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Sonjel Vreeland

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a mother, a wife and a bookworm but professionally she is a museologist and a library technician. 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.

Dr. Susan Moody: A Dedicated Pioneer Doctor

Dr. Moody with some friends in Tehran, 1920. Photo courtesy of the Baha'is of the U.S. (www.bahai.us)

Seated in the center is Dr. Moody with some friends in Tehran, 1920. (Photo courtesy of the Baha’is of the U.S.)

On November 20th, 1851 a remarkable person was born into this world. Susan Isobel Moody would grow up to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to bringing medical care and education to women and girls in Iran from 1909 to 1934. Born and raised by a respected Protestant family in New York, Susan studied the fine arts and singing. She taught and then attempted to become a doctor but the dissection of cadavers proved too much and she did not complete her training. She was a “spinster-mother” and helped to raise five of her young relatives. While these are all wonderful accomplishments, they pale in comparison to her champion pioneer work in her later years.

In 1903, Susan’s life took a dramatic turn. She became a Baha’i, having learned of the Faith from Isabella Bittingham in New York City (Abdu’l-Baha called Isabella the “Baha’i maker” because of her efficiency at teaching the Faith). In private prayer, Susan vowed: “I hereby devote, consecrate and sacrifice all that I am, and all that I have and all that I hope to be and to have, to Thee, O Divine Father, to be used in accordance with Thy Purpose”. She began teaching children’s classes (the first to be offered in Chicago) and hosting meetings in her home. Bracing herself, she returned to medical school, completed her degree and set up a small practice. She was now a 52-year-old Baha’i doctor. Continue reading

New Book: Steadfastness in the Covenant

Steadfastness in the Covenant 350x540Dr. Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian’s latest book, Steadfastness in the Covenant: Responding to Tests and Tribulations, is a weighty tome. Steadfastness to the Covenant is a combination of our recognition of Baha’u’llah and our obedience to His teachings. Dr. Ghadirian says “in this context the Covenant is like a mighty tree and steadfastness is the fruit of that tree”.

There have been several books published about the unique and sacred nature of the Covenant. “Instead,” Dr. Ghadirian writes, “I have chosen to concentrate on the nature of steadfastness and the capacity to acquire it for the defense of the Cause and as our response to tests and tribulations in the path of God.” Although this is the lens with which he compiled the book, he nevertheless provides a context for the Covenant and explains its details and implications – for example, he describes the differences between the Greater and Lesser Covenants and the “twin Covenants” or the respective Covenants of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha in terms of Their wills and testaments and appointed successors. He also provides metaphors for understanding the Covenant — such as the ocean or a pulsating artery.

Why take this particular perspective of firmness in the Covenant in the face of difficulties? Dr. Ghadirian explains: Continue reading

Dreams of Destiny in the Babi and Baha’i Faiths – An Interview with Dr. Amir Badiei

dreams of destiny 375x563Dreams of Destiny in the Babi and Baha’i Faith is a beautiful new book written by Dr. Amir Badiei and published by the US Baha’i Publishing Trust. It charts the history of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths by examining, in chronological order, over 100 dreams and it highlights the influences of each dream on the dreamer and on their respective time period. Abdu’l-Baha often cites dreams as proof of the existence of the soul and this book highlights the deeply personal and spiritual lives of many historical figures of the Faith.

What I love about Dr. Amir Badiei’s work is that he methodically takes the Writings and historical records and examines them from a completely different perspective, such as dreams or stories. You may have already read Dr. Amir Badiei’s work: Stories Told by Abdu’l-Baha is a compilation that was published in 2003. While there are many historical accounts of the Master, particularly during His travels to the West, this book focuses purely on the stories He told.

I was excited to hear about Dr. Badiei’s newest Baha’i publication and was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed for Baha’i Blog. Continue reading

New Book: Spiritual Mothering – Toward an Ever-Advancing Civilization

Spiritual Mothering cover 350x543Spiritual Mothering: Toward an Ever-Advancing Civilization is new publication compiled and edited by Rene Knight-Weiler.

The book is composed of articles that were published in a magazine called Spiritual Mothering Journal that circulated for 10 years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Its topics are diverse – from more meditative pieces about the daily struggles and victories of motherhood to concrete step-by-step articles about sibling conflict resolution – and its contributors from around the world vary in their perspectives and writing styles (they are primarily, but not soley, Baha’i).

Rene Knight-Weiler writes, “what all these authors have in common is a love of children, a love of writing and a wealth of ability in both arenas. The wisdom they offer is not limited to one generation. It is timeless, just like parenthood itself.” Continue reading

Who Were the Hands of the Cause?

