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The Qayyūm al-asmā' of the Bab (I-CXI) - Introductory Notes.


(Joseph and Jacob Reunited)


Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850)


Stephen N. Lambden written 198os Under revision 2016

Last corrected 23-08-2016.

The Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsuf (Commentary on the Surah of Joseph, Qur'ān sūrah 12) or Qayyūm al-asmā'  (=QA lit. Self-Subsisting [Deity] of the Divine Names, cf. Qa'im = `Messianic ariser') was the the first major  work of the Bāb following his (incomplete)  pre-declaration Tafsīr sūrat baqara  (Commentary on the Surah of the Cow, Q. 2) which was written in early 1844/1260, and a few other partially extant writings. It is  wholly in Arabic and extends in one typical mss. for more than 420 seventeen line pages. Distinctly neo-qur'anic in literary form it is divided up into 111(2) surahs commencing with the basmala  بسم اللّه الرّحمن الرّحيم =  and (with a few exceptions) al-ḥurūfāt al-muqaṭṭa`āt  ("isolated letters", see below). Each surah  ("section", "chapter", except the first) comments successively upon each one of the 111 verses which make up the qur'anic Surat Yūsuf  (Q.12). The exegetical comments are often in brief, rewritten / waḥy  revealed  form towards the end of the surah  and in the wider context of Qur'ān type revelations which are often unrelated the the qur'ānic Joseph narrative. Around 10-20% of the verses of the QA relate to the Joseph narrative, many of them being exegetical rewritten, reconfigurations of diverse qur'ānic texts.

Each surah of the Qayyūm al-asmā'  is (theoretically) divided up into 42 verses of  Qur'ān like rhymed prose (saj`).  Verse endings are often indicated by   a word  with the accusative ending (xxx an = اً ) e.g.  QA IX:4, Sūrat al-sirr   (The Surah of the Mystery) verse one

اللّه قد انزل الكتاب فيه تبيان كلّ شیء رحمة

و بشری لعبادنا ممّن كان بذكر اللّهالعلیّ بالحقّ علی علم الكتاب بصيراً   

[4] God, verily, sent down the Book in which there is an explanation of all things (tibyān kull shay’); a mercy and an expression of glad-tidings (bushrā) unto such of Our servants as are, according to the knowledge of the Book, in very truth insightful (baṣīr an) about the Exalted Remembrance of God (dhikr Allāh).

This versification of the surahs of the QA is sometimes uncertain or irregular though the rhyming prose accusative ( اً ) endings are the primary indication. As in the Qur'ān, the size of verses can vary markedly. The Bāb himself stated that there should be forty two verses in each surah of the QA as accords with the  abjad  numerical value of the qur'ānic Arabic lī  meaning "before me"  in Q. 12:4b  (Ar. لي = l + ī = 30+10= 40 + 2 for the "sun" and the "moon" = 42)  though it is not always clear how this figure can be arrived at. This figure of 42 verses is also explicitly confirmed by the Bāb's in his 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  the QA; 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  web pages 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, in this translation I have counted everything (surah title + basmala  + qur'an citation+ isolated letters) up till the isolated letters as 2(3)  verses which are square bracketed. The total verses in a given surah of the QA can thus be counted from here (QA 1-2(3) adding verses 3(4)-42 or whatever each surah seems to have). At times the versification of surahs of the QA at forty (two) verses each seems more symbolic than a clear setting down of 42 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`). The 42 verse schemata does, however, seem to hold good, for a good many surahs;  including, example,  in QA1 and QA5.

The Bāb regarded the Qayyūm al-asmā' as an eschatologically suggestive expression of the ta'wīl  (the "inner dimension") of the Qur'ān.  It presents itself as a fascinating kaleidescope of allusive messianic, qabbalistic,  theological and other revelations (waḥy) representative of  the expected, `latter day' inner senses of the Qur'ān.  Islamic messianism has it that such deeper levels of meaning  would be divulged in the new age initiated through the eschatological advent of the Qā'im whose advent  is anticipated in thousands of Shī`ī traditions.

While the QA reflects the Q. it also claims to be a neo-qur'ānic exposition of it, incorporating truths after the nature of both the Qur'ān and the Sunna ("tradition"). In QA 76:9, a verse of the Surat al-waraqa  (Surah of the Leaf), it is stated,

O thou believers! Fear ye God and expound ye not a single letter from this Mighty, Most Transcendent Book which,  in very truth, enshrines  Ultimate Reality (al-ḥaqq bi'l-ḥaqq) after the nature of the Qur'ān and the Sunna (`alā ṭibq al-qur'ān wa'l-sunna) which God hath indeed placed amongst thee.

The Qayyūm al-asmā'   has been variously named by the Bāb himself. It has five or more titles including,

(1) Tafsīr Sūra Yūsuf  (Commentary upon the Surah of Joseph).

The Sūrah of Joseph is the twelfth chapter of the Islamic sacred book, the Arabic Qur’ān (Recitation) communicated piecemeal by the Arab prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE) over a period of around twenty- two years (c. 610-632 CE). The implication of this title is that this work of the Bāb expounds and interprets the story of Jospeh. Such is to some extent the case though this work of the Bāb is more like the Qur`ān itself than any of the standard or usual expressions of Islamic tafsīr (Qur’ān commentary). The Bāb’s controversial first major work has, among others, the following similarities to the Qur`ān:

a) It includes theبسم اللّه الرّحمن الرّحيم     basmala  and is in versified rhyming prose, saj`  like  the Qur’ān (= Q.).

b) Like the Qur`ān the QA is divided up into sūrahs (loosely chapters) each of which is made up of around 42 verses and bears a specific name which  derives from the Bāb himself. The names of the surah titles are given by the Bab in, for example, his early Kitāb al-fihrist (Book of the Index. 1845) (see below). Like those of the Q. the  surah titles of the QA only loosely (to some degree) indicate the content or orientation of the surah they designate. The names given to the surahs of the QA are occasionally the same as those of specific surahs of the Qur’ān, though most are different. The names of the first five surahs of the QA are:

[1] سورة الملك   Sūrat al-mulk (The Surah of the Dominion)     (=Q.67)

[2]   سورة العلماءSūrat  al-`ulamā’ (The Surah of the Divines).

[3]  سورة الايمان Sūrat  al-īmān (The Surah of Security).

[4] سورة المدينه  Sūrat  al-madīnah (The Surah of the City).

[5]سورة  يوسف  Sūrat  Yūsuf  [Ḥusayn] The Surah of Joseph [Ḥusayn] (= Q. 12)

Most of the surahs of the QA. (see further below ADD ) are of roughly equal length, about 4-5 pages containing around  (35-) 42 or so verses of varying length.

 (2) The Qayyūm al-asmā' 

Translated literally the Arabic genitive phrase Qayyūm al-asmā'  means 'the Self-Subsisting of the [Divine] Names'. The initial word Qayyūm is perhaps meant to be suggestive of the Shī`ī messianic epithet  Qā'im  (bi-amr Allāh.. etc., `the One who shall arise at the command of God / for the Cause of God'), which indicates the one who will "Arise", the "Ariser" (Qā'im)  whom many traditions predict will carry out the divine purpose at the `last hour' around the time of the eschatological yawn al-qiyāma  ("Day of Resurrection"). The Arabic words (Ar.) qiyāma, meaning `uprising' or `resurrection', Qā'im  (messianic Ariser) and  Qayyūm. ("Self-Subsistent") all derive from the same Arabic root (= Q-W-M). The linking of Qayyūm  with al-asmā'  ( = "the Names") most likely indicates a relationship between the totality of the Names of God and their supreme Self-Subsistent supporter, the foundational reality centered in the divine or Logos-Self (nafs) of the messianic Imam. 

The title  Qayyūm al-asmā'   is, furthermore, an allusive indication of the centrality of the Qā'im and the messianic Joseph figure. For the Bāb Joseph is the prototype of the messianic Imam Ḥusayn  (see QA.5). This is indicated in that the words Qayyūm ([Deity] "Self-Subsisting") and the name prophetological name Yūsuf (= Joseph) both have an identical abjad  ( numerical) value of 156:  

Such correspondences were much used and of great moment in Islamic mystical thought, especially the `ilm al-ḥurūf (science of letters) of which the Bāb was especially adept. Like learned Shī`ī Muslim mystics and sages the Bāb was very accomplished in this science. On the basis of their identical abjad numerical values the word Qayyūm evoked thoughts of Joseph and (to the perceptive) as the Bāb himself stated in a letter to his uncle, the Qā'im, for "the intention [of Qayyūm al-asmā' ] is the [expected messianic] Qā’im of [descended from] the family of Muhammad for he is the Living One (ḥayy), the Qayyūm (the "Self-Subsisting")" (letter of the Bab cited Ishrāq Khāvarī, Qāmūs III:1278-9).

(3) The Kitab al-Husayniyya  ("The Book centering upon Ḥusayn")

This title of the QA was given by the Bāb in a letter to Mullā `Abd al-Karīm Qazvīnī addressed to the Bābī Ḥajjī Mullā Jawād Karbalā'ī (cited Afnan, 2000:437-8). It makes sense because the figure Ḥusayn is typologically identified with the Joseph of surah 12 of the Q. Joseph, among other things, symbolized the returned Imam Ḥusayn who is the "true" eschatological "Joseph" (= the Qayyūm), a messianic figure in twelver Shī`īsm and for Bahā'īs the person of Mirza Ḥusayn `Ali Nūrī, entitled Bahā'-Allāh (The [radiant] Splendor of God).

The historical Ḥusayn was the martyred son of `Alī b. Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661) who died on the plain of Karbala in 61/680. He is the much exalted third Imam of the Twelver Shī`ī Muslims, as well as the religion of the Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh. Ḥusayn became a messianic figure expected to "return" and avenge those who martyred him  and thus contribute to the universal establishment of that Islam which is the true religion of God.

The Qayyūm al-asmā’ and the universal,  cosmic  outreach of the Bāb.

The first Surat al-mulk of the QA  is not the only portion of this work which contains world-ranging addresses. In fact the rest of the book comprising another 110 surahs  includes pericopes expressive of not only a universalistic or global  breadth but an at times cosmic or celestial manner of discourse. More than 500 usually brief paragraphs are addressed to a  very wide range of groups and individuals in the QA. The following few notes are only a highly selective indication of this calling out to both earthly and heavenly dimensions of existence. The horizons of the Bab went beyond the peoples of the world to address, for example, inmates of mystical dimensions within universes unseen and denizens of realms seldom encountered within the most abstruse cosmogonies.

At one point after QA1 at QA 63:254, for example, the Bab continues to give address  “O concourse of kings”, bidding  them fear God! relative to the person of the Servant of God (=Bab). Numerous paragraphs of the QA also continue to be addressed to all humanity, to the “people of the earth!” which remains a common vocative address. There are many addresses to all existing beings both earthly and heavenly, whether situated in terrestrial or celestial worlds.

The Texts and Translation on this Website

On this page and the associated links will be found manuscript texts, introductions to and translations of (ultimately all of) the Surahs (chapters) of the 400-500 page Arabic Qayyum al-asma' (lit. "The Self-Subsisting [Reality of] the Divine Names" = QA.) of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850 CE). According to Babi-Baha'i tradition this work was commenced or gradually communicated over a forty day (or more ) periodon from the evening of May 22nd 1844 / 1260 AH when the Bab met with his first major disciple, the Persian born first of the Hurufat al-Hayy ("Letters of the Living"), Mulla Muhammad Husayn Bushru'i (c.1813-1849).

In making these ongoing and highly provisional translations of Surahs of the Qayyūm al-asmā',  I have consulted various mss. including a clearly written copy of the very early ms dated 1261 (now Haifa IBA vi)  in the hand of Muhammad Mahdī ibn Karbalā'ī Shāh Karam as well as  Browne ms.  F.11 (1891) and a very clear ms.  dated 1323/1905-6 originating in Iran (INBA) and found in the Afnan Library.  Scanned pages  from one or more of these early early ms. (1261>) and a typed version of the text with endnoted alternative readings from select  further mss. will in due course be incorporated along with a complete English translation.

The Arabic text which precedes the translation of QA1 and other surahs of the QA on this Website will register the text of the early Karbalā'ī Shāh Karam ms.  noting other textual readings from select mss. of the QA such as the ms. dated the 1st Muḥarram, 1323/ 8th March 1905 (copy in Afnan Library, London).  The tentative translations  posted here (many first completed in the early 1980s and subsequently revised) will eventually encompass the whole of the Qayyūm al-asmā', the Arabic text of which exists in a large number of sometimes very good mss. This ongoing translation is not, however, made from a critical edition (not yet fully established) but attempts a fairly literal rendering based on a few good mss., resulting in a semi-critical edition (still in progress).

Significant textual variants or possible omission(s) will be sparingly indicated by a red asterisk *    (and /or reddened text) placed within the Arabic text of QA (in New Times Roman unicode font) and clarified  at the end of the Surah  translation through succinct notes on variant readings in text critical endnotes.  Such texts of the QA as exist provide a fairly solid basis for a future critical edition. Significant variant readings appear not to be as numerous as was once suspected though versification in line with  the Bab's own template of 42 revealed verses per Surah ( see the translations below) is sometimes difficult (if not impossible) to establish with confidence.

One might at this stage guess that something like 95% of the text  of the QA is  sound being supported by several early reliable manuscripts. In the sparingly registered text critical notes appended here to the surahs of the QA., the following abbreviations are used for QA manuscripts consulted.

  • QA 1261 = Muhammad Mahdī ibn Karbalā'ī, ms. dated 1261. One of the earliest extant mss.

  • QA Izhaq = early citations of the QA in Muhammad Karim Khān Kirmanī (d. 1871) Izhāq al-bāṭil  ("The Crushing of Falsehood"), 1261/1845).

  • QA F.11 = Browne Coll. Cambridge Univ. ms. F.11 (1891)

  • QA 1323 = QA copy made 1st Muḥarram, 1323/ 8th March 1905.  

  • More  MSS. to be added here 

  • ADD

The Joseph Story  and other Introductory Notes relating to the Qayyum al-asma' of the Bab.

Stephen Lambden - written in the early 1980s

The Joseph story is a narrated in slightly differing forms in both the Bible (Gen 37ff) and the Qur'an (sura 12). There are also ancient Jewish, Christian and Islamic elaborations of parts or the whole of the story. The Quranic version is influenced by extra-Biblical Jewish traditions expository of the Biblical account. Bábí-Bahá'í scripture interprets the Qur'anic version — or this version as partly rewritten by the Báb in his lengthy Arabic Qayyum al-asma' ((mid. 1844; loosely translated = "The Self-Subsisting Names" — possibly alluding to the promised one as the Qayyum or [for Bahá'ís] the Deity Self-Subsisting = Bahá'u'lláh)...

The Qayyum al-asma' (= QA) is in 111 chapters — each chapter expository of a verse of the Qur'an — each with 40 verses. Throughout these 111 chapters only a few verses interpret the Qur'anic Joseph story. This largely by means of exegetical rewrite. cf. the Jewish Targums. The interpretation is complex and Imámologically oriented- relates to the Twelver Imáms — as well as having something of a qabbalistic dimension. The role of the 3rd Imám, Husayn who was expected (like Jesus) to return is particularly important.

The Báb's initial remarks on the Qur'anic story of Joseph are to be found in the 5th chapter of the QA where the vision of Joseph is allegorically interpreted (see Qur'an 12:4f). It is said that by "Joseph" God intended the spiritual "Reality" or "Self" (nafs) of the Prophet Muhammad and the "fruit of the womb of the Virgin" (Muhammad's daughter Fatimih), namely, Imám Husayn. The "sun", the "moon" and the eleven "stars" seen by Joseph ( = Imám Husayn) are Muhammad ("sun"), Fatimih ("moon") and the 11 Imáms ("stars"). The Báb's interpretation of the Joseph story in the QA operates on several levels at once. The interpretation has meaning relative to Shi`i Islam, the Báb's mission and the advent of the Bábí messiah "man yuzhiruhu'lláh" ("He Whom God will make manifest" = Bahá'u'lláh).  There is also a Bahá'í interpretation of the story in which Joseph's initially dire fate and rejection by his brothers relates to the life of Bahá'u'lláh and his rejection by his half-brother Mírzá Yahyá.
 The Báb's Qayyum al-asma* (= QA) — not a commentary in the classical sense of Tafsír such as that of al-Tabari or Fakhr al-Din  al-Razi  — contains a great deal which has no direct connection with the story of Joseph as detailed in the 12th sura of the Qur'an. When, usually briefly and towards the end of (but by no means all of) the 112 chapters of this work, the Báb turns his attention to the story of Joseph, he most often rewrites a specific Qur'anic verse (contained in sura 12) in an abstruse manner and by utilizing a typological and qabbalistic hermeneutic gives it various levels of meaning. The esoteric significance which the Báb writes into the Qur'anic story of Joseph partly has to do with the rank and relationship between the Imáms — in particular Imám Husayn as an antitype of Joseph — and the position of the Hidden Imám or Dhikr. On another level, the Joseph story enshrines qabbaliatic mysteries. The Báb furthermore, finds reference to his own rank and role in the Qur'anic narrative.

Several levels or dimensions of meaning are thus read into (= eisegesis) the story of Joseph such that it would seem impossible to extract from the Báb's multi-dimensional often eisegetical, Imámological and quasi-messianic "Tafsír" a clear cut and single level of meaning. The following few notes must suffice to give some idea of the Báb's rewritten treatment of the twelfth sura of the Qur'an.

The Báb's initial remarks on the Qur'anic story of Joseph are found in the Vth chapter of the QA where the vision of Joseph (see 12:4f) is allegorically expounded. Among other things, it is asserted that God intends by Joseph the "Self" (nafs) of the Messenger (= Muammad) and the "fruit of the [womb of the] Virgin" (thamarat al-batul = Fatima, i.e. Imám Husayn). The sun, moon and eleven stars seen by Joseph (= Imám Husayn) in his vision, symbolize Fatima, Muhammad and the eleven Imáms (presumably `Alí — > Hasan al-Askari; see Q.12:7) who, along with Joseph are also representative of the 12 letters of the Kalimát al-Tawhíd (= the 12 letters of la ilaha ila Alláh ) — in chapter VIII (on Q.12;7) the Báb has it that God chose Joseph (= Imám Husayn) for the letter al-ha' and alludes to his (Imám Husayn's?) eschatological advent.

Complicated ilm al-huruf (letter-number rooted gnosis) or (loosely) qabbalistic speculations inform the Báb's exegetical rewrites of Qur'an 12:8f. In the IXth chapter of the QA (on 12:10) the favoured position of Joseph is related to the exaltedness of a letter concealed and veiled in mystery (the letter alif ( the letter A ) or the line below the dot of the letter B ?) and the reference to Joseph's brothers as a " group" (`usbat, in 12:8b) leads the Báb to speak of the prophet Muhammad (as the nafs of God or the letter alif?) being the " grades" (shu`un) of Joseph (as the alphabetic primogenitor of the other letters of the alphabet?). Qur'an 12:10 as rewritten by him in QA XI is related to the fate of Imám Husayn. The spokesman of Joseph's brothers is not Reuben but Imám Hasan the brother of Imám Husayn who cries out: ` Do not slay Joseph. Cast him into the depths of the pit of the divine unicity (jubb al-ahadiya) concealed about the [Siniatic] Fire." Having explained this the Báb, alluding to Qur'an 12:9, states that God decreed a "caravan" (siyarat) of travellers for Joseph who, according to a hidden wisdom, "travel from gate to gate" (min bab ila bab; cf. Q. 12:67 ) in the region of the Siniatic Fire. They are likened to pilgrims who visit the (celestial) Husayn and who journey from "the gate (al-bab) unto God in the abyss of the divine unicity" (lujjat al-ahadiya).

 The Qur'anic narrative of the circumstances of Joseph's abandonment by his jealous brothers is, in QA Xf (on Q.12:9f), related on one level to the circumstances surrounding the martyrdom of Imám Husayn as detailed in Shi`i literature. A cosmological and qabbalistic level of meaning is also present as is a level of application to the rank and role of the Báb himself. In chapter XI of his commentary the Báb writes:

"God created Joseph and his brothers (= certain letters of the alphabet?) in sanctified worlds (al-`awalim al-quds) from a dewdrop (or sprinkling rashh) above a name (ism),from a primordial drop (qatrat al-ibda') of the (pre-) existent [heavenly] Water [= `cosmic semen'?]. Then, when We caught a fragrance of the Greatest Dhikr, We, with the permission of God, clothed him in the robe of prophethood..".

 In the same chapter of the QA, as well as in chapter XX, the Báb clearly refers to himself as the one to whom the "caravan of love" (siyyarat al-hubb) was sent (cf.Q 12: ); as the "Arabian Youth" (al-fata al-`arabi) concealed in the depths of the pit (al-jubb) of the Siniatic Fire.  A good example of the Báb's rewritten exegetical ("midrashic") style, is his treatment of Qur'an 12:31 in QA chapter XXXII (fol.52b-53a). Here it is not that Zulaikha arranges a banquet at which the angelic beauty of Joseph is disclosed to her lady friends, but a prefigurement of the courage and love of Zaynab (the sister of Imám Husayn) who asks her brother to disclose his celestial glory. On another level the same verse alludes to a banquet on the "crimson heights" at which "green knives" are dispensed (for the annihilation of the lower self?) and at which (?) God will bid the hidden Imám disclose his beauty unto the creatures. In such manner does the Báb allude to his imminent eschatological disclosure of the hidden Imám and to his own role as his mouthpiece. In QA XXXIII (on Q.12:32) it is the ladies of the "city of oneness" (madinat al-ahadiya) who cut their hands (see Q. 12:31) as a result of the spiritual "beauty" of the Báb.

Commenting on Q. 12:33 in QA XXXIV (fol. 56a-b) the Báb puts the words of Joseph into the mouth of Husayn who, he teaches, cried out on the night of his martyrdom, "This prison is more beloved to me than that to which you invite me". The two youths imprisoned with Joseph according to Q. 13:36f (the king's cupbearer and baker) are, on one level, interpreted in QA XXXVIIf. (fol. 69af) as types of the believer (= the cupbearer) and the unbeliever (= the baker) in the Dhikr (= the Báb or the Hidden Imám). The latter, among other things, is also identified with the "full camel's load" of grain (Q.12:65; QA. LXVI fol.115a) and symbolically associated with the king's goblet (siqayat) hidden in the sack of Benjamin (see Q.12:70; QA LXXI.fol.125b). In the light of the Báb's role as "gate" to the hidden Imám, it is of interest that the Báb identifies himself with the "brother of Joseph" (= Benjamin) mentioned in Qur'an 12:87 (in QA LXVIII.fol.152bf) and rewrites Qur'an 12:67 in the following manner (in QA. LXVIII.fol.119):

"O People of the earth! Do not enter the gates (al-abwab) by one [and the same/or any] gate (bab ). But enter every gate (kull al-abwab) through this gate (al-bab = the Báb himself)..."

 Of similar import is the following version of Qur'an 12:90 (in QA.XC.fol.158b) in which talismanic terminology is utilized with a view to expressing the intimate relationship between the Báb and the hidden Imám:

"O Qurrat al-`Ayn! [= Imám Husayn or the hidden Imám?]. The people of the realm of Unknowing (al-`ama') will say: `Art thou indeed the Joseph of the divine onenes (yusuf al-ahadiya)?" Say:`Yea, By my Lord! I am the fourfold form (shakl al-rub`) in the Joseph of origination (yusuf al-bad`) and this is my brother, the threefold form (shakl al-thulth) in the shape of finality (? Súrat al- khatm = the Báb?). God hath graciously bestowed upon me [= the Báb?) the double mystery (al-sirrayn) in the two [Siniatic] Mounts (al- turayn) and the dual names (al-ismayn) in the two luminaries (al-nayyirayn). God will not suffer the reward of such righteous ones as believe in the Báb and are steadfast in the Book to be lost, even, in very truth, to the extent of a speck on a date stone."

  In certain of his works and letters written after the QA the Báb gives yet further dimensions of meaning to Qur'anic texts and traditions (ahadith) in which Joseph is mentioned. When he claimed to be the Qa'im he identified himself with the true Joseph.

In a qabbalistic-talismanic and Sinaitic context in QA sura 91 the Báb is addressed as follows,

O Qurrat al-`Ayn! Thou [= the Báb], verily, wast concealed in the Jesus-like Word (al-Kalimát al-`isawiyun) in the Injil ("Gospel") and the Zabur ("Psalms") according to the form of the "Glorification" (`ala Súrat al-tasbih = "Subhán Alláh"). Say: `I am the triangular (`threefold', muthallath) form [= `Ali?] which was written down quadrangular (`fourfold', murabba` = Husayn?) in the sanctum of the Divine Cloud (fi'l quds al-`ama'; cf. the hidden Imám Husayn = Joseph?). And I, verily, am the inaccessible Name (al-ism al-mani`) which was made single in the Point of Fire (nuqtat al-nar = the Point beneath the ba'?)...".

While Jesus is the "Word" of the Qur'an, the Báb is the "Jesus-like Word" of the QA. The "Jesus-like Word" here probably has a deep qabbalistic meaning relating to the Báb and his claims and to the mystery of the "Greatest Name" (on one level = Alláh; cf. the name `Alí and its constituent letters?) which the expected Qa'im is to divulge.

 In QA 90 the Báb claims Divinity and states "I, verily, created Gardens for the people of love (ahl al-muabbat) from my Word (Kalimáti) which, in very truth, is this `Alid, Arabian Youth..."

In certain writings of the Báb the word *qayyum* [loosely, `self-subsisting'] synonymous with Qa'im (see for example, Letter of the Báb to Hajji Mírzá Sayyid `Ali, in INBAMC 58:176). The words Yusuf (Joseph) and Qayyum (`Self-Subsisting') have the same numerical (abjad) value, i.e. 156. As the return of Husayn (see for example Persian Bayán VII:1;IV:4,5, cf. Dala'il-i sab`a (Per.), 49) the Báb is also the Divine/Self-Subsisting Joseph.

Joseph = Husayn= Qayyum = Man yuzhiru-hu Alláh

 The Báb equates Joseph with the Imám Husayn. This in the light of his belief in his imminent eschatological "return" (raj`a) and his role as the "gate" (bab) to the hidden Imám. Subsequent to his transference to Adhirbayjan he claimed to be both the Mahdi-Qa'im and the Divine-Joseph (qayyum-yusuf). Towards the end of his ministry, he furthermore, came to see Joseph as a type of the Bábí messiah *man yuzhiru-h Alláh* ("He whom God shall make manifest") whom he, in his *Kitáb al-asma'* ("Book of Names") (1849-50) refers to as "all-glorious Joseph" (yusuf al-Bahá'). The reference is in that section of the Kitáb al-asma' commenting upon the name of God *al-Bashir* ("the Herald"). There mention is made to the robe or garment of the Joseph of Bahá'. This pasage has been interpreted by Ishraq Khavari relative to Bahá'u'lláh as the Bábí messiah figure *man yuzhiru-h Alláh* (see Ishraq Khavaria, QI 4:1870ff) — note the use of the word bashiar ("bearer/herald of good tidings") in Q.12:93 where the episode of Joseph's garment being placed on the face of the patriach Jacob/Israel restoring his vision — "But when the bearer of good tidings [bashir] came to him, and laid it [the qamis, "robe/garment") on his [Jacob's] face [wajhihi], forthwith he saw once again..". It is this Qur'anic verse which lies behind the Báb's exegetical rewrite of it in the Kitáb al-asma' :

"Hearken! Then take ye firm hold of the garment of the Joseph of Bahá' (qamis yusif al-Bahá') from the hand of His Exalted, Transcendent Herald of Glad Tidings (mubashshirihi al-`Alí al-a`la). And place it upon thy head in order that thou might recover thy sight (or `be endowed with insight' ) and discover thyself truly aware." (text as cited in QI 4:1875).

This later quasi-eschatological level of the Báb's interpretation of the story of Joseph has, by Bahá'ís, been read back into the QA.  At least three chronologically successive, typologically oriented interpretations of the Joseph story can thus be found in the Báb's writings;

  • 1) An interpretation in which Joseph = Imám Husayn (and the Arabic letter al-ha') and the Báb, the Dhikr, etc. This is dominant in the QA (see for example QA chapters V.,XXXII., XXXIV and XC).
  •  2) An interpretation in which Joseph is identified with the Báb himself as the imprisoned Qa'im and,
  •  3) An interpretation in which Joseph = man yuzhiruhu'lláh the Bábí messiah figure — in one sense of returned Imám Husayn — "Jacob" being the Bábís who long to attain his presence.

 These chronologically successive levels of interpretation are characteristic of the Báb's treatment of other Qur'anic texts and relate to the gradual evolution of the his claims as well as to the unfolding of a realized and futurist Bábí eschatology.