The Bahá’ís of Arlington will celebrate the most holy religious festival of the Bahá’í year beginning Tuesday, April 20, at sunset. The community will gather together for a devotion service and will elect the Spiritual Assembly of Arlington County, the nine-member governing council that oversees the administrative and pastoral needs of the local religious community.
From April 21 to May 2, Bahá’ís observe the Festival of Ridván This most holy day commemorates the anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration in 1863 that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions.
Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration that He was “Him Whom God shall make manifest” and a Manifestation of God marks the beginning of the Bahá’í Faith .
Ridván (Rizwahn) was a bittersweet time, as Bahá’u’lláh was soon to be exiled to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). This was the latest in His series of exiles by the Persian government, which considered Him to be a heretic.
Bahá’u’lláh spent 12 days in a garden in Baghdad visiting with His followers. His followers named the garden Ridván, which means “Paradise” or “good pleasure” in Arabic. The exact circumstances of the Declaration are not known. According to Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith: ³The fragmentary description left to posterity by His chronicler Nabil is one of the very few authentic records we possess of the memorable days He spent in that garden. Every day, Nabil has related, ere the hour of dawn, the gardeners would pick the roses which lined the four avenues of the garden, and would pile them in the center of the floor of His blessed tent. So great would be the heap that when His companions gathered to drink their morning tea in His presence, they would be unable to see each other across it. All these roses Bahá’u’lláh would, with His own hands, entrust to those whom He dismissed from His presence every morning to be delivered, on His behalf, to His Arab and Persian friends in the city.²
Bahá’u’lláh called Ridván the Most Great Festival and the King of Festivals. He said:
Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God hath conferred upon you. Ye
were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of His
Revelation, and made known unto you His manifest and undeviating Path.
When He entered the garden, Bahá’u’lláh 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.
Bahá’ís suspend work on the holiest days of Ridvan-the first (April 21), ninth (April 29) and twelfth (May 2). These mark the day of Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival in the garden, the arrival of His family and the group’s departure for Constantinople.
Throughout Ridván, Bahá’ís gather for devotions and attend social gatherings.
At Ridván, Bahá’ís annually elect members of local and national administrative bodies, called Spiritual Assemblies. Bahá’u’lláh taught that in an age of universal education, there was no longer a need for a special class of clergy. Instead, he provided a framework for administering the affairs of the Faith through a system of elected councils at the local, national and international levels. (International elections are held every five years.)
Bahá’í elections occur through secret ballot and plurality vote, without candidacies, nominations or campaigning.