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COLLECTIONSProvisional translations, Unpublished articles
TITLETablet to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Concerning the Questions of Manakji Limji Hataria: Baha'u'llah on Hinduism and Zoroastrianism
AUTHOR 1 Bahá'u'lláh
CONTRIB 1Juan Cole, trans.
ABSTRACTIntroduction to, article about, and translation of the Tablet to Maneckji.
NOTES This document was compiled by M. Foster from multiple unformatted listserver postings, and later edited by J. Winters. It may be incomplete or improperly formatted. See also Foster's uncorrected version (from which this is mirrored, with permission).

Alternate spellings Maneckji and Manekji.

TAGSHinduism; Zoroastrianism; Interfaith dialogue; Manikchi Limji Hataria; Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani; Tabernacle of Unity (book); Lawh-i-Manikchi Sahib (Tablet to Manikchi Sahib); Yoga Vasistha (Book of Juk); Book of Juk; Avatars; Manifestations of God; Progressive revelation; Bhagavad Gita; Krishna; Mahabad (prophet); Creation; Cosmology; Judaism; Christianity; Islam; Return; Reincarnation; Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude); I am all the Prophets (phrase); Philosophy; Decline and renewal of religion; Upanishads; Monism; Dualism; God (general); Mysticism; Sufism; Unity of religion; Laws; Qiblih; Rituals; Food; Meat; Abrogation and confirmation of laws; Purity; Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Book); Zoroaster; Conversion; Vedanta; Caste system; Mahatma Gandhi; Paradise; Creation; Adam and Eve; Word of God; Relativism; Silence

1. Introduction to Tablet

It is well known that Bahá'u'lláh responded to the concerns of, and recognized the validity of the religions of Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians and Muslims. The relationship of the Bahá'í Faith to the Eastern traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism is more complex, primarily because the Near Eastern religions constitute a "family" of theological language-games that have interacted with one another intensively through history, whereas the South Asian traditions are quite different. Still, Bahá'u'lláh's son and successor, `Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921), recognized that the Hindu figure Krishna was a `prophet,' and said that the Buddha was a major Manifestation of the Eternal Truth. The Bahá'í belief that all the great religions of the world are grounded in the same Unknowable Essence has led Bahá'ís to recognize Hinduism and Buddhism as true and valid expressions of humankind's yearning for the Absolute Truth, and to affirm them as predecessor traditions to the universal religion that Bahá'ís wish to implement as a precondition for world unity. One Bahá'í scholar, Moojan Momen, has written a book aimed at showing some similarities between Bahá'í and Hindu beliefs, and at suggesting ways in which obvious theological conflicts between the two might be resolved.

It has not been widely recognized, however, that Bahá'u'lláh himself had some knowledge of Hinduism and that he responded to questions about Hinduism (and Zoroastrianism) put to him by the Zoroastrian agent in Iran, Manakji Limji Hataria (1813-1890). These questions and Bahá'u'lláh's replies are contained in a letter sent to one of Bahá'u'lláh's major disciples, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani (1844-1914). The subjects discussed center on comparative religions, and Manakji repeatedly outlines what he understands to be Hindu doctrines and asks for Bahá'u'lláh's responses to them. I should say at the outset that these responses tended to be oblique, with much remaining implicit, but that they do clearly constitute a dialogue of Bahá'u'lláh with Hinduism, as well as with the other traditions covered. Here I am most interested in the former. The letter to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, containing asides by Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan Khadimu'llah, was printed in volume seven of the anthology, The Heavenly Repast (Ma'idih-'i Asmani) in 1972 or 1973 by the Iranian Bahá'í scholar, `Abdu'l-Hamid Ishraq-Khavari.

The tablet brings to the fore questions of what Bahá'u'lláh means by the unity of the world religions, and how he approaches this subject theologically and philosophically.

Not only was Bahá'u'lláh familiar with Hinduism, but he clearly expected that his nineteenth-century, literate, Persian-speaking audience would be, as well. A substantial literature on Hinduism existed in Arabic and Persian, especially the latter given that Persian was the primary literary and governmental language of Muslim-ruled India between the thirteenth and the nineteenth centuries, and continued to be vital in the subcontinent during Bahá'u'lláh's own lifetime. The great medieval Iranian savant Abu Rayhan Biruni (973-1048) authored, around A.D. 1030, a wideranging description of Hinduism that became a classic. Medieval and early modern Muslim political ascendancy in North India led to a vast amount of translation from Sanskrit sources into Persian, the language of the bureaucracy and of most Indo-Muslim learning. Indeed, given the very large number of Hindu scribes and others fluent in Persian during this period, and the much smaller number of learned Brahmins with mastery of Sanskrit, it is likely that the majority of literate North Indian Hindus themselves read their holy books in Persian during Mughal times (1525-1803).

The number of Muslim scholars who collaborated with Hindu pandits in making Sanskrit works available was not inconsiderable. Nizamu'd-Din Panipati rendered the widely influential Yoga Vasistha into Persian late in the sixteenth century at the behest of the Mughal ruler Jahangir while he was still a crown prince. The Mughal prince Dara Shikuh (1615-1659) himself did much to expound Hindu tenets in Persian, as well as translating important works such as the Upanishads. Since many Hindus also wrote in or translated into Persian, very large numbers of such manuscripts circulated among the literate classes, and many of these books demonstrably reached Iran. Persian descriptions of Hinduism, though varying in quality, were also quite numerous. An example of this literature is the anonymous School of Religions (Dabistan-i Madhahib), which examines Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and both branches of Islam at some length, and includes a brief description of Christianity. The author was probably a Zoroastrian of Iranian extraction, brought up in Patna, North India. From the School of Religions, which was lithographed at least three times in the nineteenth century, a Persian-speaking reader could learn of the four ages (sing. yuga) into which Hindus divided the history of the current universe, the first of which lasted about 1.7 million years and the last of which (our own) will endure for 400,000 years. Such a cycle, over four million years long, itself formed a small part of mega-cycles, each of them a day in the life of the god Brahma. The author also described the Hindu belief in an ultimate Lord or God beyond the gods, called Visnu, and His self-manifestation in a series of ten avatars.

He reports that
"They therefore assert, that for the purpose of satisfying the wishes of his faithful servants, and tranquillizing their minds, he has vouchsafed to manifest himself in this abode, which manifestations they call an Avatar and hold this to be no degradation to his essence . . . they have said, `Avatars are rays issuing from Vishnu's essence.' But these sectaries do not mean that the identical spirit of Ram, on the dissolution of its connection with his body, becomes attached to the body of Krishna."
In one composite manuscript of Babi and Bahá'í material that came into British Orientalist E.G. Browne's possession, a "Persian account of the Indian Saint Ramchand" is sandwiched among works by `Abdu'l-Bahá and Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani, and other Babi and Bahá'í writers, indicating an interest in Hinduism among adherents of these movements. That Bahá'u'lláh himself was familiar with at least some of this literature is indisputable. At one point he answers a questioner who asked about the paucity of records about human history before Adam, and here Bahá'u'lláh defends a "long chronology" wherein the world is of very great antiquity. He explains, among existing historical records differences are to be found, and each of the various peoples of the world hath its own account of the age of the earth and of its history.

Some trace their history as far back as eight thousand years, others as far as twelve thousand years. To any one that hath read the book of Juk it is clear and evident how much the accounts given by the various books have differed.

The "book of Juk" could also be transliterated as the "book of Jug," a reference to the Persian translation of the Yoga Vasistha (Jug-Basisht), a work on Hindu mysticism probably written in the thirteenth century of the Common Era. Cast in the form of a dialogue purportedly between the Vedic sage Vasistha and his pupil Rama, this work shows influences of Vedanta, Yoga and even Mahayana Buddhism. As noted above, Nizamu'd-Din Panipati carried out a translation of this book in the late 1500s. The Safavid-era Iranian mystic Mir Findiriski (d. 1641) selected and commented on portions of Panipati's rendering of the Yoga Vasistha. Mir Findiriski gained a reputation at the court of Shah `Abbas at early seventeenth-century Isfahan for asceticism, and he is said to have become, after his journeys in India, a vegetarian and an adorer of the sun who refused to go on pilgrimage to Mecca lest he be forced to sacrifice sheep.

The Yoga Vasistha appears to have been a popular work among those with Indo-Persian interests from about 1600 onward. It contains passages discussing the untold cycles of time in which Hindus believed, the multiplicity of universes, and the end of each in a cosmic night. In the story of the long-lived sage, Bhusunda, he is depicted as recalling a succession of 11,000-year epochs in the earth's history before the advent of humans, when lava, forests, or demons predominated. He adds,
During my lifetime I have seen the appearance and disappearance of countless Manu[s] (the progenitor of the human race). At one time the world was devoid of the gods and demons, but was one radiant cosmic egg. At another time the earth was populated by brahmana (members of the priest class) who were addicted to alcohol, sudra (servant class) who ridiculed the gods, and polyandrous women. I also remember another epoch when the earth was covered with forests, when the ocean could not even be imagined, and when human beings were spontaneously created."
Bahá'u'lláh's wording makes it clear that he was familiar with the Yoga Vasistha, and it is remarkable that he felt no need to explain the reference to his readers, suggesting that many literate Persian-speaking intellectuals read this work as late as the nineteenth century.

Even more remarkable, Bahá'u'lláh clearly prefers the Yoga view of cosmology to a literal reading of the biblical-quranic short chronology, which would result in a world only six to eight thousand years old. Even the longer Zoroastrian figure for the age of the earth, 12,000 years, strikes him as too limited. I would suggest that the intellectual context for this insistence on a long chronology is two-fold. First, Bahá'u'lláh accepts the common Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic and Avicennian premise that the cosmos is eternal. This belief had remained a point of dispute in Islamic thought between the philosophically minded and the scripturalists. The great mystic and clergyman Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) had attacked the Muslim philosophers for daring to contradict a literal reading of the Qur'an, wherein the world was brought into being at a particular point in time by God's creative word and so is not eternal or pre-existent. The later Andalusian follower of Aristotle, Averroes, strongly defended his master, but to little avail in the Islamic West. In the Arab world, al-Ghazzali's view largely won out. In Iran, however, the influence of the Avicennian peripatetics remained strong, so that many thinkers, Bahá'u'lláh among them, continued to accept the eternality of the universe. He wrote, in the tablet that mentions the Yoga Vasistha, that God's "creation hath ever existed, and the Manifestations of His Divine glory and the Day Springs of eternal holiness have been sent down from time immemorial." Second, the discovery by nineteenth-century European geologists and paleontologists that the world, and life, is very old, was becoming known among Middle Eastern intellectuals from the 1880s, and Darwinism was beginning to create controversy at regional institutions such as the Syrian Protestant College (later the American University in Beirut). Both the philosophical view of the eternality of the world and the modern scientific chronology that pushes the earth's age back to 4.5 billion years are relatively compatible with Hindu cosmology, but are impossible to reconcile with the short chronology of the biblical tradition if taken literally. For a nineteenth-century Middle Eastern thinker with a philosophical, inquiring bent, such as Bahá'u'lláh, the Yoga chronology was a useful foil to the more limited cosmological conceptions of Zoroastrianism and the Abrahamic traditions.

Let us turn now to the correspondence between Manakji Limji Hataria and Bahá'u'lláh. Manakji was a Parsi, or Indian Zoroastrian, of the nineteenth century, born near Surat in northwestern India. From the age of fifteen he earned his own way, becoming a commercial agent, and he came to Iran in 1854 via the Gulf and Iraq. He met Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad at that time. In Yazd, Kirman and Tehran he labored to restore the houses of worship of the Zoroastrians, to ameliorate the conditions of that people, and to found schools. In 1864, Manakji went back to India, and there he reported on the straitened conditions of Zoroastrians in Iran to his co-religionists. In British India, where Bombay spun a web of international commerce, the Zoroastrians had emerged as a wealthy community of merchants, agents, go-betweens and investors, enjoying religious freedom. Manakji Sahib (`Sahib' being an Indian honorific) convinced the Parsis to send him back to Tehran as their philanthropical agent. With Bombay monies, he and his wife opened three schools in Tehran, but they found they needed to hire outsiders as teachers. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani, trained as a Shi`ite clergyman, became a Bahá'í in 1876, and, when he lost his job as seminary teacher, took on employment from 1877-1882 as a teacher at Manakji's school and as the agent's secretary. It seems likely that the correspondence between Manakji and Bahá'u'lláh occurred sometime during this period. Another, shorter letter of Bahá'u'lláh to Manakji in pure Persian is better known and was even translated into English early in the twentieth century. Manakji, a great collector of Persian manuscripts, commissioned and edited a major chronicle of the Babi period, Mirza Husayn Hamadani's New History of the Bab (Tarikh-i Jadid), which was completed around 1882.

I here present a commentary on the exchange between Bahá'u'lláh and Manakji, in hopes of understanding the codes of discourse being employed. Bahá'u'lláh signals at the very beginning that he felt it unwise to reply in a straightforward manner to some of the Parsi agent's direct questions, since he would have necessarily been forced openly to make pronouncements at variance with the doctrines held by the Shi`ite clergy in Iran. This issue arose because Bahá'u'lláh was writing to someone outside the Bahá'í community, someone whose correspondence might be read by employees (including Shi`ites) were the letter left carelessly on a desktop. Major points of interest are Bahá'u'lláh's attitudes to Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. He was clearly well-versed in the former, like some other nineteenth-century Iranian thinkers who looked upon the pre-Islamic religious heritage of Iran as a source of glory to be recovered. Many Iranians were fired by nineteenth-century archeological discoveries and decipherments concerning the ancient Achaemenids, Iranian rulers of most of the civilized world in the two centuries before the rise of Alexander the Great.

In his first question, Manakji outlines three possible types of sacred history, and asks Bahá'u'lláh which he prefers. The first type is the Zoroastrian, wherein, he says, it is maintained that there were altogether twenty-eight prophets, including Zoroaster himself. These prophets, he says, all affirmed the same religion, and none arose to abrogate the essential laws and customs of the community. Manakji derives this view of his tradition largely from the apocryphal Dasatir, a Sufi-influenced work of Zoroastrian mysticism probably produced in the seventeenth century C.E., wherein sacred history started with a very ancient figure named Mahabad, who was succeeded by other holy figures not mentioned in the ancient Zoroastrian scriptures. Many Parsis adhered to such a chronology in Manakji's own day. This schema involves many prophets but one unchanging Law.

In contrast, he says, Hindus conceive holy history in quite different terms. Manakji continues, "several of the bearers of a revelation to the Hindus said, `I am God. All creatures must enter under My authority. When discord and alienation afflict them, I shall advent myself and efface it'" (p. 149). Without naming either, Manakji has here paraphrased for Bahá'u'lláh the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita: "Though myself unborn, undying, the lord of creatures, I fashion nature, which is mine, and I come into being through my own magic.

Whenever sacred duty decays and chaos prevails, then, I create myself, Arjuna. To protect men of virtue and destroy men who do evil, to set the standard of sacred duty, I appear in age after age." These Hindu avatars, he explains, say that within them is the same soul that animated their predecessors. Further, they bring a new law.

Manakji makes an analogy between the Hindu schema (as he understands it) and that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, wherein Jesus abrogated the laws of Moses, who had in turn brought new laws not revealed in the time of Abraham. In regard to history, then, the Hindu cycle of successive avatars and the Christian belief in consecutive patriarchs and prophets leading up to the advent of Christ, have in common a doctrine that religious law can be changed by a new messenger of God. Manakji does not say so, but obviously Hinduism differs from the Christian tradition in having a more cyclical conception of time, as opposed to the Near Eastern idea of time as linear. Still, both of these views of sacred history contrast to Manakji's version of Zoroastrianism in accepting the possibility that aspects of divine legislation may be changed or abrogated over time.

Finally, he says, a new Prophet came, who rejected all the previous revelations and insisted that the law he legislated be followed. Manakji was here referring to the Prophet Muhammad and to Islam. This statement appears odd, but Manakji was probably reasoning from what Muslim informants told him. Many Muslims after the earliest period were, it is true, not very comfortable with their Judeo-Christian heritage. As a result, they developed a doctrine of the corruption of previous scriptural texts, saying the Jews and Christians had introduced alterations into the Bible after the advent of Islam. Muslims therefore typically did not read the Bible, and accepted from the biblical tradition only those aspects of it directly enshrined in the Qur'an itself or incorporated into the corpus of sayings attributed to the Prophet.

Manakji, then, sees three different paradigms for prophetic history in the world religions. In some traditions, prophets come serially but affirm a single unchanging Law. In some others, avatars or prophets come sequentially, and can abrogate the laws revealed by previous holy figures. Finally, some traditions wholly reject their predecessors and accept nothing from previous prophets. Manakji wants to know of which view of holy history Bahá'u'lláh approves.

Bahá'u'lláh in his reply draws on the theophanology, or ideas about the Manifestations of God, that he had developed some twenty years earlier in the Book of Certitude. He points out that in Judaism, Moses brought divine legislation, but was succeeded by a large number of prophets who acted as vehicles for revelation without altering the Mosaic law. He therefore sees the situation Manakji describes for Zoroastrianism as mirrored in Judaism. This schema of serial prophets with no alteration of the divine law, then, holds good for particular religious traditions, and is a special case within a larger tableau of progressive revelation. Major prophets like Moses and Zoroaster legislate, and whereas minor successors like David do not, major new prophets such as Jesus and Muhammad can arise to abrogate the past divine law and institute a new one.

Bahá'u'lláh goes on to challenge Manakji's third category, of the new legislating prophet (Muhammad) who altogether rejects his predecessors, maintaining that the Arabian Messenger of God never adopted the position attributed to him by the Parsi leader. He proves it by quoting Qur'an 3:1, "Alif. Lam. Mim. God! There is no god but He, the Living, the Merciful. In truth He sent down to thee `the Book,' which confirmeth those which precede it. For He hath send down the Torah and the Evangel aforetime, as man's Guidance; and now hath He sent down the Salvation." Muhammad therefore affirmed the Pentateuch and the New Testament, and saw the Qur'an as a further installment in this series. That is, the Muslim idea of serial revelations with new religious laws being instituted from time to time by `Prophets endowed with constancy' is not materially different from the Christian or the Hindu schemas.

Bahá'u'lláh therefore disallows the third case as based on a misunderstanding, and he folds the first case (of sequential non-legislating prophets) into the second. Bahá'u'lláh therefore succeeds in eliminating Manakji's three-fold distinction among religious traditions and incorporating them into a single, over-arching theory of progressive revelation.

The final question concerned which sort of messenger from the divine is superior among the three types. Bahá'u'lláh says that in some ways all messengers from God, whether legislating prophets or not, are equal as theophanies and bearers of revelation, and this is what the Qur'an means when it says, "We make no distinction between any of His Messengers" (2:285). On the other hand, clearly the legislating Manifestations in some ways enjoy precedence, and this is why the Qur'an also says, "And We preferred some of the Messengers over others" (2:253).

In his answer to Manakji's first question, Bahá'u'lláh does not directly address himself to the Hindu examples adduced. I think we must read this silence as assent. That is, Bahá'u'lláh's approach to other religious traditions was highly ecumenical, as is witnessed by his acceptance of the validity of Zoroaster and of the Bible, of neither of which most Iranian Shi`ites approved, and he seemed entirely willing to have examples from Hinduism constitute part of the discourse about the world religions. The Yoga Vasistha, with which Bahá'u'lláh was familiar, also briefly summarized the story of Krishna and Arjuna. There is nothing in Manakji's paraphrase of the Bhagavad-Gita to which Bahá'u'lláh had any reason to object, given his own ideas. Manakji's characterization of the Hindu conception of the avatar consists in the bearer of revelation: 1) proclaiming his divinity, 2) insisting that all accept his authority 3) coming when social discord and disaffection are prevalent, 4) declaring himself the return of his predecessor, and 5) instituting a new revealed law. The precise contours of Hindu theology are lost in this sort of summary, such that the ideas of Rama and Krishna as incarnations of Vishnu, and of reincarnation and karma, are not described in any detail.

What is reported sounds remarkably like Bahá'u'lláh's own prophetology as developed in the Book of Certitude. Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: "I am God!" He verily speaketh the truth and no doubt attacheth thereto." For Bahá'u'lláh, messengers from the Eternal Truth are not merely prophets, but are theophanies, manifestations of the names and attributes of God in this world. Their theophanic status authorizes them to employ theopathic language, though this discourse is in some sense metaphorical and does not imply an identity of essence between them and God. Seen in this way, Krishna's pronouncement that he is God would therefore be unexceptionable. Bahá'u'lláh also very emphatically taught that the commands revealed by the Manifestation of God must be obeyed implicitly.

Bahá'í scriptures say that Manifestations of God are sent especially at times of social and spiritual unrest. The advent of the theophany is called a Day of God, and is identified with eschatological symbols such as the darkening of the sun and the fall of the stars (which Bahá'u'lláh interprets figuratively). In the times leading up to the appearance of the Manifestation, Bahá'u'lláh says, "the break of the morn of divine guidance must needs follow the darkness of the night of error. For this reason, in all chronicles and traditions reference hath been made unto these things, namely that iniquity shall cover the surface of the earth and darkness shall envelop mankind." The idea that the deterioration of moral order precedes a new irruption of divine presence and grace, then, is held in common by the Bhagavad-Gita and the Book of Certitude.

The Bahá'í Faith does not believe in reincarnation, so on the face of it the idea of an avatar as the reincarnation of a preceding theophany would be an alien one. In fact, the Babi and Bahá'í religions accept the idea of an eternal return that resembles the doctrine prevalent among ancient stoics and Neoplatonists. Human beings are seen possess a soul (nafs) on the one hand, and on the other attributes (sifat). Although the soul upon death goes on to another plane of existence in the never-ending journey toward God, never returning to earth, its complex of personality-attributes can recur later in history. Bahá'u'lláh writes, in interpreting a verse of the Qur'an that identifies Muhammad with past prophets, "If thou sayest that Muhammad was the "return" of the Prophets of old, as is witnessed by this verse, His Companions must likewise be the "return" of the bygone Companions, even as the "return" of the former people is clearly attested by the text of the above-mentioned verses." Bahá'u'lláh then says that all the founders of the major religions possessed a unity on the plane of attributes. Each was a `return' of the others. He quotes esoteric Shi`ite sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, wherein he says, "I am all the Prophets," and "I am the first Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus." Something very like the Hindu belief that each avatar is a return of his predecessors, then, also exists in the Bahá'í Faith, though the return is phenomenological (having to do with appearances) rather than ontological (having to do with being). Finally, Bahá'u'lláh did acknowledge the authority of the major Manifestations of God, such as Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, to legislate new religious laws and to abrogate former ordinances.

This exercise of matching Bahá'u'lláh's teachings with those of Krishna as reported by Manakji can only be, of course, heuristic. Bahá'u'lláh's cautious silence has made it necessary for us to attempt to reconstruct the Bahá'í-Hindu dialogue implied in this tablet. The exercise is made all the more plausible when we consider Bahá'u'lláh's reference, elsewhere, to the Yoga Vasistha, with its implication that basic Hindu ideas were well enough known among the more adventurous literate Iranians of the time so that they could be referred to with no further explanation. What can be said is that Bahá'u'lláh replied to Manakji's set of distinctions among Hinduism and other religious traditions by downplaying the differences and subsuming the various schemas of sacred history under his own conception of progressive revelation.

Manakji next asks a question about the relationship of God to the world, and outlines four positions. The first is metaphysical monism, which states that all visible beings are identical with the Absolute Truth. In India, of course, the Upanishads advocate this position, and it was systematized by the great Hindu theologian Shankara Carya (b. 788 C.E.). The second is metaphysical pluralism, wherein God and the creation are recognized as different from one another, and prophets are seen as mediators between the divine and mundane realms. The prophetic religions of the Near East tended to adopt this position. There did also exist in India important theists who differentiated between creator and creation (such as Ramanuja [d. 1137 C.E.]), and even full-fledged dualists such as Madhva (1238-1317 C.E.), who made an absolute set of distinctions between the Lord (Ishvara) and the human soul (jiva). The third position identifies God only with the celestial spheres, and not with the entirety of creation. The fourth is the deist position, that God created Nature from eternity, and it thereafter regulates itself (pp. 151-52).

Bahá'u'lláh replies that of the four stances outlined, i.e. monism, prophetic pluralism, Neoplatonic panentheism, and deism, the second is "closer to piety" (p. 152). The Arabic word taqwa has connotations of the "fear of God" as well as piety, and Bahá'u'lláh appears to mean by this phrase that metaphysical pluralism, the assertion that the creation is other-than-God, best ensures that proper reverence for the ineffability of the Unknowable Essence is maintained. Bahá'u'lláh admits, however, that the other stances can also be maintained, not on the level of being or ontology, but on that of manifestation. That is, all things are manifestations of God's names and attributes, and therefore it is possible to see God in all things. Bahá'u'lláh's stance here resembles that of the Sufis who rejected existential monism, the unity of being between God and creatures, but agreed that great mystics can attain a state wherein a non-ontological unity of the divine and the phenomenal world is apparent to them. Of course, it would have been equally possible for Bahá'u'lláh simply to say that the Shankara school of monism is incorrect as ontology, and he elsewhere says as much about Sufi pantheism. But his instinct is to stress commonalities, to show the ways in which seemingly opposing theological positions can be reconciled. Thus, monism of the sort found in the Upanishads and Shankara's writings is not simply a propositional error, but is rather an accurate description of a valid mystical perception. Because the universe is itself theophanic, it is possible to see the manifestations of God in each created thing. Nevertheless, in the Bahá'í view God's necessary being continues to be sharply distinguished from the contingent being of created things.

Manakji's next question is more practical. He notes that in Islam, a distinction exists between the law as a field of study (fiqh) and the sources (usul) of law (at least the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet, though most schools accepted other sources, as well). In Islam the classical example for this sort of question is the prohibition on alcoholic beverages. The Qur'an itself only forbids date wine, so the question arises of whether this narrow interdiction in the source text has any wider implications. According to the jurisprudence (fiqh) worked out by Muslim clergymen in the medieval period, a specific law can have wider application. For instance, the reason given in the revealed texts for the prohibition of date wine is that it clouds the mind. By analogy, then, all substances that cloud the mind should also be forbidden, including, e.g., barley beer. Disagreements arose about the precise extent to which such analogies could be taken, and the Muslim science of the principles of jurisprudence is notorious for its openness to abuse or to idiosyncratic rulings by individual clergymen. Some schools in Islam, such as the Shi`ite Akhbaris, rejected the principles of jurisprudence altogether, relying solely on a literalist understanding the two main sources, the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet and the Imams. Manakji contrasts the tension in Islam between legal fundamentalism and judicial activism to the situation in Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, where he says that the textual sources have primacy. In the latter religions, he says, law is not conceived to exist apart from its scriptural sources (p. 154). Ironically, Manakji argues that Hinduism and Zoroastrianism are much more "fundamentalist" (in the modern Western Protestant sense of scriptural positivist) than Islam, which rather has developed a sophisticated scholastic apparatus for legal interpretation.

Bahá'u'lláh takes a stance critical of the way the principles of jurisprudence had become a license in Shi`ite Islam for interpreters of the law, or mujtahids, to define the law in a high-handed way. He points out that in Islam an early proponent of the principles of jurisprudence was the Sunni, Abu Hanifah, and since Bahá'u'lláh was from a Shi`ite background this statement may be a way of questioning its validity. He goes on, however, to play down the difference between legal strict constructionists and believers in the principles of jurisprudence. He says that since the Manifestation of God (himself) is alive and can be asked about the meaning of the law, there was no need among Bahá'ís in the 1880s for a discipline such as the principles of jurisprudence (pp. 155-56).

The next question is related to the one about the interpretation of the law. Manakji says that some groups believe that divine law is only that which is congruent with what is natural and acceptable to the intellect. Others say that the divine Law--with all the irrationalities of ritual acts and so forth--must be accepted as it is, without the intervention of reason (p. 157).

