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Original title: Jawahiru'l-Asrar

Translated by Juan Cole

 

Herein lie gems of the mysteries associated with the stages along the mystical path, for whoever desires to draw near unto God, the Almighty, the All-Forgiving. Blessed are the righteous who quaff from these waters.

[1] O wayfarer upon the paths of justice, whose eyes are fixed upon the countenance of grace, your letter arrived, apprising me of your question and bearing to my ears the melodies of your breast that issued from the canopies of your inmost heart. Behold, the clouds of the divine Will have gathered, that they might rain down upon you showers of wisdom and cleanse you of all that you had previously acquired. Thus might you turn your face away from the realm of contradictions and toward the sanctuary of divine unity, so that you can attain the sacred wellspring and drink from it. In this way will your soul find tranquility, your thirst be quenched and your breast soothed, and thus will you enter the ranks of those who are, at this time, guided by the light of God.

[2] In these days, the hounds and jackals of the land have surrounded me and I have concealed myself in the nest of my mystery. I am therefore forbidden from revealing the wonders of God's knowledge, the gems of his wisdom, and the splendors of his power that he has bestowed upon me. Nevertheless, I do not wish to disappoint one who has arisen before the shrine of grandeur, and who desires to enter the abode of everlasting life and to soar into the heavens of this manifestation at the dawn of the divine decree. Therefore, I shall mention to you some of that with which God has honored me, but only to the extent that souls can bear it and minds can endure it, lest the hateful raise an uproar and the hypocrites hoist their standards. I call upon God to aid me therein, insofar as he is the most merciful of the merciful and he gives unto those who ask of him.

[3] First of all, you must contemplate the reasons for which the diverse communities now dwelling upon the earth failed to recognize the messengers whom God sent forth by his power, whom he commissioned to establish his cause and whom he rendered the lamp of his pre-eternity in the niche of divine unity. Why did they turn away from them, oppose them, contend with them, and wage war upon them? By what proof did they refuse to acknowledge either their mission or their authority? Rather, they disbelieved in them and poured out invectives upon them, finally murdering them or driving them into exile.

[4] O wanderer in the wilderness of knowledge and passenger on the ark of wisdom, if you remain ignorant of the answer to this question, you will never attain to the station of faith, nor will you acquire certitude concerning the Cause of God, the manifestations of his Command, the Dawning-Places of his decree, the Repositories of his revelation and the Mines of his knowledge. You would join the ranks of those who failed to struggle for the Cause of God, who never inhaled the fragrance of faith from the cloak of certainty, and who never scaled the heights of God's oneness or attained to the stations of divine uniqueness in the temples of his praise and the essences of abstraction.

[5] Therefore, O my friend, strive to attain a knowledge of this station, that your heart may be freed from the veils enveloping it, and that you might be among those whose sight God has made sharp. Then will you witness the origins of the realm of power and discover the mysteries of the kingdom of God and the signs of divinity even in the realms of humanity. You will arrive at the station wherein you can see no defect in the creation, or any flaw in the heavens and the earth. Now that the discussion has reached this pathless and most exalted station, and we have made this difficult and sublime allusion, know that because such peoples as the Jews and the Christians failed to recognize the inner meaning of the divine Word or to comprehend that which God has promised them in his Book, they denied the Cause of God, shunned his messengers and rejected his proofs. Had they gazed at the proof itself, rather than following those of their clergy and rulers who were only scoundrels and reprobates, they would have attained to the repository of guidance and piety. Then would they have quaffed from the waters of life in the city of the All-Merciful, in the garden of the All-Praised, and in the reality of paradise. However, they failed to behold the proof with their own eyes, with which God endowed them, and coveted other than what he desired for them in his grace. For this reason, they grew remote from the canopies of his nearness and were denied the fountain of union with him and the spring of his favor. They were dead, enwrapped in the shrouds of their base selves.

[6] I shall now, by the power and might of God, make reference to some of what was revealed in the former scriptures, and to some of the emblems of the manifestations of divine unity in the temples of his inaccessibility. Thus might you come to know the station of the dawn in this imperishable morn and might witness the flame blazing in the bush that is neither of the east nor of the west. And so might you open your eyes, upon your attainment to your Lord, and mix your heart with hidden grace in these treasured vessels. Then will you offer thanksgiving unto your Lord God, insofar as he has singled you out for his favor and made you one of those who are certain of arriving at the Presence of their Lord.

[7] Here is a passage revealed in past times in the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, which mentions the signs of the manifestation to come after Jesus. He says "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!"[Matthew 24:19] Then the Dove warbled in the center of eternity and the Bird of the divine throne cried out from the farthest tree, from the lote tree beyond which there is no passing, saying: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the earth shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet."[Matthew 24:29-31][1]

[8] In the second Gospel, Mark, the Dove of Holiness spoke in this way, "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be."[Mark 13:19] Thereafter, he sang just as he had sung before, with no change or alteration. God is the guarantor of what I say.

[9] In the third Gospel, Luke says: "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift your heads; for your redemption draws near."[Luke 21:25-28]

[10] He prophesies in the Gospel according to John, the fourth book: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."[John 14:26] He adds, "But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asks me, Whither go you? But because I have said those things unto you. . ."[John 16:5-6] Elsewhere he says, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."[John 16:7] Then he affirms: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you unto all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come."[John 16:13]

[11] These have been quotations from a previous revelation. I swear by God, besides whom there is no other God, that I have been succinct. Should I wish to mention all the sayings of the prophets that have been revealed from the realm of grandeur and the divine kingdom of dominion, these would fill pages and volumes before I reached the end of them. In all the revealed books, psalms and scriptures such verses as those I have just cited are to be found. Indeed, even more exalted and momentous sayings exist than those I have adduced and set forth in detail. Did I but wish, I could mention to you all that was revealed in past times, by virtue of the wonders of God's knowledge and power that he has bestowed upon me. However, I have contented myself with the few verses that I have elucidated for you, lest lethargy overtake you in your journey such that you forsake it. Moreover, I wished to spare you all hardship, fatigue, dreariness, and abasement.

[12] Therefore, be equitable and think upon these lofty statements. Then ask those who, with no sign or proof from God, lay claim to knowledge - even though they remain heedless of those days wherein the Sun of knowledge and wisdom dawned forth from the horizon of divinity. This Luminary gives to every discerning one his due and bestows upon whoever merits it his proper portion and station. What do they say of these allusions that defy the comprehension of mortal minds and cause holy souls to swoon when they attempt to fathom the universal wisdom and knowledge of God reposed within them? If the Muslim divines should say that these words are from God and have no figurative interpretation, but must, rather, be understood in an entirely literal fashion, then how can they object to the stance of the unbelievers among the People of the Book? For it is because the latter saw the passages in their Book that we quoted to you, which their clergy explained literally, that they failed to acknowledge God in the manifestations of his unity, the Dawning-Places of his transcendence and the temples of his abstraction. They neither believed in them nor obeyed them, because they did not witness the darkening of the sun, the falling of the stars from the sky to the surface of the earth, and the descent of the angels in visible form into this world. For this reason, they opposed the prophets and messengers. Indeed, when they found the latter diverging from their laws and religion, I am ashamed to relate the accusations they hurled at them. They branded them liars, madmen and infidels lost in error. Consult the Qur'an; you will find mention of all these calumnies, and will attain sure knowledge thereof. From that time to our own, this community has been awaiting the occurrence of the events promised them by their learned and their counselors, asking, "When will these signs appear? We, in truth, at this time believe in them." If the matter were thus, how could you refute their proof and advance any argument in regard to their religion, their understanding of their Books, and what they have heard from their leaders?

[13] If, on the other hand, the Muslim scholars answer that the books possessed by this community, to which they refer as the Gospel and which they attribute to Jesus, the Son of Mary, are not revelations from God and the manifestations of his Self, this would require that the divine bounties had ceased to flow from the Origin of grace. In this case, the Gospel would not have constituted a universal proof for mankind. God's blessing would not have been perfect, his favor would not have continued to shed its radiance and his mercy would not have been all-embracing. For if, when he caused Jesus to ascend into heaven, he also raised up his Book, then on what basis could God remonstrate with his followers in the Judgment Day, or chastise them, as the leaders of religion and the rightly-guided among the learned have written he would?

