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Lawh-i-Áyiy-i-Núr:(Tablet of the Verse of Light),
also known as Tafsír Hurúfát al-muqatt`ah (Interpretation of the Isolated Letters)
faculty notes by Stephen Lambden

Notes by Stephen Lamden:

The forty or more page wholly Arabic mid-Iraq period (? c. 1857-8?) tablet of Mírzá Husayn `Alí Bahá'-Alláh (1917-1892 CE) known as the Lawh-i ayah-yi nur ("Tablet about the Light Verse [Q. 24:35] ") in various sources is also entitled Tafsír [lawh-i] Hurúfát al-muqatt`ah ("Commentary [Tablet] on the Isolated Letters"). This since it (among other things) contains a detailed non-literal exegesis of both the well-known and much commented upon qur'anic Light Verse [= Q. 24:35] and select al-Hurúfát al-muqatt`at (loosely, `isolated letters'). It was written in reply to questions posed by the early Bábí-believer and Bahá'í martyr [Hajji] Áqá Mírzá [Aqa] Rikab-Saz Shírázi — about whom relatively little seems to be known. He was presumably a trader in saddlery / riding equipment (?) and is known to have been much occupied with copying and studying Bábí-Bahá'í scripture — despite illness in his later years. It was in the context of clerical and local governmental anti-Bahá'í activity that a fatwa for his death was issued by the Shírázi mujtahid Shaykh Husayn-i Nazim — stigmatized as al-Zalim (`The Tryant') by Bahá'-Alláh. He was put to death in Shíráz in 1288/1871 along with Mashadi Muhammad Nabíl and Mashadi [Rafi`] Ja`far-i Khayyat (see Mazandarani, ZH VI:857-9; Ishraq Khavari, Ganj, 21-2; GPB:200).

To date, the text of the Lawh-i Hurúfát has neither been befittingly published (no critical edition exists) nor authoritatively translated by Bahá'í agencies. A complete though wholly inadequate printing of the Arabic exists in volume 4 (pages 49-86) of Ishraq Khavrari's compilation of Bahá'í scripture entitled Ma'idih-yi asmani — the mss source on which this printing is based is not indicated (cf. also the partial printing in Ganj, 46-49). Three further manuscript texts are known to the present writer including (at least) one (Haifa supplied) in the hand of Bahá'-Alláh's important amanuensis Zayn al-Muqarrabin — this is not to say that the following provisional translation is based upon a critical edition; there being probable errors in all mss seen.

Bahá'u'lláh himself in various Tablets has made occasional reference to the Lawh-i Hurúfát. In, for example, the Arabic 1868 Lawh-i Ra'ís ("Tablet of the Leader" = Mehmed Emin `Alí Páshá [1815-1871]) it is written:
"We, verily, have clarified all that We have mentioned in the Tablets which We revealed when we made reply to the one who asked about the disconnected letters (al-Hurúfát al-muqatta`at) of the Furqan (= Qura'n). Refer ye thereto that ye may be illumnined in the light of what hath been sent down from the heavenly realm of God (jabart Alláh), the Mighty, the Praised One." (MAM:[87-102]100)
And in another Persian Tablet we read,
"And additionally thou hast enquired about the disconnected letters (Hurúfát-i muqatta`at). During the day of the sojurn in `Iraq unnumbered [scriptural] traces respecting these matters (maqmat) were sent down a few of which have sent [communicated]..." (cited Mazandarn, AA., 3:90)

Very brief notices have been given the Tablet by Shoghi Effendi (GPB: 140) and a few other Bahá'í writers; including Fadil-i Mazandarani (Asrár.. 3:90-9X), Ishrq Khavari, Ganj: 21-2, 45-49 = trans. Habb Taherzadeh The Bahá'í World XIV [1963-8] 627) and Adib Taherzadeh RB I:125-128). Details of the Sitz im Leben (`setting in life'; circumstances of composition) are not supplied in the texts of any manuscripts known to the present writer. Some details can be gleaned from an examination of the text itself. Áqá Mírzá Áqá is the main addressee ("O my brother" LII:6 etc). Other pericopes [paragraphs] are also addressed to:
Within the Lawh-i Hurúfát Bahá'-Alláh refers to this Tablet as divine revelation:
" .. Hearken then unto what is revealed (W-H-Y) unto thee in this blessed [Sinaitic type] Spot (buq`a[t] al-mubarkah) from this all-eternal [Sinatic] Tree [Bush] (al-shajarat al-sarmadiyya) which is not consumed by Fire (ma qabasa `anha al-nar) [cf. Exodus 3:2b?] [6] Unto this do none draw nigh except such as circumambulate about its domain and, with His consent, sacrifice themselves in His path thereafter rendering thanks."

