The Fire Tablet, written by Bahá’u’lláh, begins as a lament. Its name is echoed in its opening verses:
… the hearts of the sincere are consumed in the fire of separation: Where is the gleaming of the light of Thy Countenance, O Beloved of the worlds?
The Fire Tablet was written towards the end of 1871 when Bahá’u’lláh and his closest followers were still imprisoned in the city of Akka. It is in the form of rhyming couplets in three parts. In the first part, Bahá’u’lláh speaks of human suffering. Each verse refers to a form of suffering and searches for divine assistance. For example:
Calamity hath reached its height: Where are the signs of Thy succor, O Salvation of the worlds? …
Anguish hath befallen all the peoples of the earth: Where are the ensigns of Thy gladness, O Joy of the worlds? …
Thou seest Me forbidden to speak forth: Then from where will spring Thy melodies, O Nightingale of the worlds?
Some of the verses echo Bahá’u’lláh’s own suffering, others the suffering of his persecuted followers and yet others the suffering of humankind as a whole. As with many of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, they convey layered meaning. In a sense the specific events of Bahá’u’lláh’s life are referenced in another sense, the verses reflect the condition of our times. In relation to the condition of humanity as a whole Bahá’u’lláh references “coldness”, “malice”, “calamity”, “anguish”, “greed”, “darkness”, “sore thirst”, “idle fancy”. These descriptions call to mind the human suffering that is still so widespread in the world – and its causes.
In relation to his own suffering Bahá’u’lláh references elements such as “tyranny”, “sorrow”, brokenness, slander and loneliness.
The second part of the Fire Tablet is written in the voice of God – it is the voice of comfort – and a response to Bahá’u’lláh’s lament. Here is a portion:
O Supreme Pen, We have heard Thy most sweet call in the eternal realm: Give Thou ear unto what the Tongue of Grandeur uttereth, O Wronged One of the worlds!
Were it not for the cold, how would the heat of Thy words prevail, O Expounder of the worlds?
Were it not for calamity, how would the sun of Thy patience shine, O Light of the worlds?
Lament not because of the wicked. Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.
In the third part Bahá’u’lláh responds. This time the suffering is forgotten. What remains is enkindlement.
Verily, I have heard Thy Call, O All-Glorious Beloved; and now is the face of Bahá flaming with the heat of tribulation and with the fire of Thy shining word, and He hath risen up in faithfulness at the place of sacrifice, looking toward Thy pleasure, O Ordainer of the worlds.
Below is a link to a video of an English reading of the Fire Tablet in its entirety.
(This article is the 95th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)