Translations of Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Texts, vol. 2, no. 4 (July, 1998)

A Tablet of Baha'u'llah apostrophizing Tsar Alexander III

trans. and intro Juan R. I. Cole


A second Tablet of Baha'u'llah to the Tsar?

Date: Mon, 08 Jun 1998 18:29:15 -0400
Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <H-BAHAI@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

From: Juan Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>

I post below [my] . . . translation of a Tablet by Baha'u'llah that
appeared recently in the Persian Baha'i journal, Andalib.

The Tablet is clearly very late, since it mentions the Kalimat-i
Firdawsiyyih or Words of Paradise of 1889. It contains a further
apostrophe to the Tsar of Russia. I have read it to say that the Russian
ambassador in Tehran (de Butzov) asked to see the Most Holy Book, and that
Baha'u'llah permitted him to do so, and in fact ordered that it be copied
out along with the supplements to the Aqdas, and delivered for viewing to
the embassy. However, he instructed that the book be retrieved and not
left with Ambassador de Butzov, for fear it would fall into the hands of
Muslims who would be offended by it. My identification of the ambassador
who asked to see the book as the Russian envoy is tentative, but this makes
sense to me in view of what comes later. (See Moojan Momen, Babi and
Baha'i Religions: Some Contemporary Western Accounts
, pp. 299-300).

The Tablet also contains an apostrophe to Tsar Alexander III (r.
1881-1894), thanking him for the efforts the Russian resident minister in
Tehran (Prince Dimitri Dolgorukov) had made in 1852 to have Baha'u'llah
freed from the Shah's dungeon, events that had occurred in the reign of
Tsar Nicholas I (r. 1825-1855). The previous Tablet to the Tsar, of c.
1868 or 1869, had been addressed to Nicholas I's successor, Alexander II
(r. 1855-1881).

Historical tidbit: Baha'u'llah says that Dolgorukov had succeeded on
several occasions in getting the Iranian government ([Aqa Nuri] and
Nasiru'd-Din Shah) to agree to release Baha'u'llah in fall, 1852, but that
each time the plan was vetoed by the city's chief ulama.

My own guess is that Russian interest in the basics laws of the Baha'i
faith was piqued by the affair of the murder of the Baha'i Haji Muhammad
Rida Isfahani in Ashkhabad (`Ishqabad), Russian Transcaspia, in the summer
of 1889, and that it was the succeeding trial and the behavior of the
Baha'is (who asked for leniency for the murderer), that led to the
ambassador's request to see the Most Holy Book.

[The `Ali Haydar to whom this letter is addressed and who served
as the go-between to the Russian Ambassador is almost certainly
`Ali Haydar Shirvani, a Russian subject who had become a Baha'i
and married into the great-merchant Baha'i `Attar family,
residing in Tehran. His extraterritoriality meant his mail could not
be opened, and so he was the main conduit for messages from the Baha'i leadership
to the Tehran community. Although he appears earlier to have been involved
in an anti-Russian revolt in the Caucasus, in his later life in Iran he is said to have
maintained good relations with the Russian government. --note added 8-12-98 from
material in Mazandarani, Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq, vol. 6.

[Thanks to Iskandar Hai for identifying the 'Tablet to
Haydar `Ali' as likely Aslu Kulli 'l-Khayr or "The Source of All Good," also known as
"Words of Wisdom."] Also, would others agree that to the extent that this
Tablet contains an apostrophe to the Tsar, it is a second letter to the
Tsar (even if to a different Russian emperor)? After [all], the Tablet to the
Premier (Lawh-i Ra'is), was actually addressed to a Baha'i, not to Ali Pasha.


Juan Cole
U of Michigan

Second Tablet to the Tsar?

Date: Tue, 09 Jun 1998 16:00:46 -0400
Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <H-BAHAI@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
From: Juan Cole <jrcole@umich.edu>


I don't know exactly what is implied by Baha'u'llah's warning both to
Alexander II and to Alexander III to avoid throwing away the high station
won for the tsars by the ambassador of Nicholas I to Iran in helping
Baha'u'llah . . .

One might speculate a little on the issue with reference to the Tablet to
Salman on Monarchy, in which Baha'u'llah predicts the end of absolute
monarchy and says it can only survive if monarchs cease attempting to
rule on their own (without reference to the people's Reason as embodied in
parliament) and if the person who accepts the weight of constitutional
monarch does so for the sake of the Baha'i faith. So, basically,
Baha'u'llah expected monarchs to become extinct, and they could only gain a
reprieve by becoming Baha'i constitutional figureheads.

I am sure that Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Baha knew all about the
assassination of Alexander II from the Cairo and Beirut press and from
Baha'is in Russian territories like Azerbaijan, and such threats (which
both saw as deriving from absolutism) may have been in the background of
Baha'u'llah's remarks. My suspicion is that between the press and Baha'i
informants in Baku and elsewhere, Baha'u'llah knew something serious about
events in Russia. A Baha'i, Vakilu'd-Dawlih, was the Russian commercial
agent for Yazd in this period, and there were many other such contacts.
Although Baha'u'llah's conviction that absolute monarchy as an institution
was doomed predates Alexander II's assassination, the latter event could
only have confirmed him in his conviction.

. . . I wasn't so aware of the influence of the ulama in his imprisonment in 1852, though, and would be interested in knowing which ulama exactly played that role.




Jinab `Ali Haydar, upon him be the Glory of God.

The true succorer has come. By the life of God, he is capable of turning
the world upside down with one word. But since he has commanded all to
exercise wisdom, he has clung to patience and forbearance. The rose petals
of the world have set out toward the ruby, divine, illumined city of virtue.

Some of the ambassadors of Iran are secretly instigators but outwardly
obedient. Praise be to God! When will this hypocrisy of the world be
transformed into harmony? The counsel of the Eternal Truth has encompassed
the world, but so far without effect. All have been prevented by
displeasing actions from drawing near. We beseech God to send down from
the clouds of his bestowal the rain of his compassion upon all his
servants. In truth, he is powerful over all things.

`Ali Haydar, you have arisen to serve my cause and make mention of God,
Lord of the magnificent throne. It is proven and clear to any who manifest
justice and show forth fairness that this wronged one made a commitment to
efface from the factions of the world, by means of a heavenly power, all
tumult, strife, contention, conflict and divisiveness. Because of this
grave and glorious commitment, I have repeatedly been jailed and have
passed days and nights weighed down by chains and manacles. Blessed be
those who show equity toward this firm Cause and this mighty announcement.

They have reported that the great ambassador [of Russia], may God aid him,
requested the Most Holy Book. What he requested shall be given to him.
But commands and ordinances have also been revealed in Splendors,
Effulgences, Ornaments, Words of Paradise and other Tablets. The works
mentioned, along with the Tablet to Haydar `Ali--upon him be my glory--must
be sent to the ambassador with my greetings. The commands that were
revealed, scattered in various books, are, in these days, only for the eyes
of the equitable and the sincere. The order is being given that they
should be gathered in a single volume and sent. But the manuscript should
be given to no one, insofar as you are aware of the deceptions perpetrated
by our opponents among the people of the Qur'an and the Bayan. Indeed, you
should deliver the manuscript, along with the aforementioned Tablets, and
after he has had the opportunity to read and examine them, you should
retrieve it from him. To God be praise, the world shall become another
world, and the people shall become another people. Is there any helper who
will aid all the people of the world or any succorer who will assist them?

In the Tablets to the Kings a mention was revealed of this wronged one's
imprisonment and the protection afforded by the resident minister of the
glorious Russian state, may God aid him. O Tsar, one of your ambassadors
helped me when I was in prison, weighed down by manacles and chains.
Therefore, God has inscribed for you a station that no one can know.
Beware lest you exchange this august station. During the days when this
wronged one was being tormented in the dungeon, the ambassador of that
glorious state--may God assist him--arose with perfect zeal to rescue me.
On a number of occasions, permission to have me released was obtained, but
some of the ulama of the city forbade it. But in the end the attention and
efforts of the ambassador succeeded in freeing me. Then we set out for Iraq.

By the life of God! From the time I arrived there till this moment, we
have forbidden this people from conflict, contention, rebellion, and
immorality, and enjoined them instead to virtue and piety, until we induced
them to lay down their weapons and take up the cause of reform instead.
Witness to this good deed stand forty years during which they have
subjected this oppressed community to arrests and other forms of
persecution, even unto martyrdom. In Isfahan there occurred what caused
the wailing of all things to ascend. The oppressors have, year after year,
busied themselves with cursing, arresting, plundering, and killing, such
that the wrongdoing of these tyrants has reached into these very days. The
most great emperor, may God aid him, extended his protection for the sake
of God, and this defense increased the malice and hatred of the foolish of
the earth. On every side, they busy themselves with plots and schemes.
Now, a lamp has appeared amid the gales of the tempest. We beseech God to
adorn his servants with the ornament of justice and fairness. He is, in
truth, powerful over all things, and worthy to respond.

My God, my God. You hear my wailing and lamentation for what has befallen
your friends at the hands of those who broke your covenant. I ask you by
the waves of the sea of your bestowal and the fruits of the tree of your
utterance to protect them by your hosts and safeguard them by your might.
In truth, you are the powerful, the potent, the conqueror. Bright and
scintillating light, and dawning, radiant glory be upon you and upon those
who have aided this oppressed people, and have advanced and said, "To you
be praise, lord of the world, and to you be splendor, goal of all who are
in the heavens and on earth."

Source: Andalib, vol. 16, no. 64 (Fall, 1997):4-7.

III. Arabic Original

Source: Andalib, vol. 16, no. 64 (Fall, 1997):4-7.

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