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Abstract:
Some meanings of the term huruf ("letters") in Baha'i texts, including Letters of the Bayan, Letters of the Living, and Letters of the Quranic Dispensation.
Notes:
First posted here in 1997; later published in Lights of Irfan and posted at irfancolloquia.org.

See discussion of and commentary on this letter


Letters of the Quranic Dispensation and Letters of the Living (huruf)

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice

published in Lights of Irfan, 4, page 165
Wilmette, IL: Irfan Colloquia, 2003
first written or published 1994-10-02
M E M O R A N D U M
To: The Universal House of Justice
Date: 2 October 1994
From: Research Department

Letters of the Quranic Dispensation

In an electronic mail message dated 30 August 1994, Mr. . . . requested information on a quotation from Bahá'u'lláh, cited by the Guardian in God Passes By:
. . . the Letters of the Bayán, whose station is ten thousand times more glorious than that of the letters of the Qur'ánic Dispensation. . .1
Mr. . . . wishes to know if the "Letters of the Bayán" are the same as the Letters of the Living. Also, he asks the identity of the "Letters of the Qur'ánic Dispensation". These questions were referred to the Research Department, and we offer the following response.

The word "Letters" (hurúf), used in the quotation above, has a definite background in the Writings of the Báb. The Báb used the term hurúf in a number of ways that are similar but not identical in meaning. For instance, He used hurúf to indicate all followers of a religion. As an example, in the Persian Bayán, Váhid 2, chapter 4, we find "Hurúf-i-Alif" as a reference to the generality of the followers of Jesus Christ. In the same chapter, the term "Hurúf-i-Qur'án" is a reference to Muslims in general.

The term hurúf is also used in the Persian Bayán (Váhid 4, chapter 6) to describe the earliest believers of the Prophet Muhammad, i.e., those followers through whom other people accepted Islám. In the same manner, the Báb identified his own earliest believers as the "Hurúf-i-Hayy" or Letters of the Living.

In addition, hurúf is found in the Persian Bayán as an appellation of the Shí'ih Imáms. In Váhid 2, chapter 17, for example, Imám Husayn is referred to as the "Harf-i-Khámis" or the "Fifth Letter" (Harf is the singular form of Hurúf).

The Research Department has not, to date, found any authoritative interpretation of the quoted passage from God Passes By and therefore Mr. . . . is free to decide for himself in which context the term should be understood.

Note:
    1) God Passes By (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1987), p. 98.
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