Bahá’u’lláh took up residence in the Mansion of Bahjí, which was built by ‘Údí Khammár. Bahá’u’lláh was a prisoner, condemned to a life of banishment by the greatest sovereign in the Islámic world. Now, in Bahjí, the decree of the Sultán was just a piece of paper. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá relates:
“Bahá’u’lláh was nominally a prisoner (for the drastic firmans of Sultán ‘Abdu’l-Azíz were never repealed), yet in reality He showed forth such nobility and dignity in His life and bearing that He was reverenced by all, and the Rulers of Palestine envied His influence and power. Governors and Mutasarrifs, generals and local officials, would humbly request the honor of attaining His presence—a request to which He seldom acceded. . . .
“The loving reverence of friends, the consideration and respect that were shown by all officials and notables, the inflow of pilgrims and seekers after truth, the spirit of devotion and service that was manifest all around, the majestic and kingly countenance of the Blessed Perfection, the effectiveness of His command, the number of His zealous devotees—all bore witness to the fact that Bahá’u’lláh was in reality no prisoner, but a King of Kings. Two despotic sovereigns were against Him, two powerful autocratic rulers, yet even when confined to their own prisons, He addressed them in very austere terms, like a king addressing his subjects. Afterwards, in spite of severe firmans, He lived in Bahjí like a prince. Often He would say: “Verily, verily, the most wretched prison has been converted into a Paradise of Eden.” Surely, such a thing has not been witnessed since the creation of the world.” (Esslemont, pp. 37-38)
During this time He and His family lived very modestly, and did not indulge themselves in luxury. He made several visits to ‘Akká and Haifa, and pitched His tent on Mount Carmel. He spent the most part of His time in prayer and meditation, revealing Tablets and holy Books, and imparting spiritual education to the Bahá’ís. To allow Him greater freedom to pursue these tasks, His Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, dealt with other affairs and represented Him to the many people of all walks of life who came to see Bahá’u’lláh. (see: Esslemont, p. 38)
In 1890, Bahá’u’lláh was visited by a distinguished orientalist, Professor Edward G. Browne, from the University of Cambridge. He describes his meeting with Bahá’u’lláh:
“During the morning of the day after my installation at Behjé one of Behá’s younger sons entered the room where I was sitting and beckoned to me to follow him. I did so, and was conducted through passages and rooms at which I scarcely had time to glance to a spacious hall, paved, so far as I remember (for my mind was occupied with other thoughts) with a mosaic of marble. Before a curtain suspended from the wall of this great ante-chamber my conductor paused for a moment while I removed my shoes. Then, with a quick movement of the hand, he withdrew, and, as I passed, replaced the curtain; and I found myself in a large apartment, along the upper end of which ran a low divan, while on the side opposite to the door were placed two or three chairs. Though I dimly suspected whither I was going and whom I was to behold (for no distinct intimation had been given to me), a second or two elapsed ere, with a throb of wonder and awe, I became definitely conscious that the room was not untenanted. In the corner where the divan met the wall sat a wondrous and venerable figure, crowned with a felt head-dress of the kind called táj by dervishes (but of unusual height and make), round the base of which was wound a small white turban. The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!
“A mild dignified voice bade me be seated, and then continued: —‘Praise be to God that thou hast attained! . . . Thou hast come to see a prisoner and an exile. . . We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment. . . That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled—what harm is there in this? . . . Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the “Most Great Peace” shall come. . . Do not you in Europe need this also? Is not this that which Christ foretold? . . . Yet do we see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind. . . These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family. . . Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind. . .’
“Such, so far as I can recall them, were the words which, besides many others, I heard from Behá. Let those who read them consider well with themselves whether such doctrines merit death and bonds, and whether the world is more likely to gain or lose by their diffusion.” (H. M. Balyuzi: “Edward Granville Browne and the Bahá’í Faith”, pp. 56-57)
In His lifetime, Bahá’u’lláh had endured great sufferings and persecutions. He had been exiled from His native land and imprisoned in the farthest reaches of the Ottoman Empire. “Well nigh half a century had passed since the inception of the Faith,” Shoghi Effendi relates, “Cradled in adversity, deprived in its infancy of its Herald and Leader, it had been raised from the dust, in which a hostile despot had thrown it, by its second and greatest Luminary Who, despite successive banishments, had, in less than half a century, succeeded in rehabilitating its fortunes, in proclaiming its Message, in enacting its laws and ordinances, in formulating its principles and in ordaining its institutions, and it had just begun to enjoy the sunshine of a prosperity never previously experienced, when suddenly it was robbed of its Author by the Hand of Destiny. . . .
“Already nine months before His ascension Bahá’u’lláh, as attested by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had voiced His desire to depart from this world. From that time onward it became increasing evident, from the tone of His remarks to those who attained His presence, that the close of His earthly life was approaching, though He refrained from mentioning it to any one. On the night preceding the eleventh of Shavvál 1309 AH (May 8, 1892) He contracted a slight fever which, though it mounted the following day, soon after subsided. He continued to grant interviews to certain of the friends and pilgrims, but it soon became evident that He was not well. His fever returned in a more acute form than before, His general condition grew steadily worse, complications ensued which at last culminated in His ascension, at the hour of dawn, on the 2nd of Dhi’l-Qa‘dih 1309 AH (May 29, 1892), eight hours after sunset, in the 75th year of His age. His spirit, at long last released from the toils of a life crowded with tribulations, had winged its flight to His “other dominions,” dominions “whereon the eyes of the people of names have never fallen,” and to which the “Luminous Maid,” “clad in white,” had bidden Him hasten, as described by Himself in the Lawh-i-Ru’yá (Tablet of the Vision), revealed nineteen years previously, on the anniversary of the birth of His Forerunner.” (Shoghi Effendi: “God Passes By”, p. 221)
Six days before His ascension, He called the Bahá’ís, including some pilgrims. He said: “I am well pleased with you all. Ye have rendered many services, and been assiduous in your labors. Ye have come here every morning and every evening. May God assist you to remain united. May He aid you to exalt the Cause of the Lord of being.” Bahá’u’lláh’s sacred remains were interred in Bahjí. (see: Shoghi Effendi: p. 222)
Bahá’u’lláh’s departure brought great sorrow, not only to the Bahá’ís, but also to notables, government officials and ‘ulamás. Rich and poor alike, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druzes mourned this great loss.
Shoghi Effendi writes:
“With the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh draws to a close a period which, in many ways, is unparalleled in the world’s religious history. The first century of the Bahá’í Era had by now run half its course. An epoch, unsurpassed in its sublimity, its fecundity and duration by any previous Dispensation, and characterized, except for a short interval of three years, by half a century of continuous and progressive Revelation, had terminated. The Message proclaimed by the Báb had yielded its golden fruit. The most momentous, though not the most spectacular phase of the Heroic Age had ended. The Sun of Truth, the world’s greatest Luminary, had risen in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán, had broken through the clouds which enveloped it in Baghdád, had suffered a momentary eclipse whilst mounting to its zenith in Adrianople and had set finally in ‘Akká, never to reappear ere the lapse of a full millennium. God’s newborn Faith, the cynosure of all past Dispensations, had been fully and unreservedly proclaimed. The prophecies announcing its advent had been remarkably fulfilled. It fundamental laws and cardinal principles, the warp and woof of the fabric of its future World Order, had already been clearly enunciated. . . . The promise of the unification of the whole human race, of the inauguration of the Most Great Peace, of the unfoldment of a world civilization, had been incontestably given.” (Shoghi Effendi: “God Passes By”, p. 223-224)
A Covenant is “an agreement between parties that binds them together and carries mutually recognized obligations. For Bahá’ís there are two specific forms of covenant which operate within religious history: (1) The ‘Greater Covenant’ between each Manifestation of God and his followers regarding the promise of the next Manifestation. This is expressed in prophecy. . . . (2) The ‘Lesser Covenant’ which a Manifestation of God makes concerning his immediate successor to whom his followers should turn and obey, as per the appointment of the apostle Peter by Jesus, the Imám ‘Alí by Muhammad and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by Bahá’u’lláh. In the case of Peter and ‘Alí, their covenants of appointment were neither written nor sufficiently explicit for them to gain universal acceptance, with the result that both Christianity and Islam both became riven by contending sects.” (Smith, p. 114)
The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh is unique in religious history. Bahá’u’lláh explicitly appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as Centre of the Covenant in the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd (Book of the Covenant):
