Letters of the Living

Aug 2011
49
uk
Is it true that the Bab in the Ahsan-el- Ghesas first appointed 12 Letters of the Living and then later on in the Bayan increased them to 19? Maybe they were not actually appointed? I have read that Baha’u’llah was the 20th. If this is correct, then Quddus would not be the last Letter of the Living?
 
Nov 2012
949
Florida
Is it true that the Bab in the Ahsan-el- Ghesas first appointed 12 Letters of the Living and then later on in the Bayan increased them to 19? Maybe they were not actually appointed? I have read that Baha’u’llah was the 20th. If this is correct, then Quddus would not be the last Letter of the Living?

I found this explanation helpful:




(Notes by Iraj Ayman)

I would like first to give the following account from The Báb: His Life, His Writings and the Disciples of the Bábí Dispensation, by Nusrat'u'lláh Muhammad-Husaini (a Persian text published in 1995) pages 190 and 952:

LETTER, in the Writings of the Báb, has also the meaning of "a believer to His mission." The Báb, in His Writings, has referred to the very first believers of previous dispensations as the Letters of the Living. For example he refers to the first believers in Christ as "Letters of the Gospel (Injil)" and first believers to Muhammad as "Letters of the Living of Qur'an (Furqán)." He also refers to the believers in general as "Letters of Affirmation (Ithbát)" and to those denying and opposing Him as the "Letters of Negation or Denial." He has referred to the first believers of "Him Whom God shall make manifest" (Bahá'u'lláh) as the "Letters of the Living of He Whom God shall make manifest"

The Báb was the "Primal Point". From that "Point" the "Letters" became manifested. The Báb named the first eighteen believers to His mission the "Letters of the Living (Hurúf-i-Hayy)." The numerical value of h and y without counting the vowel "a" and the mark doubling the sound of y is equal to 18. Therefore Letters of the Living refers to 18 not 19. The Báb has called the 18 Letters of the Living plus Himself (the Primal Point) as the first Vahid of Bayán Dispensation.

The numerical value of VAHID is 19. Vahid means One and sometimes translated by Shoghi Effendi as "one and the same". The Báb has used this term as reference to God and His Manifestations. The Báb has revealed an Epistle for Dayyán which is called "The Tablet of the Letters". It is in this Epistle that He refers to Dayyán as the "Third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest" (ref.: God Passes By, p. 124)

That is why I had briefly written, in my previous posting, that "this revealed and manifest Letter" is the translation of "In harf-e mazkur-e mashhur" ( a reference to Bahá'u'lláh Himself), while "Letter of the Living " is the translation of "harf-e hayy". Therefore these two expressions are not the same. "Harf" (Letter) in the usage of Bábí-Bahá'í literature, sometimes, means "a person". For example "harf-e thálith" ( The Third Letter) in God Passes by p. 124 means Dayyán.

The reference of Bahá'u'lláh to Himself as a LETTER is based on the usage of this term by the Báb. It is a reference Himself as the Manifestation of God, "Him Whom God shall make manifest." The word "mazkur" means "having been mentioned", a reference to being revealed (mentioned) by the Báb. The word "mashhur" means being manifest, an allusion to Himself as the Promised One of Bayán. In this statement in Íqán (p. 252) Bahá'u'lláh is exalting the station of the Báb.

Finally it should be clear that the Báb is not the nineteenth Letter of the Living and Bahá'u'lláh is not the twentieth Letter of the Living! In a personal message to Dr. Muhammad Afnán at the Research Department of the Bahá'í World Centre, who is a distinguished expert in the studies related to the Bábí Dispensation, I asked him to clarify the case for us. Here is his explanation:

On the subject of the number of the Letters of the Living, your response to the Enquirer/s is very well explained and there is no doubt that those selected ones were 18 not 19. Thus the fact we should keep in mind, according to the letter written on behalf of the Beloved Guardian (Unfolding Destiny p.428),is that the Báb is Nineteenth Letter of the First Unit (Vahid), not the Letters of the Living. The numbers of the Letters of the Living in the Dawn Breakers, p. 80 (American Edition 1974) is straightforwardly counted as 18, not more. As you mentioned, the title Letter (harf) is a general term used in The Bayán for a believer and that is why Bahá'u'lláh has applied it to Himself in the Kitáb-i-Íqán.

The question of twentieth Letter goes back to years ago, it is already corrected and there is no such mistake in the list of illustrations in the Dawn Breakers printed from 1974 onward.
 
Apr 2014
158
Pennsylvania, USA
I also have a question regarding the letters of the living. I remember reading somewhere on the bahai-library.com that the Bab in some of His correspondences to the Letters addressed them in ways that sounded like He was calling them God along with an attribute associated with Him. I'll try to find it again but can someone help me in understanding what the Bab meant when he would address them as God with a particular title ?
 
Nov 2012
949
Florida
I also have a question regarding the letters of the living. I remember reading somewhere on the bahai-library.com that the Bab in some of His correspondences to the Letters addressed them in ways that sounded like He was calling them God along with an attribute associated with Him. I'll try to find it again but can someone help me in understanding what the Bab meant when he would address them as God with a particular title ?

Traveler, I found the following in the Baha'i Encyclopedia Project, contained within 'The Letters of the Living':


When applied to the Báb’s first disciples, the appellation "letter" may be seen to emphasize their role in inaugurating a divinely revealed religion. Likewise, the term "letter" suggests the use of familiar, universal symbols combined to revive the body of knowledge through the renewal of the vocabulary—that is, the same unchanged letters form entirely original words. The "letters" may be seen as a symbolic expression of both a new scripture and a new civilization.

The Báb also uses the term "letter" with a broader meaning, applying it to all believers, not just to His first disciples: "Whoso acteth in conformity with that which is revealed therein [the Bayán] will abide in Paradise, under the shadow of His affirmation and reckoned among the most sublime Letters in the presence of God."

The Islamic and Bábí scriptures use the word hayy (the living) as one of the names of God. Islamic theology refers to God’s attributes by two categories of names: the attributes of the essence of God and the attributes of God’s actions. Hayy is one of the seven names used for the attributes of God’s essence, which are inseparable from one another. In His writings the Báb sometimes uses a combination of six particular attributes of God—one of which is Hayy. These are the Incomparable (Fard), the Ever-Living (Hayy), the Self-Subsisting (Qayyúm), the All-Wise (Hakím), the Just (‘Adl), and the Holy (Quddús). Taken together, these names have nineteen Arabic letters, thus representing the Primal Unity.

The Báb uses the word hayy within the context of the term hurúf-i-hayy to convey multiple meanings. Since Hayy is one of the attributes of God, its use in the term "Letters of the Living" suggests that these disciples manifest attributes that reflect the divine; and "the living" within this phrase refers as well to those who are given life (that is, the life of the spirit of faith) and the ability to transfer this spirit of life to others. The term also connotes the life given by God on the Day of Resurrection (which, the Báb teaches, is the coming of a new Messenger of God), when all will rise from the dead (that is, will be given a new spiritual life rather than a physical resurrection). By calling His first disciples "the Letters of the Living," the Báb affirms that the Day of Resurrection has come to pass, that the dead have risen, and that these eighteen disciples are the first to arise.

The Báb also refers to the Qur’anic description of God as Hayyu’l-Qayyúm (the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent) and to His (the Báb’s) identity as Qayyúm (the first sacred text He revealed is called the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá’), with Hayy being realized through the eighteen souls who first recognized Him. In another Qur’anic reference, to the fact that all things live by water, the Báb indicates that the Letters of the Living bring all believers to life and that all are created by the Divine Water—which is the Revelation of God and of the verses of sacred scripture.