The "Tablet" first appeared in Gleanings of the Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh (CXXV), from which fact readers got the impression that it was a separate tablet. This commentary begins at a point several paragraphs earlier in order to include colorful imagery and background concerning the City of God, also called the City of the Stainless Heart and the City of Certitude.
As in any Bahá'í personal interpretation, these comments are wholly the personal opinion of the author. The experience and knowledge of the author lies in Biblical and Bahá'í Writings. Much more could surely be said based on a knowledge of Islamic and particularly Sufi literatue and thought.
IQAN: O my brother!
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh in his humility addresses the seeker as brother, a peer. For the Manifestation of God to show such lowliness is indeed marvelous. Yet this humility is a natural consequence of God's self-revelation in human form.
IQAN: A divine Mine only can yield the gems of divine knowledge, and the fragrance of the
mystic Flower can be inhaled only in the ideal Garden, and the lilies of ancient wisdom can
blossom nowhere except in the city of a stainless heart.
Comment: One must search in the right place in order to find spiritual riches which are compared to gemstones, floral fragrance and lilies. Gems are appropriate symbols of spiritual wisdom. Small yet valuable. Treasure hunters spare no expense to acquire them. Yet due to their small size they are easily lost or overlooked.
"A stainless heart," that is a heart with pure motives, is the realm where the search for gems is conducted. Bahá'u'lláh is not saying that the heart yields only divine knowledge, e.g. is a pure source of knowledge, but rather that divine knowledge can be found only there. Similarly, the stainless heart is the soil in which the mystic flower and Lilies of ancient wisdom grow. The image of various qualities of soil producing corresponding spiritual responses to the seeds of the Word of God, is found in the New Testament, Qu'ran and Bahá'í Writings. More will be said later in the Tablet on the heart condition required of the true seeker.
IQAN: "In a rich soil, its plants spring forth abundantly by permission of its Lord, and in
that soil which is bad, they spring forth but scantily."
Comment: Quoted from the Quran 7:57 and reminiscent of Jesus' parable of the sower (Matthew 13). It is notable that even the bad soil can produce spiritual growth, even if scantily. Thus all souls have the capacity to know and love God.
IQAN: Inasmuch as it hath been clearly shown that only those who are initiated into the divine
mysteries can comprehend the melodies uttered by the Bird of Heaven, ...
Comment: Bird of heaven is probably a reference to both the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh as twin Manifestations. In order to understand the Nightingale's melodies, e.g. the spiritual message of the Prophets, one must be initiated and have acquired a basis understanding of how God speaks to humankind. Bahá'u'lláh goes on to describe the initiation process.
IQAN: ...it is therefore incumbent upon every one to seek enlightenment
from the illumined in heart and from the Treasuries of divine mysteries
regarding the intricacies of God's Faith and the abstruse allusions in the utterances of the Day-
springs of Holiness.
Comment: The seeker cannot acquire knowledge on his own. The divine message is directed toward the heart and is passed from one heart to another. The illumined heart of another must be experienced by the seeker before his own heart can become enlightened. Thus, a spiritual teacher is needed. That teacher provides instruction I the "intricacies of God's Faith" and its "abstruse allusions."
IQAN: Thus will these mysteries be unraveled, not by the aid of acquired learning,
Comment: A worldly education does not give one understanding of spiritual mysteries.
IQAN: ...but solely through the assistance of God and the outpourings of
His grace. "Ask ye, therefore, of them that have the custody of the Scriptures, if ye know it
Comment: Quran 16:43. God's blessing and direction are needed. Therefore pray and request the aid of those enlightened ones who hold the keys.
IQAN: But, O my brother, when a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the
path leading to the knowledge...
Comment: The Tablet of the True Seeker, which is really a portion of the Iqan that appeared in Gleanings (CXXV), begins here. The search is like a long arduous journey. The journey starts with at single step. Bahá'u'lláh will now describe the requisites of that step.
IQAN: ...of the Ancient of Days, ...
Comment: "Ancient of Days" is a Divine name. See Daniel 7.
IQAN: ...he must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart,
Comment: Cleansing is a process, generally involving vigorous scrubbing and rinsing with water. The water used to cleanse the heart is the Word of God.
IQAN: ...which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of
Comment: As stated above, the seeker's heart is what matters. It is the "Mine," "the soil" the "Seat of revelation." The heart must be prepared before it can provide lodging for the divine mysteries.
