As the teachings of the Baha’i Faith encourage everyone to serve others, many Baha’is choose to dedicate a year or more of their lives to full-time volunteering, whether it be by assisting with community-building efforts in a specific neighbourhood or village, or helping at a school, Baha’i temple, or even at the Baha’i World Centre in the Holy Land. This period of time is often referred to as a “year of service”.
My dear friend Nasim, a young Baha’i in Australia, decided to take a year off and spend it serving at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. When she returned to her home in Sydney, she decided to put a book together about her experiences. The book is called A Year of Blessings, and I caught up with Nasim to find out more about it:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Nasim! Can you tell us a little bit about the book and what it’s about?
This book is about my reflections on the spiritual blessings and transformative lessons I experienced during my year of service in the Holy Land (Haifa, Israel) back in 2018-2019. It shares glimpses of the beautiful, sacrificial and rewarding experience of devoting a full year serving at the Baha’i World Centre, and how it strengthened my love, certitude, and devotion to our Beloved Cause. In the book, I share stories about how tests (a.k.a. blessings in disguise) helped me grow and strengthen many spiritual qualities such as patience, resilience, love, wisdom, and steadfastness, to name a few. The book features full-page photographs of Baha’i Holy Places that I had the chance to photograph in the cities of Haifa, Akka, and in Bahji, as well as a compilation of quotations from the Baha’i Writings that inspired me. I hope these will also inspire the readers and encourage them to ponder their meaning as they continue serving in their respective fields.
The gardens surrounding the Shrines of the Bab and Baha’u’llah in Israel are open to the public at designated times and they are visited by more than one million guests every year! In 2008, these unique structures and gardens were inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in recognition of their “outstanding universal value” as holy places and places of pilgrimage for followers of the Baha’i Faith.
As a precautionary measure and in compliance with health regulations regarding the coronavirus, the Shrines and their surrounding gardens have been closed. However, www.ganbahai.org.il, which is the official public website for visitor information to these holy places has just launched a new gallery of images and videos, including historical ones, so you can visit these special places from home. You can see them all here: http://gallery.ganbahai.org.il/
The Baha’i World News Service just launched a new section to their website dedicated to developments of the construction of the Shrine of Abdu’l-Baha. You’ll find that special section of their website here. Continue reading
After volunteering in the Holy Land, a dear friend from Brazil, Nabil Sami Silva, was inspired to put together a visually stunning book called ‘O Qiblih de uma Comunidade Mundial’, which translates into English as The Qiblih of a World Community. “Qiblih” means “point of adoration” and it is a reference to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Bahji, Israel. It is the direction to which Baha’is turn and face during our Obligatory Prayers. (If you’re curious as to why the Qiblih is located in Israel, you may wish to check out our article “Why is the Baha’i World Centre in Israel?”)
Nabil’s book takes us on a breathtaking photographic pilgrimage to the Baha’i holy places and historic sites in Haifa, Akka and their surrounding areas. The book is in Portuguese and it features sweeping photos of the Shrine of the Bab and its terraced gardens, the Shrine of Baha’u’llah and the Mansion of Bahji, the prison in Akka, and many other places that you visit as part of a Baha’i pilgrimage.
You may recognize Nabil’s work: he was one of the contributing photographers to our project, Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World, and we also featured his work in this images post, 11 Beautiful Photos of the Baha’i House of Worship in Chile. I wanted to catch up with him and talk about his latest project and I hope you enjoy our conversation too: Continue reading
Baha'u'llah's bed in the Mansion of Bahji, located just outside of Akko, Israel. (Photo: Bahai.us via Flickr)
In the early hours of 29 May 1892, Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, passed away in the Mansion of Bahji (located just outside of the prison city of Akka in present day Israel), where He had been a prisoner for nine years. Baha’is around the world commemorate the day of Baha’u’llah’s passing as one of the nine holy days where work should be suspended, and it is known to Baha’is as The Ascension of Baha’u’llah.
