It is the intention of this paper to present a review of the rank and
station of the Kitáb-i-Íqán according to the primary
Bahá'í literature - the writings of Bahá'u'lláh,
'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi - and to provide a study outline
of its contents.(1)
Bahá'u'lláh on the Íqán
In a number of texts Bahá'u'lláh emphasises the importance
of the Íqán. For instance, Bahá'u'lláh states
in a Tablet to Mírzá Abú'l-Fadl concerning questions
of Manakji Limji Hataria, probably revealed between 1877 and 1882, that
the Kitáb-i-Íqán is "the Lord of Books [Sayyid-i-Kutub]"(2)
(Má'idiy-i-Ásmání 157, provisional translation).
Furthermore in the Kitáb-i-Íqán itself, Bahá'u'lláh
states that, "all the Scriptures, and the mysteries thereof are condensed
into this brief account," (Íqán 237) and that it can
unfold "all the allusions and the implications of the utterances of the
Manifestations of Holiness" (Íqán 28). The following
are a selection of such quotations:
. . . the things We have already mentioned suffice the
world and all that is therein. In fact, all the Scriptures, and the mysteries
thereof are condensed into this brief account. So much so that were a person
to ponder it a while in his heart, he would discover from all that hath
been said the mysteries of the Words of God, and would apprehend the
meaning of whatever hath been manifested by that ideal King. (Íqán
237, emphasis added)
'Abdu'l-Bahá on the Íqán
Were you to ponder, but for a while, these utterances
in your heart, you would surely find the portals of understanding unlocked
before your face, and would behold all knowledge and mysteries thereof
unveiled before your eyes. (ibid. 52, emphasis added, cf. 19)
This servant will now share with thee a dewdrop out of
the fathomless ocean of the truths treasured in these holy words, that
haply discerning hearts may comprehend all the allusions and the implications
of the utterances of the Manifestations of Holiness, so that the overpowering
majesty of the Word of God may not prevent them from attaining unto the
ocean of His names and attributes, nor deprive them of recognising the
Lamp of God which is the seat of the revelation of His glorified Essence.
(ibid. 28, emphasis added)
Briefly, there hath been revealed in the Kitáb-i-Íqán
(Book of Certitude) concerning the Presence and Revelation of God that
which will suffice the fair-minded. (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
119, cf. 97, 168)
As to thy question that in the Religion of Zoroaster it
is stated: "This (Zoroastrianism) is superior and better than the religions
of the past." By this is meant superiority relative to the past. These
sanctified Beings in one station are all one. Their first is the last and
Their last is the first. All have come from God; all have summoned mankind
to God, and all have returned to Him. These matters are revealed in the
Kitáb-i-Íqán, which is in truth the Lord of Books
[Sayyid-i-Kutub], the Book that has flowed from the Pen of the Most
High. Blessed is the one who hath seen it and been a witness to its testimony
and hath pondered its contents for the love of God, the Lord of mankind.
(Má'idiy-i-Ásmání 157, provisional translation,
As to thy question on 'resurrection', in the Kitáb-i-Íqán
is revealed that which is all-sufficing. (Majmú'ih 166, provisional
Peruse thou the Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book
of Certitude) . . . that thou mayest be made aware of the things that
have happened in the past, and be persuaded that We have not sought
to spread disorder in the land after it had been well-ordered. (Epistle
97, and Tablets 210, emphasis added)
'Abdu'l-Bahá refers to the Íqán on a number of
occasions in explaining the concept of 'return'. For instance, in an explanation
of the meaning of the "Second Coming of Christ and the Day of Judgement",
he says: "Bahá'u'lláh has explained these verses in the Kitáb-i-Íqán.
There is no need of repetition, refer to it, and you will understand these
sayings" (Some Answered Questions
110). Other references include:
The "return" which is mentioned in the bygone Scriptures
is . . . fully explained by the Supreme Pen in the Kitáb-i-Íqán.
Refer to it, so that you may be informed of the truth of the divine mysteries.
