May 29, 1992, marked the centenary of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. His vision of humanity as one people and of the earth as a common homeland, has captured the imagination and allegiance of several million men and women from virtually every race, culture, class, and nation on earth.
Bahá'u'lláh declared that mankind was entering a new era in its history when accelerating processes of unification would soon compel universal recognition that humanity is one single race, and that the time had arrived for the creation of a global society based upon principles of mutual cooperation and justice. In appealing to humanity to accept the central truth of its oneness, and to set aside the barriers of race, religion and nationality which have been principal causes of war throughout history, Bahá'u'lláh urges, "...regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch." There is, He said, no possibility of achievement of world peace until the fundamental principle of unity has been accepted and given practical effect in the organization of society: "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
At the heart of Bahá'u'lláh's message is a call for religious reconciliation and mutual understanding. He taught that there is one God who progressively reveals His will to humanity. "The peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God", Bahá'u'lláh writes. He states that each of the great religions of the world represents successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. The agents of this evolutionary process have been the Divine Messengers whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity. Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muhammad, are among these Divine Educators who give to the world the same spiritual and moral teachings, but reveal social laws and principles suited to the needs of the age in which they appear. "All the Prophets of God", Bahá'u'lláh says, "soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech, and proclaim the same Faith." He declared Himself to be the latest of God's Messengers; the Bearer of a Divine Revelation that fulfills the promises made in earlier religions.
Born in 1817 to a noble family that could trace its ancestry back to the great dynasties of Persia's imperial past, Bahá'u'lláh (Arabic for "Glory of God") turned away from the privileges of His lineage, and instead devoted Himself to the needs of Persia's dispossessed, where He became known as the "Father of the Poor". At the age of 27, Bahá'u'lláh allied Himself on the side of a religious renaissance brought into being by the Báb. The Báb ("Gate"), is considered to be a Prophet in His own right by Bahá'ís. The Báb announced on May 23, 1844, that His mission was to prepare humanity for the imminent appearance of a new messenger from God, the One promised to all the religions of the world.
This claim evoked violent hostility from the Muslim clergy. Thousands of followers of the new faith perished in a horrific series of massacres, and the Báb was executed in 1850. As a leading member of the Bábi community, Bahá'u'lláh was subjected to imprisonment, torture, and a series of banishments. The first was to Baghdad, where in 1863, He announced Himself as the One promised by the Báb. From Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh was sent to Constantinople (Istanbul), to Adrianople (Edirne), and finally to `Akká (Acre), in the Holy Land (Israel), where He arrived as a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire in 1868.
From Adrianople and later from `Akká, Bahá'u'lláh addressed a series of remarkable letters to the rulers of His day. The kings, emperors and presidents of the nineteenth century were called upon to reconcile their differences, upraise the conditions of the poor, and devote their energies to the establishment of universal peace. While a prisoner, He wrote more than 100 volumes. These Writings cover an enormous range of subjects from social issues such as racial integration, the equality of the sexes, and disarmament, to those questions that affect the innermost life of the human soul.
Bahá'u'lláh speaks definitively of life, its meaning, and the afterlife. Human beings, He says, have been created "to know" and "to love" God, and "to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization". The station of human beings, Bahá'u'lláh emphasizes, is unique; a station of nobility and boundless potentiality.
Towards the end of His life, though still under a sentence of exile, Bahá'u'lláh was allowed to move outside of `Akká's city walls to an abandoned estate known as Bahjí. In this spot, on May 29, 1892, Bahá'u'lláh passed away. Bahá'u'lláh's body is enshrined at Bahjí, which is a place of pilgrimage for Bahá'ís.
(Text provided by Matthew Weinberg)
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