Ridvan, Festival of. The twelve day period commemorating Bahá'u'lláh's announcement of his claim to prophethood and his departure from Baghdad in 1863, observed from sunset 20 April to sunset, 2 May. The first, ninth and twelfth days of Ridvan are major Bahá'í holy days on which work should be suspended. Bahá'í elections are normally held during Ridvan. The name derives from the Najibiyyih Garden in Baghdad where Bahá'u'lláh stayed during this period and to which he gave the name Ridvan (Paradise).
1. Bahá'u'lláh's departure from Baghdad. Following Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in Iraq in the spring of 1853, he had gradually established warm relations with the ordinary people of Baghdad as well as with notables of all sorts: Ottoman officials, clerics, and Persian pilgrims and exiles. He had also become the generally recognized leader of the Babi community, although his brother Mirza Yahya was still accepted as the appointed successor of the Bab. Baghdad - close to the Iranian border, adjacent to several Shi'i shrine cities and home to many Iranian political exiles - was a hotbed of political intrigue; and the Iranian authorities feared that Bahá'u'lláh would use his growing prestige to threaten the government. The Persian ambassador in Istanbul, Mushiru'd-Dawlih, therefore demanded that Bahá'u'lláh be removed from Baghdad. Eventually, 'Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizier, and Fu'ad Pasha, the Foreign Minister, yielded, and Bahá'u'lláh was summoned to Istanbul. Bahá'u'lláh, however, was a person of consequence and had by this time become an Ottoman subject, so the summons was issued in the form of a polite invitation.
Namiq Pasha, the governor of Iraq and sympathetic to Bahá'u'lláh, was reluctant to deliver the summons. Finally he sent a courteous message asking Bahá'u'lláh to call on him at the governorate. The message reached Bahá'u'lláh on the fifth day after Naw-Ruz, 26 March 1863, at the Mazra'iy-i-Vashshash, an open area outside the city where Bahá'u'lláh and his followers had camped to observe the new year. The message arrived shortly after Bahá'u'lláh had completed the composition of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Bahá'u'lláh arranged to meet the governor in the mosque across the street from the governorate. He ordered the tents struck and the party returned to the city.
Bahá'u'lláh met the next day with the deputy governor and agreed to go to Istanbul with his family and a number of attendants. Money for the journey was provided by the government, which Bahá'u'lláh accepted and immediately distributed to the poor. The next few weeks were very busy. Bahá'u'lláh received innumerable visitors, wrote tablets to each of the friends who would be left behind, and made the practical preparations necessary for the journey. Eventually, Bahá'u'lláh decided to move to the Najibiyyih Garden across the river and receive visitors there, thus clearing the house of visitors and allowing the family to pack.
Bahá'u'lláh left his house in Baghdad for the last time on the afternoon of 22 April 1863. He walked through crowds of friends, acquaintances and the merely curious down to the river where he took a small boat across to the garden. He was accompanied by his sons, his secretary Mirza Aqa Jan and perhaps others. He reached the garden just at the time for afternoon prayers. There for the next eleven days he received farewell visits from his friends, including the governor. The river rose soon after his arrival, so it was not until the ninth day, 30 April, that his family was able to join him.
The twelfth day was appointed for departure. The garden was filled with people coming for final farewells. It was late afternoon before the party got underway. Bahá'u'lláh mounted a fine roan stallion named Sa'udi (he also had two others, named Sa'id and Farangi), and the party left the garden amidst displays of affection and grief. The party travelled as far as Firayjat, three miles up the Tigris. There they stayed in a borrowed garden for a week while Bahá'u'lláh's brother Mirza Musa completed dealing with their affairs in Baghdad and packing the remaining goods. Visitors still came daily. The party finally set out on 9 May for the three-month journey to Istanbul.
2. The significance of Ridvan. Ridvan is the anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration of his prophetic mission to his followers. It is clear, however, that the symbolic significance of Ridvan is richer than the simple fact of Bahá'u'lláh's open announcement of his prophetic claim.
a. The announcement. The exact nature and details of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration are unknown. 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that on the afternoon he arrived in Ridvan Bahá'u'lláh disclosed his claim to be Him Whom God shall make manifest, the Prophet promised by the Bab. Bahiyyih Khanum, however, is reported to have said that on that day Bahá'u'lláh privately stated his claim to prophethood to 'Abdu'l- Baha and four other followers. According to this account "he enjoined upon them secrecy as to this communication, as the time had not come for a public declaration; but that there were reasons which caused him to deem it necessary to make it at that time to a few whom he could trust." (Master in 'Akka 39) It would appear then that Bahá'u'lláh, having prior to this time concealed his mission, decided on this day to disclose it. He chose however to inform only a handful of people and most Babis - even those in exile with him - seem to have been unaware of this claim until a year or two later in Edirne, although, of course, Bahá'u'lláh's Baghdad writings are full of hints about it.
