Kitáb-i-Aqdas or Aqdas is the central book of the Bahá'í Faith
written by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, in 1873. The
work was written in Arabic under the Arabic title al-Kitābu l-Aqdas
(Arabic: الكتاب الأقدس), but it is commonly referred to
by its Persian title,
Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Persian: كتاب اقدس),
which was given to the work by
Bahá'u'lláh himself. It is sometimes
also referred to as "the Most Holy Book", "the Book of Laws" or the
Book of Aqdas. The word Aqdas has a significance in many languages as
the superlative form of a word with its primary letters Q-D-Š.
Bahá'u'lláh had manuscript copies sent to Bahá'ís in Iran some
years after the revelation of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas in 1873, and in
1890–91 (1308 AH, 47 BE) he arranged for the publication of the
original Arabic text of the book in Bombay, India.
The Aqdas is referred to as "the Mother-Book" of the Bahá'í
teachings, and the "Charter of the future world civilization". It
is not, however, only a 'book of laws': much of the content deals with
other matters, notably ethical exhortations and addresses to various
individuals, groups, and places. The Aqdas also discusses the
establishment of Bahá'í administrative institutions, Bahá'í
religious practices, mysticism, laws of personal status, criminal law,
spiritual and ethical exhortations, social principles, miscellaneous
laws and abrogations, and prophecies.
1 Gradual implementation
2 Form and style
4.2.4 Laws of personal status
126.96.36.199 Marriage and divorce
5 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Main article: Bahá'í laws
Bahá'u'lláh stated that the observance of the laws that he
prescribed should be subject to "tact and wisdom", and that they do
not cause "disturbance and dissension."
provided for the progressive application of his laws; for example
Bahá'í laws are only applicable to Middle Eastern Bahá'ís
such as the limit to the period of engagement, while any Bahá'í may
practice the laws if they so decide.
Shoghi Effendi also stated
that certain other laws, such as criminal laws, that are dependent
upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá'í society would only be
applicable in a possible future Bahá'í society. He also stated
that if the laws were in conflict with the civil law of the country
where a Bahá'í lives the laws could not be practiced.
Furthermore, some laws and teachings are, according to Bahá'í
teaching, not meant to be applied at the present time and their
application depends on decisions by the Universal House of Justice.
Baha'is believe the Aqdas supersedes and succeeds previous revelations
such as the
Quran and the Bible.
Form and style
The text of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas consists of several hundred verses,
which have been grouped in 189 numbered paragraphs in the English
translation most of which are just a few sentences. The style
combines elements of both poetry (shi'r) and rhymed prose (saj') and
the text contains instances of literary devices like alliteration,
assonance, repetition, onomatopoeia, juxtaposition and antithesis,
metaphors, alternation of person and personification. Many of these
can be only imperfectly reproduced in English.
Regardless, the delivery results in brief and clear statements even if
the meanings can be complex. Rules and principles are interspersed
and guide interpretation, and authority and limits for authorized
interpretation are also specified. It defines a Bahá'í
Administration as part of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, and also
speaks to the individual reader, as there are no clergy in the
religion to rely on for guidance. The text also moves between
statements said to be plain and statements suggesting the key to
understanding the book is to look at the text for clues to itself.
Some statements reflect on the teachings in the religion on various
themes and underscore a relationship of the Aqdas as a 'motherhood' in
relation to all the other scriptural works and they to it. It also
relates to scriptures of other religions by abrogation, explanation,
affirmation or reformation — an example of progressive revelation as
a principle of the religion. While it is the core text on laws of the
religion, it is not the exclusive source of laws in the religion, nor
of Bahá'u'lláh's own writings, and complementarily the reader is
told explicitly to not view the text as a "mere code of laws".
Translation published by the Royal Asiatic Society
Synopsis and codification
Official Bahá'í translation in English
Kitáb-i-Aqdas was completed by
Bahá'u'lláh in 1873. It was
published in the Arabic for circulation among Bahá'ís speaking the
language circa 1890. A Russian translation was undertaken by
Alexander Tumansky in 1899 and was his most important contribution to
Bahá'í studies. Around 1900 an informal English translation was
made by Bahá'í Anton Haddad, which circulated among the early
American Bahá'í community in a typewritten form. In 1961, an
English scholar of Arabic, Dr. Earl E. Elder, and William McElwee
Miller, an openly hostile Christian minister, published an English
translation, "Al-Kitab Al-Aqdas", through the Royal Asiatic
Society, however its translation of the notes section was
problematic and overall lacked "poetic sensibility, and skill in
Arabic translation". Indeed, Miller only ever used it to further
his polemical agenda. In 1973 a "Synopsis and Codification" of the
book was published in English by the Universal House of Justice,
with 21 passages of the Aqdas that had already been translated into
Shoghi Effendi with additional terse lists of laws and
ordinances contained in the book outside of any contextual prose.
Finally, in 1992, a full and authorized Bahá'í translation in
English was published. This version is used as the basis of
translation into many other languages highlighting the practice of
an indirect translation and how the purpose of the translation affects
the act of translation. The Bahá'í Library Online provides a
side-by-side comparison of the authorized translation with earlier
translations of Anton Haddad and Earl Elder.
Kitáb-i-Aqdas is supplemented by the
"Questions and Answers"', which consists of 107 questions submitted to
Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin concerning the application of the
laws and Bahá'u'lláh's replies to those questions
"Some Texts Revealed by Bahá'u'lláh"
Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances, prepared by
explanatory notes prepared by the Universal House of Justice
The book was divided into six main themes in the Synopsis and
Codification by Shoghi Effendi:
The appointment of
`Abdu'l-Bahá as the successor of Bahá'u'lláh
Anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship
The Institution of the Universal House of Justice
Laws, Ordinances and exhortations
Specific admonitions, reproofs and warnings
Further, the laws were divided into four categories:
C. Laws of personal status
D. Miscellaneous laws, ordinances and exhortations
Scholarly review finds the Aqdas has themes of laws of worship,
societal relations and administrative organization, or governance, of
the religion. It also has strong themes of internationalism and
addresses a need of humanity to mature - criticizing religious
hierarchies, emphasizing inter-religious dialogue and unity, and
international standards; things others at the time thought lacked
practical application and seemed only utopian in the era it was
published. The basics of the rules of successorship are set forth
with enough clarity that the religion has avoided significant
schism. Through the authority vested in
`Abdu'l-Bahá in the Aqdas
there is an expanse of internationalism related to the law in works
The Secret of Divine Civilization and through his extended
Shoghi Effendi works like his World Order of
Bahá'u'lláh further elaborates on the internationalism theme. This
stands in some distinction from other scriptures by not using
triumphal tones as the voice of God is given to be viewed but rather
one of progressive development, social context, and outright delay in
application until another day. Indeed, it insists that divine law is
applicable only in situations with requisite conditions, where it is
likely to have certain social effects. The goal of application of the
law and its methods are not to cause disturbance and dissension and
requires an appreciation for context and intention. Additionally one
is to eschew emphasis in the development of textualist and
intentionalist arguments about the law though some of this is visible
in scholarship on the Aqdas. Such methods of application of law in a
religious context are common in Islam and Judaism.
The Aqdas is understood by Bahá'ís to be a factor in the process of
ongoing developments in world order. This can be seen comparing the
Bahá'í approach to history and the future to that of the theory of
The Clash of Civilizations
The Clash of Civilizations on the one hand and the development of a
posthegemony system on the other (compared with work of Robert Cox,
for example, in Approaches to World Order, (Robert Cox & Timonthy
Sinclair eds, Cambridge University Press, 1996).)
Certain possible sources of law are specifically abrogated: laws of
the Bábí religion, notably in the Persian Bayán, oral traditions
(linked with pilgrim notes, and natural law, (that is to say God's
sovereign will through revelation is the independent authority.)
Divine revelation's law-making is both unconditioned in terms of the
divine right to choose, and conditioned in the sense of the progress
of history from one revelation to the next.
Some laws and teachings of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas are, according to
Bahá'í teaching, not meant to be applied at the present time; their
application depends on decisions by the Universal House of Justice.
Bahá'í laws for laws in practice in Bahá'í communities.
