The Báb

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Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel.

Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad (Persian: سيد علی ‌محمد) (October 20, 1819 – July 9,1850) was the founder and prophet of The Bábí Faith or Babism. He was a merchant from Shíráz, who on May 22, 1844, at the age of twenty-five, claimed to be the promised Qá'im (or Mihdí). After his declaration he took the title of Báb (Arabic: باب) meaning "Gate." He composed hundreds of letters and books (often termed tablets) in which he stated his messianic claims and defined his teachings, which constituted a new sharí'ah or religious law. His movement eventually acquired tens of thousands of supporters, was virulently opposed by Iran's Shí'í clergy, and was bloodily suppressed by the Iranian government. Thousands of his followers, termed Bábís, died. In 1850 the Báb was shot by a firing squad in Tabríz.

Titles he uses in his writings to refer to himself include the "Primal Point" and the "Point of the Bayán."

Bahá'ís view the Báb as the forerunner of their own religion. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, was an early follower of the Báb and claimed to be the fulfillment of his promise that God would send another messenger.


Early life

Born on October 20, 1819, in Shiraz to a well-known merchant of the city, his father died soon after his birth and the boy was raised by his uncle Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid `Alí, who was also a merchant.[1]

Upon reaching manhood, he joined his uncle in the family business, a trading house, and became a merchant. In 1842 he married Khadíjih-Bagum and they had one son, Aḥmad, who died in infancy.[2] A contemporary described Him as "very taciturn, and [he] would never utter a word unless it was absolutely necessary. He did not even answer our questions. He was constantly absorbed in his own thoughts, and was preoccupied with repetition of his prayers and verses. He was a handsome man with a thin beard, dressed in clean clothes, wearing a green shawl and a black turban."[3]

Writings before his declaration

The Báb's writings before his declaration do not demonstrate a prophetic consciousness. Todd Lawson noted this in his doctoral dissertation about the Tafsír-i-súrih-i-baqarih or "Commentary on the Surih of the Cow," a work the Báb wrote on a chapter of the Qur'án.[4] This Qur'án commentary was started by the Báb in November or December 1843, some six months before declaring his mission. The first half was completed by February or March 1844; the second half was composed after the Báb's declaration. It is the only work of the Báb's revealed before his declaration that has survived intact, and thus it is quite important. It also sheds light on the Báb's attitude toward Shí`í beliefs.[5]

The Shaykhi Movement

In the 1790's in Iran, Shaykh Aḥmad (1753-1826) began a religious movement within Shi'a Islam often called Shaykhism. His followers, who became known as Shaykhis, were expecting the imminent appearance of the Qá'im, often called the Mihdi by Sunni Muslims. After the death of Shaykh Aḥmad, leadership was passed on to Siyyid Káẓim of Rasht (1793-1843).

During the Báb's year-long pilgrimage in and around Karbala, he is believed to have attended the lectures of Siyyid Káẓim, however this period is almost entirely undocumented.[2]

Before his death in December 1843, Siyyid Káẓim had counselled his followers to leave their homes to seek the "Lord of the Age," whose advent would soon break on the world. One of these followers, named Mullá Ḥusayn, prayed and fasted for forty days, then travelled to Shiraz, where he met the Báb.

Declaration to Mullá Ḥusayn

Soon after he arrived in Shiraz, in late May 1844, Mullá Ḥusayn was approached by a young man wearing a green turban, an indication that the wearer was a descendent of the Prophet Muḥammad. The stranger, the Báb, invited Mullá Ḥusayn to his home.

