Twelve Table Talks given by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in ‘Akká


– 10 –

Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim

1 Question: What is the story of Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í and Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí, the journey of their disciples to Shíráz, and their declaration of allegiance to the Báb, and how did these events unfold?

2 Answer: Know that in the latter days the Shí‘ihs of Persia had forgotten the truth of the religion of God and had become entirely devoid and deprived of the morals of the spiritually minded. They were cleaving to empty husks and remained entirely heedless of the pith and substance. They had nothing to show but outward observances, such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, and the commemoration of the blessed Imáms. The people of true knowledge would therefore call them “Qishrí” (superficial), for amongst them the inner truths and meanings were absent, spiritual perceptions were non-existent, and heavenly morals had become but an idle matter.

3 When the night of separation approached the dawn—that is, when the concealment of the True One ran its course and the dawn of the morn of God drew nigh—Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í appeared. He guided the people to inner truths and meanings and expounded the secrets and mysteries of the Qur’án. The Shí‘ihs then became divided into two camps: Some followed the august Shaykh and became known as Shaykhís, while others kept to their prior condition and were called “Qishrí”.

4 The illustrious Shaykh began to invite the people to anticipate the advent of God’s revelation and the blazing of the Fire of Sinai. He proclaimed, in his writings and in his lessons, that the dawn was fast approaching and that the appearance of the promised Manifestation was imminent. Thus did he seek to instil receptivity in the hearts of the people and admonish them to await day and night the advent of the divine Manifestation. He became most renowned for his knowledge and perfections, not only in Persia but throughout the Shí‘ih world. He was mentioned at every gathering and was sought after by all.

5 During his lifetime he trained and instructed Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí, and before he died he appointed him as his successor. Siyyid Káẓim followed in the footsteps of the illustrious Shaykh and occupied himself night and day with elucidating the inner truths and meanings and in disseminating the secrets and mysteries of the Qur’án. He so imbued the people with anticipation for the coming Revelation that his disciples, in their eagerness, forsook all patience and repose and dispersed in every direction until they found the Promised One.

6 Moreover, Siyyid Káẓim explicitly specified, in the preamble of his book “Sharḥ-i-Qaṣídih”,10 the name of Bahá’u’lláh: “Praise be to God Who hath adorned the preamble of the book of His Essence with the mystery of distinction, the ornament of that Point wherefrom the Há is manifested, with neither assimilation nor separation, through the Alif.” To fully explain this expression to you would take a long time, since you are unfamiliar with such words and expressions, and were I to do so it would fill an entire book. But since time is short I will briefly provide a word-for-word translation11 so that you will understand the general meaning. He says: Praise be to God who has adorned the book of existence with the mystery of distinction through degrees, for it is through such differences that the world of existence is adorned. If all things were of one kind and there were no distinctions, existence would be imperfect. The realm of God and the realm of creation, the realm above and the realm below, the realm of truth and the realm of illusion: All these distinctions are among the inherent requirements of existence. He then says that the book of existence is adorned with that Point wherefrom the letter Há’ appears and the letter Alif is manifested. And in the same book he explains in numerous passages that the Point is the letter Bá’. And when the letters Bá’, Há’, and Alif are brought together it makes “Bahá.”

7 Siyyid Káẓim also spoke of triliterals and quadriliterals. A triliteral is a word comprising three letters, such as “‘Alí”, and a quadriliteral is a word comprising four, such as “Muḥammad”.12 When these two are combined it makes “‘Alí-Muḥammad”, which is the blessed name of the Báb. In numerous passages of the same book he explicitly refers to the Báb and extols Him with boundless laudations and attributes, saying that the mysteries of all that has been and all that shall be are found in Him. He also says that all the inner truths and meanings of the Sacred Scriptures are enfolded and allusively expressed in the verse “Bismi’lláhi’r-Raḥmáni’r-Raḥím” (In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate), that all the meanings of “Bismi’lláh” (in the name of God) are encapsulated and comprehended in the letter Bá’, which is the sum total of all truths and mysteries, and that the Bá’ refers to Bahá’u’lláh.

