Bábism (Persian: بابیه, Babiyye), also known as the Bayání Faith (Persian: بيانى, Bayání), is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion which professes that there is one incorporeal, unknown, and incomprehensible God who manifests his will in an unending series of theophanies, called Manifestations of God (Arabic: ظهور الله). It has no more than a few thousand adherents according to current estimates, most of whom are concentrated in Iran. It was founded by ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi who first assumed the title of Báb (lit. "Gate") from which the religion gets its name, out of the belief that he was the gate to the Twelfth Imam. However throughout his ministry his titles and claims underwent much evolution as the Báb progressively outlined his teachings.
Founded in 1844, Bábism flourished in Persia until 1852, then lingered on in exile in the Ottoman Empire, especially Cyprus, as well as underground. An anomaly amongst Islamic messianic movements, the Bábí movement signaled a break with Islam, beginning a new religious system with its own unique laws, teachings, and practices. While Bábism was violently opposed by both clerical and government establishments, it led to the founding of the Bahá'í Faith, whose followers consider the religion founded by the Báb as a predecessor to their own. Bahá'í sources maintain that the remains of the Bab were clandestinely rescued by a handful of Bábis and then hidden. Over time the remains were secretly transported according to the instructions of Bahá'u'lláh and then `Abdu'l-Bahá through Isfahan, Kirmanshah, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and then by sea to Acre on the plain below Mount Carmel in 1899. On March 21, 1909, the remains were interred in a special tomb, the Shrine of the Báb, erected for this purpose by `Abdu'l-Bahá, on Mount Carmel in present-day Haifa, Israel.
Bábism, a term originating from Orientalists rather than the followers of the religion, comes from the Perso-Arabic noun bab (Arabic: باب), meaning gate. Additionally, Bayání comes from the triliteral root B-Y-N which forms a class of words relating to concepts of clarity, differentiation, and separation, including Bayán which can refer to explanation, commentary, or exposition as well as the branch of Arabic rhetoric dealing with metaphors and interpretation.
The Báb's teachings can be grouped into three broad stages which each have a dominant thematic focus. His earliest teachings are primarily defined by his interpretation of the Quran and other Islamic traditions. While this interpretive mode continues throughout all three stages of his teachings, a shift takes place where his emphasis moves to the philosophical elucidation and finally to legislative pronouncements. In the second philosophical stage, the Báb gives an explanation of the metaphysics of being and creation, and in the third legislative stage his mystical and historical principles are explicitly united. An analysis of the Báb's writings throughout the three stages shows that all of his teachings were animated by a common principle that had multiple dimensions and forms.
In Twelver Shi'a Islamic belief there were twelve Imams, the last of which, known as Imam Mahdi, who communicated with his followers only through certain representatives. According to the Twelver's belief, after the last of these representatives died, the Imam Mahdi went into a state of Occultation; while still alive, he was no longer accessible to his believers. Shi'a Muslims believe that when the world becomes oppressed, the Imam Mahdi (also termed the Qa'im) will come out of occultation and restore true religion on Earth before the cataclysmic end of the world and judgement day.
In Bábí belief the Báb is the return of the Imam Mahdi, but the doctrine of the Occultation is implicitly denied; instead the Báb stated that his manifestation was a symbolic return of the Imam, and not the physical reappearance of the Imam Mahdi who had died a thousand years earlier. In Bábí belief the statements made from previous revelations regarding the Imam Mahdi were set forth in symbols. The Báb also stated that he was not only the fulfillment of the Shi`i expectations for the Qá'im, but that he also was the beginning of a new prophetic dispensation.
The Báb taught that his revelation was beginning an apocalyptic process that was bringing the Islamic dispensation to its cyclical end, and starting a new dispensation. He taught that the terms "resurrection", "Judgement Day", "paradise" and "hell" used in Shi'a prophecies for the end-times are symbolic. He stated that "Resurrection" means that the appearance of a new revelation, and that "raising of the dead" means the spiritual awakening of those who have stepped away from true religion. He further stated that "Judgement Day" refers to when a new Manifestation of God comes, and the acceptance or rejection of those on the Earth. Thus the Báb taught that with his revelation the end times ended and the age of resurrection had started and that the end-times were symbolic as the end of the past prophetic cycle.
In the Persian Bayán, the Báb wrote that religious dispensations come in cycles, as the seasons, to renew "pure religion" for humanity. This notion of continuity anticipated future prophetic revelations after the Báb.
While the Báb claimed a station of revelation, he also claimed no finality for his revelation. One of the core Bábí teachings is the great Promised One, whom the Báb termed He whom God shall make manifest, promised in the sacred writings of previous religions would soon establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth. In the books written by the Báb he constantly entreats his believers to follow He whom God shall make manifest when he arrives and not behave like the Muslims who have not accepted his own revelation.
The Báb abrogated Islamic law and in the Persian Bayán promulgated a system of Bábí law, thus establishing a separate religion distinct from Islam. Some of the new laws included changing the direction of the Qibla to the Báb's house in Shiraz, Iran and changing the calendar to a solar calendar of nineteen months and nineteen days (which became the basis of the Bahá'í calendar) and prescribing the last month as a month of fasting.
The Báb also created a large number of rituals and rites. Some of these rituals include the carrying of arms only in times of necessity, the obligatory sitting on chairs, the advocating of the cleanliness displayed by Christians, the non-cruel treatment of animals, the prohibition of beating children severely, the recommendation of the printing of books, even scripture and the prohibition on the study of logic or dead languages. Other laws include elaborate regulations regarding pilgrimage, fasting, the manufacture of rings, the use of perfume, and the washing and disposal of the dead.
Twelver Shi'i Muslims regard the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, as the last of the Imams. They contend that Muhammad al-Mahdi went into the Occultation in 874 CE, at which time communication between the Imam and the Muslim community could only be performed through mediators called Bābs "gates" or Nā'ibs "representatives". In 940, the fourth nā'ib claimed that Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi had gone into an indefinite "Grand Occultation", and that he would cease to communicate with the people. According to Twelver belief, the Hidden Imam is alive in the world, but in concealment from his enemies, and that he would only emerge shortly before the Last Judgment. At that time, acting as al-Qā'im ("He who will arise"), a messianic figure also known as the Mahdi ("He who is rightly guided"), the Hidden Imam would start a holy war against evil, would defeat the unbelievers, and would start a reign of justice.
In 1830s Qajar Persia, Sayyid Kazim Rashti was the leader of the Shaykhis, a sect of Twelvers. The Shaykhis were a group expecting the imminent appearance of al-Qāʾim. At the time of Kazim's death in 1843, he had counselled his followers to leave their homes to seek the Lord of the Age whose advent would soon break on the world.
On 22 May, 1844 Mullá Husayn of Boshruyeh in Khorasan, a prominent disciple of Sayyid Kāẓim, entered Shiraz following the instruction by his master to search for al-Qā'im. Soon after he arrived in Shiraz, Mullá Husayn came into contact with the Báb. On the night of May 22, 1844, Mulla Husayn was invited by the Báb to his home; on that night Mullá Husayn told him that he was searching for the possible successor to Sayyid Kāẓim, al-Qā'im, and the Báb told Mullá Husayn privately that he was Sayyid Kāẓim's successor and the bearer of divine knowledge. Through the night of the 22nd to dawn of the 23rd, Mulla Husayn became the first to accept the Báb's claims as the gateway to Truth and the initiator of a new prophetic cycle; the Báb had replied in a satisfactory way to all of Mullá Husayn's questions and had written in his presence, with extreme rapidity, a long commentary on the surah of Yusuf, which has come to be known as the Qayyūmu l-Asmā' and is often considered the Báb's first revealed work, though he had before then composed a commentary on Surat al-Fatihah and Surat al-Baqara. This night and the following day are observed in the Bahá'í Faith as a holy day since then.
After Mulla Husayn accepted the Báb's claim, the Báb ordered him to wait until 17 others had independently recognized the station of the Báb before they could begin teaching others about the new revelation.
Within five months, seventeen other disciples of Sayyid Kāẓim had independently recognized the Báb as a Manifestation of God. Among them was one woman, Zarrin Tāj Baraghāni, a poet, who later received the name of Táhirih (the Pure). These 18 disciples were later to be known as the Letters of the Living and were given the task of spreading the new faith across Iran and Iraq. The Báb emphasized the spiritual station of these 18 individuals, who along with himself, made the first "Unity" of his religion.
After his declaration, he soon assumed the title of the Báb. Within a few years the movement spread all over Iran, causing controversy. His claim was at first understood by some of the public at the time to be merely a reference to the Gate of the Hidden Imám of Muhammad, but this understanding he publicly disclaimed. He later proclaimed himself, in the presence of the heir to the Throne of Persia and other notables, to be al-Qā'im. In the Báb's writings, the Báb appears to identify himself as the gate (báb) to Muhammad al-Mahdi and later he begins to explicitly proclaim his station as equivalent to that of the Hidden Imam and a new messenger from God. Saiedi states the exalted identity the Báb was claiming was unmistakable, but due to the reception of the people, his writings appear to convey the impression that he is only the gate to the Hidden Twelfth Imam. To his circle of early believers, the Báb was equivocal about his exact status, gradually confiding in them that he was not merely a gate to the Hidden Imam, but the Manifestation of the Hidden Imam and al-Qā'im himself. During his early meetings with Mullá Husayn, the Báb described himself as the Master and the Promised One; he did not consider himself just Sayyid Kāẓim Rashti's successor, but claimed a prophetic status, with a sense of deputyship delegated to him not just from the Hidden Imam, but from Divine authority; His early texts, such as the Commentary on the Sura of Yusuf, used Qur'anic language that implied divine authority and identified himself effectively with the Imam. When Mullā ʿAlī Basṭāmī, the second Letter of the Living, was put on trial in Baghdad for preaching about the Báb, the clerics studied the Commentary on the Sura of Yusuf, recognized in it a claim to divine revelation, and quoted from it extensively to prove that the author had made a messianic claim.
The Báb's message was disseminated by the Letters of the Living through Iran and southern Iraq. One of these initial activities were communicated to the West starting January 8, 1845 as an exchange of diplomatic reports concerning the fate of Mullá ʿAli-e Bastāmi, the second Letter. These were exchanges between Sir Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baronet who wrote first to Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe. Followups continued until in 1846 he was sentenced by the Ottomans to serve in the naval shipyards at hard labor—the Ottoman ruler refusing to banish him as it would be "difficult to control his activities and prevent him spreading his false ideas." Quddús and other early followers then were sent on to Shiraz to begin public presentations of the new religion. Indeed various activities the Báb initiated were devolved to various Letters of the Living like preaching activities and answering questions from the community. In particular as these first public activities multiplied opposition by the Islamic clergy arose and prompted the Governor of Shiraz to order the Báb's arrest. The Báb, upon hearing of the arrest order, left Bushehr for Shiraz in June 1845 and presented himself to the authorities. This series of events become the first public account of the new religion in the West when they were published Nov 1, 1845 in The Times. The story was also carried from Nov 15 by the Literary Gazette which was subsequently echoed widely. The Báb was placed under house arrest at the home of his uncle, and was restricted in his personal activities, until a cholera epidemic broke out in the city in September 1846.
The Báb was released and departed for Isfahan. There, many came to see him at the house of the imám jum'ih, head of the local clergy, who became sympathetic. After an informal gathering where the Báb debated the local clergy and displayed his speed in producing instantaneous verses, his popularity soared. After the death of the Governor of Isfahan, Manouchehr Khan Gorji, an Iranian Georgian, who had become his supporter, pressure from the clergy of the province led to the Shah, Mohammad Shah Qajar, ordering the Báb to Tehran in January, 1847. After spending several months in a camp outside Tehran, and before the Báb could meet the Shah, the Prime Minister sent the Báb to Tabriz in the northwestern corner of the country, and later Maku and Chehriq, where he was confined. During his confinement, he was said to have impressed his jailers with his patience and dignity. Communication between the Báb and his followers was not completely severed but was quite difficult, and more responsibilities were devolved to the Letters as he was not able to elucidate his teachings to the public. With Bábí teachings now mostly spread by his followers, they faced increasing persecution themselves.
The role played by Táhirih in Karbalāʾ was particularly significant. She began an effort of innovation in religion based on her station as a Letter of the Living and the incarnation of Fatimah. In his early teachings, the Báb emphasized observing Sharia and extraordinary acts of piety. However, his claim of being the Bāb, i.e. the authority direct from God, was in conflict with this more conservative position of supporting Sharia. Táhirih innovated an advance in the understanding of the priority of the Báb's station above that of Islamic Sharia by wedding the concept of the Bāb’s overriding religious authority with ideas originating in Shaykhism pointing to an age after outward conformity. She seems to have made this connection circa 1262/1846 even before the Bāb himself. The matter was taken up by the community at large at the Conference of Badasht.
This conference was one of the most important events of the Bábí movement when in 1848 its split from Islam and Islamic law was made clear. Three key individuals who attended the conference were Bahá'u'lláh, Quddús, and Táhirih. Táhirih, during the conference, was able to persuade many of the others about the Bábí split with Islam based on the station of the Báb and an age after outward conformity. She appeared at least once during the conference in public without a veil, heresy within the Islamic world of that day, signalling the split. During this same month the Báb was brought to trial in Tabriz and made his claim to be the Mahdi public to the Crown Prince and the Shi'a clergy.
Several sources agree that by 1848 or 1850 there were 100,000 converts to Babism. In the fall of 1850 newspaper coverage fell behind quickly unfolding events. Though the Báb was named for the first time he had in fact already been executed.
By 1848 the increased fervour of the Bábís and the clerical opposition had led to a number of confrontations between the Bábís and their government and clerical establishment. After the death of Mohammad Shah Qajar, the shah of Iran, a series of armed struggles and uprisings broke out in the country, including at Tabarsi. These confrontations all resulted in Bábí massacres; Bahá'í authors give an estimate of 20,000 Bábís killed from 1844 to present, with most of the deaths occurring during the first 20 years. Former Professor of Islamic Studies Denis MacEoin studied documented deaths, both for individuals and for round figures, from Bábí, Bahá'í, European, and Iranian sources, and confirmed at most two to three thousand. He stated that he could not find evidence for any higher figures. Supporters of the Bábís paint their struggle as basically defensive in nature; Shi'i writers on the other hand point to this period as proof of the subversive nature of Bábísm. MacEoin has pointed out that the Bábís did arm themselves, upon the Báb's instructions, and originally intended an uprising, but that their eventual clashes with state forces were defensive, and not considered an offensive jihad. In mid-1850 a new prime-minister, Amir Kabir, was convinced that the Bábí movement was a threat and ordered the execution of the Báb which was followed by the killings of many Bábís.
Of the conflicts between the Bábís and the establishment, the first and best known took place in Māzandarān at the remote shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi, about 22 kilometres southeast of Bārfarush (modern Babol). From October 1848 until May 1849, around 300 Bábís (later rising to 600), led by Quddús and Mullá Husayn, defended themselves against the attacks of local villagers and members of the Shah's army under the command of Prince Mahdi Qoli Mirza. They were, after being weakened through attrition and starvation, subdued through false promises of safety, and put to death or sold into slavery.
The revolt at the fortress of ʿAli Mardan Khan in Zanjan in northwest Iran was by far the most violent of all the conflicts. It was headed by Mullā Muhammad ‘Ali Zanjani, called Hujjat, and also lasted seven or eight months (May 1850 – January 1851). The Bábí community in the city had swelled to around 3000 after the conversion of one of the town's religious leaders to the Bábí movement. The conflict was preceded by years of growing tension between the leading Islamic clergy and the new rising Bábí leadership. The city governor ordered that the city be divided into two sectors, with hostilities starting soon thereafter. The Bábís faced resistance against a large number of regular troops, and led to the death of several thousand Bábís. After Hujjat was killed, and the Bábí numbers being greatly reduced, the Bábís surrendered in January 1851 and were massacred by the army.
Meanwhile, a serious but less protracted struggle was waged against the government at Neyriz in Fars by Yahya Vahid Darabi of Nayriz. Vahid had converted around 1500 people in the community and had thus caused tensions with the authorities which led to an armed struggle in a nearby fort. The Bábís resisted attacks by the town's governor as well as further reinforcements. After being given a truce offer on 17 June 1850, Vahid told his followers to give up their positions, which led to Vahid and the Bábís being killed; the Bábí section of the town was also plundered, and the property of the remaining Bábís seized. Later, in March 1853 the governor of the city was killed by the Bábís. These further events led to a second armed conflict near the city where the Bábís once again resisted troop attacks until November 1853, when a massacre of Bábís happened, with their women being enslaved.
The revolts in Zanjan and Nayriz were in progress when in 1850 the Báb, with one of his disciples, was brought from his prison at Chehriq to Tabriz and publicly shot in front of the citadel. The body, after being exposed for some days, was recovered by the Bábís and conveyed to a shrine near Tehran, whence it was ultimately removed to Haifa, where it is now enshrined.
Most western scholars who reviewed the Faith of the Báb after 1860 saw it as a way of letting in Western and Christian ideals into "a closed and rigid Moslem system" and giving the Báb himself sometimes less or more credit for being authentic in the process. However some went further. In 1866 British diplomat Robert Grant Watson (b. 8 February 1834, d. 28 October 1892) published a history of the first 58 years of the 19th century of Persia and would serve in several diplomatic capacities Watson summarizes the impact of the Báb in Persia:
Bábism, though at present a proscribed religion in Persia, is far from being extinct, or even declining, and the Báb may yet contest with Mahomed (sic) the privilege of being regarded as the real prophet of the faithful. Bábism in its infancy was the cause of a greater sensation than that even which was produced by the teaching of Jesus, if we may judge from the account of Josephus of the first days of Christianity.
For the next two years comparatively little was heard of the Bábís. The Bábís became polarized with one group speaking of violent retribution against Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, while the other, under the leadership of Baha’u’llah, looked to rebuild relationships with the government and advance the Babí cause by persuasion and the example of virtuous living.
The militant group of Babis was between thirty and seventy persons, only a small number of the total Babi population of perhaps 100,000. Their meetings appear to have come under the control of a "Husayn Jan", an emotive and magnetic figure who obtained a high degree of personal devotion to himself from the group. Meanwhile Tahirih and Baha'u'llah, visible leaders of the community previously, were removed from the scene – Tahirih by arrest and in the case of Baha'u'llah an invitation to go on pilgrimage to Karbila. On August 15, 1852, three from this small splinter group, acting on their own initiative, attempted to assassinate Naser al-Din Shah Qajar as he was returning from the chase to his palace at Niavarān. Notwithstanding the assassins' claim that they were working alone, the entire Bábí community was blamed, and a slaughter of several thousand Bábís followed, starting on the 31 August 1852 with some thirty Bábís, including Táhirih. Dr Jakob Eduard Polak, then the Shah's physician, was an eye-witness to her execution. Bahá'u'lláh surrendered himself and he along with a few others were imprisoned in the Siāhchāl "Black Pit", an underground dungeon in Tehran. Meanwhile echoes of the newspaper coverage of the violence continued into 1853.
