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BAHA’ ALLAH (1817-1892), title by which Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith is best known. It is from the title Baha’ Allah (often seen as Baha’u’llah, “Glory of God”) that the religion takes its name (Baha’i means “follower of Baha’,” or “of Baha’ Allah”). Other titles by which he is frequently referred are Jamal-i Mubarak (“the Blessed Beauty”) and Jamal-i Qidam (“the Ancient Beauty”). He was born into a well-to-do family attached to the Qajar court with vast holdings of land in Mazandaran. He was inclined to pacifism at an early age and later became a follower of the Bab (1819-1850), whom he never met. His association with the Babi movement led to his arrest in August 1852 when certain Babis made an attempt on the life of the shah to avenge the execution of the Bab. He emerged in the post-Babi period as one of the leaders of the movement and was exiled first to Baghdad, then Istanbul, Edirne, and finally `Akka (Acre), Palestine.

During the Baghdad period (1853-1863) Baha’ Allah’s prestige within the Babi community continued to grow, causing difficulties between himself and his half-brother, Mirza Yahya (Subh-i Azal), who had been appointed head of the Babis by the Bab. From 1854 to 1856 he removed himself from that community to lead the life of a wandering dervish in the mountains of Sulaymaniyah and was finally persuaded to return to Baghdad by his followers. Although as early as 1853 Baha’ Allah had become apprised of his calling through visions experienced during his incarceration, it was not until 21 April 1863 that he made this calling known to a group of followers. The occasion was a further exile from Baghdad to Istanbul brought about by the intervention of the Persian authorities in the Shi`i shrine centers of Iraq. Later, in Edirne (1863-1868), he would announce his mission through a series of letters addressed to the crowned heads of Europe and other heads of state throughout the world. At this time the community of exiles began to distinguish themselves as either followers of Baha’ Allah (Baha’i) or followers of Subh-i Azal (Azali). He and his followers were moved to `Akka in 1868. Baha’ Allah would remain in this region until his death in 1892 at Bahji, the qiblah of the Baha’i world.

Baha’ Allah’s literary legacy, considered divine revelation by Baha’is, is preserved in works in Persian and Arabic too numerous to list here. Many of the most important of these have been translated into numerous languages, but several remain in manuscript. A number of works date from the early Baghdad period including the Haft vadi (Seven Valleys) and what in some ways may be considered his most important work, the Kitdb-i iqan (The Book of Certitude). It is in the Kitab-i iqan that one of the most significant aspects of his thought as a son of Islamic culture can be found clearly and uncompromisingly set forth, namely, that divine revelation did not end with Muhammad but had occurred quite recently with the Bab. The main feature of his later work is his claim to be the future divine messenger foretold by the Bab, man yuzhiruhu Alldh (he whom God will manifest).

The central message of Baha’ Allah is that the establishment of the unity of the world is the foremost religious duty of humanity and that he, as the mazhar-i ilahi (divine manifestation) for this time and for all people is empowered by God to provide the means to achieve it. The chief means are the laws, verities, and admonitions contained in several works but most importantly outlined in the Kitdb-i aqdas (Most Holy Book), which dates from 1872-1873. The Kitab-i aqdas calls for the establishment of a world tribunal, the adoption of a universal auxiliary language, and the cultivation of the belief that all religions come from the same God and teach the same essential truth, varying only in their articulations as a result of historical, linguistic, and social factors (an idea first put forth from within an Islamic milieu by the tenth-century philosopher al-Farabi). He also taught that other divine manifestations would come after him to educate the world, as there is no end to the potential for the progress and perfection of the human spirit. His ideas were received with varying degrees of enthusiasm by Muslim thinkers, ranging from condemnation by, for example, Muhammad Rashid Rida to admiration by Muhammad Iqbal. His religion can be seen as a response to the challenges that the nineteenth century posed to the Islamic world; the manner in which his teachings both arose from within the parent religion and acquired their own distinct identity is unique in the history of modern Islam.

[See also Bab; Babism; Baha’i.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baha’ Allah (Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuiri] . The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Haifa, 1992.

Balyuzi, H. M. Bahd’u’lldh: The King of Glory. Oxford, 198o. Standard biography.

Cole, Juan R. I. “Iranian Millenarianism and Democratic Thought in the Nineteenth Century.” International, journal of Middle East Studies 24 (1992): 1-26. Illuminates Baha’ Allah’s place in later nineteenth-century Islamic intellectual discourse.

Collins, William P. Bibliography of English-Language Works on the Babi and Baha’i Faiths, 1844-1985. Oxford, 1980. The result of meticulous bibliographic industry replacing all earlier attempts. Contains a guide to virtually every significant English-language work on the subject, including a lengthy section on anti-Baha’i polemic. Many of the entries are annotated.

Smith, Peter. The Babi and Baha’i Religions: From Messianic Shi’ism to a World Religion. Cambridge, 1987. Highly informative study written from a sociology of religion perspective.

B. TODD LAWSON

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/baha-allah/
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  • writerPosted On: October 14, 2012
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