’i architecture. In this regard, the structure of Muslim mosques that has minaret towers and tomb which is dome like that is surrounded by gardens are found in a lot of Bahai temple structures.
The Bahai temple structures are very subtle like those of Iranian structures. Leiker further points out that in the year 1903 when the worship house in Askhabad, Turkestan was destroyed on account of earthquake, a distinct architectural style evolved that was based on various combinations from the Iranian architectural style of 12th century. To this end, the traditional large minarets in the nature and style of minarets of Iran and Turkey were present at the entrance of the temple that was reconstructed. The primary purpose of mixing the Iranian and Turkish architectural style was to prove that different cultures and faiths can co-exist peacefully.
The architecture style of traditional mosques of Iran were slightly tweaked as the traditional square shaped mosque having being surrounded by four arches and open court were restyled by making use of nine sides as against four. The nine sides were indicative of the nine different world religions. Another illustration of influence of Iran architecture is the appointment of Mar. Fariburz Sabha, a young Canadian Architect of Baha’i Iranian origin who designed the beautiful Baha’i house of worship located at New Delhi. This structure can rightly be considered as architectural marvel. The temple is fashioned in the style of a lotus that is half open and afloat. Further the lotus is surrounded by its leaves. The temple is made up of pure white marble and it has a majestic dome that inspires awe. The appointment of an Iranian origin architect and the usage of white marble for the construction are clearly indicative of the Iranian influence.
The driving principle behind Baha’i architecture, namely the intention to establish communication with heaven through the beautiful structures is reflected in each of the Baha’i throughout the world irrespective of the different features adopted from the local cultural architectural style.
It can thus be seen that Iran culture has a very strong influence on the Baha’i culture, whether it be in the aspect of literature or architecture.
The Bahai International Community “The Bahai Question, Cultural Cleansing in Iran” Bahai Org. Web. September, 2008
Lewis, “Scripture as Literature: Shifting Through the Layers of Text” London: Association for Baha'i Studies of English-Speaking Europe, 1997 Baha’i Library. Web.
Leiker, Benjamin “Sacred Baha'i Architecture” Baha’i Library. Web.
Bahai Faith “Architecture Marvel” Official Website of Bahai in India.
Mirrazavi, Firouzeh “Iranian Architecture” Iran Review. Web. January 11, 2009.
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