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On the end-times theology of the last great philosophical school to have developed integrally within Islam, its context vis-a-vis Western modernity, and its place in Baha'i thought.

A Liminal Moment:
Shaykhi Millennialism and the Irruption of Modernity

by Ismael Velasco

The question of Shaykhi millennialism

Shaykhism occupies a key moment in the history of ideas, representing perhaps the last great philosophical school to have developed integrally within Islam (and certainly the last within Shi'i Islam) before Islam's intellectual engagement with Western modernity. From this perspective, Shaykhism may be said to represent a caesura marking the last moment of parallel evolution of two cultural systems, Western and Islamic, that emerged from a common matrix in the Late Antique world, and, having deeply encountered in the Middle Ages, evolved in divergent and largely independent lines from the Renaissance on, until their full re-engagement in the 19th century.

Thereafter, Islamic thought had to contend not only, or most urgently, with the questions of its own philosophical tradition, a heritage forged in highly abstract, speculative, inductive thought, driven by a search for Eternity and the absolute; but rather with the reality of an Other comprised of colonial powers impelled, not only politically but philosophically as well, by Time in its ephemeral expressions, by measurements and acquisitions and technology, and conflicts in the concreteness of political geography - in short, by modernity. An Other which within its own vision co-opted and subsumed Muslim identity into a teleological outlook which was already becoming post-Christian, post-religious and made bold to become likewise post-Islamic - an outlook secular, historicist, and utterly unexpected.

In the thought of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, the twin founders of the Shaykhi school, we are transported to the edge of this encounter between Time and Eternity, between a philosophical tradition motivated by the mystical and the metaphysical, and one, impending, in which the social and political fought to gain the upper hand. What makes Shaykhi thought noteworthy in this context is that, ere the throes of this encounter made themselves felt, Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim had injected Time into the very fabric of eternity, releasing the Absolute and unfreezing escathology, making it malleable, fluid, and immediate. Shaykh Ahmad had a rich heritage of theosophical reflection from which to draw to achieve this resolution, however his synthesis was compelling and original enough to give rise to what was regarded in his own lifetime as a third school (madhab) of Twelver Shi'ism side by side with the Usuli and Akhbari traditions which had till then defined Shi'i legal and philosophical identities.

While it is true that Shaykh Ahmad was walking on ground trodden by precursors such as Mulla Sadra and Suhrawardi, and belonged to a tradition largely untouched by modernity, it would seem unfair to conclude, with Bayat, that "despite their progressive outlook, the Shaykhis' stand cannot be termed modern; for neither is it new, nor are the ideas originally innovative. Their conception of religion and society reflects a tradition of dissent in Islam. Their progressive notion of an evolutionary religious law, despite its implications, does not project a sense of commitment to social and individual progress in a modern, material way."[1]

In fact Bayat is here conflating two separate concepts: modernity and innovation or originality. While it is perfectly fair to say that Shaykhism was not "modern", or indeed, with Corbin, that its vision was closest to that of the medieval West,[2] it was recognised universally in its own day for its originality, and its innovations led to the condemnation of Shaykh Ahmad and even a takfir or declaration of unbelief against him on the part of some of Iran's foremost clerics.[3] The philosophical originality of Shaykh Ahmad's grand synthesis of Shi'i theosophy is in fact keenly stressed by the philosophically equipped mind of Corbin, responsible for the epochal introduction of Heidegger into France and a disciple of both Etienne Gilson and Charles Massignon: "Shaykhi doctrine fully amounts to a reformation and renewal of metaphysics",[4] "a summit from which we can encompass, in a new perspective, a whole range of problems, the same that have nourished the great metaphysical systems in the West, until the 19th century."[5] More recently, Idries Samawi has taken this further by championing the philosophical significance of Shaykh Ahmad's metaphysics of process, beyond the narrower historical field of Islamics or Iranian studies. And, elaborating not only on its doctrinal character, but its eventual social and political consequences, Dabashi has no qualms in designating Shaykhism "by far the most revolutionary doctrinal event in Iran of the Nineteenth century."[6]

This is not the place to engage in a systematic survey of Shaykhi thought or history.[7] We are, indeed, still in early stages of study and analysis of the vast and frequently abstruse corpus of its twin founders, Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i and Siyyid Kazim Rashti, not to speak of the various branches that evolved from this common root. Rather, I will concentrate on one discrete aspect of Shaykhism, the vexed question of millennial expectation, that goes to the heart of the methodological challenge of engaging, as intellectuals taking modernity as the starting point, a so-called premodern philosophical legacy without 'archaeologising it', that is, dealing with it as the documentary record of a dead philosophical tongue.

The challenge is perhaps particularly acute for historians, as one expert in medieval millennialism avers:

"Modern, "scientific" historiography began as a rejection of this Christian commitment to sacral history; it attempted a radical secularization of the discussion, a systematic exclusion of the "sacred" from the narrative... So how does millennialism challenge the historian, the academic? It forces us to probe what seems irrational, to empathize with people who say and believe things that radically challenge our "take" on the world. They are bent on radical change, and they want, at all costs, to shake us loose from our comfortable certainties. They are at the cutting edge of dissent, of a "different" narrative, a counter-narrative... It is our job to hear the voices of these believers, to listen to the insights which they, in their radical break with our conventions, manage to see, however darkly, however painfully. Once we begin to understand them, we can begin to perceive the impact they have had on our culture; and in order to understand them, we need to move beyond the dry world of rationality and order, beyond the safe agnosticism of secular historiography, and begin to recognize that, whether we believe in God or not, religious beliefs do matter, have mattered and will continue to matter."[9]

This is not an easy challenge, and is one that is not often undertaken or even particularly valued. Indeed, in many ways, to focus on Shaykhi millennialism risks to push this essay to the margins of historical inquiry, as Richard Landes writes elsewhere:

"Although historians of these phenomena have identified a number of times and places where eschatological beliefs played a central role in a culture's imagination (e.g., first-century Palestine, fifth-century Mediterranean, thirteenth-century Europe, seventeenth-century England, eighteenth-century America, nineteenth-century China), it has been extremely difficult to move from such an observation to productive historical analysis. Rarely do such activities receive more than a passing mention in "mainstream" analyses, and even fuller discussions tend to "fence off" the phenomenon from the analysis of the truly consequential deeds of the age. Given that, in favorable circumstances, apocalyptic beliefs can launch mass movements capable of overthrowing (and forming) imperial dynasties and creating new religions, such an approach seems rather inadequate."[10]

In the case of Shaykhism, this is particularly relevant, as not only was it born in precisely a time and place "where eschatological beliefs played a central role in a culture's imagination", but it was also instrumental in "creating new religions", in this case the Bábí and Bahá'í religions, the former having dramatically impacted on the political and religious landscape of Qajar Iran and the latter having transcended its original Iranian idiom to become a fully fledged religion, that emerged, in the words of Kathryn Babayan, "out of this Persianate context with a universal vision that had evolved through its Mazdean and Abrahamic past to express an alternative world-view cognizant of a new global reality."[11]

The significance of Shaykhism as a spiritual, intellectual and social matrix for the emergence of the Bábí-Bahá'í religions is indeed hard to over-emphasise. "With Shaykh Ahmad Ahsá'í, (1166-1241/1756-1825) and his visionary theophany," writes Abbas Amanat, "Shi'ism generated a synthesis essential for the later formation of Babi thought. The Babi movement derived both its theoretical formulation and its converts more from Shaykhism than from any other school."[12]

Perhaps the most weighty indicator of the spiritual significance of Shaykhism to the Babi and Bahá'í religions lies in the testimony of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh's own writings.

In His two earliest surviving works, written while Siyyid Kazim Rashti was still alive, and before His own messianic declaration in May of 1844, the Báb referred to Siyyid Kazim as "my Lord (sayyidī), my firm support (mu`tammadī) and My teacher (mu`allimī), al-Hajji Sayyid Kāzim Rashtī."[13] Again, in His Commentary on the Surah of the Cow, also written before His declaration, the Bab refers to Siyyid Kazim as "the revered scholar and my intimate teacher."[14]

Bahá'u'lláh, for His part, among other tributes, refers to Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim as "those twin resplendent lights", which appeared in the "invisible heaven" as the promised harbingers of the coming of the Báb.[15]

But their contribution went well beyond a purely spiritual precursory role. As Rafati puts it, "The Shaykhi school provided the background for the Bábí movement and its doctrines prepared the way for those of the Báb. The social and intellectual relationship between the Shaykhi school and the Bábí movement is beyond dispute: the earliest and most learned followers of the Báb were Shaykhí students... [and the Báb's] works reveal a thorough understanding of Shaykhi literature, ideas, and terminology."[16]

Given such unequivocal endorsements of early Shaykhism by the very Founders of the Babí-Bahá'í faiths, such close intellectual ties in their respective doctrinal contents, and the prominence of Shaykhi disciples in the establishment of Babism in particular, one would have expected an easy scholarly consensus regarding the messianic tension in the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, a tension for which the birth of Babísm might be seen as the natural, perhaps even the inevitable resolution. And yet, as Todd Lawson writes in his seminal and still unpublished dissertation on the Qur'an commentary of the Báb,

"One of the more controversial topics in the study of Shaykhism is the problem of the Qâ'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 zuhûr in the soul of the believer, or whether the Qâ'im is to appear on the plane of history, as a specific and unique individual: the heretofore hidden Imâm, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-'Askarî. The question is therefore important for the study of the development of the Bâbî religion. Depending upon the way it is answered, the Bab will be seen either as a "dissident" Shaykhî, or his eventual claim will be seen as the fulfillment (and therefore the continuation) of Shaykhî teachings. "[17]

Against this backdrop, one cannot but pause for thought as a scholar of the stature of Henry Corbin, not only one of the foremost scholars of Shi'i Islam in the 20th century, but the only Islamicist of note to have devoted serious and sustained scholarly attention to Shaykhism, not only disclaims any such messianic tension in Shaykhism, but considers it the very negation of the Shaykhi philosophical project:

"If the Imam, first and last Theophany, is today the Hidden Imam, this is not a situation stemming from an external event taking place suddenly, a certain day, in the past. The date of the death of the last naib marks merely a staging point... It is men that have veiled themselves from the Imam, that is, have rendered themselves incapable of seeing him, have paralysed the organs of theophanic perception, perception of the dimensio mystica. Hence neither the Imam nor his people can show themselves, declare themselves publicly, outwardly and unveiled. Such an epiphany would presuppose humanity's possession of a perceptive organ such that the Imam and his people might show themselves and, rendered visible by such an organ, be recognised through it. In fact, in its current state, and whatever the reason, humanity is deprived to such an extent of an organ of this kind, that any public declaration reclaiming the station of Bab to the Imam, let alone that of the Imam himself, can only be an imposture - an imposture against which the Imam himself warned all his followers, in his last message to his last naib. "...For this reason this manifestation [of the Imam and his invisible Companions] remains a secret, or at any rate the privilege and personal testimony of whoso is thus favoured; it legitimates no pretensions to a collective recognition.... The consequences go very far: whoever would proclaim himself publicly to be the Bab of the Imam, would place himself eo ipso outside the Shi'ite sodality, since he would profane the fundamental secret, violate the ghaybat [Occultation]... It would mean the destruction of the Gestalt of time, as monstruous as the destruction of a musical form by its intempestivo interruption. It is for this reason that babism (whatever other interest it might engender, and which captured the attention of Gobineau and of E.G. Browne) cannot but appear, on this decisive point, as the negation of Shaykhism; it requires considerable inattention or philosophical inexperience to judge otherwise."[18]

Expounding Corbin´s position, Lawson explains: "His study of the subject led him to the conclusion that the function of the qâ'im in Shaykhî 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 Qâ'im. Corbin speaks therefore, of the "tragedie" of Bâbism and Bahâ'ism, precisely because they have recognised just such an historical advent."[19]

Against this stance stand, on the one hand, the above cited passages in Babí-Bahá'í scriptures and the reports in early Babí and Bahá'í historical narratives of messianic announcements by Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim,[20] and on the other the fact that a very significant number of early Shaykhis, who had dedicated their lives to the study of Shaykhi thought and texts, often at the feet of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim themselves, far from considering it a "monstruous" departure from the teachings of Shaykhism, evidently had no such qualms about believing in the coming of an embodied messianic figure, as opposed to an abstract spiritual principle, to the point of giving up their lives rather than deny their convictions.

Denis McEoin, drawing on a number of sources, shows that from the very outset the response of the Shaykhi community to the preaching of a messianic individual was very significant, with most or all of the Shaykhi population of Milan in Adherbayjan, most of the Shaykhis of Maragha, and significant proportions of the Shaykhi communities of Qasvin, Mashad, Isfahan, Karbila, etc. accepting immediately such claims, although many also repudiating them later.[21] To suggest, with Corbin, that claims to messianic fulfilment imply a negation of Shaykhism, and that to philosophically trace back the messianic claims of Babism and the Bahá'í Faith to Shaykh Ahmad "is an error of spiritual optic or else an abusive revindication"[22], necessitating "much inattention and a grave want of philosophical experience",[23] "much flightiness [légèreté], much superficial haste,"[24] seems altogether overstated.

Clearly, for the earliest Shaykhis, including many in Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim's immediate circle of disciples, there was considerably more room for alternative interpretations than for Corbin himself, or the Shaykhi leadership in the 1960's who influenced his readings. This included many senior Shaykhi mujtahids whose achievements had been endorsed by Siyyid Kazim himself,[25] who could hardly be accused of flightiness, inattention, grave philosophical inexperience or superficial haste, and who could surely make a greater claim to being acquainted with the thought of the Shaykhi masters than Corbin himself, particularly in a context where public, written dissimulation and private, oral exposition were prevalent, demonstrably so in the case of Shaykhism.

In fact, Corbin's position is more ambiguous than he himself appeared to realize, as in two separate treatments of the subject of Shaykhism and the occultation, after disclaiming the possibility of a personal, public manifestation of the 12th Imam, due to the lack of capacity in the generality of mankind to discern the inner, spiritual reality which is the locus of manifestation of the Imam, he also states: "That which the spiritual seers [here Corbin appears to allude to the Shaykhi masters and their philosophical predecessors] have perceived is that the advent of the Imám will manifest the hidden meaning of all the Revelations. That shall be the triumph of the tawil [interpretation of the inner, esoteric meaning of scripture] enabling the human race to find its unity, even as for the duration of the time of the ghaybat, esoterism shall have held the secret of the only true ecumenism... Until then, the time of the "Greater Occultation" is the time of a divine presence incognito, and because it is incognito, it can never become an object, a thing, and it defies all socialization of the spiritual."[26]

Here Corbin in fact affirms the possibility of "the advent of the Imám", manifesting "the hidden meaning of all the Revelations". He further writes that "until then", the divine presence is "incognito", implying that then, at the time of the advent, it will not be so, while the unity of the human race, in any meaningful sense, would seem to imply a social, and not purely spiritual manifestation. With this statement in mind, then, we may conclude that in fact the seemingly radical disagreements in the literature regarding the messianic expectations of Shaykhism are in fact less so. The difference between Corbin (and late Shaykhism) on the one hand, and on the other the leading, well informed and philosophically equipped early Shaykhis whose allegiance and promulgation of the Báb support early Bábi and Bahá'í historians' claims to a messianic kerygma or proclamation in the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i and Siyyid Kazim Rashti, seems to be one of interpretation, rather than of substance. Both appear to agree on the potential, in principle, for a full earthly parousia of the Hidden Imám, differing in their understanding of the preconditions for such a climacteric.

Whereas in the late Shaykhi interpretation as expounded by Corbin the precondition to such an advent would be the attainment by the human race of an evidently still lacking universal capacity for inner mystical discernment which would serve as a catalyst for the unveiling of the hidden, spiritual reality of the 12th Imám; for what may be perhaps described as the proto-Babí Shaykhis awaiting the advent of, and actively looking for the manifested Person of the 12th Imam and His gate, it is the very parousia which will be the catalyst for a universal regeneration of humanity's inner perception, an age of inner truth, engendered through the unveiling of the inner reality of all previous Revelations by the Promised One.

"The doctrine of the Perfect Shi'a, as they perceived it," writes Amanat, "made the Advent of the Promised One a necessity. Study under Rashtí and compliance with his prudent approach only helped raise their expectations for eventual prevalence of the esoteric truth over exoteric reality, while exposure to the Usuli-dominant 'Atabat made them realize the formidableness of the endeavour."[27] Thus MacEoin gives notice of a 42 page autograph manuscript of an istidladliyya or apologetic tract in his possession written soon after the declaration of the Báb by Qurratu'l-'Ayn, Tahirih, the former Shaykhi scholar and reknowned Bábí poetess and apostle, from a distinctively Shaykhi perspective and for a Shaykhi audience. "It is particularly concerned with the theme of the cyclical appearance of the Divine Will in the prophets and the concept of an age of inner truth that has just begun."[28]

In this light, MacEoin's assessment seems the fairer one: "Rashti's belief that a new age of spirituality had started with al-Ahsá'í seems to have given rise to speculation within the school as to the possibility of the ...Twelfth Imam's imminent advent, but how extensive such chiliaistic expectation really was it is very hard to establish. The Kirmani Shaykhis naturally play down all suggestions of messianism, while modern Bahá'ís exaggerate its role on the basis of oral statements. In their writings, both al-Ahsá'í and Rashtí adopt a conventional attitude to the question of the Imam's return. Nevertheless, the fact that Rashti's death was immediately followed by a frantic outburst of millenarianism suggests that, at the very least, talk of living gates to the Imám had excited speculation that the Mahdi himself might soon make his appearance."[29]

The reason for Corbin's reading of Shaykhi texts, influenced in large measure by later Shaykhi thought, as precluding the possibility of a physical epiphany of the Promised One, the Hidden Imam, or, on the basis of a tradition often quoted by him in this context, precluding even the physical manifestation of a Gate to His Will,[30] is the same very reason, it is suggested, as enabled the early Shaykhi converts to Babism to believe that Siyyid Ali Muhammad, born in 1819 in the city of Shiraz, could be the very same Twelfth Imam, who as a child was reported to have gone into hiding into a cave in Samarra over 1000 years earlier and was expected to return as a fully grown adult miraculously preserved from the ravages of time, and not born anew to the womb of a different mother, wife not to the 11th Imam long buried, but to a well known and respected, yet otherwise ordinary mercer of Shiraz.[31]

At the heart of the matter lies Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim's radically apophatic theology, in which God's essence remains, for all eternity, the deus absconditus, unapproachable by contingent being. His attributes, however, manifest themselves, according to Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, in a descent through simultaneous, hierarchical realms of being that receive and manifest the effulgences (tajalliyat) of God in accordance to their own degree. In the same way that the human being exists simultaneously in the mineral, vegetable and animal realms, the human soul exists simultaneously in a hierarchy of spiritual dimensions. Corbin, inspired by the work of Victor Zuckerkandl, uses the analogy of different octaves in which the same melody is played simultaneously. [32]

The reality of the Imams, Shaykh Ahmad explains, originates and belongs in these spiritual realms. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam, the Promised One of Shi`i Islam, which Corbin describes as 'the fundamental idea of Shi`ism', refers in Shaykhism to his existence in that suprasensible spiritual dimension. Shaykhism thus spiritualised Shi`i escathology, developing, in Corbin's words, 'a veritable phenomenology of the ghaybat, the Occultation, the realm of the invisible' and opening the way to two possible resolutions to the chiliaistic expectations associated with the return of the Hidden Imam. These interpretive alternatives came to constitute the dilemma facing the Shaykhi community at the death of Siyyid Kazim.

At the crux of this dilemma lies the Shaykhi perspective on communion with the Imam. For Shaykh Ahmad, the journey to the Imams involved not a horizontal, but a vertical journey of consciousness into the higher realms of spiritual awareness where the reality of the Imams had its locus. Shaykh Ahmad's ascent in the realms of consciousness to reach the presence of the Imams, may also be regarded as the descent of the Imams into the heart of Shaykh Ahmad. Thus was opened up the possibility of a spiritualised interpretation of the promised return of the 12th Imam, not as a physical manifestation, but rather as a spiritual realization partially accessible to every detached soul, an interpretation that preserves the ghaybat intact and static, and extracts from the expectation of "return" its millennialist charge. This was to be Corbin's interpretation, shaped in significant measure by the thought of the Sarkar Aqa (the leadership title of the Kirmani branch of the Shaykhi order) in the 1950s and 1960s.

The alternative was that a uniquely pure soul could come to manifest the spiritual reality of the Hidden Imam in his own being so fully as to become the vehicle for the full physical manifestation of the reality of the Qa'im (the Twelfth Imam) in this world, in turn opening up the possibility of his subsequent and subordinate reflection within the mirror-like community of believers that recognised his advent. This was the interpretive avenue that led Shaykhi students to embrace the Bab, and opened up the way for the Bab's highest claim to be the Point of Manifestation in this world of the Primal Will Itself, the primordial Intermediary between God and His creation. This reconciliation, of the Occultation and the Parousia as exclusively inner realites, as per Corbin, experienced in their totality in the inner world of Siyyid Alí Muhammad, the Báb, and thence exteriorized and revealed in realized, albeit non-literal, escathology, is summed up in Lawson's masterful analysis:

"From those passages discussed in the previous chapter which speak of wijdân, and in light of the clear authority with which the Bab comments on the Qur'ân (e.g., wa'l-murâd laday al-haqq, or hâ anâ dhâkir), it may be thought that the Qâ'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 Shî'i millenium is of course of primary importance. Such a combination was bound to produce changes in history."[33]

Summarizing the emergence of the messianic tendency in Shaykhism, Amanat writes:

