Birth of the Bab

October 20

Today followers of the Baha’i Faith celebrate the Birth of the Báb, the Faith’s founder and one its two great modern Prophets.

Báb means “The Gate”. The Báb was born on October 20, 1819, and no, he wasn’t born “The Báb.” He was born Siyyad Muhammad Ali in Shiraz, Persia, and was raised by his uncle after his father’s death. He worked in the family trading house.

Around the time of his birth, a movement developed among the dominant group of Shi’a Muslims known as Twelvers. Twelvers live by the Qur’an and Muhammad’s teachings as do all Muslims. But they also follow the teachings of the eleven great Imams, successors of Muhammad, beginning with Ali ibn Abu Talib (600-661 C.E.) and ending with Hassan ibn Ali (846-874 C.E.)

So why are they Twelvers if there are only 11 Imams?

The Twelfth Imam was the son of Hassan ibn Ali. He was about 4 years old at the time of his father’s death in the 9th century. Twelvers believe the boy was taken into hiding at that time, and would return when the time is right to save mankind. He is known as the Qa’im, the Shi’a Messiah.

The Báb grew up at a time when Shi’a clerics were preaching about the Qa’im’s imminent return to Persia.

Unlike Christianity’s Jesus, little is known about the circumstances of the Báb’s birth. But we do know that on May 23, 1844, at age 24, he first made his divinity known to a Twelver named Mulla Husayn in what is celebrated by followers of the Baha’i Faith as The Declaration of the Báb.

Martydom of the Bab

July 9

After informing Mulla Husayn of his divinity, an event known as the Declaration of the Báb, Husayn introduced the Báb to his doubting companions. Upon meeting the Báb, his companions grew to believe in his authenticity. The first 18 believers of the Báb were known as the 18 Living Letters. They spread news of the Báb’s arrival across Persia.

But as the circle of believers grew, so did the animosity and persecution against the Báb and his followers. Religious leaders had the Báb arrested and tried for his claims of divinity and for undermining Islamic law.

By this time the Báb had written numerous books and treatises which would become the foundation of the Bahai Faith.

The Báb and his follower Muhammad Ali were scheduled for execution by firing squad on July 9, 1850.

Both men were bound by ropes prior to the execution. The order was given to fire. When the smoke cleared, Muhammad Ali was found unharmed, as if the bullets had only broken his ropes. And the Báb had disappeared.

The Báb was found unharmed in another part of the barracks. He was quoted as saying, “I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn. Now you may proceed to fulfil your intention.

He was marched back to the firing squad and promptly executed again, this time for good.

He was 30 years old.

The Bab is one of the two divine messengers of God of the Baha’i Faith. He foretold the coming of the religion’s great prophet Baha’u’llah.

Shrine of the Báb
Shrine of the Báb