On April 21, Bah’ís in Thurston County and around the world celebrated a special Holy Day called Ridvan. This word is pronounced “Rezwan” and means paradise in Arabic. This marks the declaration of Baha’u’llah on April 21, 1863, and the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.
Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Bah’í faith, had been banished by the Ottoman Empire from Persia (present-day Iran) to Baghdad. Due to his rising popularity, he was once again banished to Constantinpole (Istanbul). Before he left Baghdad, he went to a garden outside of town to receive guests and say goodbye. The name of this beautiful garden was Ridvan.
He spent a total of twelve days in the garden, and during that time he revealed to his followers that he was the Promised One of God, fulfilling prophecies of Islam and other religions.
Bah’ís observe the entire 12 days of Ridvan (April 21-May 2), but three are special holy days during which work is suspended: the first, ninth, and 12th days. According to Bah’í guidance, the first day of Ridvan is the only day in this festival that has a specific time for observation. It is held around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, corresponding to the approximate time Bah’u’llh told his followers about his mission.
On April 21 each year, Bah’ís also elect their governing body, called a Local Spiritual Assembly. These elections are very different from the contentious and divisive electoral process we experience in this country. Bah’ís do not nominate individuals or campaign for election to the Local Spiritual Assembly.
Instead, local Bah’í are supposed to become well-acquainted with one another and thereby know the qualities and skills of each person in their community. The election is marked by reverence and prayer, and is carried out by secret ballot. Each Local Spiritual Assembly is composed of nine members, and the nine people with the most votes are elected.
This is the guidance for elections from the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi:
“I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals. We should refrain from influencing the opinion of others, of canvassing for any particular individual, but should stress the necessity of getting fully acquainted with the qualifications of membership referred to in our Beloved’s Tablets and of learning more about one another through direct, personal experience rather than through the reports and opinions of our friends.” (In a letter written by Shoghi Effendi, 14 May 1927).Leslie-Edwards Hill is a member of the Baha’i Assembly of Olympia. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.