Dimensions of Imam Ali's Khutba al-Tutunjiyya (Sermon of the Gulf) and its Shaykhí, Bábí, and Bahá'í Interpretations

By Stephen Lambden

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #62
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 8–12, 2005
(see list of papers from #62)

    Note: please see Lambden's website for a version of this abstract with proper diacritics and Arabic lettering

    The literary form of the Khutba, an Arabic word meaning `Sermon', `Oration', `Homily' or `Discourse', is important within Shi`i Islam. A number of important discourses with titles commencing this word are ascribed to the son-in-law and successor of the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 CE) named Imam `Alí ibn Abí Tálib (d. 40/661). Among them the complex and highly theological Khutba al-Tutunjiyya (Sermon of the Gulf) which contains many fascinating statements allegedly uttered by first Shi`i Imam between Mecca (Saudi Arabia) and Kufa (in Iraq). They include an adaptation of the Gospel "I am logion" previously uttered by Jesus, "I am the Truth". The roughly ten page `Sermon of the Gulf' opens with the following cosmological statement closely related to various verses of the Qur'án:
    Praised be to God Who hath cleft the firmaments asunder (cf. Q 21:30), split up the atmosphere, suspended the margins of the heavens (Q. 69:17), caused the solar luminary [sun] (ziyá') to shine forth, quickened the dead and made the living to die...
    It is be demonstrated in this paper that the early Qajar era architects of Shaykhism (al-Shaykhiyya), Shaykh Ahmad ibn Zayn al-Dín al-Ahsá'í (d. 1826) and Sayyid Kázim Rashtí (d. 1843) had a very high opinion of this Sermon. The Báb likewise was much influenced from the earliest period by the Sermon of the Gulf. This is clear from his early Qayyúm al-asmá' (mid. 1844) where certain of his foundational claims are expressed in line with its high imamology. Bahá'u'lláh also regarded this Khutba as divinely revealed and gave tremendous weight to its almost biblical prophetic line, `Anticipate ye the manifestation of he who conversed with Moses (mukallim al-Túr) from the [Sinaitic] Tree on the Mount (Sinai)."

    In this paper, these and other prophetological and less known aspects of this weighty discourse will be discussed and commented upon.

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