al-Rashti- The Risālah fī sharḥ wa tafsīr ism al-a`ẓam.

Sayyid Kāẓim ibn Sayyid Qāsim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843)

 السيد كاظم بن السيد قاسم الحسيني الرشتي

 The Risālah fī  sharḥ wa tafsīr ism al-a`ẓam

The Risālah fī  sharḥ wa tafsīr ism al-a`ẓam: The Treatise in Commentary upon the [graphical form of] the Mightiest Name of God.

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

In progress, being revised, completed and corrected from notes dating back to the 1980s then supplemented in 2007-8 and partially corrected in 2015-6..

Last updated, supplemented and corrected 10-01-2017

Some Introductory Notes

This work of Sayyid Kazim Rashti is referred to in the Ibrahimī, Fihrist, p. 303, No. 167 where it is said to extend for 275 verses. There is an old printing (not seen) though the autograph (original) ms. appears to be lost. The translation below is based on the SOAS (London) Ms., #92308 fol. 271a-274a  item 24 - a copy of which was kindly made available to me in 1986 by B. Todd Lawson, since which time I have obtained my own microfiche version.

There can be little doubt that these graphic signs constituting the al-ism al-a`zam (Greatest or Mightiest Name of God) are examples of Islamo-biblica or Isrāīliyyāt ("Israelitica") rooted material reflecting pre-Islamic Abrahamic-Judaic traditions which have been assimilated into Islam. Certain of the graphical  forms of the Islamic  al-ism al-a`ẓam  (Mightiest Name [ of God] ) appear to be based upon earlier graphical  representations of the "seal of Solomon" which sometimes existed in a seven fold graphical schemata in Jewish mystical texts and traditions. Some Shi`i traditions have it that Imam  `Ali chanced upon the al-ism al-a`zam inscribed upon a rock and declared it to be the Mightiest Name of God.

Something of the Jewish roots of the al-ism al-a`zam concept  might  be  partly illustrated  with reference to such works as the Sepher ha-yetsirah ("Book of Formation"), traditionally ascribed to te Patriarch Abraham, though more likely originating in the post-Islamic times (8-9th cent. CE?). Reference should also be made to the various commentaries  upon  Sepher Yetsirah  IV: 6 and to Shi`i traditions about the al-ism al-a`zam originating in ghulāt ("extremist") circles in the early Islamic centuries.

Both Sunnī and Shī`ī (including Isma'ili )  esoteric sources contain traditions which purport to set forth graphic, sometimes talismanic forms of al-ism al-a`ẓam (the Mightiest Name [of God]). A dozen or more such alphabetic, qabbalistic, cryptographic representations of this all-highest Name are found in Islamic literatures (see for details, Winckler, 1930; Anawati,1967). ADD PDf. 

Shī`ī representations of this Mightiest Name are sometimes based upon directives spelled out in a tradition relayed by Ibn `Abbās (the  father of Islamic Tafsir)  from the first Imam, `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d.40/661). It is cited, among others,  by the Sunnī theologian and mystagogue Aḥmad ibn `Alī al-Būnī (d. 622/1225 CE) whose writings were known to Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsā'ī and others in Qajar Persia. al-Būnī was an occult initiate of arcane computations surrounding the Names and Attributes of the Godhead  as evidenced in his Shams al-ma`ārif al-kubrā... ("The greater Sun of Mystic meaning") and other works (see further Lambden, Ph. D thesis, 215ff). They were sometimes used for esoteric or magical purposes. There are several variant versions of the poem ascribed to  Imam `Alī detailing the elements making up the graphical form of the Mightiest Name of God. Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī comments on aspects of an extended, longer version apparently orally transmitted from Imam `Ali to Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i and his forbears as reproduced and scanned  and typed out below. This sometimes novel Shī`ī-Shaykhī version differs at various points (sometimes marked by * ) from other better known versions spelling out the graphical form of the Sunni-Shi`i Islamic Mightiest Name of God.

A Treatise in Explanation and Commentary upon [a Shī`ī graphical form of]  the Mightiest Name of God  by Sayyid Kāẓim  Rashtī.

Translation and annotation Stephen N. Lambden UCMerced.

 

 

 

 

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

[1] Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds and blessings be upon the best of His creatures, the manifestation of His Grace (maẓhar luṭfihi) and locus of His Name, Muhammad, and upon His purified family. [2] And now what the poor, annihilated servant al-Kāẓim son of Qasim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī saith. He was assuredly directed by the glorious master (al-walī al-mumajjid), the seeker of the truth and the upright and sagacious Jināb-i Ḥajjī Muhammad Aḥmad (may God bestow befitting realizations upon him), that certain of the religious communities (al-millī)  are aware of some of the elements [words] (al-kalimāt) constituting the Greatest Name [of God] (`alā al-ism al-a`ẓam) which is evident and manifest in the fourteen temples (al-ẓāhir fī hayākil arba`ah ashara..) [= the pleroma of the 14 immaculate ones = the twelver  Imams + Muhammad and Fāṭimah].

 And he [Shaykh Aḥmad] disclosed some of the secrets of that Mighty Name (al-ism al-mu`aẓẓim) and explained that it is differentiated into thirteen letters,[1] four of which are from the Torah (al-tawrāt), four from the Gospel (al-injīl) and five from the Qur’ān. His [clarificatory] directive was realized [at a time when] the heart (al-qalb) was preoccupied (mushtaghil an ) and the thoughts [mind] bewildered (khāṭir mushawwashan) before  the  abstruse characteristics (li-nawādir al-aḥwāl), the disturbing nature of the  peculiarities (taṣādum  al-a`rāḍ), [of this matter] as well as  the accumulation of distractions  (tarākum al-ashghāl) of the fundamentals (al-uṣūl)  and the completion of the xxxxx and the  xxxx for unto God does it [they]  return.

Wherefore do I say that this al-ism al-a`ẓam al-mu`aẓẓīm  (Mighty, Greatest Name) has resulted from the configurations of the practitioners of letter mysticism (ahl al-ḥurūf) according to the belief that it is constitutive of the greatest of the [divine] Names (al-asmā’).  All of them claim that they derived it from [Imam] `Alī (d. 40/661), upon whom be peace.  ADD .......   And our intention in this instance is an exposition of some of the manifestations of that [divine] Name.

He, Our Master (mawla), the Ḥujjat (Proof = Imam `Alī) (may God hasten his bliss)  says, just as my Shaykh [Ahmad al-Ahsa'i] transmitted it, and my teacher (may God extend His eternal status) from his sanctified father Zayn al-Dīn Ibrahīm [who transmitted it] from such as transmitted it from the Ḥujjat (`Alī, upon Him be peace) in a [poetic] ḥadīth  in which he says:

[1-2]

ثلث عُصى صُففَْت بعد خَاتم

Three  rods (`uṣiyy)  in a row [| | |] after  [1] a seal [khātam = ]

[2]

على را سها مثل السنان المُقوم

above them [2] the likeness of a straightened lance. 

[3]

و ميم  طميس ابترثم سُلم   

A blind [Arabic letter] Mﻡ  (mīm) without a tail;      

[4]

        كهئة السلام [الى كل مامول] و ليس بسلم       

After the form of a ladder [ unto all that is hoped for] but which is not a ladder.                           

[5]

واربعة مثل الاصابع صففت  تشيرالى الخيرات من غير معصم

Four things like fingers in a row [IIII], pointing to good deeds but without a wrist,

     [6]

وهاء شقيق  

And a [letter] "H" (hā ) which is cleft (shaqīq),  

[7]

  ثم واو منكوس كانبوب حجام و ليس بمحجم

Then an inverted [Arabic letter] wāw (="w") (و  ) like the syphon of a [blood-letting] phlebotomist (ka‑anbūb ḥajjām, or "tube of  the cupper") though it is not a cupping glass (muhjam) :

 

 

A Note on the extended version of the above cited poem ascribed to Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib (d.40/661).

According to Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī the foregoing poetical lines ascribed to Imam `Alī (translated above) yield the above image, graphic expression or diagram of the Mightiest Name. As cited by him It has an extra pentalpha making a total of eight major elements (1-7+1=8 for the extra pentalpha) constituting in totality a pleroma of 13 +1 or 14  individual elements. In addition to these eight sigla of 14 elements Sayyid Kazim includes in his Commentary the following further poetical lines ascribed in some Shi`i Islamic and other sources to  Imam `Alī :      

فهذاهوالاسم الاعظم قدرهفان كنت لم تعلمه من قبل فاعلم 

“This is [representative] of the Mighty Name (al‑ism al‑ mu`aẓẓim);  If you knew it not aforetime, then know it now!

فياحامل الاسم الاعطيم به اكتقي

"O bearer of the Mighty Name (ṣāḥib al‑ism al‑`aẓīm)! Take sufficiency therein for you shall be preserved from misfortunes  and kept safe thereby. It is the Name of God (ism Allāh),  exalted be His glory, unto all humankind whether pure Arab (faṣīḥ)  or non-Arab (a`jam).” 

The extended form of the poetical text ascribed to Imam `Ali as cited by  Sayyid Kāẓim in his Commentary.

The text of `Ali's poem as cited by Sayyid Kāẓim towards he beginning of his Commentary continues from the text cited above as follows:

[8]

خطوط على ا لاعراف لاح  رسُومها   

Alphabetical sigla ["scripts"] (khuṭūṭ)  about the cosmic Heights [= Archetypal Imams] (al-a`rāf), the imprints (rusūm) of which shimmer brilliantly  (lāḥa).

عليها براهين من ا لنور  فاعلم  

 Above them  testimonials derived from Light  (barāhīn min al-nūr),

So know!

