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A study of the Báb's two earliest works, partial commentaries on the Qur'an entitled "Tafsír súrat al-baqara" and "Tafsír súrat Yúsuf" (aka The Qayyum al-Asma), in an attempt to appreciate the Bab's attitude towards the Qur'an.
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. Later published by Routledge as Gnostic Apocalypse and Islam: Qur'an, Exegesis, Messianism and the Literary Origins of the Babi Religion (2012).

The Qur'an Commentary of Sayyid 'Alí Muhammad, the Báb:
Doctoral dissertation

by Todd Lawson

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Abstract: The Bábí religion had, during its brief life, a tremendous impact on Iranian society. Its founder, Sayyid `Alí Muhammad, the Bab (1819-1850) wrote a great many works of several kinds. Of his major writings, the two earliest are partial commentaries on the Qur'an. The following study examines these two remarkably different commentaries in an attempt to appreciate the Bab's attitude towards the Qur'an, Islam, and himself. The earliest work, the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, was written before the Báb had publicized a claim to messiahship. In the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, written only a short time later, this claim is made explicit. The radical difference in the style of the two commentaries, which may be seen as a reflection of a development in the Bab's perception of himself, is analyzed.
Table of Contents
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Acknowledgements v
Note on Style vii
Abbreviations viii
General Introduction x
1- Shí`í Tafsír 1
2- Akhbárí Tafsír 6
3- The Shaykhí School 26
4- Tasawwuf 39
5- Life of the Bab 41
6- Works of the Bab 47
Part i: The Tafsír súrat al-baqara
Introduction 68
Chapter 1: Waláya 78
Chapter 2: Hierarchies-1 (Tetrads) 115
Chapter 3: Hierarchies-2 (Heptads) 146
Chapter 4: Tajallí 187
Chapter 5: Qá'im 225
Part ii: The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf
Introduction 250
Chapter 1: General Description 253
Chapter 2: The Terms dhikr and báb 286
Chapter 3: The Term nuqta and the Khutbat al-Tatanjíya 329
Chapter 4: The súrat al-nahl: Translation & Commentary 362
Concluding Remarks 397
Bibliography 399
Appendix (Photocopy of Tafsír súrat al-baqara) 426


This thesis would not have been possible without the generous assistance of my advisor, Professor Hermann Landolt. His unfailing interest and encouragement over the years are deeply appreciated.

I am grateful to the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, for providing the facilities to pursue this research. I would especially like to thank Professor Donald Little, Director, for his encouragement and goodwill, as well as the other members of the faculty of the Institute. The library staff of the Institute, particularly Ms. Salwa Ferahian, deserves a special word for cooperation and patience.

I would like to thank the Institute of Islamic Studies for its financial assistance, and McGill's Graduate Faculty for two travels grants. I am also grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada for two years of financial aid, and to the Institute of Ismá'ílí Studies (London) for a teaching fellowship which enabled me to carry out research in a number of libraries in England and Europe. I would like to acknowledge the following libraries for their assistance: the British Library, the India Office Library, the Cambridge University Library, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the University of Leiden Library. I am especially thankful to Mr. J. Weinberger, Near Eastern Bibliographer, Princeton University.

Certain materials unavailable in these libraries were provided by S. Lambden, M. Momen, A. Rippin, and S. Scholl. For this, and for their friendship, and intellectual support, I would like express my sincere appreciation. It is a pleasure to record my thanks to Mahmoud Ayoub for sharing with me his knowledge of Shí`í tafsír. I would also like to thank Denis MacEoin for providing me with a copy of his study of Bábí sources.

Sincere thanks are also due to Dr. Muhamad Afnan for his interest and knowledge, and to D. `Aqíqí, C. Filstrup, K. Nadjí, and E. Wright for their assistance in various ways.

To my children, Dana and Bahiyyih, I owe a special debt. Finally, all my gratitude goes to my wife Barbara for her loving support and assistance.

Note on Style

The system of transliteration used below follows the style suggested by the Institute of Islamic Studies, however a circumflex replaces the macron in indicating long vowels. For the most part, words are transcribed to reflect Arabic pronunciation. An exception is the name Mullá Muhammad Muhsin Fayd Káshání, who is referred to as Muhsin Fayz. Unless otherwise indicated, dates following names are the date of death, the first is the Hijrí, which is separated from the Christian date by an oblique. Occasional reference will be found to the Badí` calendar, instituted by the Bab, which dates from Naw Rúz 1260. The translations from the Qur'an follow Arberry.


Amanat Abbas Amanat, "The Early Years of the Babi Movement." Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Oxford, 1981.

Annuaire Refers to various numbers of Annuaire de la Section des Sciencesreligieuse de l'...cole des hautes études, Paris. Specific references include the year of the number in question, followed by the page reference, e.g.: Annuaire,1965-6, p.107.

Anwár Abú al-Hasan al-Isfahání, Tafsír mir'át al-anwár wa mishkát al-asrár. Tehran, 1374/1954.

Le Báb A.-L.-M. Nicolas, Seyyèd Ali Mohammed dit Le Báb. Paris,1905.

Balyuzi H.M. Balyuzi, The Báb, the Herald of the Day of Days. Oxford, 1973.

Baq. Manuscript of Tafsír súrat al-baqara. Tehran Bahá'í Archives, 6014.c.

Bayán Translation of Bayán-i fársí by Nicolas. Paris, 1911-1914. In referring to this work, first the number of the váhid then the number of the báb, separated by a colon will be given. Following this, the number of the volume of the French translation after which the page number will appear in parenthesis, e.g.: Bayán, 3:11 (v.2, p.62).

Burhán al-Sayyid Háshim al-Bahrání, Kitáb al-burhán fí tafsír al-Qur'án. 4 vols. Tehran, 1375/1955.

C Manuscript of Tafsír súrat al-baqara. Cambridge University Library, Browne Manuscript Collection, F10.

Charism Denis MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism: A Study in Charismatic Renewal in Shí`í Islam." Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 1979.

Dharí`a Ághá Buzurg, Muhammad Muhsin al-Tihrání. al-Dharí`a ilá tasánif al-shí`a. 25 vols. Tehran and Najaf,1355/1936-1398/1978.

EII Henry Corbin, En Islam iranien. 4 vols. Paris, 1971-2.

F11 Manuscript of Tafsír súrat Yúsuf. Cambridge University Library, Browne Manuscript Collection, F11.

GAL Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arabischen Literatur. Leiden, 1937-49.

I Privately published text of Tafsír súrat al-Baqara in Majmú`ah-ye áthár hadrat-i A`lá, #69. Tehran, Badí` 133/1976, pp.156-410.

Káfí al-Kulayní, al-Usúl min al-Káfí, 2 vols. Tehran, 1374/1954.

L Manuscript of Tafsír súrat al-baqara. Leiden University Library, Arabic manuscript Or.4791, #8.

Momen Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shí`a Islam. Oxford, 1985.

Nabíl Mullá Muhammad-i Zarandí (Nabíl-i A`zam), The Dawn-Breakers:Nabíl's Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation. Translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette, 1974.

Núr `Abd `Alí al-Huwayzí, Kitáb tafsír núr al-thaqalayn, 5 vols. Qum, 1383/1963-1385/1965.

QA Manuscript of Tafsír súrat Yúsuf. Bahá'í World Centre Library, uncatalogued.

Qasída Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, Sharh al-qasída al-lámíya. Tabríz, 1270/1853.

Rafati Vahid Rafati, "The Development of Shaykhí Thought in Shí`í Islam." Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, U.C.L.A., 1979.

Sáfí Muhsin Fayz Káshání, al-Sáfí fí tafsír kalám Alláh al-wáfí. N.p., 1286/1869.

Sources Denis MacEoin, "A Revised Survey of the Sources for Early Bábí Doctrine and History." Unpublished thesis, Cambridge University, 1977. (forthcoming, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles).

Writings Selections from the Writings of the Báb. Haifa,1978.

Ziyára Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára al-jámi`a, Tehran, 1276/1859.

General Introduction

A study of any author's reading of the Qur'an is perhaps the best way to approach the question of that author's general view of Islam. Throughout the history of the Islamic religion, the sanctified status of the Qur'an has remained one subject about which all Muslims have been able to agree. Although there are disagreements about how this sanctity should be understood, the Qur'an as scripture enjoys a status in the religion of the Muslim perhaps unparalleled in other major religious traditions.

While the Islamic roots of the Bábí religion have never been seriously questioned, detailed studies of the writings of the Bab have not really concentrated on the Bab's understanding of the Qur'an. The two works chosen for analysis here have the combined virtue of being Qur'an commentaries and the two earliest major compositions by the Bab. They are unusual inasmuch as they were written by one who was not a professional religious scholar, but a member of the merchant class of nineteenth century Iran. Thus the commentaries show how far current religious trends and questions had penetrated into what might otherwise be thought an unlikely segment of Persian society.

Beyond this, the two works are remarkably different in style and structure, even though they were written within months of each other. These differences are to such a degree that it might by questioned whether the two commentaries are indeed by the same author. No evidence has come to light, however, to suggest that they were written by anyone other than the Bab. It is therefore assumed that the reason they are so different is that they represent a radical change in the author's point of view, specifically a change in his perception of his own self.

In the first work, the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, the author proceeds in his task along the lines already established by the greater tafsír tradition. That is, the Bab comments on the first and second súras of the Qur'an seriatim. He first cites the verse in question and then introduces his comments with such words as al-murád ("the intention of this verse is") or ay ("that is:"), after which he propounds a meaning which is then usually supported by quoting one or more hadíth or portions of a hadíth. Often in the course of his commentary, he paraphrases the verse in question. In order to illustrate this method as faithfully as possible, numerous passages from the tafsír have been translated. (In these translations and elsewhere, quranic material appears in italics.) The method most used by the Bab to explicate the meaning of the Qur'an is allegorical or typological exegesis. The overall concern of the commentary is one common to much of Shí`í tafsír, namely to prove that the esoteric meaning of scripture (bátin al-kitáb) speaks primarily of the waláya of the Imáms and the usurpation of `Alí's rightful position by the first three Caliphs. There is virtually no concern with matters of the sharí`a, nor with such technical questions as abrogation (násikh wa mansúkh) or reference to the genre of literature known as asbáb al-nuzúl.

Of primary importance to the Bab is this waláya or charismatic authority, carried by the "family of God" (ál alláh), namely the Prophet, Fátima, and the twelve Imáms of Ithná-`asharí Shí`ism. Not content with merely asserting the fact of this charisma, the Bab following the precedent established by Shaykhí theology, explores the ontological and eschatalogical ramifications of the Imamate. This central preoccupation may be seen from one point of view, as a means of participating in this charisma through a literary activity. This brings to mind the theory made famous by Paul Tillich, that religious symbols (in this case the Qur'an, the Prophet and the Imáms) acquire meaning precisely to the degree and in the manner in which they participate in the reality for which they stand.[1] It follows then, that concern with these symbols may be an attempt at vicarious participation in the reality which they represent. This theory is important, for as will be seen in the study of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf in Part ii, the Bab himself is transformed into just such a symbol. In this slightly later work, there is no longer a question of secondary participation. In passing, it may be postulated that insofar as this "charisma" is present already in the Qur'an in its preeminent status as Word of God, that all tafsír (Sunní or Shí`í) may be seen to some degree as a similar attempt at participating in it. Obviously, exegesis is also concerned with the "meaning" of scripture. In the case of this study, however, the exercise comes more from a desire to encounter the Divine. With the Qur'an, the whole idea of "meaning" is inextricably bound up with the Divine. To understand is to come closer to God. Thus, the explanation of sacred texts is surely of a different order than the exegesis of "mere" poetry or other forms of literature.

Interpretation has been characterized by Susan Sontag as follows:

Interpretation is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate, by revamping it. The interpreter, without actually erasing or rewriting the text, is altering it. But he can't admit to doing this. He claims to be making it intelligible, by disclosing its true meaning.[2]

At the time the Bab wrote his commentary on the first two súras of the Qur'an (the Tafsír súrat al-baqara begins with a brief commentary on the Fátiha), there could have been little disagreement among his immediate would-be readers that the Qur'an in its inner meaning upheld the Imamate of the ahl al-bayt. Inasmuch as their spiritual authority was most certainly universally recognized within this milieu, the significance of the act of interpretation, insofar as it was concerned with waláya, has to reside elsewhere than in a desire to disclose the true meaning of the Qur'an. Sontag's remark does apply, however, to the fundamental differences between Shí`í and Sunní tafsír. As will be seen, it is quite clear that the Qur'an of the Shí`í exegetes discussed below was a different book than the one read by Sunní Muslims.

The Bab's tafsír does raise other issues, among which are the standard Shí`í questions of the appearance of the hidden Imám. In this regard, the Bab's comments may be thought to offer something new; this subject will be dealt with at length in a separate chapter. The Bab also frequently demonstrates the principle that a given verse or word contains multiple meanings. But this is not new. What may be considered innovative is the distinctive theology which the Bab extracts from the Qur'an. This theology is closely connected to the teachings of the Shaykhí movement. Although these teachings have not yet been fully studied, enough about them is known to make some useful comparisons.

Beyond this desire to participate in the charisma of the Qur'an and the waláya of the Imáms which it was perceived to uphold, the Bab was clearly concerned with the advent of the Shí`í millenium. The commentary was completed on the eve of the new year 1260, which marked 1,000 years since the disappearance of the twelfth Imám, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-`Askarí (disappeared 260/873-4). The extent to which millenarian expectation conditioned much of the early nineteenth century Iranian religious scene has been admirably documented.[3]

The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is extremely unusual. As far as can be determined, the Bab began its composition within a few months of completing the first work. For this reason, the abrupt change in style and structure appears to be due to a profound spiritual experience which the Bab underwent at some point in between the writing of the two works. There is mention by the Bab of just such an experience. Insofar as this transformation of style between the two commentaries is the result of one or more spiritual experiences, tafsír may be seen as a source for biography.

The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf differs from the Tafsír súrat al-baqara in all its aspects. Foremost, is that it is a blatant imitation of the Qur'an itself, as well as being a commentary on the 12th súra of that book. Furthermore, the actual exegesis is carried out almost completely by means of paraphrase. Any exegetical connectives, such as al-murád and ay, are totally absent from this work. Such an intimate connection between commentary and text bespeaks a higher degree of the aforementioned participation in the text. In this commentary, the Bab cites no hadíths at all to support his interpretations. The resulting implication is his spiritual and intellectual independence from the tafsír and hadíth tradition, which was incessantly invoked in the earlier commentary. The main thrust of this work is to proclaim the Bab's absolute spiritual authority as representative of the Imám. This is accomplished through the use of a complex of images and symbols which are seen as being generated by the above-mentioned tradition, but which are never explicitly presented as such. The language is quite difficult and cast in rhyming prose (saj`); the work is also very long. Unlike the earlier commentary, aspects of this work have been studied by previous scholars. It is hoped that its treatment here, as representing a new phase in the Bab's approach to scripture, will contribute to a fuller appreciation the Bab's career. This work, which may be said to have changed the course of Iranian history to some extent, has continued (and continues) to pose many problems to the reader.

Both works are entirely in Arabic, and the Bab's Arabic has come under sharp crticism for being ungrammatical or unidiomatic. The Bab's grammar was one of the chief topics of discussion during the interrogation in Tabríz which led to his execution. This meeting was presided over by the sixteen-year-old Crown Prince, the future Sháh Násir al-Dín, and attended by several distinguished ulama, one of whom is described as being a Shaykhí, and who therefore was undoubtedly adversely predisposed to the Bab. In the course of this examination, the Bab claimed to be the Gate mentioned in the famous hadíth from the Prophet, "I am the city of knowledge and `Alí is its gate." As a result, those in attendance proceeded to barrage him with a variety of questions on a diversity of subjects, ranging from dyspepsia to the regulations governing the ritual ablutions of a hermaphrodite. In the course of this farcical interrogation, much was made of the Bab's improper pronunciation of the sound feminine plural in the accusative case.[4]

Examples of the manuscripts have been included to allow a firsthand assessment of the language by Arabists, who will acknowledge that the style is unusual and in places indeed ungrammatical. Criticisms of the Bab's grammar have been countered by laying the blame on the copyists of the manuscripts. It is MacEoin's opinion, that while such external factors combined with the difficulty of the texts themselves might account for "a great many supposed errors", it is not sufficient to explain the problems found in the writings of the Bab in general.[5]

In the following study, several irregularities are noticed, together with the variants found in corresponding manuscripts. In all fairness, it should be added that none of these manuscripts are autographs. The examples of manuscripts included in the following pages will show that the Arabic is many times quite ungrammatical. The Bab seems to have in fact regarded the whole issue with serene disdain. Browne quotes the following passage from the Bab's Persian Bayán:

Hárút and Márút are two fixed habits, which, descending from the superior world, have become imprisoned in the well of the material nature, and teach men sorcery. And by these habits are meant Accidence and Syntax, from which, in the Bayánic Dispensation, all restrictions have been removed.[6]

A similar attitude is found in the account of the meeting of the Bab's first disciple, Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í, with one of the ulama of Káshán, the son of the famous Mullá Ahmad Naráqí. Mullá Husayn's purpose was to preach the advent of the Bab, and he presented Naráqí with a copy of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf and another work. To quote Amanat:

The scrupulous mujtahid lost no time in pointing out the grammatical faults throughout the text. In reply Mullá Husayn, who himself seemed to be aware of the grammatical violations of the Bab's writings, quoted the Bab with a poetical and indeed symbolic remark, which was totally foreign to the rational framework of an orthodox scholar like [Naráqí]: 'Up to now the nahv . . . due to a sin once committed, was enchained and incarcerated. Now I have mediated for its sin, and set it free from its chains and bonds. Therefore it is excusable if (people) pronounce an accusative (mansúb) instead of a nominative (marfú`), or a genitive (majrúr) instead of an accusative.[7]

The Bab was Persian and many of the errors which occur in the two works are those frequently committed by Persians writing in Arabic, such as mistakes in gender agreement (Persian having no grammatical gender). However it seems that in several cases, the Bab was either following an established practice which treated certain nouns as masculine or feminine for technical reasons, or was introducing a new technical usage (as for example, when he treats such words as ibdá` "creation" as feminine). Apparent lapses in the use of the definite article will also be noticed (Persian has no definite article as such.) Thus al-Kitáb al-aqdas may be found in Persian books as Kitáb al-aqdas. As Clement Huart remarked in discussing one of the titles of the Bab which appears in many of his writings, viz. Nuqtat al-úlá, "The Primal Point":

Il faut An-noqtat al-Oúla, sinon cela n'aurait guère de sens: mais il est á observer que les savants d'Orient qui se piquent de connaítre les lettres arabes ignorent généralement l'existence de la règle qui veut que le nom et l'épithète soient tous les deux déterminés. Cependant jamais cette faute n'échappera á un Arabe de naissance.[8]

Nicolas has been among the most energetic defenders of the Bab's Arabic and in his Sèyyid `Alí Muhammad dit le Báb argues against scholars such as the Baron Victor Rosen, who ridiculed the Bab's writings on account of faulty grammar.[9] Nicolas goes so far as to offer the Qur'an itself, as a precedent for scripture which is grammatically problematic:

Il est de toute évidence, pour quiconque n'a pas de parti pris, que le Qorán contient quelques erreurs, qu'on a essayé de justifier depuis, mais qui n'en ont pas moins pr�(tm)té le flanc aux railleries des puristes arabes de son époque. N'a-t-on pas écrit des grammaires entières pour justifier quelques-unes des expressions du Qoran? Et tout cela, en fin de compte, pourquoi? Pour démontrer précisement le contraire de ce á quoi on s'essayait, c'est-a-dire pour prouver que "les règles doivent �(tm)tre tirées des versets des livres révélés, tandis que les versets ne sont pas construits d'après ces regles".[10]

A less generous assessment of the Bab's grammar may be found in a work by `Abd al-Rahmán Tág, who analyses in detail various passages of the Bab's Arabic Bayán, and condemns Nicolas' defense of the Bab's language. For the particulars of this analysis the reader is referred to the work itself.[11] While it is not suggested that questions of grammar are unimportant (indeed several grammatical puzzles will be encountered below where attempts at their solution will be made), it is suggested that preoccupation with the Bab's grammar may be seen to have functioned as a means whereby those who were disinclined to countenance his claim that the millenium had indeed arrived and a new messenger from God (i.e., the Bab) had been charged with promulgating a new religion, could avoid the discomfitting challenge. The primary concern of this study is to understand how these unusual writings might have struck the reader of that time, and place and to account for the acceptance of the Bab as a divine messenger by countless Muslims from all classes and backgrounds.

The Bab presented something of a spiritual prodigy. He had attracted the allegiance of a considerable number of highly educated Muslims and had written an astonishing number of books, prayers, and short treatises on various subjects; yet, he had advanced his claim to be the focus of the religious life of all men when he was no more than twenty-five years old and a member of the Iranian merchant class. It is not surprising, therefore, that scholars speak about the failure of the Bábí movement; more surprising is the comparative success, however shortlived, it did enjoy.

The following study is divided into three sections of unequal length. The first, "Background", describes what are likely to have been the major influences on the Bab's literary activity, namely Shí`í tafsír, Shaykhí thought. A A brief reference is also made to Iranian Sufism, because of the several Sufi ideas found in the works.

The second section, "Part i", deals with the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. This section is divided into five chapters which explore major subjects or characteristics of the commentary: waláya, hierarchies (1&2), tajallí, and finally the idea of the qá'im. The method of study is straightforward; numerous passages bearing on the four major topics are translated and commented upon. Four manuscripts of the work have been consulted for this task. It is felt that by focussing on these four topics, the reader will be familiarized with enough of the tafsír to gain a general appreciation of the work. Short of a complete translation, it is not really possible to cover all of the various subjects and problems which the tafsír touches upon. The manuscript most often referred to in Part i is reproduced in an appendix. This is the first detailed study of the Tafsír súrat al-Baqara, and must therefore be considered as preliminary.

The third section, "Part ii", deals with the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf. Part ii presents various approaches to the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf which includes reference to previous scholarship on the work, a general description of it, a discussion of the titles assumed by its author, an attempt to come to terms with some of the more obscure expressions it contains, and finally a very tentative attempt at translating one the súras[12] of the tafsír, together with a detailed discussion of the various arcana which it contains.

I have relied heavily on the works of Henry Corbin. Corbin's contribution to the understanding of Iranian Islam, has provided, in many instances, the only source of information on many of the more obscure problems which the Bab's tafsír contains.[13] The following study also relies very heavily on a number of unpublished works (theses and other material) by `Abbás Amanat, Denis MacEoin, and Vahid Rafati. All four authors shed different types of light on the religious writings of the Bab. While it has become necessary to voice a certain amount of disagreement with each of these authors on various points, it is important to state that without this body of difficult research it would not have been possible for me to attempt this thesis.

Chapter 1


Shí`í Tafsír: General History

Before turning to the tafsír works of the Bab, it is important to have some general idea of the history and development of Shí`í tafsír, particularly as this had evolved up to the period just prior to the time of the Bab himself. A recent discussion of the subject divides this history into four major periods. The first generation of commentators were the disciples of the Imáms, specifically the followers of the fifth and sixth Imáms, al-Báqir (113/731-2) and al-Sádiq (148/765). None of their works has survived but material from this period is preserved in works of the next generation of Shí`í Qur'an scholars such as Furát ibn Ibráhím ibn Furát al-Kúfí whose work Tafsír Furát al-Kúfí has been published.[14] This author lived during the Imamate of the ninth Imám, Muhammad al-Jawád (220/835), and may have lived into the tenth century. Abú al-Nasr Muhammad ibn Mas`úd al-`Ayyáshí (2nd/9th century) who converted to Shí`ism from Sunnism, is the author of Tafsír al-`Ayyáshí, which represents only an abridged version of the first volume of his commentary.[15] The famous student of Furát, Abú 'l-Hasan `Alí b. Ibráhím al-Qummí (ca. 307-8/919-20) composed a frequently cited tafsír.[16] This scholar, who related traditions from his father who had acquired them directly from disciples of the Imáms, lived during the time of the Lesser Occultation, a time having an abiding influence on the subsequent development of Shí`ism. Muhammad ibn Ibráhím al-Nu`mán (361/971) was the author of an unpublished commentary, which presents tafsír ascribed to al-Sádiq and also wrote an essay on tafsír. This latter work has been reproduced in the late seventeenth century compilation of Shí`í lore, Bihár al-anwár, by Muhammad Báqir al-Majlisí.[17] Such commentaries, which are basically compilations of traditions without further discussion by the authors, represent the "formative" or "pre-classical" period of Shí`í tafsír, and cover the first three centuries of Islamic history.[18] They have a direct bearing on the tafsír of the Bab, who depended very much on the akhbárí revitalization of this material during the decline of the Safavids, for the "raw material" of his commentaries.

The second phase of Shí`í Qur'an commentary begins with such scholars as al-Sharíf al-Radí (406/1015), author of Talkhís al-bayán fí majázát al-Qur'án wa'l-hadíth, and the compiler of Nahj al-Balágha, regarded as the canonical compendium of the sayings and sermons of the first Imám, `Alí ibn Abí Tálib (40/661).[19] He was the brother of the more famous Sayyid al-Murtadá, known as `Alam al-Hudá (436/1044), the author of several books on kalám which bear a strong Mu`tazilí influence. We are now firmly in the period of the so-called Greater Occultation when the possibility of direct contact with an Imám had ceased and scholars were beginning to seek answers for their questions in their own powers of reasoning. Here begins what Ayoub has called the "classical" period of Shí`í tafsír, during which time such men as Abú Ja`far al-Túsí (a former student of `Alam al-Hudá; 460/1067) known as Shaykh al-tá'ifa, wrote extensive commentaries in which not only the Imáms but also influential Mu`tazilí teachers were quoted. His work is called al-Tibyán fí tafsír al-Qur'án.[20] This classical period is seen to last well into the sixteenth century and includes the work of Abú `Alí al-Fadl ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Fadl al-Tabarsí (548/1153), Majma` al-bayán fí tafsír al-Qur'án.[21] It is during this period that the beginnings of what came to be known as usúlí Shí`ism are discerned, and the faithful begin to be counselled by some scholars to turn not to the Imáms or the statements of the Imáms exclusively, but to the ulama themselves for religious guidance.

The third period, and the one most important for this study, is characterized by a number of concerns which seem to have had very little importance for the authors in the classical period. It represents a renewed interest in the words of the Imáms themselves, as opposed to the thoughts of this or that exegete. Chief among these revitalized issues is the integrity of the text of the Qur'an. Early traditions frequently spoke to this question, but with the consolidation of Sunní power over much of the Islamic world, the issue was avoided during the classical period. Under Safavid, or Shí`í rule exegetes now resurrected the old controversy, opting heavily for the truth of the assertions found in the akhbár that the Qur'an which we now have is not what was sent down to the Prophet. This of course was not their only concern. However because of its radical implication, such an assertion may be seen as a major one, and one which deserves further study by itself.[22] Several authors, all writing around the same time, produced very similar commentaries which have the virtue of collating many of the exegetical traditions of the Prophet or the Imáms on the quranic verses. Their work is along the lines of the above-mentioned compilation by al-Majlisí, but at least two of these works appear to have been written before the Bihár al-anwár, one by Mullá Muhsin Fayz al-Káshání (1091/1680) who was in fact one of al-Majlisí's teachers.

The fourth, or contemporary period of Shí`í tafsír, is the one represented by such works as al-Mízán fí tafsír al-Qur'án, by Muhammad Husayn al-Tabátabá'í (b. 1321/1903) some of whose other works have been translated into English.[23] A second contemporary work is by al-Sayyid Abú'l-Qásim al-Khú'í (b.1317/1899), al-Bayán fí tafsír al-Qur'án.[24] Only one volume of this work has been printed, and the author apparently does not plan to continue the project. According to Ayoub, "In some important respects, these commentaries resemble the works of the classical period. Thus Khú'í, for example, felt obliged in his work to counter not only traditional Sunní ideas of the Qur'án but some Shí`í notions as well."[25] The notion referred to here by Ayoub (in a footnote) is none other than the above-mentioned problem of tahríf, or the corruption of the Qur'an. al-Khú'í states categorically: "It is well-known by Muslims that the Qur'an has not been corrupted by tahríf and that the Book in our hands represents all of the Qur'an which was revealed to the Prophet." [26] This last period of Shí`í tafsír has no direct relevance for this study apart from illustrating the continued interest of Shí`ís in exegesis and to mention one aspect of tafsír, namely the question of the integrity of the text, the position on which appears to be subject to a cyclical pattern.


The type of tafsír which is pertinent here, is that which acquired renewed importance during the third period. It represents one of the two major trends in Twelver Shí`ism, which eventually came to be known by the adjectives Usúlí and Akhbárí. The former describes those scholars who affirmed the importance of ijtihád or independent reasoning in legal and religious matters, while the latter describes an approach grounded on the sayings of the Prophet and the Imáms. The thrust of the Usúlí argument tended to support the authority of individual mujtahids over the believers, and culminated in the establishment of such institutions as that of marjá` al-taqlíd (an individual scholar who was to be emulated by the faithful in all matters pertaining to the sharí`a). The Usúlí method ultimately came to dominance in Iran during the late eighteenth and early nineteenthth centuries, while the Akhbárí school, which abominated the emulation of anyone apart from the Prophet and the Imáms, was relegated to second place. While this particular struggle between the two groups was a fairly late event, traces of the dispute can be found throughout the history of Qur'án interpretation. For example, in the earliest commentaries on16:6, the bees, which are presented in the Qur'án as having been inspired by God to behave the way they do, including the producing of honey in which is healing for mankind, are treated as a metaphor for the Imáms whose divine knowledge is that which provides this healing.[27] However, by the time of al-Sharíf al-RáÂ¥í, the explanation of the verse had changed considerably. Here, the bees are the ulama themselves. "This honey is with the ulama and does not come from the bellies of the bees . . . [28]

Such a shift in exegesis supports Madelung's view concerning the history of the Usúlí/Akhbárí dispute. This scholar, in his discussion of the relationship between Shí`ism and Mu`tazilite theology, cites a twelfth century work in which the author, one `Abd al-Jalíl al-Rází, describes his theological position as that of the "Imámiyya Usúliyya" as opposed to the position of the "Imámite Akhbáriyya". Madelung's conclusion is:

These statements show that the conflict between Usúliyya and Akhbáriyya in Imámism is not a phenomenon originating in ...afavid times, as is sometimes suggested ... . The later conflict which centres on technical questions of the principals of the law (usúl al-fiqh) is rooted in the earlier broader conflict between supporters of speculative theology and traditionalist opponents of reasoning in religion. [29]

The dispute involves a basic difference in the use of Qur'án interpretation, most commonly designated by the word ta'wíl in Akhbárí sources. The word means "taking back to the beginning" or "taking back to first principles". For the authors presented below, this means reading the verses of the Qur'án according to the interpretations of the Imams, who are the "first principles" of Shí`ism. But beyond this, ta'wíl means, for the Akhbárí school, a radical interpretation of many quranic verses which mention such things as "the Face of God" or the Hand of God" as referring specifically to the Prophet and the Imams. The Mu`tazila are famous for insisting on a very abstract interpretation of such material. This is the major difference between these two schools of Shí`ism. The Qur'án interpretation of the Usúlíya was heavily influenced by Mu`tazilite theology, while the Akhbáríya sought to preserve what was undoubtedly an earlier devotion to the ahl al-bayt by eschewing such extraneous influences as Greek philosophy in their reading of the Holy Book.

It is not possible, or necessary, to survey the history of this dispute, reference is made to a recent summary of the question.[30] The point to be made here is that the Akhbárí approach began to assert itself in Irán during the Safavid period, especially in the writings of Muhammad amín astárábádí (1033/1623-24).[31] It is after this time that a series of Qur'án commentaries which can be characterized as Akhbárí, were produced. It is clear from the many correspondences in the use of hadíth, that this type of commentary was one of the major sources for the Báb's Tafsír súrat al-baqara. For this reason, and because these works appear not to have attracted much attention in the West, a brief survey of their authors and contents will be offered.[32]


The first work to be considered is the most famous, namely the commentary of Mulla Muhsin Fayz Kashaní (1091/1680), the student and son-in-law of Mullá Sadrá. Muhsin Fayz was a member of the so-called Isfáhán school, which was responsible for the elaboration of what became known as the Hikmat-i iláhí movement in philosophy. He was also the author of one of the "three books" of later Twelver Shí`ism, namely al-Wáfí, a compilation and commentary of the canonical hadíths of the original "four books" of Shí`í traditions.[33]

It is because such a thinker as Muhsin Fayz is counted among the Akhbáríyún, that it is impossible to consider the movement as purely and simply "fundamentalist".[34] apart from his tafsír, Muhsin Fayz, as is well known, produced several other works expounding an intricate, rarified, and quite speculative, spiritual philosophy. The question to be asked, therefore, is how such so-called Akhbárí literalism can be associated, or perhaps be productive, of such an apparent incongruity. The following study will show that whatever else Akhbárí scholars might have been, the results of their exegesis of the Qur'án cannot really be classified as "literalist" in the usual sense of the word. That is to say, their so-called "literalism" must be seen to pertain to a veneration for the statements of the Imams on a given verse of the Qur'án. Many of these statements are concerned precisely with the "inner meaning" of the text, and for that are usually not what one would describe as straightforward interpretations of the literal text. Insofar as these interpretations by the Imams themselves are rigorously adhered to, the Akhbárí project may be seen to be "fundamentalist". However, at this stage in the exegetic process the act of interpretation has already gone beyond the ipsissima verba of the Qur'án itself.

In any case, the work was written in 1664, well into the period of Safavid decline[35] and the edition used here was lithographed in1283 [1866]. The full title of the commentary is al-Sáfí fí tafsír kálám álláh ál-wáfí, hereafter Sáfí. This edition is in-folio and runs to 495 pages of 37 lines to the page. It contains no indexes or divisions in the text (apart from those which occur at the beginning of a new súra) and is therefore somewhat difficult to use. It is introduced with twelve "prologues" (muqaddamát), which contain the basic presuppositions informing the work: 1) On wásíyá; 2) Thát the knowledge of the Qur'án is all with the ahl al-bayt; 3) That wherever the Qur'án speaks of "friends" or "enemies", it refers to those of the ahl al-bayt; 4) Concerning the meanings of a verse from the point of view of: tafsír, ta'wíl, zahr, batn, al-hadd, al-muhkam, al-mutashábih, al-násikh, ál-mansúkh, and other matters; 5) On the prohibition of tafsír bi'l-ra'y; 6) On the collection of the Qur'án and its corruption; 7) That the Qur'án explains everything; 8) On the qira'at; 9) Concerning the actual period when the Qur'án came down; 10) On the Qur'án as intercessor at the Day of Resurrection and the rewards for memorizing it and reciting it; 11) On recitation; 12) Explanation of the technique of interpretation.[36] In addition to gathering the pertinent sayings of the Prophet and Imams around a given verse, Sáfí also borrows from the very popular Sunní commentary by al-Baydáwí (685/1286), anwár al-tanzíl.[37]

Muhsin Fayz's work has recently been made the basis of the general discussion of Shí`í tafsír cited above. ayoub points out that Muhsin Fayz claims that the first transmitters of the exegetic tradition were limited in what they related by taqíya ("pious dissimulation"), with the result that much of the true tradition might have been lost. "This, of course, left great scope for new ideas in tafsír in the name of recovering the tradition."[38] Elsewhere in this recent study, Muhsin Fayz along with Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisí, are described as "extremists" for claiming that the the Qur'án which we have has been altered.[39] This idea of an altered Qur'án is shared by the authors of the other works to be described, and plays a definite role in the Báb's tafsír. However, Safí is sufficiently ambiguous on the question to enable another author to cite it in support of his own argument that the Shí`a do not hold that the present Qur'án is somehow defective.[40] The relevant passages in Sáfí are as follows:

The Qur'án which is in our hands is not the entire Qur'án sent down by God to Muhammád. Ráther, there is in it thát which contradicts that which God had sent down. There is, moreover,in it that which was altered and changed. There were many things deleted from it, such as the name of `Alí in many places and the phrase Ál Muhammad (the family of Muhammad), as well as the names of the 'hypocrites', where they occur . . . . The Qur'án, furthermore, was not arranged in accordance with the pleasure of God and his apostle.[41]

Later, however, Muhsin Fayz, appears to soften his position somewhat.[42] This is explained by ayoub as follows: Muhsin Fayz was bound by tradition, as represented by such venerated Shí`í scholars as al-Túsí and al-Tabársí who had insisted on the authenticity of the text. ayoub explains, paraphrasing Sáfí:

The Qur'án as it now stands is the word of God which, if interpreted correctly, contains all that the community now needs in the way of legal sanctions and prohibitions, as well as the necessary proofs of the Imam's high office as its guardians and sole authorities on its exegesis. The Qur'án which is in our hands must, [Muhsin Fayz] argues, be followed during the occultation (ghayba) of the twelfth Imám. It must be assumed that the true Qur'án is with him.[43]


It máy be that Sáfí influenced the much larger tafsír by al-Sayyid Háshim al-Bahrání (1107/1695 or 1109/1697), written sometime during the reign of the Safavid Shah Sulaymán or al-Sáfí (r.1077/1666-1106/1694), which contains similarly arranged introductory material and repeats many of the same traditions at corresponding verses. However its author neither cites Sáfí directly, nor mentions the work in the long list of sources which is included in his introduction.[44] The title of the work is Kitab al-burhán fí tafsír al-Qur'án, hereafter Burhán, and is in four volumes.[45] The author was born in a village named Túbálí, in one of the districts of Bahrayn. His birth date is unknown. He died in the small town of al-Na`ím, from whence his remains were returned to Túbalí for interment in a tomb, which subsequently became a popular place of visitation. He is said to have been a compiler of hadíths, comparable in his efforts only to Majlisí himself. He is also said to have written seventy-five works, mostly dealing with religious sciences.[46]

For each verse or group of verses, the author lists a series of pertinent akhbár from the Prophet or the Imams. as mentioned, the introductory material appears to be modeled after Sáfí, but with some interesting variations.[47] It begins with a number of reports against tafsír b'l-ra'y, and other reports which assert that only the Prophet and the Imáms were able to interpret the Qur'án. "God taught the Prophet the literal text (tanzíl) and He taught `Alí its interpretation (ta'wíl)."[48]

The author of this work laments that not withstanding such a statement, he finds the people of his time persistent in interpreting the Qur'án without referring to the Imáms, and cites the works of al-Zamakhsharí (539/1144) and al-Baydáwí as examples.[49] This statement might have a more immediate target for Bahráni, ás á possible allusion to such scholars as Mullá Sadrá (1050/1640), who engaged in a style of exegesis quite different from that of Muhsin Fayz, his student, and the other Akhbárí commentators. Mullá Sadrá's commentaries, by comparison with these other works which ceaselessly refer to the ahl al-bayt, virtually ignore the Imams and the Prophet; rather, he is concerned with elaborating his Hikmat-i iláhí philosophy. This would appear to have rankled the religious sensibilities of men like Bahrání, not neccessarily because of any displeasure with this philosophy itself, but because what was perceived as the true meaning of the Qur'án, viz, the Imamate, hád been subordinated to it.[50]

Whereas Muhsin Fayz's introduction was divided according to the number of Imams revered by the Shí`a, Báhrání's work is introduced by sixteen chapters (sing. bab) which provide a useful summary of the major themes of his táfsír.[51] an account of some of these will further illustrate the concerns of this work.

Chapter 3: "Concerning the 'two weights'." This refers to the Hadíth al-thaqalayn, related from the Prophet. [52]

a version of this hadíth has been translated elsewhere as follows:

[The Prophet said:] I am soon about to be received . . . I am telling you before I am taken up that I shall leave with you as representatives after me the Book of my Lord, and my progeny, the people of my household. The all-Gracious, all-knowing told me that they [the two weights] shall not be separated until they meet me [on the Day of Resurrection] . . . Do not precede them, for you would go astray, and do not fall behind them, for you would perish. Do not teach them, for they are of greater knowledge than you.[53]

This tradition, in several variants, provides support for the basic Shí`í notion of the "Speaking Qur'án" (i.e., the Prophet and the Imáms) and the "Silent Qur'án" (i.e., the Qur'án itself).[54]

Chapter 5: That the Qur'án was not collected as it was revealed and that the Imams are the only ones who knew its meaning (ta'wíl).[55]

Chapter 6: On the prohibition of tafsír bi'l-ra'y and the prohibition against disputation (jidál).[56]

Chapter 7: That the Qur'án has an external and an internal meaning, and a general and particular application, and clear verses (muhkam) and ambiguous verses (mutashabih), and abrogating (násikh) and abrogated (mansúkh) verses. and that the Prophet and the people of his House know these and they are those who are firmly rooted in knowledge [3:7, al-rásikhún fi'l-`ilm].[57]

Chapter 8: "That the Qur'án came down in parts (áqsám)".[58]

This chapter cites several hádíths which clearly indicate the presuppositions of Bahrání's work; therefore, a few of them will be presented.

`álí: "It came down in three parts: one third concerning us and our enemies, one third concerning sunna and one third concerning obligations and laws."

Sádiq: "The Qur'án cáme down in fourths, one fourth about the permitted things, one fourth about the forbidden things, one fourth about the sunna and laws and one fourth concerned the stories of the past and prophecies about the future."

Baqir: "In fourths, one fourth about us and one fourth about our enemies and one fourth about sunna and examples and one fourth about obligations and laws. and to us pertain the most important parts." [59]

Chapter 9: This chapter deals with the principle that some verses in the Qur'án were revealed in the mode of iyyáka a`ní w'isma`í yá járatu, meaning: "I am speaking to you, but you over there should listen as well!". One example given is 17:74 and had we not confirmed thee, surely thou wert near to inclining unto them a very little . The implication here seems to be that although Muhammad is being directly addressed by God, the message is also addressed to `Alí.[60]

Chapter 10: This section deals with the Imáms as the subject of the Qur'án. Because of what they reveal about the Akhbárí approach to the Qur'án, a few of the reports from this chapter are presented.[61]

Báqir: "Whenever I hear God mention that someone is good in the Qur'án it means Us and whenever he mentions someone bad it pertains to our enemies."

Sádiq: "If the Qur'án were read as it was sent down then we would be found named in it." another report ascribed to Báqir adds "just as those who preceded us are named in it."

Báqir: "Had it not been for adding material to the Qur'án or subtracting from it our right (haqquná) would have been clear to anyone with sense. When the Qá'im arises and speaks, the Qur'án will confirm his words."

From Da'úd ibn Farqad: "I said to Sádiq 'are you the salát in the Book and are you the zakát and are you the hájj?" He said: "We are these as well as the fast and the sacred month and the sanctuary (balad al-háram) and the Kaaba and the qibla and the face of God (wajh alláh) and the verses (áyát) and the clear verses (bayyinát). and our enemies are designáted in the Qur'án ás indecency (al-fáhshá' and al-munkar) "unjust insolence" (al-baghy) and wine (al-khamr) and gambling (al-maysir) [etc.] . . .".

Sádiq: "We are the source of every righteousness and our enemies the source of all evil . . . ".[62]

This chapter is followed by another which supplements and explains such hadíths with others from the Prophet and the Imáms.[63]

Chapter 12: On the meaning of al-thaqalayn and al-khalífatayn according to the Sunnis.[64] This chapter cites material from such works as the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Sahíh of Muslim, the Tafsír of al-Tha`labí, which support the above-mentioned idea of the "two weights" bequeathed by the Prophet for the guidance of his community.[65]

Chapter 13: On the reason that the Qur'án was revealed in Arabic and that its miraculousness is in its arrangement (nazm) and that its meaning is newly applicable through the course of time. It contains, among others, the following hadíth:

Sádiq said, in response to a question: "God did not make the Qur'án for one time to the exclusion of others, or for one people to the exclusion of others. Thus it is new for each time, and by it each succeeding generation will be refreshed until the Day of Resurrection." [66]

The last three chapters are entitled "No hadíth compares with the Qur'án"; "On the first súra and the last súra that was sent down"; and, "The books from which material for this book was taken".[67]

Following these chapters, Bahrání reproduces, verbatim, most of the introduction to al-Qummí's tafsír.[68] The problems treated include those of abrogation (naskh wa mansúkh, including the question of taqdím and ta'khír), clear and ambiguous verses (muhkam wa mutashábih), verses which fall into the category of generalities with specific applications (lafz `ámm wa ma`ná kháss), and specific statements which have a general application (lafz kháss wa ma`ná `ámm). Verses are cited which show that they were interrupted in the course of their revelation and continued later (al-munqatta`a wa'l-ma`túf), and which employ one word when another is intended (harf makán harf) such as 2:150, where illá al-ladhína zalamú minhum should be read as wa lá al-ladhína ... .[69]

In addition, the problem of contradiction in the Qur'án (má huwa `alá khiláf má anzala Alláh) is treated. Here, an example is made of 3:10 You are the best nation ever brought forth to men, bidding to honour, and forbidding dishonour, and believing in God. Sádiq is reported to have said to the reciter of this verse: "How is it that the best community killed `Alí, Hasan and Husayn?" The anonymous reciter then asked, "How was it really sent down then, O son of the Messenger?" Sádiq said: "Like this: 'You are the best Imáms (a'imma replaces umma) ever brought forth to men. . . .". al-Qummí, quoted by Bahrání, then lists several other similar cases.[70]

Another sub-section deals specifically with corruption (muharraf) of the text, perhaps implying that the above category describes verses which were accidentally misread. The example given here is 4:166: But God bears witness to that He has sent down to thee; He has sent it down with his knowledge; and the angels also bear witness; and God suffices for a witness. This verse was originally revealed as: God testifieth to that which He has sent down about `Alí then came He revealed to him His knowledge and the angels testify to this. [71]

Another problem dealt with pertains to quranic words which appear to be in the plural, but whose meaning is singular (lafz jam`/ma`ná wáhid), and vice versa (lafz wáhid/ma`ná jam`). In addition, the problem of verbs in the past tense which actually refer to the future (lafz mádi wa huwa mustaqbal) is discussed, citing 39:68 as an example, in which wa nufikha f'l-súr is to be read as For the trumpet shall be blown.[72]

al-Qummí says also that the verses in one súra may be completed in another súra; or that in the case of abrogation, one half of a verse may be affected while another is not. In other cases, it is possible to derive the interpretation (ta'wíl) of a verse from the text of the Qur'án itself (tanzíl), or by reference to this text. Elsewhere, the Qur'án has verses which indicate that it's interpretation was already apparent in the common usage of the Arabs before the revelation codified this usage, while some verses show that the meaning of a particular verse came as something new after the revelation.[73]

Various other principles of exegesis are thus described by the author of this commentary, and the introduction is concluded by a series of refutations (radd) of various groups which include the Zanádiqa, by which astrologers are intended; the idol-worshippers; the Dahríya, "materialists"; those who deny divine reward and punishment; those who deny the Ascension and Night Journey and the Beatific Vision of the Prophet; those who deny the existence of Heaven and Hell; those who deny the efficacy of man's will (al-mujbira); the Mu`tazila; those who deny the Return (al-raj`a); and those who describe God.[74]

Núr al-thaqalayn

The third work which is frequently referred to in the following pages, was written around the same time by `Abd `Alí al-Huwayzí (1112/1700), Kitáb tafsír núr al-thaqalayn, hereafter Núr. Not much is known about his life, but as indicated by his nisba, he was from the small town of Huwayza, near Ahwáz in southwest Iran. His work contains none of the introductory material found in Sáfí or Burhán; rather it begins, after a few words of doxology in veneration of the Prophet and the Imáms, with a discussion of the Fátiha by way of pertinent hadíths. The only known edition was edited by Háshim al-Rasúlí al-Mahallátí and printed in Qum during the years 1963-65. This edition is based on three manuscripts of varying completeness.[75] A preface by the highly regarded Shí`í scholar Muhammad Husayn al-Tabátabá'í refers to the work as "one of the best . . . if not the best" work of its kind.[76]

The author of Dharí`a says that his work explains the Qur'án with transmissions from the ahl al-bayt and that he has collected these from such works as al-Káfí, Tafsír al-Qummí, al-Ihtijáj of Tabarsí, several works from Ibn Bábawayh, the Tahdhíb of Túsí, the Kitáb al-Ghayba and the Manáqib (works of Ibn Shahr-áshúb), and many others. "But he does not include the isnáds nor does he [fully] mention the verses, and this makes it difficult to know which khabar goes with which verse."[77] The first part of the tafsír was completed by the author in the madrasa al-Muqayyimíya in Shíráz, in the year 1067/1656; the second, up to the Súrat al-kahf, was completed in 1655, as was the third volume. About the date of the completion of the fourth volume Tihrání is silent, saying only that it covers the Qur'án from the Súrat al-fátir to the end.[78] This dating indicates that the work was probably extant while Muhsin Fayz was writing Sáfí, but it appears to have been unknown to him.


The fourth and final work to be discussed here, has proved to be in some instances, the most useful of them all. Its author's name is Abú 'l-Hasan al-Sharíf al-`Amilí al-Isfahání, and his work is entitled Mir'at al-anwár wa mishkát al-asrár fí tafsír al-Qur'án, hereafter Anwár. This exegete was a student of Muhammad Báqir al-Majlisí, author of the Bihár al-anwár, and Muhsin Fayz, author of the Tafsír al-sáfí. In addition, Isfahání had ijázát from several other notable ulama of his time,[79] and was the teacher of students who would later influence the minds of such seminal figures as Sayyid Mahdí Bahr al-`Ulúm (1212/1797), a teacher of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'i.[80]

According to Dharí`a, one manuscript of the work comments on verses up to the middle of the Súrat al-baqara while another takes the commentary up to 4:4.[81] The first volume was published in Iran in 1303/1885, but was, "due to the lack of information on the part of the publisher" attributed to one Shaykh `Abd al-Latíf al-Kázarúní, about whom nothing else is said.

This work is often referred to by Corbin, in his magisterial study of Shí`í Qur'án interpretation.[82] Corbin, either contrary to Dharí`a or perhaps speaking of another edition, says that the work was lithographed in 1295/1878 in Tehran, but agrees with Dharí`a that its authorship was wrongly ascribed. Thanks to the "vigilance bibliographique" of one Mírzá Husayn Núrí Tabarsí, the work was re-edited and printed in Tehran in 1375/1955, under the correct name of Isfahání. This edition, according to Corbin, continued the tradition of treating the work as an introduction to Burhán, but Isfahání was apparently unaware of the tafsír by Bahrání.[83]

At some point, this later edition was published in an independent volume; its title page says that the work is "like the introduction to the Tafsír of al-Bahrání." In it, the editor promises to publish a second volume which would contain the balance of Isfahání's work, but this second volume has not yet appeared. It is this edition, containing only a lengthy introduction to the tafsír proper, which has been referred to throughout this thesis. At this time, I am unable to explain the discrepancy in the dates given by Corbin and Tihrání. But this question is quite secondary to the nature of the work itself; the author of Dharí`a says that "nothing like it has ever been written".[84] Corbin's description is as follows:

C'est un monument de ta'wíl systematique, o_ l'auteur s'explique sur son dessein, sa méthode de travail, les fondements et les exigences de l'herméneutique shí`ite. Chaque partie comprend elle-m�(tm)me plusieurs maqála. Les "Prolégomènes III" contiennent une sorte de Clavis hermeneutica, groupant déjá autour de quelque mille trois cents mots-typiques du Qorán un minimum d'indications provenant des hadíth des Imáms. On peut ainsi se faire une idée de ce qu'eút été l'úuvre entièrement réalisée. Le principe général qui l'inspire, énoncé déjá á plusieurs reprises par le Ve et VIe Imáms, est que, si le sens des versets qorániques s'épuisait dans le sens extérieur relatif aux personnes ou aux circonstances á propos desquelles ces versets furent révélés, et qui sont toutes maintenant disparues, il y a longtemps que le Qorán tout entier serait mort.[85]

A description of the table of contents will suffice for illustrating the degree to which the author systematically approached the task of "imámizing" the Qur'án.[86] The work is divided in three prologues (muqaddamát), two of which will be described in detail. These two prologues are designated below as "A" and "B". The corresponding maqálát into which they are divided are designated by Arabic numerals. Finally, the fusúl into which these maqálát are further sub-divided, are designated by lowercase Roman numerals.

A All of the esoteric content of the Qur'án concerns the notion of waláya and the Imamate, just as its exoteric content concerns tawhíd and nubúwa.

1 That which is proven by the akhbár adduced in this prologue:

i The Qur'án has esoteric dimensions, and that the verses are susceptible of ta'wíl, and that meaning of the Qur'án is not restricted to only one era, but continues at all times for all people.

ii Several reports to the effect that the inner meaning of the Qur'án is related to: the Imáms, their waláya, and their followers.

iii On the task of harmonizing the exoteric with the esoteric, and the relationship between the esotericists (ahl al-ta'wíl) with the exotericists (ahl al-tanzíl).

iv The imperative (wujúb) of belief in both the exoteric and esoteric content of the Qur'án. This is similar to the necessity of belief in both the clear (muhkam) and ambiguous (mutashábih) verses.

v That the knowledge of the ta'wíl of the Qur'án, or rather the complete knowledge of it, is with the ahl al-bayt. Also included here is the citation of akhbár forbidding tafsír al-Qur'án through personal opinion (al-ra'y), or without heeding the Imáms.

2 The second essay deals with the doctrine that the general meaning of the word of God pertains to tawhíd and nubúwa on the surface (saríhan wa tanzílan), and to waláya and imáma in its inner meaning (batnan wa kináyatan wa ta'wílan) according to the akhbár. It is divided into five parts as well:

i Some of what our ulama have written about the greatness of the Imáms and their waláya, and the disbelief (kufr) of their rejectors.

ii A few of the akhbár concerning the imperative of the waláya of the ahl al-bayt, and of loving them (mahabba), and obedience to them. This is the anchor of ímán and the condition for God's acceptance of all deeds and for one's leaving (truly) the boundary of kufr and shirk. Also included is a condemnation of the rejection (inkár) of waláya and doubt about the Imáms.

iii Confessing the Imáma of the Imáms and their love and waláya comes after the confession of the nubúwa of the Prophet in the course of correct religion and faith, just as the confession of nubúwa comes after the confession of tawhíd.

iv Waláya, together with tawhíd, was presented to all creation, and the covenant implying it was imposed upon all creation, and all the prophets were sent with it for all creation, and that waláya was sent down in all the holy books and imposed upon all nations.

v That the Prophet and the Imáms were the first to be created and that their waláya is the cause in the process of creation (al-`illa fí 'l-íjád) and the principle in obedience.

3 The third maqála [which contains no subsections] says that the esoteric content of the Qur'án pertains to waláya and the Imamate, according to the akhbár which indicate that this community follows the practices (sunan) of previous religious communities.

B This prologue [which contains no maqálát] seeks to establish that there are some alterations (taghyír) in the Qur'án, and this explains why guidance is placed in the divine command (amr) of waláya and imáma, and is also an allusion to the virtues of the ahl al-bayt, and the obligation of obedience to the Imáms according to the esoteric content of the Qur'án and its ta'wíl. In the absence of explicit statements in the Qur'án on this matter, one arrives at this conclusion through metaphor and symbols and allusion in its literal text (tanzíl), comprised under four headings:

i Concerning the collection of the Qur'án, its incompleteness and alteration from reports which our friends (i.e. the Shí`a) related.

ii Concerning the collection of the Qur'án, its incompleteness and alteration, and the disagreement about this in the reports of the Sunnís (mukhálifín).

iii The report of the zindíq who brought `Alí proof of the alteration of the Qur'án and the misdeeds of the hypocrites regarding the word of God. This report is long, containing many things which were deleted from the Qur'án.

iv A resumé of the statements of our ulama concerning the absence of alteration of the Qur'án and the falseness of the argument of those who deny alteration.

A third prologue deals in detail with many of the subjects already indicated. It also affirms that according to ta'wíl, some of the pronouns in the Qur'án refer to something which is not mentioned clearly, but intended according to the batn, "like those pronouns which refer to waláya, `Alí, and the like without having an antecedent." In addition, the mode of revelation mentioned above, namely "I mean you, but you over there also listen!" is propounded. A long Appendix (tadhyíl) to the first maqála of this prologue is concerned with the repudiation (daf`) of ghuluww and tafwíd (immoderate attitudes toward the Imamate).[87] The second maqála of the third prologue is the clavis hermeneutica mentioned by Corbin. This section will be referred to several times in the course of this study as it provides a most convenient glossary for individual words which have otherwise impenetrable meanings as used by the Báb. Admittedly, one can be overly confident about the pertinence of Isfahání's glossary for the Báb's commentary, but inasmuch as it offers at least some clues to the Báb's writings, it provides a most welcome resource.

Corbin's interest in such works was restricted to the purely spiritual or `irfání motifs which they contain. He seems to have been thoroughly uninterested in the question of the "alteration of the Qur'án", or the other highly polemical aspects of these works. Thus his closing comment on the tafsírs of Bahrání and Isfahání:

Par tous les textes mis ainsi en oeuvre, le shí`isme se fait entendre essentiellement comme une religion d'amour spirituel, á tel point, les textes y insistent, qu'en l'absence de cette dévotion d'amour, il ne saurait �(tm)tre question de la validité d'aucune oeuvre pieuse, ni m�(tm)me de satisfaire aux obligations de la sharí`at. Or, tout cela est dit sans qu'il soit m�(tm)me question de soufisme; c'est un élève de Majlisí qui parle, ou bien laisse la parole aux hadíth des Imáms dont il a une connaissance extraordinairement approfondie. Cette constatation aura une grande importance pour le prolongement de ces recherches.[88]

It was necessary to go into such detail on these works in order to show that the tafsír to be studied in Part i is in no way innovative in its thorough "imamization" of the Qur'án. So little is known about this early work by the Báb, that the establishment of such similarities in style and content will have contributed substantially to a study of the history of the development of his ideas. It is hoped that the above discussion, in addition to setting the stage for a study of the Báb's tafsír, will also have suggested the importance these works have for a study of other questions connected with the history of tafsír. But these works of Akhbárí exegesis, important as they are for understanding the Báb's basic attitude to the Qur'án and for tracing the many akhbár cited by the Báb in some of his own commentaries, represent only one of the formative factors of the Báb's work. Another major influence was the early nineteenth century theological and philosophical developments associated with the name of the Shaykhí movement, a movement which in some respects sought to bridge the rift between the Usúlís and the Akhbárís.


The Shaykhí School

In a "Foreword" to his account of the first hundred years of the Bahá'í religion, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith from 1921 until his death in 1957, emphasized the significance of the Shaykhíya in Bábí and Bahá'í history:

I shall seek to represent and correlate, in however cursory a manner, those momentous happenings which have insensibly, relentlessly, and under the very eyes of successive generations, perverse, indifferent or hostile, transformed a heterodox and seemingly negligible offshoot of the Shaykhí school of the Ithná-`Asharíyyih sect of Shi`ah Islám into a world religion ... [89]

The "seemingly negligible offshoot" mentioned, is of course the Bábí religion. It is known that the Bab's teacher, Shaykh `Ábid, was a devotee of this Shaykhí school. It is also known that several of the Bab's merchant relatives were attracted to the teachings of this movement.[90] Furthermore, the Bab himself attended the lectures of the second leader of the Shaykhí school, Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, and in at least two works directly refers to him as "my teacher" (mu`allimí).[91] It is therefore important that at least some brief statement on the history and teachings of the Shaykhí school be offered in order to better understand the context in which the Bab wrote his quranic commentaries.

The founder of the Shaykhíya, or the Kashfíya, as its adherents preferred to be designated, was Shaykh Ahmad b. Zayn al-Dín b. Ibráhím b. Saqr b. Ibráhím b. Dághir. He was born in the month of Rajab 1166/24 April-24 May1753, in a small village in Bahrayn, apparently of pure Arab lineage. His family had been followers of the Shí`í version of orthodoxy for five generations. From his early childhood, it was clear that Shaykh Ahmad was strongly predisposed to the study of religious texts and traditions. By the age of five, he could read the Qur'an; during the remainder of his primary education, he studied Arabic grammar and became exposed to the mystical and theosophical expressions of Ibn `Arabí (638/1240) and the less well known Ibn Abí Jumhúr (after 904/1499), author of the Kitáb al-mujlí. In 1186/1772-3, Shaykh Ahmad left his home to pursue advanced religious studies in the area of Iraq referred to as the `Atabát, the shrine cities of Kázimayn, Najaf, and Karbalá.[92] In 1209/1794-5, he received his first ijáza from the renowned scholar Sayyid Muhammad Mahdí Bahr al-`Ulúm (1212/1797), and eventually six others from various recognized teachers.[93] Shaykh Ahmad remained away from Bahrayn for about a year, whence he returned to pursue his studies, presumably independently, for the next twenty-five years.

At the age of forty-six, Shaykh Ahmad took up residence in Basra, probably as a result of the Wahhábí attack on his native al-Ahsá. The year was 1212/1797. From this time on, Shaykh Ahmad remained in Iran, or the region of `Atabát. He travelled widely and gained the respect of the Iranian elite, whether religious or politcal. From 1222/1807 to 1229/1813, Shaykh Ahmad lived mainly in Yazd. It was during this period that Shaykh Ahmad was invited to visit the ruling Qájár monarch, Fath `Alí Sháh (r. 1212/1797-1250/1834). In 1129/1813 he moved from Yazd to Kermánsháh where he lived until1232/1816. At this time he went to Mecca on pilgrimage after which he returned to `Atabát. He eventually moved back to Kermánsháh where he remained, except for a few visits to other Iranian centres, from 1234/1818 until he departed for another pilgrimage to Mecca. It was during this journey that Shaykh Ahmad died, not far from Mecca in 1241/1825. He was buried in the Baqí` cemetery in Medina.[94]

As mentioned, Shaykh Ahmad was held in high esteem. Fath `Alí Sháh tried unsuccessfully to persuade al-Ahsá'í to live in Tehran. The story is told of how the governor of Kermánsháh felt so honoured by Shaykh Ahmad's decision to visit his city that he travelled four farsakhs from Kermánsháh for the sole purpose of welcoming the famous scholar to his city. It may be that Shaykh Ahmad was so warmly welcomed by the political leaders of Iran because his views offered a mystical interpretation of standard ithná `asharíya Shí`ism which served as an alternative to what was becoming a disturbing interest in more purely Sufi doctrine, as propagated by the leaders of, for example the Ni`matulláhí order.[95] Nevertheless, Shaykh Ahmad also incurred the wrath of the Shí`í ulama. The most famous example is the "excommunication" (takfír) issued against him in 1239 or 40/1824 by Mullá Muhammad Taqí Baraghání (1264/1847).[96]

The work of Shaykh Ahmad was continued by his favorite student, Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (1798-1844), and it was at this time that the followers of Shaykh Ahmad began to be distinguished by their adversaries from the rest of the Shí`a.

Although the terms "Shaykhí," "Posht-i Sarí," and "Kashfíya" refer to a certain group of people, and were intended to distinguish them from the rest of the Shí`a, the group solidarity and identity of the Shaykhís was in fact not so distinct as to sharply separate them from the rest of the Shí`í community of Iran as an independent sect or even branch of Twelver Shí`a. The Shaykhís considered themselves true Shí`a who thought and behaved in accordance with the teaching of the Shí`í imáms; they did not consider themselves innovators.

It is difficult to believe that during Shaykh Ahmad's lifetime he was considered the founder of a new school within the Shí`í framework. However, as time went on and the nature of his ideology received greater intellectual attention, a group of fundamentalist `ulamá perceived a radical distinction between his views and the established doctrines of the Shí`a and increasingly differentiated themselves from the Shaykhís. This Shaykhí school, then, gained more group solidarity as it developed historically, reacting as a group against the main body of the Shí`a when it encountered social and intellectual opposition.[97]

After the death of Sayyid Kázim (1259/1843), his students divided into several groups, two of which tended to overshadow the others. Of these, one centered around Muhammad Karím Khán Kirmání (1288/1870), the other around Sayyid `Alí Muhammad, the Bab.

Shaykhí Teachings

The distinguishing features of this school, as is the case with most Muslim religious groups, are related to the manner in which spiritual authority was to be defined. At this time the Shí`í world was experiencing somewhat of an active controversy carried on by the partisans of the usúlíya and akhbaríya. These terms refer to the way each group tended to support its statements on Islamic law and theology. The debate was based on the question of whether ijtihád, "exerting individual effort to form an opinion", rather than wholesale acceptance of the guidance contained in the preserved statements of the Prophet and the Imáms (pl. akhbár), was the best way to resolve the questions of religion, which would of course include questions of law. Finally, the usúlíya, those in favor of ijtihád, won the day and for the past two hundred years this basic attitude toward the written sources of the Islamic religion has held sway over most of the Shí`í world.

The Perfect Shí`a, The Fourth Support

Shaykh Ahmad grew up in one of the last bastions of the akhbarí approach, and his synthesis may be seen, in part, as an elaboration of this method. Through propounding a doctrine of the Nátiq Wáhid (a single authoritative voice) and the Perfect Shí`a, an obvious adaptation of the Sufi idea of the Perfect Man (al-insán al-kámil), Shaykh Ahmad was able at least in theory, to circumvent the restrictions imposed by either of the two above methods and arrive at much less fettered and independent position vis á vis the reinterpretation of the raw material of the Islamic religion - the Qur'an and Sunna of the Prophet and the teachings of the Imáms which were preserved in the akhbar.[98] In short, this doctrine held that a group which may be designated as the Perfect Shí`a was always present on earth as a direct link to the hidden Imám, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, the 12th Imám of the Shí`a, who disappeared from the public ken at the age of six after succeeding his late father as Imám and whose occultation had now lasted nearly 1,000 years. While neither Shaykh Ahmad nor Sayyid Kázim ever publicly claimed the rank of Perfect Shí`í, it seems fairly certain that their followers considered them as qualified for such.[99]

Shí`ism has traditionally based itself on five main principles: Divine Unity (tawhíd), Prophethood (nubúwa), Return (ma`ád), the Imamate, and Divine Justice. These were reduced to three by combining Justice with Unity and placing the Return in the category of Prophethood. To these three (Unity, Prophethood, and the Imamate) was added the above-mentioned idea of the Perfect Shí`a, referred to by the Shaykhís as the Fourth Support (al-rukn al-rábi`) of religion, an allusion, in parallel, to the four pillars of God's throne (`arsh, kursí ). This doctrine of the Fourth Support has been interpreted in various ways. Corbin says that it refers to an esoteric sodality of spiritual elite, but mentions also the "perfect individual," the "Salmán of his time" who is to be regarded as the Nátiq Wáhid, or apex of this spiritual hierarchy.[100] MacEoin's study of Muhammad Karím Khán Kirmání's teachings on the subject, suggests that the reference is to an individual as the "bearer" (hámil), or "owner" (sáhib), of the Fourth Support.[101] One of the more interesting aspects of the Bab's commentary on al-Baqara are the several references in it to this subject of the Fourth Support. Concern with the doctrine of the Fourth Support, is therefore one of the most convincing evidences that the Bab was writing his first tafsír in a Shaykhí milieu. Early in this commentary, he says that the Fourth Support is in fact the Shí`a itself and makes no direct reference to a special individual.[102] That the Bab understood the Fourth Support in this way, may be evidence that at this time he either did not harbor any claims to the special spiritual authority implied by other uses of this term, or that he did not want to be perceived as doing so. But this is not his only statement on the subject; as will be seen in due course, the subject of the Fourth Support in the Bab's writings is intimately connected with both the eschatological and ontological theory on which the commentary proceeds.

The doctrine of the Perfect Shí`a was inseparable from the Shaykhí apophatic theology and implied a virtual deification of the Fourteen Pure Ones (chahardah ma`súm ) of orthodoxy: Muhammad, Fátima, `Alí, Hasan, Husayn and the remaining Imáms of Twelver Shí`ism. This statement must be tempered by reference to the innumerable assertions of the servitude of Muhammad and the Imáms to the essence of God. It would be misleading in the extreme to suggest that this "Imám-apotheosis" represents incarnationism. God here is eternally unknowable (rather than remote) and makes His will known through various stages. Eternally crucial to this process is the twofold institution of Prophecy/Imamate, and whenever any positive statement about divinity is made, its proper reference is to this institution. The Prophet and Imáms are a different order of creation as mediators between God and Man. They are separated from the divine essence by a line of apparently infinite tensile strength. In Corbin's terms they represent the Deus Revelatus, as opposed to (or complementary to) the Deus Absconditus, which is referred to as the "unknowable essence" and other terms, and for which the convenient word in Arabic is alláh.[103]

The Perfect Shí`a acts as mediator between the Imáms (represented by the 12th, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan) and Man. Therefore when the Bab claimed to have received the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf from the Imám, even though he did not explicitly claim for himself the title of Perfect Shí`í, those Shaykhís who were his first readers were already convinced of the necessity for such a link as báb ("gate"), even if they were not agreed as to who was best qualified to act as such, or less important what the exact name for such a link should be. E.G. Browne states the importance of the doctrine of the Perfect Shí`í for the success of Babism in its early stages:

He [the Bab] did not invent this term [báb], nor was he even the first to revive it, for it was used in the same sense by ash-Shalmaghání, a Messiah of the 10th cent. of our era, and by others. So far as recent times are concerned, however, it was the Shaykhí school . . . which revived the idea that among the faithful followers of the Twelfth Imám there must always exist one, whom they entitled Shí`a-i-Kámil . . . 'the Perfect Shí`ite,' who was in direct spiritual communication with him. Neither Shaykh Ahmad nor his successor Sayyid Kázim . . . made use of the title 'Báb,' but their conception of 'the Perfect Shí`ite' was practically identical with the idea connoted by that title. On the death of Sayyid Kázim his followers were naturally impelled by their doctrine concerning 'the Perfect Shí`ite' to seek his successor.[104]

What Browne does not emphasize is that it is important to appreciate one of the more significant results of Shaykhí theology, in order to understand the eventual claim made by the Bab. As will become more clear, particularly in the chapter on Hierarchies, the pleroma of the Prophet, Fátima and the Imáms, had for Shaykh Ahmad in one sense replaced God (Deus absconditus). As a result, the hierarchy of God, Prophet, Imám, Báb, Shí`a was sounded in a higher register, each element being "promoted" as it were, to fill the gap produced by the distinctively relentless Shaykhí view of divine transcendence (tanzíh). As a result, the Bab's claim to be the báb of the Imám, may be seen as functionally identical to a claim to imáma as usually understood.

`Álam al-mithál

Shaykh Ahmad attributed a great deal to several visions he had experienced, beginning at quite an early age. In these visions, either the hidden Imám, or some other member of the ahl al-bayt would appear to him. During one such vision, the Imám bestowed upon Shaykh Ahmad twelve ijázát, one presumably from each of the Imáms. By appealing to such experiences, Shaykh Ahmad made it clear that the only religious authority he would submit to would be the Imáms themselves (as opposed to, for example, the marja` al-taqlíd of the usúlíya). This also implied that his own knowledge, thus derived directly from the Prophet and the Imáms, was qualitatively superior to that of others. Shaykh Ahmad was not the only personality to make much of such experiences. The phenomenon was common enough for those who experienced it to be designated by the term Uwaysí.[105]

The `álam al-mithál was also important in Shaykhí eschatology, in which a corporeal resurrection was denied in favor of a somewhat complex recourse to this separate reality, in which a resurrection of one's spiritual or subtle (latíf) body, underwent a process designated by the familiar terminolgy of ma`ád, qiyáma, and so forth.[106] Surely the emphasis here is on the denial of the scientifically untenable bodily resurrection, which so many Muslim philosophers prior to Shaykh Ahmad also found impossible to believe. Shaykh Ahmad's contribution here is in the form of a sufficiently detailed and appealingly possible alternative; even the most hard-bitten skeptic could never completely deny the possibility of the totally spiritual process which Shaykh Ahmad propounded.

The idea of an interworld, while certainly not new with Shaykhism, can be considered to have reached a theological and philosophical prominence in its system of thought previously unknown. For the history of the idea, the reader is referred to the appropriate literature.[107] Corbin translates `álam al-mithál with the Latin expression mundus imaginalis, and hastens to emphasize that the realm in question must not be considered as merely imaginary, or a "fantasy world". Rather, the term denotes a realm which is accessible only by means of the "faculty" of imagination (khayál), which in turn is one of the several human faculties. Khayál may be thought of as a true "sixth sense", through which this world, "located" between the world of sense perception and a purely spiritual world, may be encountered. As such, the adjective "imaginal" as distinct from "imaginary" is most appropriate.[108]

This world is also referred to by the Shaykhís and others as the "eighth clime", which is "outside and beyond" the seven regions or climes of classical geography.

We are not dealing here with irreality. The mundus imaginalis is a world of autonomous forms and images (mo`allaqa, "in suspense," that is, not inherent in a substratum like the color black in a black table, but "in suspense" in the place of their appearance, in the imagination, for example, like an image "suspended" in a mirror. It is a perfectly real world preserving all the richness and diversity of the sensible world but in a spiritual state.[109]

For the Shaykhís, beginning with Shaykh Ahmad himself, the `álam al-mithál, sometimes referred to as Húrqalyá, had preeminent importance as the abode of the hidden Imám, and as the "place" of bodily resurrection. The hidden Imám, residing in the `álam al-mithál, is accessible through the spiritual imagination of those members of the Shí`a who are capable of purifying their consciences to a degree which allowed the hidden Imám, or Qá'im, to appear to them (i.e., the Perfect Shí`a). The question is open whether or not this private appearance, as discussed by the Shaykhís (especially in the earliest days, just prior to the millenium) was the only one to be expected by the Shí`a, or whether the masters of the Shaykhí school also hoped for an imaginal zuhúr of such intensity that it entailed an actual advent of the Imám on the plane of history. We know, for example, that Shaykh Ahmad's own visionary encounters with the Imám in the `álam al-mithál, produced in him a feeling that he had been divinely appointed to lead others to the truth. Although the biography of Sayyid Kázim is less full than his predecessor's, it is known that he was also guided by his dreams, which are but windows to the `álam al-mithál (though perhaps not the only ones, nor is every dream necessarily a glimpse into that world).

