DESCRIPTION OF
BAHA'I INTERNET RESOURCES

by Jonah Winters

last updated August 11, 2001

[Note: This article is continually being updated. Please advise if any errors are found in it or if significant omissions have been made. The BCCA has also prepared a similar article with less description and more links, Baha'i Resources on the Internet. A comprehensive overview of Baha'i discussion groups on the internet, i.e. email and usenet, can be obtained by sending a blank email to get-faq1@bcca.org. Many starting points and resources such as a glossary of internet-related terms can be found at the Getting Started page, which includes links such as How do I know which are reliable websites and which to avoid?, a Glossary of internet-related terms, Starting points for researching the humanities online, Starting points for researching the Baha'i Faith online, and Guide to finding Baha'i books online. -J.W.]

Contents:
    1.   Introduction
    2.   BCCA
    3.   Email
    4.   World Wide Web
    5.   Usenet
    6.   FTP
    7.   Software

  1. Introduction

    The internet is a complex, unorganized, rapidly evolving, and ever-changing environment. Thus, while the structure and technology of it can be explained relatively easily, it is rarely possible to give a complete content description for any specific topic. This document will list most of the major resources available. The reader can use these as entrance points into cyberspace, from which points he or she can search and discover the rest. One can also consult the list of Publishing Houses and Journals for email and homepage addresses. Many of these web addresses also provide lists of links and thus can serve as starting points.

    The internet is often equated with the World Wide Web, largely because of the relatively recent advent of graphical web browsers like Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. These allow the user to interface with many different types of internet resource through one program, masking what is in reality a variety of distinct internet functions. The primary types of basic functions, or "protocols," are the World Wide Web, which allows one to view pages of text and graphics from distant computers; email, which allows one to send data, usually letters, from one person's private "account" to another's; the Usenet, which allows one to read from or add to a public message database, much as one would tack notes on to an office bulletin-board; FTP, which transfers files from one computer to another; and Internet Relay Chat, with which computer users who are logged-on at the same time can type messages to each other, much like a large telephone conference-call conducted through computers. There are other basic protocols but they tend to be out- dated (like gopher), little-used (like hytelnet), for somewhat advanced application (like telnet), or not yet functional (like virtual reality).

    The internet rapidly changes in many ways. Web sites and listservers (defined below) come into and go out of existence with great rapidity, and their addresses change even more regularly (many are operated by students on their university's computers and so have to change addresses every time they change or leave schools). The information contained in this section is all current as of July 2000, but will gradually decrease in accuracy. Should an address be invalid, the best option is to do an internet search for it (using a source such as Yahoo or Altavista) to see if the site has relocated.

    This guide to internet resources will first describe the main Baha'i source for organizing and assisting with the internet, the Baha'i Computer and Communications Association-the BCCA-and then list the major resources for the primary features in relative order of common availability: email, the web, the usenet, and ftp. Quotations included are from the relevant webpages or listservers discussed and so their sources are not cited.

  2. BCCA

    The Baha'i Computer and Communications Association is, according to its mission statement, "a group of Baha'is dedicated to promoting use of computer, network and telecommunication technologies in the service of the global Baha'i community and humanity in order to foster consultation, and to propagate the healing message of Baha'u'llah." Its mandate includes: (1) providing a pool of Baha'i technical volunteers; (2) disseminating information and details on Baha'i computer projects around the world; (3) providing assistance to Baha'i institutions and individuals to develop solutions with computer and telecommunications technology; (4) encouraging individual Baha'is to form local computer user groups which will serve local Baha'i institutions in a given area; (5) creating conferencing and consultation forums linking Baha'is around the world by telecommunications and computer technologies; (6) seeking to establish computer and communications standards that can be adopted by the Baha'i World Community; (7) disseminating information on computing and communications technology to the Baha'i World Community; (8) developing Computer Mediated Communication techniques that will efficiently communicate the healing message of Baha'u'llah to the generality of humankind; and (9) providing, in a systematic way, a full range of communication and consultation facilities to Baha'i educational institutions around the world.

         The Baha'i Computer and Communications Association 
         can be contacted at: 
    
         BCCA                                Phone: (206) 453-8766
         203 Bellevue Way N.E. Suite 314     FAX:(206) 453-7083
         Bellevue, WA 98004                  Webpage: www.bcca.org
         USA                                 Email: webmaster@www.bcca.org 
    
    
    The BCCA maintains a few basic files describing matters of interest to Baha'i on the internet, an index for which can be obtained by sending a blank email to get-index@bcca.org. One of these, a good if dated summary of Baha'i online activities, can be obtained by sending a blank email to get-faq1@bcca.org.

  3. Email

    Note: see also the FAQ at www.geocities.com/Athens/3751/faq1-list.html.

    The most common use of email is for users to send messages back and forth to each other as individuals. This is not a public feature and is not a resource. However, there is a mechanism called a "listserver" by which email postings can be shared amongst a private group of individuals. One host computer will act as a central switching station for the listserver, sending a copy of every email sent to it back out to every member of the group. It is thus like the usenet (see below), save that the medium of transmission is different and it tends to be a more regulated environment. Unlike the usenet, listservers are sometimes private, not automated, in which case one must write to a contact person to get added. Like the usenet, listserver groups are each focused on one topic. Unlike the usenet, these topics tend to be more specific and useful: where the usenet tends to feature groups discussing popular culture and events, listservers often address the needs of more private professional or academic communities. Some listservers, such as talisman2000@egroups.com or zuhur19@egroups.com, also have web interfaces where one can read and post email.

    There are numerous listservers, from private ones for small Baha'i clubs at individual universities or for Baha'is employed at individual corporations to public ones such as fora for Baha'i announcements, Baha'is in Japan, Baha'i singles, Baha'i literature, Baha'i women, or Baha'i academics. Since many of these are regional and/or private, far more exist than any one database could know of and list. The best ways to seek specific listservers are either to write to the BCCA at webmaster@www.bcca.org or post a question to an appropriate public one or to soc.religion.bahai (see below).

    General Baha'i listervers

    Three of the major general Baha'i listervs are bahai-announce, bahai-discuss, and bahai-faith. Baha'i-announce is a world-wide forum for announcements of Baha'i-related matters. Baha'i-discuss is probably the largest and most active of the Baha'i-only listservers, and is used for general discussion of any matter related to the Faith which members wish to discuss. Bahai-faith is the email version of the usenet newsgroup soc.religion.bahai (see below), designed for those without usenet access. To subscribe to any of these three, send your request to bahai-announce-request@bcca.org, to bahai-discuss-request@bcca.org, or to bahai-faith-request@bcca.org, resp. (include your full name, Baha'i ID #, and city/state/country of residence). To post messages to the newsgroup (which will be first screened by the moderators), emails are sent to bahai-announce@bcca.org, bahai-discuss@bcca.org, or bahai-faith@bcca.org.

    Other available services include the Noble Creation list, which discusses social and economic development issues, and can be subscribed to by sending a blank email to noble-creation-request@bcca.org. Postings to Noble Creation are sent to Noble-Creation@bcca.org, and more information can be obtained at www.bcca.org/services/lists/noble-creation. There is a variety of listservers for Baha'is only, including bahai-announce, which focuses on news and other announcements of interest to the Baha'i community; Bahai-discuss, which is a somewhat random discussion of Baha'i-related issues; Bahai-women-converse, of issues for and about women; and others. Listservers for both Baha'is and non-Baha'is available here include Race Unity, for discussions of racial equality and elimination of prejudice, and Bahai-Readings, a daily posting of excerpts from Baha'i sacred texts.

    Some Baha'i listservers are also hosted at egroups.com, including race-unity@egroups.com (subscribe by sending a blank email to race-unity-subscribe@egroups.com) and bahai-environment@egroups.com.

