Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
>>   Published Articles
History of the concept of the Greatest Name and its place in Bahá'í theology.
Later revised for the Journal of Bahá'í Studies 8:2 (1998). See also the author's encyclopedia article on the Greatest Name.

The Word Bahá:
Quintessence of the Greatest Name

by Stephen Lambden

published in Bahá'í Studies Review, 3:1
Association for Baha'i Studies English-Speaking Europe, 1993

O Peoples of the world! He Who is the Most Great Name (al-ism al-a'zam) is come, on the part of the Ancient King. . . (Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle 128)

Let your joy be the joy born of My Most Great Name (ismí al-a'zam), a Name that bringeth rapture to the heart, and filleth with ecstasy the minds of all who have drawn nigh unto God. (Aqdas 38, para. 31)

This paper is an attempt to explore some of the linguistic, historical and theological aspects of the Arabic word Bahá'; a word which can be viewed by Bahá'ís as the quintessence of the "Greatest Name" of God. Considered alone, Bahá' is a verbal-noun meaning radiant 'glory', 'splendour', 'light', 'brilliancy', 'beauty', 'excellence', 'goodliness', 'divine majesty' - there are other shades of meaning also. In 1848 at the Bábí conference of Badasht, Mírzá Husayn 'Alí Núrí, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith and a one-time leading Bábí, bestowed upon each of the 81 (=9x9) participants a new name. He himself, to quote The Dawnbreakers "was henceforth designated by the name of Bahá" (Dawnbreakers 211). Bahá'u'lláh thus, from very early on, whilst outwardly a leading Bábí or Sufi dervish, for over ten years before declaring his mission in 1863 CE, sometimes used the word Bahá' as a proper name.

Using Sufi language in the eighth couplet of His earliest extant revelation, the Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing (Rashh-i-'Amá'; revealed in Tehran, in late 1852), Bahá'u'lláh probably alludes to his power of revelation when he states that a "cup of honey" poureth forth out of the "vermilion lips of Bahá'" (cf. couplets 10 & 18, MA 4:184-6). Again, in the early Tablet of All Food (Lawh-i- kullu't-Ta'ám c.1853/4) He refers to the "fire of love" surging in his heart, "in the heart of al- Bahá'" and also to the "dove of sorrow" in the "breast of al-Bahá'" (MA 4:265f). In hundreds of subsequent Tablets, whether revealed in Ottoman Iraq, Turkey or Palestine, there occurs the use of Bahá' as a proper name. In the "Fire Tablet", circa 1870, for example, we read: "Bahá is drowning in a sea of tribulation: Where is the Ark of Thy salvation, O Saviour of the worlds?".(1)

Bahá'u'lláh came in the station of Divinity and represents the Godhead in the worlds of creation. The word used to designate his Divine "Self" (nafs) was the Arabic word Bahá'. In the following letter, Shoghi Effendi summed up the theological significance of the word Bahá', "By Greatest Name [= Bahá/Bahá'u'lláh] is meant that Bahá'u'lláh has appeared in God's Greatest Name, in other words, that He is the Supreme Manifestation of God" (cited Lights 1551). Various derivatives of Bahá', it should be noted at this stage, are significant in Bábí- Bahá'í scripture. The superlative form of Bahá' (glory) is Abhá, signifying 'most' or 'all-glorious' and a title of Bahá'u'lláh (God Passes By 97) -- in Bahá'í texts this word is often linked with the term "Kingdom" and is indicative of the spiritual world, the realms of the afterlife. Bahíyyih (luminous, radiant, splendid) is a feminine noun derived from the same root letters as Bahá'. It was the title given to Bahá'u'lláh's daughter Fátima, Bahíyyih Khánum (1846- 1932 C.E.).

The honorific title (laqab) of Mírzá Husayn 'Alí Núrí is Bahá'u'lláh.(2) It is a title which follows an early Islámic pattern. Grammatically, it is a genitive construction made up of the two closely linked words, [1] Bahá' and [2] Alláh,(3) and signifies "The Glory/ Splendour of God". In a certain sense, moreover, Bahá'u'lláh is a double "Greatest Name". A good many Islámic writers follow traditions in which the designation of God, Alláh is reckoned the "Greatest Name". Bahá'u'lláh himself, in his Commentary on the Disconnected Letters ([of the Qur'án] Tafsír huráfát al-muqatta'a; c. 1857?), explains the letter "A" (alif, the first of the Qur'ánic disconnected letters) relative to its being the herald of the "Greatest Name", Alláh (MA 4:67).

For Bahá'ís Bahá' is an extremely powerful and theologically significant word. As a proper name it designates God's Universal Manifestation (mazhar-i-kullíya). In this day it refers to the "Self" of God. It was communicated in secret to Moses on the mystic Sinai. According to tradition, partial knowledge of it bestowed supernatural, miraculous powers upon the prophets and Messengers of Israel and upon other ancient sages. It is the name of the "Father" who is the return of Christ. By virtue of its power Christ, the "Son", was raised from the "dead"; the "body" of his religion revived and revitalized.

Bahá' in the scriptures of the Adamic Cycle

The Arabic word Bahá' is not directly or fully contained in pre-Bábí sacred scripture; not in the Hebrew Bible (tawrat), Greek [Aramaic] Gospel[s] (injíl) or Arabic Qur'án. As noted, the noun Bahá' is composed of three or four letters -: [1] "B", [2] "H", [3] "A" and, counting the final letter hamza, [4] = '. The numerical (abjad) value of Bahá' is nine: 2+5+1+1 = 9; a "sacred number" symbolic of perfection as the highest numerical integer(4) and corresponding to the "First Man", Adam ( "A" = 1 + "D" = 4 + "M" = 40: total = 45 = 1 + 2+ 3+ 4+ 5+ 6+ 7+ 8+ 9). Similarly, the Báb corresponds to the "First Woman", "Eve".(5)

In certain Tablets Bahá'u'lláh indicated His "Self" by means of the first two letters of the "Greatest Name", Bahá'; that is, "B" and "H". In the colophon at the close of the Kitáb-i- Íqán for example, we read, "Thus hath it been revealed aforetime... Revealed by the 'Bá' and the 'Há'" (164).

Bahá'u'lláh has stated that various "letters" of the word Bahá' as the "Greatest Name" are contained in pre-Bábí Holy Books. In past religious dispensations there was a progressive disclosure of "letters" of various forms or conceptions of the "Greatest Name". Certain traditions attributed to the Shí'í Imáms (rooted in Jewish notions) allocate "letters" of a 73 letter "Greatest Name" to past sages, prophets or Manifestations of God -- reckoning that one of the "letters" remained hidden (73- 1=72). In some lists, Adam received 25 letters, Noah 25, Abraham 8, Moses 4 and Jesus 2. (Majlisí, Bihár al-anwár 11:68). Certain writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh reflect such traditions.

In his Commentary on the Súra of the "Night of Power" (Tafsír laylat al-qadr; Qur'án 97) the Báb refers to 3, 4, and 5 portions of one of the forms of the "Greatest Name", existing in the Pentateuch (tawrat), Gospel[s] (injíl) and Qur'án respectively (see INBAMC 69:17). Similarly, in a Tablet commenting on the basmala(6) and first verse of the Qur'ánic Súra of the Pen (Súra 68), Bahá'u'lláh mentions that God divulged something (a "letter"/"word" [harf an]) of the "Greatest Name" Bahá' in every dispensation. In the Islámic dispensation, He states, it is alluded to through the letter "B" (Bá'; the first letter of the basmala) and in the Gospels (injíl) through the word Ab (= "Father") -- which, in the Arabic Bible, contains two of the letters of Bahá' ("A" & "B"). Bahá' is clearly intimated in Bábí Scripture, the Bayán. It is representative of the Self (nafs) of God in this, the Bahá'í dispensation (see INBAMC 56:25).

