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The Founders of all of the world’s great religions lived extraordinary lives. Baha’is believe that these holy messengers not only revealed God’s Word to humanity but also exemplified in their lives and conduct, to a degree impossible for ordinary mortals, the qualities and virtues that God desires for us to attain.
These messengers represent everything noble and good. Their conduct points the way for us all, offering a glimpse of what it means to be truly human. They show us how to meet tests and difficulties, how to behave in prosperity and in adversity, how to love our neighbor, how to forgive and show mercy, and also how and when to act with justice. They show us the true meaning of success, of power, and of distinction. They reveal the road to eternal life by walking it themselves.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, God’s latest messenger, is in the same ranks as the great prophets who have gone before. He cannot be considered a mere philosopher, thinker, or mystic. The proof lies in his words and his deeds, as close examination proves.
Like all of the other messengers, Baha’u’llah was chosen by God to be the bearer of a new revelation:
Baha’u’llah was destined, like Moses, Christ, and Muhammad before him, to bear great sufferings for the sake of his divine mission. For well over four decades he endured every kind of misfortune. In the days of the Bab, before declaring his own station, he was brutally beaten, shorn of his possessions, and imprisoned under chains that left him scarred for life. He was exiled four times, betrayed by his own half-brother, driven into a self-imposed retreat for two years in the mountains of Kurdistan, poisoned nearly to death, consigned by the authorities to the dreadful prison of Akka, and subjected to incessant abuse and calumny. “Recall thou to mind My sorrows,” Baha’u’llah wrote, recounting his lifelong sufferings:
My cares and anxieties, My woes and trials, the state of My captivity, the tears that I have shed, the bitterness of Mine anguish, and now My imprisonment in this far-off land. . . .
By the righteousness of God! Every morning I arose from My bed, I discovered the hosts of countless afflictions massed behind My door; and every night when I lay down, lo! My heart was torn with agony at what it had suffered from the fiendish cruelty of its foes. With every piece of bread the Ancient Beauty breaketh is coupled the assault of a fresh affliction, and with every drop He drinketh is mixed the bitterness of the most woeful of trials. He is preceded in every step He taketh by an army of unforeseen calamities, while in His rear follow legions of agonizing sorrows.
Such is My plight, wert thou to ponder it in thine heart. Let not, however, thy soul grieve over that which God hath rained down upon Us. Merge thy will in His pleasure, for We have, at no time, desired anything whatsoever except His Will, and have welcomed each one of His irrevocable decrees. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 119-120.
Baha’u’llah bore these afflictions for one reason—so that all humanity might become illumined with faith and live together in peace and harmony. But he, like the prophets before him, lived his life in relative obscurity, His revelation unacknowledged by an indifferent and distracted humanity:
We have accepted to be tried by ills and troubles, that ye may sanctify yourselves from all earthly defilements. Why, then, refuse ye to ponder Our purpose in your hearts? By the righteousness of God! Whoso will reflect upon the tribulations We have suffered, his soul will assuredly melt away with sorrow. Thy Lord Himself beareth witness to the truth of My words. We have sustained the weight of all calamities to sanctify you from all earthly corruption, and ye are yet indifferent. – Ibid., p. 307.
During his lifetime Baha’u’llah had called upon his followers to spread the news of the new faith. He asked that they not grieve when the time came for his spirit to ascend to the world beyond, but rest assured of his unfailing blessings and protection:
Let not your hearts be perturbed, O people, when the glory of My Presence is withdrawn, and the ocean of My utterance is stilled. In My presence amongst you there is a wisdom, and in My absence there is yet another, inscrutable to all but God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. Verily, We behold you from Our realm of glory, and will aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 39.
Baha’u’llah’s greatest legacy to humanity is his revelation, a body of sacred scripture unequaled in either volume or scope. In these writings Baha’u’llah affirms the great spiritual truths revealed by past messengers. He also lays down the essential principles and laws necessary to lead humanity towards its long-awaited destiny, promised by all of the prophets and sages of old.
The day in which we live, he announces, will witness the advent of God’s Kingdom on earth. In the end it will not matter that Baha’u’llah himself was subjected to suffering, nor that most of humanity was oblivious to him in his own time. Nor will it matter that humanity, caught up in materialism, nationalism, racism, and a host of other ills, was, for the most part, utterly incapable of appreciating the remedy that was being offered by the Divine Physician, and instead pursued imaginary solutions of their own devising. Addressing humanity as a whole, Baha’u’llah states that God’s Faith will ultimately prevail:
This is the Day when every ear must needs be attentive to His voice. Hearken ye to the Call of this wronged One, and magnify ye the name of the one true God, and adorn yourselves with the ornament of His remembrance, and illumine your hearts with the light of His love. This is the key that unlocketh the hearts of men, the burnish that shall cleanse the souls of all beings. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 205.