Baha’u’llah’s Solution for Religious Fanaticism
The Word of God dictates the dynamics of civilization over history and dominates the destiny of events. It is our privilege as souls and individuals to participate and contribute to the inaction of God’s Will in the history of humankind as it unfolds, if God accepts such service. In order to serve, it is important to know what God’s Will is; and in order to know God’s Will we would have to recognize where to turn to learn it. Historically, humankind has known and worshiped God through His Manifestations– the Authors of the great world religions.
Religion was created for the betterment of the world, to inculcate kindness and patience in human character. Religion teaches us to have faith, which empowers people to transcend attachments to selfish and material things that often motivate harmful behavior. As the latest chapter in the unfoldment of religion, the Baha’i Faith redeems and contextualizes all past religions, like Christianity and Islam that came before it.
Because the Baha’i Faith affirms other religions and prescribes the uniting of all particularistic worldviews, it is worth bolstering and defending against ignorance and prejudice. But fanaticism in Iran has caused the Muslim clergy to persecute the Baha’is. In a similar way, materialistic fanaticism through consumer culture has questioned beliefs at the core of religion in the West, such as the value of spiritual life and the need for Prophets or even faith in God.
Wherever they are found, fanaticism and fundamentalism are a harmful fire in the heart, that can be very detrimental to others and to the peace and security of society. Take for instance the violence between ISIS and the Shi’ih people of Iraq. For the Baha’is of Iran, and the people of Iraq, it is comforting to know that God sees the pain and suffering that religious fanaticism has caused and heals, exalts, bestows, and rewards those who endure and overcome it with patience and courage. Perhaps, one of the greatest condemnations of those who benefit from crime, both violent and moral, is the manifest implication through behavior that shows they actively embrace a philosophy that regards social justice as their enemy. The fanatic thwarts himself, in demonstrating desperation.
In the Tabernacle of Unity, Baha’u’llah teaches that we can protect ourselves from fanaticism and fundamentalism by remembering that there is only one God, and that his Word influences the world through the Revelation of successive Prophets or Manifestations of God over the ages. This concept is termed progressive revelation–the belief that humankind has experienced a single phenomenon called Religion (singular) comprising all the various world religions revealed successively over time by God’s Will for humankind in a socially and historically-appropriate manner.
To endure fanaticism and fundamentalism, Baha’u’llah teaches, we can pray to God saying, “aid me with the ensigns of Thy power and might” and “protect me from the mischief of Thine enemies who have violated Thy Covenant and Thy Testament.” Baha’u’llah says that this prayer acts as an “impregnable stronghold” in that it confers protection and can be likened unto an “indomitable army” in the way that it ensures deliverance.
“Consider the sun. Were it to say now, “I am the sun of yesterday,” it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth.” ~Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan