QA. 109A




Sūrat al- `Abd

 سورة  العبد

(The Surah of the Servant)


Qur'ān 12:109

Introduction Stephen N. Lambden


 There follows the 109th Surah of the QA, the Surat al-`Abd (Surat al-`Abd) or Surat al-`Abr (Surah of the Passage) of the Bāb dating to mid. 1844/1260 with text and my provisional translation  along with a brief introduction and selected notes. I began these translations in the early 1980s though I have not translated from a critical edition but consulted several good mss. scans of one of which are reproduced just before the translation. The versification of the surahs of the QA is often uncertain and I only tentatively count 42 verses in QA108  retaining versification for the sake of reference and commentary.

face="Arial">     Though the versification of the surahs of the QA is sometimes uncertain the Bāb himself stated that there should be forty-two verses in each (of the 111) surahs as accords with the  abjad  numerical value of lī   meaning "before me"  in Q. 12:4b  (Ar. لي  = l + ī = 30+10= 40) and another two representative of "the sun and the moon" (40+2 = 42). This figure is explicitly confirmed in the Bāb's early Khuṭba al-dhikriyya ("The Sermon of the Remembrance") where it is stated in the context of an imamologically numbered categorization of the early works of the Bāb  dating from between 1260-1262 (AH):

"The Fourth [revelational categorization] is the Ḥusaynid Book (kitāb al-Ḥusayniyya)  which is the Commentary upon the Surah of Joseph  (Sharḥ Sūrat Yūsuf = Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsuf = Qayyūm al-asmā') -- upon him be peace -- which is divided up into one hundred and eleven firmly established [clearly delineated] (muḥkamat) surahs. Every one of them is made up of forty two verses. These constitute a sufficient [messianic] testimony unto whomsoever exists  upon the earth or lieth beneath the Divine Throne (al-`arsh)..." (cited Afnan 2000: 472; cf. 445).

 The same forty-two mode of surah versification of the QA., is evident in certain mss. of this work; most notably the early 1261 mss. of Muhammad Mahdī ibn Karbalā'ī where  QA1 and 2 (and other surah headings) have following words after the surah title (e.g. Surat al-mulk) and  in between the basmala,     wa hiya ithnā'[tāni] wa arba`ūn "and it [the Surah] has forty two verses". In the following translations I retain this sometimes uncertain versification for the sake of reference and commentary.

 Though the versification of the surahs of the QA is often uncertain, the rhyming prose accusative endings are the primary indication. In QA XXX the  42 verses seem clear enough though such sometimes seems "symbolic" rather than a clear setting down of 42 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`) --  although this seems to hold good for  certain suras such as, for example, QA5.  Elsewhere the "forty-two" configuration cannot easily be set forth. It should also be noted that some verses of the QA are fairly short while others extend for occasionally very long pericopae ("paragraphs") as is also the case in the Qu'rān itself with which the  QA has a great deal in common especially respecting its form, style  vocabulary  and Arabic in rhyming prose etc.

 QA 109 opens with the basmala  followed by the citation of Q.12:109 upon which it briefly comments in rewritten fashion in the course of the Surat al-`Abd (Surat al-`Abd) or Surat al-`Abr (Surah of the Passage). The three qur'anic isolated letters (ḥurufat al-muqaṭṭa`ah)  M-Ḥ-D open the Sūrah proper, spelling the proper name Muhammad when connected. This is the name of the Arabian prophet and founder on behalf of God of the Islamic religion, Muhammad (c.570-632 CE). It is also the second component of the parentally bestowed name of the Bab, namely, Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850). In various of his writings the Bab highlighted this four-lettered second aspect of his proper name as a fourfold alphabetical locus of reality the first letter of which "M" is also that of the al-Mashiyya, for him indicative of the primordial Will of God. Thus in his Risala fi'l-nubuwwat al-khassah  ADD

