Fire and Light: An Album Dedicated to Baha’u’llah by Peter Held

German pianist and composer, Peter Held, has produced a nuanced jazz album of devotional music dedicated to Baha’u’llah in the bicentennial year of His Birth. The album is called Fire and Light and it contains 18 acoustic and instrumental piano tracks with titles such as “Traces of the Beloved” and “Morning Hour”.

Fire and Light isn’t Peter’s first devotional album. He also released Creation, on which Corinne Bahia sings a selection of Baha’i Writings in accompaniment with Peter’s piano music.

We decided to get in touch with Peter to find out more about his music and what inspired Fire and Light: Continue reading

Normalizing Menstruation Promotes Equality. Period.

When I was eleven, my period leaked for the first time in my sixth-grade class. It was my second period ever, and while age and experience has now confirmed what my mother said to me the day it happened (“Every single woman in the world has leaked”) I was mortified to the point of being momentarily traumatized; boys bullied me for weeks about it, and I exerted all my efforts into avoiding the memory of it. From then on, when I had my period, nothing was more important to me than making sure I didn’t leak. All my thoughts, anxieties, and concerns through the day on those dreaded moments of a month revolved around how many pads or tampons I had in my bag, and how many opportunities I would have to go to the bathroom.

It wasn’t long before I realized this was a concern all my girlfriends shared, and we spent our days in middle and high school clandestinely passing each other pads and tampons in brown bags, so no one would see, and through the sleeves of each other’s shirts like we were exchanging contraband instead of products crucial to our health and well-being. We didn’t talk about our periods above whispers and used euphemisms like “our friend from down South” if we had to talk publicly or loudly. Characters in TV shows didn’t have or refer to their periods; no one in movies seemed affected. Pop stars and models were beautiful all the time and never caved over in cramps, migraines, or nausea, so we put smiles on our faces, saved the complaining for each other when we were home in our pajamas and watching TV, accepting the silence and secrecy as givens and normalcy for menstruating women.

I’d always been passionate about my faith and spirituality, I often talked about the Baha’i Faith’s advocacy for women’s rights, but I never saw how my humiliation or secrecy regarding my period had anything to do with the principle of gender equality. Sometime in my teenage years, I was reading my own copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) that my Baha’i school teacher had given me. I came across the passage:  Continue reading

Baha’i Blog Shop Closing – Last Chance to Get Your Baha’i-Inspired T-Shirts!

After much reflection, the Baha’i Blog team has decided to close down the Baha’i Blog Shop in about 30 days, so it’s your last chance to get your limited edition Baha’i-inspired t-shirts, and help support Baha’i Blog!

Since Baha’i Blog’s inception eight years ago, we’ve been exploring how the Baha’i Faith translates into various avenues of media, whether it be through our written articles, our Studio Sessions musical series, our podcast series called the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson, or our many other forms of Baha’i-inspired content. As a part of this exploration, a few years ago we decided to experiment with Baha’i-inspired content on worn apparel, with a focus on t-shirts. We asked ourselves questions like: “Do we print a t-shirt with a direct quotation from the Baha’i Writings on it, or should the words on the shirt be inspired by a quotation from the Baha’i Writings?”; “Do we print on the front of the shirt, or do we print on the back of the shirt?”, and also, “What sort of impact do these shirts have on those wearing them, and those around them?”. Continue reading

Remembrance Suite: A Sonnet of Sonnets by Shirin Sabri

While reading Remembrance Suite by the poet Shirin Sabri, I found myself getting caught up in emotion.

Thinking about my tearful reaction to these stunning poems, I traced them back to an unusual mixture of feelings of outrage and inspiration.

The poet tells of the wrongs done to some of the women in history but gowns the exposure with descriptions of their achievements, and their eternal glory. The vocabulary is rich, the images suffused with colour and beauty, the message as clear as a bell.

Most of the subjects of the poems are women unknown to most people in the world but they clearly made significant contributions to the great ongoing spiritual journey of humanity. We learn of Hajar and Hatshepsut, of Zenobia and Hypatia. For Baha’is we are treated to new perspectives on Khadijih Bagum, on Navaab, and on Ruhiyyih Khanum. Other subjects are Aseyeh, Maria the Jewess, The Magdalene, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.

In her poem “Grandmothers”, Shirin Sabri lives up to her own injunction in the final verse:

So, tell their stories, breathe upon history’s blood red ember

and light their lovely faces with that flame. We will remember.

I relished the opportunity to ask the poet some questions.  Continue reading

The Exalted One: A Bicentenary Album by Elika Mahony

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Elika Mahony has released an album in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab and it’s befittingly titled The Exalted One. The 11 songs on the album set the prayers and Writings of the Bab to music with piano, cello, guitar, tiple, cuatro (South American instruments) and soaring voice.

