Bahai Fact

The Recantation(s) of The Bab

The Recantation(s) of The Bab

Mohammed Reza Isfahani

A unique aspect of the Bab is that he recanted from his beliefs – not just once but at numerous occasions in his lifetime. At most places, it did not take too much suffering or pressure for the Bab to relent and wash his hands off any claims that he may have made.

This aspect must be put into perspective of the claims of the Bab. There is no credibility for the one who enforces or claims to enforce a new law only to retract his claims and withdraws his words. What can one make of the personality of the Bab who not only disclaimed everything he said, but also invoked the curse of Allah upon his followers.

The Bahais may try and explain the actions of the Bab by saying that he recanted in the state of Taqaiyyah (concealing one’s faith). They also try and read between the lines to justify the words of the Bab. However my readers must understand that we are disputing the position of the Bab as a divinely sent or divinely inspired representative.

We do not have any instance when universally acknowledged prophets or messengers were under Taqaiyyah. Prophets and messengers chose to bear the difficulties and ill-treatments meted to them rather than recant from their faith. One needs to read the Islamic viewpoint on the history of the prophets to appreciate this point. Prophet Nuh (as) was oppressed by his people, yet there is no mention of him ever recanting or even altering his belief to suit his oppressors. Hazrat Ibrahim (as) chose to be thrown in the fire rather than withdrawing his claim to Prophethood. Hazrat Musa (as) boldly stood before the Pharaoh, but did not retract his claim as a divinely sent representative. Prophet Mohammed (saw) bore the ignominy of exile, but yet maintained at all times that he was the final prophet and messenger from Allah.

There is a rationale for this – a prophet or Imam is a representative of Allah. He is sent to guide people and not to misguide or confuse believers. He must conduct himself with dignity and remain steadfast on his claims to instill confidence in the adherents to his religion. Hence the divine representative will always put forth his claim forthrightly and without any ambiguity. He will never recant. Taqaiyyah is not permitted to divine representatives.

However in the case of the Bab, none of the above is true. He made multiple claims in his lifetime and threw his followers into confusion and disarray. He recanted several times from his beliefs as well.

In the book, Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, Professor E. G, Browne has brought 5 documents which clearly indicate that the Bab washed his hands off any claim – either made by him or attributed to him.

When the discussion was concluded, His Reverence the Shaykhu’l-Islلm was summoned, who had the Bab beaten and inflicted on him an exemplary chastisement, so that he apologized, recanted, and repented of and asked pardon for his errors, giving a sealed undertaking that henceforth he would not commit such faults.
(Ref: Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, page 255)

The following letter from the Bab in his own writing is recorded as well in the same book. “May my life be thy sacrifice! Praise be to God such as He deserves and merits, in that He hath caused (those who are) the Manifestations of His Grace and Mercy under all circumstances to comprehend all of His servants. Praise be to God, and again praise, that He hath deigned to make one like your Excellency the source of His Clemency and Mercy, by the manifestation of whose kindness He hath pardoned His servants, cast a veil over (the faults of) sinners, and shown mercy to the transgressors.

The Bab

I take God to witness on His part that this weak servant never intended aught contrary to the good pleasure of the Lord of the World and the Company of Saints. Although my very existence is in itself utterly faulty, yet since my heart firmly believes in the unity of God (glorious in His mention), and the Prophethood of His Apostle, and the Saintship of the Community of Saints, and since my tongue acknowledgeth all that hath been revealed on the part of God, I hope for His Mercy. Never have I desired aught contrary to the Will of God, and, if words contrary to His good pleasure have flowed from my pen, my object was not disobedience, and in any case I repent and ask forgiveness of Him. This servant has absolutely no knowledge connected with any (superhuman) claim.

I ask forgiveness of God my Lord and I repent unto Him of (the idea) that there should be ascribed to me any [Divine] Mission. As for certain prayers and words which have flowed from my tongue, these do not imply any such Mission (amr), and any (apparent) claim to any special vicegerency for His Holiness the Proof of God (on whom be Peace!) is a purely baseless claim, such as this servant has never put forward, nay, nor any claim like unto it.

Therefore it is thus hoped from the clemency of His Imperial Majesty and of Your Excellency, that they will exalt the head of him who continually prays for them by the favors and graces of their clement and compassionate court. Farewell.”
(Ref: Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, page 256-8)

The same is also recorded by Abul Fadl Golpaygani in his book Kashful Ghita. The Bab openly declared his station as the promised Qaem during the public trial in Tabriz. After the punishment handed to him following the trial, he wrote a letter to Prince Nasiru’l Din Mيrzل:

“This weak soul has no desire contrary to the will of the Lord and the Guardians of his cause. Though my being is mere nothingness but since my heart is able to recognize the true meaning of the oneness of God, the manifestation of His prophet and the Guardianship of His Imams, and my tongue confesses to all that has been revealed by him. I hope for His mercy and have no desire save His contentment.

If certain words – contrary to His will – have been revealed from my pen, my purpose has not been that of rebellion. In any event I seek forgiveness of His Excellency. This servant has no knowledge to warrant any claims… Certain prayers and words that have been revealed from the tongue do not represent any concerns.

And the claim to the deputyship of His Excellency Hujjatullah – peace be up on Him – is void. This servant has not laid such a claim or any other one. Request is made for clemency from His Royal Excellency (king) and your Excellency to honor this servant with your mercy, kindness and forgiveness.”
(Ref: Kashful Ghita, Mirza Abul Fadl and Mirza Mahdi Golpayegani, p. 204205)

“Those who say that “Remember the name of Thy Lord” means that he himself (i.e., Sayyed ‘Ali Muhammad) has actually claimed to have received revelation and the Qur’an, have indeed become disbelievers. Moreover those who say that the verse means that he has claimed to be the Bab of the Remnant of God (the twelfth Imam), have also become disbelievers. O God, you are my witness that (I declare) any one who claims to be divine or to possess the wilayat or who has received the Qur’an and the revelation, or who has omitted or altered anything in Your religion, has become an unbeliever. I certainly seek to disassociate from such people. You are my witness that I have not claimed to be the Bab.”
(Ref: Tafseere’ Surah Kauthar, Bab)

After his return from Mecca, the Bab was arrested in Bushihr and taken into custody in the residence of Husayn Khan Nazimu’l Dowla, the Governor of Fars. On the same Friday, the Bab was pressured by the Ulama, particularly the Imam Juma’ of Shiraz, to publicly renounce his earlier claims in the grand Mosque of Vakil in front of a congregation of the faithful. The Bab attended the prayer session and publicly denied his claim to the position of ‘Deputyship’ of the Hidden Imam. This renunciation no doubt saved his life from the evil intentions of the Shirazi Ulama who had earlier encouraged Husayn Khan to execute him.
(Ref: Taarikhe Nabil Zarandi, p. 156-158)

In the early phase of his revelation, the Bab revealed his position as that of ‘Babiya’ or the Gate leading to the presence of the Hidden Imam and clearly instructed his followers to conceal his name.
(Ref: Kashful Ghita, Mirza Abul Fadl and Mirza Mahdi Golpayegani, p. 242)

Mirza Ali Mohammed (The Bab) mounted the pulpit and in a clear, loud voice renounced and repented of his views as demanded by the ulema. Then he came down and kissed their hands.”
(Ref: Kashful Hiyal, Vol 2, page 88,89)

Here is another reference for the same incident from Shighi – the “official interpreter of the Bahai scriptures”

