An Introduction to the Tablet to Mulla Baqir Nader Saiedi
One of the most important works of the Bab is his tablet to Mulla Baqir. This tablet was revealed in honor of the letter of the living, Mulla Baqir Tabrizi who asked the Bab about the signs, timing, and conditions of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Therefore, it constitutes the Bab’s most direct and elaborate discussion of the Promised One of the Bayan. That same question was addressed to the Bab by his prominent disciple Sayyid Yahya Darabi and the Bab sent this same table to him as well. In this short paper we discuss the central significance of this tablet, investigate its content, and explore Bab’s new logic and method of recognizing the Promised One. The Addressee of the Tablet Tablet to Mulla Baqir is revealed during the last months of the Bab’s imprisonment in Chihriq. 1 Although the tablet was sent by the Bab to both Mulla Baqir and Sayyid Yaya Darabi, the real addressee is the letter of the living Mulla Baqir Tabrizi. Throughout the tablet the Bab is addressing “the letter of the living,” indicating that, due to his illegitimate question, if Mulla Baqir were not a letter of the living he would have ordained a punishment for him. Likewise, at the end of the tablet Mulla Baqir is given the glad tiding that he would attain the presence of Him Whom God shall make manifest at the end of the year eight and the beginning of the year nine. Yahya Darabi was martyred before that date. Mulla Baqir was the last surviving letter of the living and for that reason he was known as “the Letter of the Living”. one can say that he was truly the Letter of the Living because he was the letter who formally recognized Baha’u’llah. According to the tablet to Mulla Baqir no letter of the living who fails to recognize the Promised One is a true letter of the living: Were I to be assured that in the day of His Manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee and repudiate thy faith inasmuch as thou wert not created but to recognise Him. 2 The other surviving letter of the living Mirza Hadi Qazvinin did not recognize Baha’u’llah. In a tablet revealed by Baha’u’llah in honor of Mulla Baqir Tabrizi, he is told to rise and proclaim the new revelation to all including to the other letter of the living, “letter Ha’” namely Hadi Qazvini. Bhaha’u’llah says that since we quickened all beings through the letters of the living and you are one of them, therefore you are the most worthy and most prominent person to proclaim the Cause of your Unconstrained Lord. 3 Mulla Baqir was a student of Sayyid Kazim Rashti who lived in Karbila. After the passing of his teacher he travelled to Shiraz and became one of the letters of the living. He travelled to different places to teach the Faith and then returned to Karbila. At the time of departure of Tahirih from Baghdad, Mulla Baqir accompanied her to Qazvin and after the onset of troubles in Qavin he went to Tehran. He attended the Badasht conference and attained the presence of the Bab a number of times in Chihriq. He accompanied Baha’u’llah to go to Mazandaran for joining the Babis in Tabarsi upheaval. He was the person who brought the tablet of the Bab consisting of 360 derivatives of the word Baha from Chihriq to Qum,
1 Mazandarani, Fadil, Zuhur’ul-Haqq 3: 19. 2 The Bab, Tablet to Mulla Baqir, in Gulpaygani, Mírza Abu’l-Fadl, and Mirza Mihdi Gulpaygani. Kashfu’l-Ghita’
delivering it to Mulla ‘Abdu’l-Karim Qazvini to be handed to Baha’u’llah. 4 According to Baha’u’llah’s tablet addressed to Mulla Baqir, he had attained the presence of Baha’u’llah in the year nine and twice more in ‘Akka. Although the precise date of his passing is not mentioned in various sources we can deduce the approximate date of his death from a tablet of Baha’u’llah dated February 11, 1881, in which he mentions that this letter of the living attained the presence of God in the year nine and also twice turned towards the Prison and attained his presence, and that “in these days” he ascended to the throne of the Most high. 5 Consequently, his death should have occurred around the year 1880. Significance of the Tablet to Mulla Baqir Throughout his later writings, the Bab identifies the main purpose and function of his revelation as the preparation of humanity for recognition of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Consequently, Tablet to Mulla Baqir, which is entirely an explicit discourse on the method of recognizing the Promised One, directly addresses the essence of his revelation. It is not then surprising that in the writings of Baha’u’llah, the most frequently quoted tablet of the Bab is this same Tablet to Mulla Baqir. The central station of the Tablet to Mulla Baqir is attested by various statements within the work itself. For example, after discussing the method of recognizing Him Whom God shall make manifest, the Bab turns the tablet into a prayer and calls God to witness that by this tablet he has affirmed the covenant of God in relation to Him Whom God shall make manifest before making his covenant in relation to his own revelation: Glorified art Thou, O My God! Bear Thou witness that, through this Book, I have covenanted with all created things concerning the Mission of Him Whom Thou shalt make manifest, ere the covenant concerning Mine own Mission had been established. Sufficient witness art Thou and they that have believed in Thy signs. Thou, verily, sufficest Me. In Thee have I placed My trust, and Thou, verily, taketh account of all things. 6 Likewise, at the end of the tablet the Bab commands the Letter of the Living to convey the message of this tablet to all the Babis and ask them to write a written confirmation of their covenant with the Promised One. Furthermore, the Bab says that, his entire writings constitute the testimony of his own covenant with the Promised One: O thou Letter of the Living! Covenant with all those who acknowledge their faith, every single one that is known to thee, concerning His Mission, through their own written testimony. The whole of the Bayán is such a testimony of Mine, written by Me. Verily, whoso writeth such an acknowledgment, hath testified to his belief in Him ere His Manifestation. Therefore, seek thou testimony from all who can be sought, that they may register their testimony of faith in writing before the Day of His manifestation. This, in truth, is the most lofty and exalted glory, and the most essential and sublime distinction. 7 It is also in this same tablet that the Bab discusses the essence (these gem-like words or Jawhara) of his writings and points out that understanding such essence is far superior to the entire deeds of worship performed by all beings: 4 Details of the history of Mulla Baqir’s life can be found in many sources including Nabil’s Dawn Breakers, Mazandarani’s Zuhuru’l-Haqq vol. 3, Samandar’s Tarikh-i-Samandar, and Muhammad Husayni’s Hadrati A’la. 5 Baha’u’llah, INBA 31:22. 6 The Bab, Tablet to Mulla Baqir. 7 Ibid.
