The Báb and Baha’u’llah

The Bahá’íThe Bahá’í Faith first took shape in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) declared himself a divine messenger and the messianic figure predicted by the Bab (1819-1850). The religion stresses the oneness of God, the divine origin of all the world’... Faith is today a vibrant worldwide community of people from many races and cultures. Its beginnings were in mid-nineteenth century Iran, where most of the people were “Twelver” Shi’iteThe Shi’at ‘Ali (the party of ‘Ali, for which Shi’ah is an abbreviation and from which the adjective Shi’i comes) believed that the Prophet Muhammad designated his son-in-law ‘Ali and his descendants to be leader (Imam) of the ummah after his ... Muslims. Shi’itesThe Shi’at ‘Ali (the party of ‘Ali, for which Shi’ah is an abbreviation and from which the adjective Shi’i comes) believed that the Prophet Muhammad designated his son-in-law ‘Ali and his descendants to be leader (Imam) of the ummah after his ... recognize a line of leaders called ImamsImam means “leader,” particularly the person who leads the daily ritual prayer or, more broadly, to the one who serves as a leader of the community because of his religious learning. In Shi’i Islam, it refers to one of a succession of direct descend...: successors within the family lineage of MuhammadThe Prophet Muhammad, known as “the Seal of the Prophets,” was born in the city of Makkah on the Arabian peninsula in 570 C.E. At 40, he began to receive a series of revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. His small group of followers met with... who became the spiritual guides and authoritative leaders of the Muslim community. They expect the twelfth Imam—Muhammad al-MahdiMahdi means “the rightly guided one.” The Mahdi is a messianic figure, who will come to earth before the Last Judgment to guide people to the true path and establish a just world order based on true Islam. In Shi’i Islam, this figure is identified w..., who disappeared in the ninth century—to return to establish a rule of truth and justice in the last days.

One sect of Twelver Shi’ites, the Shaykis, believed that the twelfth ImamImam means “leader,” particularly the person who leads the daily ritual prayer or, more broadly, to the one who serves as a leader of the community because of his religious learning. In Shi’i Islam, it refers to one of a succession of direct descend... would return to earth in the year 1844 to establish his reign of righteousness, justice, and peace. When the head of this sect died in 1844, many of his followers scattered in search of the promised one. On May 23, 1844, a young man named Siyyid ’Ali-Muhammad of Shiraz (1819-1850) declared to a leading Shaykhi that he was the promised one they were seeking. He later took the title of the BábIn 1844, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad of Shiraz (1819–1850) took the title of the “Bab” or “Gate,” implying that he was a means of access to divine guidance through the Twelfth Imam, a messianic figure expected at the end of the age. In actual fact, he ..., ArabicClassical Arabic is the language of revelation in Islam as recorded in the Qur’an. Muslims consider every word of the Qur’an to be a direct utterance of God. The Arabic language itself is regarded as perfectly suited as the instrument for God’s comm... for the “Gate,” implying that he was the gate to the twelfth Imam, although in his writings he claimed not only to be the Imam but also to be a MessengerCalled “Rasul” in Arabic, the messenger is a special type of prophet commissioned to lead a community and often entrusted with a major revelation from God. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are examples of messengers in Islam. Other prophets (called nabi) int... of GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. inaugurating a new era and who spoke of One greater soon to come. 

Within a few months the Báb had gathered a small group of nineteen followers whom he sent across Iran to spread his teachings, which were often written commentaries on chapters of the Qur’anThe word Qur’an literally means “recitation.” Revealed orally to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, he recited it to his followers. These recitations collected in written form are arranged in 114 surahs, generally from longest to shortest. Muslims consi.... The Bábí movement grew rapidly among seminarians, merchants, and other urban groups. It aroused the hostility of the Shi’ite clergyClergy are the body of ordained men (and in some cases women) who are authorized to perform the priestly, pastoral, or rabbinical duties of the community—as distinct from the laity whom they serve. and the Persian authorities, who had the Báb arrested and imprisoned in northwestern Iran. In prison, the Báb continued to receive visitors and write. Among his writings was the Bayan, which gave new laws for his religion and prophesied the arrival of another divine messenger even greater than himself. Because his teachings were considered blasphemy by the Shi’ite clerics, the Báb was executed by firing squad on July 9, 1850. PogromsPogrom, from the Russian word for “devastation,” refers to the attacks, riots and rampages against Jewish communities, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. against his followers, already severe, intensified, and thousands of Bábís died.

