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An undated tablet from the Akka period on the interpretation of sacred scripture, with references to previous Tablets revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Asl-i-Kullu’l-Khayr (Words of Wisdom) and Lawh-i-Maqsúd (Tablet of Maqsúd).

Tablet on Interpretation of Sacred Scripture (Lawh-i-Ta'wíl)

by Bahá'u'lláh

translated by Mehran Ghasempour
This is that which was uttered by Tongue of Grandeur!

  The purpose of interpretation[2] is this: that none become deprived of that which is evident, and be veiled from that which is intended. If, for example, from the heaven of the will of God it were revealed: “wash ye your faces”, do not interpret this to mean, by washing, the intent is the cleansing of the inner face that should be washed and purified by the water of divine knowledge,[3] and the like! Many a time, with such interpretations, a person’s face may remain utterly filthy and pungent, whilst, in his own idle fancy, he hath performed the essence of God’s command! Yet, in this instance, it is clear and evident that the washing of the face with material water[4] is intended.

   Know thou that some of the divine words can be interpreted. That is, such interpretations that should not become the cause and reason of idle fancies and vain imaginings,[5] and deprive not from the divine purpose.

   Ponder upon that which hath been revealed in the Qur’án: “And he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good.” [6] Some believe that by wisdom is meant the divine laws, which have been revealed in the Book. Others believe that this wisdom is the science of medicine and should any soul acquire it, he hath attained abundant good. For this pertaineth to man and is the science of the body and this science is the noblest of all sciences. Even as the Tongue of Wisdom hath previously uttered this exalted word: “Knowledge is two kinds; the knowledge of the body and the knowledge of religions.”[7] Inasmuch as the Manifestation of God[8] and the divine laws all have ever been, and will ever be, for the education of man, his progress and advancement, safeguarding the peoples of the world, and the like, He hath thus given precedence to the knowledge of the body in the blessed Word for, in reality, it doth take precedence. Therefore, whatsoever are the effective means for safeguarding and promoting the health and well-being of man hath ever been, and will ever be, of the greatest primacy. Verily, this passage is clear and evident.

   Some believe that wisdom is the recognition[9] of the realities of things, and whosoever attaineth unto this station, he will be the possessor of exalted stations. One sect believeth that wisdom is to do that which benefiteth man and whosoever succeedeth in this purpose he is the possessor of abundant good. Another sect believeth that wisdom is that which safeguardeth man from whatever degradeth him, and guideth him to whatever glorifieth him. A few believe that wisdom is the knowledge of consorting with people, leniency and forbearance to the extent that it doth not exceed the limits of moderation.

   Some have said that wisdom is the knowledge of theology, which is based on the rules and principles of the wise of old. It hath also been said that wisdom is the knowledge of the essential and the contingent such as astronomy and the like. Some have said that wisdom is the knowledge of subsistence in the world. A few believe that wisdom is the knowledge of methodology, while others believe that wisdom is the affairs and conditions of justice, that is, giving to a claimant all to which he is entitled. Others yet believe that wisdom is the knowledge of alchemy, and whosoever attaineth thereto hath attained abundant good. Still others believe that wisdom is the knowledge of geometry, and the like. And each sect, to the extent of its own understanding and perception, hath submitted proof and reasoning in support of what hath been mentioned. If this subject were to be expounded in detail it would become increasingly tedious.

   Praise be unto Him who uttered this exalted word: “The essence of wisdom is the fear of God.”[10] For, the fear and dread of God prevent man from that which causeth his abasement and degradation, and aideth him in that which causeth his loftiness and exaltation. A sagacious man avoideth vile deeds, inasmuch as he foreseeth the ensuing punishment.

   “The structure of world stability and order hath been reared upon, and will continue to be sustained by, the twin pillars of reward and punishment.”[11] Not long ago this blessed verse shone forth from the dawning-place of the mouth of God: “Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment.”[12] Thus spoke the Lord of Names. For, He is in truth the Speaker, the All-Knowing.

   Formerly, some souls have called themselves the people of Taríqat,[13] even as their writings now exist in the world. Various sects each have taken a path. Islám hath been scattered by these souls, who have divided the Most Great Ocean into many gulfs. Until, at last, it befell to the religion of God that which came to pass. As hath been witnessed, Islám, with its mighty force, is reduced to utter weakness by the deeds and actions of them that attribute themselves thereto.

   Some souls who call themselves dervishes interpreted all the divine laws and commandments. If it were said that the obligatory prayer is a divine law they say that the obligatory prayer meaneth supplication and we have come with supplication during birth, and thus we have performed the true obligatory prayer. Such a wretch is devoid of the manifest meaning, much less the inner meaning thereof! The vain imaginings of the heedless souls have ever been, and are, beyond reckoning.

