Questions of Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali Muhammad occasioning the Revelation of the Kitab-i-IqanDenis MacEoin.
The following is a translation of the questions submitted to Bahá'u'lláh by Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad (Khal-i-Akbar, the "Greatest Uncle"), the maternal uncle of the Bab, which led to the revelation of the Kitab-i Iqan, as translated by Denis MacEoin. MacEoin writes: "I've ignored a few lines at the beginning, which the Bab's uncle scribbled out. I've gone by the typewritten text, since the handwriting is not always easy to follow, but I have checked several times against it and found the printed version accurate. The language is not always clear, but I think this gives the main points." The original text of these questions was published in facsimile in Faizi's Kitab-i-Khanidan-i-Afnan Sidriy-i-Rahman (Tehran, 1970-71). More information about this episode can be found in Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, volume 1, p. 158; Balyuzi's Bahá'u'lláh: King of Glory, 164-5; and Christopher Buck's Symbol and Secret, 13-14.
Question OneWhat was previously believed is that the promised resurrection will take place in another world. The raising of the dead (hashr wa nashr), the Bridge (sirat), the accounting of the deeds of all creatures, and the reward or punishment of those deeds will take place in that world. However, it is all in this world, and it has taken place. And the days of the appearance of every manifestation of the truth (or manifestation of God: mazhar-i haqq) constitute that same day of resurrection for the period preceding it. In this new revelation, there has been no punishment for men's deeds. Nay, the rebelliousness and corruption of the people of tyranny and oppression have increased, even if the real meaning of reward and punishment is nearness or distance from the divine court. This subject is the same, regardless of which world it occurs in. The people of truth in this world, since they exist in God's good pleasure, are in a state of well-being; but they are outwardly caught in the grip of the people of oppression, and are troubled by them. The people of oppression, although they are tormented by being far from the court of God, are outwardly in a state of comfort, and by reason of their innate ignorance (ghaflati ki darand), are unaware of that torment. If the requital for men's deeds (jaza-yi a'mal) and the promised punishment (? the text reads thawab-i 'iqab-i maw'ud, which makes imperfect sense and could be in error for thawab wa 'iqab-i maw'ud, meaning the promised reward and punishment) is this (i.e. as described above), and there is no other world than this one, where will the oppressed seek vengeance from the one who oppressed him, and where will the people of punishment receive their desserts. This would be nothing but a denial of the promised resurrection. I have not understood this subject properly, yet it is among the most important of matters to understand it.
Question TwoHe (Huwa): It has been a matter of belief for all followers of the Shi'i faith, from the beginning of Islam until now, which no-one has ever denied, or even doubted, concerning which traditions (ahadith) and prayers and pilgrimage prayers (ziyarat) have been written by the Imams (ahl-i 'ismat), namely that the Twelfth Imam was born from the womb of his glorious mother, and that he was outwardly alive in this world and shall remain alive in it until he appears. This is something which cannot be denied. And yet, what we are now concerned with does not conform to this. I seek elucidation of this claim [presumably, that the Hidden Imam appeared in a different form] so that I may, God willing, attain to complete certainty (yaqin-i kamil), nay to the essence of certitude (bi-maqam-i 'ayn al-yaqin).
Question ThreeThe appearance of this new cause is not in conformity or agreement with what has been understood from the reports and traditions (akhbar wa ahadith) in the past, nor with what all men have believed. [It] rejects all traditions of the past, for we cannot interpret away all that the Imams (ahl-i 'ismat) have said, nor will men's hearts believe in such a thing. [Preceding unclear: inkar-i ahadith-i sabiq ki namitavan az ahl-i 'ismat salat Allah 'alayhim rasida jam'an ra ta'wil namudan ham qulub tasdiq namikunad.] The manner and custom of the pure Imams is to guide and give direction to men. To interpret their words in such a way as to say they did not intend the outward meaning is baseless, for it will not prove the cause of men's guidance, rather it will cause them to be confused. In some cases, a tradition has come down that is not to be taken literally; but to interpret all the traditions other than by their outward meaning is in contradiction to the way in which the Imams guide mankind. I would ask you to favour me with a clear explanation of this topic, in such a manner that it will create certainty in men's hearts, and so that no one will be able to open up a path of doubt.
Question FourAccording to those traditions which have come down to us from the pure Imams concerning the time of the appearance of the Qa'im, "it will be as if an enemy had raised an army in Syria and went to fight with him at a place whose name they have specified as being between Syria and Mecca, the land shall be divided in two. An army of eight hundred thousand shall descend all together upon the land, except for two men, who shall remain behind. They shall go to the army of the Qa'im and give him tidings. Then he (the Qa'im) shall rule and shall make Kufa his capital. The size of his army shall be so great that they will demolish the mosque of Kufa and shall build a (new) mosque with one thousand doors." There are many such accounts in the reliable books of tradition. Yet not one of these things has come to pass. I beseech you to provide a full explanation of this matter, that it may be a cause of certainty for my heart, and, God willing, lead me to perfect faith.