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Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of the sacred night I

Posted by Sen on April 12, 2010

This tablet from the pen of Baha’u’llah was translated by Zia Baghdadi and published in Star of the West Volume 10 no. 1 (March 21, 1919). I am posting it here so that it is accessible to search engines, and for the benefit of those who have not (yet) purchased the Star of the West CD. A section is translated by Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, section CXLVII and I have inserted this into Baghdadi’s translation.

In Bahai Scriptures page 133, it is headed ‘revealed for his Honour M. `Ali’ and it is included in Prayers, Tablets, Instructions and Miscellany (1900) among a collection of Tablets with the common theme of the family of Baha’u’llah, and that any of the family who rebelled would be expelled from the community. Indeed, it does appear to refer to Baha’u’llah’s practice of separating the believers from his unfaithful relatives and opponents (“discord and difference … may vanish … except in special ordinances revealed in the divine Books”) which would date it after 1866, when Baha’u’llah initiated this. However the contents are not consistent with it being addressed to Baha’u’llah’s faithless son Mirza Muhammad Ali, and the Leiden list (which is to say, my notes, sources not unfortunately no noted !) says that the addressee is Darvish Sidq Ali, and this is consistent with the contents.

Darvish Sidq Ali was a Sufi companion of Baha’u’llah and, in Memorials of the Faithful ‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us that Baha’u’llah, “set apart a special night and He dedicated it to Darvish Sidq Ali. He wrote that at every year…the dervishes should bedeck a meeting place, which should be in a flower garden, and gather there to make mention of God.”

Note that this is not the same as the “Tablet of the sacred night” which Juan Cole has translated, which in the Leiden list is the Tablet of the sacred night II. However Juan’s introduction to the second tablet is very illuminating as to the superogatory devotional practices intended for “this blessed night.”

The Supreme Pen says: O friends of the Truth! The purpose of bearing these continuous sufferings and uninterrupted calamities is, that the souls who are assured in God may, with utmost unity, associate with one another to such an extent that discord and difference between two individuals may vanish from them, except in special ordinances revealed in the divine Books. The man with inner sight does not see imperfection in any condition. Whatsoever happens is a proof of the greatness of his condition and of the purity of his entity. For example, if a soul becomes humble, indeed this humbleness to the friends of God returns to God, for they look at his faith. By God! In this case, if the opponents do not act similarly, or if arrogance is shown by them, the person with insight (and humbleness) is in his own sublime deed and has already received and will receive recompense.

The harm of the action of the opponents will return to them. Likewise if a soul becomes arrogant this arrogance returns to God We take refuge in God from that!

[CXLVII] The Most Great Name beareth Me witness! How sad if any man were, in this Day, to rest his heart on the transitory things of this world! Arise, and cling firmly to the Cause of God. Be most loving one to another. Burn away, wholly for the sake of the Well-Beloved, the veil of self with the flame of the undying Fire, and with faces joyous and beaming with light, associate with your neighbor. Ye have well observed, in all its aspects, the behavior of Him Who is the Word of Truth amidst you. Ye know full well how hard it is for this Youth to allow, though it be for one night, the heart of any one of the beloved of God to be saddened by Him.

The Word of God hath set the heart of the world afire; how regrettable if ye fail to be enkindled with its flame! Please God, ye will regard this blessed night as the night of unity, will knit your souls together, and resolve to adorn yourselves with the ornament of a goodly and praiseworthy character. Let your principal concern be to rescue the fallen from the slough of impending extinction, and to help him embrace the ancient Faith of God. Your behavior towards your neighbor should be such as to manifest clearly the signs of the one true God, for ye are the first among men to be re-created by His Spirit, the first to adore and bow the knee before Him, the first to circle round His throne of glory. I swear by Him Who hath caused Me to reveal whatever hath pleased Him! Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see–things that attest the excellence of your rank, that bear witness to the greatness of your worth, that proclaim the sublimity of your station! God grant that your desires and unmortified passions may not hinder you from that which hath been ordained for you.

We are hopeful that in the utmost harmony, love and friendship you may deal with one another in such a manner that the banner of oneness may be raised. Surpass ye one another in good affairs and in showing contentment.

His is the right to command! He doeth whatsoever He wisheth and ruleth whomsoever He desireth, and verily He is the Powerful, the Dear, the Mighty!

A thousand thanks to Brent Poirier who has connected the Bagdad translation with Shoghi Effendi’s translation of two paragraphs in Gleanings.

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8 Responses to “Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of the sacred night I”

  1. Dear Sen: About half of this Tablet, beginning after the words “O people of comprehension,” was translated by Shoghi Effendi, and comprises Section CXLVII of the Gleanings. As to a published source, the Notes for the Sources for the Gleanings gives MAM 230-31/Iqtidarat 216-18.

  2. And perhaps the passage you are interested in, “discord and difference … may vanish … except in special ordinances revealed in the divine Books” resonates with this passage from the Lawh-i-Maqsud:

    “Such exhortations to union and concord as are inscribed in the Books of the Prophets by the Pen of the Most High bear reference unto specific matters; not a union that would lead to disunity or a concord which would create discord. This is the station where measures are set unto everything, a station where every deserving soul shall be given his due.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167)

    Best regards,

  3. Sen said

    On the superogatory nature of the devotions for the Sacred Night, Shoghi Effendi’s secretary writes:

    As for the Sacred Night, the recitation of blessed prayers and Tablets revealed for that night every year, and the inclusion of that night in the Baha’i calendar, he said: “Write that it is permitted, but including it on the Baha’i calendar is not required at the present time.” (Letter in Persian, 23 April 1931, trans. Juan Cole, citing Ma’idih-yi Asmani vol. 3:1.

  4. Sen said

    A thousand thanks; that enables me to connect it with several other translations of the same tablet. I have extensively reworked the introduction accordingly.

  5. Sen said

    I think these are two different issues: the one mentioned in this tablet, if it is correctly dated in the Edirne period, is that while unity with all is the ideal, it is nevertheless necessary for the faithful to shun some opponents “in special ordinances revealed in the divine Books.” I’ve described the practice of shunning elsewhere: briefly, it is introduced by Baha’u’llah, and not by Abdu’l-Baha as some have asserted, and it is tactical rather than ontological: the persons shunned do not become “non-persons” and must still be treated with respect and given their full rights, but in a situation in which dialogue is fruitless and conflict remains, “leave them to God” is a tactic which allows the rights and wrongs of the dispute to emerge in practice, without the picture being clouded by polemics or worse between the parties.

    In the Lawh-e Maqsud, revealed in 1882, the theme is world peace and good governance. I think the clue to the section you quote is “every deserving soul shall be given his due” — that is, he is saying that religion’s call to union does not mean that social structures and distinctions should ideally be abolished. A pre-marxist form of communism had been discussed in Europe since the Englightenment, and even more so following the French Revolution, and Marx himself (1818-1883) was almost an exact contemporary of Baha’u’llah. I think he is talking about this vision of a society without distinctions, and may perhaps be addressing Marx specifically. And God knows best.

  6. Steven said

    An addition to the list of linked tablets?

  7. Sen said

    Thanks, I have added it to my master copy. Because I renew the Leiden List on my blog only once every few years, it will take time to show up here. I have not found the Persian/Arabic source for this

  8. There is Star of the West online.

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