TB Lawh-i zuhur I Introductory Notes







Trans. Stephen Lambden 2006 - in progress 2015.

Last partially revised 27th May 2015.

Introductory Note on the Islamic and Babi-Baha'i concept of Zuhur or `Manifestation'.

The Arabic text to be translated in Pt. II of the consideration of this scriptural Tablet, is that printed in Ishrāq Khavarī (comp.), Mā'ida-yi asmani  vol. 4 : 161-4 though other versions have been consulted. An earlier partial translation (made by ?) here identified as the "Tablet of Manifestation" appeared in the volume edited by Horris Holley entitled Bahā'ī Scriptures (2nd ed. New York: Bahá'í Publishing Committee 1923 ) pp. 204f. No. 373f.

The Arabic word Zuhur (from the root z-h-r = `to appear, be made manifest', etc) has multiple meanings in Babi-Baha'i cosmological,  prophetological, theophanological and other doctrines implicit in its Arabic and Persian sacred writ. A zuhur can be a manifestation expressed as a time span or era of manifestation, a religious age, cycle or dispensation. It can also signify the locus or generative source of divine manifestation as the disclosure of a divine appearence or theophany. This latter intermediary figure between God and humankind, is by virture of the zuhur-i ilahi, the divine messenger who is a 'Manifestation of God' though not directly of the Ultimate Deity. For Baha'is, these all-powerful figures found successive world religions and renew society. They have a very elevated station. They have a human persona as well as a Divine nature but never coalesce with the Ultimate, Unknowable Godhead. The Manifestation of God is also viewed as distinct from a lesser prophets figure such as the Israelite prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, etc. ... See further Appendix 1 below.


Some Introductory Notes to the Lawh-i Zuhur, the `Tablet of Manifestation'

Addressed to a certain Hadi,  the original Arabic five or six page Lawh-i Zuhur, the `Tablet of Manifestation' or of that Divine appearence which is the `Divine Theophany' of Baha'-Allah, commences as follows (see the image above) :


بسم الله الاقدس الاعلم المقتدر القدير

In the Name of God,

the Most Holy, the Supremely Knowing, the Mighty, the All-Powerful.

This neo-basmala pictures God as One sanctified in His Holiness, knowledegable of all things and especially Mighty and Powerful.

The unnamed recipient of this scriptural Tablet which probably dates from the early-mid Acre period (c. 1870-1890) is at the outset described as one who directs their gaze (Arabic) ila shatr Allah  (lit. in the which most likely means towards God as represented by Baha'-Allah. The word shatr here 

1] O thou who gazeth  in the direction of the Godhead (ila shatr Allah) and art one submerged (al-mustaghamis) in the Ocean of His Nearness (qurb-ihi) and of His Good Pleasure (rida'-hu). [2] Know thou that the Manifestation [of God] ẓūhur) is not compounded of the four natural or material elements (`anasir al-arba`ah)...

The Lawh-i Zuhur, the `Tablet of Manifestation' commences by stating that the zuhur or person of the Manifestation of God is not composed of the `anasir al-arba`ah,  the four earthly elements known from the time of the Greek, pre-Socratic philosopher, Empedocles ( 490-430 BCE) and from Hellenistic antiquity and beyond - namely, [1] earth, [2] air, [3] fire, or [4] water - and foundational in Medieval Islamic cosmology and other pre-modern sciences. The `Manifestation of God is not constituted of known worldly elements or composed of material objects. Though having a material or bodily persona He is essentially supra-worldly, from a realm beyond. He is this defined by Baha'-Allah as :

  • the Mystery of the Divine Oneness (sirr al-aḥadiyya),
  • the Pre-existent Being (kaynunat al-qidamiyya),
  • the All-Enduring Essence (al-jawhar al-samadiyya) and
  • the Hidden Ipseity (al-huwiyya al-ghaybiyya).

