The Evolving Claims and Titles of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850 CE).

The Evolving Claims and Titles of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the  Bab (1819-1850 CE). 

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

80s + 2019 - In Progress.

Last uploaded 25-07-2019.

During the six year period (mid. 1844- July 1850)  of his  Persia-Iran centered religious ministry, the evolving claims and titles of Mirza `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the  Bab (1819-1850 CE), were expressed a in very large number of his Arabic and Persian writings. Little academic research has been done on this subject thougha few have expressed sometimes trenchent opinions about their nature, genesis and evolution. Most of the claims and titles assumed or accorded the Bab are meaningful within a Shi`i-Shaykhi Islamic generated universe of discourse. Both the Bab and Baha'-Allah spoke about the evolving nature of their claims. In his Persian Dala'il-i sab`a (Seven Proofs), the Bab writes.

ADD TRANS

  • P- Dala’il = Dalā'il-i sab`a. IBA (ii) (? = Nicolas ms.106), 104bff. + n.p. n.d (Azalī edition [Tehran,196?]) 1-72.

The Edirne period Sūrat al-Fath  ('The Surah of the Opening'/Commencement/ Victory) for Fath al-A`zam, c. 1865-7) of Baha'-Allah, is important in respect to the matter of evolving claims of the Bab and Baha'-Allah. In order to explain and legitimate his own years of acting as a leading Bābī (mid. 1840's until mid. 1860's), but now claiming exalted Prophethood or subordinate Divinity, from servitude to a theophanic divinity, Baha'-Allah writes :

So recollect, O people! the moment when there came unto you the  Revealer of the Bayān [the Bāb] with wondrous, holy verses.  At one moment  he said, `I am the Gate of Knowledge ( bāb al-`ilm) and whosoever is convinced of the truth of my Claim (ḥaqqī) in addition to that [surpassing that station] (fūq dhalika),  hath assuredly invented lies about Me and acquires great sin within himself '. Then [later] He said, `I am the Qā'im, the True One ( al-qāim al‑ḥaqq) whose manifestation you were promised in mighty, noble Scrolls. This, verily, is assuredly [the Reality of] Muhammad, the Messenger of God ( rasūl Allāh), just as you have heard and witnessed in the tablets of God (alwāḥ Allāh), the King, the Ruler'. He [subsequently] said, `I am the Primordial Point (nuqṭat al‑awwaliyya)'. And when the beings of a number of predisposed souls were refined, then were  the veils torn asunder and there rose up from the Dawning-Place of Holiness [the Bāb's claim],` I verily am God, no God is there except Me, thy Lord and the Lord of all the worlds'. And [He also said], `I, verily, from the beginning which hath no beginning,  was a Divinity (ilāh an), One, Single, Unique... I [the divine, primordial Bāb], verily, comissioned the Prophets ( al-nabiyyīn ) and the sent Messengers ( al-mursalīn) from an eternity of eternities past..

Then gaze upon Me [Bahā'-Allāh], the Logos-Soul of God ( nafs Allāh )...

By God, O people! [Initially] I [Bahā'-Allāh]  did not desire any Cause (amr an) for  myself and followed all the Manifestations of old. I supported the Cause of God on all levels ( fī kulli  sha'n) during the days when faces were concealed out of fear of the oppressors. I humbled Myself before every soul in the Bayān [all Bābīs] and lowered the wing of submission ( jannāt al‑taslīm ) before every worthy believer...

For further details see : https://hurqalya.ucmerced.edu/node/476/

The Bab only gradually introduced his claims and not infrequently counselled his followers from being too disclosive. He sometimes highlighted taqiyya (prudent dissimulation) with respect to himself and his claims and underlined the importance of this protective mode of life, wisdom and spirituality. In an early khutba (   )

The Evolving Claims and Titles of the Bāb. 

Here I shall largely give these titles in Arabic (as the Bāb himself most often did) though he sometimes translated them into Persian, as do many of his followers in their books and letters, etc.

A one-time Persian merchant and doubly Ḥusaynid Sayyid,  the Bāb claimed many religious titles over the brief but intense, final six years of his life and religious proclamation. As a doubly Ḥusaynid Sayyid or descendent of the Prophet Muhammad and other Israelite / Jewish and Christian and other figures of past ages, the Bāb was descended through the third Imam Ḥusayn (d. 61/680) on both his maternal and paternal lines of descent.

His writings are full of hundreds of diverse claims made in the light of the very numerous messianic, eschatological and theophanic Islamic traditions. Establishing and communicating their veracity was part of his purpose. Directly or indirectly, most of the his writings incorporate these varied claims to religious authority as a mediator between God and humanity. From early on, their author portrayed himself as a channel of divinely inspired religious communication (Ar. waḥy) in close spiritual communion with the various (for him) fountainheads of gnosis, the occulted twelver Shī`ī Imams living in the heavenly realms. Later he claimed to be a manifestation of God (maẓhar-i ilāhī) with writings to communicate to humanity. On one level his writings can be characterized as vehicles of his religious proclamation and identity as a messianic and divine figure. On another level his writings interpret and form temporary updating of previous Abrahamic and Islamic sacred writings. They thus constitute a sacred writ suitable for a temporary religious interregnum. The Bāb often viewed his writings as subject to confirmation by future theophies of man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh (`Him whom God shall make manifest’) each of them new human messengers of God or manifestations of divinity.

