“…nearness to God is possible through devotion to Him,…service to humanity…loving-kindness to all…acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, service in the cause of universal peace and personal sanctification.” -‘Abdu’l-Baha
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah is a Prophet of God, and Baha’is accept Baha’u’llah’s teachings as the teachings of God for today. All of the Manifestations of God have come ‘at different times and to different places—Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and many others. Each brought the religion that was needed for His time. Baha’u’llah has brought us the Word of God for today. Baha’is believe that the Bab was a Prophet of God Who came right before Baha’u’llah. The Bab came to Iran over 150 years ago to bring a new Message from God. In 1844, He declared His Mission and established a new religion.” The Bab’s new religion grew very rapidly in Iran. Thousands of people from all over the country believed in Him and accepted His new Message. They were called Babis. The Bab told the Babis that they should soon expect the coming of a new and greater Prophet, a new Manifestation of God. He called this new Prophet “He Whom God will make manifest.” He said that all Babis should expect Him to come at any time. Baha’u’llah heard the Message of the Bab and became one of the Babis. He too was expecting the coming of “He Whom God will make manifest.” Unfortunately, governors, and leaders of religion, and powerful people all over Iran tried to stop the spread of the Bab’s religion. Babis were attacked and their property was stolen. The Bab’s books were banned. The clergy preached that the Babis were the enemies of religion and should be wiped out. Finally, the Bab Himself was arrested, imprisoned, and then killed in 1850. Baha’u’llah was born in a wealthy and important family. His father had held an important government position and Baha’u’llah was known as a good and generous man. For a time, the high position of the family protected Baha’u’llah from attack. But eventually, Baha’u’llah was also swept up by the wave of hatred and destruction that was directed against the followers of the Bab.
In 1852, Baha’u’llah was arrested by government soldiers because He was a Babi. He was forced to walk, barefoot and with no hat, in the burning heat of the midday sun, all the way from the village of Niyaravan to Tihran, the capital city, a distance of about 15 miles. He was led in chains through the streets of Tihran to be put in prison. His treatment was brutal. The soldiers beat Him. A crowd formed, and the soldiers encouraged the mob to attack Him. The people threw stones, and sticks, and whatever else they could find. The mob spat on Him, insulted Him, and cursed Him as an enemy of their religion. Baha’u’llah’s house and property were also attacked by a mob and looted. His family was forced to run away and go into hiding. Baha’u’llah’s daughter, Bahiyyih Khanum. the Greatest Holy Leaf, was a child at this time. She remembered these horrible events many years later and gave us this account:
“One day I remember very well, though I was only six years old at the time. . . . My father [Baha’u’llah] was away at His country house in the village of Niyavaran, which was His property, the villagers of which were all and individually cared for by him. Suddenly and hurriedly a servant came rushing in great distress to my mother. The Master, the Master, He is arrested- I have seen Him. He has walked many miles! Oh, they have beaten Him!…He has no shoes on! His turban has gone! His clothes are torn! There are chains upon His neck.! Poor mother’s face grew whiter and whiter. Immediately everybody, all our relations, and friends, and servants fled from our house in terror, only one manservant, Isfandiyar, remained, and one woman. Our palace, and the smaller houses belonging to it were very soon stripped of everything; furniture, treasures, all were stolen by the people.”
The dungeon into which Baha’u’llah Himself was thrown was not a regular prison. It was called the Siyah Chal (The Black Pit). It was just an underground hole that had once held water. The room was foul smelling and completely dark. It was also cold and wet and filthy. The Babi prisoners were chained together. Baha’u’llah was held in this prison for four months, and many of His Babi companions were put to death.
But it was here, under these dreadful conditions, that Baha’u’llah received His first revelation from God. He saw a vision. A vision is rather like a dream, only it happens when you are awake. Baha’u’llah tells us that he had a vision of a Maiden suspended in the air. The Maiden that Baha’u’llah saw was very happy. Her face was shining with light. Her cheeks glowed with the brightness of God. She raised her arm and pointed to Baha’u’llah’s head, she said: “By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds…” In that dark prison, Baha’u’llah understood that He was a Prophet of God. God had sent Him to bring new teachings to all the people of the world. After four months in the dungeon, Baha’u’llah was released. He and His family were sent out of Iran in exile. For the rest of His life, He was a prisoner sent from city to city. He could never return home again. But Baha’u’llah always remembered the Maiden, and ways spoke to Him. He knew that He was a Prophet of God and He wrote many books to give us the Message for today. (From Central Figures: Baha’u’llah, Vol 2, pp. 84-85; 89-93).
- Who is a Manifestation of God?
- What was the title that the Bab gave to the new Prophet?
- Who were the Babis?
- How were the Babis treated?
- What happened in 1852?
- How was Baha’u’llah treated when He was arrested?
- What happened to His house and His property?
- Who was Bahiyyih Khanum? What was her title?
- Who was Isfandiyar?
- What did Isfandiyar say to the family?
- Who is the Maiden? What did She say to Baha’u’llah?
Spiritual Teachings of Baha’u’llah
Elimination of Prejudice (Garden of Baha’u’llah pp. 86-87)
“As to religious, racial, national and political bias: all these prejudices strike at the very root of human life; one and all they beget bloodshed, and the ruination of the world. So long as these prejudices survive, there will be continuous and fearsome wars.”— Abdu’l-Baha
Prejudice is one of the most destructive forces in the world today. It is a wall that keeps people from understanding each other. There are many types of prejudice: racial, religious, economic, ethnic, educational.
Prejudice begins in our own hearts. Each of us is prejudiced in some way. We must all look into our own hearts daily and rid ourselves of prejudice. Only then can we truly hold hands with all our brothers and sisters.
- What is prejudice?
- Why is prejudice destructive?
- How can we eliminate prejudice?
Virtue of the week: Service
“That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.” Baha’u’llah
“Service is prayer.” ‘Abdu’l-Baha’
“This wronged servant has spent His days and nights . . . urging the peoples to service. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’
“There is no greater result than bonds of service in the Divine kingdom and attainment to the good-pleasure of the Lord. Therefore I desire that your hearts may be directed to the kingdom of God, that your intentions may be pure and sincere, your purposes turned towards altruistic accomplishment unmindful of your own welfare; nay, rather, may all your intentions center in the welfare of humanity, and may you seek to sacrifice yourselves in the pathway of devotion to mankind.” ‘Abdu’l-Baha’
- How can we show love for humanity?
- What sort of helpful service can you contribute at home?
- What sort of helpful service can you contribute at your school?
- Why is it important to study the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha?