Saturday, 9 July 2016

To be translated: Tablet on the Right of the People

On this holy day of the Martyrdom of the Bab, I am announcing the next tablet to be translated through the Windflower Translations Project. It is called Tablet on the Right of the People (Lawh-i haqq al-nas). Baha'is will, generally, not be familiar with this tablet, even though it has already been translated (see Baha'i Library Online). This is surprising because it is an extremely interesting and unusual tablet.

The context for the tablet is a question put to Baha’u’llah by a correspondent who wanted to know how a person's rights breached in the physical world are redressed in the spiritual worlds, particularly if no restitution takes place in the physical world. For example, a person wrongs another by taking a portion of their land and then the land in question is taken over by the government to build a highway, so that it can never be returned to the original owner. How might this wrong be compensated for in the next world, where there is no such thing as physical land, property rights, highways or governments?

In the tablet, the question is framed in the following way (but not in these terms). What is the mechanism by which the personal rights of a person are restored to them in the next world? How is this process to be understood and how does it occur in the Day of Resurrection, which is also known to be the Day of Judgement? The physical and social structures that underpin the creation and recognition of personal rights in the physical world do not exist in the spiritual worlds. And even if a person’s rights, as conceived of in the physical world, did exist in the next world, they would not be of any use to the right-holder in that world. Therefore, how can these rights be restored in the next world? The questioner understands that there must be some mechanism by which restitution takes place because, as is commonly believed, God sometimes waives a debt owed to Him but never allows a debt owed to a person to be set aside.

To answer this question, Baha'u'llah sets out two key principles about the functioning of reality, which are closely related to each other.

Principle 1: Everything in the physical world - no matter what its name and description, and its form and attributes - appears in every one of the worlds of God in a manner that is appropriate to that world. And it appears in that other world with another name and description, and another form and other attributes.

Principle 2: If a thing 'dies' in this physical world, this death applies only to the body or form of the thing. However, the reality, or essence, of the thing has not gone out of existence. The thing still exists and appears in multiple forms in the innumerable worlds of God.

These principles apply to deeds (and also to words and thoughts[1]). Our deeds have a reality in all the worlds of God. This principle is called the embodiment of deeds. It is through this principle, or mechanism, of reality that God rewards people for their righteous deeds and punishes people for their unjust actions. That is, the reality of a deed persists and its names, descriptions, forms and attributes continue to appear in all the worlds of God. In the same way, the reality of the right of a person, breached in the physical world, does not pass out of existence even when circumstances in this world suggest that the person's right has been erased.

Much of the tablet is given to Baha'u'llah providing examples of how this principle works, whereby a reality can have, simultaneously, various names, descriptions, forms and attributes in various worlds. Baha'u'llah's primary example of the principle is the dream. He cites Joseph's dream, which is found in Qur'an 12:4. But here I will give an example using a modern scenario: Lucy is trapped in an abusive relationship and doesn't know how to get out of it. She dreams that there are two sheep in a field and one is chasing the other. Exhausted and desperate, the one being chased leaps up to scale a fence and, while in the air, turns to see if she is being followed. She witnesses a hand reach down from heaven and cut the throat of the sheep chasing her. A year after having the dream, Lucy flees her partner and he is arrested and imprisoned. Now, applying Baha'u'llah's principle about corresponding forms in all the worlds of God, the two sheep represent Lucy and her partner, the sheep scaling the fence represents Lucy fleeing her partner, and the hand of God represents the authorities arresting and imprisoning her partner. The correspondences can be seen the other way around too; for example, from the perspective of the dream world, two sheep are represented as human beings Lucy and her partner and the hand of God as the police. The point of the analogy of the dream, and the analysis of the corresponding forms, is to understand how deeds carried out in this world have corresponding forms in the world after death.

Baha'u'llah gives other examples as well, which relate to the administration of justice in situations where a person's rights have been breached and, due to the passage of time, cannot be put back as they were when the wrong was committed. In these examples, Baha'u'llah focuses on tracing the changes in appearance in the physical world of the essential reality of the right that was contravened. The victim's right continues to be manifested through these changing forms. In some cases, through these altering forms, the victim is compensated in this world for their loss without that person being aware of it.

If you would like to see this tablet translated and help bring this about, please consider donating to the Windflower Translations Project. Thank you.

[1] For example, in this verse of the Qur'an, a good word has the corresponding form of a healthy tree: “Seest thou not to what God likeneth a good word? To a good tree; its root firmly fixed, and its branches reaching unto heaven: yielding its fruit in all seasons.” Qur'an 14:24

And "O heedless ones! Think not the secrets of hearts are hidden, nay, know ye of a certainty that in clear characters they are engraved and are openly manifest in the holy Presence." Persian Hidden Word 59