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Babi-Baha'i Prophetology and Theophanology

Islamo-Biblica and Beyond:

Some Notes on the Prophetology and Theophanology expressed in Babi and Baha'i sacred literatures.


It should be mentioned at the outset that what scriptural or respected biblical and Islamic sources have to say about pre-Islamic prophets, sages, philosophers, worthies and others, is generally accepted in Babi Baha'i primary or scriptural sources. Hence some basic, summary information will be given here as on other links  on this website. This will be supplemented by registering select Babi-Baha'i interpretations which are often figurative, allegorical or esoteric in nature. Though the historicity of most pre-Islamic prophet figures is accepted deep meanings are often given to elements of their life stories. Miracles and scriptural literalisms are sometimes demythologized in order to expose further spiritual senses or meanings consonant with a modern rationistic or scientific understanding. Exegesis (drawing meaning out) and Eisegesis (envisioning meaning in) both have an honoured position in Babi-Baha'i hermenuetics.  Much of pre-Babi-Baha'i sacred writ and tradition is seen as a multi-faceted vehicle for spiritual contemplation and inward transformation....

The paragraphs below are a revised and expanded version of Chapter two (see PDf. above) the Lambden Phd. 1980s-2002 (p.74ff).

Under revision 2016

For Muslims, Bābīs and Bahā’īs all the above more than 28 figures in varying ways contributed to human progress by representing God. Some are of relatively minor importance in Islamic salvation history and are seldom mentioned in Bābī-Bahā’ī primary sources. Others, for some Shī`ī, Ismā’īlī and Irfānī Sufi authorities, as well as for the Bāb and Baha'-Allah, were important divine (Per.) maẓhar-i ilāhī (manifestations of God). In this exalted category are usually included (1) Adam, (2) Noah, (3) Abraham, (4) Moses, (5) Jesus and (6) Muhammad. With additions and variations this list is basically an expansion of the Islamic ūlū al-`azm ("possessors of steadfastness").

The myriad prophets and the ūlū al-`azm (possessors of steadfastness)
The traditional number of around twenty-eight prophet figures was vastly expanded in Islamic sources. The Q. itself holds that God sent a nabī, rasūl and / or a nadhir ("warner") to every people (Q.10:48) to deliver a clear message (al-balāgh al-mubīn, Q. 29:18b; 35:24; 10:47; 40:28). In this light al-Maqdisī in his K. al-bad` wa’l-tārīkh (The Book of Creation and History’, 355/966) recorded from Wahb b. Munabbih a tradition of their having been twenty-three prophets in Sheba alone; one named Ḥanẓala ibn Afyūn (Ṣafwān)
al-Ṣādiq and another called [63] Khālid b. Sinān al-'Absī who was active in Arabia during the fatra (the silent `interval’) separating Jesus and Muhammad (Maqdisī, III:1).

The names then of only a small proportion of the numerous past prophets and other figures such as sages, kings and philosophers etc., find mention in the Qur’ān itself (Q. 4:164). Some post-qur’ānic Islamic traditions indicate a very large number of Israelite prophets. Ibn `Abbās, for example, reckoned there had been 1,000 besides other divinely sent figures,

Between Moses son of `Imrān and Jesus son of Mary was [a period of] 1,900 years. There was no faṭra [`cessation’ in divine guidance] between these two for between them He [God] sent 1,000 prophets (nabī) of the children of Israel; in addition to others whom He sent besides them... (cited Ibn Sa`d, Tabaqat I:53).

A similar prophetic tradition relayed through the 8th Shī`ite Imam, `Alī al-Riḍā’ (d. 201/818) reads,

God... created 124,000 nabī (prophets) and I [Muhammad] am the most noble of them... and God created 124,000 waṣī (successors) and `Alī is the most noble of them... (Bihar 2 11:30-31).

Other Sunnī and Sh`ī traditions speak of 124,000 bearers of the divine message, a number of whom, often 313 or so, were reckoned rasūl . The Sunnī Mishkat al-maṣābīḥ (Niche of Lights) of Tabrīzī records that Muhammad told Abū Dharr of the number of al-mursalīn (`sent messengers’), "There have been three hundred and between ten and twenty all told". Alternatively, it is reported that the prophet told Abū Dharr of "A hundred and twenty-four thousand among whom were three hundred and fifteen rusul (messengers) all told" 1 (al-Tibrīzī, Mishkat, III:1599, Nos. 5737-8; trans. Robson, II:1229). In Shī`ī texts the same or similar figures are given. Majlisī records the following tradition from `Alī cited in Tibrizi's [Ṭabarsī’s] Majma` al- bayān;

God raised up a black prophet (nabī an aswād) whose story he did not relate unto us. The traditions (al-akhbār) differ as to the number of the prophets (al-anbiyā’). Some have related that their number is 124,000 while others have it that the number of the prophets is 8,000; 4,000 coming from the children of Israel and 4,000 from elsewhere with a "sign" (bi-āyah)... with a miracle and with a proof (Biḥār 2 11:21).

 In his K. al-Bad' wa'l-tārīkh the Shī`ī historian al-Maqdisī gives many details regarding the various prophets (anbiyā’). He notes the Islamic traditions (akhbār al-muslimīn) reckoning 124,000 nabī and 313 (or in his opinion 315) nabī- mursal (rasūl = sent messengers) also having prophetic status (Maqdisī, III:lf). Other Islamic traditions reckon the pre-Islamic prophets (anbiyā’ + mursalūn) at either 8,000; 124,000 or 224,000 (Friedman1989:50-51; Schimmel 1985:55f). Shī`ī sources count many myriads of divine messengers and a similarly large number of attendant waṣī (successors, agents) and walī ( allies) are listed.1 Numerous actual or mythical ancient Persian (possibly Zoroastrian), Indian (Hindu) and other figures swell yet further the names of those mentioned in a range of Islamic sources.
In Islamic sources groups of those among the twenty-eight prophets and others have, for various reasons, been classified together. Wahb b. Munabbih, for example, transmitted a tradition of fivefold groupings:

There were five Hebraic apostles (Adam, Seth, Idris [Enoch], Noah, and Abraham) and five Arab apostles (Salih, Hud, [Ibrāhīm] Ishmael, Shuayb and Muhammad) (cf. Bihar2 11:32ff). Another important grouping is that of the ūlū al-`azm, those "characterized by steadfastness" which will now be considered The ūlū al-`azm, those "characterized by steadfastness" (Q. 46:35).

In Shī`ī texts certain rasūl are representatives of nubuwwat al-tashrī` (legislative prophethood) being empowered to found and maintain new religions and institute religious laws. They bring a new shari`a (law) while related nabī are placed on a subordinate level. 2

1. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī 1:223ff; Biḥār211:30ff. Numerous Shī`ī sources record traditions that plot throughout history the appearance of major prophet figures and their immediate successor(s) after the typology of Muhammad and `Alī.

2 Refer, Kulaynī, al-Kāfī I:174f, 223ff ; Corbin, En Islam 1:235f; cf. Wensinck, 1932:204.

Though the Q. and certain ḥadīth have it that the faithful should make no distinction between the various messengers of God, some rusul (messengers) were exalted above others (Q. 2:253; 17:55; 46:35). The qur’ānic mentions of unity yet distinction among the prophets inspired statements of oneness and brotherhood as well as hierarchical theories.1

1. An interesting prophetic ḥadīth is relayed from Abū Ḥurayra is recorded in the Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’ of Tha`labī "The prophets (al-anbiyā’) are brethren (ākhwat ) though of various mothers and their religion is one (dīnuhun wāḥid, Qisas: 403).

The favouring of  "some above others" (Q. 2:253a) in terms of the favoured rank of those considered ūlū al-`azm will be noted as it is primarily these figures who became Bābī- Bahā’ī maẓhar-I ilāhī (manifestations of God).
The qur’ānic phrase ūlū al-`azm came to have important prophetological implications in post-qur’ānic Islam. It was much discussed and by many thought to be indicative of exalted rusul (sent messengers) as (sometimes) pre-existent beings endowed with constancy of mission, moral and intellectual infallibility (ma`ṣūm) and the power of waḥy (divine revelation). In Shī`ī sources the ūlū al-`azm are the major founders of religions with a binding shar`ia` ("revealed law") relevant to a given community (umma) or to all humanity (Bihar211:34ff) . Al-Maqdisī expressed a subsequently widely held opinion when he wrote,

"of the ūlū al-`azm among the rusul there are five: [1] Noah [2] Abraham [3] Moses [4] Jesus and [5] Muhammad (Bad` wa’l-tārīkh, III:7). This is in line with traditions ascribed to the twelver Imams enumerating the ūlū al-`azm recorded in Majlisī’s Biḥar (11:34ff).

In the following example Imām Ja`far al-Ṣādiq is cited as saying:

`I heard Abū `Abd Allāh say, `The elite (sāda) of the prophets (al-nabiyyīn) and messengers (al-mursalīn) are five. They [five] are the ūlū al-`azm (ones "endowed with steadfastness") among the messengers (al-rusul) . Around them the mill-stone (al-raḥā / ruḥīy) [of reality] turns: [they are] [1] Noah, [2] Abraham, [3] Moses, [4] Jesus and [5] Muhammad (Kāfī, I:175).

The  Bāb  and  Baha'-Allah  go  beyond  these  qur’anic  and  Islamic  norms  by  allotting theophanic status (= maẓhar-I ilāhī ) to those mentioned in various Shī`ī lists of the ūlū al-`azm adding others to them. They include the frequently listed five mentioned above with the addition of Adam and others.1 Those divine manifestations are [1] Adam [2] Noah, [3] Abraham, [4] Moses,   [5] Jesus and   [6] Muhammad. 2 To this basically Abrahamic list, developed, more globally minded, Bahā’ī theophanology adds the biblical figures, Melchizedek, King of Salem (Ar. Malik al-Salam, fl.c. 2100?), Joseph son of Jacob [Israel], possibly David the biblical king of Israel (d.c. 967 BCE <--1) and another pre-Mosaic David?, John the Baptist and certainly also the ancient Persian prophet Zarathušra (= Zoroaster, fl. 1200 BCE?) As well as Siddhārtha Gautama, the Shākyamuni, and Buddha (Enlightened One d. c. 486 or 368 BCE) (`Abd al-Baha' TAB 2:469 cf. 3:565). To these also, it seems, that Bahā’is add the earlier mythical figure(s) (?) [Brahma-] Sri Krishna (4000 BCE??) (`Abd al-Baha', PUP:446; PT:35; SE* GPB: 94 ). With various additions and omissions the Bāb and Baha'-Allah become figures [8] and [9] in a largely Abrahamic (+ Asian) list – the number nine, being the Bahā’ī sacred number as the abjad numerical value of the word bahā’ = 1+5+1+1= 9).

Like various Ismā’īlis and other heterodox Islamic factions, Bābis and Bahā’ īs see Adam as an exalted figure far greater than the largely symbolic figure who features in the Bible and Q. along with his wife Eve (ḥawā’) in the Eden legend. His story is regarded as basically symbolic, as is his "fall" which, for Bahā’īs, is indicative of human frailty not a loss of the ancient or pre-existent, heavenly status of an exalted primogenitor named Adam. In expressing these doctrines Bābī- Bahā’ī writ echoes the high theophanology of gnostic Shī`ism and, in the case of Melchizedek, those ancient and modern gnosticizing factions which uphold the exalted status of Melchizedek, King of Salem (Gen. 11 etc). As a prototype of both Imam Ḥusayn (d. 61/680) and Baha'-Allah, Joseph becomes a maẓhar-i ilāhī going way beyond his biblical-qur’ānic status as a one-time notable in Egypt whose concrete historicity remains doubtful to some biblical scholars and other academics.

1. Adam, Dāwūd (David) and others are not normally included in Islamic lists of the ūlū al-`azm. The former had fallen from heaven and the Zabūr  (Psalter) of the latter has no legal component  (cf. Q. 38:24-5).

2. On those marked with [0] see below .That Zoroaster, Melchizedek, David (1&2?), Jospeh son of Jacob [Israel], John the Baptist and others are counted in developed Bahā’ī texts as maẓhar-I ilāhī will be taken up below.

