Baha'i Library Online

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COLLECTIONProvisional translations
TITLESprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing (Rashh-i-'Amá)
AUTHOR 1 Bahá'u'lláh
CONTRIB 1Stephen Lambden, trans.
TITLE_PARENTBahá'í Studies Bulletin
ABSTRACTThe first extent Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh.
NOTES First published in BSB 3:2 (1984); revised translation posted by Stephen Lambden to Talisman I in 1995.

See also an authorized translation, released in 2019.

TAGS* Bahá'u'lláh, Writings of; Rashh-i-Ama (Sprinkling from the Cloud of Unknowing)

1. Translator's introduction

   Bahá’u’lláh’s Rash-i-’Ama’ is a Persian poem of 19 couplets which takes its name from the opening words of its first hemistich. Widely regarded by Bahá’ís as the earliest extant example of divine revelation (Bahá’í scripture), it was composed during the time of its Author’s imprisonment in the Siyah-i-Chal (“Black Pit”) dungeon in Tihrán; that is, at some time during the latter half of the year 1852 CE (early 1269 AH). It was, Bahá’u’lláh in His later writings has stated, during the “year nine” (1269 AH, i.e., Oct. 15th 1852 to October 4th 1853) that He underwent profound mystical experiences and resolved to attempt to regenerate the demoralized Bábí community.

   It seems likely, as most Bahá’í writers have maintained, that the Rashh-i-’Ama’ is expressive of Bahá’u’lláh’s Own assumption of a leading role within the Bábí community. To what extent, however, Bahá’u’lláh therein alludes to the theophanic status He later explicitly claimed (from the early 1860’s of the Common Era) is not entirely clear, bearing in mind the extravagant claims made by many leading Bábís in the 1850’s, the poetic nature of this work, and the possibility that He is representing Himself as a channel through which the celestial and eschatological Bábí spirit flows. He certainly, at this stage, makes no explicit claim to be “Him whom God would make manifest” (man yuzhiruhu’lláh, the expected Bábí messiah) and could be understood to be representing Himself as a leading Bábí rather than claiming to be the inaugurator of a new (though at this stage secret) religious dispensation. One would probably not be going too far if one supposed that in the Rashh-i-’Ama’ the ’messianic secret’ of Bahá’u’lláh is all but divulged, though in cryptic, esoteric terms.

   In the translation no attempt has been made to be anything but as literalistic as possible. I may well have completely misunderstood the sense of a number of the more abstruse parts of this beautiful poem and would be delighted to receive alternative renderings.

   Thus, there follows my inadequate attempt to render the earliest extant work of Bahá’u’lláh, the Rashh-i ’Ama’ (“Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing”, 1852/3 CE) in a slightly revised provisional translation which first appeared more than a decade ago with a commentary in the Bahá’í Studies Bulletin 3:2 (Newcastle upon Tyne, September 1984). I hope to revise it (and the commentary thereon) extensively and republish it over the next year or so. Forgive the inadequacies in my paltry attempt to translate a hauntingly beautiful poem. The Persian text translated is that printed in Ma’ida-yi-Asmaní 4:184-6 -- not a critical edition; readings from another manuscripts (in INBAMC 36:460-1) are indicated by an asterisk (*) at the end of a hemistich; details cannot be gone into here. -S.L.

2. Translation

He is God!

On account of Our Rapture the Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing raineth down; The Mystery of Fidelity poureth forth from Our Melody.

[2] The Musk of Cathay hath appeared from the Zephyr; This Sweet-Scented Breeze wafteth down from Our Ringlet.

[3] The Ornamented Sun hath arisen from the Countenance of the True One; See thou that the Mystery of Reality raineth down from Our Face!

[4] Out of a Wave of the Ocean of the Meeting with God the Sea of Purity hath cried out;* On account of Our Rapture this Precious Favour poureth forth.

[5] At the sight of the Rose was the Delight of the Wine apparent; This Sweet Cipher raineth down in view of the warbling of the letter “R”.

[6] The Stunning Trump! The Celestial Rapture! In the Firmament of Heaven they twain rain down as a Single Blast.

[7] On account of Our Visage the dispensation of “I am He” hath commenced;* The cycle of “He is He” poureth forth from Our Trumpet-Blast .

[8] From the Goblet of the Heart the Kawthar of Reality hath appeared; Out of the Vermilion Lips of Bahá this Cup of Honey poureth forth.

[9] The “Day of God” hath been fully realised on account of the Effulgence of the Lord; On account of the lament of the letter “T” this New Beauty poureth forth.

[10] Observe the Glorious Overflowing! Behold the Beclouded Sprinkling! Through the Melody of God all this poureth forth as a single Song.

[11] Observe the Eternal Moon! Behold the Pristine Ascendent Sun! See thou that the Pure Breast sprinkleth forth from the Elevated Throne!

[12] Observe the Blessed Palm-Tree! Behold the Warbling of the Dove! See thou that the All-Glorious Lament raineth down from the Brilliancy of Purity!

[13] Observe the ’Iráqí Harmony! Behold the Hijází Tambourine! See thou that the Rapture of “no” raineth down from the Divine Hand! *

[14] Observe the Deified Countenance! Behold the God-like Maiden! See thou that the Terrestrial Effulgence raineth down from the Mystery of the Cloud of Unknowing!

[15] Observe the All-Enduring Face! Behold the Visage of the Cupbearer! See thou that the Sparkling Draught raineth down from Our Goblet!

[16] Observe the Fire of Moses! Behold the Snow-White Brightness! See thou that the Sinaitic Bosom raineth down from the Radiant Palm.

[17] Observe the Intoxicating Lament! Behold the Orchard of Ecstasy! See thou that the Rapture of Existence raineth down from the Court of the Meeting with God!

[18] Observe the letter “H”-like Rosebud! Behold the letter “B”-like Ringlet! See thou that the Timbre of the Flute reverberateth through the Hollow-Reed of Bahá! *

[19] This is the Overflowing Theophany! This is the Sprinkling of Manifestation!* This is the Lament of the Heavenly Birds which sprinkleth out from the Fount of Mystical Death.
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