The Báb's Tablets to Muhammad Shah

By Sholeh A. Quinn

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #58
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 8–11, 2004
(see list of papers from #58)

    The purpose of this paper is to examine one or more Tablets of the Báb to Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-1848), whose reign covered the earlier years of Sayyid `Alí-Muhammad the Báb's ministry (1844-1850). The Báb addressed at least four epistles to Muhammad Shah, most of which are in Arabic and one of which is largely in Persian and partly translated in Selections from the Writings of the Báb. No fully critical editions of these writings have yet been published, though the texts of most of them are available in manuscript collections.

    In his first major composition, the Qayyúm al-Asmá' (written mid-1844), there is an address in the opening Súrat al-Mulk to this ruler. Here, the Báb invites the monarch to assist him in his cause, and makes comments about kingship in light of the forthcoming appearance of the Qa'im:
    "O king of Islám! (Muhammad Shah r.1834-1848) (lit. "king of the Muslims", malik al-muslimun) Aid thou, with the truth, after having aided the Book, Him Who is Our Most Great remembrance, (dhikriná al-akbar) for God hath, in very truth, destined for thee, and for such as circle round thee, on the Day of Judgment [Resurrection], a responsible position in His Path." (SWB: 41)

    This paper will attempt to place the Báb's writings to this monarch in historical context, paying attention to how notions of kingship and its legitimacy in an eschatological age and day of resurrection are articulated. Comparisons with earlier notions of kingship under the Safavids will also be made.

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