The initial Bahá'í reaction to Babi militancy
In my article, 'The Babi Concept of Holy War' (Religion 12,
93-129), I demonstrated a number of ways in which the essentially
millenarian movement of Babism exploited existing Islamic legislation relating
to the waging of religious warfare (jihad
) together with various
chiliastic motifs to justify its militant opposition to the civil and
ecclesiastical status quo of nineteenth-century Iran.
I indicated then that my analysis of the roots of Babi
militancy might 'also provide a basis for a later discussion of the dynamics of
the transformation which took place from the 1860s from Babism to Bahá'ísm',
and it is my intention in the present article to undertake that discussion.
Following the physical suppression of militant Babism and the violent deaths of
its principal leaders (Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab; Mulla Muhammad
Husayn Bushru'i; Mulla Muhammad 'Ali Barfurushi; Mulla Muhammad 'Ali Zanjani;
and Sayyid Yahya Darabi)
by 1850, the
movement went underground, to re-emerge briefly in the autumn of 1852, when an
attempt was made by a group of Babi activists on the life of Nasir al-Din
A wave of arrests, followed by a number
of executions in the capital, weakened and demoralized the remaining adherents
of what was now a scattered, disorganized, and virtually leaderless community.
Babism as a political force was clearly spent, but the events of the past few
years and, not least, the attempt on the Shah's life, left their mark on the
Iranian consciousness. Nasir al-Din and many members of his government
continued to fear a renewal of Babi plots to undermine the state. Increased
European penetration and influence during the second half of the nineteenth
century combined with internal instability to stimulate demands for political
and social reform, and in this climate the authorities tended to think of the
Babis as prime movers of
what they saw as revolutionary activity. Such fears were bred as much by
ignorance of the true numbers and circumstances of the sect as by the memory of
militant action on the part of its adherents.
In reality, the Babis had been forced to modify their position considerably.
Following the arrests of 1852, a small but relatively influential group of
Babis from Tehran had chosen to go into voluntary exile in Baghdad, where they
began to attract other members of the sect afraid to continue their activities
in Iran. Baghdad and the nearby Shi'i shrine centres of Najaf and Karbala' had
long served as gathering-points for Iranian exiles, and now a small community
of Babis congregated there to take advantage of the relative freedom offered in
the region. Here in Baghdad, those who remained actively committed to the sect
were compelled to reappraise their long-term aims in an attempt to salvage
something out of the chaos bequeathed by militant action. Central to this
reappraisal was the need to establish a viable principle of leadership and
authority for the group. Babism had been marked from the beginning by a rather
diffuse charismatic authority vested in more than one individual, and, after
the deaths of the main bearers of that authority, a period of semi-anarchy had
ensued, during which competing and conflicting claims to some kind of
inspiration were advanced by large numbers of individuals.
Although later Bahá'í sources have tended to play down or distort his role,
there is adequate contemporary evidence that, in the early period of the
Baghdad exile, a consensus of opinion favoured the leadership of a young man
widely regarded as the 'successor' (wasi
) of the Bab -- Mirza Yahya Nuri
Subh-i Azal (c. 1830-1912).
In contrast to
his rivals in this period, who were putting forward extreme theophanic claims
similar to those advanced by the Bab himself before his death, Subh-i Azal
favoured a more routinized expression of divinely-inspired charismatic
authority, and both he and his followers emphasized a conservative, retrenched
Babism centred on the doctrines of the Persian Bayan
and other later
Subh-i Azal seems to have remained
faithful to the long-term goal of overthrowing the Qajar state by subversion,
an aim which took less radical political form
when a number of Azali Babis, such as Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani, Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi
Kirmani, Mirza Jahangir Khan Shirazi, and others, became prominent in the late
nineteenth-century movement for political reform in Iran.
Although the basic motivation for these
Babis-cum-freethinkers seems to have been an originally religious desire to see
the fall of the 'unjust' kingdom of the Qajars and its replacement by a new
order of things, the programmes they espoused and the political ideals they
advocated were derived almost exclusively from European thinkers and expressed
secular western views often obviously at variance with the essentially
theocratic hopes of Babism.
In the end, Azali
Babism proved unable to develop a fresh synthesis capable of recreating the
successes of the early movement, with Subh-i Azal himself abandoning any hope
of direct action in favour of withdrawal from worldly affairs.
In contrast to the latter's routinizing conservatism, his older half-brother,
Mirza Husayn 'Ali Nuri Bahá' Allah (1817-1892),
offered a radical reinterpretation and reformation of
Babism that succeeded in attracting much larger numbers, not only from the
ranks of the old Babis, but increasingly from outside the movement. In Baghdad
between 1855 and 1863, Husayn 'Ali implicitly challenged the authority of
Subh-i Azal by adopting the role of de facto
leader of the exile
group, involving himself actively in their affairs and in relations with the
public, in contrast to Azal's personal policy of near-total seclusion. Born in
Tehran in 1817, the son of a minister at the court of Fath 'Ali Shah, Husayn
'Ali was not a typical Babi. Although an early convert, his connections were
with court circles in the capital rather than with the religious establishment
and its fringes that provided the core of the Babi leadership in the movement's
early phase. As far as can be determined, neither he nor his family had any
links with the Shaykhi school, from which the majority of the first Babis
emerged. Like many of his class in nineteenth-century Iran, however, he was
deeply religious, with leanings in the direction of popular Shi'ism tinged with
esotericism and Sufi mysticism,
than towards the formal religion of the 'ulama, much of which remained
inaccessible to the untrained. The Babism taught by Husayn 'Ali in the Baghdad
period, as reflected in his early writings,
is a much watered-down, 'spiritualized' version of the
later doctrines of the Bab, with a strong emphasis on mystical and ethical
themes, couched, with only a few exceptions, in an extremely simple and poetic
form of Persian far removed from the obscure and convoluted style of the Bab's
There are indications that Husayn 'Ali did not at first envisage for himself
any role in the Babi community beyond that of spiritual preceptor, and, indeed,
he abandoned the group at one point to embark on the life of a Sufi darvish
at the Khalidiyya monastery in Sulaymaniyya, with every intention, it
seems, of dissociating himself from the movement permanently.
Persuaded to return to Baghdad in the spring of 1856,
however, he began to devote himself to the reorganization of the sect, with
himself as its real head, in whom more and more authority was vested. By the
early 1860s, towards the end of his stay in Baghdad, he had firmly established
his position within the community and begun to express his authority claims in
increasingly messianic terms. Numerous passages of the Persian Bayan
refer to the future 'divine manifestation' destined to succeed the Bab as
the latter had succeeded Muhammad, speaking of him eschatologically as 'he whom
God shall make manifest' (man yuzhiruhu 'llah)
that he would appear in about one to two thousand years time.
Although he does not appear to have made a public
declaration to that effect until 1866 (while in Edirne, in Turkey), there is
evidence that Husayn 'Ali already thought of himself as 'he whom God shall make
manifest' before his departure from Baghdad. The appeal of a new messianic
impulse encouraged a thoroughgoing reinterpretation of the Bayanic
prophecies, in order to demonstrate that the Bab had, in fact, anticipated an
extremely early appearance of this saviour figure,
and, before long, large numbers of Babis responded to the
announcement of a new revelation. By the 1870s, Husayn 'Ali, now in exile in
Palestine, had begun to effect even further-reaching changes in the character
of Babism than he had ever attempted in Baghdad. His assumption of the status
of a new divine manifestation and, as time passed, of God in the flesh,
gave him the authority to declare the Babi
religious and legal system abrogated by the laws and ordinances of Bahá'ísm,
and it is from this period that he and his followers began to promulgate their
movement as a religion independent of Islam.
By introducing new forms of millenarianism and prophetic charisma into the
movement at this critical juncture, Bahá' Allah succeeded in avoiding the
'premature' routinization of Babism that was offered by the policies of Subh-i
At the same time, the millenarianism
preached in Palestine was of a radically different type to that which had
characterized the earlier stages of Babism. In 1844/45, the first Babis had
anticipated the imminent appearance of the Imam to lead the final uprising
against injustice, only to be disappointed by the Bab's failure to arrive in
Karbala' and the indefinite postponement of the day of judgement. Between 1847
and 1850, following the Bab's announcement that he himself was the Qa'im, his
followers took up arms to begin the last crusade or share in the messianic woes
in the hope of hastening the final restitution of things, but again all came to
nothing and the world was manifestly not redeemed.
Revolutionary millenarian movements react to such failure in a number of
A typical response is the
modification of certain doctrines, particularly those with a high specific
prophetic content, partly to explain the non-advent of the millennium, partly to
substitute for disappointed expectations more diffuse and flexible hopes.
Although Husayn 'Ali spoke in terms of the fulfilment of the Bab's prophecies
regarding man yuzhiruhu'llah
(which provided the primary, indispensable
justification for his claims addressed to the Babis) and referred openly to the
advent of the Day of Judgement, the promised messianic age of past prophets,
he avoided any suggestion that the millenium
itself was at hand. On occasion, he would make reasonably specific prophecies
relating to immediate events,
generally he preferred to speak of imminent tribulations or a 'great
followed at an unspecified
future date 'the most great peace' (al-sulh al-akbar
and a 'new
The Babi dream of the
immediate rule of the saints on earth was replaced by less urgent expectations
capable of repeated deferment to an increasingly distant future.
Where millenarian expectancy had led to particularly violent action, and here
this has met with repeated military defeat, it is common for a revolutionary
movement to undergo a radical change in its attitudes to the world at large.
Militancy is replaced by quietism, political radicalism gives way to
acceptance of the status quo (or, at least, a willingness to put up with it),
and the wish to change 'the world' is transformed into an emphasis on spiritual
change within the individual. It was precisely this kind of reaction that
characterized the transition from early militant Shi'ism to the normative Imami
position that eventually came to be identified as the Twelver sect. In the
first two centuries of Islam, Shi'i rejection of the political and religious
establishment expressed itself in repeated risings against the Umayyad and
'Abbasid dynasties, led by or on behalf of various claimants to the Imamate.
The failure of such attempts to effect any
lasting political change and the harm caused to the Shi'i community at large
both by reprisals and preventative measures forced a central party within the
Shi'a to preach a quietist ethic.
'legitimist' Imams after Husayn emphasized the virtues of obedience to
established authority and disclaimed for themselves any desire to obtain the
outward leadership of the Islamic community, relinquishing at the same time the
right to lead jihad
or to organize an uprising in order to seize power.
This did not, of course, amount to a wholesale abdication of the right of the
Imam to rule. It was merely a renunciation of immediate military action while
awaiting the time set by God for the appearance of an Imam as al-qa'im
(the one rising up with the sword), who would initiate the final
uprising against the rule of those who had usurped his authority. It was this
latter justification that the Bab and his followers had invoked in their call
to arms against the Qajar state.
Babi militancy having failed, Husayn 'Ali chose to revert to the quietist
stance of orthodox Shi'ism. It was clearly essential for the survival of the
movement that both its leadership and rank and file be seen to renounce the use
of force as a means towards religio-political change, and, indeed, to lay claim
to a reformist rather than a revolutionist attitude towards the existing order.
Although simple pragmatism may have provided the initial impulse in a quietist
direction, the shift in policy had deeper roots and proved to be both permanent
and far-reaching in its effects. A semi-pacifist, politically acquiescent
posture was consonant with and, indeed, integral to the deradicalized and
increasingly universalist form of Babism being taught by Husayn 'Ali during the
1860s, and it seems to have owed its origin as much to factors in his personal
background and inclinations as to immediate pressures on the Baghdad community
of which he was head.
Husayn 'Ali appears to have been ill at ease with the militant side of Islam
from an early age. He himself writes that, as a child, he read an account by
Mulla Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d.1111/1700) of the execution of the Jews of Banu
Qurayza on the instructions of the prophet Muhammad;
the effect of this was to plunge him into a state of
acute depression for some time, despite his recognition that `what occurred had
been the decree of God'.
How far this
attitude influenced the nature and extent of his involvement with Babism during
its militant phase, it is a little difficult to tell. Bahá'í sources
try to enhance his role at this period, implying or stating that he was a
leading force behind many crucial events. But contemporary documents provide no
evidence for this, and it is, indeed, unlikely that a non-cleric should at this
point have had much say in matters of doctrine or general policy. There is
evidence, albeit of a confused nature, that, in 1848, Husayn 'Ali sought to
join the Babi defenders at the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi,
and it is quite likely that he saw that episode -- in
distinction to those at Nayriz and Zanjan -- as an attempt to re-enact the
sufferings of Karbala', a view which, as I have indicated in my previous
article (pp. 116-117), was held by most of those at the fort.
Whatever his attitude towards the exploits of the Babis at the Shaykh Tabarsi
shrine, it is evident that Husayn 'Ali was generally unhappy about the course
of events after 1848 and that he viewed the uprisings in Nayriz and Zanjan as
contrary to the divine purpose. Writing in later years, he expresses his
disapproval of Babi militancy in explicit and unequivocal terms: `the excesses
of some at the beginning of the cause were like devastating, ruinous winds that
cast down the saplings of trust and hope. On account of them, the state became
opposed and the people disturbed, for they were ignorant of the divine will and
decrees, and acted according to their own desires'.
In a letter written in Acre about 1890, he contrasts the
violence of early Babism with the reformation instituted by him in Baghdad:
'All know that, previously, in every year there was strife and fighting: how
many souls were slain on both sides! In one year at Tabari (i.e. Shaykh
Tabarsi), in the next at Zanjan, in the next at Nayriz. After this wronged one
went to Arab Iraq by permission of the king (i.e. Nasir al-Din Shah), we
forbade all to engage in sedition or strife'.
Similarly, in a letter addressed to the French diplomat,
Comte de Gobineau, during the early Acre period (about 1869), he draws much the
same comparison: 'In the sixteen years since my arrival in Baghdad until now,
no offense has been committed by anyone. Your excellency will have heard that,
before those sixteen years, this sect did not endure oppression, but took
revenge. I forbade all (to do so), so that they were put to death in every
land, yet opposed no-one'.
Initially, however, Husayn 'Ali, as the emerging centre of authority for the
small Babi community of Baghdad, was concerned less with the possibility of a
recrudescence of the large-scale militancy that had characterized the period
between 1848 and 1850, and more with outbreaks of violence and anti-social
behaviour on a restricted level. On more than one occasion, trouble erupted
between members of the Baghdad exile community and the population at large,
leading in at least one case to the deaths
of Muslim opponents. According to his own testimony, while in prison in Tehran
in 1852 following the attempt on the life of the Shah, Husayn 'Ali had
meditated on the causes of that event and determined to 'undertake, with the
utmost vigour, the task of
regenerating this people'.
It may not be
entirely irrelevant to remember in this connection Nuri's extremely close
family connections with the Shah's court.
In condemning the behaviour of the Babis in Baghdad (and, indeed, in Iran
before that), Husayn 'Ali had recourse to the classical Islamic strictures
(corruption) and fitna
(mischief or sedition),
terms which he uses to denote any behaviour
likely to disturb the established order of society or to cause conflict with
the state. In his well-known letter to Nasir al-Din Shah, written towards the
end of his stay in Edirne (1863-1868), he states that 'in every land where a
number of (the adherents of this sect (in ta'ifa
because of the injustice of some governors, the fires of strife and conflict
were ignited. But after I arrived in Iraq, I forbade everyone to engage in
corruption or contention'.
Later in the
same letter, he insists that, while in Istanbul in 1863, 'I had no thought of
(engaging in) corruption, nor did I at any time meet with the people of
-- probably a reference to the
reformers then resident at the Ottoman capital. In the Lawh-i siraj
also written in Edirne, he writes: 'Corruption has never been and is not
approved of; what happened previously was without the permission of God',
while, in the Surat al-bayan
about the same time, he instructs his followers to 'avoid those affairs which
lead to sedition'.
Husayn 'Ali did not, however, restrict himself to mere condemnation of
sedition, but went beyond that to enjoin on his followers absolute obedience to
established authority, ideally vested in the institution of monarchy.
In a letter to Hajj Mirza Isma'il Dhabih
Kashani, he writes: 'it is not permissible to speak concerning the affairs of
the world or whatever is connected with it or with its outward leaders. God has
given the outward kingdom to the monarchs: it is not permissible for anyone to
commit an act contrary to the opinion of the heads of state'.
This same theme is pursued in his long letter to the
Iranian cleric, Aqa Najafi: 'Every nation must have a high regard for the
position of its sovereign, must be submissive unto him, must carry out his
behests, and hold fast his authority. The sovereigns of the earth have been and
are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God'.
We are, quite clearly, moving very far away
from the hopes and methods of early Babism. And, indeed, it is obvious that
Husayn 'Ali went beyond even the tradition of Shi'i quietism in arguing, not
that secular rulers, though usurpers of true authority, had to be tolerated,
but that God Himself had given the government of the earth into their hands.
Husayn 'Ali's insistence on quietism was underpinned by a renewed emphasis on
the sacred qualities of martyrdom (shahada
For the Shi'a,
had long been elevated to the rank of a primary religious ideal,
and the figure of the martyr loomed large in Shi'i hagiography as the supreme
embodiment of faith. The early Babis, especially those at Shaykh Tabarsi,
drawn extensively on martyrdom motifs, identifying their sufferings with those
of the Shi'i Imams and their companions. But the Babi leaders had not been
committed to an exclusive policy of passive self-sacrifice: Bushru'i, for
example, had expressed a readiness to spread the truth by means of debate, the
sword, or martyrdom,
and had promised his
followers 'either victory or martyrdom'.
Bahá' Allah, on the other hand, extolled martyrdom as a positive alternative to
militant action. In a passage quoted from an earlier work in his letter to
Nasir al-Din Shah, he writes: 'Fasad
has never been nor is it now loved
by God; what was committed before this by a number of ignorant men (probably a
reference to the attempt on the Shah's life in 1852) was never approved of. In
this day, it is better for you if you are killed in His good-pleasure than that
you should kill'.
It is, he says, better
to die a martyr than to expire of illness on one's bed,
and, in numerous passages, he extols the sacrifices of
those who have given their lives in the path of God.
Several sections of his Arabic Kalimat
, written in Baghdad about 1858, elaborate on this theme: 'O Son
of Being! Seek a martyr's death in My path, content with My pleasure and
thankful for that which I ordain, that thou mayest repose with Me beneath the
canopy of majesty behind the tabernacle of glory;
'O Son of Man! By My beauty! To tinge thy hair with thy
blood is greater in My sight than the creation of the universe and the light of
both worlds. Strive then to attain this, O servant!'
As time passed, however, he became concerned to replace the extreme Shi'i
obsession with shahada
for its own sake with a more constructive
attitude. Martyrdom, he says, 'is a great matter, but it is as precious as red
sulphur (kibrit-i ahmar
and more rare: it has not been, nor is
it, the lot of everyone'.
martyrdom of his emissary to Nasir al-Din Shah, Mirza Badi' Khurasani,
in 1869, Husayn 'Ali cautioned the use of
in the propagation of the Bahá'í message.
An element of reservation creeps into his
writings on the subject: 'Although they (certain unnamed believers) have been
martyred in the path of God, and although their martyrdom is acceptable,
nevertheless, they exceeded the bounds of wisdom somewhat'.
In Bahá' Allah's writings, hikma
seems to operate
as a codeword for taqiyya
the concealment of faith in times of
danger permitted by Shi'i law.
for example, that 'it is not permitted for anyone to confess to this cause
before the faces of the unbelievers and opponents. He must conceal the beauty
of the cause, lest the eyes of the untrustworthy fall on him'.
He commands his followers not to seek martyrdom,
and in one place even writes that it has
actually been forbidden to give up one's life in this way.
Instead, he says, individuals are to dedicate their lives
to faith in God and the task of spreading His word.
'Martyrdom,' he says, 'is not limited to self-sacrifice
and the shedding of one's blood, for a man may be accounted in the book of the
King of Names as a martyr, though he be still alive;'
or, again, 'whoso dies believing
confidently in God, his Lord, and knowing his own self, and turning towards
Him, he has indeed died a martyr'.
choice has to be made between dying as a martyr and mentioning the truth `with
wisdom and utterance', the second is to be preferred.
Nevertheless, it is evident that Husayn 'Ali did not at first envisage any very
radical departure from lslamic or Babi norms, merely to effect a practical
reformation within the Babi community by insisting on the illegitimacy of
In 1873, some five years
after his arrival in Acre, however, he began the task of replacing the Babi
or holy law with a new Bahá'í code contained in the Kitab
and subsequent writings. Whereas the shari'a
devised by the
Bab in the Bayan
had been little more than an at times eccentric
reworking of the Islamic system, Husayn 'Ali, while retaining numerous Islamic
and Babi elements and preserving their basic outlook, went much further in his
break with tradition. Already strongly influenced by Christian ideas from an
early period, and having been in contact with European missionaries in
he seems to have come increasingly
under the spell of western concepts then current in the Ottoman empire. His
later writings, particularly those composed in Acre, show a growing concern
with themes such as constitutional government, world peace, disarmament,
collective security, a world legislature, an international language and script,
free association between members of different religions and races, and so on --
ideas which he grafted rather awkwardly onto existing Islamic theories, in
common with a number of reformers of his period.
Under influences such as these, Husayn 'Ali was unable to retain, even in a
modified form, many of the harsher Babi ordinances, including the law of holy
war. In several short works written after the Kitab al-aqdas
stresses the significance of his abrogation of jihad
regulations, which he holds to be ethically inappropriate to the new religion
he was now preaching. Thus, for example, he writes in the 'Lawh-i bisharat': 'O
people of the world! The first glad tidings which has been granted in the
Mother Book in this most great revelation for all the peoples of the earth is
the abolition of the decree of holy war from the book'.
In this and other works, he specifically mentions the
abrogation of holy war, the destruction of books, the ban on reading certain
books, the confiscation of property, the shunning of non-believers, and the
extermination of their communities.
As a result of these prohibitions, Husayn 'Ali claimed to have transformed the
war-like Babis into a peace-loving, pacifist community. 'Praise be to God,' he
writes, 'for fifty years we have forbidden men to engage in strife, in
mischief, or in fighting, and, by the grace of God and His mercy, this sect has
turned from arms to peace-making'.
he says, 'by the aid of God, the sharp swords of the Babi sect have been put
back within their sheaths through goodly words and virtuous deeds'.
In place of jihad
was to be used to spread Bahá'ísm, this being
interpreted as the true jihad:
'O peoples of the earth! Hasten to that
in which the good-pleasure of God lies, and strive in the true war (jahidu
in order to manifest His firm and mighty cause. We
have decreed that jihad
in the path of God be fought with the armies of
wisdom and utterance, with goodly deeds and actions'.
Bahá' Allah seized here on an existing theme in much
later Islamic, particularly Sufi, literature -- that of a stress on the
' against the self as superior to the 'lesser
' against unbelievers, especially insofar as proselytizing was
dependent on the acquisition of moral qualities and the exercise of spiritual
influence. Thus, Husayn 'Ali's son and successor 'Abbas Effendi 'Abd al-Bahá'
later writes that 'the cause of God in the
Bahá'í era is pure spirituality and has no connection whatever with the
physical world. It is neither war nor conflict, neither disputation nor
punishment. It does not involve struggling with the nations, now war with
different peoples and tribes. Its army is the love of God, and its enjoyment
the wine of the knowledge of God. Its warfare is the explication of the truth,
and its jihad
is with the evil-natured soul that impels to wrong-doing
'Abd al-Bahá' stressed even more than did his father the contrast between the
Babi and Bahá'í communities and their teachings. In one passage, having
referred to the Bahá'í obligation to associate with all men in a spirit of
love, he goes on to say that 'this is one of the religious duties of the Bahá'í
community, not of the Bayanis (i.e. Babis). The aim of the latter is the
opposite of this. For the Bahá'ís have as their sacred book the Kitab-i
(sic), which commands us thus, whereas the book of laws of the
Bayanis is the Bayan
which is a direct contrast to the
in these matters. The Bahá'ís, however, regard the
as abrogating the Bayan
and say that in the
Qur'an and the Bayan
there is the decree of opposing other religions,
whereas the Kitab-i aqdas
abrogates all these laws'.
In a letter apparently addressed to the Bahá'ís of either
Baghdad or Shiraz (madinat Allah)
he puts forward the view that,
in every religious dispensation, a particular teaching was given special
emphasis. Thus, in the time of Moses, obedience and submission to God were
stressed; in the days of Jesus, moral behaviour, friendship, harmony, and
turning the other cheek; and, in the dispensation of Muhammad, the smashing of
idols and the prohibition of the worship of false gods. In the days of the Bab,
he goes on, 'the decree of the Bayan
was the striking of necks, the
burning of books and papers, the destruction of shrines, and the universal
slaughter of all save those who believed and were faithful'. By way of
contrast, he says, the emphasis in the Bahá'í dispensation is upon compassion,
mercy, association with all peoples, trustworthiness towards all men, and the
unification of mankind.
The continued existence of the Azali sect of Babism made the Bahá'ís all the
more eager to dissociate themselves from their Babi origins. Thus, in his
letter to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace at the Hague, 'Abd
writes that 'in Iran at present there is a sect made up of a few individuals
who are called "Babis"; they claim allegiance to the Bab, but are utterly
uninformed of him. They possess secret teachings which are utterly opposed to
those of Bahá'u'lláh. Now, in Iran, the people know this, but, when they come
to Europe, they conceal their own teachings and utter the teachings of
Bahá'u'lláh; once they know that his teachings are effective, they make them
known in their name. But their hidden teachings are taken from the book of the
, which is by the Bab. When you obtain the translation of the Bayan
which has been made in Iran,
you will see
the true fact that the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are completely at odds with
those of this sect'.
'Abd al-Bahá' also took pains to re-establish the chronology of the Bahá'í move
towards pacifism and universalism, and to maintain that Bahá' Allah had taught
these ideals from a date preceding even the inception of the Bahá'í movement as
such. Thus, for example, in a letter written in 1911 to Albert Smiley,
founder-president of the Mohonk Lake Conference on Peace and Arbitration, he
states that 'Bahá' Allah founded the concept of international peace in Iran
sixty years ago, that is, in the year 1851, and at this period he distributed
many letters on this subject, initially in Iran and afterwards in other
Leaving aside the point that the
earliest recorded work of Bahá' Allah dates from 1853, it is worth noting that
his early writings, such as the Qasida 'izz warqa' iyya
, Haft wadi
, Chahar wadi
,76 Kalimat maknuna
are concerned exclusively with mystical,
ethical, and theological subjects and make no reference to this topic. The
letter continues with the curious statement that 'this went on until the
was revealed nearly fifty years ago (i.e. in 1861)',
although 'Abd al-Bahá' would certainly have known that the book in question was
written some ten or more years later.
An absolute distinction between Babism and Bahá'ísm is made by Sayyid Mahdi
Gulpaygani, a nephew of the well-known Bahá'í apologist, Mirza Abu 'l-Fadl
Gulpaygani, in the section written by him of the Kashf al-ghita'an hiyal
, an important Bahá'í controversial work devoted to the views of
the English scholar E.G. Browne. Stating that 'Babiyya' and 'Bahá'íyya' are two
distinct religions, he goes on to say that 'the Bahá'í shari'a
composed of laws, ordinances, decrees, customs, teachings, and ethical views
which have been written down in the Kitab-i aqdas.
) and founder of this manifest religion is... Bahá' Allah. The
Babi beliefs are taken from the book of the Bayan
commandments, prohibitions, laws, orders, and decrees written in it. Their
establisher is the Bab. Both of these groups are as different from one another
in their basic principles (usul
) and secondary ordinances (furu
as the Gospel from the Torah, or the Ka'ba from the idol-temple at Sumnath. The
basis of the religion of the Bayan
in which the Azalis, the
cronies of Browne, believe, is the effacement and destruction of all books not
the Babi faith, the demolition and ruination of all shrines, temples, holy
places, and resting-places, the slaying of men, the legalization of shunning
and unchastity, and, in fine, the wiping out of all who do not believe in the
religion of the Bayan
and the obliteration of all traces of
Abu 'l-Fadl Gulpaygani himself makes a similar statement in his
'The unseemly actions of the Babis cannot
be denied or excused, but to arrest Bahá'ís for them is oppression, for these
unfortunates have no connection with the Babis, who took up arms, nor are they
of the same religion or creed'.
later Bahá'í publications, exaggerated statements about Babi doctrine can
occasionally be found, although, as we shall see, they have, for the most part,
been ousted by opinions just as exaggerated in the opposite sense. Thus, it is
surprising to find a well-informed Bahá'í writer like 'Abd al-Hamid Ishraq
Khavari stating that 'the decree of jihad
with the unbelievers, and
insistence on treating them harshly, was revealed repeatedly, time and again,
by the pen of the Bab in the Qayyum al-asma
and there is hardly
in this blessed book which does not contain this decree'.
The reinterpretation of Bahá'ísm in the West
By the end of the nineteenth century, Bahá'ísm, encouraged by this partial
rejection of its Babi origins, had developed a sense of separate identity as a
progressive movement within the Islamic world, and seemed set to come to terms
with its status as a small minority group with its main body of adherents in
Iran and its leadership in Palestine.
During the 1890s, however, a fortuitous combination of factors led to
conversions in the United States and Europe, and the Bahá'í leadership soon
adopted a conscious policy of prozelytization outside the Middle East. As new
communities emerged and consolidated themselves in the West, a modified
presentation of Bahá'í history, law, and doctrine evolved to suit the tastes
and preoccupations of a membership mentally and culturally divorced from the
movement's Islamic background and character. The development of a deracinated,
westernized Bahá'ísm, and its promulgation over an ever-expanding geographical
area as a 'new world faith' must be studied elsewhere,
but one aspect of that development deserves closer
Neither the early western Bahá'í communities nor the societies in which they
lived and from which they obtained their adherents had inherited a distrust of
Babism as a militant, possibly subversive religio-political movement. On the
contrary, if Westerners had heard anything at all of the Babis, it was likely
to have taken the form of a somewhat romanticized image of a band of inspired
reformers systematically killed and persecuted by the forces of Islamic
obscurantism and oriental despotism -- an image fostered by Gobineau and
numerous writers after him.
The heroism of
the Babi martyrs and the charismatic qualities of the Bab, much idealized and,
as it were,
'Christianized' in the transition to Europe and America, had evoked a
sympathetic and admiring response among Westerners unable to place the aims and
attitudes of the Babis in their proper context. In Iran, the failure of the
Babi attempt to overthrow the Qajar state had led to a largely negative
reaction from the Shi'i population to whom the execution of the Bab and the
deaths of his followers could only be evidence that he had not, after all, been
the true Qa'im and Mahdi, whose uprising was destined to be met with success.
To Christian observers, brought up in an entirely different tradition, such
events, reminiscent as they seemed to be of the crucifixion and the persecution
of the early Church, meant almost the opposite.
One early western writer, for example, speaks of how the
Bahá'í movement 'has the vital force of the early Christian faith shown in glad
martyrdom, in loving union, in happy service. The blood of the martyrs of
Shaykh Tabarsi, of Zanjan, of Yazd, has not been shed in vain'.
There was, therefore, no need to play down for western converts the links
between the Babi and Bahá'í movements. On the contrary, the appeal of the Babis
as their own persecuted forebears was one of the strongest planks in the
platform of the missionaries (including 'Abd al-Bahá' himself) who came from
the Middle East to the West in the early decades of this century. Although the
social progressivism of the Bahá'í teachings continued to be stressed in Europe
and North America, such ideas were necessarily less of a novelty there than in
the Islamic world and were unlikely of themselves to win converts to Bahá'ísm
as a religious creed. What early enquirers sought was a modern religious drama
that could inspire faith in an age when the narrative roots of early
Christianity were being called into question more and more intensely. The sense
of a biblical past enacted afresh in modern times was, of course, focussed for
most early western Bahá'ís in the benevolent, patriarchal figure of 'Abd
al-Bahá', 'the Master', whom many, in spite of his advanced years, regarded as
the return of Christ.
But the more distant
figures of the Bab and his followers continued to exercise their fascination
for western converts as the trailblazers of a new age, whose blood was the seed
of the Bahá'í Church.
Following the death of 'Abd al-Bahá' in 1921, the attention of the western
Bahá'í communities was shifted increasingly towards the age of the Babi martyrs
as the sacred time of the faith par excellence. Shoghi Effendi Rabbani
(1897-1957), the new Bahá'í leader, although a grandson of 'Abd al-Bahá', was
an administrative rather than a charismatic leader,
and he was clearly not willing to let himself serve as a
focus for faith in the way his grandfather had been. At the same time, he was a
brilliant systematizer who sought to clarify and regularize Bahá'í doctrine in
what became a life-long effort to reconstruct the movement as a new world
religion, on a par with Christianity or Islam. In his numerous English
he quietly reversed the earlier
view of Babism and Bahá'ísm as distinct, even mutually incompatible
conflating them instead into a single revelatory scheme.
This process of conflation, based as it was on the essential and irreducible
position that the Bab had been both an independent divine manifestation and the
immediate prophetic herald of Bahá' Allah,
was particularly pursued in two historical works. In 1932, Shoghi Effendi
published an edited English translation of a Persian history of Babism by Mulla
Muhammad Nabil Zarandi (1831-92), originally written between 1888 and 1890.
Given the English title of The Dawn-Breakers
sub-titled Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í
this previously unpublished work
marked an important stage in the process of re-writing
Babi history to conform to Bahá'í standards of doctrine and behaviour --
something to which E.G. Browne had already drawn attention many years earlier,
and which has remained a basic element in controversial works.
In its published form, Nabil's Narrative proved an
excellent solution to Shoghi Effendi's central problem in the task of
conflating Babism and Bahá'ísm -- how to continue the dissociation of the
latter from matters such as holy war, sedition, or even overt political
activity, while retaining the historical episodes of Shaykh Tabarsi, Zanjan,
and Nayriz as tales of thrilling heroism and unprovoked persecution.
The Babis are portrayed throughout this work as a band of peaceloving devotees,
forced to take up arms in self-defence only after extreme provocation. Thus,
for example, in the course of the Shaykh Tabarsi struggle, Mulla Husayn
Bushru'i is recorded as sending a message to Prince Mahdi Quli Mirza to the
effect that 'we utterly disclaim any intention of subverting the foundations of
the monarchy or of usurping the authority of Nasiri'd-Din Shah. Our cause
concerns the revelation of the promised Qa'im and is primarily associated with
the interests of the ecclesiastical order of this country'.
Similarly, Sayyid Yahya Darabi Vahid, while besieged in
his house in Yazd, is said to have announced to his followers that 'had I been
authorized by Him (the Bab) to wage holy warfare against this people, I would,
alone and unaided, have annihilated their forces. I am, however, commanded to
refrain from such an act.'
Muhammad 'Ali Zanjani Hujjat is reported to have constantly reminded his
supporters in Zanjan 'that their action was of a purely defensive character,
and that their sole purpose was to preserve inviolate the security of their
women and children'.
attributes the following words to Zanjani: 'We are commanded... not to wage
holy war under any circumstances against the unbelievers, whatever be their
attitude towards us'.
Paradoxically, perhaps, a great proportion of Zarandi's narrative is devoted to
detailed and dramatic accounts of the three major Babi-state struggles, but
nowhere is any hint given of Mirza Husayn 'Ali's disapproval of these as
'excesses'. Instead, they are 'thrilling episodes'
or 'memorable sieges',
characterized by 'heroism', 'unquenchable fervour', and
exploits of 'pioneers who, by their life and death, have so greatly enriched
the annals of God's immortal faith'.
Whereas 'Abd al-Bahá' had contrasted the Babi decrees of 'the striking of
necks, the burning of books and papers, the destruction of shrines, and the
universal slaughter of all save those who believed and were faithful' with the
Bahá'í emphasis on the virtues of compassion, mercy, and universalism,
Zarandi's account puts Bahá'í sentiments into the mouths of his Babi heroes and
heroines. Thus, the leader of the Zanjan insurrection, Muhammad 'Ali Hujjat, is
quoted as saying: 'I am bidden by Him (i.e. the Bab) to instil into men's
hearts the ennobling principles of charity and love, and to refrain from all
unnecessary violence. My aim and that of my companions is, and ever will be, to
serve our sovereign loyally and to be the well-wishers of his people'.
The process of conflation reached its climax, however, with the publication in
1944 of Shoghi Effendi's own lengthy English history of what he calls 'the
first century of the Bahá'í Era', God Passes By
with a shorter version in Persian, the Lawh-i qarn-i ahibba-yi
.104 God Passes By
is an altogether remarkable (if
at times almost unreadable) work of historico-theological reconstruction and
synthesis, in which Shoghi Effendi's personal vision of the Bahá'í revelation
as a unitary process beginning with the appearance of the Bab in 1844 and
proceeding through successive ages and epochs
to its future efflorescence in a Utopian 'Golden Age' is
systematically worked out and rhetorically expressed. Although the Bab is still
clearly portrayed as an independent prophet with his own book and laws,
his main function in the narrative is to
act as a herald of Bahá' allah.
distinctiveness of Babism is played down to the extent that it becomes merely a
preliminary phase of the all-embracing `Bahá'í Faith': the 'Babi Dispensation'
represents nothing more than the first period of the 'Heroic Age' of the
'Bahá'í Era', stretching from 1844 to 1921.
The sense of an abrupt and significant break between
Babism and Bahá'ísm, which had been emphasized by Bahá' Allah and 'Abd
al-Bahá', is replaced by a view of the Babi era as the first of four historical
periods (1844-1853; 1853-1892; 1892-1921; 1921-1944) that make up the first
Bahá'í century and that 'are to be regarded not only as the component, the
inseparable parts of one stupendous whole, but as progressive stages in a
single evolutionary process'.
the Bab's specific laws or teachings is anywhere referred to: the implication
-- perpetuated, as we shall see, in later Bahá'í literature -- is that they
were fundamentally the same as those of Bahá' Allah. Instead of a sharp
division between Babi and Bahá'í doctrine, Shoghi Effendi speaks of an
'evolution in the scope of its (i.e. the Bahá'í faith's) teachings, at first
designedly rigid, complex and severe, subsequently recast, expanded, and
liberalized under the succeeding Dispensation, later expounded, reaffirmed and
amplified by an appointed Interpreter, and lastly systematized and universally
applied to both individuals and institutions'.
Having carried the process of conflation to such lengths, Shoghi Effendi was
clearly obliged to transform the early Babis into proto-Bahá'ís, going so far
as to recruit them as martyrs, not for Babism, but for the Bahá'í cause: 'The
torrents of blood that poured out during those crowded and calamitous years may
be regarded as constituting the fertile seeds of that World Order which a
swiftly succeeding and still greater Revelation was to proclaim and
The same theme is pursued
in numerous other writings: 'In the blood of the unnumbered martyrs of Persia
lay the seed of the Divinely-appointed Administration which, though
transplanted from its native soil, is now budding out... into a new order,
destined to overshadow all mankind'.
Since the Babi 'Dawn-Breakers' are, in a sense, now Bahá'í martyrs, all
references to the Babi doctrine of jihad
are carefully omitted in Shoghi
Effendi's works, and it is instead stated positively that the followers of the
Bab resorted to arms only in self-defence and that they were victims of
unmerited aggression on the part of church and state. 'Though the Faith had,'
he writes, 'from its inception, disclaimed any intention of usurping the rights
and prerogatives of the state; though its exponents and disciples had
sedulously avoided any act that might arouse the slightest suspicion of a
desire to wage a holy war, or to evince an aggressive attitude, yet its
enemies, deliberately ignoring the numerous evidences of the marked restraint
exercised by the followers of a persecuted religion, proved themselves capable
of inflicting atrocities as barbarous as those which will ever remain
associated with the bloody episodes of Mazindaran, Nayriz and Zanjan.'
It is worth noting that, in this passage,
not only does Shoghi Effendi personify an abstraction ('the Faith'), but he
conveys a sense of cohesiveness and agreement on matters of policy that was, in
fact, quite alien to the Babi experience. More seriously, perhaps, he makes it
quite impossible for himself at a later stage in his history to deal adequately
or convincingly with the actual reformation effected by Husayn 'Ali in his
reaction against Babi militancy.
Shoghi Effendi is consistently explicit in his portrayal of the Babis as averse
to acts of violence. Thus, he writes that they were victims of 'a systematic
campaign' waged by the Iranian civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and goes
on to describe how 'in remote and isolated centers the scattered disciples of a
persecuted community were pitilessly struck down by the sword of their foes,
while in centers where large numbers had congregated measures were taken in
self-defense, which, misconstrued by a cunning and deceitful adversary, served
in their turn to inflame still further the hostility of the authorities, and
multiply the outrages perpetrated by the oppressor."
According to this account, the Nayriz insurrection 'was
preceded by a... categorical repudiation, on the part of the Babis, of any
intention of interfering with the civil jurisdiction of the realm, or of
undermining the legitimate authority of its sovereign',
while those involved in the struggle are described as
'a handful of men, innocent,
law-abiding, peace-loving, yet high-spirited and indomitable' who were
'surprised, challenged, encompassed and assaulted by the superior force of a
cruel and crafty enemy, an innumerable host of able-bodied men who, though
well-trained, adequately equipped and continually reinforced, were impotent to
coerce into submission, or subdue, the spirit of their adversaries.'
In speaking of the struggle at Zanjan,
Shoghi Effendi similarly refers to 'the reiterated exhortations addressed by
Hujjat to the besieged to refrain from aggression and acts of violence; his
affirmation, as he recalled the tragedy of Mazindaran, that their victory
consisted solely in sacrificing their all on the altar of the Cause of the
Sahibu'z-Zaman (i.e. the Bab as Qa'im), and his declaration of the unalterable
intention of his companions to serve their sovereign loyally and to be the
well-wishers of his people'.
The events of Shaykh Tabarsi, Nayriz, and Zanjan are no longer interpreted, as
they were by Husayn 'Ali, as 'devastating, ruinous winds that cast down the
saplings of trust and hope'. On the contrary, the Tabarsi struggle is now 'a
stirring episode, so glorious for the Faith',
immortalized by 'stirring exploits';
the Babis there are called 'heroic defenders',
and 'God-intoxicated students",
whose 'fortitude... intrepidity,... discipline and
resourcefulness' are contrasted with 'the turpitude, the cowardice, the
disorderliness and the inconstancy of their opponents'.
Likewise, the Babi insurgents at Nayriz display
'superhuman heroism.... fortitude, courage, and renunciation",
and reference is made to the 'heroic exertions'
of those in Zanjan, led by 'one of the
ablest and most formidable champions of the Faith'.
Thus transmogrified and denatured by Shoghi Effendi's splendidly cosmetic
prose, the Babi 'upheavals' could be fitted more easily into a broad pattern of
proclamation and persecution, in which the ideal of martyrdom served to link
militant Babis with quietist Bahá'ís as if they had shared the same ideals and
died in approximately identical circumstances. Husayn 'Ali, as we have seen,
had come to express reservations about martyrdom and even to forbid his
followers to seek it, but, by the time of Shoghi Effendi, the risk of violent
death, even in Iran, had diminished considerably; and there was, therefore,
less reluctance to stress again the spiritual significance of the martyr's
death. Western Bahá'ís, in particular, had never had cause to give their lives
for their faith, nor were they likely to have to do so. For them, therefore,
the events of the Babi past could serve as an ideal to which they could aspire
in a rather abstract but religiously valuable sense.
The extent to which conflation has blurred important distinctions between the
Babi and Bahá'í martyr ideals is, perhaps, most evident in the confusion
exhibited in Bahá'í writing as to the total numbers of martyrs, whether for
each group separately or for both as a whole. What appears at first to be a
purely numerical problem reveals deeper anomalies that stem from the
conflation process itself. In order to make this point clear, it will be useful
to try to calculate roughly how many Babi and Bahá'í martyrs there have
actually been -- something which has not, curiously enough, been attempted
seriously so far.
As far as can be estimated, the number of Babis killed during the main
upheavals between 1848 and 1850 was very small. According to Bahá'í sources,
between 540 and 600 Babis in all were involved in the Shaykh Tabarsi episode,
of whom about 300 were actually put to death or died from other causes in the
course of the siege.
Estimates of the
numbers involved in Nayriz in 1850 vary considerably,
but a figure of almost 1,000 would seem to be
of whom rather less than 500
According to Zarandi, a
total of about 350 Babis died during or after the later Nayriz disturbances of
Larger numbers were involved in
Zanjan from 1850 to 1851, of whom between 1000 and 1800 were put to death.
The Tehran executions of 1852, following
the attempt on Nasir al-Din Shah's life, and which Shoghi Effendi variously
describes as 'a blood-bath of unprecedented severity,'
'a holocaust reminiscent of the direst tribulations
undergone by the persecuted followers of any previous religion,'
and 'the darkest, bloodiest and most
tragic episode of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation,'
actually claimed the lives of only some 37
The total number of Babis
executed in the Iranian capital between 1847 and 1863, amounted, according to a
recent Bahá'í account, to no more than 62 named individuals.
Even when we add to the above numbers the figures for
Babis killed in isolated incidents during this period (which cannot amount to
more than a few dozen all told), we are left with a total of not much more than
3000 martyrs at the outside or, if we take the lower figure of 1000 for Zanjan,
something just over 2000 in all. Since there were no further incidents on the
scale of Shaykh Tabarsi, Zanjan, or Nayriz, it is difficult to compute the
number of Bahá'ís killed in Iran up to the present day in a number of
small-scale outbreaks of violence. It would not, however, be far from the truth
to speak of something under 300 altogether.
While accurate figures for individual incidents are available in Bahá'í
publications, the general tendency is to speak of a single, rounded figure
(usually 20,000), which is sometimes applied overall and sometimes only to the
Babi period, with very little consistency between references. Probably the
earliest 'official' figure is that of 'more than four thousand', which was,
according to 'Abd al-Bahá', the number of Babis killed during the years 1266
and 1267 (1850-1851), following the death of the Bab.
Nevertheless, the same authority appears to have
started speaking of 20,000 Babi martyrs in all as early as 1871,
and, in his later writings and talks, he
fluctuates between 'thousands',
'more than 20,000',
and 'twenty or thirty thousand'
in all; 'ten thousand, possibly twenty
or 'over twenty thousand'
Babis alone; and 'twenty thousand
Bahá'ís' killed just in the reign of Nasir al-Din Shah (1848-1896).
There are examples of similar
confusion in other Bahá'í references of this period. Thus, Amin Farid talked in
1911 of 'hundreds' of Babi martyrs,
while Diya Allah Baghdadi spoke in 1918 of '24,000 or more' Babi and Bahá'í
It might have been expected that Shoghi Effendi would attempt to end this
confusion, but he himself appears to have remained as uncertain about the
subject as his predecessor. At the beginning of God Passes By
refers to 'above ten thousand' martyrs during the first nine years of the Babi
and at the end of the same book
he speaks of 'a world community (i.e. the Bahá'í community of 1944)...
consecrated by the sacrifice of no less than twenty thousand martyrs'.
The implication would seem to be that
there were ten thousand Babi martyrs and a further ten thousand Bahá'ís, but
Shoghi Effendi himself contradicts this when he writes of 'twenty thousand of
his (i.e. the Bab's) followers' being put to death,
or, in the reverse sense, when he translates 'Abd
al-Bahá's reference to 'thousands' who had 'shed streams of their sacred blood
in this path' by the phrase 'ten thousand souls'.
Following Shoghi Effendi, however, a broad consensus of Bahá'í writing has
favoured the round figure of 20,000, although no-one seems to be sure as to
what it refers. Thus, we read of around 20,000 martyrs 'during the lifetimes of
the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh',
or 'in the
Heroic Age of His (i.e. Bahá' Allah's) Cause',
or for the 'Bahá'í Faith',
or even during the pogrom of 1852!
In some cases, writers give an impression of even more
inflated figures, or refer to specific higher (but never lower) totals: thus,
'tens of thousands',
as a whole, or
nearly 'thirty thousand' during the later part of Bahá' Allah's lifetime.
I have thought it worthwhile to look at these figures in some detail, less for
their intrinsic interest than for what they reveal in concrete terms about
Bahá'í historical thinking (and, of course, about similar thinking in other
religions). As I have indicated, it is extremely easy to arrive at what seems
to be a fairly accurate picture, not only of the number of Babi and Bahá'í
martyrs, but also of the circumstances in which most of them met their deaths.
Yet there is a remarkable discrepancy between the figures given in the more
detailed Bahá'í historical accounts and the inflated numbers stated in general
references. Since the matter is clearly one of importance to Bahá'ís, one is
forced to ask why no attempt has been made to resolve this contradiction or
even to bring it into the open. The answer may, of course, be simple
carelessness or an absence of concern for historical accuracy, but I suspect
that it has more to do with the increasing tendency, to which I have already
alluded, to place first the Babi, and then the Bahá'í, martyrs within a remote,
idealized realm in which they can serve as undifferentiated but crucial figures
in a wider historical myth. This is not, of course, very unusual in religious
history, but the Bahá'í case is interesting because of the number of shifts of
emphasis it involves and because of the relative closeness and accessibility of
firm empirical data from which the popular version must diverge.
Within the modern period, it is of interest to consider one further aspect of
the Bahá'í attitude to martyrdom within the context of current theories about
religious communities competing in a 'market situation' for converts and
the 1955 persecutions in Iran and resuming with the current pogrom under the
Islamic Republic there, the Bahá'í authorities have come to stress not only the
spiritual significance and potentialities of martyrdom, but also its power to
generate publicity for the Bahá'í cause, particularly at the governmental and
inter-governmental levels. Writing in August 1955 to the American Bahá'ís,
Shoghi Effendi, having described the recent persecutions in Iran and the
appeals made to the United Nations to intervene there, goes on to say that
'seldom, if at any time since its inception, has such a widespread publicity
been accorded the infant Faith of God, now at long last emerging from an
obscurity which has so long and so grievously oppressed it.... To the
intensification of such a publicity... the American Bahá'í Community... must
fully and decisively contribute'.
the following year, referring again to the Iranian persecution, he speaks of
the provision of funds for the hire of 'an expert publicity agent, in order to
reinforce the publicity already being received in the public press'.
The same approach can be observed some
thirty years later. In a letter written in January 1982, the Bahá'í 'Universal
House of Justice' notes that 'current persecution has resulted in bringing the
name and character of our beloved Faith to the attention of the world as never
before in its history.... The world's leading newspapers, followed by the local
press, have presented sympathetic accounts of the Faith to millions of readers,
while television and radio stations are increasingly making the persecutions in
Iran the subject of their programmes',
while some months later, the same body states that 'the effect of these
developments (i.e. the persecutions in Iran) is to offer such golden
opportunities for teaching and further proclamation as can only lead, if
vigorously and enthusiastically seized, to large scale conversion and an
That such methods
have not, to the knowledge of the present writer, evoked protests within the
Bahá'í community, is an important indication of how far the goals of publicity
and conversion have now taken precedence over earlier ideals.
'Orientalism' and the conflation of Babism and Bahá'ísm
Between the early Babi ideal of an immediate jihad
led by the Bab as
representative of the Imam, and current, largely western, Bahá'í images of a
continuum of martyrdom and persecution, there is a complex process of
transformation of consciousness, the details of which are not always easy to
trace. The central figure in the later stages of this process is unquestionably
Shoghi Effendi, whose reconstruction of Babi and Babi history successfully
disengaged events, personalities, and doctrines from their original contexts to
in what has since become their definitive dramatic form for members of the
religion. It would take at least another article to examine in any detail the
methods used by Shoghi Effendi to formulate his vision of Bahá'í history as
part of his general construction of Bahá'ísm as a doctrinally coherent,
centrally organized, and geographically diffuse 'world religion'. But for our
present purposes, it will be of most value to look briefly at what may prove to
have been the most essential feature of his work: his ability to see and
interpret the material with which he deals from what may best be described as
an 'orientalist' viewpoint.
In recent years, considerable controversy has raged around the concept of
'orientalism', principally as the result of an important critique of the
orientalist vision and method developed by Jacques Waardenburg and Edward
According to this critique,
orientalism is an adjunct of the imperialist venture, whereby the West creates
an intellectual Orient for itself, as part of the process of physically and
mentally controlling the real East, and as a means towards understanding itself
better by creating a psychologically useful image of 'the Other'. Said
maintains that 'empirical data about the Orient or about any of its parts count
for very little; what matters and is decisive is what I have been calling the
Orientalist vision, a vision by no means confined to the professional scholar,
but rather the common possession of all who have thought about the Orient in
the West.... The Orientalist attitude... shares with magic and with mythology
the self-containing, self-reinforcing character of a closed system, in which
objects are what they are because
they are what they are, for once, for
all time, for ontological reasons that no empirical material can either
dislodge or alter'.
which is elaborate and, it must be said, frequently exaggerated, has been
eagerly adopted by some contemporary Muslim polemicists as a reductionist
device for refuting what they interpret as western criticisms of their faith
and culture. In all of this, it is often forgotten that, although the primary
impulse for the orientalist vision came from the West, an important part of the
process of creating an Orient of the mind was the way in which many Muslim
thinkers borrowed western lenses, as it were, through which to see and
interpret their own society. It is, indeed, a point worth noting that the
critique of orientalism has itself been developed on modern western lines and
is not derived from any set of traditional or contemporary Islamic
Viewed from this angle, Shoghi Effendi's achievement begins to make a great
deal of sense. He himself was ideally situated to act the part of an eastern
orientalist, living as he did in a sort of intermediate realm between East and
West. An Iranian by birth, he never set foot in his native country and lived
for most of his life in Palestine, as the head of a small community composed
almost equally of Persian and western Bahá'ís. Fluent in Persian and Arabic, he
received a western education in Haifa, Beirut, and Oxford, where he acquired
a felicitous command of English coupled with a predilection for orotund
Following his accession to the
position of Guardian of the Bahá'í faith in 1921, he 'refused to wear a turban
and the long oriental robes the Master (i.e. 'Abd al-Bahá', his grandfather)
had always worn; he refused to go to the mosque on Friday, a usual practice of
'Abdu'l-Bahá; he refused to spend hours with visiting Muslim priests, who were
wont to pass the time of day with the Master. . .'.
In 1937, he married Mary Maxwell, the daughter of two
well-known Canadian Bahá'ís, an act he regarded as symbolic of the 'union of
East and West'.
When we turn to his English writings, it is striking to observe how far Shoghi
Effendi had disengaged himself from the Iranian and Islamic backgrounds of
Babism and Bahá'ísm. He writes as if himself a Westerner, viewing the Orient
from outside and using racial and religious stereotypes that owe a great deal
to nineteenth-century European concepts of Iran and Islam. Thus, for example,
he describes the Iranian people as 'the most decadent race in the civilized
world, grossly ignorant, savage, cruel, steeped in prejudice, servile in their
submission to an almost deified hierarchy, recalling in their abjectness the
Israelites of Egypt in the days of Moses, in their fanaticism the Jews in the
days of Jesus, and in their perversity the idolators of Arabia in the days of
Elsewhere, he writes: 'All
observers agree in representing Persia as a feeble and backward nation divided
against itself by corrupt practices and ferocious bigotries. Inefficiency and
wretchedness, the fruit of moral decay, filled the land. From the highest to
the lowest there appeared neither the capacity to carry out methods of reform
nor even the will seriously to institute them. National conceit preached a
grandiose self-content. A pall of immobility lay over all things, and a general
paralysis of mind made any development impossible'.
The Iranian government is described as 'bolstered up by a flock of idle,
parasitical princelings and governors, corrupt, incompetent, tenaciously
holding to their ill-gotten privileges, and utterly subservient to a
notoriously degraded clerical order',
while Sultan 'Abd al-'Aziz and Nasir al-Din Shah are dismissed as 'two Oriental
Shoghi Effendi's portrayal of
contemporary Islam is similarly stereotyped, reminiscent as it is of much late
nineteenth- and early twentieth-century western writing devoted to the need for
reform in the Islamic world. He speaks of 'arrogant, fanatical, perfidious, and
'fanatical outcries, their clamorous invocations, their noisy demonstrations'
and their theological colleges 'with
their medieval learning',
'innumerable tomes of theological commentaries, super-commentaries, glosses and
notes, unreadable, unprofitable, the product of misdirected ingenuity and toil,
and pronounced by one of the most enlightened Islamic thinkers in modern times
as works obscuring sound knowledge, breeding maggots, and fit for fire',
writes more than once with undisguised approval of the decline in the authority
and influence of Islam in the modern period.
What distinguishes Shoghi Effendi's image of Iran and Islam from the
condemnatory references of his predecessors, is that he draws so heavily, not
on first-hand experience, but on secondary opinions drawn exclusively from the
works of western writers. In his introduction to The
for example, he draws his readers' attention to
'books of European travellers like Lord Curzon, Sir J. Malcolm, and others',
without even pointing out the gap of
almost eighty years that separates Malcolm's History of Persia
Curzon's Persia and the Persian Question.
He himself makes use of
quotations from works such as these, not only in his footnotes to Nabil's
Narrative, but in the text of God Passes By
where they are often
not even attributed. What is, perhaps, more significant in the present context
is that, when, in God Passes By
, Shoghi Effendi quotes western sources
with reference to Babism, he almost never has recourse to the works of the few
scholars, such as Browne and Nicolas, who were relatively well informed on the
subject, but makes use instead of comments by writers such as Curzon or
Gobineau, or even Ernest Renan, Jules Bois, or numerous other literary figures,
none of whom had any real knowledge of the subject or its background at all.
The passages quoted are invariably
approbatory and are generally couched in enthusiastic and hyperbolic language.
Most importantly, these quotations together provide a consensus that is wholly
western in inspiration, through which Babism is interpreted and represented in
a manner palatable to the modern Bahá'í audience for whom Shoghi Effendi was
The influence of Shoghi Effendi's orientalist vision of the Babi-Bahá'í
movement on later Bahá'í writing in the West has been profound and enduring. It
is his conflation of the two sects into a unitary 'Bahá'í Faith' that holds
true for present-day adherents, rather than 'Abd al-Bahá's or Gulpaygani's
emphasis on their mutual distinctiveness, and it is a second-hand western image
of Babism that prevails, rather than one grounded in a realistic presentation
of contemporary Iranian and Shi'i history. Since the Babi scriptures -- with
the exception of a few texts noted below -- have never been made available to
Bahá'ís, even in Iran, and since knowledge of Babi history tends to be limited
to the contents of Nabil's Narrative, God Passes By
derivative works, references to the 'teachings of the Bab' in Bahá'í literature
have been more notable for their vague idealism than for their correspondence
to textual and historical realities. It is not insignificant that George
Townshend, an influential contemporary of Shoghi Effendi's, adopts his
technique of using a poorly-informed secondary source as the basis for his
version of Babi doctrine: 'The teaching (of the Bab) was in itself such as no
lover of God or of mankind could object to. 'Babism,' wrote Lord Curzon in his
Persia and the Persian Question
(pp. 501-2), 'may be defined as a
creed of charity and almost of
common humanity. Brotherly love, kindness to children, courtesy combined with
dignity, sociability, hospitality, freedom from bigotry, friendliness even to
Christians, are included in its tenets.' . . . The teaching of the Bab, like
his character, was beautiful and attractive.'
Curzon, writing in 1892, was obviously referring here
to the tenets of Bahá'ísm, which he, like many other European writers of the
period, continued to refer to as 'Babism'.
Misrepresentations of this kind can, of course, for the most part be laid at
the door of simple ignorance of the facts combined with a certain degree of
wishful thinking. But there is evidence that, apart from Shoghi Effendi's own
efforts in this direction, some conscious manipulation of the data has
occurred. In his introduction to his Babi and Bahá'í Religions
Moojan Momen writes that 'it would be interesting to be able to come to an
understanding of the Bab's attitude towards the upheavals caused by his
followers. It would seem that the Bab neither strongly advocated nor
discouraged the warlike activities of his supporters', and continues in a
footnote that 'a passing reference to jihad
(religious warfare) in the
sixth chapter of the seventh vahid
the Persian Bayan
indicates that the Bab was not opposed to this concept, although it was later
forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh'.
references, however, it is clear that Momen is familiar with the Bab's earlier
which contains numerous references to
and, in view of his extensive scholarly work in
this area, it must be presumed that he is also aware of the general contents of
and other late works of the Bab, in which a severe attitude
towards unbelievers is unequivocally expressed. Again, he writes that 'the
present incomplete state of knowledge concerning the teachings of the Bab
precludes any attempt to give an outline of his doctrines beyond what is given
and some pages later he
summarizes what he calls 'the teachings given by the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, and
expounded by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi'.
These latter, however, are all Bahá'í teachings, only a
few of which are also taught by the Bab. None of the distinctive teachings of
the Bab mentioned by 'Abd al-Bahá' are even hinted at. In view of the
accessibility of original texts of the major writings of the Bab, one has to
ask why Momen refers to 'the present incomplete state of knowledge' concerning
them. It cannot be denied that much work remains to be done in this area, but
it is far from true to suggest that no general account can be given of Babi
doctrine. This misrepresentation of the true facts is doubly misleading in
that, elsewhere in his book Momen is at pains to 'correct' what he regards as
the errors of early western writers on the subject.
It is of even greater interest to examine a publication entitled Selections
from the Writings of the Bab
translated by Habib Taherzadeh
and published under the auspices of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa in
Significantly referred to in the
preface as 'a precious addition to the volume of Bahá'í literature in the
contains excerpts from
the Qayyum al-asma'
, Bayan-i Farsi
, Dala'il-i sab'a
and other short works of the Bab. While several
sections are of undoubted interest, it is extraordinary to observe that not a
single passage has been translated that deals with any of what had earlier been
regarded by Bahá'ís as the most distinctive laws and teachings of Babism.
Indeed, to anyone who has read the Bab's works at any length, the compilation
seems remarkably unrepresentative, composed as it is of brief passages of a
general ethical and theological nature, and leaving out some of the most
exciting and significant sections of the writings used. The sense of conflation
is reinforced by the use of an English style closely modelled on that of Shoghi
Effendi in his translations of the works of Bahá' Allah.
Over seventy years ago, E.G. Browne wrote that 'the more the Bahá'í doctrine
spreads, especially outside Persia, and most of all in Europe and America, the
more the true history and nature of the original Babi movement is obscured and
As time passes and the
Bahá'í version of Babism is presented with increasing confidence in a growing
body of literature, while historical image and self image become more and more
mutually reinforcing, it would seem that Browne's pessimism was not misplaced.
At the same time, the undoubted concern of modern Bahá'ís with the
'historicity' of their faith and the eagerness they express for more detailed
information regarding its origins, must lead, in the long run, to some sort of
confrontation with precisely the kind of uncomfortable data that efforts have
previously been made to suppress. If that should happen, it may be expected
that we will witness yet another twist in the complex spiral whereby Bahá'ísm
has sought to come to terms with its own immediate antecedents and the problems
created by the need to conflate early Babism with itself.
DENIS MACEOIN received his PhD. from Cambridge in 1979 and is currently
lecturer in Islamic Studies in the Religious Studies Department of Newcastle
University; he has published numerous articles in the Encyclopaedia Iranica;
his research interests lie mainly in modern Shi'ism, Shaykhism, Babism and
Department of Religious Studies
The University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 7RU, England
Since that article appeared, the following
relevant studies have been written or published: Mangol Bayat Mysticism and
Dissent: Socioreligious Thought in Qajar Iran
(Syracuse University Press,
1982) -- see ch. 4, 'The Politicization of Dissent in Shia Thought: Babism';
Abbas Amanat 'The Early Years of the Babi Movement: Background and
Development', Ph.D. dissertation, Oxford University, 1981; Peter Smith
'Millenialism in the Babi and Bahá'í Religions', in Roy Wallis (ed.)
Millenialism and Charisma
(Queen's University, Belfast, 1982), pp.
231-83; Moojan Momen 'The Trial of Mulla 'Ali Bastami: A Combined Sunni-Shi'i
Fatwa against the Bab', Iran
XX (1982): 113-43; Denis MacEoin 'Early
Shaykhi Reactions to the Bab and his Claims', in M. Momen (ed.) Studies in
Babi and Bahá'í History
vol. 1 (Los Angeles, 1983).
On the Bab, Bushru'i, and Barfurushi, see
articles under these headings by D. MacEoin in Encyclopaedia Iranica
On events connected with this incident, see
Mulla Muhammad Nabil Zarandi The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil's Narrative of the
Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation
ed. and trans. by Shoghi Effendi
(Wilmette, 1932), chapter XXVI; E.G. Browne 'The Attempt on the Shah's Life and
the Massacre of Teheran' in idem ed. and trans. A Traveller's Narrative
written to illustrate the Episode of the Bab
(by 'Abbas Effendi 'Abd
al-Bahá'), 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1891), vol. 2, pp. 323-34; H.M. Balyuzi
, the King of Glory
(Oxford, 1980), chs. 15, 17; M.