[9]

فعدتها من بعد عشر ثلاثة   

that their enumeration  exceeds thirteen (i.e. 14)

فلا تك في احصائها ذا توهم

Yet is there no diminution for their numbering (iḥṣā') through inadequacy;

[10]

عليه من النورالالهى جلاله 

Above them what is of  the Divine Light (al-nur al-ilāhī), expressive of His  Majestic Glory (jalāl)

الى كل الانسان فصيح واعجم 

[reaching out] unto all humanity be they pure Arab or non-Arab

[11]

فمن اعرف*  االتوراة منهن* أربع

Whoso is most cognisant of the "Torah" (al-tawrāt)  allocates  four of them   [four aspects of the Mightiest Name]

وأربع من إنجيل عيسى ابن مريم

 And four [aspects of the Mightiest Name] originate in the Injīl (Evangelion, Gospel) of Jesus Son of Mary;

[12]

 وخمسة من القرآن وهي تمامها 

And five from the Qur'ān for such is their completion.

فاصنع الى اسم الله العظيم المعظم

[ واسمع وافهم ] 

So realize then the Name Allāh (God) which is Mighty (al-`aẓīm), Magnificent (mu`aẓẓam)! [Then hearken and understand it so]!

  [13]

فيا حامل الاسم الذي جل قدره  

So O bearer of the Name the Power of which is exalted;

توق به كل المكاره لسلم 

Be rendered successful thereby through every artifice conducive of beatitude. 

 [14]

[15]

[16]

They are the Mount (al-tur) and they the      (shurā). They are the Pilgrimage (al-hajj)! And they the

They are the Blessed Tree (shajarat al-ṭubā) before the ....

  [17]

And peace be upon the Chosen One (al-mukhtār) and from the family of Hāshim

And .... O Possessor of Glory and Peace (du'l-jalāl wa'l-sallam)

The Commander of the Faithful [= Imam `Alī] in exposition of this [Mightiest] Name, according to the interpretation implicit in these [poetical] verses...  He says, upon him be peace ....

The Commentary of Sayyid Kāẓim continued, Pt. II

Now I [Sayyid Kāẓim] say that I have found various poems attributed to Amīr al-Muminīn (The Commander of the Faithful) -- upon him be peace -- in exposition of this [Mightiest] Name according to the  clarification implicit in these [aforementioned poetical] verses.... He [`Alī] says-- upon him be peace--

[0]

And their constituents are like unto the primary things (al-awa'il) which constitute  a seal (khātam). ...

[0]

 Pentalpha [five pillared] (khumāsī  arkān an) according to the mystery (al-sirr) which are  counterparts (sisters?)  (akhwāt) 

[0]

And this it is certainly the Name of God (Allāh), elevated be His Majesty. And His Names (asmā')  nigh the Creator (al-bariyya)...

Until he says in conclusion,

The utterance of `Alī son of the uncle [the nephew] of Muhammad;

And [one aware of] secret  sciences (sirr `ulūm) touching upon the totality of which is created.

These foregoing [poetical lines of Imam `Ali ] yield the following [diagram of the Mightiest Name with an extra pentalpha constituting  13 +1 or 14 elements:

They continue with the following further  poetical lines ascribed to  Imam `Alī  [lines 5 and 6]: 

[5]

فهذاهوالاسم الاعطم قدره 

فان كنت لم تعلمه من قبل فاعلم

 “This is [representative] of the Mighty Name (al‑ism al‑ mu`aẓẓim);  If you knew it not aforetime, then know it now!

[6]

فياحامل الاسم الاعطيم به اكتقي

"O bearer of the Mighty Name (ṣāḥib al‑ism al‑`aẓīm)! Take sufficiency therein for you shall be preserved from misfortunes and kept safe thereby. It is the Name of God (ism Allāh) ‑‑ exalted be His glory ‑‑ unto all humankind whether pure Arab (faṣīḥ)  or non-Arab (a`jam).”3

At this point the above seven-fold depiction  and expository statement ascribed to Imam `Ali  [= 8-9] is followed by further poetical lines (part II) the first portion of which, as cited by Sayyid Kazim, reads as follows [= I-3]:

 

ADD TEXT AND TRANSLATION HERE

And this is the form (ṣūrat) of the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`ẓam): 4

Know then that [this,] the [Mightiest] Name is a theophanic manifestation (ẓuhūr) expressive of His  effulgent Self-disclosures (tajalliyāt). Wherefore did He transfigure Himself (al-mutajallī) before Him [Moses] (cf. Q.7:143). It  [the Name] was even as a locus [token] (maḥall) of the [supreme] belovedness of the [Mightiest] Name (wudūd al-ism) and [a token of]  His [Sinaitic] Parousia (wuqū`) through which they [Moses+ the people?] do make summons. In this respect the [Mightiest] Name (al-ism), is the  Glorious transfiguration (al-mutajallī) implicit therein [the theophany]. It is assuredly the [Divine] Name since dependence (al-ta`alluq), affinity (al-irtibāt) and the glorious transfiguration (al-mutajallī)  [thereof] are the designated realities (al-musammī)  implicit therein.

