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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEThe Role of Wonder in Creating Identity
AUTHOR 1Todd Lawson
ABSTRACTThe term badí', "wondrous" or "new," is used dozens of times by the Báb in his proclamatory work the Qayyúm al-Asmáʾ. Wonder plays a major role in Bábí and Bahá'í thought and practice, and in their ethos and message. Link to article (offsite).
NOTES Published in the Religions special issue "The Bahá'í Faith: Doctrinal and Historical Explorations," online at, where it is also available in HTML, XML, and epub formats. Files mirrored here with author's permission.
TAGS- Christianity; - Interfaith dialogue; - Islam; - Judaism; Abraham; Alast (Primordial Covenant); Arabic language; Badi (term); Bahá'í Faith, Sect, NRM or World Religion; Bible; Covenant; Creation; Genuflections; Grammar; Henry Corbin; Hidden Imam; Identity; Iran (documents); Joseph (Prophet); Obligatory prayer; Obligatory prayer, Long; Prayer; Pronouns; Qayyumul-Asma (book); Qayyumul-Asma (book), chapters; Renewal; Service; Servitude; Shiism; Wordplay
Abstract: Although the Bahāʾī Faith was born in a Shīʿī Islamic cultural milieu it has clearly gone beyond the “gravitational pull” of Islām and assumed a distinctive social, scriptural, and religious identity. Bahāʾīs revere Islām as “the source and background of their Faith” and consider the Qurʾān the only authentic, uncorrupted scripture apart from their own. However, Bahāʾī teachings insist that this new religious movement is more than a sectarian development. It represents a distinctive — if you will “autonomous” — religious dispensation along the lines of the development of Christianity out of its original Jewish setting. This assertion and trajectory is clear in the very earliest scriptures of the new religion revealed by the Bāb and runs through subsequent Bahāʾī writings. A key term, badīʿ, used dozens of times by the Bāb in his annunciatory composition, the Qayyūm al-Asmāʾ, denotes this sense of the “wondrously new”, something that is simultaneously ancient and unprecedented. It is suggested here that this term is a central and pivotal idea in the Bāb’s vision and that it had a major role in generating the imaginative and kerygmatic cultural energy that would eventually result in the above-mentioned escape from an Islamic orbit. The word badīʿ eventually acquires a life of its own in Bahāʾī thought and practice. It is the word used to designate the new calendar whose current year is 180 B.E., “Bahāʾī Era” or “Badīʿ Era”. It is used in the title of one of Bahāʾuʾllāh’s major books, the Kitāb-i Badīʿ. It is given as a name for one of the young heroes of the Bahāʾī Faith who was tortured and killed because he dared to attempt to communicate directly with the Shah of Iran to testify to the truth of Bahāʾuʾllāh’s mission. It is a word encountered frequently throughout the Bahāʾī writings and translated various ways. It functions as an emblem and symbol of the Bahāʾī ethos and message. The main focus here is the Qayyūm al-Asmāʾ, the Bāb’s proclamatory summons, disguised as a Qurʾān commentary, in which he claimed to be in immediate and intimate contact with the hidden Imām and, therefore, the centre of all authority (walāya) whether political or spiritual. The clarion message of the Qayyūm al-Asmāʾ, in which the much repeated Arabic word badīʿ is a powerful and vibrant symbol of “the new”, is that a profound and radical covenantal renewal—as distinct from “revivification/tajdīd”—is at hand, a renewal that would evolve into a distinctive Bahāʾī communal identity that is simultaneously–and therefore wondrously–new and primordial.
See all details online at, or use one of the direct links below:
  1. Direct link to download PDF: lawson_role_wonder_identity.pdf.
  2. Direct link to download ePub: lawson_role_wonder_identity.epub.
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