A Catholic Christian Critique of the Baha'i Faith
We have divided this critique into two parts. Part A is a response to theological problems in Baha'iism and takes the form of a reply to a Baha'i publication of their scriptures, The Proofs of Bahaíuíllahís Mission. Part B is a discussion of Fifteen Discrediting Episodes from Baha'i History and a reply to Douglas Martin's defense of Baha'i legitimacy.
PART A: THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS WITH BAHA'IISM
1) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes, ďThe greatest cause of bereavement and disheartening in the world of humanity is ignorance based upon blind imitationĒ (4) and ďif [man] is educated, he becomes an angelĒ (19). To a large extent we agree with the first statement, i.e. we agree that the vast majority of the worldís people never rise to questioning their parentsí or their societyís beliefs, and therefore contribute to the error/ignorance of the world. However, Christianity is a religion based not on enlightenment to cure the problem of ignorance, but on Godís forgiveness and healing universal human rebellion which is the root cause of all evil. Peoplesí not questioning may lead to ignorance, but Psalm 19 and Romans 1-2 make clear that ignorance of Godís existence and of moral imperatives is not an original condition, but the result of willful rebellion; all the resources of knowledge necessary to bring humans to love each other are initially present for each person. Moreover, where there are degrees of ignorance, it is usually vincible, i.e. if people wanted to cure their ignorance, it would not be hardóthe problem is not that they donít know, but that they donít want to know (rebellion). So, ignorance is not the basic problem. Thus, not only must anyone loyal to Christianity conclude that ĎAbduíl-Baha is wrong on this one very significant point, but that the whole Bahai presupposition of the unity of all religions is false. Any examination of 20th C European and American history shows that education does not make anyone an angel. On a related point, he attributes Christís poor reception to the fact that the Jews did not undertake an independent investigation of truth (58). By the only available evidence, the Jews did not receive him because they he was a threat to their power and they did not appreciate his challenging their authority as teachers, i.e. a will problem, not an intellectual problem.
Further, we would like to offer a critique of the enlightenment soteriology position. If God exists, what would be the purpose of a progressive growth or development of humankind? It seems that the primary purpose would have to be to bring about the moral-spiritual growth of individuals necessary for them to enjoy an intimate relationship with God. Moral-spiritual growth presupposes a lack in the area of obedience rather than knowledge, or at least more fundamentally of obedience than of knowledge. If rebellion is fundamental, it makes sense why God might reveal progressively; if ignorance is fundamental, why didnít God just reveal as much as necessary at the beginning?
2) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes, ďUnity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is oneĒ (6). This is plainly false. Truth is first, independent of the knower, and secondly, within the knower independent of agreement by other knowers. If truth means anything, it means objective reality (the book makes clear this is what Bahais believe), and so truth is objectively what it is even if everybody in the world thinks otherwise. So, even if the world was agreed that the Bahai faith was truth, we wouldnít find that in itself a very persuasive reason to believe myself that it was truth. Moreover, the claim that all religions seek to bring about the unification of the worldís people is quite false. John the Baptist says of Christ, ďHis winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fireĒ (Mt 3:12). Jesus himself says, ďDo not suppose I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to turn ď Ďa man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawóa manís enemies will be the members of his own householdíĒ (Mt 10:34-36); ďI have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled!Ē (Lk 12:49); ďAll men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be savedĒ (Mt 9:22); ďIf anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters óyes, even his own life óhe cannot be my discipleĒ (Lk 14:26). Christ clearly believed that his mission would divide the world in two forever, between those who would accept his teachings and follow them and those who would not. Precisely because he was concerned for truth, he was convinced that unity was impossible. So, we must conclude that ĎAdbuíl-Baha was wrong, and with him the religion he represents as infallible interpreter, and further that most Bahai uses with Christianity are fairly superficial or dishonest, since its infallible interpreter was not even acquainted with the Christian gospels enough to realize the divergence noted.
3) ĎAbduíl-Baha describes the ďworld of the matrixĒ and the ďworld of the kingdomĒ as the modes of being immediately before and after earthly life (12-13). Since Christianity rejects the pre-existence of souls, clearly Bahai and Christianity are irreconcilable. Moreover, this appears to contradict reincarnation, which would make Bahai irreconcilable with Hinduism or Buddhism. Now, we suspect that the Baha'i counterargument is that present-day Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist teachings are not faithful to their original beliefs, which accorded perfectly with Bahai. If Bahais take this path, the only way they can do so credibly is to present historical evidence that, for example, pre-existence of souls was not widely condemned by Jews and/or early Christians (likewise for Hindus and Buddhists). The bare claim that early Christianity was not irreconcilable with Bahai is just an empty claim. The burden of proof lies with Bahais to prove that they know better what true Christianity is than Christians. This seems to be precisely the attitude that ĎĎAbduíl-Baha criticizes: ďwe imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrongĒ (6). Familiar with the history of early Christianity, we are confident that Baha'is will never be able to show that early Christianity was reconcilable with Bahai teachings (more below). Moreover, since Bahais make much of the positive effects of Christianity on the world as Godís work, they are committed to upholding the Christianity of at least the 5th to 6th centuries, when the historical evidence is even more overwhelmingly against the claim that Bahai and Christianity were reconcilable. I can also imagine that Bahais might respond to apparent contradictions by saying that the doctrines in question were not yet revealed and Christians, for example, added inauthentic doctrines to the original deposit of revelation (which did not contain the contradictory doctrine). This too would require Bahais to prove their assertion if it is to be taken seriously.
