Excerpts from Messages of the Universal House of Justice Concerning the Bicentenary Celebrations
From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 18 May 2016:
… these Holy Days should be viewed as special opportunities for the friends to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection—whether through a family tie or common interest, an occupation or field of study, neighbourly relations or merely chance acquaintance—so that all may rejoice in the appearance, exactly two hundred years before, of One Who was to be the Bearer of a new Message for humankind.
The locus of activity for the bicentenaries is to be at the local level. The House of Justice anticipates that in countless places across the world, both rural settings and urban centres, the friends will find creative ways to honour the Twin Manifestations Whose lives and sacred missions will be recalled on Their anniversaries. … the most distinguishing feature of these bicentenaries will be a tremendous flourishing of activity by Bahá’ís and their friends in local communities. …
At the heart of these festivities must be a concerted effort to convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world. Of course, this will take different forms in different contexts, extending to a myriad artistic and cultural expressions, including songs, audio-visual presentations, publications and books. Such initiatives, coupled with widespread celebrations that are both uplifting and reverent, are also sure to spark the curiosity and wonder of many who may as yet be unfamiliar with the names of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. However, the real transformative power of the Faith is likely to be perceived more readily still if people experience how worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere. Indeed, from the community-building activities of the Five Year Plan emerges a pattern of collective life within which anyone can discern the vivifying influence of the divine teachings brought by God’s Manifestations. Each bicentenary will doubtless kindle a spirit of faithful endeavour that will permeate all the noble undertakings of the friends.
From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, 31 October 2017:
… We urge you to see in each person who responded to your invitation a potential protagonist in the community-building process. Consider how conditions may be created that would enable many to walk this path together. Connected to the transformative power of the Revelation, every soul can draw closer to Bahá’u’lláh, grow in capacity, find joy in service, and learn to assist others. …
2018 Ridván Message to the Bahá’ís of the World:
… This is a period in which to recall the extraordinary heroism of the Martyr-Herald of our Faith, Whose dramatic ministry thrust humanity into a new era of history. Though separated from our own time by two centuries, the society in which the Báb appeared resembles the present-day world for the sense of oppression and for the longing of so many to find answers to slake the soul’s thirst to know. In considering how this two-hundred-year anniversary might befittingly be marked, we recognize that these festivities will have a special character of their own. Nevertheless, we anticipate a flourishing of activity no less rich and no less inclusive than that which accompanied the bicentenary just passed. It is an occasion to which every community, every household, every heart will undoubtedly look forward with eager expectation.
The months ahead will also be a time for calling to mind the lives of the Báb’s intrepid followers—heroines and heroes whose faith was expressed in matchless, sacrificial acts that will forever adorn the annals of the Cause. Their qualities of fearlessness, consecration, and detachment from all save God impress themselves upon everyone who learns of their ventures. How striking, too, is the young age at which so many of those lionhearts made their indelible mark on history. During the coming period, may their example give courage to the entire company of the faithful—not least to the youth, who are once more summoned to the vanguard of a movement aimed at nothing less than the transformation of the world.
This, then, is our bright, bright hope. In the six cycles that lie between this Riḍván and the next bicentenary—indeed, throughout the remaining three years of the current Plan—let the same all-consuming, all-surpassing love that spurred the Báb’s disciples to the diffusion of the divine light inspire you to great deeds. …
2019 Ridván Message to the Bahá’ís of the World:
The prospects for advancing this spiritual enterprise are made the more thrilling by the approach of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb. Like the bicentenary that preceded it, this anniversary is a moment incalculably precious. … The measure of what might be possible in the coming two cycles is known to all from the experience of the bicentenary two years ago, and all that was learned on that occasion must be channelled into the plans for the Twin Holy Birthdays this year. As the two-hundred-year anniversary draws near, we will offer frequent supplications on your behalf in the Sacred Shrines, praying that your efforts to befittingly honour the Báb will succeed in advancing the Cause He foretold.
Monologues for Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of His Birthday
on 22 October 2017
The mother of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)
The Most Exalted Leaf, entitled Navváb, the wife of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)
I am Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of the One whom you call Bahá’u’lláh but whom I would always think of as my beloved son, Husayn-‘Alí. Let me tell you some stories of Him as a child and young man.
My husband, Mírzá Buzurg, and I were both born in the region of Núr in Mázindarán. I was most fortunate to be wedded to Mírzá Buzurg because he was renowned for his character, charm and artistic and intellectual attainments. My husband came from an ancient and noble family and he held high positions in service to the Sháh.
We were blessed with five children. Husayn-‘Alí, our third child, was born in Tihrán at the hour of dawn of October 22nd, 1817. In later years, the great chronicler, Nabíl, wrote that the world, while unaware of its significance, had nonetheless witnessed the birth of One who was destined to confer upon it incalculable blessings.
Simply as a mother, however, I counted myself lucky to have such a Child. Naturally, I loved all my children, but I could not bear for a moment to be separated from this One. His demeanour never failed to amaze me. Even as an infant, He had none of the behaviours expected of a baby: He never cried or screamed nor did He ever show any impatience or restlessness.
One day, when Husayn-‘Alí was seven years old, my husband and I were watching Him walking in the garden. I admired His gracefulness but remarked to Mírzá Buzurg that our Son was slightly short for His age. My husband replied that I was overlooking His capacity and aptitude and intelligence. He said that our Son was like a flame of fire and that even at His tender age, He was more mature than those who had reached adulthood. I readily conceded that whether He was tall or not mattered not in the slightest.
