Tablet of the Holy Mariner

On the occasion of Naw-Ruz[1] 1863, Bahá’u’lláh had pitched His tent in a field on the outskirts of Baghdad, known as the Mazra’iy-i-Vashshash — a place rented by His faithful brother Mirza Musa. Bahá’u’lláh was celebrating this festival with a number of His companions, who were likewise living in tents in the open countryside. Outings at this time of year when the spring season had just begun and the weather was mild were extremely pleasant, and Bahá’u’lláh always enjoyed nature and beautiful scenery and loved to be in the country.

[1 An ancient festival when the Persians celebrate their New Year on the day of the vernal equinox, usually on the 21st March. The Bahá'í calendar also begins with Naw-Ruz which is one of the Bahá'í Holy Days. In 1863, Naw-Ruz was celebrated on the 22nd March as the vernal equinox took place after sunset on the 21st.]

On the fifth day of Naw-Ruz, the Lawh-i-Mallahu’l-Quds (Tablet of the Holy Mariner) was revealed. Mirza Aqa Jan, Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis, emerged from the tent of Bahá’u’lláh, gathered the believers around him and chanted that mournful Tablet to them. Although during the last year of His sojourn in Iraq He had, on several occasions, alluded to trials and tribulations which were to come, His companions had not felt previously such sadness as they did on that day.

Nabil, who was present, has recorded the following:

Oceans of sorrow surged in the hearts of the listeners when the Tablet of the Holy Mariner was read aloud to them…It was evident to every one that the chapter of Baghdad was about to be closed, and a new one opened, in its stead. No sooner had that Tablet been chanted than Bahá’u’lláh ordered that the tents which had been pitched should be folded up, and that all His companions should return to the city. While the tents were being removed He observed: ‘These tents may be likened to the trappings of this world, which no sooner are they spread out than the time cometh for them to be rolled up.’ From these words of His they who heard them perceived that these tents would never again be pitched on that spot.(1)

He further mentions that the tents had not yet been taken away when an emissary of Namiq Pasha, the Governor of Baghdad, arrived and handed to Bahá’u’lláh a communication inviting Him to come for interview with the Governor at his headquarters. Bahá’u’lláh accepted the invitation, but not wishing to visit the authorities in government headquarters, He suggested that the meeting take place instead in a certain mosque in the city on the following day.

Namiq Pasha, like his predecessors, admired Bahá’u’lláh and was deeply conscious of His innate knowledge and exalted position. He held Bahá’u’lláh in such high esteem that for three months he could not bring himself to tell Him of the decision of the Ottoman government that He should proceed to Constantinople. After being ordered for the fifth time by the Prime Minister to arrange the transfer of Bahá’u’lláh to the capital, Namiq Pasha reluctantly took the necessary step of informing Bahá’u’lláh of this. Feeling ashamed to meet Him face to face on that fateful occasion, the Governor sent his deputy, Amin Effendi, to the mosque to deliver the message. A few weeks later, when Bahá’u’lláh was in the Garden of Ridvan, Namiq Pasha went there, attained His presence and paid his respects to the One Whom he regarded as one of the lights of the age.

The Tablet of the Holy Mariner is in two parts, one in Arabic and the other in Persian. So far only the Arabic Tablet has been rendered into English and is published.

The theme of this Tablet is the story of the Covenant and man’s unfaithfulness to it. Its message is applicable not only to the days of Bahá’u’lláh, but also to the ministries of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, and indeed to the present time. Concerning this Tablet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: ‘Study the Tablet of the Holy Mariner that ye may know the truth, and consider that the Blessed Beauty[1] hath fully foretold future events. Let them who perceive, take warning!’(2)

[1 Bahá'u'lláh.]

Not only did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ask the believers to study this Tablet during His own ministry, when the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh was being violated by the Covenant-breakers, but He urged them shortly before His passing to study it again. For He knew too well that there were a few among His followers who would violate the Covenant and rise up against Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Cause of God.

The Tablet of the Holy Mariner is revealed in symbolic language. To appreciate it one must acquire for himself a knowledge of the spiritual verities enshrined within Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings and meditate upon His words. Although the allegorical terms Bahá’u’lláh has used in this Tablet assume various meanings, He has nonetheless manifestly foreshadowed coming events and conveyed some aspects of the Covenant.

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 228)

“Study the Tablet of the Holy Mariner that ye may know the truth, and consider that the Blessed Beauty hath fully foretold future events. Let them who perceive, take warning!” —‘Abdu’l-Bahá

He is the Gracious, the Well-Beloved!

O Holy Mariner!

Bid thine ark of eternity appear before the Celestial Concourse,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Launch it upon the ancient sea, in His Name, the Most Wondrous,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And let the angelic spirits enter, in the Name of God, the Most High.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Unmoor it, then, that it may sail upon the ocean of glory,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Haply the dwellers therein may attain the retreats of nearness in the everlasting realm.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Having reached the sacred strand, the shore of the crimson seas,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Bid them issue forth and attain this ethereal invisible station,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

A station wherein the Lord hath in the Flame of His Beauty appeared within the deathless tree;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Wherein the embodiments of His Cause cleansed themselves of self and passion;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Around which the Glory of Moses doth circle with the everlasting hosts;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Wherein the Hand of God was drawn forth from His bosom of Grandeur;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Wherein the ark of the Cause remaineth motionless even though to its dwellers be declared all divine attributes.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

O Mariner! Teach them that are within the ark that which we have taught thee behind the mystic veil.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Perchance they may not tarry in the sacred snow-white spot,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

But may soar upon the wings of the spirit unto that station which the Lord hath exalted above all mention in the worlds below,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

May wing through space even as the favored birds in the realm of eternal reunion;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

May know the mysteries hidden in the Seas of light.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

They passed the grades of worldly limitations and reached that of the divine unity, the center of heavenly guidance.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

They have desired to ascend unto that state which the Lord hath ordained to be above their stations.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Whereupon the burning meteor cast them out from them that abide in the Kingdom of His Presence,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And they heard the Voice of Grandeur raised from behind the unseen pavilion upon the Height of Glory:

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“O guardian angels! Return them to their abode in the world below,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“Inasmuch as they have purposed to rise to that sphere which the wings of the celestial dove have never attained;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“Whereupon the ship of fancy standeth still which the minds of them that comprehend cannot grasp.”

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Whereupon the maid of heaven looked out from her exalted chamber,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And with her brow signed to the Celestial Concourse,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Flooding with the light of her countenance the heaven and the earth,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And as the radiance of her beauty shone upon the people of dust,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

All beings were shaken in their mortal graves.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

She then raised the call which no ear through all eternity hath ever heard,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And thus proclaimed: “By the Lord! He whose heart hath not the fragrance of the love of the exalted and glorious Arabian Youth,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“Can in no wise ascend unto the glory of the highest heaven.”

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Thereupon she summoned unto herself one maiden from her handmaidens,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And commanded her: “Descend into space from the mansions of eternity,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“And turn thou unto that which they have concealed in the inmost of their hearts.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“Shouldst thou inhale the perfume of the robe from the Youth that hath been hidden within the tabernacle of light by reason of that which the hands of the wicked have wrought,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“Raise a cry within thyself, that all the inmates of the chambers of Paradise, that are the embodiments of the eternal wealth, may understand and hearken;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“That they may all come down from their everlasting chambers and tremble,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“And kiss their hands and feet for having soared to the heights of faithfulness;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“Perchance they may find from their robes the fragrance of the Beloved One.”

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Thereupon the countenance of the favored damsel beamed above the celestial chambers even as the light that shineth from the face of the Youth above His mortal temple;

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

She then descended with such an adorning as to illumine the heavens and all that is therein.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

She bestirred herself and perfumed all things in the lands of holiness and grandeur.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

When she reached that place she rose to her full height in the midmost heart of creation,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And sought to inhale their fragrance at a time that knoweth neither beginning nor end.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

She found not in them that which she did desire, and this, verily, is but one of His wondrous tales.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

She then cried aloud, wailed and repaired to her own station within her most lofty mansion,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And then gave utterance to one mystic word, whispered privily by her honeyed tongue,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And raised the call amidst the Celestial Concourse and the immortal maids of heaven:

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“By the Lord! I found not from these idle claimants the breeze of Faithfulness!

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

“By the Lord! The Youth hath remained lone and forlorn in the land of exile in the hands of the ungodly.”

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

She then uttered within herself such a cry that the Celestial Concourse did shriek and tremble,

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

And she fell upon the dust and gave up the spirit. It seemeth she was called and hearkened unto Him that summoned her unto the Realm on High.

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Glorified be He that created her out of the essence of love in the midmost heart of His exalted paradise!

Glorified be my Lord, the All-Glorious!

Thereupon the maids of heaven hastened forth from their chambers, upon whose countenances the eye of no dweller in the highest paradise had ever gazed.

Glorified be our Lord, the Most High!

They all gathered around her, and lo! they found her body fallen upon the dust;

Glorified be our Lord, the Most High!

And as they beheld her state and comprehended a word of the tale told by the Youth, they bared their heads, rent their garments asunder, beat upon their faces, forgot their joy, shed tears and smote with their hands upon their cheeks, and this is verily one of the mysterious grievous afflictions—

Glorified be our Lord, the Most High!

-Bahá’u’lláh