The founder of the Babi Faith, Mirza Ali Mohammed was born in the house of a trader in Shiraz. During his journey to Kerbala, he came in contact with Sayyed Kazim Rashty and became greatly devoted to him. When Sayyed Kazim Rashty expired in 1844, Mirza Ali Mohammed and Haji Mohammed Karim Khan appointed themselves as his successors.

In the same year on 23rd May Mirza Ali Mohammed announced that he was ‘Bab’ (Gate) whereas Haji Karim announced himself to be the leader of the Shaikhiyya Sect. Another zealous student and influential follower of Sayed Kazim Rashti, Mulla Hussain accepted Mirza Ali Mohammed's claim of being the Bab. In return Mulla Hussain earned the title of "AWLA MAN AAMANA" (the first to believe). Within a short span, Mirza Ali Mohammed was able to gather 18 followers around himself. He gave them the title of "HURUF UL HAYY" (The letters of The Living) and set them out in different areas of Iran for propagation and he himself went to Mecca for performing Hajj, where according to one report he claimed to be "Mahdi" (The guided one).

Read more on the claims of the Bab

The reason why Mirza Ali Mohammed felt the need to go to Mecca to proclaim himself as Mahdi is apparent. Traditions from the most reliable Islamic sources relate that the Mahdi will call the people towards himself near the Holy Kabaa. However, these very sources relate some other details that were lost on the Bab but should not be lost on the Bahais of this era. The very first sighting of the Promised Mahdi will be near the Holy Kabaa. So its not that the Mahdi will be born in some city, raised by his parents, witnessed by his neighbours, friends, teachers and even followers and then one day perform the Hajj and announced his claim for the benefit of those who missed the first round of his declarations and assertions in his hometown.

Another important detail not factored in by Mirza Ali Mohammed Bab was that the Muslims of Iran were not awaiting a Mahdi born before their very eyes. They were and are awaiting a Mahdi who was born in Samarrah, Iraq in 255 AH to their 11th Imam - Imam Hasan Askari.

Among the several blunders made by the Bab was a mathematical error, quite a simple calculation actually that he got all wrong; by 295 to be precise. Bab claimed to have 18 followers, while the Mahdi was to be surrounded by 313 followers a number coinciding with the warriors of Badr, Islam's first battle, as also coinciding with the number of soldiers in the army of Talut that fought with Jalut (in the epic battle between David and Goliath). So with 18 followers Bab was pretty short on the numbers and even then he got a woman in his coterie, while the Mahdi will be surrounded with 313 males since Jehad is forbidden on the women.

Of course, in the midst of all this deception and confusion it is not entirely clear why Bab felt the need to go to Mecca at all to profess his claim. Because Bab had also got 'a new religion' he really should have shown his independence of Islam by making his claim in his hometown. When Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) proclaimed his prophethood he did so in his hometown, not in Baitul Muqaddas for the benefit of the Jews or in Persia for the benefit of the fireworshippers or in India for the benefit of the idol worshippers. If Bab was an independent Prophet superior to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), he should have observed his own laws and acts of worship right from the beginning. This would have been consistent with the actions of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) who in the cave of Hira performed acts of worship that were distinct from those of the religion of Ismail (as), Ishaaq (as), Jesus (as) and Moses (as).

The religious scholars of Islam severely condemned and criticized the views of Mirza Ali Mohammed which resulted in quite a few clashes at certain places and for that reason Mirza Ali Mohammed was arrested and imprisoned. However, with the help of the jailor of Isfahan prison, Manuchahr Khan, Bab escaped and went underground. But he was soon re-arrested and on 9th July, 1850 was put to death.

Mirza Ali Mohammed's followers hid his body somewhat away from Tehran in a tomb known as "Imamzada Masoom's Tomb " for about 17 years. After that it was sent to Acca in Palestine as per the instructions of Bahaullah.

Mirza Ali Mohammed in his life time had appointed Mirza Yahya, the son of Mirza Buzurg, and the step brother of Mirza Hussain Ali as his successor. This is the same Mirza Hussain Ali who later came to be known as "BAHAULLAH". Mirza Ali Mohammed had given Mirza Yahya the title of "SUBHE AZAL" (Everlasting Morning). Also he gave his ring, his personal belongings and also the authority to explain and comment on his (Mirza Ali Mohammed's) writings. Inspite of Mirza Ali Mohammed's clear announcement of the appointment of Mirza Yahya as his successor, others also rose with claims of successorship after his death. Amongst them was one Bahai from Tabriz, Mirza Abdullah, who was drowned in the Arabian rivers by some Bahais on the instruction of Mirza Hussain Ali. Likewise an Indian Bahai - Aga Bashir Mohammed had put foward his claim but he did not receive any response. Under such circumstances Mirza Yahya, a spiritless and weak-willed individual, went into a recluse and made Mirza Hussain Ali the sovereign leader of the Bahais.

In the meantime in 1852, some Bahais plotted to kill the Shah of Iran, Nasiruddin Shah. As a result, strict measures were taken to exterminate them. Subhe Azal managed to go underground but Mirza Hussain Ali was captured. However, he managed to escape in the same year and along with Subhe Azal, succeded in reaching Baghdad. Here they stayed for 12 years and made Baghdad the centre of Bahai activities under the leadership of Subhe Azal. Meanwhile Mirza Hussain Ali, as a result of some dispute with some Bahai leaders went to Kurdistan in Turkey and stayed there. But even the Turkish government, seeing his nefarious activities and his close association with Russia and Britan dispatched him to Constantinople. He stayed there for 4 years and it was from there that he announced that he was the real and true successor of Mirza Ali Mohammed and also that Allah, the Most High, had given him a more honored and lofty position than his predecessor.

Subhe Azal along with a majority of the 18 special companions of Mirza Ali Mohammed (HURUFUL HAYY) severely opposed Mirza Hussain Ali with regards to his proclamation and also came to Constantinopole to bring back Mirza Hussain Ali to the right path. Thus a severe division broke out amongst the Babis themselves and they began to kill each other openly. In view of such serious circumstances, the Ottoman government intervened. It sent Subhe Azal along with his family to Cyprus and Mirza Hussain Ali with his family to Palestine. Thus the Babis got distinctly divided into two groups, those following Subhe Azal were known as "Azalis" and those following Mirza Hussain Ali as "Bahais". At that time there were around 50,000 Azalis but over the years, this number diminished gradually and today you only find the followers of Mirza Hussain Ali. Azalis believed in those teachings which are written in the book "Al Bayan" by Mirza Ali Mohammed Bab. On the other hand, Mirza Hussain Ali assumed the title of "Bahaullah" and claimed himself to be the new "Manifestation" of Allah and made changes in the earlier Babi teachings which were readily accepted by his followers. After that, Bahaullah initiated contact with world leaders like Queen Victoria, the Russian Czar, Napolean and the Pope among others. He even praised the Russian judiciary when it sentenced to death two Iranians who were accused of killing two Bahais. He did it by illustrating two "Divine" inspirations in this regard.

Mirza Hussain Ali (Bahaullah) expired on 29th May 29, 1892 leaving behind 4 sons and 3 daughters. In a replay of the power struggle on Bab's death, a struggle ensued between Mirza Hussain Ali's sons for the successorship of the Bahais. The eldest, Abbas Effendi claimed that he was the rightful successor in view of the continuation of divine inspirations whereas his brothers Mirza Mohammed Ali, Mirza Badiullah and Mirza Ziaullah and many other Bahais contended that the chain of divine inspiration ended since Bahaullah had himself written in his book "Al Aqdas" that anyone who claims such a thing (divine inspiration) before the completion of 1,000 years of Bahaism, is a liar and his claim is false.

Nevertheless Abbas Effandi was able to tide over these oppositions very tactly. He assumed the title of "Abdul Baha" and took over the reign of Bahaism. His position was further strengthened by the fact that in 1920, (after the 1st World War ), he was conferred the honour of "Sir" by the British government.

Abdul Baha expired on 28th November 1921. Before his death he appointed his grandson Shoghi Effandi Rabbani as his successor. Shoghi was then 24 years old and was studying in Oxford. He wrote many books in Persian, Arabic and English for the propagation of Bahaism. He appointed 32 famous Bahais to spread the faith of Bahaism and titled them "HANDS OF THE CAUSE OF GOD".

In 1957 Shoghi expired in London. The 32 Bahais took control of the affairs of the Bahai faith .In 1963, with an objective to frame the Bahai laws, to solve the Bahai problems and other organisational and constitutional disputes, they established the "Universal House Of Justice" based on 19 numbers and established its headquarters at Mount Carmel in Israel. The members of the "Universal House of Justice" are elected every 5 years at an International Bahai convention.

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