E. G. Browne's "A Traveller's Narrative:" Note D
NOTE D.

THE MEANING OF THE TITLE 'BÁB.'


        Every writer who has made mention of the Báb has pointed out that this title assumed by him at the beginning of his mission signifies in Arabic 'Gate' or 'Door,' but in specifying that whereunto he professed to be the 'Gate' they are no longer in accord. Kazem-Beg says (i, p. 343) that one day, falling into ecstasy, Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad "discovered that he was the Báb, the Gate of Truth," and a few lines lower he says, "Je ne sais si les paroles du Christ: 'Je suis la porte' lui étaient connues; mais il n'ignorait sans doute pas que Mahomet avait dit: 'Je suis la ville du savoir et Ali (son gendre) est la porte de cette ville'." Gobineau (pp. 149-150) says, "Il annonca qu'il était le Bâb, la Porte par laquelle seule on pouvait parvenir à la connaissance de Dieu." Lady Sheil says (p. 176), "this amiable sect is styled Ba[macron]bee, from Ba[macron]b, a gate, in


[page 227]

Arabic, the name assumed by its founder, meaning, I suppose, the gate to heaven." Watson (p. 348) gives the clearest and most correct statement of the meaning of the title in question. He says, "He (Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad) now gave out that as Ali had been the gate by which men had entered the city of the prophet's knowledge, even so he was the gate through which men might attain to the knowledge of the twelfth Imam. It was in accordance with this doctrine that he received the distinguishing appellation of Ba[macron]b, or gate; from which his followers were styled Ba[macron]bis."

        As regards the Muhammadan historians, the Násikhu 't-Tawáríkh of Sipihr, which gives the fullest account of the Bábí movement, and which has served as a basis of information to most European writers, says in speaking of the beginning of what it calls "the mischief (fitna) of Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad the Báb":-

[nine lines of Persian/Arabic text]


[page 228]

[three lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        "When Hájí Seyyid Kázim departed from this world to the Eternal Abode, he [Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad] carried off several of his disciples and retired for vigils and worship to the mosque of Kúfa, where he abode forty days. All at once his disposition swerved aside from rectitude. Then he secretly seduced men to his own austerities and doctrine, inviting them to devote themselves to him. And in whomsoever he felt confidence, to him he would say, 'I am the Gate of God: enter, then, houses by their gates: one cannot enter any house otherwise than by the gate thereof. Whosoever desireth to come to God and to know the religion of God cannot do so until he seeth me and receiveth permission from me.' Therefore he became known as 'Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad the Báb'; and when a few days had passed he was named 'the Báb,' and his own name rarely crossed men's tongues."

        During the latter part of the reign of Muhammad Sháh when the Báb, then in captivity at Chihrík, was brought to Tabríz, and examined concerning his doctrine by a council of divines and doctors presided over by the present Sháh of Persia, then Crown-Prince, he was required to explain the title which he had assumed and to state what meaning he attached to it. The account given of this examination in the present history (pp. 19-21, supra) is brief compared to the accounts contained in the supplement of the Rawzatu's-Safá, the Táríkh-i-Jadíd, and the Kisasu'l-'Ulamá (concerning which works see above, Note A). Of the proceedings of this council a fuller account compiled from the above sources will be found in Note M. For our present purpose it is sufficient to observe that when the Báb was asked by his inquisitors, "What is the meaning of [the name] Báb?" he answered, "The same as in the holy tradition, 'I am the City of Knowledge and 'Alí is the Gate thereof'."


[page 229]

        Von Kremer, in the account of the Báb which he gives in his Herrschenden Ideen des Islams, quotes this same tradition as the probable source whence Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad derived his title, and further points out (p. 209) that he was not the first to adopt it, one Abú Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Alí ash- Shalmaghání, generally known as Ibn Abí Azákir, having suffered death under the Caliph Ar-Rádhí for assuming this same title of Báb and teaching new and heretical doctrines which included the tenet of metempsychosis. In his case also the title was explained by Ibn Abdús, one of his followers, as signifying "the door which led to the expected Imám." So likewise Abu'l-Kásim al-Huseyn ibn Rúh1, a contemporary of ash- Shalmaghání who died A.H. 326 (A.D. 937-938), was regarded by his disciples as one of the "doors leading to the Lord of the Age" (Sáhibu'z-Zamán). Lack of space forbids further discussion on the history of this title and its employment. Those who desire fuller information may consult the authorities referred to by von Kremer, viz. Ibn Khallikán, ed. Wüst, p. 129, Vita 186; Baron MacGuckin de Slane's translation of Ibn Khallikán, vol. i, pp. 436-437, and notes on p. 439; Hammer-Purgstall, Litt. Geschichte der Araber, vol. v, p. 283; and Ibnu'l- Athír, vol. viii, p. 217.

