Tag Archives Baha’i History

The Life & Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum – A Talk by Dr. Janet Khan

Here at Baha’i Blog, we love listening to Baha’i-inspired talks, so we were so excited when we heard that the LSA of the Gold Coast had invited Dr. Janet Khan to give a talk at the Gold Coast Baha’i Centre in Australia.

In this talk, Dr. Janet Khan gives a talk on the extraordinary life and legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum, the daughter of Baha’u’llah. Bahiyyih Khanum, given the title the Greatest Holy Leaf, contributed significantly in the early years of the Faith. Her steadfastness during a critical period in the history of the Faith and during her appointment as the head of the Baha’i Faith testifies to the greatness of her character. Continue reading

Baha’i Chronicles – A New Site Chronicling the History of the Baha’i Faith

Here at Baha’i Blog we’re passionate about Baha’i history, and so we’re super excited to share with everyone a wonderful new site called Baha’i Chronicles, which aims to document the stories of the heroes and heroines of the Baha’i Faith, both past and present.

Baha’i Chronicles (BahaiChronicles.org) is the brainchild of Neda Nassir Najibi and Vanda Marie Khadem. Three years ago, Neda Najibi had started a series on her Facebook page titled “Did You Know”, which portrayed stories about Baha’i heroes and heroines, and while researching these individuals, she realized that there wasn’t a single website which captured the heroism, struggles, victories, sacrifices, and dedication of all of the Baha’is, both past and present. The stories of Baha’i heroes and heroines had also been a constant source of strength and inspiration in Vanda’s life, and it was her dream that future generations of children have access to the Baha’i Faith’s precious global heritage. So after several phone conversations, texts, emails, brainstorming sessions, and with the unfortunate passing of Neda’s father Nassir Najibi, who was an enormous influence on her, the two of them came up with idea and launched Baha’i Chronicles in his honor.

Neda is an old friend of mine, and so I decided to catch up with her to find out more about Baha’i Chronicles: Continue reading

Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye – A New Book by Earl Redman

Earl Redman is the author of an exciting volume about the Guardian that is fresh off the press called Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye. You may already be familiar with his work; in celebration of the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the West, Earl Redman gathered together all the historical accounts of the Master’s travels and put them into chronological order in Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst. When I contacted Earl about a possible interview, we discovered we had a mutual friend — my grandma and writer, Claire Vreeland. She compiled a book of pioneer stories (entitled And the Trees Clapped Their Hands) in which both of our families’ pioneering accounts are included. Linked through stories, I was keen to ask Earl about his creative process and the legwork behind his fascinating new book.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Earl. To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a writer?

In 1977, I fell off a mountain. Or rather was invited to fall off the mountain when a friend I was roped to was blown down a steep, icy face on Mt Foraker in Alaska. We fell about a thousand feet and, during the fall, I left my body. The body was on its way to death, but I didn’t care. When I finally stopped the fall, I had two powerful emotions. First, while the body and the soul were separate, I was absolutely disgusted because I was back in, at that time, a rather battered body. That was followed, after the soul rejoined the body, by a feeling of absolute delight that I was still alive.

Knowing that the body and the soul were separate, I was prepared to listen when I met a Baha’i named Sharon. She talked of the Faith and, on the day we were married in 1980, I became a Baha’i. Since then, we pioneered in Chile for six years and have now been pioneering in Ireland for sixteen years.

I have always like to write, though I never expected to write a book. Some of my early stories somehow ended up in a book called And the Trees Clapped Their Hands. I also contributed to the Alaska Baha’i News. Professionally as a geologist, I wrote many reports and my first published book was about the history of the mines and miners in Southeast Alaska, based on many old newspaper stories. I never set out to write books on Baha’i history. They all just sort of appeared on my computer screen, quite to my surprise.

Continue reading

Tahirih – The Force of a Pure Heart

Force, the old standard, is losing its dominance, and intuition, insight, glimpses of cosmic consciousness and the spiritual qualities of love and service in which woman is strong are gaining ascendancy. And you see that this new epoch is an age in which masculine and feminine elements of civilisation are becoming more evenly adjusted. Man and woman are as the two wings of the bird of humanity and this bird cannot attain its highest flight until these two wings are equally strong and equally poised. One of the important teachings of the Baha’i Faith is that women should be regarded as the equals of men and should enjoy equal rights and privileges, equal education and equal opportunities. Tahirih had to die for these ideals but today our task is to live for them. – Martha Root

To commemorate International Women’s Day, which falls on 8 March, I would like to honour a remarkable woman who lived a century ago. Her radical life was not only significant then but remains profoundly relevant today. She had passion, determination, guts and grit running through her veins. A warrior for the emancipation of women. A force to be reckoned with.

A life tragically cut short at the age of thirty-six, she was the first woman suffrage martyr. Put to death by strangulation, her immortal words ring through the ages:

You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.

