By Eileen Maddocks
Prior to His execution, the Báb bestowed upon one of His disciples, Mírzá Ḥusayn-‘Alí Núrí (1817‒1892), the name Bahá’u’lláh, which translates from Arabic to the Glory of God. Bahá’u’lláh was one of the few of the Báb’s disciples who survived the persecutions, although He was tortured and imprisoned in Tehran, Persia. Circumstances presented the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh from meeting each other during the Báb’s six-year ministry.
In 1853 the Persian government persuaded the Ottoman Turkish authorities to accept Bahá’u’lláh in exile in Constantinople (now Istanbul), the imperial capital of the Ottoman Empire. That year was the beginning of forty years of exile and imprisonment. To the consternation of Persian authorities, Bahá’u’lláh attracted much attention in Baghdad as a spiritual leader and teacher. The Persian government therefore persuaded the Ottoman authorities ten years later to exile Him further away to Adrianople (now Edirne), and after four years to the prison city of ‘Akká in Ottoman-controlled Palestine. Just days before His departure from Baghdad, Bahá’u’lláh publicly announced that He was the one foretold by the Báb, Him Whom God would make manifest. The year of this proclamation was 1863, nineteen years after 1844.
The ministry of Bahá’u’lláh was conducted within the confines of successive imprisonments in exile. However, even though temporal authorities usually did not recognize the station of Bahá’u’lláh as a Prophet, they were often affected by His character and demeanor to the extent that the conditions of His imprisonments were progressively lightened. Bahá’u’lláh was able to spend His last few years in a large country home in Bahji, a few miles outside ‘Akká, where he was accessible to people from all walks of life.
Bahá’u’lláh ascended from this world in 1892 and His remains were put to rest in a garden room in a small house steps from the Bahji mansion where He had spent His final days. This burial location is now incorporated into the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, which is the most holy place on earth for Bahá’ís.
The revelatory outpouring of Bahá’u’lláh during His mission is beyond our comprehension. The corpus of His material is often called the ocean of His Word. Most of the original Writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, both handwritten and dictated to secretaries, are now preserved in state-of- the-art environmental conditions in the archives at the Bahá’í World Centre. These archives hold 18,000 of His works, called tablets, that were written in Arabic and Persian. The number of their combined words is estimated to be six million. Portions of His work have been translated into over eight hundred languages.
To this day the descendants of individuals who received tablets from the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are still turning these precious documents over to the World Centre. This is the first time in human history that the original records of a Prophet of God have been preserved. Much of this revelatory record has been published and is available in English online to anyone who wants to investigate it (www.bahai-library.com).
In addition, innumerable eye-witness accounts of the events surrounding the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh were preserved. We are extraordinarily fortunate that these two Prophets came so relatively recently. Scholars of the Faith will never have to resort to deduction and conjecture as biblical scholars have been forced to do. The Bahá’í Faith is part of modern history.
The sheer volume of the records of the Faith provides material for many lifetimes of study. Bahá’u’lláh described His revelation as an ocean:
O people! I swear by the one true God! This is the Ocean out of which all seas have proceeded, and with which every one of them will ultimately be united. From Him all the Suns have been generated, and unto Him they will all return. Through His potency the Trees of Divine Revelation have yielded their fruits, every one of which hath been sent down in the form of a Prophet, bearing a Message to God’s creatures in each of the worlds whose number God, alone, in His all-encompassing Knowledge, can reckon. This He hath accomplished through the agency of but one Letter of His Word, revealed by His Pen—a Pen moved by His directing Finger—His Finger itself sustained by the power of God’s Truth.
The ocean of His Word cannot be summarized. I will only try to present a few of Bahá’u’lláh’s basic teachings. Readers are urged to investigate for themselves. Recommended websites are “The Bahá’í Faith,” the official website of the Bahá’í world community (www.bahai.org); “The Universal House of Justice,” an official website of the Bahá’í Faith (universalhouseofjustice.bahai.org); and “Bahá’í Blog,”(http://bahaiblog.net). An excellent tool for research is the Bahá’í International Community’s “Bahá’í Reference Library” (http://reference.bahai.org). Enter one word, or a phrase starting and ending with a quotation mark, and this search engine will bring up the portions of the Bahá’í Scriptures that contain these word/words.
Bahá’u’lláh came for many reasons, the foremost of which was to unify humanity. One core tenet of Bahá’í belief is that God is one, His prophets are one, and humankind is one. Only when these three “onenesses” are recognized will world peace be achieved.
