A Tablet of Abdu’l-Baha Regarding the Photograph Taken of Him as a Youth

What follows is my provisional translation (in other words, not official or authorized; see here for more) of a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the original text of which appears in INBA 79:34.

He is God

O youth of Mílán![1] Dost thou know at all in what a state I am thinking of thee at this moment? Though time, comfort, and peace are in no wise possible for me, yet are my heart and soul moved with love for the friends and stricken with regret at my separation from them. God willing, that heavenly photographer[2] will be granted divine confirmations and increase daily in human perfections. Two hundred and fifty photographs were received.

The wish and desire of this servant was that I leave no trace or sign of myself in this ephemeral world—that I be utterly effaced and annihilated, passing into extinction without vestige—but it was ordained, in my early youth, and through a decisive command from the lips of the Blessed Beauty, that I have my photograph taken.[3] It had, however, been forgotten. I know not through what turn of events it fell into the hands of the friends, and was subsequently spread throughout the whole world and printed in various ways. Even in a great many newspapers hath it been published and become well known, and as a result of the loving tenderness of that kind Beloved, I have been made infamous the world over.

Upon thee be salutations and praise.


[1] Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar Rawḥání Mílání, known as Muḥibbu’s-Sulṭán, who became a Bahá’í in 1890 or 1892 and spent much of his life reproducing Tablets, initially by transcribing them “in his fine Naskh and Nasta‘líq styles” (Moojan Momen, The Bahá’í Communities of Iran, 1851–1921: Volume 1: The North of Iran, p. 399), but eventually through photography, hectography (jellygraph), and lithography. He was also elected to the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ṭihrán in 1902 and became its secretary. 

[2] Presumably either Mírzá Aḥmad, known as Ṣaní‘u’s-Salṭanih, or his son, Mírzá Ibráhím Khán ‘Akkás-báshí. Moojan Momen writes: “Another prominent family was that of Mírzá Aḥmad Ṣaní‘u’s-Salṭanih (1848–?). He held no important ministerial posts and was well known as a Bahá’í, yet despite this, he was a member of Muẓafarru’d-Dín Sháh’s inner circle at the royal court and his daughter was married to the sháh. He had lived for some time in Europe (1881–c. 1890) learning photography and modern printing processes. On his return he was appointed the royal photographer (‘akkás-báshí) and he also set up the royal press. Some time around 1892 he became a Bahá’í and corresponded with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. His son, Mírzá Ibráhím Khán ‘Akkás-báshí (1874–1915), who was also a Bahá’í, was also the royal photographer and was married to Zívaru’s-Sulṭán, a sister-in-law of the sháh. Both father and son accompanied Muẓafarru’d-Dín Sháh on his trip to Europe in 1900, during which Mírzá Ibráhím Khán became the first Iranian film-maker. He also brought cinema equipment back to Iran for the first time and was the first person to put on cinema showings in Iran” (Bahá’í Communities, vol. 1, p. 80). Further on, Momen adds that, sometime after 1898, Mílání became the director and proof-reader in the royal press in Ṭihrán (which, again, had been set up by Ṣaní‘u’s-Salṭanih), and that, while he worked there, he learned photographic and hectographic reproduction from Ṣaní‘u’s-Salṭanih and Mírzá Ibráhím Khán (ibid., p. 399), thus establishing a clear and solid link between them and Mílání. 

[3] Probably this photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taken in Edirne circa 1868 (courtesy of the Bahá’í Media Bank):


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


ای جوان میلانی، هیچ میدانی که الآن در چه حالتی به یاد تو مشغولم؟ با وجود این که فرصت و راحت و آرامی به هیچ وجه میسّر نه، ولی دل و جان به محبّت یاران متأثّر و از فرقتشان متحسّر است. حضرت عکّاس ملکوتی انشاءالله مظهر تأییدات لاهوتی گردد، روز به روز بر کمالات انسانی بیفزاید. دویست و پنجاه عکس‌ها واصل شد.

این عبد را آرزو چنان بود و مقصود چنین که اثری و نشانه‌ای در این جهان فانی نداشته باشم، به کلّی محو و نابود و فانی و بی‌نشان گردم. ولی تقدیر چنین بود که در بدایت جوانی به امر قطعی از فم مطهّر عکسی بیندازم. امّا فراموش شده بود. ندانم چه شد که در دست یاران افتاد تا در جمیع جهان منتشر گشت و به طرزهای مختلفه طبع شده؛ حتّی در روزنامه‌های بسیار، مطبوع و منشور و مشهور گشت و به محبّت آن دلبر مهربان رسوای آفاق گشتم.

و علیک التّحیّة و الثّنآء.