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The Master’s last tablet to America

The Master’s “last tablet to America” was published in Bahai World Faith, and has not been republished in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha. It is available in Ocean, and can be found with a search on “downpour+celestial.” In response to a question on Talisman, I had a quick look at the source and translations, and share what I found as a ‘Research note’ for those interested.

The tablet is a long one, and of some historical and doctrinal importance. It deals primarily with the importance of the Bahais shunning “any person in whom they perceive the emanation of hatred for the glorious Beauty of Abha”, “violators” — in short, what we would call covenant-breakers. (The process involved in the categorization, as explained in this tablet, differs somewhat from the process in Shoghi Effendi’s time: if we use the term covenant-breakers we should not assume that the process in Abdu’l-Baha’s day was the same as later, although the principle is clearly the same).

The Persian text is published in Mukaatiib Hazirat-e Abdu’l-Bahaa volume 3 page 410.

The translation by Mrs. Hoagg, Ali Muhammad Bakir and Ruhi [Afnan] was first published in Star of the West vol. 13 p. 19ff, (March 1922) and then in Bahai World Faith pp 419-425. There are only slight variations between these versions. The version in Star of the West is interesting because it contains a post-script, handwritten in the hand of Shoghi Effendi, which says:

“This has been translated after the dear Master’s Ascension & the three seals affixed to the original text after Him. Shoghi 23,1,22.”

This is followed by a letter from Emogene Hoagg to Corinne [True] dated January 24 1922, saying that Abdu’l-Baha wrote the tablet shortly before his ascension, but did not sign it, and that the original, with the seals affixed to it by Shoghi Effendi, was being sent to Roy Wilhelm, and that Shoghi Effendi was translating the Will and Testament, which would soon be available to the believers.

There are minor differences between this version and the one printed in Bahai World Faith and included in Ocean. These almost all relate to transliteration, punctuation, capitalisation and paragraph breaks. On p 436 of Bahai World Faith, at the beginning of the last paragraph, the word “here” is not in the Star of the West version, and on page 433 the Bahai World Faith version has Ya Baha’u’l-abha four times, whereas the Star of the West version has “O thou Baha’Ullah” (i.e., ya-Baha’u’llah). The earlier, Star of the West, version is incorrect: the Persian has Ya Baha’u’l-Abha, which indicates that the changes made in the Bahai World Faith version were made with reference to the Persian original.

Another difference is that in Star of the West Vol 13 page 22 we read:

In another place He says: “0 my God, and the aim of my life! Protect this weak one with Thy mighty hand from the voice of the Na ‘ik.*

with the footnote: “Na’ik=croaker, also refers to the calf worshipped by some of the Israelites.”

Na’ik is what we would now transliterate as na`iq, croaker. Bahai World Faith page 434 has “voice of the Naegh” and omits the footnote. What the Persian text actually says at that point is:

“with the hand of power, protect this weak one from the croaking (na`iiq) of the two croakers (naa`iqayn). The croakers (naa`eq) are the [golden] calf of the children of Israel.”

In other words, the first translation has taken an awkward piece of Abdu’l-Baha’s text and muffled it away in a footnote. It looks as if the three translators thought that Abdu’l-Baha was saying “the word Na’iiq means ‘the calf the Israelites worshipped’ “; whereas they knew the word means croaking, so they minimise the Master’s “mistake.”

But the word na`iiq or naa`iq does not refer to a calf. I think Abdu’l-Baha is using a metaphor. Na`iiq is also used for calling animals. He means that the croaking of the two (or more) croakers calls the people of Baha to break the covenant, just as the golden calf led the people of Israel to break their covenant. The naa`iq are the “golden calf” of the Bahai dispensation. “Two” need not be taken literally, since he has used an Arabic dual form which, in Persian, may also be meant simply as a plural.

But this is only a minor point regarding the translation: the tablet is an important one, and rhetorically very powerful, and deserves to be republished.

– Sen
Go to the text of the tablet (in English)

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