As a young adult, I felt a deep longing for a better world, a more profound sense of community, a more efficient vehicle for developing my personal potential. Something was wrong, something was lacking. Something unwanted was being imposed. What can we do? How can we change?

I could only vaguely describe the problem. It was related to young men my age being conscripted to fight a war in Vietnam, but it was more than that. The solution I longed for involved the evolution of self-sufficient communities all over the world, growing our own food, fiber, fuel, and flowers; manufacturing our own goods; and supplying our own services. No more long commute to an unfulfilling job. Everything would be handled locally, democratically, and peacefully.

After all of these years, I can’t say I have seen much progress. The hierarchy of castes seems to be as deeply entrenched today as it was in 1967. But perhaps more people are talking about the change that needs to happen. And perhaps we are becoming more articulate. More of us are embracing sobriety and waking up.

Baha’u’llah’s Revelation to me

I was sitting on my couch perusing a pamphlet on the Baha’i Faith, and received a vision of Baha’u’llah. As I gazed into his eyes, I knew I was communing with the Lord of mankind. This mystical experience was probably the most profound event of my life. 

I had picked up the pamphlet from the Baha’i both at a street fair my children and I had visited a few days earlier. My little family had been sporadically fellowshipping with the Christian Essenes, an hour away, because I had been unable to find local fellowship that resonated with me. I had prayed for local fellowship.

The year was 1992, the month was April. I was 43. I had 3 home-schooled children nearby, aged 4, 7 and 9, and a 19-year-old living independently. Six months earlier, I had asked my best friend of 10 years, the father of the younger 3 of my children, and my husband, to leave, because of his alcoholism. Sometime during that 6 months of single parenting, I had come to the realization that even my “moderate” drinking had to go, and had given up the occasional use of wine and beer I had long been habituated to. I had occasionally attended Al-Anon meetings during the years I had been concerned about the drug and alcohol use of my children’s father, and realized I was going to have to make a tough choice. 

I believe that the Lord who showed his holy face to me that morning had been guiding me for years. I had worshipped and prayed to Jesus. I thought about Jesus right before I had the mystical experience that changed my life forever. In the Baha’i tract I had, I read about how Baha’u’llah had spent four months in a prison, in 1852, with a heavy chain around His neck, after having been forced to walk several miles in the sun barefooted and bareheaded, while being pelted with stones. Four years earlier he had been beaten on the feet with rods. [1] I thought about Jesus, what He had endured, and how His Holy Word assures us that those who visit Christ and His brethren in prison are rewarded. [2] Then the vision of Baha’u’llah appeared before me, a bright light in a dark place. Soon a new friend, from the local Baha’i community, brought me some of his writings. 

After my introduction to Baha’u’llah, his face would appear to me often. By facial expression, he would let me know whether or not he approved of what I was thinking or doing. A few days after the vision, I was sitting in my parked car on a country lane by a row of pomegranate trees, while the children were visiting their grandparents. He said, “I am closer to you than your own teeth.” At first I was startled to hear words inside my mind that had not originated with my own thoughts, but I soon got used to his loving presence within me. Often, after that, he would break into my thoughts and tell me to stop depreciating myself, because, apparently, I had a long-standing habit of negative self-talk. This habit began to change under his mystical tutelage. He rarely breaks into my thoughts anymore, but he is always there when I turn to him.

“The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved. Nor shall the seeker reach his goal unless he sacrifice all things. That is, whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood, all must he set at naught, that he may enter the realm of the spirit, which is the City of God. Labor is needed, if we are to seek Him; ardor is needed, if we are to drink of the honey of reunion with Him; and if we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world.

“On this journey the traveler abideth in every land and dwelleth in every region. In every face, he seeketh the beauty of the Friend; in every country he looketh for the Beloved. He joineth every company, and seeketh fellowship with every soul, that haply in some mind he may uncover the secret of the Friend, or in some face he may behold the beauty of the Loved One.

“And if, by the help of God, he findeth on this journey a trace of the traceless Friend, and inhaleth the fragrance of the long-lost Joseph from the heavenly messenger, he shall straightway step into The Valley of Love and be dissolved in the fire of love. In this city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illumining sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason.” –Baha’u’llah [3]

It is an interesting journey in this world. Our physical senses are so prominent that it is easy to ignore the quiet voice, or the transparent face, of Spirit. For decades, I had wanted to see Jesus face to face, and hear His voice. I clung to the promise, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” [4] 

I had encountered the teaching that religion is one, one of the three onenesses taught in the Baha’i Faith (the equality of humans, the harmony of science of religion, and the oneness of God), twice before. In my self-directed study of religion and spirituality. At the age of 19, I read Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. I then subscribed to literature from the Self-Realization Fellowship for a while, which were lessons on how to meditate. I remember Yogananda’s guidance to salute all Great Souls, including Krishna, Jesus, and Yogananda’s  gurus, when beginning to meditate. 

Decades later, I again encountered the teaching that religion and spirituality are one, while fellowshipping with the Essenes, who teach that a Great Teacher arises periodically throughout history, naming Enoch, Zarathustra, Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Buddha, and Jesus. [5]

When I received the vision of Baha’u’llah, I also experienced the knowledge that Baha’u’llah is the most recent dawning place of the Sun of Truth. I was caught up in the rapture of knowing Baha’u’llah, passionate to learn everything about Him that I could. I felt I had the path illuminated before me; and since that moment, Baha’i fellowship, and Baha’i study, have been big parts of my life.

What is Baha’i?

The Baha’i Faith is a world religion founded by Baha’u’llah. Baha’is are followers of the teachings of Baha’u’llah (whose title means the Glory of God), accept him as the Lord of the current age, and are members of the religious organization He founded.  Baha’u’llah was born in 1817, in Tehran, Iran, and ascended in 1892, near Haifa, Palestine. Baha’i teachings such as the independent investigation of truth and the equality of man and woman seemed radical a century ago, but today a large percentage of people accept these truths. Like many of the Great Teachers of humanity, Baha’u’llah’s life was one of hardship, imprisonment and exile.

Oneness of Religion

One of the basic teachings of the Baha’i Faith is the oneness of God and the oneness of religion. Different cultures may call God by different names, and these are the various names of the One God. A Great Prophet, one who founded a distinct religion, has arisen from time to time throughout history. Baha’is call this figure the Manifestation of God. God Himself is Unknowable. We cannot know God apart from knowing the Founder of one of the great, world-wide religions.

Absolute Teachings and Social Teachings

The absolute teachings of religion are unchanged from age to age. Christ’s golden rule, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, …” [6] was also commanded by Moses, Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, and others, with slightly differing wordings that have the same meaning. [7]  This same principle has echoed again in the Baha’i writings. The social teachings of religion, such as dietary practices and the roles of male and female, do change from time to time and from place to place.

The Manifestation of God

God, the Unknowable, sends Messengers to earth from time to time. The Founder of a new religion arises about once every 500 to 1000 years. The names of some of these personages are: Zarathustra (aka Zoroaster), Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Buddha. Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah. The Manifestations of God infuse the world with divine grace in an unseen way. For instance, the day after the Bab (1819-1850) declared himself to Mulla Husayn, in Shiraz, Persia, half way around the world, in Washington, D.C., the first public telegraph message was sent: “What hath God wrought?” ushering in a whole new electronic era (on May 24, 1844).

The Manifestations of God seem to have appeared near the beginnings of rapidly advancing civilizations. Krishna appeared in the Indus Valley, in what is now Pakistan, near the beginning of the Harrapan Civilization. Abraham appeared in Sumer (in what is now Iraq) near to but before the time of the writing of the Code of Hammarabi, which is an early code of laws on which even the modern legal system is based. Moses appeared in Egypt near the beginning of the flowering of the Egyptian empire. Around the time that Buddha had his revelation under the Bodhi tree, in northeastern India, the written word suddenly took off in various places. Ancient oral traditions were at last committed to writing. Two prophets arose in China, Lao Zsu and Confucius, who prepared the way for the message of Buddha that arrived in China several centuries later. Christ appeared in an outpost of the Roman Empire near the beginning of the Roman Empire’s influence, an influence still profoundly felt in today‘s world. Muhammad appeared at the beginning of the Islamic age, which eventually energized even the European Renaissance. Baha’u’llah and his Herald, the Bab, appeared just prior to the flowering of the global culture of the current age.

“The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being.” –Baha’u’llah [8]

The Manifestation of God has a direct relationship with God. The rest of us are capable of having a direct relationship with the Manifestation of God. It is through this Divine Being that we approach God. Muhammad introduced Allah, Moses introduced Yahweh, and Zoroaster introduced Ahura Mazda. Christ and Krishna offered Themselves as the way to God. Buddha taught a way of meditation that brings enlightenment. The Bab and Baha’u’llah each wrote profusely, creating a body of literature, any part of which, can bring the seeker into the presence of God.

The Lesser Prophet

Many more prophets and messengers come to bring new light within existing religions. There are many wonderful people who live inspiring, exemplary lives. There are geniuses and inspired, deeply devout people. Sometimes people try to exalt a person to a pedestal beyond what is appropriate. We can admire saintly people, but our deep devotion must be reserved for the Manifestation of God, or we may find that we are part of a transient personality cult only. Is this person of the caliber that happens once an age?

Progressive Revelation

The principle of Progressive Revelation, as taught in the Baha’i Faith, asserts that, like an individual,  mankind, as a whole, has an infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and that we are now on the threshold of a collective adulthood. Our childish squabbles will be a thing of the past, and we will enter into a most great peace that will last for millennia. The Manifestations of God that were sent to humanity in ages past taught mankind at different levels of maturity. Now, mankind is ready for more profound truths, than in former epochs. In the ancient past, mankind was taught in watered down allegories. Progressively over the millennia, more detailed truths were entrusted to us, and in the future, we will receive even more.

Baha’u’llah’s great grandson, Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), dedicated his life to the monumental tasks of translating Baha’u’llah’s writings (along with those of the Bab and ‘Abdu’l-Baha) into English (from the original Persian and Arabic), and became the Guardian of the Faith after the ascension of his grandfather,  ‘Abdul-Baha (born in 1844), in 1921.

“The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh … is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society….

“…His [Baha’u’llah’s] mission is to proclaim that the ages of the infancy and of the childhood of the human race are past, that the convulsions associated with the present stage of its adolescence are slowly and painfully preparing it to attain the stage of manhood, and are heralding the approach of that Age of Ages when swords will be beaten into plowshares, when the Kingdom promised by Jesus Christ will have been established, and the peace of the planet definitely and permanently ensured. Nor does Bahá’u’lláh claim finality for His own Revelation, but rather stipulates that a fuller measure of the truth He has been commissioned by the Almighty to vouchsafe to humanity, at so critical a juncture in its fortunes, must needs be disclosed at future stages in the constant and limitless evolution of mankind.” –Shoghi Effendi [9]

‘“Soon,” Bahá’u’lláh’s own words proclaim it, “will the present day Order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth and is the Knower of things unseen.” … “The world’s equilibrium,” He explains, “hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this Most Great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System, the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.” “The signs of impending convulsions and chaos,” He warns the peoples of the world, “can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing Order appeareth to be lamentably defective.”’ –Shoghi Effendi [10]

‘“One of the great events,” affirms ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “which is to occur in the Day of the manifestation of that incomparable Branch is the hoisting of the Standard of God among all nations. By this is meant that all nations and kindreds will be gathered together under the shadow of this Divine Banner, which is no other than the Lordly Branch itself, and will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself.” “Now, in the world of being,” He has moreover explained, “the Hand of Divine power hath firmly laid the foundations of this all-highest bounty, and this wondrous gift. Whatsoever is latent in the innermost of this holy Cycle shall gradually appear and be made manifest, for now is but the beginning of its growth, and the dayspring of the revelation of its signs. Ere the close of this century and of this age, it shall be made clear and evident how wondrous was that spring-tide, and how heavenly was that gift.”’ –Shoghi Effendi [11]

The Way of World Peace

The exact blueprint for world peace in the current age has been encoded by Baha’u’llah in his writings. This involves daily prayer, daily reading of Scripture, chastity, monogamous marriage, nonuse of inebriating substances, employment in useful crafts and professions, local, regional, national and world assemblies elected without nominations or campaigning, no professional clergy, friendliness to all, remaining aloof from evil-doers, no gossip or backbiting, bringing oneself to account each day, telling the truth, but confession only to God (no human confession). He called for a world parliament, one standard world currency, one auxiliary language for global use, universal education, the end of prejudice, and the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty. He affirmed the oneness of mankind, the oneness of religion, the equality of the sexes, and the harmony of science and religion. If one nation oppress another, the world parliament will act to support the oppressed and restrain the oppressor. If one individual oppresses another, the oppressor will be restrained, and the oppressed freed. Religion can no longer be used as an excuse to attack and subjugate other people, appropriating their land and resources, or stealing their labor, because all of the creeds and religions of the world are accepted as honoring the One God. It is a spiritual principle that restitution will be made to those wronged. 

“The oneness of the world of humanity His Day he [Jesus Christ], furthermore, had described as “the times of refreshing,” “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets since the world began.” –Shoghi Effendi [12]

When Baha’u’llah ascended in 1892, His son, ‘Abdul-Baha, became the Center of the Covenant. 

“Bahá’u’lláh, the Sun of Truth, has dawned from the horizon of the Orient, flooding all regions with the light and life which will never pass away. His teachings, which embody the divine spirit of the age and are applicable to this period of maturity in the life of the human world, are:

“The oneness of the world of humanity

“The protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit

“The foundation of all religion is one

“Religion must be the cause of unity

“Religion must accord with science and reason

“Independent investigation of truth

“Equality between men and women

“The abandoning of all prejudices among mankind

“Universal peace

“Universal education

“A universal language

“Solution of the economic problem

“An international tribunal.

“Everyone who truly seeks and justly reflects will admit that the teachings of the present day emanating from mere human sources and authority are the cause of difficulty and disagreement amongst mankind, the very destroyers of humanity, whereas the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are the very healing of the sick world, the remedy for every need and condition. In them may be found the realization of every desire and aspiration, the cause of the happiness of the world of humanity, the stimulus and illumination of mentality, the impulse for advancement and uplift, the basis of unity for all nations, the fountain source of love amongst mankind, the center of agreement, the means of peace and harmony, the one bond which will unite the East and the West.” –‘Abdu’l-Baha [13]

Eventually, this great dispensation will wane, as all the others have in the past, and God will send a fresh Manifestation, and a new Revelation, more profound than the present one. (The next Manifestation of God could be a man or a woman.) According to Baha’u’llah, another Manifestation of God will not appear until a full one thousand years have elapsed since the inception of the Baha’i era, with the declaration of the Bab on May 23, 1844.

The Baha’i Faith is not alone in its teachings of the oneness of religion, the harmony of science and religion, the equality of mankind, the equivalency male and female, and other basic teachings which ring true to spiritual people everywhere. Sectarians who state or imply that their way is the only right way are only giving evidence to the contrary.

Awakening

The primary purpose of religion is to enable individuals to attain the presence of God. The human spirit is like a lamp. The normal condition of man is to have it dark. The lighting of the spiritual lamp is termed in various ways by various religions. Christians call it, “receiving the Holy Spirit,” or “being born again.” Buddhists call it “Enlightenment.” Sufis call it the God-intoxicated state. To Baha’is, it is an awakening.

“My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee? I was heedless, Thou didst awaken me. I had turned back from Thee, Thou didst graciously aid me to turn towards Thee. I was as one dead, Thou didst quicken me with the water of life. I was withered, Thou didst revive me with the heavenly stream of Thine utterance which hath flowed forth from the Pen of the All-Merciful.

“O Divine Providence! All existence is begotten by Thy bounty; deprive it not of the waters of Thy generosity, neither do Thou withhold it from the ocean of Thy mercy. I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of the kingdom of eternity.” –Baha’u’llah [14] 

The 19th Century

In the 19th century, less than one out of two children born survived childhood. There was a sharp demarcation between the nobility and the peasants, with the former behaving haughtily, and often cruelly, toward the latter. Women had few rights and were rarely educated, and, in many parts of the world, polygamy was rampant. In 1892, no democracy had extended voting rights to women. Religion had degenerated into a body of superstitious dogma, where the clergy wielded an enormous influence and preyed on an ignorant public. Slavery was commonplace and widespread. The gulf between science and religion was as wide as it had ever been with uncompromising dogmas in each camp frustrating the thirst for truth. Acts of aggression against the earth’s indigenous population were considered virtuous. Against this dark backdrop, two Orbs were lit, bringing enlightenment to the world, whether the world knew Their names or not.

Tehran, the birthplace of Baha’u’llah [15]

The Birth of Baha’u’llah

Khadijih Khanum had been widowed with three children. A marriage was arranged for her with Mirza Buzurg (also known as Mirza `Abbas Nuri), who was already married with two children. They had two more children together, then, on November 12, 1817, Baha’u’llah was born and named Mirza Husayn Ali. Baha’u’llah’s father was a nobleman. He worked for the government in Tehran (the capital of Iran), and had an additional home in Nur (a mountainous area near the Caspian Sea about 160 kilometers northeast of Tehran). Baha’u’llah was raised in the Shia sect of Islam and studied the Koran, Sufi poetry, calligraphy and civics. His father, Mirza Buzurg, married several more times, begat numerous children, then died in 1839. Two years before his death, Mirza Buzurg had been dismissed from his position and lost his annual allowance. He was divorced by his seventh wife, a daughter of the Shah, who demanded a high settlement. Baha’u’llah, who had married Asiyih Khanum (who was also known as Navvab, the Most Exalted Leaf) in 1835 (when she was 15), took responsibility for the care of his mother, most of his step-mothers, and the rearing of his younger siblings and half-siblings. The first two children born to Baha’u’llah and Asiyih Khanum, died within the first few years of life. [16]

The Birth of the Bab

About 900 kilometers south of Tehran, in Shiraz, the Bab (also known as Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad) was born October 20,1819. He grew up in a family of merchants, becoming a merchant himself. He lost his father at a young age and was reared by his mother, Fatimih-Bagum, and his maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid ‘Ali. Like Baha’u’llah, the Bab was raised in the Shia sect of Islam, and studied the Koran, Shaykhism, and business.

In 1841, the Bab traveled to Karbala in Iraq (about 1000 kilometers northwest of His home in Shiraz), where he attended a few classes given by Siyyid Kazim (1793-1843), head of the Shaykhi School and successor to Shaykh Ahmad (1753 -1826). Shaykh Amad had taught that spiritual reality was a separate thing from physical reality. Thus Muhammad’s body had lain asleep in His bed while his soul traveled to Jerusalem and back. His views were not all generally accepted, and earned him both ardent followers and outspoken critics. In 1842, the Bab returned to Shiraz, resumed his business and married Khadijih-Bagum. In 1843 they had a son who died a few months later.

In the 19th century there was a lot of expectation that a Messianic Figure would arise. The Millerites in America and other Christian sects were expecting the return of Christ in 1843 or 1844. Jews were expecting the Messiah, Buddhists were expecting the Maitreya, and so on. In the Shaykhi School of Islam (centered at Karbala), Shaykh Amad taught that the time was at hand when two Messianic Figures (the Qa’im and the Qu’um) would arise, one right after the other. Shaykh Amad passed away having appointed Sayyid Kazim as his successor. Then in January of 1844, Sayyid Kazim died without having named a successor.

The Bab (whose title means “the Gate”) experienced the call of God at his home, in early 1844 (shortly after the passing of his teacher, Sayyid Kazim).

“In the year sixty [the Islamic year 1260, the Gregorian year 1844] God graciously infused my soul with the conclusive evidences and weighty knowledge which characterize Him Who is the Testimony of God—may peace be upon Him—until finally in that year I proclaimed God’s hidden Cause and unveiled its well-guarded Pillar, in such wise that no one could refute it.” –the Bab [17]

“O people of the Bayan! Those who embrace the Truth must turn unto Me, as ordained in the Book and divine guidance will be vouchsafed to whosoever attaineth My presence.” –the Bab [18]

The followers of Sayyid Kazim were determined to find the Qa’im that Kaxim and Shaykh Amad had predicted. In May of 1855, one of them, Mulla Husayn, arrived, after much prayer, to the Bab’s home in Shiraz, and was invited to an upper room, where on May 23, 1844, the Bab revealed that he was the one sought. After a careful investigation, Mulla Husayn accepted him.

Baha’is celebrate the declaration of the Bab every year the evening before May 23 in honor of ‘Ali-Muhammad Shirazi’s having declared himself the promised one of Shia Islam on that date in 1844. In the century and a half since the Bab’s humble declaration to Mulla Husayn, who had set out in search of the Promised One for his Faith, Baha’is of all backgrounds have come to recognize the Bab and Baha’u’llah as having fulfilled the promises of all religions regarding One who was to come.

Eventually, one by one, 17 others found and accepted the Bab’s ministry. One of them was a woman, named Tahirih (the Pure One) by the Bab. These 18, along with the Bab, became known as the 19 Letters of the Living. The Bab spoke and wrote repeatedly of “Him Whom God would make manifest,” referring to the unveiling of another Manifestation of God that would take place soon.

The Bab’s inspired speaking and writing attracted a large following, but aroused the anger of many of those entrenched in the religious system. Vicious persecutions followed. Many followers were killed.

The Bab was arrested in May of 1845, and was held in house arrest, then exiled 550 kilometers north to Isfahan in the fall of 1846. The governor of that city, Mu’tamidu’d-Dawlih, rescued the Bab from clergy who wanted to kill him and invited him to his own home to stay. In order to keep his whereabouts a secret, a reliable Babi woman was required to help the Bab with domestic necessities. According to the Shia Muslim practice, the only way a man could employ a maid was to enter into a marriage contract with her. The Báb took a second wife, Fátimih, who was a sister of Mullá Rajab ‘Alíy-i-Qahír, a Bábí from Isfahán. [19] A few months later, the Bab was imprisoned in the mountain fortress of Mah-Ku. During his house arrest, exile and imprisonment, the Bab wrote profusely, and rarely some of his followers were allowed to attain his physical presence.

Baha’u’llah

A few months after the Bab’s declaration, Mulla Husayn carried a letter from the Bab to Baha’u’llah, who, upon reading it, became an ardent supporter of the Bab. Baha’u’llah began teaching the new Faith as soon as he received it. He traveled to his ancestral home in Nur. His words were so convincing and his arguments so sound that all were amazed.

Abbas Effendi (now known as ‘Abdu’l-Baha, which means Helper of the Glory), a son, was born to Baha’u’llah and Navvab the same night the Bab declared Himself to Mulla Husayn (May 23, 1844). Along with the writings of the Bab and the writings of Baha’u’llah, the writings of ‘Abdul-Baha are considered Scripture by Baha’is. Nineteen years after the Bab’s declaration to Mulla Husayn, Baha’u’llah revealed to those near him that he was the one spoken of by the Bab.

Baha’u’llah’s wife, and two of his brothers (one a full brother, Mirza Musa, and one a half brother, Mirza Muhammad Quli) became Babis and later Baha’is. They shared the hardships, the exiles, and the imprisonment at Akka, Palestine with Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah’s older full sister, Sarih Khanum, who had helped arrange Baha’u’llah’s marriage to her husband’s sister, Asiah Khanum, was devoted to Baha’u’llah and the Babi Faith. His oldest half sister from his mother, Sakinah Khanum, who was married to one of his uncles, also became a believer. Because of family pressures and obligations, his sisters were unable to travel to see Baha’u’llah again after he left Iran. Another half brother, Mirza Yahya (also known as Subh-i-Azal), one who had been nurtured by Baha’u’llah’s mother after his own mother had died during his birth, at first accepted the Bab, but was not sincere, and caused a lot of problems for Baha’u’llah in the following years.

In July of 1848. Baha’u’llah convened a conference of Babis (followers of the Bab) at Badasht (in the mountains about 500 kilometers east of Tehran). During this conference, the woman Letter of the Living, Tahirih, appeared before the assembly unveiled. In the culture at the time, women were not permitted to appear before unrelated men without being completely covered in loose-fitting clothing, including a veil across the face. Up to this point, Tahirih and the other Babi women had observed this custom, either wearing a veil when they discussed the teachings of their new religion with unrelated men, or sitting behind a curtain during such times. Can you imagine having to observe such a custom while you are trying to learn the truths of a new and exciting religion? And then when one of those truths turns out to be the equality of man and woman, someone has to make the move, doesn’t she? And yet when it was done, initially, there were some strong negative reactions on the part of some of the believers in the Bab’s revelation. This audacious act, the first installment in the throwing off the shackles that assign females to an inferior strata of life, put Tahirih in danger, and the other Babis in danger as well. No longer could the Babi movement pass itself off as some little faction of Shia Islam, some little refinement on the Shaykhi movement. It was a whole new religion with an entire new set of social teachings, including an entirely new definition of the roles of man and woman!

While Tahirih was tearing down the veils in more ways than one, Baha’u’llah looked on in love and support. It was he who had directed her rescue from a dangerous situation a few months earlier. After the conference, there were mob attacks on Babis, there were even military sieges against them, and many of them, including Mulla Husayn, lost their lives. Baha’u’llah was bastinadoed (tortured with rods on the soles of the feet) when trying to come to the aid of a group of Babis under siege at the Shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi in Mazandaran (the province in Iran that contains Amul and Nour.)

In 1845, Baha’u’llah and Navvab had another son, ‘Ali Muhammad (who died at the age of 7). A daughter, Bahiyyih Khanum (who served the Cause all her long life) was born to them in 1846. In 1848, a son, Mirza Mihdi (who tragically passed away at the age of 22 after a fall from the Akka barracks roof), was born to Baha’u’llah and Navvab. During the early birth pangs of a religion espousing the equality of male and female, Baha’u’llah took a second wife! In 1849, Baha’u’llah married his cousin Madh-i-`Ulya (also known as Fatimih Khanum), who was also a Babi. She, who was 21 at the time of her marriage to Baha’u’llah, had been married to an older man when she was very young. When he died, the young widow was in a socially difficult position. As head of the household after His father’s passing, Baha’u’llah was obliged to provide for her. To fulfill His obligation, Baha’u’llah needed to take her into His household. Under Shia Islamic law, this could only be accomplished through marriage. Baha’u’llah presented His son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as the perfect exemplar. ‘Abdu’l-Baha married only one wife. The Manifestation abrogates old laws and formulates new ones, but he only does so at a pace that can be absorbed by the culture in which He appears.

Martyrdom of the Bab

The trial of the Bab took place in July of 1848. The Bab declared to the court, “I am the person you have awaited for one thousand years,” boldly claiming to be the Promised One of Shia Islam. The clergy called for execution claiming apostasy. The government was reluctant because of the Bab’s popularity. Instead he was bastinadoed. In 1850, a new Prime Minister, Amir Kabir, ordered the execution of the Bab. The Bab was martyred by a government firing squad on July 9, 1850, in Tabriz.

Imprisonment of Baha’u’llah

The 17-year-old grandson of the Shah, had become the king of Persia after his grandfather’s death in 1848. After the martyrdom of the Bab, certain misguided Babis blamed the new Shah for the Bab’s death. In August of 1852, they shot the young Shah with bird shot, frightening and slightly injuring him. After this, the violent persecutions against the Babis intensified.

In August of 1852, Baha’u’llah was arrested and placed in the dungeon (the Siyah-Chal) in Tehran for four months. During that time he suffered tremendously, but also experienced the call of God. This is an event that transcends time and distance. It is an effectual juncture through which the believer can mystically connect with the Manifestation of God and thereby experience a myriad graces of God in his or her life.

‘We were consigned for four months to a place foul beyond comparison. As to the dungeon in which this Wronged One and others similarly wronged were confined, a dark and narrow pit were preferable. Upon Our arrival We were first conducted along a pitch-black corridor, from whence We descended three steep flights of stairs to the place of confinement assigned to Us. The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow prisoners numbered nearly a hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell. Most of these men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!

‘Day and night, while confined in that dungeon, We meditated upon the deeds, the condition, and the conduct of the Babis, wondering what could have led a people so high-minded, so noble, and of such intelligence, to perpetrate such an audacious and outrageous act against the person of His Majesty. This Wronged One, thereupon, decided to arise, after His release from prison, and undertake, with the utmost vigor, the task of regenerating this people.

‘One night, in a dream, these exalted words were heard on every side: “Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Erelong will God raise up the treasures of the earth—men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him.”’ –Baha’u’llah [20]

While Baha’u’llah was imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal, His property was seized and plundered. Navvab moved her family into a little house near the prison with help from Baha’u’llah’s brother, Mirza Musa. In mid-December, Baha’u’llah was released, injured and in poor health. The family went to stay with an older half brother who was a doctor, and whose wife, Baha’u’llah’s cousin, Maryan, was very devoted to Baha’u’llah.