Bahá'u'lláh attempts to defuse the conflict set up by Manakji between intellect and revelation by insisting that revelation itself comes from the Universal Intellect. Since the intellects of individual humans are partial and limited, their task is not to oppose their understanding to that of the divine Law, but rather to seek to understand the universal rationality that lies behind it. Thus, some rituals are instituted simply to glorify the divine Name, having no practical utility, but they are nevertheless spiritual aids and believers are recompensed for carrying them out. Bahá'u'lláh gives the example of how the Prophet Muhammad, when he first emigrated to Medina, received a revelation from God instructing him to pray toward the Kaaba in Mecca rather than, as before, praying toward Jerusalem. This change in ritual had the purpose, according to the Qur'an (2:138), of testing the early Muslims and dividing the obedient from those weak in faith. The Bahá'í amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan, adds here something that Bahá'u'lláh dictated to him, which further illustrates the limited nature of individual human intellects. Bahá'u'lláh instructs the scribe to tell Mirza Abu'l-Fadl that "the ignorant among the Persians" have unfairly branded one of the Manifestations of God (i.e. Zoroaster) as a fire-worshipper or sun-worshipper. Zoroaster himself, however, recognized that the sun was only a "turbid globe," and not a deity, and he said that nothing could exist save by virtue of God's Being. In the end, then, Bahá'u'lláh insists that limited human reason may not sweep away what is revealed by the Universal Intellect. In phrasing the question this way, however, he avoids setting up a struggle between reason and revelation. Revelation is simply a very mature, perfect form of reason. This position is, of course, common among medieval Muslim philosophers such as Avicenna and Averroes, but was rejected by most clerics (pp. 157-60).

Manakji's next question puts Bahá'u'lláh in a very delicate situation. He says that some of the former Manifestations declared the meat of the cow ritually pure, whereas others forbade it. One allowed the meat of the pig, while others prohibited it. The meat of cows is forbidden in Hinduism, of course, whereas Judaism and Islam forbid pork.

In his Most Holy Book, Bahá'u'lláh had declared all things in the world ritually pure. This declaration was only one of the many ways in which he had abrogated Islamic law, which was the most controversial thing he did. That is, giving up the shari`ah or Muslim canon law was considered apostasy by the clergy, the punishment for which was death. Since Manakji had Shi`ite Muslims in his employ, who might gain access to this letter, Bahá'u'lláh declined openly to declare that such dietary restrictions had been abolished in the Bahá'í religion. He does insist that nothing in the universe has been inscribed with the words, "this is prohibited." Rather, it is the Word of God that rendered things pure or impure, and these restrictions can change from dispensation to dispensation. No religious law is eternally valid. Through his doctrine of progressive revelation, Bahá'u'lláh affirms that the dietary prohibitions of past religions were authoritative in their own dispensation, but had to give way to later, different, revealed systems of law (pp. 161-62).

Manakji says that Hinduism and Zoroastrianism are tolerant religions, the adherents of which associate in friendship with everyone. He contrasts them to other religions, which harrass and persecute those they consider unbelievers. Which, he wants to know, is the way acceptable to God? In answer, Bahá'u'lláh firmly and unequivocally condemns persecution deriving from religious intolerance. Religion must be, he says, a source of unity and concord, of compassion and empathy. Religious hatred is absolutely forbidden (pp. 162-64).

Manakji divides the religions into three groups according to their attitude toward conversion. He says that Zoroastrians and Hindus will not accept converts. Christians accept new believers into the fold, but do not insist on their conversion. Muslims (and, he says, Jews [sic]) demand the conversion of others to their religion and if anyone declines they consider it lawful to usurp his wealth and family members (p. 164). Manakji was clearly altogether ignorant of Judaism, which rather resembles Zoroastrianism and Hinduism in being slow to accept converts.

Hinduism itself differs in this regard according to sect. Brahminical Hinduism, it is true, does not accept the principle of conversion, or even the right of a Hindu to travel abroad over "black water." On the other hand, bhakti or devotional sects are more open to converts, as are modern reform movements. His positioning of Christianity is historically suspect, since at least some Christians in history aggressively suppressed the pagan religions of Greece and Rome, instituted an Inquisition even against Christians, virtually wiped out the Mayan and Incan beliefs and assaulted the other Native American religions. As we shall see, Bahá'u'lláh also takes issue with his characterization of Christianity as practiced in history. Manakji's characterization of Islam is inaccurate, but has a basis in medieval Muslim jurisprudence. Islam recognizes the right of protected minorities who believe in monotheism and a divinely-revealed Book to maintain their religious beliefs under Muslim rule. Some Muslim clerics limited these protected minorities to the Jews and Christians, while others accepted Zoroastrians, as well. Of course, law or no law, some Muslim rulers persecuted Jews and Christians occasionally. In India, some accepted Hindus as a protected minority, but most clerics called for them to be given a choice between conversion and death. Since Hindus formed the vast majority of the Indian population, no Muslim ruler found this policy of forced conversion a feasible one in the long term.

Bahá'u'lláh expresses his consternation that "the Hindus and Zoroastrians do not allow others to enter into their religions." He says that such a policy contradicts God's purpose in sending Messengers, which is to guide His servants and organize their affairs. He further suggests that this exclusion of outsiders is the result of a late, in-grown insularity, and that the widespread ruins of Zoroastrian fire temples attest to the religion's universal, missionary character in ancient times. He disputes Manakji's characterization of Christianity as a religion that does not insist, and discusses the nineteenth-century Christian missionary enterprise as a concerted effort to induct young children of other cultures into the church. Bahá'u'lláh says that the proper attitude is for believers to offer their religion to their friends as a free and generous gift. Should the friends not accept it, they must avoid at all cost allowing any feelings of hatred or dislike to grow up (pp. 164-66). Again, Bahá'u'lláh attempts to undermine the distinctions Manakji makes among the world religions. He suggests that ancient Zoroastrianism (and by analogy, Hinduism) was once open to converts, and denies that it was ever ethically permitted in any religion (therefore including Islam) to impose forced conversions. He is also not convinced of the absolute difference between Christianity and Islam as missionary religions. His vision is of a liberal society wherein competing religious discourses are allowed to co-exist, with the most persuasive gaining the converts.

Manakji's next question is about religious pluralism versus religious exclusivism. Zoroastrians, he says, believe their religion is best, but will admit that other religions are valid (haqq). By analogy, they say that a prime minister is the best source for information about the king, but that other, lower palace officials do possess some information of that sort, as well. Thus, Zoroaster is the divine prime minister, whereas the other prophets and holy figures in the world religions are mere chamberlains and sergeants-at-arms. Still, all are denizens of the celestial palace and valid reporters of its affairs. In contrast, he says that Hindus believe no meat-eater can enter heaven, and that the religions of Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses maintain that whoever does not accept their truth cannot attain paradise. John Hick has characterized the view that all religions are equally valid as pluralism. The view that one's own religion has all the truth, but the others possess some part of it, he calls inclusivism. He terms "exclusivism" the idea that only one's own religion is true and salvific, whereas the others are false. Manakji characterizes Zoroastrianism as inclusivist, but says Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are exclusivist (pp. 166-67). He later admits, however, that Hindus and Zoroastrians believe themselves created from Brahma and the First Intellect, respectively, and that they are therefore different from and better than other humans, who have grosser origins (p. 168).

Bahá'u'lláh replies that when Zoroaster said his religion was more sublime than all others, he was referring to the prophets who came before him. Bahá'u'lláh refers Manakji to the Book of Certitude, wherein he had explained that all the Manifestations of God in one sense enjoy the same station, but in another are differentiated. In the Bahá'í schema of progressive revelation, the most recent Manifestation of God, by virtue of his historical position, brings a more complete message; but he is not spiritually or ontologically superior to the others. He simply arrives at a different, more mature world-historical moment. The Bahá'í stance is therefore one of pluralism at the level of the theophany, and inclusivism at the level of serial time. Bahá'u'lláh suggests that the Hindu position as reported by Manakji contains contradictions. On the one hand, Hindus are tolerant pluralists admitting that there are many paths to God. On the other, some at least believe that meat-eating consigns non-Hindus to hell. Bahá'u'lláh has here identified a real tension within Hinduism, between the tolerance and universalism of the high philosophers in the Vedanta tradition, and the narrow ritualism and casteism of the petty pandits. The contrast is between the Mahatma Gandhi and the Brahmins who excommunicated him for crossing the black waters to England.

Bahá'u'lláh finds the contrast especially puzzling because in his own religion valid belief is identical to the attainment of paradise. That is, entry into paradise begins with the recognition of the truth, even in this world. Heaven is a never-ending path toward God, a processual state, rather than a physical place. He concludes, "Every one of the Prophets hath come from the Absolute Truth" (pp. 167-68). Bahá'u'lláh also insists that all humans have been created by the Will of God, and none may claim a special origin. Moreover, he demythologizes stories such as an origin in Brahma or in the First Intellect, saying that no one knows anything about the origins of the universe. He believes the universe, in fact, to be eternal with regard to time. Temporally, it has always existed. The cosmos is, however, originated in the sense that it is caused by God; it has always been being caused by God, however. He appears to oppose this Neoplatonic cosmology, with its universalist overtones, to the particularistic and almost tribal origin-myths quoted by Manakji (pp. 168-70).

The interchange between Manakji and Bahá'u'lláh involves a tension between analysis and synthesis. Manakji proceeds by identifying a set of related phenomena, the world-religions of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and then dividing them into different categories according to their theological and social positions. Zoroastrianism and Hinduism are thus theologically and socially tolerant, but are closed to conversion. In contrast, he depicts Islam as not only open to conversion, but as aggressively insistent on it, and as being theologically and socially intolerant. Christianity serves as a mediating middle term between these oppositions. It is tolerant like Hinduism but open to conversion like Islam (Figure 1). Bahá'u'lláh positions the Bahá'í Faith as the mediating term, as more tolerant than Christianity and just as open, though he also insists that all the religions ought ideally to have had these characteristics.