We knew, of course, that He had a special destiny. Some two years earlier, Husayn-‘Alí had a strange dream. After He described it to his father, my husband realized the dream had great significance and he summoned a man who could interpret dreams. Our Son related that He had been in a garden where huge birds flew down to assail Him, but the birds failed to hurt Him. Then He went to bathe in the sea and there He was assaulted by fishes, but they too were unable to injure Him. The dream interpreter explained that the birds and fishes represented peoples of the world attacking Him. They would, however, be powerless to harm Husayn-‘Alí and He would triumph over them to achieve a momentous matter.
We did not engage the usual tutors nobly-born male children would normally have. But Husayn-‘Alí showed remarkable aptitudes for horseback riding and calligraphy and He amazed everyone with His innate knowledge of our Holy Book, the Qur’án. Indeed, as He grew older, none could help but see His keen intelligence, alert mind, upright character, his compassionate and benevolent nature. This is not just a fond mother speaking. By the time Husayn-‘Alí was 14 years old, even learnèd adults noted His complete mastery of argument and unparalleled powers of exposition, always expressed with kindness and patience. I was so proud of Him.
Now, every mother wants little more than to have her children make advantageous marriages. In 1832, my daughter, Sárih Husayn-‘Alí’s older sister, made such a marriage into a noble family in our region. Sárih’s new sister-in-law was a vivacious and exceedingly beautiful young girl named Ásíyih. I was so happy when Ásíyih Khánum came of age and she and my beloved Son were united in marriage. The wedding took place in October 1835, just before Husayn-‘Alí turned 18 years old.
My dear husband, Mírzá Buzurg, passed away in 1839. After than, virtually nothing more is known of me. Even the date of my death is lost in the shadows of history; our culture simply paid no attention to the role of women. However, I always knew, in my heart of hearts, how blessed and privileged I was to have given birth to Husayn-‘Alí. While I may not have known that future generations would come to know Him as Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised One and the Glory of God, every sign indicated that He had a divine mission that only Allah could have destined.
I am Ásíyih Khánum and Husayn-‘Alí, later known as Bahá’u’lláh, was my beloved Husband. Let me tell you something of our life together.
We both came from wealthy families that lived in the same region of Núr. My father adored me. He indulged me by allowing me to learn how to read and write, skills almost unheard of among women in our society. When I was still a child, my older brother married a wonderful young woman named Sárih Khánum and we became fast friends. She had a younger brother named Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí and almost immediately, she conceived of the plan for Husayn-‘Alí and I to be married. Sárih Khánum said it was because I had “rare physical beauty and wonderful spiritual qualities” but I think it was because she loved her brother so much and wanted this extra tie between our families.
Pre-wedding negotiations for an elaborate wedding were soon completed to everyone’s satisfaction. For six months prior to the ceremony, a jeweller moved into our home and created beautiful and costly pieces for my dowry. Even the buttons of my garments were made of gold, set with precious jewels. My dowry also included two maidservants, one male servant, a considerable sum of money and a large piece of property. Forty mules were loaded with my clothing and other possessions when I moved to my husband’s home. And as soon as I was of age in October 1835, the marriage ceremony took place
We lived a quiet life. Neither of us were interested in an ostentatious life style or the lavish State functions attended by noble families of our rank. Such worldly pleasures held no meaning for us. Rather, we cared for the poor and those in distress. By extending such comfort and assistance, my Lord came to be called “The Father of the Poor” and some even referred to me as “The Mother of Consolation”.
Husayn-‘Alí’s father, who had by this time lost a great deal of the family wealth through the machinations of jealous government officials, died in 1839 and my Lord Husband subsequently took on the added responsibility of looking after the large extended family of His mother, step-mothers and siblings. Although younger than many of these dependants, I shouldered the burden along with Him of caring for the family and managing the household.
Sadly, I lost my first two babies, but our son ‘Abbás, named after his paternal grandfather but whom later generations would call ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was born in May of 1844, and survived to adulthood. Praise God, because even as a young child, He was my most stalwart helper whenever my Husband was away on His travels and later when He was imprisoned. I was blessed with two additional surviving children, my pure-hearted daughter, Bahíyyih, who was born in 1846, and my sweet little son, Mírzá, born in 1849.
For the first nine years of our marriage, my beloved Husband and I enjoyed peace and tranquility in what I think now was a time for building our strength and capacity for the turbulent years to come. I was utterly devoted to Him.
When ‘Abbás was a new-born infant, a courier named Mullá Husayn travelled from Shíráz to give Husayn-‘Alí the “Hidden Secret”. Soon we all came to know that the One entitled the Báb had revealed Himself as the promised Qá’im of Islam. My Husband accepted this Revelation instantly.
Rapid changes engulfed us. Our home became the focal point of the followers of the Báb, who were known as Bábís. Of course, social norms were such that I could not mingle with male guests or participate in their gatherings in our home, but from behind the curtain of my adjacent private parlour, I followed the developments. In other changes, my Husband began guide and inspire the Bábís and to travel extensively in aid of the Cause of the Báb.
Then Husayn-‘Alí invited Táhirih, the noted Persian poetess and ardent supporter of the Báb, to live in our house for a time. I heard her speak fearlessly of the advent of the Herald. One day the two of us sat in my parlour, with my little son ‘Abbás sitting on her lap. We were listening to the men’s discussion in the next room. Suddenly, Táhirih exclaimed from behind the curtain. “O Siyyid, this is not the time for arguments, for discussions, for idle repetitions of prophecies or traditions! It is the time for deeds! The day for words has passed! The Promised Herald has come! He has come, the Qá’im, the Imám, the Awaited One has come!”
How could I remain untouched by the spiritual ferment surrounding me? Of course, it was impossible for me to travel forth as Táhirih did or drink the cup of martyrdom as she was called to do. But I gladly accepted my role to be the helpmeet of my Husband and did everything in my power to provide a stable, loving home for our family and a welcoming atmosphere for His guests.
Turmoil and persecution increasingly afflicted the Bábís and then the Báb Himself was unjustly executed in 1850. My Husband left for Iraq to keep the Báb’s followers from despair. He was gone for over a year and even when He returned to Persia, He continued to travel to outlying areas, despite the unrelenting persecutions against the Bábís.
Then the unthinkable happened. My Husband was arrested, beaten, suffered the agonies of the bastinado, forced into heavy chains and thrown into the foulest prison in Tihrán, the infamous Síyáh Chál. You may have heard it called the Black Pit.
And then, it got worse. Every friend abandoned us and everybody in our household – every relation and every servant except one manservant, Isfandíyár, and one maidservant – fled from our house in terror. Then hearing of Husayn-‘Alí’s imprisonment as a Bábí, the mobs plundered our mansion and other properties and stripped them of every piece of furniture and all our goods, our kitchenware, our clothing.
We were destitute in an instant. Here I was a young noblewoman with three young children. ‘Abbás was 9, Bahíyyih 6, and little Mihdí barely 3 years old. I managed to rent a small house with two mean little rooms in an obscure quarter of the city. We lacked even the barest necessities of life. One of my aunts and one of my Husband’s sisters provided us with a few cents on some days. One day, we were in such dire straits that I had only a tiny amount of flour left in the house. I put it in the hand of ‘Abbás and He ate it like that.
Meanwhile, I lived in a state of constant terror over the prospects of my Husband. Thank God for Mírzá Majíd, the husband of one of my Father’s aunts. Mírzá Majíd was a Russian citizen and a secretary in the Russian consulate. He helped us get food to my Husband and brought us news as to which Bábí was to be executed next. You cannot imagine the crushing anxiety I felt in those days, from fearful expectation each dawn that it would be the last day of my beloved Husband’s life to sheer relief on learning that He would live one more day.
After four months of this torture, representations from the Russian Minister resulted in the release of my Husband, on the condition of His exile to ‘Iráq within a month. He had no time to properly heal and recuperate, but we did our best to nurse Him. I had managed to secure a few jewels and embroidered garments when we fled from our mansion. I sold them now for the sum of some four hundred túmáns so we had a little money to prepare for the journey to ‘Iráq.
The four months in that unspeakable hellhole had an odd effect on my Husband. While He was broken in body, His spirit had soared to a new plane. Even my children noticed a new radiance enfolding Him like a shining cloak. Of course, at that time we were so worried about restoring His health, and so harassed with getting ready for the exile, we did not comprehend the significance of this new plane of His spiritual essence. It was another decade before we learned the actual details.
We departed our homeland in the early days of January 1853, the midmost days of a brutal winter, and faced an arduous journey through snow-clogged mountain passes to an uncertain future.
Thus we have accounts of Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum, His wife, upon whom He bestowed the titles of the Most Exalted Leaf, and Navváb, a title of honour meaning ‘noble’. Their recollections have described the early years of the life of Bahá’u’lláh.
In an undated prayer revealed for His mother, Khadíjih Khánum, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The most honoured, esteemed and respected mother. He is God! Praised be Thou O Lord, My God! This is My mother who hath acknowledged Thy oneness, [and] confessed Thy unity…. I beseech Thee, therefore, O My God, to grant her the honour of beholding Thy Beauty, and vouchsafe unto her the gift of Thy Presence. Give her to drink then from the ocean of Thy mercy and the chalice of Thy forgiveness. Make her to dwell, O My God, in the precincts of Thy mercy in the Heaven of eternity. Grant her to hear Thy holy melodies that she may cast the veil from her head in her eagerness to meet Thee and speed through the domains of Thy nearness and union. Thou art verily powerful over all that Thou desirest, and Thou art verily the Mighty, the Most Luminous.”
In one of several Tablets revealed by Bahá’u’lláh to honour Ásíyih Khánum, He wrote, “O Navváb! O Leaf that hath sprung from My Tree, and been My companion! My glory be upon thee, and My loving-kindness, and My mercy that hath surpassed all beings. We announce unto thee that which will gladden thine eye, and assure thy soul, and rejoice thine heart. Verily, thy Lord is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful. God hath been and will be pleased with thee, and hath singled thee out for His own Self, and chosen thee from among His handmaidens to serve Him, and hath made thee the companion of His Person in the daytime and in the night-season.”
In a Tablet of visitation revealed after her death, Bahá’u’lláh testified that Ásíyih Khánum had gazed upon His Countenance, circled round His throne, gave ear to His Call, resided in His House and clung to the Cord of His Covenant. He bore witness that she endured patiently in the path of her Lord and that God had elevated her to a glorious station.
We esteem the legacy of Ásíyih Khánum to this day. Bahá’u’lláh informed His followers that, were they to visit her tomb, they are to say, “Salutation and blessing and glory upon thee, O Holy Leaf that hath sprung from the Divine Lote Tree! …” Her enduring fidelity to Bahá’u’lláh at every stage of their lives must have been one of the few private joys and comforts during His Life.
And we honour the legacy of Khadíjih Khánum who gave birth to, lovingly raised and then released her Son to the world, a Son Who was destined to be the Manifestation of God whose advent all past religions had promised, the Light of the World, the Sun of Truth, the Prince of Peace, the Glory of God.
Script taken primarily from Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, An In-Depth Study of the Lives of Women Closely Related to the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh by Baharieh Rouhani Ma‘ani, and Bahá’u’lláh The King of Glory by H.M. Balyuzi.
