Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

Uniting Northern Illinois & Chicagoland

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The Spiritual Attribute of Cleanliness

Baha'i - 14 hours 41 min ago

Human beings learn the highest and most spiritual truths and insights through abstract thinking—through metaphors. There is a fascinating axiom that applies to this process so long as our soul...

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Teaching the World about Climate Change

Baha'i - 14 hours 46 min ago

The basic teachings of Baha’u’llah call upon all humanity to foster a united world: Our greatest efforts must be directed towards detachment from the things of the world; we must...

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4 Spiritual Qualities that Help Unite Marriages

Baha'i Blog - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 8:05pm

I love being in a happy marriage. I love the quotations from the Baha’i Writings that talk about the wonderfulness of marriage. Sometimes though the guidance is challenging to understand and follow. I’m currently striving to grasp this particular quotation below, especially the second sentence:

Baha’is should be profoundly aware of the sanctity of marriage and should strive to make their marriages an eternal bond of unity and harmony. This requires effort and sacrifice and wisdom and self-abnegation.

These are my thoughts on that sentence, based on my personal experience and my work as a marriage and relationship educator and coach based in the United States and working with couples in many countries. 

1. Effort

Daily prayer for our marriage, and both of us regularly expressing gratitude for it and for each other, helps my husband and me stay aware that we are participating in a divine institution. We want our souls to stay connected for eternity. We use consultation skills to stay unified in our understanding and decision-making. We support each other’s work and try to stop working for some time together each day. When difficulties arise, we do our best to offer emotional support. Physical touch is important to both of us. Does all that count as making an “effort”? Is it enough?

2. Sacrifice

The discussion of effort naturally then leads to “sacrifice”. I recognize that time is very linked to this concept. My partner and I give up time on one thing to spend time on another. We have come to recognize that while we both sacrifice our time to work, serve, help family members, look after our physical well-being, shop, cook, and more, it only flows well when we each value the other’s efforts and choices. We have to be equal partners in our marriage. If one of us does all the sacrificing and the other does little or none, the result is disharmony… and eventually disrespect and resentment. It is vital for us to agree on the priorities for how we spend our time.

When I think about sacrifice, I believe that it must lead to the greater good, a positive outcome for us and our family and often for others as well. The following perspective sheds light on this concept:

… this seed sacrificed its form so that the tree might grow and develop. Although the form of the seed was destroyed, its reality manifested itself, in perfect majesty and beauty, in the outward form of the tree.

Marriage researcher Scott Stanley says, “The essence of sacrifice is choosing to give up something for the benefit of the other.”

3. Wisdom

I have learned that applying “wisdom” is essential. If my husband or I sacrifice to the point that well-being is an issue, we have robbed our marriage of our full participation. Balance, moderation, and tuning in to each other’s mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical condition is vital. My husband came home from work recently fully intending to focus on his second home-based job. It was clear though that I’d had a difficult day. He wisely sacrificed his original intention and spent time listening to me and supporting me. A small example perhaps, but it nurtured our marriage and unity that day. It also equipped me to be an equal partner in consulting about his new business.

4. Self-Abnegation

This brings us to the most difficult part of the quotation for me to understand: “self-abnegation”. It appears to mean denying oneself some rights or conveniences. However, the term causes a strong emotional pushback for me. You see, I went through an abusive first marriage and ended up feeling like nothing, a lump with no value. This term makes me think about negating myself, which feels scary, unhealthy, and difficult. I worked hard to see myself as a valuable human being. So, how can I apply this concept in marriage? I want to be able to practice “self-abnegation” in the present without triggering feelings and circumstances from the past.

Over and over when I read the Baha’i teachings I’m reminded that there are balancing principles. Baha’u’llah says, “Noble have I created thee” and Abdu’l-Baha says, “man’s supreme honor and real happiness lie in self-respect, in high resolves and noble purposes, in integrity and moral quality, in immaculacy of mind.”

When I strive to understand “self-abnegation” in this context, I wonder if it could to be linked to Abdu’l-Baha’s teaching that “we must sacrifice the important for the most important.” For my partner and me, sorting out our priorities and unity of purpose requires prayer and consultation. The Baha’i teachings are full of what is most important and foundational, and a significant focus is maintaining love and unity. Shoghi Effendi uses “self-abnegation” like this: “those who, by their acts of self-abnegation, have emulated the example of the heroes of our Faith at the early dawn of its history.” So, can we be heroes for each other in our marriage?

As we assess the quality of our marriage, we see that there is a constant flow of selfless service to each other and support from each other to enable selfless service outward to others. This for us is the heart of “self-abnegation”. We shift our heads away from our computer screens and notice that we need to support each other by cooking, making love, consulting about family and work challenges, and socializing with each other and others. We have to pay attention to what is going on with each other. We must notice each other’s needs and ensure those needs are met. Thoughtfulness, kindness, caring, love, and more are the companion qualities for carrying out “self-abnegation”.

