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A brief biography of the Báb, the Forerunner of the Bahá'í Faith








The Báb (pr. Bab, lit. "Door" or "Gate") was born in Shiraz, southern Iran, in 1819. Raised by his uncle as a merchant, the Báb was known for His gentleness, His compassion and his scrupulous honesty. In Persia at that time, as was simultaneously occurring throughout the world, religious scholars had become convinced that all of the promises of past revelations had been fulfilled and they were convinced that the year 1260 of the local calendar (1844), a date which also figures prominently in Biblical prophecy, would witness the arrival of the advent of the Promised Day. It was during that year that the most prominent religious school to espouse this belief was disbanded and its students sent forth to find the Herald of the Promised One, referred to as the return of Elijah.

On the evening of May 23, 1844, the same day that the message, "What hath God wrought?" was immortalized as the first telegraph message in history, a young man found himself in Shiraz, drawn there by an irresistible urge in search of this mysterious Herald. He was approached by a young man with a radiant countenance and gently compelling nature, Who invited him to join him in evening prayers and tea. While reluctant to abandon his companions, he committed them to the care of God and followed his mysterious acquaintance to His home. After prayers and refreshment, his Host asked him to describe the purpose of his journey. He then asked His guest to describe this promised Herald, as gleaned from the prophetic texts. His host then astonished him by saying, "Behold! These signs are manifest in Me." Stunned by this announcement, the visitor remembered a secret test that he had devised, namely, that completely unbidden, the promised Herald would reveal a detailed treatise on a complex and highly metaphorical section of the Qur'an about the story of Joseph. No sooner had this thought come to mind that his Host announced that it was time for Him to reveal his commentary on the Suríh of Joseph. While simultaneously writing this commentary and speaking aloud further elaborations on this subject, His words and presence emanated tremendous spiritual power. Carried completely away for the words and spiritual radiance of his Host, the young visitor was unmindful of the time that has passed, and was startled by the crowing of a rooster to announce the dawn.

At that moment, the Báb proclaimed His station and, despite the eagerness of the young visitor to announce this news to the world, the Báb told him to remain silent, stating that it would not be until 17 other souls, alone and unassisted, would find their way to Him that it would be permissible to make such an announcement. Within a few weeks, all the others had indeed found Him, including a woman, the most brilliant and well-known poetess of her day, who only had to glance at one of His letters to recognize His Station. She would later lose her life, becoming known as the first martyr for the cause of women’s’ rights.

Shortly thereafter, the Báb, accompanied by two of His followers, went on pilgrimage to Mecca and there, while standing in front of the Ka'ba, the holy temple built by Abraham, He announced to the thousands of pilgrims that He was the promised Qay'im, the Herald of the One Whose coming has been promised in the holy books of all religions. The Báb and his companions then returned to Persia, where His message quickly spread, resulting in thousands of followers joining the ranks of those who were now referred to as Bábís.

Alarmed by this startling development, the clergy and government responded to the claims of this newborn Faith with extreme violence. While many of the most esteemed members of the clergy and government espoused the Cause of the Báb, the great majority did not, seeing this as an affront to their long-held beliefs. Thousands of the Báb's followers were killed in the ensuing months, during which time He continued with His mission while revealing a great deal of scripture, which contained frequent references to the Promised One of the Ages, referred to as "Him Whom God shall make manifest."

It was during the earliest days of His ministry that the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, who were never destined to meet, became aware of each other's station and several letters were exchanged. At that time Bahá'u'lláh became a prominent proponent of the Cause of the Báb. Eventually the Báb was incarcerated in an abandoned fortress, where he continued to reveal the letters and treatises that would constitute the scriptures of his Faith. As He had committed no crime, the Báb was eventually released, to the outrage of the clergy, who persuaded the Sháh that the Báb was an infidel and enemy of the true Faith of God. They urged the Sháh to find the Báb and to arrange a public execution as quickly as possible.

In 1850, now that His mission was nearly complete, the Báb turned himself in to an army detachment that had been sent out to find Him. Ashamed of his orders, the officer in charge tried to persuade the Báb to conceal His identity and to find a place of refuge, but the Báb was insistent that he be faithful to his pledge to carry out the instructions with which he had been entrusted.

The Báb was taken to the northern city of Tabríz and incarcerated along with a number of His followers. With His execution imminent, the Báb addressed them, holding a scarf in His hand and saying that it would be better to die at the hands of one who loved Him rather than an enemy. While most were shocked at the thought of such a thing, one young soul volunteered. The Báb then took away the scarf and told the youth that on that day he would join Him in paradise. An Armenian Christian, the commander of the regiment assigned to carry out the execution, told the Báb that he wished to be spared from this terrible task, to which the Báb replied that if his intentions were pure, his wish would be granted.

The Báb was not yet finished with dictating his final words when the jailers arrived. The youth who had earlier responded to the request of the Báb, asked that he be sacrificed instead, but the guards took them both. At that time, the Báb calmly told the guards that until He was finished, there was no power on earth that could end His life. With the Báb and His follower suspended by ropes against a wall in the city square, and surrounded by thousands of onlookers on the surrounding rooftops, the regiment of 750 soldiers discharged their black powder muskets. As described by a foreign journalist in attendance, the massive discharge of black powder turned the day into night. When the smoke cleared, they beheld the follower standing unharmed, while the Báb had completely vanished. Every one of the 750 musket balls had missed. Meanwhile, the Báb had calmly returned to His cell to complete His work. Convinced that it had been a miracle and, despite the threat of execution for desertion, the entire regiment fled, relieving its commander of the task, as the Báb had promised. Meanwhile, the thousands of onlookers were terrified, swearing that a great miracle had taken place.

By noon of that day, July 9, 1850, another regiment and been summoned and the Báb and his follower were once again suspended before the crowd. As the moment of execution arrived the Báb lifted His voice before the multitude, saying, "Had you believed in Me, O wayward generation, every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and willingly would have sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you."

At the moment the sentence was carried out, there was an earthquake in Shiraz, the cradle of the Báb's revelation, with the casualties and devastation exactly as described in the Book of Revelation. The bodies were dragged about the city for three and a half days until they were recovered by the Báb's followers, who were spiritually revived and greatly intensified their efforts to spread the Cause.

Over the subsequent decades, the sacred remains were secretly transported in many stages to the Holy Land when, in 1909, shortly before His historic visit to the West, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Son of Bahá'u'lláh, laid them to rest in a shrine He had constructed on Mount Carmel. This shrine, which was later enclosed beneath a golden colored dome and surrounded by a marble arcade, is the most prominent feature on the slopes of Carmel.

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