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
When I was eleven, my period leaked for the first time in my sixth-grade class. It was my second period ever, and while age and experience has now confirmed what my mother said to me the day it happened (“Every single woman in the world has leaked”) I was mortified to the point of being momentarily traumatized; boys bullied me for weeks about it, and I exerted all my efforts into avoiding the memory of it. From then on, when I had my period, nothing was more important to me than making sure I didn’t leak. All my thoughts, anxieties, and concerns through the day on those dreaded moments of a month revolved around how many pads or tampons I had in my bag, and how many opportunities I would have to go to the bathroom.
It wasn’t long before I realized this was a concern all my girlfriends shared, and we spent our days in middle and high school clandestinely passing each other pads and tampons in brown bags, so no one would see, and through the sleeves of each other’s shirts like we were exchanging contraband instead of products crucial to our health and well-being. We didn’t talk about our periods above whispers and used euphemisms like “our friend from down South” if we had to talk publicly or loudly. Characters in TV shows didn’t have or refer to their periods; no one in movies seemed affected. Pop stars and models were beautiful all the time and never caved over in cramps, migraines, or nausea, so we put smiles on our faces, saved the complaining for each other when we were home in our pajamas and watching TV, accepting the silence and secrecy as givens and normalcy for menstruating women.
I’d always been passionate about my faith and spirituality, I often talked about the Baha’i Faith’s advocacy for women’s rights, but I never saw how my humiliation or secrecy regarding my period had anything to do with the principle of gender equality. Sometime in my teenage years, I was reading my own copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) that my Baha’i school teacher had given me. I came across the passage: Continue reading
Resting Place of the Greatest Holy Leaf (1846 - July 15, 1932), Bahiyyih Khanum, the daugher of Baha’u’llah, in the Monument Gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
Dearly-beloved Greatest Holy Leaf! Through the mist of tears that fill my eyes I can clearly see, as I pen these lines, thy noble figure before me, and can recognize the serenity of thy kindly face. I can still gaze, though the shadows of the grave separate us, into thy blue, love-deep eyes, and can feel in its calm intensity, the immense love thou didst bear for the Cause of thine Almighty Father, the attachment that bound thee to the most lowly and insignificant among its followers, the warm affection thou didst cherish for me in thine heart.
The tenderness and profound love in the description of those “blue, love-deep eyes” is one that has stayed in my mind and heart years after I read Shoghi Effendi’s moving and poignant love letter in remembrance of his beloved great aunt, the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahiyyih Khanum.
Described by her Father, Baha’u’llah, as “one of the most distinguished among thy sex”, with “a station such as none other woman hath surpassed”, Bahiyyih Khanum is regarded as the most outstanding heroine of the Baha’i dispensation. Continue reading
When picturing the scene of the Bab’s Declaration, I think of His house in Shiraz, quiet and dark during a spring night in 1844. I think of an upper room where He converses with Mulla Husayn, revealing His spiritual mission as the Promised One and the Prophet-Herald of a new Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah. My mind does not travel beyond that upper chamber to explore the house’s other rooms.
But let us wander. We will discover that two other inhabitants are awake physically and spiritually that fateful night: the Bab’s wife, Khadijih Bagum, and servant, Haji Mubarak. Let us meet these two. Continue reading
Queen Marie of Romania (29 October 1875 – 18 July 1938)
O Queen in London!… We have been informed that thou hast forbidden the trading in slaves, both men and women. This, verily, is what God hath enjoined in this wondrous Revelation. God hath, truly, destined a reward for thee, because of this.
This passage is part of a Tablet that Baha’u’llah addressed around 1867 to the “renowned” Queen Victoria, “whose sovereignty” Shoghi Effendi characterized as “[extending] over the greatest political combination the world has witnessed.” Baha’u’llah likewise praises Queen Victoria for having “entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people,” and even includes in His Tablet advice on how the members of her Parliament should represent the people, should be trustworthy and just. What distinguishes this Tablet and another, written about the same time to “the omnipotent Czar of the vast Russian Empire,” Alexander II, from others Baha’u’llah addressed to the political and ecclesiastical rulers of His time, including Napoleon III, Pope Pius IX, William I, Francis Joseph, Abdu’l-‘Aziz, and Nasiri’d-Din Shah, is His commendation of acts the British and Russian monarchs had each performed during their reigns, directly or indirectly, that He indicated were well-pleasing to God. Continue reading