Thinking About Freedom

In the United States, freedom is highly coveted and when it becomes threatened, freedom is fiercely defended. The first amendment of the Constitution promises to protect these freedoms, guarantees that the American people have the basic right to things like free speech, free press and the right to assemble. Other countries may not emphasise these rights in the same way, but people the world over want the freedom to be themselves and to be free from oppression and prejudice. Indeed, a world without those troubles would be a liberated one. However, are there other ways to think about freedom? Continue reading

Carmel Nights: Rekindle 2013

Parties would be dead without it, all dancing would cease, long journeys would feel even longer and the members of glee would no longer be able to express how they feel. Yes, music is pretty essential to everything we do in life. It’s almost impossible to go even one day without hearing it on the radio, from buskers in the street, from a builder whistling while he works. But why? Why does music form such an important part of our society? In the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha’u’llah wrote:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high…

We could glean, then, that the reason music is so powerful, whether we are conscious of it or not, is that it has an effect on our soul, and that ultimately its purpose is to uplift us.

‘Uplifted’ is how a group of friends felt while sitting in a cafe in East London when they decided to organise an open mic night where people could jam and play uplifting music together. They decided to call it Carmel Nights and five years later, Carmel Nights has become an annual concert hosted by the Waterman’s Theatre, Ealing and this year’s recent event attracted over 200 audience members. Even though over the last five years some of the specifics of the event have changed and developed, the purpose of Carmel Nights has remained the same: to bring people together to be elevated by live music. Continue reading

10 Great Introductory Books on the Baha’i Faith

Although many of us are going online nowadays to find out more information about something we’d like to know more about, there’s still a lot of non-accurate and misleading information about the Baha’i Faith online, and I still get asked by friends whether I can suggest or lend them an introductory book about the Faith.

So for those of us who still like to read books or get asked to suggest an introductory book about the Baha’i Faith, I thought it may be useful to list some for you to read or share with your friends. I’ve purposefully left out books which only focus on the Baha’i Faith and a specific religion (such as Thief In The Night by William Sears, which is a wonderful book, but is focused on the Baha’i Faith from a Catholic perspective) and I’ve tried to keep my choices general, but I’d love to hear about any other introductory books on the Faith you’d recommend and if any of these in particular have resonated with you.

Here are the ten introductory books about the Baha’i Faith in no particular order:  Continue reading

Remembrance is a Gift from the Soul

If the soul comes from God, as the world’s religions agree, why wouldn’t it have some memories of this remarkable origin? If it did, this remembrance surely wouldn’t come easy. It would require hard work to retrieve such deeply embedded memories. Remembrance of our divine origin may be deeply hidden but it is also the most rewarding of all memories to attempt to recover.

That’s why there is a great power in remembrance. Enough hard work, and remembrance can awaken us to an everlasting, changeless reality. God continues to send us his Messengers to help us remember who we are and where we came from. The world’s sacred traditions acknowledge the importance of seeking answers to the mysteries of life. This quest for spiritual understanding raises two essential questions: “Where have we come from?” and “Where are we going?” The mystery of our origin and our destiny is intricately tied to the nature of the soul.  Continue reading

Going Green and Going to War

I am a peaceful man, but I have always wanted to be on the “front lines” of life. I liked when the choir sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” when I was a kid, and as a young man I began learning to take my marching orders from Abdu’l-Baha, trying to be one of the “souls” in a “heavenly army” whose mission was to bring light and justice to a darkening world.

I love this part of an address by the American President, Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause… (From a speech titled “Citizenship in a Republic”, given at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)

My wife, the warrior woman that I am trying to keep up with, has taught me much about another battle that Baha’is are learning how to engage in: the crisis we’ve created for the world’s ecology, and the search for sustainable ways to live with and within it.  Continue reading

Reflections on the Ascension of Baha’u’llah

On May 29, 1892, shortly before dawn began to break, Baha’u’llah passed on from this mortal life and His spirit was finally “released from the toils of a life crowded with tribulations.”[i] He was surrounded only by family members and a small but loyal band of followers. His body was laid to rest, reverently and without any extravagant ceremony, in one of the buildings of the property in Bahji, outside of Akka, Israel, where He had spent the last twelve years of His life. He died a prisoner, a captive of one of the many governments that had persecuted Him for the past forty years and exiled Him from Tehran to Baghdad to Constanstinople to Adrianople to Akka and finally to Bahji. In fact, of the countless themes which run through Baha’u’llah’s Writings, his imprisonment and suffering is one of the most recurring:  Continue reading

The Declaration of the Bab and His Station


In the Persian city of Shiraz on May 22, 1844, The Bab declared His mission to a young man named Mulla Husayn, who had been searching tirelessly with his companions for the coming of the Promised One. The Bab explained that He was the predecessor of another Messenger of God (Baha’u’llah) who would come soon after Him, and that His role was to prepare others for the coming of this new Messenger whose divine revelation would unite the world of humanity. Mulla Husayn became the first disciple of the Bab, and the events of this day mark the beginnings of the Baha’i Faith.

