Baha'i questions

A question for our resident Baha’i and anyone else knowledgeable about the faith. What is the differences/similarities between Baha’ism, Babism, and Alazi Babism - not only historically or politically but in daily/spiritual ritual practice and belief. Do all three accept the other as legitimate?

Hi Syro

Great question! :slight_smile:

Historically, it is pertinent to outline the foundations.

The Bab was the Prophet Founder of the Babi religion which began in 1844. In all His Writings, the Bab made mention on innumerable occasions to a Promised One whom He refered to as “Him Whom God shall make manifest” that will arise soon after Him. All Babis must be obedient to Him ( Manuchehri, S. (2004). “The Primal Point’s Will and Testament”. Research Notes in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha’i Studies 7 (2).)

Shortly before His public execution, the Bab appointed Subh-i-Azal as the head of the Babi faith until the Promised One revealed Himself.

It wasn’t long until Baha’u’llah revealed Himself as “Him Whom God shall make manifest” and pretty much the entirety of the Babis became Bahais.

There were still some Babis that remained loyal to Subh-i-Azal but by 1908 they numbered approximately 100 people. Today I am not aware of any Azali Babis at all.

I’m a little pressed for time right now but will explore some of the differences between the teachings of the Bab and the teachings of Bahaullah at some point later today :slight_smile:

God bless you

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Ok I’m back :slight_smile:

The Laws enacted by the Bab served two purposes. One was to create a cataclysmic break from Islam and to create a reform from the oppressive Traditions which had clouded human progress for so long, and the second was to pave the way for the coming of the “new heaven and new earth”, namely, Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.

The Bab declared that every Babi should live their lives in preparation for the Advent of Bahaullah. He declared that the Promised One was amongst His followers (which Bahaullah was) but they would not know who exactly it was, and so they should beautify their homes and even went as far as enacting laws on what to eat so that their breath is pleasing before the “Lord of Lords”, the “Ancient of Days”

Pretty much all the Laws of the Bab were annulled by Baha’u’llah except for the laws of fasting, prayer, Huquq’u’llah, the calendar, burial, dowry and the prohibition to carry arms, and laws of inheritance.

So in answer to your question Bahais today likely fast and pray in a similar manner to the Babis (when they existed)

Hope that answers your question.

May I ask what brought on this question?

God bless you :slight_smile:

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Well, a couple reasons. I live near a beautiful Baha’i worship center and have stopped in myself and with family or friends who are visiting - not for worship - but as a cultural/tourist location. Secondly, I took a trip about 15 yrs ago to Turkey for an Abrahamic faith gathering. I was under the impression that the hosts were Turkish Muslim, but the more I reflect on it, I think they were more likely Baha’i although not identifying as such. The hosts were very enamoured with “Shoghi Effendi”.
I started looking into it and came up with the different sects and divergences of Babism, Baha’i being the largest.

Are their Baha’i that do not recognize the mainstream leaders? Any Babists that dispute the Baha’i claims other than Azali?

Also - from my preliminary reading, I don’t get the impression that the Bab was attempting to create a new religion, but was making Shi’a claims that were rejected by the majority of Shi’ites.

With regards to the differences, two historical works address these questions:

Abbas Amanat (Harvard), “Resurrection and Renewal” [Amanat is unofficially Baha’i, but the work is definitely that of a critical historian]

Denis MacEoin (independent scholar, but PhD from Cambridge), “The Messiah of Shiraz.” [MacEoin was a Baha’i but is not anymore. The work is an excellent introduction for those who can’t speak or read Arabic or Farsi. My only complaint is that he latches on a final section about the Baha’i Faith that doesn’t seem to express any awareness of the actual body of Baha’i scripture. But this one, small chapter aside, the book is awesome, with useful appendices]

“Classical” Babism, if I might call it that, doesn’t really exist anymore following Baha’u’llah. Rather, there are two separate movements: The Baha’i Faith and Azali Babism. Most things referring to Babism as a living movement online refer to what we Baha’is call the Azalis.

The major difference is that Azalis reject Baha’u’llah and continue to adhere to the leadership of his half-brother Azal and successors. Edward Browne (British Orientalist who worked with Baha’u’llah and Azal) published a number of journal entries reflecting the emerging history of the time and noted that the Azalis had a terrible time with continuity because Azal’s sons became Christians, Baha’is, and Sunnis. I don’t think the religion has an authoritative leader at the moment, but it’s only a few thousand strong in Iran, Palestine, and Crete, and no one has ever looked into it in contemporary academia.

Because Azali Babism rejects Baha’u’llah, their preeminent text is the Bayan along with letters, commentary, and the writings of Azal. Their closer to Shi’i Shariah than we Baha’is are, following the Bab’s somewhat puritanical religious laws. Unlike Baha’is, Babis can be politically engaged, can participate in religious wars (although, being so small, they’re obviously not a very militant group – even though historically they were), and have a number of important minor rituals and chants.

Both MacEoin and Amanat address your “Shi’i” Question, as well.

The Bab began as a Shi’i - a Shaykhi - and moved toward the esoteric, eventually using Shi’i terms of styles of thinking to create a new, Persian religion. At first “Bab” met gate to the Imam, which then evolved into being the Imam and finally a new Prophet. Thus, the Bab was a Shi’i trying to revise Shi’ism, but then moved into founding a new religion altogether.

MacEoin and Amanat talk about the conference of Badasht as a site of three alternative futures for Babism: Baha’u’llah as a cosmopolitan, pacifist universalism; Tahirih as continuing the radical reform (both theological and political) spirit; and Quddus as the rigid, extremely orthodox, distinct school of Shi’ism. Baha’u’llah won out and Quddus accepted the Baha’i path, but a number of persons left Badasht disappointed with Baha’u’llah and Tahirh’s ideas. Some of these remained Babis and followed Azal, some went back to Shaykhism, and others returned to whatever they were before.

[As a Baha’i I don’t personally consider the history much of a challenge to what we believe, since history is a descriptive discipline that we as believers use to create religious narratives. As a student Badasht had alternative possibilities, but as a Baha’i Baha’u’llah was always going to win over the masses. I state this because some people give MacEoin’s and Amanat’s books undeserved criticism for being too critical, when all they’re trying to write is an academic history that acknowledges nuance.]

Very nice story Syro :slight_smile:

Your spirit of tolerance and willingness to visit other Faith centres is a noble and spiritual endeavour!

In regards to the Baha’i Faith being sect of the Babi religion, I would like to know what is your source for this? I have never heard of this claim…

Are their Baha’i that do not recognize the mainstream leaders?

The global institution to which all Baha’is turn is the Universal House of Justice, which is infallibly guided by the Divine Providence of Baha’u’llah directly. As far as I know there is a very small band of individuals resident in France and the U.S who do not recognise the Universal House of Justice as the global governing body, even though it is explicitly written that all should turn to the Universal House of Justice in the Writings of Baha’u’llah and the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha (who was Baha’u’llah’s son)

Any Babists that dispute the Baha’i claims other than Azali?

Also - from my preliminary reading, I don’t get the impression that the Bab was attempting to create a new religion, but was making Shi’a claims that were rejected by the majority of Shi’ites.

I think Mirza19 has kindly answered these questions above. Please let me know if anything is left unanswered :slight_smile:

God bless.

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What do you mean? Did you not state as much? It would be like early Christianity being a sect of Temple Judaism, or Mormons being a divergent sect of Christianity. Didn’t Bahai originate in its conception from Babism?

The global institution to which all Baha’is turn is the Universal House of Justice, which is infallibly guided by the Divine Providence of Baha’u’llah directly. As far as I know there is a very small band of individuals resident in France and the U.S who do not recognise the Universal House of Justice as the global governing body, even though it is explicitly written that all should turn to the Universal House of Justice in the Writings of Baha’u’llah and the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha (who was Baha’u’llah’s son)

Who do they recognize? Did they create their own UHoJ?

Thanks for answering these questions.

There are some divisions amongst people who identify as Baha’i, mostly involving the leadership. The largest is of course the Haifa-based Baha’i Faith currently under the Universal House of Justice, who recognized Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian, but after he died without appointing a successor, there were various claims to the leadership.

Some recognized Mason Remey as the successor to Shoghi Effendi and rejected the Universal House of Justice created in 1963, which resulted in a form of the faith “Under the Hereditary Guardianship”. Remeyite groups exist primarily in the United States, and started splintering off into smaller groups, so there is the Orthodox Baha’i Faith, the Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, and a few others.

Some Baha’is have rejected the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi, and in the early days of the faith there was a Unitarian Baha’i movement led by Shua Ullah (the eldest grandson of Baha’u’llah) who recognized Baha’u’llah’s son Muhammad Ali as the legitimate successor to Abdu’l-Baha, as he was to be next in line according to Baha’u’llah’s wishes. However, Abdu’l-Baha and Muhammad Ali had a big falling out, which was never resolved, and Abdu’l-Baha excommunicated his brother and much of his family who agreed with Muhammad Ali’s interpretation of the faith. This has resulted in a number of Baha’u’llah’s descendants not being recognized as Baha’is by the Haifan organization, however many of them still consider themselves Baha’is to this day and follow Baha’u’llah’s teachings. One of them is Negar Bahai Amsalem, the great-granddaughter of Baha’u’llah, whose mother won the legal right to visit Baha’u’llah’s shrine for their family that had been excommunicated.

In the US, there has been a recent revival of Unitarian Bahaism and Negar has been very supportive of it. She recently released for translation a number of writings from Shua Ullah Behai and a number of other “excommunicated” early Baha’is from the family, which has recently been compiled and published by Eric Stetson.

As a Gnostic Christian, I actually find it interesting to see how quickly the Baha’i faith splintered, as it’s easy to see how the same thing happened with early Christianity and all its various sects. I haven’t had a chance to get Eric’s book yet, but I’m looking forward to reading it, as I’ve been involved with the modern Unitarian Bahai group for several years now.

Gnosis wrote:

As a Gnostic Christian, I actually find it interesting to see how quickly the Baha’i faith splintered, as it’s easy to see how the same thing happened with early Christianity and all its various sects. I haven’t had a chance to get Eric’s book yet, but I’m looking forward to reading it, as I’ve been involved with the modern Unitarian Bahai group for several years now.

There were a few who didn’t accept the Institutions of the Faith at every turn…but they have had no influence on the vast majority of Baha’is. So you could say yes a few splinters here and there but no major schisms for the vast majority of Baha’is would be my view.

This is largely due to what we call the lesser covenant which means that Baha’u’llah left a Will and Testament… as did Abdul-Baha… these have been accepted by the vast majority of Baha’is. Provisions for the Universal House of Justice were made by Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and in the Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha.

So at each turn the Center of our Faith has been clearly defined.

The Babis were the initial designation of the followers of the Bab Who taught that “Him Whom God would make manifest” would soon appear… The Bab made reference to Baha and identified Him. Baha’u’llah declared that He fulfilled the expectation of the Bab in 1863…Baha’u’llah revealed new laws and ordinances and kept some that were began by the Bab such as our calendar. The Babis that accepted Baha’u’llah became knownas Baha’is. The majority of Babis accepted Baha’u’llah but some did not and remained Babis…

The above would be roughly similar to those who remained followers of John the Baptist and those who began to recognise Jesus Christ…

Yes, however as much as “others” may wish to say it, the reality and the truth is that Christianity is not a sect of Judaism, but an independent religion with its own independent Founder, Jesus Christ. :slight_smile:

The Baha’i Faith is no different…

or Mormons being a divergent sect of Christianity. Didn’t Bahai originate in its conception from Babism?

Well the Baha’i Faith originated with Baha’u’llah. The Babi Faith originated with the Bab. The entire purpose of the Babi religion was to prepare for the coming of Baha’u’llah. Parallels can be drawn between the Bab and John the Baptist, one would not say that Christianity originated in its conception from John the Baptist, would they?

Who do they recognize? Did they create their own UHoJ?

I’m really not sure how organised these small groups are. I’m sure there is some form of leadership structure. There’s a lot of stuff on the net but really they are so insignificant, pretty much all Baha’is are either unaware of who these groups are, or really would rather focus their lives united with all the other global Baha’is under the uniquely loving guidance of the Universal House of Justice.

Thanks for answering these questions.

You are welcome dear friend. They are interesting and thought provoking questions. Thankyou :slight_smile:

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As a Gnostic Christian, I actually find it interesting to see how quickly the Baha’i faith splintered, as it’s easy to see how the same thing happened with early Christianity and all its various sects. I haven’t had a chance to get Eric’s book yet, but I’m looking forward to reading it, as I’ve been involved with the modern Unitarian Bahai group for several years now.

I would agree that the number of people in the groups who call themselves Baha’is but who do not recognize the authority of the Universal House of Justice amount to “splinters”, compared to the Baha’i “tree”.

To put things into perspective, estimates of the number of Baha’is range from 3 to 6 million, and there are a couple hundred individuals who do not recognize the authority of the Universal House of Justice and are considered “covenant breakers”.

So the unity of the Baha’i Faith is very real, despite all the attempts of members of Baha’u’llah’s family, a few early prominent Baha’i teachers, and a prominent Baha’i Hand of the Cause who decided that they would usurp leadership. None of those who tried to divide the Faith have ever attracted more than a tiny handful of followers.

Anyone can put up a website, but the actual membership of these so-called Baha’i sects ranges from one individual to a few dozen at the largest.

Those interested in more background on Negar Baha’i Amsalem can read this:

bahai-library.com/momen_nigar_bahai_amsalem

Hmm… interesting perspective. Catholics wouldn’t necessarily say that Christianity is independent, the Church considers itself the only successor to pre-Rabbinical-dominated Temple Judaism.

Well the Baha’i Faith originated with Baha’u’llah. The Babi Faith originated with the Bab. The entire purpose of the Babi religion was to prepare for the coming of Baha’u’llah. Parallels can be drawn between the Bab and John the Baptist, one would not say that Christianity originated in its conception from John the Baptist, would they?

Did Bahaullah claim to have been God or a prophet? Is the Bab considered the prophet of Bahaullah? The reason why John the Baptist is considered the Forerunner and not originator is that Christianity understands Christ as the divine inspiration of John’s theological treatises - John is the Prophet.

“Did Bahaullah claim to have been God or a prophet? Is the Bab considered the prophet of Bahaullah? The reason why John the Baptist is considered the Forerunner and not originator is that Christianity understands Christ as the divine inspiration of John’s theological treatises - John is the Prophet.”

The Bab and Baha’u’llah don’t exactly map onto, 1-to-1, the John the Baptist-Jesus example. We do use that language, but mean a few different things by it.

Shoghi Effendi affirmed that the Bab and Baha’u’llah are both equally Manifestations, and that the Bab isn’t any less important. He came first and “inaugurated” the Cycle of Baha’u’llah, and thus Baha’u’llah’s laws, ethics, and teachings are more relevant to our context today; but Baha’u’llah and the Bab are both equally prophets and Manifestations. We read the Bab’s writings as holy scripture, just as we do the Qur’an, but always through the lens of Baha’u’llah.

Additionally, all Manifestations are the “Return” of the same Christ-Spirit or being-of-Manifestation-ness (both of those are my terms, not official Baha’i vocab). The Bab and Baha’u’llah are thus, ontologically, one and the same, even while they are also separate historical personalities.

To Baha’is, people have three different qualities of our person: our physical-material-bodily existence, our “spirit,” and our “soul.” Manifestations have a fourth - their being a Manifestation or reflection or embodiment of God. The Bab and Baha’u’llah have different bodies, spirits, and souls, but are the same in these latter category. This isn’t unique to them, either. Sharing in the same “Manifestation” category is Jesus, Muhammad, Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses and Adam. To that degree, we believe the Bab and Baha’u’llah are both the return of Jesus and Muhammad, because the “Return” spoken of in Christianity and Islam is - to Baha’is - the return of the Christ-Spirit or quality/state of being a Manifestation.

I hope this answers your question.

Regarding the Catholic Church as heir to pre-temple Judaism:

Baha’is also subscribe to a form of supercessionism, but it’s broader than Christianity’s (inheriting Judaism) or Islam’s (inheriting Abraham and “correcting” Judaism and Christianity).

Our “old Testament/torah,” so to speak, is the Qur’an, and you might say we consider the writings of the Bab our “old Testament/latter prophets.” We are the inheritors of Islam but also directly Persian culture - Shi’ism, the Shaykhis, and Zoroastrians. But because this region also contains much Jewish and Christian history, and because ethnically many of the first converts were Middle Eastern Jews and because Baha’u’llah was in active dialogue/exchanging letters with Christians (mostly clergy and missionaries of the Eastern Orthodox, Assyrian, Catholic, and Anglican stripes - but also later a few German and Anglo-American protestants of other groups) our religion has also absorbed some of the vocabulary and thus inherits Western Judeo-Christianity too.

For example, we follow a minority tradition (an extreme minority tradition, at that) within Islamic exegesis that accepts that Jesus died on the cross, and that it was not simply an illusion. But we break with Islam and subscribe to the Christian belief that this death is redemptive. Baha’u’llah, however, also inherit’s the Shi’i passion stories of Ali and Husayn, and from both these figures and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross expresses a broader, uniquely Baha’i belief: that in every Manifestation’s period, the Manifestation will suffer rejection and die for the redemptive purpose of the community. We accept Jesus as our savior, but we also accept the Bab’s death at the Bastinado and Baha’u’llah’s long exile and death (probably through the poison of those who opposed him) as redemptive. (Source: See “Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah” 32 and 36, but Juan Cole also has two articles about this online at HNet/Baha’i).

In other ways, Baha’u’llah similarly accepts and extends both Christian and Islamic beliefs in similar ways, because we consider ourselves heirs to both traditions not as a “corrective” to their flaws (As Islam latter came to mostly understand itself) but as a development and extension upon their ideals to a new age.

So again, we don’t precisely map onto “supercessionism,” but it’s not totally incorrect to use that model to describe us.

(my understanding) Both the Bab and Baha’u’llah are considered co-founders of the Baha’i Faith. Both were independent Manifestations of God—that is, they manifested God’s attributes to the world but not His Essence – in the same way that the suns rays ‘manifest’ the sun but are themselves not the sun. Baha’is view ALL the Manifestations of God as equal in spiritual rank; none is to be revered above another.

The whole purpose of the Revelation of the Bab was to prepare the world for the coming of Baha’u’llah, and in this way His mission was somewhat similar to that of John the Baptist preparing the Jews for the appearance of Jesus. But in Himself, He was fully a Manifestation of God; founded a new and independent religion (the Babi Faith); revealed His own Holy Books; along with unique laws, obligations and forms of worship.

As much as 2/3 of the Bab’s Writings concerned themselves with the coming of ‘Him Who God Shall Make Manifest’ (that is, Baha’u’llah).

Baha’is also recognize the importance and truth of the Bible (Old and New Testaments).

“THIS book [the Bible] is the Holy Book of God, of celestial Inspiration. It is the Bible of Salvation, the Noble Gospel. It is the mystery of the Kingdom and its light. It is the Divine Bounty, the sign of the guidance of God.” - Abdu’l-Baha

Matthew Light –

Yes, but I offered my example as a sort of “cultural” translation. If I were to extend my own analogy, I’d say we accept the Bible as a sort of Deuterocanon.

"“As to the question raised by the Racine Assembly in connection with Bahá’u’lláh’s statement in the ‘Gleanings’ concerning the sacrifice of Ishmael, although this statement does not agree with that made in the Bible, Genesis 22.9, the friends should unhesitatingly, and for reasons that are only too obvious, give precedence to the sayings of Bahá’u’lláh which, it should be pointed out, are fully corroborated by the Qur’án, which book is more authentic than the Bible including both the New and the Old Testaments. The Bible is not Wholly authentic, and in this respect is not to be compared with the Qur’án, and should be wholly subordinated to the authentic writings of Bahá’u’lláh.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of United States and Canada July 28, 1936: Bahá’í News, No. 103, p. 1, October 1936)

Since it’s always subordinate to the Qur’an and Baha’u’llah but also quoted by Baha’u’llah and 'Abdu’l-Baha, it clearly has some degree of sacred status but not the same as the Qur’an, Writings of the Bab or Baha’u’llah.

Of course we’re free as individual Baha’is to relate to it differently, and as a former Christian I have strong affinity for the text. Especially Romans and Hebrews, since the provide fertile ground for Christian-Baha’i dialogue.

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