The Beginnings of a Revolutionary Religion: The Declaration of the Bab

In 1844, a time of great expectation in the world’s various religions, the first prophet of the Baha’i revelation appeared – which explains why Baha’is celebrate the Declaration of the Bab tonight.

All of the world’s great Faiths started exactly the same way – when one individual, who we later call a prophet, a messenger, a manifestation of God – brings humanity a new version of the eternal spiritual teachings. 

A new religion begins when that holy messenger receives a revelation, a mystical transference of inspiration and knowledge and spiritual power, from the Creator. The growth of that new Faith gets underway when people begin to hear that message and respond with their hearts and souls.  

It started in that same manner with Buddha, with Abraham, with Jesus, with Muhammad. The Baha’i Faith had its own beginnings that way, as well. Called “the dawning of the Morning of Guidance” in the Baha’i writings, this day – the Declaration of the Bab – signifies the inauguration of an entirely new spiritual age in the history of humankind.

When the Bab (pronounced bŏb), the young herald and forerunner of the Baha’i Faith, and the founder of its revolutionary predecessor the Babi Faith, declared his mission in May of 1844, it all began. 

Today, the millions of Baha’is all around the world believe that the Bab, a title which means “the Gate,” delivered a new message destined to result in the eventual establishment of the peace and unity of humanity. 

The Bab, a young man named Siyyid Ali Muhammad, came from Shiraz, in the province of Fars, Persia.  Born in 1819 into a family of merchants and traders, raised by his maternal uncle after the premature death of his father in 1826, the Bab started a short-lived but intensely powerful upheaval of a religious movement that is unparalleled in human history. 

Here’s how it happened: during the early evening of May 22, 1844, Siyyid Ali Muhammad declared his mission as the Bab to an ardent spiritual seeker named Mulla Husayn. Younger than Jesus was when he declared his revelation,  on that day the Bab started a new era of faith, renewing the eternal promise of religion itself. As the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith Shoghi Effendi wrote in his book God Passes By, soon many thousands of people became followers of the Bab, igniting:

… a commotion that rocked the entire country. The fire which the declaration of His [the Bab’s] mission had lit was being fanned into flame through the dispersal and activities of His appointed disciples. Already within the space of less than two years it had kindled the passions of friend and foe alike.

The Bab’s new teachings, and the thousands of people who adopted them, upended the corrupt practices of the Persian clergy and challenged the entire nation’s religious and cultural customs by abrogating the traditional Sharia laws of the past. 

The Bab publicly declared that he had come, like John the Baptist before the declaration of Jesus Christ, as the promised herald for another, greater messenger of God who would follow – “the Promised One of All Ages” – the founder of a universal and unifying world religion.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, who declared his mission 19 years later in 1863, fulfilled the Bab’s prophetic promise.

So now, every year at two hours and eleven minutes past sunset on the evening of May 22nd, Baha’is everywhere celebrate the Declaration of the Bab, described here by Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By:

The opening scene of the initial act of this great drama was laid in the upper chamber of the modest residence of the son of a mercer of Shiraz, in an obscure corner of that city. The time was the hour before sunset, on the 22nd day of May, 1844. The participants were the Bab, a twenty-five year old siyyid, of pure and holy lineage, and the young Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in Him. Their meeting immediately before that interview seemed to be purely fortuitous. The interview itself was protracted till the hour of dawn …. No record has passed to posterity of that unique night save the fragmentary but highly illuminating account that fell from the lips of Mulla Husayn.

“I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who awaited me,” he himself has testified, after describing the nature of the questions he had put to his Host and the conclusive replies he had received from Him, replies which had established beyond the shadow of a doubt the validity of His claim to be the promised Qa’im [messiah]. “Suddenly the call of the Mu’adhdhin, summoning the faithful to their morning prayer, awakened me from the state of ecstasy into which I seemed to have fallen. All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of Paradise – these I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a place of which it could be truly said: ‘Therein no toil shall reach us, and therein no weariness shall touch us;’ ‘no vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, “Peace! Peace!”’; ‘their cry therein shall be, “Glory to Thee, O God!” and their salutation therein, “Peace!”, and the close of their cry, “Praise be to God, Lord of all creatures!”’ 

“This Revelation,” Mulla Husayn has further testified, “so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendor and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me.”

To commemorate the Declaration of the Bab, Baha’is everywhere will rejoice and celebrate tonight, marking the anniversary of the day and the hour and the exact minute when the Bab first sounded his great call for advancing the unity of all peoples, cultures, nations, and religions.

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