8 The late Siyyid had asked the illustrious Shaykh to expound in some way that Hidden Mystery. The Shaykh wrote in reply: “There must needs be a Seat for this Cause and a Place for every Announcement.” That is, this Cause upon which we have embarked has a designated Seat and Centre, and every Announcement must be established from a given place, meaning a centre wherein it is realized. Then he said: “I can say no more; I can appoint no time. ‘His Cause will be made known after a while (Ḥín)’.”13 That is, I cannot specify that determined Centre and cannot explicitly say Who He is. Then he cites this verse of the Qur’án: “His Cause will be made known after a while (Ḥín).”14 The preceding verse is “He, verily, is naught but a Remembrance unto all the worlds.” In the Commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, the Báb refers to Himself as “the Remembrance of God”. The august Shaykh intimates here that that “Seat and Centre” is “the Remembrance of God”, and that the verse “His Cause will be made known after a while (Ḥín)” means that you will grasp whatsoever that intended Centre will announce and proclaim after “Ḥín”. Now, according to the abjad reckoning, “Ḥín” is equivalent to sixty-eight and “after Ḥín” is sixty-nine, the year of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation.15 The substance of these words is that whatsoever that Remembrance of God will announce and intimate will become clear and manifest in the year after Ḥín, that is, in the year sixty-nine.

9 As a result of the passionate encouragement of the illustrious Shaykh to anticipate the advent of God and of his assertion of its imminence, and likewise as a result of the utterances of the illustrious Siyyid who night and day proclaimed the approach of that advent—going so far as to instruct his disciples one day to go forth and seek after their Master—Mullá Ḥusayn and some of the Siyyid’s other disciples set themselves to the search. And since a tradition had been reported that the Promised One would go to the mosque of Kúfih, they also went to that mosque and stayed there for a time, awaiting His advent. Even the illustrious Siyyid himself, at the close of his life, left Karbilá for a visit to Káẓimayn and Samarra and returned. In the course of his journey to Samarra, and in the village of Musayyib he spoke to his disciples of his own death. When his disciples began to weep and lament, crying out and beseeching him, he asked them: “Would ye not wish that I pass from this world, that your Master may appear?”

10 In brief, our meaning is that these two illustrious souls endowed their followers with the greatest receptivity. That is why after the passing of the late Siyyid his disciples sought with all their might after the Promised Beauty. Mullá Ḥusayn and some of his disciples departed from Iraq, made for Persia, and were taken up with the search till they entered the city of Shíráz. As Mullá Ḥusayn had met the Báb before in Karbilá and knew Him, he became His guest. On the night of the fifth of Jamádíyu’l-Avval,16 Mullá Ḥusayn was seated in the presence of the Báb, who was preparing the tea. As the Báb was serving the tea, He recited certain verses. Mullá Ḥusayn was amazed and astonished to hear a young man, with no religious education or training in the Arabic tongue, recite verses of the utmost eloquence and power, a feat which he could have never thought possible. This led to his awakening and allegiance. The following day he told his disciples and others that he had found the Object of their search and proceeded to describe and portray Him, but he concealed His identity and did not divulge His name. However, he so extolled His attributes that his disciples and the others were enthralled with this news and with unrelenting thirst continued to search for the life-giving waters. Finally, after a few days, he specified His blessed Name. A great commotion ensued. Seventeen people bore allegiance to Him, and the letter of Ṭáhirih, which was with a certain Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, was presented to the Báb. For Ṭáhirih had given him this letter and asked him to present it to the Promised One when once they had found Him. In that letter she had included the following ode, the opening of which reads:

11 The effulgence of Thy face flashed forth, And the rays of Thy visage arose on high. Then speak the word, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ And ‘Thou art, Thou art!’ we will all reply. 17

12 Thus Ṭáhirih became the eighteenth believer. The Shí‘ihs believed in fourteen immaculate Souls and four Gates. The fourteen immaculate Souls are Muḥammad, Fáṭimih, and the twelve Imáms. The four Gates are the four individuals who succeeded one another as the leaders of the Shí‘ihs after the twelfth Imám. Thus these eighteen souls were appointed to match those eighteen—the main intent was the number. The Báb Himself was the nineteenth. Such is the basis of the number nineteen that has been mentioned in all the Books and Tablets of the Báb. The names of the Letters of the Living are as follows:

