Short critical introduction toSubh-i-Azal’s Akhláq alal-Rúháníyyín and the translation of one of its prayers

N. Wahid Azal

The Akhláq alal-Rúháníyyín, or the ‘Ethics of the Spiritually-minded’, is originally a Baghd d era !or" of SubhSubh-i-Azal’s Azal dealing !ith the #oral i#perati$es and ethical propaedeutics of spiritual !ayfaring %sulúk& fro# the Bay n' perspecti$e. While broaching #uch in ter#s of both ethical and prescripti$e #atters, this !or" pretty #uch belongs to the genre of ‘irfán %gnosis and esotericis#&. (t’s original recipient !as one A) Abu’lAbu’l-* si# + sh n' !ho !as later #urdered in Baghd d by the Bah ’'s during the period of the ,ireful -ischief %fitna-i-saylam& in the #id.late /012s. T!o different $ersions of this !or" presently e3ist4 /& a longer Arabic $ersion by SubhSubh-i-Azal and 5& an abridged 6ersian su##ary translation of the longer Arabic by 7 d' ,a!lat b d' underta"en at the re)uest of one 7 88 -uha##ad 7ussein (sf h n', n' see Yád-dásht-há-ye Qa !íní %*az$ini’s *az$ini’s notes&, ed.& notes %ed. ed. (ra8 Afsh r, Tabr'z /919 /919 shamsí, $ol. ::-0 %in one&, p. 512. 512 ;nfortunately *az$ini’s notes do not indicate !hen 7 d' ,a!lat b d'’s translation !as actually carried out. (t should be noted, ho!e$er, that the scan of the longer Arabic ms. $ersion in our possession contains si3tysi3ty-t!o %15& folio pages !ith fifteen %/<& lines per page -- and no colophon. =ur !ord-processed 6ersian rendition of 7 d' ,a!lat b d'’s d' adaptation, #inus the translator’s preface, is fortyforty-three %>9& pages long !ith thirteen %/9& lines per page. We should #ention here as !ell that !e ha$e not perused ,a!lat b d'’s d' original but only the 6,? "indly for!arded to us in August 522@ by a #e#ber of the (ranian Bay n' co##unity4 i.e. a !ord processed typescript set in a fine nasta"l#q font. =#itting the entirety of the e3ordiu# as !ell as the initial do3ography, !hile including the opening !ords of the opening address %i.e. occuring 8ust after the second lengthy do3ology follo!ing the e3ordiu# in the original Arabic&, ,a!lat b d'’s translation properly begins on page >, starting at line >, > of our lengthier Arabic te3t and concludes !ith the prayer co##encing on page 95, line />, /> ending at the top of page 9<, line 9, 9 of the Arabic ms. The #ain body of the te3t of Akhláq alal-Rúháníyyín is di$ided into si3 sections constituting the response to si3 )uestions posed by our original )uerent A) Abu’lAbu’l* si# + sh n'. n' =ur Arabic ms. contains a se$enth and eighth section as !ell. The se$enth %pp. pp. 9<9<->:& >: see#s to be addressing the co##unity of the Bay n' faithful as a !hole, or se$eral specifically unna#ed indi$iduals, as it begins i##ediately after the afore#entioned prayer and !ith the inter8ection ‘yá ‘i$ád’, = ser$antsA The follo!ing eighth section deals !ith a response to a )uestion posed by one 7a88' +a# l ,ar yih