IQAN: ...from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge,
Comment: The heart must be cleansed of "dust," the knowledge that seekers carry with them into the search that can often be a hindrance. Preconceptions are like a cloud of dust that obscure new vision.
IQAN: ...and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy.
Comment: Another obstacle that must be cleansed from the heart are fanciful ideas with no reality. These can take on a life of their own and thus become "embodied" as if they were real. Such embodiments resist the acquisition of divine knowledge and thus are satanic. The Hebrew term for Satan, from which the Islamic concept of Satan was derived, comes from the root meaning "to resist." These demons of fanciful ideas are hurtful, and inflict the hellish pain of being separated from the joy of the divine presence.
IQAN: He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved,
Comment: The human breast which houses the heart, is a sanctuary, a holy temple, where the love of God abides. This house must also be purged and cleansed.
IQAN: ... of every defilement,...
Comment: Whatever defiles the heart makes it an unsuitable place for the divine presence.
IQAN: ...and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and
clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments.
Comment: Whatever distracts the seeker from his quest, although it is benign in and of itself must be set aside. Water and clay (earth) are the basic components of the world. Earthly things are mere shadows in relation to the glory of the gems of the divine Mine. Detachment requires sanctifying the soul from the short-lived allurements of the flesh.
IQAN: He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein,
lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth.
Comment: Many things that are ordinarily considered good can distract the seeker; love of one's family, friends, country, money, prestige, etc. Also animosities for people and ideas can prove to be impediments. One may find that the truth of God comes uncomfortably close to ideas or individuals for which one has a personal disdain.
IQAN: Even as thou dost witness in this day how most of the people, because of such love and
hate, are bereft of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the divine
mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion and error.
Comment: Attachments to the world whether loves or hates obscure the Beatific Vision and causes the masses to wander in a wilderness. The wilderness reference alludes to two traditional symbols: a) to a lost lamb wandering without a shepherd and b) to the wanderings of the Israelites in the Sinai and Trans-Jordan after their departure from Egypt. Bahá'u'lláh likens the present spiritual condition of the world to wandering in the lifeless desert. Attachment to the mundane things of life, either by loving or hating such things, keeps the masses from the Promised Land of Milk and Honey.
IQAN: That seeker must at all times put his trust in God, ...
Comment: God, like a shepherd, clearly knows what's best for the seeker and will lead her on the path, if she is willing to follow.
IQAN: ...must renounce the peoples of the earth, ...
Comment: That is, she must recognize the lesser importance of what people think or say.
IQAN: ... detach himself from the world of dust, ...
Comment: Compare: "O My Brother! A pure heart is as a mirror; cleanse it with the burnish of love and severance from all save God, that the true sun may shine within it and the eternal morning dawn. "
Nothing in the material world can rival the glory of God's Cause.
IQAN: ...and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords.
Comment: Having detached from the world, the seeker must attach to what is non- shadowy and non-ephemeral, namely, the One who is Master of All Things.
Next Bahá'u'lláh's sets out the parameters for personal conduct that is conducive to spiritual growth. Somewhat surprising in this discussion of purgation is the emphasis on correct speech and the omission of references to the sins of the Ten Commandments, such as idolatry, murder, stealing, or sexual misconduct. We must assume the reader is of the "righteous" for whom obedience to the basic ethical precepts may be taken for granted.
IQAN: He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, ...
Comment: Of all the behaviors that obstruct spiritual growth and veil the knowledge of God, Bahá'u'lláh puts self-exaltation at the head of the list. By placing one's own reputation, comfort, happiness or safety ahead of those of others, the would-be seeker creates or reinforces an already existing vertical structure to interpersonal relationships where individuals struggle to be on top, superior, best. This struggle undermines the spirit of brotherhood and unity that is the central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message.
Perhaps more critical that the social harm caused by self-exaltation, is the effect it has on one's search for God. An exaggerated attachment to self distracts one from God by putting oneself, rather than the Lord of Lords at the center of inner life.
IQAN: ...must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory,
Comment: Conceit, haughtiness, pride, vanity are attitudes that are destructive of one's relationship with God. The desire for to be glorified seen by others as a superior person are a stain upon the heart that must be washed away.
IQAN: ...must cling unto patience...
Comment: Impatience is often driven by a desire that things be done "my way" and a lack of tolerance for the attitudes, styles, mistakes and quirks of other people. Thus impatience is a form of self- exaltation. Patience, however, honors others.
IQAN: ...and resignation, ...
Comment: Resignation, a necessary corollary of patience, is acceptance of things that are other than what we prefer.
IQAN: ...observe silence, ...
Comment: When an individual "needs" to speak first, last, most dramatically or otherwise "needs" to control conversations, that individual is in effect exalting himself over others. The ability to be silent and allow matters to unfold as they will enhances the cultivation of patience and resignation.
IQAN: ...and refrain from idle talk.
Comment: At best idle talk is a waste of time. At worst, it degenerates into entertainment with bragging (which exalts the speaker), competitive storytelling ("My story is better than your story.") or gossip (which denigrates others).
IQAN: For the tongue is a smouldering fire, ...
Comment: Slander, lies, thoughtless remarks, idle chatter etc. are destructive to the spiritual life. Reminiscent of James 3:3-12, particularly verses 5-6, "...Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue likewise is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person." Compare Qu'ran 36:64-65. Bahá'u'lláh reference to a smouldering rather than a blazing fire perhaps points to the tongue's apparent innocuousness.
IQAN: ...and excess of speech a deadly poison.
Comment: Like fire, a small amount of poison does great harm. Compare James 3:8.
IQAN: Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart
Comment: Spiritual damage is of greater significance than physical burns. The hurtful effects of improper speech effect both what a person is in this world (the heart) as well as the next (the soul).
IQAN: The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a
Comment: Due to its impact on the soul, the fiery tongue can do more lasting damage and take more time to heal than a literal burn.
IQAN: That seeker should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof
from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth
the life of the soul.
Comment: Backbiting and gossip exaggerate the mistakes and weaknesses of others, real or imagined. It is a failure to demonstrate love and forgiveness. The result is a darkening of the light of heart which is the seat of godly love and a lessening in the vitality of the spiritual life.
IQAN: He should be content with little, ...
Comment: Great material wealth distracts from the spiritual life as one's attention is diverted to the acquisition, care, use and protection of things.
IQAN: ...and be freed from all inordinate desire.
Comment: Besides the accumulation of wealth, other appetites can distract the seeker, such as physical pleasures, cravings for prestige, success, recognition, etc.
IQAN: He should treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world,
Comment: In lieu of material possessions, the seeker should treasure companions who have a spiritual orientation, and are free from the immoderate desires common to humans.
IQAN: ...and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.
Comment: Another precious item among spiritual treasures is freedom from those whose tongues are aflame with boasting and those who are attached to the world of clay and water.
IQAN: At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, ...
Comment: Prayer and meditation bring one into God's presence so that the seeker and his Maker may spend time together. Dawn is an especially appropriate time for prayer. The colorful glory of the sunrise is a demonstration of majestic beauty which engenders feelings of awe. The quiet morning is also especially conducive to reflection without distraction. Praying at the start of the day, gives conversation with God a priority over other activities.
IQAN: ...and with all his soul persevere in the quest of his Beloved.
Comment: Nothing is more important to the seeker than the spiritual quest. He perseveres despite whatever obstacles arise, be they inner fear, shame, doubt or outward distractions.
IQAN: He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention,
Comment: Hopelessness, unworthiness, and all other obstacles are wayward thoughts which are overpowered and burnt up by one overwhelming love. IQAN: ...and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him.T; Lightening, as a form of heavenly fire, is depicted as the seeker's steed racing past and thereby diminishing every competing love.
IQAN: He should succour the dispossessed, and never withhold his favour from the destitute.
Comment: Compassion for the poor, lowly and weak in society is a requisite of the pure heart. By putting love into action through the sharing of material means, the seeker's heart is softened. Priority is placed on the needs of other people rather than clinging to what one has. Such actions facilitate detachment from water and clay.
Love of mankind is hollow if it is not put into action. James 2:14-16 states, 'What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or a sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warm and well filled," without giving them the things needed by the body, what does it profit?' Compare Qu'ran 18:88.
IQAN: He should show kindness to animals, ...
Comment: Animals have material needs as well as certain emotional needs. One who fails to show kindness to animals, hardens his heart with clear spiritual consequences.
The law of Moses exhibited a similar concern for animals. It stated that the bull used in "threshing out the grain" was not to be muzzled. (Deuteronomy 25:4.) He was to be permitted to eat while working. For 'the worker is worthy of his wages." (Compare 1 Timothy 5:18.)
IQAN: ...how much more unto his fellow-man, to him who is endowed with the power of
Comment: There is a hierarchy in the physical world consisting of four stations; mineral, vegetable, animal and human. (See SAQ p. 208.) Thus, humans are creatures worthy of high honor, above the station of an animal. The unique human ability for thought and speech is one evidence of that high station.
Humans can appeal for their rights and protest mistreatment. Animals cannot. By urging kindness to animals, Bahá'u'lláh seeks to raise the consciousness of the seeker. A compassionate person who has empathy for animals will also be more aware of the unexpressed suffering of other human beings.
IQAN: He should not hesitate to offer up his life for his Beloved, ...
Comment: Throughout history people have been willing to die for a worthy causes; such as family, friends, country or to correct injustice.
The station of God is higher than that of mankind. The interests of the Beloved spirit take precedence over all other human interests. To give one's life for the true cause of God is a high privilege. Jesus is well-known for this sacrificial life. However, all the Manifestations of God bear up under suffering and sacrifice in their labors to rejuvenate the world.
IQAN: ...nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth.
Comment: When a seeker begins to tread the path of God, she often encounters opposition from friends and relatives. To win the good pleasure of the Ancient of Days, one must cultivate a detachment from all else save Him.
Being afraid of or intimidated by what other people think and say is a snare that can rob the seeker of the sweet wine of God's Truth.
IQAN: He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself,
Comment: In essence, this is an expanded version of the Golden Rule. Whereas the Golden Rule as stated by Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them to unto you." Bahá'u'lláh's statement deals with what we wish for others. It is thus extended to include not only our actions by also our thoughts.
IQAN: ...nor promise that which he doth not fulfill.
Comment: To do what we say is the essence of personal integrity. When our words, even when uttered with the best of intentions, are not carried out, there are significant effects on our ability to work with others.
IQAN: With all his heart should the seeker avoid fellowship with evil doers,
Comment: The evil doers spoken of here are apparently those who maliciously harm others or those who sin grievously and willfully. In a departure from the exclusivity of former dispensations, Bahá'u'lláh encouraged fellowship with peoples of all religions. From this, it is clear that those who fail to recognize Bahá'u'lláh are not the ones that should be avoided, nor are all who claim to be Bahá'ís automatically good companions.
IQAN: ...and pray for the remission of their sins. He should forgive the sinful, and never
despise his low estate, ...
Comment: A common flaw in righteously inclined individuals is condescension. Once a person begins to think, "I'm right and he's wrong!" pride, self-importance and lack of humility have fertile soil in which to grow. To counter that tendency Bahá'u'lláh recommends prayer and forgiveness. Prayer turns one's attention to God, rather that to his own righteousness. Forgiveness results in overlooking the sin so that there is no longer a basis to feel superior.
IQAN: ...for none knoweth what his own end shall be.
Comment: Tests can arise in the life of the seeker that, if not handled properly, may result in spiritual discouragement. Even a superior attitude in itself may be indicative of a loss of reliance on God alone. Pride is before a crash. (Proverbs 16:18.) Overconfidence in one's own spiritual state can result in lack of attention to one's spiritual growth, omission of obligatory prayers etc. Over time, such an individual may find themselves more focused on the things of this world than the things of God.
IQAN: How often hath a sinner, at the hour of death, attained to the essence of
Comment: Example: The thief who was executed besides Jesus.
IQAN: ...and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the celestial
Concourse. And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul's ascension, been so
changed as to fall into the nethermost fire.
Comment: Matthew 24:13, "He who endures to the end is the one who will be saved."
IQAN: Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh makes explicit the purpose of his forceful statements.
IQAN: ...is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient,
and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.
Comment: God sufficeth! All other things, the opposition of friends and family, material possessions, sacrifices in time and money made to serve the Cause, all these things are nothing in relation to spiritual joys.
IQAN: These are among the attributes of the exalted, and constitute the hall-mark of the
spiritually-minded. They have already been mentioned in connection with the requirements of
the wayfarers that tread the Path of Positive Knowledge.
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh has now finished his description of the spiritual qualities and practices needed by the seeker. He goes on to describe the results.
IQAN: When the detached wayfarer and sincere seeker hath fulfilled these essential
conditions, then and only then can he be called a true seeker.
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh seems to be saying that half-hearted searching is insufficient. To be a true seeker one must invest all in the search.
IQAN: Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: "Whoso maketh
efforts for Us," he shall enjoy the blessing conferred by the words: "In Our ways shall We
assuredly guide him."
Comment: God promises to bless and guide those who meet the conditions of a true seeker so that he will not lose his way.
IQAN: Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate
devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker's heart, and the
breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, ...
Comment: Again, the search must be wholehearted and passionate, then God in His mercy will respond.
IQAN: ...will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be
dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being.
Comment: The acquisition of Certitude are the result of wholehearted efforts. Doubts and uncertainty will fade away like mist that obscures the dawn and the sunlight will bathe and permeate his entire being.
IQAN: At that hour will the mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit,
Comment: The Mystic Herald is portrayed in the Revelation of St. John as an angel announcing the advent of the Kingdom."And the seventh angel sounded (his trumpet); and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
IQAN: ...shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, ...
Comment: In many places Bahá'u'lláh uses cities as symbols of various spiritual conditions, and especially of the ultimate goal of the seeker, "the City of Certitude." This symbol has a long history. The apostle John describes the "Holy City, New Jerusalem" descending from heaven "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." The glory of the City is spoken of in material terms, "pure gold," "radiant as a jasper stone shining clear as crystal," a cube twelve thousand furlongs (1,500 miles) on a side, length, width and height. Such is the splendor of that City that "the city had no need of the sun, neither the moon to shine in it: for the glory of the Lord did lighten it." Thereafter all the nations walk in the glorious light. (See Revelation 21:2-23.)
The coming of the New Jerusalem has long been identified with the Kingdom of God. St. Augustine writes of the City of God quoting from the Old and New Testaments . Its citizens are said to be the departed saints and the faithful on earth. In the day of resurrection it will reign over the entire earth."For the city of the saints is above, although here below it begets citizens, in whom it sojourns till the time of its reign arrives, when it shall gather together all in the day of the resurrection; and then shall the promised kingdom be given to them, in which they shall reign with their Prince, the King of the ages, time without end. " (City of God, Book XV, Chapter 1)Thus Augustine sees a spiritual kingdom that will, at the culmination of history, be transformed into a physical sovereignty.
However, Bahá'u'lláh speaks of the City of God as already descended and its sovereignty continues to be a spiritual one."Hasten forth and circumambulate the City of God that hath descended from heaven, the celestial Kaaba round which have circled in adoration the favoured of God, the pure in heart, and the company of the most exalted angels." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 4)
"Set thine heart towards Him Who is the Kaaba of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, and raise thou thine hands with such firm conviction as shall cause the hands of all created things to be lifted up towards the heaven of the grace of God, the Lord of all worlds." (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 17-18)
IQAN: ...and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and
the spirit from the slumber of negligence.
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh has just mentioned the advent of the Holy City. Now he mentions the trumpet blast, another apocalyptic symbol. The spiritually dead respond and awaken: roused from their negligence to spiritual obligations. Both the Bible and the Qu'ran associate a world shaking trumpet blast with end time events, e.g. the resurrection and Judgment Day."For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
"Then, when one blast is sounded on the Trumpet,
And the earth is moved, and its mountains, and they are crushed to powder at one stroke,-
On that Day shall the (Great) Event come to pass.
And the sky will be rent asunder, for it will that Day be flimsy,
And the angels will be on its sides, and eight will, that Day, bear the Throne of thy Lord above them.
That Day shall ye be brought to Judgment: not an act of yours that ye hide will be hidden.(Qur'an: 69:13-18)
IQAN: Then will the manifold favours and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit
confer such new life upon the seeker ...
Comment: The apocalyptic scenario found in the final two chapters of the Book of Revelation , the advent of the Holy City brings new life, eternal life to the righteous. "Death is no more." Those who have washed their robes from the stain of sin gain admittance to the City. A stream of life-giving water flows through the City. The waterway is bounded on each side by trees of life that bear twelve crops of fruit each year and whose leaves have medicinal value to cure the ills of the nations. The Holy Spirit directs all to drink from the stream and thus confers life on them.IQAN: ...that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind."And the spirit...keep(s) saying "Come!" And let anyone hearing say, "Come!" And let anyone thirsting say, "Come!" Let anyone who wishes take life's water free." (Revelation 22:17)
Comment: The attainment of everlasting life is a spiritual rebirth. "All things are made new." (Revelation 21:5) New eyes and ears give the seeker a new spiritual perspective. Everything looks different. A new heart means new motives and new feelings. A new mind means new beliefs and new capacities of comprehension.
IQAN: He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden
mysteries of the soul.
Comment: The capacities of the "new mind" enable the seeker to recognize God's "signs" and penetrate what was previously unfathomable.
IQAN: Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him
to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of divine
Revelation and the evidences of an everlasting manifestation.
Comment: The capacities of the "new eye" endow the seeker with the ability to see the abundant signs of God and thus become fully convinced, firm in heart. Abdu'l-Bahá said something similar about the expanded capacity to discern the hand of God and its effects upon the seeker: "Then within every atom of the universe will be witnessed the signs of the oneness of God. Then will man hear the cry of the Lord of the Kingdom, and behold the confirmations of the Holy Spirit coming to succour him. Then will he feel such bliss, such ecstasy, that the wide world with its vastness will no longer contain him, and he will set out for the Kingdom of God, and hurry along to the realm of the spirit. (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 58)
IQAN: I swear by God!
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh always speaks truth and has no need to swear in order to affirm the veracity of his statements, but in order to emphasize the importance of what he will say next and doubly assure the seeker, "he confirms it by an oath.""Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." (Hebrews 6:17-18)
IQAN: Were he that treadeth the path of guidance and seeketh to scale the heights of
righteousness to attain unto this glorious and supreme station, ...
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh now turns to the imagery of the seeker wandering through hill and vale that he used extensively in Seven Valleys and Four Valleys. If the seeker succeeds in scaling the tallest mountains, "the heights of righteousness," he will reach his goal. From that mountain top, he will be able to see all things and attain to a glorious spiritual station.
IQAN: ...he would inhale at a distance of a thousand leagues the fragrance of God,
Comment: From that mountain top he will be able to smell fresh breezes, the fragrances of God. Enhanced powers of spiritual perception are pictured as an acute snese of smell that can sense fragrances from enormous distances. This "new nose" is added to other enhances senses, new eyes and ears, that were previously mentioned.
IQAN: ...and would perceive the resplendent morn of a divine Guidance rising above the
dayspring of all things.
Comment: From this same mountain top the dawn of God's day would be all the more apparent and resplendent. Divine Guidance, in the form of God's new laws, spread new light on the land.
IQAN: Each and every thing, however small, would be to him a revelation, leading him to his
Beloved, the Object of his quest.
Comment: The image of "every atom" is re-phrased as "everything. Naming the "Beloved" as the object of search invokes a sense of rapture at experiencing the divine revelation.
IQAN: So great shall be the discernment of this seeker that he will discriminate between
truth and falsehood even as he doth distinguish the sun from shadow.
Comment: Expanded mental powers make discriminating between spiritual truths and vain imaginings as apparent and simple as seeing a shadow.
IQAN: If in the uttermost corners of the East the sweet savours of God be wafted, he will
assuredly recognize and inhale their fragrance, even though he be dwelling in the uttermost ends
of the West.
Comment: Previously Bahá'u'lláh's imagery pictured the seeker with capacity to smell the fragrances of God from distances of a "thousand leagues." Now the image is amplified and the distances increase to encompass the entire planet from the uttermost East to the uttermost West.
IQAN: He will likewise clearly distinguish all the signs of God³His wondrous utterances, His
great works, and mighty deeds³from the doings, words and ways of men, ...
Comment: Previously Bahá'u'lláh stated that the seeker would be able to distinguish truth from falsehood. Now he expands that description. The words of God are, of course, truth and his deeds wholly good. The words of man are not necessarily falsehood, but they are unreliable and may be either true or false.
IQAN: ...even as the jeweler who knoweth the gem from the stone, or the man who
distinguisheth the spring from autumn and heat from cold.
Comment: Even when true, the words and deeds of men do not have the same value as the words and deeds of God. Increase perceptive powers allow the seeker to detect the value in what God has done.
IQAN: When the channel of the human soul is cleansed of all worldly and impeding
attachments, it will unfailingly perceive the breath of the Beloved across immeasurable
distances, and will, led by its perfume, attain and enter the City of Certitude.
Comment: Thus far in this "Tablet of the True Seeker," Bahá'u'lláh has 1) cited the requisites of the search and 2) described the blessings of a successful search. Here he summarizes the key lessons by directly linking the requisites with the blessings. The ultimate goal, specified by Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad in his original questions1 to Bahá'u'lláh, namely the acquisition of certitude, is referred to. Bahá'u'lláh has now shown how full conviction, free from doubt, can be attained. The remainder of the Tablet reiterates and expands his description of the blessings of Certitude.
IQAN: Therein he will discern the wonders of His ancient wisdom, and will perceive all the
hidden teachings from the rustling leaves of the Tree - which flourisheth in that City.
Comment: In the course of his summary, Bahá'u'lláh draws on language and symbols previously mentioned but adds new elaborations on those themes. Here the Holy City is once again referred to with a new description of the blessings bestowed by its Tree of Life. Previously we say how the tree provided twelve crops of fruit and leaves for healing. Here the rustling leaves become teachers that speak of the hidden mysteries of God.
IQAN: With both his inner and his outer ear he will hear from its dust the hymns of glory and
praise ascending unto the Lord of Lords, and with his inner eye will he discover the mysteries of
"return" and "revival."
Comment: "New eyes" and "new ears" were previously described. Now the ears here music. hymns of glory in the lowliest atom, the dust. The inner eye now discerns the spiritual meanings of the sacred scriptures. The result is a true understanding of the significance of the "return" of the Qa'im / twelfth Imam and the "revival" of the dead (resurrection). This comment is apparently directed toward Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad's questions which included queries about "return" and "revival." Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad's fourth question dealt specifically with traditional expectation about the Qa'im. His advent was to be marked by a great military victory, the establishment of a sovereignty with its capital at Kufa, and the construction of a mosque with one thousand doors. (See notes for full text of these questions.)
Nowhere in the Iqan does Bahá'u'lláh explicitly address that issue. However, Abdu'l-Bahá explains the Bab'is interpretation of these prophecies as follows: Indeed in such cases they regarded interpretation as the truth of revelation and the essence of true exegesis: thus, for instance, they interpreted the sovereignty of the Qá'im as a mystical sovereignty, and His conquests as conquests of the cities of hearts..." - A Traveler's Narrative, p. 17- 18
IQAN: How unspeakably glorious are the signs, the tokens, the revelations, and splendours
which He Who is the King of names and attributes hath destined for that City!
Comment: After giving Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad the answers to his questions, Bahá'u'lláh extols the answers and implicitly encourages him to accept them in order that he may enter the City.
IQAN: The attainment of this City quencheth thirst without water, and kindleth the love of God
Comment: If the spiritual City of Certitude is reached. all spiritual needs (thirsts, doubts, uncertainties) will be met and the love of God will miraculously blaze without fire.
IQAN: Within every blade of grass are enshrined the mysteries of an inscrutable wisdom, and
upon every rose-bush a myriad nightingales pour out, in blissful rapture, their melody.
Comment: Previously, it was said that "every atom" would reveal divine signs. Here the "atoms" of vegetation, "blades of grass" and "every rose-bush" are specified. Their mystery is melodic inducing blissful rapture.
IQAN: Its wondrous tulips unfold the mystery of the undying Fire in the Burning Bush,
Comment: Not only grass and rose-bushes, but also "tulips" release their secrets. Bahá'u'lláh speaks of the tulips of understanding again later in the Iqan. "The garden of their hearts is adorned, through the showers of divine grace, with the roses of wisdom and the tulips of understanding." (Iqan 211.)
Moses experienced an epiphany in the wilderness of Sinai at a burning bush. "And an angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked and behold, the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed." (Exodus 3:2) The burning bush thus becomes a symbol of Divine Revelation. Yellow and red tulips are reminiscent of fire and make a fitting addition to this revelatory motif.
IQAN: ...and its sweet savours of holiness breathe the perfume of the Messianic Spirit.
Comment: The fragrance of the wonderous tulips is sent aloft with a message of the coming of God's Messianic Promised One.
IQAN: It bestoweth wealth without gold, and conferreth immortality without death.
Comment: Spiritual miracles abound. Joining the quenching of thirst without water and the blazing of love without fire, previously mentioned, are the acquisition of spiritual wealth and immortality.
IQAN: In every leaf ineffable delights are treasured, and within every chamber unnumbered
mysteries lie hidden.
Comment: Microscopic chambers, including those within a leaf, house God's revelation.
IQAN: They that valiantly labour in quest of God, will, when once they have renounced all else
but Him, will be so attached and wedded to that City that a moment's separation from it would to
them be unthinkable.
