The Arabic Bayan - The First Unity (al-Wāḥid al-Awwāl).

 

 

The Arabic  Bayān of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi (d. 1850 CE).


INTRODUCTION, MSS. AND TRANSLATIONS

In Progress - last uploaded 08-09-09

On occasion the Bāb gave the title Bayān (= "Exposition") to the totality of his Arabic and Persian writings or revelations. He also wrote two major, centrally important, largely legal-doctrinal works with the specific title Bayān differentiated by the two languages in which thy were written;  one was in Persian, al-Bayān-i Farsi (`The Persian Bayān') and the other, probably later more summary version, was written in Arabic, al-Bayān al-`Arabī (`The Arabic Bayān'). The ideal structural pattern of these two Bayāns of the Bāb was to be indicative of `totality' or `completeness'; they should consist of nineteen wāḥids ("Unities") each having a total of nineteen abwāb, meaning "Gates", "Subsections" or (loosely), "Chapters"). Each ideal Bayān should have nineteen wāḥids  (Unities) each with 19 abwāb (`gates'). This pattern was to indicate "totality" or "completeness" since 19 x19 totals 361 which is the abjad numerical value of the Arabic phrase kull shay' meaning  "all things" or "everything", indicating `totality', the fullness of the new eschatological revelation.

      The   probably earlier and lengthier Persian Bayān is largely incomplete. It has only eight complete Waḥīds ('Unities'), each with  nineteen abwāb (`gates'), then a final ninth Waḥīd with only ten out of a theoretical nineteen abwāb ('gates'). It thus lacks nine abwāb ('gates') in Waḥīd nine and all of the remaining ten Waḥīds ('Unities') with their nineteen abwāb ('gates'). It appears that the the Persian and Arabic Bayāns were deliberately left incomplete for the purpose of creating messianic awareness. The Bāb's revelations were incomplete and needed to be completed. The Bāb indirectly indicated that his Bayāns would or should be completed by  the expected, future Bābī messiah figure entitled man yuẓıhiru-hu Allāh ('He whom God shall make manifest'). He should add the ten missing abwāb (`gates') to the incomplete 9th wāḥid  ("Unity") and write another ten complete waḥīds ('unities') with their 19 abwāb (`gates') to make up the ideal kull shay ("all things") of eschatological divine revelation.

        Though the form is completely different without  division into  Wāḥids  ("Unity")  and abwāb (`gates'), it is the Baha'i belief that Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri Baha-Allah completed the Persian Bayān (or Bayāns) of the Bāb in spirit through his writing of the Kitab-i Iqan (Book of Certitude) around 1862-3 CE (see Shoghi Effendi, GPB: 138). His Bābi half-brother Mirza Yahya Nuri also claimed to have completed the Persian Bayān through his writing of the Mutammim-i Bayān which has been published in Tehran more than forty years ago by some Azalī Bābis resident in Persia.

The al-Bayān al-`Arabī (The Arabic Bayān)

 The al-Bayān al-`Arabī (The Arabic Bayān) or `The Arabic Exposition' of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bāb (1819-1850 CE) is an innovative, post-Islamic doctrinal-legal work expressive of the mid-late Bābī religion dating to the period of its author's imprisonment in Persian Adhirbayjan (NE Persia) in 1264/1848-9 CE. Like the Persian Bayān it is incomplete consisting of eleven  seemingly complete wāḥids  ("Unities") though  the first wāḥid  ("Unity") is not divided up into abwāb (`gates'). Wāḥids  ("Unities") two until eleven (II-XI)  each have nineteen abwāb (`gates'). It is thus incomplete by eight  Wāḥids  ("Unity") each of which should have nineteen abwāb (`gates').  The Arabic Bayān is more succinct than the Persian Bayān even though it extends for a further  few Wāḥids  ("Unities") by including all the early sections as well as from VIII: 11-19 then the complete ninth tenth and eleventh Wāḥids  ("Unities") which are not included in the Persian Bayān at all. 

Select mss. and printed texts of the Arabic Bayān

Select unpublished and printed manuscripts listed in various sources (see especially MacEoin, Sources, 181)

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  • (1) Arabic Bayān. Ms. up to Wāḥid IX in the form of a Haykal (Pentacle) in the hand of the Bāb himself. In Azalī possession. Printed in Tehran in a mid. 20th century (Azalī) lithograph edition of the Arabic Bayān = No. 6 below).. 

  • (2) Arabic Bayān. Iran Ms. (2) in Azalī possession used in the semi-critical lithograph edition.

  • (3) Arabic Bayān. Iran Ms. (3) in Azalī possession used in the semi-critical lithograph edition.

  • (4) Arabic Bayān. Iran Ms. (4) in Azalī possession used in the semi-critical lithograph edition.

  • (5) Arabic Bayān. Iran Ms. (5) in Azalī possession used in the semi-critical lithograph edition.

  • (6) Arabic Bayān. al-Bayān al-`Arabī. Azalī lithograph edition. np.nd. The  mss.  above up to No. 6 were all used in this mid. 20th cent, Azalī semi-critical edition lithograph edition of the Arabic Bayān n.d. Undated Azalī produced Tehran lithograph. According to MacEoin "The text is based on a MS. in the Bāb's hand [=No.1 above] — reproduced in this volume — extending as far as wahid 9. The remaining two wahids are based on five other mss. Unfortunately, the editor gives no details about the origins of these other copies" (Sources, 86).

  • (7) Paris Ms.  B[ibliotheque]. N [ationale]. Suppl. Arabe 2511

  • (8) Paris Ms.  B[ibliotheque]. N [ationale]  4669 (dated late 19th cent.)

