Qa'im (Ariser) and Qayyum (Deity Self-Subsistent):
The background and significance of twin messianic advents in Babi-Bahá'i scripture

By Stephen Lambden

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #14
Bahá'í Centre: Manchester, England
July 4–6, 1997
(see list of papers from #14)

    According to the Bahá'i poet and historian Nabil-i Zarandi, the Shaykhi leader Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1260/1843[4]) predicted that ".. after the Qa'im the Qayyúm will be made manifest" (Dawnbreakers, 41). It is clear from numerous passages in Babi-Bahá'i scripture that this was understood to refer to the twin messianic advents of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad, the Bab (1819-1850 = the Qa'im) and Mirza Husayn `Ali, Bahá'u'llah (1817-1892) considered the Qayyúm as the eschatological advent of divinity. Thus, in one of his writings the founder of the Bahá'i religion addresses humanity exhorting them to "Rise up!" for the victory of God in the light of the fact that the Qayyúm [Bahá'u'llah] has appeared about whom the Qa'im [the Bab] gave glad-tidings (Iqtidarat 99).

    In this paper something of the linguistic, theological and messianic background of the terms Qa'im and Qayyúm will be sketched along with aspects of their Babi-Bahá'i import. Those familiar with the Markan, New Testament record of Jesus' regenerating Aramaic words to Jairus' young daughter in (loose, expanded) Greek transliteration, "Talitha cumi" meaning, ".. little girl arise!' (Mk. 5:41) will have encountered a word related to Qa'im. The Aramaic feminine imperative form cumi or qumi ("arise!") like the Arabic/ Persian (active participle) qa'im and the masculine noun qayyúm are derived from the same Semitic root (Q-W[W]-M). Readers of the Hebrew Bible may also recall reference to God (YHWH; or a manifestation of Him) as one who descended in a cloud and stood with Moses on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 34:5). In Samaritan (Jewish) Aramaic the Hebrew word for "stood" in this Biblical text is qa'mu and came to be related to human-angelic-divine manifestations of the Deity. The Arabic Qa'im is used of God in the Qur'an as well as in Babi-Bahá'i scripture. Its Shi`i messianic sense indicative of an Imam who will *arise* from the family of Muhammad (Per. Qa'im-i al-i Muhammad) and redress injustice may be rooted in Samaritan Jewish texts and traditions.

    The Bab did not openly claim to be the expected eschastological Qa'im until well into his six year mission (1844-50). In súra 78 of his multi-faceted first major work, the Qayyúm al-asma (loosely, `Eternality of the Names'; mid. 1844) he claims to be "naught but one of his [the expected one's] servants". Some four years later, most notably in a Tablet to Mulla Shaykh `Ali Turshizi, `Azim (late 1848?), he made his `messianic secret' known by explicitly claiming Qa'imiyya. Many of the later works of the Bab contain sections in which Shi`i notions relating to the identity and times of the Qa'im are given novel interpretations or demythologized in the light of his being to be the Qa'im (Ariser) and the Mahdi (Righty Guided One; the same figure). Qa'imiyya was also claimed at various times by certain of the Bab's followers.

    Between the 1850s and his passing in 1892 the claims of Bahá'u'llah were also gradually communicated to the Babis and later to all humankind. They culminated in his theophanic claim to subordinate divinity in the light of the expected personal appearence of God on the Day of God. In quite a number of post-1863 Tablets he claimed to be the deity who is the Qayyúm or that eternal divine being who is Self-Subsistent.

    In one Tablet interpreting an alchemical saying of Mary the Copt/Jewess (fl.1st cent BCE ?) Bahá'u'llah clearly puts the transcendent Divine Essence beyond being either Qa'im (`Eternal') or Qayyúm (`Self Subsistent') -- undertood as divine attributes. As in the Qur'an, however, God remains in such writings of Bahá'u'llah as the Lawh-i anta al-kafi (`Long Healing Prayer') a transcendent Being who is both Qa'im (`Overseer') and Qayyúm (`Deity Self-Subsistent'). Additionally, numerological aspects of Qa'im-Qayyúm are interpreted as a chronological prophecy relative to the appearence of Bahá'u'llah in `the year nine' (1269 = 1853/3) and the mystery of Bahá as the personal `greatest name of God' (al-ism al-a`zam).

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