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.


  1. Thank you Brent! This will really add a special dimension when we meet as a community on Sunday to read some of the Tablets to mark the 100th anniversary.

  2. Hi there, I read your blogs on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

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