What a united marriage could look like:

The Baha’i community is focused on learning to accompany each other along a path of service and learning towards the transformation of all humanity. Maintaining a unified marriage is one of the many ways we are of service to each other and to others. Marriage is a basic building block for families and the unity of humanity. We are reminded:

… if the friends are not able to maintain harmony within their families, on what other basis do they hope to demonstrate to a skeptical world the efficacy of the pre-eminent character of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah? What possible influence could they hope to exert on the development of nations and the establishment of world peace?

Sometimes I see couples spend so much time doing community service that their marriages struggle. It is easy to think that this is the only heroic choice when humanity is in such need. I wonder though whether “self-abnegation” at times must look like sacrificing some outward service time to be of service to our marriage partners. This gives us the time and energy to put “effort” into the quality of our marriages and family life.

Surely Shoghi Effendi would like to see you and the other friends give their whole time and energy to the Cause, for we are in great need for competent workers, but the home is an institution that Baha’u’llah has come to strengthen and not to weaken. Many unfortunate things have happened in Baha’i homes just for neglecting this point. Serve the Cause but also remember your duties towards your home. It is for you to find the balance and see that neither makes you neglect the other.

“Effort and sacrifice and wisdom and self-abnegation” are not easy, but the result is a marriage with strongly-connected partners who see service to each other as an important and loving contribution to community-building. I believe that these actions make it possible for couples to create “a fortress for well-being and salvation.” where we truly fulfill the wedding vow, “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”


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A Black Family and a White Family, United

Baha'i - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 1:07pm

Mine was a typical southern African-American family in the mid-1960s when my parents learned about the Baha’i Faith. My parents were hard-working young people from modest means, determined to establish...

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Nobility, Metaphor and Spiritual Education

Baha'i - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 8:00am

The improvement of the soul through the metaphorical intake and dramatization of spiritual  attributes is hardly a new idea. For ages the allegorized fable has been employed in almost every...

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3 Ways Baha’is Deal with Global Warming

Baha'i - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:00am

What role can religion play in tackling the major social issues of our time—including the global environmental challenge of climate change? Some people would say that religion and social or...

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The Words of Religion and the Words of Physics

Baha'i - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 8:00am

Let’s consider, for a moment, the words many religions have used to describe the human spirit throughout the ages—and compare them to the new language of modern physics. Religion has...

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The Nexus of Race and Faith

Baha'i - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 10:01am

My experience with faith and race is an improbable journey of growth and spiritual transformation. That transformation has played out against the backdrop of weighty social changes in the United...

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Learning about Climate Change Disaster Risk Reduction

Baha'i - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 10:00am

Vanuatu, an archipelago of 80 volcanic islands in the South-West Pacific, is ground zero in the world’s fight against climate change.   As with other island nations, climate change is...

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Every Day Is Better Than the Good Old Days

Baha'i - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 8:00am

As Freud stated, we humans are “pleasure seeking, pain avoiding” creatures. Interestingly, we put pain behind us for the most part, except when it demands our immediate attention. When we...

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Unity Prayer performed by Van Gilmer

Baha'i - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:11pm

Vocal soloist, composer and choral director Van Gilmer puts Baha’u’llah’s Unity prayer to music: O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants and reveal to them...

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When Did You Begin to Think Abstractly?

Baha'i - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:00am

As any teacher knows, the process of abstract thinking is hardly confined to the education of adults. Think about it: when did you start thinking abstractly as a child? Wittingly...

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Everyone You Meet is the Beloved

Baha'i - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 8:00am

When we look beyond the veil of outward appearances and circumstances, people aren’t always what they appear to be. Last week I went shopping for a sofa at a major...

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Interview with Dr. Moojan Momen About the Afnan Library Trust

Baha'i Blog - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 3:10pm

The events of Baha’i history are so close to us that we can easily be connected to those early heroic days–Rainn Wilson wrote about meeting a person who had met Baha’u’llah! I am fascinated by our history and how we are recording, capturing and preserving it for future generations. When I came across the Afnan Library Trust’s Facebook page and saw a photograph I had never seen before of the Greatest Holy Leaf, I was delighted and thrilled and I wanted to share some of that excitement with you (as well as the photograph, which can be seen below!). In this interview, Dr Moojan Momen, one of the Trustees of the Afnan Library, shares a little bit about this extraordinary institution:

Baha’i Blog: Hello Dr Momen! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! To begin, could you please tell us a little about how the Afnan Library came to be?

Dr. Moojan Momen. Photo: Courtesy of Immersed Photography

Hand of the Cause of God Mr Hasan Balyuzi (himself an Afnan), in a codicil to his will, expressed a wish that his extensive collection of papers, books, manuscripts, photographs and newspaper cuttings become the basis to found and develop a research library ‘for the benefit of all who seek knowledge.’ The library was to be founded in the name of his father Muvaqqaru’d-Dawlih and mother Munavvar Khanum, to be dedicated to Khadijih Bagum, the wife of the Bab, and to be named the Afnan Library. To fulfil this wish, the Afnan Library Trust was established as an independent charity in 1985, with the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom as the fourth Trustee, as was the wish of Mr Balyuzi.

Baha’i Blog: How does this library differ from others?