I have written down in My mention of Him these gem-like words: “no allusion of Mine can allude unto Him, neither anything mentioned in the Bayán.” Yea, By His glory! Those words are, before God, far mightier than all the deeds of worship of all who dwell on earth, inasmuch as the essence of all those deeds returneth unto the import of those same words . 8 The New Method of awaiting for and recognizing the Promised One One of the most puzzling aspects of the early Baha’i history is the fact that in a few years after the declaration of Baha’u’llah vast majority of the followers of the previous religion, namely the Babis, accepted his claim and became Baha’is. Edward Browne estimates that around 1890, 96-97 percent of the Babis have accepted Baha’u’llah. 9 Such event by itself is extraordinary because even now after 14 centuries of Islam majority of Christians have not accepted Islam, and consequently the Christians vastly outnumber Muslims in the world. But this unique event becomes even more puzzling once we remember that the main leader of the Babi community, namely Mirza Yahya Azal, not only did not accept the claim of Baha’u’llah, he rather launched a total war against the new religion. The fact that the vast majority of the Babis ignored the words of their leader and turned towards Baha’u’llah does not seem to fit the conventional logic and it requires explanation. Tablet to Mulla Baqir provides one of the most important explanations for this spiritual and historical puzzle. Yet, what is emphasized in this tablet is the essence of all later writings of the Bab as well. Namely all the writings of the Bab brought about a new logic of messianic expectation and a new method of recognizing the Promised One. This method is categorically opposed to the method advocated by the leaders of past religions. Majority of the Babis followed this new method whereas the remaining Babis returned to the traditional logic. In Persian Bayan, for example, the Bab constantly reminds the Babis not to repeat the same methodological mistake that was made by the followers of past religions against his own revelation. Trusting and following their leaders, people reject the new manifestation of God by refusing to look at the new Revelation itself. Instead they renounce their own independence of mind, rely on the judgments of their leaders, demand fanciful miracles from the new Prophet as the evidence of his truth, and make their limited understanding of their holy books a standard and condition for recognizing the new messenger. According to the Bab, all these methods are fundamentally misguided and contradicts the truth of all religions. It was this same false logic and method that caused the rejection and persecution of the new Manifestation of God by those same people who were ardently weeping day and night for hastening of the revelation of their promised One. It was, however, the aim of the Bab that he educates the Babis so that they understand the falsity of that traditional logic and refuse to repeat the same mistake in their relation to the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest. According to the Bab, every human being should focus on the supreme Source of the Cause (mabda’i amr) or the essence of the Cause (Jawhari amr) to be able to recognize the Promised One. 10 This means that they all in a sense should become like the first believer of their own religion. When the first believer accepts the new Manifestation of God there is no other person who has already accepted him. Therefore, the first believer recognizes the new Manifestation independently and without any dependence on or imitation of any cleric, scholar, or leader of his past religion.
8 IBID. 9 Edward G. Browne, Babism, in Momen, Moojan (ed.) Selections from the Writings of E. G. Browne on the Babi
and Baha’i Religion. 1987. Oxford; George Ronald, p. 425. 10 For example, see Persian Bayan 3:12, 4:12, 5:2, 6:13, 8:19.
