Alison Marshall's Column

Alison is an unenrolled Baha'i, a business writer and a mystic. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Tablet of Joseph

A translation of the Tablet of Joseph appears in a 1904 compilation of the writings. The details of the publication in which the translation appears and an approximate facsimile of the translation are at the Baha'i Library Online at

Because the translation is an early one and has been done by someone for whom English is a second language, it is difficult to pick out the meaning in places. Therefore, I have edited it a bit to make it easier to read. I have changed the paragraphing, spelling and punctuation and edited a few words. The English is still a bit odd in places.

Tablet of Joseph
by Baha'u'llah

Translated by Anton Haddad

[1] The Tongue of God utters (this) in Persian words: O Joseph! My demonstration was brought to its fullness and completion for all who are in heaven and on earth before I made Myself known, because it appeared in such a wonderful condition that no one could find a way to delay or oppose.

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Book review: The Succession to Muhammad

I have just finished reading the book The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate by Wilferd Madelung (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and highly recommend it. I found out about it from reading Sen's book Church and State. Sen refers to Madelung's book quite a bit in his discussion on the succession of Muhammad and how it bears on the church and state issue.

I'm not much of a reader; I am dyslexic to some extent, which means among other things that I read slowly. I have to choose my books wisely because I can read only a few of them. But I decided to give Madelung a go because I wanted to understand better the business of what happened after Muhammad died. I discovered that the book was compulsive reading. It is 350 pages long, crammed full of long Arabic names. Like with the Dawn Breakers, I had to bypass the names in order to keep abreast of the story. But I got the general idea and found it amazing.

In the Introduction, Madelung explains that he decided to write the book because he thought Western academics had followed the Sunni accounts too slavishly. He went back over the hadith and looked at it from as impartial a view as possible. Of course, he had to balance the accounts and decide what was most likely to have happened. But even given that, the book gives an extraordinary insight into the events after Muhammad's death and the cultural context in which they happened.

Read more: Book review: The Succession to Muhammad

Mark's passing

Mark Choveaux passed to the Abha paradise on Saturday 11 November at 2pm.

This was the first time I had ever watched someone die before my eyes. I still can't believe it happened. You spend years talking with a person and never thinking that, one day, you'll watch them die. And then, suddenly, they get very sick and everything changes. You can no longer talk to them like you used to; the relationship becomes one of nursing them through the difficult door into the next world. Then the day comes when they make the move for good.

Now, I look at people around me and wonder if, one day, I'll watch them die. I can't help it; you don't know what will happen. I guess I have been influenced by the fact that Mark died of cancer. So many people die of cancer and suffer terribly. Many people have witnessed their loved ones go through the nightmare that I saw Mark go through.

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Four Valleys: trans Juan Cole

{josquote}What a treat! A new interpretation of the Four Valleys.{/josquote}

On my journeys recently, I discovered that Juan had translated the Four Valleys and put the translation up on Talisman. Of course, this was many years ago - October 1996 - and the translation was forgotten - shame! However, with the help of Sen, I have been able to put the whole translation together. And here it is, folks. What a treat! A new interpretation of the Four Valleys. Many, many thanks to Juan.



"You light of truth,
The pillars of the world never
gave birth to a king like you."[Rumi M][1]

[1] I do not know why you have suddenly severed the bonds of love and betrayed the unbreakable covenant of friendship. But God forbid that the fault lay in your intentions or in a lapse in the sincerity of your good will, such that I vanished from sight and was forgotten.

"What enmity did you see from me
that you cut off all kindness?
Save that we are weak
and you are surrounded by pomp?"[Sa'di]

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A new spirit

It's been a month and a half now since we learned about Mark having cancer. This past week, Mark has shifted into a home, where he will get the ongoing palliative care that he needs. This time has been a roller coaster ride. It's been very emotional and busy. I've struggled to get my work done. It's weird how life on the 'outside' goes on and doesn't take into account the fact that someone is dying.

I keep thinking about Baha'u'llah's statement in Gleanings (below) that when a believer dies, they leave a spirit behind that leavens the world. I think the spirit of Mark is already having this effect.

Mark was married three times, each time to a Baha'i. Two of his wives, for their part, have each been married a few times to Baha'is (and still are). One of them was once married to my brother, and they had a son. The result is that, around Mark, is a large extended family that reaches right into the New Zealand Baha'i community, and that family includes Baha'is who are members of the community and those, like myself and Mark, who are not.

Already walls between people are breaking down. People who have not seen each other in years have come together, putting aside the past, and finding a common bond in their love for Mark and for the Faith. Bonds between people have been re-established in a way that was once thought unimaginable. It's the beginning of a spiritual change and healing.

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