Tag Archives Baha’i History

The Journey West Podcast: Exploring Abdu’l-Baha’s Travels to the West

The Journey West podcast is an audio initiative which explores and celebrates the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s travels to Egypt, Europe and North America in 1911-1913. Each episode features a reading of one of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks, as well as dramatized stories and historical accounts. You can also hear discussions of the talk that was featured, and some personal thoughts on how the ideas discussed in the talk are applicable today.  Continue reading

Seeking a State of Heaven: A Book About the German Templers by Carolyn Sparey Fox

Carolyn Sparey Fox’s newest book is titled Seeking a State of Heaven and it tells the story of the German Templers who settled at the foot of Mount Carmel beneath the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel.

Their avenue of homes has become an iconic landmark of Haifa and for Baha’is they have become symbolic of those who are searching and yearning to hear about Baha’u’llah’s teachings of unity, equality and oneness. To be honest, that’s the extent of my knowledge of the German Templers so my curiosity was definitely piqued when I learned that a book about them has been written.

It was great to catch up with Carolyn Sparey Fox, who I had interviewed before, about her latest book. Here’s what she shared with me:

 Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration for putting this book together?

Since writing my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, many Baha’is have spoken to me about the German Templers, wrongly believing that they settled at the foot of Mount Carmel because they believed that the return of Christ was about to take place there. I knew that this wasn’t entirely correct, but I didn’t really have the answer, so I started doing some research — it turns out that the Templers initially called themselves “Friends of Jerusalem” and Jerusalem was actually the focus, the goal of the German Templers’ spiritual journey, not Haifa. Initially my plan was to come up with a few sentences, but as I read more and more my sentences became paragraphs, my paragraphs became chapters, and before I knew it I was launched into writing a book, which describes all about how the Templers ended up in Haifa, instead of Jerusalem.

I was also fascinated by the connection between the German Templers in Haifa and the Baha’is living in Akka, and latterly Haifa. Abdu’l-Baha knew several of the Templers personally of course, and Baha’u’llah actually wrote a Tablet to David Hardegg, one of the two men who were behind the creation of the Templers.

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Remembering Enoch Olinga

Hand of the Cause of God Enoch Olinga (24 June 1926 - 16 September 1979). Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.

There are three memories that have stayed most profoundly in my heart from my visit to Uganda. The first is the richness of the deep-red soil – much of which I carried home with me on my clothes and shoes! The second is the humble, yet awe-inspiring House of Worship that sits with quiet majesty on Kikuya Hill. When you stand within the Temple, and look up, you are greeted with a luminous turquoise-sky ceiling, at the heart of which sits the Greatest Name. The third, and perhaps most poignant, memory, however, was my opportunity to visit the resting place of Enoch Olinga – Knight of Baha’u’llah, Father of Victories, and Hand of the Cause of God.

The following are the opening words of the cablegram sent to the Baha’i World from the Universal House of Justice on the untimely death of Enoch Olinga:

WITH GRIEF-STRICKEN HEARTS ANNOUNCE TRAGIC NEWS BRUTAL MURDER DEARLY LOVED GREATLY ADMIRED HAND CAUSE GOD ENOCH OLINGA…

When tragedy imprints itself on any story, it often becomes very difficult to remember anything else. But, although tragedy did indeed mark the lives of Olinga and his family, his was also a tale of joy, triumph and ultimate victory. In the same cablegram, the House of Justice honours and immortalises, as an imperishable memory,

HIS RADIANT SPIRIT, HIS UNWAVERING FAITH, HIS ALL-EMBRACING LOVE, HIS LEONINE AUDACITY IN THE TEACHING FIELD, HIS TITLES KNIGHT BAHA’U’LLAH FATHER VICTORIES CONFERRED BELOVED GUARDIAN, ALL COMBINE DISTINGUISH HIM AS PRE-EMINENT MEMBER HIS RACE IN ANNALS FAITH AFRICAN CONTINENT.

Indeed, one friend described Olinga as “sunshine bursting through the clouds.” Despite the tests that Olinga himself faced throughout his life, he was known to often greet others with the words, “Are you happy?” Ruhiyyih Khanum recounted one of his most endearing qualities was his “great joyous, consuming and contagious laugh.”  Continue reading

The Tablet of Ahmad: Who Was Ahmad?

Many Baha’is around the world, myself included, recite the Tablet of Ahmad when in times of difficulty or grief. This Tablet, as well as the Obligatory Prayers and the Long Healing prayer,

[…] have been invested by Baha’u’llah with a special potency and significance, and should therefore be accepted as such and be recited by the believers with unquestioning faith and confidence.

I recently found out who Ahmad was and what he did to deserve receiving this Tablet from Baha’u’llah, and now I feel totally different when I recite it! What a blessing to get to know about him and understand why this Tablet was revealed to him! I hope that sharing some details of his story will also inspire you and will enrich your supplications when chanting this unique and powerful Tablet.  Continue reading

Azadeh & Mark Perry’s Book ‘Our Friend Mona’

Our Friend Mona is a new biography about Mona Mahmudnizhad, an Iranian teenager who was killed 35 years ago because of her beliefs, such as the universal spiritual education of children.

Mona was a remarkable young woman, known for her love of children, her dedication and devotion to the principles of the Baha’i Faith, her courage, and her sweet voice. She was arrested and eventually executed along with nine other Baha’i women in Shiraz; they were forced to watch each other hang in a final attempt to persuade them to recant their Faith. Mona, the youngest of the women at only 16 years old, asked to go last. She was killed on June 18, 1983.

