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The al-ism al-a`zam in the writings of Raḍī al-Dīn Rajab b. Muḥammad, Rajab al-Bursī, al-Ḥāfiẓ (d. c. 814/1411),

مشارق أنوار اليقين في أسرار أمير المؤمنين

The al-ism al-a`zam in the writings of Raḍī al-Dīn Rajab b. Muḥammad, Rajab al-Bursī, al-Ḥāfiẓ (d.Ṭūs c. 814/1411),

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.
In progress 1980s-2017.

For  reasons that are not entirely clear, Rajab ibn Muhammad, a great master of Shi`ite hadith and Islamic esoterica, self-identified,as ‘Rajab al-Ḥāfiẓ’ and ‘Ḥāfiẓ al-Bursī’ (Khaleeli, EI), Rizvi writes of him:

"Raḍī al-Dīn Rajab b. Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ al-Bursī al-Ḥillī seems to have been born in Burs, a small town between Kufa and al-Ḥilla on the banks of the Euphrates around 743/1342 ... and after training in al-Ḥilla – and opposition to his ideas that he indicates he faced there – he seems to have moved to Khurasan into the orbit of the quasi-messianic Shiʿi-Sufi Sarbadārid dynasty, where he died perhaps in Ṭūs around 813/141   (Rizvi, Hikma blogspot 2014).

Mashāriq anwār al-yaqīn

Among his best known works is his  Mashāriq anwār al-yaqīn fī asrār Amīr al-Mu'minīn (The Dawning-Places of the Lights of Certitude expressing the mysteries of the Commander of the Faithful (`Ali ibn Abi Talib, d. 40/661).

  • Mashāriq anwār al-yaqīn fī kashf asrār Amīr al-Muʼminīn. Bombay : Maṭbaʻat al-Ḥusnī al-Kāʼīn, 1303/ 1886. 305 pages. Microfilm copy in Princeton Univ. Library Arabic Collection - So World Cat. 
  • Mashāriq anwār al-yaqīn fī asrār Amīr al-Mu'minīn. Beirut: Dār al-Andalus, 1978.
  • Mashāriq al-Anwār ... Beirut: Mu’assasah al-`Alamī lil-Maṭbū`āt. 197X?.
  • Les Orients des lumières : de la certitude concernant les secrets des princes des croyants, Ragab Muhammad ibn Ragab al-Hillî Borsî; Henry Corbin; Pierre Lory / Rajab Borsî ; trad. de l'arabe par Henry Corbin ; éd. établie et introd. par Pierre Lory. Lagrasse : Verdier ; [Paris] : Institut français de recherche en Iran, 1995. 120 pp.
  • Les Orients des Lumires. (Henri Corbin), Lagrasse : Verdier, 1996.
  • Nine  French editions of Rajab al-Bursi, Mashaeiq ... trans. Corbin, Les Orients des Lumires, were published between 1995 and 1996.

Lawāmiʻ anwār al-tamjīd .. ms. Library of Congress. Mansuri Collection, 3-374

لوامع انوار التمجيد ؛ ومشارق انوار اليقين في أمير المؤمنين = Lawāmiʻ anwār al-tamjīd ; wa-Mashāriq anwār al-yaqīn fī Amīr al-Muʼminīn. ms. Maḥmūd al-Imām Manṣūrī; Mansuri Collection (Library of Congress). So World Cat'.


Mashāriq al-amān

مشارق الأمان ولباب حقائق الإيمان  = Mashāriq al-amān wa-lubāb ḥaqāʼiq al-īmān. ed/ ʻAbd al-Rasūl Zayn al-Dīn. Beirut: Dār al-Maḥajjah al-Bayḍāʼ lil-Tibāʻah wa-al-Nashr wa-al-Tawzīʻ, 2009. 328 pp.

al-Durr al-thamīn ...

  • الدر الثمين في خمسمائة آية نزلت في مولانا أمير المؤمنين باتفاق أكثر المفسرين من أهل الدين  = al-Durr al-thamīn fī khamsmiʼat āyah nazalat fī Mawlānā Amīr al-Muʼminīn bi-ittifāq akthar al-mufassirīn min ahl al-dīn. ed. ʻAlī ʻĀshūr. Beirut: : Muʼassasat al-Aʻlamī lil-Maṭbūʻāt, 2003.  some 500 āyah or Qur'anic verses indicating the excellences of Imam `Ali, nazalat fī Amīr al-Muʼminīn, 320 pp. 

Unpublished works of al-Bursi  ?

  • Risāla fī dhikr al-salãt ‘alā al-rasūl wa'l-ā‘imma min munsha’āt nafsihi.
  • Ziyãra li Amīr al-Mu‘minīn (Visitation for the Commander of the Faithful - Imam `Ali).
  • Lum‘a kāshif (fīhā asrãr al-asmā’ wa al-sifāt wa al-hurūf wa al-āyāt wa mā yunāsibuhā min al-du‘āt wa mā yuqāribuhā min al-kalimāt wa ratabahã ‘alā tartīb al-sā‘āt wa ta‘aqqub al-awqāt fī al-layālī wa al-ayām li ikhtilā al-umūr wa al-ahkām.
  • Risāla fī tafsīr sūrat al-ikhlās. (Treatise in exposition of the سورة الإخلاص Surat al-ikhlas [ = al-Tawhid], Q. 112. .
  • Risāla fī kayfīyyat al-tawhīd wa al-salāt ‘alā al-rasūl wa al-ā’imma,‘alayhim al salãm.
  • Kitāb fī mawlid al-Nabī wa Fātima wa Amīr al-Mu’minīn wa fadā’iluhum (‘alayhim al-salām).
  • Kitāb al-ālifayn fī wasif sādāt al-kawnayn. Excerpts of this are reproduced in the Bihār al-anwār of Majlisi  .. ( so Lawson+ ) ...

Notes and select bibliography

Corbin, Henry

  • Histoire de la philosophie islamique, Paris: Gallimard, 1986, pp. 456–57.
  • Les Orients des lumières : [de la certitude concernant les secrets des princes des croyants] ... see above.

Khaleeli, Alexander,

  • “al-Bursī”, Department of Islamic Law and Qurʾan and Hadith Studies and Khaleeli, Alexander, “al-Bursī”, in: Encyclopaedia Islamica, Editors-in-Chief: Wilferd Madelung and, Farhad Daftary. Consulted online on 23 February 2017 <>

Lawson, B. Todd

  • ‘The dawning places of the lights of certainty in the divine secrets of the commander of the faithful by Rajab Bursī (d. 1411)’, in L. Lewisohn (ed), The Heritage of Sufism volume II: The Legacy of Medieval Persian Sufism (1150-1500), Oxford: Oneworld, 1999, pp. 261–76.
  • `A 14TH CENTURY SHĪ‘I GNOSTIC RAJAB BURSĪ AND HIS MASHĀRIQ AL-ANWĀR' - revised version of the above.
  • PDf.

 Lory, Pierre

  • ‘Souffrir pour le vérité selon l’ésotérisme chiite de Rajab Borsī’, in Mohammad Ali Amir Moezzi et al (eds), Le Shīʿisme imamate quarante ans après: Hommage à Etan Kohlberg, Turnhout: Brepols, 2009, pp. 315–23

Rizvi, Sajjad

See also WorldCat' Identities


The Mashāriq  anwār  al‑yaqīn  of Rajab al‑Bursī (d. c. 814 /1411).

          Among the numerous often `irfānī  (esoteric‑gnostic) collections of tradition significant in esoteric Shiism and the Bābī‑Bahā’ī religions is that revolving around traditions ascribed to Imām `Alī in the Mashāriq  anwār al‑yaqīn fī asrār Amīr al‑mu’minīn (The Dawning‑Places of the Lights of Certitude in the mysteries of the Commander of the Faithful’) of Rajab al‑Bursī (d. c. 814 /1411;  Lawson, 1992:261‑276; Borsi [Lorey+ Corbin],1996).  A number of arcane Shī`ī traditions cited by the Bāb and BA* originate with this compilation. In his Kitāb‑I  īqān,  for example, BA* cites a tradition about Imām `Alī having been with one thousand Adams, each  50, 000 years apart, and having repeatedly declared his walāya   ("successorship") before them (KI:130/tr. [SE*]107‑8).

            Bursī’s Mashāriq contains important sermons and traditions which were very highly regarded by the first two Shaykhī leaders as well as by the Bāb and BA*. A considerable number of important Imamī traditions about walāya, the `ilm al‑ḥurūf  (the science of letters) the ism Allāh al‑a`ẓam   and other esoteric matters are scattered throughout the Mashāriq. The influence of the Bible and Isrā’īliyyāt is evident throughout this seminal esoteric tract.

            Among the influential discourses ascribed to Imam `Alī contained in the Mashāriq of Bursī is the arcane Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya [ taṭanjiyya]  (Sermon of the Gulf) allegedly delivered by the first Imam between Kūfa and Medina (Mashāriq: 166‑170). This oration is a quasi‑extremist (ghuluww) sermon which was partially commented upon by Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī who regarded it very highly. So too the Bāb and BA* who quote and selectively comment upon it quite  frequently. They were markedly influenced by its at times  high imamology and abstruse yet suggestive apocalyptic. The Kh-Ṭutunjiyya  incorporates Islamicate motifs deriving from Isrā’iliyyāt including many Arabic  "I am" sayings  at times incorporating apparently pseudo‑Hebrew/ Aramaic names such as "I am B‑A‑R‑Ḥ‑l‑U‑N  (pointing uncertain).

            In the Kh.Tutunjiyya  many utterances of an all but deified `Alī echo the gnostic and predominantly  Johannine NT  "I am" logion  of Jesus. Like Jesus, `Alī at one point, in a loose Arabic transliteration of the Greek, claims ناعليوثوثا ا  (sic.) (= Gkγώ εμι …  λήθεια,  ego eimi  aletheia,  Jn 14:6a), "I am the Truth"  (Bursī, Mashriq, 169). Numerous other theophanic claims of the deified Imam `Alī cast in the form of "I am" sayings are present  in this sermon (Mashāriq, 166‑170) as well as in other  texts collected in Bursī’s Mashāriq. The Sermon which follows the Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya  consists of over 100 such  "I am.." sayings of `Alī several  of which are translated above (Bursī, Mashāriq 170‑172). Certain of Shāh Ismā’īl’s (the founder of the Safavid dynasty d.930/1524) Turkish poems contain similar such "I am" sayings (Minorsky:1942 esp. 1042a).

 Only a few of these "Iam" sayings can be translated here:

  • I am the one who presideth over the two gulfs (waqif `alā al‑ṭutunjayn).. 
  • I am the Lord of the first flood (ṣāḥib al‑ṭūf ān al‑awwāl);
  • I am the Lord of the second flood [of Noah?];
  • I am the one who raised Idrīs [Enoch] to a lofty place [cf. Q.19:57]
  • I am  the agent whereby the infant Jesus cried out from the cradle [Q. 19:29, etc]
  • I am the Lord of the Mount [Sinai] (ṣāḥib al‑ṭūr)  ..
  • I am the one with whom are the keys of the unseen (mafātīḥ al‑ghayb)..
  • I am Dhū’l‑Qarnayn mentioned in the primordial scrolls (ṣuḥuf al‑awwālī)
  • I am the bearer of the Seal of Solomon (sāḥib khātam sulaymān)
  • I am first First Adam; I am the First Noah... I am the Lord of Abraham, (ṣāḥib ibrahīm), 
  • I am the inner depth of the Speaker [Moses] (sirr al‑kalīm)...
  • I am the Messiah [Jesus] = al‑rūḥ ] (al‑masīḥ)  inasmuch as no soul (rūḥ)  moves nor  spirit (nafs) breathes without my permission...
  • I am the Speaker who conversed (mutakallim) through the tongue of Jesus in the cradle...
  • I am the one with whom are one thousand volumes of the books of the prophets (alf  kutub min kitāb al‑anbiyā’)..  (Bursī, Mashariq, 166ff). 

