Bahá'í Faith/The Báb


Siyyid 'Alí-Muhammad, known to history as the Báb (Arabic for "the Gate"), was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1819. He was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and his spiritual devotion and depth were noted early on by His teachers and family members.

Nineteenth century Iran was gripped by messianic fervor as Muslims awaited the appearance of "the Lord of the Age." In such a climate, the Báb first declared Himself to be a Messenger of God on 23 May 1844.

The Báb founded a distinct religion, the Bábí Faith, which had its own laws, ordinances, and mystical and doctrinal works. Against a backdrop of widespread moral breakdown, He called for the spiritual and moral reformation of Persian society. He insisted that the station of women be uplifted and that the lot of the poor be improved. He promoted education and the useful sciences. However, the main theme addressed by the Báb and His teachings was the imminent appearance of another Messenger from God. This second Messenger would be far greater than the Báb Himself, and He would usher in the age of peace and justice promised in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the other great religions of the world. The Báb referred to this Figure as "Him Whom God shall make manifest." The Báb thus heralded Bahá'u'lláh. His proclamation of an entirely new religion helped His followers to break free from their traditional frame of reference and mobilized them to prepare for the coming of "the Promised One of all ages."

The Báb's mission was of short duration - only six years - but in that time He attracted thousands of followers. Most of the Bábís never met Him face to face but came to know of His religion by reading His writings, which were widely disseminated. His followers were severely persecuted by the authorities, who saw these conversions to the new Faith with alarm. The clergy were alarmed by His call for spiritual renewal and persuaded the secular authorities that the Báb's call for social reform could lead to civil unrest. Thousands of Bábís, exhibiting great heroism, were tortured and killed for their beliefs.

After three years' imprisonment, the Báb was executed by a firing squad in the city of Tabriz on 9 July 1850, in most unusual circumstances that were witnessed by more than 10,000 onlookers and reported widely in the Western media of the day. When first taken from His cell, the Báb was conversing with his secretary and warned the guards that "no earthly power" could silence Him until He had finished all that He had to say. A regiment of 750 Armenian soldiers carried out the execution, but when the smoke from their rifles had cleared, the Báb had disappeared from view. He was found back in His cell, finishing His instructions to His secretary. When the guards arrived, He calmly announced, "Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention." The first regiment refused to have anything further to do with the execution, but a second regiment was brought in, and this time the bullets found their mark.

The remains of the Báb were hidden by His followers for many years and were eventually brought to the Holy Land. Bahá'u'lláh instructed that they should be buried on Mount Carmel and pointed out the exact spot where the tomb should be constructed. In 1909, the remains of the Báb were interred in a simple mausoleum, which was later beautified. The familiar golden-domed superstructure, known as the Shrine of the Báb, was completed in 1953. It is one of the two holiest spots in the world to members of the Bahá'í Faith. A Closer Look at the Life and Mission of the Báb