What Can I Expect from the June Course on The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction?

Some of the questions that students considering the Wilmette Institute course The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction ask are these: 

  • Does this course teach about the Bahá’í Faith from its beginning to the present day?
  • Would this course be appropriate for my friend who is not a Bahá’í?
  • Could I obtain college credit for a course about the history of the Bahá’í Faith?

The answers are Yes , Yes, and Yes.

Yes, the fourteen-week course The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction, beginning June 15, 2013, covers the history and teachings of the Faith from its beginning in the mid-nineteenth century to the present day.

Yes, the course is appropriate for your friend who is not a Bahá’í—or for anyone wishing a basic overview of the Faith. It is also perfect for new Bahá’ís wanting to learn more about the religion they have accepted. And it is a good refresher course for veteran Bahá’ís wishing to refresh and deepen their understanding of their faith.

Yes, you may be able to obtain college or university credits for the course. The Wilmette Institute staff will work with you and your college or university on the paperwork required by such institutions.

What Does the Course Cover?

By now you may be asking another question: What does the course cover? 

The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction begins with a discussion of the definition of religion and an introduction to Islam, which bears the same relationship to the Bahá’í Faith as Christianity does to Judaism.

Then a succession of units discuss the history of the Bahá’í Faith through the missions of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb (the twin Founders of the Faith) and the lives of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s covenant), and of Shoghi Effendi (the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith).

Three additional units cover Bahá’í teachings, the organization of the Bahá’í community, and how it functions in the present day. The final unit explores the Bahá’í Faith on the internet and in blogs, including Bahá’í writings available on the Web.

A wide variety of authors are represented in the readings for the course. The authoritative Bahá’í writings figure prominently. But there are also reading by educators and scholars, including Moojan Momen, John Hatcher, Duane Troxel, Marzieh Gail, Amin Banani, and Geoffry Marks.

What Have Students Said about the Course?

Students who took The Bahá’í Faith: An Introduction in 2010 had much to say about what they learned in the course. Here are some samples:

Susan Brown, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“I have a greater appreciation for the relationship of Islam to the Bahá’í Faith after exposure to the materials in this course. They were well chosen.

“I have a better understanding about the concept of each Manifestation abrogating the laws of the previous dispensation and about the difficulty each Manifestation has had in being recognized and accepted by the believers in the previous dispensation. The readings in this course gave me a more integrated understanding of progressive revelation and the principles of One God and One Religion. 

“I feel deepened on the background of the key figures in the history or the Faith and feel the readings chosen for these units were excellent. As I now have a copy of these readings, I can refer to them in the future and reread them for more insight.

“I now understand the Covenant much better after reading the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. It made me sad to read about how He was treated by those closest to Him; but He certainly took care of the Faith, and this document [His Will and Testament] makes that crystal clear. I am glad it was included in the readings.

“The unit on the Internet was fun—I discovered quite a few sites of which I was not aware. I am especially glad to be introduced to the Bahá’í Portal on Wikipedia. Working in a library, I am quite a proponent of this site and have a lot of respect for the hard work that people put in to the site and the information.

Barb L’Heureux, LaCrosse, Wisconsin

The first course that I have taken where a non-Bahá’í or two took part. Sometimes amazed at the marvelous insight that was provided and yet somewhat shocked by the strong skeptical tone that was taken. Found the response of the moderators very reasoned, calm, and non-reactive. Set a good example for the types of teaching that can occur in most any context.

Re-awakened the skill of reading the Bahá’í writings of the Faith on a daily basis and experiencing the relief gained and respite from the sometimes overwhelming problems our 7 billion people on earth face. Refreshed practice of daily prayer and working towards a more meditative practice as well.

Jo Ann Asadpour,  Pennington, New Jersey

I learned about the station of Shoghi Effendi, which helps me understand his letters to Bahá’ís better and also their significance. The remainder of the material I already knew, but it was great to read about it again.