The Baha’i Faith was founded in 1863 in Baghdad by Mirza Husein-Ali Nuri, known today as Baha’u’llah (Arabic: “The Glory of God”), a disciple of Siyyid Ali Muhammad al-Baab (known today as “The Baab”); who claimed to be the promised return of the “12th Imaam” of Shiite Islaam.
In 610 A.D. an Arab named Muhammad claimed to be visited by an Angel near a cave near Mecca. The Angel told Muhammad to “Recite” certain poems; to memorize them. Muhammad did so, the the 144 poems became known as “Al-Qu’ran” (Arabic: “The Reciting”). Today, over 1 billion people, called Muslims (“Submitters” to the Will of God) believe that the Qur’an is the final Revelation of God to mankind.
After the death of Muhammad, the Muslims split into two factions: the majority Sunnis and the minority Shi’ites; who followed Ali (“aw-lee”), the son-in-law of Muhammad, and his cousin. The Sunnis later turned on Ali and his sons, Husein and Hasan, killing them. The Shi’ites believe that God inspired 12 “leaders” of their “party” (“shi’a” in Arabic means “parisan” of Ali). Each of the Imaams (“leaders”) was inspired of God to lead the true Musims: the Shi’as (Shi’ites).
The Shi’ite Muslims were followers of the “12 Imaams” which included the son-in-law (Ali) and the 11 descendants of Muhammad himself. The 12th Imaam died about 850 A.D. by falling down a well near Qom, Iran, at the age of 8 years old. The Shi’ites expected that one day the Imaam Mahdi would return with great armies to do two things:
1) To conquer the world for true Islaam (i.e. Shi’ite Islaam)
2) To prepare the way for Jesus Christ (who would reveal himself as a Muslim)
The Shi’ites believed that the Imaam Mahdi never really died, but went into hiding in some underground cavern (perhaps attached to the well), and would come forth in the last days.
In 1844, in Shiraz, Iran, Siyyid Muhammad Ali Shirazi, a descendant of Muhammad, proclaimed that he was the “return” of the Imaam Mahdi. He proclaimed this to members of a small sect of Shi’ite Muslims called the “Shaykees”, who believed in a form of reincarnation called “return”.
Siyyid Muhammad Ali proclaimed that he was “The Gate” to God, and his followers began to call him “Al-Baab” (Arabic: “The Gate”). He made about 40,000 followers.
The orthodox Shi’ite clergy considered the Baabis to be heretics, and the “Baabi” (pronounced “baw-bee”) sect of Islaam to be false, for the following reasons:
1) The Baab claimed to be a “Manifestation of God” (i.e. the human reflection of one of Allah’s Names/Attributes); a concept which is considered heretical in Orthodox Shi’ite Islaam.
2) The Baab claimed to reveal a new Revelation, and new Holy Books. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was God’s final Revelation to man, and Muhammad to be God’s final Messenger.
3) The Baab proclaimed that he was the “return” of the Imaam Mahdi; yet everybody knew that he (The Baab) was born in 1819, and was obviously not the same being as the Imaam Mahdi (a boy of 8 years) that fell down the well 1000 lunar years before.
The Baab replied that he was the “return” of the “essence” (spirit/soul) of the Imaam Mahdi; not the return of his fleshly body. He also proclaimed that this was the Day of Resurrection; meaning that all the prophets and saints of old were “returning” with him.
For example, the first Baabi was proclaimed to be the “return” of the Prophet Muhammad. One of the first female Baabees (Tahirih) was proclaimed to be the “return” of Fatimah; the daughter of Muhammad and a woman belived by Shi’ite Muslims to be a Muhadathath (“Seeress”).
One of the early disciples of The Baab was Mirza Husein-Ali Nuri, a Persian nobleman who was a descendant of King Cyrus of Persia and of King David of Israel. The Baab give to Mirz Husein-Ali the title of “Baha’u’llah”; meaning “The Glory of God” in Arabic.
The followers of “The Baab” were persecuted for being heretics (and because several of them tried to assassinate the Shah of Iran). Baha’u’llah was imprisoned for four months in the “Black Pit” of Tehran, then exiled to Baghdad, then Adrianople, and finally to Akka, Palestine.
While in Baghdad, Baha’u’llah proclaimed that he was the “promised one” expected by the followers of The Baab, named “He Who God Will Make Manifest”; the “Manifestation of God” that would succeed The Baab and bring a greater Revelation.
In the years 1890-91, Baha’u’llah claimed Mount Carmel in Haifa, and proclaimed that he was the “Promised One” of all religions.
In 1892 Baha’u’llah died, but not before appointing his eldest son, Abbas Effendi, his successor. His other surviving son, Muhammad-Ali Effendi, claimed that Baha’u’llah had appointed him and Abbas as “co-regents”. Abbas soon had Muhammad-Ali and his entire family declared “covenant-breakers” and expelled from the Faith.
Abbas Effendi began to call himself “Abdu’l-Baha” (“Servant of Glory”). His words and writings are considered Scripture to Baha’is, and infallible; although nowhere did ‘Abdu’l-Baha claim that for himself.
Before his death in 1921, the Baha’is now claim, he appointed Shoghi Effendi, his grandson, to be the first “Guardian” of the Baha’i Faith. Shoghi Effendi openly claimed infallibility. Anyone who opposed him was declared a “Covenant-Breaker” and shunned forever by all other Baha’is. Shoghi Effendi declared all of the blood relatives of Baha’u’llah (except himself) to be “Covenant-Breakers” because they opposed or criticized him in one way or another.
Shoghi Effendi ruled the Baha’i Faith from 1921 until his death in 1957. Most Baha’is (98%) believe that he wanted the Universal House of Justice (a committee of nine men) to succeed him to govern the Faith internationaly. About 1% of Baha’is claimed that Shoghi Effendi appointed Mason Remey as his successor (they are called “Orthodox Baha’is”).
After the death of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God (his 27 appointed helpers) openned his safe and found that he left no “Will and Testament”. So, they decided to form a body of 9 “Custodians of the Faith” to govern the Faith until the first House of Justice could be elected. One of the 9 Custodians was the widow of Shoghi Effendi, who, many believe, “ruled” the Faith in all but name only from 1957 until her death in 1987.
In 1963, the first Universal House of Justice (i.e. counsel of 9 elected men) was elected to govern the Faith, and each Member is elected every 5 years.
Today, there are about 6 million Baha’is worldwide, with headquarters in Haifa, Israel, at the Baha’i World Center. About 3,000 “Orthodox Baha’is” are affiliated with 3 different sects; all headed by a “Guardian”.
Baha’is today believe that there can be no true Prophets outside of the Baha’i Faith. In other words, The Baab was a Prophet, then Baha’u’llah, and Baha’u’llah wrote that if any man or woman arise in the space of 1000 literal years claiming to be a Prophet, that man or woman is a “liar”. Therefore, they believe that no new Prophets can arise until after the duration of 1000 literal years from the year 1863; the year of the founding of the Baha’i Faith.
They also believe that if a Prophet arises after 1000 literal years, he must be a “Baha’i Prophet” since he will be “under the shadow” of Baha’u’llah; because the “Baha’i Cycle” will last for 500,000 years, and thus all Prophets that arise after Baha’u’llah for 1/2 million years will be “Baha’i Prophets”.
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