The Bab: An objective analysis
Dr. Mohammed Alam Qurayshi
The Bahai Faith finds its origin in the Babi movement started by Mirza Ali Mohammed - The Bab. The Bahais speak highly of The Bab and title him as the "forerunner" of Bahaullah. To get a measure of role of the Bab, one can pay attention to some of the rich tributes paid to The Bab by the leaders of the Bahai Faith.
Abdul Baha says about The Bab, "The Bab, the Exalted One, is the Morn of Truth, the splendor of Whose light shines throughout all regions. He is also the Harbinger of the Most Great Light, the Abha Luminary (Bahá'u'lláh)."
(Ref: The World Order of Bahaullah, p. 127)
The above statements will make it adequately clear that The Bab was the Harbinger and the Forerunner of the Bahai Faith. The Bahai Faith finds its foundations and its fundamentals in the Babi movement.
It is only fair that we judge the Bahai Faith on the basis of its origin and its foundations. It is an oft quoted cliché that if the foundation is strong, so will be the structure. If the foundation is weak, so will be the structure. This holds true whether it is construction of any kind or argumentation or religion. If the foundation of the religion is robust, then the structure that follows it will be strong too.
Using the above argument, we wish to look at the life and time of The Bab. Let us look at the strength of the Babi Faith. How steadfast was Bab? Did his life justify his claims as a divinely appointed leader (or God as he later claimed?) If the foundation called The Bab cannot hold the pressure of our arguments, the surely the edifice of Bahaullah and consequently that of Bahaism must crumble.
The early history of The Bab
Bab was born on October 20, 1819 A.D. in the city of Shiraz in Iran. His father's name was Mirza Raza Bazzaz who was a merchant by profession. His mother's name was Fatime Khanum. When he was 7 years of age, he went to study under Shaikh Abid. Shaikh Abid was a scholar of the Shaikhiya sect, and so he infused all the ideas of the Shaikhiya sect into the mind of Mohammed Bab.
Was The Bab unlettered as the Bahais claim?
Abbas Effendi writes on page 8 of his book 'Khetabat-e-Buzurg', "It is in*****bent on every prophet that he gains knowledge from Allah alone and not from any human being and such is the practice of all prophets like Prophet Ibrahim, Hazrat Mohammed, Hazrat Bab and Bahaullah. All of them did not study in any school because the one who owes his knowledge to human schools cannot be a divine representative."
Fair enough. However history suggests quite the opposite.
Robert Stockman, an independent researcher writes in "Some notes on the Bab", "The young boy was sent to a local teacher named Shaykh Abid for six or seven years for a private education (there being no public schools in Shiraz at the time). The teacher was a Shaykhí, as were the members of the Bab's family, which suggests that the Báb was exposed to Shaykhí interpretations of Islam from a young age. The Báb very much disliked school, apparently acquired little book learning, and regarded much of the education He received as irrelevant."
Now obviously there is a contradiction here. And with good reason too. In order to build credibility for the Bab and to misguide the Muslim community, the Bahais have tried to model the life of the Bab and present it in the same light as that of the Holy Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h). The similarities in their lives, (that of The Bab as reported by the Bahais) to the extent of reporting the Bab as an unlettered prophet, highlights the desperation of the Bahais to project the Bab in good light. But as history shows, deceit will be caught and truth will prevail.
It has been proved conclusively that the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) was not tutored by any worldly teacher. Despite this, the eloquence of the Quran and his (p.b.u.h) sayings reflect clearly that the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) was divinely inspired. At a time when the entire Arab community prided itself on its language, the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) brought forth the Quran, whose eloquence and beauty was a source of amazement for the Arabs and whose splendor continues shine forth till today. The Holy Quran itself testifies to this fact in, the Chapter of Najm, verses 3,4
"Nor does he speak of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him"
But the obvious disregard by The Bab for even elementary teaching is reflected in his conversations with scholars who questioned his beliefs in the court of the Shah. He was ignorant of even the basic rules of Arabic grammar, mathematics, philosophy, or for that matter in any science of knowledge. I will write more about this in detail. For now, it suffices to say that here is an individual who did not fulfill the basic requirement of being the deputy of a divine leader, leave alone being a divine leader, and he sought to challenge the authority and the position of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) with his writings and his beliefs.
At many places we are exposed to the words of The Bab to the effect that he did not study any science of knowledge and hence should be considered as unlettered. Which may be true - but it is important to note that this ignorance of The Bab was by choice and not by default or any divine design.
The knowledge of The Bab
The Bab possessed limited knowledge and this is amply demonstrated in the episode of his questioning at the court of the Shah. One only needs to read the incident to realize the number of times when he is silenced and unable to answer questions that would be answered by a relatively intelligent person.
The prophets of Allah, as we know them, may not have been accepted by their people, but at no place can we find that they were silenced by their opponents in debate or questioning. One can read about the life history of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) to understand the awe that the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) commanded over his opponents in discussions. This too is a measure of the truthfulness of a genuine representative of Allah.
What kind of prophet is that who puts forth his claims but is unable to reply to questions concerning his beliefs? What prophet is that who ridicules himself before learned scholars in elementary matters of language and science? Whose books are so full of mistakes that even an ordinary person could point them out? Definitely a false one.
In the episode of the questioning of the Bab in the court of the Shah of Iran, the Bab is unable to respond to questions about Allah, Islam, religious law or any traditions, yet he claimed to have brought a book which was better than the Quran!
If the Quran challenged all men and jinn to come together to produce a verse from the Quran, the Bab challenged all men and jinn to come together to produce "half a word", from the Bayan they would be unable to do so! The challenge of The Bab is ridiculous. "Half a word" cannot be pronounced in order for it to be a permissible challenge. Even a child would understand that.
The idiocy of the arguments and the weakness in the explanations of the Bab itself are sufficient to recognize that at times, the Bab himself did not understand his own words. For example in his argument for proving his divinity, Bab says, my name is numerically equivalent to the word "Lord".
(Ref: The Trial of the Bab in Mamaqani's Namus-i Nasiri, page 42)
Does this mean that any person who shares the name Ali Mohammed or for that matter Mohammed Ali is worthy of being called God? According to the Bab, yes. As for my readers, I credit them with more intelligence than to accept this reasoning from the Bab.
To reply to his detractors in the court of the Shah to produce a miracle, the Bab puts forth the argument that the "sheer volume of his revelations" should be considered sufficient as a miracle.
(Ref: The Trial of the Bab in Mamaqani's Namus-i Nasiri, page 42)
Which is unacceptable. One cannot accept sheer volume of revelations as a miracle. Not when they are filled with mistakes from beginning to end. How can incorrect and stumbling words be considered miraculous?
It is important to note here that the Bab was asked to produce the miracle of Moses (who used to throw his staff on the ground to transform it into a snake). And was unable to do so. And had no reply to it either. In response he claimed to cause a verse (recited by him) to descend upon the staff. Well, he did recite the verse, but nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.
The steadfastness of the Bab
It is true that all divine representatives of Allah, whether it was Hazrat Ibrahim, Hazrat Nuh or the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) faced resistance from their people when they proclaimed their call towards Allah. The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) went through a series of social boycotts, persecution of his followers and finally had to leave his birthplace, Mecca for Medina. However at no place do we ever find that the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) or any other divine representative renounced their claims for fear of persecution. Even under the most difficult cir*****stances, the prophets of Allah remained steadfast in their beliefs and unwavering in their call towards Allah.
This steadfastness in the face of extreme trying conditions is something that distinguishes the genuine and authorized (if one can use this word) prophets of Allah from those who claimed prophethood. Nothing can be closer to this fact then the history of The Bab who at the slightest provocation renounced his claims, altered them to suit his mood and time and who at the end of it all has left all of us - seekers of the truth thoroughly confused.
In the book of Traveller's Narrative, Abdul Baha, on pages 278-290 has narrated the incident of the Bab's questioning at the court of the Shah. During the incident, when the Bab is questioned about the verses revealed unto him, he initially credits them to a God, but on being questioned with severity, Bab admits that they were his own handiwork.
As mentioned above the most difficult question about the steadfastness of Bab needs to be answered. Why did the Bab claim to be first the Gate of the Imam, then the Imam himself and then a prophet and then the forerunner of "One who Allah will Manifest" by God and then God Almighty himself. In a separate article, I will highlight each of these claims and substantiate them with references from Bahai books.
We need answers
Bahais need to provide answers to these questions. The position of The Bab in relation of the Bahai Faith is not an ordinary one. If there were no Bab, then there would be no Bahai.
Dr. Mohammed Alam Qurayshi http://www.thebahaitruth.com/