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Notes:
Prepared as part of Wilmette Institute notes and commentary on the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh.

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Tablet of Ridván (Lawh-i-Ridván):
Wilmette Institute faculty notes

by Duane Troxel, Juan Cole, and Stephen Lambden

1999
Notes by Duane Troxel:

I consulted the Leiden List of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and found that it lists three (3) Tablets of Ridván as items 221, 222 and 223, respectively.

The first Tablet of Ridván (item 221, Lawhu'r-Ridván) was revealed in 1863 at Baghdad. This Tablet is reproduced in its entirety in Gleanings XIV ("The Divine Springtime is come")

The second Tablet of Ridván (item 222 on the Leiden List) is the one Mr. Balyuzi mentions was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh during the Adrianople period (1863-1868). Mr. Balyuzi writes:
"It was during His testing years in Adrianople that Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed the Revelation with which God had entrusted Him. No better description of those fruitful years could be given, than that from the pen of the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, as he writes in God Passes By:
Tablets unnumbered were streaming from the pen of Bahá'u'lláh, in which the implications of His newly-asserted claims were fully expounded. The Súriy-i-Amr [Command], the Lawh-i-Nuqtih [Tablet of the Point], the Lawh-i-Ahmad [The Tablet of Ahmad], the Súriy-i-Asháb [The Tablet of the Companions], the Lawh-i-Sayyah, the Súriy-i-Damm [The Tablet of Blood], the Súriy-i-Hajj [The Tablet of Pilgrimage], the Lawhu'r-Rúh, [The Tablet of Spirit], the Lawhu'r-Ridván [The Tablet of Ridván]."
      - Bahá'u'lláh: The King of Glory, pp. 244-245.
The third Tablet of Ridván (item 233) is the one under discussion in Vol. III of "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" that was probably revealed on the 9th day of Ridván in 1869.

The confusion arises because the text of this third Tablet of Ridván is not reproduced in "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" Vol. III; we get instead Taherzadeh's discussion the two believers — Ja'far-i-Tabrizi, entitled Mansur, and Mírzá Hadi, entitled 'Abdu'l-Ahad — who were both apparently mentioned in this Tablet. Further confusion arises because the compiler(s) of the notebook, while giving some details about the two individuals abruptly terminates the story of Ustad Ismá'íl's effort to "behold the face of his Beloved from across the moat" which ends thus:
"But alas, because of his old age and the feebleness of his eyesight he failed to see the hand of Bahá'u'lláh waving from one of the windows of the barracks. This was a pitiful scene He broke into tears which brought tears also to the eyes of the Holy Family and a few others who were watching the sad plight of that devoted believer. Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have said on that occasion that soon through the power of God restrictions would be relaxed and circumstances would make it possible for the believers to attain His presence." -RB Vol. III, 55.

If you would like further information on the two believers mentioned in Section 4 I can send it along but I do not have, nor do I know where I can get a copy of this third Ridván Tablet in English. Perhaps one of the other Mentors can help with this.

      Duane Troxel




Notes by Juan Cole:

"Ridvan as a Peace Festival"

      Religious absolutism in the Middle East served to mark severe boundaries between Self and Other. Classical Muslim jurisprudence treated this boundary-drawing under three rubrics. The first concerned the relationship of the Muslim state with non-Muslim neighbors, against whom many Muslim jurists called for unrelenting war. Jihad, or struggling for the sake of Islam, was commanded in the Qur'an in the Medina period, as the Prophet Muhammad came to rule an embryonic state under military pressure from his polytheist Meccan rivals (Qur'an 61:11). The military aspect of this struggle is stressed in 2:190-91, "And fight in the way of God with those who fight with you, but aggress not; God loves not the aggressors; and slay them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from where they expelled you; persecution is more grievous than slaying." Muslim jurists later affirmed that one means of waging this struggle was by the sword, and they said it could be fought against polytheists, apostates, rebels, deserters, and members of pre-Islamic religions such as Judaism and Christianity. In classical Twelver Shi`ite thought only the Prophet or the Imam had the authority to authorize an offensive holy war. Many Shi`ites felt that after the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam, no offensive holy war could be mounted until his supernatural return. Defensive holy war, as with the Iranian campaigns against Russian expansion in the early nineteenth century, was allowed by many Shi`ite jurists. Most Sunni thinkers continued throughout to allow offensive jihad to be fought. The jurists divided the world into the realm of peace (dar as-salam) wherein Muslims ruled and the realm of war (dar al-harb) wherein non-Muslims ruled, and viewed it as a duty of the Muslim rulers to reduce the latter to submission. Some late medieval jurisprudents did speak of an intermediate realm of peaceful accord (dar as-sulh), wherein a Muslim state lived amiably with a non-Muslim ally, with Ethiopia often given as an example. Not all jurisprudents accepted this category. The Bab's legislation on jihad did not materially differ from that of Islam, though he appears never to have actually called the Babis to a holy war against the Qajars, despite his authority within Babism to do so.

      In his the Gems of the Mysteries of 1860 or 1861, Bahá'u'lláh blamed religious warfare on opposers of the prophets, saying that they "ignited the fire of war even though God had extinguished it with his might." This phrase seems to indicate that Bahá'u'lláh believed that the Qur'an and the Bayan were actually intended to extinguish warfare, suggesting that he had already developed a peace-oriented reading of scripture.

      Bahá'u'lláh's first overt announcement of his commitment to peace came at his Ridvan, 1863 declaration. He pitched tents at the garden of Necip Pasha in Baghdad and for twelve days spoke to close disciples and family members, then to local friends and admirers, before setting out for Istanbul in accordance with the Sultan's decree. Stephen Lambden has discovered a Persian letter of Bahá'u'lláh that summarizes his message to close disciples and family members during Ridvan. "He 1) abrogated the Islamo-Babi law of (the permissibility) of offensive "holy War" (jihad), advocating a pacifist attitude to the propagation of Babism; 2) asserted that no independent Messenger or Manifestation of God would appear (presumably after him) for at least a millennium (1,000 [presumably solar years]; and 3) claimed that through his declarative utterance creation had been renewed (or the like)." Bahá'u'lláh's secretary, Mirza Aqa Jan "Khadimu'llah" Kashani, later explained that "Peace for the sake of the entire world became manifest at the beginning of the Blessed Beauty's arrival in Ridvan." One of the three teachings Bahá'u'lláh promulgated at Ridvan, then (in addition to his cosmos-renewing declaration and his insistence that no new Messenger of God would come for a thousand years), was that the command to wage warfare (hukm-i sayf) had been abrogated in this religion.

      This teaching of peace became an often-repeated theme in his subsequent writings, and he laid stress on it for decades thereafter. In his 1891 "Tablet of the World," he wrote: "strife and conflict befit the beasts of the wild. It was through the grace of God and with the aid of seemly words and praiseworthy deeds that the unsheathed swords of the Babi community were returned to their scabbards." In his summation of his religious teachings at the end of his life, he once again forbade the taking of life and urged that religious competition be conducted through discourse, saying, "We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other." He went beyond prohibiting formal jihad to enjoining his followers against all forms of contention, struggle and bloodshed with members of other religions. Religious faction-fighting was so common in Iran that he had to deny explicitly to his own followers that any of his previous verses criticizing Shi`ite leaders for their persecution of Bahá'ís could be interpreted so as to justify Bahá'ís engaging in violence against them. He intended to efface religious hatred, and even, in the late 1880s, forbade Bahá'ís from speaking ill of other religions. These directives have led to the conspicuous absence of polemic as a form of Bahá'í literature.

      In the passage quoted above from Bahá'u'lláh's secretary concerning Ridvan, the advent of peace is first and foremost connected with the abrogation of holy war rather than, as in Akbar's conception, being primarily based on the abolition of legal inequalities between Muslim and non-Muslim subjects of the realm. In later writings, Bahá'u'lláh particularly stressed his religion's distinctiveness from Islam and Babism in this regard. In a letter written in 1889, he links his abolition of holy war and the prohibition on inter-religious contention to his permission to Bahá'ís to associate with members of other religions, including Christians, to wear foreign clothes, and to read the holy books of other religious communities, including the Bible, all of which he says was previously forbidden (by either Islam or Babism). Instead, he says, in this revelation "liberty" (hurriyat) has been bestowed. He instructs that the Bahá'í faith be spread with wisdom and articulate speech (bayan) rather than through violence or contention. In the "Words of Paradise" (also 1889) he urges that children be schooled in religion so as to learn what is forbidden and what is commanded, and the spiritual sanctions and rewards that uphold these values. He adds, "but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism (ta`assub) and bigotry (hamiyyih-'i jahiliyyih, literally "pagan zealotry)."


References:
  • Denis MacEoin, "The Babi Concept of Holy War," Religion 12 (1982):93-129.
  • Bahá'u'lláh, "Javahir al-Asrar," Athar-i Qalam-i A`la, 3:53.
  • Stephen Lambden, "Some Notes on Bahá'u'lláh's Gradually Evolving Claims of the Adrianople/Edirne Period," Bahá'í Studies Bulletin, vol. 5:3-6:1 (June, 1991): 82, citing the Iran National Bahá'í Archives Private Printing volume 44, p. 225. For more on the abolition of holy war at Ridvan and the beginning of the principle of perpetual peace, see Bahá'u'lláh/Afnans, 11 Rabi` I 1298/12 February 1880, in Athar-i Qalam-i A`la, 7:134.
  • Bahá'u'lláh/Afnans, 11 Rabi` I 1298/12 February 1880, in Athar-i Qalam-i A`la, 7:134
  • Bahá'u'lláh, "Tablet of the World," Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 85.
  • Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 25.
  • Bahá'u'lláh/Zaynu'l-`Abidin, 1306/1888 or 1889, Athar-i Qalam-i A`la, 6:303-304.
  • Bahá'u'lláh, letter of circa 1889, Iqtidarat va Chand Lawh-i Digar (Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, n.p.), pp. 28-29.
  • Bahá'u'lláh, "Kalimat-i Firdawsiyyah 8," TOB, p. 68.
      Juan Cole




Notes by Stephen Lambden:

A while back Juan Cole and more recently Chris Buck asked me to post that extract from the unpublished Persian Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh-Khadimu'llah which speaks of the Ridvan declaration of Bahá'u'lláh. Please excuse the delay. What follows is my provisional translation of the paragraph of interest -- the highly Arabized Persian original text is from the manuscript photostatically reproduced in INBMC 44:225.

Extract from a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh-Khadimu'llah.
"..On the first day that the Ancient Beauty [Bahá'u'lláh] occupied the Most Great Throne in a garden (an orchard; bustan) which hath been designated Ridvan, the Tongue of Grandeur uttered three blessed verses. [1] The first of them was that in this [Bahá'í] Manifestation (`dispensation', zuhúr) the [use of the] sword (sayf) [in holy war] is put aside (murtafi`). [2] Secondly, prior to the completion of a millennium (1,000 years) any [theophanological] claim put forward (iddi'a) by any person is baseless (batil).The year should be considered a complete ( kámil) year; both exegesis (tafsir) and eisegesis (ta`wil) are forbidden. [3] Thirdly, the True One, exalted be His Glory, at that time [the Ridvan declaration] manifested (tajalli) all the Divine Names upon all things.

And the following choice verse (fiqra) was subsequently revealed but has been ordained to be of the same rank (maqam) as the preceding three [declarative verses]; namely,[4] whatever peoples (lit. `names', asami) are mentioned before the Face [of Bahá'u'lláh], whether living or dead have attained [the presence of God/Bahá'u'lláh) by virtue of being mentioned by the King of Preexistence (málik al-qidam = Bahá'u'lláh)."