Just after sunset on the day He passed away, Baha’u’llah was buried in a simple room in a house next to the Mansion of Bahji, turning it into the holiest place on earth for Baha’is and making it the place where Baha’is the world over turn towards in prayer, and come from all corners of the earth to pay their respects as pilgrims.
As I join fellow Baha’is around the world in commemorating the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, I am reminded of the fortune we as Baha’is have in knowing that Baha’u’llah’s successorship was made so explicit, and as a result, this has protected us from schisms. Compared to the passing of other Messengers of God, this is what has made the Baha’i Faith truly unique: fhe fact that for the first time in history, the founder of a world religion had made His successorship explicitly clear to His followers. Continue reading
Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)
For centuries, the Holy Land has been recognised as sacred for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Moses and Jesus established their religions there, and Muhammad visited on His night journey and ascension.
But how did this land on the shores of the Mediterranean come to be associated with the Baha’i Faith, a religion born in Persia, more than 1500 kilometers away? Continue reading
Holy Recollections is a new film by young Californian Baha’i Ian Huang, and some of you may recognize him from his part in Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s recent film about the Faith called The Gardener.
Ian Huang’s film is a very personal documentary where he shares with the audience his reflections on the time he spent as a volunteer in the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, and his narrative is interwoven with the beautiful images of the Baha’i gardens and Holy Places.
I decided to catch up with Ian to find out more about Holy Recollections and his experiences in the Holy Land: Continue reading
On May 29, 1892, shortly before dawn began to break, Baha’u’llah passed on from this mortal life and His spirit was finally “released from the toils of a life crowded with tribulations.”[i] He was surrounded only by family members and a small but loyal band of followers. His body was laid to rest, reverently and without any extravagant ceremony, in one of the buildings of the property in Bahji, outside of Akka, Israel, where He had spent the last twelve years of His life. He died a prisoner, a captive of one of the many governments that had persecuted Him for the past forty years and exiled Him from Tehran to Baghdad to Constanstinople to Adrianople to Akka and finally to Bahji. In fact, of the countless themes which run through Baha’u’llah’s Writings, his imprisonment and suffering is one of the most recurring: Continue reading
The Mansion of Bahji, located in Akka (Acre), Israel, is the home where Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith died in 1892. The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, is located next to this mansion. (Photo courtesy Iain Simmons via Flickr).
From the earliest times, pilgrimage has been a cherished part of human life, be it individual or collective. Whether it was the ancient Greeks making the arduous journey to Delphi to consult the Oracle, or the Frankish knights and their kings making crusade to “free” Jerusalem, Hindus making the journey to Varanasi to immerse themselves in the sacred waters of the Ganges or Buddhists to Kandy in Sri Lanka to revere the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, many and diverse are the reasons for which men and women have undertaken the journey of pilgrimage, with its attendant trials and tests.
In the Bahá’í context, pilgrimage is a law ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in the Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In this Book, Bahá’u’lláh prescribes that all Bahá’ís who are able should strive to make pilgrimage to one of the two Great Houses, i.e. the House of the Báb in Shíráz and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád. However, after the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí as a place of pilgrimage, and stated that it is “obligatory” to visit these places “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”. Today, Bahá’ís make their pilgrimage at the invitation, and as honoured guests, of the Supreme Body of the Bahá’í Faith, the Universal House of Justice. The Shrines and other holy places are located in and around the cities of Haifa and ‘Akká in the Holy Land.
But what, our friends may ask, is the act of pilgrimage itself? What rites or rituals are involved? Before I continue, I should make it clear that each individual experiences their pilgrimage differently, and it is very personal. While sharing my thoughts and experiences in this post, it is not my intention to set certain expectations or a prescription of how people should feel while experiencing pilgrimage. My aim is to simply share some of my own thoughts and experiences in an attempt to answer, as simply as possible, the common question of “What is Baha’i pilgrimage?” Continue reading
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