The Tafsīr works of the Bāb - Introductory Notes

 

 

 

God revealed the Qur’ān according to the likeness of the creation of all things (bi‑mithl khalq kulli shay’)..  For every single letter of the Qur’an, as accords with its being totally encompassed by the knowledge of God, to the level of its existent particles (min dhawāt al‑ashyā’),  there is a tafsīr  (interpretation). For every tafsīr  (interpretation) there is a ta`wīl  (deeper sense). For every ta`wīl  there  is a bāṭin level (`deep inner sense’). For every bāṭin  there are also further deep inner senses (bāṭin),  dimensions to the extent that God wills.. (Bab,  T.Kawthar, fol. 8b).      

 

The Tafsīr works of the Bāb - Introductory Notes

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

In progress - Notes from 1980s, being corrected and rewritten...

Last uploaded 13-02-2017.

 

Deep `Irfani - Batini and Letter by Letter exegesis-eisegesis.

Letter by letter exegesis‑eisegesis according to various ẓāhir  and bāṭin  levels of meaning was  much utilized by the Bāb in various of his neo‑Tafsīr  works,  e.g. Tafsir Basmala, Tafsir Surat al-Aṣr, Tafsir Surat al-Kawthar.  He had a special interest in the `ilm al‑ḥurūf  (the science of letters). Precedent for this exists in numerous works of Islamic atomistic, qabbalistic  exegesis including works of al‑Ḥallāj (d.304/922), Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna d.428/1037 ) and various Sufi and `irfānī Shī`ī  gnostics associated with the tradition  of Ibn `Arabī, as well as that of the Ḥurūfis, Nuqṭawīs and Bekhtashis. Something of an example of this is provided by the following exegesis of the word shajarat   "Tree"  found in the Persian  al‑Miṣbāḥ fī al‑taṣawwuf   (The Light of Sufism) of the proto‑Ḥurūfī (Shafī`ī, Sufi) and  Shī`ī inclined associate of Najm al‑Dīn al‑Kubra (d. 617/1220) and (indirectly?) Ibn al‑`Arabī  (d.638/1240), the much travelled  Sa`d al‑Dīn  Hammūya (d. 650/1252):

Know that [the letter] shīn (ش) of the tree (shajara) alludes to the testimony of martyrdom (shahādat). And [the letter] jīm ( ج ) indicates the paradise of the beauty of the Divine Countenance (jannat‑I jamāl‑I vajh). The letter (ر) points to the greatest Riḍvan (Paradise, riḍvān–i akbar) while   the three dots of the [letter] shīn  (ش ) allude to  [1] the Spirit of God ṣūḥ Allāh), [2]  the Holy Spirit rūḥ al‑quds) and [3] the Faithful Spirit rūḥ al‑amīn   = Gabriel).

  The letter thā  (ث) of the fruit (thamara) is an allusion to the outbursting of meaning (thavarā–I  ma`nā)   which is the form of the tree (ṣūrat‑i shajarat). The [letter] mīm (م) points to the eschatological return (al‑ma`ād) and the [letter] rā ( ر ) to the Lord of the return (rabb‑I ma`ād).  And those three points of the [letter] thā  (  ث)  are allusive of (1) hearing , (2) vision and (3) articulate speech.

  Thus, in reality the  tree (shajara)  is the Tree of the divine unity (shajara‑` tawḥīd). The fruit (thamara) is the fruit of unicity (thamara‑’  vaḥdat) . In its essential createdness (khalqiyyat), the "root", the "trunk", the "branch" and the "leaves"  express the multiple forms. Then observe the multiplicity from the oneness (vaḥdat) and observe the oneness in the multiplicity (vaḥdat dar kathirat) (Hammūya, al‑Miṣbāḥ, 124).

