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     The Bahai of Persia

 

 

The Bahai of Persia

What the Ahmediyyah were for the Sunni Indian subcontinent, the Bahai were for Iran and Shiite Islam: a welcome tool of the colonial power to weaken the political resolve of the subjugated lands which usually found their strength in the spirituality of Islam. The Bahais follow in the tradition of the Babis, an innovative variation of the Shia doctrine.

In the teaching of the Twelver Shia, Abu Qasim, the twelfth Imam and Mahdi, disappeared in the year 329 after the Hijrah. The Babis believe that he continues to speak to people through intermediaries, the Babs or Doors of wisdom. They added a new article of faith which states that there will always be amongst the believers one perfect man who shall be the channel of grace between the absent Imam and his people. During a massacre of Babis in 1852, which followed the attempt of some of their members to assassinate the Shah, the then holder of the position of the Bab, Mirza Muhammad Ali, was killed, and Mirza Hussain Ali Bahaiullah became the leader of one of the sects into which the Babis split. Initially only taking the position of the Bab's viceregent, he later assumed a more eminent role and reduced the Bab to one who merely paved the way for God to manifest Himself in Bahaiullah. Unlike in Islam, where Allah is approachable for His servants without intermediary, for the Bahais there is the need for an appointed medium. In Bahaism, which has been influenced by Sufism and Christian doctrine, this medium is the Primal Will, similar to the Sufi First Principle or Primary Intelligence through which God communicates with man. How this new faith was destined to help British rule can be seen from the following statement of Bahaiullah: "Bahai has come for the perfecting of the law of christ, and his injunctions are in all respects similar. For instance, we are commanded that we should prefer that we should be killed rather than that we should kill. It is the same throughout, and indeed, could not be otherwise, for Bahai is Christ returned again." 

Bahaism does away with the Qur'an and Hadith as final authoritative guidance. During each age the Primal Will must manifest itself afresh. "Since it is impossible for created beings to know the Divine Essence, the Primal Will has, for their guidance and instruction, incarnated itself from time to time in a human form. These incarnations are known as prophets. That which spoke in all the prophets of the past now speaks in the bab, and will speak through 'Him whom God shall manifest' (i.e. Bahaiullah), and after him through others, for there is no cessation in these manifestations." For the Bahai, there is an ongoing process of revelation which did not stop with Muhammad, peace be upon him, nor even with Bahaiullah as the Mahdi. Bahaism was described by Orientalists as "a religious revolt against orthodox Islam, for it has shaken in the minds of many Muslims the conviction that Islam is the final word on things temporal and spiritual, it tends to give liberty of thought and to develop a friendly spirit to others" (The Faith of Islam by the Rev. Edward Sell). 

As much as it undermined the teachings of Islam, it changed its practice. The five daily prayers were reduced to three and the prayer direction towards Makkah was cancelled. The fast of Ramadan is replaced by that during the last month of the Babi year. Shaving one's head is forbidden, but shaving the beard is permitted. Interfaith dialogue is greatly encouraged. The furniture of houses should be renewed every nineteen years, and chairs should be used. Carrying of arms other than during times of war is not permitted. Jihad is abolished  the clearest indication of the aim to force the surrender of the Muslim entity.

Author: Islamic Party of Britain
Date Published: Spring 1995

 

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