Mirza Hussein Ali (1817-1892), later known as Bahá’u’lláh (Glory of God) was born into a noble family from the Iranian province of Nur. Instead of following in the footsteps of His father, a minister in the royal court, He chose to assist the poor and the sick. When the Báb announced His mission, Bahá’u’lláh became one of His followers and then a major figure in the movement. Like many others, this singled Him out for imprisonment and torture. In His writings, He relates how the announcement of His divine calling came to Him while He was confined in an underground dungeon in August of 1852.
All of Bahá’ú’lláh’s property was confiscated, and He and His family were expelled from their native land in 1853, never to return. The first stage of exile was Baghdad, where Bahá’u’lláh stayed for ten years, two of which were spent wandering alone in the mountains of Kurdistan. Before complying with an order from the Sultan of Turkey summoning Him to Istanbul, Bahá’ú’lláh announced His divine mission to the followers of the Báb, most of whom accepted His claim and became Bahá’ís. After a few months in Istanbul, Bahá’u’lláh was ordered to move on to Edirne in the European part of Turkey. At each stage of His exile, Bahá’u’lláh earned the love and devotion of the people surrounding Him and the jealousy of the clergy and rulers. Finally, in 1868, the Turkish Sultan banished Him to ‘Akko, then a remote outpost of the Ottoman Empire used as a depository for political prisoners and other undesirables. With time, the initial hostility of the authorities and people of ‘Akko changed to respect and affection. After nine years of confinement, first in the citadel and then within the walls of the Old City, Bahá’ú’lláh was allowed to move about freely and to live in the countryside north of the city. The last twelve years of His life were spent in relative comfort in the mansion that stands in the centre of the Bahá’í Gardens in ‘Akko. When He passed away on 29 May 1892, at the age of 75, His remains were buried in a small building next to the mansion, which is known as the “Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh”. This is the place to which Bahá’ís all over the world turn their faces and their thoughts while reciting their daily prayers.
Throughout His life of imprisonment and exile, Bahá’ú’lláh was occupied with the revelation of the sacred texts that came to Him in a constant flow, sometimes with such rapidity that no one could write them down. While still confined within the walls of ‘Akko, He formulated the fundamental laws and principles of His religion in a volume He called the “Most Holy Book” (Kitáb-i-Aqdas). He wrote to the secular and religious rulers of His day, asserting His authority as God’s Messenger, urging them to make peace among themselves and rule over their subjects with justice and compassion, warning them of the consequences of their heedlessness, and in some cases predicting their downfall. In addition to major works addressing theological and mystical subjects, He wrote thousands of letters to individuals in which He explained His teachings and offered personal counsel. In His testament, Bahá’u’lláh appointed His eldest son as His successor and gave him the authority to interpret the teachings and settle differences of opinion so as to protect the community of His followers from dissension and disputes that could lead to schism.