Translation of the Lawḥ-i Qinā' (The Tablet of the Veil) with Select Notes and Commentary.

LAWH-I QINĀ'

لوح قناء

(THE TABLET OF THE VEIL)

an

Epistle to Baha'-Allah to the Kirmani Shaykhi leader

Hajji Mirza Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani

(1225-1288 AH= 1810-1871 CE)

Stephen N. Lambden 1983 -under revision and completion 2017.

Last Updated 07-08-2017

Introduction.

    Hajjī Mīrzā Muhammad Karīm Khān Kirmānī (1810-1870) came to be regarded by a proportion of the Shaykhī admirers or followers of Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsā'ī (d. 1243/1826) and his successor, the second Shaykhī leader Sayyid Kazim Rashtī  (who died intestate on the last day of 1843 or first day of 1844 / 9th Dhu'l-Hijja 1259) and who did not become Bābīs,  as the first Kirmani (or third) Shaykhi leader. The Lawḥ-i Qinā'  (`Tablet of the Veil’) of Bahā’-Allāh is primarily addressed to this polymath and polemical opponent of the Bābī‑ Bahā’ī religions, the Kirmani Shaykhī leader Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d.1871). The text of this scriptural `Tablet of the Veil' is printed in Majmū`a-yi alwāh-I mubāraka ... [MAM] 67‑87 as elsewhere (see Introduction on this website). It was most probably written sometime between c.1869‑and 1872 CE.

Translation of the Lawḥ-i Qinā' (The Tablet of the Veil)

 

Opening lines as printed in Majmū`a-yi alwāh-i mubāraka... (Cairo), 67. 

Lambden Translation from the Arabic and Persian text in Majmu`a-yi alwāḥ i mubāraka..  Cairo,1920;  rep. Wilmette, Ilinois: BPT., 1978, pp. 67-87(MAM:67ff):

[0]

In the Name of God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

[I]

[1]

O thou [Karīm Khān Kirmānī]  who hath a reputation for knowledge but is actually one standing at the brink of the abyss of ignorance. [2] We have heard that thou became acquainted with the Truth-True One (al-haqq) [the Bab] yet turned aside from one of His beloved ones [= Quddus] who delivered unto thee a Noble Communication  (kitab an karim an) [a letter of the Bab] in order to facilitate thy guidance unto God, thy Lord and the Lord of  all the worlds. [3] Thou turned aside from him and followed after the ways of the ignorant ones (al-jahilin)....

 

 

[X]

[MAM:68 ] As for that which thoiu hast heard of the mention of al-Muqanna` [b. Balkh d. c. 163/780]. He is famous as al-Muqanna` al-Kindi who is [in fact] Muhammad ibn Zafar ibn `Umayr ibn Fir`ayn ibn Qays ibn Aswad. He was among those deeply informed (al-ma`rufin). If We desired that We might make mention of his forefathers [ancestors], one by one, back until the very ultimacy of the primary era (al-badi` al-awwal), We would be confident that My Lord would so instruct me regarding both the  earliest and the latest branches of knowledge [science]  (`ulum al-awwalin wal-akhirin)!. ...

 

 

[X]

[MAM:70 ] ... Say: With My Lord are the Treasuries of Knowledge (khaza'in al-`ulum) and the knowledge of all of the creatures (`ilm al-khala'iq ajami`in). Lift up thine head from the couch of heedlessness in order that thou might bear witness to the Most Great Remembrance of God (dhikr Allah al-a`zam) enthroned upon the Throne of the Theophany [Manifestation] ( `arsh al-zuhur) just as the enthronement of the letter ه     "H" (al-ha') upon the letter   و  (="W", al-waw) [forming the Huwa, "He is [God]"]. So rise ye up from the  slumber of base passion then follow thy Lord, the  Elevated, the Most Transcendent (al-`aliyy al-a`la).

 

 

 

 

NOTES AND COMMENTARY

al-Muqannaʿ, المقنع الخراساني (“The Veiled One”) of Khurasan.

For about three years or more al-Muqanna`, a certain Hāshim ibn Ḥākim who was originally a fuller, qassar قصار, from Marv in Khurasan (Iran), rebelled against the `Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi (r. 158-69/775-85).

Select Bibliography on Muqanna`

Ebn al-Athir,

  • al-Kāmil fi’l-taʾrikh, ed. C. J. Tornberg, 12 vols., Leiden, 1851-76; Beirut repr., VI, pp. 38-39 and 51-52.

Patricia Crone,

Eadem,

  • The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Regional Zoroastrianism, Cambridge, 2012.

Wilfred Madelung, Paul Ernest Walker

  • An Ismaili heresiography. The "Bāb al-shayṭān" from Abū Tammām’s Kitāb al-shajara. Brill, 1998.
  •  

 

The final citation  by Bahā’-Allāh from the Risāla al‑Rastiyya of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d. 1826).

Towards the end of the Lawḥ-i Qinā' , Bahā’-Allāh  refers to and cited the a reply by Shaykh Aḥmad to a question about the phrase "the Qā'im exists in the loins" which was written in 1783 CE. In this treatise of al-Ahsa'i, reference is made to the sirr al‑tankīs ("Mystery of the [Great] Reversal") li‑ramz al‑ra`īs ("by means of the enigma of the Ruler" and will be translated and commented upon below.

"I [Shaykh Aḥmad] state [in reply] what has been transmitted [as follows] : " After the realization of A‑L‑M‑Ṣ (=Alif‑Lām‑Mīm‑Ṣād, in Q. 7) through A‑L‑M‑R (alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’, in Q. 13) the Mahdī [Qā’im] ‑‑ upon him be peace ‑‑  shall rise up".

The [letter] A (alif) assuredly came at the realization of the [aforementioned letter] ص (= Ṣ = Ṣād). And the [letter] (ṣād) is before you more expansive than the two thighs (awsa` al‑fakhdhāyn) [the two letter w’s in wāw ?]. How then  could it  [the "A" ] [merely] be one of the two [thighs = w’s]? Furthermore, [be aware] that the [letter] و = “w” (= wāw) is [spelled with] three letters [1] [having an abjad numerical value of] six (= w) and [2] [the letter] alif  (A) and [3] six (= abjad w). [The import is that] six "days" have undoubtedly transpired and the [letter] alif (A) is the completion (al‑tammām) [of the awaited period] such that no [further] word need be uttered!

What though is [indicated by] the [second]  six (= abjad و = “w”)? It is the other [subsequent] "days" (al‑ayyām al‑ukhar). Otherwise, why was there evident a repetition ["return" of the و  w] (al‑`aud)? Such assuredly resulted through the mystery of inversion on account of the symbol of the Ruler (sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra`īs).

And should this repetition [or "return" of the w] be otherwise accounted for the confirmation (al‑iqrār) thereof would be by virtue of the [existence of the] subsequent [remaining] six (= the second  w) (al‑sitta al‑bāqiyya). Then would the matter (al‑amr)  [still find realization] in the [messianic] Proof (al‑ḥujja = the Qā’im‑Mahdī) and the [personification of] the Greatest Name (al‑ism al‑a`ẓam) would be manifested in the two upright [letter] "A"s (bi’l‑alifayn al‑qā’imayn) through the letter (bi’l‑ḥarf)  which is two letters contained within Allāh )  (ḥarfān min Allāh) [1st letter of Allāh  = "A"  and last letter = "h"].  This since the two [letter A’s] are [indications of] eleven (11 = 1 beside 1) and both [also] indicate thirteen [= abjad value of  aḥad = "one" = 1+8+4 = 13 or abjad  5+6 = huwa = 13 `He is’). Thus was manifest the [letter] wāw (abjad = 6+1+6 =13) which is [also] the [letter] "H" (al‑hā’).

Where then is the differentiation [between these two letters (the و  w = (abjad) 6+1+6 = 13 and the  "H" = huwa = 5+ 6 =13]? Yet the one (al‑wāhid)   [ namely the letter “A”) is what lieth between the six ( و   = w) and the six ( و  = w) [in the letter wāw = 6+1+6] realized through the completion of [the abjad value of the isolated letters?] A‑L‑M‑Ṣ (Q.7 = alif‑lām‑mīm‑ṣād = abjad 161]) through A‑L‑M‑R (Q.13 = alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’ = abjad 231). Thus is apparent the mystery of the six [و  = wāw] .... 

[The omitted sentences here relate to aspects of the relationship between the numbers 6 and 60 and the letter "A" = 1]...

The above citation of Bahā’-Allāh‑ from Shaykh Aḥmad concludes with a few further untranslated sentences (see MAM:87; cf. MacEoin, 1982 [94]:147).

Add Corrections and rest of translation here...

 

Everything of the foregoing is [indicated] in the [letter] wāw ( و   = w) which is upturned [inverted] from the [letter] "H" which is the retraction resulting from the letter “H” (al‑mankūsa min  al‑hā’).

The "Great Reversal" in the Tablet of the Veil (Lawḥ-i Qinā').

The Tablet of the Veil (Lawḥ-i Qinā)'  was written for the anti-Bābī-Bahā'ī Shaykhī leader Karām Khān Kirmānī (d.1871), sometime between c.1869‑and 1871 CE?. In this work Bahā’-Allāh  refers to the a reply by Shaykh Aḥmad to a question about the phrase "the Qā'im exists in the loins" (written in 1783 CE). In this treatise of Shaykh Aḥmad reference is made to the sirr al‑tankīs   ("Mystery of the Great Reversal") as follows,

"Six days have elapsed and the alif is the completion, no more need be said, and the (other) six refers to the other days. Otherwise why was the going back produced, for it is the mystery of great reversal in the sign of the Sovereign (sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra'īs)."

This significant Arabic Tablet probably dates shortly before that of the Lawh-i Hirtīk  (i.e. c.1869-71? See MAM: 85‑6). In it Bahā’-Allāh cites the substance of an epistle  of Shaykh Aḥmad known as the Risāla al‑Rashtiyya (written 1197 /1783) written in response to an enquiry of Shaykh Msā ibn Muhammad al‑Sayīgh. 1. He  refers to its author in exalted terms as "the most glorious, the most favoured midday [sun] of Islam (ẓuhr al‑islām),  the "Ka`bah of humankind" who was the "lamp of knowledge betwixt the worlds". In this work Shaykh Aḥmad had apparently responded to an enquiry from about the signficance of the phrase "the [messianic] Qā’im is in the backbone [loins]   (al‑aṣlāb) ". In the course of his complex reply he  refers to the letter wāw  and to the sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra’īs ,  the "mystery of inversion on account of the symbol of the Ruler";  the reversed and extended letter  wāw  within the graphic Greatest Name of God symbol.

A condensed version of the Shaykh’s reply is cited by Bahā’-Allāh towards the end of his Lawḥ‑i Qinā’.  After the basmalah  Shaykh Aḥmad cites a prophecy from one of the twelver Imams indicating the date of the appearance of the expected  Mahdī (`Rightly Guided  Messiah). It is computed according to the numerical value and relationship of two fourfold  letter groupings of the isolated letters of the Qur’ān. They are the four letters alif‑lām‑mīm‑ṣād  ( A‑L‑M‑Ṣ) which occur before the  Surat al‑A`raf  ("The Heights", Q. 7, collective  abjad numerical value= 161) and the four letters alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’  ( A‑L‑M‑R ; collective  abjad  numerical value = 271) which open the Surat al‑Ra`ad (`Thunder’, Q. 13). 2 Within the following translation some very speculative expository remarks may help clarify what seems to be indicated by Shaykh Aḥmad:

"I [Shaykh Aḥmad] state [in reply] what has been transmitted [from one of the twelver imāms], "After the realization of A‑L‑M‑Ṣ (=Alif‑Lām‑Mīm‑Ṣād, in Q. 7) through A‑L‑M‑R (alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’, in Q. 13) the Mahdī [Qā’im] ‑‑ upon him be peace ‑‑  shall rise up".

The [letter] A (alif) assuredly came at the realization of the [aforementioned letter] ص (= Ṣ = Ṣād). And the [letter] (ṣād) is before you more expansive than the two thighs (awsa` al‑fakhdhāyn) [the two letter w’s in wāw ?]. How then  could it  [the "A" ] [merely] be one of the two [thighs = w’s]?

Furthermore, [be aware] that the [letter]    وwāw is [spelled with] three letters [1] [having an abjad numerical value of] six (= w) and [2] [the letter] alif  (A) and [3] six (= abjad w). [The import is that] six "days" have undoubtedly transpired and the [letter] alif (A) is the completion (al‑tammām) [of the awaited period] such that no [further] word need be uttered!

What though is [indicated by] the [second]  six (= abjad و = “w”)? It is the other [subsequent] "days" (al‑ayyām al‑ukhar). Otherwise, why was there evident a repetition ["return" of the و  w] (al‑`aud)? Such assuredly resulted through the mystery of inversion on account of the symbol of the Ruler (sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra`īs).

And should this repetition [or "return" of the w] be otherwise accounted for the confirmation (al‑iqrār) thereof would be by virtue of the [existence of the] subsequent [remaining] six (= the second  w) (al‑sitta al‑bāqiyya). Then would the matter (al‑amr)  [still find realization] in the [messianic] Proof (al‑ḥujja = the Qā’im‑Mahdī) and the [personification of] the Greatest Name (al‑ism al‑a`ẓam) would be manifested in the two upright [letter] "A"s (bi’l‑alifayn al‑qā’imayn) through the letter (bi’l‑ḥarf)  which is two letters contained within Allāh )  (ḥarfān min Allāh) [1st letter of Allāh  = "A"  and last letter = "h"].  This since the two [letter A’s] are [indications of] eleven (11 = 1 beside 1) and both [also] indicate thirteen [= abjad value of  aḥad = "one" = 1+8+4 = 13 or abjad  5+6 = huwa = 13 `He is’). Thus was manifest the [letter] wāw (abjad = 6+1+6 =13) which is [also] the [letter] "H" (al‑hā’). 

Where then is the differentiation [between these two letters (the و  w = (abjad) 6+1+6 = 13 and the  "H" = huwa = 5+ 6 =13]? Yet the one (al‑wāhid)   [ namely the letter “A”) is what lieth between the six ( و   = w) and the six ( و  = w) [in the letter wāw = 6+1+6] realized through the completion of [the abjad value of the isolated letters?] A‑L‑M‑Ṣ (Q.7 = alif‑lām‑mīm‑ṣād = abjad 161]) through A‑L‑M‑R (Q.13 = alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’ = abjad 231). Thus is apparent the mystery of the six [و  = wāw] ....

And should  this repetition [or  "return" of the w] be otherwise accounted for the confirmation (al‑iqrār) thereof would be by virtue of the [existence of the] subsequent [remaining] six (= the second  w) (al‑sitta al‑bāqiyya). Then would the matter (al‑amr)  [still find realization] in the [messianic] Proof (al‑ḥujja = the Qā’im‑Mahdī) and the [personification of] the Greatest Name (al‑ism al‑a`ẓam) would be manifested in the two upright [letter] "A"s (bi’l‑alifayn al‑qā’imayn) through the letter (bi’l‑ḥarf)  which is two letters contained within Allāh )  (ḥarfān min Allāh) [1st letter of Allāh  = "A"  and last letter = "h"]. This  since the two [letter A’s] are [indications of] eleven (1 = 1 beside 1 =11?)  and both [also] indicate  thirteen [= abjad  aḥad = "one" = 1+8+4 = 13 or abjad  5+6 = huwa= `He is’). Thus was manifest the [letter] wāw (abjad =  6+1+6 =13) which is [also] the [letter] "H" (al‑hā’). Where then is the differentiation [between these two letters; W= 6+1+6 = 13  and "H" = huwa = 5+ 6 =13]? Yet the one (= A) (al‑wāhid) is what lieth betwixt the six (= w) and the six (= w) [in the letter wāw = 6+1+6] realized through the completion of [the abjad value of the isolated letters?] A‑L‑M‑ṣ (alif‑lām‑mīm‑ṣād (Q. 7 = abjad 161) through A‑L‑M‑R (Q. 13  alif‑lām‑mīm‑rā’  = abjad  231 Q.13 ). Thus is apparent the mystery of the six [=wāw]...

[I omit several very abstruse lines here of the text of the Risāla al‑Rashtiyya as cited by Bahā’u’llāh continues. Among other things, the omitted sentences  relate to aspects of the relationship between the numbers  6 and 60 and the letter "A". This passage of Bahā’u’llāh‑Shaykjh Aḥmad concludes after a few further untranslated senmtences (see MAM:87; cf. MacEoin, 1982 [94]:147).

Everything of the foregoing is [indicated] in the [letter] wāw  (w) which is upturned [inverted]  from the [letter] "H" which is XXXXX? (al‑mankūsa min  al‑hā’)..."

Here Shaykh Aḥmad appears to indicate that the Qā'im (= the alif) will appear at the end of the era or cycle of the six days of creation as their ultimate goal or completion. This era of the six "days" (= religious eras)  of creation has been understood to signify the prophetic missions of the often six, and variously identified, prophets "endowed with constancy" (ulū al-`azm   cf. Qur'ān 46:34; e.g. [1] Adam, [2] Noah, [4] Abraham, [4] Moses, [5] Jesus and  [6] Muhammad). 3 al-Ahsa'i also has it that the final wāw (of  waw    ) or the "(other, second) six" has to do with the `other days' or era of the "return" (raj`a ). Hence, we have the inverted backward stretching wāw in the Shi`i graphic representation of the al-ism al-a`zam ("Mightiest Name of God") indicating the eschatological "return" (raj`a) expected by peoples of earlier ages or religious dispensarions. Such, at least, may be something of the meaning of al‑Aḥsā'ī's interpretation of "the  mystery of inversion on account of the symbol of the Leader [Ruler] (sirr al‑tankīs li‑ramz al‑ra`īs).

">Bahā'ī interpretations of the sirr al-tankīs  to some extent draw on, though they often go beyond, those which appear to have been envisaged by Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī and his successor Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī. 4 They are many and complicated and cannot be discussed in detail here. It must suffice to make a few remarks about the meaning of the sirr al-tankīs..   in connection with the eschatological inversion of faith status or outward rank.

Bahā’-Allāh, `Abdu'l‑Bahā and other Bahā'ī writers have given the inverted wāw and its three component letters (when written out in full) cyclic and eschatologically oriented interpretations.  Allusion is found to [1] the six `prophets endowed with constancy' (the first wāw), [2] the Bāb (the Alif: the Bāb being regarded as the Qā'im ) and [3] Bahā’-Allāh (the second wāw)    Alternatively, as in the Lawh-i Hirtīk,  to the reversal of outward rank with the coming of Bahā’-Allāh is indicated by the    ADD WAW  inverted, reversed  letter W. The fact that the inverted wāw stretches backwards and has an abjad value of six probably led to the idea that the messianic advent of Bahā’-Allāh has reversed the faith‑status or rank of all prefious unbelieving religionists. In one of his explanations of the sirr al-tankīs   Bahā’-Allāh, as in the Lawh-i Hirtīk,, relates its mystery to the effect of his revelation and writes, "Thus have We made their exalted ones their lowly ones and their lowly ones their exalted ones. This is the mystery of inversion for the cipher of the chief." Such an interpretation of the sirr al-tankīs  is also presupposed in the following passage from Bahā’-Allāh's  al‑Kitāb al- Aqdas  which was most probably written shortly after the  Lawh-i Hirtīk:

Behold, the "Mystery of Great Reversal in the sign of the Sovereign" (sirr al-tank īs li-ramz al-ra'īs)  hath now been made manifest. Well is it with him God hath aided to recognize the "Six" raised up by virtue of this "Upright Alif"; he, verily is of those whose faith is true. How many the outwardly pious who have turned away, and how many the wayward who have drawn nigh, exclaiming: "All praise be to Thee, O Thou the Desire of the worlds!" In truth, it is in the hand of God to give what He willeth to whomsoever He willeth, and to withhold what he pleaseth from whomsoever He may wish. He knoweth the inner secrets of the hearts and the meaning hidden in a mocker's wink. How many an embodiment of heedlessness who came unto Us with purity of heart have We established upon the seat of Our acceptance; and how many an exponent of wisdom have We in all justice consigned to the fire. We are, in truth, the One to judge. He it is Who is the manifestation of "God doeth whatsoever He pleaseth", and abideth upon the throne of "He ordaineth whatsoever He chooseth". 6

 

NOTES

1MacEoin 19[82] 1994: 146‑7 fn.6. The  letter of al-Aḥsā' ī for Musā ibn Muhammad al-Sayīgh can be found in  al‑Aḥsā’ī, al-Risāla al-rashtīya  in Jawāmi` al-Kilām  1273/6.) esp. 1:103f; Majmu`at al-rasā'il  (Kirmān, n.d.), pp. 51-3.  cf.also Ishrāq Khāvarī, Qāmūs 4:1642f.

2 This Imamite tradition is also cited in the Lawḥ al‑ḥurūfāt al‑muqaṭṭa`āt  (Tablet about the Isolated Letters ‘ c. 1859?) of Bahā’u’llāh )  Mā’ida 4:000). It is found in Majlisi’s Biḥār and other Shī`ī compilations of tradition and books of tafsīr.

For various interpretations of the Qur'ānic phrase ulū al-`azm  refer Majlisī, Bihār 2 11:34ff.

4 Refer MacEoin, art.cit (fn.26), p.16ff on some statements made in   Rafati', 1979 (Ph.D).

5 Bahā'u'llāh, letter cited Mā’ida 1:14. See also Raḥīq. 1:682, 686, 687, where similar statements are made. In a letter addressed to a certain Assad [Allāh] Bahā'u'llāh identifies the words, "He shall make their exalted ones their lowly ones and their lowly ones their exalted ones"  as an Islamic tradition (ḥadīth), (see Raḥīq Makhtūm 1:687).

6 Aqdas 2 [ed. al-Hasanī]:127. trans., Aqdas tr. 1992: ¶157 pp. 75‑6.