June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Mirza Husayn-Ali, who is known to the world by His title, Baha’u’llah, was born in Tehran, Iran on 12 November, 1817. Baha’u’llah means “Glory of God” in Arabic and He is the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith. The anniversary of the day He was born is celebrated alongside the Birth of the forerunner of His Revelation, the Bab. These Twin Holy Days are celebrated annually as one festival where the closely interwoven missions of these two Divine Luminaries are remembered together.
In honour of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, I have been reflecting on my personal connection to Him. Shoghi Effendi described Baha’u’llah with these towering words:
preeminent in holiness, awesome in the majesty of His strength and power, unapproachable in the transcendent brightness of His glory. 1
There are many ways to connect the heart with Baha’u’llah and to begin to understand Shoghi Effendi’s words. For example, you can read and reflect on Baha’u’llah’s Writings, study the events of His life, or cherish stories about Him.
On the occasion of this joyous holy day, I thought I would share two of my favourites stories of Baha’u’llah and a short list of my favourite books about Him.
When I was young my parents gave me a small book with a beautiful cover. It’s called The Love of Baha’u’llah, written by Jacqueline Mehrabi, illustrated by Michael Sours, and printed by One World Publishing. I feel cruel telling you about this book since it is no longer in print and cannot be purchased new but if you ever see it on someone’s bookshelf, take a peek! Ask to borrow it! Its colourful illustrations and its short stories affected me greatly and there is something really powerful about sharing a simple story about Baha’u’llah with children and seeing their eyes light up in wonder. Here are the two stories I loved most:
Baha’u’llah often rode His horse over the hills outside the city, and one day He came upon a hermit who lived by himself in a cave in the mountains.
When the hermit saw Baha’u’llah, he knelt at His feet and said, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am a poor man living alone in a cave nearby, but I shall be the happiest man if Thou wilt come for a moment to my cave and bless it by Thy Presence.’
Baha’u’llah felt a great love for the poor hermit and followed him to his cave, and spent all day talking with him. When evening came the hermit began to worry because he did not have any fine food to give to Baha’u’llah.
At last, he told Baha’u’llah what was troubling him. Baha’u’llah told him not to worry but to bring whatever food he had. The man fetched a little dry meat, some black barley bread and water from a nearby spring. They enjoyed this simple meal together.
Baha’u’llah loved the hermit so much He stayed three days in that cave in the rocks. At the end of the three days, He said that He had never felt so comfortable and welcomed before, even though there were no chairs or even a bed to sleep on.
As for the hermit, he was so happy being with Baha’u’llah that he thought the food tasted more delicious than anything he had ever eaten! 2
The Blank Piece of Paper
There was once an old man who lived in Persia. He had never gone to school and lived a very simple life. His heart was good and pure and full of love. More than anything else in the world, he longed to see Baha’u’llah.
One day he could bear it no longer and set out on the long, hard journey to Akka. He travelled along dusty roads, across dry deserts, over seas, and eventually arrived at the house of Baha’u’llah.
Baha’u’llah was very pleased to see him. He opened His arms out wide and warmly welcomed him. The old man stayed for many days and Baha’u’llah showered him with love and kindness. Everybody missed him when he left to return to Persia.
Some time passed by. One day, one of the believers brought a pile of letters that had been sent to Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah knew that one of the letters was from that dear old man who had arrived safely back in Persia. He told His secretary that He wished to read that letter before He read the others.
The secretary hunted through the pile of letters and opened up the envelope. Inside was just a plain white piece of paper! Nothing at all was written on it!
But Baha’u’llah was very pleased. He said that when a person’s heart is pure, there is no need for words. He knew what the old man wanted to say even though he had not written anything.
Then Baha’u’llah wrote him a loving letter in reply, and answered all of his questions. 3
If you’re looking to read more, here are three of my favourite books containing stories about Baha’u’llah:
This weighty and monumental historical tome by Hasan Balyuzi offers a comprehensive biography of Baha’u’llah within both the historical setting of Iran and of the world at large. No other biography has been written with as much scope or as much detail, and the book includes over 100 illustrations and photographs. Baha’u’llah: King of Glory can be purchased here.
This small volume compiled by Ali-Akbar Furutan includes short vignettes of recollections of those who attained the presence of Baha’u’llah. Few of those blessed souls recorded their experiences for posterity and Mr. Furutan painstakingly gathered whatever recollections he could find. In its introduction, Mr. Furutan writes: “Although possessed of unimaginable majesty, authority and power, yet in the company of pilgrims and His companions Baha’u’llah shows forth such mercy, affection, humour and simplicity as to move and inspire us.” 4 This book is a George Ronald publication.
I once had a professor who often challenged us to explain our ideas as if speaking to a six year old. He believed that distilling our ideas into simple comprehensible terms, void of jargon, only strengthened and solidified them. Perhaps that’s why I love stories of the Faith for children. The slower, simpler pace of children’s stories gives me much food for thought. This book, written by Hitjo Garst for young audiences, offers short chapters that cover the historical events and stories of the development of the Faith from the Birth of the Bab to the Ascension of Baha’u’llah. It can be purchased here.
What are your favourite sources for stories about Baha’u’llah? I’d love to know!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
Please, use a spell check. Edit before you publish.
Galen Zinn (November 11, 2016 at 7:29 PM)
Thank you for your comment and for your keen eyes. I have corrected the typos I found but in case I’m still missing something, please don’t hesitate to point out the errors and we’ll swiftly amend them!
Sonjel Vreeland (November 11, 2016 at 10:37 PM)
Did Effendi really use the word “unapprocable”?
Kerry (November 11, 2016 at 7:37 PM)
Well spotted, Kerry! I have corrected the spelling error. Thank you for pointing it out!
Sonjel Vreeland (November 11, 2016 at 10:38 PM)
Dear Sonjel thank you always. I wanted for my own understanding to explain in the story of the blank letter to Baha’u’llah that although the paper had nothing written on it but He knew, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what questions the old man was keen to know the answers to.
Hooshang S. Afshar (November 11, 2016 at 3:43 AM)
Yes, that’s exactly it! Isn’t it a lovely story? As a child, I kept imagining that blank sheet of paper and the power of a pure heart.
Sonjel Vreeland (November 11, 2016 at 12:05 PM)
Thank you for sharing these stories and book recommendations, Sonjel. These are inspiring.
In your article, you asked readers for favorite sources of stories about Baha’u’llah. One of my favorite books is The Story of Baha’u’llah: Promised One of All Religions by Druzelle Cederquist.
Martha (November 11, 2016 at 2:50 PM)
Thank you for sharing this, Martha! I hope to read your recommended title one day!
Sonjel Vreeland (November 11, 2016 at 9:35 PM)
Thank you for this beautiful article Sonjel (and don’t worry about the typos; they just add character).
I very much related to the anecdote of your professor. Decades ago I realized that if i couldn’t explain something in several bullet points, then I didn’t fully comprehend the subject. Your professor put it in a succinct form.
Daniels (November 11, 2016 at 9:26 AM)
Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Daniels, and yes! That lesson was a powerful one! Sometimes I get so caught up in the ideas in my head that I don’t take the time to really comprehend them!
Sonjel Vreeland (November 11, 2016 at 1:44 PM)
Thank you for posting.
I love these books and will try to purchase one soon.
Mary Oquinn (November 11, 2016 at 12:56 AM)
Hi Sonjel! I very much enjoyed reading your blog! We had a story telling night just this Friday and the story about the blank sheet of paper was told there. It had a prelude, which was that long before the old man became old, he attained the presence of Baha’u’llah, and knowing the power of having a piece of writing in His hand, I think it was his father who had told him to try to get something written by Him. If not a tablet, then a sentence, if not a sentence, then a word, if not a word, just a letter, so powerful was His writing. When he attained Baha’u’llah’s presence with these thoughts on his mind, Baha’u’llah kept looking at him and smiling. Before he left, Baha’u’llah volunteered that he would receive the writing in due time. The man returned to Persia and sent the blank sheet to Baha’u’llah, as you related. He spent the next many years traveling and teaching the Faith. Meanwhile, there was a collection of tablets from Baha’u’llah, which for years was kept by another Baha’i. When he was dying, I believe, he gave the one for your old man to a very old woman who was Instructed to deliver it to him. When he received it, he discovered that it had been written some thirty years before he visited Baha’u’llah! I may be confusing the source, but I believe the story may have been recounted by Taherzadeh, and I think the old man may have been his father, or his grandfather.
Anita Salvo (July 7, 2017 at 2:44 PM)
Hi Anita! Thank you very much for taking the time to share these beautiful details that add to the story!
Sonjel Vreeland (August 8, 2017 at 11:56 PM)
Sonjel, I have been posting stories about Baha’u’llah on Facebook as part of celebrating the Bicentennial Holy Days. I would very much like to use Jackie Mehrabi’s story, “The Blank Piece of Paper,” which you quote above. Could you help me find out how to get her permission to post this? What process did you go through? Thanks!
Diane Findlay (September 9, 2017 at 4:54 PM)
Thanks for your question! You can contact Jackie through one of her publishers, such as George Ronald. Their contact information is listed at the bottom of their website: http://www.grbooks.com/
Sonjel Vreeland (October 10, 2017 at 12:28 AM)
Thank you for sharing
Walk to Teach (February 2, 2018 at 1:04 PM)
Hi Sonjel, I came across your blog by chance. Your sweetness touches the heart. Please keep me on your list for future thoughts and stories.
Viva (February 2, 2018 at 8:41 AM)
Thank you for your kind words, Viva! I was very moved by your comment!
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Sonjel Vreeland (February 2, 2018 at 8:45 PM)
Thank you very much for sharing this wonderful story of the Blessed Beauty. I very much enjoyed reading it. There are many many beautiful stories of the Blessed Beauty and we should share these beautiful stories. Please keep me posted.
With loving Baha’i regards
Baniani Nakala Nia (January 1, 2019 at 9:45 PM)
Thank you so much for your kind words — I am so happy you liked this article!
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Sonjel Vreeland (January 1, 2019 at 3:20 PM)
I love Jacqueline Mehrabi’s work and that book out of print is a total treasure.
Thanks for all your posts on books for children.
I personally love to read them too.
June (February 2, 2020 at 4:40 AM)