History

Bahai-star-logo -The Bahá’í Faith is an independent monotheistic religion with its own sacred scriptures, its own laws, calendar, and holy days. It has no clergy and its affairs are administered by freely elected governing councils that operate at the local, national, and international levels. The chronology below follows the history of the Bahá’í Faith from its birth in mid-19th century Persia (now Iran) to its emergence as a world religion with more than five million adherents from virtually every nation and ethnic group on earth.

1844 – marked the beginning of a new area in human history. For century, all the peoples of the world have awaited the Promised Day of God, a Day when peace and harmony would be established on earth.The dawn of this new Day witnessed the appearance of not one but two Manifestations of God, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

23 May 1844 – Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, a 25-year-old merchant in the city of Shiraz, Persia, announces that He has been sent by God to prepare humanity for a new age and the imminent appearance of another Messenger even greater than Himself. He takes the title of the Báb (1817-1892) (meaning “Gate” in Arabic).

Room of the Báb's home in Shiraz, Iran, where He declared His mission, May 1844
Room of the Báb’s home in Shiraz, Iran, where He declared His mission, 23 May 1844

1844-1850 – The Báb’s religious teachings spread rapidly and are viewed as heretical by the clergy and government of that time. The Báb is imprisoned and more than 20,000 of His followers, known as Bábis, perish in a series of violent massacres throughout the country.

9 July 1850 – The Báb is publicly executed in the city of Tabriz, Iran. Some 10,000 citizens are present to observe the execution. Although brief, the Báb’s Dispensation was of such tremendous spiritual intensity that its effect will be felt for hundreds of generations to come.

The barrack square in Tabriz, where the Báb was executed
The barrack square in Tabriz, where the Báb was executed, 9 July 1950

Bahá’ís recognize the Báb as both an independent Messenger of God and the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) (meaning “the Glory of God” in Arabic), the Founder of the Baha’i religion. Born in Tehran on 12 November 1817, Bahá’u’lláh was a member of a noble family that traced its lineage to imperial Persia’s Sassanian dynasty.

The city of Tehran, Iran, where Bahá’u’lláh was born
The city of Tehran, Iran, where Bahá’u’lláh was born

In His mid-20s, He declined a life of wealth and privilege to pursue humanitarian goals. Bahá’u’lláh embraced the Bábi religion in its earliest days and became one of the leading disciples of the Bab.

1852 – Bahá’u’lláh is arrested, beaten, and thrown into a pestilential underground dungeon known as the Black Pit. While in the darkness of the dungeon, Bahá’u’lláh receives the Revelation that He is the Messenger foretold by the Bab. Bahá’u’lláh is released after four months and exiled to Baghdad.

Map showing the route of Bahá’u’lláh’s exiles.
Map showing the route of Bahá’u’lláh’s exiles.

1863 – Bahá’u’lláh is banished a second time, to Constantinople (Istanbul). On the eve of His departure from Baghdad, Baha’u’llah announces that He is the long-awaited Messenger of God promised by the Báb. Thereafter, the religion is known as the Bahá’í Faith. Bahá’ís recognize Bahá’u’lláh as the most recent in a line of Messengers of God that includes Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, Muhammad and the Báb.

1863-1892 – Bahá’u’lláh reveals numerous volumes of Sacred Scripture, outlining His Teachings, answering difficult theological questions, and establishing the laws and institutions of His faith. Bahá’u’lláh is a unique world religious figure in that He establishes in writing the future pattern of the organization of His faith. He also writes letters to the kings and rulers of His day, including Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX, the Shah of Persia, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, and others, who were called upon to reconcile their differences, curtail their armaments, and devote their energies to the establishment of universal peace. These letters, which proclaimed the coming unification of humanity and the emergence of a world civilization, are among the most remarkable documents in religious history.

1868 – Bahá’u’lláh arrives in the Holy Land with about 70 family members and followers, sentenced by the Ottoman authorities to perpetual confinement in the penal colony of Acre.

The two windows farthest right on the second floor show the room that Bahá’u’lláh occupied in the prison.
The two windows farthest right on the second floor show the room that Bahá’u’lláh occupied in the prison.

The order of strict confinement was never lifted, but due to the growing recognition of the eminence of His character, He eventually moves outside the walls of the Old City of Acre to a nearby estate called Bahji.

The sea gate where Bahá’u’lláh and His companions entered ‘Akká in 1868.
The sea gate where Bahá’u’lláh and His companions entered ‘Akká in 1868.

29 May 1892 – Bahá’u’lláh passes away and is interred at Bahji. For Bahá’ís, His Shrine is the holiest place on earth and a place of pilgrimage. At His instruction, the spiritual and administrative center of His Faith is permanently fixed in the Haifa/Acre area.

For the first time in history, a world religion founder leaves a written Will. Bahá’u’lláh appoints His eldest son, `Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), as the head of the Faith and authorized interpreter of His Teachings. The name, `Abdu’l-Bahá, means “Servant of Bahá.”

