October 15, 2016

1878 & 1882: Bahá’u’lláh responds to questions raised by Mánikchí Sáhib, a prominent Indian Zoroastrian

An able diplomat and devoted adherent of his ancestral religion, Mánikchí Sáhib was appointed, in 1854, as an emissary on behalf of the Parsees of India to assist their coreligionists in Iran, who were suffering under the repressive policies of the Qájár monarchs. Sometime after this he attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad. Although maintaining to the end of his life allegiance to his Zoroastrian faith, he was attracted to the teachings of the new religion and, moved by the sacrifice of its early martyrs, became a lifelong admirer. Years after their meeting he posed a series of questions to Bahá’u’lláh’s which led to the revelation of two Tablets of far-reaching significance, the first of which was sent to him in 1878.

The first Tablet, known as the Lawh-i-Mánikchí Sáhib, is celebrated for its striking and well-known passages epitomizing the universality of Bahá’u’lláh’s prophetic claim. Revealed, at Mánikchí Sáhib’s bold request, in pure Persian, the Tablet responds to the questions he had raised and proclaims some of the central tenets of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh: “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” “Turn your faces from the darkness of estrangement to the effulgent light of the daystar of unity.” “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” “[W]hatsoever leadeth to the decline of ignorance and the increase of knowledge hath been, and will ever remain, approved in the sight of the Lord of creation.”

As inferred from the contents of a second Tablet, Mánikchí áib was not entirely satisfied with this reply, having anticipated a more expansive discussion of his specific questions. Bahá’u’lláh’s further reply is contained in a lengthy Tablet, revealed on 14 Sha‘bán 1299 (1 July 1882) in the voice of His amanuensis Mírzá Áqá Ján. The Tablet is addressed to the eminent Bahá’í scholar Abu’l-Fal, who at the time was employed as the personal secretary of Mánikchí Sáhib, but a lengthy portion of it addresses the latter’s questions. Bahá’u’lláh states at the outset that he had “failed to consider the matter closely, for otherwise he would have readily admitted that not a single point was omitted”, and explains that out of wisdom his questions had not been directly answered, but that even so, “the answers were provided in a language of marvellous concision and clarity”. Throughout the remainder of the Tablet, the text of each of Mánikchí Sáhib’s questions is successively quoted and detailed replies are given to each, in some cases connecting the questions to the universal principles enunciated in the first Tablet.

The Tablet is noteworthy for its discussion of a range of questions regarding the tenets of both Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions, as understood by Mánikchí Sáhib, including the nature of creation, the connection between faith and reason, the reconciliation of the differences that exist among the laws and ordinances of various religions, their respective claims to exclusivity and their differing degrees of eagerness to welcome others into their fold. Bahá’u’lláh’s responses emphasize that which is right and true in the various doctrines and beliefs under examination, rather than discarding them outright for inaccuracy or insufficiency.

These two Tablets are published in the book: ‘The Tabernacle of Unity’, by the Baha’i World Centre.
(Adapted from the ‘Introduction’ section of ‘The Tabernacle of Unity’)