Wilmette Institute Courses Break English-Language Barrier for Persian Bahá’í
The Advent of Divine Justice:
Faculty: Sherna Deamer, Betty J. Fisher
Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation: A Systematic Survey 2018
Faculty: Robert Stockman, William Collins
Exploring Bahá’u’lláh’s Last Major Work: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
Faculty: Chrisotopher Buck, Necati Alkan
Mona Rohani’s difficulties in reading the Bahá’í writings in English is one with which many Persian Bahá’ís struggle. Nevertheless, she has persisted. The result has been a greater understanding of the Bahá’í sacred texts, the writings of Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice and an increased determination to read and meditate on the Bahá’í writings, teach the Faith, and share the writings with others. In addition, she credits the audiovisual materials in the courses she has taken and the optional readings with increasing her understanding of the Bahá’í writings. How has Mona’s journey unfolded?
A Toe in the Water. In April Mona, a Bahá’í living in Wheelers Hill, Victoria, Australia, took The Advent of Divine Justice 2018, signing up as a first-time learner, taking advantage of the Wilmette Institute offer of a free course for first-time students. Here is what she said about reading Shoghi Effendi: “I was very frustrated and challenged at the beginning of this course because I found that the profound Shoghi Effendi writings are difficult to understand, but eventually I got through, and, when I became more familiar with his writing, I started to enjoy it so much.” The letters of the Universal House of Justice had also been a problem for her, as she admitted: “I was aware of avoiding reading the House of Justice messages, as I thought they are not important compared with other Bahá’í writings.” But the course on Advent made many correlations between Shoghi Effendi’s letter and letters from the Universal House of Justice. By the end of the course, Mona wrote this: “I was able to find the link between Shoghi Effendi’s writing and those of the Universal House of Justice.” Then she added: “Now I am aware of and love to read and study the Universal House of Justice messages and strive to implement them in my daily life.”
Tackling Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation. In June Mona signed up for Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation: A Systematic Survey 2018. Her comments about the course continue the theme of learning how to read the Bahá’í writings in English:
This course gave me an overview of the Blessed Beauty’s writings and made me reflect and learn about when the tablets were revealed. I became more interested in reading more deeply and learning more. Previously, when I was reading a book, after few minutes I became tired and would feel very sleepy. But since I started taking Wilmette Institute courses, they have changed me a lot. I enjoy reading the Bahá’í writings and am understanding them better. It helped me to become familiar with English Bahá’í writings and words. I can sit for hours and hours reading and studying tablets without feeling tired. I wish I had more time to read more.
In relation to reflecting in my daily practice, I am aware of how important it is to teach the Faith and to look for opportunities. Still I need to work on reading, but I have improved a lot.
Yet Another of Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings. Mona’s journey is continuing. After taking Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, Mona signed up in October for yet another Wilmette Institute course Exploring Bahá’u’lláh’s Last Major Work: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, saying “I thought it’s a good opportunity to read the last work of Bahá’u’lláh.” She went on to say that she wants “to reflect and meditate upon” the work and to “apply” her “learning to practice on a daily basis.”
Action Follows Understanding. Learning to read and understand the Bahá’í writings in English was not the only benefit of Mona’s studies. After taking the course on The Advent of Divine Justice, Mona had a new focus for herself and her family:
I have a purpose and am able to plan for myself in the act of service. I know that the Cause needs to be in the center, and I have to plan my life around it. I understand the meaning of consecration. I listened to Mr. Nakhjavani’s talk regarding consecration a few times, and I shared it with my kids and am now encouraging my kids and my family to be more involved and forget about themselves and cross the fear and barriers in their lives.
My husband is doing Ruhi Book 8 with me. My son is more aligned, and every time we are together, our daily family conversations involve the Bahá’í writings. My daughter started Ruhi Book 1 with five people from our wider community. I am planning to start dawn prayer in my house once a week, and I feel it is easier to open conversations with the wider community about the Bahá’í Faith.
After completing Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, Mona reported that she is “having regular weekly devotional meetings and taking a teacher-training course and would like to dedicate” herself “to service.” For her Learning Self-Assessment, she submitted a five-page reflection about the writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
While the course on Epistle to the Son of the Wolf is still in progress, Mona has plans for action when it ends. First, she is already sharing her “understandings” with her “family members and friends and starting conversations about this important writing of Bahá’u’lláh.” She is also “thinking of making a presentation at the end of the course and sharing it” with her Ruhi class.
A theme that Mona repeats from course to course is this:
Since I have started doing courses with the
Wilmette Institute, I feel that I am more connected, and
I am in the stage of meditation most of the time when I study,
which is hard to describe!