Lately, I've been deepening on one of the larger Works of the Bab, namely,
Kitab-i Panj Sha`n (Five Qualifications) which is among His last Writings and
I'm struck by the tone and language used to address Yahya Azal and the clear
predictions that "Him whom God will make Manifest" will appear shortly (i.e.
during Azal's days) and that Yahya Azal will fail to recognize Him. In
addition one should note that the Bab in instructing Azal of some of the most
basic aspects of ontology and beliefs employs a tone suitable for instructing
a wayward person and not someone who is suppose to assume the leadership of
the community after the Bab. So, if nothing else, this section of Panj Sha`n
is clear documentation that the Bab never had in mind for Yahya Azal to put
forth outrageous claims that he did.
I'm aware that E.G. Browne had a copy of this Work in his possession and its a
mystery as to why he failed to see based on these passages that not only Azal
was not held very highly in the eyes of the Bab, but in fact was assured to be
one who will cause harm to "Him whom God will make manifest."
Further, its a bit puzzling as to why these passages where not used by
Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá to support their arguments against Azalis and can
only assume that They did not wish to shame Yahya Azal any more than what he
had brought upon himself.
The copy of Panj Sha`n that I'm using is in fact an Azali publication. It
has no date or place of publication but I suspect it was calligraphed in
Qazvin and printed in Tihran. Its in a beautiful script, very readable, and
contains 3 pages of Table of Contents, a total of 447 pages of Text, and some
14 pages of notes at the end. These endnotes are very interesting and contain
such info as to the date of Revelation of this Work (commenced on the first
day of Naw-Ruz 1850 and lasted for 17 days) and some other useful data. The
Table of Contents has also much useful info such as the identify of the
recipient of each section and that's how I know the section beginning on page
125 is addressed to Yahya Azal.
This section (pages 125-137) is in two parts, the first half Arabic and the
second half in Persian.
I have not translated the Text as regrettably I'm thoroughly unqualified to
undertake such a task, but have taken some notes on the Arabic portion which
are shared herewith. My comments are in square bracket, .
This section starts:
In the name of God, the Living, the Alive.
The original is: "Bismi'llah al-hayal al-hayal" and its a play on the name
of Yahya (the living). Yahya Nuri adopted the name of Yahya Azal partly
because, numerically both are equivalent to 38 but mostly since the Bab was
fond of refering to Himself as Nuqtih-i azaliyyih, subh-i azal, etc. By
adopting a surname which was employed by the Bab and appeared so frequently in
them, Azal tried to give credence to his claim.
Praise be God, there is no God by Him, the Living and the Alive. From
eternity and for ever, the glory emanated from God be upon "Him whom God will
manifest" and believers (promoters) of His Cause.
Be thee (Yahya Azal) witness that God is sanctified perpetually above His
creation and supreme over imaginal world. He is holier than all that created
or will be created. He has not created people, except for His own recognition
and that He is unneedy of them and their worship. And His recognition may not
be achieved except through His love and worship may not be possible except
Obviously, this passage is the reformulation of Hadith-i Qudsi "I was a
hidden treasure wished to be known, therefore, created man to know Me and love
Me." Its also the same sentiments articulated in the opening paragraph of the
Kitab-i Aqdas about twin, inseparable, duties of recognition and obedience.
So, recognize God, thy Creator, the most Glorious, and achieve this through
the recognition of Him whom God will manifest, mighty are His blessings.
Serve God, thy Lord, through servitude to Him whom God will manifest, long be
His aid. As the path of the essence of Eternal (azal) is closed and the way
to the hidden eternity is forbidden otherwise.
This is the key Bahá'í doctrine too, namely, recognition of God and His Names
is not possible except through His Prophets. But what is of particular
importance is that the Bab is covering some very basic things with someone who
in a couple of years will advance the claim to His successorship. This makes
no sense! Is this the sort of thing that Bahá'u'lláh, for example, would be
covering in the Tablet of Branch regarding Abdu'l-Bahá, or is this how He
addressed Abdu'l-Bahá in the Tablet to the land of Ba.
When thee [Yahya Azal] understand this, then realize that God, exalted be His
sanctity, will identify Himself to His creation through the manifestation of
His own Self. Therefore, all the nations have recognized God, their Lord,
naught but through recognition of their Prophets. And those endowed with
understanding will perceive this.
[Up through here was page 125.]
[A long section follows explaining that the Essence of God is beyond
comprehension of all, but His attributes are manifested in the Eternal Point
(nuqtih-i azaliyyih, ie. the Bab) of the Dispensation of Bayan. He goes on to
say such things as: Whoever worships the Manifestation of God, has worshipped
God; whoever serves Him, has served God; whoever praises Him, has praised
[Bottom of page 127:]
When thee [Azal] has understood these, then firstly grasp the proofs and upon
comprehended that, turn with certainty to the Throne of Appearance at the time
of Manifestation and have no fears. As this is the path of God, in the past
and future and the way of the Manifestation of God among all nations.
[middle of page 128:]
And in the Days of "Him whom God will manifest", whenever He chooses to
appear, on that Day, this Word [ie. the Manifestation] will not be recognized
except through believing in Him and do not look upon the Witnesses of Bayan.
[Its very instructive that the Bab explains that Witnesses of Bayan, which
included Yahya Azal, should *not* be used as guides for discovering Him whom
God will manifest.]
Because their blessings [ie. station] was due to believing in the Primal
Point, and similarly for the faithfuls (teachers) of "Him whom God will
manifest" and believing in Him. And nothing else is worthy, both in the past
and the future.
Strive to acquire higher qualifications. Perhaps thee will be enabled to
render assistance to God in thy essence. And acquire spiritual qualities and
radiate rays of pure ones, so that, perchance, in the Day of Resurrection
[here refers to appearance of Him whom God will manifest], if thee will not
make God, thy Lord, happy, at least thee will not make Him sad.
This is an amazing prophecy by the Bab where He predicts that Azal will bring
sadness to Bahá'u'lláh. In this last sentence, "God" refers to Bahá'u'lláh.
First time that I read this admonishment to Azal that he should avoid
saddening man-yazharu'llah, immediately the passage in Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and
Testament came to mind where He enjoins upon all not to cause the dust of
despondency be shed upon Shoghi Effendi.
A section follows explaining that for ordinary people, sadness and happiness
are two distinct states but before Him whom God will manifest they are the one
and the same as are all the other conditions. Namely, He is above such human
feelings and limitations.
[middle of page 130, line 7:]
It will please God, to exalt the station of this Word [ie. the Bab], for
exaltation of His own Self in the Day of Him whom God will manifest. Be
watchful from this day, lest God, thy Creator and His believers (teachers of
the Cause) will appear and thee [ie. Yahya Azal] be among those unaware.
Because now (soon) is, of course, the time of coming of Him whom God will
manifest along with His followers. Recognize Him and His believers, if thee
believe in the Primal Point and His believers. Therefore, thy faith in the
Bayan, at the Day of His Manifestation, is believing in Him and nothing
This paragraph is most emphatic in tone! In a very clear language the Bab
instructs Azal to turn to "Him whom God will make manifest" as will occur very
soon. Then He tells him that his belief in the Bab is contingent upon
believing in Bahá'u'lláh. In other words, if one fails to recognize the next
Manifestation, he has failed to recognized all the earlier Ones.
Do not wonder of the Cause of God. Perhaps the Cause of God will appear and
thee [Yahya Azal] remain unaware and be veiled of the Throne of
Then, the Bab delivers this final punch on page 131:
The Throne of the Truth became manifest and thee [Yahya Azal] failed to
recognize Him and all things created through Him.
The Bab further notes:
Do not wonder of the Cause of God. Perhaps the Cause of God will appear and
thee (ie. Yahya Azal) remain unaware and be veiled of the Throne of
There are several sections of the Bab's Kitab-i Panj Sha'n (Five Modes) that
have had profound effect on me and I like to gradually begin producing English
translation of them as I suspect that others would enjoy them as well. At the
outset I should say that I firmly believe any attempt to translate the
Writings of the Bab is a futile effort as invariably the translation will fall
drastically short of the sublimity of the original. But nevertheless attempt
As time permits, every few days I post a section for our collective benefit
and discussion, and when its clear that these passages are not generating
interest among the esteemed list participants, well, I can take a hint and
will stop ;-}
I would greatly welcome suggestions towards improving the translation, but
even more so look forwards to comments about the meaning of these Words of
The section that we concentrate for now begins on the top of the page 400 of
the Azali published Text:
Know thou that thy belief, which is a necessary condition for
entering the religion, should be to attain the good-pleasure of God. How
would then be possible that the cause of your entrance into the religion
be such things that thou desire, and not those that thy everlasting Lord
hath decreed? Consider how delicate and precise is this command.
All desire to win the good-pleasure of God by entering religion, but wish
to do so based on their own self-centered reasons. And at the time of
every Manifestation, the wavering of [adherents of the] previous
Dispensation hath been based on this reason and shall ever remain so. Had
the followers of Moses, behold the same miracle in the person of
Christ, none would have turned away. In like manner, had the believers in
Jesus, recognized Him in the Messenger of God [ie. Muhammad], none amongst
the Christians would have paused. Similarly, consider every Dispensation
and behold that essence of "enter the religion," [Qur'an ?:?] is none
other than to attain the good-pleasure of God. And hold fast to this
command in every Manifestation, and not your own desires or the doing of
others. And know thou, that the proof from God in every
Dispensation is complete and sufficient and shall ever be so. And
everyone must turn aside from all else but the Proof which comes bearing
the utterance of God, so that the might of His Person is readily
established. After thou recognized this, in every Dispensation, whether
One or Infinitude, remain acquiesce and do not utter yea or nay. Whatever
is then manifest, behold it them as manifest from God. And look upon
all such manifestations with the eye of unity, and not multitude. And
consider every utterance in its own context, so that neither in the
exoteric meanings of the manifest, nor in the esoteric purport of it,
should you see two contradictory words.
I am struck by several
key themes in this section:
- The importance of approaching the religion of God through the purity of
the desire to win His good-pleasure and not any other considerations. This
reminds me of the passage in Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet of Visitation where we pray:
"Help me to be selfless at the heavenly entrance of Thy gate, and aid me to be
detached from all things within Thy holy precincts." This detachment from all
worldly and heavenly concerns is what this passage seems to be calling for.
- The theme of the unity of the Manifestations of course speaks loudly in
this passage, and related to it the need to recognized in each of the Divine
Educators, the essence of the previous One.
- Another point that I thought was profoundly important is to not judge the
religion of God by saying and doing of the others, but to remain focused on
God Himself. When one thinks of all the things that has transpired during the
past year or so in the cyberspace, one grows in appreciation of this
singularly important point. In particular, one should highlight the command
of the Bab for us not to look upon the *others* as our model in such matters
and again one is struck by how relevant this statement is in relation to the
- The last paragraph is where the Bab begins to lay the ground work for His
discussion of unity. He points out that the religion of God is complete and
no contradiction exists within it. What may appear as contradiction though is
simply due to lack of contextualization of the Word of God. In other words,
apparent contractions tells us something about the speaker and not the Word.
In the next section we'll see how the Bab extends this concept of the unity
of Word to the cause of disunity in the community.
Next, a rough rendering of the next paragraph of the Bab's
discourse on faith and unity (Panj Sha'n, p. 400-1):
Consider how in each Dispensation [zuhur], the adherents cause
differences. The root of all disputes, is what hath been manifested from
the Source of that Dispensation. Each believer traverses through one of
the effulgences and remains distinct (unaware) of the others. As such,
differences occurs within each Dispensation, while in all the
Dispensations, there is nothing that God hath forbidden more strenuously
than disunity, and all been commanded to unity and fellowship. Because
when thou become the cause of disunity in this Dispensation, the fruit of
that will ripe in the next Dispensation and will be directed to the
Manifestation then, which before God is certainly greater than the present
effect of thy deed. Indeed, it would have been better if thou had not
acquired knowledge to cause differences, than to become learned and bring
forth disunity. Know that, the harm of such differences, will surround
the believers (champions) in the next Dispensation.
know if I should dare comment on this passage, but a few obvious points comes
I'm struck by the fact the Bab recognizes that the cause of all
differences and disunities is the Revelation itself. Now I think in this
regard one should note that there are many sources of disagreements amongst
people (e.g. money, business, marriage, relationships, etc., etc.), but that
by implications He notes that none of these are lasting differences or at
least do not cause harm to the whole of mankind and effect only a small
pocket. The one body of difference that will cause permanent harm, if I read
the Bab correctly, are the ones based on the Revelation.
- He goes on to note that actually it is not the Revelation per se that
causes disunity, but rather varying interpretations that exists among the
adherents (later on He narrows it to the Divines/learned). He notes that each
of them have a particular interest/background/training and view the Revelation
through the narrow range of his/her own orientation. It is the clash, or
perhaps the narrowness of these interpretations, that cause permanent division
in the community.
- Disunity, He says, in that universal constant that has been forbidden in
all Dispensation in the strongest possible language.
- The resultant differences have a divisive effect on the present
Dispensation, but it becomes the dart that penetrates the chest of the next
Manifestation and the sword that slays the believers in the following
- I read Him to say, its best to remain humble and united, than to grow
learned and cause division.
What is my take on all of this? It seems to me that the idea that is being
rejected in this passage obviously is not learning and scholarship, but rather
the inability of these so-called scholars to resolve their difference. The
subtext of this passage speaks of humility that must be manifest be those that
claim learning so to bow to one another's view rather than the arrogance that
we see in the world around us and the fierce debates that cause nothing but
This passage calls on those who aspire to be students of religion to learn to
speak with one another, to consult properly and to effectively resolve their
varying views, always with an eye on the promotion of unity.
Because if they don't, the Bab says the blood of the next martyrs will be on
Juan Cole's note
What the Bab is saying in this passage is essentially similar to what Ibn
al-`Arabi, Rumi and Bahá'u'lláh said. Religious differences arise because
human beings are at different levels (maqam) of perception or understanding
(idrak), and because they each become convinced that only their understanding
is the true one.
There are a number of possible solutions to this problem:
- Everyone could tolerate everyone else. This solution is the
Unitarian-Universalist solution. It has the drawback, however, of diluting a
strong doctrinal core to the religion, since not everyone can be expected to
assent to every doctrine.
- The Roman Catholic solution: There is one "privileged" set of
interpretations (the Pope or Vatican) that hold sway in the central
institutions of the religion, and which are reinforced by appointments from on
high, and by occasional sanctions on believers who are perceived to stray too
far from orthodoxy. Ordinary Catholics may in fact develop interpretations
quite distinct from the "privileged" Vatican positions, but these are
considered "lay" views and not the view of the Church.
- The Khomeinist solution: There is one privileged set of interpretations
(the Supreme Jurisprudent) and straying too far from them puts one's life at
risk (e.g. Saidi Sirjani, Soroush).
I personally think the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh had solution 1) in mind.
Ahang Rabbani replies
Question: Does the Scripture enjoin on us resolution
of differences, or simply recognition of them and allowing us to coexist?
The answer, based on my inadequate (in every sense of the word) understanding
of the Bab's passage, is a resounding call for *resolution* of differences.
Let's see what the Bab has to say.
Remember, so far, He is focusing on the reason why people failed to recognized
their divine Beloved with a new Name.
Consider the Dispensation of the Gospels, and how it was
segregated into multitudes of factions. At the time of the appearance of
the Messenger of God [ie. Muhammad], because of this same reason, they
remained oblivious in believing in Him, even though at the time of His
Manifestation some seventy of the Nazarene divines [ie. Christian priests]
believed in Him. And if they were all united in the effulgences of
the Gospels, they would all, similar to those seventy, have believed. And
the cause was none other except that which had been stirred amongst them,
for it was not from God. Each [of the factions] claimed that the truth is
solely in my hands, and caused a manner of dispute. And the short
days of his life passed and naught resulted, and what fruit thereof
remained, in the Day of the Manifestation of the Messenger of God, was
directed at Him. Now asked if these differences profited him any.
Ahang: Forgive my inability to do the passage justice and express it better
but trust me when I say that the original is absolutely exquisite and
In this passage, the Bab laments that because of their own differences, the
Christians failed to recognize Muhammad. Remember He had said earlier that
each Prophet comes with complete and sufficient proof, so it wasn't that
Muhammad did not offer ample proof to the Christians, but their own
difference, caused by inability to resolve their disputes over reading the
Sacred Text (the Gospels), denied them the blessing of inhaling the fragrance
of Muhammad's Message.
Then the Bab asks, and what happened to those that caused disputes? Where are
they now? What became of their efforts? And He answers solemnly as: naught,
except harm. Their days passed, and their differences became the sufferings
of the Prophet Muhammad.
Forgive this intrusion, and let's get back on the passage.
In similar manner, consider the Dispensation of Islam
and how it had grown factious. At the beginning of the Manifestation of
the Point of Bayan [ie. the Bab], a single group of them expresses their
belief, and others, because of their conversion, stayed oblivious, saying
that in orientation we differ with them. These people are so
pathetic that do not understand that in every Dispensation the harm of
such differences is directed at the Author of the Revelation, and as soon
as the Source of that Dispensation is manifest, all the divisions are the
mainspring of His injuries. The destiny of all depends on that Balance.
Whatsoever He enjoins will be made manifest, and whatever He forbid
will become naught. ...
The Bab gives yet another example, His own. Points out that
at the beginning of His Manifestation, the Shaykhis recognized Him and
believed in Him. But the rest, because of their differences with Shaykhis,
rejected His Message and caused Him injuries. I must say that when in this
passage He alludes to His sufferings, the force of the language and the depth
of anguish is absolutely numbing. With every single Word, one senses the pain
that He must have been enduring. I don't mind telling you, that the first
that I read this passage, I was deeply shaken and moved. I wish I had the
skills to translate it more effectively.
Its wonderful to see that at the conclusion of this passage, once again, with
the utmost authority born of God, He speaks that: only that which He willeth,
will be created, and from that which He turns away, will assuredly
Which then brings us to this magnificent passage:
Now in each Dispensation, the learned should resolve themselves
that no differences would occur, and if because of their heart's weakness
to consider each effulgent in its own station (context), disagreements did
occur, then assured of the divine wisdom and knowledge, to dispense with
such divergences, rejecting neither position, but considering each in
its own context, so that all would be educated as result of unity.
Thereby, at time of the next Manifestation, all will be guided to the
lofty height of guidance and recognition, as this is the greatest of all
deeds in every Dispensation. The Cause of God should never be divided and
the oneness at no time compromised.
Ahang: Now we have the answer to the question that was raised earlier,
namely, the need for resolution of the differences.
That Bab calls on the learned to arise and shoulder the brunt of this
responsibility, as He had recognized that it is them that typically cause the
divisions in the first place. He points that that many among the learned may
not be spiritually mature to fully appreciate the intricacies of the
Revelation and nit-pick it to death by pointing to various contradictions,
etc. He says that those endowed with true learning, must explain the wisdom
and context of each aspect of the Revelation to eliminate the differences of
interpretation. Therefore, quite clearly resolution of problems and disputes
is what is being called for.
One should point that by extension, the Bab, is placing the ultimate
responsibility of the unity of mankind, which will ensure the recognition of
the next Manifestation, in the hand of the learned -- an awesome
If you would allow me a personal observation: I think the implication of the
call of the Bab on the learned to resolve difference stemming from the
Revelation has enormous potentialities for the development of Bahá'í
scholarship, in fact, one could dare say its the charter for such an
enterprise. However, we should never loose sight that it should be
scholarship aimed at promotion of unity of mankind.