The Baha’is of the Virgin Islands joined believers around the world at noon, Thursday, July 9, to observe the anniversary of the martyrdom of one of the central figures of their faith, The Bab.
Mirza Ali-Muhammad, a 25-year-old Persian youth took the title of The Bab (meaning the “Gate”) and was the Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i Faith. He proclaimed that the purpose of His mission was the preparation of the world for the appearance of an even greater prophet who would reveal the will of God for a new age. While The Bab revealed and inaugurated an independent faith, He made it clear that his central purpose was to pave the way for “Him Whom God will make manifest.”
From 1844 until his death in 1850, The Bab urged his followers to develop exemplary spiritual and moral characters and to prepare themselves for the advent of the Lord of the Age.
As Persians from every walk of life eagerly responded to The Bab’s religion, ecclesiastical and secular leaders became alarmed. The Bab was jailed and exiled to a remote mountain prison, but his influence only grew day by day. The populace was encouraged by a fanatical clergy to attack the adherents of this new movement, and approximately 20,000 followers of The Bab were killed for their faith. Convinced, finally, that only the execution of The Bab himself would quell the burgeoning religious movement, the civil authorities, at the instigation of the clergy, approved the death sentence. On July 9, 1850, The Bab, then 30 years old was martyred at noon by a firing squad in a public square in Tabriz, Persia, while thousands of people looked on.
The Bab and a young follower were suspended by two ropes against a wall in the courtyard of the Tabriz army barracks. More than 10,000 crowded onto the rooftops of the barracks and houses which overlooked the square. A regiment of 750 soldiers arranged in three files of 250 each opened fire in three successive volleys. The smoke from the gunpowder was so dense that the entire courtyard was obscured.
The bodies of the pair were shattered, their bones and flesh mingled into one mass, but their faces were untouched. The Bab’s last words to the crowd were: “O wayward generation! Had you believed in Me every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you and would have willingly sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you.”
This desperate attempt to annihilate the mission of The Bab failed, for in 1863, Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, whose name means, “The Glory of God,” announced that he was the one whose advent the Bab had foretold. He taught the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of mankind.
His teachings promulgate the equality of men and women, the essential harmony of science and religion, economic justice based upon spiritual principles, the independent investigation of truth, the urgent need for the elimination of all forms of prejudice, universal compulsory education, an international, auxiliary language, and a world government for the maintenance of a lasting peace.
The remains of The Bab are interred at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel. in a beautiful, gold-domed shrine on Mount Carmel. The anniversary of His martyrdom is observed each year by Baha’is around the world.
At a time when the world news seems preoccupied with acts of violence and negative forces, the Baha’i community is quietly striving to build bonds of unity and understanding between people of all ages, races, ethnicities, socio-economic status and religions. To be part of this discussion, please contact the Baha’is where you live.
For more information on the Baha’i Faith and local activities, including study circles, devotional meetings, junior youth groups and children’s classes in Christiansted, call 277-8470 in Frederiksted; call 643-7863 on St. Thomas; call 336-588-4887, or visit the website: www.bahai.org.