%pp. pp. >:>:-15&. 15 6ending consultation of another co#plete ms. of Akhláq alal-Rúháníyyín, !e are presently !or"ing !ith the assu#ption that the se$enth and eighth sections constitute a contiguous unit to the o$erall piece, or e$en appendices to the preceding si3 sections, and not another !or" appended to our te3t. But since the 6ersian rendition does not include these in its abridge#ent, here !e !ill li#it our su##ary only to the si3 #ain sections of the te3t, concluding !ith a translation of the prayer #entioned !hich closes section si3 %note4 the benediction opening the prayer in the 6ersian rendition does not occur in the Arabic te3t&. =ur page nu#bering belo! refers to our ms% of the Arabic te3t. The first section %pp. pp. 99-/@& /@ deals !ith the preli#inary characteristics necessary of the spiritual see"er %sálik& to e#bar" upon the path of !ayfaring, particularly in ac)uiring the re)uisite beha$iors and attitudes incu#bent on its success -- $iz. makárim al-akhláq, praise!orthy character traits, !hich in$ol$es cutting the !ordly bonds and fetters and purifying the inner life such that the inner and outer characteristics fully accord !ith one another beco#ing one and the sa#e, etc. (n this section SubhSubh-i-Azal also e3plains ho! the $arious le$els of !ayfaring build upon each other !hilst corresponding such le$els of !ayfaring to the #etaphysical presences of the ,i$ine, i.e. háhút, láhút, &a$arút and malakút. =ne by one the $arious #oral and ethical necessities re)uisite to success are detailed !hile the nu#erous pitfalls and dangers of the path are li"e!ise spelled out. 6ractical instructions follo! !ith specific re8oinders regarding the prescripti$e ordinances laid out in the Bay n, n including prayers, specific $erses and the nu#ber of daily scriptural recitations to be #ade, including the introduction of do3ological for#ulas by SubhSubh-i-Azal, Azal !hich are then clarified as regards their inner significance as !ell as #etaphysical correspondences. Throughout the discussion the pi$otal i#portance of #aintaining the correct attitude to!ards 'a(híd %the ;nicity of the ,i$ine&, particularly in its Bay n' enu#eration, as !ell as to!ards the Bi$ing -irror !ho is the dispenser of ,i$ine grace as its $icegerent, are reiterated thereby rooting the full spectru# of the indi$idual spiritual )uest fir#ly !ithin the larger soteriological orbit of the Bay n. Section t!o %pp. pp. /@/@-59& 59 is SubhSubh-i-Azal’s Azal response regarding the )uestion of the Threshold.Cate Threshold Cate of +no!ledge %$á$ al-‘ilm& of the era. 7ere the Cate of +no!ledge is identified in the first instance as being the 6oint of the Bay n and in the second instance as SubhSubh-i-Azal hi#self as the -irror to this 6oint, !ith the latter e3plicitly asserting his co#plete spiritual identity !ith the Dssence of the Se$en Betters. Betters The characteristics of !hat constitutes a genuine 6oint of +no!ledge are enu#erated, such as unac)uired and inspired "no!ledge, !hich is then contrasted to any !ho #ight falsely clai# such a position !ithout possessing the )ualification detailed. Without na#ing any indi$idual clai#ants, SubhSubh-i-Azal categorically re8ects such clai#s by

others as #alefically inspired and thus #anifestations of satanic #oti$ation. (t should be noted that !hile the 6ersian editor of 7 d' ,a!lat b d'’s d' adaptation has placed re#ar"s parenthetically !ithin the te3t suggesting -'rz 7usayn ‘Al' NEr' Bah ’ and the Bah ’'s as the possible identify of the suggested culprit%s&, it needs to be e#phasized that, until the #id-/012s !hen the Bah ’' founder #ade his o!n clai# e3plicit, se$eral other clai#ants had also arisen positing si#ilar clai#s. We #ention this because the !ord processed 6ersian te3t appears to generate so#e a#biguity about the actual location and dating of the original of this piece, !hen it is a Baghd d era !or". Section three %pp. pp. 5959-51& 51 responds to a )uestion regarding the differences a#ongst the creatures of creation as regards faith %imán& and infidelity %kufr&, or !hy so#e are guided and others #isguided and so led to error fro# the truth, e$en though the totality of creation in-itself is considered e)ual fro# the ,i$ine point of $ie!. 7ere SubhSubh-i-Azal instances the e3a#ples of light and dar"ness, life and death, etc., as the dual contrasting ele#ents deter#ined by the singular deter#ination of the ,i$ine pro$idence itself. As such, !hile on one le$el faith constitutes the indi$idual deter#ination of dra!ing nigh unto the ,i$ine, and con$ersely infidelity its turning a!ay, fro# another point of $ie! such guidance or #isguidance is also si#ultaneously to be dee#ed pro$identially deter#ined by Cod in illo tempore in the pri#ary instance. Section four %pp. pp. 5151-5:& 5: responds to a )uestion regarding the pri#al life %hayyát al-úlá& or the life of the !orld %hayyát al-dunyá& and the hereafter %ákhira&. 7ere SubhSubh-i-Azal posits the sy#bolis# of t!o lights and t!o fires, na#ely, the light of the !orld and the light of the hereafter, and the fire of the !orld and fire of the hereafter. The light of the !orld corresponds to the light of the hereafter and li"e!ise the fire of the !orld to that of the hereafter. Who#soe$er enters the light of the !orld, so long as he.she re#ains steadfast to this light in the !orld, !ill enter the light of the hereafter, and con$ersely those !ho are !ith the fire of the !orld !ill enter that of the corresponding fire of the hereafter. Bight represents faith, specifically in the Bay n and its Spea"er %here SubhSubh-iAzal&, Azal and fire represents re8ection and infidelity. This reoccurring sy#bolis# is one of the "ey the#es and #otifs in both the 6ersian and Arabic Bay ns as !ell as throughout the entirety of the corpus of the !ritings of the Dssence of the Se$en Betters fro# /0>:/0>:<2. <2 (t should be noted that one of the epithets of SubhSubh-i-Azal !as Bight %núr& such that here the intention is e3plicit as to !ho and !hat the Bight of the !orld denotes, and con$ersely !hat %and later, (ho& the fire %nár& is. (t should also be noted that this the#e is also one reoccurring !ithin the !ritings and sayings of the Shi’ite (# #s, particularly in the collection co#piled by +ulayn', see especially -oha##ad Ali A#ir-oezzi, The ,i$ine Cuide in Darly Shi’is#4 The Sources of Dsotericis# in (sla#, (sla# %trans.& ,a$id Streight, Albany, /@@9, pp. 0:0:-00, 00 passim.

Section fi$e %pp. pp. 5050-92& 92 ans!ers )uestions regarding #arriage. 7ere SubhSubh-i-Azal prescribes #arriage !ith belie$ers only and stipulates that #arriages contracted not e3ceed beyond t!o !i$es, the e3ceeding of !hich is scripturally proscribed %harám&. 7e encourages #utual respect !ithin #atri#onial life, supports e)uality in the relationship, and li"ens spouses as #irrors to each other and as t!o e)ual li#bs !ithin the sa#e #etaphoric body. Since this !or" is a Baghd d era !or" it is interesting to note that such a position, already enunciated earlier in the Bay n by the Dssence of the Se$en Betters, Betters is e$en #ore strongly $oiced by SubhSubh-i-Azal in this epistle at such an early periodF that is, a period !ell o$er a decade or #ore before -'rz 7usayn ‘Al' NEr' Bah ’ articulated the sa#e position $erbati# in his o!n tablets and boo". A#ong other principles plagiarized by the Bah ’' founder fro# the Bay n and the !ritings of SubhSubh-iAzal, Azal this is yet another glaring e3a#ple. D$en the choice of sy#bolis# and #etaphor here e#ployed by SubhSubh-i-Azal, Azal not to #ention the nu#ber of !i$es not to be e3ceeded, are identically the sa#e ones dra!n on in the /0:2/0:2-/0:/ period !hen -'rz 7usayn ‘Al' NEr' Bah ’ co#posed his assorted tablets and the )itá$)itá$-i-Aqdas !here such principles are li"e!ise articulated. Additionally in this section Subh-i-Azal reiterates se$eral Bay n' n prescriptions regarding the ritual i#purity of unbelie$ers and the duties of future Bay n' n rulers regarding relations !ith unbelie$ers. Section si3 %pp. pp. 9292-9<& 9< rearticulates the points already detailed in the first section as a conclusion. (t once again re-e#phasizes the central i#portance of #aintaining the correct attitude to!ards 'a(híd as enu#erated in the Bay n and concludes !ith offering the follo!ing prayer translated belo! as an obligatory prescription to the )uerent.

6rayer of SubhSubh-i-Azal closing the 6ersian $ersion $ersion and occuring on 6p. 9595-9< of the Arabic -s.

*lorified art 'hou+ , *od my *od+ - indeed testify to 'hee and all-thin.s at the moment (hen am in 'hy presence in pure ser!itude+ upon this+ that !erily 'hou art *od+ no other *od is there $esides 'hee/ 'hou art unchan.ed+ , my *od+ (ithin the ele!ation of *randeur and 0a&esty+ and shall $e unaltera$le+ , my desirous $oon+ (ithin the pinnacle of po(er and perfection inasmuch as nothin. shall frustrate 'hee and nothin. shall e1tin.uish 'hee/ 'hou art unchan.ed as 'hou art the 2apa$le a$o!e 'hy creation and 'hou art unaltera$le as 'hou indeed shall $e as from $efore inasmuch as nothin. is (ith 'hee of anythin. and nothin. is in 'hy rank of anythin./ 'hou accomplisheth and (illeth and doeth and desireth/ *lorified art 'hou+ , *od my *od+ (ith 'hy praise+ salutations $e upon the 3rimal 3oint+ the 2hemise of 'hy 4isa.e and the of 'hy

direction and the 5uminosity of 'hy 6ein.hood and the 2larity of 'hy Selfhood and the ,cean of 'hy 3o(er $y all that (hich 'hou hath $esto(ed upon 7im of 'hy Stations and 'hy 2ulminations and 'hy 8oundations+ for nothin. shall frustrate 'hee of anythin. and nothin. shall e1tin.uish 'hee of anythin./ 9o other *od is 'here $esides 'hee+ for !erily 'hou art the 5ord of all the (orlds/ And $lessin.s+ , *od my *od+ $e upon the one (ho (as the first to $elie!e in 'hee+ the 4isa.e of 'hy Selfhood and the :ecree of 'hy direction; and upon the one (ho (as the last to $elie!e in 'hee+ the Essence of 'hy direction and the 4isa.e of 'hy 7oliness; and upon those (hom Ye ha!e made martyrs<(itnesses =shuhadá"> unkno(n e1cept $y 'hy 2ommand nor restrained e1cept $y 'hy ?isdom; then upon those to (hom Ye ha!e promised that Ye shall make 7im manifest on the :ay of Resurrection and 7e (hom Ye (ill upraise on the :ay of the Return $y all (hich 'hou (ill $esto( upon 7im of 'hy 3o(er and 'hy for nothin. shall e1tin.uish 'hee and nothin. shall frustrate 'hee/ Ye determine all-thin.s+ for !erily 'hou art po(erful o!er (hatsoe!er 'hou (ill/ And - indeed testify+ , my *od+ $et(een 'hy hands that !erily there is no other .od $esides 'hee and that 7e (hom Ye shall make manifest on the :ay of Resurrection is the 2hemise of 'hy 2reati!ity and the 4isa.e of 'hy 0anifestation and the direction of 'hy 4ictory and the su$stance of 'hy 3ardonin. and the $ranch of 'hy Sin.ularity and the clarity of 'hy @nicitarianism and the 3en Aof the 5etterB 9ún =al-qalam al-nún> (ithin 'hy 6ein.hood and the settin. of the 2ause-2ommand (ithin 'hy Essentiality inasmuch as there is no difference $et(een 7im and 'hee e1cept that 7e is 'hy ser!ant in 'hy .rasp+ such that (hatsoe!er is in the 7ea!ens and the earth and (hat is $et(een them (ill then $e filled $y 7is 9ame and $y 7is until it $e made apparent that no other .od is there $esides 'hee and no 6elo!ed is there like unto 'hee and no :esired ,ne is there other than 'hee and no :read is there of 'hy like and no Custice of 'hy equal/ 9o other .od is there $esides 'hee/ *lorified art 'hou+ , *od+ and $y 'hy praise+ $lessin.s+ , my *od+ $e upon the *uide to the 'hrone of the 7idden 2loud and the 3ath to 'hy 3resence in the Sinai of Authori ation and the 2aller $y 'hy 5o.os-Self and the 2rier of 'hy 3ermission $et(een 'hy 7ands and the Ariser of 'hy Attendance $y 'hy 2ommand; then the 'riumph+ , my *od+ $y all that (hich 'hou (ill $esto( upon 7im of 'hy 3o(er+ then that (hich (ill $e made manifestly apparent of the ?ord upon the earth and (hat is upon it $y 'hy .randeur+ and also in this that nothin. shall e!er put out 7is 4erily nothin. shall frustrate 'hee of anythin. and nothin. shall e1tin.uish 'hee of anythin./ 'hy mercy encompasseth all-thin.s and !erily 'hou art po(erful o!er (hat Ye ha!e (illed+ and to the one (ho prays to 'hee+ 7earin.+ Ans(erin.+ for !erily 'hou art ,$ser!ant o!er us+ and !erily 'hou art 7i.h+ 3raised $eyond that (hich the inner hearts can comprehend/