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Moojan Momen, "The Re‑Creation and Utilization of a Community's Memories: Shoghi Effendi and Baha'i History"

Moojan Momen,

Dawn_breakers-goldWhy did Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Bahá’í  Faith, despite having a multitude of other work and responsibilities, devote a very large amount of time to translating and annotating a voluminous history of the Babi movement, The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation (published in 1932)? This paper examines Shoghi Effendi’s leadership of the Bahá’í Faith, his plan for establishing an organisational structure for the Bahá’í community and spreading it to all parts of the world so as to be able to have an adequate basis for the Universal House of Justice. This paper suggests that the publication of The Dawn-Breakers was a necessary step in Shoghi Effendi’s plan for the growth and development of the Bahá’í Faith. He needed to establish, particularly in the West, a communal remembrance of the early history of the Bahá’í Faith — a myth of heroism and sacrifice — as a prelude to asking the Bahá’ís, in particular the Western Bahá’ís, to make the sacrifices necessary in carrying out the planned expansion of the Bahá’í  Faith to new parts of the world. The talk examines the writings of Shoghi Effendi to bring to light the manner in which he used The Dawn-Breakers, his exhortations to the North American Bahá’í community to study the book, and his creation of the idea that the North American Bahá’ís were the “spiritual descendants of the dawn‑breakers.” This in turn created the enthusiasm and readiness among the American Bahá’ís for a series of planned expansions of the Bahá’í Faith in which they were asked to leave their comfortable homes for an often remote “pioneer post” in less developed countries where they would face difficult and uncomfortable circumstances. Read a summary of Dr. Momen’s talk here

Moojan Momen, MD

WI Department Coordinator, Author

Dr. Moojan Momen was born in Iran, but was raised and educated in England, attending the University of Cambridge. He has a special interest in the study of Shi`i Islam and the Bahá’í Faith, both from the viewpoint of their history and their doctrines. In recent years, his interests have extended to the study of the phenomenon of religion. His principal publications in these fields include: Introduction to Shi`i Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985); The Phenomenon of Religion (Oxford: OneWorld, 1999, republished as Understanding Religion, 2008); and The Baha’i Communities of Iran (1851-1921); Vol. 1: The North of Iran (Oxford: George Ronald, 2015). He has contributed articles to encyclopaedias such as Encyclopedia Iranica and Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World as well as papers to academic journals such as International Journal of Middle East Studies, Past and Present, Religion, Iran, and Iranian Studies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.See Faculty Bio


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