Martyrdom of Tahirih

When the day of her execution came, Tahirih washed, prayed, dressed herself in a white gown and adorned herself with expensive perfume. She was led into a garden to be killed, but the men seem to have been too scared to do it. Then they found a drunk who viciously strangled her with a scarf. Her body was thrown into a well and stones thrown on top of it. Before they martyred her she said “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.” She was thirty-five.

Notwithstanding her short life, Tahirih won renown not only in Iran but outside too. Her legendary valor even reached Europe. Even today, her poems are widely read in Iran by Baha’is and non-Baha’is. She is often cited as an example of female emancipation and feminism.

Exile to Baghdad

After a month recovering (partially) from the atrocities of the dungeon, Baha’u’llah was exiled to Baghdad.

“On the first day of the month of Rabi’u’th -Thani, of the year 1269 A.H., (January 12, 1853), nine months after His return from Karbila, Baha’u’llah, together with some of the members of His family, and escorted by an officer of the Imperial body-guard and an official representing the Russian Legation, set out on His three months’ journey to Baghdad. Among those who shared His exile was His wife, the saintly Navvab, entitled by Him the “Most Exalted Leaf,” who, during almost forty years, continued to evince a fortitude, a piety, a devotion and a nobility of soul which earned her from the pen of her Lord the posthumous and unrivalled tribute of having been made His “perpetual consort in all the worlds of God.” His nine-year-old son [‘Abdu’l-Baha], later surnamed the “Most Great Branch,” destined to become the Center of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His teachings, together with His seven-year-old sister [Bahiyyih Khanum], known in later years by the same title as that of her illustrious mother, and whose services until the ripe old age of four score years and six, [86], no less than her exalted parentage, entitle her to the distinction of ranking as the outstanding heroine of the Baha’i Dispensation, were also included among the exiles who were now bidding their last farewell to their native country. Of the two brothers who accompanied Him on that journey the first was Mirza Músa, commonly called aqay-i-Kalim, His staunch and valued supporter, the ablest and most distinguished among His brothers and sisters, and one of the “only two persons who,” according to Baha’u’llah’s testimony, “were adequately informed of the origins” of His Faith. The other was Mirza Muhammad-Quli, a half-brother, who, in spite of the defection of some of his relatives, remained to the end loyal to the Cause he had espoused.” –Shoghi Effendi [21]

Baha’u’llah’s wife, Navvab, was in the third trimester of pregnancy. Their son, Mirza Mihdi, who was 3, was left with Navvab’s grandmother and did not rejoin them for 7 years. Baha’u’llah and members of His family set out from Tehran, west toward the snow-capped Zagros mountains which separate the plains of Iran from the Mesopotamian valley.

Naw Ruz

150 years ago, travel was difficult. The holy family walked or rode on the backs of animals and stayed in lodges known as caravansaries, which were just stone buildings with few amenities. They weren’t prepared for the bitter cold they encountered in the mountain passes, finally arriving in Iraq in time for the spring festival of Naw Ruz (March 21), still celebrated in Iran as part of the ancient religion, Zoroastrianism which had not been stamped out completely in the Islamic conquest. Now Naw Ruz is celebrated by Baha’is around the world and is the first day of the Baha’i new year. Baha’u’llah and his family celebrated Naw Ruz in a campground near an orange grove in the Baha’i year 9 (Gregorian year 1853). It was still another 2 week’s journey to Baghdad.

Baha’u’llah was exiled near to the place that, millenniums earlier, Abraham had been exiled from (Ur, about 400 kilometers south of present-day Baghdad). Abraham had spoken out against the idolatry of ancient Sumer. Baha’u’llah had spoken out against idols of the mind (preconceived notions of how prophecy would be fulfilled) in pre-modern Iran. A decade later, Baha’u’llah would follow the path Abraham took to Palestine, as further exiles and imprisonments were imposed upon him.

About 90 kilometers south of Baghdad are the ruins of ancient Babylon, the city cursed in the Revelation of St. John [22] and in Isaiah [23]. The Jewish people had been taken there as captives around 600 BC. While the Babylonians were forcing the Jews to bow down to idols, a monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism, was flourishing in Persia (Iran), just east of the Zagros Mountains. Around 550 BC, the Persians conquered Babylon, freed the Jews, and then helped them rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.

About 50 Kilometers west of the Babylonian ruins, and 90 kilometers south of Baghdad, is the town of Karbala. Baha’u’llah had made a pilgrimage to Karbala the previous year.

The Badi Calendar

According to the Islamic calendar, the Bab was born on 1 Muharram, 1235, and Baha’u’llah was born on 2 Muharram, 1233. Under the calendar in use at the beginning of the Baha’i era (the Islamic calendar), the Bab’s and Baha’u’llah’s birthdays were observed on two consecutive days. The Islamic (lunar) calendar shifts an average of 11 days per year with reference to a solar calendar. Baha’u’llah was born two years prior to the Bab. Until recently, Western Bahá’ís observed the Bab’s and Baha’u’llah’s birthdays 23 days apart, on October 20 and November 12 on the Gregorian calendar, or ‘Ilm 5 and Qudrat 9 on the Badi (Baha’i) Calendar. The Bab introduced a solar calendar (the Badi Calendar) with 19 19-day months, each named after an attribute of God, and 4 or 5 intercalary days inserted before the last month of the year. The first day of the first month of the Baha’i year, Baha (glory), starts on Naw Ruz, the first day of spring. The Bab and Baha’u’llah authorized 19 days of partial fasting during the month of Ala, the last month of the Baha’i year (from March 2 to 20 on the Gregorian calendar). Baha’is also gather on the first day of every Baha’i month (every 19 days) for devotions and fellowship.

Very recently, the world governing body of the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, has returned the celebration of the Bab’s and Baha’u’llah’s birthdays to two consecutive days, sometime during the months of October or November (it varies from year to year) as has already been practiced by Eastern Bahá’ís.

Martyrdom of Imam Husayn

The first days of Muharam on the Islamac calendar, are days of ritual mourning among Shias commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn in Karbala, in the Islamic year 61 (the Gregorian year 680). This terrible tragedy came about because the successor to Muhammad was not agreed upon by His followers. His humble grandson and many of the people with him were slaughtered by the army of an ambitious Caliph who wished to retain power. But what a gift! In the heart of Shia Islam, two Beams of light (the Bab and Baha’u’llah) were lit during the commemorations of a bygone tragedy!

Baghdad

As the ancient city of Babylon once straddled the Euphrates; Baghdad straddles the Tigris. Mesopotamia means the land between the rivers, and the two rivers that give Mesopotamia its name are the Tigris and the Euphrates. Baghdad has a long history as the center of the Islamic world.

Six weeks after the family was settled into a small house in Baghdad, a son was born to Baha’u’llah and Navvab. They gave him the name ‘Ali Muhammad.

Baha’u’llah’s half brother, Mirza Yahya (also known as Azal), had been nominated by the Bab as the leader of the Babis until such time as Him Whom God would make Manifest, should appear. Mirza Yahya arrived in Baghdad, and, along with his wife and children, was housed with Baha’u’llah’s family. Amidst a realization slowly dawning amongst the more perceptive of the Babis that Baha’u’llah possessed the qualities of a leader, not Mirza Yahya, the latter became very jealous. Mirza Yahya tried to discredit Baha’u’ llah, and raised enough mischief that Baha’u’llah withdrew in sorrow to the mountains of Kurdistan a year after his arrival in Baghdad.

“The one object of Our retirement was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or the cause of sorrow to any heart. Beyond these, We cherished no other intention, and apart from them, We had no end in view.’ –Baha’u’llah  [24]

Mirza Yaha  married several more times. He already had three wives, but had abandoned two of them in Tehran along with his children when he left. One of the women he married during Baha’u’llah’s absence from Baghdad was, Fatimih Khanum, the second wife of the Bab, Mirza Yaha also ordered the execution of some rival claimants for the leadership of the Babi Faith, which was carried out.  [19]

‘Ali Muhammad, infant son of Baha’u’llah and Navvab, had died of illness, untended by a doctor because of Mirza Yahya‘s fear of letting outsiders into the house. Mirza Yahya was terrified of the persecutions that might arise against him should it become known that the “leader of the Babis” was there. During Baha’u’llah’s two-year absence, most of the Babi community came to realize that Mirza Yahya did not have the spiritual qualities of a just leader, and when Baha’u’llah returned, he was greeted with honor.

Also during this time, Baha’u’llah’s faithful brother, Mirza Musa, married.

“Among the Arabians taught by Tahirih was Shaykh Sultan, whose daughter married Mirza Musa, brother of Bahá’u’lláh. Their daughter eventually married Muhammad-`Ali, half-brother of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Mirza Musa and his wife were always devoted to Bahá’u’lláh. This uncle, Mirza Musa, who came into exile with us, was a very kind helper in everything. At one time he did almost all the cooking, for which he had a talent; he would also help with the washing.” –Bahiyyih Khanum (Daughter of Baha’u’llah)  [25]

Baha’u’llah’s Marriages

March 12, 1856, was the date of Baha’u’llah’s return to Baghdad. By this time his second wife, Madh-i-`Ulya, must have joined the family with their son, Muhammad-‘Ali, whose birth occurred sometime during late 1852, or early 1853. (Muhammad-’Ali’s ambitions would cause problems later.) In late 1856, Samadiyyih Khanum (a daughter) was born to Baha’u’llah and Madh-i-`Ulya. Sometime during the Baghdad period, another son, ‘Ali Muhammad, was born to them and died two years later. In 1861, Baha’u’llah and Madh-i-`Ulya had another daughter, Sadhajiyya Khanum, who died 2 years later in Constantinople. Later, during the Adrianople period they would have two more sons, Ziya’u’llah born in 1864, and Badi’u’llah born in 1867.

In 1862, Baha’u’llah took a third wife, Gawhar Khanum, who was a servant of Navvab, and had a daughter with her, Furughlyyih Khanum. Navvab’s health had been impacted by the deprivations and austerities she had suffered and needed help performing the tasks of the matron of a large household. The only way she could have a live-in female servant, under Islamic law, was for her husband to marry the woman.

“When Bahá’u’lláh left Baghdad in 1863 she [Gawhar Khanum] and her daughter stayed and lived with her brother Mirza Mihdiy-i-Kashani. Later, on her way to join Bahá’u’lláh and the family she is reported to have been taken captive along with other believers, and for some years she was among the Bahá’í refugees in Mosul. She later went to ‘Akká at Bahá’u’lláh’s instruction.” [26]

‘… The revelation of laws is a gradual process and, within each Dispensation, the Laws are progressively and gradually applied. … The laws of Islam were abrogated with the revelation of the Arabic Bayan. However, the practice of these laws did not cease immediately. According to the general principle of progressive revelation …, the laws of the new Dispensation, which eventually supersede the old laws, are gradually disclosed to the believers and progressively implemented.

‘…The Guardian [Shoghi Effendi] confirmed that at the time of the marriages of Bahá’u’lláh, the “laws of Islam … .had not yet been superseded”. …”… Bahá’u’lláh married the first and second wives while He was still in Tihran, and the third wife while He was in Baghdad. At that time, the Laws of the Aqdas had not been revealed, and secondly, He was following the Laws of the previous Dispensation and the customs of the people of His own land.

‘…With regard to polygamy, it must be remembered that polygamy is a very ancient practice among the majority of humanity, and that the introduction of monogamy has been only gradually accomplished by the Manifestation of God. Jesus, for example, did not limit polygamy, but abolished divorce except in the case of fornication; Muhammad limited the number of wives to four reintroducing permission for divorce; Bahá’u’lláh, Who was revealing His Teachings in the milieu of a Muslim society, introduced the Question of monogamy gradually in accordance with the principles of wisdom and progressive unfoldment of His purpose. The fact that He left His followers with an infallible Interpreter of His Writings enabled Him to outwardly permit a maximum of two wives in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas but include a condition that enabled ”Abdu’l-Bahá to elucidate later that the intention of the law was to enforce monogamy.’ –The Universal House of Justice [27]

Baha’u’llah’s Growing Influence

“Numerous and striking are the anecdotes which have been recounted by those whom duty, accident, or inclination had, in the course of these poignant years, brought into direct contact with Baha’u’llah. Many and moving are the testimonies of bystanders who were privileged to gaze on His countenance, observe His gait, or overhear His remarks, as He moved through the lanes and streets of the city, or paced the banks of the river; of the worshippers who watched Him pray in their mosques; of the mendicant, the sick, the aged, and the unfortunate whom He succored, healed, supported and comforted; of the visitors, from the haughtiest prince to the meanest beggar, who crossed His threshold and sat at His feet; of the merchant, the artisan, and the shopkeeper who waited upon Him and supplied His daily needs; of His devotees who had perceived the signs of His hidden glory; of His adversaries who were confounded or disarmed by the power of His utterance and the warmth of His love; of the priests and laymen, the noble and learned, who besought Him with the intention of either challenging His authority, or testing His knowledge, or investigating His claims, or confessing their shortcomings, or declaring their conversion to the Cause He had espoused.” –Shoghi Effendi [28]

The Four Valleys was written around 1857 in Baghdad by Baha’u’llah, in response to questions of Shaykh ‘Abdu’r-Rahman-i -Talabani, the honored leader of the Qadiriyyih Order of Sufism, and with whom Baha’u’llah had became friends during his sojourn in the the Sulaymaniyah region in Kurdistan. It is a mystical work, quoting Rumi and other Sufi mystical poets, and dealing with the journey of the soul.

The Hidden Words is a book written in Baghdad around 1857 by Baha’u’llah during walks along the Tigris river. “This marvellous collection of heavenly counsels and admonitions can be described as a perfect guide-book for man on his journey to the spiritual worlds of God. The soul of man is not subject to the laws of nature as they operate in this physical world. Rather, it is animated, sustained and governed by the operation of the great, the eternal Covenant of God with man. The Hidden Words not only sets out the provisions of this universal and everlasting Covenant which binds man to his Creator, but also demonstrates the way in which he can be faithful to it.” [29]

The Seven Valleys was written around 1860 in Bagdad, is similar in theme to The Four Valleys, and the two are normally published in the same volume. “This work stands out as a masterpiece of mystical composition. It was written in response to the questions of Shaykh Muhyi’d-Dín, the judge of the town of Khániqayn, who was a Súfí (a member of a Muslim mystical cult). Although not a Bábí, he was an admirer of Bahá’u’lláh and had written a letter to Him, expressing certain thoughts and posing some questions in mystical terms.” [30]

The Kitab-i-iqan “The Book of Certitude” was composed in Baghdad. The uncle of the Bab, Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, had been perplexed to hear that the promised one of the Islam was his own nephew. When he was told that this was the same objection voiced by the uncle of the Prophet of Islam, he was shaken and decided to investigate the matter. In 1861 he traveled to Karbala, Iraq, to visit his brother, Haji Mirza Hasan-‘Ali, and then went to Baghdad to meet Baha’u’llah. There he posed four questions about the signs of the appearance of the promised one in writing to Baha’u’llah. The 200 pages (in original languages) of the Kitab-i-iqan were written in the course of at most two days and two nights in reply about January 15, 1861. [31]

Although he had experienced the call of God while incarcerated in the Siyah-Chal of Tehran, and along with that, the revelation that he was the Promised One prophesied by the Bab, Baha’u’llah did not openly declare his mission for ten years. His half-brother, Mirza Yahya, remained the generally- recognized head of the Babi community. In Baghdad on several occasions, Mirza Yahya went into hiding. Baha’u’llah was, therefore, increasingly acknowledged as the leader of the Babi community, of which Baghdad had become the center.

As Baha’u’llah’s fame increased, the revival of the Persian Babi community gained the attention of its enemies in Islamic clergy and the Persian government. They wanted Baha’u’llah silenced, and were eventually successful in having the Ottoman government summon Baha’u’llah from Baghdad to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).

Before Baha’u’llah left for Constantinople, many visitors came to visit him. In order to allow his family to prepare for the trip, he moved to a garden across the Tigris river from Baghdad to meditate and receive visitors. He entered the garden on April 22nd, 1863, accompanied by his sons ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Mirza Mihdi, and Mirza Muhammad `Ali, his secretary Mirza Aqa Jan and some others, and stayed there for eleven days.

After their arrival in the garden, Baha’u’llah announced his station for the first time to a small group of family and friends. Gradually the Babis came to be called Baha’is.

For the next eleven days Baha’u’llah received visitors including the governor of Baghdad. Baha’u’llah’s family was not able to join him until April 30th, the ninth day, since the river had risen and made travel to the garden difficult. On the twelfth day of their stay in the garden, Baha’u’llah and his family left the garden and started on their trek to Constantinople.

Ridvan is a twelve-day festival in the Baha’i Faith, commemorating the commencement of Baha’u’llah’s prophethood. It begins at sunset on April 20th and continues until sunset, May 2nd. “Ridvan” means paradise, and also what the believers called the Garden where Baha’u’llah stayed for twelve days before commencing his journey to Constantinople.

Exile to Constantinople

‘The departure of Bahá’u’lláh from the Garden of Riḍván, at noon, on the 14th of Dhi’l-Qádih 1279 A.H. (May 3, 1863), witnessed scenes of tumultuous enthusiasm no less spectacular, and even more touching, than those which greeted Him when leaving His Most Great House in Baghdád. “The great tumult,” wrote an eyewitness, “associated in our minds with the Day of Gathering, the Day of Judgment, we beheld on that occasion. Believers and unbelievers alike sobbed and lamented. The chiefs and notables who had congregated were struck with wonder. Emotions were stirred to such depths as no tongue can describe, nor could any observer escape their contagion.”

‘Mounted on His steed, a red roan stallion of the finest breed, the best His lovers could purchase for Him, and leaving behind Him a bowing multitude of fervent admirers, He rode forth on the first stage of a journey that was to carry Him to the city of Constantinople. “Numerous were the heads,” Nabíl [an early Baha’i historian] himself a witness of that memorable scene, recounts, “which, on every side, bowed to the dust at the feet of His horse, and kissed its hoofs, and countless were those who pressed forward to embrace His stirrups.”’ –Shoghi Effendi [32]

Baha’u’llah and his family were exiled to Constantinople after having spent 10 years as exiles in Baghdad. They spent 4 months in Constantinople, then were exiled again, to Adrianople (present day Edirne). The 12 day journey from Constantinople to Adrianople was extremely difficult. They had to travel during a very cold December, colder than had occurred in the memories of natives of the region. Most of the exiles did not have the necessary clothes to protect them from the harsh weather. Even to obtain water from springs on their way, they had to light a fire to thaw the ice.

Baha’u’llah entered Adrianople on December 12, 1863, and stayed in that city for four and a half years. As the influence of Baha’u’llah grew, his half-brother, Mirza Yahya, became more jealous. He even went so far as to poison Baha’u’llah, with grave results. Baha’u’llah became very ill, and, although he recovered, he was left with a shaking hand until the end of his life.

It was from Adrianople that Baha’u’llah sent many of his tablets addressed to the kings and rulers of the world and proclaimed his Faith far and wide.

“O kings of the earth! Give ear unto the Voice of God, calling from this sublime, this fruit-laden Tree, that hath sprung out of the Crimson Hill, upon the holy Plain, intoning the words: “There is none other God but He, the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise.” This is a Spot which hath been sanctified by God for those who approach it, a Spot wherein His Voice may be heard from the celestial Tree of Holiness. Fear God, O concourse of kings, and suffer not yourselves to be deprived of this most sublime grace. Fling away, then, the things ye possess, and take fast hold on the Handle of God, the Exalted, the Great. Set your hearts towards the Face of God, and abandon that which your desires have bidden you to follow, and be not of those who perish.” –Baha’u’llah [33]

Baha’u’llah and his family left Adrianople on August 12, 1868, and after a journey by land and sea, arrived in Akka, Palestine, on August 31. The city was used by the Ottomans as a place of banishment for criminals and agitators. After disembarking at Akka, the exiles were imprisoned in the army barracks. The first night, they were deprived of food and water, and afterwards were assigned three loaves of low quality bread a day. Soon nearly everyone became sick and three of them died.

Gradually the conditions improved, and Baha’u’llah and his family were able to move from the army barracks into a crowded but adequate house 2 years later. Still restrictions on receiving visitors and travel remained for the rest of Baha’u’llah’s life. His son, Abdul-Baha lived in prison and house arrest practically all of his life. He was finally liberated at the age of 70.

The Illusion of Self Importance

The power and prestige of this world is a temporary condition coveted by those caught in the illusion of self importance. When a religious movement develops and successfully grows, the power and prestige naturally coming to the founders of the movement and their designated successors has, throughout history, been coveted by others.

In the 4th century after the crucifixion of Christ, Christianity had spread to many countries in the middle east and even Europe. Christians, by their piety and hard work had set themselves apart as model citizens everywhere they had gone. The Roman Empire wanted to use the Christian model to improve the character of the empire as a whole. In order to do so they distorted the religion from what it had been in the earlier years.

When Muhammad, the founder of Islam, died late in the 7th century, the leadership of a quickly growing empire, which had developed through the Prophet’s inspiration, suffering and sacrifice, was the object of intense desire. Disagreement over the heir spawned a violent clash between the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam which still separates them today. The Shiites (adherents to the Shia sect of Islam) believe that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, ‘Ali, was his rightful successor, yet ’Ali was prevented by other Muslims from being an effective leader. ‘Ali, his wife (the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima), and their two sons all suffered violence.

Successorship to the faith of the Bab after his martyrdom was contested. Baha’u’llah’s half brother, Mirza Yahya, longed for the prestige he saw being conferred on Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah meditated, prayed, spoke kindly with godly insight, had many aspects of greatness which could be observed. Mirza Yahya was blind with jealousy, and even made an attempt on the life of Baha’u’llah.

When Baha’u’llah passed away in May 29, 1892, years of sacrifice, hard work, and the grace of God had produced a growing movement with generous followers, lands and buildings which had been slowly procured with great difficulty, much of the public relations labor having been done by Baha’u’llah’s designated heir, ’Abdu’l-Baha. ’Abdu’l-Baha’s half brother, Muhammad-’Ali, responded with bitter jealousy to the designation of his half-brother as the new leader of the movement, and tried to subvert ’Abdu’l-Baha’s authority any way he could, going so far as to lie to the government about ‘Abdu‘l-Baha resulting in a renewal of the strict terms of imprisonment. The resulting schism very nearly destroyed the Baha’i Faith. The family of Baha’u’llah had been exiles and prisoners together for many years. They were a close-knit group. Other believers, such as Baha’u’llah’s secretaries, who had shared the exiles and imprisonments also had very close ties with the family.

When Muhammad-‘Ali’s rebellion became so obvious that it was no longer possible to conceal it with a sin covering eye, ‘Abdu’l-Baha asked that the believers cease relations with Muhammad-’Ali and his family. It became a time when each and every believer, family and otherwise, had to make a judgment. Either Muhammad-‘Ali’s behavior was excusable or it was not. ‘Abdu’l-Baha called Muhammad-‘Ali and his supporters covenant breakers in reference to the will of Baha’u’llah in which he had designated ‘Abdu’l-Baha as the center of the covenant and Muhammad-‘Ali‘s attempts to subvert it.

‘Abdu’l-Baha suffered from the actions of his half-brother, Muhammad-’Ali, both his step-mothers, both his half-sisters, their husbands, his other two half-brothers (one of whom vacillated between ‘Muhammad-‘Ali and ‘Abdu‘l-Baha), other believers who sided or sympathized with the covenant breakers, and also enemies outside the Faith. But after about 10 years, the machinations of Muhammad-‘Ali and the other covenant breakers had run their course, the faithful had rallied around ‘Abdu’l-Baha, his wife Munirih Khanum, their four daughters, and ‘Abdu‘l-Baha‘s faithful sister, Bahiyyih Khanum. And, finally, ‘Abdu’l-Baha had been released from house arrest and was free to travel. Then in 1921 when ‘Abdu’l Baha passed to the Abha realm, the covenant breakers were active again.

‘Abdu’l-Baha had designated his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the Guardian of the Faith. ‘Abdu’l-Baha had written his last will and testament while Shoghi Effendi was only a small child. When it was read after ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s passing, Shoghi Effendi was 26, and had no prior knowledge of the role he was to play as the Guardian of the Faith.

Addiction

The nonuse of inebriating substances is a very important teaching for this age. The addictions that obscure the path to the realm beyond are many. The seeker must renounce them all. Some are so pervasive as to be considered normal. The seeker’s path is often a lonely one.

‘O Divine Providence! Bestow Thou in all things purity and cleanliness upon the people of Bahá. Grant that they be freed from all defilement, and released from all addictions. Save them from committing any repugnant act, unbind them from the chains of every evil habit, that they may live pure and free, wholesome and cleanly, worthy to serve at Thy Sacred Threshold and fit to be related to their Lord. Deliver them from intoxicating drinks and tobacco, save them, rescue them, from this opium that bringeth on madness, suffer them to enjoy the sweet savours of holiness, that they may drink deep of the mystic cup of heavenly love and know the rapture of being drawn ever closer unto the Realm of the All-Glorious. For it is even as Thou hast said: “All that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love—bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!”’ –‘Abdu’l-Baha [34]

A type of spiritual allegory uses the metaphor of drunkenness to describe spiritual ecstasy. The Sufi poets from about the 10th century Persia and later, made use of it often. The consumption of intoxicating substances is forbidden in both the Islamic and Baha’i revelations. The use of the drunkenness metaphor by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi and the other Sufi poets is strictly a metaphor.

“Cupbearer, fill the cup with God’s wine. Offer that divine wine To the burned, thirsty hearts.” –Rumi [35]

There are some that like to “prove” that moderate drinking is healthful. It is human nature to try to justify an addiction. An honest look at the data proves otherwise. While there are a few notable exceptions, those who use no alcohol, no tobacco, live an active lifestyle, eat mostly vegetarian, and don’t overeat, live the longest, for instance the Hunzas and the Seventh Day Adventists. [36]

“…until the wayfarer taketh leave of self, and traverseth these stages, he shall never reach to the ocean of nearness and union, nor drink of the peerless wine.” –Baha’u’llah [37]

The temporary euphoria from drinking physical wine is but a symbol of the eternal rapture from partaking of the spiritual wine, a metaphor for the love of the Divine Being.

The Koran prohibits alcohol, and in the Baha’i revelation it is very clear that the use of any substance that dulls the thinking and predisposes one toward regrettable behavior is forbidden. 

The Roman Empire was Christianized during the Constantine regime in the 4th century AD. During this time, the effort was made to associate Jesus with the wine gods, Bacchus and Dionysus, in order to increase his popularity. No one knows how much the scriptures were altered in order to present a wine-drinking Jesus. Jesus taught compassion to others. How is taking the liberty to consume a substance, that clearly causes some others to become totally depraved, in keeping with compassion, even if you yourself feel that you are able to use it in moderation?

Baha’u’llah has proclaimed that in this day mankind will behold the Face and hear the Voice of the Promised One of God. Even though he ascended in 1892, his followers can commune with him in Spirit and in the reading of his writings. Only those mindful ones living in complete sobriety will be enabled to receive the bounty of mystically knowing their Lord.

“Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One. The Call of God hath been raised, and the light of His countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behoveth every man to blot out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to gaze, with an open and unbiased mind, on the signs of His Revelation, the proofs of His Mission, and the tokens of His glory.

“Great indeed is this Day! The allusions made to it in all the sacred Scriptures as the Day of God attest its greatness. The soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted for this wondrous Day. All the divers kindreds of the earth have, likewise, yearned to attain it. No sooner, however, had the Day Star of His Revelation manifested itself in the heaven of God’s Will, than all, except those whom the Almighty was pleased to guide, were found dumbfounded and heedless.” –Baha’u’llah [38]

The Eternal Nature of the Soul

All of the Manifestations of God have taught that we have eternal souls. The doctrine of reincarnation arose from figures of speech and allegories used to express this concept. When a person passes away from this mortal life, they are “born” into another life. The soul does not die, it is eternal.

In contrast to the concept of reincarnation, another figure of speech became dominant in Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We die, then depending on our deeds, we go to either heaven or hell for eternity. This figure of speech expresses the concept of the eternal soul and also gets across the idea that the next life will be much longer than this one. Both the reincarnation metaphor and the heaven and hell metaphor express the idea of judgment. The quality of your next life depends on choices you make during this one.