Furthermore, the first believer recognizes the new Manifestation when he does not possess any material or political power. Instead, he is usually subject to much persecution and ridicule by society. In other words, such recognition is not the effect of social conformity or opportunistic desire for material or social gain. The new believer, on the contrary, is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of his new faith. The new believer does not ask for miracles and rumors of strange miracles have not yet become part of a mythological history of his religion. The new believer recognizes the prophet by the very being of the prophet and by his words. We can identify the new method of the Bab as the logic of divine unity. The Manifestation is recognized by himself and not through anything other than himself. Like God, the Manifestation is endowed with absolute sovereignty and nothing and no one exists at his level. Consequently, he can be known only by himself and his own verses. Likewise, the first believer becomes a reflection of divine unity. He is alone by himself as if there exists no one else in the world. He approaches the divine messenger by himself, entirely ignoring the judgments of others. He relies only on his own independent search, his own independent gaze at the Manifestation of God. This mode of relation can only happen in a spiritual station that is called by the Bab the sanctuary of heart or sanctuary of unity. 11 The first believer forgets the world, listens to the words of the new manifestation and recognizes its divine origin. He appears as one spirit before the divine spirit wholly oblivious to the material and social world. Structure of the Tablet to Mulla Baqir This new logic and method of expectation and recognition of the Promised One is the heart of the Tablet to Mulla Baqir. The very structure of this tablet is a dramatic reflection of its substantive message. Mulla Baqir who is a letter of the living asks questions about the identity, signs and timing of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest. For the Bab these questions are entirely illegitimate since these questions are placing conditions on the revelation of the Promised One, making him constrained by the ideas, understandings and conditions of the people. Furthermore, such questions assume that Him Whom God shall make manifest can be known through anything other than himself and his words. Such assumption is offensive because it makes other people and other concepts equal to the Promised One. But this is nothing short of joining partners with God. Such ideas reflect arrogance before the creator. But this is the gravest sin. It has been the same assumption that caused Muslims to be veiled from recognizing the Bab. On the contrary, the only way to achieve spiritual truth is through absolute humility before the sovereignty of the Manifestation of God. The essence of the message of the Bab is that no question before the onset of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest is legitimate because his revelation cannot be constrained by any condition whatsoever. He should be known by himself and his verses alone. The dramatic structure of the Tablet to Mulla Baqir is designed to bring this new logic to full consciousness of his believers. The Bab begins by saying that these questions are not only illegitimate but also a grave crime. He says that if the questioner was not a letter of the living he would have ordained a punishment for this ultimate transgression. Then the Bab commands the letter of the living to engage in a spiritual ritual to prepare him for humility, detachment, and arrival at the sanctuary of unity. It is only after this preparation is made that Mulla Baqir becomes worthy of thinking about Him Whom God shall make manifest and hearing the words of the Bab about his future revelation. The
11 See Saiedi, Nader, 2008. Gate of the Heart. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Chapter 6.
spiritual ritual practice consists of two stages. First, the moment the very thought of Him Whom God shall make manifest crosses the mind of the letter of the living, he should recite 19 times each of the 5 verses that indicate sovereignty of the Promised One and his sanctification beyond all five realms of being. Together, they constitute 95 times affirmation of the sanctification or glorification of the Promised one. Needless to say, in the writings of the Bab 95 is the symbol of the word for LIllah (for God) because in its numerical value Lillah is equal to 95. In Persian Bayan the Bab explains that the true realization of “for God” is the Manifestation of God because no act is For the sake of God unless it is done for the sake of Him Whom God shall make manifest. 12 The five verses are: Glorified be God, the Lord of the kingdoms of earth and heaven!
Glorified be God, the Lord of Power and Dominion! Glorified be God, the Lord of Might and Divinity!
Glorified be God, the Lord of Strength and Ruby-coloured realm of Potency! Glorified be God, the Lord of Sovereignty and the realm of the earthly Creation! 13
In the second stage, the letter of the living should arise, standup, and confirm his willingness to arrive at the sanctuary of unity by a supplication to God and offering a befitting testimony. In this powerful supplication one first testifies to the fact that God has created him in order to recognize the transcendence and sanctity of God beyond all descriptions and praise. Then the reader asks God for permission to think of HimWhom God shall make manifest in a way that is befitting his intrinsic worth, and to be blessed with his love. The reader then testifies to the mode of thinking, recognizing, and loving that is worthy of Him Whom God shall make manifest: if one finds him alone by himself when no one else believes in him, and he prostrates before him, that is a recognition that is due to his intrinsic worth. Likewise, if one finds that all on earth are prostrating before the Promised One, this would not increase in any way his majesty in his heart. On the contrary, if the awareness of his acceptance by all the people slightly affects his devotion to him, he has failed to recognize him as he is worthy of recognition, and thus he has failed to affirm the unity of God. One’s mode of recognizing Him Whom God shall make manifest should be exactly the mode of one’s recognition of the unity of God. After the two stages of ritual preparation, the letter of the living is ready to hear the words of the Bab in regard to questions about the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Although we will explore the main ideas emphasized in this tablet, it is timely to remember that even in his answer the Bab himself engages in a ritual act of sanctification. The Bab is emphasizing that no person, no idea, and no praise can describe Him Whom God shall make manifest. Therefore, he cannot be constrained, defined or known by any of his creation. Among these creations of the Manifestation, all incapable of defining and conditioning him, are: the very concept of recognition and certitude, the very names of God like One, Quddus, Subbuh, Mighty, Beloved, and others. No one can claim any authority in his presence on the basis of titles like prophet, vicegerent, supreme scholar, and manifestation of the highest divine attributes because it is only through his word that these beings come into existence. In order to make this point even more dramatic the Bab repeats 70 times a statement which indicates that
12 The Bab, Persian Bayan 7:2. 13 The Bab, Tablet to Mulla Baqir.
Him Whom God shall make manifest is immeasurably exalted above every divine name and attribute and above any one’s coming into existence by His bidding! Before discussing the substantive response and message of the Bab to Mulla Baqir, it is befitting to remember the structural parallel of this tablet with the way the Bab interprets the structure of the tradition of Kumayl. Tradition of Kumayl, or tradition of truth, recounts the conversation between Imam ‘Ali and his disciple Kumayl who asks his master about truth. At first ‘Ali chastises Kumayl for such question, and teaches him humility. Once Kumayl arrives in the mode of humility and is somehow prepared to understand truth, ‘Ali defines truth through five statements. Kumayl repeatedly asks for more explanation and after the fifth statement ‘Ali ends the conversation. 14 Tablet to Mulla Baqir is endowed with the same structure in a more explicit way. The questioner this time is not an ordinary believer. He is one of the letters of the living, namely one who is endowed with the highest spiritual authority in Babi religion. Yet the Bab goes beyond implicit teaching of humility to Mulla Baqir. He says that were he not a letter of the Living he would have ordained a punishment for him. He chastises Mulla Baqir’s illegitimate question by saying: “ How supremely exalted is the One of Whom thou dost enquire, and how insignificant is thine essence! ” 15 Then to bring this awareness to Mulla baqir he orders him the two stages of spiritual ritual of humility and detachment in order to make him prepared for realizing the truth about Him Whom God shall make manifest. Yet, there is a major difference between the two conversations. The tradition of kumayl ends in a pessimistic note, indicating the limits of Kumayl’s understanding of the message of ‘Ali. However, the opposite is the case in the Tablet to Mulla Baqir. As we will see later, the Bab is giving the glad tiding to Mulla Baqir that at the end of the year eight and the beginning of the year nine he would attain the presence of Him Whom God shall make manifest. The recognition of the Promised one is not dependent on his acceptance by anyone . This fundamental principle which is a call for independent thinking of his believers is a necessary implication of the principle of divine unity. One should not become dependent on recognition of the Promised One by anyone. The obvious reference of this point are the religious leaders and scholars. For example, the Bab says: Wert thou to recognise Him, in the Days of His Revelation, through the most learned of the Dispensation of the Bayán, thou hast failed to recognise Him; and wert thou to find him hesitant in recognizing His Cause and yet thou hast called him by the name “human,” thou hast not repudiated the letter of negation to affirm the Manifestation of Transcendent Unity… For all that pertaineth to all things hath been created by Him. Verily, too sanctified is God to be known through His creation. Nay, rather, His creatures are to be known through Him. 16 But the Bab goes far beyond such idea and emphasizes even something that is unthinkable. What he says is that in searching for Him Whom God shall make manifest one should not be veiled by even the Unity of the Bayan (the Váhid of the Bayan.) This unity consists of the Bab himself together with his 18 letters of the unity. In other words, if someone make a claim to be the Promised One at a time when the Bab and all letters of the living are present, and then both the Bab and all the 18 letters reject the truth of the claimant, a true Babi should ignore the rejection of these 19 exalted ones, and judge the claimant
14 See Saiedi, Nader. Gate of the Heart, Ch.6. 15 The Bab, Tablet to Mulla Baqir. 16 Ibid.
simply on the basis of his own being and his own words. This is an extraordinary statement. In search after the truth of the Promised One, it is not simply the opposition of the Babi high scholars that should be ignored. Rather, one should also ignore the hypothetical rejection of him by all the letters of the living and by the Bab himself. We can now partly understand why majority of the Babis could ignore the rejection of Baha’u’llah by Mirza Yahya Azal. The Bab had educated his followers to ignore the judgment of anyone, and arrive at the sanctuary of heart where no one exists except God. This is what he says in Tablet to Mulla Baqir: Beware, beware lest, in the days of His Revelation, the Váhid of the Bayán shut thee not out as by a veil from Him, inasmuch as this Váhid is but a creature in His sight. 17 Needless to say these strong words are addressed to one of the letters of the living himself. The Bab strongly chastises his letter of the living for daring to ask any question that may constrain the Promised One by anything other than his own being. Recognition of the Promised One is not dependent on any statement in the Bayan Another unique message of the writings of the Bab, expressed succinctly in Tablet to Mulla Baqir, is that recognition of the Promised One should not become conditioned on any idea that is derived from any of the writings of the Bab. The word Bayan, which usually refers to two specific works of the Bab namely Persian Bayan and Arabic Bayan, refers in general to every and all writings of the Bab. 18 The Bab emphatically affirms that no word of the Bayan, no interpretation of the Bayan, no deduction from the Bayan should turn into a constraining condition for the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Yet, in recognizing the Promised One, the main message of the Bayan, the essence of the Bayan that must always be remembered and followed is precisely this unconditioned character of the next revelation and the fact that the Promised One should be judged and known simply and only through himself and his divine verses. 19 The first major expression of this principle in Tablet to Mulla Baqir is the following statement in which this same principle is defined as the essence of the Bayan. It should be noted that the word gem-like is the translation of Jawhara which means both essence and gem: I have written down in My mention of Him these gem-like words: “no allusion of Mine can allude unto Him, neither anything mentioned in the Bayán.” Yea, By His glory! Those words are, before God, far mightier than all the deeds of worship of all who dwell on earth, inasmuch as the essence of all those deeds returneth unto the import of those same words. Therefore, recognise thou Him Whom God shall make manifest by the same testimony by which thou hast recognised God. 20 As we noted, Tablet to Mulla Baqir begins with the command that the reader first engage in a spiritual ritual recitation that brings humility before the unconstrained sovereignty of the Promised One. The first and immediate statement of the Bab in the substantive part of the tablet is that language, including the language used in the writings of the Bab, is incapable of describing the Promised One. Therefore, the reality of the next Manifestation cannot be limited or constrained by anything that is conveyed by
17 Ibid. 18 The Bab, Persian Bayan 3:17. 19 Ibid, 6:8. 20 The Bab, Tablet to Mulla Baqir.
language including the entire Bayan. He begins by discussing the meaning of the pronoun word “this” or “that” when used to intend Him Whom God shall make manifest. He writes: Then repose and hearken unto that which I grant thee with regard to “that” Supreme Being: “That,” however, is a demonstrative pronoun, and it, verily, boweth down in adoration before the demonstrative pronoun used by Him; and the word “this” is ashamed of its inadequacy to refer unto His Eternal Essence. Glorified, immeasurably glorified, is the intrinsic glory of His Self, and exalted, immeasurably exalted, is the befitting loftiness of His Essence! 21 Most directly he affirms: And beware, beware that the words sent down in the Bayán shut thee not out as by a veil from Him, inasmuch as these are His own words in His former Manifestation. He is the Sun of Truth, the Face of Unity, the Countenance of Lordship, the Inmost Reality of Divinity, and the Self of Eternity. 22 Various statements in the writings of the Bab confirm this same point. In Persian Bayan the Bab emphasizes that no one can interpret the words of the Bab except Him Whom God shall make manifest. 23 This is a crucial part of the Bab’s approach to expectation and recognition of the Promised One. Since no one except the Bab himself and the Promised One can understand the true meanings of the Bayan, no understanding of any word in Bayan can turn into a standard and condition for the truth of the Promised One. In addition, the Bab has given one universal rule for understanding the true meaning of all the words of the Bayan. In Persian Bayan he says that any good name mentioned in the writings of the Bab refers in truth to Him Whom God shall make manifest and then a shadow of that meaning applies to others. Likewise, any negative name used in the Bayan refers in its primordial meaning to the person who opposes the Promised One. 24 As the Bab makes it clear in almost all his writings, it was the traditional method of expectation and recognition of the promised one that led to persecution of all the messengers of God. The Bab himself was rejected by the shi’h clerics precisely because his revelation seemed to contradict so many statements in their sacred books. It seemed that not only the door to prophethood was sealed by Muhammad, the Shi’ih 12 th Imam was also supposed to be born one thousand years earlier, to become victorious over the earth by war, and be accompanied by so many amazing signs and conditions. The Bab defined his revelation as the day of Resurrection which seemed to contradict the appearance of so many statements in the Qur’an. The response of the Bab to all these objections was that these ideas deduced from the Qur’an and traditions derive their legitimacy from the fact that they have been revealed and authorized by revelation of divine verses. But now he is revealing an ocean of divine verses and therefore the very objections against him prove the truth claim of the Bab. Those objections are perceived to be legitimate because they are ultimately believed to be confirmed by revelation of divine verses. 25 But now he is revealing the divine verses and that by itself is the ultimate vindicating proof of his revelation. The Bab educated the Babis so that they do not repeat the mistake of the Shi’ih followers in regard to recognizing the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest.
21 Ibdid. 22 Ibid. 23 The Bab, Persian Bayan 2:2.
24 Ibid. 2:8. 25 Ibid. 2:1.
It is noteworthy that in his book The Seven Proofs, the Bab responds to the objection raised against himself that apparently his revelation contradicts so many signs and statements in Qur’an and traditions. The response he gives was intended to be followed by the Babis in their judgment about the next revelation. He says that the apparent contradiction of previous traditions with his revelation can be answered in a number of ways. First, the real meaning of these words can only be known by the Promised One. Secondly, many of these traditions are not authentic. Third, bada’ (alteration in the divine will) is a divine truth and therefore, some of these statements may have become subject to bada’. 26 We can see that the Bab has categorically blocked any possibility that his words can be turned into a constraining condition for judging the truth of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Turning fire into light and light into fire Writings of the Bab divide people into two categories based on their recognition or rejection of the Manifestation of God. These are sometimes called letters of affirmation vs. letters of negation, letters of sublime paradise (’illiyin) vs. letters of nethermost region (sijjin), and letters of light vs. letters of fire. It is the recognition of the new Manifestation that turn the light into fire and fire into light. The Bab notes that the numerical value of the word Bab is equal to five, which is exactly the difference between the numerical values of the Arabic words for fire and light. Thus by adding the Bab to fire we get light. In other words, it is the recognition of the manifestation that brings about light, while the most prominent leaders and scholars of the past religion turn into fire by rejecting the new Manifestation. It is only during the physical presence of the Bab himself that true fire and true light can be distinguished from each other. After the physical death of the Bab the distinctions become only apparent distinctions and not real ones. In Persian Bayan he writes: Therefore, today, anyone who desireth to distinguish the letters of light from those of fire is able to do so, inasmuch as this is the Day of the Revelation of God. However, after the ascension of the Exalted Tree, none may make such a distinction in real truth, except in accordance with the appearance. Whoso transgresseth not the precepts of the Bayán is to be taken as amongst the letters of the sublime paradise, and whoso transgresseth them is to be numbered as those of the nethermost region, until the Day when God shall save this creation by manifesting His own Self in the day of Resurrection. At that time, that which is judged by the Point of the Bayán, in His Resurrection, is the real truth of His prior creation: He who recogniseth Him is assuredly numbered amongst the letters of the sublime paradise, and he who faileth to recognise Him is registered in very truth amongst those of the nethermost region. Thus God separateth the two in truth, for verily He is the best Discriminator. 27 It is clear from this statement of the Bab that no leader of the Babi community after the martyrdom of the Bab has a binding spiritual station to be able to distinguish letters of negation from letters of affirmation. No leader himself can be perceived to be truly a letter of fire or a letter of light. All distinctions will be a mere apparent distinction. The main reason that the Bab forbid public prayer is precisely this fact. He says that at the end of a dispensation and the beginning of a new revelation no one knows if the leader of prayer is really from the letters of light or letters of fire and therefore in the religion of Bayan no one should follow another person in praying to God. 28 One cannot help but note
26 The Bab, Dalá’il-i-Sab’ih (The Seven Proofs). N.p., n.d., p. 51. 27 Persian Bayan 2:2 28 Ibid. 9:9.
that the universal prohibition of public prayer in the religion of the Bayan implicitly points to the fact that the end of the dispensation is not a remote event in the future. At the time of each new revelation the leaders of the past religion fail to accept the new Manifestation. One of their arguments against the new revelation is precisely this same fact. They argue that they are letters of light and therefore they cannot be wrong. According to the Bab the exact opposite of this claim is true. He makes a universal principle: At the time of the revelation of a new Manifestation all people become equal before God. No one is at that time really a letter of affirmation or a letter of negation. This is the moment of attaining the presence of God, the Day of Resurrection, when people are judged by God and sent to hell or heaven. It is the recognition of the manifestation that distinguishes fire from light. The previous light by failing to recognize the new revelation turns into fire, and by accepting the new revelation, one who was not even a believer in the previous manifestation becomes a letter of light. This point is emphasized in many of the writings of the Bab including Tablet to Mulla Baqir. Tablet to Mulla Baqir emphasizes that at the time of the revelation of the Promised One, all people are equal before him. It is his binding word that creates distinction among the people after their absolute equality at the moment of revelation. If he decides to make a person a prophet he would become a prophet and whomever he defines as Guardian and vicegerent would become guardian and vicegerent. It is recognizing him that turn the letter of affirmation into letter of negation and vice versa: In the day of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest all that dwell on earth will be equal in His estimation. Whomsoever He ordaineth as a Prophet, he, verily, hath been a Prophet from the beginning that hath no beginning, and will thus remain until the end that hath no end, inasmuch as this is an act of God. And whosoever is made a Vicegerent by Him, shall be a Vicegerent in all the worlds, for this is an act of God. For the will of God can in no wise be revealed except through His will, nor His wish be manifested save through His wish. He, verily, is the All-Conquering, the All-Powerful, the All-Highest; and He is the All-Victorious, the All-Exalted, the All-Sublime. Recognising Him turneth the servant into the letter of affirmation, and being veiled from Him turneth him into the letter of negation. Shouldst thou believe in Him, whether thou possessest any knowledge or not, thine excellence would not be lessened. However, wert thou to be veiled from Him, even though thou possessest all knowledge, naught would benefit thee. 29 A universal principle discussed in the writings of the Bab in this regard is also emphasized at the beginning of the Tablet to Mulla Baqir. The Bab contrasts the Manifestation of God with all elite believers. The Manifestation is the real Sun in heaven. The elite believers, if they are real believers, are only mirrors in which a reflection of the Sun is present. They are praised by the attributes of the Sun because they turn towards the Sun and reflect its image. But of course the Sun in heaven is not the same as the suns in the mirrors. Mirrors are praised as letters of light as long as they turn to the Sun. If they turn away, they become letters of negation and their sun turns into darkness: Doth it beseem the sun that lieth in the mirrors of His revelation, manifested through the Point of the Bayán, to enquire of the Transcendent Sun before Whose Countenance, in the Day of His manifestation,
