The Book of Certitude (Kitab-i Iqan) is the preeminent
doctrinal work of the Bahá'í Faith. Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), the
author, later designated the Iqan as the
"Lord of all books" ("sayyid-i kutub
": idem, "Lawh-i Mubarak dar javab-i
`Aridih-'i Jinab-i Abu'l-Fada'il-i Gulpaygani," in
Ma'ida-yi Asmani, ed. `Abdu'l-Hamid Ishraq-Khavari
[Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 129 Badi` [Bahá'í
Era)/1972-3], Vol. 7, pp. 148-73), reflecting
on the text's status as divine revelation and on its
historical importance in ideologically propagating
the new Faith.
In addition to having been the most widely disseminated
Bahá'í text in the early history of the faith, the
Iqan was the first book Bahá'u'lláh himself authorized
for publication (lithographed, Bombay, c. 1881-2).
The first Bombay lithograph was followed by a second,
dated Dhu'l-Qa`adah 1310 A.H./May-June 1893 C.E. in the hand of the celebrated
Bahá'í calligrapher, Mishkin-Qalam. I have appended
a facsimile of the Mishkin-Qalam Iqan as Appendix One,
and the undated Bombay lithograph as Appendix Two.
This is the first time these texts have been published
since their original publication.
Circumstances of "Revelation":
The Iqan focused on spiritual authority from an Islamic
perspective, rationalizing the eschatologically conceived
fulfillment of Islam in the advent of Sayyid `Ali-Muhammad
Shirazi (d. 1850), who was known as the Bab (the "Gate").
The Bab had created a firestorm of controversy following
the declaration his prophetic mission at the end of
the Shi`i millennium (1260/1844), a millennium that
dating from the occultation of the Twelfth Imam in
the year 260 A.H. While Bahá'u'lláh maintained continuity
with Islam at a doctrinal level, historically this
claim of fulfillment was tantamount to a break from
Islam. The Iqan also served to heighten the adventist
fervor current in the Babi community, in anticipation
of the advent of a messianic figure foretold by the
Bab. Details of the circumstances of revelation are
given in the present writer's monograph, Symbol and
Secret: Qur'an Commentary in Bahá'u'lláh's Kitab-i
Iqan. Studies in the Babi and Bahá'í Religions, vol.
7 (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1995).
The Book of Certitude may be among the first texts by Bahá'u'lláh explicitly
designated as "revelation," since the colophon at the end of the book
refers to it as having been "revealed" (al-manzul [British
Museum MS., BL Or. 3116, foll. 78-127] or in some MSS al-munzal [Browne's MS.]), by
the "Ba' " and the "Ha' ", as Cambridge Orientalist Edward
Granville Browne first pointed out (ET, 257). In Islamic thought use of
such terminology is reserved for books written by prophets, and so it
represents an early claim to such a theophanic status by Bahá'u'lláh.
That the reading "al-manzul" is the better one is apparent from
original at the Bahá'í World Centre Archives, in the hand of
Bahá'u'lláh's eldest son `Abdu'l-Bahá (facsimile in Buck
1995, frontispiece), which was reviewed, with emendations
and marginalia, by Bahá'u'lláh himself. Browne was at pains
to reconcile this claim with Bahá'u'lláh's erstwhile
disavowals of any spiritual station or authority, and
so Browne supposed the colophon to have been a later
interpolation (Selections, 253-4). Subsequent scholarship
continues to debate the stages of Bahá'u'lláh's evolving
messianic self-consciousness, but has moved beyond
Browne in accepting the Iqan as reflecting the crystallization
of Bahá'u'lláh's messianic vocation as intimated in
An important source for an accurate reconstruction of
the background to the writing of this book is to be found in Bahá'u'lláh's
Tablet, dated 27 Muharram 1306 A.H./3 October 1888,
in honor of Aqa `Abdu'l-Hamid Shirazi, a working translation
of which was recently shared by Dr. Ahang Rabbani.
Briefly, the initial revelation
of the Iqan was occasioned by questions posed by the
Bab's maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Sayyid Muhammad, on
a visit to the holy shrines in Karbala in the Islamic
year 1278 (1861-2), or possibly in 1277 A.H. The precise
date of this visit will be discussed below. A facsimile
reproduction of the original handlist of questions
by Haji Mirza Sayyid Muhammad was published in Muhammad
`Ali Fayzi's Kitab-i Khandan-i Afnan Sidra-yi Rahman
(Tehran: Mu'assasi-yi Milli-yi Matbu'at-i Amri, 124
B.E. [1970-1]), inserted at p. 41. (See Denis MacEoin. "Questions of Sayyid Muhammad Shirazi, Uncle of the Bab". The questions posed by the Bab's uncle may be summarized
as follows: (1) The Day of Resurrection: Will it be
corporeal? How will the just be recompensed and the
wicked dealt with?; (2) The Twelfth Imam: How can traditions
attesting to his occultation be explained?; (3) Qur'anic
Interpretation: How can the literal meaning of the
Qur'an be reconciled with the interpretations current
among Babis?; (4) Advent of the Qa'im: How can the
apparent lack of fulfillment of Imami traditions concerning
the Resurrector be explained? (Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh,
the King of Glory, 164-5; see also the working translation by
Dr. Ahang Rabbani.). These
questions typified the paradox precipitated by the
advent of the Bab: the apparent contradiction between
a realized eschaton (prophecy fulfillment) and unrealized
popular expectations. Because the Iqan was revealed
in direct response to these questions, the book was
first known as the Treatise for the Uncle (Risala-yi
Shoghi Effendi describes Bahá'u'lláh's style as "a model
of Persian prose, of a style at once original, chaste
and vigorous, and remarkably lucid, both cogent in
argument and matchless in its irresistible eloquence"
(God Passes By 138-139). This assessment appears to be based
on E. G. Browne, who wrote of the Iqan that "it is
a work of great merit, vigorous in style, clear in
argument, cogent in proof, and displaying no slight
knowledge of the Bible, Qur'an, and Traditions" (Selections,
254). Bahá'u'lláh's choice of Persian for such a work
as the Kitab-i Iqan optimized its diffusion among the
Babi community. While the Babis are surely the immediate
audience, Bahá'u'lláh addresses the world in such words
as: "Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world..."
(ET, 3) and "Behold, O concourse of the earth, the
splendours of the End" (ET, 168).
One of the striking expressive features of the Book
of Certitude is its abundant use of what Persian grammar
terms the "metaphorical" genitive (izafa-yi isti`ari).
The izafa (Arabic: idafa) is a construct--an enclitic
to be precise--used for possessive, partitive, and
descriptive purposes. Bahá'u'lláh's use of this construct
becomes, in itself, an important exegetical device.
In the course of exegesis, Bahá'u'lláh interprets a
verse, explicating a symbol by suggesting its referent.
He then uses both symbol and referent together, bound
grammatically by the Persian construct, to reinforce
his exegesis. Bahá'u'lláh coordinates his various explications
by means of extended metaphors, invariably drawn from
"In like manner, endeavour to comprehend the meaning
of the 'changing of the earth' [Matt. 24:29, variant].
Know thou, that upon whatever hearts the bountiful
showers of mercy, raining from the 'heaven' of divine
Revelation, have fallen, the earth of those hearts
hath verily been changed into the earth of divine knowledge
and wisdom. What myrtles of unity hath the soil of
their hearts produced! What blossoms of true knowledge
and wisdom hath their illumined bosoms yielded!...Thus
hath He said: 'On the day when the earth shall be changed
into another earth' [Q. 14:48]" (ET, 46-47).
eschatological "earth"--in a variant saying of Jesus--has
come to signify knowledge and understanding and, generally,
the capacity of the human heart to become angelic.
According to Alessandro Bausani, who has remarked upon
some of the difficulties raised by "the Bahá'í expressive
style" for those unfamiliar with it, "the difficulty
that Westerners experience in fully understanding the
style of the Bahá'í writings lies in our having lost
the living sense of the tripartition of reality: Unknowable
God, World of Symbols, material world" ("Some Aspects
of the Bahá'í Expressive Style," World Order 13 [1978-79],
Qur'anic Exegesis in the Kitab-i Iqan:
The Book of Certitude is a work of symbolic exegesis
of the Qur'an and, to a lesser extent, of the New Testament.
Bahá'u'lláh advances arguments that are, in certain
respects, analogous to the strategies of Sunni rhetoricians
who demonstrated occurrences of figures of speech in
the Qur'an as a feature of its eloquence and inimitability.
In the Iqan, prior to his actual symbolic exegesis,
Bahá'u'lláh logically demonstrates the presence of
figurative language in the Qur'an, based largely on
appeals to absurdities that result from literal readings.
Once the symbolic valence of the Qur'an has been established,
symbols in prophecy are interpreted and then contemporized
within Bahá'u'lláh's own historical present, leaving
the reader to accept or reject their fulfillment.
Interpretation of the Qur'an is technically known as
tafsir. The most useful and comprehensive introduction
to this literature is that of Rippin, "tafsir," Encyclopedia
of Religion; the most comprehensive study in English is Rippin's
edited volume, Approaches to the History of the Interpretation
of the Qur'an (Oxford, 1988). Bahá'u'lláh's exegetical
techniques are well attested in the classical tafsir
tradition of Islam. In Symbol and Secret, the present
writer has identified Bahá'u'lláh's use of eleven "procedural
devices" attested to in the classical Islamic tradition
of tafsir: poetic loci probantes, lexical explanation,
grammatical explanation, rhetorical explanation, periphrasis,
analogy, abrogation, circumstances of revelation, identification
of the vague and ambiguous, prophetical tradition,
and anecdote. One instance of Bahá'u'lláh's wide range
of interpretive procedures--rhetorical explanation--will
give the reader a glimpse into a topic, the analysis
of which far exceeds the scope of an encyclopedia entry.
Furthermore, though many of Bahá'u'lláh's interpretations
have an elegant simplicity, certain of them conflict
with received exegeses at the level of text and require
a rather involved syntactical and semantic analysis.
The reader should not assume on the basis of the following
discussion that Bahá'u'lláh's interpretations do not
entail some very complex and remarkable acts of exegesis.
Literal texts require little interpretation beyond explication,
whereas symbolic texts are not as they appear to be
and require interpretation. For the latter approach
to be accepted, the reader must be convinced that a
text has a symbolic dimension. Trationally, as with
Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed II, 29), the most
effective strategy for arguing symbolism, beyond assertion,
is to predicate symbolism on figurative language. As
tropical discourse, figurative language, by nature,
excludes literal interpretation, which would otherwise
lead to absurdity. Bahá'u'lláh therefore advanced a
figuratively based rationale to establish
Qur'anic symbolism demonstratively. Bahá'u'lláh overrules the literal
reading of most eschatological passages of the Qur'an,
effectively excluding received interpretations. Upon
demonstrating the absurdity of unwarranted literal
readings, the author adduces Qur'anic passages of an
anomalous, non-literal, or patently metaphorical character
to attest the presence of figurative language in the
Bahá'u'lláh shows that figurative language underlies
Qur'anic symbolism, although literal texts may have
symbolic import as well. (The danger in treating literal
verse symbolically is a tendency to disregard the literal
authority of the text, thus leading to antinomianism.)
Tradition has frequently ignored the opacity of figurative or
"ambiguous" verses, and has succumbed to literalist
entrapments. The reader is led to understand that such
oblique language, even if unmarked for figuration,
is entailed in the eschatological symbolism of the
Minor Apocalypse of Matthew 24 and in the fantastic
and surreal apocalyptic imagery of the Qur'an. Such
non-transparent texts, which are in some sense "dark,"
may be intertextually interpreted in light of openly
One example of a rhetorical-style argument is appeal
to absurdity. This kind of demonstration points to
a logical or phenomenological implausibility were a
literal reading of a given text allowed. Following
this, the case is made for a figurative reading. The
test for absurdity is an attested procedure of Islamic
rhetoric, as instanced in the definition of figuration
(majaz) formulated by the rhetorician Ibn Rashiq (d.
456/1063 or 463/1070): "Whatever goes beyond the proper
meaning in [the] case of each word, without then becoming
absolutely absurd, that is majaz, because it admits
of the different ways of interpretation: thus the comparison
(tashbih) and 'borrowing' (isti`ara) and other beauties
of speech have come to fall under the category of majaz"
(tr. Heinrichs, Hand of the Northwind, 48-49). Here,
the figurative reading of a verse must not lead to
absurdity. Nor should a literal reading.
Such an interpretive move often involves the verdict
of absurdity after having overruled the surface meaning
of anthropomorphisms in scripture. Hence, Bahá'u'lláh's
exegetical procedure at Q. 39:67 overrules a literal
reading of the eschatological hand of God, as it entails
both impossibility and anthropomorphist entrapment:
"And now, comprehend the meaning of this verse: 'The
whole earth shall on the Resurrection Day be but His
handful, and in His right hand shall the heavens be
folded together ...'. ... And now, be fair in thy judgment.
Were this verse to have the meaning which men suppose
it to have, of what profit, one may ask, could it be
to man? Moreover, it is evident and manifest that no
such hand as could be seen by human eye could accomplish
such deeds, or could possibly be ascribed to the exalted
Essence of the one true God. Nay, to acknowledge such
a thing is naught but sheer blasphemy, an utter perversion
of the truth" (ET, 47-8).
So far, Bahá'u'lláh's reading of this verse was anticipated
by al-Zamakhshari (Bonebakker, Some Early Definitions
of the Tawriya, 25-6). The point of adducing this passage
is to show that, not infrequently, Bahá'u'lláh first
dispenses with some received interpretations. Literal
interpretations having thus been overruled, a positive
interpretation follows: "On the contrary, by the term
"earth" is meant the earth of understanding and knowledge,
and by the "heavens" the heavens of divine Revelation.
Reflect thou how, in one hand, He hath, by His mighty
grasp, turned the earth of knowledge and understanding,
previously unfolded, into a mere handful, and, on the
other, spread out a new and highly exalted earth in
the hearts of men, thus causing the freshest and loveliest
blossoms, and the mightiest and loftiest trees to spring
forth in the illumined bosom of man." (ET, 48). Bahá'u'lláh
then states the reason why such recondite language
has been revealed in the first place: "Know verily
that the purpose underlying all these symbolic terms
(kalimat-i marmuza) and abstruse allusions (isharat-i
mulghaza), which emanate from the Revealers of God's
holy Cause, hath been to test and prove the peoples
of the world; that thereby the earth of the pure and
illuminated hearts may be known from the perishable
and barren soil" (ET, 49).
On the surface, this would seem to suggest that anyone
with metaphoric competence is spiritually pure. But
at the level of received interpretation, such symbolic
exegesis must first disencumber itself of the preponderant
weight of centuries of traditional reading and the
clerical authority with which such a reading is enforced.
The act of replacing miracle with symbol, and anthropomorphism
with metaphor, divests the interpreter of an essentially
magical world view. Instead, such a reading places
emphasis on ethics and interiority rather than on the
miraculous. The reading Bahá'u'lláh rejects is a suspension
of natural law. The reading he offers is an engagement
of spiritual law, portrayed as vivifying the visionary
landscape of the heart. The reader, open to a new interpretation,
will be open to a fresh source of authority.
Exegesis is typically far more than interpretation.
Especially in post-classical works of tafsir, the exegete
has a definite agenda. Interpretation thus becomes
the vehicle for propounding that agenda. While the
interpretation serves to elucidate the text, the inverse
holds true, too. The interpreter invokes the authority
of the Qur'an as revelation to validate a particular
view. In such a case, exegesis is apology, written
in defense of a position held. When the Iqan was revealed,
the Qur'an remained inviolable as the primary authority
in an erstwhile Islamic context. The interpretive strategies
in Bahá'u'lláh's work are amply attested in the classical
Sunni heritage, which have been taken up and asimilated
to the Shi`i domain. Beyond the classical Islamic tradition,
to what extent is the Book of Certitude prefigured
by Shi`i tafsir? The answer is clear: The principles
of exegesis found in Akhbari (referring to the Akhbari
sect of Shi`ism which lost out to the Usulis [mujtahid
based tradition] in the 18th-century) works of Shi`i
tafsir are manifestly present in the Kitab-i Iqan.
These principles have more to do with the subject of
exegesis than with its procedures.
There are sufficient formal similarities and thematic
emphases between later Shi`i (those known as Akhbari)
works of tafsir and the Book of Certitude to warrant
comparison. Such a background study would present itself
as the logical starting place for a foundational study
of Bahá'u'lláh's work. To treat simply the Shi`i context
of the text is too narrow, however, as such a focused
study tends to atomize the text. While Bahá'u'lláh's
conception of spiritual authority presupposes Shi`i
structures, to regard the Book of Certitude as simply
an extension of Shi`ism is reductionist. The pitfall
of a such an approach is that the presence of identifiable
Shi`i features of exegesis in the text can elucidate
but cannot "explain" the event of the Book of Certitude
purely in terms of a natural extension or development
of Shi`i tradition.
Twelver Shi`ism, the dominant form of Shi`ism today,
views spiritual authority as vested in the Imamate.
The very identity of Shi`ism is bound up with authority
claims. Shi`i assertions of authority explicitly contest
rival Sunni claims. The Qur'an, tradition (hadith)
and especially the Imami oral legacy (khabar [pl. akhbar])
are invoked for legitimation. The selective and tendentious
use of such authorities is meant to validate what Sunni
Islam rejects. Arguably the most salient feature of
Akhbari Shi`i interpretations of the Qur'an is how
such commentaries reflect on issues of authority. According
to B. Todd Lawson, what characterizes Akhbari Qur'an commentaries
is the exegetical procedure of "finding the true reading
of the verse in question through metonomy or metaphor
for the Imam or some related topic such as walaya"
(Lawson, "Akhbari Shi`i Approaches to tafsir," 175).
Shi`i arguments are somewhat circular in this regard.
Esteemed by both Sunni and Shi`i orthodoxies, Ja'far
al-Sadiq, who was a truly universal figure in early
Islam, is frequently cited in Akhbari Qur'an commentaries
in what amounts to an Imamocentrism which is the hallmark
of Akhbari exegesis.
Walaya as the Core Concept of Shi`ism:
Islam is founded on the conviction that Muhammad is
the "Seal of the Prophets" and thus the last Messenger.
In Shi`a Islam, however, this did not preclude the
availability of divine guidance in salvation-history
subsequent to Muhammad. After Muhammad, Shi`is have
always maintained that walaya continued to manifest
itself in the spiritual leadership of the Twelve Imams.
Walaya (Persian: vilayat) refers to divine authority,
residing in the notion of "Covenant" ("The Dangers
of Reading," 190). Lawson is emphatic in asserting
that: "There is, in Shi`ism, no more important a doctrine"
("The Dangers of Reading," 177).
When the twelfth Imam was said to have been occulted
in the Islamic year 260, his absence was reconstituted
as a mystical presence, such that the now Hidden Imam
was continued to exercise spiritual sovereignty. (The
Bab eventually claimed to be the "return" of the Hidden
Imam.) Perhaps Lawson's greatest contribution to our
understanding of the Shi`i and Babi background of the
Kitab-i Iqan resides in his thesis that "walaya is
a structure/institution that was 'designed' to allow
for post-prophetic revelation" (Lawson, personal communication,
3 April 1998). This is a profound statement. Its implications
are far-reaching. It is almost as if to say that, had
there been no walaya, there might have been no Bab
or Bahá'u'lláh, even though any post-prophetic claim
to revelation is, from the position of normative Islam,
extremist, innovative (rather than renovative), and
Phenomenologically speaking, revelation is somewhat
tradition-bound. Shi`ism identified its messianic figure,
the Qa'im, as the occulted Twelfth Imam. But, historically,
both Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá state that the Twelfth
Imam never existed. Despite the historical improbability
of a Twelfth Imam, the existence of traditions attesting
his occultation and eventual return created a kind
of messianic determinism, in which a body of speculation
represented as Imami akhbar raised fantastic and thus
unrealistic expectations about any future religious
renewal. Thus, the Bab's identification with the Qa'im/Mahdi
is purely formal. But the formality had to be taken
with the utmost seriousness. Both the Bab's and Bahá'u'lláh's
Qur'an commentaries followed some very traditional
Akhbari lines, as Lawson has shown in the case of the
Principles of Shi`i exegesis:
A recent study by Lawson has contributed to
Western understanding of the principles of Shi`i exegesis.
For descriptive purposes, how does one systematize
this material? Lawson has located such a systematization,
ready made, and authentically Shi`i: the prologues
of works of Akhbari tafsir. Distinctively, Akhbari
works of tafsir rely on "reports" of the sayings of
the Imams from the "Holy Family" of Shi`ism, and the
corresponding Imamocentrism of such works. These commentaries
are quite different from such classical Shi`i commentaries
as those of al-Tusi (d. 1067) and al-Tabarsi (d. 1144).
The extensive corpus of Imami hadith that overburdened
the Shi`i world is technically referred to as akhbar
("reports"; sing. khabar). Lawson provides a useful
summary of the prologues of four such works. Through
Lawson's enterprise, a comparison of the Book of Certitude
with works of Shi`i tafsir is greatly facilitated.
The methodological elegance of Lawson's study is that
he has presented representative, traditionally acclaimed
systematizations of Shi`i thought by Shi`i authorities
themselves. These systematizations, propounded in the
tafsir prologues, are illuminating. These native programmatic
statements reveal the extent to which Akhbari interpretations
of the Qur'an are characteristically Imamocentric.
In such commentaries, we are not sure if Imami reports
are not so much used to explain the Qur'an (this is
the formal procedure) as the Qur'an is used to legitimate
a Shi`i agenda. In any case, the Qur'an effectively
becomes a Shi`i text.
Lawson's "Akhbari Shi`i Approaches to tafsir" crystallizes,
perhaps more than any other single study, those structures
that render works of tafsir both methodologically and
ideologically distinctive. Lawson epitomizes four tafsir
prologues, from the following Akhbari works: (1) Kitab
tafsir nur al-thaqalayn by 'Abd 'Ali al-Huwayzi (d.
before 1693); (2) al-Safi fi tafsir kalam Allah al-wafi
of Mulla Muhsin Fayd Kashani (d. 1640); (3) Kitab al-burhan
fi tafsir al-Qur'an by Hashim al-Bahrani (d. ca. 1695);
and (4) Mir'at al-anwar wa-mishkat al-asrar fi tafsir
al-Qur'an by Abu'l-Hasan al-Isfahani, al-Sharif al-'Amili
(d. 1724). [B. Todd Lawson, "Akhbári Shi`i Approaches
to tafsir," in Approaches to the Qur’án (ed. G. Hawting
and A.-K. Shareef; London and New York: Routledge,
1993) 173-210.] What follows below is the present writer's
summary of key principles of interpretation as defined
in the fourth work, the Anwar.
* The Qur'an has esoteric dimensions.
* Its verses are susceptible of esoteric interpretation
* The meaning of the Qur'an is not restricted to time
or place. It pertains to all people at all times.
* The inner meaning of the Qur'an relates to the holy
Imams, to their authority or continuing guidance (walaya),
and to their followers.
* Harmonizing (tanasub) the interior and exterior dimensions
of the Qur'an is an exegetical ideal.
* Belief in both dimensions of the Qur'an is imperative.
So also is adherence to both the clear (muhkam) and
the ambiguous (mutashabih) verses of the Qur'an.
* Complete knowledge of inner exegesis of the Qur'an
(ta'wil) resides with the Imams.
* The anchor of faith (iman) is guardianship (walaya),
love (mahabba), and obedience to the Imams.
* Confession of belief in the authority of the Imams
is a necessary adjunct to profession of faith in the
unity of God and in the authority of the Prophet.
* Walaya, together with belief in the unity of God (tawhid),
was presented by God to the cosmos, physical and spiritual.
God's covenant regarding it was imposed on all creation.
The conditions of walaya--of revelation and inspired
guidance respectively personified in the Prophet and
in his patrilineal successors, the Imams--was set forth
in all scriptures and was made obligatory for all nations.
* The Prophets and Imams enjoyed a state of pre-existence.
their walaya is the efficient cause of all creation
and the core principle of obedience.
* Prologue II alleges alterations (taghyir) in the Qur'an.
Such a textual, or anti-textual argument is not once
adduced in the Book of Certitude. Bahá'u'lláh concedes
corruption of scripture only insofar as it applies
to interpretation. Thus, according to Bahá'u'lláh,
this Shi`i charge is baseless. There is no taghyir
but rather corrupt tafsir.
* Certain verses in the Qur'an are figurative (batin).
* These are explained by pertinent Imami traditions (akhbar).
* Such traditions provide the true, hidden interpretation
* This is done through recourse to through metonomy and
* Certain verses require metaphorical ("abstract"/"intellectual")
interpretation (al-majaz al-`aqliyya).
* The figurative nature of certain other verses is self-evident.
These are also elucidated through metaphorical ("linguistic")
interpretation (al-majaz al-lughawi).
* The essence of esoteric (batini) interpretation is
this: Whatever is good in the Qur'an pertains to the
Imams or to the Shi`a.
* Past refers to present (the "people of Moses" signify
the "people of Islam").
* In some passages, for one person outwardly addressed,
another is meant: "By contrast, what is ascribed to
God about Himself by majaz is related to His near servants...."
* By ta'wil, many pronouns in the Qur'an are allusions
to the Imams.
* Past events may be interpreted as last events.
* Many things God says of Himself also apply to the Prophet
and Imams (Lawson, "Akhbari Shi`i Approaches to tafsir,"
This systematization of Akhbari exegetical principles
illuminates the immediate context of the Book of Certitude.
Lawson's study has made it possible to explain the
Book of Certitude as representing, in effect, the logical
trajectory of Shi`i exegetical tendencies, which are
ultimately, if carried to their logical conclusion,
self-transcending. The validity of this explanation
depends entirely on the reader's theoretical acceptance
of one crucial substitution: the authority of the Bab
(in the shadow of whose authority stands Bahá'u'lláh)
as the eclipse of traditional authority: Qur'an and
Imami tradition, Prophet and Imam. The revelation of
the Bab simply constitutes the new locus of spiritual
authority, an authority-transfer cast in terms of eschatological
prerogative. This transfer is legitimated in terms
of prophetic "fulfillment."
Two images of Shi`ism in Bahá'u'lláh's discourse thus
emerge. The first is historical and doctrinal. It is
nostalgic and purist. The Imams are revered. Various
traditions ascribed to them are adduced as proof texts.
In the Book of Certitude, the frequency of Bahá'u'lláh's
recourse to Imami akhbar is second only to his appeals
to the Qur'an. This is a patently Akhbari procedure.
The second picture of Shi`ism Bahá'u'lláh portrays
is one of the perceived failings of Shi`ism, particularly
in its contemporary (nineteenth century) setting. This
critique of Shi`ism is not revisionist. There is no
agenda for restoring Shi`ism to its pristine state.
It would appear that in Bahá'u'lláh's view of salvation
history, Shi`ism had run its course. It was institutionally
spent. Bahá'u'lláh's critique of contemporary Shi`i
authority is more than "protestant." It is tantamount
to a shared Shi`i concern over authority, but a reversal
of its legitimation as invested in the clerical order
of his day. Bahá'u'lláh's exegesis may therefore be
overstated as a kind of counter-Shi`ism, due to the
rivalry of authority claims.
Thematically, and in good Shi`i fashion, concern over
authority is of paramount interest in the Book of Certitude.
This is thoroughly Shi`i. The same exegetical agenda--demonstrating
the quranic basis of the authority of the Twelve Shi`i
Imams--is invoked by Bahá'u'lláh not to validate Shi`i
tradition but to effect a break from that tradition.
