'Abdu'l-Bahá's Commentary on the Qur'ánic Verses Concerning the Overthrow of the Byzantines:
The Stages of the Soul

By Moojan Momen

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #28 (English)
London School of Economics: London, England
July 14–16, 2000

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 2, pages 99-118
© 2001, ‘Irfán Colloquia


    This paper is a translation and commentary upon a work of' 'Abdu'l-Bahá in which lie give a mystical commentary upon the first few words of the thirtieth Surah of the Qur'án, the Surah of' Rum. These words refer to the overthrow of the Byzantines. 'Abdu'l-Bahá gives the standard Muslim commentary upon these verses. Despite the fact that these verses have an obvious outward meaning, 'Abdu'l-Bahá goes on to give nine esoteric or mystical interpretations of the word "al-Rúm" and of the phrase "The Byzantines have been overthrown." In the last of these interpretations, 'Abdu'l-Bahá delineates the different types of soul: mineral, vegetable, animal, human and the Soul of Lahút, the realm of the Primal Manifestation. With regard to the human soul, 'Abdu'l-Bahá also lists the nine stages in its ascent. These consist of the commanding soul, the blaming soul, the inspired soul, the assured soul, the accepting soul, the accepted soul, the perfect soul, the soul of the Kingdom of God (Malakút) and the soul of the Realm of Divine Command (Jabarút), This last is the ultimate goal in the world of creation. 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes these stages in the ascent of the human soul and how progress may be made from one to the other. This work of 'Abdu'l-Bahá thus performs two functions, It establishes the principle that the Word of God has many meanings some of which are external and obvious while others are hidden and mystical, It is also a manual or guide to Bahá'í mysticism in that lays out the pathway or stages for the ascent of the soul from its lowest state of abasement and preoccupation with the things of the world to its highest state where the human qualities are effaced and only the divine attributes are manifest in the individual, the state where it becomes aware of the secrets of hidden and invisible realities. (Also published in Baha'i Studies Review 12 (2004), pp. 67-90.)

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