In a Tablet known as the Súriy-i-Vafá* Bahá'u'lláh refers to the immensity and boundlessness of the spiritual worlds. This Tablet was revealed in honour of a devoted believer from Shíráz who lived in Nayríz. He was Shaykh Muhammad-Husayn, surnamed Vafá (fidelity) by Bahá'u'lláh, and was one of the survivors of the upheaval in Nayríz. His father Mullá Báqir was the Imám-Jum'ih† of that city. When Vahíd arrived in Nayríz, Mullá Báqir and a great many people embraced the Bábí Faith, but most of them were massacred in that upheaval.‡ Mullá Báqir and his sons, including Vafá, were among the believers. However, because of his high office and his close links with the Imám-Jum'ih of Shíráz, who was a man of great influence, he and his sons were not persecuted and were among the survivors of that heroic struggle.
Vafá was a gifted poet and was respected by the inhabitants of Nayríz for his noble qualities as well as his learning and knowledge. He became a devoted follower of Bahá'u'lláh, one whose heart was overflowing with His love. The Súriy-i-Vafá was revealed in 'Akká in answer to some of his questions.
Concerning the spiritual worlds of God Bahá'u'lláh reveals these words:
As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know
* This Tablet has been translated into English and is published in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 181-91.
† High-ranking religious leader of a city.
‡ For details see The Dawn-Breakers.
thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized. Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world. Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise.1Bahá'u'lláh highly praises Vafá, the recipient of the Tablet, for his faithfulness to the Covenant of God. Equally, He condemns the unfaithful--the followers of the Bayán, the Bábís--who had failed to recognize Him. About them He says:
For indeed they erred grievously, misguided the people, ignored the Covenant of God and His Testament and joined partners with Him, the One, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. Verily they failed to recognize the Point of the Bayán, for had they recognized Him they would not have
1. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 187-8; also Gleanings LXXIX.
rejected His manifestation in this luminous and resplendent Being. And since they fixed their eyes on names, therefore when He replaced His Name 'the Most Exalted' by 'the Most Glorious' their eyes were dimmed. They have failed to recognize Him in these days and are reckoned with those that perish.2The 'Point of the Bayán' in the above passage is a reference to the Báb. His name 'Alí' means 'Exalted', and therefore one of His titles is 'the Lord, the Most Exalted'. This term is used to identify the author of the Bábí Revelation. The word 'Bahá' means 'Glory'; it is the Greatest Name of God.* The term 'the Most Glorious' is thus distinctive of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and is associated with His person. In the above passage He states that a mere change of names and attributes has caused some of the Bábís to become deprived of His Revelation. In another instance in this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh, referring to His Own Person, states:
Verily this is the Primal Point, arrayed in His new attire and manifested in His glorious Name...The Meaning of 'Return'
In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh describes the meaning of return in the Day of Resurrection, which is the day of the appearance of the Manifestation of God. It is the day that the 'dead' will arise from their sepulchres. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán Bahá'u'lláh has explained that when a Manifestation of God appears, by recognizing Him the spiritually 'dead' becomes alive through the spirit of faith.†
In the Súriy-i-Vafá Bahá'u'lláh further explains:
Know thou moreover that in the Day of His Manifestation all
* see vol. 1, pp. 116-17.
2. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 185.
3. ibid. p. 182.
things besides God shall be brought forth and placed equally, irrespective of their rank being high or low. The Day of Return is inscrutable unto all men until after the divine Revelation hath been fulfilled. He is in truth the One Who ordaineth whatsoever He willeth. When the Word of God is revealed unto all created things whoso then giveth ear and heedeth the Call is, indeed, reckoned among the most distinguished souls, though he be a carrier of ashes. And he who turneth away is accounted as the lowliest of His servants, though he be a ruler amongst men and the possessor of all the books that are in the heavens and on earth.4Another aspect of return described by Bahá'u'lláh is that God can, through His All-pervasive power and in the station of absolute authority, manifest in any soul the return of the qualities of another. He gives the example of the Báb, who pronounced Mullá Husayn, the first to believe in Him, to be the return of the Prophet Muhammad. These are the words of Bahá'u'lláh as revealed in the Súriy-i-Vafá:
Consider thou the Revelation of the Point of the Bayán--exalted is His glory. He pronounced the First One* to believe in Him to be Muhammad, the Messenger of God. Doth it beseem a man to dispute with Him by saying that this man is from Persia, the Other from Arabia, or this one was called Husayn while the Other bore the name of Muhammad? Nay, I swear by God's holy Being, the Exalted, the Most Great. Surely no man of intelligence and insight would ever pay attention unto limitations or names, but rather unto that with which Muhammad was invested, which was none other than the Cause of God. Such a man of insight would likewise consider Husayn and the position he occupied in the Cause of God, the Omnipotent, the Exalted, the Knowing, the Wise. And since the First One to believe in God in the Dispensation of the Bayán was invested with command similar to that with which Muhammad, the Messenger of God, was invested, therefore the Báb pronounced him to be the latter, namely His return and resurrection. This station is sanctified from every
* Mullá Husayn. (A.T.)
4. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 186.
limitation or name, and naught can be seen therein but God, the One, the Peerless, the All-Knowing.5The Revelation of the Báb, being the harbinger of the advent of the Day of God, was invested with a special distinction and endowed with enormous potentialities. Similar to a seed which holds within itself the potentialities of a tree, His Cause gave birth to a mightier Revelation than His own. The Báb has been extolled by Bahá'u'lláh as the 'Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve', 'Whose rank excelleth that of all the Prophets', 'the King of Messengers' and 'the Essence of Essences'.
The bearer of such a Revelation, who on the day of His declaration to Mullá Husayn inaugurated the Bahá'í Cycle destined to last for no less than five thousand centuries, had among the first contingent of His followers some souls who were the return* of the realities of Prophets and Chosen Ones. For instance, the Báb bestowed upon Mullá 'Alíy-i-Bastámí, the fourth Letter of the Living, the station of Imám 'Alí, who in the view of Shí'ah Islám is the true successor of Muhammad. This He did when He sent Mullá 'Alí to deliver His newly-revealed words into the hands of Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan-i-Najafí, one of the leading religious leaders in 'Iráq. In His Message to this divine, the Báb clearly stated that the bearer of the message was the return of the reality of Imám 'Alí.
Mullá Husayn, the first Letter of the Living, was acclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh as one 'But for him, God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory' 6. It was he who in the last year of his life attired his head with one of the Báb's green turbans which had been sent to him by his Lord, mounted his steed at Mashhad in Khurásán, unfurled the Black Standard and marched at the head of two hundred and two of his fellow Bábís towards Mázindarán where most of them laid down their lives in the path of their Beloved.†
* see also vol. 2, p. 182.
† For further information about this heroic episode, see The Dawn-Breakers, chapters XIV and XIX. In those days the type of one's head-dress was indicative of one's status in the community. The significance of the Black Standard comes from the Hadíth (tradition) of Islám which states that whenever it was unfurled at Khurásán, it would signalize the advent of God's new Revelation on earth.
5. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 184-5.
6. Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 223.
On such a person the Báb conferred the station of the Prophet of Islám.
Upon Quddús, the last Letter of the Living but the most eminent among His disciples, the Báb conferred a far greater station than that of Mullá Husayn's. When the Báb was held in captivity in the mountains of Ádhirbáyján it was to Quddús that all the believers turned with the same degree of devotion, love and obedience, as they had done in relation to their Lord. Notable among those who did this was Mullá Husayn. He showed the same humility and subordination to Quddús as he did to the Báb Himself. The recognition of the station of Quddús came to Mullá Husayn in a mysterious way reminiscent of his memorable experience of his first meeting with the Báb some years earlier.
Nabíl has recorded this fascinating story, the perusal of which unfolds before the eyes a magnificent spectacle in which the hands of the Almighty can be seen directing every act of a moving drama performed by a band of men whose ranks equal those of Prophets and Messengers of God.7
One of the Báb's titles is the 'Primal Point'. Bahá'u'lláh conferred the sublime title of 'the last Point' upon Quddús, stated that he was one of the 'Messengers charged with imposture' mentioned in the Qur'án, and elevated him to a rank next to that of the Báb. To contemplate these issues may be perplexing to some. The mind staggers at the thought that owing to the greatness of this Revelation some of its early disciples have been given the station of the Messengers of God. In the Súriy-i-Vafá Bahá'u'lláh has clarified this point by stating that God is the 'One Who doeth and ordaineth all things', and to no one is given the right to object. These are some of His words in that Tablet:
Verily God is fully capable of causing all names to appear in
7. See The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 256-65.
one name, and all souls in one soul. Surely powerful and mighty is He...In the Súriy-i-Vafá Bahá'u'lláh explains the meaning of heaven and hell. Heaven is not a place, but nearness to God, and hell is remoteness from Him. In this Tablet He states that in this world heaven 'is realized through love of Me and My good-pleasure'. He further asserts that 'for every act performed there shall be a recompense according to the estimate of God'.9 Indeed, within every action is embodied its reward or punishment. For instance, punishment for an ignorant man is his ignorance, and the reward for a learned person is his knowledge.
There is another subject in this Tablet, which concerns Mírzá Yahyá. Bahá'u'lláh alludes to him and those who supported him when he mentions Sámirí and the calf.10 This is a reference to the verses of the Qur'án† in which the story of Sámirí is told. According to the Qur'án, he was the one who made the golden calf for the children of Israel to worship during the absence of Moses.
* A designation for women. (A.T.)
† see Qur'án 20:87-98.
8. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 183, 184, 185 passim.
9. ibid. p. 189.
10. ibid. p. 190.
The 'Portals of True Understanding'
There is a passage in the Súriy-i-Vafá which may be regarded as one of the most edifying counsels which the Pen of the Most High has revealed. It is an exhortation to the believers which, if carried out, can lead to greater understanding of the verities enshrined in the Cause of God.
O servant! Warn thou the servants of God not to reject that which they do not comprehend. Say, implore God to open to your hearts the portals of true understanding that ye may be apprised of that of which no one is apprised. Verily, He is the Giver, the Forgiving, the Compassionate.11When a person recognizes Bahá'u'lláh as the Manifestation of God for this age and embraces his Faith, he knows that the words revealed by Him are the Words of God. All the teachings, laws and ordinances are therefore based on the truth of God's Revelation. The knowledge which is derived from His words is the standard against which all human understanding and knowledge must be weighed. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh thus admonishes the leaders of religion:
Say: O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring balance established amongst men. In this most perfect balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it.12It is, of course, natural that a believer may not understand the wisdom of a certain teaching, or may have difficulty in adjusting his own views on an issue to the teachings of the Faith. The way to resolve such a conflict is to study the Holy Writings further and to discuss the problem with knowledgeable believers. But if every approach fails, and the person does not succeed in reconciling his views with the teachings of the Faith, the only sure way to bring confirmation to his soul is to carry out
11. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 188.
12. Synopsis, p. 22.
["Say: O leaders of religion!..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶99; Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 128; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh XCVIII;
Bahá'u'lláh's exhortation in the above passage in the Súriy-i-Vafá. According to this, two steps must be taken. First, not to reject those teachings which the individual cannot comprehend. This can be done through having faith in the truth of the Word of God and becoming humble before Him. Indeed, the believer becomes filled with heavenly strength when he can acknowledge in his heart that man is a fallible being, whereas the teachings of God are based on truth. To insist that one is right in his views and opinions is to erect a barrier between himself and God. The mere acknowledgement of one's imperfections and inadequacies is a major stepping-stone to resolving the conflict and finding the truth.
The second step is to pray ardently that God may open to one's heart 'the portals of true understanding'. This is a stage in which the light of knowledge will shine within the heart of the believer and he will be 'apprised' of the things he could not comprehend earlier. The knowledge of God and a true understanding of His teachings can come about when the believer approaches Him in a spirit of utter humility and submissiveness, and opens his heart fully to the outpourings of His Revelation. Then and only then will the vernal showers of His unfailing grace cause the tree of knowledge and wisdom to grow within the heart, and enable him to bring forth, in the fullness of time, the fruit of understanding. When this stage is reached, the individual will be aided to comprehend the truth of the Word and discover the manifold mysteries that are enshrined within God's Revelation. Knowledge of spiritual truth comes through the heart of man. The intellect will then grasp the subject and reason will emerge. There is a tradition in Islám which Bahá'u'lláh confirms in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, stating that 'knowledge is a light which God sheddeth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth'. This is a knowledge which wells out of the heart of the believer and is independent of academic learning.
[knowledge is a light...] The Kitáb-i-Íqán p. 184