Tablet of the Báb Lawh-i-Vasaya, "Will and Testament"; Titles of Mírzá Yahyá
To: The Universal House of Justice
Date: 28 May 2004
From: Research Department
Tablet of the Bab; the Appointment of Azal and His Titles
The Research Department has considered the questions contained in the email message of 15 January 2004 from Mr. Badi Villar Cardenas to the Universal House of Justice. As a context for his queries, Mr. Villar appends a number of extracts from Web sites and email communications he has had with several individuals. Mr. Villar appears to be particularly interested in "the nature of the designation of Azal" and to this end seeks information about the authenticity of the Lawh-i-Vasaya, which he understands is regarded by the Azalis as the basis for Mirza Yahya's titles and position. He also enquires about the meaning of a particular verse in the Persian Bayan. We provide the following response.
Tablet of the Bab
The Tablet of the Báb, which is described as “The Báb’s Lawh-i-Vasaya: The Will and Testament” on the Web site www.h-net.org/~bahai/areprint/bab/S-Z/vasaya/vasaya.htm, referred to by Mr. Villar, can be found on pages 95–102 in volume 64, published in the Iran National Bahá’í Archives (INBA) series. This volume was published in B.E. 133 and contains various Writings of the Báb. We attach for Mr. Villar’s information a photocopy of the Tablet from that volume. It is important to call attention to the fact that, while in some quarters this Tablet has become known as the Will and Testament of the Báb, the Research Department has, to date, found no explicit evidence to suggest that the Báb, Himself, designated the Tablet as such. Indeed, from a perusal of the attached material, Mr. Villar will see that the Tablet bears no title. He will also see that, while the Tablet is addressed to Azal, there is nothing in its contents pertaining to questions of successorship and authority. Rather, the recipient is enjoined to promote and protect the Faith and to invite people to follow what has been revealed in the Bayán. To date, no authorized English translation of the Tablet is available. As to the circumstances of Mirza Yahya's nomination, it is interesting to note that in the Babi Dispensation, the Lesser Covenant, that Covenant made by the Manifestation of God with His followers to accept His appointed successor, is, according to the Guardian, found interspersed in the Bab's Book of Laws, the Persian Bayan, in many passages, some of which were "designedly obscure", but mostly "indubitably clear and conclusive".1 The Bab seems to have alerted His followers to the promised advent of Bahá'u'lláh, instead of designating an appointed successor. Indeed, the Guardian stated:
A successor or vicegerent the Bab never named, an interpreter of His teachings He refrained from appointing. So transparently clear were His references to the Promised One, so brief was to be the duration of His own Dispensation, that neither the one nor the other was deemed necessary. All He did was, according to the testimony of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in "A Traveller's Narrative," to nominate, on the advice of Bahá'u'lláh and of another disciple, Mirza Yahya, who would act solely as a figure-
head pending the manifestation of the Promised One, thus enabling Bahá'u'lláh to promote, in relative security, the Cause so dear to His heart. ("God Passes By", pp. 28-29)The following extract from a letter dated 4 August 1980, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, deals with the position of Mirza Yahya in the Babi community:
Concerning the position of Mirza Yahya in the Babi community, the Guardian has made it quite clear in "God Passes By" that Mirza Yahya was the Bab's "nominee" and was the "recognized chief of the Babi community" following the martyrdom of the Bab. He has also referred to him as "titular head" and "a mere figurehead" (see "God Passes By" page 90). The position occupied by Mirza Yahya was far different from being an appointed Successor of a Manifestation of God in the sense that St. Peter, the Imam 'Ali or 'Abdu'l-Bahá were appointed Successors with far-reaching authority. Obviously the Bab had no need to appoint such a Successor, for He knew that Bahá'u'lláh was already present and ready to be revealed at the appointed time. He seems, therefore, merely to have nominated a titular head for the Babi community as a focal point of unity until such time as He Whom God will make manifest would decide to unveil Himself.Additional details concerning the circumstances of Mirza Yahya's nomination are contained in
Titles of Azal
As to whether Mirza Yahya's titles were derived from Tablets of the Bab or fabricated by Azal and his followers, in his book, "Mustayqiz", Mirza Yahya attributes a number of divine names and attributes to himself, one of which is "Azal".2
The title "Subh-i-Azal" appears in an Islamic tradition which is called Hadith-i-Kumayl (Kumayl was a devoted student of the first Imam, 'Ali3), and a portion of the Hadith is quoted by the Bab in "Dala'il-i-Sab'ih" (Babiyyih Publication, p. 58). Mirza Yahya and his followers erroneously have taken this term as a reference to Mirza Yahya.
In the book "Making the Crooked Straight: A Contribution to Bahá'í Apologetics",4 the following footnote provides additional information about the origin of Mirza Yahya's attributing to himself the title "Subh-i-Azal".
Mirza Yahya Azal was evidently known also by the name Subh-i- Azal. This is, at least, the title used by Browne, and it is probably through his works that this title was first made public. In Azali works (such as "Hasht Bihisht") and works written under Azali influence (such as the "Kitab-i-Nuqtatu'l-Kaf" or Gobineau's "Les Religions") Mirza Yahya is referred to by the title "Hadrat-i- Azal", not "Subh-i-Azal". The origin or first use of the title Subh-i-Azal has not yet been identified. This title of honour was evidently not conferred on him by the Bab, who only called him "Thamaratu'l-Azaliyya" and "'Ismu'l-Azal" (see Mirza Yahya, "Mustayqiz", pp. 391f.). However, the Bab did employ the title Subh-i-Azal in reference to various other leading Babis (see the commentary on the Hadith of Kumayl, Teheran Bahá'í Archives MS 6006 C., pp. 74ff.), so that it is quite possible that Mirza Yahya was occasionally thus designated.Persian Bayan, passage 2:16
Mr. Villar requests assistance in understanding a passage from the Persian Bayan, 2:16, which, among other things, refers to the Mustaghath and the timing of the advent of the Promised One. Although Mr. Villar's specific question is not clearly stated, it would appear that he is unsure how the meaning of the verse in the Bayan is to be understood in light of a statement in H. M. Balyuzi's "E. G. Browne and the Bahá'í Faith" concerning the Azali view of the coming of the Promised One.
The Research Department has not, to date, been able to locate an authoritative interpretation of the particular passage from the Persian Bayan in the Writings. However, we attach for Mr. Villar's information a discussion of the prophesy in the Writings of the Bab concerning the advent of the Promised One that is published in "Making the Crooked Straight: A Contribution to Bahá'í Apologetics".5 This discussion may well assist Mr. Villar in furthering his understanding of some of the themes in the passage in question.