By Taazakhabar News Bureau
The Baha’i firmly believe that God sends his messengers whenever a new message needs to be delivered. It is the reason why founders of many religions – Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Krishna – were sent by God to educate humanity.
According to Bahá’í scripture, no place on earth is intrinsically holy. Any place can be made holy by reciting the name of God. As per Bahá’í faith any place where God is remembered and mentioned becomes a sacred place. All creation is sacred because it manifests in the name of God.
The word pilgrimage holds a special significance for the Bahá’ís as in almost all the world religions. Bahá’ís in particular believe that it is their religious duty to perform pilgrimage or journey to sacred and holy places atleast once in their lifetime.
Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of Bahá’í faith in Kitáb-i-Aqdas– book of laws asks the financially well off followers to make the sacred pilgrimage, “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”. However the timing is left to the individual.
A visit to Haifa and Western Galilee for the Bahá’ís, is akin to a journey to Nazareth or Bethlehem for the Christians, Jerusalem for the Jews, Sarnath or Bodh Gaya for the Buddhists and Mecca for the Muslims.
There are around five million followers of Bahá’í faith all over the world. Traditionally Bahá’ís used to seek permission before starting or ending the pilgrimage.
Bahá’í Houses of Worship are open to all. Places where God is worshipped and scripture are read, chanted, or sung. There are no sermons, preaching, ceremonies or rituals. They are open to people of all religions. Even scriptures from other religions can be recited there.
Acre- a holy city which was once a prison town
One of the holiest cities for the Bahá’í Faith, Acre used a wealthy trading city frequented by pilgrims and merchants. It was reduced to a prison city and a deserted ghost town during the Ottoman period (1517-1917).
In the mid-1800s ‘Akká (Acre) was the end of the world, a final destination for the most notorious murderers, highway robbers, and political enemies of the Ottoman regime. A city of filthy and dampness, Akká had no source of fresh water. Its air was so foul that birds flying overhead would fall dead out of the sky. It was here that Baha’ullah the founder of the Bahá’í faith was detained as a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire in 1868. The authorities expected Baha’ullah and his companions to perish in the prison city. However Baha’ullah managed to spend 24 years of his life, first imprisoned in the city’s fortress and later under house arrest in a small building in the old city. Baha’ullah wrote his most important work on the laws and precepts for the Bahá’í’s during his stay at Acre. Even after being freed he stayed on an estate outside the city walls where he died and was buried in 1892. His tomb is the holiest shrine of the Bahá’ís.
Once known as the prison City of Akka is also famous for the Prison Cell and Barracks that Baha’u’llah occupied. It was here that Bahá’u’lláh lost his 22-year-old son Mírzá Mihdí who fell through a skylight while offering prayers. Thousands of Bahá’í pilgrims visit the prison cell which is of historic and spiritual significance. Acre also happens to be the birthplace of Shoghi Effendi and witness to many important events in Bahá’í history.