Towards a chronological examination of the Evolving Claims and Titles of Baha'-Allah (1817-1892 CE) from the 1850s until 1892.

 

Refurbished Room of Baha'-Allah in Mazra'ih (Ottoman Palestine).

 بهاء الله‎‎

"The Glory of God".

Towards a Chronological Examination of the Evolving Claims and Titles of Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, Baha'-Allah (12th November 1817 – 29th  May 1892 CE) from the 1850s until 1892.

Stephen Lambden UCMerced,

Notes from the 1980s ...

In Progress. Last uploaded and expanded 23-04-2017

The claims of and titles assumed by Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, Baha'-Allah (The Glory-Splendour of God) were expressed by him in perhaps 15-20.000 Arabic and Persian scriptural alwah ("Tablets") writings and recorded utterances, spanning a forty of more year period, from the six year Babi period (1844-1850)  culminating in his religious experiences in the Siyah Chal (Black Pit) in Tehran in 1852 until his passing in Acre, Ottoman Palestine in 1892 CE. He did not openly express the fulness of his theophanic claims during the 1840s up until the early 1860s when he made semi-secret claims to a group of devotees near Baghdad in April-May 1863. In fact he himself as written about the gradual disclose of his religious claims in the light of the spiritual capacity of his diverse associates - Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Shaykhi Babi and other - hearers. These claims range from a position of servitude to humanity without any transcendent disclosure to being a manifestation of God or the eschatological theophany of the divine (Arabic) huwiyya, the  Ipseity or  Logos-Self Identity of the Godhead. Though he made many very elevated claims appropriate to exponents of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the religion of the Bab, and other religious and non-religious positions, he never put forth a claim to identical with the Essence (dhat) of the Absolute Godhead who is `Wholly Other' in an apophatic realm of non-disclosure. Many writings refer to Baha'-Allah as "God" though this is always a subordinate divinity even when expressed in concrete terms.

As Baha'-Allah, like the Bab, saw the inbreaking of the Day of God (yawm Allah) during their lifetimes and through their persons during the 19th century, they viewed this period as the time of messianic fulfillment and of the liqa'-Allah the Meeting or Encounter with God. On the Day of God claims to Godhead were deemed approprate though on a subordinate level. Baha'-Allah taught that all great founder prophets - including Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and the Bab - could each all claim spiritual oneness and to occupy he station of Divinity as manifestations of God. He talked of mazhar ("manifestation")  not the ḥulūl (indwelling, incarnation) of the Absolute which he saw as ghuluww (extremest heresy). The Unknowable Godhead beyond all, cannot appear in physical, corporeal or human form. The Logos-Self (nafs) of the Manifestation of God is the Self of God (nafs Allah) but not His transcendent Essence (al-dhat / dhat al-dhat). The Holy books, the Bible and the Qur'an however, do speak of God Himself appearing on earth in person in eschatological times and both the Bab and Baha'-Allah saw themselves as fulfilling this expectation. The eschatological theophany was realized through their Divinity, though not in any ontological, absolute or direct manner. They both spoke on behalf of God and thus claimed to be Divine. As founder-Prophets of Messengers of God, they enabled a zuhur ("outward) theoophany or a divine tajalli (self-disclosure, "transfiguration") but never a humanizing of the transcendent Godhead beyond gender, oneness, time and space, beyond the beyond. In the Baha'i viewpoint the Bab and Baha'-Allah were specially chosen human beings possessed of a pre-existent divine indentity, though this did not entail any tajassud’ (embodiment) of the Absolute Being, the Real beyond Reality.They claimed latter-day Divinity in fullfilment of the supra-messianic promises, though not identity with God Him-Her-It Self.

During the years following the martyrdom of the Bab up till the mid. 1860s and sometimes beyond this time in Acre and elsewhere in Ottoman Palestine, Baha'-Allah held something of a `messianic secret' in keeping his religious claims to himself. When other Babi claimants put forth a claim of Shi`i messianis status or to possess theophanic divinity, Baha'-Allah held back only disclosing his semi-secret elevated status to select individuals on appropriate occasions. When his half-brother Mirza Yahya Nuri (c. 1832-d. 1914) held a leadership position after the death of the Bab, Baha'-Allah held to his `messianic secret' in championing the claims of his half-brother as can be gleaned from his Lawh-i kull al-ta`am (The Tablet of All Food), Surat al-kifaya (early-mid. 1850s), Lawh-i Nasir (c. 1867) and many other writings. 

