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.