Baha?Allah (1817–1892)

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BAHA˒ALLAH (1817–1892)

"Baha˒allah," a title meaning "splendor of God," was the name given to Mirza Husayn ˓Ali Nuri, prophet and founder of the Baha˒i faith.

Born in Tehran into an elite bureaucratic family, he was converted in 1844 to the Babi religion, the messianic movement begun that year by the Iranian prophet Sayyed ˓Ali Muhammad, commonly known as the Bab ("Gate"). He played a significant role in the early Babi community. Imprisoned as a Babi in 1852, he was exiled to Iraq, where he became the de facto leader of the Babis. He was summoned to Istanbul by the Ottoman government in April 1863 and then arrested and exiled again to Edirne in European Turkey. There he made an open claim to prophethood that was eventually accepted by most Babis, though opposed by his younger brother, Subh-e Azal. Alarmed by disputes among the Babi exiles, the Turkish government imprisoned Baha˒allah in Acre, Palestine, in 1868, where he lived under gradually improving conditions until his death. His eldest son, ˓Abd al-Baha˒ , was recognized by most Baha˒is as his successor. His tomb near Acre is now a Baha˒i shrine.

Baha˒allah wrote extensively, mostly letters to the believers. His works included commentary on scripture, Baha˒i law, comments on current affairs, prayers, and theological discussions of all sorts. Though his writings were grounded in the esoteric Shi˓ite thought of the Bab, he was politically sophisticated, and his own religious thought is often best seen in the context of the Westernizing reformers of the nineteenth century Middle East. The social liberalism of the modern Baha˒i faith has its roots in Baha˒allah's writings.

Baha˒allah is considered a "manifestation of God" by Baha˒is and is thus a prophet of the rank of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.

See also˓Abd al-Baha˒ ; Bab, Sayyed ˓Ali Muhammad ; Baha˒i Faith .


Baha˒u˒llah. Tablets of Baha˒u˒llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Translated by Habib Taherzadeh. Wilmette, Ill.: Baha˒i Publishing Trust, 1988.

Balyuzi, Hasan. Baha˒u˒llah: the King of Glory. Oxford, U.K.: George Ronald, 1980.

Cole, Juan R. I. Modernity and the Millenium: The Genesis of theBaha˒i Faith in the Nineteenth-Century Middle East. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

John Walbridge

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