Category Archives History

Some Personal Reflections on 100 Years of the Baha’i Faith in Australia

Hands of the Cause of God Hyde Dunn and Clara Dunn with a group of Baha’is in Australia, c. 1940. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

While reading the Tablets of the Divine Plan, American Baha’i Clara Dunn looked up from her page and voiced a sincere plea to her husband Hyde Dunn:

“Let us go where Abdu’l-Baha wished to go.”

Where had Abdu’l-Baha wished to go? In the Tablets of the Divine Plan He said:

O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of [Baha’u’llah] in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it.

These tablets, written to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada in 1916 and 1917, set out strategies for ensuring that the Message of Baha’u’llah could be learned about in every corner of the world.

Clara made her plea in 1919, only two short years after she and Hyde Dunn had married. At that time, the couple was almost in a state of poverty. For many, the idea of leaving home at the ages of 52 and 65 respectively, and immigrating to a foreign land without any financial backing would be ludicrous. Hyde Dunn, unhesitatingly, answered with these words:

“Yes, we will go.” Continue reading

How Isolation Can Help Us Draw Parallels to Events in Baha’i History

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put the world at a standstill, it seems like life was paused in order to allow us some time to reflect on the current conditions of the world and to reevaluate what is important to us. Even though this time is very challenging, it is also rich in opportunities that we are yet to discover. As a Baha’i, I try to make sense of this uncertain time by looking at it through the lens of spiritual and historical perspectives. Continue reading

The Poetry of Tahirih

The heroic life of Tahirih—Fatimih Umm-Salamih (1817- 1852)—has long been celebrated by playwrights, historians and Persian social reformers, especially those advocating women’s rights in present-day Iran. Though a 19th century poet of superb eloquence and variety, she is better known as a woman of dauntless faith, courage and resilience, whether by the Persian community in general or by the followers of the Baha’i religion, for whom she looms as one of the most memorable figures of the Heroic Age of the Baha’i Faith (1844-1921). Continue reading

New Video Commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the Destruction of the House of the Bab

The Australian Baha’i Community has just released a video commemorating the 40th anniversary of the destruction of the House of The Bab in Iran called Sacred Space: Impressions in Retrospect, 40 Years Since the Destruction of the House of The Bab. In this video, three Australian Baha’is reflect on their pilgrimage to this sacred spot, which was destroyed as part of a widespread campaign orchestrated over many decades aimed at extinguishing the life of the Baha’i community in Iran.

The House of the Bab was identified as a critical historical and holy spot for Baha’is, and the release of this video has come at a time when Baha’is around the world have been celebrating the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, Whose revitalizing message prepared the way for the coming of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith.

I wanted to find out more about the video, so I caught up with my dear friend Mehrzad Mumtahan, who works with the Australian Baha’i Office of External Affairs and was not only a part of the team behind the video (serving as producer and director), but he was also one of the three people featured in the video who shared their experiences of visiting the House of the Bab before it was destroyed. Here’s what Mehrzad had to say: Continue reading

Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablets to The Hague: An Introduction

On December 17th, 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, Abdu’l-Baha wrote to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace in The Hague. Abdu’l-Baha wrote a second Tablet to them in July 1920. Because of its substantial length, you might hear the first Tablet referred to as “The Tablet to The Hague” but you’ll also find both Tablets called “The Tablets to the Hague”. These two Tablets were recently published online for the first time on the Baha’i Reference Library (you can read them here), and in this article, we offer some introductory thoughts on the Tablet that was written 100 years ago, about its context and its significance.  Continue reading

Zaynab and the Women of Zanjan

The image above is a drawing of the city walls of Zanjan, Persia, by French orientalist, Eugène Flandin. The drawing would have been done some time around the mid-1800s, a time when members of the Babi faith faced severe persecution. [Image copyright: Public Domain]

From their earliest years, generations of Baha’is have prayed: “Make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.” Shining lamps and brilliant stars are only necessary, and only visible, in times of darkness. The women of Zanjan, a city in north-west Persia, who recognised the truth of the claim of the Bab, shone as brilliant stars through the darkness of the “most violent and devastating” of “the great conflagrations” which consumed the followers of the Bab in the East, South, West, and capital of Persia in the middle of the 19th century. Through the long months that came to be recognized as one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the Babi Revelation, they struggled side by side with the Babi men, serving, sacrificing, suffering. The sole purpose of the men, as repeatedly stated by their leader Hujjat, was to preserve inviolate the security of the women and children from the attacks heaped upon them for their beliefs. At the same time the sole purpose of the women was to provide the means by which the men could continue to defend the community. They were part of one heroic interdependent whole.  Continue reading

Martha Root’s Speeches and Social Discourse: Cosmic Education for a Universal Age

Hand of the Cause of God Martha Root sitting front and center, with a group of women in Melbourne, Australia, c. 1924. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

A century ago, on July 22, 1919, Martha Root embarked on a 20-year journey to destinations in Europe, Australia, Asia, the Americas, and Africa. These travels were motivated by a desire to share Baha’u’llah’s teachings with diverse audiences through public speaking and writing. Before setting out, she had honed her rhetorical skills during her career as a journalist, performer, and teacher. You can learn more about Root’s purpose-driven life from this earlier Baha’i Blog article.

Root is a role model for participating in the discourses of society; she wrote countless articles and speeches applying Baha’i teachings to a host of issues, including new media (radio), intercultural communication, women’s rights, international relations, and economic inequality. For a research project, I studied 25 of her speeches. I was particularly struck by “Culture and World Peace” (also titled “What Is Culture?”), which she delivered during her final trip around the world. Between 1938 and 1939, Root gave this talk to audiences including college students in India and women’s organizations in Australia. When you read the speech (below), you will observe that she appealed to these audiences by discussing women’s role in society and higher education, among other themes.  Continue reading

Who Were the Letters of the Living?

The Letters of the Living is the title given by the Bab to His first 18 followers. The Bab was a merchant from Shiraz, Persia. His name was Siyyid Ali-Muhammad Shirazi, but He is known to the world as the Bab, which means “the Gate” in Arabic, and Baha’is believe that He was the symbolic gate between past ages of prophecy and a new age of fulfilment for humanity. When the Bab was 25, He proclaimed to be both a new Prophet, and the herald to “Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest”, Baha’u’llah. Continue reading

An Introduction to ‘The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative’

Many Baha’is have a copy of The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Baha’i Revelation on their bookshelf. What is this book, and what is its purpose? Why is it important to Baha’is? Who was Nabil? When did he write his narrative, and when was it translated into English? This article provides basic answers to these questions, drawing primarily from Shoghi Effendi’s introduction to the English translation.  Continue reading