The Báb, Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh
"His life is one of the most magnificent examples of courage which it has been the privilege of mankind to behold..." The object of this tribute by the prominent French writer A.L.M. Nicolas was the nineteenth century prophetic figure known to history as the Báb.
Millenial fervor gripped many peoples throughout the world during the first half of the nineteenth century; while Christians expected the return of Christ, a wave of expectation swept through Islam that the "Lord of the Age" would appear. Both Christians and Muslims envisioned that, with fulfillment of the prophecies in their scriptures, a new spiritual age was about to begin.
In Persia, this messianic ferment reached a dramatic climax on May 23, 1844, when a young merchant--the Báb--announced that He was the Bearer of a long-promised Divine Revelation destined to transform the spiritual life of the human race. "O peoples of the earth," the Báb declared, "Give ear unto God's holy Voice...Verily the resplendent Light of God hath appeared in your midst, invested with this unerring Book, that ye may be guided aright to the ways of peace..." Against a backdrop of widescale moral breakdown in Persian society, the Báb's declaration that spiritual renewal and social advancement rested on "love and compassion" rather "than force and coercion," aroused hope and excitement among all classes, and He quickly attracted thousands of followers.
“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.... 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!”
These words by Edward Granville Browne, a Cambridge University scholar who came into the presence of Bahá’u’lláh in 1890, offer a glimpse of the impact that Bahá’u’lláh had during His lifetime on those who came into contact with Him.
Bahá’u’lláh – a title meaning “the Glory of God” – was born into a noble family in the Persian capital of Tehran on 12 November 1817.
He became one of the Báb’s leading adherents. After the martyrdom of the Báb, growing numbers of Bábís turned to Him for guidance. Following an abortive attempt on the life of the Sháh in August 1852, by a small group of Bábís acting against Bahá’u’lláh’s explicit instructions, Bahá’u’lláh was arrested and thrown into a noisome subterranean dungeon in Tehran, known as the Síyáh-Chál, the Black Pit.
During four months chained to the floor in this hellish place, Bahá’u’lláh experienced a revelation from God and received His mission as the Promised One foretold by the Báb.
Expelled from Persia in January 1853, Bahá’u’lláh and His family travelled through a bitter cold winter to Baghdad, where He began a succession of exiles, which took Him via Constantinople and Adrianople to the ancient city of Acre in the Holy Land.
Just before leaving Baghdad in 1863, Bahá’u’lláh declared to a few of His closest companions that He was the One promised by the Báb. From Adrianople and Acre He addressed an unprecedented series of letters to the rulers of His day , proclaiming His mission and the coming unification of humankind, calling on them to devote their energies to the establishment of universal peace.
Bahá’u’lláh spent the remainder of His earthly life in Acre and its environs. Initially He, His family and companions were confined to the barracks in Acre. Later they were moved to a cramped house within the city's walls.
During His time in Acre, Bahá’u’lláh revealed His most important work, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, the repository of laws for the Bahá’í dispensation.
Bahá’u’lláh took up residence outside the walls of Acre in the late 1870s. From 1879 to His passing in 1892 He lived in the mansion of Bahjí on the outskirst of Acre. He is laid to rest in a garden room adjoining the mansion. The above picture shows the enterance to this holy room. For Bahá’ís this is the holiest place on the earth.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: the Center of the Covenant
On November 29, 1921, ten thousand people--Jews, Christians, and Muslims from all persuasions and denominations--gathered on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land to mourn the passing of One who was eulogized as the essence of "Virtue and Wisdom, of Knowledge and Generosity." On that occasion, `Abdu'l-Bahá--Bahá'u'lláh's Son and chosen successor--was described by a Jewish leader as a "living example of self-sacrifice," by a Christian orator as One who led humanity to the "Way of Truth," and by a prominent Muslim leader as a "pillar of peace" and the embodiment of "glory and greatness." His funeral, according to a Western observer, brought together a great throng "sorrowing for His death, but rejoicing also for His life."
Throughout the Occident and the Orient, `Abdu'l-Bahá was known as an ambassador of peace, a champion of justice, and the leading exponent of a new Faith. Through a series of epoch-making travels across North America and Europe, `Abdu'l-Bahá--by word and example--proclaimed with persuasiveness and force the essential principles of His Father's religion. Affirming that "Love is the most great law" that is the foundation of "true civilization," and that the "supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity" among all its peoples, `Abdu'l-Bahá reached out to leaders and the meek alike, to every soul who crossed His path.