29 The Bab, Tablet to Mulla Baqir.
all such suns bow down in adoration? And this, if only they be true suns, Otherwise they are not even worthy of reflecting the loftiness of His sanctity, and the sublimity of His remembrance. 30 The addressee of the tablet is himself a letter of the living. We have seen that the Bab strongly chastises Mulla Baqir simply because he has entertained the thought of constraining the Promised one by his questions. In his response, the Bab contrasts this letter of the living with a Christian. At the time of the revelation of the Bab a letter of the living is a letter of light, but a Christian who has not recognized neither Muhammad nor the Bab belongs to the letters of negation. Yet at the time of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest, the letter of the living who fails to recognize him turns into a letter of negation and a Christian believer of the Promised One becomes a member of sublime paradise: By the righteousness of Him Whose power causeth the seed to germinate and Who breatheth the spirit of life into all things, were I to be assured that in the day of His Manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee and repudiate thy faith inasmuch as thou wert not created but to recognise Him. If, on the other hand, I be told that a Christian, who beareth no allegiance to My Faith, will believe in Him, the same will I regard as the apple of Mine eye, and accept as My believer, without making the slightest allusion against him. For should the Christian, in the Day of His manifestation, believe in Him, all his worlds would be turned into the light; but should the believer, in the day of His Revelation, be veiled from Him, all his worlds would be turned into fire. 31 In order to make this point very clear, the Bab gives an example. He intends to say that after the passing of the Bab himself, no one can be truly assured that he has attained the pleasure of God. Allegiance to no one, and no good deed is sufficient for certitude of the realization of good pleasure of God: Even if all the Babis become the first believer, Mulla Husayn (the return of prophet Muhammad, and normally the vicegerent in the past religions when there was a category of vicegerent), and in a sense they all become equally the supreme leader of the Babi religion, and then Mulla Baqir becomes the absolute ruler of the world, spending all his wealth for the sake of the Faith universally vindicating Babi religion, and then he asks these leaders of the assurance of the pleasure of God for him, they all categorically testify that they cannot give him such assurance since this assurance can only be given by Him Whom God shall make manifest. This example of the Bab leaves no doubt that first, no one after the Bab represents the divine will, and secondly, no one after the Bab has the binding word to distinguish between the fire and light. The Bab writes: Imagine that God would make all who dwell on earth like the First who hath believed in Him, and they all would perform good deeds on account of God’s intrinsic worth, for the sake of His good-pleasure, and for nothing else. Then imagine that there could be found not even a single soul on earth who would not await eagerly His Revelation. Also imagine that God would make thee possess all that is on earth. Now, imagine that thou wouldst gather everyone and say to them: “I have performed all good deeds from the beginning of my life to its end solely to be assured of gaining the good-pleasure of God,” while offering up all that is on earth for that utmost purpose. Given all these, this is what they all would give thee as an answer:
