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Jacqueline Claire on Painting as a Form of Prayer

Baha'i - Fri, 08/30/2019 - 10:00am

Ever dreamed of walking into an art exhibit, wishing you could interact with the artist and the art itself? What if you could go one step further and gain insight...

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Seeing a Reflection of the Divine in Others

Baha'i - Fri, 08/30/2019 - 8:00am

The Baha’i teachings assure us that God always watches over humanity, primarily through the gradual unfoldment of spiritual teachings by an ongoing series of divine messengers and prophets.  As an...

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19 Animated Videos by the Baha’is of Ireland for the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab

Baha'i Blog - Fri, 08/30/2019 - 4:25am
The Irish Baha’i Community is creating a series of 19 short animated videos in honor of the bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, Prophet-herald of the Baha’i Faith. These charming and succinct videos share warmly-told stories about the early days of the Baha’i Faith and about some qualities of the Bab. I was delighted when Trisha from the Irish Office of Public Affairs graciously agreed to tell us a little bit about them. I hope you enjoy our conversation:

 Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration to make a series of videos? Our Office of Public Affairs decided that we’d like to commemorate and celebrate the Life, Heroism and Mission of the Bab and the early believers during the Bicentenary year of the Birth of the Bab. We are fortunate to be an Office with members and collaborators who are able to do some or all of the tasks associated with making videos so we decided this would be the best medium for us – a case of, “use what you have”, I suppose. We then worked on developing a series of stories that are not only based on historical events but also highlight the qualities of the Bab and the other heroic souls who surrounded Him. Qualities and virtues like love, independent investigation of truth, obedience to God, truthfulness, selflessness, vision, insight, valour, regard for the wellbeing of society and –  it goes without saying – courage of every sort. Our idea is that these qualities are vitally needed in the world, maybe never more than in present times when there is so much dysfunction, injustice and suffering. To showcase these qualities we decided to tell stories that show the qualities rather than just speak about the qualities themselves. We also decided to add stories about the Irish connection with the Bab and the Baha’i Faith. As you know, our first video was about Dr. Cormick – whose father was from Ireland – and who is the only Westerner known to have met the Bab. We have another couple of videos in the series highlighting the Irish connection. We tried to make all of the stories as simple and accessible as possible while still being historically accurate. Interestingly, some people think we have created the series for children but that isn’t the case. While we hope that the videos are indeed accessible for children, they are intended for everyone of every age, every nationality and, indeed, every religion or belief. We are fans of the advice attributed to Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” We chose to use stories and a story-telling style as stories are extremely powerful in transmitting concepts. Engagement with stories can allow us to have a peek at the thoughts, motives, hopes and feelings of others. This then can help us to form the so-called “theory of mind” which we need to use when we are navigating complex social situations. In other words, stories can help us to work out what to do in our lives when we find ourselves in uncharted territory. To be honest, since we started working on the series and have become sort of immersed in these stories ourselves, some of us have even found that it has helped when working out what to do or how to be in much more ordinary situations. Love and courage and all the other qualities have applications in every sphere of life, I guess! Baha’i Blog: How were the videos put together? So, firstly we decided together which stories to tell and then as we work we split up the jobs – researching, writing, graphics, animation, finding the narrators and arranging the filming, finding music, filming and recording the narrators, editing, video production – there are quite a few jobs! However, we are very fortunate as we find that everyone we’ve dealt with has been endlessly helpful. People have supported us and indulged our sometimes chaotic way of working and have let us film in their kitchens and gardens, before meetings, during projects – we really could not have made any videos at all without this goodwill and assistance. Baha’i Blog: How have the videos been received so far? The videos have been very well received. Obviously there is support in Ireland for these videos but we’ve also had lovely support from people all around the world. We have also had requests from a number of Baha’i communities for “clean” copies of the videos so that they can be translated into different languages. This makes us really happy as we feel it means we have created something that can be of use to others. (Public apology – the production of “clean” copies is behind schedule so to anyone reading this who has asked for clean copies – we are very sorry and we promise to get more of them to you as soon as we can!!!) Baha’i Blog: What is the aim of the project? As I said above, there are two main aims – one is to highlight the amazing virtues and qualities of the Babi period in a way that is accessible and relatable for all of us today as we work to build healthy, just and safe communities, and the other is to tell stories that show the connection between Ireland and the Bab and the Baha’i Faith. Baha’i Blog: When will all the videos be released? The final videos in the series will be released in October to celebrate the Twin Birthdays. Baha’i Blog: Where are all the places the videos can be watched? The videos can be watched on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and soon on our website –  Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Trisha, for sharing this information with us! Below you’ll find the introductory video for the series:

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The Science of Kids and Religion

Baha'i - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 10:00am

When my friends, a pregnant couple about to have twins, asked me if they should raise their children with a religion, I immediately got curious about the science involved in...

