The Founders of world religions, in Baha’i discourse, the Manifestations of God, relate their claims and their utterances to the language and beliefs of the peoples to whom they come. Thus Jesus Christ stated at the outset of his mission: “Think not that I have come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfil.” The Qur’án repeatedly states that it confirms the Gospel and the Torah, affirming that the Prophet’s advent has been mentioned in the Torah and the Evangel. The Bábí and Bahá’í Revelations are also intimately related to their Islamic background and their Judaeo-Christian heritage. As the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, says,
“[The Bahá’ís] must strive to obtain from sources that are authoritative and unbiased a sound knowledge of the history and tenets of Islam, the source and background of their Faith, and approach reverently and with a mind purged from pre-conceived ideas the study of the Qur’án which, apart from the sacred scriptures of the Bábí and Bahá’í Revelations, constitutes the only Book which can be regarded as an absolutely authenticated repository of the Word of God.”
But what is most remarkable is the frequent reference to particular verses, particular traditions (ḥadiths), particular tropes of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example, there are many references to the messianic passages of Isaiah. The passages of Matthew 24 and St John’s reference to the Comforter and the Spirit of Truth are frequent in Baha’u’llah’s writings From the Qur’án we have multiple references to the “Meeting with God” on the Day of Judgement, such as Surah 29:5
In the traditions of the Twelver Branch of Islám or Imámí Shi’ism in particular, three sermons of the Imám ‘Alí stand out as pivotal in their contribution to the Bahá’í writings. These are known as the sermons of Ṭutunjiyyih [the Gulf], Nurániyyat [Recognition through Luminousness], and Iftikhár [Glorification]. They hold tremendous theological importance, and, down the centuries, have had a magnetic effect on Shi’ih religious thought. The author of the book that contains these three sermons, Ḥafiz Rajab al Bursi (died 1411 CE), held a very high view of the station of the Imams highly evocative of the position held by Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Kazim the precursors of the Bábí Cause at a later century. At the time of the Safavi renaissance of Shi’ih Islam, Bursi was considered to have exaggerated views of the station of the Imams But the writings of Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa’i and Siyyid Kazim Rashti also accorded a very high station to the Imams. The Imams are referred to as “Maẓaahir,” the “manifestations of God’s names and attributes,” by Shaykh Ahmad in his Sharh az-Ziyarat In this regard Husayn the Son of the Imam ‘Ali is addressed to in the Tablet of Visitation revealed by Bahá’u’lláh for him as the One through Whom the Command of the Letters “B” and “E” came to be realised. He is also referred to as the Mystery of Revelation in the World of God’s Dominion [jabarut]. As far as one can ascertain both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh affirm in their writings the validity of these traditions which have their provenance in Bursi.
In the Kitáb-i-Iqán Bahá’u’lláh, in expounding the twin cardinal principles of the Unity of the Prophets and infinity of the Revelatory Process adduces as evidence references which are to be found only in Bursi. Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings thus affirm the importance and legitimacy of these utterances of the Imam ‘Ali.
Two important quotations from Bursi which Bahá’u’lláh cites in the Kitab-i-Iqan and which again emphasise the point of the reliability of Bursi as a narrator are the following (see italics):
Furthermore, among the “veils of glory” are such terms as the “Seal of the Prophets” and the like, the removal of which is a supreme achievement in the sight of these base-born and erring souls. All, by reason of these mysterious sayings, these grievous “veils of glory,” have been hindered from beholding the light of truth. Have they not heard the melody of that bird of Heaven uttering this mystery: “A thousand Fatimihs I have espoused, all of whom were the daughters of Muhammad, Son of Abdu’llah, the ‘Seal of the Prophets?’ ” Behold, how many are the mysteries that lie as yet unravelled within the tabernacle of the knowledge of God, and how numerous the gems of His wisdom that are still concealed in His inviolable treasuries! Shouldst thou ponder this in thine heart, thou wouldst realize that His handiwork knoweth neither beginning nor end. The domain of His decree is too vast for the tongue of mortals to describe, or for the bird of the human mind to traverse; and the dispensations of His providence are too mysterious for the mind of man to comprehend. His creation no end hath overtaken, and it hath ever existed from the “Beginning that hath no beginning”; and the Manifestations of His Beauty no beginning hath beheld, and they will continue to the “End that knoweth no end.” Ponder this utterance in thine heart, and reflect how it is applicable unto all these holy Souls.
Likewise, strive thou to comprehend the meaning of the melody of that eternal beauty, Husayn, son of Ali, who, addressing Salman, spoke words such as these: “I was with a thousand Adams, the interval between each and the next Adam was fifty thousand years, and to each one of these I declared the Successorship conferred upon my father.” He then recounteth certain details, until he saith: “I have fought one thousand battles in the path of God, the least and most insignificant of which was like the battle of Khaybar, in which battle my father fought and contended against the infidels.” Endeavour now to apprehend from these two traditions the mysteries of “end,” “return,” and “creation without beginning or end.”
What these traditions have in common is their use of the language of the World of Command [‘Alam-i-Amr], to attribute the workings of the Will of God [His Primal Will] to the World of Creation. Bahá’u’lláh, on the strength of these traditions, states that this World of Command is sanctified above plurality:
Similar statements have been made by ‘Alí. Sayings such as this, which indicate the essential unity of those Exponents of Oneness, have also emanated from the Channels of God’s immortal utterance, and the Treasuries of the gems of divine knowledge, and have been recorded in the scriptures. These Countenances are the recipients of the Divine Command, and the day-springs of His Revelation. This Revelation is exalted above the veils of plurality and the exigencies of number. Thus He saith: “Our Cause is but one.” Inasmuch as the Cause is one and the same, the Exponents thereof also must needs be one and the same. Likewise, the Imáms of the Muhammadan Faith, those lamps of certitude, have said: “Muhammad is our first, Muhammad our last, Muhammad our all. (أولنا هحود وأوسطنا هحود وآخرنا هحود)”
The title Tutunjiyyih itself is a reference to the passage wherein the Imam says: “I am the One that standeth upon the Two Tutunjs [Gulfs].” As expounded below, Siyyid Kazim explains that these two gulfs represent the Gulf of Prophethood and the Gulf of Wilayat, or Imamate. This narration was referred to by Henri Corbin in the following terms as the “prone sur ou entre deux golfes”: