Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Book):
"Multilinear" Translation project and Glossary
compiled by Jonah Winters
translated by Various.
Kitab-i-Aqdas Multilinear Translation table of
Front page of
translation | Glossary of select Arabic terms
This project is intended to present a textual analysis of the central book
of the Bahá'í Dispensation, Bahá'u'lláh's Kitab-i-Aqdas. This project is no
more than a supplement to the authorized text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas,
published 1992. This publication, available in an
online edition, includes extensive notes and commentary, and should
be consulted in conjunction with this multilinear translation project. See also the Kitab-i-Aqdas Windows Help File.
The schema of the multilinear translations, complete with
brief notations, is given below. More detailed comments can be found in
some of the "Notes" and "Correspondence" sections. A few individuals have
been instrumental in bringing this project together: Robert Stauffer
keyboarded the Haddad and Elder translations, Steve Cooney also
keyboarded the Haddad, Iskandar Hai helped transliterate, and Ahang
Rabbani proofread the Arabic .gif files.
Structure of files in this collection
Each verse has these sections:
Sentence #X: Verse x, part x
Translation table of contents
|Authorized translation (ca. 1953-1992)
||Authorized Arabic text (1995)|
|This translation, by Shoghi Effendi and others, is the official
translation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. As Shoghi Effendi was the authorized
Interpreter of the Bahá'í Revelation, those sections of this text he
translated are considered, not just official translation, but official
||This cell contains the Arabic in Unicode format, from the first authorized (critical edition) Arabic publication of the Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá'í World Center, 1995). The sentence breaks in this text, rather than the verses in the English, form the basis of the multilinear series. I have included all diacritics included in print - the only discrepency between the printed text is in final yá' where I have opted to differ between dotted and dotless. |
|Haddad translation (1900-01)
||Provisional Arabic transliteration (1997)|
|Anton Haddad's translation of the Aqdas, from 1900 or 1901, was
circulated widely in the early American Bahá'í community. As it was copied
and re-copied by hand, this online text will contain scribal errors;
comparison with other manuscript copies is needed to check the accuracy of
this online version. In The Bahá'í Faith in America vols. 1 & 2,
Robert Stockman offers much information on Haddad. This brief bio of him
is from vol. 2:
"Anton Haddad (1862-1924) was taught the
Bahá'í Faith by [Ibramim] Kheiralla. Haddad came to the United States in
the summer of 1892 and later played one of the most important roles in
keeping the American Bahá'í community loyal to 'Abdu'l-Bahá when Kheiralla
became disaffected." (footnote, page 10)
|This transliteration is grammatical, not oral. I have consulted other
Arabists on it, so it is likely to be fully correct. However, transliteration
can be tricky (for example, even a native speaker might occasionally not
be sure whether a verb is active or passive), so it should be considered
merely provisional. Accents were not used (e.g. alif is rendered "A"
instead of "á") because current html cannot render the full
|Provisional Literal translation (1997)
||Earl E. Elder translation (1961)|
|The meaning of the Aqdas may in places require extensive
interpretation and its full significance may never be known, but a simple
translation of the words of the Aqdas is relatively straightforward. In
this translation I sought merely to render the text in English in as literal
a manner as possible. While the resulting translation occasionally will not
make sense, it provides a valuable foil for understanding the style and
meaning of the authorized translation.
||William Miller was a Prebyterian missionary in Iran in the early part
of this century. He had a considerable interest in the Bahá'ís and wrote
two books on the Faith, both somewhat well-informed but thoroughly biased
and methodologically unsound. For an appendix to the second book, The
Bahá'í Faith: Its History and Teachings (South Pasadena, CA: William
Carey Library, 1974), he asked fellow Christian missionary Earl Elder, who
knew fairly good Arabic, to produce this translation of the Aqdas. It,
too, has not yet been proofread against the original hardcopy, and may
|Notes to Translations:
these brief notes address a few
points of each sentence that I happened to find interesting. Notes and
footnotes from the other translations are also included here. Due to
shortness of time, diacritics have not been entered in notes from the
authorized text; consulting its hard copy version, and the online
version, is recommended.
|Correspondence on Literal trans:|
This rather random
correspondence from a variety of individuals was occasioned by my
posting the ongoing translation project to the listservs Irfan and Bahai-studies. All posts are here by permission. The first few sections of
correspondence contain considerable information and useful discussion.
New commentary for these sections will be welcomed.
Front page of translation | Glossary of select Arabic terms
Glossary for the Multilinear Translation of the
The following glosses on Arabic terms in the
Kitab-i-Aqdas are excerpted from the section of notes
accompanying each sentence. Since the following definitions
refer back to the passage where they were first used, back-links have been provided so the reader can see the context of
each definition. This glossary is not comprehensive, but just
covers some points that I found especially interesting, or
points out where a word may have various meanings. Initial ayns and hamzas are
ignored in this English
Kitab-i-Aqdas Multilinear Translation table of
- Abdu'l-Bahá (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): The "Servant of Baha", Abbas Effendi (1844-1921), the eldest son and appointed Successor of Bahá'u'lláh, and the Centre of His Covenant.
- Abjad (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): The ancient Arabic system of allocating a numerical value to letters of the alphabet, so that numbers may be
represented by letters and vice versa. Thus every word has both a literal meaning and a numerical value.
(notes from sentences 2 and 3): amr is
sometimes translated as "laws." Here it is given in a verbal
phrase: mA amara bi-hi man ladA al-maqSUd, "that which
was commanded by him who is the desired one." The authorized
translation renders it slightly differently here: "every
ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world." In other places,
the authorized and the Elder editions translate amr as
"Cause," but my Hans Wehr dictionary does not offer this
definition, giving instead "order, command, instruction; decree,
imperative; power, authority."
- Bab, The (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): Literally the "Gate", the title assumed by Mirza Ali-Muhammad (1819-1850) after the Declaration of His
Mission in Shiraz in May 1844. He was the Founder of the Babi Faith and the Herald of Bahá'u'lláh.
- Baha (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): Baha means Glory. It is the Greatest Name of God and a title by which Bahá'u'lláh is designated. Also, the name of the first month of the Bahá'í year and of the first day of eac
h Bahá'í month.
- Bahá'u'lláh (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): The "Glory of God", title of Mirza Husayn-'Ali (1817-1892), the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith.
(note from sentence 6): Bahá'u'lláh says that the "sea
of bayAn" has swelled, likely a double entendre. BayAn
means, among other things, "declaration, anouncement;
clearness, plainness; elucidation, explanation," and can be
translated as such because it immediately follows "wisdom," i.e.
the explanations provided by revelation. However, as the name
of the central book of the Babi religion was likewise
BayAn, it is likely that Bahá'u'lláh here intends a double
meaning. The Quran of Muhammad is also sometimes called the
Bayan (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): The Bayan ("Exposition") is the title given by the Bab to His Book of Laws, and it is also applied to the entire body of His
Writings. The Persian Bayan is the major doctrinal work and principal repository of the laws ordained by the Bab. The Arabic Bayan is parallel in content but smaller and less weighty.
References in the annotations to subjects found in both the Persian Bayan and the Arabic Bayan are identified by use of the term "Bayan" without further qualification.
(note from sentence 6): While the verb mAja
can, in some forms, mean simply "to ripple," "to wave," or "to
undulate," here it has the stronger sense of "heaving, rolling,
surging, being agitated," hence the Elder translation as "raged."
The second verb, hAja, can also have this sense of violent
agitation, especially in reference to seas. This phrase--the
verbs mAja and hAja (note the rhyme) and the noun
nasama, "breeze, "breath," "waft," and even "wind"--provides a clear and consistent image of a sea swelling or even
roiling under the breath of the words spoken by the Merciful.
This is emphasized in the authorized translation which departs
from the literal "seize the opportunity" to continue with the
image: "Hasten to drink your fill."
(note from sentence 4): The Arabic words which the
authorized version renders "abject and foolish"--hamaj
and ra`A`--were somewhat difficult to translate with
exalted language, for they are most colorful terms. Wehr
renders them as follows: hamaj: "small flies, gnats;
riffraff, rabble, ragtag; savages, barbarians. ra`A`: "rabble,
mob, riffraff, scum; ragtag; rowdies, hooligans."
- hawA: See HudUd, below.
(notes from sentences 4 and 5): The term
HudUd means "edge, border; boundary, limit" and by
extension "ordinance, statute, punishment." In possessive
construct with allAh, the Hans Wehr dictionary gives "the
bounds or restrictions that God has placed on man's freedom of
action." In sentence five, Bahá'u'lláh contrasts the HudUd
allAhi, the HudUd of God, with the HudUd al-nafsi, the HudUd of self. The authorized translation
renders these "precepts laid down by God" and "dictates of your
evil passions," resp. In Sufism especially, the nafs is the
seat of the lower desires, the animalistic passions, and often
has an immediately negative connotation. Consequently, the
authorized version adds the adjective "evil." This reading is also
justified by the second Arabic term, hawA, which means
"love, affection; passion; desire, longing, craving; whim,
caprice." Thus, where the Arabic literally reads "the restrictions
of the self and of passion," the authorized translation gives "the
dictates of your evil passions and corrupt desires." In the
Arabic text it is clear that these HudUd al-nafs are
paralleled with the previously mentioned HudUd allAh, and
the first two sentences of verse two are thus an exhortation to
abandon natural law in favor of divine law, so to speak.
