On Graphic/ Calligraphic Forms of the word Baha' as the Greatest Name of God

 

Two Graphic Baha'i forms

of the `Greatest Name of God (al-ism al-a`zam)',

Stephen Lambden, UC Merced,

IN PROGRESS - last updated 17-02-2018.

 

Imaged above are the two of the best known calligraphic Baha'i  forms of the `Greatest Name of God (al-ism al-a`zam), Baha'. The calligraphic symbol on the left spells the three or four lettered Arabic verbal nount Baha' in four directions. It is often inscribed on Baha'i ringstones which should (following Islamic norms) be worn on the little finger of the right hand.

The calligraphic sybmol on the right  reads ` Ya Baha' al-Abha' in Arabic, meaning `O thou glory of the all-glorious). It contains two different form of the word Baha' (radiant Glory-Splendor--Beauty, etc), namely, [1] the basic verbal noun Baha' and [2] the superlative form derived the same Arabic root (B-H-A-'),  Abha.(All-Glorious, Supremely Glorious). The letters in this brief invocation are  variously scripted such that the sentence begins with the address Ya (O thou) on the upper right while the two dots of this letter ya ("O thou") are placed in the centre above the extended letter "h" of the word Baha'. This word Baha' is written immediately below this opening address.(ya). Following the upright letter A (alif) on the top right is the definite article (al-) which precedes the superlative abha (A-B-H-A). The dot of the letter B in this superlative is in the lower left corner while the following letter H extends backwards forming a line in the centre of the calligraphic diagram which includes the last Arabic letter in al-abha, the final linked form of the al-alif al-maqṣūra   `the shortened-constricted  letter A which is an A  without the accompanying quasi-letter hamza (  ء), This ʾalif maqṣūra  الألف المقصورة, sometimes translated `broken alif' looks like a dotless yāʼ, (in the final form ). It is the final letter "a" of Abha, it might be noted here,  is the final letter "a" in the Arabic spelling of the names Musa (Moses) and  `Isa   (Jesus). . .    

On Graphic/ Calligraphic Forms of the word Baha' as the Greatest Name of God

 

 

Tablet in explanation of the Symbol of the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`zam) inscribed upon Baha'i Ringstones. c. 1911.

This important Persian explanation of one of the Baha'i graphical symbols of the al-ism al-a`zam ("Greatest Name of God") was written in responce to an question from a Parisian enquirer (an jinab dar paris, `that eminent one in Paris' [not Angelman?]). The symbol, probably devised by `Abd al-Baha' himself, has multiple Arabc letter B's (    ) and letter H's  (  ) spelling out the Arabic-Persian word بهاء , Baha' (Glory, Splendour) in four directions, flanked by two five pointed stars (haykals or pentalphas = ) symbolizing the Bab and Baha-Allah.This Lawh al-ism al-a`zam of `Abd al-Baha' has several times been printed in small calligraphic handwriting inside and adjacent to the larger greatest Name symbol. A framed calligraphic printing signed `Ayn  - `Ayn (=`Abd al-Baha' Abbas) and by Nur al-Din Zain (?) is dated 1330/1911-12. This Tablet with a decorative and ornate Persianate framing has several times been made available. The straightforwardly printed Persan text has also been printed a number of times :

Persian printed text :

1971. Rep. XXXX  `Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari, Ma'ida-yi asmani. Vol. II, pp. 11-103. Pdf.

TRANSLATIONS :

191X.  Portion of a Tablet Explaining the Inscription of the Ring-Stone. n.p., n.d. [after 1913]. See Collins 1990. No. 3.90. 5 (page 12) where we read, "Dittoed compilation of Tablets regarding the Greatest Name and the ringstone symbol. Includes an essay by Thornton Chase entitled 'Greatest Name'."

19XX. Tablets of Abdul Baha Abbas. Vol. X. Chicago: Bahai Publishing Society, 19XX, pp.

1923 + 8: Baha'i Scriptures. ed. Horace Holley. New York Brentano's Inc., 1923 (the trans. is slighly abridged = pp. 478-479, No.914). Rep. Baha'i Publishing Committee, 1928.

1945+1971. Baha'i World Faith.

1994. Denis MacEoin. Rituals In Babism and Bahaism: Cambridge: Centre of Middle Eastern Studies, 1994. Appendix XXII, pp. 143-144. PDf.

THE TABLET OF `ABD AL-BAHA' IN EXPLATION OF THE GRAPHIC BAHA'I FORM OF THE AL-ISM AL-A`ZAM.