A paradox of authority surfaces in the structure of
Bahá'u'lláh's argument: the authority of the institution
of the Imamate is confirmed, but not, as it were, the
"apostolic succession"--to use a Christian term--that
derives from it. In the Iqan, Shi`i exegetical principles
are invoked in order to counter Shi`i authority, though
formally it appears otherwise. The Book of Certitude
shares Akhbari concerns over authority, but looks ahead
in historical time and in sacred time to a post-quranic
and post-Imamite Dispensation. Bahá'u'lláh's emphasis
on authority is equal to Shi`i concerns. Such concerns
preoccupied the immediate audience at least. This agenda
had to be addressed in order to facilitate a transfer
of spiritual authority, mediated by faith--a transfer
from Shi`i institutions to a new source of charisma--the
In Defense of the Bab and the Babi Qur'an:
The Qur'an is said to contain coded language. The Bab's spiritual
precursor, Sayyid Kazim Rashti, wrote:
"When you have understood that the true meaning, the
spiritual Idea (haqiqa) of the Qur'an is a code (ramz)
which only God Most High, the Prophets and the members
of His House understand, ...then it will be clear that
our understanding of this code varies according to
the diversity of our faculties of understanding" (Lawson,
"Akhbari Shi`i Approaches to tafsir," 204). This "code"
(ramz) obviously requires decoding. The Book of Certitude
reinforces this view of the Qur'an, that it has a symbolic
dimension that only an inspired interpreter might accurately
demytistify. In Akhbari Shi`ism, the Qur'an as a text
is functionally inseparable from its valid interpretation.
Although interpretation is still a human enterprise,
the methodological guarantor of accuracy is reliance
upon traditions ascribed to the Imams. In this respect,
the sacred text is imbued with the charisma of both
the Prophet and the Imams. "Because of the fusion of
the Imam and text," Lawson observes, "the Qur'an is
experienced as a charismatic text" ("Akhbari Shi`i
Approaches to tafsir," 203).
The Grand Prayer of Visitation, composed by the Bab's
other spiritual precursor, Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d.
1826), as Lawson notes, "may have achieved in his
own lifetime something of the status of an alternative
Qur'an, being arranged in 114 verses" (Lawson, “Akhbari
Shi`i Approaches to tafsir,” 203). Lawson concludes:
"This points to one of the most remarkable results
of the Akhbari project, namely the transformation of
the Qur'an text into 'another Qur'an.' That is, the
Qur'an of the Akhbaris becomes something of a New Testament
for Islam" (Lawson, "Akhbari Shi`i Approaches to tafsir,"
In the case of Bahá'u'lláh's immediate precursor, the
Bab, this tendency becomes even more pronounced. Lawson
remarks: "We see the 'logical' culmination of this
process in the Qur'an commentaries of the Bab (d. 1850),
who depended heavily on the akhbar in his early tafsir,
but appears to have abandoned their explicit use in
later similar works. In this later phase of commentary,
it is virtually impossible to distinguish between commentary,
text, reader, God, Prophet, and Imam. In short, the
exegetical act became scripture" ("Akhbari Shi`i Approaches
to Tafsir," 203; and Todd Lawson. "Reading Reading Itself: The Bab's `Sura of the Bees,' A Commentary on Qur'an 12:93 from the Sura of Joseph — Text, Translation and Commentary." Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Bahá'í Studies, vol. 1, no. 5 [November, 1997].) From the foregoing discussion, it
is clear that the principles of Shi`i hermeneutics
do indeed inform the Book of Certitude.
The Iqan represents, from a certain perspective, a clear
development of existing Shi`i tendencies, which Lawson
has brought to light. It is now possible to explain,
in retrospect, how it was theoretically possible for
a new authority claim to be asserted without appearing
to usurp the authority of the Qur'an. Such a procedure
was effected through Akhbari exegesis, in which the
exegesis, invoking the authority of sacred Imami tradition,
functionally supersedes the text it is intended to
elucidate. Since a break from the past had already
been effected by the Bab in both the Arabic and Persian
Bayan, the Book of Certitude may be seen as a development
of Babi "revelation" that overshot the renewal of Shi`ism
by a proverbial distance of two bows--that is, from
mujtahid to Manifestation. The revelation of the Bab
had made explicit what was for the most part implicit
in Shi`i visions of the end. Through the Bab, a new
eschatological landscape was outspread, canopied by
a new heaven of faith. The Book of Certitude further
reified this symbolic universe. Bahá'u'lláh's commentary
on the Qur'an was effectively the legitimation of the
Overcoming the Doctrine of the "Seal of the Prophets":
The Qur'an dignifies Muhammad as the "Seal of the Prophets
(Q. 33:40). In the earliest currents of Islamic consciousness,
this honorific was by no means understood uniformly
(see Yohanan Friedmann, "Finality of Prophethood in
Islam," Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 7 ).
The concept of Muhammad being the final messenger of
God was firmly entrenched in Islamic doctrine, both
Sunni and Shi`a. In Shi`ism, however, the concept of
walaya, as stated above, allowed for a continuation
of divine guidance after the death of the Prophet.
Such guidance was considered subordinate to the revelation
of the Qur'an. But the Bab had dared to proclaim himself
more than an Imam, and a messenger equal to or greater
than Muhammad, with a revelation that surpassed the
Qur'an in scope and authority. This, obviously, challenged
the very foundations of Islam.
From the perspective of classical Sunni Islam as well
as Shi`ism, Bahá'u'lláh achieved the seemingly impossible:
to show that God could reveal a prophet after Muhammad.
In a masterful feat of exegesis, Bahá'u'lláh applied
Qur'anic concepts of the oneness of the prophets to
relativize the idea of the "Seal of the Prophets."
He shows that orthodox claims to Muhammad's finality
as having traded on notions of triumphalism unmitigated
by the clear, Qur'anic teaching of prophetic unity.
Affirming that Muhammad was indeed the last prophet
within the "Prophetic Cycle" or Adamic Cycle (kur-i
Adam), a new epoch of human history was said to have
commenced with the advent of the Bab. In Bahá'í parlance,
this is the "Cycle of Fulfillment" or Bahá'í Cycle
While the accepted notion of the "Seal" as meaning "Last"
is kept intact, Bahá'u'lláh stresses the transcendent
importance of the term "Seal" over considerations of
historical sequence. Wedding the Qur'anic doctrine
of the oneness of the Prophets with Muhammad's distinctiveness
as the "Seal," Bahá'u'lláh writes: "Viewed in this
light, they [the Prophets] are all but Messengers of
that ideal King, that unchangeable Essence. And were
they all to proclaim: "I am the Seal of the Prophets,"
they verily utter but the truth..." (ET, 179). Through
an associative equivalence, Muhammad's uniqueness as
the "Seal of the Prophets" is distributed among all
other Messengers of God as an equally applicable title,
The Qur'anic encounter with God:
The notion of divine encounter forms an exegetical leitmotiv
in the Book of Certitude. Maintaining an exegetical
constant, Bahá'u'lláh takes pains to distance God from
all anthropomorphisms, Qur'anic or otherwise. The author
extends his purge of anthropomorphism to Qur'anic eschatology
as well, such that God never makes a personal appearance
in the apocalyptic drama (except by proxy), but rather
directs it. Since God cannot otherwise be "seen" or
even "known," in God's stead stands the theophany referred
to by the Bahá'í technical term, "Manifestation of
God." Thus understood, the Qur'an's reiterative threat
of encounter with God on the Judgment Day must refer
not to God as a person but to a Person (or "Manifestation")
of God. God's immediacy resides in the Mediator.
Just as Muhammad is said to "manifest" the Deity, so
must the Qur'anic eschatological "God" or "Presence
of God" represent a mediated Deity. Across the horizon
of history this Mediator stands. The Qur'an is thought
to contain cryptic hints of this eschatological figure.
A theology of transcendence will not allow the cryptic
references in the Qur'an to the "Presence of God" to
be anthropomorphic. If the "God" of the last Day cannot
be a man, perhaps a man on the Last Day can be "God"
(as His Messenger):
"Even as the Lord of being hath in His unerring Book,
after speaking of the "Seal" in His exalted utterance:
"Muhammad is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the
Prophets," [Q. 33:40] hath revealed unto all people
the promise of "attainment unto the divine Presence"
[Q. 33:44]. To this attainment to the presence of the
immortal King testify the verses of the Book... The
one true God is My witness! Nothing more exalted or
more explicit than "attainment unto the divine Presence"
(liqa' Allah) hath been revealed in the Qur'an...And
yet, through the mystery of the former verse, they
have turned away from the grace promised by the latter..."
In this remarkable passage, Bahá'u'lláh suggests that
what became the most definitive prophetological proof-text
in Islam had totally ignored the implications of theophanic
language appearing just four verses later.
Establishing the Bab as the Mahdi/Qa'im:
To have ventured the logical possibility of revelation
after Muhammad is one thing. To argue the authenticity
of a latter-day revelation is quite another. Bahá'u'lláh
turns the reader's attention to a specific eschatological
figure, who is clearly not Muhammad, and whose work
is that of a revelator and no mere renovator.
Shi`i as well as Sunni traditions presage the advent
of an messianic figure, known to both traditions as
the as the Mahdi, and to Shi`ism as the Qa'im. In Sunni
Islam, the Mahdi (literally, the "Guided One") is a
restorer who is to reestablish a just theocracy under
Islamic law. In Shi`ism, the Qa'im (literally, "Riser")
is more of a redresser of wrongs, an avenger. The Bab
identified with this figure. Bahá'u'lláh elaborates
on the Babi argument, already formulated by the Bab,
in defense of the Bab's mission.
The Bahá'í technical term for the period of Bahá'u'lláh's
messianic secrecy is ayyam-i butun ("Days of Concealment"),
a term used by Bahá'í chroniclers and evidently by
Bahá'u'lláh himself, a term that connotes the image
of embryonic development. A concept traceable to the
Bab (text cited by Denis MacEoin, "Hierarchy, Authority
and Eschatology," 123), ayyam-i butun must be factored
into any contextual reading of the Book of Certitude,
if Bahá'u'lláh's retrospective testimony is to be admitted.
What Bahá'u'lláh termed the "delay" and the "set time
of concealment" (cited in Shoghi effendi, God Passes
By , p. 151) is intimated in several self-referential
passages in the Book of Certitude, such as: "Say: O
people of the earth! Behold this flamelike Youth that
speedeth across the limitless profound of the Spirit,
heralding unto you the tidings: "Lo: the Lamp of God
is shining," and summoning you to heed His Cause which,
though hidden beneath the veils of ancient splendour,
shineth in the land of 'Iraq above the day-spring of
eternal holiness" (ET, 147). The translator, Shoghi
Effendi, succeeds in capturing a vigorous sense of
mission on the verge of disclosure. The many hints
to this effect in Bahá'u'lláh's writings during the
Baghdad period are in fact not, in the final analysis,
all that subtle. Such hints were not missed. Doubtless,
there were at least a few Babis perceptively alive
to these hints, who "recognized" Bahá'u'lláh before
his Declaration. Thus, on a thematic level, Bahá'u'lláh
has articulated an eschatologically conceived break
from Islam. Soon after the revelation of the Book of
Certitude, Bahá'u'lláh would, in effect, transform
Qur'anic eschatology into messianic authority. The
Author's exegetical techniques, therefore, played a
key role in preparing his readers for such an eventuality.
Relationship of the Bab to Bahá'u'lláh:
In Bahá'í thought, the relationship of the Bab to Bahá'u'lláh
is complex and multivalent. The Bab's mission was both
universal and particular: While the Bab's mission was
rhetorically addressed to the rulers and peoples of
the entire planet, the revelation of the Bab exhibited
a decidedly Islamic focus. In the Persian Bayan (II,
7), the Bab writes: "He [the Bab] appeareth not, save
for the purpose of gathering the fruits of Islam from
the Qur'anic verses which He [Muhammad] hath sown in
the hearts of men" (SWB 108). The eminent Bahá'í scholar
Fadil Mazandarani explained: "The Bab declared that
he had brought in but the Lesser Resurrection because
his message was circumscribed, limited to the Islamic
people and to one part of the world. But there would
arise a new consciousness, a universal resurrection,
and this new spiritual consciousness would sweep over
the entire world" ("The Life of the Bab," in Star of
the West 14.7 [Oct. 1923] 202). Within Bahá'í salvation-history,
the advent of the Bab, in eschatological terms, therefore
inaugurated the "Lesser Resurrection" (qiyamat-i sughra)
while Bahá'u'lláh's advent precipitated the "Greater
Resurrection" (qiyamat-i kubra), or, as in the Bab's
second Tablet to He Whom God Shall Manifest, "the Latter
Resurrection" (SWB 7).
However, the revelation of the Bab can scarcely be reduced
to a renovation of Islam. In the Kitab-i Asma' (XVI,
18), the Bab stated: "My Revelation is indeed far more
bewildering than that of Muhammad" (SWB 139). While
the Bab spoke in terms of the rejuvenation of Islam,
Bahá'u'lláh largely abandoned that approach, while
`Abdu'l-Bahá further distanced the Faith from its Islamic
orbit. The Bab's primary Islamic focus notwithstanding,
the scope of his religion was universal. Bahá'u'lláh
later took up these universal features and incorporated
much of the principles and precepts of the Bab into
the Bahá'í religion. Considerations of Shi`i, Babi,
and Bahá'í boundaries apart, the Islamic "content"
of both the Bab's and Bahá'u'lláh's revelations needs
to be appreciated as foundational. The Islamic ground
of Babi and Bahá'í thought can best be appreciated
if only we can distinguish the distinctive "innovations"
effected by the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh.
Advance legitimation of Bahá'u'lláh's own mission:
In the Book of Certitude, a subtext may be discerned,
in which Bahá'u'lláh intimates his own mission in the
same terms of reference, through a new messianic paradigm
employing the old symbols of Shi`ism. To the extent
that Bahá'u'lláh succeeded in vindicating the messianic
status (Qa'imiya) of the Bab, he succeeded, by implication,
in legitimating his own authority as well. The Book
of Certitude thus doubles as an apology for two eschatological
figures: explicitly, as an apology for the Bab (as
Qa'im) and, implicitly in anticipation of Bahá'u'lláh's
own mission, "He Whom God shall manifest" (Man yuzhiruhu
Allah). From this vantage, the Iqan may be thought
of as a work of covert revelation, during the period
of Bahá'u'lláh's messianic secrecy (1852-63), when
intimation preceded proclamation. In actual usage,
the Book of Certitude--within a year or two of its
circulation among the Babi community--reflexively legitimated
Bahá'u'lláh's own spiritual authority.
In the course of foreshadowing his own authority through
a defence of the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh sought to enchant,
through a persuasive suspension of disbelief, popular
anticipation of the eschaton, while disenchanting clerical
speculations, which tended to focus on miraculous preconditions
of apocalyptic fulfillment. This analysis of the Iqan
has heuristic value in discerning the structure of
Bahá'u'lláh's argument, in following how the author
surmounted theoretical obstacles to a realized eschaton,
the most formidable of which was Islam's doctrine of
Significance and Influence:
Nineteenth-century Islam saw the rise of several Islamic
movements, of which only one broke decisively with
Islam: the Bahá'í Faith. Though overtly Islamic in
its hermeneutical enterprise, the new ethos of a post-Qur'anic
revelation which the Book of Certitude defends makes
it unique in its role as, paradoxically, a non-Muslim
work of Qur'anic exegesis. Exegesis established a doctrinal
foundation for the Faith Bahá'u'lláh was to create,
in which eschatology was transformed into spiritual
and legislative authority.
The Book of Certitude provided an eschatological bridge
into a new religious world view. It started from the
shore of Islam, crossing reformist currents through
the gate of the Babi movement, progressively distancing
itself from Islam. Already the Babi movement had mediated
a formal break from Islam by means of a "new Qur'an"
and a new law code, though the latter was scarcely
implemented. On the other side of the bridge stood
the Babi messiah, the mystery figure of "He whom God
shall manifest" (man Yuzhiruhu'llah), who would appear
at the time indicated by the cabbalistic code word,
mustaghath. Subsequent to his writing of the Book of
Certitude, Bahá'u'lláh successfully identified himself
as this figure.
Both in principle and in practice, the Book of Certitude
helped crystallize Bahá'í identity and lent considerable
impetus to its missionary expansion. By virtue of its
diffusion in 205 or more sovereign and non-sovereign
countries and territories, the Kitab-i Iqan emerges
as the most influential work of Qur'anic exegesis outside
of the Muslim world. Though the Qur'an is not, strictly
speaking, part of the Bahá'í scriptural corpus, the
importance of this fact of non-Muslim Qur'anic exegesis
may be instanced in the parallel diffusion of Jewish
scriptures (the so-called Old Testament) at the hands
of Christian missionaries. What began as a Babi text
has ended up to be the principal doctrinal work of
a nascent world religion.
The Kitab-i Iqan and the "Sun of Iqan":
had there been no walaya, there might have been no
Bab or Bahá'u'lláh.) At once an agent of evolution and revolution,
the Bab pushes the possibilities of Shi`i concepts
of authority to their "logical" extremes. The Bab revealed
laws that could scarcely be fulfilled. Effecting a
formal break from Islam by purporting to renew it,
the Bab's laws were part of his rhetoric, not enduring
institutions. In the twilight of the eschaton, the
Bab was the "voice crying in the wilderness"--like
John the Baptist--and yet was the wilderness itself,
beyond the cultivated plains of traditional Islam.
If one deconstructs his rhetoric, one can see that
the Bab was not a mujaddid (renovator), in the Sunni
sense. The Qa'im (Riser), after all, is supposed to
inaugurate the Qiyama (Resurrection). This eschatological
end of history presupposes the formal end of Islam.
Thus a distinction obtains between renovation and fulfillment.
"Fulfillment" of Islam, while expressed in terms of
renewal, is tantamount to a break from it, from both
directions. The Bab had shifted the Shaykhi doctrinal kaleidoscope
in ways that only a trained Islamicist can fully appreciate.
Todd Lawson's work fills a lacuna--a chasm actually--in
Babi and Bahá'í studies, by carefully nuancing the
Bab's own originality against its nearly seamless continuity
with Shaykhi thought. After the Bab's martyrdom, Bahá'u'lláh
filled the charismatic vacuum, and eventually revealed
laws that totally dissolved traditional Islamic distinctions
between the non-Muslim Dar al-Harb ("the Realm of War") and
the Muslim-ruled lands of Dar al-Islam.
Bahá'u'lláh's "Great Peace" was inherently transconfessional,
which Juan Cole terms a "metareligion" (1998, p. 150).
This paradigm-shift required the authority of a messiah--actually,
of two messiahs.
Associated with Bahá'u'lláh's messianic claims are his
teachings. If one were to plot a "trajectory" of the
Iqan in terms of its influence and the body of teachings
with which it became associated, one might say that
the authority to reveal presupposes the revelation
itself. In his "Sura of Our Name, the Sender" (AQA
IV, p. 313), Bahá'u'lláh refers to himself as the "Sun
of the Iqan" (shams al-Iqan). The Iqan was the dawn
of that Sun. The Most Holy Book (Kitab-i Aqdas) and
the constellation of texts known collectively as "Tablets
of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitab-i Aqdas" represent
In fine, the Kitab-i Iqan focused on spiritual sovereignty,
on the moral and spiritual authority of the prophets
of God, particularly on the authority of the Bab and,
by implication, of Bahá'u'lláh himself. Later, Bahá'u'lláh
sacralized the temporal authority of just governments
and stressed the need for temporal authority to draw
upon religion as an indispensable resource, from which
moral authority could best be derived. Considering
that religious virtue is potentially superior to purely
civic virtue, Bahá'u'lláh's system of religious governance,
symbolized as "the Crimson Ark" (safina al-hamra'--the
quaternary set of colors--snow-white, emerald green,
crimson-red and golden yellow--forms an important tetrad
in Babi and Bahá'í thought, as Todd Lawson and Stephen
Lambden have shown), is designed to spiritualize humanity
in ways that are simply beyond the power of the state.
Religion can ideally exercise a sovereignty that derives
its power from the spiritual King, the prophet of the
age. This is one of the key themes of the Kitab-i Iqan,
as Bahá'u'lláh writes: "Verily, He Who is the Day-Star
of Truth and Revealer of the Supreme Being holdeth,
for all time, undisputed sovereignty over all that
is in heaven and on earth, though no man be found on
earth to obey him. He verily is independent of all
earthly dominion, though He be utterly destitute. Thus
We reveal unto thee the gems of divine wisdom, that
haply thou mayest soar on the wings of renunciation
to those heights that are veiled from the eyes of men"
(ET 97; Persian/Arabic 72).
Unresolved Textual Issues: Dating the Text
Having surveyed the style and content of the work, let us
now turn to some difficult issues surrounding the history
of the text. Internal evidence would appear to fix the date of the
revelation of the Kitab-i Iqan in the Islamic year
1278 A.H. (hezar o devist o haftad o hasht), which
corresponds to 9 July 1861 through 29 June 1862. However,
as Frank Lewis points out in his review [Bahá'í Studies
Review 6 (1996): 76-92] of my book, Symbol and Secret
(1995), some manuscripts of the Kitab-i Iqan indicate
the time of its revelation to have been year1280 A.H.
(hizar o devist o hashtad), which manuscript variant
appears to have been followed by Shoghi Effendi in
the authorized Bahá'í translation of the text. Lewis
theorizes that Bahá'u'lláh, when reviewing the master
copy of the Iqan that his son `Abdu'l-Bahá had transcribed,
had either updated the text to reflect the time during
which he had later added marginalia and made other
editorial changes, or had rounded off the date 1278
A.H. to a more "general, rather than specific date"
of 1280 A.H. (80-1). Moreover, as Lewis also points
out, no less an authority than the great Bahá'í scholar
Fazil Mazandarani (Asrar al Asrar, s.v. "Iqan," pp.
266-84) discusses the problem of dating the time of
revelation on the basis of internal evidence and proposes
his own solution by venturing the year 1279 A.H. as
the date of revelation! This, in the present writer's
opinion, is clearly an effort harmonize the dates,
without adequately accounting for the manuscript variants
Thomas Linard (personal communication) drew attention
to the 1280 date as a manuscript issue with regard
to the French translation of the Iqan. In Symbol and
Secret, I had speculated that Shoghi Effendi was rounding
off the 1278 date to 1280. My reason for saying this
(which is not spelled out in Symbol and Secret) was
that Shoghi Effendi, in a letter published in Unfolding
Destiny, mentions the 1278 date as internal evidence
for dating the revelation of the Iqan in 1861. (A later
letter on behalf of the Guardian mentions 1862, presumably
because 1278 A.H. falls within both those years.) Moreover,
in the first English translation of the Iqan, published
as The Book of Assurance (1904), translator Ali-Kuli
Khan evidently worked from a manuscript that read 1278
as well. As scholarship is a learning process, as well
as a community of discourse, I now agree with Thomas
Linard and Frank Lewis that the 1280 figure is indeed
a manuscript issue that needs to be addressed. In Symbol
and Secret, I have spoken of Bahá'u'lláh's "editing
of revelation" as a feature of the manuscript and publication
history of the Iqan. Clearly, a redaction history of
the Iqan needs to be written. This could only be done
if all of the master copies as well as lithographed
and printed editions of the Iqan could be collated
for comparison. This is why I have submitted copies
of both Iqan lithographs to H-Bahai for as appendices
to the electronic publication of this paper.
Fresh evidence for the dating of the Iqan has been brought
to light by Dr. Ahang Rabbani, in a draft manuscript,
"Conversion of the Great Uncle of the Bab," submitted
for publication in World Order Magazine. Dr. Rabbani
has translated a letter published in Khandan-i Afnan,
pp. 42-3, written by Haji Mirza Sayyid Muhammad to
his eldest son, Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, known as
the Vakil-Dawla, recounting the former's visit to the
Shrines of the Twin Imams at Kazimayn. This letter
was written from the `Atabat by the Bab's "Great Uncle"
(Khal-i Akbar) after he had visited Bahá'u'lláh and
had received the Kitab-i Iqan. The letter is dated
5 Rajab 1277 A.H. (17 January 1861). The letter, in
part, reads: "Praise be God, for what I have to write
you is that we attained the presence of His Holiness
Baha, upon Him be God's peace. Your place was indeed
empty. He showered us with utmost affection and kindness
and asked that we stay for the night and we remained
in His presence. The evident truth is that to be deprived
of the blessing of His presence is a mighty and evident
loss. May God bestow His grace upon us so that we would
everlastingly attain unto the blessing of His presence"
(translated by Ahang Rabbani).
The date of this letter provides a terminus ad quem,
which enables us to bracket the time of the revelation
of the Kitab-i Iqan, placing the date of the Iqan squarely
in 1277 A.H. rather than 1278, and probably just a
few days prior to 17 January 1861. This new finding
may be decisive in arriving at a nearly precise date
for the revelation of the Iqan. Dr. Rabbani is to be credited
with unearthing this new (and possibly conclusive)
evidence, even though I may have been the first
to realize its implications for dating the Iqan. The discovery
requires further investigation, as it would appear
to overrule the internal evidence of 1278 A.H. given
in the Iqan itself, upon which evidence Shoghi Effendi
based his own dating of 1861-62 (see discussion in
Symbol and Secret). Dr. Rabbani has written to the
Universal House of Justice to locate the original of
this important letter, in order to verify its date.
Manuscripts, editions, translations, studies:
A work of some two hundred pages in Persian and Arabic
admixed, the Kitab-i Iqan was probably the most copied,
widely circulated and influential of all Bahá'í works,
and was, as stated above, the first Bahá'í text to
have been authorized for publication. Except for the
later marginalia, emendations and subsequent editing
authorized by Bahá'u'lláh (esp. in aligning Qur'anic
citations with the textus receptus) prior to the publication
of the text, the entire book was dictated extemporaneously,
at an extraordinary pace, reportedly within the span
of forty-eight hours. (One authority, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl
Gulpaygani, claimed the text was revealed within twenty-four
hours! See introduction to Ali-Kuli Khan's The book
of Assurance ) It is not certain but probable
that Bahá'u'lláh dictated the Kitab-i Iqan to his amanuensis
Mirza Aqa Jan who was the most likely scribe to have
taken it down, while, as stated above, `Abdu'l-Bahá,
then eighteen years of age, produced, with marginal
additions by Bahá'u'lláh himself (on internal grounds,
added in the year 1280 A.H.), what is now considered
the manuscript original and master exemplar.
A distinction should be made between the original manuscript
and the manuscript original. The original manuscript
was the actual transcript of Bahá'u'lláh's Kitab-i
Iqan--the text as recorded in the scribal shorthand
known as "revelation writing"--taken down in great
haste, in an effort to keep pace with the celerity
of Bahá'u'lláh's dictation. As the actual record of
the revelatory event of the Iqan, this "revelation
writing" is not extant and is presumed lost. Therefore,
what is here termed the manuscript original (the first
master copy) is actually a decipherment, reconstitution
and redaction of the original manuscript, which, as
stated, is no longer extant. Thus, the authority of
the latter supersedes that of the former, although
the differences between the two are indeterminate.
Simply put, the Iqan is a case in which the revealer
has "re-revealed" a major revelation by editing it.
For decades, the manuscript original of the Kitab-i
Iqan was an heirloom in the family of Haji Mirza Sayyid
Muhammad, until, in 1948, his great-granddaughter Fatima
Khanum-i Afnan presented it to the Guardian of the
Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi (A. Taherzadeh, Revelation,
I, 159). This manuscript is now preserved in the International
Bahá'í Archives on Mount Carmel. Other manuscript copies
of the Kitab-i Iqan are preserved in the same archives
in Haifa, and in various Oriental collections in Europe,
such as British Museum manuscript, BL Or. 3116, foll.
78-127, of which Dr. Juan Cole (University of Michigan),
has kindly provided me a copy.
