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The word Baha' in Further Sunni and Shi`i Islamic Literatures




The word Baha' in Further Select Sunni and Shi`i Islamic Literatures.

Stephen Lambden UC Merced Last updated 12-10-2020.

Early tafsīr works
`Abd Allāh b.`Abbās (d. c. 68/687), a paternal first cousin of Muhammad, was known as al-ḥi[a]br al-`arab (Rabbi of the Arabs). Many Muslims have regarded him as the father of tafsīr because he is thought to have written the first Islamic tafsīr work (Goldziher,1970:65f; Sezgin GAS I:25; Goldfield,1981). Exegetical traditions stemming from Ibn `Abbās are especially rich in lexicographical insights and the Islamification of Isrā’īliyyāt. or Islamo-biblica.  A knowledgeable companion of the Prophet, he was an important collector and transmitter of biblical legends stemming from the Yemeni Jewish convert Ka`b al-Aḥbār (Rippin 1991:166). Many of his associates and students were important second century mufassirūn (Q. commentators) who also transmitted exegetically influential traditions. A number of versions of his (reconstituted) Tafsīr entitled Tanwīr al-miqbās min tafsīr Ibn `Abbās are in print.  See Tehrani, Dharī`a, IV: 244 No 1186; Smith, 1970:58-9f; Ayoub 1984, 1:27-32 Though there are continuing doubts as to its authenticity a recent printing is Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya,1412/1992.

At the very beginning of his Tafsīr the following Jewish-Christian rooted ḥadīth is cited relative to the first  bism  "In the name.."  of the first Qur'anic basmala,

The "B" (al-bā’) is the splendour [beauty] of God (bahā’ Allāh), his delight (biḥjat), his adversity (bilā’), his grace (baraka) and the commencement of his Name al-bārī` (The Creator) ..." (Tanwīr, 3; Lambden,1986:1ff; Wasserstrom, 1995:165-171).

Tradition from Ibn `Abbās (d. c. 68 / 687), paternal first cousin of the prophet Muhammad to whom a Tafsir work is attributed as cited from the Tafsir of `Alī b. Ibrahīm al-Qummī (fl. 10 cent. CE)  and the Tafsir Muqātil b. Sulaymān al-Khurāsānī (d. Baṣra, 150/767) :

" Section 31. Tafsir `Alī b. Ibrahīm al-Qummī/ Sa`id ibn Muhammad, from Bakr ibn Sahl, from `Abd al-Ghani ibn Sa`id, from Musa ibn `Abd al-Rahman, from Muqātil ibn Sulaymān, from al-Dahhak, from Ibn `Abbas on His statement in [Qur'an 22:56a; cf, 25:26; 40: 16, 29] "And the Command (al-amr) that Day belongeth to God" . By this is intended the [eschatological] Dominion (al-mulk), the Power (al-qudrat) and the Sovereignty (al-sultana) as well as the Might (al-`izzat), the Jabarut (the Omnipotent [Realm]), the Beauty (al-jamal), the Baha' (Glory-Splendour) and the Divinity (al-ilahiyya). Of this there is no doubt" (Arabic text as in Majlisi, Bihar2 VII: 108] Lambden trans. 2020).

Text above from Muhammad Bāqir Majlisī (d. 1111/1699-1700), 2nd ed. vol VII: 108,

  •  Biḥār al-anwār, 1st ed. in 5 vols. Tehran, 1887-1898.
  •  Bihar 2 Biḥār al-anwār (2nd ed.) 110 vols. Beirut: Dār al-Iḥyā al-Turāth al-`Arabī, 1376-94/1956-74 and 1403/1983.

al-Qummi, `Alī b. Ibrahīm al-Qummī (d.10th cent.).

  • Tafsīr al-Qur’ān.

The possibly Zaydī (Shī`ī) commentator Muqātil b. Sulaymān al-Khurāsānī (d. Baṣra, 150/767).

  • Tafsīr Muqātil b. Suklayman. ed. `Abd-Allāh Maḥmūd Shahḥata . 4+1 vols. Cairo: 1979-1988.

Plessener [Rippin] `Mukātil b. Sulayman’ EI 2 VIII: 508-9.

The Tafsīr ascribed to him Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq (d. c. 148/765).

In the Tafsīr ascribed to him Imam Sādiq has stated that deep senses and mysteries are enshrined in the Q. His Tafsīr contains a statement to the effect that the Q. consists of `ibāra (expression) and ishāra (allusion). The former is essentially the ẓāhir (exterior) and bāṭin (interiority) aspects of the Q. which are the preserve of the common believer. Its deeper allusive (ishāra) dimension is the inward delight of the khawaṣṣ, the privileged elect (Ja`far al-Ṣādiq, Tafsīr, 123, cf. Nwyia. `Ishāra EI2 IV: 114, Exégèse,156ff).



`Abd al-Qadir Jīlānī (d.1165 CE),

In a lengthy prayer (salāt al-kubrā)  contained in the volume entitled Lordly Graces (Fuyūdāt al-Rabbānī..)   ascribed to `Abd al-Qadir Jīlānī (d.1165 CE), the founder of the Qadirī Sufi fraternity, the Prophet Muammad is called al-nūr al-bahiyy ("the glorious light")  (refer, Jīlānī, Fuyūāt.. 148).

Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā Suhrawardī ( d. 587/1191).

Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq (The Philosophy of Illumination).

"Thus in his essence he [Plato] shall see the Light (al-nur) and the Glory-Splendor-Light-Beaury... (al-baha')".

"(171) The faith of Plato and the master visionaries is not built upon such rhetorical arguments, but upon something else. Plato said: "When freed from my body I beheld luminous spheres." These that he mentioned are the very same highest heavens that some men will behold at their resurrection "on the day when the earth will be changed for another earth and heavens, and will appear before Cod, the One, the 'Triumphant" (Qur'an 14:48]. Plato and his companions showed plainly that they believed the Maker of the universe and the world of intellect to be light when they said that the pure light is the world of intellect. Of himself Plato said that in certain of his spiritual conditions he would shed his body and become free from matter. Then he would see light and splendor within his essence. He would ascend to that WI-encompassing divine cause and would seem to be located and suspended in it, beholding a mighty light in that lofty and divine place. The passage of which this is a summary ended with the words "but thought veiled that light from me." (Suhrawardi, Hikmat al-Ishraq, text p. XX trans. Ziai + Walbridge, 110).

 In his Ḥikmat al-ishrāq  Suhrawardī makes mention of the faith of the Greek philosopher Plato which went beyond mere “convincing arguments” (al-iqnā`iyyāt). He himself allegedly indicated (as argued on the basis of the so-called “[Pseudo-]Theology of Aristotle”) that, freed from the body, he had seen aflāk al-nūraniyya (“luminous spheres-firmaments”). For Suhrawardī this meant that he saw “the very same highest heavens (al-samāwāt al-`aliyy) that some men will behold at their resurrection (qiyāmat)” (as alluded to in Q. 14:48). Conscious of the fact that the “Source of Everything” (mabda’ al-kull) and the  “World of the Intellect” (`ālam al-`aql)  are “Light” (nūr), the Shaykh al-Ishrāq had it that Plato felt that he would one day experience “Light” (al-nūr) and splendor (al-bahā’) in his very essence (dhātihi) (Ḥikmat, 110). The word baha' here is used as being synonymous or in some sense supplementary to that "Light" which is the apex and centre of everything.

al-Suhrawardī, Shihab aI-Din Yaḥyā.

  • Ḥikmat = Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq (The philosophy of illumination), ed. and trans. H. Ziai and J. Walbridge, Islamic Translations Series. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1999

The Mi`rāj nāmah ("The Celestial Ascent").

A Persian work entitled Mi`rāj nāmah ("The Celestial Ascent")  is attributed to both Avicenna (d. 1087 CE) and Yaḥyā Suhrawardī (d.1192 CE), the founder of the Illuminationist (Ishrāqī) school. Within it the Arabic word bahā is associated with the Persian farr (which may also signify radiant "glory"). It is stated that the Prophet Muhammad in a pre-visionary state, "between waking and sleep", recounted that "Suddenly Gabriel the Archangel descended in his own form, of such beauty [bahā],  of such sacred glory [farr],  of such majesty that all my dwelling was illuminated." The same association of bahā and farr  occurs in an angelogical context in a subsequent line towards the end of this account of, and mystical commentary  upon, the ascent (mi`rāj) of the Arabian Prophet, " Over against the valley, I saw an angel in meditation, perfect in Majesty, Glory [farr], and Beauty [bahā]." This angel is stated to have been named Michael, "the greatest of the Angels." (See Corbin, Avicenna..  Ch.IV: 165ff., esp. p.171 + fn.13 and p.175 + fn.25.; the Arabic word bahā'  can also signify radiant `beauty').  

Bibliography, Suhrawardī, Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā ( d. 587/1191)

  • Ḥikmat = Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq (The philosophy of illumination), ed. and trans. H. Ziai and J. Walbridge, Islamic Translations Series. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1999
  • Hayākil = Hayākil al Nūr (Temples of Light). Introd. And critical edition by Mohamed Abou Rayan= Muḥammad ʻAlī Abū Rayyān. Cairo: al-Maktaba al-Tiǧāriyya al-Kubrā / Cairo: Grans Librarie Commerciale, 1957.
  • Œuvres Philosophiques et Mystiques. ed. Nasr & Corbin . Tome III. Œuvres en Persan. Tehran & Paris, 1970.
  •  1970 (ed. Nasr & Corbin) Oeuvres Philosophiques et Mystiques. Tome III. Oeuvres en Persan. Tehran & Paris, 1970.
  • Hikmat = The Philosophy of Illumination. A New critical  edition of of Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq with English translation, Notes, Commentary and Introduction. John Walbridge and Hossein Ziai. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1999.

al-Miqdād ibn `Abdu'llāh al-Ḥillī (d.826/1422-3),

The word bahā' is furthermore, sometimes contained in numerous Islāmic theological, mystical and other literatures. al-Miqdād ibn `Abdu'llāh al-Ḥillī (d.826/1422-3), for example, in the course of discussing the impossibility of an anthropopathic Essence of Divinity -- God's having such emotions as joy and anguish -- in his Irshād al-Tālibīn ilā nahju'l-mustarshidīn ("The Guidance of Seekers unto the Path of Travellers")  writes that the "Necessarily Existent" (wājib al-wujūd  = God) by virtue of His being "the origin of every perfection and the cause of all bahā'  ("glory") and  jamāl   ("beauty") has the perfection of perfections and  the bahā' al-ajmal   ("most beauteous glory")." Furthermore, "all bahā'   ("glory"),  jamāl   ("beauty") perfection (kamāl) and rational good are God's, for He is the Beloved One and the One Adored... the Necessarily Existent is He Who is in the acme of kamāl  ("perfection"), jamāl   ("beauty") and bahā'  ("glory")..." (p.235).