Posted by: samandal | December 12, 2009

Men Are as Women, I: Prophet’s Daughter

Díyáfat-i-Masá’il, the Feast of Questions

“For men are as women through this trial.”                                              (Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí: Mathnaví-i Ma‘naví, Book VI)

The refined mysticism of the Iranian Súfís posits the prophets Máryám and ‘Ísá as the necessary complement to Hawá’ and Ádam: just as Hawá’ was existentiated by Ádam without the mediation of a mother, so ‘Ísá was existentiated by Máryám without the mediation of a father. The relation of Máryám to ‘Ísá is the antitype to the relation of Hawá’ to Ádam, for Máryám is invested with the active function in the image of the feminine and accedes to the station of Ádam, while ‘Ísá is invested with the passive function in the image of the masculine and accedes to the station of Hawá’. ‘Ísá and Hawá’ are brother and sister, while Máryám and Ádam are the two parents.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá comments in Má’idiy-i Ásmání (Heavenly Bread) that Bahá’u’lláh may be considered the new Ádam and the Báb the new Hawá’; Bahá’u’lláh is invested with the active function, while the Báb is invested with the passive function. ‘Ísá and the Báb are brother and sister, while Máryám and Bahá’u’lláh are the primal parents. Gender distinction is rendered essentially immaterial; the Bahá’í view of human nature is only nominally teleological.

Bahíyyih Khánum (1846–1932) was the eldest daughter of Bahá’u’lláh by his first wife Ásíyih (later known by her title Navváb) and the full sister of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. She was deeply devoted to her father and her brother, as well as to her grand-nephew Shoghí Effendí, and on several occasions served as Center of the Faith and Guardian-Regnant of the Cause.

In ‘Akká she managed the practical affairs of the exile community and attended to the needs of Bahá’u’lláh until his demise and ascension; and in the aftermath, she led the members of the Holy Household who supported ‘Abdu’l-Bahá against Muhammad-‘Alí and his associates. With the onset of World War I, she distributed food, clothes and medical aid to the local population. After the ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1921, she advised Shoghí Effendí in the early years of his Guardianship, and in his prolonged absences from Haifa served in his stead as Guardian of the Faith. Reminiscent to that of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, her death and ascension to heaven on 15 July 1932 was marked by the vast number and religious diversity of mourners in attendance at her funeral. She is the archetypal Bahá’í heroine for both women and men.