   In brief, due to laziness and indisposition, they have interpreted all the divine laws, which are like unto a mighty bulwark[14] for safeguarding the world and the security thereof. They have sought reclusion in takyihs,[15] have chosen no occupation but eating and sleeping, and concur whatsoever is said of learnings. Yet, no sign of the fervour of the love of God hath yet been detected in them, save in those few who didst discover the sweetness of His Word and became cognizant of the meaning of the advent.[16]

   Concerning these interpretations, which were mentioned in explanation of wisdom, some of them are correct within their own context, for there is no contradiction with the principals of divine law. Those verses which contain divine commandments and prohibitions concerning worship, fines,[17] crime, and the like --the intent hath ever been, and wilt ever be, to act upon their evident meaning. However, those divine verses that have been revealed in the previous Books, as well as the Qur’án, regarding the coming of the last Hour and the Day of Resurrection[18] are mostly subject to interpretation. “And none knoweth its interpretation except God.”[19] These facts are clear and proven in the Kitáb-i-Iqán; any soul that pondereth upon it will become cognizant of that which hath been hidden unto all. Contemplate thou upon that which the All-Bestower hath revealed in the Book: “The sun is not given to overtake the Moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day.”[20] The learned have time and again commented on, and interpreted, this Blessed verse. And each one, in his own belief, hath discovered the meaning thereof. However, where is the station of knowledge and where are the facts of idle fancies and vain imaginings!

   One soul who hath been named the king of commentators,[21] Qádi-i-Baydáwí,[22] hath said the aforementioned verse hath been revealed “to refute the worshiping of the sun”. Observe how far he is from the fountainhead of knowledge, despite the people’s claim of his vast learning!

   The reins of learnings are within the grasp of divine power, He bestoweth on whomever He willeth. In the previous Books that which streamed forth from the Pen of the Most High in mention of this advent is mostly subject to interpretation. For example, He saith: “The valleys melt like wax before the lord.”[23] And likewise He saith: “His tabernacle will be raised upon the mountains”[24]- even as it hath been raised! In another place He saith: “A tabernacle whose ropes have not been, and will not be, cut off, whose stakes have not been, and will not be, taken off, and it will not be moved from one place to another.”[25] These passages are open to interpretation. A fair man will comprehend which instance is to be interpreted and in which instance the outward command of the revelation is intended.

   This day, that which cleanseth the people of defilement, and leadeth them to real peace and tranquility is the Religion of God, the Faith of God, the Cause of God. Thus poured down the rain of utterance from the heaven of knowledge[26] as a token of grace upon thee. Give thanks and say: ‘Praise be to thee, O the Beloved of them that recognize,[27] and glory be to thee, O the Desire of the worlds, and thanksgiving be to thee, O Thou in Whose grasp is the Kingdom, the Lord of the heavens and the earth!’


    [1] Ta’wíl (Arabic pronunciation) or Ta’víl (Persian pronunciation); KI, p. 17, 145. Tablet itself published in Iqtidarat va chand Lawh-i-Digar pp. 279-286. According to the Leiden List of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, this text dates from the ‘Akká period, around 1881-2 (MG’s note, modified by MW)

    [2] Ta’wíl/ Ta’víl (MG’s note).

    [3] Irfán; KI, p. 53, 91. Also Recognition, comprehension; KA, ¶ 1., Long Obligatory Prayer. (MG’s note)

    [4] zahír; KI, p. 145. (MG’s note).

    [5] zunún va awhám; KI, p. 228. Tablet of the Words of Paradise. The Book of the Covenant. (MG’s note)

    [6] Qur’án; Al Baqarah:269. The full verse translation by Mohammed M. Pickthall is: “He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding.” (MG’s note).

    [7] The source of this quotation is not known (MW’s note).

    [8] Mazáhir-i-Haqq; KI, p. 12 (MG’s note).

    [9] Ma‘rifát; KI, p. 4, 91 (MG’s note).

    [10] See Asl-i-Kullu’l-Khayr (Words of Wisdom) (MG’s note).

    [11] This is a passage from Lawh-i-Maqsúd (Tablet of Maqsúd) (MG’s note).

    [12] This is a passage from Lawh-i-Maqsúd (Tablet of Maqsúd) (MG’s note).

    [13] Súfís; the followers of the mystic path (MG’s note).

    [14] Lit., “strong dam” (MG’s note).

    [15] A building or a tent for gathering, worship, repose, refuge, reclusion; monastery (MG’s note).

    [16] i.e., of the Day of God (MW’s note).

    [17] Diyát; Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶ 49 (MG’s note).

    [18] Sá‘at va qiyámat; KI, p. 44 (MG’s note).

    [19] Qur’án, 3:7 (3:5 in Rodwell’s translation) (MG’s note).

    [20] Qur’án; 36:40 (Rodwell’s translation) (MG’s note).

    [21] The commentators and expounders on the Qur’án (MG’s note).

    [22] Apparently a Sunní commentator on the Qur’án, contemporary with Bahá’u’lláh (MW’s note).

    [23] Judges 5:5, Psalms 97:5 (MG’s note).

    [24] Daniel 11:45, Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1 (MG’s note).

    [25] Isaiah 33:20 (MG’s note).

    [26] Irfán (MG’s note).

    [27] Irfán (MG’s note).

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