And when the vision is sharp and the thought penetrative respecting the utterance of `Alī (upon whom be peace),

"Nay rather! He was disclosed [transfigured] before him, in him (li-hā bi-hā) and through Him [yet] was he restrained from him [Moses]; and was even [disclosed] before Him as accords with His wisdom [of the non-disclosure of the Divine Essence]".

And [Imām Ja`far] al-Muhammad Ṣādiq (upon him be peace) saith,

"He created the mashiyya (Divine Will) through His Own  Logos-Self (bi-nafsihī) and caused  all things (al-ashyā’) to be established in its shade through their incineration before this Mystery".

And this matter was not made clear  through explication thereof is evident by virtue of the clarity of the allusion.

ADD HERE

Moses and the four Toraic Letters
Sayyid Kāẓim further explains how it is that the Torah has four "letters" of the Mightiest Name. He suggests that this is so in the light of the following well known prophetic ḥadīth , "O `Alī you are to me after the manner of Aaron to Moses" (see for example, ). A typological relationship is thus set up between Moses and Muhammad. Moses [= Muhammad], it is explained, is foundational (aṣl an), the Reality (al ḥaqīqa), while the Torah (al-tawrat) before him is his essential persona (aṣāla dhāt an). Moses the prophet (al nabī) is essentially the Moses of the gate of reality upon reality (ḥaqīqa). In a metaphorical sense the reality of the Torah which was revealed before him consists of four letters which are the four lettered personal name Muḥammad ([1] م mīm = M + [ 2] ح ḥā’ = Ḥ + [3] م mīm = M + [4] د dāl = D : محمد = Muḥammad). The manifestation of the name Muhammad before Moses took place at the Sinaitic theophany (tajallī) of the Lord (= Q. 7:143). The agent of this theophany of the name Muhammad is again said to have been an individual from among the cherubim (rajal min al karubiyyīn) evidently one associated with the name Muhammad (Rashtī, Sh.Ism, 273b); a kind of cherubic, pre-existent spiritual locus of the name Muhammad. Shaykh Aḥmad had explained ADD

Jesus and the four Injīl (Gospel) Letters.
That four letters of the al ism al a`ẓam are found in "the Injīl of Jesus son of Mary" is also commented upon by Sayyid Kāẓim. He states, "And he [Jesus] is the likeness (mithāl) of [Imam] `Alī." This typological equation also has to do with the letters of the mightiest Name being imamologically realized. That Imam `Alī is equated with Jesus finds echoes in the writings of the Bāb (see Persian Bayan VIII:2).

Muḥammad and the five Qur’ānic letters
Five "letter" components of Mightiest Name are also allotted to the Qur'an. They are imamologically understood as representing the pentad of the four twelver Imams, [1] Ḥasan, [2] Ḥusayn, [3] Ja`far al-Ṣādiq, [4] Mūsā and the prophet’s daughter [5] Fāṭima. At one point in his commentary on the Khuṭba al ṭutunjiyya Sayyid Kāẓim also interprets the seven graphic sigla of the Mightiest Name imamologically, as [1] Muhammad and the  six of the Imams, [2] `Alī, [3] Fāṭima [4] Ḥasan, [5] Ḥusayn, [6] Ja`far and [7] Mūsā. These seven are indicative of the fullness, the pleroma of the fourteen (= 2x7= 14) immaculate ones (Sh.Ttnj : 53).

[1] On the  "Seal" (Khatam) or Pentalpha    (mss. p. 00).

“Now the  the seal (khātam = the  pentalpha   ) is allusive of the “theophany” of the Name (ẓuhūr al-ism), that is to say, the mightiest ] Divine Self-manifestation (tajallī al-a`ẓam) just as in the [qur’ānic] supplication  (= Q. Surah 1: 1-5) exists in five modes (fī du`a fī khams maqāmāt). Such are the levels expressive of [theologically] apophatic [non-disclosive] tokens of Him (al-maqāmāt  wa hiya al-`allāmāt  allati lā ta`ṭīl li-hā) on every level wherein God could be known. For whoso knoweth Him, praised be He, does not realize any distinction between Him and aught else, except that they are His servants and His creatures.

The First Station (al-maqām al-awwāl) [expressed by the pentalpha  ) is  the station of the inmost depth (al-bāṭin), the Mystery which is veiled in Mystery (al-sirr muqanna` fi’l-sirr), the Reality of the Ultimate Reality (ḥaqq al-ḥaqq), the Shadowy Depth of His Being  (ẓill al-kaynūniyyatihā), its Secret (sirr) and its Light (nūr), its Veil (ḥijāb) and its Universal Countenance (wajh al-kullī) as well as its resplendent  Splendor (ḍiyā’ al-muḍī`).   

