Category Archives History

A Birthday Like No Other: The Birth of Baha’u’llah

By most measures, November 1817 was a decidedly ho-hum month in world history. On November 5, the Third Anglo-Maratha War broke out between the British and Indians at the Battle of Khadki. On November 20, the first Seminole War began in the American state of Florida. Historical almanacs show the parade of 19th century thinkers and doers marching on and a subtle passing from a world of crushing conventionality (Jane Austen died that year) to a world of intense questioning and social and philosophical mischief (Henry David Thoreau and Frederick Douglass were born that year).

But on November 12, 1817 something happened that in time will make all the wars, rises and falls of empires, and even sweeping social and philosophical movements pale by comparison. On that Wednesday, a baby was born in Tehran, a baby Who would grow up to upset the equilibrium of the whole world, indeed whose life would mark the culmination of an age 6,000 years long — our entire known history — and launch us into a turbulent modernity and then into the long-promised but elusive Kingdom of God on Earth. Continue reading

The Life of Martha Root

Martha Louise Root, Aug. 10, 1872 – Sept. 28, 1939. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

If a fairy godmother appeared and guaranteed to fulfill one wish, for what would we wish? Would we wish to remove the wrinkles from around our eyes or dimples from around our thighs, for gender equality, racial unity or world peace?

Perhaps the wish that arches over and informs all other wishes is to achieve, through our thoughts, words and actions, the good-pleasure of God, whatever form that might take for each of us.

As we take the time to remember and reflect on the life of Martha Root, we know we are looking at someone for whom that wish came true. While there were certainly angelic hosts involved, there was no fairy godmother. There was a small middle-aged woman with poor health, restricted financial means and limited worldly power. The magic wand was a heart filled with the love of God and a willingness to sacrifice everything in the path of that love.

Martha Root was 36 years old when she embraced the Faith of Baha’u’llah in 1909. She was taught the Faith by Hand of the Cause, Roy Wilhelm (before his appointment as a Hand of the Cause) and the first American believer Thornton Chase. Three years later, as both an adoring follower and as a journalist, she travelled with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through several eastern states of America, deepening her understanding of profound spiritual truths and documenting His travels. She was privileged to have two private audiences with the Master during that period. Continue reading

The Ascension of Baha’u’llah

The Mansion of Bahji, in Acre, Israel, where Baha’u’llah passed away on May 29, 1892. (Photo by Kamran Granfar courtesy of Baha'i Media Bank)

In the early hours of the morning of 29 May, 1892, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith passed away.

The commemoration of His passing is called ‘The Ascension of Baha’u’llah’, and Baha’is throughout the world pay their respects with prayers and selected Baha’i Writings. It is also one of nine days in the Baha’i calendar year, where work should be suspended.

For almost 40 years Baha’u’llah suffered imprisonment and banishment, originally from His birthplace in Persia (present-day Iran), to Baghdad, and then to the Ottoman cities of Constantinople, Adrianople, and then finally to the infamous prison city of Acre (in present-day Israel), where He was held in a cold and damp cell. Continue reading

The Declaration of the Bab

The Shrine of the Bab located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel (Photo courtesy of Nancy Wong)

Baha’is around the world celebrate the 22nd of May, 1844 as the day of the Declaration of the Bab, who was the forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith. (The date to commemorate this joyous historic occasion shifts within the Gregorian calendar from year to year but according to the Baha’i calendar, it is always honoured on the 8th of Azamat.)

Baha’is view the Bab as a Messenger of God, who had a role that can be likened to John the Baptist (who told of the coming of Christ) in heralding the coming of the latest Manifestation of God: Baha’u’llah.

The events surrounding the Declaration of the Bab have been told in many ways, but perhaps the most widely read is the account in The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Baha’i Revelation. This book was written by Nabil, and chronicles the early days of the Revelations of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

The story begins in 1783, when a learned man named Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa’i (1743-1826) began, at the age of 40, to travel through Persia teaching that the advent of a great day was drawing near, the day that would see the advent of the Qa’im, the Promised One of Islam. During this time, there was great discontent in the East as certain prominent clerics practiced disunity and behaved in a way that was damaging Islam.  As he spread this message, his knowledge and wisdom impressed many, who were eager to learn from him. Among these was a gifted young man named Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti (1793-1843), who became Shaykh Ahmad’s favoured pupil and eventual successor. Continue reading

The Two Gardens of Ridvan

Photo: Baha'i Media Bank

With Ridvan, The King of Festivals, upon us, we start to rejoice and reflect on all things Ridvan. With the Northern Hemisphere bursting into the full bloom of spring we start daydreaming about what it might have been like to be in the presence of Baha’u’llah, in the garden of Ridvan.

This brings us to an interesting point: there are in fact two gardens of Ridvan amongst the gardens of holy significance to the Baha’is. What the two have in common is that they were both blessed by the presence of Baha’u’llah and that they both were places of beauty and joy for Baha’u’llah and His followers. Continue reading