Introduction by Joshua Hall
The Tablet of the Clouds is an important proclamatory Tablet revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in the ‘Akká period, in which He addresses several matters in the compass of a short work, in a characteristic brevity of style, yet remarkably suffused with great depth of content.
He begins by declaring it “a missive from the All-Merciful” revealed for those who have turned toward “Him Who is the Point of Adoration unto all in the heavens and earth.” The phrase “Point of Adoration” translates the Arabic term qiblah, which refers to the direction of prayer. Although in Islam the qiblah is Mecca, the Báb ordained that the prayer direction be to the person of Him Whom God shall make manifest, and Bahá’u’lláh here proclaims His station of being the qiblah and thus the promised One foretold in the Báb’s Persian Bayán. The Bahá’ís are thus those who turn towards the true direction of prayer, that is, the Manifestation of God.
As He continues to reveal the Tablet, Bahá’u’lláh addresses the people of the Bayán, reminding them that it was by virtue of His efforts that they were delivered from the “precipice of oblivion”, and that it is now incumbent on the vacillating souls amongst the ranks of the Bábís to recognize Him Who is the wellspring of this vivifying spiritual power.
Bahá’u’lláh relates the hardships and indignities He sustained at the hands of the Persian and Ottoman governments, and speaks of the revelation of the Tablets to the Kings, elucidating the significance and purpose thereof. He also tells of the heroic martyrdom and tragic fate of the youth Badí’, whom Bahá’u’lláh sent “as a ball of fire” to deliver His Epistle to Náṣiru’d-Dín Sháh.
Later in the Tablet, Bahá’u’lláh mentions how He desired to meet with the learned and ecclesiastical authorities of Persia, that He might validate His Mission and set forth the proofs of His Revelation, and how they refused to do so in fear that they could not best Him on account of His superior and innate knowledge.
It is near the end of this Tablet that we read the heart-rending passage translated by the Guardian in Gleanings, LX, asserting that Bahá’u’lláh felt no shame in His imprisonment, but rather was ashamed by the actions of those who claimed to be His followers, yet disregarded His moral and ethical teachings. He illustrates the station of the true believer, who comes to a valley of gold, or beholds the most beauteous of women, and yet feels himself seduced by no desire. Indeed, Bahá’u’lláh says that such a one passes by the valley of gold “aloof as a cloud”, or more literally, “as the passing of the clouds” (ka-marri s-siḥáb), a serene image of detachment from which this Tablet may have taken its name. In fact, the idea and image of the cloud is a pregnant one in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, here explicating the state of the virtuous believer, and in other places serving as a metaphor of the overflowing bounties of divine grace in Bahá’u’lláh’s Dispensation.
Bahá’u’lláh ends the Tablet of the Clouds by directing the reader to consider the transient nature of the world and of the pursuits of the generality of mankind, remarking that the palaces of kings are eventually abandoned to the spider, and that the end of those who were engrossed completely in worldly things shall find their “abode in the fire”. The language of the entire Tablet is strong, magisterial, and direct, recalling the Holy Qur’an in poetic and austere style.
Shoghi Effendi translated several passages from this Tablet, as found in various volumes: these have been incorporated with my own provisional translation of the rest of the Tablet, and highlighted red.
The Tablet of the Clouds
Provisional Translation by Joshua Hall
The Tablet of the Clouds, revealed by God, the Possessor of all men
In God’s Name, the Omniscient, the All-Wise
This is a missive from the All-Merciful to those who have turned toward Him Who is the Point of Adoration unto all in the heavens and on earth, that they may be gladdened by the verses of God, be attracted thereby unto the horizon of Revelation, and be drawn nigh to a station wherein all things proclaim that there is none other god but Me, the Almighty, the All-Knowing.
Arise in the Cause by the power and strength born of God. Say: O concourse of the Bayán, call ye to mind the bounty of God unto you when ye were on the sheer precipice of oblivion, when He sent down upon you from the heaven of utterance that which led you to this clear and straight Path.
O Pen of the Eternal, inscribe on this Tablet that whereby the hearts of the sincere rejoice and through which one with eyes to see is assured that I have the power to do as I will. None in all the earth can withhold Me from My purpose; indeed, I am the Omniscient, the All-Wise.
Say: The infidels have violated the Covenant of God and His Testament, and have shackled Us in this Prison with manifest tyranny. Upon Our arrival, We desired to dispatch unto the kings the Epistles of God, the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Sublime. Among them was the Shah of Persia; We revealed the beauty of the Cause unto him and made Ourself known to him, after Our having chosen one among the righteous, in whose heart We breathed the spirit of indomitable fortitude, and whom We sent unto His Majesty as an orb of fire with a Tablet revealed from thy Lord, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.
In that Epistle, We enumerated such as he and the Sultan of Constantinople had wrought, that they might realize that no hardship could withhold Bahá from such as the Lord of all names had ordained, and that We fear not the ascendency of those who disbelieve in God, the Almighty, the Illustrious.
In that Epistle, We blew the trumpet of divine might once again and every stalwart oppressor was sorely perplexed. Therein We revealed such counsels and admonitions as awaken the hearts of them that slumber, and We set forth in every line thereof a clear and sufficient exposition. How blessed then is he who peruseth that Epistle and meditateth on such as is alluded therein. I swear by My life, it verily sufficeth the worlds. Were but a word thereof to be recited unto the mountains, they would assuredly soar in adoration towards God, the Cherished, the Beauteous. Our sole aim in revealing that Epistle was to manifest the sovereignty of God and His grandeur, to promulgate His Cause and make His exaltation apparent to His doubting servants. Therein We left no man an excuse. Peruse it, and be of them that are thankful.
Say: O concourse of the earth, ponder awhile: In the Tablet unto your Chief We expressed Our desire that he gather Us among the learned of the age, that the Cause of God and His proof may become manifest before you. He, however, committed that by reason of which the denizens of the heavenly kingdom lamented. What cause have ye then to which ye can cling, and to whom can ye flee? Judge aright, and be not among the unjust.
And likewise, while in ‘Iráq, We wished to come together with the divines of Persia. No sooner did they hear of this, than they fled and said: ‘He indeed is a manifest sorcerer!’ This is the word that proceeded aforetime out of the mouths of such as were like them. These [divines] objected to what they said, and yet, they themselves repeat, in this day, what was said before them, and understand not. By My life! They are even as ashes in the sight of thy Lord. If He be willing, tempestuous gales will blow over them, and make them as dust. Thy Lord, verily, doth what He pleaseth.
Those lands were honored with the footsteps of thy Lord, the Unconstrained, and every stone and clod of earth spoke forth saying, “He Who is the pride of ages hath become manifest; the Object of Desire is come with undoubted majesty!”
Ḥijáz is astir by the breeze announcing the tidings of joyous reunion. ‘Praise be to Thee,’ We hear her exclaim, ‘O my Lord, the Most High. I was dead through my separation from Thee; the breeze laden with the fragrance of Thy presence hath brought me back to life. Happy is he that turneth unto Thee, and woe betide the erring.
Mount Sinai is irradiated by the divine effulgence and doth verily exclaim, “Thy perfume have I perceived, O God of all them in the heavens and on earth.” This is the land wherein We raised up the Prophets and Messengers; therein did the voice of Abraham call out, and of Moses and Christ. All of them admonished the people and proclaimed unto them the glad-tidings of this Glorious Proclamation and its promised advent in these domains. Thus was it revealed in the scriptures of old on the part of Him Who is the Revelator, the Ancient of Days.
The Burning Bush crieth aloud, “O people of creation, the Lord of the heavenly kingdom is come; He hath ascended the throne and round about Him are the angels brought nigh.” Forsake your churches and mosques and hasten to the Dayspring of Revelation. Follow not the delusions of them that are heedless. By God, the dawn of certitude hath shone forth. Every temple is reared for the sake of God’s praise, and He Who is the One foretold and Whose praises are sung is come with great dominion. Beware lest your devotions shut you out from Him Who is the Unconstrained. Forsake what the people possess, then turn toward the Dayspring of inspiration; better is this for you than all else, if ye be among them possessed of understanding.
Do thou arise in My remembrance, and beware lest the words of the infidel hinder thee; in truth, the tongue was created to make mention of the All-Merciful. Call thou the people to remembrance, while practicing prudence and wisdom. Thus is the matter decreed and written by the ordaining pen of thy Lord, the Omniscient, the Most Powerful. Gather My loved ones together and admonish them to adhere to morality and virtue. Thus art thou bidden by thy Lord, the All-Glorious. Thou art in this day accorded an exalted station in Our sight.
