The Writings and Teachings of the Báb

Authored by: Nader Saiedi

The World of the Bahá'í Faith

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138367722
eBook ISBN: 9780429027772
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Despite the short ministry of the Báb (1844–1850), He penned an incredible number of works. He Himself divides His writings on the basis of the chronology (early and later works) and the mode of revelation (divine verses, prayers, commentaries, rational analysis, and Persian language pieces). The writings of the Báb can be distinguished in terms of three stages: the interpretive, philosophical, and legislative forms of revelation. His works reinterpreted major theological concepts like God, Prophet, religion, Day of Resurrection, and human freedom. He brought about a new concept of identity, according to which the truth of everything is the reflection of divine names and attributes. This spiritual definition of reality provides the basis of a new culture in which both nature and human beings are perceived as sacred and beautiful. According to the Báb, religion is a dialogue between God and humanity. Consequently, religion is a dynamic and progressive reality. That is why His writings identify His revelation as the preparation for the advent of another divine revelation (of Bahá’u’lláh) that will supersede His own revelation.

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The Writings and Teachings of the Báb


The six-year ministry of ‘Alí-Muḥammad of Shiraz, titled the Báb (1844–1850), constituted a unique stage in sacred history because of its unprecedented quantity of revealed writings. Even though some of His writings were stolen or lost, the remaining works of the Báb are equivalent to almost a hundred books. His revelation was also distinguished by an incredible rapidity of reciting or writing. This spontaneous and natural way of composition, without reflection or pause, is frequently mentioned as a sign of the revealed character of His writings, rather than representing the product of acquired learning and artificial norms. While the Qur’an was revealed over 23 years, the Báb frequently emphasized that He could reveal the equivalent over two days and two nights (Persian Bayán 2: 1). Unlike the Islamic description of revelation as an external and discontinuous event—God sending His angel to bring the word of God to His Prophet—the Báb frequently explained that the source of revelation is the heart of the Prophet, and therefore it is a ceaseless and internal event (Persian Bayán 2: 14).

In addition to the magnitude of His revelation, the extant texts are also characterised by a high degree of authenticity. Unlike past revelations where the authenticity of the works attributed to the Prophet is a matter of academic dispute, the temporal proximity of the revelation of the Báb, His preference for the written form of revelation, His emphasis on preserving His words, and the systematic attempts by His followers have led to the preservation of most of His writings.

However, His writings enjoy different degrees of authenticity. The highest level of absolute authenticity belongs to the writings that are written in His own hand. These are either beautiful handwritten texts produced for special occasions or are revelation writing (rapidly inscribed texts) composed when He was chanting or dictating a work with amazing speed. The next category of high authenticity belongs to the works for which we have the revelation writing or the transcribed text by His authorized amanuensis. For the vast majority of His writings during His imprisonment in Mákú and Chihríq, we have the revelation writing in the hand of Siyyid Ḥusayn. Many other writings of the Báb are preserved in the handwriting of His other major amanuensis, ‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Qazvíní, including many of the earlier works of the Báb. The next level of authenticity pertains to the works of the Báb for which there exist a number of copies, but none in the handwriting of the recognized amanuenses. While there is little disagreement

Calligraphy by the Báb.

Figure 3.1   Calligraphy by the Báb.

Source: Bahá’í World News Service.
about the authenticity of these texts in general, the copies require systematic comparison and checking to determine the exact text.

A further general characteristic of His writings is the complexity of its content and language. His writings are infused with Qur’anic verses; Islamic traditions; and mystical, philosophical, and esoteric numerological formulations. Philosophical writings of the famous school of Isfahan led by Mullá Ṣadrá and the works of Shaykhi leaders Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim, for example, constitute the most important background works for His writings (MacEoin 1992). The Báb’s revolutionary character and His questioning of all traditions are also manifest in His unique writing style in Persian and Arabic. In both cases He occasionally ignores the prevalent rules of grammar and writes in innovative, mesmerizing, and beautiful ways. The majority of His writings are in Arabic, but His most important work, the Persian Bayán, and His main apologetic work, the Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih (‘Seven Proofs’) are written in Persian.

