Baha’is in hundreds of cities, towns, and villages across the country will gather tomorrow to commemorate the martyrdom of “the Báb”, the Prophet-Herald of their Faith.
Ashraf Rushdy, a Baha’i from Toronto, said that the Bab had a specific role in the development of the Baha’i Faith. “His mission was to gather people and to help them prepare themselves to recognize Baha’u’llah.”
The Bab, whose given name was Siyyid-Ali Muhammad, was born in 1819 in the city of Shiraz, Iran.
“As a child,” Mr. Rushdy said, “the Bab was distinguished for His incredibly keen mind, the temperance of His character, and His remarkable piety and devotion. “
In 1844, at the age of 25, The Bab made an astounding and profound proclamation: He was the promised “Mahdi” or “Qa’im” – an expected messianic figure who would usher in a new era as the harbinger of an imminent and new Revelation. His stated purpose was to prepare the ground for a Figure of immense significance – a personage to which His Writings refer as “Him whom God shall make Manifest”. This expected figure, He said, would fulfill the promises of religious traditions of the past and bring a Revelation which would transform and renew civilization. He assumed the title of the “Bab” which translates literally from Arabic as the “Gate” – a title which relates to the nature of His mission.
“People from all classes of society enthusiastically accepted the proclamation of the Bab,” said Mr. Rushdy.
His influence spread rapidly and, within a short period of time, tens of thousands became His followers. A number of Iran’s statesmen and eminent religious clerics saw the Bab’s claim as heretical, posing a significant threat to their political and religious power and legitimacy. As a result, thousands of Babís (followers of the Bab), refusing to recant their allegiance and devotion to the Bab, were violently tortured and executed.
The Bab Himself was placed under house arrest for a time, then imprisoned in increasingly remote locations in Iran. Recognizing the growing hostility to His teachings, He nonetheless persevered until His martyrdom at the age of 31. He was executed by a firing squad of 750 soldiers at a barracks square in the city of Tabriz in northern Iran.
“Many of the Bab’s own Writings testify to the purpose of His sacrifice,” said Mr. Rushdy, “to establish clearly the veracity of His divine Revelation, and to prepare His adherents for the imminent arrival of that other, greater Manifestation of God” – known to Baha’is as Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
The Martyrdom of the Bab is one of nine Holy Days in the Baha’i Faith on which work or regular activity are be suspended. Mr. Rushdy has plans to meet with family and friends in a park near his home.
“Baha’is celebrate Holy Days in many different settings. Some will be in a hall, some will be in homes, and since we live near a beautiful park, we thought it’d be a nice place to hold it.”
He added that Baha’i Holy days are open for all to attend. “I would encourage everyone to participate in a local Holy Day commemoration tomorrow – to take this opportunity to learn more about the Bab and the significance of what He said and did.”