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.

Martyrdom of the Bab: Baha’is recall awe-inspiring events of Bab’s execution

Woman in black shawl and clothing with eyes closed, candle in background

A Baha’i plays the role of the Bab’s wife in a tribute service for observance of the Martyrdom of the Bab. Photo by Melissa Key, courtesy of The Herald-Sun

STARTS SUNSET TUESDAY, JULY 8: The world’s 5 million Baha’is pause at noon on July 9 to recall in solemnity the Martyrdom of the Bab. One of nine holy days of the year, the Martyrdom of the Bab commemorates the anniversary of an event that occurred on this date in 1850. The Bab, having been imprisoned for approximately three years, had finally been sentenced to a death scheduled for July 9; the events that ensued on the day of his death, however, have left millions in awe for more than a century.

The era was 19th century Persia, and a man who called himself the Bab—his name means, the Gate—had begun attracting followers. Despite attempts by authorities, passion for his Babi religion ran wide and deep. Muhammad Shah would not execute the Bab, but his successor, Nasiri’d-Din Shah, was advised to kill the Bab. And so, it was announced that the Bab, along with any followers, would be executed.

According to Baha’i tradition: When the head attendant was ordered to bring the Bab before the chief religious officials of the City of Tabriz, to obtain death warrants, he did so and found the Bab in private conversation with his secretary, Siyyid Husayn. The head attendant lectured Siyyid Husayn, but the Bab warned that, “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me.” (Learn more from Planet Bahai and the Bahai Library.)

As the traditional Baha’i story is retold: The Bab was brought to the center of the city to be executed by soldiers; as he had promised, not one bullet touched him, and the firing squads had instead blown apart the rope that had tied him. The Bab was nowhere to be found.

After frantic searches, the Bab was discovered in a private room, continuing his previously interrupted conversation with Siyyid Husayn. The Bab announced to them, “I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn. Now you may proceed and fulfill your intention.” Several authorities and soldiers were so shaken by the events that they resigned and refused to have anything further to do with the execution; still, a new firing squad was drawn and brought to the Bab. The regiment opened fire, and the Bab was killed.

In 1909, the Bab’s body was placed in its current resting place, in the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Caramel in Haifa, Israel. Today, most Bahai’s observe the holy day with prayers, gatherings and services. (Access a meditation with slides and music from New York Baha’i.)

IN THE NEWS:
BAHA’I SECOND-LARGEST RELIGION
IN SOUTH CAROLINA

It’s surprising, but true, according to a new research report recently covered in both the Washington Post and National Public Radio’s website. A map recently created by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies has revealed that Baha’is represent the second-largest religious group in one of America’s 50 states: South Carolina. (Read more from the Protojournalist column in the NPR website.) Though the Baha’i faith is present in most states—and the Baha’i House of Worship for North America is located in Illinois—South Carolina was the only state where Baha’is ranked No. 2 behind the nation’s dominant Christian groups. Learn how the Baha’i religion grew in South Carolina, and why, in this article from the Post and Courier.