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by Sholeh A. Quinn and Stephen Lambden

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica
New York: Columbia University, 2010
KETĀB-E IQĀN (abbrev. KI), a major work of Mirzā Ḥosayn-ʿAli Nuri Bahāʾ-Allāh (d. 1892) in defense of the religious claims of Sayyed ʿAli-Moḥammad the Bāb. The Ketāb-e iqān (Book of Certitude), an approximately 200-page Persian text, is fundamentally, as its author Bahāʾ-Allāh once stated, a Bābi Lawḥ-e estedlāliya (Proof-offering Tablet), that is, a treatise written in proof of the messianic claims and religious doctrines of the Bāb (Fāżel Māzadarāni, 1967, I, p. 276). He also reckoned it a veritable Sayyed-e kotob (“Lord of books”) and called it divine revelation when he wrote in a scriptural Tablet to Mirzā Abu’l-Fażl Golpāygāni (d. 1914), “The Ketāb-e iqān is in reality the Lord of Books and issued forth from the Most Elevated Pen (qalam-e aʿlā) at the commencement of this supreme theophany” (ẓohur-e aʿẓam; Bahāʾ-Allāh, 1972, VII, p. 167; Idem, KI, p. 198, tr., 1968, p. 257). It dates from the latter years of its author’s occupying a leading role within the exilic Baghdad-centered Bābi community, about a dozen years after the execution of the Bāb in Tabriz in 1850. In the following entry the Ketāb-e iqān page numbers are first given according to the revised 1934 Cairo edition followed by page numbers from the Ali Kuli Khan English translation (2nd edition) then the English translation of Shoghi Effendi (USA ed.).

Bahāʾ-Allāh composed the Ketāb-e iqān primarily in response to questions about the apparent non-fulfillment of messianic and related eschatological signs in the Bāb and his emergent pristine religion (al-din al-ḵāles; Bāb, Qayyum al-asmāʾ 1:5). The questions were posed by a maternal uncle of the Bāb, named Ḥājj Mirzā Sayyed Moḥammad (d. 1876), known as the Ḵāl-e Akbar (the elder/senior uncle). While visiting the shrine cities of Iraq (See ʿATABĀT) with a brother around 1278/1862, through the intermediary of Ḥājj Sayyed Jawād Karbalāʾi (d. ca. 13001882), he was able to meet Bahāʾ-Allāh in Baghdad and pose several written questions to him (Ali Kuli Khan, 1904, p. viii; Moḥammad-Jawād Qazvini, p. 15; Fāżel Māzandarāni, p. 159; Taherzadeh, pp. 157-58). Bahāʾ-Allāh’s reply to these questions was said in several Bahāʾi sources to have been very speedily “sent down,” or “revealed,” in one or two days (Rabbani, 1970, p. 138; Balyuzi, 1980, p. 164). The response of the Ketāb-e iqān persuaded the Bāb’s uncle to accept the elevated messianic claims of both the Bāb and ultimately Bahāʾ-Allāh also as his successor.

The aforementioned questions of the then skeptical uncle were largely centered upon the following Shiʿite Islamic themes which seemed to him unfulfilled or outwardly unrealized: (1) the latter-day Yawm al-qiāma (Day of Resurrection) and such associated events as “judgment,” “reward” and “punishment”; (2) the problem of the identity of the Twelfth Imam and the disparity between the Bāb’s claims and the heritage of Shiʿite traditions; (3) the contradictions between the non-literal exegesis of the Bāb and the straightforward heritage of Shiʿite doctrinal tradition; and (4) the non-fulfillment of messianic expectations associated with the expected Qāʾem and his followers engaging, for example, in eschatological jihad type activities centered at Kufa (Fayżi, pp. 40-41; MacEoin; Balyuzi, 1991, pp. 164-5). Though Sayyed Moḥammad was the primary addressee in the Ketāb-e iqān, Bahāʾ-Allāh also specifically addressed a range of other individuals and groups, including Shiʿite Muslims, Šayḵis (Shaykhis), various Bābi groups as the “people of the Bayān (Exposition),” and, in a few places, all of humankind, in a manner reminiscent of the style of the Bāb himself (KI, p. 72, tr., 1968, p. 93 ; Buck, 1995, p. 14).

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