Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

October 19, 2006

The Bab as a Young Student

Since 1844, millions of people around the world have considered the Báb to be one of the great Prophets of history — founder of his own independent religion and herald of another religion that would come after his own, the Bahá'í Faith. In the Gregorian calendar, He was born between sunset on the 19th and sunset on the 20th of October 1819, in Shiraz, Persia, and thus those followers consider the 20th to be one of a handful of Bahá’í holy days. On this holy day, I want to share a brief story from his childhood.

Of course he wasn't always known by this title, which means "gate" in Arabic. That did not come until he proclaimed he was the "gate" to the Hidden Imam of Shi'ism in 1844. But at his birth, on October 20, 1844, in Shiraz, Persia, he was known as 'Alí Muhammad, by birthright titled Sayyid as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

As a child He lived with his uncle, a merchant in Shiraz. When he reached an appropriate age, he was sent to attend a religious school in the city. Though previously untutored, his uncle later told that He quickly gained a reputation for precocity. Indeed, it is said that after a short time the teacher actually sent Him home, saying that the boy's knowledge was too far beyond that of the rest of the class.

His uncle was naturally upset, thinking this an embarrassment to the family. He told his nephew humbly to ask his teacher to allow him back in, with promises that he would be "better" behaved. The teacher consented, and 'Alí Muhammad was back in school. At first he kept quite and meek, but eventually he could restrain himself no longer. His knowledge and wisdom were simply too great to be constrained by the school.

Thus the teacher again returned his pupil to his uncle, this time being sure to mollify the uncle. He told the uncle that his nephew was someone rare and special who had no need of formal schooling. 'Alí Muhammad did not return to school thereafter, instead learning the merchant trade from his uncle. In this trade he flourished until after the declaration of his mission.