Category Archives Books

Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name

Manijeh Not Only a Change of Name 350x570In the corner of our lounge room sits an elderly woman knitting and smiling but rarely talking as the discussion on spiritual matters swirls around the room.

Then, in one of those silences that develop as people gather their thoughts, she stands up, walks over with the scarf she has knitted and gently places it around a woman’s neck and gives her a hug.

Everybody laughs with joy because love was shown by deeds not words.

What few of them knew, until they were told later, was that the knitter has played an historic role in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was once a custodian of a holy place, the House of the Bab in Bushehr, Iran.

With the assistance of her daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand, Manijeh Saatchi, 84, now of Brisbane, Australia, has produced a book that tells of her experiences in a way that shows how the human spirit, elevated by love and faith, can prevail against the forces of religious persecution.

In an introduction to Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan, wrote that the book “conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail”. Continue reading

The Supreme Remedy: A New Book about Fasting by Deborah Walters

The Supreme Remedy cover 350x539As I join my fellow Baha’is around the world in preparing for the upcoming 19 day Baha’i Fast, I managed to get my hands on a copy of a brand new book by Deborah Walters called The Supreme Remedy – Reflections on applying natural healing arts to the Baha’i Fast.

Deborah Walters is a Doctor of Naturopathy and Homeopathy and she runs a private practice specializing in spiritual, mental and physical healing. In this wonderful book, she draws on both the Baha’i teachings and her own professional experience to examine the human condition of the soul, mind and body. She focuses on how they interrelate and can be harmonized, transformed and energized through the spiritual discipline of the Baha’i Fast and explores the “illimitable” benefits hidden within the Fast and why Baha’u’llah calls it “the supreme remedy” for self and passion.

The Supreme Remedy is also very practical as well, and Deborah answers questions about the Baha’i Fast like: How does the Fast relate to our health, our minds, and our spiritual growth? How can we make it easier and what foods should we eat?

The book is the first of its kind, and Deborah is currently touring to promote her book. I managed to get in touch with Deborah and asked her a few questions about The Supreme Remedy: Continue reading

Lady Blomfield: Her Life and Times – An Interview with Robert Weinberg

Lady Blomfield 350x530The recent post in honour of the Day of the Covenant that asked us what we thank Abdu’l-Baha for really got me thinking. I am grateful for the rich constellation of historical accounts of the life of the Master — many give us an intimate glimpse of the Perfect Exemplar. I am also thankful for the life stories of those bright souls who knew Him and who served Him.

Lady Blomfield was one of those early believers whose spiritual conquests are moving and fascinating. Her contributions to the Cause span a unique period in history as the hostess to the Master in the United Kingdom, a collector of recollections by the ladies of the Holy Family, and a literary assistant to the Guardian. Her services to the wider society in which she lived — at a time of suffrage and World War I — are inspiring.

Owing to the dedicated work of Robert Weinberg, we can now enjoy and study Lady Blomfield: Her Life and Times. Robert graciously agreed to give us a behind-the-scenes look at his marvellous and thoroughly-researched book recently published by George Ronald. Continue reading

The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States recently released a wonderful new video entitled Done Made My Vow to the Lord: The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering 1987–2011.

The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering started over 20 years ago when a group of 12 American men of African descent gathered in a hotel lobby in Greensboro, North Carolina. They came from different parts of the United States, and they came after being invited by Billy Roberts, an Auxiliary Board Member at the time who had noticed that there were very few black males serving on institutions in the Baha’i community of the US. Billy Roberts was also concerned about the state of the black man in North America, as there was a tremendous discourse going on at the time in the US especially, about how black men were an endangered species. Continue reading

Prison Poems by Mahvash Sabet

I recently finished reading Prison Poems, a collection of poetry written by Mahvash Sabet on the fifth anniversary of her incarceration. She is a prisoner of conscience. She was arrested simply for being a Baha’i, along with six other members of the Yaran (the national level group that guided the affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran of which Mahvash served as secretary).

I often find myself sitting in my driveway, with my baby fast asleep in her carseat. I can be found just sitting and waiting. But this week, I read this anthology. It is difficult to imagine Mahvash’s situation today — still imprisoned —  and it is equally difficult to imagine that the words in my hands were written on scraps of paper and smuggled by intermediaries out of her cell until they made their way to French homes of Violette and Ali Nakhjavani and their author daughter, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani. Their adaptation of these poems into English is a labour of love to Mahvash, and all those imprisoned without a voice.