4) Manifestations of God allegedly ďinclude such individuals as Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab, and Bahaíuíllah (15). We have several problems here:
a. It seems that the list is not very well-defined. If Bahai is true, it ought to present a very clear list of exactly who were real manifestations. Was Joseph Smith was a Manifestation of God? Was Mani (the founder of one of historyís most widespread and influential religions) a Manifestation of God? Was Mary Baker Eddy a Manifestation of God? Was Krishna a manifestation of God? Was David Koresh a Manifestation of God? These are not minor questions if the future unity of the world hangs on everybody from the major religions recognizing in Bahai the true fulfillment of their religions. This ambiguity seems to perhaps suggest that Bahai was founded by well-intentioned people who saw commonalties in the worldís great religions and wanted to build a religion on that, but didnít think through it enough to realize that at some point a line of exclusion has to be drawn (e.g. to exclude the Manicheans, the Mormons, the Christian Scientists, etc.) which will exclude enough people that the original premise of uniting people through basically-alike beliefs fails. Once it is admitted that not everything which claims to be a revelation of God is indeed a revelation of God, the criteria of demarcation will, we think, quickly eliminate religions which had the Manifestation status before. For examples, see my article on False Prophecy on my webpage.
b. Abraham and Moses should not be on the list, by all available evidence. << lists the evidences of a manifestation of God (and the proofs are allegedly the same for every manifestation) as including moral excellence, brilliant teaching without education. In addition, we would reasonably suspect that claiming to be a manifestation of God would be a necessary (but not sufficient) criteria. However, Abraham and Moses, if the Biblical evidence is to be taken seriously (and there isnít any other evidence than that) never remotely claimed to be anything like a Manifestation of God. Further, Abraham was hardly a moral exemplar and Moses was guilty of murder. Finally, Moses was probably educated in the Egyptian court, contradicting the criterion of a Manifestation (ďAbraham and Moses went to no schoolĒ 94).
c. Muhammed, by all available evidence, never claimed to be a manifestation of God and was not an moral exemplar either.
5) ĎAbduíl-Baha says that ďAbraham foretold the coming of MosesĒ (22). What evidence is there for this otherwise arbitrary claim?
6) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes that those who seek the ďreal meaning of the Holy Books [rather than counterfeit imitations]. . . will unite and agree upon the same foundationĒ (23). This is interesting because it counsels us to examine the holy books themselves, which eliminates the Bahai apologetic move to deny that the present versions of the scriptures are accurate. Once the holy books themselves are thus legitimated, it becomes impossible to argue for the unity of religions.
7) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes that ďeach of the divine religions is separable into two divisions . . . morality . . . [and] social laws and regulations,Ē of which the former is constant and absolute and the latter is relative to the time of the revelation (25, cf.131). He is right, we think, to see the moral teachings of many religions as very similar. He is also right to see that the similarity ends there. He is wrong, we think, in that he sees social rules and morality as the key ingredients of religion. What about metaphysics? What about soteriology? These two areas are fundamental to any religious or non-religious worldview and are precisely where the great religions diverge.
8) If Muhammed is supposed to represent an advancement from Christianity, it seems highly problematic that he regressed so far with respect to polygamy and divorce. If it is replied that his allowance was only for a certain time, the Qurían ought to make that clear, and the fact the polygamy has always been allowed by Muslim divines makes this omission undeniable. In fact there are no discernible advances in any respect with Muhammad. At best he might be postulated as restating beliefs previously held but not practiced. The Qurían is extremely repetitive, low on content, contains anachronisms, condemns a misunderstanding of the Trinity, contradicts the Bible in many of its narratives, contradicts biblical doctrines (e.g. sinlessness of prophets, unknowability and inaccessibility of God, the conditions of Paradise, justification by works). Also, much of the Qurían is clearly the result of copying of apocryphal Christian gospels and letters such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (see The Sources of Islam, banned in Muslim countries, for more details). Bahaíuíllahís view of Muhammad and the Qurían which ascribes to them ďa justice which turned into light the darkness of the earthĒ and ďa justice which enraptured the heartsĒ (55) simply does not withstand scrutiny. Finally, the main immediate practical effect of Muhammad was not culture, love, and unity of people, but the launching of his followers on holy wars. The claim that the Qurían does not teach jihad as holy war against infidels is question-begging and is not honest with the text, but even if it did not, the historical effect of the Qurían in launching holy wars (without a Quríannic basis to deny this procedure) is undeniable.
9) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes that the first thing Jesus did in his ministry was to proclaim the validity of the Manifestation of Moses (26). Jesus does imply this in several statements, but never directly teaches it as a point in itself (it comes up only implicitly when he is talking about other things). Furthermore, none of these cases are close to the beginning of his ministry. If ĎAbduíl-Baha is going to make claims like this which contradict the Bible, he needs to have at least as strong evidence for his claim. Then he says that Muhammadís first statement was that ďMoses was a prophet of GodĒ (27). Weíve read the Qurían and we know Muhammad says things like this, but we donít know that there is any evidence it was the first thing he said. Moreover, he certainly never said that Moses was a manifestation of God.