In the book of the Íqán we can read the
Word of God concerning the true Reincarnation, which is the Return of the
Spiritual Qualities in the Servants of God. (qtd. in Grundy, Ten Days
Howard Colby Ives describes how 'Abdu'l-Bahá answers a question
of his on the relationship of Christianity to the Bahá'í
Faith by referring to the Íqán:
. . . men have entirely forgotten the pure teachings
of this "Essence of Severance" [Christ]. He ['Abdu'l-Bahá] remarked
that His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh speaks of this in the Book
of Certitude and that I should study it carefully. In that book is
explained how these stars of the Heaven of Christ's Revelation have fallen
to the earth of worldly desires. On their tongues the mention of God has
often become an empty name; in their midst His Holy Word a dead letter.
This condition is that to which Christ refers, He said, when He speaks
of "oppression or affliction of the Last Days." (Ives, Portals 125)
Also, in a talk at the home of the Kinneys in New York in 1912, 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
in describing the contents of Bahá'u'lláh's writings, says
of the Íqán:
In the Kitáb-i-Íqán He has given
expositions of the meanings of the Gospel and other heavenly Books. ('Abdu'l-Bahá,
Shoghi Effendi on the Íqán
Shoghi Effendi has written that the Íqán is "the most
fundamental book on the Bahá'í Revelation"(4)
and the "most important book written on the spiritual significance of the
Cause" (The Light of Divine Guidance
, 37). It is a "book of unsurpassed
pre-eminence among the writings of the Author of the Bahá'í
foreword), and "from a Bahá'í
point of view [it is] far more important and significant than any other
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, with the exception of the Aqdas."(5)
On many occasions Shoghi Effendi directed Bahá'ís to "read
and read over again" the Íqán in their attempts to deepen
in the Cause,(6)
and he writes to George
Townshend that "the book is so important that the most minute detail is
worthy of consideration".(7)
The significance of the Íqán, he states, lies in the fact
that it "is the most important book wherein Bahá'u'lláh explains
the basic beliefs of the Faith",(8) and
"contains the basic tenets of Faith"(9)
and "the very essence of the Teachings, and because of its clarity and
relative simplicity can greatly appeal to every thoughtful reader".(10)
In it "the entire religious philosophy of the Cause is clearly sketched
and every thoughtful student of religion cannot but be interested in it",(11)
and it "explains the attitude of the Cause to the Prophets of God and their
mission in the history of society,"(12)
describes "the mystic unity of God and His Manifestations" (World Order
137, cf. Íqán 4) and "deepens the knowledge of the
reader by acquainting him with some of the basic theological problems of
the Faith. It is therefore indispensable for every student of the Movement".(13)
It is "Bahá'u'lláh's masterful exposition of the one unifying
truth underlying all the Revelations of the past" (World Order 61-2),
and can lead the reader to "obtain a clear insight into the old scriptures
and appreciate the true mission of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh".(14)
In relation to the Báb's revelation, the Guardian states that "Nowhere
but in the Kitáb-i-Íqán . . . can we obtain a clearer
apprehension of the potency of those forces inherent in that Preliminary
Manifestation . . ." (World Order 61-2). Shoghi Effendi emphasises
the significance of the Íqán in the history of religions
in the following way:
Well may it be claimed that of all the books revealed
by the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation, this Book alone,
by sweeping away the age-long barriers that have so insurmountably separated
the great religions of the world, has laid down a broad and unassailable
foundation for the complete and permanent reconciliation of their followers.