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

The word Bahá' seems to have no equivalent or cognate in Biblical Hebrew. Theologically, it is represented by the Hebrew word kabód = 'radiant glory'. Translated into Biblical Hebrew, Bahá'u'lláh would be Kabód YHWH. Several verses in the book of Isaiah could be understood to predict the manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh and the radiance, the "glory" of the believing Bahá'í: "And the glory of the Lord (kabód YHWH) shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isaiah 40:5); "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord (kabód YHWH) has risen upon you . . . the Lord (YHWH) will arise upon you, and his glory (kabód) will be seen upon you. . . Then shall you see and be radiant." (Isaiah 60:1, 2b; 5a). Similar prophecies are made elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. In his Epistle to the Son of the Wolf Bahá'u'lláh cites a few verses from the book of the prophet Isaiah (146). In certain Arabic translations cited by Him, they contain the word Bahá' -- with reference to his Manifestation. Isaiah 2:10 refers to "the glory of His majesty (Bahá'azamatihi)" and 35:2b makes reference to the time when people "shall see the glory of the Lord (majd al- rabb) and the splendour of our God (Bahá'a iláhiná).

Many other Biblical texts contain references to the kabód ("glory") or kabód YHWH ("Glory of the Lord"). Probably alluding to Bahá'u'lláh, Ezekiel described the "Glory of God" in the form of a man (Ezek 1:26; see also Ezekiel chapters 1, Ch 10 & 43:1ff cf. Daniel 7).(7) Israel Abrahams (1858-1924), reader in Rabbinic and Talmudic Literature at Cambridge University, in the second of his three lectures on The Glory of God (entitled 'Messianic' and delivered in the U.S.A. in the spring of 1924), among other interesting observations, wrote, "The expectation that the divine Glory will be made splendidly manifest with the coming of the Kingship of God is not only a natural hope, it is also a solid foundation for optimism" (42). The paramount eschatological ('latter day') importance of that kabód ("glory") in the Hebrew Bible prompted Arthur M. Ramsey (1906-1988; Archbishop of Canterbury, 1961-74, and one time regius professor of Divinity at Cambridge and Durham) to write,

. . . one day Israel will have the vision of the kabód of her God, whether by His dwelling with man upon the stage of history or by the coming of a new heaven and a new earth bathed in the light of the divine radiance. . . No reader of the Old Testament would believe that there was a coming of the Kingdom and of the Messianic age which did not include a manifestation of the glory. . . (Ramsey, The Glory 18, 37)

The theophanic secrets of the Divine Glory (kabód) have been, and are, a matter of central importance in Jewish mysticism. So too the mysteries of the tetragrammaton ('four lettered word', which occurs some 6,823 times in the Hebrew Bible) = YHWH (trans. "Lord"; also loosely transliterated, "Yahweh", "Jehovah"). It is the personal name of the Biblical God of Moses. Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be a manifestation of the God, the Lord Who is YHWH (see Lambden, Sinaitic Mysteries 154f); the very radiance of His Presence, His divine "Glory". Qabbalistically speaking or in the light of Jewish mysticism, the first two letters of the divine name YHWH (the "Y" and the "H") correspond to the first two letters of the word Bahá' (the "B" and the "H"). Quite frequent in the Hebrew Bible is a short form of YHWH composed of its first two consonants Y and H and read Yáh. The well-known exclamation Hallelujah meaning 'Praised be Yáh [God]' uses this abbreviated form of the Divine Designation. The two letter abbreviated form of Bahá' and this two letter form of the Hebrew name of God coincide. According to various mystics the first of their two letters ("Y" and "B") were considered the "Primal Point" from which certain dimensions of existence sprang forth.(8)

The New Testament

The Arabic word Bahá' obviously does not occur directly in the Greek New Testament. Its theological equivalent is the Greek word doxa = radiant "glory", which translates the Hebrew kabód.(9) The Arabic word Bahá' is however, found at certain points in Arabic versions of the New Testament and in other Arabic writings. A good example occurs in Revelation 21:23 where John of Patmos predicts,

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God (= Bahá'u'lláh) is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

In one of his Tablets to a Jewish Bahá'í, Bahá'u'lláh cites this verse in Arabic exactly as it was printed in the London 1858 (1671) edition of the William Watts Arabic Bible for the Eastern Churches.

A decade or so ago I noticed some millennial or more old (early medieval, probably pre-9th century CE?) Christian uses of the word Bahá' in Arabic recensions of an originally Syriac work, The Book of the Cave of Treasures (Me'ôrath Gazzê, original Syriac c. 4th cent. CE? see Bezold, Die Schatzöhle); namely, in the "Book of the Rolls" (Kitáb al-majáll).(10) This work includes an account of the story of Adam and Eve. Reference is made to the First Man's pre-fall "mighty glory" (Bahá' al-azím) (Bezold Vol. 2:14); his "wondrous glory" (al-Bahá' al- 'ajíb) (Gibson, Apocrypha 6). According to the "Book of the Rolls" the first couple were both clothed in glory and "splendour" (Bahá') (ibid. 7).(11)

It has been noted that Bahá'u'lláh associated the word "Father" with the "Greatest Name". Several verses of the Gospels speak of the return of Christ "in the glory of his Father" (Matt. 16:27, Mark 8:38 cf. L

uke 9:26). Both the words "glory" (Greek doxa) and "Father" (Greek pater, Hebrew Bible 'Ab, Arabic Bible Ab) could be regarded as alluding to the "Greatest Name" Bahá'. In the New Testament the word "Father" occurs over 200 times -- as opposed to around 15 times (as 'Ab) for "God" in the Hebrew Bible. It is found in the two versions of the so-called 'Lord's Prayer' (see Luke 11:3-4, Matt. 6:9-13). This prayer begins: "Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come". The "Father" referred to here is primarily the Godhead but could in addition be understood to refer to Bahá'u'lláh Who has ever existed (in his pre-existent Reality) in the "heaven" of the Will of God. The "hallowed be thy name" verse might be understood to be an allusion to the "glory" of the "Greatest Name" Bahá'; to One whose kingdom has been long awaited by Christians expecting the return of Christ in the glory of the "Father".

Numerous Christians have written volumes upon the subject of the multi- faceted Biblical concept of the "Glory"/the "Glory of God". Christ's return "in the glory of the Father" has been meditated upon, prayed for, and variously interpreted for many centuries. Some have focused upon the mystery of the Biblical "glory" (kabód/doxa) or related expressions of the Divine splendour. A somewhat eccentric Protestant Christian example of this, is the Rev. H. A. Edwards' pamphlet, The Glory of the Lord, An Investigation into the significance of the Shekinah [= "Glorious Dwelling"] Presence, the Reasons for its Withdrawal and the Prophecies Concerning its Future Return. More recent and much more important volumes have been written which contain valuable information about the glorious Divine Presence in history and eschatology; about the Kabód and the Doxa. Details cannot be gone into here. It must suffice to quote a few sentences from the entry DOXA ("Glory") in Rahner and Vorgrimler's (Catholic) Concise Theological Dictionary:

In principle, man has already acquired a share in God's eschatological [end time] doxa through the self- communication of God to man which has occurred in Christ (the bestowal of the Spirit. . . ). . . but, under this soteriological aspect, that doxa is still essentially a hidden thing, to be revealed only when the sufferings of this age are over (Rom 8:18). (Concise 136)

The Word Bahá' in Islam(12)

The linguistic history, semantic field and multifarious occurrences of the word Bahá' in Arabic and Persian Islamic literatures have yet to be systematically researched. It is a word which does not occur in the Qur'án and is not among the traditional ninety nine "most beautiful names" of God (al-asmá' al-husná; see Qur'án 7:179). It is thus considered "hidden". The Arabic word Bahá' was not unknown prior to the advent of Bahá'u'lláh. Its explicit identification with the "Greatest Name" however, despite Islámic traditions to this effect, was not widely recognized. As the secret of the hundredth name of God, Bahá' is often alluded to in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets as the "Hidden Name" and the "Greatest Name".

An interesting occurrence of the word Bahá' is to be found in a Prophetic hadíth ("tradition" attributed to Muhammad) cited by the outstanding love-mystic and gnostic, Shaykh Rúzbihán Baqlí Shírází (d.1209) in his The Tavern of Souls (Mashrab al-arwáh) and elsewhere (e.g. Sharh-i shathíyát) where he reckons the "red rose" a manifestation of God's glory (Bahá'):

Whenever God wishes to adopt someone as his loving intimate, he shows that person the glory of His Beauty, so that the person falls in love with everything beautiful. The Prophet said,"The red rose is part of God's glory [Bahá']. Whoever wishes to contemplate God's glory, let him behold the rose." The gnostic said: "The vision of God's glory occurs at the site of intimacy and expansion."(13)

Among the most important occurrences of the word Bahá' in Shí'í Islámic literatures is in an Arabic invocatory prayer attributed to Imám Muhammad al-Báqir (677--732 CE) the fifth of the Twelver Shí'í Imáms. The eighth Shí'í Imám, Ridá' (d. 818 CE.), who transmitted this prayer, reckoned that it contained the "Greatest Name" of God (al-ism al-a'zam). It is a prayer to be recited at dawn during Ramadan (Du'a Sahar), the Muslim month of fasting. The word Bahá or a derivative of the same root is contained some five times within it. It opens thus,

O my God! I beseech Thee by thy Bahá' in its supreme splendour (bi- Abhá'hu), for all Thy Bahá' is truly luminous (al-Bahíyy). I verily, O my God, beseech Thee by the fullness of Thy Bahá' (Bahá'ika)!(14)

This prayer continues in like manner, substituting the word Bahá' and its derivatives with all the other of the 19 Divine Attributes used by the Báb in the Bábí- Bahá'í calendar -- first set forth in the Báb's Book of Names (Kitáb al-Asmá') and later ratified by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The scheme of names within it directly or indirectly lies behind many of the Bábí-Bahá'í scriptural uses of Bahá'.

There exists an Arabic prayer of Bahá'u'lláh -- headed "In the name of God, al- Abhá" -- which opens with reference to the Shí'í Dawn Prayer, the first line of which it subsequently quotes. By means of this Dawn Prayer, God had been supplicated, Bahá'u'lláh meditates, by the tongue of His Messengers (rusul), beseeched through the "tongues of those who are nigh unto God". All, in fact, were commanded to recite it at dawntimes for it contains the "Greatest Name" and is a protection against being veiled from that Name (Bahá') which is the "ornament" of God's "Self". (see AQA, Majmú'a-yi munáját 45-46).(15)

In a Persian Tablet to Mírzá 'Abbás of Astarábád sometimes referred to as the "Tablet of the Greatest Name" (Lawh ism-i-a'zam), Bahá'u'lláh quotes from the beginning of the above quoted Dawn Prayer and observes that the "people of al-Furqán" (= Muslims) have not heeded the fact that the "Greatest Name" was said to be contained within it; even with it at its very beginning! (refer MA 4:22-23 cf. MA 7:97). In his last major work, The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Bahá'u'lláh refers to the Dawn Prayer. He exhorts Shaykh Muhammad Taqí Najafí (d. 1914), should he enter the "Crimson Ark" (become a Bahá'í), to face the "Kaaba of God" (Bahá'u'lláh) and recite the opening line of the Shí'í dawn prayer cited above. Were this to be carried out, He promises, even the "doors of the Kingdom" would be "flung wide" open before the face of the "son of the Wolf". This anti-Bahá'í cleric did not read this prayer as directed and never became a Bahá'í.

Among those Muslims who wrote a commentary on this Dawn Prayer but remained anti- Bábí/Bahá'í, was the third head of the Kirmání Shaykhis, Hájjí Mírzá Muhammad Karím Khán Kirmání (d. 1288 AH/1871 CE). In his Arabic Treatise in Commentary upon the Dawn Prayer (written 1274 AH/1857 CE) he records the tradition that it contained the "Greatest Name".(16) Karím Khán equates Bahá' in its opening line with the synonym husn (= beauty, excellence) and goes on to explain that "the Bahá' of God (Bahá' Alláh) signifies the first of the effulgences of God (tajallíyát Alláh) higher than which there is nothing else". It is the cause of the emergence of everything other than itself and is "the Essence of Essences -- by virtue of it all existence originated . . . it is the station of the [first letter] 'B' of Bismi'lláh" (Commentary 19). Though antagonistic to the person of Bahá'u'lláh, Karím Khán regarded the Bahá' of God as the primordial cosmological Reality. He was aware of the exegetical traditions and of their linguistic and theological import, but remained heedless and antagonistic towards the Bábí and Bahá'í religions.

It is the case then, that various traditions (ahádith) ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad and the Twelver Imáms contain the word Bahá'. The "Greatest Name" is also said, by Imám Husayn and Imám Sádiq respectively, to be contained in the Prophet Muhammad's Greater Supplication of Jawshan (Du'a al-Jawshan al-kabír) -- where God is addressed as One possessed of Bahá' (Glory) -- (see Qummí, Mafátíh 131ff) and in the so-called Supplication of the Mother of David (Du'a Umm Dawúd) where, near the beginning, we read, "Unto Thee [God] be Bahá (Glory)" (Qummí, Mafátíh 199).

It is notable that the word Bahá' has occurred hundreds of times throughout the Islámic centuries as a component of Islámic honorific titles applied to eminent Muslims. Hundreds of Muslims have been designated "Bahá' al- Dín", the "glory/splendour of religion". Bahá' al-Dín Walad of Balkh (d. 1230 CE), meaning "the splendour/glory of religion from Balkh" is the designation, for example, of the father of Jalál al-Dín Rúmí (1207-1273 CE), famed author of the 'Persian Qur'án/Bible', the Mathnawí. The founder of the Naqshbandíyyah Sufí order was Bahá' al- Dín Muhammad Naqshband (d. 1389 CE). Perhaps the most famous Bahá al-Dín was the Safavid theologian, mystagogue and man of letters, Bahá' al-Dín Muhammad ibn Husayn al-ámilí (b. Baalbeck c. 1547, d. Isfáhán 1622 CE), author of around 100 works including a well-known anthology entitled Kashkúl ("Begging-Bowl"). A one time Shaykh al-Islám of Isfáhán appointed by Sháh 'Abbás the Great, he adopted the pen-name (takhallus) Shaykh [-i-] Bahá'í.(17) There exists a Persian Mathnawí mystical poem attributed to him which celebrates and highlights the mystery of the "Greatest Name". He, for example, has it that the "Greatest Name" is the Name, by virtue of the sunburst of which, Moses experienced the luminous Sinaitic theophany. Jesus, by reciting it, resurrected the dead. Indeed, it enshrines the "treasures of the Names" (kunúz-i-asmá').(18)

The word Bahá' is furthermore contained in numerous Islámic theological, mystical and other literatures. Al- Miqdád ibn 'Abdu'lláh al-Hillí (d. 826/1422-3), for example, in the course of discussing the impossibility of an anthropopathic Essence of Divinity -- God having emotions such as joy and anguish -- in his The Guidance of Seekers unto the Path of Travellers (Irshád al-tálibín ilá nahj al- mustarshidín) writes that the "Necessarily Existent" (wájib al-wujúd = God) by virtue of His being "the origin of every perfection and the cause of all Bahá' (glory) and jamál (beauty), has the perfection of perfections and the Bahá' al-ajmal (most beauteous glory)." Furthermore, "all Bahá' (glory), jamál (beauty), kamál (perfection) and rational good are God's, for He is the Beloved One and the One Adored. . . the Necessarily Existent is He Who is in the acme of kamál (perfection), jamál (beauty) and Bahá' (glory). . ." (235).

