BĀB, a title given to certain Sufi shaikhs of Central Asia. It appears to be a localized variant of bābā (father), a much more widely used appellation of Sufi elders, for bāb also is said to have the sense of father (see Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿīn, I, p. 201). Hojvīrī (d. ca. 464/1071) writes of a certain Bāb ʿOmar, from the village of Salāmatak in the region of Farḡāna, and remarks that “all the dervishes and great shaikhs of that area are called bāb” (Kašf al-maḥjūb, Samarkand, 1330/1912, p. 287). Four centuries later we encounter mention of one Bāb-e Māčīn, not identified by personal name, who is said to “have come from Māčīn [south China or Indochina—perhaps Cham?] and settled in Tashkent” (Faḵr-al-Dīn ʿAlī Ṣafī, Rašaḥāt ʿayn al-ḥayāt, Tashkent, 1329/1911, p. 225). Supposedly four times a centenarian, Bāb-e Māčīn was credited with the ability of flying 24 farsangs a day. Made arrogant by his powers, Bāb-e Māčīn foolishly and baselessly charged the celebrated Aḥmad Yasavī (d. 562/1167) with bringing men and women together in his gatherings. By way of punishment, Yasavī had his disciples tie Bāb-e Māčīn to a pillar and give him 500 lashes, from the effect of which he was protected by the spirit-beings clustered on his back. Thereafter he became a faithful and even favored disciple of Yasavī. He was buried in the village of Farkat (Ahmed-i Yesevi, Divan-i hikmet’ten seçmeler, ed. K. Eraslan, Ankara, 1983, pp. 191, 365; Alî Şîr Nevâyî, Nesâyimü’l-mahabbe min şemâyimi’l fütüvve, ed. K. Eraslan, Istanbul, 1979, p. 389—here the name Bāb-e Māčīn has been misread as Bāb-e Ḥosayn).
The Borhān-al-Dīn Ābrīz described in Rašaḥāt (loc. cit.) as a morīd of Bāb-e Māčīn may be identical with the Borhān-al-Dīn Sāḡaṛčī mentioned elsewhere; he too had links with China, and was buried there (see V. V. Bartol’d, Sochineniya, Moscow, 1964, II, 2, pp. 434-35). Mention may be made finally of Arslān Bāb (or Bāb Arslān), preceptor of Yasavī (d. 562/1167). Although numerous legends surround the name of Bāb Arslān, notably that he was a companion of the Prophet and lived for 400 or 700 years, it seems certain that he was a historical personality; he may, indeed, have been Yasavī’s paternal uncle. Bāb Arslān was buried next to Yasavī in the city of Torkestān, and his son, Manṣūr Atā, was Yasavī’s principal successor (see Fuad Köprülü, Türk edebiyatında ilk mutasavvıflar, new ed., Ankara, 1966, pp. 14, 22-24, 67, 73). Although Bāb ʿOmar, Bāb-e Māčīn, and Bāb Arslān were all either Turks or the inhabitants of Turkish-influenced regions, their common appellation appears to be Iranian in origin.
Concerning Bāb ʿOmar, see also Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣārī, Ṭabaqāt al-ṣūfīya, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥabībī, Kabul, 1341 Š./1962, pp. 176, 424, and Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 282.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 18, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 3, p. 278
H. Algar, “BĀB (2),” Encyclopædia Iranica, III/3, p. 278, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bab (accessed on 30 December 2012).