(God Passes By 139, emphasis added)
Moreover Shoghi Effendi hoped that studying the Íqán would
"infinitely enhance the teaching work in the West"(15)
and that the "faith [of the Bahá'ís] would be re-inforced
by a true intellectual understanding"(16)
and "their comprehension of the essentials of the Faith" would be deepened.(17)
In an untranslated letter of Shoghi Effendi to the Persian Bahá'ís,
he stated that despite the virtual extinction of Bábí support
after the many horrendous persecutions, Bahá'u'lláh enunciated
that the Cause of God will be victorious in the subsequent Dispensation
which he inaugurated:
After the establishment of the throne of the Lord of
mankind in the City 'Abode of Peace', in His most excellent [mustatáb]
Kitáb-i-Íqán, He describes the future of the unbelievers(18)
. . . (Shoghi Effendi, Má'idiy-i-Ásmání
163-4, provisional translation)
God Passes By
explains the relationship of the Íqán
to the other volumes of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation. It may
be possible, in one perspective, to rank the following three works - the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Kitáb-i-Íqán and The
Foremost among the priceless treasures cast forth from
the billowing ocean of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation ranks the
Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude). . . This Book, setting
forth in outline the Grand Redemptive Scheme of God, occupies a position
unequalled by any work in the entire range of Bahá'í literature,
except the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh's Most Holy
Book. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 138-139)
Next to this unique repository of inestimable treasures
[Kitáb-i-Íqán] must rank that marvellous collection
of gem-like utterances, the Hidden Words. . . (ibid. 139-140)
Furthermore, Shoghi Effendi indicates that there are three volumes of Bahá'u'lláh's
writings that can be considered the most important in their category: the
Kitáb-i-Íqán as the pre-eminent "doctrinal" work,
The Hidden Words
as the foremost of his "ethical" writings,
and the Seven Valleys
as his "greatest mystical composition":
To these two outstanding contributions to the world's
religious literature [Kitáb-i-Íqán and The
Hidden Words], occupying respectively, positions of unsurpassed
pre-eminence among the doctrinal and ethical writings of the Author of
the Bahá'í Dispensation, was added, during that same period,
a treatise that may well be regarded as His greatest mystical composition,
designated as the "Seven Valleys,". . . (ibid. 139-140)
At a time when the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is reaching the Bahá'í
world through its first authoritative translation with "its world-shaking
significance" (Universal House of Justice, Ridván 1992 message),
it is noteworthy that the Universal House of Justice refers to "the incomparable
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" and directs our attention to "all
that has flowed from His prodigious, truth-bearing pen" (letter to the
Bahá'ís of the world, 5 March 1993).
Although the primary Bahá'í literature reiterates the
importance of the Kitáb-i-Íqán, it is possible to
see that these writings have also placed complementary emphases on the
subject matter of the work. Bahá'u'lláh, in the Íqán
itself, primarily discusses its potential to elucidate and interpret Scripture.
'Abdu'l-Bahá focuses on its Christian relevance, relating it to
the North American culture in which he was living and teaching at the time.
Shoghi Effendi, however, emphasises its importance in clarifying basic
Bahá'í tenets and the essence of Bahá'í belief.
The beloved Guardian also makes the bold claim that it provides the means
to reconcile the theological barriers between religions.
It is interesting that Bahá'í writers in the West have
focused on the Íqán as explaining the Bahá'í
approach to other religions. Three examples are worthy of mention. Hippolyte
Dreyfus' introduction to his 1908 translation of the Íqán
into French, presents it as a work which "examines the writings of Moses,
of Muhammad and Jesus, analyses certain passages of Scripture, . . . and
demonstrates the Unity that connects all the divine Manifestations" (Introduction
xi). George Townshend, who is perhaps the first Western Bahá'í
to apply the Íqán in a scholarly manner to his work, says,
in a letter to Shoghi Effendi, that The Heart of the Gospel "applies
the principles of the Ighan [sic] to the Bible; and the introduction
[to The Heart of the Gospel] makes this statement" (qtd. in Hofman,
Townshend 281). His analysis, in the introduction to the 1939 edition,
emphasises that the Íqán is a work explaining the concept
of the progressiveness of Divine revelation, and expands and elaborates
this principle of the Bible "in a more modern manner and with more of philosophic
detail" (qtd. in ibid. 272). Helen Reed Bishop's introduction to the 1950
English edition makes the observation that the Íqán argues
against the Christian rejection of Islam, and consequently the work illustrates
to "Westerners . . . how vital was Islám's part in the unity of
religion" (Introduction, xx).
Few writers, however, have stressed the spiritual experience and rewards
of reading the Íqán. The only description of this
that the authors have been able to find was Arthur Agnew's back in 1907:
At times when reading the Book of Ighan . . .
the spirit of light, joy and gladness has come over me, which I have not
been able to ascribe to any word or sentence or to any one idea or thought.
It seemed like a radiance arising from the Book, from the Certainty of
Truth. (Agnew, Wonderland 81)
'Abdu'l-Bahá. Promulgation of Universal Peace:
Talks delivered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His visit to the United States
and Canada in 1912. 2d. ed. Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing
___. Some Answered Questions. Rev. ed. Wilmette:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984.
Agnew, A.S. "In Wonderland", in In Galilee by
T. Chase. Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1985.
Aids for the Study of the Kitáb-i-Íqán.
n.p., n.d. [198-] (privately published)
Bahá'u'lláh. Epistle to the Son of the
Wolf. Trans. Shoghi Effendi. Rev. ed. Wilmette: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1979.