Another stunning, and for Bahá'ís prophetic, occurrence of the word Bahá' in a mystical text, is its use in the work The Sun of Mystic Meaning (Shams al- ma'ání) of Muhyí al-Dín al- Búní (d. 1225 CE) where it is written in the course of commenting on "the name Bahá'",

God will cause a sunbeam (ishráq an) to radiate from His splendid (al-Bahíyy), all- glorious (al-Abhá') Countenance (al-wajh) with the name of Bahá' (bi-ism al-Bahá') on the Universal Day (yawm al-mulaq). And He shall enter the meadow (or vicinity, marj) of Akká' and unite all the peoples of the earth. . . (cited RM 1:365-6)(19)

Treatises on the significance of the "Greatest Name" and the use of the word Bahá' or allusions to it are also found in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad al- Ahsá'í (d. 1826 CE) and Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (d. 1844 CE), the two most important Muslim harbingers of the Bábí-Bahá'í Faiths (God Passes By 97). Sayyid Kázim is reckoned by Bahá'ís to have prophetically alluded to the mystery of the word Bahá' in the opening cosmological sentence of his recondite commentary on a poem of 'Abd al-Báqí Afandí al-Musilí (d. 1278/1861), the Commentary on the Ode Rhyming in the Letter "L" (Sharh al-qasída al-lámíya). These opening words have been referred to, for example, by Bahá'u'lláh in a Tablet to Mullá 'Alí Bajistání (see MA 8:139) and by 'Abdu'l- Bahá in his Commentary on the Basmala (see Maká'tib 1:33ff). The Sayyid, in somewhat cryptic fashion, mentions the "Point" -- which on one level indicates the essence of the hidden letter "B" (cf. the dot of the Arabic/Persian letter "B") is related to the letters "H" and "A". For Bahá'ís these letters, in conjunction, indicate or spell the proper noun and Greatest Name Bahá'.(20)

The Greatest Name in Asian Religious Scriptures

The Arabic word Bahá' obviously does not occur directly in the Sanskrit, Gáthíc, Avestan, Pali, Chinese, Japanese and other scriptural languages of the Bahá'í-recognized Asian religions (Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism). Words of identical or similar meaning are, however, found in eschatological contexts or texts which Bahá'ís have found prophetically significant. A Sanskrit root BHÁ signifies 'to shine'. Related Sanskrit, Pali and other words (i.e. ábháti = 'shines towards'; ábhá = 'lustre, splendour'), though etymologically/ linguistically unrelated, remind one of derivatives of the Arabic verbal root B.H.A/W -- including Bahá' and Abhá. Various stanzas of the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita -- such as the use of bháh (= 'Light', 'Glory') in 11:12 -- detailing the "glory" of the transfigured Krishna have, by certain Bahá'ís, been seen to be prophetically significant (e.g. Munje, World 50-51 on Gita 11:30).(21) Such Messianic figures as Kalki, the tenth Avatár of Vishnu or the "reincarnation of Krishna", expected by some Hindus, the Zoroastrian Sháh Bahrám [Vahrám, Verethraghna // Saoshyant] are all pictured as manifesting some kind of aura of glory; a supernatural splendour comparable to the Bahá' of Bahá'u'lláh. The Zoroastrian saviour, for example, incarnates the khvarenah (Avestan; Pahlavi khwarr, New Persian khurrah/farr) or supernatural "splendour". The name of the centrally important Maháyána Buddha Amitábha, the ruler of the western paradise of Sukhávatí, in Sanskrit signifies "Boundless Light". While then, the word Bahá' has no linguistic cognate in the languages of the Asian religions, there are a number of theological motifs that are comparable to the messianic splendour of the "Greatest Name", Bahá'.

The Word Bahá' in Bábí Scripture(22)

The word Bahá' and such derivatives of the same root as its superlative Abhá' are quite frequently found in the Tablets and writings of the Báb. From the early Commentary on the súra of the Cow (Tafsír súrat al-Baqara), (early 1844) and Qayyúm al-asmá' (mid-1844) until his last major work The Temple of Religion (Haykal al-dín) (written shortly before his martyrdom in 1850), it is theologically significant in a variety of contexts. There can be little doubt that the Báb attached a special significance to it.

In the first major revelation of the Báb, the Qayyúm al-asmá' (henceforth QA) the word Bahá' occurs some 14 times. -- Bahíyya ("luminous") occurs at least once.(23) Here, as in other works of the Báb, it is cosmologically, theologically and for Bahá'ís, prophetically significant. It indicates, for example, an exalted and radiantly splendid celestial realm. On occasion, it characterizes the most-elevated mystical heights, the radiance of the elevated Sinai. It describes the glorious splendour of the celestial Sinaitic sphere which emanates from the "fire" of the "Burning Bush" or "Tree".

It is, for example, at QA 57 that the Báb refers to the "people of Bahá'" who sail in "Arks of ruby, tender, crimson coloured". The phrase "people of Bahá" occurs hundreds of times in Bahá'í scripture and usually indicates the followers of Bahá'u'lláh. The "Crimson Ark" is symbolic of the Bahá'í religion, the vehicle of salvation.(24) The "Remembrance" (dhikr) is described in QA 75 as a "Blessed Tree on Mount Sinai sprung up from the Land of Bahá". In QA 76, reference is made to a mysterious "Watercourse of Bahá (majrá al-Bahá) above Mount Sinai" and QA 77 identifies the "Light of Bahá" as the vehicle of the divine theophany on Sinai experienced by Moses (see Lambden, Sinaitic 101). The Báb claims in QA 79 to be both the "Indubitable Word" (al- kalimát al-haqqah) and the "Calamitous Word" (al-kalimát al-qári'at) situated about the mystic "Fire" nigh unto "the pivot of the sphere of Bahá".

The word Bahá' not only designates the first month of the new Bábí-Bahá'í calendar but the ninth 19 year cycle or "Unity" (Vahíd); the 17th of these 19 year cycles being Bahíyy (= "Luminous" a derivative of Bahá') and the 18th Abhá. Among the many significant uses of Bahá' and Abhá' in the Báb's writings -- many of which are regarded by Bahá'ís as allusions to the person of Bahá'u'lláh -- is the following "prophetic announcement" from the Persian Bayán, "Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán" (God Passes By 25). In another passage we read, "The Bahá' of Him Whom God shall make manifest is immeasurably above every other Bahá'. . ." (Selections 156). Bahá'u'lláh, as the Bábí messiah figure, man yuzhiruhu'lláh, is here allocated a superlative measure of "glory", of Bahá'. While in Persian Bayán 3:14 it is stated, "All the Bahá of the Bayán is man yuzhiruhu'lláh", at 3:15 the "Primal Will" (Reality of the Manifestation of God), in each "Dispensation", is said to have been Bahá'u'lláh ("the Glory of God") -- besides whose Bahá' all else hath even been, and will ever remain as naught. In his Arabic Bayán the Báb links the moment of the dawning of the "Sun of Bahá'" with the expected divine Manifestation.(25) He states that in the Book of God, the period from the beginning of the rise of the "Sun of Bahá'" until its setting, is better than every period of night (see texts cited in MA 7:32/ Rahiq 1:364).

At Chihríq, before his martyrdom in July 1850, the Báb entrusted Mullá Báqir, a Letter of the Living, with a box containing a piece of blue paper inscribed with some 360 derivatives of the word Bahá' in fine calligraphic script. Written in the form of a pentagram this, according to Bahá'í historical sources, was ultimately delivered to Bahá'u'lláh (see Dawnbreakers 370+fn., 'Abdu'l- Bahá, Travellers Narrative 26-6).(26) While this pentagram appears to be lost(27) something of the nature of such derivatives as it might contain (i.e. buhyán and mubti[a]ha) can be gathered from certain sections of such of his works as the Book of the Five Grades (Kitáb-i-panj sha'n) which is reckoned a work in which "the name Bahá'u'lláh" is prophesied (God Passes By 28).

Indeed, this fairly lengthy Arabic and Persian work contains quite a number of occurrences of the words Bahá' and Abhá as well as the phrase/title Bahá'u'lláh -- e.g. "Say: Yea! We have all been glorified in Bahá'u'lláh" (see p. 71). Written a few months prior to the Báb's martyrdom, one section (pp. 172- 212) is believed to have been specially dedicated to Márzí Husayn 'Alí Núrí, Bahá'u'lláh. Quite a few paragraphs may be viewed as creative re-revelations of the opening section of the Shí'í Dawn Prayer (Du'a sahar; see above). The Bábí Messiah, "Him whom God will make manifest" (Man yuzhiruhu'lláh) is said to be God's "servant, Word and Glory" (Bahá) and much else besides (KPS:88).

In one of his Tablets of the Adrianople period, the Tablet to 'Alí Muhammad Sarráj (Lawh-i Sarráj c. 1867), Bahá'u'lláh has cited prophetic intimations of the "Greatest Name" in the writings of leading Bábís. Muhammad 'Alí entitled Quddús is said to have written Tablets at Badasht and referred to a time when the Lord will cause a secret to be made manifest "from the horizon of Bahá' in the land of 'or even nearer'" (aw adná, see Qur'án 53:9), shining resplendent from the "Point of Bahá'" (see MA 7:97). A Persian couplet of Táhirih containing the word Bahá is likewise cited (ibid. 98). In her Arabic and Persian writings this learned female Letter of the Living often used the words Bahá or Abhá. The Hand of the Cause of God, A.Q. Faizi translates the following passage from one of Táhirih's "epistles":

    O my God! O my God! The veil must be removed from the face of the Remnant of the Lord. O my God! Protect Husayn the mystery of Muhammad and advance the day of reunion with him. . . Make the point of Bahá, O my God, to circulate. . . (Faizi, Explanation 9)

Bahá' in the Bahá'í Writings

The Greatest Name should be found upon the lips in the first awakening moment of early dawn. It should be fed upon by constant use in daily invocations, in trouble, under opposition, and should be the last word breathed when the head rests upon the pillow at night. It is the name of comfort, protection, happiness, illumination, love and unity. . . The use of the Greatest Name and dependence upon it cause the soul to strip itself of the husks of mortality and to step forth free, reborn, a new creature. . . ('Abdu'l-Bahá cited in Lights of Guidance 892)

For Bahá'ís, theologically speaking, the word Bahá' as the "Greatest Name" is a sacred "word"; a "mantra" of great magnitude.(28) As the "Greatest Name", the word Bahá' stands at the centre of the Names of God. Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh has stated that all the Divine Names, relative to both the seen and the unseen spheres, are dependent upon it (see MA 8:24). The use of the "Greatest Name" Bahá' is thus, in a sense, the alpha and the omega of Bahá'í existence.

It is often the case that the word Bahá' and other related or theologically weighty terms, like a string of pearls, head most of Bahá'u'lláh's and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets -- replacing the Islámic equivalents, such as the basmala. One might read for example, "In the name of God, the Luminous, the All-Glorious (bismi'lláh al-Bahíyyu'l-Abhá) at the commencement of a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh. While in Islam (and before many Bahá'í prayers) the formula "He is God" (Huwa'lláh) is common, in Bahá'í sources one often finds, "He is the all-glorious" (Huwa'l- Abhá) -- The Hidden Words are headed with the line "He is the Glory of Glories (lit. "He is the Luminous, the All- Glorious") (Huwa'l-Bahíyyu'l-Abhá). Certain litany-type Tablets contain refrains which include the "Greatest Name" or forms of it. The opening Arabic half of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner (Lawh-i Malláhu'-quds) for example, includes the oft-repeated refrain, "Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious (fa- subhánu'lláh al-Abhá)" (see Bahá'í Prayers 51f; MA 4:335f).

There are thousands of occurrences of the word Bahá' in Bahá'í sacred scripture, from which a few selected occurrences can be registered here. Bahá'u'lláh most likely alludes to himself as the expected Bábí Messiah, the new 'True Joseph' or return of Imám Husayn, when he writes in the Four Valleys (Chahár Vádí, c. 1858), "Methinks I catch the fragrance of musk from the garments of [the letter] "H" (qumus al-há'; possibly referring to the Bábís) wafting from the Joseph of Bahá (Yúsif al-Bahá = Man yuzhiruhu'lláh/Bahá'u'lláh?). . ."(29) In the Kitáb-i- Íqán written a few years later (1862), he refers to himself as "the immortal Bird of Heaven" warbling upon the Sidrih ['Lote-Tree'] of Bahá (Íqán 50).(30)

It was during the latter part of the Adrianople period of his ministry (c. 1867 CE) that the greeting Alláh-u-Abhá ("God is All-Glorious") superseded the Islamic salutation Alláh-u-Akbar ("God is Great; see God Passes By 176) and became widely adopted in the Middle East -- and subsequently elsewhere. It was also during the Adrianople period of his ministry that Bahá'u'lláh named a Tablet in honour of khátún Ján, the eldest daughter of Hájjí 'Abdu'lláh Farhádí of Qazvín, The Tablet of Glory (Lawh-i-Bahá').

Hundreds of Tablets of the 'Akká (West-Galilean) period of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry contain interesting uses of Bahá' and its derivatives. Theological statements about the "Greatest Name" are numerous. In his Tablet to the Templer leader George David Hardegg (1812-1879; written late 1871?), Bahá'u'lláh, in cryptic fashion, spelled out both the letters of the "Comforter" (Gk. parakletos, Arabic mu'azzí) promised in John's Gospel (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) as well as those of the Greatest Name, Bahá'. In the opening Arabic section of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Medicine (Lawh-i-Tibb) it is recommended that eating commence with the utterance of the superlative form (of the word Bahá') al-Abhá' (= the All-Glorious; "My Most Glorious Name" [bismí'l-Abhá'] see MAM:223; Fananapazir and Lambden, Tablet of Medicine). The utterance of the word Bahá' is intimately related to both physical and spiritual health. In one of his Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh says, "Well is it with the physician who cureth ailments in My hallowed and dearly cherished Name." (From a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh, cited UHJ:1970). 'Abdu'l-Bahá taught, "That the Most Great Name [= Bahá'/Bahá'u'lláh] exerciseth influence over both physical and spiritual matters is sure and certain." (UHJ:1984, p. 2) In another Tablet he writes,

O maidservant of God! Continue in healing hearts and bodies and seek healing for sick persons by turning unto the Supreme Kingdom and by setting the heart upon obtaining healing through the power of the Greatest Name and by the spirit of the love of God. (Tablets vol. III 629)

In his "Most Holy Book" Bahá'u'lláh recommended the recitation of the "Greatest Name" 95 times each day (see Aqdas 26 para. 18; 180 n. 33 -- Shoghi Effendi explained that this was not "absolutely binding" (Lights 905). It, or certain Arabic phrases containing it, came to be clearly identified in Bahá'í scripture as the long secreted "Greatest Name" (al-ism al-a'zam) of God. Shoghi Effendi identified the Bábí formula and later Bahá'í invocation and greeting Alláh-u-Abhá' (= God is All- Glorious)(31) as well as the vocative exclamation Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá' (= O Glory of the All-Glorious; also a title of Bahá'u'lláh), as forms of the "Greatest Name". Nine repetitions (3X3) of the "Greatest Name" are part of the recitation of the Bahá'í daily 'Long Obligatory Prayer' (Prayers and Meditations no. 183). In one of his Tablets, 'Abdu'l-Bahá advised that in order to "seek immunity from the sway of the [negative/"evil"] forces of the contingent world", the sign of the "Most Great Name" should be hung in the dwelling and the ring of the "Greatest Name" (which spells the word Bahá' in four directions) worn on the [little finger] of the right hand (see Lights 1769).