Some of the Hands of the Cause with Counsellors of the International Teaching Centre, in 1973: (front row, left to right) Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan, Mrs. Florence Mayberry, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Mr. Abul-Qasim Faizi, (back row, left to right) Mr. Paul Haney, Mr. Aziz Yazdi, Mr. Hooper Dunbar. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

The Hands of the Cause of God were Baha’is appointed by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, as the “Chief Stewards of Baha’u’llah’s embryonic World Commonwealth.”.

What is a chief steward? A steward is similar to a manager, or director, and so the ‘chief stewards’ of the Faith managed and directed the global activities of the Baha’i Faith. Shoghi Effendi clearly defined their work as “the propagation and preservation of the unity of the Faith of Baha’u’llah.”.

Abdu’l-Baha also described the duties of the Hands of the Cause. He stated that they…

…are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God by their conduct, their manners, their deeds and their words.

Baha’u’llah appointed four Hands, four were posthumously named by the Master, and 42 were given this station by Shoghi Effendi. Little is known about the Hands from the early days of the Faith and the Guardian stated that little will be known about them until the history of the Cause in Iran and the near East is written and available – a time which the Universal House of Justice has said has yet to come. Furthermore, as the study of letters and archives are conducted, we may even learn about other Hands from that time period. Continue reading

Who Are the Knights of Baha’u’llah?

Who were the Knights of Baha'u'llahWhen you hear the title ‘Knight’, different connotations come to mind. Historically speaking, a medieval knight was known for their steadfast honor, their allegiance to God, and their loyalty to their lords and ladies. Their lives were dedicated to religious faith and military action – for example, in the Middle Ages they set out to conquer the Holy Land in the name of Christendom. Shoghi Effendi did not choose his words lightly, and hence the title “Knight of Baha’u’llah” authored by Shoghi Effendi, was a title that was bestowed on those selfless souls who opened 131 specific virgin territories to the Faith during what was known as the Ten Year Crusade.

Even as a child with little knowledge of the development of the Baha’i Faith, the title of “Knight of Baha’u’llah” was connotative to me of the qualities of medieval knights, of spiritual battles and sacrificial heroism. This knightly demeanor is masterfully called for by Shoghi Effendi in a cablegram to the Baha’is of the world sent in 1952 in preparation for the coming Ten Year Crusade which took place between 1953-1963, and which I explain in a little more detail further on. Continue reading

The Significance of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah

The Shrine of Baha'u'llah (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

The Shrine of Baha’u’llah (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

At the hour of dawn on May 29th in 1892, Baha’u’llah, “transcendental in His majesty, serene, awe-inspiring, unapproachably glorious”, passed away in the Mansion of Bahji in what is present-day northern Israel. Shoghi Effendi describes the events that followed in God Passes By:

The news of His ascension was instantly communicated to Sultan Abdu’l-Hamid in a telegram which began with the words ‘the Sun of Baha has set’ and in which the monarch was advised of the intention of interring the sacred remains within the precincts of the Mansion, an arrangement to which he readily assented. Baha’u’llah was accordingly laid to rest in the northernmost room of the house which served as a dwelling-place for His son-in-law, the most northerly of the three houses lying to the west of, and adjacent to, the Mansion. His interment took place shortly after sunset, on the very day of His ascension.

With His burial, the home of His son-in-law became the most precious spot, the holiest of places, for Baha’is all around the world – a place to which we turn to daily when we recite our obligatory prayers and which we aspire to visit as a pilgrim at least once in our lifetimes. Continue reading

An Introduction to the Bayan

Pictured above is the House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran, where the Bab revealed His message. His House is considered one of the holiest sites for Baha'is and it was destroyed by Revolutionary Guards in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Pictured above is the House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran, where the Bab revealed His message. This house is considered to be one of the holiest sites for Baha’is and it was destroyed by Revolutionary Guards in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

Every year Baha’is around the world celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah, on the 8th of Azamat according to the Badi calendar. In honour of that joyous holy day, let’s take a look at the Bayan, a priceless gift the Bab bequeathed to mankind.

What is commonly referred to as ‘the Bayan’ are in fact two distinct and separate texts: the Persian Bayan and the Arabic Bayan. The word ‘bayan’ means ‘exposition’ or ‘utterance’ in Arabic, and there are also instances in the Writings where it refers to the entirety of the Bab’s revelation. Continue reading

My 3 Questions to Frame a Study of the Baha’i Writings

3 Questions to Frame Study of the Text

I naively and ignorantly thought that because I had been raised a Baha’i that I knew the Writings well. It wasn’t long before I realized that while I knew many of the principles of the Faith, I barely knew its sacred texts at all. Baha’u’llah exhorts us to immerse ourselves in the ocean of His words, and I was merely floating on the surface. In a boat.

I personally find that a small part of diving into the study of a text requires that I figure out its context. Through various deepening classes, I have learned that these 3 questions can prove very useful. Continue reading