Translations of Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Texts, No. 1 (April, 1997)

Juan R. I. Cole

"Baha'u'llah's `Book of the Tigris' (Sahifih-'i Shattiyyih): Text,



Translation of Baha'u'llah's Sahifih-'i Shattiyyih:

It has become the subject of much talk, but the people do not understand:
The miracles that have been mentioned and attributed to this abased one are
lies fabricated by prevaricators. But those attributed to the original
Point (the Bab)--the wellspring of the primal emanation--and to the
Mirrors who speak of him, are true, a truth to which the sincere attain. What he
revealed in the Bayan from the heaven of bounty and the clouds of compassion
is, moreover, a universal and convincing proof. Aside from revealing
verses, he did not affirm anything. This was and is God's proof to the
people of the earth. Any sign beyond it that appears from the mine of grace
and glory is a bounty from God. Otherwise, the greatest proof is what he
himself has established. "And who is truer in tidings than God?"(1a)

The appearance of other miracles, which have been attributed to the
prophets, should not be categorically denied, because human reason is not
the balance. If one gazes with the eye of insight, one will consider that
everything that can be seen upon the earth was invisible to all the people,
high and low, before they took notice of it. Consider the sun in the sky,
which is so apparent--how it sheds delight and illumination upon all who
are on the earth, whether in the east, west or other directions. Clearly,
before the mind had perceived such a thing, it would not have accepted
anyone's description of it. Think about belief in such a thing in all the
stations of the creation, so that the mystery of this matter might be
unveiled to you.

All things are the miracles of the prophets. "Return thy gaze; seest thou
any fissure?" (1) In the Qur'an are many verses that prove
this. Even though I do not have the verse itself before me, the meaning of
those verses bears this implication. For instance, "God is he that created
you, then he provided for you"--do you not then see? (2) And
God "caused you to grow out of the earth"--so do you not believe? (3)
"And sent down out of heaven water"--do you not give thanks? And he
"created the heavens and the earth and what is between them,"(4) and
he calmed the mountains as a grace from him, and little do you understand.
Thus it is clear that whatever can be seen is dependent upon God's power.
Is there any creator save God? Say: Praise be to God! No creator is there
but He, in whom the sincere have believed.

Now, some argue that if the miracles attributed to past prophets are true,
then they must appear now, as well. But this argument is unworthy of the
consideration of illumined minds and pure hearts. It is quite frequently
the case that affairs occurred in the past that no longer occur today, and
vice versa. "In every matter your lord possesses treasure holds that he
sends down as he wishes, according to his own measure. That is your lord,
and the lord of your fathers aforetime." For instance, every thirty years
as you count and reckon, in some countries a plague epidemic used to break
out. Can this interval be disputed? And can it be denied that no such
thing has recently occurred? Otherwise, many other things should also occur
nowadays that used to take place but do not, and vice versa.

It might be asked why a miracle demonstrating pure power and the divine
attributes should not appear, so as to cause the exaltation of lofty spirits
and of holy souls. Indeed, this is a truth, the like of which you speak
forth in utterance. But God has sublime parables, if you but knew.
Consider the course of the Tigris, which you see. It grows turbulent at the
time when it overflows its banks and goes on its course. What it does is
determined by its own sovereignty. It pays no heed to the cries of weak
souls that are raised from every side, that a mighty dam has been breached,
or a wall in such and such locality has crumbled, or a house has been
destroyed, or a mansion has collapsed. Rather, it flows on, with perfect
dominion, power, triumph and sovereignty. At every stage, it acts with
perfect egalitarianism. For instance, before its onslaught, every building,
whether it belongs to an emperor or to a pauper, is equally at risk. The
only exception is a building that is so strong that it can stand firm on its
own. Thus do we coin for you parables, so that perhaps you might attain
certitude in your beliefs. Render your vision and insight subtle, so that a
breeze from the wind of delight and splendor might caress your heart and you
might be firmly ensconced on the throne of tranquillity. This is the
greatest, the supreme teaching, if you can but discern it.

