This entry was originally posted on my blog on May 20, 2005.
Baquia has an excellent piece on his blog called Ruhi Redux. It is a short analysis of what's wrong with Ruhi and it has a link to Tony Lee’s compelling essay, The Ruhi Problem, on the subject.
One of the points Baquia makes is that the thrust of Ruhi is 'taqlid' , which he defines as "blind and unquestioning imitation in action or belief". Taqlid is a big part of Shi'ism. Believers are expected to find a religious leader who they respect and is suitably qualified and then imitate that person's religious belief and action. This is necessary because ordinary people lack the necessary education to figure that stuff out for themselves. Baquia refers to the fact that there are explicit texts that condemn taqlid, but he does not quote any.
That got me thinking that I should post here a section from an old Talisman message by Juan Cole. In it, he pulls together a number of quotes in which Baha’u'llah condemns taqlid. I think this mini compilation is informative because Juan includes with the English the relevant phrases from the original in brackets. The result gives someone like me, who can't read the orginal, an understanding of the context for the ban on blind obedience and a better understanding of what it means. When it comes to our religious beliefs, we are not to imitate anyone - not religious authority or any 'forefather' in any form. If we do, our belief will amount to no more than an attachment to names, where we align ourselves with the name 'Baha' all the while denying its reality. To avoid this, we have to see that reality with our own eyes.
"Say: O people, act not as did the people of the Qur'an, and never surrender the reins of your insight into the hands of anyone else. Seize upon the grace proffered you in these days, and see with your own eyes." Baha’u'llah: The Surah of Sacrifice (Suratu’dh-Dhibh)
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 00:40:18 -0500 (EST)
From: Juan R Cole
Subject: conscience, blind obedience, and Luther
2) With regard to the principle of blind obedience (taqlid) of religious authority, Baha’u'llah abrogated it. He did not abrogate it in Islam only to re-institute it in the Baha’i Faith in an even more Draconian form.
Seven Valleys, p. 5: "It is incumbent on these servants that they cleanse the heart–which is the wellspring of divine treasures–from every marking, and that they turn away from imitation (taqlid), which is following the traces of their forefathers and sires, and shut the door of friendliness and enmity upon all the people of the earth."
Gleanings LXXV: "Tear asunder, in My Name, the veils that have grievously blinded your vision, and, through the power born of your belief in the unity of God, scatter the idols of vain imitation (asnam-i taqlid)."
Gleanings p. 166: "Such men have been, and will continue to remain, the victims of blind imitation (ahl-i taqlid)."
Iqan pp. 73-74: "Consider how men have for generations been blindly imitating their fathers (bar taqlid-i aba')."
Iqan, p. 183: "Muslim divines have "blindly submitted" (taqlidan) to the truth of Muhammad, but would reject the Bab even if he gave the same answers as the former."
Iqan p. 155: "He would have preferred to suffer death than violate one letter of those superstitious forms (umur-i taqlidiyyih) and manners current amongst his people."
Baha’u'llah clearly insisted that individuals make up their own minds about religious issues, in an impartial and fair-minded way, unswayed by authorities such as their forebears or ecclesiastical figures.
cheers Juan Cole, History, University of Michigan