b. The departure from the Most Great House. In some places Bahá'u'lláh stresses his departure from the Most Great House: "as He departed from His house, proceeding to the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation, the splendors of His name, the All- Merciful." (GWB 14:35) Another tablet recounts his journey from the House to the Ridvan Garden, giving supernatural significance to each stage of the journey. Another refers to his "exile (hijrih) from Iraq," thus linking Bahá'u'lláh's departure from the Most Great House to Muhammad's emigration from Mecca, the site of the most holy House of Islam, to Medina, the city where Muhammad fully exercised the prerogatives of prophethood.
c. The three announcements. In a tablet written some years later Bahá'u'lláh states that three announcements were made on the first day of Ridvan. First, Bahá'u'lláh's followers were forbidden to fight to advance or defend their faith. Religious war (jihad) had been permitted in Islam and under certain conditions by the law of the Bab. Second, there would not be another prophet for a full thousand years. Third, at that moment all the names of God were fully manifest in all things. These are perhaps to be regarded as an oblique announcement of his own prophethood. The first two anticipate basic features of Bahá'í law recorded in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.
The third announcement is echoed in many passages from tablets related to Ridvan - for example: "He Who is the Desire of all nations hath shed upon the kingdoms of the unseen and of the seen the splendor of the light of His most excellent names, and enveloped them with the radiance of the luminaries of His most gracious favors - favors which none can reckon except Him." Thus, Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in Ridvan marks a mystic transformation of the world, in which the entire creation is infused with the glory of God's names. His announcement can, therefore, be viewed less as the revealing of a secret to a few individuals than as a fundamental transformation in the relationship between God and the world.
d. Completion of the first Vahid of the Bahá'í calendar. Naw-Ruz 1863 marked the beginning of the nineteenth year of the calendar established by the Bab, the last year of the first Vahid - "unity" - of nineteen years. Bahá'u'lláh's first prophetic experience had been in 1852-53 during his imprisonment in Tehran - the "year nine" of the Babi calendar. One, nine, and nineteen all have important symbolic and prophetic significance in the writings of the Bab.
3. The Festival of Ridvan. On the afternoon on which Bahá'u'lláh entered the garden, he proclaimed the festival of Ridvan. The Kitab-i-Aqdas, revealed ten years later, ordains it as one of the two "Most Great Festivals," along with the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab. Bahá'u'lláh specified that the first, ninth, and twelfth days were to be major holy days - days on which work is prohibited. These mark the days of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival, the arrival of his family and his departure. Several tablets state that the festival properly begins at the time of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in the garden, that is, two hours before sunset. However, work is prohibited for the entire Bahá'í day, beginning the previous evening.
Ridvan is observed everywhere according to the Bahá'í calendar. It begins on the 13th of Jalal - 21 April if Naw-Ruz is on 21 March - the thirty-second day of the Bahá'í year. The ninth day falls on 29 April and the twelfth on 2 May. Like other Bahá'í holy days, there are few specific rules concerning the observance of Ridvan. It is usually observed with community gatherings for prayer and celebration on the three holy days. Most Bahá'í elections are held during Ridvan, a practice that began in the time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Local spiritual assemblies are elected on the first day of Ridvan each year. The national conventions at which national spiritual assemblies are elected each year are usually held later in Ridvan, as is the international convention presently held every five years to elect the Universal House of Justice.
4. Tablets and writings associated with Ridvan. A number of important tablets of Bahá'u'lláh are associated with Ridvan. These include:
a. Lawh-i-Ayyub. The Tablet of Job, also known as Suriy-i-Sabr ("the Surih of Patience"), Madinatu's-Sabr ("the City of Patience"), and Surat Ayyub. A long tablet in Arabic revealed on the afternoon Bahá'u'lláh arrived at the garden of Ridvan. It was written for Haji Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Nayrizi, whom Bahá'u'lláh surnamed Ayyub, "Job," a veteran of the battle of Nayriz. The tablet praises Vahid (q.v.), the Babi leader at Nayriz, and the believers of Nayriz. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 262-304)
b. Tablet of Ridvan, beginning "Huva 'l-Mustavi 'ala hadha 'l- 'arshi'l-munir" "He is seated upon this luminous throne." An Arabic tablet speaking joyfully of the lifting of the veils that had concealed God's beauty and the manifestation of all his names in created things and appealing to the people to answer the call of their Lord. After each verse is a refrain of the form, "Glad tidings! This is the Festival of God, manifest from the horizon of transcendent bounty." (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 246-50)
c. Hur-i-'Ujab: "The Wondrous Maiden." An allegorical tablet in Arabic rhymed prose celebrated the unveiling of Bahá'u'lláh's glory. In this allegory the Maid of Heaven comes forth and unveils herself. Her unveiled beauty inflames creation. In joy she passes around the wine of life, plays music, and serves the food of beauty. But the arrogant reject her and she returns saddened to her heavenly palace, grieving that the people of the Book have rejected her and vowing not to return to them until the Day of Resurrection (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 251- 54. RB 1:218).
