Alpha and Omega : Islamo-Biblica and Islamic Chronological Schemata...
Alpha and Omega :
Islamo-Biblica and Islamic Chronological Schemata, Texts and Literatures.
Stephen Lambden - Notes dating to the 1980s.
It was primarily a result of an often Zoroastrian rooted Judaeo‑Christian influence that a large number of Muslim traditions and sources reckon the span of world history as extending into a fifth, sixth, seventh or even an eighth millennial era. The frequently cited Yemenite Jewish convert to Islam, Wahb ibn Munabbih, for example, on one occasion is said to have reckoned a period of 5, 600 years AM up to the Islamic era (Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, 1:15). On another occasion he is cited as having maintained that around 6, 600 years had transpired in view of the fact that "God created the heavens in six days and established the magnitude of each day at 1,000 years" (Maqdisī, K. al‑Bad’ III:150).
Lying behind a large number of Islamic computations of the period separating the anno mundi and the time of Muhammad are Byzantine Christian chronological and associated speculations expressed in millennial terms. Jews and Christians from at least the opening centuries CE divided the scheme of the ages of the world into millennial periods on the basis of such texts as Genesis 2:2 and Psalm 90:4 (cf. II Peter 3:8; Rev 20:1ff). 1 Early Jewish, Hellenistic, pseudepigraphical, and later Rabbinic literatures implied, and various Christian
1. Since antiquity an originally Zoroastrian then Judaeo‑ Christian dualistic time‑scheme of world eras ("This [perishable] Age" and "The [eternal] Age to Come") had been an "an essential feature of apocalyptic" (Vielhaur & Strecher, NTA II: 549f).
texts explicitly utilized, diverse millennial schemata extending world history for several thousands of years (AM). Four, five or six 1,000 year periods were often envisaged as being consummated by a seventh millennial age of fulfilment and eschatological beatitude. 2
2. Each of the 7 days of creation were understood as 1,000 years of history; the final millennium being a kind of `messianic sabbath.' Thus there is the notion of the "timeless new world of the eighth day" which follows a kind of `messianic sabbath millennial day' (Caird, 1966:250).
Indicative of this is the following foundational passage from the early Christian Epistle of Barnabas,15 (c. 125 CE) which cites Gen. 2:2a and Psalm 90:4 maintaining that:
.. in six days ‑‑ six thousand years, that is ‑‑ there is going to be an end to everything. After that , he rested on the seventh day [Gen 2:2b] indicates that when His Son [Christ] returns, He will put an end to the years of the Lawless One, pass sentence on the godless, transform the sun and moon and stars, and then, on the seventh Day, enter into His true rest" (trans. Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 214).
Influenced by such early Christian traditions inherited from Papias bishop of Hierapolis (d. c.130?) and Justin Martyr (d. 165 CE?), the Christian theologian and heresiologist Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 200 CE) held that the world would end after 6,000 years (Irenaeus. Haer. 5. 28. 3; 5. 32f ; cf. Justin, Dial, Tryph. 80‑81). So too Hippolytus of Rome (d. c. 236; Comm. Dan., 4.24), Julius Africanus (of Jerusalem; d. after c. 240) and other chronographers of the apostolic, patristic and later eras. Lactantius (260‑.c.330) was expectant of a future "hedonistic enjoyment by the just" in a sabbatical millennium to be realized after a 6,000 year period (Instit. vii.14, 24; Loi, EEC II:470; cf. 166‑7). Like some of the speculations of the abovementioned Christian writers whose chronology was frequently based upon that of the Greek Septuagint (LXX; early 3rd Cent BCE), Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 340) thought that the world would last for 6,000 years (six millennia) and that Jesus Christ was born in 5, 500 [later 5,199] AM (cf. Augustine, C.D. xxii.30.5). 1
1. See further Finegan, 1964 esp. 137ff; Caird, 1966:250; Grabbe, 1982:107‑8; Massyng-baerde Ford, ` Millennium’, ABD., IV: 832‑834; Smith, `Ages of the World’, ERel. 1:128‑133; Hughes, `Chronology ’ DBI:120‑123. The expectation of a 6,000 year age of the world period was also known among the Jews as is clear from the Seder Olam Rabba and the saying of `the Tanna of the House of Elijah’.
The originally Syriac Me`ārath Gazze (`Cave of Treasures’ 4th cent. CE?), which exists in various (post 6th cent. CE) Arabic recensions, reckons a 5, 500 year period between Adam and Christ (Bezold, 1883‑8; rep. nd.; Gibson,1901; Budge,1927:10, 221). For many early Eastern Christians a period of at least 500 years before the end‑time parousia (6,000+) was thus presupposed. These figures were later abandoned or adjusted by Christians when eschatological events seemed soon to be realized as in the late 7th century (Syriac) Apocalypse of Pseudo‑Methodius. 2
2. Apparently on the basis of the chronology of Julius Africanus and that of the Cave of Treasures, the (Syriac) Apocalypse of Pseudo‑Methodius divides history into seven millennia placing the eschatologically suggestive Arab conquest late in the seventh or last millennium (Alexander, 1985:17ff, 44; Reinink, 1992:150+fn.2; 178f).
For the pious in the Islamic community, such millennially based chronological speculations were set out in numerous authoritative prophetic ḥadīth / akhbār from the (Twelver) Imams.
The early Kitāb al‑ṭabaqat al‑kabīr (Great book of the Classes) of Ibn Sa’d (d. Baghdad, 230/845) has a section dealing with the time span between Adam and Muhammad. Millennial (1,000 year) periods were recorded between Adam and Noah (= ten 100 year generations), Noah and Abraham and Abraham and Moses. A tradition of Ibn `Abbās (d. c. 68 / 687) is cited reckoning a period of 1, 900 years between Moses and Jesus, and a fairly precise figure of 569 years is said to separate the birth of Jesus and the time of the prophet Muhammad. The reader might thus be led to think of a roughly 5, 500 year period, a 5,469 year period between Adam and Muhammad (= 1,000 x 3+1,900+569) (Ibn Sa`d, ibid, I:53). This is in line with the realization of millennial eschatological hopes. Certain earlier and many later sources more explicitly presuppose Judaeo‑Christian chronological speculations.
The rich in Isrā'īliyyāt Muḥaḍarāt al-abrār... (Conference of the Pious) of Ibn al‑`Arabī (d. 638/1240) contains a section headed `The record of the diversity of the nations regarding what has elapsed of the time span between Adam and the hijrah ’. Here there is reference to a tradition of Ibn 'Abbās reckoning a period of 5,575 years between Adam and Muhammad. Then it is recorded that al-Kalbī (d. 204/819) transmitted the duration of 6,019 years between Adam and Muhammad. Ibn al‑`Arabī further had it that al-Wāqidī (d.207/823) thought the period from the fall of Adam to the birth of Muhammad was 4, 600 years and that Muhammad ibn Isḥāq (d.150/ 767) transmitted a period of 5451  years.1
1 E.g. Adam->Noah, 1, 200; Noah->Abraham,1,142; Abraham->Moses, 575; Moses->David, 569; David->Jesus, 1, 365; Jesus->Muhammad, 600. Additionally, the Great Shaykh notes that Wahb Ibn Munabbih calculated 5600 years and gives details of the calculations of other religionists including the a history of the Jews as 4640 years and the computations of the Greek Christians as 5772 + years (Muḥaḍarat, 120‑1).
The early Muslim historiographer Abū `Īsā ibn al‑Munajjim (fl. late 8th cent.?) drew upon Syriac and Greek Byzantine Christian historiographical traditions2 in his lost but partially cited survey of pre‑Islamic chronography perhaps entitled al‑Bayān `an ta`rīkh sinī zamān al‑`ālam `alā sabīl al‑ḥujja wa’l‑burān. (Exposition of the Chronology of years of the Duration of the World according to the way of Proof and the Evidence) (Rosenthal, 1968:72‑3, 511 n.1; Stern, 1972). Familiar with Jewish and Persian scripture and tradition, he to some extent wrote "according t o the accounts contained in the Torah and the stories of the prophets and the kings [akhbār al‑anbiyā’ wa’l‑mulūk ]" (al‑Mas`ūdī, Murūj, I:23; tr. Stern, 1972:438). Like Eusebius and `the historian Abū al‑Fiḍā’, Ibn al‑Munajjim (who was utilized by the former) reckoned 6,216 years from the fall of Adam until the Hijra (Tārīkh, 1:(9) 21; Stern 1972:441). This also places his pre‑Islamic age of the world into the early seventh millennium.
Chronological traditions registered in Ibn Qutayba’s (d. 276/889) early and wide‑ranging survey of world history, the K. al‑Ma`ārif (Book of Knowledge) include the tradition that "Adam lived 1,000 years", or "according to the Torah" (Gen. 5:5 cf Q. 29:14) "1,000 less 70 years". In his K. al‑Bad’ wa’l‑ta’rīkh (The Book of Creation and History’, written 355/966) al‑Maqdisī (d. fl.10th cent. CE) drew on Ibn Qutayba and included a lengthy section on the span of world history mentioning a 6, 600 year period and reckoning the period between Adam and Muhammad as 7, 852 years (Ibn Qutayba, K. al‑Ma`ārif, 33‑4; Maqdisī, K. Al‑Bad` II:145ff).1
1 Ibn Qatayba also records a tradition to the effect that that Injīl (Gospel) has it that there are three sets of 14 generations separating Abraham and Jesus (K. al‑Ma`ārif, 34). This is basically in line with the Matthean genealogy (Matt. 1:1ff; esp. 1:17) which is in all likelihood founded upon the numerical value of the messianically suggestive Hebrew name David (D = 4+W=6+D =4 total = 14).
Roundly summing up this view, Maqdisī held that from the "covenant of Adam" (`ahd Ādam) until [the time of] Muhammad a period of 7, 800 years had elapsed (al‑Bad’, II:150‑151). The idea of creation in seven millennial "Days" is also mentioned by al‑Maqdisī as are various complex Hindu rooted notions of aeons of cosmic and worldly time.2
2 Maqdisī also gives detailed chronological information from the lost Kitāb al‑tarīkḥ of Ibn Khurdādh[bih] (fl. 3/9th cent.) (II:151f)
At the very beginning of the Ta’rīkh al‑rusul wa’l‑mulūk of Abū Ja`far al‑Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) there is a section about the duration of zamān ("time") from "beginning to end" (Tarīkh, I:15‑19; tr. Rosenthal, I:172f). It is noted that certain traditions reckon the "total extent of time" as 7, 000 years (a "week of the other world" cf. Mas`ūdī, Akhbār al‑zamān, 31) of which 6,000 (mss. vary) were thought to have passed. Ṭabarī himself favoured the passing of around 6, 500 years (AM) up till the time of Muhammad. He also registered the period from the creation of Adam until the time of the hijrah (622 CE) as calculated by Jews ( = 4, 642 years AM) and by Greek Christians (= 5,992) years AM (Tarikh, I:19; tr. Rosenthal, 183‑5; cf. below p. 25. Fn. 2 ).1
1 In the section `On the chronology of the years of the Israelites’ (= sect. III) in his (predominantly pre‑Islamic) Ta`rīkh sinī al‑muluk al‑arḍ wa’l‑anbiyā’ (`Chronology of Kings and Prophets of the Earth’, finished 350/ 951) the Muslim chronographer Ḥamzah al‑Isfāhānī (fl. mid‑late 10th cent. CE) basing himself on biblical sources and Jewish informants writes, "So everything that has elapsed of the years of the world up till the beginning of the era of the Arab, from the hijrah [of the prophet] amounts to 4,382 years [AM].." (Tārīkh, 68; cf. Rosenthal, 1968:79, 90f; idem, `Ḥamza al‑Iṣfāhānī’, EI 2 III:156; 1989 [= Tabari 1]:184 fn. 148). Rosenthal further notes that the 5992 figure is "close to that of 5990 in Ḥamzah [al‑Isfāhānī] and that of the 5,969 of the Antiochian era (Tārīkh, 184 fn.147).
