Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tablet of the Divine Plan to the Northeastern States, March 26, 1916


Shoghi Effendi wrote:

"The revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, during the somber days of that tragic conflict, had, in the concluding years of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry, invested the members of the leading Bahá'í community in the West -- the champions of a future Administrative Order -- with a world mission which, in the concluding years of the first Bahá'í century, was to shed deathless glory upon the Faith and its administrative institutions."
(God Passes By, p. 405) 


He also described them as "the epoch-making Tablets of the Divine Plan." (Messages to America, p. 108)

Abdu'l-Baha revealed fourteen Tablets of the Divine Plan over the course of a year - the first was this one, revealed to the Baha'is of the Northeastern States just after Naw-Ruz, in March, 1916, and the final one in March, 1917, addressed to the believers throughout the United States and Canada.  Here is the text of that first immortal tablet:



Revealed on March 26, 1916, in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s room at the house in Bahjí, addressed to the Bahá’ís of nine Northeastern States of the United States: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

O ye heavenly heralds:

These are the days of Naw-Rúz. I am always thinking of those kind friends! I beg for each and all of you confirmations and assistance from the threshold of oneness, so that those gatherings may become ignited like unto candles, in the republics of America, enkindling the light of the love of God in the hearts; thus the rays of the heavenly teachings may begem and brighten the states of America like the infinitude of immensity with the stars of the Most Great Guidance.

The Northeastern States on the shores of the Atlantic—Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York—in some of these states believers are found, but in some of the cities of these states up to this date people are not yet illumined with the lights of the Kingdom and are not aware of the heavenly teachings; therefore, whenever it is possible for each one of you, hasten ye to those cities and shine forth like unto the stars with the light of the Most Great Guidance. God says in the glorious Qur’án:
“The soil was black and dried. Then we caused the rain to descend upon it and immediately it became green, verdant, and every kind of plant sprouted up luxuriantly.”  In other words, He says the earth is black, but when the spring showers descend upon it that black soil is quickened, and variegated flowers are pushed forth. This means the souls of humanity belonging to the world of nature are black like unto the soil. But when the heavenly outpourings descend and the radiant effulgences appear, the hearts are resuscitated, are liberated from the darkness of nature and the flowers of divine mysteries grow and become luxuriant. Consequently man must become the cause of the illumination of the world of humanity and propagate the holy teachings revealed in the sacred books through the divine inspiration. It is stated in the blessed Gospel: Travel ye toward the East and toward the West and enlighten the people with the light of the Most Great Guidance, so that they may take a portion and share of eternal life.  Praise be to God, that the Northeastern States are in the utmost capacity. Because the ground is rich, the rain of the divine outpouring is descending. Now you must become heavenly farmers and scatter pure seeds in the prepared soil. The harvest of every other seed is limited, but the bounty and the blessing of the seed of the divine teachings is unlimited. Throughout the coming centuries and cycles many harvests will be gathered. Consider the work of former generations. During the lifetime of Jesus Christ the believing, firm souls were few and numbered, but the heavenly blessings descended so plentifully that in a number of years countless souls entered beneath the shadow of the Gospel. God has said in the Qur’án: “One grain will bring forth seven sheaves, and every sheaf shall contain one hundred grains.”  In other words, one grain will become seven hundred; and if God so wills He will double these also. It has often happened that one blessed soul has become the cause of the guidance of a nation. Now we must not consider our ability and capacity, nay, rather, we must fix our gaze upon the favors and bounties of God, in these days, Who has made of the drop a sea, and of the atom a sun.

Upon you be greeting and praise!


_________________________________

These Tablets were sent to the believers in North America twice.  First, in 1916, they were sent by postcard, in Persian and Arabic with English translation, to the address of Joseph Hannen, a prominent early believer. Not all of them reached their destination. This was during the days of World War I and the postcards bear the Crescent and Star seal of the Ottoman censor.


Tablet of the Divine Plan to the Northeastern States in Persian and Arabic, on the front and reverse of a postcard, and bearing the original signature of Abdu'l-Baha





English translation of Tablet to the Northeastern States, on the front and reverse of two postcards


Tablet of the Divine Plan to the Northeastern States in calligraphy by Nuri'd-Din, bearing the original signature of Abdu'l-Baha at the bottom left.

