QAYYŪM AL-ASMĀ' OF THE BAB
(The Surah of Security)
(The Surah of the Mutual Execration)
On Qur'ān 12:2
Last Revised 19/05/09
Stephen N. Lambden
There follows the third part of my provisional translation of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ (= QA) of the Bāb (mid. 1844/1260) with selected notes. I began these translations in the early 1980s though I have not translated from a critical edition but consulted several good mss. scans of one of which are reproduced just before the translation. The versification of the surahs of the QA is often uncertain and I only tentatively count 42 verses in QA3 retaining versification for the sake of reference and commentary.
Though the versification of the surahs of the QA is sometimes uncertain 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).
The same 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 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 the versification of the surahs of the QA is often uncertain, the rhyming prose accusative endings are the primary indication. In QA 3 the 42 verses seem clear enough though such sometimes seems "symbolic" rather than a clear setting down of 42 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`) -- although this seems to hold good for certain suras such as, for example, QA5. Elsewhere the "forty-two" configuration cannot easily be set forth. It should also be noted that some verses of the QA are fairly short while others extend for occasionally very long pericopae ("paragraphs") as 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.
In neo-qur'ānic fashion QA3 opens with the standard Islamic basmalah (= Bismillah al-raḥman al-raḥim, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate"). Following the basmala and the citation of Q. 12:2 the qur'ānic isolated letters ﻃﻪ Ṭā’-Hā’ having the abjad value of 9+5 = 14 follow. The title of this Surah is Surat al-īmān (The Surah of the Security) or Surat al-mubāhala ( The Surah of Mutual Execration [Cursing]). It is perhaps not surprising that the QA3 is sometimes named the Surat al-mubāhalah since QA2 strongly challenges the Islamic `ulama’ and the ahl al-kitāb (people of the Book) while QA3 continues this courageous and outspoken challenge all but invoking the awesome power of God.
Towards the end QA3 mubāhila terminology presupposing the victory of God/the Bāb/the Dhikr who are privy to the divine secrets locked up in the Q., as contrasted with Islamic forces of opposition to new dimensions of qur’anic exegesis and guidance from God. The term mubāhala in the QA calls to mind episodes within Islamic history, episodes of divine victory over human intransigence, folly and opposition. The details surrounding Muhammad’s calling for mubāhala with certain Christians of Najran as set down in Islamic sources, precipitated the vindication of Islam and the realization of key Shī`ī perspectives as will be outlined below.
The Arabic word mubāhala derives from the triliteral Arabic root B-H-L which has the basic sense of `to curse’ and which in forms V and VI indicates `to curse one another’. The form mubāhala indicates two parties in unresolved theological deadlock; thus being in a position of mutual cursing or execration. A mubāhala involves two or more persons occupying opposing viewpoints. At a solemn mubāhala meeting each party in their respective ways calls upon God, invoking His curse upon their opponents as a resolution of the matter under debate.. The godfearing and sincere have no fear in this kind of mubāhala though persons uncertain might hesitate or refuse to take part therein. Mubāhala presupposes that the Deity is invoked and grave mutual cursing called upon proponents of error and ungodliness.
Mubāhala has its Islamic roots in various early episodes of execration set in the context of theologically charged debate. Open communication and dialogue in such circumstances has usually failed. One or other party has backed out. To settle matters finally mubāhala has been decided upon. Rooted in episodes of prophetological-Christological dispute the best- known episode of the ‘ordeal’ of mubāhala took place in the early Islamic era after the ninth year of the ḥijra (9 AH). Following the period of Muhammad sending out a series of letters to rulers and notables summoning them to accept Islam, certain leaders and inhabitants of the Christian town of of Najran (between Medina and the Yemen) came to be challenged with mubāhala by the Prophet Muhammad. The is reflected in certain verses in Q. Surah III, the Surat al-`Imran (= Amram, esp. Q. 3:59ff).
According to both Sunnī and Shī`ī tradition it was in the 10th year of the ḥijra (632-3 CE) that this mubāhala was proposed by the Prophet Muhammad to a deputation headed by a Christian named Balharith b. Ka`b of Najran. The mubalaha however, was postponed on the request of the Christians who ultimately came to be accorded the protection of dhimmis, protected non-Muslim inhabitants of the Islamic domain.
In Shī`ī Islam the abovementioned mubāhala is of great moment. It has been commemorated and celebrated as a feast on the 21st of Dhu'l-ḥijja (the lunar pilgrimage month [first two weeks]) and is closely linked with the celebration of the yawn al-ghadir ("Day of the Pool [Marsh]"), for Shī`īs the day of the appointment of `Alī as the wali (Successor) to the Prophet which is celebrated a few days earlier on the 22nd (or 18th) day of this month of Dhu’l-ḥijjah (Schumaker, EI2:276) .
The sixth Shī`īte Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (d.c.148/765) is credited with a quite lengthy Arabic prayer known as the Du`a yawm al-Mubāhala (Supplication for the Day of the Mubāhala) the text of which is found in various Shī`ī sources including the Mafatiḥ al-jinan of `Abbas al-Qummī. Therein the Du`a' yawm al-Mubāhala is said to be part of the commemoration held on the 24th Day of Dhu'l-ḥijja and closely linked with the aformementioned yawn al-ghadr ("Day of the Pool/Marsh"). For the Shi`a the yawm al-mubāhila is celebrated as a noble day. Important devotional acts are carriedout thereon including the performance of an obligatory prayer of two rak`ats (prostrations) comparable to the Ṣalat of the Feast of Ghadir but with an additional recitation of the ayat al-kursī ("Throne verse" = Q.2:255). On it the Du`a' yawm al-mubāhala should also be recited twice; the second recitation coming after the obligatory prayer of two rak`ats (prostrations) and seventy pleas for Divine forgiveness being introduced with the phrase "Praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds" (Qummī, Mafatiḥ, 351, 354). Charitable acts should also be undertaken after the example of Imam `Alī.