  1. Mullá Ḥusayn
  2. Muḥammad-Ḥasan, his brother
  3. Muḥammad Báqir, his nephew
  4. Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Basṭámí
  5. Mullá Khudá-Bakhsh-i-Qúchání, later named Mullá ‘Alí
  6. Mullá Ḥasan-i-Bajistání
  7. Siyyid Ḥusayn-i-Yazdí
  8. Mírzá Muḥammad Rawḍih-Khán
  9. Sa‘íd-i-Hindí
  10. Mullá Maḥmúd-i-Khu’í
  11. Mullá Jalíl-i-Urúmí
  12. Mullá Muḥammad-i-Ibdál-i-Marághi’í
  13. Mullá Báqir-i-Tabrízí
  14. Mullá Yúsuf-i-Ardibílí
  15. Mírzá Hádí, son of Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Vahháb-i-Qazvíní
  16. Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí-i-Qazvíní
  17. Ṭáhirih
  18. Quddús

14 The greatness and glory of most of these Letters of the Living resides solely in the fact that they professed their faith at the very beginning. Among them and in terms of importance, a few souls occupy a primary position—Mullá Ḥusayn, Quddús, and Ṭáhirih; a few other blessed souls occupy a secondary position; and the rest are honoured solely for having believed in the very beginning—two of them even, like Judas Iscariot, recanted their faith later.

15 After the blessed person of the Báb came to light and His fame spread, Mullá Ḥusayn unloosed his tongue and openly taught the Faith, and was charged to go to other provinces and teach. These in short are the events surrounding the declaration of allegiance of Mullá Ḥusayn and the other Letters of the Living.

– 11 –

The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh

1 Question: On what date did the dawning of the Sun of Truth and the advent of the Blessed Beauty take place?

2 Answer: From the beginning of His childhood Bahá’u’lláh was possessed of such astonishing qualities, signs, and utterances as to amaze every soul. All the dignitaries of Persia would say: “This youth is wrought of a rare substance”, and everyone, even the enemies and the envious, bore witness to His knowledge, grace, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, and perception. Among other things, it was acknowledged by all that He had neither entered a school nor received a religious education. Nonetheless, His knowledge and perfections were well recognized. The learned men of Persia would submit to Him the difficult questions that perplexed their minds, and He would resolve them. To this day, and in spite of their hostility, the dignitaries of Persia bear witness to this matter.

3 In sum, no one, whether in Persia or even throughout the East, denies Bahá’u’lláh’s knowledge, perfection, greatness, and ability. At most they claim that this Man subverted the foundations of the Law of God, that by means of His shrewdness, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, eloquence, and sagacity He led astray a vast multitude, and that He thus undermined the perspicuous religion of God. But they do not deny His greatness.

4 Thus, from the very beginning of the Revelation of the Báb, the believers were humble and lowly before Bahá’u’lláh, looked to Him for guidance, and were drawn to Him with a heartfelt attraction. But at Badasht the greatness and majesty of Bahá’u’lláh were manifested to a further degree. There, a number of believers developed a particular devotion and became wholly attracted to Him. Whoever met Him and heard His words would be transformed and enthralled, and could do naught but surrender his will and become aflame with the fire of the love of God.

5 During His final days in Ṭihrán, prior to the journey to Baghdád, some of the believers, such as Muḥammad Taqí Khán, Sulaymán Khán, Jináb-i-‘Aẓím, Mírzá ‘Alí-Muḥammad, Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Fattáḥ, and Mírzá ‘Abdu’l-Vahháb—all of whom were to be later martyred—as well as Mírzá Ḥusayn Kirmání and many other souls, perceived that Bahá’u’lláh occupied a transcendent station and became convinced that He was a Manifestation of God. Bahá’u’lláh had composed an ode from which the fragrance of a heavenly station could be perceived, the opening of which reads: “’Tis from Our rapture that the clouds of realms above are raining down.” All the friends would recite that ode with the utmost fervour and attraction, and all accepted its purport—not a soul voiced an objection. That ode was indeed most enthralling.

6 The first person who recognized the sublimity and holiness of Bahá’u’lláh and became certain that He would manifest a momentous Cause was Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Qazvíní, whom the Báb had named Mírzá Aḥmad. He was the intermediary between the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and was aware of the truth of the matter.18

7 After coming to Baghdád from Persia, Bahá’u’lláh declared to a certain extent the nature of His mission in the ninth year after the appearance of the Báb, and became known among the friends as the appearance of Ḥusayn. For the people of Persia believed that the appearance of the promised Mahdi must be followed by that of Ḥusayn, that is, of Imám Ḥusayn the martyr, to whom they are indeed most attached and bear the greatest allegiance.

8 Now, in all His Books and Scriptures, the Báb heralded that which was to transpire in the year nine. Among them, there abound expressions such as: “In the year nine ye shall attain unto all good.” And such statements as “In the year nine ye shall …”, and “Then ye shall …”, and “Then ye shall …” are numerous. Likewise, He says: “Wait thou until nine will have elapsed from the time of the Bayán. Then exclaim: ‘Blessed, therefore, be God …’” In sum, the tidings of the Báb regarding the year nine are such as to defy all description. Nevertheless certain souls faltered, among them Mírzá Yaḥyá, Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání, and a few others. The Sermon of Salutations (Khuṭbiy-i-Ṣalavát) was revealed in the year nine, and likewise the commentary on the verse of the Qur’án “All food was allowed to the children of Israel except what Israel forbade itself” (Lawḥ-i-Kullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám) issued forth in that same year.

9 Perceiving the covert rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá and others, Bahá’u’lláh journeyed alone to Sulaymáníyyih and was absent for two years. During that time, Mírzá Yaḥyá was acting with utmost caution behind a veil of concealment and, fearing the attention of the General Consul of Persia in Baghdád, disguised himself, took the name of Ḥájí ‘Alí, and engaged in selling shoes and plaster in Baṣrah and in Súqu’sh-Shuyúkh in the vicinity of Baghdád. The Cause became entirely quiescent, the Call ceased to be heard, and all name and trace thereof well-nigh vanished.

10 During His sojourn in Sulaymáníyyih, Bahá’u’lláh penned a number of works, among them certain prayers of which copies are still extant, and certain epistles on mystical wayfaring addressed to the doctors and the learned men of Islam, which are likewise still extant. In those epistles certain teachings are expounded, among them words to this effect: “Were it not contrary to the perspicuous Law of God, I would have given my would-be murderer to be my heir. But what am I to do—I have no worldly possessions, nor hath it been thus decreed by His sovereign will.”

11 In any event, all the doctors and learned men of Sulaymáníyyih attested to the knowledge, attainments, and perfections of Bahá’u’lláh and developed an affection for His person; that is, they would say that this Man was unique and ranked among the chosen ones of God.

12 When Bahá’u’lláh returned from Sulaymáníyyih, He illumined Baghdád with His light: The call of God was raised anew and a tumult arose in Persia. In Baghdád Bahá’u’lláh stood firm before all peoples. The government of Persia was extremely hostile in those days, and all were seeking by every means to cause Him suffering and to bring Him to harm. At last the Persian government, having grown alarmed at His influence, said: “Baghdád is close to Persia and is a place of passage for the Persians. Thus, in order to put out this fire Bahá’u’lláh must be banished to a distant land.” The Persian government then petitioned the Ottoman government, and Bahá’u’lláh was as a result transferred with all due honour out of Baghdád. Leaving the city, Bahá’u’lláh went to the garden of Najíb Páshá and resided there for twelve days. During that time many people, both high and low, and even the Governor and a number of other officials, attained His blessed presence. These are the twelve days of Riḍván.

13 In any event, it was by means of hints and allusions that Bahá’u’lláh first declared His mission during those twelve days. Certain among the friends grasped His intent, but others did not fully understand. At last Bahá’u’lláh came to Constantinople and the Súrih of pilgrimage was revealed, wherein the instruction is given to circumambulate the House of Baghdád. In that Súrih the Cause is openly manifest, but the phrase “He Whom God shall make manifest” does not appear.

14 Subsequently, the Persian government caused Bahá’u’lláh to be further banished to Adrianople. From there numerous Tablets were revealed day and night to the effect that “Since We have been expelled from our homeland and banished from Baghdád to a remote place, that the fire of the love of God might be quenched, the lamp of guidance extinguished, the banner of God hauled down, and the call of the True One silenced, We have therefore chosen to fully reveal the Cause, manifest the proof, raise the call, and hoist the banner of the Cause of God, that all may see that this persecution, enmity, banishment, and exile has only deepened the influence of the Word of God, that the fame of the Cause has been noised abroad, and that the tidings of the advent of the Kingdom of God have reached unto both East and West.” This universal declaration took place in the year 1280. All the friends, with the exception of Yaḥyá and a few of his followers, became firm and devoted believers, and from Adrianople Tablets would ceaselessly flow to Persia.