    To subscribe to one of these, write to bahai-request@bcca.org. Include the following in the email: (1) Email address of person subscribing, in lowercase letters only (it usually comes with the mail, but it may have an interim host included or it may have to be extracted from other extraneous header information); (2) name of the person subscribing, last name first; (3) The NAME(s) of the LIST(s) you wish to subscribe to (there is more than one list managers); if a Baha'i-only listserver, then include either one's Baha'i ID number or, if not available, then the name of a Baha'i that can verify your status; and (5) place of residence (city, state/province (for US or Canada), and country). You may include your full home address and phone numbers (home, work including area code and country code, where applicable) for inclusion in the BCCA database, but if you do, then you must indicate if this information can be given out to other Baha'is on e-mail database queries. For a description of all other BCCA mailing lists send a blank email to get-faq1@bcca.org.

    Academic Baha'i listservers

    A variety of scholarly listservers has been born and died in the past three years. The three main ones in existence as of this writing are Bahai-studies, H-Bahai, and Talisman (this is actually Talisman two: after a brief hiatus, the group Talisman one changed mandates and owners in June, 1996). These three groups have slightly different atmospheres, levels and types of discussion, and often different memberships. Some of these have splintered into smaller groups, as for example Talisman two has spun off talisman2000@egroups.com and zuhur19@egroups.com, and there are surely other academic Baha'i lists than these. The Wilmette Institute, for example, has its own public list for Baha'i studies announcements, which can be subscribed to by sending a blank email to subscribe-winews@lists.usbnc.org or visiting the website lists.usbnc.org/lyris/lyris.pl?enter=winews.

    Bahai-studies

    Bahai-studies is an unmoderated group maintained by Mark A. Foster. Its mandate is "the consultative investigation of truth/reality, using the Baha'i Teachings as its spiritual foundation. In light of the list's purposes and objectives, it is not a discussion/announcement list in the usual sense." It is available both in a regular version (mailings are received in one's mail inbox as and when posted) and as a digest (mailings are collated and received as one compilation of postings in one's inbox once per day). To subscribe, send a message to major@jccc.net. The subject line is to be left blank, and in the body of the text one writes "subscribe bahai-st" (without quotation marks). All other information, such as tag lines and signature files, should be removed. To subscribe to the digest version, do the same but write "subscribe bahai-st-digest" in the body instead. To post a message to the Baha'i Studies list, send it to bahai-st@jccc.net. For this the subject line and the body of the message can be whatever the writer wishes to post; this message will go to every member of the group, not to the automated subscription program.

    H-Bahai

    H-Bahai is "an academic forum for the discussion of technical issues in the study of the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i movements. Not only university teachers and graduate students, but exceptionally qualified high school teachers, librarians, and other intellectuals are potential candidates for membership. A degree in the humanities or social sciences is usually required." Membership is restricted "to individuals who have demonstrated a serious interest in the academic study of the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Faiths, as evidenced in professional training, publications, teaching or service to these or closely related fields, or by other relevant significant achievements or signs of ability to contribute to academic discourse on the subject." H-Bahai is sponsored by H-Net, the Humanities and Social Sciences On-line of Michigan State University. Its level of discussion tends to be fairly scholarly, and its membership is almost exclusively academic. To join H-BAHAI, send a message to listserver@h-net.msu.edu, with no subject line, and only this in the body: "sub H-BAHAI firstname lastname, institution," where personal information is substituted for "firstname lastname, institution." Capitalization does not matter, but spelling, spaces and commas do. When you include your own information, the message will look something like this: "sub H-BAHAI Jonah Winters, University of Toronto." If you have any questions or experience any difficulties in attempting to subscribe, send a message to Juan Cole, jrcole@umich.edu. H-Bahai also has a website homepage: see below.

    Talisman

    Talisman is unmoderated, meaning that any posting automatically is sent to all group members, and unlike H-Bahai has no expectation that its members will hold a higher or post-secondary degree. The mission statement of Irfan, a now-defunct listserverer, applies equally well to both: "The purpose of the Irfan list is to disseminate information and ideas emerging from the academic study of the Baha'i Faith beyond the academic community and to facilitate discussions of issues relating to the Baha'i Faith that are informed by academic scholarship." Talisman can be subscribed to by sending a blank email message to talisman9-subscribe@onelist.com

  4. World Wide Web

    Though the most famous and visible part of the internet, the web is actually one of its newest. It is, however, one of the most useful means of searching for and downloading information. Indeed, the number of unpublished articles, histories, and provisional translations available online, as well as the complete set of sacred writings, Baha'i International Community statements, and other official material, makes the web an indispensable source of information.

    Standard Baha'i Sites

    There are several hundred Baha'i oriented sites currently available online, and the number is growing by at least 20% per year. One need not list more than just a few of these, though, because one of the prime features of the web is its ability to "link," i.e. to connect different documents and distant sites to each other: from each one the internet user can find indices of numerous others and quickly explore dozens of different sites. Most of these are what are here termed "standard" Baha'i sites, so-called because for the most part they present the same information and the same links, differing mostly in manner of presentation and items of regional or personal interest.

    The sacred writings have been available by ftp (see below) from the Baha'i World Center for some time. They are now mirrored to many other sites around the world and available through web browsers. An index to some of these sites is available at www.bcca.org/info/texts/topiclist.html. The BCCA homepage, http://www.bcca.org, is a good starting point for other internet Baha'i resources. From here one can find links to online compilations, The Baha'is magazine online (oneworld.wa.com/bahai/magazine/cover.html), Baha'i International Community statements, relatively complete lists of individuals' and groups' homepages, Baha'i-related photographs and clip-art, and explanations of other resources such as chat groups and listservers. Very good indices to all of these resources, organized differently and perhaps more clearly, can also by found at bcca.org/bahaivision (formerly "Glen Little's Baha'i Page"). The Baha'i International Community's homepage also opens with a good introductory online magazine on the Faith, at www.bahai.org.

    Another good starting point for one wishing to explore the Baha'i webpages without necessarily searching for specific items is the Baha'i Webring. The Webring is a service which allows sites with a common theme to interconnect. When one enters a webring, one can choose options such as jumping to the next page on the ring, the previous one, or any random site. To join this service, or to enter the Baha'i Webring from the top, go to webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?home&ring=bahai (this server is frequently down; if no response, try again a day later). To enter the ring at a randomly-chosen site, type webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?id=112&ring=bahai&random into your web browser.

    Finally, Baha'is who have a valid United States Baha'i identity card can access the United States Baha'i National Center's website, www.usbnc.org. This site contains among other things feast messages, news, annual reports, descriptions of the major departments at the Baha'i National Center, their functions, and answers to common question about them.

    Academic Baha'i Sites

    Academic Baha'i Sites are harder to find than the standard ones—while there are well over a hundred sites providing information of a personal or regional interest, and linking to the same few providers of sacred texts, images, and other common information, there is only a handful of sites providing new and original academic information, or information presented in a scholarly fashion.

    The largest online resource for Baha'i studies is the Baha'i Academics Resource Library, bahai-library.org. This site features several thousand documents broken down into headings such as Primary Source Material, which includes provisional translations, letters from the Universal House of Justice, historical documents, and pilgrims' notes; Secondary Source Material, which includes articles, journalistic pieces, book reviews, court documents, and personal essays; Resource Tools, which includes a database of Baha'i scholars, bibliographies, journal indices, and philological tools; and a listing of all of the useful academic sites. This Resource Guide is also available at this site in an online format. Those without web access who need an etext version of it can also request one by emailing .

    The other sites of academic utility will all be listed here, because it could take some time for the researcher to find them on his or her own. The H-Bahai listserver, run by H-Net, the "Humanities and Social Sciences On-Line" initiative sponsored Michigan State University and supported by National Endowment for the Humanities and the Michigan Council for the Humanities, also has a webpage at h-net.msu.edu/~bahai. Here is included a variety of articles, provisional translations, historical materials in the original Arabic and Persian (available as graphic files), book reviews, and other documents such as the "Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies" series. The H-Bahai homepage is emerging as a very useful site for original online publishing, and is the most scholarly and selective collection of academic materials available.

    Juan R.I. Cole's Home Page, www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/bahai.htm, was the first academic webpage on the Faith. It includes numerous original Baha'i material as well as other Islamic studies and related links. Some of these documents, and others similar, are included at the website for the H-Bahai listserver, http://h-net.msu.edu/~bahai. Both of these websites also feature documents related to Babi and Baha'i history in their original Arabic and Persian-these have been scanned and entered as photo images, which can then be viewed online page-by-page. Moojan Momen's Religious Studies page, http://www.northill.demon.co.uk/relstud, includes a few original and not otherwise-available articles authored by him, and his Arjmand Colloquia page, http://www.northill.demon.co.uk/irfan, includes abstracts from and reports on the Haj Mehdi Arjmand seminars for the study of sacred texts. Stephen Fuqua's site, Spirit of Glory: The Baha'i Faith's Studies Material, page offers a wide variety of materials, some not available elsewhere. Finally, worthy of note is Sifter: An Institute for the Study of Baha'i Writings, http://www.shodjai.org/new.html. Among other things Sifter features one thousand letters of Shoghi Effendi which are available only in books elsewhere online but here are indexed chronologically, complete with publishing information. The North American Association for Baha'i Studies also has a webpage, www.bahai-studies.ca.

  5. Usenet

    The usenet is a public "bulletin-board" system accessed through applications with titles like "newsreader," "net news," or, in UNIX, "trn," "rn," and "tin." It is divided up into numerous—over 21,000—individual "newsgroups," each one dedicated to discussing a specific topic. Though joining a group is called "subscribing," joining is actually free and automated. Newsgroups have names like alt.fan.michael.jackson, alt.binaries.art.digitized, comp.macintosh.utilities, rec.humor, soc.culture.iranian, talk.clubs.boy.scouts, etc.

    Thus far two newsgroups are dedicated to discussing the Baha'i Faith: talk.religion.bahai and soc.religion.bahai. The former is somewhat new and hence might not carried by all internet service providers. It is unmoderated, and tends to contain many postings, sometimes critical, by non-Baha'is. In contrast, soc.religion.bahai (often abbreviated "srb") has been in existence for a few years and is stable and reliable. It is moderated, meaning that editors read all submissions to the group before posting them publicly to screen out junk mail and the occasional hate mail.

    Soc.religion.bahai's mission statement defines it thus: "The newsgroup will act as a non- threatening forum for discussing and sharing information about the tenets, history, and texts of the Baha'i Faith. Prior to its formation there was a good amount of traffic on this topic in other newsgroups; this group provides a 'single point of contact' for such discussion. Examples of posts that fall within the group's scope are: (1) The Baha'i Faith's relation to other religions; (2) Relevance of Baha'i principles to current world events/problems; (3) Analysis of particular scriptural passages or themes; and (4) General Q & A."

    One can subscribe to soc.religion.bahai within one's newsreader application. If it does not appear to be available, contact the customer service representative of your internet service provider to get it added to your newsfeed. More information can be obtained by visiting its website, the Soc.Religion.Bahai home page, at bcca.org/services/srb. At this site one can access the srb archives, as well as read introductory articles about srb, the Baha'i Faith, a bibliography for the Faith, and a document on Baha'i Resources on the Internet. As well, if one does not wish to or cannot use a newsreader, all srb postings can be obtained via email-see above.

  6. FTP

    To date, the original collection of sacred and related texts from the Baha'i World Center is only available via file transfer protocol—ftp—though they are mirrored in many other places via the web (via hypertext transfer protocol, http), such as at bahai-library.org/writings. If for any reason one seeks to access these files from the world center instead of from the sites mirrored on the web, one can simply use one's web browser. Type ftp://ftp.bwc.org/bahai/ into the "location" or "go" bar. Explore the directories or read the "readme" files to get directions. To download a file, simply click on the file name. Before downloading a zipped file, be sure to have the appropriate decompression software. With UNIX, at the command prompt type "ftp," then "open ftp.bwc.org." When connected, type "anonymous" as login and your login name (e.g., for me it's "winters") as your password. Commands include "help" to list topics; "ls" to list files and directories; "cd (directory name)," e.g. "cd bahai" to change directories; "cd .." (note two periods) to move to one directory higher; "get (filename)," e.g. "get nabil.zip" to download a file, and "quit" to exit. If it won't let you download it is likely that you are seeing a directory, not a file. For example, "iqan" is a folder containing different format versions of the Kitab-i-Iqan. One must first change directory, "cd iqan," then list contents, "ls," and then download the desired file, e.g. "get iqa-eng-txt01-Z." This process may seem more foreign to the new internet user and is more difficult to navigate than simply accessing the files via the web. It is listed here for the sake of completeness.

  7. Software

    Many pieces of Baha'i-related computer software, such as search programs, can be either ordered or downloaded online. Ian Vink Software, ianvink.com/bahai, includes free programs such as study guides and graphics as well as purchasable software for community administration and other study guides. For a list of other software sites, see bahai-library.org/etc/links.html.

    The authoritative Baha'i Writings are available online for handheld computers, sp. using the PalmOS (i.e. Palm Pilot) and PocketPC (Microsoft) operating systems. These have been prepared by Darren Hiebert and can be found at http://www.jkl.com/eBahai.

    There are at least two CD-ROMs available which have archived almost all academic and primary-source Baha'i material available on the internet on a CD-ROM. Both are designed to be an offline equivalent of surfing Baha'i sites on the web, intended largely for use by those (1) without Internet access, (2) with a slow modem, or (3) simply wishing to have all relevant sites archived on their own computer for ease of use and speed of access. One is Graham Sorenson's, which can be ordered from bahai-library.org/cdrom. The second is the Master Baha'i Library.

    "Archive" is a searchable electronic textbase of the Baha'i Writings for both Macintosh and Windows computers, which features a user-friendly Mac-like interface. It features regular updates, available for free for registered users. It can be ordered from http://bahai-library.org/archive.

    "Immerse: The Electronic Baha'i Library," by Bernal Schooley, is a free set of all the sacred Baha'i writings complete with a full text proximity search feature (including boolean, wildcard, and phrase support searching) which allows the user to find passages in nearly four hundred books, messages by the Baha'i Central Figures, the Universal House of Justice, and holy books from the major world religions. It is currently available for Windows 95 and Windows 3.1 only. The original website, tranquillity.com/immerse, is no longer active, but the program has appeared again at www6.zdnet.com/cgi-bin/texis/swlib/hotfiles/info.html?fcode=000EJA. See also the new homepage, at www.lotsofschooleys.com/Immerse/index.htm.

    A new entry to the software market is the "Baha'i Library Multi-Media CD-ROM," billed as "the first multimedia Baha'i reference library available to date in the Baha'i world. This multimedia reference CD is a continuance of Digital Era Productions' previous product, the Baha'is Magazine CD ROM, (www.bahaicd.com) introduced in 1997 as a multimedia version of the Baha'is Magazine." It costs $129, and is available from www.bahailibrary.com.

    MARS: Multiple Author Refer System is a popular Baha'i-text search engine which can be purchased online at crimsonpublications.com.

    "Sifter: Star of the West" CD-ROM contains all 25 volumes of the original Star of the West in a single CD. Includes the article "Introduction to Star of the West" by Duane Troxel.

    A final software resource to list is True Seeker, which is an online search engine for the Baha'i sacred writings. The True Seeker home page allows you to do key word searches of the Baha'i Writings, either by searching all texts or a specific subset. This can be found at metalab.unc.edu/Bahai/TrueSeeker.



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