THE LAWḤ TUQĀ
(The Tablet of the Fear of God)
Mīrzā Ḥusayn `Alī Nūrī, Bahā'-Allāh (1817-1892).
The Lawḥ-i tuqā (The Tablet of the Fear of God, c. 1867), Some Introductory Notes.
Stephen N. Lambden 1980s. Under revision
يا معشر الشّيعة اتّقوا اللّه من امرنا فی ذكر اللّه الاكبر فانّه قد كان فی امّ الكتاب من نقطة النّار عظيماً
O concourse of the Shi`a!
Fear ye God! with respect to Our Cause, regarding him who is the Supreme Remembrance of God. One Mighty [inscribed] indeed in the Archetypal Book, nigh the Point of Fire.
Addressing the people of the earth in this same work, the Bāb exhorts them to fear God on the Day of the True One (QA. 70: 283). This again in the light of the imminent appearance of the expected messianic Remembrance (al-dhikr), for Baha'is both the Bāb and secondarily Bahā'-Allāh.
Bahā'-Allāh continued to emphasize the centrality of the "fear of God" for the spiritual aspirant. All human beings should endeavour to be be truly godfearing. The ethical teaching of the "fear of God" is frequently spoken about in a good many of his major and minor Persian and Arabic revelations reckoned as scriptural Tablets (alwāḥ). In certain of the Tablets of the two decade or so long, Ottoman Iraq and Turkey years (1853-1868) as well as later periods, key qur'ānic-Sufi dimensions of the "fear of God" are registered and interpreted. Within both the Seven Valleys (Haft Vādī) and the Four Valleys (Chāhār Vādī) the spiritual wayfarer is exhorted to "fear God" in order to be receptive to spiritual inspiration and knowledge.
At various points in his ethico-legalistic Most Holy Book (al-kitāb al-aqdas) (c. 1873), Bahā'-Allāh exhorts human beings to obey his laws, live a pious though happy life and some 16 times to "fear God". In his Lawḥ-i dunyā ("Tablet of the World "), he comments on the function of the regulations or laws of His Most Holy Book in the light of the role of the "fear of God" (khashiyat Allāh) as,
"that which guardeth and restraineth man both inwardly and outwardly. Indeed, it is man's true protector and his spiritual guardian" (TB:97).
The second epigram of Bahā'-Allāh's aṣl-i kull al-khayr ("The basis of all good" or "Words of Wisdom") asserts that "The essence of wisdom" is, first and foremost, the "fear of God" (al-khashiyat `an Allāh) (TB:155).
In his Ishrāqāt ("Splendours") Bahā'-Allāh states that he has "admonished Our loved ones to fear God (taqwā Allāh)" commenting that this quality is a "fear which is the fountainhead of all goodly deeds and virtues" and is "the commander of the hosts of justice in the city of Bahā" (TB:120). According to the fourth Ishrāq in this particular writing, the very success of the Bahā'ī Cause relates to the acquisition of those spiritual qualities that revolve around and are born out of that "fear of God" which is all surrounding and all encompassing, possessing a kind of dominion or sovereignty:
"In this revelation the hosts that can render it [ the Bahā'ī religion] victorious are the hosts of praiseworthy deeds and upright character. The leader and commander of these hosts hath ever been the fear of God (taqwā Allāh), a fear that encompasseth all things and reigneth over all things" (TB:126, cf. p.121)
Mystically speaking, the "fear of God" is omnipresent. In the "first leaf" of the Kalimāt-i firdawsiyyih ("Words of Paradise") the "fear of God" (khashiyat Allāh) is reckoned as a "sure defense and a safe stronghold for the peoples of the world"; as "the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation" (TB:63).
Bahā'-Allāh stated that it is of paramount importance that children be taught to understand the oneness of God and the religious laws of God through which the "fear of God" would be inculcated. Without this bad deeds and unworthy sentiments would abound (Bahā'ī Education, 4). In his last major work He states, "The fear of God hath ever been the prime factor in the education of His creatures. Well is it with them that have attained thereunto" (ESW:27)
The central importance tuqā / taqwā within Baha'i piety is evident in the late `Akkā period Persian Lawḥ-i Dunyā (Tablet of the World, c. 1890?) of Bahā'-Allāh where we at one point read:
"Cleave unto taqwā righteousness, O people of Bahā! This, verily, is the commandment which this Wronged One (al-maẓlūm = Bahā'-Allāh) hath given unto you, and the first choice of his unrestrained Will for every one of you." (Per. Text, Majmu`ih.. 48; trans. Shoghi Effendi, TB:86).
Not at all a cringing terror before the Almighty Creator, tuqā/ tawqī, the `fear of God' in Bahā'ī spirituality is an inner quality which is closely related to the human conscience and to knowledge, wisdom and actions expressive of piety, righteousness, equity and love.
The `Tablet of the Fear of God' begins with an affirmation of the continuing, post-Bābī divine revelation of verses that peoples might orient themselves "upon a path unto the vicinity of the "Spirit nigh the Throne of their Lord", be receptive of the Bahā'ī message of Bahā'-Allāh. The people, the primarily Bābī audience should "Fear God! (ittaqū'llāh)" in humility before the divine Beauty (jamāl) with the name of Bahā' (bi-ism al-bahā') in the realm of Eternal Subsistence (jabarūt al-baqā')" who is identical with the Bāb, if they desire to manifest befitting receptivity to the grace of God. In Tablets of the early Edirne (Adrianople) period the spiritual identity of the Bāb and Bahā'u'llah is often and in varying ways spelled out. Baha'u'llah claimed to be the "return" of the Bab and to reveal verses like him.
