Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Birth of the Bab

It's the height of autumn's radiant color here in New Hampshire.  As I look at the oranges and reds and yellows of the maple trees in the yard, I reflect on one of the divine attributes:  Uniqueness.  Every leaf on every tree, not only every tree now, but every leaf on every tree that has ever existed or ever will exist, is unique. This difference lends to the beauty and overall harmony of the earth, and it is a sign of the sacred uniqueness that is an aspect of the human soul.

The House of the Bab, Shiraz, Iran, before its destruction in 1979
Copyright © 2007 Baha'i International Community, Used with Permission
Today, Baha'is in 188 countries worldwide celebrate the Birth of Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, the Herald of our Faith, whom we know as the Bab, a title that means both "Door" and "Gate" in Arabic.  The first of the two Manifestations of God--Prophets--of our Faith, he was born in 1817 in Persia, today's Iran.  The Baha'i Writings state:

"The appearance of the Bab resembles the dawn, for the dawn holds the promise of the sun. The dawn of the Bab promised the rising of the sun of truth that is to envelop the whole world." (A reported saying of Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 51)

To Baha'is, his birth represents the dawn of a divinely-promised Day in humanity's life, the age that will witness the maturity of the human race.  That maturity will be reflected both in its collective unity, and in the uniqueness of its individual elements.  This is the dawn of a day during which we Baha'is believe the human race will create "a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units." (Shoghi Effendi)

In the 1840's, the Bab called humanity to unity:

"We have created you from one tree and have caused you to be as the leaves and fruit of the same tree, that haply ye may become a source of comfort to one another. Regard ye not others save as ye regard your own selves... It behooveth you all to be one indivisible people." (The Bab)

His advent signalized the termination of the "Prophetic Cycle" and the inception of the "Cycle of Fulfillment".  He publicly claimed to fulfill the promises of all Faiths:

"I am, I am, I am, the promised One! I am the One whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at whose mention you have risen, whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten.” (The Bab)

When he sent his first disciples into the world to proclaim his Faith, he summoned them to loftiness, to sacrifice for the proclamation of the truth, and to a unified view of the world's great Faiths:

"O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this Day. You have been chosen as the repositories of His mystery. It behoves each one of you to manifest the attributes of God, and to exemplify by your deeds and words the signs of His righteousness, His power and glory. The very members of your body must bear witness to the loftiness of your purpose, the integrity of your life, the reality of your faith, and the exalted character of your devotion. . . The time is come when naught but the purest motive, supported by deeds of stainless purity, can ascend to the throne of the Most High and be acceptable unto Him." (The Bab, Farewell Address to the Letters of the Living)

In his farewell address to these disciples he quoted verses and used imagery from the Hebrew Bible, the Gospel of Matthew and the Qur'an, and sent one of his disciples to the peoples of India.

He was intolerant of mediocrity, and wrote that "Everything must be brought to its utmost limit of perfection." (The Persian Bayan, quoted in "Selections from the Writings of E.G. Browne on the Babi and Baha'i Religions," p. 355, Browne's translation) We Baha'is often emphasize unity, but the call in our Faith to uniqueness is no less important.  Each of us is compared to "a mine rich in gems of inestimable value." (Baha'u'llah) We are assured that in this day the "potentialities inherent" within us will be attained, and the "innate excellence" of our reality will be demonstrated. (Baha'u'llah) Experience tells us that our destiny, our ultimate self-awareness, comes through our common service to humanity.  

The Universal House of Justice, the Head of the Baha'i Faith has written about the proper balance between the needs of society and expression by the individual, in its statement on individual rights and freedoms, found here, which includes this passage:

How noteworthy that in the Order of Bahá’u'lláh, while the individual will is subordinated to that of society, the individual is not lost in the mass but becomes the focus of primary development, so that he may find his own place in the flow of progress, and society as a whole may benefit from the accumulated talents and abilities of the individuals composing it. Such an individual finds fulfilment of his potential not merely in satisfying his own wants but in realizing his completeness in being at one with humanity and with the divinely ordained purpose of creation.

These two aspects of spiritual maturity--the expression of our own identity, and the harmonization of our beliefs and goals--will only be brought about by the utmost effort.  Our writings, speaking of the attainment of world civilization, state:

A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man's utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however. On the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it. Many a cause which past ages have regarded as purely visionary, yet in this day has become most easy and practicable. Why should this most great and lofty Cause -- the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity -- be regarded as impossible of achievement? Surely the day will come when its beauteous light shall shed illumination upon the assemblage of man. (Abdu'l-Baha)

This effort is worthy of the wholehearted commitment of our life's energies.  Today, we celebrate the birth of One who gave his life for this goal.

More can be read about the Bab here.  A selection of his Writings is available here.


  1. I have posted some thoughts on the number of possible variations of leaves on trees, as compared with the number of possible variations of a much simpler structure -- Rubik's Cube -- here: or

    1. hey brent, how are you and vicki. this is a friend of u guys who use to live in LC.