After the war, in 1919 the same Tablet, in exquisite calligraphy, was brought to the United States.  

These images were obtained from the U.S. National Baha'i Archives. The Archivist said that the National Spiritual Assembly has stated that they can be shared freely with the friends. If you copy these images and share them with others, please include the photo credit: "Courtesy, Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette." Please click on the images for larger photographs.

Please see this posting for further details about Abdu'l-Baha's signatures on the postcards and on the calligraphy, the seals on the postcards, and the return address in Haifa.

Hand of the Cause of God Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, wife of Shoghi Effendi, wrote of these fourteen tablets.  She was herself a participant at the Annual Convention of which she writes:

"In 1919, at the Annual Bahá'í Convention in New York, the Tablets revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá at a time when He was in great danger during the First World War and which have come to be known as the "Vehicles of the Divine Plan" and the "Spiritual Mandate," conferred by Him on the North American Community of Believers, were unveiled. We American Bahá'ís are all familiar with their remarkable and stirring contents. We were all immensely proud to receive them. No one, however, except Martha Root and a few other venturesome souls, felt moved to do anything drastic about carrying out the instructions contained in them prior to 1936-37. It was then that Shoghi Effendi's teaching, inspiration and advice began to pour into the minds and hearts of the American Bahá'ís like an incoming tide. He called us to action. For eighteen years, we had basked happily and complacently in the praises and promises 'Abdu'l-Bahá had showered upon us in those Tablets, and in many other writings and statements. The Guardian, however, his fingers on our pulse, knew that we were now able to arise for pioneer work, and through the instruments of the Administration he had so carefully assisted us in evolving, carry forward the frontiers of our achievements. He was, thank God, not mistaken in the confidence and trust he reposed in us. He called and America responded. People from every walk of life, business men, stenographers, old ladies, young ladies, people with families, people often frail in health but iron in spirit, began to arise, and what may in future well be viewed as one of the greatest spiritual sagas of the American nation, began to take place. They were called pioneers, and into new cities, into the virgin States of the United States and the virgin Provinces of Canada-virgin as yet to Bahá'u'lláh's light-these people began to move, at the cost of great personal sacrifice and inconvenience, inspired by nothing but faith and devotion and love for their fellow men, they started to lay the foundations for new Bahá'í communities by establishing new Spiritual Assemblies as a result of their teaching activities."
(Twenty-Five Years of the Guardianship, pp. 10-11)

This Tablet to the Northeastern States, as can be seen from the postcards above, were sent in honor of Hooper Harris. A resident of New York City, he had become a Baha'i in 1899. An attorney by profession, he had joined with Harlan Ober in 1907 to answer the call of Abdu'l-Baha for American believers to travel and teach the Faith in India. The two of them traveled with Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, the chronicler of Abdu'l-Baha's three year journey to the West, and Ibn-i-Abhar, one of the four Hands of the Cause of God appointed by Baha'u'llah Himself. En route to India they attained the presence of Abdu'l-Baha on pilgrimage in 'Akka, where He gave them instructions.  This teaching journey was immortalized by Shoghi Effendi's pen:  "Hooper Harris and Harlan Ober traveled, during no less than seven months, in India and Burma, visiting Bombay, Poona, Lahore, Calcutta, Rangoon and Mandalay." (God Passes By, p. 261)
L-R Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, Hooper Harris, Harlan Ober, Hand of the Cause of God Ibn-i-Abhar.  Photograph taken in Bombay, India in 1907.  All images, courtesy Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette, Illinois, USA

We are indebted to Mr. Harris, who had the privilege of taking the notes of the first address of Abdu'l-Baha in the United States, given on the very day of His arrival in America, April 11, 1912, and recorded in The Promulgation of Universal Peace.  Mr. Harris also took the notes at one of the last addresses given by Abdu'l-Baha, a very unique and interesting address given in the home of Juliet Thompson. According to Mirza Mahmud, the Master also visited Mr. Harris' home and spoke there. Mr. Harris is quoted by William Sears in Thief in the Night in the course of his explanation of Daniel's prophecies.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Geography Book used for the Tablets of the Divine Plan



