Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
Born in Shiraz, Iran on 20 October 1819, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad would become known to the world as the Bab (meaning “the Gate” in Arabic). The Bab was the symbolic gate; it was His mission to herald the coming of this promised Manifestation of God whom we know to be Baha’u’llah. In the Baha’i calendar, the Birth of the Bab and the Birth of Baha’u’llah are celebrated one after the other in one festival referred to as the “Twin Holy Days”.
On July 9th 1850, the Bab, the forerunner to Baha’u’llah, was executed in Tabriz, Persia by a firing squad of 750 men. The Bab, which means “the Gate” in Arabic, was a Messenger of God whose role was to herald the coming of the latest Manifestation of God: Baha’u’llah. In 1909, after being hidden away for more than half a century, the Bab’s remains were finally interred on Mount Carmel, Israel.
I hold in my heart two memories that moved me deeply from my visit to the International Archives Building during my Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. The first was the handful of pebbles that was found in the pocket of the Purest Branch, Mirza Mihdi, after his tragic and fatal fall from the skylight of a rooftop in the prison-city of Akka; and the second was the exquisite, hand-stitched clothing of His Holiness the Bab. The latter captured my attention and imagination because of its delicate beauty and ornate craftsmanship, the elaborate attention given to detail and the painstakingly fine stitching. In my mind I could only imagine how each single stitch must have been sewn with such love and precious care for the Owner of the attire.
The Bab was born on October 20, 1819 in Shiraz, Iran, and whilst we know very little of the early days of the Person of the Bab, Shoghi Effendi describes Him as:
…infinite in His tenderness, irresistible in His charm, unsurpassed in His heroism, [and] matchless in the dramatic circumstances of His short yet eventful life.
The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah, p.1
The Writings of the Bab Himself are all a direct testament to “Him Whom God shall make manifest”, Baha’u’llah. The Bab affirms that:
Of all the tributes I have paid to Him Who is to come after Me, the greatest is this, My written confession, that no words of Mine can adequately describe Him, nor can any reference to Him in My Book, the Bayan, do justice to His Cause.
In a prayer addressed to Baha’u’llah, He proclaims:
Exalted art Thou, O my Lord the Omnipotent! How puny and contemptible my word and all that pertaineth unto me appear unless they be related to Thy great glory. Grant that through the assistance of Thy grace whatsoever pertaineth unto me may be acceptable in Thy sight.
The Guardian explains that the Bab is:
…allied, though subordinate in rank, and invested with the authority of presiding with Him [Baha’u’llah] over the destinies of this supreme Dispensation.
Perhaps, on this occasion of the Birth of the Bab, it is His attributes and titles that stir me most deeply and give pause for reflection and contemplation of His station.
Baha’u’llah Himself refers to the Bab as:
the “Essence of Essences”, the “Sea of Seas”, the “Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve”, Him “from Whom God hath caused to proceed the knowledge of all that was and shall be”, He Whose “rank excelleth that of all the Prophets”, and Whose “Revelation transcendeth the comprehension and understanding of all their chosen ones”.
God Passes By, pp 40-41
Abdu’l-Baha further extols Him as:
the “Morn of Truth”, the “Harbinger of the Most Great Light”, the One Whose advent at once signalized the termination of the “Prophetic Cycle” and the inception of the “Cycle of Fulfillment”.
The Bab describes Himself as:
the “Primal Point from which have been generated all created things”, one of the “sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God”, the “Mystic Fane”, the “Great Announcement”, the “Flame of that supernal Light that glowed upon Sinai”, the “Remembrance of God”, the “Qa’im” promised to the Shi’ahs, the “Mihdi” awaited by the Sunnis, the “Return of John the Baptist” expected by the Christians, the “Ushidar-Mah” referred to in the Zoroastrian scriptures, and the “Return of Elijah” anticipated by the Jews.
As Baha’is all over the world come together to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of this Glorious Figure, we can reflect on the words of the Bab in reference to His own birth:
Through the revelation of Thy grace, O Lord, Thou didst call Me into being on a night such as this, and lo, I am now lonely and forsaken in a mountain. Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for whatever conformeth to Thy pleasure within the empire of heaven and earth. And all sovereignty is Thine, extending beyond the uttermost range of the kingdoms of Revelation and Creation.
Thou didst create Me, O Lord, through Thy gracious favour and didst protect Me through Thy bounty in the darkness of the womb and didst nourish Me, through Thy loving-kindness, with life-giving blood. After having fashioned Me in a most comely form, through Thy tender providence, and having perfected My creation through Thine excellent handiwork and breathed Thy Spirit into My body through Thine infinite mercy and by the revelation of Thy transcendent unity, Thou didst cause Me to issue forth from the world of concealment into the visible world, naked, ignorant of all things, and powerless to achieve aught.
Thou didst then nourish Me with refreshing milk and didst rear Me in the arms of My parents with manifest compassion, until Thou didst graciously acquaint Me with the realities of Thy Revelation and apprised Me of the straight path of Thy Faith as set forth in Thy Book. And when I attained full maturity Thou didst cause Me to bear allegiance unto Thine inaccessible Remembrance, and enabled Me to advance towards the designated station, where Thou didst educate Me through the subtle operations of Thy handiwork and didst nurture Me in that land with Thy most gracious gifts.
When that which had been preordained in Thy Book came to pass Thou didst cause Me, through Thy kindness, to reach Thy holy precincts and didst suffer Me, through Thy tender mercy, to dwell within the court of fellowship, until I discerned therein that which I witnessed of the clear tokens of Thy mercifulness, the compelling evidences of Thy oneness, the effulgent splendours of Thy majesty, the source of Thy supreme singleness, the heights of Thy transcendent sovereignty, the signs of Thy peerlessness, the manifestations of Thine exalted glory, the retreats of Thy sanctity, and whatsoever is inscrutable to all but Thee.
Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 173-174
Yas is happiest when the sun is shining. After country-hopping across the globe for the last ten years, she lives (for now) in the most beautiful (and windiest) city in the world. She loves the power of the creative word and teaches literature and creative writing to teenagers. She also loves strawberries.