a light to the world

Talking to the four-year-old about blogging.

Papa: I’m going to be doing some writing soon.
Dude: Writing?
Papa: Yeah, writing. What do you think I should write about?
Dude: Write about Bahá’u’lláh’s birthday.
Papa: That’s a good idea. What should I write about Bahá’u’lláh’s birthday?
Dude: Write about how Bahá’u’lláh was always worried about the poor, and how He took care of them.
Papa: OK.
Dude: And how He loved roses.
Papa: That’s good too. Any other special things I should write about?
Dude: Write how He wrote a lot of things, all of His teachings.
Papa: That’s a great idea. What kinds of teachings?
Dude: He taught us that we have to be kind and love each other.

On the weekend of October 21st–22nd, Bahá’ís around the world celebrated the Festival of the Twin Holy Birthdays, which commemorate the “twin birthdays” of the Twin Manifestations of the Bahá’í Faith: The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. That would be awesome on its own, but this year also happens to be the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. During this bicentenary year, officials and public figures around the world have paid tribute to Bahá’u’lláh and to His teachings, which have inspired a growing worldwide community, characterized by its unity and inclusivity, to arise and dedicate themselves to lives of service to their fellow human beings, becoming like a light to the world.

Bahá’u’lláh was born to a noble Persian family. His father was a minister in the court of the Sháh, and it was expected that He would follow in His father’s footsteps. Instead, however, He dedicated himself to caring for those who were less fortunate than He was, becoming known as the “Father of the Poor” for His great generosity. Even while very young, He showed signs of greatness that led others to believe that He was destined for something much greater than a life of ease in the court of the Sháh.

In time, Bahá’u’lláh became a follower of the Báb, who had proclaimed that the time had come for a renewal of religion, and that a great figure would soon be made manifest to bring humanity into a new era of justice and peace. Bahá’u’lláh quickly became a respected and influential member of the Báb’s religion. But because many of the clergy of Persia felt threatened by the Báb’s message, Bahá’u’lláh also became a target for those who wished ill will to the new religion. In 1853, Bahá’u’lláh and many others were imprisoned in a notorious, stench-filled dungeon in Tehran known as the “Black Pit”, or Siyáh-Chál. Although this was one of the darkest moments of Bahá’u’lláh’s life, it was also the moment at which a new light dawned upon Him; it was in this dungeon that He received a Divine revelation that He was that great figure whose advent was foretold by the Báb.

Released from the dungeon after four months, Bahá’u’lláh was banished from Persia to Baghdád, in the Ottoman Empire. He spent many years in the area, including two years living in solitude in the mountains of Kurdistan. With every year, His fame continued to grow. Fearing His growing influence, the Persian authorities petitioned the Ottoman authorities to remove Bahá’u’lláh to a place farther from Persian borders. The people of Baghdád wept when they learned He was to leave the city, but their sorrow would turn into joy when, in a rose-filled garden known as the Garden of Ridván (Paradise), Bahá’u’lláh declared Himself to be the One whom the Báb had foretold. During the twelve days He spent in that garden—days which are now celebrated as the Festival of Ridván—He welcomed countless citizens: rich and poor, men and women, Jews, Christians and Muslims, beggars and dignitaries, offering them each a rose picked from the garden as a token of His loving-kindness.

Throughout His life, Bahá’u’lláh revealed many teachings and laws meant to help His followers work together to carry forward an ever-advancing, global civilization: “It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” “Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.” “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.” “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” With these words, and many more, He laid the foundation for a world that will eventually rise above petty differences and firmly establish a great peace based on principles of justice, equality, unity, and love.

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