Thursday, 3 March 2016

Tablet on Understanding the Cause of Opposition

The first translation brought about through the Windflower Translations Project is now complete. Because the tablet had no name, the translator, Keven Brown, gave it the title: Tablet on Understanding the Cause of Opposition to the Manifestations of God (Lawḥ-i ʿirfān-i ʿillat-i iʿrāḍ). You can access it on the Windflower Translations website here. On this page, you can read the English translation and, in addition, open or download a pdf file that contains the original Persian/Arabic side by side with the English. The tablet has two distinct sections: the first section in Persian, which contains Baha'u'llah's explanations to his correspondent, and a second section in Arabic, which is a long prayer that Baha'u'llah wrote for his correspondent to say.

The Tablet on Understanding the Cause of Opposition is not known in the English-speaking world. It is on the Baha'i World Centre's 'best-known' list of tablets, but despite that, nothing is known about it. Taherzadeh does not mention it in any of his four volumes on Baha'u'llah's writings. The one thing that can be said for sure is that it was written in the Akka period, because in the tablet Baha'u'llah says that he is writing in the Most Great Prison. The recipient of the tablet is not known. It might be a Baha'i who has come to doubt Baha'u'llah's claims or perhaps a Muslim seeker who is 'hesitating'.

In responding to his correspondent, Baha'u'llah uses the opportunity to go over in summary his arguments for why people turn away from the manifestations when they come to the world. It would be fair to say that the Persian section of the tablet is like a very concise statement of what is argued at length in the Kitab-i Iqan. It contains a quick-fire hard-hitting line of reasoning, which is at bottom the same as in the Iqan, but with a different flavour.

In the Arabic section of the tablet, Baha'u'llah launches into a long prayer, where he has the recipient of the tablet go into a deep meditation on his failings. It contains many parallel constructions and is really quiet beautiful. For example:

"O my God! The more you showed compassion and patience toward me, the more my heedlessness and opposition increased. You remembered me when I failed to remember you, and you turned toward me with the Manifestation of yourself when I hesitated to turn toward the radiance of your face, and you called out to me when I was unable to hear your call issuing from the Dayspring of your Cause."

As you can see from the quoted passage above, the tablet has been translated into a simple, modern English. My purpose with the Windflower Translations Project is both to bring to light the writings and to encourage people to read them. In my view, the Biblical language that is traditionally used to translate Baha'u'llah's writings is an obstacle to people reading and understanding them. I have therefore gone with a style that I hope people will find easy to read.

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