Re: The Holy Families

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Posted by Jonah Winters on January 17, 2001 at 19:44:03:

In Reply to: The Holy Families posted by anon on January 16, 2001 at 12:22:15:

There are certainly more sources than these, such as Fadil-i-Mazandarani's "Zuhur al-Haqq," but they're all in Persian (and possibly a few in Arabic). In English, you're pretty much limited to Taherzadeh, Balyuzi, Browne (e.g. the translations of Kitab al-Nuqutat al-Kaf and the Tariq-i-Jadid, both early histories translated by Browne), and maybe some portions of Abbas Amanat (_Resurrection and Renewal_, especially).

But, if you're interested, I can provide some tangential sources. First, a genealogy of Shoghi Effendi is online at Second, I can quote four postings sent to a public listserver in 1995 on the general issue of genealogy, in case they're at all helpful.

Finally, try writing to Ahang Rabbani,, an American historian who's one of the best resources for genealogy of the Holy Families. You can say that I recommended him to you. Good luck! -Jonah

Date: Mon, 08 May 95 07:00:18
From: "Stockman, Robert"
Subject: Genealogies of the prophets

A quick note on the question of genealogy of the prophets. I do not
think we should take references to Manifestations of God coming from a
common genetic descent too seriously as *historical* statements;
rather, they are theological statements that stress the common source
of the teachings via genealogy. There are two ways to tackle the
question of Baha'u'llah's genealogy, to take a specific example.

1. Historical reliability of a genealogy. Abraham lived
approximately 3800 years ago; He is believed to have lived between
2000 and 1800 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era; the same thing as B.C.,
"Before Christ"). Assuming three generations per century, that's 114
genrations ago. What are the chances of a genealogy being preserved
accurately and completely for 114 generations, especially considering
the Middle East was largely illiterate until two or three generations
ago, and that for at least half that time there were no censuses,
birth records, and other reliable government statistics? Virtually
non-existent. This alone suggests that the genealogy of Baha'u'llah
should be seen as symbolic, not as literal.

2. One has two parents, four grandparents, eight great grand parents,
etc. The number of ancestors doubles each generation. Thus:

# generations ago # ancestors
1 2
2 4
3 8
4 16
10 1024 (c. 300 years ago)
20 1,000,000 (c. 600 years ago)
30 1,000,000,000 (c. 1000 years ago)
60 1 times 10 to the 18th power
100 1.26 x 10 30th power
114 2.08 x 10 34th power

Note that 600 years ago the number of ancestors one has exceeds the
number of humans on the earth (which reached 1 billion in the mid
nineteenth century). 3800 years ago one had 10 million billion
billion billion ancestors, which is 10 million billion billion times
as many humans as lived; or another way of looking at it, every person
on earth was your ancestor by 10 million billion billion billion
different ways (assuming equal distribution of genes, which is not
likely; so some humans were ancestors more than others).

Conclusion: Baha'u'llah was descended from Abraham, just like every
other person in Eurasia! Considering the 1800 year gap between Jesus
and Abraham, we can be sure Jesus was descended from Abraham as well.
We can also be equally sure Muhammad had an infinitesimally small drop
of Abraham's bllod in his veins as well, just like every other Arab of
His day.

Hence, clearly, the main point of these genealogies is spiritual; the
genetic truth rapidly degenerates to trivality.

-- Rob Stockman

Date: Tue, 09 May 95 07:00:48
From: "Stockman, Robert"
Subject: Genealogies

I thank Steve for his comments about genealogies. I see three
possible problems:

1. Families do not remain prominent forever. They tend to rise in
importance, flourish a few generations, then fade into oblivion. The
chance of a family retaining prominence for 4000 years--or even
2000--is extremely small. Not non-existent, obviously, but very

2. In the Middle East it was common practice for families that emerge
from obscurity to prominence to forge genealogies. Our fellow
Talismanians in Middle East Studies can give examples. I think
Baha'u'llah's genealogy can be traced at all because He claimed
descent from the Sassanian monarchs; it is probably their genealogy
that was being used. And the probability their genealogy is forged
strikes me as very high. Not 100%, but high.

3. I can trace my own genealogy back 400 years with no trouble. I
suspect research could push it back another 200 years fairly well.
But the farther back you go, the poorer the written records; not only
the ones preserved, but the ones kept in the first place. I would
have to ask professional genealogists for their opinions, but I
suspect almost anyone whose genealogy can be traced back more than
1000 years in Europe is relying a lot on family legend. There are
obvious exceptions, such as those who can trace themselves back into a
monarchal line; the Queen of England has a reliable genealogy back to
Alfred the Great (which I suppose means so do I, since my family
alleges relation to the royal family, back about 300 years).
Remember, in 800 C.E. the monarch of the most powerful empire in
western Europe--Charlemagne--was illiterate.

But tracing lineage through the records of 2000 years ago or more is
virtually impossible. The records were very incomplete then, and are
almost nonexistent today. I wonder if any Talismanians can comment on
the level of literacy or quantity of records kept in Sassanian,
Hellenistic, or Achamenid Iran; or the likelihood records from one of
these eras survived the transition to the next. We know, for example,
that Alexander the Great burned Persepolis.

At any rate, the question is moot, since statistics guarantees that
Baha'u'llah was descended from Abraham. They also guarantee that
everyone on Talisman with Eurasian/African blood in them (I exclude
here full-blooded Australian aborigines, Maoris, and native Americans)
are descended from Abraham.

-- Rob Stockman

Date: Tue, 9 May 1995 12:48:41 -0400 (EDT)
From: Juan R Cole
To: "Stockman, Robert"
Subject: Re: Genealogies

Rob is right; the old conception of genealogies was based on a lack of
understanding of how genetic transmission occurs and the statistical
interactions in a gene pool.

Moreover, we have very few reliable records from ancient and even
Sasanian (c. 200s-600s) Iran. King-lists may be the *only* genealogies
extant of any historical value. The likelihood that an Iranian notable
family in Mazandaran remained able to trace itself back 1300 years with
any accuracy strikes me as small. But if it could, the family would
certainly end up being descended from the Sasanian kings, as would
everybody else in Mazandaran. On the other hand, there is some
interesting short-term genealogical information about Baha'u'llah's
family in Malik-Khusravi's *Iqlim-i Nur* that I'd be willing to post if
anyone is interested. As I remember, there is a link to the Safavids and
to other Mazandaran notable clans.

I would not, as Rob does, necessarily exclude anyone now alive from participating
in the Abrahamic genetic inheritance. Eurasian genes have been circulating
for centuries among native Americans, and Australian aborigenes cannot
have been that isolated from Indonesian Muslim populations (look at the
map). All it would take would be one shipwreck, one survivor, and one
intermarriage 400 years ago, and boom; children of Abraham all over the
outback. As for Jesus, two of his siblings or 8 of his cousins would
have, statistically speaking, passed on his genetic inheritance (at least
from Mary's side; :--)

cheers, Juan Cole, History, Univ. of Michigan

Date: Wed, 10 May 1995 11:43:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Juan R Cole
Subject: Baha'u'llah's genealogy

I have no doubt that Baha'u'llah was descended from Yazdigird III. I
also have no doubt that everyone else in Mazandaran was, too. Genealogy
is a sleight of hand, because it focuses in on only one line of descent.
You have 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents;
by the time one traced Baha'u'llah's family back to the Sasanians, as Rob
showed, he had millions of ancestors, one of which of Yazdigird III. The
likelihood is that all child-bearing persons alive in Sasanian times in
Eurasia contributed something to his genetic inheritance.

I think it is very important that Baha'u'llah was aware of his ancestry
in the royal family of Zoroastrian, pre-Islamic Iran. I think this is
part of what led him to stress the truth of Zoroastrianism as a religion;
and once you did that, it was such a different discourse from the biblical-
qur'anic stream, that there was no real difficulty about accepting the South
Asian avatars, as well (as Baha'u'llah implicitly does in his letter to
Manakji via Mirza Abu'l-Fadl). As John Walbridge notes, the provincial
service families (dabirs) of Qajar Iran took a special interest in the
Iranian, Zoroastrian heritage. This cultural tradition also has
implications for Baha'u'llah's recognition of a separation of religion
and state, since Iranian monarchy since ancient times had its own,
independent divine sanction (the hero's halo, khvarena or farr-i izadi,
which Corbin thought the underlying idea in the Islamic school of Ishraq
or illumination). Indeed, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl thought that the author of
the "Mirrors for Princes" work, Qabusnameh, was written by and ancester or

In his commentary on Baha'u'llah's family tree, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl says that
the Nuri family of Takur was descended from the Sasanian monarchs, whose
descendants after the Islamic conquest of the 7th century settled as
provinical rulers in Mazandaran (Tabaristan). After about 400 years,
Mirza Abu'l-Fadl says, Zaydi Shi`ite rulers established themselves in
Daylam, and the conversion of Mazandaranis to Islam accelerated. After
the Safavid conquest these local families were displaced, and the
populace accepted Twelver Shi`ite Islam (1500s). He establishes that a
number of Nuri families claimed Sasanian descent in 19th-century Iran.
Baha'u'llah in his Lawh-i Shir-Mard confirmed Mirza Abu'l-Fadl's findings.

In recent historical times, Malik Khusravi tells us that
Baha'u'llah's great-grandfather (who was likely born around 1700) was
Karbala'i `Abbas Khan. We are not told anything about him; but his name
indicates that he was a notable ("Khan") and that he was a pious Shi`ite
who went on pilgrimage at some point to the shrine of Imam Husayn at
Karbala in Iraq.

He had two sons, Fath-`Ali and Rida Quli Beg. Rida Quli Beg Takuri was
Mirza Buzurg's father. He had 5 wives altogether, and 17 children. I
was very interested that one of his wives was from an Isma`ili family of
Takur, and another of his wives was from a Sufi darvish family of Takur.
While one cannot draw firm conclusions from such information, that
Baha'u'llah had Sufi and Isma`ili co-grandmothers strikes me as suggestive.

More anon.

cheers Juan Cole, History, Univ. of Michigan

P.S. Many thanks to John Walbridge and Ahang Rabbani for sharing with me
the materials upon which these inadequate observations are based.

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