TUESDAY, APRIL 20, SUNDOWN: Baha’is begin their greatest festival of the year: Ridvan. In Arabic, “Ridvan” means “good pleasure” and, because the term is used in the Quran to describe God’s satisfaction with believers in Heaven, it also means “Paradise.” For 12 days, Baha’is observe the time when founder Baha’u’llah declared His mission as the Promised One and prepared for his journey to Constantinople. (Find out more from the official site of Baha’is of the U.S.) Baha’is recognize three of their nine holy days of the year during Ridvan. They also elect leaders for their Local and National Spiritual Assemblies. Of note: There are no ordained leaders in Baha’ism, since Baha’u’llah believed that in a time of universal education, ordained clergy were unnecessary. Check out Wikipedia for more.
In 1844, Persia was home to the Bab, another key figure in the origin of the Baha’i faith and a man who announced the coming of a Messenger from God, according to Baha’i tradition. Three years after the Bab’s execution, Baha’u’llah, a follower of the Bab, was thrown into prison on false charges; it was during his prison stay that Baha’u’llah experienced a revelation and discovered that he, indeed, was that Promised One. (Read more in the Baha’i Library.) According to Baha’i tradition, Baha’u’llah’s wise and spiritual character attracted many to him, and as his influence grew around Baghdad, officials grew anxious. Eventually, those officials “invited” Baha’u’llah to move from Baghdad to Constantinople. It is the preparation for this journey to Constantinople that Baha’is recognize, as well as the official announcement made the night before his departure that Baha’u’llah was the Promised One foreseen by the Bab. This took place in the Garden of Ridvan—to see photos, click here. (Also, the significance of Ridvan is outlined on Planet Baha’i.) Several years later, Baha’u’llah himself declared these 12 days as the “Most Great Festival” of Ridvan.
According to media sources, more than 1,000 American Baha’i communities will elect their Local Spiritual Assemblies this Ridvan; 171 delegates will be sent to Chicago for the 2010-2011 national elections. (Read the press release here.) The Baha’i elections are conducted through secret ballots and without candidacies, nominations or campaigning. Many festivities mark this special time of year—including an annual Ridvan pageant in Texas that has been going on for a decade!
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)