From the Jabulqa of God's Power to the Jabulqa of Superstition:
The Twelfth Imam in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá'

By Omid Ghaemmaghami

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #95
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 19–23, 2010
(see list of papers from #95)

    Employing radical hermeneutics, Bahá'u'lláh asserts in His Gems of Divine Mysteries that the Báb appeared "from the Jabulqá of God's power and from the Jabulsá of His mercy," glossing these arcane names as "cities of the unseen in the supernal realm," exploding in the process over a millennium of belief in their literal portrayal as cities on either end of the earth inhabited by believers who are in regular contact with the Imams and who await the appearance of the promised Qá'im. Implicit in Bahá'u'lláh's exegesis of Shi'i Traditions that mention these cities is a wholesale rejection of certain dogmas prevalent in the nineteenth century Shi'i world vis-í   -vis a physically occulted Imam whose life had been miraculously prolonged by God for over a thousand years and who now resided (some say with his wife and children) in distant uncharted lands not different in substance from Jabulqá and Jabulsá. This rejection is more pronounced in Bahá'u'lláh's later writings on the twelfth Imam, writings in which He continuously oppugns traditional Shi'i messianic doctrines and strongly rebukes the Shi'a for having created an imaginary figure situated in "a superstitious Jabulqá" or "a Jabulsá fashioned by their own fancy." In these later Tablets — which betray a trenchant criticism of the Shi'i ulama — Jabulqá and Jabulsá are regularly invoked, though no longer as unseen cities but rather as archetypes of superstition that were ultimately turned into bullets by an esurient religious class to take the life of the twelfth Imam when he appeared "from the loins" in the person of the Báb.

    This paper will begin by offering a brief background to Jabulqá and Jabulsá in Islamic sources, with a focus on their description in Shi'i Traditions and the eschatological speculations of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim. Relying on a number of hitherto untranslated Tablets from Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá' that bear on this theme, it will proceed to chart and explicate the unique, super-rational conception of the Twelfth Shi'i Imam enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh.

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