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The Bab, the young Herald of the Baha’i Faith and the Founder of its revolutionary predecessor the Babi Faith, declared his mission on May 22, 1844. Six years and six weeks later, on July 9th, 1850, the Bab would die in a hail of bullets from a massive firing squad of 250 rifles, executed by a government who 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.
Baha’is all around the world believe that The Bab – a title which means The Gate – brought into being the means for the eventual establishment of the unity of humanity.
Who was The Bab?
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.
In the early evening of May 22, 1844, Siyyid Ali Muhammad declared his mission as The Bab 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 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:
This illustrious soul arose with such power that He shook the supports of the religion, the morals, the conditions, the habits and the customs of Persia, and instituted new rules, new laws and a new religion. Though the great personages of the State, nearly all the clergy, and the public men arose to destroy and annihilate Him, He alone withstood them and moved the whole of Persia. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 25-26.
Historians who study the enormous societal transformation The Bab initiated often remark on the virulent persecution His message engendered:
The fire of His eloquence, the wonder of His rapid and inspired writings, His extraordinary wisdom and knowledge, His courage and zeal as a reformer, aroused the greatest enthusiasm among His followers, but excited a corresponding degree of alarm and enmity among the orthodox Muslims. The Shi’ih doctors vehemently denounced Him, and persuaded the Governor of Fars, namely Husayn Khan, a fanatical and tyrannical ruler, to undertake the suppression of the new heresy. Then commenced for the Bab a long series of imprisonments, deportations, examinations before tribunals, scourgings and indignities, which ended only with His martyrdom in 1850… In consequence of these declarations of the Bab and the alarming rapidity with which people of all classes, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, were eagerly responding to His teaching, attempts at suppression became more and more ruthless and determined. Houses were pillaged and destroyed. Women were seized and carried off. In Tihran, Fars, Mazindaran, and other places great numbers of the believers were put to death. Many were beheaded, hanged, blown from the mouths of cannon, burnt or chopped to pieces. Despite all attempts at repression, however, the movement progressed. – Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, pp. 14-16.
Abdu’l-Baha described the Declaration of the Bab and the sacrifices His followers made, in a speech he gave in the United States on the anniversary of the Bab’s Declaration in 1912:
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 Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 138.
Baha’is rejoice and celebrate every year on the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, which sounded the great call for the unity of all peoples, cultures, nations and religions.