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Bahá'í Faith in Afghanistan

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Title: Bahá'í Faith in Afghanistan  
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Subject: Religion in Afghanistan, Bahá'í Faith in Iran, Bahá'í Faith in Hong Kong, Bahá'í Faith in Bahrain, Bahá'í Faith in Macau
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Bahá'í Faith in Afghanistan

The Bahá'í Faith in Afghanistan began in 1880s with visits by Bahá'ís. However it wasn't until the 1930s that any Bahá'í traveled there.[1] A Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1948 in Kabul[2] and after some years was re-elected in 1969.[3] Though the population had perhaps reached thousands, under the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the harsh rule of the Taliban the Bahá'ís lost the right to have any institutions and many fled. Although the Association of Religion Data Archives estimated there were some 15000 Bahá'ís in 2005,[4] the Bahá'ís in Afghanistan number at approximately 400 according to a more recent 2007 US estimate.[5]

Early period

During Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime, Jamal Effendi may have been the first Bahá'í to visit the area of Afghanistan in the late 1880s, according to Baha'i sources.[1]

The first Afghan who became a Baha'i outside of Afghanistan was Dr. Ata'u'llah Khan. He was then living in Samarqand and heard of the faith through Mirza Abu'l-Fada'il.[6]

`Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan

`Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916-1917 suggesting Bahá'ís take the religion to many places; these letters were compiled together in the book titled Tablets of the Divine Plan but were delayed in being presented in the United States until 1919 — after the end of World War I and the Spanish flu. These tablets were translated and presented by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab on April 4, 1919, and published in Star of the West magazine on December 12, 1919.[7] One tablet says in part:

O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá” in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it.… …if some teachers go to other islands and other parts, such as the continent of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, also to Japan, Asiatic Russia, Korea, French Indochina, Siam, Straits Settlements, India, Ceylon and Afghanistan, most great results will be forthcoming.[8]

In the late 1930s Shoghi Effendi, then head of the religion, urged the Persian Bahá'ís to send a pioneer to Afghanistan and a young Persian educated in India, 'Ali-Muhammad Nabílí went sometime 1938-40 "for the purposes of commerce." Other pioneers failed to remain during the period of the World Wars, however a Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1948 in Kabul.[2]

After the World Wars

By 1963, the Assembly of Kabul had lost assembly status.[9] The Assembly of Kabul was next elected in 1969 and the first National Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1972.[3] There were an estimated 400 Bahá'ís in mid 1970s, and 4 assemblies in 1973.[1][2]

Soviet invasion

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 bringing with it the Soviet policy of religious oppression, the Bahá'ís, strictly adhering to their principle of obedience to legal government, abandoned its administration.[10] Waves of refugees left in 1979 and some returned after 1990.[3] The World Christian Encyclopedia records about 19,500 Afghan Bahá'ís in 1990 and 23,075 in 2000.[11] A new assembly was elected in 1995 in Mazar-e Sharif.

A number of Bahá'ís were arrested and imprisoned for fourteen months.[3]


In 1998, when the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan arrested many Bahá'ís, many began to flee to Pakistan.[3] Many Afghan Bahá'ís fled during the 2000-2001 period of Taliban rule becoming members of the Bahá'í Faith in Pakistan. Following the 2001 fall of the Taliban, many Afghan Bahá'ís have returned. In 2007 the US government estimated the Bahá'í population under the Taliban had fallen to about 400 - 300 of which were in Kabul.[5]

Recent developments

Estimates of the population of Bahá'ís have varied widely - the World Christian Encyclopedia records about 19,500 Afghan Bahá'ís in 1990 and 23,075 in 2000.[11] However the Association of Religion Data Archives estimated some 15,300 Bahá'ís were again present in Afghanistan in 2005[4] Most recently a 2007 report from the US State Department indicated that there are only 400 Bahá'ís in Afghanistan, mostly concentrated in Kabul.[12] According to the US State Department, in 2007 the General Directorate of Fatwas and Accounts under the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the status of the Bahá'í Faith, declaring it to be distinct from Islam and a form of blasphemy, affirmed that all Muslims who convert to the religion were apostates from Islam, declared all followers of the religion to be infidels and hazards the status of marriages of Bahá'ís.[5][13] Although the Supreme Court ruling would impact Afghan Bahai'is, it would be unlikely to affect foreign-national Bahai'is.[5] In 2008, 50 people from Afghanistan traveled to India for a regional conference held in New Delhi called for by the Universal House of Justice.[14]

Outside Afghanistan

Many Afghan Bahá'ís fled the country and went around the world where they reside today in these countries: Pakistan, Iran, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Kuwait, Dubai, Qatar, Germany, The Netherlands, United States and Canada.

Some of the Bahá'ís who currently live outside Afghanistan established a website in 2000 to have an Internet presence.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hassall, Graham. "Notes on Research Countries". Research notes. Asia Pacific Bahá'í Studies. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  2. ^ a b c Cameron, Glenn; Momen, W. (1996). A Basic Bahá'í Chronology. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. pp. 277, 391.  
  3. ^ a b c d e "Bahá'í Faith in Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  4. ^ a b "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  5. ^ a b c d U.S. State Department. "Afghanistan - International Religious Freedom Report 2007". The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affair. Archived from the original on 15 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Abbas, 'Abdu'l-Bahá (April 1919). Tablets, Instructions and Words of Explanation. Mirza Ahmad Sohrab (trans. and comments). 
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Compiled by  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ a b "Azerbaijani, continued..". Archived from the original on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  12. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2007 Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. US State Department.
  13. ^ Temperman, Jeroen (2010). StateReligion Relationships and Human Rights Law Towards a Right to Religiously Neutral Governance. BRILL. p. 242.  
  14. ^ Bahá'í International Community (2008-11-23). "The New Delhi Regional Conference". Bahá'í World News Service. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  15. ^

External links

  • Afghan Bahais website (Not an official website of the institutions of Afghanistan)
  • Afghan Baha'is Blog
  • Afghan Baha'is Youtube Channel
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