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Mírzá Yaḥyá Núrí, Ṣubḥ-i-Azal, photo by Captain Arthur Young, end 1889-beginning 1890, published by Edward G. Browne in his translation of Tarikh-I-Jadid.
Born Mírzá Yahya Núrí
1831 (1831)
Tehran, Persia (present-day Iran)
Died April 29, 1912 (1912-04-30) (aged 80) (In the lunar calendar he would have been about 82-3.)
Famagusta , Ottoman Empire (present-day Cyprus)
Known for Founder of Azali Babism
Successor `Yahya Dawlatul-Badi`

Ṣubḥ-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity)[1] (1831–1912, born Mírzá Yaḥyá Núrí) was a Persian religious leader of Azali Bábism.[1]



Mirza Yahya was born in 1831 to Kuchak Khanum-i-Karmanshahi (Ruhi, A Brief Biography) and Mírzá Buzurg-i-Núrí, in the province of Mazandaran, and a younger-half-brother of Mírzá Husayn `Ali, better known as Bahá'u'lláh. His mother died while giving birth to him, and his father died in 1834 when Mirza Yahya was three years old. His father is buried at Vadi-al-Islam in Najaf. Mirza Yahya was committed to the care of his stepmother Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of Bahá'u'lláh.[2] In 1844, at about the age of 14, he became a follower of the Báb.[3]

Appointment as the Báb's successor

Shortly before the Báb's execution, a follower of the Báb, Abd al-Karim, brought to the Báb's attention the necessity to appoint a successor; thus the Báb wrote a certain number of tablets which he gave to Abd al-Karim to deliver to Subh-i-Azal and Bahá'u'lláh.[4] These tablets were later interpreted by both Azalis and Bahá'ís as proof of the Báb's delegation of leadership.[4] Some sources state that the Báb did this at the suggestion of Bahá'u'lláh.[5][6]

In one of the tablets, which is commonly referred to as the Will and Testament of the Báb, Subh-i-Azal is viewed to have been appointed as leader of the Bábis after the death of the movement's founder; the tablet, in verse 27, also appears to order Subh-i-Azal " obey Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest."[7] Some state that Subh-i-Azal's claim to successorship is obvious;[8] others state that the Báb, for the purposes of secrecy, when corresponding with Bahá'u'lláh would address the letters to Subh-i-Azal.[9] After the Báb's death Subh-i-Azal came to be regarded as the central authority in the movement.[1]

Subh-i-Azal's leadership was controversial. He generally absented himself from the Bábí community spending his time in Baghdad in hiding and disguise; and even went so far as to publicly disavow allegiance to the Báb on several occasions.[1][9][10] Subh-i-Azal gradually alienated himself from a large proportion of the Bábís who started to give their alliance to other claimants.[1] Manuchehri states that Subh-i-Azal remained in hiding because he was primarily concerned with personal safety, due a statement from the Báb in his will and testament that Subh-i-Azal should protect himself.[7]

During the time that both Bahá'u'lláh and Subh-i-Azal were in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh publicly and in his letters pointed to Subh-i-Azal as the leader of the community.[9] However, since Subh-i-Azal remained in hiding, Bahá'u'lláh performed much of the daily administration of the Bábí affairs.[9] Then, in 1863 Bahá'u'lláh made a claim to be Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest, the messianic figure in the Báb's writings, to a small number of followers, and in 1866 he made the claim public.[1] Bahá'u'lláh's claims threatened Subh-i-Azal's position as leader of the religion since it would mean little to be leader of the Bábís if "Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest" were to appear and start a new religion.[9] Subhh-i-Azal responded by making his own claims, but his attempt to preserve the traditional Bábísm was largely unpopular, and his followers became the minority.[1]


In 1852, Subh-i-Azal was involved in an uprising in Takur, Iran, which was planned to coincide with the assassination attempt on the life of the Shah.[3] Following the attempt, he and other Babis chose to go into exile in Baghdad.[1] In Baghdad he lived as the generally acknowledged head of the community, but he kept his whereabouts secret from most of the community, instead keeping in contact with the Babis through intermediaries.[1][3] While he was in Baghdad, he also set up a network of agents, termed "witnesses", in Iran and Iraq to routinize the charismatic authority of the movement.[1] However, this attempt conflicted with the appeal of the original charisma of the religion, and his seclusion gradually alienated himself from many of the Babis,[1] leading to the appearance of other claimants for leadership of the Babi community.[3]


Ṣubḥ-i-Azal at the age of 80, unknown photographer, Famagusta, 1911 circa.

In 1863 most of the Babis were exiled by the Ottoman authorities to Adrianople.[3] In Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh made his claim to be the messianic figure of the Bayan public, and created a permanent schism between the two brothers.[1][3] Subh-i-Azal responded to these claims by making his own claims and resisting the changes of doctrine which were introduced by Bahá'u'lláh.[1] His attempts to keep the traditional Babism were, however, mostly unpopular.[1] During this time there was feuding between the two groups. Subh-i-Azal was behind several murders and attempted murders of his enemies, including the poisoning of Bahá'u'lláh.[11][12][13] Some Azali sources take these allegations against him and re-apply them to Bahá'u'lláh, even claiming that he poisoned himself.[14] Finally the feuding between the two groups lead the Ottoman government to further exile the two groups in 1868; Bahá'u'lláh and the Baha'is were sent to Acre, Palestine and Subh-i Azal and his family, along with some followers were sent to Famagusta in Cyprus.[1] He died in Famagusta, Cyprus on April 29, 1912 and was buried with Muslim rites.[15]


According to Browne, Mirza Yahya had several wives, and at least nine sons and five daughters. His sons included: Nurullah, Hadi, Ahmad, Abdul Ali, Rizwan Ali, and four others. Rizvan Ali reports that he had eleven or twelve wives.[16] Later research reports that he had up to seventeen wives including four in Iran and at least five in Baghdad, although it is not clear how many, if any, were simultaneous.[17]


His most widely known title, "Subh-i-Azal" appears in an Islamic tradition called the Hadith-i-Kumayl (Kumayl was a student of the first Imam, Ali) which the Báb quotes in his book Dalá'il-i-Sab'ih.

It was common practice among the Bábís to receive titles. The Báb's Will and Testament addresses Mirza Yahya in the first verse:

"Name of Azal, testify that there is no God but I, the dearest beloved."[7]

Manuchehri (2004) notes that Mirza Yahya was the only Bábí with such a title as "Azal".[7]

However, the Báb appears to mention him only occasionally, if ever, specifically as "Subh-i-Azal", while attributing others with the title. He appeared to prefer calling him "Thamaratu'l-Azaliyya" and "'Ismu'l-Azal", while in early books he is called "Hadrat-i-Azal". This has led certain academics to doubt its origin, although they cite error, rather than deception as a motive.[18] There are also references to the titles al-Waḥīd, Ṭalʻat an-Nūr, and at-Tamara.[1]


There are conflicting reports as to whom Subh-i-Azal appointed as his successor. Browne reports that there was confusion over who was to be Subh-i-Azal's successor at his death. Subh-i-Azal's son, Rizwán `Ali, reported that he had appointed the son of Aqa Mirza Muhammad Hadi Daulatabadi as his successor; while another, H.C. Lukach's, states that Mirza Yahya had said that whichever of his sons "resembled him the most" would be the successor. None appear to have stepped forward.[19] MacEoin notes that Subh-i-Azal appointed his son, Yahya Dawlatabadi, as his successor, but notes that there is little evidence that Yahya Dawlatabadi was involved in the affairs of the religion,[1] and that instead he spent his time as that of secular reformer.[3] Shoghi Effendi reports that Mirza Yahya appointed a distinguished Bábí, Aqa Mirza Muhammad Hadi of Daulatabad (Mirza Hadiy-i-Dawlat-Abadi) successor, but he later publicly recanted his faith in the Báb and in Mirza Yahya. Mirza Yahya's eldest son apparently became a Bahá'í himself.[20][21] Miller quoting a later source states that Yahya did not name a successor.[22] Miller relied heavily on Jalal Azal who disputed the appointment of Muhammad Hadi Daulatabadi.[23]

MacEoin notes that after the deaths of those Azali Babis who were active in the Constitutional Revolution in Iran, the Azali form of Babism entered a stagnation which it has not recovered as there is no acknowledged leader or central organization.[1] Current estimates are that there are no more than a few thousand.[10][24]


A Succinct Account of the New Manifestation


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 MacEoin, Dennis (1989). "Azali Babism". Encyclopædia Iranica.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Ruhi, Atiyya. "A Brief Biography of His Holiness Subh-i Azal". Retrieved 2006-12-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 MacEoin, Denis. "Subh-i-Azal". Encyclopaedia of Islam.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Amanat 1989, p. 384
  5. `Abdu'l-Bahá 1886, p. 37
  6. Taherzadeh 1976, p. 37
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Manuchehri 2004
  8. Nicolas, A.L.M (1933). Qui est le succeseur du Bab?. Paris: Librairie d'Amerique et d'Orient. p. 15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Cole, Juan. "A Brief Biography of Baha'u'llah". Retrieved 2006-06-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Barrett 2001, p. 246
  11. Balyuzi 2000, pp. 225–226
  12. Browne 1918, p. 16
  13. Cole 2002
  14. Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani made this claim later in his Hasht-Bihisht. This book is abstracted in part by Edward G. Browne in "Note W" of his translation of A Traveller's Narrative, (`Abdu'l-Bahá 1891). However, the practice of Taqiyya (Dissimulation) was widespread among Azalis and contemporary historians recognize that: "The Azali Babis and in particular Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi showed little hesitation in alteration and falsification of Babi teachings and history in their works." (Manuchehri 1999)
  15. Browne 1918, pp. 310–312
  16. Browne 1897
  17. Momen 1991, pp. 87–96
  18. Schaefer 2000, p. 631 quoted in The Universal House of Justice (28 May 2004). "Tablet of the Báb Lawh-i-Vasaya, "Will and Testament"; Titles of Mírzá Yahyá". Retrieved 2006-12-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Browne 1918, pp. 312–314
  20. Effendi 1944, p. 233
  21. Momen 1991, p. 99
  22. Miller 1974, p. 107
  23. Momen 1991
  24. "Azali". Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2006-12-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


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External links