Birth of the Bab

Today is the commemoration of the Birth of the Bab, a co-founder of the Baha’i Faith. He was named Mírzá ‘Alí-Muhammad and born in 1819, in Shiraz, Fars, Iran. The Bab, along with Baha’u’llah the other founder, is considered by Baha’is to be a manifestation of God.

This is an astounding claim and deserves some proof. Baha’is are people who agree that the Bab and Baha’u’llah have requited every necessary test of their character, their life, their teachings, and their abilities. Now that they have passed beyond the reach of direct meeting, the seeker can still read in depth, their history and their teachings. Here is an extensive library.

However, today, I want to tell some less well-known stories. The following is my own summary of a couple of stories told to a relative descendant of the Bab, Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán, about the Bab as a child.

When the Bab was 5 years old, his father, the honored Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá, went  to a school run by a Shaykh who had a strict entry interview. He described to the Shayhk that the child astonishes people by raising His hands to the threshold of the One God, and recites prayers; wakes in the middle of the night and stands to offer His obligatory prayers, in themidst of which He weeps, is sad, or happy, or immersed in rapture, or preoccupied with the imaginary world.

His father went on to tell that one night they were sleeping in the bathhouse of the Poultry Bazaar quarter, when the child suddenly rose and stated, that the roof of another bathhouse, which was for women, has just caved in, and five women and one child have been [killed] under the rubble.’ When they asked him not to say such things and go back to sleep, he asserted, ‘It is as I said.’ Not long after that we heard a tumult of voices saying that the bathhouse was wrecked and a number of women were under the rubble. Later it was determined that five women and a child had been killed.

Another time the child reported having a dream in which “a large balance was suspended in mid-air in a vast space. Successor and descendant of Muhammed, Imám Ja‘far Sádiq was seated on one of the plates, and, because of His weight, that plate was resting on the ground while the other plate was suspended in the air. An invisible person lifted Me and placed Me on the empty plate. My plate was now heavier than the other, and I came to the ground and the first dish rose into the air.”

So many instances like this were being observed that the family invited an astrologer to check him for jinn or fairies. The astrologer wrote a protective charm and prayer but when he left the child tore up the talismans, the writings he had left, and the sheet of instructions he had given [us], and tossed them out, saying to me, ‘In the words of the mystic: You make a great show of assistance, but I am that assistance.’

The father then asked the Shayhk to take on His education and training. The Shaykh and teachers were astonished by the stories and it was decided that the child would be brought to the school.

On the promised morning, the child arrived followed by a servant carrying a small [copper-tray] filled with sweets and a student’s version of the Qur’án. The Shaykh, several of the students who had reached the age of maturity, and the principal of the school were thoroughly enthralled in watching Him. He came in, greeted everyone, and sat before the Shaykh. Soon after, the childs uncle, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, arrived as well and sat next to the Shaykh. After the exchange of formal pleasantries, the Shaykh took the Qur’án from the tray of sweetmeats, opened it, and said to the young pupil, “Come Áqá, read.” The child smiled and said, “As you please.” As was customary, the Shaykh told Him to read, “He is the Deliverer, the All-Knowing.” He remained silent. The Shaykh repeated the verse, but the child kept his silence. The Shaykh persisted. The child (the Báb) asked, “Who is ‘He’. Can you explain?” The Shaykh responded, “‘He’ is God. You are still a child, and what concern of Yours is the meaning of ‘He’?” The pupil responded, “I am the Deliverer, the All-Knowing!” The Shaykh was deeply enraged and picked up his stick and said to Him, “Do not utter such things here!” The child commenced reading, and His maternal uncle smiled and ordered certain arrangements and then left.

A merchant who was a student then, later related, I was twelve years old at that time, and on that day Siyyid-iBáb came and sat between me and another boy. The Báb kneeled, in a refined way. His head was bowed over the student Qur’án, but He did not read a word, so I asked, “Why are You not reading the lesson [aloud] like the other children?” He made no reply; however, two other lads sitting near us were heard reading poems from Háfiz aloud, and they came to this verse:

From Heaven’s heights the birdsong calls to you
in sorrow that you’re trapped in walls of clay.

He turned quickly to me and said, “That is your answer.”

Later, the Shaykh was one day discussing a complex scientific topic with the older students when he postponed the discussion to do more study on the topic. Suddenly the young Bab who had been listening raised His blessed head and with sound reasoning, irrefutable proof, and scientific evidence, propounded the answer they sought and removed all complexities. They were wonder-struck and amazed. Full of amazement, the Shaykh asked him where He had gained this knowledge. The pupil smiled and offered this couplet from Háfiz:

Should the Holy Spirit’s grace again assist,
Others too will do what Christ has done.

Years later the Bab’s Uncle was discussing the claim of the Báb with his younger brother, who was asking why he had departed from our ancestral religion and follow our Nephew!” The eminent, martyred-uncle responded, “You should know well that God Most High has fulfilled the proof before me. After what I saw with my own eyes in His childhood and what I know with complete confidence about him since His adulthood, there is no room for doubt for anyone, especially for me.”

He then continued: “Have you forgotten our journey to the shrine in the mountains south of Shiraz, when He was a child aged nine years old? There was a group of us, and He came along as well. When we arrived, being completely exhausted, we performed our ablutions, offered our late afternoon and the evening obligatory prayers, paid our homage of visitation, ate dinner, and went to bed. It was not long after, at midnight, that I awoke and noticed that He was not in bed. Deeply perturbed, I was overtaken with anxiety that perhaps He had fallen from the mountain. Finally, after searching extensively, I heard a voice raised in the obligatory prayer and prayers of glorification to the Lord, coming from the lower extremities [of the mountain]. When I followed the melody of that chant, I found the Child, standing alone and in private, in consummate rapture voicing prayers and supplications to the One Who transcends all mention, on the deserted mountainside and at that late hour of the night. My beloved brother, I ask: After observing such things, is there any room for doubt? With a knowledge born of certainty, with truth that stands most manifest, and with my own unimpeachable observations, it is thoroughly evident that the Promised One whom we had anticipated has now appeared after twelve hundred and sixty years. The proof has been completed.”

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