On October 20th, Canadian Baha’is will gather with their neighbours and friends to celebrate the 194th anniversary of the birth of the Bab — the first of the two divine teachers central to the founding of the Baha’i Faith.
The central purpose of the Bab’s message was to prepare the people for the Messenger of God Who would succeed Him — One Who would usher in a new age of international peace and prosperity. This Messenger is recognized by Baha’is as Baha’u’llah, the Promised One, who announced His station in 1863.
Although the Bab’s life spanned little more than 30 years, His teachings caused a social and spiritual upheaval of the religious conservatism in 19th century Persia.
The Bab called for the spiritual and moral reformation of Persian society, elevating the status of women and championing the poor. His teachings promoted education and the study of the sciences, messages that were revolutionary in a region of the world that had resisted modern ideas and technology.
Born Siyyid Ali Muhammad, the Bab (a title meaning “the Gate”) was raised in a middle-class merchant family in the Persian city of Shiraz. The Bab’s father died when He was still young and His maternal uncle assumed responsibility for raising Him. Accounts of the Bab’s earliest years attest to a wisdom and innate knowledge that baffled and amazed His teachers.
In 1844, while still a youth, the Bab proclaimed that He was the author of a new divine revelation. Social advancement and spiritual renewal, He said, were based on love and compassion rather than force and coercion. As the Bab’s teachings spread, Persian authorities and clergy grew uncomfortable with the growing number of adherents to His teachings. Some twenty thousand of the Bab’s followers, known as Babis, were executed. Ultimately the Bab was imprisoned and executed by firing squad in July 1850.
His remains were later transported to Mount Carmel, in Haifa, Israel, where a beautiful Shrine was constructed. That Shrine is now a pilgrimage destination for followers of the Baha’i Faith, and it is surrounded by exquisite gardens and flanked by buildings that constitute the administrative and spiritual World Centre of the Baha’i Faith.
The birth of the Bab is one of nine holy days that Baha’is around the world commemorate with prayers and celebrations, to which all are welcome.