Sunday, 20 March 2016

Translation announcement for festival of Naw Ruz

The second tablet to be translated through the Windflower Translations Project is Tablet to Ashraf. In accordance with Abdu'l-Baha's advice in his tablet, The Festival of Naw Ruz, to announce good works on important days of the year, I am announcing this new translation initiative on Naw Ruz. The estimated cost is US$375.

This time, we know something about the tablet that is being translated. We know who the recipient was and we know a lot about him. You may be aware of the passage in Gleanings (LXIX) where Baha'u'llah recounts the story of "Ashraf's mother", who was called to the scene of her son's martyrdom in the hope that she would convince him to recant. Instead, she insisted that he give up his life. The Siyyid Ashraf who died at that scene is the same Ashraf who received this tablet. He was born during the siege of Zanjan, Iran, in 1850, where 2000 Babis held a section of the town against the forces of the town's governor. Ashraf's father was killed there and his mother, subsequently, raised him and his two sisters alone.

When Ashraf was a young man, he twice made the long journey from Zanjan, Iran, to Edirne (Adrianople), Turkey, to visit Baha'u'llah. On the second occasion, he took one of his sisters with him. The details of Ashraf's life are given in the second volume of Taherzadeh's Revelation of Baha'u'llah series, pages 223-230. It is not clear in the book, but I assume that it was on the second visit that Baha'u'llah wrote this tablet for Ashraf. Taherzadeh says that Ashraf's visit with Baha'u'llah was cut short suddenly when Baha'u'llah instructed him to return home. The explanation given was that, at the time of the visit, Ashraf's mother was being subjected to huge pressure back home from relatives about her raising her children as Baha'is and thereby putting their lives at risk. She became so upset by this that she begged Baha'u'llah in prayer to send her children home, which he did. Ashraf was reportedly so angry about this that he likened the action of his mother to the sin of Adam.

As the above indicates, the Tablet to Ashraf was written during Baha'u'llah's four-year stay in Edirne, probably toward the end of this period. The context of the tablet is Baha'u'llah giving Ashraf counsel about what to do when he gets back home and how to do it. He tells Ashraf to take the tablet home and show it to the believers there and to tell them about the difficulties Baha'u'llah had faced while living in Edirne, especially those from his half-brother Azal, who had tried to kill him and was constantly spreading falsehoods about him. At this time, the believers in Iran were confused about the station of Azal. They understood him to be the leader of the Babis after the Bab, but were unaware of his cruelty towards Baha'u'llah. The tablet also contains a considerable amount of pastoral advice to Ashraf and the believers in Iran. Further details about the tablet are found in the second volume of Taherzadeh's Revelation of Baha'u'llah series, pages 230-232.

A section of the tablet has been translated by Shoghi Effendi and appears in Gleanings at section LII. The translation is as follows. 

"SAY: O people! Withhold not from yourselves the grace of God and His mercy. Whoso withholdeth himself therefrom is indeed in grievous loss. What, O people! Do ye worship the dust, and turn away from your Lord, the Gracious, the All-Bountiful? Fear ye God, and be not of those who perish. Say: The Book of God hath been sent down in the form of this Youth. Hallowed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of makers! Take ye good heed, O peoples of the world, lest ye flee from His face. Nay, make haste to attain His presence, and be of them that have returned unto Him. Pray to be forgiven, O people, for having failed in your duty towards God, and for having trespassed against His Cause, and be not of the foolish. He it is Who hath created you; He it is Who hath nourished your souls through His Cause, and enabled you to recognize Him Who is the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the All-Knowing. He it is Who hath unveiled to your eyes the treasures of His knowledge, and caused you to ascend unto the heaven of certitude—the certitude of His resistless, His irrefutable, and most exalted Faith. Beware that ye do not deprive yourselves of the grace of God, that ye do not bring to naught your works, and do not repudiate the truth of this most manifest, this lofty, this shining, and glorious Revelation. Judge ye fairly the Cause of God, your Creator, and behold that which hath been sent down from the Throne on high, and meditate thereon with innocent and sanctified hearts. Then will the truth of this Cause appear unto you as manifest as the sun in its noontide glory. Then will ye be of them that have believed in Him.

Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. This is, verily, an evidence of His tender mercy unto men. He hath endowed every soul with the capacity to recognize the signs of God. How could He, otherwise, have fulfilled His testimony unto men, if ye be of them that ponder His Cause in their hearts. He will never deal unjustly with anyone, neither will He task a soul beyond its power. He, verily, is the Compassionate, the All-Merciful. 
Say: So great is the glory of the Cause of God that even the blind can perceive it, how much more they whose sight is sharp, whose vision is pure. The blind, though unable to perceive the light of the sun, are, nevertheless, capable of experiencing its continual heat. The blind in heart, however, among the people of the Bayán—and to this God is My witness—are impotent, no matter how long the Sun may shine upon them, either to perceive the radiance of its glory, or to appreciate the warmth of its rays. 
Say: O people of the Bayán! We have chosen you out of the world to know and recognize Our Self. We have caused you to draw nigh unto the right side of Paradise—the Spot out of which the undying Fire crieth in manifold accents: “There is none other God besides Me, the All-Powerful, the Most High!” Take heed lest ye allow yourselves to be shut out as by a veil from this Daystar that shineth above the dayspring of the Will of your Lord, the All-Merciful, and whose light hath encompassed both the small and the great. Purge your sight, that ye may perceive its glory with your own eyes, and depend not on the sight of anyone except yourself, for God hath never burdened any soul beyond its power. Thus hath it been sent down unto the Prophets and Messengers of old, and been recorded in all the Scriptures. 
Strive, O people, to gain admittance into this vast Immensity for which God ordained neither beginning nor end, in which His voice hath been raised, and over which have been wafted the sweet savors of holiness and glory. Divest not yourselves of the Robe of grandeur, neither suffer your hearts to be deprived of remembering your Lord, nor your ears of hearkening unto the sweet melodies of His wondrous, His sublime, His all-compelling, His clear, and most eloquent voice."

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.