Some Aspects of the Shi`i-Shaykhí Universe and of the Persian and Arabic Writings of Sayyid Kázim al-Husayní al-Rashtí

By Stephen Lambden

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #72
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 6–9, 2006
(see list of papers from #72)

    "Within the bosom of Islam (sadr al-islám) many were submerged in the ocean of idle fancies and vain imaginings. Subsequent to the Seal of the Prophets (khátam-i anbiyá') [= Muhammad] and to the purified [Twelver] Imams (a'imih-yi táhirín) two souls attained unto the reality of Truth (bi-haqq) and were embellished with the ornament of awareness (bi-taráz-i agáhí), the late Shaykh [Ahmad al-Ahsá'í] and Sayyid [Kázim Rashtí] upon the both of them be the Glory of God, the All-Glorious (bahá' Alláh al-abhá')... We [= Baha'u'llah] took refuge with these two [Shaykh Ahmad and Sayyid Kázim] and heard from these twain what hath not been realized by any except God, the Knowing, the Discerning..." (Tablet cited in Ma'idih 4:134-5)

    As the above extract from an important Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh (d. Acre, 1892, the founder of the Baha'i religion) indicates, the Persian born Sayyid Kázim al-Husayní al-Rashtí (d. 1243/1843) was a figure of the greatest importance. His many Arabic and Persian writings, however, remain almost completely unknown, untranslated and unstudied by modern Baha'is. Sayyid Kázim was the most important and learned among the thousands of Persian followers of the Arab-born Shaykh Ahmad ibn Zayn al-Dín al-Ahsá'í (d. Medina, 1826), the founder of al-Shaykhiyya, the Shaykhí ("Shaykh [Ahmad] centered") school of Shí`í Islam who was referred to by Bahá'u'lláh in his Lawh-i Qiná' (Tablet of the Veil) as "the most glorious, most gracious Shaykh who was manifested as the very Lamp of Knowledge (siráj al-`ilm) throughout all the worlds". Shaykh Ahmad and his successor Sayyid Kázim are regarded by Bahá'ís as two spiritually luminous figures within the history of Islam and two heralds of the Babi-Baha'i religions.

    Before he commenced his prophetic mission in mid 1844 CE Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazí, the Báb, for several months occasionally attended the learned discourses of the second Shaykhí leader Sayyid Kazim Rashti in Iraq. In his very early Risála fi'l-suluk (Treatise on the Pathway to God) the Báb refers to Sayyid Kázim in the following manner, "Thus wrote my Lord (sayyidí), my firm support (mu`tammadí) and My teacher (mu`allimí), al-Hajji Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, may God extend his specified eternality".

    In his Persian Dalá'il-i Sab`ah (Seven Proofs) the Báb not only refers to the learned of the Shaykhiyya -- the Shaykh Ahmad followers -- after Shaykh Ahmad but also to the Siyyidiyya after Sayyid Kázim.!

    In this paper something of the position of Sayyid Kázim Rashtí within Middle Eastern society and Persian Qajar Shi`ism will be presented as will the nature of his elevated position celebrated within the Babi-Baha'i sacred scriptural writings. Something of the range and nature of his many writings will be presented with special reference to his Tafsir Ayat al-Kursí (Commentary on the Throne Verse, Q. 2:254), Dalíl al-Mutahayyirín ("The Proof regarding Matters Perplexing"), Sharh al-Qasída al-Lámiyya (Commentary on the Ode rhyming in the letter "L") and Sharh al-Kutba al-Tutunjiyya ("Commentary upon Sermon of the Gulf").

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