 

Dissimulation and Taqiyya, the `Messianic Secret' of the Bab.

At times the Bāb made known his claims and at times he concealed them or held to a protective `messianic secret’.  His claims range silence or early modes of taqiyya (dissimulation) to bold claims of (subordinate) divinity of high theophanic intensity.  In order to protect himself and his community, the Bāb sometimes instructed his followers to conceal his identity and keep secret the fullness of his claims. On occasion, he seems to have outwardly denied his claims  or set forth less challenging aspects of his elevated prophetology. In one of his early khuṭbas (orations) the Bāb cited approvingly the following ḥadīth, “Be pious about your religion (dīn) and conceal it through taqiyya (dissimulation); there is no faith for whomsoever has no taqiyya“ (INBMC 91:50). His mid. 1846 T. Kawthar  and other writings includes elements of dissimulation (see T. Kawthar, 7b, 17b, the Du`a alf) and note the episode of the `messianic secret’ at the Vakīl mosque in Shiraz).

The transformation of the evolving religion of the Bāb from a semi-heterodox and generally neo-Shaykhī movement, into a new religion superseding Islām was at stake. Many were not receptive a change of this magnitude. In his P. Dalā’il, the Bāb himself clearly articulated the gradual, the unfolding disclosure of his religious claims in accordance with a divine grace (faḍl) and the varied and limited capacity of Muslims in their latter-day search for salvation (najat) (see P. Dalā’il, 29; cf. the Sūrat al-Faṭḥ of Bahā’u’llah). At times the numerous claims of the Bāb `zig-zag’ through the weeks, months and six years of his mission in the light of the varying nature or spiritual capacity of his different addressees. He initially kept something of a thinly veiled `messianic secret’ until the post c. 1263/1847-8 open disclosure of his being claiming to be the promised Islamic messiah.

In his post-1847 writings, the Bāb frequently claimed to be an elevated maẓhar-i ilāhī (Manifestation of God). Transcending the khātamiyya (“sealedness” traditionally interpreted as `last`) of Qur’an 33:40b yet still referring to Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets”, he came to claim an elevated Lordship (ilāhiyya / rubūbiyya) indicative of his enabling the eschatological liqā’-Allāh/ al-Rabb (the Encounter with God/ the Lord) predicted in the Qur’ān (Q, 6:31,155; 29:5, etc), to be allegorically realized. He claimed to be the nafs, the persona or Logos-Self of God but not the dhāt Allāh (Essence of God) as the apophatic `Wholly Other’ (P. Bayan II.11). This relative to his claimed divine Reality (Ar. ḥaqīqa) which he believed existed within his Logos-like being (Ar. nafs). 

See Lambden, 2018. From 1847  the claims of the Bāb often revolved around being a perfect, supreme “Mirror”, “Tree”, “Sun” or Manifestation of God (Per. maẓhar-i ilāhī). He claimed that the Godhead and His Primal Will (al-mashiyya) were reflected in him. He never claimed absolute identity with the Ultimate Divine Essence (dhāt / dhāt al-dhāt). The claim to Divinity exists in numerous writings though this was not a divinity disclosing the transcendent God as the apophatic `Wholly Other’. 

What follows are a few details of the main claims of the Bāb with a few explanatory notes as to their background and significance.  From very early on the Bāb claimed a self-effacing human servitude to God. As indicated above, there are numerous passages in the Qayyūm al-asmā’ and elsewhere which suggest that the Bāb's claims did not straightfowardly progress from being a new 'representative of the hidden lmām 'to being the Qā'im in person' then later coming to utter a claim to (subordinate) ilāhiyya and rabbāniyya (`divinity and lordship'). 

Such seemingly heterodox or heretical elements in the Bab’s early claims, were observed by Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d.1871) in his Izḥāq al-bāṭil and elsewhere within  the Qayyūm al-asmā' and other very early writings. They may have led the Bāb, during the latter part of the Shīrāz period, to reassert his orthodoxy by modifying or toning down certain of his earlier claims and statements. ln this light it is worth recalling Mīrzā Yaḥyā's claim that the Bāb at one point (during the Shīrāz period?) ordered his followers to 'wash out' their copies of the Qayyūm al-Asmā' (see Browne, 1889:268).

Early Reactions to the Claims and Writings of the Bāb.

Positive interest in and negative condemnation of the message and challenge posed by the claims and writings of the Bāb, began early (1844-5). This in part through the dissemination of the first major work of the Bāb, his Qayyūm al-asmā’ (= QA., see below). Carfeful dissemination of portions of this first major book very likely led Mirzā Ḥuayn `Alī Nūrī (founder of the Bahā’ī religion) to early become a believer in the Bāb - perhaps a few months after its commencement. Portions of the QA were taken to  Najaf and Karbala (in Iraq) in late 1844 by the Shaykhī then major disciple or 4th `Letter of the Living’, Mullā `Alī Bastamī (d. near Istanbul, 1846). This resulted in the condemnation of the Bāb by a hostile gathering of both Sunnī and Shī`ī clerics (Momen, 1982). On the 12th Rajab 1261/17th July 1845, little more than a year after the founding of the new religion, the QA wand its author were strongly criticized. This by one who claimed to succeed Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī, the eventual polymathic Kirmānī Shaykhī leader, Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d. 1288/1871), in his Izhāq al-bāṭil dar radd al-Bābiyya ("The Crushing of Falsehood in refutation of Bābism"). Aside from these clerical attacks, many others - including such clerics as the massively erudite Sayyid Yaḥyā Dārābī - were positively disposed or astonished by these new writings  of a seemingly insignificant mercantile youth. Some, stunned by these new revelations, came to assent to their divine origin, and disseminated them as widely as wisdom permitted.

During 1864-5, just nineteen or twenty years after the QA was first communicated (in mid. 1844), portions of a few major writings of the Bāb had come to be published in Russia and France. In subsequent decades of the 19th century, many further writings of the Bāb were collected and studied in western and other countries. In certain circles they were read in Persia, the wider middle-east, the Ottoman Empire, and India, etc. A few were assiduously collected mss within these regions. The British Persianist Edward Granville Browne (d. Cambridge, 1926), kept a diary durung his his 1887-8 `Year Amongst the Persians’ (1st ed. published in 1894). His travels and the subsequent book were in good measure inspired by  his zealous desire to seek out and study the writings of the Bāb.  While today perhaps twenty or more books have been written about the Bāb and his writings, the Arabic and Persian texts themselves largely await publication, translation and study.    

Shī`ī-Shaykhī authority and successorship.

The Bāb praised and elevated his two forerunners, though he came to claim a superior level of revelation. In his T. Kawthar, he refers to Shaykh Aḥmad and Sayyid Kāẓim as incapable of revealing veses comparable to his own, like those in the early T. Sūrat al-Baqara (Q, 2., T. Kawthar, XXXX).

In the course of establishing his own theophanic claims and independent religion, the Bab distanced himself doctrinally from the Shaykhī leaders. He also invited his Shaykhī rival and first major opponent Karīm Khān-i Kirmānī (d. 1870) to embrace his path in a number of important letters (MacEoin, 1982:16ff).

Bāb saw himself as the nā’ib (representative) of the twelver Shī`ī authorities and of the two initial Shaykhī leaders, al-Aḥsā’ī and Rashtī. He was the ḥāmil al-ilm (bearer of knowledge) like Sayyid Kāẓim RashtI (d.1259/1843). See the early prayer in response to eschatological and other questions in which the Bāb refers to himself as a ḥāmil al-`ilm (bearer of knowledge) like Sayyid Kāẓim (TBA 6003C:188-9). The Bāb attended Sayyid Kāẓim’s classes in Karbala for between 7 months and just over a lunar year. He came to refer to him just prior to his 1260/1844 declaration in his R. fī’l-sulūk (Treatise on the Path) as "my lord, support and teacher" (sayyidī wa mu`tammadī wa mu`allimī) (R-Sulūk, 74).

The messianic al-rukn al-rābi` (the Fourth Support)

The messianic al-rukn al-rābi` (the Fourth Support) of the Islamic religion and of the Shī`ī-Shaykhī community. living centre[s] of Shi`ite guidance al-rukn al-rābi` (the Fourth Support) in Shaykhism, was originally related to the guidance of learned mujtahids and / or the `Perfect Shī`ī [Shi`a]’ (MacEoin, 1982: 35f + sources). He clasimed to be surrounded by a special dimension of imamocentric walāya, divine intimacy or providential authority). In his Khaṣā’il-i sab`ah (directive no. 4) the Bāb alluded to himself as the al-rukn al-mustasirr (“the concealed Pillar”) and in the his 1262/mid. 1846 T. Kawthar represented himself as the "Hidden [Fourth] Support" from whom all should seek guidance (T-Kawthar, fol. 36aff) ; S. Ja`fariyya, VIII: 98; McEoin, ibid, 36-7). In the course of establishing his own theophanic claims and independent religion, he distanced himself doctrinally from the Shaykhī leaders. He also invited his Shaykhī rival and first major opponent Karīm Khān-i Kirmānī (d. 1870) to embrace his path in a number of important letters (MacEoin, 1982:16ff).

The Earliest Claims of the Bab in his Qayyum al-asma', Tafsir Surat al-Baqara, and other Pre-Declaration Writings.

The very form of the Qayyum al-asma' identifies its author as one who claimed to be in receipt of qur'anic type divine revelation and thus somebody in close communication with the divine source of its Islamic archetype

`The Essence of the Seven Letters’ (Per. dhāt-i ḥurūf-i sab`ah).

The parentally bestowed Name of th Bab, `Alī (= 3 Arabic Letters) Muhammad (4 Arabic letters) led him to speak of himself within the Qayyum al-asma' (1844) up till the P. Bayan (c.1848), the K. Panj (1850) and beyond them to the Haykal al-Din (1850), as The `Essence of the Seven Letters’ (or one possessed of a seven letter name’ Per. dhāt-i ḥurūf-i sab`ah). His doubly imamocentric name recalls `Alī the 1st Imam (and 4th Caliph) and Muhammad, the Arabian Prophet. At times the Bāb pictured himself as the spiritual “return” of Imam `Alī as well as one having a special, inner identity with Muhammad (P. Bayan. VIII. 2, 277).  In QA 73 the Bāb related these seven letters of his name to Q. 18 (the Sūrah of the Cave), the “cave” (al-kahf) of the seven sleepers. The Bab himself being the “cave” (al-kahf) and the seven sleepers being symbolic of his name (see QA 73: 298; cf. INBMC 91:). The Bāb further related the abjad numerical of the name `Alī (= 110) with elevated theological terms and with the huwa (“He is” God (abjad 5+6 = 11) indicative of Divinity (Sāḥīfa-yi Ja`fariyya, VII: 92f). The name `Ali (abjad 110) Muhammad (abjad 92), furthermore, have combined abjad values of 202, like the Arabic qur’ānic word for “Lord” (rabb = 200+2). 

 The eschatological liqā’ (meeting, encounter) with al-Rabb (The Lord/God) is several times predicted in the Q.  Note the theology surrounding  the Sinai theophany of al-Rabb (the Lord) in Q. 7:143. This came to be related by the Bāb to his own prophetological theophany (tajallī /ẓuhūr) in, among other places, one of his Epistles to Muhammad Shah (see INBMC 64:109-110; Lambden 1988:107, 169 fn. 118). Note further the numerical value of the double, extended letter Kāf (spelled out:  k = 20+ a = 1 + f = 90) totalling 101 and double this to achieve 202. This was apparently said by Sayyid Kazim to indicate the name of the expected Qā’im (see KZH III   Rafati  Brown). Cf. also P. Bayan II.12 referring to a symbolic period of 202, 000 years.

Before all else it will be convenient to deal with his basic title, the Bab which is Arabic for `the Gate'.

The title the Bab (the Gate).

From the earliest period Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi claimed to be or referred to himself as the Bab within Qajar era Shi`ism which basically indicates that he was in communication with the occulted or hidden Imam who was the locus or the otherworldly represenative of God and the prophet Muhammad through whom divine guidance was possible.

Humanity and Servitude

The claim of being a member of humanity or a (mere) servant (`abd) of God is found in many of the writings of the Bāb. His human persona is however, often related to his most elevated claims. This  in the light of a tradition from Imam Ja`far Ṣādiq which has it that devotional “servitude” (`ubūdiyya) is a state (jawhara) the true nature [essence] (kunh) of which is Lordship [Divinity] (al-rubūbiyya)”. It is an Arabic ḥadīth text that can be found in the in the Sufi influenced 100TH section on al-`ubūdiyya (“devotional servitude”) in the Miṣbāḥ al-Sharī`a (p. 282) ascribed to Imam Ja`far al-Ṣādiq.

A one-time Persian merchant and doubly Ḥusaynid Sayyid,[2] the Bāb claimed many religious titles over the brief but intense, final six years of his life and religious proclamation. His writings are full of hundreds of diverse claims made in the light of the very numerous messianic, eschatological and theophanic Islamic traditions. Establishing and communicating their veracity was part of his purpose. Directly or indirectly, most of the his writings incorporate these varied claims to religious authority as a mediator between God and humanity. From early on, their author portrayed himself as a channel of divinely inspired religious communication (Ar. waḥy) in close spiritual communion with the various (for him) fountainheads of gnosis, the occulted twelver Shī`ī Imams living in the heavenly realms. Later he claimed to be a manifestation of God (maẓhar-i ilāhī) with writings to communicate to humanity. On one level his writings can be characterized as vehicles of his religious proclamation and identity as a messianic and divine figure. On another level his writings interpret and form temporary updating of previous Abrahamic and Islamic sacred writings. They thus constitute a sacred writ suitable for a temporary religious interregnum. The Bāb often viewed his writings as subject to confirmation by future theophies of man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh (`Him whom God shall make manifest’) each of them new human messengers of God or manifestations of divinity.

At times the Bāb made known his claims and at times he concealed them or held to a protective `messianic secret’. His claims range silence or early modes of taqiyya (dissimulation) [3] to bold claims of (subordinate) divinity of high theophanic intensity. The transformation of the evolving religion of the Bāb from a semi-heterodox and generally neo-Shaykhī movement, into a new religion superseding Islām was at stake. Many were not receptive a change of this magnitude. In his P. Dalā’il, the Bāb himself clearly articulated the gradual, the unfolding disclosure of his religious claims in accordance with a divine grace (faḍl) and the varied and limited capacity of Muslims in their latter-day search for salvation (najat) (see P. Dalā’il, 29; cf. the Sūrat al-Faṭḥ of Bahā’u’llah). At times the numerous claims of the Bāb `zig-zag’ through the weeks, months and six years of his mission in the light of the varying nature or spiritual capacity of his different addressees. He initially kept something of a thinly veiled `messianic secret’ until the post c. 1263/1847-8 open disclosure of his being claiming to be the promised Islamic messiah.

In his post-1847 writings, the Bāb frequently claimed to be an elevated maẓhar-i ilāhī (Manifestation of God). Transcending the khātamiyya (“sealedness” traditionally interpreted as `last`) of Qur’an 33:40b yet still referring to Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets”, he came to claim an elevated Lordship (ilāhiyya / rubūbiyya) indicative of his enabling the eschatological liqā’-Allāh/ al-Rabb (the Encounter with God/ the Lord) predicted in the Qur’ān (Q, 6:31,155; 29:5, etc), to be allegorically realized. He claimed to be the nafs, the persona or Logos-Self of God but not the dhāt Allāh (Essence of God) as the apophatic `Wholly Other’ (P. Bayan II.11). This relative to his claimed divine Reality (Ar. ḥaqīqa) which he believed existed within his Logos-like being (Ar. nafs). [4]

What follows are a few details of the main claims of the Bāb with a few explanatory notes as to their background and significance. From very early on the Bāb claimed a self-effacing human servitude to God. As indicated above, there are numerous passages in the Qayyūm al-asmā’ and elsewhere which suggest that the Bāb's claims did not straightfowardly progress from being a new 'representative of the hidden lmām 'to being the Qā'im in person' then later coming to utter a claim to (subordinate) ilāhiyya and rabbāniyya (`divinity and lordship'). [5]

`The Essence of the Seven Letters’ (Per. dhāt-i ḥurūf-i sab`ah).

His parentally bestowed Name, `Alī (= 3 Arabic Letters) Muhammad (4 Arabic letters) [1] led him to speak of himself within the QA (1844) up till the P. Bayan (c.1848), K. Panj (1850) and beyond them to the Haykal al-Din (1850), as The `Essence of the Seven Letters’ (or one possessed of a seven letter name’ Per. dhāt-i ḥurūf-i sab`ah). In QA 73 the Bāb related these seven letters of his name to Q. 18 (the Sūrah of the Cave), the “cave” (al-kahf) of the seven sleepers. The Bab himself being the “cave” (al-kahf) and the seven sleepers are symbolic of his name (see QA 73: 298; cf. INBMC 91:). The Bāb further related the abjad numerical of the name `Alī (= 110) with elevated theological terms and with the huwa (“He is” God (abjad 5+6 = 11) indicative of Divinity (Sāḥīfa-yi Ja`fariyya, VII: 92f). The name `Ali (110) Muhammad (92), furthermore, have combined abjad values of 202, like the Arabic qur’ānic word for “Lord” (rabb = 200+2). [2]

  • [1] His name recalls `Alī the 1st Imam (and 4th Caliph) and Muhammad, the Arabian Prophet. At times the Bāb pictured himself as the spiritual “return” of Imam `Alī as well as one having a special, inner identity with Muhammad (P. Bayan. VIII. 2, 277).
  • [2] The eschatological liqā’ (meeting, encounter) with al-Rabb (The Lord/God) is several times predicted in the Q. Note the theology surrounding the Sinai theophany of al-Rabb (the Lord) in Q. 7:143. This came to be related by the Bāb to his own prophetological theophany (tajallī /ẓuhūr) in, among other places, one of his Epistles to Muhammad Shah (see INBMC 64:109-110; Lambden 1988:107, 169 fn. 118). Note further the numerical value of the double, extended letter Kāf (spelled out: k = 20+ a = 1 + f = 90) totalling 101 and double this to achieve 202. This was apparently said by Sayyid Kazim to indicate the name of the expected Qā’im (see KZH III Rafati Brown). Cf. also P. Bayan II.12 referring to a symbolic period of 202, 000 years.

The claims of the Bab in his Qayyum al-asma'.

The very form of the Qayyum al-asma' identifies its author as one who claimed to be in receipt of qur'anic type divine revelation and thus somebody in close communication with the divine source of its Islamic archetype

Before all else it will be convenient to deal with his basic title, the Bab which is Arabic for `the Gate'.

Twelver Shī`ī Messianism.

The title the Bab (the Gate).

From the earliest period Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi claimed to be or referred to himself as the Bab within Qajar era Shi`ism which basically indicates that he was in communication with the occulted or hidden Imam who was the locus or the otherworldly represenative of God and the prophet Muhammad through whom divine guidance was possible.

The Bāb (Gate). 

In QA 24:80, for example,  the Bāb writes, “Know, O people of the Earth! That God made with the Bab (ma’ al-bāb) two Babs (bābayn) aforetime [Shaykh Aḥmad and Sayyid Kāẓim], to the end that They might inform you, in truth, in very truth, about His Cause (amr). 

This is a title that indicates the role of the Bāb as a gateway to communication from on high; through various of the Imams or through the Primal Will (mashiyya al-ūlā) and other manifestations of divinity (Per. maẓāhir-i ilāhī). On a basic level the Bāb made the claim to be the khātim al-abwāb ('seal of the gates') as one succeeding the 'four gates' of the twelver Shī`ī lesser occultation, the ghaybat-i sughra. In his QA and elsewhere he refers to Shaykh Aḥmad and Sayyid Kāẓim as Bābayn (“two Gates”) from whom he came to differentiate himself (see T. Kawthar). [1] In the Sūrat al-ghulām (Surah of the Youth, QA 54) the Bāb refers to himself as the al-bāb al-akbar (Greatest Gate). Initially his claim of Bābiyya (Gate-hood) was only cryptically or allusively set forth. Thus, for example, in 7th directive of the Khasā’il-I sab`a, the Bab recommends the wearing of a “white carnelian signet-ring” (al-`aqīq al-abyāḍ) with the number 273 engraved after the words, `There is no God, but God’, `Muhammad is the Messenger of God (rasūl Allāh)’ and ``Alī is the wālī-Allāh’ ("The Legatee of God")’. The final 273 here is the abjad numerical value of `Alī Muhammad (= 202) is the Gate of God (Bāb Allāh = 5+66 = 71) numerically (202+71) 273.

 The Dhikr-Allah (the Remembrance of God) or his representative.

The phrase Dhikr Allāh is Qur’ānic and came to have Imamological and messianic senses according to a variety of Shī`ī traditions. In his early years the Bāb frequently claimed to be its eschatological personification. In, for example, QA. 60 we read: 

O people of the Throne! By God, the True One! The Remembrance of God (dhikr Allāh) hath indeed come to you with a wondrous Cause (bi-al-amr al-badi‘) from God thy Lord, no God is there except Him, the Transcendent. QA 60: 238)

In an Arabic letter of the Bāb to Mullā Ṣādiq Khurāsānī  who had a role in the Shiraz episode of the carrying out of the 4th adhān directive of the Khasā’il-i sab`a we read:

We indeed wrote unto the believers that they should make mention of the Dhikr-Allāh (Remembrance of God) in the adhān ("call to prayer") according to a stipulation (ḥukm) that We sent down in the Kitāb al-mulūk ("Book of the Kings”) (Arabic text cited in Afnan, `Ahd, 101).

Later, within the c. 1848 P. Dalā’il, the elevated Eternal Dhikr (dhikr-i azal) title is equated with the mashiyyat-i avvaliyya (the Primal Will of God) and given a very lofty theophanological status. Earlier in his QA and later writings, the Bāb adds superlatives to the messianic Dhikr its messianic personification as the al-Dhikr al-akbar (the Greatest Dhikr) and the Dhikr al-a`ẓam, the Most Great Dhikr (P.Dala’il, 3-4).

The Baqiyyat-Allah (the Remnant of God) or his representative.

Again rooted in imamological, messianic interpretations of Qur’ānic verses, this claim is one of the most common and frequent of the early claims of the Bāb

“The Baqiyyat-Allāh (the Remnant of God) is best for you if you are among such as believe” (Q, 11:86a, cited the Bāb, S. Ja`fariyya, VIII: 97).

There are a number of Imami Shī`ī traditions in which the phrase Baqiyyat Allah becomes a messianic title. A tradition exists, for example, from Imam Ja`far al-Ṣādiq in which he predicts the succession of the twelve Imams and describes the last of them as al-qā’im bi’l-ḥaqq (The Qā’im who will arise with Truth), the Baqiyyat-Allāh on His earth, the master of time (ṣāḥib al-zamān) and the leader or caliph of the All-Merciful (khalifat al-raḥmān)”. This tradition of the 6th  Imam Ṣādiq is contained in Ibn Bābawayh’s Ikmāl al-dīn from which it is also cited in the Bihar al-anwār of Majlisī, 2nd ed. vol. 59, p.145.

Ja`far al-Ṣādiq, the 6th twelver Imam, in a tradition about the signs of the eschatological age, stated that the Mahdi-Qā’im will declare in Mecca: “I am the Baqiyyat-Allāh, His Caliph (khalīfa) and His Ḥujjat (messianic Proof) unto you.’” Partially cited (from the 5th Imam al-Bāqir) in, for example, Fayḍ al-Kāshānī, Tafsīr al-ṣāfi vol. 2: 206 (on Q. 11:86); Huwayzī, Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn vol. 2: 212 (on Q. 11:86). See further Majlisi, Bihār al-anwār, vol. 51: 36; 59: 36, 145.

References to the Baqiyyat-Allah as a messianic figure like the Mahdī, are also found in many early and some later writings of the Bāb. In his Epistle to the ulamā’ he writes:

Say: `The Remnant of God (Baqiyyat-Allāh) is a [messianic] Proof (ḥujjat) from thy Lord, for no single thing escapes his knowledge and his is whatsoever lieth within the heavens and on the earth (text cited Afnan 2000:111).

In the mid. 1846 T. Kawthar the Bāb informs Siyyid Yaḥya Dārābī that that there will not be a divine theophany on earth until after the appearance of the Baqiyyat Allāh (fol. 25b). 

The Qā’im, the messianic Ariser. 

The abbreviated messianic title Qā’im literally means `Ariser’, one who will rise up (Ar. qama). It has Jewish, Samaritan and New Testament and/or Christian roots (cf. Mark 5:41 talitha cumi `Little girl arise’).  See further Sachedina 1981: 62f.

The titles “Qā’im of the family of Muhammad” (Qā’im min āl Allāh [God]), Qā’im bi’l-Ḥaqq (Ariser with the Truth/through the True One) or Qā’im bi’l-sayf (`the messianic Ariser [who comes forth] with the sword’), etc. are among the best known Imamī Shī`ī titles assumed by the Bāb. See al-Aḥsā’ī Sh-Ziyāra 1:103; Bāb, P. Bayān II.5 (p.28); II.7 (p.32);  P. Dala’il p.24, 29, etc.    It was from Mākū in mid.- late 1847- that  he more openly claimed to be the expected Qā'im (P. Bayan I. 15, 9-10; II.15, etc).  An important, early example is found in a letter addressed in late 1846 (or early 1847) to the prominent Khurasānī Shaykhī and Bābī Mullā Shaykh AIī Turshīzī entitled `Aẓīm (d. Tehran 1852). Therein the Bāb selects this prominent follower to make more generally known his claim to Qāimiyya, to being the Shī`ī Islamic messiah:

O `Alī. We indeed chose thee at Our Command and made thee to be an angel [messenger] (malakan) crying out at the behest of the Qā’im, that he, verily, with the permission of thy Lord, is made manifest. Such is of the bounty of God unto thee …

Printed in facsimilie in  [Anon] Qismati az alwāḥ, and reproduced in MacEoin Sources (end pages); cited N-Kāf, 209;  Mazandarani, KZH III: 1640-6; 2nd ed. III: 132-3, 166-9; cf. DB: 313, 303.

The Mahdī (`the rightly guided one’).   

In Sunnī Islam the messianic title Mahdī is centrally important as it is in many Imamī Shī`ī traditions and related sources. The Bāb claimed to be both the Mahdī and the Qā’im which are seen as synonymous epithets of the expected one. Important in this respect is the P. Bayān (VIII.17; IX.3), the P. Dalā’il (p. 34f) and many other writings including such of his letters as that to the widely-respected `Alīd Sunnī, Abū al-Thanā’, Shihāb al-Dīn al-Ālūsī (d.1270 /1854), a one-time muftī of Baghdad. Ālūsī is best known for his tafsīr work, the Rūḥ al-ma`āni fī tafsīr al-qur’ān al-`aẓīm… (The Spirit of the Meaning in Commentary upon the Mighty Qur’ān).   He was  condemned alleged Bābī heresy at the time of the trial of Mullā `Alī Bastāmī (d. Istanbul, 1846).  The Bāb invited him to embrace his religion in an Arabic letter written from Mākū (1848) wherein, as elsewhere, he claimed to be the awaited Mahdī and a Divine Messenger:  

"I, verily, am God, no God is there except I myself, I manifested myself on the Day of Resurrection... I am the Mahdī…" (cited Zā’im al-Dawlā, Miftāḥ, 212-15).

 

The “return” of Islamic figures including Imam Ḥusayn (d. 61/680).

The Qayyūm al-asmā' of the Bāb was referred to by its author in his 1846 Khuṭba al-dhikriyya ("The Khuṭba of the Remembrance" (written on the 15th Muḥarram 1262/ January 13th 1846) as the Kitāb al-Ḥusayniyya, the Ḥusaynid Book. Joseph, the type or prefiguration of lmam Ḥusayn, is directly mentioned 65 times in the QA and Ḥusayn is directly mentioned 28 times in eighteen surahs of this 111 sürah  QA. See further Lambden 2012.

First is he who will come back at the [latter-day era of the] raj`a (retum); namely, Ḥusayn son of `Alī who will remain upon the earth 40,000 years (tradition relayed from Ja`far al-Ṣādiq and cited al-Aḥsā'ī, Sh-Ziyara III: 57).

Consonant with his claim to be the Bāb, the Sayyid of Shiraz also claimed to be the spiritual “return” or the servant and representative of the hidden, occulted twelfth Imam. His being the “return” of this expected figure is frequent in the P. Bayan and later writings. As ḥaḍrat-I Ḥujjat (`his eminence the Proof’, a title of the 12th Imam), the Bāb had appeared with revealed verses and expositions (āyāt va bayinnāt) as the theophany of the “Point of the Bayān” (nuqṭa-yi bayān) (P. Bayan I.15, 9). Additionally, he further claimed to represent or be the spiritual second coming or “return” of Muhammad, Imam `Alī and Imam Ḥusayn. Indeed, lmam Ḥusayn related themes, motifs, and typologies, are all but omnipresent in the writings of the Bāb. The Bāb, himself was a doubly Ḥusaynid Sayyid and often claimed to be the return of the `Prince of Martyrs’ (Sayyid al-Shuhadā’)(see QA. V etc; S. Ja`fariyya, X:88, 115ff).

al-Fata , al-Ghulam ("the Youth"),

Nuqta, The Point or the 'Primal/First Point (al-nuqta al-awwal).

The Generative Point of Reality (nuqṭa)

Like Imam `Alī, the Bāb very frequently claimed to be the diacritical sub-dot of the Arabic Letter “B” (al-bā’ =      ) viewed as a locus of cosmic importance. It was from the Primordial Point (nuqṭa al-awwaliyya) that all existence (wujūd) and the letters of the Divine Word came into being. This “Point” is numerous times said to be synonymous with the al-mashiyya (the Divine Will). From 1844-1850, throughout the whole six years of his mission, the Bāb referred to himself in many and diverse ways as the Nuqṭa (Point)

I am indeed, in very truth, the [Diacritical] Point [al-nuqṭa, the subdot of the Arabic letter “B”] dyed crimson al-muḥamara) (QA 93: 373).

Nuqṭa (Point) related claims are everywhere in the Bayāns and many other writings of the Bāb. The P. Bayan includes many dimensions of a complex theology of the revelational nuqṭa (e.g. P. Bayan, III.12, 89ff).

The Arabic "I am" (Gk. ) γώ εμι ..., Ar. ana ...) claims of the Bab.

From 1260/1844 , the beginning of his mission, the Bāb voiced numerous “I am” (Gk. Ἐγώ εἰμί Ego eimi) type claims or logion after the manner of Jesus (e.g. Gospel of John 11:25; 14:6, etc) and Imam `Alī in his Khuṭbat al-bayān (Sermon of the Elucidation) and Khuṭbat al-ṭutunjiyya [taṭanjiyya](Sermon of the Gulf). These two orations or sermons attributed to `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661), a successor to the prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE), are viewed within Shaykhi and Bābī-Bahā’ī primary sources as authentic, divinely inspired traditions.  A few examples, among very many others in later writing of the Bāb from the early Qayyūm al-asmā’ follow:

  • I am the first of the Muslims in the Mother Book (umm al-kitāb). QA 67:271
  • I am the Greatest Announcement (al-naba al-`azīm see Q. 78:2) (QA 77:315).
  • Say, I am indeed the True One (anā al-ḥaqq) associated with God (min ‘ind Allāh), thy Patron (QA 82: 331).
  • Say: I am indeed a Son (ibn) of Muhammad the Arabian (al-‘arabī) in the Preserved Tablet (al-lawḥ al-ḥafīz).  The claim alludes to and transcends the seeming limitations of the “not the father” in the Qur’anic khatām al-nabbiyīn  (“seal of the prophets”) verse, Q. 33:40. The seeming note of finality in “not the father” is re-contextualized (see Lambden, 2018).
  • I am indeed the theophanic Fire (al-nār) for I cried out in the [Sinaitic] Tree [bush] (fī al-shajarah), no God is there except Him (QA 85: 342)
  • I am indeed the [Sinaitic] Tree on the Mount [Sinai] (shajarat fī’l-ṭūr) ( QA 92: 367).
  • I am [represent] the True One [God] (anā al-ḥaqq) (QA. 109:440; 110: 444). 

Among the influential discourses ascribed to Imam `Alī contained in the Mashāriq al anwar of Rajab al-Bursī, is the sometimes 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 (d.1259/1843) who regarded it very highly. So too the Bāb and Baha-Allah 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 Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya many utterances of an all but deified `Alī, echo the gnostic and predominantly Johannine New Testament "I am" logion of Jesus. Like Jesus, `Alī at one point, in a loose Arabic transliteration of the Greek, claims نا عليوثوثا ا (sic.) (= Gk. γώ εμι λήθεια, ego eimi aletheia, Jn 14:6a), "I am the Truth" (Bursī, Mashriq, 169). Numerous other theophanic claims of the Imam `Alī cast in the form of "I am" sayings are present in this Khuṭba (Mashāriq, 166‑170) as well as in other texts collected in Bursī’s Mashāriq.1 Only a few of these 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).

The Khuṭba al‑ṭutunjiyya and the `I am' Claims.

"I am one presiding over the ṭutunjayn ... al‑khālijayn ("the two gulfs") (QA: 93:374‑5; 109:434‑5).

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. Such is one of the featurs of his early Qayyum al-asma' (1250 AH/ mid. 1844). 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 Baha'Allah 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 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 (haykal al‑tathlīth) [which leads] unto the depth of the gates of Gehenna (li‑tamām abwāb al‑jaḥīm).. ( Q. Mafūẓ, 80)

Note also that the literary sermon which is knlwn as 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 "I am" sayings (Minorsky:1942 esp. 1042a).

Divinity and Lordship (ilāhiyya; rubūbiyya).

O people of the Throne! Hearken ye unto My Call from the center of the rising Sun, from the dawning-forth of the Bāb, “I, verily, I am God.” (QA 80: 325)

The claims to divinity, actually subordinate divinity in an apophatic theology, are very frequent in the writings of the Bāb. As he saw it, the very the “Day of God” (yawm Allāh) had come about. The Bāb also conferred secondary “divinity” upon certain of his disciples  who constitured a kind of comprehensive divinity and were addressed “O Pleroma (yā kull shay’).Such claims were expressive of a self-effacing servitude (`ubudiyya) expressive of Divinity (ilāhiyya). In line with his apophatic theology, the Bāb engaged in a de-transcentalization of God-related terminology on the new `Day of God’. In his late K. Panj sha’n, even used the superlative of Allāh (“the God Beyond”) to indicate his subordinate Divinity and/or to that of the Bābī messiah (man yuẓhiru-hu Allāh, `Him whom God will make manifest’’ (see Lambden, Mysteries). He addressed his herald of Qā’imiyya   `Aẓīm in the following manner “O `Aẓīm ! Bear thou witness that He, no God is there except I Myself, the Greatest, the Greatest (al-a`ẓam al-a`ẓam) (KPS VIII.1, p. 255).

The Bāb allusively or directly made veiled then obvious declarations of divinity many thousands of times throughout each of the six years of his mission. This indicates his doctrine of the realization of the presence or encounter with God (liqā’ Allāh) through his latter-day manifestation on the eschatological Day of Resurrection. Bābīs and Bahā’īs later explained the eschatological claim to Divinity in a similar way to which post Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj Sufis explained his claims to Divinity, his anā al-ḥaqq and the like.At the very heart of the theology of the Bāb, however, is the deeply apophatic mystery, well-evidenced in his replacement of the Islamic basmala, `In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate’, with its new, doubly transcendent, superlative form: `In the Name of God, the Inacessable (al-amnā`), the Most Holy (al-aqdas)’.  As his mission evolved the Bāb not infrequately bestowed on major disciples Islamic messianic titles which he had earlier claimed for himself. The Bāb title, for example, was given to his first disciple Mulla Ḥusayn Bushrū’ī (as the Bāb al-Bāb, the `Gate of the Gate’), and the Qā’im title to Muhammad `Ali, Quddus and others (cf. Nuqtat al-kaf,    and see Baha’-Allah Lawḥ-I Sarrāj, XXX). 

 

 

 

 

The Claims and Titles of the Bab - Select Bibliography.

Browne, Edward G.

Lambden, Stephen

MacEoin, Denis.

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