Writings and Teachings of the Bab
Writings and Teachings of the Ba’b Nader Saiedi
Introduction The six years of the ministry of the Bab (1844-1850) which is filled with dramatic events, marks a unique stage in sacred history characterized by an unprecedented magnitude of revealed writings. (Amanat 1985) Even though some of his writings were stolen or lost, the remaining works of the Bab are equivalent of almost a hundred books. His revelation was also distinguished by an incredible rapidity of reciting or writing. This spontaneous and natural way of revelation, without reflection or pause, is frequently mentioned as the sign of the revealed and not acquired character of his writings. While the Qur’an was revealed during 23 years, he frequently emphasizes that he can reveal during two days and two nights an equivalent of the Qur’an. (Persian Bayan 2:1) Unlike the Islamic description of revelation as an external and discontinuous event, namely God sending his angel to bring the word of God to his prophet, the Bab frequently explains that the source of revelation is the heart of the prophet, and therefore it is a ceaseless and internal event. (Persian Bayan 2:14) In addition to the magnitude of his revelation, his writings are also characterized by a high degree of authenticity. Unlike past revelations where the authenticity of the works attributed to the Prophet is a matter of academic dispute, the temporal proximity of the revelation of the Bab, his preference for the written form of revelation, his emphasis on preserving his words, and the systematic attempts by his Babi and Baha’i followers have led to preservation of most of his writings. However, there are different degrees of authenticity associated with his writings. The highest and absolute authenticity belongs to the writings that are written by his own pen. These are either beautiful handwritings written for special occasions, or are revelation writing, namely when he is revealing a work with amazing rapidity. The next category of high authenticity belongs to the works for which we have the revelation writing or the transcribed writing by his authorized amanuensis. For vast majority of his writings during his imprisonment in Maku and Chihriq, we have the revelation writing in the hand of Sayyid Husayn. Many other writings of the Bab are preserved through the hand writing of his other major amanuensis ‘Abdu’l- Karim Qazvini, including many of the earlier works of the Bab. The next level of authenticity belongs to the works of the Bab for which there exists a number of copies but none in the hand writings of the recognized amanuensis. While there is little disagreement of the authenticity of these texts in general, these copies require systematic comparison and checking of the documents. This category includes the first work of the Bab after his revelation, namely the Commentary on the Surih of Joseph. A further general characteristic of his writings is the complexity of its content and language. For example, his writings are infused with the qur’anic verses, Islamic traditions and mystical, philosophical, and esoteric numerological cultures within Islam. Philosophical writings of the famous school of Isfahan led by Mulla Sadra, and the works of Shaykhi leaders Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kazim, for example, constitute one of the most important backgrounds of his writings. (MacEoin 1992) The Bab’s revolutionary character, questioning all traditions, is also manifest in his unique style of Persian and Arabic writings. In both cases he occasionally ignores the prevalent rules of the grammar books and writes in innovative, mesmerizing, and beautiful styles. Majority of his writings are in Arabic, but his most important work, the Persian Bayan, is written in Persian.
Typology of His Writings The Bab himself provides at least two different form of typology of his writings. A. Early and Later Writings
The first typology is a chronological one. In Persian Bayan he divides his writings in to two stages. (Persian Bayan 6:1) His early writings prior to his exile to Maku are ambiguous about his real claim, intending to prepare the people for the subsequent unveiling of his true station. Divine purpose and meaning, therefore, is less explicit in those writings. Muslims in general believed that Muhammad is the last prophet and Islam is the last and eternal religion. The Shi’is awaited a millenarian cosmic event when the hidden twelfth Imam would appear with his sword and purify the world from Non-Shi’i believers. The declaration of the Bab in 1844 was exactly one thousand Islamic (lunar) years after the occultation of that Imam who was supposed to be physically living but hidden during this millennium. The Bab not only believed himself to be a new prophet who would abrogate Islam and bring a new religion, he also claimed to be the truth of that Hidden Imam even though he was born 25 years prior to his declaration in the city of Shiraz. His claim, therefore, was a total reversal of the fundamental religious assumptions prevalent among Iranian Muslims, and at first he had to present his new ideas in a relatively concealed way. Therefore, during the first stage of his writing (May 1844-April 1847) he wrote as if he was the Gate (Bab) to the Hidden 12 th Imam. (Saiedi Gate ch. 3) It was a few months prior to the last three years of his ministry that he unveiled the truth of his claim in his writings. The Persian Bayan represents the beginning of this second stage. In the very first chapter of the Persian Bayan he claims that he is a prophet who has brought a new religion, that his revelation constitutes the day of Judgment, that all prophets are one and the same, that his religion is a preparation of humanity for the coming of a next prophet, and that religion is an ever living, dynamic, historical and progressive reality. (Persian Bayan 1:1) Although these