“The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsán, the Afnán and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: `When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.' The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu'l-Bahá]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 221)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá is Arabic for ‘Servant of Bahá’. This is the title of Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son and successor. His given name was ‘Abbás. Bahá’u’lláh also referred to Him as the ‘Master’ (Áqá), the ‘Most Great Branch’ (ghusn-i-a‘zam), the ‘Mystery of God’ (sirru’lláh), the ‘Limb of the Law of God’ who ‘encompassed the whole of creation’, and the apple of His eye. (see: Smith, p. 14) Bahá’u’lláh appointed Him to be the Centre of the Covenant and the Interpreter of His Word:
“When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Kitáb-i-Aqdas”, p. 63)
“O people of the world! When the Mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock.” (p. 82)
“‘O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye!’ Bahá’u’lláh, in His own handwriting, thus addresses ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘My glory, the ocean of My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world through Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine eyes.’ ‘The glory of God rest upon Thee,’ He writes in another Tablet, ‘and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thine enemy.’ ‘We have made Thee a shelter for all mankind,’ He, in yet another Tablet, affirms, ‘a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth, a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. God grant that through Thee He may protect them, may enrich and sustain them, that He may inspire Thee with that which shall be a wellspring of wealth unto all created things, an ocean of bounty unto all men, and the dayspring of mercy unto all peoples.’” (Shoghi Effendi: “World Order of Bahá’u’lláh”, pp. 135-136)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, directs the Bahá’ís to follow His grandson, Shoghi Effendi:
“O my loving friends! After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent upon the Aghsán (Branches), the Afnán (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abhá Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi - the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, - as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsán, the Afnán, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn. He is the Interpreter of the Word of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendants.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”, p. 11)
Furthermore, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá promised divine guidance to the Universal House of Justice:
“The sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God.” (p. 11)
“And now, concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all good and freed from all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers. Its members must be manifestations of the fear of God and daysprings of knowledge and understanding, must be steadfast in God's faith and the well-wishers of all mankind. By this House is meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one.” (p. 14)
The international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith is the Universal House of Justice. It was first elected in 1963. Its membership consists of nine men, elected every five years by the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies. Bahá’u’lláh says that “the men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people. They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries.” (“Tablets”, pp. 26-27)
Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant ensures that the Bahá’í Faith will never suffer schism. Those who reject the institutions which Bahá’u’lláh has established are called ‘covenant-breakers’ and are regarded as having rejected Bahá’u’lláh Himself. A Bahá’í is someone who accepts that Bahá’u’lláh is the Manifestation of God for this Day. By accepting Bahá’u’lláh one must also accept His Covenant, and this means acceptance of the Universal House of Justice. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
“To none is given the right to put forth his own opinion or express his particular conviction. All must seek guidance and turn unto the Center of the Cause and the House of Justice. And he that turneth unto whatsoever else is indeed in grievous error.” (p. 26)
Three of the main principles of the Bahá’í Faith are the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity and the oneness of religion. Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings are strikingly modern, considering the attitudes of the nineteenth century world in which He lived. Bahá’u’lláh taught: the independent investigation of truth, the abolition of prejudice, the equality of men and women, universal compulsory education, the adoption of a universal auxiliary language, the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty and the establishment of a world government. Bahá’u’lláh says that “the earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” (“Tablets”, p. 167).
Bahá’u’lláh taught the principle of progressive revelation. In every age, God sends a Divinely-appointed Manifestation of God. The Bahá’í Faith recognises the Founders of the great religions: Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. This also includes the Founder of Sabaeanism, Whose name is unknown. Bahá’ís also recognise Adam, Noah, Abraham and the Qur’ánic Prophets: Húd and Sálih. There are others who are unknown, and there were many Manifestations before Adam. Bahá’u’lláh promised that there would be another Manifestation of God after a full thousand years.