10) Here are the proofs of Bahaíuíllahís mission (which are the same proofs for Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, etc. [74-78]):
a. Person and Deeds: Sufferings (83), Perseverance, unsurpassed moral character (83).
b. Innate knowledge, i.e. Manifestations are illiterate or uneducated (57,83,85,92,107).
c. Self-attesting revelation (77).
d. Transformation of individuals (44,75,76).
e. Martyrdom of followers (122-25).
f. Transformation/Unification of society (44,154).
g. Prophecies he made were fulfilled (57,103-4,127-30).
h. He fulfilled previous prophecies (44,76).
i. Rapidity of revelation (112).
I have several problems. First, these are a priori inconclusive. Second, they do not prove Bahai. Third, by declaring the validity of these tests, Bahai is false.
1. a. Lots of people have suffered greatly and persevered and had moral character who were not Manifestations of God. b. This proof relies upon first demonstrating that Bahaíuíllah was not educated, something which is quite difficult after the fact c. A self-attesting revelation is question-begging. What Iíve read of Bahaíuíllah was not very convincing, and obviously many people agree with me. Moreover, Mormons claim they know Smith was a prophet because of the ďburning in the bosomĒ they experience when reading the Book of Mormon. In other words, many groups which Bahais reject present books as divine and claim they are self-attesting. Also, if Bahais think the texts of the major religions they do approve are corrupted, there is also the problem that all these groups believe their contemporary versions are self-attested. d. Mormonism and other false religions have transformed individuals for the better. e. Many people have been martyred for causes contrary to Bahai (e.g. 16th C Protestant and Catholic martyrs who died for particular differences of creed which Bahais consider peripheral). f. Mormonism and other false religions have impacted society positively. g. Bahaíuíllah grants that the proof of prophecy is not conclusive. h. The prophecy evidenced for Bahaíuíllah is a clearly fallacious distortions of the Bible, as seen below. i. Rapidity would have to be miraculous to count for anything, but Bahais reject the miracle criterion.
2. If we are to recognize Bahaíuíllahís divinity because he persevered in suffering, what is to be made of the ďlarge mansion surrounded by gardensĒ where he lived out the last 12 years of his life (xix)?
3. ĎAbduíl-Baha writes, ďThe proof of the validity of a Manifestation of God is the penetration and potency of His Word, the cultivation of heavenly attributes in the hearts and lives of His followers and the bestowal of divine education upon the world of humanity. This is absolute proofĒ (75). Since this clearly is not absolute proof, ĎAbduíl-Baha must be rejected as a teacher of truth on any matters. Similarly, ďIf He has been an Educator . . . then we are sure he was a Prophet. This is a plain and clear method of procedure, proof that is irrefutableĒ (75). Similarly, ďEach one of these verses is unto all the peoples of the world an unfailing testimony and a glorious proof of His truthĒ (77). Similarly, ďIf he proves to be instrumental in the elevation and betterment of mankind, he is undoubtedly a valid and heavenly messengerĒ (86); this criterion is either very subjective or else circular (based on what Bahais consider betterment); moreover, many people, including atheists, are instrumental in the betterment of mankind. Similarly, ďthe [non-miraculous] deeds of Moses are conclusive evidences of His prophethoodĒ (76). Similarly, ďEach [of Bahaíuíllahís books] is an evident proofĒ (110). Similarly, ď[Martyrdom] is impossible except through a heavenly potencyĒ (122).
11) ĎAbduíl-Baha rejects miracles as a test because ďsuch miracles and statements may be denied and refused by those who hear himĒ; ďthey are still only proofs and arguments for those who are present when they are performed, and not for those who are absentĒ (76, 79). The same goes for most of the test he describes as irrefutable. He says Bahaíuíllah was a moral exemplar, but there is no more evidence that this is true than that he performed miracles. He says Bahaíuíllah persevered despite great difficulties, but there is no more evidence that this is true than that he performed miracles. He says Bahaíuíllah transformed the lives of his immediate followers and Persian society, but there is no more evidence that this is true than that he performed miracles. He says Bahaíuíllah was uneducated, but there is no more evidence that this is true than that he performed miracles. Thus, the tests ĎAbduíl-Baha advocates are problematic in a way he does not realize. So, not only must I conclude that the purported proofs fail to prove Bahaíuíllah was a Manifestation of God, but I must also conclude that Baha'u'llah was certainly not a Manifestation of God, because (here if not elsewhere also) his infallible interpreter says things which are clearly false. Moreover, it is also false that miracles only have influence for contemporaries; my belief in Christianity is grounded upon a miraculous proof: the untenability of all naturalistic explanations of the events surrounding the Resurrection (see my Lecture notes for details).