Figure 1: Manakji's View of the World Religions as Semiotic Square:

[Note: this formatting is missing in the original and I don't know what the original diagram looked like. -J.W. 2011]
Zoroastrianism		tolerant - - - - - - - - - - - -closed
Hinduism		   |      \		        		|
     |	      \		        	|
     |	        Christianity	|
     |		       \	        	|
     |			   \   	|
Islam			intolerant - - - - - - - - - -  open
Bahá'u'lláh's rhetorical stance is one of peace-maker and ecumenist rather than that of analyst. He is concerned to show that the distinctions among the world religions made by Manakji are over-drawn, to demonstrate that a unity underlies them. His answer to Manakji's first question set the tone, which did not vary thereafter. Whereas the Parsi agent saw conceptions of sacred history to differ radically among Zoroastrians, Hindus and Christians, and Muslims, Bahá'u'lláh subsumes all these schemas under the framework of universal progressive revelation. He accepts Manakji's characterization of Hinduism and Christianity as believing in successive holy figures, some of whom have the authority to bring a new religious law. He points out that in fact, the Islamic view of sacred history is similar. And he sees the particularism of Judaism and Zoroastrianism, which have clung to a single law despite the advent of several prophets, as a feature of single religions that can be incorporated into a larger pattern of universal sacred history. In the other questions, as well, about tolerance and intolerance, conversion, and inclusivism versus exclusivism, Bahá'u'lláh strives to show the unity of the world religions. In many instances, the differences between him and Manakji have to do with his concentration on the ideal, and the Indian's on the actual behavior of religionists. Thus, Bahá'u'lláh believes Zoroastrianism was and should have been a universalistic missionary religion, despite the nineteenth-century Zoroastrian practice of refusing converts admittance. In this historical point, he is correct, since in Achaemenid and Sasanian times there certainly were converts to Zoroastrianism. He suggests that Hindu pantheism should be seen as an attempt to understand the theophanic nature of the cosmos, ignoring the grounding of the Shankara school in a monist ontology. Wherever possible, Bahá'u'lláh seeks to establish common ground, to point out similarities, and to demolish Manakji's lattice-work of fine distinctions.

I see a strong resemblance between Bahá'u'lláh's way of speaking about the diverse theologies of previous religions and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's conception of "language games." After having discussed the issue of the God-world relationship, Bahá'u'lláh says, "today a new cause hath appeared and a new discourse is appropriate." He appears to be saying that each past religious tradition developed a specific discourse, which was internally valid as a system of thought, and which successfully characterized some aspects of the divine and its relationship to the world. The appearance of a new Manifestation of God, however, initiates a new discourse, which should then be preferred because of its greater appropriateness to the age in which it develops. The theology of the new Manifestation forms a "grammar," a set of rules governing speech about the divine for believers. As Wittgenstein wrote, "new language-games . . . come into existence, and others become obsolete and get forgotten." One challenge for those who use the idea of "language-games" to understand the theologies of the world religions lies in avoiding the impression that one is attempting to detach the religions from any real referent or to protect them from reasoned inquiry into their validity.

I think Bahá'u'lláh is suggesting something else. Each religion involves a language-game with its own vocabulary and grammar, which is an individual form of life shaped both by the attempt to describe the numinous and by cultural and historical context. The Unknowable Essence and the hereafter are extremely complex, existing on different planes and even, in the instance of God, possessing a different sort of Being than mundane human reality in this world. The complexity of the referent of religious language allows it to be validly described in more than one manner, as in Rumi's parable about the blind men and the elephant. That it should be possible to perceive God in more than one way is not surprising, given that in quantum mechanics even an electron can be experimentally perceived both as a wave and as a particle. Gestalt psychology has also shown that certain drawings, such as a contoured goblet, can also be configured by the eye as two faces staring at one another. Thus, for Bahá'ís God is both somehow personal and an impersonal Unknowable Essence, is both manifest in all things yet utterly different from them ontologically.

None of this should be taken to say that no religious belief is susceptible of reasoned falsification or modification, only that the referents of religious language are so intricate and ambiguous that a straightforward application of the Aristotelian principle of noncontradiction becomes more difficult than it would be in, say, inorganic chemistry. In regard to some beliefs in the world religions, the principle of noncontradiction is inapplicable, just as it is in regard to the wave-particle distinction in atomic physics. The relativism of the Bahá'í system is not absolute, since Bahá'u'lláh insists on the greater validity of the most recent theological language game, which forms a touchstone for previous religious forms of life. Bahá'u'lláh believes this primacy of the recent derives, not from the intrinsic superiority of the latest message, but simply from its world-historical position, such that phenomenological unity and equality among the religions is not incompatible with progressive revelation.

- Juan Cole

2. The Tablet to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Concerning the Questions of Manakji Limji Hataria

by Bahá'u'lláh

In his letter, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, glory be upon him, had made inquiries. As for that learned man [Manakji], he hath also written. His particulars and that which he possesseth have become known and obvious, and what he dispatched is likewise clear. In regard to his questions, there was no utility in mentioning them one after another, or in gracing all with answers, for this would have been contrary to wisdom and would have necessitated a contradiction of what is current among the people. Rather, in what was revealed from the heaven of bounty especially for him were answers in inimitable style, of the utmost concision and brevity. It appeareth that he [Manakji] neglected to heed them properly, for had he done so he would have borne witness that not a single letter had been omitted, and would have spoken forth, saying "Verily, this utterance is self-evident and unchallengeable." His questions were as follows:

"First, the Mahabadi prophets, including Zoroaster, came to twenty-eight persons, and each of them exalted the religion and faith of the others, and did not abrogate it. Every individual who became manifest bore witness to the correctness and validity of the ordinances and commands of his predecessor, nor was there any talk of rescinding them. They said, `It came to us from God, and we delivered it to His servants.' On the other hand, several of the bearers of a revelation to the Hindus said, `I am God. All creatures must enter under My authority. When discord and alienation afflict them, I shall advent myself and efface it.

Each one who is manifested will say, "I am that same one who was within the first."' These returned founders of a religion, as with Abraham, Moses and Jesus, said, `Past messengers spoke rightly, and in that time the law was thus. But now it is different, in accordance with My instructions.' Then an Arab Legislator said, `With my appearance, all past religions have become irrelevant. The law is My law.' Of these two groups, which do you prefer, and the leaders of which do you rank above the other?"

First of all it may be observed that in one station, the ranks of the prophets may differ one from another. For instance, consider Moses, the Author of a Book and of a sacred code of law. Those prophets and messengers who were sent after that Holy One were enjoined to implement His laws, for these ordinances were not at variance with the requirements of those times, as is apparent from the books that are appended to the Pentateuch. As for the allegation that the revealer of the Qur'an said that upon His appearance all the past systems of law and religion were abrogated, and that the Law was His alone, that Wellspring of celestial wisdom never spoke any such words.

To the contrary, He confirmed the truth of that which had been revealed to the prophets and messengers from the heavens of the divine Will by His words: "Alif. Lam. Mim. God! There is no god but He, the Living, the Merciful. In truth He sent down to thee `the Book,' which confirmeth those which precede it. For He hath sent down the Law . . . " and so on, to the end of the verse. He said that all derive from God, and to God do they return. In this station, all are one soul, insofar as they did not utter a single message, word or command from their own selves. That which they spoke stemmed from the absolute Truth, and they called all the people to the most exalted horizon, bestowing upon them the glad tidings of eternal life. In this manner, the seemingly contradictory statements reported by Manakji Sahib may be resolved into a single word, and into harmonious letters. As for his question, about which of these groups is to be preferred, and which leaders are to be considered exalted over the others, in the former station the sun of the verse, "We make no distinction between any of His Messengers" is resplendent, whereas the latter is the station of "And We preferred some of the Messengers over others." In a blessed, all-encompassing, and exalted passage that We revealed aforetime lieth hidden and concealed the very matter to which he adverted:

"The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."

Every equitable person will bear witness that these words must be reckoned as mirrors of divine knowledge, and that therein may be found reflected with perfect clarity all that pertaineth to the question that was asked. Blessed is the one endued with insight by God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

Another question of that peerless gentleman: "There are four groups in the world. One says that all the visible realms, from the atom to the sun, are identical with the Absolute Truth, and nothing can be seen save the Truth. Another asserts that the essence of the Necessarily Existent is the Absolute Truth, and prophets are mediators between God and the creation who serve to guide the people to the Eternal Truth. Yet another faction says that the spheres of creation are themselves the Necessarily Existent, and that all other things are their effects and fruits, which become apparent and flow, rather like a pool that becomes full, such that rushes come and go along its banks. Finally, one sect holds that the Necessarily Existent has created Nature such that by its effect and bounties everything from the atom to the sun go and come, having neither a beginning nor an end, just as the rain falls and nourishes the grass and vanishes. All things are obedient to those messengers and rulers who legislate laws and ordinances for the sake of organizing the realm and administering the cities. Prophets have behaved in one way, rulers in another. The prophet says that God has commanded the people to submit and be obedient. Rulers deal with the people by means of cannon and sword. Which of these four groups is acceptable in the sight of the Eternal Truth?"

All these passages are, by the Life of God, contained in and encompassed by the utterance to which the tongue of the All-Merciful gave voice aforetime. For it said, "Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." In this Day, the King of Manifestation hath appeared, and the Speaker on Sinai is speaking forth. Whatever He saith consituteth a firm foundation for the edifices of the cities of knowledge and wisdom among the people of the world. Whoever hath clung to Him is accounted among the people of insight before the supreme Countenance. This most exalted word was revealed by the exalted Pen:

"This Day is the day of seeing, for the visage of God is manifest and luminous above the horizon of appearance; and this Day is the day of hearing, for the divine call hath gone out. All must in this day cling to and speak forth in accordance with what hath been revealed in the day-spring of the scriptures and the dawning-place of revelation. It is therefore clear that the answer to the question hath been given in the kingdom of utterance by the source of divine knowledge. Blessed are they that know."

Of the four positions that were mentioned, it is obvious that the second stance was and is the closest to piety. For the prophets and messengers do serve as intermediaries for the divine emanation, and whatever reacheth the creatures from the Eternal Truth is by means of these temples of sanctity and essences of abstraction, these mines of knowledge and manifestations of the divine command. The other positions can also be argued, for in one station all things were and are manifestations of the divine names and attributes. As for what was stated about the kings, in reality they are manifestations of God's name, "the Mighty," and are dawning-places of His name "the Powerful." The robe that is appropriate to those august temples is justice. If they attain to adornment by it, the people of the world shall enjoy the greatest ease and bounties. Any soul who hath quaffed the wine of divine knowledge can elucidate such questions by means of clear proofs in regard to the outer world and by obvious, apparent signs in regard to the soul. Nevertheless, today a new Cause hath appeared, and a different discourse is appropriate.

Even the practice of asking questions and having them answered had lapsed during the first nine years of His dispensation. This is what He said:

"Today is not the day for questions. When thou hearest the call from the dawning-place of glory, say: `I am coming, O God of the names and cleaver of the heavens! I bear witness that thou has become manifest and hath made manifest whatever Thou didst desire, as a command from thee. Verily, Thou art the Omnipotent, the All-Mighty."

The answer to everything that the gentleman wrote is clear and obvious. The intent of that which hath been revealed in his regard from the heaven of divine grace is that he should hearken to the delightful cooing of the dove of eternity and the chanting of the denizens of the highest paradise, should praise the sweetness of this call, and should follow it where it leadeth.

(One day a word was heard from the blessed lips that demonstrateth that a time will come when he will prove successful in an endeavor that will gain for him undying fame. After the arrival of his letter at the inaccessible and most holy Court, the Blessed Beauty said, "O servant in attendance! Although Manakji hath written as an outsider, and hath asked questions, nevertheless the aroma of love may be perceived in his letter. Ask the Eternal Truth that he might attain to what is beloved and pleasing to Him. Verily, He is Powerful over all things." >From this utterance of the All-Merciful wafteth a sweet-smelling fragrance. Verily, He is the Omniscient, the All-Perceiving.)

Another question: "The regulations of Islam are divided into law and its sources. Now, in the Zoroastrian and Hindu religions there is no other path save the sources. They believe that all laws form part of the sources, that even drinking water or taking a woman—all the affairs of life—are thus. The question is, which of these is more pleasing to the Eternal Truth?"

Sources themselves have varying ranks and stations. The principle of all principles, the foundation of all elements, is and always shall be the knowledge of God. The springtime of the recognition of the All-Merciful hath arrived in these very days. That which, in this day, appeareth from the source of authority and the manifestation of God Himself, is the principle, and all have the obligation to obey it. The answer to this question was and is also implicit in these exalted, perfect and blessed words:

"Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." For this day is the lord of days, and everything that emanates from the foundation of the divine Cause is true. The basis of all principles in this day may be likened unto an ocean, whereas all past days have been nothing more than straits that branched out from it. That which is spoken forth and made manifest today is the source, and it is the fundamental utterance and the Mother Book. For although all Days are attributed to God, these days have a acquired a special distinction and have been adorned by a favored relationship with Him. In some of the books of the pure ones and some of the prophets they have been referred to as the "Day of God." In one station, this Day and all that is manifest therein constituteth principles. The other days, and whatever was manifest in them, are accounted ramifications, which are supplemental and relative. For instance, attendence at the mosque is considered a subsidiary ramification in relation to the knowledge of God, for the former is dependent upon the latter.

Consider the principles of jurisprudence that have become wide-spread among the clergy of this age, which they have structured and whereby they derive the divine law in accordance with their individual opinion and their legal school in the matter of immediacy. The Eternal Truth saith—may He be glorified—"Eat and drink." Yet a person doth not know whether this command should be implemented immediately or whether there is no harm in delaying. Some maintain that where a confirming piece of evidence existeth, then the matter becometh clear. One of the erudite clergymen in holy Najaf set out to circumambulate the tomb of the Fifth Imam, along with a large party. On the way, a group of bedouins attacked and pillaged the caravan. The great scholar immediately surrendered everything he possessed. His students said, "Master, in this matter your opinion was not immediacy. What happened, that you implemented it without delay?"

He replied, "The bedouins made of me all of a sudden a believer in the existence of confirming proofs!"

In Islam, the founder of the principles of jurisprudence was Abu Hanifah, a leader of the Sunnis. The discipline had existed earlier, as well, as you have pointed out. Today, however, acceptance or rejection is dependent upon the divine word. These differences of opinion are not deserving of mention. Turn your face toward that which existed in the past and was a source of grace. It is not for us to speak of it, save to speak well of it. For negation hath no foundation. The servant confesseth that he hath no knowledge, and beareth witness that knowledge is with God, the Help in Peril, the Everlasting. In this day, whatever is contrary to reality is rejected, for the sun of reality hath risen over the horizon of knowledge. Blessed are the souls who have cleansed their hearts of all stains, allusions and expressions by means of the water of divine utterance, and have turned their faces toward the most exalted horizon. This is the most great gift, the supreme grace. Whatsoever soul attaineth thereto hath attained to all good. Otherwise, knowledge of other than God hath never bestowed any benefit, and never shall. Legal principles and their subsidiary ramifications, which you have mentioned, are among those matters of which the learned in the religions have spoken, according to their varying abilities. It is better for us to cling to this word: "Then leave them in their pastime of cavillings." Verily, He speaketh the truth and guideth to the right path. The Cause is God's, the Omnipotent, the Alluring.

Another question: "One group says that whatever is naturally and rationally acceptable is permitted and necessary according to the divine law, and that which nature and reason reject should be avoided. Another faction asserts that whatever comes from the divine law and the holy Legislator must be accepted without evidence, reason or natural proof, and must be performed in a spirit of submissiveness and without question. These are matters such as trotting at Safa and Marwah, stoning the devil at Mina, touching the foot during ablutions, and all such prescribed ritual acts. Which is acceptable?"

Intellects have stations, just as the philosophers have pointed out in this regard. Whatever is such that its mention lieth outside this station hath been ignored. It is most clear and established that the intellects of all the people are not on one level. The perfect intellect is a sure guide and mentor. This exalted word hath been revealed in answer to this paragraph:

"The tongue of wisdom saith: `Whoso lacketh Me possesseth nothing. Cast aside all that existeth, and discover Me. I am the sun of vision and the ocean of knowledge. I revive the withered and confer renewed life on the dead. I am the light that showeth the path, and I am the falcon that percheth on the self-subsistent Hand, releasing captive birds and teaching them to soar."

Note well how clearly the answer to thy question hath been revealed from the kingdom of divine knowledge. Blessed are those endued with a discerning eye, and blessed are the thinkers and the learned. What is meant by intellect is the divine Universal Intellect. For how oft hath it been seen that some intellects are not reliable guides, but rather are obstacles who forbid the feet of seekers from following the straight path. The particular intellect is finite. Human beings must seek and probe, until they discover the starting-point of the road, and then must recognize it. If knowledge of the Origin— about which the Universal Intellect itself doth circle—is acquired, whatever it decreeth is, of course, among the requirements of mature wisdom. His Being is like unto the sun, and differeth from that of all else. The foundation is recognition of Him; and after knowledge of Him, whatever He doth decree is to be obeyed and is in harmony with the exigencies of divine wisdom. All the prophets of old, and of even more distant ages, have revealed commands and prohibitions. The intent of some of the acts that are performed today is to preserve the divine Name, and recompense for those who perform them hath been decreed by the Most High Pen.

Should any soul bring another soul back to God, naturally the recompense for this shall be given. For this supreme verse was revealed to the Lord of Mecca (Muhammad): "We appointed the qiblah, which thou formerly hadst, only that we might know him who followeth the apostle, from him who turneth on his heels." Were any individuals in this invincible dispensation to take thought and to contemplate the verses that have been revealed, they would bear witness that one who hesitateth in regard to this most great Manifestation would prove unable to vindicate the truth of any other religion, either. Those deprived of the raiments of justice, who charge the Promised One with waywardness, speak just as the hateful and malicious always have done. Knowledge is with God, the All-Knowing, the All-Perceiving.

(One day this Servant (Khadimu'llah) had come before the Countenance (of Bahá'u'lláh). He said, "O servant in My presence, with what wast thou busying thyself?"

I said, "I was writing a reply to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl."

He said, "Write to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl—may My glory be upon him—that I swear an oath that the people of this age have taken waywardness as their boon companion and have altogether forsaken equity. For they have sometimes branded as a sun-worshipper and at others as a fire-worshipper a Manifestation of whom God Himself hath spoken with the grandest of language, a Manifestation Who hath borne witness to God's sentiency, and recognized the holiness and purity of the divine essence above all things and all likenesses. What great Manifestations there are, of whose stations and bounties they remain ignorant and deprived, and upon Whom, to the contrary, they heap curses and imprecations! One of the great Messengers, whom the ignorant among the Persians in this day reject, spoke forth with these sublime words: `The sun is a turbid, round globe, and is not deserving of being being termed a deity or called a god. The Lord is a sentient person, who cannot be perceived, and Whom all the knowledge of the learned cannot encompass. No one knoweth, and no one shall ever know, his modality.' Note well, how eloquently He hath borne witness to what the Eternal Truth hath proclaimed in this Day. Nevertheless, He is not recognized as a believer by this abject rabble, whatever high stations He might reach.

"Elsewhere the same Figure said, `Being appeared by virtue of His Being. Were the Lord not to exist, none of His creation would possess being, nor be adorned by the robe of existence.' God is our refuge from the evil of those who repudiate the truth of God and His loved ones and have turned away from a horizon to which have borne witness the books of God, the Help in Peril, the Everlasting.")

From what hath gone before it hath become apparent that not every intellect can serve as a criterion. The first rank of intellect is that of the beloved ones of God, those whom He hath rendered treasureholds of His knowledge, recipients of His revelation, and dawning-places of His Cause and His wisdom. They are the ones whom God hath appointed to stand in His own stead upon earth, and by them whatever He willeth becometh manifest. Whoso advanceth toward them hath advanced toward God, and whoso turneth away hath no mention before God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

The universal criterion is this station, which hath been discussed. In addition, whoso attaineth and recognizeth the dayspring of manifestation, such a one hath been inscribed in the divine Book as endued with intellect. All others have been recorded among the ignorant, even though they believe themselves the foremost intellects in the world. For if a soul placeth itself in God's hands, purifieth itself of all opposition and base designs, and contemplateth what hath been revealed from the beginning until the present moment in this Most Great Manifestation, it would bear witness that the pure spirits, perfect intellects, refined souls, as well as those with hearing ears, sharp vision, eloquent tongues, and illumined hearts—all are circling about and obedient to the divine throne of grandeur. Nay, they are bowing down before it.

He asked, further: "Of the former manifestations in their own dispensations, one declared the meat of the cow ritually pure while another forbade it; one allowed the meat of the pig, whereas another prohibited it. In this way different ones each legislated, claiming that the Eternal Truth revealeth religious injunctions."

On the face of it, a detailed treatment of this subject would be contrary to the exigencies of wisdom, for this gentleman employeth persons from various backgrounds. The answer to this question is contrary to the Islamic religion and therefore an allusive response hath been revealed from the heaven of the divine Will. In the first discussion, He said, "The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind," and so on. The same answer is applicable here. He said, "Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." That is, set thy gaze toward the command of God. That which He doth, in this day, decree permissible, that is allowed. The true word of God is that, and all must look toward the precepts of the Eternal Truth and toward that which He manifesteth from the horizon of His Will. For by His name the colors of "He doeth whatsoever He willeth" have been unfurled, and the standard of "He enjoineth whatsoever He pleaseth" hath been planted. For instance, were He to say that water is forbidden, then it would be forbidden, and the contrary would be true as well. Nothing in the universe hath been inscribed with the words, "this is allowed" or "this is prohibited." Whatever is and becometh pure hath been rendered thus by the word of God. These matters are obvious, and do not warranted detailed treatment. Some factions imagine that whatever command hath been enjoined upon them shall never be changed, that it is and always shall be everlasting. Note thou another passage:

"Discourse must be uttered in such wise that the young shoots will remain, and the saplings will mature. Milk must be given in such a manner that the infants of the world will attain their majority."

For instance, one faction asserteth that wine was and always will be forbidden. Were they to be told that a time existed when it was permitted, they would oppose and object to this statement. The people of this world have not comprehended the meaning of the phrase "He doeth whatsoever He willeth," and have not understood even a small portion of the Most Great Infallibility. In the beginning, an infant must be fed milk, and if meat were fed to it, it would perish. This would be unadulterated evil, and far from the goals of wisdom. Blessed are those that recognize the Most Great Infallibility, for it hath at one time been mentioned by the blessed tongue, and is restricted to the Manifestations of Command and the Daysprings of divine revelation. This subject hath been treated concisely, for time is fleeting and like the fabled phoenix that is talked of but does not exist.

He asked, "In the religions of Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, they consort in amity with and treat as brothers persons of every religion and community, of any type or description, if those persons are willing to associate with them. In other religions it is not this way. They harrass and persecute the adherents of other religions, and consider it permissible to mistreat them. Which of these is acceptable before God?"

The primal word is true and ever shall be. To oppress any soul was and is not permissible. Persecuting and victimizing His servants is not acceptable to God. Repeatedly this exalted word hath been written out by the Pen of the Most High: "O servants: The religion of God hath appeared for the sake of unity and concord. Make it not a cause for disputes and wrangling." In numerous Tablets this matter hath been revealed. A visible person must speak forth the Word with perfect compassion, with empathy and tenderness. Those who advance toward it and attain unto acceptance of it, such individuals are entered among the people of the highest paradise on the Crimson Scroll. If they do not accept it, it is in no wise permissible to oppress them. In one place He saith, "Blessed is he who ariseth to serve the whole world." Likewise, He said, "The people of Baha must soar above the people of this world." In regard to religion malice and hatred, dispute and conflict, are all prohibited. Today, the sun of illumination hath risen over the horizon of divine grace, and upon its brow this exalted word hath been inscribed by the Pen of the Most High: "Verily, We created ye for love and fidelity, not for aversion and malevolence." Elsewhere, He revealed in the Persian tongue that which will satisfy the hearts of the near ones and the sincere, and which explaineth the hidden unity behind various issues. All are radiant from the lights of divine unity, and have set their faces toward the horizon of divine knowledge. He revealed these words: "The Peerless Friend saith, `The path of freedom hath been opened, hasten ye unto it. The spring of knowledge is bubbling, drink thereof.'" "Say: O well-beloved ones! The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch."

The station of justice, which lieth in giving all their just due, dependeth upon two words, reward and punishment. In this station, every soul must receive the recompense for its deeds, for the repose and calm of the world dependeth thereon. For they have said, "The tabernacle of the order of the world hath been raised on the two pillars of reward and punishment." For every station there is a saying appropriate thereto, and for every season there is a befitting action. Blessed are the souls who arise for the sake of God, and speak for the sake of God, and then return unto God.

He asked, "In the religions of the Hindus and Zoroastrians, no one who wishes to convert to them is allowed to do so, nor will they accept that person. In the religion of Jesus, whosoever is inclined to do so may enter its ranks, and will be welcomed. They do not, however, insist on or compel conversion. In the religions of Muhammad and Moses, they demand conversion and consider it a duty. Moreover, if persons do not convert then they become their enemy and consider it permissible to usurp their wealth and family members. Which is acceptable to the Eternal Truth?"

Human beings are all siblings, and the requirements of love among siblings are many. Among them are that whatever persons desire for themselves, they must desire this for their brothers and sisters, as well. Therefore, if any persons attain a manifest and hidden bounty, or a heavenly repast, they must with perfect love and kindliness make their friends aware of it. Should the latter advance toward it, then the object is obtained. Otherwise, they must allow those friends to do as they please, without any harrassment, or even a word that might cause sorrow. This is the truth, and after the truth nothing exists save what should be avoided.

That peerless gentleman—may God bless him with success— wrote that the Hindus and Zoroastrians do not allow others to enter into their religions. This is contrary to the purpose of sending Messengers, and to what is in their Books. For every Person who hath appeared from God hath been charged with guiding the servants and organizing their affairs. How could it be that they would keep seekers from attaining the object of their quest? The fire temples of the world bear eloquent testimony that in their own time they called out with a purifying flame to all who dwelt on earth, inviting them to worship the Pure Lord.

He also expressed the view that in the Christian religion those who wish to join are welcomed, but members of this faith do not insist obstinately. This statement is in error, for they have in the past insisted quite strenuously, and continue to do so. Their church administration expends nearly thirty million per annum upon mission work, their missionaries have spread throughout the world, and these are engaged with the utmost effort in proselytizing for the Christian religion. Thus it is that they have encompassed the entire world. How many are the schools and churches they have constructed for the sake of teaching knowledge to children! But their hidden objective was for the children both to gain an education and to hear in their childhood the gospel of the holy Christ, so that upon the mirrors of their being, which had not yet been sullied by dust, might be imprinted that which they intended. No religion can be compared to theirs in insistence, given the manner in which they have spread the church of Christ.

That which today constituteth the truth, and is acceptable before the Throne, is what was mentioned above. Human beings have come into the world to improve it, and must for the sake of the divine Countenance arise to serve their siblings. Should any accept, they must be overjoyed that their brethren have attained to an eternal bounty. Otherwise, they must pray to the Eternal Truth, asking Him to guide them, without allowing the other side to feel any hatred or dislike on their part. Authority is in the hand of God; He doeth as He pleaseth and commandeth what He desireth, and He is the Mighty, the All-Praised. I beseech the Eternal Truth that we be empowered to unreservedly recognize the true Physician and to discover Him, and, after He is acknowledged and His mission affirmed, that no harm should be allowed to come to Him as result of the false suppositions and delusions of the people of the world.

It may be that the Physician, who has his hand upon the pulse of the world, might at times amputate an infected limb, to prevent the infection from spreading to the other organs. This is the very essence of compassion and mercy, and no one hath the right to object, for He is the Knowing, the All-Seeing.

