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COLLECTIONEncyclopedia articles
TITLEBahá'í and Bábí Schisms
AUTHOR 1Denis MacEoin
VOLUMEVolume 3
TITLE_PARENTEncyclopaedia Iranica
PUB_THISColumbia University
ABSTRACTBrief excerpt, with link to article offsite.
NOTES The following is an excerpt of the article at
CONTENT Although it never developed much beyond the stage of a sectarian movement within Shiʿite Islam, Babism experienced a number of minor but interesting divisions, particularly in its early phase. The first of these involved the defection of three of the earliest converts of the Bāb, led by Mollā Javād Valīānī, who transferred their allegiance to Mollā Moḥammad Karīm Khan Kermānī as the authentic head of the Shaikhi school. Although the scale of this defection was small, it did have repercussions on the Babi community at Karbalāʾ, whose leader, Fāṭema Baraḡānī (Qorrat-al-ʿAyn), a maternal cousin of Valīānī, wrote a refutation of his allegations against the Bāb. Valīānī’s concern centered on what he perceived as the Bāb’s break with the more conservative wing of Shaikhism. By thus distancing themselves from the Bāb’s claims, he and those who supported him helped sharpen the growing sense of division within the Shaikhi ranks and encouraged the Bāb and his followers to demonstrate a clearer identity for themselves. (See MacEoin, “From Shaykhism,” pp. 199-203.)

A more serious split occurred soon after this at Karbalāʾ itself, where Qorrat-al-ʿAyn and a probable majority of the Babis of the region came into conflict with Mollā Aḥmad Ḵorāsānī and his supporters. The issues involved in this dispute were complex (and are dealt with in contemporary materials written by the chief participants), but the central point of contention appears to have been the status accorded Qorrat-al-ʿAyn and other Letters of the Living (ḥorūf al-ḥayy; see babism). As with Valīānī, Ḵorāsānī’s principal worry was that the Bāb and his chief followers were claiming (or, in the case of the former, having claimed for him) a quasi-divine status out of keeping with a more conservative Shiʿite interpretation. This quarrel appears not to have been fully resolved before Qorrat-al-ʿAyn was forced to leave Karbalāʾ for Baghdad and, eventually, Iran. (See MacEoin, “From Shaykhism,” pp. 203-07.)

Apart from her dispute with Ḵorāsānī, Qorrat-al-ʿAyn came into conflict with other Babis over her radical interpretations of doctrine, in particular her tendency to push for the abolition of the Islamic religious Law (šarīʿa). Something of this division seems to have surfaced during the famous Babi conclave held at Badašt in Māzandarān in the summer of 1847, when Qorrat-al-ʿAyn led an abolitionist party in opposition to a poorly-defined group who resisted such a radical development. There are indications that a wider split occurred between the radicals at Badašt and the followers of Mollā Ḥosayn Bošrūʾī at Shaikh Ṭabarsī (see Noqṭat al-kāf, pp. 153-54, 155).

After the Bāb’s death in 1850 and the death or dispersal of most of the Babi leadership, divisions of a more complex nature occurred within the surviving community. In Iran and in Baghdad, where a core of sect members took up residence under the leadership of Mīrzā Yaḥyā Nūrī Ṣobḥ-e Azal, over twenty individuals made separate claims to some form of divine inspiration, usually based on the ability to compose verses (āyāt). Most notable among these was the Azerbaijan-based Mīrzā Asad-Allāh Ḵoʾī Dayyān, whose followers became known as Dayyānīs. His movement was short-lived, however, ending after his assassination in 1856. The divisions of this period culminated in the increasingly bitter dispute between Ṣobḥ-e Azal and his half-brother Mīrzā Ḥosayn-ʿAlī Bahāʾ-Allāh. From about 1866, this leadership quarrel hardened into a permanent division between Azalī and Bahai Babis. (See MacEoin, “Divisions and Authority Claims.”)

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