The Glories of God

The Pahlavi term for the Glory of God, “Farrah” (originally the Avestan “Khvarenah”), is sometimes translated in Arabic-Persian as nūr (“light”):

Fundamental to the concept of khvarenah are its connections with light and fire, attested in the root from which it is derived, khvar (“to burn, to glow”), which is probably … connected with the same root as hvar, “sun” (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, pp. 19–31). This explains why khvarenah is sometimes translated in Greek as doxa (“glory”) and in Arabic-Persian as nūr (“light”). —Encyclopedia of Religion

The Zoroastrian Faravahar, thought by some to represent the “Glory of God”

Though this concept of divine glory, light, and bounty was dominant in the native religion of Iran, there is little or no indication that the Iranian nobleman and prophet Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri was consciously aware of it when he was given the Arabic title Baha’ (Glory) by his religious leader Sayyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi (the Bab). The nobleman of Nur later extended that title to Baha’u’llah, “Glory of God”.

We might well wonder how such a coincidence occurred, that a man’s title might correspond so well with the name of the home town of his ancestors, but this ought to come as no surprise, for the name of his ancestral home was part of his name from birth. When the Bab heard his name end in Nuri, the name Baha’ must have come naturally to the Prophet of Shiraz.

Shoghi Rabani made much of the correspondence between his great-grandfather’s ancestral home and spiritual title, reporting in his history God Passes By that Bahá’u’lláh, when asked to report his name and origin,

… spoke with majesty and power these words:“My name is Bahá’u’lláh (Light of God), and My country is Núr (Light). Be ye apprized of it.”

Of course Bahá’u’lláh didn’t have any control over the fact that he was born a nobleman from Nur, so the fact that he had such an auspicious ancestry might be seen as divine providence, but it might also be seen as a circumstance that might give a man an elevated sense of personal destiny; that is, it might be seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Though I don’t believe anything supernatural was involved in the naming of Bahá’u’lláh, I have not counted out the power of cultural values. In a land with such a history of fire and sun worship, where the “Glory of God” was once one of the central concepts of the dominant religion, is it too much of a stretch to assert that this name Bahá’u’lláh is a subconscious expression of Iranian heritage?

4 comments on “The Glories of God

  1. Wahid Azal says:

    You might wish to note that (besides the fact that it was also a title of Qurrat’ul-‘Ayn’s) Baha’ Allah was *specifically* a title amongst a dozen the Essence of the Seven Letters bestowed on His successor Subh-i-Azal in several of the testamentary epistles designating Him as His Mirror. Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, until making his claim explicit in 1867, was simply known as Baha’ (a title which in any case several sources attest to having been given by Qurra’tul-‘Ayn to Husayn ‘Ali at Badasht, one of which is his own sister ‘Izziya Khanum Nuri). That the whitewashed re-Imagined sources of Bahai hagiographical pseudo-historiography tend to ignore these sources does not alter the fact. Nor does it alter the fact that nowhere in the Writings of the Bab is Husayn ‘Ali Nuri EVER referred to anything but “238” (i.e. the numerical value of Husayn-‘Ali) and “the brother of the Fruit” (akh thamara).

    Now the specific locution “Baha’ Allah” in the esoteric Shi’ite oeuvre is a designation of Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt (the People of the House). It is also used interchangeably by some authors as a description of Fatima, i.e. the Prophet’s daughter (hence the reason why the ESL bestowed it on Qurra’tul-‘Ayn since She was deemed the Return of Fatima). That stated, its Shi’ite pedigree emerges primarily from the first verse of the famous Dawn Prayer (du’a sahar) of the 5th Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, viz.

    allahumma inni asa’luka min baha’ika bi-abha’hu wa kullu baha’uka bahiyy
    allahumma inni asa’luka bi-baha’ika kullih

    O my God! I verily beseech Thee by Thy Splendor at its Most Splendid for all of Thy Splendors are truly Splendorous!
    O my God! I verily beseech Thee by the whole of Thy Splendor!

    Most of the commentators on this opening verse of the ‘Dawn Prayer’ are in general agreement that this verse is the doxo-logical referential of/correspondence to Muhammad. It is His Theophanic apotheosis in the situs of verse, if you would.

    In short, there is multivalential usage of the term and the persons it applies to, but primarily it designates the embodification of the Theophany of the Godhead (zuhur allah), i.e. the Logos in its specifically Muhammadan archetypal permutation. Interestingly enough, in the ‘Book of the Five Grades’ (panj sha’n) – in the section addressing Qurrat’ul-‘Ayn by the attribute Baha’ – the Essence of the Seven Letters half way through His theopathic doxology in the permutation of the attribute Baha’, states,

    qul, inna’Llaha la-yazharan man yuzhir’Llah mithla ma qad azhara muhammadan rasul’Llah min qabl wa azhara ‘aliyyan qabla muhammad min ba’d kayfa yasha’ bi-amirihi

    Say, verily the Godhead will indeed manifest He whom the Godhead shall make Manifest just like It manifested Muhammad the Messenger of the Godhead from before, and It manifested ‘Ali before Muhammad afterwards how It willed by Its command! (p. 176)

    This is a continual theme running throughout the Writings of the Primal Point regarding the future Bayanic parousia, i.e. that the archetypal return of the Primal Point in the day of Resurrection shall be in a specifically Muhammadan locus; namely, that He whom the Godhead shall make Manifest will be manifested and His Revelation will be like Muhammad’s. That He, the Primal Point, is emphatically stating this in the section addressing Qurra’tul-‘Ayn (which some Baha’i intellectual apologists have made to refer to their own founder instead) is quite telling. But that aside, this corresponds to what the symbolic trajectory of the attribute is meant to indicate. Given this, in its Bayanic application it simultaneously refers to the First Unity of All-Things (i.e. the Point & the Letters), the Point Himself, each of the Letters in turn, and, finally, Azal as the Point returned in the station of Mirror (mirat).

    Now you made much fanfare on the hailing of Husayn ‘Ali from the district of Nur in Mazandaran. You obviously realize that so did his half-brother Subh-i-Azal? And if Nur (light) — which FYI was also a *specific* title of Subh-i-Azal — is the harbinger of the greatness of a spiritual title, then consider that the reason why Subh-i-Azal is called Subh-i-Azal issues from the 5th theophanic trajectory of the *hadith kumayl* (i.e. the Zen-like theopathic dialogue between Imam ‘Ali and Kumayl ibn Ziyad al-Nakha’i), viz.

    nurun ashraqa min subh al-azal fa-yaluha ‘ala hayakil-t-tawhid atharihi

    A *LIGHT* Illuminating from the Morning-Dawn of Pre-Eternity and shedding Its traces upon the Tablets of the Talismanic-Temples of Mono-Unitarian Unicity
    (which incidentally I have commented upon in the context of the calligram of the True Greatest Name symbol, here:

    Now the Zoroastrian pedigree of the Xvaranah (the Light of Glory) in its Irano-Islamic trajectory can be easily traced back to Suhrawardi (d. 1191) as the immediate cultural subtext of the term Baha’ (which he does in fact use BTW). You might wish to consult Henry Corbin here, but the ‘Matutinal’ symbology of the Ishraq (illumination) in the writings of Suhrawardi harkens back to precisely the imagery being conveyed in the *hadith kumayl* (which Corbin has pointed out) which then designated Subh-i-Azal’s well-known title by the Bab. In this Ishraqi corpus, the terms baha’ and nur are interchangeable and tout court synonymous. Suhrawardi even actually calls the Sun — in so far as it is an Angelic Theurgy-Divine Agent Intellect — by the term baha’. He even calls the Light of Lights (i.e. nur al-anwar), Who is the Godhead proper in his scheme, by the term baha’. Many post-Suhrawardian Illuminationists and especially the Shi’ites amongst them, particularly those who pushed the ontological grades and categories of ‘light-as-such’ further beyond what standard Ishraqi cosmology posits, started using the term Light of lights (nur al-anwar) as, again, a specific metaphysical designation indicating Muhammad as the instantiation of the Universal Intellect (‘aql kull) or the Muhammadan Reality (haqiqa muhammadiya). This is specifically how the term Light of lights is understood by the Shi’ite Akbarians, the Sadrians, not to mention the Shaykhi school. And on and on it goes…But as it finally rests with the Babis, Baha’/Baha’ Allah = Nur are both titles of the Bayani Mirror Subh-i-Azal as well as titles indicating the Mustaghath Who is called in the Persian Bayan, amongst other things, as ‘nayyir-i-a’zam’ (The Most Great Light/The Most Mighty Illuminator).

    Shoghi Effendi’s sanitization and whitewashing project of crass historical revisionism in order to indefinitely perpetuate the family religious heirloom and money-making business racket in association with Zionists always immediately reveals itself in its utter grotesqueness within the pronounced counter-initiatic inversions it perpetrates upon esoteric symbols, archetypes and their veridical trajectories. His silly mistranslation of the *hadith kumayl* in his fantasist ahistorical screed, *God Passes By* (or *God Passes Wind* as I call it), and then the inversions he perpetrates upon the actual symbol of baha’ itself, is a classic example.

    In any case, in the interests of the combat on behalf of the Angel against the dark counterpowers of inversion, which bahaism pretty much represents completely, I leave you with my translation of Suhrawardi’s great ode to the witnessed symbol of Xvaranah,

    Suhraward î’s Great Hymn to the Sun

    The Great Invocation to Hûrakhsh

    (Hûrakhsh al-kabîr)

    Hûrakhsh = Sol Splendidus , Resplendent Sun, i.e. the Sun in its active Archangelic Theophanic modality, which the Zoroastrian holy book, the Avesta, hails “as the most beautiful manifestation of Ohrmazd,” the Godhead. Suhrawardî designates Hûrakhsh as the theurgy of the Archangel Shahrîvar (in the Avesta one of the Amahraspands known as Xshathra Vairya, “Desirable Reign,”precisely identified as “having the appearance of the Sun…”)

    In the Name of the Godhead, the God of all gods, the Light of all lights!

