Tafsir Surat al-Hamd (The Commentary on the Surah of Praise) of the Bab

 

The Tafsir Surat al-Hamd 

Tafsīr Ṣūrat al-Ḥamd or al-Fātiha (`The Opening’, Q.1).

(The Commentary on the Surah of Praise or on the Surat al-Fatiha (The Surah of the Opening, Quran 1) of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850).

Introduction and Translaton

Stephen Lambden UCMerced,

1980s + 2018. In Progress and Under Revision.

 

Tafsir Surat al-Hamd (The Commentary on the Surah of Praise)

This is an early, c. 1260-1261 / 1844-5 commentary of the Bab on the Surat al-Fatiha, the  Surah of the Opening, the first or opening Surah of the Qur'an which has seven verses (Q 1:1-7)

 

Tafsir. Hamd = Tafsīr Sūrat al-ḥamd (Q.1) (“Commentary upon the Sūra of Praise [Fātihah]”),

[1] INBMC 69:120-153. [2] INBA 5014C, 84-129; [3] INBA 6010C, 5-41.

Probably also from this period is the commentary of the Bāb upon the opening Sūrah of the Qur’ān, the Sūrat al-Fāṭiḥa (the Opening) which again commences with the basmala. After the basmala this first Sūrah of the Q. opens with a verse commencing with al-ḥamd, “Praised be …”). It is closely related to, though separate from, the T. Basmala (above). What follows is an extract from the T. Sūrat al-ḥamd on the three letter, opening word bism (Q. 1:1) of the basmala (= “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”), Typical of the exegesis of the Bāb we, towards its beginning, read:

Tafsīr Ṣūrat al-Ḥamd or al-Fātiha (`The Opening’, Q.1).

Introductory Note

In the commentary, the Bab dwells upon the three letter, opening word bism (“In the Name” Q. 1:1b) of the nineteen letter basmala (first letter “b”). Typical of  his exegesis   he makes mention of the al-nuqṭa, the diacritical dot or “Point” (•) at the base of the first letter “B” of the basmala. The Bab further comments upon the elided or hidden letter alif (“A”) [hidden] in the bism (“In the Name) as an expression of the Unseen (al-ghayb).[1] He adds that the [first] letter ”B” (al-bā’) [of the bism] is an allusion unto [His] Lordship (rubūbiyya) above everything. Its second  letter “s” (al-sīn) alludes to His immanence or repose (sakīnah) which is agreeable relative to His existing in servitude (al-`ubūdiyya) through the concomitant “Glory of His Lordship” (jalāl al-rubūbiyya). The “m” (al-mīm) is an allusion to the Glory of God (majd Allāh) which was Self-revealed (tajallī) unto Him and through Him for God made this “Glory” (majd) expressive of His own Logos-Self (nafs) in that “Sanctified Temple” (haykal al-muqaddas) and the “Luminous Countenance” (tal`at al-munawwar).

The Bab continues to explain that the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`ẓam) [of God] is he who is hidden between the “B” and the “s” in the world of the Unseen (`alam al-ghayb), this hidden Letter “A” who is found between the two diacritical dots or points (al-nuqṭatayn) of the two letter “b”s in the word bāb, “gate”. This is allusive of the Bab himself as the locus [the letter A] of the servant (ḥarf al-`abd)  and  the manifestation of the Point (al-nuqṭa) between the two alphabetical shapes (the letter “A” stands between two letter “B”s in the word Bāb) (T. Ḥamd, 69:134). [2]

 

[1] The word bism is actually bi-i[a]sm) in the Arabic of the bi/asm. The elided or `hidden’ letter “A” is the first letter of the Arabic word for name , a/i+s+m, “In the Name…).    

[2] Towards the end of this Tafsīr, the Bāb sets out some detailed instructions for the construction of a talismanic device, a subject found throughout the ministry and writings of the Bāb  (INBMC 69: 147ff; MacEoin, 1989).   

 

Tafsīr Sūrat al-Ḥamd (Commentary on the Sūrah of Praise, Q. 1). 

(The Surah of Praise / Surat al-Fatiha, Surah of the Opening)

 Bismillāh al-rahman al-rahim

In the name of God the Inaccessible the Most Holy

I

 

 

When it [the Point (•), al-nuqṭa, the diacritical dot at the base of the first letter “B” of the basmala] appeared there was [also] manifest that which is Unseen (al-ghayb), namely, the letter alif (A) [hidden] in the bism (“In the Name).[1] Now the [first] letter”B” (al-bā’) [of the bism] is an allusion unto [His] Lordship (rubūbiyya) above everything. The [second] letter “S” (al-sīn) alludes to His immanence [repose] (sakīnah) which is agreeable relative to His Beingness in servitude (al-`ubūdiyya) through the concomitant Glory of His Lordship (jalāl al-rubūbiyya). The “M” (al-mīm) is an allusion to the Glory of God (majd Allāh) which was Self-revealed (tajallī) unto Him and through Him  for He made this “Glory” (majd) to express His own Logos-Self (nafs) in that Sanctified Temple (haykal al-muqaddas) and the Countenance (tal`at al-munawwar).

Now the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`ẓam) [of God] is He who is hidden between the “B” and the “S” in the world of the Unseen (`alam al-ghayb) [= the hidden Letter “A”].  And he [the “A”] appeared between the two [diacritical dots] Points (al-nuqṭatayn) [of the two letter “B”s in the word bāb, “gate”) at the apex of the two divisions (al-juz’ayn) for the numerical value of the Bism (= “In the Name” = b+s+m = 2+60+40) is 102. Thus it (bism) is characterized by three pillars [letters] (dhāt arkān al-thalātha) expressive of the manifestation of these three divisions [letters = B+s+m] of the Primordial Word (kalimat al-awwaliyya) which is [essentially] the Point (al-nuqṭa). Thus was manifest the locus [the letter A] of the servant (ḥarf al-`abd) [the Bāb] and the treasured Pillar (rukn al-makhzūn) through the manifestation of the Point (al-nuqṭa) between the two alphabetical shapes (the letter “A” stands between two letter “B”s in the word Bāb). There is consequently allusion to the Point (al-nuqṭa) which is in him. Wherefore did the Imam say, “The Greatest Name (ism al-a`ẓam) is in the Bismi’llāh (In the Name of God…) as corresponds to the assertion that `It is closer than the black of the eye is to its white’. And that [Greatest] Name is the Name of the [cosmological, prophetological] Point (•) (ism al-nuqṭa)… (T. Ḥamd, 69:134).

 

 

[1] The words bism (= bi-i[a]sm) in the Arabic of the basmala elides a `hidden’ letter “A” which is the first letter of the word for Name (a/i+s+m, “In the Name…).    

Towards the end of this Tafsīr, the Bāb sets out some detailed instructions for the construction of a talismanic device, a subject found throughout the ministry and writings of theBāb  (INBMC 69: 147ff; MacEoin, 1989). 

 

Bxxxl (XXX).