Every human being wants to be happy. When you seek happiness, this is Baha’u’llah’s advice:

My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting. (The Hidden Words)

In my quest to be a happier person, I was trying hard to work on that radiant part, because that seemed to be the key. The people I met who were radiantly joyful – well, I wanted some of that. It was obvious to me that their radiance came from real inner joy, which in turn comes from transcending life’s inevitable tragedies and struggles. Radiance, the quality that shines out of a pure, kindly heart, occurs most often in children, whose innocent purity and happiness inspires everyone. Behavioral scientists tell us that children laugh hundreds of times every day, and that adults laugh an average of 17 times a day. Maybe that’s what Christ meant when he said “Become as little children.”

In the Baha’i teachings, writings and prayers, one of the prevailing themes involves recognizing the qualities, or names, of the Supreme Being. Names like the Generous, the Bountiful, the Helper, the Loving, the Kind all give the Baha’is a sense of the attributes of God, and the qualities we can each individually strive to develop in our own spiritual character. One of the things that helped me in my happiness quest was discovering a short tablet from Baha’u’llah that begins “In the Name of God, the Humorist.” I was fascinated and intrigued, so I did some research. In the original Arabic, Baha’u’llah used the word “mazzah,” which had been provisionally translated as “the humorist”. However, “mazzah” has multiple shades of meaning – not necessarily a jokester or a frivolous person, but instead a humorist in the highest and noblest sense of the term, someone who spreads joy and humors others in a playful, loving way. That title gave me an entirely new perspective on how I could think about the Creator – and how I might possibly try to emulate that quality.

Then I began to notice that lots of Baha’is around the world had already developed it. Many people have remarked on this, but for some reason, maybe Baha’u’llah’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s example, or their steadfast encouragement to be happy and joyful, Baha’is everywhere practice the fine art of comedy as their profession. Actors, stand-up comedians, even musicians and writers and many other artists who are Baha’is seem to gravitate toward the great, gracious gift of making people smile.

Omid Djlali

Carole Lombard

One of the first and best-known Baha’i humorists was Carole Lombard, the renowned movie actress and comedienne who starred in the wonderful screwball comedies of the 1930’s. Lois Hall followed in Lombard’s footsteps, in delightful musical comedies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and many other films and TV shows. Lloyd Haynes, the breakthrough Baha’i African-American television actor who starred in the ABC sitcom Room 222, appeared in both comedy and dramatic roles; as has Alex Rocco, in his roles in The Godfather and in several comedic films and TV shows, as well. Today Baha’is Omid Djalili and Inder Manocha have won comedy awards in England; and like Canadian Pardis Parker, all three comics have built very successful stand-up careers around hilarious, gentle observational humor about their multicultural heritage. Rainn Wilson, the American TV and film actor, is well-known for his roles in the comedies Six Feet Under and The Office and in multiple feature films, and he also co-authored a website, a TV show and a book with a light-hearted approach to spirituality called SoulPancake.

So what is it that makes the Baha’i Faith such a happy religion? It probably came directly from Abdu’l-Baha:

…the foundation of Baha’u’llah is love. …you must have infinite love for each other, each preferring the other before himself. The people must be so attracted to you that they will exclaim, “What happiness exists among you!” and will see in your faces the lights of the Kingdom; then in wonderment they will turn to you and seek the cause of your happiness. You must give the message through action and deed, not alone by word. Word must be conjoined with deed. You must love your friend better than yourself; yes, be willing to sacrifice yourself. May everyone point to you and ask, “Why are these people so happy?” I want you to be happy… to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you. (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 218)

I’m still trying for as much happiness as possible, but I’ve learned that Baha’is are genuinely happy for lots of reasons. We celebrate the arrival and the beautiful message of a new Manifestation, Baha’u’llah, and that in itself generates immense joy and happiness. We all participate in a diverse global Baha’i community with literally every nationality, racial group, culture, class and age; which lowers the barriers between people everywhere, emphasizes oneness and makes Baha’i community activities fun and interesting. Baha’i festivals, holy days and celebrations are meant for hospitality and humor. Baha’i communities gather every nineteen days for a Feast, which has both spiritual and social purposes. And Baha’is are generally interesting, thoughtful, fun-loving people — not dour, literal or fundamentalist, because their faith emphasizes service to others, progressive revelation and unity. Ultimately, the Baha’i teachings point the way toward a plan for a new unified world free of war, racism and conflict – which makes Baha’is optimistic, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future of the human race.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.


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  • Angela Shortt
    Oct 20, 2013
    " And Baha’is are generally interesting, thoughtful, fun-loving people — not dour, literal or fundamentalist, because their faith emphasizes service to others, progressive revelation and unity." This is so true! It is one of the many reasons why I became a Baha'i 28 years ago. In church, I remember feeling uncomfortable because I never knew what to say or how to act, as defined by the clergy members of the congregation who seemed to have the power to tell people what to do, how to act, and even what to think. Even conversations felt stilted to me. When ...I came to my first fireside, I was shocked by how easily the conversations flowed between Baha'is, and how much laughter seemed to come naturally during these talks. I never thought about it I read this article, but the Friends laughing and talking about everything in the universe (and beyond) is what drew me to the Faith. More importantly, it's one of the things that has me looking forward to attending Baha'i events. There have been many times when my health made attendance difficult, and when I look back, I always felt depressed afterwards. Being around Baha'is with their fascinating conversations and infectious laughter is a necessary part of my anti-depressant program!
  • Christina Frith
    Oct 20, 2013
    Wonderful! So, where can we find the tablet starting with, “In the Name of God, the Humorist” ?
    • Angela Shortt
      Oct 20, 2013
      I am a compulsive researcher. I did a search on Ocean and this is one of the passages that seemed to make a reference to "God, the Humorist" :
      "Remarks such as this or trivial matters always helped the believers to feel relaxed in Bahá'u'lláh's presence. Otherwise no one could have uttered one word when standing face to face with the One whom he knew to be the Supreme Manifestation of God. Bahá'u'lláh enjoyed humour; indeed, one of the attributes of God is 'Humorist'. Sometimes Bahá'u'lláh would make humorous remarks to His companions some of whom were well able ...to reciprocate in their humble way." (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 4, p. 243)
      The "trivial matters" referred to had something to do with bread, and quite frankly, I didn't understand the cultural context at all. But that doesn't matter; what is more important to me is that in the midst of the unimaginable difficulties of persecution and years in exile, Bahá'u'lláh sought to comfort the people around Him, who were probably in a great deal of emotional and physical pain, with humor. I pray that I will never again scoff at the that old saying, "laughter is the best medicine"!
    • Angela Shortt
      Oct 20, 2013
      I wonder if we can find it on Ocean? I would like to read it. I can't count how times have certain events have come to pass in my life in which *I* thought I knew the best course of action to take (and that is rarely good, as it turns out), and when the inevitable disaster takes place, I would look up and say, "All right, I know You love laughter...!"
  • John Butler
    Oct 20, 2013
    Than you David, your writing are always informative, helpful and for sure very enlightening. Good writer and always puts across in ways that are easily understood. Many thanks again. Always reading your essays :-)