Through the Person of Bahā'-Allāh, it is asserted that key eschatological signs have been fulfilled. Revolutionary changes have been effected and the invitation is made to enter and travel in "the Crimson Ark (fulk al-ḥamrā')". For Baha'is this latter soteriological motif which is rooted in various surahs of the Qayyūm al-asmā' (and other writings of the Bab), is representative of the Cause of Bahā'-Allāh. Entry therein is to the end that a lofty goal might be attained, which is guarded from the aspersions cast by unbelieving Bābīs and others.
Allusion is made to the inadequacy of such persons as Mīrzā Yaḥyā and their known failure to accept the claim of Bahā'-Allāh. He seems to be alluded to as "one who publicly turned aside from God".
Others consider that such new revelations are not in conformity with the fitra, "the natural human disposition"; they do not feel right even though the God-given innate disposition was created by the Word of God itself. Still others accuse Bahā'-Allāh of magic or sorcery. This is a fallacious accusation made against all the prophets and messengers of the past.
The original spiritual creation of Mīrzā Yaḥyā is recounted in symbolic language as is his being accorded the al-asmā' al-ḥusnā the "Most Beautiful Names" of God and elevated unto a station (maqām) which resulted on his being greatly renowned among a wide spectrum of peoples. The resulted, Baha'-Allah maintains, in his pride and public renunciation of the "Logos-Self of God" (= Bahā'-Allāh).
Further paragraphs of this Tablet call peoples to righteous piety and honesty; to the "fear of God". The strong and allusive language of the Lawḥ-i tuqā quite frequently echoes that of the Qur'ān. Bābīs should not make the errors which Muslims made in rejecting the Bāb. This Tablet is primarily a call to the followers of the Bāb to make the transition to faith in Bahā'-Allāh, despite the hostile attitude of his half-brother, the one-time leading Bābī Mīrzā Yaḥyā Nūrī (c.1834-1914).
A further Note of the Baha'i concept of the "fear of God" and a bibliographical Appendix on this subject
Shoghi Effendi (c. 1896-1957), the great-grandson of Bahā'-Allāh was asked about the `exact meaning' of the expression "fear of God" mentioned in Bahā'ī sacred scripture. On his behalf it was pointed out that "it often means awe, but has also other connotations such as reverence, terror and fear" (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 13, 1940, cited Lights of Guidance : No. 789.) It was also the case that on Shoghi Effendi's behalf, some aspects of the Bahā'ī teaching about the "fear of God" were summed up as follows,
"You ask him about the fear of God: perhaps the [Baha'i] friends do not realize that the majority of human beings need the element of fear in order to discipline their conduct? Only a relatively very highly evolved soul would always be disciplined by love alone. Fear of punishment, fear of the anger of God if we do evil, are needed to keep people's feet on the right path. Of course we should love God -- but we must fear Him in the sense of a child fearing the righteous anger and chastisement of a parent; not cringe before Him as before a tyrant, but know His mercy exceeds His justice" (Letter dated July 26, 1946, cited Lights of Guidance : No. 494.)
In explaining how the "fear of God" should be taught to children, the Guardian of the Bahā'ī Faith found no objection to this being done by means of parables: he added, "the child should be made to understand that we don't fear God because He is cruel, but we fear Him because He is just, and, if we do wrong and deserve to be punished, then in His justice He may see fit to punish us. We must both love God and fear Him" (Letter cited in ibid No. 313.)
From the Bahā'ī point of view then, the "fear of God" is not a trembling consternation before a terrible Deity. Rather, it can be viewed as an inner spiritual realization and experience of the dictates of the Divine Will and Purpose juxtaposed alongside one's own merely fallible human desires, will and knowledge. This can be a positive spiritual experience. The "fear of God" should be viewed as a loving realization of God's sublime knowledge, justice and magnanimity; a reverential awe before the Divine Providence. Obedience to the law of God is a consequence of the "fear of God". Born out of the love of God -- not something alien to a positive relationship with Him -- it is an humble consciousness of His Will that lies at the very root of true human spirituality. When the individual "fears God" he or she takes humble note of Divine Revelation and listens to their essential spiritual conscience operating through the "spirit of faith" which is a "ray" of the "sun" of the Holy Spirit. Being in the state or condition of the "fear of God" actualizes the related spiritual qualities of knowledge and love.
- al-Futūḥāt al-makiyya, vol. 2 Beirut: Dār Sādir, n.d.
- Qayyūm al-asmā', Mss. copied in 1905-6 C.E. [Afnān Library]).
Bahā'u'llāh, Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri,
- Tablets of Bahā'u'llāh revealed after the Kitāb-i-Aqdas, (= TB) Haifa: Bahā'ī World Centre, 1978.
- Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, (= ESW) (trans. Shoghi Effendi) Wilmette, Illinois: Bahā'ī Publishing Trust, 1971.
- An Index of Quotations from the Bahā'ī Sacred Writings, Oxford: George Ronald, 1983.
- Lights of Guidance, 2nd Ed. New Delhi: Bahā'ī Publishing Trust, 1978.
- A Compilation on Bahā'ī Education, Oakham: Bahā'ī Publishing Trust, 1976.
al-Ghazālī, `Abd al-Hamid,
- Iḥyā' ulūm al-dīn. vol.4 Beirut: Dār al-ma`rifah n.d.
- A Concordance of the Qur'an, London: University of California Press, 1983.
- Amr va Khalq, Vol. 3/4 Hofheim-Langenheim: Bahā'ī-Verlag, 1986/142 Badī`, esp. p. 423ff.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein,
- Sufi Essays. Albany: SUNY Press, 1972.
Q = Qur'ān.
- The Way of the Mystics, The Early Christian Mystics and the Rise of the Sufis, London: Sheldon Press, 1976.
- Fear, in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, (= IDB) Vol. 2 Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962, pp. 256-260.