___. Kitáb-i-Íqán: The Book of
Certitude. Trans. Shoghi Effendi. Rev. ed. Wilmette: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1983.
___. 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. Má'dih-yi
Ásmání. Ed. Ishráq-khávarí.
Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 129 B.E./1972-73.
Balyuzi, H.M. Bahá'u'lláh, The King
of Glory. Oxford: George Ronald, 1980.
Bishop, Helen Reed. "Introduction" to the Kitáb-i-Íqán:
The Book of Certitude. 2d edition. Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing
Dreyfus, Hippolyte. "Introduction" to Le Livre de
la Certitude (Kitábou'l Íqán). Repr. Paris: Librairie
Ernest Leroux, 1928.
Grundy, J.M. Ten Days in the Light of 'Akká.
Rev. ed. Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979.
Hofman, D. George Townshend. Oxford: George Ronald,
The Importance of Deepening our Knowledge and Understanding
of the Faith. Comp. The Universal House of Justice. Wilmette: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1983.
Ives. H.C. Portals to Freedom. Repr. Oxford: George
"Know Your Bahá'í Literature: Kitáb-i-Íqán
or The Book of Certitude." American Bahá'í, January
Shoghi Effendi. God Passes By. Rev. ed. Wilmette:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974.
___. The Light of Divine Guidance: The Messages from
the Guardian to the Bahá'ís of Germany and Austria. Vol.1.
Hofheim-Langenhain: Bahá'í-Verlag, 1982.
___. The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh:
Selected Letters. Rev. ed. Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing
Taherzadeh, A. The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh:
Baghdad, 1853-63. Vol. 1. Oxford: George Ronald, 1974.
Appendix 1: An Index
The present editions of the Íqán do not contain an outline
to its contents. The following one is suggested in an article in The
American Bahá'í (January 1965, p.7):
1. To attain the knowledge of God one must put one's trust in Him and
disregard the standards of men (3-14).
2. The reasons for failure to recognise and accept the Manifestations
of God (14-89).
3. In this age the story of past Dispensations is being repeated (13-83).
4. The people of the Bayán should take warning not to forget
the wishes and admonitions of their own Book lest they inflict on the Manifestation
of God what was inflicted before (92-93).
1. The Manifestations reveal an all-compelling power (97-139).
2. The greatest of blessings is to attain the presence of the Manifestation
of God in the Day of the Resurrection (139-147).
3. In each Dispensation there occurs a return of the qualities exhibited
in earlier Dispensations (148-161).
4. All the Divine Manifestations are at the same time the First and
the Last, the Beginning and the End (161-175).
5. The Manifestations of God each have a twofold station: the Station
of Unity and the Station of Distinction (152-154, 176-181).
6. The Seeker must turn to the Prophets (182-191).
7. The Seeker and his requirements (192-195).
8. The Seeker will be transformed (196-199).
9. By the "City of Certitude" is meant the Word of God which is the
greatest testimony and proof of the Manifestation (199-211).
10. The peoples of every age at the end of their Dispensation, afflicted
with the same spiritual disease, believe their Manifestation to be the
Final One (135-137, 213-221).
11. Proofs of the Revelation of God in this age (221-257).
Appendix 2: Thematic Guide
Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By (139) sets forth the major themes
of the Kitáb-i-Íqán. The following is a list,
reproduced from Aids for the Study of the Kitáb-i-Íqán.
