On the possible Hebrew, Judaic roots of the Ishrāqī-Shaykhī term (Ar.) هورقليا   hūrqalyā (= Per. havarqalyā) [sic.]  and a survey of its Islamic and Shī`ī-Shaykhī uses.

Stephen Lambden


This paper is now being revised and completed from notes dating to the early 1980s 


        In the late 1970s  and early 1980s I had the pleasure of studying Biblical Hebrew at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (England UK). [1] Reading and contemplating the Hebrew text of the Genesis story of creation, certain words of Hebrew vocabulary stuck in my mind and rung something of a cosmological bell when I was pondering the possibly Hebrew, Judaic roots and derivation of the Arabic transliterated loanword  هورقليا , a word best known for its Islamic occurrence in the Ḥikmat al-ishrāq (The Wisdom of the Throne) of Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā Suhrawardī (d. [executed] Aleppo 587/1191) and in certain Shī`ī Islamic writings of the late 18th early 19th century polymathic philosopher-theologian Shaykh Aḥmad ibn Zayn al-Dīn al-Aḥsā'ī (d. 1241/1826). هورقليا had been variously transliterated  and understood by thinkers and philosophers of past centuries and by Iranists and Islamicists of modern times. It recent times it has  most often been  speculatively (pointed and) transliterated as the  Arabic  loanword  hūrqalyā or with a loose and wholly speculative Persianate transliteration  havarqalyā [sic.]. Neither of these transliterations are at all accurate or assured. The linguistic origin, etymology and vowelling of هورقليا  has long been and remains a matter of scholarly uncertainty and dispute. To date no completely satisfying suggestions have been made as to the linguistic and conceptual background of   هورقلياIt is hoped here to argue for its very simple resolution in proposing that هورقليا derives  from a somewhat corrupted Arabic transliteration of the Hebrew   הָרָקִיעַ   (with the definite article -prefixed letter "H" = the firmament"  cf. he Syriac  cognate ܖܩܝܥܐ = R-Q-Y-` = "firmament").  Though the linguistic equivalence of  هورقليا  and  הָרָקִיעַ is imperfect  it is the case (as will be demonstrated below) that this proposition has much to commend it conceptually at least as far as its biblical roots and Rabbinic interpretations are concerned. It accords with the senses given to هورقليا by Suhrawardi and his followers  as a kind of luminous cosmic "interworld" reminiscent of the biblical "firmament" in Judaism and related religious cosmologies.


[1] In the early 1980s I communicated a brief, rather loose summary of my position regarding the possible Hebraic origins of the Arabic loanword  هورقليا   to Moojan Momen who registered it in a footnote to his now well known volume An Introduction to Shi`i Islam  (Oxford: George Ronald, 1985)(see p. 542. fn. 3) , "I am grateful to Stephen Lambden of the University of Newcastle for the suggestion that in view of the intermediary position of Hūrqalyā, it may [originally have been] be a corruption of the Hebrew Ha-Raqī`a (or an equivalent word in another language) which is the word used in Genesis 1:6 for the firmament standing between heaven and earth".


          A survey of  20th century theories as to the derivation of  هورقليا        

        Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Aramaic, Mandaic as well as  Arabic‑Persian etymologies have all been proposed for    هورقليا  . A succinct survey of these possibilities will first be registered here.

In his learned 25 or so page 1955 Persian article  هًوَرقْلَيَا [Havaqalya]  published in  Majalla-i Daneshkhada-i Adabiyyat, VI (1333 Sh.) (pp. 78-105),  Muhammad Mo’in surveys many of the attempts to provide etymologies and explanations of the Arabic loanword  هورقليا  in a variety of  Semitic, Islamic and other languages such as Hebrew,  Greek,  Arabic and Persian.



The Lughat-Nāmih of `Alī Akbar  Dehkhodā ,

        In his massive Persian (Shī`ī) encyclopedic dictionary known as the Lughat-Nāmih, `Alī Akbar  Dehkhodā  Qazvīnī, (1297/1879-d. Tehran, 1334 [Sh] / 1956) includes some useful entries covering Shaykhī related subjects, including  an entry  هورقليا .      x (1st ed. vol. X:xxx). ADD



The Biblical roots and Jewish origins of  هورقليا :   the  רָקִיעַ ( "firmament”, "dome" "sky", "expanse"...) in the book of Genesis.

        As noted above, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to find a Hebrew, Jewish precedent for هورقليا . In  repeating such an attempt it will be pertinent to begin with a survey the the context and possible senses and meaning of the biblical Hebrew  רָקִיעַ (loosely, "firmament”, "vault", "dome" "sky", "expanse", etc.) towards the beginning and in various subsequent chapters of the book of Genesis. It will be argued that this biblical Hebrew noun (with the definite article) provides an impressive linguistic and conceptual background for  هورقليا  as it has been understood, utilized and commented upon by Suhrawardi (d. 587/1191) and his commentators, including Muhammad Bāqir Astarābādī,  Mīr Dāmād (d.1041/1641), and such later Shī`ī sages as Shaykh Aḥmad ibn Zayn al-Dīn al-Aḥsā'ī  (d.1243/1826)  the foundational figure in the 19th century philosophical-mystical school of twelver Shi`ism known as al-Shaykhiyya (Shaykhism). Shaykh  Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī has sometimes  been erroneously reckoned the inventor of the term    هورقليا   through the influence of the Baṣran Sabaeans (= Mandaeans, see further below) This error is made, for example,by Sa`id Najafian in the course of  his anti-Baha'i  review of the massive anti-Baha'i tome of Muhammad Baqir Najafi entitled, Baha'iiyyan in  al-Tawhid vol.6 No.4 (1409/1989), 161. 

    The opening cosmogonic, cosmological verses of the  book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible are very well-known. They have been highly influential in various streams of  (so-called) Abrahamic thought and tradition (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc). Note the Christological rewrite of Gen. 1:1 at the beginning of  John 1:1. These religious literatures often set  forth the biblical account of the  six days of creation which is usually ascribed to the "P" (= the Priestly "source" or stream of pentateuchal tradition). After the words “[When] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1) there  follows the note on the primordial state of things and what transpired on the first Day of creation:

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, יְהִי אור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Genesis and the cosmogonic centrality of Light

            The divine utterance  וַיֹאמֶר אֱלֹהים יְהִי אֹור וַיְהִי־אֹֽור  (= And God said, “Let there be Light”; and there was light” (Gen 1:3) is  of central cosmogonic importance. Mention of a primordial "light" even precedes the mention of  "days" and "nights" and the "sun" as ancient biblical scholars and theologians have noted.  God created “light” (Heb., אֹור awr) on the very first of the six days of creation (Gen 1:3) though he did not create the “sun” until the “fourth day” (Gen 1:14-19). What manner of primordial “light” this was has long been a subject of cosmological and theological controversy. How can there have been "light" on the first day when  the physical “sun” was not something initially called into being.  This "light" phenomenon may not be unrelated to the multifarious senses of the Hebrew masculine noun רָקִיעַ (raqī`a) as the foundation of the celestial luminaries defined as the "heaven". Fn

Fn. The Hebrew and Aramaic Jewish mystical text named the Sepher ha-Zohar (“The Book of Splendour”) attributed to Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai (fl. 1st-2nd cent CE .,  but actually written by the Spanish kabbalist Moses de Leon, c. 1240-1305 ), makes a major shift in its deep qabbalistic  exegesis of Gen 1:1ff  when the implications of the divine words “And God said, `Let there be Light’” (Gen 1:3 cf.1:14) are reached (see Zohar, Bereshit I.16bf., I.31b-32a; Sperling, trans. 1:68f; Tishby, Zohar III:585f). From this point it is reckoned “we can begin to discover hidden things relating to the creation of the world in detail” (ibid).  The jussive Hebrew phrase of command, יְהִי “Let there be [Light]” is expressed by 3 Hebrew letters; namely, [1] יyod [2]  ה he and [3] י yod.  When voweled these three letters are pronounced yehi which means “Let there be!” (Gen 1:3a). In the Zohar the thrust and position these three letters of yehi (= Y-H-Y) indicates the “union of the Father” (= the first yod י= the sephirot ḥokmah = “Wisdom”) and the “Mother” (= the he ה= the sephirot binah = “Understanding”)”. 

The Hebrew  רָקִיעַ (raqī`a) and the second day of creation

            "Light" (awr) and "darkness" (ḥoshek) were differentiated on day two of creation. So too the positioning of the רָקִיעַ  (Heb.) raqī`a,  the light-bearing (loosely) “firmament”, “expanse”, “vault” or “sky”, etc (see App. 1).  This phenomenon separated the ("subterranean") terrestrial "waters" from the ADD (celestial) "waters" . As Gen. 1:6 puts it,

"And God said, "Let there be a   רָקִיעַ  (raqī`a = [loosely]  an "expanse", "firmament”) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.   7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Gen. 1:6-8)

It is thus on the equally seminal second "Day" of creation (Gen.  1:6-8) that the positioning and naming of the   רָקִיעַ  raqī`a (AV [1611], loosely  "firmament”) as "heaven" is said to have happened. The nature of the  רָקִיעַ (the raqī`a) in Gen. 1:6  is not at all obvious. Such  is clearly illustrated from a survey of the numerous ancient and modern Bible translations and biblical commentaries on Gen 1:6-7.  As is indicated above, the 1611 AV (King James') translation renders  רָקִיעַ with the Latin [English] word "firmament". This translation is repeated from the Latin Vulgate, where רָקִיעַ is translated  firmāmentum (Latin firmus = "firm"). This in that the    רָקִיעַ was considered  something fixed, a solid expanse;  hence the Latin translation firmamentum.   The "heaven" or "sky" was thought in ancient cosmologies to something of a solid n expanse overarching the earth. In  Genesis 1:8 it is specifically stated,  "And God called the רָקִיע  "heaven" (Heb.   ADD  )  as the 1612 AV (King James') version translated     ADD. One could thus speak of the "solid" vault of heaven capable of supporting and differentiating the celestial  "waters" above from the terrestrial "waters" below.

        At this point it might be appropriate to sum up by citing the observations of a few biblical scholars. In the early 20th century International Critical Commentary on Genesis by Skinner we read on Genesis 1:6-8:

Second work: The firmament. — The second  fiat calls into existence a firmament, whose function is to divide the primaeval waters into an upper and lower ocean, leaving a space between as the theatre of further creative developments. The “firmament "is the dome of heaven,  which to the ancients was no optical illusion, but a material structure, sometimes compared to an "upper chamber"  (Ps. 104:13, Am. 9:8) supported by "pillars" (Jb.26:11), and resembling in its surface a "molten mirror" (Jb. 37:18). Above this are the heavenly waters, from which the rain descends through "windows" or "doors" (Gn. 7:11 8:2, 2 Ki.  7:2,19) opened and shut by God at His pleasure (Ps. 78:23). The general idea of a forcible separation of heaven and earth is widely diffused; is perhaps embodied in our word 'heaven' (from heave?) and O.E. 'lift.' A graphic illustration of it is found Egyptian pictures, where the god Shu is seen holding·aloft, with outstretched arms, the dark star-spangled figure the heaven-goddess, while the earth-god lies prostrate beath (see Je. ATLO2, 7).* But the special form in which it appears here is perhaps not fully intelligible apart from the Bab[ylonian] creation-myth, and the climatic phenomena which it is based (see below p.46), (Skinner, ICC Genesis, 21-22).

In the first 1962[3] edition of the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible  T. H, Gaster opened  his article FIRMAMENT  with the following definition,

"The traditional English rendering, following the LXX στερέωμα and the [Latin] Vulg[gate]. firmamentum, of the term רקִיע, used in Gen. 1:6-7 and elsewhere to denote the expanse stretched across the sky in order to separate the upper and lower waters." 

 In support of this definition Gaster continues,

"The Hebrew term means properly a "strip of beaten metal" (cf. Exod. 39:3; Num. 17:3; Jer. 10:9; She?. 9b; Phoen. CIS I, 90) and harks back to the conception of the sky as a mirror like surface--a conception which recurs in Job 37:18, and which finds a classical counterpart in the common Homeric expression "brazen heaven" (Iliad V.504; XVII.425; Odyssey 111.2; Pindar Pythian Odes X.22, Nemean Odes VI.3). The picture is elaborated in Job 26:13, where the movement of winds across the sky is represented as God's breathing on its surface in order to polish it" (IDB 2:270).

Gaster  furthermore, has an interesting paraphrastic translation of Gen 1:6-8 in his 1969 volume Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament, A Comparative study with chapters from Sir James G. Frazer's Folklore in the Old Testament,

"God stretched a reef or septum across the primordial waters to divide them into an upper and lower resister. This septum, the canopy of the earth, is what we call the firmament."

