Driven by intuitive belief of a royal birth in a distant land, three wise men of Persian Zoroastrian descent, the Magi of yore, set out in search for the one they believed was destined to be the King of the Jews. Guided by a star, they arrive, after months of travelling, in Bethlehem at the home of a humble Jewish carpenter, Joseph, whose wife Mary had recently been blessed with a son. In the manger of that humble abode they feast their eyes on the desire of their hearts – the infant Jesus. They pay obeisance to the child and offer precious gifts they had brought. They return to their homeland, the yearning of their souls satisfied.
Identical, but with different endings, is the story of the nineteenth century Magi, two groups of devout and learned religionists, whom intuition drove out in 1844 in search of their Promised One.The first was a group of Christians, led by Rev. William Miller, who sailed from America for the Holy Land, encamped on Mount Carmel in present day port city of Haifa in Israel, prayerfully hoping to witness the promised return of Christ. Rev.
Miller had calculated and convinced his parishioners that Christ would descend upon a cloud on Mount Carmel on 23rd May 1844. The anticipated literal fulfilment of Christ’s return did not occur on the expected day. Rev. Miller and his group returned frustrated to America. Rev. Miller’s book Midnight Cry describes their deep anguish and frustration. The second group comprising Islamic scholars from Karbala, led by Mulla Husayn set out in search of their Promised Imam they believed was born in Iran. Their faith was rewarded. Intuition brought them, walking with little respite en-route, to the southern Iranian City of Shiraz on the evening of 22nd May 1844.
At the city gate Mulla Husayn was welcomed by an unknown young man wearing a green turban, sign of his descent from Prophet Muhammad. Seeing Mulla Husayn was tired and dust-covered, the young stranger invited him home. Washed and refreshed, Mulla Husayn explained to his gracious host the object of their journey – to locate the Imam. Asked how he would recognize the Imam, Mulla Husayn offered the description his mentor, the most erudite and highly respected Islamic scholar of the realm, Syed Kazim Rashti had given, namely, the Imam’s age, height, appearance, his descent, his mien and qualities. What Mulla Husayn did not disclose was his mentor’s assurance, when asked an abstruse theological question on the Surih of Joseph, that the Imam, would unasked, offer him the explanation. Patiently hearing the precise description, MullaHusayn was surprised by his host’s confident claim “Behold” he said “all these qualities are in me”. As Mulla Husayn sat in silent surprise, his host proceeded to dictate, unasked, the commentary on the Surih of Joseph. That clinched the claim of his host. An astounded Mulla Husayn realized he was sitting face-to-face with the Imam for whose advent Muslims had prayed since a thousand years. His name was Siyyid Ali Muhammad, titled the Bab, meaning Gate, who heralded the advent of Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith - a new divine revelation from God. That recognition occurred in the early morning hours of 23rd May 1844, the day and date accurately calculated by Rev. Miller, the day of fulfilment of Messianic prophecies, the day that changed the course of human history. Sadly, as John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Christ was beheaded, so was the Bab martyred in Iran. His mausoleum, a golden domed shrine on Mount Carmel, attracts millions of pilgrims from the remotest corners of the globe.
Currently, 23rd May is celebrated by millions of Baha’is from all backgrounds of race, religion, ethnicity and culture in over 100.000 centres, the only united, unsplintered religious community in the world.
- On the occasion of the Declaration of the Bab, 23rd May 1844