Twelve table talks given
by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in ‘Akká
Contents
1 The Three Kinds of Prophets
2 Two Kinds of Prophecy
3 The Meaning of Speaking in Tongues
4 The Invocation “He Is God”
5 The Wisdom of Fasting
6 The Rejection of the Manifestations of God in Every Age
7 The Meaning of “Mysteries”
8 The Transformation of Matter across the Kingdoms of Existence
9 Ṭáhirih and the Conference of Badasht
10 Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim
11 The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh
12 Christ and Bahá’u’lláh
13 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
14 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
15 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
16 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
17 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
18 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
19 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
20 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
21 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
22 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
23 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
24 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
25 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
26 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
27 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
28 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
29 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
30 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
31 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
32 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
33 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
34 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
35 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
36 Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
37 A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Notes
–1–
The Three Kinds of Prophets
Question: How many kinds of divine Prophets are there?
Answer: There are three kinds of divine Prophets. One kind are the universal Manifestations, which are even as the sun. Through Their advent the world of existence is renewed, a new cycle is inaugurated, a new religion is revealed, souls are quickened to a new life, and East and West are flooded with light. These Souls are the universal Manifestations of God and have been sent forth to the entire world and the generality of mankind.
Another kind of Prophets are followers and promulgators, not leaders and law-givers, but they are nonetheless the recipients of the hidden inspirations of God. Yet another kind are Prophets Whose prophethood has been limited to a particular locality. But the universal Manifestations are all-encompassing: They are like the root, and all others are as the branches; they are like the sun, and all others are as the moon and the stars.
–2–
Two Kinds of Prophecy
Question: In the books of the Prophets there are tidings of the future; that is, certain events and incidents have been explicitly or implicitly announced and unseen matters foretold, which in this day are witnessed to have come true in their entirety. How were these events of the present day foreseen in the past?
Answer: The Prophets of God draw upon both His boundless universal grace and His particular grace, that is, upon divine revelation and inspiration. They foretell certain events through revelation and inspiration, which are the heavenly splendours, the intimations of the heart, and the scattering rays of the light of the Day-Star of Truth. This grace is like the resplendent rays of the sun, and the hearts of the Prophets are even as mirrors. Thus They affirm that Their words have proceeded from revelation and inspiration.
The second kind of discovery is due to the fact that the Prophets are able Physicians and informed of the mysteries of the universe. They have Their finger on the pulse of the world, and They diagnose and foresee the ailments and illnesses which are to come. It is from the appearance, signs, and conditions of the universe itself that They infer these mysteries. Thus, when an able physician notes certain signs and symptoms in the body of a patient, he diagnoses future ailments, illnesses, and conditions. This proceeds from his knowledge, skill, and power of inference.
But the tidings of the Prophets are all founded upon the scattering rays of the light of truth and proceed from pure inspiration and revelation. For past, present, and future apply only to the world of creation, not to the world of God. In the realm of Truth, past, present, and future are one and the same: The beginning is even as the end and the end even as the beginning. For in the eternal and everlasting realm of God, time holds no sway and no distinction can be made between past and future, as past and future are contrary to that which has neither beginning nor end. In a realm that has no beginning and no end, how can past, present, and future even be imagined? Observe that even in an outward sense time has no sway in the world of the intellect, even though it holds sway in the mind of an intelligent person, for the power of the mind has ever apprehended and encompassed all things and will forever continue to do so.
Consider for example the sun itself: It knows neither morning, nor noon, nor evening—all times are one; all moments are the same. But on account of the rising and setting of the sun, the inhabitants of the earth see mornings and evenings and reckon the days and nights. Thus all these times are one in the sun and all these days are identical and indistinguishable.
Likewise, in the realm of truth, past, present, and future are the same, and future events are even as past and present occurrences. From the perspective of that realm, all events and incidents take place in the present and are witnessed by the Prophets and the chosen ones. And so it is that the Prophets herald events that will transpire two or three thousand years hence, for they abide in the realm of truth, wherein the mysteries of the universe are revealed and laid bare. Infer from this statement the truth of the spiritual discoveries of the Holy Ones and reflect and ponder thereon—the matter is indeed clear and manifest.
–3–
The Meaning of Speaking in Tongues[1]
Question: What is meant by the Apostles’ speaking in tongues?
Answer: The meaning is that the Apostles taught in a spiritual tongue, a tongue that embraces all tongues. For the Word of the Kingdom comprises spiritual meanings and divine mysteries, and whoso attains to this Word will find the realities and mysteries of creation to be clear and evident. The divine inner meanings are the all-encompassing reality of all tongues.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit endowed the Apostles with the tongue of the Kingdom, and they spoke with all peoples as if in their own tongue; that is, whenever they conversed with a person of any faith or nation, it was as though they were speaking his own tongue. Were it otherwise, there are at present more than a thousand known languages and it would be fair to expect that the Apostles would have written at least one Gospel in the language of one of the other nations. It is, however, well established that the Gospel was written only in Hebrew and in Greek. No Gospel was even written in Latin, though that was at the time the official language of the land. Yet, as the Apostles were not proficient in Latin, no Gospel was written in that language.
–4–
The Invocation “He Is God”[2]
Question: Why is the expression “He is God” used at the beginning of the Tablets and Epistles?
Answer: This is a common practice in the East among the Muslims, and their intent is that one must begin all things with the mention of God. But what is intended in the divine Tablets is that the reality of the divine Essence is sanctified above all understanding, exalted beyond all imagination. For whatsoever man may imagine is encompassed by him, and that which encompasses is without a doubt greater than that which is encompassed. It is therefore clear that what is imagined is the creation, not the Creator. For the reality of Divinity is sanctified above all human fancy. In this day all people are worshippers of idle fancies, for they conceive a god in the realm of imagination and worship him. Thus if you were to ask someone who is engaged in prayer: “Whom are you worshipping?” he would say: “God.” “What God?” “God as I imagine Him.” Whereas that which is in his imagination is not God. All people are therefore worshippers of their own thoughts and fancies.
Thus for man there is no path to tread and no place to turn save unto the holy Manifestations. For, as already mentioned, the reality of Divinity is transcendent, sanctified, and beyond all imagination. All that can be imagined are the holy and divine Manifestations. There is nowhere else for man to direct his gaze, and should he pass beyond this he will fall prey to delusion. Thus what is meant by the words “He is God” is that that manifest Being is the promised Beauty and the Day-Star of Truth, the Exponent of the secrets of Lordship and Divinity, the Repository of the mysteries of the All-Merciful, and the Source of the signs of His Singleness; and that I have begun my discourse with His blessed Name.
–5–
The Wisdom of Fasting[3]
Question: What is the divine wisdom of fasting?
Answer: There is many a divine wisdom in fasting. Among them is this: that, in the days when He Who is the Dayspring of the Sun of Truth engages, through divine inspiration, in revealing the verses of God, in establishing His religion, and in setting forth His teachings, He is so enraptured and enkindled as to find no time for food or drink. For example, when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to establish the religion of God, He fasted for forty days; and fasting was therefore enjoined upon the Israelites to awaken and admonish them. Likewise Christ, at the beginning of the foundation of His divine religion, the establishment of His teachings, and the formulation of His admonitions, disregarded for forty days all physical necessities and refrained from food and drink. The Apostles and early Christian believers also fasted, but this fast was changed by the Church Councils to abstinence from certain foods. Similarly, the Qur’án was revealed during the month of Ramaḍán[4] and therefore the fast was enjoined during that period. In the same way, in the beginning of His manifestation, the Báb would be so overcome with emotion at the revelation of the divine verses that for days He would confine himself to drinking tea. Likewise, in the days when He was instituting the divine teachings, and when the divine verses would be sent down continuously, Bahá’u’lláh would be so overwhelmed with the intensity of their influence and the emotions surging within His heart that He would take but little food.
Our meaning is that it has been enjoined upon the generality of the people to fast likewise for a few days, that they might follow the example of the divine Manifestations and call to mind Their state and condition. As history records, the Christians would in the early days observe a complete fast. For every sincere soul who has a beloved aspires to whatever condition his beloved is experiencing: If the beloved were sad he would wish for sorrow, and if joyous he would aspire to joy; if the beloved were at ease he would seek comfort, and if troubled he would desire the same. Now, since in those days the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh would abstain from food and drink, or would partake of only the least amount, it became incumbent upon Their loved ones to follow their example. Even as it is said in the Tablet of Visitation: “... who, for love of Thee, have observed all whereunto they were bidden”.[5] This is but one of the wisdoms of fasting.
The second wisdom is that fasting is conducive to spiritual awareness. One’s heart grows more tender, one’s spirituality is increased, and as a result one’s thoughts become purely focused on the remembrance of God. Such awareness and awakening leads inexorably to spiritual progress.
The third wisdom is this. There are two kinds of fast: material and spiritual. The material fast consists in abstaining from food and drink, that is, refraining from satisfying the physical appetites. But the true and spiritual fast is for man to forsake covetous desires, heedlessness, and evil and animalistic attributes. The material fast is therefore a symbol of that spiritual fast. It is like saying: “O Divine Providence! As I am abstaining from bodily desires and from all occupation with food and drink, even so purify and sanctify my heart from the love of anyone save Thyself, and shield and protect my soul from corrupt inclinations and satanic qualities, that my spirit may commune with the breaths of holiness and fast from the mention of all else besides Thee.”
–6–
The Rejection of the Manifestations of God in Every Age[6]
When Abraham was sent forth, however much He expounded the truth, established the religion of God, disseminated new teachings, and explained the divine mysteries, the Assyrians and the Chaldeans would say, “This is but an idle fancy and an empty tale, a mere figment of the imagination. It will never come to pass.” Even more, they called it sheer ignorance and counted themselves among the exponents of reason and understanding. But before long it became clear that what Abraham had proclaimed was indeed the truth, and that it was their own thoughts that were the idle fancies. For after a short time the teachings of Abraham were realized in the world: The Holy Land was given to His descendants; the foundations of the religion of God were established; Isaac and Jacob came into the world; Joseph became ruler in Egypt; Ishmael was blessed and illumined Mount Paran; Moses the Interlocutor appeared, beheld in the desert of Sinai the blazing fire of God in the Burning Bush, rescued the Israelites from their oppression and captivity at the hands of the Egyptians, led them to the Holy Land, and, through His teachings and His religion, which were consonant with the needs of the age, founded a mighty nation. Thus did the deniers fully experience their error, yet they were not chastened or admonished.
On the contrary, when Moses appeared they erred anew, for Pharaoh’s people regarded the teachings and the law of Moses as mere fancy and accorded them no importance, considering their own ideas to represent the truth. But after a short time it became clear and evident that what Moses had proclaimed was indeed the truth and had come to pass, that the religion of God had been put into full effect and had secured the honour and advancement of all Israel, and that it was the thoughts and imaginations of the Egyptians that were the idle fancies. This was the second experience and yet the people were still not admonished and awakened, but rather persisted in their ignorance until Jesus appeared with a beauteous countenance and an eloquent tongue, and spread abroad the sweet savours of the rose-garden of divine mysteries and imparted the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The people, notwithstanding their two previous experiences wherein their error had been established, claimed again that the teachings of the glorious Gospel were idle fancies—that they were mere thoughts and imaginations, that they were devoid of all reality, and that they lacked in philosophical substance. “These are but vain and idle thoughts,” they would say, “whereas we possess true knowledge and lofty ideas, we have wisdom and discernment, and we know the ways of sound governance.” But before long their error was exposed, for what Jesus had said was sound and true: It was heavenly thoughts and divine teachings, whereas the prevailing thoughts of the tribes and nations of the earth were the vain and idle fancies. This was the third error and yet another experience which was later also repeated upon the appearance of Muḥammad and the Báb.
Now Bahá’u’lláh has appeared, the divine teachings and admonitions have been unveiled, the call of the oneness of humanity has been sounded, the banner of the kingdom of peace is flying, and the tabernacle of love and harmony amongst all mankind has been raised in the very heart of the world and is summoning all people. And yet again some ignorant souls imagine that these divine teachings are without foundation and regard their own imaginations as lofty thoughts. But before long it will become manifest that what He has proclaimed is sound, proven, and compelling, and that all other thoughts are vain and idle.
–7–
The Meaning of “Mysteries”[7]
Question: What is meant by “mysteries” in the blessed Tablets?
Answer: By “mysteries” is meant such matters and questions as are remote and hidden from the minds and understandings of the people, but which can later be grasped by fair-minded souls if a perfect Individual unravels and explains them. Thus, the reality of the advent of Christ was one of God’s mysteries in the Mosaic Dispensation, which was later disclosed and witnessed through the manifestation of Christ.
–8–
The Transformation of Matter across the Kingdoms of Existence
Throughout this endless universe, the greatest means for the progress and renewal of existence is that all things are eaters and eaten. This is a condition that applies to all the particles of the universe, and it is through this means that created things are renewed, transformed into one another, and endowed with a new reality unlike the previous one. And this indeed is the means of renewal.
For instance, in the mineral kingdom the soil absorbs the air and the water and decomposes the creatures within it, and thus enables the existence of plants. The more microscopic animals exist in the soil, the better the plants will grow. And when the plant has grown, it is consumed by the animal, is incorporated in its body, and is endowed with a new existence. Thus it progresses further and assumes a higher reality than that which it initially possessed. This indeed is the means of progress and renewal from the mineral to the vegetable, from the vegetable to the animal, and from the animal to the human world. For as plants grow they are eaten by the animal and replace those elements which have been depleted in the latter’s body. In this manner the plants enter the animal kingdom. The microscopic organisms in the air, water, and food enter in turn the body of man and replace that which has been assimilated therein.
Thus there is progress in these passages and renewals: The mineral passed from the mineral to the vegetable, then to the animal, and finally to the human realm. And were it not for the cycle of the eater and the eaten, no renewal would take place. Such a renewal, however, is one of the inherent requirements of existence, and all contingent things are bound to pass from one condition to another.
The pain and sting of death consists in the dissolution of what was composed and its passage from one condition to another. When one is accustomed to composition, then decomposition is a painful torment; when one is used to a certain degree and station, it is difficult to take leave of it. It is therefore clear that death is merely the passage from one condition to another. Thus if a predatory animal devours another animal, the latter has in reality not been abased but has been decomposed and recomposed, found a renewed existence, and passed from one body to another. This motion and renewal of beings gives rise to the orderly arrangement and interconnectedness of all things, and were it not for these passages across the vegetable, animal, and human realms, the chain of being would be broken and the innate order of nature would be disrupted.
–9–
Ṭáhirih and the Conference of Badasht
Question: Can you provide an account of Ṭáhirih’s deliverance from Qazvín, her arrival in Ṭihrán, her departure for Badasht, and the events that transpired there?
Answer: In brief, what happened is the following. Those were the early days of the Cause and no one was informed of the divine teachings. All followed the law of the Qur’án and regarded warfare, retribution, and retaliation as permissible. In Qazvín, Ḥájí Mullá Taqí[8] launched an attack from the pulpit and condemned those two resplendent stars, Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í and Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rash. He cursed and reviled them vehemently, saying: “This affair of the Báb, which is unmitigated error, is a hellish fire that has blazed forth from the grave of Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim.” In sum, he uttered the most brazen words and repeatedly hurled insults and invective at them
A believer from Shíráz[9] was present at his sermon and heard it with his own ears. As he was unaware of the divine teachings that were yet to be promulgated and the principles upon which the religion of God was to be established, he concluded that it behoved him to act according to the law of the Qur’án, and thus he set out to settle the score. He went before dawn to the mosque of the said Ḥájí Mullá Taqí and concealed himself in an alcove. When at dawn Ḥájí Mullá Taqí came to the mosque, that individual stabbed him in the back and in the mouth with a spear-tipped cane. Ḥájí Mullá Taqí fell to the ground and his assailant fled. When the people arrived, they saw the cleric lying dead.
A great tumult erupted and throughout the city a hue and cry was raised. The dignitaries of the town decided in concert that the assassins were Shaykh Rasúl-i-‘Arab and two other individuals, whom they viewed as being among the associates of Ṭáhirih. They immediately arrested these three individuals, and Ṭáhirih herself was subjected to severe restrictions. When that man from Shíráz saw that others had been apprehended in his place, he felt it unfit to remain silent and came of his own accord to the seat of the government to declare that Shaykh Rasúl and his friends were entirely innocent of the wrongful accusations levelled against them, and that he himself was the murderer. He described in full detail what had transpired, and confessed, saying: “These people are innocent: Set them free, for I am the guilty one and it is I who must be punished.” They arrested him but kept the others captive.
Briefly, they brought these four people from Qazvín to Ṭihrán. No matter how much that man from Shíráz protested that it was he who was guilty and that the others were entirely innocent—explaining that he had committed the crime because the victim had openly cursed and reviled his master from the pulpit and that, outraged and unable to contain himself, he had therefore stabbed him in the mouth with a spearhead—no one listened. To the contrary, Ḥájí Mullá Taqí’s son clamoured before the ministers of the government for the death of all four. Ṣadru’l-‘Ulamá, who was the head of the clergy, sought an audience with the Sháh and said: “Ḥájí Mullá Taqí was an illustrious man, highly renowned in the eyes of all and deeply revered by the people of Qazvín. In avenging the murder of such a man, a single individual is of no consequence. All four men must be turned over to the heirs of Mullá Taqí and delivered to Qazvín, that they may be executed in that city and that its inhabitants may thus be placated.” Out of regard for Ṣadru’l-‘Ulamá and the people of Qazvín, the Sháh gave word that all four could be executed.
The man from Shíráz, seeing that the others had not been released in spite of his own arrest, escaped on a snowy night and went to the house of Riḍá Khán. Together they made a pact and departed for Shaykh Ṭabarsí, where they both met with martyrdom. As to Shaykh Rasúl and his friends, they were taken to Qazvín, where the populace fell upon them and killed them in the most horrendous manner.
As a result, Ṭáhirih met with the greatest hardship. No one would associate with her, and all her relatives—even her husband and two sons—showed the greatest enmity and would oppress and revile her. Bahá’u’lláh dispatched Áqá Hádíy-i-Qazvíní from Ṭihrán and, by an elaborate stratagem, arranged for Ṭáhirih to be rescued from Qazvín and brought directly to the private quarters of His house. At first no one knew of this, but when some within the inner circle of the believers were informed, they came to see her. I was a child, sitting on her lap and being held in her arms. The curtain was drawn, and those believers were seated in an adjoining room while she was speaking. The purport of her discourse, which was supported by a range of arguments, as well as by the Qur’án and the traditions of the Prophet, was that in every age an illustrious and distinguished Individual must be the focal Centre of the circle of guidance, the Pole Star of the firmament of the most excellent Law of God, and a perspicuous Leader; that all may defer to Him; and that in this day that illustrious and distinguished Individual is the Báb, Who has manifested Himself. Although her speech was eloquent, yet when she perceived that Bahá’u’lláh was to raise another call and shine forth with another radiance, she became even more enkindled and reached a state that can hardly be described. She forsook all patience and composure and well-nigh rent asunder the veil of concealment. Night and day she would at turns speak forth and cry out, laugh aloud, and weep bitterly.
Later Bahá’u’lláh sent her with a number of believers towards Badasht. Their first stop was a beautiful and verdant garden. Ṭáhirih and the friends arrived there and were later joined by Bahá’u’lláh, Who rested the night there. In the morning He sent Ṭáhirih and the friends with ample provisions to Badasht. After a few days, Bahá’u’lláh Himself went there. When He reached Badasht, Quddús had returned from Khurásán and he, too, came to Badasht, but he remained concealed.
In Badasht there was a field with a stream running through it and gardens to either side. Quddús remained concealed in one of the gardens, and Ṭáhirih resided in the other. A tent had been pitched for Bahá’u’lláh on that field, and the other believers were also housed in tents erected on the same field. In the evenings Bahá’u’lláh, Quddús, and Ṭáhirih would meet. Bahá’u’lláh made a solemn agreement with them that the truth of the Cause would be proclaimed at Badasht, but no specific day was designated.
Then, by chance, Bahá’u’lláh fell ill. As soon as he was informed, Quddús emerged from his concealment and entered Bahá’u’lláh’s tent. Ṭáhirih sent a message saying: “Either bring Bahá’u’lláh to the garden where I reside or I will come myself.” Quddús said: “Bahá’u’lláh is unwell and cannot come”, which was a signal. Ṭáhirih, seizing upon the opportunity, arose and, unveiled, came forth from the garden. She proceeded towards the tent of Bahá’u’lláh crying out and proclaiming: “I am the Trumpet-blast; I am the Bugle-call!”—which are two of the signs of the Day of Resurrection mentioned in the Qur’án. Calling out in this fashion, she entered the tent of Bahá’u’lláh. No sooner had she entered than Bahá’u’lláh instructed the believers to recite the Súrih of the Event from the Qur’án, a Súrih that describes the upheaval of the Day of Resurrection.
In such wise was the Day of Resurrection proclaimed. The believers were seized with such fear and terror that some fled, others remained bewildered and dumbfounded, and still others wept and lamented. Some were so dismayed that they fell ill, and Ḥájí Mullá Ismá‘íl was so overcome with fear and terror that he cut his own throat. But after a few days, peace and composure were regained and the confusion and anxiety were dispelled. Most of those who had fled became steadfast again, and the episode of Badasht drew to a close.
–10–
Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim
Question: What is the story of Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í and Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rash, the journey of their disciples to Shíráz, and their declaration of allegiance to the Báb, and how did these events unfold?
Answer: Know that in the latter days the Shí‘ihs of Persia had forgotten the truth of the religion of God and had become entirely devoid and deprived of the morals of the spiritually minded. They were cleaving to empty husks and remained entirely heedless of the pith and substance. They had nothing to show but outward observances, such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, and the commemoration of the blessed Imáms. The people of true knowledge would therefore call them “Qishrí” (superficial), for amongst them the inner truths and meanings were absent, spiritual perceptions were non-existent, and heavenly morals had become but an idle matter.
When the night of separation approached the dawn—that is, when the concealment of the True One ran its course and the dawn of the morn of God drew nigh—Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í appeared. He guided the people to inner truths and meanings and expounded the secrets and mysteries of the Qur’án. The Shí‘ihs then became divided into two camps: Some followed the august Shaykh and became known as Shaykhís, while others kept to their prior condition and were called “Qishrí”.
The illustrious Shaykh began to invite the people to anticipate the advent of God’s revelation and the blazing of the Fire of Sinai. He proclaimed, in his writings and in his lessons, that the dawn was fast approaching and that the appearance of the promised Manifestation was imminent. Thus did he seek to instil receptivity in the hearts of the people and admonish them to await day and night the advent of the divine Manifestation. He became most renowned for his knowledge and perfections, not only in Persia but throughout the Shí‘ih world. He was mentioned at every gathering and was sought after by all.
During his lifetime he trained and instructed Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí, and before he died he appointed him as his successor. Siyyid Káẓim followed in the footsteps of the illustrious Shaykh and occupied himself night and day with elucidating the inner truths and meanings and in disseminating the secrets and mysteries of the Qur’án. He so imbued the people with anticipation for the coming Revelation that his disciples, in their eagerness, forsook all patience and repose and dispersed in every direction until they found the Promised One.
Moreover, Siyyid Káẓim explicitly specified, in the preamble of his book “Sharḥ-i-Qaṣídih”,[10] the name of Bahá’u’lláh: “Praise be to God Who hath adorned the preamble of the book of His Essence with the mystery of distinction, the ornament of that Point wherefrom the is manifested, with neither assimilation nor separation, through the Alif.” To fully explain this expression to you would take a long time, since you are unfamiliar with such words and expressions, and were I to do so it would fill an entire book. But since time is short I will briefly provide a word-for-word translation[11] so that you will understand the general meaning. He says: Praise be to God who has adorned the book of existence with the mystery of distinction through degrees, for it is through such differences that the world of existence is adorned. If all things were of one kind and there were no distinctions, existence would be imperfect. The realm of God and the realm of creation, the realm above and the realm below, the realm of truth and the realm of illusion: All these distinctions are among the inherent requirements of existence. He then says that the book of existence is adorned with that Point wherefrom the letter Há’ appears and the letter Alif is manifested. And in the same book he explains in numerous passages that the Point is the letter Bá’. And when the letters Bá’, Há’, and Alif are brought together it makes “Bahá.”
Siyyid Káẓim also spoke of triliterals and quadriliterals. A triliteral is a word comprising three letters, such as “‘Alí”, and a quadriliteral is a word comprising four, such as “Muḥammad”.[12] When these two are combined it makes “‘Alí-Muḥammad”, which is the blessed name of the Báb. In numerous passages of the same book he explicitly refers to the Báb and extols Him with boundless laudations and attributes, saying that the mysteries of all that has been and all that shall be are found in Him. He also says that all the inner truths and meanings of the Sacred Scriptures are enfolded and allusively expressed in the verse “Bismi’lláhi’r-Raḥmáni’r-Raḥím” (In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate), that all the meanings of “Bismi’lláh” (in the name of God) are encapsulated and comprehended in the letter Bá’, which is the sum total of all truths and mysteries, and that the Bá’ refers to Bahá’u’lláh.
The late Siyyid had asked the illustrious Shaykh to expound in some way that Hidden Mystery. The Shaykh wrote in reply: “There must needs be a Seat for this Cause and a Place for every Announcement.” That is, this Cause upon which we have embarked has a designated Seat and Centre, and every Announcement must be established from a given place, meaning a centre wherein it is realized. Then he said: “I can say no more; I can appoint no time. ‘His Cause will be made known after a while (Ḥín)’.”[13] That is, I cannot specify that determined Centre and cannot explicitly say Who He is. Then he cites this verse of the Qur’án: “His Cause will be made known after a while (Ḥín).”[14] The preceding verse is “He, verily, is naught but a Remembrance unto all the worlds.” In the Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, the Báb refers to Himself as “the Remembrance of God”. The august Shaykh intimates here that that “Seat and Centre” is “the Remembrance of God”, and that the verse “His Cause will be made known after a while (Ḥín)” means that you will grasp whatsoever that intended Centre will announce and proclaim after “Ḥín”. Now, according to the abjad reckoning, “Ḥín” is equivalent to sixty-eight and “after Ḥín” is sixty-nine, the year of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation.[15] The substance of these words is that whatsoever that Remembrance of God will announce and intimate will become clear and manifest in the year after Ḥín, that is, in the year sixty-nine.
As a result of the passionate encouragement of the illustrious Shaykh to anticipate the advent of God and of his assertion of its imminence, and likewise as a result of the utterances of the illustrious Siyyid who night and day proclaimed the approach of that advent—going so far as to instruct his disciples one day to go forth and seek after their Master—Mullá Ḥusayn and some of the Siyyid’s other disciples set themselves to the search. And since a tradition had been reported that the Promised One would go to the mosque of Kúfih, they also went to that mosque and stayed there for a time, awaiting His advent. Even the illustrious Siyyid himself, at the close of his life, left Karbilá for a visit to Káẓimayn and Samarra and returned. In the course of his journey to Samarra, and in the village of Musayyib he spoke to his disciples of his own death. When his disciples began to weep and lament, crying out and beseeching him, he asked them: “Would ye not wish that I pass from this world, that your Master may appear?”
In brief, our meaning is that these two illustrious souls endowed their followers with the greatest receptivity. That is why after the passing of the late Siyyid his disciples sought with all their might after the Promised Beauty. Mullá Ḥusayn and some of his disciples departed from ‘Iráq, made for Persia, and were taken up with the search till they entered the city of Shíráz. As Mullá Ḥusayn had met the Báb before in Karbilá and knew Him, he became His guest. On the night of the fifth of Jamádíyu’l-Avval,[16] Mullá Ḥusayn was seated in the presence of the Báb, who was preparing the tea. As the Báb was serving the tea, He recited certain verses. Mullá Ḥusayn was amazed and astonished to hear a young man, with no religious education or training in the Arabic tongue, recite verses of the utmost eloquence and power, a feat which he could have never thought possible. This led to his awakening and allegiance. The following day he told his disciples and others that he had found the Object of their search and proceeded to describe and portray Him, but he concealed His identity and did not divulge His name. However, he so extolled His attributes that his disciples and the others were enthralled with this news and with unrelenting thirst continued to search for the life-giving waters. Finally, after a few days, he specified His blessed Name. A great commotion ensued. Seventeen people bore allegiance to Him, and the letter of Ṭáhirih, which was with a certain Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, was presented to the Báb. For Ṭáhirih had given him this letter and asked him to present it to the Promised One when once they had found Him. In that letter she had included the following ode, the opening of which reads:
The effulgence of Thy face flashed forth,
And the rays of Thy visage arose on high.
Then speak the word, ‘Am I not your Lord?’
And ‘Thou art, Thou art!’ we will all reply.[17]
Thus Ṭáhirih became the eighteenth believer. The Shí‘ihs believed in fourteen immaculate Souls and four Gates. The fourteen immaculate Souls are Muḥammad, Fáṭimih, and the twelve Imáms. The four Gates are the four individuals who succeeded one another as the leaders of the Shí‘ihs after the twelfth Imám. Thus these eighteen souls were appointed to match those eighteen—the main intent was the number. The Báb Himself was the nineteenth. Such is the basis of the number nineteen that has been mentioned in all the Books and Tablets of the Báb. The names of the Letters of the Living are as follows:
1 Mullá Ḥusayn
2 Muḥammad-Ḥasan, his brother
3 Muḥammad Báqir, his nephew
4 Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Basṭámí
5 Mullá Khudá-Bakhsh-i-Qúchání, later named Mullá ‘Alí
6 Mullá Ḥasan-i-Bajistání
7 Siyyid Ḥusayn-i-Yazdí
8 Mírzá Muḥammad Rawḍih-Khán
9 Sa‘íd-i-Hindí
10 Mullá Maḥmúd-i-Khu’í
11 Mullá Jalíl-i-Urúmí
12 Mullá Muḥammad-i-Ibdál-i-Marághi’í
13 Mullá Báqir-i-Tabrízí
14 Mullá Yúsuf-i-Ardibílí
15 Mírzá Hádí, son of Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Vahháb-i-Qazvíní
16 Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí-i-Qazvíní
17 Ṭáhirih
18 Quddús
The greatness and glory of most of these Letters of the Living resides solely in the fact that they professed their faith at the very beginning. Among them and in terms of importance, a few souls occupy a primary position—Mullá Ḥusayn, Quddús, and Ṭáhirih; a few other blessed souls occupy a secondary position; and the rest are honoured solely for having believed in the very beginning—two of them even, like Judas Iscariot, recanted their faith later.
After the blessed person of the Báb came to light and His fame spread, Mullá Ḥusayn unloosed his tongue and openly taught the Faith, and was charged to go to other provinces and teach. These in short are the events surrounding the declaration of allegiance of Mullá Ḥusayn and the other Letters of the Living.
–11–
The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh
Question: On what date did the dawning of the Sun of Truth and the advent of the Blessed Beauty take place?
Answer: From the beginning of His childhood Bahá’u’lláh was possessed of such astonishing qualities, signs, and utterances as to amaze every soul. All the dignitaries of Persia would say: “This youth is wrought of a rare substance”, and everyone, even the enemies and the envious, bore witness to His knowledge, grace, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, and perception. Among other things, it was acknowledged by all that He had neither entered a school nor received a religious education. Nonetheless, His knowledge and perfections were well recognized. The learned men of Persia would submit to Him the difficult questions that perplexed their minds, and He would resolve them. To this day, and in spite of their hostility, the dignitaries of Persia bear witness to this matter.
In sum, no one, whether in Persia or even throughout the East, denies Bahá’u’lláh’s knowledge, perfection, greatness, and ability. At most they claim that this Man subverted the foundations of the Law of God, that by means of His shrewdness, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, eloquence, and sagacity He led astray a vast multitude, and that He thus undermined the perspicuous religion of God. But they do not deny His greatness.
Thus, from the very beginning of the Revelation of the Báb, the believers were humble and lowly before Bahá’u’lláh, looked to Him for guidance, and were drawn to Him with a heartfelt attraction. But at Badasht the greatness and majesty of Bahá’u’lláh were manifested to a further degree. There, a number of believers developed a particular devotion and became wholly attracted to Him. Whoever met Him and heard His words would be transformed and enthralled, and could do naught but surrender his will and become aflame with the fire of the love of God.
During His final days in Ṭihrán, prior to the journey to Baghdád, some of the believers, such as Muḥammad Taqí Khán, Sulaymán Khán, Jináb-i-‘Aẓím, Mírzá ‘Alí-Muḥammad, Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Fattáḥ, and Mírzá ‘Abdu’l-Vahháb—all of whom were to be later martyred—as well as Mírzá Ḥusayn Kirmání and many other souls, perceived that Bahá’u’lláh occupied a transcendent station and became convinced that He was a Manifestation of God. Bahá’u’lláh had composed an ode from which the fragrance of a heavenly station could be perceived, the opening of which reads: “’Tis from Our rapture that the clouds of realms above are raining down.” All the friends would recite that ode with the utmost fervour and attraction, and all accepted its purport—not a soul voiced an objection. That ode was indeed most enthralling.
The first person who recognized the sublimity and holiness of Bahá’u’lláh and became certain that He would manifest a momentous Cause was Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Qazvíní, whom the Báb had named Mírzá Aḥmad. He was the intermediary between the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and was aware of the truth of the matter.[18]
After coming to Baghdád from Persia, Bahá’u’lláh declared to a certain extent the nature of His mission in the ninth year after the appearance of the Báb, and became known among the friends as the appearance of Ḥusayn. For the people of Persia believed that the appearance of the promised Mahdi must be followed by that of Ḥusayn, that is, of Imám Ḥusayn the martyr, to whom they are indeed most attached and bear the greatest allegiance.
Now, in all His Books and Scriptures, the Báb heralded that which was to transpire in the year nine. Among them, there abound expressions such as: “In the year nine ye shall attain unto all good.” And such statements as “In the year nine ye shall ...”, and “Then ye shall ...”, and “Then ye shall ...” are numerous. Likewise, He says: “Wait thou until nine will have elapsed from the time of the Bayán. Then exclaim: ‘Blessed, therefore, be God ...’” In sum, the tidings of the Báb regarding the year nine are such as to defy all description. Nevertheless certain souls faltered, among them Mírzá Yaḥyá, Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání, and a few others. The Sermon of Salutations (Khuṭbiy-i-Ṣalavát) was revealed in the year nine, and likewise the commentary on the verse of the Qur’án “All food was allowed to the children of Israel except what Israel forbade itself” (Lawḥ-i-Kullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám) issued forth in that same year.
Perceiving the covert rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá and others, Bahá’u’lláh journeyed alone to Sulaymáníyyih and was absent for two years. During that time, Mírzá Yaḥyá was acting with utmost caution behind a veil of concealment and, fearing the attention of the General Consul of Persia in Baghdád, disguised himself, took the name of Ḥájí ‘Alí, and engaged in selling shoes and plaster in Baṣrah and in Súqu’sh-Shuyúkh in the vicinity of Baghdád. The Cause became entirely quiescent, the Call ceased to be heard, and all name and trace thereof well-nigh vanished.
During His sojourn in Sulaymáníyyih, Bahá’u’lláh penned a number of works, among them certain prayers of which copies are still extant, and certain epistles on mystical wayfaring addressed to the doctors and the learned men of Islám, which are likewise still extant. In those epistles certain teachings are expounded, among them words to this effect: “Were it not contrary to the perspicuous Law of God, I would have given my would-be murderer to be my heir. But what am I to do—I have no worldly possessions, nor hath it been thus decreed by His sovereign will.”
In any event, all the doctors and learned men of Sulaymáníyyih attested to the knowledge, attainments, and perfections of Bahá’u’lláh and developed an affection for His person; that is, they would say that this Man was unique and ranked among the chosen ones of God.
When Bahá’u’lláh returned from Sulaymáníyyih, He illumined Baghdád with His light: The call of God was raised anew and a tumult arose in Persia. In Baghdád Bahá’u’lláh stood firm before all peoples. The government of Persia was extremely hostile in those days, and all were seeking by every means to cause Him suffering and to bring Him to harm. At last the Persian government, having grown alarmed at His influence, said: “Baghdád is close to Persia and is a place of passage for the Persians. Thus, in order to put out this fire Bahá’u’lláh must be banished to a distant land.” The Persian government then petitioned the Ottoman government, and Bahá’u’lláh was as a result transferred with all due honour out of Baghdád. Leaving the city, Bahá’u’lláh went to the garden of Najíb Páshá and resided there for twelve days. During that time many people, both high and low, and even the Governor and a number of other officials, attained His blessed presence. These are the twelve days of Riḍván. In any event, it was by means of hints and allusions that Bahá’u’lláh first declared His mission during those twelve days. Certain among the friends grasped His intent, but others did not fully understand. At last Bahá’u’lláh came to Constantinople and the Súrih of pilgrimage was revealed, wherein the instruction is given to circumambulate the House of Baghdád. In that Súrih the Cause is openly manifest, but the phrase “He Whom God shall make manifest” does not appear.
Subsequently, the Persian government caused Bahá’u’lláh to be further banished to Adrianople. From there numerous Tablets were revealed day and night to the effect that “Since We have been expelled from our homeland and banished from Baghdád to a remote place, that the fire of the love of God might be quenched, the lamp of guidance extinguished, the banner of God hauled down, and the call of the True One silenced, We have therefore chosen to fully reveal the Cause, manifest the proof, raise the call, and hoist the banner of the Cause of God, that all may see that this persecution, enmity, banishment, and exile has only deepened the influence of the Word of God, that the fame of the Cause has been noised abroad, and that the tidings of the advent of the Kingdom of God have reached unto both East and West.” This universal declaration took place in the year 1280. All the friends, with the exception of Yaḥyá and a few of his followers, became firm and devoted believers, and from Adrianople Tablets would ceaselessly flow to Persia.
This is an account, in summary form, of the Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh.
–12–
Christ and Bahá’u’lláh
Some have asserted that, while mighty signs and marvellous deeds have appeared from Bahá’u’lláh, through which His greatness shines forth as resplendent as the sun, yet the Revelation of Christ is superior to and incommensurate with His.
Indeed the signs of greatness in Christ are beyond the ken of mortal mind and the grasp of human imagination. And indeed we are most humble and lowly before His sweet and beauteous countenance, and we love Him with all our heart and soul; nay, should it be called for and should divine confirmations assist us, we would readily lay down our lives for His sake. For we regard Him in the light of true greatness and bear allegiance to His truth. But should attention be drawn to this assertion, we will, in all sincerity and love, reply to their objection in the following manner.
Christ was raised among the people of Israel, who lived under Roman rule. Now, in those days the Romans were world-renowned for their attainments in every field of human civilization, and so it would not be a cause of great wonder if an eloquent utterance or a novel teaching were to issue from Christ. Bahá’u’lláh, by contrast, appeared in Persia, where useful sciences were entirely lacking, except insofar as religious laws and theological studies were concerned. And thus the appearance of these divine teachings, of these mighty and momentous signs, from such an individual and in such a land, is indeed cause for wonder.
Moreover, the words and verses of Christ, when taken altogether, would comprise at most ten pages, whereas if the verses of Bahá’u’lláh were gathered together from beginning to end, they would fill several trunks. Aside from this, the utterances of Christ in the Gospel are solely concerned with spiritual admonitions and with the improvement and rectification of human character, whereas the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh encompass manifold expressions of wisdom and inner meaning, realities and sciences, counsels and admonitions, and explanations and exegeses of the Sacred Scriptures of old.
At the time of His ascension, Christ had raised up twelve men and four women. There were to be sure a few others beside these, but they had not reached the station of certitude. And among these twelve men, one became His sworn enemy: Judas Iscariot, who, notwithstanding his position as the chief of the Apostles, arose to have Him killed. The most prominent among the remaining eleven was Peter, and even he failed to stand firm in the face of trials, since, according to the explicit text of the Gospel, he thrice denied Christ at the hour of His martyrdom, to the point of entirely recanting his faith in the last instance. It was only after the cock crowed that he was reawakened and made contrite and repentant. Whereas from the inception of this Cause to the present day, perhaps close to twenty thousand men, women, and children have offered up their lives in the path of God. Many of them, under the threat of the sword, raised the cry of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” Many were told that, if they publicly recanted their faith, they would keep both their lives and their possessions, and yet they answered with the cry of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” Thus, at the time of Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, more than two hundred thousand souls had taken shelter beneath His blessed shadow and had attained the station of certitude. The renown of Christ did not even reach, in His own lifetime, Assyria, Chaldea, Asia Minor, or the regions of Syria, whereas Bahá’u’lláh’s renown, in His own lifetime, had spread throughout East and West.
Christ was not widely known among the people—most would not recognize Him—and He would travel from village to village and from wilderness to wilderness; and so it was that when they set out to arrest Him they knew not where to find Him or how to recognize Him. Judas Iscariot came to them and said: “I will show Him to you.” They said: “When we enter that place, how will we know who is Christ?” Judas said: “The one whom I will kiss is Christ.” Bahá’u’lláh, however, was standing visibly and openly before His foes, was known to all, and withstood the onslaught of a mighty nation. The enemy arrayed against Christ was the feeble Jewish nation which suffered under Roman rule and which, like the present-day Jews of Tiberias and Safed, was a subjugated people. Bahá’u’lláh’s enemies, however, were the adherents of one of the most powerful nations of the world. When Christ was taken before the court, He was asked: “Art thou the King of the Jews?” And He replied in all meekness: “Thou sayest it.”[19] But, in the great assemblage of Ṭihrán, the voice of Bahá’u’lláh was raised in address to the highest heaven.[20]
This is the truth of the matter. Consider it and ask the deniers to judge with fairness, to forsake blind prejudice, and to apprehend the truth by inference from the Sacred Scriptures. For instance, were you to tell the Christian clergy today that Christ was not known to the people during His own lifetime, they would be most astonished and deny it—whereas it is explicitly recorded in the Gospel that Judas Iscariot accepted what indeed was a paltry sum to reveal the whereabouts of Christ, and that since none among the crowd could recognize Him, he said that whoever he would kiss was Christ and was to be arrested. And so it came to pass.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Convey warmest, most loving greetings to Mark Tobey on my behalf, and heartfelt affection to Marguerite Bull.[21] What a sacred task is hers, serving helpless children! I ask God to assist her.
As for thee, obey the Convention[22], travel for a time, and teach. After that, work to perfect thine art. For it is incumbent upon thee both to obey the Convention, and to perfect thine art.
I rejoice to hear that thou takest pains with thine art, for in this wonderful new age, art is worship. The more thou strivest to perfect it, the closer wilt thou come to God. What bestowal could be greater than this, that one’s art should be even as the act of worshipping the Lord? That is to say, when thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Shouldst thou recite any of the revealed prayers, and seek assistance from God with thy face turned towards Him, and implore Him with devotion and fervour, thy need will be answered.
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
He is God!
O thou dear handmaid of God!
Thy letter dated 6 April 1906 hath been received. Thou hast written that Mrs. Mann hath regained her health. God be praised, this daughter of the Kingdom hath attained unto spiritual health. A disaster to the body, when spiritual health is present, is of no importance. That is the main thing. God be thanked, she hath attained that great bestowal; she hath taken on immortal life.
It is to be regretted, however, that her husband is still wrapped in the veils of his idle imaginings. If her dear daughter Margaret be trained according to the instructions of God, she will grow to be a peerless plant in the garden of the heart. It is incumbent upon the father to choose for his daughter the glory that dieth not. Nevertheless, this is up to him; he may educate her in any way he desireth.
As to what thou didst ask regarding the history of the philosophers: history, prior to Alexander of Greece, is extremely confused, for it is a fact that only after Alexander did history become an orderly and systematized discipline. One cannot, for this reason, rely upon traditions and reported historical events that have come down from before the days of Alexander. This is a matter thoroughly established, in the view of all authoritative historians. How many a historical account was taken as fact in the eighteenth century, yet the opposite was proved true in the nineteenth. No reliance, then, can be placed upon the traditions and reports of historians which antedate Alexander, not even with regard to ascertaining the lifetimes of leading individuals.
Wherefore ye should not be surprised that the Tablet of Wisdom is in conflict with the historical accounts. It behoveth one to reflect a while on the great diversity of opinion among the historians, and their contradictory accounts; for the historians of East and West are much at odds, and the Tablet of Wisdom was written in accordance with certain histories of the East.
Furthermore, the Torah, held to be the most ancient of histories, existeth today in three separate versions: the Hebrew, considered authentic by the Jews and the Protestant clergy; the Greek Septuagint, which is used as authoritative in the Greek and other Eastern churches; and the Samaritan Torah, the standard authority for that people. These three versions differ greatly, one from another, even with regard to the lifetimes of the most celebrated figures.
In the Hebrew Torah, it is recorded that from Noah’s flood until the birth of Abraham there was an interval of two hundred and ninety-two years. In the Greek, that time-span is given as one thousand and seventy-two years, while in the Samaritan, the recorded span is nine hundred and forty-two years. Refer to the commentary by Henry Westcott,[23] for tables are supplied therein which show the discrepancies among the three Torahs as to the birthdates of a number of the descendants of Shem, and thou wilt see how greatly the versions differ one from another.
Moreover, according to the text of the Hebrew Torah, from the creation of Adam until Noah’s flood the elapsed time is recorded as one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years, while in the Greek Torah the interval is given as two thousand two hundred and sixty-two years, and in the Samaritan text, the same period is said to have lasted one thousand three hundred and seven years.
Reflect thou now over the discrepancies among these three Torahs. The case is indeed surprising. The Jews and Protestants belittle the Greek Torah, while to the Greeks, the Hebrew version is spurious, and the Samaritans deny both the Hebrew and the Greek versions.
Our purpose is to show that even in Scriptural history, the most outstanding of all histories, there are contradictions as to the time when the great ones lived, let alone as to dates related to others. And furthermore, learned societies in Europe are continually revising the existing records, both of East and West. In spite of this, how can the confused accounts of peoples dating from before Alexander be compared with the Holy Text of God? If any scholar expresses astonishment, let him be surprised at the discrepancies in Scriptural history.
Nevertheless, Holy Writ is authoritative, and with it no history of the world can compare, for experience hath shown that after investigation of the facts and a thorough study of ancient records and corroborative evidence, all have referred back to the Holy Scriptures. The most important thing is to establish the validity of God’s universal Manifestation; once His claim proveth true, then whatsoever He may choose to say is right and correct.
The histories prior to Alexander, which were based on oral accounts current among the people, were put together later on. There are great discrepancies among them, and certainly they can never hold their own against Holy Writ. It is an accepted fact among historians themselves that these histories were compiled after Alexander, and that prior to his time history was transmitted by word of mouth. Note how extremely confused was the history of Greece, so much so that to this day there is no agreement on the dates related to the life of Homer, Greece’s far-famed poet. Some even maintain that Homer never existed at all, and that the name is a fabrication.
A letter hath been addressed to Mr. Sprague, thou wilt find it enclosed.
It is my hope that through the favour and grace of the Abhá Beauty, thou wilt fully recover thy health, and engage in serving the Cause with all thy might. I am aware that thou art much afflicted, and in extreme distress; but if we taste a drop from affliction’s cup, the Blessed Beauty drank down a sea of anguish, and once we call this to mind, then every hardship turneth into peaceful rest, and toil into merciful bliss. Then will a draught of agony be but refreshing wine, and the tyrant’s wound only a friend’s most gentle balm. Greetings be unto thee, and praise.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Know thou that before maturity man liveth from day to day and comprehendeth only such matters as are superficial and outwardly obvious. However, when he cometh of age he understandeth the realities of things and the inner truths. Indeed, in his comprehension, his feelings, his deductions and his discoveries, every day of his life after maturity is equal to a year before it.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Know ye that the Torah is what was revealed in the Tablets unto Moses, may peace be upon Him, and in that which He was commanded to do. But the stories are historical narratives and were written after Moses, may peace be upon Him.... The glorious Book, the Mighty Decree, is what was in the Tablets which Moses, upon Him be peace, brought from Mt. Sinai, and that which He proclaimed unto the Children of Israel, in accordance with the explicit text of those Tablets.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
It is the wish of my heart and soul that the Sun of the divine heavens will shine with such splendour and beauty in that country that India will become a rose-garden.... India will sweeten the palates with delectable sweetness, will mingle ambergris and musk, and mix milk with honey.
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Paris
The Friends of God,
Upon them rest the glory of God, the All-Glorious!
He is God!
O loved ones of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!
Praise be to God! The fragrances of holiness are spread abroad. The pearls of bounty are scattered everywhere. The light of guidance is resplendent. The morning-star of the Concourse on High ascendeth. The cloud of mercy raineth down. The sun of bestowal blazeth and dazzleth. The wind of providence bloweth, and the fragrances of the Abhá Paradise nourish souls in the North and South. The East is illumined, and the West scented with roses. The world is perfumed with musk. Blessed is he who hath illumined his eyes by beholding these splendours and whose soul hath become a garden through inhaling this musk-scented breeze.
O loved ones of God! Now is the time to be drunk with the cup of the Covenant. Rend your garments in love for the beauty of the All-Merciful. In the banquet of the Covenant seize ye the chalice of divine knowledge. Drunk and yearning, raise up a song of the purity and sanctity of the Living, the Almighty God, till East and West are bewitched, and North and South set ablaze.
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
O flame of the love of God! The ray must shed light and the sun must rise; the full moon must shine and the star must gleam. Since thou art a ray, beseech thou the Lord to enable thee to give illumination and enlightenment, to brighten the horizons and to consume the world with the fire of the love of God. I hope that thou mayest attain such a station, nay, surpass it. Upon thee be His glory.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
It may be that letters addressed to the women believers do indeed contain certain passages written by way of encouragement, but the purpose of such passages is to show that, in this wondrous Dispensation, certain women have outshone certain men—not that all women have excelled all men! The members of the Spiritual Assembly should do all they can to give encouragement to the women. In this Dispensation one should not think in terms of “men” and “women”: all are under the shadow of the Word of God and, as they strive more diligently, so shall their reward be greater—be they men or women or the frailest of people.... As for the large number of Tablets addressed to women enjoining them to teach the Cause: since the letters arriving in the Holy Land come for the most part from women, and only rarely from men, it is natural that women should be written to more frequently than men....
As to thy question: “To whom should we turn?”—turn thou to the Ancient Beauty. God willing, a copy of His blessed portrait will in due course be despatched to thee so that when offering prayer thou mayest turn thyself in spirit towards that Holy Likeness, and not towards some mere figment of the imagination. Know thou, however, that at no time should His blessed portrait be hung in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár.
As regards the question of young children and of weak, defenseless souls who are afflicted at the hands of the oppressor, in this a great wisdom is concealed. The question is one of cardinal importance, but briefly it may be stated that in the world to come a mighty recompense awaiteth such souls. Much, indeed, might be said upon this theme, and upon how the afflictions that they bear in life become a cause for them of such an outpouring of Divine mercy and bestowal as is preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts and to a world of growth and development in this transitory abode; but, if possible, God willing, all this will be explained to thee in detail and by word of mouth when thou arrivest here.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Know thou that the distinction between male and female is an exigency of the physical world and hath no connection with the spirit; for the spirit and the world of the spirit are sanctified above such exigencies, and wholly beyond the reach of such changes as befall the physical body in the contingent world. In former ages, men enjoyed ascendancy over women because bodily might reigned supreme and the spirit was subject to its dominion. In this radiant age, however, since the power of the spirit hath transcended that of the body and assumed its ascendancy, authority and dominion over the human world, this physical distinction hath ceased to be of consequence; and, as the sway and influence of the spirit have become apparent, women have come to be the full equals of men. Today, therefore, there is no respect or circumstance in which a person’s sex provideth grounds for the exercise of either discrimination or favour.
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
O ye sons and daughters of the Kingdom!
Your letter dated September 30 of this year hath been received, and from the contents it became clear and evident that the fire of the love of God hath burst into a flame in that region — a flame that can illumine the whole world and transform the East and the West into a field for the knights of the Kingdom.
Consider how all the peoples of the world are slumbering upon the couch of negligence, but praise be to God, ye have been awakened. All men remain sunk in heedlessness, but ye have become quick of apprehension. They are deprived of the blessings of the Kingdom, but ye are among the well-favoured. Neither the crow nor the raven can take part in the delights of a sparkling rose-garden; the charm and perfection of the rose are as nourishment to the impassioned nightingale endowed with a melodious voice. The realm of the Kingdom is like the fountain of life and ye are as the fish, sore athirst and restless.
Render ye thanks unto God, inasmuch as in the Day of the advent of the Kingdom ye have drawn so nigh unto His court and are so greatly favoured at the Threshold of the loving Lord. Therefore it behoveth you to strive with heart and soul so that the human world may shine resplendent, that the basis of hatred and antagonism may be wiped out from the earth and that all mankind may live together in unity and harmony, with the utmost love and fellowship.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
In ancient times the people of America were, through their northern regions, close to Asia, that is, separated from Asia by a strait. For this reason, it hath been said that crossing had occurred. There are other signs which indicate communication.
As to places whose people were not informed of the appearance of Prophets, such people are excused. In the Qur’án it hath been revealed: “We will not chastise them if they had not been sent a Messenger.”[24]
Undoubtedly in those regions the Call of God must have been raised in ancient times, but it hath been forgotten now.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
The Bayán hath been superseded by the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, except in respect of such laws as have been confirmed and mentioned in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The Book to which the Bahá’ís turn is the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, not the Bayán.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
I eagerly anticipate the day when New York will become a blessed spot from which the call to steadfastness in the Covenant of God will go forth to every part of the world, thus making that city outstanding from every point of view.
Bless Thou, O King of Kings, the city of New York! Cause the friends there to be kind to one another. Purify their souls and make their hearts to be free and detached. Illumine the world of their consciousness. Exhilarate their spirits and bestow celestial power and confirmation upon them. Establish there a heavenly realm, so that the City of Bahá may prosper and New York be favoured with blessings from the Abhá Kingdom, that this region may become like the all-highest Paradise, may develop into a vineyard of God and be transformed into a heavenly orchard and a spiritual rose-garden.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
The question of economics must commence with the farmer and then be extended to the other classes inasmuch as the number of farmers is far greater than all other classes. Therefore, it is fitting to begin with the farmer in matters related to economics for the farmer is the first active agent in human society. In brief, from among the wise men in every village a board should be set up and the affairs of that village should be under the control of that board. Likewise a general storehouse should be founded with the appointment of a secretary. At the time of the harvest, under the direction of that board, a certain percentage of the entire harvest should be appropriated for the storehouse.
The storehouse has seven revenues: Tithes, taxes on animals, property without an heir, all lost objects found whose owners cannot be traced, one third of all treasure-trove, one third of the produce of all mines, and voluntary contributions.
This storehouse also has seven expenditures:
1. General running expenses of the storehouse, such as the salary of the secretary and the administration of public health.
2. Tithes to the government.
3. Taxes on animals to the government.
4. Costs of running an orphanage.
5. Costs of running a home for the incapacitated.
6. Costs of running a school.
7. Payment of subsidies to provide needed support of the poor.
The first revenue is the tithe. It should be collected as follows: If, for instance, the income of a person is five hundred dollars and his necessary expenses are the same, no tithes will be collected from him. If another’s expenses are five hundred dollars while his income is one thousand dollars, one tenth will be taken from him, for he hath more than his needs; if he giveth one tenth of the surplus, his livelihood will not be adversely affected. If another’s expenses are one thousand dollars, and his income is five thousand dollars, as he hath four thousand dollars surplus he will be required to give one and a half tenths. If another person hath necessary expenses of one thousand dollars, but his income is ten thousand dollars, from him two tenths will be required for his surplus represents a large sum. But if the necessary expenses of another person are four or five thousand dollars, and his income one hundred thousand, one fourth will be required from him. On the other hand, should a person’s income be two hundred, but his needs absolutely essential for his livelihood be five hundred dollars, and provided he hath not been remiss in his work or his farm hath not been blessed with a harvest, such a one must receive help from the general storehouse so that he may not remain in need and may live in comfort.
A certain amount must be put aside from the general storehouse for the orphans of the village and a certain sum for the incapacitated. A certain amount must be provided from this storehouse for those who are needy and incapable of earning a livelihood, and a certain amount for the village’s system of education. And, a certain amount must be set aside for the administration of public health. If anything is left in the storehouse, that must be transferred to the general treasury of the nation for national expenditures.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
O ye beloved friends of God and handmaids of the Merciful!
Call ye to mind the blessed Name of our peerless Beloved, the Abhá Beauty, in an uplifting spirit of unbounded ecstasy and delight, then unloose your tongues in His praise in such wise that the realm of the heart may be purged from the woes and sorrows of the world of water and clay, that the great heights of spiritual perception may be unveiled before your eyes, that the glorious signs of His Divine Unity may shine resplendent, a fresh outpouring of His grace may stream forth, and a liberal effusion of celestial confirmations may be vouchsafed unto you.
His Name is indeed the healing medicine for every illness, and imparteth warmth unto those chilled with cold. It is the sovereign remedy and the supreme talisman. It is the source of life in both worlds, and of salvation unto such as have gone astray. Today this hallowed Name serveth as a shield for all mankind, and as a veritable refuge for the children of men. It is the wondrous accent of the Lord of Mercy, and His celestial melody.
Wherefore, O faithful friends, raise ye the triumphal cry of Yá-Bahá’u’l-Abhá! O ye who yearn after the Beauty of the Almighty! Lift up your faces toward the Supreme Horizon. Rest not, even for a moment. Breathe not a single breath save in remembrance of His love and in recognition of His grace, in the promulgation of His Utterances and the vindication of His Testimonies.
Verily, this is the Magnet of divine confirmations. This is the mighty Force which will surely attract heavenly assistance.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
The Ancient Beauty[25] — may my life be offered up for His loved ones — did not to outward seeming meet His Holiness, the Exalted One[26] — may my life be a sacrifice unto Him.
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Praise be to God that ye are present in this radiant assemblage and have turned your faces toward the Kingdom of Abhá! That which ye behold is from the grace and bounty of the Blessed Perfection. We are as atoms and He is the Sun of Truth. We are as drops and He is the Most Great Ocean. Poor are we, yet the outpouring of the treasury of the Kingdom is boundless. Weak are we, yet the confirmation of the Supreme Concourse is abundant. Helpless are we, yet our refuge and shelter is Bahá’u’lláh.
Praise be to God! His signs are evident.
Praise be to God! His light is shining.
Praise be to God! His ocean is surging.
Praise be to God! His radiance is intense.
Praise be to God! His bestowals are abundant.
Praise be to God! His favours are manifest.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The Morn of Guidance hath dawned.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The Sun of Truth hath shone forth.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The breeze of favour hath wafted.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The showers of the clouds of divine bounty have poured down.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The Sun of the supreme horizon hath shed its radiance upon all the world with boundless effulgence.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The hearts of all are in the utmost purity.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! His all-encompassing splendour hath been revealed.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The celestial concourse is astir.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! Zion is rapt in ecstasy.
Glad tidings! Glad tidings! The Kingdom of God is filled with exultation and joy.[27]
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
As for thy question concerning those righteous souls who passed away ere they heard the Call of this Revelation, know thou that those who ascended unto God ere they heard this Call, but who followed the precepts of Christ and walked in the Straight Path — these verily attained, after ascending to the Divine Kingdom, unto the Refulgent Light.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
The residence is under all conditions the property of the first-born son, irrespective of whether or not the deceased should have left behind him other property as well. The first-born son receiveth, moreover, his share of the remainder of the estate. This is that which God hath prescribed. The testator is, however, at liberty while still alive to dispose of his property in whatsoever manner he seeth fit. Likewise, the first-born son must himself, for the sake of God, take into consideration the other heirs, and be just and fair to them. In truth, it is obligatory for everyone, by the express requirement of the divine text, to draw up a will, so that it may be implemented after he hath passed away. This, verily, is the perspicuous truth. If, God forbid, he disobeyeth the divine command—faileth, that is, to draw up a will—then his estate must be divided up in the stipulated manner.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
As for the story of Adam, the Father of Mankind, which is recorded in the Sacred Scriptures, this requireth explanation and interpretation. By “genesis” is intended a spiritual creation and heavenly existence; for otherwise the most cursory reflection would be sufficient to convince even a child that this boundless universe, the world of being—this infinite cosmos, this prodigious system, this mighty and primordial workshop—is far more than six thousand years old, as hath in fact been realized in this illumined age by scientists and men of learning, on the basis of decisive proofs and evidences founded on both reason and discovery. In recent times remains have come to light which have been definitely and conclusively established to be more than ten thousand years old. Through the science of geology this hidden secret hath been grasped—that the age of the world surpasseth man’s conception. The one true God hath ever been the Possessor of all Names and Attributes, and the necessary concomitants of these Names and Attributes have likewise ever existed and shall continue to exist throughout eternity. He Who is the “Creator” requireth a creation, while He Who is the “Provider” requireth some object to provide for. A king, to be a king, must have a realm, an army, the insignia of sovereignty, the retinue and entourage of kingship. The sovereignty of God is everlasting; from time immemorial it hath existed, and at no time hath it been suspended. For a king bereft of troops and territory is a person of no consequence; and were One Who is the ‘All-Possessing’ to be entirely destitute, know then that no richer harvest would be reaped from His existence than from a fruitless cypress tree.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
O pilgrim of the Sacred Dust!
Render a myriad thanks unto the All-Glorious, Who hath guided thee on this path and enabled thee to attain the threshold of the Omniscient Lord, to find refuge within the stronghold of His favours, and to obtain that which is the ultimate hope and desire of all His chosen ones.
Now, as thou returnest to Ishqábád, thou must take with thee armfuls of flowers as a gift from the heavenly rose-garden that their sweet scent may perfume the nostrils and stir the senses of the youth. For these lovely youth are the children of the realms above and the tender plants of the all-highest Paradise. They are flowers and fragrant herbs in the garden of certitude, the jasmine and eglantine of the All-Merciful Lord. They have been nursed at the breast of Divine unity and nurtured in the bosom of the wondrous Cause of God. They have become fresh and verdant through the outpourings of the clouds of loving-kindness.
O youth of this century of God! In this new age, this century of the Glorious Lord, ye must be so attracted to the Blessed Beauty and so enthralled by the Beloved of the World that ye may become the embodiments of the truth of this verse:
I am lost, O Love, possessed and dazed,
Love’s fool am I, in all the earth.[28]
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
O ye two pilgrims of the Holy Shrine!
The news of your safe arrival in Paris was received and rejoiced my heart, as did the description of the love and devotion of the friends in Paris, who met you with exceeding joy and radiance, and who show forth the utmost love, faithfulness, and sincerity.
Speak openly of all the signs of the Kingdom of God that ye have witnessed with your own eyes and share with the utmost happiness and exultation all that ye have heard of the divine teachings. I fervently supplicate God to bring assurance to your souls and to raise you up with such steadfastness that each of you may withstand an entire nation. May you become so inebriated with the wine of the love of God that ye may cause your hearers to dance with blissful rapture to the song and melody of the love of God.
This is the time for gladness, the day of joy and exhilaration, for, praised be God, all doors are opened wide through the bounty of the Abhá Beauty. But high endeavour and self-sacrifice are needed and the concentration of one’s thoughts is required for the tree of hope to yield its fruit and results to be achieved.
Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Concerning the question of marriage and the stipulated period between the time of the engagement and the marriage, this is the decisive text of the Book of God and may not be interpreted. In the past, serious difficulties and problems arose when a long period of time elapsed between the engagement and the marriage. Now, according to the text of the Book, when marriage between the parties is arranged, i.e., when the parties become engaged, and it is certain that they will be married, not more than ninety-five days should elapse before the marriage takes place, during which period preparations for the dowry and other affairs may be made. The marriage ceremony must take place on the same night as its consummation, that is, there should be no interval of time between the ceremony and consummation. This is a clear text and is not subject to interpretation, so that the difficulties that arose in the past may not recur on account of interpretation.
A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
O ye two honourable souls!
Your letter was received and its contents noted. My heart was saddened to learn that those two respected persons, who were even as one soul, should now be separated and their affection turned into estrangement.
Although divorce is permissible, yet it is strongly abhorred and condemned in the sight of God. Divorce may only take place when no alternative is left, when the two parties feel aversion for each other and are in torment. Now, if such is the case, perform the divorce. However, after divorce is decided upon, ye must wait for one year for it to be effected. Should affection be renewed during this year of separation, it would be highly pleasing.
The Glory of Glories rest upon you both!
If divorce taketh place, the spiritual love and affection between you should increase, and ye should become like a brother and sister.
Notes
1An early translation published in Corinne True, Notes Taken at Acca (Chicago: Bahá’í Publishing Society, 1907).
2An early translation published in Corinne True, Notes Taken at Acca (Chicago: Bahá’í Publishing Society, 1907).
3An early translation published in Corinne True, Notes Taken at Acca (Chicago: Bahá’í Publishing Society, 1907) and Star of the West, volume 4, number 18, page 305.
4See Qur’án 2:185.
5Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, CLXXX.
6An early translation published in Corinne True, Notes Taken at Acca (Chicago: Bahá’í Publishing Society, 1907).
7An early translation published in Corinne True, Notes Taken at Acca (Chicago: Bahá’í Publishing Society, 1907).
8The uncle and father-in-law of Ṭáhirih.
9Mullá ‘Abdu’lláh; see The Dawn-Breakers, p. 276.
10See God Passes By, p. 97.
11That is, from Arabic into Persian.
12In Arabic, only consonants and long vowels are written, and the word “Muḥammad” is therefore spelled with the letters M, Ḥ, M, and D.
13See The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 17–18, and God Passes By, p. 97.
14Qur’án 38:88.
15The Islámic year 1269 began on 15 October 1852, the midpoint of Bahá’u’lláh’s four-month imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál. It was in this prison that Bahá’u’lláh received His Prophetic Mission.
1623 May 1844.
17See The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 81–82.
18See The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 162–69.
19Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3.
20Cf. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 648–49.
21The English equivalent of this name written in Persian by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is not certain.
22Probably the Eleventh Annual Convention of the Bahá’í Temple Unity, held at Hotel McAlpin, New York City, 26–30 April 1919, at which the Tablets of the Divine Plan were unveiled.
23The English equivalent of this name written in Persian by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is not certain.
24Qur’án 17:15
25Bahá’u’lláh.
26The Báb.
27A Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá chanted by Him, the recording of the latter part of which is played for Bahá’í pilgrims during their visit to the House of the Master in Haifa.
28Marzieh Gail’s translation, published in Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 22, 30.