Bahá'u'lláh (/bəˈhɑːʊˌlɑː/; Persian : بهاءالله ; November 12 , 1817 – May 29, 1892), was a Persian religious leader, prophet and the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, which advocates universal peace and unity among all races, nations, and religions.
At the age of 27, Bahá'u'lláh became a follower of the Báb, a Persian merchant who began preaching that God would soon send a new prophet similar to Jesus or Muhammad. The Báb and thousands of followers were executed by the Iranian authorities for their beliefs. Bahá'u'lláh faced exile from his native Iran, and in Baghdad in 1863 claimed to be the expected prophet of whom the Báb foretold. Thus, Bahá'ís regard Bahá'u'lláh to be a Manifestation of God, fulfilling of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and other major religions.
Bahá'u'lláh faced further imprisonment under Ottoman authorities, initially in Edirne, and ultimately to the prison city of Acre, (present-day Israel), where he spent his final 24 years of life. His burial place is a destination of pilgrimage for his followers, and the Bahá'í World Centre sits in nearby Haifa.
Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí[a]
12 November 1817
|Died||29 May 1892 (aged 74)|
|Resting place||Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh|
|Known for||Founder of the Bahá'í Faith|
Bahá'u'lláh's teachings focus on the unity of God, religion, and mankind. Similar to other monotheistic religions, God is considered the source of all created things. Religion, according to Bahá'u'lláh, is renewed periodically by Manifestations of God, people who are made perfect through divine intervention and whose teachings are the sources of the major world religions throughout history. Bahá'ís view Bahá'u'lláh as the first of these teachers whose mission includes the spiritual unification of the entire planet through the eradication of racism and nationalism. Bahá'u'lláh's teachings include the need for a world tribunal to adjudicate disputes between nations, a uniform system of weights and measures, and an auxiliary language that could be spoken by all the people on earth. Bahá'u'lláh also taught that the cycles of revelatory renewal will continue in the future, with Manifestations of God appearing about every thousand years.
Bahá'u'lláh was born Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí (Persian: میرزا حسینعلی نوری) on 12 November 1817 (Muharram 2, 1233 AH), in Tehran, the capital of Persia, present-day Iran. Bahá'í authors trace his ancestry back to Abraham through Abraham's wife Keturah, to Zoroaster, to Yazdgerd III, the last king of the Sassanid Empire, and also to Jesse. According to the Bahá'í author John Able, Bahá'ís also consider Bahá'u'lláh to have been "descended doubly, from both Abraham and Sarah, and separately from Abraham and Keturah".
His mother was Khadíjih Khánum, and his father was Mírzá Buzurg. Bahá'u'lláh's father served as vizier to Imám-Virdi Mírzá, the twelfth son of Fat′h Ali Shah Qajar. Mírzá Buzurg was later appointed governor of Burujird and Lorestan, a position that he was stripped of during a government purge when Muhammad Shah came to power. After the death of his father, Bahá'u'lláh was asked to take a government post by the new vizier Hajji Mirza Aqasi, but declined.
Bahá'u'lláh had three wives. He married his first wife Ásíyih Khánum, the daughter of a nobleman, in Tehran in 1835, when he was 18 and she was 15. She was given the title of The Most Exalted Leaf and Navváb. His second wife was his widowed cousin Fátimih Khánum. The marriage took place in Tehran in 1849 when she was 21 and he was 32. She was known as Mahd-i-`Ulyá. His third wife was Gawhar Khánum and the marriage occurred in Baghdad sometime before 1863.
He had 14 children, four daughters and ten sons, five of whom he outlived. Bahá'ís regard Ásíyih Khánum and her children Mírzá Mihdí, Bahíyyih Khánum and `Abdu'l-Bahá to be the Bahá'í holy family.
In 1844, a 24-year-old man from Shiraz, Siyyid Mírzá `Alí-Muḥammad, claimed to be the promised redeemer (or Mahdi and Qaim) of Islam, taking the title of the Báb, which means "the gate". The resulting Bábí movement quickly spread across the Persian Empire, attracting widespread opposition from the Islamic clergy. The Báb himself was executed in 1850 by a firing squad in the public square of Tabriz at the age of 30.
The Báb claimed no finality for his revelation. In his writings, he alluded to a Promised One, most commonly referred to as "Him whom God shall make manifest". According to the Báb, this personage, promised in the sacred writings of previous religions, would establish the kingdom of God on the Earth; several of the Báb's writings state the coming of Him whom God shall make manifest would be imminent. The Báb constantly entreats his believers to follow Him whom God shall make manifest when he arrives. The Báb also eliminated the institution of successorship or vicegerency to his movement, and stated that no other person's writings would be binding after his death until Him whom God shall make manifest had appeared.
Bahá'u'lláh first heard of the Báb when he was 27, and received a visitor sent by the Báb, Mullá Husayn, telling him of the Báb and his claims. Bahá'u'lláh became a Bábí and helped to spread the new movement, especially in his native province of Núr, where he became recognized as one of its most influential believers. His notability as a local gave him many openings, and his trips to teach the religion were met with success, even among some of the religious class. He also helped to protect fellow believers, such as Táhirih, for which he was temporarily imprisoned in Tehran and punished with bastinado or foot whipping. Bahá'u'lláh, in the summer of 1848, also attended the conference of Badasht in the province of Khorasan, where 81 prominent Bábís met for 22 days; at that conference where there was a discussion between those Bábís who wanted to maintain Islamic law and those who believed that the Báb's message began a new dispensation, Bahá'u'lláh took the pro-change side, which eventually won out. It is at this conference that Bahá'u'lláh took on the name Bahá.
When violence started between the Bábís and the Qajar government in the later part of 1848, Bahá'u'lláh tried to reach the besieged Bábís at the Shaykh Tabarsi in Mazandaran, but was arrested and imprisoned before he could get there. The following years until 1850 saw the Bábís being massacred in various provinces after the Báb publicly made his claim of being the Manifestation of God.
After the Báb was executed in 1850, a group of Tehran Bábís, headed by a Bábí known as Azim, who was previously a Shaykhi cleric, plotted an assassination plan against the Shah Nasser-al-Din Shah, in retaliation for the Báb's execution. Bahá'u'lláh condemned the plan; however, any moderating influence that he may have had was diminished in June 1851 when he went into exile to Baghdad at the chief minister's request, returning only after Amir Kabir's fall from power. On 15 August 1852, the radical group of Bábís attempted the assassination of the Shah and failed. The group of Bábís linked with the plan, were rounded up and executed, but notwithstanding the assassins' claim that they were working alone, the entire Bábí community was blamed, precipitating violent riots against the Bábí community that were encouraged and orchestrated by the government. During this time many Bábís were killed, and many more, including Bahá'u'lláh, were imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál ("black pit"), an underground dungeon of Tehran.
According to Bahá'u'lláh, it was during his imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál that he had several mystical experiences, and received a vision of a maiden from God, through whom he received his mission as a messenger of God and as the one whose coming the Báb had prophesied. The confession of the would-be assassin had exonerated the Bábí leaders, and in the context of the continuing mass executions of Babis, the ambassador of Russia requested that Bahá'u'lláh and other persons apparently unconnected with the conspiracy be spared. After he had been in the Síyáh-Chál for four months Bahá'u'lláh was in fact finally released, on condition he left Iran. Declining an offer of refugee status in Russia, he chose exile in Iraq (then part of the Ottoman Empire); in 1853 Bahá'u'lláh and his family, accompanied by a member of the Shah's bodyguard and a representative of the Russian embassy, travelled from Persia, arriving in Baghdad on 8 April 1853.
The Bab had appointed Mírzá Yahyá (later known as Subh-i-Azal) as the leader after himself. Mírzá Yahyá had gone into hiding after the assassination attempt on the Shah, and after Bahá'u'lláh's exile to Baghdad, he chose to join his brother there. At the same time, an increasing number of Bábís considered Baghdad the new center for leadership of the Bábí religion, and a flow of pilgrims started going there from Persia.
Mírzá Yahyá's leadership was controversial. He generally absented himself from the Bábí community, spending his time in Baghdad in hiding and disguise; on several occasions he went so far as to publicly disavow allegiance to the Báb. Mírzá Yahyá gradually alienated himself from a large number of the Bábís, who started giving their allegiance to other claimants. During the time that Mírzá Yahyá remained in hiding, Bahá'u'lláh performed much of the daily administration of Bábí affairs. In contrast to Mírzá Yahyá, Bahá'u'lláh was outgoing and accessible, and he was seen by an increasing number of Bábís as a religious leader, rather than just an organizer, and became their center of devotion.
This was increasingly resented by Mírzá Yahyá, who began trying to discredit Bahá'u'lláh, thus driving many people away from the religion. Tensions in the community mounted, and in 1854 Bahá'u'lláh decided to leave the city to pursue a solitary life.
On 10 April 1854, without telling anyone of his intention or destination, Bahá'u'lláh left his family to the care of his brother Mirza Musa and traveled with one companion to the mountains of Kurdistan, northeast of Baghdad, near the city of Sulaymaniyah. He later wrote that he left so as to avoid becoming a source of disagreement within the Bábí community, and that his "withdrawal contemplated no return".
For two years, Bahá'u'lláh lived alone in the mountains of Kurdistan. He originally lived as a hermit, dressed like a dervish and used the name Darvish Muhammad-i-Irani. At one point someone noticed his penmanship, which brought the curiosity of the instructors of the local Sufi orders. As he began to take guests, he became noted for his learning and wisdom. Shaykh `Uthmán, Shaykh `Abdu'r-Rahmán, and Shaykh Ismá'íl, leaders of the Naqshbandíyyih, Qádiríyyih, and Khálidíyyih Orders respectively, began to seek his advice. It was to the second of these that the Four Valleys was written. Bahá'u'lláh wrote several other notable books during this time.
In Baghdad, given the lack of firm and public leadership by Mirza Yahya, the Babi community had fallen into disarray. Some Babis, including Bahá'u'lláh's family, began searching for Bahá'u'lláh, and when news of a man living in the mountains under the name of Darvish Muhammad spread to neighboring areas, Bahá'u'lláh's family begged him to come back to Baghdad. On 19 March 1856, after two years in Kurdistan he returned to Baghdad.
When Bahá'u'lláh returned to Baghdad he saw that the Bábí community had become disheartened and divided. During Bahá'u'lláh's absence, it had become alienated from the religion because Mirza Yahya had continued his policy of militancy and had been unable to provide effective leadership. Mirza Yahya had married the widow of the Báb against the Báb's clear instructions; dispatched followers to the province of Nur for the second attempt on the life of the Shah; and instigated violence against prominent Bábís who had challenged his leadership.
After his return to Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh tried to revive the Bábí community, mostly through correspondence, writing extensively to give the Bábís a new understanding of the Bábí religion, while keeping his perceived station as the one promised by the Báb and a Manifestation of God hidden. He was soon recognized by the Bábís, as well as government authorities, as the foremost Bábí leader, and there was a growing number of people joining the Bábí movement. He also gained sympathy from government officials and Sunni clerics. Bahá'u'lláh's rising influence in the city, and the revival of the Persian Bábí community, gained the attention of his enemies in Islamic clergy and the Persian government. The Persian government asked the Ottoman government to extradite Bahá'u'lláh to Persia, but the Ottoman government refused and instead chose to move Bahá'u'lláh from the sensitive border region to Constantinople.
On 21 April 1863, Bahá'u'lláh left Baghdad and entered the Najibiyyih gardens, now the location of Baghdad Medical City and known to Bahá'ís as the Garden of Ridván. Bahá'u'lláh and those accompanying him stayed in the garden for twelve days before departing for Constantinople. It was during this time that Bahá'u'lláh declared to a small group of his companions his perceived mission and station as a Messenger of God. Bahá'u'lláh declared himself He whom God shall make manifest, a messianic figure in the religion of Bábism. Bahá'u'lláh based this announcement on an experience he had previously while imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál in Tehran where he is said to have had a vision of the Maid of Heaven. Bahá'ís regard this period with great significance and celebrate the twelve days that Bahá'u'lláh spent in this Garden as the festival of Ridván. He referred to the period of messianic secrecy between when he claimed to have seen the Maiden of Heaven in the Síyáh-Chál and his declaration as the ayyam-i butun ("Days of Concealment"). Bahá'u'lláh stated that this period was a "set time of concealment". The declaration in the Garden of Ridván was the beginning of a new phase in the Bábí community which led to the emergence of the Bahá'í Faith as a distinctive movement separate from Bábísm.
Bahá'u'lláh was given an order to relocate to the Ottoman capital of Constantinople. Although not a formal prisoner yet, the forced exile from Baghdad was the beginning of a long process which would gradually move him into further exiles and eventually to the penal colony of Acre, Palestine (now in Israel).
Bahá'u'lláh travelled from Baghdad to Constantinople between 3 May and 17 August 1863, accompanied by a large group including family members and followers. During the trip, he was treated with respect in the towns he visited, and when he reached Constantinople, he was treated as a government guest. Why the Ottoman authorities did not permit his extradition to Persia, but instead invited him to come to Constantinople, is unclear. The reason may have been political because Bahá'u'lláh was viewed as a person of influence. After three and a half months in Constantinople, he was ordered to depart for Adrianople. The reason for this further move is also unclear. It may have been due to pressure from the Persian ambassador, combined with Bahá'u'lláh's refusal to work with the Ottoman authorities.
From 1 to 12 December 1863, Bahá'u'lláh and his family traveled to Adrianople. Unlike his travel to Constantinople, this journey was in the nature of an exile. Bahá'u'lláh stayed in Adrianople for four and a half years, and was the clear leader of the newly established Bábí community there. Bahá'u'lláh's growing preeminence in the Bábí community and in the city at large led to a final breach between Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya. In 1865, Mirza Yahya was accused of plotting to kill Bahá'u'lláh. In contemporary accounts, Mirza Yahya is reported to have tried to have Bahá'u'lláh assassinated by a local barber. The barber, Muhammad `Alí of Isfahán, apparently refused and spread word of the danger around the community. Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have counseled "on all patience, quietude and gentleness". This pattern was repeated when, according to the personal account of Ustád Muhammad-`Alíy-i Salmání, Mirza Yahya attempted to persuade him likewise to murder Bahá'u'lláh in the bath. Eventually Mirza Yahya attempted to poison Bahá'u'lláh, an act that left him gravely ill for a time, and left him with a shaking hand for the rest of his life.
After this event in 1866, Bahá'u'lláh made his claim to be He whom God shall make manifest public, as well as making a formal written announcement to Mirza Yahya referring to his followers for the first time as the "people of Bahá". After his public announcement, Bahá'u'lláh secluded himself in his house and instructed the Bábís to choose between himself and Mirza Yahya. Bahá'u'lláh's claims threatened Mirza Yahya's position as leader of the religion since it would mean little to be leader of the Bábís if Him whom God shall make manifest were to appear and start a new religion. Mirza Yahya responded by making his own claims, but his attempt to preserve the traditional Bábísm was largely unpopular, and his followers became the minority.
In 1867, Mirza Yahya challenged Bahá'u'lláh to a test of the divine will in a local mosque in Adrianople, such that "God would strike down the impostor." Bahá'u'lláh agreed, and went to the Sultan Selim mosque at the appointed time, but Mirza Yahya lost credibility when he failed to show up. Eventually Bahá'u'lláh was recognized by the vast majority of Bábís as "He whom God shall make manifest" and his followers began calling themselves Bahá'ís.
During his time in Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh wrote a great deal. One of the main themes during this time was the proclamation of his claimed mission; he instructed some of his followers to take his claims to Bábís in Iran and Iraq who had not heard of his statements, as well as asking the Bahá'ís to be united and detached from the world. He also started to write about distinctive Bahá'í beliefs and practices.
Also, while in Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed the Bahá'í Faith further by addressing tablets to the kings and rulers of the world asking them to accept his revelation, renounce their material possessions, work together to settle disputes, and endeavour toward the betterment of the world and its peoples. His first letter was sent to Sultan Abdülaziz of the Ottoman Empire and his ministers, which was followed by the Tablet of the Kings which was a general address to all rulers. In that latter letter the rulers of the earth were asked to listen to Bahá'u'lláh's call, and cast away their material possessions, and since they were given the reins of government that they should rule with justice and protect the rights of the downtrodden. He also told the rulers to reduce their armaments and reconcile their differences. The Christian monarchs were also asked to be faithful to Jesus' call to follow the promised "Spirit of Truth".
Later when Bahá'u'lláh was in Acre, he continued writing letters to the leaders of the world including:
With the Bábí community now irrevocably divided, the followers of Mirza Yahya tried to discredit Bahá'u'lláh to the Ottoman authorities, accusing him of causing agitation against the government. While an investigation cleared Bahá'u'lláh, it did bring to the attention of the government that Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya were propagating religious claims, and, fearing that this might cause future disorder, they decided to again exile the 'Bábí' leaders. A royal command was issued in July 1868 condemning the Bábís to perpetual imprisonment and isolation in far-flung outposts of the Ottoman Empire — Famagusta, Cyprus for Mirza Yahya and his followers, and Acre, in Ottoman Palestine, for Bahá'u'lláh and his followers.
The Bahá'ís, including Bahá'u'lláh and his family, left Adrianople on 12 August 1868, and, after a journey by land and sea through Gallipoli and Egypt, arrived in Acre on 31 August and were confined in the barracks of the city's citadel. The inhabitants of Acre were told that the new prisoners were enemies of the state, of God and his religion, and that association with them was strictly forbidden. The first years in Acre imposed very harsh conditions with many becoming sick, and eventually three Bahá'ís dying. Dr. Thomas Chaplin, director of a British Hospital in Jerusalem visited Bahá'u'lláh in April 1871 and sent a letter to the editor printed in The Times in October. This seems to be the first extended commentary on Bahá'u'lláh in western newspapers. It was also a very trying time for Bahá'u'lláh, whose son, Mirzá Mihdí, died in June 1870 at the age of twenty-two when he fell through a skylight while pacing back and forth in prayer and meditation. After some time, relations between the prisoners and officials and the local community improved, so that the conditions of the imprisonment were eased and eventually, after the Sultan's death, Bahá'u'lláh was allowed to leave the city and visit nearby places. From 1877 until 1879 Bahá'u'lláh lived in the house of Mazra'ih.
The final years of Bahá'u'lláh's life (1879–1892) were spent in the Mansion of Bahjí, just outside Acre, even though he was still formally a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire. During his years in Acre and Bahjí, since `Abdu'l-Bahá, his eldest son, had taken care of the organizational work, Bahá'u'lláh was able to devote his time to writing, and he produced many volumes of work including the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, his book of laws. His other works included letters outlining his vision for a united world, as well as the need for ethical action; he also composed many prayers.
In the corner where the divan met the wall sat a wondrous and venerable figure, crowned with a felt head-dress of the kind called táj by dervishes (but of unusual height and make), round the base of which was wound a small white turban. The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!
On 9 May 1892, Bahá'u'lláh contracted a slight fever which grew steadily over the following days, abated, and then finally resulted in his death on 29 May 1892 (Dhu'l Qa'dah 2, 1309 AH). He was buried in the shrine located next to the Mansion of Bahjí.
Bahá'u'lláh stated that he was a messenger of God, and he used the term Manifestation of God to define the concept of an intermediary between humanity and God. In the Bahá'í writings, the Manifestations of God are a series of interrelated personages who speak with a divine voice and who reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world for the progress and advancement of human morals and civilization. The Manifestations of God, as explained by Bahá'u'lláh, are not incarnations of God, but have a two-fold station; one which is the divine in that they reveal God's attributes, but not God's essence, and one which is human in that they represent the physical qualities of common man, and have human limitations. Bahá'u'lláh wrote that God will never manifest his essence into the world.
In Bahá'u'lláh's writings he writes in many styles including cases where he speaks as if he was instructed by God to bring a message; in other cases he writes as though he is speaking as God directly.
Some have interpreted Bahá'u'lláh's writing style to conclude that Bahá'u'lláh had claimed divinity. Bahá'u'lláh, however, states himself that the essence of God will never descend into the human world. Statements where Bahá'u'lláh speaks with the voice of God are meant that he is not actually God, but that he is speaking with the attributes of God.
Bahá'u'lláh declared, as the most recent Manifestation of God, that he was the "Promised One" of all religions, fulfilling the messianic prophecies found in world religions. He stated that his claims to being several messiahs converging in one person were the symbolic, rather than literal, fulfilment of the messianic and eschatological prophecies found in the literature of the major religions. Bahá'u'lláh's eschatological claims constitute six distinctive messianic identifications: from Judaism, the incarnation of the "Everlasting Father" from the Yuletide prophecy of Isaiah 9:6, the "Lord of Hosts"; from Christianity, the "Spirit of Truth" or Comforter predicted by Jesus in his farewell discourse of John 14–17 and the return of Christ "in the glory of the Father"; from Zoroastrianism, the return of Shah Bahram Varjavand, a Zoroastrian messiah predicted in various late Pahlavi texts; from Shi'a Islam the return of the Third Imam, Imam Husayn; from Sunni Islam, the return of Jesus (Isa); and from Bábism, He whom God shall make manifest.
While Bahá'u'lláh did not himself directly claim to be either the Hindu or Buddhist messiah, he did so in principle through his writings. Later, `Abdu'l-Bahá stated that Bahá'u'lláh was the Kalki avatar, who in the classical Hindu Vaishnavas tradition is the tenth and final Avatar (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will come to end the Age of Darkness and Destruction. Bahá'ís also believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the fulfilment of the prophecy of appearance of the Maitreya Buddha, who is a future Buddha who will eventually appear on earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure Dharma. Bahá'ís believe that the prophecy that Maitreya will usher in a new society of tolerance and love has been fulfilled by Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on world peace. Bahá'u'lláh is believed to be a descendant of a long line of kings in Persia through Yazdgerd III, the last monarch of the Sasanian Dynasty; he also asserted to be a descendant of Abraham through his third wife Keturah.
After Bahá'u'lláh died on 29 May 1892, the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh named his son `Abdu'l-Bahá as Centre of the Covenant, successor and interpreter of Bahá'u'lláh's writings, and the appointment was readily accepted by almost all Bahá'ís, since the appointment was written and unambiguous, and `Abdu'l-Bahá had proved himself a capable and devoted assistant. However, the appointment given to `Abdu'l-Bahá was a cause of jealousy within Bahá'u'lláh's family. Bahá'u'lláh had also stated that another one of his sons Mírzá Muhammad `Alí was to be subordinate and second in rank after `Abdu'l-Bahá. Mírzá Muḥammad `Alí, however, insisted that `Abdu'l-Bahá was exceeding his powers, and started a rebellion, at first covert, and then public to discredit `Abdu'l-Bahá. Mírzá Muḥammad `Alí's actions, however, were rejected by the majority of the Bahá'ís. Due to this conflict, `Abdu'l-Bahá later ex-communicated his brother as a covenant-breaker. The conflict was not long lived; after being alienated by the Bahá'í community, Muhammad Ali died in 1937 with a handful of followers.
Bahá'u'lláh wrote many books, tablets and prayers, of which only a fraction have been translated into English. There have been 15,000 works written by him identified; many of these are in the form of short letters, or tablets, to Bahá'ís, but he also wrote larger pieces including the Book of Certitude, the Hidden Words and the Gems of Divine Mysteries. The total volume of his works are more than 70 times the size of the Qur'an and more than 15 times the size of the combined Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
The books and letters written by Bahá'u'lláh cover religious doctrine, the proclamation of his claims, social and moral teachings as well as Bahá'í laws; he also wrote many prayers. Jináb-i-Fádil-i-Mázindarání, analyzing Baha'u'llah's writings, states that he wrote in the different styles or categories including the interpretation of religious scripture, the enunciation of laws and ordinances, mystical writings, writings about government and world order, including letters to the kings and rulers of the world, writings about knowledge, philosophy, medicine, and alchemy, writings calling for education, good character and virtues, and writing about social teachings. All of his works are considered by Bahá'ís to be revelation, even those that were written before his announcement of his prophetic claim. Some of his better known works that have been translated into English include Gleanings, the Hidden Words, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Kitáb-i-Íqán.
There are two known photographs of Bahá'u'lláh, both taken at the same occasion in 1868 while he was in Adrianople (present-day Edirne). The one where he looks at the camera was taken for passport purposes and is reproduced in William Miller's book on the Bahá'í Faith. Copies of both pictures are at the Bahá'í World Centre, and one is on display in the International Archives building, where the Bahá'ís view it as part of an organized pilgrimage. Outside of this experience Bahá'ís prefer not to view his photos in public, or even to display any of them in their private homes, and Bahá'í institution strongly suggests to use an image of Bahá'u'lláh's burial shrine instead.
Bahá'u'lláh's image is not in itself offensive to Bahá'ís. However, Bahá'ís are expected to treat the image of any Manifestation of God with extreme reverence. According to this practice, they avoid depictions of Jesus or of Muhammad, and refrain from portraying any of them in plays and drama. Copies of the photographs are displayed on highly significant occasions, such as six conferences held in October 1967 commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh's writing of the Suriy-i-Mulúk (Tablet to the Kings), which Shoghi Effendi describes as "the most momentous Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh". After a meeting in Adrianople, the Hands of the Cause traveled to the conferences, "each bearing the precious trust of a photograph of the Blessed Beauty (Bahá'u'lláh), which it will be the privilege of those attending the Conferences to view".
The official Bahá'í position on displaying the photograph of Bahá'u'lláh is:
There is no objection that the believers look at the picture of Bahá'u'lláh, but they should do so with the utmost reverence, and should also not allow that it be exposed openly to the public, even in their private homes.— From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 6 December 1939
While the above passage clarifies that it is considered disrespectful to display his photograph to the public, regarding postings on other websites the Bahá'í World Centre has written:
For Bahá'ís, the photograph of Bahá'u'lláh is very precious and it should not only be viewed but also handled with due reverence and respect, which is not the case here [on a non-Bahá'í web site]. Thus, it is indeed disturbing to Bahá'ís to have the image of Bahá'u'lláh treated in such a disrespectful way. However, as the creator of the site is not a Bahá'í, there is little, if anything, that can be done to address this matter. We hope these comments have been of assistance."— Office for Public Information, 4 September 1999, Photo of Bahá'u'lláh on Web Site
The Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh were nineteen eminent early followers of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. The apostles were designated as such by Shoghi Effendi, head of the religion in the earlier half of the 20th century, and the list was included in The Bahá'í World, Vol. III (pp. 80–81).
These individuals played a vital role in the development of Bahá'u'lláh's Faith, consolidating its adherents and bringing its teachings around the world. To Bahá'ís, they filled a similar role as the sons of Jacob, the apostles of Jesus, Muhammad's companions, or the Báb's Letters of the Living.Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith (; Persian: بهائی Bahā'i) is a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. Established by Bahá'u'lláh in 1863, it initially grew in Iran and parts of the Middle East, where it has faced ongoing persecution since its inception. It is estimated to have between 5 and 8 million adherents, known as Bahá'ís, spread out into most of the world's countries and territories.It grew from the mid-19th-century Bábí religion, whose founder (the Báb) taught that God would soon send a prophet in the same way of Jesus or Muhammad. In 1863, after being banished from his native Iran, Bahá'u'lláh (1817–1892) announced that he was this prophet. He was further exiled, spending over a decade in the prison city of Akka in Ottoman Palestine. Following Bahá'u'lláh's death in 1892, leadership of the religion fell to his son `Abdu'l-Bahá (1844–1921), and later his great-grandson Shoghi Effendi (1897–1957). Bahá'ís around the world annually elect local, regional, and national Spiritual Assemblies that govern the affairs of the religion, and every five years the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies elect the Universal House of Justice, the nine-member supreme governing institution of the worldwide Bahá'í community, which sits in Haifa, Israel, near the Shrine of the Báb.
Bahá'í teachings are in some ways similar to other monotheistic faiths: God is considered single and all-powerful. However, Bahá'u'lláh taught that religion is orderly and progressively revealed by one God through Manifestations of God who are the founders of major world religions throughout history; Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad being the most recent in the period before the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'ís regard the major religions as fundamentally unified in purpose, though varied in social practices and interpretations. There is a similar emphasis on the unity of all people, openly rejecting notions of racism and nationalism. At the heart of Bahá'í teachings is the goal of a unified world order that ensures the prosperity of all nations, races, creeds, and classes.Letters written by Bahá'u'lláh to various individuals, including some heads of state, have been collected and assembled into a canon of Bahá'í scripture that includes works by his son `Abdu'l-Bahá, and also the Báb, who is regarded as Bahá'u'lláh's forerunner. Prominent among Bahá'í literature are the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Kitáb-i-Íqán, Some Answered Questions, and The Dawn-Breakers.Bahá'í World Centre
The Bahá'í World Centre is the name given to the spiritual and administrative centre of the Bahá'í Faith. The World Centre consists of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh near Acre, Israel, the Shrine of the Báb and its gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, and various other buildings in the area including the Arc buildings.Much of the international governance and coordination of the Bahá'í Faith occurs at the Bahá'í World Centre. These include decisions that affect the religion on a global level, and the study and translation of the Bahá'í holy writings. The Universal House of Justice, representing the supreme governing body of the Bahá'í Faith, resides in Haifa. The Bahá'í World Centre is also the current destination for Bahá'í pilgrimage.
The Bahá'í World Centre has its historical origins in the area that was once Ottoman Syria.
This dates back to the 1850s and 1860s when the Shah of Iran and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz, successively exiled Bahá'u'lláh from Iran to the fortress of Acre for lifetime incarceration.Many of the locations at the Bahá'í World Centre, including the terraces and the Shrine of the Báb which constitute the north slope of Mount Carmel, were inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2008.Bahá'í calendar
The Bahá'í Calendar, also called the Badíʿ Calendar (Badíʿ means wondrous or unique), is a solar calendar with years composed of 19 months of 19 days each (361 days) plus an extra period of "Intercalary Days". Years begin at Naw-Rúz, on the day of the vernal equinox in Tehran, Iran, coinciding with March 20 or 21.
The first year is dated from 21 March 1844 CE, the year during which the Báb proclaimed his religion. Years are annotated with the date notation of BE (Bahá'í Era),
The year 176 BE will start on the day of the vernal equinox (in Tehran) in 2019, that is on 21 March 2019.Bahá'í laws
Bahá'í laws are laws and ordinances used in the Bahá'í Faith and are a fundamental part of Bahá'í practice. The laws are based on authenticated texts from Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, and also includes subsequent interpretations from `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, and legislation by the Universal House of Justice. Bahá'í law is presented as a set of general principles and guidelines and individuals must apply them as they best seem fit. While some of the social laws are enforced by Bahá'í institutions, the emphasis is placed on individuals following the laws based on their conscience, understanding and reasoning, and Bahá'ís are expected to follow the laws for the love of Bahá'u'lláh. The laws are seen as the method of the maintenance of order and security in the world.Bahá'í literature
Bahá'í literature, like the literature of many religions, covers a variety of topics and forms, including scripture and inspiration, interpretation, history and biography, introduction and study materials, and apologia. Sometimes considerable overlap between these forms can be observed in a particular text.
The "canonical texts" are the writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, and the authenticated talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá. The writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are regarded as divine revelation, the writings and talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the writings of Shoghi Effendi as authoritative interpretation, and those of the Universal House of Justice as authoritative legislation and elucidation. Some measure of divine guidance is assumed for all of these texts.The Bahá'í Faith relies extensively on its literature. Literacy is strongly encouraged so that believers may read the texts for themselves. In addition, doctrinal questions are routinely addressed by returning to primary works.Many of the religion's early works took the form of letters to individuals or communities. These are termed tablets and have been collected into various folios by Bahá'ís over time. Today, the Universal House of Justice still uses letters as a primary method of communication.Bahá'í pilgrimage
A Bahá'í pilgrimage currently consists of visiting the holy places in Haifa, Acre, and Bahjí at the Bahá'í World Centre in Northwest Israel. Bahá'ís do not have access to other places designated as sites for pilgrimage.Bahá'u'lláh decreed pilgrimage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to two places: the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, and the House of the Báb in Shiraz. In two separate tablets, known as Suriy-i-Hajj, he prescribed specific rites for each of these pilgrimages. It is obligatory to make the pilgrimage, "if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one's way". Bahá'ís are free to choose between the two houses, as either has been deemed sufficient. Later, `Abdu'l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahjí (the Qiblih) as a site of pilgrimage. No rites have been prescribed for this.The designated sites for pilgrimage are not accessible to the majority of Bahá'ís, as they are in Iraq and Iran respectively, and thus when Bahá'ís currently refer to pilgrimage, it refers to a nine-day pilgrimage that occurs at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa and Akká in Israel. This nine-day pilgrimage does not replace pilgrimage to the designated sites for pilgrimage, and it is intended that pilgrimage to the House of the Báb and the House of Bahá'u'lláh will occur in the future.Bahá'í prophecies
Throughout the Bahá'í writings, future events have been prophesied. The most specific prophecies are related to the rise and fall of leaders and organizations. Most of these prophesies can be found in Bahá'u'lláh's tablets to the kings and rulers of the world and in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.Particularly potent to early Bahá'ís was Bahá'u'lláh's prediction in 1868–69 of the fall of Sultan Abdülaziz, who was deposed in 1876. Other prophecies, including statements from `Abdu'l-Bahá, are general in nature, relating to the nature of future society, and the rise of the Bahá'í Faith to prominence.Bahá'í timeline
The following is a basic timeline of the Bábí and Bahá'í religions emphasizing dates that are relatively well known. For a more comprehensive chronology of the timeline, see the references at the bottom.Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
Covenant in the Bahá'í Faith refers to two separate binding agreements between God and man. A Covenant in the religious sense is a binding agreement made between God and man wherein a certain behaviour is required of man and in return God guarantees certain blessings. The concept of a covenant has been found in various religious scriptures including numerous covenant references in the Bible. In the Bahá'í Faith there is a distinction between a Greater Covenant which is made between every messenger from God and his followers concerning the next dispensation, and a Lesser Covenant that concerns successorship of authority within the religion after the messenger dies.Hidden Words
The Hidden Words (Kalimát-i-Maknúnih, Arabic: کلمات مكنونة) is a book written in Baghdad around 1857 by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. This work is written partly in Arabic and partly in Persian.