Another of his questions: "In the religion of Mahabad and Zoroaster it is said that our religion and our law are more sublime and better than any other. Still, the religions of the other prophets are all true. For instance, in the court of the king, below the rank of the prime minister there are many other ranks, and even the sergeant will know something about the Lord. All who desire to do so may then remain in their religion, and are harming no one. Hindus say that all who eat meat of any type or description will never have a glimpse of paradise. The religions of Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses maintain that whoever does not accept our religion will never behold heaven. Which view is acceptable to the Absolute Truth?"

Where He (Zoroaster) said, "Our religion and our Law are more sublime and better than those of the prophets," His intent was the prophets who preceded Him. In one station, these holy souls are united: The first of them is the last of them and the last of them is the first of them. All came from God and called others unto Him, and all returned to Him. These stations are revealed in the Book of Certitude, which is in reality the Lord of Books and which was revealed by the Pen of the Most High at the beginning of this supreme dispensation. Blessed is the one who hath delved into and pored over it for the love of God, the Sovereign of creation.

He wrote that the Hindus say that whosoever eateth meat shall never glimpse paradise. But this saying contradicteth his earlier assertion that they believe all religions to be true. For if their truth hath been established, then no grounds exist upon which their adherents can be denied entry into heaven. It is not clear, then, what they mean by `heaven.' In this day, every soul that attaineth the good-pleasure of the Eternal Truth is accounted a denizen of the highest paradise, and tasteth the fruits thereof in every one of God's worlds. By the Life of the Desired One, the pen is impotent to make mention of this station, and falleth short in describing this utterance. Blessed is the one that attaineth to the divine good-pleasure, and woe unto the heedless. Every one of the prophets hath come from the Absolute Truth. Once this point hath been proven, it is not for anyone to ask `Why?' or `Wherefore?' All must accept and obey whatever He ordaineth, for this is what God hath enjoined in His books, psalms and tablets.

Another question: "Hindus maintain that God created the intellect in the form of a human being, whose name is Brahma, and he came to earth and caused it to become populated, so that they are his descendants. Zoroastrians say that God created the First Intellect as an intermediary in the form of a man known as Mahabad, and we are his descendants. Now, they believe the world to have been created only in six ways, and two are as went before. Other means of creation were by water, earth, fire, and dumb beasts. Hindus and Zoroastrians believe that since they were created from intellect, they should not allow other creatures or peoples to join them. Is their assertion correct or not?"

Whatever way pleaseth them, they demonstrate again the wisdom of the Master. The entire cosmos hath been created by the Eternal Truth, and a new Adam hath come into being by means of the obeyed divine word. He is the dayspring, sanctuary, mine and manifestation of the Intellect, and by means of him the world came into being. He is the intermediary for the primal emanation. Concerning the beginnings of creation as we know it, no one hath any knowledge thereof, save God Himself. The beginning and end of the created universe in time is not delimited, and no one knoweth the secret of it. The knowledge thereof was and is still hidden in the treasuries of divine knowledge. The universe is said to be originated only in the sense that it is preceded by a cause. Essential pre-existence is reserved for the Eternal Truth—may He be glorified! We have made mention of this point in order to elucidate Our earlier statement that the origins and ultimate demise of the cosmos are not delimited. None can smell the perfume of pre-existence, for true, essential pre-existence is reserved for the Absolute Truth, whereas the eternality of this world is only relative. They have derived their propositions about the beginning and end—what is beyond these—from the prophets, pure ones, and envoys of the Eternal Truth. The world of atoms, which is renowned, was generated by the sending of the prophets. All else is idle fancies and suppositions. At the time of Manifestation, all creatures swoon as one before it, and afterwards become differentiated by whether they accept or refuse to accept, whether they ascend or descend, whether they act or remain passive, and whether they advance towards or turn away from it. The Eternal Truth saith by means of the tongue of Its Manifestation, "Am I not your Lord?" Every soul that replieth "Yes!" is accounted before God as among the most exalted of creatures. Before the Word is spoken, all are in the same swoon, and enjoy the same station. After it is uttered, then differentiation among them beginneth to appear, as he hath seen and will continue to see. From what hath gone before, it hath been established that no one can say, "We have been created from intellect, and others from something else." This truth is as clear and bright as the sun: That all have been created by the Will of God, and are derived from a single origin. All are from Him, and to Him shall they return. This is the meaning of the blessed saying, "We are from God and verily to Him shall we return," that was revealed in the Qur'an by the Pen of the Most High.

That gentleman will admit that it is clear and proven that what hath been mentioned fully answereth his inquiry in a single passage, and that it hath been revealed by the Most High Pen. Blessed are the souls that gambol in the garden of divine knowledge, purified from the affairs of the creation and sanctified from all surmise and caprice, such that they discern in every thing the signs of divine grandeur. Many things indeed have been written for that distinguished gentleman. Were he himself to peruse and taste of the fruits thereof, he would become most elated, in such wise that the sorrows of this world would not be able to sadden him. God willing, he will recite these words with his whole tongue, that is, with the tongue of truth, and shall act upon them. Say: "God!" Then leave them in their pastime of cavillings. Let him devote himself to seeing that those who remain veiled in dark corners of gloom become illumined by the light of the Sun. Through this Manifestation let him, by means of the most Great Name, grasp the knowledge that cannot be expressed, and may he become the leader of preceding communities. In this manner, mayhap the darkness of the world shall be overcome and the light of the sun of reality conquer the universe. This is the Most Great Grace, and the supreme Station. Were a human being never to attain to this station, then by virtue of what would he be happy or sad, immobile or active? In whose memory shall he sleep, and in whose name will he rise? Again: We are from God, and to Him shall we return.

His last question: "Most of the revealed Tablets that I have seen were in the Arabic language. Since, in these delightful times, the Persian language has arrived, Arabic has been forsaken and rejected. For the Arabs themselves have never yet comprehended the meaning of the Qur'an, whereas the Persian language is well-liked and sought-after among the people of the inhabited world, since in comparison Persian is more excellent. Among Indians, more and more are interested in it. It would be better for the Eternal Truth hereafter to speak only in the Persian tongue, for it better attracts the hearts. I am calling for the responses that honor the letters of this devoted servant to be in pure Persian."

In truth, the Persian language is very sweet and beloved, and after this request was received at the unapproachable and most holy Court, numerous Tablets were revealed in this tongue. He mentioned that the literal meaning of the Qur'an had remained unknown. Rather, it hath been translated into innumerable other languages by diverse hands. What they have remained unable to fathom is its mysteries and inner meanings. What they have said and will say is only based on their own surmise, according to their own ranks and stations. Verily, none knoweth it as it really is save God, the Unique, the One, the All-Knowing. Today the worlds of God, of His vicar, the worlds of the Creator and of His refuge are manifest and apparent. All ears must be alert to hear that which issueth from the kingdom of the divine Will. In like manner, all eyes are awaiting the sight of that which will shine forth from the sun of knowledge and wisdom, that they might be blessed by that vision. By the Life of the Adored One, this day is the day of the eye and the ear, and the day of bounties. Today is the day whereon the tongue hath spoken forth. Blessed are they that attain, and blessed are they that set out, and blessed are they that know. Today is a day whereon a person can ascend to the remaining stations, for that which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed for each soul hath been embellished by the adornment of pre-existence. Blessed, again, are those that attain. The peerless gentleman wrote that "since, in these delightful times, the Persian language has arrived, Arabic has been forsaken and rejected." In this regard this exalted word hath issued from the Most High Pen: "Arabic and Persian are both good, for they are both capable of bearing the meaning intended by the speaker. Today, since the sun of knowledge hath appeared in the heavens of Iran, this language deserveth every praise."

In fact, the light of reality hath shone forth from the horizon of divine utterance. There was never, nor is there now, any need for that ephemeral one and his like to be mentioned. There is no doubt about the sweetness of the Persian tongue, but it lacketh the breadth of Arabic. Many things cannot be adequately expressed in Persian, which is to say that the word bearing that meaning hath never been coined. On the other hand, Arabic possesseth numerous words for every thing, and no other language on earth can match Arabic for capacity and breadth. This statement hath been made in a spirit of fairness and realism. Otherwise, it is obvious that today the world hath been illumined by the sun that rose from the horizon of Iran. From this point of view, this sweet tongue deserveth all the praise that can be heaped on it.

All the questions of that gentleman have been mentioned, and the answer hath been dispatched. If it will be useful, and if wisdom dictate it, there is no harm in showing the letter to him. Likewise, it is desirable to share it with prominent persons of that land, such as the beloved `Ali Akbar and the beloved Aqa Mirza Asadu'llah, the glory of God be upon them.

(This servant beseecheth the Absolute Truth that the world of humankind might be adorned with both justice and fairness, although fairness is among those things attendant upon justice. Justice is a lamp that showeth to human beings a path in the darkness, and delivereth them out of danger. It is the glowing lamp of truth. It is that which can illuminate the rulers of the earth. This servant entreateth God to enable all to attain that which is beloved and pleasing to Him. Verily, He is the king of the next world and the first world. There is no god but He, the Omnipotent, the All-Mighty.)
VIEWS13887 views since 2011-06-09 (last edit 2024-05-14 07:20 UTC)
CROSSREFTabernacle of Unity (2006, authorized translation), and Baha'u'llah's Tablet to Mánikchí Sáhib:Introduction and provisional translation (Neshati, 2002), and Wittgensteinian Language-Games in an Indo-Persian Dialogue on the World Religions (Cole, 2015)
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