AMONG movements in the Mohammedan world in modern times Babi-Bahaism is one of
the most interesting. It is a definite revolt from Islam within its own fold.
It has won its way in Persia amid considerable persecution to a position as a
separate religion. It has added another to the permanent sects of the Near
East. There Christian missions, inspired to long-postponed effort to convert
Mohammedanism, have come face to face with Bahaism as a new and aggressive
force. It has laid out a program as a universal religion, has crossed the seas
and aspires to convert Christendom. Interest in it has been increased by this
propaganda in the West and by the visits to Europe for this purpose of its
present head, Abdul Baha Abbas, in 1911 and 1912.
Besides those who are interested in Bahaism as students of history and
comparative religions, there are several classes who have shown marked favour
One class are simply bent on seeking some novelty. They are well described
by the Egyptian Gazette, of Alexandria, in speaking of the reception of Abdul
Baha in London: "About the London meetings there was a certain air of gush and
self- advertisement on the part of Baha's friends, which
was quite patent to all who are familiar with that kind of religion which will
listen to anything so long as it is unorthodox, new, and sensational." 
Another class are believers in the truth of all great religions, and, with
a vague pantheistic notion, recognize all great men as God-inspired. They are
willing to put Baha Ullah and Abdul Baha on the list of true religious leaders.
Such is Rev. R. J. Campbell, who, in receiving Abdul Baha in London, spoke of
the "diverse religious faiths that are all aspects of the one religion," and of
the services as "a wonderful manifestation of the Spirit of God." He said to
the congregation: "We as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is to us and
always will be the Light of the World, give greeting to Abdul Baha."
Mr. Campbell gives opportunity to the Bahai propaganda in the Christian
Commonwealth, and has enlisted Abdul Baha as a contributor.
Another class look on Bahaism as an ethical system, and Baha and Abdul Baha
as world teachers. Their relation to Christ has been only that of a disciple to
a teacher of morals. They recognize in Baha a new schoolmaster. Being Bahais to
them consists in admiration of certain principles on which Abdul Baha is in the
habit of dilating. But these are not Bahaism any more than Romans xii.--xv. are
Pauline Christianity. Paul's gospel is Romans i.--viii. In its moral precepts
and social principles, Bahaism is a borrower from Christ's teaching, and
1. Nov. 16, 1911, quoted in Star of the West, Dec. 11, 1911.
sometimes from Mohammed. However, Bahaism is a religion, not a system of
Some adherents regard Bahaism as Christianity continued or renewed by the
Second Coming of Christ, whom they recognize in Abdul Baha. Most American
Bahais are of this class, with faith in Baha Ullah as God the Father.
How can I classify the late Prof. T. K. Cheyne of Oxford? This widely known
critic in his last work (1914), "The Reconciliation of Races and Religions,"
bewilders me by his credulity. It is only charitable to excuse it as the
product of his dotage. How otherwise could an Oxford scholar take pride in
adopting the "new name" and titles given to him by Abdul Baha, sign his preface
"Ruhani," Spiritual, and have pleasure in being called the "divine
philosopher," "prlest of the Prince of Peace (Baha)," and being compared to St.
Paul as a herald of the Kingdom, and write himself a "member of the Bahai
community." At the same time Doctor Cheyne wrote himself down as a "member of
the Nava Vidhan, Lahore" (Brahma-Samaj).
At present there are Bahai congregations in sixteen of the United States, in
Canada, Hawaii, South Africa, England, Germany and Russia, as well as in India
and Burma,W. The future of its propaganda in Christendom lacks promise. Yet its
measure of success makes it desirable to examine its claims and the facts
Fortunately besides the older Babi books, there is an abundance of Bahai
literature. There are
(1) Treatises of Baha Ullab, (2) Tablets (Letters) and Addresses of Abdul Baha,
(3) Persian Narratives, (4) Evidential books and tracts by its propagators, (5)
Narratives of pilgrimages to Acca. From an independent point of view, little
has been written. Nearly all of the many articles which have appeared in
periodical literature have been from the pens of Bahais, though often not so
ostensibly. Prof. E. G. Browne of Cambridge University, England, has translated
and edited important Babi-Bahai works. His Introductions, Notes and Appendices
to these books are storehouses of erudition and enable the reader to correct
the biased information of the text. They pertain for the most part to the Babi
period. So do the able contributions of Mr. A. L. M. Nicolas, the Consul of
France, with whom, as my neighbour at Tabriz, I have had the pleasure of
valuable conversations on this subject on which he is such an authority. I have
had as sources of information also a manuscript "Life of Baha Ullah" by
Mohammed Javad Kasvini, the "Kitab-ul-Akdas," Most Holy Book, translated by Dr.
I. G. Kheiralla, in manuscript, and various unpublished letters and documents.
Besides all this, I have been in personal contact with Bahais in Persia for a
generation. My language teachers were Bahais, one of them a convert to
Christianity. I have found their journal, the Star of the West, a
prolific source of information. I may claim not to be of the class referred to
by Abdul Baha when he says, "Baha Ullah will be assailed by those who are not
informed of his principles."
After sketching, in brief, the history of Bahaism I will examine its religious,
moral, political and social doctrine and life. In doing this I shall quote for
the most part from the words of the "Revelation" and its adherents, in order to
insure fairness and justice. In the course of the investigation, the history
and character of the founders will be considered. Finally I shall describe its
propaganda in the Occident.
Bahais declare that Babism is abrogated and superseded. In reality it is dead
and I do not treat of it, except as it throws light on the history or doctrines
of Bahaism. To all intents and purposes, the Bab is as much an obsolete prophet
as Mani or Babak.
I am to deal with Bahaism in its latest phases. The term Babi is not
appropriate to the religion of Baha nor to his followers. Of the "revelation,"
it may be said as Jacob said of his wages, they "have changed them ten times."
The Bab altered his declarations regarding himself and his statements of
doctrine. Subh-i-Azal made further changes. Baha's standpoint in the "Ikan," at
Bagdad, differs greatly from that in the "Kitab-ul-Akdas," at Acca. Abbas gave
the kaleidoscope another whirl and added his interpretations and emendations.
Besides all these, it has been given a Western aspect for Christians. The Rev.
H. H. Jessup, D. D., compares it very aptly to the town clock in Beirut, which
has two kinds of dial plates. The face turned towards the Moslem quarter has
the hands set to tell the hour according to Oriental reckoning; the face
the Christian quarter, according to the European day. It is the face towards
the Christians that I shall look at specially in the present investigation.
However historical facts are the same and the main doctrines taught in the West
have no essential difference from those of Persian Bahaism.
Acknowledgment and thanks are hereby tendered to The Bibliotheca Sacra, The
Bible Magazine, The East and the West, The Ghurch Missionary Review, The
Missionary Review of the World The Moslem World, The Union Seminary Review, and
The Princeton Theological Review for the use of materials which I have
previously published in their pages.