Martyred founder 'the door' to Bahai
The Bahai religion grew out the Babi faith during the mid-19th century in what is now Iran. The Babi's founder, Mizra Ali Muhammad, was a descendent of Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
Dr. Alan Clark, a local dentist, is a fourth-generation Bahai. Clark says during the messianic fervor of the mid-19th century, Ali Muhammad assumed the title of the Bab (pronounced Bob), or "the door."
"He would tell of a new dispensation and would also foretell of a great leader to come," Clark says. He likens the Bab's role to that of John the Baptist foretelling of the coming of Jesus. The Bab's mission, he says, was to prepare the world for the coming of a new messenger of God. The Bab's declaration of a coming messenger did not sit well with Muslim leaders.
Clark says the Bab's ministry was short, but he took on tremendous adulation from multitudes of people. However, he was also persecuted and condemned to prison and then to death for abandoning the Muslim faith. He was killed in 1850. Many of his followers were also persecuted and killed.
Clark says the Muslim leaders brought in a Christian militia to carry out the execution. According to tradition, the Bab was in his prison cell carrying out his last instructions when the guards came. The Bab told them he was not finished, but they took him anyway.
The militia lined up to shoot him along with a young man who wished to be martyred with him. When the smoke cleared, Clark says, the boy was unharmed and the Bab was gone. They found him sitting back in his cell. When he finished, he told them to proceed, and he was executed, Clark adds.
His body was hidden for 60 years until a shrine was completed on Mount Carmel in Israel.
In 1863, a disciple of the Bab, a man named Mizra Husayn Ali Nuri, declared himself to be the next messenger of God promised by the Bab and became known as Bahaullah (Bah-HAH-oo-LAH) which translates to "the glory of God" in Arabic. He believed he was the bearer of a divine revelation that "fulfilled the promises of earlier religions."
Like the Bab, Bahaullah was also imprisoned by the Muslims for his beliefs. He was spared a death sentence because of his family's social status and reputation.
Although he was in prison most of his life, Bahaullah wrote extensively. His Scriptures are at the center of the Bahai faith. His writings also covered a wide range of topics from racial integration and the equality of the sexes to disarmament.
Bahaullah died May 29, 1892. The shrine of Bahaullah is the most holy location in the world to the Bahai community. Bahaullah's remains are buried in a garden house adjoining the Bahji mansion near Acre, Israel.
The shrine of the Bab is located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. The garden terraces leading up to the shrine were completed and dedicated in May.
©Copyright 2002, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette