Tablet of Abdu’l-Baha on the Mystery of Sacrifice and Its Implications for the Stories of Isaac and Ishmael

What follows is my provisional translation (in other words, not official or authorized; see here for more) of a Tablet of ʻAbduʼl-Bahá, the original text of which is published in Makátíb-i-Ḥaḍrat-i-ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, vol. 2, pp. 32830

He is God

O summoner to the Covenant! I have perused what thou hadst written to Mírzá Aḥmad. I inhaled a sweet fragrance from the gardens of its meanings, and detected a subtle theme from the inmost essence of its words; this is none other than servitude at the sacred threshold, as well as the offering of heart and soul in the path of the Beloved. Blessed, doubly blessed art thou!

The meaning of the term “sacrifice” in the dispensation of Abraham referreth to the station of relinquishment, not the acts of butchery and bloodshed. Such is the mystery of sacrifice, and in this mystery are meanings countless and without limit. Among them are the meanings of freedom from self and passion, sacrifice in the path of guidance, and detachment from all else but God. Among these meanings is also the annihilation of the seed, and its appearance in the form of the tree and the fruit thereof in every respect. In reality, that seed hath offered itself up for that tree, for if the seed had not disintegrated to outward seeming, the tree—along with its branches, its fruits, its leaves, and its blossoms—would have never materialized in the realm of existence. Among the additional meanings of the mystery of sacrifice is that the Point of truth is eminently manifest in every writing, ordinance, deed, and any other thing attending both the universal Manifestations of God and their dependent prophets,* which is to say that the souls derive their radiance from the splendors of that Point and the hearts are illumined with its light. In accordance with their rank, this mystery of sacrifice is clearly apparent in every one of the holy Realities, exalted Beings, and Embodiments of light. They are all sacrifices; they have all given up their lives in the path of God, and hastened to the altar of love. Hence, Isaac and Ishmael are both sacrifices, as are all the servants of God. This station is one of many which are prerequisites for the stars of unity—and beyond this, where the station of oneness is concerned, Isaac and Ishmael are one and the same. It is permissible to call one by the name of the other, but in the Torah, the name of Isaac is mentioned, and in the traditions of Muḥammad, there is mention of both Isaac and Ishmael. I, for my part, have mentioned Ishmael according to the language of the people, for the Muslims usually speak of Ishmael. It is for this reason that, in my addresses to each and every Baháʼí by the name of Ishmael, I take the opportunity to inform them of this most glorious and most exalted station.

Upon you be praise and salutations.

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* Refer to chapter 43 of Some Answered Questions, “The Two Kinds of Prophets.”

A typescript of the complete Persian text of this Tablet appears below.

هو اللّه

ای منادی پيمان آنچه كه بجناب ميرزا احمد مرقوم نموده بوديد ملاحظه گرديد از رياض معانی آن نفحه خوشی استشمام شد و از هويّت كلمات مضمون لطيفی استنباط گشت و آن عبوديّت آستان مقدّس است و بذل دل و جان در سبيل جانان طوبی لك ثمّ طوبی لك

مقصود از ذَبح و قربانی در كور حضرت خليل مقام فدا بود نه مرادْ قصّابی و خونريزی اين سرّ فداست و سرّ فدا معانی بيحد و شمار دارد از جمله فراغت از نفس و هوی و جان فشانی در سبيل هدی و انقطاع از ما سوی اللّه و از جمله محويّت و فناء دانه و ظهور در شجر و ثمر بجميع شئون فی الحقيقة آن دانه خود را فدای آن شجره نموده زيرا اگر دانه بحسب ظاهر متلاشی نشود آن شجر و آن شاخ و آن ثمر و آن ورق و آن شكوفه در حيّز وجود تحقّق نيابد و از جمله معنی سرّ فدا اينست كه نقطه حقيقت بجميع شئون و آثار و احكام و افعال در مظاهر كلّی و جزئی ظاهر و مشهود و عيان گردد يعنی نفوس مستفيض از اشراقات او شوند و قلوب مستشرق از انوار او و اين سرّ فدا بحسب مراتب در هر حقيقتی از حقائق مقدّسه و كينونات عُلويّه و مظاهر اشراقيّه مشهود و واضح گردد كلّ ذبيح هستند و كلّ فدائيان سبيل الهی و كلّ بقربانگاه عشق شتافتند لهذا اسحق و اسمعيل هر دو ذبيحند بلكه جميع بندگان الهی و اين مقامی از مقاماتست كه از لوازم نجوم توحيد است و از اين گذشته در مقام توحيد اسمعيل و اسحق حكم يك وجود دارند عنوان هر يك بر ديگری جائز است و امّا در توراة ذكر اسحق است و همچنين در احاديث حضرت رسول نيز ذكر اسحق هست و ذكر اسمعيل هر دو و اين عبد ذكر اسمعيل را نموده بحسب اصطلاح قوم چون در السن و افواه اهل فرقان ذكر اسمعيل است لهذا باين مناسبت در ضمن بيانْ احبّای الهی را هر يك كه باسمعيل موسومند باين مقام اعزّ اعلی دلالت كرد و عليكم التحيّة و الثناء