A Tablet which in its profundity and wealth of knowledge stands out as one of the most significant among Bahá'u'lláh's Writings is the Lawh-i-Salmán (Tablet of Salmán),* revealed in Adrianople in honour of Shaykh Salmán. We have referred to part of this Tablet previously.† Shaykh Salmán, whose life story is given in the first volume,‡ was a devoted servant of Bahá'u'lláh and dedicated his life to travelling for Him. He carried His Writings to the believers in Persia and brought back their letters and news to Him. He rendered this service with such care that none of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets ever fell into the hands of the enemy. It is recorded that on one occasion when he realized that he was about to be searched by the authorities in a Persian town, he ate the few Tablets he was carrying in order to protect the Cause and the believers for whom they were intended! Salmán was pure-hearted and very simple. The believers always enjoyed his company but there were some friends in high positions who were embarrassed and sometimes afraid to meet him because of his simplicity and frankness. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí writes of this in his Bihjatu's-Sudúr:
I spent some time in Shíráz where I used to attain the pres-
* In the list 'Bahá'u'lláh's best known Works' prepared by Shoghi Effendi, in volumes of The Bahá'í World, this Tablet is described as Lawh-i-Salmán I. It is mainly in Persian and parts of it are translated by Shoghi Effendi and included in Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, sections XXI, CXLVIII, CLIV.
† See pp. 263-4.
‡ See vol. 1, pp. 109-13.
ence of the celebrated Salmán...I was filled with infinite joy by associating with him. He was truly a brilliant lamp. Outwardly he was an illiterate person and very simple, but inwardly he was the essence of wisdom and knowledge who could solve difficult problems and explain abstruse questions in simple language. Salmán was the essence of selflessness, he had no ego whatsoever. He was in no way able to flatter people or to deal deceitfully with them. It was for this reason that the pure in heart among the believers were truly devoted to him. But those who were sophisticated and conventional were not keen to associate with him. For they feared that he might ruin their prestige in the gatherings of the friends. It is commonly known and is true, that once the Ancient Beauty told Salmán to show respect towards important people in the meetings, and not to speak unkindly about them. Salmán replied, 'I do not consider anybody great except the Ancient Beauty and the Master. The so-called great are nothing but pompous men.' This remark amused Bahá'u'lláh.1In the Tablet of Salmán Bahá'u'lláh bids him to journey throughout the land with feet of steadfastness, wings of detachment and a heart ablaze with the fire of the love of God, so that the forces of evil may be powerless to prevent him from carrying out his mission.
Revealed at the time when Mírzá Yahyá had openly arisen against Bahá'u'lláh, this Tablet also contains many passages concerning the unfaithfulness, the treachery, the ungodliness of Mírzá Yahyá and his shameful activities including his plans to take the life of Bahá'u'lláh. In moving language, He pours out His heart to Salmán and speaks of the anguish of His own heart, of His pains and sufferings which were inflicted by one whom He had brought up with such loving-kindness, care and consideration. He recalls the times when Mírzá Yahyá was in constant attendance by day and night. He would stand humbly in His presence and listen to the Words of God which were revealed with great power and majesty. But as the Cause began to grow, he was enticed by the prospect of his own fame. His
1. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 346.
whole being was so filled with the love of leadership that he left his Lord and rebelled against Him. Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet intimates to Shaykh Salmán that He is so encompassed by grief and sorrow that His Pen is prevented from bestowing the knowledge of God upon people and revealing some of the mysteries of His Cause.
A great part of the Tablet of Salmán is in answer to a question concerning the meaning of a line from a poem by Mawlaví.* In order to appreciate Bahá'u'lláh's profound explanations, one must be well versed in Islámic philosophy and the meaning of mystical terms. Otherwise it is not an easy task to understand this part of the Tablet. Furthermore, Bahá'u'lláh states that He is reluctant to expound the works of the mystics and sages of the past. For, He proclaims, the Sun of Truth has risen and oceans of knowledge have surged forth through His Revelation. Therefore there is no need to dwell on the words and teachings of old. Gnostics and men of learning must needs turn to Him as the Source of knowledge and receive enlightenment from Him.
Bahá'u'lláh calls on Salmán to meet the servants of God and counsel them on His behalf. They should cleanse their hearts so that they may be enabled to recognize the Beauty of His countenance, walk in His ways, meditate upon His Words, and know that if the worlds of God were limited to this one, the Báb would never have allowed Himself to fall into the hands of His enemy, nor would He have sacrificed His life in the path of God. In another Tablet2 Bahá'u'lláh states that if there were any merit in this mortal world, He Himself would have occupied its highest thrones and owned all its treasures. The fact that the Creator of this world has not set His own affection upon it is a proof that there are spiritual worlds far more glorious than this one. It is to these worlds that the soul of the believer repairs after its separation from the body.†
Bahá'u'lláh in the Tablet of Salmán promises that through the
* Jaláli'd-Dín-i-Rúmí, the author of the Mathnaví.
† There are many Tablets concerning life after death. Some of these will feature in the next volumes.
2. Bahá'u'lláh, from a handwritten collection of Tablets.
influence of His Revelation, some souls will arise who, renouncing the world, will turn fully to Him with the utmost devotion, and regard the sacrifice of life in His path as the easiest of all things. He affirms that God has chosen these souls for His own Self, and that the dwellers of the realms on high long to attain their presence.
The history of the Cause records with pride many episodes in the lives of such believers, who have shed a great lustre upon the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. The tree of the Cause of God in this day has grown and flourished mainly as a result of two factors: one, the outpouring of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh which, like the rays of the sun, has imparted to it a measure of its vivifying energies; the other, the blood of the martyrs who willingly gave their lives in order to nourish and water it.
Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet confers an exalted station upon the soul of the believer. He states that if the glory of such a station be revealed in this world, even to the extent of a needle's eye, every soul will expire through ecstasy. Because of this, the station of the true believer is kept hidden in this life. In another Tablet revealed in 'Akká Bahá'u'lláh makes a similar statement:
Blessed is the soul which, at the hour of its separation from the body, is sanctified from the vain imaginings of the peoples of the world. Such a soul liveth and moveth in accordance with the Will of its Creator...If any man be told that which hath been ordained for such a soul in the worlds of God, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, his whole being will instantly blaze out in his great longing to attain that most exalted, that sanctified and resplendent station...3In the Tablet of Salmán Bahá'u'lláh explains one of the most interesting mysteries in the Qur'án, a mystery which had hitherto remained unnoticed. He refers to the well-known phrase, 'There is no God but Him'. This is the cardinal statement of faith which every Muslim must make, and which is the basis of the Islámic religion.
3. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section lxxxi.
As we have previously written,* the Word of God has many significances which are beyond the ken of men. There are inner meanings enshrined in the Word of God which only His Manifestation and those whom He guides understand. Bahá'u'lláh explains that in this phrase 'There is no God but Him', the letter of negation precedes that of affirmation. Therefore as a result of the creative influence of this phrase, ever since it was revealed, the violators of the Cause of God, representing the letter of negation, dominated over the faithful in the past. All the sufferings which the hands of the breakers of the Covenant of God inflicted upon the steadfast Muslims and their apparent superiority, were the fulfilment of the Words uttered by Muhammad. God had, through His wisdom, so destined that those who were impure and rebellious should dominate those who were true and sincere.
It is a Bahá'í belief that those who usurped the right of Imám 'Alí, the lawful successor of Muhammad and the interpreter of His Word, were acting against the expressed wishes of their Prophet. They disregarded the injunctions of Muhammad concerning His successor, became the primary cause of division within the Faith of Islám, brought about the death of the holy Imáms and persecuted their followers. They were the letters of negation and till the end of the Dispensation of Muhammad, dominated His faithful followers.†
History demonstrates that great differences arose among the followers of each religion soon after the death of its Founder. These differences led to schisms and divisions which have increased with the passage of time. This process, however, must not be so misunderstood as to lead us to believe that the Founders of the world's great religions in the past were incapable of establishing ways and means of uniting their followers, or of staying the hands of the unfaithful from corrupting the religion of God.
That religions have divided into sects is not due to the teach-
* See vol. 1, chapter 3.
† For a more detailed account of these events, see vol. 1, pp. 126-8.
ings of their Founders, but rather to the immaturity of their followers. Just as children are too young to be held responsible for keeping their clothes clean as they play outside, so humanity in past dispensations had not acquired sufficient maturity to protect the religion of God from disunity and discord.
Even in Islám, the most recent of the older religions, men were not sufficiently mature to receive from Muhammad a firm Covenant, similar to that established by Bahá'u'lláh, a Covenant which would require His followers strictly to follow His Faith without creating division within it. On the contrary, as we have already observed from the fore-mentioned phrase in the Qur'án, Muhammad knew that His followers would not be capable of maintaining their unity after Him. He knew that if He were to establish an irrevocable covenant in writing, the people of Islám would not have had the maturity and capacity at that time to observe its provisions strictly. But this is not to be regarded as a failure on the part of Islám, or of older religions which became similarly divided. It was only natural for humanity, which had not come of age, to neglect its duty and conduct itself irresponsibly. However, through God's forbearance and justice, the followers of past religions received their spiritual sustenance regardless of the sects they created.
For example, the primacy of Peter is acknowledged in the Gospels. However, differences arose and the followers of Christ became divided. Nevertheless each sect received a measure of the bounties of Christ. The tree of Christianity blossomed even after acquiring several branches, and each one remained verdant and flourishing until the advent of Islám when the Dispensation of Christ was closed. Similarly, the two major branches of Islám remained part of that religion. Even those who violated the wishes of the Prophet were not cut off from the Tree of Islám; all received their sustenance from it until the advent of the Báb when the Dispensation of Islám came to an end.
However, the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh has ushered in a new day. Through the potency of His Revelation mankind is
destined to come of age and Bahá'u'lláh has given it responsibility. He established an irrefutable Covenant with His followers, appointed its Centre, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, exhorted the believers to follow Him and made it clear that in this Dispensation there would be no room for disunity and division. The Cause of God is one and indivisible, and man, having left behind the stages of childhood and adolescence, must now play a responsible part in maintaining its unity, in consolidating its world-wide structure and in protecting its nascent institutions from the unfaithful.
Referring to the fore-mentioned phrase 'There is no God but Him', Bahá'u'lláh, in the Tablet of Salmán, proclaims in majestic and powerful language that He has removed the letter of negation which had been placed before that of affirmation. This phrase, which the Prophet of Islám, through His all-encompassing wisdom, regarded to be the cornerstone of His Faith, is now, in the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, symbolically replaced by the affirmative phrase 'He is God', signifying that the Revealer of the Cause of God holds within His hands the reins of authority, and, unlike the Dispensations of the past, no one has the power to wrest it from Him. The violators and the breakers of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, as history has shown, have been utterly impotent to introduce divisions within His Faith, to arrest its onward march or influence its glorious destiny.
How striking are the evidences of the creative power of the words of Bahá'u'lláh, that through but a movement of His Pen He reversed a process which had persisted for centuries, which had created schisms within religions and placed the true exponents of the Faith of God under the domination of the unfaithful. After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was opposed by no less a person than His brother Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí. This son of Bahá'u'lláh tried, against the provisions of the Will and Testament of His Father and in company with a number of outstanding teachers of the Faith, to undermine the exalted position which Bahá'u'lláh had conferred upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In the end, the power of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh swept
Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí into the abyss of ignominy and he perished ingloriously. Through the same power, the breakers of the Covenant during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi were also struck down.
It is important to note that those who rebelled against 'Abdu'l-Bahá and broke the Covenant were not of a foolish and senseless type. On the contrary, most of them were intelligent and capable men; some were highly knowledgeable teachers and immensely respected by the community. Jamál-i-Burújirdí was a distinguished mujtahid with a keen mind, Siyyid Mihdíy-i-Dahají was an erudite person and a powerful speaker. There were several others like them who were once outstanding followers of Bahá'u'lláh, who served the Faith with distinction but whose ego destroyed them in the end. Covenant-breaking is a deadly spiritual disease. It existed in the Dispensations of the past, but as already explained, it resulted in schisms and divisions. This disease is contagious and, if not checked, can destroy the very foundations of religion. It is for this reason that Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have warned the believers not to associate with those who break the Covenant. Through this vital commandment, which is entirely new in the history of religion, the Cause of God, which since its inception has been betrayed many times by proud and vainglorious men, and whose appointed Centres were ruthlessly opposed by bands of egotistical followers, has emerged triumphant from these most severe crises, its unity unimpaired and its solidarity further enhanced.
Bearing in mind the turmoil of the age in which we live and the spirit of rebellion which agitates human society today, we realize that the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh would have been divided by now into hundreds of sects had it not been for the power of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and the creative influence of His Words in which we find the assurance that this is 'the Day which shall not be followed by night'.* 4
4. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 245.