The Birth of the Bab

He was born Ali Muhammad. But the Bab's intuitive knowledge of the Spirit, like that of Jesus, could not be denied.

On October 20 of each year, Baha'is around the world celebrate the birth of one of the founders of their faith. The child born on October 20, 1819, in Shiraz, Persia, was of the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad and destined to become the Qa'im, the Promised One of Islam. But no portents marked his birth--he was, simply, a baby named Ali Muhammad.

The Bab's father died when he was quite young, and his maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali, undertook the care of him. In later years, this uncle would become a martyr to the nascent Babi faith. When the Bab reached the proper age, his uncle enrolled him in school. On the first day of school, as part of the religious instruction given to all pupils, the teacher read a passage from the Qur'an and asked his new student to explain it. When young Ali Muhammad demurred, the teacher pretended that he himself did not know the meaning. The Bab then agreed to explain the verse, and did so with such breadth and depth of understanding that the teacher was astonished. When the Bab's uncle came to take him home, the teacher told him, "This boy has no need of schooling from one such as I." Nevertheless, the Bab's uncle returned him to school the next day, instructing him to be quiet and pay attention to the teacher. But the Bab's intuitive knowledge of the Spirit, like that of Jesus, could not be denied.

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When his schooling was complete, the Bab joined his uncle, who was a merchant, in the family business and rapidly became renowned for his fairness and integrity. He wed a cousin, Khadijih, and suffered with her the loss of their only child, a son named Ahmad, who lived for only a few minutes following a harrowing delivery during which Khadijih's life was in grave danger as well. At the inception of his ministry, in 1844, they had had only two and a half years together. During the next six years, while his road took him first to Mecca, then to imprisonment in the heart of a mountain, and finally to his execution in a barracks-square in Tabriz, his wife would know the joy of his presence only a handful of times.

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