One day during a school vacation, some Baha'i students who were attending school in Beirut were visiting Haifa.  One of them had a geography book.  Abdu'l-Baha looked at it and asked if He could keep it, and the student gladly consented.  Abdu'l-Baha based the list of countries in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, and the regions of the United States to which He addressed several of those Tablets, on the contents that book. That geography book is now in the US National Archives.  Here is a copy of its cover, and of one of the maps in it.


(Both images copyright © 2011 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette, used with permission)











Monday, August 2, 2010

Speaking with Ease About the Person of Bahá'u'lláh



In the Ridván 2010 Message, the Universal House of Justice has written of “the rise we have observed in the capacity of the friends . . . to speak with ease about the Person of Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation.”  

Here are a few of the passages emphasizing His station, which we can share with one another and with the peoples of the world when we invite them to join us in the core activities in our communities:

Say: This is the Voice of God, if ye do but hearken. This is the Day Spring of the Revelation of God, did ye but know it. This is the Dawning-Place of the Cause of God, were ye to recognize it. This is the Source of the commandment of God, did ye but judge it fairly. This is the manifest and hidden Secret; would that ye might perceive it.   (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 33)


Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden -- the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord -- suspended in the air before Me. . . . Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying: By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand. This is the Mystery of God and His Treasure, the Cause of God and His glory unto all who are in the kingdoms of Revelation and of creation, if ye be of them that perceive. This is He Whose Presence is the ardent desire of the denizens of the Realm of eternity, and of them that dwell within the Tabernacle of glory, and yet from His Beauty do ye turn aside. (Bahá'u'lláh, Surih of the Temple, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 5, paragraphs 1.6-1.7)


This is the Lamp which the light of Thine own Essence hath lit, and whose radiance the winds of discord can never extinguish. This is the Ocean that moveth by the power of Thy sovereign might, and whose waves the influence of the infidels that have disbelieved in the Judgment Day can never still. This is the Sun that shineth in the heaven of Thy will and the splendor of which the veils of the workers of iniquity and the doubts of the evil doers can never cloud.
(Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh, p. 153)

This is the Father foretold by Isaiah*, and the Comforter** concerning Whom the Spirit [Jesus] had covenanted with you.

(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 63)
(* Isaiah 9:6 ) (** Gospel of John, Chapters 14, 15, 16)


In His dealings with men, Baha'u'llah demonstrated great courage, which we can emulate.  In 1863, when Baha'u'llah learned of the order of His banishment from Constantinople to Adrianople, an edict that was unjust and based on intrigue among the Persian officials, He at first refused to comply, stating, "We, few that we are, will stand our ground, until every one of us meets a martyr's death." Then Bahá'u'lláh turned to His followers: "Do you wish to drain the cup of martyrdom? No better time can there be than now to offer your lives in the path of your Lord. Our innocence is manifestly evident, and they have no alternative but to declare their injustice."
      However, Mirza Yahya wavered, and led a group of the believers to appeal to Baha'u'llah, so that their lives might be saved. In order to prevent a breach in the community, Baha'u'llah acceded to this request. But He commented that a golden opportunity, which would have redounded to the glory of the Cause, had been missed. "They called us here, as their guests," He is reported to have said, "and innocent as we are, they turned on us with vengeance. If we, few as we are, had stood our ground to fall martyrs in the midmost heart of the world, the effect of that martyrdom would have been felt in all the worlds of God. And possibly nothing would have happened to us." (Balyuzi, Baha'u'llah - The King of Glory, p. 201-202)


DRAWING ON THE POWER OF BAHÁ'U'LLÁH
TO BECOME COURAGEOUS

We can draw on Bahá'u'lláh's power, His unfailing efficacy and might, to become “courageous” as the Universal House of Justice calls upon us to be, in Paragraph 3 of its Ridván 2010 Message:

“. . . how courageous and deliberate the rank and file of the believers have become in stepping outside their immediate circle of family members and friends, ready to be led by the guiding Hand of the All-Merciful to receptive souls in whatever quarter they may reside.”

