The Covenant of the Báb -by Rick Schaut

img_2269In every Day, in every Age, the Prophets of the past have had some form of Covenant with their followers regarding the coming of yet another Prophet. Such a Covenant, writes Shoghi Effendi, “had existed, under various forms, with varying degrees of emphasis, had always been couched in veiled language, and had been alluded to in cryptic prophecies, in abstruse allegories, in unauthenticated traditions, and in the fragmentary and obscure passages of the sacred Scriptures.”[1]

The Báb’s Covenant, Shoghi Effendi assures us, is different. While not contained within a single tablet or document, the Báb’s Covenant was, nonetheless, explicit. The Báb denoted to the Promised One using the phrase, “Him Whom God shall make manifest,” and references to Him Whom God shall make manifest are scattered throughout the Persian Bayán. The Báb’s commentary on the Surih of Joseph, the first chapter of which was revealed to Mulla Husayn, asserts that the Surih of Joseph is actually a prophetic text that, among other things, presages the life of Him Whom God shall make manifest.[2]

Space does not permit a full discussion of all of the passages in the Báb’s Writings that mention Him Whom God shall make manifest. We can, however, make brief mention of the passages that refer directly to Bahá’u’lláh by name, and those that denote both the date of Bahá’u’lláh’s initial revelation in the Síyáh Chál, in August of 1852, and His public declaration in Baghdád in April of 1863.

Regarding the dates, Shoghi Effendi quotes several passages in the following paragraph in God Passes By:

‘“In the year nine,” He, referring to the date of the advent of the promised Revelation, has explicitly written, “ye shall attain unto all good.” “In the year nine, ye will attain unto the presence of God.” And again: “After Ḥin (68)* a Cause shall be given unto you which ye shall come to know.” “Ere nine will have elapsed from the inception of this Cause,” He more particularly has stated, “the realities of the created things will not be made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from the moist germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient, until thou beholdest a new creation. Say: ‘Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!’” “Wait thou,” is His statement to ‘Aẓím, “until nine will have elapsed from the time of the Bayán. Then exclaim: ‘Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!’” “Be attentive,” He, referring in a remarkable passage to the year nineteen, has admonished, “from the inception of the Revelation till the number of Vahíd (19).” “The Lord of the Day of Reckoning,” He, even more explicitly, has stated, “will be manifested at the end of Vahíd (19) and the beginning of eighty (1280 A.H.).”'[3]

Note that the years nine and nineteen are reckoned according to the Bádí Calendar, which commences with year 1 on the vernal equinox of the year 1844 in the Gregorian Calendar.

Of the passages that reference Bahá’u’lláh directly, two are particularly interesting. The first follows an incident that occurred during the Conference at Badasht. The Conference at Badasht was a gathering of the Báb’s followers and its primary purpose was to signify a break with the laws of the Dispensation of Muhammad. This was a momentous occasion in Bahá’í history worthy of its own discussion. For our purposes, however, we can note that it was at this conference that Bahá’u’lláh gave names to several of the prominent followers of the Báb. We can turn to Nabil’s Narrative for details:

‘Those who had gathered in Badasht were eighty-one in number, all of whom, from the time of their arrival to the day of their dispersion, were the guests of Bahá’u’lláh. Every day, He revealed a Tablet which Mírzá Sulaymán-i-Núrí chanted in the presence of the assembled believers. Upon each He bestowed a new name. He Himself was henceforth designated by the name of Bahá; upon the Last Letter of the Living was conferred the appellation of Quddús, and to Qurratu’l-‘Ayn was given the title of Táhirih. To each of those who had convened at Badasht a special Tablet was subsequently revealed by the Báb, each of whom He addressed by the name recently conferred upon him. When, at a later time, a number of the more rigid and conservative among her fellow-disciples chose to accuse Táhirih of indiscreetly rejecting the time-honoured traditions of the past, the Báb, to whom these complaints had been addressed, replied in the following terms: “What am I to say regarding her whom the Tongue of Power and Glory has named Táhirih [the Pure One]?”'[4]

The Báb’s reference to Bahá’u’lláh as “the Tongue of Power and Glory” is profoundly significant in that it directly relates Bahá’u’lláh to the Word of God.

The other passage to consider comes from the third chapter of the Persian Bayán, where the Báb states:

“Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá’u’lláh and rendereth thanks unto his Lord! For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán.”[5]

This remarkable passage presages the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh itself. We should note that the word “Order” here wasn’t always thought to refer to the institutions that Bahá’u’lláh would establish. The Persian language has no similar construct to the way capitalization denotes significance in the English language. So, until Shoghi Effendi capitalized the word “Order,” people generally thought that this passage merely referred to Bahá’u’lláh’s literary style.[6] The full significance of Shoghi Effendi’s interpretation of this passage is beyond the scope of our purpose here, but it will certainly become the subject of future discussions of the Bahá’í Covenant.

We’ve discussed the references to Him Whom God shall make manifest as they pertain to the Báb’s Covenant, but we haven’t discussed the actual terms of the Báb’s Covenant. We would be remiss to leave that out, because this, too, is a significant difference between the Báb’s Covenant and those that have preceded it. It is the first time that a Prophet’s expectations of His followers have been made so explicit.

Fortunately, the terms of the Báb’s are very simple, and can be summarized by the following words that the Báb addressed to one of his most learned, influential and eloquent followers:

‘“By the righteousness of Him Whose power causeth the seed to germinate and Who breatheth the spirit of life into all things, were I to be assured that in the day of His manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee and repudiate thy faith…. If, on the other hand, I be told that a Christian, who beareth no allegiance to My Faith, will believe in Him, the same will I regard as the apple of Mine Eye.”'[7]

Thus, the Báb made it clear that one thing, and only one thing, would fulfill our obligations to His Covenant: recognition and acceptance of Him Whom God shall make manifest.

[1] Shoghi Effendi, “God Passes By”, p 27 (http://www.bahai.org/r/671696049)

[2] Ibid. p 23 (http://www.bahai.org/r/488745356)

[3] Ibid. p 29 (http://www.bahai.org/r/428008482)

[4] Dawn-breakers, p 293 (http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/nz/DB/db-35.html)

[5] Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, “The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh”, p 147 (http://www.bahai.org/r/584584551)

[6] David Hoffman, essay “Shoghi Effendi, Expounder of the Word of God” (http://bahaitalks.blogspot.com/2014/10/shoghi-effendi-expounder-of-word-of-god.html)

[7] Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, “The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh”, p 101 (http://www.bahai.org/r/776389441)

* … His Cause will be made known after Hin.
According to the Abjad notation, the numerical value of the word “Hin” is 68. It was in the year 1268 A.H. (1852 A.D.) that Bahá’u’lláh, while confined in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran received the first intimations of His Divine Mission. Of this He hinted in the odes which He revealed in that year. (~Shoghi Effendi, “The Dawn-Breakers,” p. 18)

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