Today, members of the Baha’i faith all around the world will be remembering the execution of the Báb in in 1850s Persia. Considered a forerunner to the Baha’i faith, the Báb (originally born as Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází), was killed by a firing squad for being an apostate. He was the founder of Bábism, a messianic movement that sprung up as an offshoot of Shi’a Islam.

The Báb’s claim that he was the Promised One or Qa’im of Shi’a Muslims agitated the local religious authorities. As he gained more and more followers, he became involved in a number of confrontations with the clerical administration. His followers were persecuted and a series of uprisings resulted in massacres of Bábis that number in the thousands. Local villagers targeted Bábis with violence and drove them out of their towns and cities.

The Báb was put on trial to prove his divinity and the clergy attempted to paint him as insane. The trial did not result in a conviction, but a fatwa was issued declaring his apostasy and the clergy demanded he be punished — they administered 20 lashes to the bottoms of his feet.

In 1850, after a change in regime, the Qajar government of Persia finally ordered the Báb’s execution. On July 9th, his execution was to be a public spectacle and an audience gathered to watch him die in the courtyward of the army barracks where he was being confined. The firing squad arrived, the shots were taken, but when the smoke cleared, the Báb was gone. The bullets had cut him free of the ropes. They found him back in the barracks, completely unharmed. A second firing squad of Muslim soldiers was arranged once again. This time, when the shots fired, they killed the Báb.

Baha’is today mourn the death of the Báb — not just as central figure of their faith, but also as a symbol of strength in the face of hatred, bigotry and religious intolerance.