        It must be borne in mind that, as is clearly explained by Gobineau (pp. 150 and 156) and Watson (p. 348), the title of Báb was only provisionally and temporarily adopted by Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad, nor is he now generally so styled by his followers, who call him ~~~ ('l'Altesse Sublime' of Gobineau), ~~~ ('His Highness the Point of Revelation'), ~~~ ('His Highness the First Point'), or even ~~~ ('His Highness my Lord the Supreme'). In the Persian Beyán he applies to himself other titles in addition to the

1 For further particulars concerning this personage, see Note O, infra.


[page 230]

second and third of those above enumerated, such as ~~~ (the 'Tree of Truth'), ~~~ (the 'Person' or 'Essence of the Seven Letters,' because his name, ~~~, contains seven letters), and the like. But amongst the Behá'ís there is a tendency (very evident in the present work, where the term Báb is used throughout, and no mention is made of the fuller development of doctrine and exaltation of rank which marked the later period of Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad's mission) to suppress the higher titles implying a supremacy which they would reserve for Behá, and to speak of the Báb as ~~~ ('His Highness the Evangelist'). In reading the present history, the fact that it represents throughout the view of the Behá'ís, not of the original Bábís or the Ezelís of to-day, must never be lost sight of. When, in the words of Gobineau (p. 156), Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad "déclara qu'il n'était pas le Bâb, comme on l'avait cru jusqu'alors, comme il l'avait pensé lui-même, c'est--dire la Porte de la connaissance des vérités, mais qu'il était le Point, c'est--dire le générateur même de la vérité, une apparition divine, une manifestation toute-puissante," then, to continue the quotation, "le titre de Bâb, ainsi devenu libre, pouvait désormais récompenser le pieux dévouement de l'un des néophytes," and it was on Mullá Huseyn of Bushraweyh that it was bestowed. Accordingly by Subh-i-Ezel this illustrious champion of the new faith is always spoken of as ~~~, while in the Táríkh-i-Jadíd he is called ~~~ 'His Excellency the Gate of the Gate.'

        In his earlier writings (e.g. the Commentary on the Súra-i-Yúsuf, for specimens of which see Rosen's MSS. Arabes, pp. 179-191) Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad repeatedly uses the term Báb and apparently applies it to himself. In the Persian Beyán, which was composed during his imprisonment at Mákú and embodies his fully developed doctrine, he continues to use the term, but no longer limits


[page 231]

it to himself, though still occasionally employing it as his own title, as, for instance, in the following passage in hid ii, ch. 1:-

[seven lines of Persian/Arabic text, with six footnotes]

        "God demandeth in His own speech, 'Whose book is the Kur'án?' All the believers said to Him, 'It is the Book of God' Afterwards it was asked, 'Is any difference seen between the Furkán [i.e. the Kur'án] and the Beyán?' The spiritually-minded answered, 'No, by God, all is from our Lord': and none are mentioned but those endowed with discernment. Then the Lord of the World [thus] revealed:- 'That Word is by the tongue of Muhammad the Apostle of God, and this is my Word by the tongue of the Person of the Seven Letters, the Gate of God'."

        In other passages, however, the term is employed (often in the plural) in a more general sense. Thus the last four


[page 232]

chapters of the first hid, consisting, as it would appear, of mere titles uncommentated and undeveloped, stand as follows:-

[nine lines of Persian/Arabic text, with six footnotes]

        "The sixteenth chapter of the first Váhid. Concerning this, that the First Gate (Báb) hath returned to the world with everyone who believed in him truly or otherwise."

        "The seventeenth chapter...&c. Concerning this, that the Second Gate..." &c.

        "The eighteenth chapter...&c. Concerning this, that the Third Gate..." &c.

        "The nineteenth chapter...&c. Concerning this, that the Fourth Gate..." &c.

        In one of my interviews with Subh-i- Ezel I asked him


[page 233]

who were intended by these 'Bábs' or 'Gates,' and he answered that Sheykh Ahmad Ahsá'í and Hájí Seyyid Kázim of Resht [see Note E, infra, and also B. ii, pp. 884-885 and 888-892] were two of them. But this would only signify that in them reappeared, or 'returned to the world,' two of the four original 'Gates' And by these can only be meant those four persons who, during the period of seclusion of the twelfth Imám known as the "Lesser Occultation" (~~~), acted as intermediaries between him and his followers. These four were, according to the ~~~, (1) Abú 'Umar 'Othmán ibn Sa'íd; (2) Abú Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Othmán, son of the above; (3) Huseyn ibn Rúh. [see Note O, infra, and the beginning of this note, p. 229]; (4) Abú'l- Hasan 'Alí ibn Muhammad Símarí.

        So also in hid ii, ch. iv, this sentence occurs:-

[five lines of Persian/Arabic text, with five footnotes]

        "For God hath assimilated refuge in Himself to refuge in His Apostle, and refuge in His Apostle to refuge in His executors (i.e. the Imáms), and refuge [in His executors to refuge] in the Gates (Abwáb or Bábs) of His executors..... For refuge in the Apostle is identical with refuge in God,


[page 234]

and refuge in the Imáms is identical with refuge in the Apostle, and refuge in the Gates is identical with refuge in the Imáms."

        So likewise in other passages "Gates of the Fire" (~~~) are spoken of as identical with "Letters of Denial" (~~~), both terms signifying such as vehemently oppose the Truth and lead men to hell.
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