From the Surat al-mulk to the Surat al-muluk, Part 1:
Kingship and Religious Authority in Two Babi-Bahai Texts
Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #72 (English)
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 6–9, 2006
published in Lights of Irfan, volume 9, pages 299-314
© 2008, Irfán Colloquia
See also Part 2 and Part 3.
The opening chapter of the Bab's Qayyum al-asma' (early 1844), one of his earliest writings, is known as the Surat al-mulk, or the Surah of the Dominion. In this weighty text, the Bab addresses kings in general, the reigning Persian Qajar monarch Muhammad Shah specifically, and Muhammad Shah's vizier, Hajji Mirza Aqasi. The Bab outlines in the expectations that he has from the kings of the world. He calls on them to render his cause victorious, and to come to his assistance in various ways, both through military means and through the diffusion of his writings.
Approximately twenty-three years after the Bab wrote the Qayyum al-asma, in Sept./Oct. 1867, Baha'u'llah authored the Surat al-muluk, or Surah of the kings. Like the Bab, Baha'u'llah similarly addressed the kings of the world, and made specific demands on them. Since Baha'u'llah himself alludes to the Qayyum al-asma in this Tablet, and since both texts address kings, this pair of writings are especially suitable for a comparative analysis. The purpose of this paper will be to compare and contrast the Surat al-mulk and the Surat al-muluk. Among the questions that the paper will attempt to address are the following: What are the similarities and differences between the two texts in terms of notions of kingship expressed therein? What is the relationship between the authors-revealers of these writings and kings? To what extent does historical context help explain the differences? How do the tables compare in terms of structure, literary style, and other textual features? The paper will close with some tentative conclusions about kingship and religious authority.