Tablet of Glad-Tidings as a "Proclamatory Aqdas," The
By Christopher Buck
Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #38 (English)
Louhelen Baha'i School: Michigan, US
On 22 January 1891, Bahá'u'lláh ordered the Tablet of Glad-Tidings (Lawh-i-Bishárát) to be sent to E. G. Browne at Cambridge. The prefatory note by one of Bahá'u'lláh's sons, Mírzá Badí`u'lláh, written on folio 1a of F.25(9) in the Browne Manuscripts, Cambridge University Library, states: "These Divine ordinances and commands formerly revealed in sundry epistles, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in the 'Illuminations,' 'Effulgences,' 'Ornaments,' etc., have, agreeably to the Supreme and Most Holy Command, been collected, that all may become cognizant of the grace, mercy, and favour of God (Great is His Glory!) in this Most Mighty Manifestation and this Great Announcement." A source-critical analysis of the Tablet of Glad-Tidings shows that Bahá'u'lláh's proposed reforms were drawn almost entirely from the Most Holy Book (Kitáb-i-Aqdas)and its subsidiary texts. The selection of some twenty-one principles of reform adumbrated by fifteen headings indicates a process of prioritization and privileging of certain Aqdas principles over others, for immediate disclosure both within and outside the Bahá'í community. Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that Bahá'u'lláh selected particular principles from the Aqdas precisely for the purpose of proclamation.
The Tablet of Glad-Tidings, therefore, functioned in a way somewhat similar to a press release. If true, this indicates that, while all of the laws, ordinances, and principles of the Most Holy Book have been revealed for implementation in a future Bahá'í society, there existed a discrete set of teachings that Bahá'u'lláh intended for immediate publication. This suggests what might be termed a "Proclamatory Aqdas" within the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, a "canon within canon." This brief Tablet comes close to being the most programmatic and representative epitome of Bahá'u'lláh's world reforms to be found in a single text. It may have set the single most important precedent for `Abdu'l-Bahá's presentation of Bahá'í teachings to the West, in the form of numbered principles. The order and number of such principles varied, however. This process of selection and reordering of Bahá'í principles by the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith indicates a regard for both exigency and audience. Thus, a new selection and reordering process of Bahá'í principles for proclamation can rest on precedent that permits a more effective promotion of Bahá'í-inspired reforms for realization in present-day society.
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