The Hidden Words is written in the form of a collection of short utterances, 71 in Arabic and 82 in Persian, in which Bahá'u'lláh claims to have taken the basic essence of certain spiritual truths and written them in brief form. Bahá'ís are advised by `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son and the authorized interpreter of His teachings, to read them every day and every night and to implement their latent wisdom into their daily lives. He also said that The Hidden Words is "a treasury of divine mysteries" and that when one ponders its contents, "the doors of the mysteries will open."History of the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í history is often traced through a sequence of leaders, beginning with the Báb's declaration in Shiraz on the evening of May 22, 1844, and ultimately resting on an Administrative Order established by the central figures of the religion. The religion had its background in two earlier movements in the nineteenth century, Shaykhism and Bábism. Shaykhism centred on theosophical doctrines and many Shaykhis expected the return of the hidden Twelfth Imam. Many Shaykhis joined the messianic Bábí movement in the 1840s where the Báb proclaimed himself to be the return of the hidden Imam. As the Bábí movement spread in Iran, violence broke out between the ruling Shi'a Muslim government and the Bábís, and ebbed when government troops massacred them, and executed the Báb in 1850.The Báb had spoken of another messianic figure, He whom God shall make manifest. As one of the followers of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned during a subsequent wave of massacre by the Persian government against Bábís in 1852, was exiled to Iraq, and then to Constantinople and Adrianople in the Ottoman Empire. Amidst these banishments, in 1863 in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be the messianic figure expected by the Báb's writings. Bahá'ís consider the Baha'i religion to start from Bahá'u'lláh's statements in 1863.
At the time of Bahá'u'lláh's death the tradition was mostly confined to the Persian and Ottoman empires, at which time he had followers in thirteen countries of Asia and Africa. Leadership of the religion then passed on to `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, who was appointed by Bahá'u'lláh, and was accepted by almost all Bahá'ís. Under the leadership of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the religion gained a footing in Europe and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it still suffers intense persecution.After the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, the leadership of the Bahá'í community was passed on to his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who was appointed in `Abdu'l-Bahá's will. The document appointed Shoghi Effendi as the first Guardian, and called for the election of the Universal House of Justice once the Bahá'í Faith had spread sufficiently for such elections to be meaningful. During Shoghi Effendi's time as leader of the religion there was a great increase in the number of Baha'is, and he presided over the election of many National Spiritual Assemblies.Shoghi Effendi died in 1957, and because he was childless he had found it impossible to appoint another Guardian after himself to succeed him. In 1963 the Universal House of Justice was elected. Since 1963 the Universal House of Justice has been elected every five years and remains the successor and leading institution of the religion. See Bahá'í Faith by country for further information per country.Kitáb-i-Aqdas
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas or Aqdas is the central book of the Bahá'í Faith written by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, in 1873. The work was written in Arabic under the Arabic title al-Kitābu l-Aqdas (Arabic: الكتاب الأقدس / al-Kitāb al-ʾaqdās), but it is commonly referred to by its Persian title, Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Persian: كتاب اقدس / Ketâb Âqdas), which was given to the work by Bahá'u'lláh himself. It is sometimes also referred to as "the Most Holy Book", "the Book of Laws" or the Book of Aqdas. The word Aqdas has a significance in many languages as the superlative form of a word with its primary letters Q-D-Š.
Bahá'u'lláh had manuscript copies sent to Bahá'ís in Iran some years after the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in 1873, and in 1890–91 (1308 AH, 47 BE) he arranged for the publication of the original Arabic text of the book in Bombay, India.
The Aqdas is referred to as "the Mother-Book" of the Bahá'í teachings, and the "Charter of the future world civilization". It is not, however, only a 'book of laws': much of the content deals with other matters, notably ethical exhortations and addresses to various individuals, groups, and places. The Aqdas also discusses the establishment of Bahá'í administrative institutions, Bahá'í religious practices, mysticism, laws of personal status, criminal law, spiritual and ethical exhortations, social principles, miscellaneous laws and abrogations, and prophecies.Kitáb-i-Íqán
The Kitáb-i-Íqán (Persian: كتاب ايقان, Arabic: كتاب الإيقان "The Book of Certitude") is one of many books held sacred by followers of the Bahá'í Faith; it is their primary theological work. One Bahá'í scholar states that it can be regarded as the "most influential Quran commentary in Persian outside the Muslim world," because of its international audience. It is sometimes referred to as the Book of Iqan or simply The Iqan.Knights of Bahá'u'lláh
The title Knight of Bahá'u'lláh was given by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith in the period, to Bahá'ís who arose to open new territories to the Faith starting in the Ten Year Crusade.
