ABSTRACT

Baha’i scriptures place considerable emphasis on physical health, based on the belief that the spirit and body are closely interrelated. Hence Baha’is believe that the human body is a vehicle for spiritual development of individuals and ‘the throne of the inner temple’ (Bab 1978: 95), and that ‘the bounty of good health is the greatest of all gifts’ (‘Abdu’l-Baha 1978: 151). The science of medicine is considered ‘the most noble of all the sciences’ (ashraf al-“ulEm kulli-hA) according to Baha’ullah’s main text on health, the Tablet of Medicine (LawS-i Vibb) (Baha’ullah 1978: 222-227). Further, Baha’i scriptures recommend that individuals who are unwell seek advice and treatment from ‘competent physicians’ (al-hudhdhAq min al-aVibbA”) (Baha’ullah 1992: 60). Baha’i texts encourage a lifestyle characterised by refinement, moderation, freedom from addictions, the consumption of healthy foods and a strong discouragement of smoking (Fananapazir and Lambden 1992: 18-65; Schaefer 2004). Baha’ullah’s most important work, the KitAb-i Aqdas (c.1873) has a number of health-related directives, including forbidding the use of opium,2 ‘any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor’ (interpreted by ‘Abdu’l-Baha as meaning hashish and related substances), and alcohol,3 stipulating that the dead should not be buried more than an hour from the place in which they died,4 and the abrogation of the Shi‘i practice of taking temporary wives (UCgha) (which would have reduced the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases5) (Baha’ullah 1992: 88, 75, 62, 66, 41). Furthermore, there are a number of laws aimed at promoting cleanliness: water to bathe in should not have been used before, and the public pools in Iranian baths or private courtyards were not allowed: ‘In truth, they are as sinks of foulness and contamination’ (ibid: 58). Rather the bather, ‘instead of entering the water’, should ‘wash himself by pouring it over his body’ (ibid). The regular washing of one’s body and the clipping of nails is also emphasized (ibid: 58, 75, 57). An example of the Baha’i view of the interaction of body

and spirit is that ‘Abdu’l-Baha states that external cleanliness has a ‘great influence upon spirituality’ (‘Abdu’l-Baha 1978: 147).