The Afnan Library is the only accessible research library on the Baha’i Faith in the world.

In a letter to the Trustees, the Universal House of Justice wrote that it ‘views the final accomplishment of the wishes of the late Hand of the Cause as of the very greatest importance.’

Baha’i Blog: What is the scope of its collection? What are some items in its collection that you find particularly interesting?

The Greatest Holy Leaf. This photograph is part of the Afnan Library’s collection. Photo: Courtesy of Immersed Photography.

The library presently contains some 10,000 books and vast quantities of manuscripts, handwritten letters, maps, documents, periodicals, photographs and unpublished items relating to the religion as well as books and materials relating to the history of Iran, the Middle East and major world religions.

The Trustees of the Library have attempted over the years to fulfil the wishes of Mr Balyuzi and develop the scope of the Library, adding to his own collection with books, manuscripts and other archival materials donated by many outstanding Baha’is, such that the Library today is now home to over 20 other individuals collections and photocopies of over 120 volumes of manuscripts from the Iran National Baha’i archives.

The main subject area of the Library is the study of all aspects of the Baha’i Faith. It also covers associated subject areas such as the history and culture of Iran and the Middle East, the study of religion and comparative religion.

Further to the books and papers we have a wide collection of Baha’i Journals and periodicals from around the world.

Of particular interest are books containing inscriptions and signatures of early western Baha’is, Hands of the Cause, and key figures from Baha’i history, plus the papers of Mr Balyuzi himself which provide an invaluable insight in to the early development of the British Baha’i Community and the Institution of the Hands of the Cause. Some of this material (as well as news about the library) can be found on our Facebook page:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about what materials are available online and perhaps about what plans the Trust has for putting materials online?

This is still a work in progress for us as we are just beginning to upload material to our website, So far, we have uploaded a number of manuscripts, journals and published books in Persian, Arabic and English.

We are aiming to upload those items that are not easily accessed elsewhere for use by the scholars and researchers of the Faith, and other academics in the field. Researchers are of course welcome to come to the library by appointment, but we see the vital need for our materials to be made accessible around the world.

Baha’i Blog: What are the current needs of the library?

There are several ways in which people can assist with the work of the Library. Other than the obvious need for financial donations there is the donating of books, other printed materials and manuscript materials that relate to the subject areas covered by the library. In particular, the Library seeks to obtain rare Baha’i books and manuscripts and runs of Baha’i periodicals, such as national newsletters. Any donations need to be checked with us first as there are of coursed many titles that would be duplicates.

Another need of the Library is volunteers. We need qualified librarians and archivist (ideally being able to read both English and Persian), volunteers with IT skills for a variety of internal and remote work, and volunteers for translating our web pages into other languages.

Baha’i Blog: How has the library been used thus far?

Visitors to the Afnan Library. Photo: Courtesy of Immersed Photography.

We have been very happy to have received many visitors and researchers in the last few years and since the launch of the website we have been able to assist a number of individuals with their searches. As we said it is very early days and we are still in the process of unpacking the numerous boxes of books and papers that are revealing more and more treasures from the history of our Faith. Every new discovery is like a gift from the past and brings us closer to uncovering the magnitude of the body of work of the Baha’i world.

Baha’i Blog: The physical space looks beautiful! Could you tell us about the property?

The library is housed in an old Baptist chapel in the small market town of Sandy in Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom. The building was recently refurbished into an open plan office and the collection is stored on purpose built locally crafted wooden bookshelves over two storeys with work and meeting spaces. As an old chapel the building offers a very calm and dignified space for the library and a fitting tribute to the work and legacy of the Hand of the Cause of God, Mr Balyuzi.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Dr Momen, for sharing this with us!

If you’d like to know more about the Afnan Library Trust, or contact them about donations, or volunteering, check out their website: You can also follow the Afnan Library Trust on Facebook:

Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

A Way Out of Extreme Wealth

Baha'i - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:00am

“82% of the wealth generated in 2017 in the world went to the richest 1%.” That headline led the news today, and it made me feel horrible. The article went...

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The Important Spiritual Role of Abstract Thought

Baha'i - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 8:00am

Metaphors have an important primary place in our understanding of the physical world—but they have an even more important spiritual role. In all spiritual things—which after all describe the numinous...

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No Man Is An Island, All Are Parts Of The Whole

Baha'i - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 12:00pm

Thanks to unfolding inventions ranging from the telephone to the internet, we are now more aware than ever of the social conditions of our global community. Some developments give hope,...

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Making Force the Servant of Justice

Baha'i - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 10:00am

The Baha’i vision of a new world order is not some utopian fantasy—it is the next inevitable stage in the long process of human social evolution: Let there be no...

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The Spiritual Significance of Gold

Baha'i - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 8:00am

Colors carry connotations. Whether it’s a lush green, signifying new life and abundance, or indigo representing it’s tumultuous history of slavery and wealth, we associate all kinds of emotions, stigmas,...

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The Dangers of Pride and Prejudice

Baha'i - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 10:00am

How often do we hear parents say to their child, “I’m proud of you” or “You should be proud of yourself”? Even in school, children are taught to be proud...

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