Those pioneers who succeeded in establishing the Faith's first foothold in a country or territory were designated "Knights of Baha’u’llah", and their names inscribed on a Roll of Honour destined, in time, to be deposited, as called for by the Guardian, under the threshold of the entrance to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. Nothing testified quite so dramatically to the foresight embodied in Shoghi Effendi's successive Plans than the fact that, within each of the new nation-states born after the second world war, Bahá'í communities and Spiritual Assemblies were already a part of the fabric of national life.” (Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 78)
Shoghi Effendi kept a Roll of Honour of all the Knights of Bahá'u'lláh. While inaugurated during the Ten Year Crusade, local restrictions caused some of the goals to remain unfilled. The final Knight of Bahá'u'lláh arrived at Sakhalin Island in December 1990. There were 254 total Knights of Bahá'u'lláh that settled in 121 localities, they had been sent to open 131 nations and territories of which 10 had already been opened. On 28 May 1992, during the commemoration of the centenary of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, the Roll of Honour was deposited by Amatu'l-Baha Rúhiyyih Khanum at the entrance door of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh.Manifestation of God
The Manifestation of God is a concept in the Bahá'í Faith that refers to what are commonly called prophets. The Manifestations of God are appearances of the Divine Spirit or Holy Spirit in a series of personages, and as such, they perfectly reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world for the progress and advancement of human morals and civilization through the agency of that same Spirit. In the Baha'i Faith, it is believed that the Manifestations of God are the only channel for humanity to know about God because contact with the Spirit is what transforms the heart and mind, creating a living relationship between the soul and God. They act as perfect mirrors reflecting the attributes of God into the physical world. Bahá'í teachings hold that the motive force in all human development is due to the coming of the Manifestations of God. The Manifestations of God are directly linked with the Bahá'í concept of progressive revelation.Prayer in the Bahá'í Faith
Prayer in the Bahá'í Faith refers to two distinct concepts: obligatory prayer and general or devotional prayer. Both types of prayer are composed of reverent words which are addressed to God, and the act of prayer is one of the most important Bahá'í laws for individual discipline. The purpose of prayer in the Bahá'í Faith is to grow closer to God and his Manifestation and to help better one's own conduct and to request divine assistance.Bahá'ís between the ages of 15 and 70 are required to perform one of three prescribed obligatory prayers daily and individually, according to a set form and in accordance with specific laws. In addition to the daily obligatory prayer, Bahá'í scripture directs believers daily to offer devotional prayer as well as to meditate and study sacred scripture. There is no set form for devotions and meditations.
Devotional prayers may be offered in the believer's own words. In addition, there is a large corpus of devotional prayers written by the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, the central figures of the Bahá'í Faith, which are used extensively by Bahá'ís in their devotional life. These prayers, encompassing many topics that include meetings, times of day, and healing, are held in high esteem. The specific words are believed by many Bahá'ís to have special power. Group reading from prayer books is a common feature of Bahá'í gatherings. Commonly, Bahá'ís gather informally in each other's homes to read prayers in events known as devotionals. Participants in a devotional gathering take turns reading aloud from a prayer book, while the others listen in reverent silence.Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
The Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are selected tablets written by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, and published together as of 1978. The current edition bears the title Fountain of Wisdom: A Collection of Writings from Bahá'u'lláh.
As his mission drew to a close after his writing of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in 1873, he continued to write unnumbered tablets and letters, doing so until the last days of his life in 1892.
Six of the tablets in this volume were translated into English and published in 1917. The translations were improved upon by Shoghi Effendi, and those not translated by him were filled in with the publication in 1978 under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice.Universal House of Justice
The Universal House of Justice (Persian: بیتالعدل اعظم) is the nine-member supreme ruling body of the Bahá'í Faith. It was envisioned by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, as an institution that could legislate on issues not already addressed in the Bahá'í writings, providing flexibility for the Bahá'í Faith to adapt to changing conditions. It was first elected in 1963, and subsequently every five years, by delegates consisting of the members of Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world.
The Universal House of Justice, as the head of the religion, has provided direction to the worldwide Bahá'í community primarily through a series of multi-year plans, as well as through annual messages delivered during the Ridván festival. The messages have focused on increasing the number of Local Spiritual Assemblies, translating Bahá'í literature, establishing Bahá'í Centres, completing Bahá'í Houses of Worship, holding international conferences, and developing educational systems to enhance literacy, the role of women, spirituality for children and youth, family life, social and economic development, and communal worship. The Universal House of Justice has also played a role in responding to systemic persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran by garnering worldwide media attention.
The books and documents published by the Universal House of Justice are considered authoritative and its legislative decisions are considered infallible by Bahá'ís. While empowered to legislate on matters that are not explicitly stated in the Baha'i holy writings, the Universal House of Justice has, since its inception, limited its exercise of this function.
The Seat of the Universal House of Justice and its members reside in Haifa, Israel, on the slope of Mount Carmel. The most recent election was 29 April 2018. Although all other elected and appointed roles in the Bahá'í Faith are open to men and women, membership on the Universal House of Justice is male-only, providing an exception to the basic Bahá'í principal of the equality of men and women. The Bahá'í writings do not give a reason for this exception, but that the reason will become clear with time.