I will be a happy and joyful being. I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.
This portion of a prayer shares sentiments of the Baha’i Faith, a monotheistic religion that underscores the spiritual unity of all the world’s people. This community has roots in Iran as the largest religious minority. Since the revolution in 1979, the Baha’i people have experienced persecution, including exclusion from higher education.
Shabnam Raayai was able to defy these odds and complete an undergraduate degree in Iran. Then, she furthered her education at MIT for her masters and is now in the third-year of her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. “Being a part of MIT is a great honor, because you have the chance to learn from and work with a lot of great minds at many different levels,” expressed Raayai. “I really appreciate the fact that I get to be part of this institute.”
While balancing her academic responsibilities, Raayai has involved herself in the Baha’i community on and off campus. “In Baha’i Faith we believe in the power of love, service, and mutual support to build stronger communities around the world and thus work toward betterment of the world and ultimately Unity and Universal Peace, which are the main purposes of the Baha’i Faith,” explained Raayai.
Raayai lives these principles by engaging in multiple service projects. She joins the Cambridge Baha’i Community and friends to lead classes teaching virtues and the value of community service to Cambridge children and junior youth. On campus Raayai and other Baha’i students and MIT employees have teamed up with the Office of Public Affairs of the Baha’is of the United States to hold workshops with various communities regarding the equality of men and women, a key tenet of the faith.
Baha’u’llah, the Prophet Founder of the Baha’i Faith, is quoted to have said, “The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deed, through commendable and seemly conduct.” Raayai has strived to live this concept and finds her faith and MIT education to synergize towards this goal.
“Every day I try to use my understandings of the things I have learned so far scientifically to be part of the problem solvers in the world,” said Raayai. “Harmony of science and religion and independent investigation of truth are two of the important principles of the Baha’i faith, and both of them have helped me in being objective in what I learn as truth and not to be biased towards things that I might like to be true...As a student I try to use my research and studies as a way to gather the knowledge and material skills needed to be able to help with the process of walking toward Peace and Unity.”