The Bab, the Bible and E. G. Browne

The Bab, the Bible and Edward Granville Browne (d. 1926).

Stephen Lambden - written in the early 1980s.  

Last partially revised and updated 06-11-2015.

What follows  are notes towards a monograph largely based upon select portions of my (1982-) 2002 Newcastle-upon-Tyne (UK) doctoral thesis entitled, `Some Aspects of Isra'iliyyat and the Emergence of the Babi-Baha'i Interpretation of the Bible'. In this thesis it was, among other things, argued that the Bab hardly ever cited the Bible or New Testament - for him the Tawrat (Torah-Hebrew Bible) and Injil (Gk Evangelion, Gospel(s), New Testament - save, perhaps (examples are very rare), on select occasions during the later period of  his imprisonment in Persian Adhirbayjan (1848- 1850), during, that is, the latter two years of his life. Browne, Amanat and others have incorectly exaggereated this influence and level of citation. 

From the Lambden thesis chapter 7. 3 with some the incorporation of some supplementary notes and observations. April, 2015.

The Bāb and alleged biblical citations in primary and secondary sources.
Gobineau in Religiones et Philosophies.. (Paris, 1865), the Italian physician Lessona in his I-Babi (Turin, 1881), several Christian missionary writers (Miller, Shedd, St.Clair-Tisdall) and a number of western academics (Browne, Amanat) have, to a greater or lesser extent, accepted the largely unfounded tradition that the Bāb had been influenced by Christianity through reading Bible translation(s). From 1910 this position was championed by E. G. Browne as allegedly backed up by somewhat dubious external evidence in support of the Bāb’s biblical awareness in the form of a notice based upon a memorandum found among the papers of the (ABCFM) Presbyterian missionary John Haskell Shedd (d.1895) of the “Nestorian Mission” at Urumiyya (from 1870).
Shedd reported an account of an alleged interview between the Bāb and the British physician resident at Tabriz, William Cormick (d.1294/1877). This is set forth in the article `An Interesting Document on the Bāb [A letter of W. A. Shedd to the Editor of the Muslim World, dated Urumia, Persia, August 28th, 1914]’ as printed in The Moslem World, Vol.5. (1915), pp.111-12  which is cited by Browne in his  1918 Materialsfor the Study of the Babi religion (pp.260-2). William Cormick and two other Persian physicians had been sent to ascertain, apparently on behalf of the Shāh and the Muslim divines of Tabriz ( before July 9th 1850), whether or not the Bāb was of sound mind and thus fit for execution on the grounds of heresy. Cormick must have communicated his favourable impression of the Bāb to John Shedd between 1870 and 1877 (on Cormick see Momen EIr. IV:275-6). He allegedly told John Shedd that the Bāb "was seen by some Armenian Carpenters, who were sent to make some repairs in his prison [presumably at Chihriq], reading the Bible". The Bāb, it was apparently said, "took no pains" to conceal his reading the Bible but allegedly informed the Armenian carpenters accordingly (Shedd, `Memorandum‘, 12).

Though it is not impossible that the Bāb had read the Bible, New Testament, or parts thereof during his imprisonment in Ādhirbayjān (or indeed prior to this time) there is almost nothing in his currently available writings that supports the theory that he had studied and based his religious ideas upon any biblical / NT precedent. There is little or no internal evidence supportive of the theory that the Bāb had read the NT., in either the Persian translation of Martyn, or in any other Persian or Arabic NT version. As will be argued here, the Bāb virtually never cited any of the books or testaments of the canonical Bible. Browne was too ready to accept the  tradition of the aforementioned missionary ascribed to Shedd which may have been motivated by a desire to account for the Bāb’s “enlightened” teachings by way of Christian influence.
Among the very rare references made by the Bab to the injīl (Gospel(s)) is his single allusion to the canonical the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse of John in one of his late scriptural Tablets or letters to the `Letter of the Living', Mulla Muhammad Baqir Tabrizi (d. 1888 CE). Add here    

Most, if not all other seeming references to the Bible or New Testament are derived from Islamic sources. They are noncanonical, entirely Islamicate, or Islamo-biblical sayings that derive from earlier Muslim sources. If Armenian carpenters saw the Bāb reading or chanting sacred verses they might simply, in view of his widely recognised piety, have assumed that he was reading the NT. Even if he was doing so there is very little clear internal evidence of this in any of the Bāb’s numnerous Arabic or Persian writings.

Having thus argued it is necessary to examine other supposed indications of the Bāb's knowledge of the Bible / NT. It can be assumed that the above missionary evidence is at best uncertain and very probably unreliable.

Edward G. Browne (1862-1926) and Gospel influence within the Persian Bayān.

While no convincing traces of the Bāb's direct knowledge of the Hebrew Bible have been found certain alleged signs of his knowledge of the NT have been set down by the aforementioned Cambridge orientalist Edward. G. Browne. This in his `Index of Chief Contents of the Persian Bayan', contained in his English introduction to his 1910 edition of the Kitab-i nuqatat al-kāf ("Book of the Point of the Letter K", c. 1852 with probable additions and interpolations). It is likely that this latter portion of his `Index' was written or researched much earlier, most likely in the late 1880s after the return of the `Year Amongst the Persians ' or at some stage during the early 1890s when he may well have been more inclided to find evidences of Gospel influence in the writings of the Bab he so assiduously studied. For Browne, who had strongly Christian parents and family, Gospel citation in the writings of the Bab may well have legitimized his immersion in the then little known religious universe of the messiah of Shiraz.

Whatever the case, by 1910 Browne came to list seven alleged `signs of the influence of the Gospel on the Persian Bayān.' As he succinctly registered them they are;

  • (1) "The first shall be last and the last first" (II.16,17; VIII.4.);
  • (2) The Hour shall come suddenly ("like a thief in the night") (II.18);
  • (3) A cup of water given by a believer (IV.8.);
  • (4) Believers are to love one another (V.16);
  • (5) Believers are to do as they would be done by (VI.15);
  • (6) Selling in the Temple (IV.17);
  • (7) Dying to God (II.8; III.13; V.3 )” (Refer Browne (ed.) K-N-Kāf : lxviii).

At first sight this list appears to be a fairly impressive indication of Gospel influence upon the Bāb / Persian Bayān by a very highly respected Cambridge academic. Most, however, if not all of the alleged influences listed by Browne find clear parallels in Islamic literatures. In fact none of these seven indications of possible Gospel Influence are direct or indirect signs of NT influence upon the Bāb. Browne’s seven examples to some degree actually serve to illustrate the pre-19th century Jewish and Christian / biblical influence upon Islam. Exact Islamic sources for most of these alleged signs of Gospel influence, can be found in either the Q., the Islamic tradition literatures, in Sufi texts or other miscellaneous Islamic literatures. It will be argued here that such parallels make it very unlikely that Browne’s `Signs of Gospel Influence’ are proofs of the Bāb's familiarity with the NT. Each of these seven alleged signs of Gospel influence will now be briefly examined in the order given by Browne. Possible textual parallels in the Henry Martyn Persian New Testament translation (1st ed. Russian Bible Society, St. Petersburg 1815, 2nd. ed. British and Foreign Bible Society [= BFBS.,] Calcutta, 1816; 3rd. ed. 1828; 4th ed. London : BFBS., 1837; 5th ed. London : BFBS., Edinburgh, 1846-7) will be borne in mind as will the Bāb’s doctrines set out in the Persian and Arabic Bayāns and other writings.

(1) Eschatological reversal: ’The first shall be last and the last shall be first’.

Persian Bayan (= P-Bayān) 8:4 has to do with the hierarchical appropriation of all existence, “things”, kullu shay’ (“everything”). The Bāb opens P-Bayān 8:4 by stating that the most elevated portion of “everything” belongs to himself as the “Point” (kullu shay’ a`lā-hū li'l-nuqta) . Its intermediate component exists for the ḥurūf al-ḥayy, (“Letters of the Living”) while its most lowly (andā) aspect is assigned to humankind (al-khalq). Having used two Arabic superlatives expressive of the most elevated (`alā) and the most lowly (andā) the Bāb is inspired to incorporate the religious principle of bi-polar reversal, even combining Arabic and Persian superlative forms: 

.. In each religious theophany (har ẓuhūrī) it is evident that the most elevated of creatures (a`lā-yi khalq) become the most abased [of creatures] (andā). And [furthermore that] the most lowly of creatures (andā-yi khalq) become [especially] elevated (a`lā). Additionally, the most elevated (a`lā-tar) become yet more elevated (a`lā) [through faith] while the most lowly (andā) become even lowlier (andā-tar) [through denial]... ( P-Bayān 8:4, 283, cf. 2:16,17).

That there will be a (bi-polar) eschatological reversal of (faith) status (First/Last: Last/First  or Exalted/Humbled:  Humbled/Exalted) is certainly indicated in Judaeo-Christian biblical and extra-biblical tradition (Ezek.2:31 (LXX); Ps. 74:8 (LXX) Ep. Arist. 363; Erub 13b, etc). NT evidence indicates that this was central to the parables and teachings of Jesus. The key NT references are-: Mk 10:31; Matt. 19:30, 20:16; Lk 13:30; Matt 23;11-12; Luke 13:30 14:11; 18:14; cf. Mk. 9:35,10:43-4;Lk 9:48, 22:26; Barnabas 6:13 etc). The coming of the Kingdom of God involved a (pre-) eschatological reversal demanding judgement in the present (Perrin, 1974:52; O’York,1991:9ff).

In various forms this teaching is reflected in the Q. and in Islamic tradition, as well as early Shaykhism. In the P-Bayān and other writings, the Bāb concretizes this perspective by teaching that with the advent of each religious theophany or dispensation elevated souls become abased and abased souls are elevated. This by virtue of their acceptance or rejection of expected maẓhar-i ilāhī (Divine Manifestations). Lofty inmates of the garden (jannat, of true faith), if they fail to accept the claims of subsequent Divine Manifestations, become abased inhabitants of the Fire (nār, of unbelief ). During his own era lofty souls (learned Muslims) became abased through rejecting him while humble souls were elevated by a positive response to his call (P-Bayān 8:4). Warning his followers the Bāb predicts that the same may happen at the future Day of Resurrection when man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh appears (P-Bayān 7:9).

Though ultimately rooted in NT texts it is upon Islamic sources that the Bāb draws in order to indicate an eschatological reversal of faith status. Passages in both Bayāns (Per. + Ar.) and related writings expressive of a bi-polar faith reversal do not reflect the terminology of the Persian NT translation of Henry Martyn or any other Persian or Arabic NT versions known to the present writer. In P-Bayān 8:4 the Bāb refers to the fact that learned scholars in the "land [242] of ṣad" (= Isfahān) failed to recognise him while a humble wheat-sifter named (Mullā) Ja`far Gandum Pākkūn was invested with the qamīṣ-i niqabat (the garb of primacy). This wheat-sifter was converted to Bābism by Mullā Ḥusayn during the early years of the Bābī movement and died during the Ṭabarsī upheaval (1849).This, the Bāb then notes, is the “mystery of the utterance (sirr-i kalām) of the Shī`ī holy family, the ahl-I bayt (people of the House)”. In saying this it is obvious that the Bāb himself regards the tradition of the bi-polar reversal of faith status as a Shī`ī tradition and not anything NT based. During the Bāb’s own theophany the following Islamic tradition found fulfilment as is clearly stated in P-Bayān 8:14, a passage which Browne appears to have overlooked;

The lowest of the creatures (asfal-i khalq ) [ shall become] the most exalted of the creatures (a`lā-yi khalq) and the most exalted of the creatures (a`lā-yi khalq) [shall become] the lowest of the creatures (asfal-I khalq)” (cited P-Bayān 8:14, 296-7).

The Bāb also quotes a similar version of an Islamic (not NT!) tradition indicative of a reversal of faith status in his late Shū'unāt al-fārsī (Persian Grades) which is generally thought to be portions of the Kitab-i panj Sha'n (Book of the Five Grades, 1850):

It will come to pass that your lowly ones [shall become] your most exalted ones and your most exalted ones [shall become] your lowly ones" (Shu'ūnK. 82:94).

In his K. īqān and other writings Baha'-Allah also cites Arabic, Islamic and other versions of this tradition (KI:113/ 94). In the course of citing the Bāb in his Edirne dated Lawḥ-i Sarrāj (c. 1867) another version expressive of bi-polar reversal is given (Mā’ida 7:34). This tradition is also commented upon in other alwāḥ of Baha'-Allah in connection, for example, with the exegesis of the phrase of Shaykh Aḥmad, sirr altankīs li-ramz al-ra’īs (“The mystery of inversion through the symbol of the Ruler”) (K.Aqdas1 ¶ 157/ tr. 75-6; cf. L. Hartīk, LH 3:218) which is understood to allude to an eschatological, bi-polar reversal of faith status graphically indicated by an upturned inverted Arabic letter wāw (= و see below) in Shī`ī representations of the graphic and poetical representation of the ism Allāh al-a`ẓam (Mightiest Name of God) as well as in the NT and Islamic traditions (Māzandarānī, AA 5:237-245; Mā’idah 1:12f). `Abd al-Baha' likewise quoted, cited and commented on the biblical as well as the Islamic tradition relating to the eschatological reversal of faith status (Ishrāq Khavarī, Raḥiq 1:685ff; Māidih 2:19,34).

Browne’s reckoning the reversal of faith status in P-Bayān 8:4 a sign of Gospel influence is wholly unconvincing in the light of the Bāb’s own drawing on Islamic traditions to this effect as well as the numerous Islamic predictions of an eschatological reversal of faith status.

(2) The suddenness of the eschatological “hour”, "like a thief in the night".

The fairly brief and succinct Persian Bayān 2:18 is in “exposition of the fact that there is absolutely no doubt about the advent of the [eschat-ological] Hour (al-sā`ah).” The note of suddenness occurs towards the very end of this section of the P-Bayān and reads,

Anticipate then the theophany of God (ẓuhūr Allāh) for undoubtedly the “Hour” (al-sā`ah) shall come upon you suddenly (baghtat an). (P. Bay. 2:18, 72).

Browne focuses upon the fact that the Bāb states that `The Hour shall assuredly come upon you baghtat an (“suddenly")’. In the Arabic verse cited above which concludes P-Bayān 2:18 the Bāb does not, however, state that the eschatological "hour" will come "like a thief in the night" or repeat NT expressions of eschatological immanence (See Mk 13:33f; Matt 24:42f; Lk 21:36; Matt 25:13; I Thess. 5:2f; 2 Peter 3:10 cf. 1 Peter 4:1; Lk 12:39; Matt 24:43f; Rev 3:3). In the complex partly realized, partly futurist eschatology of the Bāb, there are quite a number of varied and diverse expressions of the imminence of the eschatological "Hour". None of them seem to have any connection with NT verses expressive of the last “Hour” or the parousia coming like a “thief in the night”.

In the eschatologically charged first Sūrat al-mulk of the QA the Bāb exhorts the kings of the world to purify the earth of such as refute the Book on the "Day" when the Dhikr, (messianic Remembrance) will come baghtat an (“suddenly”, QA1:3). Such references are not inspired by NT texts but by the Q. where the adverbial use of baghtat an occurs thirteen times and mostly of the “suddenness” of the eschatological “Hour“ (Kassis, 313). Notes of eschatological suddenness in the Bāb’s writings are fully in line with Islamic eschatological expectations themselves rooted in NT eschatology. Note, for example, the following texts: 

Lost indeed are those who regard the meeting with God as falsehood -- until such time as the Hour (al-sā`a) is suddenly (baghtat an) upon them.. .(Q. 6:31). It [the "Hour"] shall not come upon you except suddenly (baghtat an)" (Q.7:187)... Or the sudden (baghtat an) coming of the Hour (al-sā`at) while they perceive not." (Q.12:107)... Until the Hour (al-sā`a) come suddenly (baghtat an) upon them.." (Q.22:55).

Futher reference should also be made to Q. 43:66; 21:41; 26:202; 29:43 and 39:56. Various Islamic traditions, it should also be noted, express the belief that the Mahdī or Qā'im will come suddenly or unexpectedly. In Persian Bayān VII.9. where, alluding to the coming of God or man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh (Him whom God shall make manifest) on the Day of Resurrection, the Bāb states that "He will suddenly shine forth" (va .tāli` mīshavad baghtat an).

It is not necessary to invoke direct New Testament influence in accounting for the Bāb’s own note of the suddenness of the last “Hour”. The Bāb's use of the motif of eschatological "suddenness" and unexpectedness clearly echos qur'ānic verses and related Shī`ī traditions. Islamic sources themselves quote Jesus using baghtat an, the note of suddenness in an Islamicate New Testament expression of the suddenness of the advent of the “Hour”. In the Shī`ī Qiṣaṣ  al-anbiyā’ of Ibn al-Rawandī for example, Imam Ja`far al-Ṣādiq clearly echoes Mk. 13:32 (+ parallels) in reporting that,

.. Jesus son of Mary asked Gabriel, `When shall be the emergence of the (eschatological) Hour (al-sā`at) ?’ At this Gabriel trembled and shuddered all but losing consciousness. When he composed himself he replied, `O Spirit of God! Over this most perplexing issue the one questioned (= Gabriel) is no more knowledgeable (a`lam) than the questioner (= Jesus) or anyone else be they in the heavens or upon the earth. It [the “Hour”] will not come upon you but baghtat an (suddenly)’
(Rawandī, Qisas, 271-2; cf. BA* ESW:143).