Probably early traditions attributed to the (Twelver) Imāms bear upon the time span of the pre‑Islamic era. Among them are those indicating that certain of the 29 sets of (so‑called) isolated letters of the Qur’ān (al‑fawātiḥ al‑ṣawar; al‑ḥurufāt al‑muqaṭṭa’āt) should be understood in chronological or predictive terms relative to their abjad ("numerical") values (cf. Krotkoff, `Abjad,’ EIr. 1:221‑2). An interesting example is ascribed to the fifth (or the sixth) Imām (Abū Ja`far) Muhammad al‑Bāqir (d. c.126/743) as cited by al‑Ayyāshī (fl‑9th‑10th. cent. CE) in his Tafsīr as transmitted by Abū Labīd al‑Makhzūmī:
O Abā Labīd! There is abundant knowledge (`ilman jamm an) in the isolated letters of the Qur'ān (al‑ḥurūf al‑qur'ān al‑muqaṭṭa`ah) for God, exalted be He, sent down [the qur’ānic revelation] "Alif, Lām, Mīm (A+ L+M). This Book" [Q. 2:1‑2a] and Muhammad rose up until his light was made manifest and his word was established. He was born on a day when there had elapsed 103 years from the seventh millennium (al‑alf al‑sābi`)... (Fayḍ al‑Kāshānī, Tafsīr al‑Ṣāfī, I:77‑8; Majlisī, Biḥār 2 52:106).
It is indicated here that the year 6,103 AM had been reached at the time of Muhammad’s birth (c. 570 CE). This figure is very close to the 6,122‑3 given by the polymathic scholar and scientist Abū Rayḥān al‑Bīrūnī (d. 442/1051) in his comparative chronology al‑Āthār al‑bāqiya.. (`Vestiges of Bygone Days…) (Rosenthal, op. cit. 184 fn.147). However 6,103 is to be precisely, chronologically understood, its basic import is that the seventh millennial era indicative of end‑time fulfilment had commenced because 6,000+ years had passed. The above Shī`ī tradition certainly seems to presuppose early speculations about the time of the mission of Muhammad in millennial terms after the (Abrahamic‑Islamic) anno mundi. In his Risāla fī’l‑nubbwa al‑khaṣṣa the Bāb cites this ḥadīth of 6,103 (INBMC 14:245) as does the Bahā’ī apologist, Mīrzā Abū al‑Faḍl Gulpayigānī (d. 1914 CE) in his Sharḥ āyāt al‑muwarrikha (Commentary on the Chronological Testimonia, Hamadan, 1888: 8ff.). It was utilized in Bābī‑ Bahā’ ī texts as evidence of eschatological fulfilment.
This 6,103 seventh millennial Shī`ī tradition continues by having the Imam state that the clarification of the 6,103 figure is "in the Book of God (= the Q.), in the isolated letters (al‑ḥurūf al‑muqaṭṭa`āt) if they are counted them without repetition" (T.Sāfī, 1:78; Bihar2 52:106). This confirmatory numerical value of the twenty nine qur’ānic isolated letters is 5995 (+ 5 = 6,000 +10= 6005) which is again a figure of almost 6,000 which would definitely place the mission of Muhammad well within the 7th millennium of fulfilment even if he were born just before it (cf. the Bāb, P-Bayān, VIII:17, 302).
The Persian version of the Tafsīr al‑Ṭabarī of Bal`amī (written c.963 CE), referring to the Shāh‑Nameh tradition and to Hamza al‑Isfahānī, mentions a period of 6013 years from Adam until the era of the Prophet as well as to a period of 5, 900 years (Per. Tārīkh, 1:5). The numerical value of the qur’ānic isolated letters is again associated with the time span of world history and there is mention of a possibly Zoroastrian influenced figure of 14, 000 years (7, 000 + 7, 000). Like other Islamic sources, this source relates the creation in "six days" to a period of six millennia in the light of Q. 32:4 and Q. 22:47b (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr ed. Yaghmā’ī 4:968f; 1:32; ed. Sadeghi 1:3).
Evidently desirous of showing that Muhammad ushered in the new 7th millennial era, early Muslim apologists and historians consciously or unconsciously based their calculations upon such (Judaeo‑) Christian figures as have been mentioned above. Their chronological age of the world speculations suggested millennial fulfilment. Just as the essentially mythical biblical chronology is infused with schemata suggestive of a pre‑ordained, providential (heiro‑) history with eschatological implications, so too are certain of the chronologies of Islamic world history which draw upon early ḥadīth or Isrā’īliyyāt traditions. They are often underpinned by an apologetically rooted millennial scheme (Johnston2 1988:36). A similar orientation is presupposed and mirrored in aspects of the developed and extended, millennially oriented Bābī‑ Bahā’ī cyclic view of salvation history.