In most of his prominent writings, the Báb alluded to a Promised One, most commonly referred to as "He whom God shall make manifest", and that he himself was "but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest." Within 20 years of the Báb's death, over 25 people claimed to be the Promised One, most significantly Bahá'u'lláh.
Shortly before the Báb's execution, a follower of the Báb, Abd al-Karim, brought to the Báb's attention the necessity to appoint a successor; thus the Báb wrote a certain number of tablets which he gave to Abd al-Karim to deliver to Subh-i Azal and Bahá'u'lláh. These tablets were later interpreted by both Azalis and Bahá'ís as proof of the Báb's delegation of leadership. Some sources state that the Báb did this at the suggestion of Bahá'u'lláh. In one of the tablets, which is commonly referred to as the Will and Testament of the Báb, Subh-i Azal is viewed to have been appointed as leader of the Bábis after the death of the movement's founder; the tablet, in verse 27, orders Subh-i Azal "...to obey Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest." At the time of the apparent appointment Subh-i Azal was still a teenager, had never demonstrated leadership in the Bábí movement, and was still living in the house of his older brother, Bahá'u'lláh. All of this lends credence to the Bahá'í claim that the Báb appointed Subh-i Azal the head of the Bábí Faith so as to divert attention away from Bahá'u'lláh, while allowing Bábís to visit Bahá'u'lláh and consult with him freely, and allowing Bahá'u'lláh to write Bábís easily and freely.
Subh-i Azal's leadership was controversial. He generally absented himself from the Bábí community spending his time in Baghdad in hiding and disguise; and even went so far as to publicly disavow allegiance to the Báb on several occasions. Subh-i Azal gradually alienated himself from a large proportion of the Bábís who started to give their alliance to other claimants. During the time that both Bahá'u'lláh and Subh-i-Azal were in Baghdad, since Subh-i Azal remained in hiding, Bahá'u'lláh performed much of the daily administration of the Bábí affairs.
Bahá'u'lláh claimed that in 1853, while a prisoner in Tehran, he was visited by a "Maid of Heaven", which symbolically marked the beginning of his mission as a Messenger of God. Ten years later in Baghdad, he made his first public declaration to be He whom God shall make manifest to a small number of followers, and in 1866 he made the claim public. Bahá'u'lláh's claims threatened Subh-i Azal's position as leader of the religion since it would mean little to be leader of the Bábís if "Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest" were to appear and start a new religion. Subh-i-Azal responded by making his own claims, but his attempt to preserve the traditional Bábísm was largely unpopular, and his followers became the minority.
Eventually Bahá'u'lláh was recognized by the vast majority of Bábís as "He whom God shall make manifest" and his followers began calling themselves Bahá'ís. By 1908, there were probably from half a million to a million Bahá'ís, and at most only a hundred followers of Subh-i Azal.
Subh-i Azal died in Famagusta, Cyprus in 1912, and his followers are known as Azalis or Azali Bábis. MacEoin notes that after the deaths of those Azali Babis who were active in the Persian Constitutional Revolution, the Azali form of Babism entered a stagnation from which it has not recovered as there is no acknowledged leader or central organization.
Current estimates of Azalis are that there are no more than a few thousand. The World Religion Database estimated 7.3 million Bahá'ís in 2010 and stated: "The Baha'i Faith is the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population; Baha'i [sic] was thus the fastest-growing religion between 1910 and 2010, growing at least twice as fast as the population of almost every UN region." Bahá'í sources since 1991 usually estimate the worldwide Bahá'í population at "above 5 million". See Bahá'í statistics.
The Báb's major writings include the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá' (a commentary on the Sura of Joseph), and the Persian Bayán, which the Bábís saw as superseding the Qur'an. The latter has been translated into French; only portions exist in English. Unfortunately, most of the writings of the Báb have been lost. The Báb himself stated they exceeded five hundred thousand verses in length; the Qur'an, in contrast, is 6300 verses in length. If one assumes 25 verses per page, that would equal 20,000 pages of text. Nabíl-i-Zarandí, in The Dawn-Breakers, mentions nine complete commentaries on the Qur'an, revealed during the Báb's imprisonment at Máh-Kú, which have been lost without a trace. Establishing the true text of the works that are still extant, as already noted, is not always easy, and some texts will require considerable work. Others, however, are in good shape; several of the Báb's major works are available in the handwriting of his trusted secretaries.
Most works were revealed in response to specific questions by Bábís. This is not unusual; the genre of the letter has been a venerable medium for composing authoritative texts as far back as Paul of Tarsus. Three-quarters of the chapters of the New Testament are letters, were composed to imitate letters, or contain letters within them. Sometimes the Báb revealed works very rapidly by chanting them in the presence of a secretary and witnesses.
The Archives Department at the Bahá'í World Centre currently holds about 190 Tablets of the Báb. Excerpts from several principal works have been published in an English language compilation of the Báb's writings: Selections from the Writings of the Báb, other publications include Prayers from the Bab: The Remembrance of God. Denis MacEoin, in his Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, gives a description of many works; much of the following summary is derived from that source. In addition to major works, the Báb revealed numerous letters to his wife and followers, many prayers for various purposes, numerous commentaries on verses or chapters of the Qur'an, and many khutbihs or sermons (most of which were never delivered). Many of these have been lost; others have survived in compilations.
Denis MacEoin, a former member of the Baha'i faith and now a critic, considers Bábí law as a "mishmash of rules and regulations that at times are little more than mere whimsy, revolving around some of the Bab's own obsessions about cleanliness, polite behaviour, and elegance. It is a shari'a, but not in any practical sense. Certainly, it does not seem to be going anywhere...Here and there we find indications that the Bab had been impressed by Europeans and that he wanted his followers to emulate them." He further states: "One comes away from the Bayan with a strong sense that very little of this is to be taken seriously. It is a form of a game, never actually intended to be put into practice, much in the same way that whole sections of the Bab's later books don't, in fact, mean anything very much, but are elaborate exercises in interesting things you can do with Arabic roots. Or the way so many of the Bab's early writings, described as tafsirs on this or that sura of the Qur'an, are really not commentaries at all." He further criticizes the Babi laws stating "The average Babi could hardly hope to afford the three diamonds, four yellow rubies, six emeralds, and six red rubies that he was expected to give to the Babi Messiah, let alone find time to observe all the rules and regulations laid down in the book. For all that, the Babi shari'a made an impact."
Nader Saiedi states that the severe laws of the Bayán were never meant to be put in practice, because their implementation depended on the appearance of He whom God shall make manifest, while at the same time all of the laws would be abrogated unless the Promised One would reaffirm them. Saiedi concludes that these can then only have a strategic and symbolic meaning, and were meant to break through traditions and to focus the Báb’s followers on obedience to He whom God shall make manifest.
The Arcs of Descent and Ascent, an ontological circle, are described in Neoplatonism, as well as in Islamic and Sufi cosmology, mainly inspired by the works of Ibn al-Arabi. In the Arc of Descent ("qaws al-nuzuli"), from unity to diversity, God creates successively the Intellect (Supreme Pen), the Universal Soul (Guarded Tablet), Prime Matter, Nature, the Universal Body (including the imaginal world) and the Earth. The Arc of Ascent ("qaws al-su'ud") is the way back to the Presence of God, the process of spiritual perfection.In a hadith attributed to Ja'far al-Sadiq, the sixth Imam of Shi'i Islam, the arc of descent is described as having seven stages. These stages have been commented on in Shaykhism.Azali
An Azali (Persian: ازلیان) or Azali Bábí is a follower of the monotheistic religion of Subh-i-Azal and the Báb. Early followers of the Báb were known as Bábís; however, in the 1860s a split occurred after which the vast majority of Bábís followed Mirza Husayn `Ali, known as Bahá'u'lláh, and became known as Bahá'ís, while the minority who followed Subh-i-Azal came to be called Azalis.Current estimates are that there are no more than a few thousand.Bab
Bab can refer to:
Set (mythology) (also known as Bab, Baba, or Seth) ancient Egyptian God
Bab (Gateway), an Arabic word meaning gateway
Each of The Four Deputies or Gates, intermediaries between the Hidden Imam and the community in Twelver Shia Islam (873–941)
Báb (Sayyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází, 1819–1850), founder of Bábism and a central figure in the Bahá'í Faith
Bab-ı Âli, the gate to the palace of the Grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire
Báb, Nitra District, a village and municipality in the Nitra District in western central Slovakia
Bab Ballads, cartoons published by W. S. Gilbert under the childhood nickname, BabBahá'í/Bábí split
The Bahá'í/Bábí split occurred when most Bábís accepted Bahá'u'lláh as the messiah of the Báb's writings, leading them to become Bahá'ís, and leaving a remnant of Bábís who became known as Azalis. The split occurred after Bahá'í founder Bahá'u'lláh made his claims to be the messiah public in 1866, leading to expressions of support from the majority of the Bábí community, and opposition from Subh-i-Azal, who became the leader of the remaining group.Bahá'í Faith in Azerbaijan