There’s an excellent presentation on the life of Baha’u’llah that’s available to anyone who wants to use it, but it’s too big to upload here. To get a download link, please contact Larry Brown at lwbrown9 at gmail.com
Warwick Bahá’í Bookshop has published a leaflet on the “Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh”. This is in full colour, and has a photograph of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh on the front. It is designed to be used:
a) to be given to people you meet during this year, explaining what a momentous time it is for the Bahá’ís
b) to be used as advance publication material for this year’s celebratory activities
c) to be used at such activities, for people to take away.
It will also, very likely, be used:
d) for Bahá’ís to read, to give themselves a steer on what to say to people, or how to approach the Bicentenary itself.
Our friends at Special Ideas are developing materials (banners, flags, lapel pins, commemorative medallions, books, stickers, postcards and more) to help you make your Bicentenary Celebration something to remember. Take a look at their products and notice how nicely they all work together, with coordinated colors, fonts and designs. This will make your celebration look and feel professional.
These are the rough sketches I have done of possible logos for the Bicentenary. Feel free to use any of them without the need for permission or copy rights for your community celebrations. Please let me know, if you need help. Remember, I can change the colors, and text. Also add your community Bicentenary website address to it.
Here are some more logos, contributed by Omid Rahmanian, from the Alaska Baha’i Community. For more information email him: omidrahmanian @aol.com
The Daystar of Baha:
Jim Dennis has put together a new digital album of music, called The Daystar of Baha, which includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
To listen to one of his tracks:
Rejoice with Exceeding Gladness by Elika Mahony:
This song was recorded in different parts of the world in six different languages (English, Swahili, German, Chinese, Spanish and French). Since then we have recordings of an additional four language versions from talented musicians around the world: (Arabic – Sonbol Taefi; Portuguese – Eric Harper; Japanese – Angela Owens; and Swedish – Ann-Sofie Wensbo). In addition, she sang an Italian version.
Each of the eleven shortened versions can be downloaded separately for free. Please spread the word to your friends!
An instrumental version is also available in case any community would like to sing it in their own native language.
The words to Elika’s song “Arise” are from a Tablet honoring the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, published in the compilation entitled “Days of Remembrance”. The Choral Sheet Music for the song is available in a 4 part harmony (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass) as well as each part separately for only $4. Purchase of the sheet music comes with a download of the song ‘Arise’.
His Early Life through the Remembrances of Those Who Knew Him
A Dramatic Reading in Commemoration of His Birthday
Compiled by Marlene Macke
St. Marys, Ontario, Canada
1 November 2017
Fátimih Bagum – The mother of the Báb
Jináb-i Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, known as Khál-i-A‘zam – The uncle of the Báb
Shaykh ‘Abid – The teacher of the Báb
Khadíjih Bagum – The wife of the Báb
I am the mother of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. My family descended from the lineage of the Imám Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The family of my husband, Siyyid Muhammad-Ridá, also descended from the Prophet, and Nabíl who chronicled the history of the Bábí Faith later wrote that our house was renowned for its nobility. We lived in the city of Shíráz in Persia.
No one paid attention to the women of my society, so in future, no one will know where or when I was born nor how I was raised. These details are of no importance today. Suffice to say, I was married young – likely in my early teens – but my first children died in infancy. My husband and I prayed fervently for the birth of a healthy child, and our prayers were answered. On the twentieth day of October, 1819, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. We named him Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. You can imagine how joyful we were but we never guessed our infant was born to follow a divine destiny.
Jináb-i Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, known as Khál-i-A‘zam
I am the uncle of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad and the brother of Fátimih Bagum. It was a terrible blow when her husband died so suddenly, leaving her a young single mother with an infant son. As is our custom, a male relative takes over to act as the legal guardian of under-aged fatherless children, and so I took responsibility for my nephew who was barely past infanthood.
When he turned six, I enrolled the boy in the school of Shaykh ‘Abid where he remained for some five or six years. He was taught the curriculum of the era, especially reciting from the Holy Qur’án, and the rudiments of the Persian language, arithmetic and handwriting.
Since I was a merchant by profession, I intended to take him into business with me as soon as he finished his studies. Did I notice that he exhibited extraordinary promise as a little boy? No, not really. Men of my time paid little attention to youngsters; it was the women who raised the children. However, I did love him as if he were my own son.
I am Shaykh ‘Abid and I followed the Shaykhí movement, led by Shaykh Ahmad and later by Siyyid Kázim. I owned a school for youngsters and also taught theology to some older students. Khál-i-A‘zam asked me to tutor his nephew in my small school.
One day ‘Alí-Muhammad astonished me with an insightful explanation of the opening words of the Qur’án. The beauty and power of his words made me realize there was nothing I could teach this child. I took ‘Alí-Muhammad home and committed him to his uncle’s vigilant protection. I explained the boy stood in no need of teachers such as I. Khál-i-A‘zam was annoyed by this. He instructed his nephew to return to my school, to observe silence and to listen attentively to every word spoken by his teacher. While ‘Alí-Muhammad was always courteous and humble, I knew he possessed an extraordinary wisdom and knowledge gained neither from books nor human teachers.
The first sixteen years of my boy’s life were the very most precious years in all my life. My brother, Khál-i-A‘zam, was good to us, taking us into his own home, and of course I doted on my son. He and I had an extraordinarily strong bond. He was always so loving, considerate and dutiful towards me. He was such a pure and sweet child, so courteous to everyone. But he had a solemn streak that sometimes amused me. And he was astonishingly devout in his prayers and meditations, far beyond his years. Of course every mother thinks her first-born is the apple of her eye, and I surely adored my incomparable child. But I had not yet come to comprehend the unique man he would become.
‘Alí-Muhammad came late to school one day. When I asked him why, he said he had been in the house of his ‘Grandfather’. The Siyyids, the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, refer to the Prophet as their ‘Grandfather’. I told ‘Alí-Muhammad he was only a child and that he need not spend so much of his time in prayer. He replied quietly, “I wish to be like my Grandfather.”