Her name was Tahirih – “The Pure One”. Continue reading

Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum

Amatu’l-Baha Ruḥiyyih Khanum, born Mary Sutherland Maxwell Aug. 8, 1910 - Jan. 19, 2000. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Amatu’l-Baha Ruḥiyyih Khanum, born Mary Sutherland Maxwell
Aug. 8, 1910 – Jan. 19, 2000. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)


15 years ago, on January 19, 2000, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, born as Mary Sutherland Maxwell, and affectionately known by the title Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, passed away from this earthly plain. She was the Handmaiden of Glory; the beloved consort of Shoghi Effendi; his “shield”, his “helpmate”, and his “tireless collaborator”; a Hand of the Cause of God; and the “Baha’i world’s last living link to the family of Abdu’l-Baha”.

On the Sunday afternoon that her precious remains were laid to rest, the sweetness of a chanted Persian prayer reverberated throughout the garden where nearly a thousand friends had gathered from places far-flung across the globe to pay tribute and homage to this beloved personage. A soft rain began to fall gently upon all there; perhaps nature’s own testimony to the grief felt in all the hearts and the tears upon many a cheek.

The beauty of the love story that was to become Ruhiyyih Khanum’s life was one that began long before her birth. Mary Sutherland Maxwell was born on 8 August 1910 in New York City. The beloved only-child of William Sutherland Maxwell and May Ellis Bolles, she was a result of the prayers of Abdu’l-Baha for the fulfillment of May Bolles’ heart’s desire to have a child, and perhaps, the gift of her mother’s complete acquiescence and resignation to the Will of God. Continue reading

Why is the Baha’i World Centre in Israel?

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)

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

Who Were the Hands of the Cause?

Some of the Hands of the Cause with Counsellors of the International Teaching Centre, in 1973: (front row, left to right) Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan, Mrs. Florence Mayberry, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Mr. Abul-Qasim Faizi, (back row, left to right) Mr. Paul Haney, Mr. Aziz Yazdi, Mr. Hooper Dunbar. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

The Hands of the Cause of God were Baha’is appointed by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, as the “Chief Stewards of Baha’u’llah’s embryonic World Commonwealth.”.

What is a chief steward? A steward is similar to a manager, or director, and so the ‘chief stewards’ of the Faith managed and directed the global activities of the Baha’i Faith. Shoghi Effendi clearly defined their work as “the propagation and preservation of the unity of the Faith of Baha’u’llah.”.

Abdu’l-Baha also described the duties of the Hands of the Cause. He stated that they…

…are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God by their conduct, their manners, their deeds and their words.

Baha’u’llah appointed four Hands, four were posthumously named by the Master, and 42 were given this station by Shoghi Effendi. Little is known about the Hands from the early days of the Faith and the Guardian stated that little will be known about them until the history of the Cause in Iran and the near East is written and available – a time which the Universal House of Justice has said has yet to come. Furthermore, as the study of letters and archives are conducted, we may even learn about other Hands from that time period. Continue reading

Nancy Campbell: artist and Artist

Nancy Cambell (1906 – 1980)

Nancy Cambell (1906 – 1980)

At the end of the last century Ani Difranco cleverly and accurately sang that…

…every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

This idea, that most objects and activities – including all sciences and arts – are neutral in value and can be utilized for good or evil, had also been expressed at the beginning of that century by Abdu’l-Baha. He stated:

All things are beneficial if joined with the love of God; and without His love all things are harmful…

He went on to show how this is particularly true of the arts, stating that:

…a melody sweet to the ear, bringeth the very spirit of life to a heart in love with God, yet staineth with lust a soul engrossed in sensual desires.

If a woman at the Three Arts Club in New York City had not introduced Nancy Campbell to the Baha’i Teachings in 1938, she may have become just another talented artist, using her skills and opportunities to entertain and distract. Instead Nancy Campbell attended ‘firesides’ (informal presentations of the Baha’i Teachings) at the home of New York Baha’is, Saffa and Carrie Kinney. Three years later upon return to her adopted homeland, Canada, Nancy Campbell sought out the Baha’is and formally registered as a member of that community. She was immediately engaged in direct service to the Baha’i community, and became a founding member of the Hamilton (Ontario) Local Spiritual Assembly. Continue reading

To Live to Teach: Keith Ransom-Kehler

Keith Ransom-Kehler (February 14, 1876 – October 23, 1933)

After returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines and the beloved Guardian in 1926, Keith Ransom-Kehler, penned a letter to the National Convention of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada. She had witnessed first hand the terrible burden with which the Guardian was weighed down in the form of hundreds of letters from the American Baha’is expressing criticism of each other. She wrote, “Any one of us is ready to die for [Shoghi Effendi]” and then asked rhetorically, “but can we conscientiously number ourselves among those who are willing to live for him?”

Shoghi Effendi would later write, “The Cause at present does not need martyrs who would die for the faith, but servants who desire to teach and establish the Cause throughout the world. To live to teach in the present day is like being martyred in those early days. It is the spirit that moves us that counts, not the act through which that spirit expresses itself; and that spirit is to serve the Cause of God with our heart and soul.”

Keith Ransom-Kehler would come to be one of those who could indeed “conscientiously number [herself] among those who are willing to live for him”. Thus, though she died quietly in Isfahan, Iran, of illness and exhaustion at the age of 57, she was declared by the Guardian to be the first American martyr to give her life for the Faith. Additionally, on the day after her death, on 24 October 1933, she was elevated to the rank of Hand of the Cause of God. She was the first woman so appointed. Continue reading