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Note: Arabic and Persian terms are not fully
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published in In Iran: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í
History vol. 3,
ed. Peter Smith (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1986)
In recent years, the history of the early development of the
Bábí movement has undergone extensive and often trenchant
rewriting at the hands of several scholars, including the present
There is still
much work to be done, but there can be no doubt that a great deal of light has
already been shed on areas not long ago regarded as impossibly dark. Problems
have been usefully identified in topics long considered settled beyond any need
for discussion. We now possess clear pictures, for example, of the main
features in the transition from Shaykhism to early Babism, of the Báb's
early career and claims, of the progress of the Bábí uprisings
after 1848, or of the writing and dissemination of the Bábí
scriptural canon. Advances have been made not only in the realm of factual
data, which has been greatly expanded by numerous discoveries, but, more
importantly, in the field of interpretative historiography, with the fresh
analysis of both familiar and unfamiliar material.
There can be little doubt, however, that one period of Bábí
history continues to stand out as unrelievedly obscure, namely
the years between the execution of the Báb in 1850, and
the emergence of distinct Bahá'í and Azali factions within the
Bábí exile community in Edirne about 1866, and subsequently in
Iran. This period has for a long time been all but passed over by historians as
a time of confusion, anarchy, and deep doctrinal division within Babism for
which virtually no documentary evidence exists that might enable us to
reconstruct its essential details. Between 1848 and 1852, the
Bábí community of Iran had suffered serious losses in the course
of clashes between adherents of the sect and the population at large. Between
two and three thousand
violently in this period, including the Báb himself and all but a
handful of the intellectual leadership of the movement. After the abortive
attempt on Nasiri'd-Din Shah's life in August 1852, the survivors (a small
number in terms of active affiliation with the movement) either recanted, went
underground, practiced dissimulation (taqiyya
or chose to go
into exile outside Iran.
The effects of this rapid disintegration of an already little-organized
community (if community it can be called) were, from the point of view of the
later historian, quite devastating. Numerous documents, particularly letters,
were lost, destroyed, or
Among the most
serious casualties were undoubtedly works by the leading figures of the
Bábí hierarchy who perished in the uprisings at Shaykh Tabarsi,
Nayriz, and Zanjan. To make matters worse, fear of discovery led the
Bábís of this period to adopt a deliberately enigmatic and
idiosyncratic style that now requires considerable effort and ingenuity to
decipher, with the result that many materials that have survived the
tribulations of those years may often present as many obfuscation as they do
glimmers of light.
And yet this is without question a period of the most extreme importance, both
as a postscript to the short-lived experiment of primitive Babism and as a
preamble to the later reconstructions of the movement in its Azali and
Bahá'í versions. Unfortunately, it is precisely the emergence of
Azali and Bahá'í Babism
that renders the task of the historian unusually arduous and
confronts him with serious problems of research and interpretation. Both
parties to the later dispute looked back to the earlier period, particularly
the years immediately following the death of the Báb and the transfer of
the headquarters of the sect to Baghdad, with visions much clouded by the
demands of contemporary polemic or ex-post facto justification of current
theological positions and concepts of authority. The polarization of Azalis and
Bahá'ís resulted in the rapid displacement of any serious
alternative definitions of Bábí orthodoxy. And, since we possess
very few manuscript materials from the intermediate period, we are forced to
rely almost exclusively on documents reflecting, usually quite strongly, the
sectarian biases of the two opposing groups. It is, quite frankly, often
impossible for the historian to choose between one or the other version of the
same events. Very little corroboratory evidence is ever produced by either
side, and there are almost no independent sources to which one may have
Nevertheless, it seems to me that the main outline of events and, to a lesser
extent, doctrines may be reconstructed without serious prejudice to either side
of the dispute. If we are willing to ignore such questions as "who was right?"
or "who was wrong?" we can, I think, state what happened during this period
and, as far as is possible, suggest why.
Before the main features of this period can be studied, however, there is a
pressing need for a survey of certain doctrinal issues from the early years of
the movement. It is the aim of this paper to provide such a survey, both for
its own interest and as preparation for a future study of the later period.
EARLY THEOPHANIC AND QUASI-THEOPHANIC CLAIMS TO AUTHORITY
It will be useful to begin our investigations with a brief examination of the
nature of religious claims in the early period and a survey of the later
theories of the Báb that can be shown to
have influenced the tone and direction of subsequent speculations.
Doctrinally speaking, Babism is a notoriously difficult movement to define.
There were important shifts in belief and practice within the space of very few
years, coupled with significant differences in the doctrines promulgated by
various sections of the Bábí leadership, not to mention the
innumerable obscurities and vagueness of even the most reliable texts. I have
discussed in detail
the early claims
of Sayyid Ali Muhammad, the Báb himself and will not return to that
question here. Suffice to say that there is ample evidence that for several
years he regarded himself and was regarded by his followers as the
or representative on earth of the hidden Twelfth
Imám, whose appearance in 1845 was imminently expected by all the first
Bábís. Exactly how his claims developed after that is not
entirely clear. Even at the earliest period, there is evidence that the
Báb claimed for himself and his writings a level of inspirational
authority well above that normally associated with the role of
This is not to suggest that he entertained notions
of a more exalted status for himself at this point, merely that the function of
as he understood and expressed
it involved the ability to reveal inspired verses and to possess innate
knowledge. As I have indicated
it was the
Báb's status as a source of pure knowledge more than anything else that
attracted followers to him at this time.
A Bahá'í writer, Sayyid Mahdi Dahají, basing his remarks
somewhat loosely on an important passage of the Dala'il-i-Sab'a
proofs), has put forward the idea that, in the first year, Sayyid Ali Muhammad
referred to himself as "the gate of God" (baba'lláh
the second year as "the remembrance" (dhikr
in the third as
"the proof" (hujja
in the fourth as another name, and in the
fifth as the Qá'im in
Although based on
the Báb's own application of part of a tradition of the Imám Ali
to each of the first five years of his career,
such a picture of a gradual "unfoldment" of the Báb's
claims is, however, based largely on polemical
simultaneous use of terms such as báb, dhikr,
well attested from the earliest
and there is no
evidence of major changes in emphasis (apart from a period of dissimulation
] in 1845, when he renounced all claims) during the first five
years of the Báb's career.
The Báb himself refers more than once to the radical shift that took
place at the end of this period. In several passages of the Kitáb-i
(Book of five proofs), he states that he revealed himself (or
God revealed him) in the station of "gate-hood"
(fi 'l-abwáb; bi-ismi
[sic]) for four years, whereupon he appeared as the
promised Qá'im (bi-ismi Qá'imiyyatika;
We possess no exact date for the initial proclamation of qá'imiyya
by the Báb, but there is sufficient evidence to place this event
(which was marked by the issue of a letter sent to Mullá Shaykh
later part of the Báb's confinement in the fortress of
Mákú, that is in the early months of
In the Persian
the Báb states that when the return of all that had been
created in the Qur'an and the beginning of the creation of all things in the
Bayán occurred, his dwelling-place was Mákú (ard-i
The Báb's claim to be the Qá'im
was not, however,
restricted to the adoption of the simple messianic role outlined for the
Twelfth Imám in Shi'i prophetic literature, but also involved the
assumption of theophanic status coupled with prophetic office as the
inaugurator of a new religious dispensation abrogatory of
In developing the elaborate theory of theophanies and religious cycles around
which all of his later thinking revolves, the Báb made use of a series
of metaphysical concepts common to the main Shi'i sects. But while many of his
ideas and the forms in which they are cast find important and sometimes
detailed parallels in Isma'ili and Hurúfí thought in particular,
it is not, I
think, necessary to look for direct influences from these sources. The
main themes and terms are all to be found in Twelver Shi'i literature,
including, of course, the works of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í and
Zayn al-Abidin. The root of the Báb's doctrine lies in the belief that
the divine or eternal essence (dhát-i iláhi, dhát-i
is wholly unknowable and inaccessible to
but since the
purpose of the creation is for men to know and love
it is necessary for
the creator to reveal himself to them in a form appropriate to their condition:
"in every dispensation, he makes himself known through his own
Báb employs the conventional Islamic terminology of prophet and
messenger (nabi; rasul
and adopts a schema of regularly-spaced prophetic revelations (among which
those of Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad stand
he is less
concerned with the role of the prophets as divinely-inspired legislators
than with their function as theophanic representations
of the divinity on earth.
The Báb's doctrine of theophanies is expressed chiefly through the
Arabic root zuhúr
(to become visible, manifest), which appears in
a number of related technical
(manifestation) is the self-revelation of God to his creation and also the
period during which he is thus manifest. It is contrasted with batín
(concealment), the state of God's invisibility to men and the period
between one prophet and the next, during which he is hidden to men. Mazhar
is the term most often used to describe the place of this revelation, the
created being in whom the Divinity manifests himself to other created beings.
is in one sense the locus in which God himself is manifested
to men: "the hidden reality of the divine unity (ghaybatu' l-tawhid
is only affirmed through that which is revealed in the outward aspect
"know that in
he has been and is the representative
of the eternal and hidden essence
witness that God, may his praise be glorified, makes himself known to his
creation in the place of manifestation (mazhar
of his own self,
for whenever men have recognized God, their Lord, their recognition of him has
only been attained through what their prophet caused them to
In the Persian
Bayán, the appearance of the Báb (as the Nuqta,
thus equated with the revelation of God himself: "the self-revelation of God
which is the self-revelation of the
Point of the
of the Point, who is the place of manifestation of
It is emphasized by the Báb, however, that the divine essence as such
is not manifested directly to
What appears in the
is the Primal Will
itself created by God ex nihilo:
That command (i.e., the place of manifestation) is not the eternal and
hidden essence, but is a Will that was created through and for himself out of
In the Persian
Bayán, the Báb writes that "there has never been nor will there
ever be either revelation or concealment for the eternal Essence in himself,
nor can any other thing either manifest or conceal him. . . instead, he created
the Primal Will in the same way that he created all things by himself, creating
it likewise by himself and all things (other than it) by it, and he related it
to himself in its exaltation and sublimity. ... From the beginning that has no
beginning to the end that has no end, there has ever been but a single Will
which has shone forth in every age in a manifestation
Although the Primal Will is single, it appears in each age in a different
person, whose physical form is variously expressed as its "throne"
[the Will being described as the sun appearing in
or simple place of
. The Will itself in its
manifest form is referred to by a variety of titles, including the Tree of
or, most commonly, Primal Point (nuqtay-i
[sic: footnotes skip 34-35 in original, though these two notes do exist
at the end, in between endnotes #33 and 36. -J.W.] It is from this Point
all things have been
and all the
prophets and revealed books sent
As in the case of the Imáms in Shi'i Islam, the exact status of the
is often blurred. Just as the Imáms
are referred to as God's "outward form amidst his creation" (záhiruhu
so the Báb speaks of the mazhar
as the "throne of God's revelation" ('arsh
the "representative of the divine
or the "locus
of the manifestation of his self" (mazhar
In the same
way that knowledge of the Imáms is knowledge of
(the latter being
impossible without the former) the mazáhir
are, for the
Báb, the only means whereby men may know their creator." God has made
the manifestation "the mirror of his self. . . , in which nothing is seen but
The human locus of God's appearance is, therefore, an essentially ambivalent
creature. Outwardly, he is merely a mortal man: "what your eyes behold of the
outward form of the thrones is but a handful of clay. . . . If you did not look
at what is (manifested) in them, there would be nothing (to see) but earth in
its own place."
however, these beings are divine: "Do not behold the thrones in respect of what
they are in themselves, for I have shown you that they originate as a drop of
sperm and return as a handful of clay. Instead, look within them, inasmuch as
God has manifested himself (tajalli
to them and through
differently, "the inward aspect (bátin
of the prophets is
the words 'no god is there but God,' while their outward aspect
is the mention of their own selves in each
through what is manifested from
It is because of
this difference that the statements of the prophets differ one from the other,
itself the main cause of religious
are all one,
compared frequently to a single sun that appears on different days or in
number of these places of manifestation is
they be said to have any beginning or
This much is, I think, relatively straightforward. But the Báb's
doctrine is, in fact, rather more complex than this and involves several
important elements that were to influence markedly the development of the
religion after his death. The existence of a problem can already be seen in the
Shi'i doctrine of the Imáms. Not only are the Imáms regarded as
identical one with
they are also
identical in essence with the maj or prophet figures of the past: "I," says
'Alí in one tradition, "am Adam, I am Noah, I am Abraham, I am Moses, I
am Jesus, I am Muhammad; I move through the forms as I wish whoso has seen
me has seen them, and whoso has seen them has seen
I do not wish to
enter here into a discussion of what became a subtle problem for later Shi'i
doctrine, namely the relationship between Imám and prophet, merely to
draw attention to an apparent dichotomy between the status of the Imáms
as successors of the prophet Muhammad and their identification with the
prophets of the past. This dichotomy is to some extent resolved through the
doctrine of hujjiyya,
whereby it is maintained that there must always be
on earth a proof (Hujja
from God to men, be it a prophet or
Nevertheless something of a problem remains, for it is, on the one
hand, an established Shi'i doctrine that the pleroma of Muhammad and the twelve
Imáms was created before and is superior to all other beings, including
earlier prophets, who were indeed created after them from the residue of their
and who can only
approach God through them. They are often described in terms that make them
responsible for the inspiration and instruction of even the major prophets of
the past: "The Commander of the Faithful said to Salmán and Abu Dharr:
'I am al-Khidr the teacher of Moses: I am the teacher of David
or in terms that
place them in a relationship to former prophets comparable to that of God: "He
('Alí) said: 'I am the one who carried Noah in the Ark at the command of
my Lord; I am the one who brought Jonah out of the belly of the fish by the
permission of my Lord; I am the one
who caused Moses the son of 'Imran to pass (over the Red Sea) at the
command of my Lord; I am the one who brought Abraham from the fire by the
permission of my Lord.
the other hand, they are identified, not only with these prophets, but also
with their successors: "Whoso wishes to behold Adam and Seth, behold I am Adam
and Seth; whoso wishes to behold Noah and his son Shem, behold I am Noah and
Shem; whoso wishes to behold Abraham and Ishmael, behold I am Abraham and
Ishmael; whoso wishes to behold Moses and Joshua, behold I am Moses and Joshua;
whoso wishes to behold Jesus and Simon, behold I am Jesus and
To turn this
equation around, Seth, Shem, Ishmael, Joshua, and Simon are (in this instance)
the Twelfth Imám, who is, in turn, the teacher of the prophets and a
locus of the Primal Will.
Now this problem, like any other of its kind, can be and has been solved by
the ingenuity of theologians, but I do not wish to enter into an account of
that here. What is of interest in terms of the present paper is that the
paradoxes involved in these concepts retained their basic dynamism throughout
the early Bábí period and became critical causes of uncertainty
in the Baghdad years. To begin with, there were the numerous tensions implicit
in the varying statements of the Báb, not only with respect to his
changing status from "a servant" chosen to be the gate and representative of
the hidden Imám, to the Qá'im, to the place of manifestation of
the divinity and the promulgator of a new shari'a
after that of Islam,
but also with respect to each one of these roles in its different modes and
emphases. Secondly, the Báb sought to endow his immediate followers,
primarily the eighteen "Letters of the Living" (Huruf-i-Hayy
with a status that made
them more than mere saints or intercessors between him and other believers. The
Letters of the Living were "precursors," not only in the literal sense of their
being the first believers in the Báb, but more importantly in their
having been the first of
mankind to respond to God's pre-eternal covenant in the "world of the first
atom," that is, before the creation of the
identifies these sábiqún
with Muhammad and the
Imáms (and often
and in his later
works the Báb describes the Letters of the Living explicitly as the
return of the Prophet, the twelve Imáms, the four gates
who succeeded the Twelfth Imám (later
rejected in Bahá'í theory), and
The question of the status of the Letters of the Living became a crucial one
for early Babism and produced considerable controversy. In 1848, the central
Bábí community of Karbala in Iraq was split down the middle by a
fierce argument between two factions centered on the persons of Qurratu'l-'Ayn
Tahirih and Mullá Ahmad Khurasani
supporters objected particularly to the status accorded Mullá Husayn
Bushru'i and the Letters of the Living in general. Their opponents defended
their position largely by extensive quotations from the Báb's writings,
in which the Huruf-i-Hayy
The details of
this highly interesting but little-known debate cannot be entered into here: it
is enough for our purpose to note that the pro-sábiqún
faction, with its emphasis on hierarchy and obedience to charismatic
authority, succeeded in forcing its opponents into the background, not only in
Karbala, but throughout Iran as well.
As time went on, not only the original Letters of the Living, but later
converts also were accorded exalted stations by the Báb. As his own
claims became more elevated, those given to his followers rose accordingly.
This development is not easy to trace with any precision, but fortunately that
is not essential for our present course of inquiry. According to Muhammad
'Alí Zunúzi, when the Báb abandoned the rank of
to take that of dhikru'lláh
Dahájí's reckoning would have been in the second year of his
career), he gave the title of báb
to his earliest convert,
Mullá Muhammad Husayn
had already been identified by him as the return to earth of the prophet
Muhammad. This transfer of station is corroborated by the earliest
Bábí history, the Nuqtatu'l-káf
work also refers with what degree of accuracy it is difficult to establish
to other shifts of status ascription between individual members of the
Bábí hierarchy. Thus, the station of Bábiyya
passed on Bushru'i's death to his brother Muhammad Hasan, also a Letter of the
Mullá Muhammad 'Alí Barfuru'shi, Quddus, claimed to be the return
of the prophet Muhammad, adducing in evidence of this his ability to produce
verses, prayers, and
later, at the
shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi, Quddus is said to have referred to Bushru'i
(originally understood to be the return of Muhammad) as the Imám
controversially, the Nuqtatu'l-káf
maintains that when, in the
year 5, the Báb laid claim to the rank of Qá'im, "the Point of
manifested itself in the temple of his holiness the
Remembrance [i.e., the Bib], who became the heaven of the (Primal) Will
while the earth of illumination and
volition (ardi-i ishráq wa iráda
was his holiness
Azal (i.e., Mírzá Yahyá Nuri,
apparent but not, as will be shown, necessarily real contradiction to
this, the same source elsewhere maintains that Quddus was himself the
Qá'im and 'Alí Muhammad his
the former having advanced his claims in the fourth year after the period
during which the latter had summoned men to
Quddus, it is said,
made his claims independently and became the heaven of will, with the
Báb the earth of
Quddus is described as "the origin of the point" (asl-i nuqta
'Alí Muhammad again being his báb.
confusingly, it is stated that the Báb and Quddus were both the
Qá'im, in the same way that the Shi'i Imáms may all be referred
to by this title.
Lest these statements seem wholly idiosyncratic and be attributed
to the unreliability of the Nuqtatu'l-káf
as a source (or indeed,
be adduced as evidence of that work's unreliability), it will be worthwhile to
note that there is independent corroboration of the fact that Quddus was
regarded by some at least as the Qá'im (either independently of the
Báb or in tandem with him and/or Mullá Husayn Bushru'i) and that
he himself advanced claims of a messianic and theophanic nature. An important
early history of the Shaykh Tabarsi siege, the Waqáyi'-i mimiyya
(Events of the letter mím
consistently refers to
Quddus as "the Qá'im of
cites a sermon by Mullá Husayn in which he refers to Quddus as "the one
whose advent you have awaited for one thousand two hundred and sixty [sic]
a claim the
latter is said to have advanced in his own
account of the events at Shaykh Tabarsi, Lutf 'Alí Mírzá
Shirází's untitled history, notes, for example, that the
Bábís at the shrine regarded Quddus as the point towards which
prayers were to be directed and turned to him when they performed their
(and, following it, the later
Bahá'í Táríkh-i Jadíd
a number of Shi'i traditions to Quddus in connection with his identification as
Qá'im. Among these are 'Alí's reference to events between the
months Jumada and Rajab,
and the prophecy that the Qá'im would be killed by a bearded Jewish
woman named Sa'ida (who is identified with Quddus's executioner, the
The early attribution of this latter prophecy to Quddus and
Sa'idu'l-'Ulamá' is confirmed by its use in the same context in the
Even a much
later Bahá'í history, the Táríkh-i Nabil,
relates Quddus's arrival at the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi to a well-known
tradition concerning the Qá'im's arrival in Mecca and his leaning his
back against the Ka'ba,
(a tradition which is not, curiously enough, related by Nabil or other
Bahá'í writers, as far as I know, to the Báb's pilgrimage
to Mecca in
1844-5), while the number of Bábí participants in the
Mazandaran conflict is given as exactly 313, the number of the companions of
Apart from Quddus, of course, other members of the Bábí
hierarchy continued to be accorded important positions, including even that of
Mullá Husayn, as we have seen, was referred to
by Quddus as the Imám Husayn, an identification supported by
but is also
described throughout the Waqayi'-i mimiyya
as the "Qá'im of
role much enhanced in several accounts by his bearing of a black banner from
himself made it quite explicit that not only had the Prophet, the Imáms,
and the n
earth in the persons of the Letters of the Living, but other prophets and
saints had reappeared in other of his followers: "The first to swear allegiance
to me was Muhammad the Prophet of God, then 'Alí, then those who were
witnesses after him [i.e., the next eleven Imáms], then the Gates of
Guidance, then those to whom God had accorded such grace of the prophets and
holy ones and witnesses and those who believed in God and his
This same view
is expressed in a letter written by Mullá Shaykh 'Alí Turshizi,
'Azím (to whom the letter from which the above quotation is taken was
addressed): "The Letters of the Living are true and are the tombs in which they
[Muhammad, the Imáms, and the four Bábs] have returned (hum
and certain of the believers are
the tombs of some of the prophets and saints and witnesses and holy ones; all
have returned to the first
In the course of
the Shaykh Tabarsi struggle, Quddus is said to have written a number of letters
addressed to his followers in which he identified each one of them with a
prophet or saint of the past. One of them, for example, is described as the
return of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Abi Talib Tabarsi, the saint buried at the shrine
Zawára'í refers to the 313 companions
of Quddús as
evidently a reference to the "directors" who were expected to return with the
LATER CLAIMS OF DIVINITY
Nor was the extension of hierarchical status limited to the identification of
individuals as the "return" (raj'a
of a particular holy figure
of the past. In the last years of his career, the Báb bestowed on large
numbers of his followers individual names of God numerologically equivalent to
their original names. Thus, Mullá Muhammad 'Alí Barfuru'shi was
called "Quddus," Shaykh 'Alí Turshizi was "Azím," Sayyid
Yahyá Dárábí and Mírzá Yahyá
Núri both "Wahid" (the former being known as "Wahid-i A'zam," the
"greater unity," the latter also being named "Azal"), Mírzá
Asadu'lláh Khu'i "Dayyán," Mullá Rajab 'Alí
Isfahani "Qahir," and so
Each such individual
seems in some sense to have been understood as a manifestation of the
particular attribute of God indicated by his name. It is in this sense, but
with possibly wider implications, that Muhammad 'Alí
Bárfurúshí, Quddus, was called by the Báb "the last
Beyond this, certain individuals were seen as manifestations of the divinity
in a broader and more explicit sense. One of the most compelling examples of
this is the following statement of the Báb concerning Mullá
Husayn Bushru'i: "And make mention of the first to believe, for if you should
travel upon the Sea of Names, you will behold him to be the Primal Will, and if
you should travel on the Sea of the first creation, you will behold the one who
was the first to believe in him; and know that he has ever been and always will
be alive. Whoever possesses might in the Bayán has become powerful
through him, and whoever possesses knowledge in the Bayán has become
In an interesting passage of his "Lawh-i Siraj", Mírzá
Husayn 'Alí Nuri, Bahá'u'lláh, quotes in part and
paraphrases in part words of the Báb concerning Haji Sayyid Javad
Karbala'i, in which he describes the latter as "the primal Mirror which has
from all eternity reflected and will for all eternity reflect God," as "the
Primal Cause" ('illat-i awwaliyya
and as "a prophet unto all
the worlds." Bahá'u'lláh himself comments on the reference to
Sayyid Javad as the Primal Cause, saying that "this station is above all names,
be they of the Essence of God (dhátu'lláh
Reality of God (kaynú-natu'lláh
Remembrance of God (dhikru'lláh
or the Mirror of God
for previously anyone who
attributed such a station to the Prophet of God would have been declared an
unbeliever, inasmuch as men believed the Primal Cause to be God
As in the case of claims of qá'imiyya,
it seem to have been
Muhammad 'Alí Barfuru'shi, Quddus, who was the Báb's chief rival
in respect of claims to some form of divinity. Abbas Effendi,
'Abdu'l-Bahá, maintains that Quddus's commentary on the letter
of the word al-samad
(Qur'an 112:2) which he
"revealed" (názil farmúdand
at Shaykh Tabarsi, was
"from beginning to end . . . (filled with the words) "Verily, I am
appears to be confirmatory evidence that, in the course of the Shaykh Tabarsi
siege, Quddus did, in fact, make claims of this kind. Zawára'í
refers to him as a "place of God's manifestation" (mazhar-i
Bábí apostate who encountered him in Bárfurúsh
after the end of the siege is said to have rebuked him with the words: "You
claimed . . . that your voice was the voice of
claims to divine status for himself are reinforced by many of the Báb's
statements about him. In a Tablet of visitation (ziarat
at some point after Quddus's death in 1849, the Báb writes:
"from all eternity you have existed in the exaltation of holiness and majesty,
and unto all eternity you shall exist in the exaltation
of holiness and majesty. You are the one who is manifested through the
manifestation of your Lord (anta 'l-záhir bi-zuhúri
and the one who is concealed through the concealment of
your Lord. In the beginning when there was no beginning but you, and in the end
when there will be no end save you; you ascended through all creation to a
horizon unto which none preceded
In a section of
the Kitáb-i Panj sha'n
written for Mullá Shaykh Ali
Turshizi, the Báb explicitly declares that "the last name of God has
shone forth and flashed and gleamed and become manifest; well is it with him
who sees in him nothing but
Within the context of such statements, it may be possible to suggest a fresh
dimension to our understanding of the events which occurred at the
Bábí assembly at Badasht in 1848, which is generally associated
with the abrogation of the Islamic laws (shari'a
proclamation of the inauguration of a new age of inner truth (though not, I am
inclined to think, at this stage the implementation of a Bábí
and the announcement of the imminent appearance of the
Qá'im. (A secondary objective of the meeting was to draw up plans for
the release of the Báb from prison in Azerbaijan.) In what is in some
respects a curious letter, Abdu'l-Bahá states that "many have manifested
and lordship (rububiyyat
. . At Badasht, her excellency Tahirih raised to the highest heaven the cry of
"Verily, I am God," as did many of the friends at
Brief as it is
and lacking in direct evidence, this theologically uncharacteristic statement
is nonetheless extremely suggestive and may prove an important starting point
for fresh inquiries into the significance of the Badasht gathering. It may well
be the case, for example, that the recorded divisions between the participants
in the meeting, in particular that between Qurratu'l-'Ayn and Quddús,
relate in some way to the advancement of competing claims of this kind.
