On May 23, Bahá’ís will celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb: the moment their religion began.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a young Persian merchant named Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad announced He was the bearer of a message destined to transform the life of humanity. He is known by the title “the Báb”—meaning “the Gate” in Arabic—for His teachings would be the gate to a new age of social transformation. He called for immediate spiritual and moral reformation, including the advancement of women and improvement of the lot of the poor. He founded a distinct, independent religion, and inspired His followers to carry out acts of heroism that would contribute to the spiritual emancipation of their fellow countrymen. In His homeland, now called Iran, the Báb’s message aroused excitement and hope, rapidly attracting thousands of followers from a cross-section of classes .
Ultimately, the Báb’s mission was to prepare humanity for the coming of another, greater Messenger of God: Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The Báb taught that Bahá’u’lláh would usher in the age of justice, unity, and peace promised by all the world’s religions. The Báb was executed by the state in 1850, just six years after His first public announcement, but His ministry shook the foundations of His homeland and began to spread beyond the borders of Persia. Today, the Bahá’í Faith is established in virtually every country of the world, and about 2,100 ethnic groups—including indigenous peoples—comprise its membership.
Before His public announcement, the Báb privately announced His mission in a prayerful meeting with His first follower, Mulla Husayn. That meeting took place on May 23, 1844. Thus, on May 23 in this 174th year of the Bahá’í calendar, Bahá’ís will celebrate their history, remembering the origins of their plans to build—alongside like-minded friends and organizations—a world that is more equitable, just, creative, educated, safe, peaceful, and healthy. Bahá’ís see the anniversary of the Báb’s declaration to Mulla Husayn as the earliest light of a dawn in a new era in human history, an era destined to unite the human family as one peaceful global community, beautiful and strong in its diversity.
Across Canada and all over the world, Bahá’ís and their friends celebrate this special anniversary. Most holy days may be celebrated at any time of day – beginning at sunset on the previous day – but the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb was celebrated in the late evening on Monday, May 22. Special prayers are read approximately two hours after sunset in every gathering, because historical sources indicate this to be the time at which the Báb first declared His mission and station.
Bahá’í holy day celebrations, whatever their degree of formality, are intended to be participatory and joyful, innovative and uplifting. Given the multi-cultural make-up of Canada and its Bahá’í community, and the variety of social conditions in Canadian cities and towns, Bahá’í holy day celebrations take many forms. Devotional periods, during which participants read relevant sacred texts, form the core of all celebrations. This year Baha’is around the world are looking forward with great anticipation to October when the Twin Holy Days, October 21 and 22, mark the birthdays of the Bab and Baha’u’llah, especially historic this year as the date falls 200 years after the birth of Baha’u’llah in 1817.
In the province of British Columbia (which includes upwards of 15 unceded Aboriginal territories), tens of celebrations of the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb were held, generally in private homes with intimate groups of 5–30 participants. In one example whose format could be considered typical, Bahá’ís and friends in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island gathered in a home after sunset on May 22 to share music, prayers, and stories. Multiple other gatherings were also held across Canada, in all cities and many towns.
As with all Bahá’í holy day celebrations and commemorations, these gatherings are open to all. To attend future celebrations and events near you, get in touch with your local Bahá’í community via .