This post about the Baha’i Faith will focus on the BaháʼUlláh, the Founder of the Baháʼí Faith. Baháʼu’lláh, (1817 – 1892) was a Persian religious leader and the founder of the Baháʼí Faith; which advocates universal peace and unity among all races, nations, and religions. At the age of 27, Baháʼu’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. Eventually, The Báb and thousands of followers were executed by the Iranian authorities for their beliefs.
And Baháʼu’lláh faced exile from his native Iran; and in Baghdad in 1863 claimed to be the expected prophet of whom the Báb foretold. Thus, Baháʼís regard BaháʼUlláh to be a Manifestation of God; fulfilling the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and other major religions. BaháʼUlláh 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 Baháʼí World Centre sits in nearby Haifa.
The BaháUlláh: His Doctrine
To begin with, Baháʼu’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. According to Baháʼu’lláh, religion is renewed periodically by Manifestations of God; people who reflect perfections through divine intervention and whose teachings are the sources of the major world religions throughout history. Moreover, Baháʼu’lláh wrote that there are no perfect personalities. In other words, that former Messengers of God reflected God’s perfections; that there will be future Messengers of God. And that this is a key concept for understanding how all people are one with the Messenger of God.
For instance, Christ is seen as embodying God by reflecting God. But he is not seen as being the whole embodiment of God. He is seen as being given his power. Also, Baháʼís view Baháʼu’lláh as the most recent of these teachers whose mission includes the spiritual unification of the entire planet through the eradication of racism and nationalism.
The BaháʼUlláh: Bábi Movement
In 1844, a 24-year-old man from Shiraz, Siyyid Mírzá ʻAlí-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 He whom God shall make manifest had appeared.
The BaháʼUlláh: Acceptance of the Báb
Baháʼu’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. Baháʼu’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.
Baháʼu’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, Baháʼu’lláh took the pro-change side; which eventually won out. It is at this conference that Baháʼu’lláh took on the name Bahá.
The BaháʼUlláh: Síyáh-Chál
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. Baháʼu’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 was 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 was encouraged and orchestrated by the government. During this time many Bábís were killed, and many more, including Baháʼu’lláh, were imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál (“black pit”); an underground dungeon of Tehran.
According to Baháʼu’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 who’s coming to 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 Baháʼu’lláh and other persons apparently unconnected with the conspiracy be spared.
After he had been in the Síyáh-Chál for four months Baháʼu’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 Baháʼu’lláh and his family, accompanied by a member of the Shah’s bodyguard and a representative of the Russian embassy, traveled from Persia, arriving in Baghdad on 8 April 1853.