Force, the old standard, is losing its dominance, and intuition, insight, glimpses of cosmic consciousness and the spiritual qualities of love and service in which woman is strong are gaining ascendancy. And you see that this new epoch is an age in which masculine and feminine elements of civilisation are becoming more evenly adjusted. Man and woman are as the two wings of the bird of humanity and this bird cannot attain its highest flight until these two wings are equally strong and equally poised. One of the important teachings of the Baha’i Faith is that women should be regarded as the equals of men and should enjoy equal rights and privileges, equal education and equal opportunities. Tahirih had to die for these ideals but today our task is to live for them. – Martha Root
To commemorate International Women’s Day, which falls on 8 March, I would like to honour a remarkable woman who lived a century ago. Her radical life was not only significant then but remains profoundly relevant today. She had passion, determination, guts and grit running through her veins. A warrior for the emancipation of women. A force to be reckoned with.
A life tragically cut short at the age of thirty-six, she was the first woman suffrage martyr. Put to death by strangulation, her immortal words ring through the ages:
You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.
Her name was Tahirih – “The Pure One”. Continue reading
Amatu’l-Baha Ruḥiyyih Khanum, born Mary Sutherland Maxwell
Aug. 8, 1910 – Jan. 19, 2000. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)
15 years ago, on January 19, 2000, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, born as Mary Sutherland Maxwell, and affectionately known by the title Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, passed away from this earthly plain. She was the Handmaiden of Glory; the beloved consort of Shoghi Effendi
; his “shield”, his “helpmate”, and his “tireless collaborator”; a Hand of the Cause of God
; and the “Baha’i world’s last living link to the family of Abdu’l-Baha”.
On the Sunday afternoon that her precious remains were laid to rest, the sweetness of a chanted Persian prayer reverberated throughout the garden where nearly a thousand friends had gathered from places far-flung across the globe to pay tribute and homage to this beloved personage. A soft rain began to fall gently upon all there; perhaps nature’s own testimony to the grief felt in all the hearts and the tears upon many a cheek.
The beauty of the love story that was to become Ruhiyyih Khanum’s life was one that began long before her birth. Mary Sutherland Maxwell was born on 8 August 1910 in New York City. The beloved only-child of William Sutherland Maxwell and May Ellis Bolles, she was a result of the prayers of Abdu’l-Baha for the fulfillment of May Bolles’ heart’s desire to have a child, and perhaps, the gift of her mother’s complete acquiescence and resignation to the Will of God. Continue reading
Seated in the center is Dr. Moody with some friends in Tehran, 1920. (Photo courtesy of the Baha’is of the U.S.)
On November 20th, 1851 a remarkable person was born into this world. Susan Isobel Moody would grow up to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to bringing medical care and education to women and girls in Iran from 1909 to 1934. Born and raised by a respected Protestant family in New York, Susan studied the fine arts and singing. She taught and then attempted to become a doctor but the dissection of cadavers proved too much and she did not complete her training. She was a “spinster-mother” and helped to raise five of her young relatives. While these are all wonderful accomplishments, they pale in comparison to her champion pioneer work in her later years.
In 1903, Susan’s life took a dramatic turn. She became a Baha’i, having learned of the Faith from Isabella Bittingham in New York City (Abdu’l-Baha called Isabella the “Baha’i maker” because of her efficiency at teaching the Faith). In private prayer, Susan vowed: “I hereby devote, consecrate and sacrifice all that I am, and all that I have and all that I hope to be and to have, to Thee, O Divine Father, to be used in accordance with Thy Purpose”. She began teaching children’s classes (the first to be offered in Chicago) and hosting meetings in her home. Bracing herself, she returned to medical school, completed her degree and set up a small practice. She was now a 52-year-old Baha’i doctor. Continue reading
Abdu’l-Baha in Paris near the Eiffel Tower in 1913. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)
As the world commemorates the centenary of World War I, it is timely to recount the story of one who predicted with sublime accuracy the outbreak of that conflict and who also explained and developed a peace plan highly relevant to humanity today.
Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) spoke often about the plan which came from His father, Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), the prophetic figure Who founded the Baha’i Faith and laid out the path to peace in His letters to the kings and rulers of the world.
For example, during His journey throughout North America in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha emphasised the need for international peace, calling it “the most momentous question of the day.”
Newspapers gave Him such labels as the “Persian Peace Apostle” and “the Prophet of Peace”, and their journalists reported how He linked the concept of peace to the need for a world tribunal and collective security. Surprisingly for audiences at that time, He also connected peace to topics like the education and advancement of women. War will cease, He said, when women have full equality because “they will be the obstacle and hindrance to it.” Continue reading
Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)
For centuries, the Holy Land has been recognised as sacred for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Moses and Jesus established their religions there, and Muhammad visited on His night journey and ascension.
