THIS IS THE LAST OUTSTANDING Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh. The last He
wrote before He left us; before that happened of which the Báb has
written, "all sorrow is but the shadow of that sorrow." This is the last of the
hundred books He revealed for us.
It was written to a priest in Isfáhán, a priest called the "Son
of the Wolf". His father had spoken the words that sent the "twin shining
lights," -- the King of Martyrs and the Beloved of Martyrs -- to their death.
They were laid in two sandy graves near Isfáhán. (Years
afterward, an American woman named Keith Ransom Kehler knelt there and wept and
brought them flowers; then in a few days she was stricken and died, and the
friends carried her back to these same graves and buried her beside them.)
This priest, Áqá Najafi, had committed the unforgivable sin: he
had violated the Covenant and blasphemed against the Holy Spirit; that is, he
had hated, not the lamp, not the Prophet of God as an individual -- from
ignorance, or because he did not recognize Him -- but the light itself, the
perfections of God which the Prophet reflects; he had hated the light in the
lamp -- and "this detestation of the light has no remedy . . . "
This priest was, then, the most hopeless of sinners. His evil found expression
in many ways, and among them was this, that with his pupils, he kicked at and
trampled the martyred body of Mírzá Ashraf, in
Isfáhán (not the Ashraf of whom we read in Gleanings,
Siyyid Ashraf, whose head was cut off in Zanján).
And yet, Bahá'u'lláh begins this Tablet with a prayer of
repentance for Áqá Najafi to recite. He offers this breaker of
the Covenant forgiveness; just as, in His Most Holy Book, He offers forgiveness
to Mírzá Yahyá, the treacherous half-brother who tried to
destroy him. This offering is a demonstration of 'Badá' -- of the
principle of the free operation of the Will of God, Who doeth whatsoever He
willeth and shall not be asked of His doings. It proves how mistaken is that
large group of human beings who believe that everything is on a mechanical
basis -- that this much sin brings this much punishment, and so much good buys
so much reward. To them, God is a blind force, operating mechanically --
something like the third rail in the subway. They themselves, however, would
greatly resent being called a blind force. (The Báb develops this
principle of 'Badá' in the Persian Bayán.)
Thou beholdest, O my God, him who is as one dead fallen at
the door of Thy favour, ashamed to seek from the hand of Thy loving-kindness
the living waters of Thy pardon.
Thou hast ordained that every pulpit be set apart for Thy mention . . . but
I have ascended it to proclaim the violation of Thy Covenant . . .
O Lord, my Lord! and again, O Lord, my Lord! and yet again, O Lord, my
Throughout the Tablet, he is several times directed to pray; is addressed as
would be one of Bahá'u'lláh's own sons; is told to arise and
serve the Faith; to believe, serve and trust; to enter the presence of
Bahá'u'lláh (Whom he had never seen); to save men from the "mire
of self," to "seek the Most Great Ocean" and that "thereupon, will the doors of
the Kingdom be flung wide before thy face. . ." He is told: "O Shaykh! We have
enabled thee to hear the melodies of the Nightingale of Paradise . . . that
thine eye might be cheered. . ."
As Dr. Alí-Kuli Khan has pointed out, the varying titles by which
Bahá'u'lláh addresses Áqá Najafí indicate
that the Letter is intended for a much larger audience than he. It is "a
presentation of the Faith to humanity'; many aspects of man are singled out and
addressed. These titles include: "O Shaykh'; "O distinguished divine'; "O thou
who has gone astray!'; "O thou who hast turned away from God!". Occasionally,
too, others are specifically named: "O people of Bahá'; "O
Hádí". Many aspects of man are singled out and addressed. You
find here, not only the evil priests who in every dispensation hold men back
from their Lord -- the "blind mouths" of Lycidas
-- but the good
divines, who are "as eyes to the nations," reminiscent of the "'Ulamá in
Bahá" of the Most Holy Book. You find here the king and the scholar, the
everyday believer, the saint, the sinner.
This Tablet, then, is much more than a letter to an individual. It is an
important general presentation of the Faith. In this Work, as the Guardian
tells us, Bahá'u'lláh "quotes some of the most characteristic and
celebrated passages of His own writings, and adduces proofs establishing the
validity of His cause."
Most books bring you closer to the author. But when you study the work of
Bahá'u'lláh, He eludes you. As the Guardian has told us in The
Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh,
He is "unapproachably
Goethe says, "Above all peaks there is rest." I have read this book three
times and studied it over a long period; it seems to me more likely that above
all peaks there is another peak.
You want, though it is almost impossible, to read this at one sitting. It
comes rapidly, and the English translation by the Guardian is flawless. You
want more and more of it and are too impatient to stop and think over this and
this, as you are urged along, and you mark things to come back to. It contains
sentences like these:
I belong to him that loveth Me . . .
. . . others had, at times, to nourish themselves with that Divine
sustenance which is hunger.
In the treasuries of the knowledge of God there lieth concealed a knowledge
which, when applied, will largely, though not wholly, eliminate fear.
Man's actions are acceptable after his having recognized [the
He is truly learned who hath acknowledged My Revelation, and drunk from the
Ocean of My knowledge, and soared in the atmosphere of My love . . .
A just king enjoyeth nearer access unto God than anyone.
These, verily, are men who if they come to cities of pure gold will consider
them not; and if they meet the fairest and most comely of women will turn
It offers historical material which in future will stimulate the keenest
research. We learn, for example, of the Master's first betrothal; of
Bahá'u'lláh's arrest in Níyávarán and of the
kind of chains He was bound with; of the machinations against Him by Persian
officials in Constantinople and of the suicide there of Hájí
Shaykh Muhammad-'Alí; the fact that Mírzá Yahyá was
not exiled out of Persia; that he abandoned the writings of the Báb in
Baghdád; that Hádí Dawlat-Abádí tried to
destroy every copy of the Bayán; that the Azalís tried to claim
Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í as one of themselves, pasting his
picture under that of Mírzá Yahyá; that
Bahá'u'lláh had never read the Bayán; that in 1863 (this
date is given in God Passes By
) Bahá'u'lláh suggested to a
Turkish official, Kamál Páshá, that his government convene
a gathering to plan for a world language and script. (In this connection,
Volaptik was invented by Johann Martin Schleyer of Konstanz, Baden, about 1879;
Esperanto, by Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, was first discussed in print by him
It gives us a moral code, including such precepts as:
If anyone revile you, or trouble touch you, in the path
of God, be patient, and put your trust in Him Who heareth, Who seeth. He, in
truth, witnesseth, and perceiveth, and doeth what He pleaseth, through the
power of His sovereignty.
The sword of wisdom is hotter than summer heat, and sharper than blades of
steel . . . withhold not from the poor the things given unto you by God through
His grace. He, verily, will bestow upon you the double of what ye
If ye become aware of a sin committed by another, conceal it, that God may
conceal your own sin.
Be . . . thankful in adversity . . . Be fair in thy judgment and guarded in
thy speech . . . Be a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the
victim of oppression . . . a home for the stranger . . .
The fear of God is continually stressed:
We enjoin the servants of God and His handmaidens to be
pure and to fear God . . . The fear of God hath ever been a . . . safe
stronghold . . . Their [the Bahá'ís] hearts are illumined with
the light of the fear of God . . .
Students of the Qur'án will remember how strikingly the fear of God is
likewise extolled in that Book: "God loveth those who fear Him," and "Whoso
feareth God, his evil deeds will He cancel . . ."
Among many such precepts, Bahá'u'lláh states here: "Regard for
the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained . . ." and interprets "Render unto
Caesar" far differently from the current meaning given this verse in
Christendom, where it is made to imply that Caesar is a sort of reversal of
God, a concept at variance with the Bahá'í teaching on
Bahá'u'lláh also answers, in this Work, a question often asked:
Why a new religion? He says, by implication to the Muslims, that if they prefer
what is ancient, why did they adopt the Qur'án in place of the Old and
New Testaments? And He states that if bringing a new Faith be His crime, then
Muhammad committed it before Him, and before Him Jesus, and still earlier,
Moses. He adds:
And if My sin be this, that I have exalted the Word of
God and revealed His Cause, then indeed am I the greatest of sinners! Such a
sin I will not barter for the kingdoms of earth and
(Strange, how often the public asks this question, forgetting today's
universal wretchedness; the mind's loneliness, that is crowding those brick
buildings with the barred porches, that you see as you travel through the
country; the enslavement of human beings by other human beings like themselves;
the moral rottenness -- you have only to look at the sidewalks of any big city
early in the morning, and the debris in its gutters, you do not even have to
read the doctors' case histories, or the newspapers. And if you are one of
those "nice people" so many persons claim to be, who do not drink to excess,
nor harm anyone, and therefore do not need a God to obey -- or need only some
sterile deity of their own choosing, a selection from whose precepts they will
follow when they see fit, and whose synthetic thunder, listened to, or not
listened to, once a week, does not fool them for a moment -- then you are
empty, you are ineffective, you make no impact on society; and those discarded
men sprawling in the streets are your glass of wine, and those piles of dead
bodies you turn away from in the press, are your professed goodwill, and all
that useless agony in so many men's and women's hearts, is your sexual
The Bahá'ís of the West are gradually learning more about the
Báb; through The Dawn-Breakers, The Dispensation of
and this present Text, they are drawing closer
to Him, and to the story of His life, which is the story of His love for
Bahá'u'lláh. Among His utterances here is the striking plea to
His followers that even should an impostor arise after Him, they should not
protest against the man, nor sadden him. In time, twenty-five persons, most of
whom later begged forgiveness of Bahá'u'lláh, claimed to be He
Whom God Shall Manifest. This was because of His longing to protect the True
One. He is His own proof, the Báb told His followers: ". . . who then
can know Him through any one except Himself?" The breath of the Báb's
despair is here, and His beautiful words, "I . . . am, verily, but a ring upon
the hand of Him Whom God shall make Manifest . . ." Bahá'u'lláh
links the Heraldship of the Báb with, that of John the Baptist, and
shows how John's companions as well "were prevented from acknowledging Him Who
is the Spirit (Jesus)."
Not only are we brought near to Him Who was the return of the Twelfth
Imám, but to all the lmáms, and -- since the Guardian is as the
lmám -- to the institution of Guardianship in our own Faith. The
reference to the "snow-white" hand of the Qá'im goes back to Moses" sign
in the Qur'án. By the 'Impost' is meant the tithe, payment of which is a
religious duty, as are the Fast and the Pilgrimage: "We are the Way . . . and
We are the Impost, and We are the Fast, and We are the Pilgrimage, and We are
the Sacred Month, and We are the Sacred City . . ." says the Imám
Ja'far-i-Sádiq. In connection with the Imámate, E. G. Browne's
brief summary is valuable: "According to the Imámite view . . . the
vice-regency is a matter altogether spiritual; an office conferred by God
alone, first by His Prophet, and afterwards by those who so succeeded him . . .
the Imám of the Shiites is the divinely-ordained successor of the
Prophet, one endowed with all perfections and spiritual gifts, one whom all the
faithful must obey, whose decision is absolute and final, whose wisdom is
superhuman and whose words are authoritative."
Swiftly, in this Book, the scenes pass. There is the dungeon, and the dream
there, and the promise:
Verily We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by
Thy Pen . . . Erelong will God raise up the treasures of the earth -- men who
will aid Thee . . .
There is the dramatic suicide in the mosque, of Hájí Shaykh
Muhammad-'Alí. There is the "city, on the shores of the sea, white,
whose whiteness is pleasing unto God . . ." The mood varies, the tempo shifts.
You can hear these swift questions and answers in music, as a kind of
Hath the Hour come? Nay, more; it hath passed . . . Seest
thou men laid low? Yea, by my Lord . . . Blinded art thou . . . Paradise is
decked with mystic roses . . . Hell hath been made to blaze.
There are the thought-inducing lines on the moan of the pulpits:
I was walking in the Land of Tá (Tihrán) --
the dayspring of the signs of thy Lord -- when lo, I heard the lamentation of
the pulpits and the voice of their supplication unto God, blessed and glorified
be He. They cried out and said . . . Alas, alas! . . . Would that we had never
been created and revealed by Thee!
This reminds us of the Qur'ánic verse, referred to earlier by
Bahá'u'lláh: "God, Who giveth us a voice . . ." And then the
earth-quaking apostrophe to the She-Serpent:
Judge thou equitably, O She-Serpent! For what crime didst
thou sting the children of the Apostle of God . . .
This refers to the martyrdom of the "twin shining fights," descendants of
Muhammad; you would need Michelangelo or Milton to comment here.
People who must choose often ask whether they should add this or that book to
their private library. My reasons for owning this one are: Its beauty of text,
translation, and format; its brevity; its richness from the academic point of
view -- the materials it offers for study; its comprehensiveness -- for,
although it is an independent creative work, having its own unity of form, its
own personal spirit -- it is almost an anthology, and one selected by
Bahá'u'lláh Himself. And then, there is the totality of its
impact on the reader, and the eternal gift it holds out to him, of the mercy of
Yes, it helps us to enter His presence; it brings us to "Him Whom the world
hath cast away and the nations abandoned . . ."
Where has Áqá Najafí gone now? Where has he gone in his
enormous globular turban and his curled-up shoes? He was, as
Bahá'u'lláh called his fellow, "the last trace of sunlight upon
the mountain-top." Where has he taken all his hatred? In any event, it became
the occasion of this Book, this last earthly gift to us from
Bahá'u'lláh; His enemies brought Him poison, but He changed it
into honey for His loved ones.