SUNSET THURSDAY, MAY 22: Millions of Baha’is the world over celebrate the start of the Baha’i faith—170 years ago—tonight, during the Festival of the Declaration of The Bab.
Just one hour after sunset on this day in 1844, a long and arduous journey came to an end: after years of searching, seekers had finally found “the gate,” or the Beloved who would usher in the Promised One. In a humble home in Shiraz, Persia, the revelation of the Bab took place. In coming years, the Bab would fulfill his mission “to prepare mankind for the advent of the Promised One,” attracting thousands of followers and building a thriving religion. Today, Baha’is refrain from work and school; this marks one of the four great festivals of the faith.
Siyyid Ali Muhammad defines the essence of early Baha’i history. Decades before the advent of Siyyid Ali, a man named Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa’i began traveling through Persia, preaching of a Great Day to come that would see the arrival of the Qa’im, or Promised One. Students, clergy and leaders flocked to Shaykh Ahmad, and his favorite pupil—Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti—continued preaching, despite growing opposition and hardship. (Learn more from Planet Baha’i.) Prior to his death, Siyyid Kazim encouraged his students to keep searching, despite a refusal to reveal the identity of the Qa’im. A pupil of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, named Mulla Husayn, would finally unveil the identity of the Bab.
As Baha’is recall and retell the story: It was an unassuming evening when Mulla Husayn was wandering outside the gates of Shiraz, breaking from his journey a few hours before sunset. Suddenly, Husayn was greeted by a young man, in a manner that he related as “astonishing … the Youth … overwhelmed me with expressions of affection and loving-kindness.” Husayn was invited to the young man’s home, where the two drank tea and prepared for evening prayer. After sunset, the young man—named Siyyid Ali Muhammad—prodded Mulla Husayn to prepare questions, on the basis that he was the one Husayn was seeking. Siyyid Ali Muhammad answered each question with ageless wisdom, effortlessly passing each test that Husayn had prepared for the One he sought. From this day, Siyyid Ali Muhammad referred to himself as the Bab; Mulla Husayn became his first disciple. In the six years that followed, the Bab would teach many things, gather thousands of followers and foretell of the Promised One, for whom he was but a Herald. (Find details from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.) The Bab was executed by a firing squad in 1850.
IN THE NEWS:
DESTRUCTION OF BAHA’I CEMETERY IN SHIRAZ
The international Baha’i Community is expressing great concern for the recent start of excavation in a historically significant Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz, where approximately 950 Baha’is are buried. (Read an article here.) Though such acts against Baha’i cemeteries are not uncommon, the enormity of the site in Shiraz is creating international alarm. Members of other religions, such as this Shiite Muslim featured in a related news story, are also voicing concern in the morality of disturbing a major cemetery. Britain also expressed serious concern, according to this article in The Guardian, and international appeals are asking the President of Iran to halt the destruction.