In addition, note that if a powerful individual desired to dam up this
river, and to curb it by means of main force and sovereign power, how many
homes and dwellings would in consequence be destroyed, and how many souls
would drown. But at the same time desiccated fields that had for some time
been afflicted with burning thirst would attain fresh and wondrous life and
would be clothed in fine and magnificent new raiments. Thus does God create
what he wills by his command, and there is no god but God. That is the lord
of the worlds. In the same way, consider the foreordained an predestined
mysteries--what has appeared and shall appear. Like this river, events
flow in their own station. But if something appears that is contrary to that
destiny, then conflict arises in the world. If you can grasp this abstruse
and recondite enigma, which is more hidden than any other secret, you will
be able to dispense with the question you posed, and with all such questions
in the future. In any age or epoch when the Point of Unity and the
self-sufficient Essence desires, he makes this real river and true sea to
appear and sets it flowing, clothing it in a new body and a wondrous robe.
All those edifices of being and imaginings of false souls then drown and
perish. But they are obliterated by the utmost thirst and parching,
neglecting even so much as to take a sip from it. Thus does God revivify
whomever he wishes, vindicating whomever he pleases and denying whomever he
wishes, if you but knew.

The winds of yearning begin gusting over the flooded river of essence that
flows from the north of unity. How many exalted souls, possessors of hearts
and sound imaginations, and how many perfect lofty edifices, will be
destroyed and effaced! By him who grasped the heavens by his might and
caused the rivers to flow by his command! If it were not for fear of the
hidden hatred(5) in the breasts of the people, I would have continued to mirror
forth all divine parables and subtleties of the celestial laws with
reference to the very flowing of this physical river. But what shall I say?
I make no claim to a Cause(6). The intensity of the sorrow and grief that have
befallen me during these days has left me sorely tried between the Gog of
silence and the Magog of speech. I beseech God to send down an Alexander
who will erect a protecting wall. Hidden allusions have been concealed in
these phrases and sacred letters have been treasured up in these words.
Happy are those who have grasped these pearls, have appreciated their value,
and have attained their presence.

It is obvious and well known that disagreement, from the most distant
worlds of meaning to the nearest stages of words, is caused by differences
in the forms reflected by individual mirrors. Every person speaks of and
relates what is within him. For instance, in this very parable of the
Tigris, note how from one point of view it overflows and affects mansions
and buildings equally. But any vale that had greater capacity could take in
more water, and any dam that was less sturdy would be less able to resist
the flood. These differences, then, derive from situation. In the same
way, consider the rays of the pre-existent sun, which shines with a single
ray in the heavens of the hearts of contingent beings. Thereafter, its
reflection in the forms, which is visible in the mirrors, differs because of
the differences among the mirrors themselves. For some mirrors stand
exalted in their nature and sublime in their aspirations, whereas others
stoop in the baseness of their rigidity and their descent into obliteration.
All have stages before God and all shall return to him. Those endued with
insight must have sharp vision and a heart as big as all being, so that an
opportunity at hand does not prevent some from gazing upon the beauty, nor
deprive others of the water of life. Thus might they be favored with all
foods and receive their portion. Then what necessity would there be to hold
fast to the words of the people, or to be torn apart by the deeds of the
servants? All drink from one body of water and sip from one lake, and all
occupy levels before God, and all proceed according to their stations.

Today, every person who believes in the most exalted countenance (the Bab)
and who is certain of his station upon the throne after him, will have a
sufficient share of knowledge and deeds. But the only way to attain his
good pleasure and faith in him is by obeying his command in every respect.
This is the most great, glorious and incorruptible result. No one besides
God has any goal nor any end. All that has been mentioned in description of
the Tigris river was a parable that flowed from the Pen. It pondered and
thought about the river, until all the mysteries, including the veil of
nearness and distance, loftiness and basement, were lifted so that the
beauty was uncovered. Gaze upon this sea of seas, for all oceans will be
but droplets before his grandeur, for the wellspring of the Essence and the
mine of the blessed attributes is itself billowing. Say: Praise be to God!
How amazing is your Cause, how great your power, how extensive your
sovereignty, how triumphant your splendor! We know nothing of you save what
you have taught us from yourself by the tongue of the manifestation of your
Self, the wellspring of your essence, the mine of your Cause, and the
sanctuary of your command. Verily, you know all that has been created and
shall be created, and verily you are the Absolute Truth, knower of the

Javad, I shall share with you one letter, which is pure compassion and
clemency, which has been taken from the substance of the Books and the
essence of the scrolls, so that from the cloud of oneness the water of
self-sufficiency might rain down upon your reality and the reality of the
servants. Thus might you attain to eternal life, which is this:
Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that yours may be a sovereignty
ancient, imperishable and everlasting. This is my treasure, which is
related to you. If it lives and is implemented, it shall never die nor
perish. This is a light that is not extinguished, a treasure that is not
exhausted, a raiment that does not wear out, and a splendor over which no
curtain is drawn. By it many are led astray whereas others are guided.

