The Sūrat al-mulk of the Qayyum al-asma', Some introductory Notes
THE QAYYŪM AL-ASMĀ'
OF THE BĀB.
(The Surah of the Dominion)
Slightly Revised 3rd December 2019.
On this site is the first part of my (completed) provisional translation of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ (= QA) of the Bab (mid. 1844/1260) with brief introduction and selected notes. In this instance it is my completion of the authorized translation of the first surah, the Sūrat al-mulk (Surah of the Dominion), of Habib Taherzadeh published in Selections From the Writings of the Bab (= SWB., citations are in quote marks with page numbers indicated). The Arabic text or ms. of the Surahs of the QA will be cited according above the page where the official translation is completed and a few variant readings noted.
I began translating the QA in the early 1980s and hope in due course to post a complete translation of all one hundred and eleven surahs. The versification of the surahs of the QA is sometimes uncertain though the Bāb himself stated that there should be forty-two verses in each (of the 111) surahs as accords with the abjad numerical value of lī meaning "before me" in Q. 12:4b (Ar. لي = l + ī = 30+10= 40) and another two representative of "the sun and the moon" (40+2 = 42). This figure is explicitly confirmed in the Bāb's early Khuṭba al-dhikriyya ("The Sermon of the Remembrance") where it is stated in the context of an imamologically numbered categorization of the early works of the Bāb dating from between 1260-1262 (AH):
"The Fourth [revelational categorization] is the Ḥusaynid Book (kitāb al-Ḥusayniyya) which is the Commentary upon the Surah of Joseph (Sharḥ Sūrat Yūsuf = Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsuf = Qayyūm al-asmā') -- upon him be peace -- which is divided up into one hundred and eleven firmly established [clearly delineated] (muḥkamat) surahs. Every one of them is made up of forty two verses. These constitute a sufficient [messianic] testimony unto whomsoever exists upon the earth or lieth beneath the Divine Throne (al-`arsh)..." (cited Afnan 2000: 472; cf. 445).
I have counted everything -- (surah title +) basmalah + Q. citation + isolated letters -- up till the isolated letters as 2 (or 3) verses (though this is bracketed) and 40 verses until the end of any given surah. Though the versification of the surahs of the QA is often uncertain, the rhyming prose accusative endings of successive Arabic verses are the primary indication. This forty-two mode of surah versification of the QA., is evident in certain mss. of this work; most notably, the early 1261 mss. of Muhammad Mahdī ibn Karbalā'ī where QA1 and 2 (and other surah headings) have the following words after the surah title (e.g. Surat al-mulk) and in between the basmala : wa hiya ithnā'[tāni] wa arba`ūn "and it [the Surah] has forty two verses". In the following translations I retain this sometimes uncertain versification for the sake of reference and commentary.
Though he Bāb himself stated that there should be forty-two verses in each sūrah of the QA as accords with the abjad numerical value of the Arabic lī (meaning "before me") in Q. 12:4b - Ar. لي = l + ī = 30+10= 40 and the additional 2 = 42) - it is not always clear how this figure could be arrived at. In QA1 the 42 verses seem clear enough though the 42 sometimes seems more "symbolic" or archetypal rather than a clear setting down of 42 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`) . Yet the counting of fForty-two verses seems to hold good for a number of suras such, for example, as QA5. Elsewhere the "forty-two" configuration cannot easily be configured. It should also be noted at rthis point that some verses of the QA are fairly short while others may be extended so as to make up very long pericopae ("paragraphs"). This is also the case in the Qu'rān itself with which the QA has a great deal in common; especially respecting its form, style vocabulary and Arabic in rhyming prose etc.
THE SURAT AL-MULK
In neo-qur'ānic fashion QA1 opens with the standard Islamic basmalah (= Bismillah al-raḥman al-raḥim, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate") though without any prefixed isolated letter(s) in QA1 such as appear before 28 sūrahs of the 114 Sūrahs of the Q and most of the other 111 Sūrahs of the QA (except, QA 1, 52, 64, 67, 74). No single qur`ānic verse from Sūrah 12 prefixes QA1 as is the case before all other sūrahs of the QA which usually comment upon it fairly briefly in "rewritten" or "re-revealed" (waḥy) fashion.
As QA1 has no isolated letters it can be considered a kind of prolegomenon to the QA proper (cf. the Sūrat al-Fāṭiha, Q. 1 which is similarly without prefixed isolated letters). Every subsequent Sūrah (QA 2-111) does comment in verse by verse fashion upon the whole of the Sūrah of Joseph (= Q. 12:1-111). The Sūrat al-mulk (= QA1) is pictured in many Bahā'ī sources dependent on Zarandī's history (as redacted by Shoghi Effendi in the 1932 and later editions of the The Dawn-Breakers) to have been revealed by the Bāb on the evening of his encounter with the young Shaykhī seeker Mullā Ḥusayn Bushrū'ī (d.1265/1849) in his house in Shiraz on the evening of 5th Jumādi al-Ūlā [Awwal] 1260/ May 22nd 1844 (Dawn-Breakers, 61ff). The whole of the QA may have been completed within "forty days" though this may be a symbolic figure such that its period of completion was perhaps considerably longer.
Within the English translation posted here a few points of transliteration of the original Arabic have been added along with occasional clarification including select qur'ānic allusions in brackets. Some further introductory details to the Sūrat al-mulk (Surah of the Dominion) can be found in my unpublished,`The opening Sūrat al-mulk (Surah of the Dominion) of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ ("The Deity Self-Subsisting through the Divine Names") of Sayyid `Alī Muhammad, the Bāb (1819-1850)'.
The first chapter or surah of the Qayyum al-asma' was entitled Surat al-mulk', the 'Surah of the Dominion', by the Bāb himself. Its title is paralleled by that of the 67th Meccan Surah of the Qur'an also سورة الملك which begins after the basmalah:
تبارك الذي بيده الملك وهو على كل شئ قدير
Blessed be He, in whose hand, is the mulk (dominion) for he is one Mighty over all things
The reason for this title in the Qayyum al-asma' relates to the fact that mulk, meaning `dominion' `kingdom' or `sovereignty', etc. is a central theme of this first Surah. The centrally important Arabic word mulk (cf. malik = king) occurs 8-9 times (see QA1:20ff) times in key sentences or verses within QA1. It enshrines meanings indicative of the global rulership of the earth, which the Bāb proclaimed should erelong return to the custody of God Himself through the messianic Twelfth Imam, the Dhikr, or their servant the Bāb.
A common qur'ānic and Islamic expression, al-mulk li-llāhī, "the Kingdom belongeth to God", indicates that the kingdoms of this world, are in reality the Kingdom of God (to use a biblical expression). It indicates a direct or indirect theocratic rulership of this world to be established in its fullness in eschatological times. For the Bāb the mulk Allāh or `rule of God' will be established by kings subservient to the coming Qā'im or 12th Imam also known as the Dhikr (Remembrance). If faithful these kings would be the recipients of divine favour in the new age. If they take personal part in a global jihād ("holy war") with the messianic saviour 12th Imam, they would be well compensated (QA 1: XX).
This predicted global jihad under the Qā'im, of course, never took place. After QA 1 there appears to be few instances in the writings of the Bab in which he specifically calls for a global jihad during the remaining five or so years of his lifetime. This though seems to be presupposed in his early (1845) epistle to the Shaykhi leader Ḥajji Mirza Muhammad Kārim Khān Kirmānī (d.1871) judging by the text cited in the latter's Risāla al-Shihāb al-thāqib fī rajm al-nawāṣib ("The Piercing Thunderbolt for the Stoning of the Enemies") which calls the Kirmani Shaykhi leader to اخرج لعهد بقية الله امام عدل مبين "Come forth [for service - jihad?] as accords with the covenant of the [messianic] Remnant of God (baqiyyat-Allah) [the Hidden twelfth] a just and manifest Imam". This as one of the muhājiran (emigrant helpers) traveling unto the country of the Remembrance (al-dhikr) [Shiraz?] [seated] upon a powerful steed (fars al-quwwa) with weapons of requisite perfection (bi'l-ālāt al-makmalat). This evidently that he might assist the Hidden Imam and his servant the Bab, in their militaristic quest for eschatological victory. See this website for an early Tablet of the Bab to the first Kirmani Shaykhi leader Hajji Mirza Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani (d.1871) :
As time progressed the call for concrete jihad by the Bab appears to have become less and less especially after the Bab became privy to a change in the divine plan through al-bada, a `recreation' of a Divine directive. The earliest QA call of the Bab to jihād against earthly rulers (perhaps 1844-6-8?) was never realized. Even the later Babi upheavals (1848-1852) appear never to have been precipitated by a specific call of the Bab for jihād. While jihad activity always remained a distinct, theological possibility for the Bāb, it never quite came to have a fully fledged concrete, militaristic realization. As Bahā'-Allāh argued in his Kitab-i īqān ("Book of Certitude", 1862), the sovereignty of the Bāb as the Qā'im, was destined to be more like that of Jesus Christ than Muhammad. It was a "spiritual", unworldly sovereignty not a concrete theocracy established by warmongering followers. The anticipated Shī`ī jihād ("holy war") predicted in numerous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and the Imams, was never realized in worldly terms. Neither "kings" nor the "sons of kings" rose up for any jihād episode called for in QA1. Rather, it was religiously inclined, youthful scholars of the Shaykhī school who early came to faith in the Bāb, not so much well-armed fighters or fanatics of a militaristic disposition. The mulk Allāh, the rule, sovereignty or kingdom of God anticipated in the QA., was established in such human hearts as were ready for martyrdom in the service of the Bāb, not fighters lusting after booty or such persons as are desirous of worldly conquest and success. Unlike the Bab, we may further note in this connection, Bahā'-Allāh taught that the triumph of his religion would be independent of any holy war and would not be realized with the assistance of worldly kings or monarchs:
We have pledged Ourselves to secure Thy triumph upon earth and to exalt Our Cause above all men, though no king be found who would turn his face towards Thee (trans. GWB: 248‑249).
