Some New, Little-known, or Unstudied Writings of the Báb (1819-1850)

By Stephen Lambden

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #123
Bosch Baha'i School: Santa Cruz, CA
May 22–25, 2014
(see list of papers from #123)

    As is well-known, the BÄb wrote, dictated or revealed many thousands of Arabic and Persian verses. The roughly 500 page Islamic holy book, the Arabic Qur'Än, contains just over 6,200 verses. In various of his writings, the Báb himself has stated that he bequeathed to humanity in excess of 200,000 (or as much as 500,000) verses. This is over 100 times the magnitude of the Qur'Än and many times the length of the whole of the Bible. Studying the writings of the Báb and their place in history is a lifetime's obligation for the Bahá'í­ seeking comprehensive knowledge.

    Many of these sacred writings of the Báb remain little known and unstudied. In several of his scriptural writings the Báb divided his writings into five or six categories as is evident, for example, in the title of his book The KitÄb-i Panj Sha`n (Book of the Five Modes [of Revelation]) : (1) Ayat = Arabic verses; (2) Munajat = Devotional pieces, prayers, supplications; (3) Khutbas = Literary Sermons, Orations or Homilies; (4a) Suwar-i `ilmiyya = Surahs expressive of divine knowledge"; (4b) Tafasir [sing. Tafsir] = Scriptural Commentaries and (5) Farsi = Persian language revelations.

    As far as their literary forms go, the writings of the BÄb are found in a variety of Abrahamic or Islamic scriptural forms. Such categories include (alphabetically listed):

    • Bayan (= "Exposition", "Clarification"), most notably the Arabic and Persian Bayans as well as other materials given this general classification.
    • Dala'il (pl. sing. DalÄ«l) "Testimonia" or "Proof" text of the kind commonly collected in Istidlaliyya writings "¦
    • Haykal (pl. hayakil), "Temple", "Body" and associated esoteric or jafr related and talismanic texts.
    • Khutba (pl. khutub), "Literary Sermons", "Homilies", "Discourses" "¦
    • Kitab (pl. kutub) meaning books or letters including, for example, the Kitab al-ruh (Book of the Spirit)
    • Lawh (pl. alwah) indicating a scriptural "Tablet", letter or other literary communication in Persian, Arabic or both.
    • Sahifah (pl. suhuf) `Epistle', `tract' "¦
    • Salat, Du`a, Munajat "¦ `Prayers', `Supplications', `Devotionals' "¦
    • Suras (pl. suwar) meaning sÅ«rahs (lit. `unit', `section',"chapter"); there are 111 two to six page surahs in the Qayyum al-asma' or "Commentary on the Surah of Joseph (Q. 12).
    • TafsÄ«r (pl. tafasir), a "commentary" often on the Qur'Än, a HadÄ«th text or part of examples of Islamic sacred writings.
    • Ziyarah ("Visitation"): A commemorative prayer or devotional meditation usually to be recited on visitation to the grave or shine of a twelver Imam or an elevated Bábí or other individual figure or group.

    In this presentation a few examples of lesser known and untranslated writings of the Báb falling under each of the above categories will be surveyed.

    See also Some New, Little-known, or Unstudied Writings of Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892) .

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