Bahá’ís believe that “religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is not final but progressive.” (Shoghi Effendi: “Bahá’í Administration”, p. 185) Each religion is a successive stage in the spiritual evolution of the human race. Each Manifestation of God brings teachings which are suitable for the age in which He appears but the foundation of all religions is the same.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that “the Law of God is divided into two parts. One is the fundamental basis which comprises all spiritual things - that is to say, it refers to the spiritual virtues and divine qualities; this does not change nor alter. . . . It will never be abrogated, for it is spiritual and not material truth; it is faith, knowledge, certitude, justice, piety, righteousness, trustworthiness, love of God, benevolence, purity, detachment, humility, meekness, patience and constancy. It shows mercy to the poor, defends the oppressed, gives to the wretched and uplifts the fallen.
“These divine qualities, these eternal commandments, will never be abolished; nay, they will last and remain established for ever and ever. These virtues of humanity will be renewed in each of the different cycles; for at the end of every cycle the spiritual Law of God - that is to say, the human virtues - disappears, and only the form subsists. . . .
“These foundations of the Religion of God, which are spiritual and which are the virtues of humanity, cannot be abrogated; they are irremovable and eternal, and are renewed in the cycle of every Prophet.
“The second part of the Religion of God, which refers to the material world, and which comprises fasting, prayer, forms of worship, marriage and divorce, the abolition of slavery, legal processes, transactions, indemnities for murder, violence, theft and injuries - this part of the Law of God, which refers to material things, is modified and altered in each prophetic cycle in accordance with the necessities of the times.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Some Answered Questions”, pp. 47-48)
The coming of Adam inaugurated the Adamic or Prophetic Cycle, which lasted nearly six thousand years. During this preparatory cycle, many Manifestations of God appeared, each heralding the coming of a Promised One, Whom the Bahá’í Faith recognises as Bahá’u’lláh.
“The Prophetic Cycle hath, verily, ended. The Eternal Truth is now come. He hath lifted up the Ensign of Power, and is now shedding upon the world the unclouded splendor of His Revelation.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Gleanings”, p. 60)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá distinguished between the independent Prophets and the lesser Prophets. The independent Prophets are Manifestations of God. They are Founders of independent religions and receive their inspiration from God. These include Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Bahá’u’lláh. The lesser Prophets receive their inspiration from the Manifestations of God. These include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many of the other Jewish Prophets. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
“For the independent Prophets are founders; They establish a new religion and make new creatures of men; They change the general morals, promote new customs and rules, renew the cycle and the Law. Their appearance is like the season of spring, which arrays all earthly beings in a new garment, and gives them a new life. With regard to the second sort of Prophets who are followers, these also promote the Law of God, make known the Religion of God, and proclaim His word. Of themselves they have no power and might, except what they receive from the independent Prophets.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Some Answered Questions”, p. 165)
In reply to a question about the tenets of the Bahá’í Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the appointed Interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s Word, says:
“First, investigate reality. Man must leave imitation and seek reality. The contemporaneous religious beliefs differ because of their allegiance to dogma. It is necessary, therefore, to abandon imitations and seek their fundamental reality.
“Second, the oneness of humanity. All human creatures are the servants of God. All are submerged in the sea of His mercy. The Creator of all is one God; the Provider, the Giver, the Protector of all is one God. . . .
“Third, religion must be conducive to love of all, the cause of fellowship, unity and light. If it be the cause of enmity, bloodshed and hatred, its nonbeing is better than its being, its nonexistence better than its existence. Religion and science conform and agree. If a question of religion violates reason and does not agree with science, it is imagination and not worthy of credence.
“Fourth, equality between men and women. In all degrees they are equal. . . .
