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The University of Haifa Lectures in Bahá’í Studies

Edited By Soli Shahvar

This volume brings together a selection of essays from the Lecture Series in Bahá’í studies at the University of Haifa. Each chapter explores an aspect of the Bahá’í religion, including its history, community, culture and theoretical perspectives on contemporary issues. The authors discuss topics including the family and descendants of the Báb (founder of the religion from which the Bahá’í Faith emerged), the influential role of Bahá’í schools in the modernization of education in Iran, the process of introducing the law of monogamy into the Iranian Bahá’í community, early connections between Swiss citizens and Bahá’ís in the Middle East, the rich and varied landscape of Persian Bahá’í poetry, and the role of African Americans in the development of the US Bahá’í community, particularly with regard to race relations and the principle of the oneness of humanity. Also presented in this volume are Bahá’í perspectives on contemporary topics including changing conceptions of work and work values, the role of apologetics in interfaith dialogue, and the issue of ‘defamation of religions’ in international human rights discourse. This book will be of interest to readers in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who want to become informed in more depth about a wider range of topics in the emerging field of Bahá’í studies.
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3. The Introduction of Monogamy in the Iranian Bahá’í Community, 1873‒1936: A Study in the Progressive Application of Religious Law

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A distinguishing feature of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions, which emerged in Iran in the mid-nineteenth century, is their position on women’s rights and gender relations. Elevating the status of women in society was one of the main objectives of both the Báb (1819–1850) and Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1892), the founders of the new religions. In fact, in the Bahá’í Faith the equality of women and men is recognized as a spiritual, moral and social principle. The Bábí religion restricted polygamy (specifically, polygyny), and the Bahá’í religion proscribed it altogether.

The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh also promulgated other laws and teachings that promoted equality of the sexes and contrasted sharply with the gender-discriminatory practices prevailing in Iran and the wider Middle East and North Africa. For example, they emphasized the requirement of bridal consent to marriage; restricted husbands’ unfettered right to divorce; banned existing forms of temporary marriage, which were degrading to women; and granted women greater inheritance rights. Bahá’u’lláh also raised the minimum marriageable age and made it equal for males and females, accorded wives the right to obtain a divorce and abolished concubinage. He rejected the notion of a hierarchy of authority between marriage partners and condemned cruelty and aggression against women, which also applied to partner violence. Furthermore, He provided for the establishment of institutions that ←59 | 60→would be responsible for the implementation of various categories of Bahá’í laws,...

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