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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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6. Glimpses of Persian Bahá’í Poetry and Poets

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Persia has a long poetic tradition, and so it seems only natural that, from the earliest days of the new revelation in the 1840s down to our time, the Bábís and Bahá’ís of Iran have composed poetry, mainly in Persian, but to a minor degree in Turkish and Arabic as well. Many of the poets have written poetry on both Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í themes. This chapter concerns itself mostly with the large body of poetry that is specifically and openly related to the Bahá’í Faith.

Persian poetry counts among the world’s finest and richest. Its beginnings date back to the mid-ninth century ad. Some two hundred years after the conquest of Iran by the Muslim Arabs, which channelled the course of Persian history and civilization in a new direction, fragments of ‘New Persian’ poetry started to be committed to paper and thus passed on to posterity. Conventions of Arabic poetry had gradually taken deep root in the minds of emerging Persian poets and left evidence of their influence on this newly born poetry, particularly in the formal aspects of its quantitative prosody, rhyme patterns and form. To the typically Arabic forms of qaṣídah [long ode], qiṭ‘ah [fragmentary piece] and the lyrical ghazal [similar to the sonnet], the Persians added the forms of mathnaví [couplets] (suitable for long poems and epics), rubá‘í [quatrain] (epigrams of moral and philosophical quality) and a variety of other strophic verse forms.

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