Baha’i Faith : The Case of the Traveller, Part 3 of 3

Babism’s Background

“The founder of the Sheykhi school, with which in its origin the Babi movement is so closely connected, was Sheykh Ahmad of Ahsa (often, but apparently erroneously,written Lahsa) [1752-53-1826-27 AD]…he again visited Persia towards the end of his life, and that on this occasion he passed through Kazvin, where he paid a visit to HajiMulla Muhammad Taki.

The latter questioned him concerning his views on the resurrection, and, after a violent altercation, declared them to be heretical. In consequence of this many other divines, who had hitherto regarded Sheykh Ahmad almost as a saint, began to look askance at him or even to display open hostility…

The chief points wherein Sheykh Ahamd’s doctrine is regarded as heterodox are stated as follows. He believed that the body of man was compounded of parts derived from each of the nine heavens and the four elements; that the grosser elemental part perished irrevocably at death; and that only the more subtle celestial portion would appear at the resurrection…he believed himself to be under the special guidance of the Imams, especially, as it would appear, the Imam Ja’far-i-Sadik.

He regarded the Imams as creative forces, quoting in support of this view the expression~~~ ‘God, the Best of Creators,’ occurring in Kur’an xxiii, 14; ‘for,’ said he, ‘if God be the Best of Creators He cannot be the sole Creator.’ He also adduced in support of this view the tradition wherein the following words are attributed to ‘Ali:-~~~ ‘I am the Creator of the heavens and the earth’ He even went so far as to assert that in reciting the opening chapter of the Kur’an (~~~) the worshipper should fix his thoughts on ‘Ali as he repeats the words ~~~ ‘Thee do we worship’…Sheykh Ahmad Ahsa’i was succeeded at his death by his disciple Haji Seyyid Kazim of Resht [1793-94-1843-44]…

He attained such eminence that on the Sheykh’s death he was unanimously recognized as the leader of the Sheykhi school…Seyyid Kazim had not explicitly nominated asuccessor…A number of the late Seyyid Kazim’s immediate disciples repaired directly after his death to the mosque at Kufa, and there, with fasting, vigils and prayers, soughtfor God’s guidance in the choice of a spiritual director.

Having completed their religious exercises they dispersed each in his own way. Mulla Huseyn of Bushraweyh proceeded to Shiraz, and on his arrival there paid a visit to Mirza’Ali Muhammad [the Bab] To him first of all did the young prophet [the Bab] announce his divine mission…after a mental struggle which lasted several days, [Mulla Huseyn] became firmly convinced that the Master so eagerly sought for and so earnestly desiredhad at length been found…

Thus did he become the ‘Gate of the Gate’…it was from the old Sheykhi party that the most eminent supporters of the new faith were for the most part derived. It must not besupposed, however, that all the followers of the late Seyyid Kazim accepted the new doctrine.

A considerable number, headed by Haji Muhammad Karim Khan of Kirman, utterly declined to admit the Bab’s pretensions (for so they regarded his claims), and these became the bitterest and most violent of his persecutors. Of those doctors who heaped insult on the Bab during his first examination at Tabriz, and those who two years later ratified his death-warrant in the name of religion, several were Sheykhis.

Hence it is necessary to recognize clearly the difference between the relations of Babiism to the old and the new Sheykhi school. From the bosom of the former it arose, and, in great measure, derived its strength; with the latter it was ever in fiercest conflict. Of Sheykh Ahmad Ahsa’i and Seyyid Kazim of Resht both Babis and Sheykhis speak with reverence and affection; but Haji Muhammad Karim Khan and his followers are asodious in the eyes of the Babis as Mirza ‘Ali Muhammad the Bab and his adherents are execrable (utterly detestable) in the opinion of the modern Sheykhis.

The Bab stigmatized Haji Muhammad Karim Khan as ‘the Quintessence of Hell-fire'(~~~) and ‘the [infernal] Tree of Zakkum’…Haji Muhammad Karim Khan wrote at least two treatises (one called ‘the crushing of Falsehood,’ ~~~) in refutation and denunciation of the Babi doctrines…a Sheykhi doctor [explained how] the Sheykhis chiefly differed from that of other Shi’ites. His answer was in substance as follows:-

‘The Balasaris [i.e. non- Sheykhi Shi’ites] hold that the ‘Supports,’ or essential principlesof religion (~~~), are five…we only accept three…but to these we add another, which we call the ‘Fourth Support'(~~~), viz. (4) that there must always be amongst the Shi’ites some one perfect man (whom we call ~~~ ‘the perfect Shi’ite’) capable of serving as achannel of grace (~~~) between the Absent Imam and his church…there must always exist in the Church of the Imams some visible head who enjoys their special spiritual guidance and serves to convey their wishes and their wisdom to all true Shi’ites, than to the actual personage who fulfils this function.

Yet outside the Sheykhi circle, both amongst the Balasaris and the Babis, it certainly bears the second meaning as well; and it is commonly asserted that Haji Muhammad Karim Khan regarded himself, and was regarded by his followers, as being this ‘Fourth Support’ or Channel of Grace from the Spiritual World.

It is evidently this second meaning which the term bears in the present text, and if it bore it from the first it is evident that there was originally very little difference between the pretensions of Mirza ‘Ali Muhammad the Bab and those of Haji Muhammad Karim Khan, since both, in the first instance, claimed to be neither more nor less than intermediaries between the absent Imam and his Church, exactly in the same sense as were the four original ‘Gates’ (Abwab, or Babs) who served as a connection between the Twelfth Imam and his followers during the period of the ‘Lesser Occultation.'”

 

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About imranshaykh
I am a student of comparative religion with a special interest in Islam and The Bahai Faith

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