Baha'i Library Online

See original version at

COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEThe Remembrance of God: An Invocation Technique in Sufism and the Writings of The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh
AUTHOR 1Steven Scholl
TITLE_PARENTBahá'í Studies Bulletin
ABSTRACTDhikru'lláh, the invocation or "remembrance" of God, is a Sufi technique of chanting or repeating prayers, divine names, or mantras to achieve heightened spiritual consciousness or a sense of mystical union. Includes commentary by Moojan Momen et al.
NOTES See discussion by Peter Smith, Stephen Lambden, Juan Cole, and Moojan Momen at end.
TAGSAllah-u-Abha; Allahumma; Attainment unto the Divine presence; Dhikr (Remembrance); Genuflections; Greatest Name; Meditation; Mysticism; Obligatory prayer; Prayer; Purpose of life; Remembrance; Sufism; Transformation; Words and phrases

1. Paper:
"The Remembrance of God"
by Steven Scholl

"It is one thing to believe in a reality beyond the senses and another to have experience of it also; it is one thing to have ideas of 'the holy' and another to become consciously aware of it as an operative reality intervening actively in the phenomenal world."[1]

Mysticism is only one part of religion, but it is unquestionably the heart of religion; it is what makes religion religious. The above words from Rudolf Otto's classic work The Idea of the Holy highlight a dominant theme found in the mystical traditions of all religions, East and West, namely, the mystic's quest for cultivating a peculiar type of consciousness in which an overwhelming presence is experienced — a presence experienced as an objective fact coming from outside or beyond the subjective psyche and transcending the limitations of the natural order. For the mystics of Islam, the Sufis and Shi'i gnostics, this is referred to as attaining the "presence of God" (liqa allah), wherein the overflowing light of God so pervades human consciousness that "all images fade away" — including the self-image of particular souls — and only the "Face of God" (wajhu 'llah) remains.[2]

The soul's search for God is the true calling for human beings because it is, according to Quranic teaching, the one act that gives all the other acts of our lives meaning and relation. We have been created in order to know and love God even as moths love the flame: first hand and with such ecstasy that the soul is transformed into a perfect reflection of the light of God in the act of knowing and loving.

Sufism, the most developed expression of the Muslim approach to mystic experience, is a major source for Bábi and Bahá'í writings that have in their subject the quest for presence. Sufism provided an important frame of reference for the central figures of the Bahá'í faith, as they responded to numerous inquiries from both their followers and from Mullas (including a number of Sufis) on traditional Muslim concerns with spiritual experience. In responding to these questions, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh naturally draw from many of the literary images and technical terms that had been developed by Arabic and Persian-speaking mystics.

Dhikru'llah, the invocation or remembrance of God, is the Sufi technique par excellence for translating spiritual ideals into personal mystical experience. In Sufism, the practice of dhikr is the prominent discipline for attaining heightened states of consciousness. Dhikr is the repetitive recitation of divine names or short, sacred formulas, often derived from the Qur'an. It is a distinct devotional practice from the five daily prayers (salat) and meditation or reflection (fikr), yet it is generally used by most Sufis in concert with salat and fikr in a comprehensive spiritual regime.

The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh affirm the efficacy of these acts of personal and spiritual endeavor. However, the ritual and devotional features of Bábi and Bahá'í scripture have not generally been examined or emphasized in the West, and many questions yet persist as to the nature and scope of specific exhortations found in these texts.[3] For example, David Goodman has commented that "while the Bahá'í writings are rich in references to meditation, the apparent lack of a particular tradition frees Bahá'ís to incorporate the knowledge of other techniques into their lives without difficulty or conflict."[4] On the surface, this statement appears quite catholic and in harmony with the Bahá'í teachings of religious unity. On closer examination, however, Goodman's observation must be modified to some degree, for the Bábi and Bahá'í writings do have recommendations on specific devotional and meditation practices which stem from a particular tradition, namely, the mystical tradition of Islam.

This brief essay is primarily concerned with examining the practice of dhikru'llah, the remembrance or invocation of God, as depicted in Sufism. As noted above, dhikr is but one aspect of Muslim personal piety along with prayer and meditation.[5] By focusing on the practice of dhikr I do not mean to ignore the importance of prayer and meditation nor the complimentary function of these activities for the sources of this study. The choice is guided, nevertheless, by recognition of the centrality of dhikr with regards to salat and fikr in the mystic's search for the divine Beloved. As the Quran instructs us, "prayer (salat) prevents passionate transgressions and grave sins, but invocation of God is greater (dhikru llah akbar)" (29:45). Each activity has its special virtue. Dhikr is the act of kindling the heart's passion for God, thereby igniting the flame latent within the soul. For individuals not satisfied with theoretical knowledge of God, the act of invoking and "breathing" God's presence through His names and attributes has been a traditional means for inculcating intuitive perception of God.[6]

In discussing Sufi-Bábi-Bahá'í relations regarding dhikr, the problem of sources and influences looms large. It is beyond the scope at this paper to attempt to trace the possible Sufi and esoteric Shi'i sources which may have played a part in the formation at the Báb's or Bahá'u'lláh's ideas on the topic. For most of its Islamic past, Iran was a predominately Sunni territory with widespread acceptance of Sufi orders and teachers. Under the Safavids and Qajars, Sufism was usually suppressed by the Shi'i rulers and ulama, though there was a revival of Sufism in Iran during the 18th and 19th centuries which played a role in rekindling messianic expectations within the Shi'i world.[7]

The Báb does not appear to have had personal contact with Sufi rituals or to have read Sufi manuals. His pronounced esoteric teachings are more closely related to aspects of popular Shi'ism, the Ahl al-haqq, Hurufi cabalism, Isma'ili and Shaykhi esoterism, and the ishraqiyyun, including Mulla Sadra. Most of these movements had adopted some form of dhikr invocation. Thus at this time the most we can say is that the Sufi and Bábi dhikr rituals share a common Islamic background through the lasting influence of Sufism in post-Safavid Iran.

In contrast, the relations between Sufism and Bahá'u'lláh are clear. Bahá'u'lláh was familiar with many of the classical works of Sufism and frequently quotes such literature in his mystical poems and treatises. He spent some time in the Naqshbandi takiyyah (seminary) in Sulaymaniyyah, Kurdistan, where he is reported to have given a commentary on Ibn al-`Arabi's al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah, one of the most important and influential sources for Sufism, as well as composing a qasidah, or ode, following the meter and rhyme of Ibn al-Farid's Nazmu's-Suluk.[8] During the Edirne period (1864-67), Bahá'u'lláh visited the Mewlawi's takiyyah and he is known to have been a great lover of this Sufi order's founder, the celebrated Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi. And, as we shall see below, many of his followers were converted Sufis and the practice of individual and group dhikr took place during Bahá'u'lláh's captivity and was encouraged by him. Nevertheless, at this time research calls for a cautious acknowledgement that the Bahá'í writings exhibit traditional Sufi dhikr aspects and that further studies on Sufi-Bahá'í contacts will likely generate a clearer picture of the nature of the relationship between Sufi and Bahá'í dhikr.

Dhikr in Sufism

The ritual of dhikr is the principle spiritual discipline of Sufism. Its goal is the realization of God's presence within the inmost being of individuals. Dhikr is a verbal noun derived from the Arabic triliteral verb dhakara, to remember. For the Sufis, the Quranic basis for practicing dhikr rests on verses such as the above cited Surah 29:45, Surah 33:45: "O ye who believe! Remember (udhkuru) God with much remembrance (dhikran kathiran)", and Surah 13:28: "remembrance of God (dhikru'llah) makes the heart calm."

