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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEThe Babi Movement: A Resource Mobilization Perspective
AUTHOR 1Peter Smith
AUTHOR 2Moojan Momen
VOLUMEed. Peter Smith
TITLE_PARENTIn Iran: Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History vol. 3
PUB_THISKalimat Press
CITY_THISLos Angeles
ABSTRACTBabism from a sociological standpoint, esp. the place of the Babis in their contemporary cultural and economic classes.
TAGS- Báb, The; - Letters of the Living; Bábísm; Iran (documents); Mírzá Asadullah Fadil-i-Mazandarani; Shaykhism; Sociology; Zuhur al-Haqq (Zuhurul-Haqq)
CONTENT [page 33]

It has become common to link the emergence and expansion of the Bábí movement to the wide-ranging social tensions and crises experienced by mid-nineteenth-century Iranians. We would not dissent from this view. We assert, however, that the nature of the linkage between the Bábís and the social tensions of the 1840s is as yet far from clear. Both the Bábí religion and the social structure of Iran in the 1840s remain under-researched, particularly in terms of the specific local situations and linkages which we believe are crucial to an understanding of the movement's development.

As research proceeds, we believe that it is essential that the theoretical as well as the substantive issues of explanation be made explicit. Such theoretical issues are always implicit in any historical explanation of a general nature, as with such assertions as that Babism represented an expression of class discontent (Ivanov), or proto-nationalistic sentiment (Avery, Ivanov, Keddie), regional antagonisms (Avery), political rebellion (Bayat), or social crisis (Smith).[1] Only when the theoretical assumptions underlying such theories are made explicit can they be adequately appraised.

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In the present essay, we examine the Bábí movement in terms of a sociological resource mobilization perspective.[2] In so doing, we are not seeking to provide a "total" theoretical framework. Acceptance of one particular explanatory historical theory may lessen the importance attached to other theories, but it does not necessarily invalidate them.

What distinguishes the resource mobilization perspective from much of the other theoretical work on social and religious movements is that it is more concerned with means than with meaning. It assumes that participation in social movements is generally both normal and rational. It postulates that, given a commitment to expansion on the part of the movement's original membership, an effective system of organization, and a favorable social environment, the growth of any social movement is relatively unproblematic. The central (and more accessible) research questions from this perspective are concerned with the investigation of the practical means by which such organizations are constructed, rather than the putative reasons why human beings join them. Specifically, it is unnecessary to explain the recruitment of followers to a movement in terms of extraordinary motivations supposedly engendered by individual or social crises. Such crises may well enhance a movement's plausibility, but issues are defined, and may even be generated, by the movement's leadership. Recruitment need not be highly motivated. Meaningful social contact with the movement's partisans may of itself be sufficient to secure initial conversion. Thereafter, progressive resocialization assures the neophyte's continued commitment.

This is not to discount the importance of motivation.[3] Thus at a minimal level, we would assert that the content of a movement's ideology must be at least accessible and plausible to its potential recruits. More generally, we recognize the importance of ideal and material interests in motivating a movement's members. We would stress, however, that putative interests are

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often highly complex and need to be related in some detail to the actual contents and development of a particular movement. That recruitment to a movement flows along preexisting lines of social cleavage, for example, need not primarily indicate the articulation of specific class interests. It may, rather, reflect the pattern of social networks, here held to be of crucial importance in affecting recruitment.

Various component elements of the mobilization perspective may be identified. In the present discussion, we shall deal with the following: (1) the social environment, that is, the structural characteristics of Iranian society which defined and facilitated the emergence of Babism, the role of social control and opposition, and the interactive process by which the religion's political role came to be defined; (2) the organization of resources to secure the movement's objectives; (3) the pattern of recruitment to the movement; and (4) the form and content of the movement's ideology which defined and promoted its growth. We will then provide a general characterization of the social location and demographic importance of the early Bábís. Finally, we will offer a list of twenty-five propositions which we regard as basic elements for any future analysis of the social significance and context of the Bábí movement.


Let us begin, however, with a brief account of the emergence and development of Shaykhism and Babism, thereby providing a base for our more theoretically grounded remarks.[4] In terms of the subsequent discussion, it is of particular note that the Bábí movement began as a sub-sect of the Shaykhi school, in the specific context of the succession crisis of 1844. As a religious movement, the early Bábí religion may be described as having passed through two very distinct phases of development: an initial "Islamic" phase (1844-48), and a later "radical"

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one (1848-53). We are not concerned, except incidentally, with developments after the collapse of Babism as an organized movement.

Shaykhism. Originating with the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í (1753-1826), Shaykhism became a powerful expression of the tradition of theosophical Shi'i dissent.[5] Under the leadership of Shaykh Ahmad's successor, Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (c. 1795-1843/44), it developed into a well-organized movement within Ithná-'Ashari Shi'ism. Although clerically dominated, it gained a large popular following throughout Iran and the Shi'i areas of Iraq. At a time when the newly dominant Usúlí faction of the ulama was stressing the importance of orthodoxy and the authority of the mujtahids, Shaykhism represented an appealing continuation of speculative religious esotericism. It gained, thereby, the increasing enmity of Usúlí orthodoxy. Although careful to conceal their more heterodox teachings, the Shaykhi leaders also promulgated the doctrine that the spiritual guidance of Shi'is depended on the existence in the world of a "true Shi'i" to function as intermediary between the Hidden Imam and the faithful. By implication, this was a function performed by the Shaykhi leaders. Again, some Shaykhis at least were evidently attracted by messianic expectation.

The succession crisis. When Sayyid Kázim died, the Shaykhis were thrown into confusion. No successor had been designated, and a number of individuals contended for leadership. Chief among these came to be Hájí Karim Khán Kirmání (1809/10-1870/71) and Sayyid Ali Muhammad Shirází, the Báb (1819-1850). There were also leadership contenders at Tabriz and Karbala. But these never succeeded in gaining more than localized support, although Sayyid Kázim's son gained the allegiance of most of the Arab Shaykhis in Iraq, and the two leading

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Shaykhis in Tabriz came to dominate the Azeri-speaking Shaykhi communities of northwestern Iran.

In these latter cases, fragmentation of the movement simply proceeded along established lines of social division, but the division between the followers of Karim Khán and Ali Muhammad was more complex.[6] In terms of leadership claims, both men continued the Shaykhi tradition of laying claim to unique and supernaturally derived authority. Karim Khán, a well-established cleric with considerable local political power in Kerman, phrased his claim in the elusive esotericisms of Shaykhi doctrine. Ali Muhammad, a relatively unknown merchant, soon advanced a more radical claim which was generally understood as that of being the Báb (gate), the direct intermediary between the Hidden Imám and the Shi'i faithful.[7] This was a claim, which had messianic import and was of considerable potential interest to non-Shaykhis. Doctrinal differences between Karim Khání and Bábí Shaykhism readily followed from this difference in claims.

The Bábí movement. During the emergence of Babism as a sub-sect of Shaykhism, the movement remained strongly Islamic in its ethos. Advocating a strict adherence to Islamic law, the Báb appeared merely to accentuate the esoteric and millenarian motifs of traditional Shiism. This accentuation was radical enough in itself, but it did not breach the ideological confines of Shi'i Islam except in regard to the religious status implicit in the Báb's claim to authority. Thus, while in his early writings (1844-48) the Báb appeared only to claim that he was the agent of the Hidden Imám, several of his closest disciples and fiercest opponents perceived that a more direct claim to divine guidance was implicit in the general style and content of his work.[8 ]Leading Shaykhi and Usúlí clerics began to condemn the movement as heretical. As opposition to the movement mounted, many of the Bábís themselves became more radical, advancing

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or revealing clearly heterodox interpretations of their doctrines, and becoming more assertive in the prosecution and defense of their objectives. Some Bábís became militant, and several violent incidents occurred. The Báb himself was now imprisoned, and was increasingly alienated from the Qájár regime. In 1848, he announced his higher claims to authority, declaring himself to be the Hidden Imám and, even more radically, to be the bearer of a new divine revelation which totally abrogated Islam. Armed struggle and violent persecution followed (1848-53), during which the Bábí religion was effectively destroyed as an organized movement. The Báb (1850) and all of his leading lieutenants were killed.


Social structure. The expansion of any social movement occurs within an existing social structure. Social networks, group interests, means of communication, and systems of social control all form part of the given environment. In the case of the Bábís, the relatively unintegrated nature of Iranian society was of crucial importance. Three times the size of France or California, divided by mountains and vast tracts of semi-desert, and possessed in the mid-nineteenth century of no modern means of communications, Iran was only nominally a unitary state. Centrifugal forces of localism and of ethnic and religious diversity necessarily limited Bábí expansion and led to considerable diversity of local situations. Under the circumstances, though the Bábís were largely confined to the peoples of Iran's Shi'i heartland, the construction of a new, more or less unified, national religious movement during the course of a few years was an impressive organizational achievement. The expansion of the movement reflected existing social divisions and was variously related to putative group interests. Existing networks of communication were efficiently utilized. But when the movement

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was proscribed, the Bábís' lack of communicative control rendered them powerless to defend their public image in the face of the increasingly hostile myth-making of their opponents.

Besides relative lack of societal integration, nineteenth-century Iran was structurally conducive to the emergence of what Neil Smelser has termed "value-oriented movements," that is, movements concerned not with reformist change, but with the radical transformation of basic social values and institutions.[9] The characteristics of such structural conduciveness included: (1) The close interconnections between the major social institutions, and between these institutions and the prevailing value system. A challenge to one part of the system thus readily became a challenge to all. Therefore, any major religious movement readily assumed political significance (as did Babism) regardless of its adherents' intentions. (2) The absence of means for most of the population to express their grievances, which inclined them to support movements which postulated total change. In such circumstances, economic and political demands were easily joined to programs of religious change. Although, in the case of the Bábís, the exact relationship between such factors may remain controversial, their presence occasions no surprise.

Social control and opposition. Social movements are most likely to emerge when existing holders of power either encourage their emergence or are unable to apply effective social controls.[10] Effective action can prevent a movement from developing into a significant threat to the established order, albeit that the costs of such action can be high. In the case of the Bábí movement, no overall effective action was applied to prevent the movement's emergence and initial expansion. Divided among themselves, neither clerical nor secular authorities made any decisive move until the Bábís were well established. As a result, the costs of extirpation were correspondingly greater.

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In the case of the religious authorities, the Shi'i ulama were weakly structured to oppose any perceived heresy. In the absence of a unified national hierarchy, individual clerical leaders made their own variant responses to the new movement. Even in a single locality the response was often diverse. Only when a cleric combined his antagonism with a secure local dominance—as did Karim Khán in Kerman—was Bábí expansion halted.[11] Elsewhere, the diversity of response worked in the Bábís' favor. Even in the face of official condemnations for unbelief, the continued sympathy or tolerance of some local clerics prevented effective persecution. In Qazvin, the power of the vehemently anti-Shaykhi and anti-Bábí mujtahid, Haji Mullá Muhammad Taqi Baraghani, was not sufficient to prevent the growth of an active (though semi-secret) Bábí cell.

As for the secular authorities, their initial response was similarly diverse and ineffective. When the Bábí missionaries were cautious in their work and provoked no public disorder, local governors were generally content to let them be. The underlying relationship between secular and religious authorities was often antagonistic in any case. Even if a particular official perceived the heterodox nature of Bábí teaching, he might well relish the prospect of clerical discomfiture. Again, the patrician politics of local elite might give the Bábís powerful friends as well as important opponents, such that local opposition was ineffective (as in Shiraz).[12]

Although severe opposition can crush a movement, opposition may also be useful to a movement in increasing the commitment of its members and in attracting the attention of the wider public.[13] Even when opposition leads to members being killed, as long as the human and organizational resources of the movement are not overwhelmed, such opposition is liable to facilitate movement growth. Such, certainly, was the case with the Bábís.

Emerging in a religious culture which glorified heroic martyrdom, the Bábís encountered a mounting force of ill-coordinated

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opposition. Distinctions between the pious faithful and the ungodly were thus reinforced, giving rise to a fervor of resistance, which was to terrify their opponents at the conflicts of Tabarsi, Zanjan, and Nayriz. Only when these lengthy struggles were concluded, and an extensive and bloody suppression of the movement instituted, was that fervor finally overwhelmed.

Political interaction. The interaction between a movement and its wider environment plays a crucial role in its development.[14] In the process, a movement's objectives and modes of action are rarely unchanged. Thus, while any major millenarian movement in a premodern society bears an implicit or explicit political dimension, the actual expression of that political charge is not predetermined. Of note, however, is Smelser's observation that harsh but ineffective repression of a movement engenders revolutionary action.[15] The Báb's challenge to the existing social order was itself interactive with the response of his potential supporters and opponents. Successive rebuttals, at first by the non-Bábí Shaykhis, then by other clerical leaders, and finally by the government, shaped the nature of the continuing Bábí challenge. Whatever the exact planning behind the summons to gather in Karbala in 1845—which at least some Bábís took to be a call to arms, the Báb at that point still accorded the Qájár regime at least nominal legitimacy and sought to convert its chiefs to his cause.[16] The positive intervention of the governor of Isfahan on his behalf (1846-47) marked the zenith of such hopes. Only after his exile to Azerbaijan were these hopes dashed and the court declared to be the object of divine wrath and chastisement.

The growth of Bábí radicalism and militancy was similarly interactive.[17] From the beginning, some Bábí missionaries (such as Mullá Sádiq in Shiraz and Tahirih in Karbala) were prepared to be quite provocative in the public presentation of their cause. As clerical opposition hardened and the incidence of persecution increased, many Bábís became increasingly intransigent

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and radical in their attitudes. Some went further. In several towns Bábís began to carry weapons openly and in Qazvin they began to manufacture swords.[18] In this deteriorating situation, even quite trivial incidents could provoke violent confrontations. Once such incidents had occurred, the escalation and extension of violence became ever more likely. As such escalation took place, government intervention against the Bábís became virtually inevitable. In the resultant armed struggles, the process of polarization was completed: the Bábís dispatched their ungodly opponents "to hell," while the government leaders readily and increasingly saw all Bábís as active insurrectionaries.

The wider purpose of these conflicts remains a matter of controversy. However, whether or not they formed part of a carefully prepared insurrectionary conspiracy—a view that the present authors would seriously question, the conflicts should be viewed against the background of established patterns of religious and urban violence in nineteenth-century Iran. Most Iranian towns were divided into a number of rival and religiously defined district factions, each with its own patrician patrons and local associations. Intercommunal fighting was common. Large-scale conversions to the Bábí religion reflected these divisions. Again, leading ulama were linked to the factions by their patronage of groups of toughs (lútís). With the increasing assertion of clerical power, interclerical disputes were thus readily prosecuted by resort to street fighting and the physical intimidation of opponents. The persecution of Bábís and their own resort to violence were not abnormal in this regard.[19] What was abnormal was the length and intensity of the resultant conflicts. The religious interests of the rival parties were crucial here. Fervent in their commitment to their cause, the Bábís confronted an increasingly assertive clergy whose leaders perceived Babism as a dangerous heresy fundamentally inimical to their own interests.

As to the actual outbreaks of violence, particular local factors

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were also evidently crucial. Thus, despite the widespread expansion of the movement, both violent confrontations (Qazvin, Mashhad) and major conflicts (Barfurush-Tabarsi, Yazd, Nayriz, and Zanjan) were limited to a number of particular towns and Bábí groups. Whatever the motivation of the Bábís in these particular incidents, the local situations appear to have been characterized by an unusual degree of tension. In Mash-had and Yazd, Bábí violence took place against a background of wider civil unrest; in Qazvin and Barfurush powerful and militant anti-Bábí clerics confronted uncompromising groups of Bábís; and in Zanjan and Nayriz the conversion of leading religious notables led to large-scale Bábí conversions and conditions of local political instability. Where these factors did not develop, there were no Bábí upheavals.


As organizations, successful social movements must achieve certain goals: motivate, integrate, and direct their memberships; and maintain their existence.[20] In the case of the Bábí movement, these various objectives were closely interlinked, particularly as the full messianic import of the movement became apparent. Shi'is believe that the anticipated return of the Hidden Imám will revolutionize the whole world and usher in the Day of Resurrection. The Bábís believed themselves to be the elect who had recognized the lmám (or initially his agent) and were thus charged with the recreation of the world. Their existence as a community was itself an integral part of the process of transformation.

Overall Strategy. Given these revolutionary expectations and objectives, the question of overall strategy naturally comes to the fore. The Bábís wanted to establish a theocracy, initially in Iran and ultimately in the whole world. How was this to be

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accomplished? The traditional Islamic expectation was that the Imám, returned as Mahdi, would wage holy war against the ungodly. This view was initially reiterated by the Báb. Thus, in his early writings, the faithful were summoned to prepare for the forthcoming "day of slaughter" when they would slay the unbelievers and thus purify the earth for the Promised One.[21] Does this mean that the Bábís were consciously and preparedly insurrectionary in intent, as Bayat, for example, has recently argued?[22]

As yet we remain unconvinced. In terms of formal doctrine, the Báb's initial endorsement of the concept of holy war (jihad) was not a call to his followers to straightaway engage in such a struggle. Moreover, as the Báb retained for himself the exclusive right to call such a holy war, none of his followers could legitimately have called one on his behalf. Later, after 1848, Bábí doctrine changed. In the most systematic of his later works, the Persian Bayán, the Báb made only passing reference to holy war. He also stated that no one should be slain for unbelief.

Again, although the Báb's attitude toward the state became more hostile after his imprisonment, he evidently retained hopes that its chief officers would voluntarily convert to his cause: an objective that was unlikely to have been aided by mounting an insurrection. Even in the case of the armed struggles, which occurred between 1848 and 1853, we would emphasize the importance of local (and national) political interaction. Whatever strategic considerations were involved, these conflicts were also (and perhaps predominantly) tactical responses to particular situations.[23]

We may be wrong, of course. The early years of Bábí expansion may have masked the conspiratorial planning of an insurrection, but we are not aware of any conclusive evidence, which might prove such a hypothesis. Our understanding of human action and religious enthusiasm inclines us more to emphasize

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the interactive processes of development and the unintended consequences of action. Indeed, if the Bábís had made a plan of insurrection, then, given their degree of organization, we would expect it to have led to a far more coherent and coordinated campaign of action than in fact was the case.

If, as we maintain, the Bábís were not consciously and preparedly insurrectionary, then what was their overall strategy? Indeed, did they have one? For the present, we reserve judgment. Certainly, the Bábí leaders were faced with strategic choices. But these were concerned with immediate tasks and were usually linked to the general problem of ensuring the movement's continued survival.

Survival and adaptation. For the leaders of a social movement to accomplish their objectives, it is generally necessary for them to ensure the movement's survival. A key factor in that survival is the relationship which develops between the movement and the wider society. Only when this relationship is relatively stable and peaceful can the thought of external threats to survival be ignored and the movement's membership concentrate on the accomplishment of established goals.[24] Conversely, when the relationship between the movement and its environment is turbulent and uncertain, survival is liable to become the central concern for movement leaders. The primary strategic task becomes the concern with learning to adapt to change. Those movements whose leaders choose to ignore this task, or who are unaware of the implications of environmental interaction, are unlikely to survive. In those cases where actual conflict with the authorities has occurred, non-survival may take the form of physical extirpation.

