June 24, 2018

First Baha’i in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dorothy Sheets was the first Bahá’í to declare her belief in Bahá’u’lláh in Calgary. She later pioneered to Regina, Saskatchewan and to Newfoundland. Dorothy passed away in 1997. 
(Adapted from the Footnotes included in ‘Messages to Canada’)

June 19, 2018

1923: First election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of England

The first meeting of the elected “National Spiritual Assembly” took place in London on 13 October 1923. 
(Footnote to a message from Shoghi Effendi to 'The beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful throughout London, Manchester and Bournemouth, care of the members of the National Spiritual Assembly, 17 February, 1923'; ‘Unfolding Destiny’)

June 15, 2018

1939: First pioneer to Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Doris Skinner, a Bahá’í from Vancouver, was the first pioneer to Calgary in 1939, until 1949, when she pioneered to Newfoundland. 
(Adapted from the Footnotes included in ‘Messages to Canada’)

June 12, 2018

Siyyah-Chal (The Black Pit) of Tehran – a depiction

Upon Our arrival We were first conducted along a pitch-black corridor, from whence We descended three steep flights of stairs to the place of confinement assigned to Us. The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow prisoners numbered nearly a hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell. Most of these men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place! 
- Baha'u'llah  (‘Epistle to the Son of the Wolf’)

June 10, 2018

1939: First pioneer to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Beulah S. Proctor, an American believer, was the first pioneer, with her daughter, to Halifax in 1939. She died 1958. 
(Adapted from the Footnotes in ‘Messages to Canada’)

June 7, 2018

19th Century Persia: System used for surnames

In times past the people of Persia had no surnames, but in many instances they were known by the name of the district, city, town, or even the village from which they came: for example, Khurasani, Mazindarani, Tihrani, Isfahani, and Shirazi. There were also various honorific prefixes and suffixes by which a person was distinguished. A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad had (and has) the prefix of 'Siyyid'. At times, 'Mirza' took the place of 'Siyyid', and at times the two were used together. 'Mirza' by itself did not denote any particular ancestry, except when placed after a proper name to mark royal descent. The suffix 'Khan' served at one time as a title, but with passing years, it became merely honorific, even meaningless, and at no time was it a surname. The prefix 'Haji' or 'Haj' indicated then, as now, one who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Mashhadi and Karbila'i, as prefixes, marked pilgrimage to Mashhad or Karbila, but as suffixes pointed out nativity. There were also innumerable titles conferred by the sovereign in Iran, consisting of diverse combinations, sometimes ludicrous, sometimes grammatically impossible. Occasionally they indicated a definite rank and profession. As time passed, these titles multiplied absurdly, until they were swept away by legislation in the 1920's. Finally, a person was often distinguished from others by a combination of prefixes and suffixes attached to his name which, if omitted, might cause him to be taken for another Person. 
- H.M. Balyuzi  (‘The Bab The Herald of the Day of Days’)

June 1, 2018

1982: Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf - The five international conferences of the Seven Year Plan

The five international conferences of the Seven Year Plan were called to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf, to discuss anew the present condition of the Faith in a turbulent world society, to examine the great opportunities for its future growth and development, and to focus attention on the unfulfilled goals of the Plan. We are certain that the contemplation of the gathered friends on the sterling qualities which distinguished the heroic life of the Greatest Holy Leaf will help them to persevere in their noble endeavours. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a message to the International Conference in Canberra, Australia, 2, September 1982; ‘Messages from the Universal House of justice 1963-1986’)

May 22, 2018

2001 - The Inauguration of the International Teaching Center Building on Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel

14 January 2001

To the Conference Marking the Inauguration of the International Teaching Center Building

Dearly loved Friends,

We are filled with a sense of triumph as we reflect on the significance of the occupation by the International Teaching Center of its permanent seat on the Mountain of the Lord. This occasion marks the beginning of what future generations will regard as a splendid chapter in the annals of our Faith.

What joy that the Hands of the Cause of God ‘Alí-Akbar Furútan and ‘Alí-Muḥammad Varqá are able to participate in these proceedings! We acknowledge the great debt of gratitude owed to them and to the departed ones of their exalted rank for so much of what we have come to celebrate.

And how fitting it is that the Continental Counselors and their deputies from the five continents are here to witness such an auspicious beginning! The attendance of the Auxiliary Board members is so unusual a feature of the gathering that we are impelled to address our remarks particularly to them. Indeed, on no occasion in the past have the major constituents of the institution of the Counselors ever assembled in the Holy Land.

April 26, 2018

1932: The first Local Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is in North America becomes incorporated

Under date of February 16, 1932, incorporation papers were filed with the Recorder of Deeds of Cook County, Illinois, to meet the requirements of the Illinois State laws for religious organizations. We quote the following paragraph which was used as an introduction to the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws:

“The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Chicago adopts this form of corporate association in order to supply proper legal status to its conduct of the affairs of a religious community, which has had continuous existence for thirty-six years, and continuous organized existence since 1901 A.D., in the City of Chicago, County of Cook, and State of Illinois, being the first local Baha’i community established in North America. During the period from 1901 to the present date the Spiritual Assembly has been recognized, encouraged and instructed in nineteen Tablets and letters addressed to it by ’Abdu’l-Baha. This first Local Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is in North America was vested with the responsibility of founding the first Baha’i Temple -- Mashriqu’l-Adhkar -- in the Western Hemisphere, until the organization of a National Body in 1909 A.D. The Spiritual Assembly was visited by ‘Abdu’l-Baha three times in the year 1912, during His sojourn in North America. The Spiritual Assembly has been recognized since the Ascension of ’Abdu’l-Baha in letters addressed to it by the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith. The Chicago Baha’i community has been continuously and uninterruptedly represented by delegates in the Annual Meetings held by the recognized National Baha’i body of North America, since the foundation of that body in 1909 A.D. The Spiritual Assembly is at present enrolled in the list of Local Spiritual Assemblies recognized by the National Spiritual Assembly.

“The members of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Chicago have taken this action in full unanimity and agreement. They acknowledge for themselves and on behalf of their successors the sacred meaning and universal purpose of the Baha’i Faith, the teachings and principles of which fulfill the divine promise of all former religions.” 
(Baha’i News, no. 60, March 1932)

April 17, 2018

Lawh-i-Hawdaj (Tablet of the Howdah) – possibly the first Tablet revealed by Baha’u’llah after He left Baghdad

Bahá'u'lláh on many occasions had warned His companions of their fate and of the calamities which would befall them in future. Now He predicted dire afflictions in the Lawh-i-Hawdaj (Tablet of the Howdah) revealed in Arabic in the port of Samsun on His way to Constantinople. At the request of His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan, He revealed this Tablet as He sighted the Black Sea from His howdah. As far as we know this was the first Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh after He left Baghdad. In it He referred to the forthcoming voyage by sea and stated that it had been foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Thus he linked the Tablet of Hawdaj with the Holy Mariner and mentioned that the study of these two Tablets would enable the believers to understand the mysteries of the Cause of God and become strong in faith. The dire predictions already foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner would come to pass, He affirmed, and He further warned His companions of the 'grievous and tormenting mischief' which would assail them from every direction, and would act as a divine touchstone through which the faith of every one would be severely tested and truth separated from falsehood.

Probably few among His companions realized that this 'grievous and tormenting mischief' would emanate from Bahá'u'lláh's own half-brother Mirza Yahya, precipitating a crisis of enormous proportions within the community, or that he would become the embodiment of man's rebelliousness, the centre of all the forces of darkness, who would arise to battle with the light of God's Supreme Manifestation.
- Adib Taherzadeh  (‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. 2’)

April 16, 2018

1931: Tablet of the Báb Found in British Museum

I think the friends will be interested in hearing of our finding the Star Tablet of the Báb.

A year ago, while in London, Wanden La Farge and I went every day to the British Museum to compile a list of original Baha’i manuscripts. Each morning at ten o’clock we knocked on the little hidden door of the Oriental room. An iron bar was pulled back from within and we found ourselves in the midst of impressive Oriental scholars completely absorbed in poring over ancient manuscripts. So deep and profound was the silence that, to ask for what was necessary, one was obliged to lower the voice to a shadowy whisper. After several days of cataloging and not being able to find any trace of the Tablet to Queen Victoria, the head of the department suggested that we might ask for an interview with the Curator of the Museum. This was a special privilege which was granted, the Director receiving us with the utmost cordiality and showed a lively interest in our quest. He assured us that the Tablet we so specially sought had never been in the British Museum, but that, after the death of Prof. E.G. Brown, his heirs had sent one original Baha’i manuscript to the Museum. This, however, was not written by either Baha’u’llah or ‘Abdu’l-Baha so it might not be of value to us at this time. This news was a great disappointment until he added, “It is in the hand of ‘Ali Muhammad, the Báb.” At this unexpected and wonderful news we asked if it was possible to see it. It is too valuable to be on view, he replied, but I will send for it. It proved to be a single sheet of heavy vellum inscribed in the delicate handwriting of the Báb, illuminated in exquisite colors and so written as to form a star.