The revelation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book
How and where was the Kitab-i-Aqdas written
In the early part of 1873, almost five years after His arrival in ‘Akká, Bahá’u’lláh, then confined in the house of ‘Údí Khammár, revealed the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, regarded as the Mother Book of this Dispensation, a Book unique and incomparable among the world’s sacred scriptures, designated by Himself as the ‘Source of true felicity’, the ‘unerring Balance’, the ‘Straight path’, the ‘quickener of mankind’, the ‘river of mercy’, the ‘Ark of His laws’. To it the Prophets of the past have alluded as the ‘new heaven’, the ‘new earth’, the ‘Tabernacle of God’, the ‘Holy City’, the ‘Bride’ and the ‘New Jerusalem coming down from God’. Shoghi Effendi has acclaimed it as the charter of Bahá’u’lláh’s new world order and of future world civilization.
This book, written in Arabic, the brightest emanation from the Pen of the Most High, stands out from among all Bahá’u’lláh’s writings as the ‘Mother Book’ of His Dispensation. Next to it in rank is the Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude). Of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh states,
‘this Book is a heaven which We have adorned with the stars of Our commandments and prohibitions’,
‘verily, it is My weightiest testimony unto all people, and the proof of the All-Merciful unto all who are in heaven and all who are on earth’.
As well as being the mightiest and most exalted of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is from the literary point of view one of the most beautiful. It is matchless in its eloquence, unsurpassed in its lucidity, enchanting in its style, superb in its composition and varied in its theme. Every sentence is simple and easily intelligible to the reader: it is impossible to suggest a better or more eloquent construction. It is the masterpiece of Bahá’u’lláh’s utterances. Though basically a book of laws and ordinances, it is so revealed that its laws are interwoven with passages of spiritual counsel and exhortation, of weighty pronouncements and divine guidance. The manner in which this is done is unique and original. It fascinates the reader with its beauty and enchantment. Of it Bahá’u’lláh speaks,
‘By My life! It hath been sent down in a manner that amazeth the minds of men.’
And in another passage He states:
By God! such is the majesty of what hath been revealed therein, and so tremendous the revelation of its veiled allusions that the loins of utterance shake when attempting their description.
After its revelation Bahá’u’lláh permitted Zaynu’l-Muqarrabín, one of His devoted companions, who was formerly a mujtahid (Doctor of Islámic law) and highly experienced in the application of Islámic 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.
In a Tablet written by Mírzá Áqá Ján, Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis, dated 15th of Jamádiyu’l-Avval 1290 (11 July 1873), it is stated that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was revealed around that time. It also refers to the circumstances which led to its revelation. 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 people.
Shortly after the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Ḥájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá’í, a distinguished believer who was held in high esteem by the community, was anxious for the Bahá’ís to implement the laws of that Book. In a Tablet addressed to him, Bahá’u’lláh discloses the pre-eminent position which the Kitáb-i-Aqdas occupies, refers to it as the most great magnet through which the hearts of the peoples of the world will be attracted, and prophesies that through it the majesty and sovereignty of God will, ere long, be made manifest. But He counsels Ḥájí Siyyid Javád to exercise caution and wisdom in the implementation of its laws at that time. The following is an extract from the above-mentioned Tablet to Ḥájí Siyyid Javád:
For a number of years, petitions reach the Most Holy Presence from various lands begging for the laws of God, but We held back the Pen ere the appointed time had come. Thereupon the Day-Star of the laws and ordinances shone forth from above the horizon of the Will of God, as a token of His grace unto the peoples of the world. He, verily, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous … Indeed the laws of God are like unto the ocean and the children of men as fish, did they but know it. However, in observing them one must exercise tact and wisdom … Since most people are feeble and far removed from the purpose of God, therefore one must observe tact and prudence under all conditions, so that nothing might happen that could cause disturbance and dissension or raise clamour among the heedless. Verily, His bounty hath surpassed the whole universe and His bestowals encompassed all that dwell on earth. One must guide mankind to the ocean of true understanding in a spirit of love and tolerance. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas itself beareth eloquent testimony to the loving providence of God.
In the same year that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was revealed Bahá’u’lláh allowed Jamál-i-Burújirdí, who was then in ‘Akká, to copy parts of it and share it with the friends in Persia. But again He emphasized wisdom and discretion in the application of its laws. Through their mercy and compassion the Manifestations of God do not announce all their new laws to their followers suddenly. Knowing man’s strong attachment to old laws and customs, they introduce their new laws gradually over a period of time during which their followers become enlightened and ready to receive them.
The study of the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá makes it clear that most of the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, apart from those which are of a spiritual nature, or in conformity with the conditions prevailing at the time, are designed for the future when the Bahá’í Faith becomes the religion of the land. It is then that these laws will be fully implemented within the framework of a new civilization which is to emerge later from amidst the chaos and confusion of present-day society.
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, has described the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the ‘warp and woof’ of Bahá’u’lláh’s World Order. Without these laws, mankind will not be able to take part in the establishment of the promised Kingdom of God on earth. The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, however, is still growing in its embryonic form. In the fullness of time it will be born and will usher in an age the glories of which we in this day cannot fully visualize, an age in which the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh will guide and govern the life of man on this planet. Then and only then will the wisdom and significance of all the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas become manifest, their relevance to the needs of the age become apparent and their application become a vital necessity.
Excerpt from "Stories of Baha'u'llah and Some Notable Believers. Compiled by Kiser D Barnes.