FRIDAY, JULY 9: Baha’is solemnly remember, at 12 p.m., the Martyrdom of the Bab. Some Baha’is hold the Bab’s martyrdom as parallel to only one other event in history: the crucifixion of Jesus. That’s not the only point of comparison in this traditional story. The overall role of the Bab can be compared to the role of John the Baptist in Christianity. As John was the “forerunner” of Jesus, the Bab was the forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the recognized founder of the Baha’i religion. On July 9, 1850, at noon, the Bab was publicly executed. (Planet Baha’i has a related article.)
Six years before his execution, while still only in his mid-20s, the Bab made an announcement: He was to herald the arrival of the Promised One. Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the young man after his announcement, and officials grew anxious at the Bab’s rapidly growing number of followers. As the years passed, thousands of Baha’i leaders and followers were persecuted, and even after the Bab was exiled and then imprisoned for three years, officials found that the Baha’i religion continued to gain strength. Finally, officials unjustly called for the execution of the Bab and a firing squad of 750 soldiers executed the Bab. (The background of the execution story is at the Baha’i Library.)
The story of the Bab’s martyrdom doesn’t end there, though. According to Baha’i tradition: Before thousands of witnesses to this execution—the Bab initially disappeared. When soldiers had originally come to take the Bab to the execution stand, he had been talking with one of his disciples; the Bab told the soldiers that no man could take him from the world until he had finished his mission. Just as he had said, witnesses saw bindings severed and the Bab gone when the gunshots ceased, while his disciple stood, unharmed. Guards finally found the Bab, again engaged in conversation with the same disciple with whom he had been speaking earlier. The Bab told the guards that he had said his final words, and that he could now be executed—and he was. (Devotees can meditate during an online presentation on the Bab, courtesy of New York Baha’i.) Officials threw the Bab’s body into a ditch, although devotees recovered it and it now rests beneath a shrine of the Bab’s name. (A newspaper in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, previews observances this year.)
Similarities between the Bab and Jesus
As Baha’is reflect on these two lives, they consider: In their ministries, both the Bab and Jesus began at approximately the same time in their lives and died young. Both leaders had false trials that resulted in executions, and following the executions, it’s recorded that the skies clouded over and became dark for several hours. After deadth, both the Bab’s and Jesus’ bodies disappeared. Intrigued by these parallels between the Bab and Jesus, as outlined by Baha’i followers? Read even more similarities at the site of Baha’is of the U.S.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)