As a reality beyond worldly parameters he is incomprehensible aside from an indirect knowledge of His Own Divine Logos-Self. It cannot be established by anyone that He was made manifest from the four elements (`anāṣir), from such (Arabic) ustuqussāt  or Greek στοιχεῖον , stoicheion, the material "elements"   as are mentioned by the tongue of the practitioners of Islamic philosophy (ahl al-ḥikmat) who drew upon earlier wisdom ( see article `unsur [pl. `anasir]  by I.R. Netton in EI2  . It might first be noted that the  are seven times mentioned in cosmological contexts in the Greek New Testament : 

  • Galations 4:3f; 
  • Col. 2:8,20;
  • II Peter 3:10-12, etc)

In medieval Islamic proto-scientific terminology

The mention of not being made of "the four natures" or Arabic al-tabai`implies that the Zuhur or `Manifestation of God' ...


Impossible to know the nature of His creation, he is, like Jesus as the Logos Word in John chapter one,  (John 1:1ff) the Creator of all by virtue of His or God's Logos-Command (amr) which is centered in His Divine Will or (Ar.) al-mashiyyat. The mashiyya

The pre-existent Oneness of the Manifestation of God is next underlined when it is said that from "all eternity" he has ever been without partner.

alone without a single thing besides Him; like the time when "it is" was realized (yakūn bi'l-ḥaqq; cf. Q. ). [8] And He established Himself upon the Heavenly Throne (cf Q. ) then sent down the Bird of Divine Verses (dīk al-ayat) in view of the fact that there was found in your  heart the Fire of His love.


[1] Could there be in the dominion any possessor of exposition who could befittingly discourse with Him? [2] Or any Revealer of verses (manzil) who could compete with Him in His Cause? (fī amrihi) [3] Or, indeed, any existing being who could summon all-existence unto His Own Logos-Self (li-nafsihi)?  [4] Nay! By my Lord the All-Merciful! Before Him all are but poor and needy. [5] Were He to become known through any besides His Own Logos-Self, the transcendence of  His Essence would never be established as beyond similitude  neither would the sanctity of His Being be found to be beyond likeness,  nor His Singleness  be reckoned beyond mundane appearances. [6] This is an Ocean  which it is not fitting that anyone should voyage [dispute] since all that you witness, whether in the heavens or on the earth, was assuredly created by His Utterance (qawl). [7] So by My Logos-Soul (nafsī), the Ultimately Real (al-ḥaqq) ! [8] Were His servants to become aware of His Logos-Self according to what He actually is, they would assuredly one and all disassociate Him from everything and would dwell [dumbfounded] in His Sanctuary.


[1] In every world (`ālam), He [the Manifestation of God] is manifested according to the capacity (bi- isti`dād) of that world. [2] In the world of spirits (`ālam al-arwāḥ), for example, He reveals Himself and becomes manifest unto them [the spirits] through the vestiges [traces, signs] of the Spirit (āthār al-rūḥ). [3] So, likewise, in [the world of] bodies (ajsād), in the world of names and attributes (`awālim al-asmā wa'l-ṣifāt) and in other worlds (al-awālim) which none comprehends save God. [4] All [of these worlds] derive their good-fortune from this Theophany (Manifestation, ẓuhūr). [5] Wherefore, He appears unto them according to the requisite form (sūrat) in order that He might guide them unto God, His Lord, and draw them nigh unto the Abode of His Cause. 


Appendix 1

An Extract from the Lambden 1982/2002 doctoral thesis, pp. 86-92.

Maẓhariyya : The roots and significance of the Bābī- Bahā’ī concept of the maẓhar- i ilāhī ("Divine theophany", "Manifestation of God").

"It was out of the abovementioned nexus of Islamic prophetological, imamological and theophanological Sufi and Shī`ī- Shaykhī concepts, that the terminology and many aspects of the Bābī- Bahā’ī doctrine of the mazhar-i ilāhī evolved. The Bāb personified the mashiyya (Primal Will) and made it, as the maẓhar-i ilāhī (Manifestation of God), the centerpiece of his theology. It was is by virtue of the mashiyya (Will) that God made himself indirectly known to his creation through the maẓhar of His own nafs , the Logos-Self which
is the maẓhar ilāhī (The Manifestation of God). In Bābī- Bahā’ī usage ẓuhūr indicates the divine tajallī (theophany, divine self-revelation) of God through his maẓhar (theophanic manifestation) unto the worlds of creation. The study of the background of the centrally important maẓhariyya (theophanological) doctrines within the Bābī- Bahā’ī religious universe of discourse, to some degree illustrates how aspects of Bābī- Bahā’ī doctrine evolved out of heterodox Shī`īsm in a similar way to the emergence of Christianity from
sectarian Judaisms. Only a few notes pertinent to this can be set down here (cf. MacEoin, maẓhar, EI2 VI:952-3).
Deriving from the triliteral Arabic root ẓ- h-r which may verbally indicate `to appear’, `be manifest’, the straightforward sense the Arabic noun of place maẓhar (pl. maẓāhir cf. ẓāhir, `apparent’, `visible’ `outer’, `exterior’) is a `place of appearance’. It may also be indicative of an `outward expression’ or `mode of apparition’, and thus additionally indicate a `manifestation’ or `theophany’ (Corbin, 1972, IV:518, index). In his The Sufi Path of Knowledge Chittick prefers to translate maẓhar, "locus of manifestation" (Chittick, 1989:89).
The term maẓhar has a long history and rich semantic field in a multitude of texts expressive, for example, of the mediatory position of the prophets and imams as loci of divine realities. Murata has stated that many "cosmologists employ terms like ẓuhūr (manifestation) and tajallī (self-disclosure) to explain the relation- ship of the world to God" (Murata,1992:11). Maẓhar is a term that lies at the heart of certain prophetol-ogical and imamological speculations within Islamic philosophy and theology. It is found within the writings of numerous exponents of Shī`ī [74] mysticism, theosophy and gnosis. 1= Fn.1 In early Shī’ī Khaṭṭabī [Nusayrī) gnosis the pentadic "Five Companions of the Mantle" (Muhammad, Fāṭim[a], `Alī, Ḥasan and Ḥusayn) represented by the initial letters of their names, become "Names" or "Principles" as well as tajalliyat (`theophanies’) and maẓāhir (manifestations) of the "Light" (Corbin, [1974] 1998:186-7).

[Ibn al-`Arabī and his devotees]
The terms ẓāhir, ẓuhūr, maẓhar are frequently used and important within the theologically loaded writings of Ibn al-`Arabī and of persons falling within his `school’ (Chittick, 1988:201-221, 470 [index ẓuhūr, etc]; 1989:16, 478 index ẓuhūr etc). Within the writings of Ibn al-`Arabī maẓhar is a theological term rooted in the exegesis of Q. 57:3, "He [God] is the ẓāhir (Manifest) and the bāṭin (Nonmanifest) (Chittick, 1989:89; cf. Futūḥāt III:484-5). For the Great Shaykh ẓuhūr is used of the tajallī, the divine `self-disclosure’ or
the `manifestation’ of God. For him maẓhar can indicate the locus of a particular divine
Name (s) and/or Attribute (asmā’ wa’l-ṣifāt). For Ibn al-`Arabī the terms ẓāhir / ẓuhūr / maẓhar have an important place in Islamic thought ( Chittick, 1988:201-221, 470 [index ẓuhūr, etc]; 1989:16, 478 index ẓuhūr etc). Maẓhar is a frequently used theological term rooted in the exegesis of Q. 57:3, "He
[God] is the ẓāhir (Manifest) and the bāṭin (Nonmanifest) (Chittick, 1989:89). At one point in the Futūḥāt it is written, "God is the ẓāhir (Manifest) who is witnessed by the eyes and the bāṭin (Nonmanifest) who is witnessed by the intellects (al-`uqūl)" (Fut. III:484-5). In his The Sufi Path of Knowledge Chittick prefers to translate maẓhar "locus of manifestation" (Chittick, 1989:89). For Ibn al-`Arabī ẓuhūr is especially used of the self-manifestation of God which is his tajallī (self-disclosure).
Among the many disciples of the "Great Shaykh" who have made fairly frequent use of maẓhar as a theo- phanological technical term was, for example, Ibn al-`Arabī’s son-in-law Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī (d.673/ 1274). His K. al-fukūk, (The Book of Unravellings) represents itself as a `key to the mysteries’ of Ibn `Arabī’s Fuṣuṣ al-ḥikam (Bezels of Wisdom). In his exposition of the section revolving around the prophet Ismā’īl (here no. 7) and the implications of prophets being maẓāhir of the divine Names, Qunawi (commenting on Q.29:27a) categorically states "Every [75] prophet is a maẓhar of one of the divine Names (ism min al-asmā’) (K. al-fukūk, 209). The same is also stated in the section devoted to Muhammad: "every nabī is a maẓhar of one of the Names of the Divine Reality (ism min asmā’ al-ḥaqq; ibid, 310). In the section on Shu`ayb it is stated that Moses’ education (tarbiyat) was initially taught by means of this Arab prophet. It was such that Moses’ āyāt (verses, signs) were according to the dictates of the "outer Name" (aḥkām al-ism al-ẓāhir). When God desired the perfection of Moses he sent him to Khiḍr who is said to be a maẓhar (manifestation) of the hidden [Inner, Non-Manifest] Name (al-ism al-bāṭin). (Qunawī, al-Fukūk, 251).
Rajab al-Bursī (d.c.814/1411) in his influential Mashāriq compiled much of relevance to this topic including a section dealing with the anbiyā’ (prophets) as maẓāhir asmā’ Allāh ("manifestations of the Names of God"). They are all maẓhar ism kullī (`manifestations of a universal [divine] Name = Allāh) whose sharī`a (law) is likewise universal. All the prophets and messengers (nabī + rasūl) are reckoned as archetypally revolving around the following seven figures, (1) Adam, (2) Enoch, (3) Abraham, (4) Jospeh, (5) Moses (6) Aaron and (7) Jesus. Among other things each prophet is associated with a particular divine Name. While Enoch, for example, is described as a maẓhar of the divine name al-ḥayy (`the Living), Joseph is the maẓhar of the divine name al-murīd (Disciple) associated with jamīl (Beauty). Beyond them Muhammad is the maẓhar of the comprehensive divine Name (al-ism al-jāmi`) Allāh as well as the maẓhar of the (supernal) Lights (al-anwār) (Mashāriq, 32-3).

Rajab al-Bursī (d.1090/1679), another Shī`ī thinker much influenced by Ibn al-`Arabī, is a theologically oriented section (kalimat) about the significance of al-ẓuhūr (the Manifest) and al-maẓhar (the Manifestation). Within this section it is stated that "the manifestations of the True One (maẓāhir al-ḥaqq) is something independent  (muṭlaqa) since the maẓhar-i ilāhī is in that locale as something [independently] evident (ẓāhir) and manifest  (maẓhar) (manifest)" (Kalimat, 114-5). Another section concerns the ultimacy of the of the theophany of the Ultimate Reality (ẓuhūr al-ḥaqq). Relative to the maẓāhir (Manifestations) this is said to be by means of the Divine Names [76] (al-asmā’ al-ilāhiyya). The Manifestation of the Name of Allāh (mazḥar ism Allāh) is identified as the person of the al-insān al-kāmil (The Perfect Man [Human]). The perfection of the name Allāh is evident in the manifestation of the Universal Perfect Human (maẓhar-i jāmi`-yi insān-i kāmil).
Similar examples could be gleaned from numerous other philosopher-theologians of the school of Ibn al-`Arabī and the `School of Isfahan’ and elsewhere. 1 Fn 1 = The first Safavid ruler Shāh Ismā’īl (d.930/1524), a Sufi Shaykh and one time head of the Qizilbash made use of maẓhar in certain of his Turkish, distinctly (neo-) ghuluww (extremist) high imamological and theophanologically oriented poems. Apparently referring to himself he states in one poem (no. 259), "A man (ādam) has become a maẓhar of the
ḥaqq ( Ultimately Real).. My Beauty is a maẓhar of Our God (jamālī maẓhar ilāhhum...) (Minorsaky, 1942: 1039a-1040a,194).

[`Abd al-Karīm al-Jilī (d. c. 832/1428)]

The famed al-insān al-kāmīl.. (The Perfect Human) of the Shī`ite Sufī `Abd al-Karīm al-Jilī (d. c. 832/1428)
contains a section dealing with the divine Names al-jalāl (The Majestic) where iti s stated that for every divine Name and Attribute there is a athar, a trace-impression which is a maẓhar of divine jamāl (Beauty) or jalāl (Majesty). (New ed, 97).

Baha'-Allah’s uses of maẓhar are numerous and generally fall into the theological- theophanological pattern set in the writings of the Bāb. Baha'-Allah’s apophatic theology of the maẓhar-i ilāhī (Manifestation of God) , like that of the Bāb (Lambden, 1997), categorically bypassed the potentially pantheistic waḥdat al-wujūd ("oneness of being") speculations of Ibn al-`Arabī (not his terminology) and his devotees (Baha'-Allah. Haft vādī, AQA 3:XX/ tr. Seven Valleys, 39-40). The Unmanifest Godhead ever remains unknowably beyond
number, gender and all limitations. He/She/It, the absolute Godhead, is only indirectly manifested through the maẓhar ilāhī who, as the (subordinate) "God", makes the `Wholly Other’ knowable to human beings. Scriptural (Q. + Bible) statements about God actually have apophatic significance or only disclose  something about his Will or His knowable, mediatory theophanic manifestations.
As a theological term central to Bābī- Bahā’ī usage maẓhar precludes any hint of ḥulūl, the `incarnation’ of the absolute Divine Essence (dhāt al-dhāt). The divine intermediary maẓhar-i ilāhī (Divine Theophany, Manifestation) does not manifest the hidden, incomprehensible Deity the dhāt or dhāt al-dhāt. Rather, it is the totality of the (created) divine Names and Attributes [77] (al-asmā’ wa’l-ṣifāt) that are exhibited in his Person. They are manifested by any given maẓhar-i ilāhī but only according to human capacity at a given
point in history and for a divinely ordained era in time (ẓuhūr = " theophanological dispensation"). The Bahā’ī prophet’s notion of tawḥid (the Divine Oneness) is focussed on the non-ontological, spiritual "oneness" of the nafs (Logos-like`Self’) of the major founder Prophets of religion who are manifestations of the totality of the Divine Names and attributes. They indirectly make the incomprehensible God known through the partial maẓhar or disclosure of the knowable Divine Will (Baha'-Allah, Lawḥ-i madinat al-tawḥīd).

At the outset of an untitled writing, Baha'-Allah writes, "The [eschatological] Day cries out announcing, `The manifestation of the Divine Command has assuredly been made manifest (qad ẓahara maẓhar al-amr) (La`ālī al-ḥikma, 1:109 No.170). He composed a number of alwāḥ designated Lawh-i ẓuhūr (The Tablet of the Theophany [Manifestation]) in which he detailed some theological aspects of the person of the maẓhar-i ilāhī. In one of them he explained that,

The theophany of the Divine Manifestation (ẓuhūr) is not compounded of the four elements. Nay rather, he is the mystery of the divine oneness (sirr al-aḥadiyya), the Pre-Existent Being (kaynuna al-qidamiyya), the All-Enduring Essence (al-jawhar al-ṣamadiyya) and the Hidden Ipseity (al-huwiyya al-ghaybiyya). He can in no wise be known apart from his own Self. It is not possible for anyone to establish that he was made manifest from the four elements (`anāṣir), from such elements (ustaqusāt = Gk. stoicheion) as are mentioned by the tongue of the practitioners of philosophy (ahl al-ḥikmat), or indeed, from any of the four natures (al-tabai`). All such as this was created as a result of His Command and through His Will (mashiyya)...

In every world he is manifested according to the capacity (bi-isti`dād) of that world. In the world of spirits (`ālam al-arwāḥ), for example, he reveals himself and becomes manifest unto them [the spiritual beings] through the vestiges of the Spriit (āthār al-rūḥ). So likewise in the world of bodies (ajsā d), in the world of Names and Attributes (al-asmā’ wa’l-ṣifāt) and in other worlds which none comprehends save God. All [of these worlds] derive their good-fortune (naṣīb) from this theophany of the Divine Manifestation (ẓuhūr). Wherefore does he appear unto them according to the requisite form in order that He might guide them unto God, His Lord, and draw them nigh unto the Abode of His Cause (Baha'-Allah L. Ẓuhūr, Mā’ida, 4:161f).

The following are a few Bābī- Bahā’ī doctrinal teachings that are held to apply equally to all maẓhar-i ilāhī. Bahā’ī hermeneutics never permits the interpretation of sacred books or Isrā’īliyyāt traditions in ways which might negate these theophanological doctrines ...