12) The quotations of the Bible present several difficulties:
a. Once Bahais start quoting the Bible, they are being inconsistent to teach what parts they like and to deny the parts they find objectionable. As far as we can tell, they have no criteria for this sifting except their own presupposed beliefs, which is circular.
b. The interpretations of the Bible presented are similarly question-begging:
1. Jesus speaking of his return: ďImmediately after the distress of those days ďĎthe sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.í The Son of Man shall come on the clouds of Heaven,Ē (Mt 24:29-30). Christians have always interpreted in terms of the second coming at the eschaton, which is the plain meaning since the next verse speaks of the eschaton (ďAnd he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the otherĒ) and the remainder of the chapter urges people to be ready lest they be damned at the judgment which will happen when he returns. Baha'u'llah claims that the ďsun and moonĒ refer to Prophets of God and saints whose knowledge shed light on the world and also the ďdivines of the former Dispensation, who live in the days of the subsequent RevelationsĒ and fall from heaven, i.e. are displaced from their religious authority (189-90). Baha'u'llah and ĎAbduíl-Baha interpret this verse as meaning the ďannulment of laws, the abrogation of former Dispensations, the repeal of rituals and customs current among men...Ē (59,190-91). Even if the passage was a forecast of Muhammed, as Baha'u'llah claims (183-84), there is certainly no warrant for believing that Christ will manifest himself again after Muhammed, given the finality of the descriptions of the second coming. So, not only is there no prediction of Muhammed or Baha'u'llah, but they Baha'u'llah and ĎAbduíl-Baha distort plain scripture, positively proving them not to be proclaiming a true religion.
2. ďFor the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise firstĒ (1Thes 4:16). Baha'u'llah says this description of Christís return signifies that the spiritually dead will ďspeed out of the sepulchers of heedlessness and error unto the realm of guidance and truthĒ (184). The context and the other Biblical teachings on the bodily resurrection at the eschaton show that this is a plain distortion attempted upon the progressive revelation presuppositions of Bahai, which are contradicted by the Bible.
3. ďI have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to comeĒ (Jn 16:12-13); Bahaíuíllah says this foretells Christís coming again in the form of other Manifestations (126, 192). However, the immediately following verses as well as the broader context explicitly make clear he is talking about the Holy Spirit, not about any further Manifestations: ďBut when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. . . . All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to youĒ (Jn 16:13,15).
4. ď I go away and will come again unto youĒ (Jn 14:3). Baha'u'llah interprets this to mean that he will come again as future Manifestations of God (192). This plainly contradicts the context of the verse: ďIn my Fatherís house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.Ē In context, his return is tied to the eschatonótaking his followers to heaven. Baha'u'llah, therefore, must be rejected as a divine teacher.
5. ďI am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through meĒ (Jn 14:6). ďThere is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus ChristĒ (1 Tim 1:5). Bahais say these verses mean that he was the only way for his time period. First, we find it contradictory to believe in a God who reveals progressively and want people to know that he reveals progressively and a God who revealed verses so clumsily that they would easily be misunderstood by millions of Christians ever since. Second, these interpretations are circular, because they ignore the entire context of the New Testament, which presents Christ as the atoning sacrifice for sins, by belief in whom alone all people can be saved. For example, ďFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of Godís one and only SonĒ (Jn 3:16-18). By all indication, this is a decisive one-time act in history; there is nothing remotely reconcilable with a view that would put Christ on par with any others in history (besides the Father in Heaven).
13) Bahaíuíllah claims that Christ annulled the law of the Sabbath day (66). We assume that by this he means the moral necessity of observing the Sabbath day (not the changing of the day to Sunday, which was done not by Christ, but by the apostles). It is simply not true that Christ annulled the Sabbath. He said he was the Lord of the Sabbath and that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, but never does he annul the Sabbath law, nor was such an idea widely held by Christians until the Protestant Reformation. Thus, Bahaíuíllah is not credible as a teacher.
14) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes that ďIf we study historical record and review the pages of Holy Writ, we will find that none of the Prophets of the past ever spread or promulgated His Cause from a prisonĒ (105). We know of at least two that did: Joseph and Jeremiah. Thus, ĎAbduíl-Baha is not credible as a teacher.
15) While extolling the copiousness of Bahaíuíllahís writings, Shoghi Effendi states that most of his writings were untranscribed (115). If we are to receive Bahaíuíllahís writings as divine, we ought to at least see demonstrated the concern for their transcription and preservation which would have to accompany any texts God revealed for the benefit of mankind.
16) ĎAbduíl-Baha writes that the distinctives of Baha'u'llahís teachings include the ďoneness of the world of humanityĒ (144). The Bible teaches the unity of humanity also: ďThere is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ JesusĒ (Gal 3:28). Thus, ĎAbduíl-Bahaís teachings contain plain falsehood, so he is not credible as a teacher.
17) What is Baha'u'llahís Ascension (178)?
18) ĎAbduíl-Baha states that the Jews rejected Christ because they believed the messiah was to arise out of an unknown city. From all existing evidence, this is false: John 7:40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, ĎSurely this man is the Prophet.í Others said, ďHe is the Christ.Ē Still others asked, ďHow can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from Davidís family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?Ē (Jn 7:40-42); ďWhen King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the peopleís chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ďIn Bethlehem in Judea,Ē they replied, ďfor this is what the prophet has written: ď ĎBut you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israelí Ē (Mt 2:3-6). Since ĎAbduíl-Baha taught falsely on this point, he must be rejected as an infallible teacher.
19) Baha'u'llah claims that Muhammed said, ďI am JesusĒ (192). This claim is made without evidence, and against all the evidence of the Qurían, which condemns above all the sin of shirk, associating man with God. Baha'u'llah must not be admitted as a divine teacher since he presented teachings such as these.
