Category Archives Baha’i Life

Do Animals Have Souls?

Do Animals Have Souls

My daughter was saddened when our pet hermit crab, Betsy, died and she asked if she’d see her again in the next world. The simple Baha’i answer to her question was no, she wouldn’t. However, I found a blanket “no” with no other exploration of the topic was not only insensitive but potentially incomplete.

Baha’is are encouraged, from their earliest years, to show love and compassion towards animals. Continue reading

The Spirit of the Olympics: A Personal Reflection

The Spirit of the Olympics

Two years ago the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, wrote to the Universal House of Justice inviting it to provide a statement on the occasion of the 20th World Cup. President Rousseff saw the World Cup as an opportunity to further the cause of peace and the elimination of prejudice.

The response from the Universal House of Justice, and its tribute to the people of Brazil, is very moving (it can be read in full here). I took the opportunity to read the letter again, as it gave me a lens through which to watch the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. It highlights three positive aspects of the World Cup and these ideals were also demonstrated in the Olympics which just closed. They will undoubtably also be found in the Paralympic Games about to commence.

1. A Celebration of Diversity

The opening paragraph of the letter includes these words:

Few occasions can claim to embrace so wide a cross-section of humanity, comprising peoples of varied ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is clear to every observer that the sport that has brought these nations to Brazil is only strengthened by the marvellous diversity of the participants. To rejoice in this fact is to reject prejudice in all its forms.

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9 Things I Didn’t Know About Obligatory Prayers

9 Interesting Things Obligatory Prayer 864x549

As Baha’is, most of us are familiar with the main aspects of the Obligatory Prayers: that there are three to choose from, and that one is to be recited, individually, each day. The three prayers, generally referred to as the short, medium, and long Obligatory Prayers, each have specific directions which accompany them, but all should be preceded by ablutions (washing of the hands and face) and are recited facing the Qiblih (Point of Adoration, i.e. Bahji, Akka). The significance of the Obligatory Prayers has been discussed in another Baha’i Blog post here.

As a junior youth, I knew that when I reached the age of 15, I would start to say my Obligatory Prayer every day. But it wasn’t until my late teens, when I read the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) for the first time, that I found out about the following exemptions and clarifications, and they added to my understanding of the importance and centrality of the Obligatory Prayers to our lives. Continue reading

Remembering God and Forgetting Others

Remembering God and Forgetting Others

The individual stands between the world and God, surrounded by other fellow beings in the same scenario. So should our attention be put on God, ourselves or other people? A Sufi quote says something interesting on the matter:

Act as if there were no one on earth but you and no one in Heaven but God. – al-Antaki

This sounds a bit selfish and even solipsistic but there seems to be some sense in it. It takes us back to the mystery that we all inhabit our own private universes. We can only think, feel, and understand from within our own view-point and can only infer what is happening in other people’s private worlds. The most fundamental relationship is between the individual and God. He is our creator, sustainer and salvation, so naturally our attention should be focused on Him.

This does not mean that other individuals are not important but that they are no substitute for God and should not stand between us and Him. For this reason, in the end, the only relationship that we can fully depend on is our own personal relationship with God. All other relationships stem from this one. And if we lose our connection with our Creator, our relationship with others also suffers – for we do not have the spiritual insight and strength to gain the qualities of love, forgiveness, or generosity on our own.  Continue reading

The Long Healing Prayer: A Personal Reflection

Long Healing Prayer Personal Reflection 864x550

The Long Healing Prayer revealed by Baha’u’llah is a potent medicine, an elixir. It offers a unique approach to healing; this prayer is a remedy many turn to in times of tests, difficulties and pain. Its potency is felt always. Below is a brief reflection on this powerful prayer, particularly as it relates to the spiritual healing of humankind.

My love for this Long Healing Prayer comes from an appreciation and curiosity into the statement made in one of Baha’u’llah’s Hidden Words:

The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me, forget it not.

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What Does it Mean to Trust in God?

What Does it Mean to Trust in God 864x486

Trusting in God is important and potentially challenging for Baha’is. We might think this is particularly true because, every now and then, we face tests and difficulties and life gets rough.

But this raises a question: what does it mean to trust in God? To trust in someone, as I understand it, is to expect some action or inaction from them. When I trust that Jeff will tell me if a particular piece of clothing makes me look fat, I expect something from him – in this case, an honest opinion.

But what should we expect God to do when we trust in Him?

Some might think this question sounds odd. We’re not God, so how blasphemous is it to then think that we can expect God to do things as if we know what God would will?  Continue reading

Are We Violent or Compassionate by Nature?

Are We Violent or Compassionate by Nature 864x550

When human beings commit atrocities, whether individually or as a group, we are quick to judge our human race as nothing better than bestial, unable to control our grosser animal instincts. The fact that there exist people who are able to exhibit nobler qualities may, we reason, simply indicate that they are able to do this solely because they have not been pushed to their limits, but that they could easily descend to their brutish natures if provoked. However, Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

Signs of both these natures are to be found in men. In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature. The attributes of his Divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature.

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Education for Girls: A Personal Reflection

(Photo: courtesy Baha'i World Centre)

(Photo: courtesy Baha'i World Centre)

On July 12th, Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 19th birthday. This Nobel Peace Prize winner (the world’s youngest) caught the world’s attention in 2012 when she was shot in the face by the Taliban for attending school and for championing the right of girls to be educated. On her 16th birthday, Malala gave a speech at the United Nations — the first after the attack on her life — renewing her commitment to fight for the right of children to go to school. The UN dubbed that July 12th as “Malala Day” and some have celebrated it since.

Education is a universal right. Abdu’l-Baha states:

The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship…

The education of girls is a principle distinctly upheld in the Baha’i Writings. It is a subject that I think of often, and it is a subject more complicated than a simple Baha’i Blog article can address. Here are a few of my thoughts about the education of girls and how this goal is linked to the equality of men and women and the importance of children’s classes.  Continue reading

3 Ways Our Deeds Define Us

3 Ways Our Deeds Define Us 864x550

In a world that is being governed more and more by the words of those leaders and individuals who prove “skillful at appealing to superficial emotion”, we are called to lofty heights, to rise above the sea of slogans to a spiritual distinction that is defined by our deeds. These slogans are nullifying our ability to act and rise beyond our “natural inertia” and become those beings of light that are distinguished by their actions.

It is in this world of gross materialism, the mud of our current reality, that the lotus of action must bloom. It must be our actions that distinguish us as those who truly believe: people who “do as they say”. The deeds of our lives are those that distinguish our moral selves and continually imbue us with the principle of an unwavering commitment to integrity. Here are three ways that our deeds can define us:  Continue reading