[3] A cup of water given by a believer (P. Bay. IV:8).

And whoever shall give one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you that he shall in no wise have lost his reward (Matt. 10:47).

The Bāb sums up P-Bayān 4:8 in the following way;

The essence of this gate is this, that through his verses he [God] creates the essential reality of all things (kaynūniyyat-i kull shay’) and thereby gives sustenance, causes to die, and makes to come alive (P-Bayān 4:8,127).

Later in the same section of the P-Bayān the Bāb states: 

Thus, if today but one cup of water (finjān–i āb) be given by a believer in the Bayān it would seem sweeter (aḥlā) to the mystic knower (`ārif) than all the benefits of this world (kull-i ālā’ aI arḍ) proffered by one not believing in the Bayān (ibid 128).

This section of the Bayān basically revolves around the belief that a pure action such as the  giving of a rose-leaf (waraq-i gul) by a believer to another of the ahl-I bayān (Bābīs), is fundamentally a divine action. It is tantamount to being a divine action as the action of the “Letters of the One” (wāḥid)’, the nineteen strong Bābī pleroma of first disciples (P-Bayān 4:8,127).

In P-Bayān 4:8 Browne found a sign of Gospel influence in that the Bāb refers to “a cup given by a believer” (Matt 10:42; Mk 9:41; cf. Matt 25:35ff). The alleged parallel is not, for a number of reasons, an exact parallel. In P-Bayān 4:8 it is simply a “cup of water” that is given to another not a “cup of cold water” (Martyn = kā’s-i āb-I sardī) (Matt 20:42b). Quite different is the P-Bayān where it is a mature or learned Bābī, an `ārif (one of mystical perception) who receives the cup of water not, as in Matt. 10:42b yek āz at*fāl (so H. Martyn), “one of these children” or “one of these
little ones”.

As translated above, the Bāb in P-Bayān 4:8 writes that if in his day a believer in the Bayān should give but a cup of water (finjān–i āb) to another it would prove sweeter than all the benefits of the earth given by a non-Bābī. Though there is something of a parallel with Matt 10:24 (= Mk 9:41) it is not explicit enough to indicate the Bāb's direct knowledge of the NT. The reference summed up above to the efficacy of a rose-leaf given by one of the people of the Bayān (Bābīs) likewise has no explicit NT parallel. The "cup of water" (finjan-i āb) motif of itself is not a strong enough parallel to categorically uphold Gospel influence upon the Bāb.

[4] The love ethic, that "believers should love one another" (V:16).

In his summary of P. Bayān 5:16 Browne expresses his aforementioned sign of Gospel influence as follows ( I have added some points of Persian transliteration):

What God loves most in the people of the Bayān ( ahl al-bayān ) is their love one for another [ḥubb-i ishān ba`aḍi ba`aḍi-rā....namāyand ]. They should not then dispute with each other, or rebut one another’s speeches in religious matters. And if anyone in the Bayān rejects another he must give 95 (19x5) mithqāls of gold to [the Bābī messiah] Him whom God shall manifest, and to none other, who will if He please remit it, or take it (SWEGB: 372-3; P-Bayān 5:16,177f).

Here, it is with the Persian phrase ḥubb-i īshān ba`aḍī ba`aḍī-rā.... namāyand like several Arabic phrases incorporating one or more uses of ba`aḍ, that the Bāb expresses a reciprocity or mutuality of love among the ahl al-bayān (Bābis) (cf. Wehr, Dictionary 4, 82). God’s greatest (a`ẓam) love (dūst mīdārad) he states, is that the Bābis express this reciprocity of love for one another. This Browne finds a sign of NT influence. A “love ethic” is indeed mentioned a few times in the Johannine literature and is hinted at elsewhere in the NT (e.g. Matt 5:43-4; Jn 15:12, 17; 1 Jn 2:10, 3:10, 4:7ff; Rom 13:8). This ethical teaching though is something fundamental to many
Persian Sufi mystics and a part of the spiritual discipline of numerous Sufi orders. The Bāb’s statements in P-Bayān 5:16 could be equally and more satisfactorily be accounted for through the influence of the Sufi love ethic.

Various mystical doctrines associated with ḥubb (love) are also clearly in evidence in the Bayāns of the Bāb as well as in several of his other writings; most notably his Sufi influenced QA and Sufi addressed R. Dhahabiyya. In the QA 88 the “love” motif is introduced into the Q. based account of the primordial angelic prostration (Q. Kassis, 1067-8). Heavenly angels arrayed about the Dhikr ( messianic remembrance) were commanded to fall prostrate before the Bāb in the “path of Love” (sabīl al-ḥubb). This is stipulated in the celestial umm al-kitāb (Archetyal Book) (QA 88:355). Then, speaking of primordial and celestial affairs in QA 109, the Bāb states:

We, in very truth, affixed to the mightiest Throne (al-`arsh al-a`ẓam) before Our servant [the Bāb] the kalimat al-ḥubb (Word of Love) such that God, His angels and his chosen ones (awliyā) in every respect witnessed his [the Bāb’s] truth... (QA 109:436).