The "Greatest Name" informs the life of the Bahá'í and is recited six times during Bahá'u'lláh's communal Prayer for the Dead (Prayers and Meditations no. 167). 'Abdu'l-Bahá often gloried in the majesty of the "Greatest Name" (Bahá') of his Divine Father. He designed a theologically significant calligraphic representation of it consisting of two Letter B's and 4 letter H's -- which spell the word Bahá' in four directions -- flanked by two five-pointed stars representing the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh (for details see MA 2:100-103, summarized in Faizi, Explanation 13ff). Too sacred to be used on gravestones, this and other calligraphic representations of the Greatest Name are hung in Bahá'í homes or engraved on ringstones (Lights 656). The Guardian's viewpoint regarding the centrality of the symbol of the "Greatest Name" is expressed in the words, "The Greatest Name is a distinctive mark of the Cause and a symbol of our Faith" (Lights 895). 'Abdu'l-Bahá indicates that the nameless, "indirect" presentation of the Bahá'í teachings, abstracted from the "Greatest Name" is limited,

As to his question about the permissibility of promulgating the divine teachings without relating them to the Most Great Name, you should answer: 'This blessed Name hath an effect on the reality of things. If these teachings are spread without identifying them with his holy Name, they will fail to exert an abiding influence in the world. The teachings are like the body, and this holy Name is like the spirit. It imparteth life to the body. It causeth the people of the world to be aroused from their slumber.' (cited in The Gift of Teaching 13)

With the Holy Year just behind us, it is fitting to recollect that when Bahá'u'lláh passed away, one hundred years ago, his eldest son, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the "Mystery of God" (sirru'lláh), sent a cable to 'Abdu'l-Hamíd II, the Sultan of Turkey (r. 1876-1909), which read, "The Sun of Bahá has set". Today however, the "Sun" of the Greatest Name continues to illumine all the horizons of the world with a deathless splendour. Its frequent repetition by the "people of Bahá" reverberates throughout universes seen and unseen.

| Return to start of article |

Works Cited

'Abdu'l-Bahá. Makátib 'Abdu'l-Bahá [= MAB]. Vol.1. Cairo, 1910.
___. A Traveller's Narrative. Trans. E.G. Browne. Rev.ed. Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust [BPT], 1980.
___. Tablets of Abdul-Bahá Abbas [=TAB]. Comp. Albert R. Windust. Vol. III. Chicago: Bahá'í Publishing Society, 1919.
Abrahams, Israel. The Glory of God. Humphrey Milford: Oxford University Press, 1925.
Afnán, Dr. Muhammad. Bahá'u'lláh dar áthár-i nuqta-yi bayán, in Mahbúb-i-'Alam. pp. 209-219.
Afshár, Hájjí Mírzá Muhammad. Bahr al-'Irfán. n.p. [Bombay/Tihran], n.d.
Albee Mathews, Loulie. Not Every Sea Hath Pearls. 2d ed. Happy Camp, California: Naturegraph Publishers, 1986.
The Báb. Bayán-i farsí. n.p., n.d.
___. al- Bayán al-'arabí. n.p., n.d.
___. Kitáb-i panj sha'n. n.p., n.d.
___. Haykal al-dín. n.p., n.d.
Bahá'u'lláh. Athár-i-Qalam-i-A'lá, Majmú'a-yi Munáját [=AQA]. n.p. [Tehran]: BPT, 128 Badí'.
___. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1992.
___. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Trans Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette: BPT, 1971.
___. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. London: BPT, 1949.
___. The Hidden Words. London: BPT, 1975.
___. Kitáb-i-Íqán: The Book of Certitude. Trans. Shoghi Effendi. London: BPT, 1961.
___. MAM = Majmá'a-yi alwáh-i- mubáraka hadrat-i-Bahá'u'lláh. Cairo: 1338 A.H./[1919-] 1920 CE. Repr. Wilmette: BPT, 1982.
___. Tablet to 'Ali Muhammad Sarráj in MA 7:4-118.
___. The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys. Trans. by 'Alí Kuli Khan assisted by Marzieh Gail. 5th ed. Wilmette: BPT, 1978.
___. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978.
A Selection of Bahá'í Prayers and Holy Writings. Penang, Malaysia: BPT Committee, 198?
BSB = Bahá'í Studies Bulletin. Ed. Stephen Lambden. Newcastle upon Tyne: 1982>
Bezold, C. Die Schatzöhle. 2 Vols. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1883-8.
Carter, M.G. Arabic Grammar (= chapter 8) in CHAL:123ff.
CHAL = Cambridge History of Arabic Literature. Eds. M.J.L. Young et al. Religion, Learning and Science in the 'Abbasid Period. Cambridge: CUP, 1990.
The Dawnbreakers [Táríkh-i Zarandí Pt.1]. Trans. Shoghi Effendi. London: BPT,1953.
Dehkhodá, 'Alí Akbar (Ed.). Lughat námih. Tehran 1325 Sh. / 1946 > entry Bahá', p. 395f.
Directives from the Guardian. Garrida, Gertrude (Comp.). New Delhi: BPT, 1973.
Faizi, A. Q. Explanation of the Symbol of the Greatest Name. New Delhi: BPT, n.d.
Fananapazir, Khazeh and Lambden, Stephen. The Tablet of Medicine (Lawh-i Tibb) of Bahá'u'lláh: A Provisional Translation with Occasional Notes. BSB 6:4-7:2, pp. 18-65.
Gibson, Margaret D. Apocrypha Arabica ( = Studia Sinaitica 8, contains part of an Arabic recension of the "Book of the Rolls" [Kitáb al-majáll]). London: CUP, 1901.
Heggie, James. An Index of Quotations from the Bahá'í Sacred Writings. Oxford: George Ronald, 1983.
Lights of Guidance, A Bahá'í Reference File . Comp. Helen Hornby. New Delhi: BPT, 1988.
al-Hillí, al-Miqdád ibn 'Abdu'lláh. Irshád al-tálibín ilá nahj al-mustarshidín. Qum: Matba'at Sayyid al-Shuhadá', 1405/1984-5.
Husayní, N.M. Yásif-i-Bahá dar Qayyámu'l-Asmá. Dundas, Ontario: Persian Institute for Bahá'í Studies, 148 BE/1991.
INBAMC. Iran National Bahá'í Archives, Manuscript Xerox Collection. 105 Vols. Privately published mid-1970's.
'Ishráq Khávarí (Ed). Má'idi-yi Ásmání [=MA]. 10 Vols. Tehran: BPT, 129 Badí' / 1972-3 CE.
___. Rahíq-i Makhtám [=RM] 2 Vols. Tehran: BPT, 130 Badí'/ 1973.
___. Ash'ár-i jináb-i Na'ím va sharh-i án. Jannát-i Na'ím. Vol.1. Tehran: BPT, 130 Badí'/1973-4.
Jawáhirí, Ghulám-Husayn (Ed.), Kullíyát-i-ash'ár va áthár-i-Fársí-i- Shaykh Bahá' al-Dín al-'Amilí. Tehran: Kitábfurushí Mahmádí, 1341 Sh./1962 CE.
Kassis, Hanna. A Concordance of the Qur'án. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Kirmání, Hájjí Mírzá Muhammad Karím khún. Risála fí sharh du'á'al-sahar ("Treatise in Commentary upon the Dawn Prayer"). Kirman: al-sa'áda, n.d.
Kirmání, Shaykh Abu'l- Qásim. Fihirist kutub masháyikh 'izám. Kirmán: Sa'ádat, n.d.
Lambden, Stephen. "A Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh to Georg David Hardegg: the 'Lawh-i Hirtík'", BSB 2:1 (June 1983), pp. 32-62.
___. "The Sinaitic Mysteries: Notes on Moses/Sinai Motifs in Bábí and Bahá'í Scripture" in Studies, pp. 64-183.
___. "From Fig Leaves to Fingernails: Some Notes on the Garments of Adam and Eve in the Hebrew Bible and Select Early Postbiblical Jewish Writings" in A Walk in the Garden: Exegesis, Iconography and Literature. Proceedings of a Conference held at the University of Lancaster Jan. 8-9 1986. Eds. P. Morris and D. Sawyer. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992, pp.74-90.
___. "An Early Poem of Mírzá Husayn 'Alí Bahá' Alláh: The Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing (Rashh-i 'Amá')", BSB 3:2 (Sept. 1984), pp. 4- 114.
Lawson, B. Todd. The terms "Remembrance" (dhikr) and "Gate" (Báb) in the Báb's Commentary on the Súra of Joseph in Studies, pp. 1-63.
Majlisí, Muhammad Báqir. Bihár al- Anwár [=BA; 110 Vols]. Beirut: Mu'assat al-Wafá', 1403/1983.
Munje, HM. The Whole World is but One Family. New Delhi: BPT, n.d.
MahBáb-i-'Alam (The Beloved of the World). "Commemorative volume for the centenary of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Holy Year 1992-93." Canada: 'Andalib Editorial Board of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada, n.d. [1992].
Noghabai, H. Bisharát-i-Kutub-i- ásmání. n.p., n.d.
Nurbakhsh, Javad. Sufi Symbolism. Vol. 4. London/New York: khaniqahi-Nimatullahi Publications, 1990.
al-Qummá, Shaykh 'Abbas. Mafátíh al-Jinán. Beirut: Dar al- Adwá', 1409 AH/ 1989 CE.
Ramsey, Arthur M. The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ. London: Longmans Green and Company, 1949.
Rahner, K. and Vorgrimler, H. Concise Theological Dictionary. London: Burns & Oates, 1983.
Rashtí, Sayyid Kázim. Sharh al- qasída al-lámíya. Tabriz: n.d. [1270/1853].
Rúzbihán Baqlí. Commentaire sur les paradoxes des Soufis (Sharh-i Shathíyát). Ed. and trans. Henri Corbin.Tehran/ Paris, 1966.
Schimmel, Annemarie. Islamic Names. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989.
___. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.
Shoghi Effendi. God Passes By . Wilmette: BPT, 1974.
___. "Lawh-i qarn" [="Centennial Tablet"] in Tawqí'at-i-Mubarakih. Hofheim-Langenhain: Bahá'í-Verlag, 149 Badí'/1992, pp.75-271.
___. The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh. London: BPT, 1947.
___. Tawqí'at-i-Mubárakih. Hofheim- Langenhain: Bahá'í Verlag, 1992/149.
Studies in Honour of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi (= Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions Vol. 5). Ed. M. Momen. Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1988.
UHJ:1970 = Universal House of Justice/Research Dept. (Comp.). Extracts from the Guardian's Letters on Spiritualism, Reincarnation and Related Subjects, February 1970.
UHJ:1984 = Universal House of Justice/ Research Dept. (Comp.). Bahá'í Writings on Some Aspects of Health, Healing, Nutrition and Related Matters, April 1984.
Zaehner, R.C. The Bhagavad Gítá, with a Commentary based on the Original Sources. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976.

