The Genesis of Bábí Ritual as Exemplified in the Khasa'il-Sab`a ('The Seven Directives') of the Báb

By Stephen Lambden

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)

    This very brief work of the Báb, the Risala Khasa'il-i Sab`ah ('The Treatise of the Seven Directives") is, aside from certain surahs of the Qayyúm al-asma' and a few other pre-1845 CE writings, one of the earliest legal-ritualistic writings of the Bab. It sets forth the tokens, hallmarks or parameters for the conduct of the true believers in the Báb consonant with the establishment of the religion of the new age of the millennial Kingdom of God. It was most probably composed in or near Bushire towards the end of the Báb's extended (land and sea Hajj) pilgrimage journey (began from Shiraz-Bushire in September 1844) of 1844-5 CE before his arrival back in Shiraz, his birthplace and home city, in mid-late June or early July 1845.

    Some details will be presented in this paper about the mss., text(s), translations or paraphrases and circumstances of revelation of the Risala Khasa'il-i Sab`ah ('The Treatise of the Seven Directives'), the seven religio-legal admonitions or injunctions. In concise summary form these seven hallmarks of early Bábí religiosity are that the true believer should observe (1) the carrying of a circular talisman; (2) the abandonment of smoking the `hubble-bubble' or `water-pipe' (qalyan); (3) the drinking of Chinese tea in the company of the `people of certitude'; (4) mention of the Secreted Pillar [the Báb] (al-rukn al-mustasirr) in the Shi`i adhan ("Call to prayer") after the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith); (5) devotional praise and prostration through the clay Turbat al-Husayniyya (a token "Shrine of Imam Husayn); (6) the recitation of the Ziyarat al-jami`a (the `Comprehensive Visitation Prayer'; for Muhammad Fatima and all the twelve Imams) originating with the Báb or Imam `Ali (d. 40/661) at certain devotional gatherings and other occasions, and (7) the wearing of an engraved white carnelian signet-ring.

    Some aspects of the earliest attempts to carry out certain of these injunctions will be sketched as will the positions of the Bábís involved in this process, most notably Mulla `Abd al-Karím Qazvini (d. 1268/1851-2), who became a secretary of the Báb known as al-Katib. He had a key role in attempts to alter the Shi`i adhan (`call to prayer') formula. It will be seen that the Bábí-Bahá'í and western sources which touch upon these subjects leave considerable room for reassessment and re-examination. There is still much to be learned about the key early expressions of devotion to the emergent, new religion of the Báb.

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