Home arrow Introduction to Baha'u'llah's writings
Introduction to Baha'u'llah's writings PDF Print E-mail

Baha'u'llah claimed to be a manifestation of God. He said that his coming fulfils the promise made in the sacred scriptures that humanity would, in the fullness of time, witness the Day of God, when God would return to judge the world and bring peace. Baha'u'llah founded the Baha'i religion.

Baha'u'llah was born in Iran in 1817. His given name was Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri. The name "Baha'u'llah" is an Arabic title meaning "Glory of God", which Baha'u'llah adopted as an adult. Baha'u'llah was exiled from Iran in 1853 and spent most of his life in countries that, at the time, formed part of the Ottoman Empire. He died near Haifa, Israel, in 1892.

Baha'u'llah wrote extensively throughout the 40 years of his ministry (1853-1892). During this time, he produced a large volume of works, including books, letters and poems. His writings contain proclamations of his claim to be a manifestation of God, commentaries on important questions of religion, works outlining the principles and regulations of Baha'i law, and works that praise of God.

Baha'is refer to many of these works as "tablets". This term goes back to the story of Moses. The book of Exodus in the Old Testament tells us that God told Moses to climb Mount Sinai and, when Moses was waiting at the top, God gave him two tablets of stone that had the ten commandments engraved on them. "The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets." (Exodus 32:16) The term "tablet" is therefore used by Baha'is to refer to the writings of God.

Baha'u'llah did not write in the way that ordinary human beings do. For him, it was a process of inspiration that overtook his whole being. He was overcome by an inner power that inspired him to pour out pages of writings for hours at a time. Baha'u'llah had an amanuensis, whose name was Mirza Aqa Jan, and he took down the words that Baha'u'llah spoke during these periods of inspiration. He would have a large pile of paper at the ready, 10 to 12 reed pens and a bowl of ink. Baha'u'llah would pace the room and chant or speak his words and Mirza Aqa Jan would write so quickly that his pen made a singing sound. The result was a scrawl in Persian or Arabic that only a handful of people could read. This was checked by Baha'u'llah, transcribed, copied by hand numerous times and disseminated to the believers in various countries.

Because Baha'u'llah lived all his life in the Muslim world, much of what he wrote assumes that his audience has a comprehensive knowledge of Islam, Shiism and Sufism. This is a major obstacle Western audiences face in trying to understand what Baha'u'llah is saying. A focus of this website is to provide background information on the Islamic concepts that Baha'u'llah uses, in order to help readers overcome this obstacle.

As yet, not all of Baha'u'llah's writings have been translated into English, although many important works have been. Baha'is put translations into two general categories: official translations and provisional translations. Official translations are published by the Baha'i World Centre and include those that have been carried out by Shoghi Effendi or the Baha'i World Centre and those approved by the Baha'i World Centre. The translations use the Early Modern English of the Authorised or King James version of the Bible; that is, they use the 2nd person pronouns "thou", "ye", "thee", "thy" and "thine" and verb forms that end in -(e)st (2nd person) and -(e)th (3rd person). All official translations can be found at the Baha'i Reference Library.

All other translations are provisional ones. Many of these have been carried out by Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan. Nearly all of his translations are reproduced on this site. Another principal translator is Dr Stephen Lambden, a professor of religious studies. His translations can be difficult for non-academics and those who do not know any Arabic. They can be found on his personal website Hurqalya. In addition, several other people have translated one or more of Baha'u'llah's writings. A collection of these can be found at the Baha'i Library Online.

Baha'i scholars traditionally have categorised Baha'u'llah's writings according to the place he was living when each work was revealed. These categories are:

  • Tehran 1817 - 1853: This period stretches from Baha'u'llah's birth to immediately before his exile to Baghdad. It includes Baha'u'llah's writings in the Siyah Chal dungeon in 1853.
  • Baghdad 1853 - 1863: This period covers the 10 years Baha'u'llah's family was based in Baghdad. Baha'u'llah declared that he was the Promised One in 1863. Therefore, the writings of this period include those he wrote before his declaration and those of his declaration. These writings are mystical in character.
  • Sulaymaniyyih 1854 - 1857: While Baha'u'llah's family was based in Baghdad, Baha'u'llah spent two years living in the mountains of Kurdistan, initially in isolation and, later, interacting with local Sufis. The writings of this period are mystical in character.
  • Istanbul 1863: The writings of this period include those Baha'u'llah wrote during his family's four-month stopover in the Ottoman capital, Istanbul, on their way to Edirne.
  • Edirne 1863 - 1868: The writings of this period include those Baha'u'llah wrote while his family lived in Edirne. By this time, Baha'u'llah was openly declaring his mission to the community of believers and to the world's leaders, and these writings reflect this.
  • Akka 1868 - 1892: The writings of this period include those Baha'u'llah wrote after his exile to the prison-city of Akka and up to his death. During this time, Baha'u'llah wrote prolifically and produced many important works of his revelation.

For an overview of Baha'u'llah's life, see www.whoisbahaullah.com/history.html.

For further discussion on Baha'u'llah's writings, see www.whoisbahaullah.com/writings.html.

For the most up-to-date list of Baha'u'llah's writings, see The Leiden List of the Tablets of Baha'u'llah.

Last Updated ( Monday, 26 November 2007 )