In another scriptural Tablet Bahā'-Allāh stresses the importance of fellowship with the followers of all religions and states that "the law of holy war hath been blotted out from the Book" (Bahā'-Allāh: Aqdas: Notes, Page: 241). Many other passages in his writings in one way or another undrline the undesirability of jihad, the folly of warfare, and the necessity of peace and collective security. The means for the globalization of his religion, he held, would come about through the spread of his creative and transformatice Word. In an Arabic Tablet to a certain (unidentified) `Ali partially published the compilation Ma’ida-yi asmani, Bahā'-Allāh states:
We indeed lifted up the hukm al-sayf wa’l-sinan (decree of the sword and spears) and We decreed that victory (al-nasr) be through exposition [of the sacred Word] (al-bayan) and that which comes out from the tongue. He indeed is the Sublime (Ma’ida 4:18)
Among the numerous similar passages on these lines found in the writings of Baha’u’llah the following is an interesting example found in a Tablet to a certain Mashhadi Haydar entitled Sahifat-Allah (The Scroll of God) :
O Husayn before `Ali... Say: through Him the ocean of exposition hath surged and the breeze of the All-Merciful hath wafted... Say: He, through his Pen hath bypassed the swords of the nations and interdicted --? - and qittal (killing) and the decree of jihad. He verily is the most Merciful of such as show mercy. This is the hidden matter unto which the books testify. (INBMC 23: [187-195]:189)..
In the late Tablet of Bishārat, (c. 1891), within its very first Glad-Tiding, like the first “Word” uttered at the time of the Ridwan declaration, we read as follows:
“O people of the earth! The first Glad‑Tidings which the Mother Book hath, in this Most Great Revelation, imparted unto all the peoples of the world is that the law of holy war (jihad) hath been blotted out from the Book…(TB:21).
Distinctly echoing the Isaiah 2:4, Bahā'-Allāh also desires, according to the aforementioned scriptural Glad-Tidings (Bisharat), that "weapons of war [Isaiah = “swords”] throughout the world, be converted into instruments of reconstruction [Isaiah = “ploughshares”] and that strife and conflict may be so removed from the midst of men, that they shall learn war no more]" (cf. Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:1-2).
Thus, for the one-time leading Bābī, Bahā'-Allāh and his followers, the Bahā'īs, tranformed the Bāb's promise of the theocratic sovereignty of God, into a peace generating religion propagated by missionary and intellectual activity. The neo-Babi Baha'i religion commenced with an 1863 declaration (by Bahā'-Allāh) of the abrogation of the law of concrete jihād. This in favour of the propagation of religion through the peaceful means of religious exposition (Ar. bayān) characterized by ḥikma ("wisdom") such as would maintain peace and the unity in diversity of humankind. A well-known Persian Baha'i prayer of Bahā'-Allāh reads:
"God grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth and that the seal al-mulk li-llāhī (`the kingdom is God's) may be stamped on the brow of all its peoples'.
The call for mulk Allāh or al-mulk li-llāhī , the sovereignty of God voiced by the youthful Bāb in QA1 in 1844, was, twenty years later in late April-early May 1863, transformed by Bahā'-Allāh into a call for peace realized aside from "holy war" through the "sword of the tongue" not destructive weaponry.
The phrase الامر البديع al‑amr al‑badī` in Qayyūm al-asma' I:9
"This is indeed the Mystery (al-sirr) [which hath been hidden] from all that are in heaven and on earth, and in this الامر البديع al-amr al-badī`, "wondrous Revelation" [or "revolutionary", new " religious Cause"] it hath, in very truth, been set forth in the Mother Book by the hand of God, the Exalted" (SWB: 41)
The subtle apocalyptic language of the Qayyum al-asma' at I:9 seems to presuppose the exposure of a once hidden yet new or revolutionary al-amr, a religious "Cause" championed by the hidden Imam and his representative the Bab. The official Baha'i translation here (in SWB:41) slightly obscures this matter by non-literally translating al-amr al-badi` (literally, “the new/ innovative/ wondrous command /Order /Cause" as “this wondrous Revelation”. A number of Shi`i messianic traditions predict the eschatological emergence of a new amr, a new religious Cause. Several well-known Islamic traditions have it that the messianic Qa’im, the sahib al-amr (bearer of a Cause /Command) will establish a new religious amr (religious “Cause”) which will be propagated throughout the globe. One hadith originating with Ja`far al-Ṣādiq as cited by Shaykh al-Mufid is fairly explicit in this respect: Add here Arabic text.
When the Qa’im… rises, he will come with a new amr (religious “Cause”), just as the Messenger of God [Muhammad] (rasul Allah) … at the genesis of Islam, summoned unto a new amr (religious “Cause”)” (Irshad, 364).
The word amr in the phrase amr jadid within this tradition could have a very wide range of possible senses including being indicative of a new “Command”, “Order” , “Cause” and even “religion”. Shi`i traditions about a new amr are more explicitly quoted by the Bāb in his Tafsīr Sūrat al-Kawthar and also by Baha'-Allah in his Kitab-i īqān (Book of Certirude, c. 1861) and other writings. This amr is usually understood in Bābī-Bahā’ī writ to mean a new religion, revelation, religious order or “Cause”. For Bahā’īs the (Per.) Amr-i ilāhī indicates the Cause or Religion of God . The Bahā’ī religion today is often referred to as the amr-i ilāhi.
The kind of eschatological expectations presupposed in QA1 are expressed in messianic traditions such as the following: Abu `Abd-Allah [Ja`far al-Ṣādiq].. Said, `His [the Qa’im’s] Shi`a [party] will come to him from the ends of the earth (aṭrāf al-arḍ), rolling up in great numbers to pledge allegiance to him. Then God will fill the earth with justice (fayamla’ Allah bihi al-arḍ `adl an) just as it was filled with injustice (ẓulm an)... (cited al-Mufid, K. Al-Irshád, 379 trans. Howard, 548).
The messianic Qa'im furthermore, has the role of establishing justice and peace within a new dawla or "state". In the Kitab al-Irshād of Shaykh al-Mufid, it is recorded that `Alī b. `Uqba reported on the authority of his father, an Imami tradition which includes specific mention of the establishment of justice, safety and peace at the time of the universal reign of the messianic Qa’im. The conversion or destruction of all non-Muslims will have been achieved by a universal, just, and peaceful Shi`i dawla (“state”), the final global state:
When the Qā’im.. rises he will rule the earth with justice. In his time, injustice will be removed and the roads will be safe. The earth will produce its benefits and every due will be restored to its proper person. No people of any other religion will remain without being shown Islam and confessing faith in it.. He will judge between the people with the judgment (ḥukm) of David and the law (ḥukm) of Muhammad... At that time the earth will reveal its treasures (kunuz) and show its blessings. At that time men will not find any place to give alms nor be generous because wealth will encompass all the believers.... Our state (dawla) is the last of the states (akhir al-duwal). No House (ahl al-bayt) which has a state (dawla) will remain except that they ruled before us, so that they will not be able to say when they see our actions, if we ruled we would act in the same way as these. It is as the word of God, the Exalted, "The final result is for those who are pious (Q. VII 128)” (cited al-Mufíd, al-Irshád, 384-5 trans. Howard, 552-3; translit. added).
Summing up the implications of this and related Imami messianic traditions, Abd al-`Aziz Sachedia writes in his Islamic Messianism, of the Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi`ism (Albany: SUNY, 1981) as follows, "the zuhur [of the Mahdi] proper will take place in Mecca, the birthplace of Islam. Al-Mahdi, like the Prophet, will come with a new order and will call the people to follow that order, as did the Prophet at the beginning of Islam [Mufid, al-Irshād, 705]. That new order will restore the purity of Islam as taught by the prophet and the Imams. The order will carry within itself the religio-social-politcal aspects of the pristine Islam. Thus the commencement of the appearence of the Mahdi in Mecca, more specifically in the Ka`ba, between the Rukn and the Maqam, the two holy spots in the precinct, not only increaces the significance of the twelfth Imams mission, but also preserves the symbolic unity of the umma by launching it in Mecca. This is the import of the phrase mahdi al-umma -- the Mahdi of the people -- the title on which the Imamite scholars placed great emphasis during the early years of the Complete Occultation” (Sachedia, Messianism, 160).
The emergent religion of the Bab, as the al-din al-khalis (the purified religion") is glimpsed in the Surat al-mulk of the Qayyum al-asma'. To a considerable degree it was shaped by numerous, sometimes detailed Imami messianic traditions of the kind cited above. They provide the context within which many of his earliest statements are best understood. His first followers were pious Shi`i Muslims many with distinct messianic and eschatological expectations.
For some details on the title of this Sura, Surat al-Mulk see URL: Part II : Some Comments on specific Sura Titles of the Qayyūm al-asmā'