 Though his own detailed and massive Tafsīr   on the whole Q. remains unpublished,  Muḥyī al‑Dīn  Ibn al‑`Arabī wrote  numerous tafsīr  works   (Yahya,1964 vol. 2: nos. 725‑736)  including a  Tafsīr sūra yūsuf  (Commentary  on the Sūra of Joseph; Yahya, 1964, 2:484 no  734a) and a Qiṣṣat yūsuf  fī’l‑ḥaqīqa  (‘The inner reality of the story of Joseph’, ibid ii: 422‑3 no.  574). Like the Bab, Ibn al`‑Arabī also wrote a Tafsīr āyat  al‑kursī  (Commentary on the Throne Verse, Q. 2:256 = Yahya ibid. ii no. 728) and a Tafsīr āyat al‑nūr  (Commentary on the Light Verse; Q. 24:35 ) see also Yaḥya  ibid ": 482, no 729 (unfortunately these works remain unpublished). Both the terminology and Sufi hermeneutical  style of Ibn al`Arabī’s non‑literal, often gnostic type exegesis,  is frequently reflected in the writings of Bāb and BA*. Though they condemned waḥdat al‑wujūd (existential oneness) they show very considerable influence from the Great Shaykh and his disciples.

Influential also were the works of Ibn al‑`Arabī’s mystically inclined pupil `Abd al‑Razzāq al‑Kāshānī (d.c.730/1330) whose Tafsīr  is often printed as if that of his master  (Loiry,1980). The following is an extract from Kāshānī’s commentary on the Sūra of the Mount (al‑ṭūr,   Q. 52:1‑5);

"By the Mount!" (wa’l‑ṭūr). The "Mount" (al‑ṭūr) is the mountain on which Moses conversed with Him [God]. It [symbolically] signifies the human brain (al‑dimāgh al‑insānī) which is a seat of intellect and articulation (maẓhar al‑`aql wa’l‑nuṭq)....  its Being is the locus of the divine Command (maẓhar  al‑amr al‑ilāhī) and the seat of the eternal decree (al‑qiḍā’ al‑azalī).  "And the Book Outstretched" (wa’l‑kitāb al‑masṭūr)  is the all‑encompassing form (ṣūrat al‑kull)  according to what interfaces with Him of the established order (al‑niẓām al‑ma`lūm). It is what is engraved in the tablet of the decree (lawḥ al‑qiḍā’) and the Most Great Spirit rūḥ al‑a` ẓam) ... (Ibn `Arabī/ al‑Kāshānī,Tafsir  2:553).

Returning to a Shī`ī tafsīr work, the Majma` al‑bayān li‑`ulūm al‑Qur’ān (The Compilation of the Explanation of the Sciences of the Qur’ān) of the Shī`ī theologian Abū `Alī al‑Tabarsī (d. c. 548/1153) has been called a Shī`ī  "encyclopedia of  Qur’ānic sciences" (O.A. Abdul, 1977:78). Here al‑Ṭabarsī presents in Arabic characters a Hebrew transliteration of the biblical etymology of the tetragrammation (יְהוָה = Y‑H‑W‑H, Yahweh), האֶהְיֶ אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר , (= `ehye `āsher `ehye,  Exod. 3:14a, loosely),  "I am that I am" (RSV). He considered it one of the forms of the al‑ism al‑a`ẓam (Mightiest Name [of God]), said in Arabic to be yā ḥayy yā qayyūm   مقيو يا حي يا  (O Living One! O Self‑Subsisting!) (Ṭabarsī, Majma`   XIX:226). In one of his many  alwāḥ   to  oriental Jews, BA*  reflected such sources  when he used the Arabic transliteration  add for  האֶהְיֶ אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר , and transliterated the (unvowelled) tetragrammaton يهوه  (= Y‑H‑W‑H) (BA* Ma’idih 4:40; Lambden, 1983:22ff; 1988:66f,155f).

The important Shī`ī, esoterically inclined tafsīr  works  and ḥikmat al‑muta`āliyya (Transcendent wisdom)  formulations of (Mullā) Ṣadrā al‑Dīn Shīrāzī (d.1050/1640) deserve mention (Peerwani, 1991).  His massive  irfānī  (gnostic)  Tafsīr al‑kabīr  (Weighty Commentary) expresses something of an integration of Avicennan thought, the theosophy of Ibn al‑`Arabī and the ḥikmat al‑ishrāq   perspectives of Yaḥya Suhrawardī. Islamicate biblical citations can be found in various of his works including his commentary on the Uṣūl al‑Kāfī  (see Ch. 4.2). This integration was also furthered by Mullā Ṣadrā’s student and son‑in‑law Mullā Muḥsīn Fayḍ al‑Kāshānī (d.1091/1680)  whose Tafsīr al‑Ṣāfī fī tafsīr kalām Allāh al‑wāfī  (The Pristine Tafsīr...) was particularly influential (see  Nasr, CHI 6:688‑690; Achena, EI2 Supp. `Fayḍ-i Kāshānī’, 305; Lawson, 1993:180ff). So also the Persian and Arabic `irfānī  commentaries on select sūrahs  of the Q.  of the philosopher and polymathic pioneer of Judaeo‑Christian dialogue Sayyid Aḥmad al‑Alawī (d.c.1050/1650).  His works have been "considered to be one of the outstanding gnostic, theosophical commentaries in the Shī`īte world" (see Abdurrahman Habil, IS 1:37+fn.59, 46; Corbin EIIr., 3:228 n. 58 cf.1:644‑646).

 Various Akhbārī (`tradition centred’) Shī`ī commentators utilized and highlighted the importance of a non‑literal hermeneutic (EIr.1:716‑18; Lawson, 1993). On occasion they set down interesting interpretations to Q. rooted Isrā’īliyyāt materials as found in the traditions (akhbār ). Only  passing mention can be made here to such exegetes. They include `Abd `Alī al‑Ḥuwayzī (d.1112/1700), author of the Kitāb tafsīr  nūr al‑thaqalayn  (The Book of the Commentary on the Light of the Twin Weights) and Sayyid Hāshīm  al‑Baḥrānī  (d. c.1110 /1697) who wrote the Kitāb al‑burhān fī tafsīr al‑Qur’ān (The Book of the Evidence in the Commentary on the Qur’ān).

The Mir’āt al‑anwār wa mishkāt al‑asrār fī tafsīr al‑Qur’ān (Mirrors of Lights and Niches of Mysteries in Commentary upon the Qur’ān) of al‑`Āmilī al‑Iṣfahānī (d.1138/1726) contains an extensive prolegomenon highlighting and expounding the deeper  hermeneutics of qur’ānic exegesis. Included in its extensive alphabetical glossary of key Shī`ite terms are expositions of many biblical‑qurānic figures including Gabriel, Adam, Abraham, Lot, Gog and Magog (Yājūj and Mājūj), Joseph, Israel (Isrā’īl), Solomon (Sulaymān) and Jesus. Corbin described this volume as "one of the monuments of Iranian theological literature, furnishing inexhaustible material for comparative research on the hermeneutics of the Book  among the "People of the Book"" (Corbin. EIr. I:931‑2; Dharī`a  20:264f., no. 2893; Lawson, 1993:195f); see further the various Ismā’īlī tafsīr  works also contain interesting allegorical and other non‑literal, sometimes esoteric modes of exegesis. Such is the case with the fragmentary Mizāj al‑tasnīm  (The Condition of Tasnīm) of Ibn Hibat-Allāh (d.1760).

