The Bab - His First Declaration
The Baha’is consider Ali Mohammed Shirazi, the Bab to be the return of the 12th Imam. They place of lot of importance, and rightfully so, to the first declaration of the Bab. While there are many reports while talk about the declaration, most recent reports have focused on the date of the declaration, while opposed to the actual declaration made by the Bab.
I have based this article on the reports which appear in Dawn Breakers, Nabils' Narrative translated by Shoghi Effendi and Traveller's Narrative by E. G Browne. ... The incident commences with the death of Sayyed Kazim Rashty and with the fact the he did not announce a successor which threw the Shaykhis into confusion.
Mulla Hussain Bushrui who is credited with being the first believer of the Bab traveled from Karbala to Kufa (where he apparently spent 40 days in prayer). Thereafter he proceeded to Najaf and then to Bushir. From Bushir he proceeded to Shiraz where he met Ali Mohammed Shirazi, the Bab. The incident reported in Dawn Breakers then narrates the circumstances of the declaration of the Bab. Before moving ahead to the actual incident, I would like to make a point - Shoghi Effendi has been extremely liberal in Dawn Breakers in quoting traditions from Islamic sources without providing any references for the same.
Do pay attention to some such sweeping statements by Shoghi: "In His name, the name of the Guardian (Ali) preceded that of the Prophet (Muhammad)." (Our reply to this objection) "The year of His Revelation is identical with half of that number which is divisible by nine (2520)." (Dawn Breakers, pp. 49-50) Such traditions are open to questioning because the primary doctrine for the return of the Hidden Imam is that the time of his return is not known to anybody except to Allah.
In fact the Bab himself endorses this creed by quoting the following tradition in his book Tafseere' Surah Kauthar to the effect, "Abu Basir reported that he asked Imam Sadiq: May my life be a sacrifice for you! When will the Qa'im arise? He replied: "O Abu Muhammad, we, the ahl al-bayt (lit. People of the house i.e. family of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) cannot fix the time of his appearance. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: "Those who fix the time for the rising (of the Qa'im) are liars." The practice of making baseless statements is common amongst present day Baha’is as well. How often it is that I have heard them quoting non-existent verses from the Quran; traditions from books that do not exist; or even none-xistent traditions from books.
Baha’is use the fact that most Muslims do not go beyond the recitation of the Arabic language or well versed with their books to their advantage. I would like to caution my Muslim brethren against this Baha’i practice and urge them to seek references from Baha’is during their discussions. Returning back to the declaration of the Bab, Shoghi narrates that on the 5th of Jamadiul Awwal 1260 AH, Mulla Hussain Bushrui met Ali Mohammed Shirazi, the Bab and was in his presence at sundown.
It was about an hour after sunset when my youthful host (The Bab) began to converse with me. "Whom, after Sayyed Kazim," he asked me, "do you regard as his successor and your leader?" "At the hour of his death," I replied, "our departed teacher insistently exhorted us to forsake our homes, to scatter far and wide, in quest of the promised Beloved. I have, accordingly, journeyed to Persia, have arisen to accomplish his will, and am still engaged in my quest." "Has your teacher," He further enquired, "given you any detailed indications as to the distinguishing features of the promised One?"
"Yes," I replied, "He is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent, and of the seed of Fatimih. As to His age, he is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is free from bodily deficiency." he paused for a while and then with vibrant voice declared: "Behold, all these signs are manifest in me!" (Dawn Breakers, p.57) Thereafter Shoghi writes that Mulla Hussain witnessed the narration of the exegesis on the Surah of Joseph from the Quran. The initial exegesis - the Chapter of Mulk was revealed before Mulla Hussain. He then proceeded to say: "Now is the time to reveal the commentary on the Surih of Joseph." He took up His pen and with incredible rapidity revealed the entire Surih of Mulk, the first chapter of His commentary on the Surih of Joseph. (Dawn Breakers, p.61) The above words have to be read more than once to appreciate their significance. Ali Mohammed Shirazi (The Bab) first questioned Mulla Hussain about the successor to Seyyed Kazim Rashty.
