One of the great stories in the history of the Bahá’í Faith is that of the events leading up to the Declaration of the Báb, the event that marks the first year of the Badí’ Calendar, on the evening of 8 ‘Aẓamat.
The Báb is the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, he is regarded by Bahá’ís as a “Manifestation of God” (a Prophet or Messenger) in His own right and those who followed Him were called Bábís. The Bábs main mission was to foretel the coming of Bahá’u’lláh, the title “Báb” means “Gate”.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, using the Gregorian calendar, there lived a man named Shaykh Ahmad who had a very deep understanding of the Quran (the Holy Book of Islam). Shaykh Ahmad became certain that The Promised One (“The Qá’im”) whose coming was foretold in the Quran was close at hand and in his later days he even believed that The Promised One was alive on Earth. Shaykh Ahmad travelled through the Persian Gulf teaching people about the Quran and The Promised One. He gained a reputation for being able to answer questions about the Quran that nobody else could, but his views on the Promised One meant that he had his opponents as well as a large band of followers. In 1819 Shaykh Ahmad suffered the loss of his son, whose name was Ali, he comforted his mourning disciples with these words: “Grieve not, O my friends, for I have offered up my son, my own Ali, as a sacrifice for the Ali whose advent we all await. To this end have I reared and prepared him.” In that same year The Báb was born in the city of Shiraz, his name was Ali-
Among the dedicated followers of Shaykh Ahmad was a man called Siyyid Kazim, Siyyid Kazim was also recognised for his intellectual powers and spiritual insight. At the age of 22 he set out to meet Shaykh Ahmad and followed him for the rest of his life. Before Shaykh Ahmad died in 1826 he asked Siyyid Kazim to continue his work in preparing hearts for the coming of the Promised One.
Siyyid Kazim actually met Ali-
One day, while travelling, Siyyid Kazim stopped with his friends and companions at a place called the Masjid-
Three days after his return to Karbila, Siyyid Kazim died. He had already told his students that the Promised One was alive among them and that they should search for him. On the evening of 22nd May 1844* one of these students, Mulla Husayn, who had been travelling with his brother and a nephew, arrived at the gate of the city of Shiraz.
While he was walking outside the gate of that city, a few hours before sunset, he noticed a radiant Youth wearing a green turban. The youth approached Mulla Husyan and lovingly greeted him with a smile and an affectionate hug as if he was a close and lifelong friend. At first Mulla Husayn thought that this man must have been an associate of Siyyid Kazim who had come to welcome him, Mulla Husayn recounted the events of that evening as follows:
“The Youth who met me outside the gate of Shiráz overwhelmed me with expressions of affection and loving-
“As I followed Him, His gait, the charm of His voice, the dignity of His bearing, served to enhance my first impressions of this unexpected meeting. We soon found ourselves standing at the gate of a house of modest appearance. He knocked at the door, which was soon opened by an Ethiopian servant. “Enter therein in peace, secure,” were His words as He crossed the threshold and motioned me to follow Him. His invitation, uttered with power and majesty, penetrated my soul. I thought it a good augury to be addressed in such words, standing as I did on the threshold of the first house I was entering in Shiráz, a city the very atmosphere of which had produced already an indescribable impression upon me. Might not my visit to this house, I thought to myself, enable me to draw nearer to the Object of my quest? Might it not hasten the termination of a period of intense longing, of strenuous search, of increasing anxiety, which such a quest involves? As I entered the house and followed my Host to His chamber, a feeling of unutterable joy invaded my being. Immediately we were seated, He ordered a ewer of water to be brought, and bade me wash away from my hands and feet the stains of travel. I pleaded permission to retire from His presence and perform my ablutions in an adjoining room. He refused to grant my request, and proceeded to pour the water over my hands. He then gave me to drink of a refreshing beverage, after which He asked for the samovar and Himself prepared the tea which He offered me.
