The Fear of God. What Does It Mean?

When reading prayers revealed by the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith, you quickly notice that nearly every prayer ends with a list of the names and attributes of God. He is described as the “All-Merciful,” the “Ever-Forgiving,” the “Lord of bounty,” the “Provider of all mankind,” and with dozens of other titles and qualities that help us understand, albeit imperfectly, some of the characteristics of God. Many of these descriptions create an image of God as a parent who watches over humanity with infinite love, mercy, and kindness. Indeed, in both the Bahá’í Faith and other religions God is often described as “the Father” for this very purpose. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:

God is the Father of all. He educates, provides for and loves all; for they are His servants and His creation. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267).

But while God is repeatedly described as full of love, grace, and bounty in the Bahá’í Faith, dozens of passages also emphasize the importance of the “fear of God.” Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us to “fear God” or have the “fear of God” more than a dozen times in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (known as the Most Holy Book) alone, and in various places He describes the fear of God as “the essence of wisdom” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 155), “the fountain-head of all goodly deeds and virtues” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 135), “the weapon that can render him victorious” and “the primary instrument whereby he can achieve his purpose” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 272).

What should we make of such passages, and what does “fear” even mean in this context? If God’s relationship with humanity is like a loving and merciful parent, why does Bahá’u’lláh repeatedly warn us to fear God? And if the fear of God is an important attribute, how do we inculcate it in ourselves and others, such as our children? I’ll return to these questions in a moment, but it may be beneficial to first discuss other principles of the Bahá’í Faith related to the nature of spiritual development and the afterlife to place this topic of the fear of God in the broader scope of the teachings of the Faith. Continue reading

The Fellowship Farm Book Series: An Interview with Melanie Lotfali

It’s not often you hear about Baha’i inspired novels aimed at children, and so when I heard that there was this great series of  books called The Fellowship Farm series, I had to find out more.

The Fellowship Farm books are a series of ten novels for primary school aged children. Readers follow the Fitzgerald family who live on a farm in Tasmania, Australia as they go about their daily life. The Fitzgerald family experience crisis and victory, seize and neglect opportunities to develop their virtues, achieve (and on occasion fail to achieve) unity, as they go to school, work on the farm, go camping, find abandoned puppies, live through bullying and a even a snake bite, build a tree house, host Holy Days and so on. In an engaging way their stories offer a model of a healthy, loving family striving to practice the Teachings of Baha’u’llah.

The feedback from everyone who’s read the books has been fantastic, so I decided to catch up with Melanie Lotfali, the author of these wonderful books, to find out more. Continue reading

The Coming Universal Language

It’s a testament to our international age that I have two sets of foreign in-laws; one family lives in Mexico, the other Germany. Once every three or four years, each family will visit, and despite all of our best efforts – and heaven knows their English is better than my Spanish or German – it goes like this: We struggle through an hour or so of halting conversation over dinner, all of us speaking slowly, gesturing wildly, and, of course, growing louder and louder, as if shouting will help us be understood. Finally, with no less love in our hearts but mentally exhausted, we either retreat to the nearest television to watch something mutually enjoyable or we say “adios” or “auf wiedersehen,” hug, and call it a day.

The point is, it doesn’t matter how small the world becomes, or how much goodwill or love you hold in your heart for others, not being able to communicate is a drag. Continue reading

Mystic Music: An Interview with Brett Smith of Smith & Dragoman

The mystical and soul-stirring music of the Canadian duo Smith & Dragoman can be felt in all three of the groups albums, originally inspired by The Dawbreakers, and are each based on a certain chapter of the history of the Baha’i Faith.

Their debut album Open The Gates, is based on the heroes and heroins of the Babí dispensation, and their follow-up album Under The Lote-Tree, continues the saga of the those early Babí’s who became followers of Baha’u’llah. Continue reading

6 Reasons to Steer Clear of Partisan Politics

In the United States, the conclusion of the summer Olympics also means we’re fast approaching another presidential election. In fact, the way various elections are staggered, we’re never more than a few months away from an election of some kind. Perhaps in your country, you too are blessed to have the freedom to elect your governmental leaders. It’s a precious and hard-won human right that the whole world is destined to exercise.

Democracy is a core value of Baha’i life. The way in which we govern our own affairs is deeply democratic. We elect our leaders from the bottom of the administrative order to the very top. But we do it all without campaigning. We don’t put our own names or those of others up for election, and likewise we don’t engage in negative self-campaigning to remove ourselves from consideration. Baha’is simply and prayerfully vote for a slate of people they believe will best serve the community, and, in the case of Spiritual Assemblies, the nine top vote-getters are elected. Continue reading

10 Documentaries about World Religions

As a Baha’i, it’s important to know about other religions – actually it doesn’t really matter if you’re a Baha’i or not, the fact is that we live in a religiously diverse world and the more we know and learn about each other and our belief systems, the better we can hopefully get along.

I really love watching documentaries, and there are some great documentaries out there which focus on some of the various world religions and/or certain aspects of them. I thought I’d share a list of 10 interesting and informative documentaries I’ve seen about some of these world religions, and I know there are a lot of other great documentaries about religion out there, but I thought these 10 would be a good place to start:

1) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha

Narrated by Hollywood heartthrob Richard Gere, a long time practicing Buddhist himself, The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha tells the story of the life and spiritual journey of the Buddha (the founder of Buddhism), from his childhood to his final days. .

DVD blurb: Two and a half millennia ago, a new religion was born in northern India, generated from the ideas of a single man, the Buddha, a mysterious Indian sage who famously gained enlightenment while he sat under a large, shapely fig tree. The Buddha never claimed to be God or his emissary on earth. He said only that he was a human being who, in a world of unavoidable pain and suffering, had found a kind of serenity that others could find, too. This documentary by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin tells the story of his life, a journey especially relevant in our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion.

Continue reading

Creation Is Now

Photo courtesy: zAmb0ni via Flickr

There is perhaps nothing more fundamental to faith in God than our ideas, traditions, and assumptions about creation. After all, “Creator” is our most descriptive synonym for God.

For most of its visible history, much of humanity has subscribed to a literal belief in creation stories. These stories were critical stepping stones that infused cultures around the world with ideas that would guide their development. These ideas included the notion there was a divine entity who engineered the creation of the natural world and who bestowed on humanity a special gift: free will, knowledge of good and evil. This gift carried with it unique privileges — indeed dominion — but also grave responsibilities. Continue reading

What’s New at Baha’i Blog’s Directory and Calendar

Hi Baha’i Bog readers! My name is Roya and I just wanted to say a quick hello and let you know that I’m the new team member who’s looking after the Baha’i Blog Directory and Calender.

The Baha’i Blog Directory is where you can find a whole bunch of Baha’i resources! There’s everything from websites to music, iPhone Apps to apparel, books to Baha’i inspired organizations.  We’re always looking for more great Baha’i resources to share with our audience, so if you know of any we don’t yet have, please let us know!

The Baha’i Blog Calendar is a resource for finding national and international events, conferences, summer schools and other Baha’i activities around the world. If you have a medium to large event that you think would fit in here, then please let us know.

I’ve been adding a lot of new items to the Directory and the Calendar lately, so be sure to check in regularly as there are a lot of great things happening and cool stuff being added every day!

Here are just a few of the recent additions for you to check out:

The Baha’i Blog Directory

ALBUMS: Tons of new albums like Smith & Dragoman’s The Mystery; Nabil & Karim’s Vol. 2; Luke Slott’s The Light of Unity.

CHILDREN’S CLASS RESOURCES: A few new additions to this section, all inspiring!

JEWELLERY: Some great new places to find beautiful Baha’i Jewellery.

The Baha’i Blog Calendar

OCT 4  – European Baha’i Business Forum: Annual Conference 2012

OCT 13 – The Baha’i Studies Cloud Conference Series

DEC 23 – The 2012 Rabbani Trust Conference Orlando

We hope you find the Baha’i Blog Calendar and Directory sections useful, and be sure to take some time to look through them.

If you have any suggestions or contributions I would love to hear from you!

-Roya (roya@bahaiblog.net)

What is Obligatory Prayer and Why is it Important?

Photo: Victor Bezrukov via Flickr

Prayer, according to the Baha’i Faith, is central to one’s spiritual existence. It is the means by which creation communicates with the Creator.There are numerous prayers revealed by Baha’u’llah, the Bab and ‘Abdu’l- Baha, and each of these prayer express our innermost needs and offer us guidance, in a way that our own words can’t.

In addition to the many revealed prayers, there are also the daily obligatory prayers – revealed by Baha’u’llah – which are to be recited individually and privately, every day. Individuals can choose from one of three prayers – the short obligatory prayer to be said between noon and sunset, the medium obligatory prayer to be recited three times a day, or the long obligatory prayer to be recited anytime during the course of the day.

Bahá’u’lláh states that “obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God”. Abdu’l-Bahá affirms that such prayers are “conducive to humility and submissiveness, to setting one’s face towards God and expressing devotion to Him”, and that through these prayers “man holdeth communion with God, seeketh to draw near unto Him, converseth with the true Beloved of his heart, and attaineth spiritual stations”.

Continue reading

Rejecting Slavery in All Its Forms

In the late 1990s, the United Nations began recognizing August 23 as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of Its Abolition. On that date in 1791, slaves on the island of Santo Domingo (modern Haiti and the Dominican Republic) began an uprising that would be critical in the eventual abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

There are few concepts more anathema to the Baha’i Faith than slavery. It offends a long list of Baha’i sensibilities as well as the Faith’s express tenets – from the equality of the races, to the importance of the family unit, to the equality of the sexes, and the general advancement of human rights. Continue reading