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Babi-Baha'i Mazhariyya (Theophanology) : The docrine of the Manifestation of God (mazhar-i ilahi) and its background. ...



The Bābī‑Bahā’ī Maẓhariyya (Theophanology) :

The doctrine of the Manifestation of God (mazhar-i ilahi), its roots, background, and  significances.  

Expanded Extract from the Lambden Ph.D. thesis (1980s / 2002),

In Progress and Under revision - last revised: 18-12-2017-8.

As the very centre of Bābī‑Bahā’ī theology and religious discourse  is the person of the `Manifestation of God' (Pers. mazhar-i ilahi). He-She-It  communicates the message of God to humanity from age to age and represents the Godhead. Not the reality or Essence of God Himself (dhat al-dhat), this divine mediator between God and humanity is only indirectly divine or representative of  God as far as His creation is concerned.  His subordinate divinity is not due to His being the apophatic Essence of the Godhead (dhat Allah). The Ultimate Godhead is unknowable to Him just as the fullness of His Reality (al-haqq) is unknowable to human beings. Matters transcendent cascade into realms of increasing mystery. Baha'i religiosity delights in the awe of the unknowability of the Unknowable. Yet God, despite or because of this divine mystery, ever remains  closer to his creatures than their jugular veins. In prayer, in mystical experience and in life itself God is omnipresent. This through the Manifestation of God who mirrors and reflects the transcendent Holy Spirit (al-ruh al-quds). The One genderless, beyond  singularity and multiplicity, the Unknown who is more known than everything knowable is,  by virtue of His being the perfect mediator, never abstracted from his microcosm or His macrocosm. God is  closer and more known than everything else, as well as more distant than can ever be computed.

The ūlū al‑`azm,  those  "characterized by steadfastness" (Q. 46:35).

It was out of a complex nexus of Islamic prophetological, imamological and theophanological Sufi  and  Sh ī`ī‑ Shaykhī  doctrines, that the terminology and many aspects of the Bābī‑ Bahā’ī doctrine of the mazhar‑i ilāhī   evolved. Important in this respect were the Islamic doctrines and identifications of those messengers of God reckoned to be special ūlū al‑`azm  ("those possessed of steadfastness"). It was the  ūlū al‑`azm,  "those possessed of constancy", within pre-Islamic sacred history,  that came to be reckoned mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestations of God) in Babi-Baha'i prophetology though other figures within global salvation history came to be numbered mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestations of God) (see below).  In Shī`ī texts certain rasūl are representatives of nubuwwat al‑tashrī` (legislative prophethood) being empowered to found and maintain new religions and institute religious laws. They bring a new shari`a  (law) while related nabī  are placed on a subordinate  level (Refer, Kulaynī, al‑Kāfī I:174f, 223ff ; Corbin, En Islam 1:235f; cf. Wensinck, 1932:204). Though the Q. and certain ḥadīth  have it that the faithful should make no distinction between the various messengers  of God, some rusul  (messengers) were exalted above others (Q. 2:253;17:55; 46:35). The qur’ānic  mentions of unity yet distinction among the prophets inspired statements of oneness and brotherhood as well as hierarchical theories. An interesting prophetic  ḥadīth  is relayed from Abū Ḥurayra  is recorded in the Qiṣaṣ al‑anbiyā’ of Tha`labī "The prophets  (al‑anbiyā’)  are brethren (ākhwat )  though of various mothers and  their religion is one (dīnuhun wāḥid, Qisas: 403). The favouring of  "some above others" (Q. 2:253a) in terms of the favoured rank of those considered ūlū al‑`azm  will be noted as it is primarily these figures who became Bābī‑ Bahā’ī maẓhar‑i ilāhī  (manifestations of God).

The qur’ānic phrase ūlū al‑`azm came to have important prophetological implications in post‑qur’ānic Islam. It was much discussed and by many thought to be indicative of exalted rusul (sent messengers) as (sometimes) pre‑existent beings endowed with constancy of mission, moral and intellectual infallibility (ma`ṣūm) and the power of waḥy (divine revelation). In  Shī`ī sources the ūlū al‑`azm are the major founders of religions with a binding  shar`ia` ("revealed law") relevant to a given community (umma)  or to all humanity (Bihar211:34ff) . Al‑Maqdisī expressed a subsequently widely held opinion when he wrote, "of the ūlū al‑`azm among the rusul   there are five: [1] Noah [2] Abraham [3] Moses [4] Jesus and [5] Muhammad (Bad` wa’l‑tārīkh, III:7). This is in line with traditions ascribed to the twelver Imams enumerating the ūlū al‑`azm recorded in Majlisī’s Biḥar al amwar (Oceans of Lights) (2nd ed. vol. 11:34ff). In the following example Imām Ja`far al‑Ṣādiq is cited as saying:

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

The Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh go beyond these qur’anic and Islamic norms by allotting theophanic status (= maẓhar‑I ilāhī ) to those mentioned in various Shī`ī lists of the  ūlū al‑`azm adding others to them. They include the frequently listed five mentioned above with the addition of Adam and others. Adam, Dāwūd (David) and others were not normally included in Islamic lists of the ūlū al‑`azm. The former had fallen from heaven and the Zabūr  (Psalter) of the latter has little or no legal component  (cf. Q. 38:24‑5).  Those divine manifestations are [1] Adam [2] Noah, [3] Abraham, [4] Moses,  [5] Jesus and  [6] Muhammad.1 To this basically Abrahamic list,  developed, more globally minded, Bahā’ī theophanology adds the biblical figures, Melchizedek, King of Salem (Ar. Malik al‑Salam, fl.c. 2100?),  Joseph son of Jacob [Israel], possibly  David the biblical king of Israel (d.c. 967 BCE <‑‑1) and another pre‑Mosaic David?, John the Baptist  and certainly also the ancient Persian prophet Zarathušra (= Zoroaster, fl. 1200 BCE?) As well as Siddhārtha Gautama, the Ṣākyamuni, and Buddha (Enlightened One d.c. 486 or 368 BCE) (AB* TAB 2:469 cf. 3:565). To these also, it seems, that Bahā’is add the earlier mythical figure(s) (?) [Brahma‑]  Sri Krishna (4000 BCE??) (AB* PUP:446; PT:35; SE* GPB: 94 ). With various additions and omissions the Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh become figures [8] and [9] in a largely Abrahamic (+ Asian) list – the number nine, being the Bahā’ī sacred number as the abjad numerical value of the word bahā’ = 1+5+1+1= 9). That Zoroaster, Melchizedek, David (1&2?), Jospeh son of Jacob [Israel], John the Baptist  and others are counted in developed Bahā’ī texts as  maẓhar‑I ilāhī  (Manifestations of God)  is of considerable interesr as it goes beyond the bounds of most Islamic prophetological orthodoxies.

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

The perspectives regarding the ūlū al‑`azm   among some Shī`ī Sufīs of the  school of Ibn al‑`Arabī such as Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī (8th/14th cent.) is worth noting. In his Jāmi` al‑asrār  (Summation of the Secrets) he at one point goes beyond a listing of the usual ūlū al‑`azm (+ Adam,  cf. Jāmi`, 281 [= § 553f]) by associating the "seven stars" with the ṣūrat   (form) of  the seven rusul  (sent messengers) who are ūlū al‑`azm.  On this cosmic, esoteric level it is not the usual five or six but seven who have a special relationship with ultimate realities (`ind al‑muḥaqqaqīn),  (1) Adam, (2) Noah, (3) Abraham, (4) David, (5) Moses (6) Jesus and (7) Muhammad (Jāmi`, 237 §465). Not normally considered among the ūlū al‑`azm both Adam and a pre‑Mosaic David are included here.  Both these figures have an elevated position in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī prophetology and theophanology.

The Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh held that divine guidance to humanity through successive founder messengers referred to as  maẓhar‑I ilāhī,  was without beginning and will have no end.  For them divine guidance will last as long as human history endures.  The Islamic  claim that Muhammad was the "last" or "seal" of God’s prophets / or messengers ( note the khatam al-nabiyyin, Q. 33:40) was often affirmed and transcended by both the Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh (see URL).

High Theophanology : the Mashiyya (Primal Will) and the  mazhar-i ilahi (Manifestation of God).

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

            Deriving from the triliteral Arabic  root  ẓ‑ h‑r  which may verbally indicate `to appear’, `be manifest’,  the straightforward sense the Arabic noun of place maẓhar  (pl. maẓāhir  cf. ẓāhir, `apparent’, `visible’ `outer’, `exterior’)  is a `place of appearance’. It may also be indicative of an `outward expression’ or  `1mode of apparition’, and thus additionally indicate  a `manifestation’ or `theophany’ (Corbin, 1972, IV:518, index).  In his The Sufi Path of Knowledge  Chittick prefers to translate maẓhar,  "locus of manifestation" (Chittick, 1989:89).

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

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

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

Among the many disciples of the "Great Shaykh" who have made fairly frequent use of maẓhar    as a theophanological  technical term was, for example, Ibn al‑`Arabī’s son‑in‑law Ṣadr al‑Dīn Q ūnawī (d.673/1274). His K. al‑fukūk, (The Book of Unravellings) represents itself as  a `key to the mysteries’ of Ibn `Arabī’s Fuṣuṣ al‑ḥikam  (Bezels of Wisdom). In his exposition of the section revolving around the prophet Ismā’īl (here no.  7) and the implications of prophets being maẓāhir  of the divine Names,  Qunawi (commenting on Q.29:27a)  categorically states "Every prophet is a maẓhar  of one of the divine Names (ism min al‑asmā’) (K. al‑fukūk, 209). The same is also stated in the section devoted to Muhammad: "every nabī  is a maẓhar  of one of the Names of the Divine Reality (ism min asmā’ al‑ḥaqq; ibid, 310). In the section on Shu`ayb it is stated that Moses’ education (tarbiyat)   was initially taught by means of this Arab prophet. It was such that Moses’ āyāt  (verses, signs) were according to the dictates of the "outer Name" (aḥkām al‑ism al‑ẓāhir). When God desired the  perfection of Moses he sent him to  Khiḍr who is said to be a maẓhar (manifestation) of the hidden [Inner, Non‑Manifest] Name (al‑ism al‑bāṭin).  (Qunawī, al‑Fukūk,  251).

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

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

Similar examples could be gleaned from numerous other philosopher‑theologians of the school of Ibn al‑`Arabī and the `School of Isfahan’ and elsewhere. 2 The famed al‑insān al‑kāmīl.. (The Perfect Human) of the Shī`ite Sufī `Abd al‑Karīm al‑Jilī (d. c.832/1428 ) contains a  section dealing with the divine Names al‑jalāl (The Majestic) where  iti s stated  that for every divine Name and Attribute there is a athar, a trace‑impression which is a maẓhar  of divine jamāl (Beauty) or  jalāl (Majesty).  (New  ed, 97). 

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

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

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

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

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

1) Divinity and Lordship  (ulūhiyya, rubūbiyya).

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

(2)  Pre‑existence

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

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

The Islamic doctrine of `iṣmā’  was gradually and in diverse ways incorporated within in both Sunni 4 and Shī`ī Islam. It was championed by numerous Shī`ī thinkers including the Imami writers Hisham b. al‑Ḥakam (d.179/795). Ibn Babūya (d.381/991) and Shaykh al‑Mufid (d.412/1022).  Within Shī`īsm the `iṣma  of prophets and the ma`ṣūm (guarded from sin and error) of the Imams became and has remained an important article of faith. It was affirmed and in various ways integrated in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī imamology and  theophanology. All maẓhar‑i ilāhī  are considered ma`ṣūm in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī scripture. Abrahamic  sacred books (Bible and Q.)  and Isrā’īlyyāt traditions can never be interpreted so as to attribute sin and error to the divine  Manifestations of God.

Numerous biblical legends and qiṣaṣ al‑anbiyā’  narratives as well as doctrinal utterances of past prophets, sages and agents of God are interpreted in Bābī‑ Bahā’ī texts in line with the doctrines of `iṣma / ma`ṣūm.  Majpr Messengers are pictured as  all wise paragons of pious virtue and miraculous power. Texts which contract this  are allegorically or non‑literally interpreted (AB* SAQ III ch. 44). The hermeneutical maintenance of  `Iṣma / ma`ṣūm   is  a Bahā’ī religious touchstone of exegetical integrity and historiographical soundness. In Bābī‑ Bahā’ī exegesis , for example, Adam the maẓhar‑Ii ilāhī  never sinned by eating the forbidden fruit  in the garden of Eden (Gen 2‑3; Q.2:25; 20:115; cf. Q. 7:19). 5   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


  • BPT = Bahā’ī Publishing Trust;
  • BWC = The Bahā’ī World Centre, Haifa, Israel.
  • L = Lawḥ (pl. alwāḥ), a scriptural writing or sacred `Tablet’
  • MMMA = Majmu`ah-yi millī-yi maṭbu’at-i amrī (Iranian BPT.).  
  • INBMC = A privately published (in the mid. 1970s.) series of bound photocopies of mss. of the writings of the Bāb, Bahā’u’llāh and others in 100 + vols.
  • Q. = Qur’ān
  • QA = Qayūm al-asmā’ (see Bāb below).