For those who are not yet participating in the sequence of courses or the core activities, some of whom even belittle the process, might well ask themselves if they yet possess this courage.  Courage is one of the capacities being gradually and successfully developed in tens of thousands of believers worldwide, through the implementation of the Ruhi courses and their practices.  


“NOT FOR A MOMENT ARE YE ALONE” 
A BRIEF COMPILATION ON COURAGE


It will help us to reflect on these passages from the Writings  urging us to be courageous, and to overcome timidity:


The source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love.

(Words of Wisdom, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 156)


Clothe thyself with the essence of righteousness, and let thine heart be afraid of none except God. ... Set all thy hope in God, and cleave tenaciously to His unfailing mercy.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 323)


Armed with this love, I am afraid of no one, though all the peoples of the world unite to hurt me.

(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 309)


There lay concealed within the Holy Veil, and prepared for the service of God, a company of His chosen ones who shall be manifested unto men, who shall aid His Cause, who shall be afraid of no one, though the entire human race rise up and war against them. These are the ones who, before the gaze of the dwellers on earth and the denizens of heaven, shall arise and, shouting aloud, acclaim the name of the Almighty, and summon the children of men to the path of God, the All-Glorious, the All-Praised. Walk thou in their way, and let no one dismay thee. Be of them whom the tumult of the world, however much it may agitate them in the path of their Creator, can never sadden, whose purpose the blame of the blamer will never defeat.
 (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 280)


Be ye valiant and fearless! Day by day add to your spiritual victories. Be ye not disturbed by the constant assaults of the enemies. Attack ye like unto the roaring lions. Have no thought of yourselves, for the invisible armies of the Kingdom are fighting on your side. Enter ye the battlefield with the Confirmations of the Holy Spirit. Know ye of a certainty that the powers of the Kingdom of Abha are with you. The hosts of the heaven of Truth are with you. The cool breezes of the Paradise of Abha are wafting over your heated brows. Not for a moment are ye alone. Not for a second are ye left to yourselves. The Beauty of Abha is with you. The Glorious God is with you. The King of Kings is with you.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Compilation on the Power of Divine Assistance, The Compilation of Compilations Volume II, p. 213, #1685)


O ye servants of the Sacred Threshold! The triumphant hosts of the Celestial Concourse, arrayed and marshalled in the Realms above, stand ready and expectant to assist and assure victory to that valiant horseman who with confidence spurs on his charger into the arena of service. Well is it with that fearless warrior, who armed with the power of true Knowledge, hastens unto the field, disperses the armies of ignorance, and scatters the hosts of error, who holds aloft the Standard of Divine Guidance, and sounds the Clarion of Victory. By the righteousness of the Lord! He hath achieved a glorious triumph and obtained the true victory.
(Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 264, #208)


“Inviting people to embrace the Cause requires courage...”

(Letter from The International Teaching Centre to all Counsellors dated 9 July 1992; from Ocean http://www.bahai-education.org/)


"At the time We proposed to . . . achieve the deliverance of Tahirih and conduct her to Tihran, Shaykh Abu-Turab wrote Us, insisting that such an attempt was fraught with grave risks and might occasion an unprecedented tumult. We refused to be deflected from Our purpose. That Shaykh was a kind-hearted man, was simple and lowly in temper, and behaved with great dignity. He lacked courage and determination, however, and betrayed weakness on certain occasions."
(Baha'u'llah, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 462)


PRAYERS FOR COURAGE

And now, having confessed the things Thou didst cause to flow down from my Pen, I implore Thee, by Thy name which Thou hast raised up above every other name, and hast caused to overshadow all that are in heaven and all that are on earth, to cast not away him that hath turned towards Thee, and to deny him not the wonders of Thy grace and the hidden evidences of Thy mercy. Let the hands of Thine omnipotence kindle in his heart a lamp that will enable him to shine brightly in Thy days, and to cry out with such vehemence in Thy name that no timidity will deter him from soaring in the atmosphere of Thy love, and from ascending to the horizon of rapture and longing for Thee, and that the pursuits of Thy creatures will not withhold him from magnifying Thy word, that Thou mayest behold him sanctified as Thou wishest and as beseemeth Thy majesty and glory.
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 63)