Before concluding this section mention should be made of the huge and widely‑respected early 19th century commentary of  the `Alīd  Sunnī Abū al‑Thanā’, Shihāb al‑Dīn al‑Ālūsī (d.1270 /1854) entitled Rūḥ al‑ma`āni fī tafsīr al‑qur’ān al‑`aẓīm.. (The Spirit of the Meaning in Commentary upon the Mighty Qur’ān). Written in the 1200s/ 1800s this work has been published in Egypt in six volumes, Cairo: al‑Maṭba`at al‑Amīrah, 1870; Bulaq 1301‑10/1883‑92 and also recently reprinted. A one‑time muftī  of Baghdad, Ālūsī  was aware of both early Shaykhism and Bābism. Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī the second Shaykhī leader (see Ch. 6.1f) appears to have corresponded with him (Fihrist:323 No. 256; Nicolas, Essai II:35 no. 100). Though Ālūsī condemned Bābī heresy at the time of the trial of Mullā `Alī Bastāmī (d. Istanbul, 1846), the Bāb invited him to embrace his religion in an Arabic letter written  from Mākū (1848) in which he claimed divinity and to be the awaited Mahdī:  "I, verily, am God, no God is there except I myself, I manifested myself on the Day of Resurrection... I am the Mahdī" (Zā’im al‑Dawlā, Miftāḥ, 212‑15). For a few months in the early 1850s, Alūsī accommodated under house arrest the learned and revolutionary female Bābī, Fāṭima Baraghānī, better known as Ṭāhira (d.1270/1852)  who may also have had a role in the evolution of Bābī‑ Bahā’ī missions to the Jews its emergent bible exegesis (Āyatī, Kawākib 1:118;  Mazandarānī,  ZH 6:703‑4).  Ālūsī’s commentary and other writings apparently contain  passing reference to the first two Shaykhī leaders  as well as to the Bāb  and Ṭāhira whom he is said to have greatly admired (cf. Noghabā’ī,1983:137). I have not been able to locate these references in either the edition printed in or the CD version though the Arabic text is cited by Noghabā’ī. This Bahā’ī writer has Alūsī  refer to ÿāhirih as "one in whom I witnessed grace and perfection the like of which I had not perceived in most men.." (1983:137). Gulpayigānī, Kashf al‑Ghiṭa,  95‑6; Māzandarānī, ZH III:356‑9; AB* Tadhkirat, 194/ Memorials, 194‑5).

The Rūḥ al‑ma`ānī   is a wide‑ranging compendium of pre‑19th century Islamic tafsīr  works.  While isnād   details are registered sparingly select Shī`ī and some mystical perspectives are sometimes recorded.  Al‑Alūsī’s occasionally modernistic commentary shows some knowledge of the Bible. It exhibits a traditional yet ecumenical viewpoint registering a wide range of opinions (Smith, 1970:2251‑9).

Considerable attention is paid by al‑Alūsī to theological aspects of Isrā’īliyyāt traditions related by such persons as have been mentioned above (see Ch. 1.1f below). The story of Moses’ request to see God (Q. 7:143), for example, is discussed at length (Rūḥ 5:43‑52). Attention to detail is evident in the comments upon the alwāḥ  (Tablets) which God gave to Moses on Sinai  (al‑ṭūr).   Expounding the words, "And We wrote from him [Moses] upon the alwāḥ (Tablets) something of everything (min kulla shay’ ; Q. 7:145a) Alūsī records various opinions as to the number of alwāḥ, their jawhar (substance), their miqdā r ( measure, scope) and their kātib (inscriber):

"[Regarding] their  number, it is said that there were ten and [also that there were] seven or two... the alwāḥ  were [made of] green emerald (zumurrud akhḍar). The Lord, exalted be He, commanded Gabriel and he brought them from [the Garden of] Eden... Others say that they were [made] of ruby.. And  I  say that they were of emerald.. It is related from the Prophet, `The alwāḥ  which were sent down unto Moses were from the Lote‑Tree of Paradise (sidr al‑jannat) and the length of the Tablet(s) was  twelve cubits" (Rūḥ al‑ma`ānī V:55). 

Finally, brief mention should be made of the Egyptian moderniser, reformist and commentator Muhammad Abdūh (d.1322/1905). He  wrote an influential, incomplete Tafsīr  work revised and completed by his pupil Rashīd Riḍā (d.1935) and also put out a short‑lived periodical entitled al‑`Urwa al‑wuthqā’  (The Firm Handle) with the Iranian reformer Jamāl Asadābādī [al‑Afghānī] (d.1897) who  had probably spent  some time with BA* and the Bābīs in Baghdad (Cole, 1998, index). Abdūh also wrote a Risāla al‑tawḥīd  (Treatise on the Divine Oneness, 1897) and a work on Christianity and Islam al‑Islām wa’l‑Naṣrāniyya  (Cairo, 1902). He aligned himself with those who rejected the Islamic concept of taḥrīf  as the total corruption of biblical scripture and had some acquaintance with the Bible. Abduh gave great weight to rationalism. Like AB* whom he had met he argued that the existing bible must be authentic because it cannot have been universally corrupted.

 

Bābī‑ Bahā’ī spiritual hermeneutics mostly follow the aforementioned Shī `ī‑ Sufī‑ Irfānī‑ Shaykhī  non‑literal hermeneutical methods. They accept  ẓāhir  (outer) and numerous  bāṭin (inner) senses of the Q. as did Shaykh Aḥmad and Sayyid Kāẓim (Sh‑Qaṣīda,169‑70). As indicated in the above passage from the Bāb, BA* and the Bābī‑ Bahā’ī leaders  generally upheld the position that the sacred word has an infinite number of deep senses, even down to the qabbalistic level of its letters and beyond. Bābī‑ Bahā’ī primary sources  have it that past sacred texts derive their ultimate meaning in and through the theophanic person and religion of the latest  maẓhar‑i ilāhī (divine Manifestation’). The existence of  ẓāhir  (literal) and bāṭin  (inner) senses of sacred writ are affirmed (BA*T.Shams; T.Ta’wīl–>see bib.) as are innumerable even deeper sometimes eschatologically meaningful scriptural senses.  Such deep levels are often referred to as the bāṭin al‑bāṭin, the interior of the interior, the most inward of the esoteric senses (<–B*,Kawthar ; BA* KI:198/ [SE*]163).

            The importance of the Q.  to both the Bāb and BA* can hardly be overestimated ( see Ch. 1.0ff). Both cited it thousands of times and frequently commented upon portions of it. In his Persian and Arabic Bayāns the Bāb divided the totality of his writings into five "modes" ("grades", "categories", shu`ūn), the fourth of them being  tafsīr  type revelations, Arabic verses in some sense expository of or comparable to qur’ānic revelations. For the Bāb the revelation of qur’ānic like Arabic verses constituted a true miracle, the touchstone of assured prophethood.

            From the outset many of the writings of the Bāb were distinctly neo‑qur’ānic in form; having isolated letters, being divided into sūrahs and written in rhyming prose. The Bāb associated his revelations with the ta’wīl  (inner sense) or bāṭin  (interior dimension) of  the Q. The use of non‑literal  ta’wīl  in his first major work, the Tafsīr  s ūrat yūsuf  (= QA; mid.1844) suggests that he saw this work as unlocking the messianic  ta’wīl  or deeper senses of the entire Q. "O people of the earth", the Bāb writes towards the end of this neo‑Tafsīr, "This Book (= QA) is the tafsīr  of everything (li‑kulli shay’)  (QA 111:448; cf. 104:414  41:151; 38:142; 44:164; 61:242).

            In an early letter the Bāb refers to his partially extant and originally 700 sūra Kitāb al‑rūḥ (Book of the Spirit, 1845) as a work which he "revealed upon the ocean on the return of the Dhikr  (to Shīrāz after the Ḥajj) in seven hundred sūrahs,  in definitive, expository verses (muḥkamat āyāt bayyināt)  expressive of the bāṭin  of the Qur’ān..." (INBMC 91:89‑90). This work is thus identified with the muḥkamat, the  established dimension of the (revealed) verses, though it is also an exposition  of the bāṭin  of the Q. Here as elsewhere the Bāb subtly challenges qur’ānic `ijāz (inimitability):

Yea indeed! We have sent down in the Book [K. Rūḥ, Bāb’s revelations] certain verses which are the bāṭin  (interior meaning) of the Qur’ān" (ibid).

