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Religion Library: Baha'i

Sacred Narratives

Written by: Moojan Momen

But for most Baha'is, it is the history of the Baha'i Faith itself that is the main source of stories that are frequently told and retold among Baha'is to provide inspiration and example. The most important of these are the stories of the central figures of the religion. There are also a number of early disciples and members of the families of the founders, including some women, whose stories are also frequently told. In light of Baha'i beliefs, there is nothing to stop Baha'is drawing inspiration from the lives of the founders and saints of any of the world's religions.

One of the most commonly read books among Baha'is that has come to have something of the status of a sacred history is a book call The Dawn-Breakers, which is a narrative of the Babi period. Shoghi Effendi  edited and translated this work from a manuscript left by Nabil, an early Baha'i. Shoghi Effendi completed this translation in 1932 at a time when he was about to try to inspire the American Baha'is to launch the first of the plans that would spread the Faith. These plans required the American Baha'is to sacrifice the comfort of their middle-class homes and move to difficult and sometimes dangerous places in the developing countries of the world. By translating this book that told stories of the heroic self-sacrifice of the early Babis who often gave up their wealth and even their lives for their faith, and by linking the American Baha'is closely to this narrative (by calling them the "spiritual descendants of the Dawn-breakers"), Shoghi Effendi inspired American Baha'is to move first to South and Central America and later to post-war Europe. Similarly, other Baha'is were inspired by this book to move to other parts of the world and to make other sacrifices for the advancement of the Baha'i Faith.

'Abdu'l-Baha  is viewed as the perfect exemplar of the Baha'i teachings, and so stories about him and about how he dealt with particular situations abound within the Baha'i community and in Baha'i books. Since he also visited North America and Europe, many of these stories are much more closely linked to the lives of Baha'is in that cultural world than stories from the Middle East. They are seen as examples of the divine virtues and qualities that all Baha'is are trying to acquire. If in a dilemma, Baha'is will often say, "What would 'Abdu'l-Baha do in this situation?"

Shoghi Effendi wrote a book called God Passes By, which was not so much a history of the Baha'i Faith as an explanation to Baha'is of the way in which they should see their history: that God has again intervened in human history as He has done in the past; that the events of Baha'i history are part of God's plan for humanity; that world events are to a large extent shaped by this plan; and that reverses in the history of the movement were always followed by even greater successes. This way of seeing history has greatly influenced the Baha'i view of all history.

Opening Words of The Promised Day Is Come,
written by Shoghi Effendi in 1941
A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects, unimaginably glorious in its ultimate consequences, is at present sweeping the face of the earth. Its driving power is remorselessly gaining in range and momentum. Its cleansing force, however much undetected, is increasing with every passing day. Humanity, gripped in the clutches of its devastating power, is smitten by the evidences of its resistless fury. It can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome. Bewildered, agonized and helpless, it watches this great and mighty wind of God invading the remotest and fairest regions of the earth, rocking its foundations, deranging its equilibrium, sundering its nations, disrupting the homes of its peoples, wasting its cities, driving into exile its kings, pulling down its bulwarks, uprooting its institutions, dimming its light, and harrowing up the souls of its inhabitants.

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