The Báb and ‘Alí Muhammad, Islamic and Post-Islamic


The Báb and ‘Alí Muhammad, Islamic and Post-Islamic:
Multiple Meanings in the Writings of Sayyid ‘Alí Muhammad Shírází (1819-1850)

by Zackery Mirza Heern

published in Religions, 14:3

Abstract: Instead of arguing whether or not Sayyid ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī (the Bāb, 1819–1850) and his writings are Islamic, this paper suggests that they are simultaneously Islamic and post-Islamic. The Bāb’s Qayyūm al-asmāʾ, written at the outset of the Bābī movement in 1844, can be understood as a commentary on the Quran, the original Quran, and divine revelation. Although the Bāb gradually disclosed his identity to the public, his status (associated with the Imām, Muḥammad, and a manifestation of God) is present in the Qayyūm al-asmāʾ, in which he refers to himself as the Gate (Bāb), Remembrance (Dhikr), Point (Nuqṭah), ʿAlī, and Muḥammad. The Bāb participates in the long tradition of Islamic literary culture by creating meaning through metaphorical, symbolic, and paradoxical language, which for the Bāb ultimately point to post-Islamic revelation. The simultaneous absence and presence of Islam in the Bāb’s writings created a real-world division between the Bāb’s followers and his critics, many of whom were Muslim scholars. By focusing on multiple meanings in the Bāb’s texts, this paper analyzes the interplay between the Bāb’s identity and his writings as they relate to Islam.


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