Bahá’u’lláh (“Glory of God”) was born Ḥusayn-‘Alí. The authoritative work on the missions of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh is Shoghi Effendi’s God Passes By (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1987). For a biographical study see Hasan Balyuzi’s Bahá’u’lláh: The King of Glory (Oxford: George Ronald, 1980). Bahá’u’lláh’s writings are extensively reviewed in Adib Taherzadeh’s The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh (Oxford: George Ronald, 1975), four volumes.
Britannica Yearbook, 1988, indicates that, although the Bahá’í community numbers only about five million members, the Faith has already become the most widely diffused religion on earth, after Christianity. There are today 155 Bahá’í National Assemblies in independent countries and major territories of the globe, and more than 17,000 elected Assemblies functioning at the local level. It is estimated that 2,112 nationalities and tribes are represented.
Passages in the Báb’s writings which refer to the advent of “Him Whom God will make manifest” include cryptic references to “the year Nine” and “the year Nineteen” (i.e. roughly 1852 and 1863, calculating in lunar years from the year of the Báb’s inauguration of His mission, 1844). On several occasions the Báb also indicated to certain of His followers that they would themselves come to recognize and serve “Him Whom God will make manifest.”
The proclamation of the Báb’s message had been carried out in mosques and public places by enthusiastic bands of followers, many of them young seminarians. The Muslim clergy had replied by inciting mob violence. Unfortunately, these events coincided with a political crisis created by the death of Muḥammad Sháh and a struggle over the succession. It was the leaders of the successful political faction, behind the boy-king Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, who then turned the royal army against the Bábí enthusiasts. The latter, raised in a Muslim frame of reference, and believing that they had a moral right to self-defense, barricaded themselves in makeshift shelters and withstood long, bloody sieges. When they had eventually been overcome and slaughtered, and the Báb had been executed, two deranged Bábí youth stopped the Shah in a public road and fired birdshot at him, in an ill-conceived attempt at assassination. It was this incident which provided the excuse for the worst of the massacres of Bábís which evoked protests from Western embassies. For an account of the period see W. Hatcher and D. Martin, The Bahá’í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), pp. 6–32.
For an account of these events see God Passes By, chapters I–V. Western interest in the Bábí movement was aroused, particularly, by the publication in 1865 of Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau’s Les religions et les philosophies dans l’Asie centrale (Paris: Didier, 1865).
A number of Western diplomatic and military observers have left harrowing accounts of what they witnessed. Several formal protests were registered with the Persian authorities. See Moojan Momen, The Bábí and Bahá’í Religions, 1844–1944 (Oxford: George Ronald, 1981).
The focal point of these problems was one Mírzá Yaḥyá, a younger half-brother of Bahá’u’lláh. While still a youth and under the guidance of Bahá’u’lláh Yaḥyá had been appointed by the Báb as nominal head of the Bábí community, pending the imminent advent of “Him Whom God will make manifest.” Falling under the influence of a former Muslim theologian, Siyyid Muḥammad Iṣfahání, however, Yaḥyá gradually became estranged from his brother. Rather than being expressed openly, this resentment found its outlet in clandestine agitation, which had a disastrous effect on the exiles’ already low morale. Yaḥyá eventually refused to accept Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration, and played no role in the development of the Bahá’í Faith which this declaration initiated.
Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1985), Arabic 2 on pp. 3–4, Arabic 5 on p. 4, Arabic 35 on p. 12, Arabic 12 on p. 6.
Except where the context makes it obvious, the conventional use of the English word “man” translates the concept of “humanity”.
The two statements quoted may be found cited by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust 1987), p. 170, and Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982), pp. 22–23, respectively.
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 74. In the Bahá’í writings the term “Adam” is used symbolically in two different senses. The one refers to the emergence of the human race, while the other designates the first of the Manifestations of God.
See Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1986), pp. 6–7: “Yea, although to the wise it be shameful to seek the Lord of Lords in the dust, yet this betokeneth intense ardor in searching.”
A combination of unusual circumstances had made the central authorities in Constantinople especially sympathetic to Bahá’u’lláh, and resistant to pressure from the Persian government. The governor of Baghdad, Námiq Páshá, had written enthusiastically to the capital about both the character and influence of the distinguished Persian exile. Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz found the reports intriguing because, although he was Caliph of Sunni Islam, he considered himself a mystical seeker. Equally important, in another way, was the reaction of his chief minister, ‘Álí Páshá. To the latter, who was an accomplished student of Persian language and literature as well as a would-be modernizer of the Turkish administration, Bahá’u’lláh seemed a highly sympathetic figure. It was no doubt this combination of sympathy and interest which led the Ottoman government to invite Bahá’u’lláh to the capital rather than send Him to a more remote center or deliver Him to the Persian authorities, as the latter were urging.
In the 1850s two German religious leaders, Christoph Hoffmann and Georg David Hardegg, collaborated in the development of the “Society of Templers,” devoted to creating in the Holy Land a colony or colonies which would prepare the way for Christ, on His return. Leaving Germany on August 6, 1868, the founding group arrived in Haifa on October 30, 1868, two months after Bahá’u’lláh’s own arrival.
Although Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz’ order of banishment was never formally revoked, the responsible political authorities came to regard it as null and void. They, therefore, indicated that Bahá’u’lláh could establish His residence outside the city walls, should He choose to do so.
The mansion, which had been built by a wealthy Christian Arab merchant of ‘Akká, had been abandoned by him when an outbreak of plague began to spread. The property was first rented and, some years after Bahá’u’lláh’s passing, purchased by the Bahá’í community. Bahá’u’lláh’s grave is located in a Shrine in the gardens of Bahjí, and is now the focal point of pilgrimage for the Bahá’í world.
For a summary of this body of teaching see The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 143–57, and Shoghi Effendi’s Principles of Bahá’í Administration (London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1973), throughout. A fully annotated English translation of the central document in this body of writings, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (“The Most Holy Book”), is being published to coincide with the centenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s passing, 1992.