PART B: Fifteen Discrediting Episodes from Baha'i History
We offer the following information tentatively, because our research in Baha'i history is admittedly limited. Our primary source for the fifteen episodes is William Miller's The Bahaíi Faith: Its History and Teachings (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1974). Most Baha'is are forbidden from reading this book, on threat of excommunication (becoming "covenant breakers"), although scholars whose faith is deemed solid enough are allowed to read it. We believe Miller's history is an accurate work, based on reliable sources. Obviously, however, Baha'is argue that Miller's work is inaccurate and full of lies and distortions. The problem is that few Baha'is have even attempted to prove this assertion. An important exception is Douglas Martin, whose article THE MISSIONARY AS HISTORIAN: William Miller and the Baha'i Faith attempts to show that Miller's sources were unreliable. After listing the fifteen episodes, we will reply to Martin.
1. Ali Muhammad ("the Bab") considered himself a manifestation of God, not a forerunner of a manifestation of God. Once Ali Nuri decided to declare himself ďHe-Whom-God-Will-Manifest,Ē as prophesied by Ali Muhammad, it was necessary to downplay Ali Muhammad, because two manifestations of God in the same place within a generation would be ridiculous in terms of the Baha'i doctrine of progressive revelation. It would also clearly contradict Ali Muhammad's prophecy that the next manifestation would not come before at least 1511 years of the Babi dispensation had elapsed.
2. Before his execution, Ali Muhammad appointed Mirza Yahya Subh-i-Azal as his successor, and declared Subh-i-Azal his co-equal. Subh-i-Azal escaped to Baghdad, whence he ruled the Babi movement from 1853-1863. While still in Baghdad, however, Ali Nuri became the public representative of Subh-i-Azal, in order that the latter not subject himself to risk of assassination. In time, Ali Nuri became unruly and Babi leaders rebuked him so severely in 1854 that he departed alone for the mountains of Kurdistan, where he lived for two years. Eventually, Subh-i-Azal learned of his location and wrote to him that he should return. Ali Nuri wrote a letter of repentance and submission and was received back into his former post. A short time later, Mirza Asadullah Dayyan of Khuy, a Babi in the Baghdad community, declared that he was ďHe-Whom-God-Will-ManifestĒ as prophesied by Ali Muhammad, i.e. the Manifestation of God for the next epoch of human history. He gathered a following around himself, declaring that all Babis were obliged to submit to him alone. Ali Nuri tried to reason with him, but his insistence led to his assassination by Mirza Muhammad of Mazanderan. Another ambitious Babi, Nabil, made the same claim, but withdrew it when pressured. Then, in 1866, in Edirne, Ali Nuri made the same claim as Mirza Asadullah Dayyan of Khuy and Nabil. Because of his superior leadership abilities and high profile among the Babis, he was able to win most of the Babis to his cause, though he had no more right to do so than the other two had, for only 22 years of the 1511+-year Babi dispensation had elapsed when Ali Nuri announced that he was a new manifestation
3. Ali Nuri tried to force Subh-i-Azal into submission by withholding the food rations given them by the Ottoman government from Subh-i-Azal and his family. It seems that Ali Nuri also made an attempt to poison Subh-i-Azal, although Ali Nuri also accused Subh-i-Azal of trying to poison him. In hope of eliminating his rival more peaceably, Ali Nuri wrote a letter to the Ottoman sultan alleging that Subh-i-Azal was plotting to overthrow the sultan, a fabrication of Ali Nuri. In response, the sultan exiled both parties from Edirne: Subh-i-Azal with his family and followers to Cyprus and Ali Nuri with his family and followers to Acre (Akka). Bahaíis in Baghdad, Edirne, and Acre (Akka) murdered about twenty leading Azalis, including two brothers of Fatima, Ali Muhammadís wife, who had both written apologies against Ali Nuri; Fatimas second husband, and even two of the surviving ďLetters of the LivingĒ appointed by Ali Muhammad. While Bahaíis generally deny that Ali Nuri ordered these acts, it is certainly ture that he never disowned them, punished their perpetrators, or even criticized them.
4. After the schism, Bahaíis began to circulate stories that Ali Nuri had been commissioned as a Manifestation of God while in prison in 1852 and that he had announced this to his followers in Baghdad in 1863 on the eve of the departure to Istanbul. That both stories were invented much later is likely because of the complete absence of any supporting evidence, even in Abbas Efendiís revisionist account, A Travelerís Narrative and in light of Ali Nuriís otherwise-inexplicible submission to Subh-i-Azal for so many years. In 1930, there were about 1500 Azalis in Iran; in 1963, about 4500. It seems that depsite their numerical inferiority, they at least had the more historically defensible position.
5. The Bahaíis suppressed the early histories of the Babi movement, especially Religions et Philosophies dans l-Asie Centrale by Comte de Gobineau, a French diplomat in Tehran (1855-1858, 1861-1863), and Nuqtatuíl-Kaf by Mirza Jani, a Babi martyred in 1852. The Bahaíis substituted an anonymous history called A Travelerís Narrative, which omits the Babís appointment of Subh-i-Azal, takes every opportunity to disparage Subh-i-Azal, gives little attention to the early martyrs of the Babi movement, and changes minimizes the Babís role and claims to make him appear as just a forerunner of Ali Nuri. It was later established that A Travelerís Narrative was written in 1886 by Ali Nuriís eldest son, Abbas Efendi (Abduíl Baha).
6. Ali Nuri forbade his followers from reading the Bayan, the scripture of Ali Muhammad, apparently because his own teachings in the Kitabi Ikan (The Book of Certitude) and Kitab-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Book) contradicted those of the Bayan on several points, e.g. Ali Nuri taught that pilgrimages were not obligatory; that parental permission was required for marriage; that Bahaíis were allowed to wear beards and own non-Bahaíi books; that Baha'is were expressly forbidden to beg or give to beggars, to make a living by religion, to confess their sins to another person, or to practice asceticism. He also altered the complex Babi prayers to make them more simple.
7. While Ali Nuri disavowed political ambitions, his system presupposes a Bahaíi state which could collect the requisite fines and taxes, dispense charity as he proscribed, and punish crimes in the way he taught (e.g. capital punishment by burning for arson). This involves the Erastian heresy.
8. Throughout his life in Acre, Ali Nuri and his family and followers there pretended to be Sunni Muslims in order to escape persecution. They went to Sunni mosques, prayed in the Sunni manner, observed the fast of Ramadan, and lied if directly asked (this practice of taqiwa, justified deceit, is common among Shiíite Muslims). Azalis in Acre for a time foiled this plan by distributing Ali Nuriís writings to prove that he was an imposter. Seven Bahaíis went to the house of Azalis in Acre and murdered them. Thus, Ali Nuriís deceit was preserved and was so effective that Sunni mullahs conducted the funeral services for Ali Nuri and his son Abbas Efendi.
9. After Ali Nuri's death, his eldest son, Abbas Efendi (ďAbduíl BahaĒ) (1844-1921), took his place, according to the Shiíite tradition of imams. However, Ali Nuri had not designated the exact scope of Efendiís authority. When he claimed to be the infallible and sole authoritative interpreter of Bahaíuílah, almost all of Ali Nuriís extended family opposed him, forming a group called the ďUnitarians.Ē At the head of this opposition group was Ali Nuriís oldest son by his second wife, Mirza Muhammad Ali. Efendi excommunicated both of Ali Nuriís surviving wives, his two brothers, his sister and her husband. Then, following his fatherís action toward his rival Sudh-i-Azal, he withdrew their financial provision from the moneys brought to Acre by the Bahaíis of Persia. Because the family members had always relied on these donations and had never worked, they faced starvation. It seems Efendi, like his father, benefited from Baha'i use of assassination to weaken the opposition: in 1898, Mirzha Yahya of Jedda, a former-Azali Unitarian was brutally killed.
10. Despite the fact that the entire family opposed him, Efendi was able to win the allegiance of the Persians through numerous letters. Even more importantly, he won the allegiance of newly-converted Westerners who came to Acre, worshipped him, and were told nothing of the schism. Abduíl Baha also won favor by distributing alms to the poor, despite the fact that Ali Nuri had expressly prohibited this.
11. Dr. Ibrahim George Kheiralla, the first Bahaíi missionary to the USA, is said to have converted 2000 Americans in just two years. He began to study the Kitab i-Aqdas, which he had obtained in Egypt after Efendi denied to him that it even existed. He broke with Efendi c.1900 and joined the Unitarians. Abduíl Baha sent emissaries to him with bribes if only he return to the Abbasites; later he sent emissaries with threats that he would share the fate of Mirzha Yahya of Jedda if he refused to submit to Efendi. By 1902, there were 300 Abbasites and 300 Unitarians in the USA. Efendi began to threaten Bahaíis with hellfire if the disobeyed him, even though hell was not part of the revelation of Ali Nuri, which he suppressed. In 1914, Dr. Kheiralla founded the National Association of the Universal Religion in Chicago. The cause was permanently overcome by Efendiís visit to the USA in 1912. By 1929, it had died out. Meanwhile, in Persia, Efendiís worldly ambition and greed for money dissillisioned many, who abandoned the movement. Among them was H. Niku, a leading Persian Abbasite Bahaíi, who abandoned the entire Shaykhist-Babi-Bahaíi tradition and wrote several volumes to explain his decision and philosophy. Similarly, Ayati (Avereh), a leading Persian Bahaíi missionary and historian, wrote The Exposure of the Deception, in which he described the corruption, dissention, and fraud which prevailed among the leaders of the movement in Acre and recounted how Efendi had forced him to misrepresent and suppress facts in his histories. Like the Azalis, the Unitarians at least had the more historically defensible position.
12. In order to make Bahaíiism more appealing to a global community, Efendi introduced certain innovations. For example, Efendi developed and propagated the Ten Principles summarizing Bahaíiism: the independent investigation of truth, the oneness of the human race, international peace, the conformity of religion to science and reason; the equality of men and women; the evil of religious, racial, political, and patriotic prejudice; the evil of class struggle; universal education; a universal language; a one-world parliament. Several of these principles have no basis in Ali Nuriís writings: the conformity of religion to science and reason; the equality of men and women; and universal education. In fact, Efendi never authorized a publication of Ali Nuriís most important original text, Kitab-i-Aqdas, for that scripture contradicted his teachings on at least two points: it declared polygamy legtimate and it declare males superior to females. Also, Efendi added Zoroaster, Krishna, and Buddha to the original list of manifestations which had previously included Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Ali Muhammad (the ďBabĒ), and Ali Nuri (ďBahaíuílahĒ). While this made Bahaíi more appealing to nominal Buddhists and Unitarians, it resulted in still greater contradictions and the absurdity of several manifestations of God simultaneously revealing the authoritative revelation for that epoch of mankind.