I am eager and excited to share my conversation with Elika with you for two reasons: for one, it’s wonderful to shine a light on creative endeavors in these months leading up to the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab but also because Elika is donating the sales of The Exalted One from May 23rd to July 10th to the construction of the Shrine of Abdu’l-Baha! Here is some more information about the album and how it came together: Continue reading

Baha’i World Publication Is Now Online

Perhaps you have seen volumes of The Baha’i World line a bookshelf in a Baha’i home. They are serious and dignified tomes, rich in information about the growth of the Faith, tributes to prominent teachers and promoters of the Cause, and thoughtful commentary. They were first published under the care and supervision of Shoghi Effendi, in the early years of his ministry, and they continued to be published until 2006.

Now The Baha’i World is an online publication. While other websites currently feature sections and the type of information found in older printed volumes, the online platform of The Baha’i World elegantly showcases in-depth articles and thoughtful essays. The site launches with articles that explore various themes such as technologypeacerural development and agriculturethe emergence of Baha’i Houses of Worship, and humanitarian reliefContinue reading

Drawing Closer to the Bab in the Bicentenary Year of His Birth: Some Personal Thoughts

I was speaking recently with a cute five-year old, and our conversation turned from the TV show Paw Patrol to the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab. I asked him his thoughts on how we could celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, and he said: “We should make a nice card for His birthday and tell Him that He is the best Bab we have ever had!”

Aside from being amusing, from the perspective of the theology of the Islamic Dispensation, I thought he was kind of right; from what I’ve learned there actually have been several “babs”, or “gates” (in Shiite Islam it is believed that several historical figures called “gates” acted as intermediaries to the Promised One). So, in this special year, how can we draw closer to the Bab who was the “King of the Messengers”, “the Primal Point round Whom the realities of all the Prophets circle in adoration”, the “Founder of the Dispensation marking the culmination of the six thousand year old Adamic Cycle, Inaugurator of the five thousand century Baha’i Cycle”, “The Primal Point from which have been generated all created things”? Continue reading

‘Stories From the Dawn-Breakers’ by William Sears Is Available Again

I grew up listening to William Sears read some of the stories from The Dawn-Breakers for children and I am delighted that I can now share that same recording with my own kids. Zoe Meyer originally wrote Stories from the Dawn-Breakers and William Sears’ reading of it is warm, captivating and charming — which makes it a fantastic resource for children and junior youth.

Restored and remastered in honor of the upcoming bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, the the four disc set is now available for purchase.

If you’d like to read more about The Dawn-Breakers, we shared an article that introduces that priceless historical text here on Baha’i BlogContinue reading

Louis Venters’s Book About the History of the Baha’i Faith in South Carolina

Louis Venters is a historian and historic preservationist with a particular interest in the histories of race, religion, and social change in the United States. He has just released a new book titled A History of the Baha’i Faith in South Carolina and it features some incredible photographs.

I first met Louis in West Africa when I was a junior youth — many more years ago than I’d care to admit! My family was pioneering in Benin and he was completing a year of service in Togo and Benin. I learned some valuable lessons from Louis about speaking truthfully, lovingly and at times courageously, about being a Baha’i. I feel really honoured that our paths have crossed again, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from his experiences once more. Here’s what he shared about his new book:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in South Carolina, and I became a Baha’i in the late 1980s when I was a junior youth. In fact I first heard about the Faith on Radio Baha’i WLGI, the station that broadcasts from the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute, so in that sense I’m a product of the large-scale growth that made South Carolina such an important part of the American Baha’i community in the 1970s and 1980s. I teach African and African diaspora history, U.S. history, and public history at Francis Marion University, a small public institution in Florence, South Carolina. I also do some public history work, especially through Preservation South Carolina and the state’s African American Heritage Commission. One of the public history projects I’m proudest of is the Green Book of South Carolina, a new mobile travel guide to African American heritage sites across the state. When I’m not being a historian, more often than not it’s my wife and me trying to keep up with our two little boys and serve in our cluster. Otherwise, I’m either at the gym lifting weights or outside running or working in our garden.

Continue reading

Hasten Baha’i Women – A New Resource-Rich Website

A new website appeared on the horizon a few months ago that caught my eye with its beautiful graphics and elevated purpose. Hasten Baha’i Women is full of resources: questions to ponder based on the Baha’i Writings, stories of Baha’i women both historical and contemporary, music, free printables, videos, recipes, and much more! Once you start exploring the site, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of elevated and helpful content!

Bre Vader and Jaleh Mostaghim are the sister-duo behind the site and I’m so grateful they agreed to tell us about it: Continue reading