He comments,

"The Hebrew word rendered "firmament" [fn. 1= ] means properly "a strip of hammered metal" [fn. 2= ], and this too is a vestige of older folklore. In the book of Job the sky is similarly portrayed as a molten surface (even a mirror) polished by God's breath, i.e. by the winds which drive away the clouds that bestain it [fn. = 3  ]. In Homer, heaven is made of brass, [fn.4    ] and the same idea is attested also by the poet Pindar. [fn.5 =- ] Alternatively, it is made of iron -- a notion mentioned not only in the Odyssey [fn. 6 = ] but also in Egyptian sources; [fn.7 =   ] while in the Finnish Kalevara it is made by the divine smith Ilmarinen out of the finest steel. [fn.8 =  ](Gaster 1969:5-6). ADD fn.s 


In the more recent 1989 [2000] Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary on Genesis (The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation Commentary) Nahum Sarna comments on the  rakia`  ("firmament' or `expanse') and the division of the waters in Genesis 1:6 in the following manner:

6. an expanse  The Hebrew noun rakia‘ is unparalleled in cognate languages. The verbal form is often used for hammering out metal or flattening out earth, 15 which suggests a basic meaning of “extending.” It is unclear whether the vault of heaven was here viewed as a gigantic sheet of metal or as a solid layer of congealed ice. The latter interpretation might be inferred from Ezekiel 1:22, which is how Josephus understood it as well.
water from water  The purpose of the expanse is to create a void that separates what was taken to be the source of rain above from the water on earth.


On select English and other Early translations of  רָקִיעַ raqia`

Appendix 1 below will chart various English translations of  רָקִיעַ  including "firmament" (KJV/AV), ADD  "dome" (NIB-1994)  the next few paragraphs will register a few ancient renderings.

The Greek Septuaginta (LXX) (1996, c1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, Logos X software).

6 Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Γενηθήτω στερέωμα ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἔστω διαχωρίζον ἀνὰ μέσον ὕδατος καὶ ὕδατος. καὶ ἐγένετο οὕτως. 7 καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ στερέωμα, καὶ διεχώρισεν ὁ θεὸς ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ὕδατος, ὃ ἦν ὑποκάτω τοῦ στερεώματος, καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ὕδατος τοῦ ἐπάνω τοῦ στερεώματος.


The Peshitta (Aramaic) Syriac of Gen 1:6-7 (ܖܩܝܥܐ = R-Q-`-A, = "firmament")



And God  said: `Let there be a ܖܩܝܥܐ ("firmament") in the midst of the waters....


Aphrahat the Persian Sage (fl. mid. 4th cent. CE)



Gen 1:6-7 as cited by Aphrahat the Persian Sage (fl. mid. 4th cent. CE) in his Demonstrations  (comprising Bks. 1-23 written between c. 336-345 CE).  See above and note that Ms. "A" = Brit. Mus Add. Ms 14619  (Estrangela, 6th cent.). Ms. "B" = Brit. Mus. Add. Ms 17182  (= actually 2 Mss. see Owens Jr. 1983: 10-11 ).

The Book of the Cave of Treasures (Syriac) and its versions.

Here the description of the second day of creation has some interesting things to say about the Reki`a ("Firmament") and its cosmological role, including its position as a designation of the "lower Heaven" which has "the dense nature of water" :

And on the Second Day God made the Lower Heaven, and called it REKI'A' [that is to say, " what is sold and fixed," or " firmament "]. This He did that He might make known that the Lower Heaven doth not possess the nature of the heaven which is above it, and that it is different in appearance from that heaven which is above it, for the heaven above it is of fire. And that second heaven is NÛHRÂ (i.e. Light), and this lower heaven is Darpition [Fol. 4a, col. I]8 and because it hath the dense nature of water it hath been called "Rekî'a."  And on the Second Day God made a separation between the waters and the waters, that is to say, between the waters which were above [Rekî'a] and the waters which were below. And the ascent of these waters which were above heaven took place on the Second Day, and they were like unto a dense black cloud of thick darkness. Thus were they raised up there, and they mounted up, and behold, they stand above the Rekî'a in the air; and they do not spread, and they make no motion to any side.

The Arabic Kitab al-Magal (Book of the Rolls)

This work ascribed to Clement of Rome (1st cent. CE) is essentially an Arabic recension of the Book of the Cave of Treasures. It may date to the

The Book of the Bee


Mandaean writings and Mandaic (dialect of Aramaic) ADD


The biblical Hebrew word  רָקִיעַ ( "firmament”, "sky", "expanse"...) occurs in the Semitic language subgroup of Aramaic known Mandaic. There is a close connection between items of biblical Hebrew  vocabulary, items of Jewish thought,  the Mandaic language and various doctrines of  the Mandaeans  (see Drower, Ethel. S &  Macuch, 1963 cf. Macuch, 1962 and below). Gotz  opens his recent entry   רָקִיעַ   in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (=TDOT)  by writing,

"Outside the OT, the noun rāqîa` has been found only in the later Semitic dialects such as Babylonian Targumic Aramaic, Syriac, Mandaic, and Aramaic" (vol. XIII:646). 

See below

Select Arabic Translations of Genesis 1:6ff.

(1) Ibn Qutayba (d. 276/879)

        One of the earliest Arabic translations of Genesis  1:6-8  is found in  the opening section (headed mubtadā' al-khalq, the "Genesis of Creation") of the survey of world history entitled Kitāb al-ma`ārif   ("The Book of Universal Cultures") of Abū Muhammad 'Abd-Allāh ibn Muslim Ibn Qutayba  al-Dinawarī (d. 276 / 889)  where we find the following translation of these verses:

"God, exalted be He, said, `Let there be a سقف   saqf  ("roof", "ceiling", etc) [in the]  midst of the water ( وسط الماء  wasṭ al-mā') to the end that there be  a resolution [division] between  the water and the water (al-mā' wa al-mā' =  فليحل بين الماء والماء ). So its  saqf  ("roof", "ceiling") came about. And He divided between the water (al-mā') which was inferior [lower] (asfal) and the water (al-mā') which was uppermost (a`lā). And God named the السقف  saqf  ("roof")    السماء   heaven (al-samā'). And there was evening and there was morning, the second day."

