Notes by Julio Savi:
As to its content, Rashh-i-'Amá deals with a single subject of mystical
character. This subject is the divine Intimation received by Bahá'u'lláh in
Tihrán's Siyáh-Chál, where He was confined from 16 (?) August to December
1852, at the beginning of the year which He Himself later called the 'year
nine.' In Taherzadeh's words, Rashh-i-'Amá 'announces the glad-tidings of
the release of spiritual energies which are described by Bahá'u'lláh in such
terms as the wafting of the divine musk-laden Breeze, the appearance of the
Ocean of the Cause of God, the sounding of the Trumpet Blast, the flow of
the Living Waters, the warbling of the Nightingale of Paradise and the
appearance of the Maid of Heaven...'
The event is described in two
perspectives. Couplets 1-9 convey a celebratory description, which -- albeit it
conceived in metaphorical terms -- relates directly the event. In couplets
10-18 the description is indirect, since it is worded as a call to the
readers to witness the event. This call is addressed through the second
person of the imperative, bín,
of the verb dídan,
to see, to behold.
This presentation of the one subject of the divine Intimation in two
perspectives enables us to divide the poem into two parts. The first part is
purely descriptive and celebratory. The second part is exhortative,
almost a madíh
. In the Rashh-i-'Amá, Bahá'ulláh avails Himself of the 'three
primary, anacreontic, erotic, spring, motifs of the ghazal,'
symbolical meanings were definitively codified in the Persian poetry that he
adopted in this poem.
These three motifs appear masterly intertwined
throughout the poem in a subtle counterpoint, whereby none of the three
seems to prevail. Rashh-i-'Amá therefore has the formal features both of a
or ode, and a qasídih,
an elegy or "purpose-poem."
Notes by Ismael Velasco:
(from a student):
- Is it only during the state of receiving God's revelation that the
Manifestations have infallible and all-encompassing knowledge or does this
apply to Them at all times? If it applies to them at all times, does it for
example apply to Bahá'u'lláh before He states He was first made aware of His
Station/Mission in the Síyáh-Chál? The latter question was asked by the
students in my Sunday School class in the context of a discussion of the
omniscience and infallibility of the Manifestations of God.
Although we are not covering it in this course it is my understanding that
the first tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh was Rashh-I-'Amá (? Sprinkling of the
Cloud) which is said to have been revealed either during or shortly after
His imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál. Is this correct? Is there an
authoritative or provisional translation of this tablet in English? I wonder
if anyone that is familiar with it could share its content or essence? If it
is in reality the first revealed tablet of Bahá'u'lláh it would be interesting
to discuss it if possible. Also I am wondering are there any writings of
Bahá'u'lláh that predate 1852/1853 when He received His messianic
station/mission? Can one determine with any certainty if Bahá'u'lláh had
knowledge of His station/mission before 1852/1853?
My understanding would be
that the Bahá'í concept of the Manifestation of God is different from the
Judaic-Islamic concept of the Prophet as a fallible recipient of divine
revelation. He is endowed with the Most Great Infallibility, which means
that His words define the parameters of religious truth, rather than being
subject to such parameters. To my mind, this means that the words and deeds
of the Manifestation are divinely inspired at all times, not only when
revealing writings. If we regard 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words and deeds as divinely
inspired, how much more those of Bahá'u'lláh! Nevertheless, as you point
out, there does seem to be a qualitative and experiential difference to the
revelation of verses, as described in the historical accounts you so
eloquently summarise. Likewise, in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
Bahá'u'lláh describes His experience of revelation in the Síyáh-Chál as
sporadic and physically distinct. He feels an energy that precipitates
itself from the crown of His head, and utters, "at such moments", words
which no man could bear to hear. What the difference might be between this
state of active revelation, and the other, constant state of spiritual
authority, is beyond me to answer.
Another mystery you touch on is on the status of Bahá'u'lláh previous to the
Síyáh-Chál experience. On the one hand, we have expositions from
'Abdu'l-Bahá in SAQ which clearly state that the Manifestation is aware of
the powers latent within Him. Likewise, a number of souls recognised
Bahá'u'lláh as the Promised One previous to the Síyáh-Chál experience, as
testified by Nabíl, and He confirmed their understanding (which shows
Bahá'u'lláh was aware of His station previous to His imprisonment in that
"pestilential pit", His blessed neck weighed down with two infamous chains).
On the other hand, Bahá'u'lláh's descriptions of that experience do suggest
a sense of inception, and a certain amount of passivity. One does not get
the impression of a measured decision by Bahá'u'lláh to reveal Himself, but
rather of an overwhelming mystical experience involving the Maiden, which
triggers His "Messianic consciousness", to borrow the language of Christian
theology. The tablets of this earliest period, such as Rash-i Ama (1853),
the Tablet of All Food (1853), and the Ode of the Dove (1855) likewise
convey this impassioned sense of a soul in the throes of a sublime spiritual
encounter in which pain and joy embrace like lovers. Likewise the Guardian
describes the Siyah Chal experience as "the first intimation" of
Bahá'u'lláh's mission (GPB). There also appears to have been an outward
change before and after the Siyah Chal, as testified by the Greatest Holy
Leaf in Lady Blomfield's A Chosen Highway. So to me your question is one
that is likely to exercise Bahá'ís for centuries to come, and I for one,
with my puny brain (even by human standards) cannot think of an easy answer
to the necessarily mysterious and transcendent relationship of Mírzá Husayn
Alí Bahá'u'lláh to the Most Great Spirit in this Day of Days.
As for Bahá'u'lláh's writings before His declaration, none have been found,
to the best of my knowledge, which is also an interesting question, given we
still have writings by other key figures of the Bábí Dispensation such as
Quddus and Tahirih. There are suggestions of correspondence between
Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb, and I would be surprised if Bahá'u'lláh had not
written for the Bábís in the 6 years before His own declaration, but His
writings appear to have been lost (unless someone else knows something
different about this). In contrast, we do have some very important writings
of the Báb before His own declaration, which give your questions very
immediate relevance. My own hunch would be to deal with all of the Báb's
writings as divinely inspired, regardless of whether they were penned before
His declaration or after, but it is not entirely self-evident. It might be
something for the Univesral House of Justice to elucidate.
Finally, further to Dr. Savi's erudite discussion of the Rash-i Ama, I would
clarify that there is no authorised translation of it, and that the language
is very abstruse and mystical, dealing with His experience in indirect and
allusive terms, and emphasising the mysterious and ineffable nature of God.
For further information you could follow these leads from the Leiden
bibliography of Bahá'u'lláh's tablets:
Rashh-i `Ama (Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing), Tehran 1853.
Ma`iydih-i Asmani vol. 4 184-6; INBAMC 36:460-1.
Persian, translation & detailed commentary Stephen Lambden BSB 3:2 September
1984 4-114; Lambden 'Sinaitic Mysteries' SBBR5 109; brief commentary in
Taherzadeh, 'Revelation' vol. 1 45-46, 51; Taherzadeh, 'Covenant' 52-53;
description Rúhe, 'Robe' 164; detailed discussion in Juan Cole 'Bahá'u'lláh
and the Naqshbandi Sufis,' SBBR vol. 2; discussion of the role of the Maid
of Heaven in Kamran Ekbal 'The Zoroastrian Heritage of the 'Maid of Heaven'
SBBR vol. 3 129. Included in BWC Best Known.
Thank you again for asking such challenging and excellent questions, which
have raised my awareness of the mysterious nature of His revelation.