The Tablet of Bahā’-Allāh to `Abd al-Razzāq al-Kashānī. Introduction and Commentary
Stephen N. Lambden. UCMerced.
In progress, Last revised 06-02-2016.
This Tablet was in reply to a question of a certain `Abd al-Razzāq and was partially translated by Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings (No.LXXXVII). Baha'-Allah was asked about the existence of extant records of pre-Adamic prophets and kings (dhikr-i anbiyā’ qabl az Ādam abū bashar va salaṭī–yi ān ...). The Persian text of this lawh or scriptural tablet can be found in the compilation Iqtidarat va chand lawh-i digar, pp. 68-78.
Only a small proportion of the original text of the Lawh-i `Abd al-Razzāq al-Kashānī was translated by Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings : PDf. L-Abd al-Razzaq-GWB.pdf
Some Introductory Notes and Commentary on the Translation of Shoghi Effendi.
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah (1st ed. 19XX) sect. LXXXVII :
Pre-Adamic Prophet Figures, Kings and others.
The question :
And now regarding thy question, “How is it that no records are to be found concerning the Prophets that have preceded Adam, the Father of Mankind, or of the kings that lived in the days of those Prophets?”
Know thou that the absence of any reference to them is no proof that they did not actually exist. That no records concerning them are now available, should be attributed to their extreme remoteness, as well as to the vast changes which the earth hath undergone since their time.
Ancient Forms of Writing
Moreover such forms and modes of writing as are now current amongst men were unknown to the generations that were before Adam. There was even a time when men were wholly ignorant of the art of writing, and had adopted a system entirely different from the one which they now use. For a proper exposition of this an elaborate explanation would be required.
Language and other forms of cultural evolution
Consider the differences that have arisen since the days of Adam. The divers and widely-known languages now spoken by the peoples of the earth were originally unknown, as were the varied rules and customs now prevailing amongst them. The people of those times spoke a language different from those now known. Diversities of language arose in a later age, in a land known as Babel. It was given the name Babel, because the term signifieth “the place where the confusion of tongues arose.”
The Syriac language, Hebrew then Arabic.
Subsequently Syriac became prominent among the existing languages. The Sacred Scriptures of former times were revealed in that tongue. Later, Abraham, the Friend of God, appeared and shed upon the world the light of Divine Revelation. The language He spoke while He crossed the Jordan became known as Hebrew (Ibrání), which meaneth “the language of the crossing.” The Books of God and the Sacred Scriptures were then revealed in that tongue, and not until after a considerable lapse of time did Arabic become the language of Revelation….
Abraham and the Hebrew language
Extract from the Lambden 1982/2002 doctoral thesis.
"In this Persian Lawh-i Qabl-i Ādam Baha'-Allah appears to show direct (or indirect - via al-Ya`qūbī?) familiarity with an Isrā’īliyyāt tradition relating to Abraham and the origins of the Hebrew language, perhaps as it is registered in the aforementioned K. Tanbīḥ of al-Mas`ūdī,
Henceforth he [Abraham] spoke that [language] which is called Hebrew (`ibrānī) because it originated at the time of the crossing (`ubūr): it is derived from the word `Ibr... (K.Tanbīḥ, 1965:79, tr. Adang 1996:126 cf. Gen 14:13).
Baha'-Allah reflects the above cited tradition when he states that Abraham spoke Hebrew (Ar. `Ibrānī) at the (Per.) ḥīn–i `ubūr az nahr-i urdūn, "the very moment of the crossing of (`ubūr az ) the river Jordan" ( IQ:75; cf. GWB*115/173). He thus derives `Ibrānī (Hebrew) from `ubūr ("crossing"). Though there are minor differences in Mas`ūdī’s and Baha'-Allah’s statements, it seems clear that Baha'-Allah is restating this popular Jewish-Islamic etymology. It is also found, for example, in the Tārīkḥ al-Ṭabarī in detailing aspects of the life of Abraham. The following version of this etymological tradition is related from Ibn `Abbās:
When Abraham fled from Kūthā and came out of the fire, his language was Syriac, but when he crossed the Euphrates from Ḥarrān, God changed his language and it was called Hebrew (`Ibrānī) because he had crossed (`abara) the Euphrates. Nimrod sent men to look for him, telling them, "If you find anyone who speaks Syriac, do not leave him, but bring him to me. "They met Abraham, but left him because he spoke Hebrew and they did not understand his language (Al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh: 347, tr. Brinner, History II:128).
This popular etymology registered by al-Mas`ūdī, al-Ṭabarī, Baha'-Allah and others, has no explicit basis in either the Hebrew Bible or the Qur'an. In Gen 14:13, however, Abraham is referred to as "Abram the Hebrew". An ancient, popular etymological understanding of עִבְרִי (`ivrī, "Hebrew") here relates the word "Hebrew" to the verbal root ע-ב-ר ( `-b-r = `to pass, cross’ = Ar. cognate - ع ب ر `abara عبر = ` to cross, traverse’) or to the preposition (= "across", "beyond"). This is evident in the Gk (LXX., 3rd cent. BCE?) rendering of the Hebrew (MT) where "Abram the (`ibrī = "Hebrew)" is interpretively rendered Ἅβραμ ὁ περατής "Abram, the perātes, one from across../ the region beyond / the wanderer". What exactly is meant by the "across" or the region beyond is not clear. It could indicate beyond the Jordan or the Euphrates (cf. Gen 50:10; Num 21:13, Josh. 24:2).
Almost a century ago the above etymology was registered in the (1st edition) of the Jewish Encyclopaedia (1907; JE VI:304-5). Today, however, the etymology of עִבְרִי (`ibrī) has become something very complex, a linguistic puzzle having little or nothing to do with words indicating "to cross". Abraham’s family "beyond the river" were not in fact Hebrew but Aramean (Gen 25:10). "Hebrew", עִבְרִי (`ivrī) remains of unknown, uncertain derivation though it is often thought to indicate ethnicity or be indicative of a period of marginalized "slavery" (cf. Exod. 21:2) as may be hinted at by the (pre-biblical, 2nd mill. BCE) cuneiform word Ha[b]piru / Habiru (= `Apiru)." (Lambden Phd).
The Evolution of Language, Speech and Writing.
Witness, therefore, how numerous and far-reaching have been the changes in language, speech, and writing since the days of Adam. How much greater must have been the changes before Him!
The transcendent Deity
Our purpose in revealing these words is to show that the one true God hath, in His all-highest and transcendent station, ever been, and will everlastingly continue to be, exalted above the praise and conception of all else but Him.
Eternal Creation and Guidance.
His creation hath ever existed, and the Manifestations of His Divine glory and the Day Springs of eternal holiness have been sent down from time immemorial, and been commissioned to summon mankind to the one true God. That the names of some of them are forgotten and the records of their lives lost is to be attributed to the disturbances and changes that have overtaken the world.
The Deluge and other cataclysmic events in world history
Mention hath been made in certain books of a deluge which caused all that existed on earth, historical records as well as other things, to be destroyed. Moreover, many cataclysms have occurred which have effaced the traces of many events.
Diverse human history writing and the age of the earth.
Furthermore, among existing historical records differences are to be found, and each of the various peoples of the world hath its own account of the age of the earth and of its history. Some trace their history as far back as eight thousand years, others as far as twelve thousand years. To any one that hath read the book of Jük it is clear and evident how much the accounts given by the various books have differed.
Please God thou wilt turn thine eyes towards the 175 Most Great Revelation, and entirely disregard these conflicting tales and traditions.
The age of the world from its beginning (Anno Mundi).
Extracts from the Lambden doctoral 1982/2002 thesis
In his L. Qabl-i ādam (Tablet on the pre-Adamic era), Baha'-Allah responded to a question about the apparent non-existence of historical records of pre-Adamic prophets and kings. In reply he pointed out that such an era existed as do records relating to it though they appear undecipherable, lost or destroyed on account of changes to humankind and the earthly terrain. Diverse estimates of human history he continues, have been made. Some reckon an 8,000 year pre-history, others a 12,000 year era (= Zoroastrians), not to mention such details as are given in the (Hindu) Kitāb-i yūka, ("Book of the Ages" = Skt. yūga ). After mentioning such details BA* directs his questioner, `Abd al-Razzāq, to disregard such conflicting details and focus instead upon the sublime panorama of his revelation (manẓar al-akbar) (BA* IQ:77).
Unlike the Hebrew Bible with its chronologically oriented materials and genealogical notices specifying the lifespan of Israel’s ancestors (Genesis 5, 11 etc), the Q. displays little or no concern with chronological data pertaining to ancient history, nations, prophets or peoples. The relative dating and chronological order of past messengers and prophets is not systematically presented in this Arabic text. Even the dates and genealogy of Muhammad himself are not present. Muslims,
however, have variously and repeatedly calculated the period between the anno mundi (creation / the era of Adam, allegedly the first man) and the days of the prophet Muhammad. They made many attempts to narrate the lives and give a precise dating and chronological order to ancient patriarchs, prophets, philosophers and other worthies of past ages.
It was primarily a result of an often Zoroastrian rooted Jewish or Christian influence that a large number of Muslim traditions and sources reckon the span of world history as extending into a fifth, sixth, seventh or even an eighth millennial era. The frequently cited Yemenite Jewish convert to Islam, Wahb ibn Munabbih, for example, on one occasion is said to have reckoned a period of 5, 600 years AM up to the Islamic era (Ṭabarī, Tārīkh, 1:15). On another occasion he is cited as having
maintained that around 6, 600 years had transpired in view of the fact that "God created the heavens in six days and established the magnitude of each day at 1,000 years" (Maqdisī, K. al-Bad’ III:150).
Lying behind a large number of Islamic computations of the period separating the anno mundi and the time of Muhammad, are Byzantine Christian chronological and associated speculations expressed in millennial terms. Jews and Christians from at least the opening centuries CE divided the scheme of the ages of the world into millennial periods on the basis of such texts as Genesis 2:2 and Psalm 90:4 (cf. II Peter 3:8; Rev 20:1ff). 1 Early Jewish, Hellenistic, pseudepigraphical, and later Rabbinic literatures implied, and various Christian texts explicitly utilized, diverse millennial schemata extending world history for several thousands of years (AM). Four, five or six 1,000 year periods were often envisaged as being consummated by a seventh millennial age of fulfilment and eschatological beatitude. Each of the 7 days of creation were understood as 1,000 years of history; the final millennium being a kind of `messianic sabbath.' Thus there is the notion of the "timeless new world of the eighth day" which follows a kind of `messianic sabbath millennial day' (Caird,
Indicative of the above is the following foundational passage from the early Christian Epistle of Barnabas,15 (c. 125 CE) which cites Gen. 2:2a and Psalm 90:4 maintaining that: "in six days -- six thousand years, that is -- there is going to be an end to everything. After that , he rested on the seventh day [Gen 2:2b] indicates that when His Son [Christ] returns, He will put an end to the years of the Lawless One, pass sentence on the godless, transform the sun and moon and stars, and then, on the seventh Day, enter into His true rest" (tr. Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 214).
Influenced by such early Christian traditions inherited from Papias bishop of Hierapolis (d. c.130?) and Justin Martyr (d. 165 CE?), the Christian theologian and heresiologist Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 200 CE) held that the world would end after 6,000 years (Irenaeus. Haer. 5. 28. 3; 5. 32f ; cf. Justin, Dial, Tryph. 80-81). So too Hippolytus of Rome (d. c. 236; Comm. Dan., 4.24), Julius Africanus (of Jerusalem; d. after c. 240) and other chronographers of the apostolic, patristic and later eras. Lactantius (260-.c.330) was expectant of a future "hedonistic enjoyment by the just" in a sabbatical millennium to be realized after a 6,000 year period (Instit. vii.14, 24; Loi, EEC II:470; cf. 166-7). Like some of the speculations among the former Christian writers whose chronology was frequently based upon that of the Greek Septuagint (LXX; early 3rd Cent BCE), Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 340) thought that the world would last for 6,000 years (six millennia) and that Jesus Christ was born in 5, 500 [later 5,199] AM (cf. Augustine, C.D. xxii.30.5). 1
The originally Syriac Me`ārath Gazze (`Cave of Treasures’ 4th cent. CE?), which exists  in various (post 6th cent. CE) Arabic recensions, reckons a 5, 500 year period between Adam and Christ (Bezold, 1883-8; rep. nd.; Gibson, 1901; Budge,1927:10, 221). For many early Eastern Christians a period of at least 500 years before the end-time parousia (6,000+) was thus presupposed. These figures were later abandoned or adjusted by Christians when eschatological events seemed soon to be realized as in the late 7th century (Syriac) Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius.2 For the pious in the Islamic community, such millennially based chronological speculations were set out in numerous authoritative prophetic ḥadīth / akhbār from the (Twelver) Imams.
The 8,000 year age of the earth
The 12,000 year age of the earth
A 12,000 year era can be in accord with Zoroastrian sacred writing.
Details given in the (Hindu) Kitāb-i yūka, ("Book of the Ages" = Skt. yūga ) are also mentioned. There is little doubt that the Arabic jūk transliterates the Sanskrit yuga (="ages[s]) and is indicative of a period of time relative to the four ages (Skt. yugas) of the world expressed in divine years though representing many thousands of human years (see the great Hindu epic Mahābhārata and the Mānū- Samhitā, "Lawbook of Manu" where these yugas are set out). The transliteration of BA* is that which al-Birūnī used in his Taḥqīq li-l-hind ("The Reality that is India", 3rd ed. Beirut:`Alam al-kutub, 1403/1983), 279 (trans. Sachau, 1910:367)
The chronology of the book of Jük [Yoga].