[14] Therefore, contemplate within yourself. When you see the matter in this way - and we do, as well - then to where can you flee? To whom can you run and to whom turn? In what land can you abide, upon what carpet recline, what road travel with rectitude? When will you sleep, and what will become of you? How will you strengthen your religion and reinforce your submission to it? No, by him who revealed his unity and bore witness to himself concerning his oneness! If he should light within your heart a firebrand from the flames of the love of God, you will not sleep, you will not rest, you will not laugh, and you will not seek comfort. Rather, you will flee to the mountain peaks in search of the court of his nearness, his holiness, and his beauty. You will lament as one bereaved and weep tears of yearning, nor would you return to your home until God had revealed to you his Cause.

[15] You have ascended to the kingdom of guidance and the heaven of godliness. If you wish to comprehend these sacred allusions, to witness the secrets of knowing and to become informed of the comprehensive Word, then it is incumbent upon you to inquire about all this - and about all that comes to you regarding your origin and ultimate destination - from those whom God has rendered Springs of his knowledge, heavens of his wisdom, and Arks of his mystery. For, without these Lights that have dawned from the horizon of the Unknowable essence, the people are unable even to distinguish their right from their left. How, then, will they ascend to the heaven of realities and attain the treasure hold of abstrusities? Therefore, we supplicate God to submerge us in these surging oceans, to encompass us in these spray-laden gales and to bestow upon us a divine stairway for our ascent. In this way might we cleanse our human temples of everything we have acquired from our base selves and divest ourselves of the shameless garments that we have stolen from our peers, that God may clothe us in the cloak of his grace and the raiments of his guidance. Then might he cause us to enter the city of knowledge; for everyone who sets foot therein knows all branches of learning even before he becomes aware of their inner secrets. He comprehends all knowledge and wisdom by means of the mysteries of divinity deposited in the creation - for he reads in the leaf the secrets of the tree. Praise be to God, the Maker and fashioner of the universe, above all that was created and preordained therein.

[16] By God, the Protector, the Almighty, the Self-Subsisting, were I to show you the gates of that city, which were created by the right hand of power and might, you would behold what no one has glimpsed before you, and would witness what no soul besides you has ever discerned. You would understand the obscurities of the proofs and the abstrusities of the allusions, and the secrets of the Alpha in the Point of the Omega would be demonstrated to you. All matters would be made easy for you, fire would be transformed for you into light, knowledge and mercy, and you would recline upon the cushions of holiness. Otherwise, however much we might bestow upon you the gems of mysterious wisdom that lie concealed within the impenetrable depths of these holy and spiritual words, you would remain unable to comprehend even a droplet from the billowing seas of knowledge and the murmuring rivers of glory. You would be recorded among the ignorant in the Mother Book by the Finger of the Unknowable essence that wields the Pen of divine unity, and you would remain unable to decipher the meaning of a single letter of the Book, and the words of the People of God, concerning the mysteries of the Creation and the Return.

[17] Therefore, be fair, O servant, for though we have never seen you to outward appearing, inwardly we have perceived your love. Then bring yourself into the Presence of the one who, though you see him not, ever watches you, and who, though you know him not, is well acquainted with you. Can anyone interpret the words quoted above, employing flawless proofs, clear evidence and lucid references, that the heart of the questioner is set at rest? No, by him in whose hands is my soul, no one can ever imbibe even a droplet thereof, save him who enters under the shade of this City. For its pillars have been raised up on the mount of rubies, its walls are of the chrysolite of divine unity, its gates glisten with the diamonds of the Self-Subsisting and its earth is composed of good character.

[18] Now that we have mentioned to you some of the mysteries, though we have left them veiled and concealed, we shall return to the subject of what we know from the past Books, lest your foot stumble in any way. Thus might you attain certainty concerning all that we have sprinkled upon you from the waves of the ocean of life in the realm of divine names and attributes. This matter is recorded in all the Gospels, and is the following: The Spirit (Jesus) spoke forth and told his disciples, "Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away."[Mark 13:31; cp. Matthew 5:17, Luke 16:17] It is apparent to you that the literal sense of these words can only be that these books of the Gospel will continue to exist among mankind forever, that their commandments will never lose their force, and that the proofs, laws, ordinances and decrees enshrined therein will never be effaced. Rather they will persist, ineradicably and eternally.

[19] Therefore, O my friend, purify your heart, illumine your breast and make keen your sight, that you may recognize the songs warbled by the Bird of the Unknowable essence and the melodies cooed by the Doves of holiness in the realm of immortality. Thus might you learn the figurative interpretation of these words and their mysteries. Otherwise, should you interpret them literally, you would find yourself unable to establish the truth of the Cause of the one who succeeded Jesus. You would be unable to convince your opponent, nor could you triumph over the pigheaded among those unbelievers. For it is this verse that those learned in the Gospel employ to prove that it cannot be abrogated. They say, "Should those portents recorded in our Books appear, and the Promised one become manifest, it would be incumbent upon him to rule mankind according to the commandments of the Gospel. Should all those signs prophesied in our scriptures come to pass, and should he enjoin other than what Jesus decreed, we would refuse to draw near unto him or to follow him." For this matter is universally accepted among them.

[20] You witness the same thing in this day among the learned and the ignorant of this people, who raise objections and claim that the sun has not dawned from the west, the crier has not cried out between the heavens and the earth, lands have not been submerged, the Anti-Christ has not appeared, the Sufyani has not yet arisen and the temple has not become manifest in the sun. I have heard with my own ears from one of their divines that, "If all these prophecies are fulfilled, and the hope-for Qa'im appears, and if he decrees other than what was revealed in the Qur'an in regard to the law which we possess, then we shall denounce him as a liar and shall put him to death. We shall never draw near to him or his like." Such words do these deniers utter, even after the Resurrection has occurred, the trumpet blast has sounded, all who are in heaven and on the earth have been assembled, the scale has been set up, the path prepared, the verses revealed, the sun has dawned, the stars have been darkened, the souls have been raised up, the Spirit has been sent forth, the angels have been assembled in serried ranks, paradise has been brought near and the fire has been kindled. All these things have come to pass, yet to this day not one of them has discerned it, as if they were lying dead within their shrouds, save only those who believed and returned to God, and are today rejoicing in the paradise of holiness and faring according to God's good pleasure.

[21] Since all people were enveloped in the thick veils of their base selves, they failed to recognize the melodies of holiness, to perceive the fragrance of grace and to inquire of the People of the Remembrance, even though God had thus commanded them. For God said, and his Word is truth: "Ask the people of the Remembrance, if you know not."[Qur'an 16:43][2] Rather, they turned away from the People of the Remembrance and followed Samiri out of selfish passion. Thus did they grow remote from God's compassion, and failed to attain his beauty on the day of his Presence. For all had eagerly anticipated the day of his appearance, and supplicated God day and night to gather them together before him, that they might be martyred for his sake, led by his guidance and illumined by his radiance.

[22] Yet when he came with a sign and a proof from God they castigated him as an infidel, heaped abuse upon him and treated him in such a manner that I cannot bear to relate it, nor could you stand to hear it. At this point, the Pen laments and the quill weeps and shrieks. If you listen with the ear of your true self, by God, you will hear the wailing of the inhabitants of the heavens. And if you remove the veil from your eyes you will see that the celestial maidens have fainted and that the spirits have swooned, beating their own faces while seated upon the earth. Alas, alas for what befell the manifestation of the Self of God, and for what they wrought towards him and his loved ones, such as none has treated another, no infidel has treated a believer, and no believer has treated an infidel. Alas, alas, the temple of Eternal Life has seated himself upon the black earth, the Holy Spirit has groaned aloud in the highest heavens and the pillars supporting the Throne in the most sublime realm of divinity have crumbled. In the Crimson land the life of being has suffered alteration, and in the Yellow Realm the tongue of the Nightingale has been struck dumb.

[23] Away with them and their deeds, and with all that they professed to know! Listen then to what the Dove warbled concerning them, with the most wondrous and excellent of melodies and the most perfect and invincible of songs, that they may be afflicted from this day until that Day when the people are resurrected to join the Lord of the Worlds. In past times they prayed for victory over the unbelievers, but when that of which they knew came unto them, they disbelieved in him. The malediction of God be upon these false ones! This is their station and their portion in this world of vanities and they shall be returned to the torment of hellfire. They will find for themselves neither friend nor supporter.

