Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #32 (English)

Bosch Bahá'í­ School: California USA

November 23–26, 2000.

Theme: "Istanbul-Edirne Period"


Lawh-i-Ahmad in Persian: A Question of Faith and Volition

by Mahyad Zaerpoor-Rahnamaie

This majestic Tablet in Persian was revealed in Adrianople as an exhortation to Hájí Mirza Ahmad of Káshán, a half brother of Hájí Mírzá Jání and Hájí Muhammad Ismá'íl (Dhabíh). Deeper delving into this Tablet strengthens my understanding that having faith in the Manifestations of God is more an act of volition than a heavenly bounty. Considering the life events of the recipient of the Tablet, we get a clearer picture as to how each believer has to strive to keep the flame of faith burning in his heart. Haji Mirza Ahmad had the bounty of companionship of his Lord, was a recipient of such a Tablet, and came from a family with two devoted brothers, but in the end, he broke the Covenant and joined the Azalis.

In this Tablet, the Supreme Pen paints a panorama of natural elements, each symbolizing a mystical and spiritual meaning. The following are a synopsis of some of the points that will be discussed in more detail:
  1. THE AUDIENCE: In addition to Ahmad, who is called upon directly in this Tablet, "Banished and faithful friend," "My servants," "People of Bayan," and "True Seekers" are also invited to listen to His Counsel.

  2. THE CONTENT: The following three major themes in this Tablet basically guide the individual as how to fulfill his responsibility to keep his faith constantly revitalized:
    • By consciously avoiding thoughts and deeds that are detrimental to one's faith.

    • By adopting attitudes that are conducive to higher plateau of faith.

    • By reminding the believers of the total sanctity of the Manifestations of God from people embracing or rejecting Their Message.
The given exhortations, wrapped in metaphors and symbolism, convey to the reader a hidden meaning that (like the quest for many other lofty achievements) one has to act out of one's volition first and then strive tirelessly. for constant renewal of one's faith.

The Ancient Beauty, in His encompassing mercy, has given us means to travel the uncharted path to the safety of His Threshold. However, our submission to His Will ultimately remains to be our choice. The freedom is ours and hence the responsibility.


Most Great Separation, The

by Sina M. Mossayeb

Amongst the climatic events that stand out in Bahá'í history stands one that took place during Bahá'u'lláh's exile in Adrianople known as the Most Great Separation. It was during this period when Bahá'u'lláh's seditious half-brother, Mirza Yahyá attempted to kill Him by poison in his deceiving acts and schemes to usurp power away from Bahá'u'lláh. This treacherous act was the consummation of other numerous crimes and mischievous plots to plant doubt in the believers and the wrest away attention from Bahá'u'lláh.

After the cruel and vicious attempt to assassinate Him with poison, Bahá'u'lláh decided to announce directly the full claim of His station to Mirza Yahyá-calling upon him to pay allegiance to the Cause. Upon receiving this announcement through a written tablet known as the Súriy-i-Amr (Súrih of Command), not only did Mirza Yahyá reject His claim, but also arose to assert himself as the true recipient of divine Revelation.

Following these two drastic actions of dissent and malice, Bahá'u'lláh decided to withdraw with His family away from the house of Amru'lláh, to the nearby house of Rida Big. This withdrawal was a clear and distinct break from Mirza Yahyá, and was the cause of severe tests and trials for the faithful and disloyal alike. It left an open field for the unfaithful to engage in their full folly, since Bahá'u'lláh had permitted no access to the other believers in exile. Tension amongst the believers reached a climax. Mirza Yahyá and his followers launched a full attack on Bahá'u'lláh through spreading false papers amongst the believers in Persia misrepresenting Bahá'u'lláh and appealing to the government to take action against what he falsely claimed Bahá'u'lláh had committed. In another tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, called the Lawh-i-Salmán (Tablet of Salmán), He brings to light the pain and suffering that He was afflicted with at the hands of Mirza Yahyá. He relates the tragic and tormenting string of events that his younger half-brother, whom He had nurtured from childhood, was shamefully and maliciously heaping upon His agonized heart. This majestic and powerful tablet struck Mirza Yahyá down.