After being asked by the Báb what he was doing in Shiraz, Mullá Ḥusayn replied that he was searching for the Promised One. The Báb then asked how would the Promised One be recognized, to which Mullá Ḥusayn replied "He is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent, is endowed with innate knowledge and is free from bodily deficiency." To the shock of Mullá Ḥusayn, the Báb declared "Behold, all these signs are manifest in me."[6]

Mullá Ḥusayn had one more sign by which to identify the Promised One: He had been told by Siyyid Káẓim that the Promised One would write a commentary on the Surih of Joseph without being asked. The Báb fulfilled this requirement as well, writing the commentary after making his declaration.[6]

After spending the night in conversation with the Báb, Mullá Ḥusayn recorded the following:

"This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt… the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanised my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: “Awake, for lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!”[7]

Letters of the Living

Mullá Ḥusayn was the Báb's first disciple. Within five months, seventeen other disciples of Siyyid Káẓim had independently recognized the Báb as a Manifestation of God.[8] Among them was one woman, Zarrín Táj Baragháni, a poetess, who later received the name of Ṭáhirih (the Pure). These eighteen disciples were later to be known as the Letters of the Living and were given the task of spreading the new faith.[2] The Báb emphasized their spiritual station as members of the first váhid ("unity"; the letters in Arabic add up to 19, the number of the Letters of the Living plus the Báb) of his religion. Their role can be compared to the fourteen "Infallibles" in Shí'í Islam (Muhammad, the twelve imáms, and Fátimih)[9] or to the Twelve Apostles of Christ.


It has been long debated whether the Báb's self-identity and claims evolved and became more exalted over time. The title "báb" implies that he was the gate to the Hidden Imám rather than the Hidden Imám himself, for in Shí'í Islam the Twelfth Imám was said to have gone into seclusion because of the danger of persecution and communicated to his followers by a series of four bábs or gates. To the public, especially in the early years, the title báb was emphasized in Bábí talks. Some scholars point out that the title báb served as a protection, because the public proclamation of mahdihood could have swiftly brought a condemnation of death upon the Báb. Furthermore, his first text—the Commentary on the Surih of Joseph revealed to Mullá Ḥusayn—used quránic language that implied divine authority. When Mullá `Alí Basṭámí, the second Letter of the Living, was put on trial in Baghdad for preaching about the Báb, the clerics studied the Commentary on the Surih of Joseph, recognized in it a claim to divine revelation, and quoted from it extensively to prove that the author had made a messianic claim.[10] Consequently the evidence favors the conclusion that the Báb was certain of his claim from the beginning. In 1848 He boldly proclaimed himself, in the presence of the Heir to the Throne of Persia and other notables, to be the Promised One. [11]

Shiraz, May-September 1844

The first chapter of the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá' (Literally, something like "The Arising of the Names"; usually titled in English Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph)[12] was written by the Báb on the evening of his declaration to Mullá Husayn, May 22, 1844. The entire work, which is several hundred pages in length and is considered to be revelation by Bábís and Bahá'ís, required forty days to write; it is one of the Báb's longer Arabic works. It was widely distributed in the first year of the Bábí movement, functioning as something of a Bible for the Bábís. In the book the Báb states his claim to be a Manifestation of God, though the claim is disguised with other statements that he is the servant of the hidden imám.[13] About the time the book was finished, the eighteen Letters of the Living had all accepted him, so he sent them out to proclaim the new Faith to the public. Some went to their home regions; many went to the Shí'í shrine cities in Iraq. The Báb himself prepared to travel to Mecca on the annual pilgrimage to proclaim himself to the public and to Muslim notables gathered there. Before his departure, he produced one other notable work:

  • Sahífih-yi-makhzúnih, which consists of a collection of fourteen prayers, mostly to be recited on specific Muslim Holy Days and festivals. Its content remained within the expectations of Islam.[14]

Pilgrimage, September 1844-June 1845

Shí'í prophecies refer to the declaration of the Mahdi before the Kaaba, and the Báb's journey was meant to fulfill them.[15] His public proclamation appears to have had little effect, though he did obtain a sympathetic hearing from a few fellow pilgrims. After a three-week pilgrimage in Mecca, the Báb visited Medina for twenty-seven days, then returned to Jedda for the lengthy and arduous sea voyage back to Iran. During his nine and a half month trip, the Báb composed many works:

  • Khasá'il-i-sab`ih: A work composed by the Báb on his sea journey back to Bushehr after his pilgrimage, which listed some regulations to be followed by the Bábí community. A copy of the manuscript probably still exists in Iran.[16]
  • Kitáb-i-Rúḥ ("Book of the Spirit"): This book contains 700 or 900 verses and was written while the Báb was sailing back to Bushehr from pilgrimage. The original was nearly destroyed when the Báb was arrested. Several manuscript copies are extant.[17]
  • Sahífih baynu'l-haramayn ("Treatise between the Two Sanctuaries"): This Arabic work was written while the Báb traveled from Mecca to Medina in early 1845 and is in response to questions posed to him by a prominent Shaykhí leader.[18]
  • Kitáb-i-Fihrist ("The Book of the Catalogue"): A list of the Báb's works, composed by the Báb himself after he returned from pilgrimage to Mecca, 21 June 1845. It is an bibliography of his earliest writings.[19]

Bushehr and Shiraz, March 1845-September 1846

The Báb arrived in Bushehr in March 1845 and remained there until preaching by the Letters of the Living in Shiraz led to opposition by the Islamic clergy, prompting the Governor of Shiraz to order the Báb's arrest. The Báb, upon hearing of the arrest order, left Bushehr for Shiraz in June 1845 and presented himself to the authorities. He was placed under house arrest at the home of his uncle until a cholera epidemic broke out in the city in September 1846.[2] The Báb was released and departed for Iṣfahán. The period also saw the composition of several important works:

  • Sahífih-yi-Ja`fariyyih: The Báb wrote this treatise to an unknown correspondent in 1845. Over a hundred pages in length, it states many of his basic teachings, especially in relation to some Shaykhi beliefs.[20]
  • Tafsír-i-Súrih-i-Kawthar ("Commentary on the Chapter on Abundance"): The Báb wrote this commentary for Siyyid Yahyá Dárábí Vahíd while he was in Shiraz; it is the most important work revealed during the Shiraz period. Though the súrih is only a few lines in length, being one of the shortest in the Qur'án, the commentary on it is over two hundred pages in length. The work was widely distributed, and at least a dozen early manuscripts are extant.[21]

Isfahan, September 1846-March 1847

In Isfahan, many came to see the Báb at the house of the imám jum'ih, head of the local clergy, who became sympathetic. He debated the local clergy and performed an act of revelation in front of them.[22] Due to pressure from the clergy of the province, the Shah Mohammad Shah Qajar ordered the Báb to Tehran in January, 1847. The period also saw the composition of several significant works:

  • Nubuvvih khássih: This work, of fifty pages' length, was revealed in two hours in response to a question by Manúchihr Khán, the city's governor. It discusses the special prophethood of Muhammad, an important subject discussed in debates between Muslims and Christians.[23]
  • Tafsír-i-Súrih-i-va'l-`asr ("Commentary on the Chapter on Time and Age"): This is one of the two important works the Báb penned in Isfahan. It was written spontaneously and publicly in response to a request by Mír Sayyid Muḥammad, the chief cleric of the city; much of it was written in one evening, to the astonishment to those present.[24]

Máh-Kú, July 1847-May 1848

The Báb left Isfahán in March 1847, sojourned outside Tehran several months, then before the Báb could meet the Shah, in late May the Prime Minister sent him to Tabriz for forty days, and finally in early July to the fortress of Máh-Kú in the province of Azarbaijan close to the Turkish border.[25] There, the Báb was kept under confinement, though the restrictions on him gradually were relaxed as the commander and guards became impressed by the piety of their prisoner. Máh-Kú witnessed the composition of some of the Báb's most important works:

  • Persian Bayán: This is undoubtedly the most important work of the Báb and contains the mature summary of his teachings. It was composed in Máh-Kú in late 1847 or early 1848. The work consists of nine chapters titled váhids or "unities," which in turn are usually subdivided into nineteen bábs or "gates"; the one exception is the last unity, which has only ten bábs. The Báb explained that it would be the task of "He Whom God Would Make Manifest" to complete the work; Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Iqán to be the completion of the Bayán. Each unity begins with an Arabic summary of its contents, which makes it easier to read than many of the Báb's works. Extracts of this work are published in Selections from the Writings of the Báb; A. L. M. Nicholas translated the entire work into French in four 150-page volumes.[26]
  • Arabic Bayán: This is the shorter and less important of the two Bayáns. It consists of eleven váhids or "unities," each with nineteen bábs or "gates." It offers a succinct summary of the Báb's teachings and laws. It was composed at Máh-Kú in late 1847 or early 1848.[27]
  • Dalá'il-i-Sab'ih ("Seven Proofs"): There are two works by this name, the longer one in Persian, the shorter one in Arabic; both were composed in Máh-Kú in late 1847 or early 1848. Nicholas called the Persian Seven Proofs "the most important of the polemical works that issued from the pen of Sayyid `Alí Muhammad"[28]. The work was written to either a non-Bábí or to a follower whose faith had been shaken, but we do not know the person's identity. The Arabic text summarizes the seven proofs found in the Persian text. An interesting historical question is whether the Arabic or the Persian text was written first.

Due to the Báb's growing popularity in Máh-Kú the prime minister transferred him to the fortress of Chihríq in April 1848. In that place as well, the Báb's popularity grew and his jailors relaxed restrictions on him. Hence the Prime Minister ordered the Báb back to Tabríz where the government called on religious authorities to put the Báb on trial for blasphemy and apostacy.[2]


The trial, attended by the Crown Prince, occurred in July 1848 and involved numerous local clergy. They questioned the Báb about the nature of his claims, his teachings, and demanded that he produce miracles to prove his divine authority. They admonished him to recant his claims. There are nine extant eyewitness reports of the trial, of which several may originate from an earlier source. Six of the reports are from Muslim accounts, and not unsurprisingly portray the Báb in an unfavourable light. All nine eyewitness sources state that the Báb said "I am that person you have been awaiting for one thousand years,"[11] indicating that he made an unequivocal claim to Mahdihood.

The trial did not settle any matters or influence public opinion in favor or against the Báb. Some clergy called for capital punishment, but the government pressured them to issue a lenient judgment because the Báb was popular and asked medical experts to declare the Báb insane so that he could not be executed. It is also likely that the government, to appease the religious clergy, spread rumours that the Báb had recanted.[29]

The Shaykh al-Islam (a very prominent local cleric), the champion of the anti-Bábí campaign, who was not at the Báb's trial, issued a conditional death sentence if the Báb was found to be sane. A fatwa was issued establishing the Báb's apostasy and stated "The repentance of an incorrigible apostate is not accepted, and the only thing which has caused the postponement of thy execution is a doubt as to thy sanity of mind."[29]

The crown prince's physician, Dr. William Cormick examined the Báb and complied with the government's request to find grounds for clemency.[11] The physician's opinion saved the Báb from execution for a time, but the clergy insisted that he face corporal punishment instead, so the Báb was bastinadoed (administered twenty lashes to the bottoms of his feet).[29] The official report states that due to his harsh beating, the Báb recanted, apologized, and stated that he would not continue to advance claims of divinity.[30]

There is little non-governmental evidence that the Báb recanted his claim. Some theorize that the statement was made to embarrass the Báb and undermine his credibility with the public. There exists an unsigned and undated document that was supposedly written shortly after the Báb's trial in Tabriz where the Báb recants his claims to a divine station. But the language of this document is very different from the Báb's usual style; it could have been prepared by the authorities, but the Báb refused to sign it.[11][29] The Báb was finally ordered back to the fortress of Chihríq.

Chihríq, May 1848-July 1850

The Báb spent two years in Chihríq, except for his brief visit to Tabriz for his trial. The works he produced there were more esoteric or mystical and less thematically organized.[31] Two major books were produced, in addition to many minor works:

  • Kitáb-i-Asmá' (The Book of Names) ("The Book of Names"): This is an extremely long book about the names of God. It was penned during the Báb's last days at Chihríq, before his execution. The various manuscript copies contain numerous variations in the text; the book will require considerable work to reconstruct its original text.[32]
  • Kitáb-i-panj sha'n ("Book of Five Grades"): Having been composed in March and April of 1850, this is one of the Báb's last works. The book consists of eighty-five sections arranged in seventeen groups, each under the heading of a different name of God. Within each group are five "grades," that is, five different sorts of sections: verses, prayers, homilies, commentaries, and Persian language pieces. Each group was sent to a different person and was composed on a different day. Thus the work is a kind of miscellany of unrelated material. Some of the sections represent further exposition of basic themes in the Báb's teachings; others consists of lengthy iterations of the names of God, and variations on their roots.[33]


In mid 1850 a new prime-minister, Amir Kabir,[34] ordered the execution of the Báb, probably because various Bábí insurrections had been defeated and the movement's popularity appeared to be waning. The Báb was brought back to Tabríz from Chihríq, so that he could be shot by a firing squad. The night before his execution, as he was being conducted to his cell, a young Bábí, Muḥammad-`Alíy-i-Zunúzí, called Anís, threw himself at the feet of the Báb and begged to be killed with him. He was immediately arrested and placed in the same cell as the Báb.

On the morning of July 9, 1850, the Báb was taken to the courtyard of the barracks in which he was being held, where thousands of people had gathered to watch his execution. The Báb and Anís were suspended on a wall and a large firing squad of Christian soldiers prepared to shoot.[2] Numerous eye-witness reports, including those of Western diplomats, recount the result.[35] The order was given to fire and the barracks square filled with musket smoke. When it cleared the Báb was no longer in the courtyard and his companion stood there unharmed; the bullets apparently had not harmed either man, but had cut the rope suspending them from the wall.[36] There was a great commotion, many in the crowd believing the Báb had ascended to heaven or simply disappeared. But the soldiers subsequently found the Báb in another part of the barracks, completely unharmed. He and Anís were tied up for execution a second time, a second firing squad of Muslims soldiers was ranged in front of them, and a second order to fire was given. This time, the Báb and his companion were killed.[2] In the Bábí-Bahá'í tradition, the failure of the first firing squad to kill the Báb is believed to have been a miracle. Their remains were dumped outside the gates of the town to be eaten by animals.

The remains, however, were clandestinely rescued by a handful of Bábis and were hidden. Over time the remains were secretly transported by way of Iṣfahán, Kirmansháh, Baghdad and Damascus, to Beirut and thence by sea to Acre, Israel on the plain below Mount Carmel in 1899.[37] In 1909, the remains were then interred in a special tomb, erected for this purpose by `Abdu'l-Bahá, on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land.


In most of his prominent writings, The Báb alluded to a Promised One, most commonly referred to as man yazhiruhu'lláh, "He whom God shall make manifest", and that he himself was "but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest." Within 20 years of the Báb's death, over 25 people claimed to be the Promised One, most significantly Bahá'u'lláh.

Before the Báb's death, he sent a letter to Mírzá Yahyá, titled Ṣubḥ-i-Azal, which is considered to be his will and testament. The letter is recognized as appointing Ṣubḥ-i-Azal to be the leader of the Bábí community after the death of the Báb. He is also ordered to obey the Promised One when he appears.[38] At the time Ṣubḥ-i-Azal was still a teenager, had never demonstrated leadership in the Bábí movement, and was still living in the house of his older brother, Bahá'u'lláh. All of this lends credence to the Bahá'í claim that the Báb appointed Ṣubḥ-i-Azal the head of the Bábí Faith so as to divert attention away from Bahá'u'lláh, while allowing Bábís to visit Bahá'u'lláh and consult with Him freely, and allowing Bahá'u'lláh to write Bábís easily and freely. Furthermore, there is a long history in Shí`ism of hidden leaders, with their deputies wielding the true power (the four bábs themselves are the first examples of this, as is `Alí-Muhammad's choice of the title "the Báb").

Bahá'u'lláh stated that in 1853, while a prisoner in Tehran, he was visited by a "Maid of Heaven," which symbolically marked the beginning of his mission as a Messenger of God. Ten years later in Baghdad, he made his first public declaration and within a decade was recognized by the vast majority of Bábís as "He whom God shall make manifest." His followers began calling themselves Bahá'ís.[39]

Ṣubḥ-i-Azal continued to live with or close to Bahá'u'lláh throughout the latter's exiles from Iran to Baghdad and then to Istanbul and Edirne, even though Bahá'u'lláh's claim to be a messenger God in 1863 theoretically rendered moot Ṣubḥ-i-Azal's authority as the head of the Bábí community. In September 1867, in Edirne, the rival claims to authority came to a head. Ṣubḥ-i-Azal challenged Bahá'u'lláh to a test of the divine will in a local mosque in Edirne (Adrianople), such that "God would strike down the impostor." Bahá'u'lláh agreed and went to the Sultan Selim mosque at the appointed time, but Mirza Yahya failed to show up.[40]

Ṣubḥ-i-Azal's followers became known as Azalís or Bayanis. For the Bábís who did not recognize Bahá'u'lláh, Ṣubḥ-i-Azal remained their leader until his death in 1912. Whether or not he had a successor is disputed. Bahá'í sources report that 11 of the 18 "witnesses" appointed by Ṣubḥ-i-Azal to oversee the Bábí community became Bahá'ís, as well as his son. The man allegedly appointed by Ṣubḥ-i-Azal to succeed him, Hadíy-i-Dawlat-Abádí, later publicly recanted his faith in the Báb and Ṣubḥ-i-Azal.[41]

Ultimately, Bahá'u'llah emerged more successful and nearly all of the Báb's followers abandoned Ṣubḥ-i-Azal and became Bahá'ís. Today Bahá'ís claim to have several million followers, while estimates of the number of Azalís are generally around one thousand, isolated in Iran.[42]


The main themes discussed by the Báb changed substantially between his writings before and after his incarceration in Azarbaijan 1848. In his earliest years he focused on the theme that his teachings represent "true Islam" "until the day of resurrection".[2] While many Islamic injunctions remained in force in his writings, the Báb claimed that he had the authority to clarify issues relating to the details of Islamic Sharia. Notably, he tended to diverge from standard Muslim practices by making requirements stricter, enjoining additional prayers. He also forbade smoking and enjoined extreme reverence when visiting the grave of the Imam Husayn. Discussion of Shí'í millenarian themes were an important part of the early works and gave his movement an apocalyptic edge; this was the day of the return of the Mahdí, of the victory and dominion of God. They gave the Bábí movement a widespread popular appeal.[43]

His works frequently quoted and provided commentary on passages from the Qur'an. Unlike classical Qur'anic commentaries by theologians or Sufis, however, he usually commented on the meaning of the text letter by letter rather than the meanings of the words and sentences, allowing him to use a sacred text as a point of departure for revelation on a theme distantly related or even unrelated to the Qur'anic passage. The Báb's overall approach to texts and many Islamic doctrines was symbolic and metaphorical, and he often rejected literal interpretations of apocalyptic doctrines. While he sometimes used Sufi terminology, his reasoning and approach are distinct from any other school of thought.[44]

The Báb's early doctrines started to change in 1848 when he abrogated Islamic shari'ah law. The Bábí shari'ah included its own form of pilgrimage to the Báb's house in Shiraz. A Bábí calendar of nineteen months of nineteen days was defined that started on Persian Naw-Ruz and included a four-day intercalary period (to raise the total days to 365, 19 times 19 being only 361). The last 19-day month, falling in March, was the Bábí month of fasting. Bábí obligatory prayer was different from Muslim practice as well, but was deemphasized compared to dhikr, repetition of various scriptural verses. Laws regulating marriage discouraged polygamy, forbade concubinage, and instituted a year of waiting before a divorce could be completed.[45] Such laws, and the removal of any explicit need for women to veil themselves, potentially improved the status of women to a considerable degree. The Báb, however, never explicitly delineated a principle of equality of the sexes, and other regulations continued the separation of the sexes in public.

The themes of jihad and martyrdom also remained important in the Báb's writings. The Báb often wrote theoretically about jihad in the sense of armed struggle, but he never explicitly announced the beginning of a jihad. The various Bábí struggles appear to have primarily involved defensive jihad. Martyrdom, an immensely important theme in Shí'ism, was important to Bábís as well, with the siege of the Bábí fort at Shaykh Tabarsí being viewed as a Bábí recapitulation of the events of Karbilá.[46] Hundreds of individual Bábís were martyred in public, usually in ways that inspired admiration or even allegiance to their cause.

In his later writings the Báb described the divine or eternal essence to be unknowable, indescribable and inaccessible. The Báb compared the divine to the sun which remains single, although it appears under different names and forms in the persons, prophets, whom it is in manifested in. Some of these teachings exhibit features common to earlier Shi'ite sects such as the Ismailis and the Hurufis.[2][47] However, his teaching on the need for successive "prophetic cycles" is completely an original conception.[47] He also reinterpreted Shí'í eschatological terms, such as "resurrection," "Judgment Day," and "paradise" and "hell.".[2] He stated that "Resurrection" means that the appearance of a new revelation, and that "raising of the dead" refers to the spiritual awakening of those who have stepped away from true religion. He further stated that "Judgment Day" alludes to the time a new Manifestation of God comes, and his acceptance or rejection by the Earth's inhabitants.[48] Thus the Báb taught that with his revelation the end times had come and the age of resurrection had started, and that the end-times were symbolic as the end of the past prophetic cycle.[49] Traditional Shí'í millenarian beliefs were reinterpreted so radically that few of the popular traditional expectations were left.

Another constant theme in his works, especially in the Persian Bayan, is that of He whom God shall make manifest: a messianic figure who would come after him. Bábís were exhorted to leave a chair for him at all gatherings and constantly to be prepared to accept him. The Báb also developed legal principles that were intended to be implemented in a theocratic Bábí state if He whom God shall make manifest approved and implemented them.[2] The rules of this state including the burning of non-Bábí books and the banning of non-Bábís from residence within its boundaries.[50]

In his written works following his return to Chiriq in August 1848 to his execution in July 1850, notably in the later parts of the Persian Bayan, he claimed to be not merely the Imam Mahdi, but a divine manifestation.

Several of the Báb's writings during this period such as the Kitáb-i-Asmá' discussed ritual practices largely unrelated to the actual circumstances of the Bábí community.[2] The Báb's writings also contained many codified chronograms, cabalistic interpretations, talismanic figures, astrological tables, and numerical calculations, some of which appear to be similar to the Nuqtavi cabalistic symbolism. The number 19 appears in many parts of the Báb's writings, which also resembles Nuqtavi documents.[51] Numerology has been used by a number of Shiite sects, including the Hurufi, Nuqtavi and Ahl-i Haqq, to implicitly denote a messianic theme by calculating secrets of the future through complex calculations.[44]


Unfortunately, most of the writings of the Báb have been lost. The Báb himself stated they exceeded five hundred thousand verses in length; the Qur'án, in contrast, is 6300 verses in length. If one assumes 25 verses per page, that would equal 20,000 pages of text.[52] Nabíl-i-Zarandí, in The Dawn-breakers, mentions nine complete commentaries on the Qur'án, revealed during the Báb's imprisonment at Máh-Kú, which have been lost without a trace.[53] Establishing the true text of the works that are still extant is not always easy, and some texts will require considerable work. Others, however, are in good shape; several of the Báb's major works are available in the handwriting of his trusted secretaries.[54]

Most works were revealed in response to specific questions by Bábís. This is not unusual; the genre of the letter has been a venerable medium for composing authoritative texts as far back as the Apostle Paul. Three quarters of the chapters of the New Testament are letters, were composed to imitate letters, or contain letters within them.[55] Sometimes the Báb revealed works very rapidly by chanting them in the presence of a secretary and eye-witnesses, who took the text down in a form of Arabic shorthand.

The Archives Department at the Bahá'í World Centre currently holds about 190 Tablets of the Báb.[56] Excerpts from several principal works have been published in the only English language compilation of the Báb's writings: Selections from the Writings of the Báb. Denis MacEoin, in his Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, gives a description of many works. In addition to major works, the Báb revealed numerous letters to his wife and followers, many prayers for various purposes, numerous commentaries on verses or chapters of the Qur'án, and many khutbihs or sermons (most of which were never delivered). Many of these have been lost; others have survived in compilations.[57]


  1. Balyuzi, H.M. (1973). The Báb: The Herald of the Day of Days. Oxford, UK: George Ronald, pp. 30-41. ISBN 0853980489. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 MacEoin, Dennis (1989). "Bāb, Sayyed `Ali Mohammad Sirazi". Encyclopædia Iranica.  
  3. Hajji Muhammad Husayn, quoted in Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: The making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850 (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989), 132-33.
  4. B. Todd Lawson, The Qur'an Commentary of Sayyid `Alî Muḥammad, the Bab, Ph.D. diss, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill Univ., Montreal, 1987, 250-51.
  5. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 46-47.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Nabíl-i-A`ẓam, The Dawn-breakers, p. 57-58.
  7. Nabíl-i-A`ẓam, The Dawn-breakers, p. 65.
  8. The Time of the Báb. BBC. Retrieved on 2006-07-02.
  9. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, 191.
  10. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, 230-31.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 MacEoin, Denis (May 1997). "The Trial of the Bab: Shi'ite Orthodoxy Confronts its Mirror Image". Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies 1. Retrieved on 2006-07-02.
  12. Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land, Ed. Bahá'í Faith, The: 1844-1963 p. 13. Retrieved on 2006-07-02.
  13. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 55-57.
  14. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 59-60.
  15. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, 238.
  16. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 61-63.
  17. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 61.
  18. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 60-61.
  19. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 65.
  20. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 66-67.
  21. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 71; Nabíl-i-Zarandí, The Dawn-breakers, 174-76.
  22. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, 257.
  23. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 76-77; Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, 257; Nabíl-i-Zarandí, The Dawn-breakers, 202-04.
  24. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 76.
  25. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, 373-74.
  26. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 83-85.
  27. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 85.
  28. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 85-88.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Amanat, Abbas (1989). Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 390-393. 
  30. Browne, E.G. (1918). Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  31. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 88-94.
  32. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 91-92.
  33. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 93-95.
  34. Shoghi, Effendi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, p. 52. ISBN 0877430209. 
  35. Sir Justin Shiel, Queen Victoria's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Tehran, wrote to Lord Palmerston, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on July 22, 1850 regarding the execution. The letter, can be found in its original form as document F.O. 60/152/88 in the archives of the Foreign Office at the Public Records Office in London.
  36. Some accounts say Anís was killed on the first volley; one says that the Báb was dispatched by a sword. One, Mírzá Muhammad Taqí Khán Lisánu'l-Mulk Sipihr's Násikhu't Taváríkh, agrees that the Báb and Anís were killed by the second firing squad and the first just cut their ropes. See Firuz Kazemzadeh, Kazem Kazemzadeh, and Howard Garey, "The Báb: Accounts of His Martyrdom," in World Order, vol. 8, no. 1 (Fall, 1973), 32. All accounts, even the Muslims ones, concur that the Báb survived the first volley.
  37. *Shoghi, Effendi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp. 273-289. ISBN 0877430209. 
  38. Manuchehri (2004) [1]
  39. Cole, Juan. A Brief Biography of Baha'u'llah. Retrieved on 2006-06-22.
  40. Browne (1918) p. 18. & Salmání (1982) pp. 94-95
  41. Shoghi Effendi (1944) p. 233 & Momen (1991) pp. 99
  42. Azali. Britannica Concise. Retrieved on 2006-10-14.
  43. Peter Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions: From Messianic Shi'ism to a World Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 33, 42.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Amanat, Abbas (1989). Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 143-146. 
  45. Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions, 34.
  46. Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions, 44-45.
  47. 47.0 47.1 Bausani, A (1999). "Bāb". Encyclopædia of Islam. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brll NV. 
  48. Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, 5th ed.. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877431604. 
  49. Amanat, Abbas (2000). "The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Islam". The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism vol. III: pp. 230-254.
  50. Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions, 34.
  51. Algar, H (1999). "Nuktawiyya". Encyclopædia of Islam. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brll NV. 
  52. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 15.
  53. Denis MacEoin, The Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 88.
  54. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 12-15.
  55. On letters as a medium of composition of the New Testament, see Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction, Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1974), 96-97.
  56. Unpublished letter from the Universal House of Justice. "Numbers and Classifications of Sacred Writings Texts". Retrieved on 2006-12-16.
  57. MacEoin, Sources for Early Bābī Doctrine and History, 15-40.