[24] Be not veiled by all that was revealed in the Qur'an, and by what you have heard of the sayings of the Suns of sinlessness and the Moons of grandeur, concerning the corruption and alteration of the text by the hateful. These words of theirs referred only to some particular verses, which they specified. Despite my inability and unworthiness, I could, should I so desire, mention to you such passages. However, this would cause us to digress from our purpose, in such a way that we would diverge from the outstretched path, would flounder in the world of limitations and would depart from what is beloved in the court of the All-Praised. You who are being mentioned in this outspread parchment, and who are seeking enlightenment in this unrelieved darkness! Insofar as God has shed his effulgence upon you through the lights of the Sinai of manifestation, therefore purify yourself from all the evil hints and polytheistic intimations you learned in past times, that you might discover the fragrance of everlasting life from the Joseph of faithfulness, and enter the Egypt of the Unknowable essence. Thus might you perceive the sweet-smelling and glorious breezes wafting from this shining white tablet, insofar as the pen has inscribed upon it the enigmas of pre-existence concerning the names of God, the Exalted, the Most High. In such a way may your name be recorded on the sacred tablets among those who attained certitude.

[25] O you who are, all unknowing, present before this servant: you must recognize that whoever desires to traverse the stages of ascent into the mysteries must undertake a religious struggle to the full extent of his power and ability. In this way, the means of arriving at valid methods of proof will become clear. If he finds that someone claims to have a Cause from God, and possesses a proof from his Lord that surpasses the capabilities of all mankind, he has no choice but to follow all of his commands, sayings, and ordinances - even should he declare the sky to be the earth, and the earth to be the sky, or says that the former is above the latter or the latter below the former. He might ordain change or alteration, for he assuredly has been informed of the mysteries of the divine essence, the symbols of the Unseen and the laws of God. Were all human beings from the various nations to put into practice the principle to which we have just referred, their affairs would be facilitated. Moreover, these expressions and allusions would not prevent them from attaining the bounteous, divine names and attributes. If they had been aware of this principle, they would not have denied the blessings of God, nor would they have warred upon, struggled against and rejected the prophets. Such expressions also occur in the Qur'an, if you would but meditate upon it.

[26] Know that with such words God tests and sifts his servants. He thereby distinguishes the believer from the infidel, the detached from the worldly, the beneficent from the wrongdoer, the pious from the sinner, and so forth. As the dove of the invisible essence warbled, "Do men think when they say `we believe' they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?"[Qur'an 29:2] It is incumbent on one who journeys unto God and who emigrates for his sake to sever himself from all who are in the heavens and on earth, and to restrain his soul from all save him. Then will the gates of loving-kindness be thrown open before his face, and the breezes of divine affection be directed at him. If he strictly adheres to the essence of the explanations and interpretations we have shared with him, he will understand all the allusions that are made in these verses. God will cause his peace to descend upon his heart, and will give him tranquillity.

[27] In regard to such ambiguous revealed words, then, seek to understand the question you have asked of this servant. He, in truth, is seated in a place of degradation; he walks upon the earth only as a stranger, such as will find for himself neither helper nor intimate, neither beloved nor defender. He will remain dependent upon God and will say at all times, "In truth we are from God and in truth, unto him shall we return." Moreover, our reference to these words as "ambiguous" was solely for the benefit of those who never ascended to the horizon of guidance or attained to the heights of mystical insight in the sanctuaries of divine providence. Otherwise, for those who know the events associated with the Cause and who witness the secrets of successorship, insofar as God has revealed these to them, all the verses are clear and all allusions are precise. They resolve the enigmas that are clothed in the garments of these words as easily as you perceive the heat of the sun and the moistness of water, or, rather, with greater ease. Exalted be God above what we have mentioned of his lovers, and above the mention they make of him.

[28] Now that we have reached this sublime station and attained this lofty summit, insofar as from the Pen has flowed the greatest loving-kindness from God, the Exalted, the Most High, we wish to describe for you some of the stations along the path of the servant to his creator. Thus will everything you desired be revealed to you, and thus will his proof be made universal and his grace complete.

[29] Know that at the beginning of his journey unto God, it is necessary for the wayfarer to enter the Garden of Search. In this journey, it is incumbent on the seeker to sever himself from all besides God and to close his eyes to all who are in the heavens and upon the earth. His heart should contain neither hate towards any creature nor love for anyone, such as might prevent him from attaining the sanctuary of beauty. He must sanctify his soul from the veils of grandeur. It is his duty to avoid feelings of superiority to others because of the vanities of this world, the outward knowledge, and so forth, with which God has favored him. He should beseech the Eternal Truth with the utmost earnestness and endeavor, that God might instruct him in the paths to his grace and the ways of his beneficence; for he is the best of helpers for his servants. His Word is true: "Whoever makes efforts for us, in our ways we shall assuredly guide him."[Qur'an 29:69] Consider also the saying, "Fear God and God will teach you." In this stage of the journey, the wayfarer perceives changes, alterations, differences and contradictions. He sees the wonders of divinity in the mysteries of the creation, and discovers paths of guidance and divine highways. This is the station of seekers and the means of ascent for pilgrims.

[30] When the seeker advances beyond this station, he enters the City of Love and Allurement. Then do the gales of love blow and the spiritual breezes waft. In this station, the rapture of longing and the fragrances of ecstasy overtake the wayfarer in such a way that he no longer distinguishes right from left, land from sea, desert from mountain. Every instant he is consumed in the flames of yearning and upon every horizon he burns from separation's cruel tyranny. He races up the Mount Paran of love and the Horeb of attraction. One moment he laughs, the next he weeps; at some times he is tranquil and at others he grows disturbed. He cares about nothing and no command can deter him, nor any law restrain him. He awaits the bidding of his Lord in the beginning and the end. Every moment he expends his spirit, every second he sacrifices his soul and exposes his breast to the spears of the enemy. He extends his neck for the sword of the divine decree, and kisses the hands of his executioner.

[31] The seeker gives all his possessions, that he might sacrifice his spirit, soul and body in the path of his Lord, though this must be with his Beloved's permission rather than out of selfish passion. You find him cold in fire and dry in water. He lives in every land and fares upon every road. Whoever comes into contact with him in this state discerns in him the torrid heat of love. He walks upon the heights of detachment and speeds through the valleys of inaccessibility, his eyes ever awaiting the wonders of his Lord's compassion and the vision of his beauty's radiance. Blessed are they that attain. This is the station of the lovers and the rank of the enraptured.

[32] When he accomplishes this journey and ascends above this most great station, he sets foot within the City of Divine Unity, the garden of God's uniqueness and the expanse of his exaltation. In this station, the seeker casts behind his back all allusions, indications, veils and expressions, and witnesses all things with that eye wherein God himself has, for his sake, shed his effulgence. He perceives in this journey that all differences can be reduced to a single word, and that all allusions refer to a single point. To this bore witness the one who rode upon the ark of fire and walked in the center of all journeys, until he reached the highest peak in the kingdom of eternity, when he said: "Knowledge is a single point, which the ignorant have multiplied."[A saying attributed to Imam Ali] This is the station mentioned in the saying of the prophet: `I am he and he is I, save that he is he and I am I." In this station, should the temple of finality proclaim himself the point of the beginning, he must be believed. And were he to say, "In truth, I am other than it," then this would be the absolute truth. If he says that he is master of this world and of the next, King of kings and Sovereign of the realm of divine dominion; or the return of Muhammad, or of Ali, or of any of their descendants - or, indeed, of anyone else - than he speaks the very truth from God. He rules over all creatures, and all else besides himself. Have you not heard what was uttered in past times: "Our first is Muhammad, our last is Muhammad, our center is Muhammad" or, in another place, "All of them are from one light"?

[33] In this station the principle of divine unity and the verses of God's exaltation are vindicated. You find that all of them have raised their heads from the folds of God's power and have entered within the cloak of his compassion; nor can you distinguish between the folds and the cloak. In this station change and alteration are pure idolatry and unadulterated unbelief. For this is the station of the effulgence of divine oneness, the disclosure of God's singleness and the dawning of the lights of eternity in the lofty mirrors that reflect these rays. By God! Were I to describe this station to the extent that God has ordained for it, spirits would be severed from their bodies, gems would fall from their settings, all who dwell in the depths of contingent being would swoon and everything that moves in the realm of signs would be annihilated. Have you not heard, "No change is there in the creation of God"?[Qur'an 30:30] Or have you not read, "No change will you find in the practice of God",[cf Qur'an 33:62] or perused the verse "No want of proportion will you see in the creation of the All-Merciful."[Qur'an 67:3] By God, whoever is among the people of these depths, and boards this vessel, will not perceive any alteration in God's handiwork, nor any differences in his realm. Since there is no change or alteration in the creation of God, how could such occur among the manifestations of the Self of God? Praised be God above our description of the manifestations of his Cause, and exalted be he above what they mention of him.

