A religious thought appeared in Persia around 1844 at the invitation of a man from the people of Shiraz, known as Ali Muhammad. He was a disciple of some of the students of Sheikh Ahmad Zainuddin Al-Ahsa’ei, who combined Sufi mysticism and philosophy with the Islamic tradition (Shari'a), and combined the beliefs of the Shia Islam and philosophical origins on new styles.
Al-Ahsa’ei claimed that the absent Imam Mahdi, who is expected by the whole Muslims - and specially by the Shia Muslims- to reappear at any time, by the will of the Almighty God, is now the inhabitant of a spiritual world, other than this physical world, called as Jabolga and Gabolsa, and the bodies of the inhabitants of that spiritual world, such as the bodies of the jinn and angels, are from an object called as Hur al-Qalya (or Hurqalya); and it was a term from the ancient chemistry (Al-Kimia’).His students and followers took and taught the same thoughts.
Ali Muhammad, after pilgrimage to Mecca, claimed to be the door to Al-Mahdi (A position like that was claimed by Ahsa’ei and his successor Seyed Kazim Al-Rashti; an special appointed Agent!) and propagated this case for a period, and founded his religion from the elements of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and paganism, and chose the title of Bab (A door and representative of the Hidden Imam) for himself.
The Claims of Bab
Then, after a short time, he left this title and chose the titles of Point and the creator of truth for himself, claiming that he is not a simple prophet, but he is in the position of God. He gave the title of Bab to one of his followers, and sent preachers to different parts of Persia. Then, based on the words of his Leader, Sheikh Ahmed, mentioned another claim with regards to Imam Mahdi; claimed that he himself is Mahdi; and that so called “gentle spiritual body” has appeared in his dense physical body! Since the belief of returning some of the holy Imams and their followers in the Last Time is from the fixed and certain thoughts of the Shia doctrine, and the belief in reincarnation has been one of the teachings of the esoteric sects – like the Ismaili group - who dominated in Persia during the previous centurie; a group of followers of this man, I mean Ali Mohammad, on the bases of the previous thoughts, began to claim that they are the return of the holy Imams and their top followers. One of the Babis claimed to be the return of Imam Hasan, and the next one claimed that the return of Imam Hussein has reincarnated in his body! The third one claimed to be the return of a high rank disciple, etc. All these claims were made because of the opinion of this man himself (I.E. Ali Mohammad Bab). Bab believed that when a person has the personality and characters of a distinct historical personality, with a special name, like Imam Hasan or Imam Hussein, for example, and his qualities and morals are found in a person, this new man can claim that he is the return of that holy historical person!
Due to proximity of the general beliefs of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ahsa’ei – he was originally a Shia clergy - to the thoughts of Shia school, in the beginning, when Ali Mohammad Bab began his invitation, many Iranian people accepted his invitation. When he saw the turnout of people answered his call, raised his claim, and said that he is the Prophet, and God has revealed to him a book called Bayan, referring to the Quranic verse "Almighty created man, taught him speaking" (55:4), and man is Muhammad (pbuh & hf) and the Bayan is this book revealed to Ali Mohammad Bab.
Syntactic and Grammatical Mistakes in the Bab’s Writings
His books contain many Arabic and some Persian phrases. But his Arabic writings contain many grammatical and textual mistakes. Some people criticized him. Since those mistakes showed deficiencies in his book, indicating that it is not inspired by God, he was asked about the mistakes.
He replied, “The letters and words had disobeyed and committed sins in the beginning of the time. So they were punished for the sin by being chained by the grammatical and syntax rules. Since our mission came as a mercy to the worlds, there was amnesty for all sinners; even the letters and words. But they are now freed from those chains and restrictions! Hence you see so much errors and mistakes in my writings!”
It is also attributed to him that he was fast in writing, so that the speed of his writing is considered one of his miracles.
He nicknamed himself the Zikr (remembrance) and took it willfully from the holy Quranic verses "We descended the Zikr, and We will protect it."(15:9); and "… ask the people of Zikr, if you do not know!"(21:7) and other similar verses. Ali Muhammad began inviting people to his religion and his call was followed by many people of Iran.
Terror and Horror
On the other hand, the Babis and followers of Ali Muhammad began to cause terror and put fear in the hearts of people. They tried to get knowledge about the thoughts of the people and their secrets; and if they had negative view about the Babis, they would have killed them soon. There appeared many cases of treachery and cruelty from the Babis. In order to murder their dissidents and those who were suspicious toward the Babis, they tried in different ways, and took the cloths of beggars, gypsies, and travelling traders; and they shed so much blood and caused fear in the hearts of the people. In their behavior they were very similar to the Assassins (cf. Ismaili terrorists).
They did not stand on this limit, but exceeded their sabotage until they raised uprisings against the Iranian government in three cities, in order to seize the power and state. They made so crimes that were not heard before. Once a Babi man, in one of their wars against the government, bare-cloth, with only a towel, took his sword in hand and attacked on thousands of military crop. The Babis were taught and believed that any of them who would die in the wars, will revive after forty days! The Babis took their arms and increased attacks on the government’s troops.
Finally, by the decision of the court and the order of the King, Ali Muhammad Bab was shot dead in Tabriz, in 1850; and it was after his staying in prison for 18 months. His body was secretly tossed in the trench, out of the city. It happened during the second year of power of Nasereddin Shah. Bab’s followers claimed that his body had ascended to heaven. Others, non-followers, said his body was eaten by dogs.
Two years after his persecution, a small group of his followers tried to kill the Shah and shot him, but failed. This resulted in severe persecution of group of terror, the central figures of the Babi community who had approved the assassination of the king, and many other Babi important faces - except those who acknowledged their repentance - in Tehran, the capital. Among them was Qurat al-Ayn (Will be mentioned later).This event caused an increase in the dispersion of the Babis in Iran, India, and parts of Ottoman territory.
The Succession of Bab
Bab had introduced in some of his letters a young of his student, named Yahya and nicknamed Subh Azal, as his successor and executor after his death. When the Shah followed them to death in all places, many of them fled to Baghdad, which then was a city of the Ottoman Empire.
Yahya Subh Azal and his elder brother, Mirza Hussein Ali, alias Baha’, fled out and went to Baghdad. Subh Azal hidden from the eyes of the people on the order of Bab, and his brother claimed that he is present among the people, but they do not see him, as he is far from the vision of people!
Exile of Babis to Edirne and Their Division
By the agreement between the Supreme State and the Iranian Royal state to shift them out of Baghdad and sending them to Edirne, Subh Azal went out of hideaway and began to propagate the religion of his teacher, Ali Mohammad.
This envied his half-brother, Bahaullah, and he denied Subh Azal, and claimed that Yahya Subh Azal is a charlatan (Dajjal). This caused a split between them, and two groups were called as Azali and the other Baha’i after the name of their leaders; and Babi is a name for them in general.
After a while, the Ottoman authorities felt bad intentions of them and exiled Subh Azal to the island of Cyprus, and Bahaullah to Akka; and he is now there with a group of his followers.
The Babi Thoughts & Traditions
TheBabi faith, like religions, believes in one God and Creator. They also claim to believe in all the previous divine prophets. They also maintain that the divine world has entered the material world (This idea is similar to the Christian theology who believe that God has materialized himself as Jesus Christ.) Their thoughts about the Reward and Punishment in the next world, and after the separation of the soul from the corpse, is idealistic and illusive.They believe that the faithful soul will enjoy on the account of one’sgood morality and knowledge. And the malicious soul will suffer due to one’s ignorance and sinful deeds. These malicious souls will return to this material world for a second time, for suffering and purification; and this is the trust in reincarnation.
It is obligatory to pray and it is only two units (rak'at) in the morning. He took his mansion in Shiraz as a Kaaba to face it in prayers, and their prayers will be nulled if they deviate from it.
