In the middle of the last century, one of the most notorious dungeons in the Near East was Tehran's "Black Pit." Once the underground reservoir for a public bath, its only outlet was a single passage down three steep flights of stone steps. Prisoners huddled in their own bodily wastes, languishing in the pit's inky gloom, subterranean cold and stench-ridden atmosphere.
In this grim setting, the rarest and most cherished of religious events was once again played out: mortal man, outwardly human in other respects, was summoned by God to bring to humanity a new religious revelation.
The year was 1852, and the man was a Persian nobleman, known today as Bahá'u'lláh. During His imprisonment, as He sat with his feet in stocks and a 100-pound iron chain around his neck, Bahá'u'lláh received a vision of God's will for humanity.
The event is comparable to those great moments of the ancient past when God revealed Himself to His earlier Messengers: when Moses stood before the Burning Bush; when the Buddha received enlightenment under the Bodhi tree; when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended upon Jesus; or when the archangel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad.
Bahá'u'lláh's experience in the Black Pit set in motion a process of religious revelation which, over the next 40 years, led to the production of thousands of books, tablets and letters--which today form the core of the sacred scripture of Bahá'í Faith. In those writings, He outlined a framework for the reconstruction of human society at all levels: spiritual, moral, economic, political, and philosophical.