Lambden - The Sinaitic Mysteries - 2016-7 Pt. III Beta Ongoing

 

 

 

The Sinaitic Mysteries : Notes on Moses/Sinai Motifs in  Abrahamic-Islamic and the Babi and Baha'i Tradition. Pt. III. The Writings of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850) . 

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

Last slightly modified 05-03-2017 - in progress and supplementation.

The Babi and Baha'i Literaures.

Writings of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850 CE).

During the penod of his prophetic ministry (1844 1850), the Bāb wrote a great many books, treatises, and letters in the Arabic and Persian languages. As indicated below, only a few of these largely unpublished, unedited, unstudied, and often abstruse writings will be referred to here, despite the fact that a good many of them contain materials of central interest.
The Bāb's early and lengthy Arabic Commentary on the Sura of Joseph (Tafsīr sūrah Yūsuf, also known as the Qayyūm al-asmā' [loosely, Stature of the names], written mid 1844) contains a large number of verses that are inforrned by Sinaitic imagery and motifs. 62 In the very first chapter of this complex work, its author refers to his revelation as the truth which was concealed in the Mother Book (umm al-kitāb) on Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr) and to himself as the Greatest Word (al-kalimat al-akbar) commissioned about or raised up from the Sinaitic Fire (al-nār, loosely, the "Burning Bush").63

62 In the pages to follow, I shall refer to the pagination of a well written (though occasionally textually unsound) unpublished ms. of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ (henceforth QA) dated 1323 A.H./1905 6 C.E. I have also consulted the copy transcribed by Mīrzā Āqā Khān Kirmānī contained in the Browne collection [ms. F11] of Cambridge University Library. Unless otherwise indicated all translations from Persian and Arabic sources are my own.
63 See QA I p.1.

In subsequent chapters, the Bāb frequently invites terrestrial and celestial beings to hearken unto the proclamation of divinity ("I, verily, am God…") uttered from the mystic Sinai which is the heavenly sphere of revelation and the abode of the occulted (Most Great) Remembrance (of God) (dhikr Allāh, the hidden and expected Imam) with whom he identified and with whose voice he often spoke:

O ye people of the [celestial] Throne! Hearken unto My Call [raised up] from about the [Sinaitic] Fire (al-nār), "Verily, I am God, no God is there except Me."… The Remembrance (al-dhikr) standeth firm upon the unsullied Path through the upright line about the [Sinaitic] Fire. 64 = 64 QA. 17: 56. Cf., The Bāb, Selections [Henceforth SWB], p.65.

Hearken unto the Call of thy Lord [raised up] upon Mount Sinai (jabal al-sīnā'), "Verily, there is no God except Him. And I, verily, am the Exalted One (al-`alā), veiled in the Mother Book according to the decree of God." 65 = 65 QA. 19: 62 trans., SWB, p. 70 (adapted). The Sura 19 of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ is entitled "The Sura of Sinai."

O people of the Throne! Hearken unto My Call from about the [Sinaitic] Fire (an nār), in the leaves of these branches, for God hath inspired me [to utter the words], "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Me. I am the Remembrance (al dhikr), the [letter] "H" (al hā') which hath been sent down in the "Night of Power" (laylat al qadr) in the midst of the [Sinaitic] Fire (al nār). 66

66 QA. 24, p. 79. The reference to the letter al hā' being sent down in the "Night of Power" refers to the hā' of the expression "We sent it down" (anzalna-hu) in Qur’ān 97:1. Cf. The Bāb, Tafsīr laylat al qadr, ms.

O people of Paradise! Hearken unto the Call of God from the leaves of the Branch of Camphor about this Tree (al-shajarat) [situated on] the Mount (al-ṭūr), "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Him." 67 = 67 QA 27:91.
O Concourse of Lights! Hearken unto My Call from this Crimson Leaf upon this Snow White Tree (al-shajara al-bayḍā) in this Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā'), "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Me..."

O people of the realm of Unknowing! Hearken unto My Call from the tongue of the Bāb, this Arabian Youth who crieth out in Sinai (al-sīnā') according to the melody of the Point of Praise (nuqṭat al thanā'), "God, no God is there except Him." 68 = 68 QA 28:98.
O ye people of the Throne! Hearken unto My Call from the Point of the Gate (nuqṭat al bāb). God, verily, hath inspired me in Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā') from the region of this Tree (al-shajarat) [to say], "I verily, am God, no God is there except Me." 69 = 69 QA 50:195.

O ye peoples of the earth! Hearken unto My Call, from the precincts of this Tree (al-shajarat) which blazeth through the preexistent [Sinaitic] Fire (al nār): "There is no God but Him." 70 = 70 QA 51: 199.

O people of the realm of the Unseen (`amā, lit., cloud of unknowing)! Hearken unto the Call of God from the Tree (al-shajarat) upon the Mount (al-ṭūr), and upon whose leaves the birds are in motion, "I, verily am God, Lord of the worlds." 71= 71 QA 57: 226. Cf. also., pp.227,228-9.

