Mohammed Ali Bahai (December 16,1853 – December 10,1937) was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah’s second wife, and the second son of Baha’u’llah who survived him. Baha’is today usually refer to him as Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali.
This essay, originally titled “The Biography of Baha’u’llah,” was written in June 1934 and translated into English by Mohammed Ali’s son Shua Ullah. The translation was published in the United States in a magazine called Behai Quarterly, a publication of the Society of Behaists. It was also included in Shua Ullah Behai’s book manuscript, as part of a chapter called “Baha Ullah.”
Whenever a mighty personage appears on earth and the news of his greatness spreads throughout the world, the intellectual people seek eagerly to be enlightened with the knowledge of his daily actions of life and his teachings.
In the past, many pilgrims, especially historians, who came to this sacred land and visited me, displayed an urgent fascination to know of the early life and actions of Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, and received such answers as time permitted on each occasion.
Of late, more inquiries have reached me through the mail from friends far and near. Therefore I deem it necessary to impart to the people of the world my experiences, through my constant personal contact with Baha’u’llah during the period of years from my childhood to the years that I had the privilege to serve Him as the inscriber of His utterances and promulgator of His teachings throughout the world.
Thus I will record herein His lineage, His early life and habits, His verbal messages to me and some of His teachings which I have copied from the numerous original volumes of His utterances in my possession. May the spirit of truth penetrate unto the citadels of the hearts, and the Sun of reality illumine the minds of men.
Needless to speak of the lineage of Baha’u’llah, His life and teachings are sufficient proof of His greatness and far above family connections; but knowing the fascination of past inquirers and for the guidance of future historians, I will state it briefly.
He was a descendant of the royal dynasty of Kian, who ruled in Persia centuries ago. The well-known Persian historian Mirza Abul-Fazl1 Gulpaygani, after careful search of records available during his visit to Mazandaran,the home of Baha’u’llah’s forefathers, speaks with conviction of the family connection with the Kian Dynasty. Indeed the prophecy of Zoroaster was fulfilled as he spoke of the coming of “Mah Abad from the Kian Dynasty.”
The father of Baha’u’llah was Mirza Abbas Nuri, better known as Mirza Buzurg (“The Great”)—scholar, theologian, and diplomat, politically powerful and socially prominent. He was connected with the [government] ministry and the court for years, during the Qajar Dynasty, and to his last days served his country gallantly. He was calm, kind and fearless, always ready to help the needy, and made hosts of friends during his life.
The mother of Baha’u’llah was Khanum Jani.63 Well known socially in the capital of Persia, she was a great help to her spouse during his life and career, and very active in the progress of her sex.
60. Also spelled Abu’l-Fadl.
61. A province of northern Iran, on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea.
62. The Kian or Kianian Dynasty is an ideal, possibly mythological dynasty of ancient Persia, from which all the historically recorded Persian kings claimed to descend. Mah-Abad, in Persian tradition, was the most ancient prophet of the current world age, regarded as the “father of mankind.” Thus, the prophecy that Mr. Bahai is speaking of presumably was that Mah-Abad would return at the end of the age as an ideal king, completing the great cycle of history that he had begun. This may be a variant of the prophecy of the Shah Bahrain, a messianic figure of Zoroastrian eschatology. Baha’u’llah claimed to be the messiah of Zoroastrianism as well as the “King of Kings” prophesied in the Bible.
63. Baha’u’llah’s mother is known to have been named Khadijah, so the name Jani is either a second name or nickname.
His Birth and Early Life
Baha’u’llah was born in the city of Tehran, the present capital of Persia [now Iran], on November 12,1817, and in the same city grew to manhood.
As a young man He associated with nobilities, court officials, and the celebrities of the day, and always served His father faithfully. He spent some of His early days in Mazandaran in the Nur district, the original home of His forefathers.
When the Bab proclaimed himself the New Teacher, his message appealed to Baha’u’llah and He became an active worker for the new cause, and left Tehran for Karbala, where He remained a few months, then returned to Tehran.
The message of the Bab awakened the minds of the Persians, and thousands of learned people became his followers. This roused the anger of the mullahs, and fearing the loss of their leadership, they labored with all their might against this progressive new movement which was spreading rapidly throughout the land. Finally they succeeded in inducing the government to arrest the Bab and his devoted secretary and put them in prison, then suspend them both on a pole in the middle of the square in the city of Tabriz, and riddle their chests with hundreds of bullets.
After the Bab was put to death and two of his followers attempted the life of Shah Naser al-Din, through the influence of the same agitators, Baha’u’llah was arrested by the government and imprisoned for a period of four months.
