Sūrah Titles of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ of Sayyid `Alī Muḥammad Shīrāzī (1819-1850 CE) : Gateways to the Earliest Thought of the Bāb.
Lambden (UC-Merced, USA).
At a previous MESA meeting of the Shaykhī-Bābī-Bahā’ī
Studies forum around the year 2000, I presented a paper on the al-ḥurūfāt
al-muqaṭṭa`a (the `isolated’ or `disconnected’ letters) of the Qayyūm
al-asmā’ (henceforth = QA.) of the Bāb (1819-1850 CE) to a small but
select group of individuals, including Juan Cole, Mohamad Tavakoli
and Sholeh Quinn. This presentation to the same MESA group supplements
and extends aspects of that previous presentation. Both these papers
will appear in more detailed, partly tabular form on my personal Website (http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/). A preliminary chart based version of
the substance of this paper is already published there. See URL :
The Sūra Titles within the Qayyum al-asma'
of the QA sūrah titles or names is neither obscurantist nor irrelevant
to central issues within Bābī and related studies. An understanding of
them throws important light on the earliest thought of the Bāb and gives
a glimpse of what this important messianic claimant considered key
topics or words within his new religious discourse as primarily rooted
in the Islamic-Shī`ī-Shaykhī world of early Qajar Persia. It remains a
major, regrettable academic desideratum that the QA is still
unpublished. There is no critical edition even thought this weighty and
important Bābī scriptural text is foundational. It has been very little
studied or translated. Its Sūrah titles remain largely unknown and
The QA Sūrah
titles have been little more than listed then only briefly and
inadequately commented upon by Edward G. Browne (d. 1926) in his early
1892 Catalogue & Description... (pp. 262, 699-701), A. L. M. Nicholas
(1864-1937) in his 1905 Seyyed `Ali Mohammed (pp. 22-28) and `Abd al-Hamid
Ishraq Khavārī (d. 1972) in his Qāmūs-I Īqān (Vol. IV: 1279-1282). These
afore mentioned writers made no comprehensive survey of multiple QA
manuscript source(s) usually failing to indicate even the few they
consulted. Up till now the QA Sūrah titles were only tabulated from
limited sources and very briefly analyzed or commented upon. In his 1987 Ph.D thesis Todd Lawson (see pp.262-254+ ) summarized matters succinctly
but did not devote the subject to any detailed analysis. Few of these
previous writers spelled out the source(s) of the QA Sūrah titles. None
made a comparative evaluation of mss. of the Kitab al-Fihrist (on which
see below) or charted pertinent data from a range of unpublished QA
paper remains very much work in progress the detailed results of which
will gradually be posted in more detail on my personal Website -
which you can find either by typing my name or the word Hurqalya into
the google search engine which should bring you straight to its main
entry page. I initially imagined that this would be a quick, simple,
straightforward paper to write though the more I looked into the
matter the more complex and rewarding it has become. The aforementioned
writers have generally given scant attention to the question of the Sūrah titles of the QA. Key, fundamental issues remain unstudied,
ignored or bypassed. Hopefully these notes will carry matters a little
three less Sūrahs in the QA than in the Qur’ān (114-3 = 111) though the
length of these two Arabic texts is not very different, for reasons which
will be clear later in this paper. The QA has 111 Sūrahs each of
(around) 42 verses of rhyming prose (saj`) of varying length; thus totaling
111 X 42 verses or 4662 verses. The Qur’an has 114 Sūrahs totaling
around 6,200 verses, again of varying lengths. While the qur’anic Sūrah
lengths can vary considerably those of the QA are generally all around
3-5 pages long. Certain sūras in both these sacred books have some
very long verses and some very short verses; hence their differing
sizes (see below).
from four apparently untitled sūrahs (which seem never to have been named in any known Kitab al-fihrist
or other mss. (?) known to the present writer), the 111 sūrah
titles of the QA were all registered or set down by the Bab
himself in his early Kitāb al-Fihrist (Book of the Index) which is dated
to the 15th Jumādā II /1261 or 21st June 1845.
This work was written in Bushire during the post pilgrimage period of the Bab's
life before the completion of his journey back to Shiraz (for four or
more mss listed by MacEoin, see Sources, 188- more mss. are now known).
In mss of the Qayyum al-asma’ the Sūrah titles are not always filled or written
in. Not all scribes had easy access to copies of the Kitab al-fihrist.
How early extant mss. of the QA included the Sūrah titles is currently
unknown; though Sūrah titles seem to have appeared in a few mss. which
might be even earlier than the Kitab al-fihrist (e.g. very early
pre-1845 CE mss. ?).
titles of the QA may be viewed as gateways or signposts to major themes
within the nascent or emergent Bābī religion. The QA may be
viewed as the first
major, obviously neo-Quranic, revelation of the Bāb. The Sūrah titles are
conceptual gateways into the religious mind the Bāb. This Sayyid
from Shiraz was a messianic
figure about to challenge the inimitability (the i’jāz) of the Qur’ān
and found a new, dīn al-khalīṣ (“pristine religion” so QA. 1:5a), a pure
essentially neo-Shī`ī religion which he refers to as al-dīn al-qayyim,
an “Upright Religion” (QA. 1:7a). This emergent, ultimately post-Islamic
Faith would come to challenge and shake mid-19th century Qajar Persia
(Iran) to its foundations. The QA presents itself as the bāṭin or
the deep, inner dimension of the Qur'an. It has much in common with this
Arabic text upon which it is modeled as a kitāb jadīd ("new
book") of divine revelation from God communicated via the occulted and
hidden Imam via his messianic agent the Bab.
The Qur’ānic Arabic term Sūra ("text unit"[
of revelation]; "division"; "chapter"...).
to Islamic theology
revelations from God
through the archangel Gabriel were believed to have been were
communicated over about a 22-year period. They total something like
6,123 verses of varying length. This body of Revelations was, for most,
if not all of the Prophet’s lifetime, organized into sections or sūrahs
ultimately compiled together so as to make up the Qur’ān.
The Arabic word sūra is known from the Qur’an where it occurs ten times
in six different sūras which all seem to date to the (late) Medinan
Q. 2:23 (21), "then
like it, and call your witnesses"...
Q. 9:64 (65), "the
hypocrites are afraid, lest a
should be sent down against them"...
Q. 9:86 (87), "and when
sūra is sent down, saying, `Believe in God'"...
Q. 9:124 (125),
is sent down to
thee, some of them say"...
Q. 9:127 (128),
is sent down, they
look at one another"...
Q. 10:38 (39) “Say: Bring a sūra like it (mithlihi)
and [for assistance] call upon whom you can besides God” ...
(perhaps the "oldest evidence" is this "polemic discourse about the
inimitability of qur'anic speech".
Q. 11:13 (16), "then
bring you ten
the like of it, forged
Q. 24:1 (1), "A
that We have sent down and prescribed [appointed]. We have sent down
clear signs that you might be reminded" Here
it is used "in
place of the more usual kitāb... in a hymnal annunciation of a
revealed text to be communicated"
(so Neuwirth, `Sūra(s)'
Q. 47:20a (22a), "those
who believe say, Why has a
not been sent down?'"...
Q. 47:20b (22b), "when a
is sent down. and
therein fighting is mentioned...
cf. Q. 57:13 use of ṣūr = "wall",
"enclosure, "fence"), "
(see H. Kassis, Concordance, 1983: 1115)
is clear from these references that the prophet Muhammad claimed that he
was in receipt of
segments of divine revelation, which were "sent down or "revealed"
from God. Sūras may constitute oral units of revelation which may be
oral texts or written tokens of divine guidance. Other persons could not
produce such inimitable tokens of waḥy (divine revelation). At the time
of the Prophet `People of the Book' (Jews, Christians etc) and others
expected evidences of supernatural guidance in the form of sūras
which constituted encapsulated `signs' or `tokens' of divine guidance.
Neuwirth, reckons that
"it is highly questionable if the term sūra was used during the
Prophet's lifetime to denote the "chapters" of the Qur'an in general
which were only later designated as sūras" (`Sūra(s)' EQ 6:167).
The Arabic word ----- Sūra (Sūrah) has been succinctly defined by
Angelica Neuwirth at the beginning of her excellent Encyclopedia of the
Qur’an (= EQ) article on Sūra(s) as “A literary unit of undetermined
length within the Qur’an” (see EQ vol. 5: 166-176). This word came to
describe the divisions or sections (loosely, “chapters”) of the Arabic
revelations to the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE) into which the Qur’ān
came to be divided. The sūras are real divisions in the body of the
Qur'ân. The translation 'chapter' is sometimes used, but this is not a
wholly adequate translation of the qur'anic Arabic word sūra.
The word Sūra
(pl. suwar) :
Hebrew or Syriac derivation...
The qur’ānic Arabic word sūra has been thought by
including Theodore Nöldeke (1836-1930), and
a number of other 19th and 20th century western orientalists and
academic scholars to be a loanword derived from the (Mishnaic) Hebrew word
shūrāh, which can signify "rank", "file", "line" or "row".
Arthur Jeffery (1892-1959), in his seminal, pioneering The Foreign
Vocabulary of the Qur'an (1st ed. Oriental Institute, Baroda, 1938)
doubted this derivation (see rep. Leiden: Brill, 2003, pp. 180-182)
Richard Bell (1876-1952) who noted that it was a term used of "bricks in
a wall and of vines". Rejecting this Hebrew derivation of the Arabic
sūra he suggested one from the Syriac ṣūrṭā which can mean
"The word sūra (plural suwar) also occurs in
the text, but its derivation is doubtful. The most accepted view is
that it comes from the Hebrew
'a row', used of bricks in a wall and of vines. From this the sense
of a series of passages, or chapter, may perhaps be deduced, but it
is rather forced. Besides, it hardly gives the sense in which the
word is used in the Qur'an itself. In 10.38/9 the challenge is
issued: 'Do they say: "He has devised it"?; let them come then with
a sūra like it'. In 11.13/16 it is a challenge to bring ten sūras
like those which have been produced. In 28.49, however, where a
similar challenge is given, it is to produce a book, or writing,
from God. Evidently the sense required is something like
'revelation' or 'Scripture'. The most likely suggestion is that the
word is derived from the Syriac
which has the sense of 'writing', 'text of Scripture', and even 'the
Scriptures'. The laws which govern the interchange of consonants in
Arabic and Syriac are against that derivation, but in Syriac itself
the spelling of the word varies to ṣūrthā, and even surthā; and in
any case, in words directly borrowed, these philological laws do not
(Bell [+Montgomery-Watt] Introduction, 58;
see also Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary, p.180ff).
The above pioneering suggestions are now largely doubted or rejected
entirely. A recent related suggestion, however, is that the qur'anic
Arabic sūra may derive from the Syriac
("beginning") meaning "short psalms that are sung before the reading of
scripture" (Neuwirth, `Sūra(s)' EQ 6:167). This whole matter invites
further detailed research in the light of Rabbinic and Patristic
practices and terminology associated with Semitic-Abrahamic scripture
and its liturgical or other modes of delmintation, partitioning and
associated recitation. In
this respect it is worth consulting relevant papers in the volumes
making up the important series `Pericope, Scripture as Written and Read
in Antiquity' (Van Gorcum, The Netherlands, 2000, and ongoing). The
paper, for example by K. D. Jenner in Pericope Vol.1,
Delimitation Criticism entitled `The Unit Delimitation in the
Syriac Text of Daniel and its Consequences for Interpretation' examines
a number of ancient (8th. cent. CE) biblical manuscripts of the Syriac
Peshiṭta the texts of which are frequently "marked with or
interrupted by rosettes, vignettes in minium (red pigment) and strings
of dark brown thick dots as well. A second category of markers is that
of titles inscribed in minium in or added to the text. These titles may
theologically label the content of the following pericope or may relate
to its chronological scheme or to some ecclesiastical calendar or
lectionary system" (p.112). Such matters are highly relevant to the
study of the emergence of early Qur'an manuscripts which themselves
contain markings of the kind just mentioned. Some of these early Qur'an
mss. contain headings, dots and blank spaces pertinent to the study of
the evolution of surahs as Qur'an segments.
Examination of very early Qur’an manuscripts indicates that
beginnings were indicated by the use of colored inks
EQ add .).
The Titles or Names
of the Sūrahs of the Quran
The 114 Sūras of the Qur'an each came to have individual names or
titles; mostly, if not wholly, from the first few decades after the time
of the Prophet during the early `Umayyad period (661-750 CE). They were
not all fixed by a single designation. There has never been any absolute
agreement as to all of the qur'anic sūra names. Several are known by
multiple designations in different parts and eras of the Islamic world,
e.g. Q. 112 Ikhlāṣ ("Sincerity") or Sūrat al-Tawḥīd ("the
Divine Unity"). In modern printed Qur'ans a title section provides
the name of the Sūrah and its number in the sequence of 114 sūras.
The names of sūras are often taken from
words or verses within a given sūra e.g. Sūrat al-Ṣād, Q.
38:1; Sūrat al-Qāf Q.50:1;
rare or memorable word occurring within a sūra, e.g. Q. 29: 41, `Ankabūt
= "spider"; Q. 80: 1 Abasa "He frowned"; 97:1b Laylat al-Qadr,
'Night of Power'; Q. 16
Sūrat al-Nahl (`The Sūra
of the Bee[s]')
c) A major
theme within a specific sūra, e.g. Q.2 Sūrat al-Baqara (the Sūra of
the Cow) which contains the a version of the biblical story of the
d) According to a
traditional designation which is not always based on words or
terminology found within that specific sūra, e.g. Q. 1 Sūrat al-Fatiha
(The Sūra of the Opening), which is in fact a prayer or devotional
qur'anic prolegomenon widely recited in Islamic ritual practice.
are not found in the qur'anic sūras they designate. e.g.
A complete list of the
qur'anic sūra names in the A. J. Arberry translation can be conveniently found at :
A complete list of the
QA sūra names largely based on mss. of the Kitāb al-fihrist of
the Bab can be found tabulated at
The Sūrah Titles of the Qayyūm al-asma'
Tabulated and Introduced.
It will be seen
that a number, though by no means all, of the sura names of
the Qur'an are repeated in the QA. The following is a list of
the QA Sura titles that are identical with those of the Qur'an, a few
occuring more than once:
QA. 1 = al-Mulk
(the Dominion) = Q. 67.
QA. 5 = Yūsuf
(Joseph [or Ḥusayn]) = Q. 12.
QA. 9 = al-Tawḥīd
(the Divine Unity) [Ikhlāṣ, "Sincerity"] = Q. 112.
QA. 20 = al-Nūr (the
Light) = Q. 24.
QA. 23 = al-`Aṣr (the
Afternoon) = Q. 103.
QA. 33 = al-Naṣr (the
Victory) = Q. 110.
QA. 40 = [+87] al-Insān
(Man-Humanity) = Q. 76.
QA. 64 = al-Ḥamd (the
Laudation) [= Fatiḥa] = Q. 1.
QA. 71 = al-Qalam (the Pen) =
QA. 73 = al-Kahf (the
Cave) = Q. 18.
QA. 75 = al-Shams (the
Sun) = Q. 91.
QA. 87 = al-Anbiyā'
(the Prophets) = Q. 27.
QA. 103 = al-Ḥajj (the
Pilgrimage) = Q. 22.
QA. 106 = al-Jum`a (the
Gathering) = Q. 62.
QA. 111 = al-Mu`minīn (the
Believers) = Q. 23.
The fact that the Bab in his
Kitab al-Fihrist (and elsewhere?) adopted as QA sūra names between 14
and 16 of the extant, standard Qur'an Sura names illustrates the level
of his confirmation of sacredness of the Islamic sacred book, the holy
Qur'an. More than 10% of the QA Surah Names are indentical with those of
the Qur'an. The almost 100 QA surahs with different, non-qur'anic names
or titles highlights the boldness of the degree to which the QA goes
beyond the Qur'anic pattern or archetype of Islamic norms. Many of the
other sura titles of the QA utilize qur'anic vocabulary though sometimes
with developed Islamic or post-Islamic connotations. A percentage of QA
sura titles are meant to call attention to the messianic role of the Bāb
or to the implications of the coming, imminent age of apocalyptic
fulfillment or eschatological renewal. The pure, renewed religion of the
Bab is firmly rooted in the Qur'an but interprets it anew and transcends
its standard exposition. The QA challenges the i`jāz or inimitability of
the Qur'an by echoing or mirroring it as re-revealed on a bāṭin
(deep esoteric) level from the imamological realm on high.
It is perhaps worth noting that there are no obvious signs in the QA. of
the Bab adopting any of those names associated with suras that
certain Shi`i thinkers considered omitted by Sunni authorities at the
time of the collection of the Qur'an under the third Caliph `Uthmān ibn
Affān (d. Medina, 35/656); lost or forged suras that is such as
were named Surat al-Nurayn (the Sura of the Twin Lights) or Surat al-Walāya
(the Sura of the Succession/Guidance/Guardianship).
The Qayyūm al-asmā’: Surahs and
is not the time or place to introduce the QA in any detail. It must
suffice to say that this 300-500 page Arabic work was revealed, written
down, or communicated in segments by the Bab from the evening of May 22,
1844 CE when he first made his messianic role known.
According to the Bab himself it took around 40-days for this work to be
completed (Add ref. here ). For some introductory notes on the QA
According to Shoghi Effendi’s redaction of Muhammad-Nabīi Zarandī’s
Tārīkh (History) known as the `Dawn-Breakers’ (1st ed. 1932),
the initial chapter of the Bāb’s earliest, immediate, `pre-declaration’
revelatory writing known as the Qayyum al-asma' was communicated on the evening of his messianic
disclosure before his first disciple Mullā Ḥusayn Bushrū’ī (d.
1265/1849), on May 22nd 1844 CE (= 5th Jumadi 1, 1260
AH). It was the 42 verse 3-4 page first Sūrah, the Sūrat al-Mulk (Sūrah
of the Dominion /Sovereignty = QA1), of his ultimately weighty, around
neo-Qur’anic Arabic revelation bearing, (among other names) the
allusive Arabic title Qayyūm al-asmā’ (lit. `Self-Subsisting of the
this complex work had long-ago been deemed
a `new [Bābī] Qur’ān’ for, like the Qur’ān which is its obvious
prototype, it is divided up into sections, `chapters’ or sūrahs.
There are in fact 111 of these new Arabic sūrahs in the
QA. For the most part they incorporate a direct and indirect though
commentary upon each of the 111 verses of the Qur’ānic Sūrat
Yusuf (Sūrah of Joseph),
the 12th chapter of the Qur’an which expounds the story of
the Israelite patriarch who, for Muslims, is an elevated prophet named
Joseph who lived in the 2nd millennium BCE. For the Bāb the
Joseph figure is a messianic archetype (cf. antitype) representative of
the third Imam Ḥusayn (d.80/661) who was martyred a little lea then 30
years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (in 632 CE). For more than
1,000 years Shi`i Muslims have expected Imam Husayn to appear at
the Shī`ī Islamic eschaton
or yawm al-qiyāma (`Day of Resurrection'). For the Bab the qur'anic
story of Joseph was replete with messianic meaning and apocalyptic
The 111 sūras of the QA are roughly of equal length,
spanning roughly three to six pages of text. Each sūra is divided up by the Bāb into 42 verses after the abjad value
of the qur'anic Arabic lī meaning "before me" and
found at Q. 12:4b (Ar. لي
= l + ī = 30+10= 40) another two being added representing "the sun and the
moon" (40 +2 = 42) mentioned in the same qur'anic verse (add ref.
). This figure of 42 verse per sūra is explicitly confirmed in the Bāb's
early Khuṭba al-dhikriyya ("The Sermon of the Remembrance") where it is
stated in the context of an imamologically numbered categorization of
the early works of the Bāb dating from between 1260-1262 AH (mid-1844-1846
"The Fourth [revelational
categorization] is the Ḥusaynid Book (kitāb al-Ḥusayniyya) which is
the Commentary upon the Sūrah of Joseph (Sharḥ Sūrat Yūsuf = Tafsīr
Sūrat Yūsuf = Qayyūm al-asmā') -- upon him be peace -- which is
divided up into one hundred and eleven firmly established [clearly
delineated] (muḥkamat) sūrahs. Every one of them is made up of forty
two verses. These constitute a sufficient [messianic] testimony unto
whomsoever exists upon the earth or lieth beneath the Divine Throne
(al-`arsh)" (cited Afnan 2000: 472; cf. 445).
same forty-two mode of sūrah versification of the QA., is evident in
certain mss. of this work; most notably the early 1261 mss. of Muhammad Mahdī ibn Karbalā'ī where QA1 and
QA2 (and other sūrah headings) have the
following words after the sūrah title (e.g. Sūrat al-mulk) and in
between the basmala : wa hiya ithnā'[tāni] wa arba`ūn "and it [the
Sūrah] has forty two verses".
While then the Sūrah lengths may occasionally vary by as much as several
pages they are never as different in length as that between the opening
lengthy Qur’ānic sūras and the very short Sūras towards its end. While in
the Qur’ān the longest Sūrah, the Sūrat al-Baqara (Q2) contains
verses spanning about 35 pages the brief Sūrat al-Kawthar
(“Eschatological Abundance” = Q. 108) contains only 2 verses spanning
about 3 lines of text. The final qur’anic Sūrat al-nās (“The People”= Q.
114) again has only six verses or 3 lines of text (see Bell +Watt,
The Qur’ānic arrangement of Sūrahs is generally from long sūras to short
In this respect, relative to sūrah length, the QA is different from the
Qur’ān. The former has 111 Sūrahs the latter 114 Sūras. The Qur’an
occupies about 300-400 pages totaling something like 6346 verses
or (it has been observed) 6234 numbered verses and 112 un-numbered basmala verses
(= Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim). The Shi`i commentator and writer Muḥammad Ḥusayn
Ṭabāṭabāʼī (d. 1402/1981) in his Persian
Qur'an dar Islam (trans. Assadullah al-Dhaakir Yate in 1987 as `The Qur'an in Islam' Qum:
Ansarian Publications) states that "the enumeration and delineation of
the verses date from the time of the Prophet [Muhammad, d. 630 CE]
adding that "there are six views concerning the total
number of verses in the Qur'an, as related by [Abu Amr `Uthmān ibn Sa`īd] al-Dānī
(d. 444/1053). Some have said
that the total is 6,000, others 6,204, and some 6,219. From these six
estimations, two are from the reciters of Medina and four from the
other areas to which `Uthmanic copies were sent, namely Mecca, Kufa,
Basra and Sham [Syria-Palestine]." (p.107).
in the Qur'an and QA
Like the Q.,
QA mss. are something like 300-400 pages long with (theoretically), a
total of 42 x 111 or 4,662 verses of rhyming prose. The basmala
with the qur'anic citations which are commented upon and / or the isolated letters
(al-hurufat al-muqatta`a) seems to be
counted or to number among the forty two verses of each QA sūra. Exactly
how has yet to be determined.
The QA is approximately the same length, perhaps a little shorter than
the Qur’ān itself. Though he Bāb himself stated that there should
be forty-two verses in each sūrah of the QA as accords with the abjad
numerical value of the Arabic lī (meaning "before me" in Q. 12:4b Ar. لي
= l + ī = 30+10= 40 and the additional 2 = 42), it is not always clear
how this figure can be arrived at. In QA1 the 42 verses seem clear
enough though the 42 sometimes seems "symbolic" rather than a clear
setting down of 42 bayts (verses) of rhymed prose (saj`). Forty two
verses seems though to hold good for certain sūras such, for example, as
Elsewhere the "forty-two" configuration cannot easily be worked out.
Some verses of the QA are very short while others occasionally extend to
make up very long pericopae ("paragraphs"). This is also the case in the
Qu'rān itself with which the QA has a great deal in common; especially
respecting its form, style vocabulary and Arabic verses in rhyming
In neo-qur'ānic fashion QA1 opens with the standard Islamic basmala (=
Bismillah al-raḥman al-raḥim, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the
Compassionate’ Though not the case with QA1 which seems the only
QA surah without a prefixed Qur'an 12 verse citation (cf.
there normally follows a citation of one of the verses of the
Sūrat Yusūf (Q. 12) usually followed by a succession of isolated
letters. Then follows a succession of verses making the total up to 42.
of QA verses of varying length from Sūra 1, the Sūrat al-Mulk. First the
quite long verse 10 then the
last fairly short verse 42 :
اللّه قد قدّر ان يخرج ذلك الكتاب فی تفسير احسن القصص
من عند محمّد بن الحسن بن علی بن محمّد بن علی بن موسی
جعفر بن محمّد بن علی بن الحسين بن علی بن ابيطالب
علی عبده ليكون حجّة اللّه من عند الذّكر علی العالمين بليغاً
verily, hath decreed that this Book be divulged
the "Best of Narratives" (aḥṣan al-qaṣaṣ, Q.12:3) [= the Joseph
story in the Qur'an] on the part of Muhammad [the hidden 12th Imam]
son of Ḥasan [al-`Askarī, 11th Imam] (d. c. 260/874] son of `Alī
[al-Hadi, 10th Imam](d. c. 254/868) son of Muhammad [al-Taqī, 9th
Imam[ (d. c. 220/835)
son of `Alī [al-Riḍā',
8th Imam, d. c. 203/818]
son of Mūsā [al-Kāẓim, 7th
Imam] (d. c. 183/799) son of Ja`far [al-Sādiq, 6th Imam], (d. c.
148/765)son of Muhammad [al-Bāqir,
5th Imam] ( d. c. 120/738?)
[Zayn al-`Ābidīn, 4th Imam] (d. c.
95/713) son of
Ḥusayn [3rd Imam] (d. c. 61/680)
[1st Imam] (d. c. 40/661) unto His
servant [= the Bāb]
(d. 1266/1850) to the end that it might be an eloquent Proof of God
from the Remembrance (al-dhikr) unto all the worlds.
و هو القاهر فوق عباده هو
اللّه كان بكلّشیء عليماً
He is One
beyond His servants.
God is He Who knoweth all things.
Most of the 111 sūras of the Qayyūm al-asmā’ -- in fact 107 of them or
all but four of them (see above) — have a specific title, given, it
seems, for the first time, by the Bab himself in his Kitāb al-fihrist
(the `Book of the Index’), a catalogue of all of his writings from the
time of his initial declaration until 15th Jumadi II 1261 or
June 21st, 1845. This short book was written just over a year after the
first messianic declaration and initial recitation or commencement of
the first Sūrah of the QA. It remains to be worked out whether QA sūrah
titles are found in mss. predating the list of the sūra titles given in
the Kitab al-fihrist.
might be noted here that the QA is neither simply nor exactly a new
Arabic Qur’ān. It is certainly not a Tafsīr (Commentary) in the
classical, Islamic senses normally accorded this word. It is not like
that of Abū Ja`far Muhammad Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) or Abū `Alī
al-Faḍl ibn al-Ḥasan al-Tabrisī [Tabarsi] (d. 548/1154). According to
its Persian-born author, it is nothing less than the bāṭin or bāṭin al-bāṭin
of the Qurān. Thus we read in QA XX :
The purpose of this paper will be to comment upon the
titles given by the Bab to the 111 sūras within the Qayyūm al-asmā’.
They provide something of a glimpse into the earliest foundational
pillars of the emergent Bābī religion and give us a glimpse into some of
the major religio-theological parameters of the mind of the Bab at the
outset of his six year mission as the respresentative of the Hidden Imam
Muhammad al-Mahdī or the Mahdi-Qā’im himself (1844-1850).
The sense(s) and translation of the Sūrah
sūrah titles of the QA can be loosely divided up into categories. Among
them are titles which are identical with Qur’anic sura titles. This would of
course include the title of the very first QA sura, the Sūrat al-mulk,
which is the same title as Quran Sūrah 67. The other names identical
with Qur’anic sūrahs will be spelled out below...
The analysis of the Sūrah titles or Names of the QA is quite a complex
subject. Just translating these Names often involves more than merely
philological knowledge. This because the
basic senses of the sūrah titles might be qur’ānic,
post-qur’ānic or even be defined by a non-qur’anic word having a
fundamentally non, post or meta-qur’ānic meaning. Even when such
terms are found in the Qur’ān such can be the case with its senses in
the Qayyum al-asma'. Then title of QA Sūrah 3, Sūrat al-madīna
(The Sūrah of the City), obviously indicates a city, but which city –
Medina, the City of the Arabian Prophet one pertinent to the Persian
born and located Bab such as his birthplace Shīraz which became a
new `Mecca-Medina' type city.
10 is entitled Sūrah al-`Amā’ where `amā’ most likely has a post-qur’anic
theological sense such as `The Sūra of the Divine Cloud’ as opposed to a
forced and essentially misleading Qur’ānic based translation as `The
Sūrah of Blindness [of heart]’ for `amā’ occurs twice in the Qur’ān
with this sense of "blindness" (see Q. 41:17 and 44). The sense of
`Divine Cloud' is based upon the developed theological use of the term `ama'
in an early ḥadīth text especially in its developed post-qur'anic senses
articulated by numerous Sufis, especially those of the school of Ibn
al-`Arabī (d. ). The senses `ama has
in the Futuhat al-makiyya of the Great Shaykh are not dissimmilar to
their uses in the QA. of the Bab.
62 is entitled Sūrat al-Awliyā’ (The Sūrah of the Saintly Intimates’)
though in this Sūrah the Bāb is not concerned with the saintliness of
elevated awliyā’ (sages or mystics) but their low estate as a result of
their eschatological downfall or lack of receptivity. Only the QA
context makes this clear.
The title of QA (80) the Sūrat al-Zawāl (The Sūrah of the
Declension) utilizes a verbal-noun which occurs only once in
the Qur’ān. Derived from a verb zāla = `to go away, deviate, remove,
decline’ (see Kassis, Concordance 1983:1332) it most likely indicates
the going down or `declension’ of the sun understood figuratively.
Within this 80th QA. sūrah, the word zuwāl occurs
twice, once in an address to the believers:
يا ايّها المؤمنون
الكتاب فی بدوالزّوال
سبحان اللّه و لا اله الّا اللّه الحمد للّه الّذی لم يتّخذ صاحبة و
لاولدا و لم يكن له شريك فی الملك و لم يكن له ولیّ من الذّلّ و كبّره
“O Thou Believers ! Recite ye from the Book (al-kitāb) at the beginning
of the declension [of the Sun],
`Subḥān-Allāh (Praised be God)! No God is there except God! Praised be
to God Who in no wise adopts any consort [wife, mate] (ṣāḥiba) [cf. Q.
6:101] neither [takes for Himself] a Son (walad an cf. Jesus,
cf. Q. 2:116). There is not for Him any partner (sharīk) in the
[earthly] dominion (al-mulk) And there is not with respect to Him any
[intimate] associate [partner] (walī) [to protect Him] from abasement
[ignominy] (al-dhull). So extol Him with [befitting] magnification! (kabbiruhu
takbīr an ) [= Q. 17:111b].”
once in an address to denizens or the “People of the Throne”
اسمعوا ندائی من مركز الشّمس الطّالعة من مشرق الباب انّی انا اللّه الّذی
لا اله الّا
هو قد اختصصت بالحقّ ذكر الذّكر فی مطلع الشّمس و مغربها و علی
صلّوا عليه كما يصلّی الرّحمن لعبده و الملئكة حافّون حول الذّكر بذكره و
هو اللّه كان بكلّ شیء شهيداً
“O Thou People of the Throne!
"Hearken ye unto My Call from
the meridian [central point] of the Sun (markaz al-shams), [as]
dawning forth from the East of the Gate (mashriq al-bāb)!
[Exclaiming] `I am indeed God, Who, no God is there save Him. I, in
very truth, have indeed singled out the remembrance of the
[messianic] Dhikr (dhikr al-dhikr) at [the time of] the
Dawning-Forth of the Sun (fī maṭla` al-shams) as well as with its
[western] setting (maghribihā) and at [the time of] its
declension (`alā al-zawāl) at
the [noon time] meridian [central position at noon] (markazihā). So
utter ye blessings upon it just as the All-Merciful (God) does with
respect to His servant and whereat the angelic hosts (al-malā’ikat)
do circumambulate about the [messianic] Dhikr in remembrance of him
(bi-dhikihi). And He is God Who hath ever been Witness unto
everything (bi-kulla shay’ shahīd an)."
It is the case then that a thorough analysis of the Sūrah titles
necessitates a study of the larger body of all of the 111 sūrahs of the
QA as well as of its use as an item of Islamic-Shi`i-Shaykhi vocabulary
as well as instances of its use by the Bab in his various writings of
the post 1260-1844 period. Post QA uses of sūra title vocabulary will of
course often serve to clarify its basic and developed meanings.
A Preliminary Categorization of the 111
QA Sūrah Names or Titles.
The 111 Sūrah names or titles may be loosely organized under the
following eight headings; at this point I shall merely mention their
names without detailed comment and remain conscious of the fact
that some of them could equally be categorized under several of the
proposed categories (see below):
 QA Sūra titles with Theological
senses; including Divine Names (al-asmā') and Attributes(wa'l-ṣifāt)
These are counted as being 21
sūrahs of the QA with two or three of them having titles identical
with qur'anic sūras (marked in green) while six others have names
exactly corresponding or ten partially identical (about 16 of the 21) to
key Divine Names or Attributes found in lists of the ninety-nine
al-asmā' al-husnā ("Most Beautiful Names" [=MBN]) as spelled out in
versions of the famous prophetic hadith famously relayed in Sunni texts
from the companion Abu Hurayrah (d. 58/678) or in Shi`i texts from Imam
`Alī ibn Abi Talib (d. 40/661) or other Imami notables (marked with
this latter connection the numbers of the `Most Beautifl Names' (= e.g.
"MBN 63"= no. 63) are as cited in the Sunni prophetic ḥadīth by Abu
Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī (d. 505/1111) in his al-Maqsad al-asma fi sharh asma'
Allah al-husna (trans. Burrell, Cambridge, 1992, pp. 49-51;197-200).
al-Tawḥīd (`the Divine Unity') [Q. 112 or al-ikhlāṣ]
(10) al-`Amā’ ([lit. Blindness] the Divine Cloud”)
the scene of the Sinaitc theophany.
(14) al-Quds (“Holiness”, “Sanctity”)
al-Quddūs, "the Holy" = MBN 5]
(15) al-Mashiyya (“The [Primal] Will”).
al-Nūr (= Q. 24;
= MBN 93]
(21) al-Shajara (“the Tree” “Burning Bush” cf. Sidra
al-Qadr (“Power", "Destiny")
al-Qādir, the All-Powerful"= MBN 69]
(31) al-`Izz ("Might")
al-`Azīz "The Mighty" MBN = 9]
(the Living One')
[MBN = 63]
al-Shakur, "the Grateful" = MBN 36]
(43) al-Waḥda ("Oneness")
al-Wāḥid, "the Unique" = MBN 67]
(46) al-Huwa ("He-ness"; the "Divine Identity"; “The
(52) al-Faḍl (the [Divine] "Bounty"; "Grace";
"The Patient" =
(56) al-Amr (the “[Divine-Logos] Command”)
(the [Divine] Mercy)
"The Compassionate" = MBN 2-3]
(66) al-Aḥadiyya (the [Divine] Oneness)
("Flawless") [MBN 6]
(82 al-A`ẓam (““the Supreme”, “Most-Great”)
[cf. al-`Aẓīm, "the
Mighty" = MBN 34]
(84) al-Ism (“the Name”)
(the "Truth", "Reality", “Ultimate Reality” [God]=
MBN 52] cf. Q. 69 al-Ḥāqqa
("The Reality/ Inevitable")
QA Sūra titles of
Cosmogonic-Cosmological Import (9 Sūrahs)
One of these
Sūrah titles is Qur'anic, Q. 91 corresponding to QA. 75. All seven
of them utilize terms associated with qur'anic cosmogony and cosmology.
(16) al-`Arsh (“The Divine Throne”).
(19) Sīnā’ ("[Mt.] Sinai") cf. Personal Theophany
of the Bab.
(22) al-Mā’ “Celestial Watery Expanse”)
(67) al-Inshā’ “The Origination-Genesis”).
(71) al-Qalam (“the [Cosmic-Primordial] Pen”).
al-Shams ("the Sun”). Q. 91.
(81) al-Kāf (the [Letter] “K”) cf. the
first letter of the Qur'anic creative imperative "Be!" (kun).
cf. Q. Surat al-Qāf = Q. 50.
(88) al-Ibdā` (Genesis)
Sūra Titles associated with the Exegetical-Eisegetical Tafsir of
Qur'an 12, Sūrat Yusuf
Two of these sūra titles are
Qur'anic and all items of Qur'anic vocabularly.
(34) al-Ishāra ("the Allusion")
(37) al-Ta`bīr ("The Interpretation")
(41) al-Kitāb (The Book)
(54) al-Ghulām ("Youth"), a young page type
(72) al-Baṣīr ("Insight")
al-Kahf (The Cave)
(79) al-Kalimat (The Word) or cosmic, cosmogonic
Sūra Titles associated with
Figures, Titles and Status Claims (12 Sūrahs).
Joseph = Q. 12. The Israelite figure and Islamic prophet, antitype
of Imam Husayn.
(40) + (89) = Insān (Humanity-Man-The Perfect Man)
(54) al-Ghulām ("Youth"), a young page type
figure in the Q. and a title used by the Bab...
(60) Dhikr (+108 x2) a key messianic title in
the Bab's writings.
(74) Khalīl (the Friend [of God]), Abraham [cf.
Q. 14 = Ibrāhīm)
(44) Ru’yā (The Vision) + (45), associated with
visions of vehicles of Divine Guidance and the future.
Anbiyā’ ("Prophets") =
Figures who communicated divine guidance and spoke of the eschaton.
(93) Mujallal (Glorious –Transfigured…) the
locus of the Divine Tajalli ("self-Disclosure" or Theophany)
(35) `Ubudiyya (“Servitude”), a status position
associated with elevated "Lordship" (rububiyya).
(109) `Abd (The Servant”), as above when
QA Sūra Titles associated with
Ritual, Doctrine and Imamology (7 Sūrahs).
(12) `Āshurā (the Tenth [ of Muharrram]), date of the martyrdom of
Imam Husayn (d. 61/680).
(27) Abwāb (the [Four] Gates) to the
(38) Fāṭima [bint Khuwalid] daughter of the Prophet
(42) `Ahd (“Covenant”), one of the key Shī`ī
principles of faith.
(55) Rukn (“Pillar”), the four Pillars of the Shaykhi-Islamic
Religion cf. the `fourth support' in Shaykism.
(57) Ḥusn ("Beauty", "Fairness", "Comliness") cf. Husayn the
third Imam and the Beauty of Joseph.
(61) Ḥusayn (= Yūsuf) the 3rd Imam and his
eschatological return or counterpart.
QA Sūra Titles
Legalistic matters (14 [+10] 21 Sūrahs)
Here Aspects of Qur’ānic
shari`a law might be affirmed or transcended.
(2) al-`Ulama' , "clergy", "clerics", "divines"...
(6) al-Shahāda (“The Testimony” [ of
faith]) and the alphabetical locus of imamology. cf. (92)
(7) al-Ziyāra (Visitation) to sacred Shrines/Persons.
(26) al-Ḥadd/ Ḥall (“Limits”/ “Lawful”) the Parameters
of the Law…
(30) al-Tablīgh ("The Instruction")
(35) al-`Ubudiyya (“Servitude”)
(50) al-Aḥkām (pl.) + (51), (104), (105) -- Decrees,
Stipulations…New Laws of Qā’im.
al-Zawāl (The Sūrah of the Declension [ of the sun]), Prayer
(90) al-Qitāl + (91), (96), (97), (102), (103)
(Eschatological “Fighting” cf. Jihad) 6 Sūras
(92) al-Ishhād ("the Testimonial") cf. above
(98) al-Jihād + (99), (100), (101) (Holy War) 4 Sūras...
(103)  al-Ḥajj
("Pilgrimage") = Q. 22
(106) al-Jum`a (“Congregation”)=
Q. 62. cf. Friday Gathering or
the Eschatological Assembling…
(107) al-Nikāḥ (“Marriage”, Wedlock”)
The subtle apocalyptic
language of the Qayyum al-asma' at I:9 and elsewhere seems to presuppose the exposure
of a once hidden yet new or revolutionary al-amr, a religious
"Cause" championed by the hidden Imam and his representative the Bab.
This new Cause presupposes change and involves the setting forth of a
"new law" or post-Islamic shar`ia. Though the Bab did not go this far at
the time of his writing and communication of the QA., he certainly
included many legalistic directives in subsequent revelations especially
from 1848 when his developed claims became more widely known. Scattered
through the QA., however, are legal materials, sometimes of a subtly
A number of Shi`i messianic traditions
predict the eschatological emergence of a new amr, a new religious
Islamic traditions have it that the messianic Qa’im, the sahib al-amr
(bearer of a Cause /Command) will establish a new religious amr
(religious “Cause”) which will be propagated throughout the globe. One
hadith originating with Ja`far al-Ṣādiq as cited by Shaykh al-Mufid is
fairly explicit in this respect:
ADD ARABIC TEXT
When the Qa’im… rises, he will come with a new
amr (religious “Cause”), just as the Messenger of God [Muhammad]
(rasul Allah) … at the genesis of Islam summoned unto a new
amr (religious “Cause”)” (Irshad, 364).
word amr in the phrase amr jadid within this tradition could have a
very wide range of possible senses including being indicative of a new
“Command”, “Order” , “Cause” and even “religion” including a new
shar`ia or "law". Shi`i traditions
about a new amr are more explicitly quoted by the Bāb in his Tafsīr
Sūrat al-Kawthar and also by Baha'-Allah in his Kitab-i īqān and other
writings. This amr is usually understood in Bābī-Bahā’ī writ to mean a
new religion, revelation, religious order or “Cause”. For Bahā’īs the
(Per.) Amr-i ilāhī indicates the Cause or Religion of God . The Bahā’ī
religion today is often referred to as the amr-i ilāhi.
The QA includes quite a few
"rewrites" of legalistic Qur'anic verses or adoptions of Islamic law.
Though it would be going too far to say that the QA involved a new law
it is certainly the case that in giving a deep messianic intepretation
to the qur'anic Story of Joseph the practical dictates of Islamic law
are not entirely neglect. Subtle messianic modifications pave the way
for the Bab's later abrogation of Islamic law and his communicating many
new laws which modify or replace the Islamic shari`a ("law"). In fact
most of the major post-11260/844 CE revelations of the Bab include
legalistic materials designed to proffer a new order or offer legalistic
religious directives that increase messianic awareness and expectation
pending the advent of the Babi messiah man yuzhiru-hu Allah ("Him whom
God shall make manifest").