The Problem of Defective Manuscripts:
For around two decades following its revelation, the
Iqan circulated by hand transcription, the customary
means of reproduction. Textual errors were known to
have been made during the process of copying, resulting
in defective manuscripts. In an unpublished Tablet,
dated 1298 A.H., revealed for Mulla `Ali-Akbar Shahmirzadi
(Haji Akhund, whom Bahá'u'lláh had appointed a "Hand
of the Cause"), Bahá'u'lláh states that "some of the
copies of the Kitab-i Iqan are extant in this land
[`Akka], but all are not correct" (text in Iran National
Bahá'í Archives [INBA], no. 28: 193; personal communication,
Dr. Nosrat M. Hosseini). In order to rectify this problem,
Bahá'u'lláh oversaw the production of several authoritative
master copies. In a tablet to Jamal-i Burujirdi, Bahá'u'lláh
mentions having entrusted one such authoritative manuscript
of the Iqan to Mulla `Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi (Monjazeb,
op. cit.; cf. Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to Mulla `Ali-Akbar
Shahmirzadi, in Iran National Bahá'í Archives, no.
15 [132 B.E.]: 424 [reference provided by Dr. Nosrat
M. Hosseini, personal communication, 11 July 1993]).
This need to standardize so important a text may have
been a contributing factor in Bahá'u'lláh's decision
to authorize publication of the work in Bombay.
The First Bombay Lithograph:
As stated before, it is thought that the Iqan was the
first Bahá'í text officially authorized for publication.
The second such text was `Abdu'l-Bahá's Treatise on
Civilization (Risala-yi Madaniya), written in 1875
and presumed to have been lithographed in 1882. If
this is true, then a terminus ad quem is possible to
fix, in view of the fact that Rosen attests to the
existence of a "lithographed book published in 1299
A.H. in Bombay 'al-Asrar al-ghaybiyyih al-sabab al-madaniyyih'
pp. 94-101, about which see Collections Scientifiques
VI, 253-5." (p. 175, note 1, translated from the Russian
by Michael McKenny). Momen states that The
Secret of Divine Civilization (as `Abdu'l-Bahá's treatise
was known in the West) was printed in 1882 ("Bahá'í
Influence," 52 and 62, n. 17). Thus, the undated Iqan
lithograph cannot have been published later than 1882.
Corroboratively, Balyuzi states that the Iqan circulated
in the early 1880s (Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh: The King
of Glory, 165).
A handsome lithographed edition of 157 pages of 15 lines
each, and bearing no date, is arguably the first lithograph
of the Iqan. E. G. Browne was shown such a copy on
15 July 1888 in Kirman (A Year Amongst the Persians,
554). A copy of the undated lithograph is preserved
in the Bahá'í World Centre archives, catalogue no.
BP362.K8.1893 (based on tentative dating when catalogued).
It matches Najafi's facsimile (Bahá'íyan, 469), the
so-called 1308 A.H. edition. Three other copies of
this edition are known to exist: (1) the undated Bombay
lithograph described by Baron Rosen, donated in 1890
to the Library of the Institute of Oriental Languages
of St. Petersburg by M. Gamazof; (2) one held in the
private Afsharian Library, Los Angeles; (3) and another
privately auctioned in Chicago (Frank Lewis, personal
communication, 25 Oct 1996). Presumably other unattested,
undisclosed copies are held in private hands.
The St. Petersburg lithograph is evidently the one of
which Baron Rosen speaks (Collections scientifiques
6:142-4; cf. "Novuiya Babidskiya rukopisi," Zapiski
4 , 112-14). Rosen provides the following catalog
entry: "No. 245. This item is the lithograph edition
of the Kitab-i iqan produced in Bombay without title,
place or date. Apparently in ta'liq script printed
on good Indian paper with the hallmark, "Abdoolally
Abdoolrahim & Co., Importers" (Collections scientifiques
6:144, trans. from the French by Stephen Lambden, who
located this reference for me at my request).
It should be noted that Bahá'u'lláh's colophon at the
end of the text read manzul rather than munzal.
On the basis of this information, I believe that that
the undated Bombay lithograph of the Kitab-i Iqan archived
in the Institute of Oriental Languages library in St.
Petersburg is likely to have been printed by the same
publisher either in Rabi' I/January-February 1882 or
slightly before. The aforementioned importers are not
likely to have been the publishers. The undated Bombay
lithograph of the Iqan was most likelly published c.
1299/1881-82 (cf. Balyuzi, King of Glory, 165) by Hasani
Zivar Press, and that it was likely that the publication
was arranged by al-Hajj Muhammad-Husayn al-Hakim al-Bahá'í,
and that the lithograph is in the hand of Mirza Muhammad-`Ali
Shirazi. I am basing this identification on the assumption
that the first Bombay Iqan was published prior to or
concurrent with the publication of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Risala-yi
Madaniya (cf. Rosen, Collections scientifique 6:253).
A caveat is in order here. The Research Department
of the Universal House of Justice comments: " 'al-Hakim
al-Bahá'í' and also 'Shirazi' are cognomens that mask,
rather than reveal, the identities of these men involved
with the production of Bahá'í books" (letter dated
9 March 1995). An alternative suggestion has been made
that Bahá'u'lláh's son Mirza Muhammad-`Ali, who was
personally sent by Bahá'u'lláh to Bombay to transcribe
books for publication, was the one in whose hand the
undated lithograph was written. The memoirs of Syed
Mustafa Roumie may perhaps answer this very question.
However, I have my doubts that Mirza Muhammad-`Ali
did so, as the first Bombay lithograph lacks a colophon
in the "Khatt-i Badi`" ("the New Writing"
which Mirza Muhammad-`Ali
designed as the script for a new universal language),
which seems to have been his calligraphic trademark.
A facsimile of the undated Bombay Iqan lithograph is
provided in Appendix Two.
Suspension of Publication:
In the epistle to Mulla `Ali-Akbar,
we learn that Bahá'u'lláh, for an undisclosed period
of time, had suspended dissemination of the Kitab-i
Iqan some twenty years after it had first circulated,
owing to the threat of even greater dangers posed to
the Faith if too many copies of this work were to have
fallen into the hands of its enemies. Taherzadeh states:
"...Bahá'u'lláh advised caution and prudence. He explained
that it was not wise at that time to print books, because
should a large number of books become available, the
enemies of the Cause (who were waiting for an excuse)
could be provoked into bringing about an upheaval in
that land. Bahá'u'lláh intimates that it was for the
same reason that He had stopped the dissemination of
the Kitab-i Iqan which had been printed [sic] some
twenty years before" (A. Taherzadeh, The Revelation
of Bahá'u'lláh, 4: 321-22, citing Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet
to Mulla `Ali-Akbar, from INBA, No. 15, pp. 423-424.)
The term "printed" here is problematic, and probably
should be construed as "reproduced" or "disseminated."
The reference to twenty years prior should be understood
"publication" of the Iqan by transcription.
The Second Bombay Lithograph (= First Dated Lithograph):
The first dated lithograph of the Kitab-i Iqan is the
Dhu'l-Qa`dah 1310 A.H. (1893) edition in the hand of the celebrated
calligrapher Mishkin-Qalam, in nasta'liq script, 214
pages. The text is possibly based on the master copy
Bahá'u'lláh entrusted to Haji Akhund. This edition
is catalogued as BP 362.K8.1892 in the Bahá'í World
Centre Library, Department of Library and Archival
Services. Three copies are archived at the Bahá'í World
Centre. A facsimile of the first page of this edition
appears on p. xviii of Symbol and Secret, where, through
a publisher's error, it was misidentified as the undated
lithograph. A facsimile of the final page is correctly
shown on page 108 of Symbol and Secret, but is not,
as the caption indicates, privately held in the Afsharian
Library. A facsimile of the entire text of the 1310
lithograph is posted at the end of this article (see
The relatives of the Bab, known colectively as the Afnan,
ran a successful printing house, called Naseri Press,
in Bombay (Balyuzi, Eminent Bahá'ís, 121). If Hasani
Zivar Press was not in fact the publisher of the undated
Bombay lithograph, then it could well have been Naseri
The first printed (typeset) edition of the Kitab-i Iqan
was published in Egypt (Cairo: Mawsu`at Press, 1318/1900),
in 216 pages. Minor editing (Arabicizing of Persian
stylisms and aligning Qur'an citations with the textus
receptus) in manuscript copies as well as in lithographs
of the Iqan had been authorized by Bahá'u'lláh himself.
This first typeset edition standardized all subsequent
printings. A Cairo reprint in 1933 bears the title,
Kitab-i mustatab-i Iqan. Presently, the Persian text
is most accessible (sans index) in Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i
Iqan: Book of Certitude ("Reprinted from the original
printing, Egypt, 1934 [sic],"; Hofheim-Langenhain:
Bahá'í-Verlag, 1980/136 Bahá'í Era).
Printed Editions of The Kitab-i Iqan
First edition: Early 1880's Bombay Lithographed
Second edition: 1310/1893 Bombay Lithographed
Third edition: 1318/1900 Cairo Printed
Reprint: 1352/1933 Cairo Printed
Other editions: Tehran, Cairo, Delhi, Germany.
A new edition of the Kitab-i Iqan, commissioned by the
Universal House of Justice and edited by Fereydun Vahman
(University of Copenhagen) is currently in press (Hofheim-Langenhain:
Bahá'í-Verlag). It is based on a master copy transcribed
by the celebrated amanuensis, Zayn al-Muqarrabin. this
raises an interesting question: Why would the manuscript
original of the Iqan, in the hand of Abdu'l-Bahá with
Bahá'u'lláh's own emendations and marginal additions,
be is set aside in favor of a copy from Zayn al-Muqarrabin?
Since my request to Haifa for a copy of Iqan original
was declined, except for facsimiles of the first and
final pages, which the Universal House of Justice kindly
gave permission to be published in Symbol & Secret,
I have therefore not been able to compare the lithographed
versions with the original. However, my educated guess
is that Bahá'u'lláh's later editing of the Iqan for
publication (aligning Qur'an citations with the textus
receptus, and effecting minor stylistic changes) resulted
in a new master copy(ies) which, strange to say, rendered
the original Iqan MS obsolete!
Translations: The first English translation of the Kitab-i
Iqan was undertaken by Ali Kuli Khan, assisted by Howard
MacNutt, The Book of Assurance (New York: George V.
Blackburne, Co., 1904). This translation is, in certain
passages, useful for its unidiomatic fidelity to the
text. A French translation appeared in the same year:
Bahá'u'lláh, Le Livre de la Certitude (tr. H[ippolyte].
Dreyfus and Mirza Habib-Ullah Chirazi [Mirza Habib
Allah Shirazi]; Paris: E. Leroux, 1904). The authorized
English rendering is that of Shoghi Effendi, The Kitab-i
Iqan: The Book of Certitude (Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1931) with several reprintings.
Abbas Amanat, Resurrection
and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran,
1844-1850 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989)
Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri. The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Book of Certitude,
trans. Shoghi Effendi. (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1970)
M. Balyuzi, Eminent Bahá'ís in the Time of Bahá'u'lláh
(Oxford: George Ronald, 1985) 121, 221, 227.
Bausani, "Some Aspects of Bahá'í Expressive Style,"
World Order 13 (1978-79) 36-43; ; idem, A Year Amongst
the Persians (London: Cambridge, 1893/ reprinted Cambridge,
1926/rpnt. Amsterdam, 1984).
Balyuzi Hasan M. Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh,
The King of Glory (Oxford: George Ronald, 1980) 163-67
E. G. Browne, Selections from the Writings
of E. G. Browne on the Babi and Bahá'í Religions, ed.
by Moojan Momen (Oxford: George Ronald, 1987) 248-54.
Christopher Buck, Paradise and Paradigm: Key
Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith
(Albany: State University of New York Press, forthcoming
The present writer's forthcoming
book. Complementary historical
and structural analyses of Bahá'u'lláh's sociomoral
teachings are provided in order to show a pattern whereby
Bahá'u'lláh had selectively "sacralized the secular"
developments in the West with the greatest institutional
potential for world reform. At the same time, Bahá'u'lláh's
creation of consultative Houses of Justice at local/intermediate
and international levels suggests what in some ways
may be seen as a parallel system of religious governance,
with a mandate to exert an equally reciprocal moral
influence on the state. The notion of "separation of church and
state", argued for by Cole, is thus counterpoised
by the pervasive influence of religion that Bahá'u'lláh advocated.
--------, Symbol and Secret: Qur'an
Commentary in Bahá'u'lláh's Kitab-i Iqan. Studies in
the Babi and Bahá'í religions, vol. 7 (Los Angeles:
Kalimat Press, 1995).
--------, "A Unique Eschatological Interface:
Bahá'u'lláh and Cross-Cultural Messianism," in In Iran.
Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol. 3 (ed. P.
Smith; Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1986) 157-79.
"Bahá'u'lláh as 'World Reformer'," Journal of Bahá'í
Studies 3.4 (1990-91) 23-70.
Juan R. I. Cole, "Bahá'u'lláh's 'Surah of the
Companions': An Early Edirne Tablet of Declaration
(c. 1864). Introduction and Provisional Translation,"
Bahá'í Studies Bulletin 5.3/6.1 (June 1991) 4-74.
--------, "Iranian Millenarianism
and Democratic Thought in the Nineteenth Century,"
International Journal of Middle East Studies 24.1 (1992):
--------, Modernity and the Millennium:
The Genesis of the Bahá'í Faith in the Nineteenth-Century
Middle East. Studies in the Babi and Bahá'í religions,
vol. 9 (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1998);
This book by Cole is an important and controversial analysis of Bahá'u'lláh's
political and humanitarian teachings--the
first academic monograph on the subject. In it, Cole
intends to "link Bahá'í millenarianism with social
reform motifs" (205, n. 4). Adducing an array of Bahá'í
primary sources, contextualized and interpreted in
light of key political terms of reference that prevailed
in the 19th-century Middle East, Cole argues that the
separation of church and state was clearly advocated
by both Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá.
Lambden, "Some Notes on Bahá'u'lláh's Gradually Evolving
Claims of the Adrianople/Edirne Period," Bahá'í Studies
Bulletin 5.3/6.1 (June 1991) 75-83.
Todd Lawson, "Akhbari Shi`i Approaches
to Tafsir," in Approaches to the Qur'an, ed. by G.
R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef (London: Routledge,
--------, "The Dangers of
Reading: Inlibration, Communion and Transference in
the Qur'an Commentary of the Bab," in Scripture and
Revelation, ed. by Moojan Momen (Oxford: George Ronald,
--------. "Reading Reading Itself: The Bab's `Sura of the Bees,' A Commentary on Qur'an 12:93 from the Sura of Joseph— Text, Translation and Commentary." Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Bahá'í Studies, vol. 1, no. 5 (November, 1997).
Denis MacEoin, "Divisions and Authority Claims in Babism (1850-1866),"
Studia Iranica 18 (1989) 93-129.
of the question of Bahá'u'lláh's messianic consciousness
at the time of the revelation of the Book of Certitude
is a full projection of a century-old Azali view of
the role of Mirza Yahya Subh-i Azal in the Babi community.
MacEoin's case is widely based on Azali interpretations
of Bahá'u'lláh's writings as represented in works such
as Tanbih'un-Na'imin by `Izziyyih Khanum (d. 1322 A.H./1904).
The authenticity of Bahá'u'lláh's Writings quoted in
this work has not yet been verified.
(personal communication, Research Department memorandum,
10 September 1991). Weighed with this bias in mind,
MacEoin's studies provide much that is useful.
--------. "Hierarchy, Authority and Eschatology in Early
Babi Thought," in In Iran. Studies in the Babi and
Bahá'í Religions, Vol. 3 (ed. P. Smith; Los Angeles:
Kalimat Press, 1986) 95-155.
--------. "Questions of Sayyid Muhammad Shirazi, Uncle of the Bab" Translations of Shaykhi, Babi and Bahá'í Texts vol. 1, no. 2 (June, 1997).
Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh. Vol. One: Baghdad, 1853-63 (Oxford: George
Ronald, 1974) 153-97.
Shoghi Effendi [Rabbani], God Passes By
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1944/1970) 138-40.
Baron Victor Rosen, Collections Scientifiques de l'Institut
des Langues Orientales du Ministère des Affairs Estrangeres,
Vol. 3. Manuscrits Persans (St. Petersburg: Institute
of Oriental Languages, 1886) 33-51.
Bonebakker, Some Early Definitions
of the Tawriya (The Hague: Mouton, 1966);
"Finality of Prophethood in Sunni Islam," Jerusalem
Studies in Arabic and Islam 7 (1986) 177-215;
W. Heinrichs, The Hand of the Northwind:
Opinions on Metaphor and the Early Meaning of Isti`ara
in Arabic Poetics (Wiesbaden: Deutsche Morgenlandische
Gesellschaft, 1977); M. Momen, "The Bahá'í Influence
on the Reform Movements of the Islamic World in the
1860s and 1870s," Bahá'í Studies Bulletin 2.2 (Sept.
1983) 47-65; A. Rippin, "tafsir," in Encyclopedia of
Religion (ed. M. Eliade; New York: Macmillan, 1987)
Vol. 14, 236-44; idem (ed.), Approaches to the History
of the Interpretation of the Qur'an (Oxford University
Press, 1988); J. Wansbrough, Quranic Studies: Sources
and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation (Oxford University
APPENDIX ONE (offsite):
FACSIMILE OF 1310/May-June 1893 IQAN LITHOGRAPH
From the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental
Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, I received a
microfilm of a copy of the 1310 Bombay lithograph of
the Kitab-i Iqan. After considerable expense in duplicating
the microfilm and scanning it into digitized TIFF images,
I am making a complete facsimile of this rare manuscript
available on H-Bahá'í. There are no illuminated pages.
While the text of the Iqan is in Mishkin-Qalam's hand,
it is not calligraphic art, strictly speaking.
The box containing the microfilm had a label, on which
is written: "Microfilm of Kitab-i Mustatab-i Iqan,
label, on which is written: "Microfilm of Kitab-i Mustatab-i
Iqan, Lithograph is kept in the St. Petersburg Branch
of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy
of Sciences. 108 frames." in the upper left corner
of the box containing the microfilm is the number (I
presume a catalogue number): "PS II 164". The microfilm
is not in very good shape, with spills, scratches,
and dust on it. It did not come on a spool--just loose,
For archival preservation, an ISO 9660 CD-ROM of 110
TIFF images (the 108 microfilm frames plus two start/end
frames) has been mastered. The size of the images is
4512 (pixel width = 22.56") x 3360 (pixel height =
16.8"), at a resolution of 200 dpi, in B/W 1-bit depth.
The file format is TIFF (B), with a compression ratio
of 1:23. For Web presentation these tifs have been converted
to compressed graphic image files (gif) and each page has been cropped for
presentation as a single image file.
APPENDIX TWO (offsite):
FACSIMILE OF UNDATED IQAN LITHOGRAPH
Undated Bombay lithograph (c. 1882), obtained from the
Afsharian Private Collection (Los Angeles), with the
kind permission of Mr. Payam Afsharian, co-founder
of Kalimat Press.