Certainly a number of Bábí texts of the post-Badasht period
contain what would only a few years previously have been regarded as
pure blasphemy. Some of the Báb's later writings, including numerous
sections of the Kitáb-i Panj sha'n,
contain exordia such as "this
is a letter from God, the Protector, the Self-subsisting, to God, the
'this is a letter from God to him whom God shall
direct is the following passage from a letter of the Báb to Mullá
Ibráhim Qazvini, Rahim: "Ali before Nabil [i.e., 'Alí Muhammad,
the Báb] is the Self of God (nafsu'lláh
. . . and
the name of Al-Azal, al-Wahid [i.e., Mírzá Yahyá Nuri,
Subh-i Azal] is the Essence of God
In a letter also written to Qazvini after the Báb's death, the latter's
former amanuensis, Sayyid Husayn Yazdi, declares "were it not for the existence
of God in my beloved, the Eternal, the Ancient (al-azal al-aqdam
should not have addressed these words to you, my beloved," and goes on to refer
to the Báb's death as "the disappearance of God"
and "the ascension of God"
I am of necessity selecting passages in order to get across a rather neglected
point, and I would not wish to suggest that I have exhausted the possibilities
of late Bábí theophanic doctrine or that I have necessarily
offered the most reliable picture of it. What I wish to do is to lay a basis
for the study of subsequent developments by showing that there was general
acceptance in the Bábí community of widespread claims to
theophanic status and authority and that no very systematic or consistent
doctrine had been either developed or promulgated to resolve the issues such
claims inevitably brought to the surface. It is, I think, important to do this
in order to balance somewhat the view put forward by the Bahá'í
writer Balyuzi and others to the effect that the doctrines contained in the
are merely "a reflection of the anarchy of the
darkest days of the Bábí Faith" and that early Bábí
leaders such as Darabi, Zanjani, Mullá Husayn, Quddús, and
Qurratu'l-'Ayn could not possibly have held such
I am willing to accept the view that the doctrinal situation following the
death of the Báb and the core of the Bábí leadership was
confused. But I think I have shown that the roots of later speculation lay
incontrovertibly in theories and events close to the heart of the
Bábí movement throughout its most coherent period. The notion of
a united, doctrinally unobjectionable "Bábí Faith" is merely a
reflection of the retrospective systematizing tendencies of modern
THE BABI HIERARCHICAL SYSTEM
Of paramount importance for our understanding of subsequent events, among
which the Bahá'í/Azali split is the most significant, is the
hierarchical system of "mirrors" (mir'at
and "witnesses" (shuhadá'
developed by the Báb
in his later writings. This is not, in the strict sense, an organized system of
hierarchical grades since the terms involved are, to a large degree, mutually
interchangeable and imprecisely used in the texts. Nevertheless, hierarchy is
certainly involved in the concept, and there are indications that definite
roles were envisaged for individuals exercising the functions associated with
the titles. In this respect, Bábí doctrine offers a clear
continuation of the Shi'i theory of Hujiyya,
which is extended, not only
to the prophet and the Imáms or their equivalents, but to other grades
of a loose hierarchy as well.
In discussing the meaning of the term nujabá',
applied to the
saints who will accompany the Qá'im on his return, Shaykh Ahmad
al-Ahsá'í refers to variants on the well-known Súfí
hierarchy which includes, according to one version, a single "pole"
four "pillars" (arkán
and three hundred and sixty "righteous"
Such an arrangement, al-Ahsá'í says, is not to be found in
the works of Shi'i tradition, except for a
statement by the Imám 'Alí ibn al-Husayn referring to "the
recognition of the meanings (al-ma'ání
second, the recognition of the gates (al-abwáb
third, the recognition of the Imám in the fourth, the recognition of the
in the fifth, the recognition of the
in the sixth, and the recognition
of the nobles (al-nuwuba'
The first four
of these (al-tawhid
[in a common variant, al-bayan
generally regarded as referring to the Imáms: as the stations
in which God is known to men; as the
"meanings" of God's acts; as his knowledge, power, wisdom, and so forth; as the
"gates of God"; and as Imáms in the visible
Al-Ahsá'í's opinion, the four arkán
to the four nuwwúb
of the Twelfth Imám, the
(whom he equates with the abdal
first ranks of the righteous in Shi'i Islam (khiyár al-shi'a
and the nujabá'
are the second rank of
This hierarchical grading is linked by al-Ahsá'í to the degree
of spiritual knowledge available to each of its ranks. The nuqabá'
"special ones"), for example, can know
the Imáms in their highest stations of máqámát,
whereas the nujabá'
are capable only of knowing them in the rank of
From a different angle, it is said that the believers receive their
knowledge of God from the prophets, who in turn receive theirs from Muhammad
and the Imáms, who are the first beings to whom God made himself known
a process which is compared to that of a series of mirrors reflecting the
same original image in descending degrees (an analogy of importance in the
Implicit in this hierarchical system is the notion of intermediacy. The
Imáms are, in the first place, the primary intermediaries between men
and God, being the "gates" or "paths" that link the creation with the
There must, at
time, be further intermediaries between the Imáms and the
believers in general, since not all the latter possess the same capacity.
Al-Ahsá'í speaks of these latter intermediaries in the context of
a much-commented quranic verse: "And we appointed, between them and the towns
we blessed, manifest towns, and we measured the journey between them. Travel in
them by night and by day securely." (34:18) According to a tradition related
from the Imám Báqir, the "towns we blessed" are the Imáms,
while the "manifest towns" (quran záhira
messengers and transmitters from the Imáms to the believers
and the scholars
of Shi'i Islam.
The Bábí leader Qurratu'l-Ayn Tahirih also makes use of this
quranic verse, referring to an alternative interpretation which identifies the
"manifestations" with Shi'is in general and the four "gates
this identification in the course of a broader account of the continuing
process of divine guidance through the ages, according to which God has sent a
in every age and period. Thus prophets
were dispatched until the coming of Muhammad (who is, of course, their seal).
After Muhammad, men were tested through the Imáms until the
disappearance of the last of them, after which the "gates" were appointed so
that humanity should not be left without guidance. Following the "gates", pious
ulamá guided the
appearance of wicked scholars who made exalted claims for themselves and
corrupted the faith. Since, however, the Hidden Imám wished to
distinguish the good from the wicked, he chose a perfect man to whom he taught
his inner knowledge and whom he preserved from sin and
Although she does
not give his name, it is clear from subsequent references that Qurratu'l-'Ayn
is here referring to Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í. On his death, she
says, God appointed Sayyid Kazim Rashti to be the sign
and proof (al-hujja
on behalf of
the Imám to all men. After Rashti,
'Alí Muhammad Shirází was made the Báb
The Báb himself, she concludes, will be followed in his turn by the open
appearance of the Imám in
In another treatise, Qurratu'l-'Ayn links the concept of the "manifest towns"
to the Shaykhi theory of the "fourth support" (al-rukn
This later theory is fairly complex, and I do not
propose to discuss it in detail here. Suffice it to say that, where traditional
Shi'i theology speaks of five "bases" (usul
of religion (i.e.,
the oneness of God, prophethood, resurrection, the justice of God, and
Imámate), Shaykhi doctrine reduces these to three: knowledge of God,
prophethood, and Imámate. Added to these is a "fourth support," which is
knowledge of the "friends" (awliya'
of the Imáms, a term
which includes the nuqaba'
and the ulamá in
In the course
of a defense of the concept of four supports, Qurratu'l-'Ayn states that the
"fourth support" may be identified with the "manifest
argues that the meaning of the messenger (rasúl
age is the "bearer of the hidden sign," a branch of the tree that gives the
fruit of true knowledge. This fruit is renewed in every age in order to put men
to the test. This bearer of God's hidden knowledge is revealed at whatever time
the will of God deems it
In this age, she
says, God has revealed the "fourth support" and sent a messenger
who is the remembrance of the Imám in other
words, the Báb. This individual she then identifies as "the manifest
him as the "special shi'a
. . . az
and one of the nuqaba'
or (echoing al-Ahsá'í) "special
She also defends
the Báb's use of the words "I am he who manifested himself to Moses on
Sinai" (man-am mutajalliy-i Músá dar Túr
referring to a well-known Shi'i tradition to the effect that the one who
appeared to Moses was a man from behind the throne of God, one of the shi'a
of the Imáms.
More widely, she states that, in this age, the nuqaba'
are shining forth
from the glory of
probably a reference to the Letters of the Living or other members of the
Báb himself makes use of the sevenfold concept of tahid,
ma'áni, abwáb, Imáma, arkan, nuqaba',
Although he does not identify them with any specific individuals, he does
indicate that these last two groups exist on earth and go unrecognized by
He does, however,
identify the Letters of the Living as the "manifest
identification also made by Qurratu'l-Ayn in a commentary on one of the
Qurratu'l-Ayn significantly precedes her own reference to the
as the "manifest towns" by describing them as "the
paths and gates of the Remembrance" (subul al-dhikr wa
epithets which draw attention to the role of the sábiqún
as intermediaries between the primary manifestation of the Will and the
rest of mankind.
Curiously enough, the Báb makes little use of the terms
preferring instead to employ the
terms already mentioned (maráyá' adillá',
In the Panj sha'n,
however, there occurs
an important reference to the nuqabá'
in the context of an explanation of the Báb's theory of secondary
mirrors. We have already noted that he often refers to the place of
manifestation of the Will as a mirror, in which the sun of God (or of the Will)
may be seen.
original mirror, as the representative of the hidden Essence, marks only the
inception of a descending hierarchy, the grades of which are themselves
described as mirrors reflecting it in a manner identical to that outlined by
al-Ahsá'í in his account of the hierarchy of
the Báb, "unnumbered mirrors were to be placed before him [i.e., the
and he were to decree prophethood [for them], they would
be prophets (rasul
and if unnumbered mirrors were to stand in
front of them and he were to decree guardianship [for them], they would be
and if unnumbered mirrors were to stand
before them and he were to decree directorship, they
would be directors (naqíb
and if unnumbered
mirrors were to stand before them and he were to decree nobility, they would be
and likewise for every goodly
This sequence of primary, secondary, tertiary, and other mirrors is, according
to the Báb, an actual characteristic of every revelationary cycle, not
only in the lifetime of the prophet (who is the primary mirror) but throughout
the subsequent period, leading up to the reappearance of the Primal Will in
another prophet. "Consider," he says, "the revelation of the prophet Muhammad,
how many mirrors appeared up until the time when God manifested the Point of
the Bayán. . . . Similarly, behold in the Bayán, from the first
moment that God sent it down upon the Primal Point until the time of the next
resurrection, wherein God shall manifest him whom God shall manifest. . . all
the pure glasses that have appeared, all the untouchable mirrors that have
lengthier passage, he describes the relationship between the primary and the
other mirrors: God, he says, "has singled out from his creation a mirror
indicating his firstness and his lastness, his appearance and his concealment,
and has established it as his Will, inasmuch as it has only wished for that
which he has wished. . . . In this mirror there is seen nothing but his most
holy essence. . . . This mirror has appeared from the beginning that has no
beginning in every revelation (zuhúr
with a (different)
name, and in every period of concealment (butún
manifested itself on (different) thrones.
Although they are
innumerable, these mirrors are but a single mirror in which God alone can be
All other mirrors
exist in the shadow of this single mirror and are all manifestations
raises the question of how there can be a multiplicity of mirrors in any one
dispensation to which the Báb replies that in each revelation the
the primary manifestation of the divine
which is a mirror
showing the "manifest exaltation" of the zuhúr,
to the revelation, while all the secondary mirrors to be illumined in that
summon others to the primary
wishes to see innumerable secondary mirrors placed beneath the shadow of the
first, all of them remaining entirely dependent on
This hierarchical principle is precisely observed in the Bábí
dispensation. God, says the Báb, created him and made him the mirror of
his self, after which unlimited secondary mirrors were created from him. Out of
these latter, God again selected a single mirror to be a mirror for himself,
causing it to speak on his behalf and to act as a locus
for his revelation and concealment. From this
secondary mirror in turn other mirrors are to be brought into existence, all of
them calling men to God, informing them about him and guiding them to
This sequence is
described in detail in a subsequent passage:
God, praised be he, has singled out in this revelation an untouchable mirror
and an exalted glass in which the sun of reality is reflected, upon which the
point of divinity has shone, and in which the real being of eternity is
displayed. . . . This mirror shall be reflected in (another) mirror, which
mirror shall be reflected in (another) mirror, which mirror shall be reflected
in (another) mirror, which mirror shall be reflected in (another) mirror. Even
were it to make mention (of these mirrors) to the end that has no end, the
accounting of my heart would not be free of those shining reflections, those
ascending manifestations. But until now only that (original) mirror has
appeared with pure innate capacity (fitra mahda
This series of reflecting mirrors parallels and is in some ways closely linked
to the better-known hierarchical system of Babism composed of "letters"
and "all things"
Together with the Báb himself, the eighteen
"Letters of the Living" formed the "first unity" (al-wahíd
the Bayán. It seems to have been the
Báb's intention to establish a complete and identifiable
hierarchy based on the multiplication of "unities" (wáhid
beginning with the Letters of the Living. According to Nabil, the
Báb instructed his first disciples to record the names of those whom
they converted, lists of which were to be forwarded to him via his uncle in
Shiraz. These lists were to be classified by the Báb into "eighteen sets
of nineteen names each," each set constituting a single "unity" and the total,
together with the first "unity" coming to 361, the number of "all things"
(i.e., the numerical equivalent of the phrase kullu
Although the Báb's later writings continue to contain complex
references to this overall concept, there is no evidence that his original
object was ever attained or that the classification of "unities" proceeded as
planned. Nevertheless, there are references to a "second unity" (al-wahid
which included the Bábí leader
Sayyid Yahyá Darabi,
and to "unities"
other than the first,
and it seems likely that the Báb retained hopes of ultimately organizing
his followers according to this scheme.
A related but more complex concept, which I cannot claim to understand or be
able to explain fully at this point, is that of mirrors reflecting the letters
of the unities or the unities in general. This idea is expressed simply (but
unfortunately without any reference) by the Bahá'í writer
Ishráq-Khavari, who states that the Báb "established eighteen
mirrors beneath the shadow of each of the Letters of the Living, in order that
they might form the number of wahíd
(19) together with the
Letters of the Living."
This seems to be related to the progressive development of the Báb's
claims, as he himself indicates in the Panj sha'n:
"I revealed myself in
the gates for four years, and it is necessary that a mirror be found for each
letter, that it may be a place of manifestation (mazhar
sense of progression is emphasized in the following passage:
"You revealed me in the name of your gates for that number [i.e., the number
of years corresponding to them], 4; wherefore, create, O my God, for each unity
an untouchable mirror that may reflect your essence, and an exalted glass that
may guide (men) to your oneness. Then you removed the honor of that garment and
raised me up from that inaccessible horizon and revealed me in the guides to
your guardianship (fi adillá' wiláyatika
names of your unity. Wherefore, create 0 my God, in each year for each unity an
untouchable mirror and an exalted glass that will reflect from my self in all
the grades of your power and the manifestations of your
"I bear witness that God manifested me in the gates for the number of [the
[i.e., 4], in which we remained speaking; and since
my self has recognized all things, it is necessary that that mirror be
reflected by (another) mirror. . . , indeed it is necessary that there be found
in each year a mirror for each manifestation of the guides of the unity
What this appears to mean is that the Báb hoped a fresh mirror would be
found to reflect each of the original Letters of the Living every year, in this
way creating new unities, leading ultimately to the creation of one or more
It would, however, take a total of three hundred and
sixty-one years to reach the first kullu shay'
in this way. If, on the
other hand, we think of an exponential progression, with each new unity
generating subsidiary unities every year, numerous kullu shay'
rapidly come into being.
Possibly related to the above concept is that of the regular appearance
throughout the Bábí dispensation of temples (haykals
apparently manifestations of each of the members of the first unity:
"Nurture, 0 God, the tree of the Bayán until the
day of him you will manifest; and cause to appear, 0 God, at the
beginning of every (period of) sixty-six years a temple belonging to the
temples of the unity, that they may raise up your paths in the Bayán
[i.e., promulgate the Bábí laws] and take hold of what you
decreed from your horizons in the Bayán until the day your heaven, your
earth, and all that is between them shall be illumined by the appearance of him
whom you will manifest "
The significance of this is somewhat clearer than that of the foregoing. In the
course of his lengthy and complex discussion of the significance of "temples"
in the last sections of the Panj
Báb says that every sixty-six years of the qur'anic era passed about one
letter of the first
the Báb compares the first temple (the locus of the Primal Will) and the
eighteen temples beneath it to the sun and the mirrors reflecting
It is unclear what
the relationship between the two ideas must be, but in the Haykal al-din
(Temple of religion), the Báb orders the renewal of all books every
the idea is that fresh knowledge will be revealed every sixty-six years and
that, therefore, all previous books will become worthless.
It is far from clear to what extent the Báb wished to formalize this
system. Many of the references to adillá'
seem quite general and open-ended. At the
same time, there are hints that some sort of organization was to be introduced.
In the Arabic Bayán and the Haykal al-din,
for example, the
Báb describes the division of the spoils of war to various groups,
including "the first letters" (al-hurúf úlá
and "the witnesses" (al-shuhadá'
In the Persian and
Arabic Bayáns the Báb lays down general rules for the
distribution of tax revenue to the members of the unities, as well as the
descendants of the Letters of the
In one place, he
instructs future Bábí kings to select twenty-five individuals
from the ulamá who are "horizons of the letters" (matáli'
to teach the
LONG-TERM ESCHATOLOGICAL EXPECTATIONS
Whether organized or not, the concept of guides and witnesses is closely
linked to the Báb's anticipation of the eschatological events related to
the appearance of the next locus of the Primal Will, generally referred to in
his writings as "he whom God shall manifest" (man
The Báb expected his laws and
teachings to be preserved and promulgated in the long term by a succession of
guides who would eventually lead men to the recognition of the next prophet. It
is, as we have noted previously, a basic Shi'i principle that there must always
be a divine proof (hujja
for creation. The Báb himself
emphasizes this doctrine in a highly important passage of the Panj sha'n,
which I shall quote almost in full:
Know that [it is the case in each manifestation (zuhúr
that, until the creation of that manifestation has reached the limits of
perfection, the divine Will and eternal Volition of the Living One will not
return to men. From the beginning of each manifestation to the day of the next
manifestation, all the guides that appear always have affirmed and always will
affirm the acceptance of that revelation; and they have been and will be the
ornaments embellishing that period of concealment [butún;
between revelations]. They are all mirrors reflecting the sun of oneness
belonging to that manifestation and shining glasses displaying the Countenance
of that concealment.
And know that there has always been and always will be a proof on the part of
the God unto his creation, for all things exist through the Will of God;
indeed, it cannot be imagined that there should at any time be a thing and the
proof for it on the part of God not be complete. . . . Just as the Living One
has always existed, so there has ever been established the existence of the
throne of reality among created beings. Throughout eternity his station has
always existed, except that in the day of resurrection (yawm-i
is manifest and shining above the horizon (mashriq
in the days of his setting (ghurúb
he is knowing and
Yet during the period of his concealment, there have been and shall
be guides to his cause in each manifestation who have preserved and shall
preserve his religion. And there have been and shall be witnesses to creation
on his part. These are the lights of guidance in the night of nights, through
whom all (others) are
Referring to the questions of how long a period will elapse between his
revelation and that of him whom God shall manifest, the Báb states that,
in every manifestation God chooses for the locus of manifestation guides,
witnesses, preservers (huffáz
who preserve God's laws from manifestation to manifestation and summon men to
God from concealment to
It is men's
duty to recognize the "throne of revelation" in each manifestation and cling,
in each concealment, "to the guides of the one veiled in that
It is clear that this principle is also to obtain in the period between the
manifestation of the Báb and that of him whom God shall manifest. "In
the days of God," the Báb writes, "every glass that rises up will be a
guide to him whom God shall manifest and all shall reflect
"While the sun is
shining [i.e., while the Báb still lives], let you all obtain
illumination from its light. But after that, he who
the verses of
God in their true nature (bi-fitratihá
may you obtain
illumination from their [the verses] light. And if after that there should
shine forth one like him, then you shall be guided by one like him and shall
shine with the light of God, until such time as the unity is complete,
whereupon the affair shall return to
This last passage seems to be made even clearer in the following lines from a
letter of the Báb's to Mírzá Ibráhim Qazvini, to
whom he writes: "The cause shall reach the Name al-Wahid
[i.e., Mírzá Yahyá Subh-i Azal], for his appearance in
himself is a proof; and after him, should God reveal one like him possessed of
proof, it [the cause] shall reach him; otherwise the cause is in the hands of
the witnesses in the Bayán, until the day of him whom God shall manifest
in the next
evident, then, that the Báb anticipated some form of continuing
mediated at first through single individuals and then, if
necessary, through the "witnesses" in general. That this was so is emphasized
by his statement to the effect that "the creation shall be in the night of
nights just as it was after Muhammad, until you [God] show beneficence towards
them through the manifestation of your self in the day of
A crucial question, of course, was that of how long the period of concealment
between the Báb's death and the appearance of him whom God shall
manifest would be. Although it cannot be proved, I am of the opinion that this
did not actually become an issue until the mid-1860s, when conflicting Azali
and Bahá'í claims about the length or brevity of this period
raised it to a central position in the debate between these two factions. The
Báb's own writings, as we have seen, imply an interval similar to that
between any two previous prophets. The reference to temples appearing every
sixty-six years would seem to preclude any manifestation before at least one
such period. More telling are the numerous passages that anticipate the
appearance of Bábí
conquest of the entire earth by the
the general application of Bábí laws, including that of
pilgrimage; or the construction of mosques and tombs; or the levying of taxes;
or the regulation of trade all of which necessitate the existence of a
developed and stable Bábí state.
Indeed, some of the Báb's laws, such as the regulations that books must
be renewed every 66 or 202
or that furniture
must be replaced every 19
imply a long-term outlook on his part. But perhaps the clearest indication
of the minimum time-scale anticipated by the Báb is to be found
in a passage of the Haykal al-din
which, in spite of its obscurities, is
quite explicit as to the number of years involved.
If he [God] wished, he could decree more than a "unity"; and if he desires he
is capable [of revealing] until the day of resurrection thrones of the living
[sic]); and if he wishes he will command you (to
obey/follow?) one whose knowledge encompasses the laws of the Bayán
after the sun has set. After six hundred and sixty-two years have elapsed of
the Bayán, present yourselves before your ruler (malikikum,
every eleven years (?, fi ihá'ashar sana,
[sic]), then praise
[him?], that you may thus present yourselves before him whom God shall
It is worth referring, even if only in passing, to the vexed question of the
are used by the Báb in the Persian Bayán
with the appearance of him whom God shall
important passage in which the terms are used is in the sixteenth báb
of the second wahid:
I promise the people of the Bayán that if, at the time of the
appearance of him whom God shall manifest, you should all attain to that
mightier paradise [i.e., belief in him] and that greater meeting, you shall be
blessed, you shall be blessed, you shall be blessed. Otherwise, should you hear
that a revelation has appeared with the signs of the former (revelation), in
the number of God the Most Succouring (al-ghiyath
= 1511), let you all
enter in. If that should not take place and it has reached the number of the
name of God the Beseeched (aI-mustagháth
= 2001), and if you
should hear that a Point has appeared yet you have not all been convinced, have
mercy on yourselves and all in your entirety enter beneath the shadow of that
manifest Point. . . . If you do not hear [that he has appeared], then abase
yourself and offer up supplications that the grace of God may not be cut off
from you until [the time of] mustagháth.
And if you hear between
now and mustagháth
who is my beloved and your beloved, my sovereign and your sovereign, has
appeared, do not hesitate even for a single second, but enter you all together
beneath God's shadow. ... 0 People of the Bayán, if anyone should
hesitate even to take one breath after two thousand and one years, he shall
without question no longer belong to the religion of the Bayán and shall
Bahá'í writers have, I think, been correct in pointing out that
the two figures of 1511 and 2001 years represent the latest date at which the
next manifestation was to appear, and in stressing that the Báb himself
held that only God knew the time of the revelation'" and that, whatever the
date, all were obliged to recognize him whom God shall manifest when he came.
At the same time, whatever later interpretations of these passages may suggest,
it is highly unlikely that much or any early Bábí opinion
anticipated the next manifestation before the passage of a considerable period
of time, and certainly not as soon as the ninth or nineteenth year after the
It is also, I think, obvious that it is impossible to maintain that the
Báb clearly foretold the year of the appearance of him whom God shall
manifest or identified him with a living individual, and at the same time to
hold that he set no time at all or, indeed, that he felt some need to refer to
the latest date of the manifestation as 1511 or 2001 years in the future.
Early Bábí opinion as to the probable lateness of the next
manifestation would have been reinforced by numerous statements of the
Báb, particularly in the Panj sha'n,
to the effect that, unless
the creation begun under one manifestation has reached a state of completion
(or perfection), the next manifestation will not
are almost without exception accompanied by references to the guides or mirrors
who will appear to preserve the faith throughout the time of concealment. This
principle of completeness preceding the recreation of all things in a new
explicitly to apply to the Bábí dispensation: "Unless the
creation of the Bayán
reaches perfection, God shall not manifest him do you not see? All
who shall appear before his appearance are guides to the fact that there is no
God but him and that all are his
the period (that will elapse) between the Point of the Bayán and him
whom he shall manifest; but if the creation in any given manifestation does not
reach perfection, God will not manifest the locus of the revelation of himself
in the next
he says, "the Bayán is in a state of seed; but at the beginning of the
revelation of him whom God shall manifest, there will be the final perfection
of the Bayán."
Related in some way to this notion of increased perfection (which has
important analogies in other aspects of Bábí
is the concept
that, as a revelation progresses, time becomes increasingly thin or subtle to
the point that a fresh locus of manifestation has to appear. This idea may have
been derived by the Báb from Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í, who
employs it in relation to the appearance of the Twelfth Imám. According
to al-Ahsá'í, the beginning and end of time are both subtle
while its middle is dense. As men draw closer to
the time of the Imám's appearance, time becomes increasingly subtle
until he finally
This appears to
be linked to the theory that the heavens move quickly during a time of
injustice and slowly during a period of justice, so that, when the Qá'im
appears, a year will equal ten normal
Al-Ahsá'í also believed that, when the Qá'im appeared, the
heavens would return to their original position and commence their second
seems that al-Ahsá'í conceived of time as essentially single,
beginning with the creation and culminating in the appearance of the Hidden
Imám. The Báb, however, while borrowing the idea that time
becomes increasingly fine, sees this as a process that recommences with every
fresh revelation of the Primal Will. "In every manifestation, when the era
has reached the extremity of fineness and the
[has reached] the utmost degree of thinness,
he [God] has manifested himself to his creation in the throne he has chosen
from among men, the seat he has selected from among his
became increasingly subtle through the 1,270 years of the Islamic era until God
revealed the Báb,
so that time is now in a state of
Báb elsewhere states that God nurtured men for 1,270
it seems evident
that the processes of temporal refinement and gradual perfecting are assumed to
go hand in hand during the period of concealment.
Finally, it is worth noting in passing that the Báb hinted more than
once that the time of the appearance of him whom God shall manifest could, in
fact, be calculated in advance: "The length of time from this revelation to the
revelation of him whom God shall manifest is known to God. But it is possible
for men to know it from what they deduce through the science of letters
[gematria]. Should God give anyone that knowledge in its entirety, he will make
his deduction just as those who deduced [the time of] the revelation of the
Point of the Bayán from
separating one manifestation from another," he says, "is known only to God or
to those to whom God has given the science of letters in its entirety
Among other things,
the final sections of the Panj sha'n
are devoted to the revelation of
the science of letters, with the aim of enabling men to recognize him whom God
was to manifest on his appearance. And it seems to be the case that speculation
employing gematria was used by many Bábís in an attempt to
"decipher" the rather abstruse statements found in these
SHORT-TERM ESCHATOLOGICAL EXPECTATIONS
If, as I think is correct, the vast majority (if not all) of the
Bábís in the period after the Báb's death regarded the
manifestation as an event that would occur in the distant future,
possibly as much as 2001 years away, what did they expect to happen in the
immediate future in the next ten or twenty years, let us say? I should like
to look at one or two indications that there was some kind of messianic
expectation in primitive Babism, even after the Báb's own claims had
reached their highest point. This was, as I propose to demonstrate, largely
rooted in Shi'i eschatological theory and in various allusions in the writings
of the Báb himself. But I think it can also be attributed in part to the
actual conditions of Babism in the 1850s.
