Declaration of the Báb, (Prophet-Herald of the Bahá'í Faith)
Jaya Raju Thota, India
On 24 May, Baha'is around the world will celebrate the 179th anniversary of the birth of the Baha'i Faith.
The Bahá’í Era began with the Declaration of the Báb, May 23, 1844,
when the Bab announced that he was a messenger of God and foretold the
coming of another Messenger of God in the near future. The event took place in Shiraz, Persia (now Iran).
It commemorates when the Báb announced in 1844 that He was the new Messenger of God. The holiday begins two hours and eleven minutes after sunset on May 22, which is the exact time the Báb made His declaration.
Baha’is around the world celebrate the 22nd of May, 1844 as the day of the Declaration of the Bab, who was the Forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the Prophwt-Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
The date to commemorate this joyous historic occasion shifts within the Gregorian calendar from year to year but according to the Baha’i calendar, it is always honoured on the 8th of Azamat. This year It falls on 24th May, 2023.
In 19th century Persia, the Baha’i Faith emerged with the advent of two successive Prophets, the Báb and Baha’u’llah. Their combined revelations revolutionized the world.
Each of these two Divine Messengers, who the Baha’i teachings refer to as Twin Manifestations of God, founded a distinct religion – the Babi and the Baha’i Faiths. The Bab, however, said that the primary purpose of His new Faith was to prepare the way for “Him Whom God shall make manifest” – to act as a herald and Forerunner of the second of these twin manifestations, Baha’u’llah.
Now, the Bahá’í Faith begins with a particular event, as all of us know, that was May 23, 1844. A young scholar of the Shaykhí school called Mullá Husayn… meets the Báb in Shiraz and he was invited to the house of the Báb, and they have conversation and interactions. And through this interaction, of course, the first major work of the Báb after the Declaration is beginning to be revealed, and that’s the Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph.
The beginning of this new cycle is, on the contrary, the day on which a particular human being becomes ready, and therefore a dialog, conversation, between the Báb and this human being representing humanity takes place.
Talking about the story of the Declaration of the Bab, well, it started in 1783 when Shaykh Ahmed-i-Ahsa’i began to travel at the age of 40 for teaching people about the advent of a great day. On that day, people would see the advent of Qa’lim. He was the Promised One of Islam. At that time, there were various elements that were actually damaging Islam. His wisdom and knowledge impressed many people. Among them, Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti became the eventual successor and favoured pupil of Shaykh Ahmad.
After the death of his teacher, Siyyid Kazim started spreading the message about the advent of the Promised One. He sent Mulla Husayn one of his pupils in order to relate these teachings to authorities. Mulla Husayn was sent to answer the questions and he was indeed successful. However, it was the quest that led Mulla Husayn along with his nephew and brother to Shiraz on 22nd May 1844. Husayn sent those companions to the mosque and he told him to wait there. Mulla Husayn will re-join them for the evening prayers. Now, while walking outside the city, Husayn met a young man. He thought that must be the disciple of Siyyid Kazim. However, if we talk about the manner of greeting, it was completely astonishing. That young man accompanied Mulla Husayn to his house and he served tea. Preparations were also started for the evening prayer.
So many things took place on that day such as demonstrating the signs given by the Siyyid Kazim, completing the whole Surih of Mulk without taking a pause. That young man was actually Siyyid Ali Muhammad. He referred to himself as the Bab and Mulla Husayn became the first disciple. According to Bab, this day, the Declaration of the Bab will be considered as one of the most significant and greatest of all the festivals.
In previous Dispensations, the conception of the beginning of religion is understood as the moment in which prophetic consciousness emerges for the first time. For example, Prophet Muhammad receives revelation from the Angel Gabriel – that is the moment that Islam begins: the moment He becomes conscious, and receives for the first time, verses from God… In the case of the Bábi/Bahá’í Faith, it is very interesting , that this is not the case. The Báb Himself, in various Writings of the Báb, very explicitly says that before that night (May 23, 1844), the prophetic consciousness had taken place: He talks about the first day that Divine Revelation took place, then He started to write in the form of Divine Revelation, and He gives the date of that. And that date of course is not the 23rd of May of 1844. That particular one is about 50 days before that. Also He discusses in His Writings about other situations in which He became conscious of His Mission.
So while the inception of the Bábi/Bahá’í movement is not the night, for example, that the Báb has a particular dream – and He becomes conscious of a Divine Mission, and so He’s receiving revelation – that is not the Day of Resurrection for the Bahá’í Faith. That is not the beginning of the Bábi/Bahá’í calendar.
The events surrounding the Declaration of the Bab have been told in many ways, but perhaps the most widely read is the account in The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Baha’i Revelation. This book was written by Nabil, and chronicles the early days of the Revelations of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.
The story begins in 1783, when a learned man named Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa’i (1743-1826) began, at the age of 40, to travel through Persia teaching that the advent of a great day was drawing near, the day that would see the advent of the Qa’im, the Promised One of Islam. During this time, there was great discontent in the East as certain prominent clerics practiced disunity and behaved in a way that was damaging Islam. As he spread this message, his knowledge and wisdom impressed many, who were eager to learn from him. Among these was a gifted young man named Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti (1793-1843), who became Shaykh Ahmad’s favoured pupil and eventual successor.
After his teacher’s death in 1826, Siyyid Kazim continued to spread the word of the advent of the Promised One, but opposition to the message was rising. In an effort to enlist the voices of some well-respected authorities, he therefore sent one of his pupils, Mulla Husayn, to relate these teachings to the authorities and answer their questions. In this task, Mulla Husayn was successful. Yet opposition to his message grew and caused him considerable hardship as his enemies used every means at their disposal to discredit him and if possible put his life in jeopardy. Throughout this time, however, he continued to steadfastly announce the coming revelation, although when pressed to reveal the identity of the Promised One, he always refused, often adding that even if he did reveal this secret, none would be able to accept it. Shortly before his death in 1843, he instructed his students to go out and search for the Promised One, saying He was about to be revealed.
It was this quest that led Mulla Husayn, his brother, and a nephew to the city of Shiraz on May 22, 1844. Having traveled far in his search, Mulla Husayn sent his companions to the mosque to await him while he wandered awhile, promising to rejoin them for evening prayers. While walking outside the gates of the city a few hours before sunset, he was unexpectedly greeted by a young man. Mulla Husayn thought this man must be a disciple of Siyyid Kazim who had heard of his arrival in Shiraz and had come to welcome him. Even so, the manner of the greeting was astonishing. He described the expressions of affection and loving kindness as well as the gentle and compelling manner in which the young man (the Bab) spoke to him.
The holy day marks the Declaration of the Bab, who in 1844 announced that He was a new divine Messenger, sent to herald a new age for humanity and to prepare the way for Baha'u'llah, the universal Messenger of God expected by people of all religions.
The house in Shiraz, Iran, where the Bab first made His announcement had been preserved as a Baha'i holy site, but in 1979 – 30 years ago this year – it was destroyed by a mob aided by Revolutionary Guards.
The Declaration of the Bab is one of nine holy days during the year on which Baha'is suspend work.