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TAGS: Lawh-i-Ahmad (Tablet of Ahmad (Arabic)); Symbolism
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Abstract:
Introductory analysis of the metaphors and symbols used in Baha'u'llah's Tablet of Ahmad (Arabic).
Notes:
Presented as a homework assignment for the Wilmette Institute's "Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" Course, year one

Tablet of Ahmad, Arabic (Lawh-i-Ahmad):
Analysis of Figurative Language in the Tablet of Ahmad

by Ruhiyyih Skrenes

1998-04
TABLET OF AHMAD (Arabic) - Revealed for Ahmad (of Yazd) - who earnestly searched and found the Qa'im (Bab), as well as became a faithful and devoted servant of Bahá'u'lláh. This Tablet was revealed around 1865 during the Adrianople period of Bahá'u'lláh's exile.

Ahmad, like Munib (for whom the Suriy-i-Ashab was revealed) was sent to Persia by Bahá'u'lláh to teach the Babis that 'Him Whom God shall make manifest, as had been taught by the Bab', had come. When Bahá'u'lláh had publicly announced His station in the Garden of Ridvan, Baghdad, He had done so only to His family and companions. In Adrianople, much of his Writings involved spreading the message that He is the Promised One. One of the ways He did this was through Tablets which were given to those believers who possessed deep courage and great devotion for the Cause, and therefore could be trusted with this honorable task.

This assignment will attempt to focus on and offer an analysis of the figurative language which is used in the Tablet of Ahmad (Arabic). First, the Tablet itself is divided into paragraphs (numbered 1 - 16). Each paragraph will then be examined individually. The analysis will be followed by a personal response to the Tablet, which also concludes the assignment.

ANALYSIS

1. He is the King, the All-Knowing, the Wise!

In this opening line, Bahá'u'lláh extols and exalts the station of God!

2. Lo, the Nightingale of Paradise singeth upon the twigs of the Tree of Eternity, with holy and sweet melodies, proclaiming to the sincere ones the glad tidings of the nearness of God, calling the believers in the Divine Unity to the court of the Presence of the Generous One, informing the severed ones of the message which hath been revealed by God, the King, the Glorious, the Peerless, guiding the lovers to the seat of sanctity and to this resplendent Beauty.

Nightingale, refers to Bahá'u'lláh, Who is proclaiming the message of 'He Whom God shall make manifest', has come. The 'Tree of Eternity' represents the continuous and successive appearance of Prophets/Manifestations that God sends for the continual spiritual education of mankind. Only the sincere ones (those with spiritual insight, particularly those who have obeyed the commands as set down by the Bab), will hear, recognize and accept His (Bahá'u'lláh's) message and station, thereby acknowledging the unity of the Prophets, as well as the Unity of God (Divine Unity). Yet, at the same time, those who attempt to undermine the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh (severed ones), are also informed of this Glorious Message.

3. Verily this is that Most Great Beauty, foretold in the Books of the Messengers, through Whom truth shall be distinguished from error and the wisdom of every command shall be tested. Verily He is the Tree of Life that bringeth forth the fruits of God, the Exalted, the Powerful, the Great.

Bahá'u'lláh is announcing that He is the Promised One (that Most Great Beauty), the One foretold by the Bab as 'He Whom God shall make manifest'. Those who are pure-hearted, and are treading a path of true search, will be distinguished from those whose veils prevent them from recognizing Him, and are thus walking a path of error. Bahá'u'lláh represents that 'Tree of Life' Who brings to mankind 'the fruits of God' (i.e. spiritual guidance and divine knowledge), which humanity needs so as to progress within a spiritual reality, continually advancing in this world, with the goal of growing closer to God. In this passage it can be perceived that Bahá'u'lláh is making a reference to progressive revelation, particularly as the Tablet's main objective is to teach the Babis about His Revelation (foretold in the Books of the Messengers), while at the same time He honors and exalts the station of the Bab.

4. O Ahmad! Bear thou witness that verily He is God and there is no God but Him, the King, the Protector, the Incomparable, the Omnipotent. And that the One Whom He hath sent forth by the name of Ali(1) was the true One from God, to Whose commands we are all conforming.

In this paragraph, Bahá'u'lláh directly converses with Ahmad, telling him that in teaching the Babis his actions should testify to and demonstrate that, Bahá'u'lláh, like the other Babis, is following the teachings of the Bab. In proclaiming His station, Bahá'u'lláh is not denying or diminishing the Bab's exalted station as a Manifestation of God.

5. Say: O people be obedient to the ordinances of God, which have been enjoined in the Bayan by the Glorious, the Wise One. Verily He is the King of the Messengers and His Book is the Mother Book did ye but know.

Here Bahá'u'lláh specifies what Ahmad has to convey to the Babis. They have to examine and be obedient to that which the Bab has revealed in the Bayan. Bahá'u'lláh refers to the Bab as the 'King of the Messengers'.

6. Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord.

Nightingale refers to Bahá'u'lláh, Who is counselling the Babis from Adrianople (remote prison), through this Tablet (and therefore through Ahmad). On examining the Bayan, the Babis can determine whether Bahá'u'lláh is Who He says He is, and if indeed He is 'The One Whom God shall make manifest'. Having made a determination, they can choose to embrace the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, or reject Him. If, however, the choice is not to follow Him, they are also rejecting the Bab and the beliefs to which they hold. Again, the connection between the Manifestations (i. e. Bab and Bahá'u'lláh), can be perceived as a refence to the progressiveness of Religion and divine guidance.

7. O people, if ye deny these verses, by what proof have ye believed in God? Produce it, O assemblage of false ones.

Bahá'u'lláh challenges those who deny Him, as incapable of producing proof against His station and mission, therefore, their denial violates belief in God. The Creative Word, revealed by Him, is directly from God, and there is no greater proof than this. The divinely Revealed Word has a power that no other written work has, and therefore, Its influence is far greater.

8. Nay, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, they are not, and never shall be able to do this, even should they combine to assist one another.

Bahá'u'lláh, emphatically states that there is no greater proof of His station (beyond Himself and His Revelation). The following passage of Bahá'u'lláh is offered to further elucidate this point:

`O ye peoples of the earth! Turn yourselves towards Him Who hath turned towards you. He, verily, is the Face of God amongst you, and His Testimony and His Guide unto you. He hath come to you with signs which none can produce.' The voice of the Burning Bush is raised in the midmost heart of the world, and the Holy Spirit calleth aloud among the nations: `Lo, the Desired One is come with manifest dominion!'
   (Bahá'u'lláh: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Page: 48)

9. O Ahmad! Forget not My bounties while I am absent. Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison. And be thou so steadfast in My love that thy heart shall not waver, even if the swords of the enemies rain blows upon thee and all the heavens and the earth arise against thee.

Bahá'u'lláh counsels Ahmad, when confronted with difficulties and he feels alone whilst carrying out this mission, to call to mind His struggles and distress in Adrianople. Even though he is not with Bahá'u'lláh, Ahmad should remain steadfast, as he is always under the guidance and assistance of Bahá'u'lláh. He should remain steadfast in his love for Bahá'u'lláh, particularly when he is faced with ridicule and denial of Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation ("swords of the enemies rain blows upon thee) as this steadfast love will help him overcome whatever afflictions he faces (of course, this counsel also holds true for everyone else).

10. Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones, and be not of those who doubt.

A flame of fire - this is a reference to Ahmad's strength of conviction as a follower of Bahá'u'lláh and a teacher of His Cause, insofar as he should be undisturbed by the denials and denouncement of Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation. He should remain unaffected by the followers of Mirza Yahya. He should not succumb to doubt. Those who wish to instill doubt in the minds of others, and are succesful, have the power to manipulate the weakness of others. Failing to establish doubt (and therefore have no power), is an indication of the strength of conviction the individual has, particularly Ahmad, who has complete certitude about the station of Bahá'u'lláh. Ahmad's certitude serves as a strength to those who, despite the attempts of the unfaithful ones, have declared their belief in Bahá'u'lláh (in this way Ahmad is a "river of life eternal to My loved ones).

11. And if thou art overtaken by affliction in My path, or degradation for My sake, be not thou troubled thereby.

Should he (Ahmad) face affliction or degradation while teaching the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, he should not be deterred from his task.

12. Rely upon God, thy God and the Lord of thy fathers. For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears. Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness.

Ahmad should place his reliance and trust in God. He will find those Babis who have allowed themselves to be influenced by Mirza Yahya, thereby depriving themselves of the ability to recognize God's Manifestation and His Revelation, as they have placed their reliance and faith in someone other than God.

13. Thus have their superstitions become veils between them and their own hearts and kept them from the path of God, the Exalted, the Great.

