Skip to content

Some Notes on the Claims of the Bab in the Qayyūm al-asmā'

Some Notes upon the claims of the Bab in the Qayyūm al-asmā'  and traditions pertaining to the 1260/1844 "Declaration" of Bābiyya (Gatehood).

Stephen Lambden UC Merced,

1980s ...  Under revision and Completion 2020

       According to the Bāb himself, the Qayyūm al-asmā'   was  written over a "forty day" period, during the months following the Bāb's confiding something of his messianic claims in Shiraz (Iran), to the young Persian Shaykhī, Mullā Ḥusayn Bushrū'ī  (d.1265 /1849). According to the Bāb himself this event took place precisely two hours and eleven minutes after sunset on  the evening of May 22 1844  (= 5th Jamād al-Awwal, 1260 AH; Per. Bayān II:7 cf. VI:13). At this time the Bāb was 25 years old. Some historical or hagiographical details about this semi-secret messianic "declaration" of the Bāb in mid. 1844/1260 are registered  in various Bābī and Bahā'ī sources a few of which can now be mentioned.

The Tārīkh-i Mullā Ja`far-i Qazvīnī

  Among the significant early sources narrating the circumstances surrounding the Bāb's earliest, semi-secret disclosure of his messianic role is, for example, the Persian Tārīkh-i Mullā Ja`far-i Qazvīnī   written about 20 years before the completion of the final recension of the Dawn-Breakers  of  Mullā Muhammad, Nabīl-i Zarandī  (d.1892) on 29th Rabi I 1308 ( = 12th January, 1890 CE).


The Tārīkh-i Muhammad-i  Zarandī  ("The Dawn-Breakers")

    Best known to modern Bahā'īs is the narrative contained in a recension of the history of Mullā Muhammad known as Nabīl-i Zarandī (1247/1831-1319/1892) known as the Tārīkh-i Zarandī.  This massive Persian and Arabic historical and theological compendium  was partially redacted into English by Shoghi Effendi (the Guardian of the Bahā'ī religion, 1921-1957). Its English recreation was published under the title The Dawn-Breakers  (1st ed. 1932). Therein we read:

"`That night, that memorable night, was the eve preceding the fifth day of Jamádiyu'l-Avval, in the year 1260 A.H.  It was about an hour after sunset when my youthful Host [the Bab]  began to converse with me. "Whom, after Siyyid Káẓim," He asked me,  "do you regard as his successor and your leader?" "At the hour of his death," I replied, "our departed teacher [Sayyid Kazim] insistently exhorted us [Shaykhis] to forsake our homes,  to scatter far and wide, in quest of the promised Beloved [the messianic Qā'im]. I have, accordingly, journeyed to Persia [from Iraq], have arisen to accomplish his will, and am still engaged in my quest."  "Has your teacher," He [the Bab] further enquired, "given you any detailed indications as to the distinguishing features of the promised One?"  "Yes," I replied, "He [the expected Qa'im] is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent, and of the seed of Fáṭimih.  As to His age, He is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking,  and is free from bodily deficiency."

He [the Bab] paused for a while and then with vibrant voice declared:

"Behold, all these signs are manifest in Me!"

He then considered each of the above-mentioned signs separately, and conclusively demonstrated that each and all were applicable to His person. I was greatly surprised, and politely observed:

"He whose advent we await is a Man of unsurpassed holiness, and the Cause He is to reveal, a Cause of tremendous power. Many and diverse are the requirements which He who claims to be its visible embodiment must needs fulfil. How often has Siyyid Káẓim referred to the vastness of the knowledge of the promised One! How often did he say: `My own knowledge is but a drop compared with that with which He has been endowed. All my attainments are but a speck of dust in the face of the immensity of His knowledge. Nay, immeasurable is the difference!'" No sooner had those words dropped from my lips than I found myself seized with fear and remorse, such as I could neither conceal nor explain. I bitterly reproved myself, and resolved at that very moment to alter my attitude and to soften my tone. I vowed to God that should my Host again refer to the subject, I would, with the utmost humility, answer and say: "If you be willing to substantiate your claim, you will most assuredly deliver me from the anxiety and suspense which so heavily oppress my soul. I shall truly be indebted to you for such deliverance."

 When I [Mulla Husayn] first started upon my quest, I determined to regard the two following standards as those whereby I could ascertain the truth of whosoever might claim to be the promised Qá'im.

The first was a treatise which I had myself composed, bearing upon the abstruse and hidden teachings propounded by Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Káẓim. Whoever seemed to me capable of unravelling the mysterious allusions made in that treatise, to him

I would next submit my second request,

and would ask him to reveal, without the least hesitation or reflection,

a commentary on the Súrih of Joseph,

in a style and language entirely different from the prevailing standards of the time.

I had previously requested Siyyid Káẓim, in private,

to write a commentary on that same Súrih, which he refused, saying:

"This is, verily, beyond me.

He, that great One, who comes after me will, unasked, reveal it for you.

That commentary will constitute one of the weightiest testimonies of His truth,

and one of the clearest evidences of the loftiness of His position." 

"`I [Mulla Husayn] was revolving these things in my mind,

when my distinguished Host [ the Bāb] again remarked:

"Observe attentively.

Might not the Person intended by Siyyid Káẓim be none other than I?"

I thereupon felt impelled to present to Him a copy of the treatise which I had with me. "Will you," I asked Him, "read this book of mine and look at its pages with indulgent eyes? I pray you to overlook my weaknesses and failings." He graciously complied with my wish. He opened the book, glanced at certain passages, closed it, and began to address me. Within a few minutes He had, with characteristic vigour and charm, unravelled all its mysteries and resolved all its problems. Having to my entire satisfaction accomplished, within so short a time, the task I had expected Him to perform, He further expounded to me certain truths which could be found neither in the reported sayings of the imáms of the Faith nor in the writings of Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim. These truths, which I had never heard before, seemed to be endowed with refreshing vividness and power. "Had you not been My guest," He afterwards observed, "your position would indeed have been a grievous one. The all-encompassing grace of God has saved you. It is for God to test His servants, and not for His servants to judge Him in accordance with their deficient standards. Were I to fail to resolve your perplexities, could the Reality that shines within Me be regarded as powerless, or My knowledge be accused as faulty? Nay, by the righteousness of God! it behoves, in this day, the peoples and nations of both the East and the West to hasten to this threshold, and here seek to obtain the reviving grace of the Merciful. Whoso hesitates will indeed be in grievous loss. Do not the peoples of the earth testify that the fundamental purpose of their creation is the knowledge and adoration of God? It behoves them to arise, as earnestly and spontaneously as you have arisen, and to seek with determination and constancy their promised Beloved."

He then proceeded to say:

"Now is the time to reveal the commentary on the Súrih of Joseph."

 He took up His pen and with incredible rapidity revealed the entire Súrih of Mulk,

the first chapter of His commentary on the Súrih of Joseph.

The overpowering effect of the manner in which He wrote was heightened by the gentle intonation of His voice which accompanied His writing. Not for one moment did He interrupt the flow of the verses which streamed from His pen. Not once did He pause till the Súrih of Mulk  was finished. I sat enraptured by the magic of His voice and the sweeping force of His revelation.

At last I reluctantly arose from my seat and begged leave to depart. He smilingly bade me be seated, and said: "If you leave in such a state, whoever sees you will assuredly say: `This poor youth has lost his mind.'" At that moment the clock registered two hours and eleven minutes after sunset.  That night, the eve of the fifth day of Jamádiyu'l-Avval, in the year 1260 A.H., corresponded with the eve preceding the sixty-fifth day after Naw-ruz, which was also the eve of the sixth day of Khurdad, of the year Nahang. "This night," He declared, "this very hour will, in the days to come, be celebrated as one of the greatest and most significant of all festivals. Render thanks to God for having graciously assisted you to attain your heart's desire, and for having quaffed from the sealed wine of His utterance. `Well is it with them that attain thereunto.'"  (Zarandi, Dawn-Breakers, 56-62 [format slightly altered]).

The claims of the Bāb in the  Qayyūm al-asmā'

Within the text of the Qayyūm al-asmā'  itself, diverse claims of the Bāb are directly or indirectly voiced.  At this time of his semi-secret messianic disclosure ("declaration")  to Mullā Husaym (May 22nd 1844), the Bāb held something a 'messianic secret'. This for a period of around four years (1844-1848). Subsequently to May 22nd 1844 he only obliquely indicated his messianic or very exalted status. This is mentioned by the Bāb himself in the Persian Bayan:

Claims to `ubudiyya  ("Servitude"). 

    As in QA1:1,9 the Bāb sometimes represented himself as a servant ('abd) of the occulted or hidden 12th Imam, often called the Ḥujjat-Allāh ("Proof of God") or Dhikr-Allāh

Claims to Bābiyya (Gatehood)

    In his early writings the Bab often represents himself as a "gate" (bāb) to the hidden Imam

Claims to Dhikriyya (Remembrance).

At other times in his first major work the Bab is allusively or directly presented as the Dhikr ("Remembrance") Dhikr-Allah (the "Remembrance of God"), or  on occasion as the "Greatest" (al-akbar) or Most Great Remembrance" (dhikr al-akbar / al-a`ẓam). In its various forms this title is again one of the numerous titles of the messianic 12th Imam. Worth noting here is the fact that the quasi-messianic figure of the "Most Great Remembrance" is seen by Bahā'īs as a predictive allusion to the person of Baha'-Allah (GPB:XX). 

Direct claims to be the Qā'im (Qā'imiyya or Mahdiyya)


Other Elevated Claims and Claims to subordinate divinity.

يا اهل الارض

اسمعوا ندائی من لدی الذّكر

انّ اللّه قد اوحی الیّ انّی انا اللّه لا اله الاّ انا و هذا الذّكر لدی صراط علیّ هذا قد كان فی امّ الكتاب مكتوباً