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On specific Sūrah titles in the Qayyūm al-asmā' QA1 - Mulk

Pt. II

Some comments on specific Sūrah titles in the Qayyūm al-asmā' and within their Bābi and Islamic background. 

Stephen Lambden (UC-Merced)

Being revised and corrected 14-04-2015.

 It is the case that a thorough analysis of the Sūra titles of the QA necessitates a study of all the 111 Sūrahs of the QA and the possible use of the specific title in its alotted QA sura. This should ideally be supplemented by a study of the use of this name in the post 1260-1844 context. Post QA uses of Surah title vocabulary will often serve to clarify meanings. Such detailed study is more than can be set down below. It must suffice here to provide little but a few preliminary notes.  

(1) Sūrat al-Mulk (The Sura of the Dominion"), QA1.

URL : Sūrat al-mulk  = The Surah of the Dominion

قل اللهم مالك الملك تؤتي الملك من تشاء وتنزع الملك ممن تشاء

"Say: O my God! Ruler of the Kingdom [Possessor of Sovereignty] (mālik al-mulk)! Thou bestowest al-mulk (sovereignty) upon whomsoever Thou willeth and Thou removeth al-mulk (sovereignty) from whomsoever Thou desireth" (Q. 3:26a).

و انّ الملك للّه يؤتی الملك من يشإ و ينزع الملك عمّن يشإ و هو اللّه كان علی كلّ شیء قديراً

"Dominion belongs unto God (al-mulk li-llāhi). He gives dominion (al-mulk) unto whomsoever He wills and He divests dominion (al-mulk) from whomsoever He wills. And He, God, is powerful over all things (cf. Q. 3:26a)." (QA 3:20)

 The Sūrat al-mulk  (= QA1) is pictured in many Bahā'ī sources  dependent on Muhammad Nabil-i Zarandī's history (as redacted by Shoghi Effendi in  the 1932 and later editions as `The Dawn-Breakers') to have been revealed by the Bāb on the evening of his encounter with the young Shaykhī seeker Mullā Ḥusayn Bushrū'ī (d.1265/1849) in his house in Shiraz  on the evening of 5th Jumādi al-Ūlā [Awwal] 1260 or the evening of May 22nd 1844 (Dawn-Breakers, 61ff).

 In neo-qur'ānic fashion QA1 opens with the standard Islamic basmalah  (= Bismillah al-raḥman al-raḥim, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate") though without any prefixed isolated letter(s) such as appear before 28 sūrahs of the 114 Sūrahs of the Q and most of the other 111 Sūrahs of the QA (except, QA 1, 52, 64, 67, 74). No single qur`ānic verse from Sūrah 12 prefixes QA1 as is the case before all of the other sūrahs of the QA which usually late in the sura comment upon a specific verse of the Surat Yusuf (Q. 12) often in succinct "rewritten" expository or "re-revealed" (waḥy) fashion.

 As QA1 has no isolated letters it can be considered a kind of prolegomenon to the QA proper perhaps like the first Qur'anic sura the Sūrat al-Fāṭiha (Q. 1), which is similarly without prefixed isolated letters). Every subsequent Sūrah of the QA from QA2 until QA111 encompasses successive, verse by verse, comment upon the whole of the Sūrah of Joseph (= Q. 12:1-111). Hence the QA is entitled the Tafsir or Sharh Surat Yūsuf and offers a complex non-literal messianic exegesis-eisegesis of Q. 12 in the light of the imminent  eschaton, end of the age. It is thus appropriate that the first sura title of the QA is surat al-mulk since the world mulk has to do with current world order and means 'dominion',  `sovereignty', `kingdom' or the like. From the Arabic root m-l-k a large number of expressions are derived having to do with kingship, kingdom, rule and dominion, including mālik (= king, master), malik (king, King [= God];  pl. mulūk),  malakūt (kingdom) cf.  Malak (angel[s]), pl. Mala'ika (angels), etc.

 The first sūrah in all of the the ms.  of the QA that I have seen is entitled Surat al-mulk. This title evidently has to do with mulk as the `rule', `dominion', `sovereignty' or `kingdom of God' in the light of the onset of a new age, that of messianic and eschatological fulfillment.  The Bab opens his important initial revelation with a note indicative of the transference of divine sovereignty, mediated by the Hidden Imam and himself as representative of God. The kingdoms of this world are about to return to God since his representatives (the Hidden Imam and the Bab) are communicating with humankind and its leaders calling them to hear the new message of God.  In verse  22  of QA1 it is clearly announced that mulk, the kingdom belongs to God and his earthly and celestial representatives, the Bab and the Hidden Imam.  On behalf of God, they claim sovereignty of the world.  Earthly dominion no longer belongs to worldly kings and potentates.

In fact the word  ملك mulk occurs no less than a dozen times in QA1. It is appropriate that the Bab commences his massive commentary with a chapter announcing the imminent realization of the Kingdom of God on earth for QA1 is not just an exercise in tafsir (Qur'an commentary) but the communication of a new repository of divine revelation reinterpreting in eschatological terms the Islamic Qur'an. 

    The first occurrence of ملك mulk is half-way through QA1, in verse 22. Here the worldly, kingly rulers of this world, are told to relinquish their claim to sovereignty in the light of  a new expression of eschatological ḥaqq, truth or "reality" :

يا معشر الملوك و ابناء  الملوك

 انصرفوا عن ملك اللّه جميعكم بالحقّ علی الحقّ جميلاً

 "O concourse of kings and  the sons of kings! (yā  ma`shar al-mulūk wa abnā' al-mulūk) Lay aside, one and all  [in truth, as befits the Truth] your dominion (mulk) which belongeth unto God (mulk Allāh)." (SWB: 41)

 It two verses later at QA 1: 26 that the Bab addresses  Muhammad Shah (r.1834-1848) as the malik al-muslimūn, (loosely translated) “O king of Islam!” (BWC)   (lit. "king of the Muslims", malik al-muslimūn)who has been invested with worldly mulk (sovereignty). He bids him aid the supreme,  messianic Dhikr (Remembrance on the yawm al-qiyāma (“Day of Resurrection”) in the task of the sakhira (`making subservient' or `subduing';  taskhīr = subjugation, subjection) of  the bilād (countries, lands, regions). According to the next verse QA 1:27 his own mulk should not, however, deceive him for  he is a  mere mortal. And QA:1:28 has it that, according to the umm al-kitāb (the Archetypal or Mother Book)  mulk is now invested with the messianic Dhikr. Then QA 1:29 reads,

 و انصروا اللّه بانفسكم و اسيافكم فی ظلّ هذا الذّكر الاكبر

 لهذا الدّين الخالص بالحقّ علی الحقّ قويّا   

“And [O kings!] give aid towards victory before God through thy very own selves and thy swords (bi-anfusikum wa asyāfikum) in the shade of the Most Great Remembrance (fi zill hadha al-dhikr al-akbar)  for the sake of this pure Religion (al-dīn al-khāliṣ)  which is, in very truth, mighty.

 At QA 1: 30 attention is given to the role of  Ḥajjī Mīrzā Āqāsī  (c.1783-1848) addressed as   "O Minister of the Shah! [King] (wazīr al-malik)”  

Fear thou God,  besides Whom there is none other God but Him, the Sovereign Truth, the Just, and lay aside thy dominion (al-mulk),  for We, by the leave of God, the All-Wise, inherit the earth and all who are upon it  (cf. Q.19:41), and He shall rightfully be a witness unto thee and unto the Shāh [King] (al-malik )." (SWB:42-3)

"Were ye to obey the Remembrance of God (al-dhikr) with absolute sincerity, We guarantee, by the leave of God, that on the Day of Resurrection,  a vast dominion (al-mulk an `aẓīm an)  shall be yours in His eternal Paradise (jannat al-`adn,  Garden of Eden)."  

QA 1:32  reminds world rulers that "Vain indeed is your dominion mulk [O Kings!] while QA 1:33  reads :

“With Us is an elevated dominion (al-mulk an  rafī` an ) in the Garden of Eternity (jannat al-khuld)  which We bestow upon such as We desire among Our servants  such, that is, as are established in this Gate (al-bāb) by God and in very truth, an upholder of His verses”

Many other references to mulk are to be found in  the QA and other writings of the Bab. One example from QA 3 (the Sūrat al-Īmān) verse 20 reads:

و انّ الملك للّه يؤتی الملك من يشإ و ينزع الملك عمّن يشإ و هو اللّه كان علی كلّ شیء قديراً

Dominion belongs unto God (al-mulk li'l-llah). He gives dominion (al-mulk) unto whomsoever He wills and He divests dominion ( al-mulk) from whomsoever He wills. And He, God, is powerful over all things (cf. Q. 3:26a).

 The Bāb  raises the call “al-mulk li-llahi” ("Dominion belongs to God!") and calls for kings, leadres and other  human beings to assist him in its evolution and development.  They must conquer all powers and forces by means of "holy war" and proclaimatory activity in order that all can acknowledge the eschatological rule of God. 

 Qur'an Sura 67 is entitled Surat al-mulk and after the basmala  the first verse reads as follows :

‏تَببَكَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِ ٱلْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ قَدِيرٌ

(1) "Blessed be He in Whose hand is the dominion (al-mulk), and Who is Powerful over all things."

            The word mulk occurs about 48 times in the Qur'an. Several of its texts underline the belief that earthly and cosmic  مُلْكُ  mulk ("rule", "dominion", "sovereignty") properly belong to God. Qur'an  2:107 reads:

أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ

"Are you not aware that unto God belongs the mulk (dominion, rule, kingdom) of the heavens and of the earth? Aside from God you have no Helper or Protector" (Q. 2:107).

This qur'anic sentiment is paralleled by at least fifteen other verses, including,  Q. 3:189 (186); Q. 5:17-18 (20-21); Q. 5:40 (44); Q.5:120; Q. 7:158; Q. 9:116 (117); Q. 24:42; Q. 42:49 (48); Q. 43:85; Q. 45: 27 (26); Q. 48:14; Q. 57: 2, 5;  Q. 85:0 (cf. Q. 40: 16, 29). 

        It is specifically predicted in Q. 22:56 (55) and Q. 25:26 (28)' that on the eschatological Day of God the mulk  will again "belong to God": 

الْمُلْكُ  يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلَّهِ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ

"the mulk (the `Rule', 'Sovereignty', `Kingdom') on that Day shall belong unto God for He shall decree amongst  them. Those who believe and work righteous deeds will be in Gardens of Bliss (jannat al-na`īm)" (Q. 22:56. cf. Q. 42:49 (48); Q. 43:85; Q. 45: 26 (26); and Q. 40: 16, 29 cf. Q. 64:1).

الْمُلْكُ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْحَقُّ لِلرَّحْمَنِ وَكَانَ يَوْمًا عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ عَسِيرًا

"the al-mulk (the `Rule', 'Sovereignty', `Kingdom') on that Day shall in truth belong unto the All-Merciful [God] (al-rahman). And such for the unbeliever shall be a harsh Day" (Q. 25:26 (28)).

 These latter day qur'anic predictions about the mulk of God obviously find resonance and fulfillment in the Surat al-mulk of the QA.

Both Sunni and Shi`i Islamic sources anticipate the rule of God on the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyama). Recited daily countless times throughout Islamic history Q 1:4 مَـٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ  expresses in realized eschatological fashion the hope and anticipation of the latter-day theophanic rule of God. In his Tafsīr on  Q. 1:4  the  two Jalāls (Jalalayn = Jalāl al-Dīn Muhammad ibn Aḥmad al-Maḥallī (d. 864/1459). and Jalāl a-Dīn `Abd al-Raḥman al-Suyūṭī (d. 911/1505)  comment as follows:

مَـٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ  "Master of the Day of Judgment: that is, [the day of] requite, the Day of Resurrection. The reason for the specific mention [of the Day of Judgment] is that the mastery of none shall appear on that Day except that of God, may He be exalted, as is indicated by [God’s words] ‘Whose is the Kingdom today?’ ‘God’s’ [Q. 40:16] (if one reads it mālik [as opposed to malik], then this signifies that He has possession of the entire affair on the Day of Resurrection, or else that He is ever described by this [expression], in the same way as [He is described as] ‘Forgiver of sin’ (ghāfir al-dhanb). Thus, one can validly take it as an adjective of a definite noun).”

(Trans. Tafsir al-Jalalayn © 2008 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan ( see also

There are many further Islamic writers and texts which make insightful comment upon the implications of the Qur'anic word mulk and associated terminology (see Kassis, Concordance, 765-768).  The Name of God al-Mālik meaning "the King", "the Ruler" is important in Islamic theology. It is the fourth of the ninety-nine al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā (“Most Beautiful Names” [ of God]) while the eighty fourth of these special Names is the theologically loaded genitive phrase the Mālik al-Mulk , the “Ruler of Kingdom” or the “King of the worldly dominion". The forty  or more Islamic theologians and philosophers (including Ibn Barrajān; Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqī; Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī) who have commented upon the al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā have set down detailed theological observations about the implications of these and related divine Names (see Hajji Khalifa, Kashf al-zunun [ed. 2008], 2: 314-217 nos. 7908-7939).

An example of the

 The Mulk (Dominion) in Select later Babi-Baha'i scriptural writings

 There are numerous Bābī-Bahā'ī scriptural writings which develop the theme of the eschatological realization of the Kingdom or reign of God on earth. The establishment of some form of theocracy attendant upon the Bābī-Bahā'ī theophany or divine manifestation on the Day of God is indicated may times. Only a few relevant passages can be set down here.

 In the preamble of a scriptural Tablet of Baha'u'llah to His eminence (ḥaḍrat) Ism-i Zayn, dated 18th Dhu'l-Ḥijja 1300 = 18th October 1883 CE., (a little less than a decade before his passing in May 1892 CE) we find some remarkably apposite theological uses of  the m-l-k root relative to eschatological fulfillment and the realization of the latter day "reign" or sovereignty of God:






Text scanned from Brit. Mus. Ms.  Or. 15700

He is God, exalted be His grades, The Mighty, the Powerful.

Praised be to God the Ruler of the earthly dominion and of the Kingdom (al-mālik al-mulk wa'l-malakūt) and the Sovereign of Power and of the Omnipotent Realm (sultan al-`Izz wa'l-jabarūt), Who made His Pedestal [Throne] (kursi) to be the worldly domain (al-nāsūt) to the end that He might rule therein over such as He wills. Over, that is, the Ruler [Owner, Master] (al-mālik) and the dominion assigned [owned] (wa'l-mamlūk) and [over] the Kingly authorities (wa'l-mulūk). May blessings and peace be upon whomsoever He hath dispatched for the sanctification of the world (li-taqdis al-`ālam) and whom he hath safeguarded from whatsoever might withhold him from the King of Pre-Existence (mālik al-qidam) and the Gem (al-jawhar) which hath been made manifest from the mine of God (ma`dan Allah), the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. And  [peace be upon] his family who are committed to Him

 A well-known supplication of Baha'u'llah includes words anticipating the phrase  al-mulk li-llāhi ("the Kingdom belongs to God") being stamped like an eschatological  "seal" on the foreheads of the faithful:

O thou that hast remembered Me! The most grievous veil hath shut out the peoples of the earth from His glory, and hindered them from hearkening to His call. God grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth, and that the seal al-mulk li-llāhi , "the Kingdom is God's", may be stamped upon the brow of all its peoples" (GWB VII).