The Tablet of Ahmad (or Lawh-i-Ahmad)
Why the Tablet of Ahmad?
The Tablet of Ahmad (or Lawh-i-Ahmad) is a tablet written by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, while he was in Adrianople. While the exact date is not known, the Tablet is believed to have been written in 1865 to a Bahá'í from Yazd, Iran, named Ahmad.
"The Tablet of Ahmad was revealed by Baha'u'llah to be read when one feels himself in exceptionally difficult circumstances. There is nothing obligatory about its use, and every person has to decide for himself whether he desires to learn it by heart or not..." - From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi
Ahmad earnestly searched and found the Qa'im (the Bab), as well as became a faithful and devoted servant of Bahá'u'lláh. He was sent to Persia by Bahá'u'lláh to teach the Babis that 'Him Whom God shall make manifest, as had been taught by the Bab', had come. When Bahá'u'lláh had publicly announced His station in the Garden of Ridvan, Baghdad, He had done so only to His family and companions. In Adrianople, much of his Writings involved spreading the message that He is the Promised One. One of the ways He did this was through Tablets which were given to those believers who possessed deep courage and great devotion for the Cause, and therefore could be trusted with this honorable task.
After Bahá'u'lláh's departure from Constantinople, Ahmad remained in Baghdad and served the Faith in that city with great devotion. However, in his heart he was longing to attain the presence of his Lord again. After some time, he could no longer bear to stay away and so he set off for Andrianople. When he arrived in Constantinople, Bahá'u'lláh sent him this Tablet.. On reading this Tablet, Ahmad knew what was expected of him. He surrendered his own will to Bahá'u'lláh's and instead of completing his journey to Andrianople and attaining the presence of his Lord, he returned to Persia with the sole purpose of teaching and propagating the Message of Bahá'u'lláh to the Bábí community.
Bahá'ís often recite it as a prayer to dispel afflictions and inspire perseverance in the face of hardships. In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi states:
“These daily obligatory prayers, together with a few other specific ones, such as the Healing Prayer, the Tablet of Ahmad, have been invested by Bahá’u’lláh with a special potency and significance, and should therefore be accepted as such and be recited by the believers with unquestioning faith and confidence, that through them they may enter into a much closer communion with God, and identify themselves more fully with His laws and precepts.“
The language and content of the Tablet are nuanced and interrelated, with references to core Babi and Baha'i beliefs. It announces the station of the Bab as "the King of the Messengers," and that of Baha'u'llah as "that Most Great Beauty, foretold in the Books of the Messengers," and the "Tree of Life that bringeth forth the fruits of God."
The four conditions required to approach God and recognize His Messengers are defined as: sincerity, belief in the divine unity, severance and love. The freedom of individual conscience is reinforced in the pursuit of God and His Messengers, while obedience to the ordinances of God is enjoined, and that the truth of every command God ordains in these directives will be tested in one's life.
Baha'u'llah then refers to His own tribulations and calls on Ahmad to rely upon God and to be steadfast in his love in times of difficulty and persecution. Baha'u'llah calls on Ahmad to "be as a flame of fire," and "a river of life eternal" in response to his own suffering from the superstitions and oppression of others. The "flame of fire" refers to being steadfast in the truth in the face of difficulties caused by others, while the "river of life" refers to becoming a source of inspiration, guidance and upliftment to God's loved ones.
The Tablet appears to revolve around the theme of transforming suffering into these virtuous qualities, symbolized as "fire" and "light", and "the fruits of God." Baha'u'llah concludes the Tablet by enjoining Ahmad to "learn well" the lessons contained in the Tablet and not to withhold himself from their benefit. The special role of sincerity in life is disclosed in the text, not only as a condition for recognition of the "nearness of God," but as the condition that leads to the relief of sadness and the resolution of difficulties. The Tablet can be seen as the outline of Baha'u'llah's theodicy, and is, therefore, used as a guide in times of personal trial to align one's inner life with the truths that "will be tested" in the process of turning personal suffering into "fire" and "light."
It is believed that Ahmad lived to the age of 110, and at the Wilmette International Conference in 1953, his son Jamal handed the original Tablet to Jinab-i-Varqa, the Guardian’s representative at that conference. The Tablet is now kept in the U.S. National Baha’i Archives.
Glad Tidings of the Nearness of God
Ahmad became the embodiment of his own Tablet. Such persistence, undaunted spirit, tenacity and steadfastness as his are hardly to be found any annals of the Cause. When he found a contact, although he suffered afflictions and degradations, he would return again and again to finish that which had been left half discussed.
For example, when he was travelling throughout the Province of Khurasan, he went to the house of a very well known Bábí family, the head of which was no less a person than Furughi — one of the survivors of the Tabarsi upheaval. Ahmad went in and gradually opened the subject and in very frank, vigorous and emphatic terms explained that the One to be manifested by God was none other than Bahá'u'lláh whose light was then shining from the horizon of the "Remote Prison" — Adrianople.
Furughi, who has so audaciously fought in Tabarsi, started a fight here, too. The discussion became more intense as the hours went by. Furughi became very angry, attacked Ahmad, breaking one his teeth and threw him out of the house.
Ahmad left broken-hearted; but, undaunted, he later returned, knocked at the door and told them that he would not go until such time as the subject was fully discussed and some definite conclusions reached.
We must bear in mind that the Bábís were in such great danger that even a piece of paper bearing the verses of the Báb found in any house was enough for the house to be demolished and the inhabitants to be sent to prison or even to the field of martyrdom.
Therefore many of the friends hid their books and writings in the walls of their houses. When Ahmad went to Furughi's house for the second time to resume the discussion, he said emphatically that the Greatest Name BAHA had very often been mentioned by the Báb in all His Writings. Furughi challenged the truth of this statement. To prove to Ahmad that he was wrong, he tore a part of the wall down and brought out a bundle containing the Writings of the Báb, and promised not to say a word against the explicit texts. Ahmad says, "The very first one we opened referred to the name of Bahá." As promised, Furughi and all the members of his family accepted the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and became zealous defenders and very outstanding in its propagation and protection.
- Excerpt for "A Flame of Fire" by Abu'l-Qasim Faizi
The Tablet of Ahmad
He is the King, the All-Knowing, the Wise! Lo, the Nightingale of Paradise singeth upon the twigs of the Tree of Eternity, with holy and sweet melodies, proclaiming to the sincere ones the glad tidings of the nearness of God, calling the believers in the Divine Unity to the court of the Presence of the Generous One, informing the severed ones of the message which hath been revealed by God, the King, the Glorious, the Peerless, guiding the lovers to the seat of sanctity and to this resplendent Beauty.
Verily this is that Most Great Beauty, foretold in the Books of the Messengers, through Whom truth shall be distinguished from error and the wisdom of every command shall be tested. Verily He is the Tree of Life that bringeth forth the fruits of God, the Exalted, the Powerful, the Great.
O Ahmad! Bear thou witness that verily He is God and there is no God but Him, the King, the Protector, the Incomparable, the Omnipotent. And that the One Whom He hath sent forth by the name of ‘Alí¹ was the true One from God, to Whose commands we are all conforming.
Say: O people be obedient to the ordinances of God, which have been enjoined in the Bayán by the Glorious, the Wise One. Verily He is the King of the Messengers and His book is the Mother Book did ye but know.
Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord.
O people, if ye deny these verses, by what proof have ye believed in God? Produce it, O assemblage of false ones.
Nay, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, they are not, and never shall be able to do this, even should they combine to assist one another.
O Ahmad! Forget not My bounties while I am absent. Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison. And be thou so steadfast in My love that thy heart shall not waver, even if the swords of the enemies rain blows upon thee and all the heavens and the earth arise against thee.
Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones, and be not of those who doubt.
And if thou art overtaken by affliction in My path, or degradation for My sake, be not thou troubled thereby.
Rely upon God, thy God and the Lord of thy fathers. For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears. Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness.
Thus have their superstitions become veils between them and their own hearts and kept them from the path of God, the Exalted, the Great.
Be thou assured in thyself that verily, he who turns away from this Beauty hath also turned away from the Messengers of the past and showeth pride towards God from all eternity to all eternity.
Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days and withhold not thyself therefrom. For verily, God hath ordained for the one who chants it, the reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds. These favors have We bestowed upon thee as a bounty on Our part and a mercy from Our presence, that thou mayest be of those who are grateful.
By God! Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity, God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions.
Verily, He is the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds.