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TITLETablet of the Temple (Súratu'l-Haykal): Tablet study outline
AUTHOR 1Jonah Winters
NOTES Outline prepared as part of Wilmette Institute notes and commentary on the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh.

Add or read quotations or links pertaining to this work here.

CROSSREFSummons of the Lord of Hosts
TAGS- Outlines and summaries; Maid of Heaven; Suriy-i-Haykal (Surih of the Temple)
CONTENT Name of Tablet in Arabic or Persian:
Súriy-i-Haykal (Persian), Súratu'l-Haykal (Arabic)

Translation into English:
Tablet of the Temple (or, less commonly, Tablet of the Body). Many passages have been translated by Shoghi Effendi and can be found in Promised Day is Come 47-48/76 (end of the tablet); World Order of Bahá'u'lláh 109-10, 117, 138-39, 169; and God Passes By 101-2. An authorized translation was published in 2002 in Summons of the Lord of Hosts. A provisional translation by Anton F. Haddad has been circulating since around 1900 and is available on the Internet at

Significance of Name:
Briefly, the Tablet opens and closes with a reference to the Temple. The first line (in provisional translation) is "This is the Sura of the Temple which God has made the Mirror of His Names between the earth and heaven and the sign of His remembrances among the people of the world." The last paragraph, translated authoritatively by the Guardian in _The Promised Day is Come_, pages 47-48 (p. 76 in the pocket edition), reads in part "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."

John Walbridge, in an article on this Tablet in _Sacred Acts..._ pages 165-69, wrote "_Haykal_ is a loan word in Arabic. Its Hebrew cognate _hek'l_ means 'temple', particularly the Jerusalem temple. In Arabic, in addition to meaning a Jewish or Christian temple, it means the body or form of something, particularly the human body or something large. In the Báb's usage, a _haykal_ is a talisman, particularly one in the form of a five-pointed star, which traditions represents the human body. In the Súratu'l-Haykal the primary sense of _haykal_ is the human body, particularly the body of the Manifestation of God, but the meaning 'temple' is also present." Haykal can also mean building, altar, skeleton, frame, or human body. In this Tablet, then, "haykal" seems to refer to the human temple or body, specifically the body of the Manifestation of God.

This Tablet was combined with five of the Tablets to the Rulers and transcribed in the shape of a pentacle. This collection, too, is referred to as the "Súratu'l-Haykal," but it is not to be confused with the single Tablet of the same name. The pentagram — a five-pointed star reminiscent of the shape of a human body with out-stretched hands and feet — is a symbol for the human body in a number of religious and philosophical traditions, and it is (at least partly) for this reason that the collection of six Tablets is called the Súratu'l-Haykal. In the Revelation of the Báb, "haykal" has other meanings, too, including "talisman." The Báb fairly frequently would construct talismanic symbols, such as pentagrams made from His Tablets, including the famous list of the many-hundred derivations of "Bahá."

Tablet was revealed in:

Name of Recipient:
None: Bahá'u'lláh wrote that He was both the addresser and the addressee of this Tablet (Taherzadeh, _Revelation..._ vol. 3 133, and Walbridge, _Sacred Acts..._ 166)

Reason for Revelation of the Tablet:
It's not entirely clear why exactly this Tablet was revealed. It may have been in part to show the sovereignty with which the Manifestation is invested. Also, Shoghi Effendi (_God Passes By_ 95) implied that it was revealed in association with the Old Testament's prophecy of Zechariah 6:12-13: "The Lord of Hosts...whose name is the Branch...He shall build the temple of the Lord." One student saw possible explanations in the history of Zechariah's prophecy. Zechariah," she wrote, was "the eleventh of the twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, whose mission was from 520 to 518 BC, was directly responsible for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Destroyed by the Bábylonians in 586 BC, Zechariah and his contemporaries believed that the tests and difficulties inflicted upon the Jewish Community were a direct result of the them leaving the Temple in ruins."

Date of Revelation:
The tablet was first written in Adrianople (somewhere between 1863 and 1868) but was later revised in Akká in or circa 1869

Place of Revelation:
Bahá'u'lláh Himself states in one Tablet that this Súrah was first revealed in Adrianople but revised in Akká.

Style, subject, and genre of the Tablet: [?]
    I. Tone of Tablet
          1. Tablets with the tone of command and authority.
    II. Subject Covered by Tablet
          1. Writings dealing with interpretation of the old Scriptures, religious beliefs and doctrines of the past.
          3. Mystical Writings.
          5. Tablets dealing with subjects of learning and knowledge, divine philosophy, mysteries of creation, medicine, alchemy, etc.
          6. Tablets exhorting men to education, goodly character and divine virtues.
    III. Literary Genre of Tablet:
          3. Essay or book, not revealed to a specific person.

Voice of Tablet: [?] In this Tablet, the Pen of the Most High addresses the Temple, but in a later Tablet Bahá'u'lláh states that both the Pen of the Most High and the Temple are Himself.