In another early (pre‑June 1845) work addressed to Muslim clerics, the Kitāb al‑`ulamā’, the Bāb again  associates the bāṭin  (interiority)  of the Q. with revelations sent down through himself ("Our servant `Alī") as a "proof" (ḥujjat) from the eschatological Baqiyyat‑Allāh (Remembrance of God)" for the faithful (Ar. text, Afnān, 2000:107).

            The Bāb authored  several tafsīr  works only a few aspects of which have been the subject of academic analysis (see Lawson, 1986+ bib.‑>).  Aside from nine lost complete qur’ān  commentaries dating from the time of the Bāb’s imprisionment in Mākū (1848, DB:31), the extant, major,  all Arabic  tafsīr   works  of the Bāb  are, according to the sūra numbers commented upon (cf. McEoin, Sources, index, tafsīr) as follows:

  • (1)  Tafsir [Ḥurūf al‑] Basmalah (Bismillāh al‑raḥman al‑raḥīm),
  • (2)  Tafsir al‑Hā’  (the letter "H") in two versions (I & II)
  • (3)  Tafsir Surat al‑Ḥamd or al‑Fātiha (The Opening, Q.1)
  • (4)  Tafsir Surat al‑Baqara (`The Cow’, Q.2;; incomplete) dating to early 1260/1844.
  • (5)  Tafsir Surat Yūsuf  (Q. 12 Joseph), the Qayyūm al‑asmā’ (= QA). Mid 1844
  • (6)  Tafsir Surat al-Nur / Ayāt al‑Nūr  (Light Q. 24:35), (`the light Verse’) and a few others verses of Q. 24. 
  • (7)  Tafsir on  Q. 50:16 and Q. 112:4 (for Ḥasan Waqā’ī`‑yi‑Nigār).
  • (8)  Tafsir Surat Laylat al‑Qadr   (Q.97 `The Night of Destiny’).
  • (9)  Tafsir Surat al‑`Aṣr   (Q. 103 The Era [Afternoon])
  • (10) Tafsir Surat al‑Kawthar  (Q. 107, `The [Eschatological] Abundance’).

 Aside to some degree from the 1259‑60/1843‑4 T. Baqara, most of the Tafsīr  works of the Bāb are not exactly comparable to classical Islamic tafsīr  compositions. In form and content they are often more neo‑qur’ānic than tafsīr   works. Exhibiting rewritten tafsīr   characteristics often in a revelation (waḥy) mode the Bāb’s often eisegetical works challenge the inimitability (I`jāz) of the Q. Innovative post‑qur’ānic dimensions and eschatologically suggestive levels of meaning are subtly or boldly in evidence in many of the Tafsīr  works of the Bāb.

 Several of the commentaries listed above interpret biblically rooted qur’ānic narratives. The best example of this is the multi‑faceted story of Joseph. In the Qayyūm al‑asmā’ (= QA), this  aḥsan al‑qaṣaṣ (`best of stories’) is given a complex, multi‑faceted imamological and gematric level of eschatologically suggestive senses. Other narratives directly or  allusively interpreted by the Bāb, include verses dealing with episodes in the lives of Abraham, Dhu’l‑Qarnayn, Moses, David, Jesus and others (‑‑>). Qur’ānic prophetological motifs and narratives along with occasional  Isrā’īliyyāt traditions are given post‑Islamic senses meaningful within the new Bābī theophany.

