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Babism

Babism (bäˈbĭzəm) [key], system of doctrines proclaimed in Persia in 1844 by Ali Muhammad of Shiraz. Influenced by the Shaykhi Shiite theology that viewed the Twelve Imams as incarnations of the Divine, Ali Muhammad proclaimed himself the Bab, the living door to the twelth Imam and the knowledge of God, and sent missionaries throughout Persia. He also announced a series of revelations, detailing the cosmogonic sequence, abrogating Islamic obligations and replacing them by a new set, structured around esoteric concepts such as the importance of the number 19. The year was hence divided into 19 months of 19 days each; the community was led by a council of 19 members. The movement placed special emphasis on the coming of the Promised One, who would embody all the tenets of the new religion. In 1848 the movement declared its complete secession from Islam and all its rites; upon the accession of a new shah, the Babi (the Bab's followers) rose in insurrection and were defeated. Many of the leaders were killed, and the Bab was executed at Tabriz in 1850. Two years later, after an attempt on the life of the shah, there followed more persecutions. In 1863 the Babi were removed to Constantinople and later to Adrianople and Cyprus. After 1868 one group had its center in Acre under the leadership of Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri (known as Baha Ullah), the founder of the Baha'i faith, who declared himself the Promised One.

See E. G. Browne, ed. and tr., A Traveller's Narrative Written to Illustrate the Episode of the Bab (1891) and Materials for the Study of Babi Religion (1918); H. M. Balyuzi, The Bab (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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