Outline Contents of Tablet:
This is a difficult Tablet to define succinctly. As Walbridge writes, "The Súratu'l-Haykal defies easy summary, for it is a dense tapestry of mystical imagery drawn from esoteric Shi'ism, the Qur'an, the writings of the Báb and even the Bible." (ibid., 168). One must attempt to do so, though. Some observations, including comments from student homeworks, are that this Súrah is endowed with power, majesty, and oceans of knowledge and is a mirror reflecting God's attributes. Bahá'u'lláh describes the significance of the letters of the word 'Haykal' [H-Y-K-L] and states that the Haykal is the source of the creation of a new race of men. Bahá'u'lláh addresses the eye, the ear, the tongue, the hands and the heart of the Haykal and extols each to focus on God and not on this world. The attributes of God are present in these four letters that form the word Haykal and, as the body of the Manifestation of God is His spiritual temple, these attributes are also present in the Manifestation. Thus, the Manifestation is the mirror to reflect the sovereignty of God and to manifest His Beauty and Grandeur to mankind. God thereby manifests His attributes in a human being whom He appoints as the One to guide humanity, Who is able to create a new age of science, and can create a new race of humans endowed with greater understanding and renewed vision.

Bahá'u'lláh also speaks of Mírzá Yahyá and his followers and warns them to turn to Him, for if not then God will raise a new race of men to champion His Cause leaving them alone in their vain imaginings. Bahá'u'lláh speaks in this Tablet of 'He Who will come after Me' revealing one of the fundamental Teachings of His Faith, Progressive Revelation.

The verses describing the descent of the Most Great Spirit upon Him while in the Siyah- Chal is included in this Tablet. The Most Great Spirit, personified as the Maiden of Heaven, announces that Bahá'u'lláh is the "Best Beloved of the worlds...the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you...the Mystery of God and His Treasure, the Cause of God and His glory unto all..."

Principal themes of the Tablet:
John Hatcher explains that the main focus of this Tablet is "the allegorical act of fashioning a temple." (_Ocean of His Words_, 138) One student observed that the most important theme in this Tablet is Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation of His manifestation and its significance to the people of the world. He does this through imagery and symbolism of His body parts and the letters of the word Haykal. It is also the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 6:12, which states: "Thus said the Lord of Hosts 'Behold, a man called the Branch shall branch out from the place where he is, and he shall build the Temple of the Lord. He shall build the Temple of the Lord and shall assume majesty, and he shall sit on his throne and rule'....Men from far away shall come and take part in the building of the Temple of the Lord and you shall know that I have been sent to you by the Lord of Hosts..." Bahá'u'lláh is the Temple, within Whom are the building blocks through which a new race of men will arise to build a new civilization. He gives attributes to the body parts of the Temple, but also says that through them people will be created with the same attributes. Great glory is therefore promised to those people who turn to Him and obey Him, since they will also be able to have the same attributes as the Temple.

Tablet's relationship to other tablets:
Shoghi Effendi, in _World Order of Bahá'u'lláh_ page 109, writes that this Tablet is "one of the most challenging works of Bahá'u'lláh."

Walbridge, in his article on this Tablet, comments on the "Relation to other texts" as follows:
"At Bahá'u'lláh's orders, the Súratu'l-Haykal was written as one point of a five-pointed star, with the Tablets to the Kings forming the other points. To judge by the first publication of this Tablet, these other Tablets were those addressed to the Pope, Napoleon III, the Czar of Russia, Queen Victoria and the Sháh of Iran. Of this combined Tablet Bahá'u'lláh says, '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', evidently an allusion to Rev. 21:22-3, which in early Arabic translations of the Bible evidently said, 'the glory of God [_Bahá'u'lláh_] is its light', a passage quoted by Bahá'u'lláh elsewhere. Shoghi Effendi identifies an allusion to 'the temple of the Lord' that will be built by 'the man whose name is the Branch' foretold in Zachariah 6:12-13. 14 In addition to the Bible there is the famous tradition of Kumayl, a well-known mystical tradition of Shi'ism, which identifies one of the five stages of reality as 'a light that shines from the morn of eternity and illumines the temples of unity (_hayakilu't-Tawhíd_). Shi'i commentators identify the 'temples of unity' as the prophets and Imáms. Elsewhere the Imám Husayn is called 'the temple of revelation' (_haykalu'l-wahy wa't-tanzil_)." (_Sacred Acts..._, 168)

We do not fully understand the significance of this, but there would seem to be an important relationship between the Súriy-i-Haykal and the other tablets included in the pentacle. The Tablet to Queen Victoria, one student noticed, alludes to the world as the human body in stating, "Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies. Not for one day did it gain ease, nay its sickness waxed more severe, as it fell under the treatment of ignorant physicians, who gave full rein to their personal desires, and have erred grievously." Bahá'u'lláh would seem to be saying that the old world is a sick body, dying of various diseases, and that His revelation is the cure and source for a new "body".
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