|In addition to several longer
works, Bahá'u'lláh wrote a vast number of documents known as "Tablets,"
most of them addressed to individuals among His followers. He has Himself estimated that
the collected Tablets constitute over a hundred volumes. Moving easily between Persian and
Arabic, both of which languages Bahá'u'lláh employed with superb mastery, the Writings
are also characterized by a wide range of styles.
The heart of Bahá'u'lláh's ethical teachings is to be found in a small book
entitled The Hidden Words, a compilation of aphorisms dating
from the earliest days of His mission. The work He describes as a distillation of the
spiritual guidance contained in the successive revelations of God.
Bahá'u'lláh's principal exposition of His doctrinal message
is a book entitled the "Kitab-i-lqan" (The Book of Certitude). In laying out the entire panorama of the Divine
purpose, the "Iqan" deals with the great questions
which have always lain at the heart of religious life: God, the nature of humanity, the
purpose of life, and the function of Revelation.
Among the best known of Bahá'u'lláh's mystical writings is
a small work entitled The Seven Valleys. In poetic language,
it traces the stages of the soul 's journey to union with its Creator.
Foremost among Bahá'u'lláh's writings is the "Kitab-i-Aqdas" ("The Most Holy Book").
Revealed during the darkest days of His imprisonment in Acre, the "Aqdas",
"Mother Book" of the Bahá'í dispensation, is the chief repository of
the laws and institutions which Bahá'u'lláh designed for the World Order He conceived.
The process of translating the sacred writings into other
languages is on-going. The standard for the work of translation into English was
established by Shoghi Effendi, who headed the Bahá'í Faith from 1921 to 1957. [See page
55.] Educated at Oxford, he was able to provide translations that reflect not only a
brilliant command of the English language, but also an authoritative exposition of the
In undertaking the challenge of finding an English style
which would faithfully convey the exalted and emotive character of Bahá'u'lláh's use of
Persian and Arabic, Shoghi Effendi chose a slightly archaic form of English which echoes
the King James version of the Bible. He also chose, in accordance with this style, to use
the masculine pronoun for references to God--although Bahá'u'lláh's teachings make clear
that no gender can be attached to the Creator. Shoghi Effendi also chose to make extensive
use of diacritical marks as a guide to the pronunciation of Arabic and Persian names, a
practice that is followed throughout the Bahá'í community today.
The result is a style that acts as bridge between modern
English and the Persian and Arabic style in which Bahá'u'lláh wrote. Accordingly, Shoghi
Effendi's English translations, and not the Arabic or Persian originals, are used for the
work of translation into other Western languages.
Selections from Bahá'u'lláh's Writings have been translated
into more than 800 languages.