Sūra Titles associated with the
`Ulūm al-Ghayb or Esoteric-Qabbalistic
(11) + (86) al-Saṭr the ("[Alphabetical] Script-Line")
(9) al-Sirr ("Mystery") cf. “All is Mystery” – Kimiya,
Limiya, Sīmiya, Himiya…
(58) al-Iksīr ("The Elixir")
(65) al-Ghayb ("The Unseen") cf. the `ulūm al-ghayb
(69)+ (94) al-Tarbi` ("Quadratic-Fourfold") cf. (95) M-Ḥ-M-D
- H-S-Y-N - Y-W-S-F
(81) al-Kāf (`the Letter “K”') cf. Kun fa-yakun (Be! And it
(83) al-Bā’ (`the Letter “B”')
(95) al-Tathlīth ("Threefoldness-Trinity")
cf. `Alī (= A+ L+Y =) 3
Various Imam uttered Shi`i traditions have it that key matters within
Shi`ism are deep, secret, esoteric or gnostic. The expected Imam was
expected to be a master of the `ulum al-ghayb or esoteric
sciences. The fulfillment of such expectations is reflected in numerous
of the writings of the Bab, not least within the Qayyum al-asma'.
which often gives (loosely) "qabbalistic" or `ilm al-ḥuruf type meaning
to Qur'anic texts and Shi`i subjects. Perhaps ten of its sura titles
reflect this concern with the esoteric.
The Bab was very well acquainted with esoteric dimensions of the Shi`i
religion especially as they were written about by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i
(d. 1241/1826) who often responded to questions about the `ulum al-ghayb
("esoteric sciences"). His close disciple and successor Sayyid Kazim
Rashti (d.1259/1843) in such of his writings as his Dala'il al-Mutahayyirin,
pictured al-Ahsa'i as a supreme master of Shi`i esoterica capable of
informed , inspired discourse about alchemy, jafr (gematria and
associated divination), occult medicine, the gnosis of talismans and
`ilm al-huruf (`The science of letters'), etc. Several important Shi`i
traditions and writings depict the expected Shi`i messianic Ariser or
Qa'im as being a supreme initiate of these matters reflecting the gnosis
of Imams `Ali ibn Abi Talib and Ja`far al-Sadiq. Three or more of
the sura titles of the QA seems to reflect talismanic gnosis, the Surat
al-Tarbi` ("Quadratic-Fourfold" = QA. 69+94) and the
= QA. 95) and one is explicitly entitled al-Iksir (the Elixir) or the
transmutative alchemical reality. Other terms listed above also make
sense in this categorization of Islamic esoterics reflected in the QA.
QA Sūra Titles
Eschatological or Messianic
implications (around 32 Sūrahs)
More than a quarter around 32 of the Sūrah titles of the QA have
probable or acual eschatological implications or associations.
(1) al-Mulk ("Dominion".
"Sovereignty"), the eschatological, theophanic rule of God.
(17) al-Bāb (the “Gate” = the Bāb), cf. (27) below =
Abwāb (the [Four] Gates)… The Bāb as an active intermediary to the
Hidden Imam like but superceding the Four Gates of the past.
(18) al-Ṣiraṭ (“the [Eschatological] Path”),
(19) al-Sīnā’ (Mt. Sinai) – eschatological Mosaic,
(23) al-`Asr (“The Forenoon”),
period of (eschatological) time... = Q. 103.
(25) al-Khatam ("the Seal")
(33) al-Naṣr (“Victory”)
= Q. 110
(36) al-`Adl ("Justice") its realization was a
key eschatological hope as actualized by the expected Qa'im.
(48) al-Ḥujjat ("the [messianic] Proof")
(49) al-Nidā’ ("the [messianic] Call")
(60) al-Dhikr (+108 x2)
"the messianic] Remembrance").
(61) al-Ḥusayn – name of the expected 3rd
Imam = the new “Joseph”.
(62) al-Awliyā’ Context = Eschatological negative
(65) al-Ghayb ("The Unseen") the domain of the
occulted Imams or esoteric sciences...
(68) al-Wa’id (“The Promises”)
(70 al-[Qist] ("the Balance")
(78) al-Zuhūr (the eschatological "Theophany/Manifestation")
(80) al-Zawwal (the "Solar Declension"...
(90) al-Qitāl + (91), (96), (97), (102), (103)
(Eschatological “Fighting”) 6 Sūrahs.
(98) al-Jihād + (99), (100), (101) (Holy War) 4 Sūras.
(106) al-Jum`a (the [Friday] Gathering, Assembling")
(110) al-Sabiqin (the "Forerunners"), latter day
pioneers of the messianic age.
 Miscellaneous - Personal (10 Sūrahs)
al-Madina ("the City") = Medina, Saudi Arabia or Shiraz ??
(17) Bāb ("the Gate") to the Hidden Imam
(28) Qarāba ("Kinsmen" Relatives", Near
(38) Fāṭima [bint Khuwalid] daughter of the Prophet
(29) Ḥūriya ("the Houri", "Divine Maiden"),
embodiment of the Divine, personal visions of the Bab... cf. Q. x 4
(47) Mir’at ("the Mirrors"), radiant reflectors of
(59) Afida ("Inmost Hearts"), deep inward matters.
(64) Ḥamd ("the Laudation", "Praise"), cf. Q. 1
al-Fāṭiha.. al-Ḥamd li'-llāh ("Praised be to God")
(76) Waraqa ("the Leaf"), Female family members or
"the Believers") = Q. 23.
and Repeated Sūrah Names.
Certain of the
names of a number of the Sūras of the QA are repeated,
sometimes more then once. The names of five Sūras are exactly
duplicated while there are three pairs of near conceptual repetitions of
the same sura names within the QA.
Three Sūra names are repeated four times and one Sūrah title Qitāl
(Fighting) occurs six times in an almost adjacent run of successive
sūras. The following breifly introduced, occasionally annotated
lists, express these multiple names attestations of QA sura titles:
: there are 5 QA duplicated pairs of Sura Names
(11) + (86)
Satr, ("Alphabetical Script or Line"),
(40)+ (89) Insān,
("Man-Humaity; Perfect Man")
("The Vision") in adjacent suras.
("The [Messianic] Remembrance")
(69)+ (94) Tarbi`,
("Fourfold-Quadratic") configuration e.g. Muhammad - Ḥusayn- Jospeh
all having 4 letters.
Note also the following
near conceptual duplicates:
(3) Īmān (Secure
Faith) : (111) Mu’minun (Believers)
(17) Bāb (Gate) :
(27) Abwāb ([Two] SA & SK or [Four] Gates)
("Servitude" : (109) `Abd (The Servant [ the Bāb]).
repeated or adjacent pairs of duplicated QA sura titles:
There are two sets of adjacent duplicated
(pl. of ḥukm; meaning `Dictates', `Stipulations', `Legalities') QA sura titles.
is thus four times
repeated or twice doubly occurring in adjacent sura positions. There are
in other words, two pairs of successive Sūrahs of legalistic import:
From these instances of duplication and repetition it may, among other
things, be speculated, that legalistic innovation or changes in
the Islamic shari`a ('law) (aḥkam x 5) are hinted at by the Bab from the
Eschatological conflagration anticipated:
ten Qitāl (Fighting [Killing, Slaying])-Jihād (“Holy War”) Sūrahs
There is also evidence that the Bab anticipated eschatological
conflagration though jihād
("Holy War" 2+2= 4)
involving qitāl, "slaughter" or "killing" (3 x 2 = 6)
within the QA.
As indicated, the four Jihād QA (98)-(99)+(100)-(101) and six
adjacent Qitāl QA sūras (90)-(91) + (96)-(97) + (102)-(103)
make up ten sūras relating to eschatological conflict.
There are two sets of adjacent. duplicated, pairs of four QA suras in a
row focused upon eschatological
("holy war"). These successive titles obviously underline the centrality of
the imminent expectation of messianic, expected Imam led apocalyptic `holy war':
The three pairs of adjacent
or six sura titles (six times
QA sūras again strongly suggest an imminent eschatological
engagement. Note that the four Jihād ("holy war") sūras are adjacent
to these Qitāl
(`conflict', `fighting') suras making a run of ten eschatological conflict related sūras in the QA.
(`conflict', `fighting') sūrahs constitute three adjacent pairs with
`five QA sura degrees of separation’ from successive suras with
(`conflict', `fighting') (90)-(91) + 5 =
(`conflict', `fighting') (96)-(97) + 5 =
To bring about
eschatological change in these areas was central to the early mission of
the Bab as representative of the hidden imam who will eventually bring
about a new mulk or eschatological dominion (see QA1), an end-time theocracy.
will be noted below that the Bab cancelled the call for a holy war
congregation in Karbala in
late 1845 and in later years, despite the Babi conflicts in the late
1840s and early 1850s, never seems to have called upon his followers to
wage militant holy war. He never abandoned making reference to its
theoretical, messianic-apocalyptic or "mythological" role
of "holy war" but held
back after 1845 from calling upon his followers to move in this
most frequently expressed sūra titles are the the four Jihād
(“Holy War” x 4) sūras (= QA. 98->101) and the six Qitāl (“Fighting”
[Slaughtering, Killing] x 6) sūras (= QA. 90; 91; 96; 97; 102; 103).
They span two (90-91) then eight (98, 99, 100. 101) consecutive QA
Sūrahs including QA 90->91 then 96->103. This totals ten (4+6) sūras of
the QA which are in some sese expressive of eschatological conflict as
predicted in numerous Shī`ī Islamic traditions.
referring to Jihād the Bāb is not talking about the ‘Greater Jihad’ of
striving against the lower self in the path towards perfection. Rather
it is the militaristic `lesser Jihād’ of eschatological conquest.
The Arabic verbal noun and QA Sūrah title Qitāl (Fighting, [Killing,
Slaughtering]) occurs 13 times in the Qur’ān in contexts that always
seem to be in connection with the duty of partaking in religious
conflicts or warfare (Q. 2:216-7, 246; 3:121, 167; 4:77; 8:16,65; 33:25;
That so many consecutive sūrahs of the QA have titles suggestive of
eschatological warfare must highlight the nearness and urgency of the
end-time conflagration. This matter occupied the Bāb in his early desire
to establish the global reign of God and success of his religion. At the
very outset of his messianic career he declined bypassing the issue of
the establishment of the Kingdom of God through warfare.
The expected Qā’im was, after all, expected to initiate and lead this
ultimate jihād (“Holy War”). The issue of imminent “holy war” was
obviously much on the mind of the young Bāb about to embark on an
extraordinarily challenging messianic career. He was not a soldier but a
young merchant from Shiraz, aged 25 and without acknowledged military
experience or clerical status. While the eschatological category of QA
titles is paramount and central, the establishment of the ‘kingdom of
God’ through Jihād was not something to be bypassed by one attempting to
establish his messianic credentials. Whether or not the supreme and
global religio-political conflagration could be both called for and
acted upon in concrete terms, its place in the centrality or Shī`ī
expectation could hardly initially be forgotten. This is clear with the
opening Sūrah of the Qayyum al-asmā’, the Sūrat al-Mulk (see below). It
appears that it was not until his pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina had
been completed that he decided, at the command of God Himself (through
bidā’), to cancel a jihād oriented congregation of Bābis in Karbala, the
place of the shrine of Imam Ḥusayn.
In the QA the Bab was in the process of revealing verses claiming an equal authority to the
Quran. He ultimately claimed to be the messianic figure awaited for over a thousand
years, and aimed to fulfill the expected transformation of the world through jihad. That these
eschatological events must in one way might be seen to come to pass, must
have weighed very strongly on the mind of the Bab. The
historical Imam `Ali (d. 40/661) was, among many other things, an accomplished swordsman
and fighter for Islam. The title Qitāl is reminiscent of its many
occurrences in the following
lines from the tenth paragraph of the Khuṭba al-ṭutunjiyya ("Sermon of the Gulf") ascribed to
Imam `Alī (d. 40/661) and well-known to the Bāb:
"Methinks the weak ones amongst you are saying, `Do
you pay heed unto what Ibn `Abī Ṭālib (= Imam `Alī) proclaims about
himself?  For not so long ago, it was he whom the military forces
of the Syrians overshadowed. And he would not go out to engage them
though [a certain] Muhammad and Ibrāhīm were sent out!'  Now,
assuredly shall I [Imam `Alī] fight the Syrians with you, killing,
in other words, slaughtering (qatlat wa ay qatlat)!  By my
truthfulness and my standing! I shall undoubtedly fight the people
of Syria, killing, in other words, slaughtering (qatlat wa ay qatlat)!
 And I shall assuredly fight the people of Siffin with all
slaughter, seventy-fold slaughter (bi-kull qaṭla sab`in qatla) !
 And I shall assuredly bring new life unto every one resigned
[who is Muslim].  I shall assuredly give deliverance to both the
commander and his fighter until that thirst for justice which is
within my breast be allayed.  I shall fight a myriad engagements
for `Ammār Yāsir and for Uways al-Qaranī [both d. Siffīn 657 CE]."
It will be
recalled that in the very first surah, the Surah al-mulk (QA1), which
has to do with the establishment of the kingdom or reign of God on earth, the Bab
explicitly calls upon Muhammad Shah and his prime minister, Hajji Mirza
Aqasi, to aid him through themselves and their "swords" (asyaf). The centrality of
eschatological jihad in Shi’ism cannot be underestimated. When the
Qa'im appears he was expected to transform world order by waging jihad
and taking control of the kingdoms of the world. At the time of Jesus
Jews had similar eschatological hopes (cf. the detailed militaristic
dimensions of the Qumran War Scroll 1QS)
though the Galilean messiah had a different purpose with his message
that the `kingdom of God' was an inner phenomenon not of this world.
As the eschatological `Alī in touch with the hidden Imam Ḥusayn
and gradually coming from 1846 CE to make explicit his claim to be the Qa’im in person, the
Bab, was expected to be similarly if not more powerful in battle and in
organizing and directing the overthrow of all human authorities in the
wake of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. This heavy
holy war discourse cannot be hidden away or ignored. Rather such
expectations, had their role in encouraging the earliest Babis with their revolutionary,
world-changing attitudes. The call to jihad in the earliest months of the Bab’s mission was an important part of his role
until he came to cancel his call for a gathering in Karbala, evidently
in line with the promises, to initiate holy war activity. The Bab seems, however,
never to have made an explicit directive in this respect, though some of
his later writings, including the Persian Dala'il-i Sab`a (Seven Proofs), illustrate that he never
wholly divorced his religion from ultimate globalization through holy war. In
this respect, one might bear in mind that one of the first actions of
Baha'u'llah who claimed from 1863 to be his successor, was to explicitly abolish Babi and other forms of jihad.
This at his Riḍwān declaration in May 1863 and subsequently in his
quasi-legalistic al-Kitab al-Aqdas 1873 and many others revelatory alwah
Part Two of this Paper see
Part II : Some Comments on
specific Sura Titles of the Qayyūm al-asmā'