"...Shaykhism gradually evolved from a theological school into a proto-messianic movement ...By the end of Rashti's time, the Shaykhis fully nurtured a sense of expectation for some form of messianic advent, which they hoped could save them from the harassment and denunciation of their opponents. With this sense of expectation there also emerged among the Shaykhis a more human-like picture of the Lord of the Age and of his mission. He no longer was perceived as a superhuman with fantastic powers which allowed him, according to Shi`i prophecies, to survive a thousand years; he was seen as a human being born to mortal parents. ...His main task, to restore justice and equity, was seen no longer as mere vengeance for the long-standing feud with the historical enemies of his holy family but as a gradual process whose success against his enemies depended on the support and sacrifice of his followers."[34]

Shaykhi millennialism in context

Naturally, Shaykhi millennialism, fulfilled and intensified to fever pitch in Bábism, did not arise in a historical vacuum but was heir to a long and consistent millennialist tradition in Shi'ism inhabiting Landes' "cutting edge of dissent". The most far-reaching predecessor of Shaykhi-Bábí millennialism is probably found in the rise of the Safavi dynasty in Persia, where the radical apocalyptic of the Qizilbash interpenetrated with the universalism of the Nuqtavis to produce a revolution that established a minoritary, strongly mystical and increasingly Persianate branch of Islam, Shi'ism, as the state religion of a new or re-imagined nation comprising the territories under Safavi control, designated in the chronicles as Iranzamin, the Land of Iran.[35] At the heart of the tradition of dissent that made this possible lay a concept of cyclical time that Babayan has perceptively traced to the Late Antique religious vision of Mazdeism, and which, surviving particularly in the Persianate sphere, "continued to resist the monotheist impulse to delay the meeting of the holy with the human until the End of Time."[36] As is often the case when millennialism, religious or secular, generates such social force as to become, in one way or another, established, the challenge of transforming a discourse of dissent into one of establishment and routinization is one that was far from straightforward. "There is a Doppler effect" in Landes' analogy, "at work in apocalyptic phenomena: the intensity of the approach creates a crescendo, sometimes ear-splitting. But once the moment of expectation passes, the sound of apocalyptic urgency drops steeply in volume."[37] The same took place in the Safavid saga, and the chiliaistic, cyclical mindsets that achieved their rise, were soon to become the object of repression by the protagonists of Safavid stability, albeit surviving restively in the new environment:

"By the end of seventeenth century with the writing of an oppressive Safavi discourse and the physical assault on sufi exaggerators, cyclical time ...was to have officially been silenced... But idealists and visionaries continued to voice their desire for alternative visions of Justice. A longing for immediate contact with the holy and a hope to experience a utopia on earth was expressed through a familiar apocalyptic language of change. The break with cyclical time and a gnostic way of being had not been complete in Safavi Iran. Believers continued to anticipate messiahs who did indeed emerge from mystical circles, unveiling new cycles of revelation."[38]

In this passage Babayan identifies succinctly three critical elements of the millennial vision that help us make sense of a phenomenon that viewed through the lens of Western modernity, at once disenchanted and disenchanting, might otherwise well seem arbitrary or merely superstitious. These are the "desire for alternative visions of Justice"; a "longing for immediate contact with the holy and a hope to experience a utopia on earth"; and a conception of "cyclical time" that "continued to anticipate messiahs who did indeed emerge from mystical circles, unveiling new cycles of revelation."

The first element highlighted by Babayan and impinging on our understanding of millennialism, then, is its quest for Justice, but a Justice that goes beyond purely instrumental rationality, Justice conceived as a fundamentally transcendent process that, all the while having a social dimension and outcome, finds nevertheless its source in a mytho-poetic vision dense with meaning beyond the scope of political conceptions.

The Qá'ím, we are told, is expected to bring a reign of justice on earth"

This millennial expectation, and conception, of cosmic justice could not but have been part of the Shaykhi vision, nor by any means an exceptional part. Rather it was integral to the mythos of Shi'ism from its origins, and an inseparable part of the messianic tension of Shi'i escathological traditions. Above and beyond the ambiguities of specifically Shaykhi expectations, the messianic anticipation of an irruption of the Holy that posed an inherent challenge to the prevailing order was perceptively captured in the 19th century by the well-known, Westernising, clearly non-millennialist Persian commentator, reformer and agitator, Mirzá Malkum Khan, founder of Iranian Freemasonry:

"At this time of day, owing to a curious concurrence of many circumstances, the Messianic, or Mahdist, belief is so deeply rooted in all Mussulman nations - especially the Schiytes (Persian) - that it has become their life and soul... The root of all these sects, Bābīs, Shaykhīs and others, is a passionate desire for change, reform, innovation, an abiding disgust with the order or disorder of things as they are. It is a constant protest against the narrow orthodoxy of Islam combined with a revolt of the human conscience against the excesses of a barbarous despotism, an irresistible but uncertain and unorganised aspiration for a national deliverance."[39]

While it might be anachronistic to read an aspiration to national deliverance into early Shaykhism, the broader discussion of the wellsprings of millennial expectation in 19th century Persia echoes closely Babayan's analysis of the ghulat tradition of persianate dissent. What is important to emphasize, however, is that, what to Malkum Khan is an incidental, and secondary aspect of the "passionate desire for change, reform, innovation," and the "abiding disgust with the order or disorder of things as they are", is to Shaykhis, and to millennialists more generally, altogether pivotal, and that is its sacred, vertical dimension. It is not a mere political or social transformation that motivated the millennial expectations of the Shaykhi kerygma: if anything, as Bayat alludes to in her above-cited comments, these were altogether incidental corollaries of the object of their ardent yearning: a cosmic, existential renewal of man's relationship with God, and of history's relation to the sacred.

This is the second element of Babayan's description of Persianate messianism, the search for the encounter between the holy and the human in the immediacy of the social: the entry of the transcendent into the ephemeral, the timeless into the contemporaneous, and the sublime into the merely prosaic through a "return" or "re-creation" of the prophetic drama.

Whereas the non-messianic interpretation and evolution of Shaykhism as elucidated by Corbin and embodied in later Shaykhism moved in the exact opposite direction by abstracting the holy from the social, the chiliaistic undercurrents latent in the oral intimations of the twin founders of Shaykhism, and more particularly in the messianic fervour of a substantial proportion of its earliest adherents, ardently sought such a consummation, and experienced it in the conflagration that became the Bábí apocalyptic.

Which brings us to Babayan's third element, the concept of cyclical time. Whether the conceptions of cyclical time be recurrent, as in Mazdeism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or the Baha'í Faith, or 'linear' as in mainstream Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in most millennial visions the "myth of return" plays an important part, be it in the final return of a specific prophetic figure, such as Jesus, Elijah, or the 12th Imam, or the recurrent appearance of Avatars, transcendent Guides or Manifestations of God in human history. In the case of Shaykhism Vahid Rafati sums up clearly the position of Shaykh Ahmad, stating that his view "implies a continuing divine revelation through a succession of prophets in a series of cycles; while each cycle has a beginning and an end, the cyclic process itself is progressive and continuous."[40]

Although in the long period separating the Safavi routinization of the Qizilbash uprising from the Bábí explosion of apocalypticism in the Qajar era messianic tendencies were muted by an increasingly powerful clerical establishment, yet, as Amanat observes, "Beyond the calm and stern surface of formal Shi`ism there continued to surge a mass of millennial yearning often with revolutionary potentials against the prevailing religion of the `ulama and the institutions of the state."[41]

The significance of Shaykhism to this narrative, and its distinctiveness, is summed up by Dabashi as follows:

" the ideas of Sheykh Ahmad Ahsa'i, the dormant, post-Safavid, Shi'ism once again resumed a doctrinally theorized revolutionary disposition that gave the Shi'i believers and their leaders charismatic cause to be historical agents in the absence of the Hidden Imam."[42]

This, as we shall see did indeed prove "revolutionary" as a platform for dissent "against the religion of the `ulama and the institutions of the state."

Millenialism and modernity

While at first sight our review of millennial expectations in Shaykhism and in the Persianate tradition more broadly might appear utterly disconnected from the logic of modernity, and as such, as Landes averred, altogether alien to the modern mind, a second look suggests that millennialism may in fact connect with modernity both in its genesis, and in its denouement.

In the first instance, all millennialism, Shaykhi millennialism included, bears an intense moral charge, which Babayan identifies with a search for Justice with a capital J, and which, be that as it may, is inseparably linked to a veritable renewal of the moral order on a cosmic scale. The symbolically rich and religiously grounded conceptions of moral principle at the heart of millennialism, far from being new or even novel, are of course at the genesis of values and habits of thought that, in secularised form, have remained a tie of continuity between the cultures of modernity, and their pre-modern precursors. As Habermas writes: "I do not believe that we, as Europeans, can seriously understand concepts like morality and ethical life, person and individuality, or freedom and emancipation, without appropriating the substance of the Judeo-Christian understanding of history in terms of salvation... Others begin from other traditions, to find the way to the plenitude of meaning involved in concepts such as these."[43]

The process of cultural or moral appropriation that has characterised Western modernity is one in which religious insights and impulses justified on the basis of the mythopoetic visions of the world's religions, are translated into terms capable of a shared discursive justification irrespective of the particular and often particularistic religious matrix that witnessed their emergence.

Habermas, in advocating such appropriation, also describes the nature of this process, insisting on the need for the "methodological atheism... of every philosophical appropriation of essential religious contents."[44] There is, of course, a reason for choosing such a course: "Under the conditions of a pluralistic culture, our fundamental moral vocabulary cannot afford to remain dependent on specific religious doctrines or sources of revelation, although it may continue to be energized by them."[45]

The consequences of such 'extraction' of fundamental values from their sacred or religious context is, indeed, an expansion of reach, a greater cultural malleability, and potentially increased social relevance. On the other hand, inherent in such a process of appropriation is the loss of much symbolic, aesthetic and spiritual content from our moral vocabulary, and concommitantly much of its ability to energise commitment and response at a deep psychological level - a reduced ability to engender response or touch the often non-discursive elements of human motivation. That the atheism should inhere in the method only, and not necessarily in the conviction or motivation behind the exercise, does not take away from the fact that (Western) modernity's cultural appropriation of religion has been, as Weber averred, a fundamentally a disenchanting one.

For Habermas, however, the religious cosmos, as already indicated, still has a role in the framing of human values, and not merely in an instrumental sense (such as in highlighting the historical tradition that contextualises our modern morality). In Dews' exegesis of Habermas, "the universal rules of discourse are not moral norms, and ...the crucial role of morality in human life cannot be grounded philosophically. At best, the existential meaning of morality, its capacity to inspire action, can be elucidated through what Habermas terms 'the world disclosing power of prophetic speech, indeed of every innovative language which initiates a better form of life, a more self-aware conduct of life'"[46]

It is precisely "the world disclosing power of prophetic speech" that millennialism seeks to introduce into "the universal norms of discourse"; and thus to "ground" in a transcendent symbolic system an "innovative language which initiates", in the millenialist vision, "a better form of life".

In other words, the logic of millennialism involves a reverse of the process of disenchantment associated with modernity in the West, a process, precisely, of "enchantment" or "re-enchantment", whether the millenialist vision be optimistic (jubilaic), pessimistic (apocalyptic), or altogether terminal (escathological). This is the second element of Babayan's description of Persianate messianism, the search for the encounter between the holy and the human. It is not a thirst pertaining solely to pre-modern societies in a teleology of human progress culminating in the eventual universalisation of a Western civilization that has outgrown premodern discourses, as the sociologist Alain Touraine adverts:

"We now have mixed feelings about all philosophies of progress... Above all, we are afraid of becoming purely social human beings who are completely dependent on a political power, as we know that power never coincides with the general will, which is more mythical than real. The return of the religious is, of course, often an antimodernist development ...but it is also an attempt to reintroduce a non-social force in to social life, to reintroduce an ethics of conviction in to a world dominated by the ethics of responsibility, to adopt Weber's terminology."[47]

Millenialism, in whatever age it appears, represents, within its own world, "the return of the religious" and "an attempt to reintroduce a non-social force in to social life" It triggers a response motivated by the "ethics of conviction". It is, put a different way, a confrontation of mythos with logos. This is, again, far from irrelevant to the dilemmas of modernity, and hence to its denouement. Reflecting on this, the Argentinian psychotherapist Marta Beatriz Guberman writes:

"In the West, this semantic confrontation [between mythos and logos] has a long and tragic tradition, in the course of which "mythos" went from being speech directly revealing of a realm beyond, to being superstitious and false speech. It's true that the discovery of reason must entail innumerable benefits, but no less true is the profound rupture that it meant for human history.

"...The severing from each other brings Logos into islolation, unable to apprehend hopes, desires, wants. Mythos, for its part, apart from Logos' critique is left vulnerable to manipulation, at risk of its force being used in destructive and perverse ways. An example of Logos isolated from Mythos is seen in the fatalism and scepticism prevailing in great part of the post-war generation, but also making itself felt in the new generations. Its distinctive note is a provisional attitude to life: living for the day because we may not be here tomorrow. And if we are, everything will be the same. An absence of values such a love, solidarity, justice, shuts out hope for a better future, since leaning exclusively on reason it is impossible to have faith in the future. Likewise Mythos, in isolation from Logos, is no less dangerous. Examples of its manipulation may be seen in the messianic and fanatical political regimes whose absence of critical reasoning leads them to perpetrate the most terrible crimes in the name of the values they claim to uphold."[48]

In millennialism, the irruption of mythos is intimately linked to Babayan's third element, cyclical time. As Karen Armstrong explains:

"In the premodern world, people had a different view of history. They were less interested than we are in what actually happened, but more concerned with the meaning of an event. Historical incidents were not seen as unique occurrences, set in a far-off time, but were thought to be external manifestations of constant, timeless realities. Hence history would tend to repeat itself, because there was nothing new under the sun. Historical narratives tried to bring out this eternal dimension"[49]

Elaborating on this dynamic she further writes: "One could say that unless an historical event is mythologized in this way, and liberated from the past in an inspiring cult, it cannot be religious. The cult and the mythical narrative liberate the original incident from the confines of its historical period and make it a timeless reality in the lives of the faithful"[50]

What makes the millennialist mythos distinctive, is that it not only mythologizes the past, but crucially, and climactically, the present, and in particular the social. It seeks to bring back the timeless into time, and to make the contemporary, at least momentarily, timeless. And when the playing out of the climatic "myth of return" is transferred from mythical to social time, the irruption of mythos into chronos engenders what Landes refers to as 'apocalyptic time'.

"This can be quite functionally defined as that perception of time in which the End of the World (variously imagined) is so close that its anticipation changes the behavior of the believer... We need a historiographical approach that can examine the role of apocalyptic time and the social phenomena it inspires - apocalyptic communities, movements, sects, and their post-apocalyptic generations -in the shaping of larger societies and civilizations..."

Shaykhi Millenialism and Iranian Modernity

Clearly, Shaykhism, as a philosophical school, ranged far more broadly than its controversial messianic content. A perusal of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim's encyclopaedic writings does not transmit the urgent messianic charge that many of their leading disciples reported from their oral teaching. And yet, it can be argued that it is precisely in this messianic tension, whether latent in Shaykhi thought or actively transmitted in Shaykhi teaching, that the historical significance of Shaykhism lies. The philosophical revolution whereby escathology was liberated from eternity, and through a metaphorical and mystical hermeneutic made accessible to the believer whose visionary journey could make realized escathology a possibility in the interior of his heart, made a breach in eternity's abstract and impermeable confines connecting it to the believer's here and now.

While for the more conservative segment of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim's followers this breach was pursued as an ascent from chronos into mythos, the Báb, by claiming a full interiorization of the escathological myth, made possible its descent into chronos, and inaugurated, for the more radical element among the Shaykh's followers, the long awaited realization of "the End of the World", not as a physical destruction but, to return to Tahirih's depiction, as an age of inner truth and unveiling. The destruction of an old, and the inception of a new symbolic universe in the cosmic reality of mythological history.

Shaykhism's great historical impact in the social history of Qajar Persia, lies precisely in its ushering in of a period of "apocalyptic time" whose full consequences are still being assessed. Shaykhism itself did not operate in "apocalyptic time", and its millennial tension was, if anything, consciously muted, veiled in taqiyya or dissimulation, and concentrated in a small core of disciples afire with messianic zeal. However, its philosophical innovations, most critically, the embedding of escathology in what Samawi refers to a metaphysics of process, at a time of heightened escathological tension as the first one thousand years from the Occultation of the 12th Imám drew near; its rallying together of a learned and dynamic leadership earnestly looking for His return, stirred to action and a fever of expectation by the subtle intimations they found in the oral teachings of their leaders and the abstruse numerology of their more mysterious writings; these furnished an intellectual, spiritual, and mythological bridge without which the eruption of apocalyptic time that swept every sector of Persian society with the emergence of Bábism, would have been inconceivable.

"The political result of these theological speculations" writes Dabashi, "was a critical bypass of the clerical establishment and their vested interest in the status quo. By claiming direct communication with the Hidden Imam through a moral conception of his will, he in effect personified the charismatic community of the Hidden Imam's followers. The revolutionary implication of these ideas is not merely in their resuscitation of Hermetic, Isma'ili, and Ghullat tendencies in Shi'i scholastic thought. There is something far more dangerous to the status quo in these beliefs. Although Sheykh Ahmad Ahsa'i's close followers considered him personally as the one in communication with the Hidden Imam, and although Bab claimed that status openly for himself, the fact is that in these ideas were dormant the restitution of active historical agency for all Shi'is and thus in the Shi'i community at large. What is theorized in Sheykh Ahmad Ahsa'i is nothing other than the historical disposition of the Shi'i community, namely their collective constitution of a charismatic gemeinschaft with historical agency. This is what was potentially evident in the Shaykhi school of thought, brought from de jure to de facto by Bab and thus most feared by kings and clerics alike."[51]

Clearly, this interpretation of Shaykhi escathology stands at opposite poles from that of Corbin and Kirmani Shaykhism, which in a sense involves an even further de-historization of the Hidden Imam and a consequent loss of human agency, but it pinpoints very clearly our point regarding the second, equally compelling, and historically incomparably more influential interpretation of Shaykh Ahmad's legacy in an embodied, realized escathology.

If Shaykhism may be said to represent,as we suggested earlier, the last great philosophical school to have developed integrally within Shi'i Islam, Babism, as the climacteric of Shaykhi millennialism, may be considered with Dabashi "...the last insurrectionary event predicated entirely on doctrinal developments internal and integral to Shi'ism in its scholastic predicates," [52] and "... the very last insurrectionary protest to come out of the Shi'i charismatic disposition in pre-Modern period. Bab's movement embraced both the impoverished peasantry and the urban poor, suffering under the double jeopardy of feudal tyranny and colonial encroachment, and shook the tyrannical reign of the Qajars to its foundations."[53]

But its significance to modernity does not lie so much in its insurrectionary force, its pre-modern matrix, or its distinctively Shi'i characteristics. Rather, it may be found in its ability to integrate the millennial longings of a segregated society into a coherent national religious and social movement reflecting and containing in microcosm the whole of Persian society:

"The Babis ...reflected this convergence of the Persian and Shi`i identities. The sociogeographic composition of the Babi movement revealed national characteristics consonant with the Babi beliefs but in contrast to the compartmentalized structure of the society in which it appeared. Babism was the first movement in the modern Middle East that brought together a wider spectrum of converts from different walks of life and throughout a vast geographical span. Confrontations with the forces of opposition, first the Shi`i clerical establishment and later the Qajar state, further reenforced this national fusion."[54]

This national fusion of religious (and implicitly social, cultural and political) yearnings into one identifiable movement of radical religious dissent, encompassing every sector of Persian society, may be said to be the most immediate and most relevant precedent for the first insurrection of Iranian modernity, the Constitutional Revolution. In this sense, and only in this sense, can we say with Dabashi that the Constitutional Revolution "rises like a sphinx from the ashes of the Babi Movement."[55] It would be a clear overstatement to ascribe to Babism the genesis of the Constitutional Revolution. It can, however, be confidently stated that the rise of the latter is hardly explainable outside the context of the social, religious, cultural and political precedents and dislocations propelled by the former.

To return to Landes, apocalyptic time bears a paradoxical relationship to modernity. On the one hand, it provides a space in which to resist the encroachments of modernity, often in devastating ways. "For all its socially creative force, ...millennialism ...has powerfully destructive tendencies. In some, primarily anti-modern forms, millennial movements can become highly authoritarian, suffused with conspiracist thinking, implacably opposed to imagined enemies (Jews, independent women, denominational opponents), capable of staggering acts of violence and self-destruction".[56]

On the other hand, apocalyptic time can also play a key role in generating modernity: "once we turn from the lurid products of apocalyptic time to their more functional mutations, we find that many an apocalyptic movement has served to acculturate its members to the demands of modernity-prophets bring literacy (often dreaming the new alphabet), technology (viewing a particular tool or artifact of modern culture as part of the new earth in formation), and above all they provide an enormous elasticity to social bonding-both in breaking old and forming new bonds-thereby giving the apocalyptic community the tools with which to adjust to the radically different and constantly shifting conditions of modernity... This social creativity is perhaps the key element in the historical dynamics of apocalypticism: each social product it generates represents a kind of social experiment, and apocalyptic time is a laboratory of social mutations. In both short and long run, the process can have far-reaching consequences."[57]

Babism, as the social culmination of Shaykhi millennialism, "tested the inherited Iranian political culture at its outer limits,"[58] and, it can be argued, created new spaces for identity instrumental in the gestation of two immediate and interrelated responses to modernity in Iran, the Iranian Constitutional Movement, and the important, if still seriously under-researched modernist reform activism of the Bahá'í community of Iran.[59]

What is remarkable about this development is that the ultimate effect of the period of apocalyptic time which a distinctively premodern Shaykhism made possible, turned out to be, in the end, a clear enabler of modernity, indirectly in its prefiguring of the Constitutional Revolution, and directly in the nationwide, modernizing social activism of the Iranian Bahá'í community, which may be regarded as the final routinization of the millennialist impulse birthed in the Shaykhi school, and consummated in its Bábí apotheosis.

As Landes' "Doppler effect" came into effect and "the sound of apocalyptic urgency" dropped dramatically, the more theologically, if not politically, conservative remnant of Bábism, in the shape of the Azali tendency, much as the Kirmani continuators of early Shaykhism, sought to reify the Bábí kerygma by maintaining, as far as possible, continuity with the social and theological content of the Báb's teachings, gradually dwindling into insignificance and obscurity.[60] The majority of Bábis, however, embraced the radical renewal of Bábism by Bahá'u'lláh, who intensified and re-channelled the full force of messianic fervour into a conscious and ambitious project of world reform, seeking to construct a new modernity driven, as Juan Cole noted,[61] by what Anthony Giddens described as "utopian realism" and made distinctive by its pursued syntheis of modernity and mythos, often under real-life conditions of severe repression.

For Dabashi, the Bahá'í routinization of Bábism represents a "degeneration" of the insurrectionary force of Bábism, and he engages in a vitriolic depiction of what he calls the "jaundiced reactionary religion" of the Bahá'í Faith, affected by what he disparagingly refers to as "a pathological universalism."[62] His potentially compelling analysis of this dénouement is, however, marred by unexpectedly obvious inaccuracies which give an unfortunate impression of tendentiousness.[63] This narrative, in both its thrust and the manner it is framed, seems to fall clearly into the "disciplinary blind-spot" relating to the Bahá'í presence in Iran which I have elsewhere argued contributes to a distorted reading of Persian historical evidence, a tendency which, as research continues to build up, does appear to be diminishing.[64] Recent research suggests, on the contrary, that the nationwide social activism of the Iranian Bahá'í community, albeit reformist rather than revolutionary in its methods, nevertheless played a significant role in the social and political history of modernization in Iran.

The Bahá'í routinization of apocalyptic time placed the Bahá'í community of Iran at the forefront of the promotion of education, health services and equal opportunities for women; the integration of erstwhile ritually segregated ethnic and religious groupings, such as Muslims, Zoroastrians and Jews, including the promotion of cross-cultural marriages; the whole-hearted embrace of modern technology, modern medicine, pharmaceutics, modern communications and modern educational methods, leading to significant contributions in each of these fields.

The Bahá'í vision informed Iranian elites across the political spectrum, from Constitutionalist figures such as Shaykhu'r Ra'ís, to mujtahids of the rank of the marja-i taqlid Mirza Siyyid Hasan-i Shirazi who there is evidence to suggest had at least very strong Bahá'í sympathies; to princes and princesses of the Qajar house; to the Persian diplomat behind the appointment of Morgan Shuster as treasurer general of Persia, etc.. In the telegraph network, in substantial segments of the civil service, from its lowest to its highest echelons, in the dar-al funun, in the bazaars, among the most prominent court musicians of the time, in the medical profession, Bahá'ís were represented not only in numbers, but as a cohesive network systematically applying a reformist message that involved the critical integration of modernization into a cosmopolitan spirituality reaching the entire geography and the full demographic of early 20th century Iran.

Finally in this respect, it is significant that the messianic tension gestated and made possible by Shaykhism, embodied and revolutionized in Babism, and routinized in the early Bahá'í religion, achieved for the first time in Persian history the successful projection, and a systematic one at that, of a Persianate religious idiom from its original cultural milieu into the central stage of late modernity: globalization.

To summarise, the apocalypticism subtly but unquestionably introduced by the more audacious interpretations and disciples of early Shaykhism, triggered a messianic movement of national scope that forced a new social elasticity into the religious and social world of Qajar Persia, embodied most dramatically in the iconic moment when Qurratu'l-'Ayn Tahirih appeared unveiled at the conference of Badasht and declared the end of the Islamic dispensation and the opening of a new cycle of fulfilment (causing one of the spectators to cut his own throat in horror).[65] This elasticity opened the way for the politically more radical, and socially more modern Constitutional movement, and resulted, in its Bahá'í routinization, in innovations that anticipated, contributed to, and sought to shape, the advent of modernity not only in Irán, but, in a precociously modern way, the "imagined nation" of a global society.[66]

The full consequences of the evolution of Shaykhi millennialism into its various, and frequently competing, incarnations and mutations, both for Irán and more widely, are still very far from clear. What is beyond doubt is that they are at once significant and far-reaching. At the very least, as Dabashi avers, Shaykhism, through its own distinctive theological and philosophical constructions, but primarily through the inauguration of apocalyptic time that these same philosophical constructions made possible "marked and for ever changed the history of Shi'ism,"[67] and indeed, of Persian modernity itself. As these impacts unfold and become more fully researched and better understood, it is more likely than not that Shaykhism will come increasingly to be regarded as a liminal moment in Persian history, that indefinable instant following which modernity and premodernity, mythos and chronos, Islamic and post-Islamic, national and global, colonial and post-colonial, collided and exploded into new configurations still very much in the throes of contested and competing discourses and hopes.

    Notes (some not yet complete)

    [1] M. Bayat, "Tradition and Change in Iranian Socio-Religious Thought", in Modern Iran, The Dialectics of Continuity and Change, p..45, M. E. Bonnie and N. R. Keddie (eds.), State University of New York Press, Albany, 1981

    [2] Henry Corbin...?

    [3] See for a discussion of this episode

    [4] Corbin En Islam Iranien L'Ecole p.263

    [5] Corbin "Face de Dieu et Face de l'Homme" p.183

    [6] Dabashi 10.

    [7] The reader is referred to ...

    [8] Clifford Geertz, Welt in Stuecken. Kultur und Politik am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts, Passagen Verlag (IWM-Vorlesungen zur modernen Philosophie 1995), Wien, 1996

    [9] R. Landes...

    [10] R. Landes "On Owls, Roosters, and Apocalyptic Time: A Historical Method for Reading a Refractory Documentation", Union Seminary Quarterly Review 49 (1996): 165-85. For millennialism, see T. Daniels, Millennialism: An International Bibliography,Garland Press, New York,1992.

    [11] Babayan

    [12] Amanat, op. cit., p.48.

    [13] Risâlat al-sulûk, Tehran Bahá'í Archives ms. 6006.c, p.74, translated by Stephen Lambden in "The Babi-Bahaí Exaltation of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d.1241/1826) and Siyyid Kazim Rahti (d.1259/1843), Founders of the Shaykhi Branch of Islam",

    [14] "al-'alim al-khalil mu'allimi" I use here Abbas Amanat't's translation, Resurrection and Renewal, p.141, found in Tafsîr sûrat al-baqara, p.6. These statements, as Amanat makes clear, should not be overemphasised, as the actual physical contact between the Báb and Siyyid Kazim was at most sporadic and not at all in the nature of formal tuition. Rather, such statements "should be taken as a symbolic statement of their spiritual affinity and not as literal fact" (ibid.)

    [15] Kitáb-i Iqán, p.67. For more tributes see Lambden, op.cit.

    [16] Vahid Rafati, The Development of Shaykhi Thought, p.167

    [17] Lawson, p.224

    [18] Henry Corbin, "Pour une morphologie de la spiritualité Shî`ite", Eranos Jahr Buch, vol. XXIX (1960), pp.85-86, my translation. Further repudiations of the Babí, and in these instances also the Bahá'í claim to messianic fulfilment on the basis of Shaykhism, may be found in Corbin's important Histoire de la Philosophie Islamique, p.104 and in his magnum opus, En Islam Iranien, vol.IV, p. 283. For a further statement on the impossibility of a full, personal, earthly manifrestation of the Hidden Imám and/or His gate under Shaykhism, see Corbin, L'École Shaykhie en Theologie Shiite, pp.52-54, 56. I have reviewed Corbin's relevance to Babí-Bahá'í studies elsewhere (cf. ...Bahá'í Studies Review).

    [19] Op. cit. p.224

    [20] See for instance the first two chapters of Shoghi Effendi's edition of Nabil-i Zarandi's narrative, The Dawn-Breakers, 1932 (1879),

    [21] Denis MacEoin dissertation p.187, and Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal, ch.6.

    [22] Corbin, En Islam Iranien, op. cit., p.283

    [23] ibid.

    [24] Corbin, L'École, op. cit., p.56

    [25] Such as mujtahids, Mulla Sadiq Muqaddas; Shaykh Muhammad Shibl, who was Rashti's representative in Baghdad, Mulla Abdu'l Khakiq Yazdi, a leading Shaykhi of his time, student of Shaykh Ahmad and potential rival although eventual follower of Siyyid Kazim, etc, (see Amanat, ibid.).

    [26] Corbin, Histoire, op. Cit., pp. 105-106, my translation. For a similar statement though much less categorical, suggesting that the day of parousia could be conceivably manifested on earth if the conditions were met, i.e, if humanity attained the required degree of spiritual perception. see Corbin, École, p.54

    [27] Amanat, op. cit., p.283

    [28] Denis MacEoin, The Sources for Early Bábí Doctrine and Scripture: A Survey, p.110, Brill, Leiden, 1992. See also her risala or treatise in TZH., vol III, pp.484-501.

    [29] Denis MacEoin,"Shaykhiyya", Encyclopaedia of Islam II, p.405, Douyel et al (eds), 1997.

    [30] "The Bab of the Imam is hidden by the very occultation of the 12th Imám", cited in Corbin, En Islam, op. cit., p.279

    [31] On traditional Shi'i expectations of the parousia of the 12th Imám, see...

    [32] See Eranos...

    [33] Todd Lawson, The Qur'an Commentary...

    [34] Abbas Amanat, "The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Islam", in Stephen J. Stein (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, vol. III: Apocalypticism in the Modern Period and the Contemporary Age, p. 241, Continuum, New York, 2000.

    [35] See, for a historical "thick description" of the Safavid episode, K. Babayan. Her book is of historiographical interest as a compelling attempt, in Landes' above-cited words, "to probe what seems irrational, to empathize with people who say and believe things that radically challenge our "take" on the world", in order to "begin to perceive the impact they have had on our culture". See also H. R. Roemer, "The Safavid Period," in Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart, eds. The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 6: The Timurid and Safavid Periods, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 189-350; Said Amir Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1984; Charles Melville, ed., Safavid Persia, I.B. Tauris, London , 1996.

    [36] Babayan, ibid. p. ...

    [37] "What's Time to a Bat? On the Meanings of Anno Domini 1000, Then and Now." Richard Landes

    [38] Babayan, op.cit., pp.

    [39] Cited in Algar, Malkum, p.221, ff. For a recent, rigorous overview of Malkum Khan's interactions with Bábism and the Bahá'í Faith, see Necati Alkan...

    [40] Vahid Rafati, dissertation, p.169

    [41] Abbas Amanat, "The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Islam", in Stephen J. Stein (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, vol. III: Apocalypticism in the Modern Period and the Contemporary Age, p.239, Continuum, New York, 2000.

    [42] Dabashi 11

    [43] J. Habermas, "Metaphysics after Kant", in Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays,Cambridge Mass. 1992, p. 15

    [44] J. Habermas, "Transzendenz von innen, Transzendenz ins Diesseits", Texte und Kontexte, Frankfurt 1991, p. 129.

    [45] P. Dews, "Disenchantment and the Persistence of Evil", p. 4, IWM Working Paper No. 8, Vienna, 1997.

    [46] Dews, ibid. citing J. Habermas, "Erläuterungen zur Diskursethik", Erläuterungen zur Diskursethik, Frankurt 1991, p. 189.

    [47] A. Touraine, Critique of Modernity, p.59, Trans. D. Mackey, Blackwell, Oxford, 1995

    [48] Marta Beatriz Guberman, "El proceso de la cura: una propuesta a partir de la integración "mythos - logos", Interpsiquis, 2003. My translation from the Spanish original. Also at [49] Karen Armstong, The Battle for God, p.

    [50] Karen Armstong, "Faith and Modernity", in Harry Oldmeadow (ed.), The Betrayal of Tradition: Essays on the Spiritual Crisis of Modernity, p.76.

    [51] Dabashi 12

    [52] Hamid Dabashi, "The End of Islamic Ideology," Social Research, Vol. 67, No 2, Summer 2000. pp. 475-518. 9

    [53] Dabashi 12

    [54] Abbas Amanat, "The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Islam", in Stephen J. Stein (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, vol. III: Apocalypticism in the Modern Period and the Contemporary Age, p.244, New York: Continuum, 2000.

    [55] Dabashi 10

    [56] R Landes "Millenialism (Millenarianism, Chiliaism)", in Merriam-Webster, Encyclopedia of World Religions, 1999

    [57] R. Landes "On Owls, Roosters, and Apocalyptic Time: A Historical Method for Reading a Refractory Documentation", Union Seminary Quarterly Review 49 (1996): 165-85.

    [58] Dabashi 9

    [59] For the complex interactions of the Bahá'í community and the Constitutional Revolution, see..., For the Bahá'í contribution to modernization in Iran, see...

    [60] Insert note on Azali participation in the Constitutional Revolution.

    [61] Juan Cole, Modernity and Millennium...

    [62] Dabashi 10.

    [63] Among the inaccuracies contained in this article may be noted the idea that "Baha'ullah officially sided with Mohammad Ali Shah." (13) In fact Bahá'u'lláh had died more than 14 years before Muhammad Ali Shah Qajar's accession on Jan 8, 1907. Again, he speaks of Bahá'u'lláh's successor having "under the British Mandate established the center of his vanity in Haifa." He surprisingly fails to note that it was under the Ottoman mandate, concretely under their binding decree of exile and incarceration, that the Bahá'í leadership established its headquarters in the Akka-Haifa area long before General Allemby's troop stormed Haifa (see Necati Alkan on Ottoman...). Even Dabashi's sympathetic and very insightful discussion of Babism is affected by anachronism, although not in so obviously tendentious a fashion, so that he inexplicably equates the Hijri year 1260, marking the inception of Bábism and the first Shi'i millennium, with the Gregorian year 1848 (11), some 4 years after the event.

    [64] See Ismael Velasco, "Academic Irrelevance or Disciplinary Blindspot"..., Also of relevance is Houchang E. Chehabi, "Anatomy of Prejudice: Reflections on Secular Anti-Bahá'ísm in Iran," in Dominic Brookshaw and Seena Fazel, eds., The Bahá'ís of Iran: Socio-Historical Studies, RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2007

    [65] Insert Milani, Mottahedeh, Chelabi, etc.

    [66] On Bahá'í cosmopolitanism, see Nalini...

    [67] Dabashi 10

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