The Bab's Legacy

July 9, 2009

Having promulgated a new religion, having laid claim to be the Promised One of God, Siyyid ‘Alí Muhammad of Shiraz, known as the Báb, and his followers, were oppressed and persecuted from the beginning of His Mission in 1844. After 6 tumultuous years, the clergy and government of Persia agreed to a sentence of death. Imprisoned in the remote capital of Tabriz, the Báb and a young follower named Anís were executed in a spectacular, seemingly-miraculous fashion.

On July 9th, 1850, with thousands of residents looking on, the Báb and Anís were fired upon by a regiment of 250 soldiers. It was reported that, when the smoke cleared, Anís was found unharmed and the Báb was nowhere to be seen. A search ensued, and the Báb was found dictating to his secretary. Again the Báb and Anís were placed in the line of fire, and shortly before noon second regiment was brought out to finish that which the first could not complete. The second volley of shots ended the life of the Báb and His follower.

For me, the greatest wonder is not the story of His execution, but rather the story of His legacy, namely, the Bahá'í Faith. Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, wrote of this legacy:

"… the seed, endowed by the Hand of Omnipotence with such vast potentialities, though rudely trampled under foot and seemingly perished from the face of the earth, had, through this very process, been vouchsafed the opportunity to germinate and remanifest itself, in the shape of a still more compelling Revelation – a Revelation destined to blossom forth, in a later period into the flourishing institutions of a world-wide administrative System, and to ripen, in the Golden Age as yet unborn, into mighty agencies functioning in consonance with the principles of a world-unifying, world-redeeming Order." Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p59-60

A prayer from the Báb (Selections From the Writings of the Báb, p192-3):

"GLORY be unto Thee, O Lord, Thou Who hast brought into being all created things, through the power of Thy behest.

O Lord! Assist those who have renounced all else but Thee, and grant them a mighty victory. Send down upon them, O Lord, the concourse of the angels in heaven and earth and all that is between, to aid Thy servants, to succour and strengthen them, to enable them to achieve success, to sustain them, to invest them with glory, to confer upon them honour and exaltation, to enrich them and to make them triumphant with a wondrous triumph.

Thou art their Lord, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of all the worlds. Strengthen this Faith, O Lord, through the power of these servants and cause them to prevail over all the peoples of the world; for they, of a truth, are Thy servants who have detached themselves from 193 aught else but Thee, and Thou verily art the protector of true believers.

Grant Thou, O Lord, that their hearts may, through allegiance to this, Thine inviolable Faith, grow stronger than anything else in the heavens and on earth and in whatsoever is between them; and strengthen, O Lord, their hands with the tokens of Thy wondrous power that they may manifest Thy power before the gaze of all mankind."

The primary source for the story of the Báb's execution is The Dawnbreakers, by Nabil-i-Zarandi, p500-527. If I understand it correctly, Goubineau gives a different, contemporaneous account in Les religions et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale, p271-2. British historian E.G. Browne's account seems to have elements of both versions, including the Báb surviving the firing squad (although like Gobineau, he has the prophet killed by a soldier using a sword), in Religious Systems of the World: A Contribution to the Study of Comparative Religion , p346.