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A Compilation on Scholarship

  • Author:
  • Various

  • Source:
  • Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í World Centre, February 1995
  • Pages:
  • 28
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Pages 24-25

From Letters Written on Behalf of the Universal House of Justice

68: “The concern was expressed that many of the friends, holding that there…”

The concern was expressed that many of the friends, holding that there is only one “correct” view of the history and teachings of the Faith, react critically to unfamiliar views. This has already been covered in statements made by the Universal House of Justice itself, for example that on pages 88–89 of “Wellspring of Guidance”. As you point out in your letter, divine Revelation is infallible and proceeds from an all-encompassing knowledge of the Truth, but when individual Bahá’ís attempt to apply Sacred Texts to any specific problem or situation they do so using their own minds which are of limited understanding. Thus, just as people can differ from one another in their use of reason in making deductions from available evidence, so they can also differ in their understanding and application of a passage of divine Revelation. The Bahá’í principle of the harmony between science and religion requires, as you say, that a Bahá’í scholar must use his intelligence to arrive at a solution of a specific problem if there is an apparent conflict between a Sacred Text and other evidence; and also he must accept the fact that some problems may defy his comprehension….
By conveying the comments of the Research Department on the … Seminar 1 the House of Justice did not intend to imply that there was only one valid methodology for Bahá’í historians to follow. It merely wished to alert Bahá’í scholars to the dangers that are inherent in the paths that some of them are following at the present time. Historical research is largely a matter of evaluating evidence and deducing probabilities. Historical evidence, moreover, is always fragmentary, and may also be accidentally erroneous or even intentionally fabricated. The House of Justice realizes that you are fully 25 aware of this, but it stresses the point because it does not see how a Bahá’í historian can in all honesty claim to be a faithful believer on the one hand and, on the other, challenge in his writings the veracity and honour of the Central Figures of the Faith or of its Guardian.
The fact that the Faith, as the Guardian states, “enjoins upon its followers the primary duty of an unfettered search after truth”, should reassure any aspiring Bahá’í historian that there can be no question of any requirement to distort history in the so-called “interests” of the Faith. On the contrary, the combination of profound faith and freedom of thought is one of the great strengths of the Bahá’í religion. It does, however, place a great responsibility upon Bahá’í historians to put forward their views and conclusions with moderation and due humility. In this connection one of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh states:
Thou hast written that one of the friends hath composed a treatise. This was mentioned in the Holy Presence, and this is what was revealed in response: Great care should be exercised that whatever is written in these days doth not cause dissension, and invite the objection of the people. Whatever the friends of the one true God say in these days is listened to by the people of the world. It hath been revealed in the Lawḥ-i-Hikmat: “The unbelievers have inclined their ears towards Us in order to hear that which might enable them to cavil against God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.” Whatever is written should not transgress the bounds of tact and wisdom, and in the words used there should lie hid the property of milk, so that the children of the world may be nurtured therewith, and attain maturity. We have said in the past that one word hath the influence of spring and causeth hearts to become fresh and verdant, while another is like unto blight which causeth the blossoms and flowers to wither. God grant that authors among the friends will write in such a way as would be acceptable
(18 July 1979 to an individual believer) [68]
1. “The Challenge and Promise of Bahá’í Scholarship”, prepared by the Research Department. As published in “The Bahá’í World” (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1981), vol. XVII, pp. 195–196, this statement was inadvertently attributed to the Universal House of Justice.   [ Back To Reference]