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Siyyid Ali Muhammad—the Bab—the young Herald of the Baha’i Faith and the founder of its revolutionary predecessor the Babi Faith, declared his mission as a messenger of God on May 22, 1844. Six years and six weeks later, on July 9th, 1850, the Bab died in a hail of bullets from a massive firing squad, executed by a Persian government that feared the potent power of the Bab’s message, the enormously rapid growth of his new Faith, and the devotion tens of thousands of his followers demonstrated.
Today, Baha’is all around the world believe that the Bab brought into being the means for the eventual establishment of the unity of humanity.
Siyyid Ali Muhammad was born in Shiraz, in the province of Fars, Persia in October of 1819. (“Siyyid” means “descended from the lineage of the prophet Muhammad”) 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 movement unparalleled in history.
Baha’is all around the world celebrate on this day, known as the Declaration of the Bab, to commemorate that early evening in May of 1844, when Siyyid Ali Muhammad declared his mission as the Bab to an ardent spiritual 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.
Learn more about the Bab and the dawn of the Baha’i Faith in the upcoming film The Gate airing on ABC affiliate stations 5/26.
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 Manifestation of God, the Promised One of All Ages, the founder of a universal and unifying world religion. He rapidly became a widely popular figure, and his new faith attracted a multitude of devoted believers and also drew vicious opposition:
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. …
When Mulla Husayn became the first Babi, the Bab himself predicted that this day would be commemorated as “one of the greatest and most significant of all festivals:”
This night, this very hour will, in the days to come, be celebrated as one of the greatest and most significant of all festivals. Render thanks to God for having graciously assisted you to attain your heart’s desire, and for having quaffed from the sealed wine of His utterance. – The Bab, quoted by Mulla Husayn in The Dawnbreakers, p. 61.
That prediction has come true. All across the planet, Baha’is rejoice and celebrate every year on the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, which first sounded the great call for the unity of all peoples, cultures, nations and religions:
The appearance of the Bab resembles the dawn, for the dawn holds the promise of the sun. The dawn of the Bab promised the rising of the sun of truth that is to envelop the whole world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 51-52.