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Materialism and the Fall of Religion

Baha'i - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 8:00am

Religious and spiritually-minded people commonly decry the corrosive rise of materialism. The Baha’i writings repeatedly criticize the rise of materialism as a major ill in our society, describing it as:...

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5 Glimpses of the Afterlife from the Baha’i Writings

Baha'i - Wed, 08/28/2019 - 10:00am

The Baha’i teachings say that “Whatever objects appear in this world of existence are the outer pictures of the world of heaven.” How can we see, then, what those objects...

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Adam and the Age of Prophecy

Baha'i - Wed, 08/28/2019 - 8:00am

The Baha’i teachings explain that we humans all need an educator—that without education, we would never acquire “the means of comfort, civilization and human virtues:” … education is of three...

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The Primal Point: A New Book of Tributes to the Bab and His Followers

Baha'i Blog - Tue, 08/27/2019 - 11:08am

The Primal Point is a significant and timely paperback volume recently published by George Ronald that contains testimonials and tributes to the Bab and some of His early followers. The anthology was put together in honor of the bicentennial anniversary of the Birth of the Bab and rather than capture a comprehensive chronological account of His life, it focuses on the importance of His station and the impact of His Revelation. In its preface, the book’s compiler, Rob Weinberg, writes that it is particularly hoped that the book will inspire Baha’i youth, “who follow so conscientiously with such ardour in the footsteps of their God-intoxicated spiritual forebears.”

The book begins with excerpts from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi about the Station of the Bab and His Revelation. You’ll also find extracts from Babi and Baha’i authors that discuss some of the events of His life and their significance. Many of the writers quoted may be familiar to Baha’is; authors such as Hasan Balyuzi, Horace Holley, Nabil, and Lady Blomfield are included. These writers and their works are priceless in their own right but it’s valuable to see selections of pieces that pertain to the Bab collected all in one place. 

Beautifully written essays by Douglas Martin and Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum are also republished in this book, along with quotations from contemporaries of the Bab such as Dr Cormick, His physician at Mah-Ku, Tolstoy, and E. G. Browne, among others. The story of the Bab spread across Europe and accounts of His Life and Ministry appealed to Western scholars, some of whose words are include in The Primal Point. All told, a reader of The Primal Point is provided with a series of lenses with which to better understand the Bab and His Station in this historic anniversary year and in many years to come.

The Primal Point can be purchased here from Amazon.


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Lichtblicke: A Hip Hop Album by Projekt Leuchtfeuer That Shines a Ray of Hope

Baha'i Blog - Fri, 08/23/2019 - 5:02am

Projekt Leuchtfeuer is a German musical group and they’ve released an album called Lightblicke. Made up of Armin Naimi, Shahnam Izadpanah, Esra Lilian, and Djamschid Solouk, this 19 track album will have your head bopping and your toes tapping. The songs tackle social issues and deal with questions about the refinement of our character and the improvement of society. In German and English, these songs are the fruits of a close collaboration and I was excited to find out more:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about Projekt Leuchtfeuer?

Project Leuchtfeuer is a music collective – consisting of four main members – that strives to inspire and encourage contemplation on ethical-moral issues, the pressing issues of the time and spiritual-metaphysical concepts. The group’s creativity stems from the principles of the Baha’i Faith and its comprehensive Writings, which claim to open the way for the world to unite the whole of humanity. Our identity is based on the idea of a transnational cosmopolitanism and a positive image of mankind – an identity that is fundamentally animated by the deep belief that the earth is only one country and all human beings are its citizens. 

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the album, Lichtblicke, and its significance to you?

This is not the first album we ever made. Since 2006, we made our music available to friends and family, and made appearances at Baha’i youth conferences in Germany. “Lichtblicke”, which translates to “rays of hope”, has been in the making for the last three years. Once I started to volunteer at the Baha’i World Center in 2015, I felt very inspired – being surrounded by the gardens and Shrines – and wanted to fuel our music with this reborn energy. So, we started to prepare a 10-year anniversary album, but all of us being so widespread made it logistically challenging. We recorded eight songs in 2016 and decided that we needed more material and continued writing and producing. At the end of 2018, all four of us got together to revisit the first eight songs and recorded the other songs. It was great spending time together again and recording the album in Stuttgart, the birthplace of the German Baha’i community. The spirit of those four days was so energizing, that I can’t wait to record again.

