(The Surah of the Testimony)
BEING REVISED 2009-10
Stephen N. Lambden
Part VI of the provisional translation of the Qayyum al-asma’ (= QA) of the Bāb (mid. 1844/1260) with brief introduction and selective notes consists of a full versified English translation of the Surat al-shahada (Surah of the Martyrdom [Testimony]). This translation was done in the early 1980s though not from any critical edition. I simply consulted several good mss. It is now being further revised (Dec. 05).
The versification of the surahs of the QA is often uncertain. The Bāb himself stated that there should be forty verses in each surah of the QA as accords with the abjad nunmerical value of lī meaning "before me" in Q. 12:4b (Ar. لۑ= l + ī = 30+10= 40) though I often cannot see quite how this figure is arrived at. In QA6 I tentatively count xx 42 verses and retain versification for the sake of reference and commentary. At times the versification of surahs of the QA at forty (42) verses each may well be symbolic rather than a clear setting down of 40 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`), though this seems to hold good in QA1 and QA5.
QA 6 opens with the basmala followed by the citation of Q.12:5 upon which it briefly comments in rewritten fashion at the outset of the Surah of the Martyrdom [Testimony] (Surah al-Shahāda). Four isolated letters (ḥurufāt al-muqaṭṭa`āt) open the surah proper; the 4 letters A-L-M-R-A abjad ( = 1+30+40+200+1) = 272 which adds two letters to the qur'anic set A+L+M (abjad 71)... ADD
If the isolated letters in QA ms. 1323 A-L-M-A-R (abjad 271) or A-L-M-S (abjad 332) (EGB-F ) which occur once at the opening of the 13th Surah of the Q. To these 4 letters is added the isolated letter A ( Alif = abjad 1), the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. The resultant fivefold group of isolated letters A-L-M-A-R does not occur in the Q. These 5 letters do, however, also open four or five other surahs of the QA (surahs 39+75+84++99).They have a total abjad value of (1+30+40+200+1=) 272. Aside from being neo-qur’anic their exact significance is at present unclear. For further details see my (unpublished) MESA., 2000 paper `Some Aspects of the Bābī-Bahā'ī interpretation of the Isolated letters (al-ḥurūfāt al-muqatta`a) of the Qur’an’ which deals in detail with the isolated letters of the QA and other writings of the Bāb.
QA6:4 is a good early example of the centrality of the love ethic in the writings of the Bāb. This primarily derives from Sufi influence and not that of the New Testament (see also QA6:14ff). Several different themes interact in a complex way in QA6:7ff. Aspects of the story of Joseph and his brothers detailed in Q 12:5f are rewritten in allegorical, imamological fashion. Joseph as is made clear in QA5, is the prototype of the 3rd twelver Imam, the martyred Ḥusayn (b. Medina 4/626- d. Karbala 61/680), grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and son of Faṭima and `Alī the son in Law of the Prophet. Both Joseph, due to the scheming of his jealous brothers and Ḥusayn in battling with `Umayyad forces at Karbala met with a dire fate. Joseph was abandoned to "die" in the "pit" and Ḥusayn, Sayyid al-Shahada the Prince of Martyrs was martyred, beheaded by his `Umayyad enemies.
QA6 most probably gets its title from the fact that it contains exegetical, esoteric multi-faceted meditations upon the martyrdom of Joseph-Ḥusayn at the hands of the "brothers" (Joseph had 11 = the forebears of the 12 tribes of Israel). Were the [Muslim] "brothers" to truly have knowledge of, to share in Joseph’s [Ḥusayn’s] vision and appreciate his status and cause, instead of harming him they would offer themselves as martyr’s in his path, for the same of the love of God. Such, however, was not to be for God had willed that the mystery of martyrdom (shahada) overtake Ḥusayn and his companions.
In rhythmic sentences QA6:9-12 expresses aspects of the cruel martydom of Ḥusayn even touching upon the fate of his kinsfolk and the women taken captive following his martyrdom as well as the bloody fate of his Shī`ī associates. Elements at the same time seem suggestive of the Bāb’s awareness of future opposition to himself and his new Bābī Cause. QA6:15 makes it cleat that the qur’anic narrtaive of Jospeh’s vision and fate at the hands of his brothers sheds light upon the "ways of the Bāb". People should praise God on this account and for the secrets locked up in the verses but allusively unvelied in the QA. If they knew its secrets they would not act as the "brothers" of Joseph acted and disbelieve in the eschatological mission of the Bāb.
It seems that QA 6:16-21 details the cause of the "brothers" coming to martyr Joseph-Ḥusayn instead of offering themselves as a sacrifice in his path. Discovering it seems the secret mystery of Joseph’s exalted claim and purpose (amr -- a difficult term to translate consistently with it having a wide range of senses) they, mistakenly and misguidedly followed the religious law (sunnan) of putting claimants to elevated stations to death. They thus slaughtered "Joseph" in the same manner that the ungodly had slaughtered Imam Ḥusayn. In like manner again they may attempt to slaughter the Bāb himself if his closely -- though thinly-- guarded secret of wahy and Qā’imiyya, etc be too openly disclosed and hence misunderstood. Jospeh-Ḥusayn’s death led the accursed "Satan" (a figure or type of human opponents of Shi`i religiosity) loose to wreak further havoc. He even attempted to plot against the al-kalimat al-akbar, (the Greatest Word) the person and the Cause of the Dhikr-Bāb although God thwarted this wickedness.
At QA 6:22f the high status of the Bāb is alluded to in Shi`i terms -- apparently one of the five  Muhammad,  Ali ].Fatima  Hasan and  Husayn. It may in this respect be that the Bāb identified himself with Husayn or perhaps more probably with `Alī . The importance of the pre-eternal covenant and its faith affirmations is also commented upon. This relative to the claims and status of the Bāb. In the timeless, pre-existent realm faith in him was assented to and must be realized anew and acted upon in the eschatological age that is dawning.