The Qayyūm al-asmāʼ (‘Maintainer of the names’), or Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsuf (‘Commentary on Sūrat Yūsuf’) by Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi, known as the Bab.

Who was the Bab?

The Bab was the title taken by Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819–1850). Viewed by Baha’is as having paved the way for Baha’u’llah, in 1844 he experienced a series of revelatory visions after which he pronounced himself to be the bab (the gateway) to the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam of Twelver Shi‘ism. After several periods of imprisonment the Bab was executed in 1850.

The Qayyūm al-asmāʼ

The Qayyūm al-asmāʼ  (‘Maintainer of the names’), also known as the Tafsīr Sūrat Yūsuf (‘Commentary on Sūrat Yūsuf’) is the first book that the Bab wrote after he declared his divine mission. It was conceived as a commentary on Surah 12 of the Qur’an though its composition is very different from any regular interpretation. Written in Arabic in rhymed prose it contains 111 chapters, each of which, except for the first, contains a verse from the Sūrat Yūsuf followed by the Bab’s commentary on it. Although the Bab’s formal claim in this book is to be the representative of the expected Imam Mahdi, those who were able to read the book discerned that he was in fact making a far higher claim – that this book was Divine Revelation and therefore that he was a Messenger of God.