QODDUS, Moḥammad-ʿAli Bārforuši (b. Bārforuš, 1238/1822; d. Bārforuš, 23 Jomādā II 1265/16 May, 1849), a prominent Bābi (see BABISM) figure who accepted the Bābi religion when still a young clergyman of 22 years and was later given the spiritual title “Qoddus” (lit. ‘absolutely holy’ or ‘the most holy’) by the Bāb. Qoddus was born in the Āqā-Rud quarter of Bārforuš (nowadays Bābol in Māzandarān; see Māzandarāni, 1944, pp. 405-6; Zarandi, p. 72). According to Niāki and Ḥoseynzāda (p. 160), Qoddus’s birthplace was Āqā-RuPiš. His father, Āqā Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ, was an illiterate farmer from a humble and poor family (Māzandarāni, 1944, pp. 405, 413), and his family paid allegiance to Mollā Moḥammad-Ḥamza Šariʿatmadār (1762–1864), the most popular Shaikhi cleric in Māzandarān. Qoddus’s mother died in his early childhood, and his father married another woman who very much loved her stepson (Malek Ḵosravi-Nuri, p. 58).
From the early childhood Qoddus was a prodigy, and his intellectual and spiritual gifts were apparent. After completing his basic schooling in Bārforuš and Sāri at the age of twelve, he went to Mašhad to begin his religious studies there. At the age of eighteen, he left Persia for Karbalāʾ, where he joined Sayyed Kāẓem Rašti (d. 1844), the leader of the Shaikhi school. Qoddus studied with Rašti for four years. “He was the last to arrive, and invariably occupied the lowliest seat in the assembly. He was the first to depart upon the conclusion of every meeting. The silence he observed and the modesty of his behaviour distinguished him from the rest of his companions” (Zarandi, p. 72; see also Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 406). Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957) describes Qoddus as “erudite” and “the most esteemed disciple of Sayyid Kāzim” (Shoghi Effendi, p. 7).
After Qoddus finished his studies at Karbalāʾ, and on the way back to Persia, he, like other Rašti’s students, became a hermit and spent some time in contemplation and prayer in the mosque of the city of Kufa (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 406; Amanat, p. 182). On returning to his native town of Bārforuš, Qoddus was welcomed and soon highly praised and supported by Šariʿatmadār (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 406). This incited hostility of Šariʿatmadār’s rival, Shiʿite cleric Molla Saʿid Bārforuši, known as Saʿid-al-ʿolamāʾ (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 406). All sources agree that Qoddus was a charismatic clergyman and that his piety and personal charm captured the admiration of every observer (Zarandi, p. 183; Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 406; Malek Ḵosravi-Nuri, p. 59; Amanat, pp. 183-84).
In May 1844, Qoddus was in Shiraz, where he met the Bāb and gave his full allegiance to the Babi faith. The circumstances of his conversion were as follows. One evening, when the Bāb was returning home accompanied by Mollā Ḥosayn (1814-1849), his first disciple, “there appeared a youth, disheveled and travel-stained.” That young man was Qoddus. He approached Mollā Ḥosayn, embraced him, and asked “whether he [Molla Hosayn] had found the Promised One.” At first, Mollā Ḥosayn tried to calm Qoddus’s agitation and advised him to rest for the moment, promising to enlighten him later. Then, on fixing his gaze upon the Bāb, Qoddus told Mollā Ḥosayn: “I can recognize him [the Promised One] by his gait.” Qoddus went on to say: “I confidently testify that none beside him [the Bāb], whether in the East or in the West, can claim to be the Truth. None other can manifest the power and majesty that radiate from his holy person” (Zarandi, pp. 69-70). Qoddus was the last person among the first eighteen people who embraced Bābism, and who were collectively designated by the Bāb as “the Letters of the Living” (Ḥoruf-i-ḥayy).
Since Qoddus was the last “Letter of the Living,” he was designated by the Bāb as “the Last Name of God” (Esm Allāh al-āḵer), just as Mollā Ḥosayn was distinguished as “the First Name of God“ (Esm Allāh al-awwal) by virtue of being the first “Letter of the Living.” The Bāb chose Qoddus as his traveling companion for the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1844. After Qoddus returned from the pilgrimage and tried to propagate Bābism, he became the target of persecution by the governor of Fārs and was expelled from Shiraz. Qoddus then traveled to Yazd, Kermān, Ardestān, Isfahan, Kāšān, and Tehran to propagate the Bābi religion, after which he returned to Bārforuš in 1847, where he stayed for the next two years.
Qoddus’s high position in the Bābi community gradually evolved. In the conference of Badašt in 1848—a historic assembly of more than eighty Bābis—Qoddus was among the three Bābi leaders who decided on the course of that meeting, which was a pivotal event in the Bābi history. Contrary to the prevailing belief among historians, there was no conflict between Qoddus and Ṭāhera Qorrat-al-ʿayn (1814/1817-1852) when she dramatically unveiled herself at that gathering in announcing the abrogation of the Islamic religious law (šariʿa) by the Bābi law, “and Qoddus was in reality in full sympathy with what Ṭāhera did in that assembly” (Moḥammad-Ḥoseyni, pp. 274-75, 286).
Qoddus was the most important figure in the Bābi upheaval of Tabarsi (Tabresi; October 1848 to May 1849) during which 300 to 400 Babis were killed while defendending themselves against the attacks of government troops. Mollā Saʿid Bārforuši, the Shiʿite religious leader of Bārforuš who was always jealous of Qoddus, finally managed to have Qoddus killed. “In his unquenchable hostility and aided by the mob, whose passions he had sedulously inflamed, stripped his victim of his garments, loaded him with chains, paraded him through the streets of Bārforush, and incited the scum of its female inhabitants to execrate and spit upon him, assail him with knives and axes, mutilate his body, and throw the tattered fragments into a fire” (Shoghi Effendi, p. 42).
Qoddus’s tragic and public death at Bārforuš took place on 23 Jomādā II 1265/16 May 1849 (Zarandi, p. 408; Amanat, p. 188). Considered a martyr by the Bābis and later by the Bahais (see BAHAI FAITH), Qoddus’ tragic death has been compared to prominent figures of other religions, such as Jesus. According to Šariʿatmadār’s instructions, Qoddus’s remains were buried in the School of Zaki Khan, located at the Haṣir Forušān Square of Bārforuš (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 442; Malek Ḵosravi-Nuri, pp. 405-6; Niāki and Ḥoseynzāda, p. 521).
As Šariʿatmadār relates (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 438), the writings of Qoddus have received little attention compared to studies of other prominent Bābis, owing to the fact that, as ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ testifies, Quddus’s handwriting was somewhat illegible (Ḵāvari, pp. 128-29). However, because of his piety, virtuous life, and unique understanding of the Bābi religion, Qoddus has been accorded the highest spiritual station in the Bābi community and recognized as second only to the Bāb himself (Shoghi Effendi, p. 49; Māzandarāni, 1944, pp. 419-21, 423-24). After the martyrdom of Qoddus, the Bāb honored him with an exalted station that rivals that of the most venerated saints and holy persons of other religions (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 425).
All sources affirm that Qoddus produced a prodigious volume of writings in the short period between the inception of the Bābi religion in 1844 and his death in 1849. Among his writings was a commentary on the letter ṣād of the word ṣamad (Qurʿān, Sura 112 Al-Eḵlāṣ), which is said to have run three times the length of the Qurʿan itself. Al-Šahādat al-ʿazaliya was another treatise written by Qoddus. Neither of these two writings is extant (Māzandarāni, 1944, p. 420; 1972, p. 480; Zarandi, p. 357; MacEoin, pp. 105-7). Hamadāni (tr. Browne, p. 44) states that, in addition to these two commentaries, Qoddus composed nearly 30,000 verses, consisting of prayers (monājāt), learned discourses (šounāt-e ʿelmiyya), and homilies (ḵotab). Several letters of Qoddus and some of his prayers have been published in Bahai publications (Māzandarāni, 1944, pp. 407-18, 426-30; Idem, 1972, pp. 481-87). Two manuscripts of the writings of Qoddus are preserved in two libraries in England, namely the British Library and the Cambridge University Library (MacEoin, p. 106).
A. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: the Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850, Ithaca, N.Y., 1989; repr. Los Angeles, 2005.
A. E. Ḵāvari, Māeda-ye āsmāni, 9 vols., vol. 5, Tehran, 1972.
H. Hamadāni, Tāriḵ-e jadid, tr. E. G. Browne as The Tárikh-i-jadid; or New History of Mirzá ʿAlí Muhammad the Báb, Cambridge, 1893; repr. Cambridge, 1975.
D. MacEion, The Sources for Early Bābi Doctrine and History: a Survey, Leiden and New York, 1992.
M. A. Malek Ḵosravi-Nuri, Tāriḵ-e šohadā-ye ʿamr, 3 vols., Tehran, 1973.
A.-A. F. Māzandarāni, Ẓohur al-ḥaqq, 9 vols.; vol. 3, 1944; vol. 8 in two parts, 1974 and 1975 respectively; Tehran, 1944 (vol. 9 has not yet been published).
Idem, Asrār al-āṯār, 5 vols., 1967-1974, vol. 4, Tehran, 1972.
N. Moḥammad-Ḥoseyni, Ḥażrat-e Ṭāhera, Dundas, Canada, 2000.
J. Niāki and P. Ḥoseynzāda, Bābol: šahr-e zibā-ye Māzandarān, Tehran, 2000.
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, Ill., 1970.
Nabil Zarandi, Tāriḵ-e Nabil, tr. and ed. Shoghi Effendi as The Dawn-Breakers: Nabíl’s Narrative of the early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation, Wilmette, Ill., 1974.
March 20, 2009
Originally Published: July 15, 2009
Last Updated: July 15, 2009