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Twin Birthdays: The Mystery of the Birth of the Bab

Christopher Buck | Oct 31, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Christopher Buck | Oct 31, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The Bab (1819–1850) announced Baha’u’llah’s imminent advent, like John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the advent of Jesus Christ.

This perfectly valid parallel is still limited and incomplete. Why? Because the Bab revealed his own scripture, teachings, and laws. In fact, the Bab is considered to be the co-founder of the Baha’i Faith!

Baha’is around the world will observe the Birth of the Bab as one of our most important holy days on November 1, 2016. To give you an idea of why this event is so noteworthy for Baha’is, let’s look at one single tablet of Baha’u’llah’s, which comments on the significance of the birth of the Bab.

Baha’is consider Baha’u’llah’s writings as revelations from God. That’s why Baha’is use the expression “revealed” with reference to individual texts authored by Baha’u’llah.

Baha’u’llah revealed the following tablet on the occasion of the Birth of the Bab. Here’s how this joyful and inspiring tablet begins:

In the name of the One born on this day, Him Whom God hath made to be the Herald of His Name, the Almighty, the All-Loving!

This is a Tablet We have addressed unto that night wherein the heavens and the earth were illumined by a Light that cast its radiance over the entire creation.

Blessed art thou, O night! For through thee was born the Day of God, a Day which We have ordained to be the lamp of salvation unto the denizens of the cities of names, the chalice of victory unto the champions of the arenas of eternity, and the dawning-place of joy and exultation unto all creation. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 58.

Not only does Baha’u’llah speak of “joy and exultation” on the occasion of the Birth of the Bab, but he calls this auspicious day the “lamp of salvation” for all the peoples of the world. Here, salvation encompasses spiritual guidance and enlightenment, both individual and social. (The Baha’i concept of salvation completely rejects any notion of original sin, by the way.)

Baha’u’llah goes on to write:

All glory be to that hour wherein the Treasure of God, the All-Powerful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, hath appeared! – Baha’u’llah, Tablet for the Twin Holy Days.

Here, Baha’u’llah praises the Bab as the “Treasure of God,” as a personage of inestimable value, a source of countless blessings. Baha’u’llah continues:

O night of the All-Bountiful! In thee do We verily behold the Mother Book. Is it a Book, in truth, or rather a child begotten? Nay, by Myself! Such words pertain to the realm of names, whilst God hath sanctified this Book above all names. Through it the hidden Secret and the treasured Mystery have been revealed. – Tablet for the Twin Holy Days.

In this passage, Baha’u’llah addresses the blessed night when the Bab was born. He calls the Bab a “hidden Secret” and a “treasured Mystery.” This secret is now revealed, yet still a mystery. In this same passage, Baha’u’llah uses a mysterious term that begs for a brief explanation: he refers to the Bab as the “Mother Book.” What does this mean?

This expression, the “Mother Book” is found in the Quran: “And verily, it is in the Mother of the Book, in Our Presence, high (in dignity), full of wisdom.” – 43:4

This refers to an archetypal book in heaven, on which the Quran is based. There was a controversy in early Islam about whether the Quran was an exact copy or not of this archetypal, “uncreated” book.

Baha’u’llah uses this same expression here to describe the Bab with a wonderful play on words. How can a baby be described as a “Mother” — much less a “Book”? “Is it a Book, in truth, or rather a child begotten?” Baha’u’llah rhetorically asks.

This is simply exquisite! The term “Mother Book” basically means “source of revelation.” Just as books give us wisdom, the Mother Book offers us all wisdom. This term fits the Bab perfectly, because Baha’u’llah knows that this child, the Bab, will reveal marvelous scriptures when he grows up and becomes a prophet of God.

But Baha’u’llah’s question is not simply rhetorical—the question is answered. Who answers? Or rather, “what” answers Baha’u’llah’s question? Here’s the answer: Baha’u’llah’s “Pen” of Revelation. Here, Baha’u’llah personifies the “Pen,” gives it a symbolic personality, and endows it with a mystical voice of its own. Here is the Pen’s answer:

Whereupon, dumbfounded, the Pen of the Most High cried out: “O Thou Who art exalted above all names! I adjure Thee by Thy might that encompasseth the heavens and the earth to exempt me from mentioning Thee, for I myself have been called into being by virtue of Thy creative power. How, then, can I depict that which all created things are powerless to describe?

In this response, the Pen is basically speechless (“dumbfounded”), but goes on to say:

And yet, I swear by Thy glory, were I to proclaim that wherewith Thou hast inspired me, the entire creation would pass away from joy and ecstasy, how much more then would it be overwhelmed before the billows of the ocean of Thine utterance in this most luminous, most exalted and transcendent Spot! Absolve, O Lord, this faltering Pen from magnifying so august a station, and deal mercifully with me, O my Possessor and my King. Overlook then my trespasses in Thy presence. Thou, verily, art the Lord of bounty, the All-Powerful, the Ever- Forgiving, the Most Generous.

Here, if the Pen, speaking in a “dialogue” with Baha’u’llah, were to disclose all that it is capable of revealing, then “the entire creation would pass away from joy and ecstasy.” The Pen records the “utterance” of Baha’u’llah—the revelation of a new Faith.

In this same tablet, Baha’u’llah writes:

On this night the fragrance of nearness was wafted, the portals of reunion at the end of days were flung open, and all created things were moved to exclaim: “The Kingdom is God’s, the Lord of all names, Who is come with world-embracing sovereignty!” On this night the Concourse on high celebrated the praise of its Lord, the Exalted, the Most Glorious, and the realities of the divine names extolled Him Who is the King of the beginning and the end in this Revelation, a Revelation through whose potency the mountains have hastened unto Him Who is the All-Sufficing, the Most High, and the hearts have turned towards the countenance of their Best-Beloved, and the leaves have been stirred into motion by the breezes of yearning, and the trees have raised their voices in joyful reply to the call of Him Who is the Unconstrained, and the entire earth hath trembled with longing in its desire to attain reunion with the Eternal King, and all things have been made new by that concealed Word which hath appeared in this mighty Name. – Tablet for the Twin Holy Days.

Join your nearest Baha’i community on November 1, 2016 to celebrate the Birth of the Bab! This is an open invitation—to you, to me, to everyone.

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  • Nov 2, 2016
    Thank you, Chris, for this wonderful article written for this special day.
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