What is the Baha’i Faith and why did it become a pariah sect in Iraq?


          A few hundred people are all that remain of the Baha’is in Iraq, even though Iraq is one of the main starting points for the Baha’i community.
            The Baha’i Faith in Iraq transformed from a legally recognized sect during the monarchy to a pariah group during the period in which the Ba’ath Party ruled the country from 1968 to 2003, and then to what looks like a secret sect after that.
          The Baha’i minority is not recognized by the Iraqi state. The constitution guarantees freedom of religions and beliefs for all, and allows participation in political action and that all Iraqis are equal in rights and duties.

           The Baha’is had a house of worship in the down side of the capital, Baghdad, known as the House of Bahá’u’lláh (The house belongs to the Shia endowment, and was given to Bahaullah and his family as residence, when he was exiled to Baghdad after the terror of the Iranian King by the Babis.) it was demolished during the regime of the late President Saddam Hussein. Al-Nidhal Street, in central Baghdad, was known as a center to the Baha’is. The former regime turned it into a center linked to the intelligence service after it was confiscated.
           As for the Baha’i Faith, Iraq is a place that enjoys high sanctity, because Baha’u’llah, announced his claim to his family and close friends in Baghdad, where he lived for about 10 years from 1853 to 1863. Though Bahaullah did not declare the name of Baha’i Faith to anyone in Baghdad.
         The establishment of the first Baha’i local assembly in Iraq dates back to 1919, and Iraq includes some of the most important sacred centers for the Baha’i Faith. In addition to the House of Baha’u’llah, there is also the public Rizwan Garden, which was the place where Baha announced his claim to his followers. The house or the garden no longer exists at this time.
          The Baha’is are among the smallest religious minorities in Iraq. They descend from different religions, backgrounds and ethnicities. They are spread in various cities and villages in Iraq from north to south. Because of the absence of official recognition of them, there is no accurate count of their number in Iraq.

      Is Baha’i a religion?
          Iraqi Baha’i writer and researcher Saifi Saifi says that “Baha’i is a religion” like all other monotheistic religions, with a book, a messenger and Sharia law, and it is connected to its principles with all previous religions.
           Regarding the reason for the Baha’is not participating in the political work, Saifi clarified that the parties are looking for special and limited interests, while the Baha’is aim at the unity of the human race, noting that “the missionary (the Bab) and Bahá’u’lláh are from two Shiite Muslim families whose origins are in Iran. Therefore, some believe that it belongs to the Shiite Imami sect. “
          Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Saifi – who lives in Norway – confirms that the Baha’i faith is recognized in the free world, as their numbers reach about 1 million or more in the world, according to him. Saifi indicated that new believers in Baha’ism are not officially registered as Baha’is in Iraq because of the political situation during the previous and current rule.

    The Iraqi Constitution
           In this regard, the academic and expert on religious diversity in Iraq, Saad Salloum, says that the Iraqi constitution does not recognize very small religious minorities, such as the Baha’i, Kakai and Zoroastrian, and the scope of its recognition is limited to religions such as Islam, Christianity, Mandaism , Yazidism, and Judaism.
            Salloum – an assistant professor at the Faculty of Political Science at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad – added to Al-Jazeera Net that there is legislation that has prohibited the Baha’i religion since the time of the previous regime, according to Law No. (105) of 1970, and this law is still in effect.
            He pointed out that even if there is a constitutional article guaranteeing freedom of religion and belief for all citizens, it is clear that the scope of its guarantee is within the limits of officially recognized religions.

    No theologians
           Baha’is practice their rituals in homes or in public Baha’i centers in what is rare. There are no religious scholars among the Baha’is. As for their places of worship ( known as Mashreq al-Azkar) they are only found in a few countries around the world.
The year in the Baha’i calendar consists of 19 months, and the month 19 days, named according to the names of the Most Beautiful God. In addition to the days of “distraction,” these days are considered days of joy and feasts are held and the Baha’is donate to the poor.
           They have a month of fasting, which is called the month of Al-Ala, at the end of the days of distraction on March 2 and ends with the festival of Nowruz, March 21, which is the Iranian New Year, and the day of the spring equinox in Iran.
           The Baha’is make the pilgrimage to the International Baha’i Center, which is located in the Palestinian cities of Acre and Haifa (currently under Israeli occupation). The first includes the tomb of Baha’u’llah, while the second includes the shrine of Ali Muhammad al-Shirazi, known as the Bab.

    Religion with God
           While some researchers say that the Baha’is are close to Shiite Muslims in beliefs, Sheikh Montaser al-Ta’i, a Shiite cleric, believes that Islam cannot accept the claim of individuals or groups that they are the owners of a new heavenly religion.
           He explained that religion is one with God, according to the noble verse of Quran, “The religion with God is Islam” (Surat Al-Imran: verse 19), and from this religion a set of heavenly laws emerged “for each of you they made a law (Table:48) That is why the Law of Moses, the Law of Jesus, and the Law of Muhammad (may God bless them all) came.
          Al-Ta’i told Al-Jazeera Net, “We do not have a heavenly law in the name of the Baha’i Faith until it comes to come and objects to why you do not recognize this religion, and if the Baha’i sect is a sect, it is not linked to Islamic law and it is the subject of a group affected by ancient civilizations, and this should be taken into account with regard to the conclusion of the heavenly messages, which is the message of the Prophet Muhammad.” May God bless him and grant him peace, and therefore every claimant of prophet-hood or heavenly law is deviated. “
          As for the researcher in the dialogue of religions and civilizations, Abd al-Salam al-Muhammadi, he believes that the Baha’i Faith has disappeared in Iraq due to awareness and intellectual development at the present time among the Iraqi ranks.
           In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Al-Muhammadi considered that all the religions that came after Islam are either stemmed from “Islamic” sectarian roots” or “based on pagan beliefs”, “previous divine religions”, or just “human philosophies”.

Source: https://www.aljazeera.net/

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