At this point it will be appropriate to cite the Surat al-Fath (The Surah of the Opening, or to Fath-Allah) of Baha'-Allah which has explicit statements about his evolving claims as well as those of the Bab. The Sūrat al-Fatḥ,  literally, like the first Surah of the Qur'an, the`Surah of the Opening' is  perhaps so entitled after its recipient, a Babi-Baha'i entitled Fath or Fath al-A`zam.  This important scriptural Tablet is probably to be dated to the  Adrianople-Edirne, perhaps c.1865-7. In order to explain and legitimate his own years of acting as a leading Bābī (mid. 1840's until mid. 1860's ) but now claiming exalted Prophethood or subordinate Divinity, there exists an important passage in Bahā'-Allāh's  Sūrat al-Fatḥ (The Surah of the Commencement') clarifying his gradually evolving claims, from servitude to theophanic subordinate divinity. Towards the beginning of this Arabic Tablet Bahā'-Allāh claims to be the messianic Remembrance (al-dhikr) and states that he divulges nothing about his nature, status or claims save what is in accordance with the recipients' capacity. God lies behind and determines, through His command, the nature of Bahā'-Allāh's claims in direct accordance with a determined measure, "lest the inmost hearts of such as believe in the unity of God be shattered". Referring to the earlier Babi situation, Bahā'-Allāh continues:

 So recollect, O people! the moment when there came unto you the  Revealer of the Bayān [the Bāb] with wondrous, holy verses.  At one moment  he said, `I am the Gate of Knowledge ( bāb al-`ilm ) and whosoever is convinced of the truth of my Claim (ḥaqqī) in addition to that [surpassing that station] (fūq dhalika),  hath assuredly invented lies about Me and acquires great sin within himself '. Then [later] He said, `I am the Qā'im, the True One ( al-qāim al‑ḥaqq ) whose manifestation you were promised in mighty, noble Scrolls. This, verily, is assuredly [the Reality of] Muhammad, the Messenger of God ( rasūl Allāh), just as you have heard and witnessed in the tablets of God (alwāḥ Allāh), the King, the Ruler'. He [subsequently] said, `I am the Primordial Point (nuqṭat al‑awwaliyya)'. And when the beings of a number of predisposed souls were refined, then were  the veils torn asunder and there rose up from the Dawning-Place of Holiness [the Bāb's claim],` I verily am God, no God is there except Me, thy Lord and the Lord of all the worlds'. And [He also said], `I, verily, from the beginning which hath no beginning,  was a Divinity (ilāh an), One, Single, Unique... I [the divine, primordial Bāb], verily, sent the Prophets ( al-nabiyyīn ) and the sent Messengers ( al-mursalīn) from an eternity of eternities past...

Then gaze upon Me [Bahā'-Allāh], he continues, "the Logos-Soul of God ( nafs Allāh )"...

By God, O people! [Initially] I [Bahā'-Allāh]  did not desire any Cause (amr an) for  myself and followed all the Manifestations of old. I supported the Cause of God on all levels ( fī kulli  sha'n) during the days when faces were concealed out of fear of the oppressors. I humbled Myself before every soul in the Bayān [all Bābīs] and lowered the wing of submission ( jannāt al‑taslīm ) before every worthy believer...

Baha'-Allah, the mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestation of God), the Divine Theophany.

 A paragraph from the The Lawh-i Zuhur, the Tablet of Manifestation is worth citing at this point relative to the developed claims of Baha'-Allah.  It is clear from the Lawh-i Zuhur of Baha'-Allah, that huwiyya can indicate the mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestation of God) including himself. This important Tablet probably dating to the mid. West Galilean or `Akka (Acre) period commences by addressing one "who gazeth in the direction of the Godhead (ila shatr Allah)" and continues :

[2] So know thou! that the Manifestation of God (al-ẓūhur) is not compounded of the four [Empedoclean] elements (`anāṣir al-arba`a). [3] Nay, rather, He is the Mystery of the Divine Oneness (sirr al-aḥadiyya), the Pre-existent Being (kaynunat al-qidamiyya), the All-Enduring Essence (al-jawhar al-samadiyya) and the Hidden Ipseity [Self-Identity of the Godhead] (al-huwiyya al-ghaybiyya). [4] He can in no wise be known apart from His Own Self. [5] It is not possible for anyone to establish that He was made manifest from the four elements (`anāṣir) or indeed from such elements (ustuqus[s]āt = στοιχεῖον Gk. stoicheion = Latin elementum) as are mentioned by the tongue of the practitioners of [Graeco-Islamic] philosophy (ahl al-ḥikmat) or, additionally, from any of the four constituent natures (al-taba'i`). [6] Indeed! All such as this was created as a result of His Logos-Command (amr) and through His Divine Will (mashiyya). [7] For all eternity hath He been alone without a single thing proximate to Him. Like unto the time, that is, when the [Be! and] "It is" was, in very truth, realized (yakūn bi'l-ḥaqq) [cf. Q. 2:117]. [8] And when He established Himself upon the Heavenly Throne (al-`arsh) the revealed verses (al-ayat) were sent down unto thee in view of the fact that there was found in thy heart the fire of His love (trans. Lambden).

