April 1, 2012

Baha’u’llah’s Childhood and Youth

Husayn-‘Ali [later known as Baha’u’llah] was born November 12, 1817, at dawn when the birds begin their songs. He was born in the land of Persia, in the city of Tehran. According to the Muslim calendar used in Persia, the day of His birth was the second day of the month of Muharram in the year 1233 A.H. At that time, Fath-'Ali Shah ruled Persia, and King George III was King of England. James Monroe was President of the United States, which had only nineteen states, Abraham Lincoln was a boy of eight, living in Indiana, and Frederick Douglass was a baby, born into slavery in the state of Maryland.

Husayn-‘Ali was the third-born child of the honorable Mirza ‘Abbas Buzurg, a vizier (minister of state) of the shah, and his noble wife Khadijih Khanum. Only later, when the time was right, would He take the title "Baha’u’llah," meaning in Arabic "the Glory of God."

Early on, His parents recognized that Husayn-'Ali was an unusual child. His mother often wondered how a baby could be so happy and content all the time. "This child never cries!" she would exclaim.

But what truly astonished them as they watched their young son grow was His extraordinary knowledge and wisdom. His simple education was no different from that given to other sons of the Persian nobility. Tutors came to His home to teach reading, writing, and Persian culture, just as they did for the other boys. Husayn-‘Ali learned to read the great Persian poets - 'Attar, Hafez, Rumi - as the other boys did, and to recite from the Koran, the holy book of Islam. He did not study science, for science was viewed with suspicion in nineteenth-century Persia, nor did He study philosophy or religion. Those were left to the mullas and mujtahids -- Muslim scholars who spent long years studying the teachings, laws, and traditions of Islam.

Yet Husayn-'Ali showed a lively interest in spiritual topics, and from His boyhood He displayed a profound understanding of spiritual truth. His understanding was innate and reached far beyond the knowledge of His teachers. Although Husayn-‘Ali was never arrogant or boastful about the knowledge that came so easily to Him, neither was it something He could hide.