February 14, 2022

The Challenge and Promise of Bahá'í Scholarship - by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1981

[This memorandum was referenced in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice dated 3 January 1979 to the Participants in the Baha'i Studies Seminar held in Cambridge on 30 September and 1 October 1978; 'Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986'. It was published in the Bahá'í World, vol. 17, pages 195-196.]

Bahá'í scholarship is of great importance in the development and consolidation of the Bahá’í community. Historical research, orientalism and Islamic studies are obvious fields in which Bahá’ís can render great service to the Faith; there are many others. Indeed, it is not difficult to visualize the House of Justice, as Baha’u’llah's World Order unfolds, requiring the services of distinguished Bahá’í scientists in all fields.

Inevitably a number of problems will confront Bahá’í scholars, who will themselves have to discover the solutions, both empirically and otherwise. Nonetheless it may be useful to offer at this early stage of the development of Bahá’í scholarship a few thoughts on these matters.

It has become customary in the West to think of science and religion as occupying two distinct — and even opposed — areas of human thought and activity. This dichotomy can be characterized in the pairs of antitheses: faith and reason; value and fact. It is a dichotomy which is foreign to Bahá’í thought and should be regarded with suspicion by Bahá’í’ scholars in every field. The principle of the harmony of science and religion means not only that religious teachings should be studied in the light of reason and evidence as well as of faith and inspiration, but also that everything in creation, all aspects of human life and knowledge, should be studied in the light of revelation as well as in that of purely rational investigation. In other words, a Bahá’í scholar, when studying a subject, should not lock out of his mind any aspect of truth that is known to him.