Mysteries of Alast:
The Realm of Subtle Entities (`Alam-i Amr) and the Primordial Covenant in the Bábí—Bahá'í Writings

By Farshid Kazemi

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #88
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 28 – June 1, 2009
(see list of papers from #88)

    One of the more esoteric terms in Shí`í-Shaykhí thought that has found its way into the vast corpus of the Bábí-Bahá'í sacred scriptures is called `the realm of subtle entities' or `álam-i dharr (lit. world of particles). The source of inspiration for this term (dharr) in the early Shi'i cosmology and cosmogony lies in one of the more important and dramatic scenes which informs the whole spectrum of Islamic thought, namely the primordial covenant of Qur'an 7:171-2. It is there, in what seems to be pre-existence, that God addresses humanity in the form of particles or seeds (dharr) saying, `Am I not your Lord?' (alastu bi-rabbikum) while the archetype or potential of all future generations of humanity responds with the loving reply, `Yes' (balá.) In light of the significance of this term for the Covenant in the Bábí-Bahá'í revelations it is surprising that there has only been but passing references to it in some secondary Bahá'í sources. In this paper we will outline the history and background of this term and examine some of the interpretations or hermeneutics accorded to it by select examination of its use in Shi`ism, Shaykhism, and the Bábí-Bahá'í religions. Among other themes that will be touched upon in relation to `alam-i-dharr is the hermeneutics of the pre-existence of souls, the question of free will and predestination, the seven stages of creation (marátib-i sab`ih), and the mystic colour hierarchies (alwán).

    Keywords: Covenant, Quaternary, Will, Purpose, Predestination, Decree, Free Will, Pre-existence, dharr.

    This paper is online at