  In line with numerous ḥadīth  of the prophet and the Imams and like the Bāb, both BA* and Abd al‑Bahā’ (= AB*) again accord multiple meanings to the sacred books of the past. BA* often expressed this as the following extract from one of his earlier writings illustrates:

Know that the words of God (kalimāt Allāh) and his scriptures (sufarā’) have inner sense upon inner sense (ma`ānī  ba`du  ma`ānī), allegorical meaning (ta`wīl)  after allegorical meaning   (ta`wīl ), cryptic senses (rumūzāt)  and  allusive significances (isharāt) as well as evident proofs (dalālāt). There are, furthermore, clear regulative meaning(s)  (ḥukm/ḥukum) that are without end. No single person is aware of even a letter of the  inner meanings [of scripture] save such as your Lord, the All‑Merciful  has willed (BA*, Tablet for Jawād Tabrīzī, INBMC 73:[179‑186]173).

BA* as well as `AB* also wrote many often non‑literal commentaries on select sūrahs and / or verses of the Q. (‑‑>). Like the Bāb they frequently utilized an allegorical hermeneutic. The orientation of these tafsīr works is often eschatological fulfillment and doctrinal renewal through a new Bābī‑ Bahā’ī  universe of discourse. Though less well‑known as a Q. commentator, BA* expounded a very large number of qur’ānic verses, though few complete qur’ānic sūras. Like the Bāb he occasionally gave a detailed atomistic exegesis‑eisegesis to particular phrases, words and  letters of the Q.  A characteristically Bāb‑like qabbalistic, letter by letter, `ilm al‑ḥurūf   exegesis seen in the Bā b’s T. Basmalah   and T. `Aṣr  is evident in certain early works of BA* (INBMC 56:24ff). Among the not yet fully collected and catalogued distinctly tafsīr  works of BA* are,

  • (1) L. Kull al‑ṭa`ām (the Tablet of All Food) on Q. 3:87) ( c. 1853/4?).
  • (2)   T. Ḥurūfāt al‑muqaṭṭa`a (The Isolated Letters [of the Q.] c.1858) also known as T. āyāt al‑nūr          (Commentary on the Light Verse).
  • (3)   T. Basmala, on the basmalah and its  component letters, etc.  
  • (4)  . Yūsuf,  on passages, verses and motifs of  Q.12 or on the QA of the B āb.       
  • (5) T. Q. 68:1a including  the letters of the basmala,  the isolated letter ن nūn) and verse 1a , "By the Pen!"
  • (6)  T. Q. 13:17‑18a & 18:60‑90 contains a detailed exposition of the story of Moses and Khiḍr and of    Dh ū’l‑Qarnayn and Yājūj and Mājūj (Gog and Magog).
  • (7) T. Sūrat wa’l‑shams  (Q. 91) 

            Certain of BA*’s tafsīr  statements refine, supplement or develop those of the Bāb. There thus exists in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī scripture what might be called multiple, progressively expounded texts of the (Bible‑)  Q. This cumulative, multi‑faceted tafsīr  of the Bāb and BA*  is sometimes also further interpreted by  AB*1 and less frequently by SE* or members of  the Bahā’ī community. A tafsīr   notice of the Bāb touching upon qur’ānic qiṣaṣ al‑anbiyā’,  for example, is not infrequently given further levels of interpretation by BA*, AB* and others. Developed Bābī‑ Bahā’ī Q. commentary expresses several dimensions of meaning evolving over a period of more than a century (1844‑1957>). A few examples of this evolving tafsīr   are found in connection with the Bābi‑Bahā’ī exegesis of the Joseph story and that of Dhū’l‑Qarnayn.  It is often in tafsīr  contexts that Isrā’īliyyāt traditions are interpreted  or reinterpreted beyond their Judaeo‑Christian, Abrahamic  roots.



     1 BA* sometimes asked his son AB* to respond to questions regarding tafsīr. issues. Among AB*’s tafsīr   works is a commentary on the Basmala, on the Sūrat al‑Rūm Q.30:1‑5 (The Byzantines [Romans], probably dating to the late 1880s) and various commentaries on passages within the Bāb’s QA relating to the Sūrat Yūsuf (Q.12). AB* wrote various Tafsīr  letters in Persian, Arabic and Turkish.