The sharp contrast between Shi'i messianic expectations relating to the
earthly triumph of the Qá'im and the rapid establishment of a reign of
justice under his government, on the one hand, and the physical destruction of
the Báb and his leading followers, on the other, must have been a
tremendous shock to the large numbers who had put their faith in the Báb
as their messiah. In such a situation, the failure of prophecy will provoke a
variety of responses: the abandonment of belief, more intense faith, or
readjustment or rationalization of the content of the prophecy that has been
deemed to have failed. Rather than simply resign themselves to the failure of
their immediate hopes and patiently await the coming of him whom God shall
manifest, it is probable that a large part of the Bábí community
would have looked for further eschatological events and personages in the
present. Shi'i prophecy relating to the events surrounding the appearance of
the Qá'im, Muhammad, and the other Imáms is extremely flexible
and open to varying interpretation. Even such a devout believer in the validity
of Shi'i traditions as Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í was forced to admit
that the prophetic traditions were full of irreconcilable
therefore, possible to create a variety of scenarios for events to come, each
of which can be justified by reference to different
prophecies. I do not wish to enter into a detailed discussion of these
prophecies here the interested reader may find adequate information in the
instead to draw attention to one or two that may be particularly relevant to
our present discussion.
According to a number of traditions, the Qá'im will be the first of the
Imáms to return to
after which he
will rule for seven or nine years, each of which will be the equivalent of ten
Al-Ahsá'í expresses a definite preference for the figure seven
fifty-nine years of the Qá'im's rule have passed, the Imám Husayn
will come forth; he will remain silent (sámit
years (i.e., until the year seventy), whereupon the Qá'im will be killed
and his place taken by Husayn for nineteen years until the appearance of
Now, it was true that the Qá'im (i.e., the Báb) had been put to
death in the sixth (thus, sixtieth) year of his "reign." The logical conclusion
must, therefore, have been that the Imám Husayn would now appear to take
over the task he had begun. However, this did not tally very well with strict
Bábí theory. The Báb had, as we have seen, stated
categorically that the Imám Husayn had already returned to earth along
with Muhammad, Fatima, the other Imáms, and the four Gates. In at least
one place, moreover, he had gone on to say that "whoever awaits, after this,
the appearance of the Mahdi or the return (raj'a
of Muhammad or
one of those who have believed in God or his verses, is of those who possess no
knowledge this shall be so until the day when God causes me and those who
have believed in me to return. That shall be the day of resurrection, when all
shall be in a new
letter in which this passage occurs is known to have been widely spread among
the Bábis, we must assume that this clear rejection of further "returns"
was reasonably well known within the community.
And yet it must have been tempting to ignore it or interpret it away,
for the Shi'i prophecies did not speak of all the sacred figures of Islam
returning at once, and it was well known that Ali in particular was expected to
have "two returns."
There were, moreover, hints in the Báb's writings that further
eschatological events could after all be anticipated in the very near future.
These hints are far from easy to disentangle, but I shall attempt to give some
idea of what they involved.
Let me begin by looking at a passage of the Dala'il-i sab'a
Báb commences by quoting part of the well-known Shi'i tradition, the
"Hádíth Kumayl," interspersing his citations with references to
each of the first five years of his prophetic mission. Thus, in the first year
there occurred "the uncovering of the veils of glory, without any indication,"
in the second "the extinction of what was doubtful and the clarification of
what was known," in the third "the rending of the veil through the overcoming
of the mystery," in the fourth "the attraction of oneness to the attribute of
singleness," and in the fifth "a light shone out of the morning of eternity
upon the tabernacles of
by telling his correspondent that he will indeed see the light from the morning
of eternity if he does not
Immediately after this, the Báb turns to examine a phrase in a morning
prayer (du'a al-sabar
written by the Imám Báqir,
which begins with the well-known words "0 God, I beseech you by your beauty
in its most beautiful [aspect], and by all your
resplendent beauty. 0 God, I beseech you by all of your
the Báb's interpretation, this first section of the prayer refers to
Muhammad, the next to 'Alí, up to the fifth section (which begins, "I
beseech you, 0 my God, by your light [núrika
in its most
luminous aspect"), is a reference to the Imám
of the word light (núr
with Husayn occurs elsewhere in
therefore, be regarded as entirely normal in the
present context. Although he does not say so explicitly, it is clear that he is
linking the light that occurs in the fifth phrase of the "Hadith Kumayl" (and
hence in the fifth year of his mission) with the light that is mentioned in the
and which is identified with the Imám Husayn. In
other words, the Imám Husayn is the light that "shone out of the morning
Following this, the Báb quotes a short passage from a letter written by
Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í to Sayyid Kazim Rashti, ending with the
words: "You shall know his call after a time (ba'da
This is not
the first time the phrase ba'da hin
occurs in the Dala'il-i sab'a:
several pages earlier, the Báb cites two passages from the Khutba
attributed to the Imám 'Alí, in the second of
which the following words occur:
"After a time you shall possess a new thing (turfa
you shall know part of the explanation. Thereupon the regions shall be
tongue-tied through men summoning others to every vanity. Beware, beware, and
expect the appearance of the greatest
In spite of its obvious meaning of "after a while," ba'da hin
interpreted numerologically, the word hin
being taken as a reference to
the year 1268 A.H.
other words, ba'da hin
may be read as "after 68," namely the year 69 or,
within the context of the Bábí dispensation beginning in 1260,
the year 9. In order to get a little closer to what the Báb is trying to
say in the Dalá'il-i sab'a,
let us look at a number of passages
in the Panj sha'n.
Here, he refers to the year 9 and to what will
precede and follow it. Thus, for example, he says: "This is what we promised
you a time ago (min qabli bin
[lit. "from before a time"]), when we
replied to you: "Wait until nine has elapsed of the Bayán, then say
"blessed be God, the best of
after this, he says (again, it appears, referring to an earlier reply) that
"before nine (al-tá'
there must appear in six
two signs from God in the book from the early
I shall come back to these two signs in
a moment, but first let me quote a later section of the Panj sha'n
addressed, like the first, to Mullá Shaykh 'Alí Turshizi
'Azim: "Before the maturity (bulúgh
of the Primal Point
in the wombs of existence 'before nine' (qabla 'l-tis'a
is] the equivalent of 'before a time' (qabla hin
necessary that two mirrors reflect
It would seem that the 'two signs' and the 'two mirrors' mentioned in these
passages are to be regarded as identical. But what are they references to?
After the first of the passages quoted, the Báb continues as follows:
"Say: the first of them [i.e., the two signs] is Yahyá the prophet
[i.e., John the Baptist], and the other is the son of
second, he goes on: "for from the beginning of creation (min badi'
until this time, no one was born after the passage of six
months except Yahyá the prophet and Husayn the son of
Both the second passages from the Panj sha'n
and a similar passage
quoted by Bahá'u'lláh in his Lawh-i
terms of "maturing" or of the development of an embryo (a common Islamic and
Bábí image). The lines just quoted explicitly bring in the notion
of an embryo reaching maturity in the brief period of six months. Could,
therefore, the appearance of the "two signs" (or "two mirrors") in the year 6
(1266 A.H./1849-50A.D.) be intended to indicate the actual birth of the
Bábí revelation, which had previously been in a state of
gestation? The Báb may have anticipated that "before nine," which seems
to mean "in the year six" (nine months being, of course, the normal period of
gestation), the Bayán would reach maturity in the appearance of two
mirrors representing Husayn and John the Baptist. As far as Husayn is
concerned, this would certainly correspond to the prophecies referring to his
appearance in the sixtieth (thus, the sixth) year of the reign of the
But what of the "year nine" itself? There are clear references to it in some
of the Báb's writings. In the Arabic Bayan,
for example, he
writes: "When you hear the mention of the one we
shall manifest in the name of the Qá'im, anticipate the difference
Then you shall
attain to all good in the year
This statement is
echoed in somewhat different words in the Haykal al-din:
when you hear the
name of the Qá'im and when you mention [it]. And you shall witness all
good between the difference of al-Qá'im
One of the
problems posed by the use of the terms al- qayyúm.
something like "self-sufficient") in these passages is that it is not a normal
eschatological term in Shi'i literature and cannot readily be identified with
an expected eschatological figure. Normally, in fact, the word occurs as a
title of the divinity. In a letter to his uncle, Hájí
Mírzá Sayyid 'Alí Shirází, the Báb
identifies it numerically with the name Yúsuf (=156) and says that "it
means the Qá'im of the family of Muhammad," which is, of course,
Nor is the
numerical difference between al-Qá'im
of much help, since this may amount to 5, 9, or 14, depending on the value
given to the third letter (either yá'
The reader if he has persevered this far will by now have reached the
conclusion that none of this is very clear. I suspect that many early
Bábís may have felt the same way. Nevertheless, it is apparent
that references of this kind must have encouraged interest in the years around
1268, 1269, and 1270 A.H. (1851-54 A.D.) and suggested the possibility of the
initial appearance of John the Baptist and Husayn in 1266/1848-49, possibly
followed by their later activity in 1269/1852-53. And the question of
the claim to be the return of Husayn did indeed come to
be of more than passing interest around this period
This paper is an expanded version of a paper written for the Second Annual Los
Angeles Bahá'í History Conference, August 1984. It is
only part of a larger study of authority claims in middle Babism (c.
1850-1866) that I have undertaken. The purchase of many of the materials used
in the preparation of this paper was made possible through a grant from the
Research Committee of Newcastle University, to whom I wish to express my
1. The following are among the more important recent studies of the subject: D.
MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism: A Study in Charismatic Renewal in Shi'i
Islam" (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1979); idem., "Early Shaykhi
Reactions to the Báb and His Claims," in M. Momen (ed.), Studies in
Bábí and Bahá'í History
Vol. I (Los Angeles:
Kalimát Press, 1983); idem, "The Bábí Concept of Holy
(1982) 12: 93-129; M. Momen (ed.), The
Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, 1844-1944: Some
Contemporary Western Accounts
(Oxford: George Ronald, 1981); idem, "The
Trial of Mullá 'Alí Bastámí: A Combined Sunni-Shi'i
Fatwa against the Báb," Iran
(1982) 20: 113-43; idem, "The Social
Basis of the Bábí Upheavals in Iran (1848-53): A Preliminary
Analysis" in lJMES
(1953) 15:157-83; A. Amanat, "The Early Years of the
Bábí Movement: Background and Development" (Ph.D. thesis, Oxford
University 1981); P. Smith, "Millenarianism in the Bábí and
Bahá'í Religions," in R. Wallis (ed.), Millennialism and
(Belfast: Queen's University, 1982); idem, "A Sociological Study
of the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions" (Ph.D. thesis,
Lancaster University, 1982); Mangol Bayat, Mysticism and Dissent:
Socioreligious Thought in Qajar Iran
(Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University
Press, 1982) ch. 4 "The Politicization of Dissent in Shia Thought: Babism."
2. On this figure, much lower than that generally given in Bahá'í
sources, see D. MacEoin, "From Babism to Bahá'ism: Problems of
Militancy, Quietism, and Conflation in the Construction of a Religion,"
(1983) 13: 219-55, p. 236.
3. See letter of Sayyid Husayn Yazdi to Mullá 'Abdu'l-Karim Qazvini
(dated possibly late 1850 or 1851) in [Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad
Shirází, the Báb and Sayyid Husayn Yazdi] Qismati az
alwáh-i khatt-i Nuqfay-i Úlá wa Aqá Sayyid Husayn
(n.p. [Tehran], n.d.) p. 39; Mírzá Husayn 'Ali Nuri,
Bahá'u'lláh, "Lawh-i warqá," in Abdu'l-Hamid
Ishráq-Khávarí (ed.), Ma'idih-i asmani,
(Tehran, 1971-72-1972-73) vol. 4, p. 150; idem, Kitáb-i iqan
1933) pp. 168-69; Shoghi Effendi [Rabbani, God Passes By
(Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1944) pp. 90-91.
4. MacEoin, "Early Shaykhi Reactions"; idem, "From Shaykhism to Babism." ch.
5. See idem, "Nineteenth-century Bábí Talismans," paper delivered
at the annual conference of the British Society for Middle East Studies,
Cambridge, 1983, published in Studia Iranica
(1985) 14:1, pp. 77-98.
6. Sayyid Mahdi Dahájí, Risálay-i Sayyid Mahdi
MS F57. E. G. Browne Or. MSS, Cambridge University
Library, p. 38.
7. Dahájí is at this point attempting to prove that the phrase
"the light that dawns from the morn of eternity upon the temples of unity"
(núr ashraqa min subhb al-azal 'alá hayákil
refers to the Báb's appearance as the
Qá'im and not to the emergence of Subh-i Azal in the fifth year. There
is in existence, however, a statement by the Báb's contemporary,
Mírzá Muhammad 'Alí Zunaizi, to the effect that, in the
beginning, the Báb claimed to have been sent by the Hidden Imám
and that his words were below those of the Imám but superior to those of
al-Ahsá'í and Rashti; after that he adopted the title
then Qá'im, and finally the station of
(lordship, divinity) see text quoted Mírzá
Asadu'lláh Fadil-i Mazandarani, Kitáb-i Zuhúr al-haqq,
vol. 3 (n.p. [Tehran 7], nd.) pp. 31-33. On the later claim to
see the Báb, Bayán-i
(n.p. [Tehran], n.d.) exordium, p. 4.
8. See, for example, idem, Qayyumu'l-asma',
MS Fli, E. G. Browne Or.
MSS, Cambridge University Library, ff.2a, 19a, 32b, 36a, 69, 96a, 103b, 114a.
In this and other early works, the term hujja
is generally reserved for
the Twelfth Imám and for the writings of his báb,
'Ali Muhammad. But for an apparently early description of the Báb as
(the greatest proof), see Qurratu'l-'Ayn,
printed in Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl
Gulpáyání and Mirza Mahdi Gulpáygání,
Kashf al-ghita 'an hiyal al-a'dá'
(Ashkhabad, n.d.) appendix, p.
2. The same writer refers to the Báb as "the Proof of God." (Risala
printed in Mazandarani, Zuhar al-haqq,
vol. 3, p. 361)
9. See the Bab, Kitáb-i panj Sha'n
(np. [Tehran], n.d.) pp. 11,
184, 256, 280. See also idem, Dala'il-i sab'a
(n.p. Tehran], n.d.) p.
10. A passage quoted from this letter in the Kitáb-i
identifies it with that printed in the Báb and
Yazdi, Qismati az alwah-i,
p. 14 (transcription pp. 13-12 [sic]); see
Hájí Mírzá Jani Kashani,
ed. by E. G. Browne (Leyden and
London, 1910) p. 209. The text is also printed in Mazandarani, Zuhúr
vol. 3, pp. 164-66.
11. Two main facts point to this date: the first is the Báb's own
references to a period of four years elapsing before his elevation to the rank
of Qá'im, the second his explicit announcement of Qá'imiyya
in the pages of the Dala'il-i sab'a,
a book certainly written in
Mákú (see the Báb, Dala'il,
pp. 25, 29, 30). The
Báb left Mákú on 9 April 1848 (see Mullá Muhammad
Nabil Zarandi, The Dawn-Breakers,
ed. and trans. by Shoghi Effendi
[Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1932] p. 259).
12. The Báb, Bayán-i fársí,
exordium, p. 4
=72= Máh-kú [a variant of
Mákú]; the Báb himself gives, the spelling
"Mákú"; ibid., 4:12, p. 136; idem, Dala'il,
13. The link between qá'imiyya
and the inauguration of a new
dispensation (and not merely a new era) is to some extent indicated by a number
of messianic traditions that state the Qá'im will appear with a new day,
a new religion, and a new creation," or "a new book" given to him by Muhammad
and 'Ali, of "a new cause, a new book, a new sunna,
and a new heaven."
(See texts quoted by Shaykh Ahmad ibn Zayn al-Din al-Ahsá'í in
"Risala fi 'l-'isma wa 'l-raj'a," in idem, Jawámi' al-kilam,
vols. [Tabriz, 1856, 1860], vol. 1, part 1, pp. 62, 64, 66.)
14. The Báb, Bayán-i fársí,
exordium, p. 1;
3:7, p. 81; 4:1, p. 105; 4:2, p. 110, and passim; idem, Panj sha'n,
31-32, 62, 114, 125-26, 155, 165-66, and passim; idem, Dala'il,
31; idem, al-Bayan al-'arabi
(n.p. [Tehran], n.d.), section 1, p. 3;
3:7, p. 10.
15. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
16. Ibid., p. 245.
17. See ibid., pp. 23, 40, 102, 125, 161, 277; idem, Dalá'il,
2, 3, 20 (payghambar
2:1, p. 12 and passim.
18. In an important passage of the Kitáb-i panj sha'n,
Báb states that "this revelation [zuhúr
fifth revelation in two thousand seven hundred and seventy (years)." (Panj
p. 289) Elsewhere,
he breaks this figure down into portions, as follows: from Moses to
David: 500 years; from David to Jesus: 500 years; from Jesus to Muhammad: 500
years more or less; and from Muhammad to himself 1270 (Or 1271) years. (See
ibid., pp. 66, 199, 315, and cf. passage quoted by Mulla Rajab 'Alí
Qahir Isfahání, Risálay-i Mulla Rajab Ali,
E. G. Browne Or. MSS, Cambridge University Library, f78a-f78b.)
This calculation seems to be based largely on a tradition from the Tafsir
(Qur'án commentary) of 'Ali ibn Ibráhim [ibn Háshim
al-Qummi], in which it is stated that five hundred years passed between Moses
and David, and one thousand between David and Jesus (quoted by Shaykh Ahmad ibn
Zayn al-Din al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára al-jámi'a
4th. ed., 4 vols. [Kerman, 1355 sh./1976-77], vol. 1, p.
The Báb was not, however, wholly consistent in his use of this schema.
In the passage just referred to as quoted in Rajab 'Alí Qahir's
for example, he places David before Moses. There is a well-known
contradiction in the Dala'il-i sab'a
which at one point places Moses one
thousand years before David, with the space between David and the Báb as
2,270 years (p. 18), and at another puts Moses 2,270 years in the past, as in
the Panj sha'n
(p. 38). In one passage of the Panj sha'n,
however, the Báb speaks of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and himself as
coming together in a single succession without David (p. 335).
Elsewhere, the Báb returns to a schema closer to that found in the
Qur'án, referring to the revelation of God in Noah, Abraham, Moses,
Jesus, and Muhammad. (See Panj sha'n,
pp. 384, 396-97; Dala'il,
p. 66.) In one passage he speaks of prophets prior to Adam. (Panj sha'n,
p. 241) The notion of five dispensations seems, however, to be related
(albeit idiosyncratically) to the well-known Islamic theory of five major
prophets, the ulu'l- 'azm
or "possessors of constancy," namely Noah,
Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. (See al-Ahsá'í, Sharh
vol. 2, p. 155.)
19. The related verb tajalli
(to become clear, manifest) and its
derivatives (especially tajalli
with strong echoes of the
theories of Ibn al-'Arabi, are frequently used by the Báb. (See, for
example, Panj sha'n
pp. 31, 54, 195.) On Ibn al-'Arabi's use of this
term, see Muhyí
'l-Din ibn al-Arabi, Fusús al-hikam,
Abu'l-Alá 'Afífí (Cairo, 1946) pp. 12-21; idem, The
Bezels of Wisdom,
trans. by R. W. J. Austin (London, 1980) pp. 149-50; T.
Izutzu, A comparative study of the Key Philosophical Concepts in Sufism and
Taoism: Ibn al-Arabi and Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu
(Tokyo, 1966) pp. 37-38.
It is impossible to tell how far, if at all, the Báb may have been
directly influenced by the ideas of Ibn al-Arabi. There is no evidence that he
had read any of the latter's works, although we do know that Shaykh Ahmad
al-Ahsá'í was familiar with some of them, even though he strongly
disapproved of Ibn al-'Arabi (see Shaykh Ahmad ibn Zayn al-Din
al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-Arshiyya,
2nd. ed., vol. 1 [Kerman,
1361/1982]. pp. 26-27; idem, Sharh al-ziyara,
vol. 1, pp. 71, 219, vol.
3, p. 219).
20. The Báb, Panj shan,
21. Ibid., p. 102.
22. Ibid., p. 125.
23. Idem., Bayán-i fársí,
exordium, p. 3.
24. Ibid., p. 4.
25. On the notion that God's zuhúr
to his creation can only take
place metaphorically, see al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-Arshiyya,
vol. 1, p. 61.
26. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 31; cf. ibid., p. 390; idem,
p. 2. On the Imáms as loci of the Primal Will,
see al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 2, p. 192.
27. The Báb, Bayan-i fársí
4:6, pp. 120-21.
28. Idem, Panj sha'n,
p. 23 ("the rusul
are the thrones of his
manifestation"). For "thrones," see passim. 'Arsh al-haqíqa,
throne of reality," is often used (e.g., ibid., pp. 21, 31). On the primary
application of 'arsh to the "Reality of Muhammad" (al-haqíqa
and 'Absolute Guardianship" (al-wiláya
of which the Imáms are the loci, see
al-Ahsá'í Sharh al-ziyára ,
vol. 4, p. 245. On
Bábí usage, see further, 'Abdu'l-Hamid
Ishráq-Khávarí, Rabiq-i makhtúm,
(Tehran, 130-131 Badi'/1974
vol. 2, pp. 157-60.
29. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 24 and passim.
30. Ibid., p. 423 and passim. This haykal
is particularly described as
"the temple of man": "The Will is in the temple of man ('alá haykal
al-insán) from the beginning that has no beginning to the end that
no end" (ibid., p. 388) and, more interestingly: "For the Will has
always been in the temple of God ('ala haykal alláh, which is the temple
of man, and all things have been created from it" (ibid., p. 389). On the
Imáms appearing in different hayákil,
al-Ahsá'í Sharh al-ziyára ,
vol. 2, p. 160. On the
wider implications of the term haykal
and its relationship to talismans
and the science of letters, see my paper "Nineteenth-century Bábí
31. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
pp. 34, 132-33, 149-50, and passim. On
the concept of the Imáms appearing in their bodies like images in
mirrors, see al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p.
32. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 23 and passim. On the Imáms as
see al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára ,
vol. 2, p. 48.
33. The Báb, Bayán-i fársí,
2:8, p. 37 and
passim. Shajarat al-zuhúr
also occurs (Panj sha'n,
34. Ibid., p. 104 and passim. In this context, the mazhar
of the Will is
often referred to as the "horizon" (mashriq
ibid., p. 51.
35. Idem., Bayán-i fársí,
3:7, p. 81 and passim.
36. Ibid., 1:1, p. 4 and passim. On the use of the titles "first point" and
"last point" for the legendary saint Khidr by Abdu'l-Karim Jili, see H. Corbin,
Terre celeste et corps de resurrection
(Paris, 1960) p. 244. For some
other terms used for the Primal Will, see the Báb, Panj sha'n
37. Idem, Bayán-i fársí
1:1, p. 4; 3:8, p.
38. Ibid., 2:8, p. 37.
39. Al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 4, p. 269. Cf.
ibid., vol. 2, p. 316.
40. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
41. Ibid., p. 102.
42. Ibid., p. 23.
43. See al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára ,
vol.2, pp. 108
233; vol. 3, pp. 29, 242.
44. See the Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 195: "If he did not reveal
himself to the prophets in their own selves, how could God be known?"; ibid.,
p. 313: "Bear witness that the knowledge of God is not made manifest save by
the knowledge of the place in which his self is manifested."
45. Ibid., p. 54; cf. idem, Dalá'il,
46. Idem, Panj sha'n,
47. Ibid. On the Imáms as both human and divine, see al-Ahsá'i,
vol. 2, P. 200.
48. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 40; cf. p. 314: "His inward aspect is
the words "no god is there but God," while his outward aspect in the
Qur'án was Muhammad, the messenger of God, and in the Bayán the
Essence of the Seven Letters [i.e., 'Alí Muhammad], and in the Gospel
Jesus, the Spirit of God, and in the Psalms David, the Friend of God, and in
the Torah Moses, the Interlocutor of God, and after the Bayán he whom
God shall manifest."
49. Ibid., p. 391.
50. Ibid., p. 31.
51. See ibid., pp. 24, 31. 59, 63-64, 156, 162, 314, 320; cf. idem,
52. Idem. Panj sha'n,
53. Ibid., pp. 141, 228, and passim. The idea that a single spirit manifests
itself in an ever-changing variety of human forms is fundamental to
Ismá'ílí and Twelver (Imámi) Shiism. For the
Ismá'ílis, the Imáms "are like one and the same person,
only appearing in different bodies and states although being in spirit one and
the same all through the ages." (W. Ivanow, Studies in Early Persian
[London, 1948], p. 2) Al-Ahsá'í says of the
Imáms that "although they have appeared in numerous forms
despite their being a single entity, there is
no multiplicity in this other than from the point of view of an alteration of
place, time, direction, and station." (Sharh al-ziyára,
54. See previous note.
55. Hadith al-Sabába,
quoted al-Ahsá'í, ibid., vol.
2, p. 54. Cf. ibid., p. 115, where the Imáms are said to have spread all
the revealed religious systems (shani'i'
comments that, although the Imáms were created after Muhammad, they are
like him in their essences. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 173)
56. For discussion of this complex problem, see Henri Corbin, En Islam
4 vols. (Paris, 1971-72), vol. 1, chapter VI; idem, Histoire de
Ia philosophie islamique,
vol. 1 (Paris, 1964), pp. 62-79. See comments of
al-Ahsá'í, Sharáz al-ziyára,
vol. 4, p.
57. See A. A. Sachedina, Islamic Messianism
(Albany, N.Y., 1981) p. 68
58. See, for example, al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 2, pp. 41, 56-57, 114, 200 ("God created one thousand thousand worlds
and one thousand thousand Adams; in each one of these worlds he caused the
Prophet of God [i.e., Muhammad] to rise up, together with his offspring
'Alí'), 279; vol. 3, pp. 243, 257, 301-02, 361-62; vol. 4, pp. 173,
59. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 188.
60. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 115; cf. ibid., p. 54.
61. Ibid., p. 54.
from Imám Ja'far Al-Sádiq relating to the
Twelfth Imám, quoted in al-Ahsá'í, "Risála fi
`l-'Isma wa `l-raj'a," in Jawámi',
vol. 1, part 1, p. 85; also
quoted idem, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 92, and the Báb,
63. For the use of Sábiqún
in this context, see Sayyid
Kázim Rashti, Usúl al-'aqá'id
Bahá'í Archives, xerox collection, 4) pp. 57, 58.
64. See ibid., pp. 90-91; Háji Muhammad Khán Kirmáni,
2nd. ed., 2 vols. (Kerman, n.d.), vol. 1, pp.
304-05; al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 2, pp. 53,
65. The Báb, Bayán-i fársi,
1:2, pp. 6-7; 1:3, pp.
8-10; idem, letter to Háji Sayyid `All Shirází, quoted
Mázandarání, Zuhúr al-haqq,
vol. 3, pp.
223-24; idem, letter to `All [Mullá Shaykh `All Turshizi'fí, in
the Báb and Yazdi, Qismati az alwáh,
p. 14 (transcription,
pp. 13-12 [sic]); idem, letter in ibid., p. 18 (transcription, p. 17); idem.
p. 88 (where Mullá Husayn is identified as the
"throne of the Point of the Qur'án [i.e., Muhammad]"). At a later
period, the Báb, while retaining this identification, stated that the
Letters of the Living (Hurúf-i wáhid
stations: that in which they themselves are seen, in which they are but
creatures of God, and that in which only God can be seen, in which they are the
"letters of truth." (Bayán-i fársi, 5:17,
66. For a discussion of the main details of this dispute, see MacEoin, "From
Shaykhism to Babism," chapter 6, section "Division within the
Bábí community," pp. 203-07.
