Photo courtesy: iainsimmons via Flickr
Because Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, was born on the same day that the Bab declared His mission to Mulla Husayn, Abdu’l-Baha forbade Baha’is from celebrating His birthday. But when Abdu’l-Baha was travelling through the United States approximately one century ago, the American believers repeatedly expressed their desire to commemorate His life in some fashion, given the immense impact He had on the American Baha’i community.
Although Abdu’l-Baha still instructed Baha’is that only the Declaration of the Bab should be celebrated on 8 Azamat according to the Baha’i calendar, He eventually allowed the Baha’is to choose a date that was furthest away from the date when Baha’u’llah passed away and to use that day to celebrate the establishment of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant with humanity. As Baha’u’llah passed away on May 29th, 1892, (or 13 Azamat) the Baha’i community chose 4 Qawl,182 days away from the day of Baha’u’llah’s passing, as the Day of the Covenant.
But what exactly is Baha’u’llah’s Covenant, and what exactly is it that Baha’is are commemorating on this day? Continue reading
By most measures, November 1817 was a decidedly ho-hum month in world history. On November 5, the Third Anglo-Maratha War broke out between the British and Indians at the Battle of Khadki. On November 20, the first Seminole War began in the American state of Florida. Historical almanacs show the parade of 19th century thinkers and doers marching on and a subtle passing from a world of crushing conventionality (Jane Austen died that year) to a world of intense questioning and social and philosophical mischief (Henry David Thoreau and Frederick Douglass were born that year).
But on November 12, 1817 something happened that in time will make all the wars, rises and falls of empires, and even sweeping social and philosophical movements pale by comparison. On that Wednesday, a baby was born in Tehran, a baby Who would grow up to upset the equilibrium of the whole world, indeed whose life would mark the culmination of an age 6,000 years long — our entire known history — and launch us into a turbulent modernity and then into the long-promised but elusive Kingdom of God on Earth. Continue reading
Every year Baha’is from all over the world and of all cultural backgrounds celebrate Naw-Ruz on the day of the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, with Tihran, the birthplace of Baha’u’llah, as its standard.
Naw Ruz has its origins as a Zoroastrian observance in ancient Iran and, to this day, is celebrated as a cultural festival by Iranians of all religious backgrounds. In addition to being celebrated by Iranians and members of the Iranian diaspora, the observance of Naw Ruz has also spread to many other parts of the world, and is celebrated a a cultural holiday in India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Naw-Ruz, which means “New Day”, is celebrated at the vernal equinox, on the first day of spring. It is a time of joy and celebration, with the darkness of winter coming to an end and the reappearance of light, warmth and the beauty of spring’s flowers. It is a day of new beginnings – of change and hope.
However, for Baha’is, Naw Ruz also has deep spiritual significance. Naw Ruz marks the end of the 19-day Baha’i Fast, which is a period of reflection and profound spiritual reinvigoration for Baha’is. Naw-Ruz was ordained by Baha’u’llah as a celebration of humanity’s “spiritual springtime”: the Baha’i dispensation.
Tehran, Iran, the Birthplace of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. (Photo taken by Effie Baker in 1930. Courtesy: Baha’i Media Bank)
194 years ago, on 12 November 1817 in Tehran, Baha’u’llah was born.
As followers of Baha’u’llah’s faith, we are familiar with the profound wisdom of His writings and the dramatic events of His life. But there is a mystery that remains around His early years.
This is true of all other Manifestations of God too. I often marvel at the images of “baby Jesus” that we see in the ubiquitous nativity scenes every Christmas. It’s difficult to imagine that the Manifestations of God, who revealed teachings that revitalised entire human civilizations and who suffered the greatest tribulations while demonstrating the qualities of God, were once children!
Every year Baha’is gather to commemorate the Ascension of Baha’u’llah on 13 Azamat according to the Baha’i calendar. Customarily (although this is not a requirement), at 3 in the morning, following an evening of prayer and reflection, Baha’is stand and face Qiblih as one from amongst them reads the Tablet of Visitation.
It was early in the morning of May 29, 1892 (five minutes past 3, to be precise) that Baha’u’llah passed away in the mansion of Bahji outside Akka (present-day northern Israel), after a brief illness. Following His death, a vast number of mourners from all walks of life and religions, grieved with Baha’u’llah’s family and followers.
Image by matio_svk (Flickr)
I’m a big fan of new years. I’ll admit it. I celebrate the new year as many times in a year as I possibly can. Growing up in a country with four officially recognised ethnic groups, I milked the multiple calendars for all they were worth. I would attend midnight mass every New Year’s Eve. I would line up for my ang bao and scarf down bakkwa every Chinese New Year. Diwali was yet another opportunity for festive fun. (One year, looking for an additional opportunity to celebrate, I attempted to appropriate the Russian Orthodox New Year. This was, however, met with some skepticism from my friends.) So the recent addition of Naw-Ruz as another new year that I get to celebrate has been a source of joy, as you might imagine.
Why the new year fixation? Simply put, I love new beginnings. I love turning a new page in the diary. I find peace in pausing for a breath and thinking about all that has been and marching forward with a plan of attack – boldly stepping into a new day.
Naw-Ruz. A new day.