The Tablet of the Fear of God [Righteousness, Piety...]

By Stephen Lambden

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #18
Trent Park Campus: London, England
August 21–24, 1998
(see list of papers from #18)

    The fairly brief (4-5pp) wholly Arabic Lawh al-Tuqá (Persian Lawh-i-Tuqá — Tablet of the Fear of God [Righteousness, Piety...]) is published in the original Arabic but it has neither been translated into any other language nor commented upon in any Bahá'í publication — only rarely receiving cursory or passing mention. Though the exact date of this Tablet is unknown, internal evidence suggests that it should be dated to the latter part of the Edirne [Adrianople] period after the break with Mirza Yahyá (c. 1866-7?). The Tablet has the following revelatory prescript of Bahá'u'lláh Himself:

    "This is the Lawh al-Tuqa ("Tablet of the Fear of God"). Therein He mentioneth the servant of God who hath been named Nabíl before Taqí to the end that it be a memorial (tadhkirah) for him and a remembrance for whomsoever is protected within the shadow of His Lord, the Elevated. Such is indeed an expression of great good (khayr 'azim)."

    The mention of the "Nabíl before Taqí" here corresponds to the name Muhammad Taqi — the numerical (abjad) value of Nabíl and Muhammad being identical (=92). There were numerous Bábís and Bahá'ís with this fairly common name. The identity of the (probably staunch Bábí) named Muhammad Taqí referred to in this Tablet is not known with certainty. He had not written to Bahá'u'lláh but happened to be mentioned by him. This Tablet was revealed that he and others might be comforted and not slip on the spiritual Path.

    The latter component of the name of the person referred to in this Tablet, Taqi (=taqiyy, 'God-fearing,' 'Pious,' 'Devout'...) is derived from the same Arabic triliteral root (W-Q-Y [cf. VIII = T-Q-W]) as the verbal-noun, Tuqa which designates the Tablet itself — a word expressive of 'Righteous Piety,' 'Devoutness,' or the 'Fear of God.' The fear of God (tuqá, taqwá... + many synonyms) is an important ethical concept within the major Abrahamic religions (Judaism and Christianity and Islam) and has an important place in the Qur'án and in Sufi spirituality. It is also many times mentioned in both Bábí and Bahá'í scripture. Its central importance is evident in the late 'Akká period Tablet, the Persian Lawh-i-Dunya (Tablet of the World, c. 1890?) of Bahá'u'lláh where we at one point read: "Cleave unto taqwa righteousness, O people of Baha! This, verily, is the commandment which this Wronged One [al-mazlúm = Bahá'u'lláh] hath given unto you, and the first choice of his unrestrained Will for everyone of you." (Persian Text, Majmu'ih... 48; trans. Shoghi Effendi, TB:86).

    Not at all a cringing terror before an Almighty Creator, tuqá/tawqí, the 'fear of God' in Bahá'í spirituality is an inner quality which is closely related to the human conscience and to self-knowledge. It is an elevated quality intimately associated with wisdom and with actions expressive of genuine piety, righteousness, humility and love.

    The 'Tablet of the Fear of God' begins with an affirmation of the continuing, the post-Bábí divine revelation of verses. This that Bábís and other persons might orient themselves "upon a path unto the vicinity of the Spirit (al-rúh) nigh the Throne of their Lord ('arsh)...; be receptive to the Bahá'í message as revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. The people, the primarily Bábí audience, should "Fear God! (ittaqú'lláh)" in humility before the divine Beauty (jamal) with the [new] name of Bahá' (bi-ism al-baha') in the realm of Eternal Subsistence (jabarút al-baqá')." This new messenger is identical with the Báb. Humbly turning towards him is a befitting sign of receptivity to the outpourings of divine grace.

    Eschatological signs mentioned in the Qur'án have been fulfilled. Revolutionary changes have been effected and the invitation is made to enter and travel in "the Crimson Ark (fulk al-hamrá')" representative of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. This to the end that a lofty goal might be attained which is guarded from the aspersions cast by unbelieving Bábís and others.

    Allusion is made to the inadequacy of such persons as Mirza Yahyá Núrí (c. 1830-1914) and their known failure to accept the claim of Bahá'u'lláh; to "one who publicly turned aside from God." Others consider that new revelations are not in conformity with the fitra, " the natural human disposition." They do not feel right about it even though the God-given innate disposition was created by the very revealed Word of God itself. Still others accuse Bahá'u'lláh of magic or sorcery. These are fallacious accusations made against all the prophets and messengers of the past.

    The original spiritual creation of Mirza Yahyá is recounted in symbolic language as is his being accorded the "Most Beautiful Names" of God and elevated unto a station (maqám) which resulted in his being greatly renowned among a wide spectrum of peoples. This resulted in his pride and public renunciation of the Logos-like "Self of God" (Bahá'u'lláh).

    Further paragraphs of the Lawh-i-Tuqa several times call peoples to righteous piety and honesty; to the "fear of God." The strong and allusive language of the this Tablet quite frequently echoes that of the Qur'án; Bábís should not make the errors which Muslims made in rejecting the Báb. This Tablet is primarily a call to the followers of the Báb to make the transition to faith in Bahá'u'lláh despite the hostile attitude of his half-brother, the one-time leading Bábí Mirza Yahyá.

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