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COLLECTIONEssays and short articles
TITLETablet of the Temple (Súratu'l-Haykal): Comparison with the Prophecies of Zechariah
AUTHOR 1Cynthia C. Shawamreh
ABSTRACTComparison of Bahá'u'lláh's symbol of the Manifestation as "temple" and its analogues from the Hebrew Bible.
NOTES Written as homework for the Wilmette Institute.
TAGS- Interfaith dialogue; - Symbolism; Bible; Christianity; Haykal and daira; Judaism; Prophecies; Suriy-i-Haykal (Surih of the Temple); Temples; Zechariah (Bible)
CONTENT The Suriy-i-Haykal draws vividly and powerfully from the imagery of the Temple contained in the Torah. The existence, destruction and ultimately, the rebuilding of the Israelite Temple is central to the Jewish experience. The destruction of the first and later the second Temple, and the consequent scattering of the Jewish people is still mourned by the Jewish community all over the world. The idea of an actual physical rebuilding of the Temple has taken root among some factions of the Jewish community as the symbol of national redemption, leading even to several attempts to blow up the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsá Mosque, now located on the ancient Temple site. From the perspective of extremists, the site must be "cleansed" prior to the building of a third Temple. In the Suriy-i-Haykal, Bahá'u'lláh states that His own Person is the Temple, or Haykal, addressed in the Surih, and commands us all to turn towards Him.

      In the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol.3, p.133, Mr. Taherzadeh states that the Suriy-i-Haykal (or perhaps the copying of the Surih in the form of a pentacle) is associated by Bahá'u'lláh with the prophecy of Zechariah in the Old Testament. The prophecies of Zechariah in the Torah are extremely difficult to understand clearly, and appear to have been given to the Prophet Zechariah over a period of years during the Persian exile of the Jews after the first loss of the Temple and of Israelite national sovereignty. I base this assumption solely on the text, which dates itself according to the reign of Darius, the ancient Persian King. I was unable to locate any direct references to the Old Testament prophet Zechariah in the Qu'ran, where mention of the Israelite "Zakkariyah" refers to the father of Yahya, known to Christianity as John the Baptist. It is not clear to me, then, based on the biblical text alone, precisely which lines of Zechariah's prophecies are associated with the Suriy-i-Haykal. It is clear generally that Zechariah anticipates the return of the sovereignty of the Lord God of Israel manifested in this world, and that a Temple will exist which proclaims His glory. This Temple shall be built in an ideal future period and will foreshadow a time of redemption and prosperity, as well as faith in the God of Israel. With respect to how this will be achieved, note the following lines of Zechariah which resonate so strikingly with the Bahá'í understanding of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and His Most Great Branch:

"Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and he will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two........ Those who are far away will come to help to build the temple of the Lord, and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. " Zechariah, 6:12-15
Interestingly, Zechariah also foreshadows that many nations will be unified at this time in the lines:
"Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the Lord. Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you." Zechariah, 2:10-12
The text further states:
"And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, "Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you'". Zechariah, 8:22-23
      The oneness of humanity, then is clearly foreshadowed as a result of the building of the Temple of Zechariah's prophecies. How, then, shall this oneness be accomplished? Understanding the Temple as an allegory for the Person of Bahá'u'lláh to Whom all of the nations of the earth must, and eventually will, yield their allegiance, achieves the fulfillment of this prophecy.

      What light, then, does the Suriy-i-Haykal shed on the nature of this process of harmonizing the nations as foretold by Zechariah? It is fascinating to note that in the style chosen for the Suriy-i-Haykal, Bahá'u'lláh in the Voice of God addresses the Temple (Bahá'u'lláh) limb by limb. It appears from the summary of the text provided by Mr. Taherzadeh that God proclaims that through each organ or limb addressed (the Eye, the Ear, the Tongue, the Heart, the Hands) He will call into being or raise up a new race of men. This concept might be considered in three possible ways: (1) literally, in terms of a new species of humans, replacing the old much as the Neandrathals once replaced Cro-Magnum Man; (2) figuratively, in terms of calling forth and inspiring distinctive behavior and qualities among the believers which will replace old ways and patterns of thinking; or (3) physically, in terms of a blending of the nations into a single human race by ending war, intermarrying and harmonizing the peoples of the earth.

     The implications of any of these three possibilities is staggering to the imagination, and hints at an entirely new phase in the development of our species. Yet, as difficult as it may be to imagine, the power of God to accomplish anything He Wills is irresistible and far beyond our comprehension. Bahá'u'lláh illustrates this point in the line:

"It is in Our power, should We wish it, to enable a speck of floating dust to generate, in less than the twinkling of an eye, suns of infinite, of unimaginable splendour, to cause a dewdrop to develop into vast and numberless oceans, to infuse into every letter such a force as to empower it to unfold all the knowledge of past and future ages."
In light of the discoveries of science since the time of Bahá'u'lláh, these Words have tremendous meaning both literally and figuratively, and demonstrate the awe-inspiring might of God.

      Bahá'u'lláh's identification of Himself as the promised Temple through which both Israel and all the nations of mankind will find redemption is intriguing in a multitude of ways. It is thought-provoking that Bahá'u'lláh commanded the Suriy-i-Haykal, along with certain Tablets proclaiming His Station to some of the Kings and Rulers of the earth, be copied into the form of a pentacle. Consider the scroll penned by the Bab and entrusted by Him to Bahá'u'lláh, along with His pen-case, His seals and His agate rings just prior to His departure from the prison of Chiriq. This scroll, containing no less than 360 derivatives of the name "Baha" was also composed in the shape of a pentacle. (God Passes By, p.69). Evidently, the Bab had several Tablets copied in pentacle form to be used by the believers as a Talisman. According to Mr. Taherzadeh (Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol. 3, p.133), the shape of the pentacle symbolizes the human body, and the five-pointed star represents the five extremities of the human physique. Additionally, however, it would be extremely interesting to know what the shape of the actual ancient Temple of Israel was, and if any connection exists between that structure and the shape of a pentacle. The remaining wall of the actual ancient Israelite Temple is the most sacred site to Jews in the world, known as the "Kotel", the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. Is it not an amazing fact that the Kotel is actually physically one with the Haram-i-Sharif, the third holiest spot of Islam? Examples of interconnection of Moslem and Jewish holy sites abound all over the Holy Land. The physical oneness of the Moslem and Jewish Holy Sites (sacred also to Christianity) as exemplified by the remains of the Temple, may also be understood as a reflection of the actual oneness of the religions and of the promised Temple in the Person of Bahá'u'lláh. This physical oneness could also be understood to reflect the spiritual oneness of humanity, or of the nations, in the language of Zechariah.

      The prophecies of Zechariah declare that the Temple will emerge triumphant, the people of Israel will be gathered together after their dispersion, and will find redemption through obedience to the command of the One true God. He states that the nations of the world will join Israel in its final submission and obedience to the will of God. A radical transformation in the collective understanding of the meaning of the Temple to identify it with the Person of Bahá'u'lláh would surely accomplish the fulfillment of each of these prophecies. Meanwhile, it is intriguing to note that the most direct route to this solution is closed in Israel itself. Since direct teaching is prohibited in the Holy Land, there is no chance that the masses of the peoples of the area will enter the Faith in troops in the way of other nations at this time. Simultaneously, the Holy Land is witnessing the emergence of the Bahá'í World Centre on Mt. Carmel, both internally and externally, as the buildings of "clay" are triumphantly reared to reflect the building up of the growing inner reality of the Administrative Order, the true Ark of Salvation, or Temple of Redemption for our day. The fact that this is occurring silently in the heart of the land in which we are prohibited to teach directly is fascinating to observe.

      In conclusion, Zechariah's biblical prophecies of triumph, the redemption of Israel and the uniting of the nations, can all be realized through the recognition of the Station of Bahá'u'lláh as the Manifestation of God for this Day. In the Suriy-i-Haykal, Bahá'u'lláh clearly identifies His own Person with the promised Temple, and utters the stunning and challenging command:

"Thus have We built the Temple with the hands of power and might, could ye but know it. This is the Temple promised unto you in the Book. Draw ye nigh unto it. This is that which profiteth you, could ye but comprehend it. Be fair, O peoples of the earth! Which is preferable, this, or a temple which is built of clay? Set your faces towards it. Thus have ye been commanded by God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting."
Obedience to this command will certainly accomplish the fulfillment of the prophecies of Zechariah, achieving both the promised redemption of Israel and of the world at large, uniting all of the nations of the earth in one common Cause.
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