 From the very beginning  of his messianic career the  Bāb quite frequently cited and creatively refashioned  lines of the Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya,   sometimes as interpreted by Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī  In expressing his own claims he often used "I am" proclamatory sentences and dual formations echoing the sayings ascribed to `Alī in the ṭutunjiyya and elsewhere (see QA). This especially in his claim, "I am one presiding over the ṭutunjayn ... al‑khālijayn  ("the two gulfs") (QA:93:374‑5; 109:434‑5).

 The opening lines of the Bāb’s early Khuṭba al‑Jidda  (Homily from Jeddah) are basically a rewrite of the opening words of the al‑Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya  (INBMC 91:60‑61; cf. Ibid 50 [untitled]). Both the Bāb and BA* saw themselves as the eschatological theophany of the Sinaitic speaker (mukallim al‑ṭūr) whose future advent is predicted by `Alī in the Sermon of the Gulf  (Bursī, Mashariq, 168; Lambden 1986).  The distinctly esoteric influence of this sermon is obvious in the following lines from the Bāb’s  commentary upon the qur’ānic phrase al‑lawḥ al‑mafūẓ. (Q. 85:22), (The preserved Tablet):

 .. God assuredly made this [person  the Bāb ?] to be that Book, a supremely great Tablet (lawḥ al‑akbar).  And he foreordained therein whatsoever was called into being at the beginning and at the [eschatological] end (fī’l‑bad` wa’l‑khatm). God   destined for that Book two Gates (bābayn) unto the mystery of the two Gulfs (li‑sirr al‑ṭutunjayn), through the water of the two channels [gulfs] (mā’ al‑khalījayn). One of these two [streams] is the water of the Euphrates of the realities of the Elevated Beings (mā’ al‑firāt ḥaqā’iq al‑`aliyyīn) [streaming] from the inmates of the two easts (min ahl al‑mashriqayn) from the two [regions] most proximate [unto God] (min al‑aqrabayn  [sic.]). The second of the two [streams] is the water of the fiery [hellish] expanse of the saline bitterness (mā’ al‑mulḥ al‑ajjāj [ujāj] ?) [streaming] from the inmates of the two wests (min ahl al‑maghribayn), from the two [regions] most remote  [from God] (min al‑ab`adayn [sic.]). And God fashioned above every entrance (`alā kull bāb)  the triangular form (ṣūrat al‑tathlīth), and within the threefold form is the Threefold Personage [= Jesus?] (haykal al‑tathlīth) [which leads] unto the depth of the gates of Gehenna (li‑tamām abwāb al‑jaḥīm)..  ( B* Q. Mafūẓ,  80)

            Numerous Shī`ī traditions deriving from the Twelver Imams are reckoned to be inspired (ilhām)  or divinely inspired (waḥy) in the writings of the Bāb and BA*.  Summing up the developed Bahā’ī perspective AB* wrote in response to an enquiry about waḥy  (divine revelation):

the sanctified pure [twelver] Imams were the dawning‑places of ilḥām (divine inspiration). The manifestations of the bounty of the presence of the All‑Merciful are the rasūl  (sent messengers), who are singled out as recipients of waḥy. Consequently, we do not say that the word (kalām) of the sanctified [twelver] Imams is other than inspiration from the All‑Merciful (ilhām-i raḥmānī)   (Ma’idih 9:122).

Prophetic and Imamī traditions are thus often cited as authoritative texts in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī primary sources. This perhaps indicates Akhbārī influence which also seems reflected though transcended in the mystical imam‑centred unveiling (kashf) of the first two Shaykhi leaders. The Bāb and BA* cited as authoritative many Shī`ī traditions though   their non‑literal hermeneutic meant that they bypassed any notion of Akhbārī literalism. Many akhbār   are commented upon in considerable detail and many others are merely allusively drawn upon. Items of Shī`ī ḥadīth set out or inform many aspects of the hermeneutical orientation as well as the legal‑doctrinal B ābī‑ Bahā’ī universe of discourse.