The City of Shiraz, in ancient Persia, is synonymous with enchanting arts, mystical poetry, mosaic architecture, and glorious gardens. Throughout history, poetry lovers have been mesmerized by the likes of Hafiz and Sa’adi, and their expressions of love for the divine. Historians have expounded the glorious past in Susa, Persepolis and Pasargadae as the ceremonial capital of Achaemenid Empire (550 – 330 BCE), and the jewel of Cyrus the Great’s reign. There is another story—the story of an important, transformative moment in the world that was born in Shiraz and sparked a global transformation.
Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, known to history as the Báb (Arabic for the “Gate”), was born on October 20th, 1819 to a merchant family. During His childhood, He was recognized for His unique capacities and innate knowledge. He was brought up by His uncle after His father’s passing and came to be revered as a man of integrity, honesty and fairness in business and trades; however, many could see Him destined for something much greater.
Meanwhile in the mid-1800s, from Middle East to Europe and North America, spiritual movements were taking shape that called for social justice and a new world order. Historians documented the anticipation and expectation within all these movements—people in all parts of the world were expecting something great was about to unfold. Many in the West even prophesized the date of this great unfoldment.
On May 23rd, 1844, the young 25-year-old Báb revealed His true purpose to a seeker, a man who was dedicated to finding him. The Bab worked tirelessly to spread His message and prepare those who would listen for a journey of transformation into a new era of enlightenment and renaissance. He began to enunciate the essential requirements for transforming one’s heart and soul, for society to advance, for a world based on justice, equality and unity. And He proclaimed that another person would follow who will be the greater source of this enlightenment.
His words were disruptive to the powerful elite who made every effort to quash His influence and destroy the rapid expansion of His following across all strata of society. More than 20,000 men, women and children were tortured and killed in the short span of a few years, and tens of thousands were evicted from their homes, villages and towns. Properties were seized. They were fired from their jobs and their children thrown out of and abused at schools. Their products would not be bought. Products and services would not be sold to them. Walking on the very same footsteps as theirs was considered vile and heresy.
The Báb’s journey came to a sudden end on July 9, 1850 when, at the age of 31, He was charged with apostacy, and was subsequently executed by a firing squad of 750 soldiers. His execution, documented by dignitaries and historians, while abhorrent, did not change the power of His influence. The One whose coming He had foretold was recognized as Bahá’u’lláh, a young follower of the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh clarified how we could achieve this transformation of the human soul, the elevation of the human condition, and set off the vision of an ever-advancing human civilization based on justice, equality and unity.
The writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are believed to be the foundation for a transformation of human society to a global village; a concept that has been envisioned throughout human history, foretold by many, described by multitudes, proclaimed by every manifestation of God, but which now is ready for actualization with the advent of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and their prescription for how it can be achieved within the context of today’s world.
On March 1, 1909 the body of the Báb was finally laid to rest in a small six room building on Mount Carmel. Today, that six room building has evolved into a Shrine visited by millions to offer respect and show love for a young man who was the butterfly that caused a global hurricane for the transformation of hearts and souls. Like His followers He gave His life willingly as the ultimate testimony to the truth of His message and teachings.
Two years after the 2017 bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh is the bicentenary of the birth of the Báb. How great an opportunity, how great an occasion to celebrate a true Wonder!
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