Then, through the protest of the Russian ambassador, Baha’u’llah was released and officially vindicated of all accusations, but was requested to leave His native land, to satisfy the desire of the mullahs.
By mutual agreement between Russia, Turkey, and Persia, He was sent to Baghdad, which is located near the border of Persia. Baha’u’llah remained in Baghdad nearly twelve years. While in Iraq He secluded himself in the mountains of Sulaymaniyah for two years, during which His whereabouts were unknown to all.
His Later Life and Ministry
After His return to Baghdad, Baha’u’llah proclaimed Himself to be the promised one of whom the Bab had spoken, “He Whom God Shall Manifest,” the Glory of God. This proclamation renewed the new movement and the cause spread rapidly, in spite of the persecutions. In His tablet to the Shah of Persia, Baha’u’llah said, “I was asleep on my couch: the breaths of my Lord the Merciful passed over me and awakened me from sleep; to this bear witness the denizens of the realms of His Power and His Kingdom, and the dwellers in the cities of His Glory, and Himself the True.”
After receiving this inspired message, Baha’u’llah arose with great power and energy, and devoted forty years of His life in revealing tab¬lets and uttering verses, through which He commanded His followers to hold fast to the garment of the Everlasting Father and worship God alone, to live in love and unity with each other and with all the people of the world.
He suffered hardship, calamity, and banishment to bring us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. Through the influence of the ambassador of Persia in the Ottoman capital, engineered by the same agitating group of mullahs, Baha’u’llah was invited to come to Constantinople, then the capital of Turkey, where He resided three months as the guest of the government, then was sent to Adrianapolis 64 where He remained five years. He was then banished to the fortress of Akka, 65 residing there for twenty-five years, until the time of His departure [from this world] on May 28, 1892. 66
His Dignity in Exile
Baha’u’llah was reared in luxury while living in Tehran, and on ac-count of the high station of His father in government circles, He had the respect of all His associates. After He was divested of all earthly possessions and was requested to leave Persia, though in financial dis¬tress, He made the journey from Tehran to Baghdad with great dignity. He was contented under all conditions and invested Himself with the garment of patience at all times.
Responding to the order of the government, Baha’u’llah, accompanied by His household and some of His followers, proceeded from the city of Baghdad to the other side of the [Tigris] river, remaining in the Garden of Najib Pasha 67 for a period of twelve days, delivering the New Message to all who came.
During these twelve days, thousands of persons of all classes, government officials, representatives of other nations, theologians, merchants, and the masses as well, came to His presence, paying Him homage and wishing Him farewell.
The news of His departure spread rapidly and caused such a commotion amongst the populace that Namiq Pasha, then governor of Iraq, deemed it his duty to pay Him his respects also, calling on Him in per¬son, accompanied by another high official, though Baha’u’llah was his prisoner.
64. Adrianople, present-day Edirne, Turkey.
65. Akka is the Arabic name for the city of Acre, Israel.
66.May 29 is the officially recognized date of Baha’u’llah’s passing, but several credible sources report it as a day earlier. In addition to Mr. Bahai, Baha’u’llah’s nephew Majdeddin bin Moussa Irani and early Baha’i historians Mohammed Jawad Gazvini and Mirza Abu’l-Fadl Gulpaygani give the date as May 28 in their writings.
67. Muhammad Najib Pasha was the wali (governor) of Baghdad from 1842 to 1847. He built a palace and the attached garden, which came to be known to Baha’is as the Garden of Ridvan (“Paradise”). When Baha’u’llah and his entourage camped there in 1863, the garden had passed to Najib Pasha’s heirs. Today, a hospital complex stands on the site.
During the journey from Baghdad to Constantinople, which lasted about four months, He was cordially received by the people of the countryside wherever He camped, and was respected and loved by all. While confined in the fortress of Akka, not being permitted to leave the city gate, He was in great distress. However, He commanded His followers to be patient and satisfied with the Will of God; and to His last days on earth, He taught us to free ourselves from the bondage of earthly pos¬sessions, and to direct our efforts to the progress of mankind.
The native language of Baha’u’llah was modern Persian (Farsi). He also spoke the Arabic language fluently. The numerous volumes of His utterances which He left for the world bear witness to this statement. He spoke Mazandarani also, which is Persian of a different dialect, spoken in the Mazandaran province of His forefathers.
As far back as I can remember, Baha’u’llah adorned His head with a high-crowned round hat called a taj, made of fine felt, covered with materials embroidered with silk of the same shade—some were all white, others all red, green or gray—wound at the lower part with a small white turban. For informal occasions He wore a small cap called an arakchm, similar to the taj except shorter and lighter in weight.
He dressed in soft, light and pleasing shades. His outer robe, called a jobba, was of fine camel hair in natural or gray color. Under this He wore a second robe called a ghaba in white or gray, wound at the waist¬line with a white Persian belt called a chaal. His undergarments consisted of two pieces, always in white, white hose and handmade slippers.
Baha’u’llah was very moderate in food. He partook of Persian prepared food consisting of sweets, fruits, vegetables, and some meat. He drank tea, milk, fruit juice, and very little coffee.
In His early days He smoked a Persian water pipe called a nargilet, 68 but no cigarettes. However, while still a young man, He began to abstain from smoking entirely. I remember when we were brought to the prison of Akka, and housed in the army barrack, He addressed me one day and said, “Do not get the smoking habit.” Although this was but advice, it impressed me so strongly that I never had any desire for smoking.
Baha’u’llah enjoyed the open spaces, fresh air and natural views. In the spring when the hills and valleys were covered with a green carpet, occasionally we were fortunate enough to spend the entire day with Him either in the garden of Ridvan 69 or the orchard called Junayna, usually leaving at daybreak and returning after sunset, and often in the moonlight. I recollect many such wonderful days which I was privileged to arrange. He admired fragrant roses and used attar of rose and rose water frequently.
Baha’u’llah spent most of His last twelve years in the Palace of Bahja (“Joy”), 70 which is located on a hill near Akka, surrounded with miles of open fields. Here He passed unto Eternity and His shrine is located next to the palace which He occupied.
His Daily Routine
Baha’u’llah was an early riser, usually at daylight. His breakfast consisted of a small cup of tea and dry rusk, 71 served after sunrise. The pilgrims were then called to His presence, the audience lasting for an hour or longer. This was followed by the appearance of the inscriber, to take dictations, until the approach of lunch time.
68. A type of hookah or narghile.
69. Ridvan, originally called Namayn, and Junayna (also spelled Junaynih) were garden retreats near Acre, frequented by Baha’u’llah after he was allowed to leave the prison fortress. The Garden of Ridvan in Israel is not to be confused with the historical location in Baghdad which was given the same name by Baha’is.
70. Usually called the Mansion of Bahji, or simply Bahji, by Baha’is today. The area where the mansion is located was known as Al-Bahja, meaning “Place of Delight.”
71. A biscuit or twice-baked bread.
While revealing utterances to the inscriber, Baha’u’llah walked slowly back and forth in the large chamber He occupied. On other occasions, He wrote His tablets in His own handwriting, while sitting on a divan.
After lunch He retired a while; then the inscriber was called to His presence again for dictation, lasting until afternoon tea was served. Again friends and pilgrims came to His presence to receive counsel, ad¬vice, and instructions.
Supper always was served around 9 p.m., and generally He retired before midnight.
This was His daily routine. In His later years, only the followers were granted the privilege to come to the presence of Baha’u’llah, as His entire time was devoted to revealing tablets and uttering verses for the enlightenment of mankind.
I hereby invite my brothers in humanity and all seekers after truth throughout the world, to come and partake of the spiritual food that is hidden in the volumes of the teachings of Baha’u’llah in my possession still unpublished.72 My entire library is open for your study, and today the people of the world are in need of the knowledge contained therein. In this invitation my desire lies only in the elevation of the thoughts of mankind, and the progress of my brothers in humanity.
72. See Appendix A for a list of volumes of Baha’u’llah’s writings as compiled by Mohammed Ali Bahai’s son Shua Ullah. Some of the writings are well known to Baha’is, but numerous tablets of Baha’u’llah remain unpublished. Mr. Bahai’s granddaughter, Negar Bahai Emsallem, has said that she thinks his private collection of Baha’i scriptures was passed down to one of her cousins, but is unsure of their present ownership or location.
O people of Baha, ye have been and are the rising-places of love
and the dawning-places of the grace of God. Pollute not the
tongue with execration and reviling anyone, and protect the eye from that which is unseemly. Show what ye possess; if it is accepted, the aim is attained. If otherwise, opposition would be futile; leave him to himself and face God, the Protector, the Eternal.
Be not the cause of grief and much less the cause of corruption and strife. It is hoped that ye be brought up under the protection of the tree of Divine Grace and do that which God hath wished. Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the drops of one sea.73
73.Lawh-i-Ishraqat (“Tablet of Splendors”), Eighth Ishraq. )
With careful study of His utterances, humanity will realize Baha’u’llah’s greatness. His teachings are in harmony with science, useful in our daily affairs, and satisfying our every need.