Then he divided the year in to 19 months, made the month nineteen days, because this number was holy to them. It is because the origin of their theology was tied to their claim of 19 hypostases (persons/souls).To them their chief – Bab - is greater than Muhammad (pbuh & hf), as Muhammad is greater than Jesus Christ. Fasting is imposed for a 19 days month in the last Iranian solar month; so their Eid al-Fitr feast coincides with the Iranian ancient Nowruz (Equal to 21th of March).
As a Babi rule, all the holy shrines of all religions, as well as the tombs of the prophets and saints, should be destroyed, as soon as the first Babi seizes the throne and authority.
It is forbidden to drink alcohol, as well as smoking. Though it seems that it has been prohibited during the time of Bab, but his followers have made it permissible after him. Drinking tea is much recommended and brings a lot of rewards for the drinkers.
According to Babi law it is permissible to marry two permanent marriages at the same time, and there is no limitation for frequent short time marriages simultaneously. It is heard from the Babis that according to the Babi law it is permissible to marry one’s sister.
It is also from the Bab's ruling that if anyone lied, or called someone from behind, he was guilty of at least three sapphire atonements, but if he could not afford, fasting for two days instead.
Among the Bab’s orders has been to build shrines, full of gems, for the Babi martyrs killed in Tehran and other places. And it is the duty of any Babi king (Sultan) to raise the sword in the world and force the nations either accept the Babism or they will be killed by the sword; and he may not accept tax or tribute from them.
Every Babi must have a cup of silver and a clean dress. The cup will be treated for drinking pure water, and the garment will be used at the time of resting.
The Appearance of the Perfect Man or Man yozherohollah
One of the commands of the Babi Faith is that after the Bab the perfect man (The divine manifestation or Man Yuzhero Allah) will come; but he may appear after the passage of years, equal to the number of the letters of the word “Ghiyath” or “Mostaghath” (Between 1000 to 2001 years later).
It is prohibited in their laws to have slave, to divorce, and the use of veil for women. It is true to say that Babi religion so far has not adapted a single collective and harmonized system, but it is like soils in the deserts, moving from one place to another place, by the daily winds.
Tahira, Qurat al-Ain
Among the Babi preacher was a scholar, fluent, and very beautiful young woman. Her name was Salama. She was the daughter of an Iranian jurisprudent (mujtahid) and the wife of another jurisprudent (Mujahid) from Iran. She never met Bab, but had correspondence, and finally accepted his invitation. Bab gave her the nickname of Qurat al-Ain. In an action, contrary to the Islamic laws, she willfully divorced herself from her husband, and left her family.
During the celebration of the Babi leaders in Al-Badasht gathering, she stood up and gave a speech. She said that the provisions of the old Shari'a, meaning Islam, have been abrogated and that the provisions of the “NEW” Shari'a (The Babi law) has not reached us yet. Hubbub occurred and the Babi people over there enjoyed whatever he/she desired from the lustihood.
When she was arrested (after the terror of the Iranian king by the Babis), she was worn a veil. She was asked to repentance and become freed; otherwise she would have been sentenced to death by hanging.
From the provisions of this religion is that it is not permissible for the teachers to beat (punish) their students at all. And that Zakat (Religious tax) and charity may not be given to non-Babis. If there is no poor Babi, it may be given only to the Shaikhi poor people.
As for their inclinations towards the Epicurian and cultish attitudes, it is notable that according to their doctrine, whoever violated their Faith, or disrespected their leader (Bab), her/his life, blood, and properties are considered free for the Babis.
With regards to their common participation in the wealth and communist tendencies, they are requirements of every new doctrine and tradition, as its members cooperate with each other and use whatever in their hands to remove stone and embarrassment from among them.
This is reported by the famous Jamal Al din Afghani and others.
General Dictionary of Art and Demand
By the Teacher Boutros Bustani, Beirut, Lebanon, 1977