The Bahá'í in Azerbaijan crosses a complex history of regional changes. Through that series of changes the thread of the Bahá'í Faith traces its history in the region from the earliest moments of the Bábism religion, accepted by Bahá'ís as a predecessor religion, in that one of its most prominent figures, Tahirih, was an Azerbaijani. Followers of the religion formed communities in Nakhichevan before 1850. By the early 20th century the community, now centered in Baku, numbered perhaps 2000 individuals and several Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies and had facilitated the favorable attention of local and regional, and international leaders of thought as well as long-standing leading figures in the religion. However under Soviet rule the Bahá'í community was almost ended though it was quickly reactivated as more than 30 years later when perestroyka loosened controls on religions. The community quickly rallied and re-elected its own National Spiritual Assembly in 1992. The modern Bahá'í population of Azerbaijan, centered in Baku, may have regained its peak from the oppression of the Soviet period of about 2000 people, today with more than 80% converts, although the community in Nakhichevan, where it all began, is still seriously harassed and oppressed. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 1638 Bahá'ís in 2005.Bahá'í Naw-Rúz
Naw-Rúz (Persian: نوروز, translit. Nowruz) is the first day of the Bahá'í calendar year and one of nine holy days for adherents of the Bahá'í Faith. It occurs on the vernal equinox, on or near March 21.Nowruz, historically and in contemporary times, is the celebration of the traditional Iranian new year holiday and is celebrated throughout the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia such as in Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Tajikistan Kurdistan. Since ancient times it has been a national holiday in Iran and was celebrated by more than one religious group. The Báb, the founder of Bábism, and then Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, adopted the day as a holy day and associated it with the Most Great Name of God.Bastam
Bastam (Persian: بسطام, also romanized as Basṭām; also known as Busṭām and Bisṭām) is a city in and capital of the Bastam District of Shahrud County, Semnan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 7,382, in 1,997 families.Bastam was founded in the 6th century in the Greater Khorasan. It is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) north of Shahrud. The town is known for its Islamic monuments from the Ilkhanid period and its association with the mystic Bayazid Bastami. The Alborz are to the north of the town.
The 19th-century poet, Abbas Foroughi Bastami, lived in Bastam for a time and thence acquired its name as his own. The early Bábí leader and martyr Mullá 'Alíy-i-Bastámí was also raised in Bastam, and was a significant figure in the Shaykhi movement and later became the first person known to have died for their allegiance to Bábism.A tradition says that the town was founded by Vistahm, uncle of the Sasanian king Khosrau II.Bayán
In Bábism, Bayán (Arabic: بیان), or exposition, denotes the whole body of the works of the Báb. It also refers more specifically to a set of two books written by the Báb around 1848:
Persian Bayán, written in Persian
Arabic Bayán, written in Arabic Bahá'ís also see this work as holy, since they consider their founder, Bahá'u'lláh, to be the fulfillment of the Báb's main prophetic anticipation.Some modern Bábís (followers of the Báb) call themselves 'Bayaní' after this title of the Báb's writings.Báb
The Báb, born Siyyid `Alí Muhammad Shírází (; Persian: سيد علی محمد شیرازی; October 20, 1819 – July 9, 1850) was the founder of Bábism, and one of the central figures of the Bahá'í Faith.
The Báb was a merchant from Shiraz in Qajar Iran who in 1844, at the age of twenty-four, claimed to be a messenger of God. He took on the title of the Báb (; Arabic: باب), meaning "Gate" or "Door", a reference associated with the promised Twelver Mahdi or al-Qá'im. He faced opposition from the Persian government, which eventually executed him and thousands of his followers, who were known as Bábís.
The Báb composed numerous letters and books in which he stated his claims and defined his teachings. He introduced the idea of He whom God shall make manifest, a messianic figure who would bring a greater message than his own.To Bahá'ís, the Báb fills a similar role as Elijah or John the Baptist; a predecessor or forerunner who paved the way for their own religion. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, was a follower of the Báb and claimed in 1863 to be the fulfillment of the Báb's prophecy, 13 years after the former's death.He whom God shall make manifest
He whom God shall make manifest (Arabic: من يظهر الله, Persian: مظهر کلّیه الهی) is a messianic figure in the religion of Bábism. The messianic figure was repeatedly mentioned by the Báb, the founder of Bábism, in His book, the Bayán. The Báb described the messianic figure as the origin of all divine attributes, and stated that his command was equivalent to God’s command. The Báb stated that once the messianic figure had arrived, the perusal of one of his verses was to be greater than a thousand perusals of the Bayán. The prediction is widely recognized as being fulfilled by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith.List of Mahdi claimants
In Muslim eschatology, the Mahdi is a Messianic figure who, it is believed, will appear on Earth before the Day of Judgment, and will rid the world of wrongdoing, injustice and tyranny. People claiming to be the Mahdi have appeared across the Muslim world – in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East – and throughout history since the birth of Islam (AD 610).
