Bab Tafsir Hadith `Ama'

The Commentary of the Bab on the `Hadith of `Amā'

written for Sayyid Yahya Darabi, Vahid.

 

IN PROGRESS - Last updated 16-05-2020

Introductory Note

Stephen Lambden UC Merced.

Tradition has it that the Prophet Muhammad was asked, `Where was our Lord before He created the creation [or, `the heavens and the earth']? He is said to have replied, `He [God] was in a Cloud (`amā'), above it [or Him] air (hawā') and below it [or Him] air". [48] This reply probably originally expressed the conviction that God was hidden and self-subsisting in His own Being; dependent upon nothing. It perhaps indicated that before His work of creation, God was in obscurity, enshrouded in the mysterious "cloud" of His own abstracted Being, wrapped in a dark mist.  For Sufis like `Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī (1365-1420) `amā' indicated the absolute hiddenness of the transcendent Godhead. It signifies, "Being sunk in itself, bare potentiality. … the eternal and unchangeable ground of Being", the "absolute inwardness (buṭūn) and occultation (istitar)" of the transcendent Divine Essence (so Nicholson, 1967: 94-6).

 Influenced by  religio-philosophical (`irfani) Shi`i though as related to theosophical Sufism, both the Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh used Sufi terminology extensively. They made considerable use of the term `amā' though they rejected the monistic ontology that sometimes informed and determined certain attempts to locate the mystery of `amā'. In Bābī-Bahā'ī scripture `amā' has numerous senses such that it is not always indicative of the hidden and unknowable essence of God.

 In one of his early epistles the Bāb commented in some detail on the `tradition of `amā'. [49]  In it he states that this tradition indicates God's isolated independence. The term al-`amā' ("the cloud") only inadequately indicates the Divine dhāt ("essence"). On another level `amā' ("cloud") and hawā' ("air") indicate the created  nafs ("Self") of God, as opposed to the mystery of His transcendent and uncreated reality. God's being in `amā'  is expressive of the station (maqām)  of the manifestation (ẓuhūr)  of the "First Dhikr" (dhikr al-awwāl), the primal divine manifestation and locus of prophethood).

 In his interpretation, the Bāb seems to underline God's absolute otherness to such an extent that the term `amā' only indirectly hints at his transcendent unknowability. God's nafs ("Logos-Self") and dhāt ("Essence") are probably to be thought of as created and hypostatic realities indicative of, yet ontologically distinguishable from, His uncreated and absolute Ipseity.

 The manner then in which the Bāb expounds the ḥadīth of al-`amā' outrules those theosophical interpretations that are monistically oriented. The term `amā' indicates God's absolute otherness. It is derived from al-`amā or al-`amān ("blindness", "unknowing") for vision is blinded before God's Face and eyes are incapable of beholding His Countenance. `Amā' is indicative of a Reality that is "Unconditioned" (muṭlaq), "Absolute" (irf), "Uncompounded" (bat) and "Definitive" (? bātt ?).

 For the Bāb the `ḥadith of al-`amā' enshrines subtle and bewildering mysteries surrounding the Sinaitic theophany (see Qur'ān 7:142). It was not the unknowable essence of God (dhāt al-azal) that appeared in the "Kingdom of `amā' (malakāt al-`amā') and radiated forth from the Divine Light on Mount Sinai" but an amr (= lit command; here loosely `Logos' which God created from nothing). The theophany on the Mount was not the manifestation of `amā' as God's absolute essence or a monistic type `theophany or the Divine Essence' (tajallī al-dhāt) but the disclosure of the Divine Light (nur) "unto, through and in His Self (nafs)." In abstruse language the Bāb counters the monistic type interpretation of the relationship between `amā' and the `theophany of the Divine Essence' (tajallī al-dhāt) found in certain Sufi treatises. [50]

The Commentary of the Bab on the `Hadith of `Ama'.

IN PROGRESS 2020 - last updated 16-05-2020

The only complete ms. of this letter addressed to Sayyid Yahya Darabi, Vahid (d. Nayriz 1266/1850), the eldest son of Sayyid Jaʿfar Kashfī who became a Babi (follower of the Bab) in 1846,  known to the present writer, is that found as item 1 in the Iran Natonal Baha'i Archives ms. 6007C , pp.1-16.

INBA ms. 6007C , pp.1-16. PDf. Bab-Vahid 6007C.pdf

Expanded Annotated Photocopy: PDf. Bab-Vahid 6007C-exp.pdf

The commentary on the `Tradition of `Amā’ of the Bab

A commentary on the `Tradition of `amā’ was specifically written by the Bāb for Sayyid Yaḥyā Dārābī, Vaḥīd (d.1850 CE). It may date to between 1845 and 1846 when Sayyid Yaḥyā Dārābī, Vaḥīd interacted with and became a follower of the Bab and forms part of the longer series of expositions of Islamic Hadith texts (see INBMC ). Without going into details, it may be noted that far from being an apophatic mystery, `amā’ is described as an hypostatic “exteriorization from God" ( al-zāhir `an Allāh).

Tafsir hadīth of al-`amā' (the Divine Cloud).

العماء

 Tradition has it that the Prophet Muhammad was asked, `Where was our Lord before He created the creation [or, `the heavens and the earth']? He is said to have replied, `He [God] was in a Cloud العماء (`amā'), above it [or Him] air (hawā') and below it [or Him] air". [48] This reply probably originally expressed the conviction that God was hidden and self-subsisting in His own Being; dependent upon nothing. It perhaps indicated that before His work of creation, God was in obscurity, enshrouded in the cloud of His own Being, wrapped in a dark mist.

 For  twelver Shi`i Sufis like `Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī (1365-1420) العماء `amā' indicated the absolute hiddenness of the transcendent Godhead. It signifies, "Being sunk in itself, bare potentiality. … the eternal and unchangeable ground of Being", the "absolute inwardness (buṭūn) and occultation (istitar)" of the transcendent Divine Essence (so Nicholson, 1967: 94-6).

 Influenced by theosophical Sufism, both the Bāb and Bahā'-Allāh used Sufi terminology extensively including the term `amā' though they rejected the monistic ontology that sometimes informs and determines certain attempts to locate the mystery of `amā'. In Bābī-Bahā'ī scripture it is not always indicative of the hidden and unknowable essence of God.

 In one of his early epistles the Bāb commented in some detail on the `tradition of `amā'.[49]  In it he states that this tradition indicates God's isolated independence. The term al-`amā' ("the Cloud") only inadequately indicates the Divine dhāt ("essence"). On another level العماء `amā' ("cloud") and hawā' ("air") indicate the created  nafs ("Self") of God, as opposed to the mystery of His transcendent and uncreated reality. God's being in `amā'  is expressive of the station (maqām)  of the manifestation (ẓuhūr)  of the "First Dhikr" (dhikr al-awwāl  = the primal divine manifestation and locus of prophethood).

 In his interpretation, the Bāb seems to underline God's absolute otherness to such an extent that the term العماء `amā' only indirectly hints at his transcendent unknowability. God's nafs ("Logos-Self") and dhāt ("Essence") are probably to be thought of as created and hypostatic realities indicative of, yet ontologically distinguishable from, His uncreated and absolute Ipseity.

 For the Bāb the `ḥadith of al-`amā' enshrines subtle and bewildering mysteries surrounding the Sinaitic theophany (see Qur'ān 7:142). It was not the unknowable essence of God (dhāt al-azal) that appeared in the "Kingdom of `amā' (malakāt al-`amā') and radiated forth from the Divine Light on Mount Sinai" but an amr (= lit command; here loosely `Logos' which God created from nothing). The theophany on the Mount was not the manifestation of `amā' as God's absolute essence or a monistic type `theophany or the Divine Essence' (tajallī al-dhāt) but the disclosure of the Divine Light (nur) "unto, through and in His Self (nafs)." In abstruse language the Bāb counters the monistic type interpretation of the relationship between `amā' and the `theophany of the Divine Essence' (tajallī al-dhāt) found in certain Sufi treatises. [50]

Some Introductory Summary Notes 1980s.

For the Bâb the 'Hadith of 'Ama' also enshrines the mysteries surrounding the Sinaitic theophany (see Qur'ân 7:142). It was not the eternal unknowable Essence of God (dhat al-azal) that appeared in the celestial realm of 'ama' (malakut al-'ama') and radiated forth through the Divine Light on Mount Sinai but an amr (= lit. "command" = "Logos") which God created from nothing. The theophany on the Mount was not the manifestation of 'ama' as God's absolute essence -- not a monistic type 'theophany of the Divine Essence' (tajalli dhat) -- but the disclosure of the Divine Light (nür) "unto, through and in His Logos-Self (nafs), the Manifestation of God. The Bab clarifies his interpretation of the modes of the Divine theophany including the 'theophany of the Divine Essence' (tajalli dhat) found in certain Sufi treatises. Such a theophany does not involve a manifestation of the Divine Essence understood as a "cloud" or
anything else.

 

 

 

Tafsir hadīth of al-`amā' (the Theophanic Cloud) of the Bab.

Translation Stephen N. Lambden from TBA Ms. 6007C 1-16.

On the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Glorified he God in whose hand  are the kingdoms of the heavens and of the earth. No God is there except Him, the One (al-wahid), the All-Powerful (al-mutakabbir), the Single (al-ahad). the  Supremely Powerful (al-muqtadir), the Unique (al-fard), the All-Perpetual (al-samad) who, for all Eternity hath never been visioned, for He was ever without Peer relative to any single thing, a Solitary-Apophatic Essence (jawhar mujarrad), the Primal Dhikr (Remembrance) (dhikr al-awwal).  He is the One for whom is alotted the creative imperative "Be!" (kun) for His Garment (qamis) is the Garment of Sovereignty (qamis sultanat) to the end that there may be made manifest the handiwork of His Power (san` qudrat) through the resultant "And it is!" (wa fa-yakun)! [see Q. 2:117; 3:47, 59; 6:73; 16:40; 19:35; 36:82; 40:68]. And He, He is indeed One Elevated above all Elevation and Supremely Powerful (al-mutakabbir) above every expression of Power!

All levels of beings (al-mawjudat) were indeed detatched from the station (maqam) of His Proximity and His Exposition  and  all modes of Being (al-mumkinat) were differentiated on account of the theophany of His Gnosis (`irfan) and of His Glory (baha').