© Bahá’í International Community
Why this great unrest wars and the rumors of wars, changing of dynasties, earthquakes, cataclysms? The people cry “Peace, peace;” when there is no peace! Are not these the outer sign that man has lost the inner truth? Students in every land who have stepped out of the stream of humanity remind us of the holy books of history— all of which fortell the coming of a great Messiah or world teacher. Once again the wheel has turned and brought man face to face with truth. Truth is the handmaid of the prophet. Can there be a handmaid without the prophet?
A movement comes from the East which claims to be the divine instrument for bringing unity into the world. For this reason, if for no other, it deserves attention. Its claims are too vital and important to be overlooked. The wonderful lives of its founders command interest. The courageous lives of its followers and their uncompromising sacrifice for this cause form a chapter that has no parallel in history.
During the last century three great seers or supermen have appeared in Persia— the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
The Báb was born in Shíráz, in the month of October, 1819. At the age of twenty-four he heralded the advent of a universal teacher whom God would manifest, and through whom the unity of all nations would be established. The Báb (door or gate) effected a reformation of Islám, opening the way for a broader movement— for always with earnestness and zeal he cried of one who was to come after him to illumine not only Islám, but the whole world. The young reformer made his declaration in 1844 at Shíráz and afterward at Mecca, where one hundred thousand people had congregated.
His teachings met with instant opposition on the part of the orthodox religionists of the day. After two years he was imprisoned and held a prisoner until 1850 when he was shot in the public square of Tabríz.
But physical torture and death were ineffectual to stop the onsweep of the reformation inaugurated by the Báb. When, some years later, Bahá’u’lláh arose as the one who was expected, thousands accepted him and at once came under his banner. Bahá’u’lláh was not personally related to the Báb, nor had he ever seen him, though he became one of the first disciples of the Báb’s teachings.
Dreadful persecution ensued and more than twenty thousand martyrs joyfully gave up property and life rather than renounce the faith which they recognized as divine truth. At such variance were his teachings with the creed-bound world about him that Bahá’u’lláh, with his family and followers, was banished to Baghdád, to Constantinople, to Adrianople and finally to the penal colony of ‘Akká in Syria.
Few people of the western world were fortunate enough to see Bahá’u’lláh, who was born in Ṭihrán November 12, 1817. One who had journeyed afar, and who was finally ushered into his presence,described him thus: “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!”
One of his followers in describing his power declares: “His proclamation was made with the certainty of immediate knowledge and a divine understanding of the needs of humanity for ‘this gloomy and disastrous age!’ Brilliant, spontaneous, mighty— he was like a conscious sun bursting on a dark, dead world. Verily, in the future these rays will be used ‘for the healing of the nations.’”
The prison officials of ‘Akká ultimately granted him the liberty of the fortressed city and he pitched his tent upon the Mount of Carmel in the land of Sharon, the very spot where, according to the ancient prophecies, the Glory of God would be manifested in the latter days. The name of Bahá’u’lláh means the Glory of God, Bahá— Glory, and Alláh— God.
It will be noted that the divine teachers of all ages in their efforts to direct man’s attention to God have assumed a spiritual title symbolic of their teachings.
Bahá’u’lláh unsealed the holy books and revealed laws through which mankind can attain to a high state of spiritual civilization. These new laws will go into effect after the great readjustment, when wars, cataclysms, famine, labor troubles, etc., have done their work of equalization!