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QA Gateways 1


Pt. I

The Sūrah Titles of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ of Sayyid `Alī Muḥammad Shīrāzī (1819-1850 CE) : Gateways to the Earliest Thought of the Bāb.

Stephen Lambden (UC-Merced, USA).

Revision in progress - 23-08-2016.

 At a previous MESA meeting of the Shaykhī-Bābī-Bahā’ī Studies forum around the year 2000, I presented a paper on the al-ḥurūfāt al-muqaṭṭa`a (the `isolated’ or `disconnected’ letters) of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ (henceforth = QA.) of the Bāb (1819-1850 CE)  to a small but select group of individuals,  including Juan Cole, Mohamad Tavakoli and Sholeh Quinn. This presentation to the same MESA group supplements and extends aspects of that previous presentation. Both these papers will appear in more detailed, partly tabular form on this and my old personal websites. A  preliminary chart based version of the substance of  this paper is already published : The Sūra Titles within the Qayyum al-asma'. PDf = QA-Surah Titles.pdf

 The subject of the QA sūrah titles or names is neither obscurantist nor irrelevant to central issues within Bābī and related studies. An understanding of them throws important light on the earliest thought of the Bāb and gives a glimpse of what this important messianic claimant considered key topics or words within his new religious discourse as primarily rooted in the Islamic-Shī`ī-Shaykhī world of early Qajar Persia. It remains a major, regrettable academic desideratum that the QA is still unpublished. There is no critical edition even thought this weighty and important Bābī scriptural text is foundational. It has been very little studied or translated. Its Sūrah titles remain largely unknown and unstudied. 

The QA Sūrah titles have been little more than listed then only briefly and inadequately commented upon by Edward G. Browne (d. 1926) in his early 1892 Catalogue & Description... (pp. 262, 699-701), A. L. M. Nicholas (1864-1937) in his 1905 Seyyed `Ali Mohammed (pp. 22-28) and `Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavārī (d. 1972) in his Qāmūs-I Īqān (Vol. IV: 1279-1282). These afore mentioned writers made no comprehensive survey of multiple QA manuscript source(s) usually failing to indicate even the few they consulted. Up till now the QA Sūrah titles were only tabulated from limited sources and very briefly analyzed or commented upon. In his 1987 Ph.D thesis Todd Lawson (see pp.262-254+ ) summarized matters succinctly but did not devote the subject to any detailed analysis. Few of these previous writers spelled out the source(s) of the QA Sūrah titles. None made a comparative evaluation of mss. of the Kitab al-Fihrist (on which see below) or  charted pertinent data  from a range of unpublished QA mss.

This summary paper remains very much work in progress the detailed results of which will gradually be posted in more detail on my personal Website -  which you can find either by typing my name or the word Hurqalya into the google search engine which should bring you straight to its main entry page. I initially imagined that this would be a quick, simple, straightforward  paper to write though the more I looked into the matter the more complex and rewarding it has become. The aforementioned writers have generally given scant attention to the question of the Sūrah titles of the QA. Key, fundamental issues remain unstudied, ignored or bypassed. Hopefully these notes will carry matters a little further. 

There are three less Sūrahs in the QA than in the Qur’ān (114-3 = 111) though the length of these two Arabic texts is not very different, for reasons which will be clear later in this paper. The QA has 111 Sūrahs each of (around) 42 verses of rhyming prose (saj`) of varying length; thus totaling 111 X 42 verses or 4662 verses. The Qur’an has 114 Sūrahs totaling around 6,200 verses, again of varying lengths. While the qur’anic Sūrah lengths can vary considerably those of the QA are generally all around 3-5 pages long. Certain sūras in both these sacred books have some very long verses and some very short verses; hence their differing sizes (see below).

  Aside from four apparently untitled  sūrahs (which seem never to have been named in any known Kitab al-fihrist or other mss. (?) known to the present writer), the 111 sūrah titles of the QA were all registered or set down by the Bab himself in his early Kitāb al-Fihrist (Book of the Index) which is dated to the 15th Jumādā II /1261 or 21st June 1845. This work was written in Bushire during the post pilgrimage period of the Bab's life before the completion of his journey back to Shiraz (for four or more mss listed by MacEoin, see Sources, 188- more mss. are now known). In mss of the Qayyum al-asma’ the Sūrah titles are not always filled or written in. Not all scribes had easy access to copies of the Kitab al-fihrist.  How early extant mss. of the QA included the Sūrah titles is currently unknown; though Sūrah titles seem to have appeared in a few  mss. which might be even earlier than the Kitab al-fihrist (e.g. very early pre-1845 CE mss. ?).

The Sūrah titles of the QA may be viewed as gateways or signposts to major themes within the nascent or emergent Bābī religion. The QA may be viewed as the first major, obviously neo-Quranic, revelation of the Bāb. The Sūrah titles are conceptual gateways into the religious mind the Bāb. This Sayyid from Shiraz  was a messianic figure about to challenge the inimitability (the i’jāz) of the Qur’ān and found a new, dīn al-khalīṣ (“pristine religion” so QA. 1:5a), a pure essentially neo-Shī`ī religion which he refers to as al-dīn al-qayyim, an “Upright Religion” (QA. 1:7a). This emergent, ultimately post-Islamic  Faith would come to challenge and shake mid-19th century Qajar Persia (Iran) to its foundations.  The QA presents itself as the bāṭin or the deep, inner dimension of the Qur'an. It has much in common with this Arabic text upon which it is modeled as a  kitāb jadīd ("new book") of divine revelation from God communicated via the occulted and hidden Imam  via  his messianic agent the Bab. 

The Qur’ānic Arabic term Sūra ("text unit"[ of revelation]; "division"; "chapter"...).

 According to Islamic theology revelations from God  to the Prophet Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel were believed to have been were communicated over about a 22-year period. They  total something like  6,123 verses of varying length. This body of Revelations was, for most, if not all of the Prophet’s lifetime, organized into sections or sūrahs ultimately compiled together so as to make up the Qur’ān. 

 The Arabic word sūra is known from the Qur’an where it occurs ten times in six different sūras which all seem to date to the (late) Medinan period:

  • Q. 2:23 (21), "then bring a sūra like it, and call your witnesses"...

  • Q. 9:64 (65), "the hypocrites are afraid, lest a sūra should be sent down against them"...

  • Q. 9:86 (87), "and when a sūra is sent down, saying, `Believe in God'"...

  • Q. 9:124 (125), "whenever a sūra  is sent down to thee, some of them say"...

  • Q. 9:127 (128), "whenever a sūra  is sent down, they look at one another"...

  • Q. 10:38 (39) “Say: Bring a sūra like it (mithlihi) and [for assistance] call upon whom you can besides God”  ... (perhaps the "oldest evidence" is this "polemic discourse about the inimitability of  qur'anic speech".

  • Q. 11:13 (16), "then bring you ten sūras the like of it, forged

  • Q. 24:1 (1), "A sūra that We have sent down and prescribed [appointed]. We have sent down clear signs that you might be reminded" Here sūra it is used "in place of the more usual kitāb... in a hymnal annunciation of a revealed text to be communicated" (so Neuwirth, `Sūra(s)' EQ 6:167).

  • Q. 47:20a (22a), "those who believe say, Why has a sūra not been sent down?'"...

  • Q. 47:20b (22b), "when a clear sūra is sent down. and therein fighting is mentioned...

  • cf. Q. 57:13 use of ṣūr = "wall", "enclosure, "fence")" (see H. Kassis, Concordance, 1983: 1115)

It is clear from these references that the prophet Muhammad claimed that he was in receipt of sūras, segments of divine revelation, which were "sent down or "revealed" from God. Sūras may constitute oral units of revelation which may be oral texts or written tokens of divine guidance. Other persons could not produce such inimitable tokens of waḥy (divine revelation). At the time of the Prophet `People of the Book' (Jews, Christians etc) and others expected evidences of supernatural guidance in the form of sūras  which constituted encapsulated `signs' or `tokens' of divine guidance. A. Neuwirth,  reckons that "it is highly questionable if the term sūra was used during the Prophet's lifetime to denote the "chapters" of the Qur'an in general which were only later designated as sūras" (`Sūra(s)' EQ 6:167).

The Arabic word    Sūra (Sūrah) has been succinctly defined by Angelica Neuwirth at the beginning of her excellent Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (= EQ) article  on Sūra(s) as “A literary unit of undetermined length within the Qur’an” (see EQ vol. 5: 166-176). This word came to describe the divisions or sections (loosely, “chapters”) of the Arabic revelations to the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE) into which the Qur’ān came to be divided. The sūras are real divisions in the body of the Qur'ân. The translation 'chapter' is sometimes used, but this is not a wholly adequate translation of the qur'anic Arabic word sūra.

The word Sūra سورة (pl. suwar) : possible Hebrew or Syriac derivation...

The qur’ānic  Arabic word sūra has been thought by including Theodore Nöldeke (1836-1930), and a number of other 19th and 20th century western orientalists and academic scholars, to be a loanword derived from the (Mishnaic) Hebrew         word shūrāh, which can signify "rank", "file", "line" or "row". Arthur Jeffery (1892-1959), in his seminal, pioneering The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an (1st ed. Oriental Institute, Baroda, 1938) doubted this derivation (see rep. Leiden: Brill, 2003, pp. 180-182) as did Richard Bell (1876-1952) who noted that it was a term used of "bricks in a wall and of vines". Rejecting this Hebrew derivation of the Arabic sūra he suggested one from the Syriac  ṣūrṭā which can mean "writing", "scripture":

"The word sūra (plural suwar) also occurs in the text, but its derivation is doubtful. The most accepted view is that it comes from the Hebrew shūrāh, 'a row', used of bricks in a wall and of vines. From this the sense of a series of passages, or chapter, may perhaps be deduced, but it is rather forced. Besides, it hardly gives the sense in which the word is used in the Qur'an itself. In 10.38/9 the challenge is issued: 'Do they say: "He has devised it"?; let them come then with a sūra like it'. In 11.13/16 it is a challenge to bring ten sūras like those which have been produced. In 28.49, however, where a similar challenge is given, it is to produce a book, or writing, from God. Evidently the sense required is something like 'revelation' or 'Scripture'. The most likely suggestion is that the word is derived from the Syriac ṣūrṭā, which has the sense of 'writing', 'text of Scripture', and even 'the Scriptures'. The laws which govern the interchange of consonants in Arabic and Syriac are against that derivation, but in Syriac itself the spelling of the word varies to ṣūrthā, and even surthā; and in any case, in words directly borrowed, these philological laws do not necessarily hold" (Bell [+Montgomery-Watt] Introduction, 58; see also Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary, p.180ff).

The above pioneering suggestions are now largely doubted or rejected entirely. A recent related suggestion, however, is that the qur'anic Arabic sūra may derive from the Syriac shūrayā ("beginning") meaning "short psalms that are sung before the reading of scripture" (Neuwirth, `Sūra(s)' EQ 6:167). This whole matter invites further detailed research in the light of Rabbinic and Patristic practices and terminology associated with Semitic-Abrahamic scripture and its liturgical or other modes of delimitation, partitioning and associated recitation. In this respect it is worth consulting relevant papers in the volumes making up the important series `Pericope, Scripture as Written and Read in Antiquity' (Van Gorcum, The Netherlands, 2000, and ongoing). The paper, for example by  K. D. Jenner in Pericope Vol.1, Delimitation Criticism  entitled `The Unit Delimitation in the Syriac Text of Daniel and its Consequences for Interpretation' examines a number of ancient (8th. cent. CE) biblical manuscripts of the Syriac Peshiṭta  the texts of which are frequently "marked with or interrupted by rosettes, vignettes in minium (red pigment) and strings of dark brown thick dots as well. A second category of markers is that of titles inscribed in minium in or added to the text. These titles may theologically label the content of the following pericope or may relate to its chronological scheme or to some ecclesiastical calendar or lectionary system" (p.112). Such matters are highly relevant to the study of the emergence of early Qur'an manuscripts which themselves contain markings of the kind just mentioned. Some of these early Qur'an mss. contain headings, dots and blank spaces pertinent to the study of the evolution of surahs as Qur'an segments. Examination of very early Qur’an manuscripts indicates that sūrah beginnings were indicated by the use of colored inks (cf. add    EQ  add .).

The Titles or Names of the Sūrahs of the Qur'an

The 114 Sūras of the Qur'an each came to have individual names or titles; mostly, if not wholly, from the first few decades after the time of the Prophet during the early `Umayyad period (661-750 CE). They were not all fixed by a single designation. There has never been any absolute agreement as to all of the qur'anic sūra names. Several are known by multiple designations in different parts and eras of the Islamic world, e.g. Q. 112 Ikhlāṣ  ("Sincerity")  or Sūrat al-Tawḥīd ("the Divine Unity").  In modern printed Qur'ans a title section provides the name of the Sūrah and its number in the sequence of 114 sūras.

The names of sūras are often taken from,

  • a) Initial words  or verses within a given sūra e.g. Sūrat al-Ṣād, Q. 38:1;  Sūrat al-Qāf Q.50:1; 
  • b) A rare or memorable word occurring within a sūra, e.g. Q. 29: 41, `Ankabūt = "spider"; Q. 80: 1 Abasa "He frowned"; 97:1b Laylat al-Qadr, 'Night of Power'; Q. 16 Sūrat al-Nahl (`The Sūra of the Bee[s]')
  • c) A major theme within a specific sūra, e.g. Q.2 Sūrat al-Baqara (the Sūra of the Cow) which contains the a version of the biblical story of the `golden calf'; 
  • d) According to a traditional designation which is not always based on words or terminology found within that specific sūra, e.g. Q. 1 Sūrat al-Fatiha (The Sūra of the Opening), which is in fact a prayer or devotional qur'anic prolegomenon widely recited in Islamic ritual practice.

Some sūra names are not found in the qur'anic sūras they designate.  e.g.  

A complete list of the qur'anic sūra names in the A. J. Arberry translation can be conveniently found at :

A complete list of the QA sūra names largely based on mss. of the Kitāb al-fihrist of the Bab, can be found here : The Sūrah Titles of the Qayyūm al-asma' : Tabulated and Introduced. PDf = QA-Surah Titles.pdf

It will be seen that a number, though by no means all of the sura  names of the  Qur'an are repeated in the QA. The following is a list of the QA Sura titles that are identical with those of the Qur'an, a few occuring more than once:

  • QA.  1  = al-Mulk (the Dominion) = Q. 67.

  • QA.  5  = Yūsuf (Joseph [or Ḥusayn]) = Q. 12.

  • QA.  9  = al-Tawḥīd (the Divine Unity) [Ikhlāṣ, "Sincerity"] = Q. 112. 

  • QA. 20 = al-Nūr  (the Light) = Q. 24.

  • QA. 23 = al-`Aṣr (the Afternoon) = Q. 103.

  • QA. 33 = al-Naṣr (the Victory) = Q. 110.

  • QA. 40  = [+87] al-Insān (Man-Humanity) = Q. 76.

  • QA. 64 = al-Ḥamd (the Laudation) [= Fatiḥa] = Q. 1.

  • QA. 71 = al-Qalam (the Pen) = Q. 68.

  • QA. 73  = al-Kahf (the Cave) = Q. 18.

  • QA. 75  = al-Shams (the Sun) = Q. 91.

  • QA. 87  = al-Anbiyā' (the Prophets) = Q. 27.

  • QA. 103 = al-Ḥajj (the Pilgrimage) = Q. 22.

  • QA. 106  = al-Jum`a (the Gathering) = Q. 62.

  • QA. 111 = al-Mu`minīn (the Believers) = Q. 23.

The fact that the Bab in his Kitab al-Fihrist (and elsewhere?) adopted as QA sūrah names between 14 and 16 of the extant, standard Qur'an Surah names, illustrates the level of his confirmation of sacredness of the Islamic sacred book, the holy Qur'an. More than 10% of the QA surah Names are indentical with those of the Qur'an. The almost 100 QA surahs with different, non-qur'anic names or titles highlights the boldness of the degree to which the QA goes beyond the Qur'anic pattern or archetype of Islamic norms. Many of the other sura titles of the QA utilize qur'anic vocabulary though sometimes with developed Islamic or post-Islamic connotations. A percentage of QA surah titles are meant to call attention to the messianic role of the Bāb or to the implications of the coming, imminent age of apocalyptic fulfillment or eschatological renewal. The pure, renewed religion of the Bab is firmly rooted in the Qur'an but interprets it anew and transcends its standard exposition. The QA challenges the i`jāz or inimitability of the Qur'an by echoing or mirroring it  as re-revealed on a bāṭin (deep esoteric) level from the imamological realm on high.

 It is perhaps worth noting that there are no obvious signs in the QA. of the Bab  adopting any of those names associated with surahs that certain Shi`i thinkers considered omitted by Sunni authorities at the time of the collection of the Qur'an under the third Caliph `Uthmān ibn Affān (d. Medina, 35/656); lost or forged suras such as the Surat al-Nurayn (the Sura of the Twin Lights) or Surat al-Walāya (the Sura of the Succession/Guidance/Guardianship).

The Qayyūm al-asmā’: Surahs and Verses...

 This is not the time or place to introduce the QA in any detail.  It must suffice to say that this 300-500 page Arabic work was revealed, written down, or communicated in segments by the Bab from the evening of May 22, 1844 CE when he first made his messianic role known. According to the Bab himself it took around 40-days for this work to be completed (Add ref. here     ). For some introductory notes on the QA see the linkls on the Haykal page of this website

  • Add
  • Add

 According to Shoghi Effendi’s redaction of Muhammad-Nabīi Zarandī’s Tārīkh (History) known as the `Dawn-Breakers’ (1st ed. 1932), the initial chapter of the Bāb’s earliest, immediate, `pre-declaration’ revelatory writing known as the Qayyum al-asma' was communicated on the evening of his messianic disclosure before his first disciple Mullā Ḥusayn Bushrū’ī (d. 1265/1849),  on  May 22nd 1844 CE (= 5th Jumadi 1, 1260 AH). It was the 42 verse 3-4 page first Sūrah, the Sūrat al-Mulk (Sūrah of the Dominion /Sovereignty = QA1), of his ultimately weighty, around neo-Qur’anic Arabic revelation bearing, (among other names) the allusive Arabic title Qayyūm al-asmā’ (lit. `Self-Subsisting of the [Divine] Names’).  Not unjustifiably this complex work had long-ago  been deemed a `new [Bābī] Qur’ān’ for, like the Qur’ān which is its obvious prototype, it is divided up into sections, `chapters’ or sūrahs. 

 There are in fact 111 of these new Arabic sūrahs in the QA. For the most part they incorporate a direct and indirect though succinct revelatory commentary upon each of the 111 verses of the Qur’ānic Sūrat Yusuf (Sūrah of Joseph), the 12th chapter of the Qur’an which expounds the story of the Israelite patriarch who, for Muslims, is an elevated prophet named Joseph who lived in the 2nd millennium BCE.  For the Bāb the Joseph figure is a messianic  archetype (cf. antitype) representative of the third Imam Ḥusayn (d.80/661) who was martyred a little lea then 30 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (in 632 CE). For more than 1,000 years Shi`i Muslims have expected Imam Husayn  to appear at the Shī`ī Islamic eschaton or yawm al-qiyāma (`Day of Resurrection'). For the Bab the qur'anic story of Joseph was replete with messianic meaning and apocalyptic promise;

 The  111 sūras of the QA  are roughly of equal length, spanning roughly three to six pages of text.  Each sūra is divided up by the Bāb into 42 verses after the abjad value of the qur'anic Arabic  lī meaning "before me" and found at Q. 12:4b (Ar. لي = l + ī = 30+10= 40) another two being added representing "the sun and the moon" (40 +2 = 42) mentioned in the same qur'anic verse (add ref.      ). This figure of 42 verse per sūra is explicitly confirmed in the Bāb's early Khuṭba al-dhikriyya ("The Sermon of the Remembrance") where it is stated in the context of an imamologically numbered categorization of the early works of the Bāb dating from between 1260-1262 AH (mid-1844-1846 CE):

"The Fourth [revelational categorization] is the Ḥusaynid Book (kitāb al-Ḥusayniyya) which is the Commentary upon the Sūrah of Joseph (Sharḥ Sūrat Yūsuf = Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsuf = Qayyūm al-asmā') -- upon him be peace -- which is divided up into one hundred and eleven firmly established [clearly delineated] (muḥkamat) sūrahs. Every one of them is made up of forty two verses. These constitute a sufficient [messianic] testimony unto whomsoever exists upon the earth or lieth beneath the Divine Throne (al-`arsh)" (cited Afnan 2000: 472; cf. 445).

 The same forty-two mode of sūrah versification of the QA., is evident in certain mss. of this work; most notably the early 1261 mss. of Muhammad Mahdī ibn Karbalā'ī where  QA1 and QA2 (and other sūrah headings) have the following words after the sūrah title (e.g. Sūrat al-mulk) and  in between the basmala  :  wa hiya ithnā'[tāni] wa arba`ūn "and it [the Sūrah] has forty two verses".

 While then the Sūrah lengths may occasionally vary by as much as several pages  they are never as different in length as that between the opening lengthy Qur’ānic sūras and the very short Sūras towards its end. While in the Qur’ān the longest Sūrah, the Sūrat al-Baqara (Q2) contains around 286 verses spanning about 35 pages the brief Sūrat al-Kawthar (“Eschatological Abundance” = Q. 108) contains only 2 verses spanning about 3 lines of text. The final qur’anic Sūrat al-nās (“The People”= Q. 114) again has only six verses or 3 lines of text (see Bell +Watt, Introduction, pp.58-9).

 The Qur’ānic arrangement of Sūrahs is generally from long sūras to short sūras. In this respect, relative to sūrah length,  the QA is different from the Qur’ān. The former has 111 Sūrahs the latter 114 Sūras. The Qur’an occupies about  300-400 pages totaling something like 6346  verses or (it has been observed) 6234 numbered verses and 112 un-numbered basmala verses (= Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim). The Shi`i commentator and writer Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabāʼī (d. 1402/1981) in his Persian  Qur'an dar Islam (trans.  Assadullah al-Dhaakir Yate in 1987 as `The Qur'an in Islam' Qum: Ansarian Publications) states that "the enumeration and delineation of the verses date from the time of the Prophet [Muhammad, d. 630 CE] adding that "there are six views concerning the total number of verses in the Qur'an, as related by [Abu Amr `Uthmān ibn Sa`īd] al-Dānī (d. 444/1053). Some have said that the total is 6,000, others 6,204, and some 6,219. From these six estimations, two are from the reciters of Medina  and four from the other areas to which `Uthmanic copies were sent, namely Mecca, Kufa, Basra and Sham [Syria-Palestine]." (p.107).

Verses in the Qur'an and QA

Like the Q., QA mss. are something like 300-400 pages long with (theoretically), a total of 42 x 111 or 4,662 verses of rhyming prose. The basmala  with the qur'anic citations which are commented upon and / or the isolated letters (al-hurufat al-muqatta`a) are counted  as numbering among the forty-two verses of each QA sūra. Exactly how has yet to be determined.  The QA is approximately the same length, perhaps a little shorter than, the Qur’ān itself. Though he Bāb himself stated that there should be forty-two verses in each sūrah of the QA as accords with the abjad numerical value of the Arabic (meaning "before me" in Q. 12:4b Ar. لي = l + ī = 30+10= 40 and the additional 2 = 42), it is not always clear how this figure can be arrived at. In QA1 the 42 verses seem clear enough though the 42 figure at times seems to be "symbolic" rather than a clear setting down of 42 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`). Forty-two verses seems though to hold good for various sūrahs such, for example, as QA5. the Surat Yusuf or Surat Husayn (QA5). Elsewhere the "forty-two" configuration cannot easily be worked out. Some verses of the QA are very short while others occasionally extend to make up very long pericopae ("paragraphs"). This is also the case in the Qu'rān itself with which the QA has a great deal in common; especially respecting its form, style vocabulary and Arabic verses in rhyming prose.

 In neo-qur'ānic fashion QA1 opens with the standard Islamic basmala (= Bismillah al-raḥman al-raḥim, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate’ Though not the case with QA1  which seems the only QA surah without a prefixed Qur'an 12 verse citation (cf. the Fatiha) there normally follows  a citation of one of the verses of the Sūrat Yusūf (Q. 12) usually followed by a succession of isolated letters. Then follows a succession of verses making the total up to 42.

        A few  examples of QA verses of varying length from Sūra 1, the Sūrat al-Mulk. First the quite long  verse 10 then the last fairly short verse 42 :


اللّه قد قدّر ان يخرج ذلك الكتاب فی تفسير احسن القصص  من عند محمّد بن الحسن بن علی بن محمّد بن علی بن موسی   بن جعفر بن محمّد بن علی بن الحسين بن علی بن ابيطالب  علی عبده ليكون حجّة اللّه من عند الذّكر علی العالمين بليغاً  

God, verily, hath decreed that this Book be divulged in interpretation (tafsīr)  of the  "Best of Narratives" (aḥṣan al-qaṣaṣ, Q.12:3)  [= the Joseph story in the Qur'an] on the part of Muhammad [the hidden 12th Imam] son of Ḥasan [al-`Askarī, 11th Imam] (d. c. 260/874]  son of `Alī [al-Hadi, 10th Imam](d. c. 254/868) son of Muhammad [al-Taqī, 9th Imam [(d. c. 220/835) son of `Alī  [al-Riḍā', 8th Imam, d. c. 203/818] son of Mūsā [al-Kāẓim, 7th Imam] (d. c. 183/799) son of Ja`far [al-Sādiq, 6th Imam], (d. c. 148/765) son of Muhammad [al-Bāqir, 5th Imam] ( d. c. 120/738?)  son of `Alī [Zayn al-`Ābidīn, 4th Imam] (d. c. 95/713) son of Ḥusayn [3rd Imam] (d. c. 61/680) son of `Alī  ibn Abī Ṭālib  [1st Imam] (d. c. 40/661) unto His servant [= the Bāb] (d. 1266/1850) to the end that it might be an eloquent Proof of God (ḥujjat-Allāh)  from the Remembrance (al-dhikr) unto all the worlds.


و هو القاهر فوق عباده  هو اللّه كان بكلّشیء عليماً      

He is One Wrathful (al-qāhir)  beyond His servants.  And God is He Who knoweth all things.

 Most of the 111 sūras of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ -- in fact 107 of them or all but four of them (see above) — have a specific title, given, it seems, for the first time, by the Bab himself in his Kitāb al-fihrist (the `Book of the Index’), a catalogue of all of his writings from the time of his initial declaration until 15th Jumadi II 1261 or June 21st, 1845. This short book was written just over a year after the first messianic declaration and initial recitation or commencement of the first Sūrah of the QA. It remains to be worked out whether QA sūrah titles are found in mss. predating the list of the sūra titles given in the Kitab al-fihrist. 

It might be noted here that the QA is neither simply nor exactly a new Arabic Qur’ān. It is certainly not a Tafsīr (Commentary) in the classical, Islamic senses normally accorded this word. It is not like that of Abū Ja`far Muhammad Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) or Abū `Alī al-Faḍl ibn al-Ḥasan al-Tabrisī [Tabarsi] (d. 548/1154). According to its Persian-born author, it is nothing less than the bāṭin or bāṭin al-bāṭin of the Qurān. Thus we read in QA XX :



 The purpose of this paper will be to comment upon the titles given by the Bab to the 111 sūras within the Qayyūm al-asmā’.  They provide something of a glimpse into the earliest foundational pillars of the emergent Bābī religion and give us a glimpse into some of the major religio-theological parameters of the mind of the Bab at the outset of his six year mission as the respresentative of the Hidden Imam Muhammad al-Mahdī or the Mahdi-Qā’im himself (1844-1850).

 The sense(s) and translation of the Sūrah Names

 The sūrah titles of the QA can be loosely divided up into categories.  Among them are titles which are identical with Qur’anic sura titles.  This would of course include the title of the very first QA sura, the Sūrat al-mulk, which is the same title as Quran Sūrah 67.  The other names identical with Qur’anic sūrahs  will be spelled out below...

The analysis of the Sūrah titles or Names of the QA is quite a complex subject. Just translating these Names often involves more than merely philological knowledge. This because the  basic senses of the sūrah titles might be qur’ānic, post-qur’ānic or even be defined by a non-qur’anic word having a fundamentally non, post  or meta-qur’ānic meaning. Even when such terms are found in the Qur’ān such can be the case with its senses in the Qayyum al-asma'.  Then title of QA Sūrah 3, Sūrat al-madīna (The Sūrah of the City), obviously indicates a city, but which city – Medina, the City of the Arabian Prophet one pertinent to the Persian born and located Bab  such as his birthplace Shīraz which became a new `Mecca-Medina' type city.

QA 10 is entitled Sūrah al-`Amā’ where `amā’ most likely has a post-qur’anic theological sense such as `The Sūra of the Divine [theophanic] Cloud’ as opposed to a forced and essentially misleading Qur’ānic based translation as `The Sūrah of Blindness [of heart]’ for  `amā’ occurs twice in the Qur’ān with this sense of  "blindness" (see Q. 41:17 and 44). The sense of `Divine Cloud' is based upon the developed theological use of the term `ama' in an early ḥadīth text especially in its developed post-qur'anic senses articulated by numerous Sufis, especially those of the school of Ibn al-`Arabī (d. 1240). The senses `ama' has in the al-Futuhat al-makiyya (The Meccan Revelations) of the Great Shaykh are not dissimmilar to their uses in the QA. of the Bab.

QA 62 is entitled Sūrat al-Awliyā’ (The Sūrah of the Saintly Intimates’) though in this Sūrah the Bāb is not concerned with the saintliness of elevated awliyā’ (sages or mystics) but their low estate as a result of their eschatological downfall or lack of receptivity to emergent Babism. Only the QA context makes this clear.

The title of QA (80) the Sūrat al-Zawāl (The Sūrah of the Declension) utilizes a verbal-noun which occurs only once in the Qur’ān. Derived from a verb zāla = `to go away, deviate, remove, decline’ (see Kassis, Concordance 1983:1332) it most likely indicates the going down or `declension’ of the sun understood figuratively. Within this 80th  QA. sūrah, the word zuwāl occurs twice, once in  the following address to the believers:

يا ايّها المؤمنون

 اتلوا من الكتاب فی بدوالزّوال سبحان اللّه و لا اله الّا اللّه الحمد للّه الّذی لم يتّخذ صاحبة و لاولدا   و لم يكن له شريك فی الملك و لم يكن له ولیّ من الذّلّ و كبّره تكبيراً

O Thou Believers!

Recite ye from the Book (al-kitāb) at the beginning of the declension [of the Sun], `Subḥān-Allāh (Praised be God)! No God is there except God! Praised be to God Who in no wise adopts any consort [wife, mate] (ṣāḥiba) [cf. Q. 6:101] neither [takes for Himself] a Son (walad an cf. Jesus, cf. Q. 2:116). There is not for Him any partner (sharīk) in the [earthly] dominion (al-mulk) And there is not with respect to Him any [intimate] associate [partner] (walī) [to protect Him] from abasement [ignominy] (al-dhull). So extol Him with [befitting] magnification! (kabbiruhu takbīr an ) [= Q. 17:111b].”

 And once also in an address to denizens or the “People of the Throne”

 يا اهل العرش

اسمعوا ندائی من مركز الشّمس الطّالعة من مشرق الباب انّی انا اللّه الّذی لا اله الّا هو قد اختصصت بالحقّ ذكر الذّكر فی مطلع الشّمس و مغربها و علی الزّوال مركزها صلّوا عليه كما يصلّی الرّحمن لعبده و الملئكة حافّون حول الذّكر بذكره و هو اللّه كان بكلّ شیء شهيداً

“O Thou People of the Throne!

"Hearken ye unto My Call from the meridian [central point] of the Sun (markaz al-shams), [as] dawning forth from the East of the Gate (mashriq al-bāb)! [Exclaiming] `I am indeed God, Who, no God is there save Him. I, in very truth, have indeed singled out the remembrance of the [messianic] Dhikr (dhikr al-dhikr) at [the time of] the Dawning-Forth of the Sun  (fī maṭla` al-shams) as well as  with its  [western] setting (maghribihā) and at [the time of] its declension (`alā al-zawāl) at the [noon time] meridian [central position at noon] (markazihā). So utter ye blessings upon it just as the All-Merciful (God) does with respect to His servant and whereat the angelic hosts (al-malā’ikat) do circumambulate about the [messianic] Dhikr in remembrance of him (bi-dhikihi). And He is God Who hath ever been Witness unto everything  (bi-kulla shay’ shahīd an)."

 It is the case then that a thorough analysis of the Sūrah titles necessitates a study of the larger body of all of the 111 sūrahs of the QA as well as of its use as an item of Islamic-Shi`i-Shaykhi vocabulary as well as instances of its use by the Bab in his various writings of the post 1260-1844 period. Post QA uses of sūrah title vocabulary will of course often serve to clarify its basic and developed meanings.

A Preliminary Categorization of the 111 QA Sūrah Names or Titles.

The 111 Sūrah names or titles may be loosely organized under the following eight headings; at this point I shall merely mention their names without detailed comment  and remain conscious of the fact that some of them could equally be categorized under several of the proposed categories (see below):

[1] QA Sūrah titles with Theological senses; including Divine Names (al-asmā') and Attributes(wa'l-ṣifāt)

 These are counted as being 21 sūrahs of the QA with  two or three of them having titles identical with qur'anic sūras (marked in green) while six others have names exactly corresponding or ten partially identical (about 16 of the 21) to key Divine Names or Attributes found in  lists of the ninety-nine al-asmā' al-husnā ("Most Beautiful Names" [=MBN]) as spelled out in versions of the famous prophetic hadith famously relayed in Sunni texts from the companion Abu Hurayrah (d. 58/678) or in Shi`i texts from Imam `Alī ibn Abi Talib (d. 40/661) or other Imami notables (marked with yellow). In this latter connection the numbers of the `Most Beautifl Names' (= e.g. "MBN 63"= no. 63) are as cited in the Sunni prophetic ḥadīth by Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī (d. 505/1111) in his al-Maqsad al-asma fi sharh asma' Allah al-husna (trans. Burrell, Cambridge, 1992, pp. 49-51;197-200).

  •  (8)  al-Tawḥīd (`the Divine  Unity') [Q. 112 or al-ikhlāṣ]
  • (10) al-`Amā’ ([lit. Blindness] the Divine, Theophanic Cloud”) for the Bab the scene of mystical the Sinaitc theophany.
  • (14) al-Quds (“Holiness”, “Sanctity”) [cf. al-Quddūs, "the Holy" =  MBN 5]
  • (15) al-Mashiyya (“The [Primal] Will”). 
  •  (20) al-Nūr (= Q. 24;  “Light”) = MBN 93]
  • (21) al-Shajarah  (“the Tree” “Burning Bush” cf. Sidra al-Muntahā)
  • (24) al-Qadr (“Power", "Destiny") [cf al-Qādir, the All-Powerful"= MBN 69]
  • (31) al-`Izz ("Might") [cf. al-`Azīz "The Mighty" MBN = 9]
  • (32) al-Ḥayy (the Living One') [MBN = 63]
  • (39) al-Shukr  ('Thankfulness") [cf. al-Shakur, "the Grateful" = MBN 36]
  • (43) al-Waḥda  ("Oneness") [cf. al-Wāḥid, "the Unique" = MBN 67]
  • (46) al-Huwa ("He-ness"; the "Divine Identity"; “The Divine Ipseity”)
  • (52) al-Faḍl (the [Divine] "Bounty"; "Grace"; "Favor")
  • (53) al-Ṣabr (“Patience”) [cf. al-Ṣabūr  "The Patient" = MBN 99]
  • (56) al-Amr  (the “[Divine-Logos] Command”)
  • (63) al-Raḥmat (the [Divine] Mercy) [cf. al-Raḥmān, 'The Merciful", al-Raḥīm, "The Compassionate" = MBN 2-3]
  • (66) al-Aḥadiyya (the [Divine] Oneness)
  • (77) al-Salām ("Flawless") [MBN 6]
  • (82 al-A`ẓam (““the Supreme”, “Most-Great”) [cf. al-`Aẓīm, "the Mighty" = MBN 34]
  • (84) al-Ism (“the Name”)
  • (85) al-Ḥaqq  (the "Truth", "Reality", “Ultimate Reality” [God]= MBN 52] cf. Q. 69 al-Ḥāqqa ("The Reality/ Inevitable")

 [2] QA Sūrah titles of Cosmogonic-Cosmological Import (9  Sūrahs)

One of these Sūrah titles is Qur'anic, Q. 91 corresponding to QA. 75. All  seven of them utilize terms associated with qur'anic cosmogony and cosmology.

  • (13) al-Firdaws ("Paradise")
  • (16) al-`Arsh (“The Divine Throne”). 
  • (19) Sīnā’  ("[Mt.] Sinai") cf. Personal Theophany of the Bab. 
  • (22) al-Mā’ “Celestial Watery Expanse”)
  • (67) al-Inshā’  “The Origination-Genesis”).
  • (71)  al-Qalam  (“the [Cosmic-Primordial] Pen”).
  • (75) al-Shams  ("the Sun”). Q. 91.
  • (81) al-Kāf   (the [Letter] “K”) cf. the first letter of the Qur'anic creative imperative "Be!" (kun). cf. Q. Surat al-Qāf = Q. 50.
  • (88) al-Ibdā`  (Genesis)

[3] QA Sūrah Titles associated with the Exegetical-Eisegetical Tafsir of Qur'an 12, Sūrat Yusuf (8 Sūras)

Two of these sūra titles are Qur'anic and all items of Qur'anic vocabularly.

