Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration (Ridván) Sources

SWA P111 #73 (Lady wishing to celebrate Ridvan)

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SWA P111 #73 (Lady wishing to celebrate Ridvan)

* Written to a Bahai Woman in Britain

O daughter of the Kingdom! Thy letter hath come and its contents make clear the fact that thou hast directed all thy thoughts toward acquiring light from the realms of mystery. So long as the thoughts of an individual are 111 scattered he will achieve no results, but if his thinking be concentrated on a single point wonderful will be the fruits thereof.

One cannot obtain the full force of the sunlight when it is cast on a flat mirror, but once the sun shineth upon a concave mirror, or on a lens that is convex, all its heat will be concentrated on a single point, and that one point will burn the hottest. Thus is it necessary to focus one's thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force.

Thou didst wish to celebrate the Day of Ridván with a feast, and to have those present on that day engage in reciting Tablets with delight and joy, and thou didst request me to send thee a letter to be read on that day. My letter is this:

O ye beloved, and ye handmaids of the Merciful! This is the day when the Day-Star of Truth rose over the horizon of life, and its glory spread, and its brightness shone out with such power that it clove the dense and high-piled clouds and mounted the skies of the world in all its splendour. Hence do ye witness a new stirring throughout all created things.

See how, in this day, the scope of sciences and arts hath widened out, and what wondrous technical advances have been made, and to what a high degree the mind's powers have increased, and what stupendous inventions have appeared.

This age is indeed as a hundred other ages: should ye gather the yield of a hundred ages, and set that against the accumulated product of our times, the yield of this one era will prove greater than that of a hundred gone before. Take ye, for an example, the sum total of all the books that were ever written in ages past, and compare that with the books and treatises that our era hath produced: these books, 112 written in our day alone, far and away exceed the total number of volumes that have been written down the ages. See how powerful is the influence exerted by the Day-Star of the world upon the inner essence of all created things!

But alas, a thousand times alas! The eyes see it not, the ears are deaf, and the hearts and minds are oblivious of this supreme bestowal. Strive ye then, with all your hearts and souls, to awaken those who slumber, to cause the blind to see, and the dead to rise.

PUP 18 Apr 1912 (History Talk)

After two years He returned to Baghdád. Friends He had known in Sulaymaniyyih came to visit Him. They found Him in His accustomed environment of ease and affluence and were astonished at the appointments of One Who had lived in seclusion under such frugal conditions in Kurdistan.

The Persian government believed the banishment of the Blessed Perfection from Persia would be the extermination of His Cause in that country. These rulers now realized that it spread more rapidly. His prestige increased; His teachings became more widely circulated. The chiefs of Persia then used their influence to have Bahá'u'lláh exiled from Baghdád. He was summoned to Constantinople by the Turkish authorities. While in Constantinople He ignored every restriction, especially the hostility of ministers of state and clergy. The official representatives of Persia again brought their influence to bear upon the Turkish authorities and succeeded in having Bahá'u'lláh banished from Constantinople to Adrianople, the object being to keep Him as far away as possible from Persia and render His communication with that country more difficult. Nevertheless, the Cause still spread and strengthened.

Finally, they consulted together and said, "We have banished Bahá'u'lláh from place to place, but each time he is exiled his cause is more widely extended, his proclamation increases in power, and day by day his lamp is becoming brighter. This is due to the fact that we have exiled him to large cities and populous centers. Therefore, we will send him to a penal colony as a prisoner so that all may know he is the associate of murderers, robbers and criminals; in a short time he and his followers will perish." The Sultán of Turkey then banished Him to the prison of 'Akká in Syria.

Encylopedia Article (John Walbridge)

[Note: first is Walbridge's encyclopedia article, followed by his slightly revised version for Sacred Acts. -J.W.]

Two articles on Ridvan

John Walbridge

Ridvan, Festival of. The twelve day period commemorating Baha'u'llah's announcement of his claim to prophethood and his departure from Baghdad in 1863, observed from sunset 20 April to sunset, 2 May. The first, ninth and twelfth days of Ridvan are major Baha'i holy days on which work should be suspended. Baha'i elections are normally held during Ridvan. The name derives from the Najibiyyih Garden in Baghdad where Baha'u'llah stayed during this period and to which he gave the name Ridvan (Paradise).

1. Baha'u'llah's departure from Baghdad. Following Baha'u'llah's arrival in Iraq in the spring of 1853, he had gradually established warm relations with the ordinary people of Baghdad as well as with notables of all sorts: Ottoman officials, clerics, and Persian pilgrims and exiles. He had also become the generally recognized leader of the Babi community, although his brother Mirza Yahya was still accepted as the appointed successor of the Bab. Baghdad - close to the Iranian border, adjacent to several Shi'i shrine cities and home to many Iranian political exiles - was a hotbed of political intrigue; and the Iranian authorities feared that Baha'u'llah would use his growing prestige to threaten the government. The Persian ambassador in Istanbul, Mushiru'd-Dawlih, therefore demanded that Baha'u'llah be removed from Baghdad. Eventually, 'Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizier, and Fu'ad Pasha, the Foreign Minister, yielded, and Baha'u'llah was summoned to Istanbul. Baha'u'llah, however, was a person of consequence and had by this time become an Ottoman subject, so the summons was issued in the form of a polite invitation.

Namiq Pasha, the governor of Iraq and sympathetic to Baha'u'llah, was reluctant to deliver the summons. Finally he sent a courteous message asking Baha'u'llah to call on him at the governorate. The message reached Baha'u'llah on the fifth day after Naw-Ruz, 26 March 1863, at the Mazra'iy-i-Vashshash, an open area outside the city where Baha'u'llah and his followers had camped to observe the new year. The message arrived shortly after Baha'u'llah had completed the composition of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Baha'u'llah arranged to meet the governor in the mosque across the street from the governorate. He ordered the tents struck and the party returned to the city.

Baha'u'llah met the next day with the deputy governor and agreed to go to Istanbul with his family and a number of attendants. Money for the journey was provided by the government, which Baha'u'llah accepted and immediately distributed to the poor. The next few weeks were very busy. Baha'u'llah received innumerable visitors, wrote tablets to each of the friends who would be left behind, and made the practical preparations necessary for the journey. Eventually, Baha'u'llah decided to move to the Najibiyyih Garden across the river and receive visitors there, thus clearing the house of visitors and allowing the family to pack.

Baha'u'llah left his house in Baghdad for the last time on the afternoon of 22 April 1863. He walked through crowds of friends, acquaintances and the merely curious down to the river where he took a small boat across to the garden. He was accompanied by his sons, his secretary Mirza Aqa Jan and perhaps others. He reached the garden just at the time for afternoon prayers. There for the next eleven days he received farewell visits from his friends, including the governor. The river rose soon after his arrival, so it was not until the ninth day, 30 April, that his family was able to join him.

The twelfth day was appointed for departure. The garden was filled with people coming for final farewells. It was late afternoon before the party got underway. Baha'u'llah mounted a fine roan stallion named Sa'udi (he also had two others, named Sa'id and Farangi), and the party left the garden amidst displays of affection and grief. The party travelled as far as Firayjat, three miles up the Tigris. There they stayed in a borrowed garden for a week while Baha'u'llah's brother Mirza Musa completed dealing with their affairs in Baghdad and packing the remaining goods. Visitors still came daily. The party finally set out on 9 May for the three-month journey to Istanbul.