Dhikr is distinguished from the Sufi understanding of fikr, discursive reflection or meditation. The difference between these two activities appears to be the content of intellectual abstraction involved in each. Fikr generally refers to the act of perceiving a new idea or datum of knowledge by combining two known ideas in reflection. Dhikr, on the other hand, is an effort to unveil the spiritual nature of the soul to human consciousness. Fikr is an act of self-educating through discursive thought whereas dhikr is an act of self-discovery through a technique of abstraction which reveals the "self of God standing within."[9] Louis Gardet comments that in the performance of fikr the Sufi, "concentrating upon a religious subject, meditates according to a certain progression of ideas or series of evocations which he assimilates and experiences; in dhikr, concentrating on the object recollected — generally a Divine Name — he allows his field of consciousness to lose itself in this object: hence the importance granted to the technique of repetition at first verbal, later unspoken."[10]

The Sufis were fond of discussing the respective merits of dhikr and fikr, with different authorities claiming superiority for one or the other activity. Surah 3:190-191 indicates that both are to be used to contemplate the signs of God:

"Surely in the creation of the heaven and earth and in the alteration of night and day there are signs for men possessed of minds who remember God (yadhkuruna 'llah) standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and reflect (yatafakkaruna) upon the creation of the heavens and the earth."

In an early Sufi manual by Abu Bakr al-Kalabadhi (d. 990 C.E.), there is quoted a saying of an early Sufi that appears to be a commentary on Surah 3:190-191 in praise of the complementary use of dhikr and fikr:

"One of the great Sufis said: Gnosis (al-ma rifa) is the summoning of the heart (as-sirr) through various kinds of meditation (al-fikr) to observe the ecstasies induced by recollection (adh-dhikr) according to the signs of revelation."[11]

It was dhikr, however, which came to be the most important form of Sufi discipline. Many Sufis went so far as to assert that even the obligatory salat could be disregarded if one was intensely occupied with dhikr. Did not the Quran itself, they reasoned, testify to the superiority of dhikr to salat? And the hadith qudsi, God's speech reported on the authority of Muhammad but not contained in the Quran, confirms that "If a man is so occupied with recollecting Me that he forgets to pray to Me, I grant him a nobler gift than that which I accord to those who petition Me."[12] This attitude towards salat, dhikr and fikr shows how the Sufi path is the Muslim path of love and ecstasy, and that dhikr has been the principle means for bringing adepts into ecstatic encounters with the holy, as the following verses of an-Nuri testify:

So passionate my love is, I do yearn
    To keep His memory constantly in mind;
But O, the ecstasy with which I burn,
    Sears out my thoughts, and strikes my memory blind!
And, marvel upon marvel, ecstasy
    Itself is swept away: now far, now near
        My lover stands, and all the faculty
Of memory is swept up in hope and fear.[13]

Dhikr, then, is a form of concentrative or ideational meditation in which the dhákir (one who remembers) repeats over and over — either aloud (dhikr jali) or in silence (dhikr khafi, qalbi) — a divine name or short phrase, often to a specific breathing rhythm and while sitting in a prescribed posture. The observation of one's breathing is an essential feature of Sufi dhikr. The cycle of exhaling and inhaling is designated as nafy wa ithbat: negation and affirmation. Beginning with closed eyes and lips, the dhákir repeats the first part of the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, la ilaha illa'llah (there is no god but God), in two movements.[14] The first movement is the recitation of the "verse of negation" while exhaling: lailaha (there is no God), with the intention of expelling all distracting thoughts and stimuli. This is followed by reciting the "verse of affirmation" while inhaling: illa llah (but God), affirming that God is the sole Reality worthy of devotion and worship. Dhikr may thus be compared to other forms of concentrative meditation such as hesychasm in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, mantra yoga in Indian religion and nembutsu in Japanese Pure Land Buddhism.[15]

In the history of Sufism, the merits of dhikr were elaborated on by the Sufis and variations in technique were developed within the different orders. However, there generally came to be recognized three stages or levels of dhikr which are related hierarchically to one another: 1) dhikr al-llisan, remembrance of the tongue; 2) dhikr al-qalb, remembrance of the heart; and 3) dhikr as-sirr, remembrance of the inmost being.[16]

Dhikr al-lisan is the first stage of discipline and consists of two phases. The novice begins his or her practice of dhikr with voluntary recitation of a formula, usually the shahada. The goal of this initial phase of verbal dhikr is control of wandering thoughts so that only the madhkur (the One who is remembered, i.e. God) is consciously present in the mind. Initially, the duration of the invocation is usually of a limited time, perhaps one hour, or restricted to a specific number of repetitions. The second phase emerges from the first when the subject continues the invocation ceaselessly without effort. According to traditional Sufi accounts, even when this unceasing remembrance without effort is attained, the three elements of the ritual remain distinctly present, namely, the subject (dhákir) conscious of his or her state; the act of remembrance (dhikr); and the One mentioned (madhkur).

The second stage of invocation, dhikr al-qalb, appears to be the full expression and perfection of the effortless recollection attained in dhikr al-lisan. Gardet has described it as being "expressed in a sort of hammering of the formula by the beating of the physical heart and by the pulsation of the blood in the veins and arteries, with no utterance, even mental, of the words, but where the words nevertheless remain. This is a mode of 'necessary presence', where the 'state of consciousness' dissolves into an acquired passivity."[17] This growing presence of the divine in the heart is expressed in a story of Sahl at-Tustari (d. 806 C.E.), one of the greatest figures of the early period of Sufism:

Sahl said to one of his disciples: Strive to say continuously for one day: "O Allah! O Allah! O Allah!" and do the same the next day and the day after that — until he [the disciple] became habituated to saying these words. Then he bade him to repeat at night also, until they became so familiar that he uttered them even during his sleep. Then he said: "Do not repeat them any more, but let all your faculties be engrossed in remembering God." The disciple did this, until he became absorbed in the thought of God. One day, when he was in his house, a piece of wood fell on his head and broke it. The drops of blood which trickled to the ground bore the legend "Allah! Allah! Allah!"[18]

Should the dhákir reach perfection in dhikr al-qalb, he or she may then attain the third and highest stage of dhikr as-sirr, remembrance of the inmost being. This stage of dhikr is, for the Sufi, the station of realized or ontological tawhid (unity) where the inmost being becomes the living, inner (batin) expression of the outward profession of God's unity, la ilaha illa llah. In this exalted experience of human awareness, the dhákir has, in the words of Ibn Ata Allah (d. 1300 C.E.), "disappeared from both the dhikr and the very object of dhikr."[19] That is to say, there is a transcending of the duality of subject/object awareness, which leads to the profound experience of union (wusul) between the inmost being of the person and God.[20]

The three stages of dhikr therefore correspond to progressive levels of consciousness beginning with the novice's attempt to refocus his or her orientation from self to God (dhikr al-lisan), leading to a blurring of identities in a state of ecstasy through continuous, silent absorption on the object of contemplation (dhikr al-qalb) and finally into a purified vision of a new Self, the Self of God standing within, (dhikr as-sirr). The penetration into the mysteries of divine unity in dhikr as-sirr is beyond formal conceptualization. The contemplative goes beyond the apparent rational simplicity of God into a realm of infinite complexity which only intuitive insight (al-ilm adh-dhawqi) can grasp. Reflection on the paradoxes experienced in the unitive state, e.g. gathering and separation, presence and absence, takes thought "to its very furthest limits and intelligence will in this way be opened to a synthesis lying beyond all formal conception."[21]

In moderate forms of Sufism, the annihilation of self in God (fana' fi'llah) does not usually signify an extermination of the unique individuality of the mystic, rather it is a transformation of consciousness; a transfiguration of the illusory I, the animal soul, into the True Self, or tranquil soul. The more the True Self is reflected in our inmost beings, the more the inferior self of common consciousness is occulted and effaced. This annihilation of self and perpetuation of identity is called fana' wa baqa (annihilation and subsistence).

Rumi describes fana as being "Like the flame of a candle in the presence of the sun; he is (really) non-existent, (though he is) existent in formal calculation."[22] At this point the transcendent Object so dominates consciousness that the mystic completely renounces the delusion (or idolatry!) of selfhood. Rudolf Otto has emphasized that the starting point from whence this type of speculation begins "is not a consciousness of absolute dependence of myself as a result and effect of a divine cause — for that would... lead to insistence upon the reality of self; it starts from a consciousness of the absolute superiority or supremacy of a power other than myself."[23] Most Sufis did not stop with fana nor assert that the soul becomes the Absolute Godhead once it has attained Deity. Rather, from fana springs baqa:

If then thou hast freedom from thyself,
    Then thy selflessness is Godness.
When one has vanished, that is cessation of being.
    When there has been cessation of being, behold,
from it springs survival.[24]

This is the station referred to in the hadith that "He who knows himself knows his Lord (man arafa nafsahu faquad arafa rabbahu) as well as the hadith an-nawaafil (the tradition of proximity caused by supererogative acts of worship): "My servant ceases not to draw nigh unto Me by works of devotion, until I love him, and when I love him I am the eye by which he seems and the ear by which he hears. And when he approaches a span I approach a cubit, and when he comes walking I come running."[25] The connection between dhikr and the experience of fana and baqa is perfectly expressed in these lines quoted by al-Kalabadhi:

So we remembered — yet oblivion
Was not our habit; but a radiance shone,
A magical breeze breathed, and God was near.
Then vanished selfhood utterly, and I
Remained His only, Who with tidings clear
Attests His Being, and is known thereby.[26]

In summary, we may say that the aim of dhikr is to bring about an unveiling of our spiritual self. It is the act of polishing the heart in order to make it a perfect mirror reflecting the light of God. It is not a mere mechanical process, as the great Sufi masters teach that one must approach the practice of dhikr with right intention (niyya) and absolute sincerity (ikhlas). The special formulae are used to center the mind on certain Images inherent in the words until the self and the Image become one Image of God.

Dhikr in the writings of the Báb

The term dhikr means different things in different contexts for the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. The Báb, for example, often refers to himself as the 'Remembrance of God' or the 'Primal Remembrance,'[27] while in other passages of Bábi and Bahá'í scriptures remembrance means simply to have God in mind generally or to praise God without indicating the recitation of a sacred formula. Thus in his Kitab al-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh writes in regards to his laws on obligatory prayer: "Remember God (udhkuru 'llah) for this mercy which preceded the denizens of the two worlds."[28] The recitation of dhikr formulas along traditional Sufi lines is also referred to by the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. Both make the practice of a minimum daily invocation an obligatory ritual act, give formulae to be recited and describe postures in which to recite verses.

The writings of the Báb contain a number of exhortations for the practice of dhikr along with formulae to be recited. These recommendations are too numerous to examine comprehensively in this study. Here we will briefly discuss the Báb's preference for silent recitation of the phrases "in the heart" (dhikr fi'l-qalb), describe a selection of Bábi dhikr phrases, and note some general similarities between Sufi and Bábi teachings.

The writings of the Báb are often difficult to fathom. His interest in letter symbolism and the creation of talismanic symbols in the shikasta script often result in writings that are extremely dense and almost impossible to comprehend.[29] His commentaries on the Quran and traditions of the Prophet and Imams are more in the genre of tawil, interpretation which aims at revealing the inner (batin) significance of scripture — a style of writing popular with Sufi and Shii gnostics. Denis MacEoin has observed that the writings of the Báb, like the rhyming prose of the Quran, creates a predilection for chanting the sacred verses. In some of his later works, e.g. the Kitab al-asma and Kitab-i panj sha'n, the Báb revealed verses "consisting largely of invocations of God by an infinitude of names..., in which content is entirely secondary to the all-important incantatory style."[30] These infinitude of names form the basic content of Bábi dhikr practice.

In Sufism both verbal (jalli) and silent (khafi or qalbi) invocation is practiced. The Báb appears to have preferred silent over vocal recitation. It may be that he was displeased by superficial, public demonstrations of piety by Muslims — Sufis and others — and he therefore placed greater emphasis on silent dhikr as a guard against ostentatious behavior. The Báb goes so far as to make the practice of silent dhikr an obligatory act. The fourth bab of the ninth vahid of the Persian Bayan is concerned solely with recitation of "dhikr in the heart." This chapter begins, as do all chapters of the Persian Bayan, with a statement that is followed by an explanation. The Báb begins by stating: "God has made it obligatory for people to make mention of God (dhikru'llah) in their heart. Say, all will be questioned on that" (i.e. on the day of resurrection).[31]

The Báb's exposition of this statement begins by praising the virtues of patience and humility under all conditions. He then continues by discussing the efficacy of silent dhikr in the heart:

"The reason why privacy (sirr) hath been enjoined in moments of devotion is this, that thou mayest give thy best attention to the remembrance of God (dhikru'llah), that thy heart may at all times be animated by His Spirit, and not shut out as by a veil from thy Best Beloved. Let not thy tongue pay lip service in praise of God while thy heart be not attuned to the exalted Summit of Glory, and the Focal Point of Communion."[32]

This passage contains several of the themes discussed above in connection with dhikr al-lisan and qalb. For example, the word translated as 'privacy' in this pericope is sirr in Arabic, which also contains the sense of an esoteric secrecy and mystery as well as inner quality of consciousness. Taken in the context of this chapter on 'dhikr in the heart', it seems clear that the privacy intended by the Báb is not simply to say prayers in solitude. Rather the desired privacy is found within the contemplative setting of silent invocation, it is the shutting out of all things from conscious thought in absorption on the object of meditation, the "Focal Point of Communion," which for the Báb is the spirit of the Primal Remembrance, the Manifestation of God. The Báb also warns that mere repetition of verses is insufficient, that the seeker's heart must be centered on the Lord of Revelation. For both the Báb and for many Sufi authorities, the internal recitation of dhikr invocations is done in order to create within the heart a perpetual state of divine animation.

The dhikr phrases found in the Báb's writings are both traditional ones used in Islam and invocations that exhibit particular Bábi theological concerns.[33] The Báb calls for a daily regime of invocation, and the new Badi calendar is incorporated into the believer's daily devotions. Each day mention of God should be done by reciting ninety-five times a name of God.[34] Believers are to recite allahu abha (God is most Glorious) on the first day of the month, allahu azam (God is most Great) on the second day, and allahu aqdam (God is most Ancient) on the nineteenth and final day of the month. The choice of invocations for the remaining days are left up to the individual. In the Arabic Bayan, the Báb gives a beautiful explanation for the practice of dhikr each day: "Each day recalls my Name. And each day my thought penetrates into your heart, then you are among those who are always in God's thought."[35]

Another daily invocation practice mentioned in the Báb's writings is tazim, or glorification, i.e. reciting of allahu azam nineteen times every day.[36] Other formulas mentioned by him are allahumma (O God!), to be repeated 700 times; allahu azhar (God is most Manifest), to be repeated ninety-five times; and ya'llah (O God!), to be repeated 4,000 times.[37] Nabil-i-Azam reports that the Báb instructed his followers to repeat the following five invocations nineteen times in the evening: allah akbar (God is most Great), allahu azam, allahu ajmal (God is most Beauteous), allahu abha, and allahu athar (God is most Pure).[38] This last series of invocations was used by the Bábis of Zanjan while besieged in a quarter of the city to instill courage and fortitude as they battled their foes. Nabil remarks that the Bábis, "though worn and exhausted..., continued to observe their vigils and chant such anthems as the Báb had instructed them to repeat."[39] The chanting of special verses while encircling a sacred object or person — a practice related to dhikr invocation and referred to as sama (listening) — also took place among the Bábis. A dramatic account of the Bábis' use of a special invocation while they circled their charismatic leader Quddus — regarded as equal to, or even greater, than the Báb by some — is given by Nabil. In December of 1848, Quddus, the foremost disciple of the Báb, was able to join his fellow Bábis at Tabarsi, who were led by Mulla Husayn, the Báb's first disciple and second in rank only to Quddus. When word reached Mulla Husayn that Quddus was approaching, he placed two candles in each Bábi's hands and they then walked out into the forest of Mazindaran to meet their hero and spiritual guide. They met Quddus as he rode his steed. "Still holding the lighted candles in their hands, they followed him on foot towards their destination.... As the company slowly wended its way towards the fort, there broke forth the hymn of glorification and praise intoned by...his enthusiastic admirers: 'Holy, holy, the Lord our God, the Lord of angels and the spirit' (subbuhun quddusun rabbuna wa rabbu 'l-mala'ikati wa 'r-ruh) rang their jubilant voices around him. Mulla Husayn raised the glad refrain, to which the entire company responded."[40] Such instances of the Bábis' use of special sacred invocations indicates that this form of popular Sufi and Shii piety was also prevalent in Bábism.

Another Bábi dhikr phrase that has become popular with Iranian Bahá'ís is: Allahumma ya subbuhun ya quddusun ya hannánu ya manan. farrij lana bi 'l-fadli wa 'l-ihsan innaka 'r-rahmanu 'l-manan (O God! O Sanctified One, O Holy One, O Tender One, O Gracious One. Assist us by thy excellence and virtue. Verily, Thou art the Merciful, the Gracious).[41] [see a better transliteration at -J.W.]

Two final Bábi dhikr invocations of interest are ones to be recited to the sun and moon respectively. In the Persian Bayan (bab 14, vahid 7), the Báb writes that on the Friday of each week — the day of rest in the Badi calendar — believers are to chant the following invocation while facing the rising sun: innama l-Bahá min indallahi ala tal atiki ya ayyatuha sh shamsa ttalati fa shhadi ala ma qad shahida llahu ala nafsihi. innahu la ilaha illa huwa lazizu lmahbub. (Glory from God be upon your [appearance], O dawning sun. Bear witness then, O sun, unto that which God hath born witness in Himself. Verily, there is no god but Him, the Mighty, the Best Beloved).[42] And in the Chahar shan, it is recommended that one face the moon each month and recite 142 times, i.e. to the number of the name of God al-Qa'im, the Existent: innama l-Bahá mina llahi alayka ya ayyuha l qamara'l munira fi kulli hin (in) wa qabla hin (in) wa ba ada hin (in) ("The glory from God be upon you, O moon shining at all times, and before all times, and after all times").[43]

The sun and the moon have long been important symbols in the literature of mysticism. In Sufism, and especially among Persian writers, the spiritual relationship between these two heavenly bodies was developed at length. A major theme of Islamic spirituality in its Iranian milieu is the expression of the lunar quality of the human-divine relationship. For Suhrawardi al-Maqtul, the moon, which is masculine in Arabic, is referred to as the lover of the sun, Queen of the Stars. Suhrawardi tells us how the moon never lingers but always presses on in its quest for full enlightenment. At the point of complete enlightenment, the moon has reached the summit of its lunar potential by perfectly reflecting the rays of the Sun Queen. The lover-moon looks into itself and no longer discerns anything other than the light of the Sun. At this point the moon cries out: Ana sh-shams!, "I am the Sun!"[44] Henry Corbin explains that the moon typifies the soul of persons revolving in the heaven of tawhid, the unity of God, while the phases of the moon typify the phases and repetitions of the human-divine encounter that carries the soul of the mystic into the state of incandescence (fana').[45] We may similarly interpret the words of the Báb in regards to the moon-soul that becomes shining with the glory from the Sun, or Manifestation of God, "at all times, and before all times, and after all times."

In summary, we may positively note that the Báb's teaching on dhikr has many similarities with moderate Sufi doctrines. His attitude towards dhikr corresponds to many Sufi authorities who were wary of the elaborate rituals for invocation that had developed in the Sufi orders. Stress is consequently placed on the fact that it is not the amount of repetitions or elaborate postures which make dhikr effective, but that purity of heart (niyya) and sincerity (ikhlas) are the basis of true invocation. The Báb warns in the Persian Bayan (bab 4, vahid 9) that excessive dhikr — either aloud or silent — is not, in itself, pleasing to God. The most important criteria, he continues, is that dhikr be done with "joy and happiness," and he concludes that "everyone knows in himself how many mentions he should make."[46] Echoing the Quran that "Each being knows his prayer and his form of glorification" (Surah 24:41).

Dhikr in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh

The writings of Bahá'u'lláh on the performance of dhikr are similar to his predecessor's. Like the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh makes the practice of dhikr an obligatory devotional act along with obligatory prayers and fasting. In the Kitab al-Aqdas, his book of laws, Bahá'u'lláh enjoins the believer in God to each day perform ablutions, sit facing God (now considered the Bahá'í qibla of Bahji) and utter ninety-five times in remembrance of God (yadhkuru) the invocation allahu abha, the Bahá'í form of the greatest name (al-ismu'l azam).[47] This utilization of the greatest name appears to be a modification of the Báb's more detailed laws on daily invocation.

Bahá'u'lláh does not place the same emphasis on dhikr as the Báb, but invocation remains a definite prescription. It seems that each Bahá'í is asked for at least a minimum daily requirement of invocation of the greatest name. Indeed, use of the greatest name as the Bahá'í dhikr formula par excellence in a fashion comparable to Sufism was advocated by Abdu'l-Bahá, eldest son and successor of Bahá'u'lláh. Abdu'l-Bahá notes that the constant repetition of the greatest name leads to union with God, illumination and spiritual rebirth. Though not a binding law, continual repetitive invocation is strongly endorsed as a spiritual discipline for Bahá'ís:

Abdu'l-Bahá exhorted the friends to "recite the Greatest Name at every morn, and (to) turn...unto the kingdom of Abha, until though mayest apprehend the mysteries...." Again, through the use of the Greatest Name, Abdu'l-Bahá urges that "the doors of the kingdom of God open, illumination is vouchsafed and divine union results.... the use of the Greatest Name, and dependence upon it, causes the soul to strip itself of the husks of mortality and to step forth freed, reborn, a new creature...."

"The Greatest Name should be found upon the lips in the first awakening moment of early dawn. It should be fed upon by constant use in daily invocation, in trouble, under opposition, and should be the last word breathed when the head rests upon the pillow at night. It is the name of comfort, protection, happiness, illumination, love and unity."[48]

As in Sufism, Bahá'í dhikr invocation should be seen as a form of concentrative or ideational meditation whereby one temporarily turns away from the world and turns solely "inward" via a linguistic image. This focusing on one object enables the meditator to reach a calm, tranquil or receptive state of consciousness which is open to direct, intuitive knowledge of spiritual powers. In his Asl-i kullu'l-khayr (Words of Wisdom), Bahá'u'lláh states that "True remembrance (aslu dh-dhikr) is to make mention of the Lord, the All-Praised, and to forget aught else besides Him."[49] Such statements on the concentrative approach to meditation place Bahá'í dhikr within a noble tradition of contemplative exercise, sharing similarities not only with Sufism but with Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist meditation techniques as well.

The inclination towards practicing dhikr invocations is given further impetus by Bahá'u'lláh in several of his poems, prayers and meditations. Indeed, the entire Islamic-Bábi-Bahá'í emphasis on the revealed Word of God as the vehicle of human salvation naturally lends impetus to the individual believer's quest for enlightenment by means of the sacred texts, whose very incantatory style is conducive to invocation. The poems of Bahá'u'lláh, e.g. Rashh-i ama, al-Qasidah al-warqqa iyyah and Mathnaviy-i mubarak, draw on Sufi technical terms and their rhyming patterns are conducive to chanting in ways traditionally practiced in Sufism.[50] The Lawh mallahi'l-quds (Tablet of the Holy Mariner) and the Lawh an-naqus (Tablet of the Bell) contain refrains which are repeated between each verse of the respective works, infusing them with dhikr-like qualities.[51] The Lawh an-naqus, revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in Istanbul on the anniversary of the declaration of the Báb, is a beautiful work containing verses filled with exhortations for the mystic's quest interspersed by the captivating refrain: subhanaka ya hu. ya man huwa hu. ya man laysa ahad (un) illa hu ("Praise be Thou, O He, O He who is He, O He who is none other than He").[52]

Traditional Islamic invocations are also prominent in Bahá'u'lláh's writings, e.g. al-hamdu'li-llah (Praise be to God!), subhana llah (Praise be God) and huwa llah. Bahá'u'lláh also uses the popular Sufi petition to God: labbayka, labbayka (Here am I! Here am I!). This is the traditional cry of prophets, saints and mystics to the mysterious Godhead in hope that the grace of God will descend into the heart of the invoker. Bahá'u'lláh refers to labbayka in this fashion in his Salat al-kubra (Long Obligatory Prayer):

I entreat Thee by Thy footsteps in this wilderness, and by the words, "Here am I. Here am I," which Thy chosen ones have uttered in this immensity...[53]

Other dhikr phrases and short invocations can be gleaned from Bahá'u'lláh's writings. For instance, an interesting passage in his Kitab al-Ahdi (Book of the Covenant) reads:

We fain would hope that the people of Bahá may be guided by these sacred words: 'Say: all things are of God' (qul kullun min inda llahi). This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smolder within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity. Verily He speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He is the All-Mighty, the Gracious.[54]

And as noted above, Bahá'u'lláh has incorporated the Báb's dhikr to the sun into Bahá'í teachings by symbolically identifying himself with the rising phenomenal sun.[55]

Some of the effects of practicing the remembrance of God are mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh in the compilation Prayers and Meditations. The remembrance of God opens the mind's eye to the inner meanings of scripture and instills a divine sweetness which helps one to abandon attachment to the world; it assists individuals to accept adversities and trials and enables minds to become firmly fixed and grounded in God:

"Cause me to taste, O my Lord, the divine sweetness of Thy remembrance and praise. I swear by Thy might! Whosoever tasteth of its sweetness will rid himself of attachment to the world...and will set his face towards Thee, cleansed from the remembrance of anyone except Thee.

Inspire then my soul, O my God, with Thy wondrous remembrance, that I may glorify Thy name. Number me not with them who read thy words and fail to find Thy hidden gift contained therein."[56]

The Sufi orders developed special forms of group dhikr chanting known as hadra (session) or halqa (circle). Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá encouraged special gatherings for chanting Bahá'í prayers and tablets, however, these general prayer meetings must be regarded as very different from the hadra or halqa. Still, there are a few occasions where Bahá'u'lláh himself initiated a more specific type of group dhikr session. The first two examples given here are ambiguous as to Bahá'u'lláh's intention, being created to meet specific moments of crisis prior to his assumption of prophetic office. Nevertheless, these two instances have held continuing significance for Bahá'ís as prototypes for group dhikr.

The first instance originates from Bahá'u'lláh's captivity in the Siyah-Chal (Black Pit) in 1852. He recounts how he was confined in this dreaded prison of the Shah with many of his Bábi comrades:

We were placed in two rows, each facing the other. We had taught them to repeat certain verses which, every night, they chanted with extreme fervor. 'God is sufficient unto me; He verily is the All-Sufficing' (qul allahu yakafa min kullin shay in) one row would intone, while the other would reply: 'In Him let the trusting trust' (ala allahi falyatawwakili al-mutawwakuni). The chorus of these gladsome voices would continue to peal out until the early hours of the morning.[57]

The second example comes from the 'Baghdad period' of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry (1853-1863). He is reported to have instructed the Bábis:

Bid them recite: "Is there any remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praise be to God, He is God. All are His servants and all abide by His bidding" (hal min muffarajin ghayru llah. qul subhanu llah huwa llah. kullun ibadun lahu wa kullun bi amrihi qaimun). Tell them to repeat it five hundred times, nay, a thousand times, by day and night, sleeping and waking, that haply the Countenance of Glory may be unveiled to their eyes, and tiers of light descend upon them.[58]

Here the act of internally reciting this popular invocation of the Báb's while sleeping or awake recalls the effortless invocation described above as dhikr al-qalb in Sufism.

The third example originates from the period of Bahá'u'lláh's confinement within the walls of Akka (1868-79) and is the most specific endorsement of a hadra or halqa gathering. Abdu'l-Bahá refers to this in Memorials of the Faithful when he recalls that it was Bahá'u'lláh's wish to see an annual gathering where the true dervishes of this world would meet to do dhikr together. This night is to be dedicated to Darvish Sidq-Ali, a companion of Bahá'u'lláh's and a Sufi:

While in the barracks, Bahá'u'lláh set apart a special night and He dedicated it to Darvish Sidq-Ali. He wrote that every year on that night the dervishes should bedeck a meeting place, which should be in a flower garden, and gather to make mention of God.[59]

Fadil-i-Mazandarani has given the date of this special night of dhikr as the second of Rajab.[60] The practice was carried on, at least by the Bahá'ís of Akka, for some time, but it is not certain when or why its observance was discontinued. Possibly it was discontinued to keep the local inhabitants from regarding Bahá'u'lláh as the shaykh of a heretical band of dervish riff-raff, since the Bahá'ís were often mistaken for Sufis during his lifetime.[61] As there appears to be no statement in Bahá'u'lláh's later writings calling for the discontinuance of this dhikr session, perhaps it will be revived by contemporary Bahá'ís.

Besides these many dhikr invocations, Bahá'u'lláh also speaks of specific postures in which the recital of verses is recommended. If the obligatory prayer is missed, for example, the believer is to prostrate and repeat either: subhana llahi dhi l-azamati wa l-ijlali wa l-mawhibati wa l-afdal ("Praised be God, the Lord of Might and Majesty, of Grace and Bounty") or simply subhana llah. After this both men and women are to sit cross-legged in the posture which he refers to as the "Temple of Unity" (haykal at-tawhid) and repeat eighteen times: subhana llah dhi l-mulki wa l-malakut ("Praised be God, the Lord of the kingdoms of earth and heaven").[62] The posture of haykal at-tawhid is a simple cross-legged sitting position popular in Sufi practice. Another traditional posture of Islam referred to in the Bahá'í writings is quud (literally, sitting), which is identical to the 'sitting on one's heels' posture of Zen Buddhism. The quud posture is most commonly used when reciting those sections of the Bahá'í long obligatory prayer that call for the sitting position.

As in Sufism, invocation for Bahá'u'lláh aims at the elimination of the subject/object dichotomy of normal consciousness. This intimate identification of self and God is often referred to in the Bahá'í writings as "seeing with His eyes" (a rifaka bi aynika) or "recognizing God through His Own Self" (bishinasim bi-nafsiu). Thus Bahá'u'lláh writes:

"It behooveth us, therefore to make the utmost endeavor, that, by God's invisible assistance these dark veils...may not hinder us from beholding the beauty of his shining Countenance and that we may recognize Him only by His own Self."[63]


"Open Thou, O my Lord, mine eyes and the eyes of all them that have sought Thee, that we may recognize Thee with Thine own eyes."[64]

The use of dhikr to reach the unitive state is implied by Bahá'u'lláh in the fourth of his Seven Valleys (Haft Vadi), where he refers to the hadith an-nawafil, the tradition considered by Sufis as God's announcement of His promise to become the eye and ear through which the servant exists, "as well as the experience in dhikr in which every limb is engaged in its own recollection":[65]

"Whensoever the light of the Manifestation of the King of Oneness settleth upon the throne of the heart and soul, His shining becometh visible in every limb and member. At that time the mystery of the famed tradition gleameth out of the darkness: "A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer (an-nawafil) until I answer him; and when I have answered him, I become the ear wherewith he heareth..." For thus the Master of the house hath appeared within His home, and all the pillars of the dwelling are ashine with His light. And the action and effect of the light are from the Light-Giver."[66]

There can be little doubt that in this most Sufic of his works, the founder of the Bahá'í faith can be seen as endorsing the utilization of the traditional technique of dhikr in the mystic's quest for union with God. At least we must admit that any person from the Islamic mystical tradition would immediately understand Bahá'u'lláh's correlation of tawhid and the hadith an-nawafil to the practice of dhikr.

In the last of the Seven Valleys, Bahá'u'lláh refers to the highest station in the way of God by the traditional Sufi terms of annihilation and subsistence in God (fana az nafs va baqa bi llah).[67] Both Bahá'í and moderate Sufi teachings maintain that the unknowable essence, the sacrosanct Godhead (adh-dhat al-ahdiyya, uluhiyya) is beyond human comprehension, and that there is consequently a tragic dimension to the mystic's quest for God: it is in a sense unattainable. Sufis who believed in the transcendence of God's essence often tried to express the difficulties involved in truly knowing and loving an unknowable Being. Ibn al-Arabi poignantly observes how all attempts to penetrate the Absolute Deity ends on the shores of His names and attributes:

"A diver who was endeavoring to bring to the shore the red jacinth of deity hidden in its resplendent shell, emerged from that ocean empty-handed with broken arms, blind, dumb and dazed.... [He was asked] "What has disturbed thee and what has happened?... [He replied] "Far is that which you seek.... None ever attained to God and neither spirit nor body conceived the knowledge of him."[68]

In a passage that echoes this type of perception, Bahá'u'lláh speaks of the inherent limitations of human faculties in regards to knowing Deus absconditus:

"Praise be to Thee, to Whom the tongues of all created things have, from eternity, called, yet failed to attain the heaven of Thine eternal holiness and grandeur. The eyes of all beings have been opened to behold the beauty of Thy radiant countenance, yet none hath succeeded in gazing on the brightness of the light of thy face. The hands of them that are nigh unto Thee have, ever since the foundation of Thy glorious sovereignty and the establishment of Thy holy dominion, been raised suppliantly towards Thee, yet no one hath been able to touch the hem of the robe that clotheth Thy divine and sovereign Essence. And yet none can deny that Thou hast ever been, through the wonders of Thy generosity and bounty, supreme over all things, art powerful to do all things, and art nearer unto all things than they are unto themselves."[69]

Here, Bahá'u'lláh clearly reveals the mystic's dilemma: God has created souls out of the essence of His light with spiritual faculties analogous to Him, yet we are incapable of taking the step into complete identification with the unknowable Essence. As Otto has observed, the dilemma occurs because what is absolute may be thought but not thought out.[70]

However, the mystic's despair is soon transcended through experiencing God's Love, Mercy and Beauty. This then leads to the realization that these attributes of God are most clearly displayed as the very soul itself once it becomes sanctified from all human limitations, cleansed of all things to the point that "the Divine Face riseth out of the darkness'' of the self and all things "pass away, but the Face of God."[71] At this point the soul can claim to have professed the unity of God in both its outer (zahir) and inner (batin) senses:

"O Lord! The tongue of my tongue and the heart of my heart and the spirit of my spirit and my outward and inmost beings (zahiri wa batini) bear witness to Thy unity and Thy oneness, Thy power and Thine omnipotence, Thy grandeur and Thy sovereignty, and attest Thy glory, loftiness and authority. I testify that Thou at God and that there is no other God besides Thee (innaka inta llah la ilaha illa inta)."[72]

Bahá'u'lláh maintains, however, that the soul's realization of ontological tawhid is in some manner different from both Sufi concepts of wahdatu l-wujud or shuhud (unity of being or contemplation). In the Seven Valleys he does not deny that these two stages occur along the mystic path, but that the wayfarer will eventually pass beyond these stages and reach a "oneness that is sanctified above these two stations."[73] It is difficult to determine exactly what Bahá'u'lláh intends by this. It may be that he is reluctant to dogmatically label the nature of mystic perception in its highest stages, as this tends to shock persons who have no comprehension of such matters but who hold attachments to conventional religious doctrines regarding the human-divine encounter. And furthermore, Bahá'u'lláh observes, one can only point to these experiences in allusive, symbolic ways. He thus warns that the language of dogma and doctrine is not the means for arriving at mystical definitions. Ink leaves only blots on the page, for "ecstasy alone can encompass this theme, not utterance nor argument."[74]


The practice of concentrative techniques of meditation occurs in most religious traditions. For the Islamic, Bábi and Bahá'í religions, the discipline of dhikr invocation is the recommended form of practice. Dhikr has been widespread in Islamic practice generally, but it was in Sufism that the most active and detailed development has occurred. The impact of Sufi teachings on dhikr and its theories of spiritual growth came to influence all Muslims, Sunni and Shii alike, and the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh clearly drew selectively from this wealth of Islamic material in developing their own unique religious systems. This can be seen in the respective tradition's attitudes towards silent invocation, annihilation and subsistence, sincerity and purity of motive over mere technique, the use of group dhikr sessions, attainment of union with God, and the recognition of the limits of human aspiration. All three traditions assert that the practice of dhikr is an integral aspect of spiritual growth along with prayer, fasting and reflection. And each confirms that the practice of dhikr can lead to a profound alteration of consciousness, described as the revelation of God's presence within the inmost being or heart of the human soul.


    * I wish to thank the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice for providing me with the Arabic texts of passages from Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh and with information on Darvish Sidq-`Ali. The clarity of this study has been sharpened by the comments of Denis MacEoin, Juan Cole, Christopher Buck, and Todd Lawson.

    1 Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, trans. John W. Henry (London: Oxford University Press, rev. ed. 1976), p. 143.

    2 See Qur'an 29:23; 18:111; 13:2; 2:46, 249; the Báb's Persian Bayan II, 7; III, 7; VI, 13; VIII, 6; IX, 9; and Bahá'u'lláh's Kitab-i-Iqan: Book of Certitude (Hofheim-Langenheim: Bahá'í Verlag, 1980, reprinted from the original edition, Egypt, 1934), pp. 107-111; English trans. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette, Ill: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 3rd ed., 1970), pp. 138-143. (Hereafter cited as Iqan, with English page numbers first).

    3 An important exception to this is Denis MacEoin's study "Ritual and semi-ritual observances in Bábism and Bahaism", (unpublished paper presented at the fourth Bahá'í Studies Seminar, University of Lancaster, April, 1980).

    4 David Goodman, "The Importance of Meditation to Faith", World Order, vol. 13, no. 2 (1979), p. 46.

    5 Both the Islamic and Bahá'í traditions maintain a distinction between the concentrative meditation technique of invocation (dhikr) and the act of reflection or meditation (fikr). See below p. 76 on dhikr and fikr in Sufism. The same distinction is made in Bahá'í writings where 'meditation' is used to translate derivatives of the trilateral verb fakara. Cf. Iqan, p. 238/185, where Bahá'u'lláh writes of achieving the conditions of renunciation and detachment, and then refers to the hadith: "One hour's reflection (tafakkura) is preferable to seventy years of pious worship."

    6 The use of concentrative meditation techniques is found in most religious traditions. For a general discussion of these techniques and their psycho-physical effects see Claudio Naranjo and Robert Ornstein, On the Psychology of Meditation (New York: Viking Press, 1971).

    7 See Abbas Amanat, "The Early Years of the Bábi Movement: Background and Development" (Ph.D. thesis, Oxford University, 1981), ch. 3, "Sufism and Popular Religion" and Said Amir Arjomand, "Religious Extremism (Ghuluww), Sufism and Sunnism in Safavid Iran: 1501-1722", Journal of Asian History, vol. 16, no.1 (1982), pp. 1-35.

    8 See Juan Cole, "Bábism and Naqshbandi Sufism in Iraq 1854-1856: A qasidah by Mirza Husayn Ali Bahá'u'lláh", in Studies in Bábi and Bahá'í History (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, forthcoming).

    9 From a hadith attributed to Muhammad and quoted by Bahá'u'lláh in Four Valleys (Chahar Vadi). English trans. Ali Kuli Khan and Marzieh Gail, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys (Wilmette: Ill: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, rev. ed., 1968), p. 47.

    10 Louis Gardet, "Dhikir", Encyclopaedia of Islam, rev. ed (London: Luzac and Co., 1971-) (Hereafter, EI2).

    11 Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Kalabadhi, Attaarruf li-madhab ahl at-tasawwuf, ed. A.J. Arberry (Cairo: Librarie El-Khandgi, 1934), p. 101. English trans. A.J. Arberry, The Doctrine of the Sufis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, rev. ed., 1980), p. 133 (Hereafter "Doctrine" with English page numbers first).

    12 ibid., p. 96/74-75.

    13 ibid., p. 96/75.

    14 The complete shahada formula is la ilaha illa llah wa muhammadun rasulu llah, "there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God."

    15 See Philokalia, Writings from Philokalia, on the Prayer of the Heart, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer (London: Faber and Faber, 1951) on hesychasm; Rammamurti Mishr, Fundamentals of Yoga (New York: Julian Press, 1959) on mantra-yoga; and Kojiro Nakamuro, "A Structural Analysis of dhikr and nembutsu", Orient, vol. 7 (1971), pp. 75-96 for a comparative study of dhikr and nembutsu.

    16 For a more complete discussion of dhikr in Sufism, see G.G. Anawati and Louis Gardet, Mystique Musulmane: Aspect et tendances - Experiences et Techniques (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1961), pp. 187-234.

    17 Gardet, "dhikr".

    18 Quoted in Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1978), p. 169.

    19 Gardet, "dhikr".

    20 Muslim mystics were careful not to assert that there could ever be substantial union (ittihad) between persons and God in which their respective essences merge into each other, thus Islam's mistrust of the Christian concept of hulul, or incarnation. Rather than convey the idea of union with the offensive terms of ittihad or hulul, Muslim mystics preferred to use the terms wusul or wisal, attaining to and reunion, from the verb wasala, to connect or join. Cf. Bahá'u'lláh: "O Son of Man! Ascend unto My heaven, that thou mayest obtain the joy of reunion (wisali), and from the chalice of imperishable glory quaff the peerless wine." al-Kalimat al-maknunah (Beirut: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, rev. ed., 1975), p. 18 (Hereafter "Hidden Words" with English page numbers first).

    21 Titus Burckhardt, An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, trans. D.M. Matheson (Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishers, Ltd, 1976), p. 26.

    22 Jalal and ad-Din Rumi, The Mathnavi, ed. and trans. Reynold A. Nicholson, 8 vols., Gibb Memorial Series (London: 1925-1940), Book 3: 3669-73.

    23 Otto, Idea of the Holy, p. 89.

    24 Farid ad-Din Attar, quoted in Fritz Meir, "The Spiritual Man in the Persian Poet Attar", Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks 4, ed. Joseph Campbell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960, p. 300.

    25 Quoted in Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, p. 133. See below, p. 90 on the hadith an-nawafil in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh.

    26 Al-Kalabadhi, Doctrine, p. 125/75-76.

    27 See the Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, trans. Habib Taherzadeh et al. (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1976), passim. For the Arabic and Persian texts of this compilation see, Muntakhabat az athar-i hadrat-i nuqtiy-i-ula (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979). (Hereafter "Selections" with English page numbers first).

    28 Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab al-Aqdas (Bombay: Nisari Press, 1896), p. 6.

    29 Letter symbolism (ilm al-huruf) has been a popular form of expression for Muslim esoterics. See Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, Appendix 1. See MacEoin, "ritual", pp. 14-16; 41-44; 84-88 on Bábi and Bahá'í talismanic texts.

    30 MacEoin, "Ritual", p. 28.

    31 Seyyed Ali Mohammad dit le Báb, Le Beyan Persan, 4 vols., trad. A.L.M. Nicolas (Paris: Librarie Paul Geuthner, 1911-14), vol. 4, p. 150.

    32 The Báb, Selections, pp. 93-94/56-57; Le Beyan Persan, vol. 4, pp. 148-49.

    33 For example, the Báb states that one of the important goals of Bábi dhikr is to lead to the recognition of "He whom God shall make manifest" (man yuziruhu llah), ibid., p. 151.

    34 See ibid., vol. 3, pp. 48-50.

    35 Quoted in Alessandro Bausani, "Báb", EI2.

    36 See MacEoin, "Ritual", pp. 11-12.

    37 Ibid.

    38 Nabil-i-Azam (Muhammad-i-Zarandi), The Dawnbreakers, trans. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1970), p. 552. Persian edition Mataliu l-anwar, trans. into Persian from the English by Abdu l-Hamid Ishraw Khavari (Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 117 B.E./1960), pp. 591-92 (Hereafter "Dawnbreakers", with English page numbers first).

    39 Ibid., p. 553/592.

    40 Ibid., p. 352/360. This remains a popular chant among Persian Bahá'ís.

    41 From the compilation of Bahá'í writings Abvab-i malakut (Beirut: Bahá'í Publishing Trust), p. 8.

    42 Quoted in MacEoin, "Ritual", p. 11. This invocation also appears in a recent compilation by Fadil-i-Yazdi, Manaij al-ahkam (Tehran: n.p., 1980), vol. 1, p. 107. Here there is a tablet of Bahá'u'lláh's commenting on the Báb's invocation to the sun, which states that by the sun the Báb intended no one else but Bahá'u'lláh, hidden behind clouds during the Báb's ministry.

    43 Quoted in MacEoin, "Ritual", p. 12.

    44 Shihabuddin Suhrawardi Maqtul, Three Treatises on Mysticism, ed. and trans. Otto Spies and S.K. Khatak (1935), pp. 25-26. On the sun and moon in pre-Islamic and Islamic Iranian esoterism, see Henry Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, trans. Nancy Pearson (Boulder: Shambhala, 1978), passim.

    45 See Corbin, En Islam iranien: aspects spirituels et philosophiques, 4 vols. (Paris: Gallimards, 1971-72), vol. 2, pp. 227-28.

    46 Seyyed Ali Mohammad, Beyan Persan, vol. IV, p. 152.

    47 Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab al-Aqdas, p. 7.

    48 "The Greatest Name, Symbol of the Cause", Bahá'í News (Oct. 1964), p. 2.

    49 Bahá'u'lláh, Asl-i kullu l-khar in Majmu ih-yi az alvah-i jamal-i Aqdas-i abha (Hofheim-Langenheim: Bahá'í Verlag, 1980), p. 92. English trans. Words of Wisdom in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, trans. Habid Taherzadeh et al. (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978), p. 155 (Hereafter "Tablets", with English page numbers first).

    50 See Cole, "Bábism and Naqshbandi Sufism" for a discussion of Bahá'u'lláh's Rashh-i ama and al-Qasidah al-warqa iyyah.

    51 Bahá'u'lláh, Lawh mallahi l-quds in Maidiy-i-asmani, 9 vols., ed. Abdu l-Hamid Ishraw Khavari (Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 129 B.E./1972-73), vol. 4, pp. 507-511. English trans. Shoghi Effendi, Tablet of the Holy Mariner in Bahá'í Prayers (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, rev. ed., 1975), pp. 51-57. The two refrains in this tablet are: subhana r-rabbi l-abha (Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious) and subhana r-rabbina l-aliyi l-a la (glorified be our Lord, the Most High).

    52 Bahá'u'lláh, Lawh an-naqus in Ayyam-i-tis ih ed. Abdu l-Hamid Ishraw Khavari (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1981), pp. 100-106.

    53 Bahá'u'lláh, Lawh as-salat in Adiiyyih hadrat-i mahbub (Cairo: 1339 A.H./1920-1921), pp. 70-80. English trans. Shoghi Effendi, Long Obligatory Prayer in Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1969), pp. 317-23.

    54 Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, pp. 222-136-37.

    55 See fn. 42.

    56 Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 82-83. The verse, "Inspire then my soul, O my God, with Thy wondrous remembrance, that I may glorify Thy name", reads in the original Arabic: ya ilahi fa lhimni min badayi i dhikrika li-adhkuraka biha, literally: "O my god, inspire me with Thy wondrous remembrance, that I may invoke Thee by it."

    57 Nabil-i-A zam, Dawnbreakers, p. 632/664.

    58 Shogi Effendi, God Passes By (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1957), p. 119.

    59 Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, trans. Marzieh Gail (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1971), p. 38.

    60 Mirza Asadu llah Fadli-i-Mazandarani, Asraru l-athar, 5 vols. (Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 124-126 B.E./ 1967-1972), vol. 4, p. 491.

    61 For example, on the journey from Baghdad to Istanbul, Bahá'u'lláh advised his companions to grow their hair long and to wear the garb of one of the Sufi orders. See Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2 (Oxford: George Ronald, 1977), pp. 27-28. Also, Haji Mirza Haydar-Ali, Stories from the Delight of Hearts, trans. A.Q. Faizi (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1980), pp. 43, 46, recounts how the guards of a group of Bahá'í prisoners in Egypt thought that they were Sufis on hearing the Bahá'ís chanting the Lawh an-naqus, and that the governor general of the Sudan mistook them for being people of the "the path" (as-sirat), a term designating Sufis and not "people of a true religion" as stated in fn. 25 of Delight of Hearts.

    62 Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab al-Aqdas, p. 5, cf. A Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas the Most Holy Book of Bahá'u'lláh (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1973), p. 58.

    63 Bahá'u'lláh, Iqan, p. 75/58.

    64 Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 80; cf. ibid., pp. 88, 206, 222-223, 256, 297; and the Báb, Selections, pp. 175-175/123-124.

    65 Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, p. 277.

    66 Bahá'u'lláh, Haft Vadi in Athar-i qalam-i ala, vol. 3 (Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 129 B.E./1972-1973, p. 114. English trans. The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 22 (Hereafter "Seven Valleys", with English page numbers first).

    67 Ibid., p. 36/129.

    68 Quoted in Abdol-Hossein Zarrinkoob, "Persian Sufism in Its Historical Perspective", Iranian Studies, vol. 3 (1970), p. 205.

    69 Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 87-88.

    70 Otto, Idea of the Holy, p. 141.

    71 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p. 37/128.

    72 Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 114/65.

    73 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p. 39/133. Cf. Juan Cole, "The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings", Bahá'í Studies, vol. 9 (1982), pp. 7-8, 25-29 for a discussion of wahdatu l-wujud in Islamic and Bahá'í doctrine. Cole's depiction of Ibn al-Arabi's teachings on wahdatu l-wujud appear too severe, especially since the Andalusian mystic does not use the term in his writings. See Hermann Landolt, "Simnani on wahdat al-wujud", Collected Papers on Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism, ed. M. Mohaghegh and H. Landolt, vol. IV of Wisdom of Persia (Tehran: The Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Tehran Branch, 1971), p. 100.

    74 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p. 39/133.

The Borwick Seminar on Bahá'í Mysticism and a report of the Discussion on Steven Scholl's paper "The Remembrance of God"
by Moojan Momen et al.

3. Response to The Borwick Seminar's Discussion on "The Remembrance of God"
by Steven Scholl

4. PDF: image scans of all the above

VIEWS12918 views since 2016-04-03 (last edit 2021-05-28 17:02 UTC)
Home Site Map Links Tags Chronology About Contact RSS