15 This is an account, in summary form, of the Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh.

– 12 –

Christ and Bahá’u’lláh

1 Some have asserted that, while mighty signs and marvellous deeds have appeared from Bahá’u’lláh, through which His greatness shines forth as resplendent as the sun, yet the Revelation of Christ is superior to and incommensurate with His.

2 Indeed the signs of greatness in Christ are beyond the ken of mortal mind and the grasp of human imagination. And indeed we are most humble and lowly before His sweet and beauteous countenance, and we love Him with all our heart and soul; nay, should it be called for and should divine confirmations assist us, we would readily lay down our lives for His sake. For we regard Him in the light of true greatness and bear allegiance to His truth. But should attention be drawn to this assertion, we will, in all sincerity and love, reply to their objection in the following manner.

3 Christ was raised among the people of Israel, who lived under Roman rule. Now, in those days the Romans were world-renowned for their attainments in every field of human civilization, and so it would not be a cause of great wonder if an eloquent utterance or a novel teaching were to issue from Christ. Bahá’u’lláh, by contrast, appeared in Persia, where useful sciences were entirely lacking, except insofar as religious laws and theological studies were concerned. And thus the appearance of these divine teachings, of these mighty and momentous signs, from such an individual and in such a land, is indeed cause for wonder.

4 Moreover, the words and verses of Christ, when taken altogether, would comprise at most ten pages, whereas if the verses of Bahá’u’lláh were gathered together from beginning to end, they would fill several trunks. Aside from this, the utterances of Christ in the Gospel are solely concerned with spiritual admonitions and with the improvement and rectification of human character, whereas the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh encompass manifold expressions of wisdom and inner meaning, realities and sciences, counsels and admonitions, and explanations and exegeses of the Sacred Scriptures of old.

5 At the time of His ascension, Christ had raised up twelve men and four women. There were to be sure a few others beside these, but they had not reached the station of certitude. And among these twelve men, one became His sworn enemy: Judas Iscariot, who, notwithstanding his position as the chief of the Apostles, arose to have Him killed. The most prominent among the remaining eleven was Peter, and even he failed to stand firm in the face of trials, since, according to the explicit text of the Gospel, he thrice denied Christ at the hour of His martyrdom, to the point of entirely recanting his faith in the last instance. It was only after the cock crowed that he was reawakened and made contrite and repentant. Whereas from the inception of this Cause to the present day, perhaps close to twenty thousand men, women, and children have offered up their lives in the path of God. Many of them, under the threat of the sword, raised the cry of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” Many were told that, if they publicly recanted their faith, they would keep both their lives and their possessions, and yet they answered with the cry of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” Thus, at the time of Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, more than two hundred thousand souls had taken shelter beneath His blessed shadow and had attained the station of certitude. The renown of Christ did not even reach, in His own lifetime, Assyria, Chaldea, Asia Minor, or the regions of Syria, whereas Bahá’u’lláh’s renown, in His own lifetime, had spread throughout East and West.

6 Christ was not widely known among the people—most would not recognize Him—and He would travel from village to village and from wilderness to wilderness; and so it was that when they set out to arrest Him they knew not where to find Him or how to recognize Him. Judas Iscariot came to them and said: “I will show Him to you.” They said: “When we enter that place, how will we know who is Christ?” Judas said: “The one whom I will kiss is Christ.” Bahá’u’lláh, however, was standing visibly and openly before His foes, was known to all, and withstood the onslaught of a mighty nation. The enemy arrayed against Christ was the feeble Jewish nation which suffered under Roman rule and which, like the present-day Jews of Tiberias and Safed, was a subjugated people. Bahá’u’lláh’s enemies, however, were the adherents of one of the most powerful nations of the world. When Christ was taken before the court, He was asked: “Art thou the King of the Jews?” And He replied in all meekness: “Thou sayest it.”19 But, in the great assemblage of Ṭihrán, the voice of Bahá’u’lláh was raised in address to the highest heaven.20

7 This is the truth of the matter. Consider it and ask the deniers to judge with fairness, to forsake blind prejudice, and to apprehend the truth by inference from the Sacred Scriptures. For instance, were you to tell the Christian clergy today that Christ was not known to the people during His own lifetime, they would be most astonished and deny it—whereas it is explicitly recorded in the Gospel that Judas Iscariot accepted what indeed was a paltry sum to reveal the whereabouts of Christ, and that since none among the crowd could recognize Him, he said that whoever he would kiss was Christ and was to be arrested. And so it came to pass.

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