Who is Baha'u'llah?

Here is the text of my latest pamphlet.

Alison


Who was Baha?u?llah?

"Be thou of the people of hell-fire,
but be not a hypocrite.
Be thou an unbeliever,
but be not a plotter.
Make thy home in taverns,
but tread not the path of the mischief-maker.
Fear thou God,
but not the priest.
Give to the executioner thy head,
but not thy heart.
Let thine abode be under the stone,
but seek not the shelter of the cleric.?

Baha'u'llah,
the founder of the Baha'i religion

Baha'u'llah: the person

Baha'u'llah was an interesting mix of qualities. In a way, he was the classic hero we love to watch at the movies; he incorporated the virtues of fearless courage, abiding concern for the underdog, and great tenderness and understanding.

Baha'u'llah was very sensitive and wrote works of exquisite beauty about his spiritual muse, a celestial woman who appeared to him in visions. Baha'u'llah did not value wealth highly and was uncommonly generous. He freely gave money to people who fell on hard times.

Baha'u'llah did not suffer fools gladly. He was scathing about the fanatacism and injustices of the religious and civil authorities of his time. Despite the persistent threat to his life, he stood up to them. He had a dry wit and would make ironic comments about their stupidity and arrogance.

He cared deeply about eliminating the suffering of humanity. He admonished the rich to look after the poor and exhorted everyone to abandon prejudice, look after others as they would themselves and respect human rights.

Ninteenth-century Iran: Babism

Baha'u'llah was born in Iran in 1817. His given name was Husayn-Ali Nuri. The name "Baha'u'llah" is an Arabic word meaning "Glory of God" and is a title that Husayn-Ali adopted as an adult.

In his late 20s, Baha'u'llah joined a new religious movement called Babism, which was sweeping Iran at the time. Babism threatened Iran's civil and religious authorities, and they tried to get rid of its founder, the Bab. Eventually, they were able to have the Bab executed by firing squad.

In retaliation, some of the Bab's followers attempted to assassinate Iran's king, Nasiru'd-Din Shah. The Shah ordered a wholesale massacre of the Babi community. In the bloodbath that followed, Baha'u'llah was arrested, despite his having had nothing to do with the assassination attempt.

Imprisonment in the Black Pit

Baha'u'llah was imprisoned in the infamous underground dungeon known as the Black Pit. The dungeon cell was about 20 metres long and without any facilities. Prisoners lay on the floor with their feet and necks in chains. Baha'u'llah was held there for four months, surviving on food that his family brought and bribed the guards to deliver.

During his imprisonment, Baha'u'llah had important spiritual experiences, in which a celestial woman appeared before him, pointed to him and told him that he had a spiritual mission that would affect all the worlds of God.

Exile to Baghdad

When Baha'u'llah was released from the Black Pit, he was ordered to leave Iran. He chose to live in Baghdad, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire. Baha'u'llah stayed there for 10 years.

However, the Iranian government was unhappy about Baha'u'llah living so close to its border and pressured the Ottomans to exile him further. Eventually, it was agreed that Baha'u'llah would move to the Ottoman capital of Istanbul.

The beginning of the Baha'i religion

Before leaving for Istanbul, Baha'u'llah declared to his close friends that he was the prophet of God that was expected by all the religions, and that his coming ushered in a new day in humanity?s spiritual evolution.

This declaration took place on April 21, 1863. Baha'is call it the First Day of Ridvan (Paradise). It marks the beginning of the new religion known as the Baha'i Faith.

Further exiles

The Ottoman and Iranian governments continued to view Baha'u'llah as a threat and exiled him two more times. Eventually, Baha'u'llah was forced to live in Akka on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea (now in northern Israel). At that time, the city was used as a prison for criminals and political prisoners.

After nine years, Baha'u'llah moved to the neighbouring countryside, where he lived until his death in 1892. Today, the nearby city of Haifa is the location of the world centre of the Baha'i community.

Writings

Despite the upheaval and deprivation in his life, Baha'u'llah left many writings. These works weren't written so much as "revealed". Baha'u'llah would pace the room and chant or speak his words, which his amanuensis would take down quickly. The result was a scrawl that only a handful of people could read until it was written out legibly.

Baha'u'llah wrote a wide variety of works, including commentaries on Islam, Christianity and Judaism; letters advising on how to achieve justice and peace in human affairs; explanations of the soul's journey to salvation; and mystical poetry.