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A Survey of Babi and Baha'i Istidlaliyya ("Apologetic Testimonia") literatures in the East and the West.




A Survey of Babi and Baha'i Istidlaliyya ("Apologetic Testimonia")  literatures in the East and the West.

Stephen Lambden


Written in the 1980s and 1990s - now under revsion.

A Brief Survey of Eastern and Western Bābī-Bahā’ī Istidlāliyya (“Apologetic Testimonia”) writings.

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

This essay in progress was conceived in the 1980s and 1990s and is now being revised and completed 2017.

Over the last 150 years many Bābīs and Bahā'īs have compiled istidlāliyya ("apologetic testimonia") works basically intended to show that messianic expectations, eschatological prophecies and apocalyptic events have come to pass in recent history. This in the course of arguing for the truth of the messianic and theophanic missions of the Sayyid `Alī Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850) the Bab, and Mirza Husayn `Alī Nūrī, entitled Bahā'-Allāh (“The Splendour of God”, 1817-1892). A massive corpus of oriental and occidental literature has resulted much of it remaining in manuscript. The Bab, Baha'-Allah and `Abd al-Baha' dealt with thse matters in thousands of their letters, books and scriptural alwah (Tablets) written in Arabic Persian and sometimes in Turkish (in the case of `Abd al-Baha'). Shoghi Effendi too was much occupied with these subjects. 

Sometimes succinct Istidlaliyya tracts and often bulky volumes date from the very earliest years of the Bābī-Bahā'ī era. Prophecy-fulfilment treatises and compilations were set down by such pre-eminent Bābīs (and Bābī martyrs) as Mullā Ḥusayn Bushrū’ī (d. 1849) and Fātima Baraghānī, better known as Ṭāhirih (d.1852), as well as others among the first disciples of the Bāb, the `Letters of the Living’ (hurūfāt al-hayy). The production of such variously entitled testimonia texts was fully in line with the admonitions of both the Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh who both bade their followers defend and propagate their religions in writing. The following Bahā’ī quotations will partially illustrate this;

"The Point of the Bayān [= the Bāb] directed that in the year nineteen [1269 AH = 1852-3 CE] all in the Bayān [= the Bābī Faith] should write for each other a treatise (lit. `book’ kitābī() in establishment [of the truth] of [the Cause of] man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh (the messianic] (Him Whom God shall make manifest)... (trans. Lambden from an unpublished Tablet of Bahā'-Allāh to Zayn al-Muqarrabín contained in a ms. compilation of  Nūr al-Dín Zayn, cited Behmardi, Dalā’il al-Ifrān.. in Khoosh-i-Hā’i az Kharman.. 8 :5).

We decree in this Tablet that most of the [Baha=i] friends should write tracts (lit. `tablets( alwāḥ) in establishment of this Cause and send them unto the [various] countries perchance thereby none should be veiled from attaining the  Encounter with God (liqā’-Allāh [ through Bahā'-Allāh), the Mighty, the Beauteous"  (Arab. text AQA 4:195, cited Behmardi, ibid, prov. trans. Lambden).

To date this fascinating literature has been little studied. There is no comprehensive list of Bābī-Bahā’ī Istidlaliyya writings and no analysis of the arguments they contain. The massive volume of Islamic and Christian (often missionary) anti-Bābī  and /or Bahā’ī  literatures has likewise received little attention. It is the aim of this essay to go some way towards rectifying this  situation.

The founder Prophets and Istidlaliyya

Aside from making the composition of Istidlāliyya texts obligatory upon their learned and pious devotees, both the Bab and Bahā'-Allāh themselves directly and indirectly attempted to prove the truth of their claims and missions.

■ The Bāb, messianism  and early Shaykhism



Writings of the Bāb

The Bāb=s frequent and multi-faceted interpretations of apocalyptic eschatology are numerous and foundational for Bahā=ī doctrine. In  1260 / 1844 this Sayyid of Shīrāz claimed to inaugurate a new era of communication with the occulted twelfth Imām (of Twelver Shī`ism) whom he sometimes referred to as the Dhikr ("Remembrance"). Some four years later (1848) in various letters and in the Persian Bayān and other writings he openly claimed to be the awaited messianic Qā'im ("Ariser") and  Maḥdī ("[rightly] Guided One"). The Bāb himself in his Persian Dalā’l-i Sab`ih (Seven Proofs) as well as Baha=u=llah in his Sūrat al-Fatḥ (Tablet to Fatḥ al-A`ẓam) and in other Tablets, both explicitly confirm his gradual disclosure of his theophanic claim to be a Messenger or Manifestation of God (maẓhar-i ilāhiyya).

The complex first writing of the Bāb, the celebrated 111 chapter Arabic Qayyūm al-asmā' or Tafsīr sūra Yūsuf  ("Commentary on the Sūrah of Joseph" Q. 12; mid. 1844) is a no mere commentary in the classical sense. It is fundamentally a new sacred text (neo-Qur'ān) infused with promise and fulfilment intimations. It is indicative of a new era of divine revelation (waḥy) to be consummated by a new Joseph (= "Ḥusayn") of celestial Beauty.

In the course of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ subtle qur’anic re-revelation often indicates the immanent parousia of the messianic Qā’im or Baqiyyat-Allāh (“Remnant of God”) and the breraking down of the Islamic doctrine of the finality of prophethood based on the Qur’ānic verses, Q. 33:40


Many other of the Bab's numerous works communicated during a six year period contain expositions of Islamic prophecy and apocalyptic. The Tafsīr sūrat al-kawthar ("Commentary on the Surah of Abundance" Q. 108), for example, includes lengthy citations and interpretations of traditions expressive of  Islamic eschatological expectations -- often  rooted in Judaeo-Christian scripture.

Dalā'il-i sab`ih  ("The Seven Proofs" c. 1848?)

Within the Bāb's later Dalā'il-i sab`ih ("The Seven Proofs" c. 1848?) various prophetic and other texts are succinctly interpreted as eschatological prophecies.  Included is an interesting chronologically oriented interpretation of the abjad ("numerical") value of the first seven sets of qur'anic `mysterious', `isolated' or `disconnected letters( (al-hurūfāt al-muqaṭṭa`ah;  A-L-M --> A-L-M-R) which  are made to yield --  in the light of a tradition transmitted by Abī Labīd Makhzūmī from the 6th (Twelver) Imām Ja`far al-Ṣādiq (d. 148/765) --  the year [1, 267=] 1260 AH (= 1844 CE), the year of the commencement of the mission of the Bāb. [1]  For Bahā’īs the well-known verse of the Khuṭbah al-ṭutunjiyya (loosely, `Sermon of the Gulf=) ascribed to Imam `Alī (d. 40/661) predicting the eschatological advent of the divine Being who conversed with Moses on Mount Sinai (mukallim al-ṭūr;  which Bahā'u'llāh applied to himself in scores of his writings) is also quoted in this work (Dalā'il, 46). The  eschatological “sign” of  the `rising of the sun in the west (mentioned in many authoritative Sunnī (Bukharī+Muslim+Tirmihdi, etc) and Shī`ī `traditions( is given a concrete though non-literal interpretation (Dalā'il, 51).  For details the reader is referred back by the Bāb to his Sharḥ-i  Kawthar or Tafsir Sūrat al Kawthar (`Commentary on the Surah of the Abundance; Q. 108; see Dalā'il, 48-9). The Bāb himself in fact  interpreted this latter “sign” of the sun rising in the west in his Persian Seven Proofs, as his appearance, the theophany of the “Sun of Truth”(shams-I ḥaqíqat) in the province of Fars (SW Iran) which is “west” relative to its earlier rising in Mecca (Arabia), the place of the eastern “rising” of the Prophet Muhammad who was also the “Sun of Truth” (see Dalā’il, 51-2)..

The Bāb frequently acknowledged  and affirmed the veracity of the doctrine of the khatam al-nabiyyin, (The seal of the prophets( of Q. 33:40b). Yet he reinterpreted or `transcended the traditional Muslim doctrine of the `finality of prophethood. He proclaimed an eternally continuing, an unending succession of the appearance of Envoy-Messengers (rasūl) as major messianic figures.  Their advent or theophany represents the "Beatific Presence", the sublime vision. Through their person and revelations is the (indirect) "Encounter with God" (liqā' Allāh) realized and new religions successively called into being. From age to age at a time known only to God there should appear  successive advents of  man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh   ("Him whom God shall make manifest"; a Sufi term)  whose birth and prophetic mission expresses the divine theophany.

In various writings, it should be noted, the Bāb saw his own religious dispensation (ultimately for Bahā'īs 1844-1852 CE) as a kind of eschatological messianic interregnum. While he appeared as the Qā’im (`Ariser’; although also seen as a Manifestation of Divinity), He would be succeeded by al-Qayyūm (“The Deity Self-Subsisting”), an exalted theophany who represents a supreme (though indirect, `subordinate') manifestation of the Divinity -- in numerous writings, the Bāb and Bahā’-Allāh denied the possibility of  the earthly presence of  that Ultimate Godhead Who is `Wholly Other’.

In his later writings the Bāb gives non-literal interpretations to the general qiyāma or "resurrection" from the "dead" frequently anticipated in the Qur'ān and numerous Islamic traditions. A number of the sections of the Persian and Arabic Bayāns ("Expositions"; Bayān-i farsī; Bayān-i `arabī, late 1840s) deal directly or indirectly with resurrection and  associated eschatological events.

For the Bāb the expected `Day of Resurrection' (yawm al-qiyāma) had been or would be  gradually spiritually realized as would the `Divine Judgement(.The individual end-time resurrection is expounded by the Bāb non-literally. Persian Bayān II:7 (see Bayān-i farsī, 30-33) is headed "Concerning the Day of Resurrection" (yawm al-qiyāma).  It is explained that what is intended by the Day of Resurrection is the "Day" of the "theophany" or "Manifestation"(yawm-i ẓuhūr)  of the "Tree of [Divine] Reality" (shajarat-i ḥaqīqat). It indicates the time and era of a divine theophany; the advent and dispensation of a "Manifestation of God" (ẓuhūr-i shajarat-i ḥaqīqat). In their literalism Shī`ī  Muslims had misunderstood its significance.

The Bāb is very precise in giving the commencement of the Bābī "Day of Resurrection" as the dispensation or era of the Bayān. It commenced with his (semi-secret) advent (as the Qā'im, Shī`ī  messiah) "when two hours and 11 [15] minutes had passed [from the eve of Friday] the fifth of Jumādī  al‑Awwal, 1260 AH  (= May 22, 1844), which is the year 1270 from the Call of the Prophet Muhammad . It will continue until it reaches its "perfection" with the coming of the Bābī messiah man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh ("Him Whom God shall make manifest") when the "resurrection of the Bayān" (qiyāmat-i bayān) will take place (Bayān-i farsī  II:7; SWB:106-108). 

Arabic Bayān II:7 on the "Day of Resurrection" (yawm al-qiyāmat) states that its significance is  beyond the comprehension of the people. On a fundamental level it indicates the period "From the onset of the dawning forth of the Sun of [Beauty] Splendour (shams al-bahā') until its setting. This [period] is superior in the Book of God (kitāb Allāh) to every [succeeding] "Night" [of declining faith] if thou be of such as comprehend. God did not create anything save for this very Day for all shall then realise the "Encounter With God" and [consequently prove able to] act according to His good pleasure (liqā'-Allāh thumma riḍā'ihi). (Bayān-i `Arabī,   [Hasānī] 84).

While Persian Bayān II:8 is concerned with the numerous literal and symbolic meanings of "death" (ḥaqīqat al-mawt)  II:9 concerns of "reality [real significance] of the tomb" (ḥaqīqat  al-qabḍ) (see Bayān-i farsī, 41-45). Both senses of the Arabic word ba`ath,  [1] "resuscitation"/ "resurrection" and [2] "sending" / "commissioning [of Prophets-Messengers]" are evident in the Bāb's explanation. It is explained here that every [personalized] "spirit" (ha rūḥ) has a "tomb" (qabr) appointed relative to the limit of its own localized levels [`places']. When a Prophet figure appears this [personalized = collective] "[S]sprit" is raised when he is commissioned (`raised up') by God.

The Prophet Muhammad and all under his shadow were raised up when the "Point of the Bayān" (nuqṭih-yi Bayān) became the locus of the theophanic "Manifestation of Divinity" (maẓhar-i uluhiyya). At that moment when man yuẓhiruhu'llh ("Him Whom God shall make manifest") appears all pure persons will be collectively represented by such "a Soul"  (nafs) the "resuscitation [`raising'; `resurrection']" (ba`ath) of which [= whom] constitutes the "raising" (ba`ath), the collective "resurrection" of all pure believers. The emergence of this single yet universal  "Soul" from the constraints of the "tomb" is symbolic of the emergence of all from the "tomb" of religious limitations .

When the first believer in the Bāb came to faith this was a "resurrection" event. It  symbolically inaugurated the "resurrection" of the "body" of all future believers from the "tomb" of materiality. This teaching of the Bāb appears very similar to the Pauline and wider New Testament doctrine of the "death" and "resurrection" of all Christians "in Christ" as the new Adam [humanity]. One is reminded of the Pauline statement "as in Adam all die, so in Christ [the second Adam] shall all be made alive." (I Cor. 15:22) and of the Bahā'ī non-literal interpretation of the resurrection of Christ as symbolic  that of the "body" of his followers (see  `Abd al-Bahā in  SAQ Chs. 23; 29 ).

Detailed interpretations are likewise given to a host of other apocalyptic expectations in the numerous writings of the Bāb which cannot be registered here.

Bahā'-Allāh and Istidlāliyya revelations and texts

 Of great significance for its early citation of prophetic proof-texts is the monumental Arabic Jawāhir al-asrār ("The Essence of the Mysteries") of Bahā'-Allāh. This fairly lengthy Arabic treatise is an epistle set down in reply to a number of written questions about the expected Muslim messiah, the Mahdī figure, posed by a certain Sayyid Yūsuf‑i Siddihī  (Iṣfahānī), a one time  resident of Karbalā=  (Tārīkh‑i Zarandī, unpublished; RB 1:151). It was written around 1277 (=1860/1) before Bahā'-Allāh had met its addressee (AQA 3:20) and while the Bab=s followers were expecting "Him Whom God will make manifest". It certainly pre‑dates the Kitāb-i īqān (1862)  which is partly based upon it and which refers  to it (KI : 13 / trans. 17; cf. Ganj.. 28, RB. 1:151). In the colophon of a manuscript copy of the Jawāhiral-asrār  reference is made to the year al-bahiyy (= abjad [numerically] 17, hence 1260+17 = 1277 AH =) indicative of  1860‑61 CE (refer INBMC 46:40). The Jawāhir al-asrār  has much in common with both Bahā'-Allāh=s Book of Certitude ( see below) and the Haft vadī (`Seven Valleys'.  c. 1275/1858).

The need to understand biblical and qur'anic eschatological prophecies non‑literally is argued in detail. As in the Kitāb-i īqān, the extreme Muslim view of the "corruption" (taḥrīf) of the Bible is radically modified. Various New Testament texts are cited in Arabic and sometimes commented upon non‑literally and in detail (e.g. Matt 24:29f; Luke 21 :25f; Jn 15:26f; Rev 1:14f cf. KI: 19ff/tr.16ff).

A considerable number of spiritual interpretations (`demythologizations=) of messianic and apocalyptic eschatology are to be found in the Jawāhir al-asrār. Baha'u'llah teaches that Muslim students of prophecy should not repeat the errors of Jewish and Christian literalists who in their exegetical rigidity failed to recognise Messengers of God.

Like previous Messengers, the Bāb claimed to fulfill many of the messianic prophecies contained in the Qur'an and traditions when interpreted non‑literally. He was indeed the expected Qa'im (messianic ariser) or Mahdī (rightly-guided one).  Like all the Manifestations of God on a spiritual  level  he is that Muhammad,  [expected twelfth Imam] who is the son of Ḥasan al‑Askarī (the eleventh Imam d. 260/874) come from the Jābulqā= of  Athe power of God" (qudrat Allāh) and Jābulsā= of the AMercy of God" (raḥmat Allāh, see AQA 3:41ff). Mystically speaking the Bāb came from these allusive  realms; these unknown Acities@ where Shī`ī tradition  locates  the hidden messianic imam. These twin cosmic  realms of  Jābulqā' and Jābulsā are not concrete celestial localities but symbolic  expressions suggestive of dimensions of the Divine Power and Mercy. The  hidden Imām is a himself  an essentially symbolic figure who will ere  long also be manifested as the Bābī messiah figure,"Him Whom God will make manifest" (man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh = Bahā'u'llāh; see ibid 3:43).

In the  Jawāhir al-asrār  it is stated that the alleged finality of prophethood is not, in reality, implied in the qur'ānic designation of Muhammad as "the seal of the prophets" (khātam al-nabbiyyīn). The qur'ānic indication of the eschatological advent of Divinity (the liqā=-Allāh, "encounter with God") indicates the parousia of the supreme Manifestation of God who is the expected   man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh, AQA 3:49f ).

Among other things the true meaning of "life", "death" and the significance of "resurrection" ( John 3:5b‑7 is cited) are expounded by Baha'u'llah (AQA 3:53f). In the Jawāhir.. Baha'u'llah affirms that the "Day of God" has arrived and that the "Tree of Life" (shajarat al-ḥayāt) is planted in the midmost‑heart of the Paradise of God conferring true "life" in all realms (cf. Rev 22:2).

Bahā'u'llāh's foremost Istidlāliyya  text, the  Persian Kitāb-i īqān (ABook of Certitude).

Rapidly composed around 1862 CE.  and reflecting the (Persian)  Seven Proofs of the Bab  (cf. above) is Bahā'u'llāh's foremost Istidlāliyya  ("Testimonia"), his  Persian Kitāb-i īqān ((Book of Certitude). This seminal work contains many and varied proofs of the prophetic missions of Muhammad and the Bāb in the light of both  biblical and qur'ānic texts. Matthew 24:29-31a (+ synoptic Gospel parallels) is given a detailed explanation incorporarting a spiritual interpretation of  "oppression" ,"the darkening of the sun and the moon", "the falling of the stars", "the shaking of  the [powers of the] earth" the advent of the "Son of Man" (Jesus) in the 'clouds of  heaven' and the coming of 'angels' with the sound of a great 'trumpet' blast.  It must suffice to quote one of the main explanations given to  (angels(:

(And now, concerning His words: "And He shall send His angels...." [Matt 24: 31a].  By "angels" [Ar. malā’ikat]  is meant those [exalted souls] who, reinforced by the power of the spirit [quwwat-i ruḥāniyyih ], have consumed, with the fire of the love of God [ nār-i muḥabbat-i ilāhī], all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of the most exalted Beings [`aliyyīn] and of the Cherubim [karrubiyyin ]" (Baha'u'llah, KI 61, trans. 78‑79)

As with Jesus the worldly "sovereignty" of the promised messianic Qā'im is essentially his transformative spiritual power.

In thousands of Bahā’-Allāh’s later Persian and Arabic writings many specific   apocalyptic events are deemed to have taken place or are interpreted relative to the future. In, for example, that Tablet referred to as one about the ahl‑i bāṭin ("[Sufi] Esotericists")' he seems to associate identification with and recitation of the al-ism al-a`ẓam ((the greatest name [of God])@  as the repetition of the word Bahā’ (= “[radiant] glory-beauty-splendour”), representative of the Logos-like locus of his Being. Such, it is suggested, as contrasted with Sufi Dhikr (`ecstatic recitation=) is the definitive acme of piety and devotional spirituality. This powerful evocation is such that it causes `apocalyptic catastrophes= to be symbolically realized (see further below). The contextual implication would appear to be that the power of the greatest name is indicative of the redundancy of any elitist or exclusivist Sufi claims before the theophany of Bahā'-Allāh , the personification of the Greatest Name of God,

"The foundation of pious actions (riḍā'-i  afāl) and the diadem of goodly deeds (iklīl‑i a`māl) hath ever been the  dhikr   ("utterance, recitation...") of the Greatest Name (ism‑i a`zam)  whether [this be] outwardly or inwardly (ẓāhir va bāṭin). It is assuredly the Logos‑Word (kalimat) by virtue of which every particular [worthwhile Sufi?] faction (hizb) hath been differentiated;

  • every "mountain" levelled to dust;
  • every "star" made to fall;
  • every "sun" suffered eclipse;
  • every "moon" eclipsed;
  • every "heaven" split asunder;
  • every "earth" rent in twain and
  • every "ocean" made to boil away..." (Text in Ma'idah IV:32; prov. trans. Lambden).

Apocalyptic Eschatology as interpreted by `Abdu=-Bahā and Shoghi Effendi.

`Abd al-Bahā'  likewise dictated many thousands of Tablets (alwāḥ) in which Biblical and qur'ānic prophecies are interpreted in creative and sometimes multi-faceted ways. He had a detailed and intimate knowledge of the Bible and the Qur'ān. His view of the Bible is summed up in the beautiful rhyming Persian words he wrote in the Pulpit Bible of  the City Temple in London in September 1911;

  • [1] "This is the sanctified  Holy Book [Bible] (kitāb-i muqaddas); which is redolent with heavenly inspiration ( bi-waḥy-yi samā').
  • [2] It is the Torah of Salvation (tawrāt-i najāt). It is the Glorious Evangel [Gospel] (injīl-i jalīl)" .
  • [3] [Incorporating] the mysteries of the Kingdom (asrār-i malakūt); The Lights of the Divinity (anwār-i lāhūt)
  • [4] The Divine Bounty (fayḍ-i ilāhī); Traces of  Lordly Guidance ( āthār-i ḥidayat-i rabbānīyyih). (Signed,`Abd al-Bahā' `Abbas ) ] Prov. trans. Lambden. This Bible was destroyed during WWI but a photograph of the Persian inscription is reproduced in a number of publications such as, for example, White, 1946; cf. Balyuzi, 1971:145). 

The importance of  biblical learning was underlined when `Abd al-Bahā  exhorted Baha’is to study the Bible. He certainly held that, "Undoubtedly the friends and maidservants of the Merciful [Bahā(īs] should know the value of the Bible." (TAB 1:218).

In order to illustrate `Abd al-Bahā's own  detailed knowledge of Abrahamic religious texts and their eschatological interpretation in terms of  fulfilment in the religion founded by his Father,  it must suffice to cite  two portions from his many thousands of  often lengthy letters or `Tablets’. The first will illustrative his detailed knowledge of the New Testament -- their being frequent allusion to the Book of Revelation  -- only a few select references will be indicated;

(O ye beloved of God!  O ye children of His Kingdom! Verily, verily, the new heaven and the new earth are come.  The holy City, New Jerusalem, hath come down from on high in the form of a maid of heaven, veiled, beauteous, and unique, and prepared for reunion with her lovers on earth.  The angelic company of the Celestial Concourse hath joined in a call that hath run throughout the universe, all loudly and mightily acclaiming:  `This is the City of God and His abode, wherein shall dwell the pure and holy among His servants.  He shall live with them, for they are His people and He is their Lord.'

He hath wiped away their tears [Rev. 21:4], kindled their light, rejoiced their hearts and enraptured their souls.  Death shall no more overtake them neither shall sorrow, weeping or  tribulation afflict them.  The Lord God Omnipotent hath been enthroned in His Kingdom and hath made all things new [Rev. 21:5] This is the truth and what truth can be greater than that announced by the Revelation of St. John the Divine?

He is Alpha and Omega [Rev. 1:8].  He is the One that will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life and bestow upon the sick the remedy of true salvation.  He whom such grace aideth is verily he that receiveth the most glorious heritage from the Prophets of God and His holy ones.  The Lord will be his God, and he His dearly‑beloved son.

Rejoice, then, O ye beloved of the Lord and His chosen ones, and ye the children of God and His people, raise your voices to laud and magnify the Lord, the Most High; for His light hath beamed forth, His signs have appeared and the billows of His rising ocean have scattered on every shore many a precious pearl (`Abdu'l‑Baha:  Selections`Abdu'l‑Baha, 12‑13)

The following passage from a lengthy Tablet is  illustrative of `Abdu(l-Baha(s  celebration of the realization of  certain of the prophecies registered in the Islamic sacred book, the Qur'ān:

(He hath laid down the foundations of the lofty Citadel, He hath inaugurated the Cycle of Glory, He hath brought forth a new creation on this day that is clearly Judgement Day ‑ and still do the heedless stay fast in their drunken sleep. The Bugle [al-ṣūr]  (Q. 39:68) hath sounded, the Trumpet [al-nāqūr] (Q.74:8) hath been blown, the Crier  hath raised his call, and all upon the earth have swooned away ‑ but still do the dead, in the tombs of their bodies [qubūr al-asjād] , sleep on.

 And the second clarion [al-nafkhaḥ]  (Q. 39:68) hath sounded, there hath followed the second blast after the first, (Q. 79:6) and the dread woe hath come, and every nursing mother hath forgot the infant at her breast (Q.22:2 ) --  yet still the people, confused and distracted, heed it not.

And the Resurrection [al-qiyāma]  hath dawned, and the Hour [al-sa`at] hath struck, and the Path [al-ṣiraṭ] hath been drawn straight, and the Balance [al-mīzān]  hath been set up, and all upon the earth have been gathered together (Q. 34:39) ‑ but still the people see no sign of the way.

The light [al-nūr] hath shone forth, and radiance floodeth Mount Sinai [al-ṭūr ], and a gentle wind bloweth from over the gardens of the Ever‑Forgiving Lord; the sweet breaths of the spirit are passing by, and those who lay buried in the grave are rising up ‑ and still do the heedless slumber on in their tombs....  It is He Who hath made for you the new creation (Q. 29:19 ) and brought on the woe (Q. 79: 34) that surpasseth all others, and gathered the holy together in the realm on high.  Verily in this are signs for those who have eyes to see.

And among His signs is the appearance of omens and joyous prophecies, of hints and clues, the spreading of many and various tidings, and the anticipations of the righteous, they who have now attained their goal…” (`Abdu'l‑Baha,  Selections ...  `Abdu'l‑Baha, 13-15).

Shoghi Effendi Rabbani  (d. 1957) and Istidlāliyya.

Head of the Bahā’ī Faith for 36 years Shoghi Effendi Rabbani  (d. 1957; the great-grandson of Bahā'u'llāh) as will be seen, further clarified many aspects of Bābī and Bahā(ī teaching pertaining to prophecy and fulfilment. The Authorized (King James) version of the Bible (1611 CE) was dear to him (Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, 37) . It is recorded that he kept a copy near his bed and in his study. Its style and vocalulary markedly influenced his numerous English writings. When translating certain of Bahā'-Allāh’s works he quite often utilized biblical phrases in his highly evocative and sometimes paraphrastic renderings from Arabic or Persian scriptural Tablets. Examples of this include his use of the biblical phrases "Ancient of Days"  (Dan 7:9ff;  Aramaic =     / Heb. `attiq yomīm; Arabic trans. Van Dyck. al-qadīm al-ayyām; Persian version qadīm-i ayyām) and "Desire[s] of all nations" (Heb. ḥemdat  kal ha-goyyīm; (Ar. [trans. Van Dyck].. ) mushtahā kull al-umam; (Per.) faḍīlat jamī`-yi ummathā, [lit. `Excellences of all nations=]; Haggai, 2:7aβ see Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 95).[5]

“Desire of all nations” is not of course exactly a literal rendering of the Hebrew of Haggai, 2:7b  which may mean something like “the treasure[s] (desirable things) of all nations” (so RSV). The Arabic and Persian translations usually reflect the traditional Latin (Vulgate) and other 19th century or earlier versions. The traditional Christian rendering has been thought to have messianic implications in certain ancient and modern Jewish and Christian exegetical circles.

The influence of the Danielic divine epithet “Ancient of days” is five times evident in Shoghi Effendi’s well-known 1931 English translation of the Kitāb-i īqān (The Book of Certitude). A few examples include:

(They are sent forth through the transcendent power of the Ancient of Days (sulṭān-i qadim, lit. `Ancient Sovereign( ), and are raised up by the exalted will of God, the most mighty King.  This is what is meant by the words:  "coming in the clouds of heaven."  (Baha'u'llah, KI: 52 / 43).

 “The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days (`irfān-i dhāt-i azal = literally, “Gnosis of the Eternal [Divine] Essence”), being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace, according to His saying: "His grace hath transcended all things... “  (Baha'u'llah, KI: 74/64).

Thus also in his translation of the Kitāb-i aqdas the abovementioned Haggai reference is evident;

Select Oriental  Bahā’ī  istidlaliyya writings

Mullā Muhammad Nabīl-i Zarandī (d. 1892).

An Apostle of Bahā'-Allāh , the poet, apologist and hagiographical historian Mullā Muhammad Nabīl Zarandī  wrote many things that were  much informed by  istidlāliyya considerations including his famed Tarikh which was partially recreated by Shoghi Effendi as the `Dawn-Breakers’.

Apparently an (honorary?)  bishop [Dr.] Fāris Effendī (dates unknown) was one of the earliest and most important Christian converts to the Bahā(ī religion. He was taught his faith in 1868 by the eminent Bahā’ī poet, historian and apologist Nabīl-i Zarandī (d. 1892) and received a number of highly significant `Tablets (from Bahā'-Allāh  to whom he addressed an eloquent Arabic testimony of faith -- which was early disseminated by Bahā'-Allāh  himself (see Lambden, `A Further Tablet...).

Mīrzā Abu’l-Faḍl-i Gulpayigānī (1844-1914).

Another apostle of Bahā'-Allāh  and one foremost among the oriental Bahā’īs who composed Istidlāliyya  treatises,  stands the best-known and renowned Bahā’ī apologist Mīrzā Abu’l-Faḍl Gulpayigānī (1844-1914). He was one of the primary architects of the Bahā’ī Interpretation of the Bible. As early as 1887-8 he had written a Sharh-i āyāt-i muvarrikhah (Commentary on the Chronological Proof texts) (Shanghai, 1344/1925 etc) and the Risāla-yi `Ayyūbiyya (`Jobite Treatise( mss.) in order to attract Jews (of Hamadan, etc) Christians and others to the Bahā’ī religion. Subsequently he exhibited a profound knowledge of Jewish and Christian scripture and history, and wrote a number of other significant apologetic works; including, for example, his lengthy Persian Kitāb al-Farā’id   (`Book of Incomparability’ (Cairo, 1897-8) and the Faṣl al-Khiṭāb (The Decisive Discourse) ([Samarkand] n.d. [completed, 1893-4]; Dundas, 1995).

■ Ḥāj Mihdī Arjmand (c. 1861-1941)

The Aaronite Jewish convert to the Bahā’ī Faith (c.1878), Ḥāj Mihdī Arjmand (c. 1861-1941) was so knowledgeable in the Bible that the American Protestant missionary Dr. G.W. Holmes (d. 1910) who engaged in a two year debate with him about Biblical proof-texts, reckoned that `he spoke as if he had written both the Torah and the Gospels" (Masabih.. IV: 462). Such is illustrated in his important volume (highly praised by `Abd al-Bahā’) as the Gulshān-i haqā'iq  ("Rose Garden of Realities" in which aspects of these debates are summed up. Various Bahā’ī interpretations of eschatological prophecies and apocalyptic signs were interpreted in the course of these debates (Ayman,`Ḥāj Mihdī Arjmand in  Scripture and Revelation, 1997:1ff). [1]

■ Yuhanna Dāwūd [ = John David] (d.          ).

Anong the other other important Jewish converts who wrote apologetic and related writings stands Yuhanna Dāwūd , a Bahā’í for many years resident in London,  whose  Derek Ḥayyim  ("The Way of Life") exists in manuscript in Judaeo-Persian (Persian written in Hebrew script).

■ Gabriel Sacy (Jibrān Sāsī) ( d.  ADD)

The fervent Syrian Christian Bahā’ī convert Gabriel Sacy (Jibrān Sāsī) wrote a 35 page Arabic Istidlāliyya which was published in Cairo around 1902 and was early translated into French (cf. Browne, Materials,  185-6).

■ Muhammad Kāzim  Samandar (1844-1918)

Among other numerous oriental Bahā’īs who contribured significantly to the Istidlāliyya literature should also be numbered Muhammad Kāzim-i Samandar (1844-1918).

■ Mīrzā `Alī Ashrāf Lahijānī, `Andalib (d. 1920)

Mīrzā `Alī Ashrāf Lahijānī, `Andalib (d. 1920) wrote an Istidlāliyya work for a Shaykhī Muslim known as Shaykh Bahā’ī and another for the Cambridge orientalist Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926) which appears to have been lost (see. Rice, `A Babi Pamphlet( CMI., Aug. 1902, 564ff).

■ Mīrzā Muhammad Sidihi, Nā'im ("Delight") Isfāhānī (d. 1915/16)

While Mīrzā Muhammad Sidihi, Nā'im ("Delight") Isfāhānī (d.1915/16) composed verse and prose testimonia,

■ Sayyid Aḥmad Mūsawī Hamadānī (d. Tehran, 1325/1907)

Sayyid Aḥmad Mūsawī Hamadānī entitled Ṣadr al-`Ulamā( [al-ṣudūr] ("Foremost of `Ulamā([Hearts] d. Tehran, 1325/1907) was the author of several Istidlāliyya works (one pub. Tehran: BPT., 1324/1906). 

■ Ḥajjī Mīrzā Ḥaydar `Alī  Iṣfahānī (d. Haifa, 1921)

The pious `Angel of `Akkā’  Ḥajjī Mīrzā Ḥaydar `Alī  Iṣfahānī (d. Haifa, 1921) composed an apolgetic testimonia entitled Dalā’il al-irfān fī ẓuhūr al-ḥujjat wa’l-tibyan  ("The Evidences of the Testimony regarding the Manifestation of the Proof and the Evidence (Bombay, 1313[2] 1895-6; see Behmardi, 1997).


■ Ḥajjī Mīrzā Muhammad Afshār (d.         )

The wide-ranging Istidlāliyya text entitled Baḥr al-irfān... (“The Ocean of Gnosis”, 287pp) of Ḥajjī Mīrzā Muhammad Afshār (d.         ) appeared not long after the passing of Bahā'-Allāh   (n. p. [Bombay] n.d. [189?]).


■ `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāvarī (1902-1972).

Finally, though not at all exhaustively in this connection, mention should be made of the numerous works of `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāvarī (1902-1972). A Bahā’ī from 1927, a number of his various writings and compilations contain materials touching upon the Bahā’ī exegesis of prophetic and apocalyptic  texts of the Abrahamic religions (cf. Rafati, EIr. VIII: 641-2).


19TH-20TH Century western Baha’i Testimonia Works

From around the centennial celebration of the martyrdom of the Bāb (1850 CE) many prominent western Bahā’īs continued to add significantly to the body of Bahā’ī scriptural testimonia. The Bahā’ī exegesis of a considerable number of eschatologically or apocalyptically oriented biblical and qur’ānic texts and traditions was further developed in the west.

■ Ibrahim G.  Kheiralla ( d. 1929)

 Important in introducing the Bahā’ī religion to the West as represented by America / the USA., were the often biblically rooted and oriented writings of the somewhat (by modern Bahā’ī standards) heterodox works of the Syrian Christian convert Ibrahim G.  Kheiralla (d. 1919; became Bahā’ī 1890). He achieved great success in spreading the Bahā’ī Faith to America subsequent to his arrival there in December 1892 (Stockman, BFA 1:26).


■ George Townshend (d. 1957)

Reference may be made by way of example to the writings of the one-time Anglican canon of St. Patrick's Cathederal Dublin, George Townshend (d. 1957) who authored  The Promise of All Ages (1st ed.  London: Simpkin Marshall n.d. [1934])


■ William Sears (d. 1992)

 and to William Sears (d. 1992) whose Thief in the Night, or the Strange Case of the Missing Millennium (1st ed. London: George Ronald, 1961) has been one of the best-selling Bahā’ī books produced in the west.


Several  leading Bahā’īs having the title `Hands of the Cause of God' have also penned significant writings about the fulfillment of religious prophecies and the significance of the eschatological "signs"  within the Bābī and Bahā’ī religions. 

It was thus argued in both the east and the west that a new era, a promised eschatological Day has come. It was reckoned that biblical, Islamic and other prophecies were  being or have been fulfilled.