CENTRAL FIGURES OF THE BAHÁ'I FAITH
BAHÁ’U’LLÁH (1817-1892) – THE DIVINE EDUCATOR
Throughout history, the great religions have provided the primary driving force behind the civilizing of human character, eliciting self-discipline, devotion and heroism from their followers. Many of religion’s moral principles have been translated into structures and patterns of conduct which have served to elevate human relationships and advance humanity’s collective life.
Every time a Manifestation of God appears, a fuller measure of inspiration for the next stage in the awakening and progress of humanity is released into the world. A human being—ordinary in every outward respect—is called to be a mouthpiece for God. One may call to mind Moses standing before the Burning Bush, the Buddha receiving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, or the archangel Gabriel appearing to Muhammad.
In the middle of the 19th century, God summoned Bahá’u’lláh—meaning the “Glory of God”—to deliver a new Revelation to humanity. For four decades thousands of verses, letters and books flowed from His pen. In His Writings, He outlined a framework for the development of a global civilization which takes into account both the spiritual and material dimensions of human life.
"I have never aspired after worldly leadership. My sole purpose hath been to hand down unto men that which
I was bidden to deliver by God..."
Bahá’u’lláh suffered 40 years of imprisonment, torture and exile for bringing God’s latest message to humanity. Today, His life and mission are becoming increasingly well-known across the planet. Millions of people are learning to apply His teachings to their individual and collective lives for the betterment of the world.
"Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings…now present us with the highest
and purest form of religious teaching..."
- Count Leo Tolstoy, Russian author
THE BÁB (1819-1850) – HERALD OF THE BAHÁ'I FAITH
In the middle of the 19th century—one of the most turbulent periods in the world’s history—a young merchant announced that He was the bearer of a message destined to transform the life of humanity. At a time when His country, Iran, was undergoing widespread moral breakdown, His message aroused excitement and hope among all classes, rapidly attracting thousands of followers. He took the name “The Báb”, meaning “the Gate” in Arabic.
With His call for spiritual and moral reformation and His attention to improving the position of women and the lot of the poor, the Báb’s prescription for spiritual renewal was revolutionary. At the same time, He founded a distinct, independent religion of His own, inspiring His followers to transform their lives and carry out great acts of heroism.
The Báb announced that humanity stood at the threshold of a new era. His mission, which was to last only six years, was to prepare the way for the coming of a Manifestation of God Who would usher in the age of peace and justice promised in all the world’s religions: Bahá’u’lláh.
“His life is one of the most magnificent examples of courage which it has been the privilege of mankind to behold…”
- Tribute to the Báb by the 19th-century French writer
ÁBDU'L-BAHÁ (1844-1921) – THE PERFECT EXEMPLAR
In the early years of the 20th century, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—the eldest Son of Bahá’u’lláh—was the Bahá’í Faith’s leading exponent, renowned as a champion of social justice and an ambassador for international peace.
Upholding unity as the fundamental principle of His teachings, Bahá’u’lláh established the necessary safeguard to ensure that His religion would never suffer the same fate as others that split into sects after the deaths of their Founders. In His Writings, He instructed all to turn to His eldest Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, not only as the authorized interpreter of the Bahá’í Writings but also as the perfect exemplar of the Faith’s spirit and teachings.
Following Bahá’u’lláh’s passing, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s extraordinary qualities of character, His knowledge and His service to humanity offered a vivid demonstration of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings in action, and brought great prestige to the rapidly expanding community throughout the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá devoted His ministry to furthering His Father’s Faith and to promoting the ideals of peace and unity. He encouraged the establishment of local Bahá’í institutions, and guided nascent educational, social and economic initiatives. After His release from a lifetime of imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá set out on a series of journeys which took Him to Egypt, Europe and North America. Throughout His life, He presented with brilliant simplicity, to high and low alike, Bahá’u’lláh’s prescription for the spiritual and social renewal of society.