June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Dr. Lameh Fananapazir recently authored A Companion to the Study of the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. If you are unfamiliar with The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (which you can read on the Baha’i reference library here) it is the last tablet of Baha’u’llah and it is addressed to a wealthy cleric who made it his life’s mission to destroy the Baha’i Faith and its followers. Shoghi Effendi translated the work into English and encouraged every Baha’i to study it.
Dr. Fananapazir’s work shares a wealth of sources from other religious texts that will help us to understand the significance of Baha’u’llah’s epistle, which Shoghi Effendi described as a library in of itself.
I am honoured that Dr. Fananapazir agreed to tell us a little bit about the companion he has put together. Here is what he shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born during a teaching trip my parents made to Zahedan, a southern eastern province of Iran and spent my youth in Africa, Gambia, Morocco, and Kenya.
I am a graduate of Edinburgh Medical School and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. I trained in cardiovascular diseases and specialized in electrophysiology at Duke Medical Center, following which I was recruited to study causes of sudden death in athletes and patients with familial cardiomyopathies at the National Institutes of Health where I became the chief of the section of inherited heart diseases. I spent two and half years in Haifa, Israel where I was the director of the health services at the Baha’i World Centre and a visiting professor of molecular genetics at Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.
I retired recently. Following 9/11, I authored a book Islam at the Crossroads, published by George Ronald. This examines the religious and sectarian hostilities, the many issues that Islam and its sister religions, Judaism and Christianity, increasingly face, and their potential solutions in the light of Baha’u’llah’s teachings.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book and what inspired you to write it?
Christ had warned His followers to be aware of religious leaders who will come in sheep’s clothing, that are similar in outward appearances to His other followers, but inwardly they are ravening [predatory and rapacious] wolves. The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf is a singular work, addressed by the Messenger of God for this Day to one such religious leader – one of His most virulent and active opponents, Shaykh Muḥammad-Taqi.
The epistle constitutes a divine and majestic summary – an overview of His historic prophetic Mission. The 830 explanatory annotations of A Companion to the Study of the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, published by George Ronald, serve as an aid to the study of the last major Writing of Baha’u’llah (1891). Following its translation into English language in 1940, Shoghi Effendi telegrammed: “Devoutly hope (that) its study may contribute (to) further enlightenment (and) deeper understanding (of the) verities on which effectual prosecution (of the) teaching (and) administrative undertakings ultimately depends. Deepest love.”
Baha’u’llah Himself has culled, from the entire range of His own revelatory Writings, extensive passages which best characterize and define the purpose of His Faith and its meaning for humanity. The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf reviews many passages of the Bible and the Qur’an, emphasizing the continuity of God’s will and purpose, as expressed by One Common Faith – He states categorically: “These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated.”
Baha’u’llah announces the fulfillment of the glad-tidings, the “Good News” of the Bible and the Qur’an concerning His advent. In addition, He reviews salient events in the history of His Faith, His proclamation to the monarchs of His time, including the cruel and autocratic Nasiri’d-Din Shah, and Pope Pius IX; describes the first intimations of His revelation in the Siyah-Chal or Black Pit of Tehran, the violation of the Covenant of the Bab by His enemies, and ending with remarkable Islamic traditions regarding Akka.
Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put this work together? What challenges did you face?
The epistle is a comprehensive Writing of Baha’u’llah which requires a knowledge of His vast Revelation as well as the scriptures of earlier dispensations. A significant challenge was attempting to keep the companion as succinct as possible without taking away from the majesty of Baha’u’llah’s already very condensed Writing. This effort was facilitated by the remarkable editing of May Hofman. A further challenge was the bibliography and finding the references contained in books that are not currently readily available.
Baha’i Blog: Who is the intended audience of your book?
The epistle is an essential source for anyone who wishes to gain a greater understanding of the Writings of Baha’u’llah, and the essential tenets of His stupendous Faith. Shoghi Effendi disabuses us of any notion that this Writing may in some way be limited to the particular circumstances of the Shaykh to whom it is addressed. By linking its study to our dependence on “further enlightenment” and “deeper understanding” of the “verities” of the Faith, he establishes the immediacy and universal import of the text for each and every believer.
With its many references to earlier scriptures, it is particularly valuable for explaining the relation of the Baha’i Faith to Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs. One is astounded by the triumph of a revelation after almost four decades of relentless persecution and multiple banishments.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away long after they’ve finished reading?
There is always salvation, even for individuals such as the Muslim cleric who had committed heinous atrocities against so many innocent and defenceless followers of Baha’u’llah, if there is acknowledgment of one’s trespasses and a sincere desire for forgiveness and to reform.
As with other dispensations, Judaism, Christianity and Islam “have proceeded from one Source, and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated.”
In this epistle Baha’u’llah states unequivocally that He is the long awaited World Redeemer expected by the adherents of the religions of humanity, anticipated to rehabilitate the spiritual fortunes of their faiths and to usher in an age of righteousness and unity.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Dr Fananapazir, for taking the time to share this with us and thank you for creating this companion.
You can purchase A Companion to the Study of the Epistle to the Son of the Wolfhere on Amazon, or from Baha’i book distributors such as Bahaibooks.com.au in Australia.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.