The significance of this new album is to be seen in its full inspiration from the concepts and verities of the beloved Faith. Every song was recorded after contemplation and the aid of prayer and draws its elements from the Holy Writings. In this sense, the album contains tracks about the principles of the Baha’i ethics and issues of society; one essential song is about the life of the Manifestation of God and Their impact on the course of history, and in one of the songs some of the great figures in an ever-advancing civilization of humanity are remembered and honored. We are very thankful for having received the chance to work on this project, and humbly hope that the Most-Beloved may accept it in His Grace.

We have four completely different personalities and yet have special connections with each other. When we are writing and recording together something magical happens. The preparations for the main recording of “Lichtblicke” were an exchange of ideas and consultations about topics of our time.

I think this album offers something for everyone, every taste and every mood and is therefore quite unique.

When Armin, Shahnam, Esra and I finally met again for a recording session in Stuttgart (Germany) between Christmas and New Year’s Eve of 2018, it was about time to proclaim a new chapter of our band’s history concerning the improvement of quality in lyrics, music production and singing/rapping skills. We all used our talents and experience to express our Bahai-inspired thoughts. Each of the 19 songs on this album, mostly written in German, stands for itself and tells an own story or truth ranging from homages to the Manifestations of God over to songs of gratefulness and joy as well as to social criticism. This album has inspired me every day since the release on January 19th, 2019.

Baha’i Blog: What inspires your songs?

Our songs are inspired by the Writings of the Baha’i Faith and our experiences with a world that has a lot of conflicting ideas. So, by combining lyricism and the principles of the Writings, we hope to provide some clarity.

Baha’i Blog: Any interesting stories about the album or some of the songs you’d like to share?

When working on “Magnet” – a song that puts the quote “A kindly heart is the lodestone of the hearts of men, it is the bread of the spirit…” to music – we had a lot of ideas in our head, but we were struggling to put it to music. I wanted to make a song that was inspired by Sauti Sol, who was introduced to me by my brother-in-law. So, we gave him a call and he liked our initial idea and then he shaped the direction of where it needed to go to finalize the song. We had such a great time when recording this gem of a track.

Being in the city blessed by the footsteps and the holy presence of the Master, in order to work on a creative project, that follows the purpose of inspiring the youth and society in general, was in itself the greatest perception and sensation to me during those very heartwarming days that we could spend together. I am very thankful that my wonderful wife, Olivia, who also had the chance of being with us during the recording sessions, which made the experience even more precious to me. I love all of the members of the group from the bottom of my heart and every moment, in which they were happy, was in truth a joyful and memorable moment for me.

There was a moment where Shahnam lost one of his lyrics for a song and he was searching and searching for about an hour, absolutely devastated. I went downstairs and after some time I could suddenly hear screaming, yelling and cheering and I thought he must have won the lottery or something, but it was him finding the lyrics again! So much care goes into writing our songs that it was quite a dilemma, when the lyrics were lost. There’s a video somewhere as proof of his hysteria!

The special thing about the album is that each of the 19 songs talk about a different topic that can be used for uplifting conversations with our fellow citizens. I have my special connection to each of them. The weightiest for me is the first song “Lichtblicke” (Rays of Hope). When I heard Shahnam recording it live, I felt awed due to the unity within the realm of God’s Manifestations, which the song describes in German lyrics. Another memorable moment to me was that Esra’s children were also present during some of the recordings and attentively listening to her live recording. Yet another moment was the spontaneously and collectively arranged song two, “Magnet”, which deals with the kindness and wisdom that we should share when meeting each other.

Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We are always open to collaborate with musicians and artists from around the world and they should feel free to get in touch with us on Instagram.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much! You can find ‘Lichtblicke’ on all major platforms for streaming and purchase: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal, and Soundcloud.


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Zaynab and the Women of Zanjan

Baha'i Blog - Tue, 08/20/2019 - 7:42pm

From their earliest years, generations of Baha’is have prayed: “Make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.” Shining lamps and brilliant stars are only necessary, and only visible, in times of darkness. The women of Zanjan, a city in north-west Persia, who recognised the truth of the claim of the Bab, shone as brilliant stars through the darkness of the “most violent and devastating” of “the great conflagrations” which consumed the followers of the Bab in the East, South, West, and capital of Persia in the middle of the 19th century. Through the long months that came to be recognized as one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the Babi Revelation, they struggled side by side with the Babi men, serving, sacrificing, suffering. The sole purpose of the men, as repeatedly stated by their leader Hujjat, was to preserve inviolate the security of the women and children from the attacks heaped upon them for their beliefs. At the same time the sole purpose of the women was to provide the means by which the men could continue to defend the community. They were part of one heroic interdependent whole. 