This break, however, was not arbitrary in any sense. Between His move from the house of Amru'lláh to the house of Rida Big, Bahá'u'lláh revealed another tablet known as the Lawh-i-Bahá (Tablet of Baha), in which He covers various topics. It is in this Tablet where Bahá'u'lláh makes a clear distinction of the Bahá'í identity by calling upon the "people of Baha" (differing from "the people of the Bayan"). He mentions how those who had followed the Báb should turn towards Him. It also depicts and addresses how some of the Báb's followers had arisen to take His life and afflict Him with pain and suffering. He condemns their actions and those who had broken the Covenant of God-likening them to the Muslims who persecuted the Báb. Consequently, those who followed Bahá'u'lláh identified themselves as Bahá'ís and those who broke His Covenant or followed Mirza Yahyá were called Bábís or sometimes Azalis.

This series of dramatic waves reached a crashing culmination, whereupon an inevitable confrontation between Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahyá took place. A challenge was made by Mirza Yahyá and his co-conspirator, Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfáhání, to Bahá'u'lláh for a public confrontation (mubahilih) — assuming that He would not respond. Nevertheless, it aroused the "wrath of God" and indeed Bahá'u'lláh did arise to face the challenge intended to strengthen their campaign of deceit. It resulted in a monumental and historical hallmark that stands as a testimony of Bahá'u'lláh's might and majesty and of Mirza Yahyá's fears and wretched falsities. The rejection of Mirza Yahyá from the faithful, the open self-humiliation of the Covenant breakers, and the consolidation of the followers of Bahá are a pinnacle of the growth and development of the Bahá'í Faith — all of which culminated in the "Adrianople Years" of Bahá'u'lláh.

An overview of the themes revealed in the three tablets — Súriy-i-Amr, Lawh-i-Salmán, and Lawh-i-Bahá — tied together with the narrative of this historical drama will be presented to illustrate in more detail the particulars of the events that came to pass, which have set a point of origin for a collective Bahá'í identity and the emergence of a undividable world religion.


Mystic Cup, The: The Essential Mystical Nature of the Bahá'í Faith

by LeRoy Jones

The concept of the "mystic cup" and its heavenly draught is a fine thread woven throughout Bahá'í­ sacred writings, repeatedly disclosing the fundamentally mystic character of the Bahá'í­ Faith. However, in the u.s. Bahá'í­ community there is often a lack of awareness and little intuitive sense for what constitutes the mystical. Even though the situation has improved in recent years', many deepened Bahá'í­s have little idea what the word means. Given the lack of depth of understanding within the Bahá'í­ community as well as the misappropriation of the word in popular culture we have a majority of the Bahá'í­s with a weak grasp of what constitutes mysticism. "The Mystic Cup" shows that the Bahá'í­ Faith is first and foremost mystical and clarifies the Bahá'í­ concept of the mystical. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's projection of a "mystic oneness" that will gradually bond all the hearts of the world is a basis for much of the paper. The notion of "heart" appeals to a wider audience. The paper establishes the "heart" as the center of the "mystic feeling" and discuses how this heart-centered mystic oneness not only incites individual spiritual transformation but is at the core of all social and administrative remedies necessary to finally effect the "mystic change" that the Guardian predicts will take place in society as a whole. Arguments are well supported and the author believes we as Bahá'í­s must give this area much more attention.

Click here to read this paper online.

Perception Into Faith: A Radical Discontinuity Within Unity

by William Barnes

Attaining eternal life has concerned the human soul for millennia. Using statements from many Scriptures, but especially the Bahá'í Writings, this paper will argue that entering into eternal life is both a change of being and of perception, an ontological leap and an epistemological one. The process starts with a mystical perception, like the kind that one thief experienced during the crucifixion of Christ.

From there the paper moves to a discussion of the two natures of man. One nature is the temporal self, called the ego. The other is the eternal self, activated and nourished only by God's Word. These two selves are opposing conditions of existence. Thus, no transformational connection can unite them.

The next part of the discussion focuses upon the age-old issue of faith versus good deeds as the necessary means for attaining eternal life. The Bahá'í writings say that good actions performed without knowledge of God "cannot be the cause of eternal salvation" and "entrance into the Kingdom of God" because they do not bring about a conscious perception of eternity. Faith is predicated upon knowledge and perception, and then good deeds. "By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds."

The final part of the paper discusses the condition called in the Bahá'í writings the spirit of faith, where the soul is granted "the gift of faith" and its latent powers awaken. Faith and eternal life are, then, a spiritual resurrection into a larger mental existence that expands the powers of the soul.

Click here to read this paper online.

Review of Kitáb-i-Badí' (The New Book), A

by Ghasem Bayat

Kitáb-i-Badí', one of the longest writings of Bahá'u'lláh in Persian, was revealed in Adrianople in defense of His Cause. This book addresses the accusations brought against Him and His cause in a letter by a Bábí, Mírzá Mehdi, who had lent his support later to Mírzá Yahyá and his claim of successorship to the Báb. Mírzá Mehdi wrote the actual letter to Aqá Muhammad 'Ali, one of Bahá'u'lláh's disciples, who had been instrumental in teaching him. Nevertheless, his letter contained the largest collection of all of the opposition's views. Consequently, the Kitáb-i-Badí' was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh to refute these views.

In this paper we will review the historical context of this book, summarize the principal views of the opposition, and provide a summary of Bahá'u'lláh's comments. The book covers many spiritual themes and guidance that will be highlighted.

This book had wide circulation at the time of its writing and became instrumental in the mass conversion of the Bábí communities to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh defends His cause in this book principally through quoting the Báb's writings. As such, this book is similar to The Book of Certitude.


Súrihs of Hájj: Pilgrimage to the Two Houses

by Nabil Fares

During the period of Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Súriy-i-Hájj (Súrih of Pilgrimage) for visiting the House of the Báb in Shiráz and sent it to Nabíl-i-A'zam. After Nabíl-i-A'zam carried out the instructions of Bahá'u'lláh in Shiráz, he received another tablet, the Súriy-i-Hájj (Súrih of Pilgrimage) for the house of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad. Nabíl, therefore, set his steps toward Baghdad and performed the rites of pilgrimage for the house of Bahá'u'lláh in that city as directed by the Blessed Beauty. In these two magnificent tablets we will explore such themes as the unity of truth in all religions, the greatness of the advent of Bahá'u'lláh in relation to the past Manifestations, the station of Bahá'u'lláh's servitude, the proof of God being manifested in human frame, unity in the words of God, the meaning of disharmony in the words of God, the importance of awareness of the magnitude of the Cause of God and humbleness towards Him, steadfastness and fearlessness in the face of tests and the enemies of the Faith, avoidance of consorting with the ungodly, the meaning of devil, and the meaning of unity, which is attainable only through love for Bahá'u'lláh.


Súriy-i-Ra'ís (Tablet/Treatise to His Excellency) Addressed to 'Alí Páshá, The Grand Vizir of the Ottomans

by Piruz Khorvash

The Súriy-i-Ra'ís was revealed in Arabic in honor of Hájí Muhammad Isma'il-i-Kashani, i.e., Dhabíh; (sacrifice) and Anís (companion). It was revealed when Bahá'u'lláh and His companions were banished from Adrianople to 'Akká and were under significant tribulations and indignation. Yet these ominous warnings and injustice were issued to the very person who was the head of the Ottoman government, which had ordered the cruel injustice against Bahá'u'lláh. Addressing the vizir, He declares that neither his "swine snort" nor his "canine barks" of his assistance may change the will of God and the course of His Cause. As a result of their action, He asserts, "The day is approaching when the Land of Mystery (Adrianople) and what is beside it shall be changed, and shall pass out of the hands of the king, and commotions shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised, and the evidences of mischief shall be revealed on all sides, and confusion shall spread by reason of that which hath befallen these captives at the hands of the hosts of oppression. The course of things shall be altered, and conditions shall wax so grievous, that the very sands on the desolate hills will moan, and the trees on the mountain will weep, and blood will flow out of all things. Then wilt thou behold the people in sore distress."

Then at some point He turns his attention to Dhabíh in words of loving kindness. He then refers to the night that soldiers had surrounded his residence, houses of relatives, and His loved ones in Adrianople, leaving them without food. Lamentations of neighboring Muslims and Christians from this injustice Were aroused. Then He, continuing, "We perceived that the weeping of the people of the Son (Christians) exceeded the others," mentioning Haji Jafar-i-Tabrizi, who consequently attempted to take his own life for love of Bahá'u'lláh. Recalling similar incidents in Baghdad regarding Siyyid Isma'il-i-Zavari'i, He affirms that "such events have been unheard of in bygone centuries." Bahá'u'lláh declares that although these souls, driven by uncontrollable urge to sacrifice in the path of God, acted against His commandments, they are immersed in the ocean of His forgiveness and that tribulation and suffering of believers will act as oil for the lamp of the Cause of God, adding to its radiance and glory.

Amidst all of these calamities threatening His life and the lives of His family and followers He turns to Dhabih's questions about the nature of the rational soul and its progression or regression in the realms of God.

These warnings uttered by Bahá'u'lláh over a century ago, and soon followed by Súriy-i-Mulúk, have set in motion an immense cataclysmic process, breaking up the old order and destroying the foundation of human society everywhere on the planet.

So while we live at a time when man's knowledge and wealth are phenomenal, he does not know where to turn and how to stem the tide of its catastrophic course. To the followers of Bahá'u'lláh the cause of these calamities is clear. Although the Divine Gardener has planted the seeds in fertile soil, as man has turned his back to the Sun of Truth no rays of sun get to the seeds.

"Soon," Bahá'u'lláh Himself has prophesied, "will the present day order be rolled up and a new one spread out in its stead."


Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh to the Christians

by Sateh Bayat

The writings of Bahá'u'lláh during the 'Akká period seem to fall into three categories. The first comprises the writings that constitute the sequel to his Proclamation in Adrianople. The second is the Revelation of the Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas The third is the revelation of tablets that elaborated and reaffirmed certain precepts and principles. Among the proclamation writings were the tablets revealed to rulers of Christendom, such as Napoleon III, the French Emperor; Nicolaevitch Alexander II, the Czar of Russia, and Pope Pius IX, the temporal and spiritual head of the most powerful Church in Christendom.

Bahá'u'lláh addressed Christians both directly and indirectly. He addressed archbishops, bishops, priests, monks and the entire body of the followers of Jesus Christ. Some specific Tablets were also revealed addressing Christians, such as the Lawh-i-Hertik, the Gem of Mysteries, and Lawh-i-Aqdas, titled "Tablet to the Christians." Official translations for some of these tablets are not yet in print. In this presentation, the principal message of these tablets will be highlighted and background information on individual tablets will be given.

Throughout these tablets Bahá'u'lláh proclaims clearly and unequivocally His message to the followers of Jesus Christ and to the followers of all religions. Christians expected the return of Christ and the appearance of God at the "Day of Judgement." Bahá'u'lláh identifies himself with both Jesus and God, the "Father," whose advent Jesus Christ had foretold and through whom the Spirit of truth had been manifested to man. He uses the prophetic terminology familiar to the Christians.

Jesus Christ said that His sheep would recognize their shepherd by the sound of His voice. Bahá'u'lláh, the Divine Shepherd, has come even if it is by a "New Name." Bahá'u'lláh admonishes the Christians for not having recognized Him, and likens them to the Jews at the time of Christ who rejected His first coming. He announces the joyful tidings of His revelation to the priests, bishops, and monks. He summons the Christian clergy to leave their churches and proclaim His Cause to all mankind. He exhorts them to fear God and assures them of the blessings vouchsafed unto those who have acknowledged and remained steadfast in His Cause. He prophesies that His Cause will be taken to the West and from there will be spread to all regions.

This is a Voice of love, of a Shepherd calling his stray sheep back to the fold, back to reunion with Him. It is the same voice that spoke to humanity in the Psalms and in the Sermon on the Mount. It is a renewal of the Word of God, not a replacement.

Súriy-i-Mulúk (Surah of Kings)

In Adrianople (Edirne) innumerable Tablets were revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in which His newly asserted claims were fully expounded. Amongst these is Súriy-i-Mulúk, which the beloved Guardian states, "is the most momentous Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh."

He, for the first time, directs His words collectively to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West, and addresses separately the Sultan of Turkey and his ministers; the kings of Christendom; the French and Persian Ambassadors accredited to the Sublime Porte; the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders in Constantinople, its wise men and inhabitants; the people of Persia; and the philosophers of the world.

Bahá'u'lláh, in the Súriy-i-Mulúk addresses the kings of the earth, disclosing the character of His Mission. He urges them to embrace His Message. He affirms the validity of the Báb's Revelation. He rebukes them for their indifference to His Cause. More specifically He rebukes the kings of Christendom for having failed Him and being busy with temporal matters. He commands them to be just and watchful, to compose their differences and reduce their armaments, and entrusts the poor to their care. He talks at length about His afflictions. He reminds the French Ambassador accredited to the Sublime Porte of the counsels of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospel of St. John, and warns him that he will be punished for his misdoings. He addresses the injustices of the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople and proclaims His innocence. He addresses the ecclesiastical leaders of Sunní Islám in Constantinople as being heedless and spiritually dead and unless and until they mend their ways, they will not be forgiven. He devotes the concluding passages of the Suriy-i-Muluk to the wise men of the City of Constantinople and the philosophers of the world, advising them to be humble before God.


Tablet of Laylatu'l-Quds, The

by Nabil Fares

This lucid and splendid tablet was revealed in Adrianople in answer to Darvish Sadeq 'Alí. The content of Lawh-i-Laylatu'l Quds opens a view to numerous themes in the Bahá'í dispensation. The topics presented are: the servitude and humbleness of Bahá'u'lláh in relation to Almighty God; that all proceeding from the Manifestation of God is from God and the will of the Manifestation is none other than the will of God; the importance of unity among the believers; requests for blessings and bestowals for those friends who have succeeded in being united; the significance of not causing anybody distress and harm; how the goal of all must be to build unity and refrain from contention; and the ultimate reason why the Manifestation of God bears difficulties.


Tablets Pertaining to the Covenant: Adrianople 1863-1868

by Azadeh Mohandessi-Fares

One of the unique aspects of the revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is the establishment of the divinely ordained institution of the Covenant. The period of Adrianople was a time of unprecedented trials and tremendous tests for the followers of the Báb and the Blessed Beauty in relation to the Greater Covenant. It was also a time during which Bahá'u'lláh wished to elucidate upon the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and to lay the foundation of the Lesser Covenant. The attempt on the life of Bahá'u'lláh by Yahyá Azal, the Most Great Separation, and the proclamation to the kings and rulers of the world are a few of the most momentous episodes of the years in Adrianople. These and other historical events precipitated the revelation of tablets by the Ancient Beauty elucidating His station as the One Whom God Shall Make Manifest and tablets regarding the station of the Most Great Branch. The main focus of the presentation will circle around three Tablets: the Tablet of Abná'í, the Tablet of the Branch and Lawh-i-Salmán.