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Honouring the Martyrdom of The Báb

The founder and prophet of the Bahá’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, referred to The Qayyúmu'l-Asmá, a mystical work of His precursor, the Báb, as “the greatest and mightiest” Book in the Bábí dispensation.

The Qayyúmu'l-Asmá [“the self-subsisting Lord of all names”] established the Writings of the new faith and the Bahá’i dispensation as distinct, an entirely new creation, and a clear departure from all religious text or intent that had gone before. The book sounded a trumpet blast for those awaiting the Return of the Qā’im and simultaneously cemented The Báb’s path toward inescapable persecution and martyrdom by the authoritarian powers of the time. Bahá'is mark the occasion of His execution in 1850 by a firing squad on July 10th.

The Báb set The Qayyúmu'l-Asmá before a bewildered, powerful and envious clerical class of the day who reacted with predictable rage. This revolutionary book stands alone in religious history since, without education of any weight and Arabic not His native tongue, He pulled verses from the holy Quran and in dancing, rhyming, rhythmic and mystical language wove an exposition and prophecy throughout, within, and around the original text.  

It was considered blasphemy of an unimaginable kind to best the Author of the original in style, meaning and complexity; to imbue these remarkable verses with utterly inscrutable religious, poetic, alphabetic and numerological intelligence; to create a work whose transcendent meaning might only be approached by a heart open to Divine lyricism and cadence, to the language of God -- a trumpet-blast simultaneously rending the heavens asunder while renewing the earth, from its inhabitants to its core.  No one and nothing would be exempt from its power for the rest of time.

“He is, verily, the eternal Truth come from God, and according to the divine judgment given in the Mother Book, He is the most distinguished among the writers of Arabic and most eloquent in His utterance. He is in truth the Supreme Talisman and is endowed with supernatural powers, as set forth in the Mother Book,”1 the Báb proclaimed in a poetic epic far beyond His earthly education.

And in declaring within this revelatory text that He sought only to be slain on behalf of the One behind the veil who aided Him, the Báb anticipated the inevitable horror to come, and those who would be the means of His sacrifice.  “They only lay plots against themselves,” He said.  

Authorities were incensed that He predicted both their response and His own martyrdom.  What power was left to them when He’d declared everything they might inflict upon Him a triumph?  Even executing the Báb was the fulfilment of a prophecy He’d made from the outset, deflating His detractors’ habitual sense of control and drama.

On every count the Shah, court and clergy alike, who were leading a nation to ignominy, must have felt thoroughly eclipsed by a youth so obviously attached to Divine assistance; Whose abilities excelled anything human as He developed, expounded upon -- and even played with -- patterns of thought, artistry, religious philosophy and imagination that exceeded their faculties in every way.  It was only their own limitations that allowed some Muslim scholars to assume Him mad.  And among those who may have feared the Báb, or the adherents He inspired, their sole defence was accusations of heresy or insanity. 

Above all, there are clear, similar implications in what the Báb achieved in this seminal work for all other religions and societies, for any future attempts to subvert the Truth or disunite the One universal soul.  

The Archives Building in Haifa, Israel, where artefacts of Holy Figures of the Bahá'i Faith (including The Báb) are contained, with examples of the astonishing calligraphy He produced

The absolute essence of God’s will on earth can be reduced or separated no further; and yet, so many layers and levels of revelation lie distilled in His Mother Book on which pivots the eternal fortunes of mankind -- verity upon verity clothed in a geometric progression of meaning, meaning whose unwinding might best be undertaken in a timeless frame, and only by the pure of heart.  

Paradoxically, it becomes ever-more-clear that our ill-prepared humanity in the throes of the 21st century’s furore, also must try to grasp and hold onto the sublime message of the Báb’s courageous proclamation -- or miss its last, best, chance. 

“O PEOPLES of the East and the West!  Be ye fearful of God concerning the Cause of the true Joseph 2 and barter Him not for a paltry price established by yourselves, or for a trifle of your earthly possessions, that ye may, in very truth, be praised by Him as those who are reckoned among the pious who stand nigh unto this Gate.”3

1 The Qayyúmu'l-Asmá

2 References to the purity and beauty of Joseph echo through the sacred writings of five Abrahamic faiths.

3 The Qayyúmu'l-Asmá 

Personal reflections on The Báb by Nancy Warren, UK Bahá'i Office of Public Affairs

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