Zanjan, at the behest of its governor and loudly proclaimed by its crier, was a city divided. In one camp were the Babis, well-wishers of all, who refrained from aggression and acts of violence, and in the other where those inflamed with “enthusiastic moral support of the entire ecclesiastical body in Zanjan” who sought to eradicate the Babis and everything they believed in.

Zaynab is singled out as exceptional. She was a young single peasant woman from a hamlet near Zanjan, renowned for her lofty faith and intrepid courage, which was manifested with unrivalled heroism. And we will direct our gaze to Zaynab in a moment. But first I’d like us to consider the women who surrounded Zaynab and the multitude of ways in which their love for the Bab was expressed.

Firstly, as mothers, they directed their children to follow scrupulously the admonitions of the Bab and taught them to say, “Our beloved Master Himself is the first to practise them. Why should we who are His privileged disciples hesitate to make them the ruling principles of our lives?” They raised children who fearlessly served their Lord in the most difficult of circumstances and to uphold His teachings such as the equality of women and men, the importance of universal education, and the upliftment of the poor and needy.

When the near 3,000 Babis sought protection in the fort of Ali-Mardan Khan, the women and children, as much as the men, hastened to defend their Faith. Despite the violence, despite “the disorder, the cursing, the ribald laughter, the debauchery and shame” of their attackers’ camp, the Fort was characterized by an “atmosphere of reverent devotion.” While there, within a four-month period of onslaught and persecution, 200 Babi women and men married and all of these couples, whether within minutes, days or at most weeks of their nuptials, perished as martyrs in the defense of their community. One woman who was newly married and pregnant at the time the battle began, witnessed the martyrdom of her husband and then gave birth in the fort. Far from lamenting her plight, she raised and reared her son, Ashraf, to also hold the Bab’s teachings to heart and with unshakable resolve, as an adult, he too was killed for his beliefs.

Other mothers, sisters and wives witnessed their loved ones “butchered in circumstances of unbridled cruelty” or “gazed…upon the heads of their brothers raised on spears and brutally disfigured by the weapons of their foes.” The voices of women animated the zeal of their fellow disciples, and contributed to miraculous victories through their shouts of exultation raised in the face of an almighty foe. Not content with enthusiastically encouraging their men to fight, many of them rushed into the field of battle, either to revive the strength of the wounded with skinfuls of water, or to take the places of their fallen brethren in battle. Women, alongside the men, laboured “with unabating fervour to strengthen the defences of the fort and reconstruct whatever the enemy had demolished.” With all their energy, regardless of rank and age, they also sewed, baked, tended the sick and wounded, cleared the courts of cannon balls and missiles, cheered the faint in heart and animated the faith of the wavering. Every thought and desire was subordinated to the goal of defending the fort from the enemy. And should a spare moment present itself, it was consecrated to prayer.

In the words of the historian Nabil:

Such was the spirit of solidarity that characterized their labors, and such the heroism of their acts, that the enemy was led to believe their number was no less than ten thousand.

After months of battle against vast enemy forces, when the fort was conquered, the surviving women were taken captive, assaulted, sexually assaulted, held captive like sheep in a crowded structure without a roof and without furniture in the midst of winter, deprived of food, clothing and all belongings. And yet, through all this, they were characterized by an unsurpassed steadfastness.

These were the attitudes, actions, service and sacrifices of the heroines by which Zaynab was surrounded. And even amongst such women, Zaynab shone. For five months Zaynab disguised herself as a man and took her place at the front of the battle. Raising her sword and the cry of “Ya Sahibu’z-Zaman” (“O Lord of the Age”), she flung herself into battle time and again. The enemy regarded her as a curse and fled before her. Hujjat himself acknowledged that her vitality and resourcefulness were matched by few men. She gave no thought to food or to sleep and battled incessantly until she was killed beneath a shower of bullets. Even her death could not put an end to her power: after her death no less than twenty women came to recognize the source of that power, and became Babis.

We no longer live at a time when putting into action the teachings of the Bab and Baha’u’llah will cost us our lives. When we pray to be like shining lamps and brilliant stars what does that mean today? What does it mean in the societies in which we live? In our work? In our family life? And in the quiet moments of prayer when we call Zaynab, and the women of Zanjan, to mind?


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