To: The Universal House of Justice
The Research Department
In her e-mail message of 2 September 1991, ... has written to ask about the meaning and correct transliteration of "Yá 'Aliyyu'l-A'lá" and where it can be found. She also asks if it is an invocation to the Báb.
The Research Department has located the invocation "Yá 'Aliyyu'l-A'lá" in two places. It appears in a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on page 312 of "Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá" (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1962), and in a letter of the beloved Guardian found in "Messages to the Bahá'í World, 1950-1957" (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1971), page 153. The spelling used by the Guardian is given above, and accords with the system of transliteration which he established (found in any volume of "The Bahá'í World"). We note that the rendering printed in "Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá" contains a misplaced inverted comma.
The translation of "Yá 'Aliyyu'l-A'lá", as rendered by Shoghi Effendi in 1921 when he translated the above mentioned Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, is "O Thou Most High".1 We note that in his letter of 1953, also referenced above, he chose to leave "Ya 'Aliyyu'l-A'la" in the original language, as did the Universal House of Justice when they later published the Master's Tablet in "Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá".
In Islamic tradition, al-'Ali, "The Most High One", is one of the names of God.2 Thus, a Muslim might use "Yá 'Aliyyu'l-A'lá" to call upon God. However, in Bábí and Bahá'í tradition, especially as 'Alá was the Báb's name, "Yá 'Aliyyu'l-A'lá" is understood to be an invocation to the Báb.
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2. See Robert Stade, "Ninety-Nine Names of God in Islam", a translation of the major portion of Al-Ghazálí's "Al-Maqsad Al-Asná (Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press, 1970), pp. 72-75.