(Section IV), with suggested page references to the text opposite:
1. Proclaims unequivocally:
the existence and oneness of a personal God (91, 99,
Unknowable (52, 90, 98-99, 142)
Inaccessible (53, 98-99, 141)
the source of all Revelation (99, 100)
Eternal (9, 16, 17, 135)
Omniscient (98, 170)
Omnipresent (55, 67, 97, 125, 126)
Almighty (170, 176, 206, 219, 243)
a) the relativity of religious truth (98-99)
b) the continuity of Divine Revelation (14, 23)
a) the unity of the Prophets (20-22, 99, 103-104, 107,
152-154, 161-164, 176-177)
b) the universality of their Message (210, 240)
c) the identity of their fundamental teachings (21, 38-39,
d) the sanctity of their scriptures (197-200, 205-206)
e) the twofold character of their stations (21, 150,
4. Denounces the blindness and perversity (15-16, 36, 81-83,
of the divines and doctors of every age (122, 164-166,
182-184, 210, 214, 247)
5. Cites and elucidates:
a) the allegorical passages of the New Testament (24-80)
b) the abstruse verses of the Qur'án (255)
c) and the cryptic Muhammadan traditions which have bred those age-long
misunderstandings, doubts, and animosities that have sundered and kept
apart the followers of the world's leading religious systems (162,
184-188, 201, 238)
6. Enumerates the essential pre-requisites for the attainment (3,
70, 120, 192-196)
by every true seeker of the object of his quest (211)
7. Demonstrates the validity, the sublimity and significance of the Báb's
8. Acclaims the heroism and detachment of His disciples (222,
9. Foreshadows and prophecies the world-wide triumph of the Revelation
promised to the people of the Bayán (77-78, 93)
10. Upholds the purity and innocence of the Virgin Mary (56-57)
11. Glorifies the Imáms of the Faith of Muhammad (35,
39, 106, 144, 153)
12. Celebrates the martyrdom and lauds the spiritual sovereignty of
the Imám Husayn 126-129
13. Unfolds the meaning of such symbolic terms as:
a) "Return" 151-161
b) "Resurrection" 116, 118, 144, 170
c) "Seal of the Prophets" 162, 169, 179, 213
d) "Day of Judgement" 116
14. Adumbrates and distinguishes between 100-102, 139-142
the three stages of Divine Revelation 169, 201
15. Expatiates in glorious terms upon the glories and wonders of the "City
of God", renewed at fixed intervals, by the dispensation of Providence,
for the guidance, the benefit and salvation of all mankind 196-200
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End Notes (Press "Back" to return to article.)
1. For background historical information
on the Íqán, see Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh
163-5, and Taherzadeh, Revelation (Vol. 1) 153-9.
2. The word 'sayyid' in this
verse can also be translated as 'prince' and 'sovereign'.
3. This reference and the next one
from Portals to Freedom are not authenticated statements of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
4. Appended in his own handwriting
to a letter written on his behalf dated 9 June 1932.
5. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi dated 2 December 1936.
6. For instance, the following letters
written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi state:
"He fully approves the idea of holding study classes,
for the deeper the friends go in their understanding of their teachings
the more firm and steadfast they will become and the more unwavering in
their support of the institutions of the Faith. Books such as the Íqán,
"Some Answered Questions" and the "Dawn-Breakers" should be mastered by
every Bahá'í. They should read these books over and over
again. The first two Books will reveal to them the significance of this
divine revelation as well as the unity of all the Prophets of Old."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer
dated 9 June 1932, qtd. in Deepening no. 106).
"Books such as the Íqán, Some Answered
Questions, the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Nabíl's Narrative,
and Dr. Esslemont's Book should be read and read over again by every soul
who desires to serve the Movement or considers himself an active member
of the group." (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to
an individual believer dated 9 November 1932, qtd. in Deepening
7. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to George Townshend [n.d.], qtd. in Hofman, Townshend
8. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly dated 28 June 1930.
9. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi dated 14 January 1933 to the Bahá'í youth
10. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 1 October 1933.
11. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 2 December 1933.
12. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 9 February 1932.
13. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 1 October 1933.
14. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to a Local Spiritual Assembly dated 27 March 1931, qtd.
in Deepening no. 97.
15. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly dated 28 June 1930.
It noteworthy that in the Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh
exemplifies the teaching method on pages 40 and 173.
16. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 31 December 1932.
17. From a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 7 August 1934.
18. Shoghi Effendi then quotes the
following from the Íqán: "The more they are told that this
wondrous Cause of God, this Revelation from the Most High, hath been made
manifest to all mankind, and is waxing greater and stronger every day,
the fiercer groweth the blaze of the fire in their hearts. The more they
observe the indomitable strength, the sublime renunciation, the unwavering
constancy of God's holy companions, who, by the aid of God, are growing
nobler and more glorious every day, the deeper the dismay which ravageth
their souls. In these days, praise be to God, the power of His Word hath
obtained such ascendancy over men, that they dare breathe no word... Ere
long, thine eyes will behold the standards of divine power unfurled throughout
all regions, and the signs of His triumphant might and sovereignty manifest
in every land." (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán