17. Seeking Unity; a Tragic yet 'Happily Ever After' Story.
Updated: May 12
The early history of the Baha'i Faith is enthralling. It has a cast of thousands including kings and queens, great poets and illiterate mobs, attracting both the highest and very lowliest.
The mid-19th century when it all began was a time when many people of various beliefs were awaiting a divine messenger. One of these groups was known as the Templers, a religious Protestant sect formed in southern Germany, which settled in Palestine (now Israel) at the urging of their leader, in the belief that living in the Holy Land would hasten the second coming of Christ.
In that same century,1844, there appeared in Persia a dignified young man, twenty-four years of age, claiming to be a Messenger of God. Known as The Bab (an Arabic term meaning The Gate), this descendant of the Prophets Abraham and Mohamed, taught of the imminent appearance of another Messenger to follow, described as 'Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest'.
The influence of The Bab spread so rapidly that the Muslim authorities became alarmed. Even the British Government, alerted to the commotion, sent representatives to investigate and report to Queen Victoria who calmly responded; “If this is of God, it will endure; if it is not, it can do no harm.” (Her granddaughter, Queen Marie of Romania, would later became the first sovereign on earth to become a Bahai.) When authorities portrayed The Bab as a threat to Islam, the poorly educated Persian public reacted in angry mobs, rising up to defend their faith and their Shah with great ferocity.
In the resulting turbulence, more than 20,000 followers of the Bab were killed, many by gruesome inhuman methods. His immediate imprisonment was decreed, yet the harsh banishments that followed served only to extend His influence among wider populations as the world's press began to follow the story, Determined to silence Him, the alarmed Shah consequently decreed the public execution of The Bab to take place on July 9, 1850.
By this time the event was considered of such significance that it attracted representatives of the crowned heads of Europe. Rather than silencing His teachings, His opposition had actually promoted their global spread.
The subsequent appearance of His successor, Baha’u’llah (The Glory of God) brought much needed teachings focussed on unity; in the political realm, unity of thought and religion, the unity of races, nations, language and gender.
When He too became subjected to harsh punishment, His followers convened in Badasht (Persia) to consult on freeing Him from what would become only the first of many successive places of imprisonment. During this conference a lone woman, Tahireh ---- one of the first followers of The Bab and a beautiful poet much admired by the Shah --- announced before the assemblage of men that the time had come for the emancipation of women. She accompanied her proclamation by the dramatic gesture of removing her veil, an act so profoundly shocking in this culture where females were hidden from public eyes, that one man present cut his own throat, least his soul be irrepairably corrupted.
Within days, and on the other side of the planet, at Seneca Falls in the United States, the first ever women’s rights conference took place “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women”.
Barely half a century later and on the other side of the planet, landmark legislation saw my own nation of New Zealand become the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
From this point the power of unity spread exponentially. The growing influence of Women's suffrage energised the labour movement. Change was afoot throughout the world. The process of unity was beginning to exert an ever greater effect upon the nations of the world.
'Abdu'l-Baha observed; “Behold how its light is now dawning upon the world’s darkened horizon. The first candle is unity in the political realm, the early glimmerings of which can now be discerned. The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will ere long be witnessed. The third candle is unity in freedom which will surely come to pass. The fourth candle is unity in religion which is the corner-stone of the foundation itself, and which, by the power of God, will be revealed in all its splendor. The fifth candle is the unity of nations—a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland. The sixth candle is unity of races, making of all that dwell on earth peoples and kindreds of one race. The seventh candle is unity of language, i.e., the choice of a universal tongue in which all peoples will be instructed and converse. Each and every one of these will inevitably come to pass, inasmuch as the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization.” ---‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 14....
The unity of nations, religions, gender; Visitors to the award-winning Baha'i Temple in Delhi, India.