d. "The Divine Springtime is come. . . ": (Qad ata Rabi'u'l-Bayan) The superscription of this tablet says that it "was revealed in the Ridvan for all to read during the Festival of Ridvan. . ." The tablet takes the form of a dialogue between God and "the Most Exalted Pen" - i.e., Bahá'u'lláh. God chides Bahá'u'lláh for not openly proclaiming the greatness of this day. Bahá'u'lláh replies that he is silent only because the people are veiled. God answers that today only His face can be seen in creation. God excuses Bahá'u'lláh's silence and proclaims that he has made Bahá'u'lláh the trumpet of the Day of Resurrection. The tablet explains in mystical terms the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's entry into the garden of Ridvan and commands Bahá'u'lláh to attract the hearts of men through the Word of God. The tablet appeals to the believers to heed the call of God. Bahá'u'lláh concludes the tablet with the statement that the Word of God had so inebriated him that he can write no longer. This well-known and frequently-quoted tablet is frequently referred to by western Bahá'ís as the Ridvan Tablet. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 254-61; GWB xiv; Days to Remember 27-31)
e. "When the gladness of God seized all else. . .": (Fa-lamma akhadha farahu'llah kulla ma sivahu. . .) An Arabic tablet in which Bahá'u'lláh describes, with much mystical symbolism, his departure from the Most Great House, the grief of the people in the streets, his crossing of the Tigris and entry into the garden, and his final departure. This tablet is a rich source for understanding the symbolic significance of Ridvan and provides some historical information as well. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 305-12)
f. Other tablets and talks: There are other prayers, tablets and talks of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá relating to Ridvan, usually composed at or for a particular Ridvan observance. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 313-21, 324-31; Days to Remember 31-34; AVK 3:29-39).
g. Ridvan messages: As early as 1923 Shoghi Effendi sent a letter of encouragement and greeting to the American national Bahá'í convention at Ridvan. Later it was his regular practice to write a Ridvan letter to the Bahá'ís of the world summarizing the progress of the Faith in the previous year and setting out general directions for the coming year. The Universal House of Justice has continued this practice. Other Bahá'í institutions, especially national spiritual assemblies, also sometimes issue Ridvan letters.
SEE ALSO: "Ridvan, Garden of, Baghdad," "Bahá'u'lláh," "Calendar, Badi'"
Bibliography: Collections of material on Ridvan are found in AT 246-339; Days to Remember 25-43; AVK 3:6-10, 29-39; AAK 4:21-24. Accounts of the events of Ridvan are found in GPB 146-58; BKG 154-58, 168-76; RB 1:257-82; Phelps, Master in 'Akka 35-41; CH 56-58, 122-24. John Walbridge
Baghdad: 33 20 N, 44 26 E = 33.33333, 44.43333 Timezone: UTC+3 (3 hrs ahead)
Distance across Tigris (Google Earth) = 180 m
Ridvan Garden = 33.345 N, 44.3782 E
Full Moon must fall at sunrise/sunset
Apr 18 03/06:03 New Moon
Apr 26 04/07:06 1st Quarter
May 03 14/17:50 Full Moon
May 10 07/10:13 3rd Quarter
May 02 02/05:14 Sunrise
May 02 08/11:59 Noon
May 02 15/18:45 Sunset
May 03 02/05:13 Sunrise
May 03 08/11:59 Noon
May 03 15/18:46 Sunset
Calculate here: http://www.noendpress.com/pvachier/arabicparts/
Prayer Times (Baghdad) April / 2008 -
Day Date Fajr Sunrise Dhuhr Asr Maghrib Isha
20 Sun 4:58 6:26 1:02 4:41 7:37 9:01
Fajr Dawn till sunrise
Dhuhr After true noon until Asr
Asr Late afternoon to sun starting to set: late afternoon = when the shadow of an object becomes twice or equal its height (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Dhuhr
Maghrib After sunset till dusk
Isha'a Dusk till dawn
Difference between Ridvan and the Ridvan Garden