30 Ibid. 31 Ibid.
“Such assurance of the good-pleasure of God can only be vouchsafed by Him Whom God shall make manifest, or by a word that can be demonstrated that it is from God. But such word would be beyond the power of all and could in no wise be manifested by anyone save Him Whom God shall make manifest!” 32 This statement in Tablet to Mulla Baqir is perfectly compatible with frequent statements of the Bab in Persian Bayan which confirm that after the Bab there would remain no longer any binding word till the coming of the next revelation. This clearly means that although there would be Babi leaders after the Bab none of them bring divine words, none of them will bring authorized interpretive words, and none of them can offer any obligatory and binding words. In Persian Bayan the Bab writes: It is not permissible to engage in religious acts save those ordained in the Writings of the Point of the Bayán, for in this Dispensation the writings of the Letters of the Living all proceed directly from the Sun of Truth Himself. Divine verses [áyát] especially pertain to the Point of the Bayán, prayers [munáját] pertain to the Messenger of God [Muhammad], commentaries [tafásír] to the Imáms of guidance and educational discourse [suvar-i-‘ilmíyyih] to the Gates. However, all of these proceed from this Ocean so that all people can behold the exalted sublimity of these Writings of the Primal Truth... And from the time of the setting of the Sun [of the Báb] until the Rising of the Sun of Him Whom God shall make manifest, there will be no more binding Writings, and the Letters of the Living and all the believers in God and in the Bayán will be under their shadow [the Writings of the Point of the Bayán]. 33 Continuing with his example, the Bab says that while spending the wealth of the world for obtaining the pleasure of God is not a sufficient means of receiving that pleasure, in the day of the next revelation spending a tiny amount of money to ask the blessing of Him Whom God shall make manifest is the sufficient means for attaining the good pleasure of God: After understanding this, thou must recognise the exalted station of His Revelation: wert thou in the Day of His manifestation to fail to spend a small amount of all thy possessions, even to the extent of the price of a mustard seed, that Him Whom God shall make manifest, glorified be His mention, might reveal unto thee a verse confirming His good-pleasure of thee, which is the supreme desired fruit of all thy good deeds, and the utmost cherished end of all that pertaineth to thy life, then thou hast not performed any deed for God and His good pleasure. Then thou must readily testify that thou hast been deprived of the glory of His Revelation. Whereas He who shall believe in Him hath recognised God in all the worlds of revelation and creation. 34 Attaining the presence of Him Whom God shall make manifest in the year nine Although the Bab in his tablet is rejecting any limitation set on the next revelation, out of his love for his letter of the living, he gives him the glad tiding that in eight or nine years he will attain the presence of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Throughout his writings the Bab has emphasized that the Promised one appears whenever he wishes and there is no limit on his authority. But his writings sometime speak of nine years, sometime of nineteen years and sometimes of various years associated with the concept of ghawth (deliverance, calling for rescue) including Mustaghath (2001), Ghiyath or Ghayyath (1511). It is noteworthy that in the Tablet to Mulla Baqir which is directly a response to the question of the signs of the coming of the Promised one, there is no reference to any year except the
32 Ibid. 33 The Bab, Persian Bayan 3:16. 34 The Bab. Tablet to Mulla Baqir.
year nine. But even this is in the context of the emphasis on the absolute sovereignty of the Promised One, and that no word of the Bab should turn into a condition for his revelation. Tablet to Mulla Baqir explicitly affirms the year of revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest as the end of the year eight and the beginning of the year nine. The end of the year 1268 corresponds to October 14, 1852, namely the midpoint time of Baha’u’llah’s imprisonment in Tehran dungeon. This is the year nine in the Babi calendar. Tablet of Mulla Baqir points to this date in four different ways. First it asks Mulla Baqir to count the number of the letters of affirmation including the tashdid of the letter Lam (L). The letters of affirmation are “Illa Allah” which in Arabic consists of seven letters while one Lam is repeated twice in the word Illa. Therefore, one Lam has tashdid. Counting the number of letters including the tashdid gives eight letters. Secondly the Bab says that at the end of year eight and the beginning of the year nine Mulla Baqir will attain the presence of the Promised one. Thirdly, he emphasizes the difference of the two revelations as the difference between the Mighty and the Most Mighty, the Great and the Most Great. In both cases, the difference between the two are nine. Finally, the Bab ends this segment by repeating eight times our servitude to God. Here is the exact word of the Bab: Count the number of the letters of affirmation, including the tashdíd of the letter Lám, that haply thou mayest in eight years, in the day of His Revelation, attain unto His Presence. If thou dost not attain it at the beginning of the year, thou assuredly wouldst at the end of that year. Know thou, however, of a certainty that His Cause is the Most Mighty (a‘zam) in relation to any Mighty (‘azím) Cause, and His Remembrance is the Most Great (akbar) in relation to any Great (kabír) Remembrance… We all, verily, believe in God and in His signs. We all, verily, bow down before God. We all, verily, are devoted unto God. We all, verily, worship God. We all, verily, submit unto God. We all, verily, give praise unto God. We all, verily, yield thanks unto God. 35 There is another hint to the identity of Him Whom God shall make manifest in the above statement. The Bab asks Mulla Baqir to count the letters of affirmation. The word Illa Allah or the letters of affirmation consists of eight letters provided that the tashdid is also counted. But the numerical value of all these eight letters is exactly 128. This is equal to the name of Baha’u’llah namely Husayn. Conclusion Tablet to Mulla Baqir can be considered to constitute the essence of the writings of the Bab, his ultimate Book of Covenant, and his most explicit affirmation of the method of investigation of spiritual truth in accordance with the sanctuary of unity. The content of this tablet helps us to understand one of the main reasons for the overwhelming acceptance of Baha’u’llah’s revelation by the Babi community.