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Bayán

by Denis MacEoin

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 3
New York: Columbia University, 1989
BAYĀN (declaration, elucidation), term applied to the writings of the Bāb in general (Bayān-e fārsī 3:17, p. 102; 6:1, pp. 184-85) and to two late works in particular, the Bayān-e fārsī and al-Bayān al-ʿarabī. The Bāb’s first full-length work was a tafsīr of the sūra al-Baqara, begun in late 1259/1843 or early 1260/1844 and finished several months later; the original manuscript of the second half was stolen during the Bāb’s ḥajj journey of 1260-61/1844-45, but several copies of the first part have survived. This portion at least contains little of a strikingly heterodox nature, although the tafsīr itself is highly interpretative. More important is the tafsīr on the sūra Yūsof, known as the Qayyūm al-asmāʾ or Aḥsan al-qeṣaṣ or simply the Tafsīr par excellence. Dating of this work is somewhat problematic, but there is internal evidence that it was begun in 1260/1844 and completed later that year or in early 1261/1845; other accounts state that it was finished by June, 1844, and it is certain that disciples of the Bāb carried copies of the entire work or large portions of it when they left Shiraz that summer. The Bāb himself states that this work was widely distributed during the first year of his career (Bayān-e farsī 4:18, p. 148). Divided into 111 sūras (each devoted to a verse of the sūra Yūsof), this is a work of some 400 pages composed in a style similar to that of the Koran. It is described as having been sent down by God to the Hidden Imam and subsequently revealed by him to the Bāb (for details, see MacEoin From Shaykhism to Babism: A study in Charismatic Renewal in Shiʿi Islam, Ph.D. dissertation, Cambridge University, 1979, p. 159). Early copies, dated 1845 and 1846, are extant in Haifa and Tehran.

The Bāb penned several shorter works during the year between the announcement of his claims in May, 1844, and his return to Būšehr from the ḥajj in May, 1845. There has been confusion as to what these works were, but they can be identified from detailed references in the Ketāb al-fehrest, written by the Bāb in Būšehr in Jomādā II, 1261/June, 1845. This short work lists the Doʿā-ye ṣaḥīfa, Ṣaḥīfa bayn al-ḥaramayn, Tafsīr besmellāh, Ketāb al-rūḥ, Ṣaḥīfat aʿmāl al-sana, thirty-eight letters to individuals, twelve ḵoṭbas delivered on the ḥajj journey, and replies to forty-one questions. The titles are also given of several works stolen in February, 1845, between Medina and Jedda. The Doʿā-ya ṣaḥīfa seems to have been contemporary with the Qayyūm al-asmāʾ and may be referred to in it (fol. 67b). It is also known as the Ṣaḥīfa-ye maḵzūna and contains fourteen prayers for use on specific days or festivals; at least seven mss. are extant. The Ṣaḥīfa bayn al-ḥaramayn was written between Mecca and Medina for Mīrzā Moḥīṭ Kermānī and Sayyed ʿAlī Kermānī, two leading Shaikhis from Karbalāʾ also on the ḥajj. Only about 100 short pages long, it is an unsystematic collection of replies to questions together with prayers; it contains a particularly interesting passage detailing the daily routine of the seeker (sālek; pp. 66-84). Several mss. are extant, including two dated 1261/1845, in Haifa and Tehran. Several mss. exist of a Tafsīr ḥorūf al-besmellāh, which appears to be identical with the Tafsīr besmellāh referred to and which is a short allegorical commentary. The Ketāb al-rūḥ, composed at sea on the return journey from the ḥajj, was highly regarded by the Bāb, who described it as “the greatest of all books” (Māzandarānī, Asrār IV, p. 44); it was seized at the time of the Bāb’s arrest in June, 1845, and thrown into a well in Shiraz, from which it was later rescued in a seriously damaged condition. Some five incomplete mss. are in existence. It is said to have consisted originally of 700 sūras (Ketāb al-fehrest). The Ṣaḥīfat aʿmāl al-sana seems to have been written in Būšehr after the Bāb’s return from the ḥajj, between May and June, 1845. It contains fourteen sections interspersed with unnumbered sections and deals with the observances and prayers for important dates in the Muslim calendar. Only two mss. of this breviary are known to exist. Not mentioned by name in the Ketāb al-fehrest is another work composed during the ḥajj, the Ḵasāʾel-e sabʿa, which includes seven interesting but scarcely radical rules prescribed for the Bāb’s followers at this juncture. It is known to the present writer only through quotations in later works, but at least one ms. appears to exist in private hands.


Read the rest of this article online at www.iranica.com/articles/bayan-declaration-elucidation-term-applied-to-the-writings-of-the-bab.

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