Mahvash Sabet is a 60-year-old former teacher and school principal and a mother of two. After being dismissed from her work during the Revolution, she began informally teaching Baha’i youth who were denied the right to higher education.  She was arrested in 2008 and after three years of show trials on trumped up charges, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. She is being held in Evin prison, Iran’s infamous and brutal detention block. Continue reading

Illustrated Prayer Books: An Interview with Constanze von Kitzing

As a new mother and a life-long bibliophile, I get giddy when new Baha’i books for children hit the shelves – in these early days of the Faith, they are so preciously few! You can imagine my excitement when I discovered Constanze von Kitzing’s works. She is a German illustrator of children’s books, and both the American and German Baha’i publishing trusts have already printed her illustrated prayer book for children and her edition of Blessed is the spot…

A book of excerpts from the sacred writings, entitled Pearls of Wisdom, will be available in the near future and I am grateful that my daughter will grow up with Constanze’s playful images in her hands when we share family devotions. Her art is joyful, colourful and delightful. I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about Constanze and she graciously agreed to tell me about herself and her craft. Continue reading

Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz

Many Baha’is are familiar with the events described in the book The Dawnbreakers, where followers of the Bab were under attack and siege by the Persian army, but aside from these descriptions in the Dawnbreakers, very little is known about the many events which took place during this turbulent period of our Faith’s early history. That is why the new book Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz by Dr. Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman is so important.

Now for the first time, many of the gaps in the history of our Faith during that period have been filled, as one of Dr. Ahdieh’s ancestors, a young boy named Shafi, was one of the few male survivors who had witnessed the horrific events which took place around him in the Persian town of Nayriz. At the request of Baha’u’llah, Shafi documented these events in his diary, and it is this diary which played an important role in the research for this book.

Besides being a Baha’i Historian and an author, Dr. Hussein Ahdieh is also a good friend of mine and I was able to spend some time with him while I was visiting New York recently. We spoke about this wonderful new book and he agreed to tell me and our Baha’i Blog readers more about Awakening. Continue reading

A Celestial Burning: A Selective Study of the Writings of Shoghi Effendi

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 37th Annual Association for Baha’i Studies Conference in Irvine, California, and during the conference I was able to meet J.A. McLean, the author of A Celestial Burning.

This recently published work is a comprehensive study of selected writings of Shoghi Effendi, and the book won the Association for Baha’i Studies 2013 “distinguished scholarship” award in the book category, and according to the Academic Director of the Association, Dr. Pierre-Yves Mocquais, the award was a unanimous decision by the judges.

J.A. McLean spent over a decade working on A Celestial Burning, and there’s no doubt that readers will develop a deeper appreciation for the writings of the Guardian through this book.

I decided to catch-up with J.A. McLean to find out more about the book and his experience in taking on this important work:  Continue reading

WhyUnite? Introductory Baha’i Materials for Everyone

A couple of months ago I wrote a post here on Baha’i Blog called 10 Great Introductory Books on the Baha’i Faith and my aim was to showcase some of the books available for those who want to learn more about the Baha’i Faith. The reality though, is that different people learn in different ways and maybe some of those books are not for everyone, or you’re simply looking for new materials to share with your friends, so that’s why I’m happy to introduce an awesome new initiative called WhyUnite?.

WhyUnite? is series of compelling introductory materials about the Baha’i Faith and the aim is to provide individuals with a variety of options to help them in their exploration of the Faith. Based on the idea that each person learns differently, and that every individual has a unique path they must follow in order to find the truth, meaning, and purpose that will help them reach their fullest potential in the world, WhyUnite? offers a choice of books, compilations, video talks, interviews, events, and more to help introduce the Faith.

This initiative has been a labor of love for husband and wife team Nathan and Sarah Thomas, and I managed to catch up with Nathan to find out more about these wonderful new resources. Continue reading

The Seven Valleys: A Road Map for Life’s Eternal Journey

Even though, as Abdu’l-Baha says, “Every soul is fashioned after the nature of God, each being pure and holy at birth”, as soon as we are born we enter the realm of opposing forces and a lifelong spiritual journey becomes necessary to draw out the virtues and spiritual qualities within us so we can develop more fully our inner nature and potential.

This vital spiritual quest might be thought of as a process of “soul-making,” or what the English poet John Keats says we, as “sparks of the divinity”, undergo in this “World of Pains and troubles” in order “to school an Intelligence and make it a soul.” It is what English teacher and Jungian analyst Marion Woodman says happens “when time meets the timeless” as we constantly confront “the paradox that an eternal being is dwelling in a temporal body.” Soul-making is all about communicating deeply with the inner realm, being fully awake and aware as the numinous bursts forth from the unconscious; it is about experiencing the universals of life. Continue reading