Praise God that you have been the recipient of this universal Word, this
divine melody, and this celestial song. I have found nothing more
incontrovertible than this phrase, otherwise I would have shared it with
you. I have no greater counsel than the saying mentioned above. Preserve
it, if you wish to find a path to the possessor of the Throne. Because of
the love I bear for that gentleman, this answer has been written.
Otherwise, I have no inclination to write anything, or to compose a single
letter. God suffices as a witness and a protector for you. Therefore,
arise with legs of iron to tread the highway that we have stretched out upon
the white land of the spirit. With blazing eyes, gaze upon its pillars and
its foundations. With ears of sapphire listen to what has appeared
therefrom, in regard to the question you posed. With a golden palm and
fingers of power take what is therein and what is upon it. Confess with the
tongue of song and celebration, with clapping and drumming, that there is no
god but He; that `Ali Muhammad (the Bab) is the eternal essence and being of
God; that Muhammad `Ali (Quddus) is the mine of the Cause of God and his
enduring quintessence; that the Living Countenance is the sanctuary of the
command of God and his subsisting identity; that the Letters of the Living
are the first to have believed in God and his verses. Verily, we all cling
to him. In truth, this word distinguishes between truth and falsehood until
the day when the Hour shall strike, when all shall be present before God and
all abide by his bidding. Glory be upon those who believe in him on the day
of the Encounter, on which they attain to his presence.


(1a) Qur'an 4:89. (This translation from Arberry; corrected 8-22-2000 with thanks to Dr. Nader Saiedi for identifying it as a Qur'an verse). See Journal of Baha'i Studies 9:3, Sept. 1999.

(1) Qur'an 67:3.

(2) Qur'an 30:39

(3) Q. 71:17

(4) Q. 32:3

(5) Revised 8-22-2000; my original text had "chains," but Nader Saiedi has convincingly argued that aghlál here is a non-standard plural of ghill, "rancor" rather than of ghull, "chains."

(6) Note added 8-22-2000: The original Persian is "hich iqbal bih amri nadaram." Saidi has argued in JBS 9:3 that this phrase simply means "I am disinclined to approach any matter" and is an idiom in Persian. However, among Babis amr meant "a (divine) Cause" and it was a very central technical term. `Abdu'l-Baha admits that some 25 claimants to a "cause" arose in the 1850s when Baha'u'llah was writing this Tablet. It seems to me unlikely that a contemporary Babi could have read this phrase without taking away the impression that Baha'u'llah was asserting that he was making no claim to a divine Cause. That is, at the very least the phrase would resonate as a double entendre. And, surely, the very 'disinclination to approach any matter' (Saiedi's translation is almost unintelligible in English) is itself a signal that Baha'u'llah was not interested in making a prophetic claim at that time. The Promised One, after all, was distinguished precisely by his willingness and ability to make the divine and scriptural mysteries clear. Note that he begins the letter with a disavowal of having worked any miracles and an apparent disclaimer of even being a Babi Mirror. So, I stand by my rendering, but admit that Persian is full of idioms and that this may be one, and that the effect of the original may be less stark than my English translation implies.

Persian text published in: `Abdul-Hamid Ishraq-Khavari, Ma'idih-'i Asmani, 9 volumes (Tehran: MMMA, 1973), 4:142-149. (This is the text on which the above translation is based, since at the time it was made I had access to no other).

and in Majmu`ih-'i Athar-i Qalam-i A`la ("Collected Letters of Baha'u'llah"). Volume 57. Iran National Baha'i Archives Private Printing: Tehran, c. 1977. Reprinted, East Lansing, Mi.: H-Bahai, 1999, pp. 10-18. [Note added 8-22-2000 with thanks to Iskandar Hai for this citation; textual variants from this version have not been employed in the Cole translation; there are variants, and an edited text needs to be produced before either of the two existing translations (Cole and Saiedi) can now be improved upon).

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