Introduction to Surah of Sorrows (Suriy-i Ahzan)

Surah of Sorrows was written between mid-1867 and mid-1868, which was the turbulent year prior to Baha'u'llah's exile from Edirne to Akka. The subject of the surah is the opposition Baha'u'llah faced from those who rejected his claim to be the Promised One of the Bab and the spiritual effect this had on him and the Cause. The introductory statement establishes this theme, stating that the tablet is an address from God to one who has turned toward God at a time when everyone else has turned to Satan. The addressee was Mirza Ali Sayyah, from the Iranian city of Maragheh, who was exiled to Cyprus at the time that Baha'u'llah was sent to Akka.

The surah opens in the first two paragraphs with Baha'u'llah telling Ali to enter the ocean of grandeur, an image found throughout Baha'u'llah's writings. The ocean of grandeur is like an infinite spiritual reality that came into existence through the revelation of Baha'u'llah's name 'the All-Glorious'. The best metaphorical depiction of the ocean of grandeur that I know of is found in paragraphs 25-27 of the tablet. In these three paragraphs, Baha'u'llah's imagery brings to life a realm that, even on a cosmic level, is staggering in its size and magnificence. Baha'u'llah tells us that the sea of pre-existence, including what runs out of it and into it – for example, the rivers of meaning and pearls of wisdom – constitute only a wave on the ocean of grandeur. On the shore of the sea of pre-existence is a wilderness that stretches to infinity in all directions, and in this "valley" the call of God is raised. The prophets and messengers roaming in the wilderness hear the call and congregate at the "Dome of the Most Glorious". They fall before "that Beauty" and submit to his authority. The call in that wilderness never ceases, and when we hear it on earth and follow it, we take up an existence in that cosmic place.

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