God, verily, inspired Me in the Primordial Mount (al-ṭūr al-awwal) through the tongue of His Beloved with the hidden mystery about the Gate (al-bāb), "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Him."72 QA 88: 354.
Say! through the tongue of thy Lord--no God is there except Him--in this Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā) about the Crimson Word (kalimat al-ḥamrā) uttered from the Exalted Tree (al-shajarat al-`ulyā): "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Him." 73 =  73 QA 105: 421.

These verses of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ form but a small proportion of the many passages in which either the Bāb or the  Remembrance (dhikr) are pictured as having uttered various forms of God's declaration from the Sinaitic Fire, or Tree (Burning Bush). The relationship between the Bāb, the Remembrance (dhikr), and God is so intimate that the former can invite humankind to "the Truth" by revealing the words, "I, verily, am God." It is not that the Bāb made an early or direct claim to divinity, for at various points in the Qayyūm al-asmā' he underlines his station of servitude and his position as the "Gate" (bāb). 74 Indeed, as indicated below, the Sinaitic declaration of divinity is explicitly stated in early Shaykhī literature to have been the prerogative of such exalted Imāms as `Alī seen as the locus of the divine Self (nafs) or Essence (dhāt) of God--though not the absolute, unknowable Godhead. The frequency and significance of the voicing of the words, "I, verily, am God," or the like, seems to be hinted at in the forty fourth sura of the Qayyūm al asma' where it is stated: "The likeness of some of the verses of this Book is as the likeness of the Word of the Mount (kalimat al-ṭūr) in the Qur'ān. In very truth, it hath not been revealed except by God, the Single, the One, the Incomparable." 75

  • 74 QA Cf. D. MacEoin, "Early Shaykhī Reactions to the Bāb and His Claims" in Momen, Studies in Bābī and Bahā'i History, Vol. 1, p. 16ff.
  • 75 QA. 94, p. 376. It is intimated at QA. 41, p. 154 that the Qayyūm al-asmā’ was not wholly expressive of the Bāb's "station of servitude."

Directly related to his claim to have uttered the declaration of divinity on Mt. Sinai in view of his intimate relationship with, or identity with, the Remembrance (dhikr) is the Bāb's claim to have cried out unto or conversed with Moses:

O ye people of [the realm ofl Extinction (maḥw)! Hearken unto My Call from the Point of Brightness (nuqṭat al saḥw), from this Arabian Youth [the Bāb] Who, by the leave of God, cried out unto Moses on Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr sīnā'). 76 = 76 QA 41:153.

Indeed, We conversed with Moses by the leave of God from the Tree (al-shajara) on the Mount (al-ṭūr). 77

77 QA. 53 : 208, trans. SWB, p. 72 (adapted). Cf., also QA. 61: 244…
I caused the Remembrance (al-dhikr) to cry out in the two Mounts (al ṭūrayn)… God hath not decreed that anything stand between me [the Bāb] and the Most Great Remembrance (al-dhikr al akbar). 78
78 QA. 25:85 At several points in the Qayyūm al-asmā’ the Bāb uses the dual Arabic form of "Mount" (tūrayn, "two Mounts"). See, for example, QA., p. 74; p. 105; p. 438. His frequent use of the Arabic dual form is related to his claim to stand between the "two worlds" as the "Gate" (bāb) and to rather complex Shaykhī speculations rooted in the Sermon of the Gulf attributed to Imām `Alī.

Elsewhere in the Qayyūm al-asmā’, the Bāb takes the place of Moses as the one called in the "Holy Vale"--for the Bāb, a mystic or celestial realm--or the "servant" to whom God communicated through certain "Letters of the Divine Oneness" (the Imāms as qabbalistic loci of inspiration?):

So give ear when Thou [the Bāb] receivest inspiration from Thy Lord in the "Holy Vale" (bi'l wād al muqaddas) through the Point of Fire (nuqṭat al-nār) in the zenith of Ice (kabīd al-thalj). 79

79 QA. 20:64. In this surah of the Qayyūm al-asmā’, the Bāb also refers to the Remembrance (dhikr) being protected in view of him being cast "beyond the Crimson Abyss in the World of Unknowing" (qulzum al-ḥamrā' fī `ālam al-`amā') and concealed in the "Pole of Splendor" (quṭb al bahā') on Mount Sinai (ṭūr al- sīnā').

The Bāb equated both himself and the Remembrance 80 with the Sinaitic Tree (shajarat) which, for him, symbolized the sphere of the Divine Oneness (al-aḥadiyya) and the locus of inspiration centered in their inmost hearts (fu'ād):
 80 On the identity of the terms dhikr (Remembrance) and bāb (Gate), see article by Todd Lawson in this volume.

O People of the earth! Fear God on account of this Leaf sprung up from the Tree of the Divine Oneness (shajarat al-aḥadiyya). 81

I, verily, am the Tree (al-shajara) in the Mount (al-ṭūr) and He Who speaketh (al-manṭuq) from the Manifestation (al-ẓuhūr) of the Living One, the Self Subsisting. 82 = 82 QA 92:367.

81 QA. 27, pp. 95 6. Cf. QA. p. 53, "God created Joseph and his brothers from the Blessed Tree of the Divine Unicity (al-shajara al-aḥadiyya al-mubāraka)
 

O people of the Throne! Hearken unto My Call raised nigh unto the Shrine (al-ḍarīḥ) and uttered by the tongue of this Tree (al-shajara) planted in the Exalted Mount (al-ṭūr)…"I, verily, am God, no God is there except Him." 83

This is assuredly the Tree of the Inmost Heart (al-shajarat al-fu'ād) upon Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā'). 84
The Most Great Remembrance (al-dhikr al-akbar) is this Blessed Tree (al-shajarat al-mubāraka) dyed crimson with the oil of servitude. 85

The Remembrance of God (dhikr Allāh) is in the Blessed Tree (al-shajarat al-mubāraka). So hearken unto the Call of God: "I verily, am God, no God is there except Me." 86

 

  • 83 QA. 94, p. 372; using a variant reading from ms. BB15 and Nicolas 107 I (the latter being a ms. originally in the possession of A.L.M. Nicolas), both mss. now held at the Bahā’ī World Center, Haifa.
  • 84 QA 108:432.
  • 85 QA 28:99.
  • 86 QA 73:298.

O ye people of Paradise! Hearken unto the Call of God from the wondrous tongue of this Remembrance (al dhikr) …"I, verily, [97] am God, no God is there except Me." … He, verily, is the Blessed Tree (al-shajarat al-mubāraka) on Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā') sprung up from the Land of Glory (arḍ al bahā). 87
The Remembrance of God (dhikr Allāh) is in the Blessed Tree (al shajara al mubāraka). So hearken unto the Call of God, "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Me." 88
At several points in the same work, the Sinaitic Fire (al-nār) seen by Moses is spoken about and equated with the Divine Light (al-nār) which, according to Shaykhā and other sources, accompanied the theophany (tajallī) on the Mount (al-ṭūr). Once again, both the Bāb and the Remembrance (dhikr) are in various ways associated with the Sinaitic Fire and/or Light:
Say: … I, verily, am the Fire (al nār) of the Speaker (al-kalīm) nigh unto the Mount (al-ṭūr). The Tree (al-shajara) hath proclaimed: "No God is there except Him" and God beareth witness unto Me. 89
Say: I, verily, am the Light (al-nūr) which was, in very truth, made manifest upon the Mount (al-ṭūr) of the Inmost Heart (al-fu'ād). 90

 

  • 87 QA 75:306. Cf . QA. 76:309 and fn. 79 above.
  • 88 QA 110:440.
  • 89 QA 85:342.
  • 90 QA 23:76.

Such, verily, as gaze upon the Light (al-nūr) manifest before the Mount (al-ṭūr), concealed, in very truth, above the sphere of Glory (minṭaqat al-bahā'), are privy to the ancient Mystery of God, and shall, with Our permission, gaze upon the Light (al nār) before the Mount (al-ṭūr) made visible in the Dawning Place of Manifestation on the part of the Bāb. 91
O ye people of the earth!...This is assuredly the Light (al-nūr) which shone forth in the Dawning Place of Manifestation upon the Mount (al-ṭūr) … This is the [Fire] (al-nār) which was, in very truth, revealed upon the Mount (al-ṭūr). 92
I, verily, am the [Sinaitic] Fire (al-nār) emanating from the Mount (al-ṭūr) …
I, verily, am the Light (al-nūr) above the Mount (al-ṭūr)… [98] I, verily, am the [Sinaitic] Speaker (al mutakallim) in the two stations (al maqāmayn) [who uttered the words], "No God is there except God alone; no God is there except Him." …
I, am the Flame (or, Fire; al-nār) of that [supernal] Light (al-nūr) that glowed upon Sinai (or, "the Mount"; al-ṭūr) in the gladsome Spot (lit., land of exhilaration; arḍ al-surūr), and lay concealed in the midst of the Burning Bush (lit., Fire; al nār). 93

 

  • 91 QA 28: 101.
  • 92 QA. 78: 318; using a variant reading from ms. BB15, p. 171, and Nicolas 107 I. See note 83 (above).
  • 93 QA. 93: 374, 375 partial trans. by Shoghi Effendi in SWB, p.74.

O people of the Abyss of the Divine Unity! Hearken unto My Call from the Point of the Fire of the Divine Theophany (al mutajallā) shining upon your inmost hearts. 94
This is assuredly the Mystery of Mysteries (sirr al-asrār) which was concealed about the [Sinaitic] Fire.
This is assuredly the Light of Lights (al-nūr al anwār) in the midst of the Mountains (al-jibāl) to the right hand side of the Throne beyond Mount Qāf.95
He [the Bāb] is the Light (al-nūr) in the Mount (al-ṭūr) and the Mount (al-ṭūr) in the Dawning Place of Manifestation (maṭla` al-ẓuhūr) who [or which] was, by the leave of God, the Exalted, concealed in the Point of Rapture (nuqṭat al-surūr) upon the Mountain of the Ice of Manifestation (jabal thalj al-ẓuhūr). 96
This is the Remembrance of God (dhikr Allāh) that crieth out from the Tree dyed crimson and sprung up through the Oil which blazeth forth on account of the Fire (al-nār). This is the Light of God (nār Allāh) in the Fire (al-nār) encompassed by the [celestial] Water (al-mā'). 97
This Remembrance (al-dhikr) is assuredly the Light (al-nūr) in the Mount of Manifestation (al-ṭūr al-ẓuhūr) … Say: "I, verily, am the Light (al-nār) in the Point of Manifestation (nuqṭat al-ẓuhūr). 98

  • 94 QA 105: 420.
  • 95 QA 109: 432.
  • 96 QA 109:438.
  • 97 QA 60: 238.
  • 98 QA 67: 274.

The quranic account of Moses' request to see God and the theophany before the mountain (Qur’ān 7:143; see above) as exegetically "rewritten" and mystically interpreted in the Qayyūm al-asmā’is fundamental to the Sinaitic theology of the Bāb. Apart from claiming to be the Mount (al-ṭūr) where the [99] Divine Theophany (tajallā) took place, the Bāb identified both himself and the Remembrance (dhikr) as the agents of this theophany. 99

  • 99 We read at QA. 24: 81, "…I, verily, am the Mount (al-ṭūr) in the Mount (al-ṭūr) where its theophany took place…".

Reflecting early Shaykhī speculations he, furthermore, associated the Light (al-nūr) of the Sinaitic theophany with the Veil(s) surrounding God and with the celestial "Muhammadan Light" which emanates from the heavenly body of Imām `Alī and is the locus of the archetypal Fāṭima:

I, verily, am the mystery of the theophany (al-sirr al-mutajallā) above the Line (al-saṭr) secreted under the Yellow, Flashing Veil [of Divinity] concealed about the [Divine] Throne… Thou, assuredly, cried out in the Mount (al-ṭūr) and wast the Point of the Gate (nuqṭat al-bāb) situated about the Tree (al-shajara) planted in the Land of the Unseen (`amā’ = lit., `The Divine Cloud’). 100 = 100 QA 91:364.
This is assuredly the Light (al nār) upon the Mount (al-ṭūr), the [Sinaitic] Theophany (al-mutajallā) of the [divine] Names (al-asmā') in the Concourse of Manifestation (maṭlā' al-ẓuhūr)... the mystery of the [Sinaitic] Theophany (al-mutajallā) [which emanated] from the Body of the Exalted `Alī (jism al `alawī), the Light (al-nūr) treasured up in the form of a Dove in the Fāṭimid Center (kabd al fāṭimah). 101
In the one hundred seventh sura of the Qayyūm al-asmā, the Bāb is identified as the Cherub (see above) who was the agent of the divine Theophany:
O people of the Throne! Hearken unto My Call… from this Arabian Youth, the Cherub [who appeared] on the Mount of Glory (ṭūr al-bahā’), "I, verily, am the True One, no God is there except Me, the Exalted." 102

His Sinaitic role is underlined in the following lines from sura fifty three in which allusion is made to Qur’ān 7:143:

Indeed We conversed with Moses by the leave of God from the Tree (al shajara) on the Mount (al-ṭūr). And We revealed an [100] infinite-simal glimmer of Thy Light (al-nār) upon the Mount (al-ṭūr) and [unto] such as were upon it, whereupon the mountain (al-jabal) was crushed and became floating dust particles, and Moses fell down swooning. 103

  • 101 QA 108: 431-2.
  • 102 QA 107: 429.
  • 103 QA 54: 208. trans. SWB :72 (adapted).

A particularly interesting exegetical "rewrite" of Qur’ān 7:143 is contained in sura sixty eight of the Qayyūm al-asmā’:
 

When we raised up the sincere ones in the precincts of the Mount (al-ṭūr), they asked Us about the Cause (al-amr). Say: God cannot be seen! But, O people! Gaze upon Me! And if your inmost hearts remain firm after you have, in very truth, gazed upon Me, then shall you see the senant (al-`abd, the Bāb) in a state of unsullied and upright servitude. And when the Remembrance (al-dhikr) appeared in glory (tajallā) upon the mountain (al-jabal) through that Word (al-kalima), they hearkened unto my Call from the precincts of the [Sinaitic] Fire (al-nār): "God, no God is there except Him." But is there any among you who witholdeth his acceptance, by setting himself apart from God? [Nay!] Indeed, the mountains (al-jibāl) were crushed to dust and the inmost hearts fell down prostrate before God, the Ancient. 104 = 104 QA 68: 278.

Here it is sincere souls who, having been elevated to the mystic Sinai, enquire after the "Cause"; possibly the whereabouts of the Hidden Imām. They are informed that they can only indirectly vision God or identify with the Bāb if their hearts remain firm after experiencing the theophany of the Remembrance (dhikr). When the Remembrance "appeared in glory" (tajallā) upon the mountain through the divine Word, they heard the declaration of divinity, but proved unable to sustain its impact. The "mountains" of their inmost hearts were crushed, and they swooned away. Moses is replaced by "sincere souls," the Remembrance (dhikr) becomes the agent of the Divine Theophany (tajallī) through the "Word" (kalimat), and the "mountain" (jabal) crushed to dust becomes the "mountains" (al-jibāl) of the hearts of souls incapable of [101] sustaining an encounter with the Remembrance (dhikr). It is indicated that identification with the Bāb is no easy matter: it presupposes identification with the Remembrance, who represents the Godhead.
In two adjacent suras of the Qayyūm al-asmā', the Bāb explains that the Sinaitic episode (al-ḥadīth) of the "Call of Moses" detailed in the Qur’ān (see above) had come to pass again. This is in view of his claim to be in communication with God and in receipt of divine revelation. As the Gate, the Bāb pictured himself as having mystic access to the celestial sphere, or Holy Vale, where Moses encountered God. He heard anew the Sinaitic declaration of divinity and uttered again the "I, verily, am God …" (or the like) as one in intimate communion with the Remembrance or the Being who spoke from the Fire:

O Solace of Mine Eyes! Say: The episode surrounding the mystery of Moses, the Speaker (al-kalīm), hath, by the leave of God, the Exalted, again come to pass.
O people of Contention! Hearken unto the Call of God … "I, verily, am God, and He is the True One, no God is there except Him." … Say: I, verily, am the Crier (al munādī') situated, by the leave of God, the Lord of the Throne and of the Realm of the Unseen ( `amā’ lit., `Divine Cloud’) in the [Sinaitic] Fire. I, verily, am the senant of God (`abd Allāh). So doff thy sandals, relinquish the two worlds (lit., the two limits; al-ḥaddayn). Thou, verily, art in the "Holy Vale" (al wād al muqaddas) concealed (maṭwiyy an) in this Bāb.' 105
O Solace of Mine Eyes! Say: The episode of Moses upon Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā) hath again come to pass through the appearance of the Glorious Light (al-nūr al bahā'), for Thy Lord hath called out unto Thee in the "Holy Vale" (bi'l wād al-muqaddas) … And He hath enabled Thee to see something of His mighty signs by virtue of the Light (al-nūr) [which emanateth] around the [Sinaitic] Fire (al-nār). 106 [I02]

The Sinaitic theology of the Qayyūm al-asmā' not only has typological and realized eschatological aspects to it, but it embraces a futurist eschatology as well. In the following paragraph, from surah twenty-eight, the Bāb indicates that the Sinai theophany (tajallī) described in Qur’ān 7:143 will have a future realization:

O Solace of Mine Eyes [qurrat al-`ayn]! Stretch not Thy hands wide open in the Cause, inasmuch as the people would find themselves in a state of stupor by reason of the Mystery; and I swear by the true, Almighty God that there is yet for Thee another turn after this Dispensation (al-dawra).
And when the appointed hour hath struck, do Thou, by the leave of God, the All Wise, reveal from the heights of the Most Lofty and Mystic Mount (al-ṭūr al-akbar) a faint, an infinitesimal glimmer of Thy impenetrable Mystery, that they who have recognised the radiance of the Sinaitic Splendor (al-ṭūriyyūn fī'l sīnā') may faint away and die as they catch a lightning glimpse of the fierce and crimson Light (al-nūr) that envelops Thy Revelation. And God is, in very truth, Thine unfailing Protector. 107

  • 105 QA 76:310.
  • 106 QA 77:314.
  • 107 QA. 28, pp. 101 2., last paragraph trans. by Shoghi Effendi in SWB, p. 53

God is here pictured as exhorting the Bāb not to divulge the fullness of His Mystery in view of the ultimate realization of another cycle (al-dawra) of disclosure. It is implied that, at the eschatological consummation, God will reveal a mere glimmer of His ethereal and crimson Light (al-nār) from the supreme Sinai, causing the mysterious denizens of this sphere-- lit., "the Mountites in Sinai" (al-ṭūriyyūn fī'l sīnā')-- to swoon away before its sublimity. Bahā'u'llāh, as will be seen below, has interpreted these and other lines of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ in terms of His own manifestation and claim to be the Bābī messiah figure "Him whom God shall make manifest" (man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh), whose advent is so frequently dwelt upon in the Bāb's later writings.

In the light of the foregoing, it will be clear that in his earliest major work, the Qayyūm al-asmā', the Bāb pictured himself as hearing or voicing anew the Sinaitic declaration of [I03] divinity. This in view of his conviction that he was in communion with and spoke with the voice of the Remembrance (dhikr) who, in the Sinaitic sphere of revelation, represented the Godhead. Like Moses, the Bāb spoke of himself as having been called in the Holy Vale (al-wād al-muqaddas). On one level he and/or the Remembrance (dhikr) are, mystically speaking, the manifestations of the Sinaitic "Tree" (shajarat), "Mount" (ṭūr), "Fire" or "Flame" (nār), or "Light" (nūr), "Speaker" (kalīm), "Cherub" (karūb), and "Theophany" (tajallī). For the Bāb, Sinaitic events associated with the call of Moses and his request to see God had been mystically repeated in the light of his being commissioned to occupy the role of Gate (bāb). In line with early Shaykhī sources (see above), the Bāb exhibited a tendency to allegorize Moses/Sinai motifs in illustration of spiritual events connected with his person and mission. In the Qayyūm al-asmā' and other writings of the Bāb, it is often the case that Sinaitic events and motifs symbolize revelatory experiences outwardly comparable to those of Moses, but inwardly located in heavenly spheres and associated with the person of the Bāb. The Mount (ṭūr), for example, is not simply a peak in the Sinai peninsula but symbolizes the interior realm of the heart (fu'ād) where God's theophany (tajallī) might be experienced. The Sinaitic Tree from which the voice of God was heard is symbolic of such as are inspired with His word, and of the celestial pole from which divine revelation originates. In the Qayyūm al-asmā' (cited above), the Bāb, like Moses, is exhorted to doff his (two) sandals which symbolize the "[two] limits" (al-ḥaddayn, of this world and the other?) in view of his occupying the position of Gate (bāb) or being one concealed (maṭwiyyan, cf. Ṭuwā) in the Holy Vale (al wād al-muqaddas) which symbolizes that role.
The Bāb's Epistle Between the Two Shrines (Ṣaḥīfa bayn al-ḥaramayn) (early 1845) is basically an Arabic treatise written in reply to questions posed by the leading Shaykhī, Mīrzā Muhammad Ḥusayn, Muḥīṭ-i Kirmānī. 108 Toward the beginning of this epistle its verses are referred to as having been sent [104] down from "the Sinaitic Tree" (shajarat al-sīnā'). 109 Subsequently, the Bāb describes himself as a Leaf "sprung up from the Sinaitic Tree." 110
In the following lines it is indicated that one who desires to identify with the Bāb should be prepared for an inner experience of the Divine Theophany mentioned in Qur’ān 7:143:

And if thou desirest in the inmost reality of thine essence to enter the Way of this [divine] Decree then journey upon this Crimson Path and hearken unto the call of the Dove [the Bāb] in the breezes of this snow white Dawn which is as the call from the Tree (al-shajara) situated on Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā [namely]: "God, no God is there except Him." And thou shalt, furthermore, direct thyself unto the Glory of the [divine] Splendor (jalāl al-bahā') in the Snow White Land in a humble and submissive state like unto the crushing of the particle (dharra) on Mount Sinai [within thyself] through the Theophany (tajallī) of the Light of the Inmost Heart (nūr al fu'ād). 111

  • 108 I have consulted and translated from the ms. of the Ṣaḥīfa bayn al-ḥaramayn contained in the Browne collection (ms. F7[9]) of Cambridge University Library, and referred also to another unpublished ms. (photocopy in my possession). Page references indicate the Browne collection ms.
  • 109 Refer Ṣaḥīfa bayn al-ḥaramayn, p. 5.
  • 110 See ibid 49 and cf. also pp.53,82.
  • 111 Ibid., p.68 and see further pp.103, 106f., 115,121.
  • 112 Refer, Tafsīr Sūrat al-kawthar (Browne collection MS Or. F 10 [7], Cambridge University Library), f. 7b 8. Cf. also f.13, 14b.

Written for Sayyid Yaḥyā Darābī, the son of the well known Shī`ī writer Shaykh Ja`far Kashfī (d. 1850), the Bāb's Commentary on the Sura of the Abundance (Tafsīr Sūrat al-kawthar [Surah 108 of the Qur’ān], written 1845 6) contains several paragraphs of considerable interest. In its second introduction, the Bāb refers to his revealed verses as a proof from the Remnant of God (baqiyyat Allāh, the expected Imam) and, among other things, pronounces a woe against such as are oblivious of the fact that the "Sinaitic Tree" (shajarat al-ṭūr) had been planted or sprung up in his bosom.112
Commenting on the first letter "K" (kāf) to occur in this sura, the youthful Sayyid relates it to the "Word" (kalimat) and to a variety of Sinaitic motifs:
Now the letter kāf signifieth the Primordial Word (kalimat al-awwalā) before which the Greatest Depth (`amq al akbar) was held in check. It cried out in praise of its Creator in the seventh Citadel [105] of the Snow White Thicket in the Divine Realm (al-lahūt). It signifieth the Word (kalimat) which shone forth on Mount Sinai (tajallat `alā al-ṭūr al-sīnā') and cried out from the Crimson Tree (shajarat al-ḥamrā'), from the right side of the Mount (yamīn a-ṭūr) in the blessed Spot (al buq`at al-mubāraka) in the Land of Divine Power (ar al jabarāt). It is the Word (kalimat) which shone forth (tajallat) above the Ark of the Testimony (tābūt al-shahāda) in the Pillar of Fire (`amūd al-nār) upon Mount Horeb (jabal hūrīb) in the Land of the Kingdom (ar al malakāt). It signifieth the Word (kalima) which shone forth (tajallat) upon Mount Paran (jabal fārān) through the myriads of holy ones (ribwāt al-muqaddasīn) beyond the ken of the Cherubim in the Clouds of Light (ghamā'im al-nūr) shed upon `Alī standing in the human realm (al- nāsūt). 113

113 Tafsīr Sūrat al kawthar, f.16(a). Text emended (one line is omitted in the Browne collection MS; see fn. 112 above) in the light of the text in Iran National Bahā’ī Archives (henceforth INBA), Xerox collection, Vol. 53, p. 207. Also using a variant reading in a ms.in the hand of Nabīl ibn Nabīl, p. 21, held at the Baha'ā World Center.

Here the divine Word (kalima) is associated with the Divine Theophany (tajallā) and declaration of divinity uttered in the traditional hierarchy of metaphysical spheres each of which has its "Sinaitic dimension." A similar theology informs the following lines of the Bāb's qabbalistic explanation of the letter "h" (hā') of the "he is" (huwa) of Qur’ān 108:3:

Then [the letter hā'] signifieth the Everlasting Ipseity (huwiyya al- Aḥmadāniyya) which beamed forth from the Primordial Ipseity (huwiyya al-ūlā) and gave utterance, unto and through its own Self, to the Primordial Word in the Self of the Tree (nafs al-shajarat) upon Mount Horeb (jabal hūrīb) in the Holy Vale (al-wad al-muqaddas), through a [Sinaitic] Tree (shajara) planted in the center of the Land of Divine Power (arḍ al jabarūt). 114 = Ibid., fol. 29(a).

Also, along similar lines, is the following paragraph in which the letter "a" (alif) of the definite article of "the cut off" (al abtar) is expounded in terms of the Sinaitic theophany (tajallā) of the "Greatest Name" of God:

“Now the letter alif signifieth the Supreme Name (ism al a'lā) unto and through which God shone forth (tajallā). He made it the station [106] of His own Self (nafs) in [the realm of] the [divine] Accomplishment (al-adā'), and the Decree (al-qaḍā') and the Genesis (al-badā') . . . It signifieth a Name unto and through which God shone forth (tajallā) by means of His right hand. He made it the station of His own Self (nafs) on the level of the [divine] Purpose (al-irāda) in [the realm of] the Decree (al-qaḍā'), the Glory (al bahā'), the Splendor (al-sanā'), and the Praise (al-thanā), to the end that it might cry out from and through His Self (nafs), from the Blessed Tree (al-shajarat al mubāraka) in the Holy Vale (al-wād al-muqaddas) at the right side of the Mount: "God, no God is there except Him…
Then [also the letter alif signifieth] the hidden, treasured, greatest, pure, purifying, and blessed Name of God unto and through which God shone forth (tajallā) by means of the lights of the Triune Names (asmā' al thulth). And He made its first station in the [sphere ofl the [divine] Glory (al bahā'), its second station in the [sphere of] Praise (al-thanā'), its third station in Mount Sinai (al-ṭūr al-sīnā'), and the station of His own Self (nafs) in the [realm ofl the [divine] Decree (al qaḍā') and that of Genesis (al-badā'). By virtue of it was His Light (nūr) made manifest on Mount Paran (jabal fārān) through the myriads of holy ones (ribwāt al muqaddasīn) and upon Mount Horeb (jabal hūrīb) through the hosts of the angels of the [divine] Throne and of the heavens and the earth, as well as upon the Cuppola of Time (qubbat al-zamān) through the forrner and latter systems, and upon the Mount (al-ṭūr) through the Blessed Tree (al-shajarat al-mubāraka) [as the words], "O Moses! God is my Lord and your Lord. No God is there except Him, the Lord of all the worlds. 115

115 Ibid., f.30 (a b ). The expression "Triune Names" (asmā' al-thulth) here may be an allusion to the three letters which form the word Allāh (God) or which are to be found in the formula "There is no God but God" (lā ilāha ilā Allāh), namely, alif, lām, and hā'. In at least one of the Bāb's writings, the Greatest Name is identified with the glorious Theophany on Mount Sinai (INBA, ms 6003c, pp. 173 188)

Without going into details, the purport of these difficult lines appears to be that God made His supreme or greatest name (here Allāh, beginning with the letter alif?) the locus or equivalent of His own "Self" and the intermediary through which His theophany (tajallī) was realized in a descending hierarchy of spheres. These are partly informed by that section of the Shī`ī Prayer of the Signs quoted below and by Qur’ān 7:143. [107]
The Commentary on the Sura of Abundance, furthermore, contains several paragraphs in which the Bāb underlines the absolute transcendence and incomprehensibility of God and rules out any notion of a direct theophany (tajallī) of His exalted Essence. Qur’ān 7:143 is quoted and explained in terms of the manifestation of the proto Shiite Cherub spoken about by Imam Ja`far Ṣādiq (see above). Only seventy select Israelites were capable of sustaining the theophany of this Cherub who represented the "Self" (nafs) of God. (cf. Exodus 24:9ff.) Direct vision of God is not possible. 116
While the tradition about the Cherub being the agent of the Divine Theophany is occasionally quoted and commented upon literally in early (pre 1848) Bābī scripture, 117

  • 116 See ibid., f.9(b)ff..
  • 117 See for example, Tafsīr sūrat al-baqara on Qur’ān 2:55 and 2:108; Tafsīr al-hā' [I] in INBA, Xerox collection Vol. 14, p. 245 ; "Letter to a student" in ibid., xerox coll., Vol. 14 (item 13), pp. 395ff.

The Bāb ultimately came to identify himself (as the expected Imam or Qā'im, or as one claiming independent prophethood and subordinate divinity) with the "Lord" (rabb) who addressed Moses from the Burning Bush. In one of his epistles to Muhammad Shāh (d. 1848) we read:
When Moses… asked God that which he asked [to see Him], God revealed His glory (tajallā) upon the Mountain (al-jabal) through the Light of one belonging to the party of `Alī [the Cherub] just as hath been made clear in that famous tradition [of Imam Ja`far] … By God! This was my Light (nūrī for the numerical value of my name [`Alī Muhammad; i.e., 202] corresponds to that of the name of the "Lord" (rabb, also 202). Thus God, praised be He, said, "And when He revealed His glory (tajallī) before the Mountain… "(Qur’ān 7:143b) 118

  • 118 Text translated from ibid., Xerox coll., Vol. 64 (pp. 103/5126), p. 109 110. Cf. Taherzadeh, SWB. pp. 11, 17 for a partial translation of this "Epistle of the Bāb to Muhammad Shāh." Cf. Qur’ān 29:69 and Arabic Bayān 2.1., where the Bāb is addressed by God (so it seems) as "O letter of al-rā' and al-bā' (rabb, Lord?).

According to Qur’ān 7:143, Moses asked to see "his Lord" (rabbuhu). It was "his Lord" who "revealed His glory" (tajallā). Since the abjad numerical value of rabb (Lord) and the name `Alī Muḥammad are both 202, the Bāb identified himself as the source of the theophany (tajallī) before the Sinaitic mountain. The theophanic Light (nūr) of the proto-Shiite Cherub was ultimately the Light of the Bāb. [108]
Finally, but by no means exhaustively, in connection with the rich legacy of Sinaitic materials in the writings of the Bāb, it may be noted that in the Persian Seven Proofs (Dalā'il-i sab`ah, c. 1849-50) allusion is made to the Bāb's having fulfilled that line of the Sermon of the Gulf (Khuṭba al-ṭutunjiyya) in which the eschatological manifestation of the Sinaitic Speaker (mukallim) is predicted:
And among the utterances which conduce to tranquillity of heart [as a proof of the Bāb's mission] is the pronouncement of the Commander of the Faithful [Imām `Alī] recorded in the Sermon of the Gulf at the point where he saith: "Anticipate ye the revelation of He Who conversed with Moses from the Tree upon the Mount, for He shall assuredly be outwardly unveiled and publicly celebrated." It is evident [from the pronouncement in the "Sermon of the Gulf"] that naught hath nor shall be manifested in Him but the mention of "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Me" 119

In view of his adaptation of the Sinaitic declaration of divinity such that it included the words "… no God is there except Me," the Bāb reckoned that the prophecy attributed to Imām `Alī had found fulfillment. In his Qayyūm al-asmā’ and innumerable other writings of his last years, the Bāb frequently and in various contexts uttered the words, "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Me" (or the like). 120 It was his conviction that the eschatological "Day of God" had come to realization and that he was a manifestation of Divinity.
As, furthermore, "Divinity" and "Lordship" were conferred by the Bāb on certain of his major disciples, they too made exalted claims. 121 The Bābī cycle came to be seen as the cycle of the manifestation of Divinity in the person of the Bāb and the leading Bābīs. The eschatological "encounter with God" (liqā' Allāh) mentioned in the Qur’ān found fulfillment through the Bāb and the "pleroma of Divinity" manifested by his exalted disciples on the "Day of God." It is in this context, and in [109] view of the Bāb's assertion that the Bābī messiah, "Him whom God shall make manifest" (man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh), shall utter the words "I, verily, am God, no God is there except Me” 122 that certain of Bahā'u'llāh's exalted claims are to be understood. Both the Bāb and Bahā'u'llāh claimed divinity by uttering adapted versions of the Sinaitic declaration of divinity, though they did not thereby claim identity with the absolute Godhead. They saw themselves as pure mirrors reflecting the divinity of the transcendent and unknowable Lord and as manifestations of the eschatological advent of Divinity. 123

  • 119 Dalā’il-I Sab`a (Persian), n.p. [Tehran] n.d [Azalī ed.), p. 46.
  • 120 Certain of the Bāb’s writings contain lengthy invocations in which their author frequently lays claim to divinity.
  • 121 For some details reference should be made to Bahā'u'llāh's Lawḥ-i sarrāj (printed in Ishrāq Khāvarī, Mā'ida-yi āsmānī 7: 4-118) and to MacEoin, "Hierarchy, Authority and Eschatology," pp. 109 113.
  • 122 Persian Bayān VIII. 1. See SWB, pp. 97 8, and below p. 151.QA 85:354.
  • 123 See further below, pp. 149-150.

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