Momen The Babi and Bahá'í Religions
, 1844-l944 (Oxford, 1981), ch. 7;
Mirza Muhammad Taqi Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr Nasikh al-tawarikh: salatin-i
4 vols. in 2 (Tehran, 1344 Sh./ 1965), vol. 4, pp. 33-42.
See Haji Mirza Jani Kashani Kitab-i
ed. E.G. Browne (Leyden and London, 1910), pp. 252-61; E.G.
Browne trans. and ed. The New History of Mirza 'Ali Muhammed the Bab
Mirza Husayn Hamadani (Cambridge, 1893), pp. 384-95; Mirza Yahya Subh-i Azal
([Tehran], n.d.), p. 28; (Sayyid Ahmad Ruhi Kirmani and Mirza
Aqa Khan Kirmani) Hasht Bihisht
([Tehran], n.d.), pp. 302-303.
On whom see E.G. Browne Traveller's
vol. 2, pp. xv-xxvi, 349-89; idem New History
pp. xviii-xxiv, 374-82; Kashani Nuqtatu'l-Kaf
Mahdi Bamdad Tarikh-i rijal-i Iran
, 6 vols. (Tehran, 1347-1351 Sh./
1968-1973), vol. 4, pp. 436-37.
See D. MacEoin 'Azali Babism' in
This is apparent from his attitude towards
the 1852 plot on Nasir al-Din's life (see Balyuzi Bahá'u'lláh
90), his own attempt to organize an assassination of the same ruler (Shoghi
Effendi God Passes By
[Wilmette, 1944], p. 124), and the hopes of some
of his associates regarding the future 'Babi king' referred to in the Persian
On the role of the Azalis in the
constitutional movement, see D. MacEoin 'Religious Heterodoxy in
Nineteenth-Century Iranian Politics: Some Aspects of the Role of Shaykhism,
Babism, and Bahá'ísm', International Journal of Middle East
15 : 3 (1983); Bayat Mysticism and Dissent
The shift from religious to secular ideals
was a common feature of late nineteenth century Iranian thought (see
The only full-length biographies of Mirza
Husayn 'Ali to date are two emphatically hagiographical works: M.A. Faydi
Hayat-i Hadrat-i Bahá' Allah
(Tehran, 1969) and the more recent study by
Balyuzi referred to above (Bahá'u'lláh
Details may also be
found in Shoghi Effendi God Passes By
pp. 89-233; Mirza Muhammad
Jawad Qazvini 'An Epitome of Babi and Bahá'í History to A.D. 1898' in E.G.
Browne ed. Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion
1918), pp. 3-64; Mirza Husayn Avara Al-kawakib al-durriyya fi ta'rikh zuhur
al-babiyya wa 'l-baha'iyya
2 vols. (Cairo, 1342/1923), vol. 2; Ustad
Muhammad 'Ali Salmani My Memories of Bahá'u'lláh
ed. and trans.
Marzieh Gail (Los Angeles, 1982) -- on the elimination of 'objectionable'
passages from this edition by the Bahá'í 'Universal House of Justice' and their
prohibition of the publication of the Persian text, see letters in Bahá'í
1 : 4 (Newcastle, March 1983), pp. 88-90; Momen Babi
and Bahá'í Religions
pp. 177-240; A. Bausani 'Bahá' Allah' in The
Encyclopaedia of Islam
, 2nd. ed. More critical accounts appear in W.M.
Miller The Bahá'í Faith: Its History and Teachings
Pasadena, Calif., 1974), pp. 94-137; H. Roemer Die Babi-Beha'i. Die jungste
(Potsdam, 1912), pp. 73-144. Two important Azali
accounts of his rise to influence in Baghdad and later are Kirmani and Kirmani
pp. 301-304; ('lzziyya Khanum) Tanbih
Following the revival of the Ni'mat
Allahi order in the late eighteenth century, many members of the Iranian ruling
class became devotees: see W.R. Royce 'Mir Ma'sum 'Ali Shah and the Ni'mat
Allahi Revival 1776-77 to 1796-97', Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University,
1979 (U.M. 7920434), p. 173. There is no direct evidence of Husayn 'Ali's
involvement with the Ni'mat Allahi order as such, but later evidence of his
connection with Sufism in some form is abundant (cf.J.R. Cole 'Babism and
Naqshbandi Sufism in Iraq 1854-1856: a qasidah by Mirza Husayn 'Ali
Bahá'u'lláh', unpublished paper presented at Bahá'í Studies Seminar, Lancaster
University, 1981, especially p. 27). On the Sufism and popular Shi'ism of this
period, see Amanat 'Early Years', pp. 56-99.
Bahá' Allah's main works from the Baghdad
period include the Kitab-i iqan
(Cairo, 1933) -- trans. Ali Kuli Khan as
The Book of Assurance
(the Book of Ighan
(New York, n.d.)
and Shoghi Effendi as The Kitab-i-Iqan, the Book of Certitude
Ill., 1931); Haft wadi
and Chahur wadi
, both in Bahá' Allah
Athar-i qalam-i a'la
vol. 3 (Tehran, 129 badi'
92-137, 140-57 -- trans. 'Ali Quli Khan and Marzieh Gail as The Seven
Valleys and the Four Valleys
(Wilmette, 1945); Jawahir al-asrar
, vol. 3, pp. 4-88; Qasida 'izz warqa'iyya
pp. 196-215 and in 'Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari ed.
9 vols. (Tehran, 128-129 badi'
/1972-74), vol. 4, pp. 197-209; and Kalimat-i maknuna
(Tehran, n.d.) --
trans. Shoghi Effendi as The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh
1925; rev. ed. 1932). For details of the numerous other short works of this
period, see 'Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari Ganj-i shayagan
/1967-68), pp. 7-68 and Adib Taherzadeh The Revelation of
vol. 1 (Oxford, 1974). See also 'Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari
4 vols. (Tehran, 126-127 badi'
commentary on the Kitab-i iqan.
115-22. Bahá' Allah himself writes with reference to his absence in
Sulaymaniyya: 'I swear by God that in my departure there was no thought of
return and in my journeying no hope of reunion' (Kitab-i-iqan
194; cf. Shoghi Effendi Book of Certitude
p. 160). According to
Zarandi, he stated to one of his followers that 'but for my recognition of the
fact that the blessed Cause of the Primal Point [i.e. the Bab] was on the verge
of being obliterated, and all the sacred blood poured out in the path of God
would have been shed in vain, I would in no wise have consented to return to
the people of the Bayan, and would have abandoned them to the worship of the
idols their imaginations had fashioned' (cited Shoghi Effendi God Passes
See Browne Nuqtatu'l-Kaf
pp. xxix-xxxi; Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab Bayan-i Farsi
([Tehran], n.d.) 2 : 16, pp. 61, 62; ibid
2 : 17, p. 71; Sayyid
Muhammad Baqir Najafi Bahá'íyan
(Tehran, 1399/1979), pp. 287-306.
See, for example, Bahá' Allah Lawh-i
mubarak khitab bi-Shaykh Muhammad Mujtahid Isfahani
reprinted Tehran, 1962) pp. 112-14 -- trans. Shoghi Effendi as Epistle to
the Son of the Wolf
(Wilmette, 1941), pp. 151-54. As an example of later
Bahá'í apologetic on this subject, see Taherzadeh Revelation
vol. 1, pp. 294-314.
The precise nature of Bahá' Allah's
claims is difficult to establish. The official modern Bahá'í doctrine rejects
any notion of incarnationism and stresses instead his status as a locus of
divine manifestation (mazhar ilahi
comparable to a mirror with
respect to the sun (see Shoghi Effendi The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh
rev. ed. [Wilmette, 1969], pp. 112-114). Nevertheless, it is difficult to
avoid the suspicion that he himself made much more radical claims than this in
parts of his later writings. The following statements are, I think, explicit
enough to serve as examples: 'he who speaks in the most great prison (i.e.
Acre) is the Creator of all things and the one who brought all names into
being' (letter in Bahá' Allah Athar-i qalam-i a'la
vol. 2 [Tehran, n.d.,
being a repaginated reprint of a collection of writings originally preceded by
the Kitab al-aqdas
first printed Bombay, 1314/1896], p. 177);
'verily, I am God' (letter in Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
, vol. 7, p. 208);
'the essence of the pre-existent (dhat al-qidam)
has appeared' (letter
to Haji Muhammad lbrahim Khalil Qazvini in ibid
vol. 8, p. 113);
'he has been born who begets not nor is begotten' ('Lawh-i milad-i ism-i a'zam'
vol. 4, p. 344, referring to Qur'an sura
'the educator of all beings and their creator has appeared in the garment of
humanity, but you were not pleased with that until he was imprisoned in this
prison' ('Surat al-hajj' in Bahá' Allah Athar-i qalam-i a'la
vol. 4 [Tehran, 133 badi'
/1976-77], p. 203). See also Ishraq
vol. 8, pp. 123, 155, 162; 'Lawh-i Jamal' in
Bahá' Allah Alwah-i Hadrat-i Bahá' Allah
([Bombay], 1893; reprinted Tehran, n.d.; hereinafter referred
to as Iqtidarat
), p. 219; 'Surat al-ashab' in Athar
, vol. 4, pp.
6, 7; letter in ibid
vol. 2, p. 194; letter in Bahá' Allah
Alwah-i mubaraka-yi Hadrat-i Bahá' Allah
... shamil-i Ishraqat
(Tehran, n.d.; hereinafter referred to as Ishraqat)
Note also headings of letters in Bahá' Allah Athar-i qalam-i a'la
(Tehran, 131 badi'
/ 1975-76), p. 181; ibid
(Tehran, 132 badi'
/ 1976-77), pp. 256-70. An important discussion with
textual references, which argues against a claim to divinity, is J.R. Richards
The Religion of the Bahá'ís
(London, 1932), ch. VII.
This point is discussed at length by
Peter Berger in 'Motif messianique et processus social dans le Bahá'ísme',
Archives de Sociologie des Religions
4 (1957): 93-107. For wider
discussions, see Peter Smith 'Motif research: Peter Berger and the Bahá'í
8: 2 (1978), pp. 210-234; idem
'Babi and Bahá'í
For examples, see Guenter Lewy
Religion and Revolution
(New York, 1974), pp. 264-74.
This theme is pursued in many of his
writings. For examples, see Shoghi Effendi The Advent of Divine Justice
rev. ed. (Wilmette, 1963), pp. 64-68; Bahá' Allah Gleanings from the
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
trans. Shoghi Effendi (London, 1949), pp. 5-17,
For examples, see Mirza Asad Allah Fadil
Mazandarani (ed.) Amr wa Khalq
vol. 4 (Tehran, 1975), pp. 417-60; J.E.
Esslemont Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era
(London, 1923), pp.202-08.
See Shoghi Effendi Advent
pp. 68-69; idem
, The Promised Day is Come
pp, 1-3; Bahá' Allah Gleanings
pp. 39-40, 118, 213, 215-16,
See Shoghi Effendi World Order
pp. 40-45, 163-69, 202-06; idem
, Promised Day
, pp. 4, 122,
127-29; Bahá' Allah and 'Abd al-Bahá' in Mazandarani Amr wa khalq
4, pp. 460-68.
Most notable are the risings of al-Hasayn
ibn 'Ali in 60/680, 'Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr from 61/680 to 64/684, al-Mukhtar
ibn Abi 'Ubayda al-Thaqafi (on behalf of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya) from 66/686
to 67/687, Zayd ibn Zayn al-'Abidin in 122/740, his son Yahya from 122/740 to
125/743, and Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya with his brother Ibrahim in 145/762
and 146/763. For details, see S.H.M. Jafri The Origins and Early Development
of Shi'a Islam
(London and New York, 1979), pp. 174-221, 198-99, 228-29,
265-67, 275-76; J. Wellhausen Die religios-politischen Oppositionsparteien
im alten Islam
See D.M. MacEoin 'Aspects of Militancy
and Quietism in Imami Sh'ism', paper delivered to the annual conference of the
British Society for Middle East Studies, Lancaster, 1982.
On relations between Muhammad and the
Jewish clans of Medina in general, see W.M. Watt Muhammad at Medina
(Oxford, 1956), chapter VI, and on the execution of the Banu Qurayza, see
Passage in Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
vol. 7, p. 136; cf. Bahá' Allah Ishraqat
Zarandi writes that he visited the fort
shortly after Bushru'i's arrival there in October 1848, approved of the
arrangements that had been made, returned to his home in Tehran, and tried
without success to go back to Shaykh Tabarsi in December, only to be arrested
en route at Amul (Dawn-Breakers
pp. 347-49, 368-76). 'Abd
al-Bahá', however, writes only of the second expedition and the arrest at Amul,
and indicates that this took place in September 1848, thereby seeming to rule
out an earlier visit (letter in Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
, vol. 5, pp.
Letter to Zayn al-Muqarribin in
vol. 8, p. 46.
Letter in Ishraqat
Letter in Gobineau Collection,
Bibliotheque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg: text and translation by
D. MacEoin in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin
1: 4 (Newcastle, March, 1983), pp.
For examples, see Balyuzi
, pp. 125, 128, 135-36; Shoghi Effendi God Passes
 Lawh-i... Shaykh Muhammad Taqi
16; trans. Shoghi Effendi Son of the Wolf
, p. 21.
On these connections, see Balyuzi
, ch. 2.
On these and related terms, see Bernard
Lewis 'lslamic Concepts of Revolution' in P.J. Vatikiotis (ed.) Revolution
in the Middle East
(London, 1972), pp. 30-40; L. Gardet 'Fitna' in The
Encyclopaedia of Islam
2nd. ed.; A.J. Wensinck A Handbook of
Early Muhammadan Tradition
reprinted (Leyden, 1971), under 'Fitna'; Abu
'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Isma'il al-Bukhari Al-sahih
1315/1897-98; reprinted 1401/1981), vol. 8, 'Kitab-al fitan', pp. 86-104.
Letter to Nasir al-Din Shah ('Lawh-i
Sultan') in Kitab-i mubin
([Bombay], 1308/1890-91), p.98.
, p. 102.
'Lawh-i siraj' in Ishraq Khavari
, vol. 7, p. 80.
'Surat al-bayan' in Athar
, vol. 4,
On this topic generally, see MacEoin
'Religious Heterodoxy in Nineteenth Century Iranian Politics'. On Bahá' Allah's
view of monarchy, see Shoghi Effendi Promised Day
'Lawh-i Dhabih' in Iqtidarat
p. 324; cf. the rather free translation of Shoghi Effendi in
 Lawh-i... Shaykh Muhammad Taqi
66; trans. Shoghi Effendi Son of the Wolf
, p. 89.
MacEoin 'Babi Concept of Holy War', p.
, p. 117.
 Kitab-i mubin
, p. 101.
Letter to Haji Aqa Baba in
vol. 5, p. 131.
See, for example, 'Al-lawh al-aqdas' in
, p. 172 (trans. Habib Taherzadeh Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh
revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas
(Haifa, 1978), p. 17); 'Lawh al-burhan' in
Bahá' Allah Majmu'a-yi alwah-i mubaraka
(Cairo, 1920), pp. 57-59 (trans.
pp. 209-10 -- using existing translation by
Shoghi Effendi); Lawh-i
... Shaykh Muhammad Taqi
52-57 (trans. Shoghi Effendi Son of the Wolf
pp., 174-77, 182-84 (trans. Shoghi Effendi Book of
pp. 143-46, 150-51).
 Kalimat-i maknuna
section, no. 45, p. 14 (trans. Shoghi Effendi Hidden Words
 Kalimat-i maknuna
section, no. 47, pp. 14-15 (trans. Shoghi Effendi Hidden Words
pp. 14-15). See also nos. 46; 48; 49; 50; 51; 71, pp. 14, 15-16, 23 (trans.
pp. 14-15, 21).
Letter in Ishraq Khavari
vol. 4, p. 348.
On this incident, see Balyuzi
See letter in Ishraq Khavari
vol. 1, p. 69; letter in ibid
vol. 8, p.
Letter to Aqa Mirza Aqa Afnan, in
vol. 8, p. 129.
See Mirza Asad Allah Fadil Mazandarani
, vol. 2 (Tehran, 124 badi'
/1968-69), pp. 169-172:
'in the writings of Bahá' Allah, instead of taqiyya, hikma
repeatedly mentioned and stressed'. Bahá' Allah's attitude is contradicted by
the later Bahá'í view, developed by Shoghi Effendi, that taqiyya
prohibited (see 'Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari ed. Ganjina-yi hudud wa ahkam
3rd. ed. [Tehran, 128 badi'
/1972-73], pp. 456-59). Modern Bahá'í
practice in Communist and Islamic countries, however, generally corresponds to
the earlier ruling. A critical account of the Bahá'í use of taqiyya
given by S.G. Wilson in Baba'ism and its Claims
(New York, 1915), pp.
Bahá' Allah, quoted Mazandarani
, vol. 2, p. 171.
Letter to Jamal-i Burujirdi in Ishraq
vol. 4, p. 213.
Letter to Ibn Asdaq in ibid
Letters to Ibn Asdaq in ibid
Letter in ibid
Letter in ibid
vol. 1, p.
This would seem to be the essential
thrust of his condemnation of the use of the sword towards the end of the
Baghdad period: see Taherzadeh The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh
, vol. 1, p.
Although it is difficult to trace the
origins of this Christian influence, it can be seen very clearly in the copious
use of Biblical quotations in writings of the Baghdad period, such as the
(see note 12) and Kitab-i iqan
evidence of frequent contact between the Babi exile community and Christian
missionaries in Edirne and Palestine (see Momen Babi and Bahá'í
pp. 187-97,205-07, 209-19). Husayn 'Ali's son, 'Abd
al-Bahá', is described by one missionary as having 'a minute and accurate
knowledge of the Old and New Testaments' (ibid
, p. 211). Postgraduate
research into Christian influence on Bahá'ísm is currently being carried out at
On these and related topics, see Bahá'
Allah 'Lawh-i bisharat' in Majmu'a
pp. 116-124 (trans.
pp. 21-29); idem
'Lawh-i tarazat' in
, pp. 147-60 (trans. Taherzadeh Tablets
'Lawh-i tajalliyat' in Ishraqat
(trans. Taherzadeh Tablets
pp. 47-54); idem Lawh-i Maqsud
(Cairo, 1339/1920; trans. Taherzadeh Tablets
pp. 159-78). The
combination of western secular ideas with Islamic perspectives and language in
the thought of late nineteenth-century Iranian reformers is commented on by
Bayat in Mysticism and Dissent
p. 133. The most basic
problem in the Bahá'í case is the failure to realize the possible tensions
between western liberalism on the one hand and the insistence on the absolute,
divine authority of the prophet and his successors on the other. Smith has
noted the effects of this tension among early western Bahá'ís (see 'American
Bahá'í Community', pp. 179-94). The problem remains critical, if often
unsuspected, in the modern western Bahá'í community.
'Lawh-i bisharat' in Majmu'a
116-17 (cf. trans. by Taherzadeh Tablets
p. 21). See also
'Lawh-i siraj' in Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
vol. 7, p. 79; '. . .
this servant has abrogated the decree of killing, which had become well known
among this sect'); letter to Mirza 'Ali Ashraf Lahijani 'Andalib in
p. 28; 'this revelation is that of the most great
mercy and the mightiest grace, in that the decree of jihad
wiped out from the book and forbidden, and association with all religions in a
spirit of love and fellowship has been made obligatory'; 'Surat al-haykal' in
p. 25; lshraqat
, vol. 2, pp. 15, 109; ibid
4, p. 218.
See 'Lawh-i bisharat' in Majmu'a
pp. 123-24 (trans. Taherzadeh Tablets
p. 28); letter in Mirza
Asad Allah Fadil Mazandarani (ed.) Amr wa khalq
vol. 3 (Tehran,
1971-72), p. 221; 'Lawh-i dunya' in Majmu'a
pp. 294-95 (trans. Taherzadeh Tablets
Letter in Ishraqat
pp. 34, 44. At the same time, he expressed reservations
about continuing tendencies towards fasad
within the Bahá'í community:
'I am astonished that some of the friends have regarded and still regard
as probity, despite the fact that, day and night, they have been
forbidden (to engage in) fasad
, disputation, or contention' (letter to
Samandar in Majmu'a yi alwah-i mubaraka-yi Hadrat-i Bahá' Allah
[Tehran, 132 badi'
/1976-77, offset from ms. in hand of 'Ali Ashraf
Lahijani], p. 73.
'Lawh-i dunya' in Majmu'a
... Shaykh Muhammad
, p. 18 (see also trans. by Shoghi Effendi, Son of the
, p. 24); c.f. 'Surat al-ashab' in Athar
, vol. 4, p. 21;
letter in ibid
vol. 5, p. 9. On the use of 'wisdom', see
'Lawh-i Sultan' in Kitab-i mubin
pp. 99-101 (quoting
a passage from an unspecified earlier text); letter in ibid
298; letter in Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
vol. 4, pp. 351-53; letter
to 'Ali Ashraf Lahijani in Athar
vol. 2, p. 26.
On whom see A. Bausani and D. MacEoin
''Abd al-Bahá' in Encyclopaedia Iranica.
 Makatib 'Abd al-Bahá'
(Cairo, 1330/1912), p. 206. The use of military metaphors such as 'crusade',
'campaign', 'army', 'vanguard', 'warriors', and 'cohorts' is common in the
writing of 'Abd al-Bahá' and his successor, Shoghi Effendi. For examples, see
'Abd al-Bahá', Makatib 'Abd al-Bahá
vol. 1, (Cairo, 1328/1918;
reprinted with index, Tehran, n.d.), pp. 263; ibid
vol. 2, pp.
243, 262; idem
, Tablets of the Divine Plan
(Wilmette, 1959), pp.
11, 17, 37; idem
, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
trans. Marzieh Gail (Haifa, 1978), pp. 260, 264; Shoghi Effendi Messages
to the Bahá'í World 1950-1957
(Wilmette, 1958), pp. 37-38, 44, 101- 102;
, Citadel of Faith: Messages to America
(Wilmette, 1965), pp. 117,120,149.
Passage in Ishraq Khavari
Letter in Makatib
No such translation is known to have
existed, unless the reference is to Nicolas' French version. 'Abd al-Bahá' at
the same time forbade the Iranian Bahá'ís to publish the text of the Bayan
until the laws of the Aqdas
had been promulgated, in case it caused
confusion (passage in Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
vol. 2, pp. 16-17).
As will be noted later, however, the subsequent conflation of Babism with
Bahá'ísm has meant that the integral text of the Bayan
is likely to
cause embarrassment to modern Bahá'ís, with the result that they have instead
published short selected passages, from which ritual and legislative matter has
 Lawh-i Laha
(n.p. [Tehran?], pp.
39-41; trans. as 'Tablet to the Hague' in Bahá' Allah and 'Abd al-Bahá'
rev. ed. (London, 1970), p. 217 (also published
separately, London, n.d., p. 10).
Letter in Makatib
p. 228 (also printed in the Persian section of Star of the West
2 : 10
September, 1911], pp. 3-4.
All these are published in Athar
vol. 3: see note
See note 12. An attractive illuminated edition of this work was
published several years ago in Frankfurt, Germany (n.d.).
See note 12.
Mirza Abu 'l-Fadl Gulpaygani and Sayyid
Mahdi Gulpaygani Kashf al-ghita' 'an hiyal al-a'da'
 The Bahá'í Proofs
Eshtael-ebn-Kalenter (New York, 1902), pp. 77-78; cf. p.63.
The Bahá'í community of Iran was never
very large. By the 1880s, it numbered about 100,000 adherents (between 1.25 and
2.0 percent of the population), and between the 1910s and 1950s the figure was
between 100,000 and 200,000, representing a decline in population percentage
(to between 0.5 and 1.1 percent). Current numbers are estimated at between
300,000 and 350,000 (0.9 and 1.0 percent of the population). For details, see
Peter Smith 'A Note on Babi and Bahá'í Numbers in Iran' in Bahá'í Studies
1:4 (March, 1963), pp. 3-7.
On the early growth of Bahá'ísm in the
United States, see Smith 'American Bahá'í Community' (and bibliography, pp.
310-20). For discussions of wider developments, see idem
Study of the Babi and Bahá'í Religions', Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Lancaster, 1983; V.E. Johnson 'An Historical Analysis of Critical
Transformations in the Evolution of the Bahá'í World Faith', Ph.D.
dissertation, Baylor University, Texas, 1974; Peter Berger 'From Sect to
Church: A Sociological Interpretation of the Bahá'í Movement', Ph.D.
dissertation, New School for Social Research, New York, 1954; A. Hampson 'The
Growth and Spread of the Bahá'í Faith', Ph.D. dissertation, University of
On early European accounts of Babism, see
Momen Babi and Bahá'í Religions
, pp. 3-65.
This theme is particularly clear in some
later Bahá'í writing, in which a direct and sometimes detailed comparison is
made between Christ and the Bab. See Shoghi Effendi God Passes By
pp. 56-57; W. Sears Thief in the Night
new ed. (London, 1964), pp.
Mrs Alexander Whyte, pilgrimage account
in Shoghi Effendi ed. The Bahá'í World
vol. IV (New York, 1933), quoted
(London, 1971), p. 359.
See Smith 'American Bahá'í Community',
An excellent example of the romanticizing
of Babi history by early Bahá'ís may be found in Laura Clifford Barney's drama,
(London and Philadelphia, 1910).
For details, see the hagiographical
biographies by his widow Ruhiyyih Rabbani (The Priceless Pearl
London, 1969) and Dhikr Allah Khadim (Bi-yad-i mahbub
, Tehran, 131
/1975-76). See also Marcus Bach Shoghi Effendi: An
(New York, 1958).
His more important treatises in this
context include 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', in World Order
pp. 97-157 (also published separately); The Promised Day is
'The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh', in Guidance for Today and
(London, 1953). A full bibliography is contained in Ugo Giachery
(Oxford, 1973), pp. 199-205.
See Shoghi Effendi World Order
The original text is preserved in a
unique autograph manuscript at the Bahá'í World Centre Archives in Haifa; no
edition of it has ever been published, a fact of no small importance since
Shoghi Effendi is reputed to have made major editorial revisions in his
translation. One Iranian Bahá'í writer who appears to have seen the original
maintains that the changes are so great as to make the translation virtually an
original work by Shoghi Effendi (Dr Da'udi, quoted Najafi, Bahá'íyan
412, f.n. 107).
See Muhit Tabataba'i 'Kitabi bi nam ba
nami taza', Gawhar
nos. 11-12 (1353/1974), pp. 952-61; idem
'Tarikh-i qadim wa jadid', Gawhar
nos. 5-6 (1354/1975), pp. 343-48,
426-31; Browne New History
pp. vii-xxxii; idem
pp. xxxiv-xlvii; Najafi Bahá'íyan
359-415; Richards Religion of the Bahá'ís
pp. 12-14; Miller
The Bahá'í Faith
For further examples, see
pp. xxxiv, 213, 330, 396,472, 488, 553, 554-55, 565-66.
pp. xxxiv, 413.
See note 7; reference to p. xiii.
New ed. Tehran, 123 badi'
/1967-68. See also the
commentary on this by 'Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari, Rahiq-i makhtum
2 vols. (Tehran, 130-131 badi'
Shoghi Effendi's obsession with dividing
and sub-dividing historical periods in order to imbue selected years or decades
with cosmic significance reached remarkable lengths. For examples, see God
pp. xiii-xiv, xiv-xvii, 3, 223, 325; Citadel of
pp. 4-6, 32-33, 67, 107; Messages to the Bahá'í
pp. 18-19, 58, 60-61, 76, 82, 85, 129. This technique is
paralleled by the use of repeated references to significant anniversaries, a
method of locating events that has also been much used during and after the
Islamic revolution in Iran. This concern is best interpreted in the light of
Mircea Eliade's comments on sacred time in The Sacred and the Profane
(New York, 1959), ch. II.
 God Passes By
56-59; cf World Order
See God Passes By
xiii-xiv, 3; cf idem
, Citadel of Faith
 God Passes By
p. xvi: 'viewing these periods of Bahá'í (sic)
history as the constituents of a single entity, we note that chain of
events proclaiming successfully (sic) the rise of a Forerunner, the Mission of
One Whose advent that Forerunner had promised, the establishment of a Covenant
generated through the direct authority of the Promised One Himself, and lastly
the birth of a System which is the child sprung from both the Author of the
Covenant and its appointed Center'. The Babi/Bahá'í movement is consistently
referred to in terms of a single phenomenon as 'the Faith' (e.g.
pp. xvi, xvii, 37, 42, 44,46). ('These and other similar
incidents connected with the epic story of the Zanjan upheaval... combine to
invest it with a sombre glory unsurpassed by any episode of a like nature in
the records of the Heroic Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh'), 47 ('. . . these
were the chief features of the tragedy of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran, a
tragedy which stands out as one of the grimmest scenes witnessed in the course
of the early unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh'), 221, 376, 378. It would
be possible to develop a useful critique of Shoghi Effendi's method in terms of
Popper's theory of historicism.
p. 79; cf p.
Shoghi Effendi World Order
p. 52; cf. ibid
pp. 156, 173. See also idem
, pp. 5-6; idem
, Citadel of Faith
1 00; idem
, Messages to the Bahá'í World
pp. 34, 39, 88
('persecution... for over a century'), 91.
Shoghi Effendi God Passes
p. 44. See also
pp. 38 ('to resist and defend themselves against the
onslaughts of malicious and unreasoning assailants'), 51 ('the repressive
measures taken against the followers of the Bab', '. . . their persecuted
Faith'), 62 ('maligned and hounded from the moment it [the Faith of the Bab]
was born', 'cruel blows', 'a sorely persecuted Faith'), 66 ('a sorely-tried
Faith'; 'the Bab's persecuted followers').
For a detailed discussion of the
problem of the numbers involved at Shaykh Tabarsi, see M. Momen 'The Social
Basis of the Babi Upheavals (1848-1853): A Preliminary Analysis',
International Journal of Middle East Studies
15 (1983), pp. 161-66.
Muhammad 'Ali Malik Khusrawi gives the names of 367 individuals (Tarikh-i
, 3 vols. [Tehran, 130 badi'
/1974-75], vol. 2, pp.
316-17), fifty-three of whom he names as survivors (baqiyyat al-sayf
vol. 1. pp. 416-49). Zarandi names only 173 martyrs
See Momen, 'Social Basis', pp.
Muhammad Shafi' Rawhani Nayrizi Lama'at al-anwar
(Tehran, 130-132 badi'
/1974-77), vol. 1, pp. 63, 72.
vol. 1, pp. 73,
95, 96. This figure is made up of some 60 killed in an engagement in mid-Rajah
1266 (early June 1850), 350 put to death on the capture of the fort of Khaja on
18 Sha'ban/29 June, and 50 afterwards.
see also Momen 'Social Basis', pp. 167-69.
Zarandi gives both 1,000 and 1,800
 Citadel of Faith
, p. 100.
 Messages to the Bahá'í
See Malik Khusrawi Tarikh-i
vol. 3, pp. 6-8, 129-332. See also Momen 'Social Basis', p.
171-72. The notion that the executions of 1852 amounted to a 'holocaust' seems
to have originated with a number of European accounts, including that of
Gobineau, which exaggerated the affair out of all proportion (see ibid
pp. 171-72 and notes 55, 56); for further details, see idem
, Babi and
, pp. 128-45.
 Tarikh-i shuhada
3, pp. 6-9.
The following figures provide a rough
guide; five in Tabriz, Zanjan, and Tehran in 1867; four in Najafabad in 1864;
two in Isfahan in 1879; seven in Sidith in 1890; one in Ashkhabad in 1889;
seven in Yazd in 1891; five in Turbat-i Haydari in 1896; two in Isfahan and
about 100 in Yazd in 1903; eight in Jahrum in 1926. For details, see Momen,
Babi and Bahá'í Religions
pp. 251-54, 268-69, 274-77, 284-88,
296-300, 301-304, 376-85, 385-98, 405-06, 465-72. There were also seven martyrs
in Hurmuzak in 1955 (see Muhammad Labib The Seven Martyrs of
trans. M. Momen [Oxford, 1981] and some 100 between 1979
and 1982 (see Roger Cooper The Bahá'ís of Iran
Group Report No. 51 [London, 1982] and G. Nash Iran's Secret Pogrom
[Sudbury, 1982]). For further details on earlier persecutions, see Hajj
Muhammad Tahir Malmiri Tarikh-i shuhada-yi Yazd
Sayyid Muhammad Tabib Manshadi Sharh-i shahadat-i shuhada-yi Manshad
(Tehran, 127 badi'
/1971-72); Qazwini 'Epitome of Babi History', pp.
35-43; E.G. Browne 'Persecutions of Babis in 1888-1891 at Yazd' in
, pp. 291-308; A.L.M. Nicolas Massacres de Babis en Perse
(Paris, 1936); Miller Bahá'í Faith
pp. 214, 230. 'Abd
al-Bahá' gives the high figure of 'almost two hundred' for the martyrs of Yazd
in 1903 (letter in Makatib
vol. 1, p. 427).
 Traveller's Narrative
, vol. 1,
p. 60; vol. 2, p. 47.
Letter from Dr T. Chaplin to The
, 5 October, 1971, quoted Momen Babi and Bahá'í Religions
pp. 210-12. Chaplin refers to the killing of 20,000 individuals before the
Baghdad exile; he later states that 'Abd al-Bahá' 'gave us the information here
detailed' in the course of an interview in Acre.
'Alwah-i wasaya' in 'Abd al-Hamid
Ishraq Khavari ed. Ayyam-i Tis'a
5th. printing (Tehran, 129
/1973-74)), p. 457; trans. Shoghi Effendi as 'The Will and
Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá', in Anon. comp. The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
(London, 1963), p. 90 (but see later on the inaccuracy of the translation
of this passage). Cf idem
letter in Makatib
, vol. 1, p.
Address to Fourth Unitarian Church,
Brooklyn, 16 June, 1912, in Star of the West
III:10 (8 September, 1912),
Address to the Theosophical Society,
Liverpool, 14 December, 1912, in ibid
III:17 (19 January, 1913),
Letter to 'Aqa Bihruz' in London, in
Ishraq Khavari Ma'ida
vol. 5, p. 45.
Address at the Brotherhood Church,
Jersey City, 19 May, 1912, in Star of the West
III:9 (20 August, 1912),
p. 9. Cf. letter in Makatib
vol. 1, p. 344 ('ten or twenty
Address to the New York Peace Society,
13 May, 1912, in Star of
III:8 (1 August, 1912), p. 15.
Address to the Central Congregational
Church, Brooklyn, 16 June, 1912, in ibid
, III:10 (8 September, 1912), p.
Address at Los Angeles, in
, 11:13 (4 November, 1911), p. 8.
Address to the Tenth Annual Convention
of the Bahá'í Temple Unity, in ibid
IX:5 (5 June, 1918), p.
 God Passes By
, p. xiv.
, p. 402.
'The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh' in
, p. 5.
See note 141.
National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of the U.K., Bahá'í
(London, n.d.), p. 10.
Marzieh Gail, Introduction to Bahá'
Allah Son of the Wolf
Anon., foreword to Bahá' Allah and
'Abd al-Bahá' Bahá'í Revelation
pp. 22; cf. p. 42 ('the most vicious pogrom of all -- the
1852 massacre of Babis'), but cf. also pp. 133, 144.
See Peter Berger The Sacred
(New York, Anchor Books, 1969), p.138; Bryan Wilson Contemporary
Transformations of Religion
(Oxford, 1976), pp. 86-90.
 Citadel of Faith
, pp. 139-40.
, p. 144. See also
Messages to the Bahá'í World
, pp. 89, 97.
Letter to 'The Bahá'ís of the World',
26 January, 1982 (mimeographed copy), p. 2.
, letter dated 'Ridvan
(12-21 April), 1982' (mimeographed copy). See also idem
, letter to 'The
Bahá'ís of the World', March 1981 (mimeograph copy); National Proclamation
Committee of the Bahá'ís of the U.K., 'Campaign Bulletin No. l' (mimeograph
copy, n.d.), p. 2; National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the U.K.
Bahá'í Monthly News Service
2:7 (February, 1981), p. 5.
See Jacques Waardenburg L'Islam
dans le miroir de l'Occident
(The Hague, 1963); Edward Said Orientalism
(New York, 1978). See also Bryan Turner 'Accounting for the Orient' in D.
MacEoin and A. Al-Shahi eds. lslam in the Modern World
Ernest Gellner 'In defence of Orientalism' in Sociology
14 (1980), pp.
295-300; Ghislaine Alleaume 'L'Orientalisme dans le miroir de la litterature
Arabe' in Bulletin of the British Society for Middle East Studies
(1982), pp. 5-13; Clement Dodd 'The Critique of Orientalism' in ibid
(1979), pp. 85-95.
See Rabbani Priceless Pearl
pp. 9, 14-15, 17, 25-26, 30, 34-38.
 God Passes By
p. 4. The
passage seems to be based on a sentence of A.L.M. Nicolas in his introduction
to his translation of the Persian Bayan: Le Bayan Persan
4 vols. (Paris,
1911-14), vol. 1, p. iv. See also God Passes By
pp. 84, 197 ('a
country "firmly stereotyped in the immemorial traditions of the East"' -- the
unsourced quotation is from George Curzon Persia and the Persian
2 vols. [London, 1892]. vol. 1, p. 391). This dismissive
stereotyping is still apparent in some western Bahá'í writing about Iran (e.g.
'barely civilized countries, such as Iran', Nash Iran's Secret
Introduction to Zarandi
p. xxiv. This introduction as a whole is a
sustained example of Shoghi Effendi's orientalist approach. It has been claimed
that it was actually penned by the Irish Bahá'í writer George Townshend (letter
from the Universal House of Justice, Bahá'í Monthly News Service
London, 3:3, p. 2, referring to Townshend as Shoghi Effendi's 'English
correspondent'). Shoghi Effendi himself, thanks his English correspondent 'for
his help in the preparation of the Introduction' (Dawn-Breakers
p. lxi), which implies that he himself took a greater hand in finalizing
its text than the House of Justice suggests.
 God Passes By
, p. 4.
, p. 185.
 Promised Day
, p. 95.
, p. 96.
. This passage is based on
E.G. Browne A Literary History of Persia
, vol. 4 (Cambridge, 1924), pp.
See Promised Day
93-102; cf. World Order
 God Passes By
55-56, 65-66, 76, 80-81, 203-04.
 The Promise of All Ages
(London, n.d.), pp. 136, 138. The quotation from Curzon is, in fact, from
volume one. For an example of similar confusion, see Ruhiyyih Rabbani
Prescription for Living
rev. ed (London, 1960), pp. 150, 154.
 Babi and Bahá'í Religions
Momen 'The Trial of Mulla 'Ali Bastami', p. 118.
 Babi and Bahá'í Religions
A volume containing the original texts
was published shortly afterwards in Iran: Muntakhabat-i ayat az athar-i
Hadrat-i Nuqta-yi Ula
(Tehran, 134 badi'
 Selections from the Writings of the
(Haifa, 1976), p. v.