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An Introduction to Shi'i Islam:
The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi'ism

by Moojan Momen

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Chapter 12



        Schools within Twelver Shi'ism

In Chapter 3 the traditional account of the formation of the
various Shi'i sects has been given. But in historical terms,
it is extremely difficult to determine when exactly each
group can be considered to have become a separate sect.
There were two main periods of time when there was intensive
religious speculation and a rapid evolution of groups and
  The first of these two periods was from about AD 750 to
950 in Iraq and in particular in Kufa and Baghdad. Something
of the nature of the speculations of this period can be
discerned from the accounts already given in Chapter 3. It
would appear that during this two-hundred-year period, the
main body of Shi'a began to break up into a number of
groups. At first the boundaries of these groups were ill-
defined, but as time went by their distinctive differences
became sharper and many died out. In general terms it can be
said that the Shi'a broke into three broad groups: those who
advocated political action, the political quietists and
those attracted to esoteric and gnostic ideas. These became
the Zaydi, Ithna-'Ashari (Twelver) and Ghulat/Isma'ili
groups respectively.
  The second period of intense religious speculation and
rapid sectarian development occurred in the 15th century.
During this time, in a broad crescent stretching from south-
west Iran and eastern Iraq into north-west Iran and eastern
Anatolia and across into northern Syria, there was a ferment
of religious activity most of which would be described by
orthodox Shi'is as 'extremist' (ghuluww) because of the
exaggerated position given to 'Ali. But most groups honoured
all of the Imams of the Twelvers. Included within the orbit
of this religious activity was the Musha'sha' state in
south-west Iran, the religious speculation of the Qara-Quyunlu,
the rising Safavid order in Ardabil, the Bektashi
order in eastern Anatolia and the 'Alawis (Nusayris) in
north Syria. Some of these movements (the Musha'sha' and the
Safavids) were absorbed into orthodox Twelver Shi'ism and
influenced it. But others divided off into separate
religious movements: the 'Alawis (Nusayris), the Ahl-i Haqq
groups and the Bektashis.
  The evolution of the Shi'i sects and schools may be
represented thus

[Page 221 contains a chart.]


diagrammatically (see Chart 5). The Ithna-'Ashariyya
(Twelver) is the largest group of the Shi'a in the world
today and the one with which this book is concerned. The
vast majority of Twelvers belong to the Usuli School and it
is the tenets of this school that are described in the
sections of this book and particularly in Chapter I 0. There
are, however, a small number of Twelvers who subscribe to
the Akhbari and Shaykhi Schools (for the history of these
schools see pp. 117-18, 127-8, 135-6). Very little research
has been done on these two minority schools in Twelver
Shi'ism and so the details given about their doctrines below
should only be regarded as tentative pending further
The Akhbari School

As described in Chapter 6, this school, which probably
represented a stream of thought within Twelver Shi'ism from
its earliest days, first crystallised out as a separate
movement in the wake of the writings of Mulla Muhammad Amm
Astarabadi (d. 1033/1623). It achieved its greatest
influence during the late Safavid and post-Safavid periods
but was crushed by the Usuli mujtahids on the eve of the
Qajar era.
  In essence, the Akhbari movement was a rejection of the
rationalist principles on which ijtihad and the whole of
Shi'i jurisprudence had come to be based. Some Akhbaris went
further and also rejected the Mu'tazili (i.e. rationalistic)
basis of Shi'i doctrine also. In practice this meant a move
towards the Sunni principles of jurisprudence (with the
Imams taking over the position of the founders of the Sunni
schools of law) and an almost-Ash'ari (i. e. Sunni) position
in theology. In other words, had it succeeded, it would have
brought Shi'ism very much closer to Sunnism and it is
interesting to note that Nadir Shah's attempt to make
Shi'ism a fifth school of Sunni law coincides with the
period when the Akhbaris were at the peak of their
influence. In turning away from the rationalist basis of the
Usulis, many of the Akhbaris turned their attention to 'non-
rational' avenues of knowledge such as kashf (intuitive
discovery of knowledge) and occult sciences.
  The principal areas of difference between the two schools
can be summarised as follows (although it should be
appreciated that, at the start, there were not many
differences between the two groups and the following
represents their final positions which are much further


USULI SCHOOL                       AKHBARI SCHOOL

A. On the Sources of Doctrine and Law

1. The Usulis accept four sources. The Akhbaris only accept
   of authority in matters of      the first two and some of
   doctrine and law: the Qur'an,   them only the second
   the Sunna, consensus (ijma')    (since the Qur'an can
   and the intellect ('aql);       only be understood with
                                   the help of the

2. accept and use the literal      consider that the Qur'an
   meaning of the Qur'an and the   and Traditions can only
   Traditions claiming that it is  be understood where their
   possible to know the meaning    meanings has been made
   of these through the use of     explicit by the commentary
   the intellect ('aql);           (tafsir and ta'wil)
                                   of the Imams;

3. consider the four 'canonical    consider the four books
   books of Traditions (see p.     to be reliable;
   174) to contain many unreliable

4. accept as authoritative only    allow a much wider search
   Traditions from the Imams       to made for Traditions
   transmitted through reliable    bearing on a particular
   Shi'is;                         problem, allowing Traditions
                                   from Sunni or other
                                   sources (provided the
                                   transmission is 'protected
                                   from fabrication') and even
                                   from an unknown source if
                                   there is good evidence
                                   supporting it.

5. divide the Traditions into      recognise only two categories:
   four categories: sahih, hasan,  sahih and da'if; and
   mutawatir and da'if (see p.     
   174); and

6. consider that doctrines or      consider that what is
   legal decisions derived from    derived from naqli
   transmitted (naqli) sources     sources always has
   (i.e. the Qur'an and Tra-       precedence over what
   ditions) cannot contradict      is derived from the
   what is derived from rational   use of reason.

B. On the Principles of Jurisprudence

1. The Usulis accept ijtihad;      The Akhbaris reject

2. consider that decisions can be  consider that decisions
   given on the basis of zann      can only be given where
   (valid conjecture)              there is certain


USULI SCHOOL                       AKHBARI SCHOOL

conjecture) achieved through       knowledge through a relevant
ijtihad, in cases where certain    Tradition from the Imam;
knowledge ('ilm) from an explicit
text in the Qur'an or Traditions
is not available;

3. consider that knowledge was     consider it obligatory to
   only obtainable directly from   refer to the Imams even if
   the Imams by those who were in  through an intermediary (i.e.
   their presence (i.e. that the   a transmitted Tradition) and
   legal decisions of the Imams    that these have general
   may have been affected by       applicability and that fatwas
   individual circumstances and    can only be issued on the
   and do not necessarily have     basis of a relevant Tradition;
   general applicability) and so,
   during the Occultation, it is
   necessary to resort to ijtihad,
   and fatwas (legal decisions)
   can only be issued through use
   of this;

4. consider that through the use   use only explicit text from
   of ijtihad, the Traditions can  the Imams; and
   be preferred over another con-
   tradictory one and practices
   can be derived from unclear
   and ambiguous texts; and

5. act on the basis of freedom     consider that in cases where
   and the permissibility of all   there is no clear text,
   actions if there is no clear    caution must be exercised.
   text against it.

C. On the Position of the Faqih (jurist)

1. The Usulis divide men into two  The Akhbaris hold that all men
   groups: mujtahid and muqallid   are muqallid to the Imam and
   (see p. 175);                   and it is not permissible to
                                   turn to a mujtahid;

2. consider that the unrestricted  consider that only the Imam is
   (i.e. fully competent) muj-     informed of all of the ordin-
   tahid is learned in all of the  ances of the religion and that
   ordinances of the religion      the only condition for issuing
   since the condition for         legal decisions is a knowledge
   for issuing legal decisions     of the terms used by the Imams
   is knowledge of a large         and
   number of


USUL, SCHOOL                       AKHBARI SCHOOL

sciences, the most important of    knowing of a Tradition con-
which is usul al-fiqh (principles  firming the matter;
of jurisprudence);

3. forbid following (taqlid) a     allow use of the decisions of
   a dead marja';                  a dead jurist;

4. consider it obligatory to       reject this; and
   obey a mujtahid as much as it
   is to obey the Imam; and

5. consider that the use of        consider that the issuing
   ijtihad will result in a        of a decree except on the
   (heavenly) reward even if the   basis of a reliable and
   decision is incorrect.          explicit Tradition is blame-

It can be seen from the above that had the Akhbaris been
successful, the ulama would have been restricted in the
field of jurisprudence to only those areas in which there is
an explicit Tradition (all other cases would have to go to
secular courts). But the Usulis, through the use of ijtihad,
can give a judgement on virtually any subject. The Akhbari
position also severely restricted the authority and
prerogatives of the ulama and effectively negated the Na'ib
al-'Amm concept (see p. 190). It is not surprising that it
was, in the end, decisively rejected by the ulama.
  Today, Akhbarism survives in pockets throughout the Shi'i
world. It is perhaps strongest in Bahrain where a
considerable proportion of the island's Shi'is follow ulama
of this school. There is also a band of territory stretching
from the lands of the tribes at the western end of Lake al-
Hammar (i.e. around Suq ash-Shuyukh) in southern Iraq to the
Khurramshahr (Muhammara) region of Iran where Akhbarism
survives and there are one or two small Akhbari religious
schools (madrasas). The main centre of this area is the city
of Basra and here the descendants of Mirza Muhammad Akhbari
(see p. 135) continue to live and to lead the Akhbaris of
the area. There are also a few Akhbaris in India. It has,
however, continued to influence the mainstream of Twelver
Shi'ism and not a few Usuli ulama have questioned the extent
to which ijtihad should be allowed. Even the late Ayatu'llah
Burujirdi was said to have had doubts regarding the Usuli

The Shaykhi School

Whereas the Akhbari School differed from the Usulis
principally in the field of jurisprudence or the furu-'
(peripheral elements) of the religion, the Shaykhi School,
founded by Shaykh Ahmad ibn Zaynu'd-Din al-


Ahsa'i (1166/1753--1241/1826) differed principally in the
field of doctrines and the usul (fundamental principles) of
the religion. Although Shaykh Ahmad disagreed with Mulla
Muhsin-i Fayd on a number of points, the Shaykhi School may
be regarded, on the simplest level of analysis, as a further
development of the Hikmat-i Ilahi of the School of Isfahan
(see pp. 216-19). The doctrines of Shaykhism require a great
deal more research but, pending that, the following is a
brief outline of the major themes, emphasising those aspects
where Shaykhism differs from the orthodox position:

A. On God: In order to have knowledge of something, there
must be some similarity between the knower and the known.
Since there is no similarity whatsoever between God and man,
man can never know God's Essence. Any knowledge that man has
of God is only a creation of his own imagination. At most it
relates to an image or reflection of God but can never
attain His reality. From God issues forth His Will and it is
this which is the cause of creation. This view of God
essentially negated the Sufi concept of wahdat al-wujud
(existential unity) and the mystical union with God.
  One aspect of Shaykh Ahmad's views about God which brought
him into conflict with the mainstream of Twelver Shi'i
thought was his view regarding the knowledge of God. Shaykh
Ahmad considered that God had two types of knowledge, an
essential (dhati) knowledge which is inseparable from His
Essence; and a created (muhdath) knowledge which comes into
being when God acts within creation. This same division may
be applied to all of the attributes of God.

B. On the Prophets: The prophet stands as an intermediary
between man and God. There is no similarity between God and
the prophet nor between man and the prophet. The prophet is
not merely a man whom God has chosen to become the recipient
of his revelation but is unique and possessed of
capabilities and attributes beyond the reach of even the
most perfect man. In this, Shaykh Ahmad is denying the Sufi
idea that man can by purifying himself achieve the station
of prophethood.

C. On the Imams: Shaykh Ahmad considered that the first
creation issuing forth from God's will was the light of
Muhammad (an-Nu-r al Muhammadiyya). From this light the
light of the Imams came into being. From the light of the
Imams the light of the believers came into being, and so on.
Thus the Imams are the instruments of the creation of the
world. They are also the ultimate cause of creation since
God has created the world for their sake. They are the
intermediaries through which man can obtain some
comprehension of God and God's bounties can reach man.
  It was Shaykh Ahmad's conception of the Imams that drew
from the


orthodox camp the accusation of tafwid (attributing God's
attributes to someone other than God).

  Another result of Shaykh Ahmad's extreme veneration of the
Imams was that, when visiting the shrines of the Imams, who
were buried as is Muslim custom with their heads pointing
towards Mecca, Shaykh Ahmad would pay his respects at the
foot of the Imam and never approached the head because he
considered it disrespectful and because he did not wish,
when the time for prayers came, to have to turn his back on
the Imam, when he turned towards Mecca. This way of visiting
the shrines of the Imams became characteristic of the
followers of the Shaykh who became known as Pusht-i Saris
(behind-the-headers) while the orthodox Shi'is were Bala-Saris
(above-the-headers). In the conflict between the
Shaykhis and their orthodox opponents that occurred from
time to time, the two sides were often referred to as
Shaykhis and Bala-Saris.

D. On the Nature of the World: Between the physical world
and the spiritual world, there exists an intermediary world,
the world of Hurqalya (or Huvarqalya--variously stated to be
Hebrew, Greek or Syriac in origin) or the world of
archetypal images ('Alam al-mithal). This is identified as
the barzakh (isthmus or purgatory) of orthodox Islamic
eschatology. 3 Everything in the physical world has its
counterpart in the world of Hurqalya. Each individual human
being has two bodies, one of which exists in the physical
world and one in Hurqalya. The occulted but living Twelfth
Imam and the cities of Jabulsa and Jabulqa, where he is
supposed to live, all exist in the realm of Hurqalya.

E. Eschatology: It was the consequences of Hurqalya, more
than anything else, that led to Shaykh Ahmad's conflict with
the orthodox ulama. For the Shaykh's chief endeavour was to
harmonise reason and religion and he used the concept of
Hurqalya to explain some of the doctrines of Islam that
appeared contrary to reason.

  For Shaykh Ahmad, the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam did
not mean that a living physical Imam was in hiding somewhere
on earth but rather that, although direct physical contact
with the Imam was no longer possible, the Imam lived on in
the world of archetypal images, the realm of Hurqalya, and,
for those who strive to reach him in that world, he is still
able to perform the key function of the Imam, that of
initiating the seeker into the divine mysteries (walaya).

With regard to the phenomenon of resurrection, Shaykh Ahmad
also regarded this as an event that occurs to man's subtle
body in the world of Hurqalya. Similarly, heaven and hell
are the results of men's actions which create the situation
of either heaven or hell in each individual's personal life
in Hurqalya.


F. The Night Ascent of Muhammad (Mi'raj): One of the key
events in the life of the Prophet was the night that,
according to orthodox Muslim belief, he was transported
bodily to a place near Jerusalem and then ascended to
heaven. Shaykh Ahmad asserted that the Mi'raj took place
with Muhammad's subtle body and not with his physical.
G. The Fourth Support: This key doctrine of the Shaykhis was
developed not so much by Shaykh Ahmad himself as by his
successors. Orthodox Shi'is believe in five supports or
principles of the religion (usul ad-din, see pp. 176-7).
Shaykh Ahmad considered that two of these, the unity of God
and the justice of God could be put together as one,
knowledge of God. Also, the resurrection, as part of the
prophetic teaching, could be put under that heading and did
not need to exist by itself. This left three supports to
which a fourth was added. In the time of Sayyid Kazim and
among the early writings of Karim Khan Kirmani, the Fourth
Support (ar-Rukn ar-Rabi') appears to mean the continuing
presence in the physical world of a Perfect Shi'i (ash-Shi'i
al-Kamil, cf. the Sufi concept of the Perfect Man) who is
able to act as the intermediary between the Hidden Imam and
the world. The Hidden Imam inspires this intermediary who
thus comes to represent the will of the Hidden Imam. This
Perfect Shi'i stands at the head of a hierarchy of figures,
nujaba and nuqaba, who are each able to impart some of the
Imam's knowledge and authority. The term ar-Rukn ar-Rabi'
(or in its Persianised form Rukn-i Rabi') is sometimes
applied to the Perfect Shi'i alone and sometimes to the
whole hierarchy. It is reasonably clear that the early
Shaykhis regarded Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kazim as each
being successively the Perfect Shi'i, the Fourth Support,
the gate to the Hidden Imam. 4 At a later stage in the
evolution of Shaykhi doctrine, when the Shaykhis were trying
to be less controversial doctrinally, the term ar-Rukn ar-
Rabi' came to be applied to the body of the ulama as a whole
and indeed came to resemble the Na'ib al-'Amm concept.

However, underlying the bitter opposition of many mujtahids
to the Shaykh's doctrines was undoubtedly a fear that the
Shaykh's preference for intuitive knowledge, which he
claimed to obtain directly by inspiration from the Imams,
would seriously undermine the authority of their position
which was based on knowledge derived by the rational
processes of ijtihad. Shaykh Ahmad's preference for the
intuitive uncovering of knowledge (kashf) led his school to
be called Kashfi by some.
  In matters of jurisprudence Shaykh Ahmad appears to have
taken an intermediate position between the Usulis and the
Akhbaris. He did not deny the validity of ijtihad but
considered it desirable to remain within the area demarcated
by the Traditions of the Imams.


  These doctrines of Shaykh Ahmad inevitably brought him
into conflict with the more fundamentalist ulama. The first
matters that became the subject of conflict were the
questions of the night ascent of Muhammad and the
resurrection which the Shaykh's opponents considered to have
occurred or were to occur with the physical body. There was
also the question of tafwid (see above) and of the knowledge
of God. 5 Later numerous other points were added to the list
of differences.

Shaykh Ah. mad, during his lifetime, had appointed Sayyid
Kazim as his trustee and successor. During Sayyid Kazim's
time, the conflict with orthodoxy intensified. At his death
in 1259/1843, Sayyid Kazim failed to appoint a successor and
the Shaykhis, apart from those that went on to become Babis
(see next section), split into three main factions: one led
by Mirza Hasan Gawhar in Karbala, one led by Hajji Mirza
Shafi', Thiqatu'l-Islam and Mulla Muhammad Mamaqani
Hujjatu'l-Islam in Tabriz and one led by Hajji Muhammad
Karim Khan Kirmani in Kirman.

At Karbala many of the Shaykhis followed Mirza Hasan Gawhar
(Mulla Muhammad Hasan Qarachadaghi) although two other
figures, Mirza Muhammad Husayn Muhit Kirmani and Sayyid
Kazim's son, Ahmad (killed 1878), had considerable
influence. Leadership of this group was assumed after
Gawhar's death by Mulla Muhammad Baqir Usku'i (d.
1301/1883). After him leadership passed to his son, Mirza
Musa, and now rests with his grandson, Mirza 'Ali Ha'iri,
who is resident in Kuwait. They are known as Usku'is.

The Tabriz Shaykhis quickly suppressed all external evidence
of heterodoxy. Thus, for.example, in the field of
jurisprudence, they unreservedly adopted the Usuli School.
This did not, however, save them from the animosity of the
populace. During the last half of the 19th century there
were frequent anti-Shaykhi riots and, indeed, the splitting
of the city into Shaykhi and Bala-San quarters came to
replace the Ni'mati-Haydari division of other Iranian cities
(see p. 215). Leadership among the Tabriz Shaykhis came to
lie in two families. At first it was the Hujjatu'l-Islam
family that was predominant. Mulla Muhammad Mamaqani
Hujjatu'l-Islam (d. 1269/1852) led the prayers in the
Hujjatu'l-Islam Mosque and became one of the prominent
religious leaders of Adharbayjan. His three sons, Mulla
Muhammad Husayn (d. 1303/1885), Mulla Muhammad Taqi (d.
1312/1894) and Mirza Isma'il (d. 1317/1899) and Mulla
Muhammad Husayn's son, Mirza Abu'l-Qasim (d. 1362/1943) each
in turn took the title Hujjatu'l-Islam and became the leader
of prayers in the Hujjatu'l-Islam Mosque. After the last-
named, however, the family died out. The second family was
the Thiqatu'l-Islam family. Hajj Mirza Shafi' Thiqatu'l-
Islam (d. 1301/1884) was, like Mulla Muhammad Mamaqani, a
student of Shaykh


Ahmad and Sayyid Kazim. He was succeeded in turn by his son
Shaykh Musa (d. 1319/1901) and grandson Mirza 'Ali, each of
whom successively took the title Thiqatu'l-Islam. During the
lifetime of Mirza 'Ali, the Thiqatu'l-Islam family overtook
the Hujjatu'l-Islam family in importance and became the
leader of the majority of the Tabriz Shaykhis. Mirza 'Ali
became a national hero when he was hanged by the Russians in
1912 for resisting the occupation of Tabriz. A large number
of the writings of Shaykh Ahmad were lithographed in Tabriz
during the 19th century. (Tabriz also had a group of
Shaykhis who followed Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani and these
were centred on the Kazimi Mosque.)
  The most important group of Shaykhis, however, was that
led by Hajji Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani (1810-71) who was a
member of the ruling Qajar family (his mother was Nasiru'd-
Din's great-aunt and he was the maternal uncle of the mother
of Muzaffaru'd-Din Shah). After his death leadership of this
group of Shaykhis went successively to members of his family
who.were each known by the title 'Sarkar Aqa' (His
Lordship). For a while there was a dispute over the
leadership between Muhammad Karim Khan's two sons, Hajji
Muhammad Rahim Khan and Hajji Muhammad Khan. Then in 1878
there was a violent Shaykhi-Bala-Sari conflict in Kirman
which lasted for over a year. At the end of this time
Muhammad Rahim Khan was expelled by the Governor and the
leadership crisis was thus resolved in favour of Hajji
Muhammad Khan. Most of the followers of Muhammad Rahim Khan
rejoined the main group after a while. A more serious split
was caused by Hajji Mirza Muhammad Baqir Hamadani (d. 1901)
who objected to the leadership becoming hereditary and
considered himself more learned than Ha]il Muhammad Khan.
His residence was in Hamadan until 1897 when a Shaykhi-Bala-
San riot forced him to move to Na'in. His followers, known
as Baqiris, are most numerous in Hamadan, Na'in and Isfahan.
Muhammad Khan's followers were known as Natiqis or Nawatiq.

Hajji Muhammad Khan died in 1906 and was succeeded by his
brother Hajji Zaynu'l-'Abidin Khan (d. 1941) who in turn was
succeeded by his son Hajji Abu'l-Qasim Khan Ibrahimi (d.
1969) and grandson Hajji 'Abdu'r-Rida Khan Ibrahimi. The
latter was killed during the disturbances following the
Iranian Revolution on 26 December 1979 in Kirman. After this
leadership of the movement went out of the Ibrahim family
and the new leader is Sayyid 'Ali Musawi who is resident in
Basra in Iraq.

Under Muhammad Karim Khan and his successors Shaykhism
underwent a phenomenon that might be called doctrinal drift.
By this is meant that each successive Shaykhi leader
expounded the doctrines of the school in such a way as to
bring them more and more closely into line


with orthodoxy. The culmination of this process occurred in
1950 when Aqa Muhammad Taqi Falsafi (acting on behalf of
Ayatu'llah Burujirdi) put twenty-five questions to Hajji
Abu'l-Qasim Khan Ibrahimi on matters of doctrine. These were
answered (in the Risala-yi Falsafiyya) in so completely
orthodox a manner that Falsafi was left wondering why the
Shaykhis chose to call themselves by a separate name.
  Shaykhis have remained a small minority in the Shi'i
world, numbering perhaps 200,000 in Iran and 300,000 in Iraq
and the Gulf. They are to be found in most cities but ate
most numerous in Kirman, Tabriz, Khurramshahr, Abadan,
Tehran, Abada, Marvdasht, Rafsanjan, Shiraz and Zunuz as
well as in Basra in Iraq. At Kirman the Shaykhis have a
small religious college, the Madrasa Ibrahimiyya, with some
30 or 40 students, and a publishing house and press. There
is also a religious college in Basra.

The Babi Movement and the Bahá'í Religion

The approach of the Muslim year 1260 (1844) was accompanied
by a general rise in expectancy of the return of the Hidden
Imam. This was because that year marked the one thousandth
anniversary of the disappearance of the Twelfth Imam and the
beginning of the period of Occultation. There were several
indications in the Qur'an and the Traditions that the
dispensation of Muhammad would be one thousand years long[6]
and thus the year 1260 was greatly anticipated throughout
the Shi'i world.[7]
  Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-50), who took the title
the Bab (the Gate), was, until the death of Sayyid Kazim
Rashti in 1843, closely associated with the Shaykhi School.
Then, in 1844, he put forward a claim and gained many
adherents, initially mostly from among the Shaykhi School.
At first the Bab only appeared to be claiming to be the Gate
to the Hidden Imam and his followers kept to the Islamic
Shari'a. But in 1848 he advanced the claim of being the
returned Twelfth Imam himself who had come to abrogate the
Islamic dispensation and inaugurate a new prophetic cycle.

Developing the argument of the Shaykhi School, from the Bab
viewpoint, just as the Hidden Imam existed in the world of
Hurqalya, the realm of archetypal images, so the return of
the Twelfth Imam was not the return of the self-same
physical body of the Imam but rather the advent of a man who
in the realm of Hurqalya is the archetypal figure of the
Imam. Thus it was that the Shaykhi teachings paved the way
for the Bab and it is doubtful if the Bab would have
attracted so many adherents if it had not been for the
Shaykhi doctrines.

The Bab was put to death by a firing squad in Tabriz in 1850
He had


appointed as his successor Mirza Yahya, Subh-i Azal, and had
prophesied the advent of another messianic figure whom he
called 'Him whom God shall make manifest'. Privately in 1863
and publicly in 1866, Mirza Husayn 'Ali (1817-1802), who
took the title Bahá'u'lláh (Glory of God), claimed to be
this messianic figure foretold by the Bab. The majority of
Babis became Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh considerably expanded the
scope of his appeal beyond the confines of Shi'i Iran by
claiming to be the fulfilment of the messianic expectations
of other religions such as Judaism, Christianity and
  Bahá'u'lláh was succeeded by his son 'Abbas Effendi (1844-
1921), who took the title 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of the
Glory). He was given the position of authorised interpreter
of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings. He appointed his grandson,
Shoghi Effendi (d. 1957), as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.
Since 1963 the religion has been administered by an elected
body, the Universal House of Justice.
The Bahá'í Faith, during the time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, spread to
Europe and North America. In the last few decades, it has
gained large numbers of adherents in India, Africa, South
America and Australasia such that it has outstripped its
Islamic heritage and Iran is no longer even the largest
national Bahá'í community. Thus the Bahá'í Faith is now an
independent religion separate from Islam. It has its own
holy books, its own teachings and laws and considers its
prophets, the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, to be independent
prophets of God equal in station to Muhammad and bearers of
a new revelation from God abrogating the Islamic
dispensation. It would therefore be inappropriate to
consider it any further in a book on Twelver Shi'ism.
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