The Most Exalted Pen
Among the inestimable bounties of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh are the outpourings of His Most Exalted Pen, referred to as the Pen of the Most High, signifying, among other things, the Revealer of the Most Great Spirit. Never before in the history of religions, with the exception of the Bábí Dispensation, do we find that a Manifestation of God has left to posterity Tablets written in His own hand. But innumerable are the Tablets in the form of exhortations, prayers and meditations which Bahá'u'lláh has penned and which constitute the most precious part of Bahá'í Holy Writings.
The early believers often wrote to Bahá'u'lláh asking questions, seeking advice or sending information. Many of His Tablets are revealed in answer to such letters, and Siyyid Asadu'lláh-i-Qumí has described how Bahá'u'lláh revealed them. This believer attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh around 1886 and was permitted by Him to reside permanently in 'Akká. He served the Cause for years, was one of those who accompanied 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Europe and America, and on these journeys often served the Master as cook. The following is an extract from his spoken chronicle:
I recall that as Mírzá Áqá Ján was recording the words of Bahá'u'lláh at the time of revelation, the shrill sound of his pen could be heard from a distance of about twenty paces.* In the history of the Faith not a great deal has been recorded about the manner in which Tablets were revealed. For this reason...I shall describe it...
Mírzá Áqá Ján had a large ink-pot the size of a small bowl. He also had available about ten to twelve pens and large sheets of paper in stacks. In those days all letters which arrived for Bahá'u'lláh were received by Mírzá Áqá Ján. He would bring these into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and, having obtained permission, would read them. Afterwards the Blessed Beauty would direct him to take up his pen and record the Tablet which was revealed in reply...
Such was the speed with which he used to write the revealed Word that the ink of the first word was scarcely yet dry when the whole page was finished. It seemed as if some one had dipped a lock of hair in the ink and applied it over the whole page. None of the words was written clearly and they were illegible to all except Mírzá Áqá Ján. There were occasions when even he could not decipher the words and had to seek the help of Bahá'u'lláh. When revelation had ceased, then in accordance with Bahá'u'lláh's instruction Mírzá Áqá Ján would rewrite the Tablet in his best hand and dispatch it to its destination...
The Persian and Arabic scripts are commonly written with reed pens. This type of pen often makes a shrieking sound when moved in a certain way. The calligrapher could control this sound to a certain extent. For instance, he could allow the sound to accompany the writing of a particular stroke or curve throughout. This sound not only revealed the extent to which a single letter had been drawn out, but also aroused feelings of excitement in the calligrapher and the onlookers. Bahá'u'lláh has, in many of His Tablets, referred to the Most Exalted Pen, signifying thereby the Manifestation of God and His Revelation. He has also referred to the shrill voice of that same Pen. This expression is symbolic of the proclamation of His Message among the peoples of the world.
A similar account has been given by Mírzá Tarázu'lláh Samandarí, who at the age of sixteen attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh during the last year of His ministry. Mírzá Tarázu'lláh, a native of Qazvín, was born of a Bahá'í family. His grandfather was one of the followers of the Báb; his father, Shaykh Kázim, surnamed Samandar by Bahá'u'lláh, was an outstanding Apostle of the Blessed Beauty. He himself served the Faith with great distinction and in 1951 was appointed Hand of the Cause of God by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Cause.
During an interview in Tihrán, Mírzá Tarázu'lláh made the following remarks:
In those days Mírzá Áqá Ján, as instructed by Bahá'u'lláh, would first read the letters to Him and then, as Bahá'u'lláh dictated, write the Tablets in answer to them. The verses of God were revealed with great rapidity and without prior contemplation or meditation. By reason of the speed with which these were written, the recorded words were mostly illegible. Some of them no one was able to read; even Mírzá Áqá Ján himself at times had difficulty in deciphering his own writing and had to seek the help of Bahá'u'lláh for clarification. Thus the Word of God was revealed. The greatest proof of the authenticity of the Manifestations of God is the revelation of the words of God. No one else is capable of doing this. The holy Word revealed from the heaven of the ill of the All-Merciful first descends upon the pure and radiant heart of the Manifestation of God and then is spoken by Him. In His Tablet to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh, Bahá'u'lláh confirms this in these words: 'This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing' ....I had the great privilege of being present on two occasions when Tablets were being revealed...The holy words were flowing from His lips as He paced up and down the room, and His amanuensis was recording them...It is not easy to describe the manner in which revelation came to Bahá'u'lláh.
The early believers often received from Bahá'u'lláh Tablets revealed in their honour. These were their precious possessions. But the most treasured of all was a Tablet in His own handwriting. This special privilege, however, was not often bestowed, especially after the days in Adrianople when Bahá'u'lláh was poisoned by His half-brother Mírzá Yahyá. So grave was His condition from consuming this poison that the doctor deemed His case hopeless, and it was only through the power of the Almighty that His life was spared. As a result He was left with a shaking hand and would seldom take up the pen to write. Nevertheless, some special and important Tablets were written in His own hand, including His Will and Testament and many Tablets addressed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. These Writings even at a glance demonstrate the shaking of His blessed hand.
One of the early believers, Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, a historian and teacher of wide repute, has left to posterity an interesting account of receiving a Tablet in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir was born into a family who had embraced the Bábí Faith in the early days of its inception. As a young man he went to 'Akká and was permitted to enter the presence of Bahá'u'lláh every second day. After spending nine months in this way, magnetized by the power of Bahá'u'lláh's utterances, he was sent back to his native town of Yazd with explicit instructions from Bahá'u'lláh as to how he should teach the Faith among the people.
In this way, for a period of nearly eighty years, he taught the Faith to hundreds. His soul was so galvanized by contact with Bahá'u'lláh that no calamity or tribulation ever dampened his zeal and enthusiasm and, until the end of his life, at the age of one hundred, he endured many sufferings and bitter persecutions in a spirit of joy and steadfastness. The following is a translation of an extract from his memoirs of Bahá'u'lláh:
...One day I asked Mírzá Áqá Ján to mention my humble request to Bahá'u'lláh for a Tablet, or even a few words, in His own handwriting, because I had heard that one of the counsels of the Báb was that if any of His followers lived during the days of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' [Bahá'u'lláh] he should try to obtain a Tablet, a line or even a word in His handwriting, for such a possession was immeasurably exalted above all other things. Mírzá Áqá Ján refused to convey this request on the grounds that since Bahá'u'lláh had been exiled to 'Akká He had seldom taken the pen into His hand. I felt disappointed and sad but did not pursue the subject any further. The next day when I entered the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, the first thing He told me was the glad-tidings that He had written a Tablet in His own handwriting for me and that I would receive this. It is not possible for me to describe the joy which encompassed my entire being on hearing of such an unexpected favour.
Some time later I handed to Mírzá Áqá Ján, for presentation to Bahá'u'lláh, a list of the names of some of the Bahá'ís of Yazd, with a humble request that He might graciously reveal a Tablet for each one of them. One day I was in His presence when He referred to the list of names and assured me that for each person a Tablet had been revealed, but for reasons of safety, I was not to take these with me; they would be dispatched later. On hearing this, I presumed that the Tablet in His handwriting which was promised me would also be dispatched to Yazd with the others. But I was wrong. I received this Tablet years later...
After some time, permission was granted for my mother to go to the Holy Land and attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. She was given the great honour of residing in 'Akká permanently. On her journey she was accompanied by my cousin Siyyid Muhammad, who stayed a short period in 'Akká and then returned to Yazd. On the occasion of the latter's departure from 'Akká, Bahá'u'lláh summoned him to His presence and, among other things, asked him to convey His greetings to this servant, with the assurance that a Tablet had been written in His own handwriting for me and that I would receive it in Yazd.
Some years passed and Hájí Muhammad-Táhir in his teaching activities encountered great opposition from the Muslim divines, which culminated in his death-warrant being issued by the leading divine of Yazd, Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan-i-Sabzavárí, who was denounced by Bahá'u'lláh as the 'Tyrant of the Land of Yá' (Yazd). In obedience to Bahá'u'lláh's command to protect his life so that he could be spared to teach the Faith, Hájí Muhammad-Táhir decided to leave Yazd temporarily for another province. He writes in his memoirs:
...Arrangements were made for me to leave the city in the middle of the night. As I was on the point of mounting the donkey which had been hired for me, a Bahá'í lady, Bíbí Sáhib, one of the most devoted and sincere among the Bahá'í women of Yazd, arrived...She then gave me a Tablet in Bahá'u'lláh's own handwriting. I inquired from her as to the history of the Tablet. 'Twenty-four years ago,' she replied, 'when Rada'r-Rúh returned from Baghdád, he entrusted this Tablet to me on Bahá'u'lláh's instruction, saying that its owner would be found later. It is twelve years since Rada'r-Rúh was martyred and now intuitively I feel that you should have this Tablet.' I took the Tablet with great joy from her...Later on 'Abdu'l-Bahá...confirmed that this was the Tablet which Bahá'u'lláh had especially revealed for me.