Name of Tablet in Arabic or Persian:
al-Kitáb al-Aqdas (Arabic), though it's usually known by its Persian title Kitáb-i-
Translation into English:
The Most Holy ("aqdas") Book ("Kitáb")
Early English translations were done by Anton Haddad, Earl Elder, and Marzieh Gail, but none of
these were very good. In 1953 Shoghi Effendi began to translate the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as one of the
goals of the ten year crusade. Some of these passages he included in Gleanings from the Writings
of Bahá'u'lláh and The Promised Day is Come. The Universal House of Justice, on the one
hundredth anniversary of the Tablet's revelation, finalized and published Shoghi Effendi's
translation as The Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (also included in Bahá'í World
volume XV: 1968- 73). The entire Tablet was published in 1992, the centenary of the ascension
of Bahá'u'lláh, by a task force established by the House. The translation took some 7 years to
complete and contains the Tablet, the Questions and Answers, an introduction by the House, and
other related texts, as well as a glossary and an index. The translation also included a numbering
system to help identify paragraphs for various languages. These numbers and paragraph breaks
don't exist in the original.
Many books and articles have been written on or include information on the Aqdas. One of the more complete treatments is Suheil Bushrui's The Style of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
(University Press of Maryland, 1995), 74pp.
The first authorized Arabic edition was published by the House in 1995.
Significance of Name:
This is one of the few Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh which He Himself named. It is the central Tablet of
laws for this Dispensation, the "mother book." Shoghi Effendi called it the Charter of His New
World Order (GPB213) and its Revelation "the most signal act of His ministry" (GPB213).
Shoghi Effendi also says it was alluded to in the Íqán, anticipated by Isaiah, described by the
writer of the Apocalypse as the "new heaven," "new earth," the Tabernacle of God, the Holy
City, the Bride, the New Jerusalem.
Tablet was revealed in:
Arabic. But also, in Questions and Answers #42 Bahá'u'lláh refers to "the laws revealed in
Persian..." which would seem to indicate that prior texts related to the Aqdas, or perhaps even
parts of early drafts of it, might have been revealed in Persian. In _Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh_
vol. 3, Taherzadeh writes that "while in Adrianople He revealed a number of laws in His Persian
writings, but did not release them to the believers." (279)
Name of Recipient:
It is addressed to the entirety of the Bahá'í world. It also contains "apostrophes," i.e. asides
addressed to individuals not present, especially to Mírzá Yahyá and to a number of world rulers
and religious leaders.
Reason for Revelation of the Tablet:
Taherzadeh explains that "for some years, the believers had been asking questions about the laws
of the Faith, but Bahá'u'lláh did not find it timely to respond to them. While in Adrianople He
revealed a number of laws in His Persian writings, but did not release them to the believers.
Questions continued to come to him while in 'Akká, and when the time was propitious, Bahá'u'lláh
revealed the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. But from the beginning He stressed to His followers the need to be
discreet and wise in the implementation of its laws. He advised them not to practise any of its
provisions which might prove to be untimely or could cause agitation or disturbance among the
Perhaps the murder of three Azalis by a group of Bahá'ís just a little over a year earlier helped
precipitate the finalization and release of the Aqdas at this time.
Questions asked that are answered in Tablet:
The entire book was answered in response to questions, or at minimum requests for a code of
laws. One of the specific questions asked might have been who would succeed Bahá'u'lláh, for it is
His appointment of Abdu'l-Bahá as "Center of the Covenant" which establishes His Covenant with
the Bahá'ís. The Aqdas also explains which Laws revealed by the Báb in the Bayán are now
abrogated or amended. Finally, after its revelation, Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis Zaynu'l-
Muqarrabin asked and/or compiled a large collection of specific legal questions which Bahá'u'lláh
answered, which were published as the "Questions and Answers."
Date of Revelation:
It was completed in early 1873 (possibly just before July 11), but not made known to the
Bahá'ís until later that year (_Basic Bahá'í Dictionary_ 99, 102). Texts related to the Aqdas
were revealed as early as 1868, according to some historians and as inferenced by Bahá'u'lláh's
mention of the earlier Persian laws in _Questions and Answers_ #42, which Taherzadeh says
were revealed as early as Adrianople (vol. 3, 279). The date of 1873 is confirmed by a
reference to the fall of Napoleon III, as well as mentions in other Tablets that it was revealed
early in the Akká period (see Walbridge, _Sacred Acts_, 248)
Taherzadeh, in _Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh_ vol. 3 page 279, narrows the date down even more
precisely: "In a Tablet written by Mírzá Áqá Jan, Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, dated 15th of
Jamadiyu'l-Awal 1290 (11 July 1873), it is stated that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was revealed around
Place of Revelation:
`Akká, in the house of `Udi Khammar
Role of Amanuensis or Secretary:
It is not yet known which amanuensis took the original dictation. It is known, though, that the
Tablet was revealed aloud. Besides being standard practice at this point, this is also indicated by
Bahá'u'lláh's mention that the Báb "listeneth to these verses descending from the Heaven of
Revelation..." (paragraph 141).
It should also be pointed out that a copy exists in the handwriting of Abdu'l-Bahá, the first page of which is reproduced as the frontispiece to Taherzadeh's _The Revelation of
Bahá'u'lláh_ vol. 3. There is also an "official" manuscript — when asked which copy of the Aqdas was best, Abdu'l-Bahá Himself said that the one in the hand of Zaynu'l-Muqarribin was authoritative.
Other Tablets revealed at about the same time:
John Hatcher's _Ocean of His Words_, page 383, lists the following Tablets from 1868-1877:
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Lawh-i-'Abdu'l-Vahhab, Lawh-i-Abbab, Lawh-i-Fu'ád, Lawh-i-Haft Pursish,
Lawh-i-Hikmat, Lawh-i-Hittik, Lawh-i-Ittihad, Lawh-i-Malik-i-Rus, Lawh-i-Malikih,
Lawh-i-Manikchi Sahib, Lawh-i-Napulyun II, Lawh-i-Pap, Lawh-i-Pisar-'Amm, Lawh-i-
Qad-Ihtaraqa'l-Mukhlisun, Lawh-i-Ra'ís, Lawh-i-Ru'ya, Lawh-i-Salmán II, Lawh-i-Tibb,
and the Súriy-i-Haykal.
Style, subject, and genre of the Tablet: [?]
I. Tone of Tablet
1. Tablets with the tone of command and authority.
II. Subject Covered by Tablet
1. Writings dealing with interpretation of the old Scriptures, religious beliefs and
doctrines of the past.
2. Writings in which laws and ordinances have been enjoined for this age and laws of the
4. Tablets concerning matters of government and world order, and those addressed to the
6. Tablets exhorting men to education, goodly character and divine virtues.
7. Tablets dealing with social teachings.
III. Literary Genre of Tablet:
3. Essay or book, not revealed to a specific person.
Voice of Tablet
Outline Contents of Tablet:
The Tablet has too much content to summarize here.
Principal themes of the Tablet:
As with contents, there are far too many themes in the Aqdas to summarize briefly. In
_Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh_ vol. 3, pages 276-77, Taherzadeh gives the following general
overview: "Though basically a book of laws and ordinances, [the Aqdas] is so revealed that its
laws are interwoven with passages of spiritual counsel and exhortation, of weighty
pronouncements and divine guidance....
"In revealing the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh may be likened to a celestial bird whose habitation
is in the realm of the spirit far above the ken of men, soaring in the spiritual heights of glory. In
that station, Bahá'u'lláh speaks about spiritual matters, reveals the verities of His Cause and
unveils the glory of His Revelation to mankind. From such a lofty horizon this immortal Bird of
the Spirit suddenly and unexpectedly descends upon the world of dust. In this station, Bahá'u'lláh
announces and expounds laws. Then the Bird takes its flight back into the spiritual domains. Here
the Tongue of Grandeur speaks again with majesty and authority, revealing some of the choicest
passages treasured in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas....
"This ascent and descent, the revelation of spiritual teachings on the one hand, and the giving of
laws on the other, follow one another throughout the Book. There seems to be no visible pattern
for the interweaving of the two, nor is there any apparent connection between them. Bahá'u'lláh,
after expounding some of His choicest teachings or revealing some of His counsels and
exhortations, abruptly changes the subject and gives one or more laws which outwardly seem not
to have any relevance to the previous subject."
Comment on the Tablet's relationship to any other tablets:
There are many ways in which the Aqdas can be related to other Tablets, some of which I'll list
here in no particular order.
- In its introduction to the authorized translation of the Kitáb-i-Íqán, the Universal House
of Justice says that there is an "intimate relationship between the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Holy
Books of previous Dispensations" (7).
- The most direct relationship the Aqdas has with any previous book is with the Báb's Persian
Bayán. The Báb wrote his main book of laws in two languages: a short one in Arabic, and a much
longer one in Persian ("Bayán" means "exposition" or "explanation"). He left these unfinished,
explaining that the One Whom God Will Make Manifest would complete the revelation (see E. G.
Browne, _A Traveller's Narrative_, 353-4 n.4). Though wholly dissimilar in style and even
largely in content, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas can be and has been regarded as the completion of the
Taherzadeh, in ibid. 278, elaborates on this: "The laws revealed in the Bayán by the Báb were
designed to be short-lived. Some of them were incomplete, being either directly or by
implication dependent upon the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make Manifest'. The laws of the
Bábí religion were abrogated by the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Only a few of the laws given
by the Báb were confirmed by Bahá'u'lláh and these were reinstated in that same book. 'Abdu'l-
Bahá has declared that those laws of the Báb which were not confirmed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are
to be considered as abrogated. In another Tablet He states that any law revealed elsewhere in the
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, if contrary to the laws of the Aqdas, is invalid. But those which are not
contrary, or are not mentioned in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, are valid and binding."
Interestingly, the Guardian writes that Bahá'u'lláh also seems to have left His own book of laws
unfinished, waiting for the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá to complete it (see item #7,
- Bahá'u'lláh alludes to the fact that, after His passing, Abdu'l-Bahá would become the
Interpreter of His Word and the Center of His Covenant, themes later elaborated on in the Tablet
of the Branch and the Kitáb-i-Ahd.
- Shoghi Effendi explained once that the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh rests upon two pillars: the
laws revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the principles of the Faith which He revealed in His
Tablets after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
- The Kitáb-i-Aqdas on its own isn't the entirety of Bahá'u'lláh's "book" of laws, because he
revealed a number of Tablets later, some of which He explicitly stated were to be considered as
part of the text of the Aqdas. One example is the opening line of the Eight Ishraq: "This passage,
now written by the Pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book..." Taherzadeh
elaborates: "Indeed, as we survey the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, we come across many Tablets
which contain some laws or deal with the elucidation and application of laws. Such Tablets are
regarded as supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. It is therefore clear that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas on
its own does not contain all the laws of Bahá'u'lláh." (_Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh_ vol. 3,
- Though it's now published as part of the Aqdas, _Questions and Answers_ was originally a
separate text. Taherzadeh explains that "after its revelation Bahá'u'lláh permitted Zaynu'l-
Muqarribin, one of His devoted companions, who was formerly a mujtahid (Doctor of Islamic
law) and highly experienced in the application of Islamic law, to ask any questions he might have
regarding the application of the laws of Bahá'u'lláh. The answers given by Him are contained in a
book known as Questions and Answers which is to be regarded as an appendix to the Kitáb-i-
Aqdas." (ibid. 278-79)
- Shoghi Effendi explains that the Aqdas is "inseparable" from Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and
Testament. His explanation is worth quoting in full:
"It would, however, be helpful and instructive to bear in mind certain basic principles with
reference to the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá, which, together with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
constitutes the chief depository wherein are enshrined those priceless elements of that Divine
Civilization, the establishment of which is the primary mission of the Bahá'í Faith. A study of
the provisions of these sacred documents will reveal the close relationship that exists between
them, as well as the identity of purpose and method which they inculcate. Far from regarding
their specific provisions as incompatible and contradictory in spirit, every fair-minded
inquirer will readily admit that they are not only complementary, but that they mutually
confirm one another, and are inseparable parts of one complete unit. A comparison of their
contents with the rest of Bahá'í sacred Writings will similarly establish the conformity of
whatever they contain with the spirit as well as the letter of the authenticated writings and
sayings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá. In fact, he who reads the Aqdas with care and diligence
will not find it hard to discover that the Most Holy Book itself anticipates in a number of
passages the institutions which Abdu'l-Bahá ordains in His Will. By leaving certain matters
unspecified and unregulated in His Book of Laws, Bahá'u'lláh seems to have deliberately left a gap
in the general scheme of Bahá'í Dispensation, which the unequivocal provisions of the Master's
Will have filled..." (_World Order of Bahá'u'lláh_, 3-4)
- Finally, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is related to all of Bahá'u'lláh's other Tablets in that it and it alone
is the "most holy" book.