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>>   Essays and short articles Introductory

Queen Victoria and the Bahá'í Fath:
Warwick Leaflets

by Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop

1999
Between 1867 and 1870, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote letters to all the kings and rulers of the earth, announcing His mission and putting forward principles for the evolution of peace in the world. One of those to whom he wrote was Queen Victoria. Although most of the rulers He addressed were condemned for their injustice and greed, there was no hint of criticism for the British queen. On the contrary, she was congratulated for two significant advances. Firstly for abolishing the slave trade:

"We have been informed that thou hast forbidden trading in slaves, both men and women. This, verily, is what God hath enjoined in this wondrous Revelation. God hath, truly, destined a reward for thee because of this."

Secondly for allowing democratic government to flourish. Queen Victoria took a keen interest in the political affairs of the time and took seriously her role as head of the world's largest empire.

"We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, for thereby the foundations of the edifice of thine affairs will be strengthened, and the hearts of all that are beneath thy shadow, whether high or low, will be tranquillized."

Bahá'u'lláh went on to point out that the government should not just act in the narrow interests of this country but should act for the good of the world as a whole:

" It behoveth them, however, to be trustworthy among His servants, and to regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth."

The letter to Queen Victoria was a very important one because in it Bahá'u'lláh put forward several ideas which were applicable to all the rulers of the time. He addressed the sovereigns in general, pointing out the way they should rule their kingdoms:

"O kings of the earth! We see you increasing every year your expenditures, and laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is wholly and grossly unjust.... lay not excessive burdens on your peoples. Do not rob them to rear palaces for yourselves; nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves... Your people are your treasures... By them ye rule, by their means ye subsist, by their aid ye conquer. Yet, how disdainfully ye look upon them! How strange, how very strange! "

He also used the opportunity to advance the idea of a meeting of all the sovereigns and to put forward the principle of collective security:

"Take ye counsel together, and let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind and bettereth the condition thereof...."

"Be united, O concourse of the sovereigns of the world, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you and your peoples find rest. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice."

He then announced His mission as the Promised One of all religions who would bring an age of peace:

"Regard the world as the human body which, though created whole and perfect, has been afflicted, through divers causes, with grave ills and maladies. That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith."

Apart from general letters to the kings and rulers of the earth, Bahá'u'lláh also wrote individually to the King of Prussia, the Emperors of France and of Austria, the Sultan of Turkey, the Shah of Persia and the Czar of Russia. They mostly ignored Him or sent scornful replies, but it is reported that when Queen Victoria received her letter she remarked "If this is of God, it will endure; if not, it can do no harm". It is interesting to note that all the other rulers who received a letter from Bahá'u'lláh subsequently lost power and their dynasties ended.

The startling thing about these letters is their tone of authority, particularly as they were all written when Bahá'u'lláh was a prisoner. Originally from Persia (now Iran) where He was imprisoned because of His teachings, He was banished first to Baghdad, then to Constantinople, to Adrianople and finally to a prison in Akka, all within the Turkish empire of the time. His letters to the kings and rulers were sent from Adrianople and from Akka.

Bahá'u'lláh's goodness of character, however, brought Him friends even from amongst His gaolers, and those with open minds flocked to hear His teachings. The authorities of the time were not pleased with this. When Bahá'u'lláh was in exile in Baghdad, the representative of the British government, Colonel Sir Arnold Burrows Kemball, consul-general in Baghdad, entered into friendly correspondence with Him, offered Him the protection of British citizenship, called on Him in person, and undertook to transmit to Queen Victoria any communication He might wish to forward to her. He even expressed his readiness to arrange for the transfer of His residence to India, or to any place agreeable to Him within the British Empire. Bahá'u'lláh, however, refused, preferring to obey the government which had sent him into exile.

Queen Marie of Rumania

In His letter to Queen Victoria, Bahá'u'lláh included a prayer for her. This is the beginning of it:

"O my Sovereign Lord! I am but a vassal of Thine, and Thou art, in truth, the King of Kings. I have lifted my suppliant hands unto the heaven of Thy grace and Thy bounties. Send down, then, upon me from the clouds of Thy generosity that which will rid me of all save Thee, and draw me nigh unto Thyself."

It continues with a plea that God will open her heart to the new revelation. Queen Victoria was not able to do this, but one of her grand-daughters, who became Queen Marie of Rumania, was introduced to the Bahá'í Faith in 1926 and immediately accepted it as truth. She wrote several open letters which were reproduced in the press of the time, recommending the Bahá'í Faith:

" The Bahá'í teaching brings peace and understanding. It is like a wide embrace gathering together all those who have long searched for words of hope. It accepts great prophets gone before, it destroys no other creeds and leaves all doors open. Saddened by the continual strife among believers of many confessions and wearied by their intolerance towards one another, I discovered in the Bahá'í teaching the real spirit of Christ so often denied and misunderstood. Unity instead of strife, hope instead of condemnation, love instead of hate, and a great reassurance for all men."

The Bahá'í Faith may have begun in the Victorian age, but it offers great hope for the future of the entire world.

The text of all these leaflets remains the copyright of Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop. The Bookshop is happy for people to download individual copies for their own purposes. Printed copies can be purchased from the Warwick Bookshop. Individuals or communities wishing to translate or print these leaflets in other countries please contact the Bookshop for permission.
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