"Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?"
History of the Baha'i Faith: About the Bab, Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, first Hindu background Baha'i and first Sikh background Baha'i
On May 23, 1844, in Shiraz, Persia, a young man known as the Bab announced the imminent appearance of the Messenger of God awaited by all the peoples of the world. The title Bab means "the Gate". Although Himself the bearer of an independent revelation from God, the Bab declared that His purpose was to prepare mankind for this advent.
Swift and savage persecution at the hands of the dominant Muslim clergy followed this announcement. The Bab was arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and finally on July 9, 1850 was executed in the public square of the city of Tabriz. Some 20,000 of His followers perished in a series of massacres throughout Persia. Today, the majestic building with the golden dome, overlooking the Bay of Haifa, Israel, and set amidst beautiful gardens, is the Shrine where the Bab's earthly remains are entombed.
Founder of the Baha'i Faith: Baha'u'llah
Born in 1817, Baha'u'llah was a member of one of the great patrician families of Persia. The family could trace its lineage to the ruling dynasties of Persia's imperial past, and was endowed with wealth and vast estates. Turning His back on the position at court which these advantages offered Him, Baha'u'llah became known for His generosity and kindliness which made Him deeply loved among His countrymen.
This privileged position did not long survive Baha'u'llah's announcement of support for the message of the Bab . Engulfed in the waves of violence unleashed upon the Babís after the Bab's execution Baha'u'llah suffered not only the loss of all His worldly endowments but was subjected to imprisonment, torture, and a series of banishments. The first was to Baghdad where, in 1863, He announced Himself as the One promised by the Bab. From Baghdad, Baha'u'llah was sent to Constantinople, to Adrianople, and finally to Acre, in the Holy Land, where He arrived as a prisoner in 1868.
From Adrianople and later from Acre, Baha'u'llah addressed a series of letters to the rulers of His day that are among the most remarkable documents in religious history. They proclaimed the coming unification of humanity and the emergence of a world civilization.
The kings, emperors, and presidents of the nineteenth century were called upon to reconcile their differences, curtail their armaments, and devote their energies to the establishment of universal peace.
Baha'u'llah passed away at Bahjí, just north of Acre, and is buried there. His teachings had already begun to spread beyond the confines of the Middle East, and His Shrine is today the focal point of the world community which these teachings have brought into being.
From earliest childhood, `Abbas Effendi, the eldest son of Baha'u'llah , shared His father's sufferings and banishments. He took as His title Abdu'l-Baha, the "servant of Bahá." Baha'u'llah appointed Him the one authorized interpreter of the Baha'i teachings and as Head of the Faith after His own passing. In Abdu'l-Baha was seen a perfect example of the Baha'i way of life.
While Abdu'l-Baha was still a prisoner of the Ottomans the first Baha'i pilgrims from the western world arrived in Acre in 1898. After His release in 1908, Abdu'l-Baha set out on a series of journeys which, in 1911-1913, took Him to Europe and America. There He proclaimed Baha'u'llah's message of unity and social justice to church congregations, peace societies, the members of trade unions, university faculties, journalists, government officials, and many public audiences.
Abdu'l-Baha passed away in 1921, having consolidated the foundations of the Baha'i Faith and greatly expanded its reach. The northern rooms of the Shrine of the Bab, where He is interred, are a place of pilgrimage for Baha'is visiting the World Centre of their Faith.
The Guardianship: Shoghi Effendi
Abdu'l-Baha in His Will and Testament appointed His grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Guardian of the Baha'i Faith and interpreter of its teachings. Shoghi Effendi served until his death in 1957. During these thirty-six years the Guardian translated many of the writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha into English, expounded their meanings, encouraged the establishment of local and national Baha'i institutions, and guided a series of plans aimed at diffusing Baha'i ideals throughout the world.
In the Holy Land, the Guardian's enduring memorial is the magnificent setting he created for the World Centre of the Baha'i Faith. The completion of the Shrine of the Bab was his work as was the construction of the International Baha'i Archives building. It was also Shoghi Effendi who designed and laid out the beautiful gardens at Bahjí and on the slopes of Mount Carmel.
The Universal House of Justice, ordained by Baha'u'llah as the legislative authority in the Baha'i Faith, came into existence in 1963. It is a nine-member body elected at five-year intervals by the entire membership of the national governing institutions of the Baha'i world.
The House of Justice directs the spiritual and administrative affairs of the Baha'i International Community. It serves, as well, as custodian and trustee of the Baha'i Holy Places and other properties in the Holy Land. Endowed by Baha'u'llah with the authority to legislate on all matters not specifically laid down in the Baha'i scriptures, the House of Justice is the institution that keeps the Baha'i community abreast of an ever-changing world.
As foretold by the Bab, the Promised One of all ages and peoples, Bahá’u’lláh (literally the Glory of God) revealed Himself in 1863. He, Himself, dispatched one of the distinguished Baha'i teachers, Jamal Effendi, to teach the Cause of God in the years 1874-75. Jamal Effendi (left) travelled to many States and was successful in attracting many learned people and few Navaabs (ruler of the states) including the Navaab of Rampur State (now in U.P.) to the Faith. One young man who accepted was Syed Mustafa Roumi who later became distinguished in his manifold services and was appointed as a Hand of the Cause of God. Some of them accepted Bahá’u’lláh as the Universal Manifestation of God whose advent has been prophesied in all the Holy Scriptures. The other teachers who came to India during Bahá’u’lláh's Ministry included Mishkin Qalam, the distinguished Baha'i Calligrapher. A series of teachers from the East and the West continued visiting India and travelling throughout the country during the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (literally, the Servant of Bahá), the much-loved Master of the Baha'i Faith. Prominent among them were Mirza Mahram and Mirza Mahmud Zarqani.
First Hindu Background Baha'i
Narayenrao Rangnath Shethji is believed to be the first Baha'i from Hindu Background. Better known as Vakil, was born in a well-known Hindu family in Nawsari. He learnt about the Baha'i Faith from Mirzá Mahram. To him giving the Message of Baha'u'llah to others was an essential duty. He became a Baha'i in 1909.
Mr. Vakil became a graduate in Law, of the Bombay University in 1911. He was an advocate of the Bombay High Court and one of the senior lawyers of Surat. People came from different towns and cities for his advice and benefited from his services. He was always fair towards his opponents.
The most important event in his life was his pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he met the Master, Abdu'l-Baha. He said to Vakil "you will be eternally confirmed." He was elected chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India and Burma in 1923. He always set aside a portion of his income for the Cause. He helped to deepen the understanding of his fellow believers or giving the Message to others. He passed away on 2nd May 1943.
First Sikh Background Baha'i
Professor Pritam Singh is believed to be the first member of the Sikh community in India to accept the Baha'i Faith, and the first to publish a Baha'i weekly magazine in India. He was born on November 16th, 1881, in Punjab.
Prof. Pritam Singh obtained his B. A. degree in History, Economics and Political Science with distinction. In 1905, he became a teacher in Achison College, Lahore. He received his Master's degree in Economics from the university of Calcutta. He was appointed Professor of Economics and joined the University of Punjab. He was a Linguist and knew Hindi, Urdu, Gurmukhi, Persian and English.
He received the message of Baha'u'llah from Mirzá Mahmud soon after his graduation in 1904. He undertook teaching trips alone, and with Ms Martha Root and Dr. G. Y. Chitnis. He resigned from his profession to work for the Cause of God. He had simple habits. For the last few years of his life he pioneered to Amritsar where there were no other Baha'is at that time. He was one of the earliest secretaries of the National Spiritual Assembly of India and Burma. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on August 25th, 1959.
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