Translations of Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Texts, vol. 1, no. 10 (December, 1997)

Juan Cole. "The History of Ridvan: Text, Translation, Commentary."

Date: Wed, 5 Nov 1997 17:44:25 EST
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Subject: History of Ridvan
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Date: Thu, 06 Nov 1997 01:07:47 -0500
From: jrcole@umich.edu (Juan R. I. Cole)
Subject: History of Ridvan

Gradually primary materials for the history of Baha'u'llah's declaration at Ridvan are becoming available. H-Bahai has published, for instance, the memoirs of Muhammad `Ali Salmani, which have an account of this incident. The joint "Institute" (Fananapazir, Rabbani, Fotos et al.) translation of the Tablet of Job or the Tablet of Patience is also an advance in this regard, since it was written around that time. There are also some mentions of these events in Baha'u'llah's own writings that have not been translated.

Stephen Lambden was the first scholar to find and report . . . a letter written on behalf of Baha'u'llah by Khadimu'llah, which occurs on p. 225 of vol. 44 of the Iran National Baha'i Archives Private Printing. I offer here a complete translation of the brief passage (click on "Translation," above). There is another relevant tablet that I hope to translate and share soon.

Ridvan was a time when Baha'u'llah first made known to a handful of friends and family members his abrogation of the Islamic and Babi laws regarding the duty of holy war or jihad. He also then first put forward the principle that the door of Revelation was shut for a full thousand years. Finally, he said that God had "appeared" (tajalli) to all creation with all his names. In the Qur'an it is said that Moses begged God to show himself to him, and God refused, saying "You shall never behold me." Then God showed himself (tajalla) to the mountain, and levelled it, at which Moses swooned. Baha'u'llah's wording implicitly suggests that what was forbidden to Moses and his people has been granted to Baha'u'llah and the entire world in the era of modernity. This principle of God's self-disclosure may be linked in turn to the abolition of ritual impurity, which Baha'u'llah says occurred at Ridvan (Shi`ites had refused to shake hands, e.g., with non-Shi`ites because their sweat is impure).

It seems to me that an entire paper should be written on Baha'u'llah's declaration at Ridvan, and that this is increasingly possible.

It also seems to me increasingly clear that Ridvan really was meant as Peace Festival, a commemoration of the end of religious warfare, the end of ritual pollution and of the shunning of some human beings by others, the end of the Babi sectarianism and strife occasioned by multiple "manifestations," and the attainment by all humankind to the Beatific Vision.

The importance of the principles revealed at Ridvan is underlined by the fact that all of them were later incorporated into the Most Holy Book; and therefore there is a sense in which the cumulative production of the Aqdas actually begins at Ridvan.


Juan Cole
U of Michigan

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