THE LAWḤ-I NĀQŪS
(TABLET OF THE BELL)
9th cent CE Church in Istanbul
MĪRZĀ ḤUSAYN `ALĪ NŪRĪ, BAHĀ'-ALLĀH
Introduction and trans Stephen N. Lambden
Completed 28th July 1998. Last updated March 2 2004
Miscellaneous Bahā'ī sources indicate that the wholly Arabic Lawḥ-i nāqūs ("Tablet of the Bell") or (after the constant refrain) Lawḥ-i subhanika yā-hū ("Tablet of Praised be Thou, O He!) is to be dated to 1280/1863 CE or to the period of Bahā'-Allāh's residence in Istanbul (Constantinople). The title Lawḥ-i nāqūs derives from the words "Strike the Bell (nāqūs) " in the opening (post introductory) line (see below). Bahā'-Allāh wrote it in his own hand on the evening of the (lunar) celebration of the declaration of the Bāb (5th of Jumādī al-Awwāl 1280 AH = October 19th 1863 CE). It was apparently on that occasion that Aqa Muhammad `Alī Tambaku Furush-i Isfahānī precipitated this revelation through the intermediary of `Abdu'l-Bahā (see letter of Shoghi Effendi to Mīrzā Badī`u'llāh Āgahabadihi.. cited Ganj, 71; Taherzadeh RB 2:18).
The non-qur'anic Arabic loan-word nāqūs derives from (Christian) Aramaic-Syriac (naposha / naqqūs) and indicates a pierced wooden clapper-board which had a gong or bell-like function in making a noise when hit with a stick. It was used in Eastern Christian regions for calling the faithful to worship or to other religious functions. Around (Eastern) Christian churches the naqūs was sounded or clapped and, like the Islamic mu`adhdhin, called the faithful to assemble for prayer. Perhaps this sound was heard by Bahā'-Allāh around Christian churches in Istanbul.
In Bābī-Bahā'ī scripture there are various references to the (eschatological) nāqūs. In a number of his writings Bahā'-Allāh personifies himself as the "Bell" (nāqūs) which summons the faithful to enter the Abhā paradise or Kingdom of God (the Bahā'ī religion). His revelation is the ringing of the "Bell" of his Person which invites humankind to the assemblage of paradise. One may recall, for example, the following opening lines from the second Tablet of Bahā'-Allāh to Napoleon III:
O King of Paris!
Tell the priest to ring the bells [lit. `strike the clapper-boards' = nawāqīs ] no longer. By God, the True One! The Most Mighty Bell (al-nāqūs al-afkham, = Bahā'-Allāh) hath appeared in the form of Him Who is the Most Great Name (al-ism al-a`ẓam), and the fingers of the will of Thy Lord, the Most Exalted, the Most High, toll it out in the heaven of Immortality, in His name, the All-Glorious (al-abhā) ... (trans. Shoghi Effendi, PDC: 29).
In making the following tentative provisional translation I have consulted the Arabic texts of the Lawḥ-i nāqūs published in Adī`ah-yi hadrat-i mahbūb (Cairo 1339/1920-1) 141-153 and Risāla-yi ayyām-i tis`a (rep. Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1981) 100-106 as well as various unpublished manuscripts. I have also benefited from consulting the previous translations of `Alī Kuli Khan + Marzieh Gail (unpublished) and that of Denis MacEoin (Rituals in Bābīsm and Bahā'īsm [London 1994] App. XXVI , pp. 169-172). The following translation is not, however, based upon a critically established text nor is it in any way superior to those just mentioned. As the translation is fairly literal it will at times be virtually identical to previous renderings. In diverse ways and in cryptic, mystical, Sufistic language Bahā'-Allāh celebrates the power of his recently, Riḍvān-intimated (late April early May 1863) theophanic status. As the secreted "Monk of the Divine Unicity", he is bidden by God to go some way toward disclosing his being a supreme heavenly Maiden possessed of the power of divine revelation.
In line  and elsewhere in the Lawḥ-i nāqūs, Bahā'-Allāh alludes to that portion of the Sūrat al-huriyya (`Sura of the Maiden' , the 29th sura of the Qayyūm al-asmā' mid. 1844 CE) in which the Bāb makes reference to the partial yet stunning theophanic disclosure of a veiled, silken clad houri characterised by respelndent beauty (al-bahā). Both lines 4 and 5, furthermore seem to allude, for example, to the person of Bahā'-Allāh as a conjunction or incarnation of the letters "B and "H" which constitute that Beauty-Splendour (Bahā) which, according to a well-known prophetic hadīth (greatly beloved of Rūzbihān Baqlī Shīrāzī d.1209 CE) is his pre-existent Reality. The prophet Muhammad is reckoned to have said:
al-ward al-aḥmar min bahā' Allāh.
"The Red Rose is expressive of the Beauty-Splendor of God"