The Declaration of the Báb—and Spiritual Renewal

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Shrine of the Bab at night

Shirin Marshall ©

I’ve often heard Baha’i friends remark that the Declaration of the Báb is their favorite Baha’i holy day, that they feel most connected to this day above all others. I’m sure that those folks have their own unique and personal connections to the day that make it feel so spiritually significant. And in many ways, though it is not the beginning of the Baha’i year, nor is it the “King of Festivals,” the Declaration of the Báb marks a beginning of sorts. The Báb created the Badi’ calendar, after all, and his Revelation opened the door to what we now regard as Baha’i history.

A complete account of the Declaration of the Báb is available in The Dawn-Breakers but briefly told, the day marks the anniversary of the Báb’s declaration that he is a Promised One of God—and Mulla Husayn’s acceptance of that claim. As a follower of the Shaykhi movement, Mulla Husayn had gone out in search of the Qa’im, to the city of Shiraz. The Báb greeted Mulla Husayn, as if an old friend, at the gates of that city and invited him to his own home to refresh himself.

Shrine of the Bab reflection in water

Paul Aziz Netherwood ©

After illuminating conversation, Mulla Husayn recognized the Báb as the Promised One he had been seeking. And he was utterly and completely transformed by this turn of events.

“This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendor and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanized my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: “Awake, for lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!” –Mulla Husayn (as quoted in The Dawn-Breakers, p. 65)

“Then I could neither write nor walk…. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp.” What a complete transformation. Not only does his account reveal his distinct and special place in Baha’i history—he was the first to believe in the Báb—but his admission of his own weakness and his subsequent strength and courage is a transformative moment like many of us have experienced on much smaller scales. So small, perhaps, that in times of difficulties we might feel more at home with the weaknesses than the strengths.

Shrine of the Bab detail photo

Paul Aziz Netherwood ©

While the story of the Declaration of the Báb is enshrined in history, spiritual transformation—and the call that raises us to serve for love of God—is still very much current. Transformation isn’t a one time thing, either. We’re constantly evolving. And while we will not live out our days as Mulla Husayn did, his transformation through faith is still vitally important to us today, a reminder of where courage originates and where it leads us.

“The Cause at present does not need martyrs who would die for the faith, but servants who desire to teach and establish the Cause throughout the world. To live to teach in the present day is like being martyred in those early days. It is the spirit that moves us that counts, not the act through which that spirit expresses itself; and that spirit is to serve the Cause of God with our heart and soul.” –from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi

Caitlin is the Writing Editor at Nineteen Months, and makes her way in the world as a web editor and social media specialist. She has contributed to projects for Baha’i Publishing Trust, and her work has been published literary magazines like Chiron Review, The Journal of Baha’i Studies, and others. She is the founding editor of Vahid, a NM literary magazine currently seeking submissions. She lives in New York with her husband, and a cat whose namesake is a Chevy sedan.