Declaration of the Bab: A joyous Baha’i holiday and news from Wilmette

Overview of elaborate gardens and large white building with domed top over busy city

The Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDOWN FRIDAY, MAY 22: Baha’i communities across the globe commemorate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, made on this night in 1844. Though the roots of this story began decades earlier—in 1783, precisely—it was not until this pivotal night that the Bab correctly answered a series of questions that revealed he was the Promised One. Mulla Husayn became the first to accept the Bab’s claims, and soon after, followers of the Bab became known as Babis.

SEARCH FOR A PROMISED ONE

According to Baha’i tradition: The search for “the Gate” began years before the Bab’s birth, in 1783, with a man named Shaykh Ahmad-i-ahsa’i. He began traveling through Persia with the announcement that a great day was coming: a day that would see a Promised One. Later, a follower of his teachings, Mulla Husayn,—who would find the Bab. (For details, visit Bahai.org.) Though the identity of the Promised One remained secret, it was through a series of descriptions, questions and seemingly impossible tasks that Persian merchant Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi convinced Mulla Husayn that he was the bearer of divine knowledge. This evening is now celebrated by Baha’is as the Declaration of the Bab. (For a meditative prayer set to music, visit New York Bahai.)

Large white domed building with still pool in front

The Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Ill., is the only temple of its kind in the United States. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Following the 1844 proclamations, which were later made public, Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi took the name of the Bab (Arabic for “gate”) and began writing. The Bab penned his messianic claims, teachings and new religious law. In a few short years, the Bab had acquired thousands of followers. (Learn more from the Baha’i Blog.) Starkly opposed by other clergy and the government, thousands of Babis were persecuted and killed. In 1850, at the age of 30, the Bab was executed by a firing squad—though not before finding Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith and the messenger of God whom the Bab had spoken of.

IN THE NEWS: Iran to Wilmette

The Baha’i International Community recently launched a campaign that marked the seventh anniversary of the imprisonment of seven former Baha’i leaders in Iran; events took place in communities worldwide. (International Business Times reported.) From protests in Rio de Janeiro to reports by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, it is evident that religious freedoms in Iran have continued to decline in the past year. For the week-long campaign, each day will be dedicated to a different Baha’i prisoner.

Near Chicago, the Wilmette Baha’i Temple opened its highly anticipated welcome center. (World Religion News has the story.) The Baha’i temple has been the only one of its kind in America since 1953, and the welcome center is the first major addition to the building.

Declaration of the Bab: Baha’is mark anniversary of finding ‘the Gate’

Large white building with dome in back, long green gardens in front with brown path around gardens

A Baha’i House of Worship in Illinois, U.S. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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.

Birth of the Bab: Baha’is commemorate day for ‘the Gate’

Bird's eye view of Shrine of the Bab

The Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19: Baha’i parties commence worldwide tonight and tomorrow, as the inclusive adherents celebrate the Birth of the Bab. Born on October 20, 1819, the Bab would eventually become the Herald of the Baha’i Faith; the one who would declare his mission as preparing people of the world for the Promised One (Baha’u’llah). Experts cite several similarities between the Bab and John the Baptist—the Christian who proclaimed the coming of Jesus—yet, in contrast, very little is known about the birth circumstances of the Bab.

On this date, 194 years ago, the Bab was born Siyyid Ali-Muhammad in Persia. The son of two descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, rumors circulated that the young Siyyid was wise beyond his years. Prayerful and meek, Siyyid gained respect from peers and elders alike. At the age of 24, Siyyid first announced the coming Messenger of God; the Promised One awaited for by multiple world religions, according to Baha’is. (Planet Bahai has details.) He changed his name to “Bab,” meaning “the Gate,” and made his life a mission for the Promised One. Six years following his first prophesy, the Bab was executed. The Shrine of the Bab now stands in Haifa, Israel, and attracts throngs of Baha’is on the birth anniversary of the Bab.

Baha’is not in Haifa today mark the Bab’s birthday with prayers, readings, music and social gatherings. (Bahai.us has more.) Baha’u’llah described the Bab this way: “the Herald of His Name and the Harbinger of His Great Revelation, which has caused … the splendor of His light to shine forth above the horizon of the world.”

IN THE NEWS:
BAHA’I LEADERSHIP IN TRANSITION

As the Baha’i faith is governed by elected officials, the Baha’i International Community recently announced the replacement of Secretary-General Dr. Albert Lincoln with Dr. Joshua Lincoln. Following 19 years of service to the Baha’i community, Dr. Albert received an Award of Merit from the City of Haifa in 2013. (Learn more from Bahai.org.) Dr. Joshua spent several years employed with the United Nations before coming to the Baha’i position, where he will be the senior officer on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in the conduct of external affairs. (Bahai.org has the story.)