But if Goethe was right to assert that when we cultivate
our virtues, we at the same time cultivate our faults, and if, as everyone
knows, a hypertrophied virtue--such as the historical sense of our age
appears to be--can ruin a nation just as effectively as a hypertrophied
vice: then there can be no harm in indulging me for this
-Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Uses and the
Disadvantages of History for Life, foreword. [*]
The French Revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate. It evoked
ancient Rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the past.
Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, XIV.
The Babi movement, established in 1844 in Persia by Siyyid Ali
Muhammad, entitled the Bab (the Gate), is known in contemporary
historiography as a messianic movement aimed at the transformation of
a society conditioned by Twelver Shiism and a land governed by the corrupt
despotic rule of the Qajar dynasty.
Persisting a mere decade, owing in part to an extensive and comprehensive
persecution of its membership by the Shiih clergy and the Qajar despot's
representatives, the movement affected a variety of sectors in Persian
society. In contemporary historiography, the Babi movement is, however,
chiefly renowned for its egalitarianism and particularly for its impact on
the status of women in Iran. This is perhaps because of the public
visibility of one of the Babi movement's female leaders, the poetess
Qurrat al- 'Ayn - Tahirih.
The vast majority of the Bab's early followers, including Qurrat
al-'Ayn, were learned scholars in Shiih Islamic jurisprudence and the
Islamic traditions. The Bab's followers, each in their own particular way,
accepted his social and religious teachings and acknowledged his ultimate
claim to be the return of the twelfth Imam -- a figure important to the
constitution of Twelver Shiism in Islam. After the Bab's cruel murder,
most of the Babis who survived the ensuing fierce attacks by the clergy
and the government forces, acknowledged the claims of the prophet-founder
of the Bahá'i Faith -- Bahá'u'lláh and recognized him as the
successor of the Bab.
The manner in which the term 'Babi' gained currency as a way to
denote a peculiar kind of modernity in common parlance in late
nineteenth century to early twentieth century Iran is no less worthy of
note. For as derogatory as its resonances were, they seem to be imbedded,
more often than not, within a context of sartorial innovation. The term
'Babi', was used as a stereotypic attachment to any gesture of resistance
to traditional Shiih Islamic values. It was a simplification, of course,
and like most stereotypes, an arrested and fixed type of representation
that masqueraded in an untold carnival of images of foreignness, of
modernist innovation, of nihilism and of irreligiosity.  As such this stereotype was a memory in
miniature constructed on the basis of events that took place at a specific
time in Persian history in which the Babi movement emerged, while
simultaneously detached, reformulated, and recovered to illuminate other
times and places. One may along with historian Huchang Chehabi speculate
on the role played by the Babi poetess Qurrat al-Ayn's public unveiling at
the Babi conference in Badasht in the association between sartorial
innovation and heresy. 
The Babi conference in Badasht was held in the summer of 1848.
Although significant in history as a moment that designates Babism's
complete break with Islam, it has received little focused attention in
contemporary Iranian historiography. This is perhaps due to the lack of
consistent information on the specifics of the gathering.
One can relate this paucity of detail in the early renditions of
the Badasht conference to the way in which some of the particulars of the
proceedings were perceived by the conference participants. Significantly,
to be sure, the occasion of Qurrat al-Ayn's unveiled appearance recorded
in Nabil's Narrative as recollected by Shaykh Abu Turab. Female
unveiling in the public sphere before the turn of the century in Iran was
not only rare, but for a Shiih populace such as that assembled in Badasht,
it was a gesture of relentless revolt. For that reason alone, perhaps, the
act was perceived as unseemly for a comely woman who was venerated as an
emblem of purity and infallibility among the followers of the Bab.
In this paper I will attempt to unpack the function of revolutions
as forces that introduce discontinuity in history, problematizing thereby
the writing of a comprehensive and continuous history. More specifically,
I address the ways in which the Babi revolt in Badasht introduced a
rupture in Islamic history. Pried open by the unveiled appearance of
Qurrat al-Ayn in the public and male domain of the Badasht gardens, I will
argue, the historical discourses on Islamic space are reconfigured and
disarticulated, affecting the very heart of Islamic notions of selfhood
and identity. By positioning the reading of this moment of unveiling on
the problematic figure of Shaykh Abu Turab in Nabil's Narrative, I
will discuss how the necessary configuration of human agency in an
effective history reintroduces continuity into the historicity of revolt.
In doing so, human agency problematizes the relation between the
discontinuous character of revolutions and the "patient and continuous"
development of history.
Foucault, Genealogy and Effective History.
Writing in 1971 Michel Foucault elaborated his position on
traditional historiographic practices in an homage to his mentor Jean
Hyppolite in an essay called "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History". In
formulating his thoughts about the direction of his own historiographic
practice, Foucault refers to Nietzsche's conception of genealogy as an
effective history. Drawing on Nietzsche's uses of the notion of origin,
Foucault maintains that the foundation of any event depends not on a
single originary gesture, but on a discontinuous multitude of events and
attitudes for its emergence. History writing therefore must take a second
look at the bedrock for its claims. For if events are not formed on the
basis of continuous progress and development, historiography can in no way
support its current practice which purports to be a dry affirmation of
facts and figures, which merely recognize specific originary moments and
mirror them so to enable mankind's rediscovery of a lost and uniform
The traditional devices for constructing a comprehensive view
of history and for retracing the past as a patient and continuous
development must be systematically dismantled. Necessarily, we must
dismiss those tendencies that encourage the consoling play of
recognitions. Knowledge even under the banner of history, does not depend
on "rediscovery," and it emphatically excludes the "rediscovery of
ourselves." History becomes "effective" to the degree that it introduces
discontinuity into our very being-- as it divides our emotions, dramatizes
our instincts, multiplies our body and sets it against itself. Effective
history deprives the self of the reassuring stability of life and nature,
and it will not permit itself to be transported by a voiceless obstinacy
toward a millennial ending. It will uproot traditional foundations and
relentlessly disrupt its pretended continuity. This is because knowledge
is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting.
The writing of history, then, must take on new forms. Forms that
question in their very conception, notions of the unitary subject, that
interrogate the affirmations of stability at the base of nature and
culture, and that disrupt practices preoccupied with the tracing of
uninterrupted progress in human history. An effective history must
therefore question the unity of authorship and authority behind the
formulation of cultural life, because it recognizes chance as the
originator of intent. Effective history thereby cuts any notion of
continuity at the heart of tradition.
Shaykh Abu Turab's recollections of the unveiled Babi poetess
Qurrat al-Ayn's appearance in a garden in Badasht emerge as significant
when measured in the balance of this historical force field. For in their
very formulation, these recollections introduce a rupture within the
traditional historical Islamic discourses on space. --Spatial discourses
which purport to be the very foundation for Islamic notions of selfhood
It is precisely on the basis of Abu Turab's recollections that we
can argue that the Babi revolt at the Badasht Conference constituted an
event which in Foucault's own formulations was neither "a decision," "a
treaty," "a reign," or "a battle," but "the reversal of forces," "the
usurpation of power," "the appropriation of a vocabulary turned against
those who once used it" and ironically, "the entry of a masked 'other',"
into the realm of traditional history. 
The Babi Revolt in Badasht.
The Babi Conference in Badasht was held for three weeks between
June and July of 1848. Quddus, one of the first people to join the Babi
movement and his companions (who were among the Conference's participants)
had intended on raising the Black Standard in Mashhad.  They were, however, forced out of the city
of Mashhad due to heightened anti-Babi fervor and were wandering on
horseback in the North Eastern corner of Iran. Qurrat al-Ayn and her
companions, traveling from Tehran, were on their way to the region of
Khurasan to join Quddus' forces and to ride under the Black Standard. They
met the group of wandering Babis en route on the Mazandaran-Khurasan road
and from all accounts decided to change their destination. Despite the
turn of events the two groups joined and decided to rent three gardens in
which they could contemplate their fate and review a range of questions
regarding the identity of the movement and its future strategy.
The group's charismatic leader Siyyid Ali Muhammad-surnamed the
Bab-had claimed (in 1844) to be "the Gate" to the Qa'im who would usher
forth a new era in religious history. Due to his claim, which
traditionally would imply the imminent relinquishment of power by both the
Shiih clergy and the Qajar dynasty, the Bab was imprisoned by the
authorities in a remote castle-prison in Azarbaijan. The prime agenda of
this group of eighty-one Babis, therefore, was the plight of the Bab. They
were anxious to find a way to rescue him. Any effort in this direction,
however, was contingent on a plan of future action. "Moderation and
prudence in the face of mounting hostility, radical Babis argued, could
lead only to further suffering. Yet the final Insurrection against the
forces of oppression would materialize only if the Qa'im made his advent
unequivocally apparent." This raised the
question of the Bab's precise claim and the nature of his mission. Who
was the Bab? Was he the Qa'im--the Messiah who they had been expecting for
hundreds of years? Was his message a rejuvenation of the Islamic truth?
Or did he intend to establish a new and independent religion? These
pressing questions, unrelated to the question of loyalty to the Founder,
were meant to establish the status of the movement and the identity of its
Of the three gardens, one was assigned to the famous poetess and
Babi leader Qurrat al- Ayn --surnamed Tahirih (The Pure One) at the
Conference. The second was assigned to Quddus. The third garden a man
later known by the title Bahá', who had rented the properties, reserved
for himself. The rest of the
participants camped on the grounds surrounding these Babi leaders.
The narratives and histories of the events differ slightly in the
manner in which the events took place. Most agree on the following points:
1) that the poet/leader Qurrat al-Ayn appeared unveiled before the
conference participants ; 2) that she
argued for a definite break with the tradition of Islam; 3) that confusion
and contention followed, leading to the denial of Faith on the part of
several of the participants; and 4) that the gathering effected the
further development of the movement and affected a radical change in the
rituals and actions undertaken by its participants.
Qurrat al-Ayn, the poetess, took on the leading role at the
conference, arguing for a definitive break with the old Islamic
traditions. Some sources maintain that Quddus rejected her as a radical
and "the author of heresy". She, on the other hand, questioned Quddus'
claims to leadership, having failed to raise the banner of Babi revolt in
Mashad.  This radical split between
the two leaders is claimed by most parties to have determined the dynamics
of the Badasht Conference.
Shaykh Abu Turab recollects: Qurrat al-Ayn's unveiling.
Shaykh Abu-Turab, who the Babi historian Nabil introduces as the
"best-informed as to the nature of the developments in Badasht," is
reported to have related the following incidents:
Illness, one day confined Bahá'u'llah to His bed.
Quddus, as soon as he heard of His indisposition, hastened to visit Him...
The rest of the companions were gradually admitted to His presence and
grouped themselves around Him. No sooner had they assembled than...the
messenger of [Qurrat al-Ayn]...suddenly came in and conveyed to Quddus a
pressing invitation from [Qurrat al-Ayn] to visit her in her own garden.
'I have severed myself entirely from her,' he boldly and decisively
replied. I refuse to meet her.'
...[S]uddenly the figure of [Qurrat al-Ayn ], adorned and unveiled
appeared before the eyes of the assembled companions. Consternation
immediately seized the entire gathering. All stood aghast before this
sudden and most unexpected apparition. To behold her face unveiled was to
them inconceivable. Even to gaze at her shadow was a thing which they
deemed improper, inasmuch as they regarded her as the incarnation of
Fatimih, the noblest emblem of chastity in their eyes...That sudden
revelation seemed to have stunned their faculties. [One of the
participants] was so gravely shaken that he cut his throat with his own
hands. Covered with blood and shrieking with excitement, he fled away from
the face of [Qurrat al-Ayn]. A few, following his example, abandoned their
companions and forsook their Faith...
Historians fascinated by the cite/sight of Qurrat al-Ayn's
unveiled appearance have either applauded this gesture as the originary
moment of women's liberation in Iran or in absolute disgust for this act
of heresy claimed this gesture to be the foundation for, as well as the
fundamental proof of, the deserved ill repute and false motives of the
Babi movement. Seldom have they stayed in the garden to witness what
Shaykh Abu Turab claims to have followed. Nabil's informant goes on to
report that Qurrat al-Ayn who had seated herself next to Quddus:
...rose from her seat and, undeterred by the tumult that she
had raised in the hearts of her companions began to address the remnant of
the assembly. Without the least premeditation, and in language that bore
striking resemblance to that of the Qur'an, she delivered her appeal with
matchless eloquence and profound fervor. She concluded her address with
this verse from the Qu'ran: 'Verily, amid gardens and rivers shall the
pious dwell in the seat of truth, in the presence of the potent King.' ... Immediately after, she declared: 'I
am the Word which the Qá'im is to utter, the Word which shall put
to flight the chiefs and nobles of the earth.'
The Shaykh's lucid recollection of the moment of Qurrat al-Ayn's
usurpation of power is unequaled in the annals of early Babi
historiography. Yet, before I go on to discuss the specific ways in which
I think this recollection of the events at Badasht "cuts" (to paraphrase
Foucault) our knowledge of Islamic history and disarms its notion of a
unified subjectivity as well as its sense of historical continuity, I
would like to briefly discuss the Islamic discourses on space and their
effects on the historiography of the Islamic garden. For it is against
these practices, I will argue, that Qurrat al-Ayn's radical critique is
Islam and Spatiality.
It is said that in the early days of the religion of Islam the
Prophet Muhammad used space and orientation as a way to establish the
fundamental nature of Islam. He did this first to distinguish his new born
revelation from paganisms by aligning the new religion with other extant
monotheistic religions. Every day he would turn in prayer towards
Jerusalem -- the Qibla of Judaism and Christianity. For the followers of
the new religion this corporal gesture became a sign of difference from
the surrounding religious practices, affiliating the religion of Islam
through the orientation of the body in space with the other two
monotheistic religions. Then one day, it is said, his followers realized
that he no longer was turning in that direction, but that he now was
turning towards Mecca, changing the direction of his prayer in order to
establish the unique and independent nature of Islam within the context of
monotheism. Spatiality thus gained
relevance for the identity of the pious Muslim through these doctrinal and
ritual practices of the body.
Spatial practices in most Islamic countries today function
similarly to constitute a national and a personal identity. They are
enforced as doctrines or laws to distinguish the realm of the public from
the private. Spatial discourses directly superimpose the differential
place of women and men upon this private/public split. These practices are
significantly and hermeneutically linked to the verse 53 of sura 33 of the
Qur'an on the issue of the hijab which in Arabic literally means to
hide something from sight, to separate or establish a threshold or to
forbid.  Thus linked, the verse of the
hijab is construed as a prohibition that concerns space, and is
more commonly associated with the practice of veiling.
Verse 53 of sura 33 of the Qur'an reads as follows:
O ye who believe! Enter not the dwelling of the Prophet for a
meal without waiting for the proper time, unless permission be granted
you. But if ye are invited, enter, and, when your meal is ended, then
disperse. Linger not for conversation. Lo! that would cause annoyance to
the Prophet, and he would be shy of (asking) you (to go); but Allah is not
shy of the truth. And when ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet)
anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. This is purer for your
hearts and for their hearts.
Traditionally, when the question of the relevance of a certain
verse arises, Islamic scholars turn towards memory or recollection. The Hadith have constituted this memory
for posterity through the (re)collection of the various stories told by
the associates and the family of the Prophet. Among the thousands of these
Hadith there is one significant story which relates to the Qur'anic
verse on the question of veiling and which, according to the Moroccan
feminist scholar Fatima Mernissi, gets lost in the shuffle. This
misplacement, which should more relevantly be called "dissimulation"
(because of the word's close association with the act of veiling), has
instituted a rather skewed impression of the context of the verse, and
suggested that the Prophet ordered the separation of the sexes with it. The political and cultural context for
the descent of the verse on the hijab as constituted by
al-Bukhari's version of Anas' recollections of this incident would prove
such a view far from the mark.
The Prophet's Wedding Night: the institution of the veil.
In his collection of Hadiths, the historian Al-Bukhari writes that
on the night when he celebrated his marriage to Zaynab, the Prophet
Muhammad became frustrated with his guests. The whole city of Medina had
been invited to the celebrations and despite the show of impatience on the
part of the Prophet, the guests would not leave. Finally, standing on the
threshold of the wedding chamber he recited the verse of the hijab
(quoted above), while drawing a curtain between himself and his companion,
Anas.  In effect this act of drawing
the curtain not only separated the space between the sublime and the
profane (the space between the Prophet and his disciples), but also the
space between two men. This act and the verse of the hijab ,
situated above all the identity of the two men as separate and established
a hierarchical division of power between the two through a spatial
In the period that followed, the verse revealed on the Prophet's
wedding night became a handy tool for a confused community in civil war in
Medina. The wedding of Zaynab and the Prophet took place during a period
of instability in which the Prophet attempted to gain a foothold in
Medina. The Muslims were constantly under attack by the surrounding
community and it was obvious that one of the most powerful ways to weaken
an already unsettled community was through attacking the Muslim women. The
verse of the hijab gave the Muslim community a solution to a whole
network of problems.  The act of
veiling was introduced into the Muslim community as a way to distinguish
between the wives of the Prophet (to whom the Medinese were forced to show
respect) and the female slaves.
Veiling, then, derived from the act of drawing the curtain between two
men, was introduced into the Muslim community in Medina as a sign of
hierarchical differentiation, now between women. In the midst of
civil war, the wives of the Prophet adopted the veil to protect themselves
from molestation and the community from vigilant attacks.
During this war, the streets of Medina, i.e. public space, became
male space and if women of higher status wanted to enter into this space,
they were to do this on the condition that they pull a piece of clothing
over their heads and bodies.
Mernissi argues that the institution of this act in the Medinese
period marked the beginning of women's repression in Islam-- a religion
which from its inception was an egalitarian community. To agree with her on this point, one
would have to disregard the more recent history of Muslim women, who in
the struggle for independence in the Algerian War of Independence
(1954-62) and in the struggle against imperialism in Iran during the
Islamic Revolution (1978-79) chose to don the veil as a gesture of
difference from the West. In other words they chose to veil as a gesture
that would position them against the perceived "repression" of colonial
and imperialist power. 
So, rather than argue that the veil is essentially repressive on
the one hand or essentially liberating on other hand, I would suggest
based on this reading of history, that the verse of the hijab
revealed on the Prophet's wedding night entered into an apparatus of power
and knowledge. It did so as a point of communal identity at a restless
moment in Islamic history. The female body was construed as the
focal-point of this identity. As such it was given the task to protect the
Muslim communal identity by protecting its own. Islamic identity was thus
constituted on a problematic rupture divided on this body's gendered split
between nature and culture-and again on its historically hierarchized
social divide- a body culturally constituted as vulnerable and perceived
as naturally harmful. Having entered
into the apparatus of power and knowledge at this level, the verse of the
hijab marked a problem for closure within Islamic discourses on
space. Its fluctuations within the contending recollections/knowledges
that surrounded it and the political discourses that activated it, further
problematized the constitution of a unified and continuous Islamic
identity despite all efforts to construe it as otherwise. The veil as a
representation of this fragmented identity came to function both
positively and negatively within the dynamics of power. As a point of
identity it became an arena of constant struggle and domination for the
future Muslim communities. It functioned therefore as a screen behind
which the mysterious, the feared and the stereotypical and sexually potent
Muslim female figure could lay dormant, always ready to erupt into the
uncertain domain of the public.
Space and its gendered partitioning, as we have already observed,
is fundamental in several ways to both the doctrine and the practice of
Islam. Before we return to the discussion of its disarticulation in the
gardens of Badasht, I would like to move our attention to a consideration
of a particularly potent public space which has for centuries fired the
imagination of indigenous Muslim poets and geographers alike. This is the
space of the garden.
The Islamic Garden.
We can imagine that in the context of the ecological conditions of
the area "conquered" by Islamic thought, the garden could be seen as a way
to ameliorate the often life-denying, arid and monotonous conditions of
the land. People of high and low economic status incorporated a
life-sustaining oasis, into their own properties, carefully sheltered away
with a wall in order to (one can only assume) shut out the hustle-bustle
and odors of the city. This is clearly depicted, even if we only cast a
passing glance on the various collections of images that have been handed
down through Mogul arts, and ancient Persian miniatures and carpets. It
would seem, from a cursory study of the vegetal imagery introduced into
the carpet tradition during the Abbasid period in Iran, that the garden
was so greatly valued that it was important to construct a never-fading
image of it onto a transportable medium such as the carpet. This would
introduce the garden's verdant quality to interior spaces.
A brief study the life style and practices of the Iranian
nobility, as depicted especially by the grand narratives of royal history
and Iranian (mystical) poetry, may allow us to reach similar conclusions.
We learn that gardens were always incorporated into the structures of
dynastic residences for the pleasure and traditional rituals of the ruling
class. These tales situate the royal garden as a site of romance and
hedonistic pleasure, and as spaces where the king would hold court and
celebrate his weddings. In allegories of the garden, the space of the
garden represents and activates the dynast's dreams, desires and
nightmares. The garden not only enables his daily and ritual activities it
is an integral part of his physical and phantasmagoric realities.
Traditional historiographic practice claims the garden's main
function to be the spatial reflection of the Paradise of the Qur'an. Its
structure in the form of the Persian Chahar Bagh, for example, is said to
directly represent the Garden of paradise described by the Prophet
Muhammad himself in this following verse:
And besides these shall be two gardens,
therein two fountains of gushing water
and palm-trees and pomegranates
therein maidens good and comely...
houris, cloistered in cool pavilions...
This description of Paradise is regularly interrupted by the refrain:
"O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you
thereby giving room for detailed attempts to figure out a geography of
Paradise in the form of two times two gardens, a quadrangular layout of
many royal Persian gardens called the Chahar Bagh -- "Four Gardens."
Echoing theocratic narratives, historians of the garden return to
similar Qur'anic verses about Paradise as a source that unquestionably
situates the origin and the homogenous nature of the Islamic garden for
all time. Historians of the Islamic garden place the garden in the grand
narrative of Muslim life and attribute its very structure and continuity
to the authority of the Prophet.
What is sorely missing from these historical accounts is a sense
of discontinuity and change that leaves open to further research the
construal of a variety of other influences in the making of the material
paradise on earth: considerations for irrigation and traditional
horticultural practices are examples of these. Other considerations for
instance for the ease of hunting, for aesthetics and architecture may also
be the reasons behind the garden's present form. What is denied in the
traditional historical analyses of the Islamic garden, then, is an
analytics of the social and historical contexts which may signal
various sources of authorship and historical influence, not to mention
deeply embedded pre-Islamic associations with the garden and its beauties,
as external conditions for the emergence of such a discourse.
The Prophet's Wedding Chamber and the Gardens of Badasht.
It is precisely against this kind of historiography that assumes a
"suprahistorical" perspective and discourse that I have launched Shaykh
Abu Turab's memory of the revolt in Badasht. The event, or rather, the critical
practice I attribute to it, presupposes four methodological principles
identified by Michel Foucault in his 1970 inaugural lecture at the College
de France "The Order of Discourse" : the principle of reversal, wherein
the origin, tradition and authority of the Islamic discourse on space is
put into question; the principle of discontinuity, which recognizes the
discontinuity of discursive practices on space, their crossing,
juxtaposition and exclusion; the principle of specificity which recognizes
the violence of discourse done on things -- here Islamic space; and
finally the principle of exteriority which identifies the external
conditions of possibility for such a discourse.
In my reading, Shaykh Abu Turab's recollections of the proceedings
of the Badasht Conference are remarkable, because they situate, for the
first time in close to twelve centuries, a female unveiled in Islamic
public space. Beyond this, they are remarkable, because of the place that
they claim that such an event took place, and finally because of the
striking rhetoric that is associated with this provocative gesture in a
Although twelve centuries apart, (al-Bukhari's version of) Anas'
recollections of the event of the descent of the verse of the hijab
on the threshold of the Prophet's wedding chamber and Shaykh Abu Turab's
recollections of the moment of Qurrat al- Ayn's unveiling in the gardens
of Badasht have similar although inverse effects in their appropriation by
traditional historical practice. Whereas in the case of the Prophet
Muhammad the rhetoric, that is the Qur'anic verse, is preserved in
historical memory over and above the act of drawing a curtain between two
men; in the case of Badasht, the act of a female's unveiled appearance,
rather than Qurrat al-Ayn's powerful address, is remembered.
In the case of one, the preservation of the word enabled the
opportunity for men to regain control over the liberated woman folk of
Mecca and Medina, while in the case of the other, the act of unveiling was
seized as a figurative construct that would reinforce the Babi discourse
on equality.  Both of these
historiographic practices, though dealing with events that are separated
by many centuries, are examples of the ways in which discourse is a
violence done to things. A critical stance against this kind of discursive
violence is evident in Qurrat al-Ayn's own rhetorical practices as
recollected by Shaykh Abu Turab.
The Order of Discourse.
If we consider the gestures and rhetorics that are said to have
occurred at Badasht together as a co-determining whole, we are struck by
the recognition and the awareness Qurrat al-Ayn herself professed of the
place in which she spoke, not only as a public space that is exclusively
reserved as a male domain, but also as the space of the garden which for
centuries has been associated with the space of the Islamic paradise. In
sustaining this recognition, I will propose that the gesture of unveiling
by Qurrat al-Ayn signaled a critical analytics on two fronts and an
acknowledgment of a violence done to space by discourse on two levels:
On the one hand we see that in the simple act of appropriating the
Qur'anic verse, "Amongst gardens and rivers..." Qurrat al-Ayn's speech
acknowledged the structural imposition of the discourse of the Qur'anic
Paradise on the space of the garden. On the other, her appearance unveiled
in a traditional public domain questioned the imposition of Islamic
territorial partitioning upon an otherwise undifferentiated public space.
In both cases she questioned the structural imposition of a so-called
Islamic discourse on space. Her use of Qur'anic language at once supported
the authority of the Qur'an while simultaneously undoing its meaning
through a specifically gendered mode of enunciation in the public
sphere. She thus appropriated a vocabulary and "turned it against those
who had once used it." In this act of appropriation Qurrat al-Ayn
effectively resituated paradise and hell on earth. She did so by
suggesting that those sitting in the garden in that very tent, were
the pious assembled before the potent King. In her speech and action
Qurrat al-Ayn thus, reintroduced human agency within the context of
history and positioned authority and change within the realm of human
activity. She questioned thereby the contiguous character of historical
unfolding prefigured and guided by a Divine hand.
Qurrat al-Ayn's address at Badasht questioned the homogenous unity
established as the source of authorship of the Islamic garden and of the
social division of space. In other words, her speech and her act of
unveiling in the public domain reconfigured the disjunction between the
doer and the deed --a disjunction which ironically presupposes a
continuity between the Author of Islam and "his" work/people on earth.
Put differently, whereas before it had been a given that it was Allah's
will that Islamic space was to be divided by the believers into two
territories, and that the garden should be divided into four, to reflect
Qur'anic Paradise, Qurrat al-Ayn's action and speech now clearly posited
human activity as the external condition of possibility for spatial
discourse in Islam. Human activity was the only party responsible for this
Because of the imbrication of spatiality and veiling in Islam, one
can additionally say that if she could unveil despite the so called
injunction to veil (exemplified by the appropriation of the Qur'anic
verse), then others could appropriate the veil without that injunction in
mind. Human activity alone could therefore be held responsible for the
construal of a gendered space and the constitution and the authorship of
the garden as the Qur'anic paradise.
Her act and her speech introduced a disjunction between the
Islamic discourses on space, "cutting" them off from their assumed
Qur'anic injunctions. Qurrat al-Ayn thus situated the deed and doer within
the same discursive matrix. In effect her gesture and speech proposed the
possibility of a reversal in the meaning of that space through the force
of rhetorical and practical juxtaposition. The garden previously regarded
as the space of paradisical and poetical musings, was thus redressed as a
space of activity and resistance.
Her appearance unveiled in the public and gendered space of the
garden also questioned the hierarchical structure imposed on the space of
the garden as space of piety as well as that of nobility. In questioning
this hierarchical structure Qurrat al- 'Ayn claimed that her presence in
the garden as the word spoken by the Qa'im would put to flight "the chiefs
and nobles of the earth". Although physically unveiled her speech
re-veiled her (so to speak) as the Word spoken by the Qa'im himself, the
charismatic leader who according to Shi'ite tradition was to abrogate the
Islamic Sharia (law) and establish the reign of a new era in religious and
political history. Her gesture thus introduced a "foreign other" into the
realm dominated by the rhetorics of authority and power formerly
attributed to her sexual counterpart. As such she launched a frontal
attack on (Islamic) hierarchical and other-worldly discourse, introducing
human activity as the only basis for social progress.
In the days that followed this historical speech each of the
participants at the conference took on a new name whereby signaling their
rebirth into a new era in time. Then, as if to acknowledge Qurrat al-Ayn's
gesture, the participants discarded their prayer rugs which by its design
orients the pietistic body towards Mecca and broke their prayer seals,
equating them to idols in a gesture not unlike Muhammad's when he, in the
Holy City, tried to convey the definite break with an era of paganistic
devotion by destroying the objects of idol worship. The space of Islam was
confronted by a discourse of antagonism at the Badasht Conference, thereby
creating the conditions for a new discourse on space and a new era in
(religious) history. 
Shaykh Abu Turab's recollections.
By positioning my own historiographic intervention (in the Islamic
discourses on space) on Shaykh Abu Turab's recollections of the events
that took place at the Badasht Conference, I have been able to reconstruct
a consistent, continuous, and antagonistic portrait of a revolutionary
movement that through the gestures and words of one of its renowned female
representatives 'introduced discontinuity into the life of the Islamic
mind'. In appropriating these recollections, I have been able to argue
that the Babi movement (read through the moment of its self-recognition in
Badasht) was a revolutionary movement, that 'cut' our knowledge of Islamic
history, disarmed its notion of a unified subjectivity and questioned its
sense of historical continuity in the figure of the authorial Word of its
Prophet. Ironically, this claim was only possible by the appropriation of
an undivided subjectivity informed by Shaykh Abu Turab's recollections of
For if we look at other accounts of Qurrat al-Ayn, there is reason
to believe that matters are not as straight forward as they seem. The
British Orientalist Edward Browne's collections of various historical
materials suggest that in one of his conversation with a well-known Babi
it was remarked that Qurrat al-Ayn never intentionally took off the
veil. Browne comments that if he
can remember the conversation correctly, this Babi responded to the
question of Qurrat al-Ayn's discarding of the veil in the following
It is not true that she laid aside the veil. Sometimes when
carried away by her eloquence, she allowed it to slip down off her face,
but she would always replace it after a few moments.
Nabil's Narrative, Agency and Effective History.
The positioning of my historiography of the Babi revolt in Badasht
on the recollections of Abu Turab is rather precarious in the context of
Babi history, since no one seems to elaborate on who Abu Turab is. Browne
suggests that Abu Turab was one of the earliest disciples of the Bab and
that he was married to one of Qurrat al-Ayn's female students, a woman of
"extraordinary virtue and piety" Nabil
on the other hand introduces Abu Turab as a Shaykhi who never really
acknowledged the Bab's claims until much later in the Bab's career. According to Nabil he apparently died in
the Tehran prison where he was held captive with some well known Babi
leaders including Bahá'u'lláh.  There
appears to be no other reference to Turab anywhere else.
To add more complexity to the matter, Abu Turab seemingly plays
the most insignificant role in the grand and at times grotesque
history of the Babi movement as presented in Nabil's Narrative. He
appears only four times in the more than seventy years of history narrated
by Nabil. Once as the chronicler of the Badasht conference, a second time as Qurrat al-Ayn's body
guard after the Conference , a third
time as the harbinger of glad tidings at Shaykh Tabarsi , and finally as a character witness
against Haji Mirza Karim Khan Kirmani in his recollections of Siyyid
It this the latter moment that I would like to pause and reflect
on since here, once again, Abu Turab's unfailing recollections are drawn
upon to elucidate a critical situation. In Nabil's historiography, Abu Turab's
recollection of Karim Khan is brought into the picture only paragraphs
before Siyyid Kazim Rashti's death is characterized. This is obviously a
moment that if not negotiated carefully would create a potential crisis
for Babism's legitimacy as a religious movement.
Siyyid Kazim was known as the religious leader of the Shaykhi
school, a heterodoxy of Shi'ih Islam situated in Karbala (Iraq). According
to most accounts, the Bab's initial claims of Mahdihood were directed at
Siyyid Kazim's students, many of whom accepted it after the teacher's
death and became active participants in the movement. Shaykh Abu Turab is claimed to be one of
Siyyid Kazim's prominent students who late in the Bab's career accepted
the latter's claim to Mahdihood. Qurrat al-Ayn and Quddus were among other
students who accepted this claim.
Siyyid Kazim had, according to most sources, for years taught the
Return of the Twelfth Imam and prepared his students to investigate this
claim were it to occur in their life time. In 1844, when the Bab
proclaimed his mission a great many of Siyyid Kazim's students recognized
this claim. In effect the Bab took on "the successorship" of the Shaykhi
school after the teacher's death.
The positioning of Abu Turab's recollection in the context of
Nabil's historiography becomes clear, if we consider the role played by
the third party ( Haji Mirza Karim Khan Kirmani) of this recollection in
relation to the development of the Babi movement. Karim Khan, another
prominent student's of Siyyid Kazim, left the Shaykhi school some years
before the death of its leader (Siyyid Kazim) and established himself in
Kirman where he started his own branch of the school (called the Kirmani
school). Although familiar with the Bab's claims, Kirmani whole-heartedly
rejected the Bab and was for years involved in the agitation of the
remainder of Siyyid Kazim's students against the Bab and his followers.
Abu Turab's recollections, situated (in textual terms) only
moments before Siyyid Kazim's death in Nabil's Narrative give his
words a highly charged task: to recall a moment in which Siyyid Kazim
rejects his own student, Karim Khan. In Abu Turab's recollection of this
conversation Siyyid Kazim is said to have referred to Karim Khan as one
"accursed," whose doctrines are "heretical" and "atheistic" and "who has
grievously erred in his judgment". 
