The very first believer in this new Faith, Mulla Husayn, described the new Revelation as “a thunderbolt:”
This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanised my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: ‘Awake, for, lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!’
In such a state I left His house and joined my brother and nephew. . . . Ecclesiastical dignitaries and officials of the city also came to visit me. They marvelled at the spirit which my lectures revealed, unaware that the Source whence my knowledge flowed was none other than He whose advent they, for the most part, were eagerly awaiting.” – The Dawnbreakers, p. 65.
The person Mulla Husayn met and then recognized as the Promised One was a young man by the name of Ali-Muhammad. His green turban indicated he was a siyyid, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Until this point he had been relatively unknown except to friends and associates in his native city of Shiraz. A merchant by profession, he had not received extensive religious training and had never even completed elementary school.
But his knowledge and character were well known to his friends and family. He was possessed of intellectual abilities and spiritual qualities that many considered miraculous. These were evident even in his writings, in both Persian and Arabic, which in the latter case were often compared to the Qur’an itself in their power and eloquence. One person who made His acquaintance in the years before
His declaration recounted the following:
I was enabled to meet the Bab on several occasions. Every time I met Him, I found Him in such a state of humility and lowliness as words fail me to describe. His downcast eyes, His extreme courtesy, and the serene expression of His face made an indelible impression upon my soul. I often heard those who were closely associated with Him testify to the purity of His character, to the charm of His manners, to His self-effacement, to His high integrity, and to His extreme devotion to God. – ibid, p. 79.
The Bab made His mission known first to Mulla Husayn and then to a small circle of individuals who had likewise sought Him out. To them he announced that he was the “Gate of God,” or in Arabic, the Bab.
At the heart of the Bab’s claim were two themes: first, that he was the latest Messenger of God, sent to reveal a new religion on the same order as Christianity and Islam; and second, that he was the Herald of a still greater revelation, infinitely more significant than his own, which would be the fulfillment of past prophecies concerning the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Messenger of that revelation, he said, would come swiftly, but not until after he Himself had suffered martyrdom. He referred to the second Messenger, among other titles, as “He Whom God shall make manifest.”
Addressing his little band of early disciples, the Bab told them to go out into the cities and regions of Persia and Iraq to proclaim his advent. With his words ringing in their ears, the disciples set out to accomplish their mission. The entire country soon came to learn of the Bab–and was shaken to its depths.
The Bab was about twenty-five years old when he began His teaching. Over the course of the next several years tens of thousands of people would accept the new faith, eagerly anticipating the appearance of the One to come after the Bab.