By Dr. Khazeh Fananapazir
Editor’s Note: Iran Press Watch is pleased to bring to the attention of its readers the following magnificent Visitation Tablet by Baha’u’llah for the Prince of Martyrs, Imam Husayn, the anniversary of whose martyrdom is presently being observed by all Shi’ih Muslims on the tenth of this month of Muharram. Our readers are warmly invited to enjoy this translation which is a work in progress (also known as a “provisional translation” in Baha’i scholarly studies), and to share their reflections in the comments section. In a number of his writings, Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, identifies himself as the spiritual return of Imam Husayn and likens his own sufferings at the hands of the ungodly with the sufferings which His Holiness Imam Husayn suffered. Baha’u’llah’s own given name, Husayn-’Ali, was understood by him as a token of this relationship.
Throughout their prophetic careers, both the Bab and Baha’u’llah have written a number of Tablets of Visitation for the Imams and their followers, including such Tablets for Imam ‘Ali, for all of the Imams collectively and for a number of other individuals who exemplified the same sacrificial qualities.
Foremost among them is the Tablet of Visitation for the third of the Shi’ih Imams, the youngest son of Ali and Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, which is offered below in translation.
It is believed that this Visitation Tablet was composed by Baha’u’llah in ‘Akka, Palestine, between June 27 and early August 1891. There is a striking significance to this inasmuch as in Islam, Imam Husayn is regarded as one who stood against all forms of oppression and persecution, just as Baha’u’llah had done throughout his life. In this sense, this Tablet forms a colophon on Baha’u’llah’s own ministry, and could also help make explicit the parallel between the sufferings of the Imam and those experienced by Baha’u’llah himself and his martyred followers.
Translation of Baha’u’llah’s Tablet for Imam Husayn
This is a Tablet of Visitation revealed from the Supreme Horizon by My All-Glorious Pen in honor of His Holiness, the Prince of Martyrs, Husayn, the son of ‘Ali, may the spirit of all else but Him be a sacrifice unto Him!
He is the Comforter, the Consoler, the Lord of Utterance, the All-Knowing!
God testifieth that there is no God but Him! He that hath appeared is the One promised in all the Books and sacred Scrolls, the One remembered in the hearts of all those near unto God and the sincere ones. Through Him, the Tree of utterance hath raised its call in the kingdom of divine recognition, saying:
O Concourse of all Faiths! I swear by the All Merciful! The days of sorrow have come upon Us, inasmuch as in these days there hath befallen the Dawning-place of God’s proof and the Dayspring of His evidence that which hath caused the lamentations of those resident beneath the canopy of glory in the all highest paradise to be raised. It hath caused wailing in the tabernacle of grace in the supreme heaven.
God testifieth that there is no God but He, and He that hath appeared is the Preserved Treasure, the hidden mystery through whom all the secrets of what hath been and what will be are divulged. This is the Day whereon the verse revealed in the past hath found its consummation and fulfillment in the verse, “The Day when mankind shall stand before the Lord of the Throne above the exalted Seat.” This is the day whereon the banners of idle fancy and vain imaginings have been subverted and the command, “We are from God and unto Him shall we return” hath gone forth. This is the Day whereon the “Great Announcement” which all the Prophets and Messengers had heralded hath appeared. In this Day, those near unto God have hastened to the sealed choice wine and have drunk of it in the name of God, the Omnipotent, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsistent. On this Day too, the cry of weeping and tears is raised from every side and the tongue of utterance speaketh: Sorrow belongeth to the Friends of God and His chosen ones; tribulation befitteth the lovers of God and His trusted ones; sadness and affliction becometh the Manifestations of God, the Possessor of all things, whether of the past or the future.
O denizens of the city of names and O countenances residing in the chambers of the all-highest paradise! O companions of faithfulness in the kingdom of eternity! Change ye your glad white and red garments unto black clothes of mourning, for the supreme calamity and the greatest loss hath come to pass, because of which the Messenger of God hath wailed and lamented and the heart of Fatimih hath melted. Thereupon, the dwellers of the Abha Tabernacle and those sailing upon the Crimson Ark, seated upon seats of love and loyalty, wept with a great weeping.
Ah! Ah! How I lament My sorrows caused by an injustice that hath set afire the realities of all beings; how I grieve over that which hath befallen the Sovereign of the Visible and the Invisible at the hands of those who have violated God’s Covenant and Testament and have denied His proof, repudiated His grace and disputed with His signs!
Ah! Ah! May the spirits of the Concourse on High be a sacrifice unto the calamity Thou didst bear, O Thou who art the Son of the Sadratu‘l-Muntaha1 and the Mystery enshrined in the Most Exalted Word! O would that the command of Creation and Its Return had not been made manifest, for thus eyes would not have witnessed Thy Body prostrate and wounded upon the dust! Because of Thy calamity, the ocean of utterance is prevented from billowing forth its waves of wisdom and knowledge and the breezes of God have been stilled. Because of Thy sorrow, all traces of joy have vanished, the fruits of the tree have fallen down, the wailing of the righteous hath risen to high heaven, and the tears of the pious have flowed in profusion.
Ah! Ah! O Prince of Martyrs and their Sovereign, their Glory and their Well beloved! I testify that through Thee the daystar of detachment hath shone forth over the firmament of creation, and through Thee the temples of the near ones were adorned with the ornament of righteousness. Through Thee the light of divine recognition hath shone forth in the world of creation. Were it not for Thee, the command to knit and join together the letter “B” and the letter “E” would not have gone forth2 and the sealed “choice wine” would not have been unsealed. But for Thee the Dove of divine testimony would not have warbled its melodies upon the branches of the tree of utterance, and but for Thee the Tongue of Grandeur would not have spoken amongst the peoples of all Faiths. Because of Thy sorrow there hath appeared separation between the two letters “Ha” and “Waw”,3 and the wailing of the believers in Divine Unity was raised in all lands. Because of Thy misfortune the Supreme Pen was prevented from raising Its shrill voice, the ocean of bounty stilled its waves, the breezes of grace have ceased wafting, the rivers of paradise have ceased flowing and the daystar of justice was impeded from casting its rays.
I testify that Thou art the Sign of the All Merciful in the world of being; Thou art the Manifestation of proof and testimony amongst all religions. Through Thee God hath fulfilled His promise and hath revealed His sovereignty. Through Thee the mystery of divine knowledge hath been divulged and the luminary of certitude hath shone forth above the horizon of evidence. Through Thee the dominion of God and His cause, His mysteries and His wisdom have all been made evident. But for Thee the well-preserved Treasure could not have been disclosed and the irrevocable decree would not have effected. But for Thee the divine summons would not have been raised from the Sublime Horizon, and the pearls of wisdom and utterance would not have been revealed from the treasury of the Abha Pen. Because of Thy affliction the joy of paradise hath been altered and the cry of the denizens of the Kingdom of Names hath been raised. Thou art He who, by Thy turning unto God, hath caused the faces of all men to be directed towards God, the Lord of All Being, and the Sacred Tree hath spoken, “The Kingdom belongeth to God, the Lord of both the visible and invisible.”
All things were as one in both their external and internal reality, but when they heard of Thy tribulation they became fragmented, separated, and then appeared in different appearances, colors, and hues.
May all existent beings be a sacrifice unto Thy Being, O Thou the Dawning-Place of the Revelation of God and the Day-spring of His Most Great Sign! May all souls be a sacrifice to Thy afflictions and calamity, O Thou who hath manifested the Unseen in the kingdom of creation! I bear witness that through Thee the dispensation of sacrifice was established in all the worlds of God, and in Thy separation the hearts of the true lovers melted. I bear witness that light in its quintessence poured lamentation over Thy afflictions, and the Sacred Mount was sore vexed at that which befell Thee at the hands of Thy enemies. But for Thee the All-Merciful would not have revealed Himself in the Sinai of knowledge unto Moses, the son of Imran.
I call on Thee and make mention of Thee, O Thou who art the manifestation of detachment in the world of creation. O Thou the secret of revelation in God’s dominions! Through Thee the portals of God’s generosity were opened, and because of Thee the light of eternity shone upon all men. I testify that when Thy hands were raised in prayer and hope the hands of all humanity were raised thereby unto God, the Revealer of verses. I testify, moreover, that when Thou didst fix Thy gaze on the Abha horizon, in consequence all beings turned unto God, the Expounder of testimonies. Thou art the Point4 through Whom all knowledge of the past and future was divulged and expanded. Thou art the Mine from which all the jewels of science and art were discovered. By reason of Thy calamity the Pen of destiny stopped in its traces and the tears of the sanctified ones gushed forth.
Ah! Ah! Because of Thy sorrow, the pillars of this world were shaken and the order of existence itself would have well nigh returned to nothingness! Thou art He through Whose behest every ocean was made to billow forth, every good fragrance was wafted abroad, every wise decree was enacted, the commandments of the Book were established amongst diverse peoples, and the life-giving water of divine mercy was made to issue forth on the Day of Return.
I have turned to Thee, O essence of both the Torah and the Evangel, O Thou source of the Writ of God, the Almighty, the Most Beauteous. Through Thee the city of self-renunciation was built up, and the banner of righteousness was raised upon the world’s highest spots. Were it not for Thee the fragrance of divine recognition and knowledge would have vanished from this earth, and the breath of the All Merciful would have ceased altogether. Through Thy power the might, the sovereignty and the omnipotence of God was established, and because of Thee the ocean of divine bounty was made to billow forth, and the King of Revelation established Himself on the throne of being. I bear witness that through Thee the veils of glory were uplifted and the limbs of the people of error quaked, the traces of vain imaginings disappeared, and the fruits of the tree of idle fancy were cast down. Through Thy most pure blood shed in His path the city of true lovers was adorned, and in Thy sorrow darkness enveloped light in all environs. For love of Thee the true lovers hastened to the arena of sacrifice and eager companions hastened to attain the source of the light of divine reunion.
O Thou quintessence of being, O Thou possessor of the seen and unseen! I know not which one of thy trials I should narrate amongst mankind. Thou art the descending place of all the knowledge of God, the dayspring of His most mighty signs, the daystar of the remembrance of God, and the source of His commands.
O Thou Supreme Pen! Say: The first light that hath dawned and shone and the first fragrance that has been wafted from eternity rest upon Thee, O Thou Who art the rustling of the Sadrah of divine utterance, O Thou the Tree of certitude planted in the paradise of knowledge. Through Thee, the daystar of God’s manifestation shone forth, the Speaker of Sinai5 hath spoken, and the divine behest of forgiveness and generosity hath been enforced amongst men. I bear witness, moreover, that Thou wert the way of God and His balance, the dayspring of His verses, the reflection of His sovereignty, and the repository of His binding commandments and all pervasive injunctions.
Verily, Thou art the City of love and the lovers are but its hosts and citizens; Thou art the Ark of God and the sincere ones are its companions and wayfarers. By virtue of Thy utterance the sea of divine knowledge billowed forth, O Thou who art the quintessence of knowledge. Through Thee the daystar of certitude shone above the horizon of testimony.
It was due to Thy clarion call, raised in the arena of martyrdom and struggle, that the cry of the embodiments of beauty were raised in the Paradise created by God, the Rich, the Most Exalted. Because of Thy appearance the banner of righteousness and piety was raised and the traces of rebellion and wickedness were obliterated. I testify, moreover, that Thou art the Treasury of the pearls of the knowledge of God and the Repository of the gems of His utterance and wisdom.
Because of Thy calamity, the Point left its most sublime position, and sought for itself a station beneath the Letter Ba. Thou art truly that Most Great Tablet upon which is inscribed all the secrets of the past and of the future and all knowledge from all eternity to all eternity6. Thou art the Supreme Pen through Whose movement earth and heaven were made to move ,and through Thee all things have turned to the lights emanating from the Face of God, the Lord of the throne above and of earth below.
