Friday, 13 May 2011

The Problem with the "Ruhi Books"

There has been no critical discussion of Ruhi books or study circles in any Baha’i periodicals - differences of opinion are not tolerated well by many Baha’is, who mistake the concept of unity with quashing all dissent. But there are deeper problems caused by the way that uncomfortable discussions on internet lists are handled and individual Baha’is reprimanded that has presumably scared most thinking Baha’is from speaking out critically about this or any community-related issue. As the Ruhi books are the most important and prevalent activity of Baha’i communities, this is all the more alarming.

But there are two objectionable issues that are major factors in the "Ruhi problem":

1) One is the very idea of a uniform system that is supposed to be used not only by each and every believer in the whole world, which is in itself objectionable.

What is even more dangerous is that each and every "seeker" in the whole wide world is supposed to fit in the narrow Ruhi-framework and be converted through it. We are asked to invite our friends and colleagues, regardless of their cultural, academic, social background to Ruhi Book 1! This is something that is never going to work. And it will do a lot of damage to the reputation of the Faith. It also fail to see how this fits in the statement of the House of Justice back in 1996 or so, speaking about a variety of Institute programs that need to be implemented, each serving different national and even regional needs.

This demand for uniformity has become coercive in the Baha’i community. I recall overhearing a conversation between two Baha’is in which one said that she did not like the Ruhi study circles and the other responded that such reservations meant that she had problems with the Covenant. Another Baha’i, in an e-mail conversation, wondered how one might offer criticisms of the Ruhi system without appearing to attack the Covenant.

2) The second issue is the way we "evaluate." There is no critical assessment that would allow for a modification and adaptation or, if necessary, substitution of study-materials. Evaluation, here, means only counting Baha’is and non-Baha’is participating in courses. If the number is higher than X we move on to another category. In other words, the content is not evaluated, only the implementation. The Ruhi-system is treated tantamount to a revelation from God. It is perfect and suitable, nothing to change about it: it just needs to be implemented. If it doesn’t work, it’s not the material that’s wrong. We were just too dumb to use it.

In the long run, I see two problems:

One is, the community will be split, a number of activities have already ceased, a number of friends have pulled back from activities, because of the perceived attitude "either you’re with Ruhi, or you’re not working with us". You can't even be supportive of the process and suggest changes. You will immediately be seen as "Anti-Ruhi" and having problem with covenant even if you have served a member of National spiritual Assembly or given your services as a counselor for number of years.

The other is: should Ruhi prove to not be such a success after all, frustration might spread in large parts of the community.

There are serious misunderstandings creeping in the minds of Baha’i Intellectuals who convey there ideas in hidden fearing from being excommunicated and branded as covenant breakers.

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