“Fifth, spiritual brotherhood. All mankind must attain to spiritual fraternity - that is to say, fraternity in the Holy Spirit - for patriotic, racial and political fraternity are of no avail. Their results are meager; but divine fraternity, spiritual fraternity, is the cause of unity and amity among mankind. As heretofore material civilization has been extended, the divine civilization must now be promulgated.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “The Promulgation of Universal Peace”, p. 169)
Speaking of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s historic journeys to the West, Shoghi Effendi sums up the teachings He delivered: “It was in the course of these epoch-making journeys and before large and representative audiences, at times exceeding a thousand people, that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá expounded, with brilliant simplicity, with persuasiveness and force, and for the first time in His ministry, those basic and distinguishing principles of His Father's Faith, which together with the laws and ordinances revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdás constitute the bed-rock of God's latest Revelation to mankind. The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind - these stand out as the essential elements of that Divine polity which He proclaimed to leaders of public thought as well as to the masses at large in the course of these missionary journeys.” (Shoghi Effendi: “God Passes By”, pp. 281-282)
Bahá’u’lláh promised that eventually the whole human race would be united. Bahá’u’lláh says: “This span of earth is but one homeland and one habitation.” (“Tablets”, p. 67) And: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” (p. 167).
This is the promised age of which Isaiah spoke (2:4): “And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords in plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” And (11:6): “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”
How will this promised age be realised? Bahá’u’lláh says that there will be two stages, the Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace. The Lesser Peace is the political unification of the human race, through the establishment of a world government. Shoghi Effendi explains:
“The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity. A world metropolis will act as the nerve center of a world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate. A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature, a uniform and universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify and facilitate intercourse and understanding among the nations and races of mankind. In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
“National rivalries, hatreds, and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and cooperation. The causes of religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
“A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation - such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.” (Shoghi Effendi: “World Order of Bahá’u’lláh”, pp. 281-282)
The Most Great Peace is the spiritual unification of the human race. The Administrative Order of the Bahá’í Faith, its elected institutions, will eventually mature and evolve into the Bahá’í World Commonwealth. Shoghi Effendi says:
“It is the superstructure of that self-same Order, attaining its full stature through the emergence of the Bahá’í World Commonwealth - the Kingdom of God on earth - which the Golden Age of that same Dispensation must, in the fullness of time, ultimately witness.” (“God Passes By”, pp. 26)
“The Most Great Peace, on the other hand, as conceived by Bahá’u’lláh - a peace that must inevitably follow as the practical consequence of the spiritualization of the world and the fusion of all its races, creeds, classes and nations - can rest on no other basis, and can be preserved through no other agency, except the divinely appointed ordinances that are implicit in the World Order that stands associated with His Holy Name. In His Tablet, revealed almost seventy years ago to Queen Victoria, Bahá’u’lláh, alluding to this Most Great Peace, has declared: "That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error... Consider these days in which the Ancient Beauty, He Who is the Most Great Name, hath been sent down to regenerate and unify mankind. Behold how with drawn swords they rose against Him, and committed that which caused the Faithful Spirit to tremble. And whenever We said unto them: `Lo, the World Reformer is come,' they made reply: `He, in truth, is one of the stirrers of mischief.'" "It beseemeth all men in this Day," He, in another Tablet, asserts, "to take firm hold on the Most Great Name, and to establish the unity of all mankind. There is no place to flee to, no refuge that any one can seek, except Him." (“World Order of Bahá’u’lláh”, pp. 162-163)
Each of the Founders of the world religions has promised that a great Saviour or Teacher will come in the end of time. There are many prophecies about the Promised One in the religious Scriptures of the world. Many religions believe in a Day of Resurrection and Judgement and speak of a glorious Paradise that will exist on earth. Christians believe that there will be a Millennium, when Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years. Bahá’ís believe that the unification of the human race is the next stage in the spiritual evolution of mankind. This is the most significant step in human history. Bahá’ís believe that the Promised One has come. Bahá’u’lláh is the Promised One of all religions.
