Many Baha’is around the world, myself included, recite the Tablet of Ahmad when in times of difficulty or grief. This Tablet, as well as the Obligatory Prayers and the Long Healing prayer,
[…] have been invested by Baha’u’llah with a special potency and significance, and should therefore be accepted as such and be recited by the believers with unquestioning faith and confidence.1
I recently found out who Ahmad was and what he did to deserve receiving this Tablet from Baha’u’llah, and now I feel totally different when I recite it! What a blessing to get to know about him and understand why this Tablet was revealed to him! I hope that sharing some details of his story will also inspire you and will enrich your supplications when chanting this unique and powerful Tablet.
I came to learn about Ahmad’s story from Adib Taherzadeh’s book, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah Vol. 2, and a similar account is also told by the Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Faizi in the March and April 1967 edition of Baha’i News. You can also read extensively about the Tablet in Richard Gurinksy’s book, Learn Well This Tablet. All these accounts tell the life story of the Ahmad to whom the well-known Arabic Tablet was dedicated to (there is also a Tablet of Ahmad that was revealed in Persian, but that’s an entirely different text).
So, who was this angel whom Baha’u’llah chose to reveal such an incredible and amazing Tablet for? He was born in Yazd (around 1805) to a very noble and rich family. Even at the tender age of 14, Ahmad
[…] showed a great inclination towards mysticism and endeavoured to find new paths to truth. When he was fifteen, he had already started his investigations during which he heard from some of the people that there are saints or holy men who know special prayers which if read and repeated so many times, and in accordance with certain rituals, would definitely enable the reader to behold the countenance of the Promised Qa’im.2
The “Promised Qa’im” is the Arabic term used in Shi’a Islam to refer to the “Promised One”. Like many others around the world during this time period, such as the Millerites and the students of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, Ahmad was searching for the Promised One, foretold in the scriptures of many religions. Ahmad wanted to leave his home in search for the Promised One, and his quest for Truth perturbed his parents who tried to convince him to relinquish his ideas. It was uncommon for a person to leave their home all alone, and without their parents’ blessing, but Ahmad was determined. Mr. Faizi writes: “one day early in the morning, he made a small bundle of his clothes and belongings and under the pretext of going to a public bath, departed from his father’s home and set out on his way to search for God’s manifestation.”3 Ahmad roamed from village to village, ardently searching, praying and meditating.
His quest took him to India, but despite all his efforts, he still found himself in darkness. In dismay, he returned to Persia, but instead of going back to his hometown of Yazd, he went to Kashan (at this point he had travelled about 6,000 kilometres) and soon became a successful weaver and businessman in that city.
Despite his financial success, marrying and having a family, Ahmad was still restlessly searching in his inmost heart. He heard rumours about the One claiming to be the Promised Qa’im, and one day met a travelling Babi. Ahmad was directed to go to Mashhad in Khurasan and meet a famous learned called Mulla Abdu’l Khalig who could tell him the whole truth. In the following days he left his family and his shop and walked 1115 kilometres to Khurasan and after months of walking he finally reached Mashhad, but became sick for two months. Eventually he regained enough strength to go to see Mulla Abdu’l Khalig who initially refused to talk about the Qa’im, but Ahmad persisted, and when Mulla Abdu’l Khalig found him earnest in his search, he connected him with the audacious Mulla Sadiq (who was titled “The Most Truthful” by Baha’u’llah). At this point, Ahmad has been searching for about 25 years and had travelled thousands of kilometres on foot. Mr Faizi writes:
Ahmad who for twenty-five years had been wandering in the valleys of search and had nowhere found even a drop to quench his thirst, now found a path to the main spring. With parched lips and an insatiable longing he drank in the sweet scented stream of the verses of God through His new Manifestation. Three sessions were sufficient and he embraced the Faith with all his heart and soul. So elated, exalted and overenthusiastic he looked, that [Mulla Sadiq] exhorted him to return to his family in Kashan and insisted that he should not mention the Faith to the people, not even to his own wife.