End Notes

1. A Selection of Bahá'í Prayers 99. For a few further references see Heggie, Index 48. In certain of his letters Shoghi Effendi indicates that the "Arabic term Bahá" is "the name of Bahá'u'lláh" (Directives, no. 86, p. 33). [Return]

2. On the honorific title (laqab tashrífí) in Islam see Schimmel, Islamic 12-13, 50ff.[Return]

3. The Arabic Divine designation Alláh is the main Islámic word for God. It is hundreds of times used in the Islámic Holy Book, the Qur'án and is not linguistically or conceptually alien to the Bible of Jews and Christians. More than ten different words for God occur in the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"); among them the following three interchangeable words for God, 'El, 'Eloah and 'Elohim -- the latter a feminine plural with singular significance and the first word in the Torah for God (Genesis 1:1). Very likely a contraction of "the God" (masculine = al+iláh), Alláh is related to, and essentially synonymous with, these Biblical names of God. [Return]

4. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh alludes to his elevated station and to the power of the "Greatest Name", Bahá, when he states, "Say: This is that hidden knowledge which shall never change, since its beginning is with nine [= the numerical value of Bahá], the symbol that betokeneth the concealed and the manifest, the inviolable and unapproachable Name." (Para. 29, p. 28 cf. note on p. 188). [Return]

5. According to certain Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá -- notably the Tablet in explanation of the Greatest Name symbol (designed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá himself) addressed to a Bahá'í resident in Paris (see MA 2:100-103) -- Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb may be considered the new "Adam" and "Eve" (respectively). The word Báb has a numerical (abjad) value of 5. The sum of its integers is 15 -- 1+2+3+4+5 = 15. Fifteen is also the numerical (abjad) value of "Eve" (Arabic, Hawá). [Return]

6. Basmala is an Arabic word indicating the oft-repeated Qur'ánic phrase "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" (Arabic, Bismi'lláh al-Ramán al-Rahím). [Return]

7. The phrase "Glory of the Lord" occurs thirty-six times in the Hebrew Bible. [Return]

8. A central and Jewish mystical work is the Book of Radiance (Sepher Ha-Zohar) attributed to the second century Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai -- but which many modern scholars attribute to the Spanish mystic Moses de Leon (1240-1305) -- it was not unknown in 19th century Iran. Within this Aramaic work there exist a number of references to the hidden, supernal "Point" (Zohar I.15a) which is related to God's "Wisdom" (Hokhmah). [Return]

9. The Arabic word majd, which can also be translated by (radiant) "glory", is the word which renders doxa ("glory") in certain Arabic translations of the New Testament. In the Kitáb-i- Íqán and in other Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh quotes those New Testament verses which predict the return of Christ in "glory" (doxa) (see Mark 13:26, Matthew 24:30, Luke 21:27 cf. Mark 8:38; Matthew 16:27; Luke 9:26). Here (Greek) doxa ("glory") is usually rendered/ translated (in Arabic Bibles) majd. It is thus the case that many references in Bahá'u'lláh's tablets to his coming with great "glory" (majd) allude to his being the return of Christ "in the glory (majd/doxa) of the Father" (For some details see Lambden, In the glory of the Father, forthcoming in BSB). [Return]

10. A number of the post-6th century CE Arabic recensions of the Book of the Cave of Treasures exist (see Bezold Vol. 2); most notably the "Book of the Rolls" (Kitáb al-majáll, later referred to as the "Apocalypse of Peter" and related to the "Testament of Adam" tradition). The first fifty or more pages of an Arabic recension of it were published by Margaret D. Gibson (from an undated [9th cent. CE?] manuscript preserved in a monastery library on Mount Sinai) in the series 'Studia Sinaitica' (8), as Apocrypha Arabica (London: CUP, 1901). [Return]

11. Jewish traditions have it that in the "last days" the radiant "glory" ("Bahá'í status") of the (symbolic) "First Man" or 'first couple' would be regained (cf. Gen. 3:21). The new humanity will, it is predicted in numerous texts, be "clothed" in the primordial "glory" ("Bahá'í status"). This, symbolically speaking, the 'first couple' lost at the time of the "fall". A variety of religious traditions reckon that primordial conditions will again be experienced in the new, messianic age of paradise; for Bahá'ís the emergent "new heaven and earth" of the Bahá'í Faith. Cf Lambden, From Fig Leaves. [Return]

12. I shall concentrate here on a very small number of the Islamic religious uses of Bahá'. Neither the full range of religious usages nor other occurrences will be registered. As an example of a non-religious, geographical usage, it may be noted that the noun Bahá' indicates "one of the hamlets of the [minor] district of Shahriyár which is an administrative division of Tehran with a population of 194" (Dehkhodá, Lughat Námih, entry Bahá' 395 - drawing upon a Persian Geographical Dictionary). [Return]

13. See Rúzbihán Baqlí, Mashrab al-arwáh (Ed. Nazif M. Hoca Istanbul, 1974) 262. English trans. Nurbaksh, Sufi Symbolism 4:19. See also Rúzbihán Baqlí (Ed. and trans. Henri Corbin), Commentaire paragraph 265. In her Mystical Dimensions, Annemarie Schimmel, commenting on this tradition writes, "It was Rúzbihán Baqlí who highlighted the prophetic tradition according to which Muhammad declared the red rose to be the manifestation of God's glory ([Bahá'] B 265). He thus gave the rose -- loved by poets throughout the world -- the sanction of religious experience; his vision of God is a vision of clouds of roses, the divine presence fulgent as a marvellous red rose. Since this flower reveals divine beauty and glory most perfectly, the nightingale, symbol of the longing soul, is once and forever bound to love it -- and the numberless roses and nightingales in Persian and Turkish poetry take on, wittingly or unwittingly, this metaphysical connotation of soul-bird and divine rose" (Mystical 299). [Return]

14. Arabic text in Qummí, Mafátih 228-229. Cf. the parallel lines of the Du'a' yawm al-mubáhila in ibid. 351f. This prayer is also recorded, among other sources, in Muhammad Taqí Majlisí's Bihár al-Anwár and Zád al- Ma'ád where it is commented upon (cf. Afshár, Bahr 270). Both Imám Ridá' and Imám Ja'far al-Sádiq (d.765 CE) are associated with the transmission of this Dawn Prayer and of traditions to the effect that it contains the Greatest Name. [Return]

15. I am grateful to Dr. Khazeh Fananapazir for bringing this prayer to my attention. [Return]

16. This Treatise has been twice printed. Firstly in 1317/1899-1900 and secondly in 1351/1932-3. See Kirmání, Fihrist 367, no. 323. [Return]

17. According to Ishráq Khávarí, Shaykh-i- Bahá'í adopted this pen-name in the light of the traditions of the Imáms about the Greatest Name and the occurrence of the word Bahá in both the Dawn Prayer of Muhammad Báqir (see above) and the Supplication of the Mother of David (Du'a-yi Umm-i Dawúd) -- in which the sixth Imám Sídiq said the Greatest Name was contained (see Ishráq khávarí, Jannát-i Na'ím 1:469; cf. Noghabai, Bisharát 149). [Return]

18. Refer to Shaykh Bahá'í, Dar rumáz-i ism-i a'zam, in Jawáhirí, Kullíyát 95. [Return]

19. This particular work, of the forty or more works of al-Búní, is not available to me. I have translated the text cited as being from this work in Ishráq khávarí RM. Better known is al- Búní's "The Sun of Gnosis" (Kitáb shams al-ma'árif wa latá'if al-awárif) which exists in various recensions and has several times been printed. [Return]

20. See Sharh al- qasída cited 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Makátib 1:41. A note upon this work of Sayyid Kázim is found in Lawson, "Remembrance" 43 fn.6. Loosely translated this opening line reads, "Praise be to God Who hath ornamented the brocade of existence with the mystery of differentiation (or association? sirr al- baynúnat) by virtue of the ornament of the emergent Point (tiráz al-nuqtat al-báriz) from whence cometh the letter "H" (al-há') through the letter "A" (bi'l-alif), without filling up (ishbá') or segregation (inshiqáq)." [Return]

21. R.C. Zaehner in his The Bhagavad Gítá . . . translates verse eleven and twelve, which are part of the picture of Krishna's universal form, his transfiguration (see chapter 11:9ff), as follows, "Garlands and robes celestial He wore, fragrance divine was his anointing. [Behold this] God whose every [mark] spells wonder, the Infinite, facing every way! If in [bright] heaven together should arise the shining brilliance of a thousand suns, then would that perhaps resemble the brilliance of that [God] so great of Self." (Gítá 82-3) -- transliteration of the Sanskrit of verse twelve, divi súrya-saharasya bhaved yugapad utthitá yadi bháh, sadrsí sá syád bhásas tasya mah'átmanah. [Return]

22. Among the recent treatments of this subject is Dr. Muhammad Afnán's useful Persian article on "Bahá'u'lláh in the Writings of the First Point" (the Báb; see bibliography). For further details see my paper, The word Bahá in the writings of the Báb, forthcoming in BSB. [Return]

23. As there is, as yet, no critical or authorized edition of the Qayyúm al-asmá' (QA from hereon), these figures are approximate. [Return]

24. See for example, the "tenth leaf" of the Words of Paradise (Kalimát-i- Firdawsíyyih) where it is written, "Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself. Verily, such a man is reckoned by virtue of the Will of God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, with the people of Bahá who dwell in the Crimson Ark." (Tablets 71). In his last major work, the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (Law-i-ibn-i- dhi'b) clear reference is made to QA 57 when Bahá'u'lláh addresses Shaykh Muhammad Táqí Najafí (d.1914) advising him to, "Seek thou the shore of the Most Great Ocean, and enter, then, the Crimson Ark which God hath ordained in the Qayyúm-i-Asmá for the people of Bahá." (Epistle 139 cf. 130). In his Tablet of Carmel Bahá'u'lláh predicts that, "Ere long will God sail His Ark upon thee, and will manifest the people of Bahá who have been mentioned in the Book of Names (Kitáb al- Asmá [= Qayyúm al-Asmá'?])." (Gleanings 16; see also Gleanings 169, cf. Heggie, Concordance 48). [Return]

25. The phrase "Sun of Bahá" can also be found, for example in the Báb's Commentary on the Súra of the Cow and Golden Treatise (Risála dhahabíya). See M. Afnán, Bahá'u'lláh 214. [Return]

26. In his account of this matter 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes in A Traveller's Narrative, "Now the Siyyid Báb had disposed all His affairs before setting out from Chihríq towards Tabríz, had placed His writings and even His ring and pen-case in a specially prepared box, put the key of the box in an envelope, and sent it by means of Mullá Báqir, who was one of His first associates, to Mullá 'Abdu'l-Karím of Qazvín. This trust Mullá Báqir delivered over to Mullá 'Abdu'l-Karím at Qum in presence of a numerous company. At the solicitations of those present he opened the lid of the box and said, "I am commanded to convey this trust to Bahá'u'lláh: more than this ask not of me, for I cannot tell you." lmportuned by the company, he produced a long epistle in blue, penned in the most graceful manner with the utmost delicacy and firmness in a beautiful minute shikastih hand, written in the shape of a man so closely that it would have been imagined that it was a single wash of ink on the paper. When they had read this epistle [they perceived that] He had produced three hundred and sixty derivatives from the word Bahá. Then Mullá 'Abdu'l-Karím conveyed the trust to its destination" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, A Traveller's Narrative 25-6). [Return]

27. In Mathews' Not Every Sea reference is made to this author's viewing and having a photograph taken in the British Museum [Library] of "The Star Tablet" of the Báb . She wrote to Shoghi Effendi about this and apparently later (in 1944) viewed the Báb's "authentic" "Star Tablet" (pp. 63-4). What she thought "The Star Tablet" of the Báb however, may merely have been one of the numerous haykals (pentacles or star-shaped Tablets/talismans) of the Báb or his followers. [Return]

28. When the Bahá'í Faith was first taught in the United States a good deal was made of the arcane, the sublime mystery of the "Greatest Name" Bahá. It was initially only communicated to prospective converts after a series of "introductory lessons". [Return]

29. See The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys 56 (translation made more literal on the basis of the original Arabic). The figure of Joseph is important in the QA of the Báb. For some details see N.M. Husayní, Yúsif-i- Bahá dar Qayyúmu'l-Asmá. While the phrase Yúsif-i-Bahá does not occur in QA it, as stated, does occur in the Four Valleys. [Return]

30. Worth noting here is that Shoghi Effendi also made some interesting uses of derivatives of B.H.A. in celebrating the glory of Bahá'u'lláh. In a lengthy Persian letter written to the oriental Bahá'ís at Ridwán 105 BE (1949 CE), he lauded the exalted Person of Bahá'u'lláh by an adjectival use of four different derivatives of B.H.A. (cf. above on certain of the Báb's writings containing derivatives of B.H.A) by referring to His "Luminous, Radiant, Brilliant, All-Glorious Beauty" (jamál al-Bahíyy al-báhiy al- mutabáhiy al-Abhá = Bahá'u'lláh; refer Tawqí'at 310). [Return]

31. The invocation Alláh- u-Abhá is quite common in the writings of the Báb. It was stipulated for example, that city dwellers should recite it 95 (5X19) times on the first day of each 19 day month (see Persian Bayán V:17.). The Báb used it in his writings some twenty years or more prior to its Bahá'í adoption. He also directed the recitation of Alláh-u-Abhá 19 times each day (among other similar invocations; see DB:402). Bábí women should greet or salute each other with Alláh-u-Abhá (Persian Bayán VI:5). [Return]

Back to:   Published Articles
Home Site Map Forum Links About Contact
. .