Bahá'í Faith and slavery

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Bahá’u’lláh formally abolished the practice of slavery among Baha’is in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (ca. 1873). The English translation of the relevant section is as follows:

It is forbidden you to trade in slaves, be they men or women. It is not for him who is himself a servant to buy another of God's servants, and this hath been prohibited in His Holy Tablet. Thus, by His mercy, hath the commandment been recorded by the Pen of justice. Let no man exalt himself above another; all are but bondslaves before the Lord, and all exemplify the truth that there is none other God but Him. He, verily, is the All-Wise, Whose wisdom encompasseth all things.
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 45)[1]

In his letter to Queen Victoria, written to her between 1868 and 1872, Bahá’u’lláh had singled out the action of the British government in using its power to stamp out the world trade in slaves for particular commendation.

We have been informed that thou hast forbidden the trading in slaves, both men and women. This, verily, is what God hath enjoined in this wondrous Revelation. God hath, truly, destined a reward for thee, because of this.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 30)[2]

In 1844, when the Báb declared his mission, slavery was still very widespread. When the Báb went on the Hajj pilgrimage in 1844, he was accompanied by Quddús and an Ethiopian slave.[3] The family the Báb was born into possessed several slaves: one was his first tutor, and the subject of a eulogy penned by his young pupil/master in later years, crediting him as having raised him and praises him.[4] The Báb was martyred in 1850, at which time he had not abrogated or changed the laws of Islam that permitted and regulated the practice. Slavery was not finally abolished in Iran until 1929.[note 1][5] For comparison though slavery had been abolished in the British Empire as late as 1833,[note 2] it remained legal in the United States until 1863.[note 3]

Nor was slavery immediately abolished among followers of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

The household in which Bahá’u’lláh was raised also included a number of slaves. He became the owner of these on the death of his father, whereupon he gave each of them the choice of remaining in his service as free servants, or leaving.[6] saying "How, then, can this thrall claim for himself ownership of any other human being? Nay,…."[7]

All of them chose to take up their freedom in full and leave his household, except one called Isfandíyár, who remained a loyal servant, and later a well known follower, of Bahá’u’lláh.[8]

Partial list of slaves

  • Hájí Mubárak - purchased at the age of 5 years old by Hájí Mírzá Abú'l-Qásím, the great-grandfather of Shoghi Effendi and brother-in-law of the Báb, Hájí Mubárak was sold to the Báb in 1842 at the age of 19 for fourteen tomans.[9] Nabíl-i-A`zam relates in The Dawn-Breakers that Mullá Husayn, the first Letter of the Living, was welcomed at the Báb's mansion by Hájí Mubárak.[10] Hájí Mubárak died at about the age of 40 and is buried in the grounds of the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, Iraq.[11]
  • Fiddih - acquired by the Báb when she was no older than 7 years of age, Fiddih served the Báb's wife Khadíjih-Bagum.[12][13] Fiddih would die the same night as her master.[14]
  • Isfandíyár - inherited by Bahá'u'lláh after the passing of his father, Mírzá Buzurg, Isfandíyár was granted manumission but remained a servant in Bahá'u'lláh's house in Tehran,[15][16] Isfandíyár died in Mazandaran [17][18]
  • Masúd - initially purchased as a youth by Khál-i Akbar, an uncle of the Báb, Masúd would serve Bahá'u'lláh in Acre.[19]

Notes and citations

Notes
  1. ^ On February 7, 1929 the Iranian National Parliament ratified an anti-slavery bill that outlawed slave trade or any other claim of ownership over human beings. The bill also empowered the government to take immediate action for emancipation of all slaves.
  2. ^ The Slavery Abolition Act passed in 1833 abolished slavery in the British Empire on 1 August 1834 (with the exception of St. Helena, Ceylon and the territories administered by the East India Company, though these exclusions were later repealed). Under the Act, slaves were granted full emancipation after a period of 4 to 6 years of "apprenticeship".
  3. ^ On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation warning that he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any state in rebellion against the Union this took effect on January 1, 1863.
Citations
  1. ^ Bahá'u'lláh (1873). The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 45. ISBN 0-85398-999-0. 
  2. ^ ""Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets to the Rulers" by Juan R.I. Cole, Department of History, University of Michigan". Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Universal House of Justice (September 26, 1976). "Message to the International Teaching Conference, Nairobi, Kenya" (PDF). Selected Messages of the Universal House of Justice. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  4. ^ Nader Saiedi; Translated by Omid Ghaemmaghami (2011). "The Ethiopian King". Baha’i Studies Review. 17: 181–186. doi:10.1386/bsr.17.181/7. Retrieved Sep 7, 2016. 
  5. ^ Law for prohibition of slave trade and liberation of slaves at the point of entry, 1 Iranian National Parliament 7, Page 156 (1929).
  6. ^ Buck, Christopher (January 13, 2014). "Baha’u’llah Frees the Slaves". Bahaiteachings.org. Retrieved Sep 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ Buck, Christopher (September 24, 2014). "Liberating Every Slave". Bahaiteachings.org. Retrieved Sep 7, 2016. 
  8. ^ Universal House of Justice (Feb 2, 2000). "Servants in the Households of Baha'u'llah and the Bab". Bahai-Library.com. Research Department of the Bahá'í World Center. Retrieved Sep 21, 2016. 
  9. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 5, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
  10. ^ Nabíl-i-A`zam (1932), Dawn-Breakers: Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Baha'i Revelation (1997 ed.), Bahá'í Publishing Trust, p. 53, ISBN 978-0877430100 
  11. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 18, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
  12. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 21, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
  13. ^ Munirih Khánum (1987). Munirih Khánum: Memoirs and Letters. Kalimat Press. pp. 26–37. ISBN 978-0933770515. 
  14. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 26, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
  15. ^ Blomfield, Sara Louisa Ryan (2007). The Chosen Highway. George Ronald Publisher. p. 40. ISBN 978-0853985099. 
  16. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 27, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
  17. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 30, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
  18. ^ 'Abdu'l-Bahá (1982). Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by Abdu'l Baha during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Bahai Publishing Trust, 2nd Edition. p. 426. ISBN 978-0877431725. 
  19. ^ Afnan, Abul-Qasim (1999), Black Pearls: Servants in the Household of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Kalimat Press, p. 35, ISBN 1-890688-03-7 
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