Letters of Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi 'the Báb' to Muhammad Shah Qajar (Part I)

By Sholeh Quinn

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)

    The purpose of this paper is to examine Tablets of the Báb to Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-1848), whose reign covered the earlier years of 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 Surat 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 Qá'im:
    "O king of Islam! (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, (dhikrina 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)
    The letters that the Báb wrote to the king throughout his ministry reflect the changing political situation in which the Báb found himself, as well as his evolving relationship with the Qajar government. 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. The paper will include examples and analyses of the entire range of correspondence that the Báb had with Muhammad Shah in an attempt to understand better the nature of the Báb's correspondence in general, and his correspondence and relationship with the monarchy in particular.

this paper is not yet online