2. The significance of Ridvan. Ridvan is the anniversary of Baha'u'llah's declaration of his prophetic mission to his followers. It is clear, however, that the symbolic significance of Ridvan is richer than the simple fact of Baha'u'llah's open announcement of his prophetic claim.

a. The announcement. The exact nature and details of Baha'u'llah's declaration are unknown. 'Abdu'l-Baha states that on the afternoon he arrived in Ridvan Baha'u'llah disclosed his claim to be Him Whom God shall make manifest, the Prophet promised by the Bab. Bahiyyih Khanum, however, is reported to have said that on that day Baha'u'llah privately stated his claim to prophethood to 'Abdu'l- Baha and four other followers. According to this account "he enjoined upon them secrecy as to this communication, as the time had not come for a public declaration; but that there were reasons which caused him to deem it necessary to make it at that time to a few whom he could trust." (Master in 'Akka 39) It would appear then that Baha'u'llah, having prior to this time concealed his mission, decided on this day to disclose it. He chose however to inform only a handful of people and most Babis - even those in exile with him - seem to have been unaware of this claim until a year or two later in Edirne, although, of course, Baha'u'llah's Baghdad writings are full of hints about it.

b. The departure from the Most Great House. In some places Baha'u'llah stresses his departure from the Most Great House: "as He departed from His house, proceeding to the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation, the splendors of His name, the All- Merciful." (GWB 14:35) Another tablet recounts his journey from the House to the Ridvan Garden, giving supernatural significance to each stage of the journey. Another refers to his "exile (hijrih) from Iraq," thus linking Baha'u'llah's departure from the Most Great House to Muhammad's emigration from Mecca, the site of the most holy House of Islam, to Medina, the city where Muhammad fully exercised the prerogatives of prophethood.

c. The three announcements. In a tablet written some years later Baha'u'llah states that three announcements were made on the first day of Ridvan. First, Baha'u'llah's followers were forbidden to fight to advance or defend their faith. Religious war (jihad) had been permitted in Islam and under certain conditions by the law of the Bab. Second, there would not be another prophet for a full thousand years. Third, at that moment all the names of God were fully manifest in all things. These are perhaps to be regarded as an oblique announcement of his own prophethood. The first two anticipate basic features of Baha'i law recorded in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

The third announcement is echoed in many passages from tablets related to Ridvan - for example: "He Who is the Desire of all nations hath shed upon the kingdoms of the unseen and of the seen the splendor of the light of His most excellent names, and enveloped them with the radiance of the luminaries of His most gracious favors - favors which none can reckon except Him." Thus, Baha'u'llah's arrival in Ridvan marks a mystic transformation of the world, in which the entire creation is infused with the glory of God's names. His announcement can, therefore, be viewed less as the revealing of a secret to a few individuals than as a fundamental transformation in the relationship between God and the world.

d. Completion of the first Vahid of the Baha'i calendar. Naw-Ruz 1863 marked the beginning of the nineteenth year of the calendar established by the Bab, the last year of the first Vahid - "unity" - of nineteen years. Baha'u'llah's first prophetic experience had been in 1852-53 during his imprisonment in Tehran - the "year nine" of the Babi calendar. One, nine, and nineteen all have important symbolic and prophetic significance in the writings of the Bab.

3. The Festival of Ridvan. On the afternoon on which Baha'u'llah entered the garden, he proclaimed the festival of Ridvan. The Kitab-i-Aqdas, revealed ten years later, ordains it as one of the two "Most Great Festivals," along with the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab. Baha'u'llah specified that the first, ninth, and twelfth days were to be major holy days - days on which work is prohibited. These mark the days of Baha'u'llah's arrival, the arrival of his family and his departure. Several tablets state that the festival properly begins at the time of Baha'u'llah's arrival in the garden, that is, two hours before sunset. However, work is prohibited for the entire Baha'i day, beginning the previous evening.

Ridvan is observed everywhere according to the Baha'i calendar. It begins on the 13th of Jalal - 21 April if Naw-Ruz is on 21 March - the thirty-second day of the Baha'i year. The ninth day falls on 29 April and the twelfth on 2 May. Like other Baha'i holy days, there are few specific rules concerning the observance of Ridvan. It is usually observed with community gatherings for prayer and celebration on the three holy days. Most Baha'i elections are held during Ridvan, a practice that began in the time of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Local spiritual assemblies are elected on the first day of Ridvan each year. The national conventions at which national spiritual assemblies are elected each year are usually held later in Ridvan, as is the international convention presently held every five years to elect the Universal House of Justice.

