BEHAISM: A development of Babism (q.v.). The Bab had taught that the greatest and last of all manifestations of divinity was to appear and, through his teachings, wipe out all distinctions of sects. In 1862, twelve years after the Bab's execution, Beha Ullah, a high-born Persian and Babite leader, claimed to be the fulfilment of this teaching. He was imprisoned and exiled and died in Acre, Syria, in 1892. His son, Abdul Beha Abbas, then became the leader and "Center of the Covenant." From his residence in Acre, where he lives under government surveillance, a far-reaching propaganda has gone forth and pilgrims find their way thither even from distant America.
Behaist missionaries are not allowed to accept money, though they may be entertained by converts or others interested. Their message consists in a recital of the history of their religion and the lives of the Bab and Beha Ullah. The Old and New Testament prophecies and the sacred books of ethnic religions are studied in the belief that they establish the Behaist doctrines. Their sacred writings are the works of Beha Ullah, of which the most remarkable is the Book of Ighan. They are mostly short sentences called "communes," consisting of prayers or truths for the guidance of life. The explanation of the Book of Ighan and the "Hidden Words" in Arabic and Persian is a part of the regular preaching. The beauty of service to the poor and suffering is a cardinal precept. Simplicity in food and dress is another, and herein Abdul Beha is an example to his followers. Polygamy is not allowed and all goods are held in common. It is believed that God has manifested himself at different times according to the needs of the race, the chief manifestations having been three in number; viz., Jesus--whose life and teachings are commended,--the Bab, and Beha Ullah, who is the greatest and last; after him there will be no other manifestation, and whosoever does not believe on him after having heard his words will not have another chance to enter the kingdom. Certain feasts are observed commemorating events in the life of Beha Ullah, and one which was instituted by the Bab consists in a simple repast such as fruits, nuts, and cool water, held at the home of a believer every nineteen days; a vacant seat is left at the head of the table for the absent master, and passages from the "Hidden Words" are read as the food is passed.
Behaist congregations are known as "assemblies." The first in America was established in Chicago by a Syrian, Ibrahim Kheirallah, in 1894. There are now thirty-five in America, each independent of the others and owning no authority but that of Abdul Beha. It is claimed that the mission of Behaism is to unify the world and bring all religions into one.
MARGARET B. PEEKE.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Consult the literature given under BABISM; E. D. Ross, Babism, in Great Religions of the World, London, 1901; Mirza Husain Ali, Le Livre de la certitude. . . traduit. . . . . . par H. Dreyfus, Paris. 1904; Le Beyan arabe, le livre sacre du Babysme, transl. by A. Nicolas, Paris, 1905; Beha Ullah, Les Preceptes du Behaisme: les ornaments-les paroles du paradis, les splendeurs, les revelations, transl. by H. Dreyfus and U. Chirazi, Paris, 1906.