Skip to content

QA. XXI [21] Sūrat al-Bahr (The Surah of the Ocean) on Q. 12: 20.


Part  XXI


       سورة البحر 

Sūrat al-Bahr

The Surah of the Ocean 


The Surat al-Shajarah

The Surah of the Tree.


Qur'ān 12: 20

Translation Stephen N. Lambden, UC Merced.

1982-2020- Last uploaded  22-08-2020.


بسم اللّه الرّحمن الرّحيم

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate



"Then they sold him for a paltry price, a handful of counted dirhams; for they set small store by him." (Q. 12:20, trans. Arberry). 




[Abjad = 1+30+40+10+90 = 171]

[4]  God who, no God is there except Him, the Lord of the Glorious Throne (dhu'l-`arsh al-majid). [5] God is He who hath ever been All-Informed about every thing (kull shay'). [6] God is He Who revealed the Book (al-kitab) containing the Word  of mysteries (fi kalimat al-asrar), in Truth, unto His servant (`abd). This to the end that he might inform the people that God is indeed One Powerful over all things (kull shay'). [7] We indeed withheld [prohibited] Adam and his wife from  Our Tree (shajarat) [expressed] in this Bab. And they hated that they should draw nigh unto it when We informed the both of them about proximity (qarib an). They were indeed forbidden (mahrum an) from the delight of Paradise (نعيم الجنّة na`im al-jannat)!


يا ايّها النّاس

O Thou people!

Thou should believe in Our Dhikr (Remembrance) after the True One (al-haqq), hath indeed come unto thee with a Book (kitab). So should thou  be witnessed [registered] in the Kitab al-`Iliyyin (كتاب العلّيين ,"Register of Exalted Deeds"/"Book of Exalted Heavenly Realities") [Q.83: 18-19] nigh this Gate (hawl al-bab). [9] And if thou should disbelieve in God, after God hath sent down the Dhikr (Remembrance) unto thee, as well  as this Greatest Book (al-kitab al-akbar) amongst thee, then thou art of theTree of Iblis [Diabolos = Satan; شجرة الابليس] inscribed in the Book-Ledger of Sijjin (كتاب السّجّين kitab al-sijjin) as arrogant before God, the True One.

[10] So be ye fearful before God!  Do not fail to recognize error (al-batil) after  the Truth-True One (al-haqq) from God hath  assuredly come unto thee; in Truth One Powerful, Mighty indeed (`azimat an). [11] Is it not that the Truth-True One (al-haqq) hath indeed come and made error (al-batil) to perish? Error (al-batil) was indeed something driven away (matrud an) from the Mother [Archetypal] Book ( umm al-kitab).


يا اهل المشرق و المغرب

O people of the East and of the West!

كونوا خائفين عن اللّه فی امر يوسف الحقّ بان لا تشتروه بثمن بخس من انفسكم و لا بدراهم معدودة من اموالكم لتكونوا فی ذكره من الزّاهدين علی الحقّ بالحقّ فی حول الباب محموداً ه

Be ye fearful of God regarding the Cause of Joseph (amr yusuf)! Ye shall not bargain him away for a paltry price (thaman bakhs) amongst thyselves, and not for a few dirhams determined (bi-dirahim ma`dudat) through thy wealth (amwal). This to the end that thou, in Truth, in very Truth,  might be one mentioned by him as among such as renounce worldly affairs  (al-zāhidin), thus reckoned  praiseworthy nigh this Bab (hawl al-bab mahmud an).


و انّ اللّه قد قطع رحمته عن قاتل جدّنا الحسين علی ارض الطفّ اوحدا فريداً ه و لقد اشتری يزيد بن معاوية علی الباطل رأس يوسف الحقّ بثمن بخس من نفسه دراهم معدودة من ملكه علی حزب الشّيطان

[13] God cut off His Mercy (rahmat) from the one who killed (qatil) Our forbear [forefather, ancestor] (jadd) [Imam] Husayn (martyred 61/680), one singular, lonely, peerless [incomparable, unique](awhad an farid an) in the land [region]  of al-Taff [ علی ارض الطَفّ  near Kufa/ Karbalā]. [14]  It was indeed Yazīd [I] ibn Mu`awiyya [d. 62/683; ibn Abī Sufyān, founder of the Umayyad dynasty, d.60/680] who  [like the Egyptian] bargained away  (اشتری) sh-r-w VIII; cf. Q. 12:20a; 21a] through falsity (`ala al-batil), the head of Jospeh (ra's yusuf), the True One (al-haqq), for a "paltry price" (bi-thaman bakhs = بثمن بخس ) from himself, for but a few dirhams determined ( darahim ma`dudat min nafsihi) [Q. 12:18a] out of his possessions [fortune, dominion], the very spoils of Satan (harb al-shaytān)! [15]  They assuredly disbelieved in God with, in Truth, a  disbelief of magnitude, rooted in error (al-bātil). (see SWB: 49), 


  فسوف ينتقم اللّه منهم فی رجعتنا و فی دار الاخرة قد اعد اللّه لهم عذاباً علی الحقّ بالحقّ اليماً

On our [eschatological] return (raj`at) God will wreak vengence [n-q-m- VIII] upon them and will, in Truth, in very Truth, prepare for them in the realm of the hereafter (dar al-akhira), a painful chastisement (  عذاباً ... اليماً  `adhāb ...alīm).


ياعباد الرّحمن

O Servants of the All-Merciful!

انّ اللّه قد كتب لكم عند ذكر الحسين بكاء علی شبه بكاء الثّكلاء و ان حكم اللّه فی ثارة قد كان علی الحقّ بالحقّ مقضيّاً

God hath indeed written down for thee as befits the mention of [the returned Imam] Husayn, lamentation, weeping over [the plight of] his [renewed] likeness [plight] (bukā' `alā shubbihi), [an enshakled weeping] after a prescribed manner (bukā' al-shakil an). This since the decree of God concerns the taking of blood-revenge (hukm Allah fi thārat), for such hath ever been, in Truth, in very Truth,  divinely ordained (qadiyy an).


و انّكم لا تستمعوا ذكره و لا تنصوننا علی البكاء فقد اشتريتم يوسف الحقّ بثمن بخس دراهم لم تكن فی الكتاب عند الحقّ معدوداً ه

And thou, thou  did not hearken unto [overhear in listening unto] his  Dhikr Remembrance [or dhikr, his mention] neither did thou console Us [by drying our tears[,  over the weeping for him (al-bukā'). Thou had indeed bargained away the True Joseph (yusuf al-haqq) for a "paltry price" (bi-thaman bakhs), mere worthless dirhams counted out (ma`duda) yet inappropriate in the Book, for the True One (`ind al-haqq) [Q.12:18].


الم تكونوا فی عهد اللّه يوم الذّرّ الاكبر علی حقّ يوسف العلیّ من اهل البكإ حول الباب معهوداً ه

Were thou not faithful to the covenant of God (`ahd Allah) on the Day of the Greatest Dhikr (Remembrance) (al-dhikr al-akbar) as befits the Truth of the Exalted Joseph (`ala haqq yusuf al-`aliyy), thus counted among the people who wept (ahl al-buka') nigh the Bab?


فلا تعترضوا عن مجالس ذكر اللّه فی مصيبة الحقّة فانّكم ان اعرضتم علی غير الحقّ فانّا نعرض عنكم يوم القيمة بالحقّ و فی ذلك اليوم انتم تقولنّ بالحقّ يا حسرتنا علی ما فرّطنا فی جنب اللّه الاكبر و لن تجدنّ من دوننا فی ذلك اليوم علی الحقّ بالحقّ شفيعاً ه

Then furthermore, thou were not obstructive (`-r-d. VII) at the convocations of the Remembrance of God (majālis dhikr Allah) centering on the Musibat al-Haqqa (مصيبة الحقّة = "The Inevitable Affliction"). Yet thou were dismissive thereof ( `-r-d. IV) going aside from the Truth. So shall We move against (`-r-d) thee, in Truth, on the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyama). And on that Day thou shalt, in Truth,  assert, "O our regret over our negligence amounting to the greatest impurity before God (junub Allah al-akbar)" [cf. Q. 39:57]. Aside from [a possible turning towards] Us in this Day, thou proved incapable, in Truth, in very Truth, of discovering any befitting Intercessor (shafi`an).  [21]  Indeed! The unbelievers were such as made deceitful (ghurur an)  assertions about God contrary to the Truth and contrary to the Word of the Bab (kalimat al-bab). [22] And such as make false assertions about His chosen Ones (awliya') these have ever been after the slaying [of Husayn] as persons among those dead (amwat an).  [23] They are indeed such as had bargained away the verses of God, the True One, for but a "paltry price" (bi-thaman bakhs), a trifling sum (qalil an)  out of line with Reality (al-haqq)!   

[24] Did not the All-Merciful instruct thee that the Gate of God (bab Allah) was never reckoned wrathful (maqhur an)  in the Mother [Archetypal] Book ( umm al-kitab)!  [25]  Did we fail to inform thee that Our Gates (anwab)  within the Mother [Archetypal] Book ( umm al-kitab), were ever, in Truth, reckoned before God, the Pre-Existent (al-qadim), as living Revivers (احياء  ahya')? By God! The True One! Unto Us, in very Truth, is thy return! Then indeed unto Us is, in Truth, is thy reckoning (hisab)! This through this Bab who was indeed inscribed nigh the [Arabic] letter "B" (hawl al-ba' maktub an). [26] It is not fitting for thee that thou, in Truth, in very Truth, should turn thy back in retreat before the deeper sense (ta'wil an) of the Qur'an! [27] We indeed, we have, with the permission of God, brought about thy reckoning [judgment] on the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyama),  as befits a mere surface level of superficiality [of good deeds] (`ala al-qishr qishr an = علی القشر قشراً).


So fear ye God! regarding the Cause of Our Dhikr (Remembrance)!

This with a great degree of piety before the Bab for the All-Merciful (al-rahman) shall assuredly make thee to stand [for the judgment of God; cf. Q. 37:24; 6:30] upon the Path of Hellfire (sirat al-jahim). And He will question thee, in Truth, in very Truth, about the Dhikr (Remembrance), Our servant (`abd), a weighty matter indeed (thaqil an). [29] And nothing whatsoever is expected of thee since it would only result in that status of standing ]before God] (al-wuquf) which is far away, outside of the Truth (al-haqq). Such was indeed stipulated, in Truth, in very Truth, before God, being a matter ordained (maqdiyy an). [30] And God, thy Lord was not One Merciful (al-rahman) towards those grossly tyrannical against the servants [of God] (bi-zallam `ala al-`ibad) even to a miniscule degree [as the shell of a datestone] on an infinitesimal level ( min ba`ad al-dharr qitmir an).[31] If thou had been well-disposed within thine own selves and aware that He is God, then thou might, before God, thy Lord, have been upon the Pathways of the Bab (subul al-bab), well situated about the Watery Expanse (hawl al-ma'). [32] And if He healed thee, He would indeed have healed thee for the sake of thine own selves! That decree was assuredly related to thee as inscribed within the Mother [Archetypal] Book ( umm al-kitab) in the vidinity of the Theophanic Fire (hawl al-nar).

[33] And We commanded the angels (al-mala'ikat) that they should fall prostrate before Adam, the Bab. Hence all the the angels, in Truth, in very Truth, prostrated; one and all in the land of the imost heart (ard al-fu'ad). This apart from Iblis (Diabolos = Satan), my adversary (abi) for he waxed proud before Our Cause (amr). Wherefore was he  considered in one in opposition (mardud an) to this Bab, in the Mother [Archetypal] Book (umm al-kitāb). 


يا ذكر اللّه

O Dhikr Allāh ( Remembrance of God)!


Say: `Seek ye the refuge of thine own selves in God! from the evil ways of the Satanic whisperer [Tempter] (al-waswās) who whispers into  breasts of the people. Thy Lord is indeed God, the True One! He hath ever been One Watching [ a Watcher] (raqib an) over everything (kull shay'). 


[35] Say: `Seek ye the protection of thine own selves through the Greatest Word (kalimat al-akbar) by means of the Amulet [talisman-incantation] (ta`widh) of thy Lord, the Master of the Truth [True One] (mawla al-haqq). He, verily, hath ever been Observant (shahid an) of every thing (kull shay').


يا قرّة العين

O Solace of Mine Eyes! (the Bab)

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ لا اله الّا هو اللّه أَحَدٌ  صَّمَدُ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا شريك فی الملك و كبّره بالحقّ فی نفس الباب كبيراً ه

Say: He is God (huwa Allah) [Q, 112:1]. No God is there except Him. God [the] One (ahad), [God the] All-Eternal (samad) [Q.112:2]. [37] He begetteth not,  neither is He begotten (lam yalid wa lam yulad) [Q. 112:3]. There is not anything comparable unto Him [112:4a], no associate" [alongside Him] in the worldly dominion (sharik fi al-mulk). [38] And He, in very Truth greatly, supremely  magnifies Him through the Logos-Self [Person] of the Bab (nafs al-bab). 

[39] The hands of the infidels (al-kuffar) have indeed been cut-off indicative as they are of negation (al-nahy); any affirmation thereof would be other than with permission on the part of the Bab. And God hath ever been well-aware, informed of this matter [40] And that which God hath ordained for these unbelievers (al-mushrikin) is naught but a fate confirmed within the knowledge of the Book, hellfire indeed (nar an), emanating from the very firewood of al-Sijjin, [the netherworld] associated with the the abundantly overfilled (mawfur an) abyss of the sarcophagus [ark of hell] (qa`r al-tabut, قعر التّابوت موفوراً ) [cf. Sūrat al-Muṭaffifīn, Q. 83: 7-9]. 


انظر كيف ضربنا عليهم الامثال فضّلواعن الحقّ فان يستطيعوا الی اللّه سبيلاً ه

Observe then how it is that we strike parables (al-amthal) for them! Thereby  have they  received grace from the True One (al-haqq) to the end that they find a pathway of patient obedience unto God.


و اذا جاؤك ليفسدنّ فی الارض من قل لهم علی كلمة الفرقان كونوا حجارة للنّار و حديدا الی النّار ماباً

And when he cometh unto thee there shall indeed corruption on earth as indicated by the divine [imperative] address (qul) about them within the discourse of the Qur'an (kalimat al-qur'ān), "Be ye stones" fit for hellfire (al-hijārat li'l-nār)! or iron returned for hellfire (hadid an ila al-nār ma'ab an)" [cf. Q. 17:50]

Select Notes and Comments

Stephen Lambden

QAXXI -  the versification towards the end of this surah (XXI) is uncertain.

QA XXI: 8f See Q.83:18f. :

[18] "Surely the ledger of the pious (kitab al-abrar) will indeed be in `Illiyin [an Elevated Locale]"  [19] "And thou shalt not comprehend what is intended by `Illiyin [an Elevated Locale]".

QA XXI:13-15 is translated in SWB:49  - the last Paragraph by Shoghi Effendi

"O peoples of the East and the West! Be ye fearful of God concerning the Cause of the true Joseph and barter Him not for a paltry price1 established by yourselves, or for a trifle of your earthly possessions, that ye may, in very truth, be praised by Him as those who are reckoned among the pious who stand nigh unto this Gate. Verily God hath deprived of His grace him who martyred Ḥusayn, Our forefather, lonely and forsaken as He was upon the land of Ṭaff [Karbilá]. Yazíd, the son of Mu‘ávíyih, out of corrupt desire, bartered away the head of the true Joseph to the fiendish people for a trifling price and a petty sum from his property. Verily they repudiated God by committing a grievous error. Erelong will God wreak His vengeance upon them, at the time of Our Return, and He hath, in very truth, prepared for them, in the world to come, a severe torment. Chapter XXI." (SWB:49).

QA XXI (21) verse 36 and Qur'an 112.

The four verse Surah 112 (Surat al-Ikhlas) of the Qur'an (see image above) forms the basis of QA XXI (21) verse 36f (verse numbering here is uncertain). There are a few additions and omissions including the definite article before samad in verse two. Verse one is cited in full followed by the "la ilaha illa Allah" (There is no God but God") which is very, very often used in the Qur'an and Islamic literatures as it is in the writings of the Bab.


يا قرّة العين

O Solace of Mine Eyes! (the Bab)

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ لا اله الّا هو اللّه أَحَدٌ  صَّمَدُ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا شريك فی الملك و كبّره بالحقّ فی نفس الباب كبيراً ه

Say: He is God (huwa Allah) [Q, 112:1]. No God is there except Him. God [the] One (ahad), [God the] All-Eternal (samad) [Q.112:2]. [37] He begetteth not,  neither is He begotten (lam yalid wa lam yulad) [Q. 112:3]. There is not anything comparable unto Him [112:4a], no associate [alongside Him] in the worldly dominion (sharik fi al-mulk). [38] And He, in very Truth greatly, supremely  magnifies Him through the Logos-Self [Person] of the Bab (nafs al-bab). 

With a few notes this Qur'anic and extra-qur'anic verse cluster is as follows :


يا قرّة العين

O Solace of Mine Eyes!

This is one of the main ways in which the Bab is quite frequently addressed in the QA and elsewhere. The phrase occurs thousands of times in Islamic literatures. It became a title of the Babi super-cleric and poetess, Fatimah Baraghani (d. 1852), also entitled  Tahirah (the Pure One). The Bab himself also gave the title qurrat al-`ayn to select other Babi followers as well as to Christian believers in him whom he saw as the solace of `apple of his eye' to use a biblically rooted phrase.

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ

Say: He is God (huwa Allah) [Q, 112:1].

This first verse follows the basmala in the Surat al-Ikhlas (Sincerity). As the following Qur'anic verses make clear (112:2ff) its counters alleged Christian bitheistic or tritheistic polytheism often challenged in the Tawhid (Divine Oneness) centered theology of the Qur'an. 

لا اله الّا هو

No God is there except Him.

This Qur'anic-Islamic phrase and others very similar forms ending with Allah (replacing huwa = Him), conststutes one of the centerpieces of the theology of the Bab. Its imamological and numerological interpretation is of fundamental, foundational importance, in the exegesis-eisegesis of the Bab's often esoteric interpretation of the Story of Joseph as detailed in Surah twelve of the Qur 'an. The QA is in fact the Tafsir Surat Yusuf often centering on an interpretation of the twelve letter shahada,  la ilaha illa Allah, "There is no God but God".

اللّه أَحَدٌ  صَّمَدُ

God [the] One (ahad), [God the] All-Eternal (samad) [Q.112:2].

لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا

He begetteth not,  neither is He begotten (lam yalid wa lam yulad) [Q. 112:3].

شريك فی الملك و كبّره بالحقّ فی نفس الباب كبيراً ه

There is not anything comparable unto Him [112:4a], no associate [alongside Him] in the worldly dominion (sharik fi al-mulk). Here the Bab adds three words to the end of 112:2, namely,  sharik fi al-mulk indicating that God has no partner or associate in this worldly realm of mulk (earthly dominion).

[38] And He, in very Truth greatly, supremely  magnifies Him through the Logos-Self [Person] of the Bab (nafs al-bab).