    Blessed be the Most Luminous of beings endowed with life and thought, the Most Manifest of Persons, the Brightest of Stars. Hail to Thee! May the salutations and benedictions of the Godhead be upon Thee, Sublime Luminary, Most August of the moving stars; You who obey the One from Whom You originate; You Who are moved by the ardor of love for the Inaccessible Majesty of Your Creator. You are Hûrakhsh, the Most Powerful, Vanquisher of darkness, Prince of Heaven, Author of the Day, through the order of the Most High Godhead. You are the King of the Stars, Prince of Persons on High. You reign through the power and the obeyed divine force over the Lights incarnated into bodies. You are the Body that dispenses Light, the Vanquisher, the Brilliant One, the Sage, the One surpassing in Excellence. You are the Most Magnificent of the offspring from the spiritual world through your incandescent splendors. You are the Caliph of the Light of Lights in the world of bodies, Who encircles You with a Light that culminates in Its victory. You are an Image of Its Grandeur, an exemplification of Its beauty, Its proof for the eyes of the faithful. Glory to the One who gives You Your Form and Your Light, Who has made You a Mover through ardent desire for It’s Inaccessible Majesty and Who has enshrined You in the Fourth Heaven.

    Oh Holy Father! I pray to You that You may pray to the One who displays the Splendor of Your thinking Soul to His Orient, who is Your Father, Your Cause, the object of Your Love and the Principle of Your movement, Whose Shadow and Theurgy (of the Archangel Shahrîvar) You are. Pray with Him to all Archangelic Lights, the immaterial Intelligences, that they may pray in their turn, in that form of prayer that belongs to the eternal world bereft of change and alteration, to the One who is their Father, their cause and the object of their Love; the Most August of Beings, of Primordial Birth, the Light closest to the Principle, Intelligence of the Universe (the Archangel Bahman). May He pray this same way to His God, the God of Gods, eternally subsisting Light of Lights, God of every Intelligence, of every Soul, of every ethereal and elementary body, simple or composed, the Necessary Being. May He pray Him to illuminate my soul with the brightness of the spiritual world, with theosophic knowledge and superior powers. May He pray Him to count me among those who have that nostalgia for Its Light and make me immune to all infirmities of soul and body, to make the faithful of the Light and the mystical Orient triumph. May He bless them and make them holy and us also, for ever and ever. Amen.

    (Trans. Wahid Azal)

  2. Dan Jensen says:

    Hi Wahid. Thanks again for your input.

    I hope that you understand I do not intend to lend credence to the questionable body of accounts that Baha’is have anointed as history. I was simply using their accounts to make a larger point.

    As to that larger issue, I was not aware that the name Baha’u’llah had been in such common use in the Babi religion and Shi’a Islam. I’m curious: is the name less commonly used by Sunnis?

    I have been hoping to blog on some common threads between Shi’a Islam and Zoroastrianism, so distinctions in this regard between Sunni and Shi’a doctrine are of interest to me.

    I had not heard of Suhrawardi. Very interesting.

  3. Wahid Azal says:

    You should seriously look into Suhrawardi as well as the studies of Henry Corbin on him. For the present, I think you would appreciate Corbin’s SPIRITUAL BODY AND CELESTIAL EARTH: From Mazdean Iran to Shi’ite Iran.

    No, I think you will find a common usage of the attribute of baha’ and baha’ allah equally proportioned between Shi’a and Sunni alike. With the later it is especially pronounced amongst the Sufi Orders. One of the founders of the Naqshbandi Order (a highly Sunni shar’ia focused Hanafi/Hanbali tariqa) was named Baha’uddin (Splendor of the Religion) Naqshband as was Rumi’s very Sunni Shafi’i father, Baha’uddin Walad (a mufti as well as a Sufi). The famous 17th century Safavid polymath and mystic Shaykh Baha’uddin Amili (famously known as Shaykh Baha’i) is another prominent example. Throughout the corpus of literature of the Kubrawi order the attribute of Baha’ is replete within the works of its founder Najmuddin Kubra as is also the case in the works of Ibn ‘Arabi and his son in law.

    I have seen the word mentioned in relation to the transcendental nature of the Imam in Isma’ili literature where you have the Imam noted as being Baha’ Allah. Now in one of the folk litanies of the Nusayri sect in Syria who worship Fatima as divine there is a hymn in Arabic to Her invoking Her as, wait for it, Baha’ Allah (the Splendor of the Godhead). With Suhrawardi it denotes the Victorial Lights (anwar al-qahira), which are the Archangels.

    Numerous other instances of the usage of the term baha’ and baha’ allah within esoteric Islamic oeuvre could be cited. Note, however, that the Bab calls Himself Baha’ Allah as well as Nur al-Bahiyy (The Splendid Light) and sundry other titles in the Qayyum’ul-Asma’, the Bayan, epistles and the Book of the Five Grades. This word and its technical usage(s) did NOT originate with Husayn ‘Ali Nuri.


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