We are clear of all those who obstruct the Path, who consume the wealth of the people, and who foment sedition upon the earth; God is witness unto what I say. My captivity can bring on Me no shame. Nay, by My life, it conferreth on Me glory. That which can make Me ashamed is the conduct of such of My followers as profess to love Me, yet in fact follow the Evil One. They, indeed, are of the lost.
When the time set for this Revelation was fulfilled, and He Who is the Daystar of the world appeared in ‘Iráq, He bade His followers observe that which would sanctify them from all earthly defilements. Some preferred to follow the desires of a corrupt inclination, while others walked in the way of righteousness and truth, and were rightly guided.
Say: He is not to be numbered with the people of Bahá who followeth his mundane desires, or fixeth his heart on things of the earth. He is My true follower who, if he come to a valley of pure gold, will pass straight through it aloof as a cloud, and will neither turn back, nor pause. Such a man is, assuredly, of Me. From his garment the Concourse on high can inhale the fragrance of sanctity, and unto this doth thy Lord and one who hath knowledge of the Book testify. And if he met the fairest and most comely of women, he would not feel his heart seduced by the least shadow of desire for her beauty. Such a one, indeed, is the creation of spotless chastity. Thus instructeth you the Pen of the Ancient of Days, as bidden by your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful.
O thou who hast turned unto God! Dispatch the epistles of thy Lord, that mankind might renounce the world and take hold of that which they are commanded by God, the Breaker of the dawn. Say: Do not make vain the Cause of God amongst you, nor follow those who have denied Him, He by Whom the winds blow. Render God victorious with persuasive speech. Indeed, the tongue is the sword of the All-Merciful; conquer thereby the cities of men’s hearts. This is what is befitting of the true station of humanity; wherefore, understand, O men of discernment.
Say: O concourse of divines! Can any one of you race with the Divine Youth in the arena of wisdom and utterance, or soar with Him into the heaven of inner meaning and explanation? Nay, by My Lord, the God of mercy! All have swooned away in this Day from the Word of thy Lord. They are even as dead and lifeless, except him whom thy Lord, the Almighty, the Unconstrained, hath willed to exempt. Such a one is indeed of those endued with knowledge in the sight of Him Who is the All-Knowing. The inmates of Paradise, and the dwellers of the sacred Folds, bless him at eventide and at dawn. Can the one possessed of wooden legs resist him whose feet God hath made of steel? Nay, by Him Who illumineth the whole of creation!
The winds of chastisement have taken hold of those who broke the Covenant of God and His testament; in the fire shall they find their abode, and how wretched is the end of the vainglorious oppressor!
Say: ponder ye the bygone ages of those before you; when We sent Our messengers unto them, they pronounced the verses of their Lord to be lies, and so We seized them on account of their sin and forsook them as an admonition to men of insight. Where are they who reposed in their palaces on the divans of conceit? We returned them to their graves! These are their abodes which We have abandoned to the spider; take heed, O men of vision!
Awaken, O people; the Herald hath called aloud in the field of utterance, and this is the Day when ye are called before the Lord. How long shall ye slumber in the cradle of heedlessness and lust? Arise and advance, and follow not every doubting idolater.
We had formerly sent down the verses unto thee, and these We reveal as a token of Our grace—and We are, in truth, the Almighty, the Forgiving—that thou mayest arise to serve God and yield Him thanks at morn and eve. Thus have We set forth the verses and sent them unto thee. Thy Lord is verily the Almighty, the Omniscient.
2 The youth Badí’. See God Passes By, Page 199
3 The Tablet to the Shah of Persia. See God Passes By, Page 199
4 An allegation by Muḥammad’s persecutors that His Revelation was false sorcery and not of divine provenance. See Qur’án, Súrah 37, Verse 15
5 Translated by the Guardian in The Promised Day is Come
6 Translated by the Guardian in World Order of Bahá’u’lláh
7 The above paragraphs in red have been translated by the Guardian in Gleanings, LX.
8 As rendered by the Guardian in Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh