Musings on Motherhood: No Nobler Deed

As many parts of the world are celebrating ‘Mother’s Day’, I find myself reflecting on the high standard in the Baha’i Writings for our youth, and I can’t help but think about the importance of moral and spiritual education during those precious first years of a child’s life. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

You must be distinguished amidst men by your sanctity and detachment, loftiness of purpose, magnanimity, determination, noble mindedness, tenacity, the elevation of your aims and your spiritual qualities; that you may become the means of exaltation and glory for the Cause of God and the dawning places of His heavenly bestowals; that you may conduct yourselves in conformity with the counsels and exhortations of the Blessed Beauty — may my life be offered up for His loved ones — and by reflecting Baha’i qualities and attributes, you may stand out distinguished from others.

Society tends to downplay the significance of being a mother. What do you suppose attracts more interest when I answer that typical question at dinner parties: “What do you do?” Lawyer or mother? Usually, when I choose to answer, “I am a mother,” people smile and say, “Oh, that’s nice.” There is never an incredibly interested follow-up question on what kind of exciting parenting I practice. The polite ones never say it, but some of them are probably thinking, “You’re a mom? What do you do all day?” Indeed mothers, myself included, often fail to comprehend the momentousness of the work we do, when in fact, according to Abdu’l-Baha, “no nobler deed can be imagined!” Continue reading

Divine Spark: An Interview with Taraz Nosrat

Multi-instrumentalist Taraz Nosrat
We all know that God has made music as a ladder for our souls, and listening to Baha’i-specific music is indeed a brilliant way for our souls to ascend. Of course, I’m not going to pretend that all styles of music resonate with me, even if they are Baha’i-inspired, but my latest discovery has indeed got my soul soaring to the realms above!

The Divine Spark is a devotional album recorded by U.S. multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Taraz Nosrat. I was lucky enough to meet Taraz while on Pilgrimage in 2007. At the time I had no idea of the talents inherent within him but luckily enough, the likes of social media kept us in contact and I was recently made aware of his debut release. The songs on the record, all inspired by the Writings, combine musical styles and instruments from across the board and are peppered with middle-eastern tones, contemporary melodies, and Taraz’s soothing voice, making for a truly unique yet enjoyable listening experience. I decided to have a chat with Taraz himself in a bid to find out more about the mastery behind his latest creation. Continue reading

My 3 Questions to Frame a Study of the Baha’i Writings

3 Questions to Frame Study of the Text

I naively and ignorantly thought that because I had been raised a Baha’i that I knew the Writings well. It wasn’t long before I realized that while I knew many of the principles of the Faith, I barely knew its sacred texts at all. Baha’u’llah exhorts us to immerse ourselves in the ocean of His words, and I was merely floating on the surface. In a boat.

I personally find that a small part of diving into the study of a text requires that I figure out its context. Through various deepening classes, I have learned that these 3 questions can prove very useful. Continue reading

The Number Nine (9) and the Baha’i Faith

Photo courtesy LEOL30 via Flickr.

Photo courtesy LEOL30 via Flickr.

As we celebrate the Ninth Day of Ridvan (one of the three days of the 12 day Baha’i Festival of Ridvan where work should be suspended) I thought it would be interesting to look at the use and significance of the number nine in the Baha’i Faith.

First of all the Ninth Day of Ridvan is significant to Baha’is because this was the day where Baha’u’llah was joined by the rest of His family in the Najibiyyih Garden (known thereafter as the Garden of Ridvan) in Baghdad, but there are also numerous uses of the number nine in the Baha’i Faith, for example: Baha’i Houses of Worship are built with nine sides and nine entrances; each Baha’i institution, such as Local and National Spiritual Assemblies and the Universal House of Justice all have nine democratically elected members. Continue reading

Dealing with Addictions

Dealing with Addictions 620x413
Many of us have developed addictions of one kind or another, as a way of relieving stress. Some, like drugs, alcohol and smoking are socially sanctioned. Others, like drivenness, perfection and workaholism are often highly praised in a materialistic society. Still others, like sex, pornography and gambling are so readily available on the internet, that they’ve practically become socially acceptable.

None of us are immune to addiction, and there are even several well-known Baha’is in the history of the Faith who have struggled with addictions such as alcoholism, and they’ve reported on the transformative power of the Faith for being able to overcome this addiction. Continue reading

Baha’i-inspired Art on Social Media: Mithaq on his Perspáctive

Perspactive - End is Glorious - 620x620
With the growing array of social media tools available to us, individuals have never had such great opportunities to share their inspirations with a wide audience (Instagram alone for instance has over 150 million users) and so that’s exactly what Mithaq, a San Diego-based artist under the username Perspáctive has been doing on social media.

Billed simply as “art that inspires”, Perspáctive features graphic artworks and illustrations incorporating inspirational quotes that are shared on both Instagram and more recently on Tumblr. With over 100 images and some 1000+ followers, Mithaq’s work really resonates with his audience making Perspáctive one of the most popular and active projects serving up high-quality Baha’i-inspired content.

I had the opportunity to meet Mithaq a few months ago in San Diego and we’ve been in touch ever since. I’ve seen a lot of people re-posting a lot of his work online (including us here), so I thought it would be great to ask him a few questions about Perspáctive and to share it with our readers: Continue reading

How to Get Thoroughly Acquainted: A Baha’i Perspective on Dating

Baha'i Dating close up
When it comes to dating and getting to know a potential partner in the framework of the Baha’i laws and principles, many young (and not so young) people experience confusion and uncertainty. It can be hard to know how to approach this topic, and while many of us realize that the concept and practice of dating in much of society today is largely inappropriate, it can be hard to determine how to get to know a person really well, while at the same time remaining steadfast in the Cause and staying within the framework of chastity.

Abdu’l-Baha tell us:

Baha’i marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity.

When beginning the process of getting thoroughly acquainted with each others’ characters, let us first look at some important guidelines – the first being “Don’t start what you cannot finish!” – meaning, if while getting to know each other it already becomes clear that this person cannot be a potential spouse, it is not wise to start a relationship or pursue the relationship further.

The following four ‘red flags’ are clear warnings and important to heed, so if you see any of these – run the other way:

1. Problems with alcohol or drugs.
2. Problems with chastity (e.g. if the other person oversteps clearly set boundaries, is unfaithful etc. This may well continue into marriage.)
3. Aggression or violence (if someone hits you once it is advisable to end the relationship immediately. Do not give a person the chance to hit you a second time. Not even when they tearfully apologize. A person hitting someone needs therapeutic help!)
4. the partner does not want to have children (as opposed to a person who cannot have children for biological reasons. The purpose of Baha’i marriage is to have children. You should never assume that a person who says before the wedding that they do not want to have children will change their mind later on.)

If you’ve been fortunate enough to meet a person who is compatible with you and to whom none of the ‘red flags’ apply, there are quite a few possible ways to investigate that person’s character:

Exchange your life stories: You can each write down your life history (e.g. divided by years) and let the other person read it. As you read over each other’s history, note areas where you would like more understanding, or greater clarity. Consult about it, ask questions, share. You should be looking for past events that might impact on the other person’s capacity for intimacy, sharing, parenting, etc.

Exchange your life plans: Again, ask for clarification and more detail if you need it. You are looking for ways that your life plans can come together, for dreams that can be shared, and a future that can be lived as a couple.

Ask each other about…
…your respective relationships with your mothers.
…your respective relationships with your fathers.
…your respective relationships with your siblings.
…your ideas and concepts of what marriage should be like.
…family planning and raising children.
…former relationships and how those worked out.
…career/educational plans.

Experience as many different situations together as possible. Don’t just meet for dates, try to get a view from as many different angles as possible. Work together or do a project together. Look into each other’s hobbies. Explore your respective relationships to your faith(s) together. Take care of each other when one of you is sick. Meet the other person’s parents and families, watch how they interact with members of their family (if you get married you will also be a member of their family!). Talk about gender roles and expectations with each other. See how your partner treats women and men. Spend leisure time together. Get to know the other person’s friends, see how you get along, see how he/she behaves around their friends. Do sports together. “Borrow” some kids and spend time with them, watch your potential spouse’s behavior and attitude towards children. Cook and eat together. Host a core activity together. See how the other person behaves under stress, how they take decisions, how they express their feelings, how they handle money, how committed they are to obeying Baha’i laws (if they are Baha’is. If they are not – how respectful they are about your choice to obey Baha’i laws).

Read and study compilations and books about (Baha’i) marriage together. There are many great books and compilations available on this topic like Marriage: A Fortress for Well-being, and Baha’i Blog will be recommending more of these in a follow-up post in the near future.

Participate in marriage preparation courses or seminars together. Studies have shown that couples benefit greatly from professional marriage preparation and that their marriages are happier and last longer. If they are conducted by Baha’i professionals, so much the better.

Speak with several couples who lead good marriages in your eyes and learn from their experience.

When looking at these options it becomes clear that this process requires time, and it saddens me to see that far too often, young Baha’is rush into marriage without much reflection and after only knowing each other for very short periods of time (sometimes maybe guided by the wish to start a sexual relationship). From a psychological point of view, I would personally recommend a time period of at least one year of investigation before deciding to get married (provided of course this time is used wisely). The space of one year allows you to experience a whole cycle of nature together (including possible effects like seasonal affective disorders, i.e. ‘winter depression’) in one or both partners). You live through all Holy Days and anniversaries (which can deeply affect some people), and you get a much deeper understanding of what those special times mean to your partner and to his/her family and how they celebrate them. After all, you are trying to blend two lives, two family cultures, two backgrounds and two life plans together, therefore it is very helpful to have a good understanding of what those are before setting out to achieve this.

To finish this article, I thought I’d leave you with the questions of the following short ‘Express Test’, in the hope that these questions will help you decide whether a person is suitable as a potential spouse:

• Did I ever imagine marrying someone like him/her?
• Can I introduce him/her to my family, friends and colleagues?
• Can I imagine having children with him/her?
• Can I imagine that my children turn out exactly like him/her?
• Would I have chosen this person as a (best) friend if I hadn’t been in love?
• Do I feel really comfortable in his/her presence?

Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name

Manijeh Not Only a Change of Name 350x570In the corner of our lounge room sits an elderly woman knitting and smiling but rarely talking as the discussion on spiritual matters swirls around the room.

Then, in one of those silences that develop as people gather their thoughts, she stands up, walks over with the scarf she has knitted and gently places it around a woman’s neck and gives her a hug.

Everybody laughs with joy because love was shown by deeds not words.

What few of them knew, until they were told later, was that the knitter has played an historic role in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was once a custodian of a holy place, the House of the Bab in Bushehr, Iran.

With the assistance of her daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand, Manijeh Saatchi, 84, now of Brisbane, Australia, has produced a book that tells of her experiences in a way that shows how the human spirit, elevated by love and faith, can prevail against the forces of religious persecution.

In an introduction to Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan, wrote that the book “conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail”. Continue reading

Just Launched: Official Website for the Universal House of Justice

Official Universal House of Justice website
Baha’i Blog is so excited to share the news of the launch of the new official website for the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the international Baha’i community.

The website provides general information about the Universal House of Justice and it also provides selected statements and letters that have been written by, or prepared under its supervision, such as Who Is Writing the Future? and the 2002 Letter to the World’s Religious Leaders. Continue reading