After this interesting and fairly accurate translation of Gen. 1:6-8, Ibn Qutayba cites a saying relayed through Mālik ibn Sa`īd,  through Isma'īl ibn Abī Khālid from a certain Abī Ṣāliḥ expository of the qur'anic phrase والبحرالمسجور ("And the Ocean Outstretched", wa'l-baḥr al-masjūr = Q. 52:6)  who reckoned that `Alī [ibn Abī Ṭālib, d. 40/661?] said: `This is an ocean beneath the [Divine] Throne (al-`arsh). And this [qur'anic data] corresponds to what is mentioned in the Tawrāt (Torah-Bible) where it states that  السماء بين ماءين   "heaven is between two waters"' (K-Ma`arif, 7 ; cf. Gen. cited above). 

After this statement there follows Arabic citations of Genesis texts from 1:9-13 then Genesis 1:14f is cited as follows:

            ADD ARABIC TEXT


(2) Sa`adia (Ar. Sa`īd] Ga'on al-Fayyūmī (882-942 CE)

                The Egyptian born Jewish scholar and one time head (ga'on) of the Babylonian academy Sa`adia (Ar. Sa`īd] Ga'on [al-Fayyūmī] (882-942 CE) translated the Hebrew Bible into Arabic. This important work had exegetical implications and was entitled Tafsīr ("Commentary"). Genesis 1: 6-8  is translated as follows: :

فقال الله ليكن بساط في وسط الماء وليكن فاصلا ماء من ماء  ٭

    فصنع الله  البساط  و فصل بين الماء الذي من تحة البساط والماء                         

الذي من فوق البساط فكان كذلك٭  وسمى الله  البساط سمآء و كان مسآء وكان صباح يوما ثانيا ٭

(Arabic reproduced without pointing from Kahle 1904: 14).    

"And God said, `Let there be an expanse (=  بساط   bisāṭ = "expanse" = "firmament") in the midst of the Water. And let it be a separator (=  فاصلا  ) of water and water. So God fashioned the بساط  ("expanse") and it separated between the water which was beneath  البساط  the "expanse" and the water which was above  البساط     the "expanse". And God named the expanse Heaven (سمآء  =  al-samā') And there was morning and there was evening, the second day."

As indicated Sa`adia here translates רָקִיעַ   ("firmament') with    بِسَاط  (bisāṭ) which is perhaps  accurately  translated "expanse".

The 17th century European Polyglot  Bibles

           Apparently following the Arabic of the Paris Polyglott of 1546 Bishop Brian Walton (d. 1661)  in his Biblica Sacra Polyglotta (1653-7) or London Polyglott  Vol. VI (1657), page  3, has the following rendering of Gen 1:6-8a:

                                                سآء الله ان يكون جَلَد في وسط الماء ويكون فاصلا بين مآأين   

7 فصنع الله الجلد وفصل بين الماء الذي من دونه الجلد والماء الذي فوقه الجلد

 . فكان كذلك. و سمي الله الجَلَد سماء...

"And God XXX, "Let there be a  جَلَد   (= jalad  "firmament”) in the midst of the water, and let it be a separation between the two waters. 7 So God fashioned the جَلَد     ("firmament”)  and divided the water which was was under it [the firmament]  from the water which were above it [the firmament]: and it was so. 8 And God named the الجَلَد  ("firmament") heaven..."  (Gen. 1:6-8a)

        Here it is the Arabic   جَلَد  (= jalad) which translates רָקִיעַ   ("firmament'). This word jalad  comes from the root  J-L-D. Pointed jalada  this triliteral root has various verbal senses and forms including,  `to  whip or flog or lash someone; as  jalida  ` to be frozen, freeze'   or as  jaluda  `to be tough, hardy, steadfast,' etc. Aside from numerous other verbal senses and meanings associated, for example, with  "[she-]camels" and "skin", the the verbal noun جَلَد  jalad  can have connotations of " hardiness, strength, sturdiness, etc" (see Lane, Lexicon I/ii 442-3). This perhaps led the (Christian) translator[s] to associate it with (the implications  of) the LXX στερέωμα (stereoma =            ) and/or the Latin  firmāmentum (Latin firmus = "firm") as something of substance, a "solid" or  "firm" covering reality (cf. J-L-D form II meaning to bind a book [with "skin"] and mujallad  = "a [bound] Book"). In some modern Arabic dictionaries the sense "firmament" is actually given to jalad  (Lexicon Hans Wehr 4th ed. p.154).  This Polyglott rendering was followed around 200 years later by the more grammatically correct or polished Arabic translation of the Protestant missionaries Eli Smith ( d.1857) and Cornelius Van Dyck ( d. 1895 . First published in the mid. 1860s it reads,

                                                وقال الله ليكن جَلَدٌ في وسط المياه. وليكن فاصلا بين مياه ومياه

7 فعمل الله الجلد وفصل بين المياه التي تحت الجلد والمياه التي فوق الجلد وكان كذلك.

و دعا الله الجَلَد سماء...

"And God said, "Let there be a جلد   ("firmament”) in the midst of the waters, and let it be a separator between waters and waters. 7 And God made     الجلد the "firmament", and divided the waters which were under the الجلد   ("firmament") from the waters which were above   الجلد   the "firmament" : and it was so. 8 And God called the الجلد   ("firmament") heaven... (Gen. 1:6-8a)

            It may be appropriate at this point to register the translation of Gen 1:6f according to the Arabic translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samaritan Pentateuch ADD

According to a modern edition of this Arabic translation made by Abu'l-Ḥassan Isḥāq al-Sūrī  and edited by  Aḥmad Hijjāzī al-Saqqā' , this version reads as follows (al-Tawrāt al-sāmiriyya, 25):

                                                وقال الله  يكون فلك في وسط الماء. ليكن مميزًا بين ماء وماء

وصنع الله الفلك وفصل بين الماء الذي من تحت الفلك و بين الماء الذي فوق  الفلك

 . وكان كذلك.

و سمي الله  الفلك سماء...

For the Hebrew  רָקִיעַ  this Arabic version of the Samaritan Pentateuch rendering has the cosmological term  فلك    or falak.  This  Arabic word  can again be translated into English in various ways including, for example, `celestial sphere/ body', `star' or`circuit'.  In the Qur'an    فَلَك  pointed falak  can indicate `the orbit of a celestial body'.


Judaeo-Persian and Persian  Translations

                Constantinople 1546


The  רָקִיעַ ( "firmament”, "sky", "expanse", "dome"...) in other biblical books and in post-biblical literatures.

        The Hebrew    raq'ia רָקִיעַ occurs 17 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is invariably translated “firmament”  in the AV (King James) English translation. There are nine occurrences of raq`ia in the opening  book of Genesis (1:6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20)  two in the book of Psalms (19:2 [1];  150:1),  five in the book of the prophet Ezekiel (1:22, 23, 25, 26; 10:1) and  one in the book of Daniel (12:3).  

           Elsewhere in Genesis and the book of Psalms.

Ezekiel, the   רָקִיעַ  and the Merkabah.

Daniel  and the רָקִיעַ

רָקִיעַ in the Book of Daniel, Rabbinic Judaism and the Zohar


            In various Rabbinic texts and Jewish mystical traditions  רָקִיעַ has a close association with the bright light and with the sun.1 The "firmament" is understood to signify a dazzlingly radiant light beaming cosmic phenomenon, a kind of luminous "interworld" betwixt earth and heaven. The Sepher ha‑Zohar of Moses de Leon (c.1240‑1305 CE), several times identifies (Heb./ Aram) רָקִיעַ,  rāqîa’  as a reality of stunning brightness (Zohar 1:15aff). This important Jewish mystical text appropriately cites Dan 12:3 in asserting that the מַּשְׂכִּלִים (mashkilīm, the "wise") "shall shine (yāzhiru)  like the brightness of the   הָרָקִיעַ  (zohar hā‑ rāqîa’)"  (Berachoth, 1.16aff). In view of its cosmological and other senses רָקִיעַ would not have been inappropriately adopted in an Ishrāqī cosmology of light.  هورقليا, hawaqalya/ hūrqalyā became important in Shaykhī hermeneutics as the future sphere of the eschatological resurrection "body" though it does not appear to have been directly adopted in the Bābī‑ Bahā’ī demythologization of latter day "resurrection" motifs. 2

1  Bab.Tal. Ḥagiga 12b; Bershith 17a, Midrash Rabbah, Gen. VI:6ff   (cf. Samuelson, 1994[7]:118f.). The Bab.Talmud  records that the following words were uttered by the Rabbis on parting from one of their learned associates, "may your eyes be enlightened by the light of the Torah and your face shine like the brightness of the firmament (הָרָקִיעַ)  (B.Tal. Berachoth 17a).

2 Suhrawarī’s philosophy of illumination was also influential upon the Jewish convert to Islam Ibn Kammūna (d.c.1285) who cites the Bible frequently in his Tanqīḥ al‑abḥāth li’l‑milāl al‑thalāth. (Perlman, 1971).


The (Heb.)  רָקִיעַ  raqī`a  in modern academic scholarship

ADDהָרָקִיעַ    (Heb.) hā-raqī`a  of Gen. 1:2..

As implied above, in ancient cosmologies "heaven" was conceived as a  solid dome-like “expanse” which arches across the earth. In the  Anchor Bible Dictionary article    ADD     we read,

 "In the Hebrew Bible “heaven” is sometimes used as a synonym for “firmament”  (Heb. rāqı̂a˓) to describe the dome-shaped covering over the earth that separated the heavenly waters above from the earthly waters beneath (Gen 1:6–8; Ps 148:4). Heaven, or the firmament, was thought to be supported by pillars (Job 26:11) and had foundations (2 Sam 22:8) and windows. When the windows of heaven were opened, the waters above the firmament fell upon the earth as rain (Gen 7:11; 8:2; Isa 24:18). Through these windows God also poured out blessings upon the earth (Mal 3:10). The birds fly across the firmament (Gen 1:20; Deut 4:17) and the sun, moon, and stars were set in the firmament (Gen 1:14–18).

Whereas the firmament referred specifically to the canopy covering the earth, heaven often had a broader meaning, referring to all that was above the earth, including the firmament. Rain, snow, hail, and thunder come from heaven (Exod 9:22–35; Isa 55:10; Josh 10:11; Rev 11:19). Heaven contained the storehouses of the winds, the snow, and the hail (Job 37:9; 38:22; Ps 135:7; Jer 10:13). (ABD CR Rom version)

ADD  TDOT data


Later Jewish and Rabbinic interpretations of  רָקִיעַ



Shihab al-Dīn Yaḥyā Suhrawardī  (d. 587/1191) and the origins of Islamic aspects of  هورقليا

        It appears that the first Islamic writer to use the term هورقليا  was the late medieval founder  of the Ishrāqī  ("Illuminationist") school of philosophy Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā  Suhrawardī (d. 587/1191). For him it was something of a mystical-cosmological term which  indicated  a brilliant, luminous, supernatural  interworld.  It seems likely that he appropriated this term directly or indirectly from a person or source influenced by Biblical-Judaic or Rabbinic concepts and terminology. His writings, as will be argued below,  do indeed exhibit his (direct or indirect) utilization of  select biblical texts and concepts.

      Biblical and Isrā’īliyyat motifs and elements are indeed found within Suhrawardī’s fifty or more Arabic and Persian works. Qiṣaṣ al‑anbiyā’   imagery and motifs  associated with love and beauty are creatively expounded with reference to Adam, Joseph  the acme of jamāl  (Beauty), Zulaykha and others in Suhrawardi’s Persian Treatise on the Reality of Enraptured Love (fī ḥaqīqat al‑`ishq) (Suhrawardī, Ishq, [1999]: 58‑76).  There is also a  Johannine Paraclete reference  in the 7th section (haykal) of Suhrawardī’s (Arabic) Hayākil al‑nūr  (Temples of Light). Having cited Q. 29:43 and alluded to Matt 13:13, Suhrawardī refers to the tā’wil   (inner sense) and bayān (exposition) of these texts extending beyond the prophets (al‑anbiyā’) unto that maẓhar al‑a`ẓam  (most supreme theophany) who is the al‑fāraqlītā, the eschatological Paraclete and supreme expounder (Ar. Hayakil, 88).  This  paraclete reference was commented upon  by Jalāl al‑Dīn Dawwānī (d. 907/1501)(Dawwānī, Shawakil, 215f). He saw the maẓhar al‑a`ẓam   as the "supreme Light theophany" closely related to the Spirit‑Paraclete which was  also identified with the twelfth Imam or  the Mahdī-Qā'im) (see Corbin, 1970:39‑50; 1971‑2b:257; Corbin /Suhrawardī,1970:41f/ 84‑108 [Per.]).

    In his seminal and highly influential Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq (Wisdom of Illumination) , Suhrawardi spelled the name of his cosmic "eighth clime", it is   هورقليا.  This is neither an Arabic nor a Persian formation. It most likely represents a somewhat garbled, Arabized attempt to express the  biblical Hebrew הָרָקִיעַ (hā‑raqi`a, Gen 1:6f).  Ir seems to have been orally communicated by a Hebrew speaking Jew or Jewish convert to Islam.  As something  probably communicated orally it was only loosely remembered or inadequetely transliterated. The  first letter (or two letters)  هو  of هورقليا  loosely represent the  Heb. definite article ("the"), הָ hā’ .  The latter part of   هورقليا or the رقليا   being made up of the Arabic letters R-Q-L-Y-A  and  represent  a somewhat garbled form of the Hebrew word for  רָקִיעַ made up of the four Hebrew letters R-Q-Y-`. The missing representative Hebrew letter "L"  can be considered to have been either glossed over or omitted at the post -Q   quasi-gutteral sounding of the ليا  L-Y-[A]. Neither the  presence of the 5th Arabic letter  ( ل lām) in  هورقليا or  the absence of a transliterated representative of the Hebrew letter  ע `ayn   radically disturbs this  suggested, (direct or indirect) derivation o هورقليا  from the   (originally) Hebrew  הָרָקִיעַ . Conceptually it has much in its favor.

        In the Hebrew Bible   הָרָקִיעַ (as spelled out above) denotes what lies between the cosmic "waters" and is the locality where God "set" the "sun" moon and stars (Gen. 1:6‑8). Conceptually it is something of a cosmological "inter world" dividing the terrestrial and cosmic "waters" as well being a source of stunningly bright light. This fits well with the mystical cosmology of a thinker who placed Light at the centre of his seen and unseen universes.

          Suhrawardī’s philosophy of illumination was most importantly expounded in his Ḥikmat al‑Ishrāq  (The Wisdom of Illumination). Therein  the probably Jewish-rooted term  هورقليا   is associated with the "eighth clime" and with the cosmic,  supernatural cites of Jābulqa[ā]  and Jābarsa[ṣ]ā. هورقليا is referred to as something dhāt al‑ajā`ib  ("redolent of  wonders", Hikmat,159‑60). Commentators upon his Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq have further elaborated the senses and significance of هورقليا  among them his devotee  Shahrazūrī.

Shams al‑Dīn Muhammad Shahrazūrī (d. after 687/1288)

         In his commentary upon Suhrawardī’s Ḥikmat al‑ishrāq, Shams al‑Dīn Muhammad Shahrazūrī (d. after 687/1288) again associates هورقليا  with Jābulqā and Jābarsā. Commenting upon the "eighth clime" he writes that "Jābulqā", "Jābarṣā" [spellings vary] and هورقليا  ("Hurqalyā") are "names of cities in the world of the `ālam al‑mithāl   ("world of similitudes") adding that هورقليا is differentiated by being the `ālam al‑aflāk al‑muthul   (The world of the spheres of the [World of the] similitudes)" (Sh‑Hikmat, xxxii; 574, 594‑5).

Quṭb al-Dīn  Shirāzī (d. 1311)

In his Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, Corbin notes that Qutb al-Din Shirazi, a famous commentator on Suhrawardi, has it relative to the “Imaginal World”:

"It is there that the various kinds of autonomous archetypal Images are infinitely realised, forming a hierarchy of degrees varying according to their relative subtlety or density....On each of these levels species exist analogous to those in our world, but they are infinite.  Some are peopled by Angels and the human Elect.  Others are peopled by Angels and genii, others by demons.  God alone knows the number of these levels and what they contain.  The pilgrim rising from one degree to another discovers on each higher level a subtler state, a more entrancing beauty, a more intense spirituality, a more overflowing delight.  The highest of these degrees borders on the intelligible pure entities of Light and very closely resembles it" ( Corbin, SBCE:131)

Corbin's translation of this Risala  also has it that : ADD



Muhammad Bāqir Astarābādī (d.1041/1641), Mīr Dāmād.

         Mīr Dāmād  styled himself  "Ishrāq" after  Suhrawardī and was known as the "Third Master" succeeding Aristotle and al‑Farābī. A central, foundational figure of the philosophical‑theological `School of Isfahān’, his often complex, frequently elevated `irfānī oriented Persian and Arabic works, include materials  of central  interest. His Persian treatise  al‑Jadhawāt   ("Particles of Fire"), for example,  responds to an Indian scholars’ enquiry as to why Moses was not consumed by the Sinaitic fire attendant upon the divine theophany (tajallī).

        In addition to the cosmological‑theophanological implications of Moses’ experience of the divine, this multi‑faceted  work also contains interpretations of the qur’ānic  al‑ḥurufāt al‑ muqaṭṭa`ah  (isolated letters).  Interesting reference is made in the sixth firebrand of al‑Jadhawāt  to the sphere of    هورقليا hūrqalyā  (loosely, "interworld"), a term which has biblisal-Jewish and  Ishrāqī roots.   

An established group among the Islamic Pythagoreans and  Platonists  and a body of the Islamic Ishrāqīs, have it that there exists a world  centrally situated (`ālamī muttawasiṭ)  betwixt the hidden world (`ālam‑i ghayb) which is the world of the Intellect (`ālam‑i ma`qūl)and  the world of evident reality (`ālam‑I shāhadat)  which is the perceptible world  (`ālam‑i maḥsūs). And such a world they have named  هورقليا hūrqalyā which is a perceptible world though a shadowy,  spectral world; a realm disembodied which they have named the world of the isthmus (`ālam al‑barzakh)  and the eighth clime (iqlīI thāmin), the earth of reality (arḍ‑i ḥaqīqa), [which is ]  something disembodied, disengaged (khiyāl munfaṣil) (Jadhwat, 47).


         Hurqalyā  هورقليا in Shaykhīsm and Shaykhi cosmological-eschatological  gnosis

            As a kind of interworld هورقليا   is  important in connection with the Shaykhī view of  the sphere of the hidden Imam and the "earth" of the realm of supra‑bodily, spiritual, resurrection.

Shaykh Aḥmad  ibn Zayn al-Dīn al-Aḥsā'ī  and  هورقليا

       Shaykh Aḥmad made considerable use of the obscure Ishrāqī-rooted term  هورقليا  hūrqalyā for him loosely speaking, indicating an "interworld".  Echoing Mīr  Dāmād,  Shaykh Aḥmad has explained the significance and linguistic derivation of  hūrqalyā  in the following manner in his  Risāla in reply to Mullā Muhammad Ḥusayn al-Anārī

As for the expression هورقليا (hūrqalyā) and its meaning. It is another dominion since what is indicated thereby is the world of the isthmus (` ālam al‑barzakh) and this mundane world ((alām al‑dunyā). It is indicative of the world of bodies (`ālam al‑ajsam),  that is to say,  the mundane world (`ālam al‑dunyā) and the world of souls (`ālam al‑nufūs);  the world of the kingdom (`ālam al‑malakūt) and the world of the ithmus (`ālam al‑barzakh)  which is the intermediary [sphere] between the mundane world (`ālam al‑dunyā) and the  world of the kingdom (`ālam al‑malakūt) which is another dominion... it is in the eighth clime (al‑iqlīm al‑thāmin)..

            As for what language this term is in. It [هورقليا  is derived from the Syriac language (al‑lughat al‑suryāniyya)  and is a Sabian term (lughat al‑ṣābi’a) and they [the Sabians = Mandaeans] are now  living in Baṣra... Know also that the world of the isthmus (alām al‑barzakh) is intermediary between this mundane world and the world of the hereafter (al‑dunyā wa’l‑ākhira). It is the imaginal world [of similitudes] (`ālam al‑mithāl) [existing] between the world  of the kingdom (`ālam al‑malakūt)  and this mundane world (al‑dunyā) .. (al‑Aḥsā’ī, Jawāmi` al-kalim I/3 pp.153-4 = Majmū`a, 30:308‑9 = trans. Lambden ; cf. trans. Corbin, SBCE [1977]: 191-2; 1990:103).





هورقليا  in al-Ahsa'i's al-Risālah al-Rastiyya


Written in 1226/1811Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī' makes some very important statements about هورقليا  in his  Risālah al-Rastiyya, an epistle written in reply to questions from Mullā `Alī ibn Mīrzā Jān Rashtī (ADD/ADD) (see Arabic text in Jawāmi' al‑kilam, I/2, pp. ADD).


"I reply that Hūrqalyā is in the eighth clime and the meaning of the term is another realm, in which there are two cities, one in the West ‑‑ Jābarsā ‑‑ and one in the East ‑‑ Jābulqā. About (each of) them is a wall of iron and within each wall one thousand thousand doors. They speak seventy thousand thousand languages, each people possessing a language different to that of any other ... [next few words incomprehensible]. Every day there go forth from each city seventy thousand  who shall not return until the day of resurrection and there enter into each seventy thousand who shall not go out until the day of resurrection. Those who go forth and those who enter meet one another between heaven and earth and those who have come forth from Jābulqā go westwards, while those who have come forth from Jābarsā go eastwards. Anyone who rises up  about midnight shall not hear (even) a faint noise, but shall hear from them a murmuring like the murmuring of a bee. The Proof, on him be peace,  is in his occultation beneath Hūrqalyā in that world in a village called Kar`a  ADD HERE  in the Wādī Shamrukh, and it is related that it (? the Wādī ) is in Thebes  ADD HERE And there are with him thirty abdāl. And each of  these villages is in that world and he, on him be peace, is manifest to their inhabitants. But when he desires to enter these seven (other) climes, he puts on a form from among the forms of the people of these climes, and  none shall recognize him and no eye shall behold him with recognition until all eyes behold him..." ( JK 1/2: 10? ; trans. MacEoin, BSB 1: ADD under revision by SL).




        Shaykh Ahmad  the רָקִיעַ ( "firmament”, "expanse") and the possible Mandaic origins of  the word  هورقليا  

     Despite the absent Arabic  ل  ( "l", lām ) and  Hebrew ע ,   could be هورقلياa viewed as a  slightly  garbled transliteration of the biblical Hebrew  הָרָקִיעַ (hā‑ rāqíya’ , with the definite article), traditionally translated  "the firmament" (AV) or "sky", "heaven" (see above). The biblical Hebrew word  רָקִיעַ ( "firmament”, "sky", "expanse"...) occurs in the Semitic language subgroup of Aramaic known Mandaic. There is a close connection between items of biblical Hebrew  vocabulary, items of Jewish thought,  the Mandaic language and various doctrines of  the Mandaeans ............. ADD  (see Drower, Ethel. S &  Macuch, 1963 cf. Macuch, 1962 and below).   Gotz  opens his recent entry   רָקִיעַ   in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (=TDOT)  by writing, "Outside the OT, the noun rāqîa` has been found only in the later Semitic dialects such as Babylonian Targumic Aramaic, Syriac, Mandaic, and Aramaic" (vol. XIII:646). 

Recently Macuch, the editor of the has Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic (1962), has suggested that  Hūrqalyā may be a  garbled form of the Mandaic  *anhūr qalyā  (= "the burning light",1982:19f) though this is based upon a purely theoretical reconstruction of non-existent Mandaic words (see Macuch, MdD [1962] : 437) .  This is  not very convincing compared to the hypothesis of هورقليا  originating from a slightly  garbled transliteration of the biblical Hebrew  הָרָקִיעַ  .There may also be Mandaic associations if Suhrawardi was in communication with a Mandaean initiate though this complication seems unnecessary.

The biblical Hebrew loanword  רָקִיעַ (= raqi`a) in Mandaic,  in its developed biblical, cosmological context indicates  something of a "barrier" or separator between terrestrial-and cosmic realities (the "waters" in Gen. 1:6). It became a locus of primordial luminosity and  light. All of this, as will be seen, provides a befitting conceptual background to the quasi cosmological senses   هورقليا  acquired in Ishrāqī  and later Shi`i gnosis. This will be briefly discussed below in connection with a suggestion as to the Syriac- Mandaic  etymology or basis of  هورقليا suggested by the fountainhead of al-Shaykhiyya ("Shaykhism") Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsā'ī (d. Mecca/Medina, 1826). .       

The basically Semitic language Mandaic is a branch or dialect of Aramaic and  includes a considerable number of Hebrew and Aramaic loanwords. ADD The word هورقليا  raqi`a is found in present  Mandaic  ADD      Interestingly, a pre-Islamic, Mandaic  occurrence of   rq`h' ("firmament")  is found in certain British Library located Magic Bowls   076M:3 and 083K:8 ( Segal, Catalogue: ADD       + 227).

Comment here on al-Ahsa'i suggedted derivation through and Basran Sabeans or from  Mandaic 



It will be pertinent to note here that  Sa`id Najafian's assertions about Shaykh Ahmad and  هورقليا (which he transliterates  harqūliyah) (in his anti-Baha'i  review of massive anti-Baha'i tome of Muhammad Baqir Najafi entitled, Baha'iiyyan) erroneously writes,

"[Shaykh Aḥmad al-]Aḥsā'ī  also seems to have assimilated  some ideas of the Sabeans  during his residence at Baṣrah and its vicinity. His term [sic. هورقليا] if not  the conception of harqūliyah -- a term hitherto unfamiliar in Islamic philosophy and mysticism -- for a quasi-immaterial sphere, came from the Sabeans" (cited from al-Tawhid vol.6 No.4 [1409/1989], page. 161)


 Later Shaykhi writers on Hurqalya'

    The Shaykhi leader Ḥajji Mirza Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani  (d. 1871) used the term  هورقليا quite frequently.  In his Persian Irshad al-awamm ("Guidance for the Common folk") which was written in  18XX and several times published in Qajar Persia in the 19th century, Karim Khan Kirmani (d. 1871) made quite frequent use of the term hurqalyā'... ADD DETAILSIn his Persian Irshad al-awamm (Guidance for the Masses) for example,

       ADD HERE


 Appendix 1. Select English  translations of  רָקִיע   in Gen. 1:6-7 .

The following select survey of  various  English translations of Genesis 1:6-8 must suffice  to illustrate the somewhat ambiguous nature of the cosmological Hebrew term   רָקִיעַ :

(1) AV KING JAMES 1611

"And God said, "Let there be a  [ רָקִיעַ , raqī`a]    firmament   in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Gen. 1:6-8) (AV 1611).

(2) British Revised Version ( 1881–1885)

"And God said, "Let there be a  [ רָקִיעַ  , raqī`a ]        ADD         in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Gen. 1:6-8) (RV., 1881-5).

(3)  American Revised Version ( 1901)

"And God said, "Let there be a  [ רָקִיעַ  , raqī`a ]  ADD   in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Gen. 1:6-8)

(4) Revised Standard Version (HB [OT]1952)

"And God said, "Let there be a [ רָקִיעַ  , raqī`a ]    ADD            in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Gen. 1:6-8)

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV.,1989)

6 And God said, “Let there be a [ רָקִיעַ  , raqī`a]   dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

New International Version (HB [OT] 1978)

GEN 1:6 And God said, "Let there be [ רָקִיעַ  , raqī`a]  an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

The  New Interpreter's Bible (1994)  CHECK THIS

GEN 1:6 And God said, "Let there be [ רָקִיעַ  , raqī`a]  an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. (NIB 1:338).

The New Interpreter's Bible (NIB) of 1994  translates רָקִיעַ    with "dome" and has the following comment on Genesis 1:6b.

1:6- On the second day of creation, sky and sea are formed. The dome according to ancient Israel’s cosmology, is an impermeable barrier that holds back a great reservoir of water in the sky, separating it from the great reservoir under the earth. When the “windows of the sky” are opened in the Priestly flood story (7:11), the water in this reservoir falls as rain...

In the NIB opening Genesis commentary section by T.E. Fretheim, the following note on Gen 1:6f is found:

"1:6- On the second day of creation, sky and sea are formed. The dome [ =  רָקִיעַ  = “firmament,” KJV, RSV] according to ancient Israel’s cosmology, is an impermeable barrier that holds back a great reservoir of water in the sky, separating it from the great reservoir under the earth. When the “windows of the sky” are opened in the Priestly flood story (7:11), the water in this reservoir falls as rain."



Appendix 2 :  Bābī-Bahā’ī  primary scriptural sources and  هورقليا   

            As far as I am aware Bābī and Bahā’ī primary sources do not make use the term هورقليا .  They do, however, mention multi‑worlds and take eschatological events, like individual bodily resurrection, non‑literally relative to a spiritualistic cosmology rooted in Shaykhī‑ Bābī writings. Bahā’ī texts express belief in subtle bodies and a spiritual understanding of individual and collective resurrection as well as of the mi`raj  (Night Journey) of Muhammad.  Baha'-Allah  affirmed the reality of the concept of the `ālam al‑mithāl   explaining like Shaykh Aḥmad that the (Per.) `ālam‑i mithāl  exists between the exalted world of jabarūt  (the "empyrean") and this mortal realm of nāsūt  (Ma’idih 1:18‑19).

        The Bāb, Baha'-Allah and his son Abd al-Baha' all in various ways commented upon the significance of the qur’ānic cosmological term barzakh  (isthmus, Q. 23:100; 25:53; 55:20;  Of interest in this respect is the Tablet of  `Abd al-Baha' to Mīrzā Qabil of Abadih printed in the Baha'i magazine Star of the West 5/7, p.7ff  which reads as follows (trans S. Lambden, cited and slightly revised from  BSB  6:2‑3, Feb. 1992),

Translation of tablet of `Abd al-Bahā `Abbas to Mīrzā Qabil of Abadih (Iran)

He is God
O servant of the sanctified threshold!

        Your letter was received at a time when the most great ocean of tasks, tribulations and literary communications is well-nigh overwhelming.  The answer to the question which you requested cannot possibly be entered into in any great detail. A brief answer, therefore, is being written.

        The human spirit (rūḥ-i insānī), in other words the rational soul (nafs-i nāṭiqih), in the world of existence is the intermediary between things incorporeal ("disengaged", mujarradat) and delimited worldly things (mutahayyizat); that is to say, between realities spiritual and things corporeal.  From one vantage point it possesses spiritual refinement while from the other it exhibits the crassness of carnality, animalistic traits and worldly characteristics.  It is neither an absolute abstraction nor is it completely of the world but is the confluence of two seas (majma` al-bahrayn) and a barzakh ("isthmus") between two realities (amrayn). If the spiritual aspect dominates it becomes lofty, luminous, merciful, tranquil (mutmainna), contented (raḍiyya) and approved (marḍiyya).  And if it is contaminated with contingent, worldly concerns, it becometh immersed in the ocean of darkness, reproachful (lawwama), commanding to evil (ammara) and residing in the nethermost regions of the world of existence.

        It is thus the case that the human spirit has two aspects.  If the luminous aspect of the human intellect overcomes the world of nature, it will acquire the power of discovery which is the basis for wondrous insights, and become informed about the realities and characteristics of things.  From this brief explanation perceive detailed significances.

        The enraptured maidservant of God, enkindled with the fire of the love of God, daughter of the One Who attained the Meeting with his Lord; convey on my behalf to his eminence Dhabih, the resplendent, the utmost kindness and compassion.  The hope is that, on account of the Divine Grace, the assembly of the maidservants of the Merciful may attain perfect organization, and, through their efforts in achieving complete continuity, realize their much-appreciated services.  Convey the glad-tidings of the Divine Grace to those maidservants of the Merciful.  And upon you be the glory of the All-Glorious.





`Abd al-Bahā' `Abbas son of Bahā'-Allāh (d. 1921).

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