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A hundred and four years ago on this day, Abdu’l-Baha spoke in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His talk, given on May 23, 1912, commemorated the Declaration of the Bab in 1844, the event that set in motion the twin revelations of the Bab and Baha’u’llah led to the birth of a new global Faith.
Abdu’l-Baha spoke lovingly about the Bab’s prophetic mission, to prepare the way for the advent of Baha’u’llah. Here is what he said:
Scientific knowledge is the highest attainment upon the human plane, for science is the discoverer of realities. It is of two kinds: material and spiritual. Material science is the investigation of natural phenomena; divine science is the discovery and realization of spiritual verities. The world of humanity must acquire both. A bird has two wings; it cannot fly with one. Material and spiritual science are the two wings of human uplift and attainment. Both are necessary — one the natural, the other supernatural; one material, the other divine. By the divine we mean the discovery of the mysteries of God, the comprehension of spiritual realities, the wisdom of God, inner significances of the heavenly religions and foundation of the law.
This is 23 May, the anniversary of the message and Declaration of the Bab. It is a blessed day and the dawn of manifestation, for the appearance of the Bab was the early light of the true morn, whereas the manifestation of the Blessed Beauty, Baha’u’llah, was the shining forth of the sun. Therefore, it is a blessed day, the inception of the heavenly bounty, the beginning of the divine effulgence. On this day in 1844 the Bab was sent forth heralding and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, announcing the glad tidings of the coming of Baha’u’llah and withstanding the opposition of the whole Persian nation. Some of the Persians followed Him. For this they suffered the most grievous difficulties and severe ordeals. They withstood the tests with wonderful power and sublime heroism. Thousands were cast into prison, punished, persecuted and martyred. Their homes were pillaged and destroyed, their possessions confiscated. They sacrificed their lives most willingly and remained unshaken in their faith to the very end. Those wonderful souls are the lamps of God, the stars of sanctity shining gloriously from the eternal horizon of the will of God.
The Bab was subjected to bitter persecution in Shiraz, where He first proclaimed His mission and message. A period of famine afflicted that region, and the Bab journeyed to Isfahan. There the learned men rose against Him in great hostility. He was arrested and sent to Tabriz. From thence He was transferred to Maku and finally imprisoned in the strong castle of Chihriq. Afterward He was martyred in Tabriz.
This is merely an outline of the history of the Bab. He withstood all persecutions and bore every suffering and ordeal with unflinching strength. The more His enemies endeavored to extinguish that flame, the brighter it became. Day by day His Cause spread and strengthened. During the time when He was among the people He was constantly heralding the coming of Baha’u’llah. In all His Books and Tablets He mentioned Baha’u’llah and announced the glad tidings of His manifestation, prophesying that He would reveal Himself in the ninth year. He said that in the ninth year “you will attain to all happiness”; in the ninth year “you will be blessed with the meeting of the Promised One of Whom I have spoken.” He mentioned the Blessed Perfection, Baha’u’llah, by the title “Him Whom God shall make manifest.” In brief, that blessed Soul offered His very life in the pathway of Baha’u’llah, even as it is recorded in historical writings and records. In His first Book, the Best of Stories, He says, “O Remnant of God! I am wholly sacrificed to Thee; I am content with curses in Thy path; I crave nought but to be slain in Thy love; and God, the Supreme, sufficeth as an eternal protection.”
Consider how the Bab endured difficulties and tribulations; how He gave His life in the Cause of God; how He was attracted to the love of the Blessed Beauty, Baha’u’llah; and how He announced the glad tidings of His manifestation. We must follow His heavenly example; we must be self-sacrificing and aglow with the fire of the love of God. We must partake of the bounty and grace of the Lord, for the Bab has admonished us to arise in service to the Cause of God, to be absolutely severed from all else save God during the day of the Blessed Perfection, Baha’u’llah, to be completely attracted by the love of Baha’u’llah, to love all humanity for His sake, to be lenient and merciful to all for Him and to upbuild the oneness of the world of humanity. Therefore, this day, 23 May, is the anniversary of a blessed event. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 138-139.
New religions start when a prophet of God receives a divine revelation—a mystical transference of inspiration, knowledge and spiritual power from the Creator. Then a few visionary early disciples begin to respond with their hearts and souls. With Buddha, with Abraham, with Jesus, with Muhammad, the same basic pattern took place. Each of those prophets opened the path to a new level of human consciousness.
The Bab, Siyyid Ali Muhammad, was born in Shiraz, Persia in October of 1819. Born into a family of merchants and traders, his mother and father of noble birth, raised by his maternal uncle after the premature death of his father in 1826, a mystic descended from many generations of mystical Sufis, known from childhood for his wisdom, intelligence and humility, The Bab would start a religious movement unparalleled in history.
In the early evening of May 22, 1844, Siyyid Ali Muhammad declared his mission to an ardent seeker named Mulla Husayn. On that day, Baha’is believe, a new era of faith began, a renewal of the eternal promise of religion itself. Soon many thousands became followers of The Bab, who overturned the corrupt practices of the Persian clergy, upended tradition by abrogating the laws of the past and declared that he had come to pave the way for another prophet of God, the Promised One of All Ages, the founder of a universal and unifying world religion.
Baha’is rejoice and celebrate every year on the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, who first sounded the great call for the unity of all peoples, cultures, nations and religions.