two stages are very different, they both express a common spiritual worldview. The language of the first stage uses the familiar Islamic categories, whereas the second stage creates novel symbols related to the new revelation. For examples the first 18 believers of the Bab who were previously called Sabiqun (those who have preceded others in faith,) are now called the Letters of the Living (Huruf-i- Hayy). (Persian Bayan 1:2) While previously the expected 12 th Imam appeared to be the object of awaiting, the writings of the second stage speak of the next Manifestation of God as ‘He Whom God shall make manifest,’ and define the entire revelation of the Bab as a preparation for that subsequent revelation. Complex relations between categories like the point, the letters, one, nineteen, and all things are among the new concepts of his revelation where he is uniting a mystical discourse with a historical consciousness. At the same time, both stages replace miracles with the word as the supreme proof of his truth. (Seven Proofs) It is the revelation of divine verses, the words of God, through the Bab that is the ultimate miracle of the Bab. From the very first day of his declaration, the Bab announced that he can reveal divine verses ceaselessly as the proof of his truth. The very fact that so many of his early works were written in the form of divine verses was a clear indication of his real claim in those early times. According to the Qur’an no one can bring divine verses except God. This meant that no one except the prophet of God can bring divine verses. Although he apparently called himself the gate to the 12 th Imam, his revelation of divine verses indicated that he is a prophet of God far above the station of any Imam. The ceaseless revelation of the divine verses by the Bab hinted at the same fact which was
later explicated in his later writings: The body of the Bab is the gate to the 12 th Imam. His soul is the 12 th Imam, his intellect is the prophet, and his heart is the source of divine revelation. (Saiedi Gate 102-103) B. Five Modes of Revelation Another typology of his own writings is a key for understanding the substantive worldview of the Bab. He divides his writings into five modes (sha’n) of revelation. These are the divine verses, prayers or supplications, interpretations and sermons, rational and philosophical explanations, and Persian works. 9Persian Bayan 6:1) The last mode acts as an integrative form of the other four. The four modes of revelation are significant because they unveil the truth of the Bab as well as the structure of reality. Unlike Islam in which these four modes of revelation were revealed by different sacred figures throughout centuries of Islamic dispensation, all four modes of revelation are revealed by the Bab himself throughout the six years of his revelation. As he explains, divine verses belong to the divinity of the Manifestation of God, the prayers belong to the prophethood or servitude of the Manifestation, interpretations pertain to the Imams, and the rational explanations belong to the gates or special scholars. (Persian Bayan 3:16) According to the Bab, the last two modes of revelation, namely interpretations and rational explanations, are derivatives and elaborations of the first two modes of revelation. Therefore, interpretations are commentaries on the divine verses, and rational explanations are in fact unveiling of the truth of the prayers, both emphasizing the spiritual quest to discover the infinite within the finite. (Persian Bayan 2:15) However, the two primary modes of revelation, namely divine verses and prayers are descriptions of the truth of the Manifestation of God. The Point or the Manifestation, possesses two stations. On the one hand a prophet is a pure mirror in whom nothing can be see except the revelation of God. On the other hand, this mirror is different from the Sun in heaven. The first aspect is the divinity of the Manifestation, and the second is its servitude. Manifestation or the Point is therefore the unity of divinity and servitude. Everything else is also a reflection of the Point, possessing within itself both divinity and servitude. (Persian Bayan 4:1) The ultimate truth of everything is its divinity, namely the revelation of God within it. While things are different from each other by their various finite characteristics, the ultimate truth and identity of everything is the sign of God which is present within them. All things therefore, are both one and many. Unity in diversity defines the metaphysics of being. C. Three Stages of Revelation Writings of the Bab can also be divided chronologically into three stages. (Saiedi Gate) During the first stage, the interpretive stage, the defining form of revelation is interpretation. The most important work of this stage is his Commentary on the Surih of Joseph which was written during 40 days beginning on the first night of his declaration on 23 rd of May 1844. Another major work of this period is his Commentary on the Surih of Cow, which began a few months before his declaration and continued to be revealed during his trip to Mecca and Medina. (Lawson Tafsir) During this stage he wrote hundreds of works, including The Book of Spirit (Kitab al-Ruh), Commentary on the opening phrase of the Quran or bismillah, Epistle Revealed between the twin Shrines (Sahifiyi Bayn al-Haramayn) a number of prayer books including Epistle on the Devotional Deeds of the Year (Sahifiyi A’mali Sanih) and Hidden Treasured Epistle (Sahifiyi Makhzunih), and a Commentary on the Occultation Prayer (Shari Dunay Hayat). It is important to note that at the end of this first stage, the Bab himself organizes all his numerous works up to that point into four books and ten epistles. The four books are Commentary on the Surah of Cow, The Book of Spirit, A collection of fifty of his Tablets, and his Commentary on the Surah of Joseph.
The second stage of his writings, the philosophical stage, is defined by philosophical and metaphysical discussions beginning with the writing of his first major Persian work, Epistle of Justice (Sahifiyi ‘Adliyyih) around January 1846. This Persian work is a discussion of the fundamental principles of religion. (Saiedi Gate ch. 9) Another work of the Bab with similar title, Epistle of Justice: The Branches (Sahifiyi Furu’i ‘Adliyyih) is written in the first stage and before the Epistle of Justice. During this stage the Bab wrote two works on the interpretation of the letter H (Tafsiri Ha’, and Tafsiri Sirri Ha’) which unveil both the truth of reality and his own truth through the symbolism of the letter H, denoting God or He (Huva). His Tablet to Mirza Sa’id explains three complex theological issues about the unity of existence, eternality and origination of the world, and emergence of plurality out of the absolute One. A famous work among the numerous texts of this stage is Epistle on the Proofs of the Prophethood of Muhammad (Ithbati Nubuvvati Khassih) which was written in honor of the governor of Isfahan. Treatise on Singing (Risalih fi al-Ghina’) is another work that is written in Isfahan. This stage witnesses a number of significant interpretive works as well. Commentary on the Surih of Kawthar, and Commentary on the Surih of Va’l- ‘Asr are the most famous examples. The third stage of his writings, the legislative stage, comprises the last years of his life when he was imprisoned in Maku and Chihriq, beginning in April 1847 and ending in July 1850. (Saiedi Gate Part III) These writings formally abrogate the laws of Islam, proclaim the inception of a new divine revelation, and define the Bab as a Manifestation of God who is the return of the truth of all past prophets. In addition to numerous small or medium size tablets, at this stage he produces many works that their size exceeds 500 pages. Two of these works contain close to 3000 pages. The Book of Divine Names (Kitab al- Asma’) consists of 361 chapters, each dealing with one of the names of God, each chapter consisting of four modes of revelation. This is a mystical encyclopedia of divine names where all humans become reflections and manifestations of various names of God. Humans are asked to lead a life which would realize the divine revelation within them. The other work of the Bab, The Book of Recompense (Kitab al- Jiza’) represents the judgment of God in this Day of Resurrection, offering divine favours to the believers. Various aspects of spiritual truth are presented as the reward of the believers in the heaven of the revelation of the Bab. But the most important texts of this third stage are the Persian Bayan and the Arabic Bayan. The Persian Bayan is the most explicit elaboration of the Bab’s religion. It contains the laws of the new dispensation. As the Bab emphasizes in this book, his laws are symbols and reflections of spiritual and mystical principles. (Persian Bayan 8:11) It is the crystal water of divine unity that is running through all these diverse laws. Although these laws are binding, the real imperative is not the literal law but rather the spiritual meaning and purpose that are symbolized by it: the recognition of Him Whom God shall make manifest in his next revelation. Arabic Bayan, written in the mode of divine verses, contain the laws, whereas the Persian Bayan explains the meaning of those commands. It seems that Persian Bayan is the first major work of the Bab through which the announcement of the inception of a new religion is explicated. In the first chapter of the Persian Bayan, the Bab refers to that day, a Friday, and that moment of writing as the beginning of the abrogation of Islam. 9Persian Bayan 1:1) Arabic Bayan consists of eleven sections, each section consisting of nineteen chapters or gates. The Persian Bayan consists of nine sections each consisting of nineteen chapters, with the exception of the ninth section that ends with chapter ten. The word used by the Bab for section is vahid which means one or unity. However, the numerical value of the word Vahid is equal to nineteen (V=6, A=1, H=8, D=4).
Another famous work of this stage is the Seven Proofs (Dala’li Sab’ih) written in Maku in which the Bab brings seven proofs to prove that the mere revelation of divine words by him is a sufficient evidence of the truth of his claim. One of the last major works of the Bab is Five Modes of Revelation (Panj Sh’an), written in Chihriq, on the occasion of the sixth year of his declaration on March 20, 1850. On that day the lunar day of his declaration (5 of Jamadi I, 1260 or 23 of May, 1844) coincides with the first day of solar year which is the first day of the Babi calendar. (Panj Sha’n 8-13) Therefore, two festivals are united in one day. Various, probably nineteen, chapters of the book discuss some central theological issues through an interpretation of one of the names of God. Tablet of nineteen Temples (Hayakili Vahid) or Tablet of Letters (Lawhi Hurufat) which discusses the mystery of the nineteen temples of the Babi religion, is one of the chapters of this book. Mention must be made of a short but central work of the Bab at this stage. Written close to the end of his life, Tablet to Mulla Baqir discusses the method of investigating the claim of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Since entire writings of the third stage is oriented towards the recognition of the Promised One, this tablet can be seen as the pivot of all his writings. The main message of the text is that the Promised One should be recognized by his being and his verses, without reference to anything or, anyone else. (Saiedi Gate371-5) Some Central Ideas In the remainder of this discussion I outline the general worldview of the writings of the Bab. Reinterpretation of Theology The writings of the Bab reinterpret the major theological concepts of the past religions. Shi’i Islam affirmed five theological principles: the unity of God, prophethood, Resurrection, Imamate, and relative human freedom (justice of God). A. God Writings of the Bab is filled with emphasis on the absolute transcendence of God, rejecting any anthropomorphic conception of him. The unity of God means that there can be no distinction between various attributes and the essence of God. This means that God cannot be defined or praised or known except in terms of the fact that he is beyond recognition. At the level of true God nothing else has ever existed let alone being able to know God. (Persian Bayan 1:1) What we call the ‘words of God’ is in reality the words of the supreme reflection of God in this world which is identical with the heart and truth of the prophets. (Persian Bayan 2:14) We humans have defined God in terms of attributes like knowledge and power because these are our own characteristics, seen as perfection in our existence. Transcendental God is above such and any descriptions. (Panj Sha’n 392) B. Prophets According to the Bab, since the reality of God is inaccessible to the world, out of his love, he defines and describes himself to his creatures so that they can know him. But this self-description of God is not the essence and truth of God. Instead, it is the reflection of God in the world, a description that fits the reality of the world itself. This divine self-description is the truth of the Manifestations of God or the prophets. (Saiedi ch. 6) At the same time, the truth of everything is the divine revelation in their hearts. Therefore, the Manifestations of God are the supreme revelation of God in the world, and it is through
recognition of them that God can be known. Writings of the Bab redefine the meaning of prophethood, religion, and revelation. All prophets of God are one and the same. These Manifestations of God are like pure mirrors. God is the Sun, whose reflection in the mirrors of various Manifestations defines the truth of them. Furthermore, there is no end for the revelation of God in the form of new religions. There is no final revelation, no final religion, and no final prophet. Religion becomes a dialogical phenomenon. Religion is not an absolute and eternally-binding imposition of the Will of God on humans. Rather, it is the product of the interaction of the will of God with the historical stage of development of humanity. Since humans are historical and changing, religion is also a dynamic and progressive reality. One of the most significant and central expressions of this dialectical and historical concept is his concept of irtifa’. According to the Báb, each new religion is an irtifa’ of the previous religion. The word irtifa’ , which means both cancellation and elevation, is used by the Báb as his key conceptual term to convey the unity of two opposite meanings. (Persian Bayan 3:3) On the one hand a new religion is the negation and abrogation of the previous religion. On the other hand, the new religion is the same previous religion which appears in a higher more elevated form. The word irifa’ in the writings of the Bab conveys the same meaning that is offered by Hegel’s category of Aufhebung. (Hegel Philosophy) C. Day of Resurrection The Bab reinterprets the prevalent ideas about the day of resurrection, heaven, and hell. According to him, heaven and hell are not confined to human beings. Instead, all things have their own heavens and hells. For all things, heaven, the Báb maintains, is the state of the realization of its own potential. Likewise, hell is the deprivation of a thing from realizing its perfection. Not only humans but also all beings in nature are manifestations of divine attributes. Consequently, all things are beautiful and sacred, and nature is also endowed with moral rights. All things yearn to attain the state of their own perfection, which is their paradise. Humans are obligated to help everything, including the realm of nature, to achieve its paradise. (Persian Bayan 4:11, 5:4) In regard to human beings, paradise is the state of the realization of one’s spiritual potentialities. Since humans are historical beings and since there is no end to their spiritual advancement, therefore, heaven and hell are also dynamic and historical phenomena. The Day of Resurrection is not the end of history. Instead, it is the day of the revelation of a new prophet of God who begins a new stage of development of human history. (Persian Bayan 2:8) D. The Occultation of the 12 th Imam In one of his works, Commentary on the Occultation Prayer, the Báb provides an alternative interpretation for the Shi’i concept of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. Shi’is believe that the 12 th Imam had disappeared from the eyes of the people 12 centuries ago, that he is still physically alive in the world, and will appear again when the world is filled with injustice. (Saiedi, The Phenomenology of Occultation). According to the Báb, God has created the primordial truth of human beings in the utmost state of perfection and nobility. This idea, namely the original spiritual perfection and powers of all human beings is symbolically represented as the birth and the childhood of the Twelfth Imam. However, despite its potential nobility and glory, human beings in the course of their ordinary pursuits, become
preoccupied with selfish and materialistic concerns, forgetting their own spiritual identity and truth. This state of self-forgetfulness and self-alienation is symbolized by the idea of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. The age of occultation is the age of tyranny and injustice because the essence of tyranny is none other than the negation of spiritual values and the reduction of self to the level of beasts. That is why the emancipation from tyranny and the realization of the age of freedom require the reawakening of human spiritual consciousness in such a way that one’s potential spiritual powers become operative at the level of one’s concrete life. This return to one’s spiritual identity is symbolically presented as the return of the Twelfth Imam. (The Bab, Commentary on Occultation 70) E. Human Freedom and Justice of God Unlike most of the Sunni Muslims who tended to believe in divine determinism, the Shi’is affirmed some freedom for human beings. The Bab argues that human actions are simultaneously a product of the divine will (existence) and human choice and determination (essence). (Saiedi Gate 210-16) In addition to this dialogical view of human action, the Bab historicized this same concept. Divine action takes the form of historically-specific revelation of God in a new religious culture. Therefore, whatever happens within a spiritual community is simultaneously a product of individual choices, and the normative structures rooted in that particular revelation. (Persian Bayan 2:8, 4:1) Concept of human freedom and its dialogical structure become inseparable from the dialogical and historical character of religion and society. In other words, the Bab introduces, for the first time, a mystical form of the sociological consciousness. New Hermeneutics The Bab believes that the word of God has infinite meanings because it is a creative and living force. Yet, among these infinite meaning there is one meaning that is the most authentic. This supreme meaning is discovered through the gaze of unity. Thus, the real meaning of the text becomes accessible through ignoring the differences of letters, words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters of the text. Therefore, the reader sees the divine text as pure unity, as one point. This one point is nothing but the utter pure revelation of God which is the truth of the divine text. Yet, the truth of everything is this pure revelation of God. Consequently, not only various parts of the sacred text, but also various divine books are all one and the same. This common truth of all scriptures is nothing but the truth of all beings, the truth of all prophets. (Saiedi Gate 48-65) At its highest level of hermeneutics, the supreme meaning of every statement in any sacred scripture is one and the same: all books are one and the same, all religions are one and the same, all humans are one and the same. Hermeneutics becomes the art of discovering and unveiling the truth of everything. Human Nobility In the past, human identity was usually defined in terms of the characteristics that separate us from each other. Likewise, in the postmodern approach, human identity is defined in terms of one’s gender, ethnicity, language, class, age, nationality, culture and the like. The writings of the Báb propose an entirely different philosophy. For the Báb, humans are spiritual beings, and this means that a human being consists of two aspects. One aspect is what distinguishes us from each other, whereas the other aspect affirms our common unity. In the language of the Báb, the two aspects of human being are called essence and existence, or servitude and divinity. Like mirrors, the real truth of all people lies in the fact that an identical image is reflected in them. (Persian Bayan 4:1) The Báb, therefore, intends to create a
new culture in the world. In this culture people see themselves and others as the reflections of divine attributes, a divinity that is common to all human beings. This spiritual culture requires the nobility and dignity of all human beings. Comparing the social rank of farmers with kings, in his work the Kitab al-Asma’ (the Book of Divine Names), the Báb argues that farmer / cultivator is one of the supreme names of God. God is a farmer because he plants the seeds of his divine words in the hearts of human beings. Humans must purify the soil of their souls so that these seeds will yield fruit. He continues that since peasants, who are apparently the lowest rank in society, are a reflection of divine names, and since princes are also a reflection of divine names, therefore, people should treat farmers exactly in the same way that they treat their kings. Both are one reality and both are living by God’s bidding. (Kitab al-Asma’ 383) Another expression of the same logic is the spiritual approach to language in the writings of the Báb. He teaches that in thinking of anything, we should examine the alphabetical letters that constitute its name. We should then take each letter of that name as an abbreviation of one of the names of God. In this way we can see everything as the embodiment of various divine attributes. Everything becomes sacred and beautiful, because it is a reflection of divinity. (Persian Bayan 5:9) The Báb sees humans as noble beings who are endowed with the inherent capacity to think for themselves and, therefore, are obligated to engage in the independent investigation of truth. This means that no human being should be dependent on other humans to investigate the spiritual truth. Two major expressions of this idea are the elimination of the clerical authority and the replacement of word in place of the miracles. The writings of the Báb eliminated the clerical institution and prohibited them from mounting the pulpit. He finds such ascent, as well as the seating of the people beneath the cleric, an insult to the dignity of all human beings. (Persian Bayan 7:11) He also prohibits congregational prayer which requires following the clerical leader of the prayer. According to the Báb, worship of God does not require human mediation, and all must engage in prayer with the purity of their own heart. Even when the Báb makes an exception in the case of the prayer for the dead, he emphasizes that no one should stand ahead of others. All must stand in equal rows to honor the deceased. (Persian Bayan 9:9) One of the central teachings of the Báb is that miracles, as the breaking of the laws of nature, have no relevance to the mission of the prophet—which is the spiritual and moral education of humanity. Therefore, miracles cannot function as a true evidence of truth. The rejection of the obsessive Shi’i preoccupation with miracles, was intended by the Báb to remove a great obstacle against the progress of society towards rationalism, and was intended to purify the realm of religion from superstition and a magical orientation. The supreme miracle of God belongs to the realm of spirit, namely the divine words. Humans are all directly responsible to study the word of God, meditate upon it and independently make their own judgment. (Persian Bayan 2:1, 2:14, 2:16, 6:8) Ethics The writings of the Báb offer a universal ethical maxim. He says that human deeds should be done ‘for the sake of God and for the sake of his creatures.’ ( Saiedi Gate 302-3 ) Human action should be motivated by the desire to serve the human race as well as all beings, rather than being a means for attainment of one’s selfish desires. (Persian Bayan 7:2) He states that the divine providence of God is
universal, and it makes no distinction between believers and non-believers. Even when humans deny God, he continues to provide his bounties to them. According to the Báb, all should follow this same universal ethical model and treat believers and non-believers in the same way. ( Saiedi Gate 302-3 ) One of the main aims of the Báb is the creation of a culture of affirmation in which all see themselves as responsible for the needs and welfare of all others. In his Persian Bayan, he writes that if one receives a letter, or is asked a question, one has to answer it in the most responsive way. He then says that one must go further, and insists that if someone is in need of something, even if he does not ask for help, one should respond to the call of his condition. All must feel obligated to answer the objective needs of all others. (Persian Bayan 6:19) Another expression of this principle is the prohibition of causing grief to anyone. It states that not only one should not cause sorrow for others, but rather, one should bring joy and delight to the hearts of others. (Persian Bayan 4:18) Another ethical teaching of the Bab is the necessity of a spiritual reconstruction in the realm of the economy and industry. He commands that one has to perform his economic and industrial work in the utmost state of perfection. When one engages in productive labor in the highest state of perfection possible at one’s level, one is acting as the image of God. (Kitab al-Asma’ 627) The sacred and spiritual character of humans, therefore, must manifest itself at the most ‘materialistic’ level of social life, namely in the realm of economics and work. This seeking of excellence in work is inseparable from the imperative of refinement and beautification in all things. It is necessary to beautify the world for, as he says, no ordinance is more emphasized in the Bayan than the binding principle of refinement. (Persian Bayan 6:3) F. Expectation of the Promised One Perhaps the most frequently-discussed and emphasized idea in the later writings of the Bab is the advent of the next Manifestation of God and the imperative that all the followers of the Bab must recognize him. This promised One is usually called He Whom God shall make manifest, and sometimes as Baha’u’llah (the Glory of God). While he does not limit the revelation of the Promised One to any pre- determined rule, he sometimes mentions the year nine as the time of his revelation. (Saiedi, Gate of the Heart 344-57) Although the Bab appoints Mirza Yahya Azal as the nominal leader of his community after himself, he frequently emphasizes that when the Promised One appears all the Babis, including any of their leaders, become equal. (Persian Bayan 2:3) At that moment no one is a believer let alone a leader. Anyone who recognizes the Promised One becomes a believer and anyone who turns away from him is a non-believer. The authority of any Babi leader is confined to the time prior to the revelation of the Promised One. (Tablet to Mulla Baqir) The concept of Him Whom God shall make manifest becomes the occasion for two important novel ideas in the writings of the Bab. First, he reinterprets the culture of millenarian expectation. The Shi’i millenarian culture, for example, emphasizes a magical culture in which the true Promised One appears in accordance with all pre-determined traditions, making him first recognizable to the clerics, where the ordinary people should follow the clerics, and therefore, persecution, hatred and killing of a “false claimant” is strongly emphasized. The Bab turns all these ideas upside down. The Promised One rejects traditions, the clerics are the first to oppose him, everyone is independently responsible for recognizing him, and no claimant should be harmed or insulted. The Bab says that even if a claimant is not the real Promised One, but the mere fact that he has attributed himself to the Beloved, requires loving him as well. Culture of awaiting turns into a culture of religious tolerance. (Persian Bayan 4:4, 6:8)
The other implication of the idea of the Promised One is the reinterpretation of the concept of jihad in the writings of the Bab. Since he was the Promised One of Islam, and the Muslims expected him to wage war against all infidels of the world, the Bab kept the symbol of jihad in his writings and yet he undermined it in several important ways. (Saiedi, Gate of the Heart Ch.14) One, and probably the most significant, of these ways is that he postponed the practice of these jihad-like laws to the time after the revelation of the Promised One (Persian Bayan 8:15). Consequently, the practice of jihad becomes an impossibility because after the coming of Him Whom God shall make manifest all laws of the Bab are cancelled and only the laws legislated by the new Manifestation would be binding. Once again, the culture of millenarian expectation turns into an affirmation of a culture of tolerance.
References Amanat, Abbas. (1989) Resurrection and Renewal, The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844- 1850. London: Cornell University Press. The Bab, Commentary on the Occultation Prayer. INBA 57:60-154. The Bab, Kitab al-Asma’. INBA 29. The Bab, Panj Sha’n The Bab, Persian Bayan The Bab, Seven Proofs Hegel, Georg W. F. (1900). The Philosophy of History . New York: Willey. Lawson, Todd. (2018). Tafsir as mystical experience: intimacy and ecstasy in Quran commentary: The Tafsīr Surat al -Baqara by Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad, the Bab (1819-1850). Leiden; Boston: Brill. Saiedi, Nader. (2008). Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University. Saiedi, Nader. (2012). The Phenomenology of Occultation and Prayer in the Báb’s Sahíifiyi Ja‘faríyyih. In: Lawosn, T. and Ghaemmaghami, O. eds. A Most Noble Pattern: Collected Essays on the Writings of the Báb . Oxford: George Ronald, pp. 196-216. Further Readings Saiedi, Nader. (2008). Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University. Lawosn, T. and Ghaemmaghami, O. (2012). A Most Noble Pattern: Collected Essays on the Writings of the Báb . Oxford: George Ronald.
Muhammad-Husainí, Nusrat’u’lláh. (1995). The Báb: His Life, His Writings, and the Disciples of the Báb’s Dispensation . Dundas: Institute for Bahá’í Studies in Persian. MacEoin, Denis M. (1992) The Sources for Early Bábí and Bahá’í Doctrine: A Survey. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Lawson, Todd. (2018). Tafsir as mystical experience: intimacy and ecstasy in Quran commentary: The Tafsīr Surat al -Baqara by Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad, the Bab (1819-1850). Leiden; Boston: Brill.
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