Ah! Ah! By virtue of Thy tragedy lamentations, mourning, and weeping were raised in the All-Highest Paradise, and the Maids of heaven, the sacred houris sought their abiding place on dust itself! Great is the blessedness of that servant who weepeth in Thy afflictions, and blessed is the handmaiden of God who cries with tears for Thy tribulations. Also, blessed are those eyes from which tears are shed in Thy Cause. Hallowed is the earth bearing the inestimable honor of Thy remains! Moreover, most blessed is the spot wherein Thy most pure body was laid to rest.
All praise and sanctity is Thine, O my God, the Lord of Revelation, O Thou Who hast cast Thy effulgent rays on Mount Sinai! I adjure Thee by this Light Which hath shone forth above the firmament of detachment and renunciation, and by Which the principle of sole reliance upon God and acquiescence unto His Will was established. Again, I adjure Thee by those bodies slain in Thy path! I beseech Thee by those hearts which have melted in Thy love, and by all the sacred blood shed upon the earth of resignation, to forgive all those who have turned their faces unto this Supreme Station, this summit of exaltation, and that further, O my God, Thou mayest ordain for them that which will ensure that the fragrance of their acceptance and sincerity will never cease being wafted upon the divine cities of remembrance and praise.
Thou seest, O my Lord, that they are attracted by the breezes of Thy revelation and that they are severed from all else but Thee in Thy days. I beseech Thee to cause them to drink from the hand of generosity the river of everlasting life. I beg of Thee to write down for them by Thy pen of grace and loving-kindness the reward of such as have attained unto Thy presence. I beseech Thee, moreover, O Lord of all names, by Thy cause through which Thou hast subdued the kingdoms of earth and heaven, and by Thy sweet call which hath enthralled the denizens of Thy dominion, that Thou mayest aid all to attain that which Thou desirest and wishest, and that our stations may thereby be exalted in the precincts of Thy glory and the canopy of nearness unto Thee. O Lord, we are Thy servants who have fixed our gaze unto the effulgences of the lights of the Orb of Thy revelation, which hath shone above the firmament of Thy generosity. We beseech Thee by the waves of the sea of Thy holy utterance amongst Thy people that Thou mayest assist us to perform those deeds which have been commanded by Thee in Thy perspicuous book. Thou art He who of those who show mercy art the most Merciful, and Thou art the Desire of all who are in heaven and on earth. I implore Thee further, O our Lord God, by Thy power that hath encompassed all created things, and by Thy omnipotence that has embraced all beings, that Thou mayest illumine the throne of tyranny with the light of the daystar of Thy justice and that Thou mayest replace the seat of oppression and injustice with the throne of equity and fairness by Thy might and by Thy sovereignty.
Verily, Thou art powerful to do what Thou wishest. There is no other God but Thee, the Almighty, the Omnipotent!
[This Tablet is filled with allusions and allegorical expressions, the discussion of which is beyond our scope. A very few notes are included here to give some idea of a few of the weightier allusions. The interested reader is referred to the following site which offers an annotated translation of this Tablet with many more of the allusions explained: http://bahai-library.com/provisionals/ziyarat.imam.husayn.kf.html.]
1 The “Lote-tree of the horizon”, which signifies the Manifestation of God Who is the Intermediary between the earthly and divine realms.
2 In several places in the Qur’an (e.g. 2:117) it is written that when He desires to create, God says “be”, and it is.
3 The Arabic word for “He” (huwa) in Islam is often used to designate God in His role as the Unknowable One.
4 The Point (nuqta) is one of the titles of the Bab, and refers to the way in which the Arabic letter “ba” is written, with a point below it. Ba is the first letter of the Qur’an, as well as the first letter of the name of Baha’u’llah.
5 The Speaker of Sinai is He Who spoke to Moses through the burning bush.
6 This refers to the Preserved Tablet, which in Islamic thought is supposed to be the repository of all knowledge and record of all events.