Great God, this ocean is a treasure hold;
The tempest's waves cast pearls upon their crests;
Disrobe and drown therein, nor try to swim -
On such a swim no pride or honor rests!

[34] If you were one of the people of this city, nestled in the abyss of God's oneness, you would see all the prophets and messengers as one temple, one soul, one light and one spirit, in such a way that the first of them is the last and the last is the first. All of them established the Cause of God and legislated the laws ordained by God in his wisdom. They were, one and all, manifestations of God's own self, mines of God's might, storehouses of his revelation, beams of his sun, dawning rays of his light. Through them were manifested the signs of God's exaltation in the realities of his creatures, the symbols of his uniqueness in the substances of all beings, the elements of his glorification in the essences of the inhabitants of the realm of oneness, and the tokens of his praise in the simple natures of those who dwell in the realm of the Self-Subsisting. Through them creation has its origin and to them return all things of which mention is made. Just as they are, in their inmost realities, one light and one mystery, you should recognize them all - in the same way - as a single temple. Indeed, you find them uttering one word, one speech, one declaration.

[35] In this station, if you were to call the first of them by the name of the last, or vice versa, that is the very truth. This judgment has been revealed through the source of divinity and the spring of lordship: "Call upon God or call upon the All-Merciful; by whichever name you call him, his are the most beautiful names."[Qur'an 17:110] For they are the manifestations of the name of God, the dawning-places of his attributes, the compendiums of his sovereignty. Yet he - glorified and exalted may he be - is in his essence sanctified above all names and purified above the plane of attributes. Therefore, gaze upon the evidences of God's power in the horizons of their spirits and in the souls of their bodily temples, that your heart may be soothed and you may be among those who circle in the heaven of nearness to God.

[36] Now shall I renew my discourse upon this station, so as to aid you in attaining a mystical knowledge of your fashioner. Know that God - blessed and exalted may he be - will never manifest himself in his inmost being, nor in his essence. He was ever hidden in the pre-existence of his essence and concealed in the eternality of his existence. When he desired to manifest his beauty in the kingdom of names, and to show forth his grandeur in the realm of attributes, he brought the prophets forth from the realm of the invisible into that of the seen. This was so that his Name, the Manifest, might be distinguished from his Name, the Concealed, and his Name, the First, might appear from his Name, the Last - so as to fulfill the verse, "He is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Concealed, and he encompasses all things."[Qur'an 57:3] He made the manifestations of his Self and the Mirrors of his essence to be the epiphanies of these most great names and these most exalted words. Thus, it has been established that all the names and attributes refer to these holy and sublime lights. You will find all names in their names and all attributes in their attributes. In this station, were you to call them by all the names, this would be the absolute truth, as true as their own existence. Therefore, recognize the intent of this saying, then conceal it within the canopies of your heart, that you might know the answer to your question and attain to it in such measure as God has ordained for you. Perhaps you might be among those who have fathomed the purpose of God.

[37] All that you have heard of Muhammad, the son of Hasan [the Twelfth Imam], may the spirits of all who subsist in the abyss of spirits be his sacrifice, is true, and no doubt attaches to it. We all possess certitude concerning him. However, the Imams of our faith mentioned that he was in the city of Jabulqa', and they ascribed to that city amazing attributes and fabulous characteristics. If you desired to interpret this city according to a literal reading of the Traditions, you would be unable to do so, and would never discover it. For, if you search all the regions of the world, you will fail to find a city such as they described in past times, even though you traverse the earth as long as God's eternity and sovereignty endure. For the earth in its entirety can neither contain nor encompass it. If you will guide me to this city, I shall guide you to that holy Soul, whom the people have known only according to what they possess, and not according to what he possesses. However, since you can not do so, it is incumbent upon you to interpret figuratively the sayings and Traditions related of those Lights. And just as you stand in need of a figurative interpretation of the Traditions concerning this city, so you need also a symbolic understanding of this holy Soul. When you have come to know this metaphorical interpretation, you will have no need to resort to substitution, nor, indeed, of anything else.

[38] Then know that all the prophets are one spirit, soul, name and description. You will remark with your own eye that the name of all the manifestations is Muhammad and that of all their fathers is Hasan. They appeared from the Jabulqa' of God's power and become manifest from the Jabulsa' of his mercy. Their Jabulqa' consists in nothing else but the treasure holds of everlasting life in the realm of the Unknowable essence and the cities of the Invisible in the most exalted kingdom of divinity. You will see that Muhammad son of Hasan was in Jabulqa' and appeared therefrom. He whom God shall make manifest now dwells therein, until such time as God shall cause him to appear in the station of his Sovereignty. We, in truth, affirm this and believe in them all.

[39] We have been concise in elucidating the meanings of Jabulqa' in this station, but you shall come to know all the meanings in the mysteries of these tablets, that you may be of those who have certitude. However, in regard to the one who appeared in the year 60, you require neither an allegorical nor a figurative interpretation. For his name was Muhammad, and he was a descendant of the Imams of the Faith. Therefore, it is believed that he was the son of Hasan al-Askari, and this is well-known and evident to you. No, rather, he is the creator of this name and its fashioner for himself, if you see with the eyes of God. At this time, we wish to close this discourse and begin a discussion of what befell the Point of the Qur'an, so as to make mention of him. Thus may you attain insight into all matters from God, the Glorious, the Beautiful.

[40] Think upon Muhammad's time, when God caused him to arise for his Cause and manifested him in the station of his own Self, how the people attacked him, opposed him, and disputed with him. Whenever he walked in the alleyways and markets they ridiculed him, incited their leaders against him, derided him, and constantly desired to murder him. In this way, the earth in its wide expanse grew too confined for him and the inhabitants of the Concourse on High were filled with dismay at his plight. The pillars of eternity were annihilated and the eyes of the dwellers in the realm of the Invisible essence wept for him. Those iniquitous unbelievers visited upon him what none of the Faithful can bear to hear. If those profligate sinners had considered their situation, it was incumbent upon them to recognize the melodies of that holy Dove warbling upon the snow-white Tree, to content themselves with what God has revealed to them - whereby he blessed them greatly - and to discover the fruits hanging upon the branches of that Tree. For what reason did they oppose and reject him? For they had all turned their faces toward him that they might reach him, and had implored God constantly to honor them with his beauty and to nourish them with his presence.

[41] No, they failed to recognize the melodies of divine oneness, the mysteries of the Unknowable essence and the sacred allusions that appeared from the tongue of the prophet Muhammad. They failed to stop and contemplate within themselves. Instead, they gave adherence to the priests of falsehood, who in past ages hindered the servants of God and who continue to do so in these latter days. For this very reason, they remained veiled from God's purpose, they drank not from the fountain of the divine essence, and they were deprived of attaining the Presence of God and the manifestation of his divine Being, the Dawning-Place of his Pre-existence. In such a way did they journey upon the paths of error and heedlessness. They returned to their abode in the fire that their own base selves enkindled, and they were inscribed by the Pen of God in the Book of holiness as unbelievers. They found for themselves neither friends nor helpers, nor shall they ever do so.

[42] Should these people hold fast to the Firm Handle of God in its Muhammadan guise, and advance toward God with everything in them, casting aside all that their divines had placed in their hands, then would God guide them by his grace. Then would he make known to them the sacred meanings enshrined in his pre-eternal words. For God is too great, too august to turn seekers away from his door, to disappoint those waiting in his court or to cast out those who take refuge in his shadow. He will never deprive those who cling to the robe of his mercy, nor will he banish the indigent who wish to drink from the well of his wealth. However, insofar as they failed to forge ahead on the path towards God with all that was in them, and neglected to grasp firmly the hem of his compassion that was spread out at the appearance of the sun of Muhammad, therefore did they depart from the shade of guidance and thus did they wend their way to the city of error. In this way did they wreak corruption and corrupt others, thus did they go astray and mislead all who dwell upon the earth. Thus were they inscribed in the celestial Books as wrongdoers.

[43] Now that this ephemeral servant has reached this exalted stage in his explanation of symbolic meanings, I shall very concisely mention to you the reason for which those churls turned away from the messengers. Thus might there be a proof for the wise and insightful, and so might this servant grant a bestowal to all the believers.

[44] Know that the Point of the Qur'an, the Light of the All-Praised, brought unassailable signs and shimmering proofs, the like of which no one in the realm of being could produce. He then commanded all to arise and tread the outstretched and exalted path in regard to all that he brought from God. Whoever confessed and recognized the verses of divine unity in his heart and the eternal Beauty refulgent in his beauty, such a one was considered to have been raised from the dead, and to have attained everlasting life and entrance into Paradise. For upon his attainment to faith in God and the manifestations of his Beauty, he is resurrected from the grave of heedlessness, raised up in the realm of the heart, given life through faith and certitude and he enters the heaven of the Presence of God. Could any paradise be more exalted than this, or any resurrection greater? Should anyone discover its mysteries, he would come to know that which none in all the worlds has discovered.

[45] This paradise is, in the Day of God, greater than all other heavens and more subtle than the very essence of the heaven of Ridvan. For God, blessed and exalted may he be, sealed the station of prophecy in regard to his Beloved, his intimate Friend, the most excellent of his Creatures [Muhammad]. Thus was it revealed in the Realm of Grandeur: "But he is the messenger of God and the seal of the prophets."[Qur'an 33:40] Afterwards, he promised mankind that they would attain to the divine Presence on the Judgment Day, owing to the greatness of the future manifestation, as has, in truth, become apparent. No paradise was ever greater than this, and no station more glorious, if you would but contemplate the verses of the Qur'an. Blessed is he that has certitude of attaining his Presence on the day his Beauty shines forth.

[46] Were I to recite for you the verses revealed concerning this lofty station, our discourse would grow too lengthy and we would digress from our purpose. However, I shall cite one verse, and shall remain content with it, so that your eyes may be solaced and you might attain to that which is concealed in these holy words. The verse is as follows: "It is God who has raised up the heavens without pillars you can behold, then mounted his Throne and subjected the sun and moon. All follow their course for a specified term. He regulates affairs and details signs. Perhaps you will have certitude of attaining the Presence of your Lord."[Qur'an 13:2] My beloved friend, turn your attention to the reference to certitude in this verse. It is as if the heavens, the earth, the Throne, the sun and the moon were all created to provide certitude to mankind that they will attain his Presence in his days.

[47] My friend, look upon the grandeur of this station, and the condition of the people in these days, "as if they are affrighted asses"[Qur'an 74:50] fleeing the divine Countenance and the Beauty of the peerless essence. If you meditate upon what we have revealed, you will discover our intent in mentioning this explanation, and will know the reply whereby we have sought to teach you in this paradise. Thus might your eyes be solaced by our response, your hearing delighted by listening to its recitation, your soul gladdened through comprehending it and your heart illumined by attaining insight into it. Perhaps your spirit will rejoice at the perfume wafting from our discourse, and you will attain the utmost grace of God and will abide in the heaven of holiness forever.

[48] But whoever turns away from God in regard to him, turning his back and overstepping his bounds, disbelieving and sowing misfortune - upon such a one is pronounced the judgment of polytheism, unbelief, death, and hellfire. What polytheism is worse than to advance toward the manifestations of Satan, to follow the priests of forgetfulness and the perpetrators of tyranny? What infidelity is more degraded than to shun the Deity on the Day wherein faith has been renewed by God, the Almighty, the Gracious? What death is more ignoble than to flee from the spring of life? Finally, what fire is more intense than remoteness from the beauty of the Invisible essence and the splendor of divine unity on the Day of Resurrection and of beneficence?

[49] Because of these statements, the pre-Islamic Arabs of the Age of Ignorance opposed Muhammad and pronounced their judgment upon him. They said, "Those who believed in Muhammad were with us and they attempted to entice us day and night. When did they die, and on what day did they return?" Now give ear to the answer that was revealed to them: "If you would marvel, then marvel at their words":[Qur'an 13:5] "After we have died and become dust and bones shall we be raised?"[Qur'an 56:47] Elsewhere he says, "If you say `you shall surely be raised up after death' the unbelievers will reply, `This is nothing but manifest sorcery!'"[Qur'an 11:7] For this reason, they made light of him and mocked him, since they saw in their Books and heard from their learned ones the words "death" and "life," and they interpreted these as bodily death and elemental life. Insofar as they did not see the signs that their misguided imaginations and false, corrupt reasons had led them to expect, they raised the standards of dispute and the banners of iniquity. They ignited the flames of war, though God had extinguished these by his might, even as you witness today among those reprobates, who have joined partners with God.

[50] At this moment the breezes of attraction have wafted upon me from the city of eternity, and I am overcome with the ecstasies of yearning issuing from the direction of the sunrise. For the sun of all horizons has dawned from the pillar of Iraq and caused me to hear the melodies of the Hijaz concerning the mysteries of longing. Therefore, I wish now to mention to you some of what the Dove at the center of the Unknowable essence warbled to me in regard to the meaning of "life" and "death". This is in reality an impossible task, for if I wished to elucidate these for you as they are recorded in the Preserved tablet, paper could not bear it, nor leaves contain it, nor souls endure it. However, I shall mention as much as is necessary for this time and moment, that it might serve as a proof for whoever wishes to enter the canopy of meanings, to hear the spiritual songs of this divine bird and to be among those who detached themselves for the sake of God and rejoiced in this day at their attainment to the divine Presence.

[51] Know that life has two stations. One concerns outward humanity in its physical body. This station is as clear to you, and to all who dwell on earth, as the sun in the midst of the sky. This life perishes by physical death, and this is a truth from God, nor is there any escape for anyone. As for the life that is mentioned in the Books of the prophets and Chosen ones, it is only the life of mystical insight. This signifies a believer's recognition of the Sign of the effulgence of his creator, insofar as through it, he sheds upon him his radiance by virtue of his own Self. It refers, moreover, to the believer's certitude of attaining the Presence of God through the manifestations of his Cause. This is that good, imperishable and everlasting life which, should a man live thereby, will prevent him from ever dying. He will endure as long as his Lord, and persist as long as his creator.

[52] The first life, which relates to the physical body, passes away. For God revealed, "Every soul shall taste of death."[Qur'an 3:185] The second life, which derives from knowledge, never fades, as it was sent down in past times: "In truth we shall quicken him with a life that is good."[Qur'an 16:97] Elsewhere, he says in reference to the martyrs, "No, alive with their Lord, are they richly sustained."[Qur'an 3:169] Then there is the Tradition, "The believer is alive in both worlds." There are many such statements in the Books of God and the manifestations of his Justice. However, we have avoided mentioning them for the sake of brevity, and have sufficed ourselves with the ones we have quoted, as sufficient to our Purpose for you.

[53] Therefore, O my friend, shun your evil passions and advance toward your Lord, nor adhere to those who worship their selfish desires as gods. Thus might you attain the core of life in the shadow of salvation from the Trainer of all names and attributes. For those who have, in this day, turned away from their Lord are dead, though they walk upon the earth. They are deaf though they hear and blind though they see. The King of the Judgment Day has clearly said this: "Hearts have they, with which they understand not, and eyes have they with which they see not."[Qur'an 7:179] Rather, they are walking on the crumbling edge of a precipice, or on the rim of an open pit of fire. They have no share in that surging, overflowing ocean, but play instead with embellished words.

[54] At this time, we shall refer for your sake to some verses of a previous revelation in regard to the meaning of life. In this way might you be turned away from the allusions of the base self, saved from the discomfort of confinement in this satanic abode, and guided through the darkness enveloping the earth. He says, and his words are the truth: "Why, is he who was dead, and we gave him life, and appointed for him a light to walk by among the people as one whose likeness is in the shadows, and comes not forth from them?"[Qur'an 6:122] This verse was revealed in regard to Hamzah and Abu Jahl, when the former attained faith and the latter disbelieved. Because of this, most of the learned in the Age of Ignorance scoffed. They were thrown into confusion, then they resorted to ridicule and finally they raised a clamor. They asked, "How is it that Hamzah died and then returned to life?" Many such passages exist in the Book, if you would search the verses of God.