With his innate knowledge of our Holy Book, and this latest spoken desire, I marveled to think what his future might hold. Despite following the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim, it’s ironic I didn’t make the connection between my own student and the coming Promised One. My only excuse is that one does not readily expect such a tiny child to be the Qá’im!
When ‘Alí-Muhammad turned thirteen years of age, he joined my business. I patiently trained him for three years and he learned quickly. At sixteen, he was more than ready to move to Búshihr to manage our commercial interests in that city. He lived there for about five years and worked very hard in building up our trading house. ‘Alí-Muhammad gained an enviable reputation for nothing but scrupulous honesty in every business dealing. I was so proud of him.
However dutiful my nephew was in his work, however, I had long sensed that his true vocation lay not in business and commerce. And then in the spring of 1841, he fulfilled a personal dream in setting off to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbilá in Iraq. He drew to a close all our business affairs in Búshihr, gave the keys to a trusted friend in the bazaar with instructions to turn them over to me or one of his other uncles, and he set off. In retrospect, I realize this was a tangible beginning of the spiritual journey that would take him far from his origins as a merchant in a family business.
I missed my son so much during his years in Búshihr. It was out of the question for me to visit him there because women simply didn’t travel in those days, what with no good means of transport except by mules over very bad roads. And safety on the road could be very insecure. But ‘Alí-Muhammad was a faithful correspondent, thank God, and he did return to Shíráz on occasion. But it wasn’t enough for me. I had a premonition that his impending travels to the holy cities might take him away from me permanently.
His mother and I shared the same misgivings over ‘Alí-Muhammad’s travels. His sojourn in Iraq stretched into nearly seven months. Fátimih wanted nothing more than for my nephew to return to Shíráz, marry and settle down. She begged me to go to Iraq and convince him to return. When I arrived, ‘Alí-Muhammad was reluctant to leave the holy places, but at last he consented to comply with his mother’s wishes. I am certain only his desire to ameliorate the sadness of his beloved mother could have moved him to accompany me back to Shíráz. And then after just a few months at home, he began to talk about returning to Iraq.
I am Khadíjih Bagum and I became the wife of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. My father, Hájí Mírzá ‘Alí, was Fátimih Bagum’s paternal uncle, meaning the two of us were first cousins, although she was older than I. And my older half-sister was married to ‘Alí-Muhammad’s uncle, the one who had been his guardian. There were many marriages between our two families. As well, our homes were side by side and as young children, ‘Alí-Muhammad and I were playmates, although I was three years younger than he was.
After he moved to Búshihr, I began to have dreams about him. In one of them, ‘Alí-Muhammad was in a verdant plain, with flowers in profusion. He faced towards the Qiblih in an attitude of prayer. His outer coat was embroidered with verses of the Qur’án embroidered with threads of gold. His face was radiant. In this particular dream ‘Alí-Muhammad was only about sixteen years old, and would be in Búshihr five more years before his pilgrimage to the holy cities in Iraq.
I realized I had to move quickly to forestall my son’s return to Iraq. Our families had an informal agreement that he and Khadíjih might marry when the time came. The time was now. I went to her home and followed all the protocols of proposing the marriage. When that sweet young woman entered the room, I kissed her on the forehead and gave her my most loving embrace. Within mere days the families had agreed to the engagement and we delivered gifts to formalize the arrangements. She was twenty years old. Some girls in those days were married as young as nine years old, but I had always hoped they would marry and so it came to pass.
I was so happy to be engaged to Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. We married in August of 1842. Before the wedding, I had another dream vision. I dreamed it was our wedding night. He was wearing a green cloak, again embroidered with verses from the Qur’án. Light was shining from his body. The intensity of my happiness at seeing him in this dream woke me up. I knew then he was not just a man but a great personage. My gratitude that he wanted me for his wife increased my love for him, although it hardly seems possible that I could love him more. After our marriage, from his behaviour, his words, his tranquillity and dignity, I realized even more that he was different than every other man. But I never imagined that he was the Promised One.
All my hopes were fulfilled. Khadíjih proved to be the perfect daughter-in-law. She would often say that no words could every convey her feelings of good fortune. Of my son, she told me that his kindness towards her and his care for her were indescribable, and she was overwhelmed with gratitude at the kindness and consideration that my son and I showered on her. They started their married life with such serenity and love. I truly believed ‘Alí-Muhammad’s life was now complete with this felicitous marriage. And soon Khadíjih was expecting her first baby! You can well imagine how joyfully we embraced this news. I couldn’t wait to be a grandmother.
But then I had a terrifying dream. A fearsome lion was standing in the courtyard of our house and I had my arms around its neck. This beast dragged me around the whole perimeter of the courtyard two and a half times. I awoke thoroughly frightened and related the dream to my husband. He told me the dream foretold that our life together would not last for more than two and a half years. That compounded my distress! But his affection and words of comfort consoled me and prepared me to accept every adversity in the path of God.
Alas, such woe was soon visited upon us. Khadíjih had a very difficult and dangerous pregnancy and on the fateful night of her delivery, I rushed to my son to tell him that his beloved wife was on the point of death. ‘Alí-Muhammad took up a mirror and wrote a prayer on it. He instructed me to hold the mirror in front of his wife. The child was safely delivered – a son! – and Khadíjih recovered too. However, our gladness turned to piercing grief as little Ahmad, for that is what they named him, died soon thereafter. All of us were devastated by the tragic loss of the infant.
I am not proud of what I did next – I berated my son, telling him if he could save the life of his wife, why couldn’t he also have saved his own son, and spared his wife and his mother such pain. He told me he was destined to leave no children, an answer that left me even more angry. It took many a year before I began to finally understand his purpose and his station.
I had always sensed that my husband, ‘Alí-Muhammad, had a profound spiritual nature. My dreams and his words to me and the events that began to crowd our lives – our too short two-and-a-half years together – all seemed to be a part of the destiny he was to fulfil. Here’s how I finally came to know his station.
One night I awoke at midnight to find ‘Alí-Muhammad was not in our chamber. I went to look for him and found him in an upper guest room of our house. It was immersed in light but seemed brighter than mere lamps could provide. I saw him standing in the middle of the room with his hands raised heavenward, with the dazzling light emanating from his very being. I wanted to withdraw unseen, but was frozen in awe and fear. Then he said to me “Go back” and I retreated to our bedroom. I did not sleep for the rest of the night but prayed to God, saying, “O my God, what power and grandeur! What greatness and glory! What is the wisdom in your revealing to me that effulgent Sun? Is He my Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad? Will I henceforth be able to live with that luminous Sun? Nay, nay, the rays of this Resplendent Sun will consume me, and will reduce me to ashes. I possess not the power to withstand it.”
When I joined him for breakfast the next morning, I was trembling and could not lift my head. The Exalted Being poured tea and offered it to me. He enquired, “What is the matter with you?” I replied, “What was the condition I saw you in?” He said, “Know thou that the Almighty God is manifested in Me. I am the One whose advent the people of Islam have expected for over a thousand years. God has created Me for a great Cause and you witnessed the divine revelation. Although I had not wished that you see Me in that state, yet God had so willed that there may not be any place in your heart for doubt and hesitation.” I came to know that His mission was to fulfil the prophecies concerning the return of the Qá’im and to proclaim the near advent of ‘He Whom God shall manifest’. My Beloved also told me not to share the news of this revelation with his mother, Fátimih Bagum.
When my husband died and Khál-i-A‘zam assumed guardianship of my son, we moved into his house. But once ‘Alí-Muhammad and Khadíjih were married, the three of us moved back into my family home. It was a spacious home with several rooms on the lower and upper floors and a small courtyard. My room was on the lower floor, quite near the front door. Khadíjih and my son usually took their meals with me in my room. Those first couple years of their marriage were idyllic.
From my vantage point near the front door, I enjoyed watching the comings and goings of the household and the visitors to our home. I couldn’t help but notice that after about the third week of May 1844, more and more visitors were coming to see my beloved son, often at night. But ‘Alí-Muhammad was silent as to the purpose of those visits. I felt something momentous might be happening but had no idea of what it was. Then a fresh worry for me – at the end of September, ‘Alí-Muhammad decided to take his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. He didn’t return until July of 1845, but at least I did get letters from him.
According to one of the traditions of our faith, when the Qá’im or Promised One appeared, He would announce Himself at the Kabba, or Point of Adoration, in the courtyard of the Great Mosque at Mecca. This is what my beloved nephew did. He declared His station as the Promised One at the Kabba.
One of my bothers was living in Búshihr. He welcomed the arrival of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad who stopped in Búshihr on His return from Mecca. My brother wrote to the family in Shíráz to update them on the news. His letter gave the family further intimation of the station of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, whom the world would come to know by the title ‘the Gate’ or the Báb. The letter said, in part, “You must have perused our previous letters and felt elated that in truth His Self, the source of munificence, is the light of the eye of this world and the next. He is our pride. Praised be God, praised be God!”
Sadly, the family was split by the declaration of my nephew. Only his wife, Khadíjih, and I unreservedly accepted His claim. My dear sister, Fátimih, could not accept His claim. To her, He simply remained her beloved son.
When my son finally returned to Shíráz, word of his claim to be the Qá’im had preceded him and the city’s religious leaders interrogated him and passed a verdict of death on him. My son! The death sentence just needed the signature of the Imám-Jum‘ih. He happened to be an old family friend, and had presided at the marriage of my son and Khadíjih. Two of the other ladies of the family joined me, and we persuaded Imám-Jum‘ih to stay the order. My son was given house arrest in the home of his uncle, Khál-i-A‘zam. My daughter-in-law and I also removed ourselves to Khál-i-A‘zam’s home, and the four of us lived a quiet life. No visitors were permitted.
My son continued to be so loving and tender to his wife and me. He cheered our hearts and I for one felt my apprehensions melt away. Then at Naw-Rúz he gave us unexpected gifts. ‘Ali-Muhammad bequeathed all his possessions, including his property, to Khadíjih and me. He must have had some intuitive feeling about his immediate future because soon after he was arrested and taken away. He was released again but was informed he must leave Shíráz. I wept and wept.
One day, to our indescribable joy, my husband came home and stayed two or three days. But these were the last days of my life with Him. A few days before the arrival of the month of Ramadán, in the last days of September 1846, He announced that His sojourn in Shíráz was no longer advisable and that He would leave the city that very night. I, who had known how much He had suffered in Shíráz, was actually happy and contented that He could now reach a place of safety. Two hours after sunset, all alone, He left the house. His clothes and the necessities for the journey had been sent out of the city earlier. Accompanied by one of the believers, He took the road to Isfahán.
Again I was deprived of the presence of my son, but I consoled myself with the remembrance that he had always returned to Shíráz from his previous journeys. At first we did receive letters from family members who knew his whereabouts, and sometimes we even received letters directly from him. Then several months passed with no news, until we heard that he had been imprisoned in the north of the country not far from the Russian border. I begged my brother, Khál-i-A‘zam, to travel to that far-off prison. I never saw my son again, and my beloved brother never came home again either. It wasn’t until 1851 that I was finally told both were dead.
Nearly all the rest of the family blamed me for the death of my brother, who would not have gone away if I had not begged him to travel to my son’s prison. And most of them openly scoffed at the claim of prophethood by my son, and, presumably in fear of the authorities, they actively avoided me. They were spiteful and bitterly hostile toward me. I could no longer sustain the enormous weight of the loss of Khál-i-A‘zam and my cherished son. I decided to move to Najaf and Karbilá, the twin holy cities in Iraq, and devote the rest of my life to meditation and prayer.
These days of desolation burdened me with indescribable grief. My beloved husband was gone from this earthly plane. And then Fátimih Bagum departed from Shíráz. Her absence greatly added to my sorrow. No longer would my dear mother-in-law whose comfort, love, sympathy and care had sustained me over the years be by my side.
My only solace was letters my Lord had written to me. One letter said: “O well-beloved! Value highly the grace of the Great Remembrance for it cometh from God, the Loved One. Thou shalt not be a woman, like other women, if thou obeyest God in the Cause of Truth, the greatest Truth. Know thou the great bounty conferred upon thee by the Ancient of Days, and take pride in being the consort of the Well-Beloved, Who is loved by God, the Greatest. Sufficient unto thee is this glory which cometh unto thee from God, the All-Wise, the All-Praised. Be patient in all that God hath ordained concerning the Báb and His Family. Verily, thy son, Ahmad, is with Fátimih, the Sublime, in the sanctified Paradise.”
Another time He confided to me the secret of His future sufferings and unfolded to my eyes the significance of the events that were to transpire in His Day. He counseled me to be patient and resigned to the will of God. He revealed a special prayer for me, the reading of which, He assured me, would remove my difficulties and lighten the burden of my woes. My Beloved told me to recite this prayer before going to sleep and He Himself would appear to me and banish my anxiety. “Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants and all abide by His bidding!”
Jináb-i Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, known as Khál-i-A‘zam, was the brother of Fátimih Bagum. He raised her son, his nephew, Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, later known as the Báb. Khál-i-A‘zam was the second member of the Afnán family, after Khadíjih Bagum, to accept the station of the Báb. After visiting his nephew in the mountain prison of Chihríq, he travelled to Tihrán where he was executed with six other Bábís. These seven martyrs were known thereafter as the Seven Goats, referencing an hadith or tradition in Islám that they would walk in front of their True Shepherd, the Qá’im, and their deaths would precede the martyrdom of the Qá’im. Khál-i-A‘zam was martyred in 1850.
Khadíjih Bagum was the wife of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. She had the distinction of being the first to recognize the Sun of Reality that shone through His Person. One of her greatest gifts was the capacity to understand and accept things others could not bear to hear. Her steadfastness, courage, purity of heart, unswerving obedience, patience and resignation to God’s Will were characteristics that she wore like gems in a crown.
Khadíjih continued to live in Shíráz after the Martyrdom of the Báb. Some years later Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed Himself ‘He Whom God shall manifest’ or the next Promised One Who had been foretold by the Báb. Nábil himself was the one who travelled to Shíráz and shared the news of Bahá’u’lláh’s station with the Bábís in that city. Khadíjih recounted that she laid her forehead on the ground in adoration and thanksgiving, and whispered, “Offer at His sacred threshold my most humble devotion.” Not hesitating for a moment to recognize Bahá’u’lláh, her submission was instantaneous and total.
After Khadíjih died, Bahá’u’lláh revealed a Tablet in her honour that confirmed ‘before the creation of the world of being’, she had ‘found the fragrance of the garment of the Merciful’. Bahá’u’lláh also referred to her as ‘the immaculate virgin’, ‘the consort of the Most High’, ‘the most chaste’ and ‘Leaf of Eternity’. Khadíjih Bagum was the only female member of the Báb’s family honoured by Bahá’u’lláh with the station of a martyr. She died in 1882 and lies at rest in Shíráz.
Fátimih Bagum was the mother of Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. After His Declaration, she suffered unendurable sorrows at the hands of most of her family. She moved to Najaf which is not far distant from Baghdád. Bahá’u’lláh sent two friends to teach Fátimih the truth of her beloved son’s station. For many years she had failed to recognize the significance of His Mission but as she neared the end of her life, she finally perceived the inestimable quality of that Treasure, her son, whom she had given to the world. She accepted His claim and was eventually fully aware of the bountiful gifts which the Almighty had chosen to confer upon her.
Bahá’u’lláh bestowed on Fátimih Bagum the distinction of the title ‘Most Virtuous of All Women’. He wrote, “This is that which hath been now sent down from the Highest Realm of Glory: O people! Know ye that We have singled out for special favour the mother of the Primal Point, who hath been mentioned before the Throne as the most virtuous of all handmaids.” Fátimih Bagum’s greatest and most lasting glory is that she bore and raised the martyred Herald of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation and that she recognized the station of her son and of the one whose advent He heralded.
She died in 1882, the same year as her beloved daughter-in-law. At some point in the future, according to Shoghi Effendi’s wishes expressed as a goal of the Ten Year Crusade, her remains will be transferred to the Bahá’í cemetery in Baghdád.
This ends the stories of the early life of the Báb through the memories of those who associated with Him most closely in His formative years.
In its message dated 29 December 2015 to the Counsellors’ Conference, the Universal House of Justice drew attention to the two bicentenaries that are approaching, marking the elapse of two hundred years respectively since the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh and the Birth of the Báb.
During the Five Year Plan about to commence, there will occur two momentous occasions of this kind: the two-hundred-year anniversaries of the Birth of Baha’u’llah and of the Birth of the Bab in 2017 and 2019 respectively. (Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 to the Counsellor’s Conference)
Birth of Baha’u’llah in 2017
Birth of the Bab in 2019
When should we start thinking about and preparing for them?