The Qā’īm‑Maḥdī and the chronology of qur’ānic isolated letters.
The qur’ānic isolated letters are also seen in Shī`ī imamological traditions as indications of the dates of the appearance of the Imāms or, the (for twelver Shī`īs) the time of the advent of the twelfth of them, the Qā'im‑Maḥdī. Majlisī in one of the sections of his celebrated Biḥār al‑anwār entitled al‑tamḥīṣ wa'l‑nahī `an al‑tawqīyah (`The proving and the modes of understanding from the letters’, Biḥar 2 52:101‑121) records and briefly discusses several interpretations of these isolated letters, the fawāṭīḥ al‑sawar (openings of the Sūrahs) deriving from the Prophet and the Imāms. The 7th (6103) tradition of the 5th Imām (cited above) continues as follows:
There is not among the disconnected letters a letter which will find its realization save there should rise up a Qā'im ("Ariser") from the progeny of [Banī] Hāshim... The "A" (al‑alif) is one, the "L" (al‑lām) is thirty, the "M" (al‑mīm) forty and the "Ṣād" (Ṣād) ninety which [abjad total numerical value] amounts to 161 years. Then came to pass the emergence of Ḥusayn son of `Alī [3rd Imām Ḥusayn; d. 61/680]. "Alif, lām, mīm ("A"+ "L"+ "M") Allāh (God)." So when its period came to pass there rose up a Qā'im of the progeny of `Abbās nigh "Alif+Lām+Mīm+Ṣād (Q sūrah 7; total = 161] and there rose up our Qā'im nigh their termination in Alif+ Lām+Rā' (= Q. sūra 13; total = 231). So understand [this]! Pay heed [memorize]! and keep it secret!" (cited from the Tafsīr `Ayyashī in Majlisī, Biḥār 2 52:106).
On the basis of such traditions the Bāb1, Baha'-Allah and subsequently Bahā’ī apologists understood the value of the qur’ānic isolated letters from A‑L‑M [‑Ṣ] (Q. 2 [ 3]) up till A‑L‑M‑R (Q.13) to be indicative of the time of the advent of the Qā’im or Maḥdī (= the Bāb). These seven sets of isolated letters from Q. 2 (= al-Baqara, The Cow) until Q. 13 (al-Ra`ad, Thunder) compute to yield : 71 (Q2) + 71 (Q.3 )+161 (Q.7)+ 231 (Q.10) +231 (Q.11)+ 231(Q.12) + 271 (Q.13), totalling 1,267. This is understood to indicate lunar years AH for the Bāb initiated his mission in Shīrāz on May 22nd 1844 or in the year 1260, seven years away from the figure 1,267 (cf. the Bāb, P-Dala’il-S : 47) By backdating 1,267 seven years or commencing at the time of the public mission of Prophet Muhammad (‑ 7 AH/ c. 615 CE?) the result is 1260 AH when the Bāb initiated the Bābī religion in Shiraz, Iran. Aside from this 7 year adjustment the Bāb also frequently dated the origins of the Islamic era to the ba`tha ("Call to prophethood") of Muhammad which he reckoned as being 10 years before the Hijra (P-Bayāb II:7; IV:14, 16,18; VI:7,8,13; K.PanjS:319, etc).
1There have been many ancient and modern attempts to relate biblical chronology to an absolute chronological scheme so as to divine the `plan of history' and the `time of the end'. Some, like the famous Archbishop James Ussher (1581‑1656) whose computations were virtually incorporated into the English 1611 Authorized (King James) version of the Bible, reckoned the creation around 4,004 BCE (4004 BCE + 6,000 = 1996 CE).
This year 1260/1844 or thereabouts is of great significance in the Bābī‑ Bahā’ī millennial and cyclic scheme cryptically indicated in certain of the ḥurūfāt al‑muqaṭṭa`a (Isolated letters) (B* INBMC 98:35ff; BA* L. Ḥurufāt). In this connection BA* writes in his L. Ḥurūfāt al‑muqaṭṭa`a, (c.1857)
Then know that on another level God intended by these [qur’ānic isolated] letters (al‑ḥurūfāt) the mysteries indicative of fulfilment (asrār ilā nihāyāt) by means of which he alludes to the period of concealment of the [eschatological] Beauty (al‑jamāl) behind the pavilions of Glory such as is evidenced in the recorded traces of the [twelver] Imams of the Criterion (= Qur’ān), [thus, for example, the words] "With the expiration of Alif‑ Lām ‑ Mīm ‑ Ṣād (Q. ) through Alif‑ Lām ‑ Mīm ‑ Rā’ (Q.13), the Mahdī shall arise" .. (L. Ḥurūfāt, mss. 15).