Not only can the genitive phrase al-huwiyya al-ghaybiyya be indicative (as in numerous Islamic sources) of the transcendent abstrated Deity, the Unknowable Godhead, but also the (Per.)  mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestation of God) as the "Hidden Ipseity" or Self-Identity of the Godhead" (al-huwiyya al-ghaybiyya).

 

THE EARLIEST BABI PERIOD IN QAJAR PERSIA.

1. The Tehran to Baghdad  1844-1862

The Rashh-i `ama' (The sprinking of the theophanic cloud), 1852-3. 

THE YEARS IN OTTOMAN IRAQ.

BAGHDAD I

2. The  early Baghdad years (1852-54).

Lawh-i kull al-ta`am (The Tablet of all Food, c. 1854)

The Surat al-Kifaya (earlt 1850s?)

KURDISTAN

3. The  Kurdistan interregnum years (1854-56)

The al-Qasida al-Wara'iyya (The Ode of the Dove), c. 1855.

BAGHDAD II

4. The later Baghdad years I (1855-60)

5. The  final Baghdad years (1861-83).

THE YEARS IN OTTOMAN TURKEY (1863-1868)

CONSTANTINOPLE

6. The  period in Constantinople (1863).

Lawḥ-i nāqūs  ("Tablet of the Bell") c. 1280AH/1863 CE

The wholly Arabic Lawḥ-i nāqūs  ("Tablet of the Bell") or (after the constant refrain) Lawḥ-i subhanika yā-hū ("Tablet of Praised be Thou, O He!) is probably to be dated to arounbd 1280/1863 CE., or to the period of Bahā'-Allāh's brief residence in Istanbul (Constantinople). Towards the beginning of this scriptutal Tablet we find reference to elevated claims occasionally reflecting those presupposed in the decade or so earlier early Rashh-i `ama'. Claims to be the "Beauty of the Divine Ipseity (jamāl al-huwiyya)", the eschatological Trumpet blast (al-sūr) heralding the new theophany (al-ẓuhūr) associated with the linking of the letters "H" (al-hā' ) and "B" fundamental to the, for Baha'is, personification of the al-ism al-a`zam (Greatest Name) being Baha' : 

O Countenance Eternally Subsistent! (tal`at al-baqā')

Pluck with the Fingertips of the Spirit (anāmil al-rūh)  upon a wondrous, holy Rebec (rabāb) for the Beauty of the Divine Ipseity (jamāl al-huwiyya)  is manifested in resplendent silken attire.

O Angel of Light! (malak al-nūr)!

Sound the trumpet (al-sūr) in this theophany (al-ẓuhūr) for the letter "H" (al-hā' ) rideth upon a mighty, pre-existent letter ["B"] (bi-ḥarf `izz qadīm).

O Nightingale of Resplendence! (`andālib al-sanā')

Warble upon the twigs in this Riḍwān according to the Name of the One Beloved (al-ḥabīb) for the Roseate Beauty (jamāl al-ward) hath been manifested from behind a thick curtain (hijāb ghalīz).

O Nightingale of Paradise! (bulbul al-firdaws).

Sing out upon the branches in this wondrous era (zamān badī`) for God hath divulged himself (tajalla Allāh) unto all that inhabit the created dominion (al-mulk).

O Denizens of the Kingdom of  Divine Names! (malakūt al-asmā')

Ornament ye the very uttermost Heights (rafārif al-aqsā')  [of Paradise] for the Greatest Name hath ridden upon a sanctified, mighty Cloud.

 

ADRIANOPLE-EDIRNE I

7. The early Edirne period years (1863-5).

ADRIANOPLE-EDIRNE II

8. The mid Edirne years (1855-6).

ADRIANOPLE-EDIRNE III

9. The final Edirne years (187-8)

THE YEARS IN OTTOMAN PALESTINE (1868-1892).

WESTERN GALILEE, ACRE I

8. The early Acre period (1868-72)

8. The mid Acre period (1873-1884)

8. The final Acre years (1885-1892)