Bahá'u'lláh, which is Arabic for "the Glory of God," is the title adopted by the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Mírzá Husayn-'Alí (1817-1892). Born into a noble family in nineteenth century Iran, Bahá'u'lláh refused the political position offered to him when He was a young man and chose instead to spend His wealth caring for the poor and the sick. He became an early follower of the Báb ("the Gate"), a young merchant from Shiraz who claimed to be the bearer of a new religion destined to renew Persian society. The Báb moreover heralded the imminent coming of another Messenger of God, who would fulfill the prophecies of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the other major religions of the world, ushering in an era of peace and justice for all peoples. When the Báb was executed by the authorities in 1850, many of His movement's members - called Bábís - turned to Bahá'u'lláh for leadership.
In 1852, while imprisoned in Tehran for his activities as a Bábí, Bahá'u'lláh received the first intimations of the mission foretold by the Báb. Upon His release from prison, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to Baghdad and, in 1863, declared there that He was the long-awaited Messenger of God. The vast majority of the Bábís accepted this declaration and the Bahá'í community was born.
Through 40 years of exile at the hands of the Persian and Ottoman authorities, from Baghdad to Constantinople, Adrianople, and finally to the Ottoman penal colony of Acre, Palestine (now Israel), in 1868, Bahá'u'lláh revealed more than 100 volumes of divinely inspired mystical writings, ethical and social teachings, and laws and ordinances. He also addressed the kings and rulers of His day, including the Shah of Persia, the Sultan of Turkey, Pope Pius IX, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, Queen Victoria, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, Napoleon III, and the heads of governments in the West, informing them of the Revelation He bore. He exhorted them to govern their subjects with justice and compassion, and He warned them that if they did not, power would pass from their hands.
The key points of Bahá'u'lláh's message can be summed up as global unity and justice. He taught that there is only one God who has revealed His will through a series of divine Teachers such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha, and Zoroaster. While the social teachings of the great religions they founded differ according to the time and place they were delivered, the spiritual essence of all faiths is the same: that the purpose of all human beings is to know and worship their Creator. In this age, humanity is capable of recognizing the oneness of God, religion, and the human family. Bahá'u'lláh also taught that men and women are equal, that the teachings of science and religion are in harmony, that the extremes of wealth and poverty must be abolished, that education must be universal and compulsory, and that a universal auxiliary language must be chosen to facilitate international communication and understanding.
Before His death in 1892, Bahá'u'lláh provided for the succession of leadership of the Bahá'í community, ensuring its unity and protecting it from schism. His eldest son, 'Abbás Effendi (who adopted the title 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which means "servant of the Glory"), was appointed the head of the Bahá'í Faith and the sole authorized interpreter of Bahá'u'lláh's writings. This act enabled the Bahá'í community to pass through the first century of its existence with its unity firmly intact, in the face of both external and internal challenges.