by Kamran Ekbalpublished in Encyclopaedia Iranica
New York: Columbia University, 2014
BAḠDĀDI FAMILY, designation of an Arab family of a Bābi, Shaikh Moḥammad Šebl, and his Bahai progeny, his son Moḥammad-Moṣṭafā Baḡdādi, and the latter’s sons, Żiāʾ Mabsuṭ Baḡdādi and Ḥosayn Eqbāl.
Shaikh Moḥammad Šebl (d. Baghdad, 1 Ramażān 1266/11 July 1850) was a student of Sayyed Kāẓem Rašti, the head of the Šayḵi movement, and his personal representative (wakil) in Baghdad, where he had moved from Kufa in 1243/1827-28. There he taught theosophy (ḥekma elāhiya) on behalf of Sayyed Kāẓem. His father (Sayyed Darviš), grandfather (Sayyed Šebl), and great-grandfather, (Sayyed Šarif Kāẓemi) were all distinguished theologians (ʿolamāʾ) in Kufa. He was one of the very first Šayḵi leaders who adhered to Babism after being contacted by Mollā ʿAli Basṭāmi, one of the first followers of the Bāb. When Basṭāmi was imprisoned in Baghdad, Šebl visited him every day in prison. Through him, Basṭāmi succeeded in converting a large number of Šayḵis. Šebl was among those ulema summoned by the governor of Baghdad, Najib Pasha, to hold a court of inquiry for the trial of Basṭāmi. He left the city in disguise and started later with other Babis on a journey to visit the Bāb in Persia. When he learnt that the Bāb was banished to Māku in Azerbaijan, Šebl traveled on to Khorasan to meet Mollā Moḥammad-ʿAli Bārforuši, Qoddus (Baḡdādi: Resāla, pp.106 ff.).
During the period from Moḥarram 1260/January 1844 to Šaʿbān 1262/July 1262, when Ṭāhera Qorrat-al-ʿAyn was teaching in Karbala, Šebl was one of the leading Šayḵi dignitaries, the so-called Qorratiya, who supported her and disseminated her message (Nabil, p. 193). When Qorrat-al-ʿAyn was expelled to Baghdad, she resided about ten weeks in the house of Šebl, before she was sent to the house of the mufti of Baghdad, Maḥmud Alusi. It was in the quarters provided then by Šebl that Qorrat-al-ʿAyn generally taught unveiled and spoke of the necessity to abrogate the šariʿa, enraging a number of her students so much that they complained about her to the Bāb. Bāb’s tablet (lawḥ) confirming support of her and bestowing upon her the title of Ṭāhera, was read to the Bābi gathering of seventy people by Šebl (Baḡdādi, Resāla, pp. 109-10).
Šebl and his ten-year-old son Moḥammad-Moṣṭafā were among the group of about thirty armed Arabs who accompanied Qorrat-al-ʿAyn to Persia in Rabiʿ II 1263/March 1847 after her deportation. The expenses of the journey were defrayed by Šebl (ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, Taḏkera, p. 299). In Kermānšāh, along with the public preaching by Qorrat-al-ʿAyn, he, together with Mollā Ebrāhim Maḥallāti and Shaikh Solṭān, translated into Persian the Bāb’s commentary (tafsir) to Surat al-Kawṯar (Qorʾān, chap. CVIII) and discussed it with the ulema who had assembled to cast doubt on it (Baḡdādi, Resāla, p. 111). He then followed her to Qazvin, where he visited her regularly. After one month, instructed by Qorrat-al-ʿAyn, Šebl traveled with his son and a small number of followers to Tehran to meet Mollā Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Bošruʾi, the first Bābi convert, who was on his way to Māzandarān. Thence they returned to Baghdad. Šebl spent the last years of his life disseminating the new faith and discussing with Christian clergymen, Jewish rabbis, and other dignitaries at his home, which was the meeting place for such gatherings. He died two days after receiving news of the Bāb’s execution.
Moḥammad-Moṣṭafā Baḡdādi (b. Baghdad, 1254/1838; d. Iskenderun, 27 Šawwāl 1328/1 November 1910; Figure 1) was an eminent early Arab Bahai and apostle of Bahā-Allāh. From childhood Moḥammad-Moṣṭafā accompanied his father in his activities and waited upon Qorrat-al-ʿAyn, transmitting her messages. In Qazvin he served as a courier between her and his father, delivering his father’s questions to her and transmitting to him her answers (Baḡdādi, Resāla, p. 119).
During Bahāʾ-Allāh’s exile in Baghdad and before his declaration in 1280/1863, Moḥammad-Moṣṭafā was among the few who recognized him as man yoẓheroho’llāh (He whom God shall make manifest) foretold by the Bāb and became his devoted followers. ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ designated him as “the leader among the friends in Iraq” (1971, pp. 131-32). Renowned for his strength and courage, many Bahais took shelter with him whenever they were harassed or in trouble. In 1872 he was attacked by an angry mob and nearly beaten to death. Two years later he was arrested along with other Bahais and banned to Mosul, where he spent eight months in prison (Ḥosayn Eqbāl, handwritten memoirs, private papers of Baghdadi and Ekbal families). Soon after he was released, he set out for ʿAkkā and, following Bahāʾ-Allāh’s advice, settled in Beirut. There he spent the following thirty years mainly assisting pilgrims on their way to Palestine and supporting the Bahai students at the American University of Beirut. He was the main link to the sultan and the political authorities of the Ottoman empire (Moʾayyad, pp. 11-12). His house became a meeting place for the mufti and other dignitaries and was visited on several occasions by the ladies of ʿAbd-al-Bahā’s family (Afruḵta, p. 538). It was in his house where the remains of the Bāb were laid out for twelve days in January 1899, on their way from Persia to Haifa, before they were brought to ʿAkkā according to the instructions of ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ. Moḥammad-Moṣṭafā was one of the eight people who carried the casket containing the remains from Beirut to the Holy Land, where it arrived on 31 January 1899. ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ praised him for this special service (ʿAbd-al-Bahā’, Majmuʿa, pp. 127-28). After the death of Bahāʾ-Allāh, he remained loyal to ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, whom he represented in Beirut.
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