May 23, 2003
Local Bahais celebrate two holidays
Ascension of Bahaullah commemorates death of founder of religion. Holiday precedes Declaration of the Bab, precursor to Bahai faith.
Joanna Corman, Claremont-Upland Voice
On Thursday, Keyvan Geula will stay up past 3 a.m. saying prayers and remembering the man who founded the Bahai faith.
"It's the most
spiritually enriched day of my Bahai life," said Geula, a Claremont resident.
Next week, Bahais will mark
the Ascension of Bahaullah, the day their religious founder died. Bahaullah died in prison at 3 a.m. in 1892.
"The Bahais all over the
world observe it at three in the morning," Geula said. "They stay up and say prayers, read history and remember who we are."
advocated the oneness of humanity and of all religions, equality between the sexes, and the elimination of racism. He shunned ritual
The holiday is a reminder of the richness of the next life, said Susan Millett, a Bahai in Upland.
"It is a holiday
where first you think, just as the crucifixion of Christ is very meaningful to Christians, (Bahaullah's) physical form dropped away and the
spirit remained. It's the passing of the physical form of that one who reflected all the qualities of God."
This past Thursday, Geula
observed Declaration of the Bab, which she normally does by filling her home with flowers and light. She welcomed worshippers to celebrate one
of nine holy days in the Bahai calendar.
Two hours after sunset, they observed Declaration of the Bab, which commemorates when the
Bab, the precursor to the Bahai faith, declared his mission to his first believer on May 23, 1844.
"To me it's a day that is a symbol
of the divine love for humanity," said Geula, 59.
The Bahai faith took root in Iran in the late 1800s. In 1844, worshippers of many
faiths around the world believed their scriptures pointed to the coming of the promised one that year. In Iran, Islamic scholars were preparing
their students for the coming of the messiah and believed he was in the southern part of the country.
A student, Mulla Husayn, came
across Mirza Ali Muhammad during a search. Husayn learned that Muhammad was the promised one — he called himself the bab, or gate
in Arabic. That year, 17 others found the Bab on their own, and also believed him to be the promised one. His existence was to prepare for the
coming of Bahaullah, founder of the Bahai religion.
The 18 became the Bab's first disciples, or Letters of the Living, and began to
preach his teachings.
The Islamic movement stirred upheaval and fear in Iran and the Bab, who had gained many followers, was
imprisoned. Thousands of Babis were executed. The Bab was killed July 9, 1850.
The day is observed often in homes, with Bahais sharing
their history, prayers and writings of the Bab. One writing, the "Letters of the Living," "are absolutely moving about human conduct and
character," said Geula, a lifelong Bahai whose grandparents converted from Judaism in Iran.
Celebrants light candles as a reminder of
the Bab's imprisonment.
Traditionally, on the day after the observance, Bahais take a day off work and perform community service.
To Diane Gunther, treasurer of the Bahais of Rancho Cucamonga, the holiday is a reminder that the Bab was a manifestation of
"It has a very powerful significance that this is the age of fulfillment," Gunther said.
And despite the violence in the
world, "This is the age where world peace is possible," she said.
©Copyright 2003, Los Angles Times (CA, USA)
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