1893 – The first public mention of the Baha’i Faith in North America was at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, IL.

1898 – While `Abdu’l-Bahá was still a prisoner of the Ottomans the first Bahá’í pilgrims from the western world arrived in Acre.

Historical photo of the House of ‘Abbúd in ‘Akká (Acre), Israel.
Historical photo of the House of ‘Abbúd in ‘Akká (Acre), Israel.

1907 – The Chicago Baha’i Assembly incorporates, becoming the first local Bahá’í community in the world to acquire legal status. The American Bahá’í community, then numbering about 1,000 members, begins building the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the West on the shores of Lake Michigan.

1908 – Following the Young Turk Revolution, at the age of 64 and after forty years imprisonment, `Abdu’l-Bahá was freed by the Young Turks and he and his family began to live in relative safety. At the time of his release, the major centres of Bahá’í population and scholarly activity were mostly in Iran, with other large communities in Baku, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

1910-1913 – `Abdu’l-Bahá then journeys to the west to encourage nascent Bahá’í communities and to proclaim Baha’u’llah’s message of unity and social justice to church congregations, peace societies, the members of trade unions, university faculties, journalists, government officials, and many public audiences.

His first excursion outside of Palestine and Iran was to Egypt in 1910 where he stayed for around a year, followed by a near five-month trip to France and Great Britain in 1911. After returning to Egypt, He left on a trip to North America in April 1912 which lasted nearly 8 months. During that trip He visited many cities across the United States, from major metropolitan areas on the eastern coast of the country, to cities in the midwest, and California on the west coast; He also visited Montreal in Canada in August and September 1912 .

1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent from April to December touring North America. He is shown here (at center) with Bahá’ís at Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1912.
1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent from April to December touring North America. He is shown here (at center) with Bahá’ís at Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1912.

Following his trip in North America he visited various countries in Europe, including France, Britain and Germany for six months, followed by a six-month stay again in Egypt, before returning to Haifa in December 1913.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Paris, photographed under the Eiffel Tower in 1912
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Paris, photographed under the Eiffel Tower in 1912

His journeys to the West, and his “Tablets of the Divine Plan” spread the Bahá’í message beyond its middle-eastern roots, and his “Will and Testament” laid the foundation for the current “Bahá’í administrative order.

1921 – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passes away, leaving a will designating His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), as His successor and conferring upon him the title of Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, left, and His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, in a photograph taken in 1919.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, left, and His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, in a photograph taken in 1919.

1926 – At the seat of the newly-formed League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, an International Bahá’í Bureau was established in 1926. The Bureau served as a gathering place for Bahá’ís traveling to Geneva for the activities of the League and of other international organizations, and published an international magazine.

1927 – The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada is incorporated. Its charter document, the Declaration of Trust and Bylaws, subsequently serves as the model for the formation of more than 180 National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world.

1945 – When the allied nations met in San Francisco, at the close of World War II, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada sent two official observers to witness the drafting of the Charter for the United Nations. Bahá’ís were present from the beginning at the founding of the United Nations (UN) and have participated with ever-increasing commitment and depth in a wide range of United Nations activities relating to the major areas of concern of the worldwide Bahá’í community. More specifically,the “Bahá’í International Community” has been among the most active of the international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations in promoting peace, advocating human rights, calling for the advancement of women, contributing to the shape of development theory and action, and stimulating efforts to make such development sustainable.

1953 – The Bahá’í Faith was first established in Mauritius  in the early 1950s.

1957 – Shoghi Effendi passes away. During his ministry, the Faith spread around the world and its local and national administrative institutions were established. The Guardian translated Baha’i scriptures from Arabic and Persian into English, wrote several major works, carried on a voluminous correspondence, and gave great impetus to the development of the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa. With the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the line of hereditary leaders of the Baha’i Faith came to an end.

1963 – Following Bahá’u’lláh’s instructions, Baha’is elect the Universal House of Justice, the world governing body of the Baha’i Faith. Elections for the Universal House of Justice are held every five years. Endowed by Bahá’u’lláh with the authority to legislate on all matters not specifically laid down in the Baha’i scriptures, the Universal House of Justice keeps the Baha’i community unified and responsive to the needs and conditions of an evolving world.

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel
The Seat of the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel

Today – The Bahá’í community now has more than five million members from over 2000 ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Baha’i communities are established in more than 230 countries and dependent territories, with elected national administrative institutions in 186 countries.

The Life of Bahá’u’lláh A photographic narrative of the life of Bahá’u’lláh, providing a glimpse into the extraordinary life of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. Included are pictures of His birthplace, the cities of His exile, the cell in which He was confined for two years, His final resting place, examples of His handwriting, and relics of His life.

Bahá’u’lláh
Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and a history of His life, His teachings, His station.