Tablets to the Kings
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice1989-11-20
Department of the Secretariat
20 November 1989
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
The Universal House of Justice referred to the Research Department your letter of 12 September 1989 in which you asked two questions related to the Tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh to the kings. We are now directed to send you the enclosed copy of the memorandum prepared in response.
It is hoped that a study of this material will provide the enlightenment you seek on this historical aspect of the Faith.
For Department of the Secretariat
To: The Universal House of Justice
In his letter dated 12 September 1989 to the Universal House of Justice , Mr. ... raises two questions about Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets to the kings. We provide the following response.
1. Delivery of the Tablets
Mr. ... quotes the following statement from "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf", rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979), p. 59:
Our purpose is that haply the breezes of Revelation may envelop thee, and cause thee to arise, wholly for the sake of God, and serve His Cause, and that thou mayest transmit any of the Tablets of the kings which might have remained undelivered....and he asks which of the Tablets to the kings were not delivered. Before answering this specific question it is necessary to consider the scope of Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation and the means by which it was communicated.
With regard to the extent of the proclamation, Shoghi Effendi in "The Promised Day Is Come", rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1980), p. 21, states that "all the kings of the earth have been collectively addressed" by Baha’u’llah's "Pen", and he quotes the words of Bahá'u'lláh on this subject:
Never since the beginning of the world hath the Message been so openly proclaimed.In "The Promised Day Is Come", pp. 20-21, Shoghi Effendi lists the most important rulers who were "the object of Bahá'u'lláh's special attention":
The Emperor of the French, the most powerful ruler of his day on the European continent, Napoleon III; Pope Pius IX, the supreme head of the highest church in Christendom, and wielder of the scepter of both temporal and spiritual authority; the omnipotent Czar of the vast Russian Empire, Alexander II; the renowned Queen Victoria, whose sovereignty extended over the greatest political combination the world has witnessed; William I, the conqueror of Napoleon III, King of Prussia and the newly acclaimed monarch of a unified Germany; Francis Joseph, the autocratic king-emperor of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the heir of the far-famed Holy Roman Empire; the tyrannical 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, the embodiment of the concentrated power vested in the Sultanate and the Caliphate; the notorious Nasiri'din Shah, the despotic ruler of Persia and the mightiest potentate of Shi'ih Islam -- in a word, most of the preeminent embodiments of power and of sovereignty in His day became, one by one, the object of Bahá'u'lláh's special attention, and were made to sustain, in varying degrees, the weight of the force communicated by His appeals and warnings.For additional details of the kings and rulers, ecclesiastical leaders and other individuals and groups to whom Bahá'u'lláh addressed His proclamation, Mr. ... is referred to:
"The Promised Day Is Come", pp. 19-21.Shoghi Effendi explains that the proclamation was communicated "in books, Epistles, and Tablets". Of the rulers listed in the extract from "The Promised Day is Come", cited above, specific individual Tablet(s) were addressed to:
Napoleon III (2 Tablets)Nabil, in "The Dawn-Breakers: Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation", trans, and ed. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974), describes a number of gatherings which took place in 'Akka at which Bahá'u'lláh was present. He reports some of Bahá'u'lláh's comments about the delivery of the Epistles to the kings that were revealed during His incarceration in the Most Great Prison:
"From Our Most Great Prison We were moved to address to the several rulers and crowned heads of the world Epistles in which We summoned them to arise and embrace the Cause of God. To the Shah of Persia We sent Our messenger Badi', into whose hands We entrusted the Tablet. It was he who raised it aloft before the eyes of the multitude and, with uplifted voice, appealed to his sovereign to heed the words that Tablet contained. The rest of the Epistles likewise reached their destination. To the Tablet We addressed to the Emperor of France, an answer was received from his minister, the original of which is now in the possession of the Most Great Branch. To him We addressed these words: 'Bid the high priest, O Monarch of France, to cease ringing his bells, for, lo! the Most Great Bell, which the hands of the will of the Lord thy God are ringing, is made manifest in the person of His chosen One.' The Epistle We addressed to the Czar of Russia, alone failed to reach its destination. Other Tablets, however, have reached him, and that Epistle will eventually be delivered into his hands.In "The Promised Day Is Come", p. 65, Shoghi Effendi describes the delivery of the Tablets to Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, Sultan 'Abdu'1-'Aziz, and Nasiri'd-Din Shah. The Research Department has not been able to locate any additional information about whether or not the Tablet to Czar Alexander II, referred to by Bahá'u'lláh, has yet been delivered.
In relation to Pope Pius IX, while Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have stated that the Epistles "reached their destination", there Is some question about whether this particular Tablet was actually delivered to the Pope, as suggested by the following extract from a letter dated 15 November 1947 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer:
It seems likely that Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to the Pope was never delivered to him. We do not know the method used to transmit it to him, and can only guess that Church dignitaries would not have attached sufficient importance to it to deliver It. ...it would be wonderful if it were actually found in the Vatican archives. The original was written in Arabic. In 1868 Bahá'u'lláh arrived in 'Akka, and the Tablet was supposedly sent from there about that period. Unfortunately this is the closest we can come at present to an accurate date.With regard to Kaiser William I and the Emperor Francis Joseph, these rulers were addressed by Bahá'u'lláh in the "Kitab-i-Aqdas". As far as can be determined, no separate Tablets were either addressed to or sent to them, nor was a copy of the "Kitab-i-Aqdas" forwarded to them.
For additional information about Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets of proclamation Mr. ... is referred to volumes 2 and 3 of "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" (Oxford: George Ronald) by Adib Taherzadeh.
2. Response of Queen Victoria
Shoghi Effendi in "The Promised Day is Come", p. 65, states:
Queen Victoria, it is said, upon reading the Tablet revealed for her remarked: "If this is of God, it will endure; if not, it can do no harm."...In response to a question addressed to Shoghi Effendi about Queen Victoria's reported statement, his secretary, in a letter dated 21 February 1942 written on his behalf, indicated that:
But as we have no written statement to this effect, we cannot be sure about it. We do not know where the original of this statement is. Bahá'u'lláh praised her acts, but she did not turn to Him.