E. G. Browne's "A Traveller's Narrative:" Note Z


        The information which I possess about Zeynu'l-Mukarrabín the Behá'í scribe (or, as he prefers to call himself,

[page 413]

Harfu'z-Zá "the Letter Z") is, unfortunately, very scanty. Before I visited Acre, I had heard his fame in Kirmán, but all that I learned definitely about him was that his real name was Zeynu'l-'Ábidín; that he had resided for many years at Mosul; that all the best and most correct manuscripts of the sacred books were written or revised by him; and that Sheykh S*****, the Bábí courier mentioned at pp. 496-498 of my first paper in the J. R. A. S. for 1889, visited him yearly on his return journey from Acre to Southern Persia.

        During my stay at Acre in April 1890 I learned that he had resided there for some years, but I did not see him, at any rate to my knowledge. Many manuscripts were, however, lent to me to read while I was there, and all of these, so far as I remember, were written by his hand. From some of these I transcribed the colophons of which I shall speak directly. Two manuscripts written by him were given to me on my departure from Acre, viz. the present history, whereof the text is now offered to the public in fac-simile, and a copy of the Íkán. His industry must be prodigious, the aforesaid MS. of Íkán, for instance, being, as stated in the colophon, the 67th copy which he had transcribed! The present history, being written to some extent for general circulation, is dated only in the Muhammadan fashion; but all MSS. of the sacred books proper are also dated according to the Bábí method. Though I have not ascertained exactly when Zeynu'l-Mukarrabín came from Mosul to Acre, it appears from the colophons directly to be quoted that in A.H. 1296 (A.D. 1879) he was still at the former place, and that in A.H. 1305 (A.D. 1887-8) he was already at the latter.

        Of the Bábí system of reckoning time, and of the names applied to the days and months, I gave an account at pp. 921-922 of my second paper in the J. R. A. S. for 1889. Being uncertain as to whether these names had been fixed by the Báb himself or by the Behá'ís, I was careful to enquire about them from Subh-i-Ezel, not telling him, of course, what I had heard previously. He wrote down their names for me, and this list which he gave me I here reproduce. It will be found to correspond with the

[page 414]

information obtained from the Behá'ís, save that the 8th and 9th months are transposed; and from this I assume that these names were fixed previously to the schism, probably by the Báb himself. Gobineau also, in his translation of the Kitáb-i-Ahkám, mentions the month "Alâ" as the last of the 19 months of the year.

List of the 19 Bábí months in order, as given by Subh-i-Ezel.

[seven lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        As the year contains 19 months, so does the month contain 19 days, and the same names therefore serve for both1. Provisionally, however, the following new nomenclature has been applied to the old week of seven days:-

Sunday, [~~~]                Wednesday, [~~~]
Monday, [~~~]                Thursday, [~~~]
Tuesday, [~~~]                Friday, [~~~]
Saturday, [~~~]
       1 The analogy between this and the system of nomenclature in the Zoroastrian calendar is very remarkable.
[page 415]

        Of this arrangement Subh-i-Ezel said nothing, so that it may possibly have originated with the Behá'ís. I now proceed with the transcription and translation of three colophons copied by myself at Acre from manuscripts written by Zeynu'l-Mukarrabín, concluding with a fourth appended to the MS. of the Íkán above mentioned.

1.         Colophon from a MS. written at Mosul in A.H. 1296 (= A.D. 1879).

[eight lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        "There ceased from the transcription of this its poor writer the Letter Zá on the day of Istijlál [Thursday], the day of Kudrat [the 13th day] of the month of 'Azimat [the 4th month] of the 36th year, [that is the year] Bahí [the seventeenth] of the second hid after the manifestation of the Point of Revelation [i.e. the Báb] (may the life of all beside him be his sacrifice), corresponding to the 7th of the month Jemádí II of the months of the year 1296, six and ninety and two hundred after the Millennium of the Flight of the Prophet (upon its fugitive be a thousand

[page 416]

salutations and greetings). And I was [at this time resident] in [Mosul] al-Hadbá1. And this is the seventh copy which God hath helped me to write according to this arrangement. Praise be to God first and last, inwardly and outwardly."

2.         Colophon from a MS. written at Acre in A.H. 1305 (= A.D. 1887).

[four lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        "There ceased from the transcription of this perspicuous book its poor writer the Letter Zá on the day of Kemál [Monday] the day of 'Ilm [the 12th day] of the month of 'Izzat [the 10th month] of the 44th year [that is the year] Váv [the sixth] of the third hid, corresponding to the Mustahall2 [first] of the month of Muharram the sacred [A.H.] 1305 in the city of 'Ayn ['Akká or Acre]. Praise be to God as beseems Him."

3.         Colophon from a MS. written at Acre in A.H. 1306 (= A.D. 1889).

[two lines of Persian/Arabic text]

       1 See note 2 on p. 139 supra.
       2 This word I misread and transcribed as [~~~] which gives no appropriate meaning. To the kindness of Baron Rosen I am indebted for the correction here made, which is evidently needed.

[page 417]

[four lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        "There ceased from the transcription of this perspicuous book its poor writer the Letter Zá on the day of Jemál [Sunday] the day of 'Alá [the 19th day] of the month of Mulk [the 18th month] of the 45th year [that is the year] Abad [the seventh] of the third hid, corresponding to the twenty-third of the month of Jemádí II in the year 1306 after the Flight of the Prophet (upon its fugitive be a thousand salutations and greetings). Praise be to God who hath helped me to complete it, such praise as is worthy of the court of His sanctity.

In the city of 'Ayn ['Akká]. Number 10."

4.         Colophon from my MS. of the Íkán written at Acre in A.H. 1306 (= A.D. 1889).

[six lines of Persian/Arabic text]

[page 418]

        "There ceased from the transcription of this its poor writer the Letter Zá on the night of Jemál [Sunday] the night of Masá'il [the 15th day] of the month of Sharaf [the 16th month] of the 45th year [that is the year] Abad [the seventh] of the third hid, corresponding to the eleventh of the month of Jemádí I of the months of the year 1306 after the Flight of the Prophet (upon its fugitive be a thousand salutations and greetings). Praise be to God who hath helped me to complete it, such praise as is worthy of the Court of His sanctity.
Number 67."                

        For the further elucidation of the matter I here reproduce the single Bábí colophon which I was able to cite in my second paper in the J. R. A. S. for 1889 (p. 922).

5.         Colophon from a Commentary on the Kitáb-i-Akdas seen at Shíráz in April 1888.

[two lines of Persian/Arabic text]12

        "He wrote it on the day of Kemál [Monday] the day of 'Alá [the 19th day] of the month of Núr [the 5th month] of the year Badí [which would be the 16th year, but, for the reason given in the footnote, there can be no doubt that this is a mistake for Bahí, the seventeenth year] of the second hid, A.H. 1296."        

        From the above colophons we perceive that, besides the division of the year into 19 months of 19 days each, the years elapsed since the 'Manifestation' are also arranged

       1 sic in copy, but from analogy the word [~~~] appears redundant
       2 This is evidently a mistake for [~~~], for, as we see from the first colophon quoted in this note (supra, p. 415), the 13th day of the 4th month of the year Bahí (i.e. the 36th year of the 'Manifestation,' or the 17th year of the second hid of nineteen years) fell in A.H. 1296, the same year in which this colophon was written; and in all that relates to the Bábí method of reckoning time Zeynu'l-Mukarrabín's authority is incontrovertible.

[page 419]

in hids or cycles of 19, and that to each year is given a name1 which, by the sum of its component letters, indicates the position of the year in its own hid, e.g.-

        The 36th year after the Manifestation is called "the year Bahí [[~~~] = 10 + 5 + 2 = 17] of the second hid" [19 + 17 = 36].

        The 44th year after the Manifestation is called "the year Váv [ = 6] of the third hid" [(2 x 19) + 6 = 44].

        The 45th year after the Manifestation is called "the year Abad [[~~~] = 4 + 2 + 1 = 7] of the third hid" [(2 x 19) + 7 = 45].

        The general arrangement of the Bábí calendar is now sufficiently clear, and, inasmuch as all Bábí colophons would appear to give the Muhammadan date as well as the Bábí date, this is perhaps all that we need know. Nevertheless, since MSS> may subsequently be discovered in which the date is given according to the Bábí method only, and since the matter is one calculated to arouse our curiosity, I feel impelled to discuss two questions which must be solved ere we can feel that we have fully mastered the problem before us.

        These questions are:-

                (1) From what fixed point does the reckoning begin?

                (2) Does the year consist of 361 (i.e. 19 x 19) days only, or is any system of intercalation adopted to keep it in correspondence with the solar year?

       1 That some special method of enumerating years was employed by the Bábís I conjectured in my second paper in the J.R.A.S. for 1889 (p. 922, note 1), but, having only one colophon before me, I altogether failed to understand its application, or to perceive that the numerical value, not the meaning, of the name of each year was the true guide to its position in the hid or cycle of years. Hence I failed to see that Badí (~~~) was a mere numerical expression of chronogram, and, imagining that it meant "first," vainly perplexed myself over the chronological difficulties involved in this supposition. However, as I have already pointed out, Badí in this colophon is clearly a mistake for Bahí (~~~), so that I might have failed to deduce the truth even if I had guessed it.
[page 420]

        Before discussing these questions further, let us see what is said on the matter (1) by the Báb in the Persian Beyán, and (2) by Behá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Akdas.

(1)                 Ordinances of the Báb concerning the arrangement of the calendar.

[From the Persian Beyán.]

[thirteen lines of ~~~]

[page 421]

[eight lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        "The third chapter of the fifth Váhid. In explanation of the knowledge of the years and the months. The quintessence of this chapter is this, that the Lord of the Universe hath created all the years by His command, and by the manifestation of the Beyán hath appointed 'the Number of All Things' [361 = 19 x 19] as the number of every year, and hath appointed it [to consist of] nineteen months, and hath appointed each month nineteen days; that all may advance through the nineteen degrees of the 'Letters of the Unity' from the point of entrance into [the sign of] the Ram to the limit of its course which terminates in [the sign of the] Fish. And He hath called the first month Behá and the last 'Alá. . . . . .

        "And the first month is the month of the 'Point,' and around it revolve the months of 'the Living' [~~~ = 18]; and it is like unto the sun amidst the months, the other months being like mirrors wherein shineth forth the light of that month, and wherein naught is seen save that month. And it hath been named by the Lord 'the month of Behá'

[page 422]

[i.e. splendour or brightness] in this sense, that the brightness of all the months is in that month. And [God] hath set it apart for 'Him whom God shall manifest,' and hath assigned every day of it to one of the 'Letters of the Living.' And the first day [thereof], which is the Nawrúz, is the day of 'there is no god but God'; the like of that day is as the 'Point' in the Beyán, from which all are created, and unto which all return. And He hath made the manifestation thereof in the 'Point of the Beyán,' the 'Person of the Seven Letters,'1 and hath made it the throne of 'Him whom God shall manifest' in this manifestation."

        The fourteenth chapter of the sixth hid is entirely devoted to the glorification of the Nawrúz and the description of the ceremonies and rejoicings with which it should be observed. This ancient festival, here called 'the day which the Lord of the Universe hath set apart for himself amidst the days, and hath named 'the Day of God'" (Yawmu'lláh), is defined as "the day when the sun passes from the sign of the Fish into the Ram," and it is ordained that the actual moment of this passage "whether it occur during the night or during the day" shall be the signal for the inauguration of these ceremonies.

(2)                 Ordinances of Behá'u'lláh concerning the arrangement of the calendar.

[From the Kitáb-i-Akdas.]

[four lines of Persian/Arabic text]

       1 See p. 230 supra.
[page 423]

[fourteen lines of ~~~]

        "O Supreme Pen! Say, 'O concourse of creation, We have ordained unto you the fast during [a] limited [number of] days, and We have appointed the Nawrúz as a festival unto you after the completion thereof; thus doth the Sun of Revelation shine forth from the horizons of the Book on the part of the Lord of origin and return. Place the days

[page 424]

which are in excess over the months1 before the month of fasting; verily We have made them types of the [letter] [= 5] amongst the nights and the days, therefore were they not included within the limits of the year and the months. In them it is incumbent on those who are in Behá to feed themselves and [their] relatives, then the poor and the needy, and to confess and magnify and glorify and praise their Lord with joy and gladness. And when the days of giving before [the days of] abstinence are ended, let them enter upon the fast. Thus ordaineth the Lord of men: there is no obligation [to fast] on the traveller, on him who is sick, on the pregnant woman, or on her who giveth suck; these hath God excused as a favour on His part; verily He is the Mighty, the Bountiful. These are the ordinances of God which have been written by the Supreme Pen in the books and the epistles: hold firmly to the commands of God and His ordinances, and be not of those who adopt their own principles and fling God's principles behind them for that they follow imaginations and fancies. Abstain from eating and drinking from dawn till sundown; beware lest lust withhold you from this favour which hath been decreed in the Book.'"

        From all this it would seem that the restoration of the old Persian solar year in place of the Arabian lunar year; the solemn sanctioning of the great national festival of the Nawrúz, which corresponds with the beginning of this solar year, the quickening of the earth after its winter's torpor, and the entry of the Sun into the sign of Aries; the division of the year into 19 months of 19 days each; and the nomenclature certainly of some and probably of all of these months were integral portions of the system devised by the Báb; while the provision of the five intercalary days (corresponding to what the Muhammadans call [~~~] "the stolen five") and the enactments relating to their observance were supplementary details introduced by Behá. The fast of one month of 19 days (or, in the case of those who have not reached maturity, 11 days,

       1 i.e. the days required to bring the Bábí year of 361 (19 x 19) days into correspondence with the solar year.
[page 425]

"according to the number of [~~~]" is also enjoined in the Persian Beyán (hid viii, ch. 18), but the month does not appear to be there specified, though in the Kitáb-i-Ahkám (Gobineau, p. 525) the month of 'Alá, the last in the Bábí year, is appointed for it. The only part of the Bábí calendar as it at present exists with which Behá can be credited (and that not certainly) is the introduction of the intercalary days needed to bring the Bábí year into correspondence with the solar year. It is evident, moreover, that only so many of these five intercalary days are to be used as may be necessary to bridge over the interval between the last day of the month 'Alá and the Nawrúz

        Lastly it is clear that the Bábí era commences not, as we might primâ facie have expected, on May 23rd A.D. 1844 (see p. 3 and note, and pp. 221-226 supra), but on the Nawrúz of that year (A.H. 1260), which, according to the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh, fell on Wednesday the last day (salkh) of Safar (Wednesday, March 20th, A.D. 1844). We can easily verify this by working out the dates in the above colophons. Let us take one only, the first, as an example. In it the Bábí date is the 13th day of the 4th month of the 36th year, i.e. (3 x 19) + 13 = 70 days after the Nawrúz, which always falls on or about March 20th. Seventy days from this brings us to May 29th (11 days in March + 30 in April + 29 in May = 70 days). Looking out the Muhammadan date in the colophon (7th of Jemádí II, A.H. 1296) in Wüstenfeld's tables we find that it does actually correspond with May 29th, 1879. The Bábí year being, like our own, solar, is easily calculated by counting the number of complete years which have elapsed since March 20th A.D. 1844, the commencement of the era. In this case, for instance, the 35th year terminated on March 19th, A.D. 1879 (1844 + 35), and the 36th year therefore extends from March 20th, 1879 to March 19th, 1880.
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