The perspectives regarding the ūlū al-`azm among some Shī`ī Sufīs of the  school of Ibn al-`Arabī such as Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī (8th/14th cent.) are worth noting. In his Jāmi` al-asrār (Summation of Secrets) he at one point goes beyond a listing of the usual ūlū al-`azm (+ Adam, cf. Jāmi`, 281 [= § 553f]) by associating the "seven stars" with the ṣūrat (form) of the seven rusul (sent messengers) who are ūlū al-`azm. On this cosmic, esoteric level it is not the usual five or six but seven who have a special relationship with ultimate realities (`ind al-muḥaqqaqīn), (1) Adam, (2) Noah,  (3) Abraham, (4) David,  (5) Moses (6) Jesus and (7) Muhammad (Jāmi`, 237 §465). Not normally considered among the ūlū al-`azm both Adam and a pre-Mosaic David are included here. Both these figures have an elevated position in Bābī- Bahā’ī prophetology and theophanology.The Bāb and Baha'-Allah held that divine guidance to humanity through successive founder messengers referred to as maẓhar-I ilāhī, was without beginning and will have no end. For them divine guidance will last as long as human history endures. The Muslim claim that Muhammad was the last of God’s messengers was transcended by both the Bāb and Baha'-Allah as will now be seen.

The Bābī- Bahā’ī transcendence of khātamiyya (Q.33:40b), the finality of prophethood

Muhammad is not the father of any man among but he is the rasūl-Allāh (Messenger of God) and the khatām al-nabbiyyīn, (the `seal’ `last’. `acme’) of the prophets (Q. 33:40).

Understanding the reading khātam to mean "last" in Q. 33:40, Muslims have considered this verse  foundational for the post-qur’ānic doctrine of the  `finality of prophethood`, that no nabī (or rasūl) would appear after Muhammad, the final rasūl Allāh (messenger of God). Probably echoing earlier claims of Manī (d. c. 277), the son of a Parthian prince and messianic claimant (al-Bīrūnī, Sachau, 1879:190) the (Aramaic loanword?) khātam came throughout the Muslim world to indicate that the succession of prophets was "sealed up" or "ended" in Muhammad just as it had been in Manī. It was thought that after Muhammad, even after the eschatological consummation, no future prophet would appear to found a new or renewed religion. Many commentators on Q. 33:40 have it that the Islamic belief in the second coming of Jesus indicates the reappearance of this nabī (a prophet) in a role subservient to Muhammad and Islamic law on the Day of resurrection (Zamaksharī, al-Kashshāf,  3:544-5).

The finality of prophethood through Muhammad became a firmly accepted Islamic dogma. Even though it is not at all clear that the absolute finality of prophethood was the original intention  of Q. 33:40, this is today a firmly entrenched in both Sunn ī and Shī`īorthodoxy [68] (Friedmann, 1986; 1989: 49ff). Any  hint of  another post-Islamic prophetic claim or a challenge to thei`jāz al-Qur’ān (inimitability of the Q.) has generally met with the dire consequences of theological castigation, accusations of heresy and imprisonment or death.  Early on in his Izhāq al-bāṭil  (The Crushing of Falsehood, 1845) on the basis of his analysis the Qayyum al-asma', the Kirmani Shaykhī leader Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d. 1871) correctly accused the Bāb of such heresy as went well beyond the constraints of Shī`ī piety.

From the outset of his six year messianic career (1844-50) the Bāb in his Qayyum al-asma' (mid. 1260/1844) and other writings (INBMC 91) challenged both the finality of prophethood and the inimitability of the Q. In the light of his eschatologically charged, high Shī`ī- Shaykhī imamology, he modified the standard understanding of the `finality of prophethood’ by incorporating rewritten forms of the khātim al-nabiyyīn (Q.33:40b) into his first major work (QA):

O people of the earth! God did not create Muhammad the father of any of your men but he made him in the midmost heart of the celestial Throne ( fī kabd al-`arsh) for His greatest [eschatological] Day. God, hath in very truth concluded this matter as something hidden and treasured up (QA 44:164)...

The Bāb’s rewrites of Q. 33:40 such as the above modify or pass over the note of finality which most Muslims read into Q. 33:40b. He regularly all but negates any tone of the finality of prophethood in Q. 33:40b. Through his supernatural link with the Dhikr, and/or occulted twelfth Imām, the Ḥujjat-Allāh (messianic `Proof of God’), the Bāb several times radically modified any straightforward notion of the finality of prophethood.

In Qayyum al-asma' 4 the Bāb addresses the ahl al-madīna ("people of the city" of Shīrāz?) accusing them of polytheism if they acknowledge Muhammad as the "seal of the Prophets" and affirm his book (the Q.) yet  fail to bear witness to the fact that God also revealed the Qayyum al-asma' to the Bāb ("Our servant"; cf. Q. 2:23) which is certainly "the like of it" (the Q.). In Qayyum al-asma' 64 the Bāb similarly set down a messianic rewrite of Q.12:63 in the light of Q. 33:40. He exhorts believing Muslims gathered before Muhammad, the khātam al-nabiyyīn, to utter the following words:

O our father [Muhammad] the [messianic] dhikr  ("Remembrance"), is a further measure (al-kail)  which has been denied to us. So dispatch with us, the sign of the Dhikr  for the greater magnification (li’l-takbīr al-akbar)... (QA 64:260).

A few sūras later in Qayyum al-asma' 66 the Bāb speaks of a "Book" (= Qayyum al-asma') sent down to inform the people that the messianic Ḥujjat -Allāh (Proof of God = 12th Imam) is closely associated with the Dhikr even the likeness of the Ḥujjat (Proof) nigh Muhammad, the khātam al-nabiyyīn. It seems to be implied that the messianic "Hour" is about to be realized through the close relationship between the Dhikr (Remembrance) and the twelfth Imam or Hujjat-Allāh, the messianic Proof of God. In subsequent years (1848-50) the sometimes thinly veiled `messianic secret’ of the Bāb’s being the Qā’im / Mahdī was publicly broadcast and his more exalted claims openly promulgated.

