Book Review

36 Historical Note on Bahaism by Fazal Dean The Shia sect of Muslims believe that the twelfth Imam Hazrat Muhammad bin Hasan Askari (born 256 A.H.) disappeared from this world to reappear in the latter days. In his absence till 328 A.H. there were appointed four vicegerents who are called the “Abwabi Arba,” i.e., the four doors. In 1157 A.H. (1743 A.D.) was born a certain Shaikh Ahmad bin Shaikh Zaniul Ihsai in the Shia sect of Persia. He declared himself to be the vicegerent of the disappeared Imam. As he differed from the rest of the Shia sect in certain matters, therefore his followers were named as the’ ‘shai Khiyya” sect. He died in 1242 A.H. (1826 A.D.). He was succeeded by his disciple Haji Sayad Kazim Rishti, who was born in 1205 A.H. and died in 1259 A.H. A certain Ali Muhammad, the son of Mirza Raza Bazaz, who was born at Shiraz on the first of Muharram 1235 A.H. (3/10/1819 A.D.), also belonged to the Shaikhiyya sect. Finishing his course of education he took to trade at the age of 18. But after the death of Haji Sayad Kazim Rishti, when he was 24 or 25, he claimed that he was the vicegerent of the disappeared Imam and took for himself the title of the “Bab”. The Bahais say that he declared himself to be the “Bab” on the fifth of Jamadiyul Awwal 1260 A.H. (23rd of May, 1844 A.D.) and afterwards he also declared himself to be the Mahdi and the “Qaim Ali Muhammad.” The 18 persons of the Shaikhiyye sect who were the first to believe in the “Bab” are known as the ‘Hayy.” (The numerical value of the word is 18). The Government received some reports concerning Ali Muhammad Bab and his followers, upon which he was sent to Ahiraz, Isfahan, Mako and Chihreeq. When he was at Chihreeq the Babis, i.e., his followers created disturbances at several places and also agitated against the Government. He was therefore brought to Tabriz, where, after due conviction, he was shot on the 28th of Sha’ban 1266 A.H. It was a premature death and his followers even did not really know what he wanted to teach. Among the followers of Ali Muhammad “Bab” were the two step-brothers Mirza Yahya and Mirza Husain Ali, better known as Baha Ullah. They were the residents of a place called Noor (Mazindran). Ali Muhammad Bab nominated Mirza Yahya (“Subhi Azal,” who was at that time only a youth of 19) as his successor in 1265 A.H., a year before his being put to death. On the 28th of Shawwal 1268 A.H. three Babis made an attack on Nasir ud Din, the King of Persia. At this time Mirza Yahya (Subhi Azal) left Noor and 37 HISTORICAL NOTE ON BAHAISM went to Baghdad and Mirza Husain Ali (Baha Ullah) was imprisoned by the Government. He remained in prison for about four months, and in 1269 A.H. he was also sent to Baghdad from Tehran. At Baghdad they lived in peace, but under certain political considerations they were transferred to Constantinople in 1280 A.H. (1864 A.D.) by the order of Abdul Aziz Khan the Sultan of Turkey. After staying in Constantinople for about four months they were sent to Orna, where they remained for about five years. At the end of this period Baha Ullah turned against Subhi Azal and publicly proclaimed himself to be the successor of the Bab. Subhi Azal was branded as Dajjal and Satan, etc. As they were bitterly opposed to each other the Government sent Mirza Yahya and his followers to the island of Cyprus. Hitherto the sect was known by the name “Babi,” but now the followers of Subhi Azal were distinguished as the Azli sect and those of Bahaullah as the Bahais. Baha Ullah was transferred to Akka (Palestine) where he lived for about 24 years and died in 1309 A.H. (1892 A.D.) at the age of 76. Hewasborn in 1233 A.H. Baha Ullah was succeeded by Abbas A’fendi, who was born on the day of the declaration of Ali Muhammed as The “Bab”. Abbas Afendi was bitterly opposed by Muhammad Ali, the second son of Bahaullah who claims the right of successorship according to the true will of his father. Abbas, however, died in 1922 A.D., after nominating Shoqi Affendi as his successor. He resides at Haifa. The Bahais regard Ali Muhammad “Bab” and Mirza Husain Ali (Baha Ullah) as the bearers of a new Law, supposing the former to be the Mahdi, whose advent was foretold by prophets from the very beginning of the world. Bahaullah bases almost all of his claims upon the Bab, and it would therefore be of interest to know some of the teachings of the Founder of Babism and Bahaism. To do justice to this subject I shall quote only from their authentic Scriptures, but as they are in Persian and Arabic I shall have to give their rendering in my own words. I shall, however, give full references to enable the reader to verify the statements, if he likes, from the original source. As the Arabic of the Scriptures is of a rather peculiar style, it has been difficult for me to give the literal translation; but I have tried as far as possible to convey the true sense of the passages mentioned. I shall be obliged to my Bahai friends if they will point out to me any mistakes which they may notice. (1) It is believed that a single glance of the Bab at an unclean object is sufficient to render it clean. (Nuqtatul Kaf, page 140). On page 151 of the same book is recorded the fact that people were allowed in his time to enter any shop and snatch or steal whatever they liked with impunity. REVIEW 01 RELIGIONS 38 (2) The Bab also declares that everything possessed by a non-Babi is unclean, and that the only way for him to clean it is to believe in the Bab (the Bayan, ch. 14, w. 5). A non-Babi cannot ever really clean his body without believing in him, though he may bathe in a river a thousand times. (The Bayan, ch. 2, wahid 6.) (3) “When you hear the name of the Bab mentioned stand up and show respect. God also enjoins upon you that if anyone displeases and troubles the Bab you should kill such a person and put an end to his existence.” (ch. 15, w. 6.) This injunction thus, whenever possible, been acted upon by his devout followers. It is recorded that a certain Mirza Smith, a Babi of Sheraz, thrust a spear into the mouth of Haji Mulle Taqi for a similar offence. (4) The Babi Law does not allow a non-Babi to enter or remain in a Babi country. The Bab says: “It is the duty of his followers, especially of the Babi Kings, not to permit a non-Babi (except one who comes for trade, which is for the good of the people) to come or stay in their country.” (Ch. 6, w. 7.) In the five provinces of Shiraz, Iraq, Azerbaijan. Khurasan, and Mazindran, a non- Babi is in no circumstances to be allowed to live. (Ch. 4, w. 6.). (5) A non-Babi cannot possess anything. All his property shall be confiscated and shall not be returned unless he joins the fold of the Bab. It is absolutely unlawful for him to own anything. (Ch. 5, w. 5.) God is the real master of everything, so the very ownership of a non-believer is void and wrongful. (Ch. 15, w. 8.). It is, in fact, a concession that they are only dispossessed of their property, otherwise, if babism had the power, they would all be put to death. (Ch. 15, w. 8). They are not fit to own their “self” even. (Ch. 5., w. 5.). These teachings, however, are to be carried out only by Kings who must compel the whole world to become Babis. (Ch. 5, w. 5.). The barbarities perpetrated by the Babis upon their fellow brethren were all the result of these execrable teachings, against which the people and the Persian Government had after all to defend themselves. (6) If in the property thus seized there is something which is unique, then, during the lifetime of the Bab, it shall belong to him, and after his death the believers shall hold the same in trust for him t i l l such time as he reappears. (Ch.6, w. 5.). (7) The Bab says: “It is not lawful for anyone to read or teach any other book except the Bayan (his own), and a believer should not acquire or teach any of the sciences.” (The Bayan, chap. 10, Wahid 4.). How unreasonable and absurd these words are I leave the reader to judge. The world would surely not advance far if they were really put into practice! 39 HISTORICAL NOTE ON BAHA1SM (8) “All books should be destroyed except those written in support of our religion.” (The Bayan, chapter 6, wahid 6.). These words, it is clear, leave no room for the existence of any book, be it on religion, ethics, politics or science. The Scriptures of all other religions are to be destroyed according to the Bab. A Babi is to wage a holy war against the objectionable presence of any book on any art; sciences old or new are not to be spared. No trace is to be left of any work on medicine or surgery. Apart from the irreparable loss of books I think the world would have been plunged into a hopeless bloodshed if the Babis were to act upon these horrible teachings. (9) “The followers of Ali Muhammad Bab look upon all those who do not believe in the Bab as untouchables worthy to be put to death.” (Nuqtatul Kaf, Muqadama 5.) Abdul Baha, the successor of Bahaullah, supports the above statements of the Bayan by saying: — “The Bab enjoins that the necks of all those who do not believe in him should be broken, that they should be wiped out of existence with a general massacre, and that all other books should be burned, so as to leave nothing of them. The sacred buildings of the world should also all be demolished, and nothing left except what is of our religion.” (Makateeb, vol. 2, page 266.).’ This would indeed be a dreadful catastrophe, the very prospect of which is too appalling. A disastrous catacylsm of destruction would sweep over the whole earth. Nay, if the forces of such an arch-enemy of civilisation were once let loose, the whole universe might be thrown into a terrible vortex of disruption and dissolution. THE PROMISED MESSIAH SAYS ABOUT THE HOLY PROPHET, PEACE BE ON HIM The life of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was a life of grand success. In his high moral qualities, his spiritual power, his high resolve, the excellence and perfection of his teaching, his perfect example and the acceptance of his prayers, in short, in every aspect of his life, he exhibited such bright signs that even a person of low intelligence, provided he is not inspired by unreasonable rancour and enmity, is forced to confess that he was a perfect example of manifestation of Divine qualities and was a perfect man (AI-Hakam, 10 April 1902, p. 5).