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June 8, 2018

By Susan Ward

Shrine of the BábOn the evening of May 23rd, Bahá’ís around the world celebrated the Declaration of the Báb, the prophet-founder who ushered in a new era for humanity. Bahá’ís observe this holy day by gathering at homes and venues to commemorate this momentous event.

In my own neighbourhood in Ottawa's West End, the Bahá’í community held a pleasant celebration. We met at 9 pm at the home of our hosts Tony and Jane to mingle with kindness and share sweets and tea. The program for the evening was then launched with gentle piano music. The evening included a beautiful program that told the story about the night the Báb declared His mission to his first disciple, Mullá Husayn, on May 23, 1844, which included prayers and passages from the Báb’s writings.  We paused twice during the readings to sing and chant verses led by a mother and daughter duo.  At 10:11 pm, around the time that the Báb declared His mission to His guest, a special prayer known as the Tablet of Visitation was recited. We then ended our celebration in love and fellowship.

House of the BábThe story of the Báb is a fascinating one. Mullá Husayn belonged to a religious school called the Shaykhís that believed the bearer of a new divine revelation would shortly makes his appearance in the world and would prove His claim both by fulfilling certain physical characteristics and through His writings. To that end, Mullá Husayn and other Shaykhís were sent on a quest across Persia to find this new prophet.

During his travels, Mullá Husayn was drawn like a magnet to the city of Shiraz, Iran, and there he met a young man wearing a green turban – indicating that he was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The young man approached him as if he were an old friend and invited him into his home. They spent the evening in rapt conversation during which this man, Siyyid Alí-Muhammad, was able to prove His claim that he was the Báb, the Gate between the old prophetic world and the new age of humanity. The Báb then wrote a religious treatise in front of Mullá Husayn that convinced him both of this young man’s claim and that he was witnessing the birth of a new religious dispensation. The Báb then declared that 18 other souls must independently seek and find him, and these were called the Letters of the Living.

The Báb’s dispensation served as the gate to Bahá’u’lláh’s own dispensation, whom He addressed as Him Whom God shall make manifest. The sole purpose of the Bab’s dispensation was to prepare His followers for the advent of Bahá’u’lláh 19 years later. The appearance of two prophet-founders in such a short period of time has never before been recorded in human history, therefore their stories are closely intertwined and that is why Bahá’ís celebrate The Báb’s Declaration as a holy day. In 2019, Bahá’í communities around the planet will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Báb’s birth.

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