 Several of the most important references and interpretations of the twin gulfs cosmology of the Kh-T in the Qayyūm al-asmā'  are found in the Sūrat al-`Abd  (Surah of the Servant). This Surah  opens with an address to the "denizens of the Divine Throne" (ahl al-`arsh) followed by one addressed to the people of the earth:

يا اهل الارض

 اسمعوا نداء الطّيور علی شجرة المتورّقة من كافور الظّهور فی وصف هذا الغلام

العربیّ المحمّدیّ العلویّ الفاطمیّ المكّیّ المدنیّ الابطحیّ العراقیّ

 بما قد تجلّی الرّحمن علی ورقاتهنّ انّه هو العلیّ و هو اللّه كان عزيزاً حميداً

"O people of the earth!

Hearken unto the  Call of the birds upon the Tree leafed out in Camphor evocative of the depiction of this Youth who is at once Arabic, Muhammad related, `Alid, Fāṭimid, Meccan, Medinan, most centrally Ka`bah Meccan  (al-abṭḥā) and Iraqi. This in that he hath indeed  divulged the theophanic glory of the All-Merciful (tajalli al-rahman) unto their  leaves [birds]  for He, verily, is Elevated. And He is God Who is One Mighty, Praiseworthy."

 In the following key pericope within the Surat al-`Abd the Bāb spells out aspects of his spiritually transcendentalized appearance in a poetically and mystical suggestive fashion coming to make mention of the  سرّ الطّتنجين    or "mystery of the "twin Gulfs" ". Reminiscent of certain statements about the beautiful appearance of the occulted, hidden Imam contained in the Bihar al-anwār and elsewhere (see Majlisi, Bihar2 53:1ff) the Bāb begins

هذا فتی ابيض فی اللّون و ازعج فی العين سوی فی الحاجبين مستوی الاطراف كاذهب المفرغ الطّریّ من العين مشاشة المنكبين كالفضّة المصفيّة المائلة فی الكأسين علوّ هيبته

"This Youth (al-fatā) is supremely snow-white of hue (abyaḍ fī al-lawn) and totally soul-strring of eye (az`ar fi'l-`ayn) though other than doubly screened off by [many] veils (?), lean of extremities [limbs] (al-aṭraf) even as hollowed guilding [gold-work] (ka-mushshad al-mufarraq), perfume-radiating of eye, of gait doubly high-flanked even as purified silver (al-fiḍḍa)..

In expressing his own claims in sometimes cryptic though elevated terms in his lengthy Arabic Qayyūm al-asmā' ( [Deity] Self-Subsisting among the Divine Names", mid. 1844 CE) and elsewhere the  Bab often used “I am “ proclamations and dual formations echoing sayings ascribed to `Alī in the Kh-T. Thus, for example, in his claim, “I am one presiding over the ṭutunjayn ... al-khālijayn (“the two gulfs... the twin bays”) (QA. 93:374-5; 109:434-5).  In the following passage from QA  54 (on Qur'ān 12:53), the Sūrat al-Ghulām (The Surah of the Youth),  the Bāb appears to express his superiority to the first two Shaykhs of Shaykhism (al-Shaykhiyya) and underlines his authoritative exposition of the "mystery of the two Gulfs" (sirr al-ṭutunjayn) as the then locus of walāya  through the hidden Imam:

  و لقد نطقت بالحرفين و لا انطق حرفا من النّفسين الاوّليين

 و لا يوجد حرفا من سرّ الطتنجين  الّا بنفسی الحقّ حامل الاسمين

We did speak forth  through two letters although  there was not divulged even a [single] letter through the two foremost souls [= Shaykh Aḥmad Aḥsā'ī  and Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī].  Not even a single letter shall be discovered of the mystery of the two Gulfs (al-ṭutunjayn), save through My Logos-Self (nafsi ) the True One which is the bearer of the Two Names (ḥāmil al-ismayn )" (=  [1] `Alī  + [2] Muhammad = the Bāb?).

The succeeding paragraph or very long verse is an esoteric, imamological expression of the claims and eschatological function of the Bab as the one (like Imam `Ali) presiding over those now recreated spheres of existence which are the "twin gulfs" etc. It contains aspects of the Bab's  eschatologically charged development of Sayyid Kāẓim Rashti's exegesis of the twin-gulfs cosmology, linking, for example, the motif of  [Imam]`Ali presiding over (wāqif `ala) the "twin gulfs" with the Bāb operating -- with the permission of God -- as the eschatological Judge (ḥākim)  throughout all existence, encompassed by the twin "gulfs" of (loosely) "heaven" and "hell". The Bāb pictures several times pictures himself as the supreme Duality presiding over the realms of cosmic duality. He is in various ways symbolically of dual nature : (1) his name is  [1] `Ali + [2] Muhammad (2) (2) he is like the barzakh (ithmus) or "barrier" differentiating two "amr"s (lit. commands") or modes of possible  being (3) he is graphically the dual structured Bāb (باب   = bāb =ب  + ا + ب  ),  the spelling of which consists of a duality of "B"s with an upright letter "A" in the centre  suggestive of his presiding as "A" over two "b"-generated "gulfs"  as the Lord of Being (4) His descent as one named `Ali Muhammad, from Muhammad through [1] `Ali and [2] Fatima also suggests his being transcendentally Dual, etc.

 قد ظهرت علی هيبة الاوّلين و انبساط رحمته قد نشرت علی الملك كرحمة الحسنين لم ير قطب السّماء بمثله فی العدل كالعدلين و فی الفضل كالنّيّرين الجامع فی الاسمين من اعلی الجيبين و برزخ الامرين فی سرّ الطّتنجين الواقف كالالف القائم بين السّطرين علی مركز العالمين ً

"He [the Bāb] was indeed made manifest in the form of the two Primal Ones (al-awwalayn) [= Muhammad and `Ali?] and hath outstretched His Divine Mercy (raḥmat) such that it was diffused within the earthly dominion (al-mulk) even as the Mercy of the two [Imam] Ḥasans [No.2 son of `Ali and no. 11 al-Askarī]. It was such that its like  is never seen [even] at the [very] Pivot of Heaven (qutb al-ama') such was the  [expression of Divine] Justice (al-`adl), being tantamount to a Double [outpouring of] Justice (`al-`adlayn).  And in [the outpouring of] Divine Bounty (faḍl) he is even as the twin shining Lights (al-nayyirayn) conjoined in the two Names pertinent to the supremely elevated twin Depths [Bosoms] (al-jaybayn) as well as the Barzakh (Isthmus) of the two Causes (al-amrayn) pertinent to the secret of the two Gulfs (sirr al-ṭutunjayn), [He is ] the One presiding upright like the standing letter "A" between the two [alphabetiical] lines (al-wāqif ka'l-alif al-qā'im bayn al-saṭrayn) (cf the shape of  باب   = bāb ) above the midmost-heart of the two worlds (`alā markiz al-`alamayn).

الحاكم باذن اللّه فی النّشاتين الاخرتين سرّ العلويين و بهجة الفاطمين و ثمرة قديمة من الشّجرة المباركة المحمّرة بالنّار العمائين و قدّة من قدوة الحجب المتلألين بالخفقين الواقف حول النّار فی البحرين شرف السّمإ الی علل الارضين و كفّ من طين الارض علی اهل الجنّتين هاتين مدهامتين علی نقطة المغربين و هذين سرّ الاسمين فی خلف المشرقين المولّد فی الحرمين و النّاظر بالقبلتين من ورا الكعبتين المصلّی علی عرش الجليل مرّتين مالك الامرين و الماء الطّاهر فی الخليجين النّاطق فی المقامين و العالم بالامامين الباء السّائرة فی المإ الحروفين و النّقطة الواقفة علی باب الالفين المدوّر حول اللّه فی الدّورين و المنطّق عن اللّه فی الكورين عبد اللّه و ذكر حجّته علی العالمين