[55] Would that I could discover pure hearts, that I might share with them a droplet from the seas of knowledge, which my Lord has taught me, that they might soar into the sky as easily as they walk upon the earth, and might speed over water as they run upon the land. Thus might they take their spirits in their hands and sacrifice them in the path of their creator. However, no permission has been granted to unveil this concealed symbol, and this secret remains hidden in the treasure holds of power, lest the believers take their own lives in hopes of attaining this most great station in the realms of pre-existence. Those who walk in impenetrable darkness will never attain unto it. O my friend, we have reiterated our statements on every subject, that all the things mentioned in the holy verses might, by the leave of God, become clear to you. Thus might you be enabled to dispense with those who are deeply engrossed in their dark, base selves and who walk in the valleys of haughtiness and self-importance. In this way might you wing your flight into the Paradise of the living God.

[56] Say: O Concourse, the tree of life has been planted in the midst of God's heaven, and it bestows life in every direction. How is it that you sense it not, nor do you know? This sacred tree confirms you in regard to all the essential mysteries of the divine essence that we have shared with you, transmitting them from this Soul that is at peace with Itself. The dove of holiness sings in the paradise of eternity, saying, I mention all this to you that you might put on a new suit of chain mail which will safeguard you from the darts of suspicion concerning the following allusions: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again."[John 3:5-7] Then soar up to the divine tree and take of its fruits. Gather up those that have fallen from it, and faithfully preserve them.

[57] Think, then, upon the words of one prophet who wished to give the souls of men the glad-tidings of him who would come after him. He employed convincing metaphors and abstruse symbols, without speaking openly of his meaning. This was to assure that only the insightful would understand his words: "His eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass...and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword."[Revelation 1:14-16] Now, how should we interpret these statements, when it is obvious that were someone to come who possessed these characteristics, he would not be human? How, then, could anyone associate with him? Rather, when he appeared in a city, even the people of the next city would flee from him, nor would anyone ever draw near unto him. Even so, if you will meditate upon these statements, you will find that they are finely phrased and eloquent in the extreme, such that they ascend to the heights of rhetorical excellence and the loftiest station of expository brilliance. It is as if the suns of eloquence appeared from them and the stars of rhetoric rose and twinkled above them.

[58] Know, then, that those ignorant ones among the past nations, and those who are in our own times, are awaiting the advent of this Being. Yet were this Soul to appear in the aforementioned form, they would not believe in him. Moreover, since he will not come in this way, they will never attain faith in him. This is the measure of these unbelievers, whose souls adore other gods than God. How can those who fail to recognize the most self-evident and manifest of truths attain insight into recondite divine principles and the essence of the mysteries of God's immutable wisdom? I shall now proceed to elucidate for you this passage. Listen well to our words, and give them a fair hearing, that you might be recorded by the Hand of God among the people of equity upon this field of battle.

[59] You should recognize that the one who spoke forth with these words in the arenas of splendor desired to describe, in an elliptical and enigmatic manner, the attributes of the one who would come, lest even those skilled in figurative interpretation should marvel at his purport. As for his words, "his eyes were a flame of fire," his sole meaning was that the Promised one would possess such sharp sight and powerful insight that his eyes would consume all veils and curtains. He will come to know thereby of the mysteries of pre-existence in the worlds of temporal sovereignty. He will distinguish those whose faces are loaded down with the dust of hell from those whose countenances are aglow with the radiance of grace. Were his eyes not ignited with the fire of God, how could he burn away the veils, and all that is in the hands of the people? How could he witness the signs of God in the realm of names and the kingdom of entities, and perceive things with the all-seeing eye of God? Thus, we have today made his sight sharp, if you have certitude concerning the verses of God. What fire is hotter than that which was refulgent from the Sinai of his eyes, which consumed all that whereby men were veiled in the realms of creation? Praised be God above that which appeared in the tablets of Rectitude, including the mysteries of the beginning and the end, until the Day wherein the Crier shall cry out, when we shall, one and all, be turned towards God.

[60] The statement, "his feet like unto fine brass", indicates nothing else but his steadfastness when he hears the divine Call: "Therefore stand firm as you were commanded."[Qur'an 11:112] Thus might he persevere in the Cause of God and persist in treading the path of divine Might, in such a way that should all who are in the heavens and on the earth deny him, his feet will not stray from delivering the message, nor will he flee from whatever God commands him in his divine legislation. His legs will be like towering mountains and lofty peaks; he will prove unwavering in his obedience to God and unswerving in his dedication to making the Cause and Word of God manifest. None can turn him aside from his purpose, no interdiction by any opposer can halt him, nor can the denial of any infidel deter him. All the rejection, hatred, disbelief, and abuse he encounters only increases his affection for God, augments the longing in his heart, feeds the passion in his breast, and reveals the love in his inmost being. Have you witnessed upon the earth any brass sturdier than this, or iron stronger, or mountain more immovable? For he stands upon his legs, confronting all who are upon the earth despite all their doings, which are well-known to you. Then praise be to God, who renders him immovable and who sends him forth. He is, in truth, potent to do whatsoever he wills, and he is the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

[61] As for the phrase "and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword," know that he employs this imagery because a sword is an instrument for cutting and dividing; and there issues from the mouths of the prophets and chosen ones what distinguishes between the believer and the infidel and divides the lover from the beloved. He intends thereby only the act of separating and dividing. For instance, when the Primal Point, the everlasting sun, desires to gather all creatures together by the leave of God, to raise them from the graves of their base selves and to divide them up, he will give utterance to a verse from God. This verse will distinguish between truth and falsehood from this day until the Judgment Day. What sword is sharper than this saber of divine unity, what blade keener than this cutlass of eternity that severs all relationships? Thereby is adherent divided from denier, father from son, brother from sister and lover from beloved. For whoever has faith in what is revealed to him is a believer, and whoever turns away an infidel. The division between the faithful and the unbelievers is apparent in that they do not associate with one another, nor even gather together in this world. It is even so with father and son, for where the son believes and the father denies, there occurs a separation between them such that their ties of kinship are broken. Indeed, you will even see the son killing the father or vice versa. Therefore, learn you well all that we have mentioned, explained, and set forth in detail. If you look with the eye of certainty, you will see that this divine sword severs backbones, did you but know. This is the effect of the word of separation that appears upon the Day of division and divorce, did the people but consider the days of their Lord.

[62] Should your sight be attentive and your heart sensitive, you will perceive that all the physical swords that dispatch the faithless and struggle against the corrupt in every age and era are made manifest by this divine, esoteric sword. Open, then, your eyes, that you might discover all that we have presented to your view, and might attain to what no one in any of the worlds attained. Then will you say, "Praise be to him, for he is the Lord of the Judgment Day!"

[63] Insofar as those people failed to receive knowledge from its source and origin, from the sweet, palatable river that flows with the permission of God in pure, simple hearts, therefore were they veiled from God's true intent in revealing these words and allusions. They dwelt, rather, in the prison of their base selves. We, in truth, give thanks unto God, insofar as he has bestowed upon us his grace and caused us to attain certitude in his Cause, which neither the heavens nor the earth can withstand. He led us to affirm it upon the day of our attainment to his Presence, and to acknowledge him whom God shall make manifest on the next Resurrection Day, giving us certainty concerning him even before his appearance. Thus might God's grace to us and to all the worlds be complete.

[64] However, O my friend, I feel impelled to make my plaint to you about those who relate themselves to God and the manifestations of his knowledge, and who nevertheless perpetrate the most heinous sins, devour the property of others, imbibe wine and commit murder. They steal from and defraud one another, speak lies about God, and, for the most part, utter falsehoods. The people, in turn, attribute all this to us. They feel no shame before God; they forsake what he has commanded them and act as he has forbidden. Yet it is incumbent upon the people of the truth to manifest the signs of obedience in their faces and the lights of holiness in their countenances. They should walk upon the earth as one who is in the Presence of God, purified from all beings, animate or inanimate, such that they witness the effects of God's power with their eyes and make mention of him with their hearts and tongues. They march toward the homelands of nearness to God with their legs and take firm hold of the ordinances of God with their own hands. Should they pass through a valley of gold and silver, they would pay no heed to these, nor even deign to turn their heads.

[65] However, those persons shunned all this and, instead, eagerly advanced toward the desires inspired by their base passions, choosing to wander aimlessly in the vale of pride and vainglory. I bear witness at this moment that God is innocent of them, as are we ourselves. We beseech God never to bring us together, in this world or in the world to come, for he is the Eternal Truth. There is no God but him, and he is powerful over all things.

[66] Quaff, then, O my friend, from this water that we have caused to flow in the oceans of these words, as if the seas of grandeur are surging from them and the gems of divine oneness are glittering for them, by them and upon them. Divest yourself of the garments that are keeping you back from entering this fathomless, crimson Sea. Say: "In the Name of God!" and "By God!", and plunge therein, fearing no one and putting your entire trust in God, your Lord. Whoever depends upon God, he will suffice him. He will, in truth, preserve you and you shall be one of those who have faith in him.

[67] Know that in this most subtle and glorious city you will find the wayfarer submissive before all faces and humble before all things. For nothing does he see save that he discerns God therein, and therein he witnesses God's light, insofar as the lights of manifestation have encompassed the Sinai of all contingent beings. In this station it is his duty to avoid sitting at the head of gatherings, such that his base self might glory therein, and to refrain from advancing ahead of any soul in a haughty manner. He sees himself at all times in the Presence of his Lord, and desires not for anyone what he does not desire for himself. He walks the earth as if upon a straight thread in the realm of the Beginning.

[68] Know, however, that the seeker perceives changes and alteration at the commencement of his journey, as we mentioned above. This is true, and no doubt is therein, as it was revealed in regard to this station, "The Day when the earth shall be changed into another earth."[Qur'an 14:48] Those days are such that no eyes have seen their like. Blessed is he that has witnessed them and know their value. "Of old did we send Moses with our signs: `Bring forth your people from the darkness into the light and remind them of the days of God.'"[Qur'an 14:5] These are among the days of God, did you but know. In this station, all the changes and permutations are present to you. Whoever claims otherwise has blasphemed against the Cause of God, disputed with him concerning his sovereignty and warred against his divine rule.

[69] He who changes the earth and makes it another earth is able to alter everything upon it, and all that moves across its face. Marvel not thereat, for he transforms darkness into light and light into darkness, ignorance into knowledge, error into guidance and death into life. In this station, the principle of change is vindicated, if you are among the people of this path. Meditate thereon, that what you sought from this Lowly one in the pavilions of this Proof might become manifest to you, and you might come to abide in this station. For he does whatsoever he wills and is not asked of what he does, though all others may be answerable to one another.

[70] O my friend, at the outset of your journey, as we mentioned concerning the city of search, you will see on that plane diverse stations and various signs. Each of these is, in its own context, true. It is incumbent on you in this station to look at everything in its own setting, without bringing it down from its loftiness and elevation, or raising it from its lowly position. For instance, if you believe the divine to be incarnate in the human, this is unadulterated polytheism. If, on the other hand, you elevate the human to the level of the divine, this is pure unbelief. However, should you mention the divine in the divine and the human in the human, this is the very truth and no doubt attaches to it. Should you witness alteration in the worlds of God's oneness, this would be a sin more grievous than any other. But if you were to discern change in its own station, and to know it as it ought to be known, then no matter. By my Lord, all the mysteries of explanation and the stations of clear elucidation we have shared with you are less than an intimation of the invisible ocean of God's knowledge and the essence of his inscrutable wisdom. We shall speak of these at the appropriate time, should God will and desire. In truth, he mentions all things in their proper places, and we, in truth, all make mention of him.

[71] Then know that the bird that soars in the skies of the realm of dominion will not be able to take wing in the sacred heaven of divinity. She will remain unable to taste the fruits that God created in that domain, or to drink from the rivers that flow therein. Were she to swallow a droplet from them, she would expire on the spot. In these days, you witness this very thing in those who relate themselves to us and yet perform such deeds as they perform, utter such words as they utter, and make such claims as they make. It is as if they are dead in their veils.

[72] Likewise, you should recognize all stations, allusions and tokens. Thus will you know everything in its own context and find every matter in its own place. In this station, that is, of the city of oneness, there are persons who have boarded the ark of guidance and journeyed in the heights of oneness. You will perceive the lights of beauty in their faces and the enigmas of splendor in their human temples. You will perceive fragrant breezes in their words and will notice the signs of sovereignty in their bearing, their gait, and even their attitude at rest. You will not be deceived by the actions of those who failed to drink from pure springs and never attained to the sacred cities. These ever obey their selfish passions, for they wreak corruption in the land and reckon themselves among the rightly-guided. It is they of whom it was said "Brutes and ruffians, who follow every rabble-rouser and bend with every wind." You know well, and see clearly, the stages of this journey, of this station and homeland, nor is there any need for a prolix description. You should realize, then, that all you have seen and heard regarding the ascription by the Sun of Reality, and the Primal Point, of past names to himself was solely owing to the weakness of men and the structure of the worlds of creation. Otherwise, all names and attributes circle around his essence and circumambulate the court of his sanctuary. Rather, he is the one who trains up names, and makes manifest attributes, causes essences to appear, announces portents and embellishes signs. If you will gaze with the eye of your inmost self, you will discover that all else besides him are lost in his presence and as nothing in his court. "God was, and nothing was with him; he is now as he was then." If it be established that he, Exalted and Glorified may he be, was, and nothing was with him, how could the principle of change and alteration be applicable? Meditate, then, upon what we shared with you, that the sun of guidance might dawn in this morn of eternity, and you might be among the self-denying at that time.

[73] Then know that all we have disclosed to you of the journey unto God has been meant solely for the pure among the righteous. If you should mount this celestial steed and dash through the gardens of the divine, you will traverse all the stages of the path and become informed of all mysteries in the twinkling of an eye. Therefore, O my friend, if you become a knight in this arena, then you should speed through the realms of certitude so as to deliver your soul from the prison of polytheism in this age. Thus will you perceive the musk-laden breezes blowing from this garden, for fragrant winds carry the perfume of this city to every part of the world. Deny not yourself your rightful share therein, and be not of the heedless. Blessed is he who said:

If from the distant east her blessed
and scented breezes waft,
Congested noses in the west
will regain their sense of smell.

[74] After this divine journey and this spiritual ascent, the wayfarer will enter into the Garden of Bewilderment. This station is such that, were I to share it with you, you would weep and lament for this servant, who has remained in the company of the godless and grew dumbfounded at his own plight. I remain perplexed in these fathomless depths, for they consult with each other every day on how to murder me, and plot my exile from this land every hour, just as they banished me from other lands. This servant, however, remains prepared before them, and awaits what God decrees for us, and what he ordains and predestines for ourselves. I fear no man, nor am I on my guard against anyone - despite the misery and suffering that has befallen us at the hands of the oppressors and the hateful, and despite the sorrows that have overtaken us at this time.

My weeping makes Noah's flood
seem like mere teardrops;
The flames surrounding Abraham
cannot rival the passion of my love;
A distraught Jacob has disclosed
the least of my afflictions,
And all Job's trials are a small
part of my own calamities.3

[75] Were I to detail for you the afflictions and misfortunes assailing me, you would grow so sorrowful that you would forget every mention, and would become heedless of your own being and of all that God created in this world. Since we have no desire to inflict this suffering upon you, we have concealed the reality in the heart of Baha, and have veiled it from all who move in the realm of creation. Thus will it remain hidden in the pavilions of concealment until God makes manifest his mystery. For nothing escapes his knowledge, neither in the heavens nor upon the earth. He is, in truth, cognizant of all things.

[76] Since we have digressed from our purpose, we shall now desist from making allusions and shall return to our description of this city. For whoever enters therein is saved, and whoever turns away perishes. Know, O you who are mentioned in this tablet, that whoever embarks upon this journey is confounded at the evidences of God's might and the wondrous signs of his handiwork. Astonishment besets him from every side, as the essence of Eternity [Muhammad] bore witness in the Concourse on High: "O Lord, increase my astonishment at you." Blessed is he that said:

Till I chose your love as my religion,
I remained without an orthodoxy;
How surprised and shocked I should be afterward
If I were not completely bewildered at you.3

In this valley wayfarers lose their way and meet destruction, unable to arrive at their destination.

[77] However, God is greater than even the grandeur of this valley, and than the spaciousness of this city in the realm of creation, though it seems to have neither beginning nor end. Happy is he that completes his journey through it, whom God confirms in traversing this good earth beneath the divine metropolis, wherein all the righteous and the sincere are distracted. We say: "Praise be to the Lord of the worlds."

