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Surat al-Qalam (The Surah of the Pen)




The Surat al-Qalam (The Surah of the Pen), c. 1866-8

Some Introductory Notes

Stephen Lambden UC Merced. 1980s + 2017,



The Arabic text of the Surat al-Qalam has been printed in :

  • Athar-i qalam - a`la vol IV : 258-267.
  • Risala-yi Tasbih wa Tahlil, pp.

Translations of this Tablet include :

  • Authorized. Baha'i World Centre Translation, 2017
  • Academic Translation with Select Notes and Commenary,
  • Partial Translations ...

This wholly Arabic Tablet is of uncertain date although it is most  likely, from internal evidence, to be dated to the mid-late Edirne (Adrianople) period, c. 1866-8. A post 1868 Acre period dating has also been proposed by `Abd al-Hamid Ishraq Khavari in his Ganj-i shayigan, p.192 but this seems unlikely. While it opening might suggest and Acre dating (1868 onwards) it conclusion points to the Edirne period with its use of the messianic Dhikr title (if this be the correct reading).   This titled Tablet commences as follows (see the image above) :

This is the Surah of the Pen (Surat al-Qalam). It was revealed from the Heaven of Pre-Existence (sama' al-qidam) unto such as have gazed in the direction of the precincts of the Divine Throne (shatr al-`atrsh)!

The Arabic title Surat al-Qalam has an Islamic version in the Surat al-Qalam of the Qur'an (Surah LXVIII [68] ) as well as the Surat al-Qalam of the Qayyum al-asma; (Self-Subsisting Deity of the Divine Names of God, mid. 1844). See  Qayyum al-asma' LXXI [71] Sūrat al-Qalam (The Surah of the Pen) on Qur'an 12:70). See

The Pen referred to in these sacred texts is variously interpreted in Islamic, Babi and Baha'i Texts; the Baha'i sacred writings include several Tablets interpreting the motif of the Qalam or Pen and its qur'anic prototype. See for example,

This introductory paragraph or heading of the Surat al-Qalam (Surah of the Pen), is followed by a new Babi-Baha'i variant of the Islamic basmala (In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate), its new Babi form spelled out in the Persian Bayan and hunreds of times used after 1847 by both the Bab and Baha'-Allah has two superlatives (al-amna' + al-aqdas), being  "In the Name of God, the Most Transcendent, the Most Holy" (bismillah al-amna' al-aqdas). This new Babi basmala or neo-basmala is echoed at the begining of the Surat al-qalam which again has two superlatives (al-abda` and al-abha) : 

 In the Name of God, the Most Wondrous (al-abda`), the Most Glorious (al-abha).

 Using another superlative al-a`la (-Most Transcendent or Supreme), Baha'-Allah next directly addresses the qalam al-a`la. the Supreme Pen!




"This is the Surat al-Qalam come to the following  conclusion


Wherefore hath the Call of this Pen (nida' al-Qalam) been completed within this Tablet through this blessed, sealed Dhikr (Remembrance)



The Surat al-Qalam  is:

  • Writen wholly in Arabic,
  • It is roughly  5-10 pages long in several orignal Arabic mss. and printed editions, One printing, AQA IV :258-267 has around eight full pages with 15 lines to a page.
  • It has a brief ( one or two line) preface in which its title or name is spelled out: "This is the Surat al-qalam (Surah of the Pen),
  • Beneath the prixed title line there is an Arabic reformed or neo-basmala ("In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" = bismilla al-rahman al-rahim), occurring over 112 times in the Qur'an) which also has two adjectives as superlatives spelling out two elevated Names of God. Its form is more or less parallel to the neo-basmala foruma favoured by the Bab - "In the Name of God,  the Inacessible (al-amna`) the Most Holy *al-aqdas)" , namely, " In the Name of God, the Most Wondrous (al-abda`), the Most Glorious (al-abha).
  • The main text of this Tablet commences with an address to the Divine, Pre-Existent or Eternal Pen  (al-qalam) which smybolizes, among other things, the Divine Person  and power of revelation of Baha'-Allah.
  •  Something of the elevated claims of Baha'-Allah are spelled out in the first line. There Baha'-Allah as the Pen is seen to testify to his Divinity or that of God Himself with special reference to His being al-muhaymin (the Help in Peril), al-qayyum (the Self-Subsisting). The claim to be al-Qayyum, the divinity "Self-Subsisting" is especially important as its often applies to Imam Husayn and to the new Joseph in the first major book, the Qayyum al-asma' ( mid. 1844) of the Bab. Joseph and Qayyum have an identical abjad numerical value of 156.