In an attempt to explain the quranic doctrine of bodily resurrection, and such things as the Night Journey of the Prophet, in a manner acceptable to philosophy, Shaykh Ahmad maintained that each human being possesses four bodies (two are referred to as jasad and two jism), which undergo purification and development during the course of a lifetime. Jasad 1 is the elemental body which decomposes after death. Jasad 2 is also composed of elements, but these are the elements of the interworld Húrqalyá, or the `álam al-mithál. It survives after death and will be reunited with the Spirit at the time of the Great Resurrection. Jism 1 is composed of the elements of the "heaven of Húrqalyá", and is an astral body, occupied by the Spirit at the time of its "descent" to this world. It also accompanies the Spirit at the time of departure from this world, and depending upon the circumstances, enters either Paradise or Hell; it disappears at the time of the Great Resurrection. Jism 2 is the essential, archetypal body, both imperishable and inseparable from the Spirit. At the time of the Great Resurrection it will be finally united with jasad 2, forming the complete resurection body, or in alchemical terms, "the body of diamond", in the Aeon to come.[110]

It should be pointed out that not all scholars are willing to accept the `álam al-mithál as an ontological reality. Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindí (1035/1625) insisted that the mundus imaginalis was useful only as a conceptual "screen", upon which the individual conscience projects the image of its own progress: "`álam al-mithál is for seeing, not for being; the place of being is either the spiritual world or the physical world."[111] The possibility certainly exists that for Suhrawardí, Ibn `Arabí, Mullá Sadrá, and Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í, the `álam al-mithál functioned to safeguard the purely spiritual realm from attempts to speak about it, and therefore misrepresent or otherwise "defile" something which was conceived to be utterly beyond comprehension. However, it is also true that for these thinkers, the `álam al-mithál was unquestionably real. In the case of Shaykhism, particularly as interpreted by later leaders of that school, the `álam al-mithál appears as the only place of appearance for the Imám.[112]

While possible allusions to the `álam al-mithál may be read in the Bab's commentaries, as when he refers to "spiritual bodies" (ashbáh and azilla)[113] or to the "earth of saffron" (ard al-za`farán),[114] it is most significant that the actual terms `álam al-mithál, or Húrqalyá, are not found in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara or the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf. The word "imagination" appears only once in a passage which might be related to the doctrine of the `álam al-mithál. Here, the Bab says that only speech of the Family of God (ál alláh, i.e. the ahl al-bayt) has real existence and, "whatever they desire takes on existence . . . just as whatever their Shí`a imagine, God causes to exist for them in Paradise."[115] But the fact remains that this central Shaykhí doctrine takes up surprisingly little, if indeed any, space at all in these two earliest works by the Bab.

These three features (the doctrine of the Perfect Shí`í, the extreme veneration of the Holy Family, and the denial of bodily resurrection via the appeal to the `álam al-mithál) are perhaps the most important with regard to the relationship of Bábism to Shaykhism. [see bk 3 38].

Background: 4


Although orthodox Shí`ism disavows Sufism, and Shaykhí works often continue this tradition, it is undeniable that the basic religious attitude of both Shí`ism proper and Shaykhí theology have much in common with tasawwuf. A great deal has been written on the relationship, both historical and doctrinal, between Sufism and Shí`ism, particularly in the central Islamic lands of `Iraq and Iran.[116] As will be seen, the Bab's writings are permeated by standard Sufi themes and ideas, although no Sufi author is ever quoted directly. This may be regarded as a typical feature of theosophical Shí`ism, which articulates several ideas and sometimes actual statements found in the Sufi handbooks and other sources. al-Husayn ibn Mansúr al-Halláj (309/922), the martyr mystic of classical Sufism, is a source for some of these expressions; the Sufi background for other statements and ideas will be noted as well. Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to do more than signal the Sufi nature of these various expressions.

It is interesting to note, that the author of a history of Bábism found it necessary to reject the idea that the Bab belonged to a taríqa, or benefited from the instruction of a Sufi shaykh.[117] As Amanat says, however, "it is likely that at least to some extent the Bab was exposed to certain heterodox ideas and practices then in circulation in his environment."[118] It may be assumed that the presence of this material simply represents a rather late example of how the two basic traditions are involved, one with the other. As is well known, Shiraz has been a major centre of Sufi activity for centuries. It was the place where Ruzbihán Baqlí (606/1209), the famous Sunní mystic responsible for preserving many of al-Halláj's writings, wrote and taught. More recently, Shiraz had at the time the Bab wrote, become the major centre for Dhahabíya Sufism.[119] It is also of interest that Shaykh Ahmad is said to have studied while still in al-Ahsá with a shaykh from this order.[120]

Background: 5

Life of the Bab

The Bab was born in Shiraz on October 20, 1819 (1 Muharram 1235), into a family of fairly prosperous merchants. His father died when he was about seven years old and the responsibility for his upbringing devolved upon his uncle.[121] His formal education consisted of six or seven years at a local maktab under the direction of one Shaykh `Ábid, who happened to be an adherent of the then somewhat popular Shaykhí school. It appears that the Bab, whose name was `Alí Muhammad, was not particularly fond of school although, according to some reports, this antipathy was not the result of any intellectual incapacity. On the contrary, the few reports which exist tend to show the Bab at this early stage, as the owner of a precocious, inquisitive, and outspoken nature.[122]

At age thirteen the Bab left the maktab, and two years later moved with his uncle to Búshihr to pursue the family business there. After about four years of working in partnership with his uncle, the Bab became independent. There is disagreement about what the Bab's attitude to trade was, but so far no compelling evidence has been brought to light to support the statement that this basic attitude was negative.[123] It was while the Bab was in Búshihr that he began to write various religious works. Although it is not known exactly what these were, they probably included essays on various theological topics and eulogies of the Imáms. Some of these were apparently written at the request of certain of his fellow merchants.[124] There is also indication that even before voicing any particular claim to spiritual authority, the Bab had aroused a certain amount of attention and even ill-will, by the production of these earliest works.[125]

In 1256/1840-41, the Bab closed his business and left Búshihr for the region of `Atabát, where he remained for nearly a year.[126] It was during this time that he attended lectures by Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, the undisputed successor of Shaykh Ahmad, founder of the Shaykhí school. It seems that the Bab's family did not approve of his preoccupation with things religious and that his marriage, on Rajab 1258/August1842, was arranged in the hope of inducing him to concentrate his attention more on the practicalities of existence.[127] Prior to his marriage, while he was still in Karbalá, it is said that the Bab became acquainted with and attracted a certain amount of attention from a number of Shaykhís, some of whom later became his followers.[128] Even his arch-enemy, Muhammad Karím Khán Kirmání, says in his polemic Izháq al-bátil, that although he himself never met the Bab, it was true that he was held in respect in Karbalá and that he did in fact meet and serve Sayyid Kázim.[129]

The picture that thus emerges is of a pious young man, who, despite a lack of formal training in the higher religious sciences was nevertheless motivated to produce religious works, the nature of which was sufficiently impressive to win the respect of some of his readers. Indeed, it was undoubtedly the very fact of this lack of training, together with his status as a merchant, which called attention to his undeniable spiritual and literary gifts.[130] Thus a variation on the Islamic theme of the "unlettered prophet" begins to take shape.[131] In this connection, it is also interesting and perhaps instructive vis á vis the way in which Muhammad's so-called illiteracy may be understood, to observe that the Bab was manifestly not illiterate; many of his writings were produced before witnesses. That these works were written by one untutored, or at best self-taught, and perhaps even more convincing, that they were written with astonishing speed and fluency, combined to present to some an evidentiary miracle comparable, in every way, to the Qur'an itself.[132]

Although we do not know exactly when the Bab began to experience visons comparable to those of Shaykh Ahmad mentioned above, it appears that at least one of them occurred before he began the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, early in 1260/1844.[133] Amanat mentions several such experiences which date from the Bab's early childhood. In one of his earlier works, the Bab has written the following:

Remember! the emanation of all these verses and prayers and all these unlearnt sciences (`ulúm-i laduní) is because of a dream which I once had of the holy head of the Master of Martyrs (Sayyid al-Shuhadá' i.e. Imám Husain) upon him be peace, detached from his holy body, together with the heads of other companions. I drank seven handfuls of his holy blood with greatest joy, and it is now the blessing of that blood which illuminated my heart with such verses and prayers.[134]

Such experiences, which seem to have increased in both frequency and intensity as time went by, are seen to be the main cause of the stylistic differences between the two commentaries studied below in Parts i and ii. Although even in the earlier work there are indications that the Bab considered his explanation of the Qur'an to carry considerable authority, it is in the later Tafsír súrat Yúsuf that the special status of his writings is made explicit.

On the evening before the fifth of Jumádá I,1260/22 May 1844, approximately six months after the death of Sayyid Kázim, the Bab put forth his claim in writing,[135] to be in direct contact with the hidden Imám and so a locus of tremendous spiritual authority. Mullá Husayn and seventeen other young Shaykhís, including the famous poetess Táhireh, gave their allegiance to him and the Bábí movement was born. The Bab departed for his pilgrimage on the 26th of Sha`ban 1260/10 September 1844, returning to Búshihr on 8 Jumádá I, 1261/15 May 1845.[136] On his journey from Búshihr to Shiraz, the Bab was, as a result of the activity of his followers, arrested for the first time and shortly released.[137] In 1846, the Bab took up residence in Isfahán where he remained from September of that year until March of 1847 shortly after his powerful protector, the Mu`tamid al-dawla, Manúchihr Khán, died. At this time he was arrested by government troops and escorted to the western frontier of Iran where he was to spend the rest of his life in secluded imprisonment.

During this last stage of his career, the Bab continued to experience and record revelations.[138] It was at this time that his most famous work, the Bayán,[139] was written, together with many prayers, ajwíba, and other correspondence to his by now numerous following throughout Iran. According to Nabíl, during the nine months he was held in the castle at Máh-kú, the Bab produced no less than nine complete commentaries on the Qur'an, one of which the Bab claimed was of greater significance than the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf studied below.[140] As is well known, the Bab's literary activity came to an end on July 6, 1850 when he was publicly executed in Tabriz.

Background: 6

Works of the Bab

The writings of the Bab are many; on his own estimate they exceed 500,000 verses.[141] He himself has said that they comprise five distinct categories:

All the writings of the Point [i.e. the Bab] are named Beyán. But this name is, in its primary nature (bi-haqíqah-yi avvalíyah), peculiar to verses [i.e. verse written in Arabic in the style of the Kur'án]; then it is uttered in its secondary nature in regard to supplications (munáját); then in its tertiary nature in regard to commentaries (tafásír); then in its quaternary nature in regard to scientific treatises (suwar-i `ilmíyeh); then in its quinary nature it is used in regard to Persian words (kalimát-i fársíyeh) [i.e. writings and discourses]. But properly speaking this name [of Beyán] is peculiar to verses and [is applicable] to nought else.[142]

That all of the Bab's writings may be designated by the word bayán has caused a certain amount of confusion, the precise details of which may be found elsewhere.[143] The Persian Bayán itself was the last major work by the Bab and represents the final stage of his religious vision. It is, among other things, a book of laws and ordinances, exhortations, and homilies. It is also characterized by repeated reference ("over three hundred"[144]) to "He whom God will make manifest" (man yuzhiruhu 'lláh).[145] Apart from the French translation, there exists in English an "Index of Chief Contents of the Persian Bayán"[146] and an English translation of various excerpts.[147]

In the past, these writings have been examined mainly for what they have to tell us about the history of the Bábí Movement. The purpose of this study is to draw attention to the literature itself, in order to begin an evaluation of what must surely be one of the most important questions to be raised by students of not only the Bábí and Bahá'í religions, but also those interested in the history of nineteenth century Iran, upon which the dramatic events associated with the name of the Bab made such a vivid mark. That question: How did the Bab read the Holy Book of Islam? will also be of interest to those engaged in studying the history of the interpretation of the Qur'an.

From the above statement by the Bab it is clear that tafsír represents only one of several types of exposition to which he applied himself. That it should be regarded among the most important types is clear from the mere fact that it comprises a large percentage of his extant work, and that it was by means of a tafsír that he first made his claims known.

It was the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, also known as the Qayyúm al-asmá, which the Bab's earliest followers used to propagate his cause. It has been referred to by Bahá'u'lláh as "the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books" and by Shoghi Effendi as being "universally regarded, during almost the entire ministry of the Báb, as the Qur'án of the people of the Bayán".[148] In addition to this work, there are three other major tafásír extant, and a series of shorter commentaries.

More relevant for the history of quranic exegesis, it will be seen that most of this material represents a distinct type of scriptural interpretation. This is particularly apparent in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, excerpts from which will appear below in Part ii. That there are problems connected with the proper categorization of some of these writings, is something which Browne suggested long ago. In speaking of the above-mentioned tafsír he said: "A Commentary in the strict sense of the word it is not, but rather a mystical and often unintelligible rhapsody . . .". [149] In the following pages an attempt will be made to describe and discuss some aspects of this work, and one other of the Bab's tafásír, in order to indicate some elements of the logic of structure and content of this important work, while calling attention to the clear and remarkable transformation of style and thought between it and the earlier Tafsír súrat al-baqara, the subject of Part i.

Other Tafásír

The Bab wrote several works of tafsír, all of which are important for a finer understanding of the relationship of the Bab's religion with Shí`ism. This is of course one of the chief virtues of tafsír: it provides something of a laboratory "control" for Islamic Studies. Some of these commentaries, that is titles in which any of the words tafsír, sharh, or bayán figures, are explanations of important traditions[150] or topics.[151] Others are commentaries on either a complete súra of the Qur'an or one of the more notable verses.[152] These commentaries present a broad range of ideas and exegetical techniques - to such a degree that any attempt to discuss all of them in the space allowed here would be ultimately meaningless. This is in spite of the fact that they all are said to come from the same general period. Despite the astonishingly varied nature of the style and content of these commentaries, or more accurately because of it, they are of course extremely valuable for a study of the development of the Bab's thought. Collectively they represent a unique individual corpus of Islamic scriptural commentary. The following list of such works is taken from Sources, the first four titles are in chronological order:

[1] Tafsír súrat al-baqara (Q.2, juz'1)[153]

[2] Tafsír súrat Yúsuf (Q.12)[154]

[3] Tafsír súrat al-kawthar (Q.108)[155]

[4] Tafsír súrat wa'l-`asr (Q.103)[156]

[5] Tafsír súrat al-hamd (Q.1)[157]

[6] Tafsír súrat al-baqara (Q.2,juz' 2)[158]

[7] Tafsír súrat al-baqara (Q.2)[159]

[8] Tafsír basmala[160]

[9] Tafsír súrat al-qadr (Q.97)[161]

[10] Tafsír súrat al-tawhíd (Q.112)[162]

[11] Tafsír súrat al-inshirah (Q.94) [163]

[12] Tafsír áyat al-kursí (Q.2:255) [164]

[13] Tafsír áyat al-núr (Q.24:35) [165]

As mentioned above, it is generally believed that works of commentary, i.e. the third of the five categories mentioned by the Bab, all come from the same early period. To quote MacEoin:

The existence of so many commentaries, a large number in reply to questions from individuals, is indicative of the Báb's role at this period as a commentator on the Qur'án and traditions. That this is how he was widely regarded at this time and saw himself, is clear from a treatise written by Mullá Muhammad `Alí Zunúzí.[166] This writer remarks that 'people at the beginning believed the Báb was sent by the Hidden Imám', that he himself regarded his words as being of a lower station than those of the Imáms, although greater than those of Ahmad al-Ahsá'í and Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, and that he gave himself out as an interpreter (mufassir), commentator (mubayyin), and expounder (muwarrij) of the Qur'án and Islám. Mullá Muhammad `Alí specifically refers in this context to the Báb's tafsírs on the suras of Yúsuf, al-Baqara, al-Kawthar, wa'l-`Asr, al-Inshiráh, al-Fátiha, 'and others'.[167]

Basing himself on Zunúzí's statement, it appears that MacEoin has dated all titles in which some synonym of the word "commentary" figures, as having been written by the Bab between May 1844 and September1846. Exceptions are those works which are known to have been written earlier (Baqara), or later (wa'l-`Asr). In addition to these two commentaries, MacEoin has mentioned "two short tafsírs" which the Bab wrote on one of his own works and according to internal evidence, were written two weeks before his execution.[168] Of the works mentioned in the Bab's Kitáb al-fihrist, dated 15 Jumádá II, 1261/21 June 1845 numbers 1,2,6,7,8, and 12 are named.[169]

It is not impossible that the remainder of the commentaries mentioned above, whether on the Qur'an, hadíth, or a specific subject, all date from the designated period. However, it is equally possible, especially in view of the fact that works with some such word as "tafsír" in the title are known to have been written later, that they do not all belong to this period. It seems imprudent to base dating of a particular work solely on the criterion of whether or not it purports to be a commentary; such presupposes a much too "symmetrical" division of the Bab's career into various stages, e.g.: 1) commentator; 2) Qá'im; 3) Manifestation, or some such similar schema. It will be seen that such divisions can be be misleading insofar as it could be inferred from them that after a certain point the Bab no longer commented on any verse of the Qur'an, hadíth, or other Islamic subject. Inasmuch as most, if not all, of his followers were in fact Muslims, it seems highly unlikely that at some point all concern with the "previous dispensation" (Islam) ceased.

Another problem connected with such a dating has to do with the presupposition that a commentator is ipso facto of a lower "rank" than a prophet. As will become clear, particularly in Part ii, the commentator becomes tinged by the charisma of the text in the process of his explanations, and may therefore be seen to participate as a partner in the Prophetic process of revelation. Apart from this, the Imáms themselves are frequently seen by tradition as commenting on this or that verse, tradition, or subject, as will become abundantly clear in Part i. From this it might be thought that the act of commentary, particularly on the Qur'an or hadíth, carried considerably more prestige in a Shí`í milieu, than might be the case in a Sunní milieu; but this would have to be studied further.

Major Tafásír

Of the thirteen titles which are said to be commentaries on the Qur'an, whether a single súra or verse, four stand out by reason of their length as major works; they are the commentaries on al-baqara , Yúsuf, al-kawthar, and wa'l-`asr. Before proceeding directly to the two earlier works which form the main subject of this thesis, some brief notice of the two later works will be offered.

Both commentaries are quite long: the earlier of the two on the súrat al-kawthar, which is the shortest súra in the Qur'an, runs to 115 folios in the Cambridge ms.,[170] while the other commentary on Qur'an103[171] consists of eighty-five folios. Both have several features in common: they are both on two of the shortest chapters in the Qur'an; they were written for specific individuals; they were written before observers, the circumstances of their composition resembling something of a virtuoso "performance" in that they were both said to have been written in an astonishingly short period of time; they both employ the same basic method of interpretation.[172] Numerous eschatological traditions are recorded in akhbárí tafsír works for each súra, and this may also help to explain why the Bab was specifically asked to comment on them.[173] As a matter of fact, the last few pages of the commentary on wa'l-`asr is a verbatim citation from Sáfí, in which among other things, al-asr is said to be the time of the advent of the Qá'im.[174]

The Tafsír súrat al-kawthar was written for Sayyid Yahya Dárábí, the son of the illustrious Ja`far Kashfí. Because the father is such an important figure in nineteenth century Iranian religious philosophy and because his life seems to have intersected the Bab's at two important junctures, it will be of interest to summarize a bit of what is known about him. Corbin has called him "l'un des plus brillants penseurs et spirituels imámites du xixe siècle".[175] He was an upholder of the usúlí approach to the sources of dín, and wrote a large number of books in both Arabic and Persian.[176] The sobriquet Kashfí became his in virtue of his widely acknowledged talents within that distinctively Shí`í discipline referred to euphemistically as `irfán. He is said to have gone on the same pilgrimage which the Bab had only recently completed, at the time he wrote this commentary for his son, Sayyid Yahyá.[177] He died in 1267 [1850-1] near the date of the Bab's own execution (1850). After Sayyid Yahyá accepted the Bab's claims, he was instructed by his new master not to pressure his father regarding the new dispensation.[178]

As to Sayyid Yahyá himself, he had been sent by Muhammad Sháh to investigate the Bab[179] and had, as a result of reading this tafsír, converted to the new faith.[180] He was, at the time of his conversion, around 35 years of age and apparently highly regarded in learned circles.[181] Sayyid Yahyá was eventually surnamed Vahíd by the Bab, and was instrumental as a Babí leader in the Yazd and Nayriz disturbances of 1850. MacEoin has referred to him as "probably the most active Bábí dá`í of this [early] period".[182]

At one time, the Tafsír súrat al-kawthar was thought to have been completely destroyed; notwithstanding, ten separate manuscripts are listed by MacEoin.[183] MacEoin has also discussed the work elsewhere, suggesting that it is the most important work written by the Bab during his residence in Shiraz after his pilgrimage (from July 1845 to September 1846), and pointing out that it was widely used by Bábí teachers in Tehran, Kirmán and Isfahán, and that Táhireh herself used it to preach in Kermánsháh. MacEoin continues:

Interesting as it undoubtedly is in places, and highly regarded as it was by the early Bábís, this work is, for the most part, almost unreadable, consisting of highly abstract and insubstantial speculations on the verses, words and even letters of the súra on which it is supposed to be a 'commentary'. Of greater interest are the numerous ahádíth which the Báb quotes in a later section of the work ... [184]

While there is no space here to go into all the implications of such a statement, particularly as they might relate to the biases of the author, it is important to at least register some astonishment at the implied proposition: the work is nonsensical, and at bottom without merit, except for the selection of hadíth material which makes up the greater part of the manuscript. The alternative is of course, that MacEoin does not understand the work; however, since examples of "unreadable, . . . highly abstract and insubstantial speculations" are neither quoted nor referred to, it is difficult to pursue this question further. What has been argued elsewhere[185] is that the commentary and particularly the commentary on individual letters, represents a variation on the kind of cabbalistic meditation practiced and taught by, for example, Abúlafia.[186] The result is something like what Scholem refers to as a "music of pure thought", but here in the case of the Bab, the emphasis is to be placed on the word music. By commenting on each individual letter and this in four parts, a certain rhythm is imparted to the work within which the variations on each letter may be elaborated. The effect upon the auditors has been recorded.[187] Thus the circumstances of composition, particularly of the second letter commentary, resemble something of a postprandial musical recital where the Bab, a young spiritual prodigy, was asked to "perform".

As for the content of the Tafsír súrat al-kawthar, it will be found to contain many terms and ideas which although unfamiliar to modern Western readers, were common coin in the milieu where it was first read. A single example will have to suffice here. Commenting on the letter wáw of the word al-kawthar, the Bab has written:

Concerning the wáw (thumma min kalimat al-wáw): [1] In the forest of the land of "Yellow"[188] it refers to the Absolute Universal Pre-Eternal waláya; [2] the waláya which has been individualised in the soul of the form of abstraction[189] which claims for itself to itself the [divine] Ipseity, to be also the moon of the [divine] light and the sun of [divine] manifestation and the tree of al-káfúr and the wine of manifestation and the source of the river of al-kawthar and the name of God the Living the Forgiving,[190] and he who speaks in the forest of the land of "Yellow"; [3] then there is the waláya which has been individualized shining, luminous, glittering, paradisaic, unique - glimmering with the light of the secondary pre-eternity which alludes to and warbles subtleties in this lamp (fí daqá'iq tilka al-zujája) that which has not been heard by any but God and he whom He desires. It is visible in the number of the letters of lá iláh illá lláh (i.e., 12 = the Imams) and appears from the tree which grows upon the land of "Green";[191] [4] then there is the waláya which has dawned from the splendours of the light of the morning of eternity[192] which has spoken in the heart (fu'ád) of this bird (hádhá al-tayr, i.e. himself, the Bab) whom the Satans have cast into prison and waxed proud before, even though none of them were able to understand a single letter of the manifestation of the the traces of His power in the loci of the appearance of these individual lofty letters which God has created in the likeness of those communities which have passed away. Verily the practice of God is governed by His rule (hukmihi), ordained by Truth. And on that day the waláya will belong to God, the Truth. He is the best of rewarders and the best of punishers. [Q.18:44][193]

It is not clear to what this imprisonment refers; perhaps by "this prison" he is referring to the arrest mentioned above which occurred on his way back to Shiraz from his pilgrimage. In any case, it is clear that the Bab lays claim to some kind of special rank, which we may assume to be associated with the above-mentioned idea of the fourth support, given that the reference to himself occurs at the fourth or lowest exegetic level of the letter wáw. It should also be noted that the Bab refers to Muhammad as the "seal of the prophets" just before the section translated above.[194] As will be seen in Part i, waláya was a central exegetical concern of the Bab.

Browne discussed the work briefly and described the manuscript which has been quoted here. In addition, he edited a small portion of the text.[195] In this portion, we read for example: inna al-yawm laysa al-haqq li-yakúna li-ahad hujjatun illá nafsí. In the case of such a statement, it makes little functional difference whether the Bab chooses to designate his obviously exclusive role by terms such as báb, imám, qá'im, or mazhar.[196] The point and message is this same exclusivity, as is stated elsewhere in the same work, addressing Sayyid Yahyá:

Had you been one of the companions of Kázim you would understand the matter of the hidden support, in the same way that you comprehend the (other) three supports. . . . just as you stand in need of an individual sent from God who may transmit unto you what your Lord has willed, so you stand in need of an ambassador from your Imám.[197]

If you say that the ulama represent this function, I say that how can they be regarded to represent a single position (maqám wáhid) since some of them are more excellent than others? And if you say that they are all agreed upon the same basic principles, their own words and actions contradict your statement. If you say that some are better than others then it is necessary to abandon the inferior for the superior until you ultimately arrive at a single soul (nafs wáhida, cf., Q.4:1; 6:98; 7:189; 31:28; 39:6, a possible allusion to the Shaykhí idea of the nátiq wáhid, mentioned earlier) . . . in the case of two individuals, if you know that one is more excellent in a given matter, even to the extent of the black in the eye of an ant, you cannot possibly regard his inferior, for God has said: And which is worthier to be followed ... He who guides to the truth, or he who guides not unless he is guided? What then ails you how you judge? [10:35] . . . so that you might comprehend that none but a single soul is capable of bearing the universal bounty from the Imám (fayd al-kullíya `an al-imám).[198]

In al-Kawthar, the actual letter commentary takes up approximately one third of the manuscript.[199] The major portion of the work is devoted to citing an enormous number of ahádíth complete with asáníd and numerous quotations from the Qur'an pertaining to the zuhúr of the Qá'im.[200] Bearing in mind that this commentary is considered to have been written after the Bab's claims were articulated in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, we should assume that these citations have been marshalled as evidence of the fact that the zuhúr has already occurred. This, notwithstanding the Bab's explicit statements in this work to the contrary, e.g.: that those who say he claims wahí are liars;[201] or, those people who assert that he claims to be the "Gate of the Remnant of God" are wrong;[202] or, whoever claims God's lordship, waláya, a Qur'an or divine inspiration, has committed kufr and that he himself has not claimed specific "gatehood".[203] It seems that such statements are conditioned in this commentary by two factors: [1] the general practice of taqíya and [2] the fact that the person for whom this tafsír was written was neither a Shaykhí nor an akhbárí, but a supporter of the religious status quo (viz., usúlism), if his connection to the Qajar court and his parentage can tell us anything about his basic religious temperament.[204] As has been seen, we find other statements in the same work which suggest that the author is advancing some kind of special claim for himself.

In the account of its composition given in Nabíl, it appears that the entire work was completed in an extraordinarily short period of time, after which the manuscript was given to Dárábí and another man. It was their task then to transcribe the work and verify the traditions quoted in it which were found to be "entirely accurate".[205]

The Tafsír súrat wa'l-`asr was written for the powerful Imám-i jum`a of Isfahán, Mír Sayyid Muhammad Sultánu'l-`Ulamá,[206] sometime between September1846 and March1847.[207] As mentioned, both of these súras, which are among the shortest chapters in the Qur'an, are explained by the Bab not verse by verse, or even word by word, but rather letter by letter. In this way the quranic material is exploded by the commentator, in an attempt to mine it for as much meaning as possible. The letter wáw of wa'l-`asr is explained according to the four levels of láhút, jabarút, malakút, and mulk. These standard metaphysical categories will be seen to have figured, probably (but not necessarily) as a result of Shaykhí influence, in the Bab's earliest work of tafsír.[208] In any case, a typical passage of this kind of commentary runs as follows:

The first letter is the wáw and it is an indication of the several stations of universal waláya in the world of láhút,then to the throne of jabarút, then to the proofs of mulk and malakút. It also indicates the several stations of waláya [which is characterized by the statement] no soul comprehends the knowledge of God. And beyond this, it indicates certain truths which none but God knows. [209]

The commentary on wa'l-`asr is a good source for the Bab's religious ideas as they had developed by1846, wherein distinctions are made between his "theosophy" and for example, the "theosophy" of Ibn `Arabí.[210] Elsewhere in the work, appear such topics as the Christian veneration of the cross,[211] reference to the Khutbat al-tatanjíya,[212] numerous references to the process of divine self-manifestation,[213] reference to the du`a al-Khizr,[214] the fourth or hidden support,[215] universal waláya as the cause of all things,[216] in addition to the standard veneration of the Imáms and the Prophet so characteristic of the Bab's writings at this time. The letter commentary itself ends at f.50b.

The actual letter commentaries are preceded by lengthy introductory material in both manuscripts: al-Kawthar from ff. 2b-11b; wa'l-`asr, from ff.2a to 19a. Like the earlier commentary on al-Kawthar, the Tafsír súrat wa'l-`asr is reported to have been composed in a similarly remarkable fashion.[217] Apparently, during its composition, a clock was brought in whereby the Bab was actually timed, and it was found that in the course of six hours 1,000 verses were written.[218] This slightly later work has very few hadíths. MacEoin has listed eight manuscripts for this work,[219] one of which is probably represented by the transcription in INBA #69.[220]

To return to the phenomenon of letter commentary itself, it should remembered that it is found in a less developed form in most works of so-called orthodox tafsír, most frequently in interpreting the letters of the basmala. Thus tafsír works attributed to the earliest figures of Islam, usually carry a tafsír of the bá', sín and mím. Those attributed to Ibn `Abbas (68/687-8),[221] and Ja`far al-Sádiq (148/765),[222] to name only two, carry some such interpretation, albeit in a very undeveloped form. Thus the bá' is often interpreted as representing the glory (bahá') of God, the sín represents His brilliance (saná'), while the mím stands for the divine splendour (majd). A somewhat more developed approach to the basmala is found in the tafsír of Rúzbihán Baqlí (606/1209), which begins:

: is the revelation (kashf) of immortality (baqá') for the people of spiritual detachment (faná')

sín: is the revelation of the holy brilliance (saná') for the people of intimacy (uns).

mím: is the revelation of the divine kingdom (malakút) for the people of divine qualities (ahl al-nu`út).

From here Rúzbihán proceeds to discuss other aspects of these individual letters.[223]

Concern with the individual letter may be seen, first of all, in the mere preservation of the quranic al-hurúf al-muqatta`át, as well as in the commentary on them which is frequently found in most books of tafsír, orthodox or otherwise. Apart from this, letter commentary is preserved in several hadiths, among the most popular is the one attributed to `Alí in which the Imám is quoted as saying that all the knowledge in the world (or the other holy books) is in the Qur'an; and all the knowledge of the Qur'an is in the Fátiha; and all the knowledge of the Fátiha is in the basmala; and all the knowledge of basmala is in the bá' and all the knowledge in the bá' is in the point under the bá'. And `Alí is that point.[224] As a matter of fact, one of the Bab's more usual titles was "the Primal Point" (al-Nuqta al-Ulá) and it undoubtedly refers to this tradition with the implication that the Bab is either a re-appearance of the Imám `Alí, or that he shares the same lofty spiritual rank of the first Imám.

With the development of Islamic mystical philosophy, comes also an elaboration of the significances of these three letters beyond the above single word equivalences. Ibn Arabi, in his Futúhát al-Makkíya, has much to say about the letters of the alphabet.[225] Ibn Abí Jumhúr, influenced by Ibn Arabí, fashions a most elaborate letter commentary, which like the Bab's, does not concern itself with numerological or physiognomical correspondences, such as are found in Hurúfí letter commentary.[226] And the pattern of the Bab's interpretation closely resembles his in some respects. For example, in his commentary on the basmala, Ibn Abí Jumhúr takes as his starting point the statement of Ibn `Arabí in the Futúhát, that the bá' should be interpreted according to its three modes: form, pronunciation, and vowelling. The form of the bá' is the malakút, the pronunciation is the jabarút, and the vowelling represents the testimony of its mulk. Ibn Abí Jumhúr even comments on the hidden (mahdhúfa) alif which is seen as representing the hidden Imam, the eventual Qá'im.[227] Later, in the works of Sayyid Kázim, concern is also shown for the individual letters of the Arabic alphabet.[228]

In light of this venerable history, the Bab's treatment of these two short suras may be seen as a logical development. Moreover, it would appear that this method of letter commentary - far from offending his audience - served in some ways to validate his claims in their eyes.

Chapter 2

Part i: The Tafsír súrat al-baqara


It is of some significance that the first major work by the Bab is a commentary on the Súrat al-baqara, a súra sometimes regarded by exegetes as "the Qur'an in miniature" because in it are found many of the same concerns, ordinances, conceits and images found throughout the Book. A commentary on this súra by any given author would therefore tend to reveal the way he would approach the entire Work. It may be also that the Bab had intended to produce a commentary on the whole Qur'an at this time. As has been mentioned, he is said to have later produced no less than nine complete tafásír during his incarceration in Azerbaijan. Why he would have suspended such a project at this earlier date is open to speculation. We do know, however, that it was shortly after the completion of the commentary on the first juz' of the Qur'an that Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í made his visit to Shiraz, shortly after which the Bábí "movement" may be said to have been born. Such a dramatic occurrence might possibly have had the effect of deflecting the Bab's attention from such a project to concentrate upon newer and more important developments. One of these developments was the composition of another tafsír, which is of such a startlingly different nature than this earlier work, that they might be thought to have been written by two different authors. The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf will be examined in some detail in Part ii. It appears that it was the first work written after the commentary on al-Baqara. Its contents - which include in the course of things, a kind of commentary on most of the Qur'an - suggest that the Bab's inclination to comment on the entire Book might have been excercised in it. Whatever the case may be, the Tafsír súrat al-baqara provides invaluable information about the development of the Bab's religious ideas.

This thesis "breaks ground" by studying a work by the Bab which has been habitually ignored by persons writing on the Bábí religion. There has been a tendency to regard the work which is the subject of Part ii, Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, as the first work of any significance written by the Bab.[229] Through the invaluable research of Denis MacEoin on the sources for Bábí doctrine and history, it has become clear that the Bab's Tafsír súrat al-baqara enjoys a unique and heretofore unappreciated significance for a study of the Bábí religion. Furthermore, because it was written during the earliest period of the Bab's literary activity, MacEoin thinks that it is much less likely to have been corrupted by partisans of the later Bahá'í/Azalí dispute.[230]

Since this tafsír is the only extended work of the Bab's written before May 1844 which is still in our possession, and was begun by him almost six months before the announcement of his earliest claims, it may be regarded as of unique importance in providing us with written evidence of the development of the Bab's thought in the critical period leading up to that turning point.[231]

Insofar as this first major work was also a tafsír, its interest goes beyond the confines of a study of a specific heresy to engage with the greater Islamic tradition itself, on the common ground of the Qur'an. The work first became known in the West through E.G. Browne, who discussed it and the circumstances under which he received a copy, in an article written in 1892. It had been sent to him by Mírzá Yahyá Subh-i Azal who had received it from a scribe in Tehran.[232] (This manuscript is described below.) Azal, like his half-brother Bahá'u'lláh, had been a follower of the Bab from the early days. As a result of disagreements between himself and Bahá'u'lláh, he became the leader of the Azalí faction of the Bábís. Browne received a great number of Bábí manuscripts from him.

In this article, Browne quotes a passage from the Táríkh-i jadíd which recounts the conversion of the young Shaykhí Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í to the cause of the Bab in May 1844. While Mullá Husayn was visiting the Bab in the latter's home, he discovered a commentary on the Súrat al-baqara. Reading some of it, he was impressed by the merits of the work and asked his host who its author was. The Bab said that he in fact had written the work. This story relates that Mullá Husayn was puzzled by one of the passages in the work: "the explanation of the inmost of the inmost" (tafsír-i bátin-i bátin).[233] Mullá Husayn is reported to have said:

This appeared to me to be an error, and I remarked, "Here it should be 'the inmost,' and they have written 'the inmost of the inmost.'" "What can I say?" [the Bab] answered, "the author of the Commentary lays claim to even more than this of greatness, glory, and knowledge. Consider the passage attentively." I did so, and said, "It is quite correct. But I am wearied. Do you read and I will listen." He read for a time, and then, as men are wont, I said, "It is enough. Do not trouble yourself further." [234]

While this account is important for the history of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, it raises the question of why Mullá Husayn should have been stopped by such an expression. The tafsír does in fact employ it, although Browne was unable to locate it in his manuscript (see the previous note). It also seems logical to assume that Mullá Husayn would have been quite conversant with such language. The writings of both Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim contain, as will be seen, many allusions not only to the bátin al-bátin, but also to the bátin bátin al-bátin, záhir al-bátin, and so forth. The young Mullá may have wanted to say that this particular passage deals only with the bátin, and should not therefore, have been referred to as an explanation of the "inmost of the inmost". It may be that the passage was left out of Browne's manuscript because it was thought to damage the credibility of the Bab.

Several manuscripts of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara are known to exist. MacEoin gives the following list (the information in parenthesis is added):

1 Cambridge Browne F.8 (juz'1)

2 London British Library Or. 5277 (juz' 2)

3 Paris Bib. Nat. 5780 (juz'1)

4 Paris B.N. 5805 (juz' 2)

5 Paris B.N. 6610 (juz' 2)

6 Haifa

7 Tihrán Bahá'í archives 6004.C

8 Tihrán Bahá'í archives 6012.C

9 Tihrán Bahá'í archives 6014.C (juz' 1)

Numbers 3-6 are in the hand of Ridwán `Alí, the son of Mírzá Yahyá Subh-i Azal, who had been appointed by the Bab as the head of the movement.[235] Number 5 is a commentary on the second juz' of the Qur'an, i.e., approximately the second half of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. Another manuscript of this second half of the commentary is in the British Library, (number 2 above); the manuscript of the first half is numbered B.L. Or. 5276. As MacEoin says, this manuscript is also in the hand of Ridwán `Alí. To this list should be added the important Leiden manuscript, to be described below,[236] and a manuscript of the work, as yet uncatalogued, in the Princeton "Bábí Collection". This last item bears a provisional shelf number 268 and is dated 1328 [1910]. It is bound in one volume with another manuscript entitled Kitáb al-jazá' min nuqtat al-bá'.

It is important to consider briefly the problem of the second half of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. MacEoin's only definite statement about it is the following:

The second half of this tafsír was completed in the course of the year 1260/1844, and was among the works in the Báb's possession when he performed the hajj in the latter part of that year. . . . it was among a number of books stolen from him while en route to Mecca.[237]

The Bab made a list of these stolen works in his Kitáb al-fihrist, written in 1261/1845 in Búshihr after he returned from this pilgrimage. This list apparently accounts for all of the Bab's writings up to that time, and is the basis for the above statement by MacEoin. In this list, reference is made to two commentaries on the súrat al-baqara: one "in the manner of the commentary on the Súra Yúsuf"; the other is described as being "from the second half to the end."[238] It is not impossible that this stolen manuscript of the commentary on the second half of al-baqara had already been copied. This would account for the survival of the work in the two manuscripts mentioned above, as well as another (see below). Elsewhere, MacEoin in commenting on the problem of dating the commentary on the first juz', remarks that one of the dates given is "certainly corrupt since there is evidence that the second part of the tafsír must have been completed before that date."[239] It is of some interest to notice that Nicolas makes no mention at all of a Tafsír súrat al-baqara in his list of the Bab's earliest works.[240] MacEoin, however, has little confidence in this list.

The provenance of this second half of the Tafsír al-baqara, is thus not as certain as the work singled out for this study. While three manuscripts of it do exist, as well as a few pages of commentary on the first two verses of the second juz' (2:142-3), it was thought premature to include it as part of a detailed study, because of the uncertainty surrounding it. In any case, it will be seen that the manuscripts consulted here offer ample information about the Bab's exegetical concerns and method. Nevertheless, a brief description of the manuscripts of the tafsír on the second juz' is offered here.

B.L. 5277

MacEoin was apparently unaware that B.L. 5277 is in fact a manuscript of the second part of al-baqara. It is in the hand of Ridwán `Alí, dated "Thursday 29 July 1897" corresponding to 26 Safar 1315 (f.163b). It is not a commentary on the complete second juz' which begins at 2:142 and ends at 2:252, but goes only as far as 2:214. It is bound with B.L. 5276, which is a manuscript by the same scribe, of the first juz'. Of B.L. 5277, ff.1b-9b is something of an introduction; the commentary proper begins at the bottom of 9b with the citation of 2:142 and ends at f.163a. On f.1b, above the basmala is written: al-jild al-thání min sharh súrat al-baqara. The first lines of the introduction read: al-hamdu li-lláh al-ladhí bi-'amrihi talajlajat al-láhútíyát bi-kaynúníyátihá la-há bi-há ilay-há. At f.7a we read: "You who look to these comments (al-ishárát)! Know that the Qur'an has an unlimited number of degrees (marátib) [of interpretation]. Nay, rather at any moment there may be for any given letter of it a variety of explanations according to the diversity obtaining in the kingdom of command and creation (malakút al-amr wa'l-khalq)." It is not known whether this is being addressed to a specific person, or serves simply as a general statement. In any case, this introduction is included in the next manuscript.

B.N. 6610

MacEoin expressed doubt about the description of B.N. 6610 as being the second part of the commentary.[241] This manuscript includes a number of works, but at f.184 b there begins in fact, a commentary on the second juz' of the Qur'an which covers 2:142 to 2:222, exceeding by a few verses the scope of the above manuscript. The colophon (f. 390b) gives the date of 22 Ramadán 1330 [5 September 1912] and Cyprus as the place where it was copied. The scribe signs himself as "Saint John" a name obviously adopted by Ridwán `Alí, inasmuch as the writing seems to be unmistakably his. Many of the Qur'an passages are rubricated. Ff. 184b-191b is an introduction identical with the one found in Or. 5277. The commentary proper begins on f. 194a ad 2:142, the last verse to be commented upon, 2:222, is found on f.390a.

B.N. 5805

B.N. 5805 is similar to B.L. 5277. It is transcribed by Ridwán `Alí and dated Thursday, 1 September 1897, Larnaca. The first line is of some interest: al-jild al-thání min tafsír bátin al-bátin min súrat al-baqara min al-Qur'án. Such an opening is obviously conditioned by the above account from the Taríkh-i jadíd. The commentary on 2:142, the first verse of the second juz', begins on f. 10b, and the last verse to be commented upon (2:214, as above) is found on f.178b. The commentary is preceded by the above-mentioned Introduction.

In addition to these three manuscripts, a commentary on the first two verses of the second juz' is found in the Majmú`ah described below. However, there is no introductory material, the commentary being introduced only with: qad anshá' `alayhi al-salám li'l-juz' al-thání min al-Qur'án (p.377). The actual commentary appears to be identical with the material found in the above three manuscripts. The introductory sentence seems to imply that the Bab began this part of the commentary but never completed it.

Manuscripts Consulted for this Study

Four photocopies of manuscripts of the commentary on the first full juz' of the Qur'an have been used for this study: numbers 1 and 9 above, a privately published (xerox) in a limited edition, and the aforementioned incomplete Leiden manuscript. For the most part, these manuscripts agree remarkably with one another; a few major differences will be referred to in due course.

[1] Cambridge Browne F8. (C) This manuscript was described by Browne in 1892. Browne acquired a copy in 1890 through a Captain Young from Subh-i Azal. The manuscript is one of several which were copied in Iran, presumably for Browne himself. It consists of 110 folios, measuring 19 x 11.5 centimetres, with nineteen lines per page.[242] It contains a short commentary on the Fátiha (ff. 2b-3a), and the commentary on all the verses of al-Baqara up to verse 141, in other words, the first juz' of the Qur'an. It is the least "pietistic" of the four manuscripts used here, in that it rarely makes use of such doxographical formulae as al-salám `alayhi after the name of `Alí or other holy figures, although the abbreviation for this, an independent `ayn, frequently appears.

[2] Tehran Bahá'í archives 6014.C. (Baq.) This manuscript consists of 296 pp. of very legible script, seventeen lines per page. It has been reproduced as an appendix to this thesis. There is no indication of the date it was copied. In addition to covering the Fátiha and verses 1-141 of al-baqara, it contains an introduction (pp.1-6) important for establishing the date of its original composition by the Bab:

O my God! Thou knowest that on the evening before I began this book I saw, in a dream, the Holy Land (ard al-muqaddas, i.e., Karbalá') come bit by bit before my house and rise in the air and stand immobile. From there came the news of the death of the great scholar, my teacher (mu`allamí, i.e. Sayyid Kázim Rashtí). I told a few people of my dream before this news had otherwise reached them.[243]

Sayyid Kázim died on the 11th of Dhú'l-Hijja 1259/ 2-3 January 1844.[244] It is likely therefore, that the Bab began this commentary sometime near this date. The last page of the manuscript indicates that the commentary was written without interruption (mutawálíyan), and gives the date of completion as Dhú'l-Hijja 1260 [i.e, December 1844]. This is probably a scribal error. The other manuscripts described here give no dates of any kind. The Princeton manuscript mentioned above, agrees curiously with the date given here.[245] It is not of course impossible that this date is correct, but it seems very unlikely. Three of the manuscripts examined by MacEoin give the date of completion as Muharram 1260 [Jan.-Feb. 1844].[246] Given the importance of the year 1260 in Bábí history, it may have been that preoccupation with this year led to its being unconsciously reproduced by the copyists of both manuscripts. This problem requires further research.

[3] This item (henceforth I) is part of a compilation of a limited edition of privately published works of the Bab entitled Majmú`ah-yi áthár-i Hazrat-i A`lá, #69, published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Iran, 133 Badí`/1976. It is not really an edition, but rather a collection of handwritten copies of various works by the Bab xeroxed and bound for limited distribution. The Tafsír is found on pp.156-377. Other short tafásír may be found in this volume as well.[247]

[4] Leiden Arabic ms. Or. 4971.[248] (L) This item apparently originated in Shiraz and contains several separate works of the Bab, one of which (#8) is part of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. MacEoin has described the history of the Leiden Bábí collection in his Sources, and basing himself on Browne's description of these Arabic manuscripts said that this fragment contains only the portion of the commentary from verses 70-94.[249] An examination of the manuscript shows, however, that it contains most of the commentary from verses 34-136, or approximately one half of the work. Furthermore, the manuscript is in a very clear naskh and is fully vowelled, adding greatly to its value. Beyond this, the handwriting is the same as that found in item #9 of the same collection, which is a manuscript of the Bab's Sahífa bayn al-haramayn, dated Jumádá II 1263/May 1847, indicating that it is probably the oldest copy of the work extant. The pagination adopted for reference to this manuscript is that of a xerox copy made from a microfilm (pp.1-27).

Part i: Chapter 1


The heart of all Shí`ism centers on the strong veneration of the first Imám, `Alí ibn Abí Tálib as the guardian, protector, and friend of those who have acknowledged his true station as the immediate successor of the Prophet Muhammad. For this reason he is known as walí, and the quality of this authority is waláya. There is in Shí`ism no notion more fundamental than this. The study of this commentary by the Bab begins, therefore, with an examination of the way in which the subject of waláya is treated. It will be seen, perhaps not surprisingly, that the idea was just as central to the Bab's thought, as it is to Shí`ism in general. It will be seen that belief is conditioned by the degree to which one accepts the waláya of `Alí, and after him the Imáms, to the extent that a deed, no matter how meritorious, is unacceptable unless it has been performed by one who has fully confessed the truth of this waláya. Moreover, this waláya has existed from eternity, much like the so-called "Muhammadan light", and numbers among those who have recognized it the prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. As an eternal principle, it remains an imperative for all men at all times; through acceptance or rejection of this spiritual authority, man determines the fate of his soul.

The radical interpretation of several passages in the Súrat al-baqara as speaking directly to the subject of waláya is not an innovation of the Bab's, but has characterized a strong tendency in Shí`í exegesis from the earliest times. What is of interest here is that such a commentary was written by one who was not a member of the ulama class, but rather a young merchant. The nature of the commentary shows that there was a need to reassert or "revalorize" this cardinal Shí`í doctrine. Why such a need was felt at this particular time and within the Iranian merchant class, has been discussed at length by scholars concerned with the social history of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Iran. The following description will illustrate the degree to which this need was felt, and the consequences it had for the interpretation of scripture.


The subject of waláya is introduced very early in the tafsír where reference is made to the Absolute Waláya (waláyatuhu al-mutlaqa) of `Alí, although the statement is not free of ambiguity. The statement comes in the course of the Bab's commentary on the second verse of the Fátiha: Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds. The verse is said to be the book (kitab) of `Alí, in which God has placed all the principles (ahkám) of Absolute Waláya pertaining to it. It is called here, the Paradise of the Inclusive Unity (jannat al-wáhidíya), whose protection has been reserved for all those who affirm `Alí's waláya.[250]

In this very brief statement certain important terms are introduced, which play a key role throughout the rest of the tafsír. Apart from the word waláya (guardianship, friendship), the designation wáhidíya recurs over and over again throughout the work. It appears to be descriptive of one of the degrees of divinity which constitute the whole hierarchical metaphysical structure of the world. It is the degree immediately inferior to the divine Exclusive Unity (ahadíya). This hierarchy will be discussed at length in a separate chapter. Suffice it here to say that the Absolute Waláya represents a theoretical position, at least one remove from the Ultimate.

The choice of the word principles (ahkám) has several connotations. In his short introductory sentence to the tafsír on the Fátiha, the Bab characterizes this opening chapter of the Qur'an as containing seven clear verses (ayát muhkamát). The hermeneutic polarities of mutashábihát/muhkamát represent one of the oldest concerns of tafsír in general, and have been the cause of much speculation on the part of exegetes of all schools and attitudes. The primary idea is that the Qur'an contains both ambiguous and unambiguous verses. At the most basic level these are thought to be divided between straightforward legal prescriptions and the rest of the Book.[251] So understood, the designation of the verses of the Fátiha as unambiguous, strongly suggests that the Bab read them as having a positive and binding relationship with a true understanding of the Book. Seen in this light, his statement that verse 2 concerns the Absolute Waláya of `Alí must be taken as divine law, binding upon the believer in the same way as legal prescriptions for the terms of inheritance, or even prayer and fasting, are obligatory.[252]

At verse 3, the subject of Absolute Waláya is once again introduced. Here the quranic statement those who perform the prayer is said by the Bab to imply general obedience (al-idh`án) to Muhammad and his Trustees (awsiyá) and his progeny (nabt) through the Most Great Absolute Waláya (al-waláyat al-mutlaqa al-kubrá).[253] While in the previous statement this Absolute Waláya was linked with `Alí alone, here it includes all of the Imáms. In the same section waláya is identified with tawhíd, the affirmation of the divine unity. The Bab says that the act of prayer "from beginning to end" is the "form of affirming divine uniqueness" (súrat al-tafríd), the "temple (haykal) of tawhíd", and the "shape (shabah) of waláya".[254] This being the case, only the actual bearers[255] of waláya are able to perform it properly because it is the foremost (awwal) station of distinction between Beloved (mahbúb, i.e., God) and the lover (habíb, in this case Muhammad and the Imáms). The Family of God are the true bearers of the meaning of the divine love mentioned in the famous hadíth qudsí: "I was a hidden treasure and desired to be known, therefore I created mankind in order to be known." This love (mahabba) was manifested (tajallá) by God to them by means of their own selves (la-hum bi-him), to such a degree of exclusivity that this divine love subsists only through them, and pure servitude appears only in them.[256]

The Bab continues to say that the Family of God (ál alláh) is the location (maháll) of all servitude and all lordship (`ubúdíyát and rubúbíyát), implying that it is through their act of servitude that they have been invested with the rank of lordship in relation to others. Whoever then, confesses the truth of their waláya in the "region of servitude" (suq` al-`ubúdíya), has in fact performed the prayer according to all the stations of the Merciful One. And he who performs the prayer and "lifts the 'veils of glory' and enters the glorious house (bayt al-jalál), such a one will dwell under the protection (zill) of their waláya."[257]

At 2:24, one of the tahaddí or "challenge" verses, Absolute Waláya is explained negatively, as not being acknowledged by those who were challenged to bring a súra comparable to those in the Qur'an.[258] In short, those guilty of kufr (disbelief), are all those who have failed to recognize the Absolute Waláya of `Alí. Inasmuch as these unbelievers are said to be those who have been given the love of Abú Bakr (mahabbat al-awwal) which is in fact a Fire ,[259] it seems that "absolute" refers not first of all to any philosophical or metaphysical absoluteness, but rather to exclusivity. That is, true waláya cannot be shared during a given period of time. In this connection, it may be added that there appears to be no difference in the quality of the waláya born by any of the Imáms. At verse 60, the water which gushed forth from the rock at twelve different places after Moses struck it with his staff, is said to represent the waláya of all the Imáms. The Bab says that although the water issued from these various places, it was in fact the same water.[260]


A cognate notion of Absolute Waláya is the Waláya of God, waláyat al-haqq. It is first encountered at 2:34, which is, one of the longer commentaries on an individual verse in the tafsír. Explaining the command of God to the angels: Bow yourselves to Adam !, the Bab says that the esoteric interpretation (tafsír al-bátin) understands the speaker of the command to be not God but Muhammad, while the angels are the seeds of all created things (dharr al-ashyá' fí mashhad al-úlá), a reference to the yawm al-mitháq [7:172].[261] The act of prostration is the confession of servitude to the waláya of God, which is equated with allegiance to `Alí, and the disavowal of all else.

Adam, furthermore, is none other than `Alí, and Iblís is none other than Abú Bakr. At this level the waláya is also characterized as the waláya of the Exclusive Unity belonging to `Alí (waláyat al-ahadíya li-`Alí). The entire drama, it should be emphasized, occurs in pre-existence. Thus Abú Bakr (almost always referred to as Abú al-Dawáhí "Father of Iniquities") is the symbol of primordial kufr, just as `Alí is the symbol of primordial ímán. The angels as mentioned above, are taken as the seeds or potential of all created things destined to develop into actuality. They are also referred to as the pre-existent forms (ashbáh) and the shadows (azilla).

The primordial drama had its historical re-enactment or analogue on the day of al-Ghadír when Muhammad appointed `Alí as his successor. At that time the angels were Salmán, al-Jundub and al-Miqdad, the stalwart supporters of `Alí.[262]

At verse 62, the term Absolute Waláya is associated with the entire Family of God, because they are sanctified servants who do nothing of their own wills, but rather the will of God.

Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabaeans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness - - their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. [2:62]

The works of righteousness mentioned in this verse therefore are described as being all included in the act of recognizing (i`tiráf) their Absolute Waláya, and their wage awaits them with `Alí. In the context of the verse itself, the suggestion is that even non-Muslims are implicated in the reponsibility of recognizing `Alí. This may offer a further indication of the way in which "absolute" (mutlaqa) is to be understood. It should be noted that the last phrase of the verse is repeated at 10:62 ,where it is specifically the "friends of God" (awliyá' alláh) who will neither grieve nor sorrow.[263]

At verse 83, the term Universal Waláya occurs.

And when We took compact the Children of Israel: 'You shall not serve any save God; and to be good to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy; and speak good to men, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms.' then you turned away, all but a few of you, swerving aside.

The Bab says that God is speaking about Histaking compact with all created things in the eight paradises, to recognize the waláya of `Alí.[264] The first of these paradises is the Depth of Unity (lujjat al-wahda), and is characterized by the command: You shall not serve any save God "without any reference".[265] In the second paradise the compact was taken by means of recognizing the Universal Waláya (al-waláyat al-kullíya) of the parents , i.e., Muhammad and `Alí who are respectively, the symbols of universal fatherhood and motherhood. Such recognition, the Bab says, is in reality the good mentioned in the verse, because to do good means to do good to all according to what each merits. The good which these particular parents deserve has only been hinted at, because were the Bab to openly (bi'l-tasríh) describe it, the prattlers (mubtilún) would doubt it.[266]

Throughout the tafsír there are numerous statements which indicate that the Absolute Waláya is in fact the same as waláya per se. The following presents, in as systematic a form as possible, the various aspects of this all-important notion and includes material related to the ideas of Prophethood (nubúwa), Messengership (risála), Trusteeship (wasíya) and Leadership (imáma).


The idea that waláya can be either true or false may be traced to the Qur'an itself. In such verses as 8:73, for example, reference is made to the unbelievers who are friends (awliyá') of one another, or 62:6 where the Jews are criticized for their claim to be the friends of God, apart from other men . The two opposing groups, hizb Alláh [5:56] and hizb al-Shaytán [58:19], represent a basic division which provides at least theoretical support for the ideas presented in this tafsír. This distinction between two fundamentally opposed groups is most evident in Medinese súras and has been seen to be related to the different concerns which faced the Prophet after his departure from Mecca, where waláya was purely God-oriented.[267]

The figure of `Alí is presented as the bearer, par excellence, of this True Waláya, although it has already been emphasized that the quality of this waláya is not changed, regardless of who its (rightful) bearer might be. As we have seen, True Waláya, or the Waláya of God (waláyat al-haqq), had its beginning in pre-eternity, or pre-existence when the dharr of all things were commanded to acknowledge the authority of `Alí. It was also at this time that its opposite, the Waláya of the False One (waláyat al-bátil) acquired potential existence. Just as `Alí is the bearer of the True Waláya, Abú Bakr is seen as the bearer of False Waláya.

Such a statement is of course indicative of the milieu in which the Bab was writing. It is remarkable that this kind of denigration of important Sunní personalities is absent from the Bab's Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, written shortly after this commentary. The theme is an old and definitive one in Shí`í literature, and should be viewed as a standard element of religious vocabulary, and one which lends concrete and immediate meaning to various passages in the Qur'an read in this Shí`í milieu. Akhbárí Qur'an interpretation took for granted the perfidy of the first three Caliphs, as did other schools of Shí`í exegesis. By repeating such things, then, the Bab is no more than a child of his time and place.

One of the earliest occurrences of the idea of False Waláya is at verse 58:

And when We said, 'Enter this township, and eat easefully of it wherever you will, and enter in at the gate, prostrating, and say, Unburdening; We will forgive you your transgressions, and increase the good-doers.' [2:58]

Because the commentary on this verse contains several typical and significant elements, and because it is relatively concise, it is reproduced here in its entirety.[268]

That which is intended (wa'l-murád) bytownship is the depth of the Exclusive Unity and the gate (báb) is `Alí.[269]

Verily the Messenger of God has said: "I am the city of knowledge and `Alí is its gate."[270]

God commanded all people (ahl al-imkán wa'l-akwán) toenter the township of the sign of nubúwa of Muhammad through allegiance to `Alí (bi-waláyat `Alí) prostrating to God and magnifying Him and saying at the time of their confession of the waláya of `Alí "Unburdening" (hittatun). That is to say: "[Give us] freedom (bará'atun) from allegiance to the First (waláyat al-awwal) and his followers, may God curse them."

We will forgive you your transgressions resulting from allegiance to the False One (waláyat al-bátil) and we will increase foryou the knowledge (ma`rifa) of the secrets (asrár) of `Alí . . . And the Muslim is the one who submits, with his whole being, to him (`Alí).

God has put in all created things a sign (áya) of His own self (`an nafsihi) and a city (madína) of His prophet(`an nabíhi). And He fashioned the form of `Alí with His hand at (`alá) the gate of the city. And He commanded those who attain [the gate] to prostrate to him through the removal of veils and and allusions (bi-kashf al-subuhát wa'l-ishárát) and to enter through this gate by renouncing all but him (`Alí).

He who obeys his Lord in these indications (ishárát) is the one who says Unburdening. And verily God will forgive him to the extent that His knowledge encompasses [the sin of the one who says Unburdening ] and He willincrease , through His power, his potential as much as such is possible in the contingent world.[271] There is no ceasing of the bounty of God. And he who enters through this gate the Merciful will permit him whatever he wants.[272] And to the grace of God there is no cease. And in this gate he wants only what the Merciful wants. And therefore, at the time of the Will, the object of the Will is founded, without rupture (bi-lá fasl). That is one of the bounties of God upon the good-doers.

The Imám al-Báqir said: "We are the gate of your repentance/forgiveness (hittatikum)."[273]

[The Bab:] I testify that they [all the Imáms] are the gate of repentance in all the worlds. And we submit to them.[274]

The implications that this passage has for an understanding of the Bab's appropriation of the title "Gate" will be explored in Part ii. It is clear from this interpretation, however, that False Waláya pertains not only to what the Shí`a considers to have been the tragic turn in the history of Islam, but that it has implications for the inner life of the soul. Here the reference to Abú Bakr is read as a convenient symbol or hypostatization of the otherwise abstract idea of misdirected belief.

The next specific mention of the False Waláya appears at verse 61. This verse is one of the few which the Bab quotes in sections. The commentary in question occurs at the third and final section:

Get you down to Egypt; you shall have there that you demanded.' And abasement and poverty were pitched upon them, and they were laden with the burden of God's anger; that, because they had disbelieved the signs of God and slain the prophets unrightfully; that, because they disobeyed, and were transgressors. [2:61c]

When the people of the depth of the Inclusive Unity accepted that which was meaner than the most exalted land (balad al-a`lá), God cast them down [>Get you down ] from the depth of the waláya to the Egypt of contingency.

And abasement of allusions (ishárát) and poverty of limitations (hudúdát) were pitched upon them. They merited [only] the False Waláya (waláya bátila) [at the time of] the Origination (bi-ibdá`) of the waláya of truth because they disbelieved in the waláya of `Alí, the Origin of all signs. Whoever disbelieves in his waláya, disbelieves in the signs of the Exclusive Unity and the tokens of the Inclusive Unity and the stations of nubúwa. It is because of this disbelief thatthey killed the prophets wrongfully. Because God made all the Prophets as rays of the sign of His walí, he who rejects his waláya has, at the time of such rejection, in fact killed the prophets. [275]

Such a statement transposes the whole Sunní/Shí`í polemic, in which the first three caliphs suffer so much derision, to a metaphysical register quite beyond, though not necessarily excluding, the concerns of communalism. The "historical location" of the events referred to in 2:61c is meaningful for the Bab insofar as it permits him to speak about more fundamental spiritual issues. By use of the term "inclusive unity", it would appear that False Waláya here does not represent pure unalloyed evil; rather, it is seen as a lesser unity. And, it was because the "people of the inclusive (or restricted) unity" themselves desired a lower station, that they were cast out by God from the true waláya into the "Egypt of the contingent world" (misr al-imkán). Thus, they brought upon themselves those afflictions mentioned in the verse.

False Waláya is further indicated at verse 67, which the Bab has divided in two for the purposes of his commentary. Here the Qur'an tells the story of Moses leading the Children of Israel through the wilderness. In particular, it tells of the rebelliousness of those who were given certain commandments by God through Moses. The specific command is to sacrifice a cow, and the episode itself is the subject of several successive verses. An excerpt from this commentary follows the citation of the entire verse.

And when Moses said to his people, 'God commands you to sacrifice a cow.' They said, 'Dost thou take us in mockery?' He said, 'I take refuge with God, lest I should be one of the ignorant.' [2:67]

When God commanded Muhammad to communicate to the people of the contingent world [the order to] sacrifice the things and affairs of the self (al-shu'únát wa'l-atwár al-nafsáníya) and to turn their backs (idbár) from the False Waláya which is the cow, he communicated [it] on the eighteenth day of the month of pilgrimage what he was commanded to [communicate] by his Lord. [276]

The Bab then cites a portion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, which represents for him a re-enactment of the basic theme of the verse.[277] The implication here is that while the verse in one of its intentions, actually refers to the history of Moses, its more important significance should be seen in connection with the so-called salvation history of the Shí`a. In this way, history itself is seen to be unified. The celebrated passage is:

Whoever I am the master of [The Bab adds here: 'in the worlds of unity (`awálim al-wahda)'] then this man `Alí is his master (mawláhu). O God, befriend him who befriends him and be an enemy to him who is enemy to him. Assist to victory who assists him to victory, and abandon (khadala) him who abandons him.[278]

Because of the ambiguity of the word mawlá, it was possible to understand the statement as translated above. So understood, this passage has been cited by the Shí`a from the earliest times as a proof-text for their claims.[279]

Waláya is that by which man's distinctive faculty of choice (ikhtiyár), is exercised. In this respect, all men, it would appear, are created equal. Several verses are interpreted by the Bab as upholding this principle, for example his commentary on the following:

So woe to those who write the Book with their hands, then say, 'This is from God,' that they may sell it for a little price; so woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for their earnings. [2:79]

Here the Bab says that all created things werewriting "the excellence (fadl) of `Alíwith their hands "by means of what they chose for themselves". At some point, however, certain ones abandoned the Exclusive Unity of the waláya of `Alí and broughtwoe upon themselves by writing his "excellence" (fadl) with their own hands. That is, they distorted his excellence by ascribing it to someone else; the waláya of `Alí, for having been acknowledged but rejected by them, will destroy them. This is the meaning ofselling for a little price. On the other hand, those who remained in this Exclusive Unity continued to benefit from this fadl. Woe (al-wayl) is itself a direct reference to the False Waláya, and the fact that it is mentioned three times refers to the sucessive caliphates of "the First, Second, and Third".[280] Here it is clear that the False Waláya is not restricted to one personality, but like the Absolute Waláya, it represents an enduring principle. The following passages present the same "dangerous" aspects of the waláya of `Alí. In the first example it is characterized as a punishment:

And they say, 'The Fire shall not touch us save a number of days.' [2:80a]

Those who love the false waláya have indeed worshipped the calf (al-`ijl). And they say, 'The Fire shall not touch us that is (ay) the waláya of `Alí,save a number of days during the lifetime of the Messenger of God.[281]

This refers to the duplicity of those who accepted the Prophet's nomination of `Alí at Ghadír Khumm, only to renege later. Among them, according to Shí`í tradition, was `Umar himself:

Among those who were profuse in their congratulations on his position was `Umar b. al-Khattáb. He gave a public appearance of great joy at it, saying: "Bravo, bravo, `Alí, you have become my master and the master of every believing man and woman."[282]

The subject arises again in the commentary on the following verse:

When there has come to them a Messenger from God confirming what was with them, a party of them that were given the Book reject the Book of God behind their backs, as though they knew not. [2:101]

This verse is interpreted as referring to Muhammad's bringing the imperative of "servitude to his self" (bi'l-`ubúdíya li-nafsihi) in the realm of timeless Origination, which confirms not only that which iswith you, but "that which came before and that which will come after you". However, a party of those to whom God had given the "possibility of shining by following the waláya of `Alí", reject the Book of his waláya "behind" the False Waláya.[283]

At verse 102, the Bab makes a series of comments relevant to the frequently encountered notions of Exclusive and Inclusive Unity. Here the terms are seen to refer to True and False Waláya respectively. It is interesting that in this way, even False Waláya has some positive aspects.

Solomon disbelieved not, but the Satans disbelieved, teaching the people sorcery, and that which was sent down upon Babylon's two angels, Harut and Marut; they taught not any man, without they said, 'We are but a temptation; do not disbelieve.' From them they learned how they might divide a man and his wife, yet they did not hurt any man thereby, save by the leave of God, and they learned what hurt them, and did not profit them, knowing well that whoso buys it shall have no share in the world to come; evil then was that which they sold themselves for, if they had but known. [2:102b]

And that which was sent down upon Babylon's two angels, Harut and Marut; they learned, from the two , how they might divide a man and his wife, is an allusion to the one who abides in the land of the Two Gulfs (i.e., `Alí: wáqif fí ard al-tatanjayn), because it is he who understands [the relationship between] the Exclusively Unitary Lordship and the servitude of the self.[284] Yet they, i.e., the people of the Inclusive Unity, did not harm in the place (mash`ar) where the perception of his Lord occurs,[285] namely through the waláya ofany one of the Infernal Imáms, save by the leave of God, that is (ay) the waláya of `Alí.

And he who follows the waláya of the False One, has indeed learned what hurt him, from hating the Truth[286] and [that the only thing which] profits him (i.e., the only thing he gains) is Hell and the deprivation (hirmán) of the meeting with God.[287]

Some notice of the way the Bab introduces these comments is in order, inasmuch as they reveal something of the way he saw himself at this time.

As for the tafsír of this blessed verse, it is as profound as the profundity of Origination itself, glorifed be its Originator. And behold! I am the one who will explain its reality and wisdom.[288]


In the above discussion of False Waláya, the term Waláya of the First (waláyat al-awwal) was encountered. As mentioned above, this designation has a double reference. On the historical level, it alludes to the fact of Abú Bakr's acceptance of the caliphate upon the death of Muhammad, becoming thereby the first successor to the Prophet. In what Corbin calls the metahistorical dimension, we have already seen that this primacy also refers to the first act of disobedience at the time of the creation of Adam, when God commanded the angels to prostrate themselves before the first man. Taken in this sense, the figure of Abú Bakr acquires the features of a cosmic principle of rebelliousness to God's command, which puts him quite beyond the concerns of simple sectarian polemic.[289] In addition to these two aspects of the designation "First", the term carries with it a certain element of irony in that as a theological term, it is one of the recognized names (asmá') of God.[290] Furthermore, in normal discourse, it is used as a positive adjective of primacy in the sense of "foremost" or "most important". The word is used frequently in this last sense in the tafsír, as for example at verse 3, in the Bab's discussion of the ritual prayer (salát), where the Bab says that salát is the first or foremost station of distinction between God and the lover.[291]

By way of further clarification, the Bab discusses the quranic al-ákhira, which may be thought of as the opposite of al-awwal. At verse 4, the Bab says of the word Hereafter that it is in fact a designation of `Alí. His waláya is the thing that was revealed to Muhammad, and God has raised no prophet, nor revealed any book or command, except through the waláya of `Alí.[292] Thus it would appear to carry the idea of "I am the alpha and the omega.", with the emphasis here on omega.

One of the earliest allusions to the the waláya of the First, is found in the Bab's commentary at verse 24. This is one of the so-called tahaddí verses, in which those who doubt the divine source of Muhammad's revelation, are challenged to produce something comparable.

If you do not - and you will not - then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for unbelievers. [2:24]

Interestingly, the Bab shifts the reference away from the quranic challenge, and discusses the verse in the following terms:

God [here] speaks [akhbara] about their kufr [and His statement may be phrased this way]: "If you do not accept the depth of the Exclusive Unity in the potential aspect of your beings (imkánikum) then you will never recognize the absolute waláya of `Alí in the actualized aspect of your beings (akwánikum). Then fear [heed> attaqú] the Fire of the appeal (da`wa) of Husayn on the Day of `áshúra. And if you do not heed, God will make this retreat (idbár) theFire of the love of the First (mahabbat al-awwal), [and] whose fuel, is the Second (`Umar) and stones [will be] the Third (Uthmán). God has prepared the love (hubb) of these three for unbelievers .[293]

Although the word waláya is not used here, a substitute or related term "love" (mahabba,i.e., of the First), is clearly opposed to the idea of the Absolute Waláya of `Alí. The commentary on this verse also carries one of the earliest references to the related negative designations of the "Second" and the "Third", and illustrates one of the more frequent exegetical techniques used by the Bab, who many times exploits a series of substantives in order to more fully elaborate his theme. Here the Quranic Fire, fuel, and stones are each considered separately. Through the sin of ingratitude (kufr), love is transformed into an infernal flame. It is not clear whether the equating of `Umar withfuel, while Uthmán is associated with stones, represents a significant gradation. One of the more important aspects of this section of the Bab's commentary, is the establishment of the equivalence waláya/mahabba. Either term can be positive or negative, as in the case here of wrongly-directed love, which ultimately becomes Fire. Love as a synonym for waláya is of course not new with the Bab,[294] but it is important that this aspect of waláya be constantly kept in mind as a means of holding the other connotations of the term, such as "authority" and "power" in perspective.[295] It is this equivalence which led Corbin to state that Shí`ism is pre-eminently a religion of love.[296] This is a very large assertion and one which must be considered in the somewhat rarified context of Corbin's key sources. However, insofar as devotion to the waláya of the Imám represents, in essence, an act of love, the assertion stands. In the commentary immediately preceding this section, the idea of primal evil is also brought out.

And if you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our servant, then bring a súra like it, and call your witnesses, apart from God, if you are truthful. [2:23]

Doubt (rayb), we are told, is the quality of the First (sifat al-awwal) and his followers.[297] The verse is then paraphrased:

O those of you who are in doubt and non-recognition[298] concerning that which was sent down upon Our servant Muhammad touching the waláya of `Alí! [If you are in doubt] then search through all the contingent worlds. Is it possible that there is anyone equal to `Alí in the matter of the caliphate? If it is possible, then prove it through your witnesses (fa-`tarifú bi-shuhada'i-kum) from among those you have set up as signs of your Lord (áyát rabbikum) aside from `Alí, if you are truthful. [299]

At this commentary "love" is also associated with waláya. The Bab says:

None can attain to the Depth of the Exclusive Divine Unity (lujjat al-ahadíya) except by means of his (`Alí's) waláya. It is the goal (maqsúd) of your existence (wujúdi-kum), because God has made you for the sake (li-ajli) of this love (mahabba). And He has put His life (hayá) and His might (`izz) in it, to the extent that such is possible in the contingent world - if only you understood .[300]

At verse 27, the First is identified as the one who first broke the covenant of God (not in historical time but in primordial time), and as such has significance for the above-mentioned metahistorical dimension of sacred history.

Such as break the covenant of God after its solemn binding, and such as cut what God has commanded should be joined, and such as do corruption in the land - they shall be the losers. [2:27]

The Bab says that the phrase: those who broke the covenant refers to the covenant (`ahd) of Muhammad, concerning the signs of `Alí and was instituted in the world of al-ghayb.

These signs were placed within () the atoms (dharr) of the hearts [which represents] the station (maqám) of tawhíd, and [in] the atoms of the intellects [which represents] the level (rutba) of nubúwa, and [in] the atoms of souls [which represents] the abode of imáma, and [in] the atoms of the bodies [which represents] the place (mahall) of the love of the Shi`a after God imposed this solemn binding upon all created things [which is] faith in Muhammad, `Alí, Hasan, Husayn, Ja`far, Músá, and Fátima. They shall be the disbelievers (káfirún instead of khásirún, all mss.).[301]

The first who broke the covenant of God in the contingent world in all of its stations, from the sign of tawhíd to the last limit of multiplicity was Abú al-Dawáhí, may God curse him. He broke the covenant of God concerning His friends in the worlds ofal-ghayb and cut the waláya of `Alí in his visible manifestations (fí mazáhirihi, sic) namely the Imáms of the visible world (a'immat al-shaháda) . . .[302]

With this commentary we encounter another designation of Abú Bakr - Abú al-Dawáhí ("Father of Iniquities"). The Bab refers to the first Caliph this way throughout the commentary, just as `Umar is often called Abú al-Shurúr ("Father of Evils"). it is not likely that these derogatory names are inventions of the Bab, although I have not found them elsewhere.[303]

At verse 34, in one of the several brief citations of the famous Khutbat al-Shiqshiqíya which appear in the tafsír, the Khutba is quoted in connection with the Divine command to the angels to prostrate before Adam. All of the angels bowed except Iblís, "that is the First, and he is the one about whom `Alí said: 'Verily Ibn Abí Quháfa,' and he is Abú al-Dawáhí, 'assumed the mantle (la-qad taqammasahá)' [i.e., of the caliphate]"[304]. This Khutba is found in the canonical Nahj al-balágha and is referred to often by Shí`í writers and begins as follows:

By God! that man snatched the caliphate as if it were a garment which could be put on by him, while all the while he knew that my station was like that of the pivot (qutb) of the grinding stone.[305]

Although no name, apart from fulán is mentioned here, the statement is universally understood as referring to Abú Bakr, as `Abduh himself points out.[306] The Khutba continues to explain how the next two Caliphs wrongfully usurped `Alí's position and the reasons for which this was tolerated by the Imám. The title of the sermon is derived in the following way. `Alí's condemnation and lament was interrupted by the arrival of a messenger with a letter which `Alí then read, breaking off the address. After `Alí had read the letter, Ibn `Abbás asked him to resume his theme, at which the Imám replied: "In no way, in no way. It was like the foam on the camel's mouth (shiqshiqa) as it opens its mouth to bellow and then falls silent."[307]

The next mention of the First, occurs at verses 41 and 42, which are separated in the text by their respective commentaries, but are presented together here for convenience.

And believe in that which I have sent down, confirming that which is with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And sell not My signs for a little price; and fear you Me. [2:41] And do not confound the truth with vanity, and do not conceal the truth wittingly. [2:42]

The first [here postive] that was sent down from God was the sign of the Divine Ipseity (áyat húwíya). And it[308] is the sign of the waláya belonging to `Alí (li-`Alí). And it is this sign[309] which isconfirming [310]that which is with you through servitude to God.

And God placed the lifeless form[311] of this sign in all created things, for [effecting] faith thereby in order that he [the individual thing] might annihilate[312] and forget all things through its immortality (li-baqá'i-há) and its (the áya's) remembrance .

And he who turned away from it (a`rada `anhá), was the first to disbelieve in it [313] (waláya or áya). {And none in al-imkán but Abú al-Dawáhí, may the curse of God be upon him, turned away from it first . And for that reason, he becamethe first to disbelieve in him/it }.[314]

And God commanded His servants to be not (lá takúnú) like him, because whoever turns away from the sign of the Family of God becomes (fa-huwa) a sign of the First, and becomes [also] the first to disbelieve in it.[315]

And those who sell the signs of God by looking to other than the Family of God, have sold for a small price [which is the price of] the vision of waláya itself (or, the áya itself: bi-ru'yati nafsi-há).[316]

Verily he who accepts (al-rádí) immortality (baqá') in the stages (atwár) of the tamtám of the Inclusive Unity of the stations (maqámát) of Mercifulness, such a one has then sold the signs of the Exclusive Unity for the price of the Inclusive Unity. And this is [a] small [price].[317]

And Me (íyáya) is (ay) the depth (lujja) of the Exclusive Unity.

And fear ye [refers to the fact] that the servant will never perfect pious fear (taqwá) except when he is firmly established in the cloud (`amá) of the Eternal Refuge (al-samadíya). Otherwise, as long as he continues to travel throughout the atwár of the Inclusive Unity he will continue to abide (huwa al-wáqif) in the station of limitation (mash`ar al-hadd). And God has forbidden the People of Love (ahl al-mahabba) from this station (al-mawqif) with His statement fear you Me. [318]

The word of God (kalám al-haqq) is the creation (íjád) of the thing. And the Truth (al-haqq) is the waláya of `Alí and thevanity (al-bátil) is the waláya of the First. God commanded His servants: "Do not try to understand the sign of your own tawhíd by means of a quality of the contingent world (sifat al-imkán), nor be oblivious of the depth of the Exclusive Unity, wittingly ".

Verily, whatever is other than it, isvanity, while it is the truth and the ultimate goal of the bounty of the Lord (fayd al-rabb).

And the one who looks with other than the eye of God confounds truth with vanity and conceals the truth after God had taught him the waláya of `Alí, . . . Then how are you turned about (10:32).[319]

Another mention of the First, in connection with the topic of waláya, is at verse 51.

And when We appointed with Moses forty nights, then you took to yourselves the Calf after him and you were evildoers . [2:51]

Here Moses means Muhammad and theforty nights represent `Alí, who lived for "thirty years after the death of Muhammad" and the ten "Proofs" (hujaj). Together these eleven Imáms represent the period when "their glory was concealed by darkness of disbelief" (i.e, the forty nights ). The calf (al-`ijl) is none other than Abú al-Dawáhí. Finally, this darkness of disbelief will be relieved by the advent (zuhúr) of the Day of the Qá'im. "When God causes his amr to appear what I have only hinted at will clearly appear."[320]

Similar comments may be found throughout the tafsír, notably at 2:58, where the transgressions which God promises toforgive are precisely those resulting from the waláyat al-bátil. Here waláya would seem to mean the "act" of following the wrong Imám.[321] Reference is again made to the Khutbat al-shiqshiqíya in the commentary on 2:59, where the evildoers are those whosubstituted a saying (qawl) by following the one who wrongly "put on the mantle of the caliphate".[322] Here the Bab also invokes the Shí`í tahríf al-Qur'án tradition:

Abú Ja`far said: "Gabriel originally brought this verse to Muhammad in the following way: 'The evildoers substituted the right of the family of Muhammad with a statement which had not been said to them So We sent down upon those who perpetrated evil against the family of Muhammad wrath out of heaven for their ungodliness.'" [323]

This tradition is found in three of the four major akhbárí commentaries mentioned in the Introduction. Not only does its use here by the Bab indicate that our author probably consulted other commentaries while writing this one, but it presents a good example of the way in which akhbárí commentators bolstered their claim that "the Qur'an which we have in our hands is not the whole Qur'an".[324]

The commentary on verse 79 identifies the three separate mentions ofwoe (al-wayl) with the first three caliphs.[325] Elsewhere we are told that the refusal to recognize (inkár) the waláya of `Alí is accounted by God as "all transgressions". He who, in verse 81 is described as being encompassed by his transgression is in this condition because he earned "the waláya of the First". Similarly, the Fire of Hell is the subsequent "waláya of the Second."[326] To explain further this verse, the Bab quotes a hadíth from an anonymous Imám:

When they disputed the Imamate of the Commander of the Faithful those were the inhabitants of the Fire, there they shall dwell forever.[327]

The Bab then says:

And the secret of the thing I will now explain. It is that the Garden which the Merciful promised to His servants, to all others equally, [including] the Family of God, is the shadow of the body of Husayn.

And the seven hells are similarly for the First and his manifestation (mazhar). Verily God created them from the kufr of the body of al-Yazíd (sic) upon him be the curse and the chastisement.[328]

He who confesses to the waláya of`Alí will have entered the Ridwán, and he who rejects will have entered the Fires (al-nírán). And that is the order of things firmly established (taqdír mahtúm) by one Mighty, Wise. [329]

At the commentary on verse 85, we find another mention of these three.

Then there you are killing one another, and expelling a party of you from their habitations, conspiring against them in sin and enmity; and if they come to you as captives, you ransom them; yet their expulsion was forbidden you. What, do you believe in part of the Book, and disbelieve in part? What shall be the recompense of those of you who do that, but degradation in the present life, and on the Day of Resurrection to be returned unto the most terrible of chastisement? And God is not heedless of the things you do. [2:85]

And the addressee (al-mukhátab) is the First and his companions [with the meaning]: you killed the sign of `Alí, with what God placed in yourselves (anfusi-kum) after the Messenger of God had already taught you, "who of you knows best his self, is he who knows best his Lord" [330]

. . . But, you were conspiring against them with the polytheists by means of the waláya ofsin and enmity . And sin is the Second and enmity is the Third.

And if they come to you as captives - namely the people who do not know the Imám - you ransom them with the waláya of yourselves. And in the estimation of God, this has been forbidden (muharram)to you. Thusyou expelled them from the waláya of `Alí, after you had acquainted them with the nubúwa of Muhammad, for the sake of your own trusteeship (wisáya).

What, do you believe in some of the Book after God has already taught you that it (innahá = "false wisáya") is an accursed tree [17:60] in the Qur'án?[331]

And disbelieve in part after God had already taught you that in the Mother of the Book, with Us it/he is `alí indeed, wise. . . . [332]

And God is not heedless of the things you do in "donning the mantle" of waláya (qamís al-waláya) by usurping it for themselves.[333]

And they will meet with the justice of `Alí for their wrongdoing. He who veils anyone from the Remembrance of God, or the Remembrance of the Family of God, or the Remembrance of their Shí`a, then [?`Alí] will expel him from hishabitations, and his reward on the Day of Resurrection will be the most terrible chastisement, for what their hands have earned.[334] And God is not heedless of the things they do.

And verily al-Sádiq said, concerning the external (záhir) meaning, that this verse was sent down about Abú Dharr, may God be merciful to him, and `Uthmán.[335]

This hadíth deals only with the exoteric aspects (wa amru-hu záhirun), and this is not the place (al-maqám) forthe (full) revelation of its meaning (li-izhári amri-hi). The point is that the universal fundamental principles (qawá`idu kullíyatun) have rained down (tarashshaha) in this verse. The believer recognizes his (`Alí's) cause through these habitations (fí khilálí tilka al-diyár).[336]

Beginning at verse 90, a series of verses gives rise to comments in which the First, Second and Third are mentioned.

Evil is the thing they have sold themselves for, disbelieving in that which God sent down, grudging that God should send down of His bounty on whomsoever He will of His servants, and they were laden with anger upon anger; and for unbelievers awaits a humbling chastisement. [2:90]

Verily, those who desire the sign of the Inclusive Unity over the sign of the Exclusive unity: Evil is the thing they have sold themselves for, namely, that sign of the Lord which is intended in the statement "He who knows it, knows God".[337] Namely, that their polytheistic souls (bi-anfusi-him al-mushrikati) are the [collective] sign of the Infernal Caliphs (khulafá' al-nár). They call upon the armies of Satan[338] to disbelieve inwhat God has sent down concerning the waláya of `Alí, grudging stubbornly that which God sends down out of His bounty , that is, his (`Alí's) waláya,[339] on whomsoever He will . And the Lord wills only to send it down upon the Family of God [who are] His servants. As for the other one, if they want his waláya, they will be laden with anger that is the Second, upon anger, that is the Third, and for those who swerved from the waláya of `Alí, there awaits a humbling chastisement. And that is the waláya of the First.[340]

Abú Ja`far said: "Gabriel originally came down to the Messenger of God with this verse: 'Evil is the thing they have sold themselves for, that they disbelieve in what God has sent down concerning `Alí grudgingly."[341]

[The Báb:]

I testify that this is the intention (al-maqsúd) of these verses according to the Merciful, and exalted is God above what the polytheists say.


Enough examples have now been examined to support the following conclusions.

(1) Waláya is one of the major themes of the commentary.

(2) The radical interpretation of quranic passages as speaking directly to the subject of waláya has its roots in traditional Shí`í literature.

(3) The nature of the commentary on this theme exhibits certain features in common with the so-called ghulát. In this regard the following summary from the Kitáb al-irjá', written by the former leader of the Mukhtáríya, al-Hasan b. Muhammad ibn al-Hanafíya (99/717) is pertinent. Although the term ghulát is not used, the group is condemned for holding the following views:

1. The belief that religion meant allegiance to the house of `Alí, so that people ought to be loved or hated inasmuch as they were loyal or disloyal to that house (to which could be appendixed the excommunication (bara'a) of the opponents of `Alí among the sahába, especially the first three caliphs;

2. The belief that the Prophet hid (katama) nine tenths of the Qur'án and that they were guided to a new revelation (i.e., the claim that prophecy was possible after Muhammad);

3. The hope for a state that would be established in their favour in the future, in a general resurrection preceeding the Day of Judgement.[342]

While the second item is never stated in these terms in the Bab's tafsír, the several references to the corruption of the Qur'an, i.e., as when the Bab quotes a tradition that says "Gabriel came down with this verse thus", would seem to offer a functional parallel. The last, number 3, figures in the eventual claims of the Bab, but we have seen, particularly in the commentary on 2:51, that the establishment of the "sovereignty" (saltana) of the Qá'im is one of the themes of the commentary, as it is in so-called "orthodox" Shí`ism. It has been argued, however, that the belief in the return of hidden Imám was adopted as an "orthodox" doctrine by leading Shí`í scholars in the `Abbasid period, precisely because of the feeling that the interests of the Shí`a as a whole had been betrayed.[343]

The Shaykhís themselves were of course accused of ghuluww by their mostly usúlí adversaries.[344] It is interesting to note here that Shaykh Ahmad takes pains to disassociate his teaching on the subject of waláya from what the "hyperbolistes" (ghulát) say.[345] That the Bab himself was sensitive to such accusations may be seen in his citation of a hadíth from Báqir, the fifth Imám, which runs as follows:

O company of the Shí`a! Be a middle position (al-numruqat al-wustá so that the one who has gone beyond (al-ghálí) might return to you and the one who has lagged behind (al-tálí) might catch up with you.[346]

That such beliefs as those described above (and which inform much of akhbárí Qur'an commentary) were susceptible of being labled "extremist" is supported by the long section in Anwár, in which the charges of tafwíd and ghuluww (which might otherwise be levelled against the work) are discussed and explained.[347] Here the author says that those who occupy a "middle position" (al-numruqat al-wustá) are those who are able to appreciate the subtleties (daqá'iq) of his doctrine of the Imamate.[348] Appeal is made to the famous tradition in which the Prophet declared "The words of the family of Muhammad are exceedingly abstruse (sa`b mustas`ab). No one believes them except those angels who have been brought near, a sent prophet, or a servant whose heart has been tested by God." [349] This idea of the knowledge of the Imáms being "exceedingly difficult" is found in a very long hadíth quoted by the Bab in the course of his commentary on 2:27.[350] It is important to acknowledge these so-called ghuluww aspects of the Bab's tafsír, in order to better understand the kinds of conditions in which he wrote, conditions which ultimatley led to his own claim to imáma. It would appear that the Bab is more involved in an internal Shí`í debate, namely the one between the akhbárís and the usúlís, which by this time had become more of a Shaykhí/Bálá-sarí argument,[351] than a direct criticism of the Sunnís.

More pertinent to this study however, are the methods by which the Bab radicalized the meaning of the Qur'an on the issue of waláya. These include the exegetical tools of allegory and typology. A recent discussion of typology as a method of reading scripture appears to have implications for this study.[352] Although the main subject in this work is the typological interpretation of the New Testament as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the argument may be applied, with a few structural considerations, to general akhbárí Shí`í interpretation of the Qur'an. At bottom, the argument in Shí`í tafsír is the vindication of the claim of the Shí`a against the Sunnís, whereas in the case of the Bible, a similar argument was put forth by the authors of the New Testament against the Jews. The point to be made however would appear to be applicable in both cases.

Typology is a figure of speech that moves in time: the type exists in the past and the antitype in the present, or the type exists in the present and the antitype in the future. What typology really is as a mode of thought, what it both assumes and leads to, is a theory of history, or more accurately of historical process: an assumption that there is some meaning and point to history, and that sooner or later some event or events will occur which will indicate what that meaning or point is, and so become an antitype of what has happened previously.[353]

We have seen for example, how the Bab interpreted the events of the primordial Day of the Covenant, to support in however "extremist" terms, the central belief of orthodox Shí`ism, namely that `Alí's rightful position was usurped by Abú Bakr. In this and many other contexts, it might be argued that the Qur'an fulfills the function of Frye's Old Testament, while the akhbár of the Imáms represents the New Testament. This analogy is of course not perfect because of the many important differences between the respective elements. Furthermore, because the thrust of the Bab's commentary appears to be aimed not primarily at Sunní Islam the analogy is also erroneous. Given however, the course which future Bábism was to take as a result of acknowledging the return of the Qá'im in the person of the Bab, Frye's argument seems even more compelling.

Typology points to future events that are often thought of as transcending time, so that they contain a vertical lift as well as a horizontal move forward. The metaphorical kernel of this is the experience of waking up from a dream . . . When we wake up from sleep, one world is simply abolished and replaced by another. This suggests a clue to the origin of typology: it is essentially a revolutionary form of thought and rhetoric. We have revolutionary thought whenever the feeling "life is a dream" becomes geared to an impulse to waken from it.[354]

The similarities between the themes described above in the Bab's tafsír, with those ascribed to the members of the Mukhtaríya or Kaysaníya would supports Frye's insight. In addition, because the figure of the Qá'im is interpreted in places by the Bab as a purely esoteric principle,[355] Frye's allusion to a "vertical" dimension of typological exegesis is also apposite.

Because of the centrality of the idea of waláya in this work, it was thought advisable to treat it at such length. The inclusion of the many direct quotations also provides several important examples of the actual method of exegesis employed by the Bab, one which would be shortly abandoned in favour of a much more radical and innovative approach to scripture.

With this survey of the use of the term waláya in the Bab's commentary on the first juz' of the Qur'an, it is possible to identify the Bab's thinking on this subject only partly with the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim, which represent a kind of akhbárí synthesis of several intellectual and spiritual tendencies.[356] But it is certainly not possible to say that the Bab depended upon Shaykhí works for the main thrust of his argument, which would appear to be as old as Islam itself. It would be interesting to compare this view of waláya with that of Shaykh Ahmad's older Persian contemporary, Núr `Alí-Shah, whose writings on the subject seems to be much less "Shí`í" than the former's, although there are certain common features shared between the two.[357] Such a comparison would probably further explain Shaykh Ahmad's great popularity in Iran.

As Landolt has pointed out, the term walí may mean friend, helper, superior, guardian, and that in basic legal theory it designates the primary heir. We see all of these aspects of the word as it is applied by the Bab to `Alí, and by extension, the other Imáms. The legal idea of primary heir is one of the more interesting in this regard, and may be seen reflected not only in statements made by the Bab, but also in the hadíth literature itself. One of the more striking features of the above material is the delineating of False Waláya as a polar opposite of the True Waláya. As has been noted, this idea is not a creation of the Bab and may be traced to the earliest hadíth collections and the Qur'an itself (e.g., 4:76) where the world is divided into two major groups: those who do battle in the way of God, and those who do battle in the way of Idols (sabíl al-Tághút), the friends of Satan (awliyá al-Shaytán).[358]

The position of walí as a kind of "intercessor" for those too weak to act in their own behalf in matters of inheritance, and presumably other legal matters,[359] is one which is also reflected in those traditions quoted by the Bab in which, for example, Paradise is the reward of those whose walí is `Alí.

Waláya was the central fact of meaning in the Bab's universe, which was of course, a religious one. It is because of, or by means of waláya, that God communicates with creation, if not that principle because of which and by means of which creation is "creation". In the following section there will be occasion to further nuance the meaning of waláya, in the course of describing the hierarchical world of which the Bab writes. In particular, we will be interested to study the relationship between the categories of nubúwa and waláya. It will also be seen how waláya continues to figure to the utmost degree in the various hierarchies found throughout the tafsír, and in the process of manifestation (tajallí). This process was for the Shaykhís and the Bab, not to mention several of their predecessors, the solution par excellence of the transcendence versus immanence controversy.

Part i: Chapter 2

Hierarchies -1 (Tetrads)

One of the distinctive features of the Bab's commentary on the second súra of the Qur'an is his frequent recourse to tiering various key concepts over a range of levels or grades resulting in a kind of spiritual hierarchy. In this chapter and the next, several examples these hierarchies will be examined in an attempt to trace any influences their use indicates and, more importantly, to determine the meaning these various structures held for the Bab and perhaps those who were likely to come into contact with his work. As mentioned, some of the immediate influences on the Bab come from the Shaykhí synthesis of several different types of Islamicate theosophical expression. There were possibly other factors which contributed to the representations found in this tafsír, after all Shíráz has been a major centre of Sufi activity for centuries. In addition, the Shaykhí school derived a good deal of its symbology and terminology from the great masters Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi, Ibn `Arabí and Mullá Sadrá. Shaykhism also shows traces of less well-known figures such as Ibn Abí Jumhur and Rajab Bursí. Elements of Ismá`ilí thought will also be identified.

The major hierarchies in the Bab's commentary are either tetrads or heptads, with as shall be seen, some modifications. In order to come to terms with these structures, it will be helpful to become acquainted with their counterparts in the writings of the first two masters of the Shaykhí school, Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í and Sayyid Kázim Rashtí. Relevant works by these two authors have fortunately been studied by Henry Corbin, and the following remarks pertaining to them are in large measure derived from Corbin's analysis. Inasmuch as the hierarchy which employs four elements may be seen as the basis for the heptad it will be discussed first, although in the Bab's commentary the first hierarchy presented consists of seven elements.

The starting place for this discussion is three traditions ascribed to the fourth Imám, `Alí Zayn al-`Abidín (94/712-13); the fifth Imám, al-Báqir (113/731-2); and the sixth Imám, al-Sádiq (148/765). The first one carries a conversation between the Imám and his disciple Jábir ibn Yazíd al-Ju`fí, in which the Imám mentions seven articles of faith the understanding of which is necessary for the believer. These articles are: [1] al-tawhíd; [2] al-ma`ání; [3] al-abwáb; [4] al-imáma; [5] al-arkán; [6] al-nuqabá'; [7] al-nujabá'.[360] In this discussion, however, we are concerned only with the first four articles, the remaining three will be dealt with in the chapter on heptads.

The second hadíth is in the form of a conversation between the fifth Imám, Muhammad al-Báqir and his disciple, Jábir al-Ansárí:

Báqir said: "O Jábir! Upon you be al-bayán and al-ma`ání. " Jábir said: "And what is al-bayán and al-ma`ání ?" Báqir answered: "As for al-bayán it is that you recognize that God is He of whom it is said: Like Him there is naught [42:11], and to serve Him and to not share with anything the devotion which is due Him to any extent whatsoever. As for al-ma`ání - We are His ma`ání, His side (janb), His hand, His tongue, His command/cause (amr), His rule, His knowledge, His truth. Whatever We will, God wills; and God purposes what We purpose. . . . . And We are the Face of God which is moving about in all directions in the earth (yataqallabu fí 'l-ard) in your midst (bayna azharikum). He who has recognized us has certitude (yaqín) itself for an Imám. He who is ignorant of us has Sijjín for an Imám.[361]

The third and final hadíth is actually composed of two similar statements from the sixth Imám, Ja`far al-Sádiq. Because of its obscurity, the translations of both versions are followed by a transliteration:

[A] Our cause is the truth, and the truth of the truth. It is the exoteric and it is the esoteric of the exoteric, and it is the esoteric of the esoteric. It is the secret, and the secret of the secret - a secret enveloped in a secret and the secret of that which is veiled by the secret.

(amruná huwa al-haqq wa haqq al-haqq wa huwa al-záhir wa bátin al-záhir wa bátin al-bátin wa huwa al-sirr wa sirr al-sirr wa sirr al-mustasirr wa sirr muqanna` bi'l-sirr)

[B] Our cause is a veiled secret, a secret which can only speak of a secret, a secret above a secret, a secret which remains enveloped in the secret.

(amruná sirr mustasirr wa sirr lá yufíduhu illá sirr wa sirr `alá sirr wa sirr muqanna` bi'l-sirr)[362]

These three hadíths play an important part in Shaykh Ahmad's commentary on one of the verses of the Ziyárat al-jámi`a: "Peace be upon you, O members of the family of the Prophet, you who are [collectively] the repository of the prophetic message (mawdi` al-risála)."[363] Shaykh Ahmad refers to these three traditions in detailing four ontological levels (maqámát) of imáma (directly conditioned by the language of the second and third hadíths) which the verse, according to him, presupposes:

[1] The station of "a secret veiled by the secret" (sirr muqanna` bi'l-sirr).[364]

[2] The station of "the secret of the secret" (sirr al-sirr) or "the esoteric of the esoteric" (bátin al-bátin). (These two stations correspond to "the truth of the truth" (haqq al-haqq) in version A.)

[3] The station of "the secret" (al-sirr) or "the esoteric of the exoteric" (bátin al-záhir). (This corresponds to "the secret which can only speak of another secret" (sirr lá yufíduhu illá sirr) in version B.)

[4] The station of "the exoteric" (al-záhir), or "the veiled secret" (sirr mustasirr). (Stations 3 & 4 correspond to "the truth" (al-haqq) in version A.)[365]

The highest level is that of the divine "Unrevealed" (al-sirr al-muqanna` bi'l-sirr). This corresponds to the levels of tawhíd or bayán mentioned in the first two hadíths. It is the metaphysical location of the divine command "Be!" (kun!). Shaykh Ahmad puts forth the following classical argument of negative theology.[366] We call Zayd a "standing man" (qá'im), by virtue of the appearance (zuhúr) of the act of standing (qiyám), in the person of Zayd. But it is neither Zayd himself, nor the act of standing itself, which can be designated as qá'im. It is only through the appearance of the act of standing, that we may refer to Zayd by this word. Thus it is a heretofore "invisible" quality, now manifest only through the agency of Zayd, which allows us to use the word. So it is with all the various activities which appear in Zayd; they are all other than Zayd, but are ultimately only knowable through Zayd. At the same time, these various activities may not be identified with the essence (dhát) of Zayd.

The relation of the Imáms to God corresponds to the relation of Zayd to the act of standing. The divine reality (haqíqa) is manifest in them, and cannot be known without them. At the same time, they are known only because this reality is manifest in them, just as we can only know Zayd through his actions and situations. The result is that God is only known through the Imáms, just as one can only know the idea or act of"standing", not only through one who stands but also because the otherwise unknowable act is manifest in him.

This first maqám then serves to affirm the tanzíh of God and also points to the fundamental mystery of being, which according to Corbin, goes quite beyond the ontolgical theories of the Ishráqí tradition.[367] Shaykhí ontology provides for the metaphysical pre-existence of the Imáms. Here, as in Ismá`ílí metaphysics, God is outside whatever may be considered under the category of Being (wujúd). Zayd stands by virtue of the appearance in him of the "quality" of standing. But this quality appears in Zayd only as a result of the divine command, which brings together the two aspects of the being known together as qá'im. Without this command the two would remain separate, and both elements would remain unknown. This amr comprises two aspects. One is completely transcendent (i.e., amr fi`lí), which proceeds from the unknowable God. The other aspect is a passive one (i.e., amr maf`úlí), which is this same imperative as activated in the first creatures (i.e., the Imáms), and appears in the world as through the bearer of the divine quality, analogous to Zayd as qá'im. The amr maf`úlí is also designated by the Shaykhís as the Núr al-anwár, the haqíqat muhammadíya, or the "pleroma" of the twelve Imáms. The amr maf`úlí, as issuing from the amr fi`lí, or the unknowable divine Essence, is therefore a "secret veiled in a secret". The difference between the Shaykhís and, for example the Ishráqís, is that the latter identify the núr al-anwár directly with God.[368] The Shaykhí theory would appear to accomplish two distinct but related tasks: the first is an obvious exaltation of the station of the Imáms to the degree of bringing down upon their teaching the condemnatory accusation of ghuluww;[369] the second is a virtual removal from the human mind of any positive content for the word "God". It is difficult to determine which of the two results, if either, is preeminent.

This first maqám has as its aim the establishment of God's utter transcendence, which as has been seen, can only be spoken of by reference to Being, but for that this transcendence is not diminished. The Imáms, as representatives of this transcendence, are the the focus for the believer, but the believer must never lose sight of the "unseeable" point beyond the Imáms.

C'est pourquoi, dit Shaykh Ahmad, c'est bien vers l'Essence inaccessible que l'homme se tourne, bien qu'á tout jamais il ne puisse la trouver; et cependant il ne cesse de la trouver, alors m�(tm)me qu'á tout jamais elle lui reste inaccessible.[370]

The next maqám corresponds to the term al-ma`ání in the first two hadíths. It is the level at which apprehension of the "Revealed" occurs. In this case, the emphasis is on that which is knowable. At the first level the concern was with an absolute mystery or secret, here it is with the "secret of a secret". This refers to the act of divine manifestation which, however, proceeds concomitantly with the "act" of occultation. Here divine revelation is dependent upon a certain degree of anthropomorphosis which occurs in the Imáms, however, not to the extent of a total incarnation (any eventuality of which having been obviated by the function of first maqám). The Imáms provide a safeguard against what Corbin calls "l'idolatrie métaphysique", which would otherwise naturally ensue as a result of any attempt to affirm the divine unity (tawhíd) without the conceptual assistance of imáma. It is clear that the four levels are in fact inseparable from one another, one cannot be understood in isolation. This is important to bear in mind, otherwise the temptation to separate one from another, with the result of an overly schematic and mechanistic hieararchy, would tend to nullify what might otherwise appear as an excessively "subtle" or unclear processus. This second level also serves to protect theology from the equally abhorrent extremes of ta`tíl (absolute agnosticism) and tashbíh (absolute anthropomorphism). These ma`ání (Imáms) can never be considered identical with the divine Essence, but rather as ma`ání they point beyond themselves to it while providing "phenomenal" content for divinity.

The term ma`ání, in the hadíth quoted above from al-Báqir, permits all of those anthropomorphic statements (tashbíhát) in the Qur'an, such as the "Face of God" or "Hand of God", to be understood as synonyms for the Imám. While in the first maqám the lesson to be learned was that "Zayd" as a standing man represented a mysterious process, here we are concerned with Zayd's actions or situations as they happen in the world. Again, one lesson cannot be learned in isolation from the other. At this level the Imáms are seen as the oil which would almost shine of itself though no fire touched it [24:35], the divine Essence being of course Light itself (metaphorically speaking).

The third level is represented by the word abwáb in the first hadíth. The Imáms as "gates" represent "the secret which can only speak of another secret". Their function at this level is described by such terms as "office" (al-safára), "mediation" (al-wisáta), and "communication" or "interpretation" (al-tarjama). This level corresponds with what the Ishráqís call the Universal Intellect (al-`aql al-kullí), and what others (specifically the ahl al-shar`) refer to as the Pen (al-qalam) or the Muhammadan Light, Spirit or Intellect.[371]

Dans cette Intelligence mohammadienne initiale, le Miséricordieux s'etablit; il dépose en elle et fait procéder d'elle les réalités suprasensible de toutes choses, les formes des créatures á l'état subtil. C'est pourquoi l'Intelligence est bien le Seuil (báb) de Dieu vers les creatures, et comme réciproquement c'est par son intermédiaire que toute créature reÁoit ce qu'elle reÁoit et qu'elle tourne vers Dieu, l'Intelligence est le Seuil des créatures vers Dieu.[372]

The difference between this maqám and the first or second, is again one of emphasis. By the degrees thus outlined, the divine becomes ever more accessible to man through the Imáms.

The fourth maqám corresponds to the term imáma in the first hadíth, and represents the exoteric (al-záhir) according to Shaykh Ahmad. "It is the station of the proof of God (hujjat alláh) over His creation, and His khalífa in His earth to whom obedience is binding upon all creation."[373] The emphasis on obedience implies the sharí`a, an aspect which Corbin does not discuss. This station also refers to the fact that the exoteric dimension of the Qur'an points to the Imamate, which is therefore the bátin of the Book. Here is where the Imáms, in the "unity of their essence", come to be directly identified as the "repository of the prophetic message" (mawdi` al-risála). The fourth maqám includes the remaining categories of arkán, nuqabá', and nujabá' mentioned in the first two hadíths.[374] Shaykh Ahmad closes his discussion with a caveat, indicating that his remarks on this subject should not be taken to imply that the Imáms are separate loci (maháll, pl. as distinct from mawdi`, sing.) of inspiration (wahy) "as some of the ghulát fancy."[375] Corbin's final assessment of Shaykh Ahmad's analysis is important.

Sans doute ce qui précède suffit á faire entrevoir ce que visent les allusions de l'Imám: les descentes épiphaniques (tanazzolát ) du Logos-prophète, les niveaux sucessifs de la Révélation prophétique, et ce qui á chaque niveau en est le ´lieu�(tm) privilégié comme étant le secret investi au coeur de cette Révélation, c'est-á-dire l'Imámat des douze Imáms comme étant l'ésotérique de cette Révélation á ses niveaux successifs. De lá vont éclore la prophétologie et l'imámologie générales du shí`isme, et simultanément les espaces et les profondeurs de l'herméneutique spirituelle . . ., c'est-á-dire les niveaux successifs auxquels sont perÁus l'exotérique et l'ésotérique de la Révélation qoránique. Ces différents niveaux de révélation du Logos prophétique sont comme tels autant de ´descentes épiphaniques�(tm) du Qorán éternel, á partir de l'archétype du Livre (Omm al-Kitáb ) au niveau du ´secret qui restes enveloppé dans le secret�(tm).[376]

This tetradic structure is also found elaborated by Sayyid Kázim Rashtí in his commentary on the Throne Verse, where he quotes the same double hadíth to which Shaykh Ahmad referred.[377] As we shall see, this commentary appears to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the Bab's colour hierarchy. The commentary proceeds from a discussion of the problem of the "true meaning" of scripture. Connected with the problem of the "true meaning" of scripture is the problem of the manner in which this meaning is ontologically constituted. Ultimately the "true meaning" of scripture, is the domain of the "eternal Imám" as the guardian of the secret of Scripture in all of the various worlds of being. Corbin hastens to add that such a Figure is "non tel ou tel Imám en sa personne empirique."[378] However, in the case of the Bab, the Imám was to become just such a figure.[379]

Each successive level representing one of the four dimensions of the Muhammadan Reality is, as we have seen, the "place of the prophetic message" (mawdi` al-risála). The "journey" from the highest to the lowest, represents stages in the process of the Word becoming Book, in which the secret (sirr) of this Logos is hidden in the literal text, just as the concern was with the way the Word (Logos) became Imám in the previous discussion.[380] The point which Rashtí wishes to make according to Corbin, is that the "Logos-prophet" appears variously through a series of universes, and that each passage or manifestation, from one level to another, implies the concomitant idea of concealment. Therefore each higher degree, represents more fully the actual being of this Logos. We will see this idea expressed by the Bab in his statement that "the higher chain is the ghayb of the lower chain."[381] Because of the participation of the Imáms in this graduated process of manifestation, they may be considered identical with the prophetic principle. Several hadíths support this idea of what Corbin calls "kathenotheism", for example the one quoted from `Alí by Shaykh Ahmad himself: "I am to Muhammad as light is to light." Shaykh Ahmad's explanation is as follows:

This light is totally in Muhammad; it is totally in the Imám `Alí; totally in Fátima; totally in the Imám Hasan; totally in the Imám Husayn; likewise it is in each of the remaining Fourteen Immaculate Ones. Despite its multiplication, the light is one. This is what the Imáms mean when they say: "We are all Muhammad. The first among us is Muhammad. He who is in the middle is Muhammad. The last among us is Muhammad.[382]

To discuss these four "worlds" themselves and the way in which this Muhammadan Reality "appears" in them, Rashtí relies on the symbol of the Throne and the categories of Intellect (`aql), Spirit (rúh), Soul (nafs) and Nature (tabí`a). Just as the primordial Muhammadan Reality is represented by the term "Light of Lights," these four derivative realities are symbolized by the various forms of light in four separate colours, which proceed from the Light of Lights and are the principles of the totality of worlds.

The Intellect of the Muhammadan Reality is the principle of all Intellects and is symbolized by white light, which is the upper right column of the Throne as "the Spirit which proceeds from the divine command" [cf. 16:2]. This Intellect corresponds to the world of jabarút, or anwár, the world of pure Intellects. The Spirit of the Muhammadan Reality is the principle of all Spirits and is symbolized by yellow light, or the lower right column of the Throne. This corresponds to the world of the "higher" malakút. The Muhammadan Soul is the principle of all Souls and is symbolized by green light, or the upper left column of the Throne, and corresponds to the world of the "lower" malakút, also called the `álam al-mithál. The Muhammadan Nature is the principle of all Natures. It is symbolized by red light, or the lower left column of the Throne, and corresponds to the world of bodies (ajsád).[383] The following table puts this hierarchy in a convenient form:

World Colour Function


no colour Secrets (asrár)

Jabarút white light Lights (anwár)

Malakút A yellow light Spirits (arwáh)

Malakút B green light Souls (anfus[384])

Nature red light Bodies[385]

At the level of lahút there is not yet word, name, or description. It corresponds to the first maqám mentioned above sirr muqanna` bi'l-sirr. It is the "abíme insondable" from which eternally issues the divine command through which the Muhammadan Reality or Logos, is brought into being. It is this Logos which is both the knowledge God has of His creation and His own self, and is also designated as the Mother of the Book (umm al-kitáb), which is the Qur'an "dans l'integralité de ses manifestations, degrés, descentes et significations." Corbin compares this idea of the Shaykhís with the corresponding Ismá`ílí apophatic theology which states that the highest level of knowledge accessible to man is the one represented by what is termed the First Intellect, which is also existentiated by an ontologically prior principle forever beyond Being.[386]

It is therefore only below the level of lahút, that the revelation and the Muhammadan Reality acquires existence. In one sense the Qur'an itself is the white light which the Prophet announces to the successive worlds of Spirits, Souls, and Bodies. The fundamental law which determines the way in which this descent occurs employs the hermeneutical principles of exoteric (záhir) and esoteric (bátin). That is, whatever is "apparent" in one world, is "hidden" to the world immediately below it. Thus both the Prophetic Reality and the Revelation are subject to the same hierarchical structure. Sayyid Kázim summarizes the implications of the hierarchy of the Logos as Book in the following statement:

O my brother! Read the Qur'an and never abandon it. It is more valuable for you than anything else. If you persevere you will see the secret of what I have said. After you have understood all this, you will have understood some of the knowledge of the Qur'an. But you will also have understood that it is not possible to read it as it is in itself, because this is impossible for us, the muslimún and mu'minún. This kind of reading is only possible for prophets and Imáms . . . . The relatively small understanding which you have should never be confused with the knowledge of the Qur'an. This is why you must never oppose someone who affirms something and who seeks to prove his statement by reading the Qur'an differently to the way you read it . . . . Whenever you have understood that the true meaning, the spiritual Idea (haqíqa) of the Qur'an is a code (ramz) which only God Most High, the Prophet and the members of his House understand, and that it is the members of this House who teach this code to whoever resides in their House . . . then it will be admitted that the understanding of this code varies according to the diversity of our faculties of understanding.[387]

Just as this hierarchy pertains to the graduated manifestation of the Word, so according to Shaykh Ahmad, does it pertain to the personal spiritual development of the individual believer whose soul is constituted of these four lights. It is for this reason that the revelation may be comprehended by the believer according to the principle that one knows something only because of an a priori correspondence with the thing to be known. Thus individual existence is symbolized by white light; individual identity in this existence is symbolised by yellow light; individual form ("sa détermination et sa mésure") is symbolised by green light; the matter of which this form is composed is symbolized by red light.[388]

The primordial existence which is brought into being by the divine command (i.e., the amr maf`úlí, see above) is the primordial Light of Lights, also referred to as the Light of Fourteen Flames. It forms one sole primordial essence in the same Light from which proceeds the light of the cherubic Intellects or the "Angels of the Veil", and the light from which the prophets were created. The light which constitutes the being of the prophets, is that from which the faithful believers have been created.[389] Corbin's translation of an important passage by Shaykh Ahmad summarizes this idea:

Aucune réalité n'est crée d'une essence de l'irradiation d'une réalité qui lui soit inférieure. Toute réalité inférieure est crée d'une réalité qui lui est supérieure. Une réalité supérieure, c'est par example, le soleil lui-m�(tm)me; la réalité inférieure, c'est son irradiation illuminant la surface de la Terre. Chaque réalité existe en son sens vrai (haqíqat) au rang qui lui est propre, et par rapport á ce qui est au-dessous d'elle; elle est symbole et figure (majáz), effet opéré, par rapport á ce qui est au-dessus d'elle.[390]

In the following examples of hierarchies from the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, these ideas will be more or less faithfully reflected. Because these hierarchies depend upon the Qur'an for some of their terms, there is a certain degree of deviation among them. The hierarchies have as their purpose the affirmation of a rigorous via negativa, and a complementary imamology which ultimately affirms the famous Shaykhí doctrine of the four supports. It seems beyond dispute that at the time he wrote this commentary the Bab fully subscribed to this doctrine. But it also should be pointed out before the Bab wrote the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, he composed a short treatise which is thought to be his oldest surviving work entitled Risálat al-sulúk.[391] Evidence for dating the work is in the reference at the end to Kázim Rashtí, which seems to indicate that Rashtí (d. January 1844) was alive at the time of its writing.[392] However, as the following will demonstrate, apart from the title of the treatise, the contents show strong Sufi influence. In this piece the Bab affirms a doctrine of four supports which may be schematized, in descending order, as follows:

tawhíd hubb qalb

nubúwa habíb fu'ád

waláya muhibb rúh

shí`a mahbúb jism

The first column is described as constitutinq the four supports of religion (dín), and as such those elements are four gates which function only as a whole: "The first is useful only with the last."[393] Altogether they constitute that "Face of God which will never perish." (cf. 28:88) This in turn, is none other than the love of the Family of God, which is the same as the love of God Himself. "It is the 'hidden treasure'" referred to in the famous hadíth qudsí, "I was a hidden treasure and desired to be known, therefore I created mankind in order to be known." The Bab says that this is also alluded to by the Prophet in his statement: "Above every good deed is another good deed until one desires Us. When we are desired, there is no good deed higher."[394] From this statement the Bab derives the elements in the second column. These are four signs (áyát) which issue from the radiance (tajallí) of the Family of God and are "within you, and they are your soul." The elements of the third column come from the following statement:

Whenever these four signs are remembered and you polish your heart and your af'ida become impassioned, and your spirit is vivified and your body trembles from ardent desire (shawq), then you will be one of the people of Paradise and one of the companions of the Commander of the Faithful.[395]

This basic structure is adhered to throughout the commentary on al-Baqara, although not all of the specific elements are present, just as there any reference to a colour hierarchy in the earlier work. The language of this essay strongly suggests that its author is speaking from experience and may therefore consider himself "one of the companions" of `Alí. It will be seen in Part ii that this self-perception became greatly intensified over time, to the point of claiming sufficient authority to promulgate a new Qur'an. Some of this development may be seen in the intervening Tafsír súrat al-baqara.

The first tetrad encountered in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara proceeds from the Bab's discussion of the first verse: Alif Lám Mím. The Bab says that the "People of al-Záhir " recognize in these letters the stations (maqámát) of Muhammad and the Family of Muhammad (ál Muhammad). The alif is the letter of Muhammad himself and is the waláya of God (wa huwa waláyatu 'lláh).[396] This statement possibly refers to the tradition that all of the letters of the alphabet have been generated from the alif.[397] Thus Muhammad, as progenitor of the Imáms, occupies the postion of alif. The lám then, is the letter of `Alí, and the mím is the letter of Fátima.[398] This order of personalities reflects the one found in the commentary on the Fátiha discussed below as a heptadic hierarchy.

The Bab says that God originated (abda`a) the lám and the mim through His command. It would appear that this is meant to affirm the close relationship between the command of God and waláya, inasmuch as the first letter of the word command (amr) is alif. He then says that when these two letters were joined together, the divine imperative "Be thou!" (kun) resulted (fa-`inda 'l-ijtimá` hiya kalima kun). Therefore it is through waláya that `Alí and Fátima, as cosmogonic principles, acquired being, and through the joining of `Alí and Fátima (pre-eternally existent), the universe itself acquired being. As the Bab says, it was "through the divine command that the heavens and the earth were raised up" suggesting the equivalence `Alí/heaven, Fátima/earth. As we shall see, this is born out in explicit terms later in the commentary.[399]

There follows a statement to the effect that the reason maddas appear over the lám and the mím and not over the alif in the Qur'an, is because the alif is "the one which causes waláya to appear directly from God".[400] This probably refers to the absolute and unconditioned aspect of waláya, whereas the madda both etymologically and graphically represents extension or dimension, neither of which are aspects of the pure world of divinity which is in absolute isolation from the rest of the universe.

The Bab then discusses the figure of these three "disconnected" letters in connection with the shaháda:

And this [the "alif lám mím"] is the word of tawhíd, because the letters lá iláh illá alláh are twelve, but their source[401] is only three letters. Namely: the alif, lám, and . The , when it descends through eight worlds, seven active and one passive, appears as the letter mím.[402]

The idea is that the Imáms themselves are the "living letters" of the shaháda. In support of this statement, the Bab quotes the famous hadíth, nahnu al-a`ráf, which may be seen partly as a commentary on Q.7:44-46 attributed to the sixth Imám, Ja`far al-Sádiq.

Sádiq said: "We are the High Places. Except by the path of Our knowledge God is not known. By us God is known and by Us God is worshipped. Were it not for us God would neither be known or worshipped.[403]

Another hadíth quoted here from al-Sádiq pertains directly to the alif lám mím:

It is one letter of the letters of the greatest name of God which the Prophet and the Imám wrote and which is composed of all the disconnected letters in the Qur'an. Whever it is used in prayer it is responded to.[404]

The Bab then quotes a hadíth from the Imám Músá on the Greatest Name:

The letters of the Greatest Name are four. The first is the phrase "There is no god but God"; the second is: "Muhammad is the Messenger of God"; the fourth is: "Us" (nahnu, i.e. we Imáms); the third is: "Our Shí`a."[405]

The Bab explains that this Shí`a has two aspects. The first pertains to all the prophets and trustees (awsiyá') and that even Abraham, when his heart became purified from the disarray of multiplicity, became a member of the Shí`a of `Alí.[406] The second pertains to the believers, who are the "rays of the prophets" (ashi``at al-anbiyá') if they have become purified from the dust of multiplicity and have entered the House of Glory (bayt al-jalál).[407]

This exaltation of the Shí`a is elaborated in the Bab's commentary on 2:2: That is the Book wherein there is no doubt. The Bab says thatthe Book is the Shí`a of `Alí and it is the "greatest Book of the sea of Destiny" (bahr al-qadar), "because in it is the rule (hukm, perhaps 'principle') of all things." He then says that everything in existence (wujúd), is the Book of God. "The prophet dictated it and `Alí wrote it with his own hand. Prior to this act of writing, nothing had existence, the act of writing being the trace (athar) of the activity of the writer."[408] Furthermore, this Book is the first Shí`a which affirmed the `Alí's waláya before any books existed. In this way "the Shí`a is the fourth support" (al-rukn al-rábi`).[409] As such, the Shí`a may be seen to correspond to the fourth column of the Throne discussed above, although the Bab does not refer to Sayyid Kázim's commentary, or for that matter any other work, here or elsewhere in the commentary.[410]

The Bab emphasizes the importance of the Shí`a by saying that the completion of the appearance (zuhúr) of the Alif Lám Mím is dependent upon this Book (i.e., the Shí`a). There is no indication here that zuhúr implies an actual appearance in the world; it is therefore probably meant to refer to the kind of esoteric "descent" through the four ontological levels mentioned above.

In his commentary of 2:5: Those are upon guidance from their Lord, those are the prosperous , the Bab employs the now familiar terms al-bayán and al-ma`ání, in a tetradic discussion of the prosperity (faláh) derived from the quranic word al-muflihún. While the remaining terms al-abwáb and al-imáma are not used explicitly, the discussion appears to presuppose them.

Prosperity is from their Lord and it is according to degrees (daraját):

[1] For the ahl al-bayán [this prosperity] is the same as absolute purity (al-tajríd), and consists of their attainment to the house of divine aloneness (bayt al-tafríd), and their utter devotion to divine unity (al-tawhíd) to the degree that there is no possibility of their mentioning anything but the most mighty and noble remembrance of God.

[2] For the ahl al-ma`ání [this prosperity] consists in the knowledge of the beginnings (al-mabádí, rhymes with al-ma`ání), and their submersion in the ocean of the remembrance of the inclusive unity (wurúduhum fí tamtám dhikr al-wáhidíya), which is the greatest paradise of the good pleasure [of God] (ridwán al-akbar, cf. e.g. Q.9:72 where it is associated with the jannát `adn).

[3] For those who are accounted in the waláya of the family of God [this prosperity consists in] their attainment to the ard al-za`farán, which is the depth of the sea of the Merciful (lujjat al-bahr al-rahmán).

[4] For those who are accounted among the Shí`a of the family of God [this prosperity consists in] their attainment to the red sandhill (kathíb al-ahmar).[411]

Here the four supports are each associated with the dimensions of a single quranic word. As such, the comments are a classic example of the thoroughness with which the Bab applied the Shaykhí doctrine. The origins of the terms ard al-za`farán and kathíb al-ahmar are somewhat obscure. The latter refers to one of the stages of the Hajj ceremony,[412] but along with the former it appears in Rashtí's Sharh al-qasída[413] (one of the books the Bab is said to have owned[414]) in a metaphorical and technical usage.[415] Here both terms are used in the course of other hierarchies. One of these is a discussion of al-muzammil ("enwrapped one", i.e. Muhammad, cf. súra 73), in which Rashtí outlines four separate maqámát of the term, followed by seven separate appropriate "garments" (thawb). (The basic idea is that Muhammad, or the Muhammadan reality, is concealed by a number of veils.) Of these seven garments the second may correspond in some way with the third level of the word "prosperity" as given by the Bab.

[2] The second is the yellow garment (al-ridá') in the yellow veil

and the ard al-za`farán.[416]

Here Rashtí is presuming the above mentioned colour hierarchy of white, yellow, green, and red. The discrepancy between this and the Bab's hierarchy, is accounted for by the fact that the latter begins his tetrad at the level of colourless light or tawhíd (see below). Such a discrepancy offers an example of the way in which these hierarchies may be manipulated to stress a given point. Rashtí refers to the kathíb al-ahmar in a complex hierarchy constructed around the words `arsh and kursí, which are associated respectively with the concepts of "Seal of Prophecy" (khátim al-nubúwa) and "Seal of Waláya". The hierarchy consists of eight stations (manázil). The fourth is described as "the stages of the beginnings (manázil mabádí) and the grades of paradise. Here the Seal of Nubúwa is in the kathíb al-ahmar, while the Seal of Waláya is in the station of al-rafraf al-akhdar."[417] Rashtí's use of these terms possibly represents the Bab's immediate source, or at least a reliable precedent for his employment of them as hierarchical terms. A variation on this tetrad is found at the Bab's commentary on 2:98:

Whosoever is an enemy to God and His angels and His Messengers, and Gabriel, and Michael - surely God is an enemy to the unbelievers.'

[1] The first [i.e. God ] is the sign of the exclusive unity (ahadíya).

[2] The second [i.e. His angels ] is the sign of waláya.

[3] The third [i.e. His Messengers ] is the sign of the risála.

[4] The fourth [i.e. Gabriel ] is the sign of imáma, and

[5] The fifth [i.e. Michael ] is from the sign of the second.[418]

And for each [of these] there are several stations (maqámát), while God is isolated from His creation and His creation is isolated from Him. And whatever is other than Him are [but] His names. And each one speaks about what God has manifested to him by means of him (la-hu bi-hi).[419]

[1] The first is the sign of tawhíd [namely] lá iláh illá huwa. None knows the "how" of Him except Him. How are you then turned away? [10:32]

[2] The second is the sign of `Alí.

[3] The third is the sign of Muhammad.

[4] The Fourth is the sign of Husayn.

[5] The Fifth is the sign of Hasan.

Whosoever is an enemy to God and His names whether this be a drop of sweet water, or a speck of dust upon its earth, then at the time of the impulse to reject (fa-hín al-khutúr bi'l-i`rád), then he is one of the unbelievers. [420]

The fifth item may be seen as accidental, that is, it is conditioned not so much by the standard tetrad already discussed, but by the existence in the quranic verse of five separate elements which require exegesis. This explains why the Bab relegates the fifth item back to the second level. Insofar as this fifth element is accidental, the remaining four elements symbolize once again, the four supports.

This hierarchy is interesting because it ranks waláya above nubúwa. As such, it may be seen as deriving ultimately (although probably not directly) from the mystical philosophy of Ibn `Arabí. Izutsu's study of Ibn `Arabí's theory of waláya has shown that this notion represents a kind of universal and supreme relationship to the divine as a function of which it is possible to say that every prophet is also a bearer of waláya and may therefore be designated, in some sense, as a walí. However, not every walí is the bearer of nubúwa. Thus while Muhammad is a nabí, he is also a walí. It is this fact which renders waláya superior to prophecy.[421] It is also precisely this kind of theory from Ibn `Arabí, which commended his work so well to the concerns of mystically inclined Imámí thinkers, such as Haydar Amúlí and Ibn Abí Jumhúr, who were responsible for its Shí`í assimilation.[422] But, whereas in Ibn `Arabí's thought Jesus is the bearer of absolute waláya (khátim al-awliyá'), according to Shí`í thought it is `Alí who is the par excellence symbol of waláya.

Elsewhere, we find explicit statements which assert this ranking of waláya over nubúwa, for example in the commentary on the following verse:

Knowest thou not that to God belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and that you have, none apart from God, neither protector nor helper? [2:107]

That is [this verse is addressed to] all people everywhere: [423]

Knowest thou not that the sign of the Exclusive Unity appearing with the divinity (ulúhíya) is the sign of `Alí?

And that the Essence is more glorious than to be connected to the kingdom (mulk) by means of description ?

And that the kingdom belongs to His walí [alone] and that [kingdom ] is the waláya (here perhaps best translated as "authority") of [the entire process of] Origination and Invention. And for him is set up the kingdom of the sign of the Exclusive Unity over all in the activeheavens and the passive earth. [424]

And that you have none apart from the sign of God [which is] `Alí as a protector (walí), because here the waláya belongs to God, the Truth [18:44].

Nor apart from the sign of the Exclusive Unity any helper in tawhíd. Nor apart from the sign of the Inclusive Unity any helper in nubúwa. Nor apart from the sign of Rahmáníya any helper in waláya.[425]

[Do you not know that ] there are no signs [anywhere] except the signs of his kingdom (i.e. waláya). How is it then that you turn away? [426]

Here it is waláya (not nubúwa) as the fundamental spiritual relationship, which is being emphasized. The key to the statement is the existence in the verse itself of the all-important word friend (walí). The commentary proceeds from the immediate association in the Shí`í mind of `Alí with this term. It is of some interest to note that in this passage the Inclusive Unity is positive, as opposed to those cases mentioned in the previous chapter, where the Inclusive Unity is associated with false waláya. It is explicitly connected with prophecy and therefore Muhammad. Elsewhere in the tafsír, there are explicit statements ranking Muhammad above `Alí:

[God is] the Creator of the heavens and the earth; and when He decrees a thing, He but says to it 'Be,' and it is [2:117].

God designated (ja`ala) the role (maqám) of His own self for Muhammad in Origination and Invention, insamuch as He is above all connection. And thething (amr), in the presence of the Lord (laday 'l-rabb) is `Alí.[427]

It seems that two types of waláya are being suggested: one connected with ahadíya and the other connected with rahmáníya. It is likely that the latter refers to waláya as it is represented in the world (imkán), while the former refers only to the waláya of the unknowable dimension of Essence. The influence of Ibn Arabi may be at work here in the form of his doctrine of "existence as mercy".[428] Another example of the high rank of Muhammad is found in the commentary on the following verse:

We have sent thee with the truth, good tidings to bear, and warning. Thou shalt not be questioned touching the inhabitants of Hell. [2:119]

Verily, God chose (istafá), that is He created, Muhammad in pre-eternity (qidam), which is His self, to stand on the part of the Merciful in all the worlds in Origination and Invention,[429] over all the communities, isolated (munfarid) from all likenesses, and forms (ashbáh), and similarities , since He is independent from any glad tidings and warnings. And He is as the verse: The eyes attain Him not, but He attains the eyes. He is the All-subtle, the All-aware. [6:103].

This re-affirms the supreme rank of Muhammad, but the apparent contradiction remains. This contradiction can perhaps only be resolved by reference to Corbin's kathenotheism and those hadíths, such as the one quoted and commented upon by Shaykh Ahmad, in which the Imáms are equated with Muhammad (see above).

In the commentary on 2:125 we find a tetrad which employs colour symbolism along the lines mentioned earlier:

Covenant means the duty of witnessing God through whatever is other than Him.[430] And by Abraham `Alí is intended just as by Ishmael Husayn is meant because both were killed by the sword alone, may God punish their killer throughout all Origination.[431]

And by [the order to] Purify [He means] the sign of the Exclusive Unity which is manifest in all things from `Alí and Husayn for the sake of Muhammad until those that shall go about it are firmly established therein (i.e, the Exclusive Unity).

[1] [Those that shall go about it ] are the people of the White Depth (lujjat al-baydá'), are those who go about Muhammad above the Throne of Bahá'.[432]

[2] And the ones who cleave to it are the people of the Yellow Qulzum, they cleave (yu`ákifúna) to the sign of Muhammad in the land of the Merciful.

[3] And those who bow are the people of the Green Lujja, they bow to their Creator in the centre of the zone of splendour (qutb mantiqat al-saná') by means of the name of Muhammad, the bearer of Origination.

[4] And those who prostrate are those people of the Yamm of the Red Tamtám, prostrating before God because of the sign of Muhammad [which is] in the souls and the horizons [41:53] in the sanctuary of Husayn.

The Bab says that God made the House of the Exlcusive Unity an abode (marja`) for the Family of God (ál Alláh, the Fourteen Pure Ones), secure from the allusions of everything else, "because they merit the rank of Trusteeship (wisáyat al-rasúl) apart from all others."[433] These comments seem to bear only a superficial relationship with Rashtí's colour hierarchy. The Bab is more interested in the "embodiments" of any principles, such as `aql, rúh, nafs, and tabí`a, than with the principles themselves. Nonetheless, the hierarchy does reflect Rashtí's, as far as the respective "intervals" are concerned.

Another colour tetrad is constructed on the basis of the following verse:

And when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised up the foundations of the House: 'Our Lord, receive this from us; Thou art the All-hearing, the All-knowing. [2:127]

God here speaks about the foundations (qawá`id) of the house of the Inclusive Unity which came to be realized (qad tahaqqaqat) through `Alí and Husayn. And when `Alí and his son, the Martyr par excellence (al-shahíd), said:

"Our Lord we accepted (radayná = taqabbal< receive ) martyrdom, do Thou receive from us our manifestation to all other than us. And receive from them the sign of Thy Exclusive Unity which is in them from us.[434] And if it is this sign then it behooves you [to accept it] only because of itself. And nothing in their possible beings (imkánihim)[435] is more lofty than it. Thou art the All-hearing and there is no existence to the heard (al-masmú`) in Thy presence,the All-knowing, and there is no existence to the known (al-ma`lúm)[436] in Thy presence. Exalted art thou. None knows how Thou art except Thee. Thou art the All-hearing,the All-knowing. "

Had it not been for this supplication (du`á) of theirs, God would not have accepted the affirmation of oneness from anyone who affirmed it (min muwahhidín). But, God received their supplication by means of the martyrdom of their selves, for the reception of the very souls of these unitarians in Paradise.[437]

When the two built[438] the House upon four supports [is a statement] for those who subscribe to a fourfold hierarchy (li-ahl al-tarbí`). As for the people of unity (ahl al-wahda, i.e., the Imáms) [this statement refers to] the Exclusive Unity.

[1] And for the people of pre-eternity,[439] one pillar [is raised] in the form (hai'a) of tasbíh, died with the colour of affirming the unity (tawhíd) of God, the Eternal, the Glorious - white.

[2] And a pillar in the form (haykal) of tahmíd, died in the colour of prophecy (nubúwa) - yellow.

[3] And a pillar in the form (shabah) of al-tahlíl (i.e., affirming lá iláh illá 'lláh) dyed with the waláya which is over the letters of al-tahlíl - green.

[4] And a pillar in the form (súra) of al-takbír (i.e, the uttering of alláhu akbar), dyed according to what is best about practicing true devotion (`alá ahsan al-tashayyu`) to the Family of God, the bearer of al-tahlíl, reddened with the red of redness.

In this way did they raise the House on thesefoundations in all the worlds, that perhaps they might believe firmly in the signs/verses of God.[440]

This hierarchy conforms perfectly with the famous doctrine of the four supports, although there is a certain amount of variation among the manuscripts at this point. The hierararchy which this manuscript and the one designated "I"[441] present, may be tabulated as follows:


tasbíh white tawhíd

tahmíd yellow nubúwa

tahlíl green waláya

takbír red tashayyu`

The Leiden manuscript[442] deviates from this schema the most:


tasbíh white nubúwa

----- yellow tahmíd li-lláh

tahlíl green waláya

takbír red tashayyu`

It seems that Leiden is the oldest manuscript extant. It is possible that the somewhat extremist doctrine presented in this schema is the most authentic and one that was later modified by other scribes. The likely alternative is that it is simply an error, and that I and Baq. represent a truer tradition.The Cambridge manuscript[443] carries the following variant:


tasbíh white tawhíd

tahmíd yellow nubúwa

tahlíl green -------

takbír red tashayyu`

Colour symbolism is also found in the Bab's commentary on 2:25, in which he comments on the word rivers . The Bab begins by exploring this verse's meaning on various other levels. He says that there is a specific meaning of the verse for the People of Reality, which may be paraphrased as: "God himself gave (imperative of the Qur'an changed to perfect) the glad tidings to those who believe in `Alí."[444] The way this statement is introduced reveals something of the way the Bab saw himself at this time: hádhihi 'l-áya li-ahl al-haqíqa la-há wijhatun lá ya`rifuhá ghayruhum wa há aná dhákiruhá. Such a statement indicates that not only did the Bab arrogate to himself far-reaching powers of interpretation at this time, but also suggests that he considered himself one of the People of Reality (possibly the Imáms). The authority with which he interprets the Qur'an in such instances, may be thought to contravene the spirit expressed by Rashtí in the statement quoted above which cautions against the imposition of one's reading of the Holy Book on another. Similar indications may be found elsewhere in the commentary, a few of which will be noted in the following chapters.

There is another meaning for the ahl al-bátin (as distinct from the ahl al-haqíqa) in which the verse may be similarly paraphrased: "God himself gave glad tidings to those who believed in Muhammad." A third meaning is for the ahl al-bátin `alá nahj al-záhir. Here the paraphrase is: ". . .to those who believe in the divine origin of the one named `Alí (also the Bab's name: `Alí Muhammad) and who do deeds of righteousness through those names and attributes by which he describes himself."[445] Then the Bab says "the rivers are four so that the lights (viz, of the Throne) can appear in in the world (fí'l-akwár wa'l-adwár)."[446]

[1] The pre-eternal river (al-nahr al-úlá) is a river of white water which flows for the creation of all things (li-khalq al-ashyá'). By it, the hearts are whitened for the affirmation of the unity of the Merciful, and purified of the dust of multiplicity. At the headwaters of this river, is written "There is no god but He, and to Him is the return."

[2] The second river is of yellow milk which flows for the sustenance (rizq) of all things. By it, the intellects are yellowed to [perceive] the nubúwa of the Messenger of God. God wrote at its headwaters, "The excellence of Muhammad over all the other prophets is like My own excellence, and I am the Lord of Might, high above whatever is attributed to Me."

[3] The third river is of pure green honey, flowing for the very life (hayát) of all created things. From it, the souls (al-nufús) are greened so that they might perceive the signs of the Trustees (awsiyá') of the Messenger. God wrote at its headwaters the names of the family of God and their excellence, and their excellence is inexhaustible.

[4] The fourth river is of red wine flowing for the dissolution (kasr) of all things, and their reconstitution (sawgh) by means of the divine verses and tokens. From it, the bodies are reddened for the love of the Shí`a of the pure family of God. God forms the form of the believers in this river. And God wrote at its headwaters: "The love of the Shí`a of `Alí is My fortress (hisn); he who enters My fortress is secure from my wrath."[447]

Here the basic tetrad is once again affirmed through exegesis of the Qur'an. The apparent variation from the tetrad described by Rashtí is a function of the tafsír context, and also the less speculative concerns of the author. In closing this section of his commentary, the Bab says that these rivers represent the respective paradises of Exclusive Unity, Inclusive Unity, Mercy, and the jannat al-khamsa. This last may correspond to a specific level in the heptadic hierarchies, to which we will now turn.

Part i: Chapter 3

Hierarchies -2 (Heptads)

For the first example of a heptadic hierarchy, we need look no further than the Fátiha itself. As stated above, much of this short commentary may be seen as microcosm of the whole tafsír. It is of some interest to notice the old exegetic controversy over the number of verses (six or seven) in this súra, inasmuch as most of the tiering occuring in this commentary does so across a range of seven elements.[448] The Bab characterizes each of the seven verses as a particular paradise or garden (janna), which is associated with one of the seven names by which the fourteen pure ones may be designated. Verse 1 is called the "book" (kitáb) of Muhammad and is also the "garden of Paradise" (jannat al-firdaws). The following table represents the hierarchy presented in the commentary on this súra.[449] However, it should be remembered that Muhammad and the Imáms are seen in some ways, as being of equal rank.





Muhammad firdaws nubúwa



wáhidíya waláya


Fátima na`ím

má hiya ahlu-há






Husayn muqám waláya




not specified





The fourth garden is further defined as the center or axis of all the gardens (qutb al-jinán), perhaps indicating another dimension to this hierarchy. The seven names, represent the different names by which each of the fourteen Pure Ones are known. That is, each of the names Muhammad, `Alí, Hasan and Husayn may be applied to more than one figure. The names Fátima, Ja`far and Músá, however, may only be used once. The name Muhammad is applicable not only to the Prophet himself, but also to Muhammad al-Báqir, the fifth Imám (113/731-32); Muhammad al-Jawád, the ninth Imám (220/835); and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-`Askarí, the twelfth Imám (also known as al-Mahdí, disappeared 260/873-74). The name `Alí may properly designate not only the first Imám (40/661) but also his grandson `Alí ibn al-Husayn, the fourth Imám (94/712-13); the eighth Imám `Alí al-Ridá (202/817-18); and `Alí al-Hádí, the tenth Imám (254/868). The name al-Hasan may be applied to both the second Imám (50/670) and the eleventh (260/873-74). The result is that although there are fourteen different personalities involved, it may be said that there are in reality only seven different names.[450] That the Bab has chosen to associate each verse with one of these seven names is undoubtedly connected to the way in which he understood one of the more common names for this súra, namely al-sab` al-mathání [cf.15:87], the meaning of which is disputed by the classical exegetes.[451]

Later in the commentary, the Bab states that one of the results of the process of creation (ibdá` and ikhtirá`) is that seven becomes fourteen.

There are seven locations (mazhar) where ibdá` appears, and they are the seven Heavens. The first is the Will (al-mashíya), the second is Specific Purpose (al-iráda), the third is Destiny (al-qadar), the fourth is Decree (al-qadá'), the fifth is Permission (al-idhn), the sixth is Fate (al-ajal), the seventh is Scripture (al-kitáb). Likewise there are seven places where "invention" appears, and they are theseven earths.[452]

In support of this statement the Bab cites the following hadíth from al-Sádiq:

Nothing exists in the earth or in heaven except through these seven stages (khisál): Will, Purpose, Destiny, Decree, Permission, Book, and Fate. Whoever imagines that he can do without any one of these has committed kufr.[453]

All the paradises, except the second (wáhidíya), take their names from various quranic verses: firdaws [18:107; 23:11]; na`ím [several, e.g. 5:65]; `adn [several, e.g. 13:23]; muqám [25:76]; khuld [25:15]; mawá' [e.g., 32:19].[454] Inasmuch as few details are given by the Bab about the nature of these paradises, we can assume that the purpose of the hierarchy is to affirm the sanctity of all the members of the ahl al-bayt, without any appreciable preference for any single one. The statement that the fourth paradise is the axis (qutb) of all the others, is in line with Ptolemaic cosmography which puts the sun in the fourth sphere.

Another seven-level hierarchy is suggested at verse 26, where the Bab cites a hadíth from the seventh Imám, Músá al-Kázim, in which he explains the well-known quranic verse:

Though all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea - seven seas (of ink), yet would the Words of God not be exhausted. God is All-mighty, All-wise. [31:27]

Kázim said: "These seas are:

[1] The Fountain of al-Kibriyat[455]

[2] The Fountain of al-Yamín,

[3] The Fountain of Abrahút,[456] and

[4] The Fountain of al-Tabríya and

[5] The Reservoir) of the water of the two Sayyids,[457] and

[6] The Reservoir of Ifriqíya, and

[7] The Reservoir of Najrawán.[458]

And we are thewords [of God]; none perceives our virtues, nor any recount.[459]

The Bab adds:

The Imám meant that from each spring there proceeds one of the grades of the Divine Will, and one of the seven gardens of the gardens of the divine Ipseity (al-húwíya). Verily the seas, and whatever has been originated in Origination like them, would be exhausted, but the fruits of this land would not be exhausted, because they have been individuated (tudhuwwita) by the hand of God, if they but knew.

Further information about these gardens or paradises is given in the previously quoted commentary at 2:1: Alif Lám Mím . The Bab says that this verse, as seen by the People of Reality (ahl al-haqíqa, viz, the Imáms, but possibly including others, see the following), is the knowledge (ma`rifa) of God.

Notwithstanding the many letters which compose it, and the several meanings which may be derived from it, the Imáms see it as a single letter with a single meaning (ma`ná). He then says that these People of Reality are the inhabitants of the Garden of Pre-Eternity (jannat al-úlá). Their immortality (baqá') is the immortality of God and they may be properly described by none but themselves. Compared with their station, whatever is other than them is nonexistence.[460] For this reason,[461] there are (li-dhá sára) eight gardens and seven hells. The latter are actually seven shadows (zill), and there are only seven because the first garden is completely cut off from the rest of the gardens and hells.[462] This garden is the Garden of Tawhíd and the Form (shabah) of Tafríd, completely unconnected and incomparable.[463]

The terms zill and shabah, encountered many times in this tafsír, have a long history in Islamic gnostic literature. They may be translated respectively, as shadow and phantom.[464] In the early text Kitáb al-azilla, for example, one finds many contexts in which this terminology is used.[465] The tradition which it represents, often associated with the name of Mufaddal ibn `Umar al-Ju`fí (214/829) reaches back into a very early and unsettled period of Islamic history. The following examples are representative.

In the course of a session with some of his disciples (including al-Mufaddal, on whose authority the hadíth is transmitted) on the subject of the beginning of creation, al-Sádiq asked Yúnus ibn Zabyán (217/832) what the people of Kufa had to say about the first being created by God. Yúnus replied that the people of Kufa say that God created Iblís before He created Adam. al-Sádiq, outraged, replied:

I seek refuge with God from their idle talk! Such is the talk of the unrighteous! God, the Exalted, created light before darkness, good before evil, Paradise before Hell-fire, mercy before punishment, Adam before Iblís, the shadows (azilla, "Schatten") before the phantoms (ashbáh, "Schemen"), and the phantoms before the spirits, and the spirits before the bodies, and the bodies before death, and death before the Passing Away, and the Passing Away before the Arrangement, and the Arrangement before the Rising, and the Rising before the Resurrection, and the Resurrection before the Retribution, and this before the Repentance, and this before the Gathering, and the Gathering He created before the Earth and Heaven, which was in a completely different garb, and God the One, the Almighty, will appear.[466]

In the same vein:

I asked: "My Master, what was the first thing which God created?" al-Sádiq answered: "The first thing God created was the al-núr al-zillí." "From what did He create it?" "He created it out of His Will, after which he divided it. Knowest thou not the word of God in your Book: Hast thou not regarded thy Lord, how He has stretched out the shadow? Had He willed, he would have made it still. Then We appointed the sun, to be a guide to it; thereafter We seize it to Ourselves, drawing it gently. [25:45-6][467]

In another passage, al-Sádiq speaks of the azilla being rewared by God for their act of praise by being clothed with ashbáh.[468] Halm describes these two entities simply as "bodiless first beings." The ashbáh and azilla according to various reports, were created before Muhmammad;[469] elsewhere, the azilla are the as yet unvivified figures of Hell and the ashbáh are the figures of Paradise.[470] They also represent the material out of which not only Adam and his progeny, but also Iblís were created.[471] Halm explains that they represent the two earlier stages in a successsive process by which the primordial Lichtseelen (dharra), due to their fall to earth, acquire density and darkness to become spirits (arwáh) and finally bodies (abdán),[472] yet another tetrad.

The use of these two terms by the Bab seem, in some cases, to reflect the meanings in this early gnostic literature, especialy the term ashbáh (sing. shabah).[473] But a more immediate influence is probably Shaykhí thought in which such terminolgy is used to speak of the `álam al-mithál.[474] Depending on the context, shabah in this tafsír has been translated as "pre-existent form", "lifeless form", "facsimile", or simply "form". This last translation appears to suit the intention of its use in the fourfold colour hierarchy above, where it functions as a synonym for hai'a, haykal, and súra. Nevertheless, even in this context it is possible to read connotations for the overall ontological theory implied in the tafsír. As such, shabah would represent a stage of Being which is still some distance from perfect realization.[475]

To return to the passage from the tafsír translated above, it is possible to see in this schema traces of a traditional spiritual discourse involving the basic structure 7+1. Thus, we find in the writings of the mystic Nur al-Dín Isfaráyiní (717/1317) reference to eight degrees of spiritual ascent, the highest or eighth degree of which is characterized as being beyond opposition and the cosmos, viz, lá makání. Both Najm al-Dín Kubrá and Ahmad al-Ghazálí had previously used the metaphor of this "eighth degree" as the ultimate spiritual goal of the mystic.[476] This basic structure was adopted later by the Shaykhís in order to discuss their views on the thorny question of bodily resurrection. The eventual opponent of the Bab, Karím Khán Kirmání, speaks of eight degrees of paradise, the eighth of which is the domain of the Prophet and the twelve Imáms.

Now, that degree has no opposite, because, ontologically, the Prophet and the Imáms have no opposites. Ontologically, opposites appear only on the level of our existence, that is, of the Shí`ites and the True Faithful. That is why the Antagoniste [possibly a direct reference to the Bab], in the true and ontological sense, is the adversray of the Shí`ites, or the adepts of the holy Imáms. But they, that is, the Prophets and the Imáms, have neither opposite nor adversary in the true and essential meaning of the word, because the adversaries themselves rank below them.[477]

Following these indications, the above chart might be revised as:







habit. of Imáms


Muhammad firdaws nubúwa



wáhidíya waláya


Fátima na`ím

má hiya ahlu-há






Husayn muqám waláya









The next tiering occurs in the commentary on 2:2, where the Bab singles out the nouns hidáya ("guidance" derived from the quranic hudá) and taqwá ("piety" derived from al-muttaqín) for special consideration. Each of the two terms are considered on several levels, each level is associated with a specific group or identity. It is here that we encounter those terms which played such an important role in Shaykh Ahmad's discussion of imáma. To introduce these hierarchies the Bab says:

Guidance from God is the creation of the thing (íjád al-shay'); guidance from Muhammad is the "Most Great Office" (al-sifárat al-kubrá, i.e., nubúwa); guidance from `Alí is the bestowal (`atá) to each according to his due. Guidance at the level of the Imáms is therefore one, but involves these three relationships.[478]

The Messenger of God said: "I am the warner, and `Alí is a guide (hádi)."

[1] And his guidance[479] for the People of al-Bayán is his revelation to them by means of them (la-hum bi-him) that: "There is no god but He, the truth (al-haqq), Like Him there is naught, He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing . [42:11]

[2] And for the People of Meanings (ahl al-ma`ání), guidance is that Muhammad is unique (munfarid) in the world (fí 'l-imkán) with regard to likeness and similarity (nazír, shabíh), and God raised him up in the station of His self in realization (fí'l-adá') in all the worlds after the manner of the statement: The eyes attain Him not, but He attains the eyes, He is the All-Subtle, the All-aware. [6:103].[480]

[3] And for the People of the Gates (ahl al-abwáb) [theguidance is that] the Family of God (ál alláh) is the locus of the appearance (mazhar) of Muhammad on the level of gnosis and realization (fí 'l-ma`rifa wa 'l-adá') in all the worlds, potential or actual (al-imkán wa'l-akwán). By means of them all movements move, and all rests rest.

[4] And for the People of the Imamate (ahl al-imáma), guidance is that the trustees (awsiyá) of Muhammad are twelve souls. And they are the letters of lá iláh illá alláh in the sacred scriptures (fí 'l-ruqúm al-musattarát). And that Fátima, the Truthful and Pure (al-siddíqa al-táhira) is unique, except for the Imáms, apart from all things. All must approach her in servitude.[481]

[5] And for the People of the Supports (ahl al-arkán), guidance is support (rukníya).

[6] And for the People of Deputies (al-nuqabá'), it is deputyship (al-naqába).

[7] And for the People of the Lieutenants (al-nujabá'), it is lieutenantship, (al-najába).

[8] And to all [others], it is according to their state (bi-má huwa `alayhi). And all of the above is His manifestation to everything other than He, by means of everything other than He.

The terminology of this particular hierarchy comes directly from the hadíth quoted in the previous chapter ascribed to the fourth Imám, Zayn al-`Abidín. It is assumed that the Bab was acquainted with it (although he never quotes it as such) either through those writings of Shaykh Ahmad which he is known to have possessed, or other sources.[482] Although the first element of the Bab's hierarchy does not explicitly mention tawhíd, as in the case of Shaykh Ahmad's commentary; but, the gist of his statement amounts to the same, which is in Corbin's words, "l'Unification de l'Unique au situs de la théologie négative ou apophatique".[483] Therefore, the designation ahl al-bayán is rightly applied only to those who have perfectly accomplished the act of affirming divine unity, namely the Imáms. As for the term al-bayán as used by the Bab, it is taken from the second tradition quoted earlier from the fifth Imám, Muhammad al-Báqir, and quoted here again for convenience:

Baqir said: "O Jábir! Upon you be al-bayán and al-ma`ání. " Jábir said: "And what is al-bayán and al-ma`ání ?" Baqir answered: "As for al-bayán it is that you recognize that God is He of whom it is said: Like Him there is naught [42:11], and to serve Him and to not share with anything the devotion which is due Him to any extent whatsoever. As for al-ma`ání ,We are His ma`ání, His side (janb), His hand, His tongue, His cause, His rule, His knowledge, His truth. Whatever We will, God wills; and God purposes what We purpose. . . . . And We are the Face of God which moves about in all directions in the earth in your midst (bayna azhari kum). He who has recognized us has certitude (yaqín) itself for an Imám. He who is ignorant of us has Sijjín for an Imám.

Here the term al-bayán ("highest truth"), is defined by the same quranic citation [42:11] found in the Bab's statement. The term al-ma`ání is also further clarified as referring directly to the Imáms themselves. At this level, the Imáms would represent "les concepts positifs de Dieu, les qualifications divines qui ont une signification pour nous."[484] Whereas at the level of bayán, they represent the unknowableness of God.

The remaining categories of the hierarchy presented by the Bab represent a descending order of spiritual rank. The point being made here is the same one quoted from Rashtí in the previous chapter: scripture carries a number of meanings, each one as "correct" as the other, depending upon the spiritual rank, or ability to understand, of a given reader. The hierarchy indicates that these various meanings function in harmony. The distinctive terminology of this hieararchy appears to place the author firmly in the Shaykhí tradition.

The designations arkán, nuqabá', and nujabá' found in the above-mentioned hadíth require some explanation. It is clear that these three levels are inferior to imáma, but it is not clear precisely to whom they refer. It is likely that the Bab's hierarchy, apart from being conditioned by the hadíth from Zayn al-`Abidín, refers to the tradition of the spiritual elite who, from generation to generation, maintain true religion. This elite however, is recognized only by a select group of followers, while the majority of people remain ignorant both of the elite itself and their teaching.[485] In Shaykhí theology, the community of those who are so privileged represent the so-called "fourth support" of religion, namely the Perfect Shí`a. The first three supports are tawhíd, nubúwa, and imáma/waláya. The Bab clearly subscribes to this idea in this tafsír when he states explicitly that "the Shí`a is the fourth support."[486]

The arkán can refer to four persons, who subsist unchanged from age to age, and can also possibly refer to those prophets who were "raised by God" without suffering death, namely Idrís, Ilyás, Khidr, and `Isá.[487] Corbin insists that this hierarchy, as elaborated by the Shaykhís, functions only in the invisible realm (i.e., the `alám al-mithál).[488] It remains to be seen whether this is so in the present context, inasmuch as there is not a single explicit reference to this imaginal world in the Bab's tafsír; but neither does the Bab offer any other clues about the identity of these mysterious individuals. It may be helpful, therefore, to summarize Corbin's study of this problem.

What seems to be clear is that the arkán, nuqabá', and nujabá' represent hierarchical levels between an ecclesia spiritualis and the Imáms themselves. The arkán, generally speaking, refer to those four prophets mentioned above who were "raised up by God" without suffering death. Nuqabá' derives from the quranic reference to the twelve chiefs of Israel [5:12], but may be thought to refer to those thirty "spiritual princes" mentioned in a hadíth attributed to al-Sádiq, who enjoy communication with the hidden Imám throughout the period of Major Occultation. The nujabá' have traditonally been seen as a group of forty, whose spiritual status is immediately inferior to the nuqabá'. The total number of nuqabá' and nujabá' is seventy, a number which remains constant, although the various members are replaced by others over time. Their number and function is determined in correspondence with the idea of the descent of the divine names to our world. Shí`í theologians record that some have added another category below the nujabá', an equally permanent group of 360 (the number of degrees of the celestial sphere) subject to the same kind of substitution as the other categories. These are referred to as the Just and the Wise. This last category is not attested in the teachings of the Imáms. In addition, there are several variants for the whole scheme, as in the case of one report in which al-Sádiq fixes the number of nuqabá' at twenty-eight, and the number of the nujabá' at twelve. Among these forty (the number of the nujabá' mentioned above), are found an unspecified number of abdál and awtád.[489]

Corbin also draws attention to the following passage from a work ascribed to the Ismá`ílí master of Alamút, al-Hasan al-Sabbáh (518/1124):

Nos Maítres ont declaré: d'entre les humains nous avons élu quatre mille hommes; d'entre ces quatre mille, quatre cents; d'entre ces quatre cents, quarante; d'entre ces quarante, quatre; d'entre ces quatre, un unique est le póle (qotb). La stabilité du monde repose sur lui; pas un instant le monde n'existe sans lui, car, sans lui, le monde ne pourrait persévérer dans l'�(tm)tre.[490]

Another variant of the tradition is found in work of Rúzbihán Baqlí, in which six categories are associated with the prophets Adam, Moses, Abraham, and the angels Gabriel, Michael and Seraphiel. One, as qutb al-aqtáb, is identified as the Imám himself, specifically the hidden Imám.[491] Corbin points out that all of the various numbers are symbols, which refer to "certaines correspondances cosmiques et au rhythme m�(tm)me de l'ordination de l'�(tm)tre," or tartíb al-wujúd.[492] According to Sayyid Kázim Rashtí. the arkán, nuqabá', and nujabá' represent three "curtains" (riwáq) of the Imám, who is in this metaphor, a "gate" (báb).[493] In a long passage in his Sharh al-qasída, in which he discusses the whole structure, Rashtí compares this hierarchy with the Sufi doctrine of the abdál ("substitutes"). However, he then insists that contrary to what he believed earlier, he has been inspired to know now that a higher rank can never be replaced by a lower rank, contrary to the Sufi doctrine.[494] According to the Shaykhís, all of these mysterious persons are intended to remain anonymous. As intermediaries between the Imám and other men, they are also invisible (rijál al-ghayb), and will remain hidden until the Last Day (yawm al-dín). The eventual opponent of the Bab, Karím Khán Kirmání, speaks of the hierararchy as follows:

The knowledge of the nuqabá' and the nujabá' is not possible at this time. It is not permitted to even ask to discover their individual identities or names. Furthermore, it is not possible for them to respond to such a request because at this time they are the Holy Name of the Imám and during the time of occultation it is not permitted to pronounce this Name.[495]

This secrecy is due to the incapacity of men to perceive, as a result of their having veiled themselves, presumably through their own deeds and thoughts. In the Bab's commentary, which was written before Kirmání's statement, it seems clear that the Bab subscribed to a similar view, although except in discussions of the hidden Imám, there are no explicit statements to this effect. However, it is also true that in the short space of a few months, he was to identify an actual earthly hierarchy of spiritual elite, as in the case of the "letters of the living".[496] (This is explained by the fact that by this time, the Last Day, according to the Bab, had occurred.) Ther are also various indications throughout the text of this commentary that the Bab regarded himself as an elite of some kind, although he never makes an explicit claim for this either. If the "true" Shaykhí position is as Kirmání suggests, and if the Bab was a "faithful" Shaykhí, the events which were to follow, in the space of two or three months, represent a dramatic break with the teachings of Sayyid Kázim, his "revered teacher". In light of this, it is perhaps advisable to see in his hierarchies a possible allusion to both their záhirí and bátiní implications.

With the comparison of the Shaykhí hierarchy with Ibn `Arabí's, mentioned earlier, it is obvious that both schemes share many functional similarities, although they undoubtedly have long and separate histories. The important difference resides in the fact that for Ibn `Arabí, even though he recognized such categories as awtád, nuqabá' , nujabá', and even rijál al-ghayb, Sufism in general also supports the all-important institution of shaykh (sometimes referred to as qutb) which must be an actual person. The Bab was eventually to join features of the two traditions in a combination that could scandalize both equally, but for different reasons.[497]

In the next hierarchy, the terminology changes. Still commenting on the same verse [2:2], the Bab discusses the various levels of the word taqwá.

God's guidance is the same as that which is implied in the word al-muttaqín. Taqwá has several degrees (daraját).

[1] The first degree of piety is for the People of Reality (haqíqa) and al-Bayán, and consists in the aboliton of all "veils of glory" (al-i`rád `an al-subuhát), the effacement of all idle fancies (mahw al-mawhúmát) and rending all veils (hatk al-astár) and attainment to the House of Glory (bayt al-jalál) and abiding in the station (maqám) of: "We are He and He is Us".[498]

The Bab adds that this station is above even this statement, because these people are purified (munazzahún) above all names and attributes.

[These] words pertain to others (aghyár). . . . whereas these are the People of Pure, Definitive Concentration (al-tawajjuh al-baht al-bátt) [in which] the One concentrated upon is the same as the concentration, and the knowledge is the same as the object of knowledge.[499] In their grade (rutba), there is no trace of ordinary ego (inníya al-sulúhíya). For how could it be that what pertains to others pertain also to them? Nay, rather they are the People of the Depth of the Divine Ipseity (lujjat al-huwíya). As the Imám (anon.) has said: "O Lord! Cause me to enter the depth of the sea of Thy Exclusive Unity, that to which no name or representation pertains."[500] Whoever questions their mandate (haqq) has indeed committed kufr.

[2] Taqwá for the Specified Ones (al-khissísín) is the abandoning of whatever distracts them from God, and their attainment to the City of the Inclusive Unity (wáhidíya) at a time when its people were unheeding. [28:15]. This is the degree [which is represented by the next phrase of the above-quoted prayer of the Imám]: "and the boundless ocean of Thy inclusive unity". It is also alluded to in the prayer for the day of al-Sha`bán, in which the Imám (anon.) says: "O my God! Grant me perfect detachment and illumine the sight of our hearts through the light of beholding you . . . so that our spirits may become dependent upon the might of Thy holiness. O my God! Make of me one who when you call him he responds and when you behold him he swoons before Thy glory, and when You confide in him secretly he carries out the command publicly."[501]

[3] [Taqwá] for the "ordinary elite" (ahl al-khawáss) is the Most Great Infallibility al-`ismat al-kubrá); it is that taqwá which prevents them from neglecting the remembrance of God.[502] They see nothing but that they see God with it, and see no light but His light and hear no voice but His voice,[503] and are permanent dwellers (yaqifúna) in the station of "He is He and We are We" [and] "I serve Thee not from fear of Thy wrath neither from hope for Thy good-pleasure; nay, rather [it is that I find Thee simply] deserving of servitude (`ibáda), therefore I [have no choice but to] worship Thee."[504]

[4] The sign (`aláma) of taqwá for the Wayfarers (sálikín) is that he [the individual sálik] does not see himself dwelling in remembrance (dhikr) of the Merciful One (al-rahmán).[505] They are men whom neither commerce nor trafficking diverts from the remembrance of God [24:37] and they remember God in private and public [506] with the statement[507] of their Imám al-Husayn:

Is there any other beside Thee, O Lord, who can manifest that which is not yours [already] to such an extent that he is your manifestor (muzhir la-ka) when Thou art absent so that Thou art in need of some kind of evidence which proves Thine existence, and when Thou art far so that there are traces which might connect to Thee? Blind is the eye that does not see Thee, and Thou continuest to be over it (the eye: `alayhá) a watcher (raqíban). And for that servant who has no share of Thy love is a poor bargain (khasarat safaqa).[508]

[5] [Taqwá] for the People of Externals (ahl al-záhir) is that none sees God as his Lord, under any circumstances (fí hál), unless he is obedient to Him.[509]

The following hadíths follow as a corroboration of this statement:

[1] The Messenger of God said: "Perform the laws of God and be the most pious of men!" And Abú Ja`far [al-Báqir] said: "O company of the Shí`a!" that is the Shí`a of the family of Muhammad (ál Muhammad) "Be ye a middle position so that the one who has gone too far (ghálí) might return to you and that the one who has not gone far enough (tálí) might catch up with you."[510]

[2] Then he [anon.,perhaps a continuation from al-Báqir above, or a separate report] said: "By God! We are without separation from God through independence; nor is there between us and God any kinship. We have no argument against God. And none may approach God except by means of obedience (al-tá`a). Whoever of you is obedient to God, then him will our waláya benefit. Whosoever from among you is disobedient (`así) to God, our waláya will never benefit. Woe unto you (wayhakum)! Be not deluded!"

[3] Báqir said: "The Messenger of God delivered a sermon during the Farewell Pilgrimage, he said: 'O people! By God! There is nothing that will draw you near to Paradise (janna) and far from Hell but that I have given it to you as a positive command (amartu). And there is nothing that will draw you near to Hell and far from Paradise but that I have forbidden it to you (nahaytukum). Indeed, (a-lá) the Faithful Spirit[511] breathed into my soul:[512] 'A soul will never die until it has used up its [preordained] sustenance (tastakmila rizq-há).' So fear God and a perform well in asking for your needs (al-talab), and He will not burden any of you with causing you to wait unduly for what you require, if He is asked without [ulterior or unethical] intent,[513] for none is aware of what is with God except by means of obedience."

[4] Hasan b. `Alí Abú al-Hujjat[514] said in his clear and salubrious explanation (fí tafsíri-hi) of this statement to the godfearing of the Shi`a of Muhammad and `Alí [it means]: "Fear all kinds of kufr; that is: abandon them! And fear the large sins; that is abandon them! And fear the disclosure of the secrets of God and the secrets of the pure ones among His servants who are his trustees (awsiyá) after Muhammad; that is: keep them hidden! And fear the secret of the sciences of the people who deserve them; that is spread them only among them!"

The Bab closes this section with:

And all that I have mentioned to you in the matter (sabíl) of taqwá, both as regards its secrets and those things which may be publicly known, is the fruit of tawhíd (thamaratu'l-tawhíd), but none recognizes it save the People of Tawhíd and Tafríd.[515]

There are in this hierararchy certain similarities with the previous one. For example, the reference at the first level to absolute transcendence (munazzahún) coincides with the level of bayán or tawhíd discussed above. It would therefore correspond to the eighth, or highest level. The second stage, specified for the khissísín, speaks of a relationship between the subjects and God, whereas the first level of taqwá was "beyond" relationship. The term khissísín may be thought to reflect the usage of Shaykh Ahmad in his discussion of the various grades of the believer.[516]

At the third level, this relationship becomes even more sharply articulated so that the clear distinction "He is He and we are we" is made. At this level, which corresponds to the level of abwáb above, the idea of mediation is implied. The term al-khawáss as used by Shaykh Ahmad, however, appears to pertain to a higher level.[517] At the fourth stage of taqwá, the grade of "seeker" is introduced with the traditional Sufi term sálik. The implication here then would be that some kind of "leader" (Imám) is required, as in the Bab's reference to "their Imám al-Husayn." Thus the fourth level of the previous hierarchy, imáma, is also implied.

The fifth and final stage would appear to encompass the lower levels of arkán, nuqabá', and nujabá' from the emphasis which the Bab places in it on obedience to the sharí`a, as seen in those hadíths quoted above. It would appear from this that those levels which are ranged above this lowest one also assume obedience to the law, but because of the greater spiritual capacity which they imply, perception of (or "contact" with) the divine in this world is accomplished through other means as well. The fifth level is distinct from the others in that the ahl al-záhirín see nothing beyond "mere" obedience. The above hierarchy may be schematized as follows:

[1] ahl al-haqíqa wa'l-bayán huwíya[518] We are He and He is Us

[2] al-khissísín


[3] ahl al-khawáss

------- We are we and He is He

[4] al-sálikín


[5] ahl al-záhir

sharí`a obedience

Inasmuch as the first level represents absolute transcendence and is therefore beyond functional utility, it appears that the fifth level is meant to suggest again the Shaykhí doctrine of the "fourth support".

The next hierarchy is that found in the commentary at verse 3, concerning the obligation of faith (imán) derived from the verb yu'minúna.

Imán has several grades and degrees (marátib wa daraját):

For the People of Tajríd (ahl al-tajríd), [imán] is the same as al-tafríd.[519]

The terminology here, as in the case with sálik, is that of Sufism. Tajríd refers to a state of absolute purification, while tafríd refers to the assimilation by the mystic of the quality of divine "aloneness". The terms are seen by one author to be connected to the formula lá iláha illa'lláh. Here, the first half of the statement corresponds as a negation to the detachment indicated in the word tajarrud, while the second half as an affirmation corresponds to tafarrud.[520] These terms appear elsewhere in the Bab's tafsír and it is almost certain that they refer to the Imáms themselves, either as non-material entities or otherwise spiritually pure beings. Thus their accomplishment of the quality of "divine aloneness" is equated with a pure act of faith, whereas faith at lower levels is represented by progressively less demanding accomplishments. The Bab says that in all other cases imán consists in the belief that there is a certain amount of divine truth in every sign (áya), "from the meanest to the noblest"[521] which God reveals (tajalla) to the "people of God" (ahl al-haqq). "And if people really knew how God had created mankind, none would ever blame another." [522]

The remaining seven grades of faith are represented by the following groups:

[1] The People of the Garden of the Divine Will (al-mashíya).

[2] The People of the Garden of the Divine Purpose (al-iráda).

[3] The People of the Garden of the Sea of Divine Decree (bahr al qadar).

[4] The People of Garden of Eden (al-`adn).

[5] The People of the Garden of the Divine Permission (al-idhn).

[6] The People of the Garden of Eternity (al-khuld).

[7] The People of the Garden of the Divine Refuge (or Repose, al- mawá).

And for each level of these seven, there are an unlimited number of enclosures (hazá'ir), and the dwellers therein are servants whose number none but him whom God willeth can know.[523]

This is another expression of the "eight paradises" motif, which is also found in later Shaykhí works that treat the question of Heaven and Hell.

When it is said that Paradise is in Heaven and Gehenna is in the Earth, that is because the human being has two dimensions: a dimension of light and a dimension of darkness. His dimension of light is the Heaven of his being; his dimension of darkness is the Earth of his being. Every faithful act a man does is done through the dimension of Light. Then he is wholly luminous, celestial, subtle. Conversely, his betrayals and denials come from the dimension of darkness; he is then wholly dark, earthly, dense, opaque. . . .

Now, Paradise includes eight degrees; Hell contains seven. Each of these stages contain several enclosures; however, there is one degree of Paradise that does not include a plurality of enclosures. [524]

This represents a most interesting point of agreement between two authors who were eventually to become representatives of opposing camps. This example shows how the basic elements of Shaykhism were susceptible of assuming (or producing) such different forms, depending upon the uses to which they were put. For Karím Khán, the author of the above statement, eschatology was to be worked out exclusively within the soul of each believer; whereas for the Bab this eschatology eventually involved events in the world "outside".[525]

In the following hierarchy of virtues, or aspects of faith, the Bab refers directly to the "return" long awaited by the Shí`a. Following a hadíth from al-Sádiq,[526] the Bab associates each with one of the seven names mentioned in the commentary on the Fátiha. These virtues are :

[1] righteousness (al-birr): Muhammad

[2] truthfulness (al-sidq): `Alí

[3] certainty (al-yaqín): Hasan

[4] contentment (al-ridá): Husayn

[5] faithfulness (al-wafá'): Fátima

[6] knowledge (al-`ilm): Ja`far

[7] forbearance (al-hilm): Músá.

Then He divided that [among mankind: qasama dhálika] and he in whom He has placed all seven portions, he is a perfect bearer.[527] And He apportioned to some people one share, and to some two, and to some three, and so forth up to the seven.[528]

It will be noticed that the order of the names here differs slightly from that found in the previous commentary on the Fátiha. Fátima has been moved from third to fifth place, thereby elevating both Hasan and Husayn one level. It is not clear what significance, if any, this change indicates. The Bab ends this discussion with the following statement:

May God bless them all! He who believes in them and in their ghayb, that is, of these seven when they are doubled, then he is a pure believer.[529]

Still at 2:3, the Bab now discusses the significance of the word ghayb:

And the Unseen is Muhammad because he is absent to whatever is other than he. None knows his true essence (kunh) but God. But the specific place of this ghayb,is the Qá'im, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.[530] He is the one about whom Sádiq spoke when asked about al-ghayb in this verse. He said: "It is the hidden proof (al-hujjat al-ghá'ib): `Alí is the same as the Messenger of God as he clearly indicated in his lofty statement: 'My záhir is imáma and my bátin is a forbidden hiddenness of which none is aware.'

There are an unlimited number of grades to al-ghayb. For example: potentiality is hidden from actuality in every world accordingly. Or: the true state of the higher chain [of events] is hidden from the lower chain. This is eternally the case, in matters both universal and particular, whether of realities or mere attributes. And all this is from the point of view of limitation and multiplicity.[531]

In the following, the emphasis is once again on obedience to the law for those who are described as the ahl al-záhir.

[1] But for the ahl al-bayán (i.e., the Imáms), al-ghayb is the same as al-shaháda (the hidden is the same as the visible), and the visible is the same as the hidden. And none knows the hidden except God.

[2] And according to the ahl al-záhir, and it (al-záhir) is the same as al-bátin according to the ahl al-bátin, it is as Abú 'l-Hujjat al- Hasan al-`Askarí said in the tafsír of this verse:

those who believe in the Unseen , that is (ya`ní) in that which is hidden from their senses about those things which faith obligates them, like the resurrection (al-ba`th), the judgement (al-hisáb), Paradise (al-janna), Hell (al-nár), and the tawhíd of God, and the rest of whatever is not known by seeing, although it may be known by rational proof (dalá'il). [They are what] God established (nasaba), like Adam and Eve and Idrís and Núh and Ibráhím and the prophets in whom faith is obligatory, and in the Proofs (hujaj) of God, even though they be invisible.[532]

The next hierarchy occurs at the second half of the third verse: and expend of that We have provided them . The Bab arranges the ideas of divine sustenance (rizq) and its expenditure (infáq > yunfiqúná) in hierarchical form, introduced by the following statement:

That is to say (ay): Their [the Imám's] souls have become a locus of the divine mercy (mazhar al-rahmáníya) and they bestow that which God bestowed upon them upon each [man] according to what he deserves.[533]

[1] For the People of Wisdom (ahl al-hikma) [this bestowal is] the secrets of the sciences and the realities and [the secrets of] the clear verses (al-áyát al-muhkama).

[2] For the People of Admonition (ahl al-maw`iza) [this bestowal is] the esoterica (al-bawátin) and the knowledges (al-ma`árif) and the imperatives of justice (furúd al-`ádila).

[3] For the People of Disputation (ahl al-mujádala) [this bestowal consists of] the externals (al-zawáhir) and the superficialities[534] about those things which they agree upon concerning the paths of righteousness (turuq al-hisán) for the tranquility of their souls (li-sukún anfusi-him). God has forbidden them what He has permitted others because they are an uncouth rabble (hamaj ra`á`).[535]

These three categories are derived from 16:125: Call thou to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and good admonition, and dispute with them in the better way . The first two categories are quoted in another verse of the Ziyárat al-jámi`a, where Shaykh Ahmad takes the opportunity to specify that all three categories are different types of divine proofs, which are suited to three classes of men. From this explanation, which bears some resemblance to the words of the Bab, we learn that the first category pertains to the heart (fu'ád) and the pure innate character of man (fitra), which enables him to read what has been written by God "in the horizons and in the souls" which point to the true meaning of all things as they are (ma`rifat al-ashyá' kamá hiya). Furthermore, these are things which are in a condition ontologically prior to their appearance in this world (hiya ashbáh al-ashyá' wa azillatu-há bi'l-haqq).[536] This kind of proof (dalíl) is reserved for the "believer whose heart has been tested for faith" and is therefore accounted as genuine (sádiq) with God, the Messenger and his Trustees.

The second category represents a proof which is suitable for those who approach God according to the law (`alá hudúd al-`aql al-shar`í) by means of which they hope to gain Paradise. The third category represents those who regard only the outer meaning (qishr) of a statement and are unable to appreciate the first two kinds of proof. These include "some ordinary people and some of the theologians and legalists" (min al-nás wa min al-mutakallimín wa'l-fuqahá'). [537]

The Bab outlines the levels of infáq according to the eight different paradises:

[1] Expenditure is the bestowal upon the people of the Garden of Paradise (jannat al-firdaws) of the secrets of the divine will(asrár al-mashíya) and the tablets of divine knowledge (alwáh al-ma`rifa), as befits the might of their holiness.

[2] And upon the people of the Highest Garden (al-`álíya) [the bestowal is] the limitless, secondary, eternal, divine secrets and the knowledge of the highest purpose (iráda) of God.[538]

[3] And for the ahl jannat al-na`ím [the bestowal is] the secrets preserved in the unplumbed billowing seas,[539] namely the secret of the divine decree (sirr al-qadar) and the perfect understanding of the principle of "choice" (ikhtiyár) which applies to all created things. [This principle is]: That God does not compel or force His amr, nay rather He created all created things according to the mystery (sirr) of choice (ikhtiyár). And this door (báb) was made wide open for this soul, wider than what is between the heaven and the earth.[540] [This mystery of choice] is the bright sun about which nothing but the Ancient, the Single is fully informed.

[4] And for the People of the Garden of Eden (ahl jannat al-`adn) [The bestowal is of] the secrets of the divine decree (al-qadá) and divine change of mind (al-badá'). That is, [they understand] how the divine signature (imdá') is suspended at the occurrence of divine change of mind (al-badá').[541] [They] know that this garden is higher than all the other gardens. It is limitless (lá hazíra la-há) and it is the centre (qutb) of all the gardens and the other gardens revolve around it and the knowledge of its inhabitants.

[5] And for the People of the Garden of Duration (ahl jannat al-muqám) [the bestowal is] the secrets of the stations of God and His tokens.

[6] And for the people of the Garden of Eternity (khuld) [the bestowal is] the secrets of the veils and the hidden pavillions (al-suradaqát) and the knowledge of the way in which the divine glory (al-bahá) and beauty (al-jamál) are related (ta`allaqa) to the People of Glory and Perfection (ahl al-majd wa'l-kamál, i.e., the Imáms).

[7] And for the people of the Garden of Repose (mawá) [the bestowal is of the] knowledge of [the station of] the further mosque [17:1] including [the station of] or closer still [33:9].

[8] And for the people of the Garden of Peace (al-silm) [cf. 2:208] [the bestowal is] security (al-saláma) from all but God. And it is the [station of that] poverty which the Messenger of God prided himself in,[542] because he had expended all for the sake of God, and he became annihilated while nothing of his own existence remained. And when he had expended all of what God had supplied him, God made him immortal (báqíyan) by means of His own immortality so that his annihilation was the same as (`ayn) his immortality, and his poverty was the same (`ayn) as his self-sufficency. He who obeys [God] (atá`a) as the Messenger of God did in responding to the admonition to expend , that one will enter into [the very essence] of this verse. Otherwise, God will do with him what He wills.

And that is the greatest grade of expenditure for the people of the abode of peace, none knows it except he who enters the house of God, the Generous and drinks from the cup of His ancient glory (majdihu al-qadím). And when he enters and drinks he is proven worthy of the abode of peace.

The Bab says that just as infáq exists on these positive levels, it is also applicable to the inhabitants of the seven Hells, according to specific misdeeds. In fact, all created things have been given infáq according to their respective capacities.[543] The hierarchy of creation is further pointed out in the following statement:

And each thing has been put in its proper place: the realities (haqá'iq) in the realities, and the gems in the mines[544] and the attributes in the attributes, and the accidents in the pre-existent forms (ashbáh). The believers have been given pity (ráfa) and humility (khudú`) and are under divine protection and mercy. While for the unbeliever vengeance and error have been given. Nothing has been named except by that which God, the Messenger or the awliyá' have named it.

Báqir has said: "Whoever calls a date pit a pebble or a pebble a date-pit, that one is condemned and he is a polytheist."[545]

Such a statement emphasizes the sanctity of names and words and depends upon the theory that all language is generated from divine revelation and that even the most insignificant element of creation, or those elements which are considered unworthy, nonetheless play an integral part in the divine economy. The Bab's closing remarks relate the "law" of expenditure to the concrete world of the sharí`a:

And concerning infáq, at the time of Salát - it is Salát

and at the time of Zakát, Zakát

and at the time Fasting, Fasting

and at the time of Hajj, the Hajj

and at the time of Jihád, Jihád.

And all of that is but a drop (rashha) concerning the principle of expenditure, but the whole subject is completely understood by the People of Tafáq.[546]

Another heptad is found at the commentary on 2:5.[547] Here, the various grades are described most fully. After mentioning all twelve Imáms, the Bab comments on the following:

Those are upon guidance from their Lord (rabb), those are the ones who prosper (al-muflihún).

[1] The Lordship of the pure Ancient Essence and it exists even when there is no object of Lordship (idh lá marbúb) mentioned or seen, [and this Lordship] is not comprehended (lá iháta). He has ever been a Lord even when there is no marbúb; He is now as He was (al-án ka-má kána). His lordship is exalted and sanctified above the reach of any hand but His. There is no statement (kalám), no utterance (bayán), no presentation (rasm), no name (ism), no expression (`ibára), nor "pointing to" (ishára), which can make it known (`an ma`rifa). "The road is blocked, the search obstructed." Exalted is thy Lord, the Lord of Might, above what you attribute to Him.

[2] The second stage is the indication (dalíl, also "proof") of this first Lordship and its sign. That is, the eye which is directed by it to it. This stage is the knowledge of the first stage through an indication, because this Lordship is the face (wajh) of the first Lordship. The knowledge of the face is the same as the knowledge of the owner of the face. "O my God! It is through You that I recognize you as you have directed me to You and summoned me to you. Were it not for You I would not know what you are." This stage points to the Essence by means of the Essence, while there is as yet no mention of the objects of Lordship in the court of divine Might. There is neither mention, nor practicality (sulúh), nor comprehension (iháta) nor manifestation (zuhúr). Nay, rather in the reality this stage of Lordship is the same as the first. There is no name or allusion which can approach Him. Exalted is the Ancient above the description of all but Him. He is isolated from His creation and His creation is isolated from Him. The only knowledge which He indicated is the knowledge of His signs. Exalted is He. He is too glorious to be described.

[3] The third stage of Lordship is the Lordship of the Will (mashíya). This is the Lordship which exists when an "object" of Lordship (marbúb: the one over whom lordship is excercised) is mentioned but not seen or comprehended. This is the station (maqám) of the divine Ipseity (huwíya), and the highest grade of the Inclusive Unity.

[4] The fourth is the Lordship of the divine Purpose (iráda). This is the Lordship which exists when the marbúb is mentioned and seen generally (ijmálí), even if there is no marbúb through actual connection (bi'l-ta`alluq), either by manifestion (bi-zuhúr) or comprehension.

[5] The fifth level of Lordship is that of the greatest name of God (ism alláh al-akbar). This is the Lordship which exists when the marbúb is mentioned and seen specifically (tafsílí), even if there is no marbúb by connection, manifestation or comprehesion.

[6] The sixth is the Lordship of Mercy (rubúbíya ism al-rahmáníya) and it is the Lordship which exists when the marbúb is mentioned and seen through connection and comprehension, while there is yet marbúb through manifestation. This Lordship is the stage of being worshipped (ma`búdíya) indicated in the verse: Thee do we worship and Thee do we ask for help. [1:5].

[7] The seventh stage of Lordship exists when the marbúb is mentioned, seen, comprehended, and manifest. This is the Lordship which has been cast (al-rubúbíyat al-mulqátatu) in the ipseity (huwíya) of the marbúb. al-Sádiq alluded to this level in the following statement:

Servitude (`ubúdíya) is an essence whose kernel is Lordship. Whatever is lost in servitude is found in Lordship, and whatever is hidden in Lordship is attained in servitude."[548]

This Lordhip exists in both the hidden dimension and the visible dimension of all things (tilka al-rubúbíya mawjúdatun fí ghayb al-ashyá' wa shahádatihá). This is what is meant by the phrase: guidance from their Lord. That is to say, the Lordship which has been cast into their ipseities (huwíyátihim) God guides them by this Lordship to themselves through themselves. And God appointed `Alí in the station of His own self in all of these seven stages of Lordship for the magnification of the glories of His Lordship inasmuch as the eyes attain Him not [6:103], nor do the natural thoughts of men encompass Him, nor are the birds of the hearts and thoughts (awhám) able to ascend to the atmosphere of His Lordship. And He attains the eyes, He is the Subtle, the Apprised . [6:103]

This is merely a drop (rashha) concerning the guidance from their Lord.

The first three degrees of Lordship are mentioned again in the commentary on 2:30, where they are identified with God, Muhammad and `Alí respectively.[549]

[1] The Lordship which exists [even] when there is none over which to be a Lord (lá marbúb). And it is the sign of the Lord and the highest aspect of the Will (mashíya). The road to it is cut off, and the path to it is blocked. God was Lord even when there was no object of lordship.

[2] The Lordship which exists when no marbúb is seen, even though the marbúb is mentioned. And this Lordship is the same as the Will. There is no road to it, except after the manner in which the Messenger of God has described, he said: "None but God and thee, O `Alí, knows me."

[3] And the Lordship which exists when the marbúb is both mentioned and seen. And it is the Lordship which exists through its connection with the marbúb and [the Lordship] implied in the statement: the Merciful mounted the throne . [550] It is the Lordship of the divine mercy and there is no path to it except by means of what Muhammad himself described, he said: "None but God and I know thee , O `Alí!"[551]

This hierarchy is relatively straightforward in indicating the three principles of tawhíd, nubúwa, and imáma, which may be associated respectively with the levels of Exclusive Unity (ahadíya), Inclusive Unity (wáhidíya), and Mercy (rahmáníya). In this context such a hierarchy implies the existence of the fourth element, namely the Shí`a itself. The Bab does not mention this last in connection with rubúbíya, possibly because the Shí`a represent the opposite but complementary principle of servitude (`ubúdíya) mentioned in the preceding heptad.

At 2:35 Adam, or more specifically the Adam which functions in the jannat al-úlá,[552] is identified as the divine Will, and is the first male (dhakar al-awwal) to appear in the pre-existent contingent world (al-imkán al-úlá) whose spouse is the divine Purpose (iráda).

And the Garden here is the garden of the Inclusive Unity, not the garden of the Exclusive Unity, because in the latter (ahadíya) there is no mention ofdrawing near to the tree, neither potentially nor actually. It is the garden of pre-eternity (azalíya). The enterer thereof never departs (yakhruju). And the abandoner thereof (khárij), never [re-]enters it.[553]

Nothing is opposed to its people,[554] and its people are not other than [that]. Its inhabitants have ever been in one condition (hála wáhida) which none recognizes through hints (bi'l-talwíh), except he who has burned the veils of glory and allusion and infinity and finitude and entered the Throne of glory so that he hears whatever he wants of the Merciful One from the melody of the peacocks of this garden. And He wrongs not His servants.[555] And this garden is reserved (makhsús) for the Family of Muhammad. And no one merits it until he has recognized them through illumination.[556]

It is the garden of eternity (al-khuld), God specified it for His self, and alluded to it in His book: God warns you that you beware of Him . . . [557] [3: 28 & 30]. And remind them of the Days of God . [14:5]

The Bab then says that this garden of the Adam al-úlá is at the level (lujjat) of the Exclusive Unity. When he became intimate with her mate, [558] which is the station of the individuation of the First Adam,[559] then their Lord caused them to dwell in the garden of the Inclusive Unity. This statement appears to describe three levels, of which the station of ta`ayyun is the middle. The Bab then says that the tree itself is the sign of the Exclusive Unity, which cannot be properly perceived within the realm of contingency and this is why Adam and Eve were ordered not to approach it. After they disobeyed, the first offspring to come forth into contingency was the Sea of Destiny (bahr al-qadar):

which is only understood by God the One, the Single. And it is a surging sea in whose waves God forms (sawwara alláh) all that is given existence by the Will. It is a Sea which has no beginning and no end. Glorified be God, its Originator, above what is said of Him.[560]

And verily al-Sádiq has said, when asked about the garden of Adam:

It was one of the gardens of the earth (al-dunyá). The sun rose over it, as did the moon. If it had been one of the gardens of the Hereafter, nothing would ever have come forth out of it.[561]

He means (lawwaha) by dunyá, the Tamtám of the Inclusive Unity (wáhidíya). And it is the beginning place of limits in the worlds of al-jabarút, from infinity to infinity. And the meaning of "rising of the sun and the moon" (tulú`) is the process (madad) of Origination and Invention. And by "Hereafter" is meant the depth of the Exclusive Unity of the sign of the pre-eternity which appears to it by it (la-há bi-há).[562]

In his commentary at verse 38, the Bab comments upon the phrase and whosoever follows My guidance, no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. Here my guidance is glossed as `Alí who may be followed in a variety of ways, according to the tradition "The paths [to God] are as numerous as the breaths of the creatures".[563]

[1] The first who followed `Alí in the contingent world is [by virtue of the word] huwa. It is his name and his designation, even without fully pronouncing the wáw.

[2] Then the manifest divinity (al-ulúhíya al-záhiríya).

[3] Then the victorial exclusive unity (al-ahadíya al-qáhiríya).

[4] Then the universal mercy (al-rahmáníya al-jámi`a).

[5] Then the second pre-eternity (al-azalíya al-tháníya).

[6] Then the world of attributes (sifát).

[7] Then the world of deeds (af`ál).

[8] Then the veil of divine power (qudra).

[9] Then the veil of divine might (`azama).

[10] Then the veil of might (`izza).

[11] Then the veil of awe (hayba).

[12] Then the veil of omnipotence (jabarút).

[13] Then the veil of mercy (rahma).

[14] Then the veil of prophecy (nubúwa).

[15] Then the veil of miracle (karáma)

[16] Then the veil of high rank (rif`a).

[17] Then the veil of felicity (sa`áda).

[18] Then the veil of intercession (shafá`a).

[19] Then the world of command (amr).

[20] Then the world of creation (khalq).

And all of thatfollows him in a continuous motion (bi-harakat al-tawálí). While he [`Alí] helps them (mumidduhum) with guidance according to what they are (bi-má hum `alayhi). Even the People of non-recognition (ahl al-inkár) follow him by virtue of that very non-recognition.[564] Thus God has caused the people of paradise to enter [paradise] by means of following him, and the people of hell [to enter] hell by means offollowing him.

The idea expressed in this last statement is one frequently encountered in the traditions. For example, in one of the khutab collected by Rajab Bursí we find this statement from `Alí: "I am the master of the Path and the Place, [and I am the one] who determines who goes to Paradise and who goes to Hell according to the command of my Lord."[565] This exaltation of `Alí by the Bab is in fact very similar to the theme of this khutba and several others, such as the Khutbat al-tatanjíya[566] and much of the terminology found here, and in the Bab's following remarks [567] is also found in these traditions. It is known that this compilation was studied by Sayyid Kázim [568] and it is likely, therefore, that it was studied by the Bab as well.

As for the hierarchy itself, the pattern seems to imply the number of the letters of the basmala (19), if the point under the bá' is counted separately. Here, it is necessary to refer to one of those passages in Masháriq which seems to have served as a source for the Bab. Rajab Bursí writes that all existent things (mawjúdát), find their consummation in a single point (al-nuqtat al-wáhida), and this point is a quality of the divine Essence.[569] This would correspond to the first element, huwa.

The remaining elements in the above list may be seen to reflect the continuing discussion by Bursí of the way in which the existent things acquire being. Bursí says that this divine attribute is the first thing that was created and is identifiable as the Muhammadan light, which is also called the first intelligence. It is also called the universal intelligence (`aql al-kull), which represents the origin of all things. When God spoke to this first principle His word became a light; then he spoke another word and it became a spirit (rúh). Ultimately, through this speaking, the "one" was diffused (sarayán) through the "many", as the alif is diffused through speech in general. In the course of this passage reference is made to such terms as al-wáhdáníya al-awwalíya (íya al-thániya), the "appearance of the deeds from the attributes" (sudúr al-af`ál `an al-sifát, cf. item 6 & 7), and the "clouds of divine might" (saháb al-`azama, cf. hijáb al-`azama, item 9).[570]

Although Bursí here indicates that the highest principle, the "single point" is the Muhammadan Presence, (al-hadra al-muhammadíya, a term from Ibn `Arabí's lexicon), the above remarks serve an introduction for a notoriously obscure khutba from `Alí, in which a dialogue between the divine and human dimensions of the Imám is presented. During this dialogue, statement is made: "I am the Essence of essences." Now this statement is reproduced (but not ascribed) by the Bab immediately after the list translated above.[571] A closer comparison between this section of the Bab's commentary and the material in Masháriq would undoubtedly further confirm the relationship between the two.

We conclude this chapter by giving the commentary at 2:125, which is important for the hierarchical exegetic theory of this tafsír. The commentary concentrates on the word House (al-bayt) for which are given nine inner meanings (butún), beginning with the ninth as the most profound.[572]

And when We appointed the House to be a place of visitation for the people, and a sanctuary, and: 'Take yourselves Abraham's station for a place of prayer.' And We made covenant with Abraham and Ishmael: 'Purify My House for those that shall go about it and those that cleave to it, to those who bow and prostrate themselves.' [2:125]

[9] The meaning (al-murád) ofthe House in the ninth depth (fi batn al-tási`) is the house of the divine Ipseity (al-huwíya). It is the house of tawhíd and the first house which God manifested to itself through itself in the process of Origination (al-ibdá`). He made it as a sign of His own self, the Ancient (al-qadím) as a proof of the statement: "There is no god but God, the Mighty (al-`azím).

[8] In the eighth depth, it is the house of divinity (al-ulúhíya) and it is the first house established in the Absolute Cloud as the possessor of whatever is rare and glorious (mustawlíyan `alá má daqqa wa jalla).

[7] In the seventh interior, it is the house of the Exclusive Unity belonging to God, the One the Single. It is the first house which God, his (Abraham's) Lord established with His hand for Muhammad in the world of al-láhút. In it [He is] in it; he is he; there is no other (wa fíhi fíhi huwa huwa lá siwá-hu).[573]

[6] In the sixth depth, it is the house of Destiny (al-qadar).This is the first house which was established in the world of al-jabarút by the hand of Muhammad for `Alí. And in it he is, and he is independent and the ordainer, by permission of the Merciful, of the divine economy (muqaddir al-taqdír) in the states of immortality and annihilation alike (fi'l-baqá' wa'l-faná') for all who are in these worlds. He [?it] is the throne of God (`arsh al-haqq) which is mentioned in the verse the All-compassionate sat himself upon the Throne [20:5].

[5] In the fifth depth, it is the house of divine change of plan (al-badá').

[4] In the fourth depth, it is the battleground where Husayn fell (masra` al-Husayn).

[3] In the third depth, it is the tomb of the Messenger.

[2] In the second depth, it is the tombs of the Shí`a of the Imáms.

[1] And in the first interior it is what the Merciful said: The first House established for the people was that at the blessed and holy Bakka a place holy, and a guidance to all beings. [3:96][574]

And the tafsír of this noble verse for the People of Reality (the Imáms) is itself all according to one station.[575]

The function of the ninth "depth" is the same as that of the world of láhút shown above, namely to emphasize the rigorous negative or apophatic theology so central to Shaykhí, Bábí and eventually Bahá'í thought. It is on account of such a theology that the Imám is permitted to make all of the various theopathic statements recorded in tradition.[576]

Although the point has been alluded to several times, it should be stated clearly that apart from quoting several hadíths which were favorite subjects of meditation for the first two masters of the Shaykhí school, and apart from the repeatedly affirmed doctrine of the four supports (which includes the anonymity of a spiritual elite) and the affirmation of the existence of a God which is beyond Being, the Bab shows no interest in what might be termed the higher teachings of the Shaykhíya. That is, he does not elaborate any of the theosophical and metaphysical themes, such as those pertaining to the `alam al-mithál, or alchemy for which the Shaykhís are known. In addition, there is a strong element of "aphoristic" Sufism in these hierarchies which, one assumes, came as naturally to a spiritually-minded Shírází as his own heartbeat. There is no mention in the histories of any direct affiliation of the Bab with a Sufi order or teacher.

Part i: Chapter 4



The foregoing discussions of waláya and hierarchies have outlined in some detail the form of the thought expressed in this commentary on the second súra of the Qur'an. However, without some understanding of the many references in this commentary to the process of God's self-manifestation, tajallí, this form would remain spiritless. The most usual translation of this term is "manifestation". The active participle is mutajallí, "the one who manifests or causes to become manifest". The passive participle mutajallá, "that which is manifested", can also mean "the place of manifestation". Mutajallá la-hu is "the one who receives manifestation". The root J L W is found in several forms in the Qur'an. For the purposes of this discussion, the most important occurs in the following context:

And when Moses came to Our appointed time and his Lord spoke with him, he said, 'Oh my Lord, show me, that I may behold Thee!' Said He, "Thou shalt not see Me; but behold the mountain - if it stays fast in its place, then Thou shalt see Me.'

And when his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain (fa-lammá tajalla rabbuhu li-'l-jabal)He made it crumble to dust; and Moses fell down swooning.

So when he awoke, he said, 'Glory be to Thee! I repent to Thee; I am the first of the believers.' [7:143][577]

The above terms parallel other words deriving from the root Z H R which are used in slightly differing ways. Mazhar is the noun of place meaning "the location where something appears or is made to appear". In the context of this commentary, it frequently refers to a human being, and therefore a blurring of actual agency may become a problem. Strictly speaking the mazhar must never be thought of as actually being the cause of a given "appearance" (muzhir) but merely the vehicle by means of which such appears.[578] Zuhúr is a very important term which carries all of the above meanings of appearance and manifestation in addition to "victory" and "overcoming".[579] It is the term most frequently used in even the oldest hadith literature to refer to the eventual parousia of the 12th Imám.


As a word not only approved but sanctified by scripture, tajallí came to be used by thinkers very early in the history of Muslim thought as a technical term to convey the neo-platonic idea of the self-manifestation of the One, who for Muslims was God (alláh). One of the earlier philosophers to employ it was Ibn Sina (428/1037).[580] but it was really Ibn `Arabí (638/1240) who discussed the process in what was to become its classical formulation,[581] This in turn was adopted not only by Sunní mystics but also virtually wholesale by many of his Shí`í readers, such as the very influential Haydar Ámulí (after 787/1385-6) and Ibn Abí Jumhúr (after 905/1499),[582] and transmitted directly to such representatives of the great Safaví intellectual synthesis as Mullá Sadrá (1050/1640) and Muhsin Fayz Kashání (1091/1680). The main features of Ibn `Arabí's theory of the self-manifestation of God would appear to have been subscribed to by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'i (1242/1826) and his successor Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (1259/1843); but as will become clear, there is an important divergence between the Shaykhí position and that put forth by Ibn `Arabí. In any event, the tajallí which is at work in the Bab's tafsir shares many features in common with the classical notion.[583]

It is neither advisable nor possible to list all of the contexts in this tafsír where reference is made to the process of tajallí; indeed, there is hardly a page which does not allude to it in some way or another. Tajallí and waláya are the ideational anchors for the tafsír. The first mention outside the "Introduction"[584] is in the commentary on the Fátiha.

[1] The third [verse] is the book of Fátima.

[2] God has placed in it all that pertains to her.

[3] It is the Garden of Grace (al-na`ím).

[4] God prepared its shade for whoever believes in her and loves her after he has recognised her as she deserves.

[5] [That is, in the way] she appeared to the one who recognizes her through her.

[6] At such time [when he recognizes her properly] this Garden will open to him.

[2] = kullu má la-há wa `alayhá

[4] = bi-má hiya ahlu-há

[5] = ka-má tajallat li'l-`árif la-há bi-há.[585]

The problem then is how does one understand the statement ka-má tajallat li'l-`árif la-há bi-há. The most venerable usage of this kind of expression, at least for the Shí`a, occurs in a statement attributed to `Alí and quoted by many writers, a transliteration of which runs as follows:

qála `Alí: lá tuhitu bi-hi al-awhámu bal tajalla la-há bi-há wa bi-há umtuni`a min-há [586]

This report undoubtedly serves as the locus classicus for the ideas represented by the above quotation from the Bab's tafsír. In fact, he comments on it himself a little later in the work.[587] Shaykh Ahmad quotes it in the course of his fourfold commentary on the hadíth: "Our cause is a secret, a secret within a secret". This statement is connected with the first station (maqám), the affirmation of divine unity, and the knowledge of the Ancient God who is described in the Qur'an by the verse: The eyes attain Him not, but He attains the eyes; He is the All-subtle, the All-aware. [6:103] Shaykh Ahmad says that there are several hadíths which explain this station, the first of which is the one quoted above. With this background, it is possible to translate this statement of `Alí's in the following way:

`Alí said: "Mere minds do not comprehend Him. Rather, He appears to them by means of them, and it is by means of them also that He remains inaccessible to them."

With this translation, however, the problem of the proper understanding of the plural awhám is introduced. In the vast majority of its usages, it carries a negative connotation along the lines of delusion, fancy, and erroneous, perhaps wrong-headed, conjecture. Much of this negativity must be seen in this context, to have been neutralized by the stated relationship to the Divine: It is God who appears to the thoughts after all, therefore how can these thoughts be said to be unworthy?[588] A solution to this problem may be to read the sentence as follows:

Rather, He appears to their minds insofar as such insufficient instruments are capable of properly perceiving.[589]

While this statement could be interpreted pessimistically, it should be pointed out that the intellectual tradition in which it serves as a focus of meditation has often responded to the basic idea rather differently. Ibn `Arabí, for example, would say that God appears to the human mind only in the form of that mind, precisely because He has no form Himself.[590] The many appearances in these limited forms are His only appearance. The manifestation (tajallí) of attributes, is the manifestation of essence. Thus, the thought (wahm) may be seen as the highest form of God's manifestation. However, because of the inherent ambivalence of the equation, a certain amount of caution or vigilance, is in order to avoid what Corbin has termed "metaphysical idolatry."[591]

To return to the words of the Bab, the most important sentence is number five where the actual verb tajallat is used together with a prepositional phrase frequently encountered throughout the work, either in the form it appears here or in combination with other pronouns. The variations in the manuscripts deserve some further notice. The reading in Baq. and I: ka-má tajallat li'l-`árif la-hu bi-hi (not taking into account the extra bi-hi in Baq.) could be translated: "As she appeared to the one who recognized 'all that pertains to her' [or possibly even God] by means of his (al-`árif) own self, [or his own capacity for recognition]." It may be that the masculine pronoun refers to "book" thus giving: "As she appeared to the one who recognized that this verse is the book of Fátima by means of the book/verse [or by means of his capacity to understand the book]." Although in this last attempt, one would rather have seen al-`árif la-hu bi-há: "the one who recognized that this verse is the book by means of the verse (áya) [or, through the meditation on the verse which produced a vision of Fátima through which 'she appeared to the knower']." It is possible that the variation in the readings derives from an autograph which carried the statement in this form. Another possible reading, in the light of the above hadíth from `Alí (and the confusion among the manuscripts), is al-`árif la-há bi-hi: "As she appeared to the one who recognized her through his own self [viz, his own capacity]." But this reading is not contained in any of the manuscripts consulted. From the way similar formulations are used throughout the work, and from our translation of the above-quoted hadith from `Alí, it seems advisable to adopt this last possibility.

As mentioned, that tradition appears at the very beginning of the Bab's commentary, in his description of the eight gardens.[592] The Bab, in his description of the eighth or highest Garden (that one which is isolated from all other Gardens, and from which all other Gardens are isolated) - quotes a portion of the hadíth, leaving no doubt that it is the inspiration behind the above usage.

The Bab says:

It is the Garden of Tawhíd and the Form (shabah) of Tafríd to which nothing at all is either connected to or is like. It is as in the statement of `Alí: "He has appeared to them by means of them (tajalla la-há bi-há)."[593] And the one who causes to appear (i.e. God, "al-mutajallí bi-'l-kasri") is the same as the process of appearing (nafs al-tajallí). And it is [also] the thing which is caused to appear [or, the place where it appears] (al-mutajallá bi-'l-fathi). And the pre-eternity of His self is the same as His self.[594] It is not comparable with anything, and there is no knowledge from it directly (lá ma`rifat`an janábi-hi), neither by inspired intuition (kasfh) nor by discursive proof (istidlál),[595] because whatever is other than Him is non-existent (ma`dúm) by comparison with Him (`inda-hu). "And He is God.[596] He was and nothing was with Him. He is now as He was."[597] So how can He be known by one who does not exist? Although He is known, insofar as such is possible, in the contingent world. There is no distinction in this knowledge except that they [598] are His servants and His creation. He is known by means of signs, and is witnessed by means of tokens. This knowledge is the proper understanding of the transcendence (tanzíh) of the Living, the Ancient. At the level of contingency nothing else is possible.[599]

The phrase: "[a] He was and nothing was with Him. [b]He is now as He was." is often repeated in this tafsír and therefore deserves some comment. It is composed of two elements: [a] a had^th, and [b] a response to the had^th. This second element might also be translated as "it is now as it was" referring to the state of affairs, as opposed to the "person" described in [a]. This first element is attributed to the Prophet who is reported to have addressed it to `Alí when he descended to earth after the mi`ráj.[600] The verb kána, we are told, should not be understood as imputing a past tense to God ("l'�(tm)tre"). The response [b] is attributed to Junayd (298/910).[601]

The prolific Bahá'í scholar, `Abd al-Hamíd Ishráq-Khávarí has studied this maxim together with several variants, in his commentary on Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i Iqán.[602] He says that the statement [a] comes from the Imáms through various versions. Ishráq-Khávarí cites those variants which appear in Káfí and adds that they are used by the `urafá' and Sufis to speak about the first stage (ahadíyat) of the process of God's self-manifestation (tajallí), as distinct from the second stage (wáhidíyat), which involves quiddities and "permanent archetypes". It is in this discussion of the stages of manifestation that the phrase often appears. Furthermore, such discussions which classically involved three stages of tajallí, are stimulated by the famous doctrine of wahdat al-wujúd associated with the name of Ibn `Arabí. The Persian interpreter of Ibn `Arabí, `Abd al-Razzáq Káshání (poss. 736/1336) cites element [a] in his analysis[603] of tajallí, a discussion which might be thought to tacitly evoke in the mind of his reader the response attributed to Junayd. This aspect of Ibn `Arab^'s influence on Persian Sufism has been discussed in detail;[604] it may be thought, therefore, that most references to a multi-stage process of tajallí, including this one by Ishráq-Khávarí, derive from this influence. References by Ishráq-Khávarí in this passage to Junayd and Muhsin Fayz, indicate that this contemporary scholar acknowledged the importance of the greater Islamic mystical tradition. His reference to the long commentary by `Abd al-Bahá (successor to Bahá'u'lláh, d.1921) on the kuntu kanzan makhfíyan hadíth, where `Abd al-Bahá' cites the lam yakun ma`a-hu shay'un tradition to also speak about the first stage of tajallí, indicates that Ishráq-Khávarí acknowledged the relationship of this tradition with the Bahá'í revelation.[605] As a matter of interest, Ishráq-Khávarí's comments are tied to the following passage in the Kitáb-i Iqán:

To every discerning and illumined heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent, descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery. He is and hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men. "No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; he is the Subtile, the All-Perceiving." [6:103] No tie of direct intercourse can possibly bind Him to His creatures. He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness. No sign can indicate His presence or His absence; inasmuch as by a word of His command all that are in heaven and on earth have come to exist, and by His wish, which is the Primal Will itself, all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being, the world of the visible.

Gracious God! How could there be conceived any relationship or possible connection between His Word and they that are created of it? The verse: "God would have you beware of Himself" [3:28] unmistakably beareth witness to the reality of Our argument, and the words: "God was alone; there was none else beside Him" are a sure testimony to its truth. All the Prophets of God and their chosen Ones, all the divines, the sages, and the wise of every generation, unanimously recognize their inability to attain unto the comprehension of that Quintessence of all truth, and confess their incapacity to grasp Him, Who is the inmost Reality of all things (jawhar al-jawáhir).[606]

To return to our author, the Bab never tires of asserting the reality of this God who is utterly unknowable. And it should be remembered that this apophatic theology is considered by him, as well as the Shaykhíya in general, as being a true reflection of the pristine teachings of the Imáms, as opposed to being the result of "secular" theological speculation. A prime example of this is the following hadíth:

`Alí, in the Khutba al-Yatímíya,[607] said: {"If you say: 'Of what is He?' He has already transcended all created things (fa-qad tabáyana al-ashyá' kulla-há.). And if you say: 'He is He.',[608] the há' and the waw are from His speech,} [which is only] an attribute which indicates Him, not an attribute which reveals Him. And if you say: 'He has a limit', the limit is automatically other than He. And if you say: 'He is like the air.', the air itself is his creation (san`). And the whole discussion goes from attribute to attribute. Blindness of heart is from [faulty] understanding (fahm). And [faulty] understanding is the result of [insufficient] awareness (idrák). [Insufficient] awareness is from [lack of] discovery (istinbát). While the kingdom perdures in the kingdom and a created thing terminates in its like. And [from the beginning] the quest is committed to end in that which resembles [the seeker, or his faculties]. To barge ahead in such a search ends only in futility. So the explanation is lost. And the struggle is in vain. And the communication is cut off. And the path is blocked. And the quest is barred. His proofs are His signs, and His existence (wujúd) is His own corroboration (ithbátu-hu).

The Bab concludes:

Thus it is [only] apparent wujúd [which is known] to the contingent world, while that existence of His which is His self [viz] "none but Him knows It, Exalted be He," - none knows how It is except Him.[609]

The title of the khutba appears to refer to the uniqueness of God, or divine yatímíya. Although it has not been possible to trace a printed version of the hadíth, standard Shí`í literature abounds with similar statements.[610] Of particular interest is the existence of a virtual duplicate of this statement as a doctrine (`aqída) of classical Sufism ascribed to Halláj (309/922).[611] God thus being unalterably removed (Deus absconditus), the problem arises when we seek to know more about what precisely is being manifested when one speaks of His self-manifestation. A clue is offered in the folowing reprise from the hierarchical dimensions of hidáya [612] which follows this hadíth. Describing the lowest level the Bab says:

And to each thing [guidance ] is given according to its state (bi-má huwa `alay-hi). And all of the above is his (`Alí's) manifestation to everything other than he by means of everything other than he (tajallí-hi li-má siwá-hu bi-má siwá-hu). And in the power of his own greatness (fí `izz janábihi] he is a leader (hádin) and not one who is led (mahdí). "He is now as He was." And His guidance is the same as the godfearing .[613]

Further clarification of the problem is found in the Bab's comments on the frequent quranic word nafs. Assuming that the pronouns in the phrase la-hu bi-hi refer, in some way, to the spiritual dimension of the subject/object of divine self-manifestation, it is important that we have some idea of the way the soul is discussed in this commentary. Before looking at this material, it will be useful to have some knowledge of the basic presuppositions the Bab is likely to have had on this matter.

One of the most frequently cited quranic verses, in the Bab's commentary (particularly towards the end of the work), and one which is alluded to in countless other passages, is the first half of 41:53.[614] Some of these citations will be encountered in the following quotations from the Tafsír. The verse itself, like the Light Verse (24:35), or the Throne Verse (2:255), is of course widely quoted by Muslim authors in general, and has like many verses of the Qur'an, occasioned a wide variety of interpretations. The verse is translated by Arberry as follows:

We shall show them Our signs in the horizons (al-afáq)and in themselves (anfusihim), till it is clear to them that it is the truth (al-haqq).

The background for the way in which the Bab read "soul", may be seen to be provided in a commentary on this verse by Shaykh Ahmad. He says that anfus must be considered under two aspects. The first is that it means Muhammad and his family, according to the statement in the Qur'an: Now there has come to you a Messenger from among yourselves . . . [9:128].

"That is to say (ay) 'There has come to you a Messenger from the family of Muhammad because they are the souls of mankind (anfus al-khalq) and their essences (dhawát), which is to say they are the souls of the souls (anfus al-nufús) and the essences of essences (dhawát al-dhawát). The point here is that mankind (al-khalq) knows God through them because they are the greatest signs (al-áyát al-kubrá, cf. e.g. 20:23). `Alí said: ' God has no greater sign than me and no greater (a`zam) announcement (nabá', cf. 78:2) than me.'[615] This is also corroborated by the verse: Indeed, he saw one of the greatest signs of his Lord. [53:18] [616]

According to Shaykh Ahmad, the verse means that Muhammad saw `Alí as that one who 'God has no greater sign than' during the night of the mi`ráj. And at the place (viz, sidrat al-muntahá, "the tree beyond which there is no passing") to which Muhammad attained, he saw `Alí before him and God spoke to him with his [`Alí's] tongue. "This is the highest meaning of the verse. As for the hadíth (viz, man `arafa nafsahu, discussed earlier by Shaykh Ahmad) it then means: 'He who knows them [the Imáms] knows God.'" In another work, Shaykh Ahmad directly addresses the usage la-ná bi-ná in explaining this tradition:

That is, each soul is an indication of his Lord (dalíl rabbihi) and His sign because he is a vestige of His act (athar fi`lihi). So whoever knows it, namely that attribute (dhálika 'l-wasf) knows that to which the attribute pertains (al-mawsúf). This is clear. Previously, I said: "We are that attribute which is real in us, through us and which is therefore known by us through [knowing] ourselves."[617] Now I say: "That is, our souls, namely our essences (dhawátuná) are most certainly that attribute because when God desired us to know Him He created us in the form of His knowledge.[618]

The second aspect of the verse, we are told, is that "souls" means directly the souls of mankind (anfus al-khalq), that is to say: We will show them Our signs, namely the signs of Our knowledge (ma`rifatiná) in their souls. Here Shaykh Ahmad refers to a point he made earlier where he used the examples of two mirrors: the first receives the image of, say, a face and the second receives the image of that face as reflected from the first mirror. The image in the second mirror necessarily distorts the image from the first mirror. The image in the first mirror is therefore more accurate, but this does not negate the value of the second mirror as long as it is acknowledged to be less reliable than the first. "After you have known your self you know that God describes Himself to you through the Imáms (fí-him wa bi-him). And He means for them to be known because knowledge of them is true knowledge of God."[619]

While both aspects of the verse lead ultimately to the same conclusion, it is important to bear in mind the noetic function described in the second aspect, inasmuch as both work together. In what is probably the oldest work of the Bab's to have survived, the Risálat al-sulúk, we find a clear endorsement of the second half of Shaykh Ahmad's commentary. Included is an additional statement which pertains to the doctrine of the Fourth Support, identified as the Shí`a, which seems to correspond to Shaykh Ahmad's second mirror. The Bab opens the risála by suggesting that proper quest is dependent upon devotion to the principle of tawhíd. Although "the paths to God are as numerous as the souls themselves, there is, in reality, only one soul and one religion which is the same as the "command/cause of God" (wa má amruná illá wáhidatun, Q. 54:50). But, the Bab, continues:

This religion is supported (mutaqawwam) by four supports (arkán arb`a): affirmation of divine unity, prophecy, waláya, and the Shí`a. They are four gates of which the first is useless without the last [e.g., all are equally important]. Altogether they amount to the Face of God which will never pass away [cf. Q 28:88], [a face] which is [ultimately] the love of the Family of God, which is the same as the love of God, and it is the "hidden treasure". The Prophet alluded to this station with a hint, when he said: "Above every good deed (hasana) is another good deed until one loves us. When one loves us there is no other good deed higher." Thus al-hubb, al-habíb, al-muhibb, and al-mahbúb are four [separate] signs from the radiance of the Family of God which are within you, and they are your very soul.[620]

The following examples from the tafsír further show the similarity of the Bab's thought with Shaykh Ahmad's. At verse 9 the Bab takes the opportunity to analyze the problem under the term nafs "self/soul".

They would trick God and the believers, but only themselves they deceive, yet they are not aware. [2:9] [621]

After discussing the ways in which this verse relates to the waláya of `Alí, and those who were unfaithful to it because of their "regarding themselves" and "taking undue account of multiplicity [as opposed to unity]", the Bab says:

This verse has also an absolute meaning (ma`ná haqíqí) which I will mention in order that the people not err. Namely, God put a sign of His self (nafsi-hi) in the realities of all created things (fí haqá'iqi 'l-ashyá'), that they might know Him thereby. This sign is generated and created (hádithatun makhlúqatun), but no thing resembles it, because He [Himself] is a thing which not even a sign of God, the Truth, resembles, in that Like him there is naught. [42:11] and No god is there but Him, exalted be He above the action of the polytheists.[622]

With this statement the Bab brings up several themes which recur frequently in his tafsír. First, is the very important hermeneutic principle of multiple meanings: any given verse may, and usually does, carry numerous intentions (precisely: ma`ání) which operate simultaneously with equal force, presumably at every verse. This principle is invoked here by the Bab's reference to "absolute meaning" as opposed to the other possible ones. Second, the doctrine of signs expressed here is a virtual axiom of Muslim spiritual philosophy. But in this commentary, the greatest sign is the Imám. Thirdly, the adjective hádithatun used here, appears exactly the same way in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad, who is concerned that the mere sign of God run no risk of being confused with the Absolute.[623] Thus the "spark of the divine" which the mystics say is in men, should not (according to Shaykh Ahmad and the Bab) really be described as such. This then is another example of the by now familiar stark apophaticism which characterizes this tafsír. It is perhaps unneccesary to add (or repeat) that in the context of this theology, there can be no question of divine incarnation.

The Bab continues:[624]

`Alí said: "Each thing upon which the name [of being] a "thing" has been put is ipso facto created, with the exception of God." Therefore this sign is the soul (nafs) of that thing [which bears a name]. Its reality (haqíqa) is from its Lord, and it is its eye (tarf, also may be translated as "aspect") by which [that thing] looks to God [as in the exhortation] "Know ye God through God!" [625] The Messenger of God said: "The one who knows himself best from among you is the one who knows best his Lord." `Alí said: "He who knows himself knows his Lord." [626] And in the Gospel God said: "Know your self that you might know your Lord. Your exterior (záhir) is destined for extinction, and your interior (bátin) is Myself." [627]

He who knows God by way of this soul which is in him, has certainly known God.[628] And there is no other way than this for the servants. Moreover, there is no distinction in the knowledge (ma`rifa) except that he [or it] is His servant and His creation. He who knows Him as God knows, exalted be He,[629] has really known Him. But he who has known Him by an attribute of the contingent things (bi-sifat al-mumkinát) has not known Him. And he [the one one who has known God properly] is the sign of tawhíd, and the facsimile (shabah) of divine aloneness (tafríd) and the highest possible object of knowledge for man (gháyatu haqqi 'l-mumkin) by means of the gift of the Ancient One.[630]

It is clear that here the sign/soul (áyat/nafs) is the Imám, and probably `Alí, rather than the comparatively accidental identity of the individual believer. The Bab continues:

But those who know God and knowonly their own selves, they are those who would trick God . . . and only themselves they deceive. "And in each thing of His is a sign which points out that He is one."[631] And this sign is the mirror of God in all things. They behold in it the beauty (jamál) of God, that is (ay) whatever He manifested to them by means of them. And it (the sign) is their own selves.[632]

Even though the tools (al-adawát) point [only] to themselves,[633] nevertheless he knows who knows our word. And none knows it except he who takes our provisions and travels with us.[634] `Alí said: "Pierce the veils of glory without any pointing."[635]

This refers to those servants who see the Face of the Lord,[636] and no thing is closer to it and its reality than this, in the estimation of God, exalted be He. Indeed, God sees Himself by means of the servant, and also manifests Himself to him and takes account of him by means of him, exalted be He beyond the reach of the contemplation of anyone of his creatures.[637]

The Imám has said: "Everything which you have distinguished by means of your minds (awhám) in attempting to sort out its subtle meanings (ma`ání), the same is created, just like you yourselves are; it returns upon yourselves. Nothing is permitted to go beyond its own principle (mabda'). Contingency ascends only to contingency. There is no way to the Pure Pre-eternal by any means (bi-wajh min al-wujúh) because whatever is other than He is pure non-existence, in comparison to Him (`inda janábi-hi)."[638] "He is now as He was." The master of all existing things [?Muhammad] said:[639] "We do not know Thee as befits Thee."[640]

Verily God has accepted this inability (`ajz) of His servants to know His Self,[641] because anything else is not possible in contingency. The Imám said: "There is no way except the way of knowledge of us (ma`rifataná)." This is the meaning (ma`ná) of lá ilaha illá 'lláh.

That soul is the the same as this word (kalima, i.e., lá iláha illá 'lláh); it [the soul or the word] is generated and created, yet pointing to God by affirming the divine unity. And this is apparent to the People of Heart (ahl al-fu'ád) because God has sent it down by the pen upon the tablet of truth thus.[642]

There follows a long section which returns to the discussion of the unfaithfulness of the first three caliphs to the waláya of `Alí. The Bab closes his commentary on this verse by discussing the phrase yet they know not (wa lá yash`urúna).

Because true awareness (al-shu`úr al-haqíqí) is that which concerns the sign of tawhíd (i.e., the Imám), and its place (mahallu-hu) is the fu'ád. It is the highest perceptive faculty of man (wa huwa a`lá mashá`ir al-insán). And when those disbelieversthought to deceive concerning [the matter of] `Alí, the sign of the tawhíd of God, their awareness vanished (rafa`at shu`úruhum) and God exchanged theirawarenes for non-recognition (inkár). And they will never have awareness because [ultimately] awareness is an attribute of believers.

The Imám said: "Fear the perspicacity (firása) of the believer for he sees by means of the light of God." [643] And it is the light of God which He created him from, while the disbeliever sees by means himself, and is created from it.

Thus (the unbeliever) has no awareness. The believer recognizes

the zuhúr by means of the light of God, the Forgiver.[644]

Although the soul has within it an a priori capacity, recognition of God is impossible without the Imám. This is of course the orthodox view of Shí`ism. The many references to Sufi literature point to both the similarity and difference between the two traditions on the problem of the knowledge of God. In classical Sufism, the role of spiritual guide is assigned to the Shaykh/Pír/Murshid. In Shí`ism, the guide can only be from among the Family of God. Shaykhism, however, took great pains to locate the Imám in a realm accessible through the individual soul (i.e., `álam al-mithál, Húrqalyá), obviating the necessity for the historical presence of either Shaykh or Imám.[645] We are told by the Shaykhís that in the nature of things only a few of the Shí`a will achieve the spiritual presence of the Imám. The Bab also holds that the Imám, as the principle of one of the four supports of religion (i.e., waláya), finds his proper home in the soul of the believer. However, he makes no explicit mention of the imaginal worlds of the Shaykhís. It is therefore important to examine in more detail the Bab's notion of soul as it appears in this commentary.

Thus far in this discussion of tajallí, we have seen that the nafs is the conduit for its transmission. We have also seen that the nafs of the Prophet and the Imáms, appears to be on a different level than its counterpart in the common believer. Moreover, we have seen briefly that the intellect, as it is presented in hadíths such as man `arafa nafsahu, appears to have less importance as a means of manifestation, but is still a major factor in individual spirituality.

Just as the nafs may be seen in a positive light, it is also seen in a negative one. Thus at 2:14 their Satans are glossed as anfusi-kum.[646] At 2:44 the Bab says that those who have forgotten themselves are those who live in the Inclusive Unity (wáhidíya, here a term for false waláya) even though God taught them that "the Truth is with `Alí".[647] `Alí is again referred to as the sign of the nafs of God, and even though it is created (makhlúq), there is no distinction between it and the One who raised it up (munshi'-há).[648]

At 2:45 the term inníya is used as descriptive of that which must be completely effaced in order that the servant become a mazhar of the Inclusive Unity, here apparently positive, and become truly humble. [649] The term itself requires some comment, inasmuch as the contexts in which it appears suggest that the proper term would be anáníya ("ego"), read here as aníya.[650] However, the Leiden manuscript, which provides vowel marks, consistently gives the word as inníya. The term aníya, sometimes seen as anáníya, is a standard one for "ego",[651] while inníya "quoddity" is a technical philosophical term translated by Izutsu as "is-ness", as in the phrase: al-haqq ta`ála inníyatun sirfatun.[652] It may be that this philosophical usage overlaps with the purely spiritual or psychological usage intended here.[653] This could be seen as a natural result of the general effort in Shaykhism, and indeed hikmat iláhí philosophy in general, to reconcile "reason and revelation." Corbin translates it as "heccéité" and adds the following note:

Le terme arabe anníya (sic) a posé plus d'un problème aux chercheurs en philosophie islamique. Versons au dossier du problème cette definition qu'en donne Shaykh Ahmad Ahsá'í . . .: "La anníya de la chose, c'est sa réalité quand on considère cette chose comme positive et vraie."[654]

Furthermore, there is no agreement on the proper vowelling of this term, anníya being preferred by some[655] and inníya being preferred by others.[656] Regarding anníya, Goichon confidently states: "Ne pas confondre avec 'inníya, l'abstrait tiré de la conjonction si et qui indique la ´conditionalité�(tm) d'un jugement."[657] In the Bab's tafsír the word certainly indicates conditionality, but it is an ontological conditionality, rather than the grammatical one asserted by Goichon. And however much grammar and Being might be otherwise interrelated, it seems clear that for our purposes Goichon is completely wrong.

If the scribe of the Leiden manuscript writes inníya, it is possibly due to his own philosophical preoccupations. The lack of vowel marks in the other manuscripts do not allow this to be stated categorically, but a comparison of the relevant passages indicates that one is left with the choice of reading aníya, anníya, or inníya. None of the manuscripts use the quite unambiguous term anáníya.

Even with all of these distinctions and disagreements, it may be possible to read aníya and inníya as being in some way synonymous. If the latter stands for quoddity, or thatness, it may be thought to refer to the individual identity insofar as it is at some distance from God. Inníya/anníya has also been termed the opposite of huwíya,[658] and translated as "essence and individuality".[659] Therefore, it might be thought to refer to that quoddity which is eventually annihilated (i.e., the ego), as the Bab has indicated with the word mahw (see above). Even if the term is taken in its broad, abstract meaning as Izutsu's "is-ness", if applied to anyone other than God, it would be contingent (imkání) "is-ness" that would be intended by the Bab. In the cause of consistency, however much the choice may ultimately have been a mistake, the term inníya in the following discussion will be translated as "ego", the traditional Sufi meaning.

The term occurs again at 2:34, in the course of a very long commentary[660] on the important idea of Iblís and his refusal to bow before Adam. The Bab makes the following comments.

God has placed the manifestations (mazáhir) of His kingdom in all things. To manifest knowledge (`ilm) he has appointed Adam as the agency of the active lordship (al-rubúbíyat al-maqbúlíyat), and the Iblís (sic: al-Iblís) has been appointed as the agency of polytheistic ego (al-inníyat al-mushrika) throughout all the worlds. . . . And the believers are the victorious angels, in them is the aspect of lordship while the aspect of al-inníya is absent from them.

The Messenger of God said: "Each soul has a satan." It was said [to him], "Even you, O Messenger of God." He said: "Yes, but it has submitted to me (bi-yadí)." [661]

Following this hadith there is a long lyrical disquisition on the praiseworthy qualities of the believer.[662] At 2:35, in which Adam and his wife are forbidden to approach theTree, the following comment is made:

That is the Muhammadan Tree in which the sign of the Exclusive Unity appears. And it is the highest aspect of the Will. Adam al-úlá and her mate [663]approached it through knowldege (`ilman), not deed (lá `amalan), and thus became wrongdoers.

And the meaning (murád) of their drawing nigh, is the property of contingency which is the agency of ego that was in them.[664] Thus their drawing nigh was [the act of] considering the contingent world (bi'l-khutúr al-imkání)[665] after God had taught them that the Tree of Ego which grows out of the earth has no stability (qarár, cf. Q.14:26) [and to] not draw nigh unto it with even a single glance (bi-nazar al-istiqlál: poss. "independently" of Muhammad) toward it. Because the signs of tawhíd are the signs of Muhammad which God manifested to him by means of him (la-hu bi-hi).

Then they drew nigh this Tree by a false oath of the ego (bi-qasam kadhb al-inníya), knowing that it was possible [to draw near within the limits of] contingency.

So they became wrongdoers. This wrong is that which God related to them and is by relationship to their drawing nigh to the Originator of Origination (mubdi` al-ibdá`, viz, Muhammad, as in the "Muhammadan Tree"). In all other cases this wrong refers to the impious approach to the depth of the Exclusive Unity, and had the first two not made bold to draw nigh the mubdi` then others would not have committed this zulm either.[666]

Towards the end of the commentary on this verse, the Bab makes the following interesting statement by way of offering another level of meaning:

So when Adam drew nigh the Tree of Reality [which was] the manifestation of Fátima in the precincts of Being he disobeyed his Lord because God had commanded him not to draw nigh unto her (lá taqrabhá) except through an ecstatic experience, because at the time of such an experience the one who draws nigh is [in fact] the Tree and nothing else.[667]

And when Moses said to his people, 'My people, you have done wrong against yourselves by your taking the Calf; now turn to your Creator and slay one another. That will be better in your Creator's sight , and He will turn to you; truly He turns, and is All-compassionate.' [2:54]

[This verse refers to] When `Alí said to those who abandoned the depth of his waláya (li'l-khárijín `an lujjat waláya) you have done wrong against yourselves. by your lingering (wuqúf) in the sea of the veils of glory (bahr al-subuhát) and allusions. So turn away from the Calf by taking that which will direct you to the tawhíd of your Lord and return to the divine waláya (al-waláya al-iláhíya) by turning away from the love of anything but it (waláya).

And slay your worldly egos (inníyátakum al-imkáníya) which have veiled you from attaining to your Creator. Because my waláya is the depth of the Exclusive Unity. And that will be better for you in your Creator's sight.[668]

The subject of inníya or negative self, recurs in the comparatively short commentaries on a series of verses, which continue the ordeal of Moses in the wilderness with the Children of Israel.[669] The point here is that refusal by the followers of false waláya to accept the waláya of `Alí, as announced as binding by the Prophet at Ghadír Khumm, is a direct result of this ego, specifically "their uprooted, lifeless egos" (inníyátahum al-mujattatha) and "other selfish interests" (shu'únát al-nafsáníyát). The first designation takes the modifier from Qu'ran 14:26:

And the likeness of a corrupt word is as a corrupt tree uprooted from the earth (ka-shajartin khabíthat i'jtuththat min fawq al-ard) having no stability.

This section is also a good example of the way in which the spiritual world is seen as being connected to the events of the historical world. The Qur'an is read as speaking about the fracturing of the Muslim community at the death of Muhammad. The "metahistorical" sabab (translated as "moyen" rather than "cause") for 2:67 is thus the famous speech at Ghadír Khumm, and is read as referring to the historical Moses in only a secondary sense. This reflects the spirit of akhbárí commentary, which reads the verse as referring to the "excellence of Muhammad and his family";[670] but the Bab's language is much more explicit than these sources.[671] The true test of the nafs then, is how it responds to this challenge to the unity of the umma.

The nafs as an organ of perception and spiritual or psychological principle is related to others such as the fu'ád, qalb, rúh, and `aql, of which it may be thought to be the lowest.[672] It is important therefore to notice briefly the way in which these subjects are treated by the Bab. The earliest mention of qalb is in the following verse:

In their hearts is a sickness, and there awaits them a painful chastisement for they have cried lies. [2:10]

The heart (qalb) is the foremost manifestation (mazhar) of the fu'ád and is in reality two hearts. One is the location (mahall) of the First Intellect, which is the heart of Muhammad, and the other is the qalb ma`kús which is the place of Universal Ignorance.[673] This one is the heart of Abú Bakr. They are two mines (ma`dinán). The first is the source of all good (aslu kulli khayrin), and one of its results (furú`) is tawhíd and all righteousness (birr). The second is the source of all evil (kulli sharrin), and one of its results is the rejection of God (i`rád `an alláh) and all evil (kullu sharrin). It represents the totality of all the hearts of all disbelievers (tamám qulúb al-káfirín) . . . . The way to [the first] is blocked (mardúd); but a First Intellect which tells the story in the contingent world about what is in the heart of Muhammad is the soul of `Alí.

`Alí said about this primal universal divine soul (al-nafs al-ulúhíya al-kullíya al-awwalíya): "It is a divine power (quwwatun láhútíyatun) and a simple essence (jawharun basítun) which lives with the Essence. Its source is the Intellect (`aql). It begins from it and summons on its behalf (da`at `an-hu) and indicates and alludes to it. Its return is to it whenever it is perfected and becomes like it. From it begin all existing things (mawjúdát), and to it they ultimately return. Thus it (the soul = this particular soul, i.e. Muhammad) is the exalted essence of God (fa-hiya dhát alláh al-`alíyan sic] and the Tree of Repentance (shajara tawbá) and the Lote-tree beyond which there is no passing, and the Garden of Refuge (mawá'). He who recognizes it (the soul) will never err and he who is ignorant of it errs and trespasses.[674]

This excerpt introduces several important features of the Bab's theology as its expression had developed by this time. These ideas are found quite early in Shí`ism, both "12er" and Ismá`ílí.[675] The First Intellect is here identified with Muhammad. As for intellect (`aql), the Bab quotes several popular traditions on the subject after citing a hadíth from `Alí, in which true philosophy is that which is conducive to good morals (al-akhláq al-nafsáníya).[676]

For the those who think (al-`uqalá'), all of the above is perceived in the verse:Thee only we serve and thee alone we pray for succour . [1:5]. Therefore let the pen flow in the mention of the Intellect (al-`aql), and I myself will recount its virtue in order that its people might know its value (qadrahu).

The Messenger of God said: "God has apportioned nothing more excellent for His servants than the intellect. The sleep of the wielder of intellect is more excellent than the wakefulness of the wielder of ignorance. The halting of the wielder of intellect is more excellent than the travelling from place to place (shukhús) of the wielder of ignorance. And God never raised up any prophet or messenger until He had perfected the intellect in him. And his intellect is more excellent than the whole community (umma). This means: That which the Prophet hides in himself is more excellent than the independent reasoning of all the religious scholars (ijtihád al-mujtahidín). And the servant does not really attain to the proper execution of the religious obligations until he understands it. That which comes (balagha) to the wielder of intellect and the wielders of intellect will not come to all the servants no matter how excellent their servitude (`ibáda=religious service). These [former] are men possessed of minds [ulú al-albáb. Q. passim. ] those about whom God has said: Only men possessed of minds remember [Q. 13:19 & 39:9].[677]

And `Alí said: "I opine that the intellect is two intellects: a priori (matbú`) and acquired (masmú`). The acquired is no use if there be no a priori, just as the light of the sun which is blocked (mamnú`) is no use to the eye." [678]

And he said: "The loss (faqd) of the intellect is the loss of life. And it can be compared with nothing except death."[679]

Sádiq said: "Verily the reward (al-thawáb) is in proportion to the intellect. It is the best loved of all things to God."

Ridá said: "The intellect is a shame according to God. But good behavior is a duty. He who feigns good behavior will eventually benefit. But he who feigns intellect will increase only in ignorance . . .the hadíth.[680]

In a very long hadíth which preserves a conversation between the sixth Imám, Sádiq, and his disciple Mufaddal, which the Bab quotes in extenso[681] during the course of his commentary on 2:27, a number of features of the intellect are further identified:

How is it that meaning abstracted from any form can occur in my mind? And can the Essence be imagined, or divided, or partitioned or changed from its kiyán, or fancied in the intellects as moving or at rest? And how can the Unseen appear "mixing" with weak creation? And how is the created thing able to regard the Creator, condsidering the weakness of created things?

Sádiq said: O Mufaddal! In the creation of the Heavens and the earth and the separation of night and day are signs for those possessed of minds. [2:164] O Mufaddal! Our knowledge is terribly abstruse (sa`b mustas`ab) and our secret much too difficult for the tongue to speak of in any but the most allusive language. Whatever our Shí`a knows, the same is according to their cognizance of us and their knowledge of us. Away with him who transmits what he does not understand and believes that which does not agree with reason or has matured in the mind.[682]

Here we see a kind of syzygy of reason and revelation in which the `aql is indispensable for right religion, although it appears that on its own it is unable to properly register the Unseen. As is the case with other faculties, or principles, the intellect is two-edged. Not only is it quite clear that the `aql is only profitable insofar as it used to contemplate the Imáms, but that it is also capable of leading to error. It would appear that the nafs, fu'ád, qalb, lubb, and `aql are equally incapable on their own and must be assisted through the Imám in some way to receive the tajallí.


It was the fu'ád which was earlier described as the "highest perceptive organ of man (wa huwa a`lá mashá`ir al-insán). At 2:8, the Bab says that the "name of the hidden one" (ism al-maknún) is the place where the Shí`a testify to the covenant of love [for the Imáms which is binding upon them] (mashhad `ahd al-mahabba li'l-shí`a). Its station is the fu'ád where the Hujja (the hidden Imám) appears (wa maqámuhá al-fu'ád azharahá al-Hujja, `alayhi al-salám)."[683] Later at verse 97, the Bab says that the heart (qalb) is the first thing which was produced by Origination (ibdá`), and Gabriel was appointed by God to carry to the heart that which is sent down from the fu'ád.[684] Here the fu'ád appears to be beyond the contingent world, which poses the problem of how it can function as a mashhad for the Shí`a. But it should be remembered that the heart here is Muhammad's ("qalbika") and therefore, presumably qualitatively different from others. This verse is part of a series which bears on the subject of the qá'im and will be treated at greater length below. Unfortunately, none of the several quranic verses which employ the word fu'ád are in the súra of Baqara. It is possible that the Bab would have described its several hierarchical levels, had the occasion arose, in which further details of its function would have become clear.

Before leaving this chapter on the way in which the divine appears to creation, it will be important to notice the treatment by the Bab of a subject introduced above, namely wijdán or ecstacy, which appears in two other passages of the tafsír. At verse 29 the Bab says the following:

As for the sign of the Exclusive Unity - it is in all things. And even if there is compostion (tarkib _ basít "simple") in their knowledge, God will remove (rafa`a) at the time of ecstacy (`inda wijdán), whatever (li-má hiya fí-há) was causing spiritual deficiency.[685] Nor [at this time] will there be in them any aspect of mixture or plurality, because they [at such time] are a proof (dalíl) of the Living, the Self-subsisting. And God did not make multiplicity a proof of His Exclusive Unity.

. . . No one knows Him and none understands His mode except Him. Nevertheless, the known (ma`rúf) is His Will [i.e., Muhammad or the Imáms] and the intended ultimate goal of contingency (gháyat al-imkán) as a result His bounty (fayd) in all regions (asqá`) according to what they are (bi-má hiya) and have (li-má hiya) of the manifestations (tajallíyát) of His will according to what they are (`alá má hiya).

Commenting on the quranicwhoso follows My guidance (man tabi`a hudá'í) at verse 38, the Bab says:

Following (al-tabí`íyya) has several degrees. "The paths to it (ilayhá) are as numerous as the souls of the creatures."[686] . . . I testify that the thing followed is his [`Alí's] waláya, inasmuch as as none can follow the guidance of God like him, because God, appeared (tajallá) to him by means of him, and verily He is the truth [41:53], Like Him there is naught [43:11], He is the Exalted (`Alí) the Great (kabír). [22:62; 31:30 34:23; 40:12].[687] And he (`Alí) is the Followed One in reality and therefore the Most Great Example (al-mathal al-kubrá, cf.79:20, etc.), and whatever is other than him if purified from accidence, and caused to abandon the lifeless forms (ashbáh), and mere similarities, and caused to enter the House of Glory, beholding the beauty of ecstacy[688] oblivious of the clouds of the contingent world (gháfilan `an sahá'ibi 'l-imkán), then he hasfollowed [689] the guidance of God by means of accidental form-ness (bi'l-`ardíyat al-shabahíya), so that no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow [2:38]. [690]

Wijdán or wajdán (the vowelling is not specified in L) are derived from the root w j d from which wajada "he found". Wujúd, of course, means existence, or "the state of being found". The intensive noun forms can also mean "finding" but it is generally reckoned that their use by Muslim mystics refers to a special state in which a person finds himself and which at the same time is perhaps unheralded or unanticipated. This is in line with that element of the verb "to find" which connotes "coming upon something unawares". As an intensive form of W J D one might also translate the term as "superexistence".[691] Whatever the intent of wijdán in classical Sufism might be,[692] it is clear that the Bab associates it not with the unreachable divine Essence, but with `Alí, who could presumably be substituted by any other member of the ahl al-bayt.

In the passage quoted earlier, it was also clear that the wijdán experience caused a total absorption of the subject into the object. This is of course in line with the Sufi usage, but also reminiscent of the specifically Iranian hikmat-i iláhí as it developed from Suhrawardí to Mullá Sadrá and beyond to the Shaykhíya. The idea of "knowledge by presence" (`ilm-i hudúrí) is much akin to the idea expressed by the Bab, but with the characteristic difference, at least with respect to Mullá Sadrá, that the highest "object" with which the soul can attempt union is the Will, as hypostasized by Muhammad and the Imáms. In this respect, the Bab is faithful to the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad.[693] It may be speculated that the Bab's reference to wijdán stems from his own experience.[694]

Part i: Chapter 5



One of the more controversial topics in the study of Shaykhism is the problem of the Qá'im. The argument revolves around whether the Qa'im is to be understood as a personal spiritual principle, the appearance of which would be restricted to a zuhúr in the soul of the believer, or whether the Qá'im is to appear on the plane of history, as a specific and unique individual: the heretofore hidden Imám, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-`Askarí. The question is therefore important for the study of the development of the Bábí religion. Depending upon the way it is answered, the Bab will be seen either as a "dissident" Shaykhí, or his eventual claim will be seen as the fulfillment (and therefore the continuation) of Shaykhí teachings.

Henry Corbin was the only scholar, in the second half of the twentieth century, to publish on Shaykhí thought in any detail. His analysis of the intricacies of Shaykhism, while undoubtedly coloured by personal biases,[695] has shed much light on this obscure movement,[696] which in its early stages had an impact on the formation of the Bab's religious ideas. His study of the subject led him to the conclusion that the function of the qá'im in Shaykhí thought was restricted to the interior spiritual life of the individual, and that there could be no question of an actual parousia of an historcal personage to be recognized in the "realm of politics" as the Qá'im. Corbin speaks therefore, of the "tragedie" of Bábism and Bahá'ism, precisely because they have recognised just such an historical advent.

In his commentary on 2:8, the Bab makes some very important statements pertinent to the whole discussion:

But another mashhad remains, and it is the dharr of the Fourth Support, the establishment of the Qá'im,[697] may God hasten his glad advent, in beginning his appearance (zuhúr), which is the dharr of taking the covenant by confessing that their [the Imáms'] Shí`a are the word of divine magnification (kalimat al-takbír, techincally alláhu akbar) in the midst of the holiness of praise (fí buhbúha quds al-tasbíh).

Therefore, when the Imám arises[698] to reveal this great covenant and noble allegiance to their Shí`a, which are the manifestations of themselves [from] the Ancient, then the companions of the 313[699] will flee from that covenant and allegiance. Then they will return and believe in the Hujja by means of this allegiance and that mashhad. Even if it involves three masháhid completely and potentially, its being and detailing is definitely about the establishment of the Hujja.

And of mankind are those who believe in God and His messenger and his trustees, but they are not believers because they do not believe in their Shí`a. And he who does not believe in them enters under the implications of this verse. While the believer is he who believes in his soul because of the secret of the hadith: tajallá la-há bi-há.

Sádiq alluded to this subject (al-maqám) in his statement, he said: "God created a name with/through letters without sound and with a term that has no articulation (bi'l-lafz ghayr mantiq) and with a body which is not corporeal (bi'l-shakhs ghayr mujassad), and with a similarity that is not describable, and with a colour that has no tint, banished from all lands, it is far removed from all limitations, and perception of all imagination is veiled from it - concealed without being hidden.

So God made it (i.e., this "name") a perfect word in four parts, while no single part has precedence over the other.[700] And because of the needs of creation for them, three names appeared from it, while one remained veiled. And that is the Hidden Name (al-ism al-maknún al-makhzún). . . .".

The Hidden Name is the mashhad of the covenant of the love of the shí`a, and its station is the heart (fu'ád), which the Hujja makes appear.[701] As for the three visible names:

[1] The first is God and it is the dharrat al-úlá,[702] i.e., the affirmation of the tawhíd of God.

[2] And the second is His name and it is the dharra of the praise of God, and it is the affirmation of Muhammad and his nubúwa.[703]

[3] And the third is His name and it is the dharr of lá iláh illá alláh on the day of al-ghadír. And it is the affirmation of the Trusteeship of `Alí and eleven of his descendants and Fátima.[704]

God caused these three to appear according to the need of creation for them. And He concealed one due to the incapacity of people(viz, to recognize it: wa hajaba wáhid li-`adam ihtimál al-khalq); but it is hidden within the souls of the Shí`a. Verily the one with keen insight (al-mutafarris) recognizes him with the light of reality.[705]

In the passage on the Greatest Name, quoted above in chapter 2, we read that the Shí`a is considered to be its fourth letter, or fourth support (rukn). Here, it would seem that the Shí`a itself is the repository of this Greatest Name as Qá'im. The Qá'im, as such, would then be a personal spiritual principle, the appearance or realization of which, is dependent upon the spiritual development of the individual member of the Shí`a. An understanding of the relation between the Greatest Name and the Qá'im is therefore of the first importance.

Qá'im and the Greatest Name

To Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, whom the Bab refers to as "my dear teacher" in the introduction to this commentary, is ascribed a short treatise on the subject of the Greatest Name, a brief analysis of which will not be out of place here.[706]

Commenting on the graphic representation, or amulet of the Greatest Name [ ][707] which is the subject of his treatise, Rashtí says the following:

The star (khátam) refers to the appearance of the name (zuhúr al-ism), that is, the greatest manifestation . . . on five levels. And there is no ceasing to these levels and tokens. In every level God is known, by means of them, by him who knows that "there is no distinction between Him and between [the levels] except that they are His servants and creation."

[1] The first is the maqám al-bátin wa 'l-sirr al-muqanna` ... [708]

[2] The second is the maqám zuhúr dhálika al-ism al-a`zam. Insofar as it is the maqám al-bátin. It is the beginning, as related in the

tradition: "I desired to be known".

[3] The third is the zuhúr fí maqám al-záhir, the maqám al-`amá.

[4] The fourth is the zuhúr in the visible station as visible,and the

station of the mystery and the bátin al-bátin.

[5] The fifth is the station of the appearance and the radiance of the lights (ishraq al-núr) and it is the grade of manifestation

(tajallí), . . .the places of the "meanings (ma`ání, e.g., the Imáms) and the place where the banner of praise appears (mazhar liwá' al- hamd) . . . and the oil which would almost shine forth though no fire touched it; Light upon light; God guides to His light whom He will. And God strikes similitudes for men, and God has knowledge of everything. [24:35].[709]

In commenting on another element of the device [ ], Rashtí says:

The reversed wáw (wáw munakkas) is an allusion to the Hujja, Ibn al-Hasan . . . because it represents the culmination of perfect doubled numeration in the visible grades of visible waláya which is on the visible Throne of the knowledge of God. Its day is Friday, because it is the sixth (wáw = 6) of the seven days. From it [comes] the wáw and all the manifestations of the há' [another element of the device, see above] in detail because the the há' is the sáhib al-jam` and the wáw is the sáhib al-tafsíl. . . The mystery of the reversal (sirr al-tankís) is his (al-Hujja's) return after concealment and his appearance after being hidden . . . And the alif [viz, in ] is the qá'im, the "one who abides over the two gulfs" (al-wáqif bayn al-tatanjayn) and the barzakh between the two worlds and the one who purifies the earth of all defilement.[710]

Rashtí later quotes the Imam Reza:

"The basmala is closer to the Greatest Name than the black of the eye is to the white."[711]

For this reason, what appears from it appears from it . . . since all wonders are "from them and by them and towards them and in them".[712] This proximity is a proximity of participation (qurb al-mudákhala), which is nearer than mere connection (al-mulásaqa). . . . And the Family of Muhammad are this Greatest Most Ancient Name. For further information you should consult my commentary of the Khutbat al-tatanjíya as well as what I have said in my other studies. . . . It is all connected to the sayings of the Imáms: "We are the most beautiful names which God commanded his servants to call on Him by." They are the loftiest example (al-mathal al-a`lá).[713]

The purpose of these quotations is to draw attention to the emphasis placed on zuhúr by Rashtí. While the zuhúr mentioned here may be restricted to a spiritual location (although there is no explicit mention of `álam al-mithál or Húrqalyá), it is obvious that the references to it could evoke in the mind of the reader the advent of an actual historical event. Such an interpretation of this, or similar statements by Rashtí, form the background of the Bab's eventual claims and the acceptance of these by his early followers, many of whom are identified as having been Shaykhís.[714]

The same may be said for the statements of Shaykh Ahmad, who has also commented on this reversed wáw, and seen it as a symbol of the Qá'im. The following is part of a letter asking about this subject from a follower of Shaykh Ahmad and the latter's response. The question is put as follows:

It is mentioned in your noble reply . . . that our Lord the Proof . . . is in Húrqalyá, but his appearance (zuhúr) and return (raj`a) will be in the world of archetypes (`álam al-mithál). I do not understand the meaning of his being in Húrqalyá. Is it what is to be understood from some traditions, that when Sálih ibn Sa`íd had alighted at the Sa`álik caravanserai and was grieved at his having to stay there, our Lord Abú 'l-Hasan the second (i.e. the ninth Imám, `Alí ibn Muhammad al-Naqí al-Hádí, d. 254/868) showed him elegant gardens and flowing streams and bowers in which there were scented flowers and boys like hidden pearls, until Sálih's gaze became baffled? And he said, on him be peace, 'wherever we may be, these belong to us, O Ibn Sa`íd'. These things are not limited to some of them (i.e., the Imáms) or to one time but not another or in any other way, so explain (the matter to us), because it is a place where one may imagine the descent of a discharge from the elemental temple and a discharge into the archetypal matrix, and that is all. Thus, (the concept of) the creation of the Shí`a and the generation of one thousand from one of them contradict (the notion of) the return taking place in the world of archetypes.

Shaykh Ahmad said:

I reply that Húrqalyá is in the eighth clime and the meaning of this term is another realm, in which there are two cities . . . Jábarsá . . . and Jábulqá.

As for the matter of his appearance (zuhúr), may God hasten his glad advent, and the explanation of its time and place, know that in this world he feared his enemies, and when he fled from this (realm) called the world (al-dunyá . . .), he transferred his residence to the (realm of) the primal (al-úlá). The creation travels towards him, but he, on him be peace, is swift in his progress and has traversed the distance in an instant, whereas mankind's progress towards the primal is controlled by the divine decree (al-taqdír) at the speed of a ship with its passenger on this stagnant river called Time (al-zamán). The two ends of Time, its beginning and its end, are both subtle (latíf) according to the subtlety of the bodies that stand in them and the subtlety of those places. But the middle of Time is dense like the density of its bodies and its places. So, when they reach him, he shall rise in the cause and the religion shall appear in its totality.

The days are . . .three . . . The first day is the World (al-dunyá), and the second day is the Primal (al-úlá), which is the day of his rising up (qiyám) and his return (raj`a) with his fathers . . . and their followers (shí`a), and the third day is the day of the great resurrection (al-qiyáma al-kubrá). In the Ziyárat al-jámi`a (are the words): "[The Imams are]the Proofs of God unto the people of the World (al-dunyá) . . . and the hereafter (al-ákhira) . . . and the Primal (al-úlá) . . ." And that time is subtler and its people are subtler and its places are subtler to the extent that, at its end, the subtlety of his Time shall be seventy times greater than that of this Time. And this is the meaning of my statement that he is in Húrqalyá and that he is in the eighth clime.

Concerning your words 'in the world of archetypes', know that the world of archetypes (consists of) the forms of things (suwar al-ashyá') and the form which is the occasions belongs to the world of archetypes, and when you remove these forms which you behold in the bodies from the bodies, they belong to the world of archetypes. But the Imám, on him be peace, shall not return as a form but he and all those who return with him and with his fathers shall return in the same bodies in which they appeared in the World, except that in their bodies there shall be a purification from the excess of the bodies of the Imáms on account of the strength of the departure of their souls (nufús) from the most exalted spot. And the man shall inform his people about what they shall eat and what they shall store up in their houses. And the earth shall be folded up as he walks over it, as al-Hádí, on him be peace, showed Sálih ibn Sa`íd; nor did the latter see him in a form or as a fancy, but in reality. And the outward meaning of this is that he withdrew (the veil) from his sight and he beheld the garden in itself, not in its form. But as for its real meaning, he, on him be peace, took Sálih to the garden and caused him to enter into it, after which he brought him out of it.

And when the World . . . ends, its last minute shall be the first minute of the Primal (al-úlá). `Alí, on him be peace, referred to this in his khutba when he said 'I am he that stands between the two gulfs (al-tatanjayn).' And in the blessed name transmitted from him, which is this: . The inverted wáw is the Qá'im . . . and its being inverted is a reference to the fact that its form is thus:

They have . . . said that the first (wáw) is a reference to the six days in which al-dunyá was created, while the second wáw is a reference to the days in which al-úlá was created, and the alif between them is a reference to the fact that he is the Qá'im . . . between al-dunyá and al-úlá, which are the two rivers (gulfs). The Qá'im . . . shall return in al-úlá, not in the archetypes, and, as regards his departure (from Húrqalyá?), he shall be in his elemental body (haykal) in the realm of the elements (al-`unsuriyya), and in his archetypes in the realm of archetypes (al-mitháliyya), and in his eternal body (jasad) in the eternal bodies, and in his true body (jism) in the true bodies, and in his soul in the souls, and in his spirit in the spirits (i.e. he will take on the nature of each of these realms). The birth of the shí`a and their marriage and life are in the true bodies and the independent souls, the truth of independence of which reside in their relationship to the truth of these true bodies like the relationship of the true bodies to the accidents (al-`arád) and the essences to the accidents. The truth of al-dunyá with regard to al-úlá is like that of the shadow with regard to the one who casts it. And God guides to the straight path.[715]

To begin with, it is important to bear in mind that the basic technical terms of this commentary, al-dunyá, al-ákhira, and al-úlá, are taken from one of the verses of the Ziyárat al-jámi`a, upon which Shaykh Ahmad wrote a very dense commentary, many times referred to in these pages.[716] A part of his commentary may be translated as:

The meaning of the first (al-úlá) is the return (raj`a) of the Family of Muhammad, or the rise of their Qá'im, or (the rise of) most of them. It is called al-úlá in relationship to al-ákhira.[717]

Shaykh Ahmad then quotes two traditions relevant to the quranic verse and remind them of the days of God [14:5]:

The days of God are the day on which the Qá'im shall arise, and the day of the return (al-karra), and the day of resurrection.

The days of God are three: the day of the Qá'im, and the day of death, and the day of resurrection.[718]

MacEoin's says:

At its most basic, it would seem that al-Ahsá'í thought in terms of three days or ages, the first the present state of things (al-dunyá), the second the day of the appearance of the Qá'im and the return of the Imáms (al-úlá), and the third the last, general resurrection . . . . To this extent, there is some justification in the Bahá'í interpretation of the inverted wáw referred to in his letter as a reference to three ages. But . . . from the foregoing and from a wider reading of al-Ahsá'í's writings on related subjects [it is apparent] that he did not conceive of a rather crude, linear movement of three successive ages, but a much more sophisticated system in which concepts of time, space, movement and so forth are elaborately interrelated. [719]

The thrust of MacEoin's article, quite beside the point of this study, is to say that the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad on the significance of the "reversed wáw", have been misrepresented by Bahá'í scholars for the purposes of aligning the claims of Bahá'u'lláh with Shaykh Ahmad's "prophecies". The basic Bahá'í interpretation of history is that the Bab represented a turning point between two major cycles of history: the first, is referred to as "the cycle of prophecy", the second, as "the cycle of fulfillment" during which the prophecies will be realized. (Acccording to Bahá'í teaching we are now in this cycle of fulfillment.) The Bab, according to this interpretation, represents both a break with the past and a "door" to the future. As such (and at least on one level), he fulfills the requirements of the designation al-úlá as set out by Shaykh Ahmad above, as may be seen in one of his most common titles, "The Primal Point" (al-nuqtat al-úlá).

As for Shaykh Ahmad's theory of time, it represents a relatively recent development. The concepts of subtle (latíf) and dense (kathíf) time and space have been a subject in Islamic philosophy since at least the 13th century.[720] Later, Qádí Sa`íd Qummí (1049/1639-1103/1691), a student of Muhsin Fayz Káshání, was particularly attracted to the subject and developed a theory which Corbin has referred to as the "Enfoldment of time and space". According to this, everything which exists concretely, that is to say everything which is compact and dense, is at the same time material (compact and dense) and spiritual (subtle) and forms a unity, a unique individuality. Just as there is a quantum (miqdár) of matter and a quantum of space imparted to each individuality, there is also for each individuality a quantum of personal time which is his alone. The quantity of this time varies according to the individual. . . . The more subtle (spiritual) the body, the more subtle the quantum of time and the more it is capable of being enlarged. There is therefore the dense (kathíf) time of the sensible world, and there is the subtle time of the malakút (imaginal, not to be confused with zamán mawhúm "imaginary time"). There is finally the time which is absolutely subtle (altaf) in the world of jabarút (intelligible and intellective). Subtle time is spoken of sometimes in terms of enfoldment, and sometimes dilation, according to the circumstances. The quantum of time given to a spiritual individual can encompass an immensity of being; it can also have present to itself a multitude, namely the totality of moments of being in a perfect synchronicity. Succession becomes simultaneity; time becomes space. Speaking of the time and space of prophets, he says: Their subtlety is such that the time and movements in our experience are enfolded in [their] malakúti time and movements.[721]

Corbin has also analyzed the subject as it appears in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad himself, and fortunately, specifically as it relates to the "six days of creation" represented by the wáw (= 6 in abjad reckoning) discussed in the above commentaries of Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim. This wáw, it should be remembered, is susceptible of being broken down into two wáws and an alif. The first wáw then has been seen as representing dawr al-satr; the second, the dawr al-kashf; while the alif represents the Qá'im as standing between the two "gulfs" (viz, al-tatanjayn) of time. Corbin sees in the "motif de l'hexaémeron " a striking case of "isomorphisme" between time and space which has been developed by both the Shaykhís and the Ismá`ílís.

Une fois perÁue la simultanéité á laquelle est reconduite la sucession des "six jours", voici qu'á son tour le sens du "septième jour" est de spatialiser le temps de l'Imám de la restauration (Qá'im al-Qiyámat). Le "septième jour" met fin au conflit de l'espace et du temps. C'est l'aspect sous lequel nous avons á saisir le lien entre l'eschatologie et l'isomorphisme des formes temporelles et des formes spatiales . . .[722]

The "six days" according to Shaykh Ahmad have a double meaning [a function of the two wáws mentioned above]. The first, is that they represent the six worlds which constitute the macrocosmo, the worlds of: 1) the Intellects, 2) Souls, 3) Nature, 4) Substances, involving atoms (al-habá'), matter (maddá) or light (núr), 5) the world of the Image (mithál), and finally 6) the world of material bodies.

The second meaning of the "six days" is according to the "second creation (khalq thání)'. In this context, they are seen as being the elements which compose each existing thing. None of these "days" can appear before the other. These six are: quantity, modality (kayf), time (waqt), place (makán), aspect (jihat), and rank (rutba). Waqt is divided into the three categories found in the writings of Qází Sa`íd, namely: kathíf, latíf, and altáf. There is therefore chronological time (zamán), which is divided into three categories: "subtil, moyen et dense". These correspond to the different states of the body, from the subtle to the material. There is also dahr "sempiternité" which is in three parts as well: the time of jabarút (the world of Intellects) which is subtle; the time of malakút (the world of Souls) which is medium; and the time of sarmad, eternity. Sarmad also has three levels, corresponding to the creative Act: subtle, which is associated with the divine Will; medium, which is the time of the "prestructuration" of beings (perhaps the yawm al-mitháq); and a third which is dense and opaque, representing the divine Decree (qadá) and "signature" (imdá').[723] Corbin says:

On pressent facilement que le troisième et le quatrième "jour" tels que les analyse Shaykh Ahmad, offrent déjá á la pénsée toutes les resources souhaitables pour établir l'isomorphisme des formes dans les temps et des formes dans l'espace, et par la m�(tm)me pour réaliser la transmutation du temps en espace, ou encore pour effectuer le passage eschatalogique de temps de ce monde-ci au temps d'un monde autre, mettant fin au premier. Il n'est malheureusement pas possible d'y insister ici; il faut nous contenter d'énoncer ici ce qui fait apparaítre une convergence remarquable, une démarche de pensée commune á la théosophie shaykhie et á la théosophie ismaélienne, particulièrement chez le grand théosophe ismaélien iranien Násir-e Khosraw.[724]

This Ismá`ílí interpretation of the "six days" is also of some interest because, as Corbin points out, Shaykh Ahmad has said the same thing himself in his own writings. According to Násir-i Khusraw, the "six days" are susceptible of a double interpretation. The first is the "day" which is measured by the rising and setting of the sun. The second, or esoteric interpretation, sees the "six days" as the six forces of nature which function within a given exoteric day: movement, rest, matter, form, time, and space.

All of these forces of nature leave a permanent imprint on every being and thing which exists in the material world. Thus the contour of all that is material presents six sides or directions: high and low, rear and front, right and left. The six sides of the physical solid are the hexaémeron, the six "permanent" days of creation. The seventh day is the totality itself, the solid (or the physical person) which supports the six sides.

C'en est aussi la dimension suprasensible, puisque en fait c'est l'áme qui perÁoit la forme, la totalité.[725]

Being the seventh side of the solid with six sides, in three dimensions, the "seventh day" is therefore something like a fourth dimension. Seen as the totality of the cosmos, it is the Human Form "achevant et prolongeant au-delá de lui-m�(tm)me le processus cosmique." Seen as hiérocosmos in the spiritual world, it is the form of the Resurrector (Qá'im), the last Imám, who in giving the signal for the Resurrection of Resurrections (qiyáma al-qiyámat), inaugurates the passage from our world in the present cycle of occultation (dawr al-satr) to the cycle of epiphany (d. al-kashf) which must succeed it.[726]

MacEoin is therefore correct in referring to the complexity of Shaykh Ahmad's thought. Indeed, we have seen how history was also quite maleable to a certain degree, in the hands of the Bab. For example, his interpretation of quranic verses which "appear" to refer to pre-Islamic history, but which are read as referring to Shí`í salvation history. This method has been shown to derive from akhbárí exegesis, which of course supported the more speculative projects of men like Qádí Sa`íd and Shaykh Ahmad. It is important to repeat: the typical vocabulary of these speculations (e.g., Húrqalyá, al-zamán al-latíf, `álam al-mithál) is completely absent from the Bab's tafsír, although it is also obvious that that work displays certain Shaykhí influences. This would seem to argue for a less "sophisticated" system informing this work. But to return to Shaykh Ahmad and his system, the following remarks are worth quoting:

Lorsque les shaykhis désignent cette perception de la dimensio mystica (ou malakútí ) comme "vision des choses en Húrqalyá", ils désignent en ce sens un mode de vision eschatologique. Dans l'idée d'une eschatologie qui n'est pas un événement devant surgir á l'improviste un jour lointain, mais qui est en train de s'accomplir présentement ... est impliquée la capacité de "percevoir les choses en Húrqalyá", c'est-a-dire de percevoir hic et nunc, par leur dimensio mystica, la totalité des �(tm)tres et des choses, dont la succession du temps chronologique permet chaque fois qu'une perception partielle.[727]

As seen above in the long translation from the letter of Shaykh Ahmad on the subject, the return of the Qá'im is precisely this total return, occurring "not [? only] in the archetypes" but "he shall be in his elemental body in the realm of the elements and in his archetypes in the realm of the archetypes". This statement implies that the return will happen at every level of the universe and would therefore include, or at least be easily "misinterpreted" to include, the realm of mundane time, space and history. Corbin denies the possibility of such an interpretation in his critique of Bábism and Bahá'ism (cited above). Corbin's insistence on a "style gothique" in his reading of Shaykhism obviously represents only one of several possible interpretations. This is particularly so in view of the event of the Bábí parousia and, more significantly, the recognition of this by Shaykhí students. It is important to bear in mind, however, that Corbin was greatly influenced by the Shaykhism which developed under the impetus of Karím Khán Kirmání who emphasized the "vertical" dimension of his forebears' teachings.[728] This influence is visible in the following quotation:

La parousie de l'Imám, n'est pas un événement exterieur qui doive surgir un beau jour inattendu, mais une Présence s'accomplissant d'acte en acte d'anticipation.[729]

It would appear that such a statement is too categorical in denying the possibility of any exterior event. As has been illustrated in the preceding pages, both from the writings of the Bab and the various references to the writings of Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim, the exterior and the interior form a basic syzygy both in the interpretative act as well as in Being per se.[730] To emphasize the importance of one over the other, may not in the end have been true to the spirit (or letter) of the writings of these thinkers, and may therefore do violence to the total vision promulgated them.

A recent study of Shaykhism has emphasized the zamání or historical implications of the eschatology in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim.[731] The author indeed seems to take for granted that these two foresaw an actual advent of the Imám, in an individual. Inasmuch as both men were in fact12er Shí`ites, writing at a time close to the long-awaited millenium of their faith, it would not be surprising to discover that they expected (in addition to the spiritual and esoteric qiyáma indicated above) an actual individual to arise as Qá'im. This would seem to be in line with the universality of their thought, a thought which sees the part and the whole ("vahdat dar kasrat"), as subject to the same laws of a divine universe. A refusal to countenance the advent of a spiritual superman is perhaps in line with the kind of mistrust of heros, or authority, which has developed in our time. It would be wrong to retroject upon the writings of Ahsá'í an interpretation which may be faithful to twentieth century philosophical tastes, but which for that ignores several important features of the Sitz im Leben which these works must necessarily reflect.

The fact that the Bab makes no mention of subtle time, or any of the other terms mentioned above, could be taken to suggest (from silence) that he thought the Qá'im would actually arise. Depending upon one's interpretation of Shaykhism, this could mean either that the Bab had seized upon a single aspect of qiyáma as taught by that school, or that he departed from its teachings on this subject. In the latter case, the Bábís might be seen as dissident Shaykhís. Much more work needs to be done on this question. The following citations represent the balance of the Bab's comments on the subject of the Qá'im.

Qá'im in Tafsír súrat al-baqara

In addition to the above statement identifying the Qá'im as the Fourth Support and functioning as a spiritual principle in the "souls of the Shí`a", there are numerous other mentions of the Qá'im throughout the tafsír (particularly toward the end). For convenience much of this material is presented below, beginning with the earliest mention and covering all of the Bab's significant statements on the subject.

Who believe in the Unseen, and perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them; [2:3]

And theUnseen (al-ghayb) it is Muhammad, because he is absent to whatever is other than he. None knows his true essence (kunh) but God. And the specific [intention] of this Unseen (wa tafsíl hádhá al-ghayb) it is the Qá'im, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.

And he is the one about whom al-Sádiq . . . said: "He is the hidden proof (al-hujjat al-ghá'ib)." [732]

And `Alí is the same (nafs) as the Messenger of God, as is clearly indicated in his (Muhammad's) lofty statement: 'My záhir is imáma and my bátin is a forbidden hiddeness of which none is aware.'"

And there are an unlimited number of possible grades tothe Unseen. al-imkán is the ghayb al-akwán in each world.[733] The possible world is hidden from the real world in each universe accordingly (bi-hasabihi). And the actuality (kawn) of the higher chain (silsilat al-a`lá) is the ghayb of the lower chain (silsilat al-sáfil). Thus it proceeds with the case of the universal and the particular, realities and [mere] attributes, infinitely.

And as for the Ahl al-Bayán, the Unseen is the same as the visible (al-shaháda), and the visible is the same as the Unseen . And none knows the Unseen except God.

And according to the Ahl al-Záhir, which [záhir] is the same as al-bátin according to the ahl al-bátin, it is as Abú al-Hujjat al-Hasan al-`Askarí said in the tafsír of this verse:

Those who believe in the Unseen , that is (ya`ní) in that which is hidden from their senses about those things which faith obligates them, like the resurrection (al-ba`th), the judgement (al-hisáb), Paradise (al-janna), Hell, and the tawhíd of God, and the rest of whatever is not known by seeing, whereas it is known by rational proof (dalá'il). [They are what] God established (nasaba), like Adam and Eve and Idrís and Núh and Ibráhím and the prophets upon which faith was obligatory, and the proofs (hujaj) of God, even though they do not see them . . . .[734]

And when We appointed with Moses forty nights then you took to yourselves the Calf after him and you were evildoers. [2:51]

And the meaning (murád) with the foremost reality of Moses is Muhammad.

And [the meaning of] forty is `Alí, and the ten proofs (hujaj) from his progeny.

And when the Merciful appointed [means: appointed] for Muhammad. thirty nights, and the meaning (murád) is `Alí because he remained after the death of Muhammad for thirty years. And [the forty ] is completed by ten: Hasan and Husayn, and the eight Imáms from the progeny of Husayn.

And the allusion to nights is the concealment (ikhtifá') of their glory in the darkness of disbelief.

So, when God (al-haqq) caused the waláya of His Prophet and Trustees to appear, He informed [them] about the disbelief of his enemies together with [the idea of] their taking for a Trustee (wasíy) the First (Abú Bakr). And he is the Calf [which they took] after the Messenger clearly distinguished (tabayyana) the Trusteeship of `Alí for them.

That therefore was the allegiance (ba`ya) to Abú al-Dawáhí, may God curse him [they are the] evildoers.

And the Qá'im, when God manifests His cause in the Return (al-raj`a), that which I have only alluded to will clearly appear. And his station is [specifically] for the manifestation (zuhúr) of his sovereignty, on the part of God some specific day (`inda alláh kána yawman). And he is Muhammad, and Muhammad is he. May God hasten both their days. Because the promise of God is as good as accomplished (wa`d alláh maf`úlan).[735]

Then you turned away thereafter, and but for the bounty (fadl)and mercy of God towards you, you had been of the losers. [2:64]

Before God the meaning (wa 'l-murád laday al-haqq) of bounty is the Qá'im. And he is the bounty of God in all the worlds. And were it not for him, Origination would not have been originated and Invention would not have been generated. By him Origination rose up[736] and by him the fruit of Invention acquired existence (wujidat) from the sign of the Pure Exclusive Unity, and the signs of the pure Inclusive Unity.

He who believes, insofar as he is capable (bi-má huwa `alayhi) in the divine unity (al-wahda) and the kingdom (al-jabarút), will have gathered to himself the bounty from his Lord and will be purified of the baseness of the losers by means of an unearned gift (júd) from his Imám.[737] But only a few believe in him.

If the covering be removed [cf. 50:22 ] to the extent of but a single drop (rashha) from his unity (wahdati-hi), and a single allusion from his dominion (jabarútíyatihi), then all created things will be dumbfounded by his grace, and would long for the atmosphere of his love by entering into the city of the form (shabah) of his self, oblivious of all but him, so that only immortality remains as his sign. And the heavens and the earth would be filled with the sound of "There is no god but God", and to Him is the Destiny [Qur'an passim].[738]

Those to whom We have given the Book and who recite it with true recitation, they believe in it; and whoso disbelieves in it, they shall be the losers. [2:121]

The intention (murád) is the Family of God. By the Book is meant the appearance (zuhúr) of God to them by means of them, they cause the appearance of God to appear to themselves as a true appearance, in such a way that their stations do not show up in any world except on the authority of the manifestation of the absolute truth (illá `an al-mazhar al-haqq al-mutlaq). Whatever is other than them is proper to the contingent world, according to what each merits through origination, and whatever is in its potential through invention. And invention, and whatever is dormant in it, glorifies their splendour. [ibdá` & ikhtirá` = are treated as feminine here.] They are not heedless of the least thing in all of the worlds of contingency and actuality concerning the true recitation of the Qur'an. They believe in God alone, because they point the way on the authority of God alone. And whoso disbelieves in it (bi-hi), that is to say, the Qá'im, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, during his life, and during his return and his advent (zuhúr) and his state (dawlati-hi),they shall be the losers. Because they will have lost for their souls during their lives the radiance (tala'lu') which comes from the brilliance (tasha`shu`) of purchasing (ishtará';continues the commercial metaphor of loss, khusr) the sign of his (Qá'im) self, him whom God has deposited in the imkán of all created things. Therefore they became losers. [739]

And those that believe and do deeds of righteousness - those are the inhabitants of Paradise; there they shall dwell forever.' [2:82]

[This means that] those that believe that the signs of God in all the worlds are the signs of the signs of `Alí, by origination.

And verily the Essence has no road to It, nor does it have a sign. And none knows Its "how" except It. If It did have a sign that would necessitate connection (iqtirán). And It is exalted [above such].

`Alí ibn al-Husayn said: "By God, the signs are our signs, and waláya is one of them."

And do deeds of righteousness [in connection with the fact] that none can perform [anything] in the world except through God (bi-'lláh) and for God (li-'lláh). And in all his motions, he moves on the authority of God, and does not abandon the depth of the Exclusive Unity for an instant, although he sees created things. And his soul is a single soul . God (al-haqq) said: Your creation and your upraising are as but as a single soul. [31:28]

And his soul appeared from the soul of the God (al-haqq) in all attributes and names. His (the Qá'im's) forgiveness is His forgiveness, his patience is His patience, his tolerance is His tolerance, his self-sufficiency is His self-sufficiency, and his gift is His gift.

Therefore he is in the attributes of the Exclusive Unity and divinity (ulúhíya) and rahmáníya and wáhidíya, and in all these allusions.

Verily, the servant fears none but God in his doing. And when it is like that then has he performed deeds of righteousness - those [deeds]are the companions ("inhabitants" asháb) of the Qá'im, truly. And they are in the Most Great Ridwán, dwelling forever. Because the Proof (al-hujja) is the face of the Worshipped One, and there is no end to him (lá zawál la-hu). He who enters into his waláya, by means of his [Qá'im] immortality (fa-bi-baqá'i-hi), that one shall be immortal.

But, [even] that face is a generated face which God has related to His self, nobly. Nevertheless, that is the highest limit (gháya) of immortality from the bounty (fayd) of God for the people of the world of contingency.

He who is in the waláya of the Qá'im is then in paradise dwelling forever.

But the Face of the Lord which appears to all created things, by means of them (la-hu bi-hi) is not devoid of meaning.[740]

And We gave to Moses the Book, and after him sent succeeding Messengers; and We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit; and whensoever there came to you a Messenger with that your souls had not desire for, did you become arrogant, and some cry lies to, and some slay. [2:87]

And [the meaning of] and We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, is the immortality (al-baqá') attendant upon the honour of the meeting (li-sharaf liqá') with the Proof, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, the Sáhib al-Amr.

And he isthe clear signs, in the estimation of God.

And the Proof willconfirm him (Jesus ), during the Return (al-raj`a) through his government (wizára). And he is the meaning (murád) of with the Holy Spirit.

And it [this holy spirit] is the greatest of the angels, inasmuch as the angels are like letters joined in grammar while the Holy Spirit, his station, with respect to [this analogy with] letters, is as a single letter, [which] however, has a comprehensive intent. Its grade is with [both] mankind and the angels. And he is the angel (malak) which God created for the purpose of educating (tarbíya) the body (jism) of Muhammad and his Family in this world. And he is the greatest servant (al-khaddám) of the Family of God.

God confirmed Jesus through him because he is the most noble of the Shí`a of `Alí in the contingent world. So, whenever the Proof came to you from God with that which your polytheistic souls did not desire, did you become arrogant, and some cry lies to, and some slay. [741]

But they will never long for it, because of that their hands have forwarded; God knows the evildoers. [2:95]

God informs about those who swerved from the love of al-Husayn. They will never long for the manifestation of the Qá'im (zuhúr al-qá'im), may God hasten his glad advent, because he in the estimation of God, is the death of justice, if you judge fairly.[742]

And We have sent down unto thee signs, clear signs, and none disbelieves in them except the ungodly. [2:99]

And We have sent down by means of thee unto thee (bi-ka ilay-ka), O Muhammad!, signs of the Exclusive Unity, clear signs of the Inclusive Unity, in thyself and its manifestations (mazáhir) in the souls of thy Trustees. And [We have sent ] the likeness of these two (thy soul and the souls of thy trustees) tothe horizons and the souls [41:53] of all others [than thy trustees and thyself].

But only a few of them believe [passim] and do not disbelieve in them , that is, the waláya of the Qá'im (bi-há: quranic fem. pl. pronoun applied to a fem. singular noun) in thesign of whose waláya (waláyati-há) God placed each of the signs and the clear signs, except [for the]the ungodly folk. [743]

Nay, but whosoever submits his will (wajha-hu) to God, being a good doer (muhsin), his wage is with his Lord, and no fear be on them, neither shall they grieve. [2:112]

Nay, he will enter all the paradises whoeversurrenders the sign of God (man aslama áyata lláhi) which God manifested to each by means of each essence/individual (`ayn) other than Himself, both actually and potentially (kawnan wa imkánan).

And submits his will means the Family of God [submitted ] to God because they tell no story concerning ( yahkúna fí) any world or station except on the authority of God.

He is a good-doer (muhsin) means "one who distinguishes (mush`ir)" when he enters Paradise and abides upon the throne of divine might that it (fem.) is one of the "lifeless forms (shabah min ashbáh) of the Family of God, and [distinguishes between this and the fact that] to the One Essence (al-dhát al-ahad) there is no road for contingency.

So when he acknowledges, through servitude, the Family of God, in Paradise, then he is a good-doer in the estimation of the Lord, so that his wage will be with his Lord.

When anyone submits according to what I have described, he is then one who has surrendered thewage which has come [to him] from the Family of God, because the very act of attaining the depth of the Exclusive unity is itself the same as his wage. This depth is existentiated (tadhawwatat) from (min `inda ) the zuhúr of the Family of God. Those possessed of perception testify to one upholding justice [3:18: qá'im bi'l-qist] therein. Whoever enters it his wage will be found with God. In it [Paradise] there is no fear . . . And there will be no grief for the one who attains it, because grief is not the grieved one (al-mahzún) and in Paradise there is no trace of change or distinction. Nay rather God made that sea pure for His own self, transcendent above the dust of anything but Him, purified from any but the mention of God. Exalted be God, its Originator (mubdi`), above what you attribute.

Those who submit their wills to God through the waláya of the Qá'im, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, then their wage is with God during his Return, inasmuch as God has promised that He would be gracious to those that were abased in the earth [28:5], that is, the earth of divine power (al-qudra) and would make them Imáms [28:5: a'imma: Arberry: "leaders"), that is in divine power like them, whatever they desire exists (má yashá'úna illá wajadú), and to make them inheritors [28:5], that is, make them firmly established in the sign of tawhíd, because to God belongs the inheritance (irth for míráth) of the heavens and the earth [3:180 & 57:10].

And that station is more honourable than the first because the first is absolutel non-existence in its region. God will make good His promise, and the promise of God is near (wa`d alláh qaríban).[744] And there will be no fear concerning the waláya of the First for anyone who submits his will to the waláya of the Qá'im, nor grief concerning the waláya of the Second, inasmuch as these two [fear and grief ] are their attributes. And God purifies those who acknowledge the waláya of the Family of God from the attributes of those two, if they are upright (law kánú qá'imín).[745]

And when Abraham said, 'My Lord, make this a land secure, and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in God, and the Last Day.' He said, 'And whoso disbelieves, to him I shall give enjoyment a little, then I shall compel him to the chastisement of the Fire - how evil a homecoming!' [2:126]

`Alí said: 'My lord, make the sign of Muhammad, [which is] in potential and actuality (fí al-imkán wa al-akwán) this land secure, purified for Thee alone, no partner hast thou, secure from the mention (dhikr) of all but Thee.

And provide its people with fruits from the power of origination and invention, according to whatever they want. Such of them as believe in God, He who there is no god other than He, and in the Qá'im who is himselfthe Last Day, in the estimation of the Merciful.

God said: And whoso disbelieves in the sign of the Exclusive Unity, which is the land of Muhammad, I shall give enjoyment [of]a little manifestation of the immortality (baqá') of the Family of God . . . . [746]

There is a temptation in light of the Bab's eventual claims, to read into the above material a belief in an actual, historical appearance, particularly in those passages which speak of the coming Qá'im's government (dawla, wizára). This is also true of the passage which speaks of the 313 companions of the Qá'im, which because of its detail tends to evoke an actual historical event. At the same time, the Qá'im is described in personal "existential" or ontological terms as the fourth mashhad, which is also called the Fourth Support, "hidden within the souls of the Shí`a". In the commentary on 2:64, quoted above, it seems clear that the Qá'im will return in the world of the Intellects (jabarút). That the more or less abstract notion of Qá'im is identified with the name of a specific "historical" person, need not negate the possibility of its being a spiritual principle. As has been amply demonstrated throughout the preceding pages, the names of the members of the Family of God are very often seen as hypostases of theological or philosophical principles. However, this should not, in turn, obviate ipso facto the possibility that the Qá'im is also expected to appear as a specific individual. As Corbin has insisted, and has become clear by now, particularly with regard to the theory of "signs" found in this commentary, traces of all of the abstract principles have been deposited in the horizons and the souls precisely to enable the individual to realize the "perfect" manifestation of such a principle when it appears.[747]

From those passages discussed in the previous chapter which speak of wijdán, and in light of the clear authority with which the Bab comments on the Qur'án (e.g., wa'l-murád laday al-haqq, or há aná dhákir), it may be thought that the Qá'im was seen by the Bab primarily as an internal principle, but that finally his own experience or "encounter" with this principle was too strong to remain exclusively personal. That the intensity of his inner experience coincided with the Shí`i millenium is of course of primary importance. Such a combination was bound to produce changes in history.

Chapter 3

Part ii


The following study of the Bab's commentary on the súra of Joseph is divided into four chapters. The first is a general description of the work and the two manuscripts consulted for this study, together with some considerations on the Bab's choice of the 12th súra as a basis for his proclamatory or annunciatory commentary. The second chapter attempts to come to terms with the elusive problem of the voice of the commentary. To this end, two of the titles assumed by the author are examined in detail (dhikr and báb). In the third chapter, the question of voice is raised again in the study of one of the more striking, and heretofore cryptic, or "idiosyncratic" features of the commentary and, it is felt, sufficiently demystified. This feature, the combining of opposites or antithetical terms, is seen to correspond to one of the other titles of the Bab, al-nuqta. The general usage is found to be directly reflexive of a particular hadíth ascribed to the first Imám. The fourth chapter singles out one súra of the commentary, in order to analyze the specific characteristics of the author's method of interpretation. Here an attempt at translation, together with a verse by verse commentary is offered. Examples of the tafsír will be found reproduced at appropriate places in the discussion. In the interest of clarity, henceforth "chapter" will refer to the Bab's tafsír, although these units are called súras in the text; "súra" will refer to the Qur'an.

The Bab's commentary on the 12th súra of the Qur'an is unique for a variety of reasons, many of which will become clear below. Certainly the most striking aspect of the work is that it purports to be both a commentary on the Qur'an, and a new Qur'an. Separately considered, both of these features carry with them a number of problems, which while not necessarily new, are, in the context of the present study greatly complicated because they are joined within a single work. This is new. The general argument offered here may be summarized as follows: The Bab's tafsír on the Súrat Yúsuf displays at one and the same time a radical change in the Bab's attitude towards both Scripture and himself. It shows both a thorough knowledge of the Qur'an, and a degree of boldness in manipulating and interpreting the sacred text (earlier faint traces of which are found in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara) which is quite unprecedented. This license is thought to derive, at least in part, from the distinctively Shí`í idea that the Qur'an which we have now is not the Qur'an as it was revealed to Muhammad: If the Book was allowed to be changed in the past, why should it not be allowed to be changed now, particularly in the historical context of the Shí`í millenium, which involved according to tradition, the promulgation of a new Scripture? This idea, combined with the Bab's own strong spiritual experiences, permitted him to exercize authority over the Book. A Book, which according the Shí`í doctrine of the Imamate, was accessible only through the interpretive guidance of an Imám, a status which is claimed de facto. By claiming such authority, the main task of the tafsír was accomplished, namely to announce that the Bab himself occupied a spiritual rank comparable only to the ahl al-bayt. Although this announcement is conditioned by the statement in the work that the Bab had been commanded to write his tafsír by the hidden Imám, the reality is quite similar to Muhammad's role in revealing the Qur'an. The intermediary is unavoidably identified with the source. In this case the identification appears to be total: the Bab becomes the symbol upon which previously he was content merely to meditate. In any case, the "source" here (i.e., the hidden Imám) would have been identified with God, as the earlier study of hierarchies has shown.

The nonquranic language and symbols of the commentary derive, for the most part, from a very old tradition within Shí`ism and may be found preserved elsewhere in early Ismá`ílí works and the compilations of Imámí lore like the one referred to many times above by Rajab Bursí. While this tradition is certainly not representative of "orthodox" Shí`ism, vestiges of it may be found in the canonical works. In short, this language and these symbols were understood.

Part ii: Chapter 1

General Description

Commentary and Imitation

The súra of Joseph has been singled out by various exegetes throughout tafsír history, as one which lends itself to discussion because, unlike many other súras of the Qur'an, it presents a comparatively sustained narrative. At the same time, like other súras, it is replete with many topics considered to be key to the Islamic religion in general. The figure of Joseph as a spiritual hero and prophet has also been the subject of other works. For example, the great mystic Ibn `Arabí took up the quranic Joseph in his Fusús al-hikam, as a basis for his discussion of the spiritual imagination.[748] The súra has also been the subject of earlier commentaries and elaborations. To the renowned Abú Hámid al-Ghazzálí (505/1111) is ascribed a mystical tafsír on this súra.[749] The same work has been ascribed to Abú Hámid's younger brother Ahmad (520/1126 ) and is published as Ahsan al-qasas.[750] Other titles for this work include al-Durra al-bayda and Bahr al-mahabba wa asrár al-mawadda fí tafsír súrat Yúsuf. The latter title was apparently published in Bombay in 1894. Verifying the precise authorship of this "ghazzalian" work remains to be done. Regardless of who actually wrote it, the commentary has virtually nothing in common with the Bab's, except of course the quranic citations themselves.

Another example of the interest in the súra, is the seventeenth century Natíja al-tafásír fí súrat Yúsuf by one Shaykh Ya`qúb b. Shaykh Mustafá' al-Khalwatí, completed in the year 1133/1720. This work collects excerpts from commentaries by a variety of authors including al-Maturídí, al-Nasafí, Fakhr al-Dín al-Rází, al-Qurtubí, al-Qushayrí, al-Túsí, al-Zamakhsharí, and the "books of preachers".[751]

In addition to these commentaries, GAL lists several others with some duplication.[752] A Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is ascribed to Mullá Sadrá, although the catalogue cited lists only a Tafsír súrat Yá Sín for this author.[753] There is mention of another work with the title Ahsan al-qasas, this time by the Táj al-`Ulamá al-Naqaví, grandson of the famous Dildár Nasírábádí (1236/1820), who studied in Mashhad and Karbalá,[754] and who was apparently "the first Indian to return to India as a recognised mujtahid, having studied under Bihbahání in Karbalá. He was instrumental in establishing the Usúlí school in Oudh and also for a campaign against Sufism." [755] This work was published in `Azímábád, presumably sometime before 1894, the year of the author's death. Another Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is ascribed to one Ahmad b. Asad b. Isháq, about whom no other details are given.[756]

An indication of the importance that the story of Joseph has had for the Shí`a is the many titles of tafásír devoted solely to it in Dharí`a. Volume 1 lists three separate works, two of which were written in the nineteenth century.[757] Volume 4 lists ten separate entries, one of which is the previously mentioned work of Táj al-`Ulamá.[758] The first entry (#1512) is the above-mentioned work by Mullá Sadrá. The first line of the work, which Tihrání quotes, is the same as the one said to begin the Tafsír súrat Yá Sín [Q.36] in the Sipahsálár catalogue quoted by GAL. The ninth entry is ascribed to yet another descendant of Dildár, one Muhammad b. al-Sayyid Dildár `Alí Naqaví al-Nasírábádí al-Lakhnaví (1326/1908). Given the well-attested antipathy of the usúlíya toward the Shaykhís, and by extension the Bábís, it is most interesting that the descendants of the great Indian usúlí scholar felt called upon to compose commentaries on the súra of Joseph, perhaps as a corrective to the by then well known, or at least infamous, work of the Bab. (The Bábí threat may have also been behind the decision to publish (in1266/1849) the above-mentioned Natíja by al-Khalwatí.) Unfortunately, none of these Indian works is readily available, so that any relationship between them and the work here under discussion is impossible to verify.

Two works of this century may also be mentioned by way of illustrating the continued interest the figure of Joseph, and the quranic account of him, holds for Muslims. The first is by Ahmad Máhir Mahmúd al-Baqrí, Yúsuf fí'l-Qur'án (Alexandria, 1971). It discusses several aspects of the Joseph tradition in chapters devoted to tafsír, the moral implications of the story, Yúsuf in belles lettres and Yúsuf in the Qur'an and Torah. The second is: Mu'tamar tafsír súrat Yúsuf . . . al-`Alamí al-Ghazzí al-Dimashqí (Damascus, 1961). As the title suggests, this is actually the proceedings of a conference which was held to discuss a specific tafsír.[759] The Bab's commentary bears virtually no resemblance to any of the above works, at least those which it has been possible to consult.

Just as the precedent for singling out Súra 12 is well-attested in Islamic literature, so is the precedent for composing imitations of the Qur'an. Muslim tradition condemns, for example, the attempts of the false prophet Musaylima for claiming a revelation, which according to preserved examples, paralleled in many respects the Qur'an's style and form. The important point here is not whether Musaylima was the actual author of these fragments, but that Muslim scholars acknowledge the existence of such imitative attempts with the intention of pointing up their obvious flaws when compared with the genuine article.[760] One of the earliest attempts at imitation according to legend, was by the early master of Arabic prose Ibn al-Muqaffa` (118/756), who at the request of "a group of heretics" began a task which eventually proved too difficult.[761] No trace of this work has survived, but fragments of another work by Ibn al-Muqaffa` have been preserved in a refutation ascribed to the Zaydí Imám, al-Qásim b. Ibráhím (246/860), which contains the noteworthy phrase: "In the name of Light, the Merciful the Compassionate".[762] It does not appear that this author claimed divine revelation, as did the Bab with his imitation. Rather, it seems that the act of imitation for Ibn al-Muqaffa` was more a literary than spiritual exercise. However, it should be remembered that Ibn al-Muqaffa`, like the Bab, suffered a premature death. It is a matter for conjecture whether or not such blasphemous activities precipitated it.[763]

In addition, there is the well-known case of Abú al-`Alá' al-Ma`arrí, whose al-Fusúl wa'l-gháyát bears verses which appear to be conscious imitations of the Qur'an. Although al-Zamakhsharí spoke quite disapprovingly of it,[764] there is no evidence that this attempt was meant to be taken as a serious rival to the Qur'an, as far as any claim to revelation on the part of al-Ma`arrí might be concerned. As Paret says, "By the time al-Ma`arrí was writing, rhyming prose had long since been accepted as a stylistic device characteristic of elevated language, so that it could be employed without second thoughts."[765] Another example, about which very little is known, is the case of Muhadhdhab al-Dín al-Hillí (601/1204), who is accused of mu`áradat al-Qur'án al-karím, as well as other heresies.[766] Whether this opposition was in the form of an actual imitation intended to challenge the inimitability of the Qur'an, or simply arguments against `ijáz al-Qur'án, is not known.

It is interesting that Paret's final example for his discussion of the history of Qur'an imitation is drawn from the writings of the Bab himself. Oddly however, the work adduced is the Arabic Bayán, which was written quite late in the Bab's career and attempts to imitate the Qur'an by the employment of quranic diction and the announcement of a new code of laws, but does not present the kind of formal imitation which the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf displays. The basic assumption, that the Bab did claim to be the bearer of a post-Muhammadan revelation, is however correct. Paret's choice of an example is undoubtedly determined by availability. Complete texts of the Bab's Tafsír súrat Yúsuf exist only in manuscript, whereas the Arabic Bayan has been recently published.[767] Paret characterizes the (Arabic) Bayán in the following way:

Báb (sic) felt that he had been called upon to replace Muhammad as the Prophet and to replace the outmoded Islam with a new religion. In the Bayán he summed up his doctrine. The mode of expression is prosaic, the arrangement of the material unsystematic despite the division into eleven units (wáhid) of nineteen chapters (báb) each. The work was designed not to outdo the Qur'án in rhetorical power but to supersede it as a sober statement of the new faith. Yet it accords with the Qur'án in one respect - that the revelations derive from God Himself. Moreover, there are several points, both in the subject matter and in the formulation, which are not only inspired by the Qur'án but modelled on it, consciously or unconsciously.[768]

While it is not possible to know for certain that the Bab intended the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf to "outdo" the Qur'an, it is clear that he intended it to be on a par with it. In fact, in several places he claims that the work is the same Qur'an which was revealed to Muhammad, implying that both derive from the same source and bear the same spiritual reality.[769] As will be seen, whereas the Bayán is structured as described above, this commentary, which by comparison Paret would probably not describe as "sober", is consciously modeled on the Qur'an. This is so not only in the divisions of suwar and áyát which characterize it, but also in the use of the basmala and various combinations of disconnected letters at the head of each súra. While the work as a whole has not received extensive attention, this particular feature has been known for nearly a century.

Whether or not this imitation succeeds from a literary and stylistic point of view, is quite beside the point to be made here. By "daring" to cast his commentary in the quranic form (described in detail below), the Bab's essential point was made. Therefore, Nèldeke's statement that the Bab's "révélations" cannot be considered as a true continuation of the genre of Arabic literature (of which there is only one example, viz, the Qur'an) may be accurate enough from one point of view.[770] However, it is certainly an error to assume that for the Bab, the inimitability of the Qur'an resided solely in literary artifice. What becomes clear after a study of the work is that it represents a continuation of a genre of literature. which might best be described as charismatic. Insofar as the Qur'an itself may be said to belong to such a category, the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf may then be seen as continuing and extending the tradition. This is the best explanation for its reception by those who first read it or heard it.

Date of Composition

It was the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, also known as the Qayyúm al-asmá and Ahsan al-qasas, which the Bab's earliest followers used to propagate his cause. It has been referred to by Bahá'u'lláh as "the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books" and by Shoghi Effendi as being "universally regarded, during almost the entire ministry of the Bab, as the Qur'án of the people of the Bayán".[771] The early Bábí preacher Mullá `Alí Bastámí is known to have carried a copy of the work with him to Baghdád after leaving Shiraz sometime before the autumn of 1844.[772] It is also generally assumed that other members of the group known as the "Letters of the Living" also used the commentary to promulgate the new message during this earliest period. It is not clear, however, just how much of the work had been completed before the Bab left on his pilgrimage to Mecca in the late summer of 1260/1844.

According to the dates on the manuscripts of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara examined by MacEoin,[773] and the sources which speak of the Bab's proclamation to Mullá Husayn, it was approximately four months after the completion the commentary on the Súrat al-baqara (juz'1), that the Bab began his commentary on the quranic story of Joseph. This was on the eve of the fifth of Jumádá 1, 1260/May 22,1844.[774] As MacEoin points out, this date is somewhat corroborated by a statement early in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf in which the Bab says that he is now twenty-five years old.[775] The problem of dating the work is in knowing exactly when it was completed. The Bab says that he wrote it in forty days,[776] but from internal evidence it seems clear that these were not forty consecutive days. It appears that the Bab wrote parts of it in Shiraz, and other parts during his pilgrimage to Mecca.

There are, for example, two references to 'this month of Ramadán' -- most probably Ramadán 1260/August-September 1844. Other references include those to a storm at sea, quite possibly one of those suffered by the Báb on his journey from Búshihr to Jidda between 19 Ramadán/2 October and late Dhú'l-Qa`da/early December; to what appears to be his first public declaration of his claims at the Ka`ba in Mecca; to God's having revealed matters to him in the Ka`ba; to his call 'from this protected land, the station of Abraham', apparently Mecca; to his having been 'raised up' in the Masjid al-Harám (in Mecca; and, finally, to what seems to have been yet another experience in Mecca, in which he says 'when I went to the Ka`ba (al-bayt), I found the house raised up on square supports before the báb; and, when I sought to perform the circumambulation around the Ka`ba, I found that the duty imposed in truth in the Mother of the Book was seven times'. These references, all of which occur in the later section of the book, strongly suggest that it was completed during the Bab's pilrimage to Mecca, from which he returned to Búshihr on 8 Jumádí (sic) I 1261/15 May 1845.[777]


Several manuscripts of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf have been examined by MacEoin in his study of the sources of Bábí doctrine and history,[778] and lists sixteen manuscripts as follows:

(1) Cambridge Browne F.11 (dated 1891)

(2) Leningrad

(3) Leningrad

(4) London B.L. Or. 3539

(5) London B.L. Or. 6681

(6) Paris B.N. 6435 (dated 1909, hand of Rizwán `Alí)

(7) Paris B.N. 5780 (dated 1897, hand of Rizwán `Alí)

(8) Tehran Bahá'í archives 6020,C (dated 1275/1858-9)

(9) Tehran B.A. 6016.C (dated 1281/1864)

(10) Tehran B.A. 5006.C (pp. 5-262; dated 1262/1846)

(11) Haifa Bahá'í World Centre (formerly Nicolas No. 107)

(12) Haifa B.W.C.

(13) Haifa B.W.C.

(14) Haifa B.W.C.

(15) Haifa B.W.C. (defective)

(16) Haifa B.W.C (dated 1261/1845)

Number (2) was described, and portions of it were edited and published by Rosen in Collections Scientifiques.[779] A sample from this edition is reproduced below at the end of chapter 3. Number (7) is bound together with a manuscript of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, and MacEoin says that number (11) appears to be incomplete. Number (16) is the oldest manuscript of the work known to exist anywhere, and may for that reason be more reliable than the others. The scribe of numbers (6) and (7) was the son of Mírzá Yahyá, Subh-i Azal.[780] In addition to these sixteen, one other manuscript of this work is in the "Bábí collection" in the Princeton University library (as yet uncatalogued). It carries a provisional shelf number of 269. It is in a very clear hand and bears the title Sharh-i súrah-yi Yúsuf az Nuqtat-i bá.

Xerox copies of two manuscripts were consulted for this study, numbers (1, hereafter F11) and (16, hereafter QA). By their dates they represent, approximately, the two extremes of the manuscript history itself, which may account for the several differences between them. The older of the two, and perhaps therefore the more reliable, was transcribed in 1261/1845, or one year after the Bab had begun the work, and differs from the later ms. in many details. The work itself is quite long (QA running to 234 pages, with each 9.5 x 17.5 cm., page bearing 25 lines of closely written text).[781] The colophon of QA (p.234) gives the name of the scribe as one Muhammad Mahdí ibn Karbalá'í Sháh Karam, about whom nothing is known. This manuscript was transcribed at the request of Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í, mentioned earlier, for presentation to the Amír of Qá`inat.[782] F11 was transcribed for Edward Browne in Istanbul (1309/1891-2) by Mírzá Aqá Khán Kirmání at the request of Shaykh Ahmad Rúhí. These men were sons-in-law of Subh-i Azal, and both were prominent followers of Afghání in the Persian Nationalist Movement, and eventually executed in Tabríz on July 17, 1896.[783] The manuscript, written in a beautiful nasta`líq script, contains 202 ff. with 22 lines per page.[784] In the original, the headings and titles are written in red ink.

Some of the discrepancies between the two manuscripts are as follows: QA explicitly states that the number of verses for each chapter is forty-two, while F11 does not. F11 gives the place of revelation for each chapter as Shiraz, while QA is silent on this matter. QA gives the name of each chapter, while F11 does not. Blanks in this latter manuscript suggest that the copyist intended to supply such information later, perhaps in a different colour of ink. Both manuscripts make use of catchwords and appear to have been copied with care as is evidenced by several marginal notes indicating and correcting lacunae.[785] It would seem that QA is the most careful of the two transcriptions, not only because it has more marginalia than F11, but also there appear to be more undetected, or uncorrected lacunae in this more recent manuscript than in the older one.[786] A proper answer to the question must be postponed until all of the existing manuscripts have been collated.

In addition, QA bears the words sajda wájiba in several places on the margin of the work, indicating that at this place a prostration is required by whoever is reading it. This of course, is in imitation of the same sájida tiláwa tradition connected with the recitation of the Qur'an.[787] That such is found in the oldest manuscript of this commentary by the Bab, reveals much about the way the earliest followers regarded his position and that of the book itself.[788]

This tafsír is utterly different in all of its aspects from the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. Unlike the previous commentary, this work contains no discursive elaborations on such important Shaykhí topics as the Fourth Support and no architectonic metaphysical representations.[789] These topics are, however treated by allusion, not only in the titles of the various chapters (a list of these is provided below), but also in the use throughout the chapters themselves of the distinctive vocabulary encountered in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. One example may be seen in the above quotation from Charismatic in which MacEoin translates a portion of the text as: "when I went to the Ka`ba (al-bayt), I found the house raised up on square supports (al-qawá'im al-murabba`) before the báb".[790] While the statement undoubtedly refers to the Ka`ba, the allusion to the doctrine of the four supports is obvious. Similarly, repeated use of such terms as sirr mustasirr (passim) is meant to allude to the corresponding Shaykhí theology.

Although allegorical and typological exegesis is still one of the chief methods of actual interpretation, it is of a different character than that found in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. Indeed, direct interpretation of the verses represents only a portion of the material. In one way the work is much more structured, taking as its model the Qur'an in its use of súra divisions, and in another way it is much less "logical", in that it is difficult at times to see just how the text is actually tied to the quranic material. It is also a very long work and one in which there are presented a variety of concerns, images, terminology, laws, exhortations and prayers. Interestingly, there are no hadíth. This indicates that the only isnád which the Bab required to validate his comments is the one introduced in the first chapter which invokes the authority of the hidden Imám.

The title, Qayyúm al-asmá', is the most frequent way the work is referred to by both Babí and Bahá'í authors. Bausani translates it as "Colui che s'erge sugli Attributi." As such, the word refers to the deity which is beyond attribution.[791] It is derived, according to the Bab himself, from the numerical correspondence between the name Yúsuf and qayyúm, both of which amount to 156 according to abjad calculation. The Bab says also that the word qayyúm refers to "the Qá'im of the House of Muhammad and he who is Hayy-i Qayyúm."[792] This numerical correspondence is pointed out on the first folio of F11.

The designation of the qá'im as qayyúm is quite unusual, the latter term being almost exclusively reserved for God alone. al-Qayyúm occurs three times in the Qur'an, always with the companion epithet al-Hayy.[793] Anawatí points out that this pair of divine names has been identified by some authors as the greatest name itself (ism alláh al-a`zam).[794] From this it would seem that the title, in one sense, conforms to the previously mentioned function of the Qá'im as the bearer or embodiment of the greatest name, which also points beyond himself to the absolute. According to later Bahá'í interpretation, qayyúm also points beyond the Bab to a second messianic figure, specifically Bahá'u'lláh. For example, Kázim Rashtí is quoted as having said, towards the end of his life:

After the Qá'im the Qayyúm will be made manifest. For when the star of the Former has set, the sun of the beauty of Husayn will arise and illuminate the whole world.[795]

As for the other title, Ahsan al-qasas, "the fairest of stories", it is of course the name which the Qur'an gives to the story of Joseph [12:3]. It may be that the work was originally designated as Tafsír ahsan al-qasas and later shortened. Or, it may be that the work was seen to supplant the former as a new ahsan al-qasas.


As mentioned, the story of Joseph in the Qur'an, is among the favorites of Muslims in general. It is considered the "best of stories" [12:3], because it is a more or less extended and consistent narrative, unlike from the other súras of the Qur'an.[796] According to al-Tha`labí (428/1036), the author of the Qisas al-anbiyá', the story of Joseph is the most beautiful "because of the lesson concealed in it, on account of Yúsuf's generosity and its wealth of matter, in which prophets, angels, devils, jinn, men, animals, birds, rulers and subjects play a part."[797]

The contents of the súra present something of an integrated expression of the fundamental thrust of Islam, whether from the point of view of personal religiosity and spirituality, or from the broader perspective of man's communal religious life. As with many súras of the Qur'an, this one also emphasizes the connection of Islam with previous religions. One can assume that these factors were basic to the Bab's choice of this súra for this important proclamatory, or annunciatory, commentary.

Some "structural" reasons for the Bab's choice of this súra as a subject for his Qur'an-like commentary might be found in the approximation of the number of verses in súra 12 to the number of súras in the Qur'an itself.[798] An example of sanctifying a text by arranging it according to the number of quranic súras, may be seen in a recent edition of the Ziyárat al-jámi`a (the subject of Shaykh Ahmad's commentary, referred to many times above as Ziyára) which was divided into114 verses by Muhammad Tha'rulláhí (d. ca. 1962).[799] It has been argued that the number of súras in the Qur'an is precisely 111, the Fátiha and súras 113 and 114 being regarded as prayers which serve to "protect" the contents of the Book, rather than as súras proper.[800] It is also possible that the number of chapters in the Bab's commentary is more of a coincidence in this regard than anything else.

Another distinctive feature of súra 12 is that the word báb or its plural abwáb occur in it more than in other súras. For this reason it might have been thought to represent more fully than others, the mystery of bábíya. This also is conjecture.

Finally, the choice of the súrat Yusúf for the subject of this commentary is connected with a long tradition which reveres the story of Joseph as representing the spiritual mystery of taqíya, or pious concealment, which is so important to Shí`í religiosity in general. Here the absence of the Imám may be regarded as a species of taqíya.[801] Also, the Bab instructed those who first recognized him to keep his identity secret just as Jacob instructed Joseph to not divulge the details of his dream to his brothers. To quote Amanat:

The Qá'im, who is the initiator of a new revelation, provides new norms and values for making the distinction between 'truth' and 'falsehood'. In the early stages of his 'revelation', the Bab regarded the commentary on the Sura of Yúsuf as this major 'Differentiator' (Furqán): 'At the beginning of his appearance', writes the Báb, 'he (i.e. himself) interpreted the Sura of his own name and entitled each chapter (of this commentary) with one verse from the Qur'án, so that it be the indication that he is the Point of Furqán in the Bá' of Bismalláh'. The Bab saw 'the best of stories' as the allegorical account of his own prophecy, not only because he found in himself a resemblance to Joseph, or because the story of Joseph contained the secret of taqíya, but also because of a sense of collective commitment which he shared with the other 'letters' of Bismalláh, and through them with the Kullu-Shay' which is the whole of mankind.

'At the time of revelation, the first who swore allegiance to him (i.e. the Bab) was Muhammad and then the Amír al-Mu'minín and then the Imams on whom be peace. This is the secret of the verse "When Joseph said to his father: Father, I saw eleven stars, and the sun and the moon; I saw them bowing down before me. [12:4] [802]

Amanat also writes:

To Mullá Husain and the other early Babis, the works of the Bab were to be valued not as examples of conventional Shi`i and non-Shi`i exegesis but because of their novelty of style and messianic content. Again the preconceived attributes of the traditions which required the revelation by the Qá'im of a commentary on the 'Best of Stories' . . . convinced the Bab as much as his believers, that his writings possessed all the 'extraordinary' qualities which are special to the Qá'im. [803]

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a tradition which explicitly declares that the Qá'im will compose a commentary on the Súrat Yúsuf. There does exist, however, a prediction to this effect ascribed to Sayyid Kázim Rashtí. According to Nabíl, Mullá Husayn, the young Shaykhí who was the first to accept the Bab's claim, had once asked the Shaykhí leader to write a commentary on the súrat Yúsuf. His teacher responded that such a task was beyond his abilities but that the "great One, who comes after me will, unasked, reveal it for you. That commentary will constitute one of the weightiest testimonies of His truth, and one of the clearest evidences of the loftiness of His position."[804] Rashtí's response here would appear to be conditioned by numerous hadíths which say that the Qá'im will resemble Joseph in several respects and that he would bring a new book. Throughout the Bab's commentary it is clear that he is seeing himself as Joseph, and that the quranic story is read as an allegorical prefigurement of the Bab's own mission.

In the hadíth literature, it is said that the sáhib hádhá 'l-amr (i.e., the Qá'im) bears a certain resemblance to Joseph, one example being that this expected "Hujja" is to attain eventual sovereignty over the world at some particular time (waqt min al-awqát), just as Joseph gained sovereignty over Egypt.[805] This feature is of particular interest for the study of the first two chapters of the Bab's commentary, which are addressed to the secular rulers and the ulama respectively. In these chapters, the Bab not only acknowledges the importance of both institutions for the welfare of men, but demands absolute and unquestioning obedience to himself from both quarters.[806]

In another report, the story is told of how Joseph discovered the signs of nubúwa in himself,[807] and an explanation of how Joseph became a Hujja is given.[808] In the Ikmál al-dín by Ibn Bábawayh, it is mentioned that God has secretly (ghayban) named the Qá'im Joseph[809] and the proper greeting for the Qá'im is al-salám `alayhá yá baqíyat alláh! [810] The word baqíya, which connotes the divine remnant symbolized by the shirt (qamís) of Joseph,[811] is found in this commentary in innumerable places where it seems to refer to the Bab, either directly or by association.[812] Elsewhere in the Ikmál al-dín, it is specified that the Qá'im will be "fair in colour".[813] This attribute may be associated with Joseph's legendary physical beauty; the Bab's pleasing appearance is said to have been one of the qualities which attracted support for his claims.[814] al-Báqir is elsewhere quoted as saying that the sáhib of "this cause" bears resemblance to four prophets, Moses, Jesus, Joseph and Muhammad, and that the prison of Joseph (sijn) represents the occultation of the Imám.[815] The Mahdí will have a basket in which he carries relics of all the prophets, including the " cup" of Joseph.[816] When the Qá'im comes, there will be great disagreement about the Qur'an[817] and he will know all of the quranic sciences, including tafsír, ta'wíl, ma`ání, and násikh wa mansúkh.[818] Most importantly, it is mentioned that the Qá'im will appear between the rukn and the maqám (reference to the sanctuary in Mecca), and the people will take an oath on a new book.[819]

In a very long commentary on one of the verses of the Ziyárat al-jámi`a, in which reference is made to the "return" (raj`a) of the Imáms,[820] Shaykh Ahmad mentions several hadíths on the subject. One of the signs of the return of the Qá'im will take place during the month of Jumádá 1, and before his khurúj there will be seven years of famine and little rain "like the years of Joseph".[821] This presumably refers to Joseph's interpretation of the dream of the "king" (12:46-9). Shaykh Ahmad also mentions the tradition from al-Báqir, which says that the Qá'im will say what none other has said, and will promulgate a new book which will be difficult for the Arabs.[822] This last tradition may have been more instrumental than others in preparing the Bab's first followers for the acceptance of his claims, claims which were intimately bound up with the revelation of a new and unusual book.

Description of the Work

The work was described in some detail, and a small portion of it edited by Rosen in 1877.[823] It was also discussed by Browne in 1889 and again in 1892, in a series of articles in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.[824] Since then, it has received a certain amount of attention from scholars concerned chiefly with the social history of the Bábí movement.[825] All have drawn attention to the fact that text is modeled after the Qur'an. It is important to give some idea here of the extent of this.

The most striking similarities between the Tafsír and the Qur'an are those mentioned above: súra divisions, and verse divisions. As stated earlier, the older manuscript, in imitation of the sajda al-tiláwa tradition connected with the chanting of the Qur'an, carries the instruction sajda wájiba at various places on the margin of the text where the word sajada, or some derivative occurs, in order to indicate that a prostration should be performed while reading the particular verse. In addition, while QA supplies at the head of its 111 chapters not only the number of verses (which in this manuscript is inavariably 42), the F11 manuscript in imitation of texts of the Qur'an, indicates the place of revelation, which is invariably Shiraz. Thus a typical chapter heading would appear as follows:

Súrat al-imán, wa hiya Shírázíya, wa hiya ithnatán wa arba`ún áya.

The number of verses is thought to represent the abjad value of the quranic word balá,[826] which was the word used to convey man's assent to the primordial divine covenant [cf. 7:172], and, according to the commentary on al-Baqara, was a kind of code word for the most recent re-enactment of that event on the Day of al-Ghadír. Allusion to the word in this way in the work, would seem to indicate an even more recent re-enactment of the yawm al-mitháq.

Immediately following this comparatively technical information comes the standard Islamic basmala: In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This occurs without exception at the beginning of each chapter, and is followed by the verse from the Qur'an which is to be the subject of the commentary. However, the first chapter of the tafsír does not contain a verse from súra 12, and is anyway of a slightly different order from the rest, representing something of an introduction.

Continuing this imitation of the form of the Qur'an, the Bab has placed between the quranic áya to be commented upon and the main text of each chapter but four,[827] a series of disconnected letters, some of which are quranic. Thus chapter 3, the Súrat al-ímán, bears the two letters tá há, while the chapter immediately following, al-madína, carries the unquranic alif lám mím tá há . While the vast majority of these sets of letters must remain at this stage somewhat mysterious, it is interesting to note that at the head of chapters 108 and 109, the following combinations occur: `ayn lám yá and mím há' mím dál, giving the names `Alí and Muhammad. The titles of these two chapters are, respectively, al-dhikr and al-`abd (one of the frequent quranic names for Muhammad), both of which represent titles assumed by the Bab in the course of his commentary.[828] It is likely, therefore, that these two names pertain first of all to the Bab himself (Sayyid `Alí Muhammad), and indirectly to the first Imám and the Prophet. Needless to say the ambiguity is no accident.

Following the disconnected letters, there usually occurs one or perhaps two verses (terminations of which are marked in QA by the typical quranic verse marker resembling an independent há', and in F11 by means of a space), which offer some variation on the frequent quranic introductory: dhálika al-kitáb . . . [2:2], or kitábun unzila ilayka . . . [7:2], which has been shown to be one of the common elements shared by those súras which bear disconnected letters.[829] A few examples will illustrate.

Chapter 1, al-mulk, begins, after the title material described above and the respective quranic verse, as follows: al-hamdu li-láh al-ladhí nazzala al-kitáb `alá `abdi-hi bi'l-haqq li-yakúna li'l-`álamín sirájan wahhájan.[830]

Chapter 2, al-`ulamá : (1) alif lám mím, dhálika al-kitáb min `ind alláh al-haqq fí shán al-dhikr qad kána bi'l-haqq hawl al-nár manzúlan; (2) wa inna nahnu qad ja`alná 'l-áyát fí dhálika 'l-kitáb mubínan(sic).[831]

Chapter 3, al-imán: (1) tá' há' ; (2) alláh qad anzala al-qur'án `alá `abdi-hi li-ya`lama al-nás anna alláh qad kána `alá kulli shay' qadíran.[832]

Chapter 37, al-ta`bír : (1) fá `ayn sín nún; (2) al-hamdu li-láh al-ladhí anzala `alá `abdi-hi al-kitáb li-yakúna `alá 'l-`álamín bi'l-kalimat al-`alíy (sic) shahídan.[833]

The slightly variant Chapter 59, al-af'ida, just as one example, has the following, which is still concerned with the way God communicates to mankind: (1) káf há' `ayn sád; (2) alláh qad akhbara 'l-`ibád bi'l-ism al-akbar an lá iláh illá huwa al-hayy al-qayyúm. [834]

Finally, the example of Chapter 111, al-mu'minín, is offered by way of emphasizing the more or less standard pattern which obtains throughout the work: (1) alif lám mím; (2) inná nahnu qad ja`alná bayna-kum wa bayna al-qurá al-mubáraka min ba`d al-báb hádhá unásan táhirín yad`awna al-nás ilá dín alláh al-akbar wa lá yakháfúna min dún alláh al-haqq `an (sic) shay' 'ulá'ika hum qad kánú asháb al-ridwán fí umm al-kitáb maktúban; (3) wa inná nahnu qad ja`alná hádha al-kitáb áyát li-'ulíy al-albáb al-ladhína yusabbihúna al-layl wa'l-nahár wa la yafturúna [cf. 21:20] min amr alláh al-haqq min laday 'l-báb `alá dharra min ba`d al-shay' qitmíran. [835]

This then gives some idea of the Bab's conscious desire to make his tafsír structurally resemble the Qur'an. In general, the saj` rhyme of the Tafsír is much more constant than that in the Qur'an. As such, it was possibly intended to appear to suggest divine inspiration that much more intensely,[836] while at the same time imitating the language of the Qur'an.

After the disconnected letters, and the above mentioned introductory verses which claim divine revelation, the next section of a given chapter begins. It is this section which is most difficult to characterize, because of the variety of concerns which may appear in it. Generally speaking, the last section of a chapter is where the Bab turns his attention directly to the verse of the Qur'an under which his commentary is written. The method of exegesis is usually direct paraphrase of the Qur'an, in which the Bab makes various substitutions with words which give a meaning much more specific to his own claims and situation. In the course of his exegesis, there is never recourse to the usual markers of an interpretive statement such as ay or ya`ní ("that is"), or aqulu ("I say"). Rather, the exegetical equivalences offered by the Bab are much "closer" to the quranic material, than would be the case if the above words (along with the semantic and exegetical distance that their use implies) were used.[837] Before giving examples of this kind of commentary, it may be of interest to discuss in some detail the first chapter of the tafsír.

Súrat al-mulk (chapter 1)

The Súrat al-mulk, which is in fact the part of the work which was written in the presence of Mullá Husayn on the night of May 22, 1844,[838] forms an introduction to the whole. It is unusual in that it is not written under a quranic verse. Evidence that it is indeed part of a commentary on the Qur'an, does not occur until well into the text where the following statement is found:

God hath decreed that this book, in explanation of the 'best of stories' . . . should come forth from Muhammad, son of Hasan, son of `Alí, son of Músa, son of Ja`far, son of Muhammad, son of `Alí, son of Husayn, son of `Alí, son of Abú Tálib, unto his servant [the Bab] that it may be a proof of God on the part of the Remembrance (dhikr ) reaching the two worlds.[839]

The title is related to the fact that the entire chapter, rather than dealing with subjects connected to an understanding of the twelfth chapter of the Qur'an, is a sustained and impassioned challenge, first to Muhammad Sháh, the reigning monarch of Iran at that time, and second, to his Prime Minister, Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, to submit to the command of the Remembrance (dhikr, i.e. the Bab). In the course of this chapter we see several elements, which are however, characteristic of the whole. The first of these is the proclamation of the Bab's spiritual rank either as báb or dhikr, to name only two of the several different designations which are used throughout the text [840]. Then there is the fluent paraphrase of the Qur'an, the call to absolute obedience, summons to the world beyond Iran, reference to laws (ahkám), the language, and imagery which is striking in the extreme. An example of this last is the Bab's juxtaposition of opposites. In the Súrat al-mulk, one reads, for example: . . . inna al-nár fí nuqtati'l-má' liláh al-haqq sájidan `alá 'l-ard . . . (". . .the fire which is in the drop of water is itself prostrate upon the earth before God, the Reality . . .") [841]. This may, of course, be a simple case of an echo of basic alchemical imagery, particularly in this instance. In later chapters, however, this combining of opposites appears to take on original characteristics, which seem to designate the source of the Bab's inspiration and his status as Imám.[842]

This third section of a given chapter may also consist of a running exegetical paraphrase of extended sections of the Qur'an. For example, chapters 52 and 53, al-fadl and al-sabr,[843] present a detailed rewriting of the first fifty or so verses of the second súra of the Qur'an, al-baqara, e.g.:

(Qur'an:) That is the book wherein there is no doubt, a guidance to the godfearing who believe in the Unseen, and perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them; who believe in what has been sent down to thee and what has been sent down before thee, and have faith in the Hereafter; those are upon guidance from their Lord, those are the ones who prosper. [2:2-5]

(The Bab, in the voice of the hidden Imám, addressing himself:)

By thy Lord! Thou artthe Book wherein there is no doubt, and thou art praiseworthy in the estimation of God. Those who believe in the Remembrance of God, in his ghayba, and rule among mankind with truth by means of his verses, we will, in very truth,[844] bestow upon them, as a blessing from Our side, a great reward. Those are upon a guidance with the Remembrance of God, and those are the ones who hastened first, in truth, in the Book of God.[845]

Another more extended example of this running paraphrase may be found in chapters 80 through 95, inclusive,[846] which treats most of the quranic material between 10:57 and the first few verses of 17. A random example is the Bab's rewriting of 10:87, which reads:

(Qur'an:) And We revealed unto Moses and his brother, 'Take you, for your people, in Egypt certain houses; make your houses a direction for men to pray to; and perform the prayer; and do thou give good tidings to the believers.'

(The Bab:)And We revealed to Moses and his brother, 'Take you, [or "set aside"] in the Egypt of the hearts, for the people of the earth, houses consecrated to the Exclusive Unity (ahadíya) of the Most Great Remembrance of God, the Living, and He is God, the Knowing, the Judge. And verily God made them [houses] a direction for men to pray to , and to perform all the prayers in, so give good tidings to the sincere servants of God. [847]

As mentioned above, the fourth section of a given chapter usually returns to the verse of the Qur'an under which it is written. The method again is paraphrase, of which the last two of the following three examples are characteristic. The second chapter, súrat al-`ulamá', is written under Qur'an 12:1: Alif Lám Rá. These are the verses of the Manifest Book. Therefore, it ends with a commentary on these three disconnected letters. The Bab says that God created the letter alif to represent "this servant of His who is strong in the divine cause (amr)." The letter lám signifies the ascendancy of his rule over the rule of the Book (the Qur'an). The letter was made by God for the spreading (inbisát ) of His cause according to the way it has been ordained in the Mother of the Book. It is not clear how the last two letters are tied to the interpretation, however, it is probable that the lám, or the letter of `Alí according to the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, signifies a level above the rá, which here probably stands for the level of divine mercy (al-rahmáníya). As was seen in the earlier commentary, the gradations of Exclusive Unity (ahadíya), Inclusive Unity (wáhidíya) and Mercy (rahmáníya), describe descending ontological levels. The last pertains to creation as such, whereas the first two are restricted to the Prophet and the Imám. In that commentary, the disconnected letters alif lám mím were seen also to be symbolic, first of the divine command (amr) with Muhammad as its representative. The lám was the letter of `Alí, who as the interpreter of the Book would be, in one sense, above it. The mím, standing for Fátima, would be analogous to the rá', insofar as Fátima is the symbol of the passive creative principle ("the passive earth" in the language of the earlier commentary) and as such, a symbol of that principle whereby the otherwise unreachable Divinity is communicated to the world. This interpretation of the alif appears to be tantamount to attributing nubúwa to the Bab.

Chapter 71, al-qalam is written under Qur'an 12:70:

And when he had equipped them with their equipment, he put his drinking-cup into the saddlebag of his brother. Then a herald proclaimed, 'Ho, camel-riders, you are robbers!'

The Bab's paraphrase of the verse is:

Verily, We commanded the angels to place the drinking-cup of the Remembrance in the saddlebag of the believers, by the leave of God, the Exalted, and God is Knower of all things. O crier (al-mu'adhdhin) cry out! O camel-riders, you are robbers. Indeed the cup of the Remembrance is concealed from you in the highest station, in very truth. And God is the Preserver of all things. And God is powerful over all things.[848]

The metaphors in the above commentary (drinking-cup : "sign" of the Remembrance; saddlebag : "hearts" of the believers ) are similar to the previously cited Egypt of the hearts. In this instance, however, they refer to a subject raised in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, namely one's innate, and in a sense predetermined, capacity for accepting or rejecting the Imám, in this case the Bab his representative, and the locus of divinity. The believers are therefore privileged to be so, because they hold within themselves the "signs" of the Remembrance, here represented by "drinking-cup". Likewise the "robbers" are prevented from accepting the truth, because these signs have been witheld from them.

The súrat al- hajj, number103, is written under Qur'an 12:102:

This is of the tidings of the Unseen that We reveal to thee; thou wast not with them when they agreed upon their plan, devising.

The Bab's paraphrase is:

This commentary (dhálika tafsír, cf. 2:2) is of the tidings of al-`amá, written upon the leaf of the heart (al-fu'ád) by the permission of God, the Exalted, in the vicinity of the sacred fire. Verily, God has revealed to you the tidings of the Unseen: Indeed you are upon the Most Great Truth even while you were with them and they were disagreeing about a false lie. God is, in very truth, Witness over you.[849]

These examples suffice to demonstrate an important aspect of the work. The Bab is patently not presenting himself as a systematic theologian. Rather, the message of the commentary is proclaimed by an invocation of images and symbols, which when combined point to a kind of annunciation. The absence of any discursive argumentation, renders the work more a verbal "painting", or "carpet" than a normal expository attempt at adducing proofs, in a structured manner, for the Bab's spiritual rank. At the same time, many of these images and symbols have a specific intention, as will be seen below.


The titles which the Bab has given to the 111 chapters of this commentary deserve some discussion. There is no question that the use of these titles is meant to suggest the appearance of a new Qur'an. Titles of quranic súras are thought to have not been part of the original revelation, but were chosen by those who were charged with the task of compiling the Book from various disparate sources. This is supported by the existence in many editions of the Qur'an, of such headings as "The súra in which the 'cow' is mentioned".[850] Other editions merely employ a kind of shorthand by introducing the same súra as "The chapter of the Cow" (súrat al-baqara). This is a much less precise heading and one which is subject to a certain amount of misunderstanding, particularly on the part of non-Muslims, who find such titles cryptic, amusing, or nonsensical precisely because, contrary to what such titles might otherwise imply, very few of the súras actually treat a single topic, much less single topics like "The Cow" or "The Table", and so forth. Originally, then, the titles of the súras were not so much titles, but merely editorial notations, However, by the time the Bab was writing, it was the shorthand version of such notations which had become the most common form of referring to a particular súra. In addition, it may be that these titles were considered part of the original revelation.

The titles used in the Bab's commentary also refer to topics raised in their respective chapters, as in the case with the Súrat al-mulk and the Súrat al-`ulamá' mentioned above. It should be remembered that whereas such titles might be taken to imply that a given chapter "discusses" the topic introduced by its name, this is not the case. In fact, the vast majority of chapters seem to have no direct connection with their titles. The Súrat al-qarába does, for example, mention the Bab's relatives, and the chapters with names such as ahkám, and jihád do present laws and references to "holy war".[851] Other chapter names, such as al-Ziyára (7), al-`Ashúra (12), Fátima (38), al-Huzn (58), al-Husayn (61), and al-Qist (70), conjure up important topics in Shí`í religiosity. Such titles as Yúsuf (5), al-Báb (17), al-Dhikr (60 & 108), al-Kalima (79), al-Tayr (86), and al-`Abd (109), are related to the spiritual station claimed by the author. Another category of titles refers directly to theological, spiritual, or ontological topics, some of which have been encountered in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara: al-Sirr (8), al-`Amá' (9 & 10), al-Musattar (11), al-`Ubúdíya (35), al-Wahda (43), al-Rukn (55), al-Af'ida (59), al-Ghayb (65), al-Ahadíya (66), al-Tathlíth (182), and al-Rabí` (91). Most of the chapters repeat much of the same material and many of the same ideas, couched in different or identical terminology.

These titles are included in only the older of the two manuscripts used in this study. However, as mentioned above, the existence of blanks at the beginning of the chapters in the other manuscript, make it clear that the scribe intended to insert these titles, perhaps in a different colour, at some later time. These titles are present in other manuscripts of the work and have been studied and listed by both Browne and Nicolas.[852] F11, in fact bears marginal notations (presumably by Browne himself), which supply titles from the manuscript Browne studied in the British Library. There is a certain amount of disagreement among those manuscripts which include titles. A list of the titles as they appear in QA, together with the page on which they begin, is given on the following page in a somewhat abbreviated form. All of these titles, except number 45 (Huwa) should be read as being preceded by "Súrat al-". The list may be compared with those given by Browne and Nicolas. In several instances, the same title has been given to more than one chapter, and this has been indicated by the inclusion of a roman numeral after the title.

1 Mulk................................... 3

2 Ulama...................... 5

3 Imán........................ 6

4 Madína.................... 8

5 Yúsuf....................... 10

6 Shaháda.................... 12

7 Ziyára...................... 13

8 Sirr........................ 14

9 `Amá (i).................. 16

10 `Amá (ii).......................... 17

11 Musattar............... 18

12 `Ashúra................. 20

13 Firdaws................ 21

14 Quds...................... 23

15 Mashíya................ 24

16 `Arsh.................... 26

17 Báb........................ 28

18 Sirát...................... 29

19 Síná'...................... 31

20 Núr....................... 32

21 Bahr..................... 34

22 Má'........................ 36

23 `Asr...................... 38

24 Qadar.................... 39

25 Khátam.................. 41

26 Hall....................... 43

27 Anwár.................... 45

28 Qarába................... 48

29 Húríya.................. 51

30 Tablígh................. 54

31 `Izz....................... 56

32 Hayy..................... 58

33 Nasr...................... 60

34 Ishára.................... 61

35 `Ubúdíya............... 63

36 `Adl....................... 65

37 Ta`bír................... 67

38 Fátima................... 69

39 Shukr................... 70

40 Insán(i)................ 73

41 Kitáb..................... 74

42 `Ahd...................... 77

43 Wahda................... 79

44 Rúyá'..................... 81

45 Huwa..................... 83

46 Mir'át.................... 84

47 Hujja.................... 86

48 Nidá'...................... 90

49 Ahkám (i)............. 92

50 Ahkám (ii)............ 95

51 Majd..................... 98

52 Fadl....................... 100

53 Sabr...................... 102

54 Ghulám.................. 105

55 Rukn..................... 107

56 Amr...................... 110

57 Akbar.................... 112

58 Huzn..................... 114

59 Af'ida.................... 116

60 Dhikr (i)............. 118

61 Husayn.................. 120

62 Awliyá'.................. 122

63 Rahma................... 124

64 Muhammad........... 127

65 Ghayb.................... 129

66 Ahadíya................. 131

67 Inshá'.................... 134

68 Ra`d...................... 136

69 Raja`..................... 139

70 Qist....................... 141

71 Qalam.................... 143

72 Ba`ír..................... 145

73 Kahf...................... 148

74 Khalíl................... 150

75 Shams................... 152

76 Waraqa................. 153

77 Salám.................... 155

78 Zuhúr.................... 157

79 Kalima.................. 158

80 Zawál..................... 160

81 Káf......................... 162

82 A`zam.................... 164

83 Bá'......................... 166

84 Ism....................... 168

85 Haqq...................... 170

86 Tayr...................... 172

87 Nabá'..................... 175

88 Iblágh.................... 177

89 Insán(ii)............... 180

90 Tathlíth................ 182

91 Rabí`..................... 184

92 Mujallil................ 186

93 Nahl...................... 189

94 Ishhár................... 191

95 BLANK.................. 193

96 Qitál(i)................. 195

97 Qitál(ii)................ 197

98 Jihád(i)................ 199

99 Jihád(ii)............... 202

100 Jihád(iii)........... 204

101 Qitál(iii)............ 206

102 Qitál(iv)............. 209

103 Hajj.................... 212

104 Hudúd.................. 214

105 Ahkám(iii)......... 216

106 Jum`a................. 218

107 Nikáh.................. 220

108 Dhikr(ii)........... 223

109 `Abd.................... 225

110 Sábiqín................ 229

111 Mu'minín........... 231

Part ii: Chapter 2

The Terms "Remembrance" (dhikr) and "Gate" (báb)

The problem of voice

This work has been studied by several Western scholars, all of whom have concurred that it is one of the Bab's works, that it is obscure in several places, that its grammar is flawed, and that it is not a tafsír in the usual sense of the word. Many have alluded to the importance of the work for a proper understanding of the development of the Bab's ideas. These scholars have also agreed that among the most obdurate problems the text presents, is the one of voice. Who is actually speaking the words? From the very beginning this uncertainty revolves around four possible choices. The first, is that the speaker is `Ali Muhammad Shírází, the young merchant; second, that the speaker is actually the hidden Imám, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-`Askari, who has chosen the former to be his mouthpiece, and as a result of which the "merchant" is thus elevated to the rank of the Remembrance (dhikr) or Gate (báb) of the Imám; third, that the speaker is the Bab as the Imám himself; and fourth, that the speaker is God. A solution to this problem is suggested in the following pages, namely, that the Bab claims through the use of a complex of symbols and imagery to be the Imám himself, and therefore his words are the words of God. Browne himself was fairly certain on this point:

Of himself he speaks often, but in various, and often very enigmatical ways. Thus in one place he calls himself "This well-favoured Arabian youth, in whose grasp God hath placed the kingdom of the heavens and the earth;" in another he says, "O people of the earth! hear the voice of your Lord, the Merciful, from the tongue of celebration of this Arabian youth, the son of `Alí the Arabian;" a few lines further on he describes himself as . . . "This Arabian youth, of Muhammad, of `Alí, of Fátima, of Mecca, of Medina, of Bathá, of `Iráq." In another passage he alludes to himself as "called by the Persians a Shírází."[853]

Here Browne cites Rosen's description of the commentary:

Ce jeune homme, qui est tantót `Arabí, tantót, `Ajamí, Madaní, etc. revient très-souvent dans le courant du livre (. . .presque sur chaque feuillet), sans que l'on puisse comprendre exactement son róle.[854]

Browne continues:

I have no doubt myself that [the Bab] is throughout speaking of himself. He calls himself "Muhammadí," "`Alawí," "Fátimí," because as a Sayyid, he is descended from these. That he should describe himself as a Shírází is only natural, as is the use of the epithet `Ajamí (Persian); but it is harder to see for what reason he calls himself "Makkí," "Madaní," "`Iráqí," etc. I can only suppose that on account of his visits to Mecca and Medina, and his sojourn at Kerbelá, he considers himself entitled to apply these titles to himself.

In other places he speaks of himself in a manner entirely mystical, as "the Light on Sinai, and Sinai in the rising-place of the manifestation" (fí matla` iz-zuhúr); "the (letter) which permeates the water of the Letters, and the Point which stands at the Gate of the Alifs.[855]

Browne thought that this usage is an allusion to the universal intelligence, and quotes what he believed to be Ibn `Arabí's tafsír:

Here is a subtle point, which is this, that the prophets . . . have placed the letters of the alphabet in correspondence with the degrees of Existences . . . and therefore it is said, 'Existences [al-mawjúdát] emerged from the Bá' of Bismi'lláh,' since that is the letter which follows the Alif which is placed to correspond with the Essence of God. And it (i.e. the letter Bá') signifies the First Intelligence, which was the first thing which God created.[856]

The Shaykhí leader, Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (1259/1843) has taken the symbol of the bá' a bit further, in a passage of one of his most famous and important works, the Sharh al-qasída al-lámíya.[857] Here he does in fact quote the hadíth cited above from the tafsír attributed to Ibn `Arabí, and goes on to say that the is the "preserved tablet, the hidden book (al-kitáb al-mastúr)"; "the place to which all divine realities return"; and, the "locus of all the divine names and attributes". It is also "the place of the manifestation of the glorious one (al-jalíl)"; the "pen which details (qalam al-tafsíl)"; and, the "starting place of all divine proofs and reasons", because it is associated with absolute waláya, which is "the place where the power for everything in creation, whether actual or potential (al-akwán wa'l-a`yán) appears". This may also be called "the gate to God for creation, and the gate to creation for God: That except through which the bounty of God reaches no-one." It is the "absolute gate" and the "true walí" (al-walí al-haqq).[858]

Finally Browne quotes a similarly obscure allusion, in which the Bab refers to himself as:

The mystery (which is) in the Gospel Syrian, and in the Pentateuch Hebraic, and the mystery concealed in the Koran (which is) of Muhammad. (As-sirru fi'l-Injíl Suryání, wa'sirru fí'l-Tawrát rabbání, wa's-sirru'l-mustasirru fi'l-Furqán Ahmadí).[859]

While Browne is undoubtedly correct in his assumption that all of these allusions intend the Bab himself, he also appreciates the difficulty they present. The following puzzled statement is characteristic of most scholarship which has dealt with the Bab's Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, because of a lack of familiarity with those very cryptic statements of the Imáms from which much of this obscure terminology derives. (As we have seen, al-sirr and al-sirr al-mustasarr both had precise intentions for Shaykh Ahmad;[860] the Bab here appears to be "improvising" on a familiar theme.) Browne writes:

I only hazard a guess at the meaning of these passages, especially the last two, which are very obscure. Indeed as they stand they appear to contravene the rules of grammar.[861]

Regarding the style of the commentary, Rosen's assessment was somewhat more severe. In his description he speaks of "this strange work" and alludes to its incomprehensibility.[862] He refers to chapters 49 and 50 (both named súrat al-ahkám), as being the most intelligible, probably because they include what Rosen calls "renseignements positifs sur les doctrines exotères de l'auteur du livre". In fact, these two chapters present an example of the frequent running paraphrase of long, consecutive sections of the Qur'an mentioned earlier. In the case of chapter 49, the paraphrase includes material from 2:183 to 2:245, and a few verses from other sections of the Qur'an (e.g., 5:2-5:6). In the case of chapter 50, the quranic material treated, in addition to the appropriate verse of sura 12, includes 5:87, 4:176, 5:38, 5:96-97, 6:151-2, and so forth.[863] A much better example of this, and one which Rosen might have therefore considered even more intelligible than the examples he cites, includes all of the text of the commentary between chapters 80 and 91,[864] which more or less consecutively incorporates much of Qur'an 10:57-16:66. Examples of this type could be greatly multiplied, but these two will suffice. They illustrate another way in which the Bab attempted to appropriate and participate in the charisma of the Qur'an in order to invoke his own spiritual authority, namely by re-casting the existing revelation in a new form. While much of the legislative content of the Qur'an remains unchanged here, the Bab by taking obvious liberties with the Book, nevertheless asserts his own authority over it. This in itself is perhaps evidence enough, that while the Bab refers to his station in allusive and ambiguous terms, there can really be little doubt that he considered himself as holding a rank equal to Muhammad's. This, I think, is also conclusively borne out by the quranic form of the work, viz, the use of súras, verses, "mystical letters" and so forth.

Others who have examined this work are not so ready to accept that the Bab, at this stage of his career is claiming divine revelation, or the ranks of Imám and Prophet, which as we have seen in the previous pages, are functionally equivalent. MacEoin, for example, describes three phases of the Bab's career. The first includes the period up to1848, during which his movement grew rapidly and the Bab presented himself as the agent of the hidden Imám, precisely as báb. During the second, from 1848-9, the Bab "proclaimed himself the promised Mahdíin Person." The third phase is characterized by the Bab's "assumption of the role of an independent prophet or divine 'manifestation' directly empowered by God to open a new religious dispensation after Islam, to reveal new scriptures and to ordain a new legal system." [865]

However, this scholar had previously acknowledged the complexity of the question, in his discussion of this commentary. Rightly pointing out that the work is "much more" than a tafsír,[866] MacEoin alludes to its being modelled on the Qur'an, but appears not to appreciate the significance of this as an emblem of authority and divine revelation. However, he does say that this imitation of the Holy book led to accusations that the Bab had written a false Qur'an, citing Tunakabúní and others.[867] In view of the more or less universally held Islamic article of faith, namely, the miraculous nature of the Qur'an (`ijáz al-Qur'án), the signifcance of such a charge cannot be overemphasized. What it means, at the very minimum, is that those who levelled the charge, accused the author of claiming for himself an evidentiary miracle on a par with the sacred book of Muslims, quite apart from whatever those who made the accusations actually thought about such a claim. Furthermore, as has been repeatedly suggested here, given this quranic form alone, it would seem that the charge was in all ways accurate.[868] While those who made the accusations did not perhaps appreciate the full implications of the Bab's claims at the time, it is wrong to say that the response was "superficial";[869] such a reponse is in fact precisely to the point. To illustrate the apparently ambiguous claims of the Bab, MacEoin cites a series of passages from the commentary.

At the very beginning of the book, it is made clear that the twelfth Imám had sent it (akhraja) to his servant (the Bab, frequently referred to as 'the remembrance' -- al-dhikr); he has been sent these 'explanations' from the 'baqíyyat Alláh, the exalted one, your Imám'. To be more precise, 'God has sent down (anzala) the verse upon His Proof, the expected one', who has, in turn, revealed them to his remembrance. In different terminolgy, the Imám inspires (awhá) the báb with what God has inspired him.[870]

MacEoin's assessment of these expressions is important:

The role of the Imám here appears to be very similar to that of the angel Gabriel in the Qur'anic theory of revelation; thus, for example, he has inspired the Báb just as God inspired the prophets of the past. The process is not, however, quite so simple, for the bulk of the work seems to be intended as the words of the Imám speaking in the first person, while there are a great many passages in which either God or the Báb is intended as the speaker, and others in which it is not at all clear as to whom is intended.[871]

In the light of the preceding examination of the commentary on al-Baqara, it is quite clear that the Imám, and specifically the Imám as Qá'im, was regarded by the Bab not only as similar to Gabriel, but as Gabriel himself. Furthermore, it was pointed out that Gabriel represented a principle which served as a link between the fu'ád and qalb of Muhammad. It is therefore reasonable to suspect that this same principle operates in this commentary, but with the important difference that it is now the fu'ád and qalb of the Bab, rather than the Prophet Muhammad, between which this angelic principle serves as a link. Given the following, it is difficult to understand the uncertainty expressed earlier by the same author:

It is, nevertheless, manifest that the book is represented as a new divine revelation of sorts, comparable to the Qur'an. Thus the Imám is 'made known' through 'the new verses from God', while God speaks 'in the tongue of this mighty remembrance (i.e. the Báb).' It is stated that 'this is a book from God' and that 'God has sent down (anzala) this book', while the Báb is summoned to 'transmit what has been sent down to you from the bounty of the Merciful'. In this respect, a comparison is drawn from the Qur'an which goes beyond mere [!] form: God has 'made this book the essence (sirr) of the Qur'an, word for word', and one 'will not find a letter in it other than the letters of the Qur'an'; this book 'is the Furqán of the past', and is referred to repeatedly as 'this Qur'an', 'this Furqán', or one of 'these two Furqáns', while reference is made to 'what God has sent down in His book, the Furqán, and in this book'. As in the case of the Qur'an, a challenge is made to men to produce a book like it, for it is held to be inimitable. As such, it is in itself the evidence of the Imám to men. It contains the sum of all previous scriptures, abrogates all books of the past, except those revealed by God, and is the only book which God permits the `ulamá to teach.[872]

In view of the passages from the Tafsír referred to in this statement, it seems highly unlikely that the magnitude of such challenges and claims to a new revelation would have been lost on any Muslim who read them.

Elsewhere, in an unrelated context in which he denies charges that he had shown favoritism to one of his early followers whom he had chosen from among several others to accompany him on his pilgrimage, the Bab makes the following statement:

Not that special grace was shewn to him [. . . Hájí Mullá Muhammad `Alí of Bárfurúsh, afterwards called Jenáb- or Hazrat-i-Quddús, . . .], for that same grace was shewn to all, though they veiled themselves therefrom. For in that year of the 'Manifestation' [a.h. 1260] the Book of the Commentary on the Sura-i-Yúsuf reached all.[873]

Elsewhere, in speaking of the veiled nature of his claims in the early period, the Bab wrote:

Consider the manifold favours vouchsafed by the Promised One, and the effusions of His bounty which have pervaded the concourse of the followers of Islám to enable them to attain unto salvation. Indeed observe how He Who representeth the origin of creation, He Who is the Exponent of the verse, 'I, in very truth, am God', identified Himself as the Gate (báb) for the advent of the promised Qá'im, a descendant of Muhammad, and in His first Book enjoined the observance of the laws of the Qur'án, so that the people might not be seized with perturbation by reason of a new Book and a new Revelation and might regard His Faith as similar to their own, perchance they would not turn away from the Truth and ignore the thing for which thay had been called into being.[874]

This important passage has also been quoted or referred to in the two recent studies frequently cited here; it was written by the Bab later in his career in a work entitled "The Seven Proofs" (Dalá'il-i sab`a). MacEoin has confirmed that the work was written in Máh-Kú in 1264/1848, laying to rest earlier uncertainties as to the date of composition. [875] The "Seven Proofs" was apparently written for a Bábí who was experiencing doubt about the more explicit claims made by the Bab at this time. The passage is self-explanatory and is undoubtedly conditioned by the nature of the questions put forth. This may explain the apparent contradiction between it and the first one quoted, where the Bab says that there was ample proof in his Tafsír súrat Yúsuf for everyone to properly recognize his station. It is possible that the Bab is referring not only to the contents, but to the form of the work as well. Again, and at the risk of monotony, the significance of the casting of this work in the form of the Qur'an, cannot be overemphasized as an emblem of spiritual authority. One reiterates this point because it seems not to have been fully appreciated in the past. The medium here is indeed the message.

While the problem of who is speaking in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf appears to be greatly complicated by the various titles or epithets which "populate" the text, from all that has been cited here, it would seem that there can be no question about the "voice" of the commentary. Among the various titles found in the commentary, three in various combinations, stand out as the most frequent: dhikr, báb, and nuqta. We have already examined some of the implications of this third title, and more will be said about it later in a separate section. For the moment then, let us examine some of the background to the first title.


Among the several titles by which the author of this commentary is designated, one of the most frequent is dhikr. This word has a long and multiform history in Islamic religious literature and practice, and is perhaps most encountered in connection with certain Sufi practices, sometimes called "audition" (sama`). Of interest in this work is a usage of the term which is perhaps less well known, namely as a designation of a person. Throughout the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, the Bab refers to himself as al-dhikr, dhikr alláh, dhikr alláh al-akbar,or dhikr alláh al-`alí, in addition to other similar combinations.[876]

Browne has remarked, in several places, that the term dhikr alláh was used by the Bab's followers in referring to him.[877] MacEoin also acknowledges that the title was widely used by the Bab at this time.[878] Amanat says that the claim to dhikríya (as well as bábíya) "were assumed with a vague sense of deputyship or delegation from the Concealed Imám".[879] The title itself is derived first of all from the Qur'an, where several verses refer to the remembrance of God . Some idea of the way in which the term is used by the Bab, may therefore be thought to involve the several meanings which these quranic passages contained for the akhbárí exegetical tradition. A brief synopsis of the appropriate article in Anwár will therefore not be out of place.

Isfahání begins by saying that the word dhikr may have several possible references. The first is the Qur'an itself, followed by Prophet (nabí), `Alí, the Imáms, waláya, and imáma (and obedience thereto), and finally the act of reminding people of God's blessing and beneficence. This last possibility is, however, applicable only in the case of the Prophet and the Imáms. Isfahání then cites the appropriate verse, together with its explanation by one of the Imáms, for each of these possibilities.[880] The epithet al-dhikr al-hakím [3:58] is said to apply both to `Alí and the other Imáms. These latter, according to, `Allama al-Hillí,[881] are referred to as al-dhikr because they mention those things which benefit mankind, like the sciences of divine unity (`ulúm al-tawhíd), the return (al-ma`ád), and the other verities which are involved with waláya. Isfahání cites another tradition from al-Sádiq, in explanation of 20:124 . . . but whosoever turns away from my remembrance . . . The Imám said: "That is (ya`ní) from the waláya of `Alí."[882] Isfahání quotes the seventh Imám, Músá, as saying that the waláya of `Alí is the password (tadhkira) for the godfearing. Isfahání says that in general, all of the interpretations (ta'wílát) of the word dhikr refer either explicitly (saríhan) or implicitly (dimnan) to the waláya of `Alí.[883] Isfahání closes his discussion of this word, with the following statement:

In Káfí al-Sádiq is quoted as saying about the verse [39:45] When God is mentioned alone, then shudder the hearts of those who believe not, that is when God is remembered through the obedience to him who was commanded to be obeyed among the Family of Muhammad [i.e., the Imám]." And he said about 41:12 when God was called upon alone, you disbelieved [884] "That is, [disbelieve ] in the waláya of him for whom God commanded waláya . . ." This is why the Imáms are the possessors of the remembrance (ulú al-dhikr), as in the statement of al-Sadiq: "We are the possessors of the remembrance and the possessors of knowledge. . ." And thus they are the ones who follow the Remembrance, as al-Sádiq is quoted in Káfí on the verse: Thou only warnest him who follows the Remembrance . . . [36:11] where all of the interpretations which were applied to the last verse are applicable, according to his statement: "That is to say, `Alí is the explanation (bayán) of the ta'wíl of dhikr." So understand.

Then there is the interpretation (ta'wíl) of al-kathír (much ), as praise of Fátima (tasbíh Fátima), according to the reports from al-Sádiq in interpreting the quranic phrase: remember God much [passim]. al-Sádiq was asked about this and said: "He who praises like Fátima has remembered God much. ." It is possible, from what we have said, that the ta'wíl of tadhkír and its like, may be as a synonym for admonition (tanbíh) and contemplation of the truth (tadabbur fí 'l-haqq) which is the waláya, viz, that obedience must be to the people of the House, and that one must abandon allegiance to everyone else. . . . As for al-dhákir, this word also signifies `Alí, and there is no doubt that it includes the Imáms and even their perfect shí`a [shí`atuhum al-kummal]. Thus in one of the hadíths `Alí said: "In the Qur'an I am designated by several names, try to master them and beware that you do not err." Then he mentioned several of them and said: "I am al-dhákir implied in the verse: Those who remember God [3:191].[885]

The above clearly illustrates a cardinal principle of all Shí`ism: the two sources of religious authority, the Qur'an and the Imám, function in a complementary manner to such a degree that their respective titles are interchangeable. Dhikr may designate either the written scripture, or the human form which has been designated as the bearer of divine authority, the Prophet or one of the Imáms. Often the former is referred to as the "Silent Book" (al-kitáb al-sámit), while the latter is referred to as the "Speaking Book" (al-kitáb al-nátiq).[886] In the same way, both the written text and the bearer of authority may be referred to as Imám.[887] These categories and their mutual dependency, derive from among other statements, the Hadíth al-thaqalayn, in which the Prophet says that his legacy to the community consists of "two important things": the Qur'án and his descendents.[888] The underlying assumption of this Shí`í principle is that a text, in this case the Qur'án, is susceptible of multiple interpretations and that in order to minimize disharmony within the community resulting from conflicting interpretations, a single interpreter must be established and recognized.[889] In this regard, the principle or rukn of waláya contains within it profound implications for hermeneutics, as a result of which the preeminent function of the walí, Prophet, or Imám is precisely that of Interpreter (mutarjim) par excellence. This function is designated in early Ismá`ílí literature by the epithet al-nátiq al-wáhid, a term which bespeaks the absolute authority (ontological, eschatological, hermeneutical, legal/political), involved in the office of Imám/walí.[890] For the present discussion, it is important to note that the idea of a "single speaker" resurfaced in more recent years, with all of these implications, in the writings of the Shaykhís. The distinguishing feature of the Shaykhí concept of wahdat al-nátiqa, however, resides in the very fact that its bearer must remain unknown. The nátiq wáhid occupies the summit of the Shaykhí spiritual hierarchy of categories of believers such as abwáb, nuqabá', and nujabá', who are likewise unidentifiable during the time of occultation.

Les shaykhs de la silsila shaykhíya ont donc affirmé l'existence, á chaque époque, de ce Nátiq wáhid, ´shi`ite parfait�(tm) et Báb supr�(tm)me de l'Imám; mais aucun d'eux n'a jamais prétendu que c'était lui-m�(tm)me, ni prétendu á �(tm)tre reconnu comme tel. Loin de lá. Ils ont affirmé son existence, parce qu'il est impossible que le monde humain, l'humanité terrestre, en soit privé, mais ils ont corollairement affirmé l'impossibilité qu'il soit manifesté, c'est-a-dire l'impossibilité que les hommes soient en mesure de le reconnaítre, de le déterminer ou proclamer nommément, en personne.[891]

The idea of an anonymous spiritual elite is, of course, a very old one,[892] and as Corbin's summary of the doctrine as explained by Sarkár Ághá (1389/1969, the fifth successor of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í) indicates, it is also a very durable one. That it is in some measure faithful to the spirit of early Shaykhism is confirmed by a similar statement, written by the Bab himself, in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara.[893] The existence of such a statement in that earlier work by the Bab, contrasted with the proclamation (see below) contained in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf and written only a few months later, indicates a profound change in the Bab's self-perception. Whereas before it was imperative that the Qá'im remain hidden "in the souls of the Shí`a",[894] it is now incumbent upon all men to recognize him in the person of the Bab. That the Bab intended that he be regarded as the exclusive representative of the Qá'im is confirmed in the quotations cited below. The claim of the Bab to be either the personification of the heretofore more or less abstract principle of the "Gate of the Imám", or the Imám himself, could not but be received as a scandal and profanation of an old Shí`í doctrine, which had long since been "metaphorized" beyond any danger of vulgarization, or perhaps more importantly, politicization.

Furthermore, the irreconcilable nature of these two attitudes is reminiscent of a similar oscillation in Sufism. On the one hand, there is the above-noted doctrine of the 'hidden elite', and on the other hand, the tendency among some mystics to make various grandiose claims of spiritual authority. An example of the latter may be found in the early figure of Sahl al-Tustarí (283/896),[895] or later in the writings of Ibn `Arabí.[896] al-Tustarí's claim to be the "proof of God" (hujjat alláh) is interesting in itself as a case of Sufi/Shí`í terminolgical confluence, particularly in view of the fact that the claimant lived ten years into the period of the Shí`í "lesser occultation". It was during this period, which began in 260/873-4, that according to tradition, the Shí`í (12er) Hujja par excellence, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-`Askarí, was inaccessable to the main body of believers.[897] Even more striking is the gloss anonymously provided for this statement: [He means] "the pole (qutb) around which revolves the millstone (rahan)."[898] The similarity between this statement, and the opening line of the Khutba al-shiqshíya ascribed to `Alí is too striking to be ignored.[899] At this time, however, one can do no more than note in passing such Súfí/Shí`í cross-fertilizations.

At some point, there occurred a radical change in the Bab's thinking on this subject. That such a change should occur in a single individual, as opposed to the above doctrinal differences which the history of Sufism as a whole records, is a phenomenon of some significance. In addition, the fact that so many of the Bab's early followers were members of the Shaykhí school,[900] indicates that a similar change occurred in their attitude as well, insofar as they had previously held that the Qá'im, or his representative must remain unknown.[901] It may be assumed that the transition from being a follower of Kázim Rashtí to being a champion of the Bab was brought about, at least partly, by what was perceived to be a certain continuity of theme between the teachings of the two masters. Corbin and Sarkár Ágha may have been repulsed by the "rupture" of the "eschatalogical hope",[902] (which appears to function as the creative tension of individual spirituality) represented by the phenomenon of Babism. However, the historical fact that the Bab's message (including presumably, that part of his message which invoked those venerable Shí`í symbols, such as dhikr and the like) was enthusiastically embraced, indicates that the power which resided in such words was too great to be monopolized by philosophy. Several factors seem to have played an important role in effecting this change: the visions which the Bab claims to have received prior to writing the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, the credibility of which was supported by the Bab's universally agreed upon saintly character;[903] the disarray in which the followers of Kázim Rashtí found themselves upon the death of their leader;[904] and perhaps most importantly, the intense atmosphere of messianic expectation which permeated the Shí`í world at this time.[905] A somewhat cynical interpretation suggests that the Bab and his writings were manipulated by more sophisticated men, dissatisfied with the political and religious status quo.[906] This calls to mind early orientalist interpretations of Islam, in which any possible explanation for Muhammad's prophecy (and therefore the subsequent success of Islam) was preferable to one which simply acknowledged that Muhammad, and those who followed him, sincerely thought that he was a prophet. That the Bab considered himself as having been "chosen" to fulfill the Shí`í prophecies seems clear.[907]

For textual evidence of this transformation in the way the Bab saw himself, reference may be made to statements in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, like the following unequivocal one, which is in the form of a general address by the Bab on behalf of the hidden Imám:

O servants of the Merciful! Take not friends from among the disbelievers as opposed to the sábiqún [i.e, the "Letters of the Living] from the believers. He who comes to God in disbelief in the Book and in this Remembrance of ours (dhikriná hádhá) will have nothing from God.[908]

Earlier in the same chapter, the Bab has written, again in the voice of the Imám:

Indeed, We have sent down this Book with the truth from God to our Servant and have made all the verses in it clear (muhkamát), not [!] ambiguous (mutashábihát). And none knows their interpretation (ta'wíla-há) except God and whomsoever We desire from among the sincere servants of God. Therefore, ask the Remembrance its [the Book's] interpretation (ta'wíl). Indeed, he is, through the bounty of God, knowledgable about all of its verses, according to the rule of the Book [itself].[909]

Quite apart from identifying the author as dhikr, this passage is a good example of the way in which the Bab improvised on the quranic material.[910] In this case Q. 3:7, which establishes the hermeneutic categories for all Qur'an interpretation, has been radically changed. Whereas in the Qur'an "the Book" (i.e., the Qur'an proper) has been described as containg two basic types of verses, the Bab (or the hidden Imám) annuls one of these categories, namely that of the "ambiguous verses" (mutashábihát). Nonetheless, these clear verses (muhkamát) are still subject to interpretation. (This differs from the quranic original which can be interpreted as stating that a number of qualified persons (viz, al-rásikhún, "those whose knowledge is sound") are capable of interpreting the verses.)[911] In the present case, it would appear that it is the Remembrance alone who is qualified to comment on the text.

Following the above quotation, the Bab has written:

Those who disbelieve in the Most Great Remembrance of God, neither their wealth nor their children will avail them . . .[912]

It is of course possible that in this passage dhikr alláh al-akbar refers to the Book, rather than to the Bab. However, it seems clear from the above that dhikr refers to a person, in this case the person of the Bab.[913] In the same chapter the Bab has written, paraphrasing Q. 3:14:

Indeed God has appointed an excellent abode for those who assist the exalted Remembrance of God (dhikr alláh al-`alí) with their hands and their tongues and their wealth for the love of God, the Self-sufficient.[914]

It is important to note the reference here to the Bab's own name - `Alí - in the epithet. This provides further support for the identification of the Bab with the dhikr. The following passage, which combines frequent quranic images, also tends to support this reading:

In the origination of night and day and their appearance (iblájuhumá) and the bringing forth of the living from the dead and the bringing forth of the dead from the living are signs (áyát) for this Most Great Remembrance of God (li-dhikr alláh al-akbar hádhá). For this reason he is described as exalted (al-`alí) by God in the preserving tablet (al-lawh al-hafíd).[915]

The following extended final excerpt is a good example of the way in which the language of the Qur'an and the "akhbárí code" are combined:

Mankind! If you believe in God alone then follow me in the Most Great Remembrance of God (fí dhikri alláh al-akbar) from your Lord that God might forgive you your sins. Verily God is Forgiving and Merciful to the believers. Verily We have chosen the messengers through our word and secretly preferred some of their progeny over others through the great Remembrance of God (dhikr alláh al-kabír) according to the rule of the Book. And We have given to you (i.e., the Bab) the authority of the Gates (hukm al-abwáb) by the permission of God, the Hearing. And God is a witness over all things. And We sent down Our spirit upon Mary and We accepted from the wife of `Imrán her vow to God, the Exalted (al-`alí). And God is apprised of his servants, the believers. And We gave tidings to the Prophet mentioning (dhikríyan) Our name Yahyá confirming this Most Great Word of God (kalimat alláh al-akbar hádhá) and thus We appointed him a chief (sayyid) and chaste, in the Mother of the Book. Indeed, the likeness of the creation of the worlds with God is as the likeness of Our cause (amruná) when we desire [it] we but say to it "Be" and it is (naqúl la-hu kun fa-kána) existent, in the precincts of the fire, in the Book of God, the Praised (al-hamíd). Indeed, God has taught you the knowledge of the Book from the Furqán and the Gospel and the Torah and the Psalms and whatever is beyond them of the Scriptures. And in the estimation of your Lord, you are abiding at the gate of the point of the hidden bá'. Indeed, We have revealed unto you (awhayná) concerning the tidings of the unseen and revealed to you this book with the truth, and forbidden unto you wicked deeds and permitted unto you the good things that the people might believe in your word (bi-dhikrika) . . . Indeed, those who fancy that they can compete with you to any degree in knowledge sink from the sky to a wretched earth. God is witness over all things. God has touched your essence (dhát) with Our essences (reference to all the Imáms) and your being (kaynúna) shines with the light of the Essence of God, the Ancient, Our Lord. And God is powerful over all things. And the unfaithful (mushrikún) themselves have plotted against your word (dhikri-ka), but they harm only themselves. Indeed, God fulfills His covenant and I have purified you and made my claim on you and raised you up to God, the True One so that you rule, by the permission of God, on the Day of Resurrection about that wherein mankind disagrees concerning the exalted Remembrance of God (dhikr alláh al-`alí). And God is Witness over all things. Some of the people of the city have said: "We are God's helpers". But, when the Remembrance came suddenly upon them they turned away from assisting us. Indeed God, My Lord and your Lord, is the True One, so worship Him. And this is a high road (sirát `alí) in the estimation of your Lord - straight. God will judge among mankind with the Truth, then they will not find in themselves any sanctuary from the rule of God, the Pure. Indeed this command is ordained in the Mother of the Book.[916]

This passage, as in the case with so many others in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, is developed around a section of the Qur'án. By seizing upon a particular key quranic word or phrase, usually in existing quranic sequence, the Bab elaborates his own particular message through paraphrase. This method is analyzed in full in a later chapter; this particular chapter, the Súrat al-ímán, of the Bab's tafsir is constructed around Qur'an 3:1-60 (approximately). In any case, the above passages, which are typical of those found in each of the other 110 chapters of the work, seem to indicate that the Bab is intended by the hidden Imám (his alter-ego, see below chapter 3) to be regarded as the personification of the remembrance of God. As we have seen, a source for such personification may be found in the works of akhbárí tafsír, where the Prophet and Imáms are identified either individually or collectively, as dhikr.

Quite apart from the rigorous effort of the Shaykhís, and others before them (e.g. Mullá Sadrá, and apparently the Bab himself in al-Baqara) to insulate belief from the harshness of the world, such terms as dhikr and báb are seen, especially here in this work of the Bab's, to have a life of their own. The ideas which they convey: savior, guide, refuge, and so forth, are finally simply too appealing, particularly on the literal level, to remain in a philosopical realm to which the "common man" has no access. For the Shaykhís mankind in general is now, and will be for an indefinite span of time, incapable of recognizing the spiritual grandeur of an actual theophany in the person of an Imám (viz, nátiq, báb, dhákir, dhikr). This is so because such recognition necessitates a spiritual correspondence between the theophany and the one who recognizes it.[917] The Shaykhís imply that such a correspondence can be expected in only a few cases. On the other hand, the proclamation that such an Imám has appeared "in the world" suggests a view of mankind not as essentially flawed, but potentially perfect in all the ways that the Imám himself is perfect, namely as the locus for the appearance (mazhar) of the innumerable divine attributes of God. An announcement, such as the one contained in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, refuses to accept that such a capacity is limited to an elite.[918] In addition, the Shaykhí belief taught by Kázim Rashtí, that the world was on the verge of entering a new cycle which would involve a new and higher level of man's spiritual maturity, could have suggested to those numerous Shaykhí students who were to become followers of the Bab, that it was no longer necessary or perhaps even possible, to rely on the argument of "incapacity" as a safeguard against the dangers (spiritual and political) inherent in recognizing an actual person as the bearer of waláya.[919]


Every writer who has made mention of the Báb has pointed out that this title assumed by him at the beginning of his mission signifies in Arabic 'Gate' or 'Door,' but in specifying that whereunto he professed to be the 'Gate' they are no longer in accord. [920]

One of the most frequent titles assumed by or "bestowed upon" the author of this commentary is indeed that of báb. Because of this, and because it is the title by which `Alí Muhammad Shírází is best known, it was thought appropriate to treat in some detail what is undoubtedly a very important word. It is felt that the better its use in the commentary is properly grasped, the better our position to understand this rather difficult work. For if the term indicates, even at this stage of development of the Bab's message, something beyond a mere "herald" of future events, namely a kind of prophethood, then the text, unusual as it is, must be read as a "new scripture," as is in fact stated in the work.[921] In the face of a new prophecy, we are well-advised to expect a departure from the rules.[922] That those readers of the revelation who became followers of the Bab would have found in the work sufficient proof of such claims, indicates that however outlandish or bizarre the work might otherwise appear, it undoubtedly had meaning for those who were perhaps in the best position to judge it.

The word báb occurs in almost every chapter of the text, usually several times. Sometimes it appears simply as báb alláh:

Verily, those who disbelieve in the exalted Gate of God (bi-báb alliah al-rafí`), indeed I have ordained for them a painful chastisement by the authority of God.[923]

At other times, it appears as báb imámikum:

Did not the Remembrance and the Book come to you from all directions with the most great truth calling: "O concourse! I am the Gate of your awaited Imám . . .";[924]

or, as hádhá 'l-báb:

Indeed, mankind is wrongfully in neglect and perturbed concerning this Most Great Gate [who comes] by Our mighty command. And He is God, Exalted, Great.[925]

Dhálika 'l-báb is also frequently encountered and is seen to exploit the ambiguity associated with Qur'án 2:2 dhálika 'l-kitáb.[926] Such an allusion represents yet another example of the Shí`í doctrine of "the Imám as Book and Book as Imám", discussed above.

And indeed We have sent down the book upon Our servant in order that mankind might be a witness to the exalted Remembrance of God [which is] in that Gate.[927]

Several times, the author is referred to as báb alláh al-akbar, al-báb al-akbar, or dhálika al-báb al-a`zam.[928] These usages find their parallel in others, such as al-dhikr al-akbar, or kalimat al-akbar (sic).[929] Other epithets, such as báb alláh al-rafí` are also found.[930] Several times the ahl al-báb are referred to, indicating presumably, those who have recognized the claims put forth.

Verily your Lord, God, said: "I am truly merciful to those believers from among the people of the Gate."[931]

Similarly, the sabíl al-báb, or some variation is often read:

He is God, the Truth, He of whom [it is said] "There is no God but He." He has desired only that you serve sincerely in the path of this Gate.[932]

A most important usage of the term appears in the following:

inna hukm al-dunyá wa'l-ákhira `alá khátim al-abwáb fí nuqtati 'l-báb hawl al-nár qad kán fí umm al-kitáb mahtúman.

Indeed, the rule of the World and the Hereafter [devolves] upon the Seal of the Gates in the point of the Gate about the fire and is firmly established in the Mother of the Book.[933]

An indication of how the Bab meant such references to be understood is found in such statements as:

wa inná nahnu qad rafa`ná daraját al-abwáb bi-qudrat alláh al-akbar bi'l-haqq wa inna al-dhikr hádhá la-huwa al-murád bi'l-`alím laday al-hakím wa huwa 'lláh qad kána bi'l-haqq mahmúdan.

We have elevated the rank of the gates through the most great power of God. This Remembrance is he who is meant by the divine name "learned" before the Judge. And God is indeed deserving of praise.[934]

Such a statement appears to support the idea put forth at the beginning of this thesis that as a result of the unrelenting negative theology of Shaykhism, the Imáms and the Prophet came to fill the "void" left by the Deus absconditus. This being so, the former rank of bábíya was also elevated to fill the position previously occupied by the Imáms. Nonetheless there appears to be a certain amount of reluctance in recent studies of Bábism to acknowledge that the Bab at this time was claiming such an exalted spiritual rank.

While it is certainly true that the term báb can refer to those who represented the hidden Imám during the period of the minor occultation (i.e., 260/873-4 -329/941), during which time he communicated to his followers through a series of four individuals who were known as abwáb, nuwwáb, or sufará, it is also true that the term has a great many connotations as a function of its use in various traditions ascribed to the Imáms, and in other contexts.[935] Nicolas, in arguing that the title denotes spiritual authority beyond "mere" bábíya, namely imáma, has discussed the importance of certain traditions which designate the Imáms themselves as "gates".[936]

But there continues to be some equivocation about the significance of the term as applied to the Bab in this commentary. Amanat writes:

It is almost certain that references to the Concealed Imám in the works of the Bab are, even from the early stages, references to the status which inwardly he claimed for himself.[937]

This statement may be thought to be supported by those passages in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, which speak of the Qá'im as an esoteric principle, perhaps even ultimately accessible to all believers. Elsewhere, however, Amanat refers to the vagueness of the terminolgy in the commentary, or its ambiguity.[938] The conclusion put forth by him is that the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf announces certain claims of the Bab, but not his "real" claims.[939] The point to be made in the following examination of hadíth literature, is that such terms as báb and dhikr had acquired a sufficiently broad semantic range to accommodate a hierarchy of meanings. It would therefore be wrong to suppose that the Bab's perception of his spiritual rank had evolved or developed from seeing himself as a representative of the Imám, to possessing imáma, and ultimately to being a manifestation or claiming divinity, merely because his language became less ambiguous as time went by. As has been amply demonstrated in the study of the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, the Bab's imamology was one in which the Imám and the Prophet could be equated with God. In fact, one of the ontological levels of imáma was seen to be bábíya or gatehood, the level of the appearance of the principle of imáma to the believers.

For our purpose, this hadíth literature has been conveniently summarized in Isfahání's dictionary.[940] The akhbárí commentator of the Qur'an says that both báb and abwáb occur in many traditions, meaning that the Imáms themselves are the gates of God, and the gate by which the believer approaches God. He quotes from the Kitáb kanz al-fawá'id,[941] a tradition in which the Prophet, addressing Abú Dharr says: "`Alí is the greatest gate of God (báb alláh al-akbar), he who desires God let him enter the gate." As we have seen, the Bab has appropriated this very title to himself. Isfahání then quotes from the book of Salím bin Qays:[942]

I heard Salmán al-Fárisí . . . say that `Alí is a gate, God opens it and whoever enters is a believer and whoever goes out of it is a káfir.[943]

Isfahání says that this meaning for the word báb will also be adduced in the reports he lists in his article on al-bayt, as well as in the famous mutawátir hadíth in which Muhammad declared: "I am the city of knowledge and `Alí is its gate." In addition, it occurs in some of the reports which cite the statement ascribed to `Alí: "I am the house of wisdom and am stationed at its gate."[944]

Isfahání continues with material from the Manáqib of Ibn Sharáshúb,[945] which quotes `Alí as having said: "I am the gate of God through which anyone who comes to God must enter prostrate." He then quotes al-Sádiq from the Ma`ání al-akhbár: [946] "`Alí said, 'I am the gate of repentance (ána báb hittatin, 2:58).'" Isfahání says that this hadíth will come again on the article on hittatun and safínatun where the meaning is that the Imáms are like the gate of repentance of the baní Isrá'il mentioned in the Qur'an, 2:58. This statement also occurs in the course of the article on al-súr ("wall") 57:13: And a wall shall be set up between them, having a door in the inward whereof (bátinuhu) is mercy, and against the outward thereof is chastisement (záhiruhu). Here Isfahání says that the gate is `Alí, just as the word gate in 15:14 is `Alí. He adds that in some of the reports the Imáms are said to be the "gates" to the Qur'an", the "gate of faith", the "gate of immortality" (báb al-muqám), the "gates of Paradise, "the gate of laws", the "most sought gate," the "gate of certitude", and finally the "gate of piety."

He then quotes the transmission of al-Kaf`amí from the Imám al-Báqir: "God is concealed from men by his prophet and the trustees (awsiyá') which came after him whom he gave all knowledge men would require.[947] When the time came for the Prophet to give `Alí the divine wisdom he said:

"I am the city of knowledge and `Alí is its gate." In any case, God had already made it obligatory upon men to submit to `Alí in His statement: And enter in at the gate, prostrating, and say, Unburdening (hittatun); We will forgive you your transgressions, and increase the good-doers. [2:58], that is those who do not doubt the excellence of the gate, and the loftiness of his power."

Returning to Kulayní, where `Alí himself is quoted, Isfahání cites the statement: "God appointed knowledge for a certain people and imposed upon the servants obedience to them through His statement: Enter the houses through their gates [2:189]. The houses here are the houses of the knowledge which had been entrusted to the prophets. Their gates are the trustees of the prophets."

Isfahání closes this article with his own views. He says that these last two hadíths, and their like, especially those which come in his article on al-bayt and elsewhere, indicate that the intention is according to the exegetical principle of spiritual metaphor (al-murád al-tashbíhát al-ma`nawíya). "The prophets themselves are the gates of the religion (dín) of God, and the signposts of His religion (ma`álim dínihi)[948] and the means of passing through the gates to Him for men. At the same time, the trustees are the gates of the prophets, and the means whereby men approach the prophets." He then quotes the Prophet, who said to `Alí: "You are the gate to me for whoever enters it and I am the gate of God, any one but you who enters it has not attained me and will not attain God." Then God sent down the verse: It is not piety to come to the houses from the backs of them . . . [2:189]. "It is obvious that the gate of the gate of God is the gate of God. In this sense, the ulama are the gates to the Imáms, nay, rather also the gates of God, according to the above-mentioned reports. And since that is the cause for the attainment of faith (al-fawz bi'l-ímán), and repentence of sins (hatt al-dhunúb), and access to all the paradises, and the knowledge of the divine laws, they are named gates. `Alí is the greatest gate (al-báb al-akbar), inasmuch as he is clearly given this name in many of the reports. Likewise, the khulafá' al-jawr, and their following, and the ulama of the opposition and their companions, are the gates of disbelief and deviation and hell. Ta'wíl is applied to this word in all places accordingly; only God knows."[949]

Curiously, the author of Anwár makes no mention of the historical four deputies (nuwwáb), or gates (abwáb) of the hidden Imám. In summary, báb can designate the prophets in general, the Prophet Muhammad in particular, the Imáms (especially `Alí as al-báb al-akbar), and even the ulama. In light of the interchangeability in Shí`ism of the authority of Book and Imám, it is interesting that báb appears to be uniquely applicable to a person. A similar case is the word walí.[950] Apart from the single possibility of interpreting báb as designating the Imáms in their capacity as báb al-Qur'án, that is, as interpreters of the Holy Book, the Qur'án itself is not mentioned in Isfáhání's discussion of the word.

Another work which has been shown to have a bearing on the study of Shaykhism and the writings of the Bab, is Rajab Bursí's al-Masháriq, several times mentioned above. Aside from referring to the recitation of the Fátiha as a means of "opening" the gates of heaven to the believer,[951] Bursí quotes (in addition to quoting some of those hadíths mentioned in Anwár) the following:

`Alí said: "O people! we are the gates of wisdom and the keys of mercy and the masters of the community and the trustees of the book."[952]

The Messenger of God said: "When I went up to the seventh heaven, and beyond it to the sidrat al-muntahá, and beyond it to the veils of light, my Lord called to me and said, 'O Muhammad, you are my servant, and I am your Lord, so humble yourself to me and serve me and trust in me and I will accept you as my servant and friend and messenger and will accept for you `Alí as caliph and gate, and make him my proof against all my servants . . . To God belongs a gate (whoever enters it is saved from Hell), and it is the love of `Alí. Indeed, he who loves `Alí, God will give him, for every vein in his body and every hair thereon a city in paradise." [953]


Having examined what might be considered to be a synopsis of akhbárí thought on the term, attention is now turned to the way the title figured in some of the works of Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim. It is important to note that both men were known by their followers as gates.[954] Rafatí refers to a letter written by Táhireh, who was one of the hurúf al-hayy, in which reference is made to Ahsá'í and Rashtí as the "two gates (al-bábayn)", and Rashtí himself as "the earlier gate of God (báb alláh al-muqaddam)". Rashtí was also referred to in this way by the Bábí historian Qatíl-i Karabalá'i.[955] All of these sources, however, are written by Bábís who had previously been adherents of the Shaykhí school. So far, it has not been possible to locate a direct statement by either Ahsá'í or Rashtí, in which a claim to bábíya is made. However, given the above range of meanings which the term báb was capable of bearing, it would not be surprising if these two scholars had tacitly accepted such a title as a possible metaphor for the function of the ulama. Such would offer an example of the moderate akhbarism which Shaykhism propounded as a means of bridging the gulf between two antagonistic Shí`í trends.[956] It is also possible that the former followers of Ahsá'í and Rashtí have retrojected the title báb on to the first two masters of the Shaykhíya, in order to emphasize a continuity between Shaykhism and Bábism. This is clearly seen, for example, in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf:

O ye peoples of the earth! During the time of My absence I sent down the Gates unto you. However the believers, except for a handful, obeyed them not. Formerly I sent unto you Ahmad and more recently Kázim, but apart from the pure in heart amongst you no one followed them.[957]

The dual of báb is found in several places throughout the commentary and it may be thought that wherever it occurs, it may on some level, refer to the first two leaders of the Shaykhí school.[958] However, the dual number is widely used throughout the commentary, and as such forms a separate subject of study to be taken up below in the examination of the way the word nuqta, and its synonyms are used in the commentary.

To return to the term báb in Shaykhí thought, commenting on the verse of the Ziyára: al-salám `alaykum yá ahla bayt al-nubúwa,[959] Shaykh Ahmad says that this means that the Imáms are the people of the house of prophetic knowledge because they preserve it, and this knowledge is from divine revelation (wahí). In the esoteric interpretation, the "house" is the Messenger of God himself in whom nubúwa was put, and the "houses" are all of the Family of the messenger. "However,the Prophet is the greatest house, nay rather he is the city and they are the gates." He quotes al-Báqir: "The family of Muhammad are the gates of God and the path to Him and the summons to paradise." He then quotes the celebrated hadíth, in which the Prophet says that he is the city of knowledge and `Alí is its gate, and that no one enters this city except through its gate. Shaykh Ahmad also says that it is related that the Prophet said: "I am the city of wisdom."[960] In this case, wisdom means knowledge. He then quotes the Kitáb al-ihtijáj of Tabarsí, which contains the statement of `Alí commenting on 2:189 about which he says: "We are the houses which God commanded to be entered by their gates, we are the gates of God and the house which should be entered thereby. He who pledges allegiance to us and confesses our waláya will have entered these houses through their gates, but whoever opposes us will have entered the houses from behind. " Shaykh Ahmad then cites several of the traditions which were cited by Isfahání, indicating his own veneration of the akhbárí tradition.[961] This veneration was either already shared, or passed on to his successor Sayyid Kázim Rashtí.

Sayyid Kázim speaks of the gate of God in various ways. In one place he refers to Muhammad himself as the báb alláh, from which those who claim to be independent have turned away.[962] Elsewhere he speaks of the divine bounties (al-fuyúdát), as being the báb alláh ilá al-khalq.[963] And in another passage, relating the three categories of abdál ("saints"), arkán, nuqabá', and nujabá', to the idea of gate, he says that they are three but one essence (fí `ayn kawnihá wáhidatun).[964]

The first is the place where divine unity appears (mazhar al-tawhíd) in the maqám al-tábi`íya, the second is the place where prophecy appears (mazhar al-nubúwa) in the same maqám, and the third is the place where waláya appears (mazhar al-waláya) in the same maqám. Each one is a mazhar al-tawhíd, nubúwa, and waláya, and each is [simultaneously] a manifestation of the part (mazhar al-ba`d) and a manifestation of the whole (mazhar al-kull).[965]

The inspiration for this statement is the quranic reference to the "single command/cause" of God, as is clear from the portions of verses immediately quoted in rapid succession as follows:

And Our command (amruná)is but one (wáhidatun) . . .; Thou can see no disharmony (tafáwutin)in the creation of the Merciful . . .; If it had been from any other than God they would have therein much disharmony .[966]

So he who recognizes only one aspect is one-eyed (a`waru) and he who recognizes [only] two aspects in one is cross-eyed (ahwálu). But he who recognizes them all in one aspect, and not in three, is a true seer (basírun kámilun). . . . Know that the gates of the gate and the aspects of the threshold are all one, when you consider what is inside the "house" or the "city".[967] But if the sight is turned to the gates as such (ilá nafs al-abwáb), then the gate will disappear and the threshold becomes blocked.[968] It is as if the gate were the same as the "house".[969]

Here is another instance of the theme of simultaneous veiling and revealing. If attention stops at the gate itself, then that to which it leads is lost sight of, or veiled. This is a clear warning about indiscriminant attachment to the "personality" of the person who functions as the gate. On the other hand, this same gate when approached as a means of leading beyond itself, reveals.

Elsewhere Rashtí, quotes the following hadíth from the 11th Imám, `Alí ibn Muhammad al-Hádí al-`Askarí (254/868):

When you approach the gate recite the shaháda twice for the gate of God is not known unless God is remembered/mentioned near it. And if God is brought to mind near it (`indahu), then it is [truly] the gate, and the proof (al-dalíl) and the threshold, and the path. And if God is not brought to mind in his/its presence (`indahu) in neither His name nor attribute, then that [particular] gate is not the gate of God.[970]

The intention here of the hadíth (and Sayyid Kázim) seems to be quite straightforward: if someone claims to be the "gate of God" and God is in fact not "brought to mind" when in the presence of such a claimant, then the claims are false.[971]

In several places Rashtí appears to use the terms báb and hijáb interchangeably. Thus, in speaking of the Fátiha, he says that a proper reading of it will name the one who is the báb al-abwáb and the first veil of the al-nafas al-rahmání.[972] Here, báb al-abwáb is one of the many names of the "Holy Spirit", who as a primordial creature (and is also a creative principle), recites "both" books, the "book" of creation and the Qur'an proper. Commenting on a verse of the ode: hádhá riwáq madínat al-`ilm al-latí min bábi-há qad dalla man lá yadkhulu, Rashtí says that three words are important here: al-riwáq, al-madína, and al-báb, the exoteric meaning of which requires no interpretation.

I will mention that which has overflowed to me from the sea of Light (bahr al-núr) and that which has come to me through the praise of God from the world of felicity (`alam al-surúr) which has not been mentioned before, except by way of allusions.[973]

He then defines al-riwáq as "threshold (janáb)", "gate of the gate (báb al-báb)", and "veil of the veil (hijáb al-hijáb) ". Further, he calls it:

The pole around which the days revolve, the full moon which illumines the darkness (badr al-zalám) . . . the one who combines [in his] person those teachings (jámi` al-kalim) about piety and justice for which refute, on behalf of true religion, the corruption of the exaggerators (tahríf al-ghálín) . . . the judge over the flock and the rightful successor of the Imám (khalífat al-imám) . . . the tree of piety (shajarat al-taqwá), he without whom the traces of prophecy would have been effaced and without whom the pillars of waláya would have crumbled . . . [He is] the one who knows, without having to learn (al-`álim bi-ghayr al-ta`allum), the understander (al-`árif) of all the mysteries of Being in both the invisible and visible world, the dawning place of the [single] point of knowledge (matla` al-`ilm) which the ignorant have multiplied. . . . [He is] the one who knows the secret of the one and the many . . . and the secret of integration (sirr al-jam`) and the integration of integration (jam` al-jam`) and the mystery of reward and punishment. . . . and the mystery of that soul, which if known, God is known." [974]

One of the more important features of this passage is, of course, the reference to unlearned knowledge, sometimes referred to as `ilm laduní, which was one of the credentials the Bab was to eventually adduce. Rashtí continues in the same vein at some length, adducing similar equivalents for the riwáq of the door of the city of knowledge. Although no proper names are mentioned, it is possible that by the words "gate" and "city", the persons (or principles) of `Alí and Muhammad are intended. It may also be that Rashtí here regards himself as the riwáq, which both conceals and provides access to the Imám. Given however, his own scholasticism, it is difficult to see how the qualification of unlearned knowledge could be appropriated by him, unless it refers to supernatural knowledge which he acquired from the kinds of dreams or visions which both Shaykh Ahmad and the Bab experienced.[975] It is also explained that the term riwáq is equally applicable to the abdál, namely those souls who qualify as arkán, nuqabá, and nujabá (whose numbers are often set at four, thirty, and forty respectively), who will serve in their capacity as riwáq until the day of judgement (yawm al-waqt al-ma`lúm).[976]

Another aspect of bábíya comes a little later; in discussing the famous hadíth in which the seven grades constitutive of ma`rifa are mentioned,[977] Rashtí makes the following statement:

The gates are the prophets, they were the gates of God in worldly affairs (tashrí`) but our Prophet is the gate of God in both the metaphysical and physical worlds (takwín wa tashrí`). Existence comes to no one except through his agency (wásita) and the agency of the awliyá after him, particularly the seal of absolute waláya (viz, `Alí; khátim al-waláya al-mutlaqa) to whom leadership (riyása) and soveriegnty (saltana) befell from the seal of nubúwa.[978]

Commenting on the word satr, which occurs in another verse of the ode, Rashtí gives a precise meaning for satr, now glossed as hijáb:

[It is] the gate which connects the higher world with the lower (al-báb al-wásil wa'l-wásita bayna al-`álí wa'l-sáfil) the one who transmits the meaning of the Qur'an (al-mutarjim li'l-tibyán `inda ta`lím al-Qur'án) . . . to whoever does not understand. This can only be the one who unites the two stations, the tenant in the two degrees, the matter between the two matters, the one who abides over the two gulfs, the one who surveys the two wests and the two easts (jámi` al-maqámayn, the khá'iz al-martabatayn wa'l-amr bayn al-amrayn, al-wáqif `alá al-tatanjayn, al-názir fí 'l-maghribayn wa'l-mashriqayn).[979]

Rashtí then says that the Messenger of God is the most great veil interposed between God and His creation, and the awliyá' and the khulafá' are his veils which are interposed between him and his flock:

The walí is the veil and gate of the nabí. And this walí also has a gate and they are the ulama who really know (al-`ulamá' al-`árifún al-atyáb) and the perfect spiritual guides. They are the báb al-báb and the hijáb al-hijáb.[980]

Apart from seeing in this statement a possible indication for an understanding of the idea of the Fourth Support, namely as the whole body of those from among the Shí`a who may be considered "perfect spiritual guides", we see in all of this material how closely Rashtí accepts the wide variety of meanings given to the word báb in those akhbár quoted in Anwár (cf. especially the mention of shí`atuhum al-kummal above).

This application of the term báb to prophets is reminiscent of certain Ismá`ílí texts, such as the work ascribed to Ja`far ibn Mansúr al-Yaman (10th century), author of the Kitáb al-kashf. It may therefore represent an actual case of the often suggested Ismá`ílí influence, (albeit through akhbárí Qur'án interpretation) on Shaykhí thought.

The naming of the gates: One gate is Adam and his proof (hujja) Seth; One gate is Núh and his proof is Shem, one gate is Abraham and his proof is Isma`íl; one gate is Musa and Joshua his proof; One Gate is Jesus and Simon his proof. The proof of Muhammad is `Alí. The proof of Hasan is Husayn. The proof of Husayn `Alí b. Husayn, the Proof of `Alí b Husayn is Muhammad his son al-Báqir, the proof of al-Báqir is Abu Abd Allah Ja`far al-Sádiq bin Muhammad and thus the Imáms from the progeny of Ja`far b. Muhammad, one after the other, until the appearance (zuhur) of the Qá'im.[981]

This statement is important because it suggests that the term gate is used as a function of relation, and not as an absolute, as is the case with other such terms (e.g., hujja). Corbin, in his study of other Ismá`ílí works, has spoken of a ten-tier hierarchy for the Ismá`ílí grade of bábíya,[982] which indicates further the all-important relativity of the term. The báb, according to another early text, is precisely the (?) last Imám, le Résurrecteur.[983] (It is also known that the Ismá`ílí author, Mu'ayyad Shírází (470/1077), was the bearer of the title báb in at least one of its levels of meaning.[984]) While here in the Kitáb al-kashf Muhammad is not explicitly called a gate, it is implied in the context. The passage presupposes a kind of progressive revelation which the Bab, our author, most certainly subscribed to, for example in such statements where he says that the "day of resurrection" for one religion is the advent of a new religion which it is destined to supplant.[985] Thus the time of Jesus was the day of resurrection for the religion of Moses, the time of Muhammad was the day of resurrection for the religion of Jesus, and his own zuhúr represents the day of resurrection for Islam.[986]

In this regard, and in particular connection with the súra of Joseph, it is of some interest to note that an eighteenth century Ismá`ílí commentary by the thirty-third Yemení dá'í mutlaq, Diyá al-Dín Ismá`íl ibn Hibat Alláh, interprets the first part of 12:56 So We established Joseph in the land, as: wa kadhálika makkanná li-Yúsuf fí'l-ard . . ., ya`ní, bi-bulúghihi bi-rutbati'l-bábíya: "That is, by his attaining to the rank of gatehood".[987] Clarification of what is meant here by bábíya is found elsewhere in the work, where one Abú Muhammad Aristátálís is mentioned as being the násút of Khidr, for whom he thus functions as a veil and the báb al-abwáb. In this way, his earthly sovereign functions as the al-hijáb al-imámíya.[988]

Now this commentary need not have any direct connection with the Bab's, in order for such shared semantic relationships to exist. Given the factor of geography alone, the possibility of the Bab or even Shaykh Ahmad ever having read it, is remote. The citation is interesting because it refers to the office of báb in connection with earthly sovereignty, and also as a veil. It also points to a case of direct Ismá`ílí influence, through undetermined means, on Shaykhí thought.

Commenting on another verse in which the word báb itself is used,[989] Rashtí says that the gate, as a veil, is an intermediary:

[Báb] means the saintly men (al-rijál al-abdál). And because it represents two relationships (i.e, one to the higher world, the other to the lower) it is named "gate".[990]

Rashtí says that "báb" is composed of three letters, two of which are the same, which indicates the joining of the two principles (i.e., "higher" and "lower"). The other letter stands between them and indicates the ultimate unity obtaining between both worlds. The bá' which indicates this relationship, even though it appears to be two, is in reality only one. But if it is ommitted there ceases to be a gate. The first bá' indicates the principle of fatherhood. The second bá, is the bá' of the basmala, from which all existing things came forth (analogous to motherhood).[991]

This idea of the báb as veil is taken up elsewhere in the Qasída, and appears to be one of the more important themes of the book.[992] Representing, therefore, a principle which simultaneously reveals and conceals, the title báb was admirably suited to the uses put to it by the author of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf.

Rashtí also equates gate with the face of God, i.e. the Imám;[993] the Fourth Support, which here is further defined as al-murshid al-kámil ("perfect master") and al-shaykh al-`ádil ("just teacher") indicating a contrasting view with Shaykhí material discussed above, in which the Fourth Support is seen to refer to a group, rather than an individual.[994] He several times refers explicitly to the "city of knowledge" hadíth;[995] and in one place says that the Qur'an itself is the "gate", an equivalence we have not been able to locate in the akhbárí literature.[996] However, as was the case in that literature as summarized in Anwár, there seems to be no direct reference to the early emissaries of the hidden Imám as gates, but confirmation of this would require further study of the work. What is clear is that the word is used in a variety of ways indicating prophecy and imáma.

Such is the immediate background for the manner in which the Bab's first disciples could have understood the term, particularly as used in those passages mentioned above, where the author of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is called the "most great gate of God". As such, I do not think that the word struck them as vague. It may be, however, that those persons who allied themselves with the movement and who did not come from a Shaykhí milieu did not perceive all of the manifold implications of the term. This might explain why the Bab employed other, more universally recognized titles of authority, as his movement gained in popularity. It seems clear that his assumption of the title báb, did in fact put forth his real claims right from the beginning.

Part ii: Chapter 3

The term "Point" (nuqta) and the Khutbat al-tatanjíya

Certes, l'Imám comme mazharest bien la limite á partitr de laquelle prennent naissance les couples de termes antithétiques. ... Corbin

The title nuqtat al-bá', discussed above, is one of the more straightforward instances of the use of the word "point" in this commentary. Whatever its full implications might be, we at least know from it that the point, or dot under the letter bá' is intended, and that tradition presents the Prophet as having discussed its significance. The Bab employs the term in several other ways throughout the commentary; the following represents a comparatively small number by way of example. These show that the word is used by the Bab, in what might be thought an original way, to allude to the spiritual rank for which the tafsír as a whole is a proclamation. In the first chapter the Bab describes himself as the "fire in the drop of water (nuqtat al-má') prostrating to God."[997] In chapter 13, Súrat al-firdaws, the Bab paraphrases 12:11-12 as follows:

And when they said: O our father! . . . Send him with us tomorrow so that he may abide in the point of ice from the frozen mountain about the point of union, and that he might cause the point of fire to appear from the mountain of justice about the water of virtue.[998]

In chapter 29, Súrat al-húríya, the following is found:

O peoples of the earth! Cleave ye tenaciously to the Cord of the All-Highest God, which is but this Arab Youth, Our Remembrance - He Who stands concealed at the point of ice amidst the ocean of fire. [999]

In chapter 46, Súrat al-mir'at, the Bab writes, in paraphrase of Qur'an 21:30:

We have made all living things from water, according to what God decreed in the Mother of the Book, from the precincts of the fire from (`an) the point of water. [1000]

In chapter 48, Súrat al-nidá', is found:

O people of the earth! Follow the fire and him who is in the precincts of the water. Verily, he speaks on the authority of God and it [?he] is the truth: 'There is no god but He. So cling to the Cord of God, all of you. He is the truth, in the primal book of God (fí kitáb alláh al-bad') and is concealed with the truth in the point of the fire.'[1001]

In chapter 58, Súrat al-Huzn, we read:

And verily God intends [to proclaim] through this Gate, the secret of the fire of the point of water. Do not commit shirk in the service of God, your Lord, the Truth with the Truth, at all.[1002]

In chapter 81, Súrat al-Káf, the Bab writes:

O people of the Cloud! Hearken to the call of God in this tafsír from the point of water flowing from the spring of Káfúr, with the truth, upon the mighty truth, wondrously new.[1003]

In chapter 83, Súrat al-bá', the following is read:

That is from the story of the township, we recount it to you. Some of them are in the precincts of the water and some of them are in the precincts of God. Indeed, they were burned, in very truth, in the point of fire.[1004]

Finally, in chapter 110, Súrat al-sábiqín, we find:

The Remembrance of God is not like (laysa ka-mithl) any one of your ulama. By thy Lord! Verily, he is the truth coming from God and is a haníf Muslim. And he is upon the straight religion, in the point of the fire in the precincts of the water - straight." [1005]

A similar group of verses is found which employ the word qutb in a cognate manner. The term qutb, is of course one with a rich history both in Islam in general, and particularly in Sufism.[1006] As for Shí`ism, it will be remembered that in the canonical collection of the sayings of `Alí, the Nahj al-balágha, it is found for example, in the important Khutbat al-shiqshiqíya, where `Alí likens his rightful position in the community to the axle of the millstone. This position was one which Abú Bakr recognized, but proceeded to usurp anyway: wa innahu la-ya`lamu anna mahallí minhá (i.e., the caliphate) mahall al-qutb min al-rahá.[1007] Corbin has discussed the implications of qutb in several contexts, some of which, by way of introduction to the following examples of the Bab's writings, will be summarized.

First of all, the Imám as qutb distinguishes what Corbin repeatedly refers to as "la gnose shi`ite", which thus sets itself apart from Sunní veneration of the person of the Prophet.[1008] As "pole", along with other designations such as "guide" or "witness", the Imám is a point of metaphysical focus for the believer.[1009] The Imám as pole also represents a means for the believer to avoid the "double trap" inherent in the affirmation of divine unity. That is, the metaphysical danger which the shaháda poses of either attributing God with existence or non-existence. As pole, the Imám represents all that can be known by the believer of such things as God, and is thus the place where everything begins and ends.[1010]

Another aspect of qutb is brought out in connection with the Imám as the Face of God, or the aspect under which God reveals Himself. This Face is that which allows man, insofar as his own self-knowledge permits, to present himself to God. Thus the Imám, as an esoteric principle, occupies a "polar" position in this transaction between God and Man.[1011]

Suhrawardí (al-Maqtúl, 587/1191) made much of a spiritual hierarchy headed by one who functions as qutb which is ever-present in the world, albeit invisible (according to Corbin). As such, this qutb is the caliph of God.[1012] This correspondence between what the Ishráqís termed qutb, and what is termed imám by Shí`ís, is one of the major reasons that the writings of Suhrawardí gained such popularity in a Shí`í milieu. This milieu may be characterized as one in which the function of the Imám was essentially metaphysical and mystical, thus obviating any necessity for him to be publicly recognized.[1013]

According to Ibn Abí Jumhúr, the 12th or, hidden Imám, is the pole during the period of occultation.

In him every Imám and every pole converge, from the East to the West, from the Earth to Heaven ... . The world continues to be preserved only as a function of the existence of the Perfect Man (viz, the Imám) ... . This shows us that in the twelve Imáms, from the first to the last, all of the religions are manifested in both their exoteric and esoteric dimensions ... . If the Imáms are absent, then the universe ceases to be ... . Because it is by means of them that all begins, and it is to them that all returns.[1014]

Of more immediate relevance to this work of the Bab's, Corbin points out that the Shaykhís insist that in every age there exists a "Salmán" who functions as the earthly pole, or nadir of the Imám, who is the heavenly pole. This "Salmán" is thus a "burning wick", the flame of which is "none other than the communication of the invisible Fire."[1015] This presents another aspect of those dual usages so peculiar to the Bab's commentary (to be examined below), from which it would seem, that this "Salmán" is joined with the Imám himself in the person of the Bab. But Corbin notes that this figure, also designated by the Shaykhís variously as nátiq wáhid (unique speaker), the "perfect shí`í", and the supreme báb of the Imám, must by its very nature remain anonymous.

Aucun d'eux (i.e., the Shaykhís) n'a jamais prétendu que c'était lui-m�(tm)me, ni prétendu á �(tm)tre reconnu comme tel. Loin de lá. Ils ont affirmé son existence, parce qu'l est impossible que le monde humain, l'humanité terrestre, en soit privé, mais ils on corollairement affirmé l'impossibilité qu'il soit manifesté, c'est-a-dire l'impossibilité que les hommes soient en mesure de le reconnaítre, de le déterminer ou proclamer nommément, en personne. Sa personne et son nom restent le secret de l'Imám . . .

Quiconque se proclame publiquement le Báb de l'Imám, se met eo ipso en dehors du shí`isme, car il en profane le secret fondamental, viole la ghaybat, rompt l'attente eschatologique. Aucune école n'a insisté avec plus de force démonstrative que le shaykhisme sur ce point. C'est pourquoi le bábisme et le bahá'isme, quel que soit l'intér�(tm)t de ces phénomènes religieux considérés en eux-m�(tm)mes, ne peuvent apparaítre que comme la négation m�(tm)me du shaykhisme.[1016]

This statement sheds light on the Bab's employment of the term qutb in its various contexts throughout the commentary. It is precisely because those statements speak of an actual concrete appearance of a báb or qutb in the person of the author, that the Bábí movement quickly separated itself from the tendencies which were developing in "post-Rashtí" Shaykhism. This, as has been noted, is the phase of Shaykhism which influenced Corbin's own understanding of that school's eschatological views. That Rashtí himself seems to have countenanced the eventual appearance of an actual Imám, or at least the advent of a new cycle of history, was pointed out earlier.

The conclusions suggested here about the precise nature of the Bab's claims in this commentary are really not dependent upon whether or not Rashtí ultimately expected an actual appearance of an Imám. Rather, they depend only on the obvious centrality in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad and Rashtí of repeated allusions to such symbols of authority as báb, imám, waláya, and so on, quite apart from considerations of whether or not these two authors were primarily interested in the esoteric, as opposed to the exoteric, implications of such terms. Many examples exist in Islamic history in which entire movements acquired identity from allusive or ambiguous references to such ideas as, for example, the spiritual authority implied in the term khátim al-awliyá.[1017]

In the following examples from the Bab's commentary, the word qutb appears to be used in much the same way as nuqta. In chapter 1, the Súrat al-mulk, the following, which encorporates some of 18:47, is read:

We have set the mountains in motion upon the earth and the stars upon the Throne around the Fire in the Pole of the Water in the presence of the Remembrance by [the will of] God, the Truth.[1018]

In chapter 58, the Súrat al-huzn, the Bab writes:

And verily God knows that your obedience during both night and day, and to the Pole of the Fire in the precincts of the Water, is to God, the One, the Ancient, He other than Whom there is no god.[1019]

In chapter 74, Súrat al-kahf, we read:

Say: 'All are at the Gate and have been remembered.' And: 'Verily, verily I am the Fire in the Pole of the Water, taking [men] to account about the cause. And in the estimation of God, the Truth, I have been mentioned.' [1020]

In chapter 79, Súrat al-kalima, is read:

Say: I am that statement - the Reality (al-háqqa, cf. 69:1-3) in the precincts of the Water, and am also that statement -the Judgement to come (al-kalimat al-qári`a, cf. 69:4) in the precincts of the Fire upon the Pole which speaks of the divine glory by the permission of God, the High. In truth I am praiseworthy.[1021]

In chapter 81, the Súrat al-káf, the following is found:

Verily, We have established the throne upon the water [11:7], and the air around the Fire, and the Fire in the centre of the water (fí qutb al-má') . . ." [1022]

In chapter 99, Súrat al-jihád, we read:

Verily the Remembrance wants to connect you to his word of justice, by our permission. He is the Fire which has been appointed in the center of the water (al-ladhí qad kána fí qutb al-má' ma'múran). [1023]

A similar group of verses employs the word markaz. In chapter 24, Súrat al-qadar, we read:

O people of the earth! The night has indeed enshrouded and the day has indeed appeared resplendent [cf. 92:1-2] in the rising of the Sun with the truth. This day it is visible in the midst of its zenith (fí markaz al-zawál) in the precincts of the Water, upon the Water, around the Fire.[1024]

In chapter 109, Súrat al-`abd, we read:

O people of the Cloud! Know ye that this Arab youth is speaking the truth in the center of the water (fí qutb al-má') from the midst of the Fire (min markaz al-nár): 'There is no god but Him, the Mighty. And He is God, Mighty, Ancient.' [1025]

These kinds of statements are among the most cryptic in the Bab's commentary and are perhaps the main reason this work has been characterized as, among other things, an "unintelligible rhapsody". However, a study of such statements in connection with other passages in the commentary, suggests that while they are undoubtedly obscure and very difficult to translate properly, they may be seen to conform to the "inner logic" of the work as a whole. For example, in chapter 76, Súrat al-waraqa, the following more or less explicit statement is read:

O Qurrat al-`Ayn! Mankind will ask thee concerning Dhú'l-Qarnayn. Say: [18:83, n.b. the Qur'an continues here with I shall recite unto you a remembrance of him. The Bab however stops the citation at the point indicated, possibly taking for granted that the rest of the verse will have been stimulated to life by the allusion, and continues with:] 'Yea, by my Lord! I am the king of the two beginnings (málik al-bad'ayn) in the two eras (fí'l-qarnayn). And I am the exalted era in the two bodies (al-qarn al-rafí` fí'l-jismayn) and verily, verily I am the Fire in the two waters (al-nár fi'l-má'ayn), and verily, verily, I am the Water in the two fires (al-má' fí'l-nárayn). So hearken ye to my call from this double Mount (fí dhálika al-túrayn): So We established Joseph in the land [12:56] and have given him a single letter of the name of the Remembrance - this Arab youth, in very truth.' [1026]

This last example is characteristic of several passages in the commentary, which space does not permit to be listed in full. An extended example is found reproduced at the end of this chapter. The point to be made here is that the opposing elements of fire and water, as only two examples, stand for the Bab himself as Imám. An Imám who as qutb, nuqta, or markaz, represents the focus of all cosmology, eschatology, and ontology, in a word: waláya. Waláya, in turn, is the touchstone by which all things are found to be true or false, good or evil. The frequent invocation of these opposites, whether as elements such as fire and water, or moral and religious principles such as ímán and kufr, has as one of its functions the designation of the Bab as the "point" from which these things acquire reality or existence. Those many passages which employ several dual substantives have a similar function. Because of the overwhelming abundance of such terms and expressions in this work, it is not really possible to attempt a discussion of them in any detail.

The frequent, almost hypnotic, reference to such words as nuqta, qutb, and markaz, however allusively employed, would quite naturally evoke in the minds of such persons as Mullá Husayn-i Búshrú'í, and other Shaykhís or Shí`í gnostics, the figure of the Imám, specifically the twelfth Imám. This figure is depicted in a particular type of imamology, which developed out of the meditation on such texts as the Khutbat al-tatanjíya. As has already been stated several times, this text was the subject of a large work by Sayyid Kázim Rashtí. This imamology, which speaks of the Imám as the coincidence of opposites, will be better understood through a brief description of the Khutba and Rashtí's commentary.

Before turning to this subject however, it will be of some interest to note another aspect of the idea of the coincidence of opposites and its connection with eschatology, as demonstrated in an article by Eliade.[1027] The author has isolated several instances of the theme from mythic and religious history. His focus was on the myth of androgyny, but in the course of his discussion many other examples are cited, such as the theme of reunion, the polar opposition of heaven and earth, water and clay, old and new, up and down, sun and moon, and other opposites which are found in works of alchemy. His conclusion on the matter is stated succinctly, and in the present context, most appropriately. For him the coincidence of opposites represents:

Le syndrome eschatologique par excellence, le signe que le Temps et l'Histoire ont pris fin - c'est l'agneau auprès du lion, et l'enfant jouant avec le vipère. Les conflits, c'est-a-dire les contraires, sont abolis; le Paradis est recouvré. Cette image eschatologique met parfaitement en évidence que la coincidentia oppositorum n'implique pas toujours la "totalisation" dans le sens concret du terme; elle peut signifier également le retour paradoxal du Monde á l'état paradisiaque. Le fait que l'agneau, le lion, l'enfant et la vipère existent, veut dire que le Monde est lá, qu'il y a un Cosmos et non pas le Chaos. Mais le fait que l'agneau reste auprès du lion et l'enfant s'endort auprès de la vipère, implique également qu'il ne s'agit plus de notre monde, mais du Paradis. Bref, il s'agit d'un Monde paradoxal, puisque vidé des tensions et des conflits qui définissent tout Univers.[1028]

It will be remembered that Shaykhí works (as well as Ismá'`ílí works) speak often of two cycles of history. It is also important to note that one of the main objections to Shaykhí theology has been against that school's understanding of the Hereafter, or Paradise, which the Shaykhís identified as the recognition of the waláya of the Imám, and their further insistence that Paradise and Hell are realized through the actions of men and have no real identity beyond this.[1029] The Bab, in his voice as Qá'im, would therefore function as marking the end of the previous cycle (Eliade's "Time and History"), and the "descent to earth" of Paradise, in the person of the Imám to whom mahabba or the act of waláya is owed. At the same time, this Qá'im is the personification of Hell (al-nár), insofar as he is not recognized or accepted. As has been seen, such ideas have their basis in the akhbárí literature.[1030] The matter is elucidated in Rashtí's commentary on the Khutbat al-tatanjíya, to which attention is now turned.

Khutbat al-Tatanjíya

The single most revealing clue to the proper understanding of the way in which the Bab himself perceived his own station, or the true voice of this work, resides in the many references, both oblique and explicit, to the Khutbat al-tatanjíya in the tafsír on the súra of Joseph. This sermon has been mentioned in previous pages, but it is now time to consider it in some detail. One of the major works of Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, to whom the Bab refers as his "dear teacher", was a lengthy commentary on this sermon attributed to the first Imám `Alí. The piece is known by the above name because of the distinctive way in which the unusual Arabic word tatanj is used in the text.[1031] We are fortunate to have a discussion of the obscurities the sermon presents by Henry Corbin, who studied it with his students during one of his courses at the ...cole des hautes études during the academic year 1969-70.[1032] The following is a synopsis, by way of a rather free translation, of Corbin's discussion of the sermon and Rashtí's commentary. As far as I know, Corbin is the only Western scholar to have studied this work. The point to be made is that the Bab's so-called "galimathias"[1033] does have a direct relation with the khutba itself. The Bab's preoccupation with this sermon has obvious traces in his other work, beginning as we have seen with the few passages pointed out in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, and more importantly in numerous dual usages in the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf where the reference is either explicit or implicit. Such a connection, it is argued, sheds considerable light on the nature of the Bab's claims, however obscure and/or confused these might otherwise appear, especially to those scholars who might have been unaware of the kind of literature this difficult sermon represents. The conclusion offered is that the Tafsír of the Bab represents not only the "new book, difficult for the Arabs" (mentioned above from a hadíth) which the Qá'im is expected to promulgate in Mekka, but also it proclaims the distinctive imáma to which the Bab was laying claim. The text of the khutba, as it appears in the Masháriq anwár al-yaqín by the fourteenth century Shí`í scholar Rajab Bursí is reproduced below. Next to this, is reproduced the chapter from the Bab's tafsír in which the emulation of the style of the Khutba reaches something of a climax.[1034]

The Khutbat al-tatanjíya is attributed to the first Imám, `Alí. The khutba itself is rather long, and according to Corbin, one of the most difficult and complex imamological texts.[1035] It is not found in the Nahj al-balágha; the earliest mention of it is in the work of the twelfth century Shí`í scholar, Ibn Shahráshúb.[1036] A characteristic passage runs:

I am the one who hopes and the one hoped for; I am abiding over the two gulfs (tatanjayn); I am he who gazes towards the two Wests and the two Easts [cf.55:17]; I have seen the mercy of God and Paradise is (sic) the vision of the eye.[1037]

Elsewhere in the sermon we find the following:

I know wonderful things about God's creation - things which none but God knows. And, I know what was and what will be and what was with those who preceded at the time of the first dharr belonging to the first Adam (Adam al-awwal) . . . God hid His full knowledge from all of the prophets except the master of this sharí`a of yours (i.e., Muhammad) . . .Then he taught me his knowledge and I taught him my knowledge . . . through us perishes he who perishes and through us is saved he who is saved . . .[1038]

A final example:

I am the master of the first flood and I am the master of the second flood[1039] I am the master of the flood of `Arim [34:16]. I am the master of the hidden secrets. I am the master of `Ad and the gardens. I am the master of Thamúd and the signs. I am the one who destroys them. I am the one who agitates them. I am the place to which they return. I am their destroyer. I am their manager. I am the one who constructs them. I am the one who flattens them. I am the one who causes them to die. I am the one who gives them life. I am the First. I am the Last. I am the Seen. I am the Hidden. [cf. 57:3] I was with generation (kawr) before generation (dawr). I was with age before aging. I was with the Pen before there was a Pen. I was with the Tablet before there was a Tablet . . .[1040]

The sermon is one of a number, in which what Corbin calls "l'imamologie théosophique", finds its most accomplished, condensed, and obscure expression.[1041] Among such sermons or hadíths included in this category is the first one discussed in this article by Corbin,[1042] which presents a conversation between the láhút (divine nature) and the násút (human nature) of the Imám. As mentioned above, it may be that the dialogue presented in this sermon offers another clue to the elusive problem of the "voice" speaking in the Bab's commentary. Signs of such an internal dialogue may be found in the Qur'an itself (viz, the "qul" verses), but the phenomenon is clearly developed in, for example, the Persian mystic, A`lá al-Dawla Simnání (736/1336). Landolt's study of the letters exchanged between Simnání and his master, Núr al-Dín Isfaráyiní, sheds light on this topic:

Dans ces letters de Semnání, c'est souvent Esfaráyení qui prend la parole á la premiere personne [dans le cas] o_ la voix du Maítre est annoncée comme eshárát az `álám-e lotf, cette voix donnant á Semnání qui écoute des explications de haute doctrine mystique concernant trois propos que l'Esfaráyení matériel avait écrits auparavant. ... Mais personne, y compris Esfaráyení ... ne doute que ce soit en fait Semnání, c'est-a-dire l'entité spirituelle de Semnání, qui ait ainsi donné une reponse subtile á Esfaráyení, et non pas inversement.

En d'autre termes, la spiritualité d'Esfaráyení, ou plutót du Maítre absolu ... est devenue celle de Semnání.[1043]

In the same way, the spirituality of the Imám (or the supreme "Shaykh" of Shí`ism) has become the spirituality of the Bab. Where the object of contemplation for Simnání was the spiritual form of his master,[1044] the object of contemplation for the Bab was the Imám, or any one of the members of the ahl al-bayt. The phenomenon would appear to be the same.

Another similar address is the so-called Khutbat al-bayán, possibly identical with a Khutbat al-iftikhár, mentioned by Ibn Shahráshúb and on which the founder of Alamút, Hasan-i Sabbáh, is said to have written a commentary.[1045] The text of this sermon is found in the Kitáb al-Kashf. In it `Alí declares from the pulpit:

"I am the Christ who heals the blind and the leprous, creating birds and dispersing clouds." Meaning [says the commentator]: 'I am the second Christ (al-masíh al-thání),- I am he and he is I.' At this a man stood up and asked: "O Commander of the Faithful, was the Torah written in a foreign language or in Arabic?" `Alí said: "[In a] foreign language, but its meaning is Arabic, namely that the Christ is the Qá'im bi'l-haqq, and the king of this world and the next. The Qur'an itself confirms this in the verse: Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day that I die, and the day that I am raised up alive. [19:33] Thus `Isá ibn Maryam is of me and I am of him, and he is the Most Great Word of God (kalimat alláh al-kubrá) and he is the witness and I am the one testified to." [1046]

Because such material is not found in the canonical Nahj al-balágha, compiled by al-Sharíf al-Radí, some have insisted that such statements attributed to `Alí are forgeries by men like Rajab Bursí.[1047] Two factors must be taken into consideration here. First, it has been pointed out that even if such sermons were not really spoken by the Imám, they nevertheless spoke, at some moment, in the Shí`í conscience, and it is this which is phenomenologically important.[1048] Elsewhere Corbin states that such material was left out of the Nahj al-balágha precisely because it presents "certaines résonances avec l'imámologie ismaélienne." [1049] It is clear from the commentary on the Khutbat al-tatanjíya by Kázim Rashtí, that one of the, "moments" at which such material "spoke" is the one which has the greatest importance for this discussion, namely mid-nineteenth century Iran.

To begin with, the title itself is strange. The adjective is derived from the word tatanj, or tatanj, or tatanj, and the text itself offers no lexicographical clues about the word. The two commentaries on it mentioned by Corbin do not agree on its orthography, but both insist that the word is a synonym for khalíj, "gulf". The title can therefore be translated as "The sermon between (or on) the two gulfs". The Persian translation and commentary, completed in 1680, by al-Hasan al-Khatíb al-Qárí,[1050] does not go very far in illuminating the main message of the sermon. Corbin has relied on the commentary by the Bab's former teacher, Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, a commentary which he describes as "très dense, allant, suivant son habitude, jusqu'au fond des difficultés spéculatives et en dégageant la portée spirituelle pratique."[1051] The meaning of the title of the sermon is somewhat clarified by Rashtí's comments on the statement: "I am he who abides over the two gulfs ( aná 'l-wáqif `alá'l-tatanjayn); I am he who faces the two Wests and the two Easts" [cf. Qur'an 55:17]. This is likened by Rashtí to another statement attributed to `Alí, a variant of which is quoted by the Bab in al-Baqara:[1052] "My záhir is waláya; my bátin is an unknowable mystery." Rashtí says: "The záhir of this sermon is the explanation of the divine creative activity; its bátin is the secret meditation of this activity." Presumably, the two gulfs then are the gulf of the exoteric and the gulf of the esoteric. But, as we shall see, the pair of gulfs are susceptible to several other interpretations. In his commentary, Rashtí constructs a table of fourteen complementary pairs of záhir and bátin, which comprehend all metaphysical levels and cycles of divine manifestation.

The first major theme of the sermon is that of the apophatic theology (tanzíh), so distinctive of the Shaykhí school. Rashtí says, "This sermon indicates a kind of transcendence of the Creator, which is incomprehensible to the creation." This transcendence is suggested in such words of the Imám as, "I am he who hopes and I am he who is hoped for." Corbin says that this transcendence, which is the profession of a divine oneness (tawhíd) beyond names and attributes, ultimately establishes a metaphysical void, but a void in which paradoxically, divine manifestation is produced.[1053] The "pleroma" of the fourteen Pure Ones is constituted through their practice of tawhíd, which is also their denial to themselves of the rank of godhead. This tanzíh excludes the possibility of any divinity being shared by Man, while at the same time, the Creator causes Man to realize his true self. Rashtí says, "This sermon, and those like it, explain the manner in which a created thing always ends in its like, the reason why the description of anything results only in more description."[1054] This closed circuit is its own justification, because by its very existence, its opposite, that is absolute transcendence, is indicated. Paraphrasing Rashtí, Corbin says that those who deny the authenticity of such sermons do so precisley because they are incapable of understanding such absolute transcendence; rather, they fall, unwittingly, into the error of anthropomorphism (tashbíh), which destroys completely the idea of the Unique (tashrík).[1055]

It is said that the sermon was spoken by `Alí somewhere between Medina and Kufa. For Rashtí, these two cities refer to a mystical and symbolic topography. Medina is the city of the Prophet, or the place of revelation (tanzíl), while Kufa can be either the Land of paradise or damnation, depending upon one's acceptance or rejection of `Alí's Imamate. That is to say, it is the place of the true meaning (ta'wíl) of the revelation. Here part of 57:13 is cited: . . . the inward (bátin)whereof is mercy, and against the outward (záhir)whereof is chastisement. Thus Kufa typifies the two gulfs mentioned in the title: one is the "gulf of mercy" and the other the "gulf of wrath". Both flow from the greater Sea of Mercy, which here is the true meaning (ma`ná) in a metaphysical sense, of the person of the Imám.[1056]

In this way, the Imám occupies the position of "pole" (qutb), as the physical and metaphysical manifestation (mazhar) of the name of Divine Mercy. This universal mercy comprises both gulfs. The one on the right, the Eastern or superior gulf, is designated by several names: bahr al-sád,[1057] the nún (as in the divine command "kun! "), the gulf of "sweet water", and so forth. The other, to the left, is the opposing "sea", sijjín, the "left hand", "the hand of justice", etc. In order to understand the thoroughness of this schema, of which Rashtí sketched a diagram on the margin of his commentary, the first hadíth (on `aql) of the first book of Káfí is cited.[1058] The Eastern gulf represents the stages of the development ("épopée") of the Intellect: the stages of its descent and rise back to its Source. Opposite this is the Western gulf, which represents the counter-development of Ignorance (jahl, also from the same hadíth). This antithesis points to the following conclusion: The divine command, perceived by the Intellect, causes it at the lower limit of its descent to return to its Principle. The very same command, perceived by Ignorance, causes it to return to its origin "au plus profond de son abíme". Thus two opposite, but symmetrical, curves are presented: one of knowledge, the other anti-knowledge. In the Eastern, or right gulf, occurs the advent of the degrees of being, including the form and matter which are involved in the cycle of descent of the Intellect from the "throne" through all the various heavens and elements. This continues until it attains the Earth, where the cycle of its ascent begins, and in the course of which this same Intellect travels through all the realms of nature, until it arrives at the Angel and the Perfect Man.

This cosmology includes twenty-eight degrees, each of which is symbolized by one of the letters of the Arabic alphabet. The Western, or left-hand gulf, represents an inverted cosmology. It is an "anti-world", the theatre in which the "contre-épopée" of Ignorance is played out. Each degree of this process is represented by an inverted letter of the Arabic alphabet.[1059]

L'Imám veut dire qu'il est le Póle (qutb) qui domine les deux golfes et détermine la courbe de leur cercle respectif. Il est celui par qui se manifeste la Miséricorde et par qui se manifeste son antithèse. "C'est en lui que se produit la différenciation des choses; c'est de lui que procèdent l'origine de la béatitude et l'origine de la damnation; c'est par lui que prend réalité la difference de l'une et de l'autre".[1060]

The Imám, as mazhar, is the limit from which the various pairs of antithetical terms proceed. For Corbin, the Imám thus depicted represents a modification of the ancient Manichean principle of Zerván ("unlimited Time"), which was an attempt to overcome a basically dualistic metaphysic.[1061] In the case of the imamology expressed in this sermon, it is not by reason of a "zervanic" cosmic doubt, nor by reason of any duality inherent in the person of the Imám, which gives rise to the antithesis; rather, the antithesis comes about as a result of the choice which is put before men in the very appearance of the Imám himself. This choice was decided by mankind in the period of pre-existence, referred to in the Qur'an as the Day of the Covenant [7:171]. It is also from this "limit", i.e., the Imám, that the various acts of being acquire their reality, to be determined in their final form by this or that quiddity. Such is the meaning of the Imám's statement: "I am the Essence of essences."[1062]

The two gulfs here, are the highest degree of the process of divine manifestation detailed by Rashtí, in the course of which he cites another statement from the khutba. "I saw the Earth as a garment enfolded in a fissure (khazaf) in the right hand gulf, and the the two gulfs appear as if they were to the left of two other gulfs." These two other gulfs are the Orient and the esoteric dimension of the first two, which being at the level of the manifestation of divine mercy, become through the acceptance or rejection of men, the place of the manifestation of the antithetical divine names. The divine names are really in one state. The two gulfs both flow from the principle of diety (ulúhíya). They are called "the gulf of Life" and the "gulf of Permanence". The "pole" is the esoteric dimension of the Imám, and the theophany of the Greatest Name. Still deeper, "and still higher as well", Rashtí perceives an esoteric dimension of these two gulfs. He refers to them respectively as the gulf of the Exclusive Unity (tatanj al-ahadíya), and the gulf of the Inclusive Unity (tatanj al-wáhidíya, "golfe de l'Un-multiple") where the Imám is the source of the divine names and attributes. The pole, in this case, is the impenetrable mystery (ghayb) of the Imám. Still "further East", two other gulfs are found which flow from the "Ocean of pre-eternity" (bahr al-azal). They are the gulf of deity and the gulf of the divine ipseity (huwíya).

There are according to Rashtí, still other ways of looking at these two gulfs, namely as the typifications of Matter and Form respectively, but in the sense of the hylomorphism peculiar to the Shaykhí school. Here, Matter is the paternal aspect, or "being as light". Form is the maternal aspect, that is the "quiddity" which determines being in its act; it is also referred to as the dimension of "divine mercy". According to a tradition from al-Sádiq, each faithful believer has as "father" this divine light, and as "mother" divine mercy. The Prophet and the Imám represent this Matter and Form respectively.[1063] Therefore, man is only fully man insofar as he accomplishes the triple shaháda distinctive of Shí`ism: [1] affirmation of divine unity (tawhíd); [2] affirmation of the mission of the prophets; [3] affirmation of the waláya of the Imáms. The first affirmation renders the believer "fully human" only on the level of potentiality, "evanescent before a God who does not regard the believer." [1064] The second element produces the formless Matter of the heretofore only potential believer. The third element completes, or actualizes the believer, by providing him with Form or quiddity.

Ainsi l'anthropologie plonge ses racines dans une métaphysique dont le motif dominateur est la réponse donnée par les hommes á la question A-lasto ? Cette metaphysique comporte une perspective proprement théosophique dominant de haut le schéma de la cosmologie que nos penseurs avaient héritée du néoplatonisme avicennien. Entre l'Absconditum qui est la Cause première et le schéma de notre monde avec les Intelligences et les Ames motrices de ses Sphères célestes, s'interpose le lointain des Noms divins et de leurs énergies; le support initial prééternel de leurs théophanies, c'est cela le mystère de l'Imám, dont la manifestation au niveau de notre monde entraíne la cosmologie dramaturgique que ne pressentait pas les philosophes. Ici la pensée shí`ite révèle la hauteur d'horizon visée par elle, et c'est tout autre chose que d'en rester á discuter la "legitimité" des trois premiers khalifes reconnus par le sunnisme.[1065]

This discussion of Rashtí's commentary on the Khutbat al-tatanjíya will have established the correspondences between the Bab's vocabulary and style, and the theosophical or metaphysical themes which Rashtí read in the khutba. The all-important spiritual implications of the duty of choice ikhtiyár has been amply demonstrated, and as we have seen, the Bab's commentary of the Súrat al-baqara contained repeated references to this principle. Rashtí's identification of the "two gulfs" as Exclusive Unity and Inclusive Unity, will also be seen to relate to the Bab's terminology in that tafsír, particularly in those passages where the Bab refers to the waláya of the Excusive Unity and its counterpart. The lack of clarity in some of those usages, which revolves around the question of the exact nature of the Inclusive Unity (sometimes used to refer to false waláya, sometimes used to refer to levels of the true waláya) may be derived in part from Rashtí's hierarchization. In this scheme, the values "good" and "evil" are ever relative and ever subject to a progressive refinement, which appears to risk meaning itself, but somehow ultimately preserves it. Simply put: on one level the Inclusive Unity , as less complete than the Exclusive Unity may refer to false waláya, just as it might, for the same reason, refer to nubúwa, or imáma as less "complete" than pure divinity (ulúhíya).

Most importantly, as the following reproductions of the two Arabic texts will show, the relationship between the Bab's Súrat al-`abd (number 109 of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf) and the Khutba al-tatanjíya itself, is unmistakable. The message is quite clear: the Bab is claiming for himself the specific type of imáma that this khutba was perceived to describe by authors like Rashtí. Needless to say, the Bab's "invocation" (and therefore appropriation) of the spiritual and charismatic authority which the khutba expresses, is far from the kind of detailed analysis offered by Rashtí. But Rashtí was not claiming imáma, he was only explaining it. The difference in the approach of the two authors to the same text (the one explantion, the other imitation), shows most convincingly that the Bab at the time of writing his commentary, had gone far beyond any claims either put forward by, or for Sayyid Kázim.

Part ii: Chapter 4

Súrat al-nahl (Translation and Commentary)

In the general description of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf, several features of the work were enumerated and a few examples from the text itself were presented. Out of context, these features offer but a limited picture of the work as a whole. It was thought advisable, therefore, to present at least one full chapter of the work as a more or less typical example (Súrat al-nahl, #93, QA, pp.189-91). In it are found most of the tafsír's distinguishing elements. Those that are not, have been mentioned elsewhere.

The following study is divided into three parts. The first is a presentation of the quranic and hadíth background on the two main symbols of the chapter: the Bees of Qur'an 16, and the Shirt (qamís) of Joseph. The second part offers a translation of the chapter. The third part, which accompanies the second, is an attempt to come to terms with the style and contents of the work through a verse by verse commentary. It is hoped that this translation and commentary (which are of necessity 'experimental') will give an idea of the problems connected with the study of the work, and at the same time, provide at least some of the reasons why the work was so enthusiastically received. A photocopy of the Arabic text of the chapter precedes the translation.

The Qur'an and Hadíth

The chapter chosen for this examination is written under Qur'an 12:93, which contains part of Joseph's address to his brothers immediately after their recognition of him in Egypt. After assuring his brothers that God will forgive their past misdeeds against him, Joseph exhorts them:

idhhabú bi-qamísí hádhá f'alqúhu `alá wajhi abí ya'ti basíran wa'túní bi-ahlikum ajma`ína.

Go, take this shirt, and do you cast it on my father's face, and he shall recover his sight; then bring me your family all together.

The symbol of the cloak may be seen to have developed out of the ancient practice of holy men and diviners, who kept the "exterior world at a distance" by wearing a special robe.[1066] In Shí`í works, reference is often made to "the people of the cloak" (ahl al-kisá') who are specified as Muhammad, `Alí, Fátima, Hasan and Husayn.[1067] This designation is used by Shí`í writers, whether Twelver or Ismá`ílí, to express the idea that Muhammad's special qualities were transmitted to his progeny through contact with the his mantle. In the hadíth literature, the qamís of Joseph is seen to fullfill the function of bearing the charisma of prophecy. This qamís is of course the quranic equivalent of the "robe with sleeves" mentioned in Genesis 37:3, which Jacob had given to Joseph because of his great love for him. It was this robe which provoked the jealousy of his brothers.

The word qamís appears in the Qur'an only in súra 12, where it is mentioned six times. First at12:18, where Joseph's brothers are described as having put false blood on his shirt in an attempt to deceive Jacob, claiming that a wolf had eaten their brother. At 12:25-28, the qamís figures prominently in the well-known episode with Potiphar's wife where the guilt or innocence of Joseph is determined by whether the shirt is torn from the front or the back.[1068] Finally, for the present discussion, the most important mention comes at 12:93. Joseph's brothers have finally recognized him as a highly-placed official in Egypt, whereupon Joseph instructs them: Go, take this shirt, and do you cast it on my father's face, and he shall recover his sight; then bring me your family altogether.

Many of the traditions which compare Joseph to the Qá'im are ascribed to al-Sádiq. The Imám was asked about the shirt of Joseph and responded that when Abraham was burning in the fire [21:68-69], Gabriel came down with the shirt and clothed him with it so that he would not be harmed. Abraham gave this shirt to Isaac, who gave it to Jacob. When Joseph was born, Jacob gave the shirt to him. It was this shirt, originally sent from Heaven, by which Jacob detected the scent of Joseph [cf.12:93].[1069] al-Sádiq was then asked what became of this shirt, to which he responded that the shirt stayed with the descendants of Joseph and is now in the possession of "our Qá'im" because all the prophets inherit knowledge and other things from each other.[1070]

In the article in Anwár on this word, Isfahání says only that its exoteric meaning is well known, but that its ta'wíl is possibly connected with the words thiyáb and libás.[1071] The first word is defined as representing the knowledge with which the Imáms have been endowed, and by extension refers to waláya proper.[1072] The second word carries a complex of meanings which includes, together with the idea of garment, "deception". For the former, Isfahání refers to several verses in the Qur'an, among which are 2:187, where it is stated that spouses are as a garment to each other. For the latter, he cites 2:42 in which those who disguise the truth with falsehood are condemned. Ultimatley however, the word libás is seen as a symbol of the waláya of the Imáms.[1073]

In his commentary on the Qasída al-lámíya, Rashtí takes the opportunity to dilate on the implications of the word qamís which occurs in one of its verses.[1074] The poet has compared the curtain (satr) of the tomb of the Prophet with the qamís of Joseph, indicating that the spiritual "fragrance" of the former is far greater than that of the latter. Rashtí says that however powerful the fragrance of the shirt of Joseph might have been, it cannot compare with the much stronger power of the curtain of the Prophet's mausoleum. Interestingly, the power of the shirt comes from Joseph's having worn it, rather than from the heavenly origin of the shirt. Jacob could detect its perfume from a great distance, because both he and Joseph were an "aspect" of the "seal of the prophets". Since Joseph's shirt acquired its "fragrance" (i.e. power) from physical contact, the "fragrance" acquired from physical closeness to the Prophet's tomb must be even stronger. Therefore, while it was the power of the fragrance of the shirt of Joseph which caused Jacob's physical sight to be restored, the perfume of this "shirt" (i.e., the satr of the tomb) is incomparably stronger and will give spiritual sight to those who regard it with the "eye of reality".[1075]

In this chapter, however, the Bab indicates that the qamís of Joseph represents a power equivalent to the satr of the tomb of the Prophet. The symbol of the shirt of Joseph is immediately associated with the Bees mentioned in Qur'an 16 (súrat al-nahl). Such an apparently incongruous and abrupt association of the Bees with the shirt of Joseph is quite typical of the Bab's method throughout this commentary.[1076] The Bab seems to take the Bees out of thin air. As will be seen, this air is actually the exceedingly rich atmosphere of the Shí`í exegetical tradition.

The following reference to this exegetic history is intended to illustrate that while the concatenation of images, symbols and themes which the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf presents appears quite "unprofessional", it nevertheless has its roots in a tradition which goes back to the earliest tafsír literature. As such, the implications and resonances of the Bab's work would have been understood by those young Shaykhís, as well as many others, who first read the commentary.

The third century traditionist and commentator, Furát ibn Ibráhím al-Kúfí, whose Tafsír was recently published, was one of the earliest sources for later compilers like Majlisí and Isfahání. He is regarded as one of the most important authorities for Shí`í tafsír and was one of the teachers of al-Qummí (ca.307/919).[1077] The work contains several comments regarding the word and the appropriate verses.

The commentary on verse 16:68 quotes a transmission from one Muhammad ibn al-Fudayl, who had asked Abú al-Hasan (i.e. the tenth Imám, d. 254/868) about the verse.[1078] He said that the Bees are the trustees (awsiyá', i.e. the Imáms). Concerning the phrase Take from the mountains, houses, he said that this refers to the Quraysh, implying that the rightful due of the Shí`a is to be taken from the so-called usurpers. The trees are to be understood as "the suffering",[1079] presumably, which has befallen the Shí`a and by which the Shí`a will be strengthened. And that which they build , refers to the clients of the Shí`a (al-mawálí), suggesting that Shí`ism was destined to be preserved beyond the nation of the `Arabs. Follow the way of your Lord means the way (sabíl) which "we are on in the religion of God (dínihi)". In which is healing for mankind refers to that which comes forth from the knowledge of `Alí, inasmuch as it is the healing which God also mentioned in the verse: a healing for whatever is in the breasts [16:57].

Whether or not one accepts the "orthodoxy" of the above report (which is bound to strike certain segments of the Shí`í population as "extremist"[1080]) it seems that later Shí`í commentators and compilers saw a certain amount of merit in it. It is this fact which is important in the present context. As mentioned above, the tafsír of Furát was used as a source by consecutive generations of Shí`í exegetes; it is not, therefore, necessary to make an exhaustive study of these. The essential point here is that Bees are understood as representing the Imáms and the drink which they produce symbolizes the divine knowledge of which they are trustees. That this exegetical tendency persisted as an important one in connection with this verse up to and including the time of the Bab, may be verified by referring to the appropriate literature.[1081]

It is clear that Shaykh Ahmad subscribed to this reading of 16:68-9 from his commentary on it, which is found in his Sharh al-ziyára.[1082] This commentary is a good example of the way in which the akhbárí tafsír tradition was used by al-Ahsá'í and his successors, in conjunction with the philosophical developments which had occurred by his time, to present the distinctive Shaykhí synthesis. Shaykh Ahmad repeats the identification of the Bees with Imáms and the drink with their knowledge, and characteristically divides the latter into several grades and levels. As mentioned, none of the "hierarchization" so characteristic of the Bab's tafsír on al-Baqara, is found in his commentary on the súra of Joseph. The Shaykhí influence on this later work by the Bab is to be seen, in the manner in which the Bab takes for granted the very old akhbárí Qur'an interpretations preserved by and elaborated on by Shaykh Ahmad or Sayyid Kázim. Further, this influence is present only insofar as the general tendency toward a total "imamization" of the Qur'an was a major feature of that tradition. There is not a single khabar or hadíth cited in the commentary on the Súrat Yúsuf.

Arabic text of the súrat al-nahl

(The following is an enlarged photocopy of QA, pp.189-91.)

Translation and Commentary

1 In the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate.

While the use of the basmala as an introductory formula is perhaps the least remarkable feature of this commentary, it will be of some interest to notice a few aspects of the phrase which could have been read into it in this context. The Bab and the whole tradition of akhbárí and mystical tafsír make much of the basmala.[1083] Early Qur'an commentators considered an exegesis of the formula as part of their job. Several hadíths were adduced to support the special significance of this phrase, the most frequent being a variation of the following:

Sádiq said: The bá' [of the basmala] is the glory of God (bahá' alláh), the sín, is the splendour of God (saná' alláh), and the mím is the sovereignty of God (mulk alláh). Alláh is the god of all things. al-Rahmán pertains to creation in general while al-Rahím specifically applies to the believers.[1084]

The basmala is also considered a prayer in its own right, a source of divine knowledge and healing. It is said to contain, in addition to all the knowledge in the Qur'an itself, all the knowledge of the previous scriptures. It has been seen as a means of salvation and protection. Opinion has been divided as to whether the basmala, which heads all but one suwar of the Qur'an, should be counted in the total number of verses, but Shí`í scholars have tended to treat it as an independent verse. al-Sádiq is also supposed to have said that the basmala is "the greatest verse in the Book of God".[1085] It has also been identified as the "Greatest Name of God" (ism alláh al-a`zam),[1086] or as being "closer to the Greatest Name than the pupil of the eye is to the white".[1087] For these reasons it has been counted as a separate verse of the chapters in the Bab's tafsír.[1088]

Two other traditions, not mentioned by Ayoub in the article referred to above, appear to have particular bearing on the Bab's veneration of the basmala. The first has been mentioned as the one referred to by Browne in his discussion of the Bab's claim to be a personification of the letter bá': "All existing things have appeared from the of the basmala."[1089] The other is the famous statement from `Alí:

All that is in the world is in the Qur'an, and all that is in the Qur'an is condensed in the Fátiha of the Book, and all that is in the Fátiha is in the basmala, and all that is in the basmala is in the bá' and I am the point under the bá'.[1090]

The number "nineteen", which has such significance in the the Bábí religion, is the number of letters in the basmala. The Bab instructed his first followers to remain silent about his claims until a total of eighteen persons had recognized his station of their own accord.[1091] Each of these eighteen hurúf al-hayy and the Bab, represent something like separate incarnations of one of the nineteen divine letters of the formula, just as each of the Imáms were said to represent one of the twelve letters of the shaháda.[1092]

The hurúf al-hayy are themselves regarded as identical with the sábiqún referred to in the early works of the Bab and his followers, both in the literal sense of their having preceded others in the recognition of the Bab and in the more esoteric sense of their identity with the first group of mankind to respond to God's pre-eternal covenant. This latter group is itself identified in Shí`í literature with Muhammad and the Imáms, and it is clear that the Bab regarded the hurúf al-hayy as the return of the Prophet, the twelves Imáms, the original four abwáb, and Fátima.[1093]

These first disciples formed the first unit (wáhid) of the movement, each successive unit of believers was to have also been composed of nineteen members.[1094] In relation to the hurúf al-hayy, the Bab occupied the rank of bá', which according to Rashtí is a "cloak" for the point. In his discussion of the mysteries of the set of disconnected letters: káf há yá' `ayn sád [19:1] (which he here refers to as al-ism al-akbar), he also calls it the "compriser of the two existents" (jámi`at al-wujúdayn): the `ayn is absolute existence, while the sád represents contingent existence (al-wujúd al-muqayyad). Thus it represents the station of complete integration (maqám al-jam`). He then says that all of its "stations" are condensed in the point, which is the maqám jam` al-jam`. "This point is the one under the bá', which represents the hidden dimension of the bá', and the bá' is its shell (qishr), exterior (záhir), and cloak (`abá)." [1095] The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is quite explicit in several places, in its direct reference to the Bab as the "point", which in the context of tradition, automatically implies the bá'.

In relation to the eighteen hurúf al-hayy, the Bab also occupied the rank of the nuqta concealed by the bá'. This is clear from such of his titles as al-nuqtat al-úlá, hadrat-i nuqta-yi bayán, and so forth.[1096] This rank of nuqta, already appropriated by the Bab in this early work, is a good indication that the Bab actually claimed the equivalent of prophetic status at the time of its composition, a status which later became more frequently denoted by the term mazhar "manifestation".[1097] However, the rank suggested by the word nuqta appears to go quite beyond other definitions of nubúwa, being in fact analogous with the divine unity and "simplicity' (basíta) itself.

The Bab's calendar, constructed much later, of nineteen months of nineteen days is another example of the function of the number "nineteen".[1098] The importance of the number is also indicated by Rashtí. In his discussion of the basmala, he quotes the Prophet: "The letters are nineteen". Rashtí says that this means that all the letters of the alphabet are actually only nineteen, rejecting the belief that there are twenty-eight. They appear to be twenty-eight, according to Rashtí, only because of their various states and stations.[1099]

The number nineteen is also mentioned in Qur'an 74:27-30:

And what will teach thee what is Sakar? It spares not, neither leaves alone scorching the flesh; over it are nineteen.

This verse was quoted by Rashtí in his last testament (`ahd) and has been understood as a prophecy of the eventual zuhúr of the Bab and his first followers.[1100] It would serve no useful purpose to survey the venerable and

extremely intricate tradition of the "science of letters" (`ilm al-hurúf) in Muslim scholarship. Suffice it here to quote Corbin, and mention a few of the more important works on this subject:

Les gnostiques en Islam ont amplifié une théorie de la gnose antique considérant que les lettres de l'alphabet, étant á la base de la création, représentent la matérialisation de la Parole divine. Pour Marcos le gnostique, le corps de l'Aletheia ("Truth") se composait des lettres de l'alphabet. Pour Moghíra, le plus ancien gnostique shí`ite (ob. 119/737), les lettres sont les éléments dont est fait le corps m�(tm)me de Dieu. D'o_ ses speculations sur le Nom supr�(tm)me de Dieu (les dix-sept personnes ressuscitant á l'apparition de Mahdí, et á chacune desquelles sera donnée l'une des dix-sept lettres dont se compose le Nom supr�(tm)me de Dieu. Le traité proto-ismaélien Omm al-Kitáb considère les figures et l'ordre des lettres comme un indice certain de la hiérarchie des �(tm)tres célestes et des Imáms. Aussi bien l'Imám Ja`far Sádiq est-il regardé comme l'initiateur de la science des lettres, dont il eut connaissance par la révélation d'un livre mystérieux, al-jafr. 'Depuis la seconde moitié du IIIe siècle, les mystiques sunnites ont emprunté aux Shí`ites la science des lettres et lui ont accordé une place de plus en plus large dans leurs doctrines. Chez Ibn `Arabí et ses successeurs, ces spéculations ont pris des proportions démesurées.' [1101]

2 Go, take this shirt of mine and do thou cast it on my fathers face, and he shall recover his sight; then bring me your family altogether. [12:93]

The first explanation of its appearance here not only a verse to be "commented upon", but as a verse of the Báb's súrat al-nahl, is in keeping with the basic structure of the work as described above. It appears that by assigning an already existing quranic verse a new function, namely as one of forty-two which make up the exegetic unit (or súra), the Bab may be seen to claim a kind of authority which enables him to re-order the revelation. Such is even more apparent in the following verses which paraphrase, without cue, whole passages of the sacred text. Such manipulation of the basic elements of scripture would not have been taken lightly by his Muslim audience. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, such manipulation can not have been taken lightly by the Bab either, who was unquestionably aware of the serious implications such an act would have.

2 káf há' `ayn = 20 + 5 + 70 (95).

Almost every chapter contains as its third verse a set of disconnected mysterious letters. Precedent for counting it as a separate verse, is taken from the Qur'an. Some of these sets of disconnected letters are quranic, some are names, and others are neither. The manuscripts differ with regard to some of these sets, as is the case here. F11, f.162b reads káf mím `ayn with a fatha over each letter ( 20 + 40 + 70 =130). QA appears to be either káf há' mím `ayn or simply ká há' `ayn. In any case, it bears a certain resemblance to the quranic káf há' `ayn sád discussed by Rashtí, and may be meant to suggest it.

(In the rest of the translation, quranic material will be distinguished by underlining.)

4 Indeed we revealed unto the bees, saying: 'Take from the mountains, [16:68] citadels - the abode for affriming the sanctity of God - the sign of this luminous one, and of trees, [16:68] places for affirming that there is no god but God (al-tahlíl) the sign of this Easterner and of what they are building [16:68] in the path of affirming the unity of God (al-tawhíd) the threadbare garment of this Westerner belonging to God, the High. And He is God, Witness over all things.

As mentioned earlier, most of the chapters of this commentary have a reference to the act of revelation in their fourth verse. This chapter follows the same pattern. But as we have seen, the word nahl also has important meaning in Shí`í exegesis. In addition, there is also a semantic and syntactical correlation between the the verse to be commented upon and this one, namely the two imperatives "go with" or "take" (idhhabú) [12:93] and "take" or "choose" (ittakhidhi). This parallel is continued in the verse by the use of the three expressions al-barqí hádhá, al-sharqí hádhá, and al-gharbí hádhá, which may be seen as exegetic equivalences for qamísí hádhá [12:93]. The image of light here connected with "East" and "West" is of course an echo of the Light Verse [24:35], which is similarly alluded to several times in this chapter, as it is throughout the commentary. The Bab's claim to be both Eastern and Western represents a variation on the quranic neither Eastern or Western. "Citadels" (qusúran) parallels the quranic buyút, as does the singular "abode" (al-maskin). "This threadbare garment . . ." translates sahq al-gharbí hádhá. The other possible reading is suhq "remoteness". The epithet al-`alí (found eight times in the Qur'an) in addition to continuing the rhyme, is undoubtedly intended to suggest the Bab's name, `Alí Muhammad. The shirt itself is not only a divine remnant (viz, baqíyat alláh), but the Bab as custodian of the symbol, is also the remnant by association. The command to take my shirt and cast it on my father's face is more fully explained in verse 40.

5 Then eat of all manner of [16:69] divine allusions (al-ishárát) made smooth [16:69] in the path of the Remembrance, this Gate. There comes forth from their bellies [12:69] the water of the elixir which is one in terms of its blessings, although it is of diverse hues wherein is healing for [16:69] believers. Verily God is Powerful over all things.

Having established this semantic relationship between the two verses, the Bab merely extends the comparison by paraphrasing 16:69. Here, "divine allusions" may be considered as a synonym for the `ulúm al-a'imma, which early exegesis saw as the meaning of the quranic thamarát. Here also, reference could be made to the commentary on 16:69 by Shaykh Ahmad, who elaborated the signifcance of "the sciences of the Imáms" by explaining thamarát as the perfection, or realization of those things which had been deposited in the Imáms.[1102] The Bab seems to be saying that by the appearance of the "Remembrance" (himself), these various divine teachings have become accessible (smooth = dhululan) for the faithful. "Path" (sabíl) is merely a substitute for the quranic subul. As a singular noun, it emphasizes exclusivity. A variation in the manuscripts occurs at "which is one in terms of its blessings". QA: mutawahhidan álá'ihi [=álá'uhu] (for mutawajjidan; the dot seems to be a designation for the há', see below, v.13. The alternate reading would be "causing its blessings to exist"); F11, f.162b: mutawaqqidan: "causing the blessings to flame forth".

6 God is the creator of everything through His power. And God, in very truth, is Apprised of everything which men do.

This verse takes as its cue the first part 12:70: wa alláhu khalaqakum. The second sentence of the verse introduces the very frequent phrase `alá 'l-haqq bi'l-haqq, which is translated here as "in very truth". This translation is merely for convenience inasmuch as the meaning of the phrase, which occurs hundreds of times throughout the commentary, is dependent upon the various contexts in which it appears. It seems to be something of a short rhythmic and multi-vocal refrain (reminiscent of dhikr formulae), the function of which is to fill out the measure of a given verse. In many instances, it is clear that `alá al-haqq bi'l-haqq directly refers to God, whereas in other cases it means that the Bab is "truly speaking the truth" or some variation of this. Elsewhere, it connotes inevitability. The plural verb ya`malúna, since it precedes the subject should technically be in the singular, and reflects, perhaps, Persian grammatical norms.

7 O believers! Fear God concerning this most great word protected in the divine fire. Indeed he is, in very truth , accounted by God the High as a witness.

The vocative address is used in varying forms, as will be seen below. The quranic attaqú 'lláha, also frequently employed, requires no comment. The ungrammatical dhálika kalimat al-akbar is quite characteristic of the language of this commentary. Dhálika here bears the same ambiguity of 2:2: dhálika 'l-kitáb, which is generally understood as "this is the Book". However, it has been the subject of much debate by mufassirún, because of its obvious meaning of "that is the Book". [1103] Shí`í exegesis has also seen the demonstrative as referring to the (presumably missing) "book of `Alí".[1104] This uncertainty is reflected in recent English Qur'an translations: Arberry: That is the Book . . .; Pickthall: This is the Scripture . [1105] It may be that the Bab is exploiting this ambiguity as a function of taqíya; alternatively, it could simply mean "this".

Kalimat al-akbar may be thought to allude to his station specifically, in line with the previously mentioned hadíth ascribed to al-Sádiq: nahnu kalimát alláh, or the one ascribed to `Alí: aná al-kalimat al-kubrá.[1106] The elative al-akbar is used elsewhere with masculine nouns, as in báb alláh al-akbar, where the Bab himself appears to be intended. Such grammatical liberties are found, for example, in the Arabic translations of the New Testament, namely, John 1:1: fí'l-bad' kána al-kalima wa'l-kalima kána `inda 'lláh wa kána 'l-kalimatu alláha. They are explained by the rule that a feminine noun may sometimes represent a masculine subject, e.g. khalífatun, `allámatun, and rawiyátun.[1107] As can been seen in the reproduction of the manuscript, the Bab was capable of maintaining grammatical gender agreement. Here the phrase bi'l-haqq `alá 'l-haqq refers to the veracity of the Bab as the kalimat alláh al-akbar and "witness/martyr" (shahíd) through God's incontrovertible will.

8 O people of the veils! Hearken to the call of God from the tongue of the most great Remembrance: Verily verily I am God [28:30] there is no god but Him [passim]. Indeed, the likeness of the Remembrance is as gold softened in fire which flows in rivulets to all the hidden places by the will of God, the High. And he is God - Mighty, Ancient.

The ahl al-hujub may be taken as a general address to all those who have been veiled from recognizing the Bab; or, given the above equivalence hijáb/báb, it may refer paradoxically to those who have recognized the Bab. The exhortation to heed the call, isma`ú nidá' or some variation, is a frequent imperative in the commentary. In this instance, the Bab refers to himself as dhikr alláh al-akbar, which is also used many times in the work. The reference to 28:30, inní aná 'lláh is also frequent. It suggests that the Bab is claiming revelation by comparing his rank to that of Moses.[1108] It is difficult to determine whether it is meant to be read as the direct speech of God, the hidden Imám, or the Bab. The result of the ambiguity, however, permits the Bab to "participate" in the declaration. By referring to the "likeness of the Remembrance", the Bab anticipates 16:74-6 in which the word similitudes occurs. The similitude which the Bab "strikes" is original, and quite characteristic of his opulent imagery. "Gold softened" translates al-dhahab al-má'ila, and is dhahab al-mumá' in F11, f.162b. "Flowing to all the hidden places" translates sayyála ilá kulli 'l-ghuyúb and perhaps takes its cue from 13:17, a verse in which God "strikes a similitude" which employs the image of valleys flowing according to their measure (fa-sálat awdiyatun bi-qadari-há; n.b. also the root dh h b in this verse), and that over which they kindle fire ( wa mimmá yuqidúna `alayhi fi'l-nár). The image continues the mention of sharáb in 16:69. Ghuyúb might also be seen as echoing the measure of the quranic buyút in16:68.

9 O people of the Throne! Hearken to my call from the precincts of the tomb (al-daríh) from the tongue of this Tree which grows on the exalted Túr, and which is covered with golden holy leaves: 'Verily verily I am God, there is no god but Him. There is no soul who has suffered anything in the path of the Remembrance, whether through warfare or loss of wealth, but that we have written down for him the Gardens of Eden and Ridwán in truth. Verily God is Powerful over all things.'

The ahl al-`arsh could have several implications, but the intention here may be simply "people of the world". That the "call" is being sent out from the "precincts of the tomb" (hawl al-daríh), may be evidence that the Bab wrote portions of this work during his pilgrimage, as MacEoin has suggested.[1109] "Tomb" may also have a purely symbolic meaning. "The tongue of this Tree which grows on the exalted Túr" translates lisán hádhihi al-shajara al-manbata. Again, the reference is to the revelatory experience of Moses on Sinai and may be seen to reflect the language of 23:20: wa shajaratan takhruju min túr sayná' tanbutu bi'l-duhn wa sibghin li'l-ákilín. In this case, it is also possible to translate the Bab's words as "this Tree which produces" leaving the objects "oil" and "relish" understood. Al-mutawarraq bi'l-warqá' al-safrá' al-maní` is distinctive imagery, which appears to modify Túr.

10 Indeed, we have power to move the earth in this hour [passim] by the order of the Remembrance, and could, in truth, hold it aloft [cf. 35:41, 22:65] by means of the summons from his self. Otherwise, the earth with its people would, in very truth burn completely (sákhina maskhúnan). And He is God, Powerful over all things.

This verse continues the "call" initiated in verse 8, the speaker is either the hidden Imám or God; as has been explained, these two are functionally the same in the basic theology expressed in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. The phrase wa numsikuhá `alá 'l-haqq bi'l-du`á' min nafsihi offers another example of the `alá'l-haqq bi'l-haqq formula. "Burn completely" translates sákhina maskhúnan, which fills out the saj` rhyme used here and throughout the work.

11 And verily God has preferred some of you over others [16:71] with knowledge of the Remembrance. What, and do you deny God's blessing [16:71] by lying? Indeed he is the truth from God which, in very truth,is now fulfilled.

This verse continues the paraphrase of súra 16. "Fulfilled" is the quranic mas'úlan [passim, cf. esp. 25:16:. . . kána `alá rabbika wa`dan mas'úlan, and 33:15: . . . wa kán `ahdu 'lláh mas'úlan].

12 God has appointed for you of yourselves wives [16:72] in truth. And God has ordained [16:72] that the women who are believers be as leaves on the lote-trees in the precincts of the Gate. And God is Knower of all things.

Wa inna 'lláh qad ja`ala nisá' al-mu'minát (both manuscripts) might be translated as "God has ordained women, that is believing women, . . .". The paraphrase continues with the Bab's own imagery of leaves and trees waraqát min al-shajara al-sidar. This usage was continued by Bahá'u'lláh, who referred to the females of his family as leaves and the males as branches (aghsán or afnán).[1110]

13 O believers! Fear God and never say concerning the glorious Mystery of God, the Unfastener, in the precincts of that which is (forever) unfastened anything but the truth. For God has imposed upon the people of the Cloud the veil of faithfulness. And God is Witness over all things.

Sirr alláh al-muhallil hawl al-hall al-muhallal (italicized portion is missing from F11, f.163a) without shadda over al-hall. This is very problematic. Both manuscripts provide dots under the há' of al-muhallil, and QA places a dot under al-hall. It might also be read al-jall/jull with the meaning of "great" or "major portion"; al-jill could give the meaning of "carpet" or "garment", the latter would of course extend the "textile" metaphor of the qamís. It could also be read al-jul (perhaps for the Persian gul); al-muhallil would also give the meaning of "lawgiver" or "one who makes things right". Since there is no dot under al-muhallil, it was thought that the other dots served the function suggested at verse 5. In any case, the "Mystery of God" appears to refer to the Bab himself. The phrase fa-inna alláh qad a`hada (sic) `alá ahl al-`amá satra al-wafá' ( F11, f.163a: fa-inna alláh qad ashhada . . . ) employs the frequent image of the "cloud" discussed above. This seems to be an exhortation to taqíya.

14 O Solace of the Eye! Speak the melody of the beloved from the Throne and clothe (uqmus) the words with the shirt (qamís) of divine breezes. Indeed, God desires that your proclamation concerning this Red Dove be not naked. And God is your Preserver.

Yá qurrata'l`ayn indicates that the Bab is now being addressed by the hidden Imám. It should not be seen as referring to the famous disciple of the Bab, the poetess, Táhireh.[1111] The language is found in the Qur'an [19:26; 20:40; 25:74; 28:9 &13; 32:17; 33: 51], with the meaning of general consolation or comfort. The epithet is also traceable to the hadíth from the Prophet in which he speaks of prayer as being the "consolation of my eye" (qurrat `ayní).[1112] Its frequent use in this work by the Bab, also undoubtedly refers to the restoration of Jacob's sight by the qamís and the consolation of his heart which came from reunion with Joseph. "Red Dove" (al-warqá' al-hamrá') is another title for the Bab. The exhortation to "clothe the words" refers to the allusive nature of the commentary in general. The implication being that those who have the capacity to understand the obscure language will do so because of their spiritual readiness for the advent of the Imám. Others will simply fail to appreciate its significance. This theme is found also in a later work by Bahá'ulláh:

The purpose underlying all these symbolic terms and abstruse allusions, which emanate from the revealers of God's holy cause, has been to test and prove the peoples of the world; that thereby the earth of the pure and illuminated hearts may be known from the perishable and barren soil. From time immemorial such has been the way of God amidst His creatures.[1113]

15 O concourse of the lights! Hear my call from the precincts of the point of water at the center of the dust! 'God!, there is no god but Him, the Lord of all worlds.' And He is God, Mighty, Wise.

Min hawl nuqtat al-má' `alá markaz al-turáb. Such phrases have been discussed above, as describing the Bab's station as the point from which proceeds antithetical terms. This is reminiscent of the distinctive imamology of such pieces as the Khutbat al-tatanjíya, though the Bab's imagery seems to be new.

16 Verily, verily I am the fire from the precincts of Túr, and I speak the truth, and am praiseworthy.

This is another reference to the quranic description of Moses' experience on Sinai. It would seem that God is continuing the address begun in verse 15, which was being transmitted through the "point of water at the center of the dust" (i.e. the Bab). But it should be remembered that by thus being a channel for revelation, the Bab is also touched by the "Fire", and is also in this way the fire itself.

17 Verily, verily I am the light above Túr - raised.

The use of the predicate marfú`an, which technically refers to God as the source of revelation, also alludes to the lineage of the Bab as a Sayyid, or descendant of the family of Háshim. For example, describing a hadíth as marfú`, indicates an authentic isnád which goes back to the Prophet.[1114]

18 Verily, verily I am the reddened point which revolves around God, its creator. And I am in truth beloved.

According to the hierarchies in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, red symbolizes corporeality. This usage may be meant to allude to the embodiment of the hidden Imám.

19 Verily, verily I am the sapling - the glory with the most great truth, and am the goal (maqsúd) at the head of (fawq) the source of the ruby stream which flows upon Túr.

Ja`far al-Sádiq interpreted one of `Alí's statements: "I have planted their trees" (ána gharastu ashjárahá) as meaning that the Imáms from his progeny are the trees of repentance and the lote-tree beyond which there is no passing.[1115] Either from this interpretation, or other similar ones, the word ghars seems to have acquired a life of its own, as a symbol for the zuhúr of the Qá'im, e.g.:

In the year ghars [i.e.1260] the earth shall be illumined by His light, and in gharasa [1265] the world shall be suffused with its glory [?al-bahá']. If thou livest until the year gharasí [1270], thou shalt witness how the nations, the rulers, the peoples, and the Faith of God shall all have been renewed.[1116]

The appositional wa inní aná al-ghars al-bahá' is also conditioned by the previously-mentioned exegesis of the basmala, where the bá' is seen to stand for the divine attribute bahá'. This is borne out in the following verse.

20 Verily, verily I am the splendour - the praise; none but the Praise itself, being single and unique, perceives the splendour.

In the two commentaries referred to above, as well as several others, the sín of the basmala is interpreted as the saná' alláh. The allusion to Sinai (sayná',síná' [23:20]) is obvious. Cf. also the "single soul" passages in the Qur'an [4:1, 6:98, 7:189, 31:28, 39:6].

21 O people of the earth! Praised be God, the Truth! verily God has made [16:72] the mystery of this Gate profound.

The use of the verb ja`ala need not, of course, be a reference to the Qur'an. However, in light of the foregoing, it would appear that the Bab intends a reference to 16:72 and a somewhat tenuous continuation of the paraphrase begun in verse 3.

22 To describe him in Arabic he is "comely" - witnessed.

This is a kind of enjambment with verse 21, aníqan rhyming with the above `amíqan. (Cf. also line 1 of the Khutbat al-tatanjíya.) It may be read as a parenthesis, mashhúdan referring to the sirr hádhá 'l-báb in the above verse. This is an allusion to the proverbial physical beauty of Joseph, which the Bab is said to have shared.[1117]

23 Indeed, in these verses are similitudes [16:74] for those possessed of minds [passim], those who, in the precincts of the Gate, are in very truth, prostrating.

Prostrating at the gate is taken from 7:161: Enter the gate prostrating and also implies the "gate of forgiveness" [cf. hitta, 2:58] and the "city of knowledge" hadíths, along with all those other less immediate associations mentioned at length above.

24 What, do you worship [paraphrase of16:71] one beside God who possesses [16:73] nothing, while sovereignty is God's (wa 'l-mulk li-lláh, [passim]), the High both before and after; in the mother of the Book [passim], it is all written about the matter of the Gate.

The "mother of the Book" is the repository of God's pre-eternal decree; that is, the Bab's mission has been ordained from before the beginning of time. It is also a reference to the Fátiha, which is referred to by several exegetes as the umm al-kitáb, and thus continues the metaphor of the basmala. Umm al-kitab may also refer to the Imám himself, as such it becomes a symbol of the sirr or divine conscience mentioned in verse 12.[1118] In short, umm al-kitáb designates the Imáms as the source for understanding the Book.

25 So strike not any similitudes for God [16:74]. He is the truth Like unto Him there is naught [42:11]. And He is God, Mighty, Wise.

This is a direct quotation from sura16 and continues the paraphrase.

26 God has struck a similitude concerning two men, one of them [16:76] standing upon the divine cause (qá'im `alá al-amr) commanding justice [16:75] and good deeds; and the other standing over Hell, summoned by the Fire to the Fire. And both of these two are upon the truth, if you confess even one letter of the book. And your Lord is the Merciful and aware of what you do [passim].

The thrust of the quranic verse, which means to distinguish between two men, one being good, the other bad, is transformed by the Bab. The implication appears to be that the two are actually one. As such, it may also be an allusion to the themes and language of the Khutbat al-tatanjíya.

27 Today God has written for his servant a reward - indeed! - from a line of the leaf of the white scroll. God is Knower of all things.

28 And [has written for] the servant who does well (`alá al-`abd al-fá`il bi'l-istiwá',cf. 17:76) two gardens [18:32-3; 34:15-6; 55:54] in a true line (`alá khatt al-istiwá') and for the bearer of the goblet of water [He has written] a goblet of the pure river of Kawthar. And God is Witness over all things.

This may also be an allusion to Joseph's "two fellow-prisoners" [12:36-42], one of whom was to "pour wine for his lord" [12:41]. The other, according to Joseph's interpretation of the dream, was to be crucified. The khatt al-istiwá' occurs many times throughout this work. The dictionary definition "equator" is helpful insofar as it connotes a dividing line which "orders" (cf. istiwá' in the Qur'an passim). The Imám, in this sense, may be regarded as the line between good and evil. The term figures in the akhbár of al-Halláj, in which along with several other distinctive terms, the editors detected "d'emprunts gnostique ismaÃ?lien", although they offer no definition.[1119] The term figures prominently in Hurúfí literature, where it refers primarily to the (center) part in the hair, which had symbolic value: "Elle est la ligne médiane régulatrice symbolisant ainsi l'harmonie, la justice, l'équité, la verité, etc., . . .".[1120] al-Halláj designates it as the source of the alphabet,[1121] i.e., the alif.

29 And with God belongs the Unseen [16:77]. All unseen things are visible to the Truth. And God ordained only that the cause [16:77] of the Remembrance be closest to the divine cause [16:77]. And He is God, Powerful over all things.

The language here substitutes the quranic hour (al-sá`a) with dhikr, one of the titles of the Bab. This is in keeping with the akhbárí equivalance hour/ waláya.[1122] Similarly, cause may also represent the Imám.[1123]

30 And we have brought you forth from the wombs [16:78] to aid the Truth during the day of the Remembrance. And we have given you hearing, and sight, and hearts so that you might be grateful for [16:78] the truth of the Remembrance concerning the straight balance , straight.

Hearing, sight, and hearts have been interpreted as standing for nubúwa, imáma, and waláya, and while this interpretation need not be primary here, it undoubtedly operates on some level.[1124] Fí 'l-qistás al-qayyim mustaqíman is a variant of 17:35 and 26:182, and perhaps a retroactive incorporation of more material from 16:76, e.g.: huwa `alá sirátin mustaqímin.

31 And we have made the birds obedient in the air of heaven [16:79]. Is there any but God who holds them aloft [16:79] in truth? Verily God is Witness over all things.

In addition to continuing the paraphrase, this verse also reflects the image in verse 10 above.

32 O Place where the dawn appears [97:5]! Mention the name of your Lord, He who there is no god but Him. He is High, Wise.

Yá matla` al-fajr obviously addresses the Bab; matla` is a synonym for mazhar "manifestation", and in this connection alludes to a high spiritual rank. According to Isfahání, "In the akhbár the ta'wíl of fajr is the Qá'im, and its appearance is qiyáma, just as subh refers to the Imáms and the lights of their knowledge."[1125]

33 O Hour of the dawn! Mention, before the rising of the sun [20:130, 50:39] from the place where the Gate appears, that the day which belongs to God is closer than a twinkling of the eye [16:77]. And the judgement has already been ordained in the Mother of the Book.[1126]

Sá`at al-fajr does not occur in the Qur'an, but combines two quranic words, and may be thought to combine the above-mentioned interpretations of these words. It addresses the Bab. "Day" is an allusion the same word in 16:80, the use of which would continue the paraphrase, just as "sun" may be seen in connection with zilálan of 16:81. "Sun" has of course other implications. It may stand for rasúl, `Alí, or "each Imám, specifically the Qá'im".[1127] It is undoubtedly the last which is intended. The sense is that the Qá'im has not yet fully arisen; that is, he has not yet been universally recognized. Alternatively, it may allude to another individual as Qá'im. However, min matla` al-báb seems to suggest otherwise.

34 O people of the earth! Listen to the call of this upright soul in the air [16:79] of the cloud: 'Praised be God, He who has taught me in this Gate the path of those who affirm divine unity, a just word. And that is from the bounty of God to me. And He is Self-sufficient above all the worlds.'

The speaker here is presented as the hidden Imám, who designates the Bab as al-nafs al-qá'im. As such, it is a good example of the manipulation by the author of such terminology to indicate his own claim to be the "promised one". This device here as elsewhere, resembles the "qul" verses of the Qur'an, enabling the Bab to speak on behalf of a higher authority while at the same time participating in this authority. As mentioned earlier, the variety of voices which speak throughout the commentary should be thought of as representing separate aspects or "levels" of the soul of the Bab, which for the purposes of rhetorical effect, are separately emphasized in this or that passage. "Cloud" refers again to the divine source of the Bab's message. In his commentary on al-Baqara, we have seen that the Bab interpreted fadl "bounty" as the Qá'im.

35 O people of `Arafát! Be firm in the precincts of the straight one and listen to my call about this blood-stained shirt which has been rent with 4,000 darts of the people of shirk from among my servants. 'Verily, verily I am the one slain at the two rivers. Verily, verily I am the one slaughtered by the two swords, and verily, verily I have been flung down (al-matrúh) upon the two earths, and verily, verily I speak in the two stations: "There is no god but God alone, there is no god but Him. {Exalted is God, the High, He who there is no god but Him.}" And He is God, Mighty, Wise.'

Verses 35-42 represent the fourth section of the chapter, which as mentioned in the general description, returns to the áya of the Qur'an to be commented upon. The reference to `Arafát could be another indication that the Bab wrote part of the work during his pilgrimage; it may also simply refer to the holiness of `Arafát itself. The Bab returns to the qamís of12:93 and presents it as a symbol of martyrdom, so essential to Shí`í religiosity.[1128] He expands the theme by alluding to Husayn, who was killed near the Euphrates. The nahrayn of QA is nahrayn in F11, f.164a. The word matrúh is a reference to 12:9: 'aw itrahúhu ardan, while the extended repetition of the dual is a reflex of the language of the Khutbat al-tatanjíya. The portion between brackets, { ... }, is missing from F11.

36 Verily God hasinspired [16:68] me in a single thread of that shirt stained with pure blood with: 'Verily, verily I am God, He who there is no god but Me.'

This continues the allusion to the beginning of súra 12, thus the blood is pure, as opposed to the "false blood" of the wolf [12:18]. The Arabic is: al-qamís al-muhammara bi'l-dam al-mutahhara. Thus, the verse could read: "that pure bloodstained shirt". It is likely that both meanings are meant to be suggested.

37 'O people of Paradise! Go with my shirt [12:93] - the sign of this most great Remembrance - and cast it on the face of [12:93] the Hujja, your Imám so that he might look to you through your eyes, and that today, if God wills, your sight concerning this Gate which is on the truth and with truth will be sharp.

The Arabic is: bi-qamísí áya hádhá 'al-dhikr al-akbar. The speaker is the hidden Imám. The variant "cast it on the face of your/my Imám" (F11, f.164a: imámí; QA: imámukum, complicates the reading. "Look to you through your eyes" is an echo of the theme of "signs" discussed in the study of al-Baqara, where the important point is that individuals have been invested with áyát of the Imám or Prophet, without which they would be unable to recognize their stations.

38 O Solace of the Eye! Say: 'Verily, verily I am the hour. How is it then that you do not know that the hour, in very truth, is near according to the mother of the book.

39 {O Solace of the Eye! Say:} 'Verily, verily I am the house and am with the truth, established (marfú`an).

Verse 38 and 39 follow F11, f.164a. The underlined portion in verse 38 is missing from QA which skips to verse 39. {---} in verse 39 is missing from F11, 164a. The nearness of the hour is found at Q.17:51. Bayt refers both to the Kaaba and the "house" or family of the Prophet, viz. the Imáms and their waláya. [1129]

40 And verily, verily (inní aná) I am the lamp in the niche [24:35] and am, through God the Truth upon the truth, shining (mudí'an).

This is a combination of the above-mentioned theme of the revelatory experience of Moses (signaled by inní aná), and that of the "light verse" [24:35]. Misbáh, according to Isfahání, refers to Hasan and Husayn, to the rasúl, and to the light of nubúwa and knowledge (`ilm), as well as to the `ulamá , and the shí`a.[1130] Mishkát is understood as representing Fátima (thus Hasan and Husayn are misbáh), and in another hadíth from the eighth Imám Ridá, we find the statement: "nahnu al-mishkát in which the misbáh of Muhammad shines." Alternatively, the word is glossed as the sadr Muhammad, "in which the light of knowledge, that is nubúwa, shines.[1131] Here is another clue about the frequent refrain al-haqq `alá 'l-haqq, which would appear in this instance to parallel the núr `alá núrin of 24:35. See also the following verse, where the reference is made explicit.

41 And verily, verily I am the Fire in the Light upon Light [24:35] of Túr in the land of felicity and am hidden in the precincts of the Fire [cf. 20:10-11].

It is not really possible to examine the images of fire and light in any detail.[1132] The verse speaks for itself, and is quite typical of other verses in the work.

42 O Solace of the Eye! Say to the believers of all the people of the earth and the heavens: 'Come to me with your people who are effaced completely by the permission of God, the High. ' Verily God desires your reward in this Gate, upon the most great truth. And He is God, Knower of all things.

This concludes the paraphrase of 12:93: wa'túní bi-ahlikum ajma`ín. The Bab's words: atúní bi-ahlikum mimman kána fí ahl al-mahw `alá 'l-jam` bi-idhni 'lláh al-`alí, while paraphrasing the Qur'an ahlikum ajma`ín, perhaps refer to the mystical idea of jam` al-jam` associated with the states of al-faná' (cf., the Bab's al-mahw) and al-baqá'.[1133]

Chapter 4

Concluding Remarks

In order to account for the triggering of the interpretive process, we must assume at the outset that the production and reception of discourse ... obey a very general rule of pertinence, according to which if a discourse exists there must be a reason for it. So that when at first glance a given discourse does not obey this rule, the receiver's spontaneous reaction is to determine whether the discourse might not reveal its pertinence through some particular manipulation. "Interpretation" ... is what we call this manipulation. - Todorov

The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf has been examined enough to allow us to make a few very general observations. It is clear that the work is most unusual vis á vis the tafsír tradition, or for that matter any other genre of Arabic literature. It would appear that by categorizing the work as tafsír the author wished it to be read and judged in this context. This of course raises the question of what in fact distinguishes tafsír, from other types of literature. It should not be assumed that because the Bab was not a typical religious scholar that he was therefore unaware of the standard works of tafsír. But neither should it be assumed that he thought this work should be received as a continuation of that tradition. In view of the earlier Tafsír súrat al-baqara, the contrary would seem to be the case. However different from the main sources of Shí`í Qur'an commentary, the earlier tafsír exhibits many of the usual approaches and methods found in those works. In composing this later commentary, the Bab was attempting a break with a tradition which he perceived as moribund. This was especially so in the context of the advent of a new order for which he himself claimed to be the herald.

In spite of Browne's statement that the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is inappropriately titled, it is abundantly clear that not only does it offer interpretive statements on the súra of Joseph, but comments on a large portion of the rest of the Qur'an in the process, albeit usually by means of paraphrase. There is no doubt that the work is unusual; but to say that it is not interpretive, or that it does not "make clear" what the Qur'an meant (at least to the Bab) is either not to have read it, or to have imposed upon it too rigid a notion about what constitutes tafsír, which is after all "explanation".

The work itself is the result of a re-ordering of the basic elements of the scripture of Islam which have been internalized and transformed by the apparently opposite processes of imitation and inspiration to become finally an original "act" of literature. The tools for this transformation were allegorical and typological exegesis through the "heresy of paraphrase". Taken as a whole, this commentary by the twenty-five year old merchant from Shiraz, represents a text within a text which strives to interpret itself. It may be thought to offer an example of an attempt to transform what became known much later as the hermeneutic circle[1134] into what might be called a hermeneutic spiral.

By comparing these two works, written by the same author within a few months of each other, we see how differently the act of interpretation is capable of expressing itself. The first work may be thought to continue an earlier tradition of transforming history into tafsír. With the second work not only do we have a new example for the history of tafsír, but as a call to action, it presents the phenomenon of tafsír directly producing history, in a sense, becoming history.



BSB Bahá'í Studies Bulletin.

BSOAS Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

EI1 Encyclopedia of Islam, 1st edition.

EI2 Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition.

ER Encyclopedia of Religion, Edited by M. Eliade. New York: MacMillan & Free Press, 1987.

Eranos Eranos-Jahrb¸cher.

IJMES International Journal of Middle East Studies

JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society.

JRAS Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

MW The Muslim World.

SEI The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam.

SI Studia Islamica.


Risála fí sharh wa tafsír ism alláh al-a`zam (Sayyid Kázim Rashtí)

School of Oriental and African Studies Library, Ar. 92308 (ff.271a-74a).

Risála fí al-sulúk (The Bab)

Tehran Bahá'í Archives, 6006.C (pp.73-4).

Tafsír súrat al-baqara (The Bab)

Tehran Bahá'i Archives, 6014.C. (Baq.)

Cambridge University Library, Browne Or. Ms. F8. (C)

Leiden University Library, Or.4971 (Ar.2414). Item No. 8. (L)

Iran National Bahá'í Archives (private publication): Majmú`ah-ye áthár hadrat-i A`lá, pp.156-410. (I)

Tafsír súrat Yúsuf (The Bab)

Haifa, Bahá'í World Centre (uncatalogued). (QA)

Cambridge University Library, Browne Or. Ms. F11.

Tafsír súrat al-kawthar (The Bab)

Cambridge University Library, Browne Or. Ms. F10.

Tafsír súrat wa'l-`asr (The Bab)

Cambridge University Library, Browne Or. Ms. F9.

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Chapter 5

[1] See the recent discussion of this idea in Taylor, Erring, p.57 where interpretation of texts/symbols is described as a process of making present that which is absent. In the case of the Bab, this may be compared to the appearance of the hidden Imám which was in fact effected through tafsír.

[2] Cited in Rippin, "The Quranic asbáb al-nuzúl material," p.1.

[3] Amanat, pp.56-99; Charismatic, pp.7-38.

[4] Browne, Traveller's, pp.277-90.

[5] Sources, pp.208-10.

[6] The words "Accidence" and "Syntax" appear to translate nahw and sarf respectively. Nahw is usually translated as syntax, while sarf corresponds to morphology or inflection. Browne, New History, p.422.

[7] Amanat, p.296.

[8] Huart, La Religion du Bab, pp. 27-8.

[9] Nicolas, Sèyyid, pp.56-8 and references.

[10] Nicolas, p. 57.

[11] Tág, Le Babisme, pp.318-40.

[12] As mentioned above, this commentary is cast in the form of an imitation of the Qur'an; the most conspicuous evidence of this is that the text is divided into súras and verses.

[13] For critiques of Corbin, see Algar, "The Study of Islam" and Adams, "The Hermeneutic".

[14] See Bibliography. Mention should also be made of tafsír works directly ascribed to al-Sádiq; see Nwyia, "Le Tafsír".

[15] See Bibliography.

[16] See Bibliography.

[17] Bihár, v.93, pp.1-97.

[18] Ayoub, "The Speaking Qur'án and the Silent Qur'án," pp.5-6.

[19] See Bibliography.

[20] See Bibliography.

[21] See Bibliography.

[22] A bibliography of Western studies on this subject would include: Goldziher, Die Richtungen, pp.263-309; Nèldeke et al. Geschichte, part 2, pp.93-112 (and references), which includes a study of the so-called Súrat al-núrayn, published in the 17th century Persian work attributed to one Muhsin Fání, Dabistán-i Madháhib (English translation by David Shea and Anthony Troyer, 1843, an abridged edition of which was published in 1901: Walter M. Dunne: Washington & London); Kohlberg, "Some notes," pp. 209-24; Eliash, "The Shí`ite Qur'án,"; W. St. Clair Tisdall, "Shi`ah additions". Kohlberg's study, while possibly correct in deeming the so-called Shí`í súras in the Dabistán as unworthy of consideration, does not take into account any of the tafsír works of the later Safavid period and will therefore have to be adjusted to accommodate a continued insistence on the alteration of the Qur'an by Imámí Shí`ís.

[23] See Bibliography.

[24] See Bibliography.

[25] Ayoub, p.7.

[26] al-Khú'í, p. 200. This author, by the way, is quoted by Kohlberg, op. cit, pp. 218-9 to support his thesis: "The consensus of opinion among most Ithná `Asharí Imámites is that 'only the order of some of the súras as well as some of the odd verses and not their content (. . .) was corrupted by the `Uthmánic Codex' . . .(p. 219).

[27] Furát, Tafsír, p.84.

[28] Talkhís al-bayán, p.193.

[29] Madelung, "Imamism and Mu`tazilite Theology,", p.21. Madelung is arguing against the thesis of Gianroberto Scarcia, "Intorno alle controversie".

[30] Momen, pp.117-18, 220-5, and references.

[31] He himself is credited with a tafsír. Dharí`a, v.18, p.365, #484.

[32] Notable exceptions are Ayoub, op. cit. and Corbin, particularly in his long discussion of Shí`í tafsír, EII, v.1, pp.135-218; v.3, pp.214-32.

[33] These four books are: al-Káfí fí `ilm al-dín by Kulayní (328/939); Man lá yahduruhu al-faqíh, by ibn Bábawayh (381/991); Tahdhíb al-ahkám and al-Istibsár both by Tusí (460/1067). The "three books" are al-Wáfí; Wasá'il al-shí`a by al-Hurr al-`Amilí (1104/1692); and Bihár al-anwár by Majlisí (1111/1699).

[34] EII, v.4, p.250.

[35] Goldziher, Richtungen, p. 278

[36] Sáfí, pp. 4-18.

[37] Smith, An Historical, p.142.

[38] Ayoub, p.7.

[39] Ayoub, p.4.

[40] Maulví Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur-án, pp. xci-xcii.

[41] Sáfí, p.13, translated in Ayoub, p.9.

[42] Sáfí, p.15.

[43] Ayoub, p.10. The belief that the true Qur'án was with the hidden Imám a main factor with regard to the Bab's Tafsír súrat Yúsuf. As mentioned above, it is cast in the form of an imitation of the Qur'án. Furthermore, it is presented by the Bab as having been directly communicated to him by the hidden Imám. See below Part ii.

[44] Burhán v.1, pp.30-1.

[45] Corbin, Annuaire, 1965-6, p.107, speaks of an edition in three volumes.

[46] For a list of forty-three of these works see Burhán, v.4, pp.555-9. All that is known of his life is found in ibid., p.555 where the editor has summarized the information on his biography from the Lu'lu'at al-Bahrayn by Yúsuf al-Bahrání, apparently the only work which deals with this subject. It mentions nothing of his early life or education. Information about his writings is taken from Dharí`a, v.1, p.111. On this work specifically see Ibid, v.3, p.93,#294, where it is compared with a number of other works, some in manuscript, and others, like the Tafsír núr al-thaqalayn, which is discussed below.

[47] Burhán, v.1, pp. 2-40.

[48] Ibid., p.3.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Cf. Mullá Sadrá, Tafsír Sadra. Other works dealing with the Qur'an by Mullá Sadrá are: Asrár al-áyát, which is thematic rather than seriatim; Tafsír súrat al-wáqi`a (56); Mutashábihát al-Qur'án in idem, Three Treatises, pp. 75-121.

[51] Burhán, v.1, pp.5-40.

[52] Burhán, v.1, pp.9-10.

[53] Ayoub, p.3

[54] Ayoub, pp.3-5. For a study of the importance of the hadíth in Ismá`ílí Qur'án interpretation, see Shah, "The Imám".

[55] Burhán, v. 1, pp.15-17.

[56] Ibid., pp.17-19.

[57] Ibid., pp.19-21.

[58] Ibid., p.21.

[59] All three hadíths from ibid.

[60] Ibid., p.22. This subject does not appear to have been discussed by al-Suyútí, al-Itqán. It may be peculiar to Shí`í tafsír. The principle is invoked by Muhsin Fayz, and others, including the Bab. See also Ziyára, p.123.

[61] Burhán, v.1, pp.22-3.

[62] All five statements from ibid. pp. 22-3, #3, 4, 5, 9, and 10.

[63] Ibid., pp.23-6.

[64] "min taríq al-mukhálifín"

[65] Burhán, v.1, pp.26-8.

[66] Ibid., p.28, #3.

[67] Ibid., pp.28-31.

[68] Burhán, v.1, pp.31-41; cf. al-Qummí, Tafsír, pp.3-15.

[69] Ibid., pp.32-3.

[70] Ibid., p.34.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid, pp. 34-5.

[74] Ibid., pp.36-40.

[75] Núr, v.1, p."dál" and Núr, v.5, p."bá'".

[76] Núr v.1, p."jím".

[77] Dharí`a, v.24, p. 345, #1967.

[78] Ibid.

[79] See Anwár, pp.2-3

[80] Amanat, p.32.

[81] Dharí`a, v.20, p.264.

[82] Loc. cit. See also Corbin, Annuaire, 1965-6, pp. 106-108.

[83] Corbin, Annuaire, 1965-6, p.107.

[84] Dharí`a, v.20, pp.264-5, #2893.

[85] Annuaire, 1965-6, pp.107-8. Corbin draws attention to a similar work by Shaykh Husayn Yazdí, still in manuscript in Kirmán, which comprises eight volumes in-folio but which covers no more than the Súrat al-baqara.

[86] The following summary is taken from the fihrist of Anwár, pp."waw" - "zá'".

[87] Ibid., pp. 59-69, see also p.75.

[88] Corbin, Annuaire, 1965-6, p.108.

[89] Shoghi Effendí, God Passes By, p.xii.

[90] Nabíl, p. 30.

[91] The two works are the Risálat al-sulúk, Tehran Bahá'í Archives ms. 6006.c, p.74 and the Tafsír súrat al-baqara, Baq., p.6. In the first work the full reference is to "Sayyidí wa mu`tamadí wa mu`allimí al-Hájj Sayyid Kázim al-Rashtí"; in the second the reference is to the death of "al-`álim al-khalíl mu`allimí" without mentioning the name of Rashtí explicitly. These are probably the two earliest extant works of the Bab.

[92] Charismatic, p.58 citing Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, Dalíl al-mutahayyirín, n.p. 1276/1859-60, p.12.

[93] The most recent detailed account of the Shaykhíya is Rafati. For the names of those who issued the several "degrees" to Shaykh Ahmad see p.41. A most helpful summary is Scholl, "Shaykhíyah". See also the relevant chapters in Amanat and Charismatic. Other important discussions of this subject are: Arjomand, The Shadow of God, q.v. Index "Shaykhism"; Bayat, Mysticism and Dissent; pp. 37-58; Corbin EII, v.4, pp.205-300 and his earlier L'Ecole Shaykhie, together with other works such as Spiritual Body, represent the earliest sustained attempt by a Western scholar to understand the Shaykhí synthesis. Corbin's contribution to this area was invaluable. Although his scholarship is frequently disparaged, one should also mention the even earlier works of Nicolas on the Shaykhí school (see Bibliography). A recent work, unavailable to me, is Aflatun Jalali, "The Shaikhiyya of Hajji Muhammad Karim Khan in Kirman," Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Manchester, 1982.

[94] Rafatí, pp.44-5.

[95] Cf. Nurbakhsh, Masters of the Path, pp.87-91 and 104-5.

[96] Rafati, p.47.

[97] Rafati, pp.48-9. For a helpful summary of the points which came to be regarded as representing the most important differences between the Shaykhís and the rest of the Shí`a see: Momen, pp.226-228.

[98] It mat be that Shaykh Ahmad's association with the Dhahabíya Sufi order is in part responsible for his elaboration of the idea of the Perfect Shí`a. Much work needs to be done on the Sufism of Shaykh Ahmad. See Charismatic, pp. 54-5.

[99] Denis MacEoin, "Shaykhí Reactions," pp.34-6.

[100] EII, v.4, pp.274-86. Salmán, one of the heroes of Shí`ism, was the confidant and disciple of the first Imám. His importance to 12er Shí`ism may be seen in the ascription to him of Persian birth. In fact, the "angels" mentioned in 2:34 are identified as Salmán, also known as Rúzbeh, along with Jundub and Miqdád, in the Bab's tafsír. See Baq., p.131. This identification does not appear to occur in the akhbárí tafásír surveyed above.

[101] MacEoin, "Shaykhí Reactions," pp. 34-6.

[102] Baq., p.13. The same idea is expressed in the earlier Risálat al-sulúk, TBA 6006.C, p.73.

[103] EII, v.1, pp.300-1.

[104] Browne, "Báb, Bábís," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, v. 2, p.300.

[105] EII, v.4, p.221. The term implies "unlearned knowledge" and derives from the name of an early Muslim, Uways al-Qaraní, who never met the Prophet and converted while living in Yemen. It may also apply to a Sufi who has no Shaykh, or an illiterate person with unusual knowledge. See Schimmel, Dimensions, pp.28, 89 & 105.

[106] This subject is studied at length in Corbin, Spiritual Body.

[107] Corbin, Spiritual Body; idem, "The Visionary Dream"; idem, "Mundus Imaginalis"; Rahman, "Dream, Imagination"; see also Walbridge, The Philosophy, pp. 203-27 for an analysis of the idea in the work of Qutb al-Dín Shírází (710/1311), whom the author describes as possibly the first Islamic philosopher "to have made a determined effort to work out the philosophical implications of the concept".

[108] Corbin, "Mundus Imaginalis," pp.1-2.

[109] Corbin, "Visionary Dreams," pp.406-7.

[110] Corbin, Spiritual Body, pp. 202-3; see Ziyára, pp.368-71.

[111] Quoted by Rahman, "Dream, Imagination," p.419.

[112] EII, v.4, p.284.

[113] See below, Part i, passim; cf. Corbin, Spiritual Body, p.182.

[114] Baq. p.41. Rahman equates the term ard al-za`farán, apparently first used by Ibn `Arabí with the `álam al-mithál. The term was also used by Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, see below Part ii.

[115] Baq., p.244. Cf. also the few mentions of wijdán discussed in Part i.

[116] E.g.: Gramlich, Die Schiitischen Derwischorden Persiens; al-Shaybí, al-Siláh and al-Fikr. The whole question looms very large throughout the work of Corbin. While he never succeeds in formulating a satisfactory solution to the (?false) problem, "which came first?", he does manage to establish the fundamentally Islamic character of mystical thought, the presence of which many earlier scholars had ascribed soley to outside influences of a Hellenistic or Indian origin. See also Nasr, "Shí`ism and Sufism" an analysis from a Shí`í point of view.

[117] Mentioned in Amanat, p.129.

[118] Ibid; see also pp. 314-5 for Sufi tendencies in the writings of other Bábís.

[119] The Dhahabíya recognized only eight of the twelve Imáms, tracing their lineage to the eighth Imám Músá Kázim (183/799-800). This entitled them to the custodianship of the Sháh Chirágh mosque in Shiraz, which was the most important religious establishment in Fars. Amanat, p.67.

[120] One Qutb al-Dín Muhammad Shírází Dhahabí, the thirty-second qutb of the Dhahabíya order, see Rafatí, p.40 and Charismatic, pp.54-5. MacEoin points out that Shaykh Ahmad would have been only seven years of age at the time of Qutb al-Dín's death, and ascribes the several accounts of Qutb al-Dín's relationship with Shaykh Ahmad and other notable Shí`í scholars as an attempt to gain respectability for Sufism which at the time was coming under increasing attack by more "orthodox" interests. It is indisputable, however, that Shaykh Ahmad's ideas contain many references to the "high" Sufism of Ibn `Arabí, aspects of which are accepted by him as had been the case with many Shí`í mystics since the time of Haydar Ámúlí, on whom see EII, v.3, pp.149-213.

[121] There is some disagreement as to the date of the death of the Bab's father, Sayyid Muhammad Ridá'. See Balyúzí, p.32.

[122] Balyuzi, pp.34-9. Other treatments of the Bab's life are: Amanat, pp.100-47; Charismatic, pp.137-42. An important discussion of the problems associated with the biography of the Bab is: Lambden, "An Episode in the Childhood of the Bab".

[123] The Bab's statement, cited in Charismatic, p.138, that a dog belonging to a Jew is to be preferred to the people of the bazaar because of the latters' lack of religious devotion, must be seen as an indictment of the people themselves, not their occupation. For this statement, and its context, see the previously-mentioned Risálat al-sulúk, p.74, considered the Bab's earliest extant work. The opinion of Ivanov, (mentioned in Minorsky, "Review," p.289) that the Bab esteemed trade a noble profession, is doubtless correct.

[124] Charismatic, p.138; see QA, p.48 (Súrat al-qarába).

[125] The following anecdote illustrates this:

I myself heard the late Hájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í say that when the Báb was pursuing the career of a merchant in Búshihr, he . . . because of his friendship with the uncles of the Báb used to stay with them whenever he visited either Shíráz or Búshihr. One day Hájí Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad came to him with a request. "Give some good counsel to my nephew . . . tell Him not to write certain things which can only arouse the jealousy of some people: these people cannot bear to see a young merchant of little schooling show such erudition, they feel envious." Balyuzi, p.40; see also Charismatic, pp.138-9.

[126] This is according to the Bab's statement, cited in Amanat, p.131. The sources do not agree on just when and for how long the Bab stayed in the region of `Atabát. Cf. Charismatic, p.139.

[127] Amanat, p.139.

[128] Amanat, pp.133-9 is an important discussion of the Bab's yearlong stay in the `Atabát. (See also ibid., 147.) On this question see Charismatic, pp.139-40. See also Smith & Momen, "The Bábí Movement," p.60.

[129] Charismatic, p.140.

[130] Amanat, pp.146-7, 171-2.

[131] The Bab himself has written (ca. 1262/1846):

When this youth reached the age of compulsory learning, in the tradition of thr Prophet of God in the past, he arrived in Jazírat al-Bahr (i.e. Búshihr). He did not study your scientific methods with any of you (i.e. with the `ulama) and thus in the preserved tablet of the divine order, he is an uneducated (ummí), `Ajamí and descendant of the Prophet of God. Translated in Amanat, pp. 113-4.

[132] To quote Nicolas:

Certes le fait d'écrire currente calamo un commentaire nouveau sur une sourate dont le sens est si obscur, devait frapper détonnement Seyyed Yahya [on whom see below], mais ce qui le suprit plus étrangement encore, ce fut de retrouver, dans ce commentaire, l'explication que lui-m�(tm)me avait trouvée dans ses méditations sur ces trois versets. Ainsi il se rencontrait avec le Reformateur dans une interprétation qu'il croyait avoir été le seul á imaginer et qu'il n'avait communiquée á personne. Le Báb, p. 234. (The commentary here referred to is the Tafsír súrat al-kawthar.)

[133] Baq., p.6.

[134] Amanat, p.125.

[135] Viz, the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf. Sayyid Kázim Rashtí died 11 Dhu'l-Hijja 1259/2 January1844. The exact time of the zuhúr, or declaration of the Bab's mission, is mentioned by him in his Persian Bayán: "The beginning thereof was when two hours and eleven minutes [had passed] from the evening preceding the fifth of Jamádíyu'l-Ulá, 1260 [A.H.], which is the year 1270 of the mission of [Muhammad]." Cited in Nabíl, p. 61.

[136] Charismatic, 158.

[137] From a letter the Bab wrote to his uncle, Hájí Mírzá Sayyid `Alí, on his way from Búshihr to Shiraz, we know that as of 24 Jumádá II, 1261/ 30 June 1845 he was about one week's journey from Shiraz at Kunár-Takhtih. Soon after, the Bab was arrested at Dálakí, one stage closer to Shiraz. Balyuzi, p.105.

[138] In some cases, the Bab himself would commit them to writing; in other cases one appointed especially as amanuensis would perform this task.

[139] There are two distinct works with this title composed by the Bab, one in Persian and one in Arabic. Although they share the same title, and some structural elements, they do not correspond with each other as far as contents are concerned. The Persian Bayán is much longer than the Arabic Bayán and is, withal, much more elaborate in the codification of various laws and ordinances, viz, the "new Sharí`a" of Shí`í eschatology. It is divided into 9 Unities (sing. váhid) 19 chapters (sing. báb) each, except the last, which contains only 10 chapters. It is said that the Bayán was originally planned according to the abjad value of kullu shay' (361), i.e., 19 váhids of 19 bábs each and that the work was intentionally left incomplete so that "Him whom God will manifest" (man yuzhiruhu 'lláh), mentioned hundreds of time in this work, could complete it as a proof of his station. See Sources, p. 120. All references to this work are to Nicolas' 4 volume translation (see Bibliography) thus Bayán, 6:1 (3,113) refers the reader to the first chapter of the sixth unity of that work which is found on page 113 of the third volume of Nicolas' translation.

[140] God Passes by, p.24; Nabíl, p. 31; Sources, pp.27 &129. Sources, (p.129) quotes the Bab: "Thus hath the Point of the Bayán written three commentaries on the Qur'án." These commentaries were entrusted to a certain Sayyid Ibráhím-i Khalíl Tabrízí for safekeeping. No trace of them has been seen since they left the prison of Máh-Kú. Sources, p.129, also says that Subh-i Azal, the appointed leader of the Bábí community and half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh, says that two commentaries on the Qur'an were among those those writings of the Bab taken from Iran to Iraq.

[141] "Vois aussi au sujet du Point du Béyán [i.e., the Bab]. Ceux qui le connaissaient, savent quel était son rang avant la manifestation; mais après la manifestation, et quoique jusqu'á aujourd'hui il ait produit plus de cinq cent mille beits sur des sujets diver . . . ." Bayán, 6:1 (v.3, p.113). According to the Bab, a bayt consists of thirty letters with, and forty letters without `iráb: "Chaque trente lettres forme une ligne, qui avec les accents forme quarante mots." Ibid, (v.3, p.63).

[142] Browne's translation of Bayán-i fársí, váhid, 3, báb,17 (presumably from his own manuscript copy) in Traveller's, p. 344; cf. Bayán, 3:17 (v.2, p.68). The five categories of the Bab's writings are mentioned elsewhere: Bayán, 6:1 (v.3, p.58) & 9:2 (v.4,p.144); Gobineau, 279; Browne, "The Bábís of Persia," JRAS (1889) pp.892-3; idem, "Remarks," JRAS (1892) pp.452-3 & 462-70; Traveller's, pp.343-7; Materials, pp.201,207; "Bab, Babis," p.307b; MacEoin,"Critical Survey," pp. 65-6. (This last title, which is the basis of the revision referred to as Sources, is cited because the pertinent section of my copy of this latter is missing.) See also the discussion of the amount of the Bab's work that has survived in Sources, pp.18-19.

[143] Sources, p.260, n.312.

[144] Afnan & Hatcher, "Western Islamic Scholarship," p.38.

[145] Bayán, passim.

[146] E. G. Browne, ed. Kitáb-i nuqtat al-káf, - xcv.

[147] Writings, pp.75 -113.

[148] Bahá'u'lláh, the title assumed by Mirzá Husayn `Alí-yi Núrí, 1817-1892, was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. This comment may be found in his Kitáb-i �(tm)qán, p. 180 (The English translation is by his great grandson and eventual Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith (walí amru'lláh ) Shoghi Effendi Rabbání, 1897-1957, which is published as: The Kitáb-I-Iqán: The Book of Certitude, p.231. The second statement is from: Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, p.23.

[149] Browne,"Remarks," p.261.

[150] Tafsír hadíth al-Járíya, 4 mss. (Sources, pp.20,24,72-3,104); Tafsír hadíth Kumayl, 3 mss. (ibid., p.106 refers to this work as "Tafsír hadíth al-haqíqa"); Tafsír hadíth "man `arafa nafsahu", 4 mss. (ibid., p.105); Tafsír hadíth "nahnu wajhu 'lláh", 3 mss. (ibid., p.93); Sharh hadíth "`alamaní (sic) akhí Rasúlu'lláh", 1 ms. (ibid., p.97); Sharh hadíth "má min fi`lin yafa`luhu (sic) 'l-`abd", 1 ms. (ibid.). All mss. of these works exist only in the now inaccessible Tehran Bahá'í Archives. This is particularly unfortunate inasmuch as several of the hadíths mentioned in these titles figure prominently in the Tafsír súrat al-baqara. However, some of the holdings of that archive were xeroxed and distributed, in a set of several volumes, to a select group of persons prior to the revolution. (See Amanat, p.434 who refers to the "Iran National Bahá'í Archives" (INBA) which I presume to be identical with MacEoin's "Tehran B.A.".) I have been able to consult one volume of this material, described below in Part i "Manuscripts", and a few xeroxed pages of another volume, 6006.C.

[151] Sources, p.133, speaks of "two short tafsírs on the first and second sections of the Haykal al-dín [another work by the Bab]. According to the statement preceding these they were written by the Bab himself on the 11th and 12th of Sha`bán 1266/22nd. and 23rd. of June 1850, about two weeks before his execution in Tabríz."; Tafsír al-ha (i & ii), 3 mss. each. This work, according to MacEoin,is a commentary on the letter há' of the word huwa. (Sources, pp.94-5); Tafsír al-asmá' (alternate title for the Kitáb al-asmá', the longest Arabic work by the Bab. "This book largely consists of lengthy variations on the names of God, intended . . .to enumerate each name of God of which a specific believer is regarded as a manifestation." (ibid., pp.133-4); Sharh "on a statement of Sayyid Kázim Rashtí in his commentary on the Khutbat al-Tatanjíya of `Alí, 3 mss. "among the earliest" works of the Bab (ibid., p.97); Sharh Kayfíyati'l-Mi`ráj, 1 ms., (ibid., p.98); Bayán `illatí tahrím al-mahárim, 4 ms. (ibid., p.95); Bayán jabr wa tafwíd, 2 ms. (ibid., pp.95-6); Bayán mas'ilati (sic) 'l-qadr, 3 ms., (ibid., p.96); Bayán taqárub wa tabá`ud, 5 mss, (ibid., p.107); Bayán fí `ilmí'l-jawámid wa'l-mushtáqát (sic; probably `alamay/`ilmay al-jawámid wa al-mushtaqqát), 3 mss. (ibid., p.96); Bayán fí nahw wa sarf (sic), 2 mss. (ibid., p.97). All mss. are in the Tehran Bahá'í Archives. (N.b.: The word sharh appears to have been indifferently applied to some of the Bab's Qur'an commentaries otherwise called tafsír (See below, Part i, "Manuscripts"). I know of no tafsír which has also been called a bayán.)

[152] The list in Amanat, pp.451-2 of the xeroxed volumes of archive material referred to above, gives the impression that much more tafsír material exists than that which has been described in Sources. This is due to the somewhat unsystematized nature of these publications, which have apparently reproduced the same title in several different volumes (ibid., p.434). Of those volumes listed (referred to as INBA followed by a number), no less than eight are said to contain works of tafsír or sharh on suwar, verses, or hadíth. The total number of such works thus referred to is sixty-nine; a figure which, if taken to represent separate works in this genre, is most likely much too high. For example, the volume of this material which I have been able to consult, INBA, #69, contains a commentary which Amanat describes as being in INBA, #40.

[153] Sources, pp.56-8; referred to by the Bab in his Risálat al-dhahabíya, where the he listed fourteen of his works according to the names of the fourteen Pure Ones, as the Kitáb al-Ahmadíya (Sources, p.65). To be discussed at length in Part i.

[154] Ibid., pp.69-73; in the Risálat al-dhahabíya it is called Kitáb al-Husayníya (ibid., p.66). In a list of works drawn up by Subh-i Azal, the following titles also appear: "Ahsan al-qasas (1v.)"; "Ahsan al-qasas (1v.)"; "Commentary on the Qur'án (1v.)"; "Commentary on the Qur'án (1 vol.)"; "Ajwaba (sic) wa tafásír " (ibid., pp.30-1). The Tafsír súrat Yúsuf is the subject of Part ii below; Ahsan al-qasas is an alternate title for this work. It is not possible to guess what the remaining items in this list actually are.

[155] Ibid., pp.91-2, see below.

[156] Ibid., pp.114-5, see below.

[157] Distinct from the brief commentary on the Fátiha which accompanies number 1; Exists in 2 mss. in Tehran.(Sources, pp.44, 84-5, 240).

[158] Said by the Bab to have been stolen from him during his pilgrimage. Sources, p.64. See below Part i "Manuscripts".

[159] A work apparently distinct from item 1; said by the Bab to have been "in the manner of the commentary on the Súra Yúsuf (sic)" and stolen along with number 6. Sources, p.64.

[160] Consisting of "about 157 verses" (listed in the Bab's Kitáb al-fihrist; Sources, p.63); called Kitáb al-Báqiríya in the Risálat al-dhahabíya (Ibid., p.67); should not be confused with a commentary on the basmala which occurs in number 5 (ibid., p.96). May also bear the title Tafsír hurúf basmala, 6 mss. 4 in Tehran and 2 in Haifa. (ibid., p.95)

[161] 1 ms., in Tehran, Sources, p.104. A work with the name Tafsír laylat al-qadr is found in INBA #69, pp.14-21. Given the description in Sources, it is undoubtedly the same work.

[162] 1 ms., ibid., p.105. A work by this name is also in INBA, #69 (pp.2-13) and is most likely identical to the one mentioned by MacEoin.

[163] No manuscript of this work has yet been found. Sources, p.109.

[164] Apparently no mss. are extant. It is said by the Bab to have been among those works which were stolen from him during his pilgrimage. He himself has described it as comprising 200 suwar of twelve verses each (Sources, pp.64-5). The verse is of course one of the most popular, and it is therefore not remarkable that a commentary would have been written on it. What is remarkable here is the structure: suwar and áyát which, it will be argued in Part ii, is one of the more significant aspects of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf.

[165] 5 mss., (Sources, pp.103-4.) I have seen one of these, namely Cambridge Browne F21 (item 27). The remainder are in INBA volumes.

[166] The otherwise unpublished work is found in Asadalláh Fádil Mázandarání, Kitáb zuhúr al-haqq, vol. 3, Tehran, n.d. [1944], pp.31ff. The author is more properly referred to as Mírzá Muhammad `Alí Zunúzí. The work, in the question-and-answer form, is the record of a conversation which took place between the author and an unknown interlocutor. Inasmuch as Zunúzí was the devoted follower of the Bab who was executed with him, the work, if authentic, must have been written before 1266-7/1850. Balyúzí, pp.153-8; Nabíl, pp.507-18.

[167] Sources, p.98.

[168] Sources, p.133. The work on which these commentaries were written is the Haykal al-dín; the exact date of composition is given as 11 & 12 Sha`bán 1266 [22 & 23 June 1850].

[169] Sources, pp.62-5. This includes both the extant and the "stolen" commentary on al-Baqara.

[170] Browne F10, nineteen lines per page. F2a: hádhá al-kitáb sharh súrat al-kawthar mimmá nuzzila `alá al-nuqtata al-úlá.

[171] Browne F9, fourteen lines per page, no title page.

[172] Lawson, "Exploded Commentary".

[173] For al-Kawthar: Burhán, v.4, pp. 511-15; Anwár, p.287 ; For wa'l-`Asr: Burhán, v.4, pp.504-5; Anwár, p.235. According to Nabíl (p.174) Sayyid Yahyá's wish that the Bab write on the Súrat al-kawthar was not actually expressed; rather, the Bab astonished his visitor by commencing on his own initiative to comment upon a súra which Sayyid Yahyá' had previously and apparently unknown to the Bab, chosen to be commented on as a means of testing the Bab's claims. No reason is given for Dárábí's choice of this particular súra. As for the choice of wa'l-`Asr, it is simply stated that the Bab's host, the Imám-Jum`a of Isfahán, requested a commentary on it.

It was nearing midnight when the Bab found himself engaged in the exposition of the manifold implications involved in the first letter of that S_rih. That letter, the letter váv, upon which Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá'í had already laid such emphasis in his writings, symbolised for the Báb the advent of a new cycle of Divine Revelation, and has since been alluded to by Bahá'u'lláh in the "Kitáb-i-Aqdas" in such passages as "the mystery of the Great Reversal" and "the Sign of the Sovereign." Nabíl, p.201. On this subject see below Part i "Qá'im".

[174] F9, ff.86b-87b; cf. Sáfí, p.490: qála al-Sádiq: al-`asr `asr khurúj al-qá'im.

[175] Sayyid Ja`far ibn Abí Ishaq `Alawí Músawí Dárábí Burujurdí (1267/1850-1). Corbin, Annuaire, 1970-71, p.220. See also EII, v.3, pp.215-16, for a discussion of this non-Shaykhí theosopher and his doctrine hermèneutic. See also Balyúzí, pp.70,90,94.

[176] His chief Arabic work is entitled Saná barq, a commentary upon a celebrated imámí prayer and a "masterpiece" in `irfán. His best-known Persian works are: Ijábat al-mudtarrín fí usúl al-dín; Barq o sharq; and Tuhfat al-mulúk. This last title is considered his major composition and is divided into two parts. The first part is divided into three books: [1] Concerning the Intellect "la première hypostase, identifié avec le Rúh Muhammadí"; [2] Concerning the epiphanies (mazáhir) of the Intellect and the manner in which they relate to the various beings; [3] Concerning the effects (presumably áthár) of the Intellect. The second part is "une vaste systématisation encyclopédique de la philosophie (hikmat) spéculative et de la philosophie pratique." Annuaire,1970-1, pp.220-1. Nicolas makes the following interesting comment about Kashfí:

. . .[il] était un des plus illustres oulèmas de la Perse, et ses études passionées sur les mystères divins lui avaient valu le surnom Kéchchaf c'est á dire ´Celui qi découvre les secrets célestes.�(tm) Il était étranger aux doctrines chéikhies commme á celles de Molla Sadra. Cependant, son zèle emporté, son imagination ardente l'avaient, vers la fin de sa vie fait sortir un peu des sentiers étroits de l'orthodoxie chiite. Il commentait les hadis d'une autre faÁon que ses collègues, et prétendait m�(tm)me, dit-on, avoir pénétré les soixante et dix significations intimes du Qoran. Enfin, il affirmait, en certaines circonstances, avoir accompli quelques voyages en compagnie de Khizr.

Ces étrangetés déplaisaient au clergé officiel, qui se gardait cependant de les attaquer par respect pour l'áge, la science et la haute piété de leur auteur. Les livres qu'il écrivit sont encore aujourd'hui fort estimés et très lus. Le Báb, pp.387-8.

[177] Balyúzí, p.70.

[178] "I was subsequently commanded by the Báb to journey to Burújird, and there acquaint my father with the new Message. He urged me to exercise towards him the utmost forbearance and consideration. From my confidential conversations with him I gathered that he was unwilling to repudiate the truth of the Message I had brought him. He preferred, however, to be left alone and to be allowed to pursue his own way." Nabíl, p.177 quoting Sayyid Yahyá'.

[179] Nicolas acknowledges that certain (unnamed) authors have doubted that the Sháh had sent Sayyid Yahyá on such a mission. They suggest that Dárábí was attracted to Shíráz by his own curiosity. Le Báb, p.388.

[180] For details see Nabíl, pp.171-7.

[181] "This remarkable man, this precious soul, had committed to memory no less than thirty thousand traditions, and was highly esteemed and admired by all classes of people. He had achieved universal renown in Persia, and his authority and erudition were widely and fully recognized." `Abdu'l-Bahá quoted in Nabíl, p.171; see also Le Báb, p.388.

[182] Charismatic, p.181n.142; see also the references here for his biography.

[183] Sources, p.103.

[184] Charismatic, p.166.

[185] In my "Exploded Commentary," cited above.

[186] Scholem, Major Trends, pp.130-5.

[187] Nabíl, p.202.

[188] fí ajamati ard al-safrá' (F10, f.17a) is a reference to one of the four levels represented by the so-called colours of the Throne. See below, Pt. i "Hierarchies-1".

[189] waláya al-mu`ayyana al-mufassala fí nafsi súrat al-inzá`íya (ibid.)

[190] qamar al-núr shams al-zuhúr shajarat al-káfúr wa má' khamr al-zuhúr wa `ayn al-kawthar al-burúr wa ism alláh al-hayy al-ghafúr. Although the text is quite clear, it is possible that má' khamr al-zuhúr represents a scribal error for what might have original been a reference to the quranic má' tahúr (cf., Q.25:48) or sharáb tahúr (cf., Q.76:21).

[191] Another colour of the four lights of the throne.

[192] min ishráq núr subh al-azal (ibid., f.17b) allusion to the above-mentioned hadíth Kumayl.

[193] hunálika yawmidh al-waláyatu li-lláhi 'l-haqq huwa khayrun thawában wa khayrun `uqba (ibid.) This is either a misquotation of 18:44 or a case of deliberate interpolation, most likely the latter given the precedent of the Bab's treatment of the Qur'an in his commentary on Yúsuf. See below, Part ii.

[194] F10, f.17a, l.4.

[195] Browne, "Description," pp.643-7.

[196] MacEoin appears to agree, for in another context we read:

In declaring himself to be the sole source of divine guidance then on earth -- whatever the precise nature of his claim -- the Báb demanded a degree of non-rational obedience which Mullá Jawád and other Shaykhís seem to have been unwilling to give. Charismatic, p.201.

[197] F10, ff.36a-b, translated by MacEoin, Charismatic, p.170.

[198] F10, f.36b. The ellipsis represents two more citations from the Qur'an (11:17; 32:18), which, as in the case of the portion of Q.10:35, begin with 'a fa-man . . .?

[199] F10, ff.11b-34a.

[200] F10, ff.34b-115b.

[201] F10, f.7a.

[202] Ibid., báb baqíyat alláh. The traditional interpretation of baqíyat alláh is that it refers to the Qá'im (Anwár, p.105).

[203] F10,14b, bábíya al-makhsús (sic).

[204] But cf. the mention of Kashfí's possible heterodox leanings referred to by Nicolas above.

[205] Nabíl, p.176.

[206] On whom see Algar, Religion and State, pp.107 &180.

[207] See also Nabíl, pp.201-2; Sources, p.54.

[208] See below, Part i "Hierarchies-1".

[209] F9, f.19a. Earlier we read:

The first letter is the wáw and it has an unlimited number of meanings (marátib), one of them is Universal Waláya and the first channel of divine grace (al-qasabat al-úlá al-iláhíya) (F9, f.13a)

[210] F9, f.71a. dhakara Muhyi'u'l-dín al-A`rábí fí fusúsihi kalimát `ajíba ilá an qála aná dhálika al-qudús fi'l-fard al-`alí muhabbab wa lá shakk anna amthál tilka al-kalima law awwala ahad bi-husn zannihi fa yumkin lahu ma`ná wa lakin innaní aná má uhibbu wa lá' u'awwilu (71b) bal asa'lu alláh fí haqqihi kamá aráda innahu huwa al-`azíz al-muta`ál. I am unable, so far, to locate such a statement by Ibn `Arabí.

[211] F9, f.9b.

[212] F9, f.20a.

[213] Represented by the prepositional phrase lahu bihi, F9, passim. See below, Part i "Tajallí".

[214] F9, f.38b.

[215] E.g., the explicit ref. at F9, f.40a. However, as suggested above, the structure of the letter commentary into four levels of meaning would appear to be an allusion to the doctrine of the four supports.

[216] F9, f.48a.

[217] Nabil, pp.201-2.

[218] Sources, p.114, citing Nuqtat al-káf, p.116.

[219] Sources, p.115.

[220] Pp. 21-114. Incidentally, F9, f.17b has a mysterious lacuna of a few lines which seems to represent a quotation. The material appears to have been erased rather than ommitted by the scribe for the purpose, say, of later rubrication.

[221] Ibn `Abbás, Tanwír, p.2.

[222] Nwyia, "Le Tafsír," p.188. See also Tabarí Tafsír, v.1, pp. 205-9 for similar statements attributed to other early exegetes.

[223] Baqlí, `Ará'is, pp. 4-5.

[224] Frequently quoted in Shí`í works, for specific references see below Part ii.

[225] Futúhát, v.1, pp.335-61.

[226] Huart, Textes, p.288.

[227] Ibn Abí Jumhúr, al-Mujlí, p.5. This is the alif which is elided in the phrase bismi'lláh, the alif of the word ism.

[228] A few examples of this will be cited below in Part ii.

[229] Even as recently as 1981 we find the following statement on the composition of the Tafsír súrat Yúsuf:

As far as can be verified from the available sources, up to this time the Bab did not produce any work of significance and it was only during his encounter with his early believers that he first became aware of his 'exceptional' talent for producing works of tafsír. (Amanat, p.174)

[230] Sources, p.51.

[231] Sources, pp.57-8. Extant works which were probably written by the Bab before the Tafsír súrat al-baqara include the short Arabic Risálat al-sulúk (on which see ibid. p.55).

[232] Browne, "Catalogue," JRAS (1892) pp. 493-9.

[233] The story is told in Persian. The tafsír in question is written entirely in Arabic. The first instance of the phrase tafsír bátin al-bátin occurs at Baq., p.124 and is missing from the corresponding place in Browne's manuscript (C, f.46b), which explains Browne's remark that he was unable to locate it. An occurrence of the phrase fí bátin al-bátin at Baq., p.132 is, however, found at C, f.49b.

[234] Ibid., pp.496-7.

[235] Momen, p.231-2. Momen adds that the Bab had prophesied the advent of another messianic figure "Him whom God shall make manifest". Bahá'u'lláh's eventual claim to be this messianic figure was rejected by Subh-i Azal, who however, seems also to have been awaiting this advent.

[236] Sources, pp.40-1.

[237] Ibid., p.57.

[238] Ibid., p.64.

[239] Ibid., p.238.

[240] Nicolas, Le Livre des Sept Preuves, pp.i-ii, cited in Sources, pp. 60-1.

[241] Sources, p.57.

[242] Browne, "Catalogue & Description," p.498.

[243] Baq., p.6.

[244] Sources, p.237.

[245] f.95b. This manuscript also carries the Introduction mentioned here (ff. 1b-3a).

[246] Numbers 6,7, and 8 above.

[247] Tafsír súrat al-tawhíd, pp.2-13; T. laylat al-qadr, pp.14-21; T. súrat wa'l-`asr, pp.21-119; T. súrat al-hamd, pp. 120-55. In addition the following short treatises are found: Risálat al-i`tiqádát, pp. 411-16; R. fí jasad al-nabí (possibly the same as Kayfíyat al-mi`ráj mentioned above), pp. 416-19; R. basít al-haqíqa, pp.419-33; R. silsilat al-thamáníya, pp.434-7. Many thanks to Mr. Stephen Lambden for making this volume accessible to me.

[248] This is the number assigned in P. Voorhoeve, Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts, Leiden, 1957, p.454. In the catalogue of the Leiden Arabic manuscripts now being produced by J. Witkam, this manuscript will bear the number Ar.2414.

[249] Sources, pp.40-1.

[250] Baq., p.8 & I, p.156: qad ja`alahá alláhu zillahá li-man aqarra bi-waláyatihi; C, f.2b: qad ja`ala alláhu . . . . Repeated reference throughout this commentary to the ideas of ahadíya, wáhidíya, rahmáníya, and so on, constitutes one of its more distinguishing characteristics. The terminology comes originally from Ibn `Arabí (638/1240) and its use here by the Bab offers yet another example of how the work, if not the thought, of one of history's greatest mystics had thoroughly permeated Iranian Shí`í spiritual discourse (`irfán) by this time. For a study of these terms as they were received by Ibn `Arabí's student Qunáwí and others, see Chittick, "The Five Divine Presences". (See also the important critique of this article by Landolt in Studia Iranica, Suppl. 8 (1985) #488, p.126.) Briefly, the term ahadíya represents the highest aspect of the Absolute about which man can notion (if one may use a