[78] Should a seeker ascend above and travel beyond this earthly fatherland, desiring to attain the divine homeland, he will enter from this city into the City of Nothingness, for he will become nothing to himself and continue to exist only in God. In this station, in this pure, exalted realm and this most great journey into self-effacement, the wayfarer forgets his soul, his spirit, his body, and his very essence. He swims in the sea of nothingness and walks the earth as one who is unworthy of mention. No one shall see any evidence that he exists, for he has disappeared from the kingdoms of the visible and attained unto the station of evanescence because of his detachment from the worlds of consciousness.

[79] Were we to reveal the secrets of this city, the realms of the heart would be annihilated owing to the overwhelming yearning of their inhabitants for this station of rectitude. For it is in this station that the beloved appears to the true lover, and the dawning illumination of the adored one is unveiled to the devoted suitor. Is it possible for the lover to continue to exist when the effulgence of the beloved shines forth, for the shadow to survive when the sun sheds its splendor, or for the wooer to endure in the presence of the beloved? No, by the one in whose hand is my soul! Rather, should the wayfarer in this station carefully search the east and the west, land and sea, plain and mountain, he would find no trace of his own self, or that of anyone else, owing to the intensity of his extinction in his Maker and the subtlety of his effacement in his creator.

[80] Praise be to God! Were it not for my apprehensions about the Nimrod of tyranny and my desire to shield the Abraham of justice, I would share with you that which would enable you to dispense with all else besides yourself. I would recite for you what would draw you near to this city when you are forgetful of your selfish passions. However, I shall be patient until God brings forth his Cause. He, in truth, rewards the patient without measure. Therefore, smell you the spiritual scent issuing from this divine cloak, and say: "O dwellers in the depths of nothingness, hasten you to enter within the city of everlasting life, if you would but ascend to the rank of imperishability." We say: "We are God's, and unto him shall we return."

[81] The seeker proceeds from this loftiest and most exalted station, this most great and sublime rank, and enters the City of unending, Eternal Life. In this station, the wayfarer sees his soul upon the throne of self-sufficiency and the seat of superiority. Then appears to him the principle we mentioned before; on that day when "God will enrich all out of his abundance."[Qur'an 4:130] Happy is he that reaches this station and drinks from the white chalice beneath the crimson pillar! When the seeker in this stage of his journey immerses himself in the sea of imperishability, and seeks to free his heart from all else besides it, then will he mount the ladder of life. At that point he sees no extinction, either for himself or for any other soul. He quaffs from the goblet of unfading existence, walks upon the earth of everlasting life, and takes wing in the skies of immortality. He associates with the temples of eternity and partakes of the inexhaustible bounties of the perennial, deathless Tree. He is then inscribed among those who subsist in the heights of immortality by virtue of eternal life. All that is in this city is permanent and enduring, nor does it perish.

[82] If you enter, by the leave of God, into this supernal and exalted garden, you will discover its sun in the position of high noon. It sets not, nor is it ever eclipsed. Thus also are its moon, planets, stars, trees, oceans, and all else that subsists therein and thereby. By God other than whom there is no god! Were I to mention to you the wondrous attributes of this place from this day until the end that has no end, the love in my breast for this good and eternal city would not be depleted. However, I shall now close my discourse owing to lack of time, in order to expedite the seeker's advance, and lest mysteries be made public without the permission of God, the Almighty, the All-Subduing.

[83] Those who affirm the oneness of God will see, at the second Day of Resurrection, that he whom God shall make manifest will descend with this city from the heavens of the Unseen, in the company of chosen, exalted angels. Blessed is he that attains his presence and wins an audience with him. We are, one and all, longing to meet with him, and we all maintain this hope. We say, "Praise be to him, for he is the Eternal Truth, and we are all turned toward him." Know that if the attainer of these stations and the sojourner in these travels acquires along his path any conceit or haughtiness, he will be ruined at that very moment, and will be returned to the first step upon his journey without even realizing it.

[84] In these journeys, the sign of the yearning ones who have attained the aim is that they lower their wings before those who believe in God and his signs. They seek to benefit those who draw near unto God and the manifestations of his beauty and they submit their inmost selves to those who stand firm in the heights of the Cause and grandeur of God. For if they ascend unto the ultimate goal in their path unto God, and attain to him, even then they can only arrive at the abode that was created in their hearts. How could they soar into the realms that were not ordained for them, nor created for their station? If they travel from pre-eternity unto everlasting perpetuity, they will never arrive at the Axis of Being and the Center of Existence, on whose right surge the oceans of splendor and on whose left flow the rivers of might. No one can dismount at his court, how much less at his own station. He dwells upon the ark of fire, sails on seas of flame in a fiery world, and walks in burning heavens. How can one who was fashioned out of opposites enter into fire or draw near it? Should he approach its vicinity, he will immediately be reduced to ashes.

[85] Then know that if this most mighty Center should sever the thread of his help to all who are in the heavens and upon the earth, they would, one and all, be annihilated. Praised be God! How can lowly dust reach the Lord of lords? Holy be God above what they imagine of him in themselves, and exalted may he be above what they mention of him. No, the wayfarer ascends to the station that has no end, which was created for him. He discovers within his heart the fire of love, in such a way that he takes over the reins of choice from the righteous. He increases every moment in his devotion to his Lord, and he ever makes progress in his advance towards his creator. Were his Lord in the east of nearness, and he in the west of remoteness, and even if he were to possess all the crimson gems and yellow gold in the heavens and the earth, he would expend them all and hasten with his eyes so as to arrive in that realm wherein the Desired one subsists. Should you find a wayfarer who is otherwise, be you assured that he is a lying impostor.

[86] We belong to him whom God shall make manifest on the second Judgment Day, and it is by him that we shall be resurrected. Insofar as we have in these days refrained from removing the veil from the face of the Cause, and from revealing to men the fruits of these stations, which we were forbidden to make manifest, therefore you find them drunk with heedlessness. Otherwise, were this station disclosed to all who are on earth to the extent of less than the eye of a needle, you would witness how all would gather together in the court of the divine mercy and hasten from every direction in order to attain the courtyard of nearness in the heights of God's glory. However, we have concealed all this for the reasons given above. Moreover, in this way the believers can be distinguished from the deniers, and those who accept from those who turn away. I say: "No power and no might is there save by God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting."

[87] The wayfarer then advances beyond this station to the City that has no Name or designation, which is above all that can be mentioned by the voice. Therein billow forth the seas of pre-existence, which flow about eternity. In that city the sun of invisibility dawns above the horizon of the Unseen. It possesses its own satellites and planets of light, all of which rise above and sink beneath the ocean of invisibility. I am unable to share with you even an intimation of that which was ordained therein. No one is aware of its mysteries save God and the manifestations of his own Self. For he is its creator and fashioner.

[88] Know that when we wished to reveal these words, and after we had already penned some of them, we then conceived a desire to elucidate for you all the sayings of the prophets and the statements of the messengers that we have mentioned above, in the melodies of the Near ones upon the knolls of the Holy ones. However, we were denied the opportunity and the necessary leisure by the traveler who came on your behalf. He was in great haste and felt urgently that he must be on his way. For this reason, we have limited our discourse and contented ourselves with less than a complete description of the stages along the path. We have not detailed these as was fitting and necessary. Rather, we have altogether neglected to mention several cities and stages of the utmost importance. The impatience of your messenger was so great that we even omitted any reference to the two exalted stages of self-surrender and contentment. Nevertheless, if you will meditate upon these passages, you will master all branches of knowledge, and will attain to the summit of learning. You will declare, "This suffices for all beings, visible or invisible." However, if you find yourself ablaze with love, you will ask, "Is there more?" We say, "Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds."

Notes

[1] Baha'u'llah appears to have been using, in the 1850s and 1860s, a local Baghdad manuscript of the Alexandrian Vulgate Arabic translation of the Bible, which contained a few copyist errors, thus giving "powers of the earth" instead of the correct "heaven". (Juan Cole)

[2] In its original context, this verse of the Qur'an advised the Mecca unbelievers to consult with Jews and Christians, possessors of holy books (reminders or remembrances of God) if they did not believe Muhammad's stories about the monotheistic prophets. Baha'u'llah here seems to say that the advice extends to a consideration of the Gospel verses he quoted earlier, which Muslims had disregarded. (Juan Cole)

[3] From Poem of the Way by the Egyptian mystic Ibn al-Farid (1181-1235 AD).

Another translation of Gems of the Mysteries can be found at the Baha'i Reference Library.

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