  • (9) Text of a ms. copied by the `Iraqi Baha'i Ḥajj Mahmūd al-Qaṣṣābchī in Ayyār 1933 and utilized for the  printed text in `Abd al-Razzāq al-Ḥasānī (ed.),al-Bābiyyūn wa'l-Bahā'iyyūn fī ḥadirihim wa madihim (Sidon: Matba`at al-`Irfān, 1962), pp. 81-107.
  • (10) Text of another ms. obtained through Kāmil `Abbās  secretary of the NSA of the Baha'is of Iraq and utilized by  `Abd al-Razzāq al-Ḥasānī (ed.), al-Bābiyyūn wa'l-Bahā'iyyūn fī ḥadirihim wa madihim (Sidon: Matba`at al-`Irfān, 1962), pp. 81-107.
  • al-Hasani edited text: Reprinted, East Lansing, MI: H-Bahai, 2003:
  •  http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/areprint/Bāb/A-F/b/Bayāna/Bayāna.htm
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  • (11) Haifa Iran Baha'i Archives (IBA) (i) originally Nicholas 101, dated c. 1900.
  • (12) Haifa Iran Baha'i Archives (IBA) (ii) mentioned in Muhammad Nabil-i Zarandi, Dawn-Breakers, 671 (see MacEoin, Sources, 181 fn.5).

  • (13) Tehran Iran Baha'i Archives (IBA) 4003C

  • (14) Tehran Iran National Baha'i Archives Manuscript Collection (INBMC) 43 : 1-68.

  • (15) Tehran Iran National Baha'i Archives Manuscript Collection (INBMC) 86 : 1-64.

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MacEoin's list of fifteen mss.  in his Sources, App.I, p,181.

al-Bayan al-`Arabi 1

fn.1 In the Cambridge Browne Collection part of ms. Y.9 is stated to consist of two chapters of the Arabic Bayan, but these are part of another unidentifies work,

  • 1. Paris B.N. Suppl. Arabe 2511 2.
  • 2.. Pans, B.N., 4669 (dated late 19th. C.) 3
  • 3. Iraq, ( in possession of `Abd al-Razzaq  al-Hasani),

4. Iraq, ( also in possession of `Abd al-Razzaq  al-Hasani), 4
4. Iraq, (also in possession of ~-~1; dated c.1900)
5. Haifa, IBA (i) (originally Nico
6. Haifa, IBA (ii)5 . (. the hand of the Bab)6
7. Iran, Azan possession m
8. Iran, A7.311 possession
9. Iran, A7.311 possession
10. Iran, Aza1I possession
11. Iran, AzalI possession
12. Iran, AzalI possession
13. Tehran, INBA 4002C ,/
14. Iran, INBMC 43 (pp. 1•68)
15. Iran, INBMC 86 (pp. l-64)

English and French translations

  • 1865Joseph A. Comte de Gobineau,  Ketab-e-Hukkam [sic.] = pp.389-95;  Livre des Préceptes,`The Book of Precepts' [= the Arabic Bayān I-IX] in the Appendix within Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l'Asia Centrale in pp. 396-474 which is a French translation of "the Arabic Bayān (minus one section) [Wāḥids I-IX] prefaced by a short letter from the Bāb to Mullā `Abd al-Karīm Qazvīnī" [= pp.389-395] (so Mirza Yahya Nuri, Subh-i Azal  informed E. G. Browne, see Nuqtat ak-kaf, xviii-xix; also MacEoin, Sources, 31-2, 86). It is astonishing that Gobineau, a French orientalist, diplomat and writer, doubtless with much help from his Persian Jewish and other linguistic assistants, produced this remarkable translation of the Arabic Bayān of the Bāb (entitled the Livre des Préceptes or `The Book of Precepts') less than twenty years after it had been written by its imprisoned Persian author. The (incomplete) Arabic ms translated by Gobineau  is Paris Ms. B. N. Suppl. Arabe 2511 which was brought to France from Persia by Gobineau himself (so MacEoin, Sources, 31-2, 181). E. G. Browne in his 1910 edition of the Kitab-i Nuqtat al-Kaf  refers to  Paris Ms. B. N. Suppl. Arabe 2511 and cited and translated Mirza Yahya Nuri's idendification of it as the Arabic Bayan. Paris Ms. B. N. Suppl. Arabe 2511 appears to be roughly identical with mss. of the Arabic Bayan extant today and the 1865 Gobineau translation of it. It  has some curious and interesting differences as well as some amazing insights into the complexities of the thought of the Arabic Bayān. Despite its frequent unreliability Gobineau's French translation is worthy of study. It is an amazing, very early testimony to the industriousness of an evident lover of Persia and its people who had a deep fascination with the nascent revolutionary religion of the Bab. Translating the Arabic Bayan today is far from easy; accomplishing this task by 1865 CE was and is  incredible.

  • 1905. A. L. M. Nicholas, Le Beyan Arâbe. Add details. Nicholas did'nt seem to realize that Gobineau had previously translated the Arabic Bayān... (MacEoin, Sources, 31-2).
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  •  1976. Habib Taherzadeh in SWB 158-9, opening paragraphs of Wāḥid I only; Arabic text in Muntakhabat.. 111-112. This extract sometimes paraphrases so as to express something of a Baha'i reading or interpretation that does not always accurately reflect the original Arabic.

  •  2009. Stephen Lambden (see this website)  ongoing with select transliteration, occasional textual and other notes. The translation below will be under constant revision and will attempt to express as precisely as possible the sense of the original Arabic without undue paraphrase or unnecessary exegesis-eisegesis.

Select references and comments

Denis MacEoin,

  • Sources for Early Bābi Doctrine and History, 85

 

 The Arabic Bayān of Sayyid `Alī Muhammad Shirazi, the Bāb

Translation by Stephen Lambden UC-Merced 2009-10. See his website ...