BY CAITLIN WEBSTER
CENTERVILLE — For members of the Baha’i Faith in Davis County, May means more than just springtime and the end of the school year.
Of the nine holy days observed by the religion, three fall in May. Two are celebratory, and one is solemn.
“The two festive days both relate to the beginnings of our religion,” said Paul Webb of Centerville. “If you are a Christian, these might equate to celebrating the dove descending on Christ; if you are Jewish, it would be akin to observing the day Moses encountered the burning bush or brought the Ten Commandments to the Hebrews he had led out of Egypt.”
The earliest of the three days occurs on May 2, and it is the culmination date of a 12-day festival that begins in April, called collectively the Festival of Ridvan.
“Ridvan means ‘paradise’,” Webb said, “and it was the name given to the island garden in Baghdad where Baha’u’llah, our prophet-founder, announced his mission.”
Baha’u’llah‘the name means “Glory of God”‘was born a nobleman in 19th century Iran. As a young man, He embraced the teachings of a man who proclaimed himself to be the promised Qaim, the figure in Islamic belief who would herald an era of peace, Webb said.
The rapid spread of the new faith led to violent reprisals from the government of the time. Baha’u’llah was imprisoned and then exiled, stripped of his worldly wealth and titles.
“While in prison, however, he experienced a vision,” said Webb. “His own adopted faith spoke repeatedly of a figure called ‘him whom God will make manifest.’ The luminous figure he beheld in the darkness and squalor of this horrible prison was the figure who invested him with his revelation. Baha’u’llah was, in fact, ‘him whom God will make manifest.”
Baha’u’llah kept secret the nature of his vision throughout the 10 years of his exile in Iraq. It was on the eve of his departure for Constantinople С a second phase of his exile С that he first proclaimed himself and his mission.
May 23 fits neatly into this picture. It is the date on which the Baha’is observe the announcement of Baha’u’llah’s mission by the figure whose faith he had embraced.
This young man, a merchant by trade, revealed this mission to a lone cleric who had arrived in this city, Shiraz, as part of a group of young Muslim clerics who were trying to find the promised Qaim.
The new prophet adopted the title of “the Bab,” which means “gate.” Although he wrote prolifically, the Bab emphasized that his main mission was to prepare people for another prophet, “him whom God will make manifest.”
The Declaration of the Bab, celebrated May 23, occurred about two hours and 10 minutes after sunset.
“A number of our holy days are recent enough in the historical record that we know about the time of day that the event occurred,” said Webb. “Unfortunately for those of us who have day jobs, the Ascension of Baha’u’llah falls in the middle of the night. When you take into account daylight savings time, that means the proper time for the observance is 4:00 a.m.”
The third date the Baha’is observe falls on May 29. This holiday is solemn, as it marks the date on which Baha’u’llah died.
Bahai’s who live throughout south Davis meet in Centerville. and in north Davis, in Syracuse. The faith was founded in 19th-Century Persia.
Learn more at bahai.us. or by calling 1‑800‑22UNITE (1‑800‑228‑6483).