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Light of the World: Selected Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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Preface

On 29 May 1892, after four decades of bountiful radiance, from the first intimation of its rising glory in the Síyáh-Chál and Baghdad to its midday splendour in Adrianople and ‘Akká, the Sun of Bahá—as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá memorably relayed in His telegram informing Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd of the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh—had set. Yet the setting of that Sun was not followed by the dark of night but by the reflection of its glory in the Moon of the Covenant, lighting the path ahead, towards the attainment of Bahá’u’lláh’s ultimate purpose: the unification of humanity.

As the radiant Centre of that Covenant, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son and appointed Successor, would, for the next three decades, lead the Cause and be “the steward of its glory and the diffuser of its light”. His mission would be “to enrich and extend the bounds of the incorruptible patrimony entrusted to His hands by shedding the illumination of His Father’s Faith upon the West, by expounding the fundamental precepts of that Faith and its cardinal principles, by consolidating the activities which had already been initiated for the promotion of its interests, and, finally, by ushering in, through the provisions of His own Will, the Formative Age in its evolution”.1

Over the course of that unique stewardship, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote thousands of Tablets to individuals and communities in the East and the West, comprising an unceasing outpouring of guidance, encouragement, sustenance, edification, and boundless love. The present volume consists of seventy-six newly translated selections chosen from Tablets originally published in Persian in volumes 3 and 4 of Muntakhabátí az Makátíb-i-Ḥaḍrat-i-‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Though the Tablets presented here cover the entire period of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry, many were written soon after the “Supreme Affliction” of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh. At that moment, the orphaned community of the Greatest Name, grief-stricken and despondent, turned to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, recognizing Him to be, “in its hour of desperate need, its Solace, its Guide, its Mainstay and Champion”.2

Whether writing to the friends at that time of bereavement, or in later years when they found themselves suffering persecution and hardship, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called them to reflect on the life of the Blessed Beauty, Whose “one and only purpose in accepting such trials and tribulations for His blessed Self was to instruct the lovers in the ways of love and to teach the longing souls the art of servitude”. The loved ones of God, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, must “not be grieved or distressed at these countless afflictions, for in bearing such trials, they share in the sufferings of the Abhá Beauty”.

The Tablets in this volume provide a selection, in English translation, chosen from among many written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that recount, aspects of the life of Bahá’u’lláh and the tribulations He endured, events in His homeland, the purpose and greatness of His Cause, the unparalleled nature and significance of His Covenant—as well as the attempts of its enemies to subvert and destroy it—and some of the Biblical and Quranic allusions and prophecies about the Blessed Beauty. Reflected in many of the Tablets are parallels between Bahá’u’lláh’s sufferings at the hands of His adversaries and the afflictions ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was similarly made to endure.

These Tablets are thus doubly precious: Who better to tell us about Bahá’u’lláh, and to impart to us His “lessons of the spirit in the school of insight”, than His most cherished Son, Who shared, as His closest associate, His life of exile, imprisonment, and persecution, and Who, titled by His Father the “Mystery of God”, stood in a unique relationship to the Author of the Revelation as “the image of His perfections”, “the Interpreter of His mind”, “the Focal Point of His unerring guidance”, “the stainless mirror reflecting His light”?3

The lapse of a century since the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá only testifies to His words of assurance that the Sun of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation “shall never set, nor shall that Day-Star of the Realm of Glory ever wane.… It remaineth ever shining in its meridian splendour, ever glowing and luminous, at the sublime apex of bounty.”

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