The Martyrdom of the Báb is a major holy day for members of the Bahá’í faith. It is celebrated in the UK this year on the 10th July, and commemorates the events surrounding the death of the Báb in 1850.
There are an estimated 5-8million Bahá’ís spread out across the world.
The Báb is a title meaning ‘the Gate’, and refers to the founder of the Bábí religion, out of which the Bahá’í faith grew. The Báb grew up as a merchant known as Siyyid Ali Muhammad in the Persian (now Iranian) city of Shiraz. As a child, he displayed such knowledge and wisdom, even explaining some of the most difficult passages of the Quran to his fellow students and teachers, that his schoolmaster eventually dismissed him from his studies, saying there was nothing they could teach him.
He attracted many followers, but not all his beliefs met with approval from the state leaders. One such teaching was that God would soon send a prophet in the same way of Jesus or Muhammad. This and other beliefs led to him being imprisoned, and later sentenced to death by firing squad. This festival commemorates his death, although there is both mystery and disagreement about what really happened…..
One of his young followers begged to be allowed to share his fate, and this wish was granted. An Armenian firing squad lined up and shot at the Báb and his follower, but when the smoke cleared, the young follower remained there unharmed and the Báb had gone. He was found back in his cell, and the soldiers were so shaken by the ‘miracle’ that they refused to try to kill him again so a new regiment had to be called for. This time, when the squad opened fire the Báb and the follower died, and their bodies were thrown into a moat outside the town.
The Báb’s followers rescued the bodies, and years later the remains were buried on Mount Carmel, near Haifa in Israel. This golden domed shrine that is now a place of pilgrimage for Bahá’ís worldwide.
To commemorate this festival, special prayers and readings from the Bahá’í scriptures will be recited at noon – this is the time the execution was scheduled for. It is one of 9 Holy Days when Bahá’ís should not work.