As a result of not placing reliance in God, and following the false lead of Mirza Yahya, these Babis have established veils and barriers which have prevented them from following the path of God.

14. Be thou assured in thyself that verily, he who turns away from this Beauty hath also turned away from the Messengers of the past and showeth pride towards God from all eternity to all eternity.

In this passage Bahá'u'lláh clearly refers to Progressive Revelation. He states that those who reject and refute His Message, are not only denying His Cause, but the Religions of the past as well, and ultimately, they are rejecting God

15. Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days and withhold not thyself therefrom. For verily, God hath ordained for the one who chants it, the reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds. These favors have We bestowed upon thee as a bounty on Our part and a mercy from Our presence, that thou mayest be of those who are grateful.

Bahá'u'lláh counsels Ahmad to "Learn well this Tablet", and not to cease chanting it. He assures Ahmad, and ultimately anyone who does so, there is great reward ordained by God in honoring His (Bahá'u'lláh's) counsel. The magnitude and depth of meaning with regard to understanding"The reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds", is incomprehensible to the average individual. If anything, the reward mentioned, may serve purely as a means of conveying the hidden power within this Tablet, and that it's spiritual depth will be unfolded to the one who faithfully obeys Bahá'u'lláh's command to chant it. We are informed that it is by the grace and bounty of God that He has bestowed His favors on mankind, and for that we need to be always grateful.

16. By God! Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity, God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions.
   Verily, He is the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds.
   - Bahá'u'lláh (Bahá'í Prayers (US), Pages: 210-214)

In chanting this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh tells us all that sadness will be eliminated, difficulties will be solved, and tribulations (afflictions) will be removed. However, it cannot be overlooked that in order for the individual to receive these benefits, this Tablet needs to be read with sincerity. As a result, therefore, one needs to try to understand what is meant by sincerity. As people, with faults and shortcomings, we aspire to various levels of behavior. This being the case, it would be rather difficult to determine when one is at the accepted level of sincerity, in order to qualify to read this Tablet. Perhaps sincerity means having unquestioned faith in the power of this Tablet, place absolute trust in Bahá'u'lláh, turn to Him and believe that divine guidance will be bestowed upon mankind. After all, God (Who is the Lord of all worlds) is Merciful and Compassionate, and for that, at least, we praise Him.

PERSONAL RESPONSE and conclusion

In reading the history associated with Ahmad, his sincere feelings of love and loyalty for Bahá'u'lláh deeply touches my heart. His obedience, as a believer in Bahá'u'lláh, serves as an admirable example that all of us as Bahá'ís can turn to and draw strength from, particularly with regard to executing the Four Year Plan (teaching). Ahmad's obedience to Bahá'u'lláh's call to spread His message, at a time when he was so close to being with Bahá'u'lláh again, demonstrates his selflessness and degree of service. It is his sincerity of faith that first led him to recognize Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, and that same faith led him to turn away from his selfish need to be with Bahá'u'lláh, so as to teach the Faith to the Babis in Persia.

The Arabic Tablet conveys a strong sense of love, sincerity, faith and servitude that is to be found in an individual (in this case, Ahmad). These are the desired and exemplary traits that a follower of Bahá'u'lláh needs to possess and manifest. In the Persian Tablet, however, one sees an individual (in this case, another Ahmad), who displays undesirable traits of behavior. Bahá'u'lláh counsels him to a goodly character and conduct. Despite this, however, Ahmad becomes prideful and turns away from Bahá'u'lláh.

It is of interest that Bahá'u'lláh revealed these two Tablets at the same time, to two people with the same name. One is exemplary, the other is not. The combined behaviors can be found in any one individual. The individual, however, has within his/her control the ability to determine which path to follow (i.e. accept the Manifestation, be obedient to the commands, followed by teaching the Faith, or not). The significance of the Tablet of Ahmad (Arabic), for me, is that the obligation of teaching the Faith which Ahmad honored, equally applies to Bahá'ís today. In the words of Bahá'u'lláh:

And be thou so steadfast in My love that thy heart shall not waver, even if the swords of the enemies rain blows upon thee and all the heavens and the earth arise against thee.

Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones, and be not of those who doubt.

And if thou art overtaken by affliction in My path, or degradation for My sake, be not thou troubled thereby.

Rely upon God, thy God and the Lord of thy fathers.
   (Bahá'u'lláh: Bahá'í Prayers (US), Page: 212)

How steadfast am I?
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