He is the One who, with the permission of God, is [presiding as] the Judge (al-ḥākim)  throughout the twin spheres of latter-day [eschatological] generated existence (al-nishātayn al-ākhiratayn), as the Mystery of the dual  `Alid nature (sirr al-`alawiyyayn) and the Delight which is doubly Fāṭimid (bihjat al-fāṭimiyyayn).  [This concerns the Bab as] a Pre-Existent Fruit (thamara qadīma) from the Blessed Tree  (al-shajarat al-mubāraka) [Fatima] rendered  crimson through the [Sinaitic] Fire of the doubly beclouded Sphere (al-`amā'ayn); He [the Bab] is One  visibly variagated  on account of the nature of that Veil (qiddat min qudūd al-ḥijāb) which is doubly brilliant with twofold flashes [wings] (al-mutalā'lā'ayn bi'l-khafqayn). He [the Bab] is One presiding about the [Sinaitic] Fire (wāqif ḥawl al-nār) in the two [cosmic] Oceans (al-baḥrayn), one Illustrious of Heaven (sharaf al-samā') [yet inclined] towards the  defectiveness  of the two Earths (`ilal al-arḍayn). He molded the Earth  from [a mere handful of] clay (ṭīn) [then] elevated it for the denizens of the two Paradises (ahl al-jannatayn), they two  ADD ... they both [for the sake] of the Throne of Glory (`arsh al-jalīl),  twice existent, thereon the King of the two Modes of the Divine Command (mālik al-amrayn) and the Purified Water


هذا الغلام يقال لجدّه ابرهيم و هو الرّوح فی الاوّلين و هو الباب بعد البابين الاخرين و الحمد للّه ربّ العاليمن و هو اللّه قد كان بالعالمين محيطا

"This is the Youth who addresses his forbear Abraham saying, `This is indeed is the Spirit of the  two Primal Ones (al-awwalayn) [= Muhammad and `Ali?] for  he [the Bab] is the Gate after the two latter Day [eschatological] Gates [Shaykh Ahmad + Sayyid Kazim?]. And praise be to God, the All-Encompassing Lord of all the worlds.   

        In another pericope or lengthy verse of the Sūrat al-`abd reference is made to the people or denizens of the sphere of the two Gulfs and to the related "two Easts" and the "two Wests":

يا قرّه العين

 فانطق باذن اللّه علی لحن الحبيبين و قل انّی انا الحقّ بالنّورين فی الحولين و انّی انا المكلّم عن اللّه فی الطّورين

و انّی انا المنزل باللّه هذين فرقانين علی الحبيبين فی الاسمين هذا علی الحبيب محمّد كبير السّنّ فی السّنّتين

هذان فرقانان من ربّ العالمين علی اهل الطّتنجين من اهل المشرقين و المغربين و انّ اللّه قد كان بالعالمين شهيداً

O Qurrat al-`Ayn (Solace of the Eye)!

Cry out with the permission of God according to the melody of the twin Beloveds (al-ḥabibayn) and say: `I am indeed the Truth (innani anā al-ḥaqq) in the two Lights (al-nūrayn) about the two [Sinaitic] Locales (ḥawlayn). And I am indeed the One Who Conversed (mukallim) with God in the twin [Sinaitic] Mounts (al-ṭūrayn). And I am indeed the revealer through God of these two Furqāns [= Qur'āns] unto the twin Beloveds (al-ḥabībayn) with the two Names (al-ismayn). The same unto the Beloved Muhammad, Mighty of Practise in the two customary formulations (sunna fi'l-sunnatayn), these two Furqāns [=Qur'āns] from the Lord of the two worlds [revealed] unto the people of the twin Gulfs (ahl al-ṭutunjayn), the denizens of the "two Easts" and of the "Two Wests". And God is indeed witness throughout all the worlds."