“Overwhelmed with His acts of extreme kindness, I arose to depart. “The time for evening prayer is approaching,” I ventured to observe. “I have promised my friends to join them at that hour in the Masjid-
“That night, that memorable night, was the eve preceding the fifth day of Jamadiyu’l-
“It was about an hour after sunset when my youthful Host began to converse with me. “Whom, after Siyyid Kazim,” He asked me, “do you regard as his successor and your leader?” “At the hour of his death,” I replied, “our departed teacher insistently exhorted us to forsake our homes, to scatter far and wide, in quest of the promised Beloved. I have, accordingly, journeyed to Persia, have arisen to accomplish his will, and am still engaged in my quest.” “Has your teacher,” He further enquired, “given you any detailed indications as to the distinguishing features of the promised One?” “Yes,” I replied, “He is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent, and of the seed of Fatimih. As to His age, He is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is free from bodily deficiency.” He paused for a while and then with vibrant voice declared: “Behold, all these signs are manifest in Me!” He then considered each of the above-
“I was revolving these things in my mind, when my distinguished Host again remarked: “Observe attentively. Might not the Person intended by Siyyid Kazim be none other than I?” I thereupon felt impelled to present to Him a copy of the treatise which I had with me. “Will you,” I asked Him, “read this book of mine and look at its pages with indulgent eyes? I pray you to overlook my weaknesses and failings.” He graciously complied with my wish. He opened the book, glanced at certain passages, closed it, and began to address me. Within a few minutes He had, with characteristic vigour and charm, unravelled all its mysteries and resolved all its problems. Having to my entire satisfaction accomplished, within so short a time, the task I had expected Him to perform, He further expounded to me certain truths which could be found neither in the reported sayings of the imams of the Faith nor in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim. These truths, which I had never heard before, seemed to be endowed with refreshing vividness and power. “Had you not been My guest,” He afterwards observed, “your position would indeed have been a grievous one. The all-
“At the third hour after sunset, my Host ordered the dinner to be served. That same Ethiopian servant appeared again and spread before us the choicest food. That holy repast refreshed alike my body and soul. In the presence of my Host, at that hour, I felt as though I were feeding upon the fruits of Paradise. I could not but marvel at the manners and the devoted attentions of that Ethiopian servant whose very life seemed to have been transformed by the regenerating influence of his Master. I then, for the first time, recognised the significance of this well-
“I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who awaited me. Suddenly the call of the muadhdhin, summoning the faithful to their morning prayer, awakened me from the state of ecstasy into which I seemed to have fallen. All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of Paradise–these I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a place of which it could be truly said: “Therein no toil shall reach us, and therein no weariness shall touch us”; “No vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, ‘Peace! Peace!'”; “Their cry therein shall be, ‘Glory be to Thee, O God!’ and their salutation therein, ‘Peace!’ And the close of their cry, ‘Praise be to God, Lord of all creatures!'”
“Sleep had departed from me that night. I was enthralled by the music of that voice which rose and fell as He chanted; now swelling forth as He revealed verses of the Qayyumu’l-
“He then addressed me in these words: “O thou who art the first to believe in Me! Verily I say, I am the Báb, the Gate of God, and thou art the Bábu’l-
“This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanised my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: “Awake, for lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!”
“In such a state I left His house and joined my brother and nephew. A large number of the followers of Shaykh Ahmad, who had heard of my arrival, had gathered in the Masjid-
To read more about this story, or the stories of the other followers who were among the first to discover and recognise the Báb for themselves, the best thing is to read The Dawn Breakers, available online here.
*In 1844 the Bahá’í date 8 ‘Aẓamat was from sunset on 22 May to sunset on 23 May because on the Gregorian calendar the first Bahá’í year began on 20 March. The Badí’ calendar is more accurately aligned to the solar year than the Gregorian calendar and so Bahá’í dates move around a little on the Gregorian calendar. In years when the New Year falls on 21 March, such as 2015, 8 ‘Aẓamat -