Azadeh Rohanian Perry knew Mona and Our Friend Mona is a biography of this radiant lion-hearted young woman. Co-written with her husband, Mark Perry, Our Friend Mona shares poignant details of Mona’s story that you may never have read before. I remember watching Doug Cameron’s music video Mona With the Children when I was a child, and her story is etched on my heart. I am so thankful to Azadeh (or Azi, as she is affectionately known) and Mark to creating this book and for taking the time to tell us a little bit about it:

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The Unquenchable Flame: A Musical Drama About Tahirih

The Unquenchable Flame is a musical drama composed by Russell and Gina Garcia and performed principally by Tierney Sutton, a masterful vocalist. It tells the story of Tahirih, heroine and 19th century Iranian emancipator of women’s rights (you can read more about her in this Baha’i Blog article).

Composed and recorded in the 1990’s, this incredible contemporary opera was never released until recently when Gina, and her granddaughter Kristy Corwin, fulfilled Russ’ dying wish that this score be made available to the world. In this interview, Kristy tells us a bit more about this musical drama, its composers, and its exciting release: Continue reading

The Qiblih of a World Community: A New Photo Book of Baha’i Holy Places

After volunteering in the Holy Land, a dear friend from Brazil, Nabil Sami Silva, was inspired to put together a visually stunning book called ‘O Qiblih de uma Comunidade Mundial’, which translates into English as The Qiblih of a World Community“Qiblih” means “point of adoration” and it is a reference to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Bahji, Israel. It is the direction to which Baha’is turn and face during our Obligatory Prayers. (If you’re curious as to why the Qiblih is located in Israel, you may wish to check out our article “Why is the Baha’i World Centre in Israel?”)

Nabil’s book takes us on a breathtaking photographic pilgrimage to the Baha’i holy places and historic sites in Haifa, Akka and their surrounding areas. The book is in Portuguese and it features sweeping photos of the Shrine of the Bab and its terraced gardens, the Shrine of Baha’u’llah and the Mansion of Bahji, the prison in Akka, and many other places that you visit as part of a Baha’i pilgrimage.

You may recognize Nabil’s work: he was one of the contributing photographers to our project, Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World, and we also featured his work in this images post, 11 Beautiful Photos of the Baha’i House of Worship in Chile. I wanted to catch up with him and talk about his latest project and I hope you enjoy our conversation too:  Continue reading

The Other Witnesses: Khadijih Bagum and Haji Mubarak at the Declaration of the Bab

The House of the Bab, where the Bab declared His mission on 23 May 1844 in Shiraz, Iran, before its destruction in 1979. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.

When picturing the scene of the Bab’s Declaration, I think of His house in Shiraz, quiet and dark during a spring night in 1844. I think of an upper room where He converses with Mulla Husayn, revealing His spiritual mission as the Promised One and the Prophet-Herald of a new Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah. My mind does not travel beyond that upper chamber to explore the house’s other rooms.

But let us wander. We will discover that two other inhabitants are awake physically and spiritually that fateful night: the Bab’s wife, Khadijih Bagum, and servant, Haji Mubarak. Let us meet these two.  Continue reading

New Documentary Film ‘The Gate’: An Interview with Steve Sarowitz

About a year ago I got a call from Rainn Wilson asking me to have a chat with a guy who wanted to create a feature length documentary about the Bab. His name was Steve Sarowitz. He was an entrepreneur and had absolutely no experience in getting a documentary made, plus he had only recently become a member of the Baha’i Faith, but we had an amazing conversation for a couple of hours over the phone about the idea, and I have to say that his enthusiasm and determination for making the documentary was contagious!

Now a year later, Steve actually did it! He made the film, and I’m so excited to let everyone know about it! It’s called The Gate: Dawn of the Baha’i Faith, and it’s a visually stunning documentary, rich with interviews and reenactments. It tells the story of the life of the Bab and describes some of His Teachings. Engaging, captivating and creatively put together, this film will be of interest both to those who have heard of the Bab and His Teachings, and those who have never heard of Him.

We just featured Steve Sarowitz on the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson, and I also asked him a few questions to find out more about The Gate: Dawn of the Baha’i Faith. Before we get to that, if you haven’t done so already, I recommend you watch the movie’s trailer here, and then move on to the interview:  Continue reading

What Happened on the 12th Day of Ridvan?

The 12 day Festival of Ridvan signifies the anniversary of the Declaration of Baha’u’llah’s mission to His followers, and in The Most Holy Book Baha’u’llah ordained Ridvan as one of two of the “Most Great Festivals”, the other being the Declaration of the Bab. Although the entire festival is sacred, Baha’is suspend work on three specific days of the Ridvan Festival – the 1st, 9th and 12th days.

I don’t think there is any way to write a blog article that can summarize or make comment on such a momentous and sublime occasion as what took place when Baha’u’llah proclaimed to be the Promised One of all Ages in the Garden of Ridvan. It’s like trying to imagine the infinitude of the universe, or count all the waves in the ocean. And it’s likewise difficult to describe what took place on the 12th Day of Ridvan, when Baha’u’llah left the Ridvan Garden and began the long and arduous exile to Constantinople. Thankfully, we can turn to Baha’u’llah’s descriptions of what occurred in Days of Remembrance. Continue reading