The Bāb, Sayyid `Alī Muhammad Shirazī (1819-1850).

Arabic and Persian Bayāns including Frech translations of Gobineau (see bib. below) and A. L. M. Nicholas (1864-1939):

  • Ar- Bayān = al-Bayān al-`arabī in INBMC 43:1-68.
  • al-Bayān al-`Arabī, in `Abd al-Razzaq al-Ḥasani, al-Bābiyyun wa al-Bahā'iyyun fī ḥadirihim wa hadihim.  Sidon: Matba`at al-`Irfan, 1962, pp. 81-107
  • Ar. Bayan = French trans. in Gobineau 1865 [2nd ed. 1866 ) as Appendix entitled `Ketab-É-Hukkam’ [sic.] (Le livre des préceptes), pp. 461-543.
  • Ar-Béyan trans. Nicolas 1905 = Le Béyan Arabe, Le Livre Sacré Bábyse. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1905.
  • Per. Bayān = Bayān-i Farsī. Azali printed edition [Tehran nd.] 
  • Kitāb-i mustatab-i Bayān-i Farsī, INBMC vol. 24, dated 1954 as photocopy dated, 123 BE/ 1967.
  • Persian Bayān. UCLA Library: Special Collections. Box 97, MSS 741.  
  • Per. Béyan = Le Béyan Persan, trans. A. L. M. Nicolas, 4 vols. Paris: Librarie Paul Geuthner, 1911-14.
  • Ar. Dala’il = in Dalā'il-i sab`ah. np.nd. [Azalī ed. Tehran, 196?] [pp.](alif-nūn);   
  • Per. Dala’il = Dalā'il-i sab`a `Arabī va Farsī. n.p. n.d. (= Azalī edition [Tehran,196?]) 1-72.
  • Per. Dalā’il = Dalā'il-i sab`ah. np.nd (Azali printing based on several mss.).
  • S-Preuves = Le Livre des Sept Preuves de la mission du Bab. Paris: Maisonneuvre, 1902
  • K- Haykal = Haykal al-dīn. (The Temple of Religion”) np.nd [Tehran, Azalī ed. 196?].
  • `Letter to the Imam / ` People of the City of Medīna’) In INBMC 91: 23-25.
  • `Letter to Salmān’ in INBMC 91: 52-56.  
  • K-Panj-S = Kitāb-i panj sha'n. (“The Book of the Five Modes”), np.nd. [Tehran Azali ed. mid.1960s]
  • Qayyūm al-asmā’ / Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsif (Qur’ān 12) = QA.  [1] QA. INBMC III. Pagination usually refers to this early ms. [2] QA = Qayyūm al-asmā’ Afnān Lib. ms.5 ( copy of ms. dated 1261/1845).
  •  S-Haramayn = Ṣaḥīfa bayn al-ḥaramayn. CUL, Browne Or. Ms. F 7(9):1-125; TBA. ms. 6007C, 348-413.

Bahā’-Allāh, Mirza Ḥusayn `Ali Nūrī, (1817-1892).  

  • AQA = Āthār-i qalam-i a`lā. Vol. IV. Tehran: MMMA: 125 B.E./1968.
  • Aqdas = The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The Most Holy Book. Haifa: BWC, 1992/5.
  • Days of Remembrance: Selections From the Writings of Baha’u’llah for Baha’i Holy Days.  Haifa: Bahā’ī World Centre, 2017.
  • ESW [Persian] = L-Shaykh = Lawḥ.-i Ibn-i Dhi’b (“Epistle to the son of the Wolff”) = Lawḥ-i Khiṭāb bi-Shaykh Muḥammad Taqíī Mujtahid-i Iṣfahānī ma`ruf bi Najafī. Cairo: nd. 1338/1919-20.
  • ESW = Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (trans. Shoghi Effendi). Wilmette: BPT., rev. ed., 1971(76).
  • Jawahir = Jawāhir al-asrār. Brazil: Bahā’ī Publishing Trust. 160 BE/2003.  See also Mss. [1] INBMC 46:1ff [2] INBMC 99. Printings, AQA 3:4-88.
  • Jawahir trans. = Gems of the Divine Mysteries, Javāhiru’l-Asrār. Haifa : Baha’I World Centre, 2002.
  • KI = Kitāb-i īqān, Hofheim-Langenhain: Bahā'ī-Verlag, 1998/ 155 BE (= rep. K. īqān, Egypt, 1934); trans. Kitáb-i-Iqán: The Book of Certitude (tr. Shoghi Effendi). Wilmette, Illinois: BPT.,1989.
  • Lawḥ-i Khalīl, Mirza Ibrahīm Muballigh Shīrāzī ms in TBA ms. 3003C (photocopy in personal library), pp.1-30.
  • L-Hurufat = [Tafsīr] L- Ḥurūfāt al-muqaṭṭa`ah. Haifa ms. [2] INBMC 36:212-242; [3] Mā’idah-‘ āsmānī, IV:49-86.
  • L-Jawhar-i Ḥamd (“Tablet of the Essence of Praise”) in INBMC 35:161-168.
  • L-Khātam = Lawḥ-i Khātam al-nabiyyūn. (ms) = an untitled Tablet to a certain Ḥasan containing important statements touching upon the Qur’ānic `Lawḥ-i Khātam al-nabbiyīn’ and related matters.
  • L-Liqā’ = Lawḥ-i Liqā’ (Tablet of the Meeting with God) in Mā’idah-‘ Āsmānī, 8: 69-70.
  • L-Sarraj = Lawḥ.-i Sarrāj (Tablet to `Alī Muhammad Sarrāj), Ma’idih VII: 4-118; [2] INBMC 73:198-231.
  • L-Tajalliyāt = Lawh-i Tajalliyāt (Tablet of Effulhences) in Majmu`a 1980, pp. 63-71; trans. BWC., TBAA., 1980, pp.     (see below).

Ma’idah = `Abd al-Ḥamīd, Ishraq Khāvarī (ed.)

  • Mā'idah-yi āsmānī. vols. 1, 4, 7 and 8 (= writings of Bahā’u’llāh). Tehran: MMM., 128-9 BE/1971-2.

Majmu`ah 1980 + Translation (TBAA):

  • Majmu`ah = Majmu`ah min alwāḥ Ḥaḍrat-i Bahā’-Allāh. Belgium, 137 BE/ 1980.  
  • TBAA = Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Haifa: Baha’i World Centre, 1978. Reprints include US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1988  English translations of sixteen or so major Tablets of Bahā’-Allāh by Shoghi Effendi and others (original texts are printed in Majmu`ah, 1980  above). 

Rashḥ-i `Amā; =

  • Rashḥ-i `amā’. Haifa typsescript in the hand of Zayn al-Muqarrabīn [2] INBMC 36:460-1; [3] Ma’idih 4:184-6. trans. + commentary Lambden. BSB 2/1 (1983): 4-114.


Abrahamov. Binyamin.

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Adams, Edward.

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al-Āmilī, Abū al-Ḥasan al-Isfahani ( d. Isfahan, 1138/1726)

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Ayoub, Mahmud

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Birge, J. K.

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al-Bursī, Rajab. al-Ḥāfiẓ (d. c. 814/1411),

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Chittick, William C.

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Chodkiewicz, Michel.

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Corbin, Henri (1903 – 1978).

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Cole, Juan R.


Dāmād, Mīr Muhammad Astarabādī (d. 1041/1641)

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al-Ḥakīm, Su`ād

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Ḥaydar Āmulī, Sayyid Bahā’ al-Dīn (b. 720/1320 – d. 787/1385).

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al-Ḥurr al-`Amilī, Muhammad ibn al-Ḥasan (d. 1104/1693)

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Ibn al-`Arabī, Muḥyī al-Dīn (c. 638 /1240).

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Izutsu, Toshihiko (d. 1993).

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Jāmī, `Abd al-Raḥman (d. 898/1492)
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al-Jīlī, `Abd al-Karīm ibn Ibrāhīm ( d. c. 832/1428).

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