A simple reed pen — we may feel astonished when we consider that such a humble object served as the instrument through which divine revelation flowed. With the help of an ink spoon and numerous sheets of paper, the pen delivered a fresh outpouring of the sacred word to humanity. The time — 1863. The place — a garden on the outskirts of Baghdad. With Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration in the Garden of Ridvan, the Pen of the Almighty was activated and launched on its mission: to set down a vision so radical it would transform the world utterly and usher in the modern age.
To honor the Bicentenary of His Birth, a number of Bahá’u’lláh’s pens, His ink spoon, samples of His calligraphy and other artifacts are now on display at the British Museum. At the Bahá’í World Centre, a substantial selection of tablets by Bahá’u’lláh, previously unavailable in English, have been published. Without doubt, during this Bicentenary year, numerous other celebrations of the power of Bahá’u’lláh’s Pen have taken place around the globe.
In the spirit of commemorating this signal event, we at e*lix*ir celebrate Bahá’u’lláh’s Pen by featuring several new provisional translations of Writings by Bahá’u’lláh. Nader Saiedi and Anthony Lee have combined forces to offer a provisional translation of an ode by Bahá’u’lláh, “O Nightingales!” — a master work of Persian mystical poetry. Saiedi also offers a fascinating tablet in which Bahá’u’lláh asserts the primacy of the Word of God over the sword in the promulgation of the divine teachings.
Stephen Lambden offers translations of devotional Writings by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, including a prayer revealed for a physician. We also feature Lambden’s translation of the brief but fascinating Tablet of the Sun of Reality.
In the essay section, Brian Miller reflects on his experience translating Bahá’u’lláh’s “Ode of the Dove” from the Arabic into English, and Todd Lawson offers a commentary on various verses of the Quran of special significance to the revelation of the Báb.
In a new section of e*lix*ir, “Reflections on the Word of God,” I offer a reading of Surih of the Pen, one that does not find its source in a scholarly command of the original languages of the texts or in a profound knowledge of Islam, but, rather, in a deep respect for the richness of the English language and a commitment to engage with the words on the page in order to harvest their meaning.
The time for priesthood and priestly interpretations of scripture has passed, Bahá’u’lláh declares. In this day, the meaning of the Word of God is universally accessible. All are invited to ponder the metaphorical richness of the Bahá’í Writings, with the understanding that such contemplation will generate a multiplicity of meanings, all equally valid. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains, “. . . the Words of God have innumerable significances and mysteries of meanings — each one a thousand and more.” (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 155)
My hope is that my own effort to read Surih of the Pen will encourage those who are readers rather than scholars of the Writings to undertake the kind of simple exegesis embodied in the personal reflection piece, in order to fuel the fire of their own love of the Word of God and to fan its flames for others.
The elegant calligraphy of Dr. Muhammad Afnan adds richness and beauty to the pages of this issue of e*lix*ir, while the photo narrative of Bahá’u’lláh’s dwellings and gardens in the holy land, by Dean Wilkey, gives readers the opportunity to revisit some of the places in which Bahá’u’lláh lived and revealed various Writings.
In “Looking Back on Books,” we offer a brief description of Days of Remembrance, the 2017 publication of authoritative translations by the Bahá’í World Centre of tablets pertaining to the holy days, so that readers might become aware of the rich resource this publication offers for individual meditation and communal celebration of the Bahá’í holy days.
Finally, we offer a moving account by a young Iranian writer of her first visit to a holy place — the house where Bahá’u’lláh lived in Edirne, Turkey. In this brief account, which is as uplifting as it is heart-rending, we witness the writer’s first glimpse of the “glorious landscape of freedom” beyond Iran’s borders.
On the occasion of the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, we at e*lix*ir invite you to contemplate the magnificence of Bahá’u’lláh’s Pen, a Pen that has changed and is changing the world.