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TITLESprinkling from a Cloud (Rashh-i-Amá): Wilmette Institute faculty notes
AUTHOR 1Ismael Velasco
AUTHOR 2Julio Savi
NOTES Prepared as part of Wilmette Institute notes and commentary on the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh.

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TAGSBahá'u'lláh, Birth of Revelation of; Maid of Heaven; Manifestations of God, Gradual disclosure of; Rashh-i-Ama (Sprinkling from the Cloud of Unknowing); Siyah Chal (Black Pit)
CONTENT Notes by Julio Savi:

As to its content, Rashh-i-'Amá deals with a single subject of mystical character. This subject is the divine Intimation received by Bahá'u'lláh in Tihrán's Siyáh-Chál, where He was confined from 16 (?) August to December 1852, at the beginning of the year which He Himself later called the 'year nine.' In Taherzadeh's words, Rashh-i-'Amá 'announces the glad-tidings of the release of spiritual energies which are described by Bahá'u'lláh in such terms as the wafting of the divine musk-laden Breeze, the appearance of the Ocean of the Cause of God, the sounding of the Trumpet Blast, the flow of the Living Waters, the warbling of the Nightingale of Paradise and the appearance of the Maid of Heaven...'

The event is described in two perspectives. Couplets 1-9 convey a celebratory description, which -- albeit it conceived in metaphorical terms -- relates directly the event. In couplets 10-18 the description is indirect, since it is worded as a call to the readers to witness the event. This call is addressed through the second person of the imperative, bín, of the verb dídan, to see, to behold.

This presentation of the one subject of the divine Intimation in two perspectives enables us to divide the poem into two parts. The first part is purely descriptive and celebratory. The second part is exhortative, almost a madíh. In the Rashh-i-'Amá, Bahá'ulláh avails Himself of the 'three primary, anacreontic, erotic, spring, motifs of the ghazal,' whose symbolical meanings were definitively codified in the Persian poetry that he adopted in this poem.

These three motifs appear masterly intertwined throughout the poem in a subtle counterpoint, whereby none of the three seems to prevail. Rashh-i-'Amá therefore has the formal features both of a ghazal, or ode, and a qasídih, an elegy or "purpose-poem."

Notes by Ismael Velasco:

Questions (from a student):
  1. Is it only during the state of receiving God's revelation that the Manifestations have infallible and all-encompassing knowledge or does this apply to Them at all times? If it applies to them at all times, does it for example apply to Bahá'u'lláh before He states He was first made aware of His Station/Mission in the Síyáh-Chál? The latter question was asked by the students in my Sunday School class in the context of a discussion of the omniscience and infallibility of the Manifestations of God.

  2. Although we are not covering it in this course it is my understanding that the first tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh was Rashh-I-'Amá (? Sprinkling of the Cloud) which is said to have been revealed either during or shortly after His imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál. Is this correct? Is there an authoritative or provisional translation of this tablet in English? I wonder if anyone that is familiar with it could share its content or essence? If it is in reality the first revealed tablet of Bahá'u'lláh it would be interesting to discuss it if possible. Also I am wondering are there any writings of Bahá'u'lláh that predate 1852/1853 when He received His messianic station/mission? Can one determine with any certainty if Bahá'u'lláh had knowledge of His station/mission before 1852/1853?


My understanding would be that the Bahá'í concept of the Manifestation of God is different from the Judaic-Islamic concept of the Prophet as a fallible recipient of divine revelation. He is endowed with the Most Great Infallibility, which means that His words define the parameters of religious truth, rather than being subject to such parameters. To my mind, this means that the words and deeds of the Manifestation are divinely inspired at all times, not only when revealing writings. If we regard 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words and deeds as divinely inspired, how much more those of Bahá'u'lláh! Nevertheless, as you point out, there does seem to be a qualitative and experiential difference to the revelation of verses, as described in the historical accounts you so eloquently summarise. Likewise, in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf Bahá'u'lláh describes His experience of revelation in the Síyáh-Chál as sporadic and physically distinct. He feels an energy that precipitates itself from the crown of His head, and utters, "at such moments", words which no man could bear to hear. What the difference might be between this state of active revelation, and the other, constant state of spiritual authority, is beyond me to answer.

