A Birthday Like No Other: The Birth of Baha’u’llah

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, 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

Why Baha’is Don’t Drink Alcohol – A Social Perspective

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on Baha’i Blog called Why Baha’is Don’t Drink Alcohol – A Medical Perspective, and there was a great response with a lot of really great feedback. As the title suggested, my purpose in that article was to focus on the medical effects of alcohol consumption, but now as a result of all the feedback, I thought it would be interesting to write a follow-up to the article covering the social effects of alcohol. In this post I’m going to focus on criminal behavior, as well as the social effects on the individual, family and society.

Before delving into the various social detrimental consequences of alcohol use and the criminality associated with it, let’s first look at how alcohol affects human behavior, as it is the behavior which has a negative impact on society. A reminder however that this subject is vast, and for the purposes of this article I will try to keep things as to the point as possible, therefore focusing on those behavior’s which have the most impact: aggression and lack of judgment. Continue reading

The Nineteen Day Feast and Why it’s Important

Photo courtesy Baha’i Views/Flitzy Phoebie via Flickr.

When I recall first being told as a child that we were going to “feast” in the evening, I think of how my imagination kicked into overdrive. I envisaged long medieval-style banquet tables overflowing with roast chicken, legs of lamb, mashed potatoes, rice and a slew of decadent desserts as far as my chubby little eyes could see.  Much to my confusion however, we ate dinner at home as usual (not a goblet of orange juice in sight) before arriving at a fellow Bahá’í family’s home: “but I’m so full,” I thought to myself, “How am I expected to eat again?”  As the evening progressed, I came to understand the term “feast” was actually referring to the “Nineteen Day Feast” and it took on a meaning not quite what I was expecting. Continue reading

What are we Willing to Sacrifice?

Photo courtesy wakingphotolife via Flickr.

If ever there were a concept alien to modern Western life, it is sacrifice. Compared to all former times, we scarcely know what it is. Today’s middle class lives in more comfort than the royalty of old. In a few more decades, explaining sacrifice to the modern human may be akin to explaining snow to a 16th century Indonesian, or palm trees to an 17th century Eskimo. At this rate, we might not even have a word for it.

While our men and women in uniform are still all too familiar with the concept, even they are fewer in number than the millions who sacrificed their lives, willingly or unwillingly, in the warfare of yesteryear.

We typically sacrifice little in daily life. When we have a tight financial month, credit card companies are only too happy to facilitate a creature comfort rather than having us sacrifice it.

Of course, the Founders of faith — both ours and every other authentic faith — were intimately familiar with the concept, so much so that they longed for the opportunity to sacrifice in the path of God and Their enemies were all too eager to provide the opportunity. Continue reading

Mama Papa & Me: An Interview with Danielle Pee

Image by Leila Barbaro

When I first heard about Mama Papa & Me, I was excited for so many reasons. The education of children is a tremendously important duty in the Baha’i Faith. In fact, ‘Abdu’l-Baha calls it “among the most meritorious acts of humankind”.

So when I found out that Mama Papa & Me focuses on education during the early years, which is now widely recognised among educators as being the crucial years in which the foundation for a person’s lifelong learning and wellbeing is formed, I was fascinated and wanted to know more about their Early Years Education Programme.

And then, when I discovered that Mama Papa & Me’s focus was not just on the early years, but also on helping parents and caregivers develop the capabilities they need as the first educators of their children, I definitely wanted to know more!

Serendipitiously, a family wedding brought me to London, which is where Danielle Pee, the  amazingly talented founder of Mama Papa & Me, is currently based. And so I jumped on the opportunity to sit down with her and ask all my questions.

What started as a conversation about education, parenting and the work that Mama Papa & Me is doing ended up becoming a deeper conversation about capacity-building and the Baha’i approach to community development, as well as an illuminating discussion about what it means, in very practical terms, for Baha’is to attempt to contribute towards the advancement of civilization.

I gained so much from my conversation with Danielle, not just in terms of my own professional interest in education and community development, but also personally, as I listened to the story of her own inspiring journey and the many lessons she has learned along the way. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!

Continue reading

Why Baha’is Don’t Drink Alcohol – A Health Perspective

I was reading an interesting article on the BBC news website the other day and it talked about the detrimental health effects and the financial cost of alcohol related hospital admissions to the National Health Service in the UK.  I couldn’t believe it when I read that nearly £2 billion was spent on alcohol related in-patient hospital admissions in just one year.

As a medical doctor from the UK, a country that has an entrenched culture of drinking alcohol, (in moderation and to excess) I thought it would be interesting to write about the health implications of drinking alcohol. Continue reading

Baha’i Blog Trivia Quiz: The Báb (Part 2)

Okay Baha’i Blog readers, it’s time for another Baha’i Blog Trivia Quiz!

In order to commemorate the Birth of The Báb, we’ve put together another trivia quiz about the life of The Bab.

This is the second one we’ve done about The Bab, and if you missed the first one, you can find it here.

These quizzes are a great resource for community activities as well, so feel free to use them and share them with your friends and the community.

Alright now, go ahead – take the quiz and see how much you know about the life of The Báb, and let us know if you enjoyed it in the ‘comments’ section below.

Good luck!
Continue reading

HELLO …i like you. An Interview with Delia


A few weeks ago while attending a community event, a beautiful song in French start playing over the speakers during the devotional portion of the gathering. I had had to know who the singer was and where I could find the song.

It turns out the the song was by Delia Olam, a Baha’i who lives in Adelaide, Australia and she’s someone whom I had met several years ago at a conference. As someone quite involved with music and the arts, it makes me sad to think that there are so many great Baha’i inspired songs and other initiatives happening around the world that unfortunately go unheard to the vast majority of friends. One of the main aims of Baha’i Blog and our Resource Directory is to make sure that these wonderful initiatives are shared with others, and Delia Olam’s album HELLO … i Like You is one of those gems which has been hidden away from most of us for some time now.

I immediately caught up with Delia to find out more about her album, and she’s also allowed us to stream the song I heard at the devotional. The song is called O Ami, and it’s the Hidden Word “O Friend! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love…” in French. You can play the song at the bottom of this post. Continue reading

What is Baha’i Pilgrimage?

The Mansion of Bahji, located in Akka (Acre), Israel, is the home where Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith died in 1892. The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, is located next to this mansion. (Photo courtesy Iain Simmons via Flickr).

From the earliest times, pilgrimage has been a cherished part of human life, be it individual or collective. Whether it was the ancient Greeks making the arduous journey to Delphi to consult the Oracle, or the Frankish knights and their kings making crusade to “free” Jerusalem, Hindus making the journey to Varanasi to immerse themselves in the sacred waters of the Ganges or Buddhists to Kandy in Sri Lanka to revere the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, many and diverse are the reasons for which men and women have undertaken the journey of pilgrimage, with its attendant trials and tests.

In the Bahá’í context, pilgrimage is a law ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in the Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In this Book, Bahá’u’lláh prescribes that all Bahá’ís who are able should strive to make pilgrimage to one of the two Great Houses, i.e. the House of the Báb in Shíráz and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád. However, after the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí as a place of pilgrimage, and stated that it is “obligatory” to visit these places “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”. Today, Bahá’ís make their pilgrimage at the invitation, and as honoured guests, of the Supreme Body of the Bahá’í Faith, the Universal House of Justice. The Shrines and other holy places are located in and around the cities of Haifa and ‘Akká in the Holy Land.

But what, our friends may ask, is the act of pilgrimage itself? What rites or rituals are involved? Before I continue, I should make it clear that each individual experiences their pilgrimage differently, and it is very personal. While sharing my thoughts and experiences in this post, it is not my intention to set certain expectations or a prescription of how people should feel while experiencing pilgrimage. My aim is to simply share some of my own thoughts and experiences in an attempt to answer, as simply as possible, the common question of “What is Baha’i pilgrimage?” Continue reading

5 Tips to Help You Memorize the Writings

Ever since I was a kid, it seemed implied in Bahá’í culture that we should memorize the Writings and prayers not only because they became more readily accessible during the teaching of the Faith but also because it had a deep spiritual impact within.

“From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages” Bahá’u’lláh enjoins in one of His Tablets, and Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone used to say that we should memorize prayers because when we die we can’t take our prayer books with us, but we can take our memory!

The importance of memorization has also been stressed in recent times through the Institute Process. Both as participants and as tutors we have seen ourselves and many others struggling when memorizing quotes, complaining how they are not young anymore or how the quotes are too long. But memory is like any other muscle or skill, it may be unused but it’s right there waiting for us to make the most out of it, and the more we use it, the stronger it gets.

What I want to attempt in this post is not to address the importance of memorizing the writings nor an analysis on the spiritual power of memory, but I want to share some practical tips that I have personally found helpful when memorizing quotes and passages. Continue reading