That scary-looking fellow is the founder of the Baha’i Faith, who they call “Baha’u’llah.” He gave himself the name. It means “The Glory of God.”
It’s work to pronounce it correctly, and “bu-HOO-luh” will do. The Baha’i leadership successfully hid this photo from its members for around 150 years. Then along came the internet.
He was a member of an Islamic sect in the 1800s known as the “Babis” led by a charismatic, rapturous, Sufi-oriented mystic called “The Bab” who wrote plans for a 2,000-year Babi dynasty. Based on photographs of Baha’u’llah and some of his sons he appears to have had dwarfism. (See one of his sons, below left.) It is strange that nothing has ever been written in the Baha’i literature about his or his sons’ unusually small stature even though physical characteristics of other Baha’i figures are sometimes mentioned in their literature. But he turned out to be a dwarf with a fiery and princely attitude. As we shall see, I think Baha’u’llah had a Napoleon complex to beat the band…
The Babis ended up in armed battle with the Persian authorities, at one point holed up in a fort at Tabriz for months. They tried to kill the Shah. The king finally had the Bab shot. The Babis then scattered.
The Bab had appointed the spiritual, gentle Mirza Yahya as his successor (search “Mirza Yahya” online) calling him “Dawn of Eternity.” (Sometimes rendered as “Everlasting Dawn.” See him lower down in the left column at age 80.) The Bab had great affection for this young follower and considered him to be one who deeply grasped his (the Bab’s) revelation. Mirza Yahya seemed to be a gentle soul by all reports, highly religious in the Babi way, and inclined to seclusion. By now he had seen many of his fellow Babis put to death, often in horrible ways. When Mirza Yahya was given the weight of leadership for a highly controversial sect — one hunted by all the forces of the Shah — he was only nineteen years old.
The fellow at the top of this page, Mirza Husayn Ali, was a high-status follower of the Bab who’s daddy had been the Vizier or overseer for the household of an Imam and governor, so he was like a royal insider. Importantly, he was the half-brother of the Bab-appointed Everlasting Dawn.
Mirza Husayn Ali was 13 years older than the newly anointed Dawn of Eternity, and had been his brother’s tutor. In those times an older brother was a natural, lifelong authority over a younger brother. And there was typically competition and some animosity between half-brothers in polygamous Muslim society. Even in monogamous Gentile, post-patriarchal society we observe that older brothers typically do not respect their younger brothers and do not wish to be subservient to them. It likely annoyed Husayn Ali that his younger half-brother had acquired his lofty station in the movement he was a part of. But obviously having his half-brother as leader of the spectacular movement obviously raised his own status, and he used it to his advantage during tumultuous times. (I have seen, and more than once, the phenomenon of a male taking on guru status, with a wife or family member rendering him a guru’s respect in front of others while not really buying it personally, only paying obeisance because the elevation of her husband elevates her. This is all humanly understandable.) But Yahya’s appointment to lead the movement was, in the end, a terrible test for Husayn Ali.
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