As I have mentioned in my earlier article, the disciples of Sayyed Kazim considered him as the intermediary between the people and the hidden Imam Mahdi. The signs which Seyyed Kazim Rashty outlined for Mulla Hussain were for the successor to Seyyed Kazim - the person who would lead the Shaykhis forward and not for the 12th Imam. This belief is further reinforced when one reads Qayyamul Asma - the first revelation of the Bab. God, verily, hath decreed that this Book be divulged in interpretation (tafsir) of the "Best of Narratives" on the part of Muhammad, the son of Hasan, the son of Ali, son of Muhammad, the son of Ali, the son of Musa, the son of Ja`far, the son of Muhammad, the son of Ali, the son of Husayn, the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib unto His servant (The Bab) to the end that it might be an eloquent Proof of God from the Remembrance (al-dhikr) unto all the worlds. (Qayyamul Asma, Surah Mulk, verse 10) Dear readers, the above statement of the Bab is recorded in Qayyamul Asma, the chapter of Mulk (Kingdom) - the very first revelation of the Bab on the night of his declaration. In his very first revelation, Bab indicated the following for Mankind:
1. Imam Hasan Askari (as), the eleventh Shiite Imam did have a son
2. The name of the son was Mohammed
3. Bab considered himself as the servant of the 12 Imams
4. He put forth the Qayyamul Asma as his proof of being a servant of the 12 Imams
5. By proof, it is meant that he had some hidden connection with the 12th Imam.
There after Bab proceeded to declare, "I am the Bab (Gate) and you (Mulla Hussain) are the Bab'ul Bab (Gate to the Gate)" Once again, Shoghi Effendi has liberally added the words Door to Allah in the above statement. However when we read the words of the Bab in Qayyamul Asma, we are clearly told that Bab believed in 12 Imams - the first of whom was Imam Ali (as) and the last was the Hidden Imam - Mohammed, the son of Hasan (as). The book Traveller's Narrative translated by E G Browne too endorses the view that the Bab through his declaration assumed the leadership of the headless Shaykhi sect.
It seems that the support of the Shaykhis was garnered more by Mulla Husayn than by Bab himself. "No sooner was he (Mulla Husayn) convinced, than, ..... He hastened to apprise his friends and comrades of his discovery.
Thus did he become the 'Gate of the Gate (Bab-ul-Bab). The Shaykhis who "were in general, anxiously expecting the appearance of someone who should assume the leadership of their party", were turning to Haji Mohammed Karim Khan. "A considerable number headed by Haji Mohammed Karim Khan of Kirman utterly declined to accept Bab's pretensions". Those Shaykhis who were not impressed by Haji Mohammed Karim Khan accepted the Bab on the behest of Mulla Husayn. (Traveller's Narrative, pp.240-241) Lastly, the Bab ordered his "new" disciple to exercise Taqaiyya (dissimulation). He ordered Mulla Hussain thus: "It is incumbent upon you not to divulge, either to your companions or to any other soul, that which you have seen and heard. Be engaged in the Masjid-i-Ilkhani in prayer and in teaching."
I, too, will there join you in congregational prayer. Beware lest your attitude towards me betray the secret of your faith. You should continue in this occupation and maintain this attitude until our departure for Hijaz. (Dawn Breakers, p.63) To conclude, as per the narration of Dawn Breakers,
1. Ali Mohammed Shirazi made a declaration of being the Bab of the Hidden Imam on 5th Jamadiul Awwal 1260. At no place during the declaration did Bab say that he was the Hidden Imam.
2. If Mulla Hussain believed him to be the Hidden Imam, he would have expressed it clearly and would have addressed the Bab with at least one of the titles of the 12th Imam at that time. This aspect is notably missing during the incident.
3. Bab ordered Mulla Hussain to remain in the condition of Taqaiyya and not to reveal the subject matter of the meeting to any person. One possible explanation could be that about five months had passed from the death of Seyyed Kazim Rashty. There was an entire community of Shaykhis who were leaderless. At the same time, there were claimants to the coveted post of the leader of the Shaykhis. The Bab sought to occupy this position and presented his case to Mulla Hussain on that fateful evening.