A key quality of divinely appointed prophets and messengers is that they were educated directly in the divine school — they did not have any human teacher who taught them the nuances of knowledge or introduced worldly sciences to them. This is a defining characteristic of true prophets and messengers.
God testifies to this facet of divinely appointed representatives in the Holy Quran when He narrates the incidents of Hazrat Isa (as) and the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh)
For the Holy Prophet (pbuh), He says,
وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَى
“Nor does he speak of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him”
(Ref: Holy Quran, chapter of Najm, verses 3-4)
About Hazrat Isa (as), Allah gave glad tidings to Hazrat Maryam through angels,
وَيُكَلِّمُ النَّاسَ فِي الْمَهْدِ وَكَهْلاً وَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ
“And he shall speak to people when in the cradle and when of old age, and (he shall be) of the good ones”
(Ref: Holy Quran, chapter of Ale’ Imran, verse 46)
This aspect is one amongst many which distinguishes true prophets from imposters. For the benefit of my readers, some of the other differentiating characteristics are the performance of miracles and the knowledge of the unseen (ilmul ghayb). One must pay attention to these characteristics to ensure that the divine leader is truly inspired by the divine and that his thoughts and religion are not fashioned by others.
Abdul Baha too acknowledges this fact. He writes, “It is incumbent on every prophet that he gains knowledge from Allah alone and not from any human being and such is the practice of all prophets like Prophet Ibrahim, Hazrat Mohammed, Hazrat Bab and Bahaullah. All of them did not study in any school because the one who owes his knowledge to human schools cannot be a divine representative.”
(Ref: Khutubat-e-Buzurg, page 8)
We agree completely with Abdul Baha. However, in the case of Bab and even Bahaullah, we find that this is not true. Both were educated in their childhood by teachers. Their parents or guardians, as is their wont, sent them to a school so that they may be educated in religion, languages and other branches of knowledge.
Several historical references are available which clearly indicate that the Bab attended school as a child. Later on, as a young man entering adulthood, he also attended the lectures of Sayyed Kazim Rashty. Given the overwhelming evidence in this regard, it is indeed surprising to read in Some Answered Questions – the much celebrated book of Abdul Baha statements to the contrary.
Abdul Baha writes in his chapter on the Bab, “It was universally admitted by the Shiites that He had never studied in any school and had not acquired knowledge from any teacher; all the people of Shiraz bear witness to this.”
(Ref: Abdul Baha, Some Answered Questions, page 13)
At the outset, the above statement is absolutely untrue. Why would the Shiites admit that Bab had not studied in any school when all the facts available point to the contrary? As opposed to sweeping statement, the Shiites would definitely like to see any references to the above.
We have the Bab himself who acknowledges the contribution of his teacher. He writes, Thus wrote my leader (Sayyidi), my firm support (Mutammadi) and my teacher (Muallimi), al-Hajji Sayyed Kazim Rashty may God extend his specified eternality…
(Ref: Risala fil-Suluk, Bab)
Also, one can refer to the trial of the Bab in Tabriz. Bab had said, “I studied grammar as a child but have forgotten it.”
Indeed, the Bab went to elementary school and learnt grammar from his teacher. However he “forgot” it – which is fine. It happens to all of us. However it never ever happens to a divine representative.
We can now turn our attention to the following reports from leading Bahai historians and leaders – all of which indicate that the Bab was sent to school and that he was exposed to the doctrines of the Shaykhi sect at an early age.
Mirza Ali Muhammad was in the ordinary course of things sent to school, but he seems not to have remained there long. His removal thence may have been occasioned by the cruelty of his teacher, at whose hands he seems to have suffered much.
(Ref: Babism, By Edward G. Browne, page 335. This is the chapter from the book Religious Systems of the World: A Contribution to the Study of Comparative Religion (London: Swann Sonnenschein), pp. 333-53. The book was first published in 1889; this was written for a later edition in 1890 [and published again in 1901)