In their writings the Bāb and Baha'-Allah never ceased referring to Muhammad as the khātam al-nabbiyīn (INBMC 91; Baha'-Allah KI:05ff/ 87ff). Q 33:40b was not understood as underlining the finality of prophethood in the sense of outruling an eschatological theophany. Great messianic, theophanological importance was given by the Bāb and Baha'-Allah to the qur’ānic references to liqā’- Allāh, the latter day meeting or encounter with God (Q. 6:31;130,154; 7:51,147; 10:7ff; 13:2 etc). The word khātam in khātam al-nabiyyīn need not signify "seal" implying "last" of the prophets but more appropriately indicate Muhammad as the "acme of the prophets" during the era before the yawm al-qiyāma (Day of Resurrection) when the liqā’- Allāh through a messianic maẓhar-i ilāhī would be realized. Then the liqā’- Allāh is realized through the parousia of the theophanic maẓāhar-I ilāhī. In it on these lines that Baha'-Allah in his K. īqān argues that khatām al-nabiyyīn as an epithet of Muhammad underlines the elevated nature of the Arabian  prophet and not the absolute finality of prophethood. Understood with the sense of utter finality, khātam al-nabiyyīn  degenerates into one of the subuḥāt al-jalāl    ("veils of glory") which hinder the realization of unfolding reality (KI:129f/107f,136-7).

Among the earliest passages of Baha'-Allah dealing with the issue of the khātam al-nabiyyīn (Q. 33:40b) is his testimony to the theophanic mission of the Bāb in his Lawh-i  Ḥurūfāt al-muqaṭṭa`āt  (Tablet on the Isolated Letters,   c. 1858). The Bāb, it is said, came with all manner of "dazzling [70] proofs" though the people "waxed proud" in their denial despite the qur’ānic promise of the liqā’- Allāh. When God sealed prophethood (khatama al-nubuwwat through Muhammad (Q. 33:40) "he gave the servants the glad-tidings of the encounter with Him [God]" and the matter was "definitively resolved" (khatama al-makhtūm). In the person of the Bāb "God came [unto them] in the shadows of the clouds (fī ẓulal al-ghamām, Q.2:210), breathed into the Trumpet of the Cause (nafakha ṣūr al-amr; cf. Q.18:99; etc), split the Heaven asunder (inshaqqat al-samā' cf.Q.55:37;69:16;84:1) and crushed the mountains to dust (Q.56:5;69:14, etc) whereupon all retreated back upon their heels (cf. Q.3:144;6:71) (Ma’idih, 4:65).

Baha'-Allah continued to argue that in spite of the theophany of the Bāb the people acted like Jews and Christians. They continued to await the realization of the promises and the eschatological liqā’-Allāh. In his decade or so later lengthy Persian Tablet to `Alī Muhammad Sarrāj (c.1867 CE), Baha'-Allah himself touches upon the subject of the obscurity of eschatological prophecies in Abrahamic religious scripture. He highlights the supremely clear implications (aṣraḥ al-kalimāt) of finality in khātam al-nabbiyyīn (Q. 33:40b) but thinks it as an unacceptable veil inhibiting post-Islamic faith in another supreme agent of God. Despite its implications of finality, pure-hearted persons still came to true faith in Point of the Bayān (bi-irfān nuqṭa-yi bayān = the Bāb). Indeed,Baha'-Allah adds, such pure-hearted persons so comprehended  the  matter  of  khātimiyyat       ("sealedness")  that  they  would  happily acknowledge the appearance of a "prophet" (nabī)   "from the beginning which has no beginning unto the end which has no end" (L. Sarr āj, Ma’idih, 7:28ff).

For the Bāb and Baha'-Allah the qur’ānic khātam al-nabiyyīn in no way rules out the theophany of divinity on the eschatological "Day of God" (yawm Allāh). Even if it is taken to outrule the finality of the appearance of a post-Muhammad nabī (prophet) or even rasūl (sent one) it does not outrule an eschatological theophany. Both the Bāb and Baha'-Allah claimed to be fully human yet fully divine maẓhar-i ilāhī   in a way that transcends issues revolvingaround the meanings of khātam al-nabiyyīn. In fact Baha'-Allah so transcended these matters that in numerous theophanological passages he presents himself as having sent out the nabī and rasūl of the pre-Islamic era. In an important Arabic Tablet of the Acre period Baha'-Allah defends himself against accusations that he has contradicted the Muslim understanding of Q. 33:40b by stating:

You have assuredly confirmed [the truth] by what you have announced [in citing Q. 33:40b]. We do indeed testify that through him [Muhammad] messengership and prophethood (al-risāla wa’l- nubuwwa) were sealed up. Whomsoever after him [Muhammad] makes claim to such an elevated station is indeed in manifest error.... The carpet of prophethood (bisāt al-nubuwwa) has been rolled up and there has appeared the one who sent them out (arsal) [=BA*] in manifest sovereignty… (Untitled Tablet to Ḥasan [L. Khātam al-nabbiyīn]).

Bahā’ī arguments against the finality of prophethood usually operate on a somewhat lower level than these elevated theophanological challenges. In modern Bahā’ī apologetics a distinction is often made between a future rasūl as a founding maẓhar-I ilāhī (Manifestation of God) and the role of the (lesser) nabī or secondary prophet. Diverse lexical and Islamic understandings of khātam (kh-t-m) are commented upon in the light of the non-finality of prophethood. The Islamic understandings of Q. 33:40b   might, it is sometimes held, outrule the further appearance of Israelite type nabiyyīn (prophets) but this phrase does not negate future appearances of rasūl or mursalīn (sent messengers) the like of which is hinted at in the following qur’ānic verse:

O children of Adam! There shall come among you mursalīn (sent messengers) from among yourselves rehearsing my signs unto you... (Q. 7:43)

Many thousands of eschatological traditions were assiduously compiled into sometimes bulky Istidlāliyya (testimonia) tracts by 19th-20th century disciples of the Bāb and Baha'-Allah. Considerable attention was given to overcoming any finality implied by Q. 33:40b.1 Some, at Baha'-Allah’s command, followed the lead of the Bāb’s Dalā’il-I sab`ih and his own K-īqān. This with a view to arguing that all manner of messianic predictions and apocalyptic "signs" had come to [72] pass (cf. INBMC 80). Bābīs and Bahā’īs claimed that for many thousands of years divine messengers (rusul) or maẓhar-I ilāhī (divine Manifestations) will found and progressively renew the eternal religion of God (= Islam).

1 See Gulpaygānī, K. Farā’id, index; Ishrāq Khavarī, QI:383ff; al-Tibyān wa’l-burhān, I:59ff Rawshānī, Khātamiyyat; Momen 1999:34f, 87ff.

It is today a central Bābī- Bahā’ī teaching that future divine messengers (rusul) or maẓhar-i ilāhī (divine manifestations) will, for many thousands of years, found and progressively renew the eternal religion of God (= `Islam’). The Bāb’s claim to be the Shī` ī messiah did not prevent or inhibit his also predicting numerous future messianic advents of the originally Sufī figure man yuẓhiruhu-Allāh (Goldziher, 1921 tr. Lambden & Walker 1992). This is indicated in a passage from the Bāb’s K. panj sha’n (Book of the Five Grades; 1850 CE) where the following words could be taken to indicate an infinite number of future theophanies of the Bābī theophanic messiah,  man  yuẓhiru-hu-Allāh  (He  whom God shall make manifest’).

... And after the Bayān it is [the theophany of] man yuẓhiru-hu All āh (He whom God will make manifest) [1]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [1] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [2]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [2] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [3]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh, [3] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [4]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [4] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [5]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [ 5] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [6]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [6] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [7]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [7] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [8]. And after man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [8] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh [9]. (K. Panj-S: 314-5, cf. 397).

The position of the Bāb is thus the exact opposite of the Islamic proponents of the doctrine of the finality of prophethood. The mention of nine successive theophanies most likely indicates their endless future realization. Towards the end of his life in his Haykal al-dīn (Temple of Religion, 1266/1850) the Bāb made increasing mention of "He whom God will make manifest". He  variously indicated the time of his  advent at after nine (=1269/1852), nineteen (= 1279 =1862-3) or between 1511 (abjad of Ar. ghiyāth = `the Assistance’) and 2001 years (abjad of Ar. mustaghath = `The One Invoked for help’) from 1260/1844 (MacEoin,1986:95-155). These latter figures were understood by Baha'-Allah as either numerically and messianically suggestive Names of God of non-chronological import, or allusions to the time of another theophany after himself (Baha'-Allah, L. Khalīl Shīrāzī ; `O Thou Creator ’mss).

Maẓhariyya : The roots and significance of the Bābī- Bahā’ī concept of the maẓhar- i ilāhī ("Divine theophany", "Manifestation of God").

It was out of the abovementioned nexus of Islamic prophetological, imamological and theophanological Sufi and Shī`ī- Shaykhī concepts, that the terminology and many aspects of  the  Bābī-  Bahā’ī  doctrine  of  the  mazhar-i  ilāhī      evolved.  The  Bāb  personified  the mashiyya (Primal Will) and made it, as the maẓhar-i ilāhī (Manifestation of God), the centerpiece of his theology. It was is by virtue of the mashiyya (Will) that God made himself indirectly known to his creation through the maẓhar  of His own nafs , the Logos-Self which is the maẓhar ilāhī (The Manifestation of God). In Bābī-Bahā’ī usage ẓuhūr indicates the divine tajallī (theophany, divine self-revelation) of God through his maẓhar (theophanic manifestation) unto the worlds of creation. The study of the background of the centrally important maẓhariyya (theophanological) doctrines within the Bābī- Bahā’ī religious universe of discourse, to some degree illustrates how aspects of Bābī- Bahā’ī doctrine evolved out of heterodox Shī`īsm in a similar way to the emergence of Christianity from sectarian Judaisms. Only a few notes pertinent to this can be set down here (cf. MacEoin, maẓhar, EI2 VI:952-3).

Deriving from the triliteral Arabic root ẓ- h-r which may verbally indicate `to appear’, `be manifest’, the straight-forward sense the Arabic noun of place maẓhar (pl. maẓāhir cf. ẓāhir, `apparent’, `visible’ `outer’, `exterior’)    is a `place of appearance’. It may also be indicative of an `outward expression’ or  `mode of apparition’, and thus additionally indicate a `manifestation’ or `theophany’ (Corbin, 1972, IV:518, index).

In his The Sufi Path of Knowledge Chittick prefers to translate maẓhar, "locus of manifestation" (Chittick, 1989:89). The term maẓhar has a long history and rich semantic field in a multitude of texts expressive, for example, of the mediatory position of the prophets and imams as loci of divine  realities.  Murata has  stated that  many "cosmologists  employ  terms  like  ẓuhūr (manifestation) and tajallī  (self-disclosure) to explain the relationship of the world to God" (Murata,1992:11). Maẓhar     is a term that lies at the heart of certain prophetological and imamological speculations within Islamic philosophy and theology. It is found within the writings of numerous exponents of Shī`ī [74] mysticism, theosophy and gnosis. 1

1. In early Shī’ī Khaṭṭabī [Nusayrī) gnosis the pentadic "Five Companions of the Mantle" (Muhammad, Fāṭim[a], `Alī, Ḥasan and Ḥusayn) represented by the initial letters of their names, become "Names" or "Principles" as well as tajalliyat (`theophanies’) and maẓāhir (manifestations) of the "Light" (Corbin, [1974] 1998:186-7).

The terms ẓāhir, ẓuhūr, maẓhar are frequently used and important within the theologically loaded writings of Ibn al-`Arabī and of persons falling within his  `school’ (Chittick, 1988:201-221, 470 [index ẓuhūr, etc]; 1989:16, 478 index ẓuhūr etc). Within the writings of Ibn al-`Arabī maẓhar is a theological term rooted in the exegesis of Q. 57:3, "He [God] is the ẓāhir (Manifest) and the bāṭin (Nonmanifest) (Chittick, 1989:89; cf. Futūḥāt III:484-5). For the Great Shaykh ẓuhūr is used of the tajallī, the divine `self-disclosure’ or the `manifestation’ of God. For him maẓhar can indicate the locus of a particular divine Name (s) and/or Attribute (asmā’ wa’l-ṣifāt).

For Ibn al-`Arabī the terms ẓāhir / ẓuhūr / maẓhar have an important place in Islamic thought ( Chittick, 1988:201-221, 470 [index ẓuhūr, etc]; 1989:16, 478 index ẓuhūr etc). Maẓhar is a frequently used theological term rooted in the exegesis of Q. 57:3, "He [God] is the ẓāhir  (Manifest) and the bāṭin (Nonmanifest) (Chittick, 1989:89). At one point in the Futūḥāt it is written, "God is the ẓāhir (Manifest) who is witnessed by the eyes and the bāṭin (Nonmanifest) who is witnessed by the intellects (al-`uqūl)" (Fut. III:484-5). In his The Sufi Path of Knowledge Chittick prefers to translate maẓhar "locus of manifestation" (Chittick, 1989:89). For Ibn al-`Arabī ẓuhūr  is especially used of the self-manifestation of God which is his tajallī (self-disclosure).

Among the many disciples of the "Great Shaykh" who have made fairly frequent use of maẓhar as a theophanological   technical term was, for example, Ibn al-`Arabī’s son-in-law Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī (d.673/1274). His K. al-fukūk, (The Book of Unravellings) represents itself as a `key to the mysteries’ of Ibn `Arabī’s Fuṣuṣ al-ḥikam (Bezels of Wisdom). In his exposition of the section revolving around the prophet Ismā’īl (here no. 7) and the implications of prophets being maẓāhir  of the divine Names,  Qunawi (commenting on Q. 29:27a) categorically states

"Every [75] prophet is a maẓhar of one of the divine Names (ism min al-asmā’) (K. al-fukūk, 209). The same is also stated in the section devoted to Muhammad: "every nabī is a maẓhar of one of the Names of the Divine Reality (ism min asmā’ al-ḥaqq; ibid, 310). In the section on Shu`ayb it is stated that Moses’  education (tarbiyat) was initially taught by means of this Arab prophet. It was such that Moses’ āyāt (verses, signs) were according to the dictates of the "outer Name" (aḥkām al-ism al-ẓāhir). When God desired the perfection of Moses he sent him to Khiḍr who is said to be a maẓhar (manifestation) of the hidden [Inner, Non-Manifest] Name (al-ism al-bāṭin). (Qunawī, al-Fukūk, 251).

Rajab al-Bursī (d. c. 814/1411) in his influential Mashāriq  compiled much of relevance to this topic including a section dealing with the anbiyā’ (prophets) as maẓāhir asmā’ Allāh ("manifestations of the Names of God"). They are all maẓhar ism kullī (`manifestations of a universal [divine] Name = Allāh) whose sharī`a (law) is likewise universal. All the prophets and messengers (nabī + rasūl) are reckoned as archetypally revolving around the following seven figures, (1) Adam, (2) Enoch, (3) Abraham, (4)Jospeh, (5) Moses (6) Aaron and (7) Jesus. Among other things each prophet is associated with a particular divine Name. While Enoch, for example, is described as a maẓhar of the divine name al-ḥayy (`the Living), Joseph is the maẓhar of the divine name al-murīd (Disciple) associated with jamīl (Beauty). Beyond them Muhammad is the maẓhar of the comprehensive divine Name (al-ism al-jāmi`) Allāh as well as the maẓhar of the (supernal) Lights (al-anwār) (Mashāriq, 32-3).

Within the Kalimat-i Maknūnih   (Hidden Words) of Mullā Muḥsin Fayḍ al-Kāshānī (d.1090/1679), another Shī`ī thinker much influenced by  Ibn al-`Arabī, is  a  theologically oriented section (kalimat) about the significance of al-ẓuhūr (the Manifest) and al-maẓhar (the Manifestation). Within this section it is stated that "the manifestations of the True One (maẓāhir al-ḥaqq) is something independent (muṭlaqa) since the maẓhar-i ilāhī is in that locale as something [independently] evident (ẓāhir) and manifest (maẓhar) (manifest)" (Kalimat, 114-5). Another section concerns the ultimacy of the of the theophany  of  the Ultimate Reality  (ẓuhūr al-ḥaqq).  Relative to the maẓāhir  (Manifestations) this is said to be by means of the Divine Names (al-asmā’ al-ilāhiyya). The Manifestation of the Name of Allāh (mazḥar ism Allāh) is identified as the person of the al-insān al-kāmil (The Perfect Man [Human]). The perfection of the name Allāh is evident in the manifestation  of  the Universal Perfect Human (maẓhar-i jāmi`-yi insān-i kāmil).

Similar examples could be gleaned from numerous other philosopher-theologians of the school of Ibn al-`Arabī and the `School of Isfahan’ and elsewhere. 1 The famed al-insān al-kāmīl.. (The Perfect Human) of the Shī`ite Sufī `Abd al-Karīm al-Jilī (d. c.832/1428) contains a section dealing with the divine Names al-jalāl (The Majestic) where it is stated that for every divine Name and Attribute there is a athar, a trace-impression which is a maẓhar of divine jamāl (Beauty) or jalāl (Majesty). (New ed, 97).

1 The first Safavid ruler Shāh Ismā’īl (d.930/1524), a Sufi Shaykh and one time head of the Qizilbash made use of maẓhar in certain of his Turkish, distinctly (neo-) ghuluww (extremist)   high imamological and theophanologically oriented poems. Apparently referring to himself he states in one poem (no. 259), "A man (ādam) has become a maẓhar of the ḥaqq ( Ultimately Real).. My Beauty is a maẓhar of Our God (jamālī maẓhar ilāhhum...) (Minorsaky, 1942: 1039a-1040a,194).

Baha'-Allah’s    uses    of    maẓhar    are    numerous    and    generally    fall     into    the theological- theophanological pattern set in the writings of the Bāb. Baha'-Allah’s apophatic theology of the maẓhar-i ilāhī (Manifestation of God) , like that of the Bāb (Lambden, 1997), categorically bypassed the potentially pantheistic waḥdat al-wujūd ("oneness of being") speculations of  Ibn al-`Arabī (not his terminology) and his devotees (Baha'-Allah. Haft vādī, AQA 3:XX/ tr. Seven Valleys, 39-40). The Unmanifest Godhead ever remains unknowably beyond number, gender and all limitations. He/She/It, the absolute Godhead, is only indirectly manifested through the maẓhar ilāhī who, as the (subordinate) "God", makes the `Wholly Other’ knowable to human beings. Scriptural (Q. + Bible) statements about God actually have apophatic significance or only disclose something about his Will or His knowable, mediatory theophanic manifestations.

As a theological term central to Bābī- Bahā’ī usage maẓhar precludes any hint of ḥulūl, the `incarnation’ of the absolute Divine Essence (dhāt al-dhāt). The  divine intermediary maẓhar-i ilāhī (Divine Theophany, Manifestation) does not manifest the hidden, incomprehensible Deity the dhāt    or dhāt al-dhāt.  Rather, it is the totality of the (created) divine Names and Attributes (al-asmā’ wa’l-ṣifāt) that are exhibited in his Person. They are manifested by any given maẓhar-i ilāhī but only according to human capacity at a given point in history and for a divinely ordained era in time (ẓuhūr = " theophanological dispensation"). The Bahā’ī prophet’s notion of tawḥid (the Divine Oneness) is focussed on the non-ontological, spiritual "oneness" of the nafs (Logos-like`Self’) of the major founder Prophets of religion who are manifestations of the totality of the Divine Names and attributes. They indirectly make the incomprehensible God known through the partial maẓhar  or disclosure of the knowable Divine Will (BA, Lawḥ-i madinat al-tawḥīd ).

At the outset of an untitled writing, Baha'-Allah writes, "The [eschatological] Day cries out announcing, `The manifestation of the Divine Command has assuredly been made manifest (qad ẓahara maẓhar al-amr) (La`ālī al-ḥikma, 1:109 No.170). He composed a number of alwāḥ designated L.-i ẓuhūr (The Tablet of the Theophany [Manifestation]) in which he detailed some theological aspects of the person of the maẓhar-i ilāhī. In one of them he explained  that,

The theophany of the Divine Manifestation (ẓuhūr) is not compounded of the four elements. Nay rather, he is the mystery of the divine oneness (sirr al-aḥadiyya), the Pre-Existent Being (kaynuna al-qidamiyya), the All-Enduring Essence (al-jawhar al-ṣamadiyya) and the Hidden Ipseity (al-huwiyya al-ghaybiyya). He can in no wise be known apart from his own Self. It is not possible for anyone to establish that he was made manifest from the four elements (`anāṣir), from such elements (ustaqusāt = Gk. stoicheion) as are mentioned by the tongue of the practitioners of philosophy (ahl al-ḥikmat), or indeed, from any of the four natures (al-tabai`).  All such as this was created as a result of His Command and through His Will (mashiyya)... In every world he is manifested according to the capacity (bi-isti`dād) of that world. In the world of spirits (`ālam al-arwāḥ), for example, he reveals himself and becomes manifest unto them [the spiritual beings] through the  vestiges  of  the  Spriit (āthār al-rūḥ). So likewise in the world of bodies (ajsā d), in the world of Names and Attributes (al-asmā’ wa’l-ṣifāt) and in other worlds which none comprehends save God. All [of these worlds] derive their good-fortune (naṣīb) from this theophany of the Divine Manifestation (ẓuhūr). Wherefore does he appear unto them according to the requisite form in order that He might guide them unto God, His Lord, and draw them nigh unto the Abode of His Cause (BA* L. Ẓuhūr, Mā’idih, 4:161f). .

The following are a few Bābī- Bahā’ī doctrinal teachings that are held to apply equally to all maẓhar-i ilāhī. Bahā’ī hermeneutics never permits the interpretation of sacred books or Isrā’īliyyāt traditions in ways which might negate these theophanological doctrines:

1) Divinity and Lordship (ulūhiyya, rubūbiyya).

All representatives of the unknowable Godhead, the maẓhar ilāhī are equally divine. They can all legitimately make the claim to (subordinate) divinity by saying , anā Allāh ("`I am God") or the like, though they can never claim to be ontologically identical with the Absolute Divine Essence, the Ultimate Godhead (BA* KI:137/114).

2) Pre-existence

The pre-existence of the divine Manifestations (maẓāhar ) is presupposed and affirmed in numerous Bābī- Bahā’ī texts. This by virtue of their divine Logos-like Reality, their primordial nafs (Identity-Self-Soul). The multi-faceted Islamic doctrine of the pre-existent (Per.) nūr-i Muḥammadiyya ("Muhammadan Light") was foundational and is applied to all of the maẓhar-i ilāhī. Like Jesus the Bābī- Bahā’ī maẓhar can all utter such words as "before Abraham was I am" (Jn. 8:58b) or claim a central, pre-existent role in the origins of existence.

3) `Iṣmā`  (`immunity from sin’; `moral infallibility’ ). 1

The Islamic doctrine of `iṣmā’ was gradually and in diverse ways incorporated within in both Sunni 2 and Shī`ī Islam. It was championed by numerous Shī`ī thinkers including the Imami  writers  Hisham  b.  al-Ḥakam  (d.179/795).  Ibn  Babuwayh  (d.381/991)  and  Shaykh al-Mufid (d.412/1022).

1. It was perhaps due to Samaritan (Jewish) influence from the late 2nd/8th century that the principle expressed by the non-qur’ānic terms `iṣmā’  (moral impeccability) and ma`ṣum (immunity from error) first (?) came to be applied to the Shi`ī Imams and subsequently to the Prophet Muhammad as well, on occasion, to other the pre-Islamic prophets and agents of God.

2 The doctrine of `iṣmā’ is found in the Sunnī Fiqh al-Akbar (Greater Understanding) II (10th cent.) and was earlier championed by various Shī`ī thinkers including Hisham b. al-Ḥakam  (d.179/795).

Within Shī`īsm the `iṣma  of prophets and the ma`ṣūm (guarded from sin and error) of the Imams became and has remained an important article of faith. It was affirmed and in various ways integrated in Bābī- Bahā’ī imamology and theophanology. All maẓhar-i ilāhī are considered ma`ṣūm in Bābī- Bahā’ī scripture. Abrahamic sacred books (Bible and Q.) and Isrā’īlyyāt traditions can never be interpreted so as to attribute sin and error to the divine Manifestations of God. Numerous biblical legends and qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’ narratives as well as doctrinal utterances of past prophets, sages and agents of God are interpreted in Bābī- Bahā’ī texts in line with the doctrines of `iṣma / ma`ṣūm. Majpr Messengers are pictured as all wise paragons of pious virtue and miraculous power. Texts which contract this are allegorically or non-literally interpreted (AB* SAQ III ch. 44). The hermeneutical maintenance of `Iṣma / ma`ṣūm is a Bahā’ī religious touchstone of exegetical integrity and historiographical soundness. In Bābī- Bahā’ī exegesis , for example, Adam the maẓhar-Ii ilāhī never sinned by eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden (Gen 2-3; Q.2:25; 20:115; cf. Q. 7:19).1

1. The Bahā’ī exegesis of the story of Adam and Eve as explained by AB* is wholly removed from the sphere of history. The story is symbolic of the plight of humankind in the material world. Adam represents of the rūḥ-i Ādam, the higher "spirit of Adam" (= humanity). Humanity (the first couple) fell from paradise when Eve who represents the nafs-i Ādam, the lower self of humanity,  precipitated a "fall" from spirituality as a result of being enticed bythe "serpent" (= materiality). To eat of the "fruit" of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is to be engrossed in the material world by the satanic lower self (AB*, SAQ:92f /tr.122f cf. AB* explanation, "The Tree (shajarat) [ of the knowledge of good and evil] of his eminence Adam is the reaching out to the [material] world (bulūgh-i a`lam) Ma’idih 9:128-9).

Following and expounding Baha'-Allah’s teachings both AB* and SE* made the upholding of `iṣmā’   an essential hermeneutical principle.  AB*, for example, probably following Islamic exegetical precedent,   made lawful the Islamo-biblical notice that Abraham married his half-sister (cousin) or aunt Sarah (cf. Gen.12:10f; Rippin EI2 IX:26-7) by writing,

During the time of the Abrahamic Prophethood it was considered allowable, because of a certain exigency, that a man should marry his aunt, even as Sarah was the sister of Abraham's mother" (AB* PUP: 365)

Baha'-Allah himself claimed (Per.) `ismat-i kubrā (the greatest infallibility ) which he also made applicable to the Bāb and the other maẓhar-i ilāhī and to other lesser past worthies such as the twelver Imams and various anbiyā’ (prophets) of Israelite history. While supreme theophanies , the maẓāhir-I kulliyya (universal manifestations) like the "Sun" have `iṣmat-i dhātiyya ("essential infallibility") other sanctified individuals and groups like "moons" luminous with divine light, can only evince `iṣmat-i ṣifātiyya ("conferred infallibility") (SAQ. XLV: 129ff/171ff).[80]

4. The ability to perform of miracles  (mu`jizāt).

Within Abrahamic scripture and tradition innumerable messengers of God, saints, Imams and others are credited with the working of miracles. Such supernatural acts are dealt with generally and specifically in Bābī- Bahā’ī primary literatures. Though the Bāb is credited with miracles in most 19th century Bābī- Bahā’ī hagiographical histories, he most frequently highlighted as his miracle his ability to reveal divine verses through waḥy. For him this was the true hallmark of his claim to divine maẓhar status (Ar.+P.Dala ’il) . The Bāb gave spiritual interpretations to the various "miraculous" deeds of past prophets (e.g. Muhammad’s alleged the "cleaving of the moon" Q. 54:1f; P-Dala’il,13) and non-literally interpreted many cosmic eschatological signs including, for example, the rising of the "Sun of Reality" (shams-i ḥaqīqat) in the "West" which he related to his theophanic appearance inShīrāz , (Fars, Iran) (P-Dala’il, 51-2).

Baha'-Allah is also credited with numerous miracles in the Bahā’ī histories (cf. AB* SAQ IX tr. 34-5), miracles of revelation, prophecy, resurrection and human transformation, etc. Though in his Ṣaḥīfa-yi shaṭṭiyya (Scroll of Gushing Torrent c. 1857) Baha'-Allah plays down the miracles attributed to him, this phenomenon is discussed here (INBMC 57:10-18) as it is in other of his alwāḥ and in many writings and discourses of AB* (SAQ index). Miracles of past pre-Islamic divine messengers such as those ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels, are very largely given "spiritual" interpretations in Bahā’ī sources. Examples of biblical miracles which are ‘demythologized’ or given "spiritual" interpretations include God’s theophany before Moses (Exod. 33:18-23; Q. 7:143) the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea (Exod. 13:17ff) and the wars of the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 5ff),

The miracles which took place during the war of the chidren of Israel with the ungodly which are mentioned in the Holy Bible (kitāb-i muqaddas) have a spiritual interpretation (ta`wīl) and meaning (ma`anī). Despite this Bahā’īs do not seek to outrule or alter the miracles of the prophets (anbiyā’). (Ma’idih, 9:39).

Most NT miracles are allegorically interpreted in Bahā’ī primary sources, including the feeding to of (4) 5,000 ( Mk. 6:35ff + //s ; Jn 6:1-14), Jesus’ walking on the water (Mk. 6:43ff+ //s Jn 6:15-21) various healing miracles and exorcisms, the raising of Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus and the various resurrection appearances (Lk. 24:13ff, etc). Miracles attributed to Muhammad in various Islamic sources [81] are likewise occasionally non-literally interpreted as are various qur’ānic apocalyptic "signs" mentioned in the Q. and traditions (Lambden, 1987).

The developed Bābī- Bahā’ī position regarding miracles is that they are accepted as within the power of the maẓhar-i ilāhī though most mentioned in biblical and qur’ānic scripture and tradition are of largely symbolic import. They are thus "spiritually" , non-literally interpreted. The directly or indirectly witnessed power of waḥy (divine revelation) is seen in Bābī- Bahā’ī scripture as the supreme miracle, the hallmark of the divine providence.

In conclusion it can be stated here that Bahā’īs greatly revere the numerous aforementioned maẓhar-I ilāhī and affirm their ability to perform supernatural miracles. This to such a degree that, transcending even Islamic norms, they consider their true station incomprehensible to human intellects (Baha'-Allah, L. Hirtik). Modern Bahā’īs do not exhibit pictures of the Bāb, Baha'-Allah or any of the other the maẓhar ilāhī (divine manifestations) out of respect for their sublimity and as a safeguard against worshipping the form or person of the maẓhar instead of the transcendent God who (indirectly) manifested them. The Bahā’ī interpretation of Abrahamic scripture and Isrā’īliyyāt traditions attempts to preserve the high theophanological status of the divine messengers who are deemed infallible agents of the transcendent Deity. In the Bahā’ī view they have a human body but all other aspects of their Logos-like Being are said to transcend worldly limitations.