  • (5)  Yūsuf  = Joseph
  • (34) al-Ishāra ("the Allusion")
  • (37) al-Ta`bīr  ("The Interpretation")
  • (41) al-Kitāb (The Book)
  • (54) al-Ghulām ("Youth"), a young page type figure
  • (72) al-Baṣīr   ("Insight")
  • (73) al-Kahf  (The Cave)
  • (79) al-Kalimat (The Word) or cosmic, cosmogonic "Book"

 [4]   QA Sūrah Titles associated with Prophetological Figures, Titles and Status Claims (12 Sūrahs).

  • (5)  Yūsuf = Joseph = Q. 12. The Israelite figure and Islamic prophet, antitype of Imam Husayn.
  • (40) + (89) = Insān (Humanity-Man-The Perfect Man) 
  • (54) al-Ghulām ("Youth"), a young page type figure in the Q. and a title used by the Bab...
  • (60) Dhikr  (+108 x2) a key messianic title in the Bab's writings.
  • (74) Khalīl (the Friend [of God]), Abraham [cf.  Q. 14 =  Ibrāhīm)
  • (44) Ru’yā (The Vision) + (45), associated with visions of vehicles of Divine Guidance and the future.
  •  (87) Anbiyā’ ("Prophets") = Q. 21 Figures who communicated divine guidance and spoke of the eschaton.
  • (93) Mujallal  (Glorious –Transfigured…) the locus of the Divine Tajalli ("self-Disclosure" or Theophany)
  • (35) `Ubudiyya (“Servitude”), a status position associated with elevated "Lordship" (rububiyya).
  • (109) `Abd (The Servant”), as above when messianically charged.

 [5] QA Sūrah Titles associated with Shī`ī-Shaykhī Ritual, Doctrine and Imamology  (7 Sūrahs).

  • (12) `Āshurā (the Tenth [ of Muharrram]), date of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (d. 61/680).
  • (27) Abwāb  (the [Four] Gates) to the Hidden Imam.
  • (38) Fāṭima [bint Khuwalid] daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • (42) `Ahd (“Covenant”), one of the key Shī`ī principles of faith. 
  • (55) Rukn (“Pillar”), the four Pillars of the Shaykhi-Islamic Religion cf. the `fourth support' in Shaykism.
  • (57) Ḥusn ("Beauty", "Fairness", "Comliness") cf. Husayn the third Imam and the Beauty of Joseph.
  • (61) Ḥusayn (= Yūsuf) the 3rd Imam and his eschatological return or counterpart.

[6] QA Sūrah Titles associated with Legalistic matters (14 [+10] 21 Sūrahs)

Here Aspects of Qur’ānic shari`a law might be affirmed or transcended.

  •  (2)  al-`Ulama' , "clergy", "clerics", "divines"...
  •  (6)  al-Shahāda  (“The Testimony” [ of faith]) and  the alphabetical locus of imamology. cf. (92) à
  •  (7)  al-Ziyāra (Visitation) to sacred Shrines/Persons.
  • (26) al-Ḥadd/ Ḥall  (“Limits”/ “Lawful”) the Parameters of the Law…
  • (30) al-Tablīgh ("The Instruction")
  • (35) al-`Ubudiyya (“Servitude”)
  • (50) al-Aḥkām (pl.) + (51), (104), (105) -- Decrees, Stipulations…New Laws of Qā’im.
  • (80) al-Zawāl (The Sūrah of the Declension [ of the sun]), Prayer ritual..
  • (90) al-Qitāl + (91), (96), (97), (102), (103) (Eschatological “Fighting” cf. Jihad) 6 Sūras -->
  • (92) al-Ishhād ("the Testimonial") cf. above QA.6
  • (98) al-Jihād + (99), (100), (101) (Holy War) 4 Sūras...
  • (103) [102] al-Ḥajj ("Pilgrimage") = Q. 22
  • (106) al-Jum`a (“Congregation”)= Q. 62. cf. Friday Gathering or the Eschatological Assembling…
  • (107) al-Nikāḥ (“Marriage”, Wedlock”)

The subtle apocalyptic language of the Qayyum al-asma' at I:9 and elsewhere seems to presuppose the exposure of a once hidden yet new or revolutionary al-amr,  a religious "Cause" championed by the hidden Imam and his representative the Bab.  This new Cause presupposes change and involves the setting forth of a "new law" or post-Islamic shar`ia. Though the Bab did not go this far at the time of his writing and communication of the QA., he certainly included many legalistic directives in subsequent revelations especially from 1848 when his developed claims became more widely known. Scattered through the QA., however, are legal materials, sometimes of a subtly innovative nature.

 A number of Shi`i messianic traditions predict the eschatological emergence of a new amr, a new religious Cause.  Islamic traditions have it  that the messianic Qa’im, the sahib al-amr (bearer of a Cause /Command) will establish a new religious amr  (religious “Cause”) which will be propagated throughout the globe. One hadith  originating with Ja`far al-Ṣādiq as cited by Shaykh al-Mufid is fairly explicit in this respect:


When the Qa’im… rises, he will come with a new amr (religious “Cause”), just as the Messenger of God [Muhammad] (rasul Allah) … at the genesis  of Islam summoned unto  a new amr  (religious “Cause”)” (Irshad, 364).    

The word  amr  in  the phrase amr  jadid  within this tradition could have a very wide range of possible senses including being indicative of a new “Command”, “Order” , “Cause”  and even “religion” including a new shar`ia or "law".  Shi`i traditions about a new amr  are more explicitly quoted by the Bāb in his Tafsīr Sūrat al-Kawthar   and also by Baha'-Allah in his Kitab-i  īqān    and other writings. This amr  is usually understood in Bābī-Bahā’ī writ to mean a new religion, revelation, religious order or “Cause”.  For Bahā’īs the (Per.) Amr-i ilāhī  indicates the Cause or Religion of God . The Bahā’ī religion today is often referred to as the amr-i ilāhi. 

 The QA includes quite a few "rewrites" of legalistic Qur'anic verses or adoptions of Islamic law. Though it would be going too far to say that the QA involved a new law it is certainly the case that in giving a deep messianic intepretation to the qur'anic Story of Joseph the practical dictates of Islamic law are not entirely neglect. Subtle messianic modifications pave the way for the Bab's later abrogation of Islamic law and his communicating many new laws which modify or replace the Islamic shari`a ("law"). In fact most of the major post-11260/844 CE revelations of the Bab include legalistic materials designed to proffer a new order or offer legalistic religious directives that increase messianic awareness and expectation pending the advent of the Babi messiah man yuzhiru-hu Allah ("Him whom God shall make manifest").

[7]  QA Sūrah Titles associated with the `Ulūm al-Ghayb or Esoteric-Qabbalistic subjects (10 Sūrahs)

  • (11) + (86) al-Saṭr  the ("[Alphabetical] Script-Line")  
  • (9) al-Sirr  ("Mystery") cf. “All is Mystery” – Kimiya, Limiya, Sīmiya, Himiya…
  • (58) al-Iksīr  ("The Elixir")
  • (65) al-Ghayb ("The Unseen") cf. the  `ulūm al-ghayb (esoteric sciences)…
  • (69)+ (94) al-Tarbi` ("Quadratic-Fourfold") cf. (95) M-Ḥ-M-D -  H-S-Y-N - Y-W-S-F
  • (81)  al-Kāf (`the Letter “K”')  cf. Kun fa-yakun (Be! And it is!)
  • (83)  al-Bā’  (`the Letter “B”')
  • (95) al-Tathlīth  ("Threefoldness-Trinity") cf.  `Alī  (= A+ L+Y =) 3 letters.

Various Imam uttered Shi`i traditions have it that key matters within Shi`ism are deep, secret, esoteric or gnostic. The expected Imam was expected  to be a master of the `ulum al-ghayb or esoteric sciences. The fulfillment of such expectations is reflected in numerous of the writings of the Bab, not least within the Qayyum al-asma'. which often gives (loosely) "qabbalistic" or `ilm al-ḥuruf type meaning to Qur'anic texts and Shi`i subjects. Perhaps ten of its sura titles reflect this concern with the esoteric. 

 The Bab was very well acquainted with esoteric dimensions of the Shi`i religion especially as they were written about by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d. 1241/1826) who often responded to questions about the `ulum al-ghayb ("esoteric sciences"). His close disciple and successor Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d.1259/1843) in such of his writings as his Dala'il al-Mutahayyirin, pictured al-Ahsa'i as a supreme master of Shi`i esoterica capable of informed , inspired discourse about alchemy, jafr (gematria and associated divination), occult medicine, the gnosis of talismans and  `ilm al-huruf (`The science of letters'), etc. Several important Shi`i traditions and writings depict the expected Shi`i messianic Ariser or Qa'im as being a supreme initiate of these matters reflecting the gnosis of Imams `Ali ibn Abi Talib and Ja`far al-Sadiq.  Three or more of the sura titles of the QA seems to reflect talismanic gnosis, the Surat al-Tarbi` ("Quadratic-Fourfold" = QA. 69+94) and the  Surat al-Tathlīth  ("Threefoldness-Trinity" = QA. 95) and one is explicitly entitled al-Iksir (the Elixir) or the transmutative alchemical reality. Other terms listed above also make sense in this categorization of Islamic esoterics reflected in the QA.

[8] QA Sūrah Titles with Eschatological or Messianic implications (around 32  Sūrahs)

More than a quarter around 32 of the Sūrah titles of the QA have probable or acual eschatological implications or associations.

  • (1)  al-Mulk ("Dominion". "Sovereignty"), the eschatological, theophanic rule of God. Q.67
  • (17) al-Bāb  (the “Gate” = the Bāb), cf. (27) below = Abwāb (the [Four] Gates)… The Bāb as an active intermediary to the Hidden Imam like but superceding the Four Gates of the past.
  • (18) al-Ṣiraṭ (“the [Eschatological] Path”), Q.
  • (19) al-Sīnā’ (Mt. Sinai) – eschatological Mosaic, Sinaitic theophany.
  • (23) al-`Asr (“The Forenoon”), period of (eschatological) time... = Q. 103.
  • (25) al-Khatam ("the Seal")
  • (33) al-Naṣr (“Victory”) = Q. 110
  • (36)  al-`Adl ("Justice") its realization was a key eschatological hope as actualized by the expected Qa'im.
  • (48) al-Ḥujjat ("the [messianic] Proof")
  • (49) al-Nidā’  ("the [messianic] Call")
  • (60) al-Dhikr  (+108 x2) "the messianic] Remembrance").
  • (61) al-Ḥusayn – name of the expected 3rd Imam = the new “Joseph”.
  • (62) al-Awliyā’ Context = Eschatological negative judgement. 
  • (65) al-Ghayb ("The Unseen") the domain of the occulted Imams or esoteric sciences...
  • (68) al-Wa’id (“The Promises”)
  • (70 al-[Qist]  ("the Balance")
  • (78) al-Zuhūr (the eschatological "Theophany/Manifestation")
  • (80) al-Zawwal (the "Solar Declension"...
  • (90) al-Qitāl + (91), (96), (97), (102), (103) (Eschatological “Fighting”) 6 Sūrahs.   
  • (98) al-Jihād + (99), (100), (101) (Holy War) 4 Sūras.
  • (106) al-Jum`a (the [Friday] Gathering, Assembling")
  • (110) al-Sabiqin (the "Forerunners"), latter day pioneers of the messianic age.

[9] Miscellaneous - Personal (10 Sūrahs)

  •  (04) al-Madina  ("the City") = Medina, Saudi Arabia or Shiraz ??
  • (17) Bāb ("the Gate") to the Hidden Imam
  • (28) Qarāba  ("Kinsmen" Relatives", Near Ones")
  • (38) Fāṭima [bint Khuwalid] daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • (29) Ḥūriya ("the Houri", "Divine Maiden"), embodiment of the Divine, personal visions of the Bab... cf. Q. x 4 = 
  • (47) Mir’at ("the Mirrors"), radiant reflectors of the Divine.
  • (59) Afida ("Inmost Hearts"), deep inward matters.
  • (64) Ḥamd ("the Laudation", "Praise"), cf. Q. 1 al-Fāṭiha.. al-Ḥamd li'-llāh ("Praised be to God")
  • (76) Waraqa ("the Leaf"), Female family members or worthies.
  • (111) Mu'minīn "the Believers") = Q. 23.

The Duplicated and Repeated Sūrah Names.

Certain of the names of a number of the Sūras of the QA are repeated, sometimes more then once. The names of five Sūras are exactly duplicated while there are three pairs of near conceptual repetitions of the same sura names within the QA. Three Sūra  names are repeated four times and one Sūrah title Qitāl (Fighting) occurs six times in an almost adjacent run of successive sūras. The following breifly introduced, occasionally annotated lists, express these multiple names attestations of QA sura titles:

Twice repeated : there are 5 QA duplicated pairs of Surah Names

  • (11) + (86) Satr,  ("Alphabetical Script or Line"),

  • (40)+ (89) Insān,   ("Man-Humaity; Perfect Man")

  • (44)+(45) Ru’yā’,  ("The Vision") in adjacent suras.

  • (60)+(108) Dhikr,  ("The [Messianic] Remembrance")

  • (69)+ (94) Tarbi`,  ("Fourfold-Quadratic") configuration e.g. Muhammad - Ḥusayn- Jospeh all having 4 letters.

 Note also the following conceptual or near conceptual duplicates:

  • (3) Īmān  (Secure Faith) : (111) Mu’minun (Believers)

  • (17) Bāb (Gate)  :  (27) Abwāb ([Two] SA & SK or [Four] Gates)

  • (35) `Ubudiyya ("Servitude" :  (109) `Abd (The Servant [ the Bāb]).

Four times repeated or adjacent pairs of duplicated QA surah titles:

There are  two sets of adjacent duplicated Aḥkām (pl. of ḥukm; meaning `Dictates', `Stipulations', `Legalities') QA sura titles. The title  Aḥkām  is thus four times repeated or twice doubly occurring in adjacent sura positions. There are in other words, two pairs of successive Sūrahs of legalistic import:

  • Aḥkām (50)-(51).

  • Aḥkām (104)-(105).

From these instances of duplication and repetition it may, among other things,  be speculated, that legalistic innovation or changes in the Islamic shari`a ('law) (aḥkam x 5) are hinted at by the Bab from the earliest period.

Eschatological conflagration anticipated: the ten Qitāl (Fighting [Killing, Slaying])-Jihād (“Holy War”) Sūrahs

There is also evidence that the Bab anticipated eschatological conflagration though jihād ("Holy War" 2+2= 4) involving qitāl, "slaughter" or "killing" (3 x 2 = 6) within the QA. As indicated, the four Jihād  QA (98)-(99)+(100)-(101) and six adjacent Qitāl QA sūras  (90)-(91) + (96)-(97) + (102)-(103)  make up ten sūras relating to eschatological conflict.  There are  two sets of adjacent. duplicated, pairs of four QA suras  in a row focused upon eschatological Jihād ("holy war"). These successive titles obviously underline the centrality of the imminent expectation of messianic, expected Imam led apocalyptic `holy war': 

  • Jihād (98)-(99)

  • Jihād +(100)-(101).

        The three pairs of adjacent or six sura titles (six times repeated)  Qitāl (“Fighting”) QA sūras  again strongly suggest an imminent eschatological engagement. Note that the four Jihād ("holy war") sūras are adjacent to these Qitāl (`conflict', `fighting') suras making a run of  ten eschatological conflict related sūras in the QA.

        The six Qitāl (`conflict', `fighting') sūrahs constitute three adjacent pairs with `five QA sura degrees of separation’ from successive suras with identical names:

  •  Qitāl (`conflict', `fighting') (90)-(91) + 5 =

  •  Qitāl (`conflict', `fighting') (96)-(97) + 5 =

  •  Qitāl (`conflict', `fighting')(102)-(103).

        To bring about eschatological change in these areas was central to the early mission of the Bab as representative of the hidden imam who will eventually bring about a new mulk or eschatological dominion (see QA1), an end-time theocracy. It will be noted below that the Bab cancelled the call for a holy war congregation in Karbala in late 1845 and in later years, despite the Babi conflicts in the late 1840s and early 1850s, never seems to have called upon his followers to wage militant holy war. He never abandoned making reference to its theoretical, messianic-apocalyptic  or "mythological" role of "holy war" but held back after 1845 from calling upon his followers to move in this direction.

  The most frequently expressed sūra  titles are the the four Jihād (“Holy War” x 4) sūras (= QA.  98->101) and the six Qitāl (“Fighting” [Slaughtering, Killing] x 6) sūras (= QA. 90; 91; 96; 97; 102; 103). They span two (90-91) then eight (98, 99, 100. 101) consecutive QA Sūrahs including QA 90->91 then 96->103. This totals ten (4+6) sūras of the QA which are in some sese expressive of eschatological conflict as predicted in numerous Shī`ī Islamic traditions.

In referring to Jihād the Bāb is not talking about the ‘Greater Jihad’ of striving against the lower self in the path towards perfection. Rather it is the militaristic `lesser Jihād’  of eschatological conquest.

The Arabic verbal noun and QA Sūrah title Qitāl (Fighting, [Killing, Slaughtering]) occurs 13 times in the Qur’ān in contexts that always seem to be in connection with the duty of partaking in religious conflicts or warfare (Q. 2:216-7, 246; 3:121, 167; 4:77; 8:16,65; 33:25; 47:20).  

That so many consecutive sūrahs of the QA have titles suggestive of eschatological warfare  must highlight the nearness and urgency of the end-time conflagration. This matter occupied the Bāb in his early desire to establish the global reign of God and success of his religion. At the very outset of his messianic career he declined bypassing the issue of the establishment of the Kingdom of God through warfare.

The expected Qā’im was, after all, expected to initiate and lead this ultimate jihād (“Holy War”). The issue of imminent “holy war” was obviously much on the mind of the young Bāb about to embark on an extraordinarily challenging messianic career. He was not a soldier but a young merchant from Shiraz, aged 25 and without acknowledged military experience or clerical status. While the eschatological category of QA titles is paramount and central, the establishment of the ‘kingdom of God’ through Jihād was not something to be bypassed by one attempting to establish his messianic credentials. Whether or not the supreme and global  religio-political conflagration could be both called for and acted upon in concrete terms, its place in the centrality or Shī`ī expectation could hardly initially be forgotten.  This is clear with the opening Sūrah of the Qayyum al-asmā’, the Sūrat al-Mulk (see below). It appears that it was not until his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina  had been completed that he decided, at the command of God Himself (through bidā’), to cancel a jihād oriented congregation of Bābis in Karbala, the place of the shrine of Imam Ḥusayn.  

 In the QA the Bab was in the process of revealing verses claiming an equal authority to the Quran. He ultimately claimed to be the messianic figure awaited for over a thousand years, and aimed to fulfill the expected transformation of the world through jihad. That these eschatological events must in one way might be seen to come to pass, must have weighed very strongly on the mind of the Bab.  The historical Imam `Ali (d. 40/661) was, among many other things, an accomplished swordsman and fighter for Islam. The title Qitāl is reminiscent of its many occurrences in the following lines from the tenth paragraph of the Khuṭba al-ṭutunjiyya ("Sermon of the Gulf") ascribed to Imam `Alī (d. 40/661) and well-known to the Bāb:

"Methinks the weak ones amongst you are saying, `Do you pay heed unto what Ibn `Abī Ṭālib (= Imam `Alī) proclaims about himself? [6] For not so long ago, it was he whom the military forces of the Syrians overshadowed. And he would not go out to engage them though [a certain] Muhammad and Ibrāhīm were sent out!' [7] Now, assuredly shall I [Imam `Alī] fight the Syrians with you, killing, in other words, slaughtering (qatlat wa ay qatlat)! [8] By my truthfulness and my standing! I shall undoubtedly fight the people of Syria, killing, in other words, slaughtering (qatlat wa ay qatlat)! [9] And I shall assuredly fight the people of Siffin with all slaughter, seventy-fold slaughter (bi-kull qaṭla sab`in qatla) ! [10] And I shall assuredly bring new life unto every one resigned [who is Muslim]. [11] I shall assuredly give deliverance to both the commander and his fighter until that thirst for justice which is within my breast be allayed. [12] I shall fight a myriad engagements for `Ammār Yāsir and for Uways al-Qaranī [both d. Siffīn 657 CE]."  

It will be recalled that in the very first surah, the Surah al-mulk (QA1), which has to do with the establishment of the kingdom or reign of God on earth, the Bab explicitly calls upon Muhammad Shah and his prime minister, Hajji Mirza Aqasi, to aid him through themselves and their "swords" (asyaf). The centrality of eschatological jihad in Shi’ism cannot be underestimated. When the Qa'im appears he was expected to transform world order by waging jihad and taking control of the kingdoms of the world. At the time of Jesus many Jews had similar eschatological hopes (cf. the detailed militaristic dimensions of the Qumran War Scroll 1QS) though the Galilean messiah had a different purpose with his message that the `kingdom of God' was an inner phenomenon not of this world.

 As the eschatological `Alī in touch with the hidden Imam Ḥusayn and gradually coming from 1846 CE to make explicit his claim to be  the Qa’im in person, the Bab, was expected to be similarly if not more powerful in battle and in organizing and directing the overthrow of all human authorities in the wake of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. This heavy holy war discourse cannot be hidden away or ignored. Rather such expectations, had their role in encouraging the earliest Babis with their revolutionary, world-changing attitudes. The call to jihad in the earliest months of the Bab’s mission was an important part of his role until he came to cancel his call for a gathering in Karbala, evidently in line with the promises, to initiate holy war activity. The Bab seems, however, never to have made an explicit directive in this respect, though some of his later writings, including the Persian Dala'il-i Sab`a (Seven Proofs), illustrate that he never wholly divorced his religion from ultimate globalization through holy war. In this respect, one might bear in mind that one of the first actions of Baha'u'llah who claimed from 1863 to be his successor, was to explicitly abolish Babi and other forms of jihad. This at his Riḍwān declaration in May 1863 and subsequently in his quasi-legalistic al-Kitab al-Aqdas 1873 and many others revelatory alwah (Tablets).    

 For Part Two of this Paper see Main Haykal page on the Website.

Part II : Some Comments on specific Sura Titles of the Qayyūm al-asmā'