Subject: Re: Religions unified this century
Date: Friday, May 07, 1999 5:30 PM
To be fair to `Abdul-Baha, I don't think the words he used meant "century"
in the Western sense. The translations are often not technical, and the
Baha'is were often literal-minded, which is a deadly combination. The word
often used that early translators rendered as "century" is `as.r, which just
means "age" or "era." Even the word qarn, which in Modern Standard Arabic
approximates more closely to the Western conception of "century" had a much
looser sense in premodern Arabic. It just meant "age," and was a synonym of
`as.r . This sense survives in the phrase al-quru:n al-wust.a , which means
"Middle Ages" (it doesn't mean "middle centuries" though it uses the plural
of qarn). Remember that `Abdul-Baha was educated in Baghdad in the 1850s
and 1860s before most of the neologisms that express Western concepts were
even invented, and his Arabic has a classical tinge.
I've never seen a text in Persian in which `Abdul-Baha can be read to have
predicted anything explicit about something happening within a hundred years.
The closest I know in English is some Canadian newspaper interview of 1912,
but the Lord knows if the translators and the journalist recorded his views
I know that there is a danger here of letting the fundie Baha'is off the hook.
But what's true is true. `Abdul-Baha's phrases were farm more ambiguous than
the translation "century" would imply.
As for the unity of the religions and a Baha'i theocratic superstate,
`Abdul-Baha did not mean what you suggest by the former and he openly opposed
the latter (see his Treatise on Leadership, up on my Web site, which forbids
religious organizations from so much as proferring their opinion without being
asked to by the civil state). By the "unity" of the religions, `Abdul-Baha
simply meant that all members of all religions would adopt a pluralist stance
and be willing to admit that each of them was in some sense true. He did not
meant that everyone had to become a Baha'i, or would do so. `Abdul-Baha saw
the Baha'i faith as a vehicle for inspiring all believers with pluralist
theologies, even if within their own traditions.
In article <37332f10.0@vlinsvr>,
firstname.lastname@example.org (K. Paul Johnson) wrote:
> The fifth candle is the unity of nations--a unity which is this
> century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of
> the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common
> fatherland. (Selections, p. 32)
Juan Cole, History, U of Michigan, email@example.com
Buy *Modernity and the Millennium: The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith* at:
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