- Huququ'llah (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): The "Right
of God". Instituted in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, it is an offering made by the Bahá'ís through the Head of the Faith for the purposes specified in the Bahá'í Writings.
(note from sentence 3): The common name Persian
name Elham, transliterated as al-ilhAm, means
"inspiration, instinct, illumination."
(note from sentence 5): ImkAn, "the possible,"
is a term for all creation which occurs often
(note from sentence 8): `inAya, often
translated as "providence," can be a concept whose meaning is
often not really understood. The American Heritage dictionary
gives these meanings for "providence":
1. Care or preparation in advance;
care, guardianship, and control exercised by a deity; divine
These meanings are paralleled by the Arabic term
`inAya, which can mean "concern for; care, solicitude,
providence; heed, notice, attention," all having a connotation of
God's sense of loving care for his creation.
(note from sentence 9): khazA'in (plural of
khizAnah) means "treasure houses; vaults, coffers,
- mAja: See hAja, above.
(note from sentence 8): The word mAlik is the
active participle of malaka, which means "to possess,
acquire; to be the owner of; to control, dominate, rule over; to
exercise power." Many Arabic words relating to kingship derive
from this root. Perhaps "master" is the English word that
catches the most similarities in meaning.
(note from sentence 3): Of interest is the term
maqAma, "site, location, station," or even "place where a
saint is buried." It literally means "place of standing," and the
verbal root here--QWM--is where we get familiar words like
Qa'im (the Bab) and Qayyum.
(note from sentence 2): The two terms which the
authorized version translates as "Dayspring" and "Fountain"--mashriq and maTla`--are virtually identical in
meaning. The root of mashriq refers equally to "east" and
to "sun," and with the prefix of place, ma-, means the
"place of the sunrise." The root of maTla` refers to
ascendence and appearance, and with the prefix of place, ma-, means both the rising place of celestial bodies or the
opening or beginning of something, as in a poem. In this fashion
the authorized version renders the two "Dayspring" and
"Fountain," resp., and in my literal version I chose "dawning-place"and "rising-place."
- Mashriqu'l-Adhkar (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): Literally "the Dawning-place of the praise of God", the designation of the Bahá'í House of Worship and its dependencies.
- Mithqal (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): A unit of weight, equivalent to a little over 3 1/2 grammes, used in the Kitab-i-Aqdas with reference to quantities of gold or silver for various purposes, usually in amounts o
f 9, 19 or 95 mithqals.
The equivalents of these in the metric system and in troy ounces (which are used in the measurement of precious metals), are as follows:
is based on the guidance of Shoghi Effendi, conveyed in a letter written on his behalf, which states "one mithqal consists of nineteen nakhuds. The weight of twenty-four nakhuds equals four
and three-fifths grammes. Calculations may be made on this basis." The mithqal traditionally used in the Middle East had consisted of 24 nakhuds but in the Bayan this was changed to 19
nakhuds and Bahá'u'lláh confirmed this as the size of the mithqal referred to in the Bahá'í laws (Q and A 23).
- 9 mithqals = 32.775
grammes = 1.05374 troy ounces
- 19 mithqals = 69.192 grammes = 2.22456 troy ounces
- 95 mithqals = 345.958 grammes = 11.12282 troy ounces
- maTla`: See mashriq, above.
(note from sentence 9): nafaqa means "to sell
well; find a brisk market; to use up, to exhaust one's stores," and
in Form IV, the form used here, means "to spend, expend,
disburse; consume, use up, exhaust, dissipate." It refers to the
total dissipation of the khazA'in (plural of khizAnah)
the "treasure houses; vaults, coffers, safeboxes; treasuries."
- nafs: See HudUd, above.
- Nakhud (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): A unit of weight. See "mithqal".
- Qayyumu'l-Asma' (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): The Bab's commentary on the Surih of Joseph in the Qur'an. Revealed in 1844, this work is
characterized by Bahá'u'lláh as "the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books" in the Babi Dispensation.
- ra`A`: See hamaj, above.
- Shoghi Effendi (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): Shoghi
Effendi (1897-1957), Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith from 1921-1957. He was the eldest grandson of Abdu'l-Bahá and was appointed by Him as the Head of the Faith.
- Siyah-Chal (note from glossary in Authorized Edition): Literally "the Black Pit". The dark, foul-smelling, subterranean dungeon in Tihran where Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned for four months in 1852.
(note from sentence 9): The verb thabata as
used here (form IV) has the primary meaning of "establish," but
with the connotations of proving a truth, as in "to corroborate,
confirm, substantiate; to bear witness."
- ufq (note
from sentence 3): I believe that the term I
translated as "horizon" can be vocalized as either ufq or
ufuq. This is an interesting term: besides "horizon," its
connotations are of distant lands, far reaches.
Front page of translation | Glossary of select Arabic terms