Do Thou ordain for me through Thy most exalted Pen, O my Lord, the good of this world and of the next. I testify that within Thy grasp are held the reins of all things. Thou changest them as Thou pleasest. No God is there save Thee, the Strong, the Faithful. Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent.
(Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, CLVI p. 249)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

And the Leaves of the Tree were for the Healing of the Nations"



"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Revelation Chapter 22)

Four Baha'is are mentioned in what Shoghi Effendi terms “the immortal Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan.”

Who are they, and what do they have in common?

A WOMAN SERVING AS A LIBRARIAN IN ALASKA
1. The first mention of an individual is this, in the April 8, 1916 Tablet to the United States and Canada:

"...one of the maidservants of the Merciful has hastened to those parts, serving as a librarian in the public library, and according to her ability is not failing in teaching the Cause..."

This woman is not identified by name in this tablet; her name may well not have been known by Abdu'l-Baha. Her name is Margaret Green, she is identified in an article entitled "Traveling and Teaching in Alaska" written by Mariam Haney, in the Star of the West Magazine, October 1924, Volume 15, No. 7, page 210:


"Later Miss Margaret Green received an appointment in an important library in Alaska, and as much as possible she shared with others her knowledge of the Message which is joy-bringing, and which includes that marvelous program for PEACE which shall be enduring through the application and living of the Baha'i principles."

One of the friends met her in her later years in the United States. She moved to Juneau, Alaska in the early summer of 1915 and remained there for three years.


THE HAND OF THE CAUSE OF GOD AGNES ALEXANDER
2. The second individual mentioned is Agnes Alexander, in the April 11, 1916 Tablet to the United States and Canada:

"Consider ye, that Miss Agnes Alexander, the daughter of the Kingdom, the beloved maidservant of the Blessed Perfection, traveled alone to the Hawaiian Islands, to the Island of Honolulu, and now she is gaining spiritual victories in Japan! Reflect ye how this daughter was confirmed in the Hawaiian Islands. She became the cause of the guidance of a gathering of people."

Agnes Alexander received 13 tablets from Abdu'l-Baha, and many letters from Shoghi Effendi. Her letters were a joy to him, because they were not filled with problems and questions; they were filled with news of her service to the Faith, news of the believers she had taught, news of her carrying out his wishes.
Agnes Alexander (L), May Maxwell
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette
Used With Permission

ALMA KNOBLOCH
3. The third individual mentioned in the Tablets of the Divine Plan was Alma Knobloch in the April 11, 1916 Tablet to the United States and Canada:

"Likewise Miss Knobloch traveled alone to Germany. To what a great extent she became confirmed!"
She is also immortalized in God Passes By: "Alma Knobloch . . .  hoisted the standard of the Faith in Germany, and carried its light to Austria."  At the request of Abdu'l-Baha, she pioneered to Germany in 1907.  One of the great early teachers of the Faith in Europe, she helped to bring the Hand of the Cause Hermann Grossman into the Faith, as explained in "Hermann Grossman, Hand of the Cause of God, A Life for the Faith."

Alma Knobloch at her home in Stuttgart, Germany, a year after
the revelation of the Tablet of the Divine Plan in which she is mentioned
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette
Used With Permission


MAY MAXWELL 
4. The fourth person mentioned in the Tablets of the Divine Plan was May Maxwell. Of her, Abdu'l-Baha wrote, in His February 21, 1917 Tablet to Canada and Greenland:

"...through the effort of the maidservant of God Mrs. Maxwell a number of the sons and daughters of the Kingdom in that Dominion were gathered together and associated with each other, increasing this joyous exhilaration day by day."

May Maxwell was the first Baha'i in Europe, and the first Baha'i in Canada. She brought Agnes Alexander and many other notable Baha'is into the Faith. She lived a remarkable life of service.  In 1937 her daughter Mary married Shoghi Effendi, and became Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum.


At the end, May Maxwell fell in her tracks, a day after her arrival at her pioneer post in Buenos Aires, Argentina.




May Maxwell with her little baby, Mary
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette
Used With Permission

May Maxwell (R) and Juliet Thompson

Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette
Used With Permission

What these four believers—the only individuals mentioned in the Tablets of the Divine Plan—have in common, is that all were women.

The Tree of Life, of which mention is made in the Bible, is Bahá'u'lláh, and the daughters of the Kingdom are the leaves upon that blessed Tree.
(`Abdu'l-Bah
á)

"...every true woman who is attracted by the fragrances of holiness in this most glorious age will surpass even the most developed men of previous centuries."
(`Abdu'l-Bahá)
 

O ye maid-servants of the Merciful! It is incumbent upon you to soar up with wings of joy and happiness unto the apex of exultation and gladness; for He hath assigned unto you the greatest guidance in the Day of Resurrection, and hath crowned you with the diadem of glory and divine honor among the women of the whole world, and hath chosen you above the queens of the world for his great bounty.
      Verily, the crowns which are on the heads of the noble women -- the queens of the world -- all their bases will be finally broken, their gems scattered away, their luster removed and will become as dispersed dust. But your magnificent crowns are everlastingly brilliant and permanently glorious and mighty and their gems scintillating throughout cycles and ages.
      This is the highest gift! This is the greatest bestowal! Thank ye your Lord for this great bounty and favor! O ye maid-servants of the Merciful! verily, your Lord, the Supreme, is calling upon you from His Ancient Kingdom and announces unto you such glad-tidings, whereat the hearts of the angels of heaven rejoice.
      It is incumbent upon you to strip yourselves of every old garment (i. e., old beliefs and past customs). It is incumbent upon you to be severed from this contemptible earthly world. It is incumbent upon you (to seek after) the Kingdom, in this great Day!
      Purify ye your hearts, sanctify your souls and cleanse your spirits; so that ye may attain to this great success.  Then ye will become the angels of heaven, will enter among the Supreme Concourse and will permanently abide in the paradise of union (with God), and will be associated with the Beauty of El-Abh
á
.
(`Abdu'l-Bahá)


O handmaid of God! In this wondrous dispensation in which the Ancient Beauty and the Manifest Light -- may my spirit be sacrificed for His loved ones -- hath risen from the horizon of age-old hopes, women have assumed the attributes of men in showing forth steadfastness in the Cause of God, and revealing the heroism and might of fearless men. They invaded the arena of mystic knowledge and hoisted aloft the banner on the heights of certitude. Thou, too, must make a mighty effort and show forth supreme courage. Exert thyself and taste of the sweetness of a heavenly draught, for the sweet taste of the love of God will linger on to the end that hath no end.
(
`Abdu'l-Bahá, Compilation on Women)


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tablet to the Western States April 1, 1916

Ninety-three years ago, on April 1, 1916, Abdu'l-Bahá dictated one of the Tablets of the Divine Plan to the Western States. Here is a photograph of that original Tablet. (These images were obtained from the U.S. National Baha'i Archives. The Archivist, Mr. Dahl, said that the National Spiritual Assembly has stated that they can be shared freely with the friends. When you copy these images and share them with others, please include the photo credit: "Courtesy, Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette.") Please click on the images for larger photographs.

This is not the famous Tablet that contains the Prayer for the Western States; our Archives does not possess that original Tablet, which was revealed in 1917. This is the earlier Tablet to the Western States, revealed in 1916. This was during the First World War, and all mail was subject to government censorship. Perhaps to assure the government censor that there was nothing secret in the Tablet, and to speed it through the process, the Master directed that the Tablet be sent to the United States on a postcard.

First, a photograph of the Tablet, as it was revealed in Persian by the Master, in the handwriting of the secretary to whom He dictated it, written on both sides of one postcard.



The Tablet/ postcard is addressed to an eminent early believer who resided in Oakland, Mrs. Helen Goodall, c/o Joseph Hannen, another eminent believer, who resided in Washington D.C.

Helen Goodall
in the garden of Abdu'l-Baha's home in Haifa

The Tablet is signed by Abdu'l-Baha, in Persian and in English.
To the left of the word “abdul” is the Master's signature in Persian:


Abdu'l-Baha writes His own name humbly, in small letters; and the “B” for “Baha” gloriously written, capitalized, and in beautiful script.


On the face of the postcard you can see the round postmark dated 30-4-16, April 30, 1916. This postmark says “Haifa” in Arabic characters and also gives the French name “Caiffa” given to Haifa during the Ottoman period. To the left of that is a rectangular red mark. This is the censor's seal, bearing Turkish characters, approving the postcard:




The following document is the same Tablet in English translation, prepared by the same secretary. It is on both sides of two postcards, again addressed to Mrs. Goodall:




(Click on image for larger photograph)

I would like to add a note about the secretary to whom the Master dictated the Tablets of the Divine Plan, and who translated them into English, Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. This is not the first time that an important Tablet is in the handwriting of a secretary who later broke the Covenant, and of course this does not affect the holiness of the Tablet; its holiness comes from its Author. Similarly, a great number of Baha'u'llah's Tablets are in the handwriting of his amenuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan, who broke the Covenant after the Ascension of Baha'u'llah.

Of Ahmad Sohrab's defection, Shoghi Effendi wrote:

More extraordinary still that he who had been instrumental in carrying the Tablets of the Divine Plan from the One Who had revealed them to those into whose care they were to be committed, who had enjoyed, for so long and so intimately, near access to his Master as amanuensis, companion and interpreter, should have been blinded by his inordinate ambition, and should have arisen, with all the resources at his disposal, to attack and undermine the institutions of an Order which, springing from the authentic Will of Abdu'l-Bahá, had been designed by Him to be the chief instrument for the vigorous prosecution of that Plan and the fulfillment of its ultimate purpose.

Such reflections, far from engendering in our minds and hearts the slightest trace of perplexity, of discouragement or doubt, should reinforce the basis of our convictions, demonstrate to us the incorruptibility, the strange workings and the invincibility of a Faith which, despite the assaults which malignant and redoubtable enemies from the ranks of kings, princes and ecclesiastics have repeatedly launched against it, and the violent internal tests that have shaken it for more than a century, and the relative obscurity of its champions, and the unpropitiousness of the times and the perversity of the generations contemporaneous with its rise and growth, has gone from strength to strength, has preserved its unity and integrity, has diffused its light over five continents, reared the institutions of its Administrative Order and spread its ramifications to the four corners of the earth, and launched its systematic campaigns in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.
(Shoghi Effendi, paragraphs 158.26 and 158.27, pages 128-129 This Decisive Hour, Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Baha'is 1932-1946; and Messages to America 1932-1946, pp. 103-104)

The return address on the postcard is “c/o Mirza Jalal Irani, Haifa, Syria”. Mirza Jalal was one of the Master's sons-in-law, married to His daughter Ruha. He lived in Haifa, and was engaged in business.

The following is is the same Tablet, in Persian, rendered into beautiful calligraphy by Nuri'd-Din, one of Abdu'l-Baha's secretaries. He was one of the sons of Zaynu'l-Muqarribin, the eminent scribe who mentioned in Memorials of the Faithful, p. 150, and in the Introduction to the Most Holy Book, p. 9.


At the bottom left corner and bottom right corner there is writing in red script, and together these two phrases say: "This is a blessed Tablet revealed Saturday morning, April 1, 1916, at Bahji in honor of the friends of the eleven Western States of the United States of America." The calligraphy is signed by Nuri'd-Din.






Next to the red portion in the bottom left corner is the Master's original signature in His own hand, in black ink. So, as seen above, the Master signed the Tablet in Persian that was sent by postcard, and He also signed the magnificent calligraphic version of this same Tablet. There may be deemed to be two “originals” of this Tablet – one in Sohrab's hand, signed by the Master; the other in Nuri'din's calligraphy, signed by the Master and brought from the Holy Land at a later time.