QA 91 contains an address of the Bāb to the ahl al-ḥubb (community of love), possibly members of the Dhahabiyya Sufi order of Shiraz1 or other Shirazi Sufis known to the Bāb as persons who fostered a condition of spiritual ḥubb (love) :

[fn. On the Dhahabiyya Sufi Order see Gramlich,1965 1:14-26. This Order is traced back to its alleged founder, Sayyid `Abd-Allāh Barzishābādī (d. 872/1467-8) whose silsala branches off from the Kubrawī master Sayyid Muhammad Nūrbaksh (d.c. 869/1464). On the 19th century Dhahbiyya of Shiraz see Lewisohn, 1998-9 (BSOAS, 61).]

O community of love (ahl al-ḥubb) ! Hearken unto my call from the Light of mine inmost heart (nūrī al-fū`ād) nigh the celestial masjid al-aqṣā (furthermost Mosque cf. Q.17:1), in very truth, about the elevated Throne of God (`arsh Allāh)... . (QA 91:364).

Here, as elsewhere, there are signs of the Bāb’s association with Sufis from whom he was probably influenced in the direction of a mystically oriented love ethic (T.Basmala, 361; cf. T.`Asr, f.96ff). At various points in his P-Bayān the Bāb reflects and develops themes ascribed to the female love mystic Rabiya al-`Adawiyya of Baṣra (d. c.185/801) who is especially famous for her poetical celebrations of spiritual love (maḥabba) and intimacy (uns). Her somewhat detached love mysticism is echoed and made communal in the writings of the Bāb.

In P-Bayān 7:19 (on ṣalat) the Bāb defines true `ibādat (worship) in a distinctly Rabi`an fashion when he directs that God should be worshipped intensely, outside of a fear of Hell-fire (nār) or the hope of Paradise (jannat):

So worship God in such that if your worship of him lead you to Hell-Fire (nār), no alteration in your worship (parastish) would be produced; and similarly, if it should lead you to Paradise (jannat). This alone should characterize the worship which befitteth the One God. If you worship out of fear (khawf ), this was and has ever been unseemly relative to the expanse of the Divine sanctity (bisāṭ-I quds-I ilāhī) and in view also of the stipulation of the Divine Oneness (ḥukm-i tawḥīd). Likewise, if your gaze is upon the attainment of Paradise (jannat) you would be adding gods to God (mushrik) [in your worship] even though created humanity desires Paradise (jannat) thereby. Both Hell-Fire (nār) and Paradise (jannat) serve and fall prostrate before God. That [worship] which is worthy of his Essence (dhāt-i ū) is to worship him for his own sake. This without fear of Hell-Fire (nār) or hope of Paradise (jannat). When true worship (taḥaqquq-I `ibādat) is offered, the worshipper is preserved from the Hell-Fire (maḥfūẓ az nār) and enters the paradise of God's goodpleasure (jannat-i riḍā-yi ū), though this should not be the motive of one’s action (P-Bayān 7:19, 271-2).

Such passages appear to be inspired by the well-known and much cited devotional saying of Rabi`a quoted towards the beginning of Farīd al-Dīn `Aṭṭār’s Tadhkirat alawliyā’ (Memorials of the Saints):

O God, if I worship Thee for fear of Hell, then burn me in Hell, and if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise; but if I worship Thee for Thy own sake, grudge me not Thy everlasting beauty (tr. Arberry, Tadhkirat: 51).

Apparently addressed to a certain Mīrzā Abū’l-Qāsim, a Dhahabī murshīd known as Mīrzā Bābā (also Jawād?), the love ethic is in evidence in the Bāb’s R. Dhahabiyya (1262/1845-6). Its lengthy opening prayer includes the words of the Bāb, “Thou assuredly know, O my God, that I do not love that I should love Thee save by virtue of what Thou do love” (Dhah. 86:75). Later the Bāb appears to refer to himself as being upon the ṣirāt al-ḥubb (Path of love) which is the basis of faith (aṣl al-aymān) and the Tree of certitude (shajarat al-īqān). Probably attempting to break down the looseness of Sufi non-exclusivism, he addresses his questioner saying,

O thou who gazes out with equity and love (bi’l-inṣāf wa’l-ḥubb)! Such is the decree of every religion (kull al-dīn), so don’t make the issue difficult for yourself. Ponder then upon the station of the Balance (maqām almīzān) (R. Dhah. 86:86).

In Shī`ī Islam love for God, Muhammad, the Imāms and fellow Shī`ī Muslims is a central ethical teaching. Important to the Bāb and Baha'-Allah, the Khuṭba al-ṭutunjiyya , for example, has it that `Alī uttered the following almost Christian soteriological message expressed therein, “then hold to the waṣī (legatee) of your Prophet (= Imam `Alī) through whom is your salvation (najāt), for, through love for him (bi-ḥubbihi) on the [eschatological] Day of Gathering is your abode of salvation” (Bursī, Mashāriq, 66). At one point in his Sharh al-ziyāra al-Aḥsā’ī teaches that it is love for `Alī which is the foundation of Paradise (S-Ziyāra IV:167).

A multi-faceted love ethic is foundational in many branches of Sufism and Islamic mysticism. It has its foundation in numerous Islamic traditions and ḥadīth qudsī (Nasr IS1:108-9, Graham, 1978; see above 3.1). It is expressed in a multitude of Sufi poetical and theosophical writings (Giffin, 1971; Bell, 1979; Khairallah, 1980; Schimmel, 1978: 130ff). While al-Jaḥiz (d. 255/868-9) wrote two treatises on `ishq (passionate love) Avicenna penned another. Scores of statements about divine and human ḥubb and ishq (love and spiritual yearning) were made by [249] later Muslim writers. Throughout the poetry of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (d. 627/1273), for example,
there are numerous musings upon the intricacies of divine and human love (Chittick, 1983:194-231). `Ayn al-Quḍat Hamadānī (d. 525/1131) as evidenced in his Tamhīdāt and other works, considered theo-erotic love as “The very constitutional foundation of
creation, of being, of living, and of dying.” (Dabashi, `Any al-Qudat, 420). Many other Persian Sufis thought similarly.

It is not at all necessary to seek NT influence to account for the place the Bāb gave to the love for God and for fellow believers. It is astonishing that Browne should have bothered to list such a loose alleged sign of Gospel influence. Spiritual and mystical concepts of ḥubb are an important aspect of the thought of the Bāb as they are in both Sufism and Shīism. The Bāb’s use of ḥubb is more likely rooted in Sufism and Shi`ism than the result of any familiarity with the Gospels. The Q. as expounded within Persianate Islam has much to say in this respect.

[5] The Golden Rule in the Gospels and the Persian Bayān.

O People of the Bayān!

Whatsoever you do not desire [approve] for anyone do not approve for your own self (P-Bayān. 6:15, 231)

This negative form of the `golden rule’ is rooted in Greek popular morality as formulated by Sophists. This golden rule is the maxim enjoining one to treat others as one would wish to be treated oneself (Hamerton-Kelly, IDB(S): 369-70). In either a positive or negative form it is registered in a multitude of Jewish (Aristeas, 207;Tobit, 4:15 Sab. 31a., cf.Deut 15:13; Lev.19:18), Christian (Matt 7:12, cf.5:33f; Lk 6:31., cf Jn 15:7; Didache I2., Barnabas XIX.5), Islamic and other (i.e. Hindu and Buddhist) literatures. It will be seen here that the Bāb was most directly influenced by Islamic forms of the golden rule not though NT references as Browne supposed.

A Shī`ī Islamicate conflation of a negative form of Matt 7:12/Lk 6:31 and Matt 5:39b/ Lk 6:29 is reported by Imām Ja`far al-ṣādiq as the words of Jesus son of Mary to some of his disciples. It reads,

Whatever you do not wish to be done to yourself, do not do the same to anyone else. And should anyone strike your right cheek then let him strike the left also (Majlisī, Biḥār 2 14:287). 

The line of the P-Bayān 6:15 cited above could be viewed as a fairly precise Persian version of the first part of this Arabic conflation of Jesus' words. In this light direct appeal to NT influence is again unnecessary. Forms of the golden rule attributed to Muhammad and others are common in Islamic ethical literatures. In the Sunnī Kitāb al-`arba`īn (Book of the Forty [Ḥadīth]) compiled by al-Nawawī (d.676/1277), for example, the following tradition, found in both Bukharī and Muslim, is recorded on the authority of Abū Ḥamza Anas ibn Mālik, (Muhammad said): "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself" (K-Arba’īn / Forty Hadith, 56-7, Ḥadīth,13).

[6] The sanction on buying and selling in the mosque (IV.17)

It is not lawful to transact business (bai`a) in the precincts of the House (ḥāl al-bayt). Whomsover desires to elevate this sanctum (ḥāl) above [all such matters] should feel free to appropriate whatever is in the sanctum (ḥāl) even though its owner is not at all satisfied therewith. God is the more rightful owner of (Allāh aḥaqq) this property (milk) than that servant who has simply possessed it for a few years (PB 4:17,145-6 [Arabic synopsis] cf. SWEGB:359).

You shall not transact business with what which belongs to God in the precincts of the House (al-bayt) or the Mosque (al-masjid). You all should submit as much of your possessions (property, al-milk) as you are in a position to, within the [sacred] boundary (ḥadd) [of the Mosque?]... The Sanctified Mosque (masjid al-ḥaram) indicates the birthplace of man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh and that is also where I was born... Say: the Seat of Aḥmad [Muhammad] is there and is the object of] My Remembrance (maq`ad aḥmad dhikrī) (? Cf. Q. 54:55). He enters therein and it is there that you should perform your devotions. You should not turn towards my house (baytī) neither towards the [other] seats [shrines of the `Letters of the Living?’] unless you have sufficient means on the pathand will not be saddened [on account of travelling difficulties].... (Ar. Bay. 4:17a, Ḥasanī, 88).

In his Bayāns (Per. & Ar.) 4:17 the Bāb forbids buying and selling, the conducting of business affairs, around the sacred bayt (House), apparently relative to his own house in Shiraz which also appears to be that of man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh and hence described as the masjid Allāh (Mosque of God) and the masjid al-ḥaram (Sanctified Mosque, a qur’ānic term normally descriptive of the Ka`ba at Mecca, Q.2:144 etc.,Kassis, 888-9).

Bayāns 4:17 is an example of the Bāb’s appropriating, and to some degree upgrading, Islamic piety by giving it something of a messianic application. Bearing in mind that certain laws of the Bāb reflect his attempts at establishing a perfect earthly paradise reflecting heavenly archetypes and opulent alchemical substances, it is worth noting that an Islamic tradition cited by Bāyazīd al-Bast*āmī (d.c. 261/874) and others has it that “In jannat (Paradise) there is a market where there is no buying and selling” (cited Chittick IS1:405 cf. Ibn `Arabī, al-Futūḥāt, II:682)

The Q. and numerous Sunnī and Shī`ī sources have it that the masjid (mosque, lit. `place for prostration’) is primarily a sacred location for community worship (Q. 2:144; 9:17-18; 7:32 etc). It is secondarily a place of assembly thought fitting for various public affairs, having “political, social and cultural functions” (Salam-Liebich, `Mosque - History and Tradition’ Enc.Rel.10:121). Often used as a centre of legal, adminisrative and educational activity, the mosque was thought fitting for the “transacting of matters of public finance and the existence of a community treasury (bayt al-māl). (ibid, 123). In early Islamic times the transacting of business in the mosques was not entirely forbidden (EI2 VI:654-5) though there are some early traditions that seem to regulate or overule this.