67. The main issues of this debate and some of the circumstances
surrounding it have been fortuitously preserved for us in three manuscript
one by Mullá Alimad (printed in `Ali al-Wardi,
Lamahát ijtimá'iyya min ta'rikh al `Iraq al-hadith,
[Baghdad, 19691 pp. 159 ff.
another by Shaykh Sultan
al-Karbalá'í (ins. in Nivishtibadi' nivishta-and
Bahá'í Archives, xerox collection, 80] pp.
310-32; printed in Mázandarání, Zuhúr al-Haqq,
vol. 3, pp. 245-59), and one which can, I think, be attributed to
Qurratu'l-'Ayn (ins. in Nivisháfrit wa sáthiár,
68. Text quoted Mázandarání, Zuhúr aI-Haqq,
vol. 3, p. 32. See also ibid., p. 121 and idem, (Mandarání),
5 vols. (Tehran, 1967/8-1972/73),
vol. 2, p. 12.
69. Káshání, Nuqtatu'I-káf,
p. 181. I have
discussed the vexing question of the authorship and authenticity of the
(a point much contested by Bahá'í
authors) in an earlier work ("A Revised Survey of the Sources for Early
Bábí History and Doctrine," unpublished dissertation, Cambridge,
1977, pp. 168-194) and will not return to it here. Suffice to note my
conclusion that, although the bulk of this work is unlikely to be by the hand
of Mírzá Jáni Kásháni, it is undeniably
early and, whatever its theological peculiarities from a later viewpoint,
remarkably reliable. It is certainly not an Azali "forgery." For issues such as
those under discussion in the present paper, it is often much more useful than
many later historical works.
70. Kásháni, Nuqtatu'I-káf,
71. Ibid., p. 152.
72. Ibid., p. 169. This obviously had much to do with Mullá Husayn's
name, as in the case of some later claimants to the station of
73. Ibid., p. 208. On inida
as the origin of all worlds but itself
created by the mashi'a,
see the Báb, Bayán-i
2:16, p. 57; on the iráda
as a mirror of the
see ibid., 3:7, p. 82.
74. Kásháni, Nuqtatu'l-káf,
p. 202; cf. ibid., p.
75. Ibid., p. 207.
76. Ibid., p. 202.
77. Ibid., p. 207. On this broader use of the term qá'im,
al-Ahsá'í, Shar!i aI-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 75,
Sachedina, Islamic Messianism,
78. Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Zavára'i, Waqáyi'-i mimiyaya
(Cambridge University Library, E. G. Browne Or. MSS, F.28, item 1) p. 3 and
79. Ibid., p. 54.
80. Ibid., p. 70.
81. Lutf `All Mírzá Shfrázi, untitled history (Cambridge
University Library, E. G. Browne Or. MSS, F.28, item 3) p. 71.
82. Kásháni, Nuqtatu'l-káf,
p. 208. For the
and its relationship to the appearance of the
Qá'im, see al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
3, pp. 79, 88, and (in particular) 223.
83. Kásháni, Nuqtatu'l-káf,
Mírzá Husayn Hamadáni,The New History
) of Mirzá Ali Muhammad, the
ed. by E. G. Browne (Cambridge University Press, 1893), p. 91
(where Quddús is incidentally referred to as the "Lord of the
Dispensation"). For the original prophecy, see Sharh al-ziyára,
pp. 60, 75.
84. Zavára'i, Waqáyi',
85. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
p. 352. For the original prophecy, see
al-Ahsá'í Sharáz al-ziyára,
vol. 3, pp.
86. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
p. 354. For the original prophecy, see
al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 48.
87. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
88. Zavára'i, Waqáyi',
p. 1 and passim.
89. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
pp. 324-25. References in the tradition
literature to various banners are numerous and confused, but the most
significant in this context is undoubtedly to the banner presented by the
Prophet Muhammad to the Qá'im (see al-Mish'i Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, pp. 81, 82, 83). On the appearance of black banners from Khurasan
(which is, of course, related to the Abbasid revolt of the eighth century), see
ibid., p. 113.
90. The Báb, letter to Mullá Shaykh `All Turshizi, in the
Báb and Yazdi, Qismati az alwá!i,
p. 13. Cf. letter (also
to Turshizi?), ibid., p. 17; the Báb, Haykal al-din
[TehranJ, n.d. [with al-BayLin al-'arabi]
pp. 1-2. On the
return of all former prophets and saints in the raj'a,
al-Ahsá'í, Sharái al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 69.
On various meanings of raj'a,
p. 170. The identification of the first and second
to swear allegiance to the Qá'im as
Muhammad and `All, followed by the other Imáms, is based on
prophetic traditions to this effect (see, for example, text quoted
al-Ahsá'í, "`Isma wa raj'a," in Jawámi',
part 1, p. 66).
91. Turshizi, letter printed in Mázandarání, Zuhar
vol. 3, p. 166. Cf. generally letter from Qurratu'l-Ayn to
Turshizi, printed in Hamadáni, New History,
p. 436 (with
facsimile, p. 435; this section of the letter is not translated by Browne). The
"tomb" analogy is used later by Mullá Rajab 'Alí Qahir when he
refers to Turshizi as the tomb of Mullá Ijusayn Bushr(i'i (marqad-i
awwal man ámana Risála,
f. 25a) and to Subh-i Azal as the
tomb of Mullá Muhammad `Ali BarfurCishi, Qudd(is, (marqad-i harf-i
92. Zavára'i, Waqdyi',
93. Ibid., p. 55.
94. On the nuqabá', nujabá',
etc., see below.
95. See Dahaji, Risála,
pp. 32, 151 52. Cf.
Mírzá Yahyá Núri, Subh-i Azal, Kitáb-i
(n.p. [Tehranl, nd.) p. 17.
96. Sayyid `All Muhammad Shirázi, the Báb, Ziyára
for Mulla Muhammad 'Alí Bárfurúishi, in Muhammad `All
Malik Khusravi, Tdrikh-i shuhadá'-i amr,
3 vols. (Tehran, 1974)
vol. 2, p. 412.
97. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
98. Husayn `Ali Núrí, Bahá'u'lláh, "Lawh-i Sirij,"
in Ishráq-Khávan (ed.), Má'ida,
vol. 7, p. 86.
100. Abbás Effendi, `Abdu'l-Bahá', Makátib-i
vol. 2 (Cairo, 1330/1912), p. 254; cf. P. 252. No copy
of the tafsir
on the á.dd of al-Samad
is, to my knowledge,
extant. According to Nabil, the original, along with other writings, was
entrusted to a certain Mullá Muhammad Hamza [Shari'atmadár
Bárfurúshi, an `alim resident in Bárfurúsh
p. 409). Shari'atmadár (who was sympathetic to
the Bábis and who lived until 1281/1864-65) wrote a work entitled
in 1272/1856, in which he mentions having
seen a tafsir
by Qudd(is on the Sújrat al-tawhid,
consisting of five thousand or six thousand verses (see
Mázandarání, Zuhúr al-Haqq,
vol. 3, p. 438).
This does not, of course, necessarily imply that this work remained in
Shari'atmadár's possession, but it may prove a useful starting-point for
the task of locating it. In 1977, I saw briefly what seemed to me to be an
autograph copy of the Asrár al-shaháda
which had recently
come into the possession of the Iranian National
Bahá'í Archives in Tehran, but I have no way of knowing whether
or not other materials belonging to Shari'atmadár also came into their
possession at the same time.
101. Zavára'i, Waqáyi',
102. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
103. The Báb, ziyára
for Bárfur6shi, in Malik
Khusravi Tárikh-i shuhadá',
vol. 2, p. 413.
104. Idem, Panj sha'n,
105. Abbás Effendi, Makátib,
vol. 2, pp. 254-55.
Unfortunately, the writer presents no documentary or testimonial evidence for
this statement, although we may assume he had an eye-witness account from his
father, Mírzá Husayn 'Alí, Bahá'u'lláh. What
is interesting and theologically controversial is that Abbás
Effendi goes on to refer to claims to divinity made in his father's Qasida
`izz warqá `iyya
without distinguishing these in any way from those
made by Qurratu'l-Ayn, Quddiis, or other Bábís at Badasht. On the
use of the phrase "Verily, I am God" (innani and `iláh
the mirrors of the divine Will, see the Báb, Panj sha'n,
106. (Hádhá Kitáb mm `inda `lláh `l-muhaymini
`l-qayyúm ilá `lláhi `l-muhaymini
in a letter to Subh-i Azal, in the Báb and
Yazdi, Qismati az alwáh,
p. 1 (facsimile of original on previous
unnumbered page); also printed in [Sayyid `All Muhammad Shirázi, the
Báb and Mírzá Yahyá NCiri, Subh-i Azall
Majmzá'a'i az áthár-i Nuqtay-i Ulá wa
(n.p. ITehranl, n.d.) p. 38, and Hamadáni,
p. 427 (hand of Subh-i Azal).
107. (Hádhá Kitáb min alláh ilá man
), Panj sha'n,
pp. 2, 24, 33, 57, 104, 207.
Cf. Dahaji, Risála,
p. 113 ("the Point of the Bayán [i.e.,
the Báb] revealed the words "from God to God" in numerous tablets").
108. The Báb and Subh-i Azal, Majmzá'a'i az
p. 37. On the application of the term
to both the Báb and his "mirrors," see
[Mullá Muhammad Ja'far Naraqil, Tadhkirat al-gháfilln
(Cambridge University Library, E. G. Browne Or. MSS, F.63), p. 32. (On the
authorship of this work, see introduction to `Izziyya Khánum, Tanbih
[n.p. (Tehran), n.d.I p. 3.) For the Báb as
see the Báb, Haykal al-din,
1:18, p. 5.
109. Qazvini is known by a number of names: "Rahim" (numerically equivalent to
"Ibráhím"), "Khalíl" (the epithet of the prophet
Abraham), and the codename "Mírzá Ahmad." The divine name
and its derivatives (especially al-aqdam
used in the section of the Panj sha'n
written for him. (See ibid., pp.
110. Yazdi, letter in the Báb and Yazdi, Qismati az alwáh,
111. H. M. Balyuzi, Edward Granville Bowne and the Bahá'í
(London: George Ronald, 1970) p. 73.
112. Al-Ahsá'í, "Isma wa raj'a,
" in Jawámi',
vol. 1, part 1, p. 59. For further details on the Sufi grades of awliyd,
see J. S. Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam
(Oxford, 1971) pp.
163-65; A. A. Nicholson, "Badal," The Encyclopedia of Islam,
113. Al-Ahsá'í, "`Isma wa raj'a," Jawámi',
part 1, p. 59. This tradition is also quoted by al-Ahsá'í in a
similar context in Sharh alziyára,
vol. 3, p. 215. The Báb
discusses these seven stages of marifa
in his Sahlfay-i `adliyya
(n.p. [Tehran], n.d.; pp. 18-33), where the arkán
identified as the four úlú
`l-'azm before Muhammad (i.e.,
Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus) and as four prophets who acted as pillars of
God's grace after Muhammad (Jesus, Khidr, Elias, and Idris).
114. On this central concept, see al-Ahsá'í Sharh
vol. 1, pp. 20-27, 121; vol. 2, pp. 353, 363-64 (where he
vol. 3, pp. 29-30, 38, 144, 149; vol. 4, pp. 171,
250, 269. For a much more detailed exposition, see Hájí
Mullá Muhammad Karim Khán Kirmáni, Irshád
4th ed., 4 vols. in 2 (Kerman, 1380/1960) vol. 3, pp.
115. Al-Ahsá'í Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 215.
116. Ibid., p. 216.
117. Ibid., p. 243. The knowledge of God vouchsafed to the Imáms
themselves differs from one to the next, although all possess sufficient
knowledge to perform the function of hujja,
which requires fulfilling
men's needs in respect to knowing God. (See ibid., vol. 2, pp. 311-12)
118. See, for example, ibid., vol. 2, pp. 64, 201, 203, 364; vol. 3, p. 11.
119. Assuming this to be a reasonably early tradition, fuqahá'
here must be taken in its original wider sense of "scholars" (equivalent to
), rather than "jurisprudents."
120. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 265.
121. Qurratu'l-'Ayn, Risála
in Gulpáygáni and
Gulpáygáni, Kashf al-ghitd',
appendix, pp. 5-6.
122. Qurratu'l-'Ayn here quotes a version of a well-known tradition to the
effect that in every age there is an arbiter (`adál
rejects from the faith the corruptions of the errant and thus preserves it from
error. For other references, see MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism," p. 14.
123. Qurratu'l-'Ayn, Risála
in Gulpáygáni and
Gulpáygáni, Kashf al-ghitá',
appendix, pp. 3-8.
124. Ibid., pp. 11-14.
125. Ibid., p. 15. This reference indicates that the Risála
predate the Báb's claim to qá'imiyya.
126. For fuller details, see MacEoin, "From Shaykhism to Babism," pp.
127. Qurratu'l-'Ayn, Risála
(MS in private hands, Tehran; copy in
possession of author) pp. 8-9.
128. Ibid., p. 12.
129. Ibid., pp. 13-14. On the Báb as the "fourth support," cf. p. 30.
130. Ibid., pp. 18, 19. On the Báb as one of the nuqabá',
cf. p. 30. The Báb himself refers to al-Ahsá'í as a
"pure Shi'a" (shi'ay-i khális
) in his Sahífay-i
131. Qurratu'l-'Ayn, Risála
(in private hands) pp. 30-31. For
details of this tradition, see al-Ahsá'í Sharhi
vol. 3, pp. 361-62; vol. 4, pp. 195, 200-201; idem,
vol. 1, p. 21.
132. Qurratu'l-Ayn, Risála
(in private hands) p. 34.
133. The later Bahá'í writer Mullá Muhammad Zarandi,
Nabil, appears to identify the Letters of the Living as nuqabá'
under the looser title "Men of the Unseen" (presumably rijál
) see Dawn-Breakers,
134. The Báb, Sahífay-i `adliyya,
pp. 20-33, especially
135. Idem, quoted Qurratu'l-'Ayn (1), Risála,
Mázandaránl, Zuhúr al-Haqq,
vol. 3, p. 250. (This
is also reproduced in Nivishtiját,
310-332; this reference p. 317.)
136. Quoted al-Karbalá'í, Risála,
Mázandarání, Zuhúr al-haqq,
vol. 3, p.
137. Quoted ibid.
138. See note 31. See further Rajab 'Alíi Qahir, Risála,
This theory may owe something to the frequent use of the mirror analogy
by Ibn al-'Arabi. See Ibn al-'Arabí, Bezels,
pp. 50-51, 233; cf.
Austin's comments, ibid., p. 48.
139. See note 117.
140. The Báb, Panj shan,
141. Ibid., pp. 162-63.
142. Ibid., p. 133. On God's singling out a mirror from all creation, see
ibid., pp. 120, 132, 141, 149. On the significance of the butún,
143. Ibid., p. 133.
144. Ibid., p. 134.
145. The term náfiq,
together with its corollary
("the silent one"), is, of course, well known in
Ismailism, although it finds a certain usage in Imámi Shiism as well.
Al-Ahsá'i speaks of the appearance of a náfiq
in each age (Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p.
146. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
147. Ibid., p. 135. On the dependence and indirectness of the secondary and
subsequent mirrors, see ibid., p. 217 and idem, Bayán-i
6:7, p. 208.
148. Idem, Panj shan,
149. Ibid., pp. 199-201. It is unclear from the context whether the first
mirror here refers to the Báb himself or to another individual, possibly
Subh-i Azal. There are certainly references elsewhere to the latter's
possession of fitra.
150. On the use of al-wáhid at-awwal,
see the Báb,
1:1, p. 3; idem, Haykal al-din,
151. Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
p. 123. Cf. A. L. M. Nicolas (trans.), Le
4 vols. (Paris, 1911-1914), vol. 1, pp. 7-9, f.n., 13,
f.n. On the relationship of this system to the Bábí calendar, see
the Báb, Bayán-i fársí,
5:3, p. 153. There
are parallels to the kullu shay'
total in various Sufi theories,
including Rúzbihán Baqlí Shirázi's concept of 366
saints linked to the hearts of various prophets. (See H. Corbin, L'homme de
lumiere dans le Soufisme Iranien
[Paris, 1971], p. 83.
152. Rajab `All Qahir, Risála,
153. The Báb, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
8:16, p. 38.
154. `Abdu'l-Hamid Ishráq-Khávarí, Rahíq-i
2 vols. (Tehran, 1974-75), vol. 1, p. 338.
155. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 280. The sentence following this
seems to me extremely significant, but it is, I fear, very difficult to
interpret owing to the vagueness of verbs and pronouns in it. A tentative
translation would continue the passage as follows: "for after I stripped off
that garment [i.e., Bábiyya
I and revealed myself in the name of
and the status of the
promised one (al-maw'údiyya
), it was necessary that one of its
temples (mm hayákilihá
pronoun, although it is written as if separate "one of the temples of
`hd"'7I) should put it (al-Bábiyya
?] on." Mullá Rajab `Ali
Qahir omits the há
) in his quotation of
this passage. (Risála,
156. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
157. Ibid, pp. 256-57. Also quoted Rajab `Ali Qahir, Risála,
158. The Báb, Salát-i Hayákil,
quoted ibid, f. 58a;
also quoted `Izziyya KMnum, Tanbih al-nd'imin,
p. 50. The number 66
equals the word alláh.
There may be eschatological significance
in the period of sixty-six years. Shi'i tradition refers to the "year 66" in an
eschatological context. (See al-Ahsá'í, "`Isma wa raj'a,"
vol. 1, part 1, p. 84.)
159. On which see my paper, "Nineteenth-century Bábí
160. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 408. The passage is obscure.
Sixty-six years for each letter comes to only 1254, which does not seem to be a
161. Ibid., p. 412. Cf. idem, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
5:10, p. 11,
where the hayákil al-hayy
(i.e., Letters of the Living) are
described as mirrors before the "sun of the point" (shams
162. The Báb, Haykal al-din,
7:1, p. 27.
163. Ibid., 5:6, p. 6; idem, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
5:6, p. 19.
164. Ibid., 8:16, p. 38; idem, Bayán-i fársí,
165. Idem, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
11:2, p. 54.
166. Idem, Panj sha'n,
p. 209. On the buija
as single with other
in its shadow, see ibid., p. 136.
167. He also mentions qunnád
the meaning of
which is unclear.
168. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
p. 199. Cf. ibid., p. 247.
169. Ibid., p. 381.
170. Ibid., p. 258. Cf. ibid., p. 176.
171. Reading the nún
of the verb as emphatic, in order to provide
a singular for the imminent pronoun hu.
172. Passage from untitled word of the Báb, quoted Rajab
173. Letter to Mírzá Ibráhim Qazviní, in the
Báb and Núrí, Majmúá'a'i az
p.38. On the use of "al-wahid" as a title of Subh-i
Azal, see Browne, "The Babis of Persia. II," Journal of the Royal Asiatic
21 (1889) pp. 996-97.
174. The Báb, passage from Kitáb al-asmá'
quoted Rajab `Ali Qahir, Risála,
175. See, for example, the Báb, Bayán-i fársí,
4:5, pp. 119-20; 5:5, pp. 157, 158; 7:16, p. 262; idem, al-Bayán
9:3, p. 41; 11:2, p. 54; 11:13, p.58; 11:16, p.60; idem,
1:16, p.4; 5:19, p. 9; 3:11, p. 11; 4:9, p. 15; 7:9, p.
29; 7:16, p. 31.
176. See, for example, the Báb, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
p. 50; 10:17, p. 51; 11:2, p. 54; idem, Haykal al-din,
3:11, p. 11;
t:16, p. 31.
177. See, for example, ibid., 5:5, p. 6; 5:19, p. 9; 4:9, p. 15.
178. Ibid., 7:1, p. 27.
179. Idem, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
9:14, p. 43.
180. Idem, Haykal al-din,
1:16, p. 4.
181. This topic has been discussed previously by several writers, including E.
G. Browne (Nuqtat al-káf,
vol. 2, pp. 514-25) and
vol. 4, pp. 427-28).
182. The Báb, Bayán-i fársí,
61-62. See also ibid., 2:17, p. 71; 3:15, p. 100; 7:10, p. 252.
183. Ibid., 3:15, p. 100; 7:10, p. 252.
184. There is evidence that Bahá'u'lláh himself may have
originally held this view. In the Lawh kull al-ta'ám
he writes "0
Kamál, were I to explain this verse to you from today until the days
the day when men shall stand before the face
of the Living, the Creator, I would be able to do so through what God has given
me of his grace and bounty." (In Ishráq Khávarí,
vol.4, pp. 272-73.) The implication seems to be that the
time-span involved is one of great duration.
185. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
pp. 162, 198, 208, 315.
186. "In every Zuhúr
God renews the creation of all things."
(Ibid., p. 352)
187. Ibid., p. 176; cf. p. 194. Cf. idem, Kitáb al-asmá',
quoted by Rajab `Alí Qahir, Risála,
188. The Báb, Pani sha'n,
189. Idem, Bayán-i fársí,
2:7, p. 31.
190. Thus, he states that all things culminate in the form of man and that man
progresses from level to level until he reaches perfection as a prophet
2:1, pp. 14-15); men are singled
out from the rest of creation and purified by the prophets (Panj sha'n,
p. 205); the Báb himself has been raised through increasingly
exalted stations (ibid., pp. 184-85); clay will progress to stages of
increasing refinement through the alchemical process (ibid., p. 337); the
inhabitants of hell in a subsequent revelation possess a station higher than
those of paradise in the one before (ibid., p. 426 but cf. p. 403); divine
knowledge is revealed progressively (ibid., p. 100); the words of the
manifestation in each revelation are more exalted than in the previous one
3:1, p. 79); each revelation is the
same as the one before, but nobler (ibid., 3:1, pp. 79-80; cf. 4:11, p. 136);
the successive manifestations resemble a child at various states of its growth
(ibid., 3:12, p. 95); the paradise of each thing lies in its perfection (ibid.,
5:3, p. 155); each thing has its degree of perfection in which a divine name
may be applied to it (ibid., 5:6, p. 164); as the ages progress, the time will
come when nothing is named save by a divine name (ibid., 5:4, p. 155); if it be
in anyone's power to do a thing to perfection, he must not leave any
shortcomings in it (ibid., 6:3, p. 192.
191. Al-Ahsá'i, "Al-Risála al-Rashtiyya," in Jawámi',
vol. 1, part 2, p. 103. Al-Ahsá'i states elsewhere that time
may be subtle (lafif
(See Sharh al-ziydrá7vol.
192. Idem, "`Isma wa raj'a," in Jawámí',
vol. 1, part 1,
p. 82. This idea is in itself linked to Ibn Siná's theory that the
measurement of time depends upon motion, time being the quantity or measure of
motion. (See Sayyed Hossein Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological
[Cambridge, Mass., 1864], pp. 224-25.)
193. Al-Ahsá'i, "`Isma wa raj'a," in Jawámi',
vol. 1, part
1, p. 62.
194. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
195. Ibid., p. 319. The Báb consistently dates the Islamic era, not from
in 622, but to the prophet's ba'tha,
196. Ibid., p. 215.
197. Ibid., p. 311.
198. Ibid., p. 199.
199. Ibid., p. 315. Cf. idem, Bayán-i fársí,
200. See my paper "Nineteenth-century Bábí talismans." For
example of prophetic interpretation of some passages in this part of the
see Mírzá Husayn `Ali Núrí,
Bahá'u'lláh, letter to Muballigh-i Shirázi, Iran National
Bahá'í Archives, MS 3003C (incorrectly catalogued as a work of
201. Al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, pp. 63,
87, 115, 120.
202. See ibid., vol. 3, pp. 54-121; idem., "`Isma wa raj'a," in
vol. 1, part 1, pp. 38-111; Muhammad Báqir
Majlisi, Bábár al-anwár,
102 vols. (Tehran,
1384/1964), vol. 53; Sachedina, Islamic
203. Al-Ahsá'í, Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 57.
204. Ibid., pp. 57-58. Other figures are also given, including 203, 309, 19,
205. Ibid., pp. 58, 60.
206. Ibid., p. 60.
207. The Báb, letter to Mullá Shaykh `Ali Turshizi, `Azím,
in the Báb and Yazdi, Qismati az alwáh,
208. See, for example, al-Ahsá'í Sharh al-ziyára,
vol. 3, p. 60.
209. The Báb, Dalá'il,
212. Ibid. This is explained metaphorically in terms of light as a lamp burning
itself in order to give illumination to others (just as Husayn sacrificed
himself), pp. 58-59. It also appears to be numerologically true, since "Husayn"
(128) when doubled equals rnár
(256). It is conceivable that the
doubling in this case is an allusion to Husayn's return. For the text of the
together with a commentary, see Háji
Muhammad Karim Khán Kirmáni, Sharh du'á al-sabar
(Kerman, n.d.). Kirmáni identifies the núr
with the Fourth Support (rukn al-rábi'
and inwardly with
the Qá'im. (See ibid., pp. 61, 62)
213. See the Báb, Panj sha'n,
pp. 294, 321.
214. Idem, Dalá'il,
p. 59. Although the text differs slightly,
this is almost certainly the letter quoted in part by Rashti himself in his
(np. [Tabrizl], 1276/1859-60), p. 37. The phrase quoted,
with a slight variation, is from the Qur'án (38:88).
215. Quoted in the Báb, Dalá'il
216. See Shoghi Effendi, in Nabil, Dawn-Breakers,
p. 18, f.n. 1.
217. The Báb, Panj shan,
pp. 255-56. A garbled version of this
passage is given by Mírzá Husayn Ali Nári,
Bahá'u'lláh in his Lawh-i Shaykh
(Cairo, 1338/1920) pp.
104-05 (trans. by Shoghi Effendi, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
[Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1941], p. 142); cf.
ibid., pp. 113-14 (trans. Epistle,
218. The Báb, Panj sha'n,
219. Ibid., p. 280. The term qabla bin
occurs frequently in the phrase
"in every time and before a time and after a time' (fi kulli bin wa wabla
bin wa ba'da bin
much used in Bábí writing. See, for
example, passages in Mázandarání, Zuhúr al-haqq,
vol. 3, pp. 70, 167 (last line), 168 (last two lines);
pp. 429-30; the Báb,
p. 72; idem, letter in the Báb and Yazdí,
Qismati az alwáh,
p. 9, 35.
220. Idem, Panj shan,
221. Ibid., p.280.
222. Bahá'u'lláh, Law b-i Shaykh,
pp. 113-14 (trans.
223. The Báb, al-Bayán al-'arabi,
6:15, p. 27.
224. Reading the opening verb as an imperative, by analogy with the
corresponding passage in the Bayán-i farsi,
6:15, p. 230.
225. The Báb, Haykal al-din,
6:15, p. 25.
226. Letter quoted in Mázandarání, Zuhúr
vol. 3, p. 223. Bahá'í doctrine, however, explicitly
as a prophetic title of
Bahá'u'lláh. (See Ishráq-Khávarí, Rabiq,
vol. 2, pp. 316-17; Mázandaráni, Asrár,
pp. 259-31; Mírzá Husayn `Ali Nári,
Bahá'u'lláh, letter to Shaykh Kázim Qazvini Samandar, in
Alwáh-i hadrat-i Bahá'u'lláh
. . .
. . . (n.p., n.d.), p. 61; idem,
letter in Ishráq-Khávarí, Má'ida,
pp. 173-74.) The term appears to be used for Subh-i Azal in the