- Sheriar Nooreyezdan

Just as the birth of a boy in the prison of cruel king Kans, and of a son in the home of a humble carpenter in Bethlehem augured  the glorious dispensations of Hinduism and Christianity, so  did the births in Iran, of the Bab and Baha’u’llah, signal the auspicious dawn of the Baha’i dispensation. Born on two consecutive days, 18th and 19th October, two years apart in 1817 and 1819, the Baha’i community is celebrating their 201stand 203rdbirth anniversaries in centres across the world.

The 19th.century was rife with religious stirrings in America, Germany and Middle East. Relying on scriptural prophecies the scholarly Presbyterian Minister, Rev. William Miller had concluded, and preached countrywide that Christ’s promised return was nigh. He had calculated the return would occur in May 1844. Citing Biblical prophecies He so convinced his parish that many volunteered to sail with him to the Holy Land, Palestine, to prayerfully await and witness the promised return. They camped on Mount Camel and spent days and nights in prayers. Similarly, a group of German Templers, travelled to the Holy and for the same purpose, set up their colony at the foot of Mount Carmel in present day Haifa. The awaited descent of Christ upon a cloud did not occur and caused great frustration amongst the devout Christian souls. Their anguish is recorded in Rev. Miller’s book “Midnight Cry”. Concurrently, from the Middle East, from the city of Karbala, the centre of Islamic Islamic scholarship, groups of scholars set out in search of their promised Imam Mehdi, whom they believed was born in Iran. In the city of Shiraz in southern Iran they were met by a young siyyid, a descendent of prophet Muhammad, who claimed, with convincing proofs, to be their Promised One. He was twenty-five years old Siyyd Ali Muhammad, titled the Bab, meaning the “Gate” leading to God’s new Manifestation whose advent the Bab claimed was imminent.

The declaration of the Bab attracted devout Muslims, including leading Islamic scholars, and also the hostility of the clergy. The Bab was decried from pulpits as a heretic and an enemy of Islam and a pogrom of persecution was launched against His followers, leading to the martyrdom of thousands of innocent souls and the looting and burning of their homes. The Bab was executed by a firing squad of 750 soldiers in the city square of Tabriz on 9th July 1850 before a thousand strong crowd. Among the prominent followers of the Bab was Mirza Husayn Ali, the young son of a respected minister in the court of the Shah, who was also arrested and imprisoned along with hundreds of other Babis, awaiting execution. While chained with other prisoners in a dark, damp, vermin-infected dungeon in Tehran, Mirza Husayn Ali was blessed with divine intuition of his mission as a Manifestation of God. He was called Baha’u’llah, meaning the “Glory of God”. Providentially saved from execution, Baha’u’llah was exiled with his family to Baghdad, as a prisoner. And in a camp on the Tigris river Baha’u’llah declared his mission on 21st April 1863, before his further exile to Constantinople and eventually to the desolate prison colony of Akka in Palestine. Baha’u’llah spent forty years of imprisonment, including two years in solitary confinement. He passed away in 1892.

From the pen of Baha’u’llah flowed an ocean of revelation and guidance to the peoples of the world, including epistles to kings and rulers as well as religious leaders. His advice to kings was to end nation-building, end wars, disband armies and create peace and amity in the world. Had His advice been followed two ruinous world wars could have been averted, and millions of lives saved. To religious leaders Baha’u’llah advised composition of their differences and ending of religious dissensions. Had they obeyed, mankind would today be united in a world family, following one universal religion, not having abandoned or converted from ancestral beliefs, but having recognized in Baha’u’llah the fulfilment of prophecies of their own scriptures, and their confirmation in earlier beliefs. The Baha’i community of today, comprising people from every background of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality and culture presents the model of a world family speaking the language of love in over eight hundred tongues, living in over three hundred countries and territories across the globe.

The grand bicentenary celebrations held two years ago included public meetings with inspiring and entertaining programmes by popular performers and singers like Dr. Rahul Joshi and his troupe. Current celebrations perforce are limited to virtual gatherings, but with the same zest.