And here’s another question from our jargon-busting session on Reddit’s Baha’i group, this time asking about the term “entry by troops”. What’s it all about? And does it mean the same thing as “mass conversion”?
First off, I’ve been reminded several times that the expression “entry by troops” is actually echoed in the Qur’an:
The Day when the Trumpet will be blown; then you will come up in troops… (Qur’an 78:18)
When comes the victory of Allah, and the Conquest, and you see mankind entering the Religion of Allah in troops… (Qur’an 110:1-2)
Generally, the term seems to be used to describe the Day when God will be victorious over the forces of unbelief, and humanity will recognize His religion and so enter it in multitudes. So this isn’t a concept that’s exclusive to the Bahá’í Faith; it’s grounded in the Scriptures of previous Revelations.
There’s an interesting compilation on entry by troops that was published in 2000, but unfortunately, it doesn’t spell out the leaps of evolution in thinking and capacity that have come about in the Bahá’í World in the past 17 years, the real examples of mass conversion that have happened in certain communities around the world in that time, and so on.
My understanding of entry by troops is that it largely has to do with the spiritual perception and receptivity of populations. When people are ready to accept God, they will do so in great numbers. We have already seen this in places where people have suffered greatly, such as Cambodia (civil war for ~30 years, with a major genocide in the 70s), Colombia (civil war for ~50 years), or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (war off and on for ~30 years). These are places where the Faith has not only grown in numbers, but also played a huge role in regenerating society, leading to a strong and vibrant community life. The more people suffer, it seems, the more ready they will be ready to turn towards God and embrace His Cause.
Now, as to whether “entry by troops” means exactly the same thing as “mass conversion”: According to the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, the two are different parts of the same process. Simply put, “entry by troops” (i.e., a time when a lot of people will start entering the Faith) is properly seen as a “prelude” to mass conversion (i.e., a time when A REAL LOT of people will start entering the Faith).
From Citadel of Faith:
This flow [of reinforcements], moreover, will presage and hasten the advent of the day which, as prophesied by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, will witness the entry by troops of peoples of divers nations and races into the Bahá’í world—a day which, viewed in its proper perspective, will be the prelude to that long-awaited hour when a mass conversion on the part of these same nations and races … will suddenly revolutionize the fortunes of the Faith, derange the equilibrium of the world, and reinforce a thousandfold the numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.