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Glossary

‘Abdu'l-Bahá: (1844–1921) Son of Bahá'u'lláh, designated His succes­sor and authorized interpreter of His writings. Named ‘Abbás after His grandfather, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá was known to the general public as ‘Abbás Effendi. Bahá'u'lláh gave Him such titles as “the Most Great Branch,” “the Mystery of God,” and “the Master.” After Bahá'u'lláh's passing, He chose the name ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, meaning “Servant of Bahá'u'lláh.”

Administrative Order: The system of administration as conceived by Bahá'u'lláh, formally established by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, and realized during the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi. It consists, on the one hand, of a series of elected councils, universal, national, and local, in which are invested legislative, executive, and judicial powers over the Bahá'í community, and, on the other hand, of eminent and devoted Bahá'ís appointed for the specific purposes of propagation and protection of the Faith under the guidance of the Head of that Faith, the Universal House of Justice.

‘Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum: (1910–2000) Mary Sutherland Maxwell, an eminent North American Bahá'í who became the wife of Shoghi Effendi Rabbání, Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, in 1937, after which she became known as Rúhíyyih Khánum Rabbání. (‘Amatu'l-Bahá is a title meaning “Handmaiden of Bahá'u'lláh.”) She served as the Guardian's secretary during his lifetime and was appointed a Hand of the Cause of God in 1952. After Shoghi Effendi's passing in 1957, she traveled extensively to teach the Bahá'í Faith, consolidate Bahá'í communities, and serve as a representative of the Universal House of Justice at major events.

Arc: An arc cut into Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, along which the international administrative buildings of the Bahá'í Faith have been built.

Auxiliary Boards: An institution created by Shoghi Effendi in 1954 to assist the Hands of the Cause of God. When the institution of the Continental Boards of Counsellors was established in 1968 by the Universal House of Justice, the Auxiliary Boards were placed under its direction.

Báb, the: The title, meaning “Gate,” assumed by Siyyid ‘Alí-Mu h ammad, Who was the Prophet-Founder of the Bábí Faith and the Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh. Born 20 October 1819, the Báb proclaimed Himself to be the Promised One of Islam and announced that His mission was to alert the people to the imminent advent of “Him Whom God shall make manifest,” namely, Bahá'u'lláh. Because of these claims, the Báb was executed by order of Ná s iri'd-Dín Sh áh on 9 July 1850.

Bahá'í Era ( BE): The period of the Bahá'í calendar beginning with the Dec­laration of the Báb on 23 May 1844, and expected to last until the next appearance of a Manifestation (Prophet) of God after the expira­tion of at least 1,000 years.

Bahá'í International Community: A name used generally in reference to the worldwide Bahá'í community and officially in that community's external relations. In the latter context, the Bahá'í International Community is an association of the National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world and functions as an international nongovernmental organization. Its offices include its Secretariat at the Bahá'í World Centre, a United Nations Office in New York with a branch in Geneva, an Office of Public Information, an Office of the Environment, and an Office for the Advancement of Women.

Bahá'í World Centre: The spiritual and administrative center of the Bahá'í Faith, comprising the holy places in the Haifa-Acre area and the Arc of administrative buildings on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.

Bahá'u'lláh: Title, meaning “Glory of God,” assumed by Mírzá H usayn-‘Alí, Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Born on 12 November 1817, He declared His mission as the Promised One of All Ages in April 1863 and passed away in Acre, Palestine, on 29 May 1892 after 40 years of imprisonment, ban­ishment, and house arrest. Bahá'u'lláh's writings are considered by Bahá'ís to be direct revelation from God.

Bahjí: Arabic for “delight.” Located near Acre, it is a place of pilgrimage for Bahá'ís which comprises the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, the mansion which was His last residence, and the surrounding gardens that serve to beautify the site.