A claimant Mahdi can wield great temporal, as well as spiritual, power: claimant Mahdis have founded states (e.g. the late 19th-century Mahdiyah in Sudan), as well as religions and sects (e.g. Bábism, or the Ahmadiyya movement). The continued relevance of the Mahdi doctrine in the Muslim world was most recently emphasised during the 1979 seizing of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by at least 200 militants led by Juhayman al-Otaibi, who had declared his brother-in-law, Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, the Mahdi.List of religions and spiritual traditions
While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a
[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.Manouchehr Khan Gorji
Manuchehr Khan Gorji Mo'tamad al-Dawle (died 1847) was a government official in Qajar Iran. He was of Georgian origin; hence, Gorji (i.e., "Georgian") in his surname. He was known as a sympathizer of Báb, the founder of Bábism religious movement.Mullá Husayn
Mullá Husayn (1813–1849) (Persian: ملا حسين بشروئي Mulláh Hossein Boshru'i), also known by the honorific Jináb-i Bábu'l-Báb ("Gate of the Gate"), was a Persian religious figure in 19th century Persia and the first Letter of the Living of the Bábí religion. He was the first person to profess belief in the Báb as the promised Mahdi of Islam and a Manifestation of God, founding a new independent religion. The title of Bábu'l-Báb was bestowed upon him by the Báb in recognition of his status as the first Bábí.
As a young man Mullá Husayn studied Usuli Shia theology, becoming an authorized member of the Shia clerical order at the age of 21. He later became a follower of the millenarian Shaykhi school, studying under its leader Siyyid Kazim Rashti and traveling to debate prominent Usuli clerics to gain support for Rashti's teachings.
After Rashti's death, Mullá Husayn led a group of Shaykhis who traveled in search of the Mahdi. On 22 May 1844, in Shiraz, Mullá Husayn became the first person to profess belief in the Báb as the Mahdi, and the first follower of the Báb's religion, known as Bábism. He was appointed as the first of the Báb's apostles, called the Letters of the Living. The anniversary of his conversion is celebrated annually as a holy day in the Bahá'í Faith.
As a Letter of the Living he served as a prominent Bábí evangelist and leader. His travels and public preaching were instrumental in spreading the religion throughout Persia, allowing him to come into contact with many prominent clerics and government officials, including Bahá'u'lláh and Mohammad Shah Qajar. He is often mentioned in Bahá'í literature as a paragon of courage and spiritual excellence. He led the Bábí combatants at the Battle of Fort Shaykh Tabarsi, and was killed in that battle on February 2, 1849. Mullá Husayn is regarded as a significant martyr in Bábism and the Bahá'í Faith and accorded a high spiritual station in both religions as the first to believe in the Báb and a prominent participant in the perceived fulfillment of many elements of Islamic eschatology.Selections from the Writings of the Báb
Selections from the Writings of the Báb is a book of excerpts from notable works of the Báb, the forerunner-Prophet of the Bahá'í Faith. It was compiled and published in 1976 by the Universal House of Justice.
Before this publication, an authentic comprehensive selection of the Báb's writings had not been available to the Bahá'ís of the West. The Báb's writings were reviewed by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, and the selected passages were translated by Habib Taherzadeh, with the assistance of a translating committee.Shaykhism
Shaykhism (Arabic: الشيخية) is an Islamic religious movement founded by Shaykh Ahmad in early 19th-century Qajar Iran. While grounded in traditional pure Twelver Shi’i doctrine, Shaykhism diverged from the Usuli school in its interpretation of key ideas such as the nature of the end times and the day of resurrection, the source of jurisprudential authority, and the proper hermeneutic to be employed in interpreting prophecy through the mystical writings of the Twelver Imams. These divergences resulted in controversy and ongoing accusations of heresy from orthodox members of the Shi’i ulama.
Today Shaykhi populations retain a minority following in Iran and Iraq.In the mid-19th century, many Shaykhis converted to Bábism and Bahá'í Faith, which regard Shaykh Ahmad and his successor Kazim Rashti highly.Subh-i-Azal
Ṣubḥ-i-Azal (Persian: یحیی صبح ازل)(Morning of Eternity) (1831–1912, born Mírzá Yaḥyá Núrí) was a Persian religious leader of Azali Bábism also known as the Bayání Faith.Born in the year 1831, he was orphaned at a very young age and taken into the care of his stepmother, Khadíjih Khánum. In 1850, when he was just 19 years old, he was appointed by 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi, known as the Báb, to lead the Bábí community.Talismans in the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths
Talismans are referred to in several of the writings of the Báb, founder of the Bábí Faith, and to a lesser extent in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith.Teachings of the Báb
The teachings of the Báb refer to the teachings of Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad who was the founder of Bábism, and one of three central figures of the Bahá'í Faith. He was a merchant from Shíráz, Persia, who at the age of twenty-four (on 23 May 1844) claimed to be the promised Qá'im (or Mahdi). After his declaration he took the title of Báb meaning "Gate". He composed hundreds of letters and books (often termed tablets) in which he stated his messianic claims and defined his teachings, which constituted a new sharí'ah or religious law. His movement eventually acquired tens of thousands of supporters, was virulently opposed by Iran's Shi'a clergy, and was suppressed by the Iranian government leading to thousands of his followers, termed Bábís, being persecuted and killed. In 1850 the Báb was shot by a firing squad in Tabríz.
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