On November 12th, Canadian Baha’is, their friends and neighbours will gather to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
The commemoration of His birth is one of several holy days observed by Baha’i communities around the world in ways that reflect the cultures in which they are celebrated, in accord with the principle of unity in diversity, a central teaching of the Baha’i Faith.
Born in 1817 in Tehran, Iran, Baha’u’llah’s given name was Husayn Ali. His father, Mírzá Abbás Núrí, was a prominent and wealthy man who had been a minister at the court of Fath-‘Alí Sháh and subsequently the governor of Burujird and Luristan in Iran. Despite His privileged childhood, Baha’u’llah developed no attachment to wealth.
After the death of His father in 1839, the government offered Baha’u’llah a ministerial post in His father’s place, but He declined, choosing instead to continue serving the city’s destitute population. For His limitless generosity and regard for the needy, He was referred to as the “father of the poor.”
Baha’u’llah was renowned for His wisdom, and His opinion was sought on countless subjects including intricate spiritual and theological questions from leading religious figures in Iran. It was said that a well-known scholar Shaykh Muhammad-Taqí once asked a gathering of several hundred students to explain a particular saying from the Qur’án. None but Baha’u’llah, who had received no formal education, could give an explanation, which left the great man silent.
In 1852, Baha’u’llah received a divine revelation while imprisoned in Tehran for being a follower of the Bab, the leader of a religious movement that shook the social foundations of Persia in the 1840s. Upon His release from prison, He was exiled to several places in the Ottoman Empire. While in exile in Baghdad, Baha’u’llah declared His divine mission as the bearer of the new spiritual teachings foretold by the Bab. He was exiled with members of His family and other followers to the prison city of Akka, in what is now Israel.
The central principle of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings is the oneness of humanity. He taught that humanity, after a long and turbulent adolescence, is reaching a stage of maturity in which its unification into a global and just society can finally be realized. Some examples of Baha’u’llah’s principles for achieving a peaceful, just and unified society include the abandonment of all forms of prejudice, the equality of women and men, the unity of religious truth, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth, the establishment of universal education, and the recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and science.
Canadian commemorations of holy days such as the Birth of Baha’u’llah often include gatherings with prayers, music, and celebrations, to which all are welcome.