Reflections on an Excerpt from Chapter XXVIII of the Qayyúmú’l-Asmá
This selection is from the Qayyúmú’l-Asmá, the commentary on the Surah of Joseph that was written by the Báb in 1844. Originally regarded as the “Qur’án of the Bábís,” this volume was revealed by the Báb at the start of His ministry. As Shoghi Effendi wrote, Bahá’u’lláh described the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá as:
“the first, the greatest and mightiest of all books.”Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 28.
I would like to offer some reflections on three paragraphs of a passage that the Báb wrote about His mother, Fáṭimih Bagum. She was a descendant of Muḥammad, like her husband. She had several children, but only ‘Alí Muḥammad (the Báb) survived. When she was widowed, she went to live with her brother, who assumed responsibility for raising the child. The Báb’s mother did not recognize her son’s station during His lifetime, but she did so later when Bahá’u’lláh instructed two of His faithful followers to acquaint her with the history the Bábí Faith. At that point, she became aware of the bountiful gifts that God had conferred upon her.
The first passage opens with a riveting address: “O YE kinsmen of the Most Great Remembrance!” None of them at the time of this writing, or during His lifetime, had recognized His station. The Báb explains His station to His kinsmen and chastises them for failing to recognize Him:
O YE kinsmen of the Most Great Remembrance! This Tree of Holiness, dyed crimson with the oil of servitude, hath verily sprung forth out of your own soil in the midst of the Burning Bush, yet ye comprehend nothing whatever thereof, neither of His true, heavenly attributes, nor of the actual circumstances of His earthly life, nor of the evidences of His powerful and unblemished behaviour.
I see the Tree of Holiness as an allusion to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, which I understand to be a metaphorical symbol for divine knowledge that would be shared incrementally by the Manifestations of God as humanity progressed. Indeed, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
By “the tree of life” is meant the highest degree of the world of existence, that is, the station of the Word of God and His universal Manifestation. That station was indeed well guarded, until it appeared and shone forth in the supreme revelation of His universal Manifestation. For the station of Adam, with regard to the appearance and manifestation of the divine perfections, was that of the embryo; the station of Christ was that of coming of age and maturation; and the dawning of the Most Great Luminary was the station of the perfection of the essence and the attributes.‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 139.
It is interesting to note that the Báb described “this Tree of Life,” that is, the Tree of Life of His Dispensation, as crimson, which is often associated with martyrdom. Crimson is also descriptive of the oceans of His Word. The Báb wrote that the oceans of His Word had a crimson tinge.
Indeed God hath created everywhere around this Gate oceans of divine elixir, tinged crimson with the essence of existence, and vitalized through the animating power of the desired fruit; and for them God hath provided Arks of ruby, tender, crimson-colored, wherein none shall sail but the people of Bahá, by the leave of God, the most Exalted; and verily He is the All-Glorious, the All-Wise.Selections from the Writings of the Báb, Excerpts from the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, Chapter LVII, no. 2:27.3, p. 73, 2006 edition. (emphasis added)
The Báb also wrote that “This Tree” was sprung from the soil of the Burning Bush. It is awe-inspiring that the Báb stated that He was a voice in the Burning Bush that spoke to Moses. He mentioned His presence in the Burning Bush several times in the Qayyúmú’l-Asmá, two of which were:
He is indeed none other than the True One, Whom God hath entrusted with this Mission from the midst of the Burning Bush.Selections from the Writings of the Báb, Excerpts from the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, Chapter XXIV, no. 2.14.4, p. 64, 2006 edition.
Upon reflection, since the Báb was not only preexistent as a Prophet of God but was present from the time of Creation, it would stand to reason that He was a guiding force in the spiritual evolution of humanity. It might be said that He worked behind the scenes, aiding and assisting His brother Prophets.
The Báb finishes this passage by lamenting humanity’s disbelief “neither of His true, heavenly attributes, nor of the actual circumstances of His earthly life, nor of the evidences of His powerful and unblemished behavior.” One hears his anguish as He proclaims “while in the estimation of God He is none other than the Promised One Himself.” Pangs of sorrow engage us as He laments how fancies have relegated Him as “alien to the sovereign Truth.” Then, one hears the firmness, even thunder, of His proclamation that He is “none other than the Promised One Himself, investd with the power of the sovereign Truth…”
The second passage has a change of tone that I sense is a change of voice. The Báb is addressed “O Qurrat’l-‘Ayn!” (Solace of My Eyes) This seems to be the voice of God directing the Báb to deliver the “most exalted Word” to His female relatives, whom He addresses as “handmaids”.
Deliver the summons of the most exalted Word unto the handmaids among Thy kindred, caution them against the Most Great Fire and announce unto them the joyful tidings that following this mighty Covenant there shall be everlasting reunion with God in the Paradise of His good-pleasure, nigh unto the Seat of Holiness. Verily God, the Lord of creation, is potent over all things.
Fire purges, and the Most Great Fire suggests a deeply painful purging of vain imaginations and heedlessness that interfere with recognizing the Manifestation of God for the Day, whether in this life or through the fire of hell, a term that is often used in the Qur’an. Fire is also light and unity. What diametric opposites! I was captivated by how Nader Saiedi described these two fires:
The fire of paradise, the fire of Divine Unity, is the fire of love, which represents nearness to and union with the Beloved. The other fire is the fire of hell; it is the fire of hatred, selfishness, and envy, and represents separation, remoteness, and derivation of faith. The fire of unity burns away the veils and makes it possible to gaze upon the countenance of God. The fire of remoteness is itself the very veil that obscures the eye of the heart.Nader Saiedi, Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb, p. 77.
The Báb is warning of the path of pain, and, alternatively, He is offering “the joyful tidings that following this mighty Covenant there shall be everlasting reunion with God in the Paradise of His good-pleasure, nigh unto the Seat of Holiness.” I sense a dual message in these words. Belief in the Báb, in His Covenant, during its nineteen-year duration would bring reunion with God in His paradise. The female relatives who lived beyond those nineteen years would also have the obligation to recognize “Him Whom God shall make manifest,” Bahá’u’lláh. This recognition was an implicit requirement of the Báb’s Covenant, an obligation He reiterated many, many times.
The third passage directly addresses the mother of the Báb. “O Thou Mother of the Remembrance!” The Báb offers her the blessing of the peace and salutation of God because she has “endured patiently in Him Who is the Sublime Self of God. Then, He speaks to her in a forthright manner: “Recognize then the station of thy Son Who is none other than the mighty Word of God.” The Báb gives her a most comforting assurance and a title of esteem. “He hath verily pledged Himself to be answerable for thee both in thy grave and on the Judgement Day, while thou hast, in the Preserved Tablet of God, been immortalized as the “Mother of the Faithful” by the “Pen of His Remembrance”.
These three brief passages illustrate
many parameters and emotions of the writings of the Báb. We read His soaring proclamation
that He is the “Tree of Holiness” and the “Promised One Himself,” and then we
share His laments about the veils of fancy that humanity has let separate it
from Him. Then, the voice of God speaks,
interrupting the Báb’s soliloquy! We tremble as this voice tells the Báb
forcefully to deliver His Word to His female relatives so that they may have
“lasting reunion with God.” We feel the Báb’s eternal love for His mother as He
promises to answer for her in the next world His Pen bestows upon her the title
“Mother of the Faithful.”
O YE kinsmen of the Most Great Remembrance! This Tree of Holiness, dyed crimson with the oil of servitude, hath verily sprung forth out of your own soil in the midst of the Burning Bush, yet ye comprehend nothing whatever thereof, neither of His true, heavenly attributes, nor of the actual circumstances of His earthly life, nor of the evidences of His powerful and unblemished behaviour. Actuated by your own fancies, you consider Him to be alien to the sovereign Truth, while in the estimation of God He is none other than the Promised One Himself, invested with the power of the sovereign Truth, and verily He is, as decreed in the Mother Book, held answerable in the midst of the Burning Bush…
O Qurratu’l-`Ayn! Deliver the summons of the most exalted Word unto the handmaids among Thy kindred, caution them against the Most Great Fire and announce unto them the joyful tidings that following this mighty Covenant there shall be everlasting reunion with God in the Paradise of His good-pleasure, nigh unto the Seat of Holiness. Verily God, the Lord of creation, is potent over all things.
O Thou Mother of the Remembrance! May the peace and salutation of God rest upon thee. Indeed thou hast endured patiently in Him Who is the sublime Self of God. Recognize then the station of thy Son Who is none other than the mighty Word of God. He hath verily pledged Himself to be answerable for thee both in thy grave and on the Judgement Day, while thou hast, in the Preserved Tablet of God, been immortalized as the `Mother of the Faithful’ by the Pen of His Remembrance.