Calendar, Bahá'í : Year consisting of 19 months of 19 days each, with the addition of certain “intercalary days” (four in ordinary and five in leap years) between the 18th and 19th months in order to adjust the calendar to the solar year. Naw-Rúz, the Bahá'í new year, is astronomically fixed, commencing at the vernal equinox (21 March). The Bahá'í era ( be ) begins with the year of the Báb's declaration (1844 ce ).

Consultation: A form of discussion between individuals and within groups which requires the subjugation of egotism so that all ideas can be shared and evaluated with frankness, courtesy, and openness of mind, and decisions arrived at can be wholeheartedly supported. Its guiding principles were elaborated by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.

Continental Boards of Counsellors: An institution created in 1968 by the Universal House of Justice to extend into the future the work of the institution of the Hands of the Cause of God, particularly its appointed functions of protection and propagation. With the passing of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, there was no way for additional Hands of the Cause to be appointed. The duties of the Counsellors include directing the Auxiliary Boards in their respective areas, advising and collaborating with National Spiritual Assemblies, and keeping the Universal House of Justice informed concerning the conditions of the Faith in their areas. Counsellors are appointed for terms of five years.

Convention: A gathering called at a regional, national, or international level for consultation on matters affecting the welfare of the Bahá'í community and for the purpose, respectively, of electing delegates to a National Convention, electing members of a National Spiritual Assembly, or electing members of the Universal House of Justice.

Hands of the Cause of God: Individuals appointed by Bahá'u'lláh, and later by Shoghi Effendi, who were charged with the specific duties of protecting and propagating the Faith. (Four individuals were recognized posthumously as Hands of the Cause by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.) With the pass­ing of Shoghi Effendi, there was no further possibility for appointing Hands of the Cause; hence, in order to extend into the future the important functions of propagation and protection, the Universal House of Justice in 1968 created Continental Boards of Counsellors and in 1973 established the International Teaching Centre, which coordinates their work.

Holy Days: Eleven days commemorating significant Bahá'í anniversaries, on nine of which work is suspended.

Huqúqu'lláh: Arabic for “the Right of God.” As instituted in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, payment to “the Authority in the Cause to whom all must turn” (at present, the Universal House of Justice) of 19 percent of what remains of one's personal income after one's essential expenses have been covered. Funds generated by the payment of Huqúqu'lláh are used for the promotion of the Faith and for the welfare of society.

International Teaching Centre: An institution established in 1973 by the Universal House of Justice to bring to fruition the work of the Hands of the Cause of God in the Holy Land and to provide for its extension into the future. The duties of the International Teaching Centre include co-ordinating, stimulating, and directing the activities of the Continental Boards of Counsellors and acting as liaison between them and the Universal House of Justice. The membership of the Teaching Centre comprises the surviving Hands of the Cause and also nine Counsellors appointed by the Universal House of Jus­tice. The seat of the International Teaching Centre is located at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.

Knight of Bahá'u'lláh: Title initially given by Shoghi Effendi to those Bahá'ís who arose to open specified new territories to the Faith during the first year of the Ten Year Crusade (1953–1963) and subsequently applied to those who first reached the remaining unopened territories on the list at a later date.

Lesser Peace: A political peace to be established by the nations of the world in order to bring about an end to war. Its establishment will prepare the way for the Most Great Peace, a condition of permanent peace and world unity to be founded on the spiritual principles and institutions of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and signalizing human­ity's coming of age.

Local Spiritual Assembly: The local administrative body in the Bahá'í Faith, ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The nine members are directly elected by secret ballot each year at Ridván from among the adult believers in a community.

Monument Gardens : Beautifully landscaped gardens at the heart of the Arc on Mount Carmel where befitting monuments have been erected over the graves of the daughter and the wife of Bahá'u'lláh, His son who died in prison in Acre, and the wife of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.

Mount Carmel: The mountain spoken of by Isaiah as the “mountain of the Lord.” Site of the Bahá'í World Centre including several Bahá'í holy places, the most important of which are the Shrine of the Báb and the Monument Gardens.