The Bab, accompanied by Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali, arrived at the Masjid at a time when the Imam-Jum’ih had just ascended the pulpit and was preparing to deliver his sermon. As soon as his eyes fell upon the Bab, he publicly welcomed Him, requested Him to ascend the pulpit, and called upon Him to address the congregation. The Bab, responding to his invitation, advanced towards him and, standing on the first step of the staircase, prepared to address the people. “Come up higher,” interjected the Imam-Jum’ih. Complying with his wish, the Bab ascended two more steps. As He was standing, His head hid the breast of Shaykh Abu-Turab, who was occupying the pulpit-top. He began by prefacing His public declaration with an introductory discourse. No sooner had He uttered the opening words of “Praise be to God, who hath in truth created the heavens and the earth,” than a certain siyyid known as Siyyidi-Shish-Pari, whose function was to carry the mace before the Imam-Jum’ih, insolently shouted: “Enough of this idle chatter! Declare, now and immediately, the thing you intend to say.” The Imam-Jum’ih greatly resented the rudeness of the siyyid’s remark. “Hold your peace,” he rebuked him, “and be ashamed of your impertinence.” He then, turning to the Bab, asked Him to be brief, as this, he said, would allay the excitement of the people.

The Bab, as He faced the congregation, declared: “The condemnation of God be upon him who regards me either as a representative of the Imam or the gate thereof. The condemnation of God be also upon whosoever imputes to me the charge of having denied the unity of God, of having repudiated the prophethood of Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets, of having rejected the truth of any of the messengers of old, or of having refused to recognise the guardianship of Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, or of any of the imams who have succeeded him.” He then ascended to the top of the staircase, embraced the Imam-Jum’ih, and, descending to the floor of the Masjid, joined the congregation for the observance of the Friday prayer. The Imam-Jum’ih intervened and requested Him to retire. “Your family,” he said, “is anxiously awaiting your return. All are apprehensive lest any harm befall you. Repair to your house and there offer your prayer; of greater merit shall this deed be in the sight of God.”
(Ref: Dawn Breakers, page 153, 154)

The above references should be sufficient to emphasize the steadfastness of the Bab, or rather the lack of it. I am amazed that for the Bahais, while the religion of the Bayan lasted for 9 years – for the Bab, it did not last even that long. At every stage of his life, as he faced any opposition, he recanted and retracted from his claims. Perhaps it is this aspect that actually saved his life on more than one occasion. This is proved by the letter brought by E. G. Browne addressed to the Bab on page 259 of his book Materials for the Study of The Babi Religion. This letter was issued after the examination of the Bab at Tabriz:

“In the Imperial Banquet-hall and August Assembly of His Highness the Crown Prince of the undeclining Empire [of Persia], (may God aid, support and strengthen him!) and of a number of learned doctors, thou didst admit certain matters each one of which separately implied thy apostasy and justified thy death. The repentance of an incorrigible apostate is not accepted, and the only thing which has caused the postponement of thy execution is a doubt as to thy sanity of mind. Should this doubt be removed, the sentence of an incorrigible apostate would without hesitation be executed upon thee.”
Sealed by Abul Qasim al-Hasani al- Husayn
ي and ءlي Asghar al-Hasani al-Husaynي

The above edict issued to the Bab simply means that Bab repented and the only reason why he was not executed was that the audience actually felt that he was insane. I see no reason to disagree with them.


August 30, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. The Bab did not repent. Just because E.G. Browne said it does not make it fact; he was not even in Iran until the 1860s or later, at least a decade AFTER the Bab’s execution, meaning a lot of what he has chronicled is hearsay.

    I suggest reading The Dawn Breakers by Nabil-i-Zarandi, who was actually AROUND when these events happened. THAT’s a primary source for you.


    Comment by Adib | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. By the way, that picture is of Siyyid Kazim Rashti; A.L.M. Nicholas got it wrong.

