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Ṣubḥ-i Azal at the age of 80, Famagusta, circa 1911[1]
Mírzá Yahya Núrí

1831 (1831)
Tehran, Iran
DiedApril 29, 1912 (1912-04-30) (aged 80) (In the lunar calendar he would have been about 82-3.)
Famagusta, present-day Cyprus
Known forLeader of Azali Babism

Ṣubḥ-i-Azal (1831–1912, born Mírzá Yaḥyá) was an Iranian religious leader of Azali Bábism,[2] known for his conflict with his half-brother Baháʼu'lláh over leadership of the Bábí community after 1853.

In 1850, when he was just 19 years old, he was appointed by the Báb to lead the Bábí community. When a pogrom began against the Bábís in 1852, Subh-i-Azal fled for Baghdad and spent 10 years there before joining the group of Bábí exiles that were called to Istanbul. During the time in Baghdad tensions grew with Baháʼu'lláh, as Bábí pilgrims began to turn to him for leadership. The Ottoman government further exiled the group to Edirne, where Baháʼu'lláh's announcement of divine revelation turned the tension into an open conflict, which culminated in a public debate that Subh-i-Azal failed to show up to, and an attempt by Subh-i-Azal to poison Baháʼu'lláh.

In 1868 the Ottoman government further exiled Subh-i-Azal and his followers to Cyprus, and Baháʼu'lláh and his followers to Akko. When Cyprus was leased to Britain in 1878, he lived out the rest of his life in obscurity on a British pension,[3] while interacting with many of the island's Sufis.[4][5]

After Azal's death in 1912, the Azali form of Babism entered a stagnation and has not recovered as there is no acknowledged leader or central organization.[2] Most Bábís either accepted the claim of Baháʼu'lláh or the community gradually diminished as children and grandchildren turned back to Islam,[6][7] By 1904, Azal's followers had dwindled to a small minority, and Baháʼu'lláh was almost universally recognized as the spiritual successor of the Báb.[8] A source in 2001 estimated no more than a few thousand, almost entirely in Iran.[9] Another source in 2009 noted a very small number of followers remained in Uzbekistan.[10]

Name and title[edit]

His most widely known title, "Subh-i-Azal" (Persian: یحیی صبح ازل)(Morning of Eternity) 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."[11]

Manuchehri (2004) notes that Mirza Yahya was the only Bábí with such a title as "Azal".[11]

He was titled by the Báb as Subh-i-Azal, that is "Morning of the Eternal" or Hazrat, that is "Highness of the Eternal" or Ismu-l-Azal, that is "Name of the Eternal".[12] There are also references to the titles al-Waḥīd, Ṭalʻat an-Nūr, and at-Tamara.[2]