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The following is an excerpt of the article at www.iranica.com/articles/eschatology-iv.

Eschatology in the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths

by Stephen Lambden

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 8
New York: Columbia University, 1998
Many of the writings of the Bāb are permeated with Islamic and other eschatological texts and traditions. Individual Babis and Bahais have also compiled testimonia and written “demonstrative treatises” (estedlālīya) to show the fulfillment, in their religion, of apocalyptic and eschatological prophecies (e.g., see Iran National Bahāʾī Manuscript Collection [INBMC], LXXX and bibliography under Golpaygānī, 1925 and Sears).

In 1260/1844 the Bāb claimed to inaugurate a new era of communication with the Hidden Imam and, a few years later, claimed to be the expected Qāʾem or Mahdi. According to him, the awaited Day of resurrection (yawm al-qīāma) and associated eschatological events, largely spiritually understood, were set in motion or were believed to have come to pass (see, e.g., Dalāʾel, pp. 13, 25, 34, 49 ff.; INBMC, LXXX/1; Amanat, index, s.v. qiyāma). Many sections of the Persian and Arabic Bayāns as well as the late Haykal al-dīn (1850) of the Bāb expound eschatological matters (e.g., mawt “death,” al-qabr “the tomb,” the ṣerāt bridge, mīzān “the balance”; Bayān-e fārsī 2:8-9, 2:12-13). The Bāb’s first disciples were identified as the (spiritual) return (rojūʿ) of the “fourteen immaculate ones” (čahārdah maʿṣūm, and other Shiʿite worthies (Bayān-e fārsī 1:1-19; cf. Mīrzā Jānī, p. 199). Using Sufi terminology (Goldziher, p. 254) the Bāb made frequent reference to imminent as well as futuristic advents of “him whom God shall make manifest” (man yoẓheroho Allāh; see Browne, pp. lxix f.), whose manifestation represents the encounter with God (leqāʾ Allāh) mentioned in the Koran (6:31, 10:45; Bāb, Haykal al-dīn 3:7). Exactly when this messiah figure would first appear is said to be a divine secret. The time is variously intimated in the Bāb’s writings (cf. MacEoin, 1986, pp. 126 ff.). There exists what appears to be a kind of terminus a quo of 1511 (i.e., abjad, value of aḡyaṯ “the most assisting”) and a terminus ad quem of 2001 (i.e., abjad value of mostaḡāṯ “the one invoked”) years set down in certain late writings (Bayān-e fārsī 2:16). Azalī Bābīs have tended to highlight the futurity of man yoẓheroho Allāh’s appearance in their anti-Bahai polemic (Momen, “Azal, Azalīs”). The Bāb saw his own dispensation as a kind of eschatological ‘messianic interregnum’ to be followed, from age to age, by nine or more successive manifestations of man yoẓheroho Allāh (Panj šaʾn, pp. 314-15, cf. p. 397).

During the 1850s Bahāʾ-Allāh spoke of himself as the “return” of Imam Ḥosayn, later claiming to be the one promised in mostaḡāt with the name man yoẓheroho Allāh (unpub. letter to Mīrzā Asad-Allāh Nūrī) and the return of all past major Prophets and expected messiah figures within both Semitic and non-Semitic religions. It was during the Reżwān (i.e., Najebīya garden in Baghdad) declaration period (22 April-3 May 1863), that Bahāʾ-Allāh initially made something of his messianic claims known to a few Bābīs on the outskirts of Baghdad, also stating that no future manifestation of God (maẓhar-e elāhī) would succeed him for at least 1,000 (solar) years (see INBMC, XLIV, p. 225; al–Ketāb al-aqdas, p. 113, tr. p. 32). Ultimately, he claimed to be the promised messianic advent of Divinity: the eschatological advent of Yahweh (YHWH, the tetragrammaton); the return of Christ as the “Father”; the appearance of Allāh the Self-Subsisting (al-qayyūm). Many of his letters explain Islamic and Judaeo-Christian eschatology (see, e.g., Ketāb-e īqān; Tablets . . . after Aqdas, pp. 9-17, 117-119; cf. McLaughlin). Relative to non-Semitic religions Bahāʾ-Allāh referred to himself as the Zoroastrian Shah Bahrām (lawḥ-e haft porseš) and is viewed as Kalki, the tenth Avatār of Vishnu or the spiritual “reincarnation of Krishna,” expected by some Hindus. In addition, he is considered by some Bahais to be the fifth Buddha Maitreya or Amitābha, the ruler of the western paradise of Sukhāvatī (Shoghi Effendi, 1944, pp. 94 ff). Certain eschatological prophecies found within Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist texts are given detailed interpretation by Bahais (e.g., Fozdar; Momen, 1990, pp. 33-37).


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