SIR: Many thanks for the splendid article by Marcus Bach on the Bahais in The Christian Century of April 10. The article, brief as it is, is well written and shows a good impression of our faith. I do hope that it may show to others a clear explanation of what we stand for.
Santa Ana, Calif.
SIR: As a former Presbyterian, U.S.A., missionary who lived in Iran, the home of Bahaism, for more than 40 years, had first-hand contact with Bahais there, and has made some study of this religion, I was amazed at Dr. Bach's "Baha'i: a Second Look" (April 10). I gather that his knowledge of the subject comes largely from writings by or conversations with Bahais, which are often distortions of the facts, especially when it comes to early Bahai history.
Dr. Bach states that Bahaullah went to Akka in 1865; the correct date, I believe, is 1868. He speaks of visiting "the old prison where he was held captive for 25 years and where his son, Abdul-Baha, was a prisoner for 40 years." This is pure Bahai propaganda. Baha and his followers were imprisoned in the military barracks of Akka for two years and suffered much discomfort there. After that Baha lived in a house in the town for nine years, and from then on till his death in a palace outside the city purchased with funds that poured in from his followers in Iran. Bahaullah was sent to Akka by the Turkish government because of his bitter quarreling with his brother, Yahya, who was at the same time deported to Cyprus.
Abdul-Baha - no prisoner for 40 years - lived with his father till the latter's death. After that he moved about freely till 1901, when he was again confined to Akka for seven years because he in turn quarreled so bitterly with his half-brother, Mohammed Ali. Thereafter he was again at liberty.
The Bab never announced "the coming of a messiah: Baha'u'llah." He announced the coming of "Him whom God shall manifest," who was not to be expected for at least 1,500 years. He appointed as his successor not Bahaullah but Bahaullah's brother Yahya, as is indicated in a letter which the latter showed to Dr. Browne (mentioned in Dr. Bach's article). Yahya, or Subh-i-Azal, as known by his title, was head of the movement for 10 or 15 years, after which Bahaullah usurped the leadership and had the history of the movement rewritten to make out that the Bab was merely a forerunner of himself and not the divine manifestation he had claimed to be.
The Bahai Scriptures, from which Dr. Bach quotes, contain selections from Bahaullah and Abdul-Baha, many of them praiseworthy and chosen to appeal to the mind of the Christian Westerner. The twelve special tenets of the Bahai faith, as set forth in their promotional literature, contain nothing new or original. Examples of these tenets are: "independent investigation of the truth" (where Bahaullah claimed to be infallible and no one had the right to dispute him); "religion must be the cause of unity" (where in the case of Bahaullah and his brother it was the cause of disunity); "equality between men and women" (where Bahaullah himself had three wives - or, some say, two wives and a concubine). The teachings are good but they do not seem to square with the life of the founder.
The real Bahai Bible, as Bahais will admit, is the Kitab-ul-Aqdas (Most Holy Book), a small book, written in Arabic, which contains laws promulgated by Bahaullah.... It shows Bahaism to be a legalistic faith: it legislates on such subjects as prayers, fasting, inheritance, pilgrimages, punishments for various crimes, marriage. Bahais do not dare translate it into English for fear of the damage it would do their movement.
Dr. Bach entitled his article: "Bahai: A Second Look." May I respectfully suggest that he take a third look by reading such books as Miller's Baha'ism: Its Origin, History, and Teachings, or Richards' The Religion of the Baha'is; or, if he knows Persian, Kashf-ul-Hayal (Exposure of Fraud) by Avareh, the historian of the Bahai movement, who later defected, or Niku's Felsefeh-yi-Niku (Niku's Philosophy), written by another former Bahai.
C. H. ALLEN
New York, N.Y.