Baha'is celebrate 'Most Great Festival'


Ridván garden

The Festival of Ridván marks the public announcement by Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith,
of His Prophethood to His companions and family.

The first, ninth and 12th days of Ridván are Holy Days which Bahá’ís observe with community gatherings and worship.

The Festival of Ridván commemorates the anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration in 1863 that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions.

Up to this point, Bahá’u’lláh, who was born into a noble Persian family in 1817 in Iran, had dedicated His life to improving the world and helping others. He became one of the foremost followers of the Báb (Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh), for which He was imprisoned, tortured and banished from His native land.

After spending 10 years in exile in Baghdad, Bahá’u’lláh was ordered to Constantinople for another period of exile. Before leaving Baghdad, He spent 12 days in a garden on the banks of the Tigris River. The garden later was named Ridván, meaning “Paradise”. As His followers gathered around Him, Bahá’u’lláh announced that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions. His declaration marked the beginning of the Bahá’í Faith.

When Bahá’u’lláh entered the garden, He proclaimed the Festival of Ridván and made three announcements:
• He forbade His followers to fight to advance or defend the Faith (religious war had been permitted under past religions).
• He declared there would not be another prophet for another 1,000 years.

• He proclaimed that all the names of God were inherent in all things at that moment.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Bahá'u'lláh and the unique interpreter of the Bahá’í writings, has described how, upon His arrival in the garden, Bahá'u'lláh declared His station to those of His companions who were present and announced with great joy the inauguration of the Festival of Ridván. Sadness and grief vanished and the believers were filled with delight. Although Bahá'u'lláh was being exiled to far-off lands and knew the sufferings and tribulations which were in store for Him and His followers, yet through this historic declaration He changed all sorrow into blissful joy and spent the most delightful time of His ministry in the Garden of Ridván. Indeed, in one of His Tablets He referred to the first day of Ridván as the 'Day of supreme felicity' and called on His followers to 'rejoice with exceeding gladness' in remembrance of that day.

The departure of Bahá'u'lláh from His house witnessed a commotion the like of which Baghdád had rarely seen. People of all walks of life, men and women, rich and poor, young and old, men of learning and culture, princes, government officials, tradesmen and workers, and above all His companions, thronged the approaches of His house and crowded the streets and roof tops situated along His route to the river. They were lamenting and weeping the departure of One who, for a decade, had imparted to them the warmth of His love and the radiance of His spirit, Who had been a refuge and guide for them all.

Renewal of Bahá’í Institutions
Throughout Ridván, Bahá’ís gather for devotions and attend social gatherings. It is also during this time that elections take place for Bahá’í governing bodies.

The first day of Ridván is the day of the annual elections of local Bahá’í institutions (Local Spiritual Assemblies) and elections for National Spiritual Assemblies happen later in the festival.

The Bahá’í Faith has no clergy and the affairs of the community are overseen by councils of nine elected adult believers.

There are no nominations and no politicking. All elections are by secret ballot. In towns and cities, Bahá’ís elect a Local Spiritual Assembly to administer its affairs and minister to the community. Countries have a National Spiritual Assembly.

Contributed by the Bahá’í Faith – Seychelles