Another mystery you touch on is on the status of Bahá'u'lláh previous to the Síyáh-Chál experience. On the one hand, we have expositions from 'Abdu'l-Bahá in SAQ which clearly state that the Manifestation is aware of the powers latent within Him. Likewise, a number of souls recognised Bahá'u'lláh as the Promised One previous to the Síyáh-Chál experience, as testified by Nabíl, and He confirmed their understanding (which shows Bahá'u'lláh was aware of His station previous to His imprisonment in that "pestilential pit", His blessed neck weighed down with two infamous chains). On the other hand, Bahá'u'lláh's descriptions of that experience do suggest a sense of inception, and a certain amount of passivity. One does not get the impression of a measured decision by Bahá'u'lláh to reveal Himself, but rather of an overwhelming mystical experience involving the Maiden, which triggers His "Messianic consciousness", to borrow the language of Christian theology. The tablets of this earliest period, such as Rash-i Ama (1853), the Tablet of All Food (1853), and the Ode of the Dove (1855) likewise convey this impassioned sense of a soul in the throes of a sublime spiritual encounter in which pain and joy embrace like lovers. Likewise the Guardian describes the Siyah Chal experience as "the first intimation" of Bahá'u'lláh's mission (GPB). There also appears to have been an outward change before and after the Siyah Chal, as testified by the Greatest Holy Leaf in Lady Blomfield's A Chosen Highway. So to me your question is one that is likely to exercise Bahá'ís for centuries to come, and I for one, with my puny brain (even by human standards) cannot think of an easy answer to the necessarily mysterious and transcendent relationship of Mírzá Husayn Alí Bahá'u'lláh to the Most Great Spirit in this Day of Days.

As for Bahá'u'lláh's writings before His declaration, none have been found, to the best of my knowledge, which is also an interesting question, given we still have writings by other key figures of the Bábí Dispensation such as Quddus and Tahirih. There are suggestions of correspondence between Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb, and I would be surprised if Bahá'u'lláh had not written for the Bábís in the 6 years before His own declaration, but His writings appear to have been lost (unless someone else knows something different about this). In contrast, we do have some very important writings of the Báb before His own declaration, which give your questions very immediate relevance. My own hunch would be to deal with all of the Báb's writings as divinely inspired, regardless of whether they were penned before His declaration or after, but it is not entirely self-evident. It might be something for the Univesral House of Justice to elucidate.

Finally, further to Dr. Savi's erudite discussion of the Rash-i Ama, I would clarify that there is no authorised translation of it, and that the language is very abstruse and mystical, dealing with His experience in indirect and allusive terms, and emphasising the mysterious and ineffable nature of God. For further information you could follow these leads from the Leiden bibliography of Bahá'u'lláh's tablets:
Rashh-i `Ama (Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing), Tehran 1853.

Ma`iydih-i Asmani vol. 4 184-6; INBAMC 36:460-1.

Persian, translation & detailed commentary Stephen Lambden BSB 3:2 September 1984 4-114; Lambden 'Sinaitic Mysteries' SBBR5 109; brief commentary in Taherzadeh, 'Revelation' vol. 1 45-46, 51; Taherzadeh, 'Covenant' 52-53; description Rúhe, 'Robe' 164; detailed discussion in Juan Cole 'Bahá'u'lláh and the Naqshbandi Sufis,' SBBR vol. 2; discussion of the role of the Maid of Heaven in Kamran Ekbal 'The Zoroastrian Heritage of the 'Maid of Heaven' SBBR vol. 3 129. Included in BWC Best Known.
Thank you again for asking such challenging and excellent questions, which have raised my awareness of the mysterious nature of His revelation.
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