The relationship between the Bábís and the wider Iranian society was evidently unstable and eventually conflictual. Although the movement was finally destroyed by the authorities, most of its leaders seem to have been aware of the implications

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of environmental interaction and to have taken pains to ensure the movement's survival. That they were unsuccessful in this objective is an indication of the difficulty of successfully managing such interaction. Certainly, in organizational terms the Bábís were flexible and responsive to change.[25] Their leaders and missionaries were not bureaucratic functionaries tied to static goals and methods, but rather charismatic leaders who creatively responded to a variety of contexts and local situations. Likewise, their followers were unlikely to have been involved in the movement on a purely instrumental basis. Participation was necessarily its own reward, and high levels of commitment were soon engendered.

Given this organizational flexibility, questions of strategic choice and tactical management are central. Robert Lauer has suggested that movements are differentiated in terms of three strategic choices, and by the degree of consensus and persistence with which these choices are pursued.[26] Without leadership agreement as to strategy, a movement in an unstable environment is liable to pass through a series of variant ideological and strategic phases. Given the organizational flexibility of Babism, and its later loss of communicative cohesion, this is precisely what occurred.

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The framework of strategic choices outlined by Lauer is shown in Figure 1. Given the Bábís' intention to establish the theocratic kingdom of the Mahdi, their predominant target for change consistently remained that of the social structure rather than the individual. Individual change was subsumed under broader societal objectives. In Lauer's terms, the "educative" and "small group" options were not relevant possibilities, and the strategic choices were those concerning the use or non-use of violence, and of the location of responsibility for affecting change (that is, whether the society as a whole or the movement itself was expected to play the primary role). Consequently, the movement's development may be described in terms of its leaders' changing responses to these two strategic choices. Although it is difficult to reconstruct the exact changes involved, under the pressure of events, Bábí strategy appears to have changed from social bargaining, to social disruption, and then (for a minority) to revolution.

Initially Bábí leaders eschewed the actual use of force (though not the concept of its use) and were in clear expectation of the eventual support of the wider society for the establishment of a Bábí theocracy. Their strategy was one of "bargaining." When society proved unsupportive and Bábís were attacked, a reconsideration of strategic choices became vital. Tensions then developed within the movement over the choice of strategy, the ideological division between Bábí "conservatives" and "radicals" mirroring the strategic one. In the changing circumstances of the time, the conservative option (the continuance of nonviolence and the expectation that society would arise to implement the desired change) proved increasingly untenable, however. More radical strategies soon came to the fore.

The expectation of societal support was apparently stronger than the commitment to nonviolence. The "separatist" choice of nonviolent sectarian communitarianism seems never to have

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been considered. Still perhaps hoping for a widespread uprising in their favor (or perhaps divine intervention), the Bábí leaders were drawn into disruptive action involving relatively limited use of violence. Tabarsi became a spiritual pronunciamentio for the cause of the Mahdi. When this failed, and all hope of support was lost, effective strategic coordination of the movement came to an end. In the absence of such coordination, tactical responses to local situations tended to determine events. Some of the remaining Bábí leaders (Subh-i-Azal, Shaykh 'Ali Turshizi, and Sulaymín Khan) unsuccessfully gave their support to revolutionary terrorism.[27] Thereafter, the movement was destroyed.

As the wider social environment became more hostile, tactical management became more constrained. This had several aspects. At the outset of the expansion of their movement, the Bábí leaders were often able to act with relatively little risk to their persons. Opposition was ill coordinated, and the nature of the Bábí cause and even the name of the Báb were unknown. Confrontations with clergy had the advantage of surprise, and, if not physically restrained, a Bábí missionary might well attract considerable interest in his master's teachings. Later, opposition became more resolute and better coordinated. The risks of Bábí membership, let alone of public declarations of faith, became considerable. Concealment, secrecy, and covert proselytism became necessary for all but those Bábís who were able to physically defend themselves.

Conflict management also became more difficult. During the early phase of the movement, potentially conflictual situations could be avoided. Bábí missionaries encountering opposition could move on. Indeed, the Báb himself may well have determined to avoid appearing at Karbala in 1845, after hearing of the scale of the hostility which his emissaries had generated amongst the orthodox ulama.[28] Later, as Bábí communities were established and hostility towards the Bábís hardened, such

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avoidance became increasingly difficult to accomplish. Even if some Bábís had not themselves become more militant, the potential for conflict had greatly increased.

Primary goals. For the early years of Bábí expansion, the manifest goals of the movement were to win public support and gain adherents. To mobilize public support, the Bábís needed to gain visibility and legitimacy. Visibility was relatively easy to gain. Even the initial declaration that the báb of the Imám had appeared was sufficient to attract widespread public attention. This was furthered by an extensive missionary campaign, and the dispatch of letters from the Báb to various religious and political leaders. A series of proclamatory events was also planned. These included the Báb's public declaration of his mission during his pilgrimage to Mecca, the gathering together of believers in Karbala to await the Imám (January 1845), and the changing of the call to prayer to include the name of 'Ali Muhammad. The public challenges (mubáhalát) made by several Bábí disciples to leading ulama also served this purpose, as did the resultant denunciations and attacks which were meted out to them.[29]

Legitimacy was far more difficult to attain. The Bábís might win public attention, but they were relatively powerless to shape the public definition of their movement. Apart from informal contacts and group associations, communicative control of public opinion was dominated by the ulama. Those Bábí converts who were prominent clerics were able to exert influence, but in general the ulama closed ranks against the Bábís and denounced them savagely from their pulpits. With the initiation of bloody confrontation and persecution, the Bábís became practically powerless to combat the malicious representation of their motives and morals. In context, heroic struggle and martyrdom remained the only means for the Bábís to demonstrate the truth of their cause.

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Again, unlike the various clerical contenders for the leadership of Shaykhism, the Báb had no established religious position on which to base his claim to authority. Similarly, though some of his first disciples were well-respected students of Sayyid Kázim, none of them were sufficiently influential to secure the ready allegiance of others for their new master. Even Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í (1814-1849), the first and initially the most influential of the disciples, lacked the formal authority to possess a following. Only with the later conversion of a few of the leading ulama were the advantages of established position brought to the aid of the new movement. These advantages were by then localized in nature and tangential to the overall development of legitimacy claims promulgated by the Bábí leaders.

The Bábí leaders were restricted in their attempt to legitimate their movement. In terms of the possible bases of legitimacy, the Báb's claims were largely and necessarily charismatic in nature.[30] Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim had exercised their authority both on the basis of their traditional roles as religious scholars and jurisconsults and on their charismatic claims to privileged visionary access to the sacred knowledge of the Imáms.[31] Lacking any established religious position or clerical training, the Báb's claim to authority was justified almost solely on charismatic grounds. Ultimately, as he himself made clear, legitimation of his authority rested in the believer's response to the sacred power manifested in his person and his writings. Traditional or rational proofs were not regarded as sufficient validations of his claims.[32] Such a stance undoubtedly made public legitimation of the movement more difficult. But for believers the implications were revolutionary, enhancing commitment and facilitating the acceptance of radical changes in the movement's claims and ethos during its later development.

To gain adherents to a movement requires the establishment of some sort of organization. The Báb addressed written (and

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unsuccessful) appeals for support to various religious and political leaders (including the shah), but the main means of promulgating his claim was the missionary apparatus established by himself and his first eighteen disciples, the Letters of the Living (hurúf al-hayy)

It is of note that, in contrast to the clerical contenders for the leadership of the Shaykhis, the Báb and his disciples had few of the advantages of established position. They had limited access to existing networks of higher clerical contacts and patronage relationships. They had no circles of disciples or students to mobilize. They had no local political power base to employ. They did, however, have access to the existing network of mosques and local Shaykhi communities; they were able to utilize the commercial network of the Báb's merchant uncles as a means of communication; and they presumably had access to sufficient funds to further their immediate purposes.[33] Thus, while the Báb was on pilgrimage, or later under house arrest, or otherwise restricted in his movements, his disciples dispersed throughout the greater part of Iran, and also to Iraq and India.[34] Moving from town to town as itinerant propagandists, they embarked on an intensive missionary campaign. Acting as the movement's primary agents of diffusion, they established a network of Bábí groups throughout the country. They secured and recorded conversions, disseminated the Báb's writings, and in some instances engaged in public confrontations with leading ulama. If and when they became more or less settled, they provided leadership for the local Bábí groups.

No system of formal organization was adopted for the emergent network of Bábí groups. The Báb would appear to have intended that his followers should be grouped into units of nineteen (the numerical equivalent of the word wáhid [unity).[35] The first "unity" was to consist of himself and the eighteen Letters of the Living. Thereafter, successive groups of converts were to be formed into unities, and the unities further grouped

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into units of 361 (19x19), called kullu shay' ("all things," a term with the numerical equivalence of 361). Beyond the first, or perhaps the second wáhid, this cell-like structure in fact never appears to have come into being. Perhaps the missionary enterprise was itself so time-consuming and turbulent that the task of organization proved more difficult than expected. In any event, no uniform organizational system emerged. Where any of the Letters of the Living resided they provided a focus for leadership, but elsewhere the local communities were led, if they were led at all, by individuals of established social standing. Usually these were Bábí clerics, but merchants, landowners, officials, and courtiers might also act as informal leaders. In his later writings the Báb also introduced a complex hierarchical system of spiritual ranks consisting of various sequences of Mirrors (muráyá).[36] Although several individuals were thus designated, no practical organizational system appears to have emerged.

Commitment. All voluntary organizations face the problem of precariousness. Lacking the means of coercion, they depend for their existence on the continuing support of their members. To this end an organization will generally develop distinctive "commitment mechanisms" to maintain its membership's motivation.[37] In the case of the Bábís such mechanisms appear to have been mostly informal in nature. No conversion experience was necessarily demanded. There was no ceremonial initiation or requirement of public testimony of belief. Distinctive patterns of behavior appear to have been voluntarily undertaken, rather than socially enforced. And, in general, no vicinal or social segregation was demanded. Nevertheless, high levels of commitment were maintained, as evidenced both by the willingness of so many Bábís to die for their faith, and, more indirectly, by Bahá'u'lláh's later reanimation of the movement after its seeming total collapse under the pressure of persecution.

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In the first instance, commitment appears to have been generated primarily by the movement's ideology. For devout Shi'is, recognition of the Imám (or his agent) was at the very center of religious meaning. To become one of the elect who had attained such recognition in the age of the Mahdi must, of itself, have constituted a powerful experience of commitment. The ideological distinction between believer and unbeliever doubtless reinforced this experience.

Beyond such ideological factors, there were initially no uniform commitment mechanisms. The Báb called on his followers to perform various supererogatory acts of piety—additional prayers and fasts, abstinence from smoking, and the employment of distinctive rituals—but without social enforcement the observance of such acts remained voluntary.[38] Where such acts were observed, however, they were associated with very high levels of commitment. The group of zealots surrounding Tahirih in Karbala at one stage even refused to eat from the (non-Bábí) bazaar, as they regarded it as ritually impure.[39] Again, where conversion was closely linked to all-inclusive social networks—as in the Bábí strongholds of Zanjan and Nayriz— levels of commitment became very high. Here, "being a Bábí" became an inherent part of normal daily life and not a voluntary commitment to be renewed or abandoned at will. Given the uneven operation of such mechanisms, it is scarcely surprising that very different levels of commitment existed within the movement. Indeed, in Karbala at least, such differences contributed to an acrimonious division within the local Bábí community.[4O] Elsewhere, it is likely that groups of Bábís simply varied in their commitment and ethos. Recruitment was to a particular local Bábí group and should not be thought of as having been uniform in its implications.[41]

The pattern of commitment mechanisms changed as the Bábí movement became more radical. Ideological ties with traditional Islamic expectations were broken as the movement's leaders asserted the reality of a new divine revelation. Social

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ties with non-Bábís were strained as the movement's relationship with clerical and political authorities rapidly deteriorated. Those Bábís who found the newly emerging ideological and social context unacceptable presumably lost commitment or defected. Those who remained were necessarily highly committed. The charismatic legitimation of Bábí authority aided the acceptance of change. The constraints of traditional legitimation were disregarded. Psychologically, the sense of a separate identity is likely to have been enhanced. The abandonment of Islamic law (the sharí'a) and participation in conflict with unbelievers would have constituted definite bridge-burning acts. The experience of persecution underlined Bábí separateness and stimulated communal identity and action. In the large and close-knit Bábí communities, social pressures to conform or depart may be assumed to have increased. Heroic martyrdom provided a powerful validation of Bábí claims in Shi'i terms. Eventually, external definition by non-Bábís reinforced the sense of separate identity and in some cases may have made even defection difficult to accomplish.

Integration and control. Given that recruitment to a social movement is to a particular local group, the leaders of any larger movement face problems of integration and control if they wish to preserve the movement's unity. Of course, in certain cases, segmentation can be highly effective. As Gerlach and Hine have argued, a movement which is strongly experiential in emphasis (Pentecostalism, for example) may spread far more rapidly without centralized organization. A sense of "conceptual community" provides the basis for continuing interaction between a diversity of local groups.[42] A movement which is based on a more restricted sense of charismatic authority lacks this option. Thus in the case of Babism, the initial focal point for belief was the doctrine that the agent of the Imám had appeared and was summoning all people to his cause. A unified movement was clearly desirable.

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The problems of integrating and controlling the Bábí movement were immense, however. Effective communications were of great importance. The mercantile network established by the Báb's uncles initially played an important role in this regard. With agents and offices in various parts of Iran and the Gulf, the Báb's family and their business partners could be utilized to forward correspondence between the Báb and his chief disciples. For example, when Mullá Husayn reached Khurasan in 1844, he was able to send a report to the Báb in Shiraz, via business associates of the Báb's uncle in Tabas and the family's office in Yazd.[43]

This was probably not an ideal system. During the Báb's lifetime most of his family remained unbelievers and would presumably have been unwilling to devote too many of their resources to Bábí activities. Again, the system was geared to the needs of wholesale trade, rather than to religious proselytization. Thus as the size of the Báb's following grew, a new system of communication evolved based on itinerant Bábí couriers. Working eventually on a full-time basis, individuals such as Mullá Ádí Ghuzal (Sayyáh, the "Traveler") made their way between the Báb and the various Bábí groups, disseminating the writings of the Báb and bringing back reports and messages to him. Amanuenses in attendance on the Báb helped deal with this growing correspondence. Elsewhere believers worked as copyists to distribute more copies of the Báb's writings. The steady stream of Bábís from all parts of Iran who journeyed to visit the Báb augmented this communication. Even when the Báb was imprisoned in remote fortresses in Azerbaijan (Maku and Chihriq), this system continued to function with considerable efficiency. Only with extensive persecution was it disrupted, and even so later Bábí and Bahá'í couriers, working under the direction of Bahá'u'lláh, apparently found it relatively easy to revive.

Efficient communications by themselves were not sufficient to ensure the continued integration of the Bábí movement. As

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the primary agents for the religion's expansion, the role of the leading disciples were crucial. If they had asserted their own independence from the Báb, the movement could have rapidly fragmented. Their continued loyalty to their master ensured its unity. In formal terms, their authority derived from him. As the movement developed, however, the nature of this authority changed (albeit in ways that are not entirely clear). Although all of the Letters of the Living were accorded a special status, initially it was only Mullá Husayn—the Babu'l-Bab—who was generally regarded as possessing any unusual authority within the movement, functioning effectively as the Báb's deputy.[44] The intense relationships which existed between Tahirih and her devotees in Karbala, and between Hujjat Zanjani and his followers, appear to have been localized and exceptional. Only after the movement had entered its second and more radical phase did this situation change. Sequestered in the remote northwest, the Báb now revealed his full claims. Whether or not in a strictly parallel development, three of the disciples—Mullá Husayn, Tahirih, and Mullá Muhammad 'Aliy-I-Bárfurúshí (Quddus)—now came to be accorded quasi-theophanic status. The three disciples shared something of the Báb's charismatic authority: the two men at least symbolically reenacted various of the prophecies relating to the coming of the Mahdi in the place of their imprisoned leader.

This changing relationship between the Báb and his chief disciples was rapidly brought to an end by the violent deaths of all four. Deprived of its original charismatic focus, the movement rapidly fragmented. Individual claims to charismatic authority proliferated, and in some respects the Bábís began to resemble the segmented conceptual community described by Gerlach and Hine. Only later, with the reintroduction of a centralized organization and the general acceptance of a single charismatic leader in the person of Bahá'u'lláh did Babism again become a unified movement.

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According to the resource mobilization perspective, the most salient characteristic in the recruitment of the membership of most social movements is prior social interaction.[45] Contact with a movement is normally assumed to follow from significant interaction with its existing members. Recruitment thus tends to follow preexisting and positively valued social relationships, whether these are based on ties of kinship, patronage, or vicinal proximity. Conversion occurs as a process of progressive resocialization, the stereotype of sudden and dramatic personal transformation being untypical.[46]

The extent to which this model is applicable to the Bábí movement is difficult to evaluate. Certainly there were a number of individual Bábís who appear to have undergone sudden transformatory conversions, whether as a result of visions, encounters with the Báb, or perusals of his writings. It may well be of course that these conversions were concentrated amongst the religious virtuosi who comprised the movement's leadership.[47] On the other hand, that few such accounts are recorded for rank and file Bábís may simply reflect the sparseness of available historical sources. It is also possible, however, that normal processes of compression and emphasis during oral transmission have transformed some of these conversion accounts into idealized patterns.[48]

Apart from the dramatic conversions of a number of prominent Bábís, the evidence—though scanty—lends support to the use of the mobilization model.

Thus, in the first instance, diffusion of the movement was strongly concentrated within the existing network of the Shaykhi communities. (See Table 1, below.) Gathered together in Shiraz during the Báb's initial declaration of his mission, the Letters of the Living then dispersed to various parts of Iran, Iraq and India.[49] The initial expansion of the movement resulted

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from the missionary conversions gained by these disciples. Whether or not the Báb had instructed them to concentrate their energies on the Shaykhi communities, their initial contacts were largely confined to their fellow sectaries. Several of them—notably Mullá Husayn—had already attained some prominence as disciples of Sayyid Kázim and were doubtless able to address their coreligionists with authority, as well as on the basis of sectarian fraternity. Others were sent to their home areas, where they presumably utilized their own existing social networks as a means of diffusing the Báb's message. In some instances, entire local communities of Shaykhis were converted.[50] In Kerman, by contrast, Karim Khán's authority within the local Shaykhi community effectively prevented the Bábí missionaries from gaining access to the social networks which were most susceptible to their message.

