Martyrdom of the Bab: Baha’is mark anniversary, inexplicable events

House of worship white building with gardens in front

A Bahai House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by Adib Roy, courtesy of Flickr

Note: Baha’i days begin at sunset.

SUNSET MONDAY, JULY 8: The world’s more than 5 million Baha’is pause to recall the solemn anniversary of their religious founder’s public execution at noon on July 9, for the Martyrdom of the Bab. As one of nine holy days of the year, the Martyrdom of the Bab commemorates the anniversary of an event that occurred on this date in 1850. The events that ensued on the day of his death, however, have left millions in awe for more than a century.

Interested in a Baha’i perspective of the harmony between science and religion? Check out this TEDx talk on YouTube.

PERSIA, BABI AND THE BAB

The era was 19th century Persia, and a man who called himself the Bab—translated, meaning the Gate—had begun attracting followers. Despite attempts by authorities, passion for his Babi religion ran wide and deep. Muhammad Shah would not execute the Bab, but his successor, Nasiri’d-Din Shah, was advised to kill the Bab. And so, it was announced that the Bab, along with any followers, would be executed.

THE EXECUTION AND FINAL CONVERSATION

According to Baha’i tradition: At the time of the Bab’s execution, when the head attendant was ordered to bring the Bab before the chief religious officials of the City of Tabriz to obtain death warrants, the attendant found the Bab in private conversation with his secretary, Siyyid Husayn. The Bab warned that, “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence me.”

As the traditional Baha’i story is retold: The Bab was brought to the center of the city to be executed by soldiers, but—as he had promised—not one bullet touched him. Tens of thousands of onlookers, gathering on nearby rooftops and in the streets, were shocked when the Bab’s words rang true. The firing squads had, instead, blown apart the rope that had tied the prisoner. The Bab was nowhere to be found.

After frantic searches, the Bab was discovered in a private room, continuing his previously interrupted conversation with Siyyid Husayn. The Bab announced to them, “I have finished my conversation with Siyyid Husayn. Now you may proceed and fulfill your intention.” Several authorities and soldiers were so shaken by the events that they resigned and refused to have anything further to do with the execution. A new firing squad was drawn and brought to the Bab, and when the regiment opened fire, the Bab was killed.

A small group of Baha’is risked their lives to sneak the Bab’s deceased body into a wooden box, where it remained hidden for almost 60 years before being entombed in a shrine on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, where it remains to this day. Today, most Bahai’s observe the holy day with prayers, gatherings and services.

Did you know? A Baha’i House of Worship is open to non-Baha’is as well as Baha’is. Holy scriptures of the world’s religions are recited in Baha’i temples.

 

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Intercalary Days and the Nineteen-Day Fast: Baha’is celebrate unity, fast

White walkway, open-air, with poles and blue shutters overlooking gardens below

A walkway and gardens at the Mansion of Bahji, now a shrine in the Baha’i faith and located in Israel. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

  • SUNSET MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25: Baha’is begin a period of special, “outside of time” days to correct their annual calendar.
  • SUNSET FRIDAY, MARCH 1: Baha’is begin the 19-day month of Ala, which is a fasting month in preparation for the Baha’i New year.

AYYAM-I-HA (DAYS OF HA)

Sacred days “outside of time” begin for members of the Baha’i faith as the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days, commences. Until sunset on March 1, Baha’is mark a break in their 19-month calendar: the “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.

Ayyam-i-Ha—literally, the Days of Ha—plays on a double meaning of “Ha”: Ha, the first letter of an Arabic pronoun commonly used to refer to God, is used as a symbol of the essence of God in Baha’i writings; the Arabic abjad system designates the letter Ha as having a numerical value of five, which has always been the maximum number of days allowed for the period of Ayyam-i-Ha.

Baha’u’llah designated that Ayyam-i-Ha should be filled with “good cheer” and “joy and exultation”—for Baha’is, their kindred and for recipients of the Baha’is’ charity.

Important update! As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i calendar has reflected changes made by the Universal House of Justice: Naw-Ruz (New Year) now falls on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.

When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation (which is not practiced in Islam) was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-Day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.

THE NINETEEN-DAY FAST

 With the festive days of Ayyim-i-Ha behind, Baha’is enter the final month of the calendar year with the Nineteen-Day Fast. For the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar year—Ala, which lasts 19 days—Baha’is observe a sunrise-to-sunset fast. Many Baha’is regard the Nineteen-Day Fast as one of the greatest obligations of their faith.

Instituted by the Bab and revised by Baha’u’llah, the Nineteen-Day Fast is intended to bring a person closer to God. According to the Bab, the true purpose of the fast is to abstain from everything except divine love. Fasting guidelines, exemptions and more are in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws.

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Martyrdom of the Bab: Baha’is pray, gather to remember founder

Domed building against blue sky

A Baha’i temple in Uganda. Photo by Philip Songa, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET SUNDAY, JULY 8: Upward of 5 million Baha’is around the world pause to recall in solemnity the anniversary of their religious founder’s public execution at noon on July 9, for the Martyrdom of the Bab. As one of nine holy days of the year, the Martyrdom of the Bab commemorates the anniversary of an event that occurred on this date in 1850. The events that ensued on the day of his death, however, have left millions in awe for more than a century. (Note: Baha’i days begin at sunset.)

The era was 19th century Persia, and a man who called himself the Bab—translated, meaning the Gate—had begun attracting followers. Despite attempts by authorities, passion for his Babi religion ran wide and deep. Muhammad Shah would not execute the Bab, but his successor, Nasiri’d-Din Shah, was advised to kill the Bab. And so, it was announced that the Bab, along with any followers, would be executed.

THE BAB: EXECUTION AND THE FINAL CONVERSATION

According to Baha’i tradition: At the time of the Bab’s execution, when the head attendant was ordered to bring the Bab before the chief religious officials of the City of Tabriz to obtain death warrants, the attendant found the Bab in private conversation with his secretary, Siyyid Husayn. The Bab warned that, “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence me.”

As the traditional Baha’i story is retold: The Bab was brought to the center of the city to be executed by soldiers, but—as he had promised—not one bullet touched him. Tens of thousands of onlookers, gathering on nearby rooftops and in the streets, were shocked when the Bab’s words rang true. The firing squads had, instead, blown apart the rope that had tied the prisoner. The Bab was nowhere to be found.

After frantic searches, the Bab was discovered in a private room, continuing his previously interrupted conversation with Siyyid Husayn. The Bab announced to them, “I have finished my conversation with Siyyid Husayn. Now you may proceed and fulfill your intention.” Several authorities and soldiers were so shaken by the events that they resigned and refused to have anything further to do with the execution. A new firing squad was drawn and brought to the Bab, and when the regiment opened fire, the Bab was killed.

A small group of Baha’is risked their lives to sneak the Bab’s deceased body into a wooden box, where it remained hidden for almost 60 years before being entombed in a shrine on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, where it remains to this day. Today, most Bahai’s observe the holy day with prayers, gatherings and services.

IN THE NEWS: COLOMBIA TEMPLE ADVANCES TOWARD COMPLETION

Symbol on white

The Baha’i Greatest Name symbol. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As announced by the Baha’i Universal House of Justice in 2012, a “local House of Worship”—one of five planned—is nearing completion, in Colombia. Six years ago, the Universal House of Justice announced the building of the first two national Baha’i temples and plans for consultations for the creation of a local House of Worship in five regions of the world; in Colombia, the “crowning piece” of the temple, the Greatest Name symbol, was recently raised to the building’s apex. (Read the story here.) The Greatest Name is a calligraphic representation that is placed in every Baha’i temple, and in the new Colombian temple, the symbol was made to reflect a local ion: the blooming cocoa flower.

Fast fact: A Baha’i House of Worship is open to non-Baha’is as well as Baha’is. Holy scriptures of the world’s religions are recited in Baha’i temples.

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Declaration of the Bab: Baha’is commemorate a joyous holiday

Well tended gardens

A Baha’i garden. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, MAY 23: Baha’i communities across the globe commemorate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, made on this night in 1844. Though the roots of this story began decades earlier—in 1783, precisely—it was not until this pivotal night that the Bab correctly answered a series of questions that revealed he was the Promised One. Mulla Husayn became the first to accept the Bab’s claims, and soon after, followers of the Bab became known as Babis.

THE SEARCH: LOOKING FOR A PROMISED ONE

According to Baha’i tradition: The search for “the Gate” began years before the Bab’s birth, in 1783, with a man named Shaykh Ahmad-i-ahsa’i. He began traveling through Persia with the announcement that a great day was coming: a day that would see a Promised One. Later, a follower of his teachings, Mulla Husayn,—who would find the Bab. (For details, visit Bahai.org.) Though the identity of the Promised One remained secret, it was through a series of descriptions, questions and seemingly impossible tasks that Persian merchant Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi convinced Mulla Husayn that he was the bearer of divine knowledge. This evening is now celebrated by Baha’is as the Declaration of the Bab. (For a meditative prayer set to music, visit New York Bahai.)

Following the 1844 proclamations, which were later made public, Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi took the name of the Bab (Arabic for “gate”) and began writing. The Bab penned his messianic claims, teachings and new religious law. In a few short years, the Bab had acquired thousands of followers. (Learn more from the Baha’i Blog.) Starkly opposed by other clergy and the government, thousands of Babis were persecuted and killed. In 1850, at the age of 30, the Bab was executed by a firing squad—though not before finding Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith and the messenger of God whom the Bab had spoken of.

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Nineteen-day Fast: Bahai’s prepare for the new year during holy month of Ala

White intricate designs in temple

A portion of the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Ill. Photo courtesy of pxhere

SUNSET THURSDAY, MARCH 1: Followers of the Baha’i faith have just celebrated the joyous Ayyam-i-Ha, a special period that aligns their annual calendar, and today begins the Nineteen-day Fast: a fast in preparation for the Baha’i New Year. As each month in the Baha’i calendar contains 19 days, today begins the month of Ala, which immediately precedes the start of spring and the start of the Baha’i calendar year.

AYYAM-I-HA: Sacred days “outside of time” were observed by members of the Baha’i faith as the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days. These “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.

For the entire final month of the Baha’i calendar year—Ala, which lasts 19 days—Baha’is observe a sunrise-sunset fast. Many Baha’is regard the Nineteen-day Fast as one of the greatest obligations of their faith. Instituted by the Bab and revised by Baha’u’llah, the Nineteen-day Fast is intended to bring a person closer to God. According to the Bab, the true purpose of the fast is to abstain from everything except divine love. Fasting guidelines, exemptions and more are in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws.

Note: As of March 20, 2015, the Baha’i Universal House of Justice declared that Naw-Ruz (New Year) falls on the Vernal Equinox, as opposed to being fixed on the Gregorian March 21.

INTERCALATION AND THE MONTH OF ALA

When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation—which is not practiced in Islam—was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.

 

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Birth of Baha’u’llah and the Bab: Baha’is celebrate a bicentenary

Gardens and white, domed building with blue water beyond

Baha’i gardens in Haifa, Israel. Photo courtesy of iha.com

SUNSET FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20 and SUNSET SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21: Five million Baha’is worldwide will celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the “Twin Holy Birthdays” this year, as adherents of the faith rejoice in the birth anniversaries of the two figures most central to their faith: Baha’u’llah and the Bab.

Parties commence worldwide, as Baha’is first celebrate the birth of Baha’u’llah—the “Promised One”—and the Bab—the forerunner of their faith, who is known as “the Gate.” (Note: The Bab’s official bicentennial won’t occur for another two years, in 2019, but this year is the bicentennial of Baha’is most central figure—Baha’u’llah—and the Bab is being honored alongside him, this year.)

‘TWIN HOLY DAYS’: CELEBRATING TOGETHER

In questions submitted to Baha’u’llah after he wrote the “Kitab-i-Aqdas,” Baha’u’llah described his own birthday and the birthday of the Bab as “twin birthdays” that are “one” in the “sight of God.” Though the birthdays had been celebrated according to the solar calendar each year in most of the world—and Baha’u’llah’s birthday fixed on November 12—that changed in 2015. The Universal House of Justice—the governing body of the Baha’i faith—announced that from March 20, 2015 onward, the “twin birthdays” would be observed on the first and second days following the eighth new moon after Naw-Ruz, and the observation date of the Birth of Baha’u’llah would change annually. These “Twin Birthdays” are now celebrated by Baha’is as one annual festival, wherein the closely interwoven lives of these two figures are commemorated together.

Domed building lit at dusk, on hillside

The acclaimed and award-winning Baha’i temple recently built in Santiago, Chile. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Santiago, Chile: One of the most recently built (and award-winning) Baha’i houses of worship was constructed in Santiago, Chile, and received more than 25,000 visitors in just its first few weeks open. In an open-air style of building with a nine-sided dome and nine entrances to symbolically welcome people from all directions of the earth, this YouTube video gives a small tour of the new temple. CNN covered the story.

THE BAB AND BAHA’U’LLAH: TWO LIVES, ONE MISSION

Born on October 20, 1819, the Bab would eventually declare his mission as preparing people of the world for the Promised One (Baha’u’llah). The Bab was born Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, in Persia, and at the age of 24, Siyyid announced the coming Messenger of God—the Promised One awaited for by multiple world religions. Siyyid changed his name to “the Bab” (meaning “the Gate”) and made his life a mission for the Promised One.

Six years following his first prophesy, the Bab was executed. The Shrine of the Bab now stands in Haifa, Israel, and attracts throngs of Baha’is on the birth anniversary of the Bab. Baha’u’llah described the Bab this way: “the Herald of His Name and the Harbinger of His Great Revelation, which has caused … the splendor of His light to shine forth above the horizon of the world.”

Mirza Husayn Ali (who would become Baha’u’llah) was born November 12, 1817, in Tehran, Persia (now Iran). The son of a wealthy government minister, Baha’u’llah was born into wealth and prestige. His family’s lineage could be traced to the ruling dynasties of Persia’s past, and at the time of his birth, Mirza Husayn Ali’s family still exercised influence over the court of the Shah.

From a young age, Mirza Husayn Ali was rumored to be “different” than his peers. The child was wise beyond his years, showed immense compassion for the poor and displayed an unusually alert mind. In adulthood, he showed support for the Bab and the emerging Babi religion; in 1863, Mirza Husayn announced himself as the One promised by the Bab, and became known as Baha’u’llah. As the years passed, Baha’u’llah was subject to exile, violence and imprisonment.

IN THE NEWS: A BICENTENNIAL YEAR

This year, Baha’is celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, in honor of these significant anniversaries, the Universal House of Justice has asked every Baha’i community around the world to arrange a celebration that expresses a shared experience and global solidarity.

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Martyrdom of the Bab: Baha’is mourn founder, recall awe-inspiring events

(Note: Baha’i days begin at sunset.)

Gates open to outdoor gardens, multiple levels

Baha’i gardens in Haifa, Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET FRIDAY, JULY 8: At noon on July 9, more than 5 million Baha’is around the world pause to recall in solemnity the anniversary of their religious founder’s public execution, for the Martyrdom of the Bab. As one of nine holy days of the year, the Martyrdom of the Bab commemorates the anniversary of an event that occurred on this date in 1850. The events that ensued on the day of his death, however, have left millions in awe for more than a century.

The era was 19th century Persia, and a man who called himself the Bab—translated, meaning the Gate—had begun attracting followers. Despite attempts by authorities, passion for his Babi religion ran wide and deep. Muhammad Shah would not execute the Bab, but his successor, Nasiri’d-Din Shah, was advised to kill the Bab. And so, it was announced that the Bab, along with any followers, would be executed.

THE BAB’S FINAL WORDS

According to Baha’i tradition: At the time of the Bab’s execution, when the head attendant was ordered to bring the Bab before the chief religious officials of the City of Tabriz to obtain death warrants, the attendant found the Bab in private conversation with his secretary, Siyyid Husayn. The head attendant lectured Siyyid Husayn, but the Bab warned that, “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me.”

As the traditional Baha’i story is retold: The Bab was brought to the center of the city to be executed by soldiers, but—as he had promised—not one bullet touched him. Tens of thousands of onlookers, gathering on nearby rooftops and in the streets, were shocked when the Bab’s words rang true. The firing squads had, instead, blown apart the rope that had tied the prisoner. The Bab was nowhere to be found.

After frantic searches, the Bab was discovered in a private room, continuing his previously interrupted conversation with Siyyid Husayn. The Bab announced to them, “I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn. Now you may proceed and fulfill your intention.” Several authorities and soldiers were so shaken by the events that they resigned and refused to have anything further to do with the execution. A new firing squad was drawn and brought to the Bab, and when the regiment opened fire, the Bab was killed.

A small group of Baha’is risked their lives to sneak the Bab’s deceased body into a wooden box, where it remained hidden for almost 60 years before being entombed in a shrine on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, where it remains to this day. Today, most Bahai’s observe the holy day with prayers, gatherings and services.

NEWS: BAHA’I PERSECUTION AND NEW WEBSITES

Despite the continued persecution of Baha’is in Iran, worldwide awareness of the faith is growing. Multiple world leaders have stepped forward to ask that the Iranian persecutions end, and several new websites have emerged lately that educate readers about both the realities and contributions of the Baha’i faith and its adherents.

According to an article from Bahai.org: “Reflected in the efflorescence of these new sites is the breadth of countries and cultures in the Baha’i world. As each community develops further, its national website will continue to evolve. The list of communities spans across many regions, from Myanmar to Kazakhstan, South Africa to France, Turkey to the Netherlands, and Colombia to the United States.”

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