13. Efendi led the movement until his own death (1921), and having no son, he appointed his eldest daughterís son, Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), his successor as ďGuardian of the CauseĒ and instructed him to appoint a successor from his line. This was in express violation of Ali Nuriís will, which stated that Mirza Muhammad Ali should succeed Efendi at his death and that thereafter leadership pass to the House of Justice, which was not to have a head. In his efforts to consolidate control of the sect, Shoghi Effendi excommunicated his grandmother, widow of Abbas Efendi, to whom he owed his office. In 1922, he imposed censorship on all Bahaíis. Then he proceeded to excommunicate his daughters, sons-in-law, brothers, sisters, and finally even his own parents. A leading American Bahaíi, Mrs. Ruth White, appalled by Efindiís will, which established a Bahaíi papacy, obtained an original copy of the will, and subjected it to expert analysis, with the conclusion that the writing, allegedly Efendiís, could not have been his. White wrote several pamphlets accusing Shoghi Effendi of forgery. Mr. Hermann Zinner, a Bahaíi pioneer in Germany came to the same conclusion, and Shoghi Effendi excommunicated both White and Zinner. Zinner established a rival denomination, the Free Bahaíis / World Union for Universal Religion and Universal Peace (c.1930-present). In the following years, Shoghi Effendi excommunicated other Bahaíi leaders, including Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, an intimate companion of Abbas Efendi, and Mrs. Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler, an influential promoter of the sect in New York (1930). Shoghi Effendi also excommunicated another leading Bahaíi missionary-leader, Mirza Sughi, a relative of Ali Nuriís third wife and scribe for his grandfather, Abbas Efendi; Sughi then wrote A Fatherís Message, which criticized Shoghiís heavy-handed actions and declared Bahaíiism spiritually empty. A number of defections followed, but it seems that Iranian Bahaíi leaders bought up most copies and destroyed them before their leaven could spread.
14. In 1935, Shoghi Effendi decreed that Bahaíis who had concealed their true religious identity by posing as Sunnis, Shiíites, etc. (taqiwa) were thenceforth to cease dissembling, cut their ties with other religious groups, and join their respective National Spiritual Assemblies. In America, this caused difficulties, for many Bahaíis had been told they could be both Christians and Bahaíis or Jews and Bahaíis.
15. Effendi failed to produce offspring or even to appoint a successor as Abduíl-Baha had stipulated in his Last Will and Testament, a document which Effendi himself had declared inspired scripture. This precipitated a crisis in the Bahaíi movement. His followers were divided between the 27 ďHands of the CauseĒ who favored a democratically-elected Universal House of Justice and those who favored a second Guardian, Charles Mason Remey, whom Effendi had appointed president of the International Bahaíi Council, a prototype of the International House of Justice. Remey's supporters contended that Abbas Efendiís will, which had superceded Ali Muhammadís will in appointing Shoghi Effendi, had established the office of the guardian in perpetuity, declared that there must always be a Guardian at the head of the Universal House of Justice. The action of the Hands in voting to discontinue the office of the Guardian has been compared to the hypothetical situation of Catholic Cardinals voting to disband the office of the Pope. Again, while the Remeyites are numerically inferior to the Democratic Baha'is, they at least have the more historically defensible position (like the Azalis and the Unitarians).
Summary: If Miller's history is reliable, the history of the Baha'i faith reveals it to be a religion which has changed its fundamental teachings numerous times, which was founded by scoundrels through treachery, and which despite all its rosy pictures of human progress and unity, is impossible for informed, thinking persons to take seriously. Now we will consider Martin's reply to Miller.
Reply to Martin
Although Martin is to be commended as one of very few contemporary Baha'is (to our knowledge), out of several million, to possess the courage and intellectual integrity necessary to even attempt to respond to Miller, his analysis is fundamentally flawed.The crux of Martin's argument is that Miller uses unreliable sources to back up his assertions that Ali Muhammad claimed to be a manifestation of God and that he appointed Subh-i-Azal as his successor as head of the Babis. These are the most crucial points, for if true, Ali Nuri's subsequent claims are totally indefensible. Martin argues that Miller depends on the unreliable early Baha'i history written by Professor Edward Brown and alleges that Miller ignored the Balyuzi's devastating critique of Brown with the exception of a footnote which Martin calls "both superficial and essentially off the topic." This is simply not true! The footnote is three pages long and provides a convincing response to Balyuzi. Martin (with Balyuzi, it seems) argues that Brown depended on a manuscript of NUQTATU'L KAF which was at Princeton and most likely came from Azalis. However, Martin fails to mention the manuscript at Paris which dates to at least before 1863 (prior to the Azali-Baha'i schism), which was in fact the primary manuscript which Professor Edward Brown used. Miller provides a detailed explanation of the history of the Paris manuscript.
It is impossible to conclude otherwise than that Martin deliberately ignored the troublesome fact of the Paris manuscript, for it disproves his thesis. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that Martin is counting on the expectation that none of his readers (presumably all Baha'is) might actually be familiar with Miller's work, or would actually pick up Miller's book and take two minutes to read the footnote in question, for if they did, they would be as unimpressed with Martin's critique of Miller as he claims to be with Miller's work.