Conversions also occurred following contact with the Báb himself. Thus individual Shaykhis who had been particularly impressed by the young merchant when they had met him in Karbala in 1841-42, (that is, prior to his putting forward any claim), were later amongst the most devoted of his followers.[51]

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Again, at least eighteen Bábís dated their conversions to their experience of the Báb's public appearance in the Vakil Mosque in Shiraz in 1845—supposedly made to recant his claim.[52]

As the Báb's disciples went about their mission, news of the Báb's claim soon began to spread before them. Despite the initial concealment of the Báb's name, the messianic import of his claim attracted attention well beyond the Shaykhi community. In several instances, individuals set out for Shiraz or some other Bábí missionary center to investigate the matter for themselves. Some were sent as delegates on behalf of others. When such delegates converted, new social networks were opened to Bábí expansion, and further conversions readily followed. Thus when Shaykh Salman of Hindijan returned to his home town from Shiraz, he succeeded in converting some seventy families of the Afshar tribe.[53] Again, MuIlá Muhammad Furúghí's conversion was important in the expansion of Babism to the Turbat-Haydari area of Khurasan.[54]

The opening of new social networks was even more effective when leading ulama were involved. Sayyid Yahya Darábi (Vahid) abandoned his associations with the court in order to become an itinerant Bábí propagandist, thereafter converting many of those who regarded him or his father as their spiritual guides. His existing networks of contacts in both Yazd and Nayriz, where he had houses, were especially important in this regard. Again, the conversion of Shaykh Muhammad 'Ali, Hujjat Zanjani, was followed by the mass conversion of those of the inhabitants of Zanjan who regarded him as their religious leader.[55]

In the case of Nayriz and Zanjan, the role of preexisting social networks in determining conversion patterns depended on more than just relationships of religious patronage and guidance. It was common in mid-nineteenth-century Iran for even quite small towns to be divided into a number of mutually antagonistic urban districts (mahallihs), each with its own intense communalism and linkages to the web of partrician politics.[56]

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The conversion of a religious notable, such as Hujjat or Vahid, or Haji Shaykh Abdu'l-'Ali —the Imám Jum'ih of the Chinár-Súkhtih quarter of Nayriz, thus favored the conversion of the entire local community to which they were related. Correspondingly, success in one urban district disfavored success in rival districts. Within each town, these districts often coalesced into two competing and largely endogamous urban factions defined in terms of religious labels. Bábí expansion was inevitably molded by these divisions, especially where Shaykhism had become a factional identifier, as in Barfurush and Qazvin where all or part of the Shaykhi faction simply converted to the Bábí Faith.[57] Even where Shaykhism was not a factional label, support for the Báb was influenced by community divisions. In Shiraz, support came predominantly from within the Ni'mati faction, whilst those within the Haydari faction tended to be opposed.[58]

Associational and class networks were also important as channels of Bábí expansion. Prominent here were the linkages between the members of the ulama. Although the most important formal linkages were between the various leading ulama, and between each of these individuals and their own students and the clients of their patronage, the whole body of the ulama represented an informal grouping with considerable intercommunicative potential. Though largely confined to the lower or middle ranks of the ulama, the Bábí missionaries were well able to realize this communicative potential. Identified as clerics by their distinctive dress and their literacy, with ready access to the network of mosques and colleges, the learned Bábís, like other members of the ulama, were able to disseminate new ideas and form new social relationships with their fellows with relative ease. Thus, even at a personal level, the Bábí challenge could be directed with particular immediacy to the one social group which was most able to further or retard the movement's progress.

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The other associational networks which were important were those of the bazaar. The wholesale merchants (tujjár) were the key figures here. Educated, resourceful, and with a reputation for piety, the merchants enjoyed close association with the upper- and middle-ranking ulama. The two groups were also often related by intermarriage and business associations. The Bábí ulama were thus able to gain an audience among the merchants. Again, the merchants themselves by dint of their occupation, had wide-ranging national linkages with their fellow merchants, and local contacts with the craftsmen, shopkeepers, and petty traders who like them worked in the bazaar. Artisanal and petit bourgeois elements were thus also accessible to the Bábí preachers, and in Isfahan at least, the guilded craftsmen (asnáf) of the bazaar became a major network by which the movement spread.[59]

Rural linkages in Bábí expansion are less clear. Iranian peasants were socially interlinked in a variety of ways, but as yet we have only been able to identify patronage relationships as an evident channel of Bábí diffusion. This one factor may well account for the highly uneven expansion of Babism into the rural areas, but more research into the role of working and marketing relationships is needed.

Kinship linkages as a basis for conversion also need to be researched.


Mobilization theory emphasizes the effect and form, rather than the specific content, of the beliefs and doctrines propounded by a particular movement. This approach to content reflects the belief that official ideology is not a good guide to the reasons why individuals join particular movements. Mobilization theory de-emphasizes the importance of motivation. It indicates that movement members are often found to hold

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a diversity of beliefs, to be variously motivated, and to hold beliefs which are highly discrepant from those of their leaders.[6O] Thus, as a mobilizing factor, the significance of movement ideology is held to lie in its adaptability and in its provision of conceptual certitude.[61]

Certitude—which enhances commitment—is provided by an all-embracing meaning system which eludes falsification. Such, certainly, the Bábí movement appears to have had, though the intricacies of its validation strategies have yet to be studied. Adaptability facilitates the coexistence of a common rhetoric (to symbolize the movement's unity) with the diversity of ordinary members' beliefs. If a set of beliefs is structured too tightly the movement is exposed to the danger of schism.[62] Again, though the diversity of Bábí popular belief has yet to be properly evaluated, it is clear that beneath the unitary symbol of belief in the Báb, there existed a great array of beliefs by which Bábís expressed simultaneously the appeals of messianism, esoteric rationalism, pietism, legalistic reformism, and popular thaumaturgy. The very diversity of those who embraced the movement provides an adequate testimony to the adaptability of its appeal. Adaptability can also find expression in a "split-level" ideology.[63] In the case of Babism, this found formal recognition in a distinct hierarchical structure of belief. The esoteric truths accepted by the Bábí elite was only gradually revealed to the rank and file.

If a movement lacks a distinctive ideology of its own it is unlikely to preserve its unity and independent existence. Unity requires that there be a clear locus of ideological authority beyond the individual adherent. Independence requires that there be a distinction between adherents and nonadherents. Among Bábís, the primary focus of authority was provided by the person of the Báb. However diverse the interpretations of Bábí doctrine, and in whatever manner the Báb's claims may have been understood by his adherents, he himself stood at the center

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of their system of meaning. He was the measure by which truth was to be distinguished from falsehood. Those Bábís who relied on alternative sources of authority found continued commitment to his cause difficult to sustain. After the Báb had been executed, there was no longer a point of unity and the movement rapidly fragmented.

As to the distinction between believers and unbelievers this again centered on belief in the Báb. During the movement's Islamic phase, those who rejected the Báb were thought to have ceased to be Muslims and were thus ritually impure. They were assigned to hell. In practice, however, this belief (and many others) was generally concealed by the provisions of the Shi'i doctrine of pious dissimulation (taqiyya). The Bábís might know themselves to be the true elect, but to outward seeming they at first appeared to be Shaykhi sectaries, distinguished as much by their pietistic legalism as by the radical nature of their religious beliefs. As Gerlach and Hine have argued, in a hostile environment, ideological ambiguity can play a crucial role in a movement's survival and successful propagation.[64]

As against the more utilitarian statements of mobilization theory, we would contend that the content of ideology—at least at a general level—is of considerable significance. Religious innovation occurs within a preexisting context of traditional belief. For adherents to be gained, a new religious movement must at least possess ideological plausibility. Its doctrines must possess an elementary accessibility to its potential membership. In this area the Báb was eminently successful. Though heterodox in the eyes of the custodians of religious orthodoxy, the Bábís articulated many of the traditional concerns of popular Shiism and Shi'i dissent. The adaptability and ambiguity of its ideology augmented its appeal. To Shaykhis and others in this tradition of dissent, Babism reinterpreted the concerns of esoteric Shiism with its ideas of true knowledge, perfect men, and prophetic evolution. To all Shi'is, it reasserted the traditions of messianic

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expectation, pietistic devotionalism, and charismatic leadership. Its adherents came to witness to its truth with the blood of martyrdom, consciously reenacting the traditions of Karbala. In an age which readily accepted the miraculous, those who sought miracles from its grace found what they sought.

There is a clear continuity between many of the central teachings of Shaykhism and those of Babism, especially during the period of its early development. Ali Muhammad Shirazi may not have been a distinguished cleric, nonetheless he forcefully reasserted the Shaykhi concern with charismatic leadership. Like the Shaykhi masters, he laid claim to supernaturally derived authority, differing from them only in the unambiguous uniqueness and openness of his claim. Like them, he offered veracious knowledge from the Imams of guidance and the unveiling of the inner meaning of scriptural truth. Again like them, but more explicitly, he challenged the newly established scholastic orthodoxy of the Usúlí school. As part of the continuing tradition of dissent, he asserted the potency of divinely inspired knowledge.

In terms of motifs, he continued the powerful polar and esoteric concerns of Shaykhism, thereby appealing directly to the now leaderless Shaykhis.[65] When compared with the other claimants to Shaykhi leadership, he gave more radical, and probably more popular, emphasis to these motifs. As a non-cleric, his claim to supernaturally derived knowledge represented a far more radical critique of the legalistic scholasticism of the Usúlís. Unlike Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kazim, a distinctly anticlerical element entered his teachings. Unlike Karim Khán, he asserted that access to religious truth did not require an elaborate array of acquired knowledge. It required only the spiritual perception of the true believer.

Such concerns had a general appeal beyond the Shaykhi circle. The quest for charismatic authority was common to both official and popular nineteenth-century Iranian religiosity.[66] Esotericism remained a potent theme in Shi'i life. At a time

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when the Usúlí establishment sought to regularize and control these motifs, the Bábís vigorously reasserted them. Similarly, Babism gave powerful expression to Shi'i millenarianism, giving it a further linkage to the popular religiosity of the time. Though mahdist anticipation remained normative in official Shiism, it presented a potentially unstable enthusiasm which the ulama preferred to control. In announcing his mission in the prophetic year 1260 A.H. (1844)—a full millennium after the concealment of the Hidden Imám—the Báb directly addressed the popular millenarian speculation of the time.[67] Moreover, as actual mahdist expectation and enthusiasm were apparently mounting at this time—perhaps particularly after the Ottoman sack of the holy city of Karbala in 1843—the Bábí missionaries were able to directly address and interpret popular sentiment in their own terms, and to considerable effect.[68] Indeed, it is notable that pre-Bábí Shaykhism itself appears to have been affected by adventist speculation, and a definite tension between the proponents and opponents of adventism seems to have emerged. Whether or not the Bábís were correct in later attributing adventist themes to the oral teachings of the Shaykhi masters, it is clear that a number of Shaykhis had become adventists prior to 1844, and that these individuals were among those who became Bábís. Correspondingly, those Shaykhis who had been opposed to adventist expectation were amongst the Báb's chief opponents.[69]

One further motif in early Bábí teachings which may be assumed to have contributed to the movement's initial appeal was that of "pietistic legalism."[70] Despite the novelty of his claims and his ultimate abrogation of Islamic law, the Báb at first advocated a strict observance of the law. His followers were initially distinguished more by their fervent devotionalism than by any obvious deviation from the accepted codes of Islamic practice. Only with the radicalization of the movement did this situation change, and the Bábís' heterodoxy become fully revealed.