The Second Station (al-maqām al-thānī) [expressed by the pentalpha   ] is the station of the theophany of that Mightiest Name (ẓuhūr al-ism al-a`ẓam)  on the level of the inmost depth (al-bāṭin). This in that it is indeed the Inmost Depth (al-bāṭin), the mystery secreted in mystery (al-sirr al-mustansirr bi’l-sirr), the Reality of the Ultimate Reality (ḥaqq al-ḥaqq), the Theophany of His Beingness (ẓuhūr al-kaynūniyyatihā) and the First station of its  XXXX (             ) as well as the Genesis of the Theophany of  …… (mabda’ al-ẓuhūr …..)   

The Third Station (al-maqām al-thānī) [expressed by the pentalpha  ]

The Fourth Station (al-maqām al-thānī) [expressed by the pentalpha  ]

The Fifth Station (al-maqām al-thānī) [expressed by the pentalpha  ]

Sayyid Kāẓim and sigla 7, the inverted letter wāw  =  و  = "W" :  

Ms. 273a

 

“He [Imam `Alī] says, “Then the inverted [letter] wāw” (= [1] w+ [2] ā+ [3] w = 6-1-6). This is an alluision to the Ḥujjat (the [messianic] Proof [the 12th Imam]) the son of [the 11th Imam] al-Ḥasan [al-Askarī (d. 260/844) – may the blessings of God be upon the two of them and upon their [ten Imamī] purified forefathers, for they are the completion of the twofold totality on the levels of the outward manifestations of al-wilāya [imamological providence] (fī maratib ẓuhūrāt al-wilāya al-ẓāhira) relative to the [celestial] Pedestal [Chair] (al-kursī) which is an outward expression of the gnosis of God (`ilm Allāh). So shall be his [coming] day which is the [eschatological] Day of Gathering (yawm al-jum`a). Such is indeed the sixth (al-sitta) of the days of the week (ayyām al-usbū`) by means of which the [letter] “w” (al-wāw) [ =abjad six] is indicated which is  inclusive of the manifestation of the [letter] “H” (al-hā’) [= abjad 5] in the mode of completion (`alā al-tafṣīl). This since the [letter] “H” (al-hā’) is the locus of unicity [gathering] (ṣāḥib al-juma`) and the letter “w” (al-wāw) the locus of differentiation [separateness] (ṣāḥib al-tafṣīl).  God – Glorified be He - does indeed make this manifest relative to religion  in its wholeness (`alā al-dīn kullihi) even though the infidels (al-mushrikīn) might detest this.

Now the “mystery of reversal” (sirr al-tankis) is indicative of his  return  after his hiddeness  (al-ikhtifār) or his manifestation after his occultation (al-ghayba) as a consequence of the [ensuing] tribulation ( `amma   al-ibtilā’).  Its clarification [exposition] (al-bayān) is indicated in Hs statement, exalted and glorified is He, “What is promised (wa`d an ) by God, for such as have been faithful and have acted accordingly, through their good deeds (al-ṣāliḥāt), is surely that He will appoint them to be successors [regents] upon the earth ...  

Lambden Note :

The inverted letter wāw element existing in many of the diagrammatic forms of the Mightest Name is a representation of an inverted,  elongated and reversed Arabic [Persian] letter wāw (W [V]). It is basically an inverted (Arabic) letter (W = V) with an `extended tail'.  It is interesting to note that Sayyid Kāẓim in his  Risālah fī Sharḥ wa tafsīr ism al-a`ẓam gives the seventh item in `Imam `Alī's graphic depiction of the Mightiest Name of God, the inverted letter  wāw   و   (see above), a messianic significance. He  states that it  "alludes to the [messianic] Proof (al‑ḥujjat),  the son of Ḥasan [al‑Askarī, the 11th Imam, d. c. 260/874]". The central (hidden) letter "A" (alif)   of the three letters of wāw  when spelled out in full (= the three letters  واو =wāw) represents the Qā’im or Shi`i messianic Ariser as one "stationed between the two gulfs (ṭutunjayn), the isthmus (barzakh) between the two worlds".

 

APPENDIX ONE

Being corrected and completed.

Some notes on the interpretations of the letter  wāw  in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsā'ī (1752-1826) and some post-Shaykhi Baha'i interpretations.

In certain of his writings Shaykh Ahmad evinced a remarkable knowledge of `ilm al-ḥurūf (letter mysticism) or  ilm al-jafr.   In for example, his Sharḥ al-fawā’id the letter wāw is associated with the Arabic qur’anic imperative headed phrase “Be and its is!” (kun fa`ya-kun). The word  kun = “Be!” being derived from  the  Arabic trilateral root K-W-N in which the "hidden" letter “wāw” is concealed or at its centre.

           The qur’anic six days of creation, furtghermore, are associated with the following six stages or modes of the realization of created being :

  • (1) yawn al-
  •  (2) yawm al-
  • (3) yawm al-
  • (4) yawm al
  • (5) yawm al-
  • (6) yawm al-

Shaykh Ahmad also commented upon the  sirr al-tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra`īs   in a highly abstruse fashion as will be seen in the translation of his al-Risāla al-Rashtiyya in which it is stated that the inverted letter wāw (W [= V]) represents the Qā'im, the messianic 12th Imām. Its being inverted is a reference to his return. This interpretation is based on the fact that the letter wāw  (Per. vāv ) contains three letters  when spelled or written out in full,   constitute the following three letters W+A+W. Of these three letters making up or spelling in full the Arabic letter W (V) which has been reversed, Shaykh Aḥmad has explained as follows;

  •  [1] The first wāw (abjad  6) of represents the (biblical) qur’ānic six days of creation (refer Qur'ān 50:38, etc., cf. Genesis 1).
  •  [2] The second wāw    (abjad  6) signifies the days in which "the first [primal]" (al-ūlā) again comes into being. It apparently signifies the onset of the eschatological era which is actualized at the rise of the expected messianic Qā'im.
  •  [3] The alif   in the middle of the two letter wāws) signifies the person of the messianic Qā'im, the one who rises up between these two "creations".

This early Shaykhi mode of exegesis of the is also taken up in Bābī‑Bahā’ī scripture, most notably in the Qayyūm al‑asmā’  of the Bāb and, for example,  the  al‑Kitāb al‑aqdas  ( "Most Holy Book" c. 1873) as well as the Acre (West Galilean period) Lawḥ‑i Hartik [Hirtik]  (Tablet to Hardegg, 187XX ) of Bahā’u’llāh. 

 Bahā’-Allāh, the Lawḥ-i Qinā'  (`Tablet of the Veil’) and the Risālah al-Rastiyya of Shayh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā’ī

The Lawḥ-i Qinā' (`Tablet of the Veil’) of Bahā’-Allāh is primarily addressed to the polymath and polemical opponent of the Bābī‑ Bahā’ī religions, the third Shaykhī leader Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d.1871). [1]  This significant Arabic Tablet probably dates shortly before that of the Lawh-i Hirtīk  (i.e. c.1869-71? See Majmū`a, 85‑6). In it Bahā’-Allāh cites the substance of an epistle  of Shaykh Aḥmad known as the Risāla al‑Rashtiyya (written 1197 /1783) written in response to an enquiry of Shaykh Mūsā ibn Muhammad al‑Sayīgh. [2] He  refers to its author in exalted terms as "the most glorious, the most favoured midday [sun] of Islam (ẓuhr al‑islām),  the "Ka`bah of humankind" who was the "lamp of knowledge betwixt the worlds". In this work Shaykh Aḥmad had apparently responded to an enquiry from about the signficance of the phrase "the [messianic] Qā’im is in the backbone [loins]   (al‑aṣlāb) ". In the course of his complex reply he  refers to the letter wāw  and to the sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra’īs ,  the "mystery of inversion on account of the symbol of the Ruler";  the reversed and extended letter  wāw  within the graphic Greatest Name of God symbol.

A condensed version of the Shaykh’s reply is cited by Bahā’-Allāh towards the end of his Lawḥ‑i Qinā’.  After the basmalah  Shaykh Aḥmad cites a prophecy from one of the twelver Imams indicating the date of the appearance of the expected  Mahdī (`Rightly Guided  Messiah). It is computed according to the numerical value and relationship of two fourfold  letter groupings of the isolated letters of the Qur’ān. They are the four letters alif‑l ām‑mīm‑ṣād  (A‑L‑M‑ṣ) which occur before the  Sūrat al‑A`raf  ("The Heights", Q. 7;  collective  abjad numerical value= 161) and the four letters alif‑lām‑ mīm‑rā’  ( A‑L‑M‑R ;  collective  abjad  numerical value = 271) which open the Sūrat al‑Ra`ad (`Thunder’, Q. 13).1 Within the following translation some very speculative expository remarks may help clarify what seems to be indicated by Shaykh Aḥmad:

"I [Shaykh Aḥmad] state [in reply] what has been transmitted [from one of the twelver imāms],

"After the realization of  A‑L‑M‑Ṣ (alif‑lām‑mīm‑ṣād in Q.7) through  A‑L‑M‑R (alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’ in  Q. 13) the Mahdī [Qā’im] ‑‑ upon him be peace‑‑  shall rise up".

The [letter] A (alif) assuredly came at the realization of the [aforementioned letter] ṣ (ṣād). And the [letter] ṣ (ṣād) is before you more expansive than the two thighs (awsa`al‑fakhdhāyn) [the two letter w’s in wāw ?]. How then could it  [the "A" ] [merely] be one of the two [thighs = w’s]?