In 1848, an early convert to the faith of the Báb, Mirza Husayn-’Ali (1817-1892), organized a conference of leading Bábís to discuss the state of the Bábí movement. At the conference he acquired the title Baha’u’llahBahá’u’lláh (1817–1892) was born in Iran as Mirza Husayn ’Ali and became the most influential of the early followers of the Báb. He acquired the title Bahá’u’lláh (Arabic for "the Glory of God") in 1848. In 1863 he announced a claim to be..., Arabic for “the Glory of GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities..” In 1852, Baha’u’llah was thrown in prison after a group of Bábís attempted to assassinate the Shah of Iran. There Baha’u’llah received his first experience of divine revelationRevelation is the gift or disclosure of knowledge, insight, or instruction from God to the human. The term is used in the Jewish tradition to refer to the revelation of Torah, the law; in the Islamic tradition to refer to the revelation of the Qur’an, t.... As he described the experience in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, “The breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been.”

In December 1852 Baha’u’llah was released from prison and banished from Iran. He and his family emigrated to Baghdad in OttomanThe Ottoman Turks, based after 1453 in Istanbul (Constantinople), established a vast empire that lasted from the 14th century until World War I; at its height, it stretched from Southern Russia to the Indian Ocean, including the Balkans, Hungary and Egypt... Iraq. There he began to write theological, ethical, and mystical works, and was instrumental in reorganizing Iran’s scattered Babis. Increasingly, Bábís regarded Baha’u’llah as the divine messenger the Báb had promised, and in April of 1863 he announced to a small group of followers his claim to be the promised one.

Because of his claims and his growing stature, Baha’u’llah was repeatedly banished. He went from Baghdad to Istanbul to Edirne, a small city in European Turkey, and ultimately, in 1868, to Akka, a prison city in Palestine. There he lived out the rest of his days either in prison or under house arrest. Except for the years 1868-1870, however, Baha’u’llah was able to receive visitors and had the freedom to write.

Over the course of his life, Baha’u’llah wrote more than 18,000 letters, essays, and books which stated his religion’s theological doctrines, its principles of social reform, and teachings for personal spiritual development. In 1874 he completed the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the central Bahá’í book, which delineates Bahá’í laws of prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not., fasting, and personal conduct and defines basic Bahá’í institutions. A series of his later essays outlines social reform teachings and provides a vision of a Bahá’í civilization. Baha’u’llah taught that divine revelation is a continuous and progressive process brought to humanity by Manifestations of God, unique individuals who do not incarnate God but who do perfectly express God’s qualities and will in the world. The missions of the messengersCalled “Rasul” in Arabic, the messenger is a special type of prophet commissioned to lead a community and often entrusted with a major revelation from God. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are examples of messengers in Islam. Other prophets (called nabi) int... of God represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. Baha’u’llah’sBahá’u’lláh (1817–1892) was born in Iran as Mirza Husayn ’Ali and became the most influential of the early followers of the Báb. He acquired the title Bahá’u’lláh (Arabic for "the Glory of God") in 1848. In 1863 he announced a claim to be... mission, Bahá’ísThe Bahá’í Faith first took shape in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) declared himself a divine messenger and the messianic figure predicted by the Bab (1819-1850). The religion stresses the oneness of God, the divine origin of all the world’... believe, is the culmination of the work of historical Manifestations such as KrishnaKrishna is one of the most beloved of Hindu Gods, sometimes called an avatara of Vishnu, but widely worshipped in his own right as the Supreme Lord. The stories of Krishna gather together the ancient and heroic cowherd god of India, the adviser to Arjuna ..., the BuddhaBuddha means “awakened one” and specifically refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama (traditional date, sixth c. BCE), the historical founder of the tradition that became known as Buddhism. All Buddhist traditions agree that ther..., AbrahamAbraham is the patriarch, acknowledged as the father of the lineage of faith by the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. He is presumed to have lived sometime in the period 2000-1700 BCE. He is the father of Isaac by Sarah (Genesis 12.25), and the "..., ZoroasterKnown to the Greeks as “Zoroaster,” the Prophet Zarathushtra lived and taught in ancient Persia in the second millennium BCE, some scholars say as early as 1,750 BCE. His divinely revealed teachings emphasized ethical monotheism, with one supreme God,..., MosesMoses was the great Biblical prophet who is credited with leading the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and teaching them the divine laws at Sinai. The story of Moses is told in the book of Exodus in the Bible and is also told in the Qur’an, wher... JesusJesus is the historical figure considered by Christians to be the Christ, the Messiah, whose life and teachings, death and resurrection give clear evidence of God’s love for humankind. Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great (d. 4 BCE... Christ, Muhammad, and the Báb.

Baha’u’llah died in 1892. One hundred years later, the anniversary of his passing was marked in New York City with a World Congress that drew 30,000 Bahá’ís from all over the world. The attendees were only a small fraction of the more than five million adherents of the Bahá’í Faith, a faith that represents almost all nationalities, ethnic groups, classes, professions, and religious backgrounds.


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