The spirit of self-sacrifice for a better world

By AK Merchant

Countless stories can be told of sacrifices and innocent deaths that bring to fore the real humanity. Of corona warriors risking their lives to save people and provide solace to those who lost their dear ones. Can this spirit of altruism, fortitude and self-sacrifice pave the way for a new eco-friendly lifestyle?

Religious texts are filled with narratives of tremendous sacrifice and resilience. The power of faith in a divine being binds disparate elements of society to rise to great heights. The obedience of Ram to give up his kingdom and go into exile; the deeply insightful decision of the Buddha to sacrifice his kingship to venture into the forest in search for answers to our existential reality; the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for the absolution of the sinning multitudes; the martyrdom of Imam Hussain to uphold the standard of Truth when confronted by a heartless tyrannical ruler; the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur for protecting religious freedom, are just a few examples. To this must be added, the imprisonment and public execution of the Bab, Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i Faith, whose 171st martyrdom anniversary falls on July 9, 2021. Some 20,000 of the Bab’s followers were put to death with barbarous cruelty.

“O peoples of the earth!” the Bab declared in May 1844 of the imminent appearance of the Promised One of all religions, Baha’u’llah. “Verily the resplendent Light of God hath appeared in your midst … that ye may be guided aright to the ways of peace and … step out of the darkness into the light and onto this far-extended Path of Truth.” The Bab was publicly executed by a firing squad of 750 soldiers in Tabriz, Iran. The smoke of the firing was such as to turn daylight into darkness.

As soon as the cloud of smoke cleared away, the Bab had vanished. Though the cords with which he had been suspended were rent in pieces by the bullets. Cries of astonishment, confusion and fear rang out: “The Bab has vanished!” “He is freed!” they shrieked. “It is a miracle! He was a man of God!” “They are slaying a man of God!” There was bedlam in the public square as a frantic search for the Bab began. He was found in his prison cell completing the conversation with his attendant that he had not been allowed earlier. Another regiment of soldiers was assigned and the Bab was martyred. Fortunately, some of the Bab’s followers secretly retrieved the mangled remains of his bullet-ridden body. It was kept hidden and successfully transported to Haifa city, where it is entombed in a beautiful shrine on Mount Carmel.

To build a new world is no easy task. The Baha’i believe that far from signalising the end of civilisation, today’s convulsive changes will release the spiritual potentialities and reveal the full measure of our destiny on earth. This new consciousness is possible and can emerge through embracing revolutionary love, the emergence of a caring society; a new bottom line in all our economic, political, legal, educational and cultural institutions. This should be our greatest takeaway from the Covid-19 pandemic.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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