The typology of his writings

The Báb himself provides at least two different typologies for His writings.

Early and later writings

The first typology is a chronological one. In the Persian Bayán, He divides His writings into two stages (Persian Bayán 6: 1). His early writings prior to His exile to Mákú are ambiguous about His real claim in order to prepare the people for the subsequent unveiling of His true station. Divine purpose and meaning, therefore, are less explicit in those writings. Muslims in general believed that Muhammad was the final Prophet, and Islam was the last and eternal religion. The Shi‘ih Muslims awaited a millenarian cosmic event when the hidden Twelfth Imam would appear with His sword and purify the world from non-Shi‘ih Muslims. The declaration of the Báb in 1844 was exactly 1,000 lunar years after the occultation of that Imam, who was thought to be still alive but hidden. The Báb not only believed himself to be a new Prophet who would abrogate Islam and bring a new religion, but also claimed to be the Twelfth Imam, even though He was born in 1819 rather than 1,000 years earlier. His claim, therefore, was a total reversal of the fundamental religious assumptions prevalent among Iranian Muslims, and at first He had to present His new ideas in a relatively concealed way. During the first stage of His writings (May 1844–April 1847), He wrote as if He was the Gate (Báb) to the hidden Twelfth Imam (Saiedi 2008: ch. 3).

It was a few months prior to the last three years of His ministry that He unveiled the truth of His claim in His writings. The Persian Bayán represents the beginning of this second stage. In the very first chapter of the Persian Bayán, He claims that He is a Prophet who has brought a new religion, that His revelation constitutes the Day of Judgement, that all Prophets are one and the same, that the purpose of His religion is to prepare humanity for the coming of the next Manifestation of God, and that religion is an ever-living, dynamic, historical, and progressive reality (Persian Bayán 1: 1).

Although these two stages are very different, they both express a common spiritual worldview. The language of the first stage uses familiar Islamic categories, whereas the second stage creates novel symbols related to the new revelation. For example, the first 18 believers in the Báb, who were previously called ‘Sábiqún’ (those who have preceded others in faith), are now called ‘Ḥurúf-i-Ḥayy’ (the Letters of the Living) (Persian Bayán 1: 2). While previously the expected Twelfth Imam appeared to be the object of awaiting, the writings of the second stage speak of the next Manifestation of God as ‘He Whom God shall make manifest’ and define the entire revelation of the Báb as a preparation for the subsequent revelation. Complex relations between categories like ‘the Point,’ ‘the Letters,’ one, nineteen, and ‘all things’ are among the new concepts in His revelation where He unites a mystical discourse with a historical consciousness.

At the same time, both stages replace the proof of the performance of miracles with the supreme proof of the revelation of the Word (Seven Proofs). The Báb states that the revelation of divine verses, the words of God—through Him—is His ultimate miracle. From the very first day of His declaration, the Báb announced that He could reveal divine verses ceaselessly. The very fact that so many of His early works were written in the form of divine verses was a clear indication of His real claim from the very beginning, even though He ostensibly called Himself the gate to the Twelfth Imam. His claim to be a Manifestation of God was clearly explicated in His later writings. To be exact, He stated that His body is the gate to the Twelfth Imam, His soul is the Twelfth Imam, His intellect is the Prophet, and His heart is the source of divine revelation (Saiedi 2008: 102–103).

Five modes of revelation

The second typology the Báb provides for His own writings is the key to understanding the substantive worldview of the Báb. He divides His writings into five modes (sing. sha’n; pl. shu’ún) of revelation: divine verses, prayers or supplications, interpretations and sermons, rational and philosophical explanations, and Persian works (Persian Bayán 6: 1). The last mode acts as an integrative form for the other four. The four modes of revelation are significant because they unveil the truth of the nature of the Báb as well as the structure of reality. Unlike Islam, in which these four modes of revelation were revealed by different historical figures throughout the centuries of the Islamic dispensation, all four modes of revelation are revealed by the Báb himself throughout the six years of His revelation. As He explains, divine verses belong to the divinity of the Manifestation of God, the prayers belong to the prophethood or servitude of the Manifestation, interpretations pertain to the Imams, and the rational explanations belong to the gates or special scholars (Persian Bayán 3: 16).

According to the Báb, the last two modes of revelation, namely interpretations and rational explanations, are derivatives and elaborations of the first two: interpretations are commentaries on the divine verses, and rational explanations are the unveiling of the truth of the prayers. Both emphasize the spiritual quest to discover the infinite within the finite (Persian Bayán 2: 15). However, the two primary modes of revelation—divine verses and prayers—are descriptions of the truth of the Manifestation of God. The Point or Manifestation possesses two stations. On the one hand, a Prophet is a pure mirror in whom nothing can be seen except the revelation of God. On the other hand, this mirror is different from the image it reflects, the image of the Sun in heaven. The first aspect is the divinity of the Manifestation, and the second is its servitude. The Manifestation or the Point is therefore the unity of divinity and servitude. Everything else is also a reflection of the Point, possessing within itself both divinity and servitude (Persian Bayán 4: 1). The ultimate truth of everything is its divinity: namely, the revelation of God within it. While things are different from each other by their various finite characteristics, the ultimate truth and identity of everything is the sign of God which is present within it. All things, therefore, are both one and many. Unity in diversity defines the metaphysics of being.

Three stages of revelation

The writings of the Báb can also be divided historically into three stages (Saiedi 2008: 27–28). During the first stage, the interpretive stage, the defining form of revelation is interpretation. The most important work of this stage is His Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, which was written during 40 days, beginning on the first night of His declaration on 23 May 1844. Another major work of this period is His Commentary on the Qur’anic Súrih of the Cow, which began a few months before His declaration and continued to be revealed during His trip to Mecca and Medina (Lawson 2018). During this stage He wrote hundreds of works, including the Book of the Spirit (Kitábu’r-Rúḥ), the commentary on the opening phrase of the Qur’an (the basmalah), the Epistle Revealed Between the Twin Shrines (Ṣaḥífiy-i-Baynu’l-Ḥaramayn), a number of prayer books, including the Epistle on the Devotional Deeds of the Year (Ṣaḥífiy-i-A‘mál-i-Sanih), and The Hidden Treasured Epistle (Ṣaḥífiy-i-Makhzúnih), and a Commentary on the Occultation Prayer (Sharḥ-i-Du‘á’-i-Ghaybat). It is important to note that at the end of this first stage, the Báb himself organized all His numerous works up to that point into four books and ten epistles. The four books are the Commentary on the Súrih of Cow, the Book of the Spirit, a collection of 50 of His tablets, and His Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph.

The second stage of His writings, the philosophical stage, is defined by philosophical and metaphysical discussions, beginning with the writing of His first major Persian work, The Epistle of Justice (Ṣaḥífiy-i-‘Adlíyyih) around January 1846. This Persian work is a discussion of the fundamental principles of religion (Saiedi 2008: ch. 9). Another work of the Báb with a similar title, the Epistle of Justice: The Branches (Ṣaḥífiy-i-Furú‘-i-‘Adlíyyih) is written in the first stage and before the Epistle of Justice.

During this stage, the Báb wrote two works on the interpretation of the letter H (Tafsír-i-Há’ and Tafsír-i-Sirr-i-Há’), which unveil both the truth of reality and His own truth through the symbolism of the letter H, denoting God or He (Huva). His Tablet to Mírzá Sa‘íd explains three complex theological issues about the unity of existence, eternality and origination of the world, and the emergence of plurality out of the absolute One. A famous work among the numerous texts of this stage is the Dissertation on the Specific Mission of Muhammad (Risáliy-i-Ithbát-i-Nubuvvat-i-Kháṣṣih) which was written in honour of the governor of Isfahan. The Treatise on Singing (Risálih fi’l-Ghiná’) is another work that was written in Isfahan. This stage witnessed a number of significant interpretive works as well. The Commentary on the Súrih of Kawthar and the Commentary on the Súrih of Va’l-‘Aṣr are the most famous examples.

The third stage of His writings, the legislative stage, comprises the last years of His life when He was imprisoned in Mákú and Chihríq, beginning in April 1847 and ending in July 1850 (Saiedi 2008: Part III). These writings formally abrogate the laws of Islam, proclaim the inception of a new divine revelation, and define the Báb as a Manifestation of God who is the return of the truth of all past Prophets. In addition to numerous small- and medium-size tablets, at this stage, He produced many works whose length exceeded 500 pages. Two of these works contain close to 3,000 pages. The Book of Names (Kitábu’l-Asmá’) consists of 361 chapters, each dealing with one of the names of God and consisting of four modes of revelation. The work is a mystical encyclopaedia of divine names in which all humans become reflections and manifestations of various names of God. Humans are asked to lead a life that realizes the divine revelation within them. The other lengthy work of the Báb, the Book of Recompense (Kitábu’l-Jazá’) represents the judgement of God in this Day of Resurrection, offering divine favours to the believers. Various aspects of spiritual truth are presented as the reward of the believers in the heaven of the revelation of the Báb.

But the most important texts of this third stage are the Persian Bayán and the Arabic Bayán. The Persian Bayán consists of nine sections, each having 19 chapters, with the exception of the ninth section that ends with Chapter 10. The word used by the Báb for ‘section’ is váḥid, which means one or unity. However, the numerical value of the word ‘váḥid’ is equal to 19 (V=6, A=1, H=8, D=4), an important number in the Báb’s numerology. The Persian Bayán is the first major work of the Báb through which the announcement of the inception of a new religion is specifically explicated. In its first chapter, the Báb refers to that day, a Friday, and that very moment of writing as the beginning of the abrogation of Islam (Persian Bayán 1: 1).

The Arabic Bayán consists of 11 sections, each section consisting of 19 chapters or gates. Written in the mode of divine verses, it specifies the laws, whereas the Persian Bayán explains their meaning. The Báb emphasizes that His laws are symbols and reflections of spiritual and mystical principles (Persian Bayán 8: 11). It is the crystal water of divine unity that is running through all these diverse laws. Although these laws are binding, the real imperative is not the literal law but rather the spiritual meaning and purpose that are symbolized by it: the recognition of Him Whom God shall make manifest in the next divine revelation.

Another famous work of this stage is the Seven Proofs (Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih), written in Mákú, in which the Báb offers seven proofs to demonstrate that the mere revelation of divine words by Him is sufficient evidence of the truth of His claim. One of the last major works of the Báb is the Book of the Five Modes of Revelation (Kitáb-i-Panj Sha’n), written in Chihríq on the anniversary of the beginning of the sixth year of His declaration. That day (20 March 1850), which was exactly six lunar years after 5 Jamádíyu’l-Avval 1260 (23 May 1844), also coincided with Naw-Rúz, the first day of solar year, which is the first day of the Bábí calendar (Panj Sha’n 8–13). Thus, two festivals were united in one day. Various chapters of the book discuss some central theological issues through an interpretation of one of the names of God.

Mention must be made of a short but central work of the Báb at this stage. Written close to the end of His life, the Tablet to Mullá Báqir discusses the method of investigating the claim of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Since all the writings of the third stage are oriented towards the recognition of the Promised One, this tablet is pivotal. The main message of the text is that the Promised One should be recognized by His being and His verses, without reference to anything or anyone else (Saiedi 2008: 371–375).

Some central ideas

In the remainder of this chapter, I will outline the general worldview of the writings of the Báb.

Reinterpretation of theology

The writings of the Báb reinterpret the major theological concepts of the past religions. Shi‘ih Islam affirmed five theological principles: the unity of God, Prophethood, resurrection, Imamate, and relative human freedom (the justice of God).


The writings of the Báb are filled with emphasis on the absolute transcendence of God, rejecting any anthropomorphic conception of Him. The unity of God means that there can be no distinction between various attributes and the essence of God. This means that God cannot be defined or praised or known except in terms of the fact that He is beyond recognition. At the level of true God, nothing else has ever existed, let alone something able to know God (Persian Bayán 1: 1). What we call the ‘words of God’ are in reality the words of the supreme reflection of God in this world, which are identical to the heart and the truth of the Prophets (Persian Bayán 2: 14). We humans have defined God in terms of attributes like knowledge and power because these are our own characteristics. The transcendental God is above such and any descriptions (Panj Sha’n 392).


According to the Báb, since the reality of God is inaccessible to the world, out of His love, God defines and describes Himself to His creatures so that they can know Him. But this self-description of God is not the essence and truth of God. Instead, it is the reflection of God in the world, a description that fits the reality of the world itself. This divine self-description is the truth of the Manifestations of God or the Prophets (Saiedi 2008: ch. 6). At the same time, the truth of everything is the divine revelation reflected in their hearts. Therefore, the Manifestations of God are the supreme revelations of God in the world, and it is through recognition of them that God can be known. The writings of the Báb redefine the meaning of Prophethood, religion, and revelation. All Prophets of God are one and the same. These Manifestations of God are like pure mirrors. God is the Sun, whose reflection in the mirrors of various Manifestations defines the truth of them. Furthermore, there is no end to the revelation of God in the form of new religions. There is no final revelation, no final religion, and no final Prophet.

Religion becomes a dialogical phenomenon. Religion is not an absolute and eternally binding imposition of the Will of God on humans. Rather, it is the product of the interaction of the will of God with the historical stage of the development of humanity. Since humans are historical and changing, religion is also a dynamic and progressive reality. One of the most significant and central expressions of this dialectical and historical concept is His use of the term irtifá‘, which means both cancellation and elevation. According to the Báb, each new religion is an irtifá‘ of the previous religion. On the one hand, a new religion is the negation and abrogation of the previous religion. On the other hand, it is the same previous religion, which appears in a higher, more elevated form. Irtifá‘ thus is used by the Báb to convey the unity of two opposite meanings (Persian Bayán 3: 3). It conveys the same sematic range as Hegel’s category of Aufhebung (to elevate/abolish).

The day of resurrection

The Báb reinterprets the prevalent ideas about the day of resurrection, heaven, and hell. According to Him, heaven and hell are not confined to human beings. Instead, all things have their own heavens and hells. For all things, heaven, the Báb maintains, is the state of the realization of its own potential. Likewise, hell is the deprivation of a thing from realizing its perfection. Not only humans but also all beings in nature are manifestations of divine attributes. Consequently, all things are beautiful and sacred, and nature is also endowed with moral rights. All things yearn to attain the state of their own perfection, which is their paradise. Humans are obligated to help everything, including the realm of nature, to achieve its paradise (Persian Bayán 4: 11, 5: 4).

In regard to human beings, paradise is the state of the realization of one’s spiritual potentialities. Since humans are historical beings and since there is no end to their spiritual advancement, therefore, heaven and hell are also dynamic and historical phenomena. The Day of Resurrection is not the end of history. Instead, it is the day of the revelation of a new Prophet of God, who begins a new stage of development of human history (Persian Bayán 2: 8).

The occultation of the Twelfth Imam

In one of His works, the Commentary on the Occultation Prayer, the Báb provides an alternative interpretation of the Shi‘ih concept of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. Shi‘ih Muslims believe that the Twelfth Imam disappeared from the eyes of the people 12 centuries ago, but He is still physically alive in the world and will reappear when the world is filled with injustice (Saiedi 2012).

According to the Báb, God has created the primordial truth of human beings in the utmost state of perfection and nobility. This idea, namely the original spiritual perfection and powers of all human beings, is symbolically represented as the birth and the childhood of the Twelfth Imam. However, despite its potential nobility and glory, human beings, in the course of their ordinary pursuits, become preoccupied with selfish and materialistic concerns, forgetting their own spiritual identity and truth. This state of self-forgetfulness and self-alienation is symbolized by the idea of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. The age of occultation is the age of tyranny and injustice because the essence of tyranny is none other than the negation of spiritual values and the reduction of the self to the level of beasts. That is why the emancipation from tyranny and the realization of the age of freedom require the reawakening of human spiritual consciousness in such a way that one’s potential spiritual powers become operative at the level of one’s concrete life. This return to one’s spiritual identity is symbolically presented as the return of the Twelfth Imam (The Báb, Commentary on Occultation 70).

Human freedom and the justice of God

Unlike most Sunni Muslims, who tended to believe in divine determinism, Shi‘ih Muslims affirmed some freedom for human beings. The Báb argues that human actions are simultaneously a product of the divine will (existence) and human choice and determination (essence) (Saiedi 2008: 210–216). In addition to this dialogical view of human action, the Báb historicized the same concept because divine action takes the form of a historically specific revelation of God in a new religious culture. Therefore, whatever happens within a spiritual community is simultaneously a product of individual choices and of the normative structures rooted in that particular revelation (Persian Bayán 2: 8, 4: 1). The concept of human freedom and its dialogical structure becomes inseparable from the dialogical and historical character of religion and society. In other words, the Báb introduces, for the first time, a mystical form of the sociological consciousness.

A new hermeneutics

The Báb believes that the Word of God has infinite meanings because it is a creative and living force. Yet, among these infinite meanings, there is one meaning that is the most authentic. This supreme meaning is discovered through the perspective of unity. Thus, the real meaning of the text becomes accessible through ignoring the differences of letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters of the text. In this way, the reader sees the divine text as pure unity, as one point. This one point is nothing but the utter pure revelation of God, which is the truth of the divine text. Yet the truth of everything is this pure revelation of God. Consequently, not only the various parts of the sacred text but also the various divine books are all one and the same. This common truth of all scriptures is nothing but the truth of all beings, the truth of all Prophets (Saiedi 2008: 48–65). At its highest level of hermeneutics, the supreme meaning of every statement in any sacred scripture is one and the same: all books are one and the same; all religions are one and the same; all humans are one and the same. Hermeneutics becomes the art of discovering and unveiling the truth of everything.

Human nobility

In the past, human identity was usually defined in terms of the characteristics that separate us from each other. Likewise, in the postmodern world, human identity is defined in terms of one’s gender, ethnicity, language, class, age, nationality, culture, and the like. The writings of the Báb propose an entirely different understanding. For the Báb, humans are spiritual beings, and this means that a human being consists of two aspects. One aspect is what distinguishes us from each other, whereas the other aspect affirms our common unity. In the language of the Báb, the two aspects of human beings are called essence and existence, or servitude and divinity. Like mirrors, the real truth of all people lies in the fact that an identical image is reflected in them (Persian Bayán 4: 1). The Báb, therefore, intends to create a new culture in the world. In this culture people see themselves and others as the reflections of divine attributes, a divinity that is common to all human beings.

This spiritual culture requires the nobility and dignity of all human beings. In His work the Kitábu’l-Asmá’ (The Book of Names), the Báb compares the social rank of farmers with kings, explaining that farmer/cultivator is one of the supreme names of God. God is a farmer because He plants the seeds of His divine words in the hearts of human beings. Humans must purify the soil of their souls so that these seeds will yield their fruit. He continues that since peasants, who are considered the lowest rank in society, are a reflection of divine names, and since princes are also a reflection of divine names, people should treat farmers exactly the same way that they treat their kings. Both are one reality, and both are living by God’s bidding (Kitábu’l-Asmá’ 383).

Another expression of the same logic is the spiritual approach to language in the writings of the Báb. He teaches that in thinking of anything, we should examine the alphabetical letters that constitute its name. We should then take each letter of that name as an abbreviation of one of the names of God. In this way, we can see everything as the embodiment of various divine attributes. Everything becomes sacred and beautiful because it is a reflection of divinity (Persian Bayán 5: 9).

The Báb sees humans as noble beings who are endowed with the inherent capacity to think for themselves and, therefore, are obligated to engage in the independent investigation of truth. This means that no human being should be dependent on others to investigate the spiritual truth. Two major expressions of this idea are the elimination of clerical authority and replacement of the proof of miracles by the proof of the words of revelation.

The writings of the Báb eliminated the institution of clergy and prohibited anyone from mounting the pulpit. He finds such ascent, as well as the seating of the people beneath a cleric, as an insult to the dignity of all human beings (Persian Bayán 7: 11). He also prohibits congregational prayer, which requires following a clerical leader of the prayer. According to the Báb, the worship of God does not require human mediation, and all must engage in prayer with a pure heart. Even when the Báb makes an exception in the case of the congregational prayer for the dead, He emphasizes that no one should stand ahead of others. All must stand in equal rows to honour the deceased (Persian Bayán 9: 9).

One of the central teachings of the Báb is that miracles, as the breaking of the laws of nature, have no relevance to the mission of the Prophet, which is the spiritual and moral education of humanity. Therefore, miracles cannot function as a valid evidence of truth. The Báb’s rejection of the obsessive Shi‘ih preoccupation with miracles was intended to remove a great obstacle blocking the progress of society, foster rationalism, and purify the realm of religion from superstition and a magical orientation. The supreme miracle of God belongs to the realm of spirit: namely, the revelation of the divine Word. Humans are all directly responsible to study the word of God, meditate upon it, and independently make their own judgment (Persian Bayán 2: 1, 2: 14, 2: 16, 6: 8).


The writings of the Báb offer a universal ethical maxim. He states that human deeds should be done ‘for the sake of God and for the sake of His creatures’ (Saiedi 2008: 302–303). Human action should be motivated by the desire to serve the human race as well as all of creation, rather than being a means for the attainment of one’s selfish desires (Persian Bayán 7: 2). He affirms that the divine providence of God is universal, and it makes no distinction between believers and nonbelievers. Even when humans deny God, He continues to provide His bounties to them. According to the Báb, all should follow this same universal ethical model and treat believers and nonbelievers in the same way (Saiedi 2008: 302–303).

One of the main aims of the Báb is the creation of a culture of affirmation in which all see themselves as responsible for the needs and welfare of all others. In His Persian Bayán, He writes that if one receives a letter or is asked a question, one has to answer it in the most responsive way. He then says that one must go further and insists that if someone is in need of something, even if He does not ask for help, one should respond to the call of His condition. All must feel obligated to answer the objective needs of all others (Persian Bayán 6: 19). Another expression of this principle is the prohibition against causing grief to anyone. The Báb states that not only should one not cause sorrow to others, but rather, one should bring joy and delight to the hearts of others (Persian Bayán 4: 18).

Another ethical teaching of the Báb is the necessity of a spiritual reconstruction of the economy and of industry. He commands that one must perform one’s economic and industrial work in the utmost state of perfection. When one engages in productive labour in the highest state of perfection possible at one’s level, one is acting as the image of God (Kitábu’l-Asmá’ 627). The sacred and spiritual character of humans, therefore, must manifest itself even at the most ‘materialistic’ level of social life: namely, in the realm of economics and work. This seeking of excellence in work is inseparable from the imperative of refinement and beautification in all things. It is necessary to beautify the world for, as He says, no ordinance is more emphasized in the Bayán than the binding principle of refinement (Persian Bayán 6: 3).

Expectation of the promised one

Perhaps the most frequently discussed and emphasized idea in the later writings of the Báb is the advent of the next Manifestation of God and the imperative that all followers of the Báb must recognize Him. This Promised One is usually called He Whom God shall make Manifest, and sometimes Bahá’u’lláh (‘the Glory of God’). While the Báb does not limit the advent of the Promised One to any pre-determined time, He sometimes mentions the year nine as the beginning of His revelation (Saiedi 2008: 344–357). Although the Báb appointed Mírzá Yaḥyá Azal as the nominal leader of His community after Himself, He frequently emphasizes that when the Promised One appears, all the Bábís, including their leaders, become equal (Persian Bayán 2: 3). At that moment no one is a believer, let alone a leader. Anyone who recognizes the Promised One becomes a believer, and anyone who turns away from him is a nonbeliever. The authority of any Bábí leader is confined to the time prior to the revelation of the Promised One (Tablet to Mullá Báqir).

The concept of Him Whom God shall make Manifest becomes the occasion for two important novel ideas in the writings of the Báb. First, He reinterprets the culture of millenarian expectation. Shi‘ih millenarianism emphasizes a magical culture in which the true Promised One appears in accordance with all pre-determined traditions, making him first recognizable to the clerics. Since the ordinary people should follow the clerics, persecution, hatred, and killing of a ‘false claimant’ is strongly emphasized. The Báb turns all these ideas upside down. In His ministry, the Promised One rejects traditions, the clerics are the first to oppose Him, everyone is independently responsible for recognizing Him, and no claimant should be harmed or insulted. The Báb says that even if a claimant is not the real Promised One, by the mere fact that He has attributed himself to the Beloved, one is required to love him as well. The culture of awaiting turns into a culture of religious tolerance (Persian Bayán 4: 4, 6: 8).

The other implication of the idea of the Promised One is the reinterpretation of the concept of jihád in the writings of the Báb. Since He was the Promised One of Islam and the Muslims expected him to wage war against all the infidels in the world, the Báb kept the symbol of jihád in His writings but undermined it in several important ways (Saiedi 2008: ch. 14). Probably the most significant of these ways is that He postponed the practice of His jihád-like laws to the time after the revelation of the Promised One (Persian Bayán 8: 15). Consequently, the practice of jihád becomes an impossibility because after the coming of Him Whom God shall make Manifest, all laws of the Báb are cancelled, and only the laws legislated by the new Manifestation will be binding. Once again, the culture of millenarian expectation turns into an affirmation of a culture of tolerance.

References and further reading

Amanat, A. (1989) Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Bábí Movement in Iran, 1844–1850, London: Cornell University Press.
The Báb. Bayán-i-Farsí [The Persian Bayán].
The Báb. Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih [The Seven Proofs].
The Báb. Kitáb-i-Panj Sha’n [The Book of the Five Modes of Revelation].
The Báb. Kitábu’l-Asmá’ [The Book of Names], INBA, 29.
Sharḥ-i-Du‘á’-i-Ghaybat [Commentary on the Occultation Prayer], INBA, 57: 60–154.
Lawson, T. (2018) Tafsir as Mystical Experience: Intimacy and Ecstasy in Quran Commentary: The Tafsīr Sūrat al-Baqara by Sayyid ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī, the Báb (1819–1850), Leiden & Boston: E. J. Brill.
MacEoin, D. (1992) The Sources for Early Bábí and Bahá’í Doctrine: A Survey, Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Muhammad-Husainí, N. (1995) The Báb: His Life, His Writings, and the Disciples of the Báb’s Dispensation, Dundas, ON, Canada: Institute for Bahá’í Studies in Persian.
Saiedi, N. (2008) The Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University.
Saiedi, N. (2012) ‘The Phenomenology of Occultation and Prayer in the Báb’s Ṣaḥífiy-i-Ja‘faríyyih’, in T. Lawson and O. Ghaemmaghami , eds. A Most Noble Pattern: Collected Essays on the Writings of the Báb, Oxford: George Ronald, 196–216.
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