Notes:
  1. The doctrine of Jihád ("Holy War") is of central importance in both Sunni and Shi`i Islam. One of the key features of Islamic messianism is that the promised Mahdi/Qa'im would wage universal holy war. Eschatological jihád by the Qá'im (= the Bab) and his devotees was expected. It is presupposed in various of the Bab's writings and evident in the activities of groups of militant Babis, e.g. at the Tabarsi uprising. Though there are important pacifist aspects to the Babi religion, the Bab did not abrogate jihád ("holy war").It is a significant doctrine throughout his mission though it was hardly outwardly realized.

    In the first major work of the Bab, the Qayyum al-asma (mid. 1844),there are a cluster of no less than seven successive súras ("chapters"; see QA 95-103)) -- more than any other grouping (see the Bab's Kitáb al-fihrist; Bushihr, 1845) -- named either qitál ("engagement") or jihád ("holy war"). Qur'anic laws of holy war are repeated or modified without abrogation. In what is probably the last substantial work of the Bab, the Haykal al-din ("Temple of Religion"; 1850), the waging of a kind of holy war is spelled out when the Bab states that a future Babi king should, as a manifestation of the "wrath of God" (qahr Alláh), put all non-Babis to death. In a Tablet `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to the following teachings of the Bab; "In the Day of the Manifestation of His Holiness the Exalted One (the Bab) the striking of necks [cf. Qur'an 8:12], the burning of books and treatises (kutub va avráq), the demolition of buildings and the universal slaughter (qitl-i `Amm) of all except such as believed and were steadfast was clearly enunciated" (Makatib 2:266)! In certain respects the Babi religion was the opposite of the Bahá'í Faith!

    The Bab's and previous religious directives relating to war and holy war were abrogated by Bahá'u'lláh at the Ridvan declaration -- as many times in later years. The abrogation of Holy war is listed first in the above quoted Tablet. It is also the first of the glad-tidings set forth in the late Akka period Lawh-i Bisharat ( "Glad-Tidings"). Pacifism as the absence of religious warfare is a key Bahá'í teaching. It is central. This is indeed glad-tidings.

    In the course of celebrating Ridvan here in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK), we at one time focused upon Bahá'u'lláh's forbidding Jihád (holy war; the use of the sword) and bore in mind that its `first fruits' would be realized during our lifetime; with the current/imminent actualization of the `Lesser Peace.' This seemed to make Ridvan come alive. At Ridvan Bahá'u'lláh intimated a religion of peace and unity.

  2. As in the Kitab-i Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh makes the appearance of a succeeding Manifestation of God impossible before the expiration of a millennium. The 1,000 year chronology should not be subject to any kind of interpretation whether based on a literal reading (tafsír) or an allegorical type of interpretation in which meaning is imposed (= eisegesis) on the text. "Year" means a complete (presumably solar) year not something else.

  3. This third aspect of the Ridvan announcement is referred to in the Kitab-i Aqdas (Para. 75):
    "God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of "uncleanness", whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridvan, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand."
    The Ridvan theophany of the Divine Names and Attributes upon everything rendered all peoples and things pure. This rendered unity truly realizable. No persons or things are impure. Bahá'ís are exhorted to consort intimately with the followers of other Faiths. Distinction between persons pure and impure should not be made.

  4. Here Bahá'u'lláh supplements the three Ridvan declarative utterances with a fourth which seems to mean that all persons mentioned by Baha'ullah whether alive or dead have mystically attained the eschatological meeting with God ( = the presence of Bahá'u'lláh).

The first three Ridvan declarative utterances are all repeated in the Kitab-i Aqdas. They are all related to the realization of unity and peace. What was said at Ridvan in 1863 was not merely a claim to be `Him Whom God shall make manifest' -- this is presupposed-- but a major shift from the limitations of past religions.
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