Oct 31, 2019, 15:10 IST

Celebrating 200th Birth Anniversary of the Bab

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The year 2019 will be remembered for many important historic events, happenings and anniversaries, for example the 150th birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba; the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji and the lesser known, 200th birth anniversary of the Bab, Baha’i Faith’s martyr-Prophet and co-founder. In terms of religious history, Baha’is believe the Bab’s appearance in mid-1844 A.D. is destined to last for 5,000 centuries.

The Bab declared that he was the promised Avatar awaited by followers of different religions and described himself as “the Gate” to another Avatar, Baha’u’llah, who was soon to appear among his own countrymen. The bicentenary of the Bab, whose birth Baha’is around the world celebrated this October 29th, 2019 in thousands of localities, including a major function at the Baha’i Lotus Temple in New Delhi reminds us of a similar event when in 2017 the worldwide Baha’i Community celebrated the bicentenary of Baha’u’llah. Baha’is consider the Bab’s revelation, together with the dispensation of Baha’u’llah, as forming a single entity, with the Babi Faith being introductory to the advent of the Baha’i Faith. This unique pairing of prophetic power has created one global Faith.

Some of the doctrines that the Bab set forth, which inform current Baha’i belief and experience today, include the oneness of God; the continuity of divine guidance throughout human history, which Baha’is refer to as “progressive revelation;” the universality of divine guidance; the idea that the messages proclaimed by the various prophets and messengers of God are essentially harmonious; the necessity for spiritual purity, refinement, and perfection in all things; and so forth.

The Bab’s influence on Baha’i life today forms part and parcel of the Bab’s living legacy, although the extent to which Baha’i laws, doctrines, principles and ethics have their origin, or root, in the teachings of the Bab has yet to be fully explored and appreciated.

Born in the city of roses, Shiraz, in a middle-class family. He was given the name Ali Muhammad. His father passed away while he was quite young and his maternal uncle, a cloth merchant, raised him. He was sent to a primary school by his uncle where he spent six or seven years. Sometime between 15 and 20 he joined his uncle in the family business, a trading house, and became a successful merchant in the city of Bushehr, near the Persian Gulf. However, his inclination from childhood was towards prayers, meditation and study of religious literature. One of his contemporary followers described him as "very taciturn, and [he] would never utter a word unless it was absolutely necessary. He did not even answer our questions. He was constantly absorbed in his own thoughts, and was preoccupied with repetition of his prayers and verses. He is described as a handsome man with a thin beard, dressed in clean clothes, wearing a green shawl and a black turban." An English physician described the young man by saying: "He was a very mild and delicate-looking man, rather small in stature and very fair for a Persian, with a melodious soft voice, which struck me much".

In 1842 he married the daughter of a prominent merchant in Shiraz, lady Khadijah; he was 23 and she was 20. The marriage was a happy one, a son was born but he died few months later and they had no more children.

Briefly, the Bab is more than the herald of Baha’u’llah. So much of the Bab’s laws, doctrines, principles and ethics pervade Baha’i thought and experience today that the Bab may truly be said to be a co-founder of the Baha’i Faith – not only historically, but contemporaneously.

One of the most notable laws of the Bab that have been adopted and adapted by Baha’u’llah include, Baha’i Calendar. It consists of 19 months of 19 days with 4 intercalary days between the 18th and 19th months, in a leap year it would be 5 days. The new year, Naw-Ruz, as ordained by Baha’u’llah coincides with the Spring Equinox that normally falls on 21st March.

- On the occasion of 200th Anniversary of the birth of the Bab, Herald of the Baha'i Faith

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