A Review of the style, the content and the context of Bahá'u'lláh's Súratu'n-Nush (Exhortation)

By Afaf A. Stevens

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #113
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 5–8, 2012
(see list of papers from #113)

    In this session we will examine the style, the content and the context of the Súratul-Nus'h. We will study the intent of its Author, Bahá'u'lláh, as He addresses one of His prominent believers and survivor of the Nayriz Massacare Seyyed Jaa'far Yazdi.

    In contemplating the style, one cannot help but marvel at the subtleties of the Arabic language and its symbolism and mystical aspects, which Bahá'u'lláh utilized throughout this powerful Tablet. In this Súrah, we shall see that Bahá'u'lláh relies heavily on the use of allusion and implication.

    The primal theme underlying this Surah according to its title is admonishment or guidance to mankind to adhere to the counsel of God's Manifestations, and to bow down in adoration to His majesty and grandeur rather than our own vain imaginings or the idols of our own construction. In addition, we shall find several other important themes interwoven within the tapestry of the Súrah in majestic Arabic literal style. On the one hand, these admonitions and other themes pour down like thunder in a powerful warning as to quicken one's innermost being, while on the other, they are expressed as a kind gentle reminder and counsel of a compassionate father lovingly guiding His children perchance they will be guided aright!

    Among other themes, Bahá'u'lláh emphasizes the central point of the Divine Unity and how humanity has strayed and transgressed against God Himself in turning away from His Manifestations, and has thus disobeyed the Will of God. Additionally, further emphasis is placed on the theme of attaining the Presence of God, which was confirmed and promised in each religion. Bahá'u'lláh exhorts humanity to eagerly await and anticipate this bounty.

    In this Súrah, Bahá'u'lláh gives a brief chronicle of the Prophets of Old, and how those Prophets have suffered unspoken atrocities at the hands of their people. Hence, He sternly warns mankind not to repeat these most abhorrent deeds lest they will end up utterly lost and miserable. Here, Bahá'u'lláh blames the religious leaders as He discusses the role they played in every Dispensation. He declares that it was only through their sanction that the people persecuted the Prophets of God and their followers.

    Providing these chronicles of the Prophets of Old, Bahá'u'lláh expounds on the mysteries and allusions of their scriptures, which were the cause of confusion for centuries and had become barriers hindering humanity from recognizing each new Manifestation. Doing this, Bahá'u'lláh has unsealed the Choice Wine of these scriptures and explained the true meanings of their mysteries and metaphors. Although Bahá'u'lláh uses a deeply mystical and exalted writing style, we remain able to reach a true understanding of His work once we contemplate His words with an utterly pure intent.

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