The recitation by the Shī`ī faithful of the Du`a' yawm al-mubahila (on the 24th of most sacred month of Dhu'l-ḥijjah) is their highly potent means of commemorating the `Day of Mutual Execration' . Traditionally it is reckoned that on this Day that the Prophet gathered the (subsequently named) "people of the cloak" (ahl al-kisa' , Q. 33:32 ) who, apart from  Muhammad himself, are  `Alī,  Faṭima,  ḥasan and  ḥusayn). They were gathered by Muhammad beneath his garment (`aba') or under his cloak (al-kisa') are referred to as the "people of my house" (ahl bayti).
Towards the end of QA3 the Bāb uses a verbal form indicative of mubāhala (`mutual execration’), tabāhila relative to his Islamic opponents. He rewrites Q. 3:61b = thumma nabtahil fa-naj`al` la`nata Allah `ala al-kadhibin ( "then let us engage in mutual execration, mubāhala;’ So shall we invoke the curse of God upon the liars". Drawing upon Q. 3:61 the Bāb promises his opponents that should this proposed event take place, that acting on behalf of God, he would cause a destructive thunderbolt of the stone of hell-fire (ṣa`iqat min hajr al-nār) to rain upon the earth. In this way the Bāb commands terrible power if forced to engage in a mubāhala confrontation and resolition.
For Baha’is it is particularly interesting to note that the Du`a yawm al-mubāhala (Supplication for the Day of the Mubāhala) ascribed to the sixth Imam, commences, like the Ramaḍan fasting prayer, the Du`a yawn al-sabaḥ (Supplication for the Dawn time) ascribed to the fifth Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (d.c..126/743) with several occurrences of the most powerful "Greatest Name" of God, the word Baha’ (lit. = "glory", "splendour", "beauty" etc):
O my God! I beseech Thee by Thy Bahā' ("Splendour") at its most Splendid (abha) for all Thy Splendor (bahā') is truly Resplendent (bahiyy). I, verily, O my God! beseech Thee by the fullness of Thy Splendour (bahā').
A close study of the Bāb’s devotional and related writings, including his Kitab-i panj sha`n and Kitāb al-asmā’ , leaves no doubt that he frequently creatively rewrote or revealed both the Shī`ī Du`a yawn al-sabaḥ and the related Du`a yawm al-mubāhala. He was markedly influenced by both of these devotions each of which are said in Shī`ī ḥadith to be empowered with the ism al-a`ẓam, the Greatest Name of God. A mubāhala supplication empowered with the Greatest, Mightiest, all-powerful Name of God capable of working miracles would surely bring divine victory over the ungodly.
It should also be noted that Baha’i historical sources include episodes of mubāhala. At the time, for example, of the proposed confrontation between Mīrzā Yaḥya and Baha’-Allāh at the Sultān Selim mosque in Edirne [Adrianople] around mid. 1866. Yaḥya failed to turn up for a mubāhala confrontation with Baha’-Allāh. Several alwaḥ were written by Baha’-Allāh commenting upon this unrealized confrontation detailing his theological victory over his half-brother, Mīrzā Yaḥya, subsequently the focal centre of opposition as the fountainhead of Azalī Bābīsm. Such Tablets are named Lawḥ-i mubāhila. A number of them have been printed though none fully translated into European languages.
Among the many other points of interest in QA3 are its creative, midrashic type rewritings of some key verses and pericopes of the Qur’an (= Q). QA3 draws especially on Q.3. The QA in large measure consists of exegetical rewritings of the Q. The tafsir element in most surahs of the QA is for the most part, found in its last paragraph. Much of the other paragraphs rewrite diverse verses and paragraphs sometimes interweaving elementa of distinctly Bābī terminology in ways that suggest aspects of eschatological realization and imminent parousia.
Examples, includes the Bāb’s exegetical rewrite of Q. 3:3-7 making it clear that the QA, like the Q. has a literal aspect and inner or allegorical senses. According to QA3:10-12 the QA has a muḥkamat, perspicuous, clear aspect, without ambiguity as well as a ta`wil or allegorical dimension, verse or aspects mutashābihāt. (in need of clarification). Echoing and interpreting the Q. the Bāb states that "none knows its hidden senses (ta'wīl) except God" and "such as We will [to know them] among the sincere servants of God" (Q.3: 3-7). While for the Shī`ī Muslims it is God and the Imams who are aware of the inner dimensions of the Q., the Bāb identifies "the Remembrance (al-dhikr)" as the one aware of the "hidden senses" (ta'wil)" of the QA., the new Bābī Qur’an. It is the quasi-messianic Dhikr (Remembrance), the occulted twelfth Imam or the reality of the Bāb -- and for Baha’is also Baha’u’llah -- who "is invested with the knowledge of its verses". Baha’is in accordance with various alwaḥ of Baha’u’llah also understand this master of the ta’wil hermeneutic as Baha’u’llah. He is identified as the Dhikr or Dhikr Allah al-abkar [al-a`ẓam] in Baha’i scripture.