Abu Turab's recollection of this conversation with his own teacher can be
read as a self-serving character assassination. But its strategic
positioning at a crisis point in Nabil's historiography, clearly situates
its contents in a historiographic place that rids the reader of any doubt
as to the successorship of Siyyid Kazim before the historical crisis even
occurs (in historiographic terms). For Nabil, Abu Turab's recollections
situate the necessary continuity of his narrative of the Babi movement's
revolutionary history and its legitimacy.
But why is this important? What relevance does this textual
positioning have for a revolutionary history that relentlessly posits
human agency as the driving force of social progress, and that uses
strategy in the face of chance to disrupt the foundations of Islamic
thought through introducing discontinuity in history?
Abu Turab's character role, although infinitesimal in Nabil's
narration of Babism revolutionary history, is played on a measured field
of continuity and discontinuity. Abu Turab's recollections of Badasht in
the Narrative launch an account of the movement's discontinuity
with Islamic traditions and values, forcing a break between Islam and
Babism in the figure of the Conference. Turab's recollections of Qurrat
al-Ayn's actions and words in Badasht, much like his portrayed role as her
body guard after the Conference suture the necessary subjectivity that
would then posit human agency and action up against the "scrambled"
identity of Islam. His recollection thus situates a continuous
subjectivity against the decrepit identity that is Islam's. (The
Conference participant's collective appropriation of new names, we should
note, is important in the configuration of this identity.) For Nabil, this
still leaves the question of the movement's legitimacy unanswered.
In drawing on Abu Turab's recollections, Nabil situates the Babi
movement's legitimacy in Siyyid Kazim's rejection of his pupil Karim Khan.
He does this more importantly before the teacher's death. Indeed, through
this rejection and almost fortuitously he posits the Bab as the legitimate
claimant to Siyyid Kazim's successorship. Thus creating through Abu
Turab's memory, a continuity between the two schools of thought.
Legitimacy is thus established in the face of every claim directed at the
movement from it opponents.
The figure of Abu Turab must be seen as a problematic one, then.
Divided on the juncture between insignificance and infinite signification;
split on the critical line dividing continuity and change; and called upon
to bear witness to the movement's legitimacy and Qurrat al-Ayn's
illegitimate gesture, Abu Turab represents the figure of the Babi movement
as such. For as Fischer and Abedi remark the Babi movement as a
revolutionary movement was a "mixture of progressive ideas and initiatives
and reactionary theocratic ones" often encountered on a rhetorical level
(at least) within the body of Islamic and especially Shiih heterodoxies.
If we are to rely to some extent on the implicit mirror that I
have placed between the early days of the Islamic religion and the events
at Badasht, it is clear that the historicity of revolt is not only in its
innovations or, in Foucault's phraseology, in the introduction of
"discontinuity" or "interruptions" in history. Revolts are, to a limited
extent, moments that harken back, not only to establish their legitimacy,
or to construe a unified subjectivity in the face of danger, but to
animate the moments of the present with the life force of a distant and
desirable past. As such, they constitute and activate moments of the past
within the present moment of the everyday. This is an instance of Walter
Benjamin's notion of der Jugste Tag-- where the chronicler's
most recent day is also and inevitably the messianic Day of Judgment.
In this light, Edward Browne is not far from the mark when he
notes that the Babi movement was essentially Shiih in its
weltanschauung and that Babi history was a reenactment of the
idealized Shiih past.  None the less,
we can see within the fruit of this memory of an idealized past, the seed
of "a dynamic future". Qurrat al-Ayn's constitution of individual agency
and human responsibility as the force that must by necessity be
materialized into action can only be seen in this light in the context of
Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots
of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Amanat, Abbas. Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi
Movement in Iran 1844-1850 Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1989.
---. "The Changing World of Taj al- Saltana". Introduction to Crowning
Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity. By
Taj al-Saltana. Ed. Amanat, Abbas. Washington D.C: Mage Publishers,
Balfour, Ian "Reversal, Quotation (Benjamin's History)" MLN 106
Balyuzi, H. M. Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory. Oxford: Geroge
Benjamin, Walter. "Theses on the Philosophy of History."
Illuminations. Ed.Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
Browne, Edward G. The Literary History of Persia. vol. 4 Cambridge
and London 1902-1904.
---. A Year Amongst the Persians 1887-1888. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge UP, 1926.
---. Ed. A Traveller's Narrative: Written to illustrate the Episode of
the Bab by Abdu'l Bahá. 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Philo Press 1975.
Houchang Chehabi. "Staging the Emperor's New Clothes: Dress codes and
Nation Building under Reza Shah." Iranian Studies 26 (Fall
Cheyne, Thomas K. The Reconciliation of Races and Religions.
London: A&C Black, 1894
Fanon, Frantz. A Dying Colonialism. Trans. Haakon Chevalier. New
Fischer, Michael, and Mehdi Abedi. Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues
in Postmodernity and Tradition. Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1990.
Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" Foucault Reader.
Ed. Paul Rabinow New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.
---. "The Order of Discourse." Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist
Reader. Ed. Robert Young New York: Routledge, 1981.
Meisami, Julie Scott "Alegorical Gardens in Persian Poetic Tradition:
Nezami,Rumi, Hafez." International Journal of Middle Eastern
Studies 17, 1985:229-260
Mernissi, Fatima. Beyond the Veil: Male Female Dynamics in Modern
Muslim Society, New York: Wiley &Sons, 1975.
----. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's
Rights in Islam. Trans. Mary Jo Lakeland. New York: Addison
Milani, Farzaneh Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women
Writers. New York: Syracuse UP, 1992.
Nietzsche, F. W. "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life."
Untimely Meditations. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.
Root, Martha. Tahirih The Pure One 1938 Reprinted. Los Angeles:
Rabbani, Shoghi The Dawn Breakers: Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days
of the Bahá'í Revelation. British Edition. London: Bahá'í Publishing
Shirazi-Mahajan, Faegheh. "The Politics of Clothing in the Middle East:
The Case of Hijab in Post-Revolutionary Iran." Critique (Spring
Taj al-Saltana, Crowning Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from
the Harem to Modernity. Ed. Amanat, Abbas. Washington D.C: Mage
Wilson, C.E. (trans.) Nezami's Haft Paikar (Seven Beauties) Vol. 1
[*] Many thanks to the UCLA Journal of History readers
of the first draft (published in volume 17 : 59-81), whose extensive comments helped in the formulation of
this version of the essay. Also my deepest appreciation and thanks to
Jacob Krauss without whose long distance faxes, encouragement and
critiques, this paper wouldn't have taken shape.
Twelver Shiihism is a derivation of Islam which distinguishes itself in
the belief in the familial sucessorship of the Prophet Muhammad by Twelve
Imams. The last of these successors is Abu'l-Qasim Muhammad who according
to the traditions went into Occultation in 874 AD due to the hostility of
the enemies of the Imam. The Hidden Imam has many titles including Mahdi,
Sahib az-Zaman, Qa'im. His return is believed to mark the end of time and
the reign of peace on earth
 For a detailed
account of the life and writings of Bahá'u'lláh consult H.M. Balyuzi,
Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory. Oxford: Geroge Ronald 1980.
 The British Orientalist E.G. Browne's reflections on
the clothes he had acquired for his travels from Yazd to Kirman in his
travelogue dated 1887-1888 may suggest the possible relation and confusion
of the 'Babi' term's stereotypic connotations. This anecdote relates a
scene in which an abridged memory connected to the term 'Babi' is
recalled, illuminating the present moment of Browne's vogue:
arrayed myself in a new suit of clothes made by a Yezdi tailor, of white
shawl-stuff, on the pattern of an English suit. These were cool,
comfortable, and neat; and though they would probably have been regarded
as somewhat eccentric in England, I reflected that no one at Yezd or
Kirm[[daggerdbl]]n would doubt that they were the ordinary summer attire
of an English gentleman. Haji Safar [Browne's young Persian assistant],
indeed, laughingly remarked that people would say I had turned Báb'
(I suppose because early Báb's were wont to wear white raiment),
but otherwise expressed the fullest approval. (Browne, A Year 452)
The term 'Babi' in this anecdote is not only addressed to the
eccentricity of the foreign other, but to the wearing of an extraordinary
configuration of clothing, the color of which may connote an act of
dissent. The anecdote represents not only what Browne as a British
Orientalist associates with his suit, but fortuitously reveals an
assumption about the Yazdi and Kirmani mind. Although Browne was
extremely interested and driven to understand the Persians and moreover
the Babis, he failed to grasp the historical connection (made by his
travel companion) between what he was wearing and the perceived role of
the Babi in innovating fashions in Iranian culture.
The unveiled Qajar princess, Taj al Saltanih's memoirs (1884-1914)
situate the connotative values of the term 'Babi' quite illustratively
within the context of modern education, naturalism and irreligiosity.
Speaking of the effects of her education on the development of her mature
identity she writes:
Right up to my eighteenth year, I had held
beliefs taught to me by my nanny that the heavens were pulled by a chain
in an angel's hand, or that when God's wrath was incurred, the sound of
thunder came...As I progressed in my studies day by day, my irreligiosity
grew until I was a complete naturalist myself. Since these ideas were new
to me, I was eager to impart them to my mother, my relatives, and my
children. As I would begin to talk, however, my mother would curse at me,
'You have turned Babi!' My relatives would invoke God's forgiveness and
keep their distance, refusing to listen. (Amanat, Crowning 309)
Taj's memoir as a whole constructs clear connections between her
modern education, her unveiling, women's liberation, and her desire and
respect for European ideals as encountered by her in various French
literatures and philosophies. Yet in this brief anecdote set in the
chamber of familiarity the term 'Babi', and not 'Imperialism,' arises to
suture the connection between her modern subjectivities and her alleged
naturalism and irreligiosity.
Another literary reference to the derogatory term 'Babi' is found
in a short story by Rasul Parvizi which humorously relates the effects of
the panoptic enforcement of modern clothing policies under the Reza Shah
(1925-41) in the young man's home town of Shiraz. As is well known the
Pahlavi monarch Reza Shah's legacy in Iranian history falls within the
realm of modernization in his enforcement of European clothing and the
forced injunction to the unveiling of Iranian women in the late nineteen
thirties and early forties. Houchang Chehabi sketches this "progressive
move" from the institution of the Pahlavi hat (similar to the French
kepi ) as the official hat for all Iranian men in 1927 to the
decree in 1935 that established the chapeaux in an effort to
construe an Iranian Westernization. (Chehabi 212, 215) Chehabi notes the
violent reproach by the general populace towards these new policies which
reluctantly moved them from a complex diversity of cultural practices in
clothing towards the mobilization of a national front through the forced
uniformity of dress. This done, the institution of new policies in the
1930's, and especially the injunction to unveil, introduced 'the people'
into an international system of clothing and etiquettes that would
ultimately distinguish them from others in bordering countries.
The panoptic enforcement of the rules of clothing through the
active engagement of the police force, the school system, the traffic
comptrollers, and even undercover agents in bathhouses to monitor
compliance, especially with respect to the rule to appear unveiled in
public places, strikes one as almost surreal.
The general reaction towards this totalized foreign mimicry
enforced by the disciplinary institutions resonates in the young Shirazi's
chant, in Rasoul Parvizi's story, as he walks around town knocking off
people's Pahlavi hats and ripping them to pieces:
We don't want a blue
We don't want a Babi guv'nor,
We don't want a foreign hat.
The survival of the stereotype 'Babi' in this piece of prose,
three quarters of a century after the collapse of the Babi movement is
remarkably linked not only to the enforced introduction of foreign values
and internationalism, but to a variety of associations with a change of
The stereotypical denotation 'Babi' as a memory in miniature in
these brief anecdotes ambivalently joins the two poles of outside
appearance and personal identity - the traditional realms of the
zaher and the baten in the ordinary and everyday speech of
the Iranian people: "You have turned Babi!" Remarkably, it conflicts with
the official attempts to dissociate the two realms during the reign of
Reza Shah whose counter-imposition of the veil on prostitutes was meant to
prevent "the association of unveiling with unwholesome mores." Chehabi
remarks that despite the efforts to elucidate the intentions of the
policy, "traditional Iranians saw it as an attempt to turn a virtue into a
vice. " (Chehabi 219)
 Houchang Chehabi. "Staging
the Emperor's New Clothes: Dress codes and Nation Building under Reza
Shah." Iranian Studies 26 (Fall 1993): 210.
 Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History"
Foucault Reader Ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 88
 In July 1848 the Babi
leader of this upspring, Mulla Husayn Bushrui the first disciple of the
Bab, raised the Black Standard in Mashhad and set off westward. The
implications of this gesture for the government and the religious
hierarchy alike were obvious. In Shi'ih Islam, there is a well known
Tradition attributed to the Prophet that suggests, that should one see the
Black Standard coming from Khurasan then one should go to it. The Mahdi
-the religious leader who went into hiding in the early days of Islam,
according to this Tradition, will be there.
More importantly, however, the raising of the Black Standard in
Khurasan was an act imbued with historical and contra-dynastic
significance. The raising of the Black Standard is historically known as
the gesture which inaugurated the final overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty
by the Abbasids. This symbolic act not only signaled an impending attack
on the existing religious order by the coming of the Mahdi, but posed a
definitive threat for the existing dynasty. Although, ironically, the
importance of this challenge got buried under the confusion of the
government over the death of Muhammad Shah, the populace in Barfurush
en route confronted the Babis traveling under Mulla Husayn's
banner, forcing them to take up positions around the Shrine of Shaykh
Tabarsi. The conflict between the two groups lasted from mid-October 1848
to early May 1849.
 Amanat, Abbas.
Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran
1844-1850 (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1989), 325
 Bahá or Bahá'u'lláh would in 1863 establish the
 Some of these sources use
very vague language that could allow for an interpretation of her action
as the gesture of physical unveiling or of the unveiling the truth of a
matter or of the unveiling one's true intentions or opinions, thus making
the issue somewhat more ambiguous.
 Rabbani, Shoghi The Dawn Breakers:
Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation. British
Edition. (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1953), 211-213
 "The object of the conference was to correct a
widespread misunderstanding. There were many who thought that the new
leader came, in the most literal sense to fulfill the Islamic Law...
[Qurrat al- Ayn] had her own characteristic solution to the problem...It
is said ...that [Qurrat al- Ayn] herself attended the conference with a
veil on. If so, she lost no time in discarding it, and broke out into the
fervid exclamation, 'I am the blast of the trumpet, I am the call of the
bugle,' i.e. 'Like Gabriel, I would awaken sleeping souls.' It is said,
too, that this short speech of the brave woman was followed by the
recitation by Bahá'u'lláh of the Surih of the Resurrection. Such
recitations often have an overpowering effect. The inner meaning of this
was that mankind was about to pass into a new cosmic cycle, for which a
new set of laws and customs would be indispensable." (T.K. Cheyne, The
Reconciliation of Races and Religions p.103)
 Nabil's Narrative 211-213
 Mernissi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite: A
Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam. Trans. Mary Jo
Lakeland. (New York: Addison Weslley, 1987), 65-70
 ibid, 93
 ibid, 85
 This practices situates a significant difference
between Western perceptions of stories and memories, where often times the
latter are considered mere fables and thus disabling in an effort to
constitute Truth and Knowledge.
 For other
references to Hadithes related to this verse consult Leila Ahmed's
Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1992 (Chapter 3)
Mernissi,The Veil 100
 ibid 92
 Ahmed suggests other circumstances for the
institution of the veil, drawing from Inb Sa'd's (re)collections. See
Women and Gender , 54
 In this particular
context I am referring to the Prophet's wives, since his wives were the
only ones that came along on the expedition.
Fatima Mernissi suggests this event as a symbolic expression of
"regression on sexual equality" commingled with a "regression in social
equality", but the coincidental imagery of the descent of the hijab over
all women for the "fifteen centuries that followed" in this paragraph and
her subsequent discussions strongly suggests the above reading
 See Fanon's discussion of the veil:
"Algeria Unveiled" in A Dying Colonialism and Shirazi-Mahajan's
discussion of the role of the veil in the Iranian Islamic revolution in
Critique (Spring 1993)
 We have come to
learn that sexuality, in the context of Islam, is territorial (Mernissi,
Beyond 81). Sexuality is mapped, as it were, unto the specific
topology of the public and the private. In this context, female veiling
is formulated as a way to ensure the purity of the public sphere,
generally designated as male, and the protection of the female, in the
same context, through a gesture of dissimulation. As such, this
construction permits the definition of female identity, in this context,
as split. On the one hand, in the context of the perception of her
natural constitution, the female is seen as a distraction, an invasion or
intervention to the male's formulation of his identity as pious or divine.
Her presence as a "natural"/sexual being in the public sphere, in other
words, interferes with the Muslim man's relation with his God. On the
other hand, in the context of her cultural status in Muslim history and as
the embodiment of the community's identity as such, the female is seen as
weak, indeed in need of protection in the male domain. The veil thus
covers over her constitutional split, creating a unified or whole subject
that is both dangerous by nature and incapable to defend herself or the
Muslim community's identity within the social domain. Without the veil
this dual and dangerous quality is thought to come to the fore, unveiling
a "scrambled" identity, dangerous and mutilated.
 This reading stems from Nezami's Haft Paikar
(Seven Beauties) Translated by C.E. Wilson. But also see Julie Scott
Meisami's essay: "Alegorical Gardens in the Persian poetic tradition:
Nezami, Rumi, Hafez."
 From the Qur'an Verses
46-75 Sura 55
 As noted by G. Marçias in
the Encyclopedia of Islam, "Persian horticulture flourished long before
the birth of Islam and was associated with princely life." from BUSTAN:
Encyclopedia of Islam , New Edition , London (1960
 Friedrich Nietzsche in his Untimely M
editations uses the term "suprahistorical " to reject an history that
perceives the present as the end of time and the events of the past as a
history which has completed its development. This traditional conception
of history is supported by the idea of an external controlling force, of
an eternal truth, of a continuos and uniform identity which is always
conscious of and identical to itself.
forgetting on the part of Bab' historiography constituted the foundation
for the appropriation of that discourse for future feminist purposes.
Consult for example the section on Tahirih Qurrat al Ayn in Farzaneh
Milani's Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women
Writers where Qurrat al-Ayn is placed as the first in the line of
liberated/liberating women's voices in Iran. Also see Abbas Amanat
Crowning Anguish (59) where he places her within a similar
trajectory. Amanat also rejects these views in an earlier book:
Resurrection and Renewal, 330. (It is interesting to note how, in
an effort to remain objective, historians often forget what they have
already said differently.) Also for a delightfully utopic and early
account of the coincidence between Qurrat al-Ayn's 'originary' gestures
and the concomitant development of the Women's Movement in the West see
Martha Root's Tahirih The Pure One 1938 Reprinted. Los Angeles:
Kalimat Press, 1981
 Amanat ,
 This statment may of
course be understood in terms of the way in which the notion of female
unveiling is conceptualized in Islamic ideology. Unveiling has at
different times and spaces been understood as gesture of female nudity.
Its citation therefore is incriminating to the woman and to the pious in
Islam. According to Amanat's assertions, many sources claim that Qurrat
al-Ayn did indeed unveil in public. Most say, however, that she only did
so in the gathering of "believers". And while most sources agree that she
never unveiled publicly before the Badasht Conference, others even doubt
that she did so on that occasion. (Amanat, Resurrection 295-316). A
double disavowal takes place in the reconfiguration of these various
narratives, wherein firstly none but the 'believers' are incriminated by
this public violation and secondly, no one is whatsoever.
 Browne, Edward G. Ed. A Traveller's Narrative:
Written to illustrate the Episode of the Bab by Abdu'l Bahá 2nd ed.
(Amsterdam: Philo Press 1975),314.
 ibid 247
 A Shaykhi is a student of the Shaykhi school,
heresy of Shiih Islam established in the middle of the 19th century in
Karbala, Iraq. This is a school from which the Bab drew many of his early
 Nabil's Narrative 30
 Nabil's Narrative 211
 ibid 216
 Ibid 29-31. For a
discussion of the Shaykh Tabarsi upsprings also known as the Mazandaran
upheavals see Moojan Momen "The Social Basis of the Babi Upheavals
in Iran: a preliminary analysis " in International Journal of Middle
Eastern Studies 15 (1983) 157-183.
For a more detailed account of the movement and its history see Mangol
Bayat Mysticism and Dissent : Socioreligious Thought in Qajar Iran
Syracuse UP 1982.
 Nabil's Narrative
 For an excellent discussion of Benjamin's
Jetztzeit see Ian Balfour's "Reversal Quotation (Benjamin's
History)" MLN 106, 1991.
 Browne, Edward
G. The Literary History of Persia. vol. 4 (Cambridge and London