Those days were days of extreme danger to the nascent Cause of God. The few followers recruited from the poor people of the world were forever the targets of many atrocities. Even the air was imbued with suspicion, spying and slander. Therefore the friends had to be very careful, lest the slightest unwise deed or even a foolish word would ignite a never-ending conflagration that would consume the believers in its flame.4
In Kashan, Ahmad delighted in the friendship of the only other Babi there, named Haji Mirza Jani, who hosted the Bab as He was passing through Kashan on His way to Tehran. Ahmad’s eyes “fell on a face the beauty of which surpassed heaven and earth. A young Siyyid was sitting with such meekness, grandeur and majesty that one could not help but behold the light of God in His countenance.”5
Soon the number of believers in Kashan increased, which angered the clergy who did their utmost to stop this new Faith. The plundering, confiscating and killing of Babis started in Kashan. At one point, Ahmad was forced to hide in a tower for 40 days, until finally one dark night, Ahmad scaled the city walls and fled to Baghdad where Baha’u’llah was in exile and where he knew Babis were gathering .
Ahmad stayed in Baghdad in a house next to Baha’u’llah’s for six years. Ahmad himself described those years with these words:
How innumerable, how great and how immensely mighty were the events of those years. Our nights were filled with memorable episodes. Joyful and at times sorrowful were our experiences, yet beyond the power of anyone to describe. 6
Despite Ahmad’s immense desire to accompany Baha’u’llah when He was banished to Constantinople, Baha’u’llah asked him to stay in Baghdad, teaching and consolidating the Baha’i community there.
After a few years of painful separation, Ahmad left his home again and went on foot towards Adrianople, where Baha’u’llah now lived: Ahmad wanted nothing more than to be in Baha’u’llah’s presence. When he got as far as Constantinople, he received a Tablet from Baha’u’llah, now well-known as The Tablet of Ahmad. This Tablet asked Ahmad to put an end to his journey to visit Baha’u’llah, and to instead help promote the principles and teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Ahmad described receiving the Tablet in these words:
I received the Tablet […] and reading it again and again, I found out that my Beloved desired me to go and teach His Cause. Therefore I preferred obedience to visiting Him.7
Can you imagine spending a lifetime searching, of walking on foot for years in a quest for Truth? Can you imagine the joy of finding your Beloved and attaining your heart’s desire? And can you imagine being separated and apart and then, when you’re so close to being in Their presence again, being asked to journey in another direction entirely? As Mr. Taherzadeh described it, when Ahmad read this Tablet, he surrendered his own will to Baha’u’llah and, as requested of him, he travelled throughout Persia, sharing the Message of Baha’u’llah with the Babi communities and with others whom he met. This task was not easy, it was arduous beyond description, and the path Ahmad pursued was filled with hardship. Nevertheless, he came to embody the words revealed in his Tablet, which Mr. Taherzadeh describes as “a charter setting out the requirements of faith and servitude” Mr. Faizi writes:
Such persistence, undaunted spirit, tenacity and steadfastness as his are hardly to be found in any annals of the Cause.8
Over the years, Ahmad travelled over 17,000 kilometres, often on foot, in search of his Beloved and in service to his Beloved; he crossed deserts and mountains with a heart that overflowed with joy and longing. Mr. Faizi writes:
Every step he took he found himself nearer to the time when all his efforts would yield the desired fruits — his reunion with his Beloved in the search of Whose presence he spared no effort and found no sacrifice too great.9
It is believed that Ahmad lived to the age of 110, and at the Wilmette International Conference in 1953, his son Jamal handed the original Tablet to Jinab-i-Varqa, the Guardian’s representative at that conference. The Tablet is now kept in the U.S. National Baha’i Archives.
I highly recommend you read more in Adib Taherzadeh’s book The Revelation of Baha’u’llah Vol. 2 or in Mr. Faizi’s account as there are many more facets and amazing details to Ahmad’s story and I hope that this brief overview of his life will help you to remember the immense sacrifices made by this very special man, who was the recipient of a Tablet recited and chanted by Baha’is around the world.
You can also read the Tablet of Ahmad here on the Baha’i Reference Library.