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The martyrdom of the Bab (9 July)

To look at faith in the context of the Baha’i religion.

by Jenny Tuxford

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To look at faith in the context of the Baha’i religion.

Preparation and materials

  • A map showing Persia/Iran.
  • The Bab was born on 20 October 1819.


  1. Explain to the children that you are going to tell them about a very unusual and gifted man who dedicated his life to God and to helping people live better lives. His name is Siyyid Ali Muhammad, and he was descended from the Prophet Muhammad.
  2. Siyyid lived nearly 200 years ago, in a land called Persia, now known as Iran (project the map to show where Iran is). In Persia the people were Muslims. They believed that the Prophet Muhammad was the greatest of the prophets, and the last ever prophet.

    When Siyyid Ali was a young man, he worked as a merchant, that is, as a trader, but his real interest was the study of religion. He changed his name to ‘the Bab’, which in Arabic means ‘the Gate’.  

    The Bab believed that the way people lived their lives should be based on love and compassion. His sole ambition was to improve the world.
  3. The Bab had an amazing personality and he was a wonderful speaker. It is said that ‘mountains and valleys re-echoed the majesty of his voice’. People flocked in their thousands to hear him and listen to his highly unusual message. There wasn’t much love and peace around in Persia at that time!

    What’s more, the Bab didn’t just speak to the people all the time – he was able to listen and answer their really tricky questions.
  4. More astonishing still was the fact that the Bab was telling the people that he was the gateway to a new, hidden prophet. Someone even more amazing than the Bab was on his way. This was wonderful news. Someone was coming who was far greater than he was and this person would bring about the start of an age of peace and justice. Brilliant! They needed some peace and justice.

    ‘As soon as this promised Teacher arrives – recognize and follow him,’ the Bab told the people.
  5. But was everybody happy about the Bab telling them that a great prophet was on his way? No way! Remember that the Muslims believed that Muhammad was the last great messenger of God. Well, in that case there could be no other.

    Some Muslim leaders and teachers weren’t just unhappy, they were furious – so much so that they threw the Bab into prison. They thought he had far too much influence over the people. He even had disciples who were going about Persia spreading his teachings.
  6. Sadly, the Bab’s disciples (called Babis) were tortured and killed for what they were preaching. And after just six years of spreading his beliefs, the Bab himself was sentenced to death.

    On 9 July 1850, when he was 31, the Bab was led through crowded streets to a place where he was to be executed by a firing squad. A crowd of 10,000 people came to see him killed. To everyone’s horror, one of the Bab’s young followers begged to be killed with him. The two men were tied up with ropes.

    It is reported that 750 guns were fired at the two young men. But to everyone’s shock, after the smoke had cleared it was discovered that the young man was unharmed and the Bab had disappeared! Only the ropes had been damaged. They were shredded.

    A search party went to work and eventually the Bab was found – back in his prison cell.

    Not surprisingly, after this miracle the firing squad flatly refused to try again and so a new team had to be summoned. This time they succeeded but, amazingly, the victims’ faces had not been wounded at all.

    The bodies were thrown into a moat outside the city. Later, however, the Bab’s followers rescued them and they were buried on Mount Carmel in Israel. The place where the Bab is buried is now a shrine, a holy place, and it is a place of pilgrimage.
  7. A new leader did later appear. He preached a faith based on the teachings of Bab, a faith that stresses the oneness of all religions, and the importance of seeking world peace and unity. This faith is Baha’ism.
  8. Every year on 9 July Baha’is remember the events surrounding the death of the Bab. This day is a day of rest when prayers are said.

    The Bab and his followers showed great courage. Like Jesus, the Bab paid with his life for his message of God’s love.

Time for reflection

Spend a few moments thinking about what is important to you, and be thankful for living in an inclusive and tolerant community.


A Baha’i prayer
Oh Lord my God,
guide me, protect me.
Illumine the lamp of my heart.
Guide me, protect me.
Make me a brilliant star.


‘I belong to a family’ (‘The family of man keeps growing’) (Come and Praise, 69)

Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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