Category Archives History

William Sutherland Maxwell: Distinguished Architect

William Sutherland Maxwell, November 14th, 1874 - March 25th, 1952 (Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community)

William Sutherland Maxwell was a distinguished soul whose life is best summarized in the words of Shoghi Effendi. The Guardian cabled the following obituary to the Baha’is of the world on March 26, 1952:

With sorrowful heart announce through national assemblies that Hand of Cause of Baha’u’llah, highly esteemed, dearly beloved Sutherland Maxwell, has been gathered into the glory of the Abha Kingdom. His saintly life, extending well nigh four score years, enriched during the course of Abdu’l-Baha’s ministry by services in the Dominion of Canada, ennobled during the Formative Age of Faith by decade of services in Holy Land, during darkest days of my life, doubly honoured through association with the crown of martyrdom won by May Maxwell and incomparable honor bestowed upon his daughter, attained consummation through his appointment as architect of the arcade and superstructure of the Bab’s Sepulchre as well as elevation to the front rank of the Hands of Cause of God.

Continue reading

Stories of Baha’u’llah

A view of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah in Bahji, Israel. (Photo: courtesy of Chad Mauger)

In honour of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, I have been reflecting on my personal connection to Him. Shoghi Effendi described Baha’u’llah with these towering words:

preeminent in holiness, awesome in the majesty of His strength and power, unapproachable in the transcendent brightness of His glory.

There are many ways to connect the heart with Baha’u’llah and to begin to understand Shoghi Effendi’s words. For example, you can read and reflect on Baha’u’llah’s Writings, study the events of His life, or cherish stories about Him.  Continue reading

A Tribute to Anis Zunuzi

The Shrine of the Bab (photo credit: Baha'i World Centre)

The significance of the Bab’s station and of His martyrdom is beyond what my mind can grasp. Shoghi Effendi tells us that this event can “be rightly acclaimed as unparalleled in the annals of the lives of all the Founders of the world’s existing religious systems.”

In an attempt to study and meditate on the station of the Bab and the historical meaning of His execution, I found myself thinking of Anis Zunuzi, the youth who shared the crown of Martyrdom with the Bab on July 9th, 1850. Reflecting on Anis’ life and his deeds, as someone intoxicated with love for the Bab, may help me understand and better commemorate the Bab’s life.

Anis’ story is recounted in several places. For example, you can read about it in Shoghi Effendi’s translation of Nabil’s The Dawn-Breakers, Hasan Balyuzi’s The Bab, and William Sears’ Release the Sun – an excellent book, particularly for youth or younger readers. The retelling of Anis’ story is included in Midsummer Noon: A Narrative of the Life of the Bab, a dramatic audio recording produced by Jack Lenz (and available for purchase or download from 9StarMedia) which never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The details of his story are few, but here are some key points worth reflecting on. Continue reading

Thomas Breakwell: Mysterious Luminary

Mr. Thomas Breakwell (31 May, 1872 - 13 June, 1902)

I didn’t know who Thomas Breakwell was until recently, but once I heard his mysterious and heartbreaking story he became impossible to forget. He was born on May 31st, 1872 in Woking, England, became a Baha’i when he was 29 and passed away of tuberculosis when he was only 30. And yet, Abdu’l-Baha described him as “a lamp amid the angels of high Heaven”.

Thomas’ family immigrated to the United States and when he grew up he held a serious position in a Southern cotton mill that gave him a considerable income and so he spent his summer holidays in Europe. He was “of medium height, slender, erect and graceful, with intense eyes and an indescribable charm” and he was open minded and attracted to different religious ideas and philosophies. This thirst for knowledge of all things spiritual perked the ears of Mrs. Milner, whom he met on a steamer to France in the summer of 1901. Mrs. Milner had no interest in matters of the soul, but she was friends with May Bolles (who later became May Maxwell) who had found a truth that had given meaning to her life. Continue reading

Purity of Heart, Determination and Devotion: A Tribute to Mulla Husayn

On the evening of May 22, Baha’is throughout the world commemorate the Declaration of the Bab, which took place in the room pictured above in the Persian city of Shiraz in 1844 when the Bab met with and revealed His station to Mulla Husayn. The Bab announced there that His mission was to alert the people to the imminent advent of Him Whom God shall make manifest, namely, Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith. The observance takes place about two hours after sunset. To mark the Holy Day, Baha’is abstain from work on 23 May. The House of the Bab, where the Declaration occurred, was destroyed in 1979 during a wave of persecution that swept across the Baha’is in Iran following the Islamic revolution. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

In honour of the Declaration of the Bab, I have been thinking of that immortal hero who was the first to receive and embrace the truth of the Bab’s revelation: the young, pure-hearted, determined and devoted Mulla Husayn. We are indebted to Mulla Husayn because he left us with an account of that pivotal evening, unlike the Festival of Ridvan for which no historical records of the exact words or manner of Baha’u’llah’s declaration exists. In Release the Sun, William Sears tells us:

Never before in the history of religion have the exact words of such an unforgettable meeting been preserved by an eye-witness. Mulla Husayn, however, has left in everlasting language a memory of the first announcement by Ali Muhammad, the Bab. He could never forget the inner peace and serenity which he had felt in the life-creating presence of the Bab. He spoke often to his companions of that wondrous night.

What happened on that fateful evening and its impact on the world are sublime — attempting to comprehend it is like trying to imagine the size of the universe. Reflecting on Mulla Husayn’s story, however, helps me to get a better idea of the spiritual import of the Bab’s declaration. In thinking about Mulla Husayn, I am struck by 3 outstanding qualities that he demonstrated in the moments leading to and immediately following the birth of the Bab’s revelation: his purity of heart, his determination in pursuing his quest, and his devotion and faithfulness to the Bab, the object of his heart’s desire.  Continue reading

Celebrating The Tablets of the Divine Plan: A Personal Reflection

In celebration of the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan the Universal House of Justice released two joyous and love laden messages: one to the Baha’is of the World, and one to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada, the original recipients of Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablets of the Divine Plan.

These sweet letters are very fortifying and invigorating; they bolster my resolve to add my own personal herculean effort to teach the Cause in the coming Five Year Plan. One way in which these messages inspire me is by linking our current endeavours with the Tablets of the Divine Plan. This centenary is not a typical acknowledgement of something that occurred 100 years ago — it is a celebration of how much we have accomplished with them as a guide and inspiration, and an act of thanksgiving and praise for how much they will continue to impact and inform our work. In its letter to the Baha’is of the world, “acting under the mandate of Abdu’l-Baha”, the House of Justice opens with these words: Continue reading

What Are the Tablets of the Divine Plan?

This March 26, 2016, we celebrate the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine PlanRevealed by Abdu’l-Baha to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada in 1916 and 1917, and described as “a final link in the chain of love and care which bound Him to the friends on this continent”, the fourteen immortal Tablets that constitute the Tablets of the Divine Plan embody the unique mission and mandate for the “the spiritual regeneration of the world”.  Continue reading

2 New Universal House of Justice Letters Regarding the Tablets of the Divine Plan

Today on 26 March, 2016, The Universal House of Justice (the governing body of the Baha’i international community) has just released two new messages relating to the Tablets of the Divine Plan, marking the 100 year anniversary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, which are 14 tablets revealed by Abdu’l-Baha between 26 March 1916 and 8 March 1917 to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada, and which outline a plan for the spiritual regeneration of the world.

One letter is to the Baha’is of the world, and the other is to “the chosen recipients of Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablets of the Divine Plan, the Baha’is of the United States and the Baha’is of Canada”.

You can read and download the two letters from the official website of the Universal House of Justice using the two corresponding links below: Continue reading

Several Notable Mentions of the Baha’i Faith by Several Notable People

Mentions of the Baha’i Faith are becoming more and more frequent in mainstream media, for example pop stars are sharing quotations from the Baha’i Writings on Instagram, like Britney Spears’ recent posting of the quote from Abdu’l-Baha.

But before celebrities were tweeting endorsements of the Baha’i Faith, there were other people of note commenting on this wonderful religion. Here’s a look at just seven of their tributes. Continue reading

Herald of the Covenant: A Tribute to William Henry (Harry) Randall

William Henry (Harry) Randall (19 April, 1863 - 11 Feb,1929)

Immediately after my plane touched down in Boston, my host whisked me away in her car with a promise that I would love our destination.

We did not head towards the recognised highlights of the city such as the historic Boston Common or Harvard University or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

We drove instead to the historic suburb of Medford and arrived at a cemetery where, amidst the golden autumn leaves, was the simple grey slate headstone of William Henry (Harry) Randall (1863-1929).

To the outer world Harry Randall was a multi-millionaire Boston businessman who later lost his fortune.

To the Baha’i community Harry Randall is a true hero of the Faith, one loved by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. Continue reading