In reference to the laws of his revelation Baha'u'llah writes in
paragraph 3 the following, "O ye peoples of the World! Know assuredly
that My commandments are the lamps of my loving providence among My
servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures. Thus hath it been
sent down from the heaven of the Will of your Lord, the Lord of
Revelation. Were any man to taste the sweetness of the words which the
lips of the All-Merciful have willed to utter, he would, though the
treasures of the earth be in his possession, renounce them one and
all, that he might vindicate the truth of even one of His
commandments, shining above the Dayspring of His bountiful care and
Main article: Bahá'í administration
The institutional status of the authority of
`Abdu'l-Bahá and a House
of Justice are specifically delineated. On the basis of the
`Abdu'l-Bahá he extended forms of the authority
vested in him to the Guardianship, whose sole member was Shoghi
Effendi, and the Universal, or International, House of Justice through
his Will and Testament. This was confirmed and amplified in other
texts, notably the Kitáb-i-`Ahd. The
Universal House of Justice
Universal House of Justice is
specifically empowered to write and rescind any laws it is felt
necessary aside from those of the text of scripture and actual
application of the laws of the Aqdas among Bahá'ís are dependent on
the choice of the Universal House of Justice.
Main article: Obligatory Bahá'í prayers
Bahá'ís between 15 and 70 years of age are to perform a daily
obligatory prayer, and can choose daily from among three, all of which
are accompanied by specific rites, and preceded by ablutions. During
the obligatory prayer Bahá'ís face the Qiblih, which is the Shrine
Bahá'u'lláh in Bahjí, Israel. People are exempt from the
obligatory prayers when ill, in danger, or women during their
Congregational prayer is forbidden, except for the case of the Prayer
for the Dead.
Main article: Nineteen Day Fast
The Bahá'í fast is observed from sunrise to sunset in the Bahá'í
month of `Alá' from 2 March through 20 March. During this time
Bahá'ís in good health between the ages of 15 and 70 abstain from
eating and drinking. Exemptions to the fast are given to people who
are travelling, ill, pregnant, nursing, menstruating, or engaged in
heavy labour. Vowing to fast outside of the prescribed fasting period
is permissible, and encouraged when done for the benefit of mankind.
Laws of personal status
Marriage and divorce
Main article: Bahá'í marriage
Baha'u'llah's statements about marriage in the
brief. Marriage is highly recommended but is stated to not be
Bahá'u'lláh states that the maximum number of wives
is two, but also states that having only one wife would add more
tranquility to both partners. These statements were later
`Abdu'l-Bahá that having a second wife is conditional
upon treating both wives with justice and equality and was not
possible in practice, thus establishing monogamy.
Bahá'u'lláh had three wives, while his religion teaches
monogamy, which has been the subject of criticism. The writing of the
Bahá'í teachings on gender equality and monogamy
post-date Bahá'u'lláh's marriages and are understood to be
evolutionary in nature, slowly leading Bahá'ís away from what had
been a deeply rooted cultural practice.
Bahá'ís need to be at least 15 years of age to get married, and the
consent of all living biological parents is needed to get married.
Marriage is also conditioned a payment of dowry by the husband to the
wife of approximately 70 grams (2.2 troy ounces) of gold or silver
dependent on the permanent residence of the husband. The
Kitáb-i-Aqdas allows a man to marry two wives under the condition
that they be treated equally. Later,
`Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi
clarified that monogamy was the intent of the paragraph.
Divorce is permitted, although discouraged, and is granted after a
year of separation if the couple is unable to reconcile their
Universal House of Justice
Universal House of Justice is to levy fines against men and
women for adultery, payable in gold.
Kitáb-i-Aqdas it is stated that all Bahá'ís must write a
will. The other Bahá’í laws of inheritance in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
apply only in case of intestacy, that is, when the individual dies
without leaving a will. The system of inheritance provides for
distribution of the deceased's estate among seven categories of heirs:
children, spouse, father, mother, brothers, sisters, and teachers with
higher categories obtaining a larger share. In cases where some of the
categories of heirs does not exist the share falls partly to the
children and the Local Spiritual Assembly.
Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
^ Saiedi, 2000, pp. 224-235.
^ Effendi 1944, pp. 213
^ a b c d Smith, Peter (2000). "law". A concise encyclopedia of the
Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 223–225.
Bahá'u'lláh 1873, p. 6
^ Smith 2008, pp. 160
^ The Aqdas;
Universal House of Justice
Universal House of Justice A DESCRIPTION OF THE AQDAS BY
^ a b c d e f g h i j Danesh, Roshan (2003–2004). "Internationalism
and Divine Law: A Bahá'í Perspective". Journal of Law and Religion.
19 (2): 209–242. JSTOR 3649175.
^ Bushrui 1994, pp. 39–53
^ a b c d e Schaefer, Udo (2002–2003). "An Introduction to Baha'i
Law: Doctrinal Foundations, Principles and Structures". Journal of Law
and Religion. 18 (2): 307–372. JSTOR 1602268.
^ Christopher Buck (1 January 1995). Symbol & Secret. Kalimat
Press. pp. 19, 26–27. ISBN 978-0-933770-80-5.
^ Jahangir Dorri (15 August 2009). "TUMANSKIǏ, Aleksandr
Grigor'evich". Encyclopedia Iranica. online. Retrieved 10 January
^ Loni Bramson-Lerche (1988). "Establishment of the Guardianship". In
Moojan Momen. Studies in the Bábí & Bahá'í Religions. Kalimat
Press. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-933770-72-0.
^ a b Elwell-Sutton, L.P. (1976). "Review of "The Baha'i Faith" Its
History and Teaching by William McElwee Miller". Journal of the Royal
Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (2): 157–158.
^ Bahā'-Allāh (1961) . Al-kitab al-aqdas or The most holy
book. Translated by Elder, Earl E.; Miller, William McE. London: The
Royal Asiatic Society.
^ A. Bausani (9 August 2011). "AQDAS". Encyclopedia Iranica. online.
Retrieved 10 January 2014.
^ Lawson, Todd (Winter–Spring 1996). "Review of: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
The Most Holy Book by Baha'Allah, Haifa: Baha'i World Center, 1992".
Iranian Studies. 29 (1–2): 207–209. doi:10.1080/00210869608701848.
^ Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the
Bahá'u'lláh and Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i World
^ Smith, Peter (2000). "Aqdas, Kitáb-i-". A concise encyclopedia of
the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 43–44.
^ See also the Kitab-i-Aqdas Multilinear Translation project.
^ Nobel Perdu Honeyman (27 January 2005). "From Arabic to other
languages through English". In Albert Branchadell; Lovell Margaret
West. Less Translated Languages. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
pp. 67–74. ISBN 978-90-272-9478-4.
^ Bahá'u'lláh. Winters, Jonah, ed. "
Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Book):
"Multilinear" Translation project and Glossary". Bahá'í Library
Online. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
^ Smith, Peter (2000). "marriage". A concise encyclopedia of the
Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 232–234.
^ a b c d Smith, Peter (2000). "Polygamy". A concise encyclopedia of
the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 273.
^ Smith, Peter (2008). An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. p. 205.
^ a b Schaefer, Udo (2002–2003). "An Introduction to Baha'i Law:
Doctrinal Foundations, Principles and Structures". Journal of Law and
Religion. 18 (2): 321, 333. JSTOR 1602268.
^ Smith 2008, pp. 16
Bahá'u'lláh (1992) .
Kitáb-i-Aqdas [The Most Holy Book].
Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust.
Bahā'-Allāh (1961) . al-Kitab al-Aqdas. Translated by Elder,
Earl; Miller, William. London: The Royal Asiatic Society.
Bushrui, Suheil (1995). The Style of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas - Aspects of
the Sublime. College Park, Maryland, USA: University Press of
Maryland. ISBN 1-883053-08-0.
Effendi, Shoghi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-020-9.
Hatcher, J.S. (1997). The Ocean of His Words: A Reader's Guide to the
Art of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing
Trust. ISBN 0-87743-259-7.
Rouhani Ma'ani, Baharieh; Ma‘ani Ewing, Sovaida. The Laws of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Oxford, UK: George Ronald.
Smith, Peter (2008). An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86251-5.
Taherzadeh, Adib (1984). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 3:
`Akka, The Early Years 1868-77. Oxford, UK: George Ronald.
Walbridge, John (1996). Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time.
Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-406-9.
The Kitab-i-Aqdas: its place in Baha'i literature. Published in
Bahá'í World, 1992-1993. pp. 105–117.
Danesh, Roshan (2015). Some Reflections on the Structure of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas in Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 25:3, pp. 81–94.
Goswami, Samarendra Nath, ed. (1994). Principles of Bahá'í Personal
Law, The. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bangladesh Law Times.
Saiedi, Nader (2000). "Chapter 7: The Kitab-i-Aqdas: Date and
Constitutive Principles". Logos and Civilization - Spirit, History,
and Order in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. USA: University Press of
Maryland and Association for Baha'i Studies. pp. 213–293.
The Aqdas research tool
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Matrix and Explorer (bilingual)
Alaqdas.org (recitation of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas in Arabic (in the Hijaz