The British Museum is showing rarely-seen original handwriting of Baha’u’llah, as well as other archival items associated with His life.
The exhibit commemorates the 200th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth, which was celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October. The exhibition opened on Monday 6 November during a reception, attracting over 100 people and bringing together representatives from academia, the arts, and the media.
One of the central themes of the exhibition is the power of the Word, which refers to divine revelation, a concept fundamental to the origins of all the world’s great faiths:
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. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 13.
Reflected in His many writings, Baha’u’llah’s revelation addresses a vast array of subjects, ranging from the ethical and moral dimensions of the life of the individual to the societal principles and practices that can enable humanity to transition to the next stage of its collective development—the emergence of world civilization:
The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. – Ibid., p. 136.
The exhibition’s introductory panel reads, “Baha’u’llah (‘Glory of God’) wrote over 100 volumes of text setting out his vision for humanity: to build a world of peace and justice. Baha’u’llah taught that the ‘Word,’ as revealed to the founders of all the great faiths, could inspire humans to transform society and establish great civilisations.”
In His lifetime, Baha’u’llah’s writings were recorded as they were revealed. In some instances, Baha’u’llah, in masterful calligraphy, wrote with His own hand some of the sacred verses that constitute His vast body of writings.
Often, Baha’u’llah would recite verses aloud, and these would be transcribed by secretaries. Eyewitness accounts of individuals who observed the manner by which Baha’u’llah’s writings were revealed shed light on the extraordinary nature of these works. To keep up with the large volume of verses, secretaries would rapidly transcribe His words in an often illegible handwriting that only they could read, referred to as “Revelation Writing.” The exhibition includes an example of these original texts.
Later, these texts would be rewritten, at times requiring Baha’u’llah to decipher them, before a final copy was ready to be shared. Baha’u’llah’s writings spread far and wide across the Ottoman and Persian lands and further afield, reaching to the Far East.
The display in the British Museum’s John Addis Gallery will be open to the public until 22 January 2018. During a period of worldwide celebrations honoring the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the British Museum exhibition opens another window into His extraordinary life and works and the immeasurable influence that His Word has had on the world.