Birth of Baha’u’llah: Baha’is recall anniversary with gatherings for unity

Ornate home with wooden doors and manicured yard in stately manner

In respect for Baha’is, ReadTheSpirit will not feature a photo of Baha’u’llah in this post. Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah’s photograph should be revered in utmost respect, and not displayed openly. Therefore, the above photograph is of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, in Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 11: The birthday of Baha’u’llah—the founder of the Baha’i faith—is celebrated with excitement by the faithful. One of nine holy days in the Baha’i calendar, the Birth of Baha’u’llah is rapidly approaching a centennial: Baha’u’llah was born on November 12, 1817.

Baha’is were instructed by Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, to observe the holy day in community.

As Baha’u’llah’s mission was to foster universal peace, his birthday is an occasion for community prayers. Gatherings and programs are held in homes, at local and national Baha’i centers and at Baha’i houses of worship.

BAHA’U’LLAH:
THE MAKING OF A FOUNDER

Mirza Husayn Ali was born November 12, 1817, in Tehran, Persia (now Iran). The son of a wealthy government minister, Baha’u’llah was born into wealth and prestige. His family’s lineage could be traced to the ruling dynasties of Persia’s past, and at the time of his birth, Mirza Husayn Ali’s family still exercised influence over the court of the Shah. (Learn more from Baha’i.org.)

From a young age, Mirza Husayn Ali was rumored to be “different” than his peers. The child was wise beyond his years, showed immense compassion for the poor and displayed an unusually alert mind. (Wikipedia has details.) Of his childhood, Abdu’l-Baha says, “It was usual for them to say, ‘Such a child will not live,’ for it is commonly believed that precocious children do not reach maturity.”

Mirza Husayn Ali did reach maturity, though not without tumult. When he showed support for the Bab and the emerging Babi religion, Mirza Husayn’s life began to crumble. In 1863, Mirza Husayn announced himself as the One promised by the Bab, and became known as Baha’u’llah. As the years passed, Baha’u’llah was subject to exile, violence and imprisonment. (View photos of significant places in Baha’u’llah’s life here.)

BIRTH OF BAHA’U’LLAH: 2015 UPDATE

In questions submitted to Baha’u’llah after he wrote the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah described his own birthday and the birthday of the Bab as “twin birthdays” that are one in the “sight of God.” Though the birthdays have been celebrated according to the solar calendar each year in most of the world—and Baha’u’llah’s birthday fixed on November 12—that will change in 2015.

The Universal House of Justice announced that from March 20, 2015 onward, the “twin birthdays” will be observed on the first and second days following the eighth new moon after Naw-Ruz. Therefore, from March 2015, the Birth of Baha’u’llah will no longer be celebrated on a fixed date, and will change annually.

Birth of Baha’u’llah: Baha’is gather in community for a Messenger of unity

“We desire the good of the world and the happiness of the nations, that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened … what harm is there in this?”
Baha’u’llah, in an 1890 interview with Edward Granville Browne of Cambridge University

Formal home and gardens, Shrine of Baha'u'llah

The Shrine of Baha’u’llah near Acre, Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Note: In respect for Baha’i tradition, ReadTheSpirit will not post a photo of Baha’u’llah. Aside from pilgrimage, Baha’is believe a photographic image of Baha’u’llah should not be viewed in public or even displayed in a private home, as a sign of respect for Baha’u’llah

SUNSET MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11: Baha’is today celebrate the founder of their faith, Baha’u’llah, who was born on this date in 1817. Baha’u’llah proclaimed messages of unity as he wrote to many world leaders in the late 19th century, such as Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and Pope Pius IX. Since that time, Baha’is point out, the contents of Baha’u’llah’s writings on human rights have been mirrored in United Nations talks, at rallies and by advocates worldwide in the ongoing human rights campaign to help Baha’is inside Iran. That’s the very nation where Baha’u’llah was born and yet for many years Baha’is have suffered persecution in Iran. (Check out a few short meditations from Baha’u’llah at the Baha’i Library’s collection of “The Hidden Words.”)

Baha’is worldwide are quickly approaching the 200th birth anniversary of Baha’u’llah, who was born in 1817 in Tehran, the capital of Persia (modern-day Iran). The son of a noble family, Mirza Husayn Ali—who would later take the name “Baha’u’llah”—spent a childhood in luxury, before facing exile and imprisonment. (Learn more about the life, teachings and writings of Baha’u’llah at Bahai.org.)

In 1863, Baha’u’llah announced that he was the bearer of a new revelation from God—one that would bring unity to the world’s people. Baha’u’llah and the early Babis strongly believed that God sent divine messengers to humanity at intervals of 500 to 1,000 years, and that Baha’u’llah was the most recent in a line that included Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Zoroaster and Krishna.  Today, millions of Baha’is across the globe agree with Baha’u’llah’s beliefs. (View a photographic narrative of his life at Bahaullah.org.)

‘TWIN BIRTHDAYS’ AND PRAYERFUL GATHERINGS

One of nine holy days of the Baha’i calendar, the Birth of Baha’u’llah is the latter half of the “Twin Birthdays”—the first of which, the Birth of the Bab, was observed in October. Few traditions exist for celebrating Baha’u’llah’s birthday, aside from prayers and community gatherings, although it should be noted that Baha’u’llah placed great importance on unity of the community. (Wikipedia has details.) Public gatherings will be held everywhere from Josephine Butler Parks Center in Washington, D.C. to the gardens in Israel that are the final resting place of Baha’u’llah, to small villages and massive localities across the globe. (The Washington Post reported on the D.C. gathering.)