As the radical nature of Bábí doctrine became more evident,

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those who found its innovations reprehensible abandoned the movement, or rose up in opposition. The Báb's failure to appear in Karbala in 1845, the radical nature of the validation of his authority, the esoteric interpretation of the messianic tradition, the Báb's later claims to be a new divine messenger, and the abrogation of the Islamic holy law all broke conceptual norms. This placed strains on the process of recruitment and engendered defections from the movement. Some of these strains were lessened, however, by the gradual progression in the Báb's claims. According to the Báb's own account, his later and more extreme claims were initially concealed as a matter of deliberate policy so that "men might not be disturbed by a new book and a new Cause."[71] Certainly, this was the sociological effect of this progressive revelation. When the Báb's more radical claims became widely known, the Bábís were already integrated into the movement. If the Báb's higher claims had been known from the start, it is unlikely that he would have been able to gain so ready an audience, or his disciples gain so many recruits.

At the same time, however, radicalization gave even greater emphasis to the polar and millenarian motifs. Appearing now as a theophany, the Báb gave potent expression to ideas of extreme charismatic legitimacy, which, while far removed from orthodoxy, were not unknown in popular religious culture. More specifically, as opposition mounted, the Bábís perceived the antagonistic arrays of Shi'i apocalypticism come into being:

the hosts of the Mahdi confronted the forces of Antichrist. By the Bábí doctrine of "return" (raj'a), the cosmic roles of the fourteen Very Pure (Muhammad, Fatima, and the Imams) were reenacted in the persons of the Letters of Living, while Karim Khan and Haji Mirza Aqasi enacted the roles of their opponents—Dajjal and the hideous Sufyani.[72] Specific acts, such as the march of Mullá Husayn and his companions out of Khurasan bearing a black standard, made literal appeal to messianic prophecy.[73]

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Appeal was now also made to the Shi'i motif of pious martyrdom. The powerful symbolism of blood sacrificed in the struggle against the enemies of true religion was readily evoked. The Bábís saw themselves as being like the Imám Husayn and his followers, cut down at the battle of Karbala in 680 by the Umayyads. Shaykh Tabarsi was Karbala reenacted. The Qajars had become latter day Umayyads seeking to extinguish God's religion. This symbolism won sympathizers, even among the armies of the "latter-day Umayyads."[74]


The social location and demographic significance of the Bábís are central factors in any consideration of the religion's wider importance as a social movement. As yet, our knowledge of this basic data remains incomplete—a lacuna with serious implications for higher level theories of the reasons for the emergence and expansion of the movement.

Babi numbers. The demographic significance of Babism is particularly difficult to discern.[75] Estimates for the total size and composition of the Iranian population in the mid-nineteenth century vary widely and there are no detailed records of the total number of Bábís. Both the Báb and the Russian and British Ministers in Tehran refer to a total of one hundred thousand Bábís. If this were the figure, then the Bábís represented a significant element in the contemporary Iranian population, perhaps between 1.7 and 2.2 percent of the total. Good organization and a particular concentration of adherents in the towns would have made this number of Bábís a formidable force in Iranian society.

But were there one hundred thousand Bábís? The figure of one lakh (100,000) is clearly a rounded figure, and may well simply have been a synonym for "a large number." It is only too

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easy to attribute a false facticity to figures employed without modern statistical intent or exactitude. It may well be that there were markedly fewer Bábís than one hundred thousand. Some sources refer to fifty thousand, but again this may well have no real statistical base. Certainly, given the considerable disincentives of membership and the very limited period in which the Bábí missionaries were able to actively recruit members, a lower figure for membership seems highly probable. A lower number would also be commensurate with a recent reevaluation of the number of Bábí martyrs, which reduces the commonly cited figure of twenty thousand to approximately two or three thousand.[76]

Whatever the total number of Bábís, it is clear that at least in certain localities they attained a considerable importance. Indeed, it may well be that what distinguished Zanjan and Nayriz, the two towns in which there was sustained conflict between the Bábís and their opponents, was the unusually high concentration of the Bábís in those localities. Thus in Zanjan, an important town on the Tabriz to Tehran route, the Bábís may have represented some fifteen percent of the local population (perhaps 3,000 out of some 20,000). In Nayriz, the figure was even higher, Bábís representing perhaps 43 percent of the population (1,500 out of about 3,500).[77] Elsewhere the local concentrations of Bábís undoubtedly varied quite considerably. Baghdad, for example, may have had about 70 believers during the period of Tahirih's residence, and Karbala perhaps the same. In Tehran, by contrast, there were about 2,000 Bábís.[78]

Social location. Nineteenth-century Iran was neither a unified nor homogeneous society. Bábí expansion was thus inevitably constrained by the existing patterns of religious, social and geographical division. While we are not yet able to provide a precise description of Bábí expansion in terms of these patterns, we feel that some of the main characteristics are now more or less clear.

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Besides impressionistic evidence, we employ two quantitative analyses. The first of these, which has already been presented elsewhere, is an analysis of the identified BAN participants at the Shaykh Tabarsi conflict (Table 2; N 365 out of c. 54Q).[79 ]The second which is presented here for the first time is an analysis of the biographical information of prominent Bábís provided in the third volume of Fadil Mazandarani's Zuhúru'l-Haqq, one of the standard Bahá'í accounts of the period (Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4; N = 282). Individuals merely listed by Mazandarani are assumed not to have been prominent and are excluded from the analysis. We assume that in general those Bábís whom Mazandarani describes in any detail constituted part of what we might term the "leadership cadre" of the movement.

Religious background. Most nineteenth-century Iranians were Shi'i Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Bábís were drawn from this grouping. Of the non-Muslim religious minorities—perhaps 3 percent of the population—no Assyrian or Armenian Christians were converted, but there is record of one Zoroastrian convert and several Jews.[80] Of the non-Shi'i Muslims, no Sunnis appear to have been converted, but a few converts were drawn from amongst the Ahlu'l-Haqq ('Aliyu'llahis.[81] Of the Shi'i converts, most were initially Shaykhis. But as the movement expanded, adherents were drawn from all schools of Shiism. Few members of Sufi orders converted, but those that did included a Ni'matu'llahi leader (murshid). A few wandering ascetics (Qalandar dervishes) also came to be associated with the movement.

It is of note that of the prominent Bábís mentioned by Mazandarani at least a quarter were Shaykhis (Table 1). Indeed, of those known to have converted during the early "Islamic" phase of Bábí development (that is, prior to 1264 A.H. [1848 A.D.], at least half had been Shaykhis. As the former religious identity of many of the individuals mentioned is unknown, it is highly likely that both these figures represent underestimates for the

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proportion of Shaykhis. For example, it seems probable that most of those converted by Mullá Husayn during his first missionary journey were Shaykhis, but only a minority are explicitly identified as such.

Ethnicity and nomadism. Perhaps one-third or more of the mid-nineteenth-century Iranian population belonged to nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes.[82] Linguistic and religious divisions reinforced their separation from the settled Shi'i population. Elements of some of these tribes did become sedentary, however, and were drawn into settled society. Although we know of no nomads who became Bábís, members of more settled tribal groups did convert.[83] Prominent among these were some seventy families of the Afshars of Hindijan (Fars), but a number of Kurds were also converted.[84] Of prominent Bábís (Tables 2 and 3), five were identified solely as tribesmen, and another two (a military officer and a landowner; and the son of a courtier) were of tribal background. These individuals included three Afshars (one a tribal leader), a Jaliki Kurd (a tribal leader), and a Turkaman.

Among the settled population, ethnic divisions do not seem to have been a significant barrier to Bábí expansion. Although most Bábís were drawn from the majority Persian (farsi-speaking) population, the movement spread readily amongst both Azerbaijani Turks and Mazandaranis. Lack of success amongst Gilakis and Iranian Arabs is likely to have been due solely to a lack of effective proselytism in those areas. Arabs in Iraq were converted without any problem.

Class divisions. Nineteenth-century Iranian class divisions may be described in terms of three socio-economic formations:

pastoral nomadism, peasant agriculture, and petty-commodity production and trade.[85] Government officials and ulama represented distinctive non-class groups. Bábí expansion was unevenly distributed within these various classes and groupings,

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the most obvious restriction being its confinement to the settled population.

Within the settled population it seems possible that, as between the urban and rural sectors, the overall distribution of Bábís did not differ significantly from that of the population as a whole.[86] That is, most or at least a significant minority, of Bábís may have come from the same rural and small town background which constituted the social milieu of perhaps two-thirds of the settled population of Iran. Even among prominent Bábís, some 37 percent were of this background (Table 4).

It should be noted, however, that while Bábí expansion in the urban sector was well distributed throughout the towns of the Shi'i heartland, rural expansion was highly localized. Most rural areas were never effectively proselytized. In terms of its

SOURCES: Mázandarání, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3. The list of towns given by Thompson in Parliamentary Papers, vol. 69 for 1867-68, pp. 507-15 (reprinted by C. Issawi, Economic History of Iran, p. 28) has been used for the large and medium-sized towns. For the small towns and villages, we have used information from the Gazetteer of Persia. It should be realized that this information is very imprecise and it is impossible to determine the size at that time of certain large villages such as Bushru'iyyih which has been classified here under villages, but may well have had more than two thousand inhabitants.

NOTE: The seven Iraqis included in Tables 1, 2 and 3 have been excluded from this table, hence the difference in totals.

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social impact, Babism was predominantly an urban movement, but with a significant rural constituency.

We must assume that the Bábís of rural origin were mostly peasants. Unfortunately we are not yet able to say if they came from any particular stratum within the peasantry, either in terms of wealth or degree of independence. Given the distribution of power and education in Qajar Iran, it is scarcely surprising that only 5 percent of the prominent Bábís were peasants (Tables 2 and 3). These were mostly fruit-growers from Nayriz. The Bábí religion may have succeeded in gaining a significant peasant following, but it was not (except in certain localized instances) a peasant movement. Bábí peasant conversions might follow that of respected religious leaders (as at Nayriz), but it also followed that of the peasants' own landlords (as in Mazandaran).

Within Qajar society, land ownership and the political office which such ownership could support provided the most stable basis for power. This tiny minority of notables was significantly represented within the Bábí movement, constituting at least 8 percent of the prominent adherents (Tables 2 and 3). Again, we are not able to specify the location of these individuals in detail. But it is of note that most do not appear to have been politically influential, though several moved in court circles, including Mirza Rida Khan Turkaman, Rida Quli Khan Afshar, and Mirza Husayn 'Ali Nuri, Bahá'u'lláh. The only exception to this observation was Manuchihr Khan Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih, the governor of Isfahan. Several of the (numerous) Qajar princesses are also said to have been converted, as well as a number of petty officials and government employees.[87]

Apart from landowners and government officials, the other elite groups in Qajar society were the wholesale merchants (tujjár) and the higher ulama. Both groups were well represented among the more prominent Bábís, constituting respectively at least 12 percent and 7 percent of this grouping. Their total numbers were necessarily limited, however.

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The merchants dominated the economic life of the bazaar. It was here that much of the strongest support for the Bábí movement was gained, perhaps particularly from the craftsmen and petty-traders who belonged to the various guilds. These groups between them contributed some 29 individuals (10 percent) to the group of prominent Bábís. The extent of Bábí representation amongst the unskilled workers and urban peasants who comprised the invisible majority of the urban population is unknown. None became prominent in the movement, but it is possible that a large proportion of the Bábís in Zanjan came from these groups. It is notable that, from the beginning, Hujjat Zanjani appears to have developed a strong relationship with his poorer followers. When the conflict began, it was these who followed him with greatest constancy, while some of his richer followers defected to the Muslim side.[88]

The ulama did not constitute a unitary social class as such, but rather a distinctive series of groupings with varying economic interests. Although the lesser ulama—especially theological students—dominated the Bábí leadership (43 percent or more), a significant number of the prominent Bábís (7 percent) were drawn from the higher ulama. Ulama were also the largest single group identified at the fortress of Shaykh Tabarsi (136 out of 537).

Most prominent Bábís were men, and it is probably that the majority of the Bábí rank-and-file were also men. Full "familialization" of the movement probably only developed after its transformation into the Bahá'í religion.[89] Nevertheless, 11 women were included in the category of prominent Bábís. Given the extreme subordination of women in Iranian society of the time, this is remarkable. Whatever the symbolic significance of Tahirih's role as a Bábí leader for Iranian women of her own day, the very fact of her prominence as one of the four leading Bábís represents one of the most distinctive features of Babism as an Islamic religious movement.

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Geographical extent. The geographical expansion of Babism reflected the extent of missionary activity and the social composition of the movement 90 Bábí missionaries concentrated their attention on the Shi'i shrine cities of Iraq and the Shi'i heartland of Iran. Areas with non-Shi'i minorities (which also tended to be areas dominated by minority tribes) received little or no attention. As a result there were no Bábís in Baluchistan, the Gulf littoral, or most parts of the Western mountains. Other areas, such as Shi'i Arabistan (Khuzistan), Sistan, and Gilan were neglected for no apparent reason (other than perhaps their peripheral location). The sustained opposition of Karim Khán in Kerman prevented effective expansion there, but otherwise all the major cities and provinces of Iran were reached. We have insufficient data to make any definite remarks about the overall distribution of the movement. We note that, reflecting the population distribution of the time, most of the prominent Bábís at least were northerners. This observation contradicts the hypothesis that the Bábí movement reflected southern discontent 91

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In considering Babism as a social movement, we have resisted the temptation to present high-level hypotheses as to origins and development. We will doubtless succumb to this temptation elsewhere. But for the present we have sought to establish some of the basic questions concerning how the movement developed, rather than address the more intractable issues of why it developed.

This is not to devalue these wider questions. We recognize their importance. As a contribution to this work of theoretical analysis we present twenty-five propositions regarding the religious, political and social significance of the Bábí religion. We regard these propositions as basic elements in the construction of higher level theories. We have and will write in support of these propositions elsewhere. Some are supported in the present article. This propositional form lends itself to ready falsification by those who would disagree with us.

A. Religious Factors

1. The Bábí movement was a phenomenon within Shi'ism. It made no significant impact beyond the confines of Shi'ism.

2. The movement carried a strong religious charge. It gave expression to a number of powerfully evocative Shi'i motifs. Its leaders spoke to the religious concerns of the day and presented (some) Bábí beliefs in a manner that was accessible to religiously inclined contemporaries.

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3. More controversial beliefs were initially concealed from both non-Bábís and from the Bábí rank-and-file.

4. At a time of increasing emphasis on orthodoxy (as defined by the higher ranking ulama), the movement gave voice to elements of the popular and dissenting religious traditions.

5. The movement's leaders initially called for a religious reformation and condemned clerical corruption.

6. Local variation in appeal was probably great.

7. The movement provided a comprehensive system of meaning and could ultimately provide an alternative sense of identity to Shi'ism. Initially, however, most Bábís probably saw themselves as true Shi'is rather than as members of a separate religion.

8. There is little evidence for a contemporary crisis of meaning in Iran. Other than the possible effects of repeated military defeat at the hands of the infidel Russians, there had been no traumatic challenges to the indigenous Shi'i religious tradition. The intellectual impact of the West was as yet extremely limited.

B. Political Factors

1. The Bábís were explicitly political in their demands. The Báb's claim to Mahdihood challenged the legitimacy of all existing institutions. Their attempt to establish a theocracy entailed the displacement or co-option of the existing regime.

2. The government perceived the Bábís as insurrectionaries and suppressed the movement accordingly.

3. Although there were individual Bábís who were insurrectionary, it has not yet been established that the Bábís, as a community, were consciously and preparedly insurrectionary. If they were, then their attempt was poorly coordinated for such a well-organized movement.

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4. Both Bábí radicalism and militancy and the outbreak of violence are best seen as part of a developing and interactive process.

5. Local factors were crucial. Where large Bábí communities developed, they were inevitably drawn into the complex web of communal politics.

6. Prepolitical discontent does not appear to have been a significant factor. Nonreligious forms of political protest (such as insurrection) were readily available.

7. Anti-Qajar sentiment does not appear to have become a factor until the Bábís had become alienated from the state.

8. There is no convincing evidence to support the thesis that Babism was proto-nationalist in its appeal.

C. Socio-economic Factors

1. Differential recruitment to the Bábí movement proceeded along social networks and along class lines. A wide cross-section of urban social groups was included, and in certain areas village groups were well represented. No effective contact was made with the nomadic tribes.

2. The thesis that Babism represented a form of bourgeois reformism is not well supported. Bábí laws favoring merchant interests were a late addition and do not appear to have contributed to the religion's appeal.

3. "Modernistic" social reform was not a central part of Bahá'í teaching, albeit that there was some amelioration in the social laws regarding women.

4. The popular radicalism of the later Bábís may be seen as reflecting eschatologically heightened, but traditional Islamic, ideas of charity, equity, and the struggle against injustice.

5. The movement may have reflected opposition to the economic and political powers of the higher ulama.

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6. Divisions among Bábís between "radicals" and "conservatives" proceeded on class lines. The more affluent laity and the more established clerics were generally the more conservative.

7. Babism expanded throughout the Shi'i heartland of Iran. It was not an expression of regional sentiment.

8. Mid-nineteenth-century Iran was experiencing a profound and multi-faceted economic crisis, but in what manner this may have been linked to the emergence of the movement remains unclear.

9. The Bábís were not anti-European. The Báb commended the adoption of various aspects of European life and manners.

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1. Avery, Modern Iran, pp. 52-58; Bayat, Mysticism and Dissent, pp. 87-131; Ivanov, Bábídski Vostanii i Irane; Keddie, "Religion and Irreligion in Early Iranian Nationalism", pp. 267-71; idem, Roots of Revolution, p. 49; Smith, "Millenarianism in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions".

2. For an introduction to the resource mobilization perspective see McCarthy and Zald, "Resource Mobilization in Social Movements," and Zald and McCarthy, Dynamics of Social Movements. See also the slightly variant approaches of Beckford, Religious Organization, and Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change.

3. For the distinction between the utilitarian and motivational approaches to resource mobilization see Fireman and Gamson, "Utilitarian Logic," and Perrow, "The Sixties Observed."

4. The best recent accounts of the development of Babism are provided by the as yet unpublished doctoral dissertations by Amanat, "The Early Years of the Bábí Movement," and MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism." See also the more general account by Smith, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, and idem, "A Sociological Study of the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions."

5. For an account of the "tradition of dissent," see Bayat, Mysticism and Dissent. For accounts of the general Shi'i context see Algar, Religion and State in Iran, and Momen, Introduction to Shi'ih Islam.

6. See MacEoin, "Early Shaykhi Reactions to the Bib"; and idem, "From Shaykhism to Babism," pp. 126-55.

7. On the term "báb" in Shi'i us age, see Momen, Introduction to Shi'i Islam, pp. 162-64. For its Bábí usage, see Amanat, "Early Years," p. 173. At least some Shaykhis appear to have applied the term to Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid KA4m (see, for example, the treatise by

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al-Qatil ibn al-Karbala'i, cited in Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, pp. 512-32 passim).

8. See Momen, "The Trial of Mullá Ali Bastami."

9. Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviour, pp. 313-81.

10. Ibid., pp. 364-79.

11. Crucially, Karim Khan was also able to control the local Shaykhi congregation and thus deny the Bábí missionaries access to its local network. By contrast, antagonistic non-Shaykhi clerics, such as Muhammad Taqi Baraghani in Qazvin, were not able to exercise such primary control.

12. Amanat, "Early Years," p. 280.

13. Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change, pp. 183-97.

14. On the interactive nature of social movement development, see Lauer, "Social Movements," and Oberschall, "Protracted Conflict."

15. Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviour, p. 367.

16. See MacEoin, "The Bábí Concept of Holy War", pp. 104-6.

17. See also Smith, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions.

18. MacEoin, "The Bábí Concept of Holy War." p. 112.

19. See further Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 269-72. On the general role of the lútís see Floor, "The Lútís." On their role in Karbala in the 1830s and 1840s, see Cole and Momen, "Mafia, Mob and Shi ism.

20. On organizational needs, see Burrell and Morgan, Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis, pp. 167-81.

21. MacEoin, "The Bábí Concept of Holy War," pp. 102-3.

22. Bayat, Mysticism and Dissent, pp. 93-94, 118-25.

23. Smith, "Millenarianism," pp. 243-48; idem, "Sociological Study," pp. 157-67.

24. On the appropriate responses to stable and unstable environments see Burrell and Morgan, Sociological Paradigms, pp. 171-79.

25. On the relevant desiderata, see ibid.

26. Lauer, Social Movements and Social Change, pp. 92-96.

27. On this group see Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 74, 90; Browne, Traveller's Narrative, vol. 2, p. 323.

28. Momen, "The Trial of MuIla 'Ali Bastami," p. 140. We are grateful to Mr. R. Mehrabkhani for drawing to our attention an important passage in the Báb's writings that refers to this episode. In this

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passage, the Báb states that he had ordered the ulama to gather at Karbala in order to await his return in order that the "Hidden Covenant" of God be publicly revealed. But that, having heard in Mecca of the rejection by the ulama of his message, he decided not to go that way in order to avoid sedition and so that no one would be harmed. (See Mehrabkhani "Some Notes on Fundamental Principles" in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, p. 40.)

29. On mubáhalih challenges, see MacEoin, "The Bábí Concept of Holy War," pp. 109-10.

30. We are following here Weber's distinction between traditional, rational-legal, and charismatic bases of legitimacy. See Weber, Economy and Society, pp. 212-45.

31. On the range of "charismatic options" in nineteenth-century Iranian Shiism, see MacEoin, "Changes in Charismatic Authority."

32. On the Báb's validation of his claims, see Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 125-28; idem, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions.

33. The financial basis of Babism has not yet been researched.

34. On Shaykh Sa'id Hindi, the disciple who was delegated to proceed to India, see Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, pp. 588-89. There is as yet no further information as to this man's activities.

35. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, p. 123. See MacEoin, "Hierarchy, Authority and Eschatology," pp. 119-122. (This volume.)

36. MacEoin, ibid.

37. On commitment mechanisms, see Kanter, Commitment and Community. See also Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change, pp. 99-158.

38. MacEoin, "Ritual and Semi-ritual Observances," pp. 4-7.

39. MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism," pp. 205-6.

40. Ibid., pp. 203-5.

41. On the local nature of recruitment see Lofland and Jamison, "Social Movement Locals."

42. Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change, pp. 33-78.

43. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, p. 126.

44. The general role and status of the leading disciples are described in Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 130-33, 155-57; idem, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions.

45. See for example Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change,

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pp. 79-97; and Snow et al., "Social Networks and Social Movements."

46. Lofland and Skonovd, "Conversion Motifs."

47. See for example the accounts given by Nabil in Dawn-Breakers for the Letters of the Living (pp. 52-71), Hujjat (pp. 178-79), and Vahid (pp. 171-76).

48. For example compare the several accounts of Mullá Husayn's conversion all purporting to derive from him: see Browne, Taríkh-i-Jadíd, pp. 33-39; Muhammad, "Some New Notes on Babism," pp. 447-49; Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, pp. 52-68.

49. For a description of the Báb's possible instructions to his disciples see Momen, "The Trial of MuIIá Ali Bastami," p. 115.

50. MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism." p. 187.

51. See for example statements regarding the conversions of Mullá Ahmad Mu'allim, Haji Muhammad Isfaháni, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Nahri, and Mullá Zaynu'l-'Abidin Shahmirzadi (Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol.3, pp. 158, 101, 97, 200 respectively). See also those of Mullá Muhammad Sadiq Muqaddas (Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, p. 100), Haji Rasúl Qazvini (Samandar, Taríkh, pp. 16-17), and Sayyid Javad Karbala'i (Balyuzi, The Báb, pp.37-38). Karbala'í had known the Báb since childhood.

52. Personal communication of material to be presented in a forthcoming book by Abú'l-Qasim Afnán.

53. Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, p. 301.

54. Ibid., p. 155n.

55. On Vahid and Hujjat see Browne, Taríkh-i-Jadíd, pp. 111-15,

135-41, 349-51; idem, "Personal Reminiscences," pp. 770-80; and Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, pp. 171-79, 465-68, 475-81, 529-34.

56. For a recent account of these communal factions see Mirajafari, "The Haydari-Ni'mati Conflicts in Iran."

57. Amanat, "Early Years," pp. 87-88, 303-305; Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, pp. 406-7.

58. Amanat, "Early Years," p. 278-83.

59. Of the 53 Isfahanis identified as being amongst the participants of Shaykh Tabarsi, 19 are known to have been asnáf. These constituted almost half the asnáf at Tabarsi. (Momen, "Social Basis," p. 162).

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60. Marx and Wood, "Theory and Research in Collective Behaviour," pp. 382-84.

61. Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change, pp. 159-82.

62. Borhek and Curtis, A Sociology of Belief, pp. 111-21; Snow and Machalek, "Second Thoughts on the Presumed Fragility of Unconventional Beliefs," pp. 31-35.

63. Gerlach and Hine, People, Power, Change, pp. 165-66.

64. Ibid., 169-71.

65. On these and other Shi'i and Bábí motifs, see Smith, "Motif Research"; idem, "Sociological Study," pp. 96-102, 117-35, 169-83.

66. On the appeal of charismatic authority, see MacEoin, "Changes in Charismatic Authority." On the popular religiosity of the time, see Amanat, 'Early Years," pp. 56-99.

67. Amanat, ibid., pp. 75-79. On Shi'i mahdist speculation in India in this period see Cole, "Imámi Shi'ism," pp. 348-49.

68. On the sack of Karbala see Cole and Momen, "Mafia, Mob and Shi'ism in Iraq."

69. Prominent Shaykhi adventists included Mullá Yússuf Ardibili and Hájí Asadu'lláh Saysáni. Their opponents included the Shaykhi leaders Karim Khan, Shaykh Hasan Gawhar and Mullá Muhammad Mamaqani. See Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, pp. 44-46, 49-50.

70. Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 118-19.

71. MacEoin, "Early Shaykhi Reactions," p. 18.

72. See Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 172-74; idem, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions.

73. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers, pp. 324-25.

74. Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, p. 42.

75. See Smith, "A Note on Bábí and Bahá'í Numbers in Iran."

76. MacEoin, "A Note on the Number of Bábí and Bahá'í Martyrs in Iran."

77. The estimates for the number of Bábís are taken from Momen, "Social Basis," pp. 166-70. The population estimate for Zanjan (1867) is taken from Issawi (ed.), The Economic History of Iran, p. 28. That for Nayriz (1871) is taken from Lovett, "Surveys on the Road from Shiraz to Bam."

78. On numbers in Baghdad see Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq,

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vol. 3, p. 317. On those in Tehran see Momen, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, p. 6. By the 1860s some 6 percent of the population of Tehran may have been Bábís (i.e., c. 5,000 out of 80,000, Gobineau, Religions et Philosophies p. 272).

79. Momen, "Social Basis." See also Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 238-45.

80. On the one Zoroastrian, see Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, p. 395n. There were six Jewish converts in Turbat-i Haydari in about 1850 and a number of Jewish converts in Baghdad. There may also have been some Christian converts in Baghdad. The whole question will be dealt with in more detail in a forthcoming Ph.D. thesis by Stephen Lambden at the University of Newcastle, England.

81. Ahlu'l-Haqq converts included Muhammad Beg Chaparchi, the Báb's escort from Isfahan to Tabriz (Browne, Nuqtatu'l-Káf, p. 124; idem, Taríkh-i-Jadíd, p. 217), and three residents of Qazvin, one a Kurdish tribal leader (Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, pp. 385).

82. There are a wide range of variant estimates. See Momen, "Social Basis," p. 174; and Smith, "Sociological Study," p. 233.

83. This modifies an earlier research statement by Momen, "Social Basis," pp. 166, 173.

84. Mazandarani, Zuhúru'l-Haqq, vol. 3, pp. 301, 386.

85. For a more detailed account of these divisions see Smith, "Sociological Study." pp. 231-37.

86. Momen, "Social Basis," pp. 173-75.

87. On the Qajar princesses, see Avarih, Kawtikibu'd-Durriyyih, vol. 1, pp. 114, 117-8.

88. Browne, "Personal Reminiscences of the Bábí Insurrection at Zanjan"; Momen, "Social Basis," p. 170.

89. Smith, Bábí and Bahá'í Religions.

90. For a more detailed discussion see Smith, "Sociological Study," pp. 245-50.

91. Avery, Modern Iran, p. 53.


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