Bahā’ī cyclic speculation and the millennium
Like certain Abrahamic streams of religious thought, most notably Ismā’īlī Shī `ī sources, Bābī‑ Bahā’ī doctrine maps out past and future human and heirohistory in terms of various kinds of religious cycles dawr (pl. adwār ) or eras of a greater or lesser magnitude and time span. Successive aeons and religious eras are punctuated by the missions of founder maẓhar‑i ilāhī who appear from age to age with a new sharī`a (religious law) and further dimensions of spiritual truth. Cycles of religious guidance are essentially prophetological cycles referred to by SE* (and in modern Bahā’ī sources) as "dispensations" (Ar + Per. ẓuhūr), an English term borrowed from western Protestant "dispensationalism", biblically rooted theological notions of dispensations or eras of religious history (e.g. H. Grattan Guinness, etc).
Certain controversial and novel issues associated with the dating of past Messengers, prophets and philosophers are evidenced in various writings of both the Bāb and BA*. They adopted a badī` ("novel", "new") calendar and gave new, sometimes eschatologically oriented re‑interpretations to earlier religious chronology. The writings of the Bāb contain sometimes complex prophetological chronology and predictive schemata. Both the Bāb and BA* set out past world history based upon concepts of eternally renewed maẓhariyya ( theophanology) and upon the claimed realization of eschatologically oriented events.
In his Persian Bayān and other writings the Bāb identified with great accuracy the time of his 1260/1844 (= the year "sixty") religious declaration, of being the bāb ("gate") to the hidden Imam, etc. It was exactly 2 hours 11 minutes on the eve (after sunset) on the 5th Jamād al‑Awwal 1260 (= May 22nd 1844)( P.Bay. II:7; cf. VI:13). This date marked the beginning of the yawm al‑qiyāma ("Day of Resurrection") of the Qur’ān or the Islamic (and other) peoples (ibid.) For Bahā’īs the date 1260/1844 marks the point of millennial transition from the pre‑Bābī cycle of prophecy extending from the time of Adam until the end of Islamic era, 1,000 lunar years after the death/passing into ghayba ("occultation") of the 12th Imam, Muhammad son of Ḥasan al‑Askarī (d. c. 260 AH/874 CE). In his L. Mawlūd ism al‑a`ẓam (Tablet of the Genesis of the Greatest Name) BA* similarly highlights the importance of 19th century dates such as 1260/1844, the night of his birth (November 12th 1817) and the Riḍwān 12 day period of his semi‑secret declaration in Baghdad during April 21(22) –> May 3 1863:
O Concourse of the hidden and the manifest! Rejoice then exalt within thine own beings for the Night hath appeared within which cycles (al‑akwār) and eras (al‑adwār) were intertwined and conflated. Nights and days have moved on such that the appointed times of the divine Cause (al‑amr) were realized on the part of one Powerful, Almighty...The Riḍwān ("Paradise")of the All‑Merciful hath appeared at the midmost heart of the cyclic scheme (quṭb al‑akwān) for the Breeze of God hath wafted from the shore of forgiveness and the Hour hath, in very truth, come to pass... (L.Mawlūd, 48).
For Bahā’īs an Adamic cycle extended from the time of Adam ( viewed as the founder of an embryonic religion) until the end of the Islamic age in 1844/1260 or a few years later at the end of the Bābī period in 1269 / 1850/2‑3, the year of BA*’s initial though symbolic prophetic call in Tehran. For Bahā’īs the mid. 19th century is believed to have ended a 6, 000 year cycle echoed in the pattern of the six days of creation understood in millennial terms. The theological and eschatological implications of the biblical chronology as interpreted in Christian tradition lies behind the Bahā’ī affirmation of a 6000 year pre‑Bābī‑ Bahā’ī Adamic or `prophetic cycle’.1
1 In his Persian Dalā’il‑i sab`ih the Bāb makes specific reference to the ḥadīth of Abī Labīd Makhzūmī about the "qur’ānic ḥurūf al‑muqaṭṭa`āt" noting that he had explained this matter in his T. Kawthar (P. Dal. 48‑49).