Comment: Attachment to the Spirit is complete. There can be no separation henceforth.
IQAN: They will hearken unto infallible proofs from the Hyacinth of that assembly, and
receive the surest testimonies from the beauty of its Rose and the melody of its Nightingale.
Comment: Another flower, the Hyacinth, adds its testimony as does the Rose and the Nightingale. Abdu'l Baha paired the Hyacinth and Rose together similarly. These flowers represent fonts of divine fragrances that stir the soul to Godly joy."Yours was not merely a letter; it was perfumed with amber and diffused a sweet fragrance. Every word thereof was a rose in the rose-garden of the love of God and was a flower, a hyacinth.
"When the breeze of Providence blows from the direction of gift, the gardens of hearts attain thereby exceeding purity and freshness. Such significances arise from the soul and consciousness and impart joy and fragrance. (Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 393 )
The Nightingale is a common symbol of Bahá'u'lláh, who was at the time of writing the yeat unannounced Manifestation of God. Note how in the following passage the nightingale is stationed on the heightest branches, a fitting place for the Manifestation of God. "The Nightingale of Utterance hath warbled its melody upon the highest branch of true understanding." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 107) This
IQAN: Once in about a thousand years shall this City be renewed and re-adorned.
Comment: A new Manifestation of God will appear each millennium to renew and refurbish the City.
IQAN: Wherefore, O my friend, ...
Comment: Now the appeal to Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad becomes explicit.
IQAN: ...it behooveth Us to exert the highest endeavour to attain unto that City,
Comment: Attaining entrance to the Kingdom of God is properly man's highest priority. This teaching reaffirms the point Jesus made in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46)
IQAN: ...and, by the grace of God and His loving-kindness, rend asunder the "veils of glory";
Comment: All obstacle that block clear vision of the workings of God are cast down, permitting a view of God's glory.
IQAN: ...so that, with inflexible steadfastness, we may sacrifice our drooping souls in the
path of the New Beloved.
Comment: Once the clear vision is obtained, the seeker has the spiritual resources to become unbending, steadfast, capable of any sacrifice in life or death. Drooping souls, warn out from all the long journey in the quest for the Beloved, nevertheless retain sufficient strength to stay the course. "Drooping" may allude to all the hardships that befell the Babi community, persecution, imprisonment, exile and martyrdom of friends and companions.
IQAN: We should with tearful eyes, fervently and repeatedly, implore Him to grant us the
favour of that grace.
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh urges Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad to pray long and hard for admittance into the City. Pray tearfully. Pray fervently. Pray repeatedly. Implore Him. Beg Him for grace.
IQAN: That city is none other than the Word of God revealed in every age and dispensation.
Comment: This city is not a new goal, but the age old goal of all righteous men throughout history.
IQAN: In the days of Moses it was the Pentateuch; in the days of Jesus the Gospel; in the days
of Muhammad the Messenger of God the Qur'án; in this day the Bayán;
Comment: This same message was revealed to the Prophets of old, each in a sacred book.
IQAN: ...and in the dispensation of Him Whom God will make manifest His own Book - the Book
unto which all the Books of former Dispensations must needs be referred, the Book which
standeth amongst them all transcendent and supreme.
Comment: Bahá'u'lláh prepares the reader for acceptance of His forthcoming revelation. He will prove to be the Promised One of the Bab, the One Whom God will make manifest. A new book will be revealed that will transcend all previous books.
IQAN: In these cities spiritual sustenance is bountifully provided, and incorruptible delights
have been ordained. The food they bestow is the bread of heaven, and the Spirit they impart is
God's imperishable blessing.
Comment: The bread of heaven was miraculously rained down on the Israelites as the wandered in the wildernesses of Sinai and Trans-Jordan. Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Heaven. These examples teach that God has and ever will provide bountiful for the needs of his servants.
IQAN: Upon detached souls they bestow the gift of Unity, enrich the destitute, and offer the
cup of knowledge unto them who wander in the wilderness of ignorance.
Comment: All of these cities, that is the sacred books of the past, united the faithful. alleviate poverty, ignorance and give direction to the lost.
IQAN: All the guidance, the blessings, the learning, the understanding, the faith, and
certitude, conferred upon all that is in heaven and on earth, are hidden and treasured within
Comment: These Holy books provide all the guidance required to lead the seeker to Certitude.