The House of Justice feels it would now be timely to explore further the manner in which these highly significant Festivals are to be celebrated so that preparations can begin to be made.
Preparations should begin to be made now
How should they be regarded?
As indicated in the 29 December message, these Holy Days should be viewed as special opportunities for the friends to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection.
special opportunities to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection
Who should be invited?
. . . whether through a family tie or common interest, an occupation or field of study, neighbourly relations or merely chance acquaintance—so that all may rejoice in the appearance, exactly two hundred years before, of One Who was to be the Bearer of a new Message for humankind.
fields of study
Where do we focus our attention?
The locus of activity for the bicentenaries is to be at the local level.
The House of Justice anticipates that in countless places across the world, both rural settings and urban centres, the friends will find creative ways to honour the Twin Manifestations Whose lives and sacred missions will be recalled on Their anniversaries.
In local communities, both rural and urban
How should we structure the events?
It should be noted that, although each anniversary is associated primarily with just one of the Manifestations, in each case the celebrations ought to encompass both of the Twin Birthdays, and events may be spread out across the full length of the two days.
At the heart of these festivities must be a concerted effort to convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world.
Of course, this will take different forms in different contexts, extending to a myriad artistic and cultural expressions, including songs, audio-visual presentations, publications and books.
However, the real transformative power of the Faith is likely to be perceived more readily still if people experience how worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere.
Such initiatives, coupled with widespread celebrations that are both uplifting and reverent . . .
encompass both of the Twin Birthdays
events spread out across the full length of the two days
convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world
a myriad of artistic and cultural expressions, including songs, audio-visual presentations, publications and books
help people experience how worship and meaningful service are woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere
widespread celebrations that are both uplifting and reverent
What will be the results?
. . . the most distinguishing feature of these bicentenaries will be a tremendous flourishing of activity by Bahá’ís and their friends in local communities.
An important aspect of what must occur is the sense of shared experience and global solidarity arising from so many gatherings being held in a concentrated span of time, and in an enormous variety of places, bringing together souls who have glimpsed the timeless splendour of those divine Figures Who set in motion an irresistible process of individual and social change.
Such initiatives . . . are also sure to spark the curiosity and wonder of many who may as yet be unfamiliar with the names of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.
Indeed, from the community-building activities of the Five Year Plan emerges a pattern of collective life within which anyone can discern the vivifying influence of the divine teachings brought by God’s Manifestations. Each bicentenary will doubtless kindle a spirit of faithful endeavour that will permeate all the noble undertakings of the friends.
The spiritual forces that are sure to be released on that most auspicious occasion will do much to spur the friends into action as they commence the eight cycles that lie between the two bicentenaries, during which the greatest share of the effort needed to fulfil the goal of the Plan will be required.
Similarly, events surrounding the two-hundredth anniversary of the Birth of the Báb will lend an infusion of energy to the global spiritual enterprise as it enters its final six cycles leading up to Riḍván 2021.
There is, therefore, every reason to expect that the emphasis given to commemorating these Holy Days will have a considerable and cumulative impact on the work of raising vibrant communities—not least on the enrichment of devotional life.
These glorious Festivals will be opportunities for Baha’is in every land to attract the largest possible number of believers, their families, friends, and collaborators, as well as others from the wider society, to commemorate moments when a Being peerless in creation, a Manifestation of God, was born to the world. (Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 to the Counsellor’s Conference)
Celebrating these bicentenaries is sure to increase appreciation for how the observance of Holy Days, now according to a calendar that unites the friends of God everywhere, strengthens Baha’i identity. (Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 to the Counsellor’s Conference)
it will release spiritual forces
it will result in a tremendous flourishing of activity in local communities
it will kindle a spirit of faithful endeavour
we will have a shared experience and global solidarity
it will bring together those who have glimpsed the timeless splendour
it will spark the curiosity and wonder of those who may not be familiar with the names of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh
it will help everyone discern the vivifying influence of the divine teachings brought by God’s Manifestations
it will spur us into action during the cycles that lie between the two bicentenaries
it will lend an infusion of energy to the global spiritual enterprise as it enters its final six cycles leading up to Ridván 2021
it will have a considerable and cumulative impact on the work of raising vibrant communities
it will enrich our devotional life
it will provide opportunities to attract the largest possible number of people to commemorate
it will increase our appreciation for the observances of Holy Days
it will strengthen our Baha’i identity
How Do We Prepare Now?
As suggested in this year’s Riḍván message, the six cycles leading up to the first of the special anniversaries can be viewed as an initial period over which progress toward the overall goal of the Five Year Plan can be measured. The steps taken during these months, and the achievements that come as a result, will constitute an offering of ardent love, yielded collectively to Him Who is the Unifier of the world on the bicentenary of His Birth.
This letter is being sent now so that there is ample time for you to impress upon your respective communities the significance of the coming Festivals and encourage preparations to begin.
use the six cycles leading to the first anniversary to prepare
impress upon your community the significance of the coming Festivals
encourage preparations to begin
How do we report our activities?
Arrangements will be put in place to enable communities to submit reports on their activities so that these can rapidly be made available to the widest possible audience. More information about these arrangements will be provided at a later date.
more information about these arrangements will be provided at a later date
What’s being done at the National level?
There might also be an opportunity for initiatives at the national level, which could include a gathering to which dignitaries and prominent individuals who have a relationship with the Faith could be invited.
gatherings for dignitaries and prominent individuals
How will it be celebrated at the World Centre?
Naturally, these Holy Days will also be marked at the Bahá’í World Centre by those pilgrims, visitors, and staff who are in the Holy Land at the time.