Just as many early Muslims placed the birth or time of Muhammad around 6,000 years AM into a 7th millennium of fulfilment, so Bahā’īs have identified 1844/1260 or 1852‑3/1269 as the end of a 6,000 year millennial period initiating a new Bahā’ī universal cycle of fulfilment. This as AB* explained to a Zoroastrian enquirer, would extend 500,000 years into the distant future (Tablet cited SE* Dispensation:10‑11; SE* GPB: 100). After this 500,000 year period Bahā’ īs expect the advent of another great universal manifestation (maẓhar‑ i kulliyya) like BA* (who initiated the "Bahā’ī cycle") to appear and initiate a new cycle of possibly inter‑galactic scope (SE* letter cited DG: 7‑8 No. 21; Hornby, Lights3: 473f, 475‑63ff).
Bahá’í interpretations of the millennium (Lat. mille = 1,000+ annus = "year"; Rev 20:1‑6) are basically pre‑millennial. The Bāb and BA* are both considered the spiritual "return" of Christ and are seen by Bahā’īs to have initiated the onset of a millennial period or periods. When asked about the time of the biblical millennium, AB*, apparently having 1269/1853‑4 in mind, wrote:
Concerning the one thousand years as recorded in the Book [Bible]: It signifieth the beginning of this manifestation until the end of its predominance throughout the contingent world... It shall continue in elevation, exaltation, growth, ... until it shall reach the apex of its glory in one thousand years ‑‑ as the Day of this Manifestation is one thousand years... (AB* TAB III: 659‑660).
Confirming and making more precise the developed Bahā’ī position SE*, writing a century after the event, stated that,
... the rise of the Orb of Bahá’u’lláh’s most sublime Revelation [in 1269/1852] making the consummation of the six thousand cycle ushered in by Adam, glorified by all past prophets and sealed with the blood of the Author of the Bábí Dispensation [ = the Bāb]" (Cablegram of 8th Oct. 1952,MBW: 40).
This cablegram places the termination of the 6,000 year Adamic cycle at BA*’s 1269/1852‑3 mystical experience in the "black pit" (sīyāh chāl) dungeon in Tehran (ESW: 13 /20f, 39f; cf. SE* GPB: 100, Hornby, Lights, 501f). This would place the time of Adam at 6000 years before 1269/1852‑3 or around 4,148 BCE, a figure not far removed from the onset of the 6, 000 year period held by many 19th century and some earlier Christians to reach its end‑time consummation in that century. At the conclusion of his 1934 The Dispensation of Baháu’lláh SE* also indicated, that the "New World Order" of BA* would find its future consummation with the advent of the "golden millennium". There is the millennium and the "golden millennium", the former expressing millennial potential and the latter the millennial actuality of global peace and justice, etc. This latter "golden millennium", SE* added alluding to Rev. 11:15, would be "the [eschatological] Day when the kingdoms of this world shall have become the Kingdom of God Himself" which is identified as the "Kingdom of Bahá’u’lláh" (Dispensation, 69). 1
1 The above paragraphs should not be read so as imply that Bābī‑ Bahā’ ī leaders took Genesis texts literally. Both AB* and SE* explicitly rejected that the idea that "this world of existence was created six of seven thousand years ago" (PUP: 462, Hornby LG 3: 494‑5). The Genesis narratives and biblico‑qur’ānic story of the first couple are likewise non‑literally interpreted (SAQ., index, etc).
It is thus the case that like certain Abrahamic streams of thought, most notably Gnostic, Manichean and Ismā’īlī Shī`ī sources, Bābī‑ Bahā’ī scripture maps out past and to some extent future human and sacred, heirohistory in terms of dawr (pl. adwār = religious cycles), eras of a greater or lesser magnitude and time span. The period from Adam to Muhammad and successive aeons is understood in millennial terms as being punctuated by the missions of the founder maẓhar‑i ilāhī (manifestations of God) who, as will be demonstrated below, are basically reflections of the Shī`ī sent messengers (rasul) reckoned `ulū al‑aẓm ("possessors of steadfastness").