Mystical Themes in the Tablets Revealed During the Baghdad Period:
Gems of Mysteries, Maid of Heaven, Ode of Varqá'íyyih, Tablet of All Food

By Muin Afnan

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #26
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
November 26–28, 1999
(see list of papers from #26)

    Poem of Rashh-i-'Amá

    This poem is perhaps the first extant Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh revealed in the Siyáh-Ch`I of Tehran shortly after the experience of divine Revelation. We know from what Nabíl has recorded that there had been many other writings from Bahá'u'lláh prior to this poem, but so far they have not been found. Also, based on some of the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, before Bahá'u'lláh's banishment from Iran, He had written a number of Tablets to the Báb but had dispatched them in the name of Yahyá Azal.

    Although this Tablet is a short poem of twenty verses, it contains some of the most profound concepts of Bahá'í theology, viz., the concept of God as the divine Essence, the Manifestation of God as the Primal Will of God, and so forth. The beauty of imagery and the depth of spiritual knowledge that Bahá'u'lláh has disclosed in these twenty verses are astounding. It makes allusions to His station, the Day of God, and the blessing bestowed upon creation in this New Age. Alluding to His station, Bahá'u'lláh employs terms such as the appearance of the Maiden of Heaven, Arabian Melody, blasting of the Trumpet, the burning Bush, and so forth.

    Tablet of All Food

    This Tablet is a commentary on the verse (3:93) of the Qur'án where it is said: "All food was lawful to the children of Israel save that which Israel forbade himself before the Torah was revealed." Muslim commentators over the years have written explanations on this verse focusing on the laws concerning certain foods. Bahá'u'lláh took a symbolic and figurative approach in explaining this verse.

    In addition to explaining the historical background of this Tablet, Mr. Adib Taherzadeh has given some of the meanings of the word "Food" offered by Bahá'u'lláh, viz., the spiritual worlds of Háhút, Lahút, and so on. (Vol. 1 of The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh). Therefore, I will not repeat those concepts that Mr. Taherzadeh has already explained. However, in addition to the concepts mentioned above, Bahá'u'lláh gives four distinct explanations for the terms "Food," "Israel," and "Children of Israel." A brief description follows:

    1. "Food" is a reference to All Knowledge or Essence of Knowledge; "Israel" is a reference to the Primal Point, meaning the Manifestation of God; "Children of Israel" is a reference to the Laws of God. Therefore, according to this interpretation the Qur'ánic verse is explained as: People were permitted to pursue all forms of knowledge save that which the Manifestation of God had forbidden, i.e., that which was outside the laws of God.

    2. The second explanation is in connection with the expectations regarding the coming of the Báb and appearance of "Him Whom God shall make manifest": "Food" is recognition of the Manifestation of God; "Israel" is the Primal Will of God, the Agency through which God has created the heaven and the earth; "Children of Israel" is the servants of God that have been attracted to the Fire of that Primal Will in the year sixty (1260 A.H., 1844 A.D.) until the Day when God revives people, i.e., until the Promised One, "Him Whom God shall make manifest" appears (again, please note the use of the word "Fire" in reference to the Manifestation of God).

    3. The third interpretation: "Food" is the Guardianship of God over His creation through His Prophets; "Israel" is The Point of Furqan/Qur'án, meaning the Words of God; "Children of Israel" are the true successors to the Manifestation of God:

    4. The fourth interpretation: "Food" is that hidden Sea which is veiled in the Tablets of Light (reference to essence of God); "Israel" is the station of the Manifestation of God; "Children of Israel" are the people of Bayan (Bábís), who if they wanted could ascend to the heaven of mercy and drink from the cup of purity, meaning with purity of motive and effort they could recognize the Promised One of the Bayan (Bahá'u'lláh). These are but a few of the symbols that Bahá'u'lláh has explained in this weighty Tablet.


    This ode is a masterpiece of mystical discourse revealed as poetry. Revealed in Arabic during Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Sulaymáníyyih, originally it consisted of about two thousand verses. The mystics of Sulaymáníyyih had requested Him to compose a mystical poem in the style of the ode of Tá'íyyih of the celebrated Egyptian poet Ibn-i-Faríd, a feat which in their estimation no one else had been able to accomplish.

    Bahá'u'lláh selected 127 lines from His long ode and presented them to the mystics. They acclaimed his ode as far superior to that of Ibn-i-Faríd in terms of meaning as well as the literary style.

    Qasidiy-i-Varqa'iyyih is in the form of dialogue between Bahá'u'lláh and the Huri, Maiden of Heaven. Addressing the Húrí, Bahá'u'lláh recounts the calamities He has endured in the path of Divine Beloved and the cruelties He has suffered at the hands of the enemies. This ode is replete with references to a host of subjects from Qur'ánic verses and traditions to mystical themes, and from Biblical prophets to allusions regarding His station. This ode demonstrates the relationship between Bahá'u'lláh and the Maiden of Heaven which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Bahá'u'lláh and the Húrí take turn addressing each other in fascinating mystical terms. At the end of the ode Bahá'u'lláh and the Húrí speak with a single Voice and address the believers.

    Tablet of the Maiden

    One of the most fascinating Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh is the Tablet of Húrí or Maiden of Heaven. It is truly a masterpiece of mystical and literary writing. After praise and glorification of God, the Tablet starts with description of beauty of the Maiden of Heaven who appears to Bahá'u'lláh. He converses with the Húrí and at the insistence of Húrí describes His afflictions. At the same time He discloses his station to the Maiden from which she finds indescribable joy. However, once she discovers the extent of His afflictions, she cannot bear to live any longer. This is one of several Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh in which the symbol of Húrí, Maiden of Heaven, has been used; understanding of these mystical writings requires an in depth comparative study of these writings.


    This book was written some time before the book of Certitude; in the latter Bahá'u'lláh has referred to it as the "Arabic Tablets." The first portion of it is similar to the book of Certitude: Bahá'u'lláh quotes from the Bible, the Qur'án, and the traditions in order to give the proofs of the new Revelation, explain pre-requisites for searching truth, and so on. For instance, He explains the meaning of the coming of the Son of Man in clouds accompanied by angels.

    From the content, we can venture a guess about the type of questions Hájí Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfáhání, to whom this Tablet is addressed, must have asked. He was concerned with the signs of the coming of the Promised One, the stages of search, distortion of Holy Books, and other topics similar to those treated in the Book of Certitude.

    Siyyid Muhammad must have had mystical tendencies. Bahá'u'lláh uses a mystical language in this Tablet. For example, we come across terms such as Veiled Maidens, Black Dust, Crimson Earth, Thrones of Lahút and Jabarút, Egypt of 'Ama, and so forth.

    In the latter section of the Book, similar to the Seven Valleys but in brief form, Bahá'u'lláh describes the pre-requisites for search and the stages of the mystic path. The names and orders of the seven valleys described here are slightly different from those in the book of The Seven Valleys.

    Bahá'u'lláh must have been surrounded with enemies at this time, as He makes references to enemies who were actively plotting against Him.

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