Furthermore [be aware] that the [letter] wāw  is [spelled with] three letters [1] [having an abjad numerical value of] six (= w) and [2] [the letter] alif  (A) and [3] six (= abjad w). [The import is that] six "days" have undoubtedly transpired and the [letter] alif  (A) is the completion (al‑tammām) [of the awaited period] such that no [further] word need be uttered!

What though is [indicated by]  the [second] six (= w)? It is the other [subsequent] "days" (al‑ayyām al‑ukhar). Otherwise, why was there evident a repetition ["return" of the w] (al‑`aud)?  Such assuredly resulted through the mystery of inversion on account of the symbol of the Ruler (sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra`īs).

 And should this repetition [or  "return" of the wāw] be otherwise accounted for the confirmation (al‑iqrār) thereof would be by virtue of the [existence of the] subsequent [remaining] six (= the second  w) (al‑sitta al‑bāqiyya). Then would the matter (al‑amr)  [still find realization] in the [messianic] Proof (al‑ḥujja = the Qā’im‑Mahdī) and the [personification of] the Greatest Name (al‑ism al‑a`ẓam) would be manifested in the two upright [letter] "A"s (bi’l‑alifayn al‑qā’imayn) through the letter (bi’l‑ḥarf)  which is two letters contained within Allāh )  (ḥarfān min Allāh) [1st letter of Allāh  = "A"  and last letter = "h"]. This  since the two [letter A’s] are [indications of] eleven (1 = 1 beside 1 =11?)  and both [also] indicate  thirteen [= abjad  aḥad = "one" = 1+8+4 = 13 or abjad  5+6 = huwa= `He is’).

Thus was manifest the [letter] wāw  (abjad =  6+1+6 =13) which is [also] the [letter] "H" (al‑hā’). Where then is the differentiation [between these two letters; W= 6+1+6 = 13  and "H" = huwa = 5+ 6 =13]? Yet the one (= the letter A) (al‑wāhid) is what lieth betwixt the six (= w) and the six (= w) [in the letter wāw = 6+1+6] realized through the completion of [the abjad value of the isolated letters?] A‑L‑M‑Ṣ (alif‑lām‑mīm‑ṣād (Q. 7 = abjad 161) through A‑L‑M‑R (Q. 13  alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’  = abjad  231 Q.13 ). Thus is apparent the mystery of the six [= wāw].1

Everything of the foregoing is [indicated] in the [letter] wāw  (w) which is upturned  from the [letter] "H" which is ADD HERE AND CORRECT  ? (al‑mankūsa min  al‑hā’)."

Here Shaykh Aḥmad appears to indicate that the Qā'im (= the alif) will appear at the end of the era or cycle of the six days of creation as their ultimate goal or completion ‑‑ the era of the six "days" (= religious eras)  of creation has been understood to signify the prophetic missions of the often six, and variously identified, prophets "endowed with constancy" (ulū al-`azm   refer Majlisī, Bihār 2d ed. 11:34ff. cf. Qur'ān 46:34: the six are often considered Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and  Muhammad). Also that the final wāw (of      ) or the "(other) six" has to do with the `other days' or era of the "return" (raj`a ) hence the inverted backward stretching wāw (in the "greatest name of God" representation) indicating the eschatological "return" (raj`a) of past peoples. Such at least may be something of the meaning of al‑Aḥsā'ī. 

Bahā’-Allāh, `Abdu'l‑Bahā and other Bahā'ī writers

Bahā'ī interpretations of the sirr al-tankīs  to some extent draw on, though they often go beyond, those which appear to have been envisaged by Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī and his successor Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī. [3] They are many and complicated and cannot be discussed in detail here. It must suffice to make a few remarks about the meaning of the sirr al-tankīs.. in connection with the eschatological inversion of faith status or outward rank. As indicated above,  the phrase sirr al-tankīs..  ("the mystery of inversion") has to do with the interpretation of the meaning implied in this diagrammatic element found in graphic forms of the Greatest Name of God.

             Bahā’-Allāh, `Abdu'l‑Bahā and other Bahā'ī writers have given the inverted wāw and its three component letters (when written out in full) cyclic and eschatologically oriented interpretations.  Allusion is found to [1] the six `prophets endowed with constancy' (the first wāw), [2] the Bāb (the Alif: the Bāb being regarded as the Qā'im ) and [3] Bahā’-Allāh (the second wāw)  Alternatively,  as in the Lawh-i Hirtīk,  to the reversal of outward rank with the coming of Bahā’-Allāh is indicated by the  inverted, reversed  letter W. The fact that the inverted wāw stretches backwards and has an abjad value of six probably led to the idea that the messianic advent of Bahā’-Allāh has reversed the faith‑status or rank of all prefious unbelieving religionists. In one of his explanations of the sirr al-tankīs   Bahā’-Allāh, as in the Lawh-i Hirtīk,, relates its mystery to the effect of his revelation and writes, "Thus have We made their exalted ones their lowly ones and their lowly ones their exalted ones. This is the mystery of inversion for the cipher of the chief." [1]  Such an interpretation of the sirr al-tankīs  is also presupposed in the following passage from Bahā’-Allāh's  al‑Kitāb al- Aqdas  which was most probably written shortly after the  Lawh-i Hirtīk:

"Behold, the "Mystery of Great Reversal in the sign of the Sovereign" (sirr al-tank īs li-ramz al-ra'īs) hath now been made manifest. Well is it with him God hath aided to recognize the "Six" raised up by virtue of this "Upright Alif"; he, verily is of those whose faith is true. How many the outwardly pious who have turned away, and how many the wayward who have drawn nigh, exclaiming: "All praise be to Thee, O Thou the Desire of the worlds!" In truth, it is in the hand of God to give what He willeth to whomsoever He willeth, and to withhold what he pleaseth from whomsoever He may wish. He knoweth the inner secrets of the hearts and the meaning hidden in a mocker's wink. How many an embodiment of heedlessness who came unto Us with purity of heart have We established upon the seat of Our acceptance; and how many an exponent of wisdom have We in all justice consigned to the fire. We are, in truth, the One to judge. He it is Who is the manifestation of "God doeth whatsoever He pleaseth", and abideth upon the throne of "He ordaineth whatsoever He chooseth" (Aqdas 2 [al-Hasanī]:127. trans., Aqdas tr. 1992: ¶157 pp. 75‑6.)            

1 The Lawḥ‑i Qinā of Bahā’u’llāh  is printed in Majmū`ih-yi alwāh-I mubārakih. .. [MAM] 67‑87(see bib. below).

2  MacEoin 19[82] 1994: 146‑7 fn.6. The  letter of al-Aḥsā' ī for Mūsā ibn Muhammad al-Sayīgh can be found in  al‑Aḥsā’ī, al-Risāla al-rashtīya  in Jawāmi` al-Kilām  1273/6.) esp. 1:103f; Majmū`at al-rasā'il  (Kirmān, n.d.), pp. 51-3.  cf.also Ishrāq Khāvarī, Qāmūs 4:1642f.

1This Imamite tradition is also cited in the Lawḥ al‑ḥurūfāt al‑muqaṭṭa`āt  (Tablet about the Isolated Letters ‘ c. 1859?) of Bahā’u’llāh )Mā’idih 4:000). It is found in Majlisi’s Biḥār and other Shī`ī compilations of tradition and books of tafsīr.

[1] I omit several very abstruse lines here of the text of the Risāla al‑Rastiyya as cited by Bahā’u’llāh continues. Among other things, the omitted sentences  relate to aspects of the relationship between the numbers  6 and 60 and the letter "A". This passage of Bahā’u’llāh‑Shaykjh Aḥmad is concludes after a few further untranslated sentences (see MAM:87; cf. MacEoin, 1982 [94]:147).

[3] Refer MacEoin, art.cit (fn.26), p.16ff on some statements made in Rafati', 1979 (Ph.D).

[1] Bahā'u'llāh, letter cited Mā’idih 1:14. See also Raḥīq. 1:682, 686, 687, where similar statements are made. In a letter addressed to a certain Asad [Allāh] Bahā'u'llāh identifies the words, "He shall make their exalted ones their lowly ones and their lowly ones their exalted ones"  as an Islamic tradition (ḥadīth), (see Raḥīq Makhtūm 1:687).


ENDNOTES

[1] As will be seen, the Shī`ī graphical form of of the al-ism al-a`ẓam  (Mighttest Name) commented upon by Sayyid Kāẓim (there are numerous variants) has thirteen (within 7) elements counting from the inverted, extended letter wāw to the final pentacle (☆) as can be seen above. 

[2]  I wonder if this line might be slighty rewrittten and retranslated : reading al-salālim for  al-salām (= "well-being", "peace"..), " Thus, [4]  "then a ladder like unto the shape of the stairway,  though it is not a ladder "

[2] Arab. text cited from  al‑Būnī, Shams, cited  Winkler, 1930:69‑71 with German trans. 71; text and French trans. Anawati, 1967:24, 27; Eng. trans. MacEoin, 1982 [BSB 1/1:4‑14] = 1992:93‑97  = App. XXIII. I have adapted Mac Eoin’s translation in the light of the other translations and al‑Būnī’s Shams.

 [4]   After citing an extended version of the tradition from Imām `Alī and one of the graphical forms of the al-ism al-a`ẓam, Sayyid Kāḥim defines a [divine] "Name" as a named ẓuhūr, an appearance or theophany. It is  al-mutajallī , a transfiguration or self-manifestation. The mightiest theophany (tajallī al-a`ẓam) of a Name is the reality of the al-ism al-a`ẓam, the Greatest Name of God (Sh-Ism, 271 a-b)]