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Introduction by Alison Marshall

Audio:

Tablet to Salman on Detachment is a short tablet in which Baha'u'llah discusses the meaning of detachment and, in this context, comments on the situation of the believers who were exiled to Mosul from Baghdad as a result of the scheming of the Persian Ambassador.

The tablet is one of several Baha'u'llah wrote for Shaykh Salman. Two of these tablets share the same original Arabic name, Lawh-i Salman, and have therefore been numbered 1 and 2. This tablet is Lawh-i Salman II, but translator Juan Cole has given it the English title, "Tablet to Salman on Detachment". He gave the other tablet the title, "Commentary on a Verse of Rumi".

Shaykh Salman was Baha'u'llah's courier and his services to Baha'u'llah were extraordinary. Because Baha'u'llah spent much of his life in exile from his native Iran, he needed a way to maintain communication with the large community of believers back home. Salman therefore spent 40 years carrying tablets to Iran from Baha'u'llah and then returning with letters for Baha'u'llah from the believers. It was a very dangerous job, for the Ottoman and Persian authorities were eager to confiscate these letters in order to prevent Baha'u'llah from communicating with his followers. Salman always had to travel in secret and often did so on foot. After Baha'u'llah died, Salman continued to act as courier for Abdu'l-Baha.[1]

Tablet to Salman on Detachment was written not long after Baha'u'llah arrived in Akka, which was August 1868. This is based on the fact that Baha'u'llah refers to the believers in Baghdad being exiled to Mosul, which happened in mid-1868. The exile came about as a result of the scheming of the Persian Ambassador in Baghdad, Mirza Buzurg Khan, and the Muslim cleric Shaykh Abdu'l-Husayn Iraqi. They actively plotted against the community and their efforts lead to the Governor of Baghdad exiling about 70 believers to Mosul.[2]

The essence of Baha'u'llah's message on detachment is that the believers should be content with the will of God; that is, content with the circumstances they find themselves in. This idea is captured in the first sentence of the tablet: "In every affair, strive to be like God and be content with the divine decree." Baha'u'llah cites his own situation: he was oppressed his whole life and the people acted as though nothing untoward had happened to him, but Baha'u'llah was always reconciled to the situations he was unjustly placed in.

Baha'u'llah then restates the principle by saying that we must not complain or rejoice about the conditions of the world - be they good or bad. Instead, we should always look to God. This is because the circumstances of our lives are unstable and will change when we die. Baha'u'llah says that the people who glory in their worldly situation are heedless and that it is negligence that leads them to concern themselves with such things.

Baha'u'llah comments on how the principle of detachment will impact on the way people will be governed in future. He explains that, when humanity matures, people will be unwilling to hold autocratic rule or to govern alone. People will be motivated by reason rather than power, and will agree to rule only on a consultative basis and for the purpose of serving the Cause.

Baha'u'llah restates the detachment principle again in a slightly different way. He points out that our lives are fleeting and, when we die, we are returned to dust. Those who see the eternal spiritual home do not desire anything of this world, choosing instead to focus and rely wholly on God and be content with what God decrees.

Baha'u'llah consoles Salman over his disappointment at not being able to visit Baha'u'llah. Presumably, this is a reference to the fact that, when Baha'u'llah was first sent to Akka, the authorities watched the city gates carefully to prevent the believers from getting in to see him. He advises Salman to reflect the warmth of God so that he will warm others, to walk his path to God with purity and sincerity and to ask God for help in all situations.

Baha'u'llah confirms that he is aware that the Baghdad believers have been exiled to Mosul. He thanks God for making himself and the believers prisoners, because their suffering in the path of God will be remembered for eternity. He finishes by giving Salman instructions on what to pass on to those exiled to Mosul and revealing a prayer for them.


[1] This comes from the biography of Shaykh Salman in Adib Taherzadeh: The Revelation of Baha'u'llah. Baghdad, 1853-63 (Oxford: George Ronald, 1974) pp 109-113. See also Abdu'l-Baha: Memorials of the Faithful, translated by Marzieh Gail (Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1971) pp 13-16.

[2] This comes from the account of the exile of the Baghdad believers in Adib Taherzadeh: The Revelation of Baha'u'llah. Adrianople, 1863-68 (Oxford: George Ronald, 1977) pp 332-336.

Further discussion on this tablet is found in Adib Taherzadeh: The Revelation of Baha'u'llah. Akka, The Early Years, 1868-77 (Oxford: George Ronald, 1983) pp 25-26.

For a discussion on Baha'u'llah's abolition of autocratic rule and emphasis on consultation, see Juan Cole: Modernity and the Millennium. The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith in the Nineteenth-Century Middle East (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) pp 60-61.

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