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Abstract:
Essay on Imám `Alí's sermon, which is also the source of Bahá'u'lláh's quote in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, "Anticipate ye the Revelation of Him Who conversed with Moses from the Burning Bush on Sinai."

Sermon of the Gulf (Khutbih Tutunjiyyih):
Introduction

by Khazeh Fananapazir

2000
see translation

Translator's Introduction

The Founders of World Religions, the Manifestations of God, relate their claims and their utterances to the language and beliefs of the peoples to whom they come. The Manifestations transcend to a variable degree as They see fit to a wider context: e.g. Jesus Christ stated at the outset: "Think not that I have come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfil." The Qur'án repeatedly states that it confirms the Gospel and the Torah, affirming that the Prophet's advent has been mentioned in the Torah and the Evangel. The Bábí and Bahá'í Revelations are also intimately related to the Islamic background and the Judaeo-Christian heritage. As the Guardian says,
"[The Bahá'ís] must strive to obtain from sources that are authoritative and unbiased a sound knowledge of the history and tenets of Islam, the source and background of their Faith, and approach reverently and with a mind purged from pre-conceived ideas the study of the Qur'án which, apart from the sacred scriptures of the Bábí and Bahá'í Revelations, constitutes the only Book which can be regarded as an absolutely authenticated repository of the Word of God."[1]

But what is most remarkable is the frequent reference to particular verses and traditions (hadiths) of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example, there are many references to the Messianic passages of Isaiah. The passages of Matthew 24 and St John's reference to the Comforter and the Spirit of Truth are innumerable. From the Qur'án we have multiple references to the "Meeting with God" or "attaining to the Presence of God" on the Day of Judgement.

The Particular Significance of the Sermon of the Gulf [Khutbih-i-Tutunjiyyih or Khutbatu't-Tutunjiyyah]

One reference stands unique in that Bahá'u'lláh Himself calls it the Qutb, or "Pivot," around which "all the glad tidings of the past revolve." That is in a passage from a sermon that was delivered by the Imam 'Ali ( d. 656 AD) called the "Sermon of the Twin Gulfs," the "Khutbah" of "Tutunjiyyah." This Narration was referred to by Henri Corbin as the "prone sur ou entre deux golfes". The author of the book that contains the Sermon of the Two Gulfs, Hafiz Rajab al Bursi, held a very high view of the station of the Imams, highly evocative of the position held by Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, the precursors of the Bábí Cause at a later century. At the time of the Safavi renaissance of Shi'ih Islam, Bursi was considered to have exaggerated views of the station of the Imams. But the writings of Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i and Siyyid Kazim Rashti[2] also accorded a very high station to the Imams. They are referred to as "Mazahir," the "manifestations of God's names and attributes," by Shaykh Ahmad in his Sharh az-Ziyarat. In this regard Husayn the Son of the Imam Ali (the Author of this Sermon) is addressed to in a Tablet of Visitation revealed by Bahá'u'lláh as the One through Whom the Command of the Letters "B" and "E" came to be realised. He is also referred to as the Mystery of Revelation in the World of God's Command [jabarut]. Both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh affirm in their writings the validity of these traditions which have their provenance from Bursi. Further, in the Kitáb-i-Iqán Bahá'u'lláh, in expounding the twin cardinal principles of the Unity of the Prophets and infinity of the Revelatory Process (the Iqan reference to this is given below), adduces further references which are to be found only in Bursi, the source of the Sermon of the Two Gulfs. Bahá'u'lláh's Writings thus not only affirm the importance of these utterances of the Imam 'Ali but also assert the central and seminal anticipation of this Sermon which was fulfilled by His Advent. He says, in a Tablet starting with the words "the essence of praise..." (jawhar-i hamd), that the Sermon under our consideration as the "blessed sermon of Tutunjiyyah "and refers to it as having shone forth from dayspring of absolute sanctity and guardianship". He says that it has not been commented on in the wondrous Persian tongue and that the purpose of the Imam 'Ali in this sermon has been the announcement of the Promise "Anticipate ye the Advent of Him Who was the speaker with Moses on Mount Sinai." Bahá'u'lláh then goes on to say that this promise is the Pivot [qutb] around which all wisdom and utterance revolve. With this precise promise all the peoples have been vouchsafed the glad tidings of the Manifestation of God. Bahá'u'lláh then goes on to say that in this day the Speaker of the Mount is manifest and that the Speaker gives call to this utterance "Verily I am God."

The Sermon of the Twin Gulfs is important for Bahá'í studies on several grounds, including:
  1. It shows how in the pre-Bábí/Bahá'í Era various skills of interpretation were needed to overcome the various objections that were raised to its high theophanic claims. Further that these interpretative skills have continued to be needed.

  2. As He asserts Himself in the Tablet of Jawhar-i-hamd ("The Essence of Praise") and the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf the Tutunjiyyah is a source text of the claim of Bahá'u'lláh to be the Speaker on Sinai.

The Commander of the Faithful (Imam Ali) - peace be upon him - moreover, saith in the Khutbiy-i-Tutunjiyyih: "Anticipate ye the Revelation of Him Who conversed with Moses from the Burning Bush on Sinai."[3]

Siyyid Kazim and the four approaches of the divines before and at the same time of the Babi/Bahá'í Revelations

Siyyid Kazim Rashti showed great respect for this Sermon and wrote a very large commentary on it, which is one of his longest works. He says that the Tutunjiyyih is the pre-eminent instance of the Wisdom that "Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it." He divides the ulama into four different groups in relation to this sermon and, interestingly, this subdivision was germane to all religious classes in the fervour of millennial expectation.
  1. The first group rejects the likes of these traditions and has dropped them from the view of credibility, saying that these traditions are based on a single line of narration (akhbar ahad) and thus cannot be the basis of law or action. These traditions, they say, all are in the book of Bursi and since the latter was charged with extreme views in his day this should militate against their acceptance. Another reason they would be unacceptable in that they attempt to elevate the contingent above the level of contingency. They appear also to assert divine Lordship of a created being necessitating also that the Godhead devolves divine powers to the created being all of which would contravene the Qur'ánic text which says: "is there any Creator other than God? Show me then what they have created. He is the One Who has created you Who will put you to death and will resurrect you. Does He have any partners?"[4]

  2. The second position that Siyyid Kazim in his celebrated Sharh mentions existed with regard to the hermeneutics of this Sermon. This position suggested one should remain non-judgmental about it on the grounds that these types of utterance exist but that human mind cannot comprehend it.

  3. The third position in regard to these sermons is the position held by the monists and the admireres of Ibn Arabi in Shí'ih Islam such as Mullá Muhsin Fayd. Fayd-e-Kashanui says: "When the effulgences of the Essence of God (dhat) overpower any one such that person's entity, actions, attributes are all obliterated in the rays of oneness with the Divine Essence in this state he will see himself one with all Essences. In this state the light of the distinguishing mind becomes subsumed under the Light of Pre-existent Essence and all contingence is lifted up. Then Fayzi Kashani says:" This explains the utterance of 'Ali in the Sermon of the Tutunjiyyah: I am the First Adam and the First Noah."

  4. The fourth group -- and Siyyid Kazim Rashti considers himself of this group -- are those who accept this essential belief: namely they recognise the one being as having many "stations" and these "stations" are the "treasuries" of that entity's existence. God says: "There is nothing of which We do not have that thing's treasuries [khazaa'in]." Qur'án 15:21 "Our First is Muhammad, Our Last is Muhammad, our all is Muhammad." Siyyid Kazim states that his hermeneutic principle is the verse of the Qur'án: "Creation has many modes [atwaar] of existence." [71:14] These include a mode of brevity and expansion; a mode of simplicity and the mode of complexity; and modes of imagination and abstraction. As to the first group, i.e. those who attributed the sermon to the heresy of extremism, Siyyid Kazim says their views are hasty and erroneous inasmuch as there are many similar utterances that are universally accepted by the Shí'ites. Examples are the prayer of the month of Rajab included in all Shí'ite anthologies; acceptance of the innumerable references to the Imams as "Hand of God, the Eye of God, Whose utterances are of God"; and the traditions of the two Jabirs. The same argument applies to the second group who are the hesitants in regard to their acceptance. As to the monistic sufistic explanations, here too Siyyid Kazim and indeed before him Shaykh Ahmad dispute pantheistic conclusions because rationally their arguments would entail alteration and transformation in the essence or Dhat of God and this position is untenable.

The exalted Báb quoted the famous verse of the Tutunjiyyah re the anticipation of the Speaker of Sinai in his Seven Proofs. In the writings of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl the Sermon of the two Gulfs is referred to frequently but this matter has not been discussed previously. Thus in his Fara'id page 308 he writes that the sanctified reality of Most Great Spirit is single and one and it does not ontologically become plural or multiple because the "Mirrors" are multiple nor should it epistemologically be allowed to become so.

Herein follows the translation of this Khutbah. The Imam asserts belief in the divine unity and that there is no deity but the One God and the Prophethood of Muhammad but adds the necessity of loyalty to the Imamate as the repository of salvation. This point has echoes throughout religious scripture. Of especial interest for those with knowledge of Christian Scriptures, Jesus claimed eternal life included both belief in Him as well as God:

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)

The first paragraph of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas refers to this mighty and primary theme. The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation."[5]

A brief explanation of the "I"

The Imam 'Ali then makes a series of statements all commencing with the pronoun "I": "I am the First I am the Last. I was with Noah. I am the Builder I am the destroyer. I am the Agent whereby Jesus spoke in His Cradle. I am the Word the Word through Which all things were consummated." Bahá'u'lláh has explained that these utterances refer to the World of Command or Revelation ('Aalam-i Amr) [c.f. Who representeth the Godhead in the World of Revelation and Creation both the Iqan and the Aqdas.]

The title Tutunjiyyih itself is a reference to the passage wherein the Imam says: "I am the One that standeth upon the Two Tutunjs [Gulfs]." Siyyid Kazim explains that these two gulfs represent the Gulf of Prophethood and the Gulf of Wilayat, or Imamate. In the Athar-i Qalam-i Á'lá volume 2 Bahá'u'lláh says that the utterances of the Sermon were taught to Imam 'Ali by the Messenger of God (Muhammad) [tilka kalimatun `allamahu Rasul'ullah], so that although Ali utters these statements in fact it is the Prophet who utters them. The key verse of prophecy that the Manifestation to be anticipated is the Speaker on Sinai is a clear reference to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh being at once the "essence, the promise, the unifier, and the reconciler" of all previous revelations and that in unnumbered passages He claimed His utterance to be the Voice of Divinity the Call of God Himself.[6] It is eschatologically focused because all the previous Faiths have spoken of the coming of the "Lord of the Vineyard", the "Day that hath seen the coming of the Best-beloved Him Who through all eternity hath been acclaimed the Desire of the World." Shoghi Effendi explains that this Dispensation will mark the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet.[7]

Notes:
    * translation of the Sermon of the Gulf ("Al-Khutbah al-Tutunjiyyah") of Imam 'Ali as printed in Hafiz Rajab al-Bursi's Mashariq Anwar al-Yaqín fi Asrár Amir Mu'minín (Beirut: Dar al-Andalus 1978 pp 160-170)
    [1] Advent of Divine Justice page 49. On the attitude of the Bahá'í Faith towards its parent religion see also Promised Day is Come 109.
    [2] Bahá'u'lláh called Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i and Siyyid Kazim Rashti the "twin resplendent lights," Nurayn Nayyirayn
    [3] Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, page 42.
    [4] Qur'an 35:3.
    [5] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, page 19.
    [6] Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh 113.
    [7] World Order of Bahá'u'lláh 163.

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