4. Tablets and writings associated with Ridvan. A number of important tablets of Baha'u'llah are associated with Ridvan. These include:

a. Lawh-i-Ayyub. The Tablet of Job, also known as Suriy-i-Sabr ("the Surih of Patience"), Madinatu's-Sabr ("the City of Patience"), and Surat Ayyub. A long tablet in Arabic revealed on the afternoon Baha'u'llah arrived at the garden of Ridvan. It was written for Haji Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Nayrizi, whom Baha'u'llah surnamed Ayyub, "Job," a veteran of the battle of Nayriz. The tablet praises Vahid (q.v.), the Babi leader at Nayriz, and the believers of Nayriz. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 262-304)

b. Tablet of Ridvan, beginning "Huva 'l-Mustavi 'ala hadha 'l- 'arshi'l-munir" "He is seated upon this luminous throne." An Arabic tablet speaking joyfully of the lifting of the veils that had concealed God's beauty and the manifestation of all his names in created things and appealing to the people to answer the call of their Lord. After each verse is a refrain of the form, "Glad tidings! This is the Festival of God, manifest from the horizon of transcendent bounty." (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 246-50)

c. Hur-i-'Ujab: "The Wondrous Maiden." An allegorical tablet in Arabic rhymed prose celebrated the unveiling of Baha'u'llah's glory. In this allegory the Maid of Heaven comes forth and unveils herself. Her unveiled beauty inflames creation. In joy she passes around the wine of life, plays music, and serves the food of beauty. But the arrogant reject her and she returns saddened to her heavenly palace, grieving that the people of the Book have rejected her and vowing not to return to them until the Day of Resurrection (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 251- 54. RB 1:218).

d. "The Divine Springtime is come. . . ": (Qad ata Rabi'u'l-Bayan) The superscription of this tablet says that it "was revealed in the Ridvan for all to read during the Festival of Ridvan. . ." The tablet takes the form of a dialogue between God and "the Most Exalted Pen" - i.e., Baha'u'llah. God chides Baha'u'llah for not openly proclaiming the greatness of this day. Baha'u'llah replies that he is silent only because the people are veiled. God answers that today only His face can be seen in creation. God excuses Baha'u'llah's silence and proclaims that he has made Baha'u'llah the trumpet of the Day of Resurrection. The tablet explains in mystical terms the significance of Baha'u'llah's entry into the garden of Ridvan and commands Baha'u'llah to attract the hearts of men through the Word of God. The tablet appeals to the believers to heed the call of God. Baha'u'llah concludes the tablet with the statement that the Word of God had so inebriated him that he can write no longer. This well-known and frequently-quoted tablet is frequently referred to by western Baha'is as the Ridvan Tablet. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 254-61; GWB xiv; Days to Remember 27-31)

e. "When the gladness of God seized all else. . .": (Fa-lamma akhadha farahu'llah kulla ma sivahu. . .) An Arabic tablet in which Baha'u'llah describes, with much mystical symbolism, his departure from the Most Great House, the grief of the people in the streets, his crossing of the Tigris and entry into the garden, and his final departure. This tablet is a rich source for understanding the symbolic significance of Ridvan and provides some historical information as well. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 305-12)

f. Other tablets and talks: There are other prayers, tablets and talks of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha relating to Ridvan, usually composed at or for a particular Ridvan observance. (Ayyam-i-Tis'ih 313-21, 324-31; Days to Remember 31-34; AVK 3:29-39).

g. Ridvan messages: As early as 1923 Shoghi Effendi sent a letter of encouragement and greeting to the American national Baha'i convention at Ridvan. Later it was his regular practice to write a Ridvan letter to the Baha'is of the world summarizing the progress of the Faith in the previous year and setting out general directions for the coming year. The Universal House of Justice has continued this practice. Other Baha'i institutions, especially national spiritual assemblies, also sometimes issue Ridvan letters.

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