The Evolving Clains and Titles of Mirza `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850 CE).

The Evolving Clains and Titles of Mirza `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the  Bab (1819-1850 CE). 

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

80s+ 2017 - 13-04-2017.

During the six year period (mid. 1844- July 1850)  of his  Persia-Iran centered religious ministry, the evolving clains and titles of Mirza `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the  Bab (1819-1850 CE), were expressed a in very large number of his Arabic and Persian writings. Little academic research has been done on this subject though many have expressed sometimes trenchent opinions. Most of the claims and titles assumed or accorded the Bab are meaningful within a Shi`i-Shaykhi Islamic generated universe of discourse. Before all else it will be convenient to deal with his basic title, the Bab which is Arabic for `the Gate'.

The title the Bab (the Gate).

From the earliest period Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi claimed to be or referred to himself as the Bab within Qajar era Shi`ism which basically indicates that he was in communication with the occulted or hidden Imam who was the locus or the otherworldly represenative of God and the prophet Muhammad through whom divine guidance was possible.

 

The claims of the Bab in his Qayyum al-asma'.

The very form of the Qayyum al-asma' identifies its author as one who claimed to be in receipt of qur'anic type divine revelation and thus somebody in close communication with the divine source of its Islamic archetype

 

Dhikr Allah, The Remembrance of God.

 

al-Fata , al-Ghulam ("the Youth"),

 

 

Nuqta, The Point or the 'Primal/First Point (al-nuqta al-awwal).

 

 

The Arabic  "I am" (Gk. )  γώ εμι ...,  Ar. ana ...) claims of the Bab.

Among the influential discourses ascribed to Imam `Alī contained in the Mashāriq al anwar of Rajab al-Bursī, is the sometimes arcane Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya [taṭanjiyya]  (Sermon of the Gulf) allegedly delivered by the first Imam between Kūfa and Medina (Mashāriq: 166‑170).This oration is a quasi‑extremist (ghuluww) sermon which was partially commented upon by Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī (d.1259/1843) who regarded it very highly. So too the Bāb and Baha-Allah  who quote and selectively comment upon it quite  frequently. They were markedly influenced by its at times  high imamology and abstruse yet suggestive apocalyptic. The Kh-Ṭutunjiyya  incorporates Islamicate motifs deriving from Isrā’iliyyāt including many Arabic  "I am" sayings  at times incorporating apparently pseudo‑Hebrew/ Aramaic names such as "I am B‑A‑R‑Ḥ‑l‑U‑N  (pointing uncertain).

 In the Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya   many utterances of an all but deified `Alī, echo the gnostic and predominantly  Johannine New Testament  "I am" logion  of Jesus. Like Jesus, `Alī at one point, in a loose Arabic transliteration of the Greek, claims نا عليوثوثا ا  (sic.) (= Gkγώ εμι …  λήθεια,  ego eimi  aletheia,  Jn 14:6a), "I am the Truth"  (Bursī, Mashriq, 169). Numerous other theophanic claims of the Imam `Alī cast in the form of "I am" sayings are present  in this Khuṭba (Mashāriq, 166‑170) as well as in other  texts collected in Bursī’s Mashāriq.1 Only a few of these sayings can be translated here:

  • I am the one who presideth over the two gulfs (waqif `alā al‑ṭutunjayn).. 
  • I am the Lord of the first flood (ṣāḥib al‑ṭūf ān al‑awwāl);
  • I am the Lord of the second flood [of Noah?];
  • I am the one who raised Idrīs [Enoch] to a lofty place [cf. Q.19:57]
  • I am  the agent whereby the infant Jesus cried out from the cradle [Q. 19:29, etc]
  • I am the Lord of the Mount [Sinai] (ṣāḥib al‑ṭūr)  ..
  • I am the one with whom are the keys of the unseen (mafātīḥ al‑ghayb)..
  • I am Dhū’l‑Qarnayn mentioned in the primordial scrolls (ṣuḥuf al‑awwālī)
  • I am the bearer of the Seal of Solomon (sāḥib khātam sulaymān)
  • I am first First Adam; I am the First Noah... I am the Lord of Abraham, (ṣāḥib ibrahīm),
  • I am the inner depth of the Speaker [Moses] (sirr al‑kalīm)...
  • I am the Messiah [Jesus] = al‑rūḥ ] (al‑masīḥ)  inasmuch as no soul (rūḥ)  moves nor  spirit (nafs) breathes without my permission...
  • I am the Speaker who conversed (mutakallim) through the tongue of Jesus in the cradle...
  • I am the one with whom are one thousand volumes of the books of the prophets (alf  kutub min kitāb al‑anbiyā’)..  (Bursī, Mashariq, 166ff). 

From the very beginning  of his messianic career, the  Bāb quite frequently cited and creatively refashioned  lines of the Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya, sometimes as interpreted by Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī.  In expressing his own claims he often used "I am" proclamatory sentences and dual formations echoing the sayings ascribed to `Alī in the ṭutunjiyya and elsewhere. Such is one of the featurs of his early Qayyum al-asma' (1250 AH/ mid. 1844). This especially in his claim, "I am one presiding over the ṭutunjayn ... al‑khālijayn  ("the two gulfs") (QA: 93:374‑5; 109:434‑5).

The opening lines of the Bāb’s early Khuṭba al‑Jidda  (Homily from Jeddah) are basically a rewrite of the opening words of the al‑Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya  (INBMC 91:60‑61; cf. Ibid 50 [untitled]). Both the Bāb and Baha'Allah saw themselves as the eschatological theophany of the Sinaitic speaker (mukallim al‑ṭūr) whose future advent is predicted by `Alī in the Sermon of the Gulf  (Bursī, Mashariq, 168; Lambden 1986).  The distinctly esoteric influence of this sermon is obvious in the following lines from the Bāb’s  commentary upon the qur’ānic phrase al‑lawḥ al‑mafūẓ. (Q. 85:22), (The preserved Tablet):

... God assuredly made this to be that Book, a supremely great Tablet (lawḥ al‑akbar).  And he foreordained therein whatsoever was called into being at the beginning and at the [eschatological] end (fī’l‑bad` wa’l‑khatm). God   destined for that Book two Gates (bābayn) unto the mystery of the two Gulfs (li‑sirr al‑ṭutunjayn), through the water of the two channels [gulfs] (mā’ al‑khalījayn). One of these two streams is the water of the Euphrates of the realities of the Elevated Beings (mā’ al‑firāt ḥaqā’iq al‑`aliyyīn) [streaming] from the inmates of the two easts (min ahl al‑mashriqayn) from the two [regions] most proximate [unto God] (min al‑aqrabayn  [sic.]). The second of the two [streams] is the water of the fiery [hellish] expanse of the saline bitterness (mā’ al‑mulḥ al‑ajjāj [ujāj] ?) [streaming] from the inmates of the two wests (min ahl al‑maghribayn), from the two [regions] most remote  [from God] (min al‑ab`adayn [sic.]). And God fashioned above every entrance (`alā kull bāb)  the triangular form (ṣūrat al‑tathlīth), and within the threefold form is the Threefold Personage (haykal al‑tathlīth) [which leads] unto the depth of the gates of Gehenna (li‑tamām abwāb al‑jaḥīm)..  ( Q. Mafūẓ,  80)

Note also thaty The Sermon which follows the Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya  consists of over 100 such  "I am.." sayings of `Alī several  of which are translated above (Bursī, Mashāriq 170‑172). Certain of Shāh Ismā’īl’s (the founder of the Safavid dynasty d.930/1524) Turkish poems contain similar "I am" sayings (Minorsky:1942 esp. 1042a).