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Some Notes on the Dating of Select Writings of the Bāb.

al-Badi` (The Name of God, the Regenerative).

Some Notes on the Dating of Select Writings of the Bāb with a Brief Chronological Survey.

Stephen Lambden, UC Merced.

IN PROGRESS - Under revision and completion. Last updated 04-05-2020.

Many if not most of the over 150 (or more) major and minor writings of the Bāb are undated in precise terms. They may be divided chronologically into ten unequal periods. This on the basis of the various Persian geographical locations of the place of residence, travel or exiles of the Bab, and eventual places of his imprisonment for alleged religious heresy. At this stage of research the precise dating of several of these proposed ten periods is sometimes uncertain. Aside from around a year at the Iraqī sacred thresholds (`Atabāt; Kāẓimayn, Najaf, and Karbala) and a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina and associated places in the then Ottoman Empire (1844-5), the Bāb spent his whole life in Persia-Iran. In his early years he lived in Shiraz and Bushire (S.E. Iran), with later periods in Isfahan until the final, about three years of imprisonment in Ādhirbayān (NW Iran; 1263-6 / late1847-July 9th 1850). Throughout all these changing locations and circumstances, he continued to write or reveal much to both individuals and groups or to the whole of humanity. In 1260/1844 Ḥājjī Abu'l-Ḥasan Shirazi, a fellow traveler between Bushire and Jeddah, frequently observed the Bāb and Quddus “absorbed in their work” of dictating and recording verses for, “Neither the violence of the elements nor the tumult of the people around them could either ruffle the serenity of their countenance or turn them from their purpose" (DB: 130). By 1848, the growing and scattered (largely Persian) Bābī community had reached around 100,000 believers who requested individual and collective scriptural guidance (P. Dala’il, 64).   

Though precise day, month, sometimes even general, annual datings of a proportion of the Bāb’s writings remains uncertain, a number of early and a few later writings were internally dated by their author himself. Other writings can be roughly or more accurately dated on the basis of internal content (e.g. referencing earlier writings of the Bāb), manuscript datings, or historically informative data found within secondary and even tertiary Babi-Baha’i and other sources. In his later years, the Bāb occasionally divided his religious ministry into five, six or even seven  periods in line with religious statements indicative of historical and theological fulfillments. See in this respect the five or more replies of Imam `Ali to Kumayl ibn Ziyad al-Nakha'i about al-haqiqa in the Ḥadīth al-ḥaqīqa as interpreted in the Persian Dalā’il , 58; Saeidi, 2008:169-172).

Epecially helpful in dating and identifying the early writings of the Bab, are a few of his 1261/1845 writings which include lists of earlier works such as texts which had been stolen near Mecca (during pilgrimage of he Bāb). Pertinent to this matter are details within the Khuṭba Jidda (`Literary Oration nigh Jeddah’, c. March 1845), the K. Fihrist (`Book of the Index’; June 1845), and the the Khuṭba Dhikriyya (Sermon of the Remembrance’; c. late 1845 or mid Muḥarram 1262/ Jan 1846) forming the first part of the composite Ṣaḥīfa Raḍawiyya (Afnan, `Ahd, 473-4; Saiedi, Gate, 32). Aspects of what is registered in these three writings will be drawn upon in the chronological paragraphs to follow. Only a few examples of major works dating within these periods can be mentioned here. Brief illustrative translations will only occasionally be included. As will be indicated all of these ten periods witnessed the communication of important scriptural texts.

[1] Pre-declaration writings, prior to 5th Jumādī al-Awwal 1260/ May 23, 1844. Written in Shiraz, his birthplace and place of residence, or in Bushire, the place of his early mercantile occupation between c. 1834-1840. Then there was around a year, from 1257/ April 1841- early 1842, at the `Aṭabāt (the Ottoman, now Iraqi `religious thresholds’), including Karbala and Najaf where shrines of certain of the twelver Imams are located. Note also that the Bāb married Khadija Bagum in 1842. That of Imam Ḥusayn is in Karbala which also came to be the final, ten year or so place of residence of the Shaykhī leader, Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843) with whom the Bāb came to be closely associated (see Mazandarani, KZH 2nd ed. III: 208f; MacEoin, Sources, 42f.   Mohammad-Hosseini, 1995: 156-165).

  • Risāla Fiqhiyya (Treatise on Jurisprudence) of early but uncertain date and now lost.
  • T. Surat al-Baqara (Commentary on the Sura h of the Cow, Q. 2).

It appears from the some early verses (especially 7-10) within the Sūrat al-Qaraba (The Surah of the Kinsfolk; on Qur'an 12:27) of the Qayyum al-asma' and elsewhere, that the Bab had a quite extensive correspondence with family, mercantile and other associates during the pre-declaration years (before May 22nd 1844 CE), These he came to make secret, declare sacrosanct and his own property save with his express permission. He was himself to clarify, post mid. 1844, his status as representative of the hidden Imam. Whatever he had secretly intimated in earlier writings was to be viewed as sacred and secret:

An extract from  the Sūrat al-Qaraba (The Surah of the Kinsfolk):

[7] We, we do testify unto thy penmanship during some of thy days, for persons among thy kinsfolk (l'l-rijal al-quraba). We decreed that there be a  concealment (kannan) thereof on this Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyama); as pertains, that is, to these [revealed] documents [papers] (al-waraqat). God thy Lord is the True One (al-haqq). For the sake of the Truth (al-haqq) He will assuredly guide them unto His Mighty Path (sirat), as, in very Truth, accords with the Truth, through One  Powerful (quwiyy), Near-at-Hand (qarib an). [8] We have indeed born witness unto thy refutation [return] of the response (radd al-jawab) unto the Book [Treatise] (al-kitab); thIs  in the papers revealed  in the sacred land [the `Atabat in Ottoman Iraq] (الورقة المنزلة من الارض المقدّسة = al-waraqat al-munazila fi'l-ard al-muqaddas), [9] We shall instruct the people about the  Greatest Dhikr (al-dhikr al-akbar) through the Dhikr of God (dhikr Allah), the Exalted, in Truth,  in very Truth, One  Powerful (quwiyy), [whose advent is] near-at-hand (qarib an) [is imminent].


ايّها التّجّار السّاكنون فی البرّ و البحر

O thou merchants (al-tujjār) resident in both land and sea!

Fear ye God regarding the Greatest Word (al-kalimat al-akbar) and send unto the Greatest Dhikr (Remembrance) after information about his homeland, everything that his hands had written, or was written down with his consent unto thee, during the days of his mercantile activity.  As for the documents [leaves, pages] (al-waraqat al-mukhrajat) sent forth by his own hand, scriptural Tablets (alwāḥ) in the form of sacred scrolls (alwāḥ min ṣuḥufāt al-quds), they have, in every respect, been declared sacrosanct, forbidden by God unto all souls, save that is, with His most great permission.  And God hath ever been All-Knowing of His servants, the believers" (trans Lambden).

For further context see :

[2] Shiraz and Bushire I.

Post-declaration writngs during the over four months (132 days) in Shiraz and Bushire between May 23rd and the departure from Bushire (by boat) on 19th Ramadan 1260 AH / October 2nd 1844.  

  • Tafsīr Ṣūrat Yusuf (The Commentary on the `The Surah of Joseph’, Q. 12).

[3] Pilgrimage Period: To Mecca & Medina (1260-61/1844-5).

The writings dating to the pilgrimage period date after leaving Shiraz on the 26 Sha`ban 1260/Sept. 10th 1844 and departing from Bushire (Oct. 2nd 1844) until c. Jumada II 1261/ c. June-July, 1845. This period extended for almost a year of the Hegrī (AH) Islamic calendar (Sha`bān 1260 until Rajab 1261) and around 10 months CE. It included a short time at Bushire (until Oct, 2 1844), Muscat, Jiddah (3 days on the return jouney), Mecca (arrived 1st Dhu’l-Hijjah 1260/ 12th Dec. 1844), and Medina (27 days in Mecca and Medina), as well as the boat trips from Bushire to Jeddah (Arabia, arrived early December 1844; departed Jeddah 24 Safar/ 4th March 1845) and back again. Both the outward and return journeys must have lasted for over two months at sea. Reckoned from Shiraz to Shiraz, the pilgrimage including the journeyings lasted for almost ten (Gregorian) months or 9 months and 25 days (totaling around 300 days). On the Islamic lunar calendar it lasted almost one year from Sha`bān 1260 until Rajab 1261.

For some details see Kh-Jidda and Lambden trans. and for mss. of this period see esp. INBMC 91. At the present time, most Bahā’ī historical and related sources dealing with the pilgrimage or early years of the Bāb, fail to take proper account of the chronological data in the Kh-J and related primary Bābī sources. Note that it was while the Bāb was on his return journey that the trial of Mullā `Alī Bastāmī (d.        ) ...

[4] Bushire II: the post-pilgrimage month in Bushire (c. June 1845 – c. 1st Rajab 1261 AH / July 5th 1845).

Be aware that God made the knowledge of al-badā’ (re-determination) to be something elevated above the celestial Throne of bahā’ (`arsh al-bahā’) and specified it for the people of radiance (ahl al-sanā’) above the  sphere of laudation (minṭaqa al-thanā’) … (the Bāb `Reply to a question about the badā of God’ (INBMC 67:172-3).

During the late pilgrimage period (from c. Jan 1845) and at abovementiond time (Bushire II), the Bāb utilized the theology of al-badā’ (`re-determination or neo-genesis’, a change in the divine decree cf. Q.13: 39) of God. An important section on badā’ can be found in the al-Kafī of Kulaynī, vol.1:146-9. See also the articles in EI-EI3 and EIr. with many further references : see also most recently, Amir-Moezzi, “Badāʾ”, in EI3 (2015-4). As early as 1942 the French languages doctoral thsis of `Abd al-Rahman Tag  contained a quite lengthy section on  bada' (see Tag: XXX-XXX). Amanat’s 1989 Resurrection and Renewal has an excellent section about this period and issues surrounding the Bāb and the question of al-badā’ (Ch. 5 esp. 243ff). See also letter or` Tablet of the Bāb to Mullā `Abd al-Khāliq Yazdī’ where (in a supplication) the Bāb clearly states that he desired neither the mulk al-dunyā (rulership of this world) nor that of the hereafter (al-ākhira) (see INBMC 91: [94-102] p.98).

It was related to a renewal of the divine will involving the cancellation of his earlier call for a jihād-oriented gathering in Kufa or Karbala (in Ottoman Iraq) expected in hundreds of Shī`ī Islamic traditions. Global `holy war’ was not to be. In a supplication, he stated that he desired neither the malik al-dunyā (rulership of this world) nor that of the hereafter (al-ākhira)(see INBMC 91:98). References of the Bāb to this matter of al-badā’ can be found in several early and some later writings and letters; in for example, the S. A`māl (6007C: 450) and the later P. Bayan (IV.3, 113-4) and P. Dala’il (p.51).

After his return from pilgrimage in 1845, the Bāb cancelled an earlier proposed Bābī congregation in Karbala, most probably for the initiation of an eschatological jihād (holy war). A prayer of the Bāb written in response to questions relating to the  meaning of the jihād oriented tradition of Mufaḍḍāl b. `Umar, makes it clear that eschatological expectations spelled out therein could be cancelled through al-badā (INBA Ms 6003C:173ff cf. Sachedina, 1981:165-6).

During this month the Bāb also directed a cautious, cryptic or guarded promotion of the new religious Cause and continued to write intertextual Q. related theological texts. He further initiated the process of inculcating religio-ritual identity for members of the emergent new religion. A letter or scriptural Tablet was also addressed to Muhammad Shah Qajar during this time, as also during most of the successive phases of the post 1260/1844 life of the Bab (Afnan, 2000: 85, 102-3).

  • Khaṣā’il-i sab`a, or (Ar.) al-Sha`ā’ir al-sab`a (The Seven [Religio-Legal] Directives’).

[5] Shiraz II: eight post-pilgrimage months in Shiraz from c. 24th Jumada II, 1261/ c. July 5th 1845 – c. Ramadan 1262 / Sept. 1846.

Note that the exact date of the Bāb’s arrival back in Bushire then Shiraz are both uncertain. Cf. MacEoin, Early Shaykhi Reactions, 23 fn. 90; Sources, 47-49. Lambden trans. Kh-Jidda.

  • The Ṣaḥīfa al-Riḍawiyya (c. mid Muḥarram 1262/ Jan 1846).

[6] The six month journey to Isfahan between Sept. 1846 and Rabi I or II / March 1847 via Kulayn (12 miles from Tehran) and including two weeks near Qazvin in Siyāh-Dahān.

Dating to these months are a third letter to Muhammad Shah Qajar (Tr. Narr. 14) and Letters, among others,  to the `ulamā’ of Qazvin.   

A few Baha’ī  primary sources have it that this journey included a secret (perhaps “spiritual”) meeting of the Bāb and Bahā’u’llah.

[7] Isfahan: the roughly six-seven months at Isfahan, from Sept. 1846 until c. Rabi II 1263/ March-April 1847.  During this period the Bāb spent more than a month in the house of the Imam Jum`a then much of late 1846 until spring 1847 in that of Manūchihr Khān. For both these leading figures he wrote important works. 

  • Tafsīr Surat al-`Aṣr (Commentary on the Sūrah of the Afternoon, Q. 103).
  • N

[8] To Adhirbayjan. The five-six month journey to Ādhirbayjān (NE Iran) from March/April 1847 until Sha`ban 1263 /August 1847. This includes a period spent near Tehran in 1847 followed by the journey to Mākū.

  • X
  • X

[9] Mākū, within the `Open Mountain’: around eight months imprisonment in Ādhirbayjān (1263-64 / Aug.1847- 5th Jumada I 1264/ April 9th 1848). This period saw the three week Bāb initiated conference of Badasht (Khurasan, late Jumada II or Rajab 1264 /June 1848), the forty days surrounding the interrogation or heresy trial at Tabriz (Sha'ban 1264/July 1848), and a period of more open proclamation.  

  • Tafsir. Several Qur’an commentaries (lost). During this period the Bāb continued to write Q. Commentaries in addition to the three earlier ones mentioned in the P. Bayan (III.16, 101). Muhammad Nabīl-i Zarandī (d.1892 CE) mentions nine such apparently complete Tafsīr works (DB: XX).
  • Bayān-i farsī (The Persian Bayān)
  • al-Bayān al-`arabī (The Arabic Bayān) most likely dates to this period and or early [10] (below). 

[10] Chahrīq [Chihrīq], within the `Grevious Mountain’: a roughly two years, two month period of imprisonment in Ādhirbayjān, in the fortress of Chahrīq near the Turkish border (1264-1266/April-May 1848-July 1850). This period ended when Bāb was executed (aged 31) at Tabriz on 8th Sha`ban 1266/ July 9th 1850.   It  witnessed the so-called seven month `Episode of Shaykh Tabarsi’ (loosely, an upheaval or conflagration between royalist the forces of Shāh and the Bābīs), between around October 10, 1848 and May 10, 1849.

  • Khutba-yi Qahriyya (`Sermons of Wrath’) The possibly multiple texts or rcensions of the Kh-Qahriyya (`Sermons of Wrath’) were early on written for Muhammad Shah Qajar and his minister Ḥajjī Mirzā Āqāsī.
  • Kitab al-asma’ (The Book of Names).  
  • K. Panj Sha`n (The Book of the Five Modes of Revelation).
  • Haykal al-Din (The Temple of Religion).
  • Wasiyyat-Nama (Will and Testament) (date unknown).