Baha’u’llah teaches us that this world and the next are comparable to the life in the womb and this life. We develop senses, organs and limbs in the womb that do not become functional until after we are born into this life. In the same way, we are developing attributes in this life that will not become particularly functional until our transition into the next world, which, according to Baha’u’llah’s simile, should last approximately 100 times as long. It will be very important, then, to have developed those faculties that will be useful in that world. [39] I am sure that one of them is compassion. Having compassion in this world means about as much as having legs must mean to a fetus. It’s too cramped in the womb for legs to be particularly comfortable, they get in the way. Similarly, having compassion in this world kind of cramps your style; it is more a limitation than a benefit. We know nothing of the next world. All we can do is trust the prophets, the seers, and the Manifestations of God when they tell us what it will be like. We will need to have developed some spiritual attributes by the time we arrive there, or we will be as crippled as a person who failed to develop legs during gestation.

Some people act like naughty school children who think the teacher is out of the room. But the Teacher is watching our every move, and we’re going to get graded. This is a big test. Don’t be among those who flunk! Don’t be among those who think the material realm is all there is and it doesn’t matter how you treat your fellow man! Don’t be enticed into an organization that preaches bigotry. Jesus said, “God is not mocked. The sheep will be separated from the goats.” [40]

A Noble Creation

I visited the websites of some of the churches I used to attend. Some things are different. One of them moved to a new location in the same neighborhood and built new buildings. Some things are the same. I listened to some of their sermons. Not much has changed there. The same theology derived from the Bible is presented again and again. Why do people keep going to hear the same doctrines rehashed over and over? Indeed, I didn’t see very many familiar faces. The congregation looked aging. This was the hippie generation that embraced the charismatic movement when they were young and have grown old with it.

If I were God, would I throw down a divinely inspired book for humanity, and then let 2000 years go by without issuing any fresh inspired Scripture? Would you? Would He? Christians believe that the Bible is all they have as an infallible source of God’s Holy Word. Think how different the world was 2000 years ago. If you wanted to travel somewhere, you walked. Otherwise, you stayed in your tightly knit, generations old, community. Literacy was rare. The Roman Empire ruled that part of the world where the Bible was written, with an iron fist.

Today, we have almost a global village. The right to vote is slowly spreading, and totalitarian regimes are slowly fading. Literacy and higher education are widespread. Would God not have issued some fresh inspiration and guidance for today’s people in today’s world? Baha’is believe He did.

Christians use the doctrine of the “Fall of Man” (in the Garden of Eden) to explain everything that is wrong with the world. Our nature is corrupt, according to this doctrine, and all of nature is corrupt as well. The answer, they say, is becoming a new creature in Christ. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Once you buy into the doctrine of a corrupt, ignoble nature, including yourself, you can pray and fast and do penance, and never shake the underlying belief that you are corrupt after all.

“O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.” declares Baha’u’llah.  [41] 

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us that the development of mankind as a whole is likened unto the life of a man. Collectively, as mankind, we are now in the late adolescence, on the threshold of adulthood.[42] As a collective teenager, we don’t yet quite know how to get along with each other, or to take care of the environment, but we are learning. In the future, a world government will arise which will restrain any entity that oppresses another. Local governments will rise to the occasion for restraining any individual, in their jurisdictions, that oppresses another individual. We, as a collective adult, will no longer tolerate governments or corporations that do not serve our needs. Wealth will be redistributed in a fair and equitable manner.

Individual Prayer 

Baha’u’llah’s declaration in the Garden of Ridvan in 1863 marked the inception of the Baha’i Faith as a distinct religion separate from the Babi Faith, although most of the Babis accepted Baha’u’llah and thus became Baha’is. The Babi Faith had already become a distinct religion separate from Islam. Clerics in salaried positions sometimes resented the insinuation that their jobs were not necessary, and many of them violently persecuted both the Babi and the Baha’i Faiths, both of whom having adopted the call for the elimination of clergy. In Islam, an individual (usually a man — perhaps always a man) stands in the doorway of the mosque and chants a prayer, the building provides some natural amplification and his voice rings out over the surrounding area. As he prays, others pray, not chanting their own prayers directly to God, but through this priest of Islam who prays for them. As beautiful as this can be, the practice was abrogated by the Bab and Baha’u’llah Who emphasized the need for individual prayer. Each of us must pray singly and individually, it is not done collectively in the Baha’i Faith. There is no congregational prayer, there is no leader other than a yearly elected chairperson to facilitate, as we pray one by one, each in turn. The following prayer is one of the individual prayers.

“I bear witness, O my God,

that Thou hast created me

to know Thee and to worship Thee.

“I testify, at this moment, 

to my powerlessness

and to Thy might,

to my poverty

and to Thy wealth.

There is none other god but Thee, the Help in Peril,

the Self-Subsisting.” –Baha’u’llah  [43]

Local Spiritual Assembly

In cities or towns where there are nine or more Baha’is, Baha’i assemblies form. A Local Spiritual Assembly (LSA) of Baha’is consists of nine elected members, each serving a one year term from April 21 of one year to April 21 of the following year. April 21 is also the first day of the twelve day observance of Ridvan commemorating Baha’u’llah’s twelve days in a Baghdad garden in 1863, during which time He announced His Station.

Regional and National Spiritual Assemblies

Baha’is also form national assemblies which oversee the Baha’i affairs of nations. These also are composed of nine elected members chosen yearly without nominations or campaigning. The National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) of Baha’is of the United States is elected by delegates to a national convention. Each delegate is elected by the Baha’is residing in a county or a subdivision of a county, depending on the population of Baha’is in that area. The election of the delegates is done at a district conventions which take place each year in early October. Baha’i elections are done by secret ballet with no nominations and no campaigning. All adult Baha’is who have formally declared their faith in Baha’u’llah in writing and who have not had their administrative rights revoked are eligible for election.

Recently, large countries, suck as the United States have added regional spiritual assemblies. In this country there are four or five regional assemblies. The members of all of the Local Spiritual Assemblies in a region of from one to several States vote for their Regional Assembly. In early November each Local Spiritual Assembly member writes on a ballet the names of nine Baha’is that reside within the region. The ballets are tallied, and the nine people receiving the most votes are regional assembly members for the next twelve months.

The National Spiritual Assembly of Iran

There a few countries in the world, most notably Iran, where it is difficult or impossible for LSAs and NSAs to be elected and to function because of the persecution against the Faith. Starting in late 1979 the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran systematically targeted the leadership of the Baha’í community. In August 1980 all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly were arrested while meeting at a private home. There has been no further news regarding the nine NSA members since their arrest, their fate remains unknown, and they are now presumed dead. After the disappearance of the NSA members, the Iranian Baha’ís elected a new NSA. On December 13, 1981 eight of the nine new NSA members were arrested by the Iranian authorities, and were executed on December 27, 1981 without trial. In addition to the execution of the members of two National Spiritual Assemblies, members of Local Spiritual Assemblies throughout the country were also killed. Amnesty International and others report that 202 Baha’is have been killed since the Islamic Revolution.

More recently, in 2008, seven members of a loosely structured committee known as the “Yaran-i-Iran” – or “Friends in Iran”, who had organized in an attempt to meet the needs of Iran’s 300,000 member Baha’i community, were arrested and, in 2010, sentenced to 20 years. Their names are Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfah.

Seven Baha’i Leaders, the Yaran [44]

Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven received hardly one hour’s access to their legal counsel and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship.

The charges were, among other things, espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic, the establishment of an illegal administration. In reality, their crime is nothing more than being members of the Baha’i Faith, a religion which has been the focus of a systematic, government-sponsoredepersecution in Iran since the 1979 revolution. These spurious charges reflect the kinds of false accusations and campaign of misinformation that Iran’s regime has used to vilify and defame Baha’is for decades.

The initial sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each of the defendants, met with outrage and condemnation throughout the world. One month later, the appeal court revoked three of the charges and reduced their sentence to 10-year jail terms. In March 2011, the prisoners were informed that their original 20-year sentences were reinstated. Notwithstanding repeated requests, neither the prisoners nor their attorneys have ever received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal.

The Universal House of Justice

Seat of the Universal House of Justice, Haifa, Israel [45]

The Universal House of Justice is the supreme governing institution of the Baha’i Faith. Its nine members are elected every five years by an electoral college consisting of all the members of each National Spiritual Assembly. It is a legislative institution with the authority to supplement and apply the laws of Baha’u’llah and exercises a judicial function as the highest appellate institution in the administration.

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice and its members reside in Haifa, Israel, on the slope of Mount Carmel. It was alluded to in the writings of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’ l-Baha, and was officially established in. 1963.

The books and documents published by the Universal House of Justice are authoritative and its legislative decisions are infallible.

The body is elected every five years during a convention of the members of the various National Spiritual Assemblies (NSAs) across the world. There are currently 178 NSAs in existence. Each member of the various NSAs, who were themselves elected by the Baha’is of their country, votes for nine adult male Baha’is. The nine people who have the most votes are elected onto the Universal House of Justice. Women are not eligible for election to the Universal House of Justice. ‘Abdu’l-Baha stated that the reason for this will be revealed in the future, and that women and men are spiritually equal. All other Baha’i assemblies and appointed offices are as open to women as they are to men.

A feature that sets apart the Baha’i administration from similar systems of human government is the principle that elected representatives should follow the dictates of their conscience, rather than being responsible to the views of electors. The absence of any form of campaigning, nominations or parties in democratic Baha’i elections; and the authority passed down from its founder to the Universal House of Justice

Appointed Administrators

In the Baha’i Faith also had appointed administrators. In the early days,  Hands of the Cause of God were appointed by Baha’u’llah, `Abdu’l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi. When it was determined that no more “Hands” could be appointed, the Universal House of Justice formed the Institution of the Counsellors to fulfill their duties. 

The International Counsellors are nine individuals appointed to the International Teaching Centre, which is a body that directly assists the Universal House of Justice at the Baha’i World Centre. Individual Counsellors are assigned to continental boards, where they interact directly with several National Spiritual Assemblies. While they have no authority to command or rule on matters, their opinions are considered. 

Auxiliary Boards are appointed by the Continental Counsellors to assist them on a smaller geographic scale. They work with any Local Spiritual Assemblies, Regional Councils, and individuals within their jurisdiction. There are typically two boards in a single geographical region, one responsible for protection, and one for propagation of the community, though these functions often overlap. Both boards report to the Continental Board that appointed them, regardless of their focus.

Each Auxiliary Board member appoints “assistants” that operate on their behalf at the grassroots level. These assistants often meet with Local Spiritual Assemblies, speak at events, and are sought for advice by individual community members. 

Joining the Baha’i Faith

An individual who wishes to join the Baha’i Faith may do so by filling out a declaration card, which simply asks for the declarants name, address, and signature. By signing the card, the signer is declaring his or her willingness to follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i Faith. Individuals are encouraged to learn about the life and teachings of Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i Faith before signing the card, and, certainly, to continue learning afterwards. After the declaration card is signed, it is turned over to the Local Spiritual Assembly, in whose jurisdiction the signer resides. The LSA prays and consults about the enrollment, and forwards the information to the NSA. Once the enrollment has been approved and processed, the individual receives the privileges and responsibilities of being a Baha’i. To be contacted by the Baha’i Assembly in your area, call 1-800-22-UNITE.

Nobody needs to wait until perfect before joining the Baha’i Faith. We know what the teachings are, and we are learning more all the time. We are also painfully aware, sometimes, that we are not following them perfectly. When this happens the last thing to do is to tell someone. We do not confess our shortcomings to one another. We confess to God only. Only when we feel that God has heard can we tell others, as kind of a joke maybe, but never as a humiliating confession of guilt. And it is perfectly okay never to mention it at all.

Over the years of Baha’u’llah’s ministry, the believers kept asking Him for the laws of the Faith, but He waited until 1873 to reveal the Kitab-i-Aqdas, which delineated the laws of the Faith. One of the laws in that book is that a man should not have more than two wives, and if he married two wives he must treat them both equally. This was later interpreted by ‘Abdu’l-Baha to mean that a man could only have one wife, because the condition that Baha’u’llah stipulated was impossible to achieve. Baha’u’llah had three wives. No doubt throughout his marriages, he had endeavored to treat them all equally. If someone in a polygamous marriage joins the Faith, he or she does not have to divorce some of his or her marital partners. Continue to be committed to your marriage(s), unless, after prayerful consideration, you wish to ask your LSA for a year of patience (the first step in a Baha’i divorce).

There are a variety of conditions people might find themselves in that are different than what the laws of the Baha’i Faith stipulate. A person could be living with his or her significant other without marriage; a person could be leading an active homosexual lifestyle; a person could be an addict or a casual user of wine, beer, liquor or narcotics; a person could enjoy gambling or be a chronic gambler; a person could be working for, or own holdings in, corporations that oppress people. This doesn’t have to change immediately in order to embrace the Baha’i Faith. We just have to be willing to admit our powerlessness before God, be discreet, and be willing to change.

Fault finding, gossip and back-biting are forbidden to believers in the Baha’i revelation. However, fact-finding and decision making are the responsibility of the LSA. Some Local Spiritual Assemblies are more judgmental than others. The Baha’i Faith is governed, at the grass roots level, by elected assemblies made up of believers that are at varying levels of spiritual growth. If an assembly decides that an individual under their jurisdiction is not walking on a level that they deem acceptable, they may vote to rescind that individual’s administrative rights. If an LSA has taken away his or her administrative rights, an individual is no longer eligible to vote in Baha’i elections nor be elected to Baha‘i offices. He or she will have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the LSA that he or she has overcome his or her shortcoming, or move to another jurisdiction and work with a different LSA, in order to regain the rights to vote in Baha’i elections, and be eligible to be elected to Baha’i offices. It is incumbent on the members of Baha’i Spiritual Assemblies to be extremely kindly-hearted, and fear, lest they grieve God, either by issuing too harsh a decision, or by failing to act when necessary.

Truth Not Politics

There are things, that many may not have given a thought about, that are against the laws of the Baha’i Faith. One seemingly innocent thing is being a member of a political party,  or campaigning for a political cause. Many Bahá’ís don’t know, or aren’t sure, where the line is between actively teaching the principles of the Baha’i Faith, standing up for racial amity, justice, the environment, and peace — which is encouraged; and promoting a divisive, partisan position — which is forbidden. We either fail to speak up when we should sometimes, or our words are colored with a judgment that does not need to be there. It’s quite a balancing act. We want to avoid a polarized point of view, an “us and them” mentality.  [46]

Notes

[1] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Chapter V, The Attempt on the Life of the Sháh and its Consequences  Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/7#553598721

[2] Matthew 25:36 The Bible https://biblehub.com/matthew/25-36.htm

[3] Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, pages 7-9. Baha’i Reference Library. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/call-divine-beloved/4#513507972

[4] Matthew 7:7-8, The Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207:7-8&version=KJV

[5] Szekely, Edmond Bordeaux, From Enoch to the Dead Sea Scrolls. International Biogenic Society. http://www.essene.com/GospelOfPeace/FromEnochToDeadSeaScrolls.html

[6] Matthew 7:12, The Bible. https://biblehub.com/matthew/7-12.htm

[7] Golden Rule. Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

[8] Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Section LXXXI, Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/gleanings-writings-bahaullah/4#366115518

[9] Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, Preface, page v. Baha’i Reference Library https://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/PDC/pdc-1.html

[10] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pages 161-162. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/world-order-bahaullah/10#471219261

[11] ibid, pages 204-205. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/world-order-bahaullah/11#893895419

[12] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Chapter VI – The Birth of the Bahá’í Revelation  Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/903557464

[13] ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 440. Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/118365223

[14] Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations (Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1987), pages 264-265. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/prayers-meditations/6#553093634

[15] Photo from Bahaimedia. https://bahaipedia.org/File:Bahaullah-born.jpg

[16] Mírzá Buzurg. Bahaipedia https://bahaipedia.org/M%C3%ADrz%C3%A1_Buzurg

[17] The Bab, Selections From the  Writings of the Bab (Baha’i World Centre, 1982), pages 12-13. Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/335414575

[18] Ibid. page 10. Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/957789954

[19]  Adib Taherzadeh: The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh Vol 1, Chapter 15, The Covenant Library https://d9263461.github.io/cl/Baha’i/Others/ROB/V1/p246-256Ch15.html

[20] Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of Wolf (Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1988), pages 20-21. Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/433308565

[21] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, page 108. Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/960949577

[22] Revelation Chapter 18, Bible https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+18&version=NIV

[23] Isaiah, Chapter 13, Bible https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+13&version=NIV

[24] Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-iqan (The Book of Certitude), page 251. Baha’i Reference Library http://www.bahai.org/r/848851360

[25] Lady Sarah Louisa Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, Chapter 1 Baha’i-Library https://bahai-library.com/blomfield_chosen_highway&chapter=2

[26] Baha’u’llah’s Family – Bahaikipedia. https://bahaipedia.org/Bah%C3%A1%E2%80%99u%E2%80%99ll%C3%A1h%27s_family#Wives_of_Bah.C3.A1.E2.80.99u.E2.80.99ll.C3.A1h

[27] Wives of Baha’u’llah by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice 1995-10-23. Bahai Library https://bahai-library.com/uhj_wives_bahaullah

[28] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pages 135-136. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/10#145227882

[29] Taherzadeh, Adib, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, Vol. 1, Chapter 6. The Covenant Library https://d9263461.github.io/cl/Baha’i/Others/ROB/V1/p071-083Ch06.html

[30] Ibid. Chapter 8. The Covenant Library https://d9263461.github.io/cl/Baha’i/Others/ROB/V1/p096-104Ch08.html

[31] Kitab-i-Iqan – Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit%C3%A1b-i-%C3%8Dq%C3%A1n

[32] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, page 155. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/11#528971287

[33] Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, pages 185-196. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/summons-lord-hosts/11#281123945

[34] ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Section 129, pages 149-150. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/selections-writings-abdul-baha/6#264159842

[35] Rumi, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi,Divine Wine, Translated by Nevit O. Ergin, (Echo Publications, 1998), page 9.

[36] Excerpted from a lecture given by Dr. Adiel Tel-Oren on April, 18, 2011, in Encinitas, California.

[37] Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, page 4. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/call-divine-beloved/4#577484622

[38] Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pages 10-11. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/gleanings-writings-bahaullah/2#712711887

[39] Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah. Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/gleanings-writings-bahaullah/4#098486368

[40] Galatians 6:7. Bible, Matthew 25:32 Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+6%3A7&version=KJV

[41] Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, Arabic No. 22.  Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/hidden-words/2#536853978

[42] ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Promulgation of Universal Peace, 17 November 1912, 3, Talk at Genealogical Hall, 252 West Fifty-eighth Street, New York,Notes by Edna McKinney, Baha’i Reference Library https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/32#649519101

[43] Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, page 4. Baha’i Publishing Trust https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/prayers/bahai-prayers/2#562997275

[44] Seven Bahai Leaders  Bahaipedia https://bahaipedia.org/File:Seven_Bahai_leaders.jpg

[45] Universal House of Justice Building, Haifa, Israel Wilipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seat_of_the_Universal_House_of_Justice.JPG

[46] 27 April 2017, Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an Individual. Baha’i Publishing Trust.  https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/20170427_001/1#362945323