Juniata College Campus Ministry Affiliate
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth in Shiraz, Persia of Siyyid Ali Muhammad, a descendent of the prophet Muhammad who became known as The Báb, which means “The Gate”. The Báb served as a pivotal figure in religious history, signifying the end of the Age of Prophecy and the beginning of the Age of Fulfillment, in which humanity would receive guidance on peace and unity from “He Whom God Shall Make Manifest.”
The Báb’s father died when the Báb was a child, and he was raised by his uncle. Although the Báb worked as a merchant in his uncle’s business, his interests were in spiritual matters, and he spent most of his life in reflection and prayer.
At the time of the Báb there was a worldwide expectation from adherents of several religions that their promised messiah would soon appear. For example, American Baptist preacher William Miller interpreted biblical prophecy to mean that Christ’s second coming would occur in 1844.
Messianic expectations ran high in Islam as well. There was a sect of Islam that prophesized that the time was imminent for the appearance of two divine messengers, one who would pave the way for the second.
Several devotees of these teachers set out in earnest to look for the first of these two messengers, with explicit instructions and descriptions based on the interpretation of sacred texts. One of these seekers was Mullá Husayn, who was drawn to the city of Shiraz, Persia on May 22, 1844 where he met a young man who invited him to rest and have some tea.
During the conversation Mullá Husayn was alerted to the possibility that this man might be the one whom he sought. The characteristics he was looking for included that the person would be a descendent of Muhammad, would be young in age, medium in height, extremely pious and devout, and would be capable of writing a commentary on the Surih of Joseph without being asked.
His suspicions were confirmed when, unasked, the Báb spontaneously began writing a commentary on the Surih of Joseph. With the revelation of his station to Mullá Husayn the Báb began a six year ministry in which he wrote a holy book, the Bayán, that contained sweeping religious reforms and praise for the imminent divine messenger he called “He Whom God Shall Make Manifest”, who would usher in the teachings for a peaceful world prophesized by all religions.
The Báb was martyred in 1850 and shortly thereafter thousands of his followers were killed or imprisoned. One of his followers, Mirzá Husayn-‘Ali, was cast into a dungeon for 4 months, during which time he had a vision that he was the one that the Báb had foretold.
He became known as Bahá’u’lláh, meaning “The Glory of God”, and over a period of 40 years in which he suffered continuous imprisonment and exile, wrote the most voluminous Writings in religious history that provided the spiritual and social teachings for world unity.
Bahá’u’ll’áh‘s teachings focus on three onenesses: the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity, and the oneness of religion. Followers of Bahá’u’ll’áh, known as Bahá’ís, believe that all the world’s religions are part of a gradually unfolding Progressive Revelation from the same God, who will continue to send messengers to instruct humanity.
Some of Bahá’u’ll’áh’s teachings for world unity include the elimination of all forms of prejudice, the equality of women and men, the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, the central importance of truthfulness and trustworthiness, the harmony of science and religion, and a form of governance that is non-partisan and based on spiritual principles.
In these dark days of chaos and confusion, the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, as heralded by the Báb, provide hope for people of all faiths as humanity makes its way into the future. For more information see www.bahai.org.