Hindus believe that in the end of the Kali or ‘Iron’ age, Lord Kalki, the tenth Avatar of Vishnu will come and inaugurate Satya-yuga, the ‘Golden Age’: “Lord Visnu—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the spiritual master of all moving and nonmoving living beings, and the Supreme Soul of all—takes birth to protect the principles of religion and to relieve His saintly devotees from the reactions of material work. ... Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences and eight special qualities of Godhead. ... When the Supreme Lord has appeared on earth as Kalki, the maintainer of religion, Satya-yuga will begin, and human society will bring forth progeny in the mode of goodness.” (Srimad Bhagavatam: 12.2.17-23)
To the Hindus, He is also the Return of Krishna. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna (4.7-8): “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.”
In the Torah of Moses, it is written: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto Me; unto Him ye shall hearken... And the LORD said unto Me... I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto Thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
Jews believe that in the end of time the Messiah (‘Anointed One’) will come. The Prophet Isaiah says: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” (9:6-7)
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD... And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (11:1-10)
Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, writes about Bahá’u’lláh’s Station with regard to Judaism: “To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the "Glory of the Lord," the "Everlasting Father," the "Prince of Peace," the "Wonderful," the "Counsellor," the "Rod come forth out of the stem of Jesse" and the "Branch grown out of His roots," Who "shall be established upon the throne of David," Who "will come with strong hand," Who "shall judge among the nations," Who "shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips slay the wicked," and Who "shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." Of Him David had sung in his Psalms, acclaiming Him as the "Lord of Hosts" and the "King of Glory." To Him Haggai had referred as the "Desire of all nations," and Zachariah as the "Branch" Who "shall grow up out of His place," and "shall build the Temple of the Lord." Ezekiel had extolled Him as the "Lord" Who "shall be king over all the earth," while to His day Joel and Zephaniah had both referred as the "day of Jehovah," the latter describing it as "a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers." His Day Ezekiel and Daniel had, moreover, both acclaimed as the "day of the Lord," and Malachi described as "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" when "the Sun of Righteousness" will "arise, with healing in His wings," whilst Daniel had pronounced His advent as signalizing the end of the "abomination that maketh desolate."” (Shoghi Effendi: “God Passes By”, pp. 94-95)
Zoroastrians believe that a World-Saviour will come, the Sháh-Bahrám or Saoshyant: "He shall be the victorious Benefactor (Saoshyant) by name and World-renovator [Astavat-ereta] by name. He is Benefactor because he will benefit the entire physical world; he is World- renovator because he will establish the physical living existence indestructible. He will oppose the evil of the progeny of the biped and withstand the enmity produced by the faithful." --- Avesta, Farvardin Yast 13.129
Buddhists believe that Maitreya (Metteyya) Buddha, will come at the end of this kalpa (‘age’): “In this auspicious aeon three leaders have there been. Kakasandha, Konagamana and the leader Kassapa too. I am now the perfect Buddha; And there will be Metteyya too before this same auspicious aeon runs to the end of its years.” (Anagata-Vamsa, p. 34, quoted in “the God of Buddha” by Jamshed Fozdar, p. 16)
Christians believe that Jesus Christ will return “in the glory of his Father. . .” (Matthew 16:27) Bahá’u’lláh, quoting the New Testament (see the notes at the end of this page for verse numbers) says:
“This is the text of that which was revealed aforetime in the first Gospel, according to Matthew, regarding the signs that must needs herald the advent of the One Who shall come after Him. He saith: “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days...”,(1) until the mystic Dove, singing in the midmost heart of eternity, and the celestial Bird, warbling upon the Divine Lote-Tree, saith: “Immediately after the oppression of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet.”(2)
“In the second Gospel, according to Mark, the Dove of holiness speaketh in such terms: “For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.”(3) And it singeth later with the same melodies as before, without change or alteration. God, verily, is a witness unto the truth of My words.
“And in the third Gospel, according to Luke, it is recorded: “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; and the powers of the earth shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, know that the kingdom of God hath drawn nigh.”(5)
“And in the fourth Gospel, according to John, it is recorded: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness.”(6) And elsewhere He saith: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” And: “But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you...”(7) And yet again: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”(8) And: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”(9) (Bahá’u’lláh: “Gems of Divine Mysteries”, pp. 8-10)
Sunní Muslims expect the coming of the Mahdí and the Return of Christ, while Shí’ah Muslims expect the coming of the Qá’im and the return of Imám Husayn. The Mahdí and Qá’im is the Báb, Who heralded the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. The return of Christ and Imám Husayn is Bahá’u’lláh. The Qur’án says (43:61):
“And He (Jesus) shall be a sign of the last Hour; doubt not then of it, and follow ye Me: this is the straight Way.”
The Báb promised the coming of “Him Whom God shall make Manifest” in the “year nine” (1269 AH or 1852 AD). Bahá’u’lláh received a Revelation from God in the Síyáh-Chál (‘Black Pit’) in 1852. The Báb glorified Him throughout the Bayán which is the Holy Book of the Bábís, and in other Tablets:
“I SWEAR by the most holy Essence of God - exalted and glorified be He - that in the Day of the appearance of Him Whom God shall make manifest a thousand perusals of the Bayán cannot equal the perusal of a single verse to be revealed by Him Whom God shall make manifest.” (The Báb, “Selections from Writings of the Báb”, p. 104)
“Verily God will raise up Him Whom God shall make manifest, and after Him Whomsoever He willeth, even as He hath raised up prophets before the Point of the Bayán. He in truth hath power over all things.” (p. 144)
“THE glory of Him Whom God shall make manifest is immeasurably above every other glory, and His majesty is far above every other majesty. His beauty excelleth every other embodiment of beauty, and His grandeur immensely exceedeth every other manifestation of grandeur. Every light paleth before the radiance of His light, and every other exponent of mercy falleth short before the tokens of His mercy. Every other perfection is as naught in face of His consummate perfection, and every other display of might is as nothing before His absolute might.” (pp. 156-157)
“O congregation of the Bayán, and all who are therein! Recognize ye the limits imposed upon you, for such a One as the Point of the Bayán Himself hath believed in Him Whom God shall make manifest, before all things were created. Therein, verily, do I glory before all who are in the kingdom of heaven and earth. Suffer not yourselves to be shut out as by a veil from God after He hath revealed Himself. For all that hath been exalted in the Bayán is but as a ring upon My hand, and I Myself am, verily, but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest - glorified be His mention! He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, is the Help in Peril, the Most High.” (p. 168)
Bahá’u’lláh has fulfilled the prophecies of all religions and His Cause is destined to embrace the whole planet. He says: “We, verily, have come to unite and weld together all that dwell on earth.” (“Epistle to the Son of the Wolf”, p. 24) The Bahá’í Faith has become, in less than 160 years, the second most widespread religion on the planet. It has been established in 190 independent countries and 45 dependent territories, and there are more than five million Bahá’ís in the world. (see: Esslemont: Epilogue, pp. 285-286) Bahá’ís are working towards building a better world, and establishing the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh has made this promise: “Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.” (“Gleanings”, p. 7)
“Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One. The Call of God hath been raised, and the light of His countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behoveth every man to blot out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to gaze, with an open and unbiased mind, on the signs of His Revelation, the proofs of His Mission, and the tokens of His glory.
“Great indeed is this Day! The allusions made to it in all the sacred Scriptures as the Day of God attest its greatness. The soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted for this wondrous Day. All the divers kindreds of the earth have, likewise, yearned to attain it. No sooner, however, had the Day Star of His Revelation manifested itself in the heaven of God's Will, than all, except those whom the Almighty was pleased to guide, were found dumbfounded and heedless.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Gleanings”, pp. 10-11)
“The time foreordained unto the peoples and kindreds of the earth is now come. The promises of God, as recorded in the holy Scriptures, have all been fulfilled. Out of Zion hath gone forth the Law of God, and Jerusalem, and the hills and land thereof, are filled with the glory of His Revelation. Happy is the man that pondereth in his heart that which hath been revealed in the Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Meditate upon this, O ye beloved of God, and let your ears be attentive unto His Word, so that ye may, by His grace and mercy, drink your fill from the crystal waters of constancy, and become as steadfast and immovable as the mountain in His Cause.
“In the Book of Isaiah it is written: "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty." No man that meditateth upon this verse can fail to recognize the greatness of this Cause, or doubt the exalted character of this Day - the Day of God Himself. This same verse is followed by these words: "And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that Day." This is the Day which the Pen of the Most High hath glorified in all the holy Scriptures. There is no verse in them that doth not declare the glory of His holy Name, and no Book that doth not testify unto the loftiness of this most exalted theme. Were We to make mention of all that hath been revealed in these heavenly Books and holy Scriptures concerning this Revelation, this Tablet would assume impossible dimensions. It is incumbent in this Day, upon every man to place his whole trust in the manifold bounties of God, and arise to disseminate, with the utmost wisdom, the verities of His Cause. Then, and only then, will the whole earth be enveloped with the morning light of His Revelation.” (pp. 12-14)
“‘Call out to Zion, O Carmel, and announce the joyful tidings: He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come! His all-conquering sovereignty is manifest; His all-encompassing splendour is revealed. Beware lest thou hesitate or halt. Hasten forth and circumambulate the City of God that hath descended from heaven, the celestial Kaaba round which have circled in adoration the favoured of God, the pure in heart, and the company of the most exalted angels. Oh, how I long to announce unto every spot on the surface of the earth, and to carry to each one of its cities, the glad-tidings of this Revelation—a Revelation to which the heart of Sinai hath been attracted, and in whose name the Burning Bush is calling: “Unto God, the Lord of Lords, belong the kingdoms of earth and heaven.” Verily this is the Day in which both land and sea rejoice at this announcement, the Day for which have been laid up those things which God, through a bounty beyond the ken of mortal mind or heart, hath destined for revelation. Ere long will God sail His Ark upon thee, and will manifest the people of Bahá who have been mentioned in the Book of Names.’” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Tablets”, pp. 4-5)
“He, verily, is come with His Kingdom, and all the atoms cry aloud: “Lo! The Lord is come in His great majesty! He Who is the Father is come, and the Son, in the holy vale, crieth out: “Here am I, here am I, O Lord, My God!”, whilst Sinai circleth round the House, and the Burning Bush calleth out: “The All-Bounteous is come mounted upon the clouds! Blessed is he that draweth nigh unto Him, and woe betide them that are far away.” . . .
“Say: This is an Announcement whereat the hearts of the Prophets and Messengers have rejoiced. This is the One Whom the heart of the world remembreth, and is promised in the Books of God, the Mighty, the All-Wise. The hands of the Messengers were, in their desire to meet Me, upraised towards God, the Mighty, the Glorified. Unto this testifieth that which hath been sent down in the sacred Scriptures by Him Who is the Lord of might and power.
“Some lamented in their separation from Me, others endured hardships in My path, and still others laid down their lives for the sake of My Beauty, could ye but know it. Say: I, verily, have not sought to extol Mine own Self, but rather God Himself, were ye to judge fairly. Naught can be seen in Me except God and His Cause, could ye but perceive it. I am the One Whom the tongue of Isaiah hath extolled, the One with Whose name both the Torah and the Evangel were adorned. Thus hath it been decreed in the Scriptures of thy Lord, the Most Merciful. He, verily, hath borne witness unto Me, as I bear witness unto Him. And God testifieth to the truth of My words.
“Say: The Books have been sent down for naught but My remembrance. Whosoever is receptive to their call shall perceive therefrom the sweet fragrances of My name and My praise; and he who hath unstopped the ear of his inmost heart shall hear from every word thereof: ‘The True One is come! He indeed is the beloved of the worlds!’” (Bahá’u’lláh: “The Summons of the Lord of Hosts”, pp. 84-86)
“The Great Being saith: The Tongue of Wisdom proclaimeth: He that hath Me not is bereft of all things. Turn ye away from all that is on earth and seek none else but Me. I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Tablets”, p. 169)
Notes (1) to (9):
1: Matthew 24:19
2: cf. Matt. 24:29-31
3: Mark 13:19
4: cf. Luke 21:25-28
5: John 15:26-27
6: John 14:26
7: John 16:5-6
8: John 16:7
9: John 16:13
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