SUNSET SUNDAY, JULY 8: What Good Friday is to Christians, the Martyrdom of the Bab is to Baha’is—and today marks the 162nd anniversary of that martyrdom. Historical records tell a fascinating story of the Bab, having been imprisoned for three years, when his death was finally ordered. Despite his being locked in a cell, the Bab’s religion had been gaining popularity at a rapid rate. Hundreds of followers were being put to death for their beliefs, but the Bab remained alive—until a new Shah was put into place, that is. When Nasiri’d-Din Shah came to power, his advisors recommended putting the Bab to death, which he did.
Here is how the traditional story is remembered and retold by Baha’is:
The execution was ordered for noon on July 9, 1850. When the head attendant came to obtain a death warrant, he found the Bab speaking with his secretary, and the Bab said he would not die until he had finished his conversation with the secretary. Just as he had said, the Bab was taken to the Barracks and fired at by 750 soldiers, and yet the bullets only cut the ropes that held the Bab and three of his followers. (Get a meditation at New York Bahai.)
A frantic search was conducted to find the Bab, and when he was found, he was in the same room he had been in earlier—finishing his conversation with his secretary. He declared, “I have finished my conversation with Siyyid Husayn. Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention.” Many men on post were so shaken by this course of events that they abandoned their duties, but others came forward to execute the Bab. (Planet Bahai has the full story.) Just as he had said, the Bab and his followers then proceeded to die at the barracks. Babis snuck past guards to redeem the lifeless bodies, and the corpses were hidden for several decades until Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah, was able to lay them to rest in 1909. The bodies now lie beneath a shrine on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.
Baha’is refrain from work tomorrow, with many commemorating the Bab’s execution with prayers and readings at noon.
New York Baha’is are duly celebrating something less solemn today, as this year marks the centennial of Abdu’l-Baha’s tour of North America. (Bahai.us has an interactive page for the centenary.) Records indicate that Abdul’-Baha was in New York on July 9, and some believe he visited a museum on this date in 1912. Abdu’l-Baha asked America to become a “land of spiritual distinction” that would lead humanity toward unity.