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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of
Growth and
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

The Bábí movement, precursor to the Bahá'í Faith


The early nineteenth century was a period of messianic expectations in many lands. Deeply disturbed by the implications of scientific inquiry and industrialization, earnest believers from many religious backgrounds turned to the scriptures of their faiths for an understanding of the accelerating processes of change.

In Europe and America groups like the Templers and the Millerites believed they had found in the Christian scriptures evidence supporting their conviction that history had ended and the return of Jesus Christ was at hand. A markedly similar ferment developed in the Middle East around the belief that the fulfillment of various prophecies in the Qur'an and Islamic Traditions was imminent.

By far the most dramatic of these millennialist movements emerged in Iran. It focused on the person and teachings of a young merchant from the city of Shiraz, known to history as the Báb. From 1844 to 1863, Persians of all classes were caught up in a storm of hope and excitement, aroused by the Báb's announcement that the Day of God was at hand and that He was Himself the One promised in Islamic scripture. Humanity stood, He said, on the threshold of an era that would witness the restructuring of all aspects of life.

In some respects, the Báb's role can be compared to John the Baptist in the founding of Christianity. The Báb was Bahá'u'lláh's herald: His primary mission was to prepare the way for Bahá'u'lláh's coming. Accordingly, the founding of the Bábí Faith is viewed by Bahá'ís as synonymous with the founding of the Bahá'í Faith--and its purpose was fulfilled when Bahá'u'lláh announced in 1863 that He was the Promised One foretold by the Báb.

An independent religion

At the same time, however, the Báb founded a distinctive, independent religion of His own. Known as the Bábí Faith, that religious dispensation spawned its own vigorous community, own scriptures, and left its own indelible mark on history.

The Bábí Faith was founded on 23 May 1844 when a 25-year-old merchant in the Iranian city of Shiraz announced that He was Islam's promised Qa'im, "He Who Will Arise." Although the young merchant's given name was Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammed, He took the name "Báb," a title that means "Gate" or "Door" in Arabic. His coming, the Báb explained, represented the portal through which the universal Messenger of God expected by all humanity would soon appear.

Accounts agree that the Báb was an extraordinary child. Born on 20 October 1819, He possessed a surprising wisdom and nobility, reminiscent of the young Jesus, Upon reaching manhood, the Báb joined his uncle in the family business, a trading house. His integrity and piety won the esteem of the other merchants with whom He came in contact. He was also known for His generosity to the poor.

After His announcement, the Báb attracted followers rapidly, and the new religious movement spread through Iran like wildfire.

This growth stirred opposition and persecution--especially among the religious establishment, who saw a threat to their power and prestige. In the course of this persecution, the Báb was imprisoned several times.

His major work, the Bayan, abrogated certain Muslim laws and replaced them with new ones. The Bayan stressed a high moral standard, with an emphasis on purity of heart and motive. It also upheld the station of women and the poor, and it promoted education and useful sciences.

The central theme of the Bayan was the imminence of a second Messenger from God, one Who would be far greater than the Báb, and Whose mission would be to usher in the age of peace and plenty that had for so long been promised in Islam, as well as in Judaism, Christianity, and all the other world religions.

Persecution and execution

The hearts and minds of those who heard the message of the Báb were locked in a mental world that had changed little from medieval times. Thus, by proclaiming an entirely new religion, the Báb was able to help His followers break free entirely from the Islamic frame of reference and to mobilize them in preparation for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh.

The boldness of this proclamation--which put forth the vision of an entirely new society--stirred intense fear within the religious and secular establishments. Accordingly, persecution of the Bábís quickly developed. Those opposed to the Báb ultimately argued that He was not only a heretic, but a dangerous rebel. The authorities decided to have Him executed.

On 9 July 1850, this sentence was carried out, in the courtyard of the Tabriz army barracks. Some 1O,OOO people crowded the rooftops of the barracks and houses that overlooked the square. The Báb and a young follower were suspended by two ropes against a wall. A regiment of 750 Armenian soldiers, arranged in three files of 250 each, opened fire in three successive volleys. So dense was the smoke raised by the gunpowder and dust that the sky was darkened and the entire yard obscured.

As recorded in an account filed with the British Foreign Office, the Báb was not to be seen when the smoke cleared. His companion stood uninjured and untouched by the bullets. The ropes by which he and the Báb had been suspended were rent into pieces.

The Báb was found back in His cell, giving final instructions to one of His followers. Earlier in the day, when the guards had come to take Him to the execution ground, the Báb had warned that no "earthly power" could silence Him until He had finished all that He had to say. Now, when the guards arrived a second time, the Báb calmly announced: "Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention."

For the second time, the Báb and His young companion were brought out for execution. The Armenian troops refused to fire again, and a Muslim firing squad was assembled and ordered to shoot. This time the bodies of the pair were shattered, their bones and flesh mingled into one mass. Surprisingly, their faces were untouched.

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"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."

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Photo from page 18
The room where The Báb
declared His mission on  23 May 1844 in His house in Shiraz.

Photo from page 19
The Báb's mortal remains
are buried under this shrine, located on the side of Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. The Shrine of the Báb is one of the most holy places in the Bahá'í World.







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