National Spiritual Assembly: The national administrative body in the Bahá'í Faith, ordained in the Bahá'í sacred writings, with authority over all activities and affairs of the Bahá'í Faith throughout its area. Among its duties are to stimulate, unify, and coordinate the manifold activities of Local Spiritual Assemblies and of individual Bahá'ís within its jurisdiction. The members of National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world constitute the electoral college for the Universal House of Justice. At Rid ván 2002, there were 182 National or Regional Spiritual Assemblies. See also Regional Spiritual Assembly .

Nineteen Day Feast: The principal gathering in each local Bahá'í community, every Bahá'í month, for the threefold purpose of worship, consultation, and fellowship.

Pioneer: Any Bahá'í who arises and leaves his or her home to journey to another country for the purpose of teaching the Bahá'í Faith. “Home­front pioneer” describes those who move to areas within their own country that have yet to be exposed to the Bahá'í Faith or where the Bahá'í community needs strengthening.

Regional Bahá'í Council: An element of Bahá'í administration between the local and national levels, established at the discretion of the Universal House of Justice in countries where the condition and size of the Bahá'í community warrant. A means of decentralizing the work of the National Spiritual Assembly, a Regional Council may be formed either by election or by appointment, depending on local requirements and the condition of the Bahá'í community. It provides for a level of autonomous decision making on both teaching and administrative matters. In some countries, State Bahá'í Councils perform these tasks within specific civic jurisdictions.

Regional Spiritual Assembly: An institution identical in function to the National Spiritual Assembly but including a number of countries or regions in its jurisdiction, often established as a precursor to the for­mation of a National Spiritual Assembly in each of the countries it encompasses.

Ridván: Arabic for “Paradise.” Twelve-day festival (from 21 April through 2 May) commemorating Bahá'u'lláh's declaration of His mission to His companions in 1863 in the Garden of Ridván in Baghdad.

Shoghi Effendi Rabbání: (1897–1957) The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith after the passing of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, designated in His Will and Testament as His successor in interpreting the Bahá'í writings and as Head of the Faith.

Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh: The resting place of Bahá'u'lláh's mortal remains, located near the city of Acre, Israel. The Shrine is the holiest spot on earth to Bahá'ís and a place of pilgrimage.

Shrine of the Báb: The resting place of the Báb's mortal remains, located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, a sacred site to Bahá'ís, and a place of pilgrimage.

State Bahá'í Council: See Regional Bahá'í Council.

Tablet: Divinely revealed scripture. In Bahá'í scripture, the term is used to denote writings revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.

Teaching the Baha'i Faith: Baha'is believe the Message of Baha'u'llah is God's guidance for humanity to press through the difficulties of this present age of transition and into the next stage of its evolution. As such, they believe all human beings have the right to hear the Baha'i message. Baha'u'llah has enjoined upon every Baha'i the duty to teach others about His Faith but, without pressing their hearer, for at the same time, He forbids them to proselytize. Baha'is are therefore instructed to teach their Faith with enthusiasm, wisdom and courtesy. A well known passage from the Baha'i Writings states, "... love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities. Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction."

Ten Year Crusade: (1953–1963) Ten Year Plan initiated by Shoghi Effendi for teaching the Bahá'í Faith, which culminated with the election of the Universal House of Justice during the centenary of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh. The objectives of the Crusade were the development of the institutions at the World Centre, the consolidation of the communities of the participating National Spiritual Assemblies, and the spread of the Faith to new regions. See also Knight of Bahá'u'lláh .

Universal House of Justice: Head of the Bahá'í Faith after the passing of Shoghi Effendi, and the supreme administrative body ordained by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His book of laws. The Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies, who gather at an International Convention. The House of Justice was elected for the first time in 1963. It occupied its permanent seat on Mount Carmel in 1983.


Some entries adapted from A Basic Bahá'í Dictionary , ed. Wendi Momen (Oxford: George Ronald, 1989).