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Religion Library: Baha'i

Sacred Narratives

Written by: Moojan Momen

Being a religion of the modern age, the Baha'i Faith has no creation stories or other myths. Such areas are left for science to describe. The story of Adam and Eve, for example, is seen as being symbolic, one meaning of which is that the tree in this story signifies this physical world in which there is both good and evil. The serpent signifies attachment to this world. Adam and Eve signify the spirit and soul in humanity. If they attach themselves to this physical world, they become separated from the paradise of the spiritual world.

This does not mean however that the Baha'i Faith does not have sacred narratives. The grand overarching sacred narrative in the Baha'i Faith is that of the religious history of humanity. Baha'is see world history as punctuated by the appearances of sacred figures. These are the founders of the world's religions as well as other figures who have come to different parts of the world in the past and whose names may now be forgotten. Each provides humanity with the guidance needed to take humanity in that part of the world onto the next stage of its spiritual and social development.

Words of Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-Iqan regarding Abraham
Later, the beauty of the countenance of the Friend of God (Abraham) appeared from behind the veil, and another standard of divine guidance was hoisted. He invited the people of the earth to the light of righteousness. The more passionately He exhorted them, the fiercer waxed the envy and waywardness of the people, except those who wholly detached themselves from all save God, and ascended on the wings of certainty to the station which God hath exalted beyond the comprehension of men. It is well known what a host of enemies besieged Him, until at last the fires of envy and rebellion were kindled against Him. And after the episode of the fire came to pass, He, the lamp of God amongst men, was, as recorded in all books and chronicles, expelled from His city.

The writings of Baha'u'llah  are full of stories of the prophets of the past, told to illustrate or to convey particular spiritual messages. The Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), for example, recounts stories of many of the biblical and Quranic prophets in order to establish the point that the prophets of God have always been persecuted and denied, especially by the religious leaders of the previous religion; that human beings need to detach themselves from the outward trappings of religion and find the true core of spirituality if they are to be attuned to God's message in every age (in other words, they need to investigate spiritual reality for themselves); and that if they follow the customs of their ancestors or the directions of their religious leaders, they are in danger of being led astray.

 

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