Moreover, Martin also ignores the argument Miller makes that given Effendi's admission that Subh-i-Azal was "recognized chief of the Babi community," it is impossible to imagine how this unanimous recognition of an almost unknown 19-year-old young man as head of the Babis could have come about unless Ali Muhammad had in fact designated him successor, which agrees with the Azalis' account and the Paris manuscript of NUQTATU'L KAF used by Professor Edward Brown. Martin also ignores Miller's probing questions at the end of the footnote as to why, if Brown's work was faulty, no Baha'is (including Abdu'l-Baha himself, when he met with Prof. Brown in 1912 in London) made any attempts to challenge him for 60 years and did so only after his death when he could no longer defend himself.
Even if we were to grant Martin's point that Miller has used an unreliable source, his articles is very limited in scope (despite being rather lengthy) and does not even address many concerns that Miller's account raises for non-Baha'is. Even if Miller were wrong in several important details, it is hard to imagine that so much discrediting history could all be inaccurate. That Martin is a Baha'i writing for Baha'is, already convinced of his thesis, is nowhere more apparent than in his failure to provide a point-by-point analysis of the discrediting episodes mentioned above. Any Baha'i interested in convincing someone who had read Miller that Baha'i was a true religion would try to anticipate the objections and to reply to them. Martin does not reply to any but the first of the fifteen discrediting episodes, mostly based on other sources, many of which Baha'is accept. We are unable to avoid the conclusion that Martin was silent about these episodes because a) he didn't want his Baha'i audience to learn about them, and b) he did not have even a weak reply to make to them. Martin criticizes Miller for giving such lengthy treatment to Remey; since Remey's followers are numerically tiny, Martin suggests that a paragraph would be adequate to mention the whole Remey affair. Martin either does not realize or else deliberately ignores the more important issue, which is why Miller devoted a dozen or so pages to it, i.e. that the main Baha'i group today descends from those who broke with the earlier tradition. Needless to say, Martin makes no attempt to defend the legitimacy of the main Baha'i sect vis a vis the Remeyites.
Martin's article also discloses vast ignorance about authentic Christianity. He chastises Miller for not understanding the social implications of a later and more "progressive revelation" such as Islam, Babiism, and Baha'iism; he claims that Christian teaching is limited to the salvation of the individual. He clearly knows nothing of Catholic social and political teaching, which developed significantly in the late 19th century. Martin asserts as a straw man of Christianity, "The individual is saved alone, and society as such is irredeemable." His understanding of Christianity is at least as limited as he claims Miller's understanding of Baha'iism to be.
We also encounter in Martin a weakness shared by all Baha'is with whom we have ever spoken: the idea that the the truth of Baha'iism and the divine origin of its founder are clearly demonstrable based on the fact that some non-Baha'is were deeply impressed by Ali Nuri or that Baha'iism has spread quickly and has made some positive impact upon the world. Unfortunately, this is usually the best apologetic argument Baha'is are able to give for their faith (even the book, ďProofs of Bahaíuíllahís MissionĒ does not present any superior proofs than this). Accordingly, Martin chastises Miller for treating lightly "the powerful impression which Baha'u'llah made on persons of capacity who met Him. Rev. Miller seems to resist coming to terms with this incontrovertible fact of the history he is recounting." It seems obvious that Miller was not overlooking it (indeed he includes the most famous of such episodes in his book); he just didn't consider it as significant as Martin does. After all, we could fill books with the names of charismatic individuals who have been able to make such strong impressions on people who encountered them, many of whom even claimed to be God. For example, George Baker ďFather DivineĒ (1880-1965), a black American plantation worker, gathered a large following in our century of people who thought he was the Creator--in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Central America, and Nigeria. Other examples of this phenomenon could be multiplied.
Similarly, Martin writes that the "Baha'u'llah's success...created an inescapable dilemma for Azal and his supporters....One will search in vain, too, [in Miller's book] for an adequate presentation of the extraordinary global expansion of the Baha'i community over the past forty years." Why should the success of Baha'iism pose a dilemma to any of its critics? Just because a religion spreads widely and quickly does not necessarily mean it is true or of God. Religions such as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventism, which we consider spurious (what do the Baha'is think of these?) all began about the same time as Baha'iism and all three are more widespread and more numerous. For them to point to their fast growth as a proof of their truth is no more credible than for Baha'is to do the same thing. Manichaenism, we believe, had a larger number of adherents in its heyday that Baha'iism and now few people have even heard of it. The truth of a religion must be proven by arguments, not survival-growth; survival and growth are not arguments. The best than can be said of survival is that if a sect does not survive, it is not of God. But it would certainly be foolish to say that a sect which survives and has grown is of God; if that were true, God would be very self-contradictory!
Finally, we find deeply disturbing the fact that over half of Martin's paper is not academic at all, but consists of exhorting his fellow Bahai'ists with a martyr mentality. In essence, he says "Poor us. We are persecuted in Persia. We are persecuted by Christians like Miller. Our persecution surely shows us that God is on our side." When Baha'is view any criticism or challenge to their views as "invective and vituperation," they remain on a very childish level, incapable of adult dialogue and intellectual controversy.
We conclude that the Baha'i leaders are wise in withholding Miller's book from their followers, despite the clear medieval and obscurantist nature of such an act. Were many Baha'is to read this book, there would be few Baha'is left and their only real apologetic argument--that the unified growth of Baha'iism proves its divine origin--would thereby be lost.