Baha’u’llah ordained that The Declaration of the Bab is one of two “Most Great Festivals” (the other being Ridvan) and it is celebrated by Baha’is around the world as a Holy Day from the evening of May 22nd to the evening of May 23rd.

In The World Order of Baha’u’llah Shoghi Effendi emphatically explains the station of the Bab and the significance of His Declaration, and so I thought it befitting to leave you with a selection of excerpts from this book. Continue reading

Of Wars and Worship – The Extraordinary Story of Gertrude and Alvin Blum


Alvin Blum reached out and shook the hand of the Solomon Islander.

This simple act said it all about Alvin’s very real belief in the oneness of humanity.

The everyday greeting of shaking hands was not practiced between Europeans and locals in the Solomons in the 1950s. There still existed an insidious “master-boy relationship” produced by colonialism.

But Alvin, like his wife Gertrude, was a true Baha’i and was having none of it.

Not only did Alvin shake the man’s hand, but he invited him home for a meal where Gertrude’s delicious stew and hot tea accompanied discussions of spiritual things in an atmosphere of love, laughter and equality.

“The news of this event soon spread through the village networks,” writes Keithie Saunders in Of Wars and Worship, her emotionally gripping biography of her parents, who were named Knights of Baha’u’llah for introducing the Faith to the Solomon Islands.

The man Alvin greeted with a handshake, Bill Gina, became the first Baha’i in the Solomons.

As the book recounts, over the decades to come – in their everyday spontaneous acts of kindness as well as in their planned activities in business and for the Baha’i Faith – the Blums demonstrated their heartfelt commitment to the fundamental principle of Baha’u’llah, that all people are equal members of one human family. Continue reading

Seven Baha’is in Prison for Five Years – Five Years Too Many

As I sit in a comfortable chair and write this, I am well aware of the fact that I’m fortunate to live in a country where I’m able to enjoy the freedom to practice my religious beliefs as a Baha’i – and even run a blog about my faith – without the fear of being whisked away in the middle of the night by a group of armed men.

Unfortunately however, the luxury of religious freedom is not shared by Baha’is everywhere, and in Iran, the birthplace of our Faith, Baha’is  (as well as other religious minorities) continue to face discrimination and persecution.

It has now been five years that seven Baha’is were imprisoned by the Iranian authorities, and they are serving a 20 year sentence. Yes, a 20 year sentence!

Five years behind bars is a long time, in fact it’s five years too many, especially, when you consider that these individuals were arrested and imprisoned simply because of their religious beliefs.

As I look at a picture of these seven imprisoned Baha’is, I wonder what they are like as individuals – mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, each with their own likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations, skills and passions, humor and personalities. There’s Fariba, a developmental psychologist and a mother of three; Jamaloddin, a once-successful factory owner who lost his business after the Islamic Revolution because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith; Afif, who ran his father-in-law’s textile factory because as a Baha’i he was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor; Saeid, father of three and an agricultural engineer who was running a successful farming equipment business; Mahvash, mother of two, a teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha’i; Vahid, a father, an optometrist and the owner of an optical shop; Behrouz, a former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s, also because he was a Baha’i.  Continue reading

What I Really Want for Mother’s Day

As the stores at the mall start advertising Mother’s Day sales and my inbox becomes cluttered with Mother’s Day coupons, I find myself wondering what moms really want on this day that is supposed to be honoring them.

In the Baha’i Writings, mothers are referred to as the first educators of the children. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

If the mother is educated then her children will be well taught. When the mother is wise, then will the children be led into the path of wisdom. If the mother be religious she will show her children how they should love God. If the mother is moral she guides her little ones into the ways of uprightness. It is clear therefore that the future generation depends on the mothers of today. Is not this a vital responsibility for the woman? Does she not require every possible advantage to equip her for such a task? (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 161)

Considering the importance of mothers, I think Mother’s Day is as good of a day as any for husbands, kids, and relatives to thank mothers for all their hard work throughout the year. It is a great idea to show love and kindness to one who is so instrumental in the life of everyone in her family! However let us not think that the appreciation and support of mothers can end here. Continue reading