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Quite a few things come to mind when I think of the Declaration of the Bab.
The times were exceptional. In 1844, the year in which the Declaration occurred, there was a vibrant millennial expectation felt all around the globe. In both Europe and America, there was a singular focus on 1844 as being the year in which Jesus Christ would return. One such movement, the Millerites, inspired by New York farmer and preacher William Miller, studied biblical prophecy and calculated very rationally the time when Jesus would return. Miller attracted over a hundred thousand followers who believed he was right, but they were destined for disappointment, because on October 23, 1844, they didn’t see Jesus appearing in upstate New York. Simultaneously, in the Islamic world, in Persia, following their own separate guidance, there was a similar movement announcing the appearance of the Promised One envisioned by Shi’ih Islamic teachings.
The Bab claimed to be the fulfillment of these universal and convergent expectations.
The actual moment of the Bab’s declaration and Mulla Husayn’s recognition of Him, according to the Bab’s own testimony, took place two hours and eleven minutes after sunset on May 22nd, 1844 in Shiraz, Persia. Coincidentally, 160 years later, my wife and I were married at about noon on the same day in 2004, so to me these anniversaries are associated in my mind. I am happy when I think of the great blessings I have received on this date.
The Declaration of the Bab has larger meanings obviously. One of the Bab’s titles is “the Primal Point”. In my understanding, this is one way to refer to the Bab as a Manifestation of God, a Divine Educator for humanity. But I think it also refers to the Bab’s unique place in history.
Interestingly, this statement gives insight into the Qur’án’s identification of Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets (Qur’án 33:40). The Islamic religious leaders asserted that this verse meant that Muhammad was the last of God’s Messengers. The Bab and Baha’u’llah acknowledged the Seal verse, but They rejected the clerics’ interpretation. Instead, They said God’s revelation is never-ending, that Muhammad was the final Prophet of a major cycle of history, known as the Prophetic Cycle, which lasted about 6,000 years, beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad.
The very next Messenger, the Bab, the Primal Point, terminated that cycle and launched humanity into a dynamic new era, known as the Cycle of Fulfillment, which marks the coming of age of the human race, the era in which God’s Kingdom on earth will definitively be established.
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.
And the very next Messenger after the Bab, Baha’u’llah, the first One of the new cycle, , Who was soon to appear, was the One to establish this Divine civilization and usher in the age of world peace. This was the One for Whom the Bab sacrificed His life. The Writings say this Cycle of Fulfillment will endure for at least 500,000 years and witness the appearance of many, many future Manifestations of God.
It is evident that every age in which a Manifestation of God hath lived is divinely ordained, and may, in a sense, be characterized as God’s appointed Day. This Day, however, is unique, and is to be distinguished from those that have preceded it. The designation “Seal of the Prophets” fully revealeth its high station. The Prophetic Cycle hath, verily, ended. The Eternal Truth is now come… – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 60.
Thus, the Bab stood at the most crucial turning point in human history. Completely unnoticed by the generality of mankind, May 22nd, 1844 is the precise moment at which this momentous transition occurred. It was also the night, in far off Tihran, on which Abdu’l-Baha was born. Shoghi Effendi describes the scene:
The opening scene of the initial act of this great drama was laid in the upper chamber of the modest residence of the son of a mercer of Shiraz, in an obscure corner of that city… The participants were the Bab, a twenty-five year old siyyid, of pure and holy lineage, and the young Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in Him… The interview itself was protracted till the hour of dawn. The Host remained closeted alone with His guest, nor was the sleeping city remotely aware of the import of the conversation they held with each other. – Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 5
It was a Wednesday evening.
The Day of Resurrection is a day on which the sun riseth and setteth like unto any other day. How oft hath the Day of Resurrection dawned, and the people of the land where it occurred did not learn of the event. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 78
The great event happened, and the world simply continued to spin on its axis.
The moment of the Declaration of the Bab also speaks to me about the human condition. Mulla Husayn is an almost perfect representation of every one of us. We see first his ardent desire and tremendous efforts to reach his goal of finding the Promised One. Second, he stumbles upon his goal, but he doesn’t know it. He doesn’t realize the majesty of the Opportunity sitting right next to him. (Aren’t we all like this with God?) God is always with us, but we are often too blind to recognize the signs of His presence in our lives (at least at first)! Frustrated, we think we’re alone, but reality is otherwise. Third, our efforts and our search are eventually rewarded and the veils to our vision are lifted, the emptiness of our yearning and the darkness of our unknowing is replaced by the light of truth, and we attain to recognition of our goal. Our sorrow is replaced by joy. Attaining our goal involves a change of mind, a state of recognition, and having eyes that really see. Fourth, following recognition, if we are willing, we are empowered to arise and accomplish great things, as did he.
I think we all potentially go through these stages of journey; Mulla Husayn was the living model. I find in the story of the Declaration of the Bab great reasons to hope and believe in the future well-being of mankind. We should simply follow in the footsteps of Mulla Husayn.
The Gate: Dawn of the Bahá’í Faith is the new documentary that tells the amazing, true story of the Prophet Herald known as The Bab, His message and the origins of a new era in world religion.
In addition to the ABC broadcasts, The Gate is being screened in theaters, community centers and homes throughout the United States. You can see where the film is playing and also book your own screening by going to the website. You can also follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where new content is posted every week.