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Religion Library: Baha'i

Early Developments

Written by: Moojan Momen

Initially, most of the conversions to the Baha'i Faith came from the former Babi community. Eventually, however, new believers were drawn in from the Muslim majority community and, from the 1880s onward, from the Zoroastrian and Jewish minorities in Iran. There continued to be conversions from among the Muslim clerics and these would travel through Iran spreading the Baha'i Faith and deepening the knowledge of the existing communities. New communities sprang up in towns such as Hamadan, where there had been no substantial Babi community. Baha'u'llah also directed the geographical expansion of the Baha'i community. He sent capable Baha'is to areas such as India, Burma, Egypt, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, establishing new Baha'i communities and converting for the first time appreciable numbers of Sunni Muslims and some Christians.

These Baha'i communities were not at first much distinguished from the Muslim communities from which most of them sprang, but early on, outside observers noted that the position of women in these communities was improved. One of the factors that led to the Zoroastrian and Jewish conversions was the fact that the Baha'is did not regard them as ritually unclean as the majority Shi'i Muslim community did, and were willing to enter their homes and eat with them. They were also attracted to the teachings of the Baha'i Faith, which they believed were better attuned to the modern world.

Study Questions:
     1.    What sort of people became the main leaders of the Babi movement?
     2.    Did the Babis attack their opponents?
     3.    How did the Bab and Baha’u’llah keep in contact with their followers?
     4.    What instructions did Baha’u’llah issue to his followers about how they should conduct themselves?
     5.    How did the growth and spread of the Baha’i Faith during the time of Baha’u’llah occur?


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