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Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
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Pages 15-16

Claims of the Báb

The hostility aroused by the claim of Bábhood was redoubled when the young reformer proceeded to declare that He was Himself the Mihdí (Mahdi) Whose coming Muḥammad had foretold. The Shí’ihs identified this Mihdí with the 12th Imám 1 who, according to their beliefs, had mysteriously disappeared from the sight of men about a thousand years previously. They believed that he was still alive and would reappear in the same body as before, and they interpreted in a material sense the prophecies regarding his dominion, his glory, his conquests and the “signs” of his advent, just as the Jews in the time of Christ interpreted similar prophecies regarding 16 the Messiah. They expected that he would appear with earthly sovereignty and an innumerable army and declare his revelation, that he would raise dead bodies and restore them to life, and so on. As these signs did not appear, the Shí’ihs rejected the Báb with the same fierce scorn which the Jews displayed towards Jesus. The Bábís, on the other hand, interpreted many of the prophecies figuratively. They regarded the sovereignty of the Promised One, like that of the Galilean “Man of Sorrows,” as a mystical sovereignty; His glory as spiritual, not earthly glory; His conquests as conquests over the cities of men’s hearts’ and they found abundant proof of the Báb’s claim in His wonderful life and teachings, His unshakable faith, His invincible steadfastness, and His power of raising to newness of spiritual life those who were in the graves of error and ignorance.
But the Báb did not stop even with the claim of Mihdíhood. He adopted the sacred title of “Nuqṭiyiúlá” or “Primal Point.” This was a title applied to Muḥammad Himself by His followers. Even the Imáms were secondary in importance to the “Point,” from Whom they derived their inspiration and authority. In assuming this title, the Báb claimed to rank, like Muḥammad, in the series of great Founders of Religion, and for this reason, in the eyes of the Shí’ihs, He was regarded as an impostor, just as Moses and Jesus before Him had been regarded as impostors. He even inaugurated a new calendar, restoring the solar year, and dating the commencement of the New Era from the year of His own Declaration.
1. The Imám of the Shí’ihs is the divinely ordained successor of the Prophet whom all the faithful must obey. Eleven persons successively held the office of Imám, the first being ‘Alí, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet. The majority of the Shí’ihs hold that the twelfth Imám, called by them the Imám Mihdí, disappeared as a child into an underground passage in 329 A.H., and that in the fullness of time he will come forth, overthrow the infidels and inaugurate an era of blessedness.   [ Back To Reference]