The Baha'i faith is based on the teachings of 19th century Persian prophet Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892). His timeless message of practicing tolerance, kindness, and love has created a lasting religious following.
Bahá'u'lláh, whose name means "The Glory of God," taught that there is one God whose successive revelations to humanity have been the chief civilizing force in history. The agents of this process have been the Divine Messengers — chiefly seen to be the founders of separate religions — whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity.
Baha'i's view Bahá'u'lláh as the first person to perceive the possibility of unifying the human family and building a peaceful, global society. Even though attempts to discredit his work led to his imprisonment, torture, and exile in Palestine, he continued to write extensively — not only books and prayers, but also letters to world leaders, including Pope Pius IX; Napoleon III, Emperor of France; Alexander II, Tsar of Russia; Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland; Sultan Abdul-Aziz; and the Iranian ruler, Nasiri'd-Din Shah. In these letters, Bahá’u’lláh urged the leaders to pursue disarmament and exhorted them to band together into a commonwealth of nations.
Among the principles which the Baha'i faith promotes as vital to the achievement of Bahá'u'lláh's goal of unity are:
- the abandonment of all forms of prejudice
- assurance to women of full equality of opportunity with men
- recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth
- the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth
- the realization of universal education
- the responsibility of each person to independently search for truth
- the establishment of a global commonwealth of nations
- recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge
After seeing in childhood that an entire puppet show about royalty and riches could fit into a box, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, "Ever since that day, all the trappings of the world have seemed in the eyes of this Youth akin to that same spectacle. They have never been, nor will they ever be, of any weight and consequence, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed.… Erelong these outward trappings, these visible treasures, these earthly vanities, these arrayed armies, these adorned vestures, these proud and overweening souls, all shall pass into the confines of the grave, as though into that box. In the eyes of those possessed of insight, all this conflict, contention and vainglory hath ever been, and will ever be, like unto the play and pastimes of children."
— Bahá’u’lláh in The Summons of the Lord of Hosts
"My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting."
— Bahá’u’lláh in Hidden Words
"In the corner where the divan met the wall sat a wondrous and venerable figure, crowned with a felt head-dress of the kind called táj by dervishes (but of unusual height and make), round the base of which was wound a small white turban. 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; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. 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!"
— Edward Granville Browne after an interview with Bahá’u’lláh, as quoted by Peter Smith in An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith
Travel through portions of the life of Bahá’u’lláh in this photographic narrative. What parts of his story bring you personal inspiration?