Religion 101

Tomorrow (May 23), members of the Baha’i Faith will celebrate “the Declaration of the Bab,” one of eleven holy days on the Baha’i religious calendar. Of those eleven Baha’i holy days, work is suspended on nine of them; this is one of those nine.

Baha’is, like Jews and Muslims, reckon “days” as beginning and ending not at midnight or at dawn but at sunset. Accordingly, the holiday known as the Declaration of the Bab technically begins at sunset tonight, and will run through sunset tomorrow.

The Baha’i Faith is one of the youngest and smallest of the world’s religions. Founded in Persia (now Iran) in the 19th century, Baha’i has grown into a relatively small but rapidly growing and already widespread global religion, with a worldwide population currently estimated at somewhere between five and seven million members.

Baha’i was founded by a Tehran-born monotheistic prophet known as Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), whose adoptive title is Persian for “Glory of God.” Claiming to be the latest in a series of messengers from God (a line which Baha’i regards as including not only Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, but also Krishna and Buddha), Baha’u’llah preached both the unity of all religions as well as the unity of all humanity, and called for global peace and justice.

Baha’is believe that prior to the advent of Baha’u’llah, his coming was foretold by a previous religious leader known as the Bab (“the Gate”), who anticipated — almost John the Baptist-like — the arrival of another messianic-like figure, whom Bahai’s subsequently identified as Baha’u’llah.

The Baha’i holy day known as “the Declaration of the Bab” commemorates the May 23, 1844 proclamation by the Bab himself that he was, in fact, the herald or forerunner of an imminent and subsequent new divine messenger — e.g., of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith.