Several times we’ve encountered mention of the Bab – the prophet-herald of Baha’u’llah. Here, is a little of the story of the time that preceded Baha’u’llah, as told in Nabil’s Narrative. The time before the dawn.
Mulla Husayn, a young seminarian, was undertaking a search.
He was carrying out the last wishes of his spiritual teacher who had passed away not long before. Before his death, this teacher had instructed Mulla Husayn and his fellow students to disperse and search for the new messenger of God. For this was the time foretold – the time of the return. The time when the ancient promises of sacred writings would be fulfilled. They would find that messenger if they purified their hearts and entered into devoted search.
Starting out from Iraq, Mulla Husayn had turned to prayer to guide his steps, spending 40 days in seclusion and devotion. He then travelling hundreds of miles to Iran. By May 1844, his search had drawn him to the city of Shiraz.
Whilst walking outside the city gates he noticed a youth (a descendant of Muhammad, as was evident by the young man’s green turban). The youth approached him and with words of welcome invited him to his home.
Soon, this young man was to become known to the world as “the Bab” (the gate). In that first meeting, they talked late into the night. Before the dawn, Mulla Husayn had accepted the Bab as the messenger of God he was seeking. It was the morning of 23 May 1844. 173 years ago today.
The Bab swore him to secrecy. 17 others must find him through similar divine inspiration, as had Mulla Husayn.
Slowly, one by one, the number of disciples increased until the number set by the Bab was reached. The Bab then sent them out to teach the new cause. Here are some of the words that the Bab said to these disciples before sending them out on their mission:
“… My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this Day. … It behoves each one of you to manifest the attributes of God, and to exemplify by your deeds and words the signs of His righteousness, His power and glory. The very members of your body must bear witness to the loftiness of your purpose, the integrity of your life, the reality of your faith, and the exalted character of your devotion. …
Ponder the words of Jesus addressed to His disciples, as He sent them forth to propagate the Cause of God. In words such as these, He bade them arise and fulfil their mission: … Such must be the purity of your character and the degree of your renunciation, that the people of the earth may through you recognise and be drawn closer to the heavenly Father who is the Source of purity and grace. For none has seen the Father who is in heaven. You who are His spiritual children must by your deeds exemplify His virtues, and witness to His glory. You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? Such must be the degree of your detachment, that into whatever city you enter to proclaim and teach the Cause of God, you should in no wise expect either meat or reward from its people. Nay, when you depart out of that city, you should shake the dust from off your feet. As you have entered it pure and undefiled, so must you depart from that city. …
… Verily I say, immensely exalted is this Day above the days of the Apostles of old. … You are the witnesses of the Dawn of the promised Day of God. You are the partakers of the mystic chalice of His Revelation. Gird up the loins of endeavour, and be mindful of the words of God as revealed in His Book: ‘Lo, the Lord thy God is come, and with Him is the company of His angels arrayed before Him!’ Purge your hearts of worldly desires, and let angelic virtues be your adorning. …
… You have been called to this station; you will attain to it, only if you arise to trample beneath your feet every earthly desire, and endeavour to become those ‘honoured servants of His who speak not till He hath spoken, and who do His bidding.’ …
I am preparing you for the advent of a mighty Day. Exert your utmost endeavour that, in the world to come, I, who am now instructing you, may, before the mercy-seat of God, rejoice in your deeds and glory in your achievements.
The secret of the Day that is to come is now concealed. … The newly born babe of that Day excels the wisest and most venerable men of this time, and the lowliest and most unlearned of that period shall surpass in understanding the most erudite and accomplished divines of this age. Scatter throughout the length and breadth of this land, and, with steadfast feet and sanctified hearts, prepare the way for His coming. …
At the heart of the Bab’s mission was preparing the way for a prophet who would follow him. The Bab repeatedly referred to this coming prophet as “Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest“. In April 1863, Baha’u’llah told a few of his closest family and friends that he was that prophet.
Here are two of the many references in the Bab’s writings to Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest:
… the Point of the Bayán Himself [i.e. the Bab] hath believed in Him Whom God shall make manifest, before all things were created. Therein, verily, do I glory before all who are in the kingdom of heaven and earth. … For all that hath been exalted in the Bayán [i.e. the Bab’s sacred book] is but as a ring upon My hand, and I Myself am, verily, but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest—glorified be His mention! He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, is the Help in Peril, the Most High.
I beg of Thee, by Thy bounty, O my God, and by the outpourings of Thy mercy and bestowals, O my Lord, and by the evidences of Thy heavenly favors and grace, O my Best-Beloved, to watch over Him Whom God shall make manifest that no trace of despondency may ever touch Him.
The Bab’s mission was short and marked by a storm of tragedy. When the Bab made his mission public, he was soon placed under house arrest. Not long after he was transported to a remote prison, at the behest of a hostile clergy.
Nonetheless, the news of his claims spread quickly and were accepted by thousands across Persia. A fanatical and hate filled response followed and the Bab’s followers (the Babis) were attacked and persecuted. In the resulting conflict, 20,000 were sent to their deaths, as they were attacked in place after place.
In 1850, at the instigation of the Chief Vizier, a fatwa for the execution of the Bab was issued by the religious authorities of the city of Tabriz (to which the Bab had been transferred). And the Bab himself was executed.
To all appearances the teachings of the Bab had been completely obliterated. His community virtually exterminated. Himself executed.
It was the darkest night.
Yet soon, the promises of the Bab were to be fulfilled.
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Around sixty years after his death, the Bab’s remains were interred on the slopes of Mount Carmel in accordance with Baha’u’llah’s instructions.
The Bab’s mortal remains lie now in a beautiful shrine surrounded by gardens. In death he has received the honour that he was denied life.
It is a remarkable symbol that hatred and oppression will not prevail.
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By
Nabil’s Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers
Room in the House of the Bab where Mulla Husayn accepted the Bab’s message. http://media.bahai.org/detail/5560247 Copyright © Bahá’í International Community
Baha’i Gardens and Shrine: By Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada (Baha’i Gardens – Haifa – Israel – 06) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons