TB Ridwan 0

Baha'-Allah himself on his Ridwan declaration, extract from a Persian Tablet dated


Originally Posted on Tarjuman in the 1990s. Slightly Revised and under further revision, April 2015.

A while back Juan Cole and more recently Chris Buck asked me to post that extract from the unpublished Persian Tablet of Baha'u'llah-Khadimu'llah which speaks of the Ridvan declaration of Baha'u'llah. Please excuse the delay. What follows is my provisional translation of the paragraph of interest -- the highly Arabized Persian original text is from the manuscript photostatically reproduced in INBMC 44:225 (see above), .

Extract from a Tablet of Baha'u'llah-Khadimu'llah.

"On the first day that the Ancient Beauty [Baha'u'llah] occupied the Most Great Throne in a garden (an orchard; bustan) which hath been designated Ridvan, the Tongue of Grandeur uttered three blessed verses. [1] The first of them was that in this [Baha'i] Manifestation [Dispensation, Theophany] (zuhúr) the [use of the] sword (sayf) [in holy war] is put aside (murtafi`). [2] Secondly, prior to the completion of a millennium (1,000 years) any [theophanological] claim put forward (iddi'a) by any person must be considered baseless (batil). In this respect the year should be considered a complete [standard]  ( kámil) year; both exegesis (tafsir) and eisegesis (ta`wil) are, in this respect,  forbidden. [3] Thirdly, the True One, exalted be His Glory, at that time [the Ridvan declaration] manifested (tajalli) all the Divine Names upon all things.
And the following choice verse (fiqra) was subsequently revealed but has been ordained to be of the same rank (maqam) as the preceding three [declarative verses]; namely, whatever personal designations (lit. `names', asami = individual persons) are mentioned before the Face [of Baha'u'llah], whether living or dead, such have thereby attained [the Presence of God/Baha'u'llah] by virtue of being mentioned by the King of Preexistence (málik al-qidam = Baha'u'llah)." (revised trans. April  30th 2015).

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  1. The doctrine of Jihád ("Holy War") is of central importance in both Sunni and Shi`i Islam. One of the key features of Islamic messianism is that the promised Mahdi/Qa'im would wage universal holy war. Eschatological jihád by the Qá'im (= the Bab) and his devotees was expected. It is presupposed in various of the Bab's writings and evident in the activities of groups of militant Babis, e.g. at the Tabarsi uprising. Though there are important pacifist aspects to the Babi religion, the Bab did not abrogate jihád ("holy war").It is a significant doctrine throughout his mission though it was hardly outwardly realized.

    In the first major work of the Bab, the Qayyum al-asma (mid. 1844),there are a cluster of no less than seven successive súras ("chapters"; see QA 95-103)) -- more than any other grouping (see the Bab's Kitáb al-fihrist; Bushihr, 1845) -- named either qitál ("engagement") or jihád ("holy war"). Qur'anic laws of holy war are repeated or modified without abrogation. In what is probably the last substantial work of the Bab, the Haykal al-din ("Temple of Religion"; 1850), the waging of a kind of holy war is spelled out when the Bab states that a future Babi king should, as a manifestation of the "wrath of God" (qahr Alláh), put all non-Babis to death. In a Tablet `Abdu'l-Baha refers to the following teachings of the Bab; "In the Day of the Manifestation of His Holiness the Exalted One (the Bab) the striking of necks [cf. Qur'an 8:12], the burning of books and treatises (kutub va avráq), the demolition of buildings and the universal slaughter (qitl-i `Amm) of all except such as believed and were steadfast was clearly enunciated" (Makatib 2:266)! In certain respects the Babi religion was the opposite of the Baha'i Faith!

    The Bab's and previous religious directives relating to war and holy war were abrogated by Baha'u'llah at the Ridvan declaration -- as many times in later years. The abrogation of Holy war is listed first in the above quoted Tablet. It is also the first of the glad-tidings set forth in the late Akka period Lawh-i Bisharat ( "Glad-Tidings"). Pacifism as the absence of religious warfare is a key Baha'i teaching. It is central. This is indeed glad-tidings.

    In the course of celebrating Ridvan here in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK), we at one time focused upon Baha'u'llah's forbidding Jihád (holy war; the use of the sword), and bore in mind that its `first fruits' would be realized during our lifetime; with the current/imminent actualization of the `Lesser Peace.' This seemed to make Ridvan come alive. At Ridvan Baha'u'llah intimated a religion of peace and unity.

  2. As in the Kitab-i Aqdas Baha'u'llah makes the appearance of a succeeding Manifestation of God impossible before the expiration of a millennium. The 1,000 year chronology should not be subject to any kind of interpretation whether based on a literal reading (tafsír) or an allegorical type of interpretation in which meaning is imposed (= eisegesis) on the text. "Year" means a complete (presumably solar) year not something else.
  3. This third aspect of the Ridvan announcement is referred to in the Kitab-i Aqdas (Para. 75): "God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of "uncleanness", whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridvan, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand." The Ridvan theophany of the Divine Names and Attributes upon everything rendered all peoples and things pure. This rendered unity truly realizable. No persons or things are impure. Baha'is are exhorted to consort intimately with the followers of other Faiths. Distinction between persons pure and impure should not be made.
  4. Here Baha'u'llah supplements the three Ridvan declarative utterances with a fourth which seems to mean that all persons mentioned by Baha'ullah, whether alive or dead, have mystically attained the eschatological liqa' the Encouter or Meeting with God ( = the presence of Baha'u'llah).

The first three Ridvan declarative utterances are all repeated in the Kitab-i Aqdas. They are all related to the realization of unity and peace. What was said at Ridvan in 1863 was not merely a claim to be `Him Whom God shall make manifest' (this may be presupposed) but is a major shift from the divisive limitations of past religions and coirrupt religiosity.