Following a 4-5 page cosmologically and mystico-alphabetically oriented prolegomenon, the person who communicated Áqá Mírzá Áqá [Rikab-Saz]'s letter to Bahá'-Alláh (possibly Áqá Mírzá Áqá himself ?) is mentioned allusively by means of the phrase harf al-qaf (= "The [Arabic letter] "q" [qaf ]).

"[1] We received a communication [Kitáb letter] from [through?] the letter "Q" (min harf al-Qaf) who had journeyed from his self and emigrated unto God, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting. [2] He attained unto the regions of holiness and entered the Egypt of certitude (misr al- Íqán) in a region [`locale' maqam) wherein the Fire of God (nar Alláh) blazed up beyond the veils of Light and in which the Luminary of Singleness (siraj al- ahadiyya) was ignited in a mighty, concealed Lamp [cf. Q. 24:35]. [3] Thus are those to be preferred who have left their homes for the love of God above those who failed to turn towards the precincts of holiness in the City which those who are nigh unto God have circumambulated. [4] In his letter there was enquiry about mysteries (Asrár) which none among the creatures hath anticipated; the veil on the face of which none among humankind hath drawn aside and which hath not been comprehended by the mystic knowers..." (Ma'idih, 4:52 etc see posting 1). The implication seems to be that someone had travelled to Iraq (Baghdad?), the "Egypt of certitude" (misr al- Íqán; the abode of the "True Joseph" = Bahá'-Alláh) and attained the presence of Bahá'-Alláh, "a mighty, concealed Lamp (misbah `izz masr??)." A "letter" (Kitáb) was delivered enquiring about various arcane mysteries which had long remained undivulged. The Lawh-i Hurúfát is, in the light of human capacity and the dictates of wisdom, a disclosure or resolution of these long-secreted "mysteries" (Asrár); mysteries pertaining that is, to 1) the qur'anic `Light verse' (Q. 24:35), 2) the isolated [disconnected] letters (al-Hurúfát al-muqatta`ah) A.L.M. (Alif. Lam, Mim) in the Súrat al- baqara ("The Sura of the Cow" 2:1) and various alchemical processes such as the secret of the production of gold. The major and minor themes of the Lawh-i Hurúfát are all central concerns of theoretical and practical mysticism......

The Lawh-i Hurúfát .. begins with a qabbalistic-cosmological exposition of the creation of the letters of the alphabet (Hurúfát) in pre-eternity; the coming to be of the archetypes of the letters of the Arabic alphabet in terms of the emergence of the "Primordial Point" (al-nuqa al-awwaliyya) and the letter "A" (al-Alíf). Then, following a few paragraphs on the purpose of creation and the exalted status of the Báb and leading Bábís, Bahá'-Alláh dwells on the theme of continuing divine guidance.

The rest of the Lawh-i Hurúfát, though there are a number of significant digressions, largely consists of replies to (Rikab Saz's) two (or three?) questions about:
  1. The mysteries of a "Light verse" (ayah-yi nur):
    ".. Then know thou that that which thou hast asked concerning the "Light Verse" [Qur'an 24:35] which was sent down upon Muhammad..."
    This section is basically an esoteric exegesis of Qur'n 24:35 (cf. 14:5 which is partly rewritten or paraphrased by Bahá'-Alláh). The mention in Qur'an 14:5 of "the light" (al-Núr) and the "days of God" (ayyam Alláh) doubtless led Bahá'-Alláh to take this verse as a prophecy of the future advent of Muhammad (4-5 pages; Ma'idih 4:53-57) around whom the non-literal exegesis revolves.

  2. On the isolated, detached or disconneted letters Alif. Lam. Mim (Qur'an 2:1), etc; their qabbalistic-cosmological, chronological, eschatological and other significances.

  3. The secrets of the alchemical production of "gold" along with notice that concern with "gold" and "silver" only increases poverty!

Among the important though minor secondary themes of the Tablet one may note:
  1. the state of the Bábís and the condition of Bahá'-Alláh.
  2. The mi`raj of the believer.
  3. The secret of `ilm al-jafr (lit. [loosely] "letter mysticism"; "qabbalistic divination"; "occult prognostication" "number-letter esotericism".
  4. [The Jabirean theory of the balances-natures.
  5. Eschatology and the question of the "Seal of the Prophets" ...

      Stephen Lambden

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