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”.
Mirza Husayn-Ali, who is known to the world by His title, Baha’u’llah, was born in Tehran, Iran on 12 November, 1817. Baha’u’llah means “Glory of God” in Arabic and He is the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith. The anniversary of the day He was born is celebrated alongside the Birth of the forerunner of His Revelation, the Bab. These Twin Holy Days are celebrated annually as one festival where the closely interwoven missions of these two Divine Luminaries are remembered together.
For centuries, the peoples of the world have awaited the Promised Day of God, a Day when peace and harmony would be established on earth. The dawn of this new Day witnessed the appearance of not one but two Manifestations of God, the Bab and Baha’u’llah, Whose Revelations released the spiritual forces destined to transform society.
A “Manifestation of God” is a Baha’i concept used to define an intermediary between God and humanity, or what is commonly referred to as a Messenger or Prophet. The term “Twin Manifestations” refers to the unprecedented Revelation of the Bab and Baha’u’llah in rapid succession of one another.
The Babi Faith burned bright for six years, until the martyrdom of its Founder, the Bab, in 1850 plunged the young Faith into disarray. Though the Bab was a Manifestation of God and the Founder of a great religion, He also perceived Himself to be a forerunner and had ardently urged His followers to seek out the second Manifestation, cryptically referred to as “He Whom God shall make manifest,” who would emerge “in less than the twinkling of an eye” after His own mission, to complete the unique appearance of twin Manifestations in a single age.
Amongst the devoted followers of the Bab was Mirza Husayn-Ali, who later took the title of Baha’u’llah, meaning the Glory of God. Baha’u’llah and the Bab never met and only ever exchanged letters.
It was not until 1863, nineteen years after the inception of the Babi Faith (thirteen since the Bab’s death), that Baha’u’llah publicly declared Himself as not only the One promised by the Bab, thus yielding that Faith’s “destined fruit and revealing its ultimate purpose” but indeed, He proclaimed to be the Promised One of all Ages.
To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the “Everlasting Father,” the “Lord of Hosts” come down “with ten thousands of saints”; to Christendom Christ returned “in the glory of the Father,” to Shi’ah Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the “Spirit of God” (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha. 1
With the birth of the Baha’i Faith the realization of two related but independent religions arising within one age was actualized.
All the peoples of the world are awaiting two Manifestations, Who must be contemporaneous; all wait for the fulfillment of this promise. In the Bible the Jews have the promise of the Lord of Hosts and the Messiah; in the Gospel the return of Christ and Elijah is promised. In the religion of Muhammad there is the promise of the Mihdi and the Messiah, and it is the same with the Zoroastrian and the other religions. 2
The reason behind this rapid succession, and the unprecedented bounties released by the Revelation of Twin Manifestations, remains a mystery.
“That so brief an interval,” He [Baha’u’llah], moreover has asserted, “should have separated this most mighty and wondrous Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation is a secret that no man can unravel, and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had been foreordained.” 3
Abdu’l-Baha sets forth conclusively the true relationship between the twin Founders of the Faith, with this illuminating explanation:
The Revelation of the Bab may be likened to the sun […] The station of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, on the other hand, is represented by […] the sun’s mid-summer and highest station. By this is meant that this holy Dispensation is illumined with the light of the Sun of Truth shining from its most exalted station, and in the plenitude of its resplendency, its heat and glory. 4
The notion of “Twin Manifestations of God” is a concept fundamental to Baha’i belief, as the mission of the Bab and Baha’u’llah are inextricably linked: the Bab’s mission was to prepare the way for the coming of “He Whom God shall make manifest,” who eventually appeared in the person of Baha’u’llah. For this reason, both the Bab and Baha’u’llah are revered as central figures of the Baha’i Faith. Together these twin Luminaries would usher in an age of peace and justice promised in all the world’s religions.
It has been prophesied that in the time of these two Manifestations the earth will be transformed, the world of existence will be renewed. Justice and truth will encompass the world; enmity and hatred will disappear; all causes of division among peoples, races and nations will vanish; and the cause of union, harmony and concord will appear. 5
Further cementing the bond between these two Manifestations is the celebration of their Twin Birthdays. “The Festival of the Twin Birthdays” or “Twin Holy Days” celebrates the birth of the Bab on the first day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar (20 October 1819) and the birth of Baha’u’llah on the second day of Muharram (two years prior, on 12 November 1817). Regarding the Twin Birthdays, Baha’u’llah has stated:
These two days are accounted as one in the sight of God. 6
Until recently some countries celebrated the Twin Holy Days as per the Islamic calendar, while others celebrated the Births of the Bab and Baha’u’llah weeks apart according to the Gregorian calendar. In 2014 the Universal House of Justice announced that it was time for all Baha’i communities around the world to adopt the Baha’i calendar. Now, Baha’is and their friends all over the globe can truly celebrate the these Twin Holy Days as one joyous festival.
Kamelia is a Baha'i and a mother of three (plus an angel). She studied Law, Accounting and Children's Services, but spends most of her days now trying to navigate her way through motherhood. She is particularly interested in early childhood education and Baha'i scholarship.