“Ye are all fruits of one tree, the leaves of one branch, the flowers of one garden.” That is one of the most characteristic sayings of Bahá’u’lláh and another is like it: “Glory is not his who loves his own country, but glory is his who loves his kind.” Unity—unity of mankind, and of all created beings in God—is the main theme of His teaching.
“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh endured ordeals and hardships sixty years. There was no persecution, vicissitude or suffering He did not experience at the hand of His enemies and oppressors. All the days of His life were passed in difficulty and tribulation; at one time in prison, another in exile, sometimes in chains. He willingly endured these difficulties for the unity of mankind, praying that the world of humanity might realize the radiance of God, the oneness of humankind become a reality, strife and warfare cease and peace and tranquillity be realized by all. In prison He hoisted the banner of human solidarity, proclaiming Universal Peace, writing to the kings and rulers of nations summoning them to international unity and counselling arbitration. His life was a vortex of persecution and difficulty, yet catastrophes, extreme ordeals and vicissitudes did not hinder the accomplishment of His work and mission.
Previously we have discussed the springtime of civilization that follows the coming of a Prophet of God. However, that is also only half the story. Before springtime can bloom there are the last awful days of winter when the Prophet appears. Violent resistance and persecutions invariably follow because the clergy of the day, the rulers, and most of the people reject the new Message.
Bahá’u’lláh called the appearance of a Prophet of God the Day of God. A Day of God is not the end of the world or our removal from this world to heaven. It is the receipt of a new set of divine tools to accomplish God’s work on earth. Bahá’u’lláh elaborated on the many ramifications of the Day of God that pertained to His coming. The following passages describe the Day of God for our times.
This is the Day which the Pen of the Most High hath glorified in all the holy Scriptures. There is no verse in them that doth not declare the glory of His holy Name, and no Book that doth not testify unto the loftiness of this most exalted theme. Were We to make mention of all that hath been revealed in these heavenly Books and holy Scriptures concerning this Revelation, this Tablet would assume impossible dimensions.
This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things.
Great indeed is this Day! The allusions made to it in all the sacred Scriptures of the Day of God attest its greatness.
Take ye advantage of the Day of God. Verily, to meet Him is better for you than all that whereon the sun shineth, could ye but know it.
The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him.2
Now let us look at the other side of the Day of God. The road to full springtime is difficult because winter, with all its corruption and materialism, tries to hang on. This retrenchment results in worsening troubles and sorrows. The accelerating momentum of the spiritual energies released by the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh has been provoking ingrained reactionary forces.
We are now in the Cycle of Fulfillment, which has come with a new plan of God. Figuratively speaking, humanity is emerging from the rebellions and poor choices of adolescence into adulthood. This maturation is not only destined but the pace of this change has been accelerating since the end of the Adamic Cycle in 1844. This quickening of the pace of time started imperceptibly and then steadily increased until today it seems breathless. Calendars and clocks have not changed and the earth circles the sun as it always has, but the forces of human life and events have accelerated almost beyond comprehension. The effects of the Day of God are increasingly being deeply and immediately felt.
The result is a drawn-out process of the death throes of a disintegrating society in disruptive, violent, and chaotic ways. An analogy can be made between the proverbial sinner clinging to life on his deathbed because of fear of meeting his Maker, and the forces of the old order clinging to their power and profits out of fear of spiritual light. Individuals aligned with the forces of darkness may not be consciously aware of the new energies infusing the earth, but they react like scrambling bugs when a rotting log is lifted.
Disintegration of the old and the integrative process of the new can be extremely disruptive. And “resistance is futile.” The light of a new Revelation is dawning and the power of God will prevail.
The days ahead will be both difficult and joyful as humanity embraces the merciful bounties that are being offered by God. This process is proceeding faster than most people realize. As of 2014 the Faith has been established in 187 independent countries and 45 dependent territories. That year there were 165 National Spiritual Assemblies and 18,232 Local Spiritual Assemblies, portions of the Bahá’í Scriptures had been translated into over 800 languages, and individuals had entered the Bahá’í Faith from over 2,100 tribes, races, and ethnic groups.
1 Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 104.
2 J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 209.
3 Gleanings, no. 93, p. 94.
4 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith: Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 230.
5 Gleanings, no. 10, pp. 13‒14. The Pen of the Most High is one of many titles of Bahá’u’lláh.
6 Ibid., no. 4, p. 6.
7 Ibid., no. 7.2, p. 11.
8 Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, no. 88, p. 2.
9 Gleanings, no. 5.4, pp. 8‒9.