Baha’u'llah was born in Tehran, Iran, on November 12, 1817. His given name was Husayn-‘Ali. His father was Mirza Abbas of the province of Nur, and often referred to as Mirza Buzurg. He was a prominent and wealthy man who had been a minister at the court of Fath-’Alí Shah and subsequently the governor of Burujird and Luristan. When Fath-’Alí Shah died in 1834, his son Muhammad Shah carried out a purge of government in which Mirza Buzurg was stripped of his title and his government salary but retained the family estates in Nur.

Baha’u'llah’s early life reflected his well-to-do circumstances. He received the education typical of a child of the minor nobility: riding, calligraphy, study of famous Persian literary works, and learning Arabic based on reading the Qur’an. Yet unlike many privileged children, he developed no attachment to wealth and ease.

There are a number of stories regarding Baha’u'llah’s childhood, which indicate he was not an ordinary child. One tells of a dream that Baha’u'llah related to his father. In this dream, he was in a garden while large birds attacked him from every side, though unable to harm him. He had other ones involving the fish in the sea following him by his hair. On hearing these, his father summoned a famous seer to interpret the dream, and was told that his son would become the founder of a great cause and would be attacked by the leaders and learned men of the world. However, they would be unable to harm him, and he would be victorious over them all.

Baha’u'llah developed a keen sense of justice and fairness at a very young age. Throughout His life, he would display these qualities, but perhaps one of the most remarkable demonstrations of this came while He was still a teenager. He witnessed three confrontations between his father and a tax collector who was “in a cruel and unjust manner” demanding payment. Incensed, Baha’u'llah rode to Tehran, a journey of two days, and sought the dismissal of the tyrannical tax collector. Incredibly, he was successful in his quest.

The youthful Baha’u'llah’s wisdom and insight were also often remarked. It was said that he could resolve problems nobody else could, and his deep knowledge of the Qur’án and traditions astounded many learned men. The well-known scholar Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi, once asked a large gathering of students to explain a particular tradition (hadith). None were able to reply until Baha’u'llah, who had received no seminary training, gave an explanation that left the great man silent. The next day he berated his students, who had had many years of instruction, for failing to explain what Baha’u'llah had elucidated so well.

His generosity was also noted. Indeed, as a young man he became known as “the Father of the Poor” for His extraordinary generosity and regard for the impoverished. It seemed that the trappings of wealth held little importance for him, even though he had grown up surrounded by them. The things of the spirit were always his focus in life.

That life, as it turned out, would be very much like his childhood dream. He embraced the Bab’s new religion immediately upon reading a few pages of the Bab, relayed by a trusted courier, Mulla Husayn. He became one of the Bab’s most active followers and suffered a brief imprisonment and torture as a result. Some months after the Bab’s execution in 1850, a group of the Babis decided on assassination of the Shah and revenging the death of their Master. This ill-conceived plan went badly and many Babis suffered death. Baha’u'llah himself was imprisoned, his property confiscated and his residence sacked by a mob.

In early 1853, after four months of captivity, he was released from prison only to be exiled to Baghdad in Iraq. His revelation, born in the prison in Tehran, would be shared with a close circles of followers ten years later and publicly in 1867-68. The exile to Baghdad was followed by a brief transfer to Istanbul, and forced banishment to Edirne and eventually to the penal colony of Akka.

Throughout these forty years of imprisonment and exile, Baha’u'llah would be beset by enemies in governments of Iran and the Ottoman, the clergy and even by his half-brother. Several attempts on his life would leave their marks upon him. Yet through it all, he remained as he had been in his childhood: a person of deep spiritual insight and wisdom, dedicated to justice and integrity, full of goodness and generosity. In short, he was one through whom the light of God illuminated the world.

For Bahá’ís, the birth of Bahá’u'lláh is a Holy Day celebrating the rebirth of the world through the love of God, just as Christmas is for Christians.

We wish our Baha’i friends throughout the world a most joyful celebration of the birth of the Baha’u’llah – a man who brought hope to the world.