The Bāb’s directive against buying and selling in P-Bayān IV:17 corresponds with those Islamic traditions that consider buying and selling in mosques as something undesirable or forbidden. A tradition relayed through the forbears of Ibn Shuayb recorded in the (Sunnī) Kitāb al-masājid (Book of Mosques) within the Sunan of Abū `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Nasā’ī (d.303/915) reads, “The prophet [Muhammad] forbade group meetings before ṣalat (prayer) on the day of gathering (Friday), as well as the buying (al-shirā’) and selling (al-bai`) [of goods in the mosque]” (Sunan, 2:47-8). Similar traditions are also recorded by Abū Dawūd and Tirmihdī (Numaynī,1978 II: LIV. No. 116,page123). There may well be Shī`ī traditions to this effect though they do not seem to be common.

That the Bāb apparently reacts against commercial activity in mosques may reflect those Shī`ī traditions which highlight their supreme sanctity, especially that of the masjid al-ḥaram. [252] Ja`far ṣādiq transmitted the prophetic tradition “When you arrive at the gate of the mosque know that you have approached the gate of the house of a mighty King” (Biḥār 2 83:373-4 [339ff]; Jīlānī, Miṣbāḥ, 1:86-90; Tibrīzī, Farā’id ).

Despite the considerable differences in location, detail and purpose, Browne found something of a parallel between P-Bayān .4:17 and the Gospel story of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple, the Jerusalem House of God. While Jesus threw out the moneychangers from the Temple the Bāb would have all goods in the sanctum of the Mosque belong to God by virtue of their being placed in this sacred region. Again, rather than invoking Gospel influence Bayāns 4:17 reflect the Bāb's mercantile and Islamic background as opposed to the Gospel account of the cleansing of the Temple. For the Bāb the eschatological call for a higher degree of piety relative to new sacred regions and centres of pilgrimage is what is focussed upon. There are no obvious textual or other relationships between Bayāns 4:17 and the Persian Gospel versions of Jesus' ` cleansing of the Temple' (Matt 21:12-13; Mk 11:15-18; Lk 19:45-8;Jn 2:13-17).

[7] Dying to God (P-Bayān II.8; III.13; V.3 ).

The following are some of the passages which Browne most probably thought reflected Gospel [NT] influence upon the Bāb’s understanding of `dying to God’;

On the exposition of the reality of death (ḥaqīqat al-mawt); an ultimate reality (al-ḥaqq). .. Whoso inwardly knows “death” is eternally dying before God (lam yazal mayyit an `ind Allāh) for such an one has no will other than God’s will and such is his “death” (al-mawt) before the Point of the Bayān (nuqtat al-bayān = the Bāb) (P-Bayān 2:8, 33, 36).

All the [Divine] Names and similitudes (asmā’ va amthāl) of the Ultimate Reality (ḥaqq) are within the Ultimate Reality (dar-i ḥaqq) and all such as are outside the Ultimate Reality (dū–i ḥaqq) are outside the Ultimate Reality (al-ḥaqq)...
Should any person truly be an `Ārif (mystic knower) he would assuredly die in Him ( bi-ū mayyit mīgardad) and before His Divine Will (nazd-I mashiyyat-i ū) (P-Bayān 3:13, 93).

The Bāb's complex ideas about dying (death, al-mawt) are registered in the lengthy eighth gate of his P. Bayān (23-31; cf. A.Bay. 2:8, 84) and elsewhere (P. Bayān 3:3, 84) [253] though hardly, it appears, in P. Bayān (5:3, 157-9). It must suffice here to note that P. Bayān 2:8 is a lengthy consideration of what constitutes the reality of death (ḥaqīqat al-mawt). Physical and other modes of “death” (al-mawt) have limitless meanings for the Bāb. “Death” takes on further senses when associated with a new theophany or manifestation of the shajarat al-tawḥīd (Tree of the Divine Oneness). Several non-literal senses of “death” are expressive of a collective, universal “death” implicit in five partial shahāda like testimonies commencing with the Arabic particle of negation, لا ( lā = “no”). For the Bāb they are suggestive of  mystical “death” and an expression of inappropriate faith affirmations (P-Bayān 2:8, 33-34, cf. A.Bay. 2:8).

Browne did not specify precisely which Gospel (NT) texts he thought influenced the Bāb’s ideas about “death”. He most probably gave weight to the mayyit bi-ū, “dying in Him” (loosely “dying to God”) in P-Bayān 2:8. Browne evidently found these references evocative of NT texts, most probably those commencing with the Greek spatial ἐν (= “in ---”) though the notion of `dying to God’ is not a commonplace in the Gospels (or the rest of the NT). It was perhaps the case that the Persian mayyit bi-ū reminded Browne of such Johannine phrases as ἐν Χριστῳ (in Christ), ἐν Χριστῳ̂  ʼΙησου, (in Jesus Christ), ἐν κυρίώ (in the Lord) (Jn 14:20; 15:4-10; 1 Jn 3:24; 4:13-16).

Other predominantly Pauline (and pseudo-Pauline), occurrences of ἐν Χριστώ (in Christ) and ἐν κυρίώ (in the Lord) occur twenty times each in Romans and I Corinthians and a few times elsewhere (Phil. 1:1,14, 4:7; II Cor. 5:17 etc.; TDNT X:537ff; EDNT1:448; 2:459).

The phrase `dying to God’ (so Browne) as “dead in Christ” occurs only a few times in the NT. 1 Thess. 4:16 has it that those “dead” (Gk. nekros) “in Christ” (οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ = Christians) shall “rise first” at the parousia, the second coming of Christ (cf. Jn 5:25, 28f). Christian martyrs would seen to be those referred to in the beatitude of Rev. 4:13 as “the dead” (οἱ νεκροὶ) who from henceforth die “in [the] Lord” (ἐν Χριστῷ) (cf. also Rom 6:8; Col. 2:20 and 2Tim. 2:11). Henry’s Martyn’s Persian translation of the aforementioned NT passages does not suggest any close textual parallelism with the relevant passages in the P. Bayān of the Bāb.

Browne’s proposal of direct NT influence upon the Bāb is unnecessary and unconvincing. This in view of the varied and common Islamic concept of doing things fī Allāh (lit. `in God’) evident in the Q. 22:78 and Q. 29:69 (Nöldeke on -- fī Allāh “in God” in Nöldeke-Schwally, 1909:1:257 cited Graham, 1977:143). It is a common phrase in Sufi literatures. Most importantly the Persian bi-ū mayyit mīgardad
is basically equivalent to the Arabic fanā’ fī Allāh, “dying to God” and the virtually synonymous phrase baqā' fī Allāh (abiding permanency, subsistence) (lit.) “in God" (cf. Q.55:26-7).

In tracing the roots of the concept of persons dying “in Him” or fī Allāh (“in God”) in the Bāb’s writings one must again bear in mind the widespread use of these phrases in Sufī literatures where --- fī Allāh (– in God’) and related terminology is very common. The Bāb is again much more likely to have been influenced by the Sufi background than by the few NT phrases mentioned above. NT influence upon fi’ Allāh (= Per. bī-ū mayyit ...) is assured though it predates by hundreds of years the time of the Bāb and the 19th century Persian Gospel translations.

From early Islamic times Muslims appropriated Christian terminology associated with doing something fī Allāh (lit.`in God’) including `dying to God' (“in God”). Goldziher, as long ago as 1888 had ably demonstrated that Muslim expressions of doing something fī Allāh were the result of NT- Christian influence upon early ḥadīth and other Muslim literatures.1 He stated, for example, that,

1. See the appendix to his essay, `The ḥadīth as a means of Edification and Entertainment’ (Eng. trans. in Goldziher (ed) Stern vol. II:145-163 detailing NT influence upon ḥadīth literature written in 1888 (Eng. trans. In Stern 1971 vol.II:346-362). This appendix is further supplemented by Goldziher in his article, `Neutestamentliche Elemente in der Traditionslitterature’ in Oriens Christianus II (1902), 315-22.

A specifically Christian expression which has penetrated deeply into Islamic literature is to do anything 'in God,' fi'llāh or bi'llāh. The Muslim interpreters of the traditions in which this expression occurs explain it generally in the sense of fī sabīl Allāh, i.e. in God's way or to the glory of God.. (Goldziher, Muh. Studien II: 392-3 [tr. Stern, II: 355).

Goldziher gives several examples of the above from Sunnī ḥadīth collections as well as the following statement from the 4th Shī`ī Imam, `Alī Zayn al-`Ābidīn (d. 95/713) regarding “the jīrān Allāh (protected of God) who “sit together in God, practise common devotional exercises in God, and together go on pilgrimage in God (nataj alas fi'llāh wa-natadhākar fi'llāh wa-natazāwar fi'llāh) (al-Yaqūbī II:264-5 cited Goldziher, ed. Stern, II:356 underlining added). 1

1 For further examples of the Muslim use of fī Allāh in the Q. and in select ḥadīth qudsī see Graham1978 which also registers some learned comments of Nöldeke (d.1930) on the use of fī Allāh in the Q (Graham, 1977:143 referring to Noldeke-Schwally I:257).

Though the Bāb strongly criticized anything suggestive of a pantheistic waḥdat al-wujūd which compromised God’s being `wholly other’, his writings do suggest a deep mysticism surrounding the believers self-effacement in the mashiyyat Allāh (The divine Will) centred in the maẓhar-i ilāhī (divine manifestation) through a “death” of self (mayyit) in its ultimate reality (al-ḥaqq). This has no close NT parallel but many Sufi parallels. In fact the Bāb is not so far removed from the Great Shaykh (Ibn al-`Arabī) who championed a via negativa as well as a mediatory al-Insān al-Kamil and various kinds of unitative spiritual conditions expressive of dying to God.

It is also pertinent to note that within the writings of the mystically oriented philosophers of the Safavid period such as Fayḍ al-Kāshānī (d. 1099/1679), there are discussions of these matters. In Kashānī’s Kalimat-I maknūnih (Hidden Words) there is a section entitled “The discourse [word] (kalimat) in which is an indication of the significance of al-fanā’ fī Allāh ([mystical] dying in God) and al-baqā’ bi’l-llāh (eternal abiding in God)”. Without going into details, it is explained that gnostic initiates (ahl ma`rifa) teach that the intention of “the death (fanā’) of the servant (`abd) in the ultimately Real (God, ḥaqq) is not fanā’-i dhāt, (the extinction of his personal essence [in God]) but rather the (mystical) death of self (fanā’) before the dictates of His law (fanā’ jaht-i bi-sharīat-i ū) in the direction of that “Lordship” which results from complete servitude before the al-ḥaqq , the Real-God rūbubiyyat-I ḥaqq) (Kāshānī, Kalimat, 116).

The foregoing seven `signs’ of Gospel influence suggested by Browne in the Bāb's P. Bayān provide little or no solid evidence of the Shirazī Sayyid’s direct knowledge of the Gospels (NT). As far of I am aware there is nothing in the Bāb's other writings which clearly indicate his direct knowledge of the Bible. Unless better evidence is forthcoming it can be assumed that the Bāb never cited the canonical NT nor any other biblical texts. It is likely that he bypassed existing Persian and Arabic translations because of his extreme veneration of the Q. The pristine Bible had its spiritual essence assimilated into the Arabic Qur’ān. For the Bāb the tawrat and injīl were expressions of the sublime word of God but scriptures appropriate to a previous religious theophany.