Stories of Faith
The most important sections of Bahá’í history are the life stories of the Báb and of Bahá’u’lláh. Books are available, suitable either for adults or for children, to tell each of these stories. Shorn of any detail, the outlines are as follows:
The Báb, a saintly and spiritual individual, declared in Persia in 1844 that he was the Promised One of Islam. He quickly acquired thousands of followers, including many from the priesthood. However, He was imprisoned and finally executed in 1850. The only leading follower of the Báb whose life was spared was Bahá’u’lláh, who had a spiritual experience while in prison, leading him to believe that he was the One foretold by the Báb. He was exiled to Iraq, to Turkey and to the Holy Land. On the point of leaving Iraq, he declared himself as the Promised One of all religions. Despite imprisonment, poisoning, torture and banishment, he lived to lay out to the rulers and peoples of the world a vision of a world transformed from injustice, prejudice and oppression to one of calm, of spirituality, of peace and justice.
The very suffering endured by both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh is in itself meant as demonstrating a supreme spiritual story. As Bahá’u’lláh himself explains it, “The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness.” The stories of the lives of these two beings are central to any understanding of, or belief in, the Bahá’í Faith, as each is believed to have been an inspired figure of supreme stature. The religion rests on their station and teachings. Excerpts from their life stories are often included in the Holy Day commemorations.
A further rich vein of touching stories comes from the life of Bahá’u’lláh’s son, `Abdu’l-Bahá. After his father’s death, he toured Europe and North America, and a large number of pen portraits exist from this period of his life, in addition to those records kept by Western pilgrims visiting `Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land. These record many instances of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s extraordinary compassion and concern for his fellow human beings. His behaviour serves as an example as to how a person should respond to Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings.
A theme which can be identified throughout these life stories is that of “crisis and victory”. Repeated setbacks and seemingly hopelessly situations are each followed by new milestones or unprecedented events – weaving a storyteller’s thread through early Bahá’í history.