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Bahā’ī Identity and the concept of Martyrdom
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Bahā’īs have been persecuted in Iran for the greater part of the existence of this movement, especially during the 1850’s and the period after 1979. The persecution has been a dominating part of the Bahā’ī history and an active part of the creation of a special Bahā’ī identity. This persecution could probably have been avoided if the Bahā’īs had chosen to hide their religious believes but this has generally not happened and this makes a difference from the Shī'a identity. The Bahā’ī identity seems to form the basis of a martyrideology as well as a servant ideology. The martyr ideology is, however, not an independent ideology but is rather an aspect of the servant ideology of Bahā’ī and can be traced to early Bābī texts.

The servant ideology in Bahā’ī has been used in the building of the special Bahā’ī administration, that has been developed gradually from the time of Bahā’u’llāh. This administration has been used as a tool to keep together the two different Bahā’ī identities: the Western identity, based on Christian messianic expectations, and the Eastern identity based on Mahdi expectation in Shī'a Islam. The Bahā’ī administration has been used as a tool to diminish the effects of the persecutions in Iran and in this way the persecutions have served as an agent to unite these separate identities.

The reaction of the Bābī and Bahā’ī movement has differed during different periods. During the first period, the 1840’s, the Islamic concept of jihad still existed among the Bābīs who met the persecution in some instances with sword in hand in defence. This was not in accordance to the instruction of the Bāb and in the persecution of the 1850’s there were no attempts from the Bābīs to defend themselves in any way. Important for the change of attitude among the Bābīs was the conference 1848 in Badasht, where Bahā’u’llāh was the driving force. What made the shah in Iran avoid any more national persecutions was probably the reaction of representatives of Western governments, but the persecutions continued on a local level. When the persecutions started on a larger scale again in 1979 the servant ideology of the Bahā’īs in Iran took the form of a martyr ideology and the Bahā’ī communities in other parts of the world could co-operate with the international community with the goal to stop the persecution, using diplomatic ways, by drawing upon the servant ideology that functioned as the motivating force in the Bahā’ī communities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2002. , 263 p.
Keyword [en]
History of religions
Keyword [sv]
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History Of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-2991ISBN: 91-7444-128-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-2991DiVA: diva2:162183
Public defence
2002-12-03, Universitetshuset rum VIII, Uppsala, 10:15
Available from: 2002-11-12 Created: 2002-11-12Bibliographically approved

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