    Comment by Adib | August 30, 2008 | Reply

  3. If I may rectify my first comment a bit, as I am aware that you did quote The Dawn Breakers, I would like to affirm that the Bab recanted his “Babhood” or station of being “the Gate” to the Hidden Imam. But Baha’is believe that this act was insignificant: since we uphold the unity of religion and, furthermore, the messengers of the divine religions, the Bab IS Baha’u’llah – that is, they are animated by the same Holy Spirit. All of them were: Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, and now the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

    Again, for the Bab to recant “gatehood” means nothing as he was ultimately the gate to himself! To the Muslims around him, what the Bab did seemed to be an outward expression of repentance for everything he did, but in reality the Bab only gave up one of his titles. That did not affect our Faith at all and calmed the Muslims for a bit, which was the Bab’s intention.

    That might seem convoluted, but religious apologia can turn out that way sometimes.

    Comment by Adib | August 31, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thank you very much for your comments :

    Have can you prove from the writings of Bab that he has already introduced Bahaullah as his successor , I am pleased if you give me the name of the books and the exact figure of the relevant pages .

    Comment by Anonymous | October 12, 2008 | Reply

  5. Mr. Adib
    your comment about the unity of the messengers is not correct , historicaly and scientificaly!!
    Krishna or Buddha or … are not in the line of the Divine Messengers of God .
    With your unreal Formula!!! I can claim that Sobhi Azal and Gholam Ahmad Ghadiani and …. are in the line of Mosses and Christ and …..????!!!!

    Comment by A.Yaqub | November 17, 2008 | Reply

    • The Bab recanted only what He was not, but did not recant his station of a manifestation of God. Anyone can claim to be a messenger of God; only his teachings and their effect on souls can testify the validity of that claim. A crow can claim to be a nightingale, but his voice will not decieve anyone, not even himself. Baha’is do accept the Bab, because of what historians might say, but beacause they are attracted by His teachings of love and reconcialiation which for the last 160 years have brought millions of people from numerous creeds and religious background into a world community totally devoted to unity and reconciliation.

      Comment by Concorde | December 17, 2010 | Reply

  6. […] The Recantation(s) of The Bab […]

    Pingback by Bahai Fact : Table of contents « Bahai Fact | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  7. You should be interested in the following: I left a career as a Christian minister because the Baha’i Faith has punishment, ie, divine chastisement: It was obvious to me that this religion was exactly what we as Christians had been looking for: it was just like the stories in the Bible of Moses and Jesus. Other people cannot predict what one’s punishment will be: Only the prophets of God have this. Every single one of the public officials, their governments and in some cases, the entire royal family condemned by the Bab or Baha’u’llah met poetically horrible deaths or were wiped out. I am warning you sir, this is nothing to play with. The soldiers who shot the Bab — remember, it had to be done twice–were themselves shot and the order was given that they be shot twice–to make sure the job was done. One of the famous Iranian radio personalities, after whipping up the public to go out and kill the Baha’is, received a telegram from the Guardian Shoghi Effendi: “Your tongue will regret the words it speaks.” He died soon thereafter of —you guessed it: cancer of the tongue. Look what has happened to Iran and all of the other countries bordering the Euphrates river: they have been punished exactly as predicted. If this only happened a few times, we could say its a coincidence but it has happened thousands. What surprises me is that you, as a Shiite, out of the entire religious world, have the most specific prophecies regarding the coming of the messiah. You then told lies about the Baha’is, killed them, and then God trashed your country. Now, don’t take my word for it—look some of this stuff up. It should frighten you. A few months ago and once it was discovered that he was a Baha’i, the only Baha’i on the Iranian Judo Team was kicked off the team just before they were to fly to the international competitions. The rest of the team got on the plane, and they were all killed when it crashed . (You can Google it) Now if that still doesn’t alarm you, remember this: “The most burning fire is to question the signs of God…”

    Comment by Tim McLane | May 5, 2010 | Reply

  8. Please be careful when you talk smack about a Manifestation.

    Best Regards,
    Saif Patel

    Comment by Saif ibn Yusuf al Batal | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  9. Dear Tim McLane
    Bab is a lying, deceiving, ignorant petty excuse for a human being. Let’s see if a get tongue cancer because i am saying it as I am typing. Or as i am typing i should get skin cancer or maybe finger cancer is there such thing?? Let’s ask stuttering babi. babi (i am purposely starting the sentence with a lower case letter to highlight the insignificance of this imbecile) will probably say there is such cancer and then (when i threaten to punch him) he will change his opinion and say there isn’t such a thing. (good old babi) 
    I think not you silly man . People like you make me laugh if anything happens to me the good news (on your behalf) will reach you since you are an honourable baby lotion follower.
    Adib you are equally as funny as Timmy, you give us a source to prove old babi isn’t a repenter!!! BUTTT WAIT you then find out that it contains your stupid bab recanting in it :)and then you go on to say it’s irrelevant (hypocrite alert). And to have the cheek to claim krishna and buddha were prophets!! You disgust me!!
    Seriously boys let’s stop the silliness once and for all and please admit you are wrong and i will forgive you. Come on it is what your disgraceful leader would have done. 

    Comment by Ugur Ali | December 7, 2010 | Reply

  10. Ugur Ali;

    May The Bab and Baha’u’llah forgive you. That is if you are still alive. Even if you are alive, it won’t be long, i promise. by the way, your death will be too easy at all…you will suffer from heart disease first and then die.

    Comment by Fred | March 5, 2011 | Reply

    • Dear Mr. Urgu Ali, 
      Sometimes and most of the times one’s punishments come in the next world when one sees that Muhammad and other Prophets are cicumambulating around Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

      As Adib has already mentioned the claim of the Báb was much greater than being a gate to an Imam. In the book that He revealed in six hours for the greatest divine of the King’s Court, Sayid Yahyá Darabi, He says no one (which includes Muhammad and other Prophets of the Past) had ever been given the station He maintains:

      خصوص علم واحاطه خود، حضرت باب در صفحه ٥ شرح تفسير سوره كوثر چنين ميفرمايند:

      وان الله قد اظهر امره بشان لن يقدر احد ان تامل فيه او يشك لان الله قد اختار لحفظ دين رسوله واوليائه عبداً من الاعجمين اعطاه مالم  يوت احداً من العالمين 

      وبعد در صفحه ١٥ ميفرمايند: قل فويل لكم ان شجرة الطور قد نبتت فى صدرى فكيف انتم تسمعون آيات الله ولا تشعرون قل لوا تفدوا من فى السموات والارض فى سبيل الله لن يقبل الله من عملكم بعض حرف..يعنى بگو واي برشما (كه متوجه نيستيد كه مقام ومرتبه من چه است) شجره طور ( كه نداي خداوند خطاب به حضرت موسي رسيد وبه اين واسطه آن حضرت به كليم موسوم شد) در صدر من رشد نمود پس چگونه است كه آيات مرا ميشنويد ولي در نمييابيد!!؟؟ بگو اگر هرآنچه در آسمان وزمين است دارا باشيد و همه را در راه خدا فدا نمائيد ولي بمن ايمان نياوريد اعمال شما ابدا مورد قبول واقع نخواهد شد.

      So basically His Holiness The Báb in page 15 says that the Burning Bush through which God was speaking to Moses grow out of His bosom. 
      That in plain language means The Voice of God that Moses heard was coming from The Spirit The Báb.

      So in brief he denies that He is the servant of His Servant! That does not mean that He does not claim to be the Lord Himself. That appeased the crowd and let Him to continue what he had to accomplish. 
      On a different note I must say He was not afraid of the death so that he would recant His claim! He even emphatically says in His first book The Qayyum ul-Asmá that He is going to sacrifice Himself for Baha’u’llah (The Remnant of God) which in Babi theology is referred to the One Whom God will manifest.

      Comment by Anonymous | July 3, 2012 | Reply

  11. I have recently started a web site, the info you offer on this website has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time & work.

    Comment by | February 1, 2018 | Reply

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