Bahá'u'lláh's Approaching Declaration

As the year 1863 drew closer, the signs of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh's Mission became increasingly manifest from the tone of the Tablets which streamed from His pen and the allusions He made both in public and private. Every day a new Tablet would be revealed and these were clearly indicative of the approaching hour when His sublime station would be unveiled.

It was a period of joy and ecstasy for those around Him, who were enraptured when they read these soul-stirring Tablets and festive odes. They would gather at night in a small room, light numerous camphorated candles and chant aloud these joyous odes. Oblivious of this world and wholly immersed in the realms of the spirit, they would suddenly discover that night had become day. Apart from the chanting of Tablets, the conversations which these heroes of Bahá'u'lláh held during these historic nights revolved entirely around His blessed person. The stories they told each other of Him; the sharing of joyous feelings which they had experienced through meeting Him either at His home or in the streets and bazaars of Baghdád; the profound discussions which they held to unravel the mysteries enshrined in His Tablets; the speculations they made on the timing and nature of the Declaration of His Mission, all these created an atmosphere of excitement and rapture far beyond the experience of any man today.

By virtue of their unique style and wording and their soul-entrancing power, the odes and Tablets which were revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in this period are very difficult to describe and may well prove impossible to translate. Among them are the follow-


ing: Subhána-Rabbíya'l-A'lá, Ghulámu'l-Khuld, Húr-i-'Ujáb, Az-Bágh-i-Iláhí and Halih-Halih-Yá-Bishárat.


This Tablet in Arabic is revealed in honour of Hájí Mírzá Músáy-i-Javáhirí, entitled by Bahá'u'lláh the Harf-i-Baqá (Letter of Eternity). His father, Hájí Mírzá Hádí, formerly a Persian vizir, was a remarkable person who was held in high repute among the notables of Persia and 'Iráq. He had migrated to Baghdád where he had established his residence and, being a man of great wealth and influence, was highly esteemed by the inhabitants of that city. Towards the end of his life, Hájí Mírzá Hádí became attracted to Bahá'u'lláh and was devoted to Him. He would often enter His presence and sit at His feet in humility and self-effacement.

After his death great difficulties arose over his estate. When everything was settled, his son, Hájí Mírzá Músá, who was a loyal and steadfast follower of Bahá'u'lláh, inherited a portion of the estate. He owned the house of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád and was eager to present it to Him, along with other properties. But Bahá'u'lláh refused to accept this gift. Hájí Mírzá Músá continued to plead with Him, however, until at last Bahá'u'lláh gave instructions that the house be purchased from him at a fair price. This was accomplished and the house became a property of the Faith.

Bahá'u'lláh has designated this house as the 'House of God', the 'Most Great House', and ordained it to be a centre of pilgrimage. Within its walls innumerable Tablets were revealed and the verses of God were sent down in great profusion for many years. From this sacred spot Bahá'u'lláh shed the splendour of His name upon the peoples of the world and breathed the spirit of life into the body of mankind. This House and the House of the Báb in Shíráz are, next to the Holy Shrines in 'Akká and Haifa where the earthly remains of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb are interred, regarded by Bahá'ís as the holiest places on earth.


Pilgrimage to the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád and that of the Báb in Shíráz is one of the holy observances of the Faith ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. When Bahá'u'lláh was in Adrianople He revealed the two Súrihs of Hajj (Pilgrimage). He then directed Nabíl-i-A'zam to proceed to Baghdád and Shíráz on pilgrimage. He is the first, and so far the only one, who has performed all the rites of pilgrimage prescribed in these Tablets.

Towards the end of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life, in accordance with His directives, certain constructional work was done on the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád. Its foundations were reinforced and the building was restored to its original form. Soon after this, however, the enemies of the Faith seized it unlawfully and this led eventually to the submission of a petition to the Council of the League of Nations. In 1929 this body upheld the claims of the Bahá'ís to the House, but for a variety of reasons, their verdict was not enforced by the authorities and the House is still unliberated.

In some of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has extolled the holiness and glory of this sacred spot, has foretold its fate and the abasement to which it would be subjected, and has prophesied its ultimate exaltation and grandeur in days to come. In one Tablet Bahá'u'lláh has revealed the following:

Grieve not, O House of God, if the veil of thy sanctity be rent asunder by the infidels. God hath, in the world of creation, adorned thee with the jewel of His remembrance. Such an ornament no man can, at any time, profane. Towards thee the eyes of thy Lord shall, under all conditions, remain directed...In the fullness of time the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful.1

Bahá'u'lláh opens the Tablet of Subhána-Rabbíya'l-A'lá with words of encouragement to Mírzá Músá, the Harf-i-Baqá, calling on him to detach himself from this world and every-

1. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 360, for the passage quoted.

[sacred houses] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶32

[Súriy-i-Hajj] The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2 p. 240

[Tablet of Visitation to Baghdád House of Bahá'u'lláh] Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, LVII

thing in it, to enable him to soar in the realms of spirit and partake of the melodies of the Kingdom.

He portrays in dramatic terms the appearance before Him of the 'Maid of Heaven', personifying the 'Most Great Spirit',* and alludes to His own Revelation in such terms as no pen can describe. The whole Tablet conveys in symbolic language the joyous tidings of the advent of the Day of God, at the same time warning the faithful to beware of tests which will befall them, causing many to be deprived of attaining to His glory and grace.

This Tablet is written in allusive language. To understand it the believer must turn to Bahá'u'lláh and meditate upon His words. Only in this way can his heart receive Bahá'u'lláh's unfailing grace and realize the significance of His utterances.


Another Tablet of the same nature, but written partly in Arabic and partly in Persian, is the Tablet of Ghulámu'l-Khuld (The Youth of Paradise). It is a very beautiful Tablet, and was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb. Filled with imagery and allegorical language, it conveys clearly the glad-tidings of the coming of Bahá'u'lláh. Alluding to Himself in symbolic terms, He announces the unveiling of His Beauty, glorifies His own Revelation, identifies Himself as the Word upon which depended the souls of all the Prophets of God and His chosen ones, declares to all His companions that He Who was hidden from the eyes of men has now come, asserts that through His coming a breath of life has been wafted over all created things, invites His true lovers to come forward and become united with their Beloved, exhorts them to purify their hearts so that they may be acceptable in His presence, and counsels them to rid themselves of every attachment to this world and to cast away their vain imaginings and superstitions.


* See note, p. 10.

Also in this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh testifies to the loftiness of the station of the Báb and affirms that He is the Point from which all knowledge has been generated. That the Báb is the source of all knowledge is one of the verities of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. Indeed, every Prophet of God has been the source of knowledge for His people. This is amply demonstrated by history.

For example, the children of Israel were captive in the hands of Pharaoh, deprived of their rights of freedom and justice. But through the influence of Moses, they were relieved of this bondage. Under His guidance, born of God, they attained importance and became renowned throughout the world for having built a great civilization. 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that some of the Greek philosophers went to the Holy Land, especially to acquire knowledge from the Jewish people. There they learned about the unity of God and the immortality of the soul, and took these teachings back to Greece.*

The Christian Faith likewise brought forth a civilization which spread throughout the Western world, swept aside the standards of Rome and put in their place a new way of life. It enlightened the minds of millions and established a new basis for learning and knowledge.

Islám, however, offers the best example in this respect. Although it originated among the warlike tribes of Arabia, the civilization which it reared gave, on the one hand, spiritual life to millions and, on the other, created seats of learning and knowledge all over the Muslim world. Its scholars and scientists laid the foundations of many arts and sciences which later reached the people of the Christian world and revolutionized their lives.

Describing the Arabs under the influence of Islám, George Townshend, the great Irish scholar, writes in Christ and Bahá'u'lláh:

Because of the central position of the Qur'án, revered as a

* See Some Answered Questions, ch. v.

literary miracle, and because of Arabian pride in their language, which they held to be the one perfect tongue spoken by man and which is indeed regarded by scholars today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the race, literature in all its uses and forms was given a place of eminence. Schools and universities were founded and thronged by students of many nations. Great works were produced on all manner of subjects; great libraries were collected containing hundreds of thousands of volumes. The Caliphs ransacked the earth for knowledge, sending out expeditions of inquiry and making foreign lands and distant ages give up their lore. An army of translators was employed, rendering Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Jewish works into Arabic. Grammar and its laws were studied with great elaboration. Dictionaries, lexicons and encyclopaedias on a vast scale were prepared. Paper was introduced from China; a new system of numerals (usually known as Arabic) from India. Arabic became the universal language. Caliphs would invite literary men of international repute to the court. Scholars, philosophers, poets, grammarians from diverse lands would find a meeting place in the great bookshops of the capital.

The pursuit of science, practical as well as abstract, kept pace with that of letters. In experimental science, in medicine and surgery, in chemistry and physics, in geography as well as in mathematics and astronomy, the Arabs led the world of that day. They invented a new and exquisite form of architecture, distinguished by its combination of airy grace with solid strength, and by its use of light. The influence of this style can be traced through India as far as Java, to China, to the Súdán and to the whole of Russia. They developed many branches of industry and improved methods of agriculture and horticulture. Introducing the use of the mariner's compass their ships traversed the seas while caravans maintained a trade between all provinces of the empire, carrying produce from India and China, Turkistán and Russia, from Africa and the Malayan Archipelago.

The glory of Baghdád with its mosques and palaces, its temples of learning, its fragrant gardens, was reproduced in


the lesser centres of the world of Islám: in Basra, in Bokhara, in Granada and Córdoba. It is written of the last-named city that at the height of its prosperity it contained more than 200,000 houses and more than a million inhabitants and that a man after sunset might walk in a straight line for ten miles along paved and illuminated streets--yet in Europe centuries later there was not a paved street in Paris nor a public lamp in London.

Córdoba was the first University founded in Europe, and in its halls multitudes of Christian scholars received instruction, among them being Gerbert who afterwards became Sylvester II, the brilliant Pope of Rome.

Inevitably, and in spite of the antagonism between Christendom and Islám, this advanced civilization influenced the course of life and thought in Europe. Through the Muslim outpost in Sicily and the scintillating brilliance of Muslim Spain, through the intelligence of scholars and the resources of the Muslim universities, through traders, through diplomats and travellers, through soldiers, sailors and reconquered peasants, new ideas, techniques and attitudes passed from Islám to Western Europe.2

In this Dispensation, which is the consummation of past ages and centuries, humanity has been endowed with enormous capacity to grow and develop in every field of human knowledge. Up to the time of the manifestation of the Báb, human progress had been very slow and limited in extent. With the coming of the Báb, however, a new era of knowledge unprecedented in its scope opened before mankind.

In one of the traditions of Islám it is clearly stated that 'Knowledge is twenty and seven letters. All that the Prophets have revealed are two letters thereof. No man thus far hath known more than these two letters. But when the Qá'im shall arise, He will cause the remaining twenty and five letters to be made manifest.' 3

Since the appearance of the Báb, man's advances in both material and spiritual civilization have been prodigious. The unprecedented increase in scientific discoveries has, within a


2. Townshend, Christ and Bahá'u'lláh, from chap. 8.

3. Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 155 (Brit.), p. 243 (U.S.).

short period of time, established a marvellous system of communication throughout the world, which is of the utmost significance if we are to evaluate correctly the plan of God for mankind.

The diffusion of the light of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the entire planet and the proclamation of its Message on a global scale could be realized only at a time when the peoples of the world are able to communicate easily with one another. Without a world-wide system of communication linking all humanity together, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh would have been impractical and ineffective. For this is a Faith whose basic teachings revolve around the principle of the oneness of mankind. Its message is universal and its aim is to establish a spiritual world order for all who dwell on earth.

In the early days of the Faith in Persia, many believers could not visualize the manner in which the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh would reach the remote corners of the earth. The only way of travelling known to them was by walking or riding a donkey or a mule. The question which puzzled them most was how they could cover such long distances to teach the Cause. At that time no one could have offered a solution except to say that God would create the means. But the Báb had stated that mankind should establish a system of swift communications so that the news of the coming of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' could reach the whole world.

Now this has happened, and within such a short period a miraculous scientific revolution has taken place. Today the world has become one world. Man can communicate with the speed of light and travel faster than sound. The Báb had indeed ushered in a new era in human knowledge, paving the way for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh. Today the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh has reached all humanity and the rising institutions of its World Order are firmly established in every land.

The outpouring of knowledge in this Dispensation has occurred in both the spiritual and material fields. These two must go hand in hand in order that a divine civilization may


come into being. One without the other will create such an imbalance in the life of man as to impair completely his advancement. Scientific knowledge alone will lead to materialism, whereas spiritual knowledge by itself would result in superstition.

The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh aims at creating this balance within human society. When this is achieved on a world-wide scale, the Bahá'í civilization will come into being. Then the knowledge of God will so dominate the human soul that nobility of character and divine virtues will become the distinguishing features of the human race. Then scientific progress matched with spiritual attainments will usher in a new era of human accomplishments. Within such a society Bahá'í arts, literature, music and other outpourings of the human spirit will be born and develop, and the tree of humanity will blossom and grow to maturity.


Another Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh's which was revealed in the same period is the Húr-i-'Ujáb (The Wondrous Maiden). It is in Arabic and is similar to the two preceding Tablets, in that it conveys the same glad-tidings, is written in allegorical language and contains the symbolism of the 'Maid of Heaven'.

In it Bahá'u'lláh alludes to the unveiling of His glorious station, asserts that the light of His countenance has been lifted upon men, and states that the outpouring of His Revelation has been so stupendous as to cause the pure in heart to be dumbfounded. He also denounces the perversity and blindness of the unfaithful among His companions. This is an allusion to Mírzá Yahyá and his associates, who betrayed the Faith of God and caused Bahá'u'lláh much sorrow and pain.


Az-Bágh-i-Iláhí is an ode revealed not long before the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh. It is one of His most joyous odes,


composed in an exalted style. Each Persian verse is followed by one in Arabic, and the combination of the two creates a rich melody of unsurpassed beauty and enchantment. Its theme is the advent of the Promised Day of God, but to describe its contents is not an easy task, especially in the absence of an English translation.

In each and every line Bahá'u'lláh alludes to Himself and extols His own attributes. He unveils the splendours of His exalted station and, among other designations, refers to Himself as the Lord of all mankind, the Day-star of Truth, the Promise of all ages, the Youth of Paradise, the Quickener of men and the Essence of the Spirit of Truth. This poem is an eloquent description of Bahá'u'lláh's stupendous station, the character of His Mission and the outpourings of His Revelation.

The chanting of this beautiful ode creates an atmosphere of ecstasy and joy. It moves the heart and evokes a feeling of awe and excitement within the soul. No wonder that the companions of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, who chanted it in their gatherings, were carried away into the realms of spirit, completely oblivious of this world and all its peoples.


Another ode in Persian revealed during this period is known as Halih-Halih-Yá-Bishárat, which is very similar in its contents to Az-Bágh-i-Iláhí.

Nabíl has recounted in his as yet unpublished narratives the story of a gathering held one evening in the house of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, sometime before His Declaration. He considered that gathering to have been one of the most memorable of his life.

That night a wonderful feast had been arranged and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, then eighteen years of age, was acting as host. His youthful and radiant personality added distinction to the assembly. A number of believers from Baghdád and Karbilá were


present, among them some eminent personalities such as Hájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í, Shaykh Sultán, and Sayyáh.

After partaking of food they began to chant the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, and soon the atmosphere became deeply spiritual. Hearts were filled with divine love and souls were illumined by the light of the New Day; so when the poem of Az-Bágh-i-Iláhí was chanted, its mysteries became apparent to them, revealing thereby the approaching hour of the unveiling of Bahá'u'lláh's divine station. Every sincere soul in that company experienced ecstasy and joy, and the atmosphere became alive with excitement and rapture.

An interesting incident occurred during the chanting of this ode. In one verse Bahá'u'lláh condemns the unfaithful among His companions. When this particular verse was chanted the believers all turned to look at Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání. Although embarrassed, he arose, and to the amusement of some and the amazement of others, performed a dance of rapture in an attempt to dispel their suspicion.

Then without warning the door opened and Bahá'u'lláh entered majestically, holding in His hand a small glass vessel of rose-water. He greeted them with the salutation 'Alláh'u'-Akbar',* and bade them not to arise or disrupt their meeting. He had felt the spirituality of that gathering, He said, and so had come to anoint them with rose-water.† This He graciously did, going to every person in the room, after which He left.

It was a mighty climax and the highlight of the evening. No one was able to sleep that night, so intoxicated were they with the wine of His presence. 'The like of that night', Nabíl writes, 'the eye of creation had not seen.'


* Literally, 'God is the Greatest'. With these words the followers of the Báb greeted each other.

† In those days it was considered a gracious act for the host to anoint his guests with rose-water.