Bobeism, Bobe, His Doctrine, His Personal AppearanceModern Persia, pages 145-152
Wheaton, Illinois: Wheaton College Press, 1897
The Mohammedan religion is to-day divided in about fifty different sects. This division greatly weakens it. The Bobe sect was started by Mirza Mohammed Ali of Shiraz, a city in which reside the most intellectual and poetical scholars of Persia. He began to plan the new religion at the age of eighteen, but did not reveal it until he was twenty-five years old. The foundation of his faith was this: Mohammed, like Christ, taught that the latter days will be a millennium. They have a tradition that when all the prophets had died, or had been killed by their enemies, a son six years of age was, by the direction of Allah, hid in an unknown well. He was to remain there until the time for the millennium. It was believed that he would be the ruler of the Mohammedans in these last days.
He was to lead both his victorious armies and conquer all the world, and Islam would become the universal religion. Mirza Mohammed Ali based his doctrine on this theory but changed it somewhat. At the age of twenty-five he made several pilgrimages to shrines, such as Karballa, Mecca, and Medina, and then returned to his native town of Shiraz. At first he began to teach his doctrine to his confidential friends and relatives until it was deepened in their hearts. And then he began to preach to the public that he was Mehdeialzaman.
He taught that every age must have its own prophet, inspired from God. He claimed that he was inspired and that he had frequent communications from God telling him how to direct the people. He openly claimed to be Mehdeialzaman. And he taught that the priesthood and the religion were corrupt and that he was appointed to renew them. He did not oppose the Koran, but at the same time said that every age needs a new bible. He claimed to have received a bible from God. This book is called Bayon, meaning exposition. He taught the equality of both sexes and paid homage to woman. He showed that it was against the law of God to marry more than one woman or to keep concubines. Further, it is against the law of society and the happiness of women to marry more than one wife. The law of divorce, which is common among Mohammedans, was not practised by the new sect. The place of woman among them is the same as among Christians. The prophet taught that the spirit of charity ought to be as a flame of fire in the hearts of his followers. He said we cannot please God if we see our brother in need and do not help him, if we pray He will not hear us, if we worship Him He will turn His face away from us. Believing this, the spirit of charity is very strong among them, and they support the needy. The use of wine and all intoxicants is strictly forbidden. They are very kind to people of other faiths who are not Mohammedans; them they hate. Mehdeialzaman preached these doctrines and won many hearts. The converts were generally intelligent and well educated. His doctrine spread through the southern and northeastern parts of Persia. Among his followers were two prominent and attractive persons, Mollah Hussein and Hajee Mohammed Ali. He called them his right and left hand supporters. Another convert of importance was a lady of rare attainments. In poetry she was accomplished, in beauty wonderfully rare, and she was highly educated. She traveled with two assistants from state to state and from city to city preaching the new doctrine. She never met Bobe, the founder and knew of him only through letters. She said that God had endowed him with unusual gifts for this holy cause. By the power of her eloquence she made many converts, and was called by her followers, Kurratool Alaein, which is a very high title.
PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF BOBE.
In stature he was tall and slender, eyes black; eyebrows, heavy and long; beard, patriarchal. His countenance was very pleasant and attractive. In conversation with high and low classes of people alike he showed himself a servant of all. He was poetical, a great orator and a deep thinker. He wrote many beautiful poems. His epistles to his disciples were philosophical. His words in sermons touched the hearts of men. When orthodox Mohammedans saw that Bobeism was spreading among the people, the priesthood and the government joined in severely persecuting the disciples of the new faith. The disciples were scattered by this persecution to different cities which resulted in a still greater spread of the new doctrine. At that time the prophet appointed eighteen of his apostles as guards of the faith. Two of them were women, and he requested that this rule be followed in future ages. About this time Bobe and his twelve disciples were arrested in Shiraz and taken to Isphahan. While imprisoned there his doctrines were being rapidly carried on by his followers. He was finally banished to Makoo, an obscure town between Persia and Russia, as it was thought his religion could not spread from such an obscure place. But his doctrine soon prevailed there. At last the priesthood and government decided to bring him to Tabreez to be shot. After his arrival in Tabreez many learned priests came to discuss doctrines with him, but none were able to answer his questions, but his enemies were determined to kill him. Bobe and his twelve disciples were hanged to a wall before the soldiers. Before the order to fire, the disciples were given a chance to save their lives by denying Bobe's faith. Only one denied the faith and was saved. The others asserted that they were willing to die for the truth. When the soldiers obeyed command to shoot, all the disciples on the wall were killed. But Bobe was not struck by the ball; it struck above his body cutting in two the rope by which he was suspended. Bobe fell to the ground unharmed and tried to escape through the crowd. He ran into a house which proved to be the home of an officer, who promptly arrested the fleeing prophet and returned him to the executioner. Before the second shot was fired Bobe was again promised freedom if he would deny his own teachings. He replied that many of the holy prophets of the past died for the truth and that he, too, was willing to die in this holy testimony.
After the killing of Bobe and his disciples, the government issued an edict that the surviving followers who would not deny Bobe should be killed. This happened at the beginning of the reign of the late Shah. Many fanatical Bobes tried to kill the Shah. Soon after the edict one of them shot at the chief ruler of the land, but was killed by a soldier. After this incident, fiery persecutions arose against them and about eighteen thousand of their number were killed. The torture inflicted in many instances was very cruel. The more prominent victims were taken to the capital city, stripped of clothing except trousers, and led about the streets while flaming candles were burning away their flesh. Many of them cried allegiance to Bobe to the last. The heroic death of the fanatical Bobes had the effect on many prominent men in the capital of making them believers in Bobe. After the great massacre, which occurred in 1850, the believers in Bobe held their faith in secret. Eighteen men, whose names were not generally known, were appointed guardians of the faith, and one very learned young man was appointed to take Bobe's place. His title is Baha and he resides in Akra, a small city in Turkish territory. Even to-day they are very earnest in spreading their religion, but their work is done in secret. Their apostles go from place to place and are known by a secret sign.
The enmity between them and the orthodox Mohammedans has been very severe. From the killing of Bobe until the present time they have been trying to kill the Shah. In their first attempt they failed, but a year ago while the Shah was worshiping in the most holy place of the mosque, he became the victim of a fanatic Bobe who had disguised himself as a woman. This Bobe, while under disguise, shot the king, who died two minutes afterward. Some thought that the government would again persecute them, but there were some hindrances which would not permit this. In the first place their religion is kept secret; it is impossible to know who belongs to this new sect. Secondly, many of the high classes and royal officers belong to this sect, and for this reason it would be impossible to persecute them. Thirdly, their number to-day would reach two hundred thousand, and to kill this immense company would certainly damage the government. Their antagonism against the government and against orthodox Mohammedanism is caused entirely by the lack of freedom of religious worship.
They are very warm friends of the Christians, placing in them the greatest confidence, sometimes they will even lodge in the houses of Christians and eat with them without questioning. This a strict Mohammedan would never do. They readily allow the Christians to preach to them and to discuss religion with them. Yet it is not an easy matter to convert them, for one must know their manner of life and religious doctrines to successfully meet their arguments. A few however have been truly converted. This filled the Mohammedans with hatred both against the Christians and the converts. When the Christian shows the superiority of Christ and of His doctrine over that of their prophet Bobe, they are forced into silence. They are now securing many converts from Mohammedanism, and it is believed that the time will come when religious toleration will be obtained by them. This will also give the Christians a good opportunity of preaching the gospel.