New Book from University Press of Maryland Explores Baha'i Views of Governance and Globalization

24 December 2000

BETHESDA, United States — A new book from the University Press of Maryland by sociologist Nader Saiedi examines the philosophical and theological underpinnings of the concepts of world order and governance found in the writings of Baha'u'llah.

In "Logos and Civilization: Spirit, History, and Order in the Writings of Baha'u'llah," Dr. Saiedi argues that Baha'u'llah's writings, despite the great diversity of their styles and the topics they address, are animated by the common purpose of establishing the oneness of humanity in all spheres, whether spiritual, ethical, legal, or social.

"There has been a tendency among some scholars to perceive the writings of Baha'u'llah as a chaotic phenomena with internal contradictions and no overall unity," said Dr. Saiedi during a recent interview. "The book is structured to show the overall harmony of Baha'u'llah's writings, which were revealed in roughly three stages, addressed first to the mystics, then the divines and religious leaders, and finally to the kings and rulers of His day. He used different languages: the language of the mystic, the truth-seeker or the law-giver - but in all stages, the animating purpose was the same."

More than a century ago, Baha'u'llah wrote about the appearance of a new social order of global dimensions. "The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order," He wrote. "Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System, the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed."

Dr. Saiedi examines Baha'u'llah's conception of the three component terms of the phrase 'new world order,' arguing that they correspond to the three stages in which Baha'u'llah revealed his major works.

"Baha'u'llah's early ethical and mystical works contain His idea of the necessary conditions for the possibility of order," said Dr. Saiedi. "The term 'new' reflects the historical consciousness found in His later hermeneutic and theological writings. The fundamental characteristic of 'newness' in our age is the global nature of the challenges facing humanity. Therefore the term 'world' defines Baha'u'llah's basic position toward history and present day society and corresponds to the final phase of His revelation when he revealed laws of personal and social conduct."

Dr. Saiedi discusses the philosophical premises of Baha'u'llah's concept of globalization, emphasizing its qualitative difference from both Middle Eastern and Western political philosophy and showing that it represents a new conception of civil society and state.

"The solution to any problem in our age has to be global," said Dr. Saiedi. "Take for example the question of citizenship. This has been largely ignored in discussions of social injustice, which have focused instead on questions of race, class or gender. Yet today one's national citizenship is one of the greatest determinants of one's access to social justice. This accident of birth determines one's entitlements and perpetuates a system of global inequality."

The book's initial chapters sketch the background context, in Islamic Sufism, of Baha'u'llah's early mystical works and explore the structure of Baha'u'llah's mystical treatises, the Four Valleys and the Seven Valleys, which describe the stages in the spiritual journey of the human soul. Later chapters discuss the Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), Baha'u'llah's principal hermeneutical work, and the Kitab-i-Badi (The Most Wondrous Book), which reaffirms the foundational principles of the Kitab-i-Iqan and is largely unknown to Western audiences. The final chapters investigate the structure and constitutive principles of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), regarded as the charter or book of laws for a global civilization.

Dr. Saiedi received his M.S. degree in economics from Pahlavi University in Shiraz, Iran, and his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin.