Bahá’ís & Pakistan

In Omar’s excellent post I was reading his dissection of Pankaj Mishra’s latest book. It was quite funny as I was reading it (and disagreeing with Omar in the role of Muslim power in South Asia, the Mutiny was done in the name of the Mughal Emperor not some petty Maratha, Rajput or Sikh despot) I thought to myself at least nothing was written about the Bahai Faith. Literally as I thought it then came to the section about Jamal-Uddin Afghan, the Babis & the Bahá’í Zarthushti Yazdi emigres to Bombay (my grandmother’s people).

Since I am a Baha’i it’s important on such sensitive matters to always make sure that the correct perspective is shared for no misunderstanding. As an aside the best way to see Urdu is like the Taj Mahal; the supreme symbol of the glories of Muslim-Mughal India. Hindi can be likened to the reconstructed Ram Temple (Inshallah) on the debris of Babri Masjid; gaudy, tacky & built on the ashes of something so beautiful but now sadly forgotten by an angry minority.

I usually am quite a fan of Pankaj Mishra (he makes a lot of sense tbh) but I don’t see the need to slander the Babis & Zarthustis in reference to Jamal-Uddin Afghan.

Of course in 1850 the Bab had been executed and the Babi community was in disarray. The interregnum, is to speak, only came to an end in 1863 when Baha’u’llah proclaimed his Station in the Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad (the King of Festivals).

While it is satisfying to note that so many South Asian Muslim philosophers (JA, Allaja Iqbal, Ahmediyyah) were so impacted by the Bahai Faith (& it’s earlier predecessor Babi religion wholly subsumed by the Baha’i Faith) it is sad to see that they followed the wrong path and stayed as Muslims in Islam (the Bab almost immediately abrogated the Holy Quran so we had diverged from Islam almost immediately on inception). Characters like the above sort of remind me of the desi equivalents Anakin Skywalker or Kylo Ren, exposed to the Force but instead opting for the Sith..

It is also interesting to note the strong intellectual relationship between Iranian thought and the South Asian Muslim community. The febrile atmosphere of the 1840’s-1850’s (where Babism was feared to have consumed Persia) had such strong impacts on the precursors of the Pakistan movement (it could be why the Pakistani Baha’i community are an especially patriotic community).

Incidentally Bahá’ís are only reviled in Iran (& it’s client state Yemen) but otherwise in the wider Islamic world they fare pretty well. Pakistan is especially tolerant and credit to Pakistan that it was a conduit for fleeing Iranian Bahá’ís in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution.

The Bahai community owes a great & everlasting debt to Pakistan.

Of course this is not to negate that the largest Baha’i community in the world is in India and our beloved Lotus Temple is in New Delhi (as Old as me; 33yrs from 1984).

As always the Faith bridges the divide; maybe India & Pakistan will only heal through the balm of Baha’u’llah.

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12 Replies to “Bahá’ís & Pakistan”

  1. “While it is satisfying to note that so many South Asian Muslim philosophers (JA, Allaja Iqbal, Ahmediyyah) were so impacted by the Bahai Faith (& it’s earlier predecessor Babi religion wholly subsumed by the Baha’i Faith) it is sad to see that they followed the wrong path and stayed as Muslims in Islam (the Bab almost immediately abrogated the Holy Quran so we had diverged from Islam almost immediately on inception). Characters like the above sort of remind me of the desi equivalents Anakin Skywalker or Kylo Ren, exposed to the Force but instead opting for the Sith..”

    Why do you consider remaining Muslim to be the “wrong path”? This remark smacks of chauvinism and the belief that one’s own religion is better than all others. Most people remain (even if nominally) in the religion that they were born and brought up in. Not to mention the strict penalties imposed on those who leave Islam. It would seem to be a positive thing that some Muslim philosophers were influenced by the Baha’i faith, but there is no reason to demand that they renounce their own religion.

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    1. Well I do believe that the Baha’i Faith is a culmination of
      all paths (ideally) and I guess that is chauvinistic (when I put my agnostic hat on). In fact this private belief contradicts the pluralism immanent to the Faith itself.

      I also believe Islam (submission) is the default state but that Baha’i (Glory) is our evolved one. Of course that’s just a private opinion.