But how did this land on the shores of the Mediterranean come to be associated with the Baha’i Faith, a religion born in Persia, more than 1500 kilometers away? Continue reading
As Baha’is around the world gather on 9 July, they will focus on the Bab’s martyrdom in Tabriz in 1850, ponder its spiritual significance, and offer their supplications to the Divine.
On that holy day commemorating the horrendous event of His execution, it is also probable that many will wonder what it would have been like to encounter the One who was the Prophet-Forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. Continue reading
Dr. Ugo Giachery, May 13, 1896 – July 5, 1989. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)
When we think of spiritual giants, we may fall into the trap of picturing them deep in prayer or meditation without a care for the practical world in which they live.
But if we have such a view of them, then it is likely to be far too narrow and therefore inaccurate.
In this regard, have a look at the life of Ugo Giachery, a man born into an aristocratic family in Palermo, Sicily in 1896. Dr. Giachery was deeply spiritual, yes, but also immensely practical.
His life could have been one of waltzing about in elite circles or retreating into the academic world making a career out of his doctorate in chemistry.
However, he chose another path. After becoming attracted to the world-embracing teachings of the Baha’i Faith, he set about implementing them the best he could. World peace was no abstract notion for him. He had been wounded in World War I and so he knew the horrors of global conflict. It was perhaps inevitable that he would find appealing a religion promoting a practical path to peace. Continue reading
Some of the Hands of the Cause with Counsellors of the International Teaching Centre, in 1973: (front row, left to right) Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan, Mrs. Florence Mayberry, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Mr. Abul-Qasim Faizi, (back row, left to right) Mr. Paul Haney, Mr. Aziz Yazdi, Mr. Hooper Dunbar. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)
The Hands of the Cause of God were Baha’is appointed by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, as the “Chief Stewards of Baha’u’llah’s embryonic World Commonwealth.”.
What is a chief steward? A steward is similar to a manager, or director, and so the ‘chief stewards’ of the Faith managed and directed the global activities of the Baha’i Faith. Shoghi Effendi clearly defined their work as “the propagation and preservation of the unity of the Faith of Baha’u’llah.”.
Abdu’l-Baha also described the duties of the Hands of the Cause. He stated that they…
…are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God by their conduct, their manners, their deeds and their words.
Baha’u’llah appointed four Hands, four were posthumously named by the Master, and 42 were given this station by Shoghi Effendi. Little is known about the Hands from the early days of the Faith and the Guardian stated that little will be known about them until the history of the Cause in Iran and the near East is written and available – a time which the Universal House of Justice has said has yet to come. Furthermore, as the study of letters and archives are conducted, we may even learn about other Hands from that time period. Continue reading
A group of junior youth in Kiribati participate in junior youth activities together. Kiribati is one of the many countries celebrating 60 years of the Baha’i Faith this year. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)
Celebrations are taking place this year in countries far away from each other but with a special bond that unites them.
Sixty years ago, individual Baha’i volunteers left their jobs and homes and emigrated to distant lands.
They were responding to a call by the head of the Baha’i Faith at the time, Shoghi Effendi, to take the faith into every corner of the globe.
This phenomenon led to the doubling of the number of countries with a Baha’i presence within a decade. It was an astounding event in world religious history.
It had all started the year previously but by 1954 there were still many countries without a Baha’i available to offer local people the world-embracing teachings of their faith.
And so ordinary folk bravely set off, often with little information about their destination and not knowing if they could land a job. Continue reading
When you hear the title ‘Knight’, different connotations come to mind. Historically speaking, a medieval knight was known for their steadfast honor, their allegiance to God, and their loyalty to their lords and ladies. Their lives were dedicated to religious faith and military action – for example, in the Middle Ages they set out to conquer the Holy Land in the name of Christendom. Shoghi Effendi did not choose his words lightly, and hence the title “Knight of Baha’u’llah” authored by Shoghi Effendi, was a title that was bestowed on those selfless souls who opened 131 specific virgin territories to the Faith during what was known as the Ten Year Crusade.
Even as a child with little knowledge of the development of the Baha’i Faith, the title of “Knight of Baha’u’llah” was connotative to me of the qualities of medieval knights, of spiritual battles and sacrificial heroism. This knightly demeanor is masterfully called for by Shoghi Effendi in a cablegram to the Baha’is of the world sent in 1952 in preparation for the coming Ten Year Crusade which took place between 1953-1963, and which I explain in a little more detail further on. Continue reading