      Finally it’s interesting to see that since the Revelation of the Bab; the Muslim world hasn’t only really declined since 1844. It’s as thought by rejecting Him & all that followed Him, Muslims have paid a deep price.

      I feel these Muslim philosophers (Ahmediya, Allama Iqbal, Jamaluddin Afghan) used the power of the Faith to try and reform their own ideologies. It doesn’t seem to work; the Islamic World is in a deeper morass than ever where even its most precious Pearls like Urdu & the Taj Mahal are under sustained attack.

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      1. It is possible to reform Islam without abandoning the faith. From the perspective of believing Muslims, where Mirza Ghulam Ahmed and Baha’u’llah went wrong was in claiming to be prophets. It is a central tenet of Islam that prophethood as an institution ended after the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There is no prohibition on reformers though, just on claiming to bring down a new law.

        There is scope for reforms in all religions to bring them in line with the modern world. The Baha’i position on homosexuality for example is just as outdated as the Islamic position (going by what I read on Wikipedia).

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        1. The Bab had already defined the break with Islam; aren’t you being provocative in where they “went wrong?”

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          1. I meant no offense. I was careful to state that their “going wrong” was from the perspective of orthodox Muslims, not necessarily my own. In the Ahmadi case, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed did not claim to bring down a new religion, yet he claimed to be a prophet. Clearly, this notion would be problematic according to the Muslim consensus (both Sunni and Shiah) that there will never be another prophet after Muhammad (pbuh). This is why Ahmedis have been declared to be heretics. Of course, I think that whether one wants to identify as Muslim or not is between the individual and God, and not the business of the state. But that is the theological background to their status in Pakistan.

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          2. You had referred to Ahmadis who do claim to be Muslim. I was pointing out that from the orthodox Muslim perspective the problem with Mirza Ghulam Ahmed is that he claimed to be a prophet. If it were not for that, Ahamdiyas would just be another 19th century Islamic reform movement.

            I fully appreciate that the Bahai Faith is a distinct religion and not a Muslim movement. It did evolve from Shia Islam though. According to Wikipedia: “The Bahá’í Faith formed from the Persian religion of the Báb, a merchant who began preaching a new interpretation of Shia Islam in 1844. The Báb’s claim to divine revelation was rejected by the generality of Islamic clergy in Iran, ending in his public execution by authorities in 1850. The Báb taught that God would soon send a new messenger, and Bahá’ís consider Bahá’u’lláh to be that person.[5]” Again, the problem from the Muslim perspective was the claim to divine revelation. Iran to this day does not recognize Baha’is as a distinct religion but considers them to have left Islam (not a defensible position by any means).

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          3. Yes the irony Ahmadi’s want to be Muslims but are not accepted as such; Bahá’ís absolutely are not Muslim but are treated as such.

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  2. Kabir: “This remark smacks of chauvinism and the belief that one’s own religion is better than all other”
    Why are you surprised when this is wholly consistent with Zachary’s position on other things of importance to him (from Urdu to Islamicate/Persianate high culture etc)?

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    1. This is true haha !!

      In real life though I’ve entirely adopted my wonderful wife’s way of thinking (an atheist Oxbridge scientist of Sindhi Hindi descent).

      So Brown Pundits is my last refuge to wave the green & white flag, which of course I’ve handed over in real life to my Saffron-hued goddess.

      Try as I might though I do admittedly have certain sympathies for “nos ancestres ces Mughals;” the very last conditioning of a Pars-Pak heritage.

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    2. I’m not entirely surprised but I thought that it doesn’t reflect well on Zachary’s intelligence. While it is perfectly fine to be proud of one’s culture and heritage (and religion is part of that heritage), believing that one’s religion is superior to all others is not something that is intellectually defensible. Far too many problems have been created in this world by communities thinking that their path to God is the only acceptable one and everyone else is wrong.

      I disagree with Zach’s position on Urdu as well. I don’t think it is necessarily superior to Hindi